Monthly Archives: February 2014

As It Should Be

With all the misery and injustice in the world, it is hard to imagine that things are just as they should be. Yet, things are just as they should be. When we see how things are and imagine a way that they could be better, we do what we can to make them better. To make things better, we have to see just how they are. Wishing that things were different from how they are gets in the way of making them how we imagine they could be. It helps to see that things are just as they should be, so we can see how they are, then work to change them.

It should be that we are all able to appreciate the life that we have and live that life in peace and harmony. Much of the time, for many people, that is just how it is. Some of the time, for all of us, that is how it is. Every moment provides the opportunity to find peace and spread harmony. When we are consumed with past hurts and future worries, we interfere with our ability to find peace in the present. We can find peace in the present even when problems are happening all around us. We can use the peace that we find to address and remove the misery and injustice that obscures the peace. That is as it is, as it should be.


Suffering Opinions

One immaterial thing that causes a lot of suffering is a negative opinion. An opinion is just a thought. It is a passing judgement, passing judgement. This is good, that is bad. I like this, I don’t like that. I like him, I don’t like her. I am stupid, you are smart, and on and on. These opinions would be harmless enough, if they didn’t cause so much suffering.

Each negative opinion that you entertain is a little bit of suffering. When your opinions are about you they can pile up and cause a lot of suffering. If your negative opinions are about other people, then they are a product of your suffering and they could cause additional suffering in others. If others have a negative opinion about you, then that opinion comes from their suffering and could add to your suffering. You could suffer even if its your opinion that somebody else has a negative opinion of you. All those little bits of suffering over unsubstantiated opinions can add up to substantial suffering.

When you keep track of your opinions and your suffering, you give yourself the opportunity to limit both. When you notice negative opinions, you can question their validity. They are just thoughts. How do you measure good and bad, beautiful and ugly, smart and dumb, success and failure? How could you possibly know what informs another person’s opinion? If it is a negative opinion, it is likely the result of suffering. Where there is no suffering, people gush positive opinions.

If you notice a negative opinion that upon closer inspection still appears to be valid, then you can limit the suffering by feeling compassion. Where there is suffering there is always an opportunity for compassion.

When you practice watching opinions and suffering you will find plenty of material for your practice. As you practice compassion, you will find plenty of positive opinions to balance the others. All the passing judgements will pass. You will be left feeling lovely.


Zen Umbrella

Just like an umbrella protects you from the rain, Zen practice protects you from suffering. An umbrella does not stop the rain, it just helps you deal with it. Zen does not stop suffering, it just helps you deal with it. When you can deal with suffering, then it is no longer suffering. It is just experience. In that way, Zen is a little better than an umbrella.

If you get caught in the rain without an umbrella, you will get wet. If you have your Zen, when you get wet, you will not suffer. You will just be wet.

If you don’t like getting wet, then no matter how Zen you are, you should also carry an umbrella. That is good practice. In that way, an umbrella is a little better than Zen. Carry a big umbrella, so you can share.


In Control

It is possible to control your emotions. We all do that. It is also possible to be controlled by your emotions. We all do that too. We each have a range of emotions that we use regularly, habitually. It is remarkable how we keep ourselves in that range. Even if that range is terribly uncomfortable we remain in the range in complete control of our emotions even as our life may seem to spin out of control. That is not the kind of control that we want or need. We want our range of emotions to include a lot of happy. When we are regularly, consistently happy some of the time or most of the time every day, we have a secure base from which we can explore those emotions that come to us to challenge our control.

The first step in gaining control of your emotions is to see that you are already in control. If you cannot see it, then imagine it. When an emotion comes along uninvited, try to ride it like a wild horse. In a rodeo, the horse will buck and try to throw its rider. Even if it succeeds, it is still contained by the fences. If you feel like you are not able to ride the horse, then be the fence. When you are the fence you are in control of the horses, bulls, clowns and anything else that wanders into your corral.

