Monday, June 10, 2013

the end is here


I know we often ponder the cliche; "live each day to the fullest".  What if we didn't have a choice?

What if the proverbial end wasn't 'near'... but actually HERE?  Choose your flavor... apocalypse, terminally ill with an expiration date... etc.  What if you knew the end was well nigh upon you?

What would you do?...

Would you...

tell "her" she is the love of your life?
make amends with that estranged family member?
take that trip you've always wanted to take?
give up?
lose faith?
lose hope?
find faith?
find hope?
run?
stay?

Would you dive deeper into that blurry abyss, drowning in apathy and despair?
Or would you experience irony and discover clarity, albeit just a little too late?

Honesty... some hide in its shadow... some burn up in its heat, like all things that get too close to the sun...

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

forgiveness


I heard it asked recently... "Do you think God will ever forgive us for what we've done?"  I stopped paying attention and went inside... my mind off and racing.  The result of that incessant mental rambling was coming to the conclusion; what does it matter if God forgives us?  If there is a God, as they speak of "Him", I'm sure he would forgive.  The true shame is that most of us are unable to forgive ourselves... and one another...

Forgiveness, when done right, frees the one doing the forgiving.  I believe that is it's true purpose.  Once one forgives, the person he / she is forgiving no longer has a hold of the one doing the forgiving.  The forgiver is "free" in a sense.

Temper that with caution... as it is also said (paraphrased); Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

the path IS the goal...

I've been thinking some about the future (which... of course... distracts me from living in the NOW), but sometimes that's a good thing.  When it comes to planning and setting goals, etc., it is of course the prudent and responsible thing to do.  The subject seemed pertinent because I had recently spent an afternoon with a friend talking about the future, his plans, his goals, and his dreams.  He expressed his sense of excitement but that it was coupled with a certain sense of anxiety, nervous energy, and dare I say it - stress.


Being the avid quote monger that I am, several immediately popped into my head.  Among the ones I like...
~  A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step... (Lao Tzu) 
~ The path IS the goal... (Chogyam Trungpa)


Cliché?... Maybe.  But true nonetheless.


And as I was thinking today about my own long term goals, plans, and desires, I was reminded again how important it is to focus on the present moment and really starting where I'm at.


When we think of all the things that need to be done, and really focus on THAT part of it, the tasks can seem daunting at times.  It can seem like too much.  It may feel overwhelming and we might experience anxiety and stress.  This, of course, is no good for the body, mind, and soul.  Some of us become frozen and cannot take that first necessary step to move towards the goal.  This inevitably leads to delays in attaining the desired outcomes.


So I reminded myself of just "how" I should be thinking about these goals and whatnot.  I feel that it's good to focus on them from (as much as possible) a purely intellectual level, but not to invest too much of the emotional part of myself.  The more I invest emotionally into thinking about the past or the future, the less present I am.  The less present I am, the less capable I am of "doing" and "being".


We have to start where we're at.  We can't skip ahead or go back.  That kind of thinking inevitably leads to procrastination and justification for not doing what should be done.  When we accept that we have no choice but to do from this place, this present moment, then we can take that first step and move forward.  No sense in wasting any more time or energy in wishing we could go back or waiting for some set of circumstances to exist before we do anything.


And if the goal seems daunting, start focussing on the one little thing you can do right now, that has to be done anyway, that will move you in the direction you want to be heading.


Above all else, I need to remember that the path IS the goal.  The "end justifies the means" mentality doesn't work for me.  I need to believe in the process as much as the outcome.  I remind myself that wherever I'm at right now is where I need to be, doing what I need to be doing.  And that while milestones may be achieved, goals met, and whatever, that there is no final destination that I am overly focussed on.  I focus on the living of each day and the being in each moment.  That way we're making better use of our time.  Since this moment is the only thing that is real, we're more motivated to make sure that whatever we're doing in that moment is worthy and not a waste.  That doesn't mean we have to be busy every waking second of every day, mind you.  After all, relaxing, enjoying, and breathing in the moment is also a wonderful way to spend the present moment.


There may not be any "answers" in this brief sharing of the rambling of my mind, but hopefully it'll get you to think a little... :)


And your thoughts, comments, feedback, and even criticisms are always appreciated.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

resolved

blood red moon in Santa Barbara...

