Tag Archives: be present

Thich Nhat Hanh’s Greatest Teaching on Love and Mindfulness

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The first time I was exposed to well-known Buddhist monk, peace activist, and author Thich Nhat Hanh, who visited Boston over the weekend, was when I read his book, Miracle of Mindfulness in a college course on Buddhism. I still recall one of our homework assignments for the class. We had to wash the dishes…which was awesome for my roommates. I’d pulled dish duty. A monk said so.

But, the assignment wasn’t to wash the dishes the way any of us typically wash the dishes, dashing off a chore so that we can move on to something better. Instead, the assignment required us to wash the dishes while being fully present and mindful. Never mind what happens next. We were learning through real-life practice that the powerful moment–the only one over which we have any guarantee or influence–is the one happening now. Don’t wait until later to be compassionate or kind, attentive and aware. A mind does not get stronger that way. It stays distracted and anxious about what comes next… And after that?… And then what?

On Sunday, in Copley Square, I was again reminded how miraculous mindfulness can be. I went with the expectation that I’d sit quietly, among hundreds of other people, in the presence of a revered Zen master, but didn’t anticipate much more. I knew it would feel meaningful and maybe solemn. I imagined we’d hear car horns or passing Duck Tours as we meditated. Quack, quack! I hoped he’d speak a little bit. Hopefully, we could hear and understand him. I momentarily wondered if it was unsafe to congregate in an open and vulnerable public space doing something spiritual, possibly viewed as religious. After all, we were in front of a church, among hundreds of Buddhists, yards from the Boston Marathon finish line, where two bombs went off five months ago to the date.

Trinity Church’s Reverend Dr. William Rich acknowledged this fact as he introduced Thich Nhat Hanh, who was now sitting under the hot sun clad in a knit hat and multiple layers of robes and meditations shawls. Wasn’t he melting? It struck me that it couldn’t be a coincidence, this event to sit in peace and healing near an area subjected to so much suffering a short time ago. The week before had also marked the anniversary of 9/11, the reverend noted. We were still at war and now considering military action in Syria. The day before marked the Jewish holiday of atoning for sins, Yom Kippur. In any number of ways, no matter who you were, the message of the day was clear. We are here to be together in peace. We’re here to practice greater awareness and compassion because the world needs both right now.

Small and centered, the 85-year-old Vietnamese monk in a knitted hat.

Following his introduction, Thich Nhat Hanh did something surprising to some. He said nothing. He didn’t even open his eyes. Instead, he sat silently and meditated, signaling for a typically pulsing cross-section of the city to join him. I don’t recall car horns. Definitely no quacking. A few small children giggled or cried briefly in the crowd, but mostly, it was very quiet.

When he eventually spoke, about 25-minutes later, the famous monk said only this: Breathing in, I am aware of my breath. Breathing out, I am aware of my breath, a simple mantra to set the stage for a talk that would succinctly and poetically teach a diverse group what it means to be mindful and how it creates peace. Next, he said: Breathing in, I enjoy breathing in. Breathing out, I enjoy breathing out.

The mantras and teachings gained momentum from there. We breathed in and out qualities of a mountain’s solidity and stability, water’s stillness and reflection, a flower’s freshness and beauty, and space. Breathing in, I have the element of space within me. Breathing out, I feel free… Space: free. Nothing was too heady. No one was left out. It was the most simple yet moving talk I’ve ever witnessed on meditation or Buddhism. If I was exposed to this teacher first in college, I was now getting schooled in a whole new way.

Then, the talk dovetailed into territory I would not have predicted for an 85-year-old celibate monk: love. It could have easily represented love for a family member or friend, but to hear a monk use the word darling in three different types of mantras suggested romantic love, and it made everyone smile. Darling, I am here. Darling, I know you are here. Darling, I know that you suffer, and I am here for you.  

“The most precious thing you can offer your loved one is your presence,” he said. “To be present means to be there. How can you love, if you are not there?” His voice was gentle, but the message reverberated. Love (romantic or otherwise) doesn’t work if we’re distracted or hiding– behind suffering, the TV, iPhone, alcohol, who knows. We all have our means of avoiding reality, some healthier than others. To love means to understand suffering, our own and our darling’s.

