“When you do what Buddhas do, then you are a Buddha.
There are no shortcuts.
Same is true for being Christ-like.
It has nothing to do with what you wear around your neck
(or how many Buddha statues are in your home).
It has everything to do with how you treat others and live your life.
There are no shortcuts.” ~Timber Hawkeye


Turning Positive

Dear Compassionate Gardener, how do I keep negativity, bad news and bad vibes out of my life? I’m trying to do a 180 turn and find the right path for me. How long did it take you?

Great question! Thanks for asking. My intention is to keep this blog straight-forward and simple so I’ll let those two principles guide my response.

Your question sounds like you are changing…or at least wanting to change. Congratulations! My years have taught me repeatedly that we’re always changing. Its all about change. I’ve come to believe resisting change is one source of suffering (Buddha thought so too). Bluntly: its all change. Sometimes change hurts.

I truly think and feel that living is change. Its kind of like we’re created to change…born to change…live to change…and die to change as well.

Change is a process. While catastrophic events can initiate change, most of us change one moment at a time, an hour at a time, a day at a time. Pretty soon, those days turn into weeks, weeks into months…and alas…I’m changed!

I change. You change. Everything changes – including our relationships with ourselves, each other, our jobs and our environments.

I counsel that baby steps of change are just fine. They also tend to produce less dramatic results. As I’m allergic to drama…gradual change is OK for me. Think: ITS ALL PROCESS. One action…one reaction at a time.
Embrace change. Resistance is futile.

Psychologists suggest that awareness is the first step of change. So you might begin by asking: What needs to change?

Recognizing the negativity and its pervasive allure is not good for us is a big change for many because its counter-cultural.
Once recognition of the extent of negativity happens…it can be a bit of a jolt because we’re overwhelmed with negativity but we didn’t really understand its scope or its depth. This stuff is overwhelming.

For me negativity and fear are almost always hand in hand. That’s a toxic friendship.

Clarify your values. What is important to you today? Write it down. Start small. The list is going to change. Expect the change…add/subtract to the list as you go. I keep several lists in my smart phone: values list, goals list, forgiveness list, peace list. They’re there when I need to remind myself.

While I continue to judge myself (sometimes too critically), I work daily to stop judging others. This is very hard for me. I grew up in a family, religion and profession that not only values evaluations and judgments…judging was rewarded and reinforced repeatedly. We live in a judgmental world.
Less judgment…more acceptance is a value. Tolerance is a value. Compassion is a value. Forgiveness is a value. Live and let live is a value. We are one is a value. We are all interrelated is a value. Let your values be your guide.

Change is an inside process that manifests outside.
External changes that are not mirrored internally are smoke and mirrors. I call that calling a spade a spade. My sister who is developmentally challenged would look at me and simply say: “Bryan, it is what it is.” She’s right.

Knowledge is power. Use Google. Sift through the propaganda for accurate, reliable and accountable information. Once I truly began to really understand the methods and affects of the American diary industry… justifying my milk or cheese consumption became increasingly more difficult. Its called cognitive dissonance. It’s a real social psychological construct and it is VERY powerful if you pay attention to it. (Think: Psych 101’s Leon Festinger).

Ask questions. It’s always wise to ask: who says so? Challenge responses.

Recognize what you can change. Release what you cannot change. Think small bites… or else you will choke.

Pay attention. Wake up. Don’t believe everything you read. Fox News is not divinely inspired. All media is about the spin. That’s the way it is.
Avoid complicated.
Practice gratitude every single day. Then practice forgiveness everyday.

Whenever possible imitate nature.
We are integrally interconnected with nature. We’ll never control nature. We are nature.
Consistently move toward the path of least resistance. Think rivers…think flow.

Be prepared to recognize that the opposite may also be true.

Stop hanging out with negative people. This is really hard for some. Its a choice and you get to decide. I prefer to be alone than mingle with toxicity.

