The Problem (The Solution)

The problem is not your cell phone.
The problem is not the internet.
Email is not the problem and neither is Facebook.
Television is not the problem.
A bottle of wine isn't the problem.
Your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend wasn't the problem either.
None of these things are the problem, nor are they the solution.
The problem is that we keep searching outside of ourselves for solutions,  for saviors,  for magic cures and then when we don't find them we use these same items to hide from our pain and vulnerability.

There is nothing wrong with using the internet, a computer, or a book as tools when looking for answers, just don't think you'll find the answers in the tools.

The solution is......

Every great and deep difficulty bears in itself its own solution.  ~ Niels Bohr

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

Snakes, Sharks, and Ghosts

When I first met my wife I introduced her to hiking.  She'd been on a few short hikes, but not as a serious pursuit.  Hiking is one of my favorite activities and I needed her to enjoy it if we were to spend a lot of time together.  It provides a great deal of my physical exercise, quiet, solitude, and is often a spiritual experience for me.

On our first few hikes together I noticed that she always lagged way behind me.  At first I thought that maybe she was just taking her time and appreciating the scenery, but watching her I noticed that she was walking hesitantly and watching every step.  I laughed and asked "What are you doing?"  "Looking for snakes" she said.

She later went on to tell me that she would like to enjoy hiking but she spent the whole time worrying about snakes.  It was as if she expected a snake to be hiding behind every bush or rock, waiting for her to come passing by.  I explained to her that unless we were hiking in a particularly snaky area, there was no point in worrying.  I typically only saw two or three snakes a year and very rarely were they poisonous.

While fearing snakes is quite natural and can perhaps be beneficial, worrying about them all of the time can ruin a perfectly good hike.

I live near the sea and although I frequently take walks on the beach, I never go into the ocean more than knee-deep.  Recently someone asked me if I surfed or went snorkeling.  I replied that I was afraid of sharks.   It later occured to me that there are only a few shark attacks each year - in the whole world - with millions and millions of people enjoying the water.  I was more likely to die choking on my dinner than from a shark attack.  It was then that I realized that sharks weren't keeping me out of the ocean - ghosts were.

Are there any ghosts in your life?

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

Lost and Found

Over the last few years I've given up a lot - I mean a LOT - of things.  When we left our comfortable little home in Georgia several years back I sold about $5,000 dollars worth of our possessions on Ebay and Craigslist.  I then made 4 trips to the local thrift store with donations and took 6 truck-loads of junk to the landfill - it was rubbish that no one wanted (so why had I kept it?).

Two years later when we moved from Colorado to California we downsized so that everything we owned fit into a Uhaul trailer - and that was including my motorcycle.

We recently downsized again into a Motorhome.  I put an ad on Craigslist for anyone interested to come and take everything away.  It was an awkward but freeing experience to see someone drive off with almost every single material possession that I had.

Here are a few of the items I've given up:

  • A permanent home
  • Television
  • A full time job
  • Almost all of my furniture
  • Most of my physical books
  • A CD collection 
  • A valuable collection of over 200 vinyl record albums
  • Over half of my clothing
  • Our second vehicle
  • 2 Kayaks (I do miss them)
  • Junk foods and wheat
  • 35 pounds of body fat
  • Lawn mower (and the lawn that needs mowed)
  • Homemade wines and home-brewed beer (no space)

I don't count, but I'm quite sure that I truly own less than 100 things.

Here is a list of a few things that I've added to my life during the same time-frame that I gave up the items on the previous list.

  • A motorhome so that I may live where I want, when I want.
  • The freedom to spend each summer living and working near the National Park of my choice, but to spend winters with family and friends
  • A strong motivation to be creative and generate multiple streams of income
  • A closer relationship with those I love
  • A dedicated practice of mindfulness and meditation
  • More peace of mind
  • Blogging and reading have replaced television as sources learning and entertainment
  • Bicycle riding and more evening walks
  • Fitness and health
  • A portable Kindle library
  • A portable music selection
  • An appreciation for healthy foods
Maybe living in a motorhome isn't your thing and maybe my form of minimalism is a little too extreme for you. That's okay.  We each need to find our own place where we have just enough - enough to be happy without so much that our possessions begin to weigh us down.

I encourage you to do an inventory of the things that occupy your life.  What would you be better off without?  What would take their place?

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

Blogging Matters

It matters.  How you spend your time, your attitude, your words, and your smile.  It all matters.

I hope you all take the time and make the effort to share loving kindness with those around you.  The internet offers an opportunity to share with even more people, including those that are not close by.  We can truly make a difference in many people's lives.

A blog is a great way to connect with other people and share ideas.  Don't start a blog solely with the idea to make money, I'm afraid you'll be sorely disappointed.  I've made a few dollars with Amazon referrals and personal mindfulness coaching, but if you break it down I've made pennies an hour. 