He linked the two segments of the talk seamlessly– the meditation, breathing, and mantras– with his thoughts on love. We practice meditation so that we can restore our presence and feel more stable, free, fresh, and beautiful. “You cannot buy it in a market,” the adorable monk cautioned in his sing-song accent, of the level of presence needed for true love. “You have to produce it yourself.”

Somewhere along the way, my tear ducts started producing an abundance of water. I was overwhelmed. It was too beautiful maybe, the day, his words, the fact that my present moment looked, felt, and sounded the way it did, and I was sharing it with hundreds of other people, some of whom must have been having a similar experience. Their suffering was all around, their love, too. I felt a hand on my arm, which startled me. It was a kind woman offering a tissue. I could hear others nearby also weeping. Monks and nuns were chanting now, singing the name of Avalokiteshvara, the saint of compassion, and a cello played. Damn cello, gets me every time. Vast blue sky space stretched overhead, and the ground on which we sat felt solid and stable. We were being restored.

The Buddhist monks and nuns chanting… also the cello. Sniff.

Life will always contain suffering, and it will offer opportunities to cultivate compassion, grow love, and strengthen our minds through presence and practice. Copley Square will always be the place where we went after the marathon to leave flowers, candles, sneakers, and letters. It’s where people cried and prayed  Often, they felt hopeless. Today, a proper memorial resides in the same spot, on the periphery of where Thich Nhat Hanh’s meditation event occurred. The earth, there, hugging the edge of the space where so many people sat in peace and thought about love.

I still hurry through the dishes most of the time, and while writing this post, I wolfed down an apple and peanut butter so fast, I barely tasted either of them. My spoon scrapped the bottom of the bowl, and I thought, heyyy, who ate my snack? But, then, a teacher or moment reminds me of the miracle of mindfulness and skill of being present. How I can always practice, beginning simply with breathing in and breathing out. And, sometimes, the expectations in my mind are blown away by the real-life experience.

 

Originally published on my website, Om Gal.

Letting Go of Over-Planning (VLOG)

We’ve all been told it’s best to get present and live in the “now”, but often I find myself living in the 500-years-from-now. If life is a journey and not a destination, how do we get into the moment and out of our obsession with that golden nugget in the future we think will solve all of our problems? Here are a few of my thoughts on the plight of the over-planner (me.)

Many thanks, as always, to Stefani Twyford of Legacy Multimedia for filming my vlogs and for her continued support as I trudge the road of “putting myself out there.” For more, check out my website, The Light Files, and follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

 

More from Laura Max Nelson:

Change is Good, and It Happens Faster Than We Think

How to Find Balance by Losing It

How to Deal When You’re Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Now. Here. This. – How to Stay Present to Your Purpose

be present.By Jay Forte

How present are we?

Most of us move through life entirely unaware – we move from thing to thing with little intention and focus. At the end of the day we fall into bed, barely remembering what happened during the day.

What if, instead, we truly showed up to each moment? Now. Here. This. (Right) now. (Right) here. This (exact moment).

See, each moment has the two things we need most:

  1. Our actual life.

  2. Information.

By being present and conscious in each moment, we fully connect with our lives. We experience what life shares with us – we are really part of life. After all, what other purpose do we have in life other to be present and experience it? Letting it pass by without really noticing seems a terrible waste of something so amazing.

The other important thing that happens in each moment is we gather information. As we show up present to each moment of our lives, we learn about life, ourselves and how we fit. The more information we have, the better our choices and the more amazing our lives.

I regularly say in my workshops that we were not born with an owner’s manual; at birth we don’t know what we are good at, passionate about and what matters to us. For this information, we need to intentionally show up to each day of our lives because we gather this information as we live. We learn what we rock at and stink at. We learn what moves us and bores us. We can see places of interest and adventure and places that we want to stay away from. All of this is in front of us in every moment. But we have to be present in order to see it, be part of it and learn from it. Now, here, this has all the information that we need to know how to be able to choose wisely in all aspects of work and life.

When we don’t take the time to discover what we are good at, are passionate about and what matters to us, we are unclear of what makes us unique and different. Without this information, our lives start to look like others’ lives instead of our own.

When we don’t know what our voice says (because we haven’t tuned in to now, here, this), then we take others’ voices on as ours. This will always lead us to others’ roads in life. As I tell my three daughters, if you see footprints on your road in life, you are likely on someone else’s road. Reconnect to now, here, this and get back on your road.

