Happy in Your Head

Where-the-Wild-Things-Are-002One of the best pieces of advice I ever received. . . .

See it as it is, never bigger than it is.

Don’t over dramatize. It rarely makes anything better and usually much, much worse.

It’s similar to what the Buddha man said about the second arrow.

weathervanes-scroll-graphicsfairy010The Buddha once asked a student, “If a person is struck by an arrow, is it painful?” The student replied, “It is.” The Buddha then asked, “If the person is struck by a second arrow, is that even more painful?” The student replied again, “It is.” The Buddha then explained, “In life, we cannot always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. The second arrow is optional.”

As long as we are alive, we can expect painful experiences- the first arrow. To condemn, judge, criticize, hate, or deny the first arrow is like being struck by a second arrow. Many times the first arrow is out of our control, but the arrow of reactivity is not.

plot twistLightening up

I don’t know about you, but for me things are getting way too serious. It’s time to re-imagine a more playful attitude towards everything.

huvr-hoverboardFloating through life gracefully

As I remember to lighten up, I want to take it a step further and suggest we learn to laugh at ourselves and our situations. Laughter has been proven to improve relationships, elevate moods, decrease stress levels and enhance creativity. So why the hell aren’t we laughing a bit more?

A sense of humor is the key to resilience. It helps you take hardships in stride, weather disappointment, and bounce back from adversity and loss.

Humor—free of hurtful sarcasm or ridicule—neutralizes conflict. We can all use a little less conflict. Agree?

  • It instantly eases tension and allows you to reconnect and regain perspective.
  • Shared laughter and play helps you break free from rigid ways of thinking and behaving, allowing you to see the problem in a new way and find a creative solution.
  • We hear things differently, become less defensive and can tolerate learning things about ourselves that we otherwise might find unpleasant or even painful.
  • Laughter opens us up, freeing us to express what we truly feel and allowing our deep, genuine emotions to rise to the surface.

Play is an attitude of the heart. Some ideas I found for today.

  • Create something without the thought of succeeding or winning. Art for art’s sake. Kind of like my own mini Burning Man.
  • Do something spontaneous, even if for a brief moment.
  • Make up nicknames for your friends and family in your phone -add their photos.
  • Collect funny books that can make you laugh. Check out –

Creepiosity: A Hilarious Guide to the Unintentionally Creepy and Tim Kreider’s We Learn Nothing: Essays

creepiosity

Watch this short video:  How to be Alone  

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The Miracle of Mindfulness and Mono-Tasking

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thich-nhat-hanh-colour“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.

Thích Nhất Hạnh

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.

stoke

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.

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Interested in learning more about Buddhism and Thay? The 14 Mindfulness Trainings from the Order of Interbeings.

Read

The Miracle of Mindfulness: The Classic Guide by the World’s Most Revered Master

Sensing Awe in the AWEdinary

sun riseIf you are paying attention you can find truth and inspiration anywhere and everywhere, in the most ordinary things and experiences in life.
To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower – Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour. 
~ William Blake

Study – The Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake

What passes for spectacular and awesome in today’s culture is mostly synthetic and artificial – most experiences fading like fireworks in a night sky.
Feeling Awesome
Awe is not a function of the brain. Awe is a feeling that comes from that mysterious place deep within the heart and soul. Awe isn’t a product of thought. Rather, awe arises from the gap between our thoughts. There, we connect with that which is beyond description and understanding – something that can only be felt – something that can be shared, but not explained. Read more awesome thoughts here
“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” – Marcus Aurelius
Read his philosophy here

