Art

From Seth Godin this morning:

Brian Eno possibly said that, "the first Velvet Underground record may have only sold 1,000 copies, but every person who bought it started a band." 

Art doesn't have to be popular or well received to make an impact.  Be your true self, do your art and don't worry about what others say or think.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

Curiosity Doesn't Kill



Curiosity is tied to learning.

Curiosity leads to adventure.

Curiosity sleeps with creativity (What if?).

Curiosity is linked to empathy and understanding.

Caring requires curiosity and they both require bravery.

Curiosity leads to love, and yes sometimes pain, but curiosity doesn't kill.

Without it you're already dead.


Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living



Choosing

Living a meaningful and value oriented life isn't easy.  It involves taking responsibility for our choices and our actions.  It involves looking deeply into who we are and what we do.  As we pay attention to our naked selves, we notice a lot that has gone unnoticed before.  Not everything we see is pretty.  It takes courage to look deeply and bravery is required to take ownership of our thoughts and actions.  It seems so much easier in the beginning to take the easy route--to go with the flow and to live on the surface, but in the end that path is heartless and meaningless.  

In the beginning we can not control our thoughts, only our actions.  The mind seems to be it's own creature, almost separate from what we think of as our "selves".   We just look, noticing.  We see our thoughts, our emotions and recognize them for what they are.  After a period of time these too will change and we see that we are not our thoughts, nor our emotions.  We are something bigger.  We get to choose.


Each moment we choose:

Fear


scarcity                         limitations 
                        competition                                              aggression        
WAR                                                              famine                                              disease 
                           lack                                                                            death




OR



Love

compassion                              cooperation         LIFE

                                      HARMONY                         generosity                                      success  


                                                             Acceptance                                  forgiveness   

                   abundance


Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

Fear and Ecstasy



I've spent many hours, days, and perhaps years of my life trying to conquer fear.  I've often said it is the source of all evil.  Greed, hate, anger, selfishness--I equated them all to fear.

I was wrong.

Fear is not evil.  Fear, love, joy...they simply are-- they exist, sitting on a shelf.  They are "empty" as a Buddhist would say, neutral until we pick them up and use them.  Like anything else, it is not fear that is the problem, it is our response that determines the outcome.  Evil is a participatory sport and requires participation.

I see my fear as it grows, 
sometimes so large that I feel lost in it's shadow,
and I tremble like a lover in ecstasy.
For I know that when my fear is gone,
I will have drawn my last breath.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living


Simply Sitting

http://www.flickr.com/photos/eggrole/


There is nothing more simple than just sitting.  Not sitting to learn (though you might), not sitting for clarity (though it's likely), nor sitting for some epiphany (you can't force understanding); but sitting just to be - to feel the flow of life coursing through your veins.  To breathe, knowing that our breath is the furnace of life.

Sitting can be scary if you are used to being busy all of the time, but give it a try.  Sitting can be the foundation for a rich and meaningful life.

Sit anywhere:  outside in the sun, on the end of your bed, in your favorite chair, on a cushion, or even in your car.  Just sit.

If you hear sounds of joy, such as birds singing or children laughing, then hear sounds of joy.  If you hear sounds of sorrow, your regrets or fears bubbling up from deep within, then hear sounds of sorrow and know that they are only thoughts and that they will pass.

Sit and smile, or sit and cry.  Sit and be yourself -you don't have to do anything at all. This moment is for you.

Simply sit.

Let life flow.

Be yourself.

Breathe.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

The Next Sandy Hook

The next Sandy Hook, Columbine, or Fort Hood incident is just around the corner.  I don't know when or where, and I hope that I'm wrong, but I bring this up for a reason.  What will we do about it?

The best opportunity to deal with such a crisis is before it happens.  Oh, it's easier in a way to point fingers after the fact; to blame guns, laws, or parents.  But is it effective?  Blame is simply a method of discharging pain or discomfort and I've never seen it solve a problem yet.

In our culture we judge.  How rich is he?  What dress is she wearing?  What kind of athlete is he?  How well does she do in school?  The result is shame and trying to live up to the expectations of others instead of listening to our own voices and realizing our true abilities.  Shame drives some to push themselves at all costs and others to retreat to dark and lonely places.  Neither is healthy.

Judgement is the fuel for shame.  Empathy, understanding, and compassion (not sympathy) are the cure for shame.  The manner in which we interact with our children, neighbors, coworkers, and even strangers has a dramatic impact upon their behaviors.

Although true empathy is difficult, inconvenient, and takes tremendous emotional strength, it is one of our most powerful tools and abilities.  In modern times, where everyday life is fast paced and work is stressful (if you can get it), empathy and understanding are more important than ever.

Are you willing to see the pain in someones eyes and recognize a cry for help?  Are you willing to sacrifice and go out of your way to help someone in need?  Someone you don't even know?  Can you just listen for a moment to another's pain without judgement?  Can you offer a smile when one is needed?

You may even avert the next big shooting or similar tragedy.  You might remove the straw that was going to break the camel's back.  You'll never even know it and that's the beauty of it.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

Cell Phones, Lust, and Impulse Buying

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/notionscapital/


“Greed, envy, sloth, pride and gluttony: these are not vices anymore. No, these are marketing tools. Lust is our way of life." ~ Jon Foreman

As a self-proclaimed minimalist, living in a motorhome, I try not to buy too many gadgets.  Now I do like gadgets, momentarily at least, it's just that I know that they will rarely bring the long term satisfaction that I seek.  I don't know how many times I bought a new electronic item, because I just knew my life would be better with it, only to find it lying unused in a drawer a few months later.

