A musing on disquiet and simple acts of psychic upheaval

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It occurs to me — over and over again, because I never learn, and usually at the least opportune moments, but I digress — that the primary reason I procrastinate and stall and make excuses and put off trying or fucking doing anything (besides being rooted, as all things are, in Fear) is that I get caught up in the percieved or apparent enormity/entirety of a thing, I overwhelm myself with obsessive monolithic dissection, I let loose the mental patients in my head, and we fucking bathe in the feces encrusted misery of our own paranoid compulsive immersion. The thing becomes an uncontrollable beast in the china shop of my perception before I even have a chance to move.

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Take the act of meditation, for example. On a logical level, I understand and have even experientially witnessed the spiritually, emotionally, and physically healing properties of meditation. I know that practicing zazen would be the first best thing for me to be doing in this time of psychological disquiet and uncertainty. But, I am automatically consumed by the entire Universal scope of the idea of Enlightenment and peace and unity and understanding and nirvana and sublimely perfect cosmic alignment. And so I can’t see the forest for the trees. I am too caught up in obsessiving anxiously over the details of neurotic insignificance and distractifying minutia, and I am blinded to the simple, obvious beauty and wonderfully flawed delicate perfection of each magical moment.

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So, today, an experiment. An exercise in detached observational experience and willful, conscious presence. I read something that, as with all of the most profound truths, seems so obvious now. Meditation doesn’t have to be the ritualistic, solemn, esoteric act of spiritual perfection that I sometimes picture it to be in my muddled mind. The simple act of observing and experiencing one’s thoughts without reaction to them is an act of meditative contemplation. My intention for today is to attempt to allow my thoughts and emotions to flow freely through me, but rather than react to them and allow them to direct my behavior and feelings, I will practice at simply observing these thoughts and emotions, analyzing and attempting to understand them, and in this way perhaps I can arrive at a deeper understanding of myself and my place in these moments.

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And when I inevitably step off and engage and allow myself to become consumed with some neurotically poisonous snowballing wreckage, I must simply acknowledge, reset, and try again! This all seems so simple on paper…or LCD screen, as the case may be.

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© Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A musing on restlessness and complacency, with Apes of Gloom

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Every time I find myself, I get complacent. And then, of course, parts of me get restless. They wander off again and get lost. This time I want to do a better job of putting me all together and moving forward.

#TimeToChange

“When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.”

– Siddhārta Gautama Buddha

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© Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Spring Festival

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Kung Hei Fat Choy! Yesterday, February 19th on the Western Gregorian calendar, marked the official New Year on the Chinese lunisolar calendar.  In Chinese communities worldwide, the next fifteen days will be filled with celebration, ritual, feasts and family, all centered around the concept of rebirth, regeneration, and renewed prosperity.

The ancient beginnings of this observance and celebration are rooted in the Chinese mythologies of the Nian.  A lion-like beast residing under the sea and in the mountains, the Nian would come out of hiding in the early Spring to feast and forage on villagers, livestock, and crops, his tastes usually suited to small children when possible.  The people of the villages began placing food offerings outside their homes at the beginning of their lunar calendar, in hopes their sacrifices would satiate the beast.

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One year, though, a villager was visited by a god, who told him the Nian’s weaknesses were loud sounds and the color red.  Hoping to keep the beast away entirely, villagers began decorating their homes with red lanterns and spring scrolls, as well as setting off firecrackers as an additional deterrent.  This effectively kept the Nian hidden from humanity and assured the village’s safety, and over time the precautions taken by the people grew into tradition.  In more modern times, this mythology and the Nian itself is represented in celebrations by the dancing lion, a recognizable part of Chinese New Year celebrations even to the uninitiated Westerner.

Celebrations and observances for the turn of the lunar year actually begin nearly a month prior to the actual start of the new year.  The Laba holiday, named for a traditional porridge served in conjunction with this observance, is celebrated on the eighth day of the lunar month prior to the new year.  It is intended as remembrance of an ancient winter solstice festival, and is held in honor of the gods.  For those who practice Buddhism, the Laba holiday coincides with Bodhi Day, which is an observance of the Buddha’s act of selfless ascetism and attainment of enlightenment.

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In the days immediately leading up to the New Year, all members of a family contribute to a thorough cleansing of the home, the intent of which is to sweep away the bad fortune of the previous year and make room for an influx of good luck and prosperity.  This cleansing involves the clearing and immolation of altars and tributes from the previous year, as well as a sending of the gods to report on the family to the Jade Emperor through the burning of effigies.

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The most important event leading up to Chinese New Year, and one that is likened to the Western traditions of Thanksgiving or Christmas, is celebrated on New Years Eve of the lunar calendar, and is known as Nian Ye Fan, the Reunion Dinner.  The dinner, which intends to reunite the entire family, consists of several traditional dishes, including a selection of meats, dumplings symbolic of wealth, and a glutinous cake meant to bring prosperity to the entire family.  Traditionally, families attend temples in the hours leading up to midnight to pray, however, in modern times, it is more customary to hold lavish celebrations with dancing and fireworks.

Immediately after midnight, in the very first hours of the New Year, celebrants first ensure that all malicious spirits and beings are scared away before opening the doors of their homes and selves, both literal and symbolic, to welcome the dieties of the heavens and earth.  Many people, especially Buddhists, fast or otherwise abstain from meat products, and refrain from killing any living thing.  It is also considered bad luck to use a broom, cutting utensils, or fire — so, it’s not only fortunate but in fact necessary that prior day’s celebrations involved large-scale cooking and cleaning.

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It is also customary for elder members of the family to present junior members with red envelopes containing cash and/or gifts of prosperity.  Business leaders often use this occasion to deliver workplace bonuses, as well.  This practice has led to adoption of one of several traditional phrases associated with the New Year’s celebrations: Kung Hei Fat Choy.

The rough translation? “Congratulations and be prosperous, now give me a red envelope!”

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Stay tuned in the coming days and weeks for more information on this colorful, historic, and catalytic holiday observance, and for detail on the specific celebrations and their mythological symbolism over the next fifteen days of Chinese New Year!  Have a personal story about or connection with this holiday, or just some related thoughts to share?  Sound off in the comments!

For a completely unrelated but brilliant blog written by an Asian man, please visit Harsh Reality!  (I really only linked to the Opinionated Man for my own selfish and self-serving reasons, but read his blog anyways. It is really fuckin’ good.)

© Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.