Are You a When I?

Are you a When-I?

You know, the person who refuses to be happy, or even satisfied, until they reach some future accomplishment? They can be found saying things like, “I will be happy when I get a million dollars,” or “When I find that perfect boyfriend or girlfriend, then I will be happy,” or “I will not be satisfied until I get that promotion”, or “…a new car,” or “…a new title on my business card.”

I call these “when-I’s.”

It is that person, and we have all been there from time to time, who keeps pushing themselves to reach that next step, that next stage, that next place of accomplishment. Some people even chase that sense of achievement into the afterlife; thinking that whatever misery they endure or and sacrifice they make now, will be satisfied with a higher appointment in the ever-after. Some even try to speed the process along, thinking that their happiness will be found once they escape this world. Sadly, they realize, all too late, that happiness, contentment and satisfaction was right here all along. In this moment.

You see, happiness and satisfaction do not come in reaching some destination, or in acquiring an object. It is found in the journey. It is found in appreciating the adventure you are on and enjoying the human experience in all its failures and glories. 

All those titles and trophies are wonderful marks of achievement, but they are not what this is about.  

I will never forget, years ago, when a student asked our Hapkido instructor, Grand Master Bong Soo Han, when he could test for his black belt. Now, Grand Master Bong Soo Han was a man who grew up in occupied Korea after World War II. He was a man who learned martial arts under Japanese occupation. He was also the man who brought the art of Hapkido to the United States. He was slight in stature, but so quick and powerful. He was also very, very wise.

He looked at this student and smiled. “The test for a black belt is a formality. It is an event. It marks what we already know to be. We know when we invite you to test that you are already a black belt. We watch how you carry yourself, how you act. So, do not worry about being invited to test. Worry about living your life, every day.”

No, that student was not invited to test that day or that quarter. But we all noticed a change in him. As a red belt, he began acting as if he were a black belt. He began to approach his exercises with newfound sense of humility and a sense of focus on the moment. He changed from being a When-I, to being an I-Am.

Which are you?

Monday Moments: Windows + Doors

Every window and every door is a reminder.  Or at least it should be throughout your day.

It should remind you that whatever happened on the other side of that door is over. It is gone. It is now in the past, and that there is nothing you can do to get it back. It should be a reminder to Let It Go, and to Let It Be.

It should also be a reminder that even though it is in the past, that does not mean you are powerless to do something about it.

Yes, the moment you pass through a door is the moment you move forward  toward the next opportunity in front of you. It is also an opportunity for you to look back, and to ask yourself, “is whatever it is that happened just now worth revisiting, worth carrying with me as new baggage, or should I just Let It Go?”

If someone shot down your new idea in a meeting, is it really worth going after them? Or should you just Let It Go and get on with your day? If someone cut you off on your commute, is that space you have opened up for them, really worth it? If not, and I doubt it ever is, then Let It Go and do not dwell on it.

If, however, that event keeps happening, that person keeps berating you, or the affections you have for someone continue to be unreturned, then you have to ask yourself, is it worth pursuing knowing that they will not change. Or, should you yourself be the one to change and just Let It Be.

Let them go about their lives without you, or with only a limited part of you? Because that is the other half of letting it go. Knowing when enough is enough, and knowing when to walk away.

Tell your ego to be quiet, let the anger subside, and get on with your day. As fun as it may be to think up awful ways to get back at someone, all you are doing is giving them a home within your heart. You are giving them fertile ground in which to drop a seed. And that seed, with enough attention, will grow into a weed with the potential to suck the life out of you.

So stop it before it starts. Smile to yourself and breathe. Feel that smile radiate across your face and follow your breath down into your heart. Let the glow within your heart spread across your body as you push out whatever anger or ego was trying to arise, as you Let It Go and/or Let It Be.

Then get on with your day as you walk through the next door that awaits.
I hope this helps you.

Be well,

Monday Moment – A Productive Mindset with Meditation

There is more to a productive mindset than being focused at your desk, because there is more to your work than the time you spend at your desk. Having a productive mindset is about creating a flow that connects your work, your play, you waking and your sleeping hours together.

Having a productive mindset is about a balance between your up-time and your downtime so that your subconscious brain continues to produce the aha moments in your life when you least expect them. And that does not happen if you are filled with anxiety, stressed, or worried about your life; personally or professionally.

Those seemingly random ideas that end up being the aha moments of brilliant breakthroughs you wait for? They do not come out of nowhere. They are not sitting on a cloud that you wander into. They come, like anything, out of the hard work of your subconscious mind, and that subconscious mind only works when the noise and distractions that so often clutter it are gone. so learn to let go, not just to relax, but to open your mind up to all the wonderful possibilities waiting.

