Saturday, March 22, 2014

Keeping It Simple

-Outside the Desert Retreat House-

Every day I try to spend some time engaging the various social media, but I find that I have to restrict the time I spend, not because Facebook or Twitter or Google+ are so addictive; but rather because it really tires me out to spend too much time at the computer in these various venues.

Yesterday I just sat and watched the Twitter feed for about ten minutes or so, and I suddenly realized why all of it makes me so weary. In those ten minutes, I was bombarded (maybe even assaulted) with endless information - a constant array of "tweet" after tweet on every imaginable topic for every conceivable point of view. Tweets about politics, current events, religion and spirituality, relationship advice, personal enrichment advice, sports commentary, constant advertisements popping up selling me the pills I need to make the headache go away - all this in ten minutes of endless 140 or less character tweets. 

I've been thinking about my Twitter experience yesterday. It is an icon, a perfect illustration of  everyday life in today's contemporary culture - chaotic, frenzied, directionless- where so much information has become too much information.  

It seems to me that there are any number of ways in which people try to cope with the chaotic buzzing of everyday life. Some people anesthetize themselves to drown out the noise. Some people do not cope at all, they just wander around in the mess. Others try and seek direction. 

Some people turn to "God"or to religion to find some direction in life. For some this works, for others it leads to a dead end because religion just seems to make life even more complicated - all the many complex theologies and laws of the many brands of religious traditions seem to add yet another layer to an already complicated world of "too much information." 

Others may turn to some alternative path of "spirituality" to find direction and to get their bearings.    Some read "self-help" books. When I went to and searched for "self help" books this morning, it yielded over 200,000 results -yikes so much information, which one to choose?  

And what happens when the yoga mat is put on the shelf and the 15-minute meditation is finished - then it's back out into the world and once again immersion in all the noise and chaos  - here come the tweets?

In the midst of all my reflections on chaos and complexity yesterday, I stumbled across one of my favorite quotes from the Dalai Lama.  I am very attracted to the teaching of the Dalai Lama and to the wisdom of Buddhist monks like Thich Nhat Hanh. I think I am so attracted because their teachings are always so simple-so very simple and yet so very profound. 

In one simple sentence, the Dalai Lama summarizes the "one" piece of advice anyone ever needs to hear in order to find some direction in a confusing world of noise and chaos.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

To be honest, I think this pretty well summarizes the core teaching of every single one of the major religions. It summarizes the direction of all the many various spiritual pathways available today.  Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, new age spiritualities of every stripe and kind, all come down to this "one" simple profound teaching:  If you want to find direction through the chaos of life- practice compassion. It's as simple as that.  

Basically this is the only tool any of us ever need in our toolbox to help us make it through it all: Don't walk alone, align yourself with others, make their needs your needs.

If I take a few steps outside my house, I find myself standing in a vast untamed wilderness. For me that wilderness is a perfect symbol of living everyday. It just seems all too immense to even stand in the midst of it, let alone to walk through it.  But I have a compass in my hand, and it always points me in the direction of "compassion." 

So I don't  wander aimlessly around and I don't go to bed exhausted because I cannot find a way.


  1. Simple and.. brilliant, as always. Keep up the good work!

  2. wonderful thoughts, I will look forward to reading your posts in the future!

  3. Since I don't have a desert retreat, it is necessary for me to hone my ability to retreat into my own heart and mind. Takes practice in this chaotic world, but I am learning. It takes balance to stay informed and engaged in the issues of the world, and not lose your sanity. In the past I did not understand the principal of detachment, but recently it has become more clear why it is necessary for our own growth and our ability to thrive no matter what the environment.

    1. The human heart and mind is the desert retreat house. That's why I call my post by that name. Thanks again, keep on finding your way in the wilderness.