I’ve been fighting the good fight against genetics and food for a while now. Like many people, I’m struggling with controlling my cholesterol. As you might imagine, I am not a person who likes to take a bunch of medications just to avoid making lifestyle changes. In general, I prefer behavioral approaches over medicinal ones.
Last month was the perfect timing for having a cholesterol test. I joined a gym back in July and have been faithful in going. The gym comes with personal training and I’ve been using that to guide my progress. Even better, a work colleague of mine and I concluded that we were having too many high carb, sugary snacks at work and set a goal for ourselves of no sugary snacks at work for 22 out of the 25 work days in that month. Yeah! I succeeded!
Confidently I strode into the lab for my test.
Results? Worse than ever. Boo!
Doctor’s recommendation? Statins. Boo!
I get my healthcare news from journal articles and sources such as NIH and Medscape. So, I’m usually pretty sure that the information I’m getting is of high quality. Frankly, the idea of taking statins terrifies me. Yes, they lower cholesterol, which is extremely important. It’s just that the cost in potential side effects is so high.
Now I’m thrown into the middle of an identity crisis. For self-reflection, I categorized my reactions from a Buddhist perspective…
I must bow to the lesson I have been given to learn. I must be grateful that I live in a time in human history when such a medication is even available. It would be foolish to increase my risk of stroke just so that I don’t have to get over myself. And so I go.
Why haven’t I made any posts in months?
Blah blah busy blah blah blah work blah blah moving offices blah blah blah…nothing “Buddhist enough” to say.
Yes, it’s true. After sixteen years of Buddhist practice I continue to fall victim to dualistic thinking and tie myself to attachments about the need to be profound in some way. Haha! I’m sure I’m not alone here and I do have a good sense of humor about it. Prajna is a process.
I mean really. The whole reason for calling the blog Average Buddhist is because I’m just an average person workin’ the Dharma. It’s about the small stuff.
Think small. Think small.
One of the better posts to come out of the American Buddhist blog recently was this post about busyness. Whitaker’s discussion centers around an article I also read and cross-posted to the Facebook community. It was called The ‘Busy Trap’ from the New York Times. In Whitaker’s blog post he refers to the many things he has floating around in the space of to-do, that there are things in the forefront and things on the back burner. He reflects on how lost these things can get over time – as well as in time.
There is certainly something to be gleaned from an examination of the relative importance of the things that take up our lives. It is too easy to get pulled into trivialities that in the end have no meaning for us. The world tries to require a trivial focus from us. Deciding to opt out of those time and energy sucking vortices can have its consequences. The NY Times article takes that perspective and brings us the time-honored word of warning that we may be missing out on MORE IMPORTANT THINGS (emphasis mine).
Yes, time-honored, but how true is is really?
When I look at the churning waves of things I do each day, week, month, year how judgmental should I really be? After all, what is it I should be doing instead? Yes, yes, philosophers may argue there is just as much “value” in staring at the ceiling as there is in writing a business report – or a blog post for that matter. But it really depends on your definition of the word value. If we all took hours at a time to stare at the ceiling and contemplate the meaning of life, as a community we would lose some of the greatest creative masterpieces and advancements that actually have made our lives better than the lives of the cave people. That those creative masterpieces and advancements come part and parcel with a lot of chum is irrelevant.
My favorite quote from Whitaker’s blog post was the following:
Yes, life is too short to be busy. But sometimes it’s also too short to say no to busyness
That our lives are filled – sometimes to the brim – is not always a bad thing. Placing judgments on the way in which we or others spend the time we have on this planet is the height of dualistic thinking “a is bad; b is good” and does nothing but increase our suffering and that of the people around us through our constant second-guessing of whether or not we are making the best and highest use of our time. If we are busy, if we are not, we still must be. Some day we won’t be. That will be that.
You know what I find funny?
Tee Hee Hee
After all, it seems somewhat beside the point what kind of Buddhist you are. Such a large part of the work of Buddhism is based upon working toward not grasping for artificial certainties that the concept of denominations of Buddhism is somewhat amusing to me.
In a secular, descriptive way, I get it. Having vocabulary for such things is a convenient short-cut for understanding each others’ perspectives. If, for example, I say that I am a Theravada Buddhist, then I had better be a nun, because Theravada Buddhists don’t believe that lay people can stop the cycle of birth and rebirth and therefore cannot achieve enlightenment. On the other hand, as a Mahayana Buddhist, I can say that anyone who is doing the work of brushing back the illusions of this life and who is striving to awaken themselves to life without ground is capable of achieving enlightenment.
But it doesn’t stop there, does it?
Of course not.
Because of the idea that only monks and nuns can achieve enlightenment, Theravada Buddhism has come to be called the “lesser vehicle”. Hmmmmm…no shenpa there, huh? And because Mahayana allows for all to work toward enlightenment (with a shot for the Big Time), it has come to be called “the greater vehicle”. And they say size doesn’t matter.
I suppose its all good as long as we can keep our perspective and understand that the labels are truly there only for convenience and that they don’t necessarily represent a concrete reality. My experience with humanity to date, however, suggests that this detail is typically lost in the confusion.
And we haven’t even gotten to Vajrayana Buddhism – the “diamond vehicle”. Now what’s that supposed to mean?
Now buy the Book!