In place of resolutions

New Year's Day is a great time to start anew. It is a great chance to improve our lives and start new habits. The problem with resolutions is that to some they seem overwhelming.  One little slip and often we feel that we have failed.

It is possible to initiate great change without resolutions.  Instead of great goals or lofty plans, why not put some productive procedures in place - daily routines that are known to produce desired results? Instead of a resolution to lose 25 pounds, why not commit to eating healthier and going to the gym on a regular basis?  Research your diet, keep healthy eating in mind, go to the gym regularly, and you will lose will lose weight.  Do these things until they become habit. Your life will change.

Although goals can be inspiring, they can be limiting as well.  This quote from Leo Babauta explains it well:

" have to open your mind to going places you never expected to go.  If you live without goals, you’ll explore new territory. You’ll learn some unexpected things. You’ll end up in surprising places. That’s the beauty of this philosophy..."  ~Leo Babauta.  (Read the entire post here on Zenhabits.)

Below are examples of routines that I have put into my life.  They have worked well for me.

Morning routine:
1.  Five minutes of silent meditation and contemplation.
2.  Read something positive - The Optimist Manifesto, The Happiness Pledge.
3.  Write out a list of things that I am grateful for.
4.  15 minutes of meditation designed to clarify my intentions for the day.
5.  Three mornings a week I go to the gym.  On the days that I do not work out, I read something inspiring.

1.  Consciously perform at least three acts of kindness.
2.  Be mindful of my diet and eat healthy foods. No processed foods except for rare occasions.  Simply eliminating fast food and prepared foods goes a long way towards eliminating unhealthy chemicals, additives, and excess calories.
3.  Spend a few minutes of time towards spirituality.  This is in addition to my morning routine.  It varies - sometimes I read something spiritual and ponder it, sometimes I just clear my head and try to see the beauty in the Universe.
4.  Dedicate time to building stronger relationships.  At work, at home, or long distance - I try to remember to stay connected and bring deeper meaning to my relationships.

These are just examples.  I have found that by following these routines my life expands every day.  It allows me to focus on doing the right thing without attachment to outcome.  I do have goals, but what matters most is that my life is constantly improving and I am constantly developing.  In place of lofty resolutions try implementing a few good practices into your life.  You'll be surprised at the results.

Watch this video where Leo debates his philosophy with Tim Ferris.

Tim Ferriss vs. Leo Babauta on Goals from Leo Babauta on Vimeo.

Since so many people are concerned with their health at the beginning of the year, I'd like to link to a book that will revolutionize your views on a healthy diet.  I'm warning you it is NOTHING like the food pyramid. I've been on this diet for a while and have lost weight, blood pressure is down, and cholesterol numbers are down as well.

ZenPresence - Ideas for meaningful living.

Good night

A wonderful piece to listen to as you fall asleep. Don't think, just listen...meditate and feel the stress and strain leave you.

Good night,


Zen Presence - Ideas for meaningful living.

The limiting aspect of limits

Image: garysan97 on Flickr

The Universe that you see around you is the result of billions upon billions of experiments.  Billions of mutations, changes, and adaptations.  Some of them work, some do not.  Some go on to be highly successful for a while, then fade ( dinosaurs ).  Some just keep adapting and getting better ( humans ).

Years ago, in a book by Carl Sagan,  I read of a principle concerning complexity and the envelope of possibility.This principle is widely understood by scientists -as the range of possibilities and complexity widens, both greater success (good, beauty) and greater failure (evil, ugliness) are possible.  You cannot limit the possible 'bad' without limiting the possible 'good.'

When I hear people criticize our youth for their piercings, their tattoos, or music; then blame these things for the decline of civilization, I cringe.  Here is the diatribe that was falsely attributed to Bill Cosby and provoked this article. Many of today's trends and fashions are not to my liking either, my tastes were formed years ago.  I do, however; see the beauty in change and variety.  Without it this world would be static and ugly.

If you are fearful and want to limit the possibilities in your life, fine; but please quit trying to limit the rest of the Universe.  It will move on with or without you. - Ideas for a meaningful life, Zen in modern life.

Please don't read this on Christmas

I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.  I've included several more photos with quotes below and link to Jewel's Christmas version of 'Hands', listen to the empowering words and bring them into your life.  These are my Christmas cards to you.


Take a minute to be mindful and appreciate what you have.  I hope that you are not reading this on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  Please spend time with someone you love and remember that we are never alone.

Merry Christmas,


Smile, you're alive.

