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Posts Tagged ‘self-awareness’

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2016 has been a very chaotic year, hasn’t it?

I had told my friends in December that I sort of felt like 2016 would be a year Outside of Time: not quite linear with the past, but neither would it be free from past influences. Meaning, just because things went a certain way in the past, that doesn’t mean they’ll go the same way now. We’ll still have to deal with them though, and it may even seem like everything from the past is coming up to be dealt with at once.

That’s exactly how 2016 has been feeling to me. Year of the Id. Everything bubbling up at once, resistant to the old ways of dealing with them.

The upside of this is that we’re getting new opportunities to resolve things that have gone unresolved for far too long. And if the old ‘tricks’ and ‘tactics’ won’t work, then we’re finally forced to resolve them in new ways. Since the old ways clearly weren’t working, this gives us the opportunity to finally move forward.

So if you are also feeling the crushing waves of chaos battering you against the shore — or, worse, the undercurrent pulling you under — take a moment to ground yourself.

Take a deep breath, then breathe it out slowly, releasing your frustration at all that arises.

Take another breath, then slowly breathe out your grief at all that has slipped away.

Breathe in again, this time opening your heart as well as your lungs, letting the breath of fresh air sustain you.

Breathe in another sustaining breath, letting the oxygen nourish your mind, opening it up to fresh perspectives.

Through breathing, create an eye within the raging storm, and let events continue to unfold for you. As they do so, practice acceptance for what’s unfolding, learning to look for the new possibilities opening up.

I have a sense that 2017 has the potential to be a truly beautiful year, filled with progress and possibilities that we hadn’t before thought possible. To get there, we’ll have to make it through 2016, learning as much as we can about how to build the space for such a beautiful year to unfold.

May you find peace and wisdom throughout whatever events are surrounding you this year, and may they bring you to a better place. Just hang onto your center, keep your eyes and mind open, and I trust you’ll make it through.

 

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Over the years I’ve kept this blog, I’ve had a hard time staying consistently present. Unsurprisingly, this is because I feel the pressure to consistently share things that are meaningful. Even if it’s just a short thought or poem, I’ve felt that I need to ensure I’m sharing something of myself to add to another’s day.

Today, I can’t think of a darn thing.

I’m processing the cold germs that have been keeping my son coughing and achey today. The long day of trying to rest together has left me feeling more worn down than recuperated. I want so much for us both to feel completely better tomorrow, so we can enjoy the day. I want to feel PRESENT.

After a pause to sigh, I’m realizing that desire alone is a signal that I’m fighting being sick… again. I think I’ll take my own advice and surrender to the process, so the healing may flow freely without me getting in my own way. Rather than keep trying to hang onto that tiger’s tail, it’s time for me to just let it all go, and rest.

May this serve as Solidarity with you as allow some things to flow more freely for your life, as well.

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My little boy is generally very healthy. On the few occasions when he catches something, he is only very mildly ill, and is quickly fully better.

Not so, this week.

Yesterday he had a bit of a cold, and tonight he has coughs and sniffles and a low fever. He’s not used to being sick, but he’s weathering it well. I just pulled out the humidifier, and a diffuser with eucalyptus oil to help him breathe better and get some sleep.

This was another good evening to practice just being there, supportive but not dismayed at the challenge he’s facing nor my inability to simply cure it for him. It’s been a long, complicated day of practicing Active Zen at work, but none of that involved my little boy.

He’ll be fine, though, and I think he’s about to finally rest. I will, too.

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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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I’m going to write more about why Being Special isn’t a competition. I’ve explored more on how each moment is special, and this leads into how each experience is special.

Yesterday, I wrote about using mindfulness to break out of the habits of a dreary routine. This is about more than just escaping a boring rut. It’s about turning your eyes away from that rut, and toward the opportunities to experience that routine in a new way.

We are a collection not just of our experiences, but also of how we perceive them. The same people can come from roughly the same situation, yet come away with entirely different perspectives. Same teacher, different lessons. Why is this?

More importantly, how can we use this knowledge to make better use of the experiences we face?

