Modern Zen Stories II - Best Blog Reads This Week




Another recap of some of the best things I've read this week.  Some stories or posts may be older than a week old, but I just got around to reading them during the past week. 

I will try to vary the subjects each recap.  Some on Zen Buddhism, some on mindfulness in everyday life, some on frugality, etc...  Hopefully they will all be useful in helping you to have a mindful, meaningful life.

"Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work.  It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart."  ~ unknown.


Practices Derived from Buddhist Meditation Show Real Effectiveness for Certain Health Problems

Compassion without drowning by Diana St Ruth

The antidote to selfishness is you  on BecomingMinimalist.com

Time is Money - Fallacy or Fact on PennilessParenting.com

Being an ethical consumer on Everydayminimalist.com

In Norway a new model for justice on ZenPeacemakers.org

No News is Good News - Disconnecting on this blog.

Almost cut my hair



"Almost cut my hair
It happened just the other day
It was getting kind of long
I could have said it was in my way

But I didn't and I wonder why
I feel like letting my freak flag fly
And I feel like I owe it to someone"

Almost Cut My Hair by David Crosby.

I know many of you are familiar with this iconic song from 1970.  For those of you who are not, it was a "hippie" classic about not selling out.  At the time it was not uncommon for "long-haired freaks" to be seriously harassed by the police and authorities.  Cutting your hair was selling out and mindlessly conforming to mainstream expectations.

Daily we are confronted with ambiguous opportunities and yes even pressures to "cut our hair." The pressures are the covert societal and individual expectations to fit into the prepared sized template; buy the same foods, eat the same diet, dress this way, cast this vote, embrace this popular opinion, demonstrate this style of critical thinking...or you will pay the consequences...risk being on the outside and even ostracised. It's not just your friends, co-workers, or family - it's the institutions and streams of mass communications to Americans as well.  The government, corporate marketing, the media, your church, the schools, our economic system...they are all established to encourage conformity.  It does not take much thought, nor does it result in a lasting satisfaction. It does take living in a numbed state and a focus on comfort, convenience, and ease. No wonder so many of us are on anti-depressants, in too much debt, have superficial relationships, eat too much, drink too much, in a romantic relationship with someone who we have nothing in common with, or feel as if God has ditched us because our life has not turned out as I wanted.

It is easy to be tempted and to succumb.  As a rule I do not frequent chain restaurants, particularly fast food joints.  It is not only my health that I am concerned with, but I don't believe in the way they source their product or serve their customers.  The only people whose interest are being served are the stock holders.  The animals from which the meat is sourced are treated inhumanely and your health is of little or no concern to these establishments.  Never the less, one afternoon I was hungry, tired, and had important things to do other than cook.  As I was passing the golden arches I thought "Well I could stop and get a salad, that's not so bad".  Maybe not so bad for my health, but it violated my principles.  That evening I cut my hair.

Now I could have beaten myself up over this.  I could have but I didn't.  I felt bad for a few minutes, then thought to myself "I won't do that again" 

I hope you don't sell out.  I hope you don't cut your hair, but if you do, it will grow back.  Be patient.  Let it grow.



Opinions

Opinions





We all have opinions.  Some more than others.  We wouldn't be human without them. 

If our opinions are too strong, we don't see clearly.  Our opinions are wrapped in emotional bias.  They are often formed in part by the influence of other people, the media, schools, churches, personal experiences, and the region we live in.  Most times we are unable to see the difference between fact and opinion.  Use your opinion as a starting point but don't be attached.

When you see things as they are you don't need an opinion.


"Don't seek the truth, just drop your opinions." Japanese Zen Master

"Only the hand that erases can write the true thing." Meister Eckhart


Simple Life - Quiet Mind

Zen is awakening.


