Money and the Future

Image: Grim Santo on

Your money talks.

You have power.

Every dollar you spend in a world with choices is a statement of approval, it is a vote for or against something.

Marketers monitor closely what sells.

If factory farmed meats continue to sell then animals will continue to be raised in the same despicable manner.

If no one buys genetically modified foods then no one will sell modified foods.

We all have our own values and beliefs.  That is what makes the world go 'round, but the big organizations don't want you to associate your spending power with the true moral or ethical values underlying their business practices - that's why they spend so much money creating false images and associations with advertising.  It's up to you to do the research and figure out what you are supporting with your spending.  In this day of information and choice - spend wisely.  The future is riding on your spending habits.

Some ideas worth researching:

Was child or slave labor involved?
How does the manufacturing of this product affect the environment?
Does this company practice equal opportunity?
Are these chemicals truly safe for human consumtion?
Is this good for me?
Is this good for others?

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living
Mindful spending, values.

Slipping Away

It won't hurt -

to wait until tomorrow.
to spend a few more moments on Facebook.
to check email one more time.
to have one more drink.
to go to bed angry.
to not say "I love you."
to hold a grudge.

Or will it?

Read Use Life at The Endless Further.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living.
Values, Love, Mindfulness, Keith Richards, Rolling Stones

6 Steps for Building Strength

"To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind".  That is from the first line of the optimist creed and I've written about it here before.  The first time I read that line it stirred something deep inside.  I was in awe.  How do you get that strong.  I treated it as a koan for several days.

I'm typically a cerebral person.  I spend most of my time in my head - reading, thinking, planning, listening to music.  Even when I'm involved in my favorite outdoor activity, hiking, I'm in my head for a large portion of the time.  It was last year that I started taking physical fitness serious for the first time in my life.  I'm getting to an age were I need to take care of myself or hiking in the mountains is going to be out of the question.  I've learned a lot about getting physically strong in the last year.  Here is a quick outline of what I've learned.

To get strong and achieve overall physical health one should:

  •  Get proper nutrition.  A mix of protein, healthy fats, and low sugar carbohydrates ( vegetables ).  Minimize or eliminate junk food.

  • Routinely walk, swim, or otherwise move around slowly.  This not only keeps your heart beat up and blood flowing but results in optimal chemical and hormone balance in the body.

  • Occasionally lift heavy things.  Push your muscles hard - near their limits without tearing or breaking anything - a couple of times a week.

  • Get your heart rate up a few times a week.  All out sprinting, swimming at a fast pace, biking hard, or really giving it all you have for short bursts of time. 

  • Get plenty of rest.  Give your body a chance to heal and recover.

  • Repeat forever.

Could there be a similar program for mental or spiritual strength?  I think that it would be very similar.

  • Feed your mind good information.  A mix of instructive, inspirational, and entertaining material.  Take time to learn new things, inspire yourself, and enjoy yourself.

  • Routinely participate in life.  Be constructive daily in the small ways - smile, offer help and love to everyone you meet.  Be responsible and proactive doing what needs to be done each day.

  • Tackle some large problems.  Use your mind - solve a large problem, create something new, find a new way of doing something.

  • Get passionate and make a difference.  Do something that really excites you a couple of times a week - something really fun or something really meaningful.

  • Take time to be grateful and enjoy life.  Rest.  Give your self a break, you deserve it.

  • Repeat forever.  You're never done!

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living
Spiritual strength, Mental Health, Zen Buddhism


Just because it's a Haiku kind of day here on the Outer Banks. 

Over the wintry
forest, winds howl in rage
with no leaves to blow.
                                               ~ Soseki

                                                          As if happiness
                                                          is waiting ahead -
                                                          the new calendar
                                                                                          ~ Inahata Teiko

my attention
attention span
                           ~ John Stevenson

                                                          I kill an ant
                                                          and realize my three children
                                                          have been watching
                                                                                                ~ Shusan

Harvest moon:
around the pond I wander
and the night is gone.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living
Poetry, Koans, Haiku, Zen

Stepping forth

Stepping forth is an act of courage.  Stepping forth means that you are willing to be seen, that you will no longer muddle with the crowd.  Stepping forth means that you have the courage to have your voice heard - that you have something worth saying.  Stepping forth is a willingness to make a difference or cause change. 

Are you willing to come to the end of your time here on earth and never have contributed from the deepest part of you?  Is doing what you're told or what is expected of you really enough?  You have talents, thoughts, and the ability to do things in ways that only you can do. 

