Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer?

It is keeping peace and good relations between people,

as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.

- Prophet Mohammed


Day 30

So this what the finish line looks like, huh? Stronger legs and an empty stomach.

Well, I guess it's not the finish line at all really. I still have eleven laps to complete and it's bound to get harder. It's funny. When I began this a month ago, I wasn't sure what the direction was going to be. When you start this sort of thing, you never really know what's going to happen. I think I assumed it would reveal itself at one point or another, so I didn't bother too much. Just write what I felt; that was the plan. Now, a month later, I still don't know what the direction is and yet that's somehow reassuring. I don't think it really matters. Spirituality isn't something that can be defined by a book or one man. Even millions of followers don't define it because it takes each of us to different places. Some might end up landing in a monastery in Russia and others might find themselves on a crowded street corner in New York City. I don't know where I'll up end, but I can guarantee you that Buddha will be there in some form. And in all honesty, I'm sure a few other deities might show up to the party as well.

People all want the same thing. We want happiness. I'd like quote Buddha one last time. He sums up what he'd like the world to look like and from where I'm sitting, it sounds pretty great to me.
"When people are happy and satisfied, class differences disappear, good deeds are promoted, virtues are increased, and people come to respect one another. Then everyone becomes prosperous; the weather and temperature become normal; the sun and the moon and the stars shine naturally; rains and winds come timely; and all natural calamities disappear."
A little too perfect and near impossible, but it sounds nice. In fact, I dare say it's almost heavenly. Of course, none of this can happen without awareness. If we aren't aware of ourselves and those around us, then we don't stand a chance. My happiness, just as much as my anger, can't conflict with others. That seems simple enough, but to really make it work, I've got to allow myself to be satisfied with what I have. That doesn't mean I can't work towards a better life for my family, though. It just means that I need to accept my reality at any given moment. That is what true satisfaction is and today, I'm totally satisfied.

As I sit here on my last Friday evening of this Buddhist month, all I can think of is how thankful I am for being able to do it. It's been a quiet, pensive look into my own nature and while I guess I could credit Buddha, I know he wouldn't want me to. We all have Buddha within us. 


Day 29

It's one thing to hear from me --I write here everyday, but it's another to hear from my wife. I asked her these questions this morning.

From what you saw and heard, what was the best part of Buddhism for you?

"I think I liked its approach. It seems very real. I always have had "Heaven" and "Hell" in the back of my mind, making me feel pressure or even guilty. This way I can make my own decisions based in reality rather than decisions formed around whether or not I'll be going to "Hell". It's practical."

What improvements, if any, did you witness in your husband?

"George never caused too much trouble, but I was always concerned about his health. He never cared about it before. He would say, 'Oh, I'm fine' or 'Don't worry about it. I'm young.' Of course I worried about it. I'm his wife. Because of his dieting and fasting, he has become much more aware of what he's eating and how he's living. He's really interested in how his behavior will cause me and our future family to suffer. I guess he's much more aware of himself and his life now."

What was the most annoying aspect of the religion for you?

"At first it was the lack of meat. When we would be eating kimbop, he would complain that there was a small piece of ham or crab in there and would push it out with his chopstick. Now, I'm used to it. Also, in the beginning he would talk about things Buddha said and tell me all these things and ways to live, but I never saw him living like Buddha. As time went by, I start seeing his behavior catching up to his words. Oh, and he's still sarcastic."

You went to temple with George all month, were you comfortable in that setting?

"It was different, but not uncomfortable. I was raised Catholic and then changed to Protestantism, so change is not that big for me. I was more interested to see the types of people there and that the Buddhist choir sounded very Christian to me."

George says he will stay away from meat. How do you feel about that?

"I'm very happy about this, but like I said, it was irritating at first. We would go to dinner and he would just eat rice and soup. Most Korean restaurants serve at least enough food for two, but I couldn't eat that much. Now, however, I'm excited about it. With his BP issues and the other benefits from not eating meat, I think he'll be much healthier."

Would you ever consider becoming a Buddhist?

"I don't know. Probably not. I still have Christian beliefs that I can't distance myself from." 

Keeping in mind that the children will be raised in the United States, would you consider raising your children Buddhist?

Hmmm...Well, this is a difficult question. George and I are very aware that our biracial children might have some issues fitting in during different phases of their life. Attending church would help our children and family adjust better, I think. Our kids might evenly appreciate their Korean and American ethnicities or they might reject one, but that's for them to decide. 

Next month is Catholicism, do you think it will be easier or harder for you to adjust to?

It won't be too hard for me. I'm familiar with Catholicism. I know that George is a little worried about the rules once inside the church, but he'll used to it. From what I can tell, Catholicism has less restrictions than Buddhism, so it'll probably easier for George as well. He has to read the entire Bible, though. That's a lot.

And that's it from the wife, kiddos. Any questions for me?


Day 28

It's been 28 days of no coffee, sugar, dinner, beer, booze, caffeine, meat, fish, cursing, yelling, anger, soft drinks, deception, porno, masturbation, cigs, beds, dancing, music or snacks. It's also been 28 days of bowing, meditating, studying, thinking, writing, reading, discussing, happiness, clarity, sore legs, silence and freedom.

If you look at that list, you'd might think that all of those things are great. I shouldn't be indulging in many of the vices listed above. You're right. I shouldn't be. And honestly, I don't need to be either. It hasn't been easy, though. So, let's talk about the hard ones, shall we?

Coffee, Sugar and Dinner
"Not being able to govern events, I govern myself."
I like coffee, but I don't really care for the flavor or resulting caffeine boost I get. Caffeine actually makes me feel a little nauseous. Still, I like the mood of coffee and prefer drinking it with my wife on weekend mornings while we chat over the paper or on a morning stroll with the pup. And even though it made me feel a little ill, I've drank several cups of the stuff a day for years. The addiction started years ago while I was teaching Kindergarten. I think it made me feel like more of a teacher than a babysitter. Not only does coffee make me feel like vomiting, it also creates poop issues (especially in the morning). However, since I have reduced my intake, my morning gas and possible leave-the-classroom-poop-attacks have subsided as my digestive system is moving much smoother. If I must drink it, it'll be decaf.

Coffee's one thing, but it's amazing and a little frightening just how much sugar I used to consume. I was never aware of my soft drink habits until I had to quit. Candy bars and ice cream were the bitter casualties of the month, though. Snickers were always great fillers and ice cream has been a friend of mine since the ice cream truck trolled my childhood street looking for kids with an extra buck. I liked the Banana-Fudge Blasts. They were simply marvelous. In all honestly though, giving up sugar is impossible. In its absence, I have gained much more affection for fruit and veggie juices, so rather than quitting sugar, I'll just substitute other, more healthy drinks. 

