When you want to feel like the ruler of the universe, just practice offering your attention. It is an invaluable commodity. If you’ve ever seen a television commercial, you can tell how valuable it is to advertisers. Businesses spend billions of dollars just to buy a tiny bit of real estate in your mind. Wherever you go, wherever you turn, you will notice things trying to stand out just for you. To a commercial business, your attention is worth money, a lot of money. It is far more valuable than that. It is your connection to the universe. That’s why it’s so important to notice how you use it.
Unlike money, your attention cannot run out. You have an abundance pouring out of you all the time. Even if you have Attention Deficit Disorder, you have plenty of attention, it just flows differently. As ruler of the universe you get to decide, moment to moment how you give out your most treasured resource. Because you have so much, you can afford to give generously. You can give an entire two hours to a movie. You can give years to get an education, you can give a whole lifetime to cultivate happiness throughout the universe.
When you recognize the value of your attention and assume a posture of generosity as you give from your vast resources, you will become a wise and happy ruler. A sense of abundance is helpful to cultivate generosity. Generosity is helpful to cultivate happiness. If you feel like your attention is limited, you will try to withhold it. You will feel like people are stealing it from you as they wave their agendas in your awareness. As ruler of the universe, your attention cannot be taken, only given. You can give it to others, to your emotions, to your meditation, or to your goals. You can also choose to let it flow back to the source. It’s up to you. Thank you so much for your attention, you are a truly generous ruler.
There is no point in living for the moment, the moment is indifferent. There is no need to try to live in the moment, that is where you live anyway. You also live in your body. You don’t have to try to live in your body, that’s where you live. You may want to get out of your body as it can be a rather confining space. It is even more confining to just live in your head. Compared to the spaciousness of your body, your head is rather small. This moment that you live in is smaller still. In this tiny moment it’s not so hard to live in your head or in your whole body. In this moment, you have everything you need. It’s only when you stretch the moment out and imagine what might happen or what happened in other moments, that it becomes difficult to live in your head and body.
When you find yourself in a difficult stretch of time you start looking for some escape. There is no escape. All you can do is transform. As this moment becomes the next moment everything changes. In that change there is the opportunity for transformation. If you are sick of living in your head, then you move into your body. When you breath in consciously you are out of your head and into your lungs. Your lungs can expand with your awareness. As you fill your lungs with air you transform the moment. Your body has changed, it has fresh new air. You can breathe out what was once you and breath in again.
Each moment is an opportunity for creating space in your body, in your head, in your life. The size of a moment and the space in your head is infinite. Your body is your gateway to that infinite time and space. It’s where you live, moment by moment.
Although you don’t have the ability to control spontaneously arising thoughts, you have the ability to observe those thoughts. By observing your thoughts as they occur, you can practice seeing them as thoughts, rather than as some beacon of truth, broadcasting just for you. Recognizing your arising thoughts gives you some leverage. This awareness interrupts the habit of being controlled by your thoughts. Although that is not full control, it is a world of difference.
Anytime you feel that you are being controlled by your mind, you can step outside of your mind and turn to your environment. Take in a deep breath and check in with your senses. Take a look at what you are seeing, listen to what you are hearing, check the position of your body, check your posture. As you do these things, you exercise control of your mind. You are consciously directing and focusing your awareness. That is a tremendous power.
An extension of that power is the ability to summon specific thoughts. You can summon comforting thoughts, such as thoughts of love or gratitude, by focusing your attention on things or people you appreciate. Honing your abilities to create these welcome states of mind increases your awareness of the importance and availability of these feelings.
This building of awareness gives you control over your life as you are able to recognize opportunities in your daily life to practice generosity and feel the love in your interactions with others. You won’t be able to control your life in a way where the world delivers everything that you desire. You will be able to control your life by being able to appreciate what the world offers and feeling the confidence to offer the world what you can.
