Friday, July 11, 2014

Curiosity Killed the Ego

I've been reading (digesting really) this great book called, What's In the Way IS the Way, by Mary O'Malley and have really enjoyed her fresh take on Awakening.  The book is beautifully written, and has many places to stop and experience what you're reading throughout the book.  I've also been re-reminded about the power of just putting a question out, without looking for an answer, and allowing an answer appear.  As a result I've become more comfortable with letting Life do the driving (that it's doing anyway).

But I think one of the most powerful part of the teaching is the art of bringing compassionate curiosity to your present experience.  This sheds light on those stories that have been running us for so many years by honoring them.  Curiosity is a very powerful tool for self inquiry, so just using that nonjudgemental curiosity puts awareness back on itSelf.  Though Mary doesn't come out and say it, this is why curiosity kills the ego.  Unlike the cat, though, satisfaction ensures it is dead :)

I love this book like I love Power of Now and Loving What Is (I'm a big Tolle and Katie fan).  Hopefully you'll pick up a copy and check it out.

I had the great pleasure of interviewing Mary recently and would like to share it with you.  My apologies in advance of the quality of the video as I was experiencing some connection speed issues  I have also included the audio version of the interview.  I hope you In-Joy.

Mary O'Malley Interview (MP3)

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Mountains out of Mole Hills

I hope you are enjoying the long days of Summer.  I love seeing the sunset at 9:00 at night and it feeling like room temperature in the evenings.  Anyway, I felt compelled to write something that might help someone in some way.  I hope you enjoy.

"Don't sweat the little stuff." What great advice.  How do you know if it's little stuff?  First, ask yourself, "Will this be important tomorrow?"  If not, then it's probably one of countless fleeting moments in a day that does not need your stress to fix (as if stress ever fixed anything).

Getting fixated on the little stuff is very habit forming, and possibly life shortening if the negativity becomes prevalent throughout each day.  We can't really help it, though.  Our past conditioning leads us to act in certain ways that feel familiar, even when they are destructive.  Many people, who have been exposed to frustration since they were young, are subconsciously looking for the least little thing to make a big deal out of because that's what they know.

One way out of making mountains out of mole hills is to pause before reacting.  All it takes is a few seconds, which may be difficult to do at first, but that brief pause may let in just a tad bit of clarity.  If the pause is long enough to look at the situation at face value, then that's all the better.  When there's room for a question in that pause, try a few different ones to see what suits you.  It may be highly situational, but here are a few that might help.

Will this matter later? Does this even matter now?  Is it that important to get upset over?  Will reacting this way make any difference?  Does this situation even need a response?  Would it hurt to remain silent?  What if I just let it go?  What if this situation is actually for the best?  Am I over reacting? Is anyone really being hurt by this?  Am I making things worse by reacting this way?

Don't forget the old saying, "There's no sense in crying over spilled milk."  Being upset about something that's already happened can't change a thing.  But if you can pause before a reaction, you might be able to change everything.  Even if you have already reacted out of habit, you can go back to these questions after the fact to see if your reaction was disproportionate to the event.  Hindsight is 20/20 and you can learn a lot from your mis-takes that will affect how you deal with similar situations in the future.

This only works if you are open to change and willing to entertain the idea that you may be making a big deal out of nothing from time to time.  It may take a close friend or loved one to tell you that, and it may not be well received.  But if you're feeling stressed out a lot, let me be the one to tell you that you are taking things too seriously.  Don't be so hard on yourself/others.  We're all doing the best we can, and that's not going to change regardless of what you do about it.

