I see your wrinkles,
liver spots, crows feet, and blue veins.
I see your hand trembling, weakness, hear your voice tremor
and I see fear in your eyes, vitality losing strength.

I see your wisdom,
years of failure, struggle, mixed with success.
I see your paintings and books lying around,
and I see the fragility, the beauty of life.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living
Life, Blog, Poetry

Seeing The Good Life

Your life can be as good as you let it be.  How we view our life will largely determine how happy we are.  I know someone that has led a very good life - Sunday dinners with children and grandchildren, a close relationship and lots of activities with siblings, travel all over the U.S., jobs that have paid well, nice homes - you name it, but they do not seem very happy.  When talking to them I get the feeling that when they look back on their lives they see missed opportunities instead of focusing on the good times.

No one wants to be unhappy, but at times it appears that unhappiness is what we choose.  Why is contentment so hard to achieve?  There is a part of the mind which thinks that it is protecting us by observing and noting everything negative or bad in the world.  While this may have some practical use, it often spins out of control, and we become stuck in negative mental loops that repeat continuously.

Although I don't have all of the answers, and working on contentment and happiness can be a full time job, I have found a few tools that help.

  • Don't fret over what could have been.  Although we've all been told not to cry over spilled milk, it is easier said than done.  By observing our thoughts and noticing when we start down the negative path we can learn to pull out of the downward spiral.  Acknowledge your negative thoughts, then remind yourself that you are alive here and now. Do your best with what you have in the present moment.
  • Be grateful.  Many studies have shown that a formal program of being grateful improves feelings of happiness and contentment.  Daily prayer, a gratefulness log, or a journal are all great ways to express your appreciation for everything beautiful and special in your life.
  • Don't fight reality - it's a losing game.  Simply wishing things were different than they are or were only leads to resentment and anger.  Accept things as they are without resistance and use this as a starting point for positive change.
  • Intentionally practice seeing the beauty in the rich and complex world around you.  Use mindfulness to step outside of your routine way of seeing things and consciously notice beauty.
There is beauty abound in this world, you only need to take the time to see it.  Check out Brooke's related post at Slow Your Home.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

Nothing is cooler than sharing. Spread the Zen below.

How to ask for what you want

One of the most limiting thoughts that runs through the human mind is "What if they say no?" There are so many questions that we never ask because we fear being told NO!
  • We don't ask that person out on a date because they might say no and the feeling of rejection would be too much.
  • We don't ask for help because they might say no and that would destroy our friendship.
  • We don't ask for a raise because we fear we'll be told no and that means we aren't worthy.

The reason for our fear is that we combine our ego and self-esteem into the mix and the question really becomes "Will you please give me the validation and approval that I desire?"  A request for a raise is no longer a request for more money but a request to substantiate your worth as a person.  When the stakes are raised in this manner then fear creeps in....If they say no I'll be crushed. I'll have to quit and find another we don't ask...or if we do and are told no then we take it personal and become bitter when the reality may very well be that there was no money allocated for raises, or that a shuffle in positions may be landing you a new title and raise a few months down the line.

By learning to allow the answer to be "no," without taking it personal and without allowing it to destroy us emotionally, we can learn to ask for anything that we desire.

Another reason that we may be afraid to ask for what we want is that we may feel that we are imposing or asking too much of the other person.  In this case it is important that we make it clear to the other party that it is okay to say no.  When we are sure that the answer will be yes if only if the other party truly means "yes it is okay," then we can feel free to ask for what we want.

Learning not to entwine our ego and self-esteem into every interaction we have with others can allow new found freedom and be very rewarding. 

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

Questions to get un-stuck

Often we feel stuck in life.  Sometimes we don't even have specific complaints - it's just a vague feeling of dissatisfaction.  This vagueness is one of the reasons for being stuck - a lack of clarity and definition gives your mind little to work with.  When you have a vague feeling of incompleteness or that something is lacking in your life, it can be helpful to ask the following questions.  Take the time to be very specific.

  • What is wrong?  What specifically bothers you about your current circumstances? Look deep to see what is causing your uncomfort. Be precise.
  • What details contribute to this problem?  Include the people, places, and things involved.
  • What do you really want?  Do you have a clear picture of what will truly make you happy? Visualize yourself in the new set of circumstances.
  • How have you personally contributed to the current situation? 
  • Why are you contributing to the situation and why have you not resolved it?  Is it fear, complacency, a lack of knowledge, guilt?
  • What can you do now to begin to change the situation?
  • What have others done to solve similar problems? 
  • What can you learn to do to change the situation?
  • What metrics can you use to measure your progress?
  • How will you know when you are done?
Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living


A friend of mine recently told me that they don't feel worthy. Worthy of what?  By who's standard?  

Worthiness is a concept that I don't care much for. It is a fabricated idea of the mind.  It doesn't apply to real life.  We are a different person every moment.  At what point do you judge worthiness and who judges?  

Ten minutes ago I was an unworthy bastard, but now I've changed. 

Tomorrow I may be an S.O.B.
Next week I'll be a saint - I promise.

Seek, experience, learn.  Do not be bound to past experiences or mistakes.  Open yourself to the beauty of experiencing life and move beyond the self imposed limitations of judgement.

 "Live never to be ashamed if anything you do or say is published around the world -- even if what is published is not true." ~ Richard Bach

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

A Man With No Problems

I saw a man with no problems last week and I shuddered as he passed by.  He'd come to the town's half- marathon as a normal human being, with problems like all of the rest of us.  He had a wife, children, grandchildren, bills to pay, grass to cut.....but that all changed.

I didn't see him during the actual moment of transformation, but right after it.  As the medics loaded him into the vehicle and called off the life-line chopper I said a short prayer.  I was so thankful to have the problems and blessings that come with being alive.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living
Life, blog.

Connection or Approval?

One of the strongest human needs is the desire for love and appreciation.  Approval and connection are two ways that we try to fill this need.  While both may feel very similar emotionally, they are very different in method and result. 

Seeking approval often requires that we change - to do or become what we perceive that others want us to do or be.  It is very conditional and can be suffocating.

Seeking connection requires that we let our guard down, bare our souls.  It can be frightening but results in authentic relationships that are deeply fulfilling.

One is based upon pretense, the other truth.  Your choice.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living
Authenticity, Relationships, True Self.