the author

These words are written with care, in response to a question.  A friend asked: What is the basis for your viewpoints regarding happiness? 

      4 years ago I stumbled upon meditation, mindfulness, and self-compassion in the framework of Zen Buddhism. In Buddhism it’s not enough to think about happiness. That won't do. One has to practice happiness, day after day, year after year. 4 years ago I began practicing happiness - cultivating awareness each morning and evening, applying mindfulness to normal everyday activities. 
    In the beginning I wasn’t sure about meditation. How does it work? Does it even work?  Growing up I learned to be skeptical of religion; meditation, with its Buddhist connotations, seemed improperly not secular. Nonetheless, after reading ‘An Idiots Guide to Meditation’, I started to be convinced. Even if the spiritual 'enlightenment' associated with meditation was bullshit, breathing meditation likely had practical benefits such as relaxation and concentration.

      Following the breath, watching it go in, watching it go out, listening to it, feeling it – never any religion, prayer, or faith. Just observation. Each morning and evening I sat on some pillows and practiced breathing meditation for 15 minutes. This helped calm my mind. After a month or two, changes in my emotional stability became apparent, especially in wrestling, where I no longer suffered from anxiety bouts before matches. At some point I knew meditation was legitimate and wanted to learn more.
    I sometimes wonder if I was meant to read Three Pillars of Zen. I actually tried to buy a different book at the store but was unable to. A barcode error! The first and so far, only time that has ever happened in my life. Three Pillars of Zen was bought in its place. Within its pages I learned about a type of spirituality grounded in personal experience and by no means absolute.

     Zen Mind Beginners Mind, Tao Te Ching, 8 Mindful Steps to Happiness, Osho’s Buddha, Buddhism Explained, and other books about mindfulness, calm, zen, and meditation followed. Ahh,  these writings were full of practical wisdom. I soaked everything up like a sponge. My eclectic nature was curious.

   I tried applying to their wisdom to my life. Over time, as numerous benefits manifested and the quality of life improved, meditation and its equally important outlook on life, came to mean more and more. By the time I entered college, life-awareness practice was an integral part of my identity.

     College summers were spent at Tassajara (a Zen monastery in California), a silent 10 day Vipassana retreat, and 2 weeks at a Forest Monastery in Thailand. I created a weekly meditation group as well. These experiences helped me determine the pursuit of meditation and mindfulness, as well as the teaching of it to others, is my life path.

      Dream goal is to see meditation and mindfulness taught in public schools. My plan is to finish college, spend 2 years at Tassajara, then go to graduate school and become involved with mindfulness education. Hopefully I will be able to work, in some capacity, towards seeing my dream goal become reality.

           So in a belatedly long answer to the original question: the basis for my viewpoints regarding happiness lies in the fruits of my own efforts. I speak from my own experience, confident I am happier than I once was. I have worked hard to establish grounded awareness, eliminate harmful thinking patterns and create positive habits,to bounce back from failure, and endlessly keep going. The most important part of a spiritual practice, other than beginning, is continuing.

            Ultimately, I am more able to be myself and trust my heart-instinct. Awhile ago I realized I like writing, helping others, and being creative. This blog is just me writing, simply out of creative joy. There is underlying theme of mindfulness and spirituality that I hope you will be able to pick up on, learn from, and apply to your own life - but at the end of the day, I’m just writing and having a good time doing so.



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