Monthly Archives: January 2014

Just Be Perfect

Sometimes it seems that we can never do enough to prove to the world and ourselves that we are worthy. Even if we demonstrate extraordinary worthiness in one area of life, there is always another area where we can find fault with ourselves. We may feel proud in the morning and ashamed in the evening. We may feel important around one group of people and insignificant around another. There are millions of ways to measure our self worth, but we often rate ourselves based on our circumstance and mood at the moment. One way around all the ups and downs of self esteem is to just be perfect.

It is not easy to be perfect all day because we get distracted and start feeling guilty, ashamed, sad, scared, bored, or angry and we forget all about being perfect. We may make a mistake, show our ignorance, hurt somebody we love, or be hurt by somebody we love and we feel all messed up and far from perfect. That’s why it’s important to set aside a few minutes a day to remember that we are perfect. That’s why we meditate.

When you meditate you are perfect. You may not sit perfectly straight, you may fall asleep, you may think some nasty thoughts and feel those difficult emotions, but as you sit there and practice meditation, you are perfect. Breathe in, breathe out, perfect. You are everything that you can be in those moments. When you have sat perfectly for enough time, you can get up again and forget about how perfect you are.

When you get used to sitting a couple of times a day and experiencing a few moments of perfection here and there, that can carry you through the ups and downs of the rest of the day. You’re still perfect as you imagine how horrible you are, but you have lost touch with the perfection. When you need to remember, sit still for a few minutes, breathe and just be perfect. 

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Already There

The reason we don’t strive for awakening is that awakening is a state of non-striving. When we are looking to be something more than what we are, we miss the fact that we cannot be anything more. When we want to feel whole, that wholeness includes all of our wounds, scars, insecurities, fears and doubts.

We live life on two levels. There is a relative level and an absolute level. Awakening is noticing the absolute level. On the absolute level we have already died and have not yet been born. We are all connected there like fingers on a hand. Awareness of the absolute is like a fire that consumes everything on the relative level. When you are suffering on a relative level, it is natural to strive to recognize the absolute level so that your problems will all be consumed. That is unnecessary because on the absolute level, your problems are already consumed. They are part of the wholeness.

It is fine to strive on the relative level. You can set goals, make plans, experience success and failure, happiness and sadness, insecurity and contentment. That is what to do in life on the relative level. The absolute level is more like a net that is always there. Acrobats don’t look at the net when they fly through the air. They don’t strive to hit the net. Knowing that the net is below them, allows them to strive to amaze and thrill.

When we strive for awakening, we are imagining that we only exist on the relative level. Our suffering and desire to end our suffering fuels our imagination. If we look into our suffering, we see how we are thinking that this is good and that is bad and there is somewhere else we should be.  When we stop striving to be spiritually somewhere else and just rest right where we are, we notice that good and bad and here and there are relative. In order to notice that, we need to be right where we are. When we notice that, we don’t suddenly go anywhere, we are already there, absolutely.

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Pecking at the Shell

When a baby chick hatches, it has to peck its way out of the egg shell. It doesn’t know why. It doesn’t have any idea what it will find. It’s not trying to get out of the shell. It has no idea that it is even in a shell. It just pecks. Then the world opens up.

As we go about our lives in our shells, how can we know that we are in a shell? These are the only lives we know. When we reach a certain point in our lives, we begin to peck at our shell. We run into situations that make us reevaluate our lives. We begin to question who and what we are. We begin to imagine that the world is not just what it seems.

There is a lot of comfort in our shells because it is all we know. It can be quite confining too and we may feel like we are suffocating. Without knowing why, how or what we will find, we begin to peck. Soon, the way will open.

Peep, peep.

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Throwing Out Your Mind

When your mind turns on you, you may need to throw it out and start again. When you feel like no matter what you do will not be good enough, when you know that you are exceptionally able, but doubt your abilities, when nothing you do seems worthwhile, you need to throw out your mind. If you think you may be losing your mind anyway, just throw it out.

When you come to an emotional and spiritual crisis point and begin to question what it is about you that is really you, your whole foundation seems unstable and it can be terrifying. From a normal, feeling good about life point of view, that is a horrible thing. From a spiritual awakening point of view, that is a wonderful thing. Deep suffering forces us to look deeply into ourselves and into our experience. It gives us a sense of suffering so that we can understand what others go through on a daily basis. When we approach our suffering with awareness, we learn how to bear it and learn from it. We learn to separate the suffering from the thoughts that accompany the suffering. We learn to develop compassion for suffering because we know intimately, acutely and painfully exactly how it feels.

