Category Archives: Intent of the Day

The Hospice Diaries: Transcending the Traditional

HAND IN HAND IS THE ONLY WAY TO LANDThis morning, as I lie in bed, contemplating what the next few days might bring forth on all planes–physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually–what the days could look like, I begin to wonder how I could possibly best manage to “enjoy” them.

As I contemplate how to cope with moving my mother from hospital to hospice, the word “creativity” bubbles to the surface.

cre·a·tiv·i·ty – [kree-ey-tiv-i-tee] / noun (source: dictionary.reference.com)

The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination: the need for creativity in modern industry; creativity in the performing arts.

Precisely!  I set my intention to transcend all that is traditional; to question the agreed upon realities–the thoughts, feelings, patterns, relationships that our culture has embedded into my mind (our minds) about death, dying, hospice, family, love, self.   I set my mind to create new meaningful ideas and expressions, to utilize the most under-utilized resource that humans have: the imagination.

I breathe and imagine.  I imagine how it feels to be soothed and comforted.  I am strengthened by the calm.  I imagine slowly and carefully moving through the day, perhaps slipping once or twice into a dark spot, but always able to catch myself and, once again, find calm.  Serenity and peacefulness are there once more to comfort.  While my inner-resources are sometimes obfuscated by clouds, I realize that they are always there for the taking.  I need only remember that they are there.

In knowing this to be true, in knowing that I have the ability access serenity, which enables me to clear a path to be fully present in these most extraordinary days, I am able to find satisfaction; to “enjoy.”

Spread the word–NOT the icing!

Janice
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For the best life and wellness wisdom, visit:  Our Lady of Weight Loss

photo by: Neal.

It’s 2013 and Time to Leap!

Usually i fly but this time i decided to leapThis is the year to give up procrastination and excuses. This is is the year to begin what you have been dreaming about.

You can make the best most elaborate plans.

But the hardest step to any goal is simply the first.

If you take the first step, the last step will take care of itself.

There aren’t thousands of steps in the fulfillment of your goals, there is simply ONE.

It can often be overwhelming to think of all the elements to your vision. Sometimes you might feel paralyzed by fear, thinking of everything you need to do and how it’s going to happen.

Don’t think of EVERYTHING you need to do. Simply think of the one action step that is right in front of you, right now.

Can you simply do that one action step that is NEXT for you right now?

Perhaps it’s that one phone call?

Or writing that one email?

Or doing one hour of research?

Or walking one time around the block?

It’s often said that talk is cheap. I like to think that talk is in fact very EXPENSIVE. Simply talking about your goals and visions without action will simply cost you your dreams.

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking everything needs to be in place and perfect plans need to be made before you take action

Not true.

Even the best plans will change or go out of the window once you take steps along the path to your vision. As you progress, your goal will reveal to you what is needed next which you may have not been able to see from the perspective of your first step.

Even when you think you know where you are going, have you noticed more often than not you end up somewhere completely different that you planned?

And it’s often way better than you could have wished for.

So don’t think you know where you are going even when you think you know where you are going. Stay open and curious about what is seeking to happen.

Then each moment becomes a juicy surprise.

Give up the need to know.

Give up the need for the perfect plan.

Trust Life itself.

The same Intelligence that brought you into this world, knows how to fulfill itself through you and bring about the perfect unfolding of your vision.

But you must start.

Starting is the key to success.

Will 2013 be a year of best intentions and dreaming or a year of fulfillment and actualization?

The best plans, dreams, intentions mean nothing without action.

The hardest action is often the first step.

Take the first step.

Then keep taking the next first step.

There is only one step on the path to your goal.

Simply one-step over and over again.

 

Now.

Start.

