The Blogger’s Path to Enlightenment

All human activity has the potential to both enrich one’s life and to increase one’s suffering.  Doubt this?  Just pick any human activity!  Work, sex, eating, politics, religion, whatever.  This is just a restatement of Buddhism’s First Noble Truth.  Whether these activities generate happiness or misery depends on one’s intentions and expectations as well as the degree of mindfulness, compassion and wisdom one can muster while engaging in them.

Blogging is no exception.  It can be for better or for worse.  It can be part of one’s Buddhist practice or it can be a detour and distraction.  It’s a matter of intention, mindfulness, compassion, wisdom, and non-attachment.

What and how you write can be guided (or not) by the Precepts.  Do you employ right speech?  Is what you write truthful and without intent to cause harm?  Is the content  your own  (have you not taken what is not freely given)?  Are your readers someone you care about?  Are you mindful of your potential effect on them?   Do you want to enhance their lives or merely amuse them, titillate them, or use them to sell products or advance yourself?  Are you clinging to and hiding behind an ideal persona, or sharing your actual self?  Does your writing help you to reflect more deeply on your own experience?  Do you learn more about yourself and the Dharma through the act of writing?  Does the amount of time you spend on blogging cause you to neglect other aspects of your life?  Your work?  Your relationships? Your meditation time?

How do you work at building subscribers, links, retweets, and followers on various social media platforms?  Are you spending too much time on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, et al.?  Are you adding quality links or junk links?  Are you building a genuine community of fellow bloggers and faithful readers, or are you using others to further yourself?  Keeping your life in balance and keeping relationships real are part of the Blogging Path.

What do you expect out of blogging?  Is it a way to tell your truth?  To create community?  To get noticed?  To make money?  How do you feel when your Feedburner counts go up or down?  How do you feel when something you write gets criticized or ignored?  How do you feel when splogs hijack (and monetize!) your content?  It’s all grist for the practice mill.  Do your best and let go, again and again.

This blog is now into its fifth month.  I’ve enjoyed the learning, thinking, writing, corresponding, and befriending.  I’ve tried to keep the process truthful, not have it become addictive, and attempted to maintain mindfulness and equanimity.  I’ve learned more about my strengths and vulnerabilities.  How has your journey been, fellow bloggers and faithful readers? Part of the path or a distraction from it?

16 Replies to “The Blogger’s Path to Enlightenment”

  1. Seth, for me, your blogs have been definitely a part of the path. They are firmly rooted in the Three Treasures, the Six Paramitas, the Three General Resolutions, the Four Vows, and the Ten Cardinal Precepts. They have been inspiring, thoughtful, and directly pertinent to my own life. This latest one is a little gem. Although brief, it can apply not only to blogging but to any kind of writing. As in the case of the others, it is mind-expanding. You are doing great. Keep it up. I thank you and gassho before you.

  2. There are a lot of different kind of blogs. Even in the Buddhist realm. They range from weird to sane, from angry to nice, from scriptural to spontaneous, because we are all a little bit different but mostly we are alike. Kind of like snowflakes. Thanks for doing your thang, though it is imperfect and full of self-interest. 🙂 just kidding. Good luck in the future with building a bloggers community. Just remember those of the same feather flock together, and that could lead to Totalitarianism. 🙂

  3. You have lots of hard questions. Fortunately they do not apply to me for I don’t blog. 🙂 And doesn’t semi-anonymity offer some protection to my karma?

    There are not too many blogs at the intersection of meditation and psychology. I think it’s a valuable place to be, and even more so because almost no-one else seems to be doing it seriously. Or actually your focus have been more on non-dogmatic take on Buddhism in general, and that is fine too. Speaking of myself, the above shows my prejudices – I have come to Buddhism through meditation, I’m allergic to religion due to my personality and how things were in my childhood, and would have hard time to identify with any religion, including Buddhism. But lately I have become to think that Dharma has more to give besides the core techniques – and if one is careful, maybe it is possible to benefit from it without compromising on other important values. (The “without dogma” part.)

    Community is of course important. Every good blog is a small community. But it takes time to build, and the environment may sometimes seem hostile. If you ever feel so, think of – things are probably much easier here!

