Distraction is the main problem for us all – what the Buddha called the monkey mind. We need to tame this little monkey mind. Tenzin Palmo
As entertaining as it can be, please don’t feed the monkey mind.
They’re not dead yet, but they aren’t living either, although they were once a fantastic dynamic duo, living quite a wonderful life, they are now in a highly emotional state trying to navigate a fiercely complex and shifting terrain that is filled with unknowns.
Now at 76 my mom has stage four lung cancer and even though she will start a new FDA-approved targeted therapy in less than a week, she is very scared, angry and confused. It is a part of the acceptance process, I guess and I hope it will pass.
Dad claims he can take care of her and will not accept any help in their home. It’s causing everyone in the family senseless, needless pain and worry, but it’s even more difficult not to help them. It is a twisted form of enabling and the situation changes daily. How do you know when you’re enabling an elderly loved one as opposed to actually helping them out with something they need?
Life Lessons Learned from The Dying Thus Far
Be Open & Responsive to Change
Both of my parents are stubbornly holding on to old ways and traditions that no longer serve them and probably never served anyone well. They are trying so hard to hold on to their independence as they shut out the world around them. They refuse any help at all while making life harder for everyone, including themselves. Their behavior has affected not only their lives but all of us who care for them as they insist on struggling terribly through their days. Their lack of flexibility and adaptability is actually driving their decline even faster than if they chose to open their minds to new ways of staying as safe, secure and healthy as possible.
2. The Trouble is, You Think You have Time
Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, it’s the only time we’ve got. ~Art Buchwald
What you do with the time you have now, while you are actually able to live is most important. More important than savings, work or taking care of daily activities of living. Do not hesitate for one instance to do, try and execute everything you have ever dreamed of – for you have no time. Forgive and let go of the past, tell someone what they mean to you and celebrate each and every miracle of breath that you take. Gratitude for what you have right here and right now is everything. Do more with your life while you have it to live. Do not take this lightly. This is the most crucial lesson.
3. Know Your Limitations, So You Can Move Forward
My parents won’t accept their current weaknesses – fading health and loss of memory, which is causing them even more harm and possibly big trouble for others. How many times does it take getting lost while driving, or losing your cell phone, checkbook, wallet and keys before you realize that your memory isn’t what it was? Only when we honestly examine ourselves and accept our current limitations can we improve or find the tools, people or plan to help us work around the obstacles we face. If we don’t accept that we have a problem, than how can we fix it?
4. It Takes a Measured Amount of Expectation & Acceptance to Survive
Yes I see how refusing to accept the aging process can be helpful- expecting more from yourself and those around you can actually keep you going, but your approach is what matters most. Feeling overwhelmed and then reacting never produces a good outcome.
Life is always walking up to us and saying, “Come on in, the living’s fine,” and what do we do? Back off and take its picture. ~Russell Baker
My mother really surprised me when she said that she didn’t think the oncologist or the cancer center was really doing anything for her condition. In her mind, they are epically failing. How about 18 extended months of living? Mom is actually expecting a cure from the second deadliest disease in the world. It’s phenomenal. There is a measured amount of acceptance that is necessary in order to strike a deal with reality.
5. Plan Your Aging & Dying Process Before it Happens
It is our duty to plan our death. I am not taking about a living will, health care proxy or deciding on cremation versus a below the ground burial. I am talking about how you plan to age. How open you will be to the natural process of slowing down? Reverse engineering your life so that when you get to the point that you need help from others, you will accept it. Knowing when it’s time to let go of past behavior and activities, giving up your favorite things like driving. It is critical to understand the type of attitude you will have as you enter a new season of your life.
Just as we plan our career, marriage, children and even vacations, we need to be more thoughtful of how we leave this earth.
6. The Reality of Dying is Largely Negotiable
Just like anything else, we can rethink how we plan to age and die.
If you stress-test the boundaries and experiment with the “impossibles,” of dying, you’ll quickly discover that most limitations are a fragile collection of socially-reinforced rules you can choose to break at any time.
Social rule systems are used to examine all levels of human interaction. They provide more than potential constraints on action possibilities. Read more about social rules and the patterning of action here.
Who made these social rules about aging and dying and why do we think we need to obey them?
Increased longevity paired with aging baby boomers means that our older population is growing at record speed – a phenomenon in developed countries from the UK to Japan. According to Professor David Clark, a researcher in end-of-life care at the University of Glasgow: “We’re seeing what we regard as a massive global issue. There’s a huge wave of dying, death and bereavement.” At the moment about one million people die each week around the world; within 40 years, that number is expected to double.
I held a moment in my hand, brilliant as a star, fragile as a flower, a tiny sliver of one hour. I dropped it carelessly, Ah! I didn’t know, I held opportunity. ~Hazel Lee
People redesigning the experience of death
Making decisions about serious illness is not an easy task and they are not made alone. Watch Nick Jehlen of Common Practice explain his design approach to facing the elephant in the room, the talk about death and these new products, services and dying submissions to Designing Death.