Although you may not get rich with a blog, I guarantee that if you really put yourself into it then it will open doors for you.  You have to be sincere, patient, and build rapport with your readers and other bloggers to build a community.  I started Zen Presence just over a year ago to share the ideas of loving kindness, minimalism, meditation, mindfulness, and meaningful living - Zen for non-Buddhists.  I am not a writer so it was tough at first to put my self "out there" and risk embarrassment.  It takes courage to share our deepest thoughts and ideas.

If a blog isn't your thing then find another way to communicate and contribute.  The world needs you.  You could simply share encouragement in comments on other people's blogs or  join a Facebook community and share articles or ideas.  

Equally important - don't forget to share with those you encounter daily.  I remind myself constantly that the internet is only a small part of my life.  Right here, right now is where I have the opportunity to put my ideas into practice with the people that I am in contact with daily.

Though I may someday have something of monetary value to offer to the community I've built here on Zen Presence, I do not blog for monetary gain.  Below is a letter from a reader (with permission), name removed.  This is why I write and blog - to share ideas that may help others lead a rich and fulfilling life.

What you taught me matters, more than you realize. I am going to be able to pass it on, to my husband, to my child, and possibly to the world.

If our paths had not crossed, I most likely would not be alive now. I accept that. And best case scenario, I would have continued sucking up in a job that didn't appreciate me, and living in a co-dependent marriage.

I would not be the soul you know. My mask would not have come off.

You can call it chance. But I remember, word for word, what you said, after xxxxxxxxxxxxxx. It weighs on me daily. There is more.

I'm being sappy. And I don't apologize. I'm done with that. I owe my life to the love of others, so all I can do is love. That's fine with me. We all have God within us, which means, we all have love within us. I want to feel it, and to feel anything. It's all good.

I didn't teach this person anything, I shared ideas - ideas for meaningful living.  I hope that you will share ideas and encouragement as well.  Do what you can, it matters.

If you have a blog please share in the comments below, we'd love to read it.

Related posts:


Stepping Forth

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living.

Bigger and Why It Matters

“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.” 
                                                                                                                                                                                   ~ Carl Sagan

Life is bigger than you, much bigger, and yes it matters.

If you read any Buddhism at all, you will come across the idea of  inter-being, the idea that we are all connected and that there is no separation.  At first (and for quite some time) this can be very hard  to wrap your head around.  For many years I misunderstood it to mean that you and I are one, when so obviously we are two different people.  I've now come to understand inter-being as the idea that we are a part of something much larger than ourselves - much as our hearts and lungs do not exist independently, neither do we.  All of our organs are a part of our bodies, there really is no separation.  At what point does your heart end?  There is no exact point at which your lungs end - they are all connected - your body is a system.  You (and I) are a part of the entirety of all that is.  We may feel that we are separate, but that is illusion.

Living as a self-centered individual leads to fear and doubt.  We build walls, our world closes in, and our heart tightens up like a clenched fist. 

In order to open our world we must realize that everything that we do and experience contributes to the process and evolution of the Universe. Our contributions will continue to reverberate forever.  We cannot separate ourselves from everything else out there.  We are part of "it" and "it" has no end.

Realizing this, selfish or hateful acts no longer make sense.  Being selfish or harmful to other beings when we are a part of the whole is like the heart refusing to pump blood to the lungs or the lungs refusing to supply oxygen to the remainder of the body.  We are all interconnected and part of one great system.

Why is this important?  Because as we come to realize this deep down, then we understand that we need not fear death, we need not be greedy, we need not be selfish.  As we begin to truly see the connectedness of all that is then we see life in a new way and everything changes.  Our fear slowly dissipates and our heart begins to unclench.  Our thinking becomes more clear and the path (life) seems less confusing

It's not easy to consciously live as a part of the whole, moment by moment, realizing that we need not be greedy or fear the death of this thing we call "I". Our egos will fight it.  As an ancient Zen master once said, "It is like swallowing a red-hot iron ball.  You try to vomit it out, but you cannot."  It requires concentration and commitment.  As first we may intellectually realize the truth of inter-being, but that is only the beginning.  Quiet meditation and looking deeply will eventually help us to realize this truth on an entirely new level.  Maybe just a little at first, but that's a start.  It's the start of a whole new way of living.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living



In the Smallest of Things

"Although it's light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle only an inch wide.The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass....Each reflection, however long or short it's duration, manifests the vastness of the dewdrop, and realizes the limitlessness of the moonlight in the sky." ~ Dogen Zenji

The moon is reflected in all bodies of ocean, a pond, even a dew drop, and so it is with truth and the beauty of the Universe.  

Do not look only to the dramatic or grandiose, for beauty is contained even in the smallest of things - a walk, a touch, a prayer, a heartfelt conversation,  a smile - all contain the beauty of all that is.  The deeper you look, the more you will see.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living