These are a few of my favorite things: #39(Walden on Wheels : On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom by Ken Ilgunas)

Pic courtesy New york times

Pic courtesy New york times

This book takes us on an inspiring journey as we get to know how the author Ken Ilgunas frees himself from a massive educational loan by following the simplicity n frugality model of Thoreau’s Walden.

I was drawn to the book for 3 main reasons. First, I found Ilgunas’ desire to live super frugally in order to pay his loans Very refreshing. This is totally opposite of what I see the kids doing in India(majority though definitely not all).  Parents here  finance the most expensive education of kids, even taking loans in their own names. & after that if these kids don’t get a high paying job which  they feel they deserve, they won’t pick up some small jobs to support themselves + they never dream of cutting down their royal extravagant lifestyle. They must have all the luxuries: expensive gym memberships,  expensive food items. Even after draining their parents financially, they behave irresponsibly, can’t be bothered to switch of lights n fans even when not in use (electricity bills be damned, after all parent will be paying for that too in any case), they can’t even pick up after themselves or do things around home (they need to have their personal servants). The standards of living of these shameless, self entitled youth is very high. Ken Ilgunas is indeed the role model this generation needs.

Second I’ve always admired Thoreau’s experiments in solitude, simplicity & frugality.

Third I find the calm, quite life full of simplicity, solitude & grace which the author led far more desirable & charming than the grotesque life of the Filthy Rich n Famous

Here is an excerpt from the book:

My experiment began in the spring semester of 2009 when I enrolled in the graduate liberal studies department. Months before, I had just finished paying off $32,000 in undergraduate student loans — no easy feat for an English major.

To pay off my debt, I’d found jobs that provided free room and board. I moved to Coldfoot, Alaska — 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 250 from the nearest store — where I worked as a lodge cleaner, a tour guide and a cook. Later, I worked on a trail crew in Mississippi in an AmeriCorps program. Between jobs I hitchhiked more than 7,000 miles to avoid paying airfare. When I couldn’t find work, I moved in with friends. My clothes came from donation bins, I had friends cut my hair, and I’d pick up odd jobs when I could. Nearly every dime I made went into my loans.

I hated my debt more than anything. I dragged it with me wherever I went. While I was still leading an exciting, adventurous life, I knew I could never truly be free until my debt was gone.

I finally got out of the red when I landed a well-paying job with the Park Service as a backcountry ranger. Finally, after two and a half years of work, my debt was gone. I had four grand in the bank that was mine. All mine. It was the first time I had actual money that hadn’t been borrowed or given to me since I was a 13-year-old paperboy.

The more money I had borrowed, I came to realize, the more freedom I had surrendered. Yet, I still considered my education — as costly as it was — to be priceless. So now, motivated to go back to school yet determined not to go back into debt, I had to think outside the box. Or, as Henry David Thoreau might suggest, inside one.

In “Walden,” Thoreau mentioned a 6 foot-by-3 foot box he had seen by the railroad in which laborers locked up their tools at night. A man could live comfortably in one of these boxes, he thought. Nor would he have to borrow money and surrender freedom to afford a “larger and more luxurious box.”

And so: I decided to buy a van. Though I had never lived in one, I knew I had the personality for it. I had a penchant for rugged living, a sixth sense for cheapness, and an unequaled tolerance for squalor.

My first order of business upon moving to Duke was to find my “Walden on Wheels.” After a two-hour bus ride into the North Carolinian countryside, I caught sight of the ’94 Ford Econoline that I had found advertised on Craigslist. Googly-eyed, I sauntered up to it and lovingly trailed fingertips over dents and chipped paint. The classy cabernet sauvignon veneer at the top slowly, sensuously faded downward into lustrous black. I got behind the wheel and revved up the fuel-funneling beast. There was a grumble, a cough, then a smooth and steady mechanical growl. It was big, it was beautiful, and — best of all — it was $1,500.

I bought it immediately. So began what I’d call “radical living.”

My “radical living” experiment convinced me that the things plunging students further into debt — the iPhones, designer clothes, and even “needs” like heat and air conditioning, for instance — were by no means “necessary.” And I found it easier to “do without” than I ever thought it would be. Easier by far than the jobs I’d been forced to take in order to pay off my loans.

Living in a van was my grand social experiment. I wanted to see if I could — in an age of rampant consumerism and fiscal irresponsibility — afford the unaffordable: an education.

I pledged that I wouldn’t take out loans. Nor would I accept money from anybody, especially my mother, who, appalled by my experiment, offered to rent me an apartment each time I called home. My heat would be a sleeping bag; my air conditioning, an open window. I’d shower at the gym, eat the bare minimum and find a job to pay tuition. And — for fear of being caught — I wouldn’t tell anybody.

Living on the cheap wasn’t merely a way to save money and stave off debt; I wanted to live adventurously. I wanted to test my limits. I wanted to find the line between my wants and my needs. I wanted, as Thoreau put it, “to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life … to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

Not only is his story of adventure very gripping n absorbing, but the book is peppered with little gems of wisdom like these:

“Reading sixteenth-century French poetry, suffering through Kant, and studying the finer points of the Jay Treaty may seem to be, on first appearance, completely, utterly, irrefutably pointless, yet somehow in studying, discussing, and writing about these ‘pointless’ subjects, the liberal arts have the capacity to turn on a certain part of the brain that makes us ask ourselves questions like: 

Who am I?  What’s worth fighting for? Who’s lying to us? What’s my purpose? What’s the point of it all? 

Perhaps many students would rather not be irritated with these questions, yet being compelled to grapple with them, it seems, can make us far less likely to be among those who’ll conform, remain complacent, or seek jobs with morally ambiguous employers” (p. 243).

“Discomforts are only discomforting when they’re an unexpected inconvenience, an unusual annoyance, an unplanned-for irritant. Discomforts are only discomforting when we aren’t used to them. But when we deal with the same discomforts every day, they become expected and part of the routine, and we are no longer afflicted with them the way we were…Give your body the chance to harden, your blood to thicken, and your skin to toughen, and you’ll find that the human body carries with it a weightless wardrobe. When we’re hardy in mind and body, we can select from an array of outfits to comfortably bear most any climate”

This book would be of huge interest not only for students, but for anyone seeking simple, spartan, frugal n calm way of living. We need more young guys like Ken Ilgunas n we need more inspirational tales like this.

September 5, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Happiness, Inspiration, Meaning of Life, My Favorite Things, My lifestyle, My Values, Philosophy, Quitting the Rat Race, Reading, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity. Leave a comment.

The Cake is Delicious (Living in the Present Moment): Zen Moments #8

English: Cake

English: Cake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Greatest appeal of Zen for me is it’s focus on Present Moment, Zen does not concern itself with concepts like past lives, future lives, God, etc…it’s premise is pure & simple: Now is the only reality we can experience, we should be happy in the present moment, rejoice in simple things that surround us rather than worrying unnecessarily about things which may or may not come to pass.

There was an old Zen monk. He was on his deathbed. The last day had come, and he declared that that evening he would be no more. So followers, disciples, friends started coming. From far and wide people gathered. One of his old disciples, when he heard that the master was going to die, ran to the market.

Somebody asked: The master is dying in his hut, why are you going to the market?The old disciple said: I know that my master loves a particular type of cake, so I am going to purchase the cake.

It was difficult to find the cake, because now it had gone out of fashion, but by the evening somehow he managed. He came running with the cake. And everybody was worried — it was as if the master was waiting for someone. He would open his eyes and look, and close his eyes again.

 And when this disciple came, he said: Okay, so you have come. Where is the cake? The disciple produced the cake — and he was very happy that the master asked about the cake. Dying, the master took the cake in his hand, but his hand was not trembling. He was very old, but his hand was not trembling. So somebody asked: You are so old and just on the verge of dying. The last breath is soon to leave you, but your hand is not trembling.

The master said: I never tremble, because there is no fear. My body has become old, but I am still young, and I will remain young even when the body is gone. Then he took a bite, started munching the cake. And then somebody asked: What is your last message, Master? You will be leaving us soon. What do you want us to remember?

 The master smiled and said: Ah, this cake is delicious.

This is a man who lives in the here and now: This cake is delicious. Even death is irrelevant. The next moment is meaningless. THIS moment this cake is delicious. If you can be in this moment, this present moment, this presentness, the plenitude, then only you can love.

June 28, 2012. Tags: , , , . Death, Happiness, Inspiration, Parables, Wisdom, Zen. 1 comment.

Don’t Stay Hungry, Don’t Stay Foolish: Quitting The Rat Race #8

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

These are the last words of the last issue of the Whole Earth Catalogue published by Stewart Brand and his team. Steve Jobs used it in his 2005 commencement address at Stanford University.