The reality and truth is, when the eastern sages spoke about karma, they were speaking about selfishness. The word “karma” in Sanskrit means “action” and the Buddha believed in two types of action. Bad selfish action and good selfless action. Bad selfish action promotes, protects and aggrandizes the ego which in turn leads to inner suffering, distress, remorse and guilt.
I stumbled upon this explanation and more from Leo Gura on Actualized.org. What Is Karma exactly? – Watch a rational explanation of how karma really works and why it’s extremely relevant to your happiness levels.
On My Book Shelf
Instant Karma is a collection of thousands of ways to create good karma for yourself and others. The advice in Barbara Ann Kipfer’s book is based on the principles of Buddhism and emphasizes the importance of physical health, spiritual growth and peace.
- Throughout the day, ask yourself, Am I paying attention?
- Then ask yourself, Why judge?
- Do not expect praise or reward.
- Give confidence to others.
- Life is positive, only your thinking is negative.
- See everything in your life as a gift.
Remember that looking for happiness outside yourself is like expecting to get in shape by watching others exercise.
Read more, here: Instant Karma
Believe the best is yet to be.
My favorite morning tea
As I read many of your blogs I can see that we are on a similar path of questioning our lives, bettering ourselves and pursing our dreams. As I seek to accomplish the same, mine is a three part story and also an endless loop of lightening up, sparking joy and creating love. Creating a life that I love and that inspires the world.
Success So Far
Some of the less exciting details. In the past year I have lost 25 pounds, toned and strengthened my body, spent five to eight hours a day examining my values, thoughts and inner-conflicts while embracing a new lifestyle mindset of mindfulness and minimalism. All with the help of some of the best mentors, teachers, authors and leaders I can find.
Without going through the harrowing details of my personal backstory, the most important thing to know about me (that I think can help you) is that on July 18, 2014 I had had enough. Enough of everything, including –
- The exhausting “weight of the world” that I thought I held.
- Managing clients with entitled attitudes and bad business models.
- Rushing through my days without a moment to breathe.
- Feeling like a worn, torn and tired door mat.
- Arguing and getting enraged at my family because I didn’t know how to ask for help.
- Tackling daily task lists that ran the length of a full page of Staple’s copy paper.
- Trying to play the role of super woman while managing everyone’s mess but my own.
Change don’t come easy.
I honestly believe it takes that amount of anger, pain and/or strong emotion to push someone out of a rut and/or from the false sense of security that society is trying to sell us to creating and designing a life that you love.
This type of energized and emotional fuel is what takes you from reading your hundredth self-help book filled with life hacks to actually taking action.
We are not what we think, or what we feel or what we say, we are what we do. Actions do indeed speak louder than words. If you are unhappy with a particular part of your life, take a strong look at what you are doing to be happier.
Part 1 Lightening Up
Symbolically, I think the added 25 pounds that I gained were due to the heaviness of life, daily strife and stress and uncertainty. I was caught in the spin cycle of success. That compounded with sitting at my desk for 10 hours, eating a mindless lunch and banging away at the keyboard with only face-to-screen interaction for most of the day that did me in.
My transformation began with –
- Getting up earlier each morning to make the time for me.
- Changing my habits and designing result rituals – daily, repeated steps towards my success.
- Remembering to rest, breathe and take a moment to come back to the present.
- Counting calories while eating low-fat nutrient dense foods.
- A powerful dose of daily cardio and strength training workouts.
- Scheduling a 10-20 minute vipassana meditation practice daily.
- Starting each day with a gratitude journal.
- A never-ending commitment to reading, learning and expanding my mind.
Part 2 Sparking Joy (where I am now)
It’s all about letting go. Realizing that perfect is the enemy of good. While it is important to have control over our lives, it can be counterproductive to attempt to control our lives. The energy spent trying to be perfect can keep us from enjoying and appreciating all the good things that exist right before us.
Which also means letting go of thoughts, things, people and habits that no longer spark joy in my life.
“Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.”
I am in the process of –
- Removing anything in my home and work environment that doesn’t give me a sense of true enjoyment.
- Guarding my time and my mind with my life. (Note: The 7-Day Mental Diet helps with the mind part)
- Detoxing my doubts and limiting beliefs about what I can actually achieve.
- Saying no instead of yes to people who want my time, even if the immediate rewards seem really great. My new motto, “If I don’t feel it, I don’t do it.”
“The process of assessing how you feel about the things you own, identifying those that have fulfilled their purpose, expressing your gratitude, and bidding them farewell, is really about examining your inner self, a rite of passage to a new life.”
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
Part 3 Creating Love
For me, creating love in my life begins with forgiving myself and others, no matter what my ego says.
Forgiving ourselves is a process that continues our whole life. We are so used to replaying the story of what is wrong with ourselves and others that living with a resentful, tight heart can become our most familiar way of being.
Thousands of times we might find ourselves caught in stories of what we are doing wrong. Thousands of times we might drop under our blame to where the deeper pain lives. With each round of freeing ourselves through forgiveness, we strengthen our recognition of our basic goodness.
