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: 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.

Being The One

Being The One

 

Stop trying to be the One. Just sit. Just be. The moment you recognize your meditation as something more than it is, you lose the reason for meditating in the first place. That is to clear your mind of all thought, good or bad, wanted or unwanted.

In formal sitting you may start by counting your breath. At some point the very count that opened the path before you becomes a distraction. When it does, let it go. Perhaps you can let it go all together. Or perhaps you simply allow it to drift into a simple recognition of “in” and “out” as you allow your mind to continue its practice by observing the flow of the breath. Simply being who you are in the here and now as you observe the way in which you mind and body interact.

Do not try to get anywhere with your practice. You have already arrived. The very desire to “get” somewhere is enough to prevent you from arriving. No matter how hard you work to erase the thoughts, the very effort you place onto your practice will not get you any further than you were when you first sat down. In fact, it may erase the distance you already took on your path.

Do not curse your desire. Do not even recognize it. Simply smile to yourself as you allow those thoughts to float into the ether that is within you and all around you.

Arise from desire and simply Let Go. Do not try to achieve anything. Do not cling to anything, even to the practice of enlightenment. It will come when it will come.

Trying to speed the process will only slow the process down.

Money Meditation

Before reading any further just Google Money and Meditation. You may be surprised to what pops up.

What started out as an extension of meditation has now become a buzzword in itself. Among corporate types it has become woven into the very culture of the whole concept of work/life balance. In the military mindfulness creates a focused sniper. In both it also creates a very focused psychopath. How do you tell the two apart? Or how do you tell who practices me, me, me mindfulness without regard for those around them?

In many ways mindfulness enables people to do away with the ethics and values we all consider to be the backbone of society. Mindfulness can provide people with a neo-meditation that is good for you, but that will not make you a better person without the proper rules to live by.

Letting go and being present may make you happy, they may empty your cup, but once your cup is empty, how do you make sure that the water you refill it with is clean and pure? Many mindfulness teachers are too busy branding themselves for their next speaking engagement, the next one-on-one client visit, or the next corporate presentation to bother teaching their clients how to provide a larger perspective on values and on life in general.

Yoga grew to be an $80 billion business in 2015, because many of its teachers dropped the ethics that made it so attractive to its early practitioners. It is also how meditation grew from nothing into the multi-million dollar meditation centers that include MDNFL or the recent bourgeois Inscape, complete with gift shop selling the trendy Los Angeles/Chinese herb “dusts.”

How do we take the benefits of meditation and mindfulness and apply them to help the world become a better place? Simply, we don’t. It is simply not in the nature of many people to simply let things be. In a world of rampant individualism the Ten Commandments or the Buddhist Precepts are quickly being rewritten. What were intended as laws and guidelines to live by, have centuries been slowly, modified. The intent of Thou Shalt Not Kill has been effectively changed to Thou Shalt Not Kill Unless I Say It’s Okay.

The same is true for how the concept of Spirituality evolved into Spiritual Materialism. What was once a search for purity, truth and peace has quickly become one where it is more important to have the right outfit than a right mind.

At a yoga studio I recently overheard one student say, “She is so Zen, just look at her hair. I have to have it.”

When did it somehow became more important to have the Zen look than to actually be balanced in a serene way, or the best designed little house than it is to live in simplicity? The television now has program about having the right design for your “tiny house,” rarely mentioning why a tiny home makes more sense than a McMansion.

Something as simple as yoga pants have followed the same path. There are now cut-outs that strategically show just the right amount of skin in just the right places to be sexy and slimming. We managed to turn a practice of thousands of years into a physical workout designed to make practitioners as “body-perfect” as can be.

I am not surprised by this, nor do I waste a lot of time marveling about it. To each their own. Everyone is free to practice in their own ways and for their own reasons. Just don’t be surprised when the mindful sniper turns his or her well trained mind on one of us. Because if we do not teach people how to question themselves and their practices, if we fail to teach people the ethics and values behind meditation, mindfulness and yoga, it will all be for naught – quickly subverted to yet another materialistic path to follow.

These are the lessons that used to be taught in Buddhist and Yogic temples. These are the directives that could be found within the communities of priests and monks who provided direction on how to keep practices pure when refilling the cups that were so freely emptied.

The only way to prevent Karmen Ghia to be mistaken for Carpe Diem [which actually happened] is to teach people the essence of the various practices rather than just the veneer that lies on top, a veneer that is easily marred.

If you think I am over-reacting, just wait to see what happens to the purity of mindfulness in five or ten years.

