Friday, July 30, 2010

The Flaw in Perfection

So much of the time, it seems like I get life completely wrong.

There is one thing that I have done a lot in my life that seems completely misguided, and it seems like others might do it, too. I try to project an image of competence and confidence, and even perfection out into the world. Even when (perhaps especially when) I am not feeling any of those things.

Of course none of us is perfect, nor can we be. But still, it feels like I am afraid just to be exposed as a human being.

And yet, when I do reveal weakness, or confess the inevitable mistake, or ask for help, the response that I get is almost always unalloyed human kindness. There is a connection that happens that is powerful indeed.

When others confess their weaknesses and insecurities to me, I feel the same toward them. Connected and compassionate. In fact, it seems that the relationships that I have only begin to feel close when each of us has talked a bit about what scares us. About how we feel uncomfortable. There is a type of joy that can happen in that connection. I'm not talking about the misery of shared victimhood. We can create a lot of suffering if we focus on how the world should be better to us. I am talking instead about a deep acceptance of both the world and our own imperfections.

This human experience is so vulnerable and frail. We are constantly exposed. We can never have everything we want, and even if we have every success we can imagine, nothing will prevent us from eventually losing it all. Everyone dies.

This is our life. And while it can feel incredibly lonely and sad, it can also be filled with happiness. I tried to convince myself I was perfect for a lot of years. I thought I would not have any worth if I could not be the smartest or the hardest working, or get the best grades or job. Instead, I just created a lot of suffering for myself and others. And a lot of loneliness, too.

I still have those tendencies. But I find that each day is an opportunity to open up a little more, and to connect to the parts of myself that I have hidden from. And, remarkably, I and those around me seem to become more happy as I become less perfect.

I am out on vacation with my family next week. Back on August 9.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Freedom in Each Moment

I have three children--a girl who is 13, a boy who is 11, and a little guy who is 16 months.

I learn from them every day. I pay close attention to them when difficult things happen. The older ones spend a lot of time resisting. When the power goes out (as it did during the recent storms), they have a hard time accepting that their video games are not available, that the food they want may not be possible. And they have a hard time seeing that in many ways, their thoughts have created their suffering. That nothing "bad" is actually happening. It is just different, and the possibilities are different.

The baby, though, seems to roll with things. He gets upset in the moment, as all babies do. But he seems perfectly happy finding things to do within the opportunities that present themselves.

In that way, I think we should try to be a bit more like babies. Open. Spontaneous. Each moment presents many options, and we have freedom to choose from them. When we instead focus on the opportunities that are not possible (those that might not come until the future, for example), all we do is create a prison for ourselves.

It's been said that to enter the kingdom of heaven, one must be as a little child. I think that is true right here, too.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Being At Work

This blog is suggesting a radical departure from how we normally think about improving our performance at work.

Most of our lives, we spend in some kind of training around content--we learn about new things, or we learn how to do new things. We study in school and college. We get additional training in our jobs, or we go back to school when we want to advance or make a change. We focus on knowing more things, and doing those things better. And when we are not focused on things, we are focused on knowing more people, and knowing more about those people.

We don't tend to think much about that which is without content. That which we are, rather than that which we know or do.

But if I think back to all of the individuals that I most enjoyed working with, there does not seem to be a strong relationship between their level of skill and whether I chose to engage with them. This seems true for house painting or plumbing or a financial planning, or for work-related items such as selecting a business partner or hiring an employee. Don't get me wrong--there is some level of competence that is required for any job. I'm not suggesting that anyone deviate from that. It's critical to identify needed skills. But I'm not sure that there is much value in finding someone who has more than the minimum needed skill set.

Instead, look at how you have hired someone if you had two or three people that you felt were qualified. We ultimately pick someone we connect with. Who we trust to deliver. Who we enjoy spending time with. This is not about knowing or doing. It is about being. How we are in the world. The simple quality of presence.