Stay Hungry: means don’t be too easily satisfied or grow too comfortable; do not feel content with what you have already achieved but always feel hungry to do more and more.

It’s a widespread & widely accepted myth that staying dissatisfied with the status quo is a way to make progress & improve your-self. It is assumed that only hungry, dissatisfied people can move forward in life. I disagree with this point of view. Staying Hungry is just another method to stay stuck in the rat race, that cycle of consumerism & over-work!! Wisdom lies in Accepting the present moment in totality, being absolutely satisfied with the way things are, no struggling, only peace.  Being grateful for the bounties of the present means being satiated & not perpetually hungry. Staying hungry is a recipe for perpetual dissatisfaction. Always wanting more, we become like a hungry ghost, a creature with a big mouth, a narrow neck, and a big belly, who is always hungry and can never get enough.

If we want serenity we should focus on the present moment & not scatter our attention on imaginary future.

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future but to live in the present moment

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. 
Buddha

Nothing ever gets anywhere.  The earth keeps turning round and gets nowhere.  The moment is the only thing that counts.  ~Jean Cocteau

Forever is composed of nows.  ~Emily Dickinson

A small child has no ambitions, he has no desires. He is so absorbed in the moment — a bird on the wing catches his eye so totally; just a butterfly, its beautiful colors, and he is enchanted; the rainbow in the sky… and he cannot conceive that there can be anything more significant, richer than this rainbow. And the night full of stars, stars beyond stars….

Innocence is rich, it is full, it is pure. Ignorance is poor, it is a beggar — it wants this, it wants that, it wants to be knowledgeable, it wants to be respectable, it wants to be wealthy, it wants to be powerful. Ignorance moves on the path of desire. Innocence is a state of desirelessness. ~Osho

…acceptance, total acceptance, means no desire. Desire arises out of nonacceptance. You cannot accept a certain situation, so desire arises. You live in a hut and you cannot accept it; this is too much for the ego, you want a palace – then you are a poor man, but not because you live in a hut, no. In huts, emperors have lived. Buddha has lived under a tree, and he was not a poor man. You cannot find a richer man anywhere. No, your hut doesn’t make you poor. The moment you desire the palace you are a poor man. And you are not poor because others are living in palaces, you are poor because the desire to live in the palace creates a comparison with the hut. You become envious. You are poor.~Osho

Whenever there is discontent, there is poverty; whenever there is no discontent, you are rich. And you have such riches that no thief can steal them; you have such riches, no government can take them by taxation; you have riches which cannot be taken away from you in any way. You have a fort for your being, unbreakable, impenetrable.

It is only possible to live happily-ever-after on a day-to-day basis.  ~Margaret Bonnano

Enlightenment is the realization that we have only the present moment to live. The next moment is not certain — it may come, it may not come. In fact, the tomorrow never comes. It is always arriving and arriving, but never arrives. And the mind lives in the tomorrows… and life is possible only in the present.~Osho

I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.  ~Alan Watts

Today is you own. Tomorrow perchance may never come by Swami Sivananda

When I am anxious it is because I am living in the future.  When I am depressed it is because I am living in the past.  ~Author Unknown

One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living.  We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon – instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.  ~Dale Carnegie

Pile up too many tomorrows and you’ll find that you’ve collected nothing but a bunch of empty yesterdays.  ~The Music Man

October 11, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , . Current Events, Happiness, Hmm..., Inspiration, My lifestyle, My Values, Osho, Philosophy, Quitting the Rat Race, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity, Wisdom. 3 comments.

Quitting the Rat Race #6: Watching the Wheels Go Round n Round!!!

John Lennon rehearses Give Peace A Chance by R...

Image via Wikipedia

‘Watching Wheels Go Round & Round’ by John Lennon is my new Anthem , like Lennon I too love to watch Wheels go round n round & watching shadows on walls which means basically doing nothing much, living at the speed of life!! So as I’ve mentioned before too, I’ve chosen to be a Homemaker after having a wonderful career for 10 odd years & I am enjoying this life to the hilt. The other day I was chatting with an old pal & he said he was ‘disappointed in me’ ‘cos I had let myself go n lost the zeal for life!!! I was surprised to hear this ‘cos I am actually happier now, my zeal is very much there, now that zeal is focused on other things like practicing simplicity, frugality, embracing the slow pace of life, clarifying my thought processes, eating healthy & exploring fashion, some things for which I didn’t just have time when I was busy with a career. But obviously most people just can’t understand that this way of life could make people not just ordinary Happy but deliriously Happy! People imagine Happiness means only climbing the ladder of career success & buying bigger n more n more expensive things … incidentally the same friend is about to buy a third SUV!!! I mean I can’t understand people buying one SUV but third, that’s ridiculous beyond imagination (..so perhaps I don’t understand them n they don’t understand me!!)

“I cannot tell if what the world considers ‘happiness’ is happiness or not. All I know is that when I consider the way they go about attaining it, I see them carried away headlong, grim and obsessed, in the general onrush of the human herd, unable to stop themselves or to change their direction. All the while they claim to be just on the point of attaining happiness.” ~Chuang Tzu

Enuff said…now off to Lalaland humming the great lyrics of great song!!! John Lennon reflects my state of mind uncannily

Watching The Wheel go round & round

People say I’m crazy doing what I’m doing
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin
When I say that I’m o.k. well they look at me kind of strange
Surely you’re not happy now you no longer play the game

People say I’m lazy dreaming my life away
Well they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me
When I tell them that I’m doing fine watching shadows on the wall
Don’t you miss the big time boy you’re no longer on the ball

I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

Ah, people asking questions lost in confusion
Well I tell them there’s no problem, only solutions
Well they shake their heads and they look at me as if I’ve lost my mind
I tell them there’s no hurry
I’m just sitting here doing time

I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go
I just had to let it go
I just had to let it go

October 3, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Happiness, Hmm..., I-Me-Myself, Inspiration, Meaning of Life, Music, My lifestyle, My Values, Philosophy, Quitting the Rat Race, Quotations, Reflections/Musings, Slacker-Sutras, Slacking, Wisdom, You tube. 2 comments.

Finding Happiness the Epictetus Way #7: Learning from Every Event & Person & Everything else Too!!!

Epictetus

Image via Wikipedia

Epictetus says : With every accident, ask yourself what abilities you have for making a proper use of it. If you are in pain, you will find fortitude. If you hear unpleasant language, you will find patience.

Commentary: If we become a student of life then all people (however annoying) & all events & circumstances (however trying) can become our teachers. In life there are no mistakes only lessons.  

I have learned silence from the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant, & kindness from the unkind, yet I’m ungrateful to these teachers.~Khalil Gibran

The only real mistakes are from which we learn nothing.

When you lose, don’t lose the lessons.

Good judgment comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgment.  ~Rita Mae Brown

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.  ~Chinese Proverb

Experience is what causes a person to make new mistakes instead of old ones.  

There is only one thing more painful than learning from experience, and that is not learning from experience.  ~Laurence J. Peter

The road to wisdom?
– Well, it’s plain
and simple to express:
Err
and err
and err again
but less
and less
and less.
~Piet Hein

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The following reminders from the book “If Life is a Game, These are the Rules” by Cherie Carter-Scott are useful in learning from everything in life 

When you were born, you didn’t come with an owner’s manual  these guidelines make life work better.

~ You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called “Life on Planet Earth”. Every person or incident is the Universal Teacher.

~There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of experimentation. “Failures” are as much a part of the process as “success.”

~A lesson is repeated until learned. It is presented to you in various forms until you learn it — then you can go on to the next lesson.

 ~If you don’t learn easy lessons, they get harder. External problems are a precise reflection of your internal state. When you clear inner obstructions, your outside world changes. Pain is how the universe gets your attention.

 ~You will know you’ve learned a lesson when your actions change. Wisdom is practice. A little of something is better than a lot of nothing.

~You always get what you want. Your subconscious rightfully determines what energies, experiences, and people you attract — therefore, the only foolproof way to know what you want is to see what you have. There are no victims, only students.

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A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her. 
~David Brinkley

Enemies teach us inner strength, courage and determination. ~Dalai Lama

In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.~Dalai Lama

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Jon Kabat-Zinn has written a wonderful book ‘Letting Everything Become Your Teacher’

‘Yes, there actually is a way to let everything become your teacher, to let life itself, and everything that unfolds within, Whether you are trying to learn patience, cope with pain, deal with the enormous stress and challenges of the age we live in, improve your relationships, or free yourself from destructive emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.’

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In Fact a wise person is open minded & lets everyone be his/her teacher. There is this cute little email ‘What you can learn from a Dog’ (Yes dogs are great teachers too):

1. Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride.

2. Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.

3. When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

4. When it’s in your best interest, practice obedience.

5. Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory.

