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Farewell, it’s been a lot of fun.

31 Jan

So the time has come for us to close up the site and say thank you for visiting. Lately, life seems to be getting in the way of growing this site to what we wanted so we have come to the decision to throw in the towel. We had a great time posting here, talking with one another, keeping each other motivated, and interacting with all the friends that visited.

We do plan on keeping one another motivated and would enjoy to continue interacting with all of you.

Kris Freedain @mindonly
Blake Wilson @blakethegeek
Emily Breder @ohiobuddhist
Emily (Liz) Helt @mindfulness108
Andy Lambert @uuzennie

And who knows, maybe Iron Lotus will eventually have a rebirth when the time is right.
Thank you

Kris Freedain

A father, husband, and Buddhist who enjoys strength training. Currently using the 5/3/1 training program.

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The Iron by Henry Rollins

16 Jul

The Iron

by Henry Rollins

I believe that the definition of definition is reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself.


When I was young I had no sense of myself. All I was, was a product of all the fear and humiliation I suffered. Fear of my parents. The humiliation of teachers calling me “garbage can” and telling me I’d be mowing lawns for a living. And the very real terror of my fellow students. I was threatened and beaten up for the color of my skin and my size. I was skinny and clumsy, and when others would tease me I didn’t run home crying, wondering why.

I knew all too well. I was there to be antagonized. In sports I was laughed at. A spaz. I was pretty good at boxing but only because the rage that filled my every waking moment made me wild and unpredictable. I fought with some strange fury. The other boys thought I was crazy.

I hated myself all the time.

As stupid at it seems now, I wanted to talk like them, dress like them, carry myself with the ease of knowing that I wasn’t going to get pounded in the hallway between classes. Years passed and I learned to keep it all inside. I only talked to a few boys in my grade. Other losers. Some of them are to this day the greatest people I have ever known. Hang out with a guy who has had his head flushed down a toilet a few times, treat him with respect, and you’ll find a faithful friend forever. But even with friends, school sucked. Teachers gave me hard time. I didn’t think much of them either.

Then came Mr. Pepperman, my advisor. He was a powerfully built Vietnam veteran, and he was scary. No one ever talked out of turn in his class. Once one kid did and Mr. P. lifted him off the ground and pinned him to the blackboard. Mr. P. could see that I was in bad shape, and one Friday in October he asked me if I had ever worked out with weights. I told him no.

He told me that I was going to take some of the money that I had saved and buy a hundred-pound set of weights at Sears. As I left his office, I started to think of things I would say to him on Monday when he asked about the weights that I was not going to buy. Still, it made me feel special. My father never really got that close to caring. On Saturday I bought the weights, but I couldn’t even drag them to my mom’s car. An attendant laughed at me as he put them on a dolly.

Monday came and I was called into Mr. P.’s office after school. He said that he was going to show me how to work out. He was going to put me on a program and start hitting me in the solar plexus in the hallway when I wasn’t looking. When I could take the punch we would know that we were getting somewhere. At no time was I to look at myself in the mirror or tell anyone at school what I was doing. In the gym he showed me ten basic exercises. I paid more attention than I ever did in any of my classes. I didn’t want to blow it. I went home that night and started right in.

Weeks passed, and every once in a while Mr. P. would give me a shot and drop me in the hallway, sending my books flying. The other students didn’t know what to think. More weeks passed, and I was steadily adding new weights to the bar. I could sense the power inside my body growing. I could feel it.

Right before Christmas break I was walking to class, and from out of nowhere Mr. Pepperman appeared and gave me a shot in the chest. I laughed and kept going. He said I could look at myself now. I got home and ran to the bathroom and pulled off my shirt. I saw a body, not just the shell that housed my stomach and my heart. My biceps bulged. My chest had definition. I felt strong. It was the first time I can remember having a sense of myself. I had done something and no one could ever take it away. You couldn’t say s–t to me.

