Advice from a Buddhist monk

At the beginning of taking this time off, I thought about… I had this open question of, ‘Do I want to stay in the ‘do-gooder field,’ you know the humanitarian, NGO whatever. Because there’s a lot that’s wrong with it, and there’s a lot that doesn’t address, or doesn’t really get at root issues and root causes of suffering… I don’t want to get into idiot compassion, I don’t want to do it for that reason. When I think about other things that I have always had a strong interest in, when I was younger I thought I’d be an environmentalist. In another life, I must’ve been a dancer because I don’t really do dance at all in this life, but I idolize dancers.

Sokuzan: You already dance with your own life, the thing you do with your life is kind of a dance. Don’t you think it has some choreography going on?

Yeah. Moving around to different countries definitely involves some choreography…. So when I think about humanitarian work, maybe it’s a certain amount of momentum that’s been generated in doing this work and studying it and committing myself to it for so long. But I feel like I’m good at it and I have something to contribute within it. So, even though it would be wonderful to go live with mountain gorillas and just track mountain gorillas, that would be awesome… but I don’t get fired up about going back to school and studying biology. I’ve built a certain level of expertise that I would like to continue to build on, and I feel like I’m somewhat useful… it gets to the idea of feeling like there’s something bigger, like I have a purpose I just haven’t figured out what it is. But I can contribute to something meaningfully. And I’ve done that in little ways, but still feel there’s a bigger way. And maybe it’s not connected to work… maybe it’s connected to my own path, to other ways of helping myself and others.

Sokuzan: Have you watched any of my videos?

No, are you on youtube or something? It didn’t occur to me that I could watch you on video.

Sokuzan: If you watch my teaching videos, you can get a flavor of how I work with this whole thing we call living in the world. One of the things you cannot go wrong doing is work on the mind with awareness practice.

Lesson learned: Buddhist monks are on YouTube. If you’re interested in Sokuzan’s videos, check out sokukoji.org. And if you’d like information about other teachers, podcasts, or websites — or have suggestions to share with others — leave a comment or write a message using the form on the Contact page.

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