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Posts Tagged ‘present moment’

Speaking of counting failure as a lesson in how better to succeed… Today I did a little better than I had in the recent past.

I was wrapping up the “end goal” of the big ginormous project that was instrumental in my breaking apart at the end of last year. Right as I was waiting for someone to get me the final paperwork to complete the package with minutes to spare before the deadline… Something else came up. Something instrumental. Something nobody had thought of prior to that moment.

The old ghosts started to pop  up, and I became EXTREMELY CAUTIOUS to resolve the issue as quickly and rightly as it needed. That was the extent of the strain, however. I claimed “stress”, but that was the word I could think of at the time for “pinpoint focus across a scatter-array of items to weave together”. Fortunately, there were others around who could handle the other “very pressing matters” that were going on at the same time, so I could focus.

But I didn’t snap. I locked myself into the task as single-mindedly as I could, went through each step three times to get it right… measuring twice, cutting, measuring again, then sanding down as needed. Then it was resolved, and the deadline was met anyway.

I was then pretty jazzed from the rush of energy mixed with being pretty weary and allergic this week. And I feel pretty good. So I’ll count this as a good step forward, and thank the Me of Last Year for helping me learn.

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Today, my moment of zen presence I wanted to mention came while making a left turn. I wasn’t sure if the arrow would stay green as I approached the intersection, so I set Commander Brain aside and simply focused my attention on the condition of the light and safety of the intersection. I tried to just be present in that space, and turn or stop as the situation called for.

Now, I don’t want anybody to think I’m all-out badmouthing Commander Brain. It’s that part of our minds that serves the important purpose of keeping our focus and helping direct our activities and attention through much of our day. However, as I mentioned yesterday, the downfall of Commander Brain is that it tries to take on too much responsibility and authority over ALL of our activities and attention. So before getting into that, I just want to mention a few things that Commander Brain does very right.

Commander Brain can be very good at…

  • Following stories and conversations
  • Learning complex tasks through the initial comprehension phase
  • Writing instructions and guidelines
  • Following instructions and directions
  • Discerning shapes and colors
  • Applying past lessons in cognitive assessment to present situations, to a limited extent

For that last bit especially, however, Commander Brain can only excel at these and other tasks when properly trained. The proper training involves care and attention in learning how to focus Commander Brain’s attention on these tasks, while remaining open not to Commander Brain’s other side-activities, but the input and processing from the other 95% of the brain. If you’ve ever tried to really focus on something without getting distracted by the past, the future, or even concerns about the present, you know how difficult this training can be.

And for me, this is what zen is all about. It isn’t about killing Commander Brain, it’s helping Commander Brain become a skillful manager of our conscious experience. Not the tyrant, not the dictator, and certainly not the martyr, just the “user interface” of our human experience.

I realize some people might consider that kind of denigrating the role of the Ego portion of conscious thought. But the idea of Ego being the UI rather than the central processor of our computer selves seems rather liberating. It frees the part that most embodies self-identification from having to be tied down to the heavy burdens of always having to be in control, of never being able to afford terrifyingly arbitrary mistakes. We still have to be responsible through our Ego selves and strive toward better practice, but this gives us the freedom to do that, creates the space we need to experiment and excel.

It also removes that ultimate threat the Ego most fears: insignificance and death. We don’t have to kill our Ego to attain Liberation and Enlightenment. We just have to learn to align it along with the rest of ourselves into that harmony that sings most true.

That might sound pretty daunting, but like all things, it’s just a matter of practicing a little each day. Over time, we develop our own quirky mastery, if not over life itself, at least in our path of learning to live it.

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Happy Zen Year!

So, 2013. What a year, huh? It was so full of hidden gems and other rocks & hard places, it was tough to stay present in our own skin. There was too much popping up all at once, and too much falling away. How could we keep up?

I heard once that odd numbers hold more chaos and even numbers more constancy, so that made me think that perhaps I could apply that concept to years. If 2013 was chaos that kept the world off its center, perhaps 2014 may be a year of regrouping within that center.

So I’m committing to focus at least one moment each day in a way that brings my full attention to that present moment. I’m shooting for actually posting about that moment or other thoughts each day, to stay present here, as well. Part of my joy is to share what I receive with others. This 2014 is a year to dedicate to joy, being present with it and sharing that presence with others.

You who read this, regardless of when you read it, please consider making a similar commitment to dedicating a tiny slice of each day to connect to the world through your own center. No matter how you feel about yourself, you’re a part of this crazy planet, and we need you to honor that. You don’t have to do anything “special”, just pause with a breath and thank any random moment for allowing you to experience it. That alone will bring you into that precious moment, and experience the simplicity of pure presence that is zen.

It’s time to start showing up. I and the rest of the world dearly look forward to sharing it with you.

Here’s to a Happy Zen Year!

Note: This was actually posted on the 2nd, when the thoughts finished forming into words I could type. Clearly, I’m pretty fluid on the implementation of this goal. Just be who you are and let life flow through you!

