Category Archives: being Aware

Canada ranks high in the OECD Better Life Index. Canadians make more, work less, are happier with their lives and better educated than most residents of the 34 countries that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a new index suggests.

The OECD launched the “better life index” Tuesday, which allows comparisons between the member countries that go beyond the traditional economic measures, such as gross domestic product.

“Canada performs exceptionally well in measures of well-being,” the agency said, citing statistics such as:

– Nearly four out of five Canadians are satisfied with their lives, compared with three out of five for the OECD as a whole.
– Average Canadian household income of $27,015 US in 2008, more than $4,700 above the OECD average.
– Nearly 72 per cent of Canadians 15 to 64 have a paid job, above the OECD average of 65 per cent.
– Canadians work 40 hours a year (a work week) less than the OECD average.
– About 87 per cent of Canadians have the equivalent of a high-school diploma, much higher than the OECD average of 73 per cent.
– Life expectancy in Canada is 80.7 years, a year above the OECD average.
– The level of atmospheric PM10, tiny particles that are small enough to damage the lungs, is 15 micrograms per cubic metre, lower than the OECD average of 22.

Full article on:

Being happier and flourish is what moves us. Unfortunately, unless we develop awareness about what makes for a happy a meaningful life, we may end up dedicating all our energies and efforts to the “pursuit of happiness”, and still get no happier. Is it time for emptying the cup?

Emptying the cup: the first step in your “How to be happier and flourish” path
Look at a beautiful tea set. Admire the porcellaine, its illustrations. Admire like the light reflects on it, look at the precious golden details etc. Now, unless the use of such beautiful tea set is only decorative, think about what makes it worthwile to have. With all its beautiness, what really allows you to drink tea is the emptines of the cup. And the emptiness of the handle who allow you to hold the cup without burning your fingers.

It is likely you already heard this story over and over again. If you haven’t, be ready to hear it again over and over from other sources. A Japanese zen master was giving audience to a professor of philosophy. Serving tea, the zen master filled his visitor’s cup, and kept pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he could restrain himself no longer: “Stop! The cup is over full, no more will go in.” The zen master said: “Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”.

To put it in contemporary times, how can you stock new food in the fridge, when you still have old food getting rotten there? First you need to make space, and ensure rotten food doesn’t poison the new food. Going even deeper, do you really need to fill-up the fridge, trying to slow down the rottening process, when you can just eat fresh food and have some stored for a rainy day?

Or, if you like Star Wars, just listen to Yoda: You must unlearn what you have learned.

We give some inspiration about making space, so you can live in the here and now, instead of filling a cup of tea with more than its emptiness can take, instead of stocking the fridge with food you do not need and does not even fit there.

How to start emptying the cup
Is there a right, and a wrong? Or only degrees of appropriateness.

Is there anything sure, and anything impossible? Or only degrees of likelihood.

Nature just is. Math, philosophy, etc. are just ways we describe it. Especially in the case of math, a very versatile and powerful one, still a constructed one.

Is there and ideal and perfect world of ideas reflected, in imperfect ways, on a material world? Or only constructed ideas, abstraction, etc. that we make based on how we perceive the world, and such constructions reflect on how we perceive the world.

Everything is possible, not everything is likely. In some cases, it may make sense to try what is not likely. Do we benefit from assessing probability of events? And should we remember that the assessed probability reflects on the outcome?

The mind is not like a computer. The mind is more like an orchestra.

To the mind, there is more than the brain: our bodies, other beings, the environment, etc. Plus all the interactions we have with them. The whole is way more than the sum of its parts, and for sure much more than just one of its part.

Nature just is. There is no paradox in nature, only sinergies. Something which happens “despite” something else would result in the extinction of the paradox in a very short time.

A paradox cannot be untangled by the mindset who constructed it.

“How to be happier and flourish”: AmAre, cultivating happiness and meaning in life
An affirmation to start cultivating happiness with AmAre:

We can live happy, meaningful and fulfilling lives.

There are skillful ways to start living happy, meaningful and fulfilling lives.

There are skillful ways to keep living happy, meaningful and fulfilling lives.

AmAre is an acronym which summarizes approaches which facilitate living happy, meaningful and fulfilling lives:
* A – Aware and Accepting
* M – Meaningful and Motivated
* A – Active and Attentive
* R – Resilient and Respectful
* E – Eating properly and Exercising

