Buddha Standard Time: Awakening to the Infinite Possibilities of Now

with Lama Surya Das

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Many of us feel that the modern efforts to save time have backfired, bringing onerous new problems of their own. Our technological advances and constant availability have blurred the line between leisure time and work. No sooner do we wrap our minds around a new computer program than it becomes obsolete. We can end up wasting precious minutes stuck on the phone with someone on the other side of the world, trying to figure out how to reset the computer brain in our dryer, or stove, or espresso machine. It takes time to learn how to do online banking, connect with friends on Facebook, master the complexities of smartphones and GPS units, and download a best seller to our e-readers. When Excel crashes and the work is lost after we’ve spent an hour entering data for a deadline, our blood pressure skyrockets. There’s even technology to fix stress created by technology. I recently learned of an experimental Google feature called Email Addict that shuts you out of your inbox, forcing compulsive e-mail checkers to give it a break.

Don’t get me wrong. I think we’re living in an amazing age, as miraculous and futuristic as anything out of Star Trek and Jetsons episodes of my youth. I love being able to talk on my laptop face-to-face with someone on the other side of the world or to download a book or piece of music in a minute. The problem for a lot of us is figuring out how to disconnect from all this intensity for some peace and quiet. And how much of the time-related stress in our lives comes from trying to accommodate every single person who wants a piece of our day? Do you suffer from the “disease to please,” striving to satisfy all those who make a claim on your time? Many of us are torn between the desire to be generous with our time and the need to conserve our own energy. It takes only a few seconds to read a 140-character Twitter message, but the cost of the total distraction lasts far longer. The thinner we spread ourselves, the more we skitter over the surface of our lives, never going deep. And since we can be tracked down just about anywhere, anytime, it seems there is literally no escape.

In the pages that follow, I’ll teach you how to wean yourself from the addictions that sap time and energy, to clear out all the debris and distraction—in much the same way that a snow globe becomes calm and clear when you stop shaking it and allow the flakes to settle. You’ll see, for example, that we can stay at our desks or in a traffic jam and, however momentarily, genuinely give our attention to the present moment as a way of finding inner peace.

I want to show you how to coexist peacefully with the inevitable, the inexorable march of time. As a Buddhist, I’ve long studied the question of how to live authentically and joyfully in the present moment, and how to remain mindful, centered, and harmonious no matter what challenges come my way.

In a way, Buddhism is a profound study in time and time management, because the better you manage your mind and spirit, the less hold time has on you. Every moment can be lived fully, free and unconditioned, and every moment holds infinite possibilities and opportunities for a fresh start. Every moment of heightened consciousness is precious beyond price, for awareness is the primary currency of the human condition. Buddhism for me is a study in how to live fully and authentically, not only in our earthly time zone, but in what I call Buddha Standard Time—the dimension of timeless time, wholly now.

Excerpted from the introduction of Buddha Standard Time.

Lama Surya Das is a Western Buddhist meditation teacher and scholar, and one of the main interpreters of Tibetan Buddhism in the West.

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Lama Surya Das's picture

Loss is an important part of life. Change is law, and as long as we're attached to or identified with and holding on to anything, whether external or internal, loss may very well be felt and suffered. Everyone has heard less is more, small is beautiful, and the like. These adages are worth reflecting upon and penetrating more deeply. Quality time is also more valuable than mere quantity, as most would probably agree.
The way you speak about focusing makes it sound like renunciation and self-limitation is required. Often this is very true, but not always. At a far deeper level, however, "it is not outer things and relations that entangle us, but inner attachment and fixation which entangles us," as Yogi Tilopa once sang to his disciple Naropa. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche once said: "Renunciation could mean letting go of holding back." I believe this is worth further inquiry.
I personally find that the Buddha's greatest teaching is the Middle Way, a touchstone reminding us of the need for and virtues of balance and appropriateness, moderation and harmonious alignment: not to much nor too little, neither too tight nor too loose, and moderation even regarding moderation. Using this understanding of the Middle Way as a Pole Star, ones choices and decisions became far more apt and fulfilling.

lleach's picture

Hi, Folks

I am delighted by this opportunity. Lama Das's books first attracted my attention towards Buddhism a dozen years ago. His teachings have been life changing for me and for my family. I truly look foward to this!

Although I didn't plan it that way my work for the last dozen years has turned out to be mostly about helping people in their work environment avoid the evils of multitasking. I am even writing a book on the subject. Lama Das's work will be of great support to the final chapter which is all about working to be in the present and improve focus through meditation.

I agree completely with Lama Das's introduction regarding the negative health and psychological effects or our increasingly frenzied pace. My experience with helping work teams reduce multitasking always shows productivity increases of 50-100%, improved quality of results of 50% or more, and reported huge improvements in well being brought about by stress reduction. I don't know how to measure stress reduction or well-being.

Despite my knowledge of the huge benefits from meditation practice, including some personal experience, I must confess that my own dedication to meditation (nice ring to that!) has been less than steller. It remains a long uphill road for me. I can really use the help doing this work will provide.

Perhaps I can even be of some modest help to people struggling with this in their work environment.

