Discipline of Freedom

Freedom is not attained by sitting back and waiting for things to happen. It comes from participating in life, by living your life beyond the distractions and delusions that are everywhere in today’s world and facing reality.

It comes from knowing who you are and what you want so that you can keep yourself on the right path. With every step you will find your time opening up so that you have the time to enjoy your life in whatever way that means for you, free from the self- doubt and guilt you will find that you will have the freedom to truly enjoy the things that are most important to you, even if that just means watching the trees pass by with every step you take.

When you have the discipline to avoid the distractions and side-step the delusions that hold so many back then you will have the time and the freedom to travel as you wish, to think your thoughts, to paint or snap photos or do absolutely nothing if that is what you truly want to do.

Just as deep meditation comes from many hours of disciplined practice, freedom calls for you to overcome the delusions and distractions of every day life so that you actually have the time and energy to do exactly what you want to do when you want to do it. It takes work to accomplish and discipline, but I think you will agree with me when I say it is worth it.

For some, freedom can be found in your work because that is where your heart is. For others it may be to write or take photographs, to enjoy a long hike, to surf or to simply swing in a hammock. There is no right or wrong to what freedom means to you, that simple word is simply an expression of what you find is in line with your authentic life based on your own simple truth.

I’m sure if you asked a dog and a cat what freedom means to them you would get two very different answers. It is no different if you asked two people, each will have a very different answer based on their own life experiences.

Having the freedom to pursue what you want in life means understanding yourself. It means exploring what living an authentic life means to you, and that requires work and focus. It calls for you to know what you want from the freedom you have pursued all these years. It happens slowly. It requires maturity. It takes practice and discipline so that when you face the winds of uncertainty you can walk into them free from the delusions and distractions that are sure to knock you back in line with what society views as “normal”.

Freedom means having an understanding of what your authentic life feels like. Whether that means cultivating the friends and family or enjoying the lifestyle that you want no matter where it may lead, freedom means making some mistakes so that you know which paths to avoid and which to wander onto.

With practice you will be able to observe the world with a sense of calm detachment, free to watch life pass by without feeling the need to comment on it, prove your worth, or follow your ego to feel better about yourself. Instead you can enjoy the freedom to live your life on your terms, without the distractions and delusions that undermine so many.

You can step away from the fight, flight or fornicate impulse so many people continue to live by even though those impulses have not been relevant here for several hundred years. Those may have been important to your ancestors 40,000 years ago, but today, in the modern world, they only get you into trouble.

When you take your first step toward freedom, in whatever form that means for you, you will find that getting rid of that continual voice of doubt that rings in your head, you will be free to pursue whatever direction you want to go. And that is a real freedom that few have the pleasure of living.

You see, freedom does not come from outside yourself. It comes from within. You can start right now if you really want to enjoy the rich and rewarding life you deserve. All you have to do is learn to let go of those emotions society has taught you are so important and start to live your life on your terms, free from guilt and self-criticism. It starts deep within you and blossoms outward until you can pass through the world in calm abiding, right here and right now.

Right here and right now is the time to find your freedom in today’s world. It starts with your desire to create an authentic life, one that is based on your own Simple Truth. It starts with a smile toward someone else, a smile you can carry to wherever your freedom leads. You just need a little discipline to relax your lips and open your heart just like the meditation practice you have built.

Learn how with the simplicity of the Simple Truth Project.

Be well and I hope this helps.

 

 

 

j.

Q + A: Is A Living Guru Required?

Q:

Is a Living Guru Required?

A:

Required for what? Before you can find the right answer you need to ask the right question. 😉

If you are asking about finding a shorter or more direct path to your destination, be they spiritual or material, the answer is yes in some ways. But the idea of a “guru” to lead you can distract you to follow false paths if you are not careful. You are the only one who can know what path to follow. Never rely on someone else, even me, to know where you want or need to go.

Always remember a guru can never know your mind. They can only share their experiences with you, but they can never know your thoughts.

It is up to you to select which part of their teachings applies to your situation. It is up to you, and only you, to know when you have learned the lessons you need to learn and when to move on so that you can continue your journey.

I have had many teachers and some gurus in my life. I have learned lessons, but rarely those they wanted to teach me. I have learned from watching the waves as they crashed on a beach, from observing the twists and turns of a mountain stream, and even by watching the stillness of a well worn stone. With each the most important lesson I have ever learned is knowing when to move on.

If you open yourself up to the stirrings of nature you will learn that you are your own best teacher. Just remember to allow yourself to acknowledge the wisdom all things in nature have to share and approach each with an empty cup.

Allow whomever or whatever to fill it free from preconceived notions and ideas.