At first stepping forth can be frightening and overwhelming, but opening up and allowing our true selves to show brings confidence and courage.  You will discover aspects of yourself, such as creativity, that you never knew existed.  You will feel a joy within yourself when you learn to look fear ( of rejection, embarrassment ) in the eye and contribute anyway. You will also feel more open to the world as you become an active participant.

Show a little  courage and take one step forward. 

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living
Stepping forth, contributing, zen, individuality, creating, Thomas Edison, Zen Blog.


To create is to go where no one has gone before.  Often something considered ridiculous at one time (electricity, space travel) became remarkable and finally common place.  Don't be afraid to push beyond the norm.  Being standard doesn't excite anyone.  Be ridiculous.

See 'Burning Bright'

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living
Art, Creating.

The wrong type of hope

Hope is wonderful.  Having hope for a better tomorrow can help get us through a rainy day, but there is a bad type of hope - wishing.   Hoping to win the lottery is not going to pay the bills.  Merely hoping for your life to change is a waste of time. 

Instead of hoping for a better job, for more money, or for a more fulfilling life - why not work towards your goals?  Don't know where to start?  Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1.  Clarify your intentions. 

Figure out what you hope to accomplish.  Give yourself a clear mental picture of what you want to achieve.  No one else can do this for you, but identifying your heroes is a good place to start.  Who are people that you admire and look up to?  What do they do that makes you respect and admire them?

2.  Mentorship.

Find a personal mentor.  If you know someone that is living the way that you would like to live then ask them for suggestions.  Watch them closely to learn how they live.  What are their routines?  Who do they interact with?  How do they interact with others?

3.  Create a working plan.

The internet provides a wealth of information.  There is really no excuse for being uninformed any longer.  You can learn about any subject that you would like - often free of charge.  After you've decided what you want to do and have an idea of how to get started then GET STARTED.  Even baby steps will be progress and doors will begin to appear that you've never noticed before.

4.  Keep a positive outlook.

The thoughts that you think create your emotions and actions.  Your actions set into motion a series of events that determine a particular outcome.  Don't be overwhelmed by the enormity of your goals.  Focus on taking one step at a time and enjoy the journey.

5.  Don't be afraid to fail.

If you fail that doesn't mean that you are a failure.  Failure is an event - not a person - and often happens along the way to success.  Very few ventures are successful without a change in plans or strategy along the way.  Set aside one day a week to review your progress.  If you need to make changes then make them and continue your journey to a new life.

Related links:

The Power of Intention


If You Want to Master Life

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living
Hope, Self Improvement

Not Buddha

Photo:  Dolmang on Flickr

I am grateful. 

I am happy.

I am mindful, sometimes.

I mean well, most of the time

I see people that are mean or greedy and I judge.

I see people that are closed minded and I feel resentment.

I feel happiness and want to hold on to it.

I am healthy and want to remain so.

I am.......not Buddha. - Ideas for Meaningful Living
Zen, Buddhism,

Mindful Writing - A Manifesto

First I'd like to say thank you to Diane Balch at Simple Living and Eating for letting me write a guest post on her wonderful site. Please visit and read Wabi Sabi.

Writing is new for me. I was never particularly good at it in school. I was a math person. Grammar is still troublesome for me to this day. So why do I torture myself like this? Well, I read a lot and feel like I run across so many great ideas that I'd like to share with others. This summer a friend (thank you Maya) suggested that I write a blog. At first I said sure - thinking that no one would read it, but it would be fun. As my readership has grown, so has my vision. I now blog with a purpose - to provide ideas for meaningful living.

  I ran across an article on the IDP blog the other day about mindful writing in which other writers stated their reasons for writing. I liked many of them so much that I picked my favorites and created a personal writer's manifesto from them. I'd like to share it with you today.

“Write to grow in love, truthfulness, and compassion.”
“To share and inspire.”
“To explore what as human beings we have to offer.”
“To give birth to places that don’t yet exist.”
“To help people say hello to things.”
“To give a gift back to life, humanity, all life, the universe.”

Previous post - Touch the Earth

Zen Presence - Ideas for meaningful living.
Minimalism, simplicity, Zen in modern life.

Touch the Earth

Do you sometimes feel like an outsider?  Do you feel like a guest imposing on someone else's turf?  I know that I did for many years.  It wasn't a conscious thought; it was something lingering in the background.  I felt that I was different than most of the people around me so I felt out of place.  It was almost like guilt.  One day a realization came to me - this is my world, my earth, my home.  I belong here.

