Smile on This Humpday

9 Tumors, 7 weeks of radiation, and a half dozen seizures later, and I still don’t have a clue of what will happen next in my life. But you know what? It’s okay. Because I don’t look at any of those events as an end-all. In fact, every time I have walked into physical therapy to overcome the deficits I acquired from a recent procedure, I look around and seen people who are much worse off than myself.

At the end of the day, I walk out telling myself, “you know what? I am walking out, and not everyone in here is able to say that.”

So think of that this hump day, as you face the issues that will lay themselves out before you. Because, while you can dictate where you want your life to go, you can never dictate what issues you will have to overcome.

That said, here are some things to keep in mind to help you get through your day with a smile, and end your day on a positive note:

  • Eat Your Breakfast: I know you have been hearing this since day 1, but you know what, every so often your parents were right. Giving yourself enough energy in the morning helps to ensure your brain and your body have the power they need to help you stay healthy, happy and productive even when the world is knocking down your door. It doesn’t have to be eggs, bacon, and all the fixings, but eat something. You will feel the difference.
  • Take a Ten Minute Break: every hour or so. It took me way too many years to learn that our brains just cannot maintain a high output level if you force yourself to plow through your day. So here’s an idea, use that coffee break as a way to hit the pause button. Every hour, get up, get a cup of coffee or tea, take a deep breath, and simply watch your cup mindfully as you breathe. You will be amazed at how quickly your brain will start producing again, and at a higher level than before.
  • Talk to People: Yes, you are a social creature. You gain energy when you interact with others. So get up, wander around, and say hello to a few people. It can be your office-mate, it can be someone else’s assistant, it can be the person at the register at your favorite deli or coffee place. They don’t need to hear all the boring details of your work. They don’t need to be a part of your team. They simply need to be human. That’s right, go out and chat someone up, and then see how that conversation has changed your outlook on work and life, in general.
  • Do Something Different: We all get set in our ways, and yes those ways are not always the best way to keep our body and minds active. So do something different. Change the patterns of your day. Take a different route to work. Laugh inappropriately. Have something different at lunch. Try a new location for lunch. Mix it up. It will create new networks in your brain and keep your mind active trying to figure out what you’re up to, and that will keep you young at heart no matter how old you may be.

It’s not difficult to stay alive, be more productive and come out more human than when you went in. In fact, it’s pretty easy. Try to remind yourself to do just one of these things and you will be surprised at how your life will change for the better.

If you want more tips, feel free to sign up for our emails on the  right, or at https://simple-truth.com/blog.

Be well and enjoy the rest of the week.

 

 

j.

Q+A: Find God in Your Meditation

Before our session started a new student asked me about God and meditation. “How does it all work?,” she asked.

These are two terms I increasingly hear together, especially since the rebirth that meditation is experiencing these days. It used to be that meditation was so closely tied to Buddhism that one just accepted they were born of the same cloth. But no more, and rightly so. Now that the idea of God has pulled away from the Biblical character raining down fire and brimstone on sinners, and has become a more Loving entity, more synonymous with the teachings of Christ or Mohammad, or even Abraham, finding God within yourself is a much easier concept to pursue.

It is why so many monks, like myself, have found a balance when they practice meditation. Regardless of religious affiliation meditation is a way to transcend the physical distractions of the body and find the higher self we so often seek. It is within that higher self, that we begin to touch upon the divine.

With practice, meditation will take you to a higher level of awareness, to a place where your consciousness is free to play without the pain and distractions of the human experience we are all a part of. In so many ways meditation allows you to find enlightenment in your body and mind so that you open up to the connections we all share on a more spiritual level.

Even if you are not a practitioner of any religion or consider yourself an agnostic or an atheist, there are elements behind a good meditation practice that will connect you with those around you, uncovering the Love that is common among all sentient beings.

“How does this work?” she asked.

I explained to her that meditation is not about floating on a cloud of Nirvana. It is a practice, and like any practice it takes time to develop. We do not all become Beethoven’s or Olympic class gymnasts over night. We sit. We learn to quiet our minds. We allow our focus to develop so that our awareness can grow. As our awareness grows, our consciousness expands. And when that happens we can begin to adopt more advanced meditation techniques.

I led her through basic meditation; sitting, breathing, acknowledging and letting go. Then I led her through the Simple Truth Method, through the thought interrupting Out Breath exercise and through the connection meditation that helps you become aware the people that are near you and support you through the natural Love that is within all of us. I then showed her how to weave the Love, understanding and empathy of these people into the intentions for you to follow, is the basis for how you want to live your life.

