Posts Tagged ‘waking up’


It’s one thing to talk about how each moment we live is Special in its own way. Yet without being able to experience that sparkle, it’s all just talk. That’s where simple mindfulness helps us out.

Let’s say you’re starting your morning tomorrow. You’re driving to work, on a bus, walking, getting the children dressed… whatever is an essential start to your daily routine. And on the face of things, it’s just like every other day.

Perhaps you didn’t sleep well. Perhaps it’s too hot or too cold. Perhaps someone’s cutting you off or arguing with you… but we’ll deal with people in the next post. In your imaginary tomorrow morning, just focus on the events and environment.

If tomorrow morning really is just like every other morning, what if it was the first — what if you were seeing or doing that routine for the very first time? What little details or insights does it all hold that you hadn’t noticed before? If you take a deep breath and pause to take a look around you, what sight, sound or even habit has become hidden behind the inattention of monotonous routine?

Taking it all a step further, are there opportunities in this routine that you hadn’t really thought about? Is there scenery or a landmark you could consciously enjoy as you pass? Are there uplifting or enlightening things you could listen to or read as you make your journey? Could you listen and observe a little more attentively, respond a little more kindly, and practice a little more patience, especially with yourself?

Please, if you can, take a moment tomorrow morning to think about these kinds of questions as you begin your day. I think you’ll discover more Special moments in your daily life, and in doing so, add to the Specialness for those around you.

What in this moment
hides like the Moon behind clouds?
What more may I bring?



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After conversations I’ve had over the last week or so, I can’t stop thinking about the idea of Identity. That is, our sense of who we are based on those ideas, things or people we associate with… as well as those we reject.

It’s not that we tend to sit down to take a conscious inventory of how we define ourselves. Rather, our self-definitions assert themselves when they find an opportunity to prove their truth, or when they feel threatened. Even if we start to drift in what we believe (or want to believe), our definitions can be such engrained habits that they tangle us up into old patterns. This gets even trickier when our definitions conflict.

For an example, let’s walk through the thoughts and emotions I just experienced.

I write because I tend to identify as someone who can communicate deeper meanings in an accessible way. I hesitate to write because I also identify as so quirky I risk being cryptic and inaccessible. So when I tried to think of how to illustrate this identity thing, I sort of froze up. I knew I should be able to do it, but I doubted that I could, in the time I’ve given myself. My definitions were in conflict. Because of these conflicts, I can over-emphasize or overlook times when I am and am not as clear as I’d hoped.

I then figured that I could put this off until tomorrow, when I felt better prepared. I identify as accomplishing what I set out for, but also as getting so bogged down and distracted I never make the time to post. I doubted that I’d make it back tomorrow, prepared and posting. I’ll overlook when I do keep on task with things, and I’ll overemphasize to myself the times I slip off the track.

That’s when I realized I was doing it again. I’m becoming more aware of these ways my definitions work together and at odds, nudging or shoving me through random moments throughout the day. So I figured I had a decent way to explain my line of thought, here.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll think of more to share, and find a good way to share it. I’m curious to discover my actual traits of communication and stick-to-it-iveness, prepared to revise my self-definitions accordingly.

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I was trying to think of a truth that is very difficult to embrace.

What came to me is, “This is all there is.”

I started to think about how that can be a fear, accepting that this present moment is all we really have.  The feeling that accepting this means settling for less than we would want things to be in the future, as opposed to merely dropping our resistance to observing what’s in our present.

I also thought about the idea of what we see, hear, feel, and so on may be the sum total of existence. That is, the perception that there’s nothing beyond these senses of any substance or meaning. And objectively speaking, that possibility really needs to be considered and brought to heart. If we’re forced to stop and accept that our physical life holds such weight, it places a huge responsibility on us to make the most of it. We can’t shrug off that responsibility figuring that there’s better things later we just have to hold out for. There’s a real value to that.

I then realized a third and even more difficult way to embrace that truth. Who, what and where we are: it’s all interconnected. Time, space, the resonance of matter that forms the particles we are now experiencing as our breathing lungs and beating hearts… there’s no hard barrier once you start to follow the threads. On the vast continuum of Indra’s Net, we are holding the space of just one of those dewdrops, reflecting every other bejeweled node on the net.

In this moment, we hold a connection to every other moment.

In this space, we resonate echos of every other space.

In this experience, we enjoy a reflection of all there is.

Those can be easy things to throw out there as words and concepts, but harder to make “feel real” to our own psyche. And if we do let it “feel real”, what does that mean? What potentials are there for us in the here and now? What responsibility do we have to discover and use them?

If this is all there is, what are we obliged to make of it?

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Today, I practiced more at keeping up the discipline of a relaxed and aware mindset. I was feeling a downturn again, and was struggling with things that were keeping me from even starting what I’d planned to have completed first thing in the morning. I kept reminding myself to not think like someone who’s overwhelmed, but like someone who is mindful of the limitations of the day and staying on pace to overcome them.

I had help in this by a story I heard last night.

The Shopkeeper

In feudal Japan, life wasn’t so good to a simple shopkeeper. He struggled to make ends meet, a struggle made harder by taxes, bandits, or even samurai taking some or all of what he and his customers needed to get through the month. The life of a peasant wasn’t worth much, and the life of a shopkeeper wasn’t any different.

Finally, this shopkeeper decided he didn’t want to be such easy prey, particularly for the bandits. So he began training with a master in the martial arts. Without neglecting his shop, he dedicated the remainder of his time to becoming a worthy, and then the finest student of this master. Eventually, he had learned all his master could teach him, leaving only life to test his skill.

