Stillness in the Modern World

Stillness:

It is that wonderful quality of being fully present no matter where you are. It is a pure mental state cultivated on the Buddhist path to nirvāna
A Buddhist might call it upekkha. A Muslim speaks of stillness when they use the word aslama, in terms of submitting to Allah’s will. In Hebrew, the word is hishtavut. In the Bhagavad Gita, the epic poem of the warrior Arjuna, the word is samatvam. The ability to be Still – is the ability to be truly present without feeling the need to do anything. It is the focused calm that comes from a balanced mind— and to at peace with yourself and the world around you. The ancient Greeks spoke of euthymia when they contemplated that state of stillness.

The concept of stillness, to be centered as the chaos of the world spins around you, and, as one master once taught me, to observe the circus as it spins around you and to act only when it is necessary. “A true warriors never acts out of anger,” he would say, “be still and let them come to you. Simply hear only that which needs to be heard. Speak only what needs to be said and possess the quiet that comes from being still.

Stillness is that quiet moment of inspiration from which to draw your best words and ideas as you need them. It is when your inspiration comes from within. To be able to reflect while being an active part of a conversation or to be able to search through your memory in order to have the right answer when it is called for.

Stillness is that ability to step back and reflect while others scramble for an answer.

Stillness is also the art that allows you to make room for gratitude and empathy. Most important stillness is the seed from which your spiritual center of energy grows. It is one of the most powerful forces in creation from which to draw when you need it most. Those of you who charge ahead with big plans and even bigger dreams will find both dashed to pieces before your true battles really begin.

To those unfamiliar with it, the idea of being still can be a little ephemeral, but it doesn’t need to be. Stillness does not just happen it is a virtue that can be developed over time. It comes from hard work. It comes from sitting in meditation, practicing in order to access the focused calm that is within you. When you train your mind to be still, it is like muscle memory. Your mind remembers how to find the pathway to the stillness that is within you. What follows are some exercises you can perform to bring stillness into your life and to make it easier to access when you need it most.

Write. I am not a fan of the word or idea of journaling, or keeping a diary. The idea of it just reeks of the need to do it every day and if you miss a day you are filled with regret and a sense of failure, just because you missed a day of writing down your thoughts when you had none or when nothing of note happened.

So don’t journal. Simply write when you feel the need to write. Write when something big happens or when you feel the need to express something that upset you when dealing with an issue, or that made you excited or unbelievably happy.

I think it was Anne Frank who wrote “Paper is more patient than people.” It is, because it allows you to watch as your own thoughts unfurl and whatever issues and opportunities roll out in front of you as your pen moves across the paper. Both are a door to your inner spirit and your subconscious mind. They have a way of helping you explore your inner self without it seeming like an intrusion. With each word you become more willing to take the baby steps of self-exploration in writing than through speaking.

See The World As A Monk Does.

Beauty is everywhere, you simply have to slow down to see it. The beauty of the world you pass through is in the details. It is also in the grand design and in the interconnections that become apparent when you slow down to notice them. No two people see the world in the same way. Everyone has a different perspective that is born from their situations and their personal histories. Each has learned to interpret what they see in their own way. Learn to see the world as it appears to you. The important part is not how you see it, but that your slow down to enable you to see it, smell it, hear it and feel it however you want to.
Simply remind yourself to stay in the here and now, in your present moment without the need to follow your ego into the next moment by anticipating what will happen next.

Remind yourself to stay in the moment and observe everything as it arrives to you. Be aware of the raw data that you are receiving before your brain has the time to layer its own issues on top of it.

Every monk translates the raw data, free from interpretation and in their own way. Stop and observe the world around you, as it truly is. Let go of the preconceived notions of how the world should be and accept it as it is. The same things that prevent you from seeing the world as it is prevents you from finding your inner stillness.

Clear your mind and allow your heart to be filled by whatever comes to you. See the details and the vista. Be aware of the colors. Be aware of the aromas from a meal as you savor your way through it. Let your taste buds come alive as to the flavors wash over them. Let your ears follow the individual notes of the music playing, and give your fingers the freedom to explore the textures of a garment or a tapestry.

Reduce Your Inputs.

After ten brain surgeries and six weeks of radiation, I have to be careful with the level of input I allow in. Even if the raw data from those inputs are good, they can still overwhelm me. When that happens my brain gets flooded with information and I go into a seizure. So its very important for me to monitor my brain and mind so that I know when to leave a loud restaurant or a theater performance as both can overload my brain and send me spiraling. It’s just as important that you do the same. You simply have a higher level of tolerance than I do.

