Zen Living: When you’re a Zen Guy like me, you’re constantly thinking about, (and trying to enact) being present. The Holiday Season is rife with “things” we can distract ourselves with.
I decided to send you a list of alternative ways of being, in the hopes that shifting gears might help you to deal with life more elegantly.
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Appreciate Your Body’s Wisdom
It’s time to reclaim the 95% of yourself that you minimize and disparage – your body. Admit it, you’re living as a talking head, and hauling the rest of you around because you can’t figure out what else to do with your body.
I know a lot of people who are in absolute denial about their bodies, and what their bodies want/need. I look and see tightness, discomfort, pain. I ask, “What’s up?” and I get this veritable spew of stories from the past and the future.
It’s all this weird external stuff that has nothing at all to do with what is going on right now.
I suggest a bit of breathwork, a bit of focus below the neck. Then the sighs and tears and anger and sadness and the horniness for life and for release starts creeping to the surface. Often the up-flow of emotions causes a panicky retreat back into their heads.
If the person can hold to the feeling, and be present in their body, there is an easy flow of emotion and a decided lessening of the drama they are creating.
But, boy is it hard to persuade people to go there.
In fact, I’ve pretty much given up on trying. I have taken to inviting presence through breath and then just sitting there to see what happens next.
Idea for Zen Living: Now is the time to commit to listening to the wisdom of your body. Stop running from yourself – running up into your head, where you lie to yourself and create more dysfunctional stories. Commit to dealing deeply and fully with your body. You’ll be glad you did.
The idea of living honestly is one of the hardest “sells.” People have a lot of excuses for not being honest, either with others or with themselves.
- Some actually resent the whole concept – they figure “adults have a right to privacy.” Having secrets is seen as a privilege of being an adult.
- Others think that if they are honest about who they are and what they are about, others will run screaming from the room.
- Others get a charge out of pulling the wool over others’ eyes.
Living Honestly entails self-discovery, followed by self-reflection, followed by self-revelation.
This process is emphatically not about discovering your faults and then stuffing them down other’s throats. Honest Living is all about digging in deeply, revealing (to self and others) the depths of yourself, and emphatically it’s about stopping lying to yourself about your inability to make better choices.
Idea for Zen Living: A noble goal is to commit to telling the truth, gently, yet clearly — about yourself. (It’s not about blasting others about what you perceive as their truth – “You are such a jerk. You need to get over yourself.” That’s not your job! Your job is to learn about the depth and height of yourself, and to bring that person into full expression in the world. It is a noble path.
Movement and change is our only reality. You cannot cling, for even one moment, to anything – a person, an experience, even a single breath. You cannot cling to your life – it is passing, and soon you will no longer be.
Movement and the passage of time are intrinsically linked.
Once you see this, you will recognize that the pain and drama of our lives have nothing to do with what is happening right now. All of that pain comes from our fantasies that what is happening right now ought to be different.
As we have that thought, our brains get involved, and soon we are just sitting there, immobile, telling ourselves stories of past and/or future.
The way out is active participation in the present moment, emphasis on active. You incarnated (literally “came into flesh – carne”) to have a body, (i.e. to feel and to get around) and bodies need airing out, dancing, jumping, stretching and generally need to be in contact with other warm bodies.
So, what are you doing to be present and in your body?
Idea for Zen Living: The movement of life is the presence of life. In this flow, I am alive and aware. And that, my friends, is as good as it gets! Commit to a rigorous physical program of movement, and then be present with what your incarnation feels like.
Here’s a biggie. Oh, for a wholehearted commitment to anything!
Most people dick around and chip away at life, as opposed to tackling the thing wholeheartedly and whole-headedly.
This is a biggie – a major flaw in the path we are all on is doing only enough to mitigate pain, as opposed to pushing through the pain to see what lies beyond it.
Relationships suffer from seeking “no pain.” People think, “No pain, no problem.” But everything always changes – and then the relationship goes south – because only the “minimal effort to maintain the status quo” had been applied.
My thinking is that wholehearted commitment is necessary for a fulfilled and fulfilling life. Dabbling, playing-at-life, flitting about while time passes and life goes by, seems to me the ultimate in wasting one’s life.
Idea for Zen Living: Yet, many are the excuses. And you are never any better than your best excuse. Dear hearts, get over it! Commit to something and make it happen. You do not have forever.
Put Yourself First
No, it’s not selfish to put yourself first. I’m not talking about steam-rolling over others. I’m talking about taking your self, your life, and your path with the utmost seriousness.
Most people dedicate their lives to others, and not in a good way. Most engage in an, “If I treat them well, they’ll treat me well” game that never plays out. Why?
When you make it your mission to live for another, all you create it the expectation that you will do this forever. It does not engender reciprocity. It engenders dependence and expectations – demands – for more and better from you.
Any one who accuses you of selfishness is saying, “Hey! Wait a minute! You are supposed to put me first! How dare you think of yourself and not of me?” In other words, they are doing (being selfish) what they are accusing you of!
The only way your life will ever be other than it is, is when you do something differently. Period. Anything else is a fluke.
Idea for Zen Living: You can’t change your life, your prospects, your relationships, your body, without changing something – wishing does not make it happen.
When is the right time for you???
Right now, of course!!
Create More Passion
Passion is the burning, internal fire of purpose. Passion is a path of self-development – this fire is what drives us to go deeper – to change. Passion is all about desire focused on a goal and in a direction.
Other stuff (people, places, things) does not create passion in us. Passion is an inside job. This is why we can be passionate about someone or some thing at one point, and not passionate in the next breath.
