Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Power of Patience

Patience is the ability to rest comfortably in the present moment. When you develop this ability, you are set for life.

Developing patience takes practice. Being patient is not a passive process, except when it happens naturally. When we are content, we are naturally patient. When we find ourself slipping into discontent, then we actively practice patience. We can practice patience anytime and anywhere. We can practice with our friends, family, co-workers, teachers, or by ourself. There is always a present moment there for us to practice finding contentment.

Time is steady in that it constantly comes and goes. Before it comes we can anticipate it with excitement or dread. Once it passes we can remember it with fondness or regret. When it is here, we live it. Patience is the practice of reserving judgement in that present moment and observing what is happening. When we are waiting for something with excitement, being patient is savoring that anticipation, having faith that that event will happen in its time. When we are anticipating something with dread, practicing patience is feeling the fear while understanding that what we fear is not actually happening, that it may not happen the way we imagine it and knowing that we will be fine however it unfolds. We will be fine because we know how to practice patience.

Patience is not just waiting around for something. That is living in the future. Patience is being where we are. If things are not how we want them to be, we practice patience and do what we can with our time to build contentment. When others are behaving in ways that distress us, we practice patience with them. If they are not being patient, we practice patience for them. If we are the ones feeling uncomfortable, we practice patience with ourselves. We observe our situation, observe our feelings, reserve our judgement and be patient. Contentment will come in its time, because we create it. Patience.

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Lose the Attitude, Lose the Ego

We define ourselves by our attitudes. We like this and we don’t like that and all that liking and not liking makes up who we are. Our attitudes are both inward beliefs and outward expressions of how we feel about the world. We wear an attitude like a protective shell. Our attitude can help us fit in with the crowd or it can let people know to keep their distance. When our attitudes don’t fit in with who we are, they become cages. They close us off from the world. They prevent us from being our true Self.

Our attitudes go hand in hand with our ego. We define ourselves by our ego at more basic level. We think we are our ego. That is why we think we can be successes or failures. Those are measurements of the ego. We think we are good or bad people, which are also ideas of the ego. How we define ourselves as an ego plays a major role in what attitudes we adopt and display. If we want to get beyond our ego to who we truly are, we can start by working with our attitudes.

To work with our attitudes, we simply notice what attitudes we carry and convey. It is not enough to always maintain a positive attitude. That is still an attitude, stuck in the world of good and bad. When we work on noticing our attitudes, we are not judging if they are good or bad, we are just looking out for them. Whenever we spot an attitude, we can see our ego at work. When we get good at noticing our attitudes and ego we get a better idea about how they work and we get a glimpse into who we really are.

Nobody wants to be an ego with an attitude. We are much more than that. If, through our practice, we happen to lose both our ego and our attitude, we’ve lost nothing. We’ve found our Self.

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Turning the Tide

It is easy to go with the flow when everything is going your way. When nothing seems to be going your way, going with the flow will take your even further from where want to be. In that situation, you can either swim against the current, or turn the tide.  To turn the tides of your perception, be patient with yourself. Tides turn on their own time, in harmony with the Earth. If the tide is going the wrong way, you don’t swim against it, you swim to the shore, or rest on an island where you are safe.

When dealing with the ebb and flow of your emotions, it is important to remember that a safe resting spot is always within your reach. When you recognize that you are caught in an emotional current that is taking you away from where you want to be, you are already reaching for the shore. Your thoughts will be running with the current, rehashing the circumstances, deflecting blame, sweeping you helplessly along. When you see that the thoughts are just flowing with the emotion, you can sit up on the shore of your larger Self and patiently watch the thoughts churn along. Your larger Self remains in harmony with nature no matter which way the tide is flowing. As you sit on the stable shore, or on your safe island, you can breathe in the angry wind, and breathe out gentle patience. Your breath in and out reminds you of the coming and going of the tides, the cycles of the Earth. Dealing with your difficult emotion will bring you the peace of mind to deal with the difficult circumstance.

When you have committed to patiently sitting on the island for however long it takes, seconds or centuries, that patience and commitment to peace will turn the tide of your emotion. You can ease back into the river and float along to where you need to go. As you learn to navigate your river with skill and compassion, you will become an island for others. The river can come and go in perfect harmony.

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Peace and Quiet

Everybody appreciates a little peace and quiet now and then. We always appreciate peace, but sometimes quiet is not very peaceful. That is why we often look for peace in noise. We sometimes need noise to distract us from our thoughts. We turn on music, the television, find somebody to talk to, or we find lots of people to talk to, play with and be with us. Anyway that we can create peace in our lives is important. Being able to find peace in quiet is also important, because sometimes it is quiet. When things are quiet, we  confront our self.

The practice of meditation is the practice of confronting our self. The practice is based on the belief that our true Self is essentially peaceful. When we take the drastic step to sit down to find peace in quiet, we shouldn’t be surprised if our meditation is neither peaceful nor quiet. When we sit down to face our self, we may find a lot of noise. Thoughts continue to come at us at the same pace and on the same subjects they did before we sat down. When we recognize the noise of our thoughts, it is an opportunity to peek through them and look for the peace that enticed us to sit down in the first place. We focus on our breathing, our posture, our mantra, our feeling, or a spot on the floor and we let the thoughts pass. As we practice this over and over, our mind learns to quiet itself and we experience a sense of peace.

Just because we are able to find peace and quiet, on purpose, when we meditate, does not mean it is always so easy. That is why we practice again and again. The more we find it, the more confidence we get that the peace is there, in us. When we get good at finding peace in quiet, we will see that we can find peace anywhere, and everywhere. When we know where and how to look for peace, we find ourselves just finding it, without even looking. Peace.