6. Take naps and stretch before rising.

7. Run, romp, and play daily.

8. Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.

9. Be loyal.

10. If what you want lies burried, dig until you find it.

11. When someone is having a bad day, be silent. Sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

12. Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

13. Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

14. When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

15. No matter how often you’re scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout…. run right back and make friends

16. Delight in the simple joys of a long walk.

 

September 16, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Greek Philosophers, Happiness, Inspiration, Meaning of Life, My lifestyle, My Values, Quotations, Wisdom. 2 comments.

Quitting the Rat Race #5: Can Money/stuff Buy Happiness? Putting Things in Perspective


That is the lure of money: It lets people believe that they can be happy with money only if they have just a little more!!!

Yeah Money buys you stress n tension but not to worry it will come handy to buy anti-depressants !!!

That is the lure of money: It lets people believe that they can be happy with money only if they have just a little more!!!



 

September 15, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Consumerism, Happiness, Inspiration, Meaning of Life, My lifestyle, My Values, Philosophy, Quitting the Rat Race, Simplicity, Wisdom. 5 comments.

Quitting the Rat Race #4: Killing the cycle of consumerism & (over) work

DSC08232

Image by 特有生物研究保育中心 via Flickr

I guess there is a very close inter connection between  simplicity (living simply enjoying peace rather than stuff), frugality (saving money whenever & wherever we can but still feeling rich & luxurious: yes it is possible), solitude (enjoying time alone n you no longer see the Joneses, so no danger of falling into the trap of trying to compete with them) anti consumerism (stop finding joy in stuff) minimizing our (carbon) footprints on the planet (it makes me uneasy when people come loaded with poly bags containing stuff they don’t even need) & quitting the rat race (goodbye work, hello leisure).

 When we embrace simplicity, frugality & an anti consumerist lifestyle, quitting work is a piece of cake…no more working at a job we don’t want, to buy the stuff we don’t need, to impress the people we don’t even like, & in the bargain plundering the beautiful nature which we actually love!!!

In their ground breaking book ‘ Your Money or your life: 9 steps to transforming your relationship with money‘, authors Vicki Robbins & Joe dominquez say we must not measure the cost of any stuff in terms of money we spend on it but in terms of ‘life energy‘ we have to spend to earn that money. They have redefined the concept of money itself. Money doesn’t simply mean a ‘medium of exchange’ but ‘Money is something for which you trade life energy’. 

In order to apply this principle, you first calculate your hourly wage.  You will then see exactly how much your life energy is worth, and you will be able to measure the cost of money spent in terms of valuable life energy lost, instead of just dollars/rupees/whatever.  (This would come handy in cutting down spending money on useless stuff)

Once you have finished, you can do some eye-opening conversions.  For example:

How much life energy do you spend at convenience stores/restaurants daily?  Could you spend less and still be happy if you cooked at home? & we could think in these term whenever buying stuff big/small. I mean we don’t even need to carry out exact calculations. A general grasp of this concept makes us a little more aware when we are about to spend money.

I am very happy to report that I’ve cut down my own consumption in several areas once i became aware of the concept of ‘life energy’ value of money. This was my precursor to quitting the Rat Race.

‘My dad did not change his lifestyle, he early on recognized that there is a power in keeping a low overhead, he realized that there is a line that balance between having what you want and doing what you want and the more you have what you want the less you will do what you want. So once he says, I have a pair of jeans, a pair of boots and 2 jackets, I can do anything.’
Mario Van Peebles on the accomplishments of his father Melvin Van Peebles.

For me this arrangement works out just fine ‘cos perhaps I’ve been lucky to realize that stuff  ≠ Joy. My home has very simple furniture, just the bare functional basics & I just roll my eyes when I see people’s house that ceased being homes long ago & resemble more closely to museums, they have assorted nick knacks from all over the world displayed proudly (i think comically) in HUGE shelves. So much money down, the drain, so much life energy wasted’ & so much clutter. Spend money & buy head-ache. & more life energy to be wasted on cleaning the dust accumulated on all that stuff.

Ponder Over These too:

“It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else that prevents us from living freely and nobly.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Much of our activity these days is nothing more than a cheap anaesthetic to deaden the pain of an empty life.” – Unknown

“The things you own end up owning you.” – Tyler Durden in Fight Club

‘There must be more to life than having everything!’~Maurice Sendak

“There is enough on earth for everybody’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.”~Gandhi

With money you can’t buy wisdom, you can’t buy inner peace. Wisdom and inner peace must be created by yourself.~Dalai Lama

“Man…sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” ~The Dalai Lama (when asked what surprises him the most about humanity)

September 15, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Current Events, Inspiration, Meaning of Life, My lifestyle, My Values, Personal, Philosophy, Quitting the Rat Race, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity, Wisdom. 8 comments.

Why walking the talk is not as easy as waxing eloquent on deep Philosophies

For the last few days I’ve been focusing on learning wisdom from the wise Greek philosopherEpictetus, today I wrote a post on how to react (or how not to react) to insults, I received quite a positive feedback on the post & was pleased as punch with myself on having such deep thoughts. Among other things I said ‘we should not let people push our buttons, if they shout, let them, we should not shout back, etc etc…but come evening my hubby got mad at me over something trifle & spoke a little sharply to me, & the next moment I found myself paying his rudeness back in kind, I yelled for 2 mins & then suddenly recalled the wisdom from Epictetus, Buddha & Osho. I suddenly stopped in my tracks…this reminded me of a humorous story I had read sometime ago:

Su Dongpo , a famous Chinese poet, wrote the following poem to describe a state he had experienced in meditation:

I bow to the god among gods;
His hair-light illuminates the world.
Unmoved when the Eight Winds blow,
Upright I sit in a purple-golden lotus.

(The “eight winds ” in the poem referred to praise & ridicule, honor & disgrace, gain & loss, and pleasure & misery  – interpersonal forces of the material world that drive and influence the hearts of men. .

“He sent the poem to the Great Master Foyin , and the Master’s reply was two words: ‘Fart, fart.’ As soon as Su Dongpo saw the Great Master Foyin’s criticism, he couldn’t get it out of his mind, and he rushed across the Yangtze—he lived on the south side of the river and Great Master Foyin lived on the north side—to find the Master and scold him. He wanted to tell the Master that he had written an enlightened poem, and so how could the Master possibly have replied, ‘Fart, fart?’

“In fact, when Great Master Foyin criticized him, not only did Su Dongpo fart, he blazed forth and wanted to scorch Foyin to death. And so he rushed across the river and burst unannounced into the Master’s quarters and shouted, ‘How could you possibly scold someone and slander him that way by writing “fart, fart”?’

“Foyin replied, ‘Who was I slandering? You said that you were unmoved by the Eight Winds, but just by letting out two small farts I’ve blown you all the way across the Yangtze. And you still say that the Eight Winds don’t move you? You don’t have to talk about eight winds; just my two farts bounced you all the way up here.’

“Then Su Dongpo thought, ‘That’s right. I said that I’m unmoved by the Eight Winds, but two words have been enough to make me burn with anger.’ Realizing that he still didn’t have what it takes, he bowed to the Master and repented.

So while I was basking in my philosophical glory for last few days, a little thing disturbed me…but does that mean that we should simply stop trying to aim for serenity, naah that is not the case.

“Have you ever watched a stonecutter at work? He will hammer away at a rock for perhaps a 100 times without a crack showing in it. Then, on the 101st blow, it will split in two. It is not that blow alone which accomplished the result, but the 100 others that went before as well.”

So we should keep on trying & one day slowly but surely we’ll break our rocks & walk our talk.

September 13, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Buddhism, Humor, Inspiration, Parables, Philosophy, Reflections/Musings, Teaching Stories, Wisdom. 1 comment.

Finding Happiness the Epictetus Way #6

Epictetus on dealing with insults:

‘It is not he who reviles or strikes you who insults you, but your opinion that these things are insulting’

‘If evil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself, if it be a lie, laugh at it.’

If anyone tells you that such a person speaks ill of you, don’t make excuses about what is said of you, but answer: ” He does not know my other faults, else he would not have mentioned only these.”

My commentary: 

Eleanor Roosevelt has said that no one can make us feel inferior without our consent. It takes two people to insult, one to give & one to receive it, so if we simply refuse to get insulted no one can insult us even though they might say bad things about us. There’s a beautiful incident from Buddha‘s life which goes like this (As narrated by Osho):

Buddha was passing through a village. The people of that village were against him, against his philosophy, so they gathered around him to insult him. They used ugly words, vulgar words. Buddha listened. Ananda, Buddha’s disciple who was with him, got very angry, but he couldn’t say anything because Buddha was listening so silently, so patiently, rather as if he was enjoying the whole thing.