Passion feels hot and chargy. Thus, it is a prime mover and motivator – so long as we do not attach to or get hooked on the feeling. If we do, we become passion junkies, and the only goal is “more passion.”
The form of passion that is helpful is passionate direction. For enlightenment. For a noble goal or cause. For more depth of self-knowing and for more depth in relationship.
This kind of passionate acting is actually a path.
Create some passion for yourself. Don’t put it off. Passion is the power that primes the pump of life!
If you’ve read my book, This Endless Moment, you’ll know I take a non-serious tack with matters sexual and sensual. I wrote:
“he reason sex continues to be considered some kind of marker in relationships is sexual embarrassment and immaturity. Sex is given great meaning because we are afraid to take it casually.
It’s a hard thing to admit out loud to being sexual.
Quantum physics teaches us that the universe is energy and potential – in other words, stuff is simply in flow and flux, and then is observed and comes into being. This is the state of the entirety of existence.
For example, the old Zen-ish question,
“If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there, does it make a sound?”
The answer is simple: It depends.
There is energy that is created by the fall – a flowing outward of energy. It only becomes a “sound,” however, if there is an “ear” to hear it, AND a mind to interpret it.
Sound becomes something “real” when it is interpreted by the brain of the hearer.
This explains why you understand what you said one way, and the person hearing the same words interprets it another way.
Everything, then, is dependent upon the interpretation of the observer.
Sex becomes a fascinating and passionate learning energy when we interpret it that way. That’s the “take” of Tantra and Kundalini work. The energy (which is “just energy,”) can be directed, turning it into a powerful force for our own awakening. Or, it can be made special, dragged out occasionally, and treated with embarrassment.
Idea for Zen Living: Find someone to explore your sexual energy with. Learn how to “make it work for you.” Dedicate yourself to breaking open the blocks in your body. After all, you’re in your body for a reason!
Change Your Story
Here’s a question: “And how is endlessly repeating a story you hate helping you to change how you are in the world?”
I spend a lot of time asking that question – I ask others, and I ask myself.
I have a couple of stories about being un-appreciated that I’ve been hauling out and flogging myself with since, well, forever. I’ve have reached the place where I now laugh at myself and give myself a shake. I certainly do not enact this story anymore.
Because the story does not work!
People argue with me on this one. “But…but… how can I just change my story? My story is right! I’m so hard done by! I need to get everyone on the planet to admit how badly they are treating me! How can I heal myself when I know I’m powerless?”
Nothing means anything until you give it meaning. You don’t like the way your life is going, change your story.
Idea for Zen Living: Nothing will move you further along the path than this simple truth – your life is exactly and precisely the story you are telling yourself.
Get this, and then do something about it!
Be a Blessing
We are quite small in the face of the elegance of the universe. In the face of that, it might be sise to get over ourselves (and our busyness,) long enough to “be a blessing.”
In other words, to change your story from one long, pathetic whine,
and to get on with making a difference in the world.
As I get older, time seems much more compressed. Six months flashes by in an instant. Darbella and I have been together sinece 1983. Where did the days, the weeks, the months, the years, go?
What have I accomplished?
I ask myself that question with compassion and with grace.
Have I been of use — have I been a blessing?
Idea for Zen Living: You were born for a reason, never doubt it. So, what are you waiting for? The perfect moment? Permission?
How about right now? Be a blessing.
Hone your Loving
Loving (an action, as opposed to “love,” which doesn’t exist) requires keenness and sharpness and accuracy, just like a knife does.
Sometimes love is a gentle nudge, like the last point (he says with a grin…) Loving is never about doing things that fly in the face of who you are. Loving is only possible when you are present, connected, self-responsible, and curious.
- Presence means I am here, in this moment, and nowhere else. Not wool-gathering, planning my next speech, distracted.
- Connected is an emotional sense of resonance. It’s all energy anyway, so connection is allowing myself to open enough to actually feel the vibrational tone of another.
- Self-responsible people do not blame others, situations, or themselves. They are “simply present,” and from their presence respond from their core to the situations they meet. Self-responsibility is all about working from my centre outward, with a clear heart and focused mind.
- Curiosity is not manipulative. It’s an acknowledgement that whatever is going on in your world is yours, and it, by definition, has to be different from my understandings. Because value you, I want to know more about you. And because I value you, I want to know how well your perspective is working.
Idea for Zen Living: Be more loving. Open yourself to the possibility of caring and compassion, with no need to fix anyone or anything. From this place of non-fixing, live elegantly, leave a mark, and be a blessing!
Get on with it
People pick at the self-created scabs of themselves, and irritate themselves, and the exploration, such as it is, never leads anywhere except to more things to not like.
The joke is, the stuff they are digging up is just a story they are telling themselves. It’s not true,” it’s not, “who they are.” Who they are is, “all of it, plus all the other stuff.”
And self-exploration doesn’t matter anyway. Because this kind of self-exploration leads only inward.
No authentic spiritual path actually leads inward. Take meditation. Seems internal, all that breathing and emptying the mind. But to what end?
Presence! And presence only happens out here, in the world.
Idea for Zen Living: When I stop talking to myself and judging myself and coming up with yet another label, I can simply be, and in that being, respond to life, to self, and to others, and thus to accomplish something elegant.
Because in order to leave a mark, you have to actually do something different!
(Are you noticing how all of this fits together? Good!)
Live in the Present, for a Change
Change only happens in the present moment. The client I mentioned above was regretting a past relationship. My question: How would that person (now dead) want you to live your life now? You can’t change what’s happened, but you can change “from now on!”