Meditations (Dover Thrift Editions)

 plumeria
Profound truths are in the anthropological field notes of life.  The sweet honey fragrance of pink plumeria aromatizing along my pre-dawn morning walk.  The salty, slightly cooler fresh air blowing through my hair from the Gulf of Mexico. The nervous scurrying about of the hard shell blue crab across the inter coastal dock.
Life’s Field Notes
When searching for awe in the ordinary, I study life like an anthropologist. Ethnographers engage in participant observation in order to gain insight into cultural practices and phenomena. To facilitate this process, ethnographers must learn how to take useful and reliable notes regarding the details of life in their research contexts. My journals may include –
  1. Date, time, and place of observation
  2. Specific facts, numbers, details of what happens at the site
  3. Sensory impressions: sights, sounds, textures, smells, taste
  4. Personal responses to the fact of recording fieldnotes
  5. Specific words, phrases, summaries of conversations, and insider language
  6. Questions about people or behaviors at the site for future investigation
  7. Page numbers to help keep observations in order
 crab
The Blue Crab as Spirit Animal
Time to come out of your shell and be yourself. Stop hiding. He is reminding you that not all paths lead directly to your personal goals. Sometimes a sideways approach is necessary. Shift your focus to what is all around you because your inner senses are trying to guide you through an easier way. Alternatively crab can be reminding you that community is vital for growth, however equally important is a time of introspective seclusion. Know when to withdraw and discern what is right for you.
Crab can also be letting you know that it is important to fuel your curiosity on all levels. Exploration of the world around you leads to discovering new horizons and a vibrant life.

Mastering Your Mind with Charlie Bradford Part 3

 

enlightenmentI 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 @CharlieBrad4ord

Why do you think people are attracted to negative conversation and news on mainstream media?

The answer to your 3rd Question:

Great question. People get a kick out of negative news primarily because it serves as a means to justify their own circumstances. If they see someone on the news, or hear about someone who’s in a worse situation than they’re in; they’re more likely to see their own life as a blessing. Which on the surface doesn’t sound like a problem; but this is a subtle form of psychological warfare, because the person who believes their life is fine just the way it is, because they’ve seen worse, will actually stop growing and unfolding their potential. Thus they are more inclined to settle for less in the presence of the greater possibilities that are out there, simply because they do not want to end up like the person they just saw on the news. Thus this negative information can condition the sub-conscious mind into a state of hopelessness, anxiety and general fear of the outside world. The world is not an evil, negative place. The Earth is in fact a beautiful garden that facilitates the unfoldment of all life, and anyone who has courage enough to take back their power from negative programming, will see the greater wonders that life has to offer.

Whats Really Going on with the World

The second thing is this: People want certainty. They want to know exactly what’s happening in the world. But here’s the bigger picture – everything is happening in the world. Anything that can happen, will happen, and is happening each and everyday. Wow, what a relief! Just by knowing this can clear our mental and emotional sinuses. The only thing mainstream media can do, is report on a tiny fraction of what’s going on in the world, because they could never cover what’s really going on because that would be an impossible task. Once we realize this fact, we can begin to wean ourselves away from the need to be informed by an institution that propagates provocative sound-bites that leave most people lost and afraid.

Cultivating an Improved Attitude

And lastly, we give away our limited daily-resources, our will power – every time we partake in such negative conversation and commotion. Most of the people who consume this kind of media, are not solution orientated. They’re happy to point the finger at who’s to blame, but they have no interest outside their own sphere of influence to offer any constructive means of correction.

The greatest investment we can make as individuals – is to cultivate a positive attitude. Positivity builds, negativity breaks down. If we nourish the mind, it remains useful, if we abuse it and feed it mental-junk, then it will lead us to our own destruction. We’re as free as our thoughts permits us to be. It’s that simple. We need to have a clear vision of what it is we want to experience in this life. If our mental barriers are not strong enough, and we allow negativity to creep into our greater vision – it’ll never become anything more than a vision. Personally, I have not participated in the news for almost six years now. In fact, I don’t even own a television. In realizing the bigger picture, I have been able to pull back from the miasma, and identify a greater truth that is to be found outside of the consensus reality. The further from negativity you get, the more beautiful your life becomes.

A Sky Like Mind, Active Abs and The Art of Slow and Mindful Eating

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Have you thought about what pace feels right for you? At times I do have a need for speed and love the energy and creativity that feels supercharged in big cities like Manhattan. Right now, I feel the need to breath deeply, chill out and slow down to refocus. Not unplug, just down shift to first or maybe second gear.

