What exactly is Buddhism?

What exactly is Buddhism?

 “The true hero is one who conquers his own anger and hatred” – The Dalai Lama XIV

The 4 noble truths and the 8 fold path – a brief introduction.

If you’ve ever taken a walk around a garden centre in recent years, you’ll be familiar with the Buddha in the form of calming looking statues and ornaments. You may even own a couple! He’s usually meditating in the lotus position with his eyes closed, looking very relaxed.

If you’ve ever had any curiosity about Buddhism, but perhaps never had the chance to find out any details, then this blog will give you a basic overview. The next time you go to a garden centre you’ll see those statues in a different light … and if any of this comes up in a pub quiz, you can thank me later.

What you may not realise is that the word Buddha is not a name, it’s actually a title that represents a higher spiritual state of being. 

The original Buddha was an wealthy Indian man called  Siddhattha Gotama. Siddhattha lived around 500 BC and was a Hindu so Buddhism is heavily influenced by Hinduism. With tongue in cheek, Philosopher Alan Watts used to often say that “Buddhism is Hinduism that’s been stripped for export”.

Young Siddhattha was so distressed by all the suffering and pain he saw, that he gave up all his privilege and money and became a travelling monk.  Gradually his wisdom and his unique observations on suffering earned him a following and things grew from there.

Buddhism has become very popular in the west and appeals to people for a number of reasons. Unlike in some western religions, there is no vengeful bearded God figure in Buddhism. There is no heaven and hell. This is because the Buddhist idea of “God” is experienced as an infinite ‘one-ness’ that is inside us all, a connection to everything in the universe. 

There is a Buddha inside you, it’s just a matter of finding it. Meditation is key to finding these states and is practiced regularly by its followers.

Buddhism recognises that suffering is an inevitable consequence of living and calls the painful process of living (and reincarnation), Samsara. If there was a goal for Buddhists, it would be Nirvarna, which is liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth and a state of unification or one-ness with the universe. Not to be confused with the band Nirvana, although they are also very good and have been known to evoke higher states of consciousness.

The 4 main principals or noble truths that the Buddha came to understand while he was in self isolation and famously meditating under the bodhi tree, are as follows:

The truth of suffering (Dukkha)

The truth of the origin of suffering (Samudāya)

The truth of the end of suffering (Nirodha)

The truth of the path of the end of suffering (Magga)

The last truth of Buddhism, Magga, offers a path to help followers manage their suffering and those around them. This is called the 8 fold path and it gives a nice guideline to living the right way…it’s such a good guide, I’m considering starting a line of Magga hats. It seems like it could catch on…

Right intention – intention behind our actions is key. Our intentions should be compassionate and kind at all times.

Right speech – no lying or rudeness. No gossip.

Right conduct – don’t hurt or kill others. Don’t take what is not offered and be respectful of the opposite sex. Don’t become too attached to the illusion of the material world (maya) and it’s desires.

Right livelihood – earn your living in an ethical way. Obvious examples would be arms dealing, environmentally unethical work, harmful activity.

Right effort – consider your efforts in what you do and don’t allow bad habits to form.

Right mindfulness – be present and focussed with your attention. Remain conscious of what you are doing and conscious of the impermanence of things.

Right samadhi (meditation practice) – practice is key and it promotes a healthy mind (sometimes referred to as ‘one pointed’). It’s backed up by science that the more we meditate, the calmer and more controlled our thoughts become.

Right view – all actions have consequences. You may be familiar with the concept of Karma and this is relevant to right view.

So even if you’re cautious of associating with a particular religion or philosophy, the main principals behind Buddhism are hard to argue with. It’s more than just a philosophy or a reminder that meditation is good for us, it’s a guide on how to go out into the world and act in a way that’s kind, compassionate and thoughtful. I’m sure you’ll agree that we need more of that.

I wonder if you’ll think a little differently when you next see that statue in the local garden centre.

Time to start working on those Magga hats.

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Destiny is all

Destiny is all

This is a subject that comes up with many of my clients who have any kind of anxiety or elevated stress levels.

People often find it difficult to separate their concept of themselves with the activity of their brain. The truth of the matter is that the real ‘you’ is not your brain. Your brain is a very sophisticated 2-million-year-old bit of equipment that has evolved to keep you alive and adapted to your environment.

One of its roles is to predict possible future outcomes. When this function is overactive, we develop bad thought habits such as always assuming the worst outcome, or excessive worrying. It’s important to say here that predicting negative outcomes is healthy to a degree, otherwise we would be completely careless and end up being run over crossing the road for instance. This is the brain working in a way that’s adaptive.

When this becomes overactive and we develop anxiety disorders, this is when the function becomes mal-adaptive and we spend increasing amount of time stressed out in survival mode

Anxiety disorders do seem to be a modern phenomenon and there is plenty of reasons why this might be. The culture has changed and the way we work and provide for ourselves, and our families is very different to how our ancestors did.  Most of human history has been as hunter gatherers, so being in an office cubicle or on zoom calls all day is a big leap in adaptation for our ancient brains.

Another difference we must contend with is a change in religious and spiritual beliefs. One of the greatest antidotes to anxiety about the future is quite simply, acceptance.

What does acceptance look like?

Well, like it or not, the more religious members of the planet have a big advantage here with the concept of fate or destiny. Fate and destiny have been part of human cultures for as long as records go back. Nowadays it’s usually something that we see in Viking dramas on Netflix (you may have noticed the reference!).

Because this is more philosophy than religion, there is no spiritual requirements to benefit from this concept and it’s best described in this way:

If something is destined to happen, it will happen, no matter how hard you try to stop it.