This presence, this pure sense of being, helps us to connect with people, but it also helps us connect to our work. When we are present to our work, we are simply doing, without the hesitation or self criticism that can come when we try to analyze what we are doing.

It this quality of being that is addressed by practice. When we meditate or do yoga or engage in self reflection, our countenance changes. We are more likely to have a smile on our face. People are more drawn to us. And we are more able to drop into the flow of whatever it is that we are doing. This has tremendous benefits throughout our lives, but to me, the biggest opportunity might be in the transformation of how we work. And how we relate at work. We can work better, because, in a fundamental way, we are better.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Feeling Better

Many of the people I know who engage in some kind of spiritual practice do it because they want to feel better.

Maybe they have physical or emotional pain in their lives. Perhaps the suffering is too much to bear. They might look to a practice to find some kind of meaning in their lives. That what they are going through is worth it. Many of us are simply worried about the biggest question of all--what happens to us after our bodies die.

My own practice I think has gone through at least a couple of phases. The first phase clearly offered that kind of physical and mental relief. Meditation made me calmer, and it made me better able to cope with the stresses of human life, both in and outside of work. Fears that I had subsided. I slept better, and I felt more calm.

But there seems to be a second stage, too. And this stage also is about feeling better, but in a different kind of way.

The first stage seems to be about feeling better in the sense of unpleasant physical and emotional sensations feeling less intense. We are better able to cope.

The second stage is about feeling more. "Feeling better" in the sense of getting better at feeling. We get less and less resistant to fully experiencing life. We open. We find grace in both the high notes and the low notes, and accept that both are an inseparable part of the human experience. And we begin to see the patterns that have caused us pain. Whilke this can be painful in and of itself, there is also relief when we see those patterns begin to change and fall away. When what we once saw as the very foundations of our lives begin to shift from underneath our feet. There seems to be no end to this part of the process. Most people who are much further down this path than I report that these patterns continue to shift and change.

We may start down the spiritual path thinking of it as an anesthetic, and it can be that. Some people can even get stuck there (in what is called "spiritual bypassing," people use practice to avoid dealing with the rest of life). But life, in its wisdom, can also bring a surgeon's scalpel to us. And transform us in the process.


Monday, July 26, 2010

The Gift of Difficult Relationships

I think each of knows one or two people who are triggers. You might have a person in mind right now where the mere thought of interaction makes your heart pound. Your mind might go to past injustices or dreaded future encounters. To the things you really want to say to that person, or to things that they have said or done to you. Even to wanting to hurt them, with words or actions, to get back at them for the hurt and pain they have caused you.

Whether these relationships are at or outside of work, they can be incredibly helpful to us as pointers to our own challenges. What are the concepts that we hold dear that these people threaten? What stories do the relationships present? Seeing this can be helpful. But it may not be enough.

I have a couple of people in my life who I use as barometers for how I am doing. When I feel centered and present, things tend to roll off my back. I have tended to think of this (while congratulating myself) as "turning the other cheek," but I've come to realize that it can easily turn into "looking the other way."

In the guise of evolving, too often I have simply avoided. And when I am in a different spot--a little tired, a little cranky--all those feelings come right back up. I don't find they have changed very much. They run deep.

Addressing difficult relationships is not just about acceptance of the situation or seeing the story. Sometimes, it feels to me that one has to be totally honest, first with oneself, and then, potentially, with the other person. Why does this other person bring up these feelings for you? How and where does it hurt? What is the story that you are telling yourself that causes so much pain?

Eventually, that story will change or dissipate. But these feelings can be very sticky. They can hang on for years. To have courage in the face of these feelings might mean that you talk to the other person. And this can mean a kind of fierce truth about what you are feeling. You may want to talk about how you have felt hurt, or attacked, or demeaned, when something happened. At the same time, this should not be about the other person, nor should you accuse them of intending this result. In fact, you may want to acknowledge the other person probably did not intent to hurt you. (It can be incredibly helpful just to see this.)

