Intentions....Life





Our intentions, moment to moment, dictate how we behave and respond to the events going on around us.  Being mindful and aware we can form our intentions with deliberate thoughtfulness and care.  We can live a life, present in each moment, which reflects our values and desires.

Instead of making New Year's resolutions, I plan to spend time today and hopefully everyday, mindfully observing and crafting my intentions.  As Jack Kornfield says in After the Ecstasy, the Laundry, "It is from our intentions that our life grows."

Let the actions of your life shine like the jewels of royalty.

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.  What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing."  ~ Annie Dillard


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Books and Stories for a New Year (Pockets)



I've done a lot of reading in the past year.  To be surrounded by books and stories can be magic so I'd like to share some of my favorite articles and books with you below.  I try and share my thoughts, my ideas, and my work.  I hope you will do the same ( in comments below?) - it's why we're here.   I wish you all the best for 2016.

Why I Gave My Company Away to Charity at Sivers.org.  "I live simply.  I hate waste and excess.  I have a good apartment, a good laptop, and a few other basics...the less I own, the happier I am."

The 10 Fundamentals of Rewiring Your Brain at The Best Brain Possible.  "You're not stuck with the brain you're born with."

9 Ways to Create Lasting Change at Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life.  "If you don't know what you want, how do you expect to receive what you need?"

How to Achieve Your Goals Without Chasing Them at Simple Mindfulness. "If you think along the lines of "I'll be happy when I achieve Goal B" then you'll never be happy."

What Do You Do on the Worst Day of Your Life and The Best Day of Your Life at JamesAltucher.com .  "Teaching how to think is better than lecturing what to do."

The Ox-blade Incident by David at The Endless Further.  "...the best way to nurture life is to flow with its natural rhythm, letting things be themselves, letting go."

 A few books that have had a great impact upon me this past year.


The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life's Perfection by Michael Singer

Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence by Rick Hanson

Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success by Shane Snow


Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered

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Once invented pockets need never be invented again, but like many things they can be used over and over.

What's wrong with Facebook and Twitter?

There is strong reasearch support that striving for popularity will make you less healthy and less happy.

Spending quality time with or thinking of loved ones, on the other hand, is one of the single biggest factors in health and happiness.

Like many other "things", social media isn't a problem in and of itself.  It's how we use it that matters.

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Small to Big

Ideas become statements or tweets, become discussions or blog posts, become articles or groups, become books or platforms which lead to movements.

All change starts small.

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Merry Christmas

Take care of yourself this Christmas.  Do one or more kind acts for someone not expecting it.  There are crippled people, hungry people, emotionally devastated people....there are so many that could use a smile, a word, or a hand.  Take care of yourself by caring for someone else.

https://www.roomtoread.org/

Merry Christmas.




Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

Betrayal (Self?)

Life is unpredictable and can be very difficult at times.  The last few months have been very trying for me.  I've been falsely accused of things, been let down, and been lied to.  From this point I have spiraled downward at times and I know I've let others down from the place I was in - too caught up in my own pitiful mind to see and respond to the needs of others.

My initial reaction to difficulty is to over-react, but this is self betrayal.  Each time that I am faced with a crisis and see it as the end of the world then I am short changing myself.  I've been through many troubling times yet here I am - still standing, wiser than ever.  Better to focus on the good things like walks with my wife and time with my grand-daughter.

Sometimes I want to withdraw - fuck everyone, I can do this alone - but that isn't the way of the Bodhisattva.  I won't sell myself short.  Even when I feel cheated and misunderstood I will try to have compassion.  When I fail at that I will have compassion for myself.

However innumerable beings are, I vow to meet them with kindness and interest.
However inexhaustible the states of suffering are, I vow to touch them with patience and love.
However immeasurable the Dharmas are, I vow to explore them deeply.
However incomparable the mystery of interbeing, I vow to surrender to it freely.


~ Thich Nhat Han's translation of the Bodhisattva Vows.

