Monday, February 28, 2011

Happy Right Now

The only time that you can be happy is right now.

To have requirements pushes happiness into the future. Nothing in the future can happen. If the future can be said to exist at all, it does so only in our imaginations. If happiness is possible, and I know from experience that it is, it must be possible right now.

No matter what you are doing. No matter your job or partner or circumstances.

Open to the possibility of beauty in this moment and you will find happiness, full-throated and singing, smiling back at you.


Friday, February 25, 2011

It's Not Complicated

I'd like you to try an experiment.

First, stand still. Then, lift your left foot up slightly. Lean forward just a bit, until you feel yourself begin to lose your balance. At that precise moment, place your left foot out and down about 24 inches from your right foot and in line with your left shoulder and hip. While you are doing this, swing your right arm out from your body, keeping it in line with your right shoulder (forming a continuous right angle with your trunk).

As you land on your left foot, begin to shift your weight from your right foot to your left. Once your weight is fully shifted onto your left foot, use your knee and hip to lift your right foot from the ground as you begin to activate your left hand. Swing your right foot and left hand forward together, again until you feel yourself lose your balance. Use your right foot to catch your weight, again about 24 inches from where your left foot is, in line with your right shoulder and hip. And while you are doing this, simultaneously swing your left hand forward, keeping it in line with your left shoulder.

Repeat these movements, alternating sides, left and right, left and right.

I hope you figured out by now that this experiment is called "walking." I also hope you figured out that describing walking is not very helpful to someone who is trying to walk. (Nor is it easy--I'm still not sure that I described it even close to correctly.)

So it is with unconditioned awareness. The mind wants to make it complicated. It wants to build a model. It wants to explain exactly what it is doing.

But if the mind is explaining, it's the left hemisphere that is in control. If you are following a model, you are not resting in unconditioned awareness.

Resting in unconditioned awareness is, first and foremost, rest. It's resting in the present moment, with no need to be doing anything, no need for anything to be different. Language is completely inadequate because it is so simple. It is the very essence of just being, without any preferences or needs.

Our minds want to make this into something. But unconditioned awareness isn't anything. And models only take us away from that.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Getting It Backwards

Much of the world tells us that if we do the right things, we will be happy. We think that happiness, if it ever comes, will be in our future.

But what if we can be happy right now? And what if that happiness makes us more likely to do the things we have always dreamed about? Rather than the other way around?

That might sound utterly impossible. We might be under so much stress that it is difficult to think about anything other than all the bad things, all the things we don't want, that are happening right now. But what if we could open to another way of looking at the world?

I've talked about the world as experienced by the left hemisphere and right hemisphere of the brain.

The left hemisphere is the list maker. We're used to the demands of the left side--we hear them all the time in the form of our thoughts. "You should pick up the dry cleaning. You need a better job. Why can't you be more like your sister?" The left hemisphere doesn't do happiness, because it is never complete. It is always comparing what is with what it wants and coming up short. And it is almost always hard at work, determined to do what's best for us.

The right hemisphere doesn't use language at all. Instead, it's planted firmly in this moment, and frankly, it's quite in awe of it.

Sometimes, we notice the right hemisphere. It is the one that stops and smells the roses. It sees the smile on a child's face. The wonder of a sunset. The right hemisphere is always resting. Always healing. And always happy. Regardless of our circumstances. Regardless of what the left brain is telling us is missing.

Do we really think we're going to find happiness by adding more to our lists? By focusing on what we don't have? By giving the keys to the left brain, which seems to want to be anywhere but here?

Or can we see that right now, we're already complete?


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Is It True?

One of my favorite nondual teachers is Byron Katie.

A lot of people don't think of Byron Katie as a nondual teacher, and that's one of the reasons her work is so powerful.

The first question that she asks a student who's struggling is "Is it true?" And the second she asks is "Is it really true?"

Is it really true that your brother hates you? Is it really true that you should have a better job? Is it really true that your relationship is a mess?

Bryon Katie helps people find that there are other truths that are just as powerful.

Maybe I hate my brother, and not the other way around.

Maybe my relationship isn't a mess. Maybe I am.

Every thought expresses a point of view, and most often, we just look for evidence to prove the stories we tell about ourselves. And we ignore things that might fly in the face of those stories.