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Make Up Your Mind

Everyday, before we leave our homes, we make up our selves. We shower and pick out clothes for the day. We fix our hair, shave, apply make up on our faces, gargle mouthwash, and put on deodorant and perfume. This is how we present ourselves to the world every day. All that stuff is not easy. It takes time and energy. It sets the tone for the day. As we go through these daily rituals, we are not just applying make up to our faces, we are applying make up to our minds. It is important to be aware of this.

Sometimes we decide that we are not morning people. This is a good recognition that it is harder for us to create good moods in the mornings than at other times of day. It is especially important for non-morning people, who have to be up and about in the mornings anyway, to think about how we make up our minds in the mornings. The way to intentionally make up our minds is through mindfulness. It doesn’t take any extra time to watch what is happening in our minds as we go about our routines. By recognizing our difficult moods and thoughts, we can soothe them to make the whole day go a little more smoothly.

If we imagine that we wear our moods on our faces (which, of course, we do) it makes perfect sense to pay attention to what mood we wear. Our mood is easily as important as which shirt is right for the occasion. If we wake up and begin our day with a bad mood, then we have to recognize this and be gentle with ourselves and those around us. We have to pay close attention to our judging thoughts, which say this is good or that is bad. If we are in a bad mood, we will notice that we judge a lot of things as bad. It’s not really a fair judge. When we make up our minds to build awareness of our moods, we limit the damage that these moods do to ourselves and others.

Even in a sour mood, when our internal judge is shouting, “bad, bad, bad”, we can notice how good the warm water feels on our skin in the shower. We can appreciate how the hair brush scratches our scalp. We can find music and smells that remind us of the goodness all around us. Finding a happy thought to counter a bad mood is not all that different from brushing our teeth to counter coffee stains.

The best thing about making up our mind is that we can do it all day long. We don’t need a mirror, we are a mirror. Whenever we notice our mind running off into bad, bad, bad, we make up our mind to see the other side. Getting started first thing in the morning is important, because, like it or not, we are all morning people. Each morning we make up our mind one way or another. If we make up our mind mindfully, we will spread peace through our lives.

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Your Anger Is All in Your Head

Like any emotion, anger can come at you unexpectedly in response to arising circumstances. Anger does not come from circumstances, it is your reaction to circumstances. You can control your reaction. The first step in addressing anger is seeing how it arises. When you notice anger arise in you, or somebody else, it is important to focus on the anger as you deal with the circumstance. If the anger is in you, you will be under its spell for a period of time. It is important to watch what you do and say in that time. Once anger arises, your practice is to see how long it takes for it to subside. It will subside as your thoughts that feed it change. If you are angry at another person, looking at the situation from their perspective can help you change your thoughts and let your anger out. Simply thinking about your anger, rather that the circumstance will also change your thoughts enough to let the anger abate.

If you encounter anger in another person, it is also important to recognize the anger, as well as the circumstances which inspire it. A normal response to another person’s anger is more anger. If you are able to recognize another person’s anger you have a chance to influence your reaction and not bring more anger to the situation. If you do get angry, then your main practice is to deal with your anger.

When you see that your thoughts turn on and off your anger, you will stop believing that anger is something that just happens to you and you will see that you are a full participant in the process. When you practice recognizing  your anger as it arises, then watching it go, it will not cause you, or others, so much trouble. Where you once turned to anger, you can instead turn to understanding, compassion and peace.

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Light and Dark

The secret of Zen is being comfortable in two worlds, the world of darkness and the world of light. Being comfortable in these two worlds involves understanding that it is only one world and it is the only world we have. We generally live in the world of light. That is our normal world. That is where we try to get along with each other, where we try to figure out who and what we are. We go to work, to school, hang out with friends, spend time with family, pay bills, watch tv, eat, sleep, do yoga, and experience emotional ups and downs in the world of light. The world of darkness is a vast, unknowable expanse of time, space, energy and matter that contains everyone and everything and is contained in everyone and everything. Somehow the world of darkness makes everything in the world of light acceptable, tolerable and even enjoyable.

A big difference between the world of darkness and the world of light is our ego. Our ego operates in the world of light. When our ego experiences the world of darkness, it disappears. In Zen terms, there is no little self there, only a big Self. When we come back to the world of light, our ego returns and remembers all its problems. Either experiencing or believing in the world of darkness helps put perspective on the world of light. Direct experience is more convincing, but faith works too. Fortunately, all of our experiences in the world of light provide direct experience with the world of dark. Unfortunately, we don’t always see it through the light of our separate selves.

In the world of darkness, we are comfortable with everything, just as it is. In the world of light, we are comfortable with some things but not with others. So the real secret to Zen is learning how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. By working with our discomfort in the world of light, we can seek out the world of dark to gain some perspective. Looking for the darkness, brings enlightenment. Ha.

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Be You, Tea Full

The scholar and the Zen Master sat down to have some tea.

The scholar called the master out, “What can you teach me?”

The master offered up a cup and he began to pour.

When the cup was full of tea, the master poured some more.

Tea spilled out upon the floor, the scholar yelled “Hey stop!”

“The cup is overflowing, you’ve filled it past the top.”

The master called the scholar out, “How can I teach you?”

“Like this cup is full of tea, you are too full too.”

The master makes a mirror of the mind with his mess,

Using overflowing tea to evoke emptiness.

If you find that in your mind there is an awful lot

And you wish that things would be, somehow, how they are not;

If you think you could be more, or should be something better,

Then pour away, masterfully, and watch the floor get wetter.

If you can see, essentially, what it is that’s you,

You will see beautifully. Be you, tea full, and true.

 

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