Episode 215 | April 7, 2020

Buddhist Boot Camp with Timber Hawkeye

A Personal Note From Orion

In this time of global crisis, going back into faith, and trusting in yourself and in this force that is leading your life, is very important. It doesn’t have to be of any religion. If it is of any religion, as long as you believe in something, and trust a higher power, and it serves you, hold onto that. It’s okay. It’s good for you to believe that you are guided, protected, and loved.

My guest Timber Hawkeye is the bestselling author of Buddhist Boot Camp, and Faithfully Religionless. His books and the Buddhist Boot Camp Podcast offer a secular and non-sectarian approach to being at peace with the world, both within and around us with the intention to awaken, enlighten, enrich, and inspire. Now, without further ado, onto the show.


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About Today’s Show

Buddhist Boot Camp by Timber Hawkeye

Hey, Timber, and welcome to the Stellar Life podcast. Thank you for being here.

Aloha. Thank you for providing this platform.

Aloha. Oh, my God. I’ve been to Hawaii twice. I just find Hawaii to be this incredible, magical place. I wish I was there right now, but right now we are at home.

The beauty of having been there, you could close your eyes and go wherever you want to be in the world. Oftentimes, that’s exactly the way I transport myself.

Where are you at in the world right now?

I’m on the California Coast, so not a bad place to be either.

Yeah, not a bad place to be. I’m in LA. Before we start, just in your own words, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your passion?

Faithfully Religionless by Timber Hawkeye

That’s changed a bit over the years. When I was younger, I was very passionate about things that brought me joy. I just chased after money, fast cars, a respectable job, sports, Hawaii, and just trying to fill my life with things that bring me joy. Then I realized it would be a lot easier and a lot more sustainable instead of adding things in my life, to take inventory of what in my life is causing me disharmony. If I remove that, then I’m good no matter where I am, no matter what’s going on in my life, no matter how much or how little money I have, no matter what car I have or don’t have.

That has become my passion, to share my shift and thinking to turn in on its head from what we’ve taught ever since we were young from our parents, teachers, preachers, and society. Not necessarily disagree with it because I’m sure—for someone somewhere—that recipe works, but to get everyone to ask themselves, “Is this working for me?” That’s been my passion is to essentially hold up a mirror and reflect back to people themselves. If they like what they see, then that’s great. But if they don’t, then it’s very empowering to then change it themselves according to their own values rather than what’s been handed down to them. If that makes any sense.

How did you study Buddhism? What brought you to Buddhism and what were your lessons?

Interestingly enough, I didn’t seek out Buddhism necessarily. I was seeking a very simple and uncomplicated life. I was studying world religions and psychology simultaneously to understand what people believe and why we believe what we do. In the process, I was eliminating the very things that were complicating my life. I eliminated alcohol, eating meat, a full-time job, and stress. Before I knew it, someone I was talking to said, “Timber, you’re practically a Buddhist monk.” I said, “What are Buddhist monks like?” I looked it up and said, “Oh, shoot. You’re right. I pretty much am.”

I was already living the life, and that’s when I decided to look into what Buddhism is really like. True to form, I’m not one to simply read a book about it but actually move into a monastery. I’ve hopped around different monasteries because Buddhism—I used to think was just one thing. Then I found out there are 800 different schools of Buddhism. Some are quite different from others. It’s not a catch-all phrase that says, “One Buddhist is just like another Buddhist.” Just like anything else. You say Christian, that triggers different things for different people.

Especially through my books and the podcast, the invitation is always, “Don’t try to be a Buddhist or don’t even try to be a Christian. Just try to be Christlike or Buddhalike.” My introduction to Buddhism was realizing a lot of its values already matched the values I had, and then finding out that my dedication is to the core teachings of the Buddha before they got infused with local flavor. Whether it be when Buddhism took over Japan, or Buddhism got to China, or Buddhism got to Thailand. Each culture-infused Buddhism with their own culture, their own beliefs, their own values. It intermingled with it.

Instead of pointing fingers and blaming the outside circumstances, look at yourself first and reflect on how much you contribute to your own suffering. Click To Tweet

When you see Buddhism in different parts of the world, it varies a little bit. What happened is I was at a Tibetan temple and chanting in a language I don’t understand. One day, just a light bulb went off. I was like, “What am I doing? I don’t even understand but I’m just going through the motions here.” To me, that’s not what Buddhism is about. It’s not just about chanting in a foreign tongue. What is it really about? All of Buddhism can be encapsulated into pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. The pain of growing old, getting sick, and dying, are all inevitable. There’s nothing we can do about that, but suffering is a choice.

