Become the Person You Already Are
If you have children or have been around children, you’ll notice that they are often quite content and satisfied to exist in their own little world, fascinated with the particular project that at any given moment absorbs them. Whether they are playing with building blocks or digging in the sand, for a certain amount of time they need no one and want nothing. They are comfortable in their own skin and often seem to be transported to another world.
As we become adults and assume responsibilities in the world, we tend to stop this practice; we become other- and outer-directed and relegate all childhood activities to the past. When these childlike inclinations are stifled, we lose the sense of wonderment that often accompanies them. Our creativity becomes boxed up, and we wonder why life has become dull. That child is still within us, though, and can be rediscovered in our quiet corner. It is there that we can once again get in touch with our true spirit.
Visit a neighborhood playground or ball field and watch children as they play. Volunteer to coach a Little League team, or just observe the kids as they play and let them coach you. Allow them to teach you what it’s like to be free and uninhibited. After a snowfall, make a snowman with the neighborhood kids or engage in an innocent snowball fight. Ride the waves at the ocean and delight in the freedom of it. Rake leaves into a big enough pile to hide in and have some fun. As you loosen up and begin to discover how to let go and be spontaneous, take this attitude with you into your quiet corner and nurture it there. Before long, your true nature will reveal itself and some of the tension in your life will disappear.
Get to Know Yourself Again
Most of us can’t remember sitting in rapture as a child. Or if we can remember, we merely mourn the loss of such times and consider them over and done with. To alter our “grown-up” way of seeing, we simply need the key of willingness.
Be willing to spend time alone with yourself. Look closely at who you are, what makes you laugh or cry. Let go of old encrusted notions that bog you down. Ease them out of your mind. Invite your idiosyncrasies to have their say, and keep the ones that thrill you.
As you spend more time with yourself, your view of the world will begin to change. You’ll see yourself in a new light and have a new understanding of who you are in the world. Long-forgotten parts of you will rise to the surface and come alive. You’ll be more involved in your life than ever before, thanks to your own quiet corner.
from Find a Quiet Corner – A Simple Guide to Self-Peace
Although we may find ourselves sitting down through much of the day, how many of us ever make a conscious decision just to sit? Usually, when we’re sitting, we are also driving or eating or working or watching a movie or relaxing. Sitting is usually about something other than just sitting. And if we’ve ever contemplated the idea of sitting for the sake of sitting, perhaps we’ve concluded that it would be a simple waste of time—so even if we’ve been advised to do it, we often choose not to.
Just the thought of sitting and doing nothing may terrify us, especially when it’s linked to the word meditation. Take this moment to discard all your preconceived notions of what sitting still is all about. Drop the word meditation from your vocabulary. And then allow yourself to be open to sitting in a new way.
Just sitting—here, you will find the source for your serenity. Just sitting—here, you will develop a practice of being still that you can then bring into all your other activities. Just sitting—this is the only suggestion in this book that it’s best not to skip.
So take a seat with the clear intention to just sit. Begin with five or ten minutes, and use your body and your breath to do it. Let your mind come along for the ride, or in this case, “the sit.” Concentrate on your posture (erect), your breathing (deep and slow), and your fingers and toes (relaxed). Begin each session with closed eyes in order to draw your attention inward. Then once you’re focused, gently open your eyes and just breathe. There’s nothing to do, nowhere to go.
Watch as your mind tries to pull you away from any discomfort you might experience. Breathe deeply into your belly. Expect nothing. Simply and gently, just sit and breathe. Practice being still. The longer you still your body and the deeper into your belly you breathe, the quieter your mind will become.
This practice of sitting still and doing nothing will eventually create space between thoughts. This space will hold pure, intrinsic awareness. This will be the breeding ground for serenity—not just as you sit, but at all times. So sit still and discover this internal mechanism for creating peace and harmony within, no matter what is going on outside. Then you can carry it with you always and tap into it whenever you need it.
from Serenity in Motion – Inner Peace: Anytime, Anywhere
What do most of us long for? A happy, healthy life? Certainly. And if you feel that you’re not yet living that, then it must follow that you are unhappy in some way. Once you acknowledge this you usually make the connection that liberation from your suffering will bring the desired contentment and so you long for that. It can become a vicious cycle: dissatisfaction — desire — happiness — longing — dissatisfaction. But liberation is possible, and here in the first three steps of this process you will learn about your cycle of frustration and what has prevented you from living happily, especially with the work you do.
Although it may be hard to look at the how and why, you cannot extract yourself from the pervasive dissatisfaction of your life until you do. Here in “Discovery” you will come to understand how you have been looking all your life for something that doesn’t exist. That which you thought was solid is constantly changing and moving—you along with it. But rather than being frightening, this truth can be reassuring. As you continue to make your way through these first three steps, as you confront the truth, you will slowly (or in some instances, very quickly) realize that this truth will set you free. You are not a cliché, but sometimes your life is. This is neither bad nor good—it simply is.