“That is how you find God in your meditations. Not as an angry being who is watching your every move, but as a caring, loving, understanding entity that represents the Love that flows within and around each of us.”

She smiled and said thank you. I held her hand. “Remember, there are two levels of meditation. The first trains you how to sit, how to calm yourself, and how to rid yourself of the stress and distractions of the world we live in.

“The second allows you to transcend this world and introduce yourself to the Love that is God on your terms.”

Your God Is You

God  is not Christian or Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist. God is a combination of all the natural laws in the universe that we witness, as well as the LOVE we feel. It is the energy that is within us without knowing where it comes from.

It is not we who decide who our god is. God is the destination of the path we end up following.  In the end you will find that whatever faith you decide to pursue, that the Creator simply is. The creator simply set everything in motion, all those billions of years ago – whether through a Big Bang, or simply the drop of a leaf.

From there, it has always been up to us to define the world we live in, to try to improve upon it, with good intention and with the Love that is within each of us.

If you doubt this, simply look around. Everything, every creature on land and in the air has the same bone structure as that first creature that crawled out of the sea. We all share the same spine, the same rib cage, one bone in our upper extremity and two bones in our forearm or calves, a small clutch of bones in our hands and feet that expand out into fingers or wings or toes. The fact is we share DNA with practically all life on earth at one level or another. We simply missed the Love we were supposed to share along the way. In the end, we are not so special. We are:

  • 98% genetically similar to a chimpanzee
  • 92% genetically similar to a mouse
  • 44% genetically similar to a fruit fly
  • 26% genetically similar to yeast
  • 18% genetically similar to a common weed

So all those small ideologies that we created out of our own ego to differentiate people based on race, age, sexual preference of being gay, straight, bisexual or transgendered; it is not god who decreed we are different. It is us. If anything it is his or her way to test your capacity to just LOVE one another – just as Jesus or Muhammad, or Buddha or Abraham would have wanted you to.

So the next time you feel your anger rise because someone does not fit your ideal, look within. If  you feel some comment start to bubble up from your gut about the way someone looks or acts, stop yourself before you say or do something irreversibly foolish in the eyes of whatever creator you wish to believe in. Remind yourself, that this is just a test that your god has given you. A test that is going to look really foolish in whatever book of deeds your spiritual leader refers to, or that you think will be referred to your judgment day.

Zen For Busy People

Join us at the New York Public Library on February 22nd at 5:30 pm for this FREE event – Zen For Busy People.

As part of our Meditation4All program, there is no cost to you. It is simply our way of sharing meditation to everyone interested in learning, resetting, and improving their ability to overcome the roadblocks we all face in the contemporary world we live in.

Stay for forty-five minutes and leave with a series of simple techniques that are both meditative and mindful, that you can use at anytime to help you:

  • Calm your nerves for the Event Image NYPL-Mulberry 010816day ahead
  • Reset and Re-balance no matter what happens
  • Learn to Take Life in Stride
  • Be resilient & overcome
  • Let it Go

This will be a fun and enlightened evening that combines guided meditations, open conversations, tips and, insights more. You will leave feeling calm and relaxed, as well as rejuvenated and prepared to live your life, Your way.

It may just be the best 75 minutes you will spend in 2016, and beyond.

New York Public Library – Mulberry Branch –

FREE

10 Jersey Street, Nolita

February 22nd, 5:30pm – 6:45

www.simple-truth.com/event-calendar

 

Look Forward – Meditation & Baby Steps For 2016

Welcome to Monday and to the year ahead.

Do not look back. Look Forward to School, to Work, and to  Life.

The holidays are over, so it 2015. It’s time to face 2016 with elation, excitement, and energy.

If those feelings are not there, meditate for a moment but no too long. If there is some trepidation, do not allow yourself to become overwhelmed. Turn that knot into a fiery ball of energy from within and without.

Know that some loose ends will never get tied up. Simply assess the hand you have been dealt and move on – past the loose threads that are left behind.

Better still, use them to plot your course for the year ahead. Take one step in the direction you want to go. Do not over think the year past or the year ahead.

Life does not come with a cleanly pressed hem. Life presents a rough edge that it is tattered and frayed. It is up to you to accept that as the beauty that is found in the imperfections that is.

Take one small step in the direction you want to go. Reflect on where it is leading you. Find the inevitability on where your path leads. If an opportunity comes, take it. If it moves you in the right direction, stay with it. If it doesn’t spread out your hands and find another path to follow.