Dinner, however, is much different than those other "extras". Dinner is nourishment and it was hard to go without it. But I've gotta be honest, I ate dinner twice. I had to with my meds. Not eating dinner is interesting, though. It makes you feel your sacrifice and commitment to the religion. Your mind and body get into the game. I liked that aspect of it. It also taught me how to have a little more self-control. My mind is the boss here, not my stomach. That said, I'm looking forward to eating dinner come May. This weekend, the wife and I are going out for 꼬막 and 막걸리 on Saturday. Don't worry though, if I drink too much, I'll just head to confession on Sunday morning.

Beer and Booze
"Every human being is the author of his own health or disease."
I like beer. No, wait. I love beer. There's nothing better than enjoying a nice cold brew outdoors in the warm summer breeze. Throw the wife, dog, nature and some tunes in there and you'll find the happiest man in the world. I have missed beer.  Liquor, however, I don't miss. Actually, when I say liquor I mean soju. I don't miss soju. I've spent four hazy years under the siren's lure of the sauce. It only led to trouble and I'm happy to say that it is out of my boozing repertoire. 

While we're on the topic, I guess I should admit to something else: I'm a binge drinker. I personally never saw it as an issue because I only (binge) drank once a week, but moderation and drinking NEVER overlapped for me. In my college days, I could continue drinking right until the bitter end. Be that as it was, my age has slowly caught up to me and my binging ultimately ends with a plastered husband and an mortified wife. Buddha talked a lot of the "Middle Path" and now I will practice more constraint with the bottle. 

Meat and Fish
"Have compassion for all beings, rich and poor alike; each has their suffering. Some suffer too much, others too little."
I'm not a fan of killing. I mean, there are some people that I wish who were not alive never born, but killing them isn't my job. Let me clarify. People make other people want to kill people. Animals don't make people want to kill animals, so why do they need to die? I hate killing, but let me also clear this up a bit. If I was in a dire situation, I would kill an animal and eat it with no qualms or real hesitation. Survival isn't a pretty game. However, I'm not in a dire situation. There are plenty of options for me out there. (In fact, a new vegetarian and vegan grill just opened in the area and I'm pretty pumped about that.) Land animals can rejoice and rest easy knowing that I will not be eating them. 

Fish, on the other hand, have not broken free from my omnivorous grasp. I'm going to eat them. In fact, I'm going to eat a lot of them on Saturday. Sorry, fish friends, but you're too delicious and healthy for me to pass up. And tuna...I'm coming for you.

Cursing, Yelling and Anger
"You will not be punished for your anger. You will be punished by your anger."
I used to like to curse, but don't do it too much these days anyways. Yelling is the same. I have yelled in anger less than ten times in my life. My wife made the comment that  Buddhism really wasn't much of a stretch for me in some areas because I never really get verbally angry anyways. She was right, but I do make snide comments and let that "fringe anger" fester for too long. Not anymore, though. Also, the cursing I used to partake in mostly involved "Yahweh"  and "Yeshua", but Catholicism should drive the final stake into that habit (bad choice of words, I know).

Porno and Masturbation
"It is a man's own mind, not his enemy or foe, that lures him to evil ways."
No, I don't think masturbation is evil. In fact, I think it's quite pure. I'll write about that as I get into other religions though. For now, I'll keep this one brief. I didn't miss the porn, but my body noticed the lack of, well, attention. I don't want to get into the science of masturbation or offer a Michael Swartz theory on porn. All I will say is that the "Middle Path" should apply here as well. Other than that, South Park offered some sound advice about what too much  porn can do to a man.

"The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart."
I loved bowing this month and plan to continue doing it. It was relaxing and tiring all at the same time. It was both therapeutic and stressful, but I managed to keep up with it. As I said towards the beginning of the month, the bowing taught me about patience. It wasn't a simple I need to be more patient kind of thing though. It taught me the joys of patience. When I would start my bowing and slowing make my way up towards 108, I would almost wish for more. As the month progressed, the process of bowing actually slowed down dramatically because I stopped rushing. There was no need to rush. There's never any need to rush.


"Meditation brings wisdom; lack of mediation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what hold you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom.”

This was the most rewarding part of the month. I've already written a lot about it, but let me add just a couple more things. Without meditation, there is no Buddhism. The relationship that I have formed with myself and the connections that have been made between my mind, body and spirit would not have been recognized without meditation. Sometimes they were long and other times they were short. Meditation is one of those things that I will continue to practice for years to come. There's nothing wrong with clarity of the mind, and that is what meditation brought me.

It was difficult at times, but I persevered and overcame the empty stomachs, cravings, sore backs and evenings full of solitary isolation. And I feel great.

Admit it, you didn't think I would be able to complete the month without breaking, did you? I know I didn't.

Tomorrow is a Q & A with the wife. Any questions you want to ask her regarding her month as a Buddhist's wife?


Day 27

There are certain truths that I've come to understand this month. Some of them are religious and some of them are not. Today, I want to briefly discuss the non-religious aspect of what I gained from this wonderfully enriching month.

I can be frank here, right? Honestly, I have a lot of work to do on myself. While this month has been trying in terms of personal sacrifice --something that I'll write about tomorrow-- it's been even more revealing insofar that I didn't realize how much my own behavior could affect others. We should all know these things already, but Buddhism has really mapped it out very clearly and concisely. 

While meditating this month, I coasted between deep thought and casual reflection. Both were helpful, but it was only when I drifted into the depths of my mind that I could vividly see a a path; a course on which I could truly detach myself from this earth. As I've said before, throw out the images of hovering around in the north reaches of the troposphere. It's not like that. It's simply a clear and pure moment shared between your mind, body and soul. You can do it yourself. Try.

In one of these deeper trances, I got to see a very clear picture. It was of a simplified life. At first glance, it appeared to be normal by most standards. However, once I took a deeper look, I saw that there were no chains holding me back or obstacles blocking my path to true happiness and peace. As I slowly returned to reality, the message became more clear and it goes something like this.

Anger comes in many forms. It might feel like greed to some and jealousy to others, but it exists in far too many of us. Anger is crafty and has learned to disguise itself. In fact, it's so tricky that sometimes people get angry at themselves for getting angry. Anger originates from the outside our naturally pure minds and manages to seep into our souls and it's that anger which ultimately makes humans unhappy and keeps peace out of touch. 

Buddha said that we all of posses the true nature of Buddhahood within us and I firmly believe that. I know that I was born with the capacity for Buddhahood, just like I think we all were. Regardless of faith, we all know what's right and what's not. It's in there somewhere, but worldly delusion (and especially anger) pollutes the clarity of our minds and shields us from following the path towards peace.