I hope this helps.

Be well,

Jeff

Q+A: What was the most challenging relationship you have experienced?

Q:

What was the most challenging relationship you have experienced?

A:

My most challenging relationship is the one I have with myself.

Only by having a healthy and honest relationship with myself can I hope to have a healthy and honest relationship with someone else. In the end, your defects and truths will arise no matter what your intentions are. Within a long-term relationship, they will bubble up no matter how hard you try to stuff them down. In fact the more you try to deceive someone the quicker your faults and lies will arise. That is the beauty of companionship and community, your truths will surface no matter what you try to do.

In casual conversation you will slip when you least expect yourself to. You will grow comfortable with those around you and there it is – the truth. You may not blurt out some falsehood as if vomiting up your lunch but it will be there for you and those around you to be aware of. And once it is out there the more you try to cover your tracks, the more entwined and confused will your story become.

That is how your deceit will be noticed, not with the initial lie you told, but through your efforts to cover your tracks. The only way to avoid this is to be honest with yourself, to know yourself, and to make a vow that you will only be honest with yourself an with those around you.

This is not an easy thing to do, but it is essential if you want an honest relationship free from the confusion of half-truths so many try to live with. At first this is a challenge for many. But as time passes you will learn that those challenges fade away as your relationship with yourself comes from a place of honesty, honor, values and virtues.

When  you are completely honest with who you are, you free yourself of the weight that you have carried with you for so long. You can be with anyone in a fully intimate and honest way and feel good about yourself while doing so.

Today’s failure is tomorrow’s success

What seemed impossible yesterday is most likely possible today and will be even more so tomorrow. It’s about technology, advancement and the experience you gain by having been wrong in the past.

From failure you learn how not to do something, and that is often the most difficult lesson to learn. The second most difficult is to sit back and reflect on what you just did so that you can apply your learning in your next attempt. There will always be a next attempt as long as you are willing to move past your ego and try again. The lessons you learn may not apply to your current project but your experiences and your failures will help you get through whatever you are doing in the next here and now.

You just have to ask yourself if you are willing to move beyond the fear of your primordial brain to create a new success.

As a human you will never do it right the first time. There is no shame in that fact. The important thing to keep in mind is that you will get it right if you set your ego aside and approach your tasks in the right way; through a) the process of Action Reflection Action and b) by sharing your errors with, and learning from the community of trusted people around you.

It is how we have evolved and grown past our limitations. We attempted something in the past (Action), we made a mistake and shared our mistake with the community around us (Reflection). We adjusted our efforts and tried again (Action). If we made another mistake we adjusted our efforts again, and we continued this process of Action/Reflection/Action until we got it right. Notice the one key word throughout all of this – we.

The coffee mug didn’t just appear looking like it does now. It took centuries to get it right. At first our ancestors used their hands in a cold stream to take a sip. It was good, until someone discovered fire and eventually that water could be heated to warm us, someone else discovered that when flavored with herbs and crushed beans it would give them a boost. It wasn’t until those seemingly different ideas were brought together that someone else created ways to hold that concoction. Each refined their separate ideas until we have what we now take for granted in every McDonalds or Starbucks we drive or walk into.

Our ancestors never imagined what their individual projects would turn into, but the end result is something they were could never even dream of. At first they used hollowed out logs but perhaps the wood gave their brew a bad taste. Perhaps someone saw someone else heating clay in a fire and thought it a good idea to hold water. By talking around a fire two early sapiens put the idea of a crude bowl into action.

It did not happen in an instant, but after many tries and many generations maybe the idea of adding a handle to the bowl to create a crude mug came up. They may not have gotten that handle right but they brought themselves one step closer to creating what we now call a mug. Perhaps in modern times someone else thought wouldn’t it be great if we could take that drinking concept on the road, and so it goes and will go well into the future.

Our ancestors didn’t get it right the first time, neither do we. Life is a never-ending process of Action/ Reflection/Action. Everything takes centuries to get to the point where their crude shelters kept advancing to the point where they did more than just hold out the rain or kept them safe, warm or shaded. Each time they learned how to create what was needed through the process of Action/Reflection/Action.

Each of the impossibilities we face is actually made possible by sharing knowledge and by expanding our web of experience beyond what each individual failure teaches us as we sped down the path together to where we are today.

Nobody ever gets it right the first time. First somebody comes up with a need. They discover that others share that same need. Someone chimes in with a  possible solution. We try to build that solution. Maybe it works or maybe it doesn’t. Someone else comes along with another idea, and so it goes until a sort-of solution is created. It sticks for a while until someone else adds a new idea, each improving upon the initial idea. So it goes until the mug, the tablet, the book, the library, and eventually the internet is created.

