Category Archives: Banaba

Something to Ponder – 7

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Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely mountain.

Hello friends! Today our question comes from Ashley Chambray of Fitchburg, Massachusetts.

“Dear Banaba,” Ashley writes. “Why do people get mad at me when I’m only trying to help?”

To my new friend Ashley, I say simply, “Help is perspective, and it is subjective.”

But, I suppose that is me not being very helpful at all.

Help has been around for a long time. I have heard it said that the desire to help is part of the human condition. It’s instinctual. But as we have come to know, through conditioning, we can often override our instincts so that we act in a way that is driven more by our personal motivations and less by how we are wired.

If you feel people are reacting negatively to your help, we must explore what help you are providing, the environment in which you are providing it, and what is motivating you to act.

First, do they ask for help? That is the best indicator of whether help is needed at all.

I share with you two brief stories.

To start, there is the well-known tale of a man who came across a butterfly struggling to emerge from a cocoon. Because he could not tolerate the notion of the creature’s struggle, felt that the creature was in trouble and would be doomed without action, he decided to “help” by stepping in and releasing the creature. In this case, the creature was working through what it needed to as dictated by nature. The struggle itself is what the butterfly needed to overcome to ensure it was strong enough to survive. The butterfly was not ready to be free in that moment and the help – the man’s actions – only ensured the fate the man feared most.

In the second tale, a young woman recently moved out to be on her own, but she came back to her mother’s house regularly to bake cookies. The mother, thinking she was helping, gave the daughter a new cookie tray to bake with believing it would help make her life easier because then she would not have to make the journey back home just to bake the cookies. The daughter took the tray graciously, but it made her cry. She did not see the tray as a gift of help as much as it was a message from her mother that she did not want her to come over to bake anymore.

And, if you will indulge me, I believe another short story is in order. This time we find a teacher who is constantly telling a little boy what to do. There is nothing wrong with the boy other than he often lags behind the other children when getting things done. The teacher feels that she needs to remind him to do things so very often so as to “help” him stay on task, to “help” him keep up with the other children and to “help” keep him from getting into trouble. In his mind, the boy sees himself very much the same as all the other children, yet he feels frustrated that he is constantly singled out to do the very things he had either already done, or was on his way to doing.

So, now we wonder – who was helping who? Who really needed help? Would everything have worked out as it should without the added help?

The case of the teacher shows us that she may have pushed the boy under the guise of “help” to satisfy her own needs in the moment. The boy was capable. And aside from speed, the boy was successful. He likely did not need help. Yet, her job is to manage the class and the boy could be a hindrance – if even a small one – to her finding her own success in the way she perceived things.

If the mother was to know the real outcome of her help, that her daughter was profoundly upset by the gesture, we could guess that she would most assuredly clarify her intentions with her daughter, so the intent of her effort was effectively understood. But in the moment, the daughter was capable, she was successful, and probably did not need the help she received.

Finally, the man would have no way to communicate with the creature he encountered. He saw a situation unfolding before him and chose to act in a way that reflected the limits of his current understanding. He projected a potential danger onto the very small creature and felt compelled to do something. Was the creature in danger? Probably not. Would the creature have otherwise have been successful? Probably, short of the interference with another predator in his circle of life. Did the creature need help?

Because Ashely did not provide the specifics of what makes people mad at her when she tries to help them, we can only guess that she might be offering “help” where it is not needed or it is the kind of “help” she offers regularly, and some may say unnecessarily, to satisfy a need of her own.

Humans are generally good. They generally want to help others. But we could all benefit from understanding where help is needed most, defining what help will actually help and knowing that help is not often providing a resolution, but enough of a bridge to helping another achieve success. Most importantly, we must explore whether we are we helping those who really need it, or are we helping ourselves.

Peace to you  – Banaba

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Something to Ponder” entries, search for Banaba at the top of the page.

 

Something to Ponder – 6

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Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely Mountain.

Hello friends! Today our question comes from Langdon Mershon of Park City, Utah.