I call the anger that originates from the outside world "fringe anger". This is the anger we feel when a boss agitates us; our better halves get unnecessarily irascible; our political party loses; or a mechanic overestimates the cost of repairs. While each of these things are important to us and some even deserve an emotional response, we must be careful that the emotion that surfaces isn't anger. 

If we allow this "fringe anger" to linger for too long and occupy our minds, it will bleed into our psyche. Once it's in there, it will pollute our cores and become "core anger". If we lose control of our cores (or nature) to anger, then every single time a situation that merits an emotional response occurs, anger will surface. This is not as simple as "don't sweat the small stuff". A person who has lost control of his peaceful nature and is now overwhelmed by "core anger" will not be able to identify what small stuff is. 

There will be times when anger seems to be the best option, but don't let it get mixed in with passion. Just this last week, I was confronted with several political issues that tested me. One in particular was the new immigration law in Arizona which gives police the authority to question anyone whom they suspect is an illegal immigrant. In other words, police can stop and search anyone who looks like the typical 21st century immigrant or, in other words, Hispanics. This is a disgusting law and a bad step for America.

After reading the law, I started to get more angry. How could they do this? Why are we creating so many divisions with such a rich and important part of our culture? I wanted to get angry at someone, but I realized that there was no one for me the yell at. The futility of anger slapped me in the face. And even if there was a member of the GOP in front of me, would getting angry at them work? Would I feel better? And furthermore,  if I did get a boost of happiness or satisfaction simply by yelling at someone, is that a good sign of the health of my spirit?

I can be passionate about changing this law and propping up my Hispanic brothers and sisters in many ways, just like I can handle the frustrations that other people inflict upon each other and myself without allowing anger to boil over. 

Who would you prefer to be?

Remember, if you have no anger inside you, then there is nothing that can surface.


Day 26

One of the fascinating things about Buddhism in Korea is that there are very few lay-Buddhists who are willing to engage in conversation about their faith or beliefs. And it's not just a language issue, either. As I said a few weeks ago, most Buddhists in Korea are older women and, honestly, they are only Buddhists because their parents were. I've gotten the impression that most of them have no idea what Buddha said or how they should live as even a lay-Buddhist. In fact, I see a lot of the same behavior among casual Buddhists that I see among casual Christians. They both want favors in return for promises.

These women are praying for their children to do well on the Korean college entrance exam, yet Buddha never said that prayer was requirement. (He would suggest studying above all.) If you did pray, it was only supposed to be for success in the practice of helping others or during meditation. Still, these women are clearly praying for intervention in exchange for promised devotion --a very Western (and Christian) approach to prayer. Buddhism traditionally doesn't require supplication to deities, so prayer in exchange for good grades seems to pointless. It's not wrong, though. It's not my place to tell people that. All I know is that outside of Tibetan Buddhism that prays to gurus, prayer is not a requirement as a Buddhist.

Regardless of faith, I think people like the idea of being looked out for by something more powerful than themselves. I don't think this disqualifies them as being genuine. That wouldn't be fair. What does disqualify them, however, is only practicing their "faith" when it best suits them. And judging from the lack of participation and enthusiasm I've witnessed this month, I feel like we have a lot of convenient Buddhists over here. That's just a feeling, though. I "feel" a lot of things that are probably incorrect and in this case, I "feel" that Korean Buddhists are convenient followers. I might be wrong and that would be fine.

Let me explain why I think they are mostly "convenients". I tend to equate over-proselytizing to a lack of respect and in that same vein, I equate convenience to apathy. The former seems too much like a "you're all going to hell, unless..." attitude, while the latter seems so indifferent to their own faith that it makes them look irreligious. Maybe it's because there seems to be little wiggle room when openly sharing faith. You get the "I can save you" approach with one or the uncaring approach with the other and both of them rub me the wrong way. But if I had to chose, I prefer the latter.

Lay-Buddhists don't wear their religion on their sleeve, nor do they count those converted by their words. So, if lay-Buddhists aren't spreading the word, then does that means monks are? Aren't they just temple-based minds, only concerning themselves with their own Enlightenment? Well, kind of. I occasionally get knocks on my door from time to time and when I peer through the peephole, I find a friendly looking bald-headed man staring right back at me. Typically, he startles a bit when he sees that the voice behind the door was from a white dude, but he calms down and begins his spiel after a moment or two. 

It's usually very calm and totally non-confrontational. There's no Mormon-esque determination to stay in the house, pry for family details or squeeze an extra glass of iced-tea out of their good-natured hosts. They sense when it's time to go and that's that. So, if that doesn't work, how do they do it?

Curiosity does it for Buddhism. Everyone who is exposed to Buddhism thinks that it's either a great religion or  a heavy dose of common sense that they so desperately needed. When Christians in North Carolina are meditating during their yoga sessions, THAT is well-disguised endorsement for Buddhism. When people preach pacifism and patience, THAT is a well-disguised endorsement for Buddhism. I'm not saying Buddhism has a lock on mediation, pacifism or patience, but its followers certainly have a better reputation than some of the other religions and THAT is the best endorsement for Buddhism.

What's the best way to represent your country while traveling abroad? Is it good to jaw about how great your nation is? No, sir. Is it good to claim that your country is the best? No, sir. Is it good to point out the details of why your country is better than a particular country? No, sir.

Of course, the best way to be an ambassador for your country is to act well, respect the local culture and be a good person. Same goes for representing any religion.


Day 25

"Too much of everything is just enough."
Those words have rang true with me since I can remember. I'm prone to extremes. I don't want two beers, I want twenty-two. I'm not going to buy one pack of smokes for the trip, I'm going to buy three so I won't run out.   I don't want to split that pizza, I want the whole thing. I don't want to call in sick today, I want to quit. 

I love going all-out (or in). I'm an all or nothing guy and that is a problem. It's been a problem for me in many ways and I'm starting to wonder if Buddhism can correct it. It's becoming clearer and clearer to me that my culture frames how I interpret my religious life. I can't separate myself from America's overt rejection of moderation. It's a best or worst kind of mentality and it has rooted itself deeply within my psyche.

So, rather than trying my hardest to live a life of moderation, I'm going to focus my energy on living within my own regenerative capacity. That includes health, economics and just about every other facets of life. Focusing on the petty details is a waste of time. There's a story that I'm going to have to paraphrase because I can't find the exact wording in my books.
A man is shot with a poison arrow. He asks his nearby teacher who had shot him. He asks which direction the arrow came from. He's curious as to what kind of poison it was and from which animal the feathers had been plucked from. He obsesses over these details rather than pulling the arrow out and ultimately, he dies from the wound. He never knew the answers to his questions and died a bitter, angry man. 
Rather than obsessing over questions like "Am I being too extreme?" or "Is this moderate enough?", I need to be more aware of my own limits. Having a health scare is a good way to recognize the boundaries of your body, but it shouldn't be the way. I don't want to go bankrupt before understand how much is too much. Just like with the environment, studying the regenerative capacity of life would serve us much better than reacting only when the limits have been pushed. 