The best way to get over the past is to focus intensely on the present. If your mind is suffering from events from the past, throw out your mind. To throw out your mind, drop all of your opinions, judgements and beliefs and just experience what is right before you. Take a full breath in, fill your lungs as full as they can go, hold in your breath for a few seconds, then, slowly, let it all out. Do that three times. Now, you are in the present. There is no past, no future. In this moment, you are absolutely perfect as you are. Spend a few moments without your mind. If thoughts come to you, breathe them out. Don’t listen to them, don’t dismiss them, just breathe them out. Breathe in again.
Mindfully breathing, noticing your thoughts, noticing smells, noticing sights, noticing immediate feelings, you can deal with what is right in front of you. If what comes to you next is regret or hurt from the past, you can handle that. See what the thoughts are, see what the feelings are. Don’t categorize them as good or bad, just see them again and let them go again. You are still perfect. Perfectly still.
If this sounds like meditating, it is. That is the state of mind when you are in the present. The three deep breaths act like an emergency release. They bring you to the present quickly and emphatically. For the rest of your life you can use that when you need to, but usually you can come back to the present by noticing feelings, emotions, moods, or physical sensations. When you notice these sensations, you can breathe out your next thought and become perfect again, done with your past and safe from your future.
If you practice this consistently, you can revisit your past safely and confidently if you need to. It won’t haunt you the way it once did. It’s just not you anymore.
Please come with me. Let’s walk in sanity.
We walk on words, step, step, step, word, word word.
We breathe in sanity. In and out, In and out.
Just walking, just breathing, we rest in sanity.
Simple, spacious, sanity. All around us,
All around these stepping stones.
Step, step, step. Back to where we began.
Come again. Come often. Please.
Everybody else is certainly responsible for how your life is turning out. Your parents, teachers, doctors, religious leaders, politicians, terrorists, corporations, the media, and the ancestors of all of these entities have contributed to the predicament that you face now. Your future will be determined by who helps you and who hurts you. Most of the people who influence the circumstances of your life have no idea that you exist. Those that know you exist, generally want you to be happy and they would like to help you achieve that simple goal, but they don’t know how. Even the people closest to you, who derive great comfort out of the fact that you exist, who consciously want to help you, sometimes do things to make things worse. They are rightly to blame for creating the problems you face. That’s fine though.
Your only job is to face the problems that everybody else created for you. People create problems, that’s what they do. We don’t get upset at a puzzle company for cutting a beautiful picture up into a thousand pieces. We just set about putting the pieces back together. As we work on the puzzle we find peace in our ability to focus on the colors and shapes of the pieces. When we find two pieces that fit together, we feel a surge of joy and return to the task at hand. Eventually the whole picture returns to it’s original splendor.
Although it is reasonable and natural to assign blame, the emotional charge that goes with the blame is extra and often gets in the way of seeing how things are. If you can learn to see what helps and what hurts, everybody could put you in a position to help them find their way. Who could blame them?
Trying to become who you want to be is like a dog chasing its tail. As you run toward your goal, your running moves the goal away from you. Becoming who you want to be is better achieved by wanting to be who you are. If a dog’s tail itches, it just scratches it. It doesn’t bother with the chasing. The chasing happens when the dog catches a glimpse of its tail and doesn’t notice that it is part of itself. Wanting to be other than yourself is the result of not knowing what you are.
You cannot tell what you are by looking at your circumstances. Life circumstances change all the time. You can set goals, learn new things and create different habits. You can change how you look, how you eat, who your friends are, but you will still be who you are. Your circumstances, like a dog’s tail, are only an extension of you, but not quite as attached as an actual tail. To refocus your attention from your circumstances and onto yourself, you just have to stop and look for what you are.
It’s not so easy to stop. When you’ve been chasing your tail for awhile, you get dizzy. When you stop, the world keeps spinning. The spinning is your thoughts rushing around. When you stop and watch your thoughts, you have to be patient to just let the thoughts keep swirling until you are no longer dizzy. Your dizzy thoughts are full of opinions, likes and dislikes, wishes and worries. Let them spin. You don’t have to like yourself right away, but you should not dislike yourself either. Disliking yourself is more dizziness. Trying to like what you don’t like is also dizziness.