Then even the crowd became a little frustrated because he was not getting irritated and it seemed he was enjoying. Buddha said, ”Now, if you are finished, I should move – because I have to reach the other village soon. They must be waiting just as you were waiting for me. If you have not told me all the things that you thought to tell me, I will be coming back within a few days, then you can finish it.”

Somebody from the crowd said, ”But we have been insulting you, we have insulted you. Won’t you react? Won’t you say something?” 

Buddha said, ”That is difficult. If you want reaction from me, then you are too late. You should have come at least ten years ago, because then I used to react. But I am now no longer so foolish. I see that you are angry, that’s why you are insulting me. I see your anger, the fire burning in your mind. I feel compassion for you. This is my response – I feel compassion for you. Unnecessarily you are troubled.

”Even if I am wrong, why should you get so irritated? That is not your business. If I am wrong I am going to hell, you will not go with me. If I am wrong I will suffer for it, you will not suffer for it. But it seems you love me so much and you think about me and consider me so much that you are so angry, irritated. You have left your work in the fields and you have come just to say a few things to me. I am thankful.”

Just when he was leaving he said, ”One thing more I would like to say to you. In the other village I left behind, a great crowd just like you had come there and they had brought many sweets just as a present for me, a gift from the village. But I told them that I don’t take sweets. They took the sweets back. I ask you, what will they do with those sweets?”

So somebody from the crowd said, ”What will they do? It is easy, there is no need to answer. They will distribute them in the village and they will enjoy.”

So Buddha said, ”Now what will you do? You have brought only insults and I say I don’t take them. What will you do? I feel so sorry for you. You can insult me, that is up to you. But I don’t take it, that is up to me – whether I take it or not.” Buddha said, ”I don’t take unnecessary things, useless things. I don’t get unnecessarily burdened. I feel compassion for you.”

Osho says if we react to insults, it’s like we have given the remote control of our happiness to other people, they can agitate us whenever they want.

‘Watch how many things you do unconsciously. Somebody says something and there is anger. There is not even a single moment’s gap. It is as if you are just a mechanism — somebody pushes a button and you lose your temper. Just as if you push the button and the fan starts moving and the light goes on. There is not a. single moment. The fan never thinks whether to move or not to move; it simple moves.
This is unconsciousness, this is mindlessness. Somebody insults and you are simply controlled by his insult.”

So if someone says something bad about it, we should think that it’s got nothing to do with us, but everything to do with their own nature. Let them behave according to their nature & let us behave according to our nature.

Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process he was stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung. The other monk asked him, “Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know it’s nature is to sting?”

“Because,” the monk replied, “to save it is my nature.” 

The Best way to deal with an insult is not trying to top it up & insulting the person who insulted us in retaliation, the best way is to ignore it & go our way.

Finally it should be understood that people are bound to say one thing or another no matter what we try to do, so it’s wise to use our common sense & do what we deem the best in a given situation rather than twisting & turning trying to please them. Let them insult us but let us not make fools of ourselves in reaction to those insults. This story from Aesop’s Fables demonstrates this point wonderfully:

The Man, the Boy and the Donkey

Once a man and his son were walking to the market with their donkey. A countryman noticed that the donkey was walking alongside them and laughed, “You fools, what is a donkey for but to ride upon?!”

So the man decided to put his son on the donkey and they went on their way. A little while later they passed a group of men. One of them said, “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”

The man then ordered the boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women. One of them said to the other, “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”

The man didn’t know what to do at first. He thought and thought and finally decided to put his son up in front of him on the donkey.

Soon they reached the town. There too the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The man stopped and asked them what they were scoffing at. The people said, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey?”

The man and the boy got off. They had to think of what to do all over again. At last they had an idea. They took a long pole and tied the donkey’s feet to it. Then they raised the pole to their shoulders and carried the donkey upside down.

They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to the market bridge. The donkey accidentally got one of his feet loose and kicking out, caused the boy to drop his end of the pole.

In the struggle that followed, the poor donkey, with his forelegs tied together, fell over the bridge and drowned.

September 13, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Buddha, Buddhism, Greek Philosophers, Happiness, Inspiration, Meaning of Life, My lifestyle, My Values, Osho, Parables, Philosophy, Reflections/Musings, Teaching Stories, Wisdom. 12 comments.

Finding Happiness the Epictetus Way #5

Epictetus, (Artist's Impression), 1st/2nd cent...

Image via Wikipedia

EpictetusStoic philosophy is not concerned with the usual complicated subject matter of philosophy, such as Ontology & Physics but it concerns itself with ways to make life easier & happier for an average person. Perhaps that is the reson for it’s appeal even today.

Today’s Maxim:

If you want to improve, reject such reasonings as these: “If I neglect my affairs, I’ll have no income; if I don’t correct my servant, he will be bad.” For it is better to die with hunger, exempt from grief and fear, than to live in affluence with perturbation; and it is better your servant should be bad, than you unhappy.

Begin therefore from little things. Is a little oil spilt? A little wine stolen? Say to yourself, “This is the price paid for apathy, for tranquility, and nothing is to be had for nothing.” When you call your servant, it is possible that he may not come; or, if he does, he may not do what you want. But he is by no means of such importance that it should be in his power to give you any disturbance.

My commentary:

Worrying is the most futile of our mind’s activities, because it achieves nothing. There’s a very apt poster which says that there are only two times you should not worry: When you can do something about the problem & when you can’t do anything about a problem.

“I vow to let go of all worries and anxiety in order to be light and free.” –Thich Nhat Hanh

Worry never robs tomorrow of it’s sorrow. It only saps today of it’s joy.” –Leo Buscaglia

“Practice being content, your world will become worry free.” (Still Thoughts-Jing Si Aphorism)

Mark Twain said it well when he quipped: “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”

if there’s something you can do about the situation, why worry. If there’s nothing you can do about it, why worry!”

You may remember the A.A. Milne stories of Winnie-the-Pooh and Pooh’s friend Piglet. Piglet was an inveterate worrier: “Supposing that…?” “What if…?” “Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?” We are told that, after careful thought, Piglet was comforted by Pooh’s reply of “Supposing it didn’t?”  I can’t resist mentioning another favourite reference from the same books, this time from Eeyore: “It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily. “So it is.” “And freezing.” “Is it?” “Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.” (http://www.legalsecretaryjournal.com )

There’s a Buddhist/Zen story that illustrates how Human mind is accustomed to seeing only the bad situation instead of focusing on the good that is there:

There was once an old lady who worried all the time. Her elder daughter was married to an umbrella merchant while the younger daughter was the wife of a noodle vendor. On sunny days, she worried, “Oh no! The weather is so nice and sunny. No one is going to buy any umbrellas. What will happen if the shop has to be closed?” These worries made her sad. She just could not help but cry. When it rained, she would cry for the younger daughter. She thought, “Oh no! My younger daughter is married to a noodle vendor. You cannot dry noodles without the sun. Now there will be no noodles to sell. What should we do?” As a result, the old lady lived in sorrow everyday. Whether sunny or rainy, she grieved for one of her daughters. Her neighbors could not console her and jokingly called her “the crying lady.”

One day, she met a monk. He was very curious as to why she was always crying. She explained the problem to him. The monk smiled kindly and said, “Madam! You need not worry. I will show you a way to happiness, and you will need to grieve no more.”

The crying lady was very excited. She immediately asked the monk to show her what to do. The master replied, “It is very simple. You just need to change your perspective. On sunny days, do not think of your elder daughter not being able to sell umbrellas but the younger daughter being able to dry her noodles. With such good strong sunlight, she must be able to make plenty of noodles and her business must be very good. When it rains, think about the umbrella store of the elder daughter. With the rain, everyone must be buying umbrellas. She will sell a lot of umbrellas and her store will prosper.”

The old lady saw the light. She followed the monk’s instruction. After a while, she did not cry anymore; instead, she was smiling every day. From that day on she was known as “the smiling lady.”

Ajan Brahm says ‘The possibilities for the future are infinite. When we focus on the unfortunate possibilities, that’s called worry. When we remember the other possibilities, which are usually more likely, that’s called freedom from worry.’

There’s this cute song by Bob Marley ‘Don’t worry About a thing’ & Connie Talbot’s rendition :

 

September 12, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Buddhism, Greek Philosophers, Happiness, Inspiration, Meaning of Life, My lifestyle, My Values, Parables, Teaching Stories, Uncategorized, Wisdom. 4 comments.

Finding Happiness The Epictetus Way #4

Epictetus

Image via Wikipedia

Epictetus was born into slavery about A.D. 55 in the eastern outreaches of the Roman Empire. Sold as a child and crippled from the beatings of his master, Epictetus was eventually freed, rising from his humble roots to establish an influential school of Stoic philosophy. Stressing that human beings cannot control life, only how they respond to it, Epictetus dedicated his life to outlining the simple way to happiness, fulfillment, and tranquility. By putting into practice the ninety-three witty, wise, and razor-sharp instructions that make up The Enchiridion, readers learn to successfully meet the challenges of everyday life and face life’s inevitable losses and disappointments with grace.

