Q + A – People Can Change For One Another.

Several weeks ago a student came to me and said, “people don’t really change do they?” I did not respond at first, formulating my thoughts.  “I mean, not unless they are faced with an absolute necessity. They don’t really make the change they need to, do they?”

It was phrased as a question, but it was really a statement. I smiled, knowing where she was going with this. She was having trouble with her marriage, and did not want to be the one left behind. She knew where it was going, but afraid to admit it, even to herself.

I smiled, as I often do. I knew that she thought she knew the answer. It was why she was phrasing it as a question.

“Everyone can change,” I replied. “But they have to want to change if they are to do so. We can push them to change as much as we want to, but unless they truly want the change, it will never happen. That is why sometimes, some people will discover that it is not change that is needed, but a rephrasing of the question.”

We spoke a while longer. On the idea that the first question that enters our minds is rarely the question we actually need to ask, but a way for our minds to explore the situation we face, to drill down until we find the question we need to find.

She smiled back at me. We bowed our heads, feeling our foreheads touch, sharing the moment and the energy between us. She smiled and thanked me before leaving.

As she neared the edge of the rug her pillow rested upon, I stopped her. “You do know that nothing you can do can make him want to change, other than to be yourself. If he wants you, then it must be you he wants. Not some vision you create for him.”

I could see a tear in her eye form as she smiled and nodded.

We both knew the inevitability of the situation before her. In so many ways, the outcome was set. But how long it would take to arrive there was the question. Would she cling to the safety of the present, knowing it was wrong? Or would she stay true to her own convictions and her authentic self, and let the winds of the universe sort it out, as it inevitably does?

Two days ago I saw her again. This time she was smiling. After our meditation she paused. “You know, I think he really cares for me, for who I am.”

“It was inevitable,” I said.

I am not sure she even heard me.

“Neither of us had to change. But our life sure did. We just had to remember that part of who we were is who we still are.”

 

Tools To Take Action By

MY VIEW:

At times it really can all get to be too much some times. Over here we have a young African American by the name of Kalief Browder who committed suicide after behind held for three years on Rikers Island without behind convicted of a crime.

And over there, the one video that actually made me sick was of a Texas police officer throwing teens onto the ground and holding a young teen in a bikini down with her face down in the dirt. What was she, all of 100 pounds to his 200+?

The last time I was physically nauseous from watching a video was when I sat in awe watching the sheriff of Birmingham Alabama, Bull Connors, as he set police dogs and fire hoses on men, women and children who were simply marching in a peaceful march for equal rights.

That was more than 50 years ago. It was a time when my parent’s friends piled into buses and rode trains into the South to get rocks and worse hurled at them as they protested. My God Mother actually bears the scar from such a rock to this day, and she still laughed “All I could think of was ‘Thank God they don’t know I’m Jewish…”

Part of me is so sickened by how we are so quickly slipping back to where we were 50 years ago, that I have begun to doubt that we actually made any progress at all. At times I want to turn the Internet off and return to a state of naively blissful ignorance.

But we all know that is not the right course of action.

No, unfortunately that would only perpetuate the injustices that America is getting to be known for. Injustices that are toppling us from being a beacon of hope and opportunity around the world, to reflecting the lowest common denominator that is not ashamed to get their 15 minutes of fame however they are able.

From the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy, we have fallen. We are no longer leading the space race. We are no longer curing the causes of cancer. Instead we are running after the false Gods of money, creating cures for illnesses we created as we turn our back on the societal illnesses that are all around us.

When a well known Buddhist tells a story of accidently dropping a fifty dollar bill into the hands of a homeless person, and then taking it back to give the man a one dollar bill instead, I know the illness of our society is reaching a new low, or perhaps we have already reached it.

 

YOUR CHALLENGE:

So here is a challenge for everyone out there. It has nothing to do with meditating for 21 days or giving up petroleum products. It is not about selling your car and buying a bike. There are no 10 day retreats to run off to. It is simply this.

DO SOMETHING.  DO ANYTHING.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE AND MAKE IT COUNT.

STAND UP AND BE COUNTED IN SOME WAY.

No matter what your issue is, I have included a list of people to contact. At this point all you have to do is pick and click. The difference you make could be the life of a teen at a pool party, or in time, could be your own.

  • POLICE VIOLENCE: Write a letter to the governor of Texas to complain about the treatment of teens at a pool party. Acknowledge that yes, some may have jumped over the turnstile at a city pool, but that is no reason for a white PEACE officer of THE LAW to do what he did!
  • INSTITUTIONAL INJUSTICE: Write a letter to the Mayor of New York and refuse to spend your vacation money in the five boroughs if he does not do something about Riker’s Island, NOW!
  • PRESIDENTIAL RACE: Send an email to the Presidential Candidates and let them know you will not vote for them unless they speak out on X, Y, or Z issue!
  • BE NICE: Hold the door for someone for no reason at all.
  • SMILE: Smile and say please and thank you today and every day.
  • LGBT: Call the editor of your local newspaper and tell them you want to see more coverage of the LGBT issue, and no, showing how sexy Bruce Jenner has become is not it!
  • GUNS & NRA: Send an email to all of the above that says if it is fair to ID a person to the USA from voter fraud, then it is good enough to protect us from guns.
  • POLICE KILLINGS: Let your mayor know that if the police can kill 464 people in just the first five months of 2015, then they are no longer public SERVANTS, and yes they can start wearing body cameras.

