If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”  ~ Charles Spurgeon

I bought a motorhome a few months back.  My wife and I will be travelling the nation with my sister's family. Our goal is to live and work out west in and near various National Parks during the summer months and be closer to family during the winter.  Life is short - I want to have my cake and eat it too.

In support of our simple lifestyle and desire to stay out of debt, we didn't want a payment on our motorhome so we bought the nicest 10 year old motorhome that we could afford with our savings.  I was pleased with our choice and thought it was very nice when I purchased it.

A nice new deluxe motorhome is parked next door.  It is beautiful with all of the bells and whistles.  Suddenly my motorhome seems to have a lot more problems and doesn't seem as adequate as before.

On the other side of me is a small 18 ft camper trailer.  It's maybe 20 years old and a very plain and simple model.  I saw the older gentleman looking at my motor home.  I bet he was thinking that maybe his old trailer wasn't as nice as it seemed when he bought it.

On the north side of the next island is a woman living out of her car.  She's often hassled and chased from one parking lot to the next by law enforcement.  I bet she wishes she had the 18 ft. camper trailer and the money to pay for a camping spot.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

The Greatest Life-Hack of All


A friend recently contacted me and wanted to know of any tricks I had to maintain my peace of mind and to keep from backsliding into old habits and routines (I get similar requests almost weekly).  He has come out of a long, dark winter and did not want to slide back into fear, drinking, and other bad habits.  He knew of course that willpower alone wouldn't do it. so what kind of hacks did I suggest?

It seems everyone is looking for life-hacks and shortcuts to make life easier.  Books and programs selling short work weeks, getting fit without exercise, and productivity hacks all soar to the top of best-seller lists.  It still amazes me how easily the modern versions of snake oil sell, but I guess human nature doesn't change so the carnies just change the label and call it something else.  I fall for it once in a while myself.  We're all looking for the magic pill that will make life better and easier - once and forever.

do you really think that Tim Ferriss works only 4 hours a week? 

Often times the snake oil salesmen are not intentionally selling you a worthless potion - it worked for them!  Why then do so few people get real value from self-help books or routines?  Could it be that most people don't do the required work?

What Tim has offered is convenience -  a set of systems

All routines, procedures, and systems are empty.  They're like closet organizers- the structure is there for you to use, but if you don't use them to organize your belongings they are worthless. Tim Ferris offers some serious productivity and time saving 'hacks' in his best selling book The 4-Hour Workweek , but do you really think that Tim Ferriss works only 4 hours a week?  What Tim has offered is convenience -  a set of systems, and like an instant sauce which requires water or milk to be added, you must add the work.  I'd dare say his strongest hack is willpower -the king of all hacks.

I will agree that there are routines and systems that we can use to make our lives easier and more manageable.  I've found that maintaining a morning routine and following certain guidelines give me the strength and clarity I need to live a productive and meaningful life, but I work hard at mindfulness every day.  Willpower is required.  (See more on tools and systems here, here, and here)  Mindfulness, meditation, exercise, and self awareness are all great tools, but if you have addictions, bad habits, and challenges - and who doesn't - then a lot of willpower and determination is required to overcome them.

Living a meaningful life can be hard work but it's worth it.  Grab your tools and get to work - the work of Life.  With the right practice it gets easier.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

Blue Moons and Such

My wife and I took a wonderful evening walk on Jockey's Ridge (the highest sand dune on the east coast of the U.S.) last night.  As we were walking back towards the parking lot I saw the full moon rising.  I had my camera with me, as I always do, so I paused for a few shots.  Unfortunately I had forgotten about the 'blue moon' and did not have a tripod so the pictures are a bit grainy and not as sharp as I would like.

The walk was enjoyable.  It was an excellent evening, even before the rising of the moon.  The evening was topped off with a stop at Kill Devil's Custard, which was a special treat since we rarely eat sweets.  All in all the evening was like a holiday.

This morning I woke thinking about what a wonderful evening it was, but how sad it is that every day isn't lived with such deep appreciation of life.  Why does it take a blue moon or a holiday for us to treasure life?  Isn't every day, every moment, every breath precious enough?  Will I one day come to the end of my life wishing that I had treated every day as a holiday, every moon as a blue moon?

"...we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive.  Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy, and serenity.  We need only to be awake, alive in the present moment."  ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

Six Tips for Dealing with Anxiety

We all experience anxiety at times.  Occasional anxiety is natural and manageable.  Unfortunately, the busy pace of modern life leaves seven out of ten adults experiencing stress and anxiety on a daily basis.  Sadly, chronic worry and anxiety can rob you of your happiness.  When anxiety starts to interfere with your ability to be happy and have a functional life it's time to take action.

There have been times in my life that I've let anxiety get the best of me, but with years of study and a little trial and error I've found the following methods to effectively conquer anxiety.

Use Mindfulness to Understand Your Anxiety

Pay attention to your thoughts.  Learn what triggers your anxiety and identify your concerns.