Moderation is just a word. I have within myself the knowledge and wisdom to protect myself from the extremes of desire. 


Day 24

Early mornings are great in Seoul. The problem is that on the weekends, I don't really want to know what it's like at 5:00am. I'm not a late-sleeper--never have been--but waking up before the sun comes up isn't fun. Luckily, Koreans are sleepers. It's not that they sleep a lot though. It's more that when they have a chance to nod-off or sleep-in, they take it. This means that even my neighborhood (population 1.6 million) has a few moments to breathe.

My wife and I decided to head to a coffee shop at about 8:00am this morning. I can't really enjoy it all too much though. I don't drink coffee. Teaching and drinking coffee go hand in hand and since Koreans are big on coffee and gifting teachers, this month has been a struggle. I get coffee from students all the time and while I'm appreciative as possible, it gets a little old. Either way, my wife and I were drinking coffee and water (I refuse to pay five bucks for tea) and glaring out the large window onto the streets of Gangnam. 

Across the street from us was a drunk man peacefully passed out on the sidewalk. A few years ago I would have guessed that he was homeless, but Gangnam does a good job of keeping skid row north of the river. He was just drunk. Unsurprisingly, the police were called and they chatted him up for a bit. The police in Korea spend roughly 70% dealing with drunks. Most of the time they give them the "be on your way" directive and that's about that. This case was no different. They sat him up, gave him a warning and were on their way.

The man, however, was not on his way. He sat right back down and proceeded to fade in and out of consciousness, pee on the wall and have a battle with his belt-less pants that refused to stay up. After an hour-long struggle to regain enough sense to stand, he was finally victorious and went on his way.

I watched this entire episode. It was entertaining. I've been in his position before and now, after a booze-less month, I'm starting to see how unfortunate it actually is. I used to do that in the name of fun?


By now, you've gotten figured out the format of this project. I live my life according to the rules of my chosen religion and observe the world through those eyes. I'm essentially just filtering my life through a religious screen and whatever is left on top, I examine and toss out. The bit that does filter through is presumably a jumbled mess of outdated rules and timeless advice. I try to sort that as well.

If you remember The Middle Way (which is essentially the Buddhist concept of moderation), Buddha made it very clear that extremes in either direction create suffering. I'm prone to go to extremes. 

So, I will end today's short post with a question that I will answer tomorrow.

Am I actually making myself more addicted to extremities by quitting things cold turkey or starting things full-throttle? 

I ask this because I have long adhered to line from a Dead song that stated "Too much of everything is just enough." Does Buddhism has an answer for me?

Continued tomorrow...


Day 23

Last night, I dreamed that I somehow ended up in a North Korean prison camp -an experience that I have read about in several books. (I'd recommend this one.) I don't remember all the details or reasons behind the sentencing, but I do remember standing in a big crowd  just below the 37th parallel with my wife and mother being forced to say goodbye to them. I didn't know how long I was going to be in th North or if I would ever see them again. I didn't even know how long our goodbyes would last. And then all at once, I was led away; pulled from the arms of my wife and away from the tears of my mother. Yet, considering the gravity of such an event, the mood changed drastically after only a few moments. We were all surprisingly reposed. 

I was marched across the demarcation line and soon realized the breadth of my situation. I was going to a Korean prison camp. My fears mounted as several armed soldiers approached me; their guns slung across their trim, unnourished bodies. We must have walked for no more than a couple minutes before my loved ones were well out of sight. The South disappeared behind the tombstones of Soviet-era buildings and with it went all that I had known. 

In the camp, I remember there was mostly running going on. It felt like a middle school cross-country practice. I was not particularly excited about this either. I hated cross-country. Aside from the awful and seemingly endless running, the general atmosphere felt more like a bustling summer camp than a prison camp. I think it was at this point that it started to get a little dreamy (you know, with snakes, random cameos and misplaced cultural icons), but soon that faded away and a terrifying feeling of helplessness swept over me. The US government couldn't get me out; my wife and family had no way of contacting me; and I was alone and incommunicado for what I could only assume was going to be forever. 

After lamenting the circumstances for several dream-time hours, I started to think more positively about my predicament. I started to see it as a chance to grow and take my life in a different direction. I was almost gleeful about the book I was sure to write after the whole experience was a thing of the past. Everyone would want to read about my story. I was going to be rich and it was all thanks to North Korea. 

Then the alarm went off and I woke up. 

(A variation of this dream actually happened to an English Teacher.)


I don't like wasting time analyzing the imagery of dreams. There's no consistency in it and I honestly don't think that losing teeth equates to powerlessness. I want to talk about something a little different here. I'm more curious as to why my feelings of beleaguerment and trepidation suddenly changed to prospective rosiness. As I said before, I dig hope, but this turnaround came without warning or warrant. 

What I want to focus on is positivity. I want to figure out if the positivity that I'm experiencing now (in reality) is grounded in my Buddhist studies or our blindly positive culture. Remember, at the end of this project, I might be making a decision as to what religion best suits me and my life. Or maybe not. I'm just lucky enough to be able to explore the religions of the world, so I've got to analyze these things.

In short, I want to know if the promise of Buddhism is more realistic and lasting than the pop-culture cults following philosophies like the "law of attraction" and other theories pushed by best-sellers such as "The Secret". 

How am I supposed to gauge the sincerity of my positivity? 

Well, it's easier than one might think. Whereas "The Secret" pushed the ideas of "dream boards" and asking a god for things, Buddhism shows you a path.  You might be thinking that those are the same. If we put a new boat on a dream board, then that is essentially pointing us in the direction we need to go. The difference is this: the law of attraction's promised positivity hinges on the manifestation of the objects or lifestyle desired. Meaning, if we don't obtain that new boat or dream job, our efforts were in vain and people are likely to let the positivity wane along with the other yearly fads.

Buddhism doesn't paint a picture of what a positive and happy person is supposed to look like.  There is no end result and obtaining tangible rewards for being happy seems almost counterproductive. In fact, Buddha even goes so far as to caution those seeking Enlightenment.
As long as people desire Enlightenment and grasp at it, it means that delusion is still with them; therefore, those who are following the way to Enlightenment  must not grasp at it, and if they reach Enlightenment they must not linger in it.
Ultimately, true happiness and positivity should not look like something. Just like with donations and offerings, there should never be a reward for doing what you know is right. The people who buy books like "The Secret" and "Your Best Life Now" have simply forgotten that fact and gotten swept up by best-sellers and instant gratification. Weber sure would have loved to have been alive to witness this economization of happiness. 

