Day 593 OUT OF Beijing: Hidden Gems of SF Tourism Tips.

 

A close up of the Giant Buddha on the second level of the Hua Zang Si Buddhist Temple.

A close up of the Giant Buddha on the second level of the Hua Zang Si Buddhist Temple.

 

Jill’s site, SF Tourism Tips, is in a never ending process of being updated and improved.  Jill wanted to update her “Hidden Gems” page and so we decided to head into San Francisco for the day.

I really admire Jill’s trait of never being happy with “enough” and always wanting to better her site and the experience for the people that visit it and want to learn more about San Francisco and how to improve their trip to our lovely city.

We went into San Francisco, by Golden Gate Transit from Petaluma, and then walked around the rest of the day.  We did have to catch one bus ($2.25 USD) to the Columbarium in the Richmond District, but otherwise all our travel was on foot and for free.  Since we are car-less, we didn’t have to pay a toll to get into SF ($6 USD on the GG Bridge), parking ($2-3 USD per hour) or deal with worries about car crashes, gas, or tickets.  The cost to get into SF on Golden Gate transit was $10.75 per person.  A very good exchange for comfort, relaxation and 1.75 hours to either talk or check emails as we rode in on a very comfortable and clean bus.

A longer shot of the bridge with the new movable divider on the left.

A longer shot of the bridge with the new movable divider on the left.

This is also part of our frugal living in that we want to see how realistic it is to live car-less and only use mass transit.  We actually really enjoy mass transit and we’ve met some wonderful people who are traveling around the world and living a upwardly mobile vagabond life like we are at the same time.  I also had a great conversation with a bus driver that will be retiring in one year and his hopes to do a ’round-the-world trip right after his job is over.  We talked about where to go, what to see, and I sent him some links on how to get great deals on flights and cruises.  I’m hoping we catch the same bus he drives, again, and we can see how he has progressed on his plans!

Our first stop was the Columbarium and it was magnificent.  It is one grave site in San Francisco that is taking interments and it is kept up beautifully.  Harvey Milk’s memorial is there as is Carlos Santana’s father’s ashes.  There are also many other people, and memorials, that are stunning and touching.  It sounds a bit strange to think of this as a place to visit and enjoy, but it is, and we actually were there during an interment and the family and friends were quite joyous and happy.  If you are interested in seeing it, make sure to call ahead and ask for Emmit to give you a tour.  He has been with the Columbarium for many, many years and knows stories and the history like no one else.  We will have a tour when we go back next time with him to learn more about this amazing structure and final resting place.

We walked over to Pizza Orgasmica and had their lunch special of salad, beer and a pizza for $10.50 each.  It was delicious and utterly filling.  I also was able to check in on one of my favorite apps, Untappd, and add the beers that Jill and I tried for lunch.  It is a fun social app and keeps track of how many beers you’ve had and gives badges for different categories.

Jill's pesto pizza.  Yummy!

Jill’s pesto pizza. Yummy!

 

We then headed down to Hua Zang Si Buddhist Temple.  This is a Buddhist Temple in the middle of the Mission District.  That, alone, would make sure it is a hidden gem.  It was originally a Lutheran Church and later became a temple.  We were blown away by the two Buddhas, especially that massive one on the second level, and the friendliness of the monks that were at the temple that day.  Most of them didn’t speak a lot of English but they seemed so happy and content that words weren’t needed to express what they were feeling.  As we walked back outside into the Mission District, we saw this gorgeous mural of Carlos Santana.  The cultures are so different and yet they are side by side.

 

After the temple, we headed down to Southern Pacific Brewery in the SOMA district.  Again, this was all just walking around and seeing the sites so we could experience it as if we were tourists and make sure to give people a “true to life” impression of what they can expect as they cruise around the Streets of San Francisco.  By the way, where are Mike Douglas and Karl Malden when you need them?

Our refreshing beers at Southern Pacific Brewing.

Our refreshing beers at Southern Pacific Brewing.