    This applies more to commenters than bloggers, but writing online is one of the hardest activities in life to do mindfully and wisely, especially when other participants are not so mindful. It takes a lot of practice.

    You have something wrong with your WP settings. The browser titlebar shows extra percentage signs, and the HTML source says %The_Existential_Buddhist% | %buddhism_without_dogma% . (Bet the HTML quote gets messed up.)

    1. JSi,

      Thanks (as always!) for your comments. BTW, your comment applies to bloggers every bit as much as to commenters.

      I’ve been lucky. I haven’t found the commenter environment on this blog to be unpleasant at all. People have been respectful, thoughtful, and sincere in their comments. The community associated with this blog has been a blessing! May it always be so!

      You are right in suspecting that Buddhism has more to offer than just core techniques. Techniques without a context take you nowhere. Just like marching up and down a field all day doesn’t make you a soldier. Meditation without a context may be interesting, pleasant, or relaxing. But put it in the context of learning letting go, equanimity, and lovingkindness, and seeing impermanence, interdependence, and unsatisfactoriness and it becomes something more. The philosophy and the practice (on and off the cushion) reinforce each other and become a powerful tool for bootstrapping our better selves.

      I may have solved the %Existential Buddhist% problem, or maybe I haven’t. Please let me know if the browser titlebar problem has resolved!

      1. The percentage sign problem is absent from the main site, but present at least in this entry. I don’t know anything about WP – maybe the old entries are static pages and new ones will be without the funny header?

        “Techniques without a context take you nowhere.” – but they do! (I guess you agree.) Even relaxation can be beneficial, and strong mindfulness can certainly take oneself somewhere, if not elsewhere then maybe deeper to buddhism? 🙂 Mindfulness is a hot topic in psychology, Springer even has a journal devoted to it. And it is good to have milder versions available, for the whole package is quite a lot to swallow. Seems that even you have problems with the enlightenment and rebirth parts? 🙂

        1. Of course you are right. I overstated my case. Relaxation reduces stress, doing push ups builds muscle mass, etc. I haven’t kept up with recent developments in the use of mindfulness in psychology so I can’t speak to how it may be used in every instance but… when I did my MBSR internship at U-Mass medical school, and from what I know about MBCT, mindfulness is not just taught as a technique. There is an awful lot of dharma given along with teaching mindfulness meditation, only it isn’t labled as “dharma.”

          I remember a news story from years back about a rapist in Central Park in NYC who would meditate by the lake before stalking his victims. Present-focused attention is part of predation — just watch a cat stalking a mouse — or ask a hunter. Only there is no dharma in it. That’s what I meant when I said that technique alone doesn’t do the trick.

          Problems with enlightenment and rebirth? Also celestial beings, the three bodies of the Buddha, and karma! You don’t have to buy the whole package. Just the parts that tell you how to live your life in the world as a human being with others. The parts about mindfulness, lovingkindness, equanimity, non-attachment, sympathetic joy, compassion, responsibility for one’s actions, the five precepts, impermanence, no-self, emptiness, and suffering.

          1. Yes, the rapist is a good point – blunt enough that even I understand it! It is true that when one looks closer, there is dharma even in the bare mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness is not easy to define operationally, so that one can actually do it, and there is lots of details and attitude in the instructions.

            I think I understand your viewpoint better now, and your latest blog entry also clarifies it. There seems to be at least three kinds of “dharma without dogma”: (1) the psychologized one, not called dharma; (2) yours,; (3) the camp who believes in enlightenment and trains heavily for it, but emphasizes ethics a bit less.

            Thanks for your replies and advice, and keep up the good work!

          2. Thank for the interesting link! Mikulas’s distinction between the contents and the behavior of the mind reminds me of a recent paper by James Carmody (Carmody, J. (2009). Evolving conceptions pf mindfulness in clinical settings, Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 23(3) 270-280.) in which he makes the distinction between awareness (e.g., awareness of the contents of a thought) and meta-awareness (e.g., awareness that the thought is a thought). He thinks that the attentional shift from awareness to meta-awareness may be the “active ingredient” in mindfulness’s clinical efficacy. It’s a good paper. Too bad he leaves out “metta awareness,” though 😉

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