It took me years to fully appreciate the value of the lessons I have learned from the Iron. I used to think that it was my adversary, that I was trying to lift that which does not want to be lifted. I was wrong. When the Iron doesn’t want to come off the mat, it’s the kindest thing it can do for you. If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn’t teach you anything. That’s the way the Iron talks to you. It tells you that the material you work with is that which you will come to resemble. That which you work against will always work against you.

It wasn’t until my late twenties that I learned that by working out I had given myself a great gift. I learned that nothing good comes without work and a certain amount of pain. When I finish a set that leaves me shaking, I know more about myself. When something gets bad, I know it can’t be as bad as that workout.

I used to fight the pain, but recently this became clear to me: pain is not my enemy; it is my call to greatness. But when dealing with the Iron, one must be careful to interpret the pain correctly. Most injuries involving the Iron come from ego. I once spent a few weeks lifting weight that my body wasn’t ready for and spent a few months not picking up anything heavier than a fork. Try to lift what you’re not prepared to and the Iron will teach you a little lesson in restraint and self-control.

I have never met a truly strong person who didn’t have self-respect. I think a lot of inwardly and outwardly directed contempt passes itself off as self-respect: the idea of raising yourself by stepping on someone’s shoulders instead of doing it yourself. When I see guys working out for cosmetic reasons, I see vanity exposing them in the worst way, as cartoon characters, billboards for imbalance and insecurity. Strength reveals itself through character. It is the difference between bouncers who get off strong-arming people and Mr.Pepperman.

Muscle mass does not always equal strength. Strength is kindness and sensitivity. Strength is understanding that your power is both physical and emotional. That it comes from the body and the mind. And the heart.

Yukio Mishima said that he could not entertain the idea of romance if he was not strong. Romance is such a strong and overwhelming passion, a weakened body cannot sustain it for long. I have some of my most romantic thoughts when I am with the Iron. Once I was in love with a woman. I thought about her the most when the pain from a workout was racing through my body.

Everything in me wanted her. So much so that sex was only a fraction of my total desire. It was the single most intense love I have ever felt, but she lived far away and I didn’t see her very often. Working out was a healthy way of dealing with the loneliness. To this day, when I work out I usually listen to ballads.

I prefer to work out alone.

It enables me to concentrate on the lessons that the Iron has for me. Learning about what you’re made of is always time well spent, and I have found no better teacher. The Iron had taught me how to live. Life is capable of driving you out of your mind. The way it all comes down these days, it’s some kind of miracle if you’re not insane. People have become separated from their bodies. They are no longer whole.

I see them move from their offices to their cars and on to their suburban homes. They stress out constantly, they lose sleep, they eat badly. And they behave badly. Their egos run wild; they become motivated by that which will eventually give them a massive stroke. They need the Iron Mind.

Through the years, I have combined meditation, action, and the Iron into a single strength. I believe that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts. Time spent away from the Iron makes my mind degenerate. I wallow in a thick depression. My body shuts down my mind.

The Iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body have been awakened to their true potential, it’s impossible to turn back.

The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.

This article originally appeared in Details Magazine.

Happy Birthday your Holiness. My birthday wishes to the Dalai Lama.

6 Jul

Years ago when I was searching for a path I picked up a small book on Buddhism and remember thinking ‘wow, I’ve always thought this’ & ‘this makes perfect sense’.  From there I started reading your books, which further deepened my interest in the Dharma. Then I found out you would be giving a public talk soon, but it was sold out by the time I had found out. Well, I drove up to UCLA anyways. When I arrived, I happened to find a man outside selling a single ticket at face value. An auspicious sign if I may say so. 


When I tell friends of this day, the only way I know how to express it was that I could literally ‘feel’ you walk into the room. And even though I was way up in the back of the audience, it was as if you and I were alone and you were speaking directly to me. This changed my life. I went home that evening, shaved my head, and knew I was to set foot on the Buddhist path.


Soon after, I took refuge and accepted the 5 Precepts under Venerable Master Hsing Yun of the Fo Guang Shan order. There is a wonderful picture of you and my Master in one of the offices at Hsi Lai Temple that I enjoy seeing any chance I get.