That really got me thinking, “Then why do we choose to suffer?” Oftentimes, it’s because we don’t realize we have other options. We don’t realize there is a way to alleviate the suffering, mainly through non-attachment. A simple example is you wouldn’t suffer if it was raining today unless you expected it to be sunny. Furthermore, if you have plans to go to a picnic, then your plans got ruined by the rain. All of a sudden, you’re suffering because of the rain, but it’s not the rain’s fault. It’s that you were attached to a certain outcome.

I don’t know if I’m making any sense. I’m trying to really simplify that what Buddhism does is, instead of pointing the finger away from you and blaming the outside circumstances, it asks you to go at yourself and go, “How am I contributing to my own suffering?”

It makes sense because right now with COVID-19 and everything that is going on, everybody had expectations of a different life. We’re expecting to go out to a coffee shop, or travel, or go to that conference, or even go to work, or have your nanny at home, which I wish I had. The global expectation for what life is now shifting and it’s completely different. A lot of people are in this pain that is inevitable, but they are also in suffering. Because not everybody is aware of the idea that suffering is optional.

We all had this expectation of life to continue just the way it is. Now, the expectation changed. People are spinning. They don’t know how to handle all that.

There’s a saying that expectations are planned disappointments. As soon as you have an expectation something’s going to work out, you’re setting yourself up for suffering. As opposed to realizing that it’s not that we’re living in a “time of uncertainty.” We’ve always lived in uncertainty. Nothing is guaranteed. Whenever you make plans for next week or whatnot, a lot of it is done with the presumption that you’ll still be alive next week, that everything is going to work out between now and then.

We have taken for granted the spontaneity, the wonderful gift of every breath of every moment, we’ve taken it for granted so much so that we now feel like, “Why is this happening to me?” Nothing happens to you. It all happens for you, for you to learn from, grow from, and—most importantly—move on from.

We can learn a lot from what’s happening right now. We can learn to appreciate what’s there while it’s there, not when we look back. We can learn not to set any unreasonable expectations about ourselves, about the world, about our jobs, about our relationships. You know what I mean? We take so much for granted. This really will shift us to a more stable state of gratitude for what’s in front of us rather than constantly comparing our lives to how much “better” we think it should be. If that makes sense.

Timber, did you struggle with any emotions or any suffering around COVID-19?

I came back from six weeks of backpacking around the Philippines. We landed from Manila airport in San Francisco. It was a day before the San Francisco airport really cracked down on testing and whatnot. We made it just under the radar. I can’t sit here and say that I’m suffering in any way whatsoever. I am witnessing and I’m observing what’s happening.

You’re not stuck at home. You’re safe at home. See how a simple change of phrasing shift your mindset?

I have a friend in Hawaii who’s in the hospital right now. They put him in a medically induced coma because of COVID-19. He’s pushing through. He’s young and healthy so this whole false notion that, “Oh, it’s only going to affect the elderly or whatnot.” People who are young feel invincible, this is really important to remember. This virus doesn’t care about your age, or your tax bracket, or race, or religion, or anything of the sort. We can learn a lot from this virus to just realize that we’re all susceptible.

Personally, my first response to it was fairly loose I would say. I thought, “Oh, it’s just another flu.” When we didn’t know much about it, we saw people freaking out and panicking.

That was my initial response as well.

I had events scheduled, I showed up. I was like, “Oh, it’s so great to see everyone here.” Some people chose not to show up. I thought arrogantly, “Oh, they’re living in fear,” because I didn’t quite yet understand the importance of social distancing, the flattening of the curve, all of that that we’re all learning day by day.

My own view of it has shifted. When I understand the importance of—not necessarily caring about me dying. That’s the last thing, I’m not concerned about. I would hate to find out that while I was a carrier—unknowingly—I transmitted it to someone else, and they are either sick or dying because of me. That I couldn’t live with. Me getting it, fine, that doesn’t concern me. This is a really great invitation for all of us to be selfless and put other people first. In no way would I say that I am personally suffering. I’m not going to pretend that I am. I’m fine.

When you get the news about your friend in Hawaii—who was a young guy that is put in an induced coma—I’m sure you have years of practice in dealing with your emotions, but at that moment in time, how did you deal with your emotions? Also, if you can elaborate a little bit more on how to deal with hard emotions.