All you have to do is follow that same basic process. Find a problem to solve, ask someone for their help. Learn from those around you if they can apply their thinking to your issue. Build your knowledge base so that you can tackle bigger and more complicated issues – be they physical, psychological or spiritual. This is how yesterday’s impossibilities becomes today’s possibility and tomorrow’s reality.

Speaking became writing, writing became books, books became libraries, libraries became the internet, and the internet brought us back to speaking again.

Many of our advancements have not been so positive. Some have been turned into destructive, sliding us backwards which is perhaps the most difficult lesson for us to learn, that of self-restraint. Sometimes we are not ready for our own creations and we have to rein ourselves in. In that moment an internal war is waged between our ego that urges us onward and our reason that wants to pull us back.

Yes a gun can be used to hunt and get us food. It can also be used to kill many innocent and unsuspecting people in one simple pull of the trigger. It is why now is the time for us to realize what is the good way to use the tool we created so many centuries ago and which is the bad way.

In time our children’s children will know to manage themselves, which will perhaps be our greatest lesson of all, giving us the self-restraint we never had, which will be a leap forward if we take it. The moment we take that step we will unleash the realization of our greatest accomplishment of all – the advancement of the human spirit.

It will be yesterday’s greatest impossibility that our children’s children’s children will make – the peace we have all been looking for – possible. So why is it so difficult  for us to open our hearts and allow them to do so?

They have the opportunity to make the world a kinder place, if we can just get out of their way. We had our chance to do this for so long. It is now our time to step our of their way so that they can have theirs.

Want to learn more? Click here at Simple-Truth.com 

Be well, and in the end, it is your life. It’s time to live it your way.

I hope this helps

Keep Being Your Perfectly Imperfect Self

Perfectly Imperfect

Always remember you are perfect just the way you are.

Sure, you could also use a little improvement here and there, we all could. The fact is you are aware that you could is proof that you are alive and awake to your beautiful imperfections. Just don’t allow yourself to get caught up in your imperfections. Celebrate them. Celebrate the changes that we all go through. Celebrate your growth and the fact that you change in response to the world around you.

It’s funny in a way how life eternally keeps us changing to better ourselves. As if to keep us on our toes. It makes me ask, is that why we are here? Is that why you are here, to grow and adapt and change? I think it is, to burnish your rough edges down and make yourself smooth and shiny like a river stone, until it ends up in the river as a skipping stone, worn smooth and flat to rise above the waters and the waves, skipping far out into the sea until it finally sinks below to settle into the sandy floor. And once you think you’re finally nestled into the safety of the sea bed, you are still subject to tides and currents to be further burnished by the sands around you to become part of a beach, somewhere in the world.

And even then, once you think you’ve found your place some child builds you up as part of a sandcastle. And so it goes, being built and torn apart until you are carried up and down, being compressed into a stone again and churned into a sandy beach, learning about being alone and in community in a never ending cycle that lasts millions of years.

It is the same cycle as being human, single and in community, never quite finding your place because your place is never standing still. It is forever changing just as the world is, just as society is, just as you are.

Be comfortable in the one constant to your existence – the transitions you are forever in and the perfect imperfections you will forever be a part of it and you.

Step back when you have a moment and try to remember the person you were in high school – not how you looked but also how you acted and reacted to those around you. Now do the same for when you were in college, and at your first job.

You were still you, but I am sure different aspects of you came out. This is what is still going on today. You are still you, simply allowing different sides of you to take a leading role in your life.

Embrace these transitions. They will continue for the rest of your life and for the lives of those around you. Enjoy these transitions and the charge they bring into your life. They are life. Each is a path to discovering who you are, from the food you eat to the people you follow, they are all a part of curating your authentic self.

Be well, and I truly hope this helps you as you travel through all of life’s transitions and changes.

Perfect Imperfections

We all have things we could improve upon. If you didn’t there would be no point. You are forever learning, improving, growing and becoming a better person. Isn’t that the whole point of being a part of the human experience and experiment? To be better? Just don’t get caught up in your imperfections, because they are what make you perfect. They are the test others must go through if they are to find the beauty of you.

Never forget that you are perfectly human. Forgive yourself for being so. For being a little overweight some of the time, for being underweight at others, for not being quick enough on this or for rushing on that, for not having just the right words at the ready for all passions, for not being fully present every minute of every hour. For being forgetful, and for not believing in yourself all of the time. For believing in the wrong dreams because they seemed like the right ones, for falling in Love with the wrong person because your heart said to, for sympathizing with the wrong causes for all the right reasons.