Take it easier :)


Monday, June 30, 2014

11:11 - You're Headed the Right Way

I've been seeing a lot of repeating numbers lately, on clocks and various other places (i.e. 11:11, 2:22, 5:55, etc.). It has been going on for quite some time, but has escalated recently to around 5 times a day. Rather than ascribe a superstitious meaning to it, which there may very well be, I use it as a reminder. My reminder for the last week has been, "You're headed the right way." We're always headed the right way, even if it seems as though we're lost. This is just a nice tool to enjoy a Life that is encouraging rather than fearful. Since Life wants me to feel that Love, it's giving me more signs that she can be trusted (hence the escalation of repeating numbers). Now that I've been doing it a while, every time I look at the clock I remind myself, "You're headed the right way." Then it doesn't matter what the clock says.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Judge Not

Dear Family and Friends,

I've been wanting to put something out about judgement lately to shed light on this quote from the Bible, "Judge not, that ye may not be judged (Matthew 7:1)."  Interpreted one way, this implies that "God" is very judgmental (a common theme in Christianity), but, looked at another way, it actually has to do with the mirror effect of Life.  When you judge another, you are actually judging yourself, for what you see outside of yourself is just a reflection of what's going on inside of you.  Another popular analogy involves the use of a pointed finger with the illustration that when I point my finger at another there are still three fingers pointing back at me.

We live our lives in fear of being judged poorly by others (or God), mainly because we started being judged from a very young age.  A lot of it happens when we are enter school and begin being tested, scored, looked at for certain aptitudes, etc.  Often times these forms of judgments carry negative outcomes, which guides us in the direction of trying to please others.  The trick is that we never really know how others see us, so we try to predict or interpret how we "think" others judge us to be.  But we can never really know what's going on in another person's mind.  Even if they tell us what they think, that's being filtered through their own fear of being judged.

We have a few key figures in our lives, such as partners, family members, etc., that we think we know so well that we are absolutely sure what they will think of something we do or say.  But that person is actually a figment of our imagination based on our past experience with him or her.  We see our judgments about him or her instead of who they really are, and we put our self judgements in their mind so that we're seeing a shadow of ourselves in others.

In addition to the key would-be judges in our lives, we also have generic shadow figures that are conglomerates of different segments of society.  These shadows represent people of similar or different nationalities, sub-groups, personalities, etc.  We craft an identity for them based on our judgments of them and ourselves.  "Knowing" how another person sees us, based solely on past experience, gives us the ability to respond accordingly.  The response is basically defending ourselves from negative judgment, whether that means we try to better ourselves or we lash out in a defensive manner to protect the ego.

The fear of being judged is so ingrained in us that it's barely noticeable.  It's almost like each move we make is instantaneously judged by ourselves and our shadow people.  This also explains why God has been seen by many as judgmental.  We created God in our image because that's all we knew.  We can't see what we don't know, which is why there has to be an element of ourselves in everyone we see.  But, rather than debate what God really is, my hope is to shed light on one of the core dysfunctions we share as human beings.

So, "What's the solution to this dysfunctional thinking?" you might wonder.  First, know that you are projecting on another when you judge them in any way. If the finger pointing trick makes a good reminder, by all means use it.  

Then, when you notice yourself judging, stay out of a "judgement loop" where you judge yourself for being judgmental.  That's like beating yourself up for being human.  Instead, you can learn a lot about yourself through your judgements of others.  

Also, be open to the possibility that you are completely wrong as you examine your judgments about others and how they might be judging you.  The end game, so to speak, is the realization that you are completely safe from judgment.  Even if a person openly states a negative judgment toward you, they have just told you something about themselves that they haven't realized yet.  But that's for them to discover on their own and not your job to point out (unless you feel like an argument).  In other words, you're the only one capable of judging yourself and everyone else is just running around judging themselves, too.

Basically, don't take anything personally and don't assume you're right about everything.

Namaste (I bow to the Divine in you),


Monday, March 17, 2014

I Want: The Birth of Desire

Dear Friends and Family,

I hope you and yours are doing well.  Spring is in the air now, I think.  We’ve been teased a bit here in WNC with dramatic swings in temperatures, but the flowers are waking up and reminding us it’s time for us to do the same :)

So, in case you hadn’t heard, our little Adorabella is almost two years old (hard to believe I know), and is learning the ropes of being a human.  She is talking up a storm and it’s so much fun to listen to her pronounce things.  It’s like she has a foreign accent that you can put your finger on, but she picks up on words so quickly.  She’s a happy little sponge and loves to have fun singing, dancing, smiling, making funny noises, laughing, and let’s not forget crying.  Despite what a happy toddler she is, she has her moments of frustration.  The underlying cause seems to be the “desire” for something other than what’s happening at a given moment.