Another way to look at emotional control is to imagine driving a car. When you are driving a car, you are in control to some extent, but you can’t just drive to where you want to go. You have to stay on the roads. You have to react to the traffic lights and changing conditions. You can turn the wheel, change lanes, go faster or slower and feel wonderfully in control. That is enough control. That’s what you get. With emotions you can still get to where you want to go by taking the available roads and reacting to the changing conditions.

To exercise control over your range of emotions so that your corral contains plenty of clowns to help distract and direct the wild horses that are bucking about, you need to have confidence that you can handle and tame any emotion that comes your way.  That is how you identify with the fence instead of the rider. That is how you accept and work with the conditions on the highway. When you feel angry against your will, grab ahold of the anger. Take your foot off the accelerator. See that you are in the process of creating the emotional range that is causing you distress. You are in control, just not the control you want.

Practice watching your range of emotions as a whole, watch each emotion as it happens, and watch each thought that spurs on the emotion. By watching, you will learn to move your range to where you need to go. Conditions will change and push the range, but you are in control. You can drive to a giant pasture where no fences are needed, where even the wildest horses are just grazing peacefully.


Put It Down

If you get tired of carrying a heavy mind, just put it down. You can go on with your life without all that added pressure. You can continue to be you and do whatever you do without all the struggle. If it is your way to worry about how you will manage things, put that down. Just manage. If you are not happy with what you have to do with your day, put that down and just go about your day. You will manage what you can manage, you will do what you do. That’s enough.

Each day brings with it a new opportunity to be. Each day offers another opportunity to express yourself in the world. It doesn’t matter who sees you. That you see you is enough. You are surrounded by love. You are filled with compassion. Whatever you are carrying that gets in the way of experiencing that, just put it down.

Your burdens will be there for you when you need them. We naturally carry grudges, past pains, future worries, judgements, fears and doubts. When we notice the extra weight though, it is good practice to put it all down. Spend a little time as light as a feather, or lighter.


Love and Anger

We often get angry at the people we love. Even though we love them, they do things that just tee us off.  Some things that make us angry, wouldn’t make us angry at all, except that we love the person so much. Sometimes people get angry at us only because they love us. Anger though, is not a good expression of love. It can be very confusing. If you love somebody, you should see how you express your anger toward them. When somebody loves you, you should notice how they express their anger toward you. See how the anger fits with the love. See how often anger arises. See how quickly it goes. Love does not prevent anger, nor does it excuse hurtful expressions of anger.

Anger can be habit forming and it can get in the way of love. Love can help you work with your anger or with the anger of people that you love. Love can give you the courage to look at the anger and see the suffering that it causes. If you are angry, you are suffering. When you are angry and suffering, the people who love you can help you handle your suffering. Remembering this can help you address your own anger. It can help you treat those you love with kindness, even when you’re angry.

When someone you love is angry, it helps to look for the love beyond the anger. When you look to the love, you are able to see that the person is suffering in their anger. When you notice the suffering of a person who you love, you naturally feel compassion. That compassion will help you find ways to ease the suffering caused by anger.

When you get good at practicing working with anger with people you love, then you can practice with people you don’t like so much. Too much anger is madness. Too much love is not possible.


Peace and Strength

We are all peaceful beings trying to find and create peace in the world. Sometimes we need extra strength to carry on this mission. The peace that we find and create gives us strength. Our strength helps us remember that our main mission is to spread peace in the world.

If you are feeling like you lack both peace and  strength, then you can find peace in weakness. If you can’t carry all that you are trying to carry with all your strength, ask for some help. If you can’t find the strength to ask for help, then drop it, let it go, set it down. You can pick up the bits that you need when the peace restores your strength and help arrives.

If you are feeling strong but not peaceful, then you can find peace in your strength. Carry your weight like so many balloons. Remember your mission and pick up others who are not feeling so strong.

We all have enough strength and peace to have made it this far. Peace and strength are abundant. Carry on, carry on.


