Wow! Here it is, the first episode of Everyday Buddhism. I am so excited to start this and I'm hoping I will soon hear from some of you that you were excited to subscribe and make this podcast one of your new favorites. My name is Wendy Haylett. I'm a Buddhist teacher, lay minister, and career coach. I coach at the intersection of your career and your life.
Would you like to make every day better? So that's what we're going to be examining in this podcast. Who is this podcast for? Well, it's not necessarily for Buddhists, even though the title is everyday Buddhism. It's more about the every part. It's for everyone. I mean everybody, but especially you and you … the one dealing with overwhelm … and you, the one having too much to do and not being able to start anything … and those of you with unreasonable and ungrateful bosses, coworkers, clients … and those of you dealing with fear and self-doubt about starting something new … and those of you stuck in the past or telling yourself stories over and over again about how you were mistreated, fired, cheated, whatever.
These are the things that make our everydays not always perfect and they're not supposed to be perfect, but these are what make us insecure, angry, anxious. So, the point here is that everyday Buddhism is for everyone. We've all had these issues. I just listed all those problems and issues and we've all had them. We've had many more too. But what does that have to do with Buddhism? Isn't Buddhism a religion? Well, wait few minutes ... I'll get into that when I do a little Buddhism intro to kind of bring everybody up to speed. But really, Buddhism, if anyone knows anything about Buddhism or heard some story about Buddhism or someone talking about Buddhism, what they probably heard is that Buddhism is somehow about suffering. I call that the bad news of Buddhism, but essentially, it's about how NOT to let suffering drag us down.
You know, suffering is a downer word, of course, but all those problems I talked about before, they cause you unease, right? Unease is suffering. It's not the suffering of pain or dying or loneliness. It's the suffering of every day, the sort of problems that arise at work, the problems that arise in our family life, the problems that arise in our commutes, the problems that arise in the grocery store. And I'm thinking of my problems today, the problems of the rabbits getting into our garden. These things aren't suffering, but these are what make our everydays a little annoying.
My plan for this podcast is to listen to you, to gather what you see are your pain points, and then we look at things in another way. We look at them together and see if we can find a new way of seeing things.
You know, everything is about perspective. Everything in our lives is about how we look at things and you know, nobody makes us see things another way. We have to OWN our own perspective. We can’t blame it on anything on the outside. Sure, something might have happened that made us feel insecure or angry … fill in the blanks … but the thing on the outside didn't change our perspective about life or perspective about how we feel about the thing that just happened to us. So, hopefully, through the course of these episodes we're going to help each other look at things in a different way and create new perspectives that will help make our everyday better.
About this podcast, what can we expect? My goal is to upload one episode a week and offer a mix of formats. First will be a format like I'm using today, in the first episode, looking at issues by myself, I'm examining some things, talking about some things and maybe responding to questions that you write in.
The next thing is talking with career coaching and life coaching experts. Since I am a career coach and I'm talking about every day, that's one of the main areas we need to look at. The other format would be talking with invited guests in Buddhist Meditation and Mindfulness Teaching. Since I coach at the intersection of career in life, we need to look at where life comes in, where your career comes in, and how Buddhism can help in all those ways because whose life is separate from their career and whose career is separate from their life?
You know, if you tell me that you are able to keep your career in this box and your life in this box, I bet you I could say that could be the cause of some of your problems. Or if your life takes over too much of your perspective in your career, then you're going to have some problems. And if your career takes over too much of the perspective you have about your life, like bringing home your work problems, then you're going to have some problems.
Today, after this intro about what we expect from the podcast in general, let's start by answering your question about Buddhism being a religion. Well, actually it was my question at the beginning, but I'm, I'm assuming you had that question. You know, Buddhism is a religion. It answers a lot of the sort of questions that most religions do, that have no answers on a day-to-day basis on a worldly plane. But from a secular perspective, we can look at Buddhism as a religion. Some cultures do accept Buddhism as a religion and people are brought up as children in that religion and they don't actually see some of the concepts that come from Buddhism and some of the everyday or secular tools that you can use with Buddhism.