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Feelings

"Feelings are what connect us to life and to one another.  To be able to feel is one of the extraordinary gifts of humanity.  To neither suppress our feeling nor be caught by them, but to understand them - that is the art." ~ Jack Kornfield - After the Ecstacy, the Laundry.

And that is the whole of our practice, our life.

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Rationalizing

“So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do” ~ Benjamin Franlin

"It's my job"

"Sorry it's only business."

"She started it."

"I'm just taking care of my family."

Above are many of the rationalizations we hear as a part of everyday conversation.  I've never understood when someone excuses their actions with "it's only business."  Is it okay to mistreat others for the purpose of making money?

Human beings are excellent at doing whatever they feel like and later rationalizing it.  In fact scientific studies have shown that more often than not, we assign reasons for our behavior after the behavior has occurred.  

If we really stop and think about it, we know the truth.  Most of us know beneficial action and how we would like to be treated.

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Bills, Birds, and Thanksgiving (Don't Hate Nobody)



I've got more bills than I can possibly pay on my income.  I don't have a full kitchen or bath in my rental.  The median  home price here is over three times what I can afford and the cheapest real estate on the market is above my head.  My car needs new tires.  A close relative betrayed me and I haven't seen my parents or my oldest son in almost two years.

Yesterday the moon rose in the orange-lit clouds above the mountains - moonrise in the sunset.  Last weekend I went Nordic skiing with my wife for the first time - twice.  Our dog Daisy had a blast. This morning they both joined me for coffee at the office. Tomorrow I'm going to see my grand-daughter Skylar.  Looks like I'll make it back to Georgia for Christmas this year to spend time with family.

We all have our problems, our illnesses, our triumphs, our likes, and our hates.  Sometimes life is beautiful and other times it hurts so deeply you cry.

Today I'm happy Thanksgiving is coming up.  I like spending time with family.  Today I feel blessed.  Tomorrow I'll hear "Papa!  Hi Papa!" and I'll smile.

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the United States and happy living to you all.

Be grateful for luck. Pay the thunder no mind - listen to the birds. And don't hate nobody. - Eubie Blake

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My Back Yard


A great post from Seth and a few pics of my back yard.  

Important reading - Yes, in my backyard
"It's okay to detest an idea, but it's foolish to build a wall to protect against it."
~ Seth Godin







Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

Should You?



Should you ...?  That's up to you.  It's your call and no one else's.  Don't let anyone else tell you what to do with your life.  Just be aware of the consequences of your actions and willing to accept them.

Be led by your own mind and spirit, not the traditions and expectations of others.

It's your life. Take responsibility for it.

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We are raising funds to open Zen Presence Meditation Center in Frisco, Colorado.  If you would like to help you may donate through Paypal below.




Living Longer

“If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.” ~ George Burns

The purpose of worry is to get us to take action.  Beyond that it is a waste of energy and time.  Live life.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

We are raising funds to open Zen Presence Meditation Center in Frisco, Colorado.  If you would like to help you may donate through Paypal below.




Automatic

Our brains process about 11 million bits of information a second.

Current estimates are that our conscious minds process only 40 bits of information a second.

Much of your mental process is not readily available to "you".  Often our decisions are made subconsciously by the parts of our brain processing those 11 million bits of information.  These decisions are made almost instantaneously and are based upon our past experiences and sometimes instinct.

As human beings we have a special capability called metacognition - the ability to think about our thinking.  Using this ability allows us to be self-directed.  Mindfulness allows us to develop our metacognition skills.  You can work on being more mindful and aware by just paying attention to your thinking.  Be the observer and don't get caught up in the chatter.  Mental capabilities can be cultivated through practice. Rick Hanson's book below is a great manual for "re-wiring" your brain.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living


Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence by Rick Hanson





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Everything ( Heart Sutra revisited )



All things are just things that happen.  They are neither real nor not.  Everything is transient, springing from the void of creation and possibility.  Positrons collide with electrons, leaving nothing but energy behind.  Bodies breathe, laugh, run, create and eventually return to earth. Words reverberate through the air with intent meaning, but fade into nothing having had their say.