If you have decided to make a change in your life, I would love to hear about your transformational process – what is working for you, books you are reading, workouts you love, films that have inspired with you.
The Highest Version of Myself
“When you become too familiar with who you are,
you have become in fact a real stranger to yourself.”
Quote from –
Inspired by a morning meditation question, what does the best version of myself do today?
- Frames everything I do with gratitude, appreciating my meals, family, work, friends and opportunities to inspire others and connect.
- Spends time in the company of wise people while honoring their intelligence and wisdom.
- Lives in a place and space that is good for me while attempting each moment to help myself and others and as I move in the direction of my heart and soul.
- Learns daily, developing skills of communication and training with deliberate discipline using my words carefully and beautifully.
- Takes good care of my mother, father and cherishes my husband, children and engages in a livelihood that is inspiring and uplifting with benefit to all.
- Gives generously to others and lives with integrity.
- Avoids doing harm and is careful not to over indulge while developing wholesome states of mind.
- Respects life and others with humility and is content while appreciating the spiritual teachings brought into my life.
- Is patient and compassionate with all of those on my path.
- Lives simply and understands the deepest truth and the highest freedom and happiness of mindfulness.
- Steadies my mind, never allowing my thoughts to be swayed by the ups and downs of life, free of sorrow and shame.
- With this highest and humble version of myself, every where I go, I am at peace.
While my religion is not Buddhism, I respect and honor the wisdom of these teachings. I am also inspired by Steve Jobs and his advice for being the best version of you.
I would love to know what the best version of you would do today. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Inspired by the Book Awakening Joy by James Baraz
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness,
Comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house and
empty of its furniture.
Still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing,
And invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
Because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
Poem by Rumi
On the other hand . . .
“The sweetness of adventures is in unpredictability. Life is a great thing, it’s new meetings, feelings, changes. I do not fear anything, and everything interests me. I could travel, be friends, visit as a guest. What more could I wish for? The fact that we could sit, watch, speak and normally cross the street – that is already happiness! One should value, what one has.”
– Marat Safin
Adventure travel isn’t always about riding big waves, biking through forests and ascending new heights — sometimes it’s about wandering inside, to explore the realm of our inner worlds. I’m stoked to be going to Town Hall NYC to hear one of the most influential spiritual leaders of our time, Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh
This week in the US, 75 monks and nuns from Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastic order launched a cross-country “Miracle of Mindfulness” tour. #miracleofmindfulness Visit http://www.tnhtour.org/ for the tour schedule.
Mono-tasking – the opposite of multi-tasking, when we are really engaged in what we are doing, that one thing right now. The unobstructed mind.
This practice helps us to become more and more awake to our presence. To wake up to recognize what is really taking place right now.
Interested in learning more about Buddhism and Thay? The 14 Mindfulness Trainings from the Order of Interbeings.
I started this blog to connect with brilliant thinkers and doers like yourself with the intention of making new friends from all around the world. It’s been a little over a month and I am excited to say, that it’s working. I am inspired by what I am reading and learning from so many of you.
I recently discovered, thinker, writer and modern day philosopher, Charlie Bradford, author of Ensouling Potential. If you haven’t read Charlie’s work, I highly recommend you do. He is an authentic and insightful explorer of life and the bigger questions about our existence. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @
Do you have any trusted websites and/or resources that you have found helped you expand your mind?
The answer to your 4th Question:
Outside of books, films, and being in nature, the rest of the resources for expanding my mind, are pretty much self-derived. One of the greatest resources for me right now, is blogging. Most of the thoughts and insights that I’ve had along my journey, remained inside my head and in notepads; written in a very non-linear, incoherent manner. I never knew that I could actually formulate my thoughts into writing, until I started my blog. Just seeing the amount of different people out there with unique view points and means of expression, is enough to expand our sense of what’s possible. So I encourage anyone out there who is yearning to express their thoughts and ideas, to consider starting a blog. You’ll be amazed at how much you grow and develop as a person, just by sharing your thought and ideas with others.
Another great way of expanding the mind, and attaining a greater sense of personal power, is to become a habit pattern interrupter. Some of my greatest insights have come to me after stepping outside of my comfort zone – always questioning and challenging the way that I do things. The limits of our minds are usually not limits, but stagnant programs operating just below our conscious awareness that keep us in a particular mode of living. Therefore I urge anyone who feels trapped, and lost within the walls of their own life – to take a long break, and examine the significance of your daily routine. Our daily routines should be building us up, not breaking us down. Therefore, this distinction is a reliable indicator in letting us know whether or not we’ve got sub-conscious pressures bubbling beneath the surface. Once we’ve interrupted these habit patterns with our conscious effort, then we begin to untangle the many hidden knots within the sub-conscious mind, and revive that sense of personal freedom, and the trust within ourselves to know that we can change our lives when ever we desire to.
I’m still on the path of self-discovery myself, and I always will be. I’m forever learning, and forever unfolding. I realize that we are all a work in progress. And I love that. Because no matter which direction we take in life, no matter how many mistakes we all make – we’re all heading toward a greater meaning of life.