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

Walk With Me

When you walk somewhere you have a destination in mind. Your entire walk is spent anticipating your arrival or looking back at the place you just left. So little time is spent just being present and enjoying the experience of walking or driving.

How many times have you driven somewhere and spent minutes driving with absolutely no idea of what you just drove past? How many times have you walked somewhere and had the same experience?

With walking meditation, every step is your destination. Every time your heel touches the ground is an experience all on its own.

Why not use this exercise the next time you need to clear your mind or to take a break? It’s simple and easy and a great way to start your week, or even better, to start your vacation so that you can actually enjoy your time away from the stress and anxiety of your work?

If you’re in New York City join me as I step into each week with a series of walking meditations every Monday morning. I created this program with the Rubin Museum to celebrate Meditation Month and the launch of Walk With Me – a film that explores celebrated monk Thicht Nhat Hahn’s spirituality. Click here to find out more.

Learn more here: https://simple-truth.com/thicht-nhat-hahn-walking-meditation/

The walk is free and attendees will receive discounted admission to the Rubin Museum’s screening of Walk With Me.

If you’re not available for the walks you can learn more about creating your own Walking Meditation by clicking here.

https://simple-truth.com/walking-meditation/

 

 

Stop competing against yourself

Here’s a newsflash you may not want to hear, all of those challenges you won and all of those opponents you bested were not real. You were never really competing against anyone else you were really only competing against yourself.

Your urge to win and the competitive spirit you have always been so proud of were never about beating everyone else, your need to win was always about filling an empty space within yourself.

If you really want to find a place of calm then the real question you should ask is not how many people you have to beat until you are satisfied, but how big is the hole within you and where did it come from?

No matter how many trophies you line up you will still have that itch to step up to another challenge. The empty hole within you will still need to be filled, and after you are finished with the last opponent what will you do then?

No matter how many people you beat your need to win will still be there. Even the applause that once excited you will begin to ring like the empty clapping of people you don’t know because that is what it has always been, and that will never fill the empiness within you.

The only way to overcome your need to win is to recognize it for what it is, to come to terms with it, to accept it as a part of who you are, and then to work on filling the empty space with the love and empathy that you truly yearn for.

Whether your need comes from a parent who never gave you the attention you deserved or whether it stems from being the poor kid at school who you thought never measured up; those are the real issues you need to resolve if you are to findthe calm within you. Winning is your stigma to carry around until you are ready to address the root issue that it stems from – and that my friend is far easier said than done. Growing up is easy, maturing is not.

You see, society places a constant pressure that forever pushes you to fit in. Your parents and siblings push you to be the person they wanted to be, never realizing that person is the person they never were.

Nobody ever tells you that their idea of who you shoud be is simply the person they were never able to become. Each is a delusion that you think you have to accept as you struggle to find yourself and fit in. The shoes they want you to fill come from a long line of failed lives.

Just as you are trying to fill the expectations of your family and friends, each of them is trying to fill the expectations of those around them. Everyone turns to “winning” as a way to do this never realizing they are just perpetuating an endless cycle of trustration and dstriving to measure up.

If you follow this cycle as you grow and mature you will forget about who you are as you try to satisfy the people around you. In the end you will lose yourself to the crowd of empty admirers trying to fit in to their own cycle of frustration. Their failed dreams become your reality. Their lost lives become your actuality and that empty need to win will trap you within yourself.

It is why so many stars of the entertainment and sports world have very empty and lonely lives in the end. The positive thing is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

You know the saying about loving yourself before you can love anyone else? The same is true for knowing yourself before you know anything else. If you don’t know yourself then everything you think you know may not be as real as you think it is. More than likely it is just a series of delusions that you created to protect yourself as you grew up in the world as it really is.

Knowing yourself is not as easy as you may hope but it is essential to your well-being. 

As you mature you change. The way you speak changes, your mannerisms change, your tastes change, your needs and desires change. Just look at yourself, you wear different clothes than you used to, you think different thoughts, you want different things, and all of this is good. I pray it never stops as long as it leads you to find your authentic self. It is far too easy to follow someone else’s ideas of who you should be without question. The problem with doing that is that sooner or later you wake up and discover that you are not who you want to be. You are who they want you to be and that you have strayed from your path without knowing why.

Finding yourself is a lifelong process. Every time you learn something about yourself it changes who you are. But at some point in time you lost your true self to those changes. Was it a slow slide down a slippery slope as you adopted someone else’ identity? Or was it a sudden shift like when you started your first job and realized your clothes and your mannerisms were no longer right for where you wanted to go?

