What is your Strategy for Happiness?

One strategy is to manage everyone and everything around you so that it meets your approval and is to your liking.

Another is to learn tolerance, to appreciate, and to work with the world as it is.

There's a lotta world out there to manipulate if that's your strategy.

"...to walk the path of surrender, you must be willing to fully embrace life, instead of embracing your fears and desires about it. Still, surrender is frightening to most people because they think it means becoming totally passive. They think, “If I don’t go out and fight for what I want, nothing good will happen. I might as well go live in a cave.”
It’s not true, and to think that way is to completely misunderstand the universe in which we live. Billions of amazing things happen every moment, and you’re not doing any of them. Planets stay in orbit, galaxies spiral through space, and our physicists tell us that quantum fields are emanating subatomic particles that combine together to create everything we see. How much of that are you doing?
Even within your own body, cells are dividing, digestion is taking place, your heart is beating, and your lungs are breathing. You are not doing any of these things; they are all being done by the incomprehensible perfection of life itself. And if any one of them stopped, it would all be over.
Clearly, you have no choice but to trust the perfection of life going on all around you."  ~ Michael A Singer at How to stop being a control freak

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Help



"He who sees a need and waits to be asked for help is as unkind as if he had refused it." ~ Dante Alighieri

You can always help if you really want to.

Do you care?

July 31st

Right Action

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Why Meditate? Insight



There are many health benefits to meditation - you can read about them here, here, and here - but that's not why I meditate.  I meditate for clarity.  I want to see life as it is without the mental distortions caused by emotions and learned responses of the mind.  I seek a deep, clear, and precise awareness of mind and body.  I want to see the truth.

Buddha taught that the source of all of our problems in life was in our own minds.  We resist life as it is and we suffer.  We grasp for pleasure and struggle to avoid discomfort.  Suffering is a sign that we are at odds with reality.  Meditation allows us to examine our inner life more clearly and hopefully see our relationship to the reality of life.

When we first begin to meditate we may experience more suffering or stress initially.  We are used to suppressing our real feelings and thoughts and painting ourselves a picture of the world as we want it and not as it is.  If we stick with it and face reality, eventually our suffering dissipates.

Vipassana, or insight meditation, involves focusing upon our breath (or body awareness) while observing and investigating our thoughts.  We don't get caught up or embellish our thoughts, we watch as the one who sees what we are thinking.  We use the breath as an anchor to keep us in the present moment.  After a period of time we come to realize that we are not our thoughts.  Further practice allows us to see beyond the emotional tangle of our reactionary thoughts and to see clearly into the nature of the mind.

There are entire books written on how to meditate, but I recommend starting simple.  Find a quiet place and time, sit comfortably in a position that allows you to breathe, and begin to breathe.  Just breathe and notice your breath.  Feel the warmth, notice the rhythm. Now notice your thoughts.  Neither try to think, nor repress your thinking.  Sit back and notice.  Don't get caught up in your thoughts, don't follow them down the rabbit hole, just watch.  After a while get curious.  What is the source of these thoughts?  Are they reality based?  Notice that they come and go.

If you find yourself unable to focus or having unusually "hostile" thoughts and feelings while practicing Vipassana, you may want to start with Metta (Loving Kindness) meditation.  I have found that going back and forth between the two forms of meditation is very useful for me.

May you be happy.
May you be peaceful.
May you be free of delusion and suffering

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Courage



Do you have the courage to really see what you are seeing?
Can you stand still long enough to see through the confusion and notice that in death there is birth? That in chaos there are patterns of beauty?
Do you believe that in the short run when something seems so important, that it really isn't, but in the long run everything has meaning and importance?
Can you stand and tremble in fear without turning away, as you contemplate the vast beauty of pain, loss, and love?
Do you see the beautiful simplicity and complexity of all that is?
Can you let it hurt until you love?

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 is 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

Everyday Life



A monk asked Jôshû, “I have just entered this monastery. I beg you, Master, please provide me with direction.”
Jôshû asked, “Have you eaten your rice gruel yet?”
The monk answered, “Yes, I have.”
Jôshû replied, “Then wash your bowls.”

I often find myself daydreaming of grand events and missing out on the simple joys of daily living.  If I'm not careful I seem to see day-to-day activities as "below" me.  I often want the prize without all of the work.

No matter how special we think we are, none of us are exempt from the importance of everyday life and the lessons therein. Even the most mundane activities provide lessons essential to the intricate matrix of the human experience.

If you seek beauty and meaning in only the grand and magnificent then you are missing out. Embrace the whole of life to get the whole experience.


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Centered - Standing Your Ground



Have you ever seen a video of wolves hunting caribou or bison?  The predators are only successful when the animals panic and run.  A pack of wolves could never defeat a heard of bison if the bison kept calm and stood their ground.  The wolves use fear to cause chaos.  It is from this chaos that the wolves feed.

We all have an inherent wisdom that will guide us through life but fear scatters our thoughts.  Meditation and mindfulness can assist us in staying centered and standing our ground.

Get in touch with your center.  Step back from the voices and reactionary patterns of your personality and feel the clarity of your true self.

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No - a Third Choice

It is often hard for us to say no to a request - whether it's from our boss, relative, or a neighbor.  Many of us feel obligated to say yes to everyone and everything, resulting in our lives becoming an unfocused mess.

One of the reasons that saying no is so hard is that we attach emotional baggage to our answer.  No doesn't just mean no; it means I don't care about you, I don't like you, you're not important to me...The list goes on.

It doesn't have to be either / or.

Typically when asked to do something we see our possible answers as either "yes I care" or "no I don't care".  This leaves us in the position of either saying yes and feeling resentful or saying no and feeling guilty.  It doesn't have to be either/or.  It is possible to say "I do care, but I can't because..."  At first I believe that the other party will accept your answer with better grace than you.  It takes practice to say no and not feel guilty but we must be true to ourselves in order to make the most of our lives and have the greatest impact in this life.

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Naturally

When you were young you learned to walk, to speak, and to laugh.  You had no written agenda, no financial incentive, no deadlines.  No one had to entice you to learn these things, it was an innate desire - the desire to live. 

What if you reconnected with that innate desire and the associated joy?

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