Thoughts, beliefs, consciousness, touch, and form dance - all momentary possibilities expressed in (from) the void - entangled moment to moment.  Something from nothing.  Magic. There is no thing that is independent of "all that is".

Realizing this, we need not resist or cling.  There is nothing to resist.  There is nothing to attain.

It is.

Be.

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"The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rythmic measures" ~ Rabindranath Tagore

Dreams and To Do Lists

To do lists are great for getting simple tasks done that require little thinking or innovation.  Life goals are rarely achieved in this manner alone.  It generally takes reflection, focus, and creativity to achieve our biggest dreams.

Life goals are rarely achieved through dreaming, reflecting, and creativity alone.  It generally takes organization, determination, and to do lists to make dreams reality.

Dream, think big, and unshackle your mind from the limitations of rational thought.  THEN get to work.

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We are raising funds to open Zen Presence Meditation Center in Frisco, Colorado.  If you would like to help you may donate through Paypal below.




You Know Better

"When you know better, you do better" ~ Maya Angelou

Keeping this in mind it is easier to be kind and compassionate to ourselves and others.  Most of us spend a large portion of our lives scared or confused, whether we admit it or not.  Very few people set out to hurt themselves or others.  I have never met a five year old child that hoped to be a drug addict or homeless.

Mindfulness and self awareness are great tools for compassionate living.

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We are raising funds to open Zen Presence Meditation Center in Frisco, Colorado.  If you would like to help you may donate through Paypal below.



So Many Problems

If we think of all of the problems in this world  - climate change, pollution, poverty, starvation, war, racism, violence, domestic abuse, corporate control of our governments, etc .. - we can quickly become overwhelmed.  When we are overwhelmed we tend to do nothing, feel helpless, and become cynical.  Why not pick one or two challenges and do what you can?

The same is true of our personal situations.  If we feel powerless or helpless in our own lives, we are likely overwhelmed.  Pick one or two areas to change.  Lose five pounds, start to exercise, read a book a week.  Start small, feel your power, and make change happen. When you're ready then move on to other areas - one step at a time.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living.


We are raising funds to open Zen Presence Meditation Center in Frisco, Colorado.  If you would like to help you may donate through Paypal below.









Minimalism - The Big Things

You've all heard the saying "Take care of the little things and the big things will fall into place."  Bullshit.  Doesn't work that way.  Spend all of your time worrying about little things and life becomes hectic and random.  This very principle lead me to minimalism.  I found that saying yes to everything, without placing priority on the important things in life,  was leading to stress and dissatisfaction.

One of my favorite time management teachings comes from Steven Covey's iconic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.   It's habit number three - Put first things first!

"To live a more balanced existence, you have to recognize that not doing everything that comes along is okay. There's no need to overextend yourself. All it takes is realizing that it's all right to say no when necessary and then focus on your highest priorities." ~ Stephen Covey

Covey illustrates the issue with the famous "rocks in a jar" analogy below.

As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers he said, "Okay, time for a quiz." Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?"

Everyone in the class said, "Yes."

Then he said, "Really?" He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he smiled and asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?" 

By this time the class was onto him. "Probably not," one of them answered.

"Good!" he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, "Is this jar full?"

"No!" the class shouted.

Once again he said, "Good!" Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?"

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!"

"No," the speaker replied, "that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all."

Only by identifying our values, the things that we cherish most in life, and putting them first can we really call it "our" life.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

We are raising funds to open Zen Presence Meditation Center in Frisco, Colorado.  If you would like to help you may donate through Paypal below.




Mountain Tops



The breathtaking views from mountain tops are free...once you get there.  It takes a little planning, work, and effort to get there though.

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We are starting a new meditation center in Frisco, Colorado.  You can help by donating through Paypal below.



Not Much

What I say doesn't mean much, I know.
 It's my voice, so I say it anyway.
What I give doesn't mean much, I know.
It's all I have, so I give it anyway.