 

This brewery is only about 3 years old and it is inside a very cool tin roof hangar type building.  The beer is good and the food seems to be fairly priced.  We didn’t eat any food while we were there but had a great time talking to the bartender and just digging the atmosphere.  It will be added to a new page Jill is writing about all the different brewpubs in San Francisco.  Did you know there are over 15 at this point with 10 more scheduled to open during 2015?

By the way, this was also the same day we say the Austin Healey and the Tiny Tesla I’ve just posted about.  There is so much to do in San Francisco when you just walk and observe so check out SF Tourism Tips and find out all the newest information for all your San Francisco tips!

Day 297 in Bejiing: DSM Diagnosis: Cab Anxiety NOS

I work with cilents that often are dealing with anxiety.

It is interesting work because anxiety can usually be cured within about 5-10 sessions, if not faster.

Some people take longer but cognitive behavioral therapy has been proven to be the front line therapy and even more effective than medications.

I love doing this work because I love seeing people overcome obstacles and figure out that they are much more strong and able to deal with issues then they originally thought.

They also learn skills so that they can master other anxieties and keep moving forward into the life that they want.

By the way, I’m not a big fan of diagnosing people but it sometimes help.  This is where the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) comes in as that is the huge tome that classifies people according to the issue they are dealing with at that time.

Personally, I’d rather the person tell me what is going on and then figure out what strengths they have and how they’ve overcome issues like these before.  I’m strength based, evidence based and behavioral based in my practice.  I think people like that and understand they are more than their problems.

Just as you are more than what you present when you have the flu, people are much more than they present with when they come to a visit with me.  They are all the positive that the DSM ignores becuase it is based on looking for problems and issues, not strengths.

I use it for what is helpful and don’t use what is not helpful to my clients or to me.

Strangely enough, cabs were never a fear for me.

That changed in the last two days.

The weird part is that it isn’t the cab drivers that scare me, but the slow and well mannered ones that do it.

I actually was driving in a cab, two days ago, where the driver went across the median twice in about 3 miles.  I started laughing and thought, “this guy really knows how to get around traffic and slow drivers!  I’m very impressed.” 

I honestly wasn’t scared at all and felt relieved that the driver wasn’t wasting my time and money.

The last two rides I’ve had have been with incredibly mellow, calm and law abiding drivers.

It is freaking me out!

I’m not used to cabs letting other cars in, slowing down when pedestrians are in the road (cars have, without question, the right of way anywhere they want to go in China), and not driving on the other side of the road or honking like mad when they have to wait for more than .0000000000001th of a second when a light turns green.  Trust me, the drivers here make NYC and CA drivers look positively serene.

However, the last two rides I’ve taken have allowed me to remember when I used to worry about driving and how dangerous it was because these guys are so safe.

It is a new type of anxiety, which doesn’t really worry me so i’m not sure I can even classify it as anxiety, and it makes me laugh.

I will just sit down, breathe a little bit, and enjoy the ride.

The Buddha wrote that, “Desire is the cause of all suffering” and I guess I can let go of my desire to control the cab and how the driver drives through Beijing.

On the other hand, Robert Frost wrote, “The best way out is always through.”

I guess that applies equaly to cab rides, traffic and life.

Maybe I can, like most people in life, find a nice balance between the two and accept what happens in each moment and enjoy the ride.

Day 281 in Beijing: Addictions.

Many people have addictions of one type or another.

Most people know, even if they won’t admit it to others, if they are addicted to something.

It affects their daily life, their work, their free time and their state of mind.

I’ve got a bit of an addiction also.

I’m trying to break it.

I like reading comments on articles from e-news sites.

I used to be very addicted to my righteousness and telling others how to live their lives.

It seems most of the people posting comments on these sites also feel the same way.

Let me be specific, they don’t feel the same way I do about how someone should live their life, just that the person commenting knows better than the person living their own life how to live it.

It is a confusing sentence but that is what it is.  I’m okay with that.

I’ve been attempting to break this habit with very little success because I haven’t put a lot of effort into it.

Mostly I look at the comments and think about how serious, mean and judgmental they are and then ignore them.

I’ve been wondering, in the last week or so, why I even look at them.

I think it is an addiction to the self-righteousness that I had before dying a slow death.