Forget about those big resolutions you used to make. They will only end in disappointment. Forget about setting goals for the physical world you may never meet – there is too much going on outside to take it all on your shoulders.

Instead, focus on how you want to maintain yourself. Focus on your intentions, on how you want to live your life, how you want to be known, or how you want to look back at the end of 2016 and realize how you want to see yourself.

Then become that person.

 

Is Your Style of Meditation a Cup or a Sword?

Which style of meditation or yoga is right for you?

Some people tends toward the cup, while others tend toward the sword. One reflects the masculine side of human nature, the other the feminine. Neither is right. Neither is wrong. Each simply connotes the basic nature of the human experience. They have little to do with being a man or a woman, and everything to do with the nature of existence. One speaks toward nurturing, the other toward a well defined path. They are simply facets of our humanity.

Many teach a softer form of yoga and meditation; that is more reflective of the cup. Yes, there are elements of the sword in those styles, but for the most part, they are soft and gentle. The other style, found in practices like Zazen, are more reflective of the sword, providing a strong foundation and a solid path upon which to grow.

Many men find this style more reflective of their natural state of mind. The important element to keep in mind, is not hard or soft, but which is right for you and when. The Simple Truth Method is created to help men and women from all paths to decide for themselves which techniques to use for different purposes. Yes, our students learn to weave a tapestry that aligns with your natural state. At some times, that state tends toward the sword, at others it tends toward the cup – depending on what you are going through in the modern world we now live in.

If you are seeking a style of meditation that reflects who you are, and have not found that in such styles as Samatha or Vipassana or Transcendental, then you may consider the Simple Truth Method, a style that helps you become who you are.

It is why so many men and women have found themselves more comfortable weaving traditional techniques together, into their own practice. On that fits their needs, in a way that works for them, free from judgment, free from the need to fit into something that they simply are not.

Sword or Cup – which are you? Which do you naturally tend toward?

Morning Meditation

Before waking this morning I lay in bed, one hand on my stomach, the other on my chest feeling the slow rise and fall of each inhale and exhale as I allowed my mind to stir in a gentle Buddha Breath. My mind woke, but not too much, never leaving the gentle meditation of my waking.

As time slid by the light changed across Manhattan. I rose and walked to my cushion. There I sat. I brought my Waking Buddha Breath with me as I lowered myself into a formal seated meditation. I started with a Pranayama OutBreath to clear my head of my dreams and focus my mind. The rapid chuffs of air that escaped through my nose in the short, sharp puffs that has given this technique its name were strong and even. One every second or so which started in my abdomen and worked themselves up to the room and the world around me.

When there was no more air to give I was left floating on my seat, my awareness followed my meditation, naturally landing on that place where my sit bones met my seat. It drew my attention down, to my feet, to my ankles as they pressed against the floor, tooting me  to the pillow and the earth below. Each reminded me of the roots of the tree that my body began to emulate.

They rose up the trunk that was now my spine and body as my consciousness gently scrolled through my five senses. My eyes, I was aware of the patterns on the back of my eyelids as the last dreams left me. My ears, as I heard the sounds of the room, the building, the world gently coming to life around me; aware of each, acknowledging and welcoming them into my world, my awareness, my consciousness. My sense of touch as my sense of self dropped to my hands and my heart.

My meditation paused at my heart for a moment as my breath slid from quiet into a mantra meditation. Less a mantra actually and more the wonderfully rasping sounds as I felt it stir against my vocal cords, delivering that wonderfully deep and soulful sound one associates with monks; resonating low and vibrating deep as if reaching to the energy that surrounds each of us.

That same resonance and vibration found its way downward to that place in my lower abdomen and centered itself within me. It wrapped itself around my chakra and shifted into the thoughts of safe, healthy, happy. My own mind followed those thoughts as the vibration of my chanting extended those thoughts of me to you, from I to us, and from us to a feeling of one.

My mind, my awareness, my consciousness shifted somewhere in there I became nestled in that wonderful network of Love that is the backdrop to our world, that we so easily forget is there. With the feeling of energy coming back to me as I connected with each of you, I smiled and continued to breathe. I let go of the callings of the morning and they let go in return.

There is no need to start my day just yet. The day will come soon enough. I simply need to watch the morning sun lighten the sky. I simply need to watch myself to stay centered in the bliss that my morning practice has given me this morning and every morning that I remember to follow it.