There is a story in Buddhism about Siddhartha Guatama (who became  the historical Buddha) that gives me strength when I feel this sense of not belonging.   While Siddhartha was sitting under the bodhi tree, under an oath to remain until he attained enlightenment, he was approached by Mara ( a demon of worldly ways) and an army of monsters to frighten him away.  Mara questioned Siddhartha and asked "What right do you have here?  This place is mine."  The army of monsters cried out "We are his witness."  Mara asked Siddhartha - "Who will speak for you?"

As a response Siddartha reached out his right hand and touched the earth and the earth itself trembled and roared "I bear you witness."

The very fact that we are here gives us a right to be here.  This is your earth, your home, and it is mine. Don't let the ways of the world cause you fear or shame.  Proudly reach down and touch the earth.  You are home.

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

How to stop wasting your life

How to stop wasting your life:

Instead of worrying about tomorrow or dwelling on the past - try living now.  Notice the beauty around you.  

Instead of doing what is expected of you - surprise us.  Fix something not broken, make it better.

Instead of watching others live (television) - do something with your life.  Learn a new skill, play a sport, take up a new hobby, interact with other people.

Instead of waiting to be picked - step out and take charge.  Start something new, change what needs changed.  

Instead of feeling sorry for yourself - find solutions to your obstacles.  If you can't find solutions then write out your biggest obstacles and ask for ideas.  You've got the whole world at your fingertips (internet).

Instead of fearfully holding back - be willing to fail.  Go out on a limb and show us your best effort.

Instead of waiting for the perfect time - get started now.  One step at a time is how we make change.

Related links:

How I changed my life, in four lines on Zenhabits

Tomorrow never comes

One little change


Zen Presence - Ideas for meaningful living.

Self improvement. Best Zen Blogs 2013.

Never ending

Student - "What is Nirvana?"
Shunryu Suzuki - "Seeing one thing through to the end"

Comment - there is no end.

Often we practice Zen, Yoga, or any form of self improvement as if we hope to accomplish something - to reach the end and be all done with it.  Would we practice eating in the same manner?  Can we get so good at sleep that we never need to do it again?  The journey is the goal.  We practice daily - perfectly - improving each day.  Keep practicing.

"Each one of you is perfect in the way that you are, and you could use a little improvement." 
~  Shunryu Suzuki

Zen Presence - Ideas for meaningful living.


Proven methods to improve your happiness

Have you seen the movie Happy? It's a documentary by Roko Belic and I highly recommend it.  One of the most interesting things I learned watching the movie is that there are three categories of factors that influence how happy we are.


Yes, supposedly our genetic makeup determines our natural range of endorphin, dopamine, and serotonin levels. These and a host of other chemicals are responsible for our alertness, sense of well being, and happiness.  The levels of these chemicals and hormones establish a set-point around which our level of happiness fluctuates.

Our circumstances

Where we live, our social or economic status, our health. Our life's circumstances can trigger and affect the levels of the above chemicals within our natural range.

Intentional behavior

The things we do with our lives, the choices that we make, and the thoughts that we choose to give life.  Your chosen actions, routines, and behaviours affect your body (brain) chemistry as well.

Now genetics are supposedly about 50% of your happiness and there's not much you can (naturally) do about this one.  This is one area in which it's okay to blame your parents.  (Joking)

Now here's where the real surprise comes in.  For most of us, our circumstances - our wealth, our health, our social setting- all of the things that we normally focus on, account for only 10 % of our happiness level.  Unless you are living in extreme duress and your immediate safety is threatened, e.g. you are starving, homeless,or dying of disease - then your circumstances have less than a 10% effect on your level of happiness.

That leaves 40% under the area of intentional behavior.  That means that your daily choices and routines can have a HUGE impact on your level of happiness.  Listed below are some activities that have been scientifically shown to improve feelings of well being and happiness.

1.  Count your blessings.  Numerous studies show that spending just a few minutes a day taking the time to acknowledge 4-5 things that you are grateful for relieves anxiety and improves happiness.

2Move around.  A few hours a week of moderate exercise such as brisk walking, running, biking, swimming, or yoga will produce a more optimum level of hormones for a healthy brain chemistry.  Doing this in a fun manner improves the results.

3.  Nurture meaningful relationships.  A Japanese study published in 2008 found that often our most contented moments involve connecting with other people. 

4.  Get plenty of rest.  Seven to eight hours  of sleep is needed for most people to be at their best.  Don't have time to sleep this much?  Your health and happiness will suffer.  You might find that you will be much more productive when you get enough rest.  Your mind will be sharper and studies show that happy people are generally more productive.