If something is destined to not happen, it will not happen, no matter how hard you try to make it so.

Once this philosophy sinks in, you can see how it renders worrying about the future a pointless exercise. We can be careful, prudent, considerate and compassionate and still never worry about things. 99.9% of things you worry about will never happen anyway.

Once this sinks in, it becomes like a magic antidote to worrying and anxiety.

Relax and let the future unfold in it’s own time.

 

Why not book a consultation now by calling 07401127872 or by messaging through the website?

I offer therapy online or locally in Sheffield.

 

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Don’t take anything personally

Don’t take anything personally

 “If you are distressed by something external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment” Marcus Aurelius

I know what your thinking; why have I used a picture of spiderman? The answer is that if you can train yourself to take nothing personally, it’s a superpower! In terms of mental health, you will become invincible.

Here is the key principle – nothing anyone does or says is because of you, it’s because of them. Before your ego runs away with that idea, the same applies to you too – nothing you do is because of someone else, it’s because of you! This is as much about accountability as it is about resilience.

When someone says something to you that makes you feel a certain way, good or bad, they aren’t really talking to you, they are talking to their own inner representation of you. The inner representation is their own personal perception of you based on information they have gathered through their senses of sight and sound and also their own thoughts. Any of their pre-existing beliefs will also help shape this image. It’s almost like we carry a hologram of all the people we know around with us in our heads.

The hologram may seem accurate, but it will never match the real thing. In fact, sometimes it might be wildly inaccurate.

If someone insults you, it’s their inner representation of you in their own head they are insulting. You’ve probably already noticed that an insult tells you more about the person giving it than it does about the intended victim.

This is why you should never take anything personally.

If you found this blog useful, then you might enjoy the The Four Agreements, a book by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Why not book a consultation now by calling 07401127872 or by messaging through the website?

I offer therapy online or locally in Sheffield.

 

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2022, time to hit the re-set button?

2022, time to hit the re-set button?

“If you don’t make the unconscious, conscious, it will rule your life and you will call it destiny” Carl Jung

The turning of the calendar year is a significant time for many of us. It’s an opportunity to reflect on all that has happened and for some of you, it’s a chance to hit the re-set button and start again with renewed optimism.

Life presents us all with challenges and responsibilities that take their toll and test our ability to stay positive in the face of adversity. It might be that you’ve struggled in relationships or financially or perhaps with your physique…every one of us faces tests to our physical and mental health throughout the year. This is before you take into consideration the traumas associated with the global pandemic that’s still dragging on.

The truth is that no matter how hard things get and how many obstacles you will face, there will always be positives to draw from it. It’s a truism that you learn the most from the toughest tests and you have to be out of your comfort zone to experience the greatest gains. Even if things seem desperate, take the opportunity each day to quietly reflect on all the little things you are grateful for, the roof over your head, the breath in your body…the ability to find a moment of peace amongst the chaos. You always carry that ability.

Scientific studies have proven that regularly practicing gratitude boosts levels of serotonin in the brain, resulting in increased happiness and optimism in life.

For some of you, being able to incorporate a small change like this will be really helpful and for others you might need some more help. Hypnotherapy is a fantastic way to give yourself a leg up in life and get your sub conscious working for you as well as your conscious mind. The mind has unlimited potential and it’s almost always true that the one person holding you back from realising your potential, is you. Hypnotherapy can help you overcome that obstacle so if it’s something you’ve never considered then give it a try and let the results speak for themselves.

I wish all of you the most happy and prosperous 2022.

Why not book a consultation now by calling 07401127872 or by messaging through the website?

I offer therapy online or locally in Sheffield.

 

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Wishing you a stoic Christmas

Wishing you a stoic Christmas

 

“Ask yourself: Does this appearance of events concern the things that are within my own control or those that are not?

If it concerns anything outside your control, train yourself not to worry about it.”

Epictetus

For the majority, Christmas is a time of year that represents family and enjoyment. It’s an opportunity to reflect on what we have and to be thankful in the company of those we love the most. The Christmas of 2020 marked a change with the Covid restrictions and things took on a slightly darker shade. This was the last time we were able to take such seemingly simple things for granted as being able to invite friends and family round for dinner. For those that had their plans affected or worse cancelled, it became a time of stress and sadness.

For some people Christmas is always a time of stress, even when there is no pandemic. I had a client who came to me for help with this exact issue and it reminded me of quite how unique everyone is. Of course, you will have experienced some stress if you’ve ever had to cook a Christmas dinner, but imagine if it cast a shadow over your mood for several months of the year.

After 7 sessions this client was able to go into the festive season with a renewed positive attitude, reminded that worrying achieved nothing and that their scope of control only went so far. And this is something that we can all learn from, is it not?

No amount of worry or anxiety will ever make any difference to anything that’s going to happen!

The ancient Greeks had a good grasp of this concept with the stoic philosophy. The stoics taught that your scope of control only really goes out as far as your hands can reach and everything beyond that was in the hands of the Gods.

The universe will carry on irrespective of how much thought you’ve given to a concern and the only real control you have is in how you react to events.

So as we near the second Covid Christmas with talks of more restrictions, political scandals and potential lock downs, we could all do worse than to remember these stoic lessons about control. Even if plans get ruined, as long as there is breath in our body, there is an opportunity to find gratitude somewhere and meditate on it.

I sincerely wish you all a happy Christmas, stoic or otherwise.

 

Why not book a consultation now by calling 07401127872 or by messaging through the website?

I offer therapy online or locally in Sheffield.

 

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