 

Much Love

Meditation: Peace is Within You

Did you know that peace is within you?

 

It is there every moment of every day.

You simply have to settle your mind

With Meditation

And reach for it.

You simply have to acknowledge

That you are out of sorts

And off of your best

You simply need to admit

That you cannot do everything.

 

It is okay

Nobody can.

 

We all have our limits

But the beauty of admitting what your limits are

Makes your brain aware

That you are okay with them

 

So smile when you are overwhelmed this week

Breathe when you are finding the stress and anxiety

We all so often talk about

Let your mind settle

And admit that you are human

 

As we all are.

 

A Meditation on Hipsters & Hippies

My brother returned one evening while visiting. “I had the most amazing conversation with a cabbie today.”

Don’t get me wrong but he has this innate ability to strike up the most amazing conversations with the most amazing people wherever he goes. It’s a knack he has had for most of his life.

The cabbie had just left San Francisco because “I swear, you can’t walk into a coffee shop without some self-important hipster pontificating on something they know absolutely nothing about. I don’t know, am I just an old fart pontificating about ‘In my day? Perhaps. Do I care? Not really. But in my day, you went to a coffee house to have a conversation, which means listening and talking about some subject of mutual interest. These “hipsters” today, they don’t care about learning anything new. They just care about being heard.’

I could not help myself but I wanted to learn where the terms hipster came from and did it have anything to do with the word hippie. I did a little research to make sure I had my facts in order. So I write this not as some treatise on hipsters and hippies, or on the fading coffee shop culture,  but in the hopes that history does not repeat itself; which is something I already see happening all around us. I care more about a generation who cares more about how they look than what experiences they have and how they leverage those experiences to form the opinions they have, all on their own.

I do not say that idly. I say that because I have seen it here, in New York City, as well as in most cities I have been to. Recently graduated and somewhat flush with cash [even though they will swear to their poverty] and yes, believe me, we all lived three or more to a one-bedroom  apartment at some point in our lives. Rather than moving home or complaining about it, we just took our lumps as part of the learning experience this all was and quietly crept up whatever ladder we happened to be on. “If you don’t like it jump to whatever ladder suits you, and start climbing that one. It ain’t gonna get easier, so you might as well make sure you’re on the right ladder,” was the advice I received one night from a grizzled elder.

Either way, the moniker “hipster,” comes from a group back in the 60s who wanted to be hip and cool. They wore clothes to separate them from the mainstream, slung guitars on their backs and filled the coffee houses to hang out and discuss the issues of their days; which included the Cold War, Landing on the Moon, Communism and McCarthyism, and yes, The Man. But, did they do anything about it? No. Which is a shame, because the hipsters were a group of coffee drinking, self-aggrandizing/self-pontificating group who did little to help the world.

It is a shame, but they were eventually replaced by a group who called themselves the hippies who actually effected change at most steps of the way. Yes, they had some great parties Kin Kesey’s Electric CoolAid Acid Test, Woodstock of course, but more important they opened their eyes to Eastern philosophies, they started a whole Back to Nature movement, they lived in Yurts and brought the nation’s attention to eating natural foods free from pesticides and fertilizers, all of which helped launch the movements you see today.

I write this not as a way to bash today’s hipsters, but as a sage bit of advice to not follow in the steps of the hipsters before you. Learn from those before you. Take your ideals and your passion to actually make a change in today’s world that lasts well into the future. Think of two generations away, and ask yourself, “what is my legacy going to be?”

Believe me, tomorrow’s Hippies are already nipping at your heels. They are already asking employers about their efforts to green the future, they are already turning down jobs from companies who are not acting upon a People/Profits/Planet agenda, and they are putting their money where their mouths are.

You probably have all the clothes you need. So turn away from the consumerism that is tugging at you, think as the hippies did before you about things like meditation, getting back to nature, putting your hands in the soil and breathing in the loam. Believe me, it will do more for your life and your conscience than looking cool and pontificating in whatever coffee shop you call home…

Q+A – What Does It Feel Like When The Brain Reboots? Seizure Pt II

Moments of Enlightenment

This is the wiring diagram of a human brain. It helps me to understand the complexities of the brain and of my recoveries.

I used to describe the recovery from a seizure as a series of awakenings, as an ongoing experience that rolls out before you and continues to grow and expand as my brain reconnects itself and comes back online. But it is more than that. It is part physical, part psychological, and yes, part spiritual.