Inner Peace

Nothing can disturb your inner peace. Your inner peace is always peaceful and undisturbed. Things can distract you from your inner peace and they often do. Things can be so distracting that you may forget that you even have inner peace. You may think you have lost it. You can’t lose it. Your inner peace is huge. You can see your inner peace in the sky, in the stars, in the ocean, that’s how big your inner peace is.

No matter what happens in your life, your inner peace is there for you. Whenever you feel like you need it, just drop everything and look for it. Turn off your phone, turn off your computer, turn off the television, turn off the radio, turn off your thinking. Go for a walk and see peace in nature. See peace in a cup of tea. See peace all around you. Whatever peace you see, that is your inner peace.

All the distractions don’t disturb your inner peace, they just disturb you. When you need your peace, it is there for you. Visit it often.


What Are You Thinking?

When you are feeling good, you are not overly concerned with yourself. Things are just good. When you are feeling bad, you are usually overly concerned with yourself. Things are bad because you are bad. That is the kind of unconscious thought about yourself that can hurt you. That is why it is important to consciously think of yourself. If you do not think consciously about yourself, you will think unconsciously about yourself. When you think about yourself consciously, those hurtful unconscious thoughts can’t sneak up on you so easily.

As you think consciously of yourself, remember that you are not what you think you are. That is especially true if you think you are somehow awful. The opposite is also true. You are what you think you are. That is why it is important to pay attention to what you think you are, because you will convince yourself that you are that. If you consciously decide what you are, then you have a good starting point. You will know just where you stand with yourself.

As you decide what you are, you should ask yourself a few basic questions. You should ask yourself if you would like happiness for yourself. You should ask yourself if you would like happiness for others. You should ask yourself if you and others deserve happiness. If the answers to these questions are yes, yes and yes, then you know that you are something extraordinarily good and deserving. From that point forward, you can continue to think consciously about yourself and not allow yourself to believe any thoughts which suggest that you are anything less.

The difficulty with unconscious thoughts is that they are unconscious. They are hard to see. When you can’t see the thoughts you can still feel the feelings that they produce. If you are feeling good, good. You’re not thinking bad things about yourself. If you are feeling bad, watch to see what you think is wrong with you and don’t believe it. Remind yourself that you are wonderful and you deserve happiness.


Other People’s Anger

Even if you do all you can do to manage your own anger, you still have to deal with other people’s anger. When you take a Zen approach to anger, you don’t get angry. Things happen. They hurt. They make you sad, scared, or frustrated, but as you focus on feeling those emotions as they happen, they don’t pile up and turn into anger. When you regularly practice observing and recognizing thoughts, moods, and emotions, anger comes around less frequently. When it does happen, you recognize it, observe it and let it pass before it does too much damage to you or those around you. Other people though, don’t practice this. They get mad, maybe even at you.

When somebody around you is mad, you can practice dealing with other people’s anger. When people get angry, they are sad, hurt, scared, and/or frustrated. They don’t know what to do with those emotions, so they get angry. They may say or do things that are hurtful to you even if they love you. They are wrong to hurt you. When you feel hurt, you get defensive and since anger is in the air, you may get angry too. If that happens, you’re back to practicing with your own anger. If you don’t get angry, then you can continue your practice with the other person’s anger.

To practice with the other person’s anger you connect with the difficult emotions that they are dealing with. You don’t have to look for the hurt or fear, anger is enough. Anger is painful. When you connect with the pain of the other person’s anger you can feel compassion. When you feel compassion, you want to help them. At that point, you are not feeling small, guilty and afraid. You are helping a person in distress.

Dealing with other people’s anger is similar do dealing with your own. You try to see the anger as anger and not get sucked into it. When you see anger as a painful imbalance, rather than a reasonable response to the circumstance, then you won’t fall for accepting blame for the other person’s emotions. If you can remain calm and respond with compassion, you are in a good position to ease their suffering. That creates harmony.