Some really quick “get down” suggestions to consider:
Sell or donate your television. If you choose to keep it, choose not to watch it one day a week.
Limit social media including email to short intervals. Use a kitchen timer or your smart phone alarm if that helps.
Mute your cell phone during meals and stop paying attention to it during conversations. Just do it!
Host a pot luck dinner. Suggest a discussion theme that matters to you or invite a guest speaker or facilitator. Check out who shows up.
IDEA: There is a World Water Day Event coming up next month. Host a potluck and talk about water…not in Africa…in Lake Mead.

Keep your response to negativity immediate and local. Its very easy to get caught up in the escalation of visions and voices of hate broadcast 24/7. Acknowledge it. Release it. Ask gently: What can I do right here and right now to mitigate that negativity. (This relates to one of my motivations to post “Good News” pieces on social media every single day. Believe me, some days it ain’t easy to find good news).

Embrace the principle that less is more.
Decrease distractions. (Why am I so attracted to minimalism). De-clutter. Don’t stop with your clothes closet or dresser drawers. Release stuff.

Silence is my friend. Drive more in silence. Sit more in silence at home. Walk or run in silence. While I have nothing against music… silence speaks.
There is a time and place for everything.
Speaking of silence, listen more…to yourself and to others. Rehearse less.
Get back to nature repeatedly. This is huge. Don’t let is sound trite. Embrace the Mojave Desert. See the sky. Look at the moon. Discover Spring emerging all over.

Be mindful. Google “mindfulness.” Lots of people write books about it. Enough said.
Remember that past experience filter present perception.
There is a huge difference between “news” and “opinion.” I filter all opinion pieces and editorials through my own criteria. I learn to trust some. Reject others as simply not for me to read, listen to or pay any attention to.
If it pisses me off…why am I doing it?

Surround yourself with people who are open to you, new experiences, new perceptions and new opportunities.

Teach yourself to care more deeply about what matters while paying less attention to what doesn’t matter.
Say out-loud: It doesn’t matter to me.

Can I flip this person, place or thing to a positive? If not, I release it.

Let it go = delete!
Erase. Use whatever mental imagery works best for you… find it and use it. You will probably need to do this more than once. Repetition works. You might have to do it 74 times a day. It doesn’t matter. Just do it.

Change does not happen in a vacuum. In fact, change affects many things on many levels directly and indirectly.
Change in patterns yield different patterns.
Change in habits witness new habits.
Change in attitudes bring new perspectives.

Trust your intuition. What’s your instinct saying? Most of us manifest feelings in our abdomens or chests. For some, this will mean think less…feel more.

While I may be in the minority, I find satire and sarcasm distasteful, not useful and poor communication. I avoid it.

Your “180 turn” is more likely to look like gradual movement just a few degrees at a time. That’s OK. Even 90 degree right angle changes can jolt the hell out of you. The very fact that you can ask the question about change…suggests you are changing.

Quick story: The notion of “unspeakable horrors” knocked me over the head with a “2X4” while writing a paper in seminary last year. In the middle of the night with thoughts flowing freely, sentences forming and paragraphs coming together…suddenly I stumbled on the quote “unspeakable horrors.” I was typing furiously, thoughts racing…and I became very angry. The words confronted me out of a complacency. I became intensely preoccupied with defining and understanding how any horror could be considered unspeakable. The words didn’t mean anything anymore. If a person can do it…a society has the responsibility to not only talk about…but to also deal with it. This single moment was a turning point for me in my life and in my ministry. The realization is still affecting my life, my choices, my actions.

My ministry teaches me daily that the loss of a love through death is a transformational experience for many. My own father’s death, the sudden death of my best friend and the death of my favorite pet – all were profound moments of change for me.

As always, its up to us to decide whether that change is for the better…or for the worse.

Believe that little shifts in values, responses and reactions can and do have impact both short and long term impact. Think ripple affect.

Remind yourself that bad news, gossip, awful events, tales of horror and evil stories are poison.
Daily, I filter out TMZ, Fox News, apocalyptic predictions and terror propaganda. I choose not to pay attention to it.