Life constantly presents each of us with everything we need; we just don’t seem to see what it offers. Most of the time it is because we are rushing and don’t make time for information and experiences that are right in front of us. Slow it down and all of a sudden life opens up. Slow it down to see what is right in front of us.

My father used to say that life is not a superhighway – it is a meandering path. Though the shortest distance may be between two points, life is not about getting someplace quickly; it is about the quality of the experiences while on the road. The meandering path gives different views at each turn; every event is larger, more interesting and has more to see and learn. But to enjoy the view you have to tune in – you have to make the time to be present, aware and conscious. You have to be in the now, the here and the this.

Showing up present not only is how we experience life, but it is also how we gather information to improve how we experience life. We have everything we need – it is always in front of us. We just need to train ourselves to slow things down to be part of it. So what’s the rush if all we do is get faster to someplace in work or life that doesn’t fit us?

Now. Here. This. Pay attention to right now. Be right here. Watch this. These are the steps to both learn about and experience a great and terrific life.

Five Beautiful Things: A Practice to Reduce Stress and Be Present

Smells like FlowersBy Tara Sophia Mohr

I’m always looking for new ways to wake up to the life in front of me. This week I started playing with the idea of “five beautiful things.”

In any moment, particularly if I’m feeling stressed or out of sorts, I look for five beautiful things in my midst. I really look at them. I take them in—not just with my eyes but also with my mind and my breath and my heart. I spend a few moments just looking.

This morning, I’m in a bustling café. It isn’t particularly beautiful. But in a moment of feeling kind of bummed out and rushed and anxious, the thought popped up: look for five beautiful things.

The moment I raise my head, I see the red-gorgeous leaves of the trees out the window. Intensely rich as bowl of dark cherries. Hovering slightly in the wind, patiently waiting for our attention. Bold and unapologetic as they wait. Had I looked at them before this morning? Yes. Had I seen them? No.

Next, the face two seats down from me at the café. Clear, pale, freckled, trustworthy, unusual and familiar feeling all at once. Beautiful.

The bright green skirt of the woman walking past me, the green of summer.

The photos above the espresso bar, which I’ve seen at least a hundred times before. Three in a row, frame in arches. In looking at them I start to appreciate the miracle of someone taking the photograph, and the miracle of someone else framing them that way, the miracle of someone conceiving a design for this place. And then I start to feel the miracle that it is all here, and I’m here too. The miracle of a Saturday morning that is, that is now.

By the time it’s time to look for item number five, everything is looking beautiful. The white coffee cup is beautiful. It’s all starting to feel vibrating and alive and miraculous and now. (And I’m not even caffeinated yet).

So number five is, shockingly, the stop sign, right outside the window. It’s become stunningly gorgeous sometime in the past five minutes. It probably couldn’t have been beautiful thing number one, but through these eyes it’s a vibrant red. It’s the perfect shape composed above the green vines below and the brick building behind.

I’m left with this: There’s a way in which life is about looking. Looking closely. Looking with the intention to see beauty. Looking with curiosity and alertness. Looking with reverence for now.

Looking changes everything.

Right now, before you finish reading this post, and click over to the next window, will you find five things of beauty, of striking mystery, in your midst? Five things that are amazing out of their aliveness? Start with one or two, and take them in through your eyes, your mind, your heart and your breath. Spend a few moments with each, and the rest will take care of themselves.

What does “life is about looking” mean to you?

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Tara Sophia Mohr is the founder of the global Playing Big leadership program for women and the author of the free 10 Rules for Brilliant Women Workbook. An expert on women’s leadership and well-being, Tara helps women play bigger in their work and in their lives. Visit www.taramohr.com to learn more.

5 Ways to Be Present and Start Living Your Real Life

Screen Shot 2013-07-17 at 12.29.21 PMBy Levi Newman

We live in an age of distraction. Technology, around every corner and in almost every pocket, clogs life’s airwaves and makes it difficult to be mindful of the moment. Even as I type this (on a computer, no less) I can hear a television blaring a movie in the other room. My son, I’m quite sure, is on his Xbox 360 ,and my wife has checked her phone no less than 35 times in the last 10 seconds.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to take a trip without bringing along my iPad, but there has to be boundaries. That boundary should begin when we start to miss life as it unfolds in the present.