Love.Now

Kute

P.S. If you are ready to catapult your 2013 and fulfill your full potential, give up excuses, and manifest your most authentic desires, join me on the journey of a lifetime www.boundlessblissbali.com July 4th – July 15th!

photo by: BoyGoku

Entrusting Yourself to the Waves

wavesI was drawn to my first Buddhist mindfulness retreat during a time when my son, Narayan, was four, and I was on the verge of divorce. During a slow, icy drive through a winter snowstorm on the way to the retreat center, I had plenty of time to reflect on what most mattered to me. I didn’t want a breakup that would bury the love I still shared with my husband; I didn’t want us to turn into uncaring, even hostile, strangers. And I didn’t want a breakup that would deprive Narayan of feeling secure and loved. My deep prayer was that through all that was happening, I’d find a way to stay connected with my heart.

Over the next five days, through hours of silent meditation, I cycled many times through periods of clarity and attentiveness, followed by stretches when I was swamped in sleepiness, plagued by physical discomfort, or lost in a wandering mind. Early one evening I became inundated by thoughts about the upcoming months: Should my husband and I hire lawyers or a mediator to handle the process of divorce? When should we move to separate residences? And, most importantly, how should I be there for our son during this painful transition?

As each anxious thought surfaced, I wanted to really dig in and work everything out in my mind. Yet something in me knew I needed to stay with the unpleasant feelings in my body. A verse from Ryokan, an eighteenth-century Zen poet, came to mind: “To find the Buddhist law, drift east and west, come and go, entrusting yourself to the waves.” The “Buddhist law” refers to the truth of how things really are. We can’t understand the nature of reality until we let go of controlling our experience. There’s no way to see clearly what’s going on if on some level we’re attempting to ignore or bypass the stormy weather.

During the last few days of the retreat I tried to let go, over and over, but felt repeatedly stymied by my well-worn strategy for feeling better—figuring things out. Now Ryokan’s verse was rife with possibility: Perhaps I could entrust myself to the waves. Perhaps the only way to real peace was by opening to life just as it was. Otherwise, behind my efforts to manage things, I’d always sense a lurking threat, something right around the corner that was going to cause trouble.

My old habits didn’t give up easily, though. As soon as I’d contact some tightness in my chest, I’d flip right back into worrying about my son’s new preschool, carpooling, or about how to find a baby-sitter with more flexible hours. Then I’d become hypercritical, harshly judging myself for “wasting” my retreat time. Gradually, I recognized that my heart was clenched tight, afraid to let the intensity of life wash through me. I needed help “entrusting.”

Each afternoon, the teachers had been leading us in a lovingkindness meditation. I decided to try weaving this into my sitting. The classical form of the meditation consists of sending loving prayers to ourselves and widening circles of other beings. I began to offer kind wishes to myself: “May I be happy and at ease; may I be happy and at ease.” At first, repeating the words felt like a superficial mental exercise, but soon something shifted. My heart meant it: I cared about my own life, and becoming conscious of that caring softened some of the tightness around my heart.

Now I could more easily give myself to the waves of fear and sorrow, and simply notice the drifting thoughts and physical sensations—squeezing and soreness—that were coming and going. Whenever the worries that had been snagging me appeared, I sensed that they too were waves, tenacious ones that pressed uncomfortably on my chest. By not resisting, by letting the waves wash through me, I began to relax. Rather than fighting the stormy surges, I rested in an ocean of awareness that embraced all the moving waves. I’d arrived in a sanctuary that felt large enough to hold whatever was going on in my life.

After my retreat, I returned home with the intention of taking refuge in presence whenever I was irritated, anxious, and tight. I was alert when the first flare-up occurred, a week later. My ex-husband called to say he couldn’t take care of Narayan that evening, leaving me scrambling to find a baby-sitter. “I’m the breadwinner, and I can’t even count on him for this!” my mind sputtered. “Once again he’s not doing his share, once again he’s letting me down!”