I can remind myself that I’m, mostly, not like that anymore and also feel somewhat superior to the people that are commenting.

This is, actually, rather self-serving and yet very destructive.

I’ve decided not to read the comments for the rest of the month and note whether I feel more positive or less positive about my state of mind or if there is no change at all.

Life is an experiment and I’m going to run one on myself.

I’ve also noticed, on social media sites that I’m a part of, that people seem to want to pull me back into the persona I was before I made this change to be more positive.

It is another test of my strength against the addiction of hubris and self-righteousness that I have learned to check myself on and agree with them and then move on.

Agreeing with someone, and finding even a tiniest bit of truth in what they are saying, tends to negate almost any argument.

When I first started praticing this about 7 years ago I found this quite difficult to do in the moment.

I learned a very simple way to set my mind to agree with someone from my supervisor, Brac Selph.

I don’t think he even realized he was doing this, but anytime someone said anything to him in our group supervision, he would immediately answer with, “You’re right.”

I noticed this and started doing it also since when I tell someone, “You’re right” I then choose to find something to agree with them and that reduces their desire to argue with me because we have just agreed.

You may choose not to do this, or you may think I’m incorrect in my assumptions, and you might be right, but for me, it just makes sense.

I find it is not always easy, especially with someone I tend to disagree with strongly, but it saves me energy, time and other problems that come up because of disagreements.

Also, if the other person is incredibly argumentative, they tend to get tired of talking to me because I don’t give them much to argue with.  They go find other people that fit their way of thinking and being.

That used to be me.  I decided on New Year’s Day to try to be more positive, constructive and caring when I comment or speak to people.

I think I’ve succeeded greatly.

And this is just one more step in my journey towards a more fulfilling and wonderful life.

Feel free to join along when, and if, you decide to come along!

 

Day 256 in Beijing: How to be a vegetarian in China.

Buddhist Beads=Vegetarian

Buddhist Beads=Vegetarian

This may sound easy to most people not living in China, but it is quite difficult to be vegetarian in China.

Obviously, Jill and I speak very little Mandarin so that is a major issues in our trying to order food here and help the servers to realize we don’t eat meat of any type.  We also don’t eat fish, shrimp or any shellfish.

This makes it very hard to eat at any restaurant that isn’t a Western based restaurant because so much of Chinese food has loads of meat in it.

There are the customary pictures on the menu that usually provide some relief but many of the sauces have animal or fish sauces and so our vegetarian ideals are crushed.

On Chinese New Year, we happened to run into a 7-11 type store here in Beijing as we were hungry and the party we were going to attend wouldn’t start for another few hours.

Almost every restaurant was closed and a 7-11 rip off store was all we could find at that time.

It was an auspicious start to the Year of the Horse now that I look back on it.

There was an America order a steamed bun and he was speaking fluent Mandarin to the clerks.  They were laughing and joking around as Jill and I bought some potato chips and nuts to eat.

He left and then came back in.  I asked if he had forgotten something and he said, “Nope, these buns are just delicious!  I want another one.”

We told him that we also wanted some but are vegetarians and don’t know what to say.

He laughed and said, “I’m vegetarian too.  I have tried to get people to understand that being vegetarian means no meat at all but they usually tell me, ‘It is just a little bit of pork’ after I’ve started eating.  It is hopeless to try to use Mandarin to tell them what you want.  They just don’t get it.”

We asked him how he does it and he responded with, “Buy a set of Buddhist prayer beads.  Wear them on your wrist.  Then, when you order, point to them and they will immediately understand since Buddhists don’t eat any living creatures.  You won’t even have to say a word.”

We thought this was genius and started laughing at the simplicity of it.

I’ve a firm belief there is almost always a new way to “hack they system” and figure out a more efficient, and inventive, way of doing things.  It is only when we get stuck in a linear thought formation that we stop ourselves from seeing the other possibilities to change.

We exchanged information and thanked him for his help.

By the way, we each had one of the vegetarian steamed buns and he was right, the were amazing!

We will now be able to order more of them since we know how to order and not get steamed buns filled with meat!