I have been fortunate enough to have found my way to the Dharma, and am thankful to you for being a big part of that.


May the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in all directions continue to shine their light upon you.


…joining palms, bowing head to floor.

Kris Freedain

A father, husband, and Buddhist who enjoys strength training. Currently using the 5/3/1 training program.

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Don’t open that bag of wind!

11 Jun

Yesterday I psyched myself out.

After a month of applying myself and trying different things, I realized that nothing I could readily see had changed; was my effort reaping any benefits? I couldn’t tell. It pissed me off.

Resistance is most powerful at the finish line.

“Odysseus almost got home years before his actual homecoming. Ithaca was in sight, close enough that sailors could see the smoke of their families’ fires on the shore. Odysseus was so certain he was safe, he actually lay down for a snooze. It was then that his men, believing there was gold in an ox-hide sack among their commander’s possessions, snatched the prize and cut it open. The bag contained the adverse Winds, which King Aeolus had bottled up for Odysseus when the wanderer had touched earlier at his blessed isle. The winds burst forth now in one mad blow, driving Odysseus’ ships back across every league of ocean they had with such difficulty traversed, making him endure further trials and sufferings before, at last and alone, he reached home for good.

The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight. At this point, Resistance knows we’re about to beat it. It hits the panic button. It marshals one last assault and slams us with everything it’s got.

The professional must be alert for this counterattack. Be wary at the end. Don’t open that bag of wind.”

- from “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield

This quote was very much on my mind this morning, because after a disappointed text or two and some general b*tchiness the evening before, I woke up for my sort of bi-weekly weigh-in to discover that not only had I made progress, I’d dropped another .5% body fat and had finally broken through to a major goal – weighing less than I did before I had my son, fourteen years ago. For the first time since then. So much for my assumptions.

I had made up my mind it wasn’t working. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t hitting the pantry for comfort or anything, but I was rethinking everything I’d done up to that point. And I didn’t need to.

Resistance was prevalent in my mind. Can’t do what I was doing, Didn’t do it well enough. Something is wrong with ME, because it didn’t work as well as I thought it would. Etc, etc. When in reality, I was already over the finish line. Resistance is a mutha.

So I say to you all: watch for Resistance at the end. Don’t open that bag of wind. Like Odysseus, it will try to blow you all the way back to the beginning. In your head, if nothing else- and as we know, 90% of the fight is mental.

Emily Breder

Emily is a writer, mother and eternal student on the path of liberation. She's determined to master this life and this body.

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Training the Untrained Mind – An Excerpt from The Misleading Mind by Karuna Cayton