As best as I can tell, desire is born very early and just gets stronger and more well refined.  At first it’s just preferences (i.e. I like this, not so much that).  Then, entertaining activities enter the picture, like things that she seemingly can’t get enough of.  For example, after we had our first big snow (which she loved), all she could say was, “I want walk snow all day.”  She said this for weeks despite the disappearance of the snow.  She would wake up and look out the window and say, “Hi snow,” even after it had all melted.  It was sooo cute.  She seemed okay with the snow leaving because we didn’t make a big deal out of it.

However, at a certain point desire brings on some attitude.  “I want...” is the way our little girl begins most of her sentences these days.  In some cases, if the want isn’t satisfied, screaming and crying can occur.  That’s never fun, but it comes with the territory, and we’re all learning how to cope with a life that doesn’t always give us what we want.  The only difference is that most adults don’t scream and cry if they can’t go watch DeeDee (Daniel Tiger) with Uncle NoNo (Shelby’s brother Norn).

It’s interesting to see the development of desire through an infant’s eyes.  There can be such great intensity behind not getting what they want, and it’s just a magnified version of the human adult’s reaction.  By the time we’re older, we’ve mostly toned it down a bit because we learn that we don’t get what we want by screaming and crying about it.  In general, we’re taught to ask nicely for things and learn new ways of getting what we want (maybe even by being manipulative).  Ultimately we become more civilized, but we are still adversely affected when all of our efforts fail to bring about the desired outcome.

Maybe I’m naive, but I think humankind has become worn down enough by not getting what we want for so long that we’re ready to be done with the pain that that causes.  That readiness, that ripeness, is where real change can happen.  When we run out of answers, when nothing we do seems to do any good, we may decide to open ourselves up to the unthinkable – give up on desires.  We’ve been crafting them since we were knee high to a grasshopper, so that’s a tough pill to swallow.  Our desires have become ingrained in who we think we are, so you may need to be at the end of your rope before you even consider giving up.  Plus, once you’re ready to give up, it may be too scary or you may not even know how.

Here is what I can offer if you are up to the challenge.  Things are not as bad as you think.  Not getting what you want is more important than getting what you want.  You are not being mistreated or punished by anyone other than yourself.  Take a close look at a desire that seems out of reach and see if it’s actually a need or just a want.  What’s the worst thing that could happen if a desire is not met?  How would you feel if you wanted what you already had?  How would you feel if you didn’t want anything other than what you have right now?  Would you feel complete?  Pick a desire and take a deep look at this.

The mind’s job is to step in here and say, “Without desire I wouldn’t have anything to work toward.  I wouldn’t get anything done.  I’d be stuck, complacent, etc.”  What if your mind is completely wrong about all of this stuff?  Have you ever been wrong about anything?  Be honest now.  What if Life has your best interest at heart and will not steer you wrong?  What if you can’t steer at all?  Can you trust Life enough to let it do the steering?  It already is, afterall.

There is nothing wrong with desire, but if you get too attached to the outcome it can lead to stress and suffering when things don’t work out.  Desires come and go whether you like it or not, so let a desire serve as a sign post and watch to see if it was meant to be attained or not.  If not, no big deal.  You’ve just gained more insight by not getting what you want, and Life may have created a new direction for you, which has it’s own sense of desire.  Life’s desire for you is for you to stop making your happiness contingent on attaining some future goal and to be happy Now.  Everything else will fall into place just as it should and when it should.  Trust me ;)

Yours Truly,


Friday, December 27, 2013

Living with the Buddha

I have been using a mantra of sorts lately when I'm feeling a bit stressed out by "others" -- "I am living with the Buddha." This applies to your significant others, or people that you only see on occasion. When you are encountering someone, you are living with them in that moment, and they are your teacher. And, as with various approaches to teaching Zen, the form of the teaching can vary from a compassionate embrace to a yelling drill Sargent. When you feel at odds with what is being encountered, try reminding yourself that you are living with, and being confronted by the Buddha. Their mission, even if they are unaware, is to get you to "wake up," which is to say realize that your beliefs about what "should" and "shouldn't" be are what holds you back from realizing the peace that lies prior to judgment. Welcome the teaching in whatever form it takes, and gratitude replaces attitude.