This idea has been running through my mind because of the 4th of July. I was sitting in the park watching fireworks with my family, equally enjoying the colorful explosions overhead and the look of excitement on my children’s faces, when I took a moment to glance at the crowd in hopes that I’d find the same delight amongst the masses. But what I found closest to me was disheartening—a man was watching every second of the event through the viewfinder of a large camera, never once bothering to look up and observe the beauty with his own eyes.

It was in this moment that I realized that we often squander the precious seconds of our lives because we are not mindful of the moment. That’s not to say we shouldn’t capture important events, but how often are we trying so hard to record something for posterity that we miss out on the importance of the memory for our own brain?

This is why living in the moment, or mindfulness, is so important. We should embrace life, letting our thoughts and feelings surround us until we’ve given active, open attention to the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.

This way of thinking should apply to every moment, not just the bright and shiny ones. When we’re at work, we should fantasize less about clocking out at five and more about the task at hand. Not only would this make you a better worker, which has its own benefits for you and your employer, it would help you appreciate those around you.

When we’re living in the moment it also keeps us from dwelling on intrusive memories, such as past problems or uncertainty about the future. This decision to take active control of each moment isn’t an easy undertaking. Most of us allow our thoughts to control us, not the other way around. Because this sense of balance often eludes us, we need to stop concentrating on doing and focus more on just being.

The true reason to be mindful is simple: mindful people are happier, more exuberant, more empathetic and more secure in their relationships. This allows for reduced stress, an improved immune system, lower blood pressure and often alleviates chronic pains. Not to mention that being accepting of who you are and what you’re doing allows for a higher self-esteem and the ability to acknowledge and improve upon one’s weaknesses.

Here are a few simple steps to get you started on the right track.

1. Reduce your self-consciousness. In other words, dance as if no one is watching. Being able to be comfortable in your own skin is difficult, but allowing yourself that freedom is important.

2. Avoid worrying about the future by focusing on the present. If you’re so wrapped up in what’s going to happen tomorrow, you’re not concerning yourself with what is happening around you, which may ultimately prove to be more important.

3. Improve your relationships with others by taking control of your emotions and avoiding action and impulse. There are going to be times when you may feel like lashing out or losing control, but taking a few moments to collect yourself and be mindful of your responses can make all the difference in the world.

4. Make the most of time by losing the watch. Time often dictates every second (no pun intended) of our lives, so much that we may cut off the enjoyment of an event just to stick to a set schedule. Planning is important in life, but so is spontaneity. Take time to enjoy both.

5. Avoidance isn’t a solution. If you have a problem, the only way to improve your life is to tackle it head on. If you allow things to fester without addressing them you run the risk of things getting much worse before they get better. It’s OK to fear not having the answer, but being mindful of needed actions will help you through the toughest times.

* * *

Levi Newman, a 10-year Army veteran and graduate of the University of Missouri. Levi currently serves as the senior author for the Veterans United Network. He also works as the Director of Outreach for Veterans United Home Loans, where he builds and maintains relationships with businesses, organizations and individuals. To keep up with Levi, follow him on Google+!

25 Ways to Feed Your Soul

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Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. ~ Albert Einstein

Instead of obsessing about food, fat, your weight and your multiple failures to lose ‘it,’ imagine what your life could look like, the shape it might take, if you shifted your focus to bringing joy to your heart, giving fresh energy to your day, to feeding your soul.

Envision what will happen when your thoughts no longer pull you astray, but rather connect your mind, body,sp and spirit.

Each and every day find at least one way to feed your soul.  Here are 25 ways to get you started.  Feel free to add your ways to the list!

25 Ways to Feed Your Soul

1.   Dream with your feet, bust a move, get your groove on, and … dance to the music!

2.  Dissolve your inhibitions in a smokin’ hot bubble bath!

3.  Become a fan of the funny. Go “Sky High” with cartoonist Tommy Rudmose.

4.   Light a candle, and then light another, and notice … nothing is lost when one candle lights the next.

5.   Be the fountain of gladness and make everything and everyone near to you freshen with smiles.

6.   Look beneath the iceberg; investigate what lies below as only one-seventh of ‘you’ is above water.

7.   Breathe into the moment for this very moment is the only one you have for sure.

8.   Pray with the rocks, the pebbles, the sand, as they are still and silent.

9.   Read, read, read, lest you yield yourself to ignorance.

10.   Play feverishly! Experience the world and the universe as the playground that it sure is; one for exploration and discovery. Explore, discover, have fun!