Something clicked the minute I stepped off the plane at Providenciales. An assuring voice inside my head delivered a comforting message “a more intentional pace.” This slower island pace. Not the harried, brisk and hurried hustle of New York, but the more deliberate and intentional easiness, much like the gentle movement of the waves and soothing breezes of this island.  I am not describing a snail-like, creeping, lazy/boozy pace, but that of speaking, thinking, walking and working which is more conscious, considered and purposed. More thoughtful living. This is the pace for now.

And so it goes with meals, especially meals together. My memories of my youth bring me back to four hour dinners around the long outdoor communal table, under the grapevines, with my loud and excited extended Italian family. The never-ending conversations, the slow and relaxed experience of enjoying a meal together.

The Art of Slow and Mindful Eating begins with an intention to create an experience. Setting the mood, dimming the lights, selecting soft and slower music and smaller plates,  create an atmosphere for mindful eating.  Imagine setting a stage to enjoy and savor your meal. This mindful eating ritual can be extended to any meal – from breakfast to dinner. For more tips on mindful eating, check out Dara Rose, PhD, neuroscientist, foodist, author and the creator of Summer Tomato.

I start my meals by saying grace. Sometimes privately, sometimes with my family. Saying grace can transform a mere meal into an act of celebration, focus, and gratitude.

Listening to meditation talks from Tara Brach, I actually envisioned what she describes as “A Sky Like Mind“, a more expansive mind that allows me to open to the very healing, healthy and beautiful moment that is right now, this healing presence.  Tara’s podcasts and book, Radical Acceptance has really helped release the fear, worry and pain that stems from the mental swirl of anxious activity, the grasping and wanting that only proves to enslave my mind.

It is by meeting each moment throughout the day with radical acceptance for what ever is going on and holding those feelings that arise with a compassionate and open heart, a forgiving heart, this is feels like true freedom.

Reading
Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

Active Abs

With everything moving at a slower pace this week, I had the opportunity to try Pilates class for the first time. One of the slowest classes I have attended in a long time, a slight pick up from yoga, nothing about the Pilates Method is haphazard. The reason you need to concentrate so thoroughly is so you can be in control of every aspect of every moment.  The one reminder that I have walked away with today is Active Abs and focusing on my posture, especially when sitting at my desk for hours at end.  Two exercises to help you feel your abdominal muscles correctly.

Mastering Your Mind Part 2 with Charlie Bradford

enlightenmentI 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 less than 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 @CharlieBrad4ord

Charlie was kind enough to allow me to ask him a series of questions. Here, he reflects on my second one.

What authors, books and/or films have inspired you?

An important book for me, as it pertains to simplicity and minimalism, is ‘The Power of Less‘, by Leo Babauta. His book really helped me eliminate all of the non-essentials from my life, and adopt the minimalist lifestyle; which gave me tremendous clarity and a greater sense of inner-peace. This next book, in my opinion, is one of the best self-development books out there, ‘How I found Freedom in an Unfree World‘ by Harry Brown. Never before have I read a book that so clearly reveals the traps we all get ourselves into, and how we deny ourselves from living the life we know we’re capable of living.

For your reading and learning pleasure –

The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life

and How to Free Your Mind 
How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World. –

On the more Spiritual and Esoteric level, I receive great benefit from studying the ancient wisdom teachings, such as ‘The Tao Te Ching’ by Lao Tzu, ‘The Dhammapada’ (the sayings of Buddha), and other Philosophical and Metaphysical teachings regarding the hidden aspects of life. I really love exploring deep knowledge. The recent philosopher, Alan Watts, also had a profound impact upon my developing mind, as well as the philosopher and writer, Manly P. Hall, who spoke a great deal about our greater capacities, and the importance of becoming a living symbol of all that is good and right.