No, I am not so naive to think that any of these things will really do anything. But maybe, just maybe, if we all start making small changes in the way we watch over each other, and watch over our own actions, we can bring back a little bit of the energy that started the Great Experiment that was the United States before it fails miserably in a ball of fire and smoke and ash.

 

YOUR TOOLS

If your excuse for not taking action is that you are not sure who to contact, please see the links below.

Members of the 114th Congress [phone, email, postal addresses – House & Senate] http://www.contactingthecongress.org/

Governors’ Office Addresses [By State]

http://www.nga.org/cms/home/governors/staff-directories–contact-infor/col2-content/governors-office-addresses-and-w.html

Presidential Candidates [By Name]

http://www.politics1.com/p2016.htm

 

 

Monday Moments: Meditation & Doodling

By definition, a doodle is “a drawing made absentmindedly.”
Interesting.

Perhaps it is time to update the dictionary.

Now that we know what is going on in the mind of the doodler, or at least in some of the minds…

In fact, research is tells us that the mind of a doodler, either absent minded or not, is active.  Very much so.

For some, the act of doodling helps them visualize the problems and issues that the subconscious is working on. For others, it is a way to free up the subconscious to enable it to explore unchartered areas.

Recent research in neuroscience and psychology shows that doodling can actually help people stay more focused, understand new concepts and retain information more readily. A blank page can serve as an extended playing field for the brain, allowing you to refine and improve on creative thoughts and ideas.

In fact, according to a 2009 study in Applied Cognitive Psychology, people who were encouraged to doodle while listening to a list of people’s names being read were able to remember 29% more of the information on a surprise quiz later, than those who did not.

If you’ve never doodled before, or you are not sure how, I want to introduce you to a classic exercise called Blind Contour Drawing. It is a classic intro-to-art exercise that involves drawing an object without looking at your paper while you do so.

No, you should not expect your drawing to look like a Monet or to win any awards, but you may be surprised at how alive it actually is. As some have said, “It is a way to see, without seeing.” Better still, it is a way to truly see the object before you, free from your own interpretations that might hold you back from your own creativity and from drawing what is truly there.

If at first this is uncomfortable for you, try taking a moment to find your seat and your breath. Breathe slowly and deeply as you fix your gaze upon an object in front of you. In time to your breath and without looking at your paper, reach out and pick up your pen or pencil. Clear your mind and begin to draw without look at your paper. If you do, simply smile, blink a few times, and begin again.

Refrain from looking at your pen or your paper. Instead, notice the lines and the angles of the object before you. See the curves  and the shadows, and allow your hand to flow freely.

Allow yourself to let go as you let your hand float for a few minutes. Do not worry, your mind will not allow you to go too long. It will bring you back; and when it does feel free to look down at what you have drawn.

At first you may laugh. But as you continue to look from paper to object, you will begin to see points of connection. You will begin to see where you hand took a turn that mimicked a turn in your object. That is your cue to smile. That is the point of connection between the object, your mind and the paper before you.

It is okay to set your drawing aside. It is okay to toss it in the bin. It is also okay to remember this exercise when you need to let go of the noise in your head so that you can focus on the task before you, as we all do from time to time.

Be well, and enjoy your Blind Contour Drawing.

A sort of doodling all on its own.

 

 

 

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Monday Moments: Meditation & Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a powerful tool.  As a not-so-simple man said eons ago, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

In those simple words I am constantly reminded that forgiveness is not just an essential part of being human, forgiveness is a very powerful tool for letting go.

Forgiveness plays a part in every major religion out there. It is also a crucial part of the human condition. But we must also remember, forgiving others is just one step along the path of humanity. The next step lies in your ability to forgive yourself.

The dictionary definition of forgiveness is the complete and unabsolved release of past transgressions without any expectation of payment in return.

It is an interesting definition; but it leaves out two key elements that are important in the modern world. First, it fails to include the act of self-forgiving, and second, it fails to account for transgressions that may happen in the future.

After all, forgiving yourself is a key part of getting rid of the regret and remorse you most likely carry with you from the past. Forgiveness is also an important part of starting over and starting anew. If you are always thinking about something someone did in the past, how are you going to trust them in the future?

The answer to both lies in your ability to forgive…

“You ripped my heart out, but I forgive you” “you cheated on me, but I forgive you” “you hurt me, but I forgive you.” Do these sound familiar? At what point will you say, “I forgive you, but enough is enough, and this time we are going to do things differently.”

How many times have you found yourself berating yourself with words like, “I am so stupid, I can’t believe I just did that””, or “I am so out of my league, what am I even doing here? We are going to fail miserably.” As versus how many times have you heard yourself say, “Okay, so I messed up. What happened, happened and there is no way to get it back. So, I forgive myself, let’s let it go and move on.”