Once we humans get a hold of something we tend to subvert it into the very thing it was created to work against. If you doubt this, just go back and Google “Money” and “Meditation”. You may be surprised to what pops up…

Parallel Paths of Dharma

When you find yourself at an impossible fork in the road where every option seems to be less than ideal, take a break and let the Dharma decide.

You can exchange that word for fate, the winds of time, or destiny, but sometimes the best decision in life is to do nothing and let the decision take care of itself. Yes, you lose what little control you think you have in the process, but you will find that making no decision is often the best way out. It takes your ego out of the process and opens up new opportunities you may have overlooked. What you may even find is that the world moves no matter how hard you fight it. That no matter how badly you want to swim upstream at some point fighting the current will just leave you exhausted and unable to make a clear decision when the critical time to do so arrives.

If the world is falling into a recession, now may not be the time to start a business. If the love of your life has their eyes elsewhere, then pursuing that person may not be the smartest use of your time and energy no matter how badly you want to do so right now. There is often little you can do about the way the world works. But there is a lot you can do about where and when you spend your energy.

Instead of forcing a decision, and then having to work twice as hard to reverse it, sometimes it is better to wait. If a storm is coming, save your energies for when it hits. Do not be afraid to push whatever venture you want to work on to the back burner until the world is ready for you. Now may be the time to narrow your choices down to a few options, and to follow both of those options until they diverge. In time they will. In the meantime be mindful of each. When they move far enough apart go with the option that clearly stands out. Do not worry, one will.

There is an inevitability in this approach that is as old as time itself. One reason you may be having a problem making a decision is that in the end both paths lead to the same outcome. It may be that your intuition is telling you now is not the time to move forward. It may even be telling you that you do not have enough information or skill to proceed.

Listen to it. In time you will learn more about whatever it is you are doing. The winds of the world may shift. New opportunities may open up. The subtle patterns may not be apparent to you, only becoming clearer as you grow more comfortable with your surroundings and yourself. Often the reason you are having such a tough time making a decision is that you are trying to draw a decision out of a non-existent issue, and that is always a mistake. Forcing a decision will inevitably lead you down the wrong path, or cause you to waste so much time and energy that you will be depleted by the time your decision matures.

Instead, let go of your ego and your need to “control” your destiny. Narrow your choices down to two or three that will keep you heading in the right general direction, then follow both paths until they diverge. Be mindful of how alike and unalike they are. Gather your facts along the way. Experience the differences.

In time you will find yourself at a point when the right path becomes so apparent you will wonder why you never saw it in the first place. You will understand. You will also realize that either path will have led you to that point, only now you will be prepared to make the right decision no matter which way you go. Having walked both paths you will gain wisdom and a clearer vision of what you are really walking into.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but by giving yourself up to the Dharma and by taking your time you will be surprised at how well it will guide you toward the right choice. Slow down and breathe. Let go of your ego. Let the Dharma drive for a bit as you take a meditative approach to the big decisions in your life and enjoy the view along the way.

Oh, and if you feel pushed by someone who says “we need a decision right now,” let them make the decision as you let the Dharma make the one that cleans up their mess. Never feel as if you must rush. In today’s world there is always time to make the right decision and less need to listen to let that fight or flight voice ring in your ears.

Following parallel paths as the Dharma works itself out may mean working double-time for a bit, but for the important decisions in your life, that may not be a bad thing. Especially if your fear of making the wrong decision is an issue.

Be well and I hope this helps.

Jeff

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Unconditional Love

Unconditional Love, as versus conditional love, is so rare. Conditional Love is easy. I give you Love when you do something for me that I want you to do. You do the dishes, I kiss your cheek. I hold the door for you and you smile at me. You do something in the bedroom I enjoy. I return the favor. It is a give and take. At times I give more than I take. At others I receive more than I give.

But it is not give freely. There is a cost, a condition, to this kind of Love. Compliance. You will do what is expected of you if you are to receive the Love and attention you desire.

With unconditional Love there is no compliance. It is the act of simply giving. It is so rare, simply giving again and again and again. Not expecting anything in return, not asking for anything with one’s eyes or hands or heart – simply giving.

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Can you imagine what this world would be like if everyone simply gave without expecting anything in return? It would be a world filled with Jesus’, Buddhas, Mohammads and Abrahams.

I have experienced unconditional Love on occasion. At my bedside, when my mother fed me ice chips when I could not sip from a cup. When my wife lifted me up when I toppled over in rehab, neither asking if I wanted it, each simply offering, helping and assisting without expecting anything in return. On the rare occasion that I turned it down, they simply accepted that without a word, and smiled with more Love for me.