Smile, you're alive. You survived the apocalypse. You can do anything.

Life is fragile and precious



Simple life, quiet mind

Snake Oil

Simplicity allows you to achieve more

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

Is it important?

As I listen to the many conversations that I hear each day, my own included, I wonder at their purpose. We ramble about the weather, a sporting event last weekend, a television ad...... I know we're just trying to connect or to fill an awkward silence, but why all the meaningless jabber? 

Why do we have so much to say about trivial things and so little to say about important things?

When was the last time that you spoke your heart to your spouse, your mother, or your child?

Did you voice your true opinion on company policy the last time that you talked to your boss or business partner, or did you just say what they wanted to hear?

Are you giving of your true self in your conversation?

Are you bringing something to the table or just showing up?

Is it important?

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

Last Minute Giving

I know it's kind of late in the game to be thinking about Christmas gifts, but not for me.  I always wait until December to start my Christmas celebration.  Short and sweet makes it more meaningful to me.

We do not give many material or commercial gifts.  We give books, donate to charity in people's names, and give a few homemade items.

It's not to late to donate in someone's name.  Many charities budgets rely heavily on year-end giving.  Below are a few charities that you may consider donating to.

Feed someone, long-term, with these charities:

Feeding America

Mental Health Charities

Give the gift of knowledge

Books change people's lives.  Share ideas and knowledge.

Shop Amazon's New Kindle Fire

Shop Amazon Gift Cards - Perfect Gifts Anytime

Disclosure: I do not receive any direct benefit if you choose to donate to one of the linked charities, but we all win.  I will receive a small commission from Amazon if you click on a link above and purchase from

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

If you want to master life then...

If you want to master life then master your emotions.

Are you tired of feeling powerless or out of control?  Do you want to call the shots in your life?  If so, then read on.

Emotions are a result of our total mental state including our conscious and subconscious thoughts.  Without deep attention we become slaves to our emotions.  Using mindful methods and awareness we can identify and label our thoughts, understand them, and finally manipulate or control our emotions.

Why is this important?  You will either master your emotional state or it will master you.  Do you really want to be a slave to the moods and fears of your unconscious mind?

When fear and uncertainty dominate our mental landscape we retreat. For most of us, our fear of pain or failure is stronger than our desire for success so we limit our  risks and adventures to feel safe and in control. When we limit ourselves we often become listless and passive. Your life becomes mechanical.  After a while you may experience frustration and quite possibly depression. This is a downward spiral that can result in an ugly ending.

Step one in pulling out of this deadly tailspin is to observe.  Look at your moods.  Dig deep to understand the source of any fears or doubts.  Identify your thoughts as useful or not useful.  Take responsibility for your emotions.  It may seem overwhelming at first, but it gets easier and you will gain power.

Step two is to change your emotional state.  Force of will doesn't always work.  Take a walk in the sunshine, go somewhere where there are children playing, or listen to music.  Positive mantras or videos can be a great aid for changing your mental landscape.

With a positive mental state you can begin to take charge of your emotions.  Learn to be grateful for what you have.  Identify the source of any negative emotions that remain.  A bitterness or cynical attitude often points to a hidden belief that needs to be brought to the surface and analyzed.

Finally, use positive emotions and associations for self motivation, and to develop courage. If you must, use negative associations to push you out of stagnant situations. Tell yourself that you will rot if you keep doing the same old thing. The key here is for you to be in charge. Sometimes it is appropriate to feel regret or fear.  Feel it, face it, understand it, and move on.  Don't let the myriad fears of your reptilian brain dictate your life.

What is Zen Buddhism?


As you reflect on the horrible news of the shooting of innocent school children yesterday, remember that children all over the world face this type of violence every day.  This is not to diminish the tragedy in Connecticut; it is most definitely a tragedy.  Let it serve as a reminder of unnecessary violence happening around the world every day.

What can we do?  We can become angry, pass stricter laws, argue over gun control, stir up anger and hate, arm our schools and raise our children in fear - or - we can be mindful, offer empathy, smile a little more, treat each and every person we meet with respect, and try not to create the conditions that give rise to such tragedies.

Please choose mindfulness and  empathy.

Read I am Adam Lanza's mother


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

The Masks

Photo by liber

"Just be yourself".  Is that not stupid?  Who else could you be?

Well, that's a good question.  I would argue that most of us spend a great deal of time pretending to be someone other than who we truly are. 