“Dear Banaba,” Langdon writes. “What makes you feel you are qualified to comment on the human condition as you do? Where do you get off?”

To my new friend Langdon I say, “Since I am already here and I am not on anything, there is no need for me to get off of the thing I am not on.”

But, of course, that would be me kidding you.

Other people have asked me the same or similar question over the years. Those with whom I am close often consider the question, at least in its directness and perceived tone, to be rude or hostile. However, I assure them that the question is merely a question like all the others and that we should not judge Langdon’s intent by how the voice in our own head interprets the words.

That does not mean it is not rude or hostile. It may very well be, but that kind of hostility often bubbles up from the frustrations we feel when we can’t make sense of what we are experiencing. So we try to seek out a space of common understanding if both sides are willing.

When someone takes in the words of another they have two choices. They can agree and accept those words as part of their own developing knowledge base or they can disagree, discard the words as worthless and move on.

To Langdon, I am either uncannily close to his current mindset on so many issues that he is amazed at how in tune we are, or I am so far off, so often that he considers what I share to be so very incorrect that my sharing it offends his sensibilities in some way.

By asking where I might get off, I’m inclined to believe it is the latter. And if that is the case, he would probably rather that I be quiet and go away completely than to write another word.

It would be easy to do so, but he did ask the question and that implies – no matter how slim – that there is a chance to find a place of common understanding.

So to Langdon, I say, I am no more qualified to comment on the human condition than anyone else. That said, I am no less qualified to comment either.

I am a human in the human race and all that comes with it. I experience what everyone experiences. We all see things through the lenses, filters and biases that we develop as we follow our particular path. Each experience, good and bad, works to tune and hone, break, tear and rebuild those elements which ultimately affect how we see the world and how we feel we need to act to survive.

Just because we have these filters and biases, we should not feel that we are completely bound to them, that we can’t work to better understand them and that we can’t work to change them if we find them not to our liking. After all, as humans, that is how we grow.

We can follow the paths of our lives seeing the world as it is, blissfully unaware that there may be something more for us to do in it until we ask ourselves one question – why?

Once we do that, a gateway to a new universe of possibilities opens before us and it can never be shut because our new sense of awareness prevents it.

In many ways, it can be overwhelming. Change is a scary thing. What do we do with so much potential? Maybe we don’t understand what we think might be happening. So we reach out. We talk. We ask others who may have already been there what they experienced and what we might experience, and if there are any handy tips for making things work. A lot of what we do is looking for handy tips for making things work.

He may disagree, but in the sphere of his own experiences, Langdon himself probably offers insights and guidance to others more that he realizes. Even as he continues to question the broader universe that opened to him.

I cannot claim ownership to knowledge and insight. I cannot prioritize my perspective over another’s. I only do what I feel we all can do when someone reaches out to us.

Reach back.

We may not walk away from this any different from where we started, but because there was effort, there is hope.

Peace to you  – Banaba

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Something to Ponder” entries, search for Banaba at the top of the page.

Something to Ponder – 5

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Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely Mountain.

Hello friends! Today our question comes from Terry O’Keefe of Kellogg, Idaho.

“Dear Banaba,” Terry writes. “What is happiness? Why is it so hard for us to find?”

To my new friend Terry, I say simply, “Happiness is the cloud you walk in.”

When you consider the state of the world and the plights of so many people who struggle to merely survive, it seems that happiness is the most elusive of all the feelings.

Or is it?

We are a funny species. We crave happiness. We long for it. We work very hard to define it. We are pretty certain we know when we do not have it. And yet, when we do, or we think we do, we don’t allow ourselves the luxury of enjoying it. We often squirrel it away so nobody will see it. We feel guilty when someone calls us out for having it and then strongly deny it as if there was a greater value in a common, universal misery. When we see others who may have it, we envy them and instead of celebrating with them, we question if and how and why they may be more worthy of happiness than we are. There are many vicious circles at work here and the very bit of it all is that it all resides in our brains.

