The Path to Hospice

Written by Ethan Engel on . Posted in Ethan's Garden

To cultivate an awareness of all life as suffering…

...it’s easier for some than others. Certainly the thought has left large numbers of its thinkers cold, including me. Just flirting with the idea can trigger an irrational fear of falling into an unreachable depression…

And perhaps that’s just it, Buddhism makes no attempt to charm, yet Buddhism is as charming as hospice. And for those who know, it doesn’t get any more charming than hospice. It’s one of the only places left where people can really feel their insides, and every day work a little more on letting go, with love.

Love is Watching Someone Die

Written by Erinn Woodside on . Posted in Ethan's Garden

Erinn Woodside's starkly beautiful post was found on Sarah Bender's blog, Occasional WordsIt was originally posted on Erinn's own blog, Elevating the Ordinary, on August 6, 2011.

“Love is watching someone die.
So who’s going to watch you die?”
— “What Sarah Said” by Death Cab for Cutie

As I read through some of the media buzz about our 31 fallen in Afghanistan this morning I felt compelled to put down some thoughts that have been swirling around in my head for the past several weeks. I thought I would share them with you…

How do we fight? I’m not asking what political, social, economic, religious, or otherwise philosophical reasons cause us to fight or wage war. That is another discussion. But how are we able to actually raise our right hand and follow through with the mission at hand? Most military members, when questioned, reply by saying “Simple. It’s for my brother or sister on the right or the left of me.” It is this depth of intimacy that has has haunted my mind lately.

Siddartha - Part 2

Written by Ethan Engel on . Posted in Ethan's Garden


redonwebfinSiddartha grew up in ignorance of anything but loveliness. But at age twenty-nine, married for thirteen happy years and with a new firstborn son, destiny called a meeting. On a ceremonial procession through the capital, Siddharta saw the strangest thing in his whole life: a couple of gawking old men who had flouted authority and returned to the parade route after being policed away. Filled with an urgent curiosity about these bizarre individuals, Siddharta jumped off his parade chariot to chase down the terrified pair of bunglers to get a better look at their outlandish appearance.

It was a wrong-turn of epic proportions.

While on a short jog after the old men, Siddhartha stumbled into a filthy allyway where several gravely ill people were wasting away. As he backed away in horror, Siddartha was intersected by funeral procession almost to its destination, and only moments later he saw a scene of mourners and bodies burning in traditional funeral rites. As Siddartha gaped in bewilderment, his best friend and attendant Chandara found and embraced him. He saw the perplexity and turmoil in his Master’s eyes. Overwhelmed with compassion, Chandara told Siddartha the simple truth he had never been allowed to hear: we all get old, sick, and eventually die.

Astonishment is the root of philosophy.
Paul Tillich

Siddhartha - Part 1

Written by Ethan Engel on . Posted in Ethan's Garden

buddhawebSiddartha was born to a royal family in a beautiful kingdom in the Himalayan foothills. A few years after Siddartha’s birth, a famous shaman visited his father’s court and delivered a prophecy regarding the young boy’s future. This shaman, Asita, declared that Siddartha would become either a powerful king, or a spiritual master who would be a great light to humanity. 

Disturbed by the prophecy and desperate for his son to become a successor to his lands, the father vowed to shield the child from any influences that could possibly lead the boy to the latter. So he surrounded the boy with luxury, noble companions and the best teachers of his time, all under orders to make sure that Siddhartha would not encounter anyone who might make him pensive: shamans and spiritual practicioners, as well as the elderly, sick, dying or dead.

And so Siddhartha was engaged in the family’s palaces, surrounded by vigorous health and beauty, and completely screened from the experiences of normal, commonplace life. And if Siddartha did leave the palaces for any reason, sometimes extensive measures would be required to make sure no ‘unpleasant’ types would be in his vicinity.

In this idyllic and artificial evironment, the young Siddartha excelled in all that he did: mastering riding, archery, music and various other arts, falling deeply in love, marrying and having a child.

To be continued…

Dealing with Dissonance

Written by Ethan Engel on . Posted in Ethan's Garden

dissonanceIn 1956 Leon Festinger introduced a groundbreaking concept into western psychology: the theory of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is seen to appear when a person holds two conflicting thoughts.

It's a simple idea: if we are presented with evidence that a belief or assumption is wrong, then we're holding two beliefs that aren't psychologically consistent. The result is a drive state, similar to hunger or thirst. Most subjects experience this drive state as being very unpleasant, prompting the person to relive it by altering their beliefs.

The story of Siddartha before he became the Buddha is a brilliant case study in cognitive dissonance. Rich with themes that never grow old, it lays bare the workings of a very tender heart with difficult choices to make.

An overwhelming passion for something undefinable drags Siddartha into a single-minded, and agonizing, search for life's hidden meaning. Away from his familiar and beloved home, against his father's hopes and dreams, against his love and committment toward his own wife and child, Siddharta was driven by a tremendous energy to relieve the pain of his cognitive dissonance.

Keeping it Simple

Written by Ethan Engel on . Posted in Ethan's Garden

crocosmbetterEnding suffering, even visualizing existence post-suffering, requires some knowledge of how to end suffering. 

Buddhism is this how to. 
It is a collection of skills and strategies to rehabilitate an attitude at war with itself. 

At first this collection of strategies appears large, scattered and daunting. 
This is not the case. 

The Buddha’s teachings are based on an awareness that we are constantly making arbitrary decisions about reality.
Simply experiencing the Buddha's ideas, in themselves, helps restore the system back to human.

Siberian Rhododendrons

Written by Ethan Engel on . Posted in Ethan's Garden

rhododenMindful presence in the moment,
opens the door to every possibility,
transforms the way we work, worship, and love.

This power that converts anger, hatred, and jealousy
into courage, passion and benevolence,
exists
for anyone to use.

Activated by taking our time,
a return to single-minded awareness of our breathing;
this is the central and irrefutable fact of the Buddhist tradition.

When we refuse to let circumstances overwhelm,
when we take our time,
we can better acknowledge our feelings and thoughts.

That bit of breathing room in the mind
gives one extra moment
to mindfully decide,
when a curveball flies in,
the attitude that I will channel.

A moment to remember:
I move from Love.
No exceptions.

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