There are no guarantees. Perhaps the relationship will not improve. But maybe the naked honesty, the moment of genuine vulnerabilty, will open a soft spot that wasn't there before. Maybe there will be a possibility of heartfelt dialogue. And while that conversation may be difficult, it could also lead to something better than today.


Friday, July 23, 2010

A Time to Heal

So much of work is about action. In America, we are taught that if you are not moving forward, you are moving backward. That if you are standing still you're falling behind.

We're taught to be constantly striving. We work more hours and we take less vacation. We caffeinate in the morning and drink alcohol at night. We pop pills to keep ourselves energized, or to bring ourselves down. When we exercise it's a competition rather than a chance to recharge. When we let ourselves take a vacation, we bring our blackberries and laptops, and our agendas are packed. We stop only when sick, and even then, we try to push through. We can sleep when we're dead, right?

But the rest of life doesn't work that way. The rest of life follows patterns of activity and rest, of light and dark, of wet and dry. And we miss it all. We miss the autumn leaves and the spring flowers. We miss the waxing and waning of the moon. We miss the sunrise and the sunset. We miss the tides and the waves and the simple rhythm of our own breathing.

But most of all we miss the damage that we are doing to ourselves because we know of no other way.

Take some time to breathe, to rest, to heal. The next few weeks are when a lot of people go away. If you go, leave the electronic leash behind if you can. Take a true break. And if you are not going away, try dialing it back a bit in the office. You might actually get more done. At least more that is important.


P.S. After I wrote this, a reader sent a link to a blog with a broader take on this topic and its long term implications--see it here. And thanks!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Process and Magic

Much of what we do at work is about following a process. We do a lot of the same things over and over. This makes sense, because we all want to do good things, and when we follow a process, we think we can do good things more often. There are a lot of good things that can be reduced to a repeatable process. Processes can be measured and improved. Processes can be efficient and logical and comfortable. And we think we can control them and plan for them. We like that.

But great things don't seem to follow the same rules. Great things shake up our world. Great things, true insights, can start as wisps from the ether, and, being children of the right brain, may not even be expressible in words, at least at first. Greatness may start as mere intuition.

Great things need flirtation and romance and time. You don't churn out great ideas like sausage. And you don't go public with them, at least not right away, not if you want them to survive. Instead, if you have the slimmest inkling of an idea, you need to nurture it, to feed it, to protect it, to raise it until it is ready to fly on its own.

Greatness is often threatening, and people kill what they fear. It can be dangerous to bring a radical idea out into the light before it is fully formed. Instead, let it germinate for awhile. Let the darkness work its magic. Leave its care and feeding to you and those you trust.

Process is about visible, replicable mass production of something that worked in the past. But magic is about the unknown and undiscovered. It's what's hidden from view, and has yet to come into the light.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Getting Discouraged

There are days at work where we don't feel like we are getting anywhere. I seem to be in one of those periods right now.

We spin our wheels. We work on the things that we are supposed to be working on, but progress comes slowly, if at all. It can be difficult to know what to do next.

Sending another note, or making another phone call, can be a futile exercise when no one else is in the office to receive it.

A talk with a colleague can help. It can give us a sense that we are not alone in our struggle. Or an insight into how to change things. Or maybe how to accept exactly where we are, even if that includes struggle.

Sometimes, the most productive thing can be to take a break. And to do things with renewed vigor when the time comes.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Compassionate Honesty

In meditation, there is no escape.

We are faced with our incessant thinking, thinking, thinking. Hopeful thoughts, unrealistic thoughts, critical thoughts, fearful thoughts.

And at some point, we have to admit to ourselves--this is what is happening. This is what I think about. There are things that I think about that I do not like to admit, even to myself. And I think about those things a lot.

