Thursday, September 03, 2015

Does Nothing Else Happen?

Two Buddhist monks are sitting side by side while meditating on the side of a river.  The older and wiser monk finally says to the younger monk, who has a look of dismay on his face, “Nothing else happens.  This is it.”
 
If you are like me, then you surely sometimes wonder to yourself, “Is this it?  Does nothing else happen”?  Much of my life’s journey I have been on a quest to find meaning in my life.  More often than not I do not feel successful.  Sometimes I wonder if I am searching for something that is simply not there.  Too often I feel like life is a treadmill and I’m getting nowhere.  Is it possible that this is it and nothing else happens?  Is my life nothing more than a revolving door with me doing nothing but coming to work, going home, falling asleep on my couch, waking up so I can go to bed, and then beginning the whole process over again the next morning?  This is what my life often feels like.  I want to believe I make a difference but do I?  Occasionally I feel passionate but more often than not I feel like I have lost my mojo and that I am turning into a grumpy old man.  The constant search for meaning can be exhausting.  After originally writing these thoughts I got home one day and waiting for me was an email from a friend containing an article that she said reminded her of some of my previous thoughts.  It was an article that talked about three major phases of life.  The first and longest is the time we devote to accumulating wealth and material well-being.  The second is the accumulation of spiritual things, i.e., gurus, seminars, retreats, and mystical experiences.  The third phase is called divestment.  You stop shopping for enlightenment and you make peace with not knowing.  You make peace with life and accept that life is not a question to be answered or a problem to be solved but a gift to be enjoyed.  I think I am now in this third phase.  I need to relax in my “not knowing” and simply enjoy life as it unfolds.       

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Endless Loops

I once stayed in a resort that was definitely geared towards younger people.  Most days the party started around noon…after all the young people slept off their hangovers from the night before…and it was usually going strong after I gone to bed.  One particular day was “Rave” day.  There was a DJ who played endless loops of dance music with thumping bass lines that sometimes rattled your insides.  I dug it the first few hours but after about six hours I would have liked to hear some Chicago blues.  The repetitive nature of the dance music made me think about the repetitive nature of our lives with the seemingly endless loops of our behavior and thinking.  It is difficult for most of us to break out of routines and to think differently.  We often feel locked into our patterns of behavior.  I receive a daily thought each day based on my personality.  One thought I have received several times challenges me to act the opposite of how I normally act.  Instead of always trying to sugar coat everything, perhaps I need to be more blunt and to the point.  Instead of acting passively, perhaps I need to be more assertive.  Instead of trying to be invisible, perhaps I need to put myself out there more often.  Instead of biting my tongue, perhaps I need to speak out.  Do you get the point?  Our lives can be endless loops of the same old song.  Occasionally we need to change the beat of our lives and create some new and fresh harmonies.       

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Acceptance

The final element, or habit, of mindfulness is acceptance.  In this scenario, acceptance is defined as  “completely accepting the thoughts, feelings, sensations, and beliefs that you have and understanding that they are simply those things only”. 
 
Today we finish my thoughts on mindfulness.  When it’s all said and done, mindfulness is accepting reality as it is with patience, without judging, and with a child-like “Beginner’s Mind”.  It is also trusting  in our personal ability to deal with the moment, allowing life to unfold as it will by non-striving, and finally, accepting it for what it is.  Whatever our individual moments add up to be, for most of us they are not the moments we probably dreamed of in our youth.  I’ve often felt like most of my life was an accident.  The life I have is not really the life I wanted.  It is, however, the life I have.  Just because the life I have is not the realization of my early dreams does not mean it’s all bad.  I strive to not see anything as good or bad .  My life is what it is and many twists and turns brought me to this point.  I can mourn the fact that it’s not everything I hoped for or I can accept it and strive to better understand why I am where I am and what I am supposed to do with what I have been given.  Such acceptance does not come easy and I am not totally there.  However, even my feelings must be accepted as “they are what they are”.     