But the truth is seldom that convenient, or simple. The truth can be harsh, even cruel, but it can also be our best teacher.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Under the Weather

Over the weekend I was on retreat with Peter Fenner in Vancouver. On the first day, I came down with a pretty violent bug.

When I left home, my 2 year old had been getting through his own version of the bug. And my wife, at home, was coming down with the bug, and having to take care of him, while I was in Vancouver getting sick as well.

It was a mess.

What struck me at the time was the different thoughts that I was having about the sickness. I felt bad that I was away from home. I felt bad that Jen was having to deal with so much by herself. I had fleeting thoughts that my retreat was ruined because I had gotten sick, that I should have taken better care of myself, that there was something I could have done or should have done to avoid this.

But I felt lucky that I had made it all the way to Vancouver before getting sick. That I had a room to go to instead of being sick on a plane. That it was not worse--it was just a bug and I would get though it. And I felt truly blessed that there were people in Vancouver who were helping me---bringing me soup and Sprite--while there were people at home helping Jen with Lucas so that she could rest.

What I found myself noticing, and accepting, was that people get sick from time to time. That it was my turn. That this is one of the gifts of having a young child,  and that you can't get the joys of parenting without some of the downsides, too.

As much as we would like to think otherwise, people get sick. And the less we resist it, the easier it seems to be to deal with it.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Looking Back with Gratitude

I've spent three wonderful years in Peter Fenner's Radiant Mind program, as a student, mentor, and coach. And this weekend is the last weekend of that process.

At the end of three years I can ask myself what do I have to show for it, and I am thrilled to answer--absolutely nothing! And yet everything, too. The program has had a profound effect on how I look at myself and the world.

I've written a lot in this blog about what I have learned, and unlearned, in Radiant Mind. I won't repeat it here. I will say, though, that I am filled with gratitude for having had the privilege to work with Peter, and I look forward to our paths crossing again.

Namaste, Peter.


I will return to writing on Tuesday, February 22.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What to Believe

You might think, "I can't do this." Or you might think, "I'm not good enough." Or, "I'll never make it." But these are just thoughts that come and go.

You may not be able to choose the thoughts that pop into your head. But you can choose which ones to believe.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Where Are Your Sins?

One of my favorite Zen stories goes something like this. The student goes to the master and says, “My body is gripped by a fatal disease. Please master, wipe away my sins.”

In response, the master says, “Bring your sins out here, and I will wipe them away for you.”

The students sits for awhile and replies, “When I look for my sins, I cannot find them.”

“I have wiped away your sins,” the master declares.

We all have done things we regret, and sometimes we can use these as an excuse not to pursue our dreams.

But where are those sins now? Certainly, we think about them. But probably a lot more than other people do. Other people may not even remember that thing we are most embarrassed about. Or they may dismiss it as trivial, because it didn't really affect them.

Or maybe it is a big deal, but all we really need to do is apologize.

Things happen and life moves on. Don't assume your past actions will get in the way. Don't assume it's a done deal. Instead, assume that redemption is possible.

Because it almost always is.


Monday, February 14, 2011

My Favorite Holiday

You might think that Valentine's Day is my favorite holiday because I'm a true romantic. And don't get me wrong, I do think that Valentine's Day is a wonderful time to celebrate the love we have for the special person in our lives.

But Valentine's Day is also fraught with difficulty. Why is that? I don't think there's another holiday in which it is so clear that we're comparing a story of what we think should be with what actually is. And there may not be any other time, where no matter what our circumstances, there can be such a gap between what is and what we want.

Our notions of romance, after all, are informed by fairy tales and childhood dreams, and even if our relationship is wonderful by any other measure, it often falls short of that standard. But that doesn't mean that anything is wrong. It only means that we want something different than what life is currently giving us.

Valentine's Day is an opportunity to see through the story that we are told. It is a chance to see that things are only lacking in comparison to that fairy tale.

We can see that our life, this moment, is already perfect. Whether we have what we think we should want or not.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Infinity Minus One

I think there's a misunderstanding in the self-development field that causes it to be dismissed too quickly.

You'll often hear motivational speakers say "You can do anything!"

And of course, this isn't true. I'm pretty sure that, at the age of 46, I'm never going to play quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, even though I'd like to very much (after all, I'll likely be at least 55 by the time Aaron Rodgers is done).

I'm pretty sure that I will never be a center in the NBA.

I'm pretty sure that I will never be a figure skating champion.