Because, in fact, they had the religion aspect of it infused in their growing up, it takes them until adulthood to maybe find out some of these tips and tricks, if you will, that you can get from Buddhism. What I'm trying to say to you is Buddhism—in the way we're going to look at it in this podcast—is about making your mind clearer.
One of the symbols of Buddhism is a lotus in the mud, right? Well, the mud is the stuff in our life. All those things I talk about … all that crap. But the lotus feeds from the mud. In other words, you can get your mind clear and you can use the mud to do that and that will make your everyday better. I think the thing that I want to stress in this podcast and that I will depend upon this podcast is that Buddhism is—above all else—practical.
For those of us in the West, it could be considered more of a blend of philosophy or a worldview or even more of a psychology than a religion. And it can be practiced DESPITE your religious affiliation. I think the Dalai Lama says it's not about being a good Buddhist, but about being a good whatever-you-are, using the Dharma, using Buddhist tips and tricks, as I call them. Despite your religious affiliation, you can practice the everydayness part of Buddhism on a daily basis, because the laboratory for the study of this philosophy or psychology is 100% accessible and 100% portable, because it is the study of the nature of our own minds with the practical goal of living a life that allows the mind to be peaceful or clear … and when we're mind is clear, we tend to make healthy choices, wise choices. It's when our mind gets muddy with emotion and too much thinking and overthinking, and anxiety, then the mind is not clear and we may not make clear, good choices.
The next thing to remember is that Buddhism is an experimental path. Although you might understand what I'm talking to you about and you may understand what you've read about Buddhism, you may understand what some Buddhist teachers, who I hope to have on the show talk to you about. But unless you actually apply the teachings to your life, unless you try it out … The Buddha said, try it out. Don't take my word for it. If you don't like it, forget about it. But if you do like it, keep it in your life. So you have to apply these teachings to your life. If you do and you like it, great the results will be realized.
If you don't like it, you just reject it. I mean not out of hand and saying, I'm never going to look at it again, but you don't continue on, like beating a dead horse, if it's not working. Don't think that, if I don't buy into this philosophy or I don't buy into this way of thinking, but if I, somehow, magically practice it every minute, it's going to work. No, remember, this is a practical, practical way of living life.
Remember when you were a child and first realized that people get sick, get old and die. Remember asking why? Remember wondering then, what is the meaning of life? You may be wondering it now. It’s not really a question that we actually ever answer, as far as, okay, this is the question and I know the answer. But, when you were younger, you had a determination to find out who you were, why you were, and your determination was also tied to using your life to make a difference, to make your life meaningful.
Now, for some of us, that might've might have worked. We may be in a position where we feel we accomplished what we tried to do. Some of us, not so much. Speaking for myself, when I look back at my life trajectory, I got caught up in the pervasive habit that is life, right? Working, taking care of family, continually trying to get more comfortable, you know, more comfortable jobs, more comfortable homes, more comfortable food, more comfortable clothes and the pursuit of pleasure. Hidden away in our homes, we watched TV, went to the movies, the mall, on vacation, and the search for more comfort or pleasure became the goal. And we were held captive by those pleasures. And guess what? This exactly how the Buddha lived, too. Even though he lived 2,500 years ago in India, his life was very much like our oh-so-comfortable middle Class American lives.
Siddhartha, the historical Buddha of our time, Buddha Shakyamuni, was born into a ruling family and was kept protected, hidden away, locked inside the palace, stuck inside the gates, away from the aged, the decrepit, the poor, and the sick. His father didn't want him to see any of that. Didn’t want him to see what life was really like outside the gates. And one day Siddhartha convinced an attendant to take him outside of the gates. He eventually went out 4 different times, each time seeing a sight he hadn't seen before.
The first time he saw an old person. He never saw an old person before, and said, wow, that fellow looks different. He asked the attendant, what's going on? How come his skin looks different? How come his hair is white? And the attendant said, that's an old person.
