Is your character driving your choices or is your brain driving your life?

Victor Frankl once said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one: the ability to choose his attitude in any given circumstance, to choose his own way.”

Perhaps you never realized it but you are choosing your own way right now, in the middle of this pandemic. You are choosing to shelter in place. You are choosing to wear a mask when you go out. You are choosing to sacrifice your freedom for the betterment of everyone. I see this pandemic as a trial of epic proportions.

You have always had the freedom of choice, to choose your own way, each and every day. Yet only now is it so visible to everyone and most important to yourself.

This is nothing new. The Christian faith has always talked about free will, choosing between good and evil. Buddhism talks about choosing to follow the 8-fold path or to live a life of suffering; suffering through the guilt or shame or regret from your actions or at the end of your life when you realize it was a life left unfulfilled.

Funny as it may sound, this pandemic is your opportunity, the opportunity to discover what you naturally fall back on instead of actively choosing your way. And that is the real question at hand. Are letting your brain choose your way for you or are you allowing your character to speak through the little choices you make every day, often without even being aware of them?

If there is one thing to come from this pandemic, perhaps this is it. This is your awakening. To realize how you naturally default so that you can understand how you handle yourself, and if you are comfortable in that default.

Do you naturally run in fear to save yourself and your belongings? Do you dig your heels in to stand and fight to protect what is yours, or do you turn to help those around you? And, if so, how far does your empathy go?

Perhaps your empathy stops with your family, or with your friends. How far are you willing to reach out and help those around you? How close of a friend does someone have to be in order for you to help them? Are you comfortable with that distance and with what you see in yourself, with how far you’re willing to reach out your hand?

You have little choice in this situation. We are all coming face to face with our true nature. The decision to self-quarantine, the choice to social distance, the choice to wear a face mask. You are actively making choices; you are actively choosing how you make your way through this.

Your freedom to choose is no different than what is at the core of every religion. Free-will is something we have all been imbued with. Free will is at the core of my own belief system, to choose to follow your own simple truth or to fight against every cell in your body, jumping from distraction to distraction, wasting energy and living your life unfulfilled and suffering for it.

Are you wandering aimlessly, letting your brain drive your choices or are you living a life of purpose? One path leads to unhappiness, shame and regret. The other to satisfaction, balance and a life fulfilled.

It’s actually very simple. Every cell in your body is aligned to live by your own simple truth. No matter what you do, the further you get from your life’s purpose, your simple truth, the unhappier and less fulfilled you become.

If you wonder why you keep asking yourself “what am I missing? Why am I so unhappy?” that is the reason. Your heart, mind, and spirit keep moving forward to reconnect with your own simple truth, but your physical self, your brain is constantly  driving your body to run off in pursuit of whatever distraction it has decided will ease your suffering.

Whether that is in pursuit of greater security, in search of Love, or some form of recognition. Security, Love, and Recognition. Those are what all of your physical decisions are based on. And yes, your brain is part of your physical self. Unless you know what your Simple Truth is, what your life purpose is, you will continue to waste your time and energy running against what you innately know to be your life’s purpose.

After all is said and done, will you spend your time following the distractions of your life or will you embrace your life’s purpose and enjoy the fulfillment your journey offers?

One path allows you to find comfort in your discomfort with grace and dignity. The other will lead you to weep and cry out at the indignity of it all. Will you learn to find comfort as you check in on your emotions and your responses to them, or will you let your auto-responses manage your life? Will you eat your way through the discomfort of this pandemic, or go on an online shopping spree, knowing you will suffer the consequences when it’s all over? Or will you accept the madness spinning around you as you breathe and return to your core values to follow your life’s purpose?

Only you can decide this. Only you have a window into your inner-workings, your thoughts and your emotions. Your own Simple Truth.

The choice is yours, and yours alone to make.

I wish you wellness and safety. And I hope you will always be pleased with the person you truly are?

Your Simple Truth is all that really matters. Anything else is simply a distraction that will eventually lead to a life lived in pain and suffering.

A life unfulfilled. Be safe and I wish you well. I truly hope this helps. Jeff

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/

 

 

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.

6 Simple Tips For Better Meditation

If you don’t think you can meditate, it is really not difficult to sit and weave your meditation into your life. In fact it is really quite easy.  Just follow these simple tips and don’t forget to smile as you do.

You may even surprise yourself when you realize how easy it is and what a lifesaver it can be in the worst and best of times.

 

1. Create Your Space:

Try your best to meditate in the same space every time. You don’t need Zen-like images of serenity nor do you need your place to look like a formal Buddhist setting. All you need is for your space to hold your energy. When you site you should sit within yourself. The last thing you need is to carry the baggage that comes with a 1,500 year old lineage.

That lineage is there to teach you the meditation techniques they have refined, that is all. It I up to you to find the ones that work for you so that you can weave them into a tapestry that works for you on your terms. That is what your practice is all about, creating a meditation that works for you in the realities of the contemporary world you live in.

 

2. Set A Time:

Set a time to meditate. Don’t buy into the whole “I have no time to meditate” excuse. Try earlier if you must or take a shorter shower. Perhaps you can shorten your morning tea ritual, and if that old brain of yours says you can’t possibly meditate without tea, then just tell it yes you can and begin. Remember your rain is not the boss of you, it is simply an organ that processes all the input that comes in through your five senses.

Think of your morning meditation as a game of distractions. Your mind will try to distract you from your daily practice. It will tell you, you can’t possibly meditate without a cup of tea. You can’t possibly sit for thirty minutes with that hair hanging out of place, tickling your forehead.