No News is Good News - Disconnecting



As I relayed in my last post, Modern Zen Stories , I have recently distanced myself from mass media.  I cancelled my subscription to cable television and quit visiting major news sites ( Yahoo, Bing, Huffington Post ).  Thanks to my friend Maya, I now know how to go directly to my yahoo mail account without visiting their front page first.  I don't care what the Obama campaign recently said about Romney or vice versa.  I don't subject myself to a barrage of adds encouraging me to buy the latest consumer gadget.  I don't even need to know of the latest acts of war or aggression mankind has committed.  I know it is happening without reading the gory details.

For me no news is good news.  My goal is not to isolate.  I am trying to avoid the unnecessary drama modern life can add to our lives, and disconnect from the frantic pace a bit.  I feel less isolated and more connected to the present moment than ever.  I sit out in the evenings with my wife and a cup of tea.  I notice the sun peeking through the overcast sky.  I feel refreshed.

I do read more. Blogs have become a passion. ZenhabitsCastles in the Air, and Seth Godnin's Blog are some of my favorites.  I'm re-reading Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki.  Quality reading. I feel my mind is engaged instead of occupied. 

Being disconnected is not for everyone.  My twenty-three year old daughter is young, involved, and politically active.  It doesn't fit her character, but maybe it would benefit us all to slow down a little and pay attention to what is going on right here, right now.  The same political double-talk will still be going on tomorrow night.  Take a night off and enjoy what is going on in your own life.  Perhaps your self-knowledge will deepen.

Peace.



Modern Zen Stories - Best Blog Reads This Week

Since cancelling my subscription to cable television and swearing off the mainstream media, even on the internet, I find myself reading more and more blogs.  I read only subjects I am interested in.  No political campaigns, no celebrity scandals, and no more gadgets that I need to buy advertised before my eyes over and over again. 

Today I am listing links to some of the more interesting articles I've read this week.  Some are from other Zen blogs, some not.  The posts that are not from Zen blogs touch upon the principles of mindfulness, open heart, or participating in the present moment.




With an open heart and an open mind - Seth Godin

The race to the bottom - Seth Godin

Spills - Nina Yau

Are you enjoying your biscuits? - Zendotstudio

Zen in a cup of tea - MinimalStudent

IE : The power of intermittent euphoria - Mark's Daily Apple

Life is Fragile and Precious .... A Tribute to Dick.



I just received the news from my wife that an old friend is in hospice and is dying of cancer. I have not known him for very long; I think just over a year.  It should have come with really no surprise. After all he is 84-years-old, and he was diagnosed with cancer shortly after I met him. 

Still, I was overcome with a flurry of emotions.  Sadness came first, of course,  then warmth. I was glad to have known him the short time that I did.  He was a man that truly lived in the moment and had a sincere warmth I have rarely experienced from another human being.

Suzuki Roshi once said how lucky we are that life is impermanent. It makes it more special.  Finally I felt gratefulness followed quickly by determination.  I will not waste my life.

Thank you Dick.



Loneliness



"The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself" ~ Mark Twain

Get to know yourself.  Spend some time alone.

The Lost Art of Solitude on Zenhabits.net
Home Page

Awakening - Presence Beyond Mind

Awakening - Presence Beyond Mind






"You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyound thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence.  You also realize that all the things that truly matter - beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace - arise from beyond the mind.  You begin to awaken"
-Chapter 1, The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle
 
Emptiness. I first caught a glimpse while reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. After twenty years of studying books on Zen, Tao, and native american spirituality I was confused about emptiness. Not to say I fully understand now (they say it cannot be understood ), but I get it. I see the finger pointing at the moon now. Thank you Eckhart Tolle for putting it into words a westerner can comprehend. 