5.  Go outdoors. Vitamin D is essential for your mental health.  Low levels of vitamin D can result in increased anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.  Exposure to morning sun also helps to keep your circadian rhythm in tact so that you sleep well at night.

6.  Perform acts of kindness.  If you are short on money then help with your time.  If you have more money than time, then be financially generous.  Studies show that although small daily acts of kindness will make us feel more helpful, significant acts of generosity generally lead to improving our happiness.

If you are interested in more details on the science of happiness check out "The How of Happiness" by Sonja Lyubomirsky or "Stumbling on Happiness" by Daniel Gilbert.

Zen Presence - Ideas for meaningful living

The Optimist Creed

The Optimist Creed belongs to Optimist International.  I find it one of the most inspiring manifestos that I've read and thought I'd share it with you here.  I read it and meditate on it almost every morning.

Tune in next week for an article on scientifically proven methods to improve your happiness!

Promise Yourself:

To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.

To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.

To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.

To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.

To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.

To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.

To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

Related articles:

Master Life

How to live, knowing that you will die

One little change

Zen Presence - ideas for meaningful living. 
Optimism - Zen

Using the power of intention ( again )

intend - 1. to direct the mind on;  2. to have in mind a purpose or a goal.  Merriam- Webster

Re post from Oct 2012

Our mind is a very powerful tool. Used correctly it can assist us in achieving almost any dream.  Used incorrectly, or not at all, we drift or randomly change paths.

Before I discovered how to harness the power of intention my days went something like this:
Most mornings I would wake with a foggy mind.  Random thoughts, subject to my mood and last nights dreams passed through my mind so quickly that I was barely aware of many of them.  I would try to focus enough to get through my workout, shower, and get to work.  It could be hours later before I gained any real focus.  I 'd go through my day's routine not being sure why I was doing half of the things I did.

Then I discovered a better way

What if  I clarified my intention?  Through meditation and quiet time I could clarify my big picture intention for life. I could use this knowledge each morning to clarify my intention for the day. What if I knew each day what I intended to do?  I don't mean the routine, I'm talking about my deep-seated intention.  Why am I going to work, writing that blog, or teaching that class?  What do I intend to achieve?  By clarifying my intentions, I could not only make it clear what my objectives were, but I got a chance to remove any impurities that might mingle with my best intentions.

With this sort of clarity you can achieve so much more.  Intention focuses our energy and brings about certainty.  Certainty gives us power - focused power.

Zen Presence - Ideas for meaningful living.

One word, one goal, many paths

Okay, so I wasn't going to do a year end post and it's so late on New Year's Eve that I doubt anyone will read it anyway, but after reading my friend Bethany's post here, my mind wouldn't rest.  One thought, primarily one word kept popping up into my head.

I don't really focus on specific plans or make New Year's resolutions any longer. I discussed the reasons for that here just the other day.  I have loose goals and ideas that I work towards using proven routines and procedures to improve my life and my ability to add some kind of value to this wonderful Universe.  The goals can change along the journey.

The one word ( or idea ) that kept popping into my head was Awaken.  You see Bethany had a terrible childhood experience that distorted her views on life.  She was afraid and fearful and living with a distorted reality.  She was afraid to believe that life can be just as beautiful as it is sometimes ugly.  We often limit our experiences because we are afraid of the unknown, we don't want to be let down.  As I discussed a few days back ( The limiting aspect of limits );  as you shrink your life and experiences, to limit the bad things that may happen, you also limit the good things that you bring into your life.  Bethany survived and is alive, but even better she has a passion to LIVE!

So if I have a goal or resolution for 2013 it is to Awaken.  I want to wake up from this hazy, delusional state that most of us live in.  I want to see all of the joys, the heart aches, the beauty, the ugliness.....I want to see life as it is.  I will still use known procedures and routines and focus on them more than the goal.  The goal is so lofty that I may as well enjoy the process.  In 2013 I will read, I will meditate, I will emphasize relationships, I will try to be completely honest and mindful of all of my thoughts and actions, I will try to "see things as it is" (as Shunryu Suzuki was fond of saying), and when I begin to see things as they are, surely I will share the lessons and try to help others along the way.  We are all seeking the same thing, all wandering along many paths toward the same goal.

I'm going to close with a repeat of a poem that I published on here just a short while ago.  Maybe I'll publish it every day in 2013, I don't know.  It is that good.  I have included a Youtube clip of it being read aloud as well.    I'm convinced that when we awaken to what really matters we will find that compassion is the way to a meaningful life.

May we all awaken to the splendor of life in 2013.

Happy New Year.


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