The moment

that you feel that just possibly you are walking around naked, exposing your heart and mind

and all that exists on the inside

showing too much of yourself

that’s the moment you are getting it right

that is living an authentic life

if you wish to connect, not control, respond, not react, start from here.

Fear and truth

As leaders we have been brainwashed into thinking that acknowledging or showing fear is a weakness.  The pack will smell your weakness and expose it.  Naturally, because of this, when fear comes up most of move away, sometimes all out run away. We all know that feeling, whether your mouth goes dry, your hands get clammy, you get a knot in your stomach, our brain is registering fear and we move into fight or flight, it is how we are built. If our instinct is to run away, to avoid, we are often missing a big opportunity. To learn something about ourselves and to potentially dissipate that fear by meeting it head on.  Pema Chodron says that “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”   Our fear, whether it is a big presentation coming up a work, having to give someone difficult feedback or that spider in the corner, is telling us something we need to pay attention to. As leaders showing vulnerability, admitting to fear and overcoming it is way more inspiring and impactful than pretending it doesn’t exist. Next time that feeling creeps in, stop, take a breath and sit with it, even for a minute. Examine it, lean into it – is it real or perceived?   What is the worst case scenario, play it out and you may notice the closer you get the farther away it feels.  Experiment with sharing that fear with others, showing your human side.  By opening and sharing people can sense your authenticity and trust increases.

Open to life as it is, not as you pretend it to be.

CRAVE – Series 1 October 27th!

Join us and learn to uncover the habits that are getting in the way of the life you want. You will learn how and why we do the things we do, how are brains hold us back and how we can change them. You will learn simple techniques to cultivate greater self awareness and make the shifts in your life that will last.

October 27th
Subculture – 45 Bleeker Street
2pm – 5pm
Tickets below or at the door

http://sparkshift-efbevent.eventbrite.com

Inside out

Who are you that they are that? How do we contribute to the behavior and reactions of others?

We never change, do we…

We never change, do we…

This could be posed as a question or a statement, and I am not sure where I fully stand on it yet. I believe that we only uncover our true selves when we change, so are we really changing or just shifting?

Our conditioned existence poses so many challenges to us, and many of us decide that there is nothing we can do about it. Maybe we are worriers, or defenders, or yellers, or overeaters, or drinkers, lazy, pessimists…you name it, we have a label for it. But we do not need to be embody these habits, they are untangle-able, undoable, movable, shiftable. For any habit that has formed can be reformed, gently nudged, replaced, a different choice uncovered.

The key here, however, is recognizing the choice in the matter. For when we say “this is just who/how I am” we are implying that we are victims to some set of circumstances or DNA that made us who we are, when in reality, we are choosing to think or feel or behave a particular way. Or maybe you will argue that we don’t choose our thoughts and feelings, in that case, we still choose our reaction, and thus the ensuing behavior.

I recognize in myself the habit need to be right and as a result resist. For example, when a decision of mine at work was challenged and overturned, I grasped at all the reasons why the new decision was wrong. I spent hours, maybe even days searching for evidence to support my position. Over the course of that time the situation hadn’t changed, and I only found my self deeper in my self pity, anger and frustration. For every bit of evidence I collected I felt self righteous, and concluded that I was right and they were wrong – but still the situation didn’t change. So where did I find myself? Bitter and angry and stuck with all of the bits of evidence in my misery. And so when all else failed I finally surrendered and meditated. I found some space in my breath, and I looked closely at my need to be right.

Settling in, awake, alert, aware. Just breathing. Letting go. Letting be. Ahhh. What was my real motivation? Was it moral, ethical? Did I want to feel important? Had I really considered the other perspective? What would it mean for me to let go? And I found a mix of answers. Number one, It wasn’t an ethical situation, and that was hard to differentiate. Sometimes when something feels right or wrong to us we assume they is an ethical or moral implication. But really, is there? In this case the real answer was no. I wanted to feel important, that was clear – my ego was standing strong. I also truly felt the wrong decision was being made, and that other people may suffer because of it. But when I looked at the greater context it was clear what the motivations were (right or wrong) and it was clear that nothing was going to change that reality.

So I decided to surrender and to accept the situation as it was, to find a way to work within it, not against it. After all, that is the ultimate teaching of the dharma, isn’t it? To surrender to life as it is and to find a way to weave into it, not to fall down and not to push against – but to ebb and flow within.

In recognizing my habit of resistance I had a choice to make. We don’t and won’t always make the choice to behave differently, but we can allow for the possibility by;

recognizing we are making a choice
driving a wedge between the stimulus and response by cultivating self awareness through mediation (this concept of the wedge between stimulus and response gracefully borrowed from Lama Surya Das)
being as honest and we can with ourselves about why we are reacting or behaving a certain way

If we can start with those first three simple steps we can start the journey of shifting our habits to lead a happier life.

“because of ignorance our minds are obscured. We falsely divide reality into subject and object, self and others, existence and non existence, birth and death” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Running

Stop running, for a moment. What are you hiding from? What feeling, experience, deed, relationship, obligation, responsibility, reality are you currently escaping? We are all doing it, in this very moment, even you, even me. Write down the first thing that came to your mind, even if you don’t want it to be that thing. Especially if you don’t want it to be that thing. Look at it, hold it in your hands, in your mind, in your heart. Feel the fear, shame, love, resentment, anger – where do you feel it. Look at it closely. Turn it over, look underneath. Peer into the tiny cracks and holes and ugliness and stunning beauty.

Are you still there? Good. You made through the first step – looking yourself in the eye, even for just a moment can open up the possibility of softening to the pain or fear.

See what happens with the rest of your day. Come back tomorrow for more.

Slowly crack the shell, one bit at a time and just be. Right here, now. There is nothing else.

Breathe.

