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edited June 2010 in Buddhism Basics
I have profound respect for the wisdom of the Buddha.

I am struggling with the concept of ambition in buddhism.

I live a very simple life, almost monastic. This works very well for me. It does not work well for my family. My parents support me (feed me and allow me to live with them), but don't understand why I am not out there pursuing the same empty dreams that they did. My siblings pity me for what I am missing (all of the things that they are doing that never bring them happiness). I don't allow their positions to bother me...I have a tremendous peace in spite of their clamoring.

My problem is that I have two small children. I spend what time I can with them, and I believe we have a wonderful relationship. However, I am required by law to provide financial support for them.

The children are very well cared for in every way. Their mother is compassionate and financially independent, and I support them all in every way except financially, which they don't need anyway. She regrets putting me in the position of owing her so much money (it grows by $1000 each month). But neither of us can do anything to change the amount or the law. If I don't find a way to pay, I will be put in jail.

I would prefer not to go to jail, not because I am particularly attached to my freedom, but because I will not be able to spend time with the boys.

I have been unemployed for three years. Searching for a job is the only source of turmoil in my life. I work on my parents farm, so my problem isn't laziness. It is that I value my solitude and the peace that I have achieved.

I am posting here to see if anyone has thoughts on a buddhist way to approach a job search and maintain peace.

Thank you all for your wisdom.



  • edited June 2010
    Do you work full-time on your parents' farm? Can they afford to pay you?

    $1000/160 hours = $6.20/hr, which seems about right for an agricultural wage.

    Who do the kids live with? If they live with you, then you shouldn't be paying support. If your ex is so relaxed about this, maybe she'd be equally relaxed about having the kids live with you, especially on a farm, and with their grandparents.

    A Buddhist way to approach a conflictual and difficult job search would be the same as approaching anything else conflictual and difficult. Meditation, mindfulness, that sort of thing.

    I don't think you would just be arbitrarily put in jail. The jurisdiction would have to find out that you've been unable to pay, either by way of your ex applying for some government expense on behalf of the children (food stamps, Medicaid), or by your ex directly reporting you.
  • edited June 2010
    SD -

    Not sure if it's true in Ohio's case, but some states require child support to be sent through the court or a state agency, rather than directly to the recipient. If so, they would know whether payment has been made or not.
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran
    edited June 2010
    Buddhism is not about setting up external circumstances so our life is pleasant. Now, I am NOT saying we should deliberately go looking for turmoil :eek:, or that we should reject situations because they are pleasant!

    I AM saying that our teachers tell us to view unpleasant people and situations as "excellent spiritual guides", because they give us the opportunity to develop compassion and wisdom, to move us down the path towards enlightenment. The Path is never about avoiding necessary unpleasantness.

    I remember learning to ride a bicycle ... the fear, the unsteadiness, the skinned knees. It took courage, determination and persistence to learn, but once I had mastered it ... what a heady sense of lightness and freedom and oh the wind in my hair (well, it WAS the pre-helmet era). The task of learning Buddhism demands more of us than learning to ride a bike, but it is ultimate lightness and freedom.

    Remember too, that when we create children we take on a legal, moral, AND karmic responsibility for them that involves providing for them emotionally, mentally, physically, and materially. We give up whatever we need to give up, in order to do this. You know that your kids come first.
  • aMattaMatt Veteran
    edited June 2010

    You mention that a job search is a source of turmoil, could you expand on that a little? What is the turmoil? Is it just because you like your solitude in working on the farm?

    It sounds like the truth around you is that you need to make money to take care of your responsibilities. I wonder, perhaps you're clinging to the solitude? It seems like its time to let go of your own desire for solitude to do what needs doing. We are never in a position where we need to choose between our own personal growth and the responsibilities around us. Perhaps your clinging to solitude is like clinging to other pleasures? Do you have any other habits that mirror this?

    Perhaps evolving to take care of those responsibilities leads to the next steps for you... ones even better than the stasis you have now. What do you think?

    With warmth,

  • not1not2not1not2 Veteran
    edited June 2010
    I'd be pretty content too if I worked if/when I pleased and just had a fun relationship with my kids. I don't need much. If I didn't have an internet connection, I wouldn't die. If I didn't have much money for food, I wouldn't eat that much, etc.