On an index card in my bathroom, I read: “You are either part of the solution or part of the problem.”

Several cautions:
Caution #1: My experience is not your experience. My path is not your path. What works for me may not work for you.
Caution #2: Change will affect your relationships on more levels than you expect. That can be painful.
Caution #3: At least someone in your life will accuse you of overdosing on Prozac or being Pollyanna delusional. So be it.
Caution #4: Never forget there’s always two sides to every story.

Final thoughts:
Whenever possible…and it’s always possible: Consider peace instead.
Change hurtful thoughts to compassionate thinking every time even when its very hard to imagine or feel.
Change what you can change. Make peace with what’s left.
Remember that I create my experience. I can control my experience. I can change my experience.
It’s really helpful to find a way to “meditate” or ‘pray” or simply be in the presence of what you consider Sacred habitually. Daily is optimal. Weekly is a start. Nothing fancy or complicated. Quiet. Peaceful. Whether it looks like jogging, Yoga, Zen meditation or watching trees in the wind – be mindful.

Two resources I’ve read many times and frequently refer to:
Buddhist Boot Camp by Timber Hawkeye
Love is Letting Go of Fear by Gerald Jampolsky

Turning Positive

True Luxury

“Have you noticed how we view every situation from a relativity perspective?

We immediately contemplate ways to make things different than they are, be it better, faster, bigger, warmer, bolder; it’s exhausting! Now imagine letting go of labels and evaluations, and allowing everything to be just as it is, without wishing for it to be any other way. Accept yourself, and then others, without needing to change anything. Feelings and emotions will inevitably continue to rise (both pleasant and unpleasant).

…simply be reminded to relax, to acknowledge that everything is temporary, including youth, health and life itself. All experiences are as transient as clouds in the sky: anger comes and goes, excitement rises and falls, and tears dry on their own. So practice tenderly watching your feelings and emotions as they move in and out of your mind, just like traffic on a busy street.

Remain aware of what goes on around you, but try to do it without the mind’s commentary. Observe without judgment, and experience life without resistance.
Opinions change, perspectives widen, and the opposite of what you know is also true. Take a step back and you’ll see that all of our anguish is self-inflicted. We assign meaning to everything, and simply refuse to accept it all as impermanent.

Instead of spending so much time thinking about what’s missing from your life, remind yourself (if only for twenty minutes a day), of everything you already have: from a comfortable bed to sleep on, to a roof over your head, to clean air, drinking water, food, clothes, friends, functioning lungs, and a beating heart.
When you approach each moment with gratitude, not only will you stop experiencing life from a place of lack, you will experience abundance. And THAT is luxury! THAT is being rich!

Some people are so poor, all they have is money.

This chapter from Buddhist Boot Camp is called “True Luxury”. All the chapters in the book are about that short, and they can be read in any order. Each was originally a journal entry or a letter to friends over the course of a few years, later compiled into the book you have in your hands today. My hope is that the book never sits on a shelf, but that you keep passing it on to others, okay? It’s not a SHELF HELP book! LOL… keep the chain of love going! THAT is luxury… THAT is being rich!

With much love and gratitude, your brother, Timber Hawkeye.”*

*from Buddhist Boot Camp by Timber Hawkeye

True Luxury

A Simple Definition of God

“How do we know for certain that things we cannot see truly exist?

Look at a picture of food, for example. The flavor, texture and scent are not in the photograph, but we know they’re there.

Our eyes detect only three dimensions (just as a camera captures only two), so whatever is is that makes life happen must exist in a dimension we simply cannot see. The energy that keeps us alive is beyond our five senses and very mysterious. Even though it is out of our control, we trust that it will wake us up tomorrow morning.

Whether we admit it or not, what we have is faith. We have tremendous faith that his unseen energy will keep the earth spinning, the grass growing, and our hearts beating five minutes from now. We don’t know this, we trust it.

