Because I have lived the other way,
I will no longer.

Because I have lived in fear, with worry,
I will no longer.

Because I sold out, justified the means with the end,
I will no longer.

Because it was dark, it was empty,
I will no longer.

Because it matters, and now I see,
I will no longer.  

I will no longer live in fear, hide my face, chase ghosts.
I will no longer fall in line, play the game, hide my light.
I will no longer complain, grow weary, or lose heart.

I am alive.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living
Zen, Meaning.

Make it personal

There's not much personal in modern life anymore.  It seems like everything is mass produced.  Yes, you can 'customize' products by choosing a color or adding a feature - but there's not really anything personal about that.  This is a result of the industrial age - everything is cheaper to manufacture if it is mass produced.  Very few things are hand crafted or designed just for you.  This has spilled into all areas of our lives - even food and our decisions.

I rarely eat at chain restaurants.  I don't like to support the values that most corporate chains represent.  The idea of my food being made in a factory environment just isn't very appealing.  I also don't care for the middle of the road - don't offend anyone - frozen flavors that you get at the chain restaurants.  I know it's a risk pulling into an unknown town and picking a mom and pop joint - and realize there can be a downside, but it sure beats boring.  McDonald's claim to fame is that their food taste the same everywhere.  They've done this by taking the human element out of it. These chains are not restaurants - they are factories.  They have exact procedures and instructions for each and every step of the process.  It really doesn't matter so much which employees are there, your meal will taste the same whether Jimmy or Annie fixed it. There is nothing personal that goes into making the meal.

If you look around at the choices many Americans are making, they are doing the same to their own lives - leaving the human element out of it.  Yes, they have the freedom to choose what cardboard career they want, whose orders they want to take and follow, and which cookie cutter subdivision they want to live and park their SUV in. There's nothing personal in it any more than the choice between a Big Mac or a Whopper, and their decisions were probably heavily influenced by a television ad where they've been heavily influenced as to what choices they should make.

I'm sure there are real people with real emotions, desires, and talents underneath it all somewhere.  I hope and pray that we all wake up to our true selves and learn to put the human element back into our lives.  I hope we learn to toss out the manual and create the lives of our own choosing.  Yes, there are inherent risks with doing your own thing - the outcomes are not exact or guaranteed.  I'm trying to create a life that only I could ever imagine - the results aren't always pretty, but they're always mine.  I'm trying to make it personal and I wish you the same.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living.
Choices, Individuality, True Self,

I could have killed someone

The morning was not off to a good start.  I awoke almost an hour late.  No time for my morning routine and I broke a rule of mine - I started my morning off at the computer.  I checked facebook - no news there.  I checked my reading list and then the mornings first real blunder - I made an ugly, snarky remark on a friend's blog.

The morning only got worse.  I drug myself upstairs to shower and then I did it - I stepped into the shower with my reading glasses on!  No big deal you say?  I could have killed someone. 

There is a story where the Buddha is talking to a man and while talking to him the man is twitching his leg. 
Buddha -" Why are you doing that?"
"What?" asked the other man. 
Buddha -"Twitching your leg while I am talking"
Man -"Oh, I wasn't even aware of it". 
Buddha -"If you twitch your leg and have no knowledge of it then you can just as easily commit murder with no knowledge of it."

 Mindfulness is required in all areas of our lives, at all times.  You see if we lose control of our actions we are capable of any dastardly deed.  Not paying attention to our words, how we treat others, or ...... can all be as equally dangerous as Russian roulette.  If we are unduly harsh on a colleague it could be the straw that breaks the camel's back.  If we are stressed after our work days and do not give our children the attention that they deserve then the results can be regrettable.  Running a stop light because you didn't see the light change can kill someone. 

We are responsible for our actions whether we are fully aware or not.  Just because a drunk driver doesn't have an accident doesn't mean he isn't guilty of a crime. Please try to give the present moment the attention that it deserves.  You may save a life.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living
Mindfulness, Now, Responsibility


Life can be hard.  We pray, meditate, study, and work - all to make it easy, and still it is not.  We seek - searching for an answer -trying to find the silver bullet or magic pill - that secret that will make everything fall into place.  While there is no simple one time solution to make life easy, we can learn to stop making it harder than it has to be - to stop creating unnecessary drama and heart ache.  A little mindfulness, a little self knowledge, and insight can help with this.