When we reach this point, there are a couple of things that can happen. The first is that we can feel bad about it. This is only natural. It can be quite unnerving when we quiet down enough to hear our own thoughts. But sometimes people feel so bad about them that they run the other way. They stop looking. They are determined to shut the door on any future inquiries. They go back to being busy, to hiding from themselves, because it's easier. And less scary.

For those who continue, though, this admission, this confession, that we are both the bad and the good, is the beginning of healing. And the more honest we can be with ourselves, the more the space around these thoughts can open. We can learn compassion for ourselves, and discover that we are both less than we thought we were, and more.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Comfort with Uncertainty

Last week, my former employer was sold to a competitor.

As you might imagine, this creates a lot of questions for my friends there. Will I keep my job? What will my role be? Who will my boss be? How will things change? Is this good or bad?

It will take several months for the deal to close. And there will be almost no information available during that time. In fact, there are strict limitations on how much the firms can even interact with each other. So the message will be "Stay focused." A nice thought, but difficult when there are so many unanswered questions.

In Korean Zen, the masters teach "don't know mind." The student is instructed to ask himself "Who am I?" and when he fails to find a solid unchanging self, he is told to cultivate that sense of not knowing as his meditative practice. Over time, students find that the need to know, and the thoughts that accompany that need, recede into a profound and freeing silence.

"Don't know mind" can be very freeing in other contexts, too. We spend so much of our time and energy trying to see the unknowable future. The media industry (news, sports, weather, the stock market)  is as much about what might happen as what did happen. And much of what we do at work is about trying to budget for or influence this unknown future. This mismatch, between what we can know and what we think we should know, creates tremendous stress.

Our fears about the future can arise most acutely when there are big events, like your employer being bought. Knowing, and more importantly, accepting that there are many things that you simply can't know may not be easy in times like these, but it can be very powerful.


Friday, July 16, 2010

The Phone Call

Much of my job involves talking with people on the phone. And sometimes, I simply don't know how it went.

I just got off a call with a prospect that I know fairly well. But there was an energy of "I am in a hurry" that came through as she spoke to me. I was not prepared for that, even though it has happened before. And now I am beating myself up a bit, wondering if I could have done better or gotten more.

Of course, the only call that matters is the next one. And what seems to work best is to have an intention, prepare for that, explain to the other person what that is (this is where I did not do well), and adapt based on what you hear.

In other words, have an agenda, but be flexible. And listen more than you talk. If you spend your time panicking about what to say next, you may not hear what the other person is trying to tell you.

It is entirely possible that what she was telling me was "I don't have much time. You are doing well. Here is everything that you need to know." But it is possible that something else is going on, too. Or that something is missing.

Ambiguity can feel like an enemy. But ambiguity is also our life. And ambiguity, and the not knowing that comes along with it, can be our practice, too.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Window Washer

I am looking out my office window at a man who is swinging on a rope eight stories off the ground. He is hanging from a balcony which juts out six feet or so from the building. He has a bucket on his rope and some other tools that I can't see from this distance (the building is about a half a block away from me). And he appears to be holding a big suction cup on a stick.

He swings out as far as he can away from the building, trying to get enough momentum to swing back to the window in front of him. And then "pop," he uses the suction cup to grab the window and hold him to the glass.

He quickly soaps the window and squeegees around everything that he can. Then he pulls off the suction cup and falls away from the building. He starts to swing toward the building again. And he uses a rag to get the area under the cup that he couldn't reach. A bit at a time, he is able to wipe that spot clean in four or five well-aimed swings.

Then he works his way down the building, one column of windows at a time. There is no platform, no seat. Only the rope and the things that are strapped to him and to it. It is riveting to watch.

No matter what we do, it has a rhythm. For him, it is the swing of the rope, the stick of the suction cup, the squeegee. Rinse, lower yourself a few feet, repeat. Sometimes he has to swing out farther from the building and use the momentum to get back. He has to go the opposite direction to get where he needs to. He has to spend a lot of time moving between windows, and not much time cleaning. And he better be paying attention. He'll fall a hundred feet if he's not.