Have you ever noticed how many different faces you put on for the various people you encounter throughout your day?  Have you ever noticed how differently you act around a colleague or business partner than you do around your family? 

The reality is that most of us have many different personas.  In Latin the word persona means mask.  Do you have something to hide?

The problem is that we start to believe that this is who we are, but which one?  We get confused and lose our 'true selves'.  It takes a lot of courage to remove the mask and just be who we truly are.  Start by looking in the mirror, you might be suprised at who you see. 

Life is a lot more beautiful without the mask.

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


The cost of being certain is high. 

You hear so much about the cost of being wrong. 
What if you invest in that and it fails? 
What if you move there and you don't like it? 
I know it sounds like a good job, but how can you be certain?

You cannot be certain of anything, ask 120,000 laid off postal workers.
If you do not take risks, you will never accomplish anything.  That is certain.
That means that waiting until you are certain will cost you your life; a meaningful one anyway.

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

How to live, knowing that you will die.

When we are young most of us don't think we are going to die; not really.  Sooner or later we are reminded that this life is impermanent.  Maybe its a gray hair, the death of a friend or family member, whatever; it hits us... we will not be here forever.

So how do you live when you know you are going to die? You may not be able to choose how you will die, but you can choose how you will live.  ( See To Live. )
I can't make your decisions for you but I can share how I want to live; knowing that I will die.

Live here and now ( See  Tomorrow. )

I try to honor every moment and to be mindfully present instead of always worrying about the future. Does it make sense to waste today worrying about tomorrow?  Will we turn around and do the same with that day?

Do not waste a day. ( Read  Life is Fragile and Precious. )

I disconnected my cable television months ago.  I enjoy the odd program, but I will not waste a large part of my life watching other people live.  I'd rather be living my own life.

Give it everything that I've got. ( See Burning Bright. )

The best feeling in the world is to be totally exhausted after doing something hard and worthwhile.  Knowing that I give a task or a cause my best effort is all of the success I need.

Be myself ( Read Being Real. )

"Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else."  ~Judy Garland

My life has become so much more rich and meaningful as I have learned to listen to my inner voice and be my true self.

Have a purpose ( See 10 Goals .)

When all is said and done, I want what I have done to matter.   Choose a set of principles, values, or beliefs to incorporate into your life.

Be kind and helpful ( See Kindness. )

This sort of goes with above.  Being kind and helpful is a purpose.  Life can be hard sometimes.  I like to think that I've made it a little better for at least a few people. 

"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart." ~ Steve Jobs

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


If you haven't already seen it, please visit my guest post over at Slow Your Home.  Brooke was very generous to allow me to write for her wonderful blog

There is absolutely nothing that I can add to this beautiful poem.  Please share if you enjoy it.


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye

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

5 Things you need to know today

1. Your life is impermanent.

Self explanatory.  No matter what your spiritual beliefs, this life has limits.  Cherish every moment.

2. Life has whatever meaning you give it.

So many people, myself included, waste so many years searching for a pre-packaged purpose to be placed at their feet.  Save yourself some time.  Create a purpose from your values and beliefs.  Creating a list of principles, values, and beliefs is a good place to start.

3. You can ( and do) make a difference.

Everything you do ( or don't do ) makes a difference.  No man is an island.  All of your choices affect everyone else in your life in one manner or another.  Are you adding value?

4. Almost any mistake can be corrected. 

Learn from your mistakes but don't dwell.  Don't live in the past.  Correct your mistakes and move on.  When necessary, ask forgiveness.

5. You are not alone.

You are never alone.  Distance yourself from the negative people in your life and connect with the positive people.  Sometimes just surrounding yourself with  positive people can make all of the difference. 

Other popular articles:

10 Goals worth sharing

12 Reasons I'm a Minimalist

Being Happy With Less

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

Why I write to celebrities

Why do I write to celebrities like Neil Young, Seth Godin, James Altucher, Diane Balch, and Bobby Flay?  It is not to seek favor or to lavish praise. 

I do it for two reasons:

1.  To learn.  I learn about the person that I write.  How do they respond or do they respond at all?  Some I never hear back from, some respond with a quick acknowledgement letter, and others actually spend a few minutes writing a nice, thoughtful note.

2.  To remove limitations.  I lived too long with self imposed limitations in my life.  Often we feel that we are not good enough or rich enough or whatever enough to associate or interact with people of celebrity status.  If we don't feel good enough, maybe we're not.  Now I am.

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

One little change

Small steps, every day for big change.

Other articles on

To live


Call me by my true names


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