10 May

Training the Untrained Mind
An Excerpt from The Misleading Mind by Karuna Cayton
Mind training is essential to Buddhism. In essence, it is the path the Buddha advocated in his Fourth Noble Truth. And yet, as I’ve said, mind training is not necessarily a religious or spiritual practice. It does not rest on accepting certain religious beliefs or adopting particular terminology. It can be used successfully as an entirely secular practice, or it can be incorporated as a deliberate spiritual practice within any religion, whether you are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, or something else. You can be a businessperson, schoolteacher, or a stay-at-home mom or dad and still practice mind training. Naturally, the ideas behind mind training, or the explanations of mind the Buddha presented in his first three Noble Truths, are equally essential no matter our place in life. Training and theory go hand in hand. So, as you read the rest of the book, keep practicing the mind training methods this chapter describes, and as you practice, keep reading to steadily improve your understanding and success.
As we begin, I want to share a wonderful and amusing historical anecdote that captures what the practice is all about and how transformative it can be. From the seventh century, Buddhism flourished in Tibet, but in the ninth century, it declined as a result of a ruthless Tibetan king who aimed to destroy Buddhism in his country. Then, in the early eleventh century, Tibetan Buddhism began a regeneration. This was marked by increased travel between Tibet and India, as key Tibetans traveled to India for instruction, and many Indian masters were invited to Tibet. Foremost of these Indian masters was Lama Atisha, a well-known scholar and practitioner who was one of India’s principal teachers of mind training. Lama Atisha was invited personally by the current king to spearhead the reestablishing of Tibet’s rich Buddhist cultural and religious tradition. Initially, Atisha committed to staying in Tibet for three years, but he was so well-loved by Tibetans that he remained for a total of twelve years, finally passing away in Tibet.
One reason for Atisha’s long initial commitment was because travel from India to Tibet was not easy. You had to negotiate hot, disease-infested jungles, eighteen-thousand-foot Himalayan passes, and inhospitable tribes and bandits. The trip took months to prepare and months to complete, involving dangers and hardships we can barely imagine today. Among the party traveling to Tibet was Atisha’s personal cook, who was known as a very difficult person to get along with. And indeed, the Tibetans found him rude, crass, and unfriendly. But even worse, the cook’s terrible behavior did not merely extend to the Tibetans but even to Atisha himself. The Tibetans just could not understand why Lama Atisha would keep such an unsavory person as his cook. Wasn’t travel hard enough?
However, Atisha never showed any sense of intolerance, anger, or embarrassment over his cook’s behavior. Then as now, traveling can sometimes bring out the worst in people, and the Tibetans were impressed that Atisha showed only affection for the cook.
Finally, though, they couldn’t stand it, and they asked Atisha why he did not fire the man and send him back to India. Lama Atisha replied, “He is not just my cook; he is my teacher of patience.”
With that one simple statement, Lama Atisha demonstrated to the Tibetans and to us the entire concept of transforming one’s inner experience through mind training.
Embracing  Our  Problems
It would be a mistake to interpret Lama Atisha’s remark as a glib attempt at humor. He was not making the best of a bad situation. Atisha was speaking the truth: he regarded the cook as his teacher, and he deliberately chose to keep this difficult man close to him. Amazingly, Lama Atisha chose to make his life harder than it needed to be.
This exemplifies the first aspect of mind training. Rather than being another way to avoid or escape problems, mind training freely embraces problems. Not only that, as Lama Atisha indicated, we must actively seek and engage our problems, rather than wait for them. Only in this way can we learn how to avoid suffering. In his case, Lama Atisha’s “problem” wasn’t the cook; it was his own feelings of anger or frustration stimulated by the cook’s behavior. In his response to his Tibetan traveling companions, Atisha did not deny that the cook was insufferable. Instead, he was indicating the primary thrust of mind training: it is a method of handling any emotion that disturbs us so that we retain our balance and sense of inner peace.
There are numerous techniques to help us do this, but they revolve around a few basic principles: training our mind not to be “attached to” or “influenced by” our emotions, desires, or perceptions, and learning to transform negative emotions into their positive counterparts. In Lama Atisha’s case, through his cook, he was practicing replacing anger with patience.
An important distinction with mind training is that it is not “reframing” or just a faith-based feel-good trick. Therapists, for ex-ample, use reframing as a common technique in therapeutic practice, and sometimes it can be quite helpful for the client. Looking on the bright side, seeing the glass as half full, identifying the beneficial lessons in an otherwise hurtful relationship: This can be a good, positive approach. But this is not mind training, and “reframing” has limited long-term usefulness. Oftentimes, reframing can feel contrived. Someone, some other, higher authority or code of belief, tells us how to feel, and so we try, even if we lack real conviction. Reframing can sometimes be illogical; it denies the truth of one’s experience. We may be asked to imagine that a person who deliberately hurt us didn’t really mean to hurt us. In mind training, the intentions and motivations of others, although relevant, are not the primary focus. We are concerned with our point of view and its accompanying response.
Similarly, when a terrible accident occurs, we are sometimes asked to see it as “God’s will” or “punishment for our sins” or the workings of “karma.” Not only does this fail to explain events, but it overlooks the real problem: how we should deal with our feelings of grief, rage, and disbelief. I consider it “reframing” when we are asked to take the goodness of the universe on faith. Don’t get me wrong: faith is important. Indeed, the reasons for events often escape human understanding, and the world is unpredictable. Ultimately, these difficult, existential truths are what mind training helps us to cope with. Ultimately, in Buddhism, mind training is a spiritual practice in the sense that its goal is to awaken our inner potential.
However, that is not where the beginner starts. Instead, we start by accepting the counterintuitive notion that we must use our problems to solve our problems. Problems provide the resistance that helps us exercise our minds. When problems appear, instead of avoiding them, we confront, understand, and eliminate all of those unhelpful emotions and thoughts that arise because of them and that have run our life since the day we were born. In truth, we are merely “retraining” the mind. Just the idea that we can change and transform our everyday existence is quite encouraging by itself. It is in this way that, in training our mind, we become our own therapist and are, by my definition, spiritual practitioners. When we work with transforming our mind at more advanced levels, we actually look forward to confronting our problems, just like Lama Atisha. Why? Because we understand that the problematic conditions of the world will never go away. It is simply the nature of life. All we can do is get better at handling them. We understand that even if we are calm and happy today, something will happen tomorrow to challenge us and throw us off. Perhaps it will be an unexpected bill, or a medical problem, or a painful buried memory lying under the surface of our conscious mind that arises at the drop of a hat…like a rear-end collision that comes out of nowhere while we sit at a red light. The rather unconventional, “in your face” Buddhist approach of mind training is to courageously confront all of our dirty little secrets and difficult emotions whenever they come up until we’ve changed the nature of our relationship with them. Then, instead of being bossed around by our worst tendencies and disturbed emotions, we become the boss of our own mind.
KARUNA CAYTON, psychotherapist and author of The Misleading Mind, spent twelve years working with Tibetan refugees in Nepal and studying with Buddhist masters. His Karuna Group practice applies Buddhist psychology to individual and organizational clients. He lives in Northern California. Visit him online at
Excerpted from the book The Misleading Mind: How We Create Our Own Problems and How Buddhist Psychology Can Help Us Solve Them ©2012 by Karuna Cayton.
Printed with permission from New World Library.