I'm feeling good these days because I've gotten my thoughts in order. I've simplified my life and don't waste time on worrying about the things I can't control. I'm aware of how my behavior can change the conditions of others. It's been twenty-three days since starting this project and I feel genuinely happy. I don't want anything that I don't already have and that feels good.


Day 22

I've been thinking about my blood a lot. Odd, no one really thinks about their blood, right? Well, yesterday I discovered that my blood type was O-negative --meaning that I'm the universal donor. I like that role, but in all honestly, I haven't ever donated blood. There's no fear of needles or hemaphobia to pair with my apathy for donation, I've just never done it.

I once tried to donate plasma in college. I went in there with a few friends who were probably considered regulars by the resident phlebotomists. Donating plasma wasn't a totally unheard of thing, either. I knew plenty of uber-lazy students who preferred this method (or mooching) to actual work. And why not? It was easy, clean and you could make forty-bucks in one sitting. That, plus you could justify your organic hocking as "donating". So, I went into this donation center fully prepared to squeeze out some plasma. I walked in and the heavy-set woman sitting behind the enclosed partition barked at me through a glass window.

"Sir, are you approved to donate at this site?"

"I'm not sure, it's my first time. How do I get approved?" I replied in the most cheeky of tones.
You see, even though I was among the degenerates who were selling their plasma for booze,drugs and whores, I was certainly not like them. No, no, no, I was a college student and students don't visit whores. Besides, I was new to this scene and it didn't matter why I was there. The lady didn't take to kindly to my projected snottiness. She'd seen guys like me hundreds of times and knew how to handle the type.

She stood up and walked around the partition. Her eyes were locked on mine. I remember wondering if my eyes were still bloodshot from that afternoon's "extracurriculars".  As she got closer, I was taken aback by her size. She not only towered above me, but her large frame dwarfed me by about fifty or sixty pounds. She snatched my arm, forced my sleeve above my elbow and took a peek.

I knew she wasn't going to be able to "get a needle" in either arm. She had already sized me up as a spoiled brat that was too lazy to get a job. And she was right, too. I was lazy. Still, she took a look at my other arm and proclaimed that I wasn't vascular enough for donation. That was baloney. My veins can be seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway. I'm about as vascular as a pacing steed, but I think she had simply grown tired of people donating plasma for the wrong reasons. I left that day and never returned.
"Nope. We ain't gonna be able to get a needle in here. Let me see your left."

While I'll never know exactly why I was turned away, I remember looking around that center in disgust. It was not a place that people were proud to be. The reclined chairs were all lined-up in a row --ten on each side. Everyone donating was forced to look at the person across the room and I'm willing to bet that everyone was questioning the motives of the other donors and silently ridiculing them. But the truth was, everyone was in there not because they cared enough to donate. They were in there for easy money and nothing more.

People donate a lot of things for the wrong reasons. Buddha says:
The practice of offering gets rid of selfishness. A true offering comes from a sympathetic heart. True offering springs spontaneously from one's pure compassionate heart with no thought of any return.
So, sorry plasma-junkies. Buddha isn't impressed with your "donations". What do you think his take is on those seeking deductions on their donations come tax season? (You think Buddha would be marching on Washington to complain about the top 2% of Americans being taxed? Don't tread on my CEO!) Personally, I've always been a little irritated by the fact that many donations are deemed as deductible from your taxable income. I know it encourages giving or perhaps even softens the blow a bit, but for some reason deducting tithes just feels wrong. However, after reading the Buddhist rules of offerings and karma, it appears that deducting donations doesn't de-merit your offering and resulting karma. As long as your intent is pure, then you're alright.

Aside from money, Buddha claims there are seven types of offering that we can practice: labor; compassion; glance; smile; words; seat; shelter. I have offered all of these at some point, but I can do more. I need to. I've always felt fairly altruistic throughout my life and that selfless concern is central to the teachings of Buddhism, but I don't think I'm doing enough. Do you?

Recently in Korea, there was a teenager who was suffering from lymphoma. His blood type was B-negative which is extremely rare in Korea. In fact, Asian's typically aren't Rh. negative. A blood drive campaign was started among expats based the country, but it wasn't enough. He died yesterday. There simply wasn't enough blood for him among Koreans or expats. That makes me feel horrible. I didn't know my blood type until yesterday, so I couldn't have helped anyways, but would I have?

I don't think so and that is something that I am going to improve on. Both my wife and I have made a pledge to donate once a month while we're still in Korea. She's A-positive which isn't unique at all, but my rare blood type could certainly help others in that position.


Just in case you're curious, Koreans are not big on blood/tissue/organ donations. In fact, their donation rate is among the lowest in the world. Predominately Christian nations are leading the pack on this front, but it's not just Christianity that promotes organ donation --nearly all religions believe it to be noble. So then, why is Korea, a nation swimming with proselytizing religiosi, not keeping up with the trend? One man: Confucius

This guy still has a stranglehold here in the land that "out-Confuciused the Confucisians."


Day 21

Finally, I beat my cold and sinus issues. It took awhile and before you start jumping all over my lifestyle, let me go ahead a stop you right there. It was not my lack of food or whatever else you might assume. No, it was my incense. The stuff was about as dirty as it can get and since it's been cold outside, the windows have been closed during many of my meditation sessions. That's pretty much concentrated poison going directly into my lungs. No more incense.

So I'm feeling good. I got my blood work back and all is well. Even though I wasn't expecting much, you always get nervous. I got an HIV/AIDS/STD test (had to for school), TB test and about a dozen other things checked out in the stuff and I'm all clean. I also found out that I'm O-negative. There's always that part of you that scares for no reason. I had a comprehensive test done a couple years ago before getting married and was clean then too, but you never know and when the imagination runs wild, there's no taming it. 

So, that whole thing is done.  Now I have to battle the blood pressure issue. I have a pretty solid game plan though. In short, no smoking, more exercise and more overall care for myself. I guess we all get to a certain point when health becomes something to worry about. I just wish it didn't happen so early for me, but what can I do? I'm not going to spin this as one of those "this was actually a good thing" cases. High blood pressure is a bad thing. I don't need to delude myself into thinking it's a turning point or a blessing in-disguise.

I've officially decided to swear-off all expressions that equate to "When life gives you lemons, made lemonade." That stuff doesn't help. Instead, I've changed it to "When life gives you lemons, thrown them away and drink water instead." Why waste my time working with the negative, when I can drink the purest thing in the world: reality.

I'm feeling good these days though. I've given myself more than enough time to think and organize my thoughts. I've adjusted some priorities and, in general, I'm feeling pretty great when I wake up every morning. Is it Buddhism? Partly 'yes' and partly 'no'.

More to come on that front though...