Epictetus’s teachings rank among the greatest wisdom texts of human civilization. The Enchiridion is still the best primer for living the best possible life — as helpful in the twenty-first century as it was in the first.

In every post I’m focusing on one Maxim from Enchiridion to understand it more fully & holistically.

Today’s Maxim: ‘Don’t seek to have events happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do happen.’

Commentary: Many times we wish that life should go only as we want, all our wishes & dreams should be fulfilled instantly. We want instant gratification. And then if we meet some circumstances that are not as per our expectations then we get frustrated, disappointed & depressed.

Byron Katie, author of the book ‘Loving What is’, is a champion of accepting Reality as it is without interfering/judging/demanding. This is the key to peace of mind.

She says:

Reality doesn’t wait for your opinion, vote, or permission, sweetheart. It just keeps being what it is and doing what it does.

Reality doesn’t ever wait for our agreement or approval. It is what it is. You can count on that.

Nothing ever goes wrong in life.

Nothing terrible has ever happened except in our thinking. Reality is always good, even in situations that seem like nightmares. The story we tell is the only nightmare that we have lived.

Without the “should” and “shouldn’t,” we can see reality as it is, and this leaves us free to act efficiently, clearly, and sanely. Asking “What’s the reality of it?” can help bring the mind out of its story, back into the real world.

All I have is all I need and all I need is all I have in this moment.

When we stop opposing reality, action becomes simple, fluid, kind, and fearless.

If you want reality to be different than what it is, you might as well try to teach a cat to bark.

Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it… it’s just easier if you do.”

I am a lover of what is, not because I’m a spiritual person, but because it hurts when I argue with reality.

Nothing comes ahead of its time, and nothing ever happened that didn’t need to happen.

When you argue with reality, you lose, but only 100% of the time.

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It’s true that whatever life brings us, whatever happens to us for the best. An old Akbar Birbal Tale come to my mind:

Once Akbar the mughal emperor and Birbal, his minister were having a chat. While cutting a fruit, Akbar cut his finger slightly and was upset about it. Birbal said “Jahapana, whatever happens is for your good. Do not worry”. This irked Akbar and he wanted to score it even with Birbal. He takes him for hunting trip at the end of the day they are tired. Akbar asks Birbal to get down into an abandoned well and fetch water. After Birbal got down, Akbar pulled the rope up, said, “Birbal stay there, what ever happens is for your own good”, and left him there. Wandering in the Jungle, Akbar lost his way back and was captured by the Tribes, who decided to offer him as a sacrifice to Goddess Kali. Just before chopping his head off, one of them sees the cut on his finger, asserted that he was not perfect, and hence cannot be offered as “Bali” and they released him. Akbar realized Birbal’s words and repented for leaving him in the well and went back to get him. When Akbar explains what happened and apologizes to Birbal for his act, Birbal says “Jahapana, good that you left me, else they would have killed and offered me to kali instead of you”.

It’s a story, still the moral is priceless. We all know that thinking positively through tough times is not easy. It’s hard to practice, easier said than done. Nevertheless, they are great support under difficult circumstances. 

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This is the Message of Bhagvat Geeta too:

Whatever happened, happened for the good; whatever is happening, is happening for the good; whatever will happen, will also happen for the good only. You need not have any regrets for the past. You need not worry for the future. The present is happening as it should.

September 10, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Books, Greek Philosophers, Happiness, Inspiration, Meaning of Life, My lifestyle, My Values, Philosophy, Quotations, Reflections/Musings, Teaching Stories, Wisdom. 6 comments.

Quitting the Rat Race #2: Read ‘Possum Living’ & get Inspired

‘Many people, perhaps you among them, are not temperamentally suited for the 9-to-5 rat race but assume there is no other way to live.’ Thus begins a very engrossing & gripping tale of how the author Dolly Freed & her father spent living with no job & almost no money.

Many people are attracted to Quit the rat race & spend life in simplicity but they don’t have clues and/or role models. The book is full of philosophical reflections as well as of practical advice on how to live job-free. I’ve enjoyed the book for its philosophical nuggets. The practical advice is of no use to me ‘cos Dolly n her father lived by rearing & eating Rabbits, chicken, duck, fish etc. I am a hard core Vegetarian.Even otherwise  the practical part may be bit dated because the book was published in 1975 but philosophy in it is evergreen. Dolly’s sense of humor & keen insights made this book absolutely un putdownable for me. The best sentence of the whole book is :

“It’s easier to learn to do without some of the things money can buy than to earn the money to buy them.”

Here are my favorite excerpts from the book

~1 We Quit the Rat Race

Do you remember the story of Diogenes, the ancient Athenian crackpot? He was the one who gave away all his possessions because “People don’t own possessions, their possessions own them.” He had a drinking cup, but when he saw a child scoop up water by hand, he threw the cup away. To beat the housing crunch he set up an abandoned wine barrel in a public park and lived in that.

The central theme of Diogenes’ philosophy was that “The gods gave man an easy life, but man has complicated it by itching for luxuries.”

Apparently he lived up to his principles. When Alexander of Macedon, the future conqueror of the known world, was traveling through Greece, he honored Diogenes with a visit. Alexander admired Diogenes’ ideas to the point of offering him any gift within his means. Diogenes, who was working on his tan at the time, asked as his gift that Alexander move aside a bit so as to stop shading him from the sun. This to the richest and most powerful man in the Western world.

Parting, Alexander remarked, “If I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes.” Diogenes went back to nodding in the sunshine.

Diogenes was fair and just to all but refused to recognize the validity of man-made laws. He was a good old boy, one of the first back-to-basics freaks in recorded history. He lived to be over 90. Alexander, The Mighty Conqueror, drank himself to death at age 33.

Well, this “Saint Diogenes” has been my father’s idol for many years. I remember when I was a little girl Daddy painted a picture of Diogenes sitting in his barrel tossing away his drinking cup. He wrote “Are You a Diogian?” as a caption and hung it on the living room wall to inspire us.

~Having told what we do spend money on, let me now say what we don’t spend it on. In a word, hardly anything we can do without. Some people seem to be actively seeking ways to dissipate their money, and get nervous and upset if they fail to get rid of it all on a given shopping spree. It’s burning that proverbial hole in their pocket.

Here are a few things we don’t spend money on:

* Insurance gets never a penny. Once when Mom and Daddy were still married, an acquaintance went into the insurance business and tried to sell them life insurance.

“If I should die,” said Daddy, looking Mom in the face, “money would mean nothing to her.” That was probably the first time in the history of the world an insurance salesman didn’t have a word to say.

We don’t have fire insurance because we have a brick house, a fire extinguisher a hose long enough to reach all parts of the house, a lightning rod, sound electrical wiring, neither of us smokes, and we’re never away from home for long periods of time. We don’t need flood insurance since we live on a hill, and we also don’t need theft insurance (our movable possessions total less than $260 in value). We just see no reason for liability insurance. Not having a car saves us all the insurance associated with that.

* Vacations, another common expenditure, are not required–our whole life is just one big vacation. We don’t need to “get away from it all” because there’s nothing we want to get away from.

* Hobbies don’t cost us much. Mine, birdwatching, requires a pair of binoculars and a book for identifying them, but they both last for many years. We both have $17 running shoes, but they last pretty long. We bought a badminton set for $11 (listed under “Luxuries”), but that, too, should give us years of enjoyment.

* Christmas doesn’t exist for us. December 25 is just another day here. Tis the season to be greedy, ostentatious, treacly sentimental, frenzied, hysterical, morbidly drunk and suicidal, and we see no reason to pretend otherwise. So we ignore it in the hope that it’ll go away. Christmas has become like a horse with a broken leg. You can’t enjoy the horse and simply ignore its broken leg–the only decent thing to do is put it out of its misery and be done with it. If you’re religious, you surely realize that the potlatch orgy of December 25 has little to do with Christ. Mammon or Bacchus, maybe, but not Christ. So do yourself and your religion both a favor and refuse to play the game. If we all ignore it, it really will go away.

* Income tax wasn’t listed on the budget, as you may have noticed. We don’t pay any, because we never have enough income to require paying. You can’t imagine what a difference it makes blood-pressure-wise if one is a taxpayer or not while one is reading the news!

We pay property taxes, because we have to (they really will sell taxes. When the man came around about the “Occupant headtax,” we simply told him we didn’t live here–we’re just here fixing up the place as a rental. He never came back. About two years ago we got a form in the mail about an “occupation tax,” but since we don’t have an occupation, we figured it didn’t concern us.