Tao Te Ching

The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things
Thus, constantly without desire, one observes its essence
Constantly with desire, one observes its manifestations
These two emerge together but differ in name
The unity is said to be the mystery
Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders

 Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths in 2006 



Emtiness on thebigview.com
Trying to Listen
Simple Life - Quiet Mind
Koans - Zen Puzzles for an American Mind

 


Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money

 

For many of us, one of life's greatest challenges  is to escape from the financial pressures of life , so that we are not enslaved to our bills and debts. It can be very hard to be mindful of our true self when we are under such pressure.  I remember not too long ago feeling an enormous weight on my chest every moment.  Bills were juggled with occasional overdrafts that snowballed into  bigger problems. Desperate to find alternate solutions to banish this "ball and chain", I decided to seek ways to reduce my expenses.  I knew in my conscience that the worst remedy to my financial overwhelm was to add to my steady 70 plus-hour work week.

I don't really recall how I stumbled upon the book; it was a lifesaver - literally.  My stress was wearing on both my mental and physical health.  A divorce, recent custody of three teenage children, leaving a relatively high-paying position to take custody of those children - it seemed too much.  The very concrete steps detailed in the book totally transformed my understanding of money. Additionally, the book helped me to clarify my values and bring mindfulness to how I spent my life energy.

The author, Vicki Robin, lays out a 9-step solution to help you dig deep and look at how you spend your life energy. This book is really about the integration of all aspects of your life. You see, money is more than paper; it is a representation of your life hours, and your time spent.  How much of your life are you spending on that cell phone plan?  Is it worth it?  It is a very personal question only you can answer.  How much does that second income really help?  Did you subtract the cost of work clothes, transportation, additional take-out and convenience foods, childcare, etc...?  Vicki challenges you to break it down and determine what works for you and what doesn't.

V.Robins does not recommend a bare bones life with no luxuries.  "Just enough" is the concept.  Safe and comfortable shelter, nutritious food, adequate clothing....the basic needs, a little luxury, and some savings for safety.  The law of diminishing returns applies here.  After a while luxuries are not worth the extra life energy spent.  This book will help you examine how you’re exchanging your life energy and determine if your choices are bringing lasting fulfillment. 

Here is an overview of the 9 steps. I highly encourage you to purchase the book and use it.  It changed my life.  It led me toward the path of a lifestyle based upon minimalism.  Weed out the life-draining things that don't matter and have no added value to your personal happiness and satisfaction.  Then, leave only the most precious, meaningful things.

Step 1:  Make peace with the past. 

Sum your lifetime earnings then look at what you have to show for it. Use tax returns, social security statements, and any other financial records you have to calculate your lifetime earnings.  Next calculate your net worth.  In order to complete this first step you have to look back and see your past money mistakes. This can be a painful step.  Instead of lamenting over your past mistakes use those experiences to apply the learned wisdom, and to move forward.

Step 2:  Calculate your real hourly wage. 

Subtract commuting costs, clothing costs, meals eaten out during work hours, and any other work-related expenses.  Some things are hard to quantify.  Do you spend more money on "big" vacations because your work life is so stressful?  Try to factor in all expenses.


Step 3:  Monthly tabulation.  Where does it go? 

Tabulate all your expenses into categories, add them up, and convert them into hours of life energy.  Track exactly how you spend your life energy.  The author recommends doing this for months. I did it for one month and got the picture.  I go back and re-evaluate every few years to get back on track.

 Step 4:  Evaluate the expenses from Step 3 using your values and fulfillment as a guide.

Look at how much of your life energy you spend on each item from your monthly tabulation.  Is it worth it to you?  I recently calculated that I spent over six hours a month to pay for my cable television subscription. That may not seem too much, except that I only watch one to two hours a week of television - max - and I normally regret most of that as wasted time. Off with the tele!

Step 5:  Create a chart that compares your income vs. your expenses over time.

Don't skip this step.  It may seem trivial, but it has a great impact on your discipline and how well you will stick with the program.  Put the chart somewhere visible where you have to look at it daily.

Step 6:  Value your life energy by minimizing expenses.