Some people refer to this life force as “God,” while others call it “the Universe,” “Emptiness,” “Mother Nature,” or “Father Time.” The name you give it doesn’t matter as much as the appreciation you have for it.

God is not “out there” for us to pursue; God is in our heart to discover.” – Timber Hawkeye

A Simple Definition of God

The Charter for Compassion

12 steps to a compassionate life book

I read a lot of Karen Armstrong during my interfaith theology seminary training. I have come to honor her work and respect her opinion. She is smart, writes really well and has a tendency to make complex ideas simpler to digest.

In 2008, she founded The Charter for Compassion after winning the prestigious TED prize (Technology/Entertainment/Design award). The Charter for Compassion is her “one wish to change the world” for which she was given $100,000 as seed money to create her wish.

The Charter for Compassion is an international cooperative effort to restore not only compassionate thinking but, more importantly, compassionate action to the center of all religious, moral and political life. Check it out. You can sign on to the Charter online.

“Compassion is the principled determination to put ourselves in the shoes of the other, and lies at the heart of all religious and ethical systems.”

“Compassion means to endure something with another person, to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes, to feel her pain as thought it were our own, and to enter generously into his point of view.”

“Compassion can be defined, therefore, as an attitude of principled, consistent altruism.” (think: desire to help others/lack of selfishness).

Compassion is a hallmark of Buddhism. Buddhists believe that compassion is wanting others to be free from suffering. Buddhism is a call to live a life of compassion.

Compassion is concern for the welfare of others. It assumes that we are interconnected. Compassion softens “I” and amplifies “We.” Literally, compassion means “to suffer with.”

Compassion has its roots in primal tribal survival. Some suggest that compassion may actually be part of our genetic makeup.

Compassion means that others matter. Whether we call it love, kindness, care, tenderness, empathy, sympathy, mercy, warmth, charity.
Compassion sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.

Compassion is not pity; it’s not condescending; it’s not judgmental.

Compassion is a core value across religious cultures worldwide particularly deeply ingrained in the message of the 3 Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. However, Armstrong contends you do NOT have to be religious to be compassionate.

“Compassion has no contingencies!” (Timber Hawkeye)


Step 1 Learn about compassion
Step 2 Look at your own world
Step 3 Compassion for yourself
Step 4 Empathy
Step 5 Mindfulness
Step 6 Action
Step 7 How little we know
Step 8 How should we speak to one another?
Step 9 Concern for everybody
Step 10 Knowledge
Step 11 Recognition
Step 12 Love your enemies

compassion in action1


The Charter for Compassion

Buddhist Boot Camp

I honor Timber Hawkeye and his book, Buddhist Boot Camp.
I particularly respect the simple way he’s chosen to tell his story; his direct yet gentle teaching style and the exemplary way he puts his non-profit philosophy into action developing an initiative to get his book into U.S. prisons.

I use Buddhist Boot Camp frequently for meditation, quick pick-me-up’s and thoughtful reading. I’ve shared the book with friends, colleagues and persons seeking consultation. I’m especially fond of its simple and straight-forward approach to applying Buddhist principles to daily living without having to become Buddhist to get there.

Many persons I meet along my ministerial path are “unchurched” yet sincerely eager to explore their experiences and beliefs in search of a spiritual dimension outside organized religion. Indeed, nontraditional, nondenominational interfaith ministers frequently collect a handful of tools for their ministerial toolboxes to share, lend or simply give away. This book is such a tool.

A few of his thoughts for you consideration:

Your mind is like a spoiled rich kid!
“You have raised it to think whatever it wants, whenever it wants to, and for however long, with no regard for consequence or gratitude. And now that your mind is all grown, it never listens to you! In fact, sometimes you want to focus on something, but your mind keeps drifting away to whatever It wants to think about. Other times, when you really want to stop thinking about something, your mind “can’t help it.”

“Training the mind means being in charge of your decisions instead of succumbing to cravings and so-called “uncontrollable urges.” Can you think of a better method for training a spoiled rich kid than some serious boot camp?”

