Creation is now,
or never was.
Colliding, smashing.

I saw myself,
I dissapeared.
I am,
I never was.

It's all the same.
When I wake,
tomorrow never comes.

Yesterday I was,
today has flown.
it's all gone

Colliding, smashing.
It never was,
It only is.

Life is now.

Read Smile, breathe and go slowly.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

Smile, Breathe and Go Slowly ( Thich Nhat Hanh )

“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

A year into this blog and I've only recently come to realize that just because my readers are reading a blog with the word Zen in the title, it doesn't mean that they know who Thich Nhat Hanh is or are familiar with his work. Through several recent emails and conversations I've come to realize my mistake.

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk and peace activist.  He is also a poet and an author, having written and published over 50 books. We do not need to be interested in Buddhism in order to benefit from Thich Nhat Hann's work.  His writings offer very practical methods of bringing mindfulness and loving kindness to the very center of our being.

I believe that Thich may be the most enlightened and sincerely mindful person alive and that his work can help you immensely in finding purpose in your life. For this reason, I would like to introduce you to Thich Nhat Hanh and some of his work.

Thich was born in Vietnam in 1926.  He became a Buddhist monk at the age of sixteen.

During the Vietnam War, Thich chose to help villagers suffering from the bombings and the aftermath of war rather than to sit and quietly meditate in his monastery.  In the early 60's he founded the School of Youth Social Service, rallying near 10,000 student volunteers to rebuild homes, organize agricultural cooperatives, and re-establish order in the lives affected by the ravages of war.

During travels to the United States during the 1960's, Thich spoke for peace in Vietnam.  During one of his visits he spoke with Martin Luther King, Jr and convinced him to oppose the Vietnam War publicly.  This helped to galvanize the peace movement that continued through the 70's and until the war was finally ended.  In 1967 Dr. King nominated Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Perhaps the best way to introduce you to Thich Nhat Hanh is through his writing.  His poem, 'Call Me by My True Names' speaks volumes about the person of Thich Nhat Hanh.

Here is what Thich had to say before presenting 'True Names' in his book Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life :

In Plum Village, where I live in France, we receive many letters from the refugee camps in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, hundreds each week. It is very painful to read them, but we have to do it, we have to be in contact. We try our best to help, but the suffering is enormous, and sometimes we are discouraged. It is said that half the boat people die in the ocean. Only half arrive at the shores in Southeast Asia, and even then they may not be safe.

There are many young girls, boat people, who are raped by sea pirates. Even though the United Nations and many countries try to help the government of Thailand prevent that kind of piracy, sea pirates continue to inflict much suffering on the refugees. One day we received a letter telling us about a young girl on a small boat who was raped by a Thai pirate. She was only twelve, and she jumped into the ocean and drowned herself.

When you first learn of something like that, you get angry at the pirate. You naturally take the side of the girl. As you look more deeply you will see it differently. If you take the side of the little girl, then it is easy. You only have to take a gun and shoot the pirate. But we cannot do that. In my meditation I saw that if I had been born in the village of the pirate and raised in the same conditions as he was, there is a great likelihood that I would become a pirate. I saw that many babies are born along the Gulf of Siam, hundreds every day, and if we educators, social workers, politicians, and others do not do something about the situation, in twenty-five years a number of them will become sea pirates. That is certain. If you or I were born today in those fishing villages, we may become sea pirates in twenty-five years. If you take a gun and shoot the pirate, all of us are to some extent responsible for this state of affairs.

After a long meditation, I wrote this poem. In it, there are three people: the twelve-year-old girl, the pirate, and me. Can we look at each other and recognize ourselves in each other? The tide of the poem is "Please Call Me by My True Names," because I have so many names. When I hear one of the of these names, I have to say, "Yes."

Call Me by My True Names

Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow -
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing 
on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, 
when spring comes, arrives in time to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, 

selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, 
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean 

after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, 

my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, 
with plenty of power in my hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood"

to my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, 
so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, 

so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Below are a few of the great titles written by Thich Nhat Hanh

p.s. If you believe that Healthy Food Matters then visit my new blog at http://healthyfoodmatters.org

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

Making Space

    image: photophilde
"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication" ~ Leonardo DaVinci  

Just as clutter in a room constricts us, so does a clutter in our mind.