The next time he saw sick person. He had never seen a sick person. So, the attendant, again, had to explain to him. And then the third time, he saw a corpse and each time the attendant told him that each of those conditions happened to everyone, that we will all get old, we will all get sick, and we will all become a corpse. We will all die. Which, of course, made Siddhartha question the meaning of life. So, he went out a fourth time and, this time, he ditched the attendant. The attendant wasn't showing him anything good. He's like, okay, I'm ‘outta’ here. I'm going to find somebody else that's going to figure this out for me and I'm going to see the meaning in life. He found a wandering religious person, who had given up his comfort to devote himself to finding the end of suffering in his life. Like us, who may have come to Buddhism or come to this podcast on Buddhism.
He felt confused and anxious by a life that is guaranteed to be touched by sickness, old age, and death. Siddhartha was looking for something to make it better and initially found it in the serene face of the religious wanderer. So, he began a spiritual shopping trip. Very much like we may have done, or maybe what some of us are still doing. It is written that the Buddha went so far as to only eat one grain of rice per day, being able to touch his spine through his stomach, until he realized starving wasn’t the answer. He realized that the answer was more likely found through the mind than the body. So, he began to contemplate, to meditate—eventually realizing perfect wisdom and compassion, to become an omniscient and fully enlightened Buddha. And, at the urging of some of his fellow seekers, he began to teach and did so for 45 years until his death.
He taught many different people and modified his teachings to fit his audience. He is sometimes referred to as the great psychologist or the great doctor because he was able to identify the problems within the audience and identify the antidote to their problems. You know, this is like what I'm TRYING to do with this podcast. What are your problems? You tell me and then let's work that out. I don't have the omniscient wisdom of the Buddha, so you and I are going to have to work together on this one.
Anyway, the Buddha taught many different people and modified his teachings to fit his audience. And each of the teachings contained practical insights and tools to help understand the difficulties and dissatisfaction in life. And these are those tools I am referring to. This really is about picking up tips and tricks. You know, there's all these software books and how to do this; how to do that. The 100 tips and tricks. Let’s think of everyday Buddhism like 100 tips and tricks.
The Buddha’s teaching spread from India and it began to be interpreted differently as the teachings spread to different cultures, becoming different philosophical schools. The teachings evolved or traveled from India to Ceylon and to Thailand, to China, to Korea, Japan, and Tibet … with Tibet holding the most extensive collection of the teachings. And when China invaded Tibet, and thousands fled to India in the late 1950’s, the teachings spread over here, spread to the West, and for which we are very fortunate. I was born in the fifties, so this is sometimes amazing to me.
Despite an incredible variation of schools of thought and practice traditions, because of all the different cultures where the Buddhist teachings landed, emphasizing different aspects of the teachings, they really all have the same goal.
And that goal, which I'm sure you've heard, is enlightenment—or, as the Buddha said, the single savor of liberation, of release, of freedom. This freedom, he taught, is gained by watching and mastering your thoughts, the action of your mind, which is the cause of your actions and speech … that will ultimately lead, ultimately lead to either pleasant or unpleasant results manifesting in your life. This is the key. He taught that by watching and mastering our thoughts, we then gain control of our mind. We then are able to create a sort of a mud recycling factory, so that we can produce that Lotus. That's why mindfulness is so important. Mindfulness has become more of a buzz term than anything. But when you really think about it from this perspective, you understand the value.
The Tibetan word for Buddhist is called Nangpa. Nangpa means “insider”. And remember when I said to you before about how you can change the way you look at things? You change your perspective, but it's up to you. You need to OWN this, because it's INSIDE of you. Nobody made you feel that way. Nobody made you angry. You made yourself angry. Something might've happened outside of you to make you the anger arise, but it was inside of you. So think about that. The Tibetan word for Buddhist is “insider”. It is only in our looking INSIDE will we discover answers to any of our questions or solutions to any of our problems.
It is what the Buddha set out to do when he left his palace. The Buddha sought what a teenage Wendy sough, what we all seek in our individual lives’ journeys. Who are we? What are we doing here? Why are things the way they are? You know, it's the same crazy-making question that can either haunt or enlighten. One of my favorite lines in the television sitcom, Raymond … some of you may remember this, it's been a while. But there are still reruns. One of my favorite lines is delivered by Robert, who was Raymond's TV brother. During an episode focusing on the same big question Raymond's daughter was asking, she asked, “why God put us here?” Robert, in mental torment, looks to the sky and says, “you mean God made us smart enough to ask the question, but not smart enough to know the answer?!!”