11.   Whip up a bowl of bliss. Combine one cup of the poetic with one cup of the mysterious. The perfect complement to any meal; filling, delicious goodness.

12.   Connect the dots from the past straight into your future, one to the next, and behold … the big picture revealed.

13.   Send the dark cloud on its way as it is but an illusion; a billow upon billow upon a billow.

14.   Open your eyes to the sweetness of the day.

15.   Make a mistake. It is, after all, one way of doing something and better than doing nothing.

16.   Remove the stops – one at a time until there is no … stopping … you.

17.   Love in general … round people, skinny people, tall people, short people, all people.

18.   Look for the bright spot. It is right there, to your right. (No, your other right).

19.   Sigh a deep sigh and start anew.

20.  Arrange flowers in good cheer, with a smile on your face and listen for the earth to joyously laugh with you.

21.   Sing with the birds after the storm.

22.  Begin your day in delight; end it in wisdom.

23.  Do not “think fun.” Feel your way straight into having fun.

24.  Do not worry about your worries. Worry is neither preparation nor a magic pill that wards off bad happenings.

25.  Smile at the messiness of life and then straighten your desk, toss the old magazines.

I hope that whets your appetite for ‘soul food!’

* * *

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

Join the Kick in the Tush Club

Originally published May 2012

Peace Like Never Before: Awakening to Joy with Mark Nepo

Mark Nepo Final Front Cover Reduced to JoyThe things we need arrive at the right time, and so it has been with Mark Nepo and his work. For those of us on a spiritual path, Mark’s writings possess the power to immediately move us into connection with a subtle and powerful awareness at the deepest, most soulful level. Though Mark Nepo‘s writing has been with us for a while, it wasn’t until Oprah received a copy of Mark’s Book of Awakening through one of her staff assistants that it came to the notice of millions. This all happened at a critical time.

I first interviewed Mark around the time he’d just lost his day job and faced some health problems. At what seemed like one of his darker hours, Oprah also discovered Mark’s work, and that darkness turned to light as his book, which he’d written some ten years earlier, became a New York Times bestselling book. Oprah recently did two more interviews with him for upcoming shows from her home in Hawaii. Regarding all the success, Mark remains grateful but unfazed by the recognition of his work, and he continues to teach and practice presence in much the same way as before. I asked him to share some his recent experiences, as well as tell us more about his latest book, Reduced to Joy. He’s also offered us one of the poems from his book at the end of this post.

Debra Moffitt: You have written about awakening, silence, and finally joy. Reduced to Joy, your latest book of poems, feels like a culmination of your many years of spiritual connection. Are joy and bliss the final experiences that arrive on the spiritual journey?

Mark Nepo: I’m not sure there is any final experience to this mysterious journey. I think we continue to be brought closer and closer to the aliveness we carry. For me, joy is different than happiness. While happiness is a fleeting mood, joy is larger and more lasting than any one feeling. If each feeling is a wave of emotion, then joy is the ocean that holds all feelings. As I get older, I’m coming to realize that joy is central to our knowing peace. It’s one deep way that we access Oneness. I’m also beginning to see that joy is the hum of Oneness. It’s the sensation of being connected to life itself. Another way to speak of joy is to say that it’s the reward for facing our experience. Often, what keeps us from joy is the menacing assumption that life is happening other than where we are. So we are always leaving, running from or running to. What keeps us from joy, then, is often not being where we are and not valuing what is before us.

 Debra Moffitt: How did Reduced to Joy come into being?

Mark Nepo: Poems come slowly. They break surface like dolphins after long stretches of going under. So writing a book of poems for me is different than writing my other books. I have to sit when I’m able and try to make heart-sense of what life has been doing to me and with me. Like wringing out a sponge, I squeeze what matters onto the page, let it dry, and see what’s there the next day. One by one, they gather into an instructive whole. All this is to say that by trying to make sense of my own experience, I’ve discovered a theme to the journey, that we are all reduced to joy, worn away of all excess. To survive this, we often need to hold each other up in order to discover and return to what matters. This book explores these essential relationships, which keep shaping me.

Debra Moffitt: I love the title of your book. As your poem, “Where is God?” expresses, it seems that once all is stripped away there’s nothing more to obscure joy. Can you speak more to what joy is and is not and how we might know the difference? 