Day 239 in Beijing: Pondering the Past, Present and Future.

Jill and me at the Forbidden City.

Jill and me at the Forbidden City.

Chinese New Year is tonight.

I sit and ponder what culture, family, and happiness is today.

I look to the past and see how different we are compared to when extended families were the norm and most people lived with 3 or possibly 4 generations under the same roof.  In the West, this is pretty rare but, in China, this still occurs.

Then again, in China, there are kids living with their grandparents, and parents having to live hundreds, and possibly thousands, of miles away, to make ends meet.

As I sit in Beijing, with Jill, and we are getting ready to go out to a hotel and watch hours of fireworks and firecrackers (Beijing’s Chinese New Year’s fireworks are the world’s largest unorganized fireworks display every year) I realize how lucky I am.  In fact, at 8 am the day of Chinese New Year’s, as I’m writing this, firecrackers are already going off.

This will last for 10 days straight.  I has been recommended by friends that live in Beijing that we would be smart to buy earplugs so we can sleep.

My life, in almost every way, is exactly the life I want to live.  The only problematic issue is being apart from my family and friends back home.  This becomes quite obvious when someone passes away or a wonderful occurrence happens like a wedding that I will miss because of the distance.

Jill’s grandmother died this week, at the age of 97.  She wasn’t able to go home because of the long flights, then long drives, and the timing of everything.  So we celebrated Grandma Helen with a few of other dear friends and talked about her life.

I believe that this way of  of “family” that expatriates learn to accept and master if they want to stay stable and content living far from people they love.

Some people don’t like being this far from their “family” and yet others love it.

Living in Beijing, I’ve found a new definition to what is “My family.”

That is all there is, in a way, yet there is so much more.  My family includes my father, Michael, my mother, Judy, my sister Stacy, and my brothers, Robert and David.

If you extend it a little farther it also includes my step-father, Phillip and his son, Kody.

If you then extend it farther it includes my aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, brother in laws, sister in laws and other people that continue outward into the human race.

Do I include my friends?

Do I include my enemies?

Do I include people I have never met?

Do I include people that I will never meet?

I think of the Buddhist belief that we are all tied together and there is no self in regards to caring about, and connecting with, others.

There is a classic saying “. . .that if a butterfly chances to flap his wings in Beijing in March, then, by August, hurricane patterns in the Atlantic will be completely different.”

Strangely enough this is often mistaken for Buddhist lore but it was stated by an MIT meteorologist named Edward Lorenz in 1906.

I love how science and Buddhism are like cousins, far removed from each other, but actually closely intertwined.

Most of us, at least in the Western World, think of ourselves as more individual and fairly limited to a family connection.  I would suggest otherwise.  I believe that we are all connected.  If you trace my DNA and your DNA back to a certain point, we most likely all merge at some place.

According to the story of Adam and Eve, all humanity descends from two people.  Other religions have similar ideas.

As we progress scientifically, I am interested to see what science finds out about our genetics and our connections to each other.

I think that is why I’m so fascinated by Buddhist belief and the style of thinking that the Dalai Lama uses.  He said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “If Buddhism has a belief that science is not able to prove incorrect, then we should believe it.  However, if Buddhism has a belief, and science does prove it incorrect, we must discard it and take on a new belief.”

As noted before, I work as a behavioral therapist.  This belief is one of the reasons that behavioral therapy is so useful to my clients.

I also use behavioral therapy on myself for the same reason.  One of the tenets I learned from David Burns, MD, and my supervisor Brac Selph, PhD, was that I had to go through all of the interventions that I would ask my clients to go through.

I would learn more empathy for them and understanding of what they are trying to achieve and how hard it is.  I have done, and continue to do this, and I find more evidence, each time, for the method I use and the responses my clients get to heal themselves with an amazing amount joy.

I look at my past and wonder how much easier life would be if I could just learn, adapt and discard illogical, useless and harmful information and feelings instead of holding onto them and causing damage to myself, others and the universe.

I am doing that more and more each day and can quantify exactly how much better my life is now.

I welcome you to do the same on this, the first day of the Chinese New Year and Year of the Horse.