I always say you are the arbiter or your existence. You own who you are. Happiness, like misery is a choice. Of course, there are forces in the world that you must deal with every day. These forces may test your commitment to your search for happiness, but only you can decide to give up the power that makes your happiness go away.

So many people scoff at this notion and look at me as if sitting on this mountain for so long has warped my sense of reality and my perspective of the human condition. To them, I say, “not that I am aware of.” Because the questions you pose Terry, are not new and for as long as we have roamed the Earth, humans have done a very poor job of recognizing and embracing their happiness.

To be happy, you must define what it is. You would do yourself a tremendous favor by defining it as something you can attain easily. Why make it harder than that?

If you define happiness as winning millions of dollars in the lottery so you can do all the things you think you deserve to do and have all the things you think you deserve to have, your definition will be quite hard to achieve. You will find happiness elusive and you will perpetuate negative energy when you find out someone else won “your” money. Will the other winner be happy with the money? Who is to say?

If you define happiness more simply, perhaps as a positive state of mind that helps you work toward overcoming the challenges of your daily life, you will find happiness faster and more bountiful. In this case, happiness could be found in a good parking space, making it inside the house before it rains, the sip of an ice cold cream soda…so many things.

So you see Terry, because you don’t really find happiness, there is a sense of futility that comes with always looking for it.

Happiness lies in wait wherever you go and wherever you are. Making that your definition is not ignoring or glossing over the daily problems of life, for that will only lead to its own frustrations. Rather, it is embracing the knowledge of things as they are, knowing what you can do to change those things as needed – if anything – and knowing when to let them go. Accepting things as you have made them, after doing your very best work or putting forth your very best effort, even if they are not perfect – are good. And good is a profound seed for happiness to grow from.

Peace to you  – Banaba

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Something to Ponder” entries, search for Banaba at the top of the page.

 

Something to Ponder – 4

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Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely Mountain.

Hello friends! Today our question comes from Deloris Wilson of Tin Bucket, Arizona.

“Dear Banaba,” Deloris writes. “Can I have it all? If I can, great, but if I can’t, why not?”

To my friend Deloris, I say, “If you had it all, where would you put it?”

Of course, that is me kidding with you.

The answer to your question Deloris, lies almost exclusively within you – within each one of us.

You must first define for yourself what it means to have it all. Does “having it all” mean you have healthy, nurturing relationships with the various people in your life? Is it a life that allows you to be the person you want to be? Is it money? Material belongings? Good health? The ability to travel frequently to far off and exotic places? The latest clothes? The skills and abilities to do whatever you want? Fame? Recognition? And so on.

You might review that list and say yes, all that and all the other things, all of it.

Once you define the objective, the next thing to determine is what you are willing to do in fact, to get it all.

How deep is your drive? How dedicated are you to the task of achieving your objectives? How hard are you willing to work? What do you know now in your life that you are willing to sacrifice in order have it all? How much are you willing to gamble?

When we start to consider the work involved with getting, and having and keeping it all, we often start to hear in our minds the soft voices of dissent which whisper to us the various ways in which we will fail in our efforts to get everything we want.

It goes like this:

You: I want a boat. I deserve a boat. Other people have boats. I’m as good as anyone else who has a boat. Why can’t I have a boat?

The soft voices: Boats are expensive. You won’t be able to get a big boat. You don’t have the money. Yes, you could try to save the money, but that will take a long time. You aren’t great at saving money. And what about the bills? By the way, you have no place to put the boat. And, because you are working all the time, when would you use the boat. Do you really need a boat?

And just like that, we give up, often in a swirl of frustration and sadness…possibly anger.

In my experience Deloris, I find that many people who dream of having it all, are merely envious of those whom they believe have more than they do. What adds to their woe and anger is the perception that those who have more than they do got it all through ways and means that are not equitable to all. They believe that in someway, the other person’s path was made easier and that their path is far more difficult. That the world is unfair.

It is a hard notion to embrace, but even when we feel slighted and that our lives are bad, or not what we wanted or not what we feel we deserve, I can assure you there are people who envy the lot we have in life. In some ways, we look to be the ones with the easier path.