I'm pretty sure that I will never be a Nobel Prize-winning physicist.

But I still have infinite possibilites. Every moment carries infinite possibility for what I am going to think about or dream about or do.

How's that?

I remember learning about infinity in school and one of the things that always fascinated me about it is that infinity minus one is still infinity. Infinity minus a thousand, or a million, is still infinity.

So even if you can come up with a million things that you could never do (and I might start to question that), guess what? There are still an infinite number of possibilities left!

No, you can't do anything. But there are still infinite possibilities. And all you have to do is pick the one you really really want and go for it like mad.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

I Could Never Do That

The most confining words in all the English language are "I could never do that."

I've had people tell me that they could never call a client and ask them for more work. Or say what their opinion is in a meeting. Or ask for a raise.

And because they believe that they can't do it those things, they can't. Their self concept will not permit them to.

My mom can't drive a car or fly in an airplane, because her self concept will not permit it.

But let's look at this think called self concept for a moment. What is it exactly?

It is a bunch of thoughts that we think about our self.

What is that self that we are thinking about?

It's me, right? Who? What is the self exactly?

You can look but you will never find it. You might find things that you have done, but those are in the past. You might find things you hope to do, but those are in the future. And anything in the past or the future is, by definition, only a thought.

You, on the other hand, are right here, right now, and thoughts cannot define you. You are unlimited space, vast consciousness. Nothing less than the entire universe, and maybe more. You are pure potential.

Is your self concept smaller than that?



Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Blank Canvas

What does the future hold?

We don't know. It could hold absolutely anything. The future is a blank canvas.

If you think that changing jobs or changing companies is a big deal, think again.

The future doesn't have to be a simple evolution of the present. The future, beginning in this very next moment, could be a dramatic departure from everything before.

The only limits are your thoughts (and maybe some physical requirements if your goal is to play center in the NBA).
What is your dream? What would it take to realize it? What if you started doing those things today?

If you want to stay in your cage, that is an absolutely valid choice. But understand first that you built the cage, and you have the key to the door.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

This is Your Brain on Drugs

When we are in the professional world, we get used to feeling stress. In fact, sometimes we get dependent on stress--even stress that is induced with caffeine or other stimulants--to the point where we can't get things done without it.

Stress creates a bunch of chemical responses in the brain. The fight or flight response brings adrenaline and cortisol. Stress can be great in the short term. It can be great for short term bursts of energy. It can heighten our focus. But it can overwhelm us, too. The lizard brain isn't very creative. And check out this link for the longer term effects of cortisol and stress.

Higher blood pressure, higher body weight, heart attacks, strokes--the list goes on and on and for most of us, it sounds familiar.

What's interesting is that the article also mentions that one way to mitigate the effects is the relaxation response.

And what brings the relaxation response? Meditation, deep breathing, yoga, a walk--simply put, a move from the left hemisphere of the brain to the right hemisphere.

Nature, it turns out, has a reset button. And all we need to do is use it.


Monday, February 7, 2011

A New Leaf

Radical thought of the day--all this stuff is supposed to be fun!

OK, maybe not "supposed to," but it definitely can be. And a lot more of the time that we usually think.

As I look back at this blog over the last year, so much of my writing seems so serious--sometimes I think I missed the point entirely.

What happens as we go down this path is a bunch of things, and they all have to do with how our minds work.

First, we figure out that all that stuff we're doing to try to make ourselves happy isn't doing the trick.

We see that doing comes from the left hemisphere of the brain, and the left brain is never happy because there is always something left to do! There is always some imagined future and we aren't there yet. But we'll never be there. We're the rat on the wheel and we don't see a way off.

Then, we see that when we experience the world through the right side of the brain, we can be here right now, present, and that experience is utterly blissful. There is no other way it can be. The right side of the brain is simply amazed at the world exactly as it is, and at ourselves exactly as we are. 

So the secret of happiness was right here all along, in our own head. And to see that, what do we need to do? In the purest sense, absolutely nothing. But things that take us into the right brain can help us be more clear--that could be meditating, but it could also be a walk in the park, a sunset, or time with your dog. Anything that puts us in the present moment, that takes us out of our list and into our love. Even one deep breath can do it.

It turns out that happiness is right here inside us and all we need to do is let it out.

So if there is nothing we need to do to be happy, then what do we do with our lives? 

Anything we want!