I am currently reading ‘The Misleading Mind’ by Karuna Cayton and can tell you this, so far, it is a great book. It seems like the author will be able to reference real life scenarios for the 4 Noble Truths, and I have hopes he will lead that same process into the Noble Eightfold Path; something that seems rare for non-monastic authors these days. High hopes for the rest of the book!

I plan on my own review as soon as I am able to get through the rest; life has not been allowing me to read as much as I would like to lately. I will do my best to post the review soon.

Kris Freedain

A father, husband, and Buddhist who enjoys strength training. Currently using the 5/3/1 training program.

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On exercise and authenticity

23 Apr

The great experiment is working.

My practice lately has been about one word: authenticity. I won’t take an action that doesn’t feel like it is truly what I love and believe in. No wearing masks, polite or trite conversation, or going through the motions because it’s what I’m used to doing.

The first month was really rough. Loved ones thought I was acting odd. It’s the old “greatest betrayal is to make a leap for the rim of the bucket” cliche; the ones closest to you have a vested interest in you remaining as you were. It shakes up their plans and their habits not to have that certainty.

But being able to stick with it, be mindful, has paid off. I noticed recently that I don’t get self-conscious anymore, and I have literally always been a shy and reserved person face-to-face. It’s one of the reasons why I love to write; I can simply say what I want to say, then go back and proofread. In person, my editor is always on and active, the end result being that I rarely spoke.

But now the editor is unnecessary. I only say what’s real, what means something, and is genuine. People respond to it. But that was just the beginning.

I used to have a difficult time waking up in the morning, falling asleep, and I would mood-eat when I was bored, which happened all the time (because I was such a shy person, I didn’t go out much). That doesn’t happen anymore. Food is fuel, and I actually look forward to my workout every day. Because I devoted myself to living authentically, I write all the time, so I tied in my creative process with my workout.

The end result: I look forward to the workout because I know that my creative energy will explode right after I’m finished. I write more than 6k words per day as of right now, blowing my previous word counts out of the water. And it’s not just quantity, it’s quality. My writing has improved dramatically. Clients are knocking on my door without me looking for them.