But when I was done for the day, I took some time to pause and touch into the judgment and blame lingering in my body, and my righteous stance softened. I sat still as the blaming thoughts and swells of irritation came and went. Underneath the resentment was an anxious question: “How will I manage?” As I let the subterranean waves of anxiety move through me, I found a quiet inner space that had more breathing room—and more perspective. Of course I couldn’t figure out how the future would play out. The only time I had was right now, and this moment was okay. From this space I could sense my ex-husband’s stress about finding a new place to live, working out our schedules, and more deeply, adapting to a different future than he had imagined. This helped me feel more tolerant and kind. It also revealed the power of entrusting myself to the waves. My husband and I continue to be dear friends. With him and in countless instances with others, this gateway to presence has reawakened me to a space of loving that feels like home.

Adapted from my book Radical Acceptance
My new book True Refuge  is out January 2013

Enjoy this podcast titled: Attend and Befriend

For more information visit www.tarabrach.com

One Thing That Changed EVERY DAY of My Life in 2012

Photo: Toan Lam, Journal by: Caroline Harper

I’ve never really made New Year’s resolutions. But last year, I resolved to do one thing that changed me (from the inside out) every day of 2012.

I finally got around to keeping a journal — why did I wait so long?!

It’s not just one of these woo woo journals for the sake of saying you keep a journal. Instead of a sole gratitude journal, I started an evidence/gratitude journal — inspired by two people, one of whom I know, another who I will know or at least meet one day: Devyn Rush and Oprah Winfrey.

I’ve always been a fan of Oprah and have always kept her crusade to inspire folks to keep a gratitude journal in the back of my mind. It sat on the back burner until December 19th of 2011 — that’s when I finally lit the flame.

An inferno of miracles ensued.

I always thought, why keep a journal? I am present now, enjoying the now already. Well, what I realized is that this is where the magic happens — when you actually put them down on paper, effervescence happens… your thoughts manifest into something tangible, something real.

 

My friend Devyn Rush, a former American Idol contestant who is also a national spokesperson for U.G.L.Y., a bully prevention organization, told me about this journal, “Building the Best You.” If you get the privilege to know Devyn, you will walk away feeling reenergized by her infectious positive energy. At her behest, I decided to finally put pen to paper and took the penning plunge promise. My goal was to write in it everyday — I knew this would be a big feat for me because I get bored easily — but I’m proud to say I did it. Woo hoo. And whoa! Wee. Wow.

This viscerally changed me from the inside out.

What’s the difference between a gratitude journal and an evidence journal? The evidence part is when you log what you did for the day — then the gratitude part is when you write down things that unfolded that you’re grateful for.

Everyday I wrote down what I did that day, then at least five things that I was grateful for. The Building the Best You journal is a two year journal, each page is split in half. The left fold is year one, the right fold, year two.

I remember Oprah saying, “Some days I’d be grateful for seeing a squirrel in the park.” And boy wasn’t that the truth. She’s right, it doesn’t matter how simple something seemed or the lack of things you felt grateful for, it’s the fact that you’ve put this gratitude exercise into practice. And like a muscle that is put into action, I’ve become more aware and conscious of the beauty surrounding my life everyday. My favorite author, Eckhart Tolle, calls this “awareness.”

No matter how bad my day was, I found myself grateful for the lessons that came in different ways, shapes and forms. I started searching for things that I was grateful for during my days: a phone call from a loved one, discovering yet another street-corner style hero to feature in my nonprofit, Go Inspire Go, or a walk with a friend along the pier. It became habit.

I randomly flipped through my journal a couple of nights ago and was happy to see that I was grateful for “being present” and “my breath” and feeling connected to something bigger than myself were constant themes. What a big accomplishment.

Among the highlights of things I’ve logged:

1. Being more present than ever before: to nature, people and my spirit — not the “ego” or “thinking thing” rather, what Tolle calls “the watcher” — my inner compass.
2. Connections to people. I felt like the Universe sent me personal and professional connections that continue to help me grow as a person as well as progress within my nonprofit, Go Inspire Go.
3. Realization that when you become present and surrender to the ebb and flow of life, you are open to receiving more. Gratitude begets more goodness (and things to be grateful for).