I had a pretty serious meditation session last night. Depending on the time of day, I either meditate with my eyes open or closed. At night, I generally go for the eyes open method. I've fallen asleep enough times to know that closing my baby-blues doesn't go over to well past 9:00pm. So, rather than sitting in total darkness, I decided to put on a video of a sun setting over a nice pristine lake. 

Just for fun, let's assume it was this one.

Pretty nice, right? So, I was staring at my very large and un-Buddhist flat screen teevee for nearly thirty minutes when I started thinking about the physical nature of Buddha and my own perception of worldly beauty.

Specifically, do I see Buddha when I look at this picture?

Perhaps I'm wondering this because I was raised in a largely Judeo-Christian  society and was bombarded with corny Jesus posters and album covers depicting God or Jesus as beams of light or accompanying footprints in the sand. Whatever it is, I've been somewhat conditioned to view cheesy sunset images in this manner.

As I mentioned last week, Buddha stresses his humanness throughout his teachings. I identified with that because I like the idea of my teacher being a mentor rather than a figurehead. I still like that. However, the Dharma also states that Buddha is everywhere; a message that modern scholars have expanded on.

“Buddha can’t be avoided. Buddha is everywhere. Enlightenment possibilities are all over the place. Whether you’re going to get married tomorrow, whether you’re going to die tomorrow, whatever you may feel, that familiar awake quality is everywhere, all the time. From this point of view, everything is a footprint of Buddha, anything that goes on, whether we regard it as sublime or ridiculous. Everything we do — breathing, farting, getting mosquito bites, having fantastic ideas about reality, thinking clever thoughts, flushing the toilet — whatever occurs is a footprint.”
So, he's omnipotent and human. That--to me--get's into the gray area that Christians call the the "Trinity". Regardless, I'll accept the premise. Okay, Buddha is human AND he's omnipotent. 

Buddha also stresses that this world is full of suffering because humans typically fall victim to desire. I agree with that as well.  I personally find myself desiring many things everyday and particularly things and lives that other people have. I know that's normal, but I'm finding myself less concerned about that and more appreciative of what I have in front of me. Overall, I really enjoy most of what Buddhism stands for and teaches. It's a wonderful religion that everyone could benefit from studying.

Yet as a Buddhist, when I look at that picture above, I don't know how I should feel. The naturalist in me sees immense beauty and a desire for a simpler life. And that's not really in contrast with the message of Buddhism. I'm supposed to strive for a simplified life where watching a sun set over a serene lake is a routine.
The world is a burning house. 
This quote is referring to the ignorance of people and how destructive that nature is to their own tranquility. I understand the message  and it makes sense, but the message almost seems like overkill. By constantly focusing on the mirage-like appearance of the world (and how bad it is), the religion is distancing itself from it. That's a let down for me. I know that Buddhism--like most religions--pushes the idea that this world is only temporary and wasting energy on it is pointless, but I like this earth and want to waste a lot of energy on it and in it.

Some of my best memories in life have been spent outdoors in this "burning world". My parents were not the outdoor-types in the traditional sense, but we spent some serious time in the wilderness. No, month-long packing trips and shooting the rapids usually weren't on the Spring Break itinerary. They did, however, send me and my sister to places where we could go camping, shoot the rapids and scale rock faces. And as a result, both my sister and I love spending as much time in nature as possible.

I don't like the notion that I'm wasting my time out there because reality is actually in my mind. I also like the idea that there's something more powerful in nature than my mind alone. I'm not saying I want to do this.

Nor am I saying I prefer the Abrahamic approach to the pagan, but I do want to feel like the experience is real and worthwhile.


Day 20

I ate a veggie sub today. It was my first ever. I enjoyed it a lot. Oh, and happy "420 Day".


Perhaps the thing that I will most learn from this project (and my time in Korea as a minority) will be the awesome power of tolerance. I'll admit it, I have not been the most tolerant person in my short life. My parents certainly practiced open-tolerance as I grew up and both of them have blossomed into wonderfully tolerant people as they have settled into their middle-ages with wisdom safely nestled on their side. That's impressive considering the backslide that much of America is experiencing right now. As clearly witnessed by the current social and political climate right now, reaching full maturity as a tolerant and accepting person is bucking the trend.

People have become so intolerant of others opinions, positions,  and lifestyles that the mantra "Hey, it's the nineties" seems decades away...again. It's sad, but then again, I guess that means I get to wear jams again in the future. There's always a bright-side.

It's clear to me that many Americans have lost their way and in my opinion it boils down to one thing. This one thing has dictated human behavior for millennia and is certainly causing a hefty portion of the strife we're witnessing in much of the world right now.

That, of course, is exclusivity and todays Americans are terrified to lose it.  

These days, it's seems like every time I read American politics, there's some loon claiming that America is a "Christian nation". Sarah Palin is leading that charge now, but there have been many before her. Why is there such a push to for this meaningless appointment? Are American Christians so insecure and intolerant of other religions that they have to make sure that everyone knows that Christians are in charge? 

That'd be like saying America is a "white nation" because Americans are still mostly white. Or that since the founding fathers were slave owners and men, that America is still a "white slave-owning nation".  It's outrageous and honestly quite dangerous.

Trust me though, I'm not innocent of this. It's hard, if not impossible, to be. After all, humans are members of families, citizens of nations and practitioners of faiths. I'm not particularly thrilled about China's rising position in the world, but is my intolerance or even outward anger of their status going to create anything but hatred inside me and those that I love? 

What's happened is that the exclusive community called America has unlocked the front gates and now is having trouble finding enough support to close them again. What was once called the "American Dream" is now the Korean Dream. It's the French Dream and Finnish Dream; the Brazilian Dream and the German Dream. America can no longer claim to be the only one offering a "dream". But wasn't that one of our other dreams, though? Weren't we supposed to be sharing our dreams with world?

I'd like to end with this quote.
Religious tolerance is not achieved by reducing all religions to a common denominator, nor by explaining away formidable differences in thought and practice as accidents of historical development. From the Buddhist point of view, to make tolerance contingent upon whitewashing discrepancies would not be to exercise genuine tolerance at all; for such an approach can "tolerate" differences only by diluting them so completely that they no longer make a difference. True tolerance in religion involves the capacity to admit differences as real and fundamental, even as profound and unbridgeable, yet at the same time to respect the rights of those who follow a religion different from one's own (or no religion at all) to continue to do so without resentment, disadvantage or hindrance.
 Well put, sir.


Day 19

Mondays. Oh man, do I dislike this day. Actually, I'm not a big fan of Sundays either. I guess it's because they're tainted by the seriousness of Monday. I often wonder if they'll ever get better. Am I going to hit a stage in life where Mondays are actually good?