    Now, where is this $1000/month thing coming from? In this state you can re-determine child support payments every 2 years. Child support payments are determined by income. As you have none, I don't really see how you be ordered to pay much beyond $200-$300 a month. You should probably look into this, for now at least. I really don't see how you could be ordered to pay more income than you even earn.

    From the Ohio Child Support website:
    Q. I am on Unemployment Compensation. Is there a limit on the amount that can be taken out for child support?

    A. Yes. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Office of Unemployment Compensation can only deduct up to 50% of the non-residential parent's unemployment benefits to pay the child support. If the unemployment compensation benefits are insufficient to meet the entire obligation, arrears will accrue on the order.

    Now, I imagine you aren't on Unemployment anymore, but I imagine you might be able to get your payment adjusted.

    That said, you may want to consider working out some sort of actual payment arrangement with your parents or getting a job with a paycheck.
  • edited June 2010
    My original post was not as skillfully written as it should have been. Thank you all for your feedback. Please allow me to clarify a few things:

    1. The amount of child support was determined based on my income three years ago. I have applied for a modification of the amount of child support and been denied. I have also consulted with an attorney, and his solution was for me to engage his services and go to court over the matter. If I had the hundreds to thousands that I would need to engage his service, I believe the right thing to do would be to put that money through the child support system so that it would go to my children and lessen that burden for me. It's irrelevant, because I do not have the money.

    2. My children each have more wealth at their disposal than I earned working good jobs for 20 years. They will never have to work to support themselves. My ex-wife chooses to work, but does not need to. I only mention this so that it is clear that I did not leave them in a bad position. It was not my choice to leave them at all, but that is another story that is also irrelevant.

    3. My parents generously provide me with room and board. In return, I provide them with labor. Paying me would be too great a burden for them to take on.

    More to the point, I do cling to my solitude.

    I don't find myself clinging to much else. It took a lot of loss for me to become aware of all of my attachments, but that loss has led me to a peace that I never had in my life. I have arrived at the point where I have a blank slate and am able to live in the moment.

    Now I need to add employment back in to the picture...that is clearly the next step. The turmoil comes from the fear that I will lose the peace that I have found...that I will fall back in to the old life of seeking and clinging that was nothing but misery for me and provided nothing that my children needed (did not actually do anything to help me meet my real responsibilities).

    This has been a rewarding exchange of ideas for me, and I thank you all (again) for your feedback.
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran
    edited June 2010
    markallen wrote: »

    I don't find myself clinging to much else. It took a lot of loss for me to become aware of all of my attachments, but that loss has led me to a peace that I never had in my life. I have arrived at the point where I have a blank slate and am able to live in the moment.

    Now I need to add employment back in to the picture...that is clearly the next step. The turmoil comes from the fear that I will lose the peace that I have found...that I will fall back in to the old life of seeking and clinging that was nothing but misery for me and provided nothing that my children needed (did not actually do anything to help me meet my real responsibilities).

    Peace that is created by outer circumstances is impermanent.
    Peace that is created by inner circumstances, by developing skillful means, is permanent.
    As a Buddhist, we do not run from our fears.
    As a Buddhist, we know that turmoil is our best teacher.
    Look forward to your re-entry with curiosity and interest, knowing that you will get to understand the nature of the peace you have achieved, and if it is not what you want, you will have the opportunity to make corrections and to create an INNER environment that is to your taste.
  • aMattaMatt Veteran
    edited June 2010

    I can see why you might be nervous to lose the peace you've found working the land, living monastically. Entering into the flow of the Jobby-Americana does have some gravity to it, and striving, greed, material focus and so forth do seem to be common practices.

    If you're strong in your roots into immaterial and compassion, then those things will break your heart perhaps, as you witness others painfully lost and wondering, but they will not convert your heart. Strengthen your roots into peace and compassion by keeping up a meditation practice. If working in the fields has stilled your mind, then find another way to still your mind without the fields. Sitting meditation is good for it, but there are others if you're not interested in a practice like that at this time. The point is to continue spending time, each day, reaffirming the love and the lessons you've already learned.

    Don't be afraid, there is usually no going back once you've discovered how stable the mind can be.