Through our awareness and actions, we gain the courage to change the things we can change; the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Some factors facilitate happiness and meaning, some make harder to be happy and live a meaningful life. Still, in most of the situations, we deeply influence the lion-share of our lives’ outcomes. Happiness and meaning are not only an end result, they are a way of living: here and now, we can live happily and meaningfully. Before and after reading our book, please think about this:
– this book is the start of a conversation, an eye-opener on new opportunities and a reinforfer of what you already now. Here you find examples of wisdom from Ayurveda, Dharma, First Nation culture, etc. to show the elements, that we need to nurture the seed of happiness, can be found in different traditions. It is just a matter of planting the seed and acting to nurture it;
– happiness: an art and science? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (psychology professor) said “A joyful life is an individual creation that cannot be copied from a recipe”. And from the research of Daniel Gilbert (author of “Stumbling on Happiness”) it emerges there are many similarities about how we experience life. The approach we apply in our lives, and the one we suggest here, is to walk a middle-way: happiness and meaning have many elements shared by most of human beings (that can be summarized as the science part), and also many which are entirely subjective (can we call it the “art part”?). Here, we try to mark as clearly as possible what is proven by scientific research; the rest, is not science but based on experiences and inspiring examples. Examples which worked well, and which of course needs to be evaluated by each person in each context;
– we are the only ones who can make the choice to live happily and meaningfully. Our goal is not to make you happy, that is something external factors including us cannot accomplish. Our goal is to awaken in you the wisdom you already have, and live happily and meaningfully in ways which are suitable to you. Think about what happy and meaningful living is for you, so you can live a fulfilling life; it is also to make you consider how different variables facilitate your joyful living;
– being happy is a choice we make right here and now, by living joyfully. It is not a place to reach in the future. Is happiness about attitudes, and also the results of such attitudes? Why is happiness often seen, mistakenly, as a place to reach?
meaning and purpose are important: doing what matters for us, in meaningful ways, is one of the strongest contributions to well-being. Short term gratification brings pleasure, and gets us running on the hedonistic treadmill craving for more. How do we start living happily? By understanding who/what really counts in life? Understanding that, often, the more things we own, the more things own us, and that the struggle to get more in our daily life is not benefiting our happiness and meaning?
a balanced life is facilitated by acknowledging our feelings, including grief;
– there are ways we facilitate happiness, they can be summarized with the acronym AmAre: being Aware, Meditating, being Active, being Respectful, Eating properly;
– there are ways we measure subjective well-being and thinking about what such formulas mean for us, is even more important than the numbers we get out of them;
– by facilitating other people’s, we facilitate our happiness as well, living joyfully starts from each of us, and materialize with shared happiness. So, share this book with friends, and even more important share with them your attention and time;
there are several “fringe” benefits to living joyfully, happier people are more sociable and energetic, more caring and cooperative, better liked by others, more likely to get married and stay married, to have wider social networks and receive support from friends, show more flexibility and creativity in their thinking, are more productive and work, are recognized as better leaders and negotiators, and so earn accordingly. They are more tenacious when times are not pleasant, have stronger immune systems, are healthier both physically and mentally, and live longer;
– when we look at the context where we are here and now, what about thinking in terms of degrees of appropriateness, instead of only right or wrong? Why to see only in black and white, when we can enjoy a full spectrum of colours in between?

May all beings be happy and free,

How to assess wellbeing: “Live Well, Learn Well” at UBC Vancouver offers an online survey to assess personal wellness balance in eight key-areas. By answering questions related to these eight Healthy Minds dimensions, you will be able to identify areas in your life that may need some need attention. There are 50 quick questions and the assessment will take about 5-10 minutes to complete. The test is available on:

Dr. Edward Diener, leading subjective well-being researcher, discusses what you need to be happy according to the latest research in a conversation with Professor Michael B. Frisch of Baylor University.

Courtesy of, on every odd-numbered day, we will be introduced to Lojong mind training, a Tibetan tradition of mind training.

As mentioned on Wikipedia, Lojong is a practice in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition based on a set of aphorisms formulated in Tibet in the 12th century by Geshe Chekhawa. The practice involves refining and purifying one’s motivations and attitudes. The proverbs that form the root text of the mind training practice are designed as a set of antidotes to undesired mental habits that cause suffering. They contain both methods to expand one’s viewpoint towards absolute bodhicitta, such as “Find the consciousness you had before you were born.” and “Treat everything you perceive as a dream.”, and methods for relating to the world in a more constructive way with relative bodhicitta, such as “Be grateful to everyone.” and “When everything goes wrong, treat disaster as a way to wake up.”

One seminal commentary on the mind training practice was written by Jamgon Kongtrul (one of the main founders of the non-sectarian Rime movement of Tibetan Buddhism) in the 19th century. This commentary was translated by Ken McLeod, initially as A Direct Path to Enlightenment. This translation served as the root text for Osho’s Book of Wisdom. Later, after some consultation with Chogyam Trungpa, Ken McLeod retranslated the work as The Great Path of Awakening.

Two significant commentaries to the root texts of mind training have been written by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso (founder of the New Kadampa Tradition) and form the basis of study programs at NKT Buddhist Centers throughout the world. The first, Universal Compassion is a commentary to the root text Training the Mind in Seven Points by Geshe Chekhawa. The second, Eight Steps to Happiness is a commentary to the root text, Eight Verses of Training the Mind by Geshe Langri Tangpa.

In 2006, Wisdom Publications published the work Mind Training: The Great Collection (Theg-pa chen-po blo-sbyong rgya-rtsa), translated by Thupten Jinpa. This is a translation of a traditional Tibetan compilation, dating from the fifteenth century, which contains altogether forty-three texts related to the practice of mind training. Among these texts are several different versions of the root verses, along with important early commentaries by Se Chilbu, Sangye Gompa, Konchok Gyaltsen, and others.