In each day, we are faced with many moments we can experience as fun, boring, unpleasant, exciting, forgettable… so many ways. In each of these moments, we have the opportunity to try to experience them in a new way. Even if we can’t quite turn a boring moment fun, or a painful moment into pleasure, we can experiment with finding another side to it we’d otherwise miss. As we do so, we’ll learn something valuable about ourselves, and also hone our skills of living.

A skillful life involves building greater understanding and influence in how we experience it, and how we grow with those experiences. Each moment presents a new opportunity to improve these skills, in its unique way. By practicing finding what makes that moment Special, we prepare ourselves for the kind of life we hadn’t before imagined.

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Tomorrow is the third Monday of the new year.

For many of us, Sunday night is the inbreath before the next segment in this grand procession of Tomorrows. Reluctant, resigned or renewed, it’s time to bid another weekend farewell, and prepare to head back into that breach.

Yet it’s only the third Monday of a new year. I don’t know the average time it takes for New Year Resolutions to become forgotten, but I certainly feel that now is too soon. It’s far too early to already slip back into the old habits, the old routines, without consciously resisting falling into the worn-out grooves of behavior, of thought, of expectation.

It’s tough to climb out of those ruts, especially all at once. But even starting small is a huge start. Just one conscious effort can be enough to remind us to remain mindful of other ways we can live better.

As you find yourself preparing to face another week, another day, another moment… what would you most like to change? What do you feel likely to do or say that you would prefer to prepare to do differently? What do you subconsciously expect to feel that doesn’t have to be experienced in that way?

How could you, in one small way, experience a better week?

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I spent most of the evening on a new Super Healthy Cupcake Recipe.

It didn’t go well.

Granted, it didn’t go well mostly because of things I did. I over-filled the cupcake cups. I forgot my vanilla is twice as strong as normal, making the vanilla frosting into VANILLA! (frosting).

My little boy was very excited to be part of the cupcake-making process. (The distraction being part of how I lost track of things like that.) He was very much looking forward to enjoying his favorite treat that we made ourselves.

When I got the results into edible-seeming form, he tried it, then tried it again. He was clearly disappointed, but brushed that off and went back to playing. He had been more excited than I at the project, and then I was more disappointed that it didn’t work out.

He did tell me he wants me to keep trying, and that maybe tomorrow or Saturday we can get it right. I told him I’d tweak the recipe a little and do better next time.

After tucking him in, I still kept feeling disappointed the recipe didn’t turn out quite well. It can probably still be a Mostly Healthy Cupcake Recipe, and maybe I can even get it back to Super after I get the hang of it. But I used to be pretty good at making things like this, so it was getting to me.

Finally, I realized that it’s been a long time since I’ve tried this sort of thing. I don’t have the knack anymore, and it took up most of my evening, but I still gave it a good shot. Plus, I’m not planning to give up over it. As discouraging as my time has been lately, that really means something to me.

So as I try to get ready to sleep, I’m reminding myself to take the experience for what it was: I tried something new. Soon, I’m going to try something new in a better way. And I’ll keep at it as I keep getting better.

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You’re not 100% on point every day.

You’ll stammer, you’ll stumble.

Sometimes, you’ll even fall.

So what?

So long as you keep trying every day, both to improve yourself and to mindfully forgive yourself for backsliding, you’ll do all right.

In fact, you’ll do fantastic.

Just keep traveling the road you’re on, resting when you need, and retracing your steps if that time comes.

You’ll get where you need to be.

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The recurring theme today seemed to be people trying to cling to habits or ideas that made them feel safer or more secure, but really didn’t help. Challenges that brought those “comfort blankets” into question just seemed to make that defensive need deeper, bringing up more emotional responses than thoughtful. But then, I guess that’s how comfort blankets operate.

The emotionally challenging air today was most notable in my five-year-old, but it seemed to be affecting most of the adults I spent much time with, including myself. I tried to overcome it, seeking ways to find the holes in any threadbare comfort blankets I may be clinging to against the cold harshness of reality. Again, that’s kind of tough to do, because comfort blankets usually feel cozier than they are, but I tried. It was the least I could do on a day when I had to try to fight against the clinging of other people to things that were hampering what I needed to do.

Sitting here at the end of my day, I think I can say that I did an okay job, but that I only started the process. I feel as though the next few weeks are going to require a lot of us to hold our comfort blankets up to our eyes, and see how much daylight peeks through.

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