    With warmth,

  • patbbpatbb Veteran
    edited June 2010
    FoibleFull & aMatt replies were spot on (the 4 of them)

    Buddhism is not about finding peace only when the situation is convenient and please our emotional conditioned reactions.

    It's about being at peace and having the equanimity no matter what the situation is.

    Monks who go on isolation do not do so to avoid the rest of the world because the rest of the world provide them with stress and other emotions...

    Monks would not choose mosquito, venomous snakes and centipede infested forest for their meditation practice if they were avoiding "unpleasant" circumstances...
    A situation is only unpleasant if you make it so.
  • Ficus_religiosaFicus_religiosa Veteran
    edited June 2010
    Hi markallen,
    I see you're in a difficult financial situation. You say that she regrets that you owe her $1000 a month, and that she wishes she could change the situation. What about she pays you $1000 a month through a normal transaction? That would effectively nullify the child support without breaking the law - if such arrangements are not illegal, of course. I dare not speak too loud about American legislation.
  • aMattaMatt Veteran
    edited June 2010
    American tax exemptions allow for $13,000 to be gifted tax free per year. Its a plausible situation, but she would have to pay income tax on the 12,000 she earned from support payments. Consult a professional of course, but these numbers have come into play in my world a number of times.
  • edited June 2010
    This sounds like a wonderful opportunity! How better to strengthen yourself than to do the one thing that you fear to do? To lose your solitude will be to lose your fear of losing your solitude. :)

    Also remember, peace is not the end goal. The peace you have gained is impermanent. Things change. Having to get a job is just one example of that. Your parents will die someday. Or maybe you'll get sick and have to go to the hospital for a long time. Wouldn't that be awful? Don't fool yourself into thinking that the peace you've achieved will last forever, uninterrupted. It can't, because it depends on your circumstances. True peace only lasts when we don't cling to anything. Not even to the feeling of peace. (As far as I understand it anyway. I have a long way to go to say the least, haha! :D ) It sounds like you've made tremendous progress, but don't stop now. You may be on the verge of deepening your practice greatly. :) Best wishes!
  • edited June 2010
    Thanks once again for the replies to my query.

    We all got a little caught up in the logistics of the situation, and I take the blame for that. I should have been a little more clear about the fact that I wasn't really asking for practical advice. Practically there is one very clear solution to this problem...employment.

    I was seeking a buddhist perspective on facing the challenge of my job search, and I believe I got my answer...I see wisdom in the responses that addressed the spiritual nature of my question.

    I have to admit to being baffled by Christina's response :(. I'm not even sure how to express my confusion! Ah well, I think I'll go sit for a while.

    Again, thank you all.
  • patbbpatbb Veteran
    edited June 2010
    Cristina wrote: »
    To lose your solitude will be to lose your fear of losing your solitude. :)
    this is very well said!
  • edited June 2010
    markallen wrote: »
    I have to admit to being baffled by Christina's response :(. I'm not even sure how to express my confusion!

    Ahhhh this worries me a bit, haha. Like I said, I have a long way to go myself. I hope someone more experienced will point out if I said anything way off the mark. Though I suppose I can't do much harm in any case, as long as we all follow the instruction to check things out for ourselves! :D
  • edited June 2010
    It's not your fault...you were perfectly eloquent.

    I think what I might be lacking (besides the understanding) is the faith that you all have in the practice of buddhism.

    I got where I am today because I lost all of the things that I thought made me "me". That included a lengthy illness (including hospitalization), the loss of two homes (divorce and foreclosure), a divorce, the loss of my job and on and on.

    I didn't wake up one morning as a contented person and decide that I wanted to lose everything and then give buddhism a shot. I lost everything in a very painful process that left me devastated. When the smoke cleared (after two years), I realized that I could be miserable about the circumstances of my life or I could try a different approach.

    I looked around for alternatives to misery, and buddhism kept coming up. I don't call myself a buddhist. I don't have a teacher. I attended a local sangha a few times but since the foreclosure it is impractical for me to get there. My teachers are videos, books, and websites, and my community is online (including this forum). I study every day and take comfort in both, but my practice is a solitary one (and that would not be my preference in this case).