But the body thing has been the biggest change, since I’ve always been a writer. I have struggled with consistent exercise all of my life. I didn’t defeat the dragon or make some startling epiphany about an exercise that I love, which is what I had predicted; instead, I just got in touch with the person I truly am and how I’d like her to feel. I know how to provoke that feeling in her. So here I am.

I think I am going to have to write a book about it. Appropriate.

Emily Breder

Emily is a writer, mother and eternal student on the path of liberation. She's determined to master this life and this body.

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Buddha Vacana ~ a highly recommended app for your smartphone

29 Mar

88. And how do disciples conduct themselves towards a teacher with love, not hostility? Concerning this, the compassionate teacher teaches the Dhamma to disciples, seeking their welfare, out of compassion, saying: “This is for your welfare and happiness.” His disciples listen to him, lend an ear, prepare their minds for profound knowledge, they do not turn aside or move away from the teacher’s instructions. Thus do disciples conduct themselves towards a teacher with love, not hostility.
Therefore, conduct yourselves towards me with love, not hostility, and it will be for your welfare and happiness for a long time. I shall not treat you as does the potter damp clay. Repeatedly admonishing I shall speak, repeatedly testing. One who is sound will stand the test.

Majjhima Nikaya III.117-118

Shared via Buddha Vacana for Android

This is from an app I have enjoyed for years on my iPhone and am very much enjoying on my Droid as well. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the Dharma.

Kris Freedain

A father, husband, and Buddhist who enjoys strength training. Currently using the 5/3/1 training program.

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They call me T-Rex

16 Mar

Each one of us is different, with different strengths and weaknesses.

For as long as I can remember, I have referred to myself as T-Rex. It’s not that I have particularly small arms. Well, not in the way a T-Rex has small arms. Rather, the bulk of my strength begins where my upper body ends. My core and legs have always been very solid and definitely my strong areas. When I hear about people pushing up huge amounts of weight in the bench or shoulder press, it blows my mind.

But you know what? That’s okay! The exact numbers on the bar don’t matter that much. Well, that’s not completely true. Those numbers are a great metric for determining progress, but what those numbers are, be it 125 pounds or 325 pounds, aren’t super important. What’s important is what was that number before, what is it now, and what will it become. Strength will come. There’s no need to worry about that. Your job is to get in there, move those weights, and track your progress.


22 Feb

When I first started lifting weights, I had some very specific goals in mind and they all had to do with the number of pounds on the barbell. So I started lifting as much as I could. I will say this about weights: they are heavy. And heavy weights are hard to lift. So much so that adding just five pounds (the lowest amount you can add on a barbell) can be a monumental task and may take months or years, if at all. So what motivates me in the face of such difficulties?

Let’s back up a bit and start off by answering the question, “what is motivation?” One type of motivation involves visualizing a goal and working towards it, constantly checking. “Am I there? No? Then I must keep going!” You constantly “psyche yourself up,” re-energizing yourself until your goal is reached. This requires the use of some type of metric; something against which we may compare our progress. For a power lifter, the metric is the weight on the bar. For someone who is dieting, it may be the number on the scale. To someone saving up for a trip to Aruba, it may be a bank account balance. The numbers tell you how close you are to your desired number and whether or not your efforts are getting you closer to your goal.

In the above mentioned scenarios, the goal is outside of yourself. You are or have one thing but want to become or have another. The use of a metric as a tool for garnering motivation through progress measurement is proof of this. In this respect, a disconnect between you and your goal means you need motivation to reach it. In order to reach my goal, I must do things that I wouldn’t normally do if left to my own devices. To lose weight, I choose to eat foods I don’t want while avoiding those I do. To gain strength, I get out of the bed in which I want to stay to lift weights that will end up making me sore. It is motivation that allows us to make the sacrifices necessary to reach our goals.