Cut out spending that doesn't align with your values and personal mission.  Learn to take care of your possessions, learn to do and make things you've previously paid others to do, and learn to enjoy it.  I'm always surprised at the number of people that do not learn to cook.  What could be more enjoyable and sacred than creating a fabulous, nutritious feast for yourself and those you care for?  If cooking isn't for you, maybe you can learn to detail your own car.  Personally I'd rather spend an hour working next to my wife taking care of our own business, than having to work an extra two hours at my job so we could pay someone else to wash our vehicle or cook our dinner (i.e., restaurant, frozen meals).


Step 7: Value your life energy by maximizing your income.

Make the time you spend working count.  It should add value to your life in a number of ways.  Do something you feel good about and maximize your income while doing it.  Do it well, ask for a raise, and change places of employment if necessary. 

Step 8: Find your crossover point.

Use the chart from step 5 to calculate when your savings and investments can start paying you an appreciable return. 


Step 9:  Learning to really manage your finances and secure financial independence.

Step up to the plate and dig in.  Learn true money management and finance techniques.  Invest to establish a safe, secure income stream.  The author recommends cd's and savings bonds.  Personally I prefer dividend stocks from established companies that have a proven track record of increasing dividend payments over many years.


To me this book is about much more than finance.  It is about becoming aware of our compulsive spending habits.  It is about putting our time and money where our values lie.  It is about being mindful.

Below are some great links on living simply and being frugal.




Your Money or Your Life Official Blog

wisebread.com

frugaldad.com

We Only Do This Once

12 reasonsI'm a minimalist on Zenpresence.com


Zen Presence - minimalism, simplicity, self improvement, simple living, Zen in modern life

Call Me by My True Names - Thich Nhat Hanh

Call Me by My True Names - Thich Nhat Hanh


True compassion, embracing existence, and touching emptiness. Thich Nhat Hanh seems to accomplish all in his masterpiece "Call Me by My True Names". If we could live with the clarity of this poem the world would be changed forever. Please don't just glance over this work, but savor it. Let it permeate your being for a while. Allow the quiet true self to exist.





Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.


I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.


I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to
Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea
pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and
loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my
hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to, my
people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all
walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

Thich Nhat Hanh

A Truth-seeker’s Philosophy


A Truth-seeker’s Philosophy


I ran accross Nina's blog yesterday and WOW!  What a great writer.  I bought her Kindle book Truth  and can't wait to read it.  She writes straight from the heart and cuts to the point.  Very refreshing.  Truth seeking at its best.  Zen, yoga, life, death, sankalpa, meditation...these are a few of the things she blogs about.

I encourage you to read the following post.  I am confident you'll explore a little further.



 

 

A Truth-seeker’s Philosophy

Who am I? and Why am I here? are eternal questions that fall upon the lips of even the most brave and fearless men and women. It is not for lack of courage that we cannot answer these questions; it is for lack of self-pursuit, the continuous thirst for a real connection between the Self as we have always thought of ourselves to be, and the real Self, who we fundamentally are as a full human being, not what we’ve acted out over these years.

continue to Nina's blog on Castlesintheair.org


An interview with the author Nina Yau on being mindful and present.



Trying to listen on American Zen - Journey to a Quiet Mind.

Koans - Zen Puzzles for the American Mind

Enlightenment through a puzzle?  A riddle that can't be solved?  Maybe that is what we get for treating life as game to which there is some supreme, strategic solution.  . 

Koans are a subject I waver on.   I frequently reference the koans in Thich Nhat Han's classic  Zen Keys: A Guide to Zen Practice.  I think they can go a long way in getting us to realize the way of zen, but are they more of a crutch than a solution?  I find my "self "thinking that I get "it" when I know darn well that I don't. 

Whether they will bring enlightenment, satori, or simply satisfy my ego's constant craving for mind candy, I enjoy them all the same.

For Americans studying Koans, there can be an extra piece to the puzzle - cultural background.  Below are a two of my favorites with some cultural background for clarity.