It is the Love a mother gives to her child when going through labor or when nursing. It is Loving through the pain. It is the Love a father gives to his child when explaining why the world is the way it is, free from feeling his own pain or regret, or acknowledging if his own needs are being met. Simply being present to the needs of the growing consciousness that is before them.

Unconditional Love is about caring for someone else’s happiness without a thought to the needs of the self. It is about being fully awake and aware, being fully present to the world around you, the person in front of you, to yourself.

It is not an excuse to stay in a bad marriage or relationship. It is saying I love you no matter what happens to us, not I love you no matter what you do to me.

I will love you when the sun is shining or the skies are grey.

I will love you even when I have a horrible day.

I will love you even if you do not return my love.

I will not look for love elsewhere even if you do.

For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health.

No matter what happens to us, I will Love you.

Because when I love you, I also love me.

I Love you no matter what conditions occur around us is unconditional Love.

Do not bother looking for it.

It will find you when you are ready to accept it.

If you want to feel unconditional Love simply open yourself up to it. It is all around you. It is within you.

Give it to yourself first. Hold yourself in your own heart unconditionally. Respect yourself, Love yourself, free yourself from those undermining comments you allow to fester within you. Free yourself from the self-loathing, the self-bashing you waste so much time on. All of that does nothing but distract you from the Love that is within you.

Once you see the Love within, you will begin to see the same unconditional Love within those around you. When you can feel the Love pass through you as you send it out unconditionally.

Try it.

You will be amazed at what will transpire.

Not just with others, but within yourself.

Unconditionally.

Meditation & Mindful Consumption

In our media-rich world, be careful of what you ingest. It may not always agree with the life you live or aspire to life. I am not only writing in terms of food and drink, but in terms of what you watch and listen to, what you read and even write.

Everything you bring into your life effects your outlook and world view. The violence you see on television or in the theater, will resonate in how your treat those you love. The podcasts you listen to and the blogs your read online all their opinions which sooner or later end up in the way you speak and think. When you hear candidates berate and undercut each other, their words affect relationship to the world around you – whether you agree with them or not.

So just stop. The residue each of these leave behind will weigh on you and drag you down into that dark world of anger and depression. It’s okay to take a break from the news, to let go of slasher films, to put down the gossip magazines and simply be who you aspire to be.

It is called Mindful Consumption – the art of placing your breath and your awareness on the things that you are bringing into your space physically, mentally and even spiritually. If, as you eat, drink, watch or listen, feel yourself sinking into self doubt or anything that resembles the darker side of yourself then simply stop and change the channel.

If you find this difficult, stand up and take a deep breath. Put your hands on your hips and curl your lips into a smile. Feel that smile spread across your cheeks and down into your lungs as you attach your smile onto your breath.

If you need to gather your inner strength, assume a power pose by standing up straight and putting your hands on your hips, or reaching your arms above your head in a big V. Give yourself the gift of a clean spirit as you shed the residue that the world wants to weigh you down with.

Mindful Consumption is easier than you may think, especially if you build it on top of a foundation of meditation.

Either way, just be careful with what you ingest. You know who you are. Don’t let them bring you down to their level. Rise above and smile into the sun that always shines above.

Be well, and I hope this helps.

Learn more about Mindful Eating and Consumption by clicking here.

 

 

 

Jeff

The Red Silken Threads of Life

It is said that there is a red silken thread of destiny that connects us all. This magical cord may become tangled or stretch, but it never breaks. When a child is born, an invisible thread connects that child’s spirit to all the people he or she will meet – past, present and future – who will play a part in that child’s life. Over time that thread becomes woven with the threads of those souls, of those people into a tapestry we call life.

Over time the threads of different spirits shorten and shrink, bringing closer and closer those people who are fated to be together.

This is a wonderful image for each of us to keep in mind. It is a reminder of the paths we all walk throughout our life. That sooner or later, we will make choices, not out of anger or hate, but because your tapestry can only contain so many threads. As much as some of you would like to include everyone in the world, the weight of your tapestry would submerge beneath the gentle waves, forcing you beneath the sea of consciousness unable to move.

Think about this image when someone new comes into your life, or your head starts to spin and your heart begins to sink. Do you have the threads in your tapestry that will weight you down, or that will catch the wind and lift you up?

Every once in a while it is time to comb your tapestry, to search out new spirits and souls that will help you continue to weave your life’s tapestry, before it becomes too heavy for you to continue on your journey.

 

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.