A recent trip to the Japanese Garden with my family. We walked the paths together and separately. Wandered around looking at flowers, Coy, hummingbirds, trees and spent time being in this calm place. There were a lot of people there, yet it felt spacious enough to sit on a bench and meditate. It was nourishing.
We already have sufficient conditions to be happy today. We have to pray in such a way that we can be in touch with the conditions of happiness that are in us and around us. They are all there, available. ~ Thich Nhat Hahn, “The Energy of Prayer”
Samsara, means repetitive existence. In Buddhism, it usually means the wheel of life and is used to refer to the day to the day unhealthy repetitions. With mindfulness we can observe how often the mind clings and grasps to fear, judgement and wants to justify our point of view. When thoughts are allowed to run amok we start believing them. Jack Kornfield describes this in his concept of the story telling mind.
Questioning ones thoughts are the core of Buddhist practice. One way to let go of the mental suffering caused by thoughts is gently questioning the thought “is it true?” Stepping out of the constant story telling mind we can begin to see who we are beyond the story.
Our stories do not fully define who we are or what is happening to us ~ Jack Kornfield
“Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure. Life is like that. We don’t know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don’t know.”
Setting goals and taking steps to meet them requires confidence, perseverence, support, skills, flexibility and a myriad of other traits and characteristics that are unique to each individual. Being comfortable in not knowing how it will turn out is a lifelong practice for me and I know I am not alone in this practice. Meditation, gardening, reading and walks help to untie the internal knots and over the years they have become my anchors. Some internal knots are easier to unravel and others take a while. Regardless the opportunity, to practice, presents itself daily.
Some things/events don’t go as planned. In fact, the more plans we make, the higher the chances of them not going as expected. Along the lines of the saying that if you don’t make mistakes then you are not learning or doing new things. So, its important to know what to do in the event expectations are not met. Leaving a project unfinished, walking away from a situation are options.
Sometimes though, its important to remember there are many ways to get to the same goal. If its truly important to you to figure out a way of making something work, then reevaluate, be creative and design a new plan with what is there in the present. Some plans are easier to change and work with. Some plans are difficult to let go of and that letting go becomes the path for a while. If we can see all events as stepping stones towards a bigger plan, with the shift in perspective, we can see the value in a detour, a set back can become just the needed pause in reevaluating direction, or strengthening a skill. I notice, the less focused I am about the result and more focused on why I am doing something, the easier it is to navigate through the changes. In those times my being and doing are both intertwined.
What would happen if we faced our fears? What would happen if we befriended our fears?
Pema chodron tells a story in her book “When things fall apart ” about a young student warrior facing fear and asking fear how she could defeat it?
The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, and asked, “May I have permission to go into battle with you?” Fear said, “Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission.” Then the young warrior said, “How can I defeat you?” Fear replied, “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power.” In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear.
Mostly fears tend to scare people away. Next time you notice a thought that invokes fear, smile and greet it as a friend. Acknowledging fears and not turning away is a big step towards regaining personal power.
Breathing consciously is one way of staying mindful. Conscious breathing calms the body and relaxes the mind. What could be more important than that… as you go about your day, taking care of work projects, family, chores. No additional time is needed to do this exercise because you are already breathing… Its a conscious breathing activity.
This conscious breathing exercise below by Thich Nhat Hahn, a buddhist monk, is one of my favorites. It is simple to practice anywhere. You can do it for 1 minute or give yourself more time. You say the following words silently while breathing in and out.
Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing Out, I smile
Dwelling in the present moment
I know this is a wonderful moment
Within a few minutes a shift can be felt. Tension subsides. Muscles in the face relax. Peace and happiness are a breath closer. Cultivating awareness in this nourishing way is transformative and healing.