Day 232 in Beijing: New Year’s Day.

I apologize for jumping around regarding dates, times and locations of my blog posts.

I tend to write my blogs about a week or two in advance because I don’t want to miss any days.

Being that I have a full time job and a full time life, if I wrote each blog, each day, I’d fall behind and forget what the heck I had written about, want to write about and will write about.

I’d also have stacks and stacks of photos sitting in my folders and unused because I don’t have the time to edit them in that moment.

This is especially true when I go on vacation or travel.

Lastly, the internet connections are not always reliable so it also interferes with my ability to do timely blog posts.

Therefore, this is a blog post about how I spent my New Year’s Day evening.

As you know, we celebrated New Year’s Eve in Singapore watching the fireworks down by the Marina Float with about 200,000 of our “closest” friends.  There was an 8 minute fireworks display and I’ve now seen NYE fireworks in the USA, Australia, Japan, and Malaysia.  I will see the Chinese New Year’s fireworks in just week from now in Beijing.  I’m looking forward to it although I’m a bit apprehensive of the 10 days of sleepless nights when fireworks are continually exploding all around the city.

Jill and I were wandering around Singapore on New Year’s Day and just relaxing.

We had spotted the Thekchen Choling Buddhist Temple about two blocks away from our hotel and since we were visiting temples, mosques and churches on this visit, we decided to stop by and see what was happening.

Luckily enough, they were having a special chanting session since it was the start of the lunar new year that day!

Jill, being the person she is, had people walk up to her and start talking to her as we waited.  A few people talked to me also but I was sitting on the men’s side of the aisle while she was closer to the door and sitting on the women’s side of the aisle.

As I was talking to someone, Lama Thubten Namdrol Dorje Tulku walked up beside Jill and talked to her for a few moments.  He then handed her a book that he had written.  He had just returned from learning with His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama and had a feeling of such calm and peace that it emanated from him.

The book, Direct Expressions, is wonderful.  I read it on our bus ride up to Melaka a few days later.  I highly recommend it as it is based in mindfulness and caring for your fellow human being and, in what seems to be part of the Buddhist tradition, very humorous and jovial terms of language and belief.  It also shows great respect for the beliefs and traditions of Buddhist life.

One man started playing a drum and ringing a bell to announce the start of the chanting. People that had been wearing shorts and tshirts just a few minutes before, appeared in gorgeous black or orange robes and sat down in the chairs around us.

Here is a quick video of the call to chant:

The chanting started and the Lama sat by the drum.  He looked around a few times and as he rose to move to a different position I saw him smile.  He seems to be a genuinely happy person.

One reason I’m interested in Buddhism is that behavioral therapy has recently been adapting Buddhist ideology into its practice.  This is where the idea of acceptance and choice is so apparent in the work that I do with my clients and the work I do on myself:  I can choose to make a change, which will cause suffering of one type, or stay the same, which will cause suffering of another type.

If I choose to stay the same, I accept that I am making this choice and try to do so without regret, guilt or other emotions that would cause negative reactions.  Or, if those emotions appear, notice them, welcome them and then let them go and continue on my way.

I mention that either changing or not changing will cause suffering because to live is to suffer.

This may sound like a terrible idea but it is actually quite freeing.  I know that I will suffer, and the suffering will end, so I can use that to continue, move through the suffering, and know that suffering will come again and be ready for the experience.

I love my mom.  However, when she dies, I will suffer.  I will suffer for the things unsaid, the things said and everything in between.  This is life.  I can do the most I can to make sure she knows I love her (and I know she’s reading this blog so I know she will see this) but there is only so much.  Life is impermanent and so the ability to cherish what we have now, in the present, and let go of the past and fears of the future, allow us to be truly alive.

The ability to live in the now is all we truly have because we can die at any moment.  Again, this can be a terrifying reality or it can be an enlivening one.  I choose to be excited by this belief because this means I can cherish, and relish, each and every moment I’m alive.  I live with the feeling of joy and excitement at what each day will bring and where I will go.