The New Year is upon us.  2012 is here and 2011 is now just a memory.  With the arrival of the new year comes that age old tradition of new year's resolutions.  I think it's a good practice and research shows that many are successful.  I've even read in one place that people that make resolutions are 10 times more likely to achieve their goals.  Pretty impressive statistic.

I'd be curious to hear what kind of resolutions some of you have made.  Maybe some will comment on this blog entry and share some of their resolutions.

Although I tend to shy away from setting a definitive "start date" for resolutions, I think the tradition is still a good one, and I myself have made some resolutions.  I'll come back to that and explain the only thing I don't like about having some start date out off in the future.  Setting a start date somewhere in the future, at least in my case, allows for procrastination to set in.  I've been guilty many times in the past of pushing that start date out a little further.  "Maybe next week"...  It's important for me to create a sense of urgency.  I have to remember that there is no guarantee of a "tomorrow" and that if something is important enough to me, I should take steps towards the goal starting NOW.  I try to make sure that each day I am doing at least something (anything) that will move me closer to the goal

And as for what my goals are, most center around improving my physical, intellectual, and spiritual health.  I continue to try to evolve as a person.  I do my best to not cause any hurt to others.  I think that should be a baseline for everyone.  Wishful thinking, but imagine what the world would be like if it were so.  Maybe we can't all cure cancer or save the rain forests, but what if we at least refrained from hurting others?  I'm trying to be more vigilant also about not letting others hurt or take advantage of me.  I'm not so good at this as of yet and haven't always protected myself, which in itself, for me at least, violates the rule of causing no hurt.  I believe this because allowing someone to hurt me (whether it be emotionally or physically) is allowing hurt to be caused to myself.  I'm not a victim (unless someone happens to be holding a gun to my head), so I try not to sit and blame others for what I am experiencing.  I try to remind myself that I LET these things happen to me, and that it is MY responsibility to do something about it.  For me, that means letting go of some toxic relationships, cultivating others that are healthier, and doing my best to move forward.  It's hard to let go of a painful past sometimes, but true healing cannot begin until we surrender and forgive.

Be good to yourself and to one another.  See a better, healthier, and more positive future.  Live, love, and learn.  Embrace the opportunities we've been given to evolve.  And never lose hope...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

black hole


"Nothing can exist in a vacuum".  I remember hearing this in some Science class a million years ago when I was still in school.  Made perfect sense at the time and in a scientific context.  Starting to make sense in a philosophical and spiritual context as well.  For example, try replacing the word 'nothing' with something else like 'love', make the necessary change from 'can' to 'can't' and see if the idea doesn't resonate with you.  Love can't exist in a vacuum.  Makes a certain amount of sense to me.  I can extend that to include such things as ideas, beliefs, maybe even the soul.

The point is, the soul needs nourishing.  We are first and foremost responsible for taking care of ourselves.  We have to make sure we are receiving the 'nourishment' that our souls need to thrive.  Unfortunately we cannot always depend on those around us to provide us with all that we need, so we have to learn to provide for ourselves.  As long as we are vigilant in the practice of making ourselves as spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically healthy as possible, we can discover contentment... dare I say it, even peace.  We must discover, foster, cultivate, and develop our own inner strength.  We can marvel at the accomplishments of those we admire.  We can aspire to do something great.  We can model ourselves after those that have gone before us and achieved great things.  But we can only begin to realize our own potential when we have taken the time and invested the energy and effort into cultivating ourselves.  Then, and only then, can we truly begin to be of service to others.

I always think of the analogy of the oxygen masks on planes.  The instructions and flight attendants always tell you to make sure your own oxygen mask is secure and in place before attempting to assist our loved ones that might need our help.  I always struggled with that idea, but I do have to admit that it makes sense.  How can we be of service or assistance, or help others, if we are 'broken' ourselves.  This will make sense on an intellectual level for a lot of people, but be difficult to digest on an emotional level for just as many.  So many of us are inclined to give more of ourselves than we have to give at times.  I am not advocating dysfunctional or unhealthy selfishness, but make sure the foundation is strong before making promises to those around you, regardless of how bad you want to do for them.

Be good to yourself...
Then be good to others...

The stronger, healthier, and more functional you are, the more you can love, help, be of service, and be there for others.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

equanimity

Honolulu sky on fire...