The hard core Zen thing to do in this situation is to throw out your mind. Each morning when you wake up, fill a bowl with water and pour it down the sink. If that seems too ritualistic for you, you can do the same thing as you flush the toilet. That is your mind. That is your preconceived notions of what it is to be a success. That is your judgements that say you are on the wrong path. That is the life you always imagined for yourself turning into something never imagined. That is your fresh start.

Give yourself a fresh start everyday. Everyday you find new worries, imagine new problems, or forget about your untouchable pristine self. That is why, every day, you need to throw out your mind and greet the day with a fresh mind. See where it takes you.

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Violent Thoughts

A major obstacle to peace of mind is violent thoughts. Violent thoughts are the thoughts that harm you or others. You can be the peace lovingest, tree huggingest person there is and still upset your pursuit of peace by entertaining all kinds of violent thoughts.

The violent thoughts we think of others can be less harmful than the violent thoughts we think about ourselves. Violent thoughts about others are generally symptoms of our own suffering. Violent thoughts about others are not usually things like, I’m going to rip your arms off. They’re more like, you stupid idiot, don’t be such a moron. We may think these things about people who stand in our way for very brief moments and whom we will never see again. Yet the thoughts we have about them upset our peace. The violent thoughts we have about other people hurt them when we open our mouths, lean on our horns, or somehow convert those thoughts to actions. The unconverted thought though, still hurts us.

If we are not prone to unleashing our violent thoughts on those around us, then the violent thoughts we think about ourselves are the more damaging ones. They are damaging because we don’t know them as violent, so we just think they are the truth. These thoughts are things like: how could I be so foolish, I wish I were better looking, I’m hideous, I’m stupid, I can’t take it, I’m not good enough, nobody loves me, I wish I were dead, this sucks. When these kinds of thoughts find their way into your awareness, it is important to recognize them as violent thoughts. You’re beating yourself down with them. If you have such a thought it is not a problem. When you don’t recognize it as a violent thought and passively believe it, it becomes a problem.

Violent thoughts come with suffering. As you practice recognizing when you are suffering, you will see that suffering brings on violent thoughts. If you practice recognizing violent thoughts, you will see that they come when you are suffering. Whenever you recognize suffering in yourself or others, the desire to ease that suffering that comes with the recognition is compassion. If you notice the suffering first, you will have compassionate thoughts before violent thoughts. If you notice the violent thought, you can assume there is suffering and undo any potential damage with a compassionate thought such as, I’m sad, I’m scared, I’m bored, I made a mistake, I’m stressed, I deserve to feel peace, I need a hug. Compassionate thoughts help.

When you practice watching your thoughts you will become better and better at seeing when you are thinking violence. As you recognize the thoughts and feel compassion, you will find more peace. As you find more peace you will suffer less and you will have fewer and fewer violent thoughts to notice. You’ll still have plenty of compassionate thoughts.

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Locus of Control

One of the aims of cognitive therapy is to bring awareness to an internal locus of control. That means that a person will come to understand that they have the ability to create positive change in their life. If we feel like we are out of control, that the rest of the world is dictating the circumstances of our life, that can lead to a sense of hopelessness. We’re suffering and there seems like there is nothing we can do about it. Sometimes, in order to create a sense of control we do all kinds of self destructive things. When we actively hurt ourselves and contribute to our own suffering it makes us feel like we are at least in control of that. When we want to stop suffering, we suddenly feel out of control again, because we don’t know how to do that.

To experience an internal sense of control we can always turn to our breath. We can take a deep breath, hold it for a second and let it out. At that moment, we are in complete control. Our ability to control the world is within us. That is a comforting thing to recognize. However, it is a big world. Just because we can hold our breath doesn’t mean that we are in control of life. What that shows us is that we can control what we can. That is all we need.

If we want to control somebody else’s breathing, we can punch them in the stomach, or ask them to breath with us. We don’t have a lot of control over other people. Yet as we explore our ability to control the world, we spend a lot of our energy trying to control those around us. We do it with our emotions, we do it with our actions. We try to make people think what we want them to think, yet they go on thinking what they think. We can’t really control that. We also can’t control the weather.