I want to take this time to distinguish between feelings and emotions. I talk about it in both books. It’s really important to understand the difference. A feeling lasts between 45 seconds and 1 ½ minutes. That’s it. We all experience a multitude of feelings throughout the day. We feel happy, we feel sad, we feel shocked, we feel depressed, we feel joy, we feel panicked, and one feeling moves on and makes room for the next feeling to come through.

The easiest example I always use, if you’re driving down the road and somebody cuts you off, then you get very upset, but then your favorite song comes on the radio, and you’re dancing in your seat. You’re not bipolar. This is just how feelings work—they come and they go. That’s actually a very healthy way for us to go through and process our feelings is just to feel them 100%. Something sad happens, you’re sad.

Emotions are when you feel something—again, somebody cuts you off in the freeway, you get upset. Okay, fine. Instead of moving on to the next feeling, you get stuck. We get stuck by feeling that feeling and then creating a narrative and a story around that, “Oh, that person shouldn’t have done that. This shouldn’t be happening. Who do they think they are? It’s always those jerks in BMWs.” Whatever story we tell ourselves, and then that feeling it’s already passed 45 seconds, it’s past 1 ½ minutes.

The following week, we can see a BMW parked on the side of the road and our blood pressure goes up because it now triggers. This is how people can stay angry about something for 20-30 years and more. That feeling that you feel now about something that happened in the past, that’s not a feeling anymore, that’s an emotion, if that makes sense. Emotional maturity means not being upset today by something that upset us yesterday.

I’m not saying don’t feel anything. By all means, feel it all. I actually feel way too much, but I move on from it. I allow it to come and go just like thoughts, just like clouds, just like traffic—just watch it go by. You asked what was my response, what were the feelings? I have made it a practice when I witness something going on—whether it be in the world or with someone I know or even within myself—first things first, avoid judging it. Avoid labeling it as horrible, or tragic, or those negative adjectives, and turning it into this sensational, romanticized whatever.

I look at everything and I just think to myself, “Well, that’s interesting,” or “This is a unique time.” I try not to use any negative words because that’s going to manipulate the narrative in my head. You know what I mean? If I use this to describe and call it tragic and horrible—people say this, “Oh, I had a horrible meal at the restaurant today,” or “This was the worst flight ever,” or “This is the worst day of my life,” or “This is the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life.” I wonder if a week later, something truly tragic or truly horrible happens, or you eat something even better. You’ve already used tragic to describe your experience on an airplane one time.

Expectations are planned disappointments. Accept life as it is and maintain a grateful heart. Click To Tweet

We’re losing perspective. I don’t know if I’m making any sense. We’re losing perspective.

Yes. You made a lot of sense. I’m just going through rapid transformation therapy training which is like hypnosis and neurolinguistics programming on steroids. My teacher, her name is Marisa Peer. She’s been doing it for 33 years. She’s an incredible therapist with many accolades. She’s just unbelievable.

She talks about our mind, and our language, and how powerful language can affect our minds. When you use the word, let’s say, epidemic, or you use the word tragic, or any word that has so much weight, it creates a picture in your mind. You create a powerful picture in your mind. Those pictures, they become feelings, they become emotions, and they can affect you. They can affect your immune system and they can affect your perspective.

I’m totally in agreement with you that we need to be very mindful of our language because what we say to ourselves will create our perspective, our experience.

That will dictate our experience because you and I can be going through the exact same thing, and if your narrative is, “This is horrible. This is bad. This is what not” and I’m like, “This is interesting.” Then even though we’re both in the same space going through the same thing, we’re going to have two very different experiences. Because of the words that we use to describe it to ourselves and to describe it to other people.

I met someone last week and they were like, “I went through this terrible, horrible divorce 10 years ago. It was just gut-wrenching.” Just every negative. I was just like, “Wow. How would your story change if you just told me, ‘I went through a divorce 10 years ago?’ What if you just dropped all the adjectives and you just told me that?” He was like, “That would feel a lot lighter.” I said, “Exactly. Stop carrying all that extra weight with you.” 

It’s one thing to catch ourselves and do it later on, but I’m saying the practice is, can we—at the moment, when I receive the news about my friend in Hawaii or when I experience something myself—at that moment, not judge it or label it. Because we’re so programmed or conditioned to judge everything and label anything. It’s very difficult for me to tell people, even myself, “Don’t label it, don’t label it,” so I say, “Go ahead and label it, but label it interesting.” You know what I mean?