Wash Your Bowl

A monk asked Zhaozhou to teach him.
Zhaozhou asked, "Have you eaten your meal?"
The monk replied, "Yes, I have."
"Then go wash your bowl", said Zhaozhou.

Now one of the problems being an American studying zen is that I do not have the cultural background that an Asian person has to fully understand this koan in context.  For years I did not know that it was customary for monks to maintain samadhi ( perfect concentration ) while eating this meal.Zhaozhou is not asking whether the monk has eaten: he asks instead whether the monk was able to remain in samadhi during the meal. When the monk replies yes, Zhaozhou tells him that he has already received his teaching - continue practice


Two Moons


Wu is sweeping the ground and Yunyan says, “Too busy!”
Wu replies, “You should know there’s one who’s not busy.”
Yunyan says, “Oh, so there are two moons.”
Wu holds up the broom and says, “Which moon is this?”


Once again it helps to know that in Buddhist traditions the moon stands for reality. When our sight is clouded we see two moons, even though there is only one real moon.  Two moons is also used to symbolize a lack of focus; thinking of one thing while doing another.  So Yunyan is saying that Wu is not focused.  Wu replies that he can practice while working.  Yunyan then implies that Wu is distracted in duality.  Looking at Wu's final response the question arises who is exposing who?


Below are some excellent links if you would like to explore koans a little further.

Koan Confessions
101 Zen Stories

The Gateless Gate

The Ten Very Best Zen Stories



Home

Joy



"Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy"
Thich Nhat Hanh

Take the time to quiet your mind.

Do not forget that a vessell may be shaped from clay, stone, or glass...but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.

12 Reasons I'm a minimalist



Our life is frittered away by detail . . . Simplify, simplify.

 

- Thoreau



Okay, let me start by saying I am not a minimalist by some standards.  I do own two  one automobiles.  I do have electricity and running water.  I thoroughly enjoy my iphone, and I am a frequent user of high speed internet.  By typical American society's standards though, I think I am learning to keep it pretty simple.  We don't have a big screen TV, and our house is furnished with minimal basic furnishings. (Update - as of May, 2013 we live in a motorhome for freedom and simplicity)


Modern minimalism is not anti-materialism.  It is simplicity.  It is self-reliance. One of my greatest joys in life is the feeling of carrying everything you need to survive on your back when backpacking through the mountains. That is minimalism at its finest.  It is being a step (or more ) removed from the norm of society.  It is moving away from soul less living including the dependence upon convenience, perfect comforts, constant indulgences, and emphasis on image. Convenience and ease in daily living even infiltrates our personal relationships. Authenticity and genuiness in our relationships take at times an element of discomfort, honesty, and truth.  When we live in a soul less manner then we create soul less and shallow relationships.

There are many ways to minimalize.  I try to minimize how much mind numbing television I watch.  I try to limit my alcohol consumption, my sugar consumption.  I find I appreciate things more when I do not go to excess.

So here is my list of twelve reasons that I'm a minimalist.  Please respond in comments why minimalism is or isn't for you and see the links at the end of the post for ways to begin your journey into minimalism.

1.  My wife makes me do it.  Partially kidding.  She was the one who introduced me to the idea though.  She says that years of social work with the elderly and poor taught her that you don't need things to make you happy.  At first she could not figure it out.  Why were these people with wind blowing through the cracks in the walls happy?  Was something wrong with them or her?  Happiness is a state of mind. These people were proof in the pudding that material things are not the key to happiness.

2.  It is liberating.  Often we are possessed by our possessions.  We spend so much time buying, caring for, and replacing things that we don't have time to enjoy them.  Do we even enjoy spending all our time off taking care of all possessions? We work and play under the gun, because time is limited.  I like feeling free to spend my time pursuing hobbies or interest.

3.  I feel more "able".  It feels good to be able to do things for myself.  I grow some of my own food.  I make my own vinegar. Minimalism includes a return to basic skills and taking care of ourselves.

