One Brick at a Time

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The beginning of a new year has become the traditional time to evaluate our lives. So let’s do it! And let’s use a brick as our multi-purpose metaphor.

As a starting point, we’ll take this well-known quote by actor Will Smith: “You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say ‘I’m going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built.’ You don’t start there. You say, ‘I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. You do that every single day. And soon you have a wall.”  There’s a lot of wisdom in these words, but let’s examine brick laying more closely as it applies to our meditative and spiritual perspectives.

First of all, who are we?

When we reflect on who or what we are, we might imagine that we are a person carrying 5 piles of bricks on our shoulders. These bricks might represent the five aggregates in buddhist psychology —  form, feeling, perception, fabrication, and consciousness. We hold tight to these constantly changing piles of bricks trying to keep these activities from changing.

We can let these aggregates/bricks weigh us down. So why not instead of carrying piles of bricks on our shoulders, we take them off and lay them along the ground and simply observe and adjust them.

Why am I where I am today?

Let’s go back to the brick wall. Some of us may need to dismantle our wall and start a radical new wall. Others might just have one brick to start with. Others of us may have already built a beautiful brick wall, basking in our glory, only to see ourselves like Humpty Dumpty, falling, out of our carelessness or mistakes. Or, we might be building around others who are effecting us with their rubble, their taller walls, or poorly made walls. Then it’s vital to practice non-judgement and patience as we build our own.

Or, we may have fallen from no apparent reason at all to us! That’s just how it appears sometimes. Humpty Dumpty couldn’t be put together again when he fell off his brick wall. However, we can find that there always is a way to start over — again and again and again — but  under different conditions and possibly with different aims in building our new “biggest, baddest, greatest wall”.

Then what direction should we take?

Now that we’ve laid our aggregate bricks on the ground, we can use these bricks rather than have them use us, to construct a beautiful pathway. For example, we might see the pathway we construct as the buddhist eightfold path: upright view, thought, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration. When we apply our concentration and mindfulness through the practice of meditation, it can have good effect on the other bricks on the path.

Is this a perfect “yellow brick road”? Not quite, there will be bumps and road blocks along the way, but the sense of well-being and inner happiness that continue to develop will be worth the practice of these meditative life skills. Once you have a committed practice you can broaden your road and even jump on and off the pavement to move skillfully through many modes of life situations.

How can we merge spirituality with success?

There is nothing wrong with wanting to go first or be the best, provided that our intention is to help pave the way for others along the way! We can help make others’ paths more easy — we can give them a little mortar or offer a brick.

There’s a quote attributed to the Sufi sage Rumi: “Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.” But then, why do some of us not get what we work hard for and want? We can’t all be great hip-hop artists or brain surgeons, but our passion for music might manifest in a different way in our work or at home. Our ability to be deft with our hands and make quick decisions might not manifest as becoming a surgeon, but instead as a wonderful conscientious activist homemaker.

So what about inner happiness?

Let’s start building with the brick of breath. Breath is form. We take one breath at a time, aware of the moment, aware also of our body, which is also form — with perhaps a little smile on our face — and be happy, that’s all. Be happy with ourselves as we are.  Oprah Winfrey is quoted as saying, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

Perhaps we can each become a BRICK HOUSE of Inner Happiness! Happy new year! Peace.


Meditación y Atención Plena en el Ironbound: Clases bilingües para principiantes | Meditation & Mindfulness in the Ironbound: Bilingual Classes for Beginners

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Miércoles, 24 de Enero al 28 de Marzo, 6:00 to 7:30pm

NCMC comenzaren una serie de tres meses de invierno de clases de meditación para principiantes para personas que hablan inglés y español* que viven en Newark y el área de Newark. Será impartido por J. Javier Cruz con otros instructores de NCMC. Esta serie será patrocinada por Ironbound Community Corporation. Será apropiado para adultos mayores de 18 años. *Aunque las clases no se pueden traducir en portugués, proporcionaremos folletos trilingües.
Esta serie de clases tiene la intención de proporcionar un espacio seguro para aprender y practicar la meditación y la atención plena que pueden aumentar la felicidad y disminuir el estrés. Al hacerlo, un grupo bi o trilingüe de ideas afines puede desarrollarse para apoyar la práctica de los demás. Todos son bienvenidos, aunque como está destinado a la comunidad latino / hispana de Newark, necesitaremos reservar la mayoría de los espacios para esta comunidad. Detalles de registro próximos.


Wednesdays, January 24 to March 28, 6:00 to 7:30pm

NCMC will begin a Winter 3-month series of beginner’s meditation classes for spanish and english speaking* people living in Newark and Newark area. It will be taught by J. Javier Cruz with other NCMC instructors. This series will be sponsored by Ironbound Community Corporation. The classes will be appropriate for adults ages 18 and older. *Though classes can’t be translated in portuguese, we will provide trilingual handouts.
This series of classes is intended to provide a safe space to learn and practice meditation and mindfulness that can increase happiness and decrease stress. In doing so, a like-minded bi- or tri- lingual group can develop to support each other’s practice. All are welcome, though as it is intended for the latino/hispanic community in Newark, we will need to reserve the majority of spaces for this community. Registration details forthcoming.



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