Mark Nepo: After all these years, I’m beginning to see that tranquility is the depth of being that holds what we think and feel, not the still point after we’ve silenced what we think and feel. Serenity is the depth of being that holds difficulty, not the resting point after we’ve ended difficulty. And peace is the depth of being that holds suffering and doubt, not the raft we climb on to avoid suffering and doubt. This leads us to joy, which is much deeper and larger than any one feeling. Happiness, fear, anxiety, contentment, doubt, regret, unworthiness, anger, despair—all these and more are the waves that rise and fall in the sea of being.

 Debra Moffitt: Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers? 

Mark Nepo: These poems have been retrieved and shaped over the last thirteen years. They have been my teachers about the nature of working with what we’re given till it wears us through to joy. My hope is that the poems in this book will serve as a threshold to an underlying connection to the greater life we are all a part of. I hope the book will be a resource for you when faced with the difficulties of living. I hope the poems will confirm that, no matter the struggle you find yourself in, you are not alone. May these poems be honest companions on the journey to joy.

A Poem from Reduced to Joy by Mark Nepo reprinted with his permission.

Where is God? 

 It’s as if what is unbreakable—
the very pulse of life—waits for
everything else to be torn away,
and then in the bareness that
only silence and suffering and
great love can expose, it dares
to speak through us and to us.
It seems to say, if you want to last,
hold on to nothing. If you want
to know love, let in everything.
If you want to feel the presence
of everything, stop counting the
things that break along the way.
* * *
Debra Moffitt is the award winning author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life and “Garden of Bliss: Cultivating the Inner Landscape for Self-Discovery” (Llewellyn Worldwide, May 2013). A visionary, dreamer and teacher, she’s devoted to nurturing the spiritual in everyday life. She leads workshops on spiritual practices, writing and creativity in the U.S. and Europe. More at http://www.awakeintheworld.com.

You Create

creator

 

It began with tension. Tension contrasted with the utter peacefulness of a summer evening. It was when I noticed it first.

It was such a beautiful evening, balmy and fresh after a hot, summer day, pink and blue with golden highlights, and filled to bursting with the forest scents and grassy aromas. It was so quiet, so peaceful — but I wasn’t. That was when I noticed it. That was why I noticed it. The tension, the … tightness.

And I thought I was doing so well! I was pulling myself up from my traumas and dramas, I was getting back to my art and to my work, I was making an effort, I was doing stuff again, I even made a list and created a schedule (a tentative one), I was doing, I was doing, I was busy … and it all seemed so silly suddenly. The busyness, the schedule, the doing. It was supposed to be a remedy for not-doing anything, which was bad but … it seemed so silly.

Because it was never the problem, I realized. Doing nothing was never the problem. Reading books all day or hanging out on Facebook, avoiding my art and abandoning my projects — that was never a problem. Doing, doing, doing would never be a solution.

I lost my presence. That was the problem.

I allowed myself to become unconscious, I allowed my life to slip out of focus, I allowed my vision to become fuzzy. Doing things, schedules, plans, objectives and accomplishments were supposed to fix that problem for me, but they did not bring presence with them. They only brought busyness. They brought movement, bustle, hustle, doing. Lots of doing. And tension. There was no presence in all this activity. There was no presence in tension.

Presence was in the peacefulness of last night. As I walked my dogs in the midst of gathering dusk, through the splendid silence of nature around me, there was presence there and I became clear, yet again, that it is lack of presence that is the problem, and it is presence that is the solution.

Presence.

Not doing, making, bustling and hustling, but presence. Presence as what I am, as my life, right now. Presence that transcends doing. Presence that renders doing obsolete because it, by the virtue of simply being, creates. Creates reality. Creates life. Spontaneously and effortlessly creates — everything.

That is one thing worth doing, I thought to myself last night, working on being present.

Are You Trying To Find Your Purpose?

Enjoying the sunHas trying to find your purpose ever stressed you out? Do you feel some sort of pressure to make something meaningful with your life? In the past, when I heard people talk about their purpose, I would feel stressed and believed I was supposed to be doing something different or more with my life.

I thought that I needed to be clear about what that purpose looked like in the physical world. I then realized that by searching for this clarity, I was missing the life that was actually given to me as this present moment. I realized I had been missing the opportunity to express what was most important to me while I was searching.

What if it’s not as complicated as the mind makes it out to be? What if in the larger picture, what you’re doing is not as important as how you are being while you are doing it and the quality of energy you are putting out into the Uni-verse?

