I recently heard a new acronym: FOMO
(fear of missing out). This is a panic that runs through our culture. It
permeates, if we are not mindful, every bit of our psyche. FOMO account for one
large portion of the variance of our suffering. Another portion can be
attributed to a new acronym I just coined: FOGWINE (fear of getting what is not
expected). Together these comprise the vast majority of what the Buddha called
dukkha. Dukkha, often translated as suffering, is more aptly translated in on a
broader canvas as “pervasive dissatisfaction.” What are we
dissatisfied over? FOMO and FOGWINE. If you watch television, you are inundated
with messages about what you might be missing out on. If you don’t join the
Army, you’ll be missing out on glory, pride, and advancement of your career. If
you don’t drive this car, you’ll be missing out on excitement, status, and the
best bargain of your life. If you don’t get this drug from your doctor, you’ll
be missing out on strengthening your marriage, great sex, and fun. The
opportunities to miss out are endless. We keep watching television programs for
fear of missing out on something big that everyone else will have seen and will
be talking about. We stay at the party later for fear of missing out on that
something special that might happen, that Kodak moment that will define this
instant in time.
FOMO is the representation of what I call the “deprivation
mind” in my book, Wild Chickens and Petty
Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness.” Are we really missing out? And
what is it exactly that we are missing out on? This is a problem that besets us
when we look outside of ourselves for fulfillment. The desire that underlies
FOMO is endless, a bottomless pit that can have us chasing our tails in
pointless pursuit. FOMO keeps us on the wheel like a hamster never reaching
that place of satisfaction (at least the hamster is getting exercise). Like
everything that arises in our minds, FOMO can be examined as a mental object.
We can see it as a production of our brain and not a reflection of ultimate
truth. We can challenge it too. What would be so terrible if we did miss out on
something? Why is it so important to have EVERYTHING? There is an episode of
South Park that features Cartman pacing in front of a game store awaiting the
release of the new Wii. Unfortunately for him (and everyone around him) the Wii
won’t be released for another three weeks. Cartman grunts, “Come on … Come on …
How much longer …” He bemoans his fate, “Time is slowing down, It’s like
waiting for Christmas, times a 1000″ Certainly we don’t want to resemble
Cartman in any way, shape, or form. So we can look at FOMO as it arises
throughout our day and try to touch it with mindful attention. We can breathe
into this fear and see what happens.
I am very happy to be here writing my blog on Mindfulness Matters: Tools for Living Now with Dr. Arnie Kozak. This blog will cover a range of mindfulness-related topics. It will present and comment on mindfulness, meditation, and Buddhist news, research, teachers, centers, books, and events. I will also comment on mindfulness and Buddhism in sport, especially golf with a particular emphasis of golf as a spiritual path. I will present metaphors for mindfulness from my book Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness and new metaphors that will be featured in forthcoming book projects.
I am a mindfulness-based psychotherapist, meditation teacher, and author in beautiful Burlington Vermont. I founded the Exquisite Mind Psychotherapy and Meditation Studio in 2002 and this is a place where people come to learn mindfulness and benefit from its healing power. In 1985 I took the Bodhisattva vows from His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Bodh Gaya India, the holy pilgrimage place where the historical reached his awakening under the pipal tree some 2500 years ago. I was not alone. Also in attendance where 250,000 Tibetans from the exile community and others who had received permission to come to this special Kalachakra Tantra Ceremony. And then there were ten thousand or so monks and about a thousand Westerners from Australia, Europe, Great Britain, and the States. Since that time 25 years ago I have endeavored to fulfill that Bodhisattva obligation of attaining enlightenment for the benefit of others, sometimes better than others. This blog is part of that Bodhisattva path of helping others and to do so through sharing the wisdom of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the central practice that I use to work towards my own enlightenment. Vipassana meditation has been my practice of choice since 1989 when I sat my first ten-day silent meditation retreat with the formidable S. N. Goenka. I also approach my Bodhisattva nature by helping people in psychotherapy, teaching them how to use mindfulness and teaching people in an array of situations: workers in corporations, undergraduate students in psychology, medical students, medical residents, fellow mental health clinicians, and anyone in the community who is interested in bringing more mindfulness into their lives. In 2009, Wisdom Publications, a small and important dharma publisher, published my first book, Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness. My second book, Swing Like You Don’t Care: 54 Golf Axioms, Maxims, and Metaphorsis currently with an agent seeking a publisher. My third book will be the second edition of Everything Buddhism, part of the Everything Series.
Welcome to this journey into mindfulness. The information, commentary, and links that you will find on this blog serve as Tools for Living Now! For more information about my work, please visit my Exquisite Mind website.
First, mapping the human genome, now creating synthetic life. These are some of the accomplishments of Craig Venter, founder and president of the J. Craig Venter Institute a nonprofit genomics research institute. He was interviewed on the NPR program, On Point. His team was able to create sequences of DNA from four bottles of chemicals according to instructions provided by a computer. This chromosome was then injected into a microplasma micoides cell and was integrated into its replicating process such that after millions of generations it fully integreated the new genetic instructions. Venters calls it a “self-replicating cell that’s parent is a computer.” This is not artificial life or life from scratch, but life modified by changes in DNA. Venter says strikingly in a statement that might have been uttered by the Buddha if he had a Ph.D. in biology, “We change second to second in our cells and we are software driven machines, and the software is DNA.”
This is a good definition of impermanence — we are always changing at the cellular level and as Venter’s research demonstrates, quite changeable. We know that most of the cells of our body die and are replaced every seven years and we also know that the atoms in our bodies change over about once a year — EVERY atom! Now, too we know, moment-by-moment our cells are changing. We are not snapshots, still life’s capturing something fixed in place. We are motion and change, fluid and malleable. We are more video than snap shot, more action painting than still life.
What are the implications of this? In any given moment, I can ask myself the question, “What am I trying to protect here, and why?” Instead of protection, can we move with the changing nature of things. After all, our cells are changing moment-by-moment and so is everything else. We can celebrate this change, or at least take a keen interest in its undulations and vicissitudes. Or we can try to keep these changing tides fixed. I’m in a good mood right now, my energy bright, my body relaxed. The part of my mind that doesn’t want to understand impermanence thinks this is the way it should be, what I’m entitled too. But, of course, reality doesn’t really care about what I think things should be like or what I think I should be entitled to, it just does its thing of change. So a few moments later I feel a twinge of tension in my neck shooting down to my hip. The frame of this moment looks and feels different from the last. I can complain about this. I can bemoan my fate and put energy into trying to recapture that previous moment. This winds up getting rather tedious after a while. So, rather than putting energy into trying to keep things the same, I’ll reflect on the dynamic, changing nature of my cells, imagine them dancing their dance of life.