As Shunryu Suzuki explains in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few”.  The more that we think we know, the less we are apt to learn.

In the same vein, when we apply labels to ourselves, we limit our experience and our direct contact with life.  

Labels and beliefs are filters through which we experience life. Filters restrict.

Make space for living - emptiness allows great potential.  

Be mindful of how you fill the void.

Instead of being a writer, a politician, a salesman, or any label you can name - try just being.

Instead of saying to yourself I am a minimalist, try just saying I am.

Perhaps next you will be willing to see beyond I am and experience life as 'It is'.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

Living life fully engaged, the potential of emptiness

Why Nothing is Best

There is no best song, no best idea, no one best way to do things.

The nature of the universe is to constantly change, to adapt, to evolve.

If there were one best song, why write another?

If there were one best idea, you'd never need to think again.

Stagnation leads to decay.

Avoid attachment and clinging, participate in the ever-changing river of life.

The human mind has developed to take note of new things and pay special attention to them, until they are no longer new...pushing us on... evolving forever.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

Modern Zen Stories XIII - Attitude

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. ~ Viktor Frankl

Nothing affects our experience of life as deeply as our attitude.  Today I'd like to share a few stories from other places around the web.

A Childhood of Three Parts on Living Simply Free

Attitudes and Suffering on Castles in the Air

Rehearsing Failure, Rehearsing Success at Seth's Blog.

A life lesson from a hundred dollar bill on Soul Speak.

If you are in a hard spot or struggling in life, please see my last post When Your World is Falling Apart - 7 Steps to Recovery

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living
Best Blog Stories on the Web, Zen in modern life

When Your World Is Falling Apart- 7 Steps to Recovery

“Sometimes it takes falling apart to see exactly how or what loosened the mortar. Sometimes we find we are responsible for the how & the what."  ~ Collen Truscott Fry

When your world is falling apart, when all of your decisions seem bad, when you can't find a job no matter what, or everything just seems to suck - STOP!  When you're going down, stop struggling.  It's like quicksand.  The more you thrash about - the deeper you will sink.

Have you ever noticed that when someone makes bad decisions they seem to repeatedly make bad decisions?  Have you ever known someone that jumps from one bad job (or relationship) to another one just as bad or worse? Could it be that when you are in a hole and keep doing the same thing, only faster and harder, that you are only making things worse? Eventually the hole seems so big that you are stuck forever.  STOP DIGGING THE HOLE.

The more we feel that we need to do something quick, the slower we should go.  The fear and the panic should be a sign that something isn't right and let me give you a clue - the problem isn't out there.  You're not going to change all of the circumstances of the world, but you can change yourself and how you view and interact with the world.

When your world is falling apart, it's time to look inside and do a little work - to build a strong foundation from which to rebuild.  I recommend the following as a place to start.  Tweak it as necessary to make it work for you.