The truth is, no matter how much you forgive publicly, you still harbor some guilt or shame or resentment on the inside. Until you forgive yourself and those around you completely, your words will  never have the power they should. And in the end it will sound more like “I forgive you, but you’re still kind of wrong,” or, “Okay, I forgive myself, but I’m still an idiot for not seeing the truth.”

Either way, it is still okay. Forgiveness is such a powerful part of who you are, that even partial forgiveness will help to clear the air. Just do not forget to act on it.

If you truly want to get ahead of the game, learn to forgive unabashedly and completely; and yes, even for things that have yet to occur.

You know what your own faults are. You also have a pretty good idea about the faults of those around you. Why carry them around? Why not forgive them in advance and let it go? You might be surprised at how good it feels, freed from the weight of anticipation.

Starting now, forgive yourself of the inevitable. While you are at it, forgive those around you.

That does not mean you have to accept things as they are, you simply have to welcome them as a very real part of being human, and focus your energy on fixing them, rather than holding blame.

With forgiveness, you will quickly find how much easier life can become.

When you stop anticipating what others might or might not do, and just let it happen, your temper will flair up less. When you forgive yourself for whatever slips may occur, you will find that voice of doubt will take its leave.

Learn to acknowledge life as it is for all its faults, and it will simply begin to flow.

And isn’t that what you want?

Be well this week, and forgive.

 

 

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A Meditation on Self Thought – Buddha’s Kalama Sutta

Do not believe in anything just because:

  • It is accepted by many,
  • It is written in books,
  • It is spoken by teachers and elders,
  • It is handed down in tradition.

But if, after analysis, it is found to accord with reason, and to result in the common good, then accept it, and live up to it.

(Kalama Sutta)

 

Most of you know the Kalama Sutta, even if you may not know the name. It is a formal meditation on self thought as set by The Buddha.

To many it is seen as a carte blanche to do whatever it is they want to do; for following one’s own sense of right or wrong, or as a justification for going against a proscribed path of action. In reality it actually sets our a far more rigorous path to follow. One of study, of reflection, of contemplation and of true understanding. The Kalama Suttra is associated with the Buddha and states that we should, no must, disavow outside opinions, even our own opinions, at times:

  • Traditions are not to be followed simply because they are traditions.
  • Reports, or historical accounts or news, are not to be followed simply because the source seems reliable.
  • Even one’s own preferences are not to be followed simply because they seem logical or resonate with one’s feelings.

Instead, the Kama Sutta tells the reader to actively pursue knowledge on their own. That any view or belief must be tested by the results it yields when put into practice; and — to guard against the possibility of any bias or limitations in one’s understanding of those results — they must further be checked against the experience of people who are wise.

The ability to question and test one’s beliefs in an appropriate way is called appropriate attention. The ability to recognize and choose wise people as mentors is called having admirable friends.

In today’s era of misinformation, both online and in the mainstream media, I think it is more important now than ever before to be reminded that it is not just today’s media that misleads. It has always been thus. And it is up to each of us to make an informed decision based on the facts at hand.

 

 

Credit for the original concept of this must be given to the translator:

Kalama Sutta: To the Kalamas

translated from the Pali by

Thanissaro Bhikkhu

© 1994

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.065.than.html

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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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?

Walk Your Own Path

Do not try to find yourself.

That only leads to unhappiness and frustration.

Simply allow your journey to unfold before you.

Remind yourself to enjoy the ride as it opens up.

Enjoy the experience before you without judgment, and allow it to pass.

Simply observe, be aware, and breathe.

In time you will look back and see how far you have come.

Monday Moments – The Sounds in Your Life

You live in a tactile world, yet not everything is soft.

You touch the granite of the buildings as you pass.

You touch the cold glass and steel of the car before you enter.

You enjoy the hard foundation that Terra Firma provides you.

So why do you allow yourself to grow angry at the hard sounds of your life?

Perhaps it is time to rethink your approach to them.

Instead of turning away from the harsh sounds, embrace them and welcome them. Allow them to flow into the wonderful cacophony of white noise that is your world. Instead of viewing the experiences of your life as good or bad, begin to see the world as it truly is.

Learn to limit the noise in your life as you create harmony in the sounds that are all around.

  • The people talking at the table next to yours? Let it go.
  • The noise of the traffic? Let it go.
  • The annoying pitch of your boss’s rant?  Let it go.

See the world as it is all around you.  Refuse to let your brain weave patterns for you as you grow aware of the substance rather than the noise.

Take the time taste the air with every breath. Smile at the scents as they play upon your tongue. Enjoy the thoughts your mind creates. Just do not feel the need to live in them. Be aware of each, without feeling the need to respond.

Hear, taste and smell the details of the world you live in – then decide what to focus on and what to let slide into the background of your world.

Are you actually nervous, or are you smelling the pheromones of an ancient beast about to attack?

Is it your ego playing on your response based on 40,000 year old programming, or is there really a modern day threat?

Make sure the choices you are making are truly your choices, and not some pattern created by that fight or flight response that kept our ancestors alive.

Be aware of the noise in your world, and choose what you want to let it and what you want to let go.

It truly is up to you…

After all, it is YOUR life.

Why not live it as YOU want?