Larry Leach

Lama Surya Das's picture

Everyone knows that patience furthers. Patience and forbearance, the Fourth Paramita (Buddhist virtue and panacean practice) of the Bodhisattva is absolutely essential for us today, in our turbulent and violent world. Patience paramita is also the traditional antidote to anger, impatience and irritation. Patience parami also includes tolerance, resilience and acceptance-- so vital in all our relationships and communication. Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not get bent out of shape!

I also find it quite helpful to try and remember to remember the long term and bigger picture, when it comes to important matters like my personal spiritual practice, meditation, and the enlightenment project and journey; or, for that matter, regarding intimate relations and love and most family matters.

The path of a thousand miles begins beneath your feet, with this step. Practice being there while getting there, every single step of the way. Being here while getting there. Right now.

This is the Bodhisattva's secret: emptiness-infused wisdom-awareness, beyond mere concepts of time and space. Good luck!

chrismannolini's picture

I also saw this book promoted elsewhere and ordered it. It has arrived today! I'll get reading ...

jrindfle@une.edu.au's picture

Dear Tricycle Sangha,
Lama Surya Das is a beautiful soul. His words make Buddhism relevant for today's world in such an authentic way. Technology and the 'busy-ness' it seems to create in the lives of many individuals seems so superficial. However, if we feel a heartfelt connection with the Buddha we have to find ways of using the technology in a meaningful way for the benefit of all sentient beings. What an incredible challenge. Lama Surya Das certainly helps us do that with this book. Thank you Lama. JR

Lama Surya Das's picture

Technology, like so many things which seem to captivate and overwhelm us, is an excellent servant but a poor master. The problem arises when we fall too much under its power. Thoughts and intellect are similar inner tools which can enslave us if we don't learn to use them wisely.

The Buddha has his Noble Eight Step Path. I'm thinking to start a Twelve Step Program for Thinkaholics, for so many of us are addicted to thinking and opinions. Whaddya think?


I have been a member of Overthinkers Anonymous for twenty eight years. I was twelve-stepped by a counselor at a rehab center. I am still working on the first step "I am powerless over my thoughts and my life is unmanageable". I have found that if I think the first thought , I can't stop thinking and go crazy. I have found that I can't stay stopped from thinking. The only requirment for membership in Overthinkers Anonymous is a desire to stop thinking. If you want to stop thinking, I suggest you go to a meeting
John M

hamzabear's picture

I love the idea of mindfulness as antidote to thinkaholism. :o)

ricomo's picture

I'd be interested in seeing what you come up with. I'm such an over-thinker, not just in my opinion but in others' as well. Bouncing off of the previous response to your comment, I'd certainly guess that meditation is going to be a significant one of those steps, but maybe there are others, and I'd like to see what those you propose might be.

apk's picture

Why not simply practice Mindfulness? In my 22nd year now of recovery from alcoholism, I would suggest - bowing with a Smile - that The Twelve Steps of AA (taken from The Six Steps of The Oxford Movement) really do not lend themselves to what you're characterizing as an "addiction" to "thinking". The Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous) includes this imperative: "The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it." The Steps are just a path to discover what this "spiritual life is" for every person who comes into The Rooms. And, there are Ten Thousand Paths. Those who are here, discussing the Teachings of the Buddha with you, and who Bow to the Divinity that is The Buddha Within, seem to have embraced as their spiritual life the Practices of The Buddha. So the question becomes, "How do we live The Dharma?" and not just recite the elements of, shall we say, Dharmic Theory?

Lama Surya Das's picture

Mindfulness is enough, yes. And, it's also insufficient. This depends on what your trying to accomplish, how you understand the term mindfulness, etc. There's more to mindfulness than just being here now or having presence of mind, in the ordinary sense. Genuine mindfulness-- easily defined as the opposite of mindlessness-- actually implies both seeing things as they are, in the objective lght of clear, unbiased, desireless nonreactive awareness; and also understanding how things function and interrelate, such as karma (cause and effect) and interdependence, intentions and motivation, and so forth. In the Buddha's original teachings it implies an ethical, compassionate dimension as well as the clear seeing aspects which seem ascendent in the Western Dharma practitioner zeitgeist today.
I try not to be confused by poetic phrases found in the Buddhist traditions such as ten thousand paths you mention and the 84,000 Dharma teachings, the Nine Vehicles (yanas) or ascending & deepening approaches, etc. At the risk of sounding square, when in fact I'm fairly round; I personally strive daily to live an peaceful, sane, loving and enlightened life by actualizing the three liberating trainings-- ethical self-discipline, meditative awareness, and wisdom inseparable from empathic compassion-- as expanded into the Noble Eight-fold Path taught by Buddha himself-- the 8 steps to enlightenment which is the skeleton of all the various traditions and lineages.

apk's picture

So, in what way is Mindfulness, as you've described it here, insufficient for addressing an attachment or "addiction" to "thinking" or "opinions"?

Dominic Gomez's picture

It appears there's no way out of thinking other than flat-lining (clinical death). And that's a certainty for all human beings.

wormtowngirl's picture

Where is the discussion? Are we supposed to read x-number of pages per week? I'd like to do this, but I have questions...

Sam Mowe's picture

The discussion is right here, and it starts today. There aren't set pages to read, but as you get through the book and have questions/comments please post them here. Lama Surya Das is guiding the discussion.