  • Get eight hours of sleep.  I know, I know - you are a super human and only need three hours of sleep or maybe you are so busy that you couldn't possibly spend eight hours unconscious.  To either of these I say BULLSHIT.  Study after study has shown that 7-8 hours of sleep is necessary for us to function at our peak.  If you won't do this then don't expect things to get better.
  • Get proper nutrition.  The mind-body connection is scientific fact.  When you are not getting the proper nutrition then your body and your mind suffer.  When your body and mind suffer your life will suck. I'm not going to get into the great diet debate here.  Let's just suffice to say that fast food or factory foods will not cut it.  Fresh, real foods are necessary.  Buying a majority of your foods from the perimeter of the grocery is a good starting point.  Stay away from the center isles where the artificial food-like-substances are sold.
  • Get some exercise.  You don't have to run a marathon to reap the benefits of exercise.  Start with a walk or bicycle ride three to five days a week.  Fifteen minutes a day is fine for starters.  Build up until you are getting 4-5 hours a week of exercise.  You will begin to see an improvement in your mood and well being almost immediately.  Many studies have linked mental well being with exercise.
  • Spend some time alone.  Meditate or simply spend some quiet time with yourself.  It's a great way to start and finish your day.  It may feel awkward at first if you are used to constant distractions - work through the awkward feeling.  If problems or fears surface, acknowledge them but don't feed them with attention.  Make a note to return and attend to them at a later time.  Right now you are seeking to center yourself and build inner strength.  After working through the awkward feeling and anxiety you will feel a peace.  A few minutes a day of quiet time will eventually bring strength and clarity.
  • Eliminate negative influences.  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.  These influences can be people, habits, television shows, or thoughts.  They are toxic to your well being. Take the time to identify them and eliminate them.  
  • Stop doing what is expected of you.  Don't let guilt and other people's expectations rule your life.  Every day do a little less of what you should and more of what you want to do.  Do things that bring joy and excitement.  You'll find passion creeping back into your life.
  • Be thankful.  I've talked about this many times.  Learn to appreciate the good things in life - the sun, your family, your pet, your health....  Just be grateful for something.  If you are currently coming from a negative place and feeling bitter, then I know you're probably thinking this step is crap.  The stronger that feeling, the more you need this step. Skip it at your own peril. Studies of the mind show that when we focus on problems and what is wrong in our life, then we fail to see solutions - you'll just keep digging that hole that you're so busy complaining about.    Re-framing is an excellent way to see the world in a more positive light.

When you are whole again and ready to take on the world then take steps to make better decisions ( read here).  

If you like this article then please pass it along.  Not for me, but because someone may need to read this.  You may share on Facebook, Google +, email it to someone, or link to it from your blog.  If you don't have a blog yet then you should consider it.  We all have something to say and we all can make a difference in this world.

Check out my guest post this morning at We Only Do This Once.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

Please support Zen Presence by making a small donation below.

Cleaning Up

You may notice that the advertising banners are gone.  After reading Leo Babauta's post on advertising, I decided to eliminate the banners and go with a more direct approach that is more in line with my values.  Leo so generously uncopyrights all of his work so I'll let him explain with an excerpt : (full post here)

One of the biggest reasons people buy so much, and are so discontent with their lives, is advertising. Advertising creates false needs — all of a sudden we need an iPhone or a new car or a diamond ring, just because an advertiser put the need in our heads.
What is advertising? It’s a company (or political candidate, etc.) paying a publishing platform (TV, newspaper, website, billboard, etc.) to get its message/brand in front of people. Companies are paying for our attention, and trying to get us to buy what they’re selling. And the publisher makes money by selling the attention of its readers/watchers/users.
Of course, for us, the users … it sucks. Ads make the watching experience much worse. Ads make the reading experience much worse (imagine reading this article with 10 ads surrounding it).
Ads make our lives worse.
The purpose of Zen Presence was never to make money. I willingly contribute resources to maintain this blog. - time, money on books and research material, seminars, etc...  and that is why I had a few banners on Zen Presence.  
Rather than make you suffer through ads, I'll simply say that if you would like to support my work at Zen Presence then please:

Visit my Recommended Reading page and purchase a book from Amazon that I truly recommend from the bottom of my heart, because I really think it may help you.


Contribute using the Paypal button in the left column or at the bottom of the page.

Otherwise, carry on and continue to enjoy and share in this community.  

The primary focus of Zen Presence will continue to be spreading Ideas for Meaningful Living.

Dan Garner

What if?

"I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened" ~ Mark Twain

What if you woke one morning and felt okay (or better)?

What if you found yourself being grateful for being alive?

What if you just enjoyed the moment while you drank your coffee (tea, juice,or green smoothie)?

What if you really focused on the nice warm water during your shower and realized that more than 2/3 of the world had no such luxury?

What if you noticed the beautiful sunshine or appreciated the melancholy rain on the way to work, but failed to notice the aggressive driver riding your tail?