Easy is probably not the answer to your problems anyway.  Try too hard to make life easy and you'll find that you are no longer living - you're only existing. Once the Dalai Lama was asked "What is the easiest way to enlightenment?".   He broke into tears and responded "Don't think quickest, easiest,  cheapest!"  It seems we often short change ourselves looking for a short cut.  Read a great post on this subject at one of my favorite blogs ,The Endless Further, here.

Just because our goal should not be to make life easy, that doesn't mean that it has to remain difficult. We can find a solid practice based upon mindfulness, gratefulness, and generosity.  We can work with our practice with faith and attentiveness until life is no longer hard.  Not that it really gets any easier, you will just learn to no longer label it as hard.  You get up every day and perform your practice - your higher calling.  At this point it simply becomes life - one moment, one day at a time.  It's not really that hard - it's just life.

Zen Presence- Ideas for meaningful living.
Mindfulness, purpose, meaning

The Richness of Minimalism

To me minimalism is a tool that I use to bring more meaning to my life.  As counter-intuitive as it may seem, minimalism adds a richness or fullness to my life.  It does this by emphasizing what is important to me.  I treasure the few material things that I do own, but above all, I treasure the experiences and relationships in my life.  I don't want to spend too much time taking care of material things.  I feel that minimalism leaves room in my life for a more direct and genuine experience of life.

My personal take on minimalism is resisting the system (our modern consumerist society), placing emphasis on experiences and relationships, having room in my life to pursue interests with passion, and being my true self.  I don't have a lot of monthly bills or commitments so I have a little cash left to pursue my true passions - travel and photography.  Low financial overhead also means that I'm not tied down to a job that drains all of my energy or sucks the life out of me.  I thoroughly enjoy my current job, but if I choose, I could leave at any time.  To me that is the definition of being rich.  Doing what you want and having enough to share with others.

If you find that you are in a job or position that is excessively draining or makes you unhappy check out my guest post at Blue Collar Workman - 7 Steps to Leaving a Stressful Job.

Related posts:

12 Reasons I'm a Minimalist

Being Happy with Less

Your Money or Your Life

Zen Presence - Ideas for meaningful living
Simplicity, Simple Living, Choices, Relationships, Anti-Consumerism

Too Far Gone

It dawned on me the morning after the Super Bowl - I've reached the point of no return, I'm too far gone.

I've never quite fit into American consumerist society but now it's worse.

I haven't watched television in almost a year, and I typically don't read mainstream news either.  I watch odd documentaries on Netflix, read a few books, and a lot of blog articles.  I prefer to spend my time off of work on a bicycle, behind a camera lens, in the kitchen making smoked salmon, or on a walk with my wife and dogs.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm very out of touch with modern American culture.

Even though I haven't watched an entire football game in years, I typically enjoy watching a few minutes of the playoff games and try to catch part of the Superbowl starting with the half-time show. I indulge in a little junk food, a cold beer, and for a few minutes pretend that I'm a typical American.  It didn't happen this year.  I'm afraid I'm too far gone.  I tuned in to the half-time show (streaming on the internet) and just could not find myself entertained by lip-syncing and commercial and insincere choreography so I went and did something else.   I sat back down a few minutes later and watched a few minutes of the game.  I found it hard to get excited about watching strangers running around on a field - what is wrong with me?  My last hope - maybe I would see a few commercials that made me laugh.  Strike three.  The commercials were depressing.  It made me think of what fools we are to let big business convince us of what we 'need' to be happy. 

Yes, I'm afraid I've reached the point of no return.  I no longer have a desire to fit in, to live through watching others participate in life, or to have someone else tell me how to fill the holes in my life with material things.  I'm too far gone.

Related posts:

How to stop wasting your life

Proven methods to improve your happiness

Is it important?

Too Far Gone by Neil Young

Zen Presence - Ideas for meaningful living.
Zen, Anti consumerism, self reliance.