* Being true misers, we find we can do without all sorts of little nonessentials that do add up: haircuts, “grooming aids,” pets, “knick-knacks” and other decorations, snacks and convenience foods, furniture, beauty parlor visits (I don’t need them), magazines and newspapers (we use the library), telephone service, movies, toothpaste (we make our own–equal parts of salt and baking soda dissolved in water), tobacco, charity, gifts (a quart of wine or moonshine or a dressed rabbit does for gift-giving)–but you get the picture. We keep a record of every cent we spend, so we do know just where it goes. Let me urge you to do the same: You’ll be surprised at all the things that take your money–which means your time and energy. If you’re buying anything on time, you want to find out what the actual interest rate and service charges are, of course.

“But don’t you want Nice Things?” people ask. “Don’t YOU like to go out and have a Good Time?”

“Nope,” we answer. “Get a lot out of staying home reading.”

~We’re incredibly lazy. You wouldn’t believe it! We have an anarchy here wherein neither has to do anything we don’t feel like doing. (Except to feed the creatures. You can’t neglect animals in your care.) Normally I do the housework and the Old Fool does the garden, the heavy work, and the care of the creatures. Not because we have sexist roles, but because the housework bugs him more than it bugs me, and vice versa. If I don’t feel like doing the dishes, say, for a couple of days, why I just don’t do them. I often feed the animals if Daddy feels like goofing off, and he often does the dishes. The anarchy works for us because we love each other and don’t abuse it. It amazes me that so many people must either dominate or be dominated, like a bunch of monkeys on Monkey Island at the zoo.

Often my conscience tries to nag me when I’m goofing off, but it doesn’t get very far any more. Daddy says it’s just the same with him. Actually, it’s hard to understand how it is that laziness has fallen into such disrepute in our society. Well, I’m tired of being a Closet Sluggard! I’m lazy and proud of it!

We can afford to be lazy because we satisfy our material needs with little effort and little money. Of course, you know that money doesn’t buy only goods and services, it also buys prestige and status. Being somewhat egocentric, we don’t feel the need to buy prestige or status. The neat trick that Diogenes pulled was to turn the tables on those of his contemporaries who believed that “Life is a game and money is how you keep score.” He didn’t keep score. We don’t keep score. You needn’t keep score either if you don’t want to. It’s entirely up to you.

Money per se isn’t the only status thing involved. Some people make a big machismo deal out of employment itself. You know, mighty-hunter-bring-home-the-bacon stuff. Folks old enough to remember the depression of the 1930s tend to take a very solemn attitude about jobs, and unless you like to argue, it pays to sidestep the issue with them. It doesn’t matter that you’re not on welfare or accepting charity but are earning your own way in life (albeit in an unorthodox manner), the mystique lies with that Holding Down a Job concept. Don’t ask me why.

Sometimes people who secretly resent it that they have to work (or think they do), and we don’t, point out that Daddy has no security for his old age. Daddy always knuckles under and mutters something like, “Gee, you’re right, mutter, mutter,” because it makes them feel better and doesn’t cost him anything, so why not?

Once he was fishing and an old gentleman came along and struck up a conversation. Coming to the conclusion that Daddy couldn’t find work, he started commiserating with him about the “hard times.” Then Daddy made a mistake and let it out that he didn’t want a job. The old boy got himself into a state of righteous indignation because he was retired) and had earned the right to go fishing on weekdays, by fifty years of hard work, and here Daddy was just going ahead doing it. Daddy mollified him by pointing out that he’d be up shit creek when he got old, and that thought cheered the old gentleman up to the point of giving Daddy a nice catfish he had caught. However, what he truthfully thinks is:

* Sure, you have security, but the slaves on the plantation didn’t starve either.

* The social security system is an obvious pyramid game and can’t be trusted.

* There’s really nothing I do now as a young man to live that I won’t be able to do as an old man.

* It’s unmanly to worry so about the future. Did Caesar worry about his old age pension when he crossed the Rubicon?

* Jesus clearly and specifically taught against concern for future security (Matthew 6:25-34). Like it or not, it’s un-Christian to plan for the future.

* I refuse to spend the first sixty years of my life worrying about the last twenty.

* Dolly will take care of me.

These same resentful people might also bring up that “You aren’t doing your share–you aren’t contributing to society.” While it’s impossible to have too much contempt for this beehive mentality, to avoid an argument you can answer:

* I am too being useful! You can always use me as a Bad Example!

* While I’m not contributing to economic growth, a dubious good, I’m also not contributing to pollution, a definite evil.

~Now that you have the overall idea–is it for you? Possibly not. It depends on the instincts you were born with and your present family circumstances. For example, my Mom wants no part of “this squalor,” as she puts it. Daddy and I are instinctive possums–we break out in hives in elegant surroundings. Also, you have to trust your instincts. ”Philosophize with a hammer,” as Nietzsche advocated, “testing idols to see if they ring true.” Does the money economy ring true for you? Does possum living ring true? It isn’t enough that you know a false idol when you gee one; your family must agree with you. If your kid gets the shakes when the TV goes on the blink, forget it. If your spouse gives you the fish-eye look when you mention rabbits in the cellar, forget it. If the thought of quitting your job blows your mind, don’t do it. If it makes you feel good, on the other hand, do it! Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

~ Clothing

The implementation of buying prestige and status is often through the medium of clothing. I hate to say it, but this seems to be especially true of women.

Once when Daddy worked for Manpower he had a two-week job working for a business that sold fashionable women’s clothing. Ladies would come in–all sorts of ladies, from all sorts of backgrounds, usually with several friends–and start buying (on time payments, naturally). The distinct impression was that they didn’t have as much need for clothing as they had to impress their friends and the saleslady with the size of the bundle they were dropping. Then, right out in public, they’d agree among themselves on what lies they would tell their husbands regarding the cost of the various items.

I completely fail to understand this mentality. No doubt they would fail to understand us, so that makes us even. We get all our clothing at the thrift shop. We’re fortunate in that our local church thrift shop is extremely reasonable (there are thrift shops and there are thrift shops). Daddy’s entire wardrobe, excluding running shoes, cost about $10. Mine, also excluding running shoes, cost about $15.

Well, I know what you’re thinking: I’m some poor, dowdy little thing and Daddy looks like the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. Now, how can I say this without seeming immodest? The truth is that when I get dressed up I’m a knockout. I go out on dates and no one seems ashamed to be seen with me. And while Daddy usually does look like a scarecrow, he, too, is presentable when he wants to be.

Okay, you say, how does all this fine clothing wind up in a thrift shop? That’s easily answered: The ladies who need to show off their spending power also need to make room in their closets before they can buy new clothes. Then, too, many people go on diets and lose weight, treat themselves to a whole new wardrobe to celebrate, and then gain the weight back and have no use for the clothes.

17 Transportation

In our society the automobile is many things to many people. To the suburbanite it has become what the horse was to the Plains Indians–the whole basis of the culture. To a great many men and boys it’s the premier status symbol. Daddy says that when he was a young man the guys would do almost anything to get “wheels,” because the girls wouldn’t even look at you otherwise, and hormones win out over common sense every time. Environmentalists see the automobile, both in its manufacture and operation, as the main ingredient of our monumental pollution problem.

We haven’t had a car for three years now, and there has been some inconvenience because of it. But then there’s an awful lot of inconvenience to owning a car, too: insurance, maintenance, gas worry, traffic jams, parking–and mainly money. Freedom of mobility doesn’t come cheap.

Unfortunately, there’s virtually zero public transportation in our area, so we walk, run, or bicycle everywhere we go. There’s a little town 2 miles from our house, and when we need anything–groceries, hardware, etc.–we walk there pulling a grocery cart (the geek-mobile).

It doesn’t seem to have to do a bit of walking and cycling have harmed us. In fact, we enjoy it. Walking or cycling, you really do notice a lot more about the things going on around you than you do from a speeding car, trite as that may sound

A word or two about our chief mode of transportation: A good three-speed bike is better than a ten-speed bike for practical transportation purposes. It’s easier to ride, easier to maintain, less a target for thieves, and less expensive then a ten speed. We bought our bikes at yard sales rather than from dealers. However, don’t look for a terrific bargain, because if you get one you’ll be buying stolen merchandise. Don’t encourage thieving–your bike might be the next to disappear.

~ Daily Living

Now that you know how to become a member of the leisure class, you may wonder just what it is we leisure-niks do all day.