On Writing

When I first got into writing, I had two books to draw inspiration from: ‘If you want to write’ by Brenda Ueland, and ‘Ensouling Language‘ by Stephen Harrod Buhner. The latter being a more non-conventional, free-spirited approach to writing. Both were very beneficial in helping me find my voice as a writer.

If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit  and
Ensouling Language: On the Art of Nonfiction and the Writer’s Life

and Film

In terms of films, there are so many to draw upon, The T.V series ‘Lost’ made a huge dent in my life back in the day. I was really attracted to the journey of self-discovery that each of the characters were going through, and how each of them had an unfolding destiny within them. Three films that have served as inspiration in recent times, have been: ‘The Shift: From ambition to meaning’ with Wayne Dyer, ‘Living Luminaries’, which presents many great teachers. And I’ve also found the new movie, ‘Lucy’ to be very illuminating, as I can see where that film is coming from. All of these films and many others have contributed in some way to the unfolding pattern of my life, and I’m sure the same can be said for many other people too.

What books and movies have influenced you along your path? I’d love to know. Please share on the comment thread below.

The Busy Trap, Turks & Caicos and the Art of Slow Travel

Parrot Cay

If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are.  It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing.

Busy, so busy, crazy busy.

It is is pretty obviously a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation. “well that’s a good problem to have!” “Better than the opposite.”

This frantic self-congratulatory business busyness is a distinctly upscale affliction. Notice it isn’t people pulling back to back shifts in the ICU or those taking care of their senescent parents or holding down three minimum wage jobs that have to commute to by bus, who need to tell you how busy they are. What those people are is not busy but tired, exhausted, dead on their feet.  

 It’s almost often said by people who’s lamented business is purely self-imposed- work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily. Classes and activities they’ve encouraged their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety because they are addicted to busyness and dread what they might face in its absence.  –  excerpt from Tim Kreider’s “The Busy Trap”

The Art of Slow Travel

I’m leaving this Sunday for an impromptu week on Turks & Caicos –  Parrot Cay to be precise.  My husband was called down on a design and build mission and I get to tag along. You see we don’t do vacations, we do “adventures”. Sailing excursions where we squeeze six humans on a 35 foot boat for 18 days. Camping trips with small babies up the Cape coast for three weeks. I don’t really understand the concept of doing nothing. It frightens me like nothing else.

So, unfortunately, I’m already worried about the wi-fi. Really? Well there goes 100 hours of meditation practice down the drain. Will I have a bike? 24/7 internet access? transportation to island hop? Access to anything I might, need, want, desire?  What if I get tired of the beach? Will I be “trapped” on this beautiful slice of heaven? And to think I’ve been dreaming of going on a silent meditation retreat. Who am I kidding? Laughing very hard at myself right now.

This neurotic anxiousness of being left out (a bit of FOMO I gather) reminds me of a brilliant essay that Tim Kreider wrote for The New York Times a few years ago. It’s called Lazy, a Manifesto.  For anyone who feels the same, it’s a quick must read- the full essay here The Busy Trap, Tim Kreider and one of my favorite book of short essays buy the same author –

We Learn Nothing: Essays

While I do feel incredibly blessed with this opportunity to go, I ask myself, how will I learn to slow down, savor and enjoy this gift of a “vacation”? Perhaps I will meditate on Thich Nhat Hanh’s advice and enjoy a moment of nothing.

If you can find a moment to sit, wherever you are, stay there and enjoy nothing. Just enjoy your in-breath and out-breath. Don’t allow yourself to be carried away by your thinking, worries or projects. Just sit there and enjoy doing nothing; enjoy your breathing and the fact that you are alive . . .

Taken from Your True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh: 365 days of practical, powerful teachings from the beloved Zen teacher

In the meantime, if anyone has suggestions about what to do or see in Turks & Caicos – I would love to hear suggestions.

Mastering Your Mind with Charlie Bradford. Part 1

enlightenment

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 less than 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 @CharlieBrad4ord

Charlie was kind enough to allow me to ask him a series of questions. Here, he reflects on my first one.