If you’re going to be creative, just use that word because interesting is so broad and there’s no weight to it. It’s not negative, it’s not positive, it’s just neutral.

On the flip side, people don’t use powerful words when it comes to their health, their beauty, their self-esteem. How are you feeling? “Fine.” No, you’re not feeling fine. “I feel extraordinarily phenomenal. I am magnetically lovable.” When you use those beautiful power words that are positive, that affects you in a more powerful way. Instead of using powerful words to describe the negative, use powerful words to describe a positive.

It’s true, and we could. Many people object to that because they feel like, “Oh, I’m lying to myself because I’m not phenomenal.” When they look in the mirror and they think to themselves, “Oh, I’m not pretty enough,” or “I’m not skinny enough.” It would feel very inauthentic for them to say, “Oh, my gosh. You’re stunningly gorgeous.”

First of all, we do wake up every morning and we think to ourselves, “Oh, I didn’t get enough sleep. I’m not pretty enough. I’m not rich enough. I’m not successful enough.” Oftentimes, when I speak—especially outside of the country—and people ask me, “What is American culture like?” It’s tough because the culture in LA, Texas, Alaska, Kansas, and New York are very different. Except for one thing and that’s no matter where you go, people want bigger, better, faster, more.

We’re addicted to more. It’s for one reason and one reason only. We haven’t defined what enough is. If you don’t know what enough is then you’ll never have it. You know what I mean? Because it’s not defined. You haven’t set the bar anywhere and say, “I have enough,” or “I’m pretty enough. I’m successful enough. I got enough sleep.” Our narrative—from the moment we wake up—is not enough sleep, not pretty enough, not rich enough. You know what I mean?

You are the biggest factor to your suffering. Your thoughts, words, and actions can alter your mood at any moment.

Like you said, those words drain us. Instead of saying, “Oh, I’m a millionaire,” and going the opposite extreme of suggesting to use positive words, just say, “I have enough.”

For those power words, you do need to adjust it to where you are. If you feel completely depressed, you can say, “I’m extraordinarily elated.” Just say, “I’m doing better and better every day.” When you feel like you’re better, then take it up a notch. It’s okay to use those crazy words that sound a little bit too much. Because it’s okay to use the word tragic to describe your lunch—

Then it’s okay to use the word phenomenal. I hear you.

Yeah. That’s what I’m thinking. Another thing, before I forget, I have a six-month-old baby. This morning I took him to see himself in the mirror. Sometimes I show him himself in the mirror. He had this beautiful smile. The moment he saw himself in the mirror, he smiled so big and his eyes lit. He was almost giggling just looking at himself in the mirror. I was thinking to myself I wish everyone in the world will have that same reaction to themselves when they look in the mirror.

This little innocent baby that has no judgment, no words to describe what’s enough, no words to describe what beauty is, no words to describe if it’s okay to feel good, or I am going to be a little too arrogant if I say to myself all those should. Just this innocent little being looking in the mirror smiling at himself and being so elated, so happy just looking at himself in the mirror. I want everybody to do that including myself some days.

That’s the first thing I ask myself is, “When was the last time I looked in the mirror and responded that way?” It’s just this elated, joy, and just incredible. The thing is we started taking it for granted. We take for granted that we even have eyes with which to see ourselves. That we are so blessed in so many ways, yet we are so quick—what I said earlier that the way we do one thing is the way we do all things. If we are in a situation—and I’ll use the example we’re on the beach in Hawaii—

I want to be on a beach in Hawaii. Right now, please.

Some people, they’re on the beach in Hawaii and immediately they’re like, “It’s too hot. The sand is too powdery. The ocean’s so salty.” They’ll compare their experience to find something in it to pick apart, to judge, to think in their minds, “How can this be improved upon?”

The reason I’m bringing this up is that if that’s the way we do that, then that’s also the way when we look in the mirror. We’re not going to go, “Oh, wow. We’re beautiful. We’re young. We’re healthy. We have eyes.” We’re going to look and go, “I wish I was skinnier,” or “I wish my hair was darker. I wish my hair was lighter. I wish my hair was longer.” We have this pattern of behavior and it repeats itself constantly.

The invitation is to stop judging and to stop comparing anything. I forget who it was that said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” The moment we compare anything, we rob ourselves of the joy that’s inherent at that moment. Like you said, your child wasn’t comparing himself the way he looks today, the way he looked two months ago.

If you have more than enough, extend your dining table, don't build a taller fence. Click To Tweet

He was just in the moment. He’s like, “Ha, a mirror. Wow. There is somebody in the mirror. This is great. Ha, awesome.” I put words on him. He can’t speak yet. He was just smiling.

My dad said when I was going through taking the monastic vows, moving into a monastery, moving away from the life that my dad was so proud of—which was the corporate world, and the sports car, and all of that—and all of a sudden just switched to a minimalistic life and have nothing. He was freaking out. I said, “Come live with me for a month and see what it’s like.” He did, and he totally understood.

Tell me, what was it like for him?

When he first got there, I remember he just stood in the doorway. He said, “Oh, my God. You don’t have anything.” After a month of living with me, and cooking with me, and going on long walks with me and whatnot, and experiencing my life for what it was, I kid you not, Orion, he looked at me in the eyes at the airport with tears running down his face. He said, “There is nothing missing from your life.” Both of those statements are true.

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma

I don’t have anything, and yet there’s nothing missing from my life. I just love that he got it and he understood it. He will be the first to admit, it’s not a life he wants, but he can be happy for me now. He went out, and he read all these books that I was able to find for him to read and understand anything from The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari to stories about the Buddha and whatnot.

He read them, and he said, “From what you’ve told me and from what I’ve read, Timber, I don’t think you’re trying to learn anything new. I don’t think you’re trying to become something or someone else. It seems to me you are just trying to be a toddler again. You’re trying to be two years old.” I said, “That’s exactly it. I’m trying to unlearn everything I’ve learned since that young age.” Everything that I learned about judgment, about comparing. Just trying to drop all of that and just be in the moment. Just appreciate it the way your kid did just staring in the mirror and just saying, “This is happy.”

Playing in the playground, you don’t care if the other person in the sandbox is black, or white, or skinny, or overweight. You’re just like, “Can you play kindly? Can you be nice?” That’s all you care about as a kid. I’m hoping that through practice and through repetition, we can break even years of a pattern of being judgmental, or rude, or selfish, and create a whole new neural pathway, a whole new pattern of being different from this point forward than we have been up until now. We have to want to be different. We have to want to change old patterns and create new ones.

Timber, so your dad looks at you, he arrives at your house and he says, “You don’t have anything.” This is one of the biggest fears that people globally are experiencing right now because they can’t go to work. Some people don’t know how they’re going to get their next meal, how they’re going to feed their kids, how they’re going to pay their mortgage. Yes, we always had uncertainty, but we’ve never faced uncertainty and look at uncertainty in the eyes as much as we do at this point in time.

For the people who are afraid of that major loss of financial stability, what kind of advice do you have for them?

Words are powerful and can manifest things into reality.

I’m really hoping that banks, financial institutions, and mortgage companies are making it so that people who have mortgages are essentially exempt for a few months or a year of having to pay their mortgage. I’m really hoping that those landlords then extend that to their tenants and say, “So long as we don’t have to pay our mortgage, you don’t have to pay your rent.”

I’m really hoping that we understand how codependent and interconnected we are to one another. That every decision we make has ripple effects, and it affects everyone else. I do trust and believe that the best of us is going to come through. I do trust and believe that even though the initial panic for many people was to go and buy way too much toilet paper, or sanitizer, or whatever it was that they hoarded, making it impossible for the next person in line to get what they needed because the person before them got too much.

Again, it’s that defining enough. Then stores got smart and said, “We’re going to limit how many you can buy.” It’s sad that it had to be enforced upon us rather than derived from within.

Is it sad? Is it really sad? Are you labeling it?

It’s unfortunate that it didn’t come from within.

Is it unfortunate? Is it?

You know what I mean, that it didn’t come from within.

Maybe that’s the lesson. Maybe we had to see it.

Exactly. That’s exactly it. Everyone around us either teaches us how to be or how not to be, but they are our teachers either way. Those of us who went, “You know what, I only need one.” They only buy one and they go home, that’s great. They can show they are leading by example of what enough looks like. Those who panicked and got scared are displaying the exact opposite.

Again, to witness both of those things, what I’m hoping—back to answering your question, how do we deal with the people who are living in fear, how they pay rent, or the toilet paper—I’m really hoping that those who have too much of something—the invitation. I’ve said it before that if you have more than enough, extend your dining table. Don’t build a taller fence.

I saw a post earlier today that this woman took a big box of toilet paper, and drinking water, and hand sanitizer, all that stuff. She put it right outside her door. It had a sign on it for FedEx, and UPS drivers, and the post-delivery person. All of that saying, “Thank you so much for continuing to come to work and fighting through this. Take anything you need. It’s here for you. We appreciate you.”

That’s what I mean by I believe people will come together the way they came together at 9/11 where people differences, they stopped caring who one person voted for, or what race they were, or what bracket they’re in. Everyone came together to help one another. That’s exactly what I’m hoping will come from this. I believe our beliefs dictate our experience.

If someone believes, “Oh my God, I’m not going to have enough. I’m not going to be able to pay the rent. I’m not going to be able to feed my child.” Then you are creating that experience. You know what I mean? As real as it is, I do believe that if you believe, if you trust, if you have faith that someone will come through for you, that if you ask for help, you will get it. It will be there. What I mean is if you don’t believe that you can make it through this, then you won’t. If you believe that you can, you will find ways way outside the box to make it happen.

It would be a lot easier and more sustainable to take inventory of what is causing you disharmony in your life rather than thinking about what you should add to it. Click To Tweet

Henry Ford said, “Whether you believe you can, or you believe you can’t—you’re probably right.” It is a reality that people are struggling already. You can be struggling. You said pain is inevitable, and suffering is optional. Yes, you might suffer, you might have that pain that exists in what will happen. You don’t have to suffer because your best resource is your resourcefulness. There are ways to get help, reach out, and ask.

It starts with your sense of calmness, and mindset, and trust. You have a painful situation. You can be in extreme stress dealing with it, or you can take a breath and calm down. Then you can deal with it from a better perspective. You elevate your frequency, you elevate your vibration. You can see ways. You can see better solutions. Like you said, we are interconnected. Maybe we’ll send a thought to somebody who will just show up out of nowhere and will help you.

Remembering at this time that everything is temporary. That brings upon the greatest sense of relief. (A) Knowing that it’s temporary and that it will pass, and we don’t know if temporary means one month or if it means a year and a half, but it’s temporary. Whatever it is, we will make it through. (B) Knowing that what we’re going through is not unique to us. This is not something like, “Nobody understands what I’m going through.” We’re all going through very similar experiences. We all had plans that fell through. We all have bills that may or may not be paid. We all had these ideas in our head, like you said in the beginning, of how life was going to pan out, and this shifted everything.

I’m hoping we can learn from this to be more flexible, to be more fluid, to be more understanding, to stop judging other people when you see them making decisions, and trust that they are doing everything they’re doing for the same reason we are doing everything we’re doing. Which is we do it because we think that’s what’s going to make us happy. That’s why everyone does what they do.

When you’re like, “Why is she wearing that?” Or, “Why is he doing that?” Or, “Why did he spend money on that?” Or, “Why did she go there?” They did it because they believe that is their path to happiness. They’re doing it for the same reason you’re doing what you’re doing. Some people are acting out of years living in fear and their response to every situation is fear. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong.

The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann

Again, it’s a lesson for all of us to look and go, “Is that how I want to live? Is that how I am living?” Instead of pointing the finger at other people, look at ourselves and go, “What do I have to offer at this time?” Not, “What can I get out of this?” What can I give? There’s a wonderful book I read recently called The Go-Giver. We always talk about, “Oh, he’s such a go-getter.” What about being a go-giver? To be that passionate about giving.

Who’s the author of that?

I have no idea. I never remember names.

I have heard of that book. What is your definition of happiness?

My definition of happiness. I would say it’s not a state where there are many things “making” me happy because I understand that happiness can’t come from outside of me. It’s a state wherein I am okay with whatever is happening, meaning even if I’m in a place—because I used to think that happiness was, “Oh, you don’t need to do things to make you happy. Just stop doing the things that make you unhappy.” You know what I mean? Just get out of the situation that’s contributing to your anguish and you will find this really blissful point where everything is good.

I don’t necessarily think it has to be a place where there is no turmoil. We can be in the middle of chaos, suffering, pain and conflict, and still be happy. Because my happiness is directly linked to how grateful I am, if that makes sense. If I can find one thing to be grateful for—even if it’s, “I’m grateful this experience is temporary. I’m grateful that I’m alive today. I’m grateful that I’m here. I’m grateful that I’m blank.”

Whatever it is you’re grateful for, gratitude leads to happiness. It has nothing to do with what’s going on in your life. It has nothing to do with what your financial status is, or race, or where you live. Nothing. If you can find gratitude—and I believe everyone can find gratitude—then you can be happy. I know when I’m unhappy it’s because I’m focusing on what I lack rather than what is in abundance.

Yeah. It makes complete sense.

That was a good question. I was like, “Whoa. How do I define that?”

Here’s another one. What are your three top tips for living a stellar life?

The first thing that came to mind, Gandhi said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are all in alignment—they’re all in harmony.” You can visit any company’s website, or any church, or any store, or any organization, and you can see that they have core values. They can have a mission statement. It’s right there on the website, “Here’s what we stand for. Here’s what we believe in. This is how we make all of our corporate decisions.” We expect them to live up to their core values because they’ve defined them. They’ve written them down like, “This is what we’re committed to.”

We as individuals have not done that. When Gandhi said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and do are all in alignment.” How can you live in alignment with your values if you have not defined them? The first thing—I would say to live a stellar life—is being really clear about what your values are and living in line with them. Because you can just write down what your core values are.

Write down a paragraph describing the kind of life you want to lead and the kind of person you want to be. Then write down the kind of life you are living and cross-reference it. You’ll see where you have some work to do. What’s wonderful is that you’re inviting yourself to be the best person of you there is. No one is telling you how you should be. If you’ve studied NVC, non-violent communication, we know that “should” is the most hostile world in our language. It’s not about shoulding on yourself, it’s really about figuring out how I can live with more alignment?

People say, “I try to find balance. I’m trying to find my balance.” Balance isn’t something you find and then you magically have it. It is something you continually create. That’s where that comes from. The first thing to live a stellar life is living in alignment with your values. Because the moment you don’t, you are creating disharmony within you.

The conflict, the battle is within. You’re saying one thing and you’re doing another. Even if no one catches you, you know. This is why you can’t sleep at night. This is why you’re having difficulties. Because you believe one thing, but your actions are not aligned with what you truly know. That can create some serious digestive issues, health issues. It can really tear you up on the inside because you’re not being true to yourself.

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Click To Tweet

It’s a very long answer, but it’s a big one. If you live in alignment with your values, you’re eliminating disharmony, and living in harmony is living a stellar life. I don’t know if that’s the first one or if that’s all three, but that’s a big one.

Another one, live in gratitude. When we study cognitive dissonance, you know that two opposing thoughts cannot co-exist. If you’re angry with your spouse, for example—

Love cannot stay there.

The moment you’re angry with your spouse, you have forgotten how grateful you are to have them in your life. The moment you go back to gratitude, the anger goes away. They can’t coexist. I love shifting, taking a moment going, “What am I feeling right now and what would be a better choice?” In a sense that even though I’m ordained Buddhist, and I was born, technically, Jewish, and my mantra is Hindu, my morning meditation is the Catholic prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, what I love so much about the prayer is it’s very much a—how do I explain it?

It’s a way to navigate. He says, “Where there is hatred, so love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.” It’s an antidotal system. You find the antidote to what you’re feeling that you don’t want to be feeling, and you go there. The reason I suggest gratitude is because it’s pretty much the antidote to any negative feeling you may have. Whatever you’re feeling, if you go back to gratitude, it will undo everything else. Does that make sense?

Yes, it makes sense.

Gratitude is number two. Living in line with your values, being grateful, and then the third thing to live a stellar life: remembering that everything is temporary. Just honoring the moment. I don’t think that’s depressing. Some people think, “Well, impermanence is so depressing. Then you’re focusing on the fact that it won’t last. All your relationships, your own life, and your youth, and your skin. It’s all going to go away, and that’s so sad.”

For me, it’s the opposite because everything is temporary because I only have the here and now, then I should milk it. I should have the best time. I should eat the best food. I should take care of myself to the best of my ability. I should love the people around me the most just because everything is temporary. Seize the day. Seize this moment, enjoy it.

That’s the beauty of impermanence. That’s why I would say that if you just remember that everything is temporary, then when you’re having a wonderful moment, you enjoy it so much because you know it won’t last. When you’re having a less than wonderful moment, it doesn’t completely derail you because you know that also won’t last. You’re just surfing, and that’s a really great way to get through life. Those are the three.