That is our conundrum, isn't? That is exactly what drives us crazy. I think most of us who live in this illusion that we aren't smart enough to know the answer, quit asking the question and—out of frustration with our inability to understand our lives, let alone control it or change it—we carry on, we try to influence. We try to change and control our external worlds.
The renowned Indian scholar, Shantideva, in the book, The Way of the Bodhisattva, which is the Dalai Lama's favorite book, he says one of my most treasured versus that is what I hang onto when I blame everybody else around me for causing all my problems:
“To cover all the earth with sheets of hide--
Where could such amounts of skin be found?
But simply wrap some leather round your feet,
And it’s as if the whole earth had been covered!”
Likewise, we can never take
And turn aside the outer course of things.
But only seize and discipline the mind itself,
And what is there remaining to be curbed?”
In other words, if we can get our minds clear, then the stuff outside is not going to bother us. In the West particularly, there seems to be little or no reinforcement from our culture, our peers, the media, or any external representation of the world, to seek an internal understanding or solution to any of our discontent, unhappiness or suffering.
The drum beat of our culture tends to be everything is outside. If you buy this … if you buy this car, everything's going be better because the commute's going to be easier or safer, or whatever. If you buy this house ... if you buy this skincare … if you buy this food …. It's all focused on the outside. Okay, you're looking for the answer to your problem? Then look here, I got it for you.
Even though we live in a democracy that supports the belief that an individual vote can make a difference, no one seems to really believe in ourselves as an individual with self-awareness, with wisdom, and with the capacity to change our own lives—and, by mirror extension, the capacity to change the lives of those around us. We don't believe it, yet this not what the Buddha taught. He didn’t teach that we DON’T have that power or capacity. Yeah, we do!
The Dhammapada, another treasure house of the sayings and teachings of the Buddha, says:
“Preceded by perception are mental states,
For them is perception supreme,
From perception have they sprung.
If, with perception polluted, one speaks or acts,
Thence suffering follows as a wheel to the ox’s foot.
Preceded by perception are mental states,
For them is perception supreme.
From perception have they sprung.
If, with tranquil perception, one speaks or acts,
Thence ease follows
As a shadow that never departs.”
So where do we find that liberation? That release? That freedom? We find it in our own minds. It is our own mind that will free us. Think about this for a second, next time you're tempted to say, “so and so makes me mad.” Or, if it wasn't for my boss, or if it wasn't for this team member, or if it wasn't for my mother, I wouldn't be this messed up. Where does this anger come from?
It doesn't come from your boss, your mother. It comes from your own mind. There is no one but me that can get in my mind and heart, manipulating it to make me angry. Indeed, it is our own mind that causes us to be mad, sad, peaceful, happy, and content. And you can rest in knowing it is true, based on these infallible teachings of the Buddha. But check it. Check it out, try it on for yourself in your own life. It was the Buddha who gave us the means, the tools to do that, to check it through the teachings of the Dharma, or the “tips and tricks” of Buddhism.
The plan for this podcast is to pass down more tools. This is just the outline that there are tools for you to use. To pass down more tools of the Buddha, in hopes that we can all help each other relieve just a little bit of the things that mess with our mind, that challenge our positive attitudes, or that bug us every day.
That's it for this episode. Thank you for listening. There are hundreds of thousands of podcasts out there and it is an honor that you would choose mine to listen to! Check out my website, https://www.everyday-buddhism.com/ for notes about the show and upcoming guests or topics. Everything is new, and the bugs are being worked out, but I promise the website links, blogs, and available resources will get better.
Please feel free to leave comments or send me an email, suggesting subjects you'd like me to cover in upcoming podcasts and I promise I'll do my best. And, if you liked what you heard so far, please subscribe to and review the podcast, so more people can find out about it.
Thanks again, and until next time, keep making your every days better!