Well, guess what, you can. Simply scroll through your five senses and settle into the space you are in, right here and right now

 

3. Dedicate Yourself:

Dedicate yourself to your practice. Dedicate a time and place for your meditation he night before. When you rise in the morning your mind should already know where and when, making it for you to simply follow along. When you first open your eyes put one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Feel yourself breathe and remind yourself of your promise to meditate. Even speak the words out loud, “I promised myself I would meditate at 8:00 this morning and I will keep that promise.”

 

4. No Content, No Contest

Don’t check your social media feeds. Let Facebook, Twitter and Instagram be. Your texts and your emails will be there for you when you are done. Also, don’t look at the TV or check the newspaper. Each will set your brain moving in the opposite direction of your meditation.

 

5. Meditation Before Contemplation

If you just want to meditate then simply sit and breathe and let go of your thoughts. If your intention is to contemplate a specific issue or aspect of yourself then decide to do so after you meditate. Meditation will clear your mind and provide you with a clean slate upon which to contemplate whatever issues are rumbling through your head.

If you are going to contemplate, make it personal, keep it from being abstract, create a mission statement up front if that will help you keep your focus like I want to improve my relationship, or I want to improve myself, or I want to improve my apartment. It’s all fair game but by making it personal you will stay on that topic whenever you veer from your path. Repeat your statement when you feel yourself losing your direction.

 

6. Live Your Meditation

When you finish your meditation don’t just leave your stillness behind. Take it with you. Begin to weave what you need from your practice into your day. When you read your emails and recognize your stress rising from that panicked email your boss just sent, simply breathe as you contemplate each step required to complete their assignment. Break it down into manageable steps and then think through each one.

Remember the old adage about how to eat an elephant?

The answer is simple, bite by bite.

 

 

 

Click here to learn  more about how I can help you create a deeper, richer, more relevant meditation that you can bring into your life today and everyday.

 

Be well and I hope this helps.

 

 

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.

Blood pressure should be normal if you are taking generic Sildenafil Citrate.

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.

 

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?

Meditation – Find Your Community

Every decision you make creates an entirely new universe for you to live in. Sometimes the choices you made yesterday streamlined your path for today, delivering you to your destination more quickly and with less stress.

Sometimes the choices you made caused you to stumble and even fall until you found your path again. Even if you never found you way back wherever you are is where you were meant to be, for better or for worse.

No decision is ever right or wrong. They simply put you on a different path that you either continue down or correct as you learn the very powerful lessons you carry with you throughout your life.

I am the first to say that some life lessons I would rather not have to repeat, but that is exactly the point; no matter which path you took you still arrived where you are today, in this moment, right here and now.

If you look back at your life, the decisions you made probably left you right back where you started from, perhaps a little scuffed and bruised, but with the life lessons you acquired from your experiences. I am not saying life is a bowl of cherries or always look on the bright side of life. Life is filled with suffering and misery. But if you can separate yourself from the physical and find the lesson you were meant to learn, it makes whatever you are going through a little easier to accept.

And this may just be the ultimate lesson to remember – that there are no bad decisions. There are only shorter and longer paths upon which to travel. Life is about learning the lessons you were meant to learn if you are to travel onward.

Do not bemoan what you think is a bad decision with a series of if only’s or what if’s. Embrace your decision and accept the outcome so that you can carry on with a deep breath and a knowing smile. Do not group your decisions together and blame yourself for your “mistakes.” Take each decision as a lesson learned that you can choose to repeat again or to avoid before you get to the point of having to make it again.

Right or left, “should I” or “shouldn’t I?” In the end your brain compiles as much data as it can so that you can make as well of an informed decision as possible, and then you leap in. Some new bit of information may arise or some new event may occur that may change your decision, but all you can do is keep your wits about you and respond to it as best you can. But you still end up going with your heart and your gut.

The more aware you are of your situation the better you can anticipate and respond. The more panicked you become the less able you are to respond.

This is why I say let go of all that mental chatter, breathe and smile to anyone who approaches you. Slow down and relax as you feel your emotions and opinions rise up from within. Be aware of them, but do not feel as if you have to respond to them.

Remind yourself that this very moment is what your meditation training has been for.

Then dive in and accept the best decision for what it is – a well informed choice that is ultimately made with your gut and your heart, not your brain.

If you would like help in these times know that you don’t have to do it alone, there is a community around you that is ready to support you. Please feel free to reach out, we can help you find your community.

 

 

Be well, and I hope this helps.

Always Something You Can Do

No matter how badly you have fallen, no matter how many scrapes and scratches you have accumulated, no matter how badly bruised you are, there is always something small you can do to improve your circumstances.

There is absolutely nothing in your present situation that prevents you from moving in a direction. It may not bee the right direction, but that is okay. If you find you have moved in the wrong direction you can always course correct later. You can always turn 180 degrees around and step forward to be right back where you are right now with the knowledge of what not to do next time. 
 
After all, life is about learning and growing. Not moving is an unconscious decision to stay, to learn nothing except that your fear prevented you from moving. If you take nothing else from this post, remember that vision without action is just a daydream, while following the wrong vision can be a lesson for your next venture.
 
Besides what’s the hurry? You are going to be here for your entire life, aren’t you? What’s the rush? Have something better to do or some place better to be than right here, right now?
 
Sometimes even the smallest step in the wrong direction can be the greatest step to send your life moving in the right direction toward something better. 
 
Just be logical about it. You don’t have to leap, baby step if you must, but step, step, step and yes, soon you will be walking out the door from your present situation.

Need to find a direction? Need to find your own Simple Truth? All you have to do is click here and start your journey off right – Simple-Truth.com 

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

I hope this helps