Where control is actually located is anyone’s guess. Feeling comfortable with what we can’t control is as important as recognizing what we can control. When we need to feel in control, we look to ourselves, we start with our breathing, where our eyes are looking, what sounds we listen to, and what thoughts we are thinking. When we need to feel comfortable with what we can’t control we look to somebody that we love, and trust that they are controlling what they can. When we pay attention to our suffering and their suffering we see how we are similar and we develop compassion. We breathe together and  control what we can.

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Buddhist and Everyday Ignorance

When dealing with everyday ignorance, Buddhists can be quite tolerant and quite harsh at the same time. When people are sharing rude opinions and passing harsh judgements, they are acting out of ignorance, both in the Buddhist and everyday sense of the word. The difference between the two types of ignorance is that the Buddhist sense of ignorance is filled with compassion rather than condemnation. Buddhist ignorance is not really ill-mannered, or unknowledgeable, it is a lack of understanding about the interconnectedness of all things. This lack of understanding is common to everybody and creates the sense of a separate self. In Buddhism, ignorance is one of the main contributors to suffering. It’s one of the three poisons. The other two poisons are greed and anger.

If you want to practice a Buddhist approach to dealing with everyday ignorance, then you have to notice your reactions to other people’s harsh judgements and rude behaviors. If their behavior is causing you to get angry, then you work on your anger. If you are prone to express anger in ways that are hurtful to others, even those who are making you angry, then you are contributing to your own suffering and theirs. If that is happening, then it is good to limit your time around them, so that you are not acting out of anger.

When you see other people’s ignorance as a cause of their suffering, which they are spreading to you, then your awareness of that will help to protect you from becoming emotionally drained. When you have worked though your initial reactions to their behaviors, you may come to feel compassion for them. When that happens, their behavior won’t bother you so much. When you act out of compassion rather than anger you can tell people just what is on your mind. When you speak and act from a pure heart instead of ego, People will respond differently. Taking this approach could help you feel better, and it could change the behavior of those around you.

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Constant Mind

Because your mind is constantly active, a mindfulness practice has to be a constant practice. This is especially important if you feel a constant suffering. If you have generalized anxiety, broken heart, depression, or other such modes of constant suffering, then you are already experiencing a sort of constant mindfulness. Everything you do is affected by the constant experience of suffering. You need a break.

A constant mindfulness practice is just like a constant suffering practice. Instead of just suffering anxiety, stress, and sadness, you use those feelings to fuel your constant mindfulness practice.  As you pay attention to the feelings, you don’t get carried away by them. You can breathe in and out with them and see that they won’t carry you away. You can be there with your anxiety, sadness, stress, anger, shame, guilt, or whatever is trying to carry you away. They come and go in your mind, your mind is constant.

The constant mindfulness, your constantly noticing your experience, brings with it an acceptance of the circumstance. It brings compassion for the circumstance. It brings hope to the circumstance, as you watch the feelings come and go and transform into other feelings.

It’s not any extra work to be constantly aware, constantly mindful. It is a lot of extra work to constantly suffer. When you practice constant mindfulness and the suffering eases or leaves, your constant mind remains, mindful and peaceful.

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Quality of Life

Everybody has their own idea about what brings quality to life. Quality is generally seen as positive. Products are graded as high and low quality. When you see your life as a product, you may think that you can achieve a high quality of life if you do things a certain way and a low quality of life if you do things a different way. However, even when you do all you know to create the high quality life that you deserve, sometimes things don’t work out and you end up feeling like your life lacks quality. That is essentially a problem of judgement.

Quality is also a neutral term, which is a property or characteristic of something. In this sense, everybody’s life has it’s own quality. There is no high or low, it is just how it is. Nobody’s life has any more quality than anybody else’s.  To live a quality life, you have to understand and appreciate the qualities of your life.

One of the qualities of life is that we suffer. Another quality is that we feel joy. We perceive beauty and ugliness. We feel pain and comfort, hot and cold, anger and peace, fear and security, rough and smooth, sweet and sour, hate and love. These things are all qualities of life and we feel them all. There is no possibility of more or less quality, we just feel each in it’s turn.

When we practice experiencing the quality of our life in each moment, we see that our lives have amazing qualities. We see that everyone around us has the same qualities of life that we have, despite vastly different circumstances.

To live a quality life, experience and observe all the qualities of life in yourself and others. When you practice observing the various qualities, you will notice a certain equality merging and emerging from the extremes. That equality, has a peaceful quality, extremely peaceful.

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