Years ago, when I was producing or ran my own agency, I found that I separated my work into several categories. The hours I actively worked on a project – perhaps two hours a day – were the only ones that “really counted,” or so I told myself. The hours I spent researching, thinking, and developing creative solutions for my client’s issues somehow did not really count as “real work.” Oh, and those hours I spent pondering in bed or during my commute – it was as if those did not even exist.

Looking back, I remember the stress and the anxiety. I also remember how there were never enough hours in the day for all the work I had to do. I remember how my anxiety often prevented me from coming up with the kind of solutions my clients so badly wanted.

Oh, how wrong I was. For it was in those seemingly wasted moments that my brain was actually free to work in its own way. It never occurred to me that the flashes of brilliance that came while listlessly staring out at the ocean on a weekend, or while feeling the water splash on my face while in the shower, only came when I felt calm and balanced and open. Rarely did they appear when I was at my desk, in my mind, “actually working” the few hours each day that I actually gave myself credit for.

It is funny, in a way, that is wasn’t until I was able to step away from my desk that I was able to see the solution that was there all along, waiting for me.

To fixate the results that end up on your desk to the time you spend at your desk is to dismiss the real work you put in all along the way. And, I equate that mindset to the post-war, industrial world most of us grew up in.

Yes, when we were an industrial nation, work was a much more physical task. The time that mattered was the time you actually spent farming, or fishing, or building. But this is the 21st Century, and your physical labor is often not what drives your results. The decisions you make at home and at play, with friends and family all influence your frame of mind, no matter what your occupation. And if your mind is filled with anxiety and distracted by the noise of your life, then there is no way that you will be able to come up with the solutions that equate to success in today’s world.

If instead, you are calm and rested, the solutions will come to you whether you are at the office every day or not. So learn to balance the different aspects of your life; both personal and professional. That includes finding a thread between work and play, health and finances, family and love and spirituality, even with your own sense-of-self. It is there waiting for you, if you know what to look for.

Only when those elements are in balance, will you be free enough to truly deliver the kind of results that you can be proud of. Only then will you be truly productive, feel accomplished, and satisfied every day and every week.

Remember that having a Productive Mindset is about more than being productive at your desk.  It is about creating a thread throughout your life in a calm and focused way.

So breathe, smile and remember to give yourself a break from time to time.  That is what will create a focused sense of calm across all of your efforts; at work or play, with family or friends, or even when you are all by yourself.

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Modern Meditation Profile – Alan Muskat

Alan Muskat – PhilosoForager: Looking Without Seeking

Alan Muskat is a naturalist in the tradition of Muir and Thoreau. He has brought the art of foraging to new light, both as a meditator and a philosopher. As someone who is stepping into Modern Meditation, he calls his approach that of a philosoforager.

Alan pursued the martial arts in middle school, before studying Daoism while in college. He entered the Back to the Land movement in the 1990s; a precursor to today’s Slow Food and Locavore movements. For him, it was simply an idea that resonated. Eventually he began to simplify his life, and soon enough, to simplify everything he did. He found each step returned him to a more natural state of being, and he liked what he was experiencing.

For the next twenty years, as Alan recalls, he continued to chase after material things until he found, as many of us have, that he was living in fear: the fear of not Forest Meditationhaving enough. It was with this understanding that he came to the realization that the only way to remove fear from his life was to stop collecting those things that he simply did not need.

You see, a forager is not a farmer. He or she does not put down roots. He does not store the crops he has raised. Instead, a forager is endlessly wandering, searching without looking for anything in particular.

“What many people don’t realize is that foraging is not about intention. It is about letting go,” as Alan puts it. “I try not to go into the woods with the idea of finding something specific. I never know what I will find. I can look for something, but I may not find it.” He smiles, “In April everyone wants morels.  But to seek them sets you up for frustration and disappointment. It really is a practice of non-attachment.”

Today, when Alan wanders into the woods, alone or as a guide, he finds himself reminding those Slide3who wander with him to “look without seeking.” When people seek him out, most are not looking for the philosophy behind the foraging. Usually, they just want to know how to get the food.

But it’s not that simple. “This is not about making nature into a grocery. Some of the prettiest things can be the most poisonous, while some of the tastiest can be the least attractive. All the while, we are fed by beauty and the sounds of nature. Even if you don’t find anything to eat, you are continually being fed.”

For Alan, this is how foraging can be a walking meditation.