That is not to say that you should give up on your dreams of working for and having the things that you want. But know that we spend a lot of time and energy in the pursuit of things, things and moments that come and go and so quickly dissolve into photographs and memories. It is the day-to-day of living where you will spend most of your time and it is there that you must find some level of satisfaction, or happiness.

It was once said, “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find, you get what you need.”

If you can embrace the perspective that your life is as good as you make it. That you are good and that you have value no matter what others surmise, or what you believe others surmise. If you can recognize and embrace the glorious gifts that each day has to offer, the sun, rain, green grass, food and drink, the moon and the stars, those with whom you surround yourself. If you can release the bitterness and anger that comes with envy and the notion of greed, well, you may not end up having it all – at least not how you saw it originally, but you will certainly be closer.

Peace to you  – Banaba

Something to Ponder – 3

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*Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely Mountain. 

Hello friends! Today our question comes from Astrid Korthew of Aberdeen, Maine.

“Dear Banaba,” Astrid writes. “Is karma a bitch?”

To my friend Astrid, I say, “You know it sister, and then some.”

But in reality, that is me kidding.

As it is explained in Buddhist philosophy, karma is the law of moral causation. It is the cosmic principle according to which each person is rewarded or punished in this life or incarnation based on that person’s deeds in this life or in a previous incarnation.

The phrase you ask about is a very limited application indeed.

Often people use the “bitch” motif when they want to remind others that their deeds will lead to future unhappiness in a very ruthless and uncharitable manner, that they themselves are potentially on the receiving end of a sort of “karmic revenge” for something they must have done (which they feel undeserving of, of course), or they long to see the retribution of karma rain down on those which they feel have done any level of unsavory injustice.

In each of these cases, the whole of karma is boiled down to being some sort of metaphysical punisher or ethereal seeker of revenge.

Unfortunately, this is not generally how karma works. It is not something we control by our wishes and desires like some sort of spiritual voodoo doll. It is not something we can wish upon others to make ourselves feel better because we feel karma’s “justice” will take care of something we find we are incapable of doing ourselves – at least outwardly.

In most cases, we would never see the effects of karma because we could not possibly understand the complexity of the philosophy. On the other hand, all we may see are the effects of karma, but again, when we view what goes on around us through the limited scope or lens of our personal experience, no matter how broad, we are incapable of truly recognizing what we are witnessing, nor do we have the universal context needed to comprehend the vast meaning of what we see.

Human beings often limit their view of everything to the now. I am uncomfortable now. I am not sleeping well now. I am angry now. I am sad now. People don’t like me now, and so on. Therefore, their vision, their longing for and patience toward getting a resolution is limited to the now. If I am uncomfortable, I must find comfort now. If I am hungry, I must eat now. If I am passed over for a promotion, I must quit my job today and leave angry because they do not appreciate all I have done for them, those bastards, and so on.

While there is a great value in learning to appreciate the now – the moment you are currently living in – because it is the only thing you can truly count on, restricting your views and tying your actions and emotions solidly to the now prevent you from seeing the world and your place in it as it truly is. You begin to think and act without perspective because you do what you feel is right – right now.

As an example, in our first scenario you are driving. You are minding your own business. Another driver comes out of nowhere, zooms past you, cuts you off, scaring you half to death, causing you to swerve and possibly causing you to drift off the road. In our second scenario, you are driving. You have a sick child in the car and you are trying to get he child to the hospital. Time is of the essence. You swerve in and out of traffic, going faster than you should. A slow car in front of you refuses to yield the right of way to you. When you finally get the chance, you zoom by them and head on to the hospital, but in doing so, you cause them to swerve, scaring them half to death and nearly forcing them off the road. Who should karma punish in each case? The drive who cuts you off? The driver who blocks you from your goal? You, for nearly running someone off the road?

Who is to say?

It could be effectively argued that karma put that slow driver in front of you just long enough for you to avoid a potential catastrophe down the road, had you gotten there too early.