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Halloween is my holiday. I use it to feel the blending of the barriers we hold in our minds the remainder of the year, absolving us of them as we enter the “end of year season”. So much comes up for harvest during this season, I like to use Halloween to celebrate the old idea of suspending the veil between There and Here, so that our harvest may enjoy the best of all worlds.

Here’s some thoughts from trying to find out how to express this practice…

Hallowing the Eve

Open your heart to the day,
with its twisting and its turning,
allow it to show you the way
it fulfills your greater yearning

Open your heart to the fey,
all that's mystical and Hidden,
to heal all your heartache away,
feel the glow in Truths Forbidden

Open your heart to the Way,
those unspoken words of wonder,
observe how realities play,
it may mend your world asunder

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I am quite a fan of breathing meditation, particularly ones where you visualize white or golden light entering with your breath.  You then imagine that gold light flowing in through your lungs and to your heart, where it stays for a moment while you hold the breath.  (If you can’t or don’t want to hold your breath for a second or more, it can stay there while you exhale, and then glows more brightly as you add to it another breath.)  Then, as you exhale, the golden light flows to a part of you that needs attention or healing, or even just pumps outward from your heart, mingling with your bloodstream to nourish your whole self.

This is a little meditation that’s worth the practice, and can be done with half a mind while walking, doing dishes, driving, and so on.  The more you do it, the more you’ll find ways it works for you, and helps you better master being in your own skin.

There’s a great healing power in focusing on your breath.  As you bring in more oxygen, your body is nourished.  As you breathe deeply and rhythmically, your emotions are balanced.  As you focus on your breath and your heart, your mind is calmed and more receptive to the answers you need.  In this more-centered space, you’ll find insights if you practice patiently opening yourself to the golden flow of intentional breath.

This is one key to the heart of wisdom.

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So today marks the first official day of my week-long vacation.  I’m staying in town, so it feels “just like another Saturday”, and I’m wondering whether I’m sufficiently enjoying the day, seeing as it is “First Day of Vacation”.

So I’m taking a moment to breathe.  I’m noticing that this is the first truly sunny day we’ve had in a while.  My son is in a handful-but-joyous mood.  I’m feeling fairly rested.  I just pulled a freshly baked loaf of bread out to cool.

Gosh, this is a wonderful day.

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I don’t know whether to credit 30 Days Without Anger so much as my household coming down with something, but I found myself getting very introspective lately.  I’ve been paying attention to my emotions and what gives rise to them, and then what they give rise to.  I’ve found that as I stop to pay attention, I’m starting to get a better sense of the stories my feelings are trying to tell me.

One of the most important things I’m learning is that it’s very important to pay attention to our internal stories.  It’s the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves that seem to shape the lives we experience.  For example, let’s say that two people are waiting in line, and one person jumps up to the helper at the front for a quick question or transaction, it’s hard to say which.

To the person who sees her personal story as someone who is frequently trampled on or taken advantage of, this might be a pretty unpleasant reinforcement of how often people are just flat-out rude and unfair.  It might even be the tipping point into a truly horrible day of tediously snowballing frustrations.  But to the person whose personal story is that folks are generally helpful and sometimes need some extra attention, she might assume there was a pressing need and be glad they got it taken care of.  It might remind her of times when she needed an emergency exception, or otherwise just be a blip on the radar of a pretty good day.

Now, I have no idea what the person cutting to the front needed, or what her story was that made her feel like she needed to jump ahead.  But it seems like a pretty neutral example of how our interactions with others can build us up or tear us apart, based on how they fit in with our broader narrative.

I’m finding it a bit difficult to get back into the swing of sharing my thoughts as I shake this cold.  But then, right now my self-narrative is that I’m someone who’s been having difficulty getting what she wants to say out so that people can see and understand it.  So maybe instead of fretting about how well I’m communicating right now, this time I think I’ll just save and Publish.

Meanwhile, see if you can’t take a few moments over the next day or so, and listen in on the story you’re telling yourself about your place in life and how it’s treating you.  Jot down a few notes, maybe compare them over the course of a few days.  You might learn a little more about how you’re treating yourself, and how you might like to be the hero of a better story.

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I’m listening to my baby babble happily to his mobile as he’s taking his time getting to sleep, and it’s a beautiful sound.  He’s one reason I’ve devoted myself to getting my focus together to create things that feel important to me, since I want him to own his voice and use it wisely and well.  I figure the only way I could hope for that through him is to first try to make it real through myself.  Example is the strongest teacher, especially when it contradicts the words.

I was just responding to the patient and poetic J. A. Jordan about creativity, and it set my mind on the topic.  I keep meaning to get back to themes and values in When Atlas Shirked, but I want to close out the week by talking about why I think it’s important to continually participate in conscious creation.  And I don’t just mean what people normally think of as creation, as in inventing things or writing or creating other types of art.  I also mean the creation and re-creation of ideas, and values, and emotions, and understanding — continually creating who we are.