We all live in a world that is overloaded with noise and activity. Your brain uses energy to evaluate each of the sights, sounds, smells, and touches you take in. With every step you take, your brain is monitoring the firmness of the ground beneath you, your balance, the risk of danger, and many other factors that go into your ability to maintain your balance and your gait.

While your brain represents just 2% of your body weight, it accounts for 20you’re your body’s energy use. That means during a typical day, your brain uses about 320 calories just to think. Different mental states will affect the way your brain consumes energy.

Napoleon taught his secretary to wait a week before any letters. Churchill refused to look at any idea that had not been reduced down to a single sheet of paper. It was their way of making sure they were not overwhelmed with information.

In both cases they wanted to limit their input so that they would not be overwhelmed. In the contemporary world you live in, it’s important to allow your brain to find its stillness, so that you do not let your energy be drained by meaningless facts and figures that are not relevant to your life.

Enjoy A Long, Slow Walk

I don’t mean take a power-walk or go for a run. I mean take the time to enjoy a slow, leisurely walk. Allow the inner-working of your subconscious come alive as your brain is distracted with the details of balancing your body as you walk and of the world around you as it tries to keep you safe in the world.

Hemmingway was famous for getting through hi write’s block by taking long walks along the rivers of Paris. Nietzsche said that his best ideas came to him on his a long walks. Nikola Tesla developed his idea for his rotating magnetic field, not in his laboratory, but on a walk through a park in Budapest. It is arguably one of the most important inventions of all time, and this was in 1882.

Remove Yourself From Outcomes.
My best martial arts master was Grand Master Bong Soo Han taught me that when trying to break a board, do not stop at the board, but punch through the board, at a spot several inches beyond it. “Do not think about the outcome, simply punch beyond it. The broken board is simply proof of where your fist had been.”

You must not focus only on the what is in front of you. You must learn to let go and focus on what will be.

Weekly News Is Enough.

The news-cycle just doesn’t move that quickly. I know some people think it’s a 24 hour cycle, but when is the last time you saw something completely new and unexpected happen in a 24 hour time period?

Nightly news just isn’t news. Take a break. Give your mind and body a break from it. Read a book, enjoy a dinner out. Dive into a conversation with abandon. Don’t worry the news will still be there for you when you’re ready for it.

You can still be informed by the news without being saturated with it. Besides if you spend all your time and energy watching the news, you will never have enough to process it and to create real change in your world because of it.

People Are Your Answer to Stress

Your life is filled with stress. Between your work and personal life, bills to pay, the occasional flus and aches, even getting access to a wifi hotspot at your favorite cafe, all add stress to your day-to-day life. In fact anything that takes you out of your run of your daily patterns with increase your stress and anxiety; like discovering that the wifi password was on the receipt you just threw out.

You know it’s all good in the end but it just adds a layer of self-judgement onto that ever-present tension that you’d just rather not have in your life. “Should I dig through the trash for that password, or embarrass myself by asking for it again?”
Stress isn’t just your issue, it has become a very real foundation in everyone’s life. It’s almost laughable that we now stress about how much stress is affecting our sleep, our blood pressure, our health, our performance, and it is a very real factor to your living a shorter life.

I’m not going to mention meditation or deep pranayama breathing, instead I’m going to give you a few ways to change your perception of stress and how to release it through some common actions you already do every day.

What if I told you the answer lies in something as simple as opening up to the people in your life? I say people in your life rather than friends or family, because for many of us the people you trust and hold your confidences are not always the friends and family you spend your evenings and holidays with.

That’s okay, we all live in a new world defined by online conversations and digital relationships that simply never existed before. So why not update your social circles to acknowledge this fact? Why not expand your social circles to include friends, family, confidants, associates, and those online confidantes that may just be people passing through, or may be real people you have grown to trust and rely on?

Being able to simply talk and release whatever you have bottled up inside of you is an obvious way to destress. It’s even better when you know that person will hold your confidences in their own little vault or is a certified professional who knows when to speak and when to just hold the silence up and listen without judgement or their own need to “help”.

For those of you who are stewing in stress and looking for a way out, innumerable studies have shown that your perception of stress is more positive when you have friends around and hugely more so when you have someone outside your circle of friends that you can simply open up to, knowing that whatever you have said will never be shared with anyone, ever.

Let me ask you a very simple question. How do you feel right now, just knowing that there is a way out? Do you feel just a little less stress and anxiety, or more?

Life doesn’t always schedule itself at your convenience.

So, when you find yourself in the middle of one of life’s transitions, learn to break free of the fear you may be feeling so that you can find a safe place to land and begin to plan your next chapter.

There are two core fears that will keep you frozen in time; the thoughts of a) losing what you have, and b) not getting what you want.