When you are patient with your thoughts, circumstances, friends, family and self, you can rest, like a puppy, curled up, with your nose tucked under your tail. It still won’t be clear what you are, but that “what” will continue to intrigue you. What’s not to like?
Although the idea that there is no such thing as a separate self seems out there, the idea that there is an independent self is absurd. To find connectedness you don’t have to look any further than these words. As I write these words I imagine you reading them. I don’t know who you are, but I know we are inextricably connected. We are directly connected through these words, we are less obviously connected through our existence here on the same Earth under the same Sun and Moon. That is just one small example of how you are connected to me, how we are interconnected.
Even if you never read these words, you are connected to the people in your life. You may love some people or hate some people, but that love and hate in relation to others is a connection. Even if you are a hermit living high on a mountaintop with no people within a thousand miles, you have to drink and eat of the earth. Even if you are a spiritual wonder who lives on the energy of the universe with no need for earthly nourishment you are part of all of this. If that is your situation, then you have no doubts about your connectedness to all things.
Even though we know that we are completely interconnected, we still have this habit of thinking of ourselves as separate entities. We have these bodies that are always trying to kiss and hug each other, or trying to find the most satisfying experiences that confirm that we are something special apart from the basic specialness of existence. We know that we have a point of view on existence that is uniquely ours and that we experience thoughts and feelings that we or others can’t always understand. Those thoughts and feelings are usually about other people and circumstances, which can point to our connectedness just as easily as our separateness. What it is about us that is actually that bit of us that is a self is hard to pin down when you think about it.
If you’re stuck in an awful mood or bad place, try giving your mood away. Although you may not wish your mood on your worst enemy, try giving it to them anyway. Imagine you could take your mood and inflict it on the person you hate the most. Imagine that person suffering the way you do. If somebody broke your heart and feels fine about it, imagine it the other way around. Imagine feeling fine while the other person suffers so. How does it feel to feel fine?
Now take your bad mood and give it to someone you love. Take your horrible feelings and give them to your sweet grandmother or your best friend. Imagine that person going through all the angst and hopelessness that you feel. Imagine that you are the one consoling them as they process their feelings. How does it feel to be full of compassion?
It’s just as well that we can’t give our moods away. They are there for us to feel, but it is helpful to remember that we can do something with our moods. We can entertain new thoughts that give us a handle on even the most difficult ones. If we can feel compassion for a loved one suffering as we do, we can feel compassion for ourselves. Anybody who feels like that deserves compassion. Connecting with compassion, whether it comes from yourself, your best friend, your grandmother or your worst enemy will help you exchange your mood for the next one. The next mood, inspired by compassion, will be more enjoyable.
Life can be scary. That is why we all must live courageously. Courage comes in many forms. We tend to recognize people for their courage when they do something heroic with little regard for their own life. That kind of courage is nice, but the most courageous people are the ones who are the most afraid. People who suffer from anxiety, social anxiety, or any kind of depression live courageous lives. If you are nervous around people and you have to go to school everyday, just getting up in the morning is an act of courage. It would be a shame to live a life of fear without getting credit for also living a life of courage.
Courage transforms fear as compassion transforms suffering. In order to get credit for all of the courage we use in our everyday lives, we have to recognize our fear. When we see that we are afraid, we can call on our courage to wade into that fear, or into the fearful situation. As fear is a form of suffering, we can use compassion along with our courage. We allow ourselves to be afraid and consciously call on our courage to take the next step. Each step we take becomes a courageous act.
We don’t have to risk our lives and save puppies from fires to be courageous. All we have to do is learn to feel our fear and carry on as best we can. That is courageous living. When we learn to see our fears with awareness and compassion, we will notice how courageous we are. That courage will grow as we consciously call on it. We will come to know that in our courageous life we can deal with anything.