Remember, karma can punish, but also reward.

So, you see Astrid, yes, karma can be a bitch, when it is inconvenient to us. It can also be a delicious club sandwich with chips. It can also be a roadblock that takes us off our usual and predictable path so that we might see something new, or experience something we haven’t before. It can also be that stranger that sits next to us at the bus stop. The one that we don’t talk to, but politely acknowledge as another person just trying to get through the day, and we leave it at that.

The greater task for us, is to focus less on determining an appropriate level of revenge against those we feel have wronged us – or – worrying about what we might have done to deserve  the unwavering eye of karma’s “ruthlessness” (although we are convinced it is nothing), and focus more on understanding the role we play in the world and in the lives of others with a more universal perspective.

Understand that when you throw a rock into the water, the are ripples. Those ripples will travel out from the center of the action you created and they will do what they do until they fade away and the next rock is thrown. The only control you have is how hard you throw the rock…or if you throw the rock at all. That is karma.

Peace to you – Banaba

Something to Ponder – 2

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Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely Mountain.

Hello friends! Today our question comes from Myrtle Trisk of Portnoy, North Dakota.

“Dear Banaba,” she writes. “Why are people so stupid?”

To my friend, Myrtle I say, “Because.”

I say because, because there is really no better answer to that question, at least as Myrtle poses it.

It is what some might refer to as a “loaded question.” For without context, the ability to assist her in reaching a higher level of enlightenment is greatly diminished. Despite our very best efforts, to try and divine a satisfactory response that helps illuminate the pathway to resolution related to her specific need is very much like trying to lasso a single star in the great universe that surrounds us.

Let us try instead, to better understand what drives such a question, to then see if a more reasonable answer will present itself.

First, Myrtle is not alone in her search for the answer to this question. Many write to Banaba asking the very same thing with varying levels of related information. But the question itself seems to be more an expression of frustration. The motivation to ask the question comes when understanding the actions of those around us – both in circles close to us and those in representational groups we are forced to recognize – eludes us.

In most cases, it is clear that a person or persons have acted, or are acting, in a way that conflicts with what we see as our own definition of common sense. We see them as behaving contrary to what we deem as “smart” and the action is so far away from “smart” that in order to easily classify them for the sake of discussion, we must ordain them as “stupid.”

As an example, let’s say that many users of the Internet start responding to a common and widely dispersed post that asks, “What kind of cat are you?” You begin to see tens, then hundreds, then thousands of responses from some of your very closest friends and family members to throngs of total strangers, which define for you, and each other, what kind of cat they are.

We know, of course, they are not currently and never will be a cat. Let’s say too, that you do not like cats in the least. Let us say finally, that you find this kind of mindless group exercise to be a fruitless and meaningless waste of time.

You will certainly not be playing the game, for you could care less about what kind of cat you are. In fact, we could go as far to say that your strongest desire might be to post something completely contrary (like being a dead cat) that would wrinkle the noses of those who are playing the game.

However, since you see yourself as better than that, and you are not interested in dealing with the potential rage of a group of angry cat lovers, you do nothing. That lack of satisfactory action and the inability to put an end to the distraction causes frustration. In the worst case, this frustration can make one very angry to the point of wanting to break something, or wanting to punch someone in the face. But again, because you are so reasonable, you boil that frustration down to the point where all you have left is to ask, “Why are people so stupid?”

You don’t really need an answer.

You need a better question.

You need to release frustration that comes with trying to figure out what you may never know. You need to understand that the energy put into figuring out why people do what they do, may never result in an answer that gives you great insights, for the moment you think you’ve seen it all, a whole new crop of stupid is almost certainly guaranteed to rise up and greet you.

Thus, the better question for you Myrtle and so many others; the better possible pathway to a deeper layer of inner peace may be:

Why do I allow people who act contrary to my personal sense of, or definition of intelligence, distract me so that it restricts the progress I make on my personal journey to enlightenment?

