In which the Precepts come to my rescue.

Life, Thoughts and Opinions

I don’t know about anybody else but the upcoming election and the news around it has spun me into a state of anxiety, the likes of which I haven’t seen in a very long time. My mind is racing and I can’t get a proper night’s sleep. Combine this with the fact that it’s “that time of year” and I’ve not really been myself lately.

Depression is a sneaky bastard. Lately I will be in the middle of a really horrible, self depreciating thought and something will make me come to my senses and I will realize, “Oh, I’m in a depression. And depression lies. OK. this makes sense now.” It’s at that point when I change my approach to self compassion and doing the things that I need to do as my brain works it’s way out of this sate.

This happened to me a couple of days ago. As I was realizing the state I was in I was thinking about how I do stupid things when I’m depressed, and I do them because my brain is telling me lies. I get worked up emotionally about delusions and then I act on those emotions sometimes and then I have to deal with the aftermath of these actions.

I realized that I have a tool to help me through this! The Precepts. I am so grateful for the precepts.  I have come to look at them as like a kind of roadmap to life. When I am in this deluded state I can look to the Precepts to help guide me to the right action, regardless how I feel. I can trust that whatever action I take, if it is based on the Precepts, things will be alright. If nothing else, I won’t have to deal with the karma of  my bad actions on top of the terrible feelings of despair that go along with depression.

Just having this realization has made me feel a lot better.

As a side note to myself, In light of this realization, I think I am going to make zazen a priority. I have been having a hard time motivating myself to meditate and that’s bullshit. All of the precept study in the world does nothing if I am not regularly practicing zazen everyday. 

You never have to regret or apologize for nice.”

Matthew Thompson, aka @twinlensreflux


I have been coming back to this conversation I had on Twitter this past Friday. Very wise words to live by. I feel like this is everything I’ve been learning about the Precepts distilled down into a nice tidy sentence.

P.S. Look at this amazing rainbow I saw the other day!!

On kindness


Six Word Saturday


This week’s Lesson: everyone’s a stranger. *



*In a good way. I am doing Precept Study at my zen center and the precept we worked with this past week is: “Do not dwell on past mistakes — create wisdom from ignorance.” In a book I’m reading the author interprets this precept with the statement: “I take up the way of meeting others with openness and possibility.”  I like the idea of meeting everyone with a blank slate. Because, honestly, the person standing in front of you is not the same person who stood before you yesterday (even if they appear to be).

Thoughts on kindness

Thoughts and Opinions

The zen center I belong to is going through precepts study at the moment, so I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about them lately. During this  study period you are supposed read them every morning and then the idea is that the wisdom bubbles up into your daily life. The reading of them in the morning, to be completely honest, feels like such a chore. But it totally works. The wisdom  bubbles up to the surface in all sorts of interesting ways.

This past week I’ve been thinking a lot about this precept:

Don’t be mean with dharma or weath – share understanding, give freely of self.
In the genuine, all pervading dharma, being jealous of nothing is the precept of not being mean with dharma or weath. One phrase, one verse – that is the ten thousand things and one hundred grasses; one dharma, one realization – that is all buddhas and dharma ancestors. From the beginning, not one thing has been begrudged.

On the surface, it seems pretty straightforward. But then when you start thinking about it, it’s like WTF is this about. Then thousand things? huh? One hundred grasses? My mind kind of stops working at that point.

So this part of it is completely nonsensical to me right now. However, this morning I replaced the world “dharma” with the word “kindness” and it all makes much more sense. Do not be mean (or stingy) with kindness. Share understanding and give freely of self.

Give freely of self.

I feel like this is the key to understanding this precept. If you can give kindness, then give kindness.

For me, right now, being kind not only applies to others, but it also applies to myself. I think, culturally, we are programmed to be kind to others, which is good. But are we programmed to be kind to ourselves? Not really. I have been working really hard on programing my brain to be kind to myself.

An example of this is that I’ve been thinking about different versions of myself. Specifically “future Monica.” Or “Past Monica.” When I, for example, do the dishes before going to bed I’ve been thinking about it as being kind to “future Monica.” And, indeed, when I wake up and the dishes are done and the kitchen is clean I am super stoked. It makes my day start out on a good note. And then I can be grateful for “Past Monica” for being kind to the me in the present.

“Do not indulge anger – cultivate equanimity. In the realm of the selfless dharma, not contriving reality for the self is the precept of not indulging anger. Not advancing, not retreating, not real, not empty. There is a brilliant sea of clouds. There is a dignified sea of clouds. ”

– From the Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts.

(note to self: Every time I read this my mind is boggled.  contriving reality for the self? what does that even mean?)


Do not indulge anger

Thoughts and Opinions