The key to breaking free of your fears is not to fight them but to acknowledge them so that you can let them go as you learn to enjoy the life you have always wanted to live.

I know it’s not always easy to practice this in the real world. Your mind is using logic to find a  safe place for yourself to land while your primordial brain is screaming to find the safety of solid ground as quickly as possible.

Guess which one wins every time. That’s right, your primordial brain. Your mind and brain will always give your primordial brain the room it demands because it is there for one reason only – it is there to keep you alive, and your life is far more important than any amount of logic ever could be.

Don’t worry though, there is something you can do to break out of the loop you feel trapped in. You can do what you do when you sit in meditation. You can breathe slowly and deeply to quiet the noise of your primordial brain. You can acknowledge that you are in the middle of a transition, and even label your discomfort as just that, discomfort, then you can let it your panic go as you press on.

Allow yourself to find comfort in your discomfort, because until you do, you will never find that space for a soft landing so that you can begin to write the next chapter in your post-transition life.

It may not be as easy as it sounds if you don’t already have a meditation practice. Which is why I encourage everyone to start a meditation practice that works for you before you actually need it. Don’t get caught up in what lineage to follow. Build your own that works on your terms. Whether it’s a ten minute here and there practice or a deep seated practice that runs over an hour, it is a way to train your mind and brain to see beyond the here and now, to find a place of calm, and to focus yourself for the space and time ahead of you.

If you want to learn more click here to my new mindful life coaching website at jeff-cannon.com.

Just remember, do not wait for your panic to set in before you create a small practice for yourself. In the end, this is your life. So why not start living it your way?

I hope this helps

New Meditation for 9/11

I know this will not be a very popular post, but acting properly is rarely the same as being popular – especially on something as delicate as 9/11.

This year let’s begin a new tradition of forgiveness to memorialize the tragedy of 9/11. I am not condoning what was done, nor am I saying we reduce our security one bit. But when you think about it, the path of anger and revenge has not gotten us or the world anywhere.

It has enabled a totalitarian President to gain power, it has sown an aura of protectionism, and has created an environment were we are talking about building walls rather than tearing them down. Do you remember how we all felt when Ronald Reagan asked Gorbachev to tear down his wall? Do you remember how great it was to see the people of Germany reunite through the peaceful power of sledgehammers? That is what we need now more than ever.

Is a mentality of revenge really what you want to teach your children? Is the idea of an eye for an eye really what we want the world to be blinded by?

I am not saying that we just let it go. What I am saying is that we maintain a high level of alert so that our safety remains paramount so that our republic remains intact, but let’s also extend empathy to those who would harm us. Somewhere inside their hearts is a very empty space that is crying out to be heard.

We have tried to shock and awe them into nothing; that didn’t work. We have tried to annihilate them with drone strikes to little or no effect. Isn’t it time we stepped onto a different path? As Einstein once said, and I paraphrase, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result.”

Yes, I remember what happened. I saw the first plane flying low over the city. I watched the empty busses driving back because there were no survivors, I stood in line to give blood only to be turned away because none was needed and I watched as the anger and screams for revenge echoed through the city and spread to those beyond our bridges and tunnels.

I lost a friend that day, I have also seen what following the path we took as a nation has done to us as a people and as a country. Hate has not worked. It is time to forgive. Forgive those who attacked us and forgiving ourselves for our response.

Now is the time to open our arms to those who would do us harm with a gesture of warmth and empathy. It is time for us to change the course of the world and try a new path with a new response – that of Love and compassion for a change.

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.

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.

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.

 

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?

Shared Purpose – a Relationship Meditation

“What is your purpose?” I asked.

“As a couple?” They replied. I shrugged, “Or as individuals?”

They aren’t alone in their response. After fifteen years of marriage they still weren’t quite sure how to respond. It was as if they stopped being individuals once they were married and this is one of the greatest tragedies we attach to being married. Many people think that once the ceremony is over you are no longer able to function as an individual. That thinking or having desires as an individual is somehow not acceptable, and that is a shame.

The beauty of marriage is that you have someone you can grow with in love and respect, in trust and in understanding. That you now have someone to continue on your journey with as a part of something greater. It does not mean confining yourself to a life of stagnation.

Instead of sinking into the comfort of your situation, make a pact with yourself and your partner that you will always explore new things, that you will travel, try new sexual positions and refuse to limit your growth by falling into the malaise of doing time on Maple Drive.

What are you afraid of? Do you think your partner may balk at your idea of spending your vacation somewhere new? Are you afraid that your partner for life may say no just like that boy or girl did in high school? Or do you think that living in the rat race, doing the same thing every day, is the most scintillating, exciting and fulfilling thing you can imagine doing until you retire at which point you can sit on your porch sharing remembrances of a life half-lived with your partner?