Most of us don't have life and death jobs. But we still have times when we need to go backward to move forward. And whatever job we have, we generally have to spend a lot of time that is not productive, but still necessary. We have to do a lot of things before we get to wash the windows. We'd like it to be different, but we are most successful when we honor those rhythms rather than fight them.

Watching a man swinging from a rope is a good reminder of all of that. And of being in the moment, too.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

One Minute Zen

You may have noticed that there is a new link on this site. An experiment, for now at least.

I've heard a lot of folks talk about how the day gets away from them. How it would be great to have pointers to mindfulness or practice that happen during the work day. Even if it is just for a minute.

Click on the link and you can subscribe to my new Twitter feed at OneMinuteZen.

What will you find there? Quick hits. Pointers to this moment. Things to try as you practice at work and work at practice.

So much of this work is simply increasing our awareness of what is happening right now. What is happening in the midst of the emails and conference calls and fretting about how busy we are.

There is space in the midst of this. All we need to do is find it.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

No Escape

I used to be a planner. There was not a day that went by when I did not spend serious time thinking about  where I was going to be five years in the future. I wanted to be sure that I was doing everything that I could to be where I wanted to be. After all, if I did not do things exactly right, that future that I had meticulously planned may not turn out exactly as I wanted.

That's a lot of pressure, given that most of us can't even say for sure what our commute is going to be like. Or what we are going to have for lunch.

Some people I know spend a lot of time trying to get to the future. These are people who often say things like "I can't wait till . . ." or "Once I get through this week . . ." The future, to them, is a glittering prize given for time spent well today. I fall into this camp. I'm not quite the planner I once was, but I still tend to look forward to some imagined reward.

There are others who are wanting to retreat. Who talk about how the world has gone to hell, and how we would all be better off if we went back to the way things used to be.

But here we all are, in this present moment. We can't go faster or slower. We can't be anywhere but here, even when we'd rather be somewhere else. And when we accept that, when we accept that we are right here right now, this ordinary moment expands to fill our lives with joy and wonder.

We find that all those things that we wanted in the future really don't matter so much right now. We find that even though there is no escape from it, somehow, in this moment, we have everything we need.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Why Work?

Why do you work?

Most of us, unconsciously I think, have chosen our jobs based on maximizing income, given our particular training. Some of us are not making the absolute maximum we could, but we're still pretty close. And if we are in that camp, where maybe we are making ten percent less than we could have, we congratulate ourselves for being willing to make financial sacrifices for the sake of family or lifestyle. Or, less optimistically, for the illusion of safety or stability.

What if we chose our work differently? What if, instead of choosing a job that maximizes our income, we choose to maximize our joy? To do the things that we are passionate about? That bring us alive?

Can you even list three things that give you joy at work? I'm not sure I can. Joy happens, but I don't spend a lot of time cultivating it. I haven't studied joy the same way I have studied anger or fear or stress.

Maybe I should start.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Exploring Fear

I used to have panic attacks.

Beginning in my late teens, and continuing until my early thirties, every now and then I would experience sudden, intense fear. I knew, just knew, that everyone noticed and was watching me, which only made it worse. I would get very warm, my heart would pound, and I'd sweat profusely. And my only thoughts would be of escape. Of finding somewhere cooler, where I could collect my thoughts, where people would not be looking at me, where I could breathe again.

My attacks tended to happen in public places, often when meeting new people. At a party, for example. I'd begin to feel self-conscious when I would have to talk about myself. Where I went to school, or what I did for a living. Hobbies. If someone showed an interest in what I had to say, my face would begin to feel flush, and then I would start to sweat. When I would stand in line in a store, I worried about what other people would think of the things I had in my cart. When I was out with my parents (later my mom), and would see people we knew, just the casual conversations would make me feel incredibily self-conscious. I remember a law school exam when my brain simply stopped. Overwhelmed by caffeine, lack of sleep, and the guilt of having skipped most of the classes, I had to walk out.