Approach the work suggested here as you would a job that you love to do. Put everything you have into this work. Practice and see it as an opportunity to express your beliefs, your ideals, your inner truth. And then take this same approach to your life’s work. What you learn here can be immediately transferred to your everyday work life. This is a practical, usable process, not a theoretical one.
Some of what you uncover may be difficult for your ego to accept. Do not judge or criticize what you discover. Instead, use it for your own benefit. Don’t let it rule you. Know that you are in charge here and it is for you (and not your ego) that you do this work.
By the time you get to “The Path” you will have a clearer picture of who you are, where you’ve come from and where you want to go. You will be ready to accept the challenges of this process and your day-to-day work experience will begin to improve. You will spend more time each day in the events of the day rather than in yesterday or tomorrow. This alone, in a very concrete, experiential way, will usher in a new sense of peace and contentment. In “Discovery” you will learn how to be in harmony with the changing circumstances of your life and be comfortable with nothing permanent to hold on to. Your spirit will then be able to soar and your work life will mirror this newfound strength and happiness.
But don’t take my word for it. Discover this for yourself. Do these first three steps with thoroughness and you will see for yourself. What can be better than that?
To be continued…
from Work From the Inside Out – 7 Steps to Loving What You Do
February can be a challenging month, especially for those of us who are lucky to live in an area with four distinct seasons. Sometimes when it’s frigid, icy, windy weather—which we’ve had a lot of this year—I don’t feel so lucky. But it definitely reminds me of the impermanence of all things, including whatever mood I might suffer as a result of being cold and cooped up, waiting for a resolution to whatever plans I’ve made, or dealing with a myriad of things beyond my control.
I ran across the two quotes below in a document tucked in a folder on my computer and thought they were perfect for my mood today. I hope you find something in one or both to help ease your burden.
One thing is for sure: Spring will be here in the very unpredictable month of March!
“When we look at our lives we see that we tend to just go round and round in our habitual patterns and negative tendencies. Occasionally we might feel inspired to do some practice and emerge from our habits a little bit. But then, habits take us over again, we lose our momentum and inspiration, and we fall back into the same kinds of patterns and traps. Then we try to get out again, but it seems so difficult and we lose heart. This is samsara.
Samsara is not life itself, but the neurotic way we live, driven by hope & fear, which are the mechanisms of samsara that perpetuate suffering.”
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”
Situating Yourself: Mind Noise
…continued from Becoming Aware 1:2
Once you start to become aware and take note of what your mind is doing, create a Quiet Corner bank (some call it a God box—if that works better for you) in which to store all your questions, self-judgments, and self-criticisms. Perhaps you could make something out of construction paper. Make it colorful and big enough to hold many slips of paper. Don’t try to imagine how many questions you might ask yourself before the questions slow down. You can always make a second or third or fourth container if the first becomes too small. Once you fill one up, you can create a ritual to burn them all!
Have some fun. Make a game of it. Use magazines or old newspapers or even an empty coffee can. Paint it, decorate it, label it. And then put it away. Let it be the vessel for your nagging questions. This is the beginning of clearing your head of some of the noise so that you can begin to hear your inner voice. Be aware that once you write a question down and put it in the bank, it may revisit you. That’s okay and perfectly natural. Simply write it down again and redeposit it. There may be something to learn from the repetition.
The Aha! Experience
As we go along, I will make suggestions of things to do that will help you along your path. So far I’ve suggested that you
1. Carry with you and use your “purpose tool,”
2. Observe your mind as it works,
3. Write down your mind questions (and judgments and criticisms), and
4. Make a mind question bank.
A lot of suggestions just to begin! If you’re anything like me, you might judge them as silly and inconsequential or resist doing them at all. At first glance, many of the suggestions in this book will seem slight and meaningless, but try to think of them as a grocery list. Before you go shopping you know what you have and what you need, but a list is always helpful in assisting you in your chore; it helps you to remember all that you need and to avoid buying things you don’t need. A list may seem unnecessary (you have it all in your head), but it can be useful. And while each ingredient you buy is not always or necessarily a meal in itself, it will combine with other ingredients to form a perfect meal. That’s how you can look at each suggestion here—as just one ingredient to be included in a life of serenity.
You can also look at these suggestions as nuggets of surprise. Until you actually do them, break open their shell, you can’t know what’s waiting for you inside. If you’ve ever discovered or learned something in an indirect way (in trying to solve one problem, the answer to another is revealed), you’ve had the aha! experience. So keep an open mind as you approach the suggestions because they have the potential to work this way. And each one will reveal a secret just for you.
To be continued…
from Just Listen – A Guide to Finding Your Own True Voice
Standing still is anathema to so many these days. Our lives are about movement, about doing, about getting someplace. We so rarely are where we are. Instead, we’re into the next thing, place, thought, or action, before we even get there. And then when we do get there, we hardly take the time to be there, as we’re off into the next whatever. We are racing to catch up with ourselves, which usually leaves us stressed out and short of breath, hoping everything will stop and wondering when relief will come. We even chase after relief, even though it is eternally out of reach when we do pursue it.