I agree. I concur. Timber, where can people find you, learn about the Buddhist Boot Camp, and all your teachings? How can they connect with you?

Thank you. I would go as far as to say the teachings are not mine, they’re ancient. I have simply translated them to a language that people today can go beyond simply understanding, to actually apply to their daily lives. Buddhist Boot Camp was the first book. Basically, all it is is a collection of eight years of letters that I sent to friends and my journal entries that a friend basically dared me to publish. I did, and it worked out.

Every chapter’s only a page long, and you can read them in any order, which really works for people because there’s just one page. It’s not a huge commitment. Yet you find a way for it to relate to you and apply it. Buddhist Boot Camp, it’s a book, it’s a podcast, there’s a Facebook page, there’s Instagram—it’s all Buddhist Boot Camp.

There’s a website.

There’s a website. What’s wonderful about the website is the intention is to define enoughness. When somebody orders a book from the website, for example, another copy of the book is donated to the Prison Library Project. I made a commitment to myself very early on to never profit from the book sales or anything like that. When someone orders the book, it goes to the Prison Library Project. If somebody orders a shirt, it goes to the Mercy For Animals, it goes to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

I truly believe that we can all come together for the greater good. All I can do is lead by example. I’m trying to run this the way I wish every company would run. What I’m trying to do is be where people already are and meet them where they are rather than force them to go. If they prefer a podcast, listen to the Buddhist Boot Camp podcast there. Every episode is only five minutes long. There’s a Youtube channel. Again, wherever you are, go to the website. Find what resonates with you.

The second book—Faithfully Religionless—is more conversational. It’s a memoir about the beauty of letting go of the need to know. That’s really where my journey has taken me. We made a complete circle to going right into the beginning. That the only thing we lost during this transition with corona and whatnot is that we thought we knew what next week was going to be like. We just realized we never knew.

I embrace not knowing. I love not knowing. I love the mystery of it all. That tomorrow can bring anything. I don’t like making plans because of that, I like being surprised. Find what works for you. That book is available in audio.

Everything is in buddhistbootcamp.com.

Correct, or timberhawkeye.com. Again, it’s pretty easy to find once you start looking. I appreciate the platform you have exposing people to different ways.

Awesome information.

Yeah. Just different perspectives. It’s so important to step out of—people say, “I want to spend time with like-minded people,” I’m like, “Don’t. You’re not going to learn anything new.” Spend time with people who think differently from you. You will grow.

I like that. That’s awesome. Thank you so, so much, Timber. This was extraordinarily phenomenal, magnetically awesome, and wonderfully relevant. Thank you so much. Thank you so much, listeners. Remember, live aligned with your own values, live in gratitude, remember that everything is temporary, and live a stellar life. This is Orion. Until next time.

Your Checklist of Actions to Take

{✓} Define your core values and make it a mission to live by them for as long as you’re breathing. Let them serve as your light during dark times, and help others find their own light.  
{✓} Take an inventory of what you have in your life. Point out the things that bring you disharmony. Find the courage to let go of excess baggage and the stuff that doesn’t bring you joy. 
{✓} Understand pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. Happiness is a choice. Your misery depends on how long you’re willing to keep holding on to things that make you feel down. 
{✓} Detach from materialism and cultivate minimalism in your life. Anything in excess shouldn’t be necessary. 
{✓} Don’t set unreasonable expectations on situations and other people. You only set yourself up for disappointment. Instead, accept them as they are and whatever they turn out to be.  
{✓} Don’t be afraid of uncertainty. Life itself is uncertain and unpredictable, and no one knows what tomorrow promises. Instead, live in the moment and appreciate what you have more. 
{✓} Don’t hesitate to express your negative emotions. Let yourself feel angry, sad, or afraid, but make sure you don’t dwell in that state too long.
{✓} Be mindful of the language you use to describe situations, other people, even your thoughts. Words are powerful and can manifest those things into reality.
{✓} Extend a helping hand as much as you can. If you have more than others, extend your table. Don’t build a higher fence.
{✓} Check out Timber Hawkeye’s Buddhist Bootcamp when you visit his website.

Links and Resources

About Timber Hawkeye

Timber Hawkeye is the bestselling author of Buddhist Boot Camp and Faithfully Religionless. His books and the Buddhist Boot Camp Podcast offer a secular and non-sectarian approach to being at peace with the world (both within and around us), with the intention to awaken, enlighten, enrich, and inspire.


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