These are all classrooms for learning who you are and for discovering what is important. Never be ashamed to learn something new, no matter how fixed your ideas seem to be.

Never stop learning – that is what it is to be divinely human, to be fully humanly human. The moment you stop improving who you are is the moment you die inside. You may still be walking around, smiling and socializing, but when your heart dies so too does your spirit and you become and empty shell of who you truly are.

Stay alive, keep making mistakes, keep tripping over your own two feet, and every time you fall, smile to yourself knowing that you just learned how not to walk again.

Box Breathing

When you feel as if you just hit the wall and you can see your energy slipping away, when every page becomes a twenty-minute struggle to focus your thoughts, this is exactly when you need to breathe into your box. There’s no magic to it, you don’t have to sit in lotus or hold your hands in neat little circles. All you have to do is sit exactly where you are and breathe.

In minutes you will feel yourself settle into your breath. Your stress and anxiety will go somewhere that isn’t you and your focus will return so that you can return to being the person you were. You know before the circus of the world overcame your best efforts.

It’s so easy and simple, you can do it over and over again no matter what the world throws at you. Yes, it comes from the Navy SEALs, but that’s an entirely different story. All you have to know is that it works and it is there for you whenever you need it.

All you have to do to activate your box breath is to breathe in for a count of five, allow your breath to settle for a count of five, then breathe out for a count of five, and again allow your breath to settle for a count of five, before beginning again.

In for five, settle for five, out for five, settle for five, repeat, repeat, repeat.

If five is too long, make yours a count of four. If it is not long enough, make your count six. The important thing is not the count, but the consistency of your breath. As with every other exercise I teach, find your own flow and make this one yours. Own it, re-frame it, fit it into your style and your life as you need to. Do not try to fit your needs into my or anyone else’s – but yours.

Blood pressure should be normal if you are taking generic Sildenafil Citrate.

That is it. As the shampoo bottle says, wash, rinse, repeat.

Now breathe into your own box and enjoy your day, your week and your life.

Be the person you were meant to be.

Be well and I hope this helps.

 

j.

 

What Would The Buddha Say?

What would the Buddha say?

All this talk about lineage and dharma, precepts and which form of Buddhism is best, whether Soto or Proto Zen should be followed, or the forms of Rinzai? Mahayana or Theravada?

To me, that is all semantics and superfluous. At the heart is would he even approve of the statues and processions, the flowing robes and flickering candles, the golden statues of his own image to which everyone bows? Would he be more content with practitioners simply seeking to meditate in their own way? Perhaps even out in nature as he did?

Having turned away from the path of formal ordination, I think he would have said, what he actually did say:

 

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it,

no matter if I have said it,

unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

 

My guess is that the Buddha would have spoken against the golden chalices and flowing robes that have filled so many zendos and which some monks believe are a necessary part of their ceremonies if they are to stay true to their lineage.

At some point the messages of the Buddha has gotten lost to the fund raising that some consider to be the foundation of their efforts to save the souls of sentient beings. Whether it is the precepts or the dharmas they dole out, they forget that their teachings have strayed far from the simple truth that is behind their words. And, that makes me very sad, because the original messages were so simple – to Love and have compassion for all things, to simply do no harm.

And this is the thread that links, not just Buddhism, but all faiths to the mass killings that plague our country. Those simple words that have been pushed aside remain the foundation of any faith – Love and Compassion.

What would the Buddha say?

Would the Buddha look at the way his simple message of Love and approve of how it is being practiced? Or would he want whatever money is being spent on robes and golden statues, the latest head sets and digital sound mixers so that the faithful can hear the voices of the holiest of holies tweaked so that they resonate deeply throughout the high ceilings and reach into the deepest recesses of the halls?

You already know the answers to this. It is within you.

I only hope the monks and clergy understand this as well. Faith and belief are not about how loud and far your voice carries, but how deeply you believe in the Love and compassion we all share.

If you read anything of history, you will know the faithful carried statuettes and shared scripture as they traveled the trade routes several thousand years ago. They shared their beliefs with other acolytes and found the common thread shared among the faithful of all religions – a thread of Love, compassion and caring.

Humans were not born to be killers. They were born to be compassionate, to look out for each other and to care. We were born into community and were raised in kinship. That is how we humans survived this long. That is why our streets are not ravaged with violence and why the antennas on our cars are not twisted into tangles when parked overnight, unwatched and free of alarms. It is why windows are not smashed in and doors are still left, in many communities, unlocked.

Let’s not deceive ourselves, it is still a dangerous world out there. But not because all humanity is evil, that is the work of just a few confused and angry individuals – oh yes and the wrongly open gun laws that a few organizations pay government officials to keep open.