We all have this constant craving for something to make our lives better.  Most minimalists have figured out that material things are not the cure for our cravings and that things often complicate our lives more than they help; however, that doesn't stop us from having occasional cravings.  If you are human at all I'll bet you still find yourself wanting to buy something other than what you really need.  For some it's new clothes, cars, gourmet foods, self-help books or programs....the list of possibilities is endless in this consumer society of ours.

I recently lost my IPhone (it was stolen actually).  My initial reaction was to get sick to my stomach.  My phone was an integral part of my life--I relied on it for email, internet, texting, passwords, account numbers...  What in the world would I do?

After the initial feeling of nausea, my mind quickly turned to craving and I was filled with LUST.  I was almost glad someone had stolen my year and a half old phone.  Now I had an excuse to get a new one.  I immediately started researching.  What was the best bang for my buck?  Who had the best camera?  Which phone had the best screen?  What apps were available?  I spent the better part of the afternoon drooling over the selection offered by my carrier.

The government shutdown brought me back to reality.  I was not at the end of my contract period, so I'd have to pay full price for my phone.  Paying $500-$600 for a cell phone during the middle of an indefinite layoff didn't make sense.  I'm glad I had a reason to stop and think before an impulse buy.

After such a close call, I decided to think of ways to combat impulse buying.  Methods I could use to slow me down long enough to really think about it.  I came up with the following:


  • Be fully aware of your desire.  Acknowledge it for what it is-- lust or craving.  Feel it's momentary power over you, then pause and wait for it to dissipate.
  • Ask yourself if you really need the new thing.  Calculate the true cost of it.  How many hours will you have to work to purchase it?  What will you be giving up in order to purchase it?
  • Ask yourself: What else you could do with your time or money?  
  • Think of a similar item that you bought and reflect on it. Did it bring the satisfaction that you desired? Or did it fall short?
  • Realize that you are being manipulated.  Advertising has one purpose--to create or stimulate a desire to purchase.   Having a cell phone is no longer good enough.  We want to upgrade.  Why?  Because advertising is constantly reminding us that there is something newer and better out there.
  • Don't tempt yourself.  If you've got a problem with sugar, don't spend time in the candy store.  Avoid advertising like the plague.

I've since decided to wait a while.  I will buy a phone eventually, when I know I can afford it, and when I've had time to rationally decide how much to spend and what I actually need.  For now I'm kind of enjoying not having a phone--it's a very freeing experience.  I'm afraid my minimalism gets more extreme all of the time.

Zen Presence- Ideas for Meaningful Living



The Moment After - An Opportunity for Magic.



There is a moment after really bad news - I mean earth shattering and turn-your-world-upside-down news - a moment in which a door opens offering an opportunity for magic.

I 'm not speaking of the moment you hear the news and are in shock, nor the next when you refuse for a moment to believe it and try to wish it away or see it as something it's not.  Definitely not the moments you spend feeling cheated and  bitterly blame God or someone else for your misfortune.  I mean the moment when all of the structure and pretense in your life has been shattered and there is no illusion to cloud your view.

Right after denial and blame comes a moment of potential magic.  A moment when denial no longer works and you see things the way that they truly are.  A moment to see the difference between true limitations  and the self imposed limits we put on ourselves because of fear and our false beliefs.  A moment in which you realize that your choices and decisions have brought you to this point, but that you have always had the freedom to change your beliefs and your life.  When you see there are so many doors of opportunity and that you hold the keys to all of the doors. When all of your assumptions are gone and you stand naked in the world of possibility and see that you are stronger and more powerful than you ever thought possible.

Most of the time we ignore the opportunity to start new and the moment of magic is lost.  We feel that we have too much invested in the old way.  It's like walking into a restaurant, not liking what we see on the menu, but staying because we're already there.  We try to piece and patch back together our old life - a life with the same limitations and pretenses we had before, but not quite the same...so we curse at the holes and long for the missing pieces.

I do believe that life's challenges truly are an opportunity to learn and grow.  None of us want them, not consciously.  We think we want an easy life where everything goes smoothly, but that won't happen and that's not life - that is fantasy.  Real life is challenge, learning, and growth.  Tragedy or seemingly insurmountable problems are an opportunity for growth.

Of course we don't have to have tragedy in our lives to have an opportunity for magic.  Every moment could be like this.   As a matter of fact if you look deeply and are willing to question your choices and your reality every day then you are less likely to have dramatic challenges.  If we are truly aware of our thoughts and actions and the reasons behind them, we don't need a traumatic event in order to change our lives.  Every moment is an opportunity of choice, a chance to change anything and everything about our lives.  Are you willing to look really hard at your limiting beliefs, the rules you've created or chosen to follow, the excuses you give, and to quit bitterly blaming someone else for all of your misfortunes?  Are you willing to get up from the table, to say "I've changed my mind" and look for a better restaurant - one with a menu more suited to your taste?  If so an opportunity for magic awaits you.

I challenge each of you to begin by taking just an hour or two of your time to really look at your life and ask yourself why?  For every aspect of your life-  why?  Is it what you choose?  If not why?  Please don't accept the pitiful excuses your mind will give.  "I'm already here, I might as well stay" is never a good reason for staying anywhere. Life is short.  Keep asking and keep looking at the answers.  When you feel particularly vulnerable and fearful then you're making progress - the walls are weakening - the world is about to open to you.

Just keep asking and looking deeply.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living