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Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’

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When I began practicing Sitting Zen, my best aid was an occasional temple bell. Its beautifully ringing sharpness and clarity created that same resonance within my mind, pulling away any stray thoughts with it as its tone gently faded.

The temple bell is also the best aid for my practice of Active Zen. That is, trying to bring that same quality of receptivity and non-judgment to all parts of my life, not just the quiet times. In particular, my practice of Driving Zen.

I don’t have a terribly long commute in the morning, but it is 30-45 minutes of generally heavy, somewhat dangerous traffic. While I try to focus my mind within the Zen state upon awakening, it’s during this drive that I most dedicate myself to this practice. I have a whole day of many, many issues to tackle, so it’s important to center my awareness.

My practice of Driving Zen involves trying to be aware of all of the cars around me: ahead, behind, and to the sides. I also focus on being aware of the sky, the trees, and other landmarks that I pass. If anything has changed about the environment, I try to be aware of it, and welcome it into the otherwise familiar space. I also stay mindful of how I am feeling, without allowing those feelings power to control my thoughts. Through all this, I focus on retaining a joyful receptivity, taking it all in without judgment or hangups.

This can be pretty difficult some days, and not just because Rush Hour on the Florida Turnpike is a Master Teacher. I’ll have interesting dreams I remember snippets of, memories from the day before, or even problems to resolve at work that try to pop into that space I’ve cleared and demand attention. Often, they’ll get some of that attention for a little while, until I remember to return to my practice.

At those times, I let my mind ring with the sound of the temple bell. I let the clarity wash through me, and allow the sounds to gently fade from my mind.

Refreshed, I turn my awareness back to the road I travel, joyfully receptive to all it may bring.

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In any given day, you may interact with people who think of and/or treat you as a complete idiot.

You may feel the same way about them.

But as a rule, it’s counter-productive to dwell on either. What they think of you is their problem, not yours. The reverse goes for what you think of them. If you can turn the interaction into neutral, or at least not as bad, it’ll help you get through it in a better way.

More importantly than that, it can help you practice being mindful of how interacting with such people makes you feel, and what you can do about that. Is there a reason things like that would tend to get to you? Is there a way you could strengthen your sense of self and/or patience and compassion? Interactions like these can be an Advanced Course in finding out more about how your mind works, and how you can make it work better.

Running into people we really feel at odds with isn’t always such a bad thing. These can be the times we can most quickly learn lessons we wouldn’t have mastered another way.

We must be patient with our differences. Our best teachers are often the hardest to hear.

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Today was a beautiful day.

The weather was inviting, and the people moreso.

I spent wonderful time with my family.

I purchased fresh, delicious food from a local market dedicated to supporting our community.

I paused to appreciate the wonderfully blessed life I’ve had the opportunity to build for myself.

I got to walk among peacocks, flamingos, wild cats, tourists from across the world, and neighbors from across the county.

Today was a beautiful day.

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This morning when I found out that David Bowie had passed away, I hoped for a peaceful transition for him.

I then laughed to myself, as the song I thought of most was “As the World Falls Down” from Labyrinth.  My sister had the soundtrack back when it was new, and the music was so dreamlike and soothing, I used it to help me go to sleep.  It was the first song I learned the lyrics to, as I started to sing it to myself over and over in my head when I had a hard time dropping off.

I still do, actually.

Throughout the day, I’ve caught myself thinking about the lyrics again with a fresh mind. I’ve sung it to myself to soothe myself to sleep for so long, I no longer hear it as the seductive love song it was written as, but as a call of comfort from my inner self.

For all the times I have faced upheaval and chaos and pain, I’ve found peaceful refuge in words such as:

As the pain sweeps through,
Makes no sense for you.
Every thrill is gone.
Wasn’t too much fun at all,
But I’ll be there for you-ou-ou
As the world falls down.

I owe so much of my moments of finding-calm to those lyrics. May the man who wrote and sang those words now know peace, as well.

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starlights

This season, have you received what you’d love?

More importantly, have you loved what you’ve received?

It’s been a turbulent season for me. I’ve had hopes raised and splintered, pleasures and pains, and right now the little joy of my life is pitching a fit in the bathroom because soapy water doesn’t turn into clay.

It’s that last bit that most reflects what I’ve learned this year: love and enjoy what I do have, not spoil it all by dwelling on what I don’t. It’s not my job to try to force what isn’t ready to be built, nor to stay sad when things don’t come out the way I wanted. It’s my job to keep my heart open to possibilities, receiving what is ready to come to me. More importantly, to keep myself ready to receive what is to come.

And if it turns out that pouring suds into a little bowl won’t turn it into a clay dome, that’s okay! The point of it all is to play, and enjoy the game where all that is to be won is the prize of joy itself.

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I just got a letter from my nephew about being at someone’s house and admiring their Totoro clock.  The host then happily hopped up, took the Totoro pendulum off, and gave it to him, leaving my nephew with the difficult task of processing what had just happened.

I imagine it was a cool souvenir though, for the practice in receiving happy surprises.  I’ve got this feeling that lately we’re all moving through a timeframe where “Ask, and ye shall receive” is true in primal and surprising ways.

In fact, we don’t even have to ASK necessarily, we just have to receive.  I suppose, “Receive, and it shall give itself unto you” is what I’m feeling these days.  So I’m practicing feeling a gratefully receiving mindset, and see what further surprises I’ll be graced with.

I’ve been having a tough time getting back into posting now that I am not making it self-mandatory, because I’ve been having a tough time finding words again.  I was thinking of that this morning, and then came across the story from my nephew. Looks like it might be bearing fruit, so over the next few days I’ll come back and share the other happy little surprises that come!

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Since I’ve been practicing it as promised, I want to explain just a little by what I envision by “Have no more conflicts. Enjoy a positive association with everything.

For me, this phrase is a succinct reminder to maintain some measure of calm acceptance, finding a touchstone of positivity in each moment. Since the everyday frustrations seem to keep evolving over time, it helps for my strategies to evolve, too.

By having no conflicts, I mean, don’t get wound up about a situation being different than I might otherwise hope. Where there’s a disagreement or such with an individual, I’m trying to remember to address the actual issue rather than treating the person involved with it as a problem. Yes, I may perceive them as being the one who “started” the problem, but dwelling on that only interferes with finding a solution. Generally they’re caught up in their own maelstrom of frustrations, and having a little patience with that can help clear some of the storm for both of us.

And that’s where enjoying a positive association comes in. If an otherwise negative situation involves someone I like or love, I remember to focus on that while resolving (or accepting) the situation. If it’s a stranger, I remember to focus on the fact they are a human being, and I happen to like human beings.

If it doesn’t involve another person at all, there’s generally something about my situation or environment that I can focus on with a sense of appreciation, or even just humor. Anything that can help me enjoy that sense of positive resonance that we feel when we’re in the presence of something we welcome into our lives.

I hope that helps explain a little about how I’ve been practicing this, perhaps giving ideas as to how you might enhance your enjoyment of your own life. If so, please give it a shot! Just a little bit of trying out a new habit can make a world of difference in how we experience our world.

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