    When you say "To lose your solitude will be to lose your fear of losing your solitude", it makes sense according to what I have read. But I have no experience or other guidance to support that assertion. Please note that I am not rejecting what you are saying...I just don't know, and my own experience runs counter to that wisdom. I was never stupid, yet I lived a very stupid life for 37 years.

    I hope I don't seem argumentative. I am genuinely confused and admittedly filled with fear. I have finally found something that takes away the sickness of 38 years of not paying attention to what really matters. I have a very weak understanding of it, and very little support.

    Forgive me for being difficult.
  • edited June 2010
    I applaud you for being difficult! This is difficult. It's all difficult, and to swallow it like a happy pill would to be miss the point completely. :)

    It sounds to me like you've found comfort. You've found a lifestyle that you enjoy, that you feel safe in, that makes you happy. This is something that everyone wants and strives for. (Maybe not Buddhists.) It's also an illusion, because of impermanence. If you hold onto this lifestyle, you will suffer. It's already happening, see? Your circumstances are changing, and you experience fear and confusion now. That's what happens when we cling.

    I have a feeling that most of us who find our way to the Buddhist path have some kind of falling out experience with life as we know it. Personally, I got pretty severe anxiety and depression. I still deal with these things every day, almost 2 years later. And nothing that I thought would make me feel safe actually made me feel safe. Not my boyfriend, not my success in life, not staying in bed, not being at home with my parents--nothing. And I reached the point where I became thoroughly convinced that no thing will ever make me happy. No person. No perfect set of circumstances. I can understand how you feel now, in your own "perfect set of circumstances." I had that for a while too, when I was in love with my boyfriend and happy as a clam. I know that it feels wonderful. And you're 37? I'm only 22, haha, so I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. Feels great, then it's an absolute nightmare when it's over.

    The degree to which you suffer is the degree to which you cling. This is going to be difficult for you, no doubt, because it's obvious that you cling to your solitude. But take heart--you will prevail! And if you look at it as an opportunity to strengthen and broaden your feeling of peace, you will come out more peaceful than you are now. :)

    Gosh, I know what it feels like to think we've got it all figured out, just to find we're continuing our old habits but in new, more clever ways. It usually makes me feel like I've made no progress and have completely failed. But then, shortly thereafter, I do something that reassures me that I have made progress and am not a complete failure! It's important to see these things as just thoughts. "I'm good, I'm safe," or "I'm a failure, this is awful." Just thoughts. Anyway I just added this paragraph in case you ever start to feel this way.
  • edited June 2010
    I was just eating some soup and thought of a good story! I forget what book I read this in, but it was like an anecdote.

    There was once this guy who became a monk, gave up all his possessions, had just 2 sets of robes and a begging bowl. One day he was visiting with a prince. The prince had an entire castle full of jewels. When the monk and the prince were out for a walk, one of the palace attendants came running to meet them. The castle was burning down! The monk quickly turned and ran towards the castle. "I left my bowl in the castle!" he cried. But the prince remained calm. See, the monk, while he had little, was attached to what he had. While the prince, who had much, wasn't attached to it so he didn't panic as it all burned to the ground.

    Anyway I just thought it fit your situation a little. :) Kay I'm gonna go finish my soup!
  • edited June 2010
    I guess I am going to have to chalk this up as beyond my understanding.

    Thanks again for all the feedback.
  • DhammaDhatuDhammaDhatu Veteran
    edited June 2010
    Hi Mark

    I cannot understand why you are obliged to pay child support when your children do not require the assistance or when your ex-wife does not request it.

    Apart from that, I am pleased to read you have found some contentment in a simple life, close to the land, close to nature and close to the elements.

    I can only share my personal experience. I once lived alot in nature & solitude but returned to the big city to work.

    But now I live in both worlds. I work in a small regional city but live close to nature.

    I tried some jobs but, then strangely, took a casual job with a government department, where my work was impartial rather than having to maximise profits or work for various self-interests.

    So I stayed with the govt department & gained both a full time job & relocation to somewhere more quiet.

    So with some luck we can find some balance.

    Best wishes


  • ValtielValtiel Veteran
    edited June 2010
    The children are very well cared for in every way. Their mother is compassionate and financially independent, and I support them all in every way except financially, which they don't need anyway. She regrets putting me in the position of owing her so much money (it grows by $1000 each month). But neither of us can do anything to change the amount or the law. If I don't find a way to pay, I will be put in jail.