The Mamas & the Papas--I thought--had it right. 
Monday Monday so good to me
Monday mornin' it was all I hoped it would be
The counter-culture of the sixties passed my parents by all too easily. My father was a repressed Irish Catholic nerd in college and my mom was still in the hoop skirt stage by the time the barracks at Pleiku were ambushed by the Viet Cong. Yeah, it's safe to say that my parents were more concerned with Grazing in the Grass than smoking the stuff. As a result, deciphering the meanings of classic sixties tunes, artwork and movements were not a typical activity in the young Hogan household. And while we loved to watch The Wonder Years as much as any other waspy family, not a word was breathed about the Vietnam War or era. Still, "oldies" were played on the radio and I got to enjoy them just like every child of the eighties did.

As I navigated my way through the treacherous waters of adolescence and early adulthood, I gravitated towards the decade. The politics, subculture and vibrancy of the 1960s appealed to me in many ways. It had long since passed by the time the nineties were in full-swing, but remained alive as it's pop-legacy would continue to prove the potency of its pop-culture impact. I loved the perceived mysticism of the times as it was unlike the late-nineties where very few easily identifiable movements were taking place that would appeal to teenagers. It was a get-in-where-you-fit-in type of thing and it just worked for me.

In 1966, a year after domestic victories like the passage of the Voting Rights Act and Social Security Act,  LBJ substantially increased troop-levels in South Vietnam as 20,000 monks marched against the pro-America Diem regime. Mao restructured the Communist Regime, AFL-NFL merged, Reagan became Governor of California, Walt Disney died, Russia booted all Chinese students, the first Acid Test took place and  The Mamas & the Papas released "Monday, Monday."

That's quite a year and almost all of those things have had some sort of effect on my life, but why Monday, Monday? It certainly wasn't the most momentous event of the year and the song probably had no real impact on the lives of anybody besides the members of that band. But in all truth, that song had an impact on me. For as long as I can remember, I believed that song to be about how great Mondays actually were. Even though my experience with the day has been anything but great, I still maintained that I could and should rethink the day. The song says that it's "good to me", so perhaps I was looking at Monday all wrong. Maybe I  should embrace the day as the start of a fresh week; something new to get excited about.

However, the song is not about how great Mondays are. It's actually about an affair. All you have to do is substitute Monday with a woman's name and tweak a few of the other lyrics. My entire life, I had looked to this song as a shot of optimism on difficult Monday mornings.
People often become so attached to their own delusions that it makes the ego accept false realities.
Everyone is guilty of this from time to time and, in many cases, it's unintentional. I just accepted the song at face value. There are thousands of song like that, but how many of them altered how you behaved? And furthermore, is it responsible of us to continue believing such falsehoods and delusions? The great George Costanza once said something that I'll always remember.

"It's not a lie if you believe it."
That is, of course, totally untrue. A lie is a lie and reality is reality. Just look at the American Tea Party movement. Those people don't have a clue as to what reality is. They've just let delusions cling to their egos and now they're living under a "Kenyan-born Muslim Marxist who is bent on destroying America and forcing people into reeducation camps." Even if they continue to see it on television and repeat in the streets, it's still a lie.

People used to support Lombroso's theory of biological determinism and lock-up those who had physical traits that were deemed as "deviant". That was nuts of course, but people ate it up back then. Every nation has false ideas and makes bogus claims about immigrants (English teachers in Korea are rapists is a personal favorite), yet it's still a lie.

Am I angry at The Mamas and the Papas? -no, but I should be more aware of the ideals that I am certain to be true. This goes for religion, politics, history and just about every other facet of life. You never know how much a lie --no matter how small-- can affect your life. 

And for the record, Mondays are not "good to me", Mama Cass! Oh, and just so you know, Mama Cass died on a Monday.


Day 18

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm having problems discussing the virtues and lessons of Buddhism without coming across as a prick. Everything about the religion creates an environment for smugness. I'm told to remain calm, speaking deliberately, control my emotions, fight the urge of combativeness and avoid hyperbolic and foolish talk. Sounds great and if I was only speaking to other Buddhists, it would be perfect, but that's not the case. Most of the people I'm speaking to are not religious, let alone Buddhist. They find my calm tone more condescending than reasonable. (American liberals often get charged in the same way. Being calm, collected and knowledgeable equates to elitism in the bizzaro world of America civics.)

I think another problem with this interaction comes more misunderstanding than anything.
There are three kinds of people in the world. The first are those who are proud, act rashly and are satisfied; their natures are easy to understand. Then there are those who are courteous and always act after consideration; their natures are hard to understand. Then there are those who have overcome desire completely; it is impossible to understand their nature.
My sister was first exposed to true religious zeal when she was in college. She had grown tired of the routine partying (something that I cherished greatly) and wanted something more. True, she was a bit depressed and lost, but clearly the passion for which some people had for Christ intrigued her. As with many people, first exposure to the pious often leads to irritation. It's very difficult for the non-religious to truly understand the devout. This gap is what turns people off. 

So, when my sister came home and started preaching the "good news" to the family, we were turned off and almost felt a little betrayed. I wondered where my sister had gone. One comment she made clearly stands out even today.
"I'm worried that you're going to go to Hell."
Thanks, sis. But looking back on that, I can understand why she did and, at the same time, I can understand why this comment is so obnoxious to the non-follower. She had been exposed to evangelical Christianity and part of the belief is outreach. In fact, "spreading the word" is the main goal of Christians, but evangelicals tend to use zero tact when doing so. She had fallen so in love with Christianity that her concern was not actually self-righteous (as I took it), but rather it stemmed from her genuine fear that her little brother would be going to Christian Hell. (I've read about Christian Hell and it sounds pretty scary. Luckily, I don't believe in it, but I appreciate the effort.) The issue here isn't whether I was offended by the comment or if she was naive for making such a classless remark, what's at issue is that religious people walk a fine line when discussing their faith with others.

No matter what happens, the pious are bound to step on toes and make others uncomfortable. I'm so uncomfortable with these non-denominational Christians that when I see them on TV raising their hands in prayer, my first thought is that they're either phonies or self-righteous. That's wrong. People should not dismiss and judge them because it's impossible for the secular to understand their nature. The same goes for interfaith conflicts. Brit Hume's comment on Tiger Woods comes to mind.
"He's said to be a Buddhist; I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So my message to Tiger would be, 'Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."
I've only been doing this for about three weeks and already I've gotten under the skin of my wife, colleagues and friends. Devout followers must use other methods of delivery when attempting to share their faith. Rather than starting lines with, "Jesus told us to..." and "Buddha showed us by..." go with "it helps to" or something else that's more subtle. For instance, I've discovered that meditation really helps sort of my thoughts and relaxes me internally or externally. Rather than saying, "I think you should start mediating because..." I should try a more subtle, "I usually feel really great after meditating." Don't mentioned your preferred deity or prescribed religion just yet. If the religious just spoke to people on a human level first, many would be less inclined to feel anger and resentment.