What I’ve realized is that the miracles have always been there; I just became aware that they were happening — which in turn created and ignited more miracles. That’s the law of attraction at work. Ever notice how when you start the day by saying, “This is going to be a bad or stressful day” — the universe delivers a “Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day?” What about those days when you say, “It’s going to be a great day!”

As a kid, I always woke up thinking, “What will I learn today? Who will I meet? What will happen?” Now I go to sleep logging the days happenings, building awareness and counting my blessings. In a sense, keeping this journal brought back the child within and has taught me to unlearn certain things we’ve learned as adults and to go back to that innocent, creative, awe-filled child’s lens we all had when we were discovering the world as children.

I’m glad I finally took action to count the miracles and enjoy them fully — I’ve evolved physically, mentally and spiritually thanks to the simple five-minute exercise of keeping an evidence/gratitude journal.

Are you aware of the miracles showing up in your life everyday? Write them down and witness them multiply.

My favorite author Eckhart Tolle says that the universe conspires to help us all. “But if the shutters are closed the sunlight can not come in.”

Cheers to a new year of counting your blessings and logging the light that comes through your window.

Happy New Year — Happy New You.

Sincerely,

Toan

P.S. What can YOU do?
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Letting Life Live Through Us

Heart

Many years ago, after several years of experiencing a long chronic illness, I attended a six-week Vipassana meditation retreat. Given my struggles with sickness, I looked forward to this time entirely dedicated to sitting and walking
meditation.

I was out of my body and into my mind: “Whoa … I still really feel sick.” OnceThe first few days went smoothly. Yet, towards the end of the week, I started having stomach aches and felt so exhausted I could barely motivate myself to walk to the meditation hall. At this point it was a matter of making peace with discomfort. “Okay,” I figured a bit grudgingly, “I’m here to work with…unpleasant sensations.”

For the next twenty-four hours I noted the heat and cramping in my stomach, the
leaden feeling in my limbs, and tried with some success to experience them with
an accepting attention. But in the days that followed, when the symptoms didn’t
go away, I found myself caught in habitual stories and sinking into a funk of fear,
shame and depression. “Something’s wrong with me … with the way I’m living
my life. I’ll never get better.” And under that, the deep fear: “I’ll never be happy.”
The familiar trance threatened to take over, and I took that as a signal to deepen my
attention.

On a clear and brisk afternoon at the beginning of the second week of retreat, I
took off into the woods and walked until I found a patch of sun. Wrapping myself
in a warm blanket, I sat down and propped myself against a tree. The ground,
covered with leaves, offered a firm, gentle cushion. I suddenly felt at home in
the simplicity of earth, trees, wind, sky, and was resolved to attend to my own
nature—to the changing stream of sensations living through my body.

After taking some moments to release any obvious tension, I did a quick body
scan, and noticed aches and soreness, a sinking feeling of tiredness. In an instant
again I watched my mind contract with the idea that something really was wrong.
Taking a deep breath, I let go of these thoughts about sickness and just experienced
the sheer grip of fear, which felt like thick hard braids of rope, tightening around
my throat and chest. I decided that no matter what experience arose, I was going to
meet it with the attitude of “this too.” I was going to accept everything.

As the minutes passed, I found I was feeling sensations without wishing them
away. I was simply feeling the weight pressing on my throat and chest, feeling

the tight ache in my stomach. The discomfort didn’t disappear, but something

gradually began to shift. My mind no longer felt tight or dull but clearer, focused
and absolutely open. As my attention deepened, I began to perceive the sensations
throughout my body as moving energy—tingling, pulsing, vibrations. Pleasant or
not, it was all the same energy playing through me.

As I noticed feelings and thoughts appear and disappear, it became increasingly
clear that they were just coming and going on their own. Sensations were
appearing out of nowhere and vanishing back into the void. There was no sense
of a self owning them: no “me” feeling the vibrating, pulsing, tingling; no “me”
being oppressed by unpleasant sensations; no “me” generating thoughts or
trying to meditate. Life was just happening, a magical display of appearances.
As every passing experience was accepted with the openness of “this too,” any
sense of boundary or solidity in my body and mind dissolved. Like the weather,
sensations, emotions and thoughts were just moving through the open, empty sky
of awareness.