When we identify our fears then we can question their validity and find solutions when necessary. Often worrying is wasted energy with your mind running through various doomsday scenarios. It is rarely productive.

Understand that although the things that trigger your anxiety may come from the outside world, your anxiety itself is self-generated.  Your internal dialogue and thoughts are what maintain your anxiety.  Listen to and identify your internal dialogue. 

Write a list of your worries and fears, then decide if they are valid.  If they are, then search for solutions.  If not, let them go.  When you hear the 'tapes' of fear and worry playing over and over in your mind, observe them but do not give them power.  Watch them and let them go.


I've found quiet meditation to be the most important factor in dealing with anxiety.  When we stay too busy or distracted then our fears or concerns lie below the surface and fester.  It is important to spend a few moments every day meditating and becoming aware of our thoughts and emotions.  

If we are used to being busy or preoccupied then quiet time and mindfulness can first lead to an increase in anxiety before it gets better.  Unfortunately, many people stop meditating when they start to experience increased anxiety.  They keep themselves busy or preoccupied to try and escape their heightened anxiety but it won't go away.  We must face ourselves and our fears if we are to get better.

When you first begin (or restart) a meditation program, give it a few days.  Try and push through the initial uncomfort and see if you don't feel more calm with a daily meditation practice.

Talk to Someone

Some of my most enlightening moments have come from discussing my fears with someone else.  After weeks or months of keeping it bottled up inside, I would finally bring it up in conversation and it was like a veil was lifted as I realized that either my concern was exaggerated or more easily solved than I originally thought.  Just talking to someone will help.

Try talking to a friend or family member about your problems.  In some cases it may be prudent to seek a professional counselor.  Don't let pride stop you from getting your life back.

Get Some Exercise

I regret it every time that I stop getting enough physical exercise.  When I am maintaining my exercise routine I am calmer, happier, and I feel in control of my life.

Exercise basically burns away the chemicals like norepinephrine and cortisol which cause stress.  Vigorous exercise will also produce endorphins which enhance our sense of well being.

A brisk walk or bike ride can immediately reduce stress and anxiety but to reap the full benefits exercise it should be routine.  Make it a practice to exercise at least 30 minutes each day.

Get Adequate Sleep

I know, this sounds like a Catch-22.  You can't sleep because you're worried, but your anxiety builds because you aren't getting enough sleep.  

You must find a way to break the cycle.  Make sure that you aren't taking in too much caffeine.  Perform a physical activity until you are exhausted.  I personally do not like using medications, but talk to your doctor if you can't solve the problem yourself.  Proper sleep is essential to a happy and productive life.

Practice Living in the Present

When I say practice, I mean just that.  Most of us spend the majority of our time thinking about the future so it can be very hard to be fully present here and now.  Start by doing it for short periods of time -practice.  Take 30 minutes and sit in the sun not thinking about anything - just enjoy the sun.  It's hard, I know, but with practice you can learn to do it.  I'm now able to take entire days off from worrying or thinking about the future.  It is great to just enjoy the moment or an afternoon with no worry or anxiety at all.

For quick, short term methods of lessening anxiety check out my article from last year - 51 Great Ways to Relieve Stress.

If you need more help working through fear and anxiety then I highly recommend Thich Nhat Hanh's excellent book below.


Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

Are You a Coward?

Are you a coward?

This is a question I've started asking of myself every morning along with the following:
  • Are you brave enough to stay true to your values no matter what?
  • Can you face the challenge of rising to a higher calling?
We can start each day trying to be the best person that we can.  Not to compete with or compare ourselves to others, but to compete with the person that we were yesterday and to be a little better today.  We can clarify our vision and purpose each day as we strive to improve.

Can you stand naked -stripped of  labels, norms, and excuses?

Will you resist the temptation to conform? Not when it's easy, or convenient - but no matter what!

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

The more I talk, the less I have to say

Listen to and trust your own voice.

"I know it would be outrageous
to come on all courageous
and offer you my hand
to pull you up onto dry land
when all I got is sinking sand
that trick ain't worth the time it buys
I'm sick of hearing my own lies

and Love's a raven when it flies"

 ~ David Gray

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

I Forgot


Beware the barrenness of a busy life ~ Socrates

A few weeks ago I began working on a new website, Healthy Food Matters.  I started it because I believe that it does matter.  Where our food is sourced from, how animals are treated, what chemicals are added, if it has been genetically all matters.

Often when I start something new, I lose myself in it.  I can become quite obsessive at times.  The point is that I forgot.  I forgot how to just be.  I forgot how to relax.  I forgot how beautiful the beach is as the sun rises.  I forgot to sit outside and enjoy the late evening sounds of summer. I forgot how to have a meaningful conversation with my wife.  I forgot to call my relatives.  I forgot, I forgot, I forgot.

There is nothing wrong with working hard until we forget who we truly are and what really matters.

Courtney's article here, on Be More With Less, reminded me of who I am and what is important to me.  I recommend that you read it.  Whether you read Courtney's article or not, I hope that I have reminded you to take a moment and remember who YOU are and what really matters.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living