Sometimes people will tell us that if they didn’t have a job to go to, or a regular routine of duties and responsibilities, they wouldn’t know what to do–they’d be bored to death. Boredom is not to be underestimated. Murders, suicides, and even full-scale wars have come about from pure boredom. (Napoleon justified his career on the grounds that he gave men the opportunity to die with military glory rather than of boredom. Women, too, are vulnerable. “Housewife syndrome”–the daily occurrence of eventlessness–is a major problem in our society. In 6th-century Constantinople, Empress Theodora established a convent for reformed prostitutes, so they wouldn’t be forced to resume business. Some of the “saved” girls manifested their gratefulness by leaping out of the windows–literally bored to death. But occasionally being bored is part of life, so don’t overestimate it, either. (Nietzsche said, “Against boredom even the gods struggle in vain.”)

TV is, of course, the modern way to alleviate boredom, but we don’t have one. People are always trying to give us their old TVs, but we decline. We can’t handle TV. It absolutely fascinates me when I see it, but I always feel nervous next day when I wake up and realize I’ve attuned my thoughts to a TV program I’ve seen–something unreal! My instincts warn me there’s a stalking horse in the field. What predator might not be hiding behind the stalking horse of TV? If you can handle TV there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy it–it’s just not for us.

We haven’t found boredom to be a problem except during the dismal months of the last two winters, which were exceptionally nasty ones. Generally if we are able to get out-of-doors, to exercise properly (run) on a regular basis, eat properly, and be free of outside pressures and harassment, all else falls into place–life is good.

We aren’t hermits and neither need you be if you take up this life style. We have friends who invite us to their parties even though they know we aren’t in a position to reciprocate (which proves them to be true friends). Friends and neighbors stop by here for a drop of the creature and a hand or two of cards, and we do them the same way. I get the impression some of our friends like to visit here to get a respite from the gracious living they’re forced to endure at home. Here they can throw ashes and nutshells on the floor and put their feet up on the table if they want. I go on dates same as any other girl. If you want to be a hermit or a hippie there’s no reason you shouldn’t, but you don’t have to be one just because you don’t happen to have any visible means of support.

~What’s Gonna Happen Next?

It might occur to you that getting off the 9-to-5 treadmill is what you want and need right now but that spending the rest of your life on a half-acre Garden of Eden isn’t the whole answer either. Good thinking.

One thing that living possum-style does is to give a person the confidence to have freedom of choice. It’s quite likely, for example, that I’ll get a job some day: to see what’s going on out there in the “real world” and to meet–well, you know–men. But I’ll never, never get myself into a situation where I need a job. If a job annoys me at all–back to possum living here at my Snug Harbor.

This freedom I harp on isn’t restricted merely to whether or not to have a job. Now that we have some practice at it, I’m pretty sure we can possum live anywhere. And that means we can travel. I have an idea in the back of my head to build a flat-bottomed boat small enough to be rowed or poled but big enough to afford sleeping room for two under a canvas shelter. We would then take off down the intercostals waterway from Philadelphia to my birthplace in Florida, and return. The whole trip would take about a year, and we’d live off the land (and water) the whole time. What an adventure! We’d rent out the house for the year, which should more than pay for the boat and expenses. (Now all I have to do is to talk Daddy–or someone else–into coming along to help do the rowing and poling.)

So that’s how the last four years have drifted by for us.

Now, then, don’t you have a hobby you just don’t have time to pursue? Golf? Tennis? Partying? Studying? Music? Painting? Pottery? Hang gliding? Whatever? Even fishing or gardening–wouldn’t you like to change these from merely recreation to partly occupation?

Yes? Then why don’t you simply do so?

It’s feasible. It’s easy. It can be done. It should be done.

Do it.

September 9, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Consumerism, Happiness, Inspiration, Meaning of Life, My lifestyle, My Values, Quitting the Rat Race, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity, Slacker-Sutras, Slacking, Wisdom. 5 comments.

Finding Happiness the Epictetus Way: #3

Epictetus

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Epictetus was a Stoic philosopher. He was born a slave at Hierapolis, Phrygia  and lived in Rome until banishment when he went to Nicopolis in Greece where he lived the rest of his life. His teachings were noted down and published by his pupil Arrian in his Discourses. Philosophy, he taught, is a way of life and not just a theoretical discipline. To Epictetus, all external events are determined by fate, and are thus beyond our control, but we can accept whatever happens calmly and dispassionately. Individuals, however, are responsible for their own actions, which they can examine and control through rigorous self-discipline. Suffering arises from trying to control what is uncontrollable, or from neglecting what is within our power.(see: Finding Hapiness the Epictetus Way #1)

The Enchiridion, or Handbook of Epictetus, or simply “The Handbook”, is a short manual of Stoic ethical advice compiled by Arrian. The Handbook is a guide to daily life. Epictetus focuses his attention on how to practically apply oneself on a philosophical level.

Epictetus says, “Don’t be prideful with any excellence that is not your own. If a horse should be prideful and say, ” I am handsome,” it would be supportable. But when you are prideful, and say, ” I have a handsome horse,” know that you are proud of what is, in fact, only the good of the horse. What, then, is your own? Only your reaction to the appearances of things. Thus, when you behave conformably to nature in reaction to how things appear, you will be proud with reason; for you will take pride in some good of your own.”

Commentary : Many of us in the present world gain a sense of identity from our position, power & possessions. People take pride in in possessions as if the things are a reflection of them & their personality. Recently I’ve been listening to an Ad on F.M. Radio which goes something like this: ‘Your identity is know by your dress & address’ & then suggests for better status buy a home at such n such place. Gone are the days when we were known by who we are as a person, our inherent nature, our kindness, our strengths, now we are known for things we own!!! I remember watching another Ad of T.V. some years ago where a family meets a friend after long, they invite him home, he’s reluctant to come as he’s busy elsewhere but the family hounds him & literally kidnap him n bring him home so that they can impress him with their furniture/ paint/ some such thing which I’m forgetting at the moment. In fact such false Identification is the cause of our consumer culture, where people work hard at jobs they don’t like, to buy the stuff they don’t (really) need to impress the people they don’t like!!


The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything. ~Fight Club movie

Eckhart Tolle beautifully captures this malady of identification with things & it’s pitfalls in his book ‘The New Earth’. Here’s the extract from the book:

IDENTIFICATION WITH THINGS

The people in the advertising industry know very well that in order to sell things that people don’t really need, they must convince them that those things will add something to how they see themselves or are seen by others; in other words, add something to their sense of self. They do this, for example, by telling you that you will stand out from the crowd by using this product and so by implication be more fully yourself. Or they may create an association in your mind between the product and a famous person, or a youthful, attractive, or happy looking person. Even pictures of old or deceased celebrities in their prime work well for that purpose. The unspoken assumption is that by buying this product, through some magical act of appropriation, you become like them, or rather the surface image of them.

And so in many cases you are not buying a product but an “identity enhancer.” Designer labels are primarily collective identities that you buy into. They are expensive and therefore “exclusive.” If everybody could buy
them, they would lose their psychological value and all you would be left with would be their material value, which likely amounts to a fraction of what you paid.

What kind of things you identify with will vary from person to person according to age, gender, income, social class, fashion, the surrounding culture, and so on. What you identify with is all to do with content; whereas, the unconscious compulsion to identify is structural. It is one of the most basic ways in which the egoic mind operates.

Paradoxically, what keeps the so called “consumer society” going is the fact that trying to find yourself through things doesn’t work: The ego satisfaction is short-lived and so you keep looking for more, keep buying, keep consuming.

Of course, in this physical dimension that our surface selves inhabit, things are a necessary and inescapable part of our lives. We need housing clothes, furniture, tools, transportation. There may also be things in our lives that we value because of their beauty or inherent quality. We need to honor the world of things, not despise it. Each thing has Beingness, is a temporary form that has its origin within the formless one Life, the source of all things, all bodies, all forms. In most ancient cultures, people believed that everything, even so called inanimate objects, had an indwelling spirit, and in this respect they were closer to the truth than we are today. When you live in a world deadened by mental abstraction, you don’t sense the aliveness of the universe anymore. Most people don’t inhabit a living reality, but a conceptualized one.

But we cannot really honor things if we use them as a means to self-enhancement, that is to say, if we try to find ourselves through them. This is exactly what the ego does. Ego identification with things creates attachment to things, obsession with things, which in turn creates our consumer society and economic structures where the only measure of progress is always more. The unchecked striving for more, for endless growth, is a dysfunction and a disease. It is the same dysfunction the cancerous cell manifests, whose only goal is to multiply itself, unaware that it is bringing about its own destruction by destroying the organism of which it is a part. Some economists are so attached to the notion of growth that they can’t let go of that word, so they refer to recession as a time of “negative growth.”