When I opened my eyes I was stunned by the beauty of the New England fall, the
trees rising tall out of the earth, yellows and reds set against a bright blue sky. The
colors felt like a vibrant sensational part of the life playing through my body. The
sound of the wind appeared and vanished, leaves fluttered towards the ground, a

bird took flight from a nearby branch. The whole world was moving—like the life
within me, nothing was fixed, solid, confined. I knew without a doubt that I was
part of the world.

When I next felt a cramping in my stomach, I could recognize it as simply another
part of the natural world. As I continued paying attention I could feel the arising
and passing aches and pressures inside me as no different from the firmness of
earth, the falling leaves. There was just pain … and it was the earth’s pain.

Each moment we wakefully “let be,” we are home. When we meet life through our bodies with Radical Acceptance, we are the Buddha—the awakened one—beholding the changing steam of sensations, feelings, and thoughts. Everything is alive, the whole world lives inside us. As we let life live through us, we experience the boundless openness of our true nature.

Adapted from Radical Acceptance

Enjoy this talk on Attend and Befriend

For more information visit www.tarabrach.com

End of World: 6 Steps to Creating Anew

Mayan-Calendar
The doom-and-gloom-sayers, the end-of-the-world folk are predicting, based on their interpretation of the Mayan calendar, that the world will indeed end tomorrow, December 21, 2012.

How will it end?  Will we fall into a black hole; will a monstrous asteroid hit the planet sending us spinning out of control? Will aliens land and takeover, like they attempted to do in the movie Mars Attack?  Or might the end be tied to killer bees? So many “End Day Possibilities.” :)

According to calculations measured by the Maya of South America during the classical period of their culture, from 250 to 900 A.D., December 21, 2012 marks the end of a “great” period of time.  AND … December 22, 2012, begins a new era.

Either way:  Last Day, Period – End of Report! – or – New Beginning

How will you spend your last day?
How will you make this day count? 

My original plan for the day included laundry and dusting, both of which have been nixed.  That’s for sure!

Instead, I am going to fold up my tent and head outside for a long walk with my soul mate, best friend and husband of many moons and decades.   And as we walk, it my intent to ponder “Dreams.”

I am going to consider small and large dreams, dreams with great significance and dreams that are just plain fun; dreams that impact favorably on my life and favorably on your life.

I am going to imagine that failure does not exist, that my resources are unlimited, that “fearless” is my middle name and that I am not in the least bit concerned what others might think about my dreams or the actions that I take to manifest my dreams.

I am going to sprinkle seeds of joy, laughter, happiness, and success for the new era in my body, mind, and spirit.

I invite you to join with me!

DARE to DREAM for a More Vibrant Tomorrow –
Dreamy Questions to Ponder:

  1. What experiences are you yearning to have in this lifetime?
  2. What places do you thirst to see?
  3. What fun, playful things are you secretly bursting to do?
  4. What creative twists and turns do you long for; serendipitous happening do you hope for?
  5. How does it feel to know that there are no real barriers; only the ones you have imagined in your mind’s eye?
  6. How will you unleash your imagination; your greatest and most under-utilized gift?

Share your “New Era” Dream!  Sprinkle seeds!

For more world end prophecies and dreams of joy and laughter,  join with us at:  Kick in the Tush Club/Facebook!

Spread the word–NOT the icing!
Janice

For the best weight loss and wellness wisdom,
visit: Our Lady of Weight Loss

 

Tara Brach: Rejecting the Wanting Self

DGJ_3946 - Early Day

 

“We have been raised to fear…our deepest cravings. And the fear of our deepest cravings keeps them suspect, keeps us docile and loyal and obedient, and leads us to settle for…many facets of our own oppression.” – Audre Lourde

 

 

In the myth of Eden, God created the garden and dropped the tree of knowledge, with its delicious and dangerous fruits, right smack dab in the middle. He then deposited some humans close by and forbade these curious, fruit-loving creatures from taking a taste. It was a set up. Eve naturally grasped at the fruit and then was shamed and punished for having done so.