As the chanting continued, the kind man sitting next to me kept showing me the words, in Chinese and and in English, that they were chanting but since I don’t speak Chinese I didn’t understand them and just listened and tried to take in the feeling of calm and comfort.

We stayed for about half of the chanting and then quietly got up and left.  I felt some guilt at leaving because it seemed to be so relaxing and generous of them to welcome us.  However, I realized this was just an emotion and I had enjoyed my time, and hoped that the people with me had enjoyed theirs, and that was how life continues to be.

I’ve posted two videos of the chanting.  The first is in normal speed and the second goes into double time:

and later the chants are done in double time:

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 228 in Beijing: Linear and Circular Spectrum.

Make your choice and see what you can become.  The options are endless.

Make your choice and see what you can become. The options are endless.

I am often asked by people about how to be happy in their job, their relationships and their life.

My belief system is grounded in behavioral therapy and has been further adapted to include other methodologies and mindfulness.

This does not mean it has a religious or spiritual belief behind it but that each moment is impermanent and we have a choice to live our lives, by choosing our thoughts and behaviors, which affect our emotions, each nanosecond that we live on this planet.

I used to search for jobs, friendships and relationships that would be “the one.”  The more I looked, the more I found that no matter how much I believe one job is better than another, one person is better than another or that “this new thing” will allow me to be happy, I was incorrect.  My hypothesis was that something else would make me happy when I wasn’t willing to do the hard work to re-frame my automatic negative thoughts and my biases to the outside world.  I wanted everyone else to change instead of realizing that it is my fault, in a very positive way, for each and every interaction that I have and what the outcome will be to that interaction.

We all have this ability to be exactly who we are and what we are right now.

We are that job we don’t like, which is a job someone else would love to have.

We are that person we hate, who is that person someone else would love to love.

We are all those things that we despise.

I was the thing I despised because of my ego and my insecurities.

In the end, we may just be specks of dust and atoms that scatter back into the universe.

This is exceptionally freeing to me because that means I can live my life with less regret and less pressure to have to “be something” or “prove something” that doesn’t really count in the long term.

This allows me to take on as many roles, and personalities, as I want and make changes whenever I choose to make them.

Many people I know see their life or their life choices as a linear spectrum.

They see it as a flat line that goes in one direction.

There is good on one end and bad on the other.

I prefer to take the ends of those lines and bend it into a circle.  I see it as those ends are not the opposite.  They are actually very close together and can oftentimes be interchanged.

I’m not saying that every US president is the same but, in many ways, they are probably not that different when you look at it:  both human, both “male”, both work in politics, both think they are doing the right thing, both believe they are chosen to lead, etc.

I recently went swimming with sharks in Malaysia.  Some were about 3 feet long and I was right beside them without any protection.  I also went skydiving after I received my Marriage and Family Therapist License as a way to prove to myself that fear and anxiety are lies and I have a choice to overcome what I choose to overcome.  I continue to do that every second of my life and love how my mind and body respond to the mastery of a new skill.

I feel it is my responsibility to take the positive in me and let it flow into what I do.  If I don’t, I then encourage negative energy from other people to build and take control of my life.

I encourage you, in your own way and style, to be willing to feel the fear in new adventures, to make mistakes, and to revel in the changes that result.

 

Day 223 in Beijing: DeHappy and BeHppy!

This place is happy 24 hours a day and 365 days a year!

This place is happy 24 hours a day and 365 days a year!

A friend of Jill’s has an app that is called BeHppy!

It is a stream of pictures, taken by anonymous people that have downloaded it, that then post pictures that make them happy.  The viewer can then click a smiley face to show the poster that their picture made them happy.

People have posted pictures all over the world and of many different things and events.

Jill and I have been posting pictures of our travels and people seem to enjoy them.

One of person that posts always finds pictures of things that are “smiling” even though they aren’t people or animals.  It is quite fun to see how people can interpret smiling and happiness in their own way.

Jill’s friend, Aline, is the owner and founder and a wonderful person.  Do her a favor and download it and start using it.  It is really fun and easy and just click the link below:

BeHppy!