The dictionary defines equanimity as "mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under tension or strain; calmness; equilibrium."  I believe it's one of the more important concepts to try to understand and develop.  It can mean the difference between getting through the tough times and falling apart.  Nyanaponika Thera did a great job of describing it when he said "Equanimity is a perfect, unshakable balance of mind."


It means that we take what comes with a calmer and more controlled state of mind.  Serenity is a synonym for it.  One maintains composure.  One avoids being a victim of reaction and maintains control of oneself throughout.


Sounds great on paper, I know.  One of those "easier said than done" ideas.  But how do we get to that place in our own minds?  How can we start to get control of our reactions?  Maybe there are other effective paths to the top of this mountain, but the method that has begun to work for me is meditation.  Through daily sitting, you will start to create some "space" in your mind.  You begin to create space between your thoughts and your reactions to them.  Without this space, when things happen, we feel jammed up right inside them.  WITH this space, we are able to create enough distance between us and them.


Spend some time each day being the observer of your thoughts.  Let them arise in your mind without judgment.  When thoughts arise concerning pleasure, just notice them instead of immediately reacting to them and chasing the pleasure.  It has been said that the constant cravings, and the chasing after these cravings, and the subsequent dissatisfaction, disappointment, or this sense of it never being enough, that leads us to constant suffering.  Do the same with those feelings that arise that normally cause us to react negatively.  Notice them but don't immediately react to them.  Do the same with input that comes into your mind from the senses.  Notice the smells, the visual stimuli, the textures, the tastes, etc., without becoming immediately involved with them.  Notice also the neutral stimuli and thoughts.  This is as important and sometimes more difficult to direct your conscious attention to since they often don't have an emotional component attached to them.  It's easier to get right up inside those feelings and input that we are passionate about.  With those neutral stimuli and thoughts it may seem easier to feel that space but it's often harder to stay with them and maintain our attention precisely because of the lack of that emotional component.


Become the observer of yourself.  This is what I believe to be the key point to remember in cultivating this practice.  When you can do this you have managed to learn how to take a step back from yourself.  You are able to be more impartial, compassionate, and can develop a greater sense of loving kindness.  You become the master (or at least on the way to being so) of your thoughts, feelings, and self.


If you do these things even for just a few minutes at a time everyday, you will notice that you gradually become more tranquil, serene, and better equipped to deal with the bigger issues that arise from time to time.  But don't take my word for it... See for yourself... :)


"With equanimity, you can deal with situations with calm and reason while keeping your inner happiness."
~ The Dalai Lama

Saturday, November 26, 2011

fear


I've been thinking a bit about the idea of 'fear' lately and thought I'd share my thoughts...

I, like many, have let fear get in the way of accomplishing things in my life.  Upon further reflection, it makes sense at some point to ask yourself what you are really afraid of.  Is it fear of rejection, being hurt, humiliation, etc., that is standing in the way of going after what it is you really want?  I know that these are some of the common fears that many of us, including myself, have experienced in the past.  Feel free to add to the list via comment.

Interestingly enough, I've also come across those who are fundamentally afraid of succeeding.  Yep... fear of success.  Sounds like a contradiction I know, but if you think about it, it actually begins to make sense. Some people genuinely fear succeeding because of what it may mean and the potential discomfort that may come from changes due to that success.  As we all know, change can be a scary thing.  (And yes... change is yet another common fear).  It can be a challenging thing to achieve success and the responsibility that comes with it.  For some the thought of having to live up to their true potential can be a daunting feeling.

But in my opinion something else should motivate us even more.  If I never try, I will never know.  What if I decide to never take the risk?  Sure, if I DO take the risk, and fail, it might suck, and it might hurt.  But how much more would it suck... how much more would it hurt... if I didn't try at all, and I might have achieved some greater happiness, success, love, etc.  The regret that comes with knowing or thinking of what could have been is, to me, greater than the pain of falling down and failing.  If I don't get what I wanted, if I fail, at least I'll know that I did everything I could.  At least I tried.  How much more long term suffering I would endure if I had not tried at all.

I'm not advocating that we start taking irresponsible risks and throwing all caution and prudence to the wind.  For me, what works, is after serious contemplation, if there is something I believe in, then I hope that I will realize that any fear of failure I have should be outweighed by the fear of not having tried at all...

So if you believe in something, DO something... :)