4.  It is cheaper.  The cost of buying, maintaining, and replacing things can be enormous.  The initial cost of purchase is only the beginning.  Transportation expenses or shipping charges, the costs of accessories, repair costs, and the costs of a larger home to store our possessions really adds up.

5.  It is "greener".  I do like to feel that I am somewhat of a steward for this earth we live on.  Consumerism has caused a host of environmental problems.  Factory emissions, transportation emissions, packaging waste.  The list goes on and on. 

6.  I don't like cleaning.  Fewer things equals smaller home equals less time spent cleaning.  Even if you're not going to downsize your living space, it's much easier to clean an empty room than a room filled with excessive furniture and decor.  I'd much rather take a nap on a day off than spend all day cleaning the house.

7.  Simplicity can be elegant and beautiful.  I love simple things. Some of my favorite poems are haiku.  Simple and to the point.

Clouds appear and bring to men a chance to rest
from looking at the moon.
- Basho


8.  It lowers my blood pressure.  Multitasking is dangerous.  If you don't believe me watch me try to cook sometime.  When I simplify and do one thing at a time I find that I do a better job with a lot less stress.  To have time to do one thing at a time, most of us need to reduce the number of things we are trying to accomplish.  You'll probably get more done anyway.  Start here to help set priorities.

9.  Non-attachment.  Fewer material possessions can help free our spirits.  Attachment and craving are the source of much of our dissatisfaction ( Dukkha ) and stresses in life.  The things that we think we need or that will make us happy are fleeting...momentary. Once again we will return too quickly to that state of dissatisfaction and unfulfillment. The more things we have to worry about keeping, the more stress and suffering. 

There is a story of a farmer passing by the Buddha one afternoon.  The farmer appeared stressed and very unhappy. He asked the Buddha and the monks whether they had seen any cows passing by. The Buddha said they had not seen any cows. 
The farmer said, "Monks, I'm so unhappy. I have twelve cows and I don't know why they all ran away. I have also a few acres of a sesame seed plantation and the insects have eaten up everything. I suffer so much I think I am going to kill myself. "
The Buddha said, "My friend, we have not seen any cows passing by here. You might like to look for them in the other direction." So the farmer thanked him and ran away, and the Buddha turned to his monks and said, "My dear friends, you are the happiest people in the world. You don't have any cows to lose."

10.  I don't like clutter.  My wife would laugh at this.  She is more extreme than I, but I don't like clutter.  I can sometimes be afraid to throw things out and let things collect, but overall I like open rooms and organized counter tops.  It is easier to find things and more aesthetically appealing to me.

11.  I take better care of the things I do have.  It seems that when you don't have a lot, you take better care of what you do have.  Is that because you cherish them more or because you have more time to devote to caring for the few things you have?  Probably a little of both.  Whatever the reason, I like being able to care for things properly.  It gives me a sense of satisfaction.

12.  It sets an example.


First Steps to Minimalism

How to Become Minimalist with Children

Zenhabits - Leo Babauta



Zen Presence home page
Simple Life


Simple Life - Quiet Mind




Maybe you're not interested in Zen, or maybe you are just starting.  Maybe you just like the sound of a quiet mind.  Peace.  Enjoyment.  Fulfillment.  It is no secret that modern life can be a stressful, tangled mess.  Fifty, sixty, or more hour work weeks, staying physically fit, email, text messages, cell phones...it goes on and on.  Television ads and pop culture tell us we need to do all and be all to have a fulfilling life, but is this true?  Is your life truly fulfilling to you?  Are you at ease at the end of the day, feeling you put your time to it's best use?


This is not a new topic.  Leo Babauta wrote a great book, "The Power of Less" and continues to write extensively on the subject on his very popular blog Zenhabits.  It is something I have "known" for years.  Practicing it however is a different matter.  It can be a lot like New Year's resolutions.  I'll reduce the Facebook time, cancel my subscription to cable TV, quit checking my email every hour, etc... Then it insidiously creeps back in.  Hey whats going on with so and so, it's cold out so let's watch some TV.