“First things first: stop granting yourself everything you crave. Doing so conditions the spoiled kid to know that it can continue having whatever it wants. Please do not mistake this for deprivation, because that’s not what I’m suggesting. You can still have ice cream, for example, but only when you decide to, not when a craving “takes over.” There is a difference.”

“So when a thought arises, just watch it; don’t react to it. “Oh, I really want ice cream”… that’s nice; see what it’s like to want something but not always get it.”

“The first few times that you try to train your mind you will see the little kid in you throw a tantrum, which is actually hilarious. But it’s understandable; you’ve never said “no” to it before. It’s time you start! You will eventually notice that you have more freedom to choose once you’re in control of your choices. It’s tricky; I hope this chapter from Buddhist Boot Camp makes sense.”

Letting Go
“The concept of “letting go” is everywhere in Buddhist lingo. In a nutshell, Buddhism boils down to “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional”. For example, It isn’t old age, sickness and death that cause our suffering, it’s our attachment to youth, health, and to life itself that makes it difficult to accept these natural changes and let go.”

“If we let go of our attachments, we automatically alleviate our potential for suffering once we inevitably go through old age, sickness and death. Makes sense, right? Love life with all the passion in your heart.. celebrate every single minute of it, without attachment.
I know what you’re thinking… “easier said than done”, but it’s certainly easier than living the rest of our lives resisting change. Think about it.”

“Buddhism is often misunderstood. My own dad used to think we worship a statue of “the fat guy” that he saw at Chinese restaurants.”

“Buddha” means “the awakened one”, and there are a lot Buddhas, not just one. Many sages have awakened from the delusion of separateness, which is what we are all capable of doing. That’s why you are a Buddha as well (we’re just asleep and trying to wake up, that’s all).”

“The Indians have their own depiction of the Buddha, as do the Thai, the Japanese, and, of course, the fat Chinese Buddha you often see at restaurants with kids running around him. It is simply a cultural depiction of absolute Happiness the way they understand it, nothing more.”

“What I really like about Buddhism is that the Buddha was a simple man, not “holier than thou” or something we could never be. He is just like you and I. He wasn’t a God (although some sects refer to him as “Lord Buddha”), nor was he special in any way until the light bulb went off. Once he understood how the universe was interconnected, almost everyone thought he was crazy (some still do), but a few people realized he was on to something… something beautiful, and so his teachings started to spread to neighboring countries…”

“Is Buddhism a religion? That depends on how you define “religion”. There is no “God” theory (in the sense of a Creator), and any reference to God is to the divinity within all beings (leaving no sentient beings behind). So if it is a religion, then it’s like no other. I think of it as a philosophy, or a school of thought. You can be Christian or Jewish, for example, and still find the teachings helpful and motivational.”

“In the smallest nutshell I could possibly find, the Buddha taught that we cause our own suffering when we get attached to impermanent things. We cling to people, health and youth, even though we intellectually know that nothing lasts forever. That’s why the concept of “letting go” is so fundamental to Buddhism.”

What you allow is what will continue.
“We are active participants in our lives, not merely victims of circumstance. Take a step back to get a better view of how decisions or indecisions you make are contributing to what’s going on in your life, and if those decisions worked in the past but aren’t working in the present, stop making them. If it hurts every time you pinch yourself, don’t complain about the pain, take medicine for the pain, and live with the side effects of the medicine, just stop pinching yourself!”

“I often find myself in unfamiliar situations, uncomfortable scenarios, and overstimulating places, but even though my mind, body and heart wants to tense up, shut down, reject and resist the unfamiliar, I approach the situation with curiosity instead of fear, which makes all the difference in the world to me because the fear is often based on made-up information that isn’t even accurate. What’s that acronym? F.E.A.R = False Evidence Appearing Real. So replace fear of the unknown with curiosity, and take a step forward.”

Buddhist Boot Camp