I would describe it as an expanding experience that includes a higher level of cognition which pushes beyond where my experiential limits used to be. It is as if, once opened, the pathways that were at once limited become limitless – beyond where the eye could at one time see.

I know this is as much physical as it is metaphysical. I realize much of this is a function of my brain repairing itself and my neurons re-knitting the old pathways, but I cannot help but drop the limiting thoughts that used to define me, to peek into the void beyond the horizon.

Physically, I understand that the myelin that sheathed my nerves was probably weakened during my seven weeks of radiation. [Myelin is the insulating covering of protein and fatty substances that protects the nerves of the brain, spinal cord and body. Unlike the insulation of a power cord, it is not designed to prevent electrical shocks as much as it is to hold the electrical impulses within the neurons, enabling them to transmit signals more quickly and efficiently along the neural network of cells.]

It is one reason the doctors and I think I had my seizure  in the first place. Seven weeks of radiation has a way of wearing away the myelin, leaving the nerves a bit raw.

As the myelin rebuilds, the synapses in the brain become stronger, the neurons engage and mesh together, recreating the network and the memories that I remember having. I am sure a certain level of neuroplasticity comes into play as the brain takes into account what is going on around it, enhancing the most relevant areas first, even letting go of some areas it deems less important.

In a way, I get a new brain. As this happens, it feels as if I am witnessing my memory expand at a rapid pace. The result is a hyper fast experience of watching my mind expand, not just rebuilding its old self, but often going beyond where it was, pushing past the old boundaries, and sometimes even forgetting or ignoring where they were.

In terrestrial terms, when I first left the hospital I had a very limited awareness of where I was. We often speak of being present – well, this was it. My focus was on the pavement immediately in front of my feet. I was not worried about what happened yesterday or the day before. I was not worried about what was coming up. The past and the future were not even concepts I could grasp. Mine was a very immediate and present-moment experience, all day, every day.

As my memories and my cognition came back online, I became aware of the entire block in front of me. I began to realize at some point I would reach the end of the block, and with it the concept of the future came into being. With that concept the street names beyond the block I was on became real.

I quickly learned if I went out on a ramble I would easily become lost, as in 100 feet out, I would lose my sense of direction and have to stop for a few minutes to regain my bearings. If instead I followed a set path, i.e., walking down a street I was familiar without turning down a side street, the streets in front and behind me would start to scroll as if a map was being unrolled with every step I took. Even the side streets would start to roll out and expand in every direction.

It was a fascinating experience to watch as my brain reconnected itself. I would have sudden realizations of the stores that were on this block and the next. I would not always remember their names, but I would often remember the smell of a bakery, the energy and the bustle of a coffee shop, or the emotional connection to a bookstore. The memories were not just physical, but emotional as well.

As the grid around me expanded from one block to three and to ten, I found myself having to stop on a corner, standing still and staring blankly at a sign or a tree, as my awareness and cognitive abilities caught up with my physical location and my brain’s growing network.

When I finally made it to the Hudson River – perhaps six blocks away – I practiced a walking meditation as I took in the smell of salt in the air. I removed my shoes to feel the cold planks of the boardwalk beneath my feet. I kept to the edge of the path to feel the reeds against my legs; it was the sensations I was after.

As those came in, I begin to smell the more subtle scents along the path, I could hear the birds singing, I could even hear the wavelets along the banks of the river. I became aware of the individual sounds that make up that wonderful tapestry of white noise that we all live in.

Perhaps this is why I teach a meditation that enables my students to embrace the world around them; to acknowledge and appreciate the individual sights and sounds that make up their world without feeling the need to attach themselves to each one.

About this time I also looked across the river to see the trees and the sky and the clouds that are beyond the walls of Manhattan. I can see where the Hudson flows out into the ocean and my mind quickly puts it all into place, that yes, there is a big beautiful world out there.

This is also the moment where I let go and allow my mind to roam, not stopping it at the edges where my brain says “real” or “not real”, or separating the “physical” from the “metaphysical.” Instead I enter a playground where I allow the sensations from each to overlap.

I begin to remember what happened during my seizure. I remember feeling the overload. I remember my brain shutting down. I remember my body closing off, and I remember giving myself up to the kindness of strangers, unable to move or to respond. And it is about this time that I am reassured of the kindness of human nature. Where not once has my experience tuned into the torture scenes so often found in the movies we are forced to endure.

Instead, people have always reached out, helped, and done so with kindness. It is about this time that I find myself smiling, knowing that I am on the right path.