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We are starting a new meditation center in Frisco, Colorado.  You can help by donating through Paypal below.



Acceptance vs Giving Up



I have a hard time with acceptance and from what I can tell I'm not the only one.  I think that it is particularly hard for people of western cultures because we are so performance driven.  Society teaches us that we should dominate nature, situations, and the people around us -  mold the world to fit our desires.  We are taught that anything else is weakness or giving up.  I believe that more accurately this is denial and denial comes with a high price - frustration, stress, and anger for starts.  For me it almost cost me my sanity.  I have a situation in my life that I refused to accept for a long while .  I would not allow it to be true because it wasn't the way that I wanted it to be.  The situation didn't fit my mental blueprint of how things should be.  I found myself behaving in ways that I wouldn't normally behave.  I couldn't sleep.  All because I wouldn't accept the reality of the situation.

Acceptance does not mean giving up.  Acceptance is the place to start.  It is ground zero - reality - the foundation to build upon.  I've begun to accept my situation.  It's not what I want, but it is what it is.  I hope that the situation develops, but for now I'm facing the reality of life. There's a lesson in there for me and I need to learn what life is trying to teach me.  After that maybe it will change and maybe it won't.  I'll have to accept it either way.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

p.s. - If you have any tips or resources to offer that help with acceptance, please leave a note in the comments.


We are starting a new meditation center in Frisco, Colorado.  You can help by donating through Paypal below.




Lessons in Charity, Gratitude, and Death

photo courtesy of TheSpiritScience.net


Never, ever expect gratitude for your acts of charity.  If you offer something out of kindness, expect nothing in return or you will die.  You will feel cheated, used, and hurt.  People don't like to feel obligated.  They will resent you and they will kill you. 

Like many others, I have a boundary problem.  It's hard for me to separate myself from people that I care about so I often don't put myself first.  I take care of them, make decisions based upon their needs, and expect them to do the same for me.  When they don't I get upset and then bitter. 

The problem is that they never asked me to do any of the above.  It was an agreement that I alone made for both parties.

If you do something for someone and expect something in return then be sure that there is a clear and explicit agreement.  Don't assume. 

If you give as an act of kindness then give from the heart and let it go.  Let it pass through you like light from the Sun; otherwise it will stick in you, clog your veins, harden your heart, and you will die...I almost did.

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We are starting a new meditation center in Frisco, Colorado.  You can help by donating through Paypal below.



Control



Realizing that you have very little control over what goes on in the external world, but a great deal of control over your thoughts, emotions, and responses can be very enlightening.  Ponder the implications of this for a few minutes. 

Mindfulness is a powerful skill worth developing.


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We are starting a new meditation center in Frisco, Colorado.  You can help by donating through Paypal below.



Crippling



One of the most crippling things that we do is to believe our thoughts about ourselves.  Thoughts are powerful when we believe them to be true.  Unfortunately our brains have evolved with a bias to negativity, to fear more strongly than to notice and believe the good.  As we notice the bad in the world and live in fear then we begin to feel inadequate.  Brene Brown has done tremendous research on the factors that lead to individuals leading fully engaged lives and feeling satisfied with life.  She has found that the largest factor is simply whether an individual feels a sense of worthiness or not. What a shame that our own thoughts about ourselves are what get in the way of our happiness.

When we truly come to understand that we are not our thoughts - but the one that has thoughts, feelings, and beliefs - then we come to know that we can change those thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.  If we believe we are capable then we will act as if we are capable.  If we act as though we are capable then we are capable -  very capable.

The catch here is that changing your beliefs may be the hardest thing you'll ever do.  Your mind will try and maintain it's negative bias and tell you that your new thoughts are a bunch of bologna.  Don't believe it.  There is too much at stake.

Below I've shared some of the reading that has helped me along the way.  Just realize that reading won't be enough.  You'll have to work at it.

We are only a failure if we believe we are a failure and that is a crippling belief. 

We are starting a new meditation center in Frisco, Colorado.  You can help by donating through Paypal below.







Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living