The answer is different for everyone. It is not easy to figure out. It takes a life time to find the answer if you ever do. But what did you expect? It took a lifetime to get to where you are, and yes, it will probably take the rest of your lifetime to get to where you want to go.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to give away everything you worked so hard for or run off to a monastery to live the life of a monk. You can still go about your work and your family life just like always. It will be a gradual shift as you slowly learn to recognize the delusions you thought were real as you begin to live in the real world right here and right now.

Ask yourself some very straightforward questions.

Just take out a slip of paper and respond to these questions as honestly as you can. Make a note of which ones make you slightly or even fully uncomfortable.

  1. What does your ideal day look like?
  2. What did you want to be when you were younger?
  3. Who are you most inspired by? Why?
  4. Who would you love to meet? What would you ask?
  5. What habit would you most like to break? What habit would you most like to start?
  6. Think of a person you truly admire. What qualities do you like about that person?
  7. How do you like to relax?
  8. When was the last time you did something you were afraid of?
  9. What are you most proud of?
  10. What are you most afraid of?
  11. If life stopped today, what would you regret not doing?
  12. Who would you like to connect (or reconnect) with? Why?
  13. What qualities do you admire in others?
  14. What practical skills do you wish you had?
  15. Imagine you’re in your 90s. What memories would you like to have? What stories do you want to tell?
  16. What is your favorite book/movie/song? Why?
  17. If you could make one change in the world, what would it be?
  18. What do you love to do for, or give to others (not an object – something from you personally)?
  19. What excites you?
  20. What do you wish you did more of?
  21. Pretend money is no object. What would you do?
  22. What area of your life, right now, makes you feel the best? Which area makes you feel the worst? Why?
  23. Let’s jump forward a year. What would you like to have achieved in the past year?
  24. What piece of advice would you give to five year old you? Sixteen year old you? Twenty-one year old you? Right now?
  25. How do you want to be remembered in life?

Want to learn more? Reach out and let us guide you through the process of a Strategy for Happiness

 

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.

Make A Real Impact On The World

Do you want to make a bigger impact on today’s world?

How about on those you love and care for?

There are no shortcuts or easy paths to doing this. But there is a simple strategy if you are serious about being of service to yourself and to those around you. All it requires is that you open your heart and share yourself with those around you.

When I speak of opening your heart I don’t mean just using words like “soulful” or “Zen”, enjoying a “calming breath” or “being authentic”, I mean really bringing those ideas into your life and making them a part of your daily habits. And yes, practices like meditation and yoga are wonderful but if your practice stops when your chime sounds then really, what good is it?

Why leave your all the goodness of your practice on your cushion when you can weave it into every aspect of your life? You can live a life that is true to the person you want to be by finding the virtues and values that are a part of your own simple truth and passing those forward to the people in your life.

It all starts with practicing simplicity. When you get rid of the extraneous garbage that fills your life you will begin to understand what your life is all about. Simplifying does not mean getting rid of everything in y our life or running off to live a monastic life.

Living simply means living in the real world fully aware of what is going on all around you and embracing those things that are real for you. It means staying present to every moment of every day so that you can explore your boundaries and come to know the person you were always meant to be.  The person you are deep down inside.

Until you meet that person you will never be happy with yourself because your actions will never be true to the person you truly are deep down inside of you.

But you already know that.

Being the person you want to be is not impossible. It’s really quite easy. You don’t have to change who you are or what you want in life. You simply need to follow your gut and your heart. You need to be true to yourself, free from all the pressures of modern society and the Jones’, free from that gnawing need to conform and fit in.

Becoming the person you want to be may lead you down an uncomfortable path, but there are no obstacles along that path that you cannot overcome because that person is already within you and always has been. The obstacles you think are out there don’t really exist. They were created by you as you journeyed through life to protect you from those around you.

To find yourself again you simply need to realign your values and virtues with the person who is still there within you.

It’s time to question those habits that you think make you who you are and have always driven you to do what you are doing.

Who knows, you just may discover your true self along the way.

I hope this helps, and click here to learn more through our programs.

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

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

Keep Being Your Perfectly Imperfect Self

Perfectly Imperfect

Always remember you are perfect just the way you are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfect Imperfections

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

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

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

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

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

What Would The Buddha Say?

What would the Buddha say?

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

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

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

 

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

no matter if I have said it,

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

 

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

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

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

What would the Buddha say?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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