His test came when he was walking home with his wife, and they were beset by bandits. Soon they were surrounded, being pushed around and berated for being so helpless and worthless. His wife then cried out, “Stop thinking like a shopkeeper before they kill us both!”

This snapped him out of it. His decades-long training to cower for his life was replaced by his years-long training to protect lives. Soon the bandits lay on the ground, and he walked his wife to their peaceful home.

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I continue to be mindful of my expectations, and the general “wavelength” of thoughts and experiences I tend to attune to. I have varying degrees of success for this, and have also had varying levels of “smooth and effortless” versus “difficult and tedious” of experiences as well.

I have noticed that I seem to be going through another time period where things I’m thinking of or songs going through my head tend to pop up for me within a day or so. Coincidences such as these serve as reminders to take care what I let flow through my mind uncorrected, as a practice for seeking a better sort of flow for my external life as well.

And then there’s times like tonight that really point out that there may be more to this practice than simply keeping my positivity up. I needed something opened up, and I asked someone to help me out because I always have a particular kind of trouble that nobody else seems to. They agreed, and then ran into the exact same steps of sticking/difficulty that I do. I joked that maybe that was because it knew it was mine, and we both laughed. Then they turned to their own and had no difficulty whatsoever.

If there’s even a chance that there was a difficulty only because it was ultimately in my path rather than someone else’s, that’s enough to make me stop and think. While I practice opening myself up to possibilities and acknowledging the interconnectedness of our lives within our world, this adds another layer of watching for mental bad habits. It can be tough to catch one’s own “mental fidgeting” such as expecting a particular process to be tedious and glitchy just because it was every other time in the past. But perhaps I can find a way to see my own eyes, as it were.

Of course, perhaps I could imagine there are little flashes of insight about all this, and they’re settling themselves into hiding throughout my upcoming days.  That just might work.

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The Zhuangzi is considered the most essential taoist text after the Tao Te Ching.  It’s named for the author, who was properly named Zhuang Zhou.

One of his beliefs was that our past shapes the ways we perceive and understand our world. It’s our past that is responsible for the ways we experience and use language and cognition, which are intertwined. We have learned how to name things, and how we are expected to feel and behave with regard to these labels. Any of our decisions or actions might seem terribly misguided, had we experienced a different past.

He also called into question our ability to objectively know what our past truly is. I think you may have heard part of this story before, from the second chapter of the Zhuangzi:

A while ago I, Zhuang Zhou, dreamed I was a butterfly. I was completely absorbed in my butterfly experience, happily flitting about, tasting the flowers, and feeling all the marvelous enjoyment in doing what butterflies do. So absorbed was I, I didn’t even know I was Zhou; I knew only my butterfly experience.

I then woke up, and suddenly realized myself to be Zhou. I didn’t know if I had been a man dreaming he was a butterfly, or was now a butterfly dreaming he was a man. Yet by necessity, there is something that separates man from butterfly. It’s called metamorphosis.

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Chaotic dreamscapes 
Swirling our days with dry leaves
Eye of the Stillness

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It struck me today that if we want to be open to newer and better ways of living, we have to embrace the idea of letting go of the life we have now. That sounds a little obvious, but how often have you sat down and reviewed just how ready you are to lose some or all of the comfortable habits you’ve developed? Even the things you may not like so much, aren’t they at least somewhat comforting in their familiarity?

I realize that everything in life is impermanent and unpredictable, but I’m not talking about tragic loss of life or friends or family. What I’m thinking of are the day-to-day mini-rituals, or even mini-chaoses, that comprise the feeling of predictability and homeliness of our regular lives. It sort of feels like we hang onto those out of habit, even if we so very much wish for some things to be brighter and more exciting, or even just easier and less dull.

Over the next few days as I recapture the habit of relaxed mindfulness, I’m going to keep my eyes out for ways I might be clinging to things I’d be better off letting go.

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Just now, as I opened this page to collect my thoughts, I received the notice that I started this blog five years ago as of this very minute.

Five years.

Only yesterday, I blogged my 250th post.

How very sporadic, has been my life.

How very sporadic has been my consciously focused attention…

What’s funny is that I was trying to think of a way to describe how non-mundane the past 36 hours have been.  It’s felt like a veritable “cascade of surprises”, even though individually they are very everyday sorts of occurrences that just happen to be popping out of the blue nearly all at once.  So here comes another “happens all the time” surprise, that in my own life, I didn’t realize was coming:

Happy 5th Anniversary

So very ordinary, yeah?  No gilded scrollwork, no fireworks, but a kind encouragement sent to everyone regardless of whether they’re blogging good or not.  A humbly supportive “congratulations, five years have passed and you’re here to receive this message.”  And I think that’s pretty fantastic.

So I’m choosing to take that “W within the Laurels” as a personal symbol for my practice over the next few days.  I am going to kick my zen practice up a notch, and truly recognize the miraculous side of the mundane details, while also recognizing the everyday-ness of the surprising and spectacular.

Somehow, that takes some of the edge off the oddness of the past couple of days.  It also helps me feel prepared for the surprises yet to come.

I did sort of ask for it, didn’t I?

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It occurs to me that curiosity used to be one of my most notable features. I’ve let most of my time and energy be claimed by other things for so long, I’ve sort of forgotten to be curious. I still get there, from time to time, but curiosity hasn’t been my default state of mind lately.

So, I’m thinking: I’ve gotten good enough at letting things be such-as-they-are, it’s probably time to refocus on wondering how-things-could-be. You know, set aside expectations and pre-judgements, and remember what it’s like to always be open to unexpected possibilities.

After all, I still love surprises. It’s time to let life start surprising me again.

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