After a few moments of meditation to clear our minds my students and I delved a little deeper into the subjects of openness and honesty. It was no surprise that the husband felt trapped in his job and his wife felt trapped in the house, taking care of their home and children. Both felt chained to maintaining their lifestyle, which they admitted was a little beyond their means, “But everyone lives a little beyond their means, that’s part of the game.”

We took a short meditation break to release a layer of anxiety that was visibly building. When we returned I gently probed a little more; the husband confessed to being caught on his treadmill, his wife did as well. They were in the same room, but on two different treadmills. They faced the same direction, each set to a speed just a little faster than either was comfortable with, looking at the same wall they would never reach, yet both were unwilling to step off their treadmills and onto solid ground. Neither wanted to try new things for fear of losing that now sacred treadmill that was going nowhere.

If you truly love the person you have committed to, then set them free. Trust them to go off on their own and return to tell you about it. That ring on your finger is not your love for them. It is just a symbol that represents the vows you made to each other. Those vows are based on trust, and if you don’t trust your partner to hold your bond sacred, then no ring in the world will make a difference. If they hold it sacred, then removing that ring will not make them any less caring, trusting or respectfu, than they already are. Who knows they may even bring back some wonderful stories about the travels they went on and the adventures they had that may just revitalize the love and the vows you both took so long ago.

Trust in each other. Try something new. Gently ask your partner if whatever it is you want is okay. You may be surprised by their answer. Best case, you put your marriage on a better track that will truly last a lifetime. Worst case, you are right back where you are right now, running on your treadmill to nowhere.

Don’t let discomfort get in the way of getting what you want to get out of life. Let your partner be the strength you saw them to be when you first made your vows. Do not allow yourself to place them in some trophy case as some kind of an “I made it to fifty years” award. Smile at them, love them, and trust them as you ask them, and yourself, “what is your purpose?”

Understand that whatever you want is possible, but you have to express what you want to them if you want to experience it with them. Do not let your relationship become an excuse to stop taking the smart risks you so badly want to take.

The world has changed greatly in the past decade. Shouldn’t your relationship do the same?

Be well, and I hope this helps.

 

 

Jeff

Morning Breath

I hear the refrigerator start
I feel the breeze of the fan against my chest
I feel the heat of tea as it comes through the cup
I smell the strong scent of my Lapsang Souchong
I see the drapes moved by the wind from the fan
I see the couch
I see the drapes move from the wind of the fan
I smell the tea in my cup

It is heavily smoked Lapsang Souchong
I hear the engines of a jet miles above
I feel the breeze from the fan on my arms
I feel my stomach expand as I inhale
I feel loved
I anticipate the day ahead
Wonderful expectations
Smile on my lips
Twinkle in my eyes
Thoughts disappearing
Exhale
Breath settling
Gap
Inhale
Settle
Exhale
Settle
Inhale
Settle
In
Settle
Out
Settle
In
Settle
Out settle
In
Thought
Smile
Out
Settle
In
Settle

You Always Have A Choice

Every day that you wake up you have a choice.

You can choose to stay in bed or greet the day.

You can choose to live your day in anger or in joy.

You can choose to greet people in fear or with compassion.

Do not blame your path based on what some one else did or did not do.

Do not blame your path based on what you did or did not do.

The moment you open your eyes is the moment you have a choice to make. It is based on a single, very simple question, “how do you want to live your day?”

Do you want to live in stress, or in calm? In peace or in fear?

Only after you answer that question can you begin to truly plan your day.

Begin your journey everyday with the acknowledgement that you have a choice. You can choose to stay in bed, or to rise and greet your day. Either way is fine, bold or with baby steps, or even staying beneath the covers, there is no judgment. Just know that you are in control of your life, your day, and how you want to respond to the world around you.

You can greet people with your arms open wide and allow them in, or you can hold your arms tightly against your body, defensively guarding yourself against an attack that rarely ever comes in the contemporary world you are a part of.

Just know that you can always close your arms at any time and retreat back into a isolationist mode, but why? Why not at least give those around you the chance to welcome you and to Love you?

Ask anyone who has hiked, sailed or traveled alone, and I am sure they will agree, it is fun for a few days, but you quickly begin to miss the company of others. You miss that feeling of community and kinship that is the path to Love, intimacy and understanding.

The choice is yours. It will always be yours. The only real question is, which way will you approach your day? Because they way you choose to travel will define how your day will go, every step of the way.

I hope this helps.

 

Be well