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Moment of Zen: Advice on life from a Buddhist monk

By Karen Sorensen, GateHouse News Service, Oct 8, 2009

Brockton, MA (USA) -- Serenity may be closer than you think, but it takes a little discipline. A Buddhist monk offers suggestions on small ways you can change your life and find peace.

1. Focus on the "now," says Samu Kim Sunin, founder of the Buddhist Society for Compassionate Wisdom, which has temples in Chicago, New York, Toronto, Mexico City and Ann Arbor, Mich.

Meditation is key, he says. Sit in silence, repeat a short phrase in your head, concentrate on breathing and think of yourself as part of nature.

"What happens (when you're done) is you are a calm, clear, genuine and authentic person, and other people benefit from that," Kim says.

2. Pause before you act. People are too prone to respond impulsively, Kim says, and end up reacting in ways that are angry, sarcastic or judgmental rather than patient, thoughtful and compassionate. As difficult as it might feel at the time, stop for a moment and think about your response.

"If you do that, you will gain perspective and you won't fall victim to ignorance," Kim says. You will be calmer, and you won't cause stress for someone else.

3. Find ways to do community service. Helping others ultimately is a way to help yourself. You’ll reap the mental and emotional benefits that come with helping someone, and that person benefits as well.

This need not be a huge commitment, but find small ways to "do your best," Kim says.

“The world is an interrelated whole, and we have a collective responsibility to help because we are helping ourselves."

4. Reduce consumption, eat in moderation, be aware of what you use -- and why.

"Consuming mindfully is a small but important step in the right direction," Kim says. "Of course it's challenging, but it's very meaningful."

Some Buddhists are vegetarian on the 16th day of every month "as a way to remember the sacrifices of living beings that sustain our life," according to the North American Shin Buddhist Association. Others attempt to eat only foods that are in season.

5. Be content with what you have. Far too much of what people are worried about is tied to the future or stems from the past, Kim says.

If you want to find peace of mind, he says, count your blessings and enjoy the "now" rather than being dissatisfied and striving for something else. That "something else" -- a job promotion, a larger house, the latest gadget, a new spouse -- is unlikely to make you happy, he says.



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