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Where realism and idealism meet Tony Brasunas, author of Double Happiness

The inner life – contemplation, philosophy, spirituality, and meditation.

Monkeys, Demons, and Ten Days on a Cushion

Occidental meditation

(An account of a 10-day vipassana meditation retreat in 2008)

“Just observe,” said the guru’s voice. “Whatever the sensation, just observe.”

I had been seated cross-legged, eyes closed, for what felt like hours and had probably been at least 15 minutes. The pain shooting through my back was excruciating.

“Limit your awareness to the triangular area below the nostrils and above the upper lip.” He had a perfect Indian guru accent and said the word ‘nostrils’ as if it were ‘nose-strils’. It made me smile. My ‘nose-streels.’ I desperately wanted to know if anyone else was smiling, and so for the first time in what had to have been at least 18 minutes now, I opened my eyes.

There we were, 200 or so of us, seated silently on the floor of a vast, wood-walled, slightly drafty hall that was vaulted like a church, but if there was a Jesus up there above the raised dais on which sat the solemn ‘assistant teachers,’ He had been carefully and discreetly covered by white cloth sheets.

Down here on the floor, we meditators were seated in precise rows, as if on a chessboard. I was in spot F-9. The guy on my right, F-8, was starting to slouch forward, forward, to stretch his back. The guy right in front of me, E-9, was unmoving, a solid rock of a meditator. I was surrounded by men. On the other side of the ‘A’ row was an aisle, and the women were seated on the other side of the aisle. Indeed, throughout the entire ten days, the men and women were strictly segregated and we never saw each other. I discreetly glanced around me; many men were silently shifting positions in discomfort.

There were no smiles. (more…)

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Posted in Inner Life
by Tony Brasunas at 11:16 am on February 16, 2017

A Vote for the World: Bernie Sanders for President

It is a rare, historic moment right now in the United States. There is a political movement to take our democracy back from the giant corporations that have been running things, a movement aligned with the great progressive movements of history, a movement to tackle society’s most pressing problems, a movement to spread wealth and power more broadly among the American people.

In this rare moment, Double Happiness is proud to make its first-ever political endorsement: Bernie Sanders for President of the United States.

Here are four reasons Bernie Sanders and this movement are uniquely positioned to do great things for this country and our planet.

  1. Bernie Sanders doesn’t accept corporate contributions or run a “Super PAC” to bundle corporate money. In our corrupted political landscape, this is amazingly rare if not outright unique. Because of this, Bernie Sanders will be able to be his own president and not be beholden to the giant banks and corporations that normally fund candidates’ campaigns for office. This will enable him to take action nimbly and powerfully — and for the right things. If President Bernie Sanders is sitting in the Oval Office wondering whether to enforce a particular law, nominate a judge, or sign a piece of legislation, he will think not whether a giant bank would approve of his actions but whether the funders of his campaign — ordinary people — would approve.
  2. Bernie Sanders sees war as a last option in foreign affairs. He voted against both Iraq Wars, (more…)

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Posted in Inner Life | Peaceful Revolution | Politics
by Tony Brasunas at 6:44 pm on May 12, 2016

San Jose Mercury-News Feature Interview

Newspaper Feature on Double Happiness

Maggie Sharpe, a journalist for the Bay Area News Group, interviewed me for a feature piece in the San Jose Mercury-News. After asking me a dozen rather harrowing and open-ended questions, she told me to be patient.

A week later, I discovered that she put together a marvelous piece. I don’t know quite what to say. I have to admit it’s the article I imagined someone would write about the book someday.

Read it here: Author to talk about life-changing time in China

The piece appeared shortly before my event at the Alameda library, and I believe it brought out quite a few extra readers, travelers, and curious armchair adventurers.

Ms. Sharpe begins the piece:

When Tony Brasunas left U.S. soil for the first time to teach English in China, he had no idea what a life-altering experience it would be — nor that 15 years later, he would write a book about his teaching, traveling and the transformation he experienced.

She describes the time I fell miserably ill, exploring the niceties of that near-death experience, and digs deeper into what illness meant for my time in China.

Brasunas said that even negative experiences such as getting sick, getting ripped off at the markets and even being ignored or ridiculed by some of his students only increased his learning.

“I followed the thread of my instincts to what I wanted and to who I am,” said Brasunas. “This led me often to experience even ostensibly negative things in a positive light — that the negative moments and the positive moments were both a part of the magic of learning and of life.”

My gratitude to the newspapers that ran this piece (the Contra Costa Times and Alameda Journal also ran the feature), and, above all, to Maggie Sharpe for her excellent questions and even better writing.

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Posted in Double Happiness | In the Media | Inner Life
by Tony Brasunas at 8:12 pm on June 4, 2015

A Change in Perspective

Sometimes I get stuck in a funk, feeling desperate or depressed. It can be hard to even remember why or how it was that I felt good before.

If I can just find a moment or two of conscious awareness in these times, I remember that there are many ways to shift this experience. One extreme but effective way I’ve learned is to change my perspective drastically — by imagining I’m going to die.

Here’s how to do it: Close your eyes and take a moment. Pretend you just heard that, without a doubt, for sure, due to a freak and sudden painless accident, you are going to die precisely one year from today. Now ask yourself, What would I do?

Sit back and see where your mind goes. Just watch your mind for a minute. You’ll probably hear yourself say something like, “Well, I definitely wouldn’t worry about that anymore.” And then maybe, “I’d go do that, why not?”

Consider making those changes in your life right away.

But don’t do anything yet, obviously. This is just an exercise. Write down a few of the ideas that dawn on you.

Then try changing the timeframe. If you did one year the first time, now try three months or five years. And then sit back and see where your mind goes. You can try your own timeframe: one week, six months, or ten years.

It can be useful also to try a timeframe that is longer than you expect to live (particularly if you already have a specific life expectation for medical or other reasons.)

You’ll probably find yourself grateful about things you took for granted, angry about things you’ve been wasting time on for months or years, depressed about the repetitiveness of a pattern that you haven’t broken yet, and maybe excited that it’s time to take a chance on that thing you’ve been longing to try.

That’s what happens for me. And I usually see something cool that I hadn’t seen before.

When we remember that we all have this terminal condition called life, and that no one gets out of here alive, we can touch that mysterious miracle that we do have this time, at least. And that’s a change in perspective that has snapped me out of many a funk.

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Posted in Inner Life | Writing
by Tony Brasunas at 3:51 pm on October 5, 2014