All The Things We “Have to Do”

When we “have to” to do things, it can bring a lot of anxiety into our lives. Sometimes the things we think we have to do aren’t always needed. We also cycle through the same tasks in our head over and over. Yes, today you have to eat, drink, use the bathroom and sleep, but those are just about the only requirements. If you feel that you really do have certain obligations that must be handled, take care of them in a calm manner.  Throwing in the words “take care” can adjust the way our mind and attitude approaches each task. You can almost see and feel the difference. “I have to pay bills” vs “I have to take care of bills”.  Try using words that are more open and experiment with how they make you feel.

For the things you really must take care of, try not rush through them. Use them as a way to create peace, tranquility and calmness by doing them mindfully. Implement genuine care into your “doing”. Try to act in a way that brings joy, even when it’s not an enjoyable task. When paying a bill for example, bring to mind the blessing of funds that are available to you in order to pay that bill, rather than focusing on of all the other things you can’t afford.

Practice emptying your heart. You need space within your heart in order to be free. Limit the projects and ambitions you have and welcome more space. Space will bring you the happiness that you imagined the projects, ambitions and desires would bring you. It’s a much deeper kind of happiness. Just look at how beautiful space can be.

“Breathing in I see myself as space, breathing out I feel free.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh

| 2016 | The Year of Acceptance, Compassion and Right Action |

If there’s a thread of gratitude that we can pull from 2015, it’s our increased level of awareness. Through the media’s focus on violence, fear, anger and confusion, we’ve become aware of issues that for years have been swept under the rug or ignored.

Together let’s coin 2016 as the year of acceptance. In order to change and address what we’ve opened our eyes to in 2015, we must first accept the way things are rather than rejecting or ignoring them.

Awareness is the gateway to acceptance. Without awareness, there is nothing to accept, we are completely unaware of the issue itself.  Through acceptance, we can open the door of understanding. Once we understand, we can develop compassion and identify or “see” the source of the concern. After seeing the source, we can find a resolution and discover the right action that should follow.

In other words, to bring change one must…

  1. Become Aware
  2. Accept things as they are
  3. Come to a place of understanding and compassion
  4. Act responsibly or rightly

We can approach life with what Zen master Suzuki Roshi called “beginners mind” by addressing situations with an openness, eagerness and freshness and setting aside our preconceptions.

Acceptance doesn’t mean that we encourage the world to give in and have an attitude of “oh well, this is just the way things are”. If we become aware that something needs to be addressed and ignore it or act as if it shouldn’t exist, we are cutting ourselves off from the possibility of change.

Acceptance is simply seeing the way things are, nothing more, nothing less. Think of acceptance as the opening in our hearts that allows the truth to flow in.

Change will never come to a world where we see suffering and approach it from a place of ignorance or rejection. When we don’t accept things as they are or understand them, we try to force things to work. Suffering cannot be alleviated by force.

We need communication, awareness understanding and kindness in 2016. Let’s carry over our awareness from 2015, accept what is here, start to understand and take actions that support the well being of all people. By helping the world, we are also helping ourselves.

Follow Your Own Path

Like the veins in a leaf, there are many paths. Comparing your journey to those around you does you no good. We must understand that many of us are looking for freedom and it is ok if we all arrive differently.

Look through a leaf at the sun and see all of the paths that have brought nourishment and growth. Let that leaf remind you that your path is what brings you the nourishment and growth that you need in order to find freedom.

Start this coming year with an open mind and open heart. Let go of the comparisons and self judgement and you’ll see we are all just leaves, part of the same tree.

5 Minute Meditation for Beginners

I had no idea what I was doing. I would sit for 30 to 45 minutes, trying to wrestle my mind into submission. It never worked. I needed a teacher or guidance. I was in too much of a rush for results and too stubborn to put in the time to research. Since then I’ve found Vipassana meditation, which has changed my life and I’ve been inspired to share some of what I’ve learned.

When starting a meditation practice, the amount of time we devote is not important. What is important is that we start a practice and we commit ourselves to performing it daily. This naturally allows us to settle into a routine. From there we can begin to extend our practice sessions. Even five minutes a day can have a drastic impact simply because we rarely, if ever, take time out of our schedules to stop, sit and pay attention. It doesn’t matter where you do it or when or what type of meditation you prefer right now. The point is just to do something consistently. Honing your skills will come with time and diligence.

Below is a meditation written by Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s simple and effective enough for a beginner to get a feel for meditation practice.

Breathing in, I calm my body
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.

Breathing in, I calm my body Allow your body to become calm with the freshness of incoming air. Scan your body, noticing any tension.

Breathing out, I smile– As you release your breath, release any tension you noticed and smile.

Dwelling in the present moment– Again become aware of your breath and body and open to the experience of the present moment.

I know this is a wonderful moment– Explore the wonders of being present.

Once you become familiar with each statement, you can shorten the exercise to make it easier to remember while meditating.

(Breathe in) Calming.
(Breathe out) Smiling.
(Breathe in) Present Moment.
(Breathe out) Wonderful Moment.

Here are a few words to keep you on track…

When your mind wanders off, just notice that it has wandered and come back to the simple mantra. Notice the mantra, and notice the mind wandering. Don’t get caught up by trying to make something happen, just keep noticing you’ve drifted off and keep coming back to the breath or the mantra.

By noticing what occurs during meditation, you are cultivating awareness. Cultivating awareness will help you see your life more clearly. Awareness will naturally overflow from your meditation practice into your daily life.

You doing nothing, is you doing something. Don’t rush it, don’t expect anything, just sit.

I started off with folded up pillows, a towel and no direction. Now my practice gives me the direction I need to find clarity within life.

Helpful Links:

Postures for Meditation
Meditation Timer App
Meditation Cushions, Benches and Mats