We are all hooked up differently to feel alive and sometimes it’s just about paying attention to what already lights us up. One thing that has helped me get clarity around this, and that I often recommend to clients, is having what I call a Joy Journal. It consists of taking some time every night to simply write down your favorite part of that day: this could be connecting with a coworker on a break, teaching a child how to ride a bike, or even being in nature or with animals.

Over time I was able to become more aware of the themes that spoke to me and I consciously created a job that brings in those elements and that feels aligned with my values. I knew I enjoyed connecting authentically with people, creating environments where people could more deeply discover who they are and ask meaningful questions.  I loved being a part of an inspiring community, and I knew I loved Bali.

So… I created a Wellness Retreat to Bali and over the last four years have been leading groups there on an immersion retreat where we do yoga, daily meditation, we get massages, eat raw food, get inspired by each other and also express our creativity. At the heart of these activities I could see that what I truly value is consciousness work, genuine relationships and supporting people. It’s no surprise that I also work as a psychotherapist because these qualities are expressed in that work as well.

It’s not that my purpose is my work, but my work supports me in expressing what I hold as most important to me. The invitation is to first clarify what you truly value. If at the heart of things you hold important in life is love, then discover how love expresses itself in your life moment-to-moment, person to person. Or if what you really value is service, then simply asking yourself everywhere you go, “How can I best serve here?” is a way of embodying your purpose. Then watch as life unfolds by honoring what is truly in your heart.

You can trust that the intelligence that holds the stars and the galaxies in the Uni-verse is also orchestrating your life… you can rest in that. A flower doesn’t know where it is going or its ultimate purpose, and yet it still blooms… something in it knows.

Goals are fine, and if you already have clarity about a specific expression your life is taking, then follow that, assuming it’s aligned with your heart. Just don’t get lost in the goal, thinking that getting “there” will somehow deeply satisfy you. It’s easy to have the end in mind or believe you have a purpose and then lose sight of the other 90% of your life, brushing your teeth, driving to work, meeting people at the grocery store, etc. This 90% is as much a part of life as the other 10%. By mentally living in the future, we miss out on the opportunity to express what we truly value now.

Often what we actually deeply yearn for is the creativity and spontaneity that arises out of the present moment. I invite you to enjoy this discovery as you let go of the stressful ideas about how you believe life should be, and experience the fullness of following what you truly value in your heart moment-to-moment.

“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”  ~ Mother Teresa

Everything Is

the-key

 “You have to be out there, prominent, visible. You have to speak to people.” My husband told me this one hot afternoon over tea. We sat at the patio of our favorite cafe. The big umbrellas and huge sycamores spread their respective canopies over our heads. They stopped the sun, but not the heat. It was a lazy, slow and quiet afternoon and we were talking about marketing my sticks.

“You have to be out there, speaking, teaching” he said.

Teaching. This was not the first time we had this conversation and, not for the first time, I said: no. No teaching.

You see, I never wanted to be a teacher. During my early Buddhist years there was the subtle competition among students for the best understanding, the best posture, the best silence. The best meditation. Every student hoped, not very secretly, to be the chosen one. The one who will become an heir to the dharma. The one who will become the successor. I later moved on from Zen into other realms and everything changed — but that one thing did not. The desire to become a teacher among my fellow practitioners remained.

Except for me.

I saw nothing attractive in the teaching business, quite the opposite — the prospect scared me. Why? Because of the responsibility it carried. Because every time I spoke an advice, even a small, inconsequential one, I felt the weight of my words influencing the one who asked, nudging their perspective even if just a little bit, realigning their actions. And it was too much. It was too much to handle. For me.

Ha … you know … this is not what I was going to write. I was going to write about how I feel that there is no need for me to teach others because I can see who you are, all of you. I can see the perfection of you and I know that, sooner or later, you will see it as well. I was going to talk about what is simply being and, ultimately, being perfect but …

It is not all crap, exactly … but that is not the reason why I never wanted to be a teacher. Why I don’t want to be a teacher. The reason is that it terrifies me when my dog obeys my commands, let alone a human. It mortifies me that another creature, a free, autonomous creature puts its life in my hands and obeys me unquestioningly, absolutely. Even if it is only a little dog.

I cannot handle the responsibility of influencing others. So … I pretend that it’s my sticks doing it instead?

Huh, what a strange post this is…

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