Instantly Improve Your Life With One Step

*Note:  I do not remove posts from Zen Presence, however I no longer full support the idea behind this post.  Although I do believe that removing negative people from your life will help you feel happier in the short term, I don't believe it is a "life solution."  True, meaningful happiness involves helping others.  The key is to know your limits.  Don't take on more than you can handle.  Another important note is to take on the responsibility for the separation.  For example, I am not in a place to deal with Samantha's drama right now.  It overwhelms me so I will minimize contact until I am able to maintain my peace when around her.

This is no gimmick.  If you take the following action, I promise you that it will improve your life and it doesn't require you to enter life-long counselling, to participate in some 30 day challenge, or hire a life coach. It will take is a little bit of courage and some reflecting.

Here it is -

To the greatest extent possible, separate yourself from any person, place, or thing that is bringing you down, is disruptive for you, unsupportive of you, or otherwise harmful to your well being or self esteem.  The disgruntled co-worker, the nay-sayer, the jerk next door.....even the condescending relative.  These negative people are like vampires and will suck the life out of you.  If it is a co-worker or relative then it may be tough.  Deal with them only when necessary to accomplish a task.  It doesn't matter who it is - you have to be tough.  You may have to leave them, block them, or ignore them.  You must not let these people destroy your joy - your passion for life.

I know that this will be hard to do - I've been there.  I've had to cut some close family members out of my life because they were always negative.  I tried but I couldn't help them, they only brought those around them down.  It hurt and I hated to do it but in the end it became necessary.  You can't stop negative people from being negative but you can stop them from destroying everything positive and beautiful in you.  In the end you owe it to the others in your life and you owe it to yourself.

This purging applies to negative habits and routines as well.  Do a self inventory and determine which practices add value and which detract from your life.  Eliminate the negative immediately and entirely.  No mercy here.  Eliminating negative actions is just as important as eliminating the negative people in your life.  On some level you will judge yourself for doing things that are not good for you and this is terrible for your self esteem.

Once you've eliminated or limited contact with the negative influences in your life you will feel your energy returning.  It will be like recovering from a chronic illness.  Your creative juices will begin to flow and you will feel the joy for life that you are meant to have. 

As a symbolic gesture, remove something from your home that you are not particularly fond of and replace it with something bright and positive.  Use your new 'thing' as a reminder and in the same manner, replace the negative influences in your life with creative, positive, and uplifting influences.  You have the power of choice.  You can improve your life.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living.
Zen, positive thinking.

Enjoy the Benefits of Spirituality

Being spiritual can improve your quality of life immensely- with or without a set of formal religious beliefs.  Spirituality is different for everyone.  For some the experience of being outdoors is spiritual, while others report a spiritual experience in serving fellow beings.   To me being spiritual means desire to connect to something bigger than yourself.  It means having an awe and respect for the grand universe that we live in. Regardless of your brand of spirituality it can improve your life and has definite tangible benefits. 

A few of the benefits of having a spiritual practice are:

  • It provides mental clarity.
  • Spirituality provides meaning and purpose.
  • Having a purpose in the world helps you to feel less alone.
  • Spirituality helps us to ride out the storms of our emotional cycles.
  • Spirituality has been linked with decreased neuroticism in several research studies.
  • It can help you connect with other people.  The sharing of spiritual expression can help build relationships.
  • Better overall health.  According to the Mayo Clinic has been linked to reduced instances of hypertension, less stress, and superior ability to handle stressful situations.
Connect with something big and enjoy all that life has to offer.  Be sure and check out the video 'The Most Astounding Fact' below.

"Spirituality exists wherever we struggle with the issue of how our lives fit into the greater cosmic scheme of things." ~ Robert C. Fuller

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living
Spirituality, Health, Meditation, Stress

Talking to Ourselves

We are always talking to ourselves, even when we are talking to others.  We tell the world who we are, what we are, who they are, what they should do - only to convince ourselves - to create a world that we can understand - a world where we feel safe.

Realizing this, think about your conversations.  You will learn a lot if you take the time to listen.

Check Paige Burkes' great article 'Sailing Through Life' at Simple Mindfulness.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living.
Koan, Zen, meaning.