Save the meta-physical stuff for later. 


Day 17

I always thought that there were typically two types of religious people: the self-righteous and the humble. 

Now, however, I'm just not sure. 

These days, I'm spending an awful lot of time reading Buddhist texts and literature. On an average day, I spend somewhere around five to seven hours reading. That's a lot of reading and it hasn't been just this month either. Since graduating from high school, I have tried to read a book every couple of weeks, but books have never been the bulk of my daily dose. Most of my time is spent reading papers, blogs and essays online. I'm obsessed with American politics and society, so I must feed this desire.

Of course, Buddhism tells me not to concern myself with worldly things and my doctor tells me not to concentrate on things that stress me out, so I need to clamp down on my political digest. In it's place is and will be my books on Buddhism and, as the year progresses, other religious text. Everyday this month, I've been reading about greed and anger. I spend hours reading parables and applying them to my own life, so naturally, some of what I've learned naturally spills into the conversation. That's not a problem in and of itself. The problem is, how can I deliver Buddha's message without sounding like a self-righteous, holier-than-thou snot?

And it's not just religion. I'm new to this religion stuff. I'm pretty confident in a few other subjects, but history is my forte. (Specifically, the colonial and twentieth-century America, and Korean history.) When I talk about those subjects, I come across as a smug prick or a know-it-all. The truth is is that most people are the opposite of know-it-alls and that's what happens when you know your stuff. The amount of time I'm investing into studying religion this year is certain to have an impact on my knowledge of faith and I'm sure that many people would mistake my limited understanding of religion with self-righteousness, but is that my fault?

How can knowledgeable people share their faith or interest without coming across as preachy?

Are informed people too often deemed self-righteous simply because they know more than the average person?

To be continued...


Day 16

I didn't have to work at my main gig today. Being manager, they kind of assume that I'll go in and keep the place moving, but I'm not the director. I manage teachers and curriculum. There is no need for me to go in there and sit with the staff and upper-management workaholics. Besides, they mostly sit around playing Starcraft on the company's dime while their wifes toil away at home with the children. I don't like computer games. In fact, I lost all interest in gaming after Super Nintendo. NHL '96, Super Mario Cart and Donkey Kong Country were more than enough for this guy.

So, I tried to sleep late, but couldn't. I was up by 6:00am and snooping around online; reading politics and catching up on some bookmarked articles. I guess I could have meditated, but I have so much free-time today and didn't want to burn through it all before noon. I did, however, have to go to the hospital at 8:00am. First of all, "the hospital" is a hospital by Western standards, but its usage is more like a clinic. I didn't go because I'm ill either. I've actually gotten over that. No, this one was just for fun. It's so cheap here, that there's almost no reason not to go.

I did some blood work; peed in a cup; got some X-rays; checked my eyes & ears; did a blood pressure test; and checked my height and weight. I could have grown, no? I obviously will hear back about the urine, blood and X-rays later, but the other stuff we can discuss. My eyes are perfect -as usual. I've always had perfect eyes. My hearing is, well, pretty bad. They actually told me that it's "abnormal". Except for high-frequency noises, I can hear everything quite well. I don't know what happened in there today. 

My weight is the interesting one. When I started this Buddhist project, I weighed 72 kg (158 lbs). Now, 16 days later, I'm down to 65 kg (143 lbs). Not consuming meat, dinner or booze has clearly contributed to that loss. Don't worry, though. I feel great and they said my weight is fine for my height and age. I'm sure I'll plateau out soon.

My blood pressure is more of a concern. I'm in the pre-hypertension range, but am totally not surprised. I've never eaten well. Fortunately, my body has been able to metabolize most of the excess pretty efficiently, so I've been able to escape any legitimate weight gain. Of course, that has nothing to do with my arteries and sodium-levels. Regardless, I'm not too worried yet and will lower it over the next couple months through the continuation of parts of my Buddhist diet -namely no meat, smoking or sugar and an increase of bananas, oranges, legumes and cabbage.


Buddhism is not that big on marriage. In fact, it's not really a family-oriented religion. The strong emphasis on detachment, renunciation and separation from worldly desires contradicts the very idea of what marriage and family life are supposed to be about. Being relatively new to this marriage game, I don't like the idea of detaching myself from my wife, dog or family. Still, the Dharma seems to be full of useful advice on how to have a successful marriage. 

Conflict is a part of life and is certainly a part of marriage. My wife and I have faced many conflicts together and we are sure to face many more. When these problems arise, the natural thing to do is to assign blame. The reasonable person inside all of us is convinced that there was a cause for this problem and that that person must be made aware of the suffering he or she has caused. Perhaps it's because American culture in obsessed with our notion of "justice" that unless there's a definitive victory, we feel like we were unjustly treated or wronged. I've never agreed with this, but still, the question I often must ask myself is, "Are you arguing for yourself or for the improvement of the situation?" More often than not, I'm arguing out of greed; the desire to claim another "W" for my non-existent win column. I'm fanning the flames for selfish reasons and that is wrong. The world is already on fire.  (Bruce Springsteen sang about it back in '85.)

The Buddha said there are two worldly passions that defile and cover the purity of Buddha-hood. 
The first is the passion for analysis and discussion by which people become confused in judgement.
Everybody is right, all the time. My wife is convinced that she's right all the time, just like I'm convinced that I'm right all the time. I actually keep much of my certainty to myself because at some point in my short life, I learned a very valuable lesson. When spouses argue, there is no winner, only losers. Let me expand on that a bit. If my wife and I are arguing, we both are presented with two paths.We can either argue to the point of exhaustion where one of us gives in and retreats, i.e., makes a faux-apology or storms off -OR- we can put our judgement and desire to "win" aside and honestly have a conversation. Remember, even if you are the declared or de facto winner of an argument, you still lose. After all, what was actually gained? Nothing. Like the quote above says, people love to analyze and discuss things, but it can't be done if we're constantly judging the other's intentions, qualifications and motives. 

I know I talked about marriage yesterday as well, but it's what I know. It's my life, but I also think that the mindfulness of this month has made me weigh a few things differently than I did before. Buddhism focuses so much on the aspect of causes, conditions and suffering that now it almost pains me to act in a way that would cause suffering for my wife. 

Or it could be the fact that I'm not working as much as I used to (perk of being the boss) and have a lot more alone time than I'm used to. Maybe that's a good thing though. Mindfulness is better than never-ending yapping, right?
A dog is not considered a good dog because he is a good barker. A man is not considered a good man because he is a good talker. 

It's about 9:30pm here. I'm getting ready to bow and then walk my dog. The wife has a company get-together tonight, so it looks like it's a boys night here at the Hogan house. Maybe Bear and I will watch Old Yeller. Or better yet, maybe we'll watch The Bear.