I like this app a lot since I’m a firm believer in behavioral interventions allowing people to change their thoughts and emotions.  There are studies that show that by simply looking in a mirror and smiling for 5 minutes, you can change a person’s emotion.  I’ve tried it before and actually prescribed this as a technique and I know that it works.  If you are interested in reading more about this, this is a good primer: One Smile (Only One) Can Lift A Mood.

It quotes Daniel Goleman and Paul Ekman.  Both are very noted researchers and scientists.  Dr. Ekman actually had a tv show called “Lie To Me” about his theory of the facial recognition of micro-emotions that was interesting and fun.   I’ve read a few of his books and taken his micro-emotion recognition tests.

Most people score about 3 out of 15.

I scored an average of 13 out of 15.

I think this is because I tend to focus on people’s faces and study their emotions as a behavioral therapist.  I want to know exactly when something changes and how that shows up.  I look for the tiniest trace of a change and then try to call my client’s attention to it so they can see that emotions can be changed in an instant and that nothing is permanent.  A large part of my behavioral therapy practice is using empathy constructively and helping people learn acceptance of themselves, their choices and of others.

As for happiness, I’ve often found that people want to be happy without really defining what that term means to them.  To me, happiness is finding contentment.

I’ve noticed that when I’m content, I’m happy.  I find it hard to find happiness first or believe that it is a constant.

Without happiness, how could we know sadness?

Without sadness, how could we know happiness?

Or any emotion in between.

As Jill and I have traveled, we’ve searched for pictures to post on BeHppy of words or images that have the word “Happy” in them.

Here are just a few.

I hope you enjoy them and find happiness, contentment or whatever emotion would benefit you in this moment.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 219 in Beijing: Lily’s Vegetarian Kitchen.

Buddhist monk.  Check. Blessed food.  Check. Delicious.  Check.

Buddhist monk. Check.
Blessed food. Check.
Delicious. Check.

Jill and I have decided it is time to start becoming more healthy and we’ve decided to try being vegetarian at this time.

It actually started on New Year’s Day, even though it wasn’t a new year’s resolution, and it seems to have been quite easy so far.

Strangely enough, we decided this before we went to a the Thekchen Choling Buddhist temple on New Year’s Day to hear the chanting that they perform for the new lunar month.  But that is blog post for another day.

Being that Buddhists don’t eat any type of animal, and I then read the wonderful book, Direct Expressions written by their Lama Thubten Namdrol Dorje, and agreed with his viewpoints on health, treating other creatures with respect, and not wanting to hurt others, and therefore not wanting to hurt myself, and it just all fell into place.

I’ve done stints of being a vegetarian for up to 6 months, and have found, when I set my mind to it, it is actually quite easy.

One of the reasons is that I was in a pretty horrific car crash when I was 4 years old and have no sense of smell because of my head injury.  I also believe that my sense of taste is probably at about 50% of what most people can experience.

The silver lining is that I’m not tempted by smells of food as I walk by stores and restaurants, and therefore, find the ability to follow through on this change easier than most people since they are usually tempted and it is harder to ignore those senses.

One of the restaurants we went to on our vacation to Malaysia was Lily’s Vegetarian Restaurant.  It was only 2 blocks from our hotel, The Sunway Georgetown, and it was fantastic.

We tried the local Penang style food, even though they had vegetarian fried chicken, which looked amazing, and were blown away.

Everything was fresh, delicious, with just the right amount of spices.  We also had soursop juice and lime juice for our drinks.  Jill has become addicted to lime juice and I’ve become addicted to soursop.  We have no idea how we will deal with the withdrawal symptoms when we return to Beijing in just a few days!

All I can say is if we can find vegetarian food in Beijing that is at all similar to the food we’ve found here in Malaysia, we will not have a problem staying vegetarian and being much more healthy in the upcoming year.

ps. If you’d like to read Direct Expressions, by Lama Thubten Namdrol Dorje, he has put it online in the form of a PDF.  I highly recommend it as it is a wonderful read and he has a fantastic sense of humor and humility.

Here is a direct link to his book:  http://english.thekchencholing.org/wp-content/uploads/direct_expression_eng.pdf

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.