With love.

Oh how we suffer

The idea that we create our own suffering is not new, yet we haven’t figured out how not to do it. Suffering becomes a self fulfilling prophecy very quickly. It isn’t because we are all martyr’s and masochists, it is because becoming aware of our thinking, noticing the ways in which we create our own suffering is damn hard. Harder still is cultivating the honesty with ourselves to admit it, to be as honest as we can with ourselves. And then if it is going to shift or change we have to act on it, which means constant awareness and deliberate thought and action. After all, this thinking of ours has become a lifelong habit, it doesn’t just go away because we know it’s there.

I, probably like you, have discovered a number of ways in which I have created my own suffering, none more painful or difficult to face than how I was contributing to the unhappiness in my marriage.

Just over a year ago, as alluded to in my post on Roman Ruins, I almost gave up on my marriage of 7 years. I had hit a point where my unhappiness was unbearable, and my habit was to look outside myself as to what the problem was. So I blamed and blamed and I collected my evidence that I was right. That our lives had moved in fast forward for the past 9 years, moving 5 times coast to coast and overseas and back again – that when we were finally in one place and things had slowed the unhappiness couldn’t be pegged on the change or impending change – the unhappiness was right here. Or in my case, over there, it was my wife’s fault. I my mind I had a list of things I needed her to do/change about herself before I would be willing to go to couples therapy. The problem with collecting evidence to support your own argument is that you resist the truth, even when it smacks you in the face. As we are on our path of collecting we aren’t going to pick up those ideas or examples that don’t serve us. So I found myself deep in the well of self deception, drowning in my own blame.

Resentment builds and resistance increases and with each attempt on my wife’s part to talk it through, to go to therapy, to look it in the eye and see it for what it was, I ground myself in deeper. And it continued in that direction for months until one day it didn’t. Her persistence endured and I begrudgingly agreed to one couples therapy session.

Showing up to that session I was certain that I would not budge from my position that was my was at fault, she wasn’t going to change, and maybe wasn’t capable of change. And then we got arrived, to a small office building in a town just north of Amsterdam. I sat down, crossed my arms and shut down. And then our very skilled therapist started asking questions – and my very well defended wall was by an objective third party. As I left the session I had to decide just how much I wanted to continue to build resentment and to resist my life. I had to take a serious look at how I was creating my own suffering. And stop looking outside myself.

The tibetan word Sem mean discursive thinking, it is the way in which we get in our own ways. Rigpa on the other hand mean wisdom mind, it is a way of cutting through things and seeing them as they are. For 14 years I had created this story and self image of me the mindful buddhist, and meanwhile I was just as self deceptive as the next person.

Pema Chodron says that being concerned with our self image is like being deaf and blind. It is like walking through a field a beautiful flowers with a black hood over our head. I decided to take my hood off. I hope you do too.

Seeking

It is only through enduring and going through, not around, the inevitable pain and suffering we encounter that we truly get to know ourselves. Through pain we can cultivate compassion for ourselves and others. Find your bodhisattva and spread compassion for we are all damaged and flawed, it is our human condition.

20130426-103917.jpg

Pursuit of Happiness

I was just perusing facebook when I can across a friend’s post, “Life can be amazing and miraculous one minute and horrible the next, here’ to waiting for the next amazing moment”. And it got me to thinking – We hear a lot about the pursuit of happiness and our right to it. What we fail to see is that it is precisely our pursuit of happiness that causes our suffering – and thus keeps us from that “happiness” we are looking for. I have spent much of my life in that same pursuit – barely tolerating the less than pleasurable experiences in desperate search of the next happy moment. When that moment comes I cling, and maybe you do too, not wanting the feeling or experience to change or dissipate.

I remember the day I gave birth to my son Henry. It was the mist intense experience I had ever had – anticipation, joy, pain, absence of pain and pure joy. I felt each emotion as if I imagine it would feel like if I were born blind and one day was able to see. The visceral feeling of each moment of that day will never leave me. And while I was very focused on the moment and appreciating each second (with the exception of the excruciating pain of the last stages of labor of course) I was terrified for the experience to pass. I instantly started worrying that my 12 weeks of maternity leave would not be enough – and I mean immediately, as in hours after giving birth I was crying and anxious. So I clung to each day as if it were my last – and I cried each day anticipating the day that I would have to leave my perfect little boy at home while I went to work. That extreme clinging to the moment and anticipation of the future took away from my ability to just enjoy and cherish where I was.

And then one day, a month into my maternity leave as I was rediscovering my meditation practice and study I read a paragraph from Mark Epstein’s “Thoughts Without a Thinker” that jolted me into a brief glimpse of awareness. Awareness that I was causing my own suffering. It was around the idea that the pursuit of pleasure leads to dissatisfaction as pleasure itself is not sustainable, primarily because we become content with what felt “pleasurable” initially, so we seek more.

“When any situation that is desired by the pleasure principle is prolonged it only produces a feeling of mild contentment. We are made so that we can derive intense enjoyment only from a contrast and very little from a state of things. Thus our possibilities of happiness are already restricted by our constitution” – Epstein

It was an awareness that the contrast of my pain from labor allowed me to appreciate the absence of pain once he was delivered. And that if I continue to seek that moment, even if I have the moment again, it won’t be the same, it is not sustainable in a constant way. By yearning for my environment to not change I was not appreciating what I had in the now. So I slowly let go of clinging to the idea that this utopia we had created in Henry’s first few months would change, and pursuit of a constant state of anything only leads to discontent. We are not wired for contentment.

So if you are like me in any way, and are clinging to a moment, a feeling, a touch, anything – let it go and know that the next painful, frustrating, or even mildly annoying experience you have will only help you enjoy the next “good” moment that much more.

Nameless

The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name”

– Lao Tzu

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