If this is all true, it seems that the solution is to just stop. But because this is nearly impossible to contemplate, let alone accomplish, we feel defeated before we even begin. We’ve tried slowing down before with little success. The surprise here is that you are already doing what you need to do and the only thing now is to take advantage of those already existing moments.
Standing, at the bus stop, the copier, or ATM machine, in the theater or grocery store checkout line; waiting for the elevator to arrive or the stoplight to change—throughout the day, we frequently find ourselves standing with no place to go, and too often we squander this time. Anxious for movement, we view the stillness, the lack of motion, as a waste of time. Paradoxically, when we’re on life’s treadmill, all we want to do is stop. Yet when we do, we yearn to move. This is just one example of never being satisfied with where we are.
All it takes to transform these moments from dreadful to delicious is a little mind movement, a shift in attitude. Even if you cannot change to a new outlook directly, if you’re reading this, you most likely have the willingness to take a different approach. And if you’re willing, then change is possible.
When your body comes to a standstill, your mind doesn’t always follow right away, which is why not moving can create such internal discomfort. So when you find yourself standing still with your mind on fast forward, there are two things you can do.
First of all, you can become aware of your body in space, where it is, how it feels. Notice your posture and any tension you might have in your spine. Make slight adjustments to how you’re standing, and breathe into your whole back, as you center your awareness on the fact that you are able to stand upright. Feel your feet standing firmly on the ground. Imagine that there are roots solidly planting you into the earth, your legs the trunk of a tree, your upper body the branches gently swaying in the breeze. If you’re carrying heavy bags, place them down as you stand there, unburdened and free. Appreciate your body; savor the moment. Be there with every inch of every fiber of your being.
Then, once you’ve stilled your body, observe your mind and where it wants to take you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Watch your thoughts; simply stand there, breathe into your belly, be in your body, and pay attention—without judgment or criticism. Consider that everyone around you, standing with you, contains a similarly active mind. It might take time, but know that if you still your body, the mind will eventually follow and reach a state of stillness—the first step to serenity.
And keep in mind that there are no needless, wasted moments. Each one is precious and an opportunity to experience contentment. So stand tall in your life with all that it offers, good and bad, and know that serenity is available in and through everything. Be sure to stand wherever you are and you won’t miss it.
(from Serenity in Motion)
As our society has become so enthralled with narcissism, many of us have come to believe that self-love is bad and selfish. We have done ourselves wrong here. There is nothing wrong with loving ourselves. In fact, this is necessary before we can truly love another. Let’s try to put aside the old myths and have faith that love sent in any direction is positive and healthy.
If you’ve ever been on an airplane, you’ll remember being told to put on your own oxygen mask in the event of an emergency before helping young children; if you help yourself first, you’ll be better equipped to help others. In the same way, love yourself first. Take some time for yourself. Consider these actions to be done in the service of others. A quiet, loving corner can be the nurturing ground for your own and your family’s well-being.
Love is what we all ultimately seek, but to get love, we must give it. And in order to give it, we need to know it for ourselves. Unless we take good care of ourselves, we will have nothing to give others. Caring for ourselves is the first step in the process.
from Find a Quiet Corner
As a new year begins and I look forward to some new and exciting possibilities, I find myself coming back to these few words of inspiration that always ground me. I hope you too can sit with these a while and take them with you into this year and beyond.
And check out more wonderful quotes about New Beginnings on our Imperfect Partners site. Happy 2015 to all!
“All of man’s woes derive from the fact that he cannot sit quietly in a room alone.”
Think in this way of all this fleeting world:
As a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream;
A dewdrop, a flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.
The Diamond Sutra
“When it’s cold, shiver; when it’s hot sweat.”
“If you contribute to other people’s happiness, you will find the true goal, the true meaning of life.”
The Dalai Lama
As the year draws to a close I look forward to spending time with family and celebrating New Year’s Eve in meditation with friends.
On this last occasion of the year we will all write vows for the next year: what practices and activities we want to start or deepen, and what we might like to leave behind and not carry forward into the new day.
An old Zen story that I love, and share with every student I’ve ever had, speaks to the burdens that so many of us carry and how easy it could be to just put them down.
I hope this parable will inspire some of us to start the year fresh and be mindful every day of the new year to ask ourselves the question posed at the end of this story, so that we don’t end next year carrying more than we can handle.
Tanzan and Ekido were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling.
Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.
“Come on, girl,” said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.
Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. “We monks don’t go near females,” he told Tanzan, “especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?”
“I left the girl there,” said Tanzan. “Are you still carrying her?”
(from Zen Flesh Zen Bones)
This has always been one of my favorites from 3 Bowls, not just because it’s spicy and delicious but also because it’s so simple. And it has some of my favorite foods: sweet potato, rice, black-eyed peas, collard greens – all spiced up with Chipotle.
Add to this the fact that it’s a crowd pleaser makes it a real winner. I made it this week for a potluck brunch and it was easily the favorite dish there. Try it, you’ll love it!