So then are all distractions things to avoid to the same extent as alcohol, caffeine, car, name, etc.?
No, as I say in the next part, it depends on the individual. The car/name/job/income/hair stuff comes down more to vanity than dukkha, as those things really don't cause me pain or suffering, but they can be vanity things when taken to an extreme. Vanity is bad because it reinforces the separation of mind and body, and strengthens the ego which Buddhism is trying to help a person shed. They aren't inherently bad, but again, this needs to be determined by the individual. If you own a Ferrari because you simply love driving and the engineering behind it, I'd say that's fine. If you own one simply because it's a Ferrari and you want people to be jealous of you or you think it will help get girls, that's clearly vanity and bad.
Caffeine and alcohol are more things that a strict buddhist would stay away from, because they "pollute the body and mind". Some would argue, how can you truly meld your body and mind when your body and mind are influenced by unnatural things you are putting into your body? Again, these are things I like to selectively ignore, because I love coffee and I love my beer and wine. I would say hard drugs, and even pot, are definitely things to remove from your life though. As I stated earlier, pot was definitely something that threw my life off balance both mentally, physically, and emotionally. Although I was successful and lead a good life while being an everyday pot smoker, it certainly got in the way of my focus and dedication to many things, including my practice. It was removed from my life for all of those reasons. Beer and wine, and coffee, don't cause anywhere near that level of disruption in my life, so I kind of let it slide, but mentioned it because I still wonder, and sometimes seek the ideal of being "pure". Besides, many buddhist's drink tea for the same reason I drink coffee. So I give myself a pass there.
Isn't this what the 4th Noble Truth deals with?
Yes, the entire stack of the 4 noble truths deals with identifying, understanding, dealing, and removing dukkha. What dukkha is is entirely different to each individual, but can be easily boiled down to "anything causing dissatisfaction in your life, or anything that makes you unhappy." You either get over it, or remove it. It's really your only two options. Whatever it takes to remove that "dissatisfaction" that it causes. I believe the 4 noble truths are easily the pillar of buddhism for anyone starting to learn, and the best thing I ever did in my life was understand dukkha, and take steps to reduce and hopefully eliminate it. Procrastination was also a form of dukkha in my life. The pain and disappointment of pushing off something I need to do, be it at work, or raking the leaves at home. Now I just don't push anything off. If it needs to get done, I do it. Because doing something immediately is a lot more enjoyable than the small pain and suffering of feeling disappointed in yourself for pushing it off til "tomorrow".
you are wanting to seek one out, haha.
I did some research, and funny enough, it turns out there is a master in my town who is only two removed from none other than Shunryu Suzuki, who wrote one of my favorite books on the subject, "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" (read it if you haven't, good short book on Zen and zazen), and is considered one of the greatest zen masters of the Soto Japanese Zen school. His assistant and pupil who became a master was Dainin Katagiri who established 4 zen centers here in the Twin Cities in the sixties, most of which are closed now, but there is one of them still open, the original. Suzuki and Katagiri are both long passed, but some of his dharma heirs are located right here in the Twin Cities still practicing and teaching at the center he founded decades ago.
I'm going to plan on going their early next year. I don't want to start now, because Rohatsu is coming up starting early December, and it's like the most important time of year in the culture, the celebration of Buddha's enlightenment. So I think I'll wait til after December, because the Rohatsu sessions are sun up to sun down meditation sessions that go on for days, and the beginner and introductory open sessions are all closed for awhile.
'm going to try to keep responding as quickly as I can, but this term in school is proving to be a stronger opponent that I expected.
Not a problem. I'm a fairly patient person, and understand school comes first. Conversations like these don't need to be hurried. In fact I prefer the time to reflect. :)
Also, I've never seen that painting, but it's beautiful. Thank you for posting that.