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.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

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.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

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.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

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.


Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

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

10,000,000 ideas



I've read thousands of books, spent hours upon hours thinking, and I've had ten million ideas in my life.  Ideas about the way things are, the way they were, and how things should be.  But today I'm just doing my job, listening to jazz, and watching life unfold on this tiny planet in a Universe so expansive that I can't even comprehend it.

Sometimes I just want to breathe and let life be.  It's unsettling and goes against the ego's desire to be in charge, but today I'll relax and let things be.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living


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




A Tiger for You

photo www.flickr.com/photos/tambako
 
“Once when the great teacher Xuansha was cutting down a tree, a tiger bounded out of the woods. The teacher’s companion said, ‘It’s a tiger!’ The teacher scolded him and said, ‘It’s a tiger for you.’”

We each see the world from our own perspective and our previous experiences shape our beliefs and reality.  Understanding this can go a long way in relationships and dealing with other people.  It can also help us to understand ourselves.


Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

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




Who Cares?



You'd better.

It only takes one person to disrupt a cycle of caring.  A relationship of any type, work or personal, is a delicate thing.    One bad partner or supervisor can start a cascade of negativity in any relationship or organization.  When someone doesn't feel cared for, they often stop caring.

On the other hand, just as one person can disrupt a cycle of caring, the opposite is true.  Enthusiastic caring is contagious. 

It takes a lot of strength to care when no one else does or appears to, but the alternative is reprehensible. 

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

p.s. - Who cares?  I do.  Like Chade-Meng Tan and Daniel Goleman, authors of Search Inside Yourself Increase Productivity, Creativity and Happiness , I believe that mindfulness is the answer to happiness and potentially world peace.  That is why my wife and I are starting a meditation center in our new hometown of Frisco, Colorado.  If you would like to help please consider contacting me with any ideas or tips, or you may donate via Paypal below.


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