What if you smiled and said hello to everyone as you entered the office, without judging thoughts or evaluations - just an honest hello? (Even to the guy that supposedly talked bad about you last week).

What if you noticed each and every breath as you took it, realizing that life was a miracle, and felt the peace of the present moment?

What if everything went right?  What if it was okay even if it didn't?

Could you handle it, or do you need for things to be bad and to worry about the future?  Do you feel more secure when there is something wrong?

For Robby - May the Universe bless you Robby, wherever you are.

If you saw the face of God and Love,
Would you change? ~ Tracy Chapman

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living
Mindfulness, present moment, gratefulness, awakening,  blog

I feel like Paula Deen

Image: Ted Eytan from Flickr.com

I don't like Paula Deen.  It has nothing to do with the current allegations of misbehavior, those have yet to be proven, I simply don't like who and what she portrays.  She isn't authentic.  She's a phony.  She's playing a role and pretending to be someone she's not - all to make a buck.  I prefer raw and sincere.  

When Meryl Streep plays a role, she knows we know that she's playing a role.  Paula thinks we're stupid.  Paula thinks that we can't see through the phony smiles and laughs.

Maybe Paula did the things she's being accused of , maybe she didn't.  I'm not in a position to judge this early in the game. The question though, is why are so many willing to drop her like a hot potato so quickly?  Why were all of the companies and businesses so quick to drop her?  Could it be that they never had faith in her to begin with?  Could it be that when we pretend to be someone we're not then people don't trust us?  Could it be that when we're not true to ourselves that our world falls apart?

I've done many dishonest things in my life.  I'm not talking about running ponzi schemes (I'm not that smart), stealing, or things like that.  I've fained interest in subjects I could care less about to fit in with others.  I've taken jobs that were against my values to make a buck; hoping that if I worked hard and made enough money it would all be worth it.  It never has.  

Every time I do something that isn't in line with my true self or my core values, my world turns upside down. Life stops making sense. I feel frustrated.  I get angry and I get bitter.  I don't want to get out of bed.  Why has this happened to me? When I've strayed from my path I feel like Paula Deen.  I don't like Paula Deen.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

Chaos -Making it work

I your life working for you?  Are you happy?  Does it seem like chaos or maybe the opposite and you feel stuck in a rut?

The solution is to find the right balance between chaos and structure.

This Universe works only because it is as it is.  Any different and it wouldn't work.  It is a nonlinear, dynamic system with deterministic behavior, but an undetermined outcome.  It borders chaos, but follows certain patterns and laws. Circular causality adds complexity which produces results that can not be specifically predicted from knowing an initial or current state of the system.  If it were rigid and static, or perfectly predictable and orderly, then there would be no room for adaptive evolution or choice. If it were entirely chaotic then there would be no foundation for evolution or change to build upon.

In plain English there is a middle path that makes it all work; a balance between order and chaos.  In human terms - it takes all kinds.  Some of us live on the edge by creating new ideas and pushing the boundaries of culture, art, and what it means to be human.  Others are traditional and hold things together by trying to maintain order in an ever-changing and dynamic universe.  We even have both personality types within ourselves.  There is a part of us that is adventurous and wants to experience something new and a part of us that is fearful of change and wants everything to remain the same.  The sweet spot lies in the balance - creative change with just enough structure to keep things from falling into total chaos.  

Make bold choices and extend your abilities, but don't lose sight of your center and who you truly are.  You cannot always control specific outcomes in this semi-chaotic world, but you can evolve, direct, and guide - helping to shape the future in this wondrous experience that we call life.

Please stop by and read my guest post at The Bold Life.  Tess offers resources and info for living a bold and courageous life.

Further reading on Amazon: 

Chaos: Making a New Science

Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living
Change, creativity, exceptional living, achievement.

The Same

None of us are the same - we are individuals.

Some of us are the same - we form groups

We're all the same - we're all human.

All three frameworks are equally true in the correct situation.  Correct understanding of when to apply each  is key.  Flexibility is fundamental to understanding people, including yourself.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaninful Living
Being Human, Understanding, Self