I never saw anyone about this. I was terrified to talk about it. But I got to know my fear, and the situations that might bring it on, intimately. Routines were okay, but I learned to avoid new things because they made me so uncomfortable. I learned strategies for dealing with it, actions that I could take that might lessen the chances of an attack. Unfortunately, drinking worked. But exercise worked better. Some kinds of deep breathing seemed to help, too. And ultimately, meditation put a stop to it.

I learned much later that my experiments with fear had a basis in science. Fear is driven by the amygdala, at the center of what has been called the "lizard brain." The amygdala releases adrenaline, among other things, as part of the fight or flight response. Aerobic exercise releases endorphins that calm the amygdala. Meditation, or even deep breathing, can do the same, giving us a split second before the fear kicks in. That split second can separate bad choices from good ones.

When we live in fear, much of life is on autopilot. We are driven by the lizard brain, reacting before thought. Our behavior is unconscious and often instantaneous. We often wonder later why we behaved the way that we did. But in the moment, there is seemingly no choice.

As we work with our fear, we become less afraid of it. I am grateful now for all I had to do to become a reasonably functional human being. My attacks were never all that frequent, but they did happen enough to worry me. And when my amygdala finally began to settle down, my life began to change in all kinds of wonderful ways.

I don't think any of us completely escapes fear--the wiring is simply too strong. But we can see it for what it is, and in doing so, open to other possibilities.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Job Worth Doing

Today, my dad would have been 74. He died twenty-two years ago, when I had just finished my first year of law school.

As I get further along in years, I see more and more I can learn from the example that my dad set. He worked hard, but he also was there at home. He was my baseball coach. I would pitch to him every night, from April through August. And he did a lot around the house. The thought of someone else mowing the lawn, fixing a toilet, or even painting, would never occur to him.

He always said "If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing right." He had an attention to detail, and a patience, that was amazing. I still have not seen a paint job that was neater than what my father was able to do, because he took the time to do it right.
Of course, the words cut both ways. Because maybe a job isn't worth doing. Maybe there are only a few things in our lives that are worth doing really, really well.

The challenge, of course, is to discover the ways in which we can be truly excellent. And then devoting our entire being to that excellence. Sometimes that excellence is best expressed at work. And sometimes it is a simple game of catch with your son.

Happy Birthday, Dad

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

It's Not Personal

In work, as in the rest of our lives, much of the time we are dealing with people. Sometimes we hit it off, and a conversation goes really well. We become friends, or allies. And sometimes, not so much.

Was someone rude to you today? Or did a conversation not go well? It's easy to think you did something wrong, or that the other person is just mean. But maybe their baby was up early. Maybe their boss was being difficult. Maybe they are distracted by rumors of downsizing.

It's easy to take things personally. It is easy to assume that the effect that someone's behavior had on us was intentional. Surely, that other person knew that we would become upset, or offended. Certainly, they should have known better.

But it can be even easier to assume it is not personal. That they did not know what was going on in our heads. That they only knew what they were dealing with, not what we were.

I think that most of the time, each of us believes that we are doing our best. We give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. When we slip up, we know that it is not because we are bad people. It is because we had a momentary lapse. Sure, we may beat ourselves up from time to time, but there is also some level of compassion that we have for ourselves.

When we give that benefit of the doubt to others, we show compassion for them, too. And when we show a little more compassion for ourselves, and for others, we make the world a little bit easier for everyone.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Logic, Business, and Life

Much of the last century of business writing has been about applying logic, systems, and process to the work world. When you think of corporate planning, or business strategy, or even financial statements, most of what you see is rigid and linear.

The letter from the CEO in an annual report is a delightful example of this. "We see how the world is changing, and here is our three part plan to adapt for the future."