    Can you explain this? If she does not want Child Support, this can be agreed upon, legally in court if necessary, at least here. Even if there was a court order initially and she has filed with FRO, she can revoke. Who is pressing you for Child Support? What country are you in?
  • edited June 2010

    I'm in Ohio.

    When we divorced I had an income. The amount of child support was determined by that income. When I lost my job, I submitted the paperwork to have that amount revised. That application was rejected...I failed to provide medical evidence with my documentation. I lost my job due to an illness, so I was uninsured and unable to pay Drs at that time, hence there was no current documentation.

    At that point (and ever since), my only option was to hire an attorney and go to court to have the amount changed, even with her complete agreement. I have not had the money to hire one, although I consulted with several to look in to this and the issue of being fired while on FMLA. I was unable to find an attorney that was willing to work with me in a way that I could afford. I tried legal aid (free legal services) but they could not get me on their schedule.

    The county child support enforcement agency presses for child support. They put a lien on my home (which I lost to bankruptcy) and claim all tax returns (which don't exist without income). They garnish my wages at 65% when I do work. They threaten to revoke my drivers license every few months, but are satisfied by a small payment and then back off.

    It's not that my ex doesn't want the money...she doesn't feel the amount is appropriate (she feels it is way too high given my unemployment), but she still feels entitled to some amount. I agree that the children should absolutely have most of what I make, even though they don't need it. I've certainly learned to live with nothing, and I will never hold anything that I have away from them.

    She recently agreed that if I could find a source to pay all of the arrearages (nearly $30,000), she would immediately repay it to whatever the source was. This would satisfy the system, and I could then pay her a more acceptable amount as I am able. Unfortunately, there is no such source, and an attorney advised me that if we did that, we would have to be sneaky about it...the court does not allow mothers to waive these debts lightly. There are also tax issues with this kind of an exchange, and it doesn't do anything to stop the $1000 per month from continuing.

    We are due for a three year review of the amount within a couple of months, and I can only cross my fingers that the amount will be lowered then.

    It is a bureaucratic mess..that is my opinion, hers, and the opinion of all three of the attorneys I consulted with.

    The only real solution is employment.
  • edited June 2010
    Two more things:

    1. I let a lot of these things go. It wasn't easy, but I did, which makes the process of explaining my self so thoroughly very difficult. Re-explaining this whole mess here brings some terrible feelings back. I'm offering that to explain why the details have trickled out so slowly...I would have preferred not to go back over it at all. However, I can see that my initial explanation was incomplete.

    2. I mentioned jail in my initial post, and I should clarify that. The last time I spoke with the csea, they told me that I should go to family court immediately, no matter what I had to do to pay an attorney. So I took advantage of a free consultation with an attorney. He explained that because I am involved with the children on a regular basis and had an illness with some documentation he doubted that they could prosecute for failure to provide support. However, by not paying I am in violation of a court order, which could result in incarceration for "contempt of court" at any point, regardless of other circumstances.
  • edited June 2010
    I thought of another possible point of confusion...if my ex is so willing to help out now, why didn't I let her hire an attorney and help the situation a long time ago.

    It's been a difficult 3 years for both of us. She struggled a lot with the divorce and carried anger (just like me) for a long time. It's only been in the last year that we've really been able to work together in a healthy way. She's always been patient and able to deal with the money issues, but she certainly wasn't willing to do anything to make my life easier until fairly recently. I can't explain it or her, but she would still rather pay back $30,000 than help with an attorney.
  • ValtielValtiel Veteran
    edited June 2010
    Wow, I'm sorry, that's really unfair and well, bizarre. I'm in Canada, it's up to the mother to pursue it, FRO being an agency which does it on one's behalf but only when initiated by the mother. This sounds ridiculous.

    As for her helping pay for an attorney, well, I can understand that. In the alternative scenario, she wouldn't be out any money. With an attorney, the rate isn't fixed, either. Plus hiring an attorney for you, even when you have the best intentions, could completely backfire on her.

    I haven't been keeping up-to-date on the USA Health Care reform... I imagine it hasn't actually gotten anywhere yet huh?

    Just keep us updated and let us know everything's ok for you.
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