“When I am sitting, I get distracted. But when I am in the forest, nature takes my attention.  Like Krishnamurti says, ‘meditation is like the breeze that comes in when you leave the window open.’ I can’t easily find the beauty in life, outside of my thoughts, when I’m sitting in a room.”

For Alan, as it is for me, going into the woods is a wonderful context for meditation. But then, it was like that for John Muir and Henry David Thoreau too. May it be the same for you.

 

[learn_more caption=”See The Full Interview Here”]

There’s a love that’s divine

And it’s yours and it’s mine

Like the sun

Van Morrison

 

What drew you to yoga and meditation?

Well, I was mostly forced into it. I have adrenal fatigue and other stress-related conditions. For me, it was a matter of necessity.

How have they changed your life?

I’m slowly developing better habits. Basically, in stressful situations, I go into my body instead of into my head. It greatly reduces my stress and provides me with a wonderful sense of calm no matter where I am.

At what point did you decide to teach others?

I teach something as soon as I learn it. Or rather, I argue for the importance of it, based on my own experience and reflection. There hasn’t been a “point” at which I began to teach yoga or meditation because, for the most part, that’s not what I teach, at least ostensibly. But I have been slowly integrating more of both into my work as a nature guide.

What do you find most rewarding about working with others?

I like making friends with others, finding common ground. If I can get past superficialities, I always learn something. I also pick up simpler ways to express my teaching when people reflect it back to me.

What is your advice for someone just starting on their journey?

Probably just to “be in your body.” Most everything else important comes out of that.

What should someone look for in a studio or an instructor?

I think of flexibility, like you are promoting. Someone you can relate with, and v.v., who bridges the gap between “teacher” and “student.”

What does the term Modern Meditation mean to you?

I’d like it to mean something integrated with daily life, a way of walking any path, rather than a technique to take time out to do. Mindfulness, I guess.

How have you adapted traditional meditation and yoga in your life outside the studio?

I have not developed the discipline to do a regular practice on my own. I am starting to remember to use these tools when the need is flagrant, like first aid.

How has expanding and deepening your practice, improved your life?

Probably my deepest practice is self-forgiveness. For example, ‘if I don’t meditate, that’s OK.’  I fall into my workaholism and fritter my time away again and again. Harping on myself doesn’t help. It’s where I’m at, and if this “plant” is going to grow, I need to water it, not yank on it.

What is your Simple Truth?

I adhere to Advaita (non dualism). I would sum that up by saying that life is a dream and the challenge is to stay awake in it. To be awake in the dream of life is not to believe that “nothing matters” but to recognize that the best way to alleviate suffering in the world is to find and/or maintain a peaceful, open heart in the midst of it. Simply put, “all we need is love.” Foraging helps me to see that with love, everything else comes easily.

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Monday Moments – 13 Milliseconds

Thirteen milliseconds is how long it takes for your brain to process the input it is being fed.

It is fast, lightening fast.

13 milliseconds is not a lot of time to process all the images you see, the sounds you hear, the smells you smell, the tastes you taste and the sensations of touch to reach your brain and form your sense of the world that you live in. In that fraction of a second, your brain is layering it with all the feedback it receives from your parasympathetic nervous system to assess if you are safe, or stable, or not.

Technically this means two things:

1) You Are Living in the Past: A fraction of a second is not long, but everything that you think is NOW, has actually already happened, and you are still living in the past. That means being here, being now, in the present, is an impossibility – even if by just 13 milliseconds.

2) Your Thoughts Filter Your World: In that fraction of a second, your brain’s perception of the world around you is influenced by whatever it is you are feeling. If you are angry, the will seem just a bit angrier. If you are filled with doubt, hate, or self-loathing, the world will be filtered through that emotion. It will acquire a tinge to it, a very different tinge than if you are to filter the sights, sounds, and smells through feelings of Love, compassion, or equanimity.

There should be no doubt how fast the processing power of the brain is. There are more than 100 trillion connections in the brain, with new ones being formed every time you create a new memory. And if the brain is able to process all the information your body produces, it is certainly able to filter that information with whatever you are feeling in the moment.

Not only does that mean your brain is still more powerful than any computer developed, it also means your thoughts, your emotions, your heart plays just as big a part in how you perceive the world as your eyes, ears or nose do.

Just think about that as you go about your day and your week. Think about where you are in your emotions throughout your day, and then think about how that may cloud, or clarify, your judgment.

Love, Hate, Anger, Empathy, Compassion – they are more important than the points on the compass for finding out where you are in the world and in life; especially if the world isn’t looking quite as it should for you.

So why not guide your life in the direction you want it to go by training your mind to dial your emotions to where you want them to be?

This is YOUR life.
Isn’t it time to start living it YOUR way?