The rest of us remain caring, Loving people hoping to help others and confused by the violence so few inflict. Many communities are still rocked by school and police violence, but that is also why people of every race, religion, gender and sexual persuasion see hope rather than despair as a way out. I truly believe that the next generation will do what my generation could not, and that is to say “enough!”

If you think these two topics, that of monks seeking money over saving, think again. One is based in doing no harm. The other is based in a warped sense of greed with which they convince themselves they are just protecting their flocks at any cost.

This week I ask you to ask the simplest of questions, what would the Buddha think about how his solitary practice has been transmitted to those around you? What would Jesus do in the halls that bear his name? What would Mohammad say? What would Abraham? What would our founding fathers? Is this really what they had in mind when they wrote Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

None of them saw the ugliness in people. Each of them saw the beauty that is still in our souls.

Shouldn’t each of us do the same for each other?

Meditating Cairn

Cairns have been around since humans first walked the earth.  They range from simple piles of stones to elaborate monoliths. They were first created as a way to tell those that followed that the path you are on is safe, that others have walked this way before, to carry on and continue your journey.

The Simple Truth Project chose the meditative cairn as our logo for the same reason. We are not a traditional Buddhist school. We are a collective of people who are on a similar journey. We are bound in kinship as a Sangha that is bound by our paths, to support, to share and to discover which thread that binds us is the right one to follow.

The meditative cairn we created is our way to give you comfort,  just as they do across the world, from mountains and highlands, to deserted beaches and inland waterways.

Join us at the Simple Truth Project so that we may walk beside you and guide you.

The more you become aware of the cairns that are all around you, the more you will see them throughout your day.  You will see that some were made by your ancestors and predate your birth, others were made during your lifetime to mark the path before you.

Some edifices are in the shape of buildings or people.  Ours is in the shape of a Buddha sitting in meditation.  Ours shows both the way, and the method.  We hope this will remind you that you are not alone on your journey,  that someone else has asked the same questions and has sought the same answers.

Our cairn is why we give students symbolic stones when they complete a step in their personal journey.  So that in time you can build your own cairn and show others that the journey they are on is a good one and to stay on their path wherever it may lead.

Where is your practice headed?

Meditation – Find Your Community

Every decision you make creates an entirely new universe for you to live in. Sometimes the choices you made yesterday streamlined your path for today, delivering you to your destination more quickly and with less stress.

Sometimes the choices you made caused you to stumble and even fall until you found your path again. Even if you never found you way back wherever you are is where you were meant to be, for better or for worse.

No decision is ever right or wrong. They simply put you on a different path that you either continue down or correct as you learn the very powerful lessons you carry with you throughout your life.

I am the first to say that some life lessons I would rather not have to repeat, but that is exactly the point; no matter which path you took you still arrived where you are today, in this moment, right here and now.

If you look back at your life, the decisions you made probably left you right back where you started from, perhaps a little scuffed and bruised, but with the life lessons you acquired from your experiences. I am not saying life is a bowl of cherries or always look on the bright side of life. Life is filled with suffering and misery. But if you can separate yourself from the physical and find the lesson you were meant to learn, it makes whatever you are going through a little easier to accept.

And this may just be the ultimate lesson to remember – that there are no bad decisions. There are only shorter and longer paths upon which to travel. Life is about learning the lessons you were meant to learn if you are to travel onward.

Do not bemoan what you think is a bad decision with a series of if only’s or what if’s. Embrace your decision and accept the outcome so that you can carry on with a deep breath and a knowing smile. Do not group your decisions together and blame yourself for your “mistakes.” Take each decision as a lesson learned that you can choose to repeat again or to avoid before you get to the point of having to make it again.

Right or left, “should I” or “shouldn’t I?” In the end your brain compiles as much data as it can so that you can make as well of an informed decision as possible, and then you leap in. Some new bit of information may arise or some new event may occur that may change your decision, but all you can do is keep your wits about you and respond to it as best you can. But you still end up going with your heart and your gut.

The more aware you are of your situation the better you can anticipate and respond. The more panicked you become the less able you are to respond.

This is why I say let go of all that mental chatter, breathe and smile to anyone who approaches you. Slow down and relax as you feel your emotions and opinions rise up from within. Be aware of them, but do not feel as if you have to respond to them.

Remind yourself that this very moment is what your meditation training has been for.

Then dive in and accept the best decision for what it is – a well informed choice that is ultimately made with your gut and your heart, not your brain.

If you would like help in these times know that you don’t have to do it alone, there is a community around you that is ready to support you. Please feel free to reach out, we can help you find your community.

 

 

Be well, and I hope this helps.