All we have to see is that our happiness, our self worth, does not depend on anything outside of us. Happiness and joy are our essential nature. And our fears, just like our hopes and dreams, are just thoughts that come and go. They have nothing to do with the vast consciousness that we are. 

What do you want to define you? Hard work, burdens, responsibilities? Or creation and fun and bliss?

In each and every moment, that's our choice.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Insight, Action, Fun

Great post by Jonathan Fields.

I find Jonathan inspiring on a number of fronts. One, he is a very successful entrepreneur. Two, like me, he is a recovering lawyer. And three, he never, never stops.

To me, the hidden gem in this post is--

"I could reveal how my meditation creates so much clarity and fresh ideas, I literally can’t bring them all to life (I don’t get writer’s block, I get writer’s logjam)."

So many people emphasize the mind clearing aspects of meditation that one could come away thinking that if you're not able to silence your mind, you have failed. (By the way, no one can silence their mind for more than a few moments, and you certainly don't silence your mind by trying not to think.)

Sure, there are moments of peace in meditation. But there are also moments of turbulence and panic and clarity and energy and inspiration. And as you get to know these moments, you get a much better sense of your true potential. There is an inner genius that resides within all of us, if we would only let it out.

We are here to play, to create, to have fun.  So if you are inspired to do something, do it! If you fail, who cares! Have fun!

How do you want to have fun today? 


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Seizing the Moment

It can be easy to second guess ourselves. Maybe there is something that you really want to do, but you are hesitant to commit. Or you think, for whatever reason, that now is not the right time.

What do you think the chances are that you will get that done?

Not very good.

Maybe you're afraid you will fail, so you're not willing to commit.

Again, what do you think the chances are that you'll succeed?

Not very good.

To give yourself the best chance to doing anything, you have to maximize the chances that you will fail. You have to be willing to lay it all on the line. To commit that yes, you are going to do this. If you fail, and you very well might, you fail.

But the secret of those who succeed is that they see that failure is just another learning opportunity. Today's failure paves the way for tomorrow's success. In that sense, failure is just a word that gets in the way. Failure is just a concept. And fear of failure is perhaps the biggest excuse we make for not ever starting.

But what about learning? Isn't learning just another word for failure? And learning is something we want to do as much as possible, not something to be avoided at all costs.

So go fail. And learn as much as you can while doing it.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Marking Time

Today is my birthday. And I find it interesting how we think of some days as different than others, as special somehow. Each new year and birthday bring a lot of this kind of introspection.

We use these days as assessment points. How are we doing? Are we getting to those things on our list? How is my life turning out? Is it a success or a failure?

But of course we are the ones who both set and measure against the standards, even when we don't see that. So, this is more of a test of how we think about ourselves than anything else.

The passing of time itself is just a concept, just one more thought that we use to try to understand our world. Each moment brings us a choice. Do we look off to the imagined future or recreated past? Or do we see the precious beauty of what is right here, right now? There's no right or wrong answer. It isn't helpful to try to punish ourselves into doing more of what we think we should be doing and less of what we thing we should not. All that does is create resistance and suffering.

Instead, moment by moment, we can notice the vastness of what's noticing, and open up to the simple mystery of what is.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Misunderstanding

It can be easy to look at the nondual path and think it's for slackers. After all, if there's nowhere to go and nothing to do, what's left?

The paradox is this. When we engage on some kind of nondual path, we begin to see the difference between reality and our thoughts. And the truth is that for most of us (including me), that difference is vast indeed.

We create a world with our thoughts that behaves in the way that we would like it to, or perhaps more accurately, in the way that we think we deserve. If we are suffering, it is because, on some level, we think we should be suffering.

When we see instead that life is just happening, that things just are, regardless of our opinion, there is an opening. We see, for example, that all of our efforts to do things so that others would approve of us were a colossal waste of time! What people think of us seldom has anything to do with us.

What we see is that most of the time, what is going on in the world has nothing to do with us, and is none of our business. And we see how much of our energy was spent ruminating on things over which we have absolutely no control.

Instead, we start using all that extra energy to do what we want. But not in the way that we did before. Not with some kind of agenda of needing or pleasing.

We instead create what we are here to create. We do what we must do, regardless of what other people think. Life creates through us, and it does so much more passionately than ever before, without concerns of want or need or even result.

In doing nothing, we do more than we have ever done.