Thursday, 30 August 2012

I'm a buddhist. I think.

For you, as a reader of this blog that may sound like stating the obvious, but let me assure it is not.
As this is my first post on this blog (thanks again Justin!), let me give you a short introduction of who I am and along the way I hope you will start to understand why this is not so obvious.

Hello everybody, I'm Kurt and I'm a buddhist.
I think.

I first got in touch with buddhism about 15 years ago when I was struggling with the big question of life.
"Why am I here?"

And it was through buddhism, philosophy and a whole lot of less intellectual (and legal) activities that I came to the conclusion that I realised I get to decide why I am here.
Which still left me with the question as to what I was going to pick.
Luckily the Dalai Lama gave me the option I was looking for.

I am on this planet to be happy.

Along the way I came across the basics of buddhism, the Four Noble Truths.
Looking back I have spent most of the time on truth 1 & 2, where now I can see the power is in truth 3 & 4.
Not entirely sure how long it took me to figure it all out, but I do know that ever since I did figure that out, I have been learning how to be happy as much as possible, as often as possible.

So a few months ago I finally made it to truth nr. 4 and I started my journey on the Eightfold Path.
Which pretty soon led me here!
While studying the Eightfold Path I also learned that once you decide to start following this path, you are a buddhist. I guess this is what I needed to hear to confirm what I have known all along for the last 15 years: I'm a buddhist!
But as I'm a scientist by education and still leaving some of the habits that come with such a background behind, I need a second (or even a third opinion), so here's my question to all you readers:

What was your moment when you decided you are a Buddhist?

The one thing that set a lot of these changes into motion, was my blog at kurtgielen.me. On this blog I decided to share with the whole world the real and complete me. No more mr. Marketing Manager at work, frustrated and easily irritated dad after a long work day, and buddhist only during those few moments when I was on my own.
No, I decided to go all in and be me, always. Which is why the invite to participate in this blog is such an awesome thing for me as it forces me to walk the talk I do on my personal blog.

Now that you all know who I am, let me just briefly tell you what I will definitely be blogging about.
As a fairly 'new' buddhist I will be sharing my experience and questions, hopefully starting some discussion from other travellers on this path.
As a scientist (Master in Biochemistry) by education I have a really strong interest in the science behind meditation, especially the effect it has on the brain and the rest of the body.
As a marketing manager working for a large corporate organisation, I have firsthand experienced how buddhism can help me survive and thrive in what is by some, including me in the past, perceived as a potentially non-buddhist environment.
And as a father, husband and overall busy person, expect posts about the struggles and pleasures of integrating buddhism and meditation in "the real life".

Everything that is not related to buddhism I will continue to share on kurtgielen.me.
If you want to say hi, you can find all my online profiles on about.me/kurtgielen. Do come and hook up, I like company.

And as always,

Have fun!

Kurt




 


Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Is compassion the tight rope or the safety net?

A truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change even if they behave negatively or hurt you. (Dalai Lama)

Tonight I meditated with the Bare Bones group and while I strive to let the thoughts come and go, I did snag one and put it in the basket for this blog post. 

It is simply this: A present awareness can give rise to gratitude and a present awareness can give rise to sharing it. 

I remember first approaching Buddhism as a typical Westerner, casting aside any artifacts of the supernatural. For me, the present moment is the most supernatural thing I have ever encountered. Compared to when I first started practicing three years ago, I am often astonished as to what having the present moment as a true home has to offer. 

Being present and compassionate was like walking a tight rope. Now the present is my safety net. It is a place to return to when I am projecting into the future or ruminating on the past. Being able to be grateful is, in and of itself, a gift. From the seat of this gift the things that once hardened me have made me softer and more gentile. 

I still need practice. 

What about you? Is compassion a discipline?

Peace In Every Step
Sean Flanigan
Charlotte, NC

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Writing Down The Bones

Well, I just ventured to Charlotte from Chicago. I took the time to make a pit stop in my old sangha and it was literally packed. What was once a four person operation in a very small room is now filled with a dozen or so enthusiasts in the same small small room.

Walking meditation was a little awkward.

I ventured out tonight to the Bare Bones Meditation group. I have been practicing in a chair for almost a year due to a raging case of arthritis and decided to hit the floor tonight and had a hard time staying in the present moment. Back to the chair.

The Mindfulness meditation group meets in the basement of a Baptist church building and the Bare Bones group meets in the clubhouse of an apartment complex near downtown that is three times bigger. There is at least one other meditation group here that goes by the name Soto Zen. No chairs last time I went. It is in the attic of an old house.

Fortunately I have been in the present during the little moments like taking the time to blink after staring at a monitor all day or the fifteen minutes I set aside between my alarm clocks in the morning just to lay there and chill with no regard to planning my day or deciphering any unusual dreams.

I have come to the conclusion that if I have the lotus position in my head, the body can be wherever its is to be comfortable. The body needs just enough comfort to be in a place (my head) that would normally require therapeutic supervision.

Are you from a town not in the fabled West coast? What it the Buddhism scene like there for you?

Peace In Every Step
Sean Flanigan
Charlotte, NC

Monday, 20 August 2012

Where is our Community?

Where is the online Buddhist community? A few years ago this was one of but a few bustling blogs filled with people who seemed commited to both their Buddhist practice and engagement with the world (via blogs, at least).

Today so many of the 'names and faces' of 2007,8,9 and 10 are gone or have simply shifted interest.

Perhaps their practice went deeper, drawing them away from the distractions of online communication.

Perhaps their interest in practice went away, and with it their interest in online communication.

Perhaps politics, family, hobbies, studies, etc., became more pressing.

I know I'm not much help. I took over this blog a few months back (or is it a year already...?) and haven't done much since. My own blog was 'picked up' by patheos.com, which has been great in terms of exposure to a new and broader community, but it has also meant that I have tried to focus there with better writing and fewer travel photos and details of my life.

So I request this: your help.

If you're already a contributor here, try to post more. Try to bring us together. Ask questions. Solicit feedback.

If not - consider becoming a contributor. You can email me (see side panel on the right) and I can add you (you'll need a gmail/blogger account). I'd hope for a post a month from people, but there's plenty of room for extras or time off.

As Buddhism continues to grow and develop in the 21st century, we need more intelligent, thoughtful people willing and able to discuss it and to put in the time needed to write well-crafted blog posts/short articles about it.

This blog still gets several hundred hits per day which speaks very well of the many wonderful people who have contributed over the years. But we need your help, to make sure those hits are worthwhile to all of the people just now searching for and discovering the world of Progressive Buddhism.

Dharma News

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