Remember too, the you may at one time or another, do something that falls outside of someone else’s personal definition of smart. You will be a distraction to their focus, which feeds the pool of their frustrations, and they may one day write Banaba a letter about you.

Peace to you  – Banaba

Something to Ponder – 1

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Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely mountain.

Hello friends, today I bring to you some thoughts on a question sent to me from a Mr. John Tanner of Mesquite, Texas.

“Dear Banaba,” he writes. “The question that constantly comes to my mind is simply, what the Hell? I mean, as I look around me, I wonder…seriously, what the Hell?”

To my new friend John I say, “What the Hell, indeed.”

Your question is really most profound.

Many people around the world have asked it again and again throughout all of time. Some have used it more as an expression of their frustrations and in more of a rhetorical sense while others seriously and earnestly ask it because they would really like to know in that moment – “What the Hell!?”

No matter what in your life brought to where you needed to ask, the question as you ask it certainly deserves an answer.

I can tell you that the answer is not easy, nor is it overly complex. The answer can also be as individual as the person who asks it and may be affected by the variable context in which it is asked. So, there could be over a billion possible answers.

But, let us not try to boil the ocean today. Instead, today let me tell you that there are basically three answers to your question.

Number one:

In a literal sense, the answer relates to Hell itself, of course. For some reason, things in your life start to move in a direction that you feel ill prepared for. It may appear to be something that is either truly difficult to resolve or just too much of an inconvenience at that point in time for you to want to deal with it. Mentally, you may feel as though Hell has literally opened up and brought forth this horrible thing just to ruin your day.

In many ways, you are correct.

As an example, you are driving to an appointment and are running late, but you have it all planned out and you still have time to get to your meeting. Then you realize you need to pick something up at the store. You can adjust your plan, but that makes your schedule even tighter. It’s doable, of course, but much tighter. Then you find yourself in a traffic jam. It’s bad. You will miss your appointment, you will not get to the store and in fact, it looks like you will miss your next appointment as well and get home late.

“What the Hell!?”

It seems unlikely – if Hell is as we understand it to be – that Hell, or whoever runs it would select you out of everyone who needs their compass adjusted, to ruin your day. However, if that is how you feel, that is your reality, and that is ultimately what you must deal with.

Number Two:

If we further explore the more rhetorical side of the question, viewing it less as a question and more of an expression of emotion, Hell in this case may be no less real, but is then applied to the thing you see or encounter.

As an example, you are walking along minding your own business when a speeding truck barrels down the street and plows into a box of baby rabbits.

What the Hell!? Am I right?

In this case, you are making an expression that applies to the horror, or the Hellish scene, that unfolds before you. Unless those are your bunnies, you are probably not directly affected in this case, but the horror for you is still very real. You do not have to deal with the circumstances of the situation intimately, but you will have to learn how to process what you have seen so that in some way you can accept that the thing occurred and can now move forward.

Number Three:

As a good friend once told me, “Hey Bro, sometimes shit is just messed up.”

Again, this leans less toward an answer and more toward an expression. But it can also be taken as an ending statement, like a period at the end of a sentence.

You may not understand what happened or why, no matter how “messed up” it is. In this sense, your “What the Hell?” is merely an acknowledgement of the event. A stake in the ground that allows you to take the next step into your world without being eternally bound to the event.

To think of it another way, it is giving yourself the right to move past what might be seen as the futility of over analysis, complicating the very simple or getting stuck in something you have little or no ability to change.

As an example, you come across a lavish tray of freshly baked cookies. You know you do not need a cookie, but that knowledge is nothing against the desire to have a cookie. You could spend many valuable minutes of your life debating the pros and cons of eating a cookie, when in actuality, you have already decided to eat the cookie and you are merely going through the exercise of internal debate to soothe your conscious mind once the cookie is consumed.

To resolve this conflict, you say, “What the Hell?” and you eat the cookie.

So you see John, despite your frustration in the moment that inspired this question, you will likely encounter a great many more. Being able to answer your question, and being able to accept that answer will be the key to a greater inner calm and a better overall life.

Peace to you – Banaba