It doesn't take long--a day, perhaps--to see this as folly. Because it is impossible to predict what is going to happen even in the next hour, let alone in the next five years. Life and work are messy, changing in fits and starts. Andrew Grove, the former CEO of Intel, used to talk about "inflection points," or nonlinear (and thus unpredictable) points of change. An example of this might be the sudden shift away from more and more capable desktop computers to "the cloud," where the local PC has less capability rather than more, and where data and applications are hosted elsewhere. (For some other great examples of this disruptive innovation, see the work of Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christenson.)

Our tendency as business people is to extrapolate from our current world, and to assume that the future will be just like today, only better. But life is not like that. Those who succeed are those who adapt fastest. And those who adapt fastest are those who have the least rigid concepts about the ways that things should work.

Mainframe makers did not succeed as PC makers. Laptop makers are not good at making mobile devices. Thinking about a PC as a small mainframe, or a phone as a small laptop, is only good to a point.

When we bring mindfulness to work, we begin to see how much of our work world, like the rest of life, is governed by our thoughts and concepts. And when those concepts begin to loosen, our ability to change and adapt increases.

Our contemplative work--the seeing through of our thoughts and concepts--isn't just at the heart of personal change. It is also at the heart of our ability to work effectively in an environment that is changing faster than ever.


Friday, July 2, 2010

Freedom to Be

"Lives based on having are less free than lives based on either doing or on being."

- William James -

We all need things. We need food and shelter. We need transportation and clothing. We need a way of getting money to buy these things.

But do we need all that we have?
We are freer than we think, simply because we have more than we really need. But most of us have a concept, called "this is what it means to be successful," that we are striving to meet. And for most of us, that concept includes a lot of stuff that we don't yet have.
There is nothing wrong with having stuff. But when there is a difference between the amount of stuff we have, and the amount of stuff we think we should have, it creates suffering.
We assume, though, that the way to ease our suffering is to get what we want. When the secret might actually be to want less in the first place.
Easier said than done. But when we look at the moments in which we are happiest, they tend not to be the times that we are spending with the things that we have.
It could be a sunset. A lover's touch. A baby's smile. Moments of transcendence in the midst of ordinary lives.
There are other moments, too. A presentation to a big account. A big sale. A new idea. Challenges that are met and bring personal satisfaction.
If your car or house bring that kind of satisfaction, that's great. But it can be a worthwhile exercise to look at the things in your life and see what they bring for you. If they bring joy, keep them. If, on the other hand, they are more burden than bliss, it might be worth rethinking.
Here's to a weekend of celebrating freedom.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Blog About Nothing

"Each something is a celebration of the nothing that supports it."

- John Cage -

It can be odd writing about something that can't be written about. But all of the activity in our lives arises from something. It has been called silence, or awareness, or consciousness, or space, or the void, or pure potentiality, or ordinary mind.

It is in the moment you wake up in the morning, before you remember who you are.

It is when you are so absorbed in activity that you forget your name, your gender, your age.

It is the very sense of aliveness that we all share. It precedes our ideas and preferences.

And yet it includes our entire life, preferences and conditioning and all.

There are no words to describe it, no words that do not turn it into a dead concept. It cannot be communicated, only pointed to.

It is not special. It is essential. It is the very prerequisite to our own being.

And why do the nondual traditions spend so much time focusing on it? Simply because noticing it can loosen the cacophony of our thoughts and concepts. Resting in it can ease our suffering. It is the state that is often called liberation itself. Liberation from a sense of having to plan and do and succeed or fail.

Just resting in this, for a few minutes, can give our entire lives a completely different perspective. Our work can take on an almost magical quality, as it mysteriously does itself. We can be a simple witness to whatever is arising in our lives, rather than feeling controlled by our circumstances and thoughts.

And the opportunity is here in each moment. For everyone. Waiting to be noticed, and cultivated.