So how do we simplify our lives?  How do we have the time to even start to tame the monkey mind?  Below I will provide some very concrete steps.  I am not going to swoon you with great, new ideas.  Instead I am simplifying the process of simplifying.  I am condensing hours, nay weeks and weeks of research into a handful of simple steps and a few links for further research if you so desire.

"The solution lies in setting limits to how much we consume and do.  It lies in making the most of our time by focusing on the most important things, instead of everything..."          

                                                                                      Leo Babauta

How to start.

1.  Give yourself room to breath.  Literally and figuratively.  Take a few minutes a day where you do nothing except exist.  Just be.  Meditate, focus on your breathing, give yourself room to be with yourself.

2.   Eliminate things that are not the best use of your time, one at a time. Slow down enough to ask yourself "Why am I doing this?, Why do I do that?" Is it because it brings value or enjoyment to your life or just because you feel you should?  Is it because it is what you were taught to do?  Is it because everyone else does it?

3.  Identify what is most important in your life.  This may take a little more work than you think ( step 1 ).  I remember first coming upon this concept reading Steven Covey's " 7 Habits of Highly Effective People".  Identify what matters most and put these things at the top of your list.  You may be surprised at how much time you spend on things that are not at the top of your list.

4.  Try being a minimalist.  Consider fewer clothes, a smaller home, maybe get rid of one of those vehicles.  The less we own, the less we have to maintain and take care of.  Having it all usually means having less time to enjoy what we do have.

5.  Learn to say no. Can you tell someone no when they impose upon your time?  I know some feel selfish when they say no when asked to spend time or energy on a project with someone else, but is it taking away from what is most important to you?  Is it fair to feel obliged to play golf with the guys from work when it means missing important time with close friends or family?  Use step 3 to learn to say no when it is not important in your life.

6.  Create simple, streamlined systems for routine tasks.  Consider cooking for two  or  three days when you cook.  Anytime I fire up the grill I always cook enough for a couple of meals.  It doesn't make sense to me to waste the time or energy on a single meal when I could get several meals with just a little more time and effort. 

7.  Get organized.  Start by de-cluttering.  Clear out what you don't need and organize what you do.  I have one place where I keep everything I take to work each day.  Every day everything is put in the same location.  I never waste time looking for keys, wallet, etc...

8.  Limit your time mindlessly checking emails, facebook, or checking the headlines.  I know I feel out of control when I find myself checking email every thirty minutes.  A couple of times of day should suffice.  And as far as headlines go, do I really need to know what Lindsey Lohan or Brad Pitt were wearing last night?

9.  Spend time doing the things with the people you identified in step 3.  Doing what is meaningful with people we care about gives our lives a sense of purpose and gives us a feeling of control.

10.  Go Slow.  Relax.  Focus on what you are doing. 

11.  Consider other resources on simplicity.  There are plenty out there, but don't get so caught up in reading about minimalism that you complicate your life. 

Further reading buy either in my link in the right column


The Power of Less - Leo Babauta










The Joy of Less -Francine Jay









Trying to listen




If you had a chance to face Buddha ( or God, the Origin ) what would you do?  Would you listen, bow in honor and awe, watch critically passing judgement, or run your mouth about how things ought to be?

You see I think that sadly most of us would spoil our chance, for God, or the echo of the origin is all around us but we don't bother to look or to listen.  Our heads are so full of ideas, thoughts, and opinions that we don't notice.

This reminds me of a story about Nan-in, a Japanese zen master who received a scholar that was inquiring about zen.  The scholar was well respected and full of knowledge. 

After they were seated Nan-in served tea. When the scholar's cup was full he kept pouring. Finally the visitor yelled " It is full.  No more will go in! "

"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

Now I am trying to listen.