A large part of many people’s lives is consumed by an obsessive preoccupation with things. This is why one of the ills of our times is object proliferation. When you can no feel the life that you are, you are likely to fill
up your life with things. As a spiritual practice, I suggest that you investigate your relationship with the world of things through self-observation, and in particular, things that are designated with the word “my.” You need to be alert and honest to find out, for example, whether your sense of self-worth is bound up with things you possess. Do certain things induce a subtle feeling of importance or superiority? Does the lack of them make you feel inferior to others who have more than you? Do you casually mention things you own or show them off to increase your sense of worth in someone else’s eyes and through them in your own? Do you feel resentful or angry and somehow diminished in your sense of self when someone else has more than you or when you lose a prized possession?

Excerpt taken from Chapter 2 of ECKHART TOLLE — A NEW EARTH: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose


September 9, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Current Events, Greek Philosophers, Happiness, Inspiration, Meaning of Life, Philosophy, Quitting the Rat Race, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity, Wisdom. 4 comments.

Finding Happiness the Epictetus Way : #1

Epictetus

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Epictetus was a stoic philosopher. His ‘Enchiridion‘ is full of simple yet profound wisdom on ‘how to be happy.

It begins with a very powerful statement :

‘Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.”


My Commentary: Epictetus says that things in our lives fall under two categories: Things that we can control & things that are not within our control. The events/circumstances of our life are outside our control but how we interpret them & how we react to them is very much in our control. The wise focus their energies on things that are within our control whereas fools waste their time trying to blame/complain about things outside our control. People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them. There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our control.

“If it is peace you want, seek to change yourself, not other people. It is easier to protect your feet with slippers than to carpet the whole of the earth.” ~Anthony De Mello

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.” ~ Reinhold Niebuhr

“Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but by how we react to what happens, not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life. A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes. It is a catalyst, a spark that creates extraordinary results.”~ Anon

Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said:
“Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you”.
In other words: freedom consists in finding the point of power, which is always in the present moment. It also means: how you respond to what happens is more important than what happens.~Eckhart Tolle

” Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. We are in charge of our Attitudes.” ~ Charles Swindoll

This point has also been stressed by Stephen covey in his book ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’. The first effective habit he describes is “Be Proactive” that is no matter what happens we still are in charge of our responses. To bring his point home further he has used the concept of circle of influence & circle of concern which are similar to Epictetus’ ‘Things within our control’ & ‘Things outside our control’

Things within our control = Our circle of Influence

Things outside our control = Our circle of Concern

Covey says that effective people spend time in their circle of influence, focusing on things that they can indeed control. Whenever we blame others for our miseries we are acting out of our circle of influence.

As long as we choose to blame the circumstances in our life on people and things in our external environment, we remain powerless to change these circumstances. We become the victims of our external environment, and in the process expend a tremendous amount of mental energy complaining about the lack of control over our lives. Only by understanding that the circumstances in your life are your responsibility will you be able to regain control over your life. You can then be proactive, and consciously improve the quality of your life by acting responsibly in the present.

This is beautifully illustrated by Chuck Gallozzi  the author of the book, ‘The 3 Thieves and 4 Pillars of Happiness, 7 Steps to a Life of Boundless Joy’  :

You go to a restaurant and order a steak. You specifically ask to have the steak well-done, explaining that you can’t eat it if it’s rare. Twenty minutes later, the waiter returns with a covered, sizzling plate and walks away. You uncover the plate and find the steak is rare. You are now angry.

You can choose to remain angry, but that would be unwise as it would ruin your meal. Instead, you choose to stop and think about the situation. You ask yourself how these stupid mistakes happen. As soon as you do, the answer appears. Mistakes happen because we’re dealing with people, and people make mistakes. That’s why pencils have erasers. Making mistakes is part of our nature. We’re imperfect. And since you’re a person, you, too, make mistakes and upset people.

After arriving at this conclusion, your anger is gone. You calmly call the waiter, return the steak, and ask him for one well-done. Also, you spontaneously add, “Since I have to wait again, perhaps you can bring me a free cappuccino to pass the time.” The waiter answers, “I’ll be happy to sir; I’ll get you one right away.”

You are proud of the way you responded and look forward to the pleasure of a cappuccino. This turn of events came about only because you changed your mental state. It is only in a state of calmness that your creativity can spring into action and think of “the cappuccino solution.” Instead of ruining your dinner, you improved it! And the restaurant gets a chance to make up for

September 7, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Greek Philosophers, Happiness, Inspiration, Meaning of Life, My lifestyle, My Values, Philosophy, Reflections/Musings, Wisdom. 8 comments.

Quitting the Rat Race #1: Drawing Wisdom from Wise Philosophers: #1 Epicurus

Portrait of Epicurus. Pentelic marble, Roman c...

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Today we live  in a materialistic & acquisitive society where  people have status according to the car they drive, the size of their house, designer clothes, exotic holidays abroad, etc etc.

But is this honestly leading us towards any happiness??If purpose of life is to be happy, shouldn’t we at least pause from the maddening rat race & take a moment to reflect?

I have been lucky enough to quit the rat race at a ripe old age of 34 & am now enjoying my days idling, doing a little bit of house work & generally resting, idling , reading, thinking, blogging n mostly loafing during the day. This time abundance to me is the ultimate luxury, more valuable than money. n stuff that money can buy. Though I must admit that the decision was not a simple one to make. Time n again I have doubted my decision. Though I can afford not to work if I scale down my expenses a bit & rejig the lifestyle a bit, not working is a breeze for me…but still doubts kept pestering me, what if I come to regret this later? What if I get bored of all this after a few days? Not working when everyone else is climbing the so called career ladder of success can be a bit scary at times. During such times I have gone to books as usual, when in doubt read books & did a bit of research. I have gleaned wisdom from all possible kind of sources including a 1975 book called ‘Possum Living’, to an even older , classic ‘The Importance of Living’ which is a primer on living an idle life, to a contemporary book called ‘How to be free’ & from Ancient Greek Philosophers. The findings have been pretty Interesting. I will kickstart the Inspiration from the Greek Philosopher Epicurus.

According to the Wise Philosopher Epicurus wealth beyond a certain level is waste, it is like water overflowing from a full bucket…yet people in their quest to earn more n more forget such simple truths.

“When we say…that pleasure is the end and aim of life, we do not mean the pleasures of the prodigal or the pleasures of sensuality, as we are understood to do by some through ignorance, prejudice, or willful misrepresentation. By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul. It is not by an unbroken succession of drinking bouts and of revelry, not by sexual lust, nor the enjoyment of fish and other delicacies of a luxurious table, which produce a pleasant life; it is sober reasoning, searching out the grounds of every choice and avoidance, and banishing those beliefs through which the greatest tumults take possession of the soul.” —Epicurus

The most important mistake people make, according to Epicurus, is that they associate the idea of happiness with having lots of money. He also managed to explain why we tend to make such an erroneous association. Though Epicurus proclaimed that pleasure is the most essential thing in life, he appears to have led a rather simple, moderate life: simple clothes, simple home, drinking water rather than wine, and having frugal meals.

The basic concept in his philosophy is that we are starkly unable to understand what can make us happy. We are therefore very much attracted to material things rather than spiritual ones. And what do we do? We go shopping for useless things. Thus we replace our real needs with things like clothes, furniture, cars, nice houses, and such like. But as this Greek philosopher tried to prove, there are only three things we need to be happy: friends, freedom, and an analyzed life.

“What’s good is easy to get.” We need food, water, shelter from the elements, and safety from hostile animals and people. All these things lie ready to hand and can be acquired with little effort or money. We don’t need caviar, champagne, palaces, or bodyguards, which are expensive and difficult to acquire and keep. People who want more than they need are making a fundamental mistake, a mistake that reduces their chances of being satisfied and causes needless anxiety.

Being cheerful is the key to being happy. As long as we are cheerful it takes very little to keep us happy, but without cheerfulness we cannot really enjoy even the so-called ‘pleasures’ of life. Being cheerful is a state which is full of pleasure

He also believed in freedom. He felt that allowing your boss – be they employer or political master – to tell you what to do couldn’t help you achieve happiness. This is where the garden came in. With his followers he brought a house and a garden on the outskirts of Athens in 306 BC where they grew all the food they needed to live. It wasn’t the finest food in the world, just simple, rural fare. But it did for them. It gave them time to think, which is the third of Epicurus’s ingredients for a happy life.

we need to be happy is “an analyzed life”. That meant taking time to think and consider our worries, what stresses out and why. Epicurus was of the opinion that our worries might decrease simply by analyzing them very carefully and rationally.

The fundamental obstacle to happiness, says Epicurus, is anxiety. No matter how rich or famous you are, you won’t be happy if you’re anxious to be richer or more famous. No matter how good your health is, you won’t be happy if you’re anxious about getting sick.

September 6, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Consumerism, Greek Philosophers, Happiness, I-Me-Myself, Inspiration, Meaning of Life, MEMEME, My lifestyle, My Values, Philosophy, Quitting the Rat Race, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity, Wisdom. 8 comments.

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