And of course motivation is connected directly to the amount of desire you have to reach a goal and how difficult that goal is to reach. For goals that are easy, which require little sacrifice, a minimal amount of desire for achievement is required. If my goal is to write with this pen, I need simply click it. The goal is not difficult so there is no need to psyche myself up for it. For goals that are harder to reach, one must have a certain amount of “fire in the belly” in order to create the persistent behavior needed to reach that goal.  Were I to choose to run a marathon, I would need to start by running, and, over time, add distance to those runs until I have reached my goal. This is greater commitment than that needed to use a pen. Simply putting on shoes won’t do. It takes a greater internal push.

There are many goals that bring people to practice: enlightenment, to end suffering, to save all beings, to become more compassionate, to ease stress, to understand the secrets of the universe or just to become a better person. In the beginning, with an eye on the prize, the energy to practice is strong. Motivation is there to reach the goal.

Funny thing about motivation, though. It uses up a lot of energy. Many dieters and weight lifters have given up mid-routine simply because of burn-out. I have been there. Pushing loads without gains was demotivating. The unobtainable nature of the goal took motivation down to zero. It became easier to simply stay in bed. Or look for another routine.

First day at the Zen Center, I wanted to gain enlightenment, end suffering, save the world. Everyone stands. We all read aloud the Four Great Vows.

  1.  Sentient beings are numberless. We vow to save them all.
  2.  Delusions are endless. We vow to cut through them all.
  3. The teachings are infinite. We vow to learn them all.
  4. The Buddha Way is inconceivable. We vow to attain it.

These vows are the goals of our practice. Save all of these being which are numberless. Cut through an endless number of delusions. Learn an infinite amount of teachings. Attain that which cannot be conceived. The very reasons why I walked through the door. But there is something about these vows that that flies in the face of motivation. These goals are unobtainable. With unobtainable goals, where does motivation fit in?

There is a secret in strength training. The weight on the bar is irrelevant. If you want to become stronger, you must focus on technique and on just doing the exercise. Add weight, don’t add weight. Doesn’t matter. Just do it. Become strong.

There seems to be a type of motivation that exists at a physiological level. A motivation that is more than simply picturing a goal and energizing oneself to reach that goal. As living creatures, we need some type of drive to get us up and do what needs to be done. There is a drive that pushes us to satiate our hunger and end our thirst. A drive to gather together and curl up under a roof. But beyond the drive to find food or shelter, we find ourselves motivated to create. Though not necessary for survival, we are compelled towards art, poetry, architecture, fine foods and good beer. So what is art’s goal? What is there to gain through its creating? What motivates us to create art? For that matter, what is that spark that drives us to set goals in the first place? What is our “motivation” for anything, never mind practice? This is indeed a big question!

The goal of weight training is weight training. The goal of practice is to practice. When we practice, motivation falls away and we just do what we are doing. When we see that there is no goal for, what drives that next step?


My motivation for practice is compassion.

Setting Your Direction Part 1: Introduction

10 Feb

I have spent much of my life as a drifter. Not the hobo, ride-the-rails kind of drifter. More like the jump from one spiritual practice/diet/weight training routine to another without any adherence to one program. The results? Piss poor. On all accounts.

So in this series, I would like to explore how to find a home for your spiritual practice, diet program and weight training routine. There are four basic steps that each one will follow:

1. Figure out your direction. I hesitate to use the word “goal” simply because it brings up the notion that at some point, you will be “finished,” having reached your goal. Instead, you have to know where you would like to head so that, when a situation presents itself, you will be able to make a decision based on the direction you would like to go.

2. Find a program that points you in that direction. Or in goal language, which program will lead you to your final goal? This means that you have to evaluate which resources you have available to you and whether or not they would work.

3. Stick with it. For someone like me, that means I have to constantly remind myself of my direction. But the key to any program is sticking with it. Ignore the programs du jour. Keep the focus on where you are and what you are doing.

4. Reevaluate. It’s true that, as you move along your path, your direction may change or you may outgrow your program. Reevaluating simply means that you keep steps 1-3 in mind. Has my direction changed? Is this program still helping me? Have I truly stuck with it?


Over the next few posts, I will share with you how I came to this realization with regards to spiritual practice, diet and exercise.