MJ: Charlie, how long have you been thinking about tapping into a higher awareness and mastering the mind? How did you become such a deep thinker?

CB: Well, It all started for me when I was in my late teens. I had been reading a lot of great material on simplicity, minimalism, Zen, meditation, the power of the mind, which opened me up to a new world that I was eager to dive into. I grew up with video games, movies, and homework. Before I knew it, I was reading about the infinite potentials of the mind. I’m on-board, where do I sign!? I loved this new sphere of knowledge that I had dived into. Even prior to my teen years, I was very much inclined to read Buddhist philosophy, but lacked the mental facility to fully appreciate what I was reading. But none the less, it planted a seed in my young mind that would eventually lead me to the importance of simplicity, self-control, and mind-mastery.

Seeking Some Enlightenment

So I made it my personal mission to investigate all kinds of knowledge, wisdom, philosophies, books – old and new, exoteric, and esoteric, anything that would enlighten me to the true potentials that lie within each and every one us, and more importantly; how to actualize that potential. I began exploring the importance of Mind, Body, and Spirit, as well as the fundamental principles of Nature. I renounced almost all of my possessions, gave away my television, my video games, changed my diet, my attitude, and started doing my own homework. I had cleared the pathway so that I could receive Truth in my quest for it.

Training the Mind to Relax in the Face of Uncertainty

I’ve always loved exploring deep questions. It’s not about answering them. It’s more-so about getting the mind comfortable with uncertainty. The mind is constantly trying to make sense of everything. So by enquiring in profound matters such as, Why are we here? What is Life? What is Death? What is the Ultimate Plan? Where are we all going? We begin to train the mind to relax in the face of uncertainty. This is similar to the use of Zen Koans, phrases used to stray the mind from its ordinary processing. I’m amazed at the level of insight you can receive simply by concentrating upon a single question! I’ve become compelled to entertain all kinds of questions, especially during meditation, or out in nature where I can let my mind unfold. There were many key points along my path that led me to this conclusion: We are far more than we could ever know within the scope of one life time.

For the next three Mondays I will post more questions for Charlie, but if you have any, please free to ask them here.

A Beginner’s Mind, The Power of the Mindful Pause and Cultivating Self-Compassion

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As with everything I do, I try to keep a beginners mind.  Shoshin (初心) is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind”. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.

Although I’ve been challenging myself daily to improve my mental and physical health and wellness, each morning requires a daily reset – a reboot to remind myself of my hopes, dreams and aspirations.   If I don’t awake each day with this reminder to tread this path leading to a more deliberate and intentional life, than I backslide. It’s similar to training at the gym, I find that my mind must also be trained, daily.

The Power of the Purposeful Pause

Communication experts will tell you to be aware of the power of silence between conversations. When the other person finishes speaking, take a breath, relax and smile before saying anything. They know that “the pause” is a key part of improving communication and relationships.

I’ve been reading Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance and I am going to share  her mindful technique of practicing the purposeful pause.  Now, while pausing when having a conversation with others is always an intelligent idea, pausing to listen to the conversations happening inside your own head is another. To bow to this experience happening within and around you, whatever it is, right now.

For example, if I’m worried about an argument I had with someone and thoughts of revenge fog my brain, I pause, accept that this is how I am feeling right now, I do not fight it and just accept it and let it go. It’s powerful. Actually recognizing the pain helps make way for a better decision, a better outcome.

Cultivating Self-Compassion

We can practice radical acceptance (note: Tara is not talking about building a victim narrative here), by pausing and then meeting whatever is happening inside of us with an unconditional friendliness and compassion. The way you might treat your best friend or brother or sister.

I practice remembering that I cannot be a fair weather friend to myself. I will not push away anger, jealousy, or pain. Instead I will treat myself with compassion and understanding and recognize the anguish of this moment. This will allow me to create a safe haven for my vulnerability and to be present to the healing that can happen in my mind.

Recommended Reading from Tara Brach
Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha