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?

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

Goldilocks Effect – Why You Are Never Happy With What Is

This one is too hot, this one is too cold. Why do you never see things as they are rather than as you want them to be? If you stop seeing things as not quite right you may just begin to see the world as perfect just as it truly is warts and all.

Perhaps as you walk outside you instinctive think, “why is it always raining?” or “why is it always so sunny?” Perhaps you walk out of a meeting dissatisfied with how it went, beating yourself and your team up for not getting it just right or for not getting a better deal. Perhaps you beat yourself up for not making a better meal for your family, or for not thinking healthier thoughts for yourself.

How many people do you know live their lives trapped in the Goldilocks Effect? This one is too small, this one is too large, the grass is always greener, the lighting is not as it should be. Their entire lives are lived in this twilight world of not being quite perfect, and if it’s not perfect then it might as well not be done at all?

It is the people who are trapped in a world of their own delusions who fall into the trap of the Goldilocks Effect. Their world never meets their expectations because their expectations change all of the time. Their world is based on their own distorted need to control what they have no control over.

Their’s is a world of self-imposed suffering. Their’s is also a world you do not need to be a part of. When it rained yesterday their perception of the world was of a grey, wet, humid mess. When it cleared today they forgot all about the rain yesterday and complain about the the sun as if they lived in a scorching dessert.

It never occurs to them that there is nothing wrong with the world, it is their perception of it that is off.

We all have a little Goldilocks within us. It may surface when we think that the forces are conspiring against us. The question is not does this misperception exist, but how do you recognize it and how do you move beyond it to enjoy the world as it is and end your suffering?

It’s never easy for you to recognize the Goldilocks Effect unless you wake yourself up so that you can be aware of the road to happiness and realize that it is not about you. It is about how your thoughts effect the real world you live in.

When you look at the world through the lenses of anger and disappointment that is what you will see and live in. When you look at the world through the lenses of hope and opportunity, that is how you will see the world around you. You see, the world is truly a reflection of you. How you feel about yourself is reflected on the world that exists all around you.

The next time you feel as if the world is conspiring against you, step back for a moment. Stop whatever you are doing and ask yourself, “what is going on in my life that could effect how I am seeing the world?” Are you going through a stressful job change? Are you going through a nasty breakup? When was the last time you got a good night’s sleep or had a healthy meal?

All of these life-events will effect the way you perceive what is going on around you. When you do this you may just realize where the boundaries of your self-imposed delusions lay and discover the world that you have trapped yourself in.

Instead of asking yourself what wrong with the world, begin to ask yourself what is right with the world?

I can almost guarantee you what is wrong with the world is not that the porridge is too hot or too cold, it lies with the way your mind has decided to perceive the world that is. And that only comes from one place – from within.

How to fix it? Take a big, deep breath in and release it with a deep belly laugh. Seriously, let the air out in a series of short huffs that mimic your exhale when you laugh. Smile and watch as your out-breath turns into a very real laugh and your spirits lighten.

Keep that laugh going as you realize how easy it is for your body to deceive your brain and for your brain to deceive you into thinking that something is truly funny. The secret is that it truly is funny.

Don’t stop now. Laugh at how ridiculous all of this is. Laugh at how easy it is to get yourself off track and how easy it is to get yourself back on track. Keep laughing until the spell of the Goldilocks Effect is broken and you can get on with your life. I promise you, it will not take that long.

Be well and I hope this helps.

The Truth is Always Beautiful

Truth is often difficult to find. It does not happen quickly or slowly, only inclusively. Only when you peer into every dark corner will Truth appear. Only when you are exhaustive in your search does Truth show itself.

No matter what it is, we all come to Truth from a different perspective. from a different path. Finding Truth requires meditation and contemplation. It requires letting go of our preconceived notions and our own ideas. It requires an empty mind to truly see Truth for what it is.

You may not like what you find. But you will never be disappointed by the journey that brought you to your final destination. But once found you will realize that Truth is always beautiful.

Finding Truth requires perseverance and an unflagging attachment to avoiding lies in all their forms. When you arm yourself with that idea let the winds of lies blow against you and shake the leaves, knowing that soon enough those same winds will shift to your back as they speed you on your way to resolution.

To some the falling leaves of Autumn mark the beginning of a long and dreary winter. To others they are a sign to the end of warm summer days and lingering sunsets. To others still they are a beautiful display. In truth they are all of these and none of these. They are neither good nor bad. They are simply the trees dropping their leaves in anticipation of the weather ahead. Anything beyond that is simply a person’s way of connecting the falling leaves to their own personal history – past, future or present.

Empty your mind and seek the truth in all things, even something as simple as the change of seasons. Know that whatever arises is a window into yourself. It is an invitation to look within and explore where those emotions come from.

That is the Truth you seek. It is not found in the leaves, but within.

 

Be well and I hope this helps.

 

 

Jeff

 

Perception of Me is a Reflection of You

Your perception of me is a reflection of you

It takes 13 milliseconds for your brain to process the input it receives. That means everything you see, hear, taste, touch, smell has a brief pause from the time your eyes, ears, nose, mouth and fingers sense it to the time it becomes recognized for what it is.

In that brief moment your brain connects the input you are experiencing with all of the memories you have ever had or could ever imagine having in order to classify what is all around you as good or bad, safe or unsafe, friend or foe. It also uses whatever is going on within your life, your emotions be it anger or love, as a filter for what is going on in the world around you.

Your emotions and your experiences, the breakup you just went through or the new love you just met will help your brain classify how you perceive the events in your life at any given moment in time. All those memories, emotions, hopes and direct you to choose one path over another. They are the why behind the what that you decide to eat, drink, work on or escape to. Your need to eat something richly satisfying to get over a slump of depression or to eat something high in fiber to take on the day are chosen, not by you, but by your 40,000 year old brain as it struggles to guide you through the contemporary world you live in.

The world as you see it is a reflection of everything you are going through at any given moment. If it is why when you are in Love the world can be a brilliant place where hope is found in every object you touch, every scent you smell, every taste you bite into. It is also why that same moment can be a dark and scary place to someone who is seeing it from a very different perspective.

For those who are upset everything can seem just a little darker and a little less inviting. That same cerulean sky is suddenly a darker shade of blue. It is still blue, just not quite as bright as it may seem to you. It is no different for the people you interact with. Your suspicion of, or anger with, someone is not just based on their actions but your own as well.

This distortion is why you mirror yourself onto the lives of those around you. You assume what you are experiencing must be the same as those around. Whatever fear is pulsing through your veins must surely pulse through their veins as well. If you are suspicious of someone’s actions it may not be just them, it may be your own feelings of self doubt that you are struggling with that are mirrored onto them.

Your own emotions can create a circus mirror that will cause you to see a skinny person or a fat person in front of you rather than the person as they really are. Your distorted view of the world and those around you is more often off base than it is on because of how you perceive reality rather than how it really is.

It is not until you awaken to the fact that your brain creates your world that you can truly be free of your distorted version of reality and begin to live life in the real world and in a whole new light.

The next time you think someone is undermining your efforts, take a moment to breathe and to bring yourself back down to earth. Think about what is going on in your own life and how that could distort your view of your friends and your community.

Did you recently lose someone who is dear to you? Did your boss choose someone else for “the big project?” Think about how all of these things might affect the way you view the one you Love and have always trusted. Do  you really want to throw that Love and trust away because of what your 40,000 year old brain suspects someone else did?

Take a moment to cool down before you rush into something you might regret. Even though you are convinced you are in the right, just know that the world around you is not always what it seems.

 

Be well and I hope this helps.

 

 

j.

Your Perception is A Reflection

Your perception of me is a reflection of you.

 

It takes 13 milliseconds for your brain to process the input it receives. That means everything you see, hear, taste, touch, smell has a brief pause from the time your eyes, ears, nose, mouth and fingers sense it to the time it becomes recognized for what it is.

In that time your brain connects the input with all of the memories you have ever had or could even imagine having in order to classify it as good or bad, safe or unsafe, friend or foe. In that brief amount of time your brain uses whatever is going on in your life as a filter for what is in front of you and all around you.

Your emotions, your experiences, the breakup you just went through or the wedding you are about to go through guide you to classify what you perceive as important or It takes 13 milliseconds for your brain to process the input it receives. That means everything you see, hear, taste, touch, smell has a brief pause from the time your eyes, ears, nose, mouth and fingers sense it to the time it becomes recognized for what it is.

In that time your brain connects the input with all of the memories you have ever had or could even imagine having in order to classify it as good or bad, safe or unsafe, friend or foe. In that brief amount of time your brain uses whatever is going on in your life as a filter for what is in front of you and all around you.

Your emotions, your experiences, the breakup you just went through or the wedding you are about to go through guide you to classify what you perceive as important or unimportant in your life at this moment in time. All those memories, emotions, hopes and dreams are what direct you choose one path over another. They are why you decide what you want to eat, drink, work on or escape to. Your need to eat something richly satisfying may help you get over a slump of depression or to eat something high in fiber to take on the day are chosen, not by you, but by your 40,000 year old brain as it struggles to guide you through the contemporary world you live in.

The world as you see is not made up of the input you are taking in. It is a reflection of everything you are going through in this moment. If it is why if you are in Love the world is a brilliant place where hope can be found in every object you touch, every scent you smell, every taste you bite into.

If you are upset, everything grows just a little darker, a little less inviting. That same cerulean sky is suddenly a darker shade of blue. It is still blue, just not quite what it may seem to someone in the throes of Love. It is no different for the people you interact with. You suspicions or anger with someone is not just based on their actions, but your own as well.

This same distortion is why you mirror yourself onto the lives of those around you. You assume what you are feeling and experiencing must be felt by those around you as well. Whatever fear is pulsing through your veins must also pulse through their veins as well. If you feel confused by someone’s actions, suspicious of their reasons, it may not be just them, it may be your own feelings of self doubt that you are struggling with.

Your own emotions can distort the circus mirror to make you see a skinny person or a fat person in front of you, rather than the world as it is in reality. Your distorted view of the world and those around you is more often off base than it is on – because of how you perceive reality rather than how it really is.

It is not until you awaken to the fact that your brain creates your world that you can truly be free of your own distortions and begin to live life in the real world and in a whole new light.

The next time someone seems to be undermining your efforts, take a moment to breathe and bring yourself back down to earth. Think about what is going on in your life and how that could distort your view of your friends and your community. Did you recently lose someone who is dear to you? Did your boss choose someone else for “the big project?” Then think about how that might affect the way you view the one you Love and have always trusted. Do you really want to throw that away because of what someone else did?

Take a moment to cool down before you rush into something you might regret. Even though you are convinced you are in the right, just know that the world around you is not always what it seems.

Be well and I hope this helps.

j.

You Are A Diamond

Diamond do not shine on their own. They shine because they have many facets that catch and reflect the light, just like you.

Each of you has many facts to who you are as well. The difference is that you rarely show them all at once. You tend to hide them, only revealing them when you think the time and place is right.

You have one face for the office, another for dates, and still another for the gym. You have your sexy face, your playful face, your vacation face and your serious face, but rarely do you bring them together and allow your true self to shine through.

It is why so many of you feel the stress you feel. You grow burdened with the guilt of your past or anxiousness for the future. You focus on the wrong face appearing at the wrong time until you learn to show them all at once, learning to shine as the person you truly are, regardless of the outcome. Until you learn to do this you will never shine like you could.

Just imagine what you could do if all the energy you spent keeping yourself in check were spent on being productive, pursing your dreams as nothing less than 100% truly and fully YOU.

Imagine what it would feel like to be your authentic self all of the time.

Imagine how freeing it would be to be you, Y, O, U, you.

For many of you it may just be a dream. The fear of losing your job or your friends keeps you neatly in the cell you created for yourself from the delusions that others may have put in place for you, but that you carry all by yourself.
Why lie to those around you? Why lie to yourself?

What would happen if you practiced honesty throughout your life by being the person you truly are?

Imagine what you could accomplish by simply being you?

After all, it is your life. Why not label this fall the time to start living it your way?

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