Geshe Thupten Jinpa (Scholar and chief translator for His Holiness the Dalai Lama), as written on, says about Lojong mind training:

Compassionate Action
Whatever metaphysical explanation we might personally find satisfactory on the fundamental question of why we are here, a fact that is indisputable, at least for a spiritually-minded person, is that we have to use our life in a way that is most constructive. As Buddhists understand it, this is to cultivate the compassionate dimension of our human psyche and engage in compassionate action. There is a wonderful passage in the work of the eighth-century master Shantideva, where he writes that the fully-enlightened Buddhas have for eons reflected on what is the highest and most valuable thing to do, and they have found that other than helping others, there is nothing else. This really captures the key value that is promoted in Buddhism — the welfare of others. What we should seriously think about is that each of us is not an island: Each of us is a being with a history, a family, a social connection, so if you sit down and think through how many lives are interconnected with your life, you will begin to see a network. Then ask yourself: Have I affected these lives in a constructive, positive way? If the answer is “Yes,” then your life is going in a more meaningful direction. If the answer is “No,” then you have a serious and an urgent task at hand.

[…] But in our habitual self-centered way of doing things, instead of accomplishing what we are trying to seek, we achieve the contrary — suffering and pain — and by re-orienting, and re-structuring the way which we see the world and relate to others, then we will be able to fulfill this fundamental aspiration to achieve happiness. Even if you ask people who are not religiously inclined, especially if they are parents, if there is one thing they would like to reach their children, almost everyone says, “I would like the child to be happy and a good person.” Almost everyone!

[…] At some level we all know that if we try very hard to be happy, it just does not work. Happiness is experienced when we lose ourselves, and all of us know this from our experience. I am not just talking about pleasure or sensation, I am talking about that deep sense of fulfillment, that deep sense of satisfaction, and one of the characteristics of that experience is a loss of sense of self or ego. And so I would like to assure you that if we pursue our life in the restructured way that the mind training teachings are recommending, then we will also find what we are all seeking: happiness.

What are the top New Year’s resolutions for ‎2011? Should you consider them and find yours? While the order of the top New Year’s resolutions changes from year to year, and from source to source, these are some common evergreens as highlighted by

1. Spend More Time with Family & Friends
2. Fit in Fitness
3. Lose weight
4. Quit Smoking
5. Enjoy Life More
6. Quit Drinking
7. Get Out of Debt
8. Learn Something New
9. Help Others
10. Get Organized

What are our New Year’s resolutions ‎2011 tips? We’ll provide them the AmAreWay :-) AmAre in Italian, means “to love”; in English, interconnectedness: (I)Am (we) are. As a framework for success, transition, and happiness, AmAre stands for being:

* A – Aware and Accepting
* M – Meaningful and Motivated
* A – Active and Attentive
* R – Resilient and Respectful
* E – Eating properly and Exercising

We become Aware of current conditions, resources, strengths, goals: what is our priority for 2011? Changing one aspect involves changing its components as well, however we need to keep focus: we cannot change/do everything at once. Once we are more aware, we decide to be Accepting and appreciate the qualities which are already there. We all have rich qualities!

We see what is Meaningful for us, instead of making a resolution just because it seems everyone else is. We become Motivated to implement it, here and now.

We are Active in cultivating our resolution, and Attentive about results and feedback from action.

We Resilient in face of difficulties, or simply when things take longer than expected to be achieved. Remember, the first month is very important when it comes to implement resolutions, so let’s make sure each day contributes to our committment. And we are a;sp Respectful, because we are aware other people have their own goals and resolutions as well.

We consider Eating properly and Exercising to support our course of action. Proper food and regular exercise re-energize
our mind and body.

And, above all, happy new year!


Marcello Spinella, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Richard Stockton. He kindly agreed to share his research about The Practice and Benefits of Loving-Kindness. Below, we provide his introduction to the topic, while the whole article “The Practice and Benefits of Loving-Kindness” is available in pdf format.

Few people think of kindness and compassion as something that can be exercised and developed like a muscle. More often, we think of it as something that is triggered in knee-jerk fashion by an external situation. However, if we look closely, we can see that in any given situation, whether or not we react with kindness and compassion involves making choices. It may be easier to react this way in some situations (e.g. a helpless infant) and harder in others (.e.g. during an argument with an adult), but the aspect of choice nonetheless exists.

Fortunately, there are exercises to develop these characteristics and anyone can reap the benefits of doing so. Many people are familiar with mindfulness meditation, which involves observing one’s own internal experiences (e.g. thoughts, emotions, memories, sensations). But there are also meditation exercises to develop loving-kindness and related characteristics. Rather than just observing experience, this kind of meditation involves actively evoking thoughts of kindness and allowing them to naturally develop and flourish.

The whole article “The Practice and Benefits of Loving-Kindness” is available here.

Avidya pratyaya samskara

December 21, 2010

Avidya pratyaya samskara.

(All constructions are conditioned by ignorance, meaning we ignore something in order to label and build constructions)

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