Here’s what thoughts rambled off the tips of my fingers:

I always need to be creating something.  To me, that’s what life is, a continual act of creation – either we work to create consciously, or are created by the haphazard influences of our subconscious internalization of our environment.

Someone once said something to the effect that “To be alive is to experience constant change, a continual farewell to who and what we have known. So we can either participate in constant creation and truly live, or cling to the past in stagnation. Only the dead do not change”

I then went to go look up where I had last read something like that, and found it was an old philosophical text I was working on at one point, modeled after the Hagakure.  I only got three chapters in, and it’s in a pretty dry style since I was modeling off a pretty dry translation, so I’ll have to think about whether it’d be worth y’all’s time posting it here.  Especially since that would seem to me like an inherent dare to finish it.

Regardless, I know I’m not the only person to have thought this way, so I think you’ll have some understanding of how I feel.  Stagnation brings a heavy, frustrating feeling of stuckness, and has the same general effects on our health and psyche as being physically caged.  (In my own observation)  And the longer we feel stuck, the more we feel being lost to or drained away by a bad situation, the harder it is to pull ourselves out of the mud and move on.

What’s worse, we can feel so invested in our stuckness, it seems like a bad investment to let go and move on.  I think that ties in to our fear of death, which to me seems like a fear of losing what we know to face what we can’t be sure of.  But to me, that’s what life is all about.  We are continually losing the present into the past, to face the future for all its hopes and fears.  In order to make use of the present, we have to let go of all that and free our hands up to create every single moment as best we can.

I thought I shared this thought here already, but I couldn’t find it, so here goes:

Be careful that you don’t become like the gambler who bets what he can’t afford to lose on a hand that just can’t win.   He’s lost so much already, he can’t bear to cut his losses and walk away.

I hope that conveys what I’m trying to convey, because I’m finding this difficult to pin down.  I think I’m going to accept that as the nature of my thoughts right now.  Rather than try to force them into a particular shape, I believe it’s best to let them go to be as they are.

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This morning when I realized it was the National Day of Prayer, I went on to Twitter to share a prayer an hour, as close to the hour as I could.  I did a pretty decent job (of the schedule, though I feel pretty good about the prayers too).

For today’s thoughts, I want to share these prayers with you, and sincerely direct them for your personal good:

  • May our hearts know peace, that we may share pure Love one to another, free of judgment or fear for who & what they choose.
  • May we lovingly forgive ourselves our faults, and with love forgive the faults we envision are in others.
  • May Love for Truth give us courage to live according to the wisdom in our own hearts, & let others live by theirs.
  • May our hearts be opened in love and support for those who are suffering, without condemning the what & the why.
  • May we have courage to accept when we’ve been wronged, seeking reparation & healing through love, not vengeance.
  • May our hearts expand to hold all humanity as family, sharing our generous lovingkindness with all who need it.
  • May we have patience & understanding for others, especially those we’d disapprove of or disagree with.
  • May we receive more than we need, that we may enjoy a little extra & share the rest with others in need.
  • May we have acceptance for our past, courage for our present, and hope for our future, no matter what.
  • May we allow anger and frustration to exist without overtaking us, letting them guide us to solutions.
  • May we not shrink from sadness, whether ours or another’s, but embrace it with patience and love.
  • May life bring us opportunities to feel the warm glow of love, and teach us to shine forth its light.
  • If we feel like sweating the small stuff, may we indulge in recreational griping and lighten our load.
  • When it’s time to rest, may we fully relax, allowing the earth to bear the weight of our burdens.

And most of all, may your day bring you joy, and your night bring you peace.

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I was talking to a friend today about overcoming Worry Addiction. I used to be horridly addicted to worrying and fretting, and now I’m merely susceptible.  This is thanks to giving up worrying for lent one year.

I’m pretty sure the way I managed it was practicing “postponement” – agreeing with myself that right now isn’t the best time to put my energy toward a situation, as this present moment isn’t when I can do anything about it. Either I don’t have all the necessary info, or I’m just not in a place where it can be helped. Therefore, I promised to do what I could to get into the right time and place and then put the needed energy to it.

This worked, with practice, because the part of myself that felt the deep importance of whatever it was I was worrying over didn’t feel neglected. It felt that I was giving it strong consideration, and rather than dismissing it, was merely trying to make sure it got the time and energy needed for such a momentous issue. (It doesn’t matter how trivial the issue; it’s absolutely EVERYTHING to the part of me that feels it’s so important, just like a baby with a favorite toy.)

It also helped to have a few things on tap to shift my attention to, such as something I COULD plan for, especially if it was something I could also look forward to. Or even just something positive to dwell on. Anything to keep the energy channeled toward something happy rather than manic.

Anyway, I still catch myself getting frantic now and then. But with practice, it’s gotten easier to redirect the energy.

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