Monday, August 31, 2015

Non-Striving

The fifth element, or habit, of mindfulness is Non-Striving.  Non-Striving is described as “the state of not doing anything, just simply accepting the things that are happening in the moment just as they are supposed to”.  This is a very tough challenge for many people in our American culture.  We pride ourselves on being busy, productive, driven, and goal oriented people.  In addition to this many of us are also control freaks who want to alter the outcomes of as much as possible to suit our own agendas and needs.  The idea of non-striving and allowing life to unfold as it sees fit is almost abhorrent to us.  We spend a great deal of energy holding on when the best move might be to simply let go.  Many of us are wound a little tight because of the tension within ourselves that is caused by our driven, competitive, and controlling natures.  Keep in mind, however, that Non-Striving is not the same as being lazy or not caring.  I think Non-Striving is like white water rafting.  You don’t necessarily allow yourself to be tossed to and fro by the rapids of life.  You learn to be one with the running water.  Some of the time you just flow with it.  Other times you use your paddle to make the occasional course change to avoid crashing into a rock.  If you fight the river or attempt to change the course of the river you will eventually crash and sink your boat.  Those with skill learn to flow with the river and tap into its energy.      

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Trust

The 4th element, or habit, of mindfulness is trust.  In this scenario trust is defined as “having trust in yourself, your intuition, and your abilities”.  So far we have talked about non-judging, being patience, and having a beginner’s mind.  When we are in the moment and present to our reality, not only do we have to be non-judging, patient, and childlike in our curiosity and openness, we also have to trust that the moment is as perfect as it can be.  Keep in mind that trusting that the moment is as perfect as it can be does not mean that the moment is perfect.  Rarely in our life is the moment perfect.  Many of our moments are imperfect and during those times we often must rely on ourselves, our intuition, and our abilities to deal with life’s challenges.  By having trust we believe in ourselves and our capacity to meet life’s challenges.  This is also a reminder that mindfulness is not living in oblivion and mindless bliss.  Mindfulness is being present to reality.  Certainly there are those blissful moments when all is well and life is beautiful.  However, there are also those moments where life is painful and challenging.  While we all want to experience the joy filled moments, we must be present to our more painful realities as well.  As someone once told me, “if you want to experience life’s rainbows, you must also be willing to experience a few storms”.      
 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Beginner's Mind

The third element, or habit, of the mindfulness attitude is “Beginner’s Mind”.  What is beginner’s mind?  It is “having the willingness to observe the world as if it were your first time doing so.  This creates an openness that is essential to being mindful”.
 
Most adults have a difficult time having a “Beginner’s Mind”.  As we get older our minds become so filled, mostly with junk, that being open enough to have the curiosity of a child is very challenging.  When it comes to “Beginner’s Mind”, my greatest teacher is my granddaughter.  I spend time with her most weekends and during this time she teachers me to see life like an eleven year old.  People with “Beginner’s Mind” tend to see life, not only with curiosity, but with simplicity.  When one sees life directly, and with the simplicity of a curious child, one is usually very present to the reality of the moment.  Life is not usually seen as complicated to a child.  It just is.  I remember once asking my granddaughter if she was happy.  At first she seemed confused by the question.  She looked at me as though she was wondering why I would ask such a silly question.  Her eyes said, “Paw Paw, isn’t being happy the normal way of being”?  Only someone with a “Beginner’s Mind” would think being happy is the normal way to be.  My granddaughter’s mind is open and fresh and her vision is pure.  She is full of curiosity and can be present to the moment in a way I can only hope to be.  Unfortunately she will likely grow up to be like the rest of us and she will lose this now effortless ability to be present.  At some point she will have to work to regain it just like her Paw Paw is doing now.   

Patience

Yesterday I began some thoughts on “The 7 Habits of Highly Mindful People”.  We continue this theme today.
 
The second element or habit of the mindful person is patience.  Patience is “cultivating the understanding that things must develop in their own time”.  Patience is a trait that usually comes easy for me.  Of course, what I call patience is sometimes seem by others as me being non-assertive.  Admittedly, one of my coping strategies in life is simply waiting things out.  Despite how I am sometimes seen by others, and acknowledging that I do sometimes act in dysfunctional ways, patience is a gift that I believe I have been given to me as part of my personality.  We live in an impatient world where everyone seems to be in a hurry and many people want everything yesterday.  I remember a joke from my days in project management.  It was said that it takes one woman nine months to give birth to a baby.  You cannot give birth to a baby in one month by using nine women.  In other words, “things must develop in their own time”.  Certainly there are situations in life that require a sense of urgency.  Things sometimes happen that require us to kick it up a notch.  However, not everything in life can be done quickly nor should they be.  You can open a can of soup and pop it in the micro wave for a quick and usually unsatisfying lunch.  You can also slow cook a variety of ingredients in your crock pot and have a culinary delight for dinner.  You can pressure cook your life or let it unfold naturally.  As I have said before, in a world of pressure cookers, I am a crock pot.  In the end, patience gains all things.  Move quickly when life demands it but if you are running and pushing all the time, it will catch up to you and you will regret it.