We experience this situation daily inside our own psyche. We are encouraged by our culture to keep ourselves comfortable, to be right, to possess things, to be better than others, to look good, to be admired. We are also told that we should feel ashamed of our selfishness, that we are flawed for being so self-centered, sinful when we are indulgent.

Most mainstream religions—Judeo-Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Confucian—teach that our wanting, passion, and greed cause suffering. While this certainly can be true, their blanket teachings about the dangers of desire often deepen self-hatred. We are counseled to transcend, overcome or somehow manage the hungers of our physical and emotional being. We are taught to mistrust the wildness and intensity of our natural passions, to fear being out of control.

Equating spiritual purity with elimination of desire is a common misunderstanding I also see in students on the Buddhist path. This is not just a contemporary issue. The struggle to understand the relationship between awakening and desire in the context of the Buddhist teachings has gone on since the time of the Buddha himself.

A classical Chinese Zen tale brings this to light: An old woman had supported a monk for twenty years, letting him live in a hut on her land. After all this time she figured the monk, now a man in the prime of life, must have attained some degree of enlightenment. So she decided to test him.

Rather than taking his daily meal to him herself, she asked a beautiful young girl to deliver it. She instructed the girl to embrace the monk warmly—and then to report back to her how he responded. When the girl returned, she said that the monk had simply stood stock still, as if frozen.

The old woman then headed for the monk’s hut. What was it like, she asked him, when he felt the girl’s warm body against his? With some bitterness he answered, “Like a withering tree on a rock in winter, utterly without warmth.” Furious, the old woman threw him out and burned down his hut, exclaiming, “How could I have wasted all these years on such a fraud.”

To some the monk’s response might seem virtuous. After all, he resisted temptation, he even seemed to have pulled desire out by the roots. Still the old woman considered him a fraud. Is his way of experiencing the young girl—“like a withering tree on a rock in winter”—the point of spiritual practice? Instead of appreciating the girl’s youth and loveliness, instead of noting the arising of a natural sexual response and its passing away without acting on it, the monk shut down. This is not enlightenment.

I have worked with many meditation students who have gotten the message that experiencing desire is a sign of being spiritually undeveloped. While it is true that withdrawing attention from certain impulses can diminish their strength, the continued desire for simple pleasures—delicious foods, play, entertainment or sexual gratification—need not be embarrassing evidence of being trapped in lower impulses.

Those same students also assume that “spiritual people” are supposed to call on inner resources as their only refuge, and so they rarely ask for comfort or help from their friends and teachers. I’ve talked with some who have been practicing spiritual disciplines for years, yet have never let themselves acknowledge that they are lonely and long for intimacy.

As the monk in the Zen tale shows, if we push away desire, we disconnect from our tenderness and we harden against life. We become like a “rock in winter.” When we reject desire, we reject the very source of our love and aliveness.

Adapted from my book Radical Acceptance (2003)

Enjoy this audio podcast on: Sure Heart’s Release

For more information visit www.tarabrach.com

 

12 Days of Inspiration: Inspire to Smile (Day 4)

Today is Day 4 of the GIG 12 Days of Inspiration Campaign. Starting Dec. 13, we started counting down to Christmas by sharing one inspiring story each day, followed by an action item you can take to make the world a better place. You can read more about the series here


gig12daysofinspirationlogo-2*Day 4* Inspire to smile:

Claire Lemmel goes the extra mile to fulfill her mission of making people, including strangers smile.

Video: “Going the Extra Smile”

Call to action: Inspire to create a ripple of kindness by spreading smiles and holiday cheer! Smile at a stranger.

*****

Past Posts in the Campaign: 

Day 1: Write a Letter to a Soldier

Day 2: Inspire Youth

Day 3: The Best Way to Express Gratitude

 

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