Be well,

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Few Simple Steps: The List

It came to me to compile steps that may be useful to the growing number of people seeking to know them Selves, or to Awaken, become Enlightened, or just get some damn peace.  We’ll just call it “The List” for the sake of ease.  Hopefully these will help “you” as much as they did “me.” (Preface everything with “In my experience.”)

1. Notice - Practicing mindfulness, or becoming the witness of your thoughts, is one of the most powerful things you can do (or not do).  It seems like it takes work to start paying attention to the thoughts you have always been so attached to, but it’s less of a doing and more of an allowing.

2. Allow -  When something (a life event of some sort) happens, we automatically allow and recognize it right away.  Judgement comes a second later to, inadvertently, disguise that something as good or bad.  That’s where the change happens and a story is born that takes you further from the truth.  Knowing that you already allow everything isn’t enough, though, because judgments are what the unconscious mind is made up of.  We have to consciously accept the things that would ordinarily upset us in order to transcend judgments.  To do so we witness our thoughts, or physical reactive patterns, and train ourselves to notice those cues from the Universe.  This is also part of the witnessing (re)training program.

3. Accept - At first I thought Accept and Allow were the same, but there is a fine line distinguishing the two of them.  Allowing means that you’re admitting that what has been done, has been done, which can leave one feeling a bit detached.  This is like the phrase, “It is what it is,” that I’ve been hearing lately.  I find it encouraging to see a more non-judgmental way of thinking manifesting through this simple phrase, but full acceptance is deeper than that.  In full acceptance, the true depth of the inevitability and necessity of this moment is experienced.  A relaxation occurs naturally as we realize the fruitlessness of arguing with what has already happened.  Regardless of what we believe, it had to be this way, right here, right now.  From this realization, a sense of appreciation or gratitude can arise naturally.  Not necessarily gratitude for what’s happened, but a gratitude for the realization that it had to be this way, and that no amount of trying on your part could have made a difference.  What a relief.  Now I can be more present and not dwell on the past.

4. Present moment awareness - Acceptance applies to the Nowness of the present moment, the isness of Now.  The thing is, the Now is the only thing that can be fully accepted because there is no room for judgment in the present moment.  When it comes to practicing being present in your life, there appears to be a continuum of depth.  First, we use mindfulness to recognize when we are playing out past and future in our minds, then bring our attention back to the Now.  This helps us create more peace by gradually disassociating from the stories we tell ourselves.  On a deeper level, when we are Fully Present, judgment ceases to exist and everything is seen as being new and fresh, totally unclouded by the past.  Then, and only then, can the miraculousness of an ever changing world be fully recognized.  The Joy of Being is born out of the recognition that nothing is real outside of this moment.

5. Remember - It seems almost contradictory to remember (Latin root “Call to Mind”) to be present because it uses our “mind” to look at what’s beyond it.  But the mind is an indispensable tool, even when it comes to transcending itself.  Realizations, awakenings, etc., become tangible thoughts that can be conveyed in words, even if the words fall short of the simplicity of Now.  “Just this.”  Remember that there is just This.  You are always fully present and aware of your existence.  We’ve been in forgotten mode so long that it feels like we never knew it to begin with.  Just remember the simplest pointer(s) that work for you.  They will undoubtedly change as the journey unravels before you.  Leave yourself notes if you need to, just to remind yourself that all there is is Now, and that all is well.  Always!

6. Gratitude - There is so much in this Universe to be grateful for that you don’t have to look far to find 10 things.  The mere existence of this planet is miraculous, not to mention that you exist to enjoy it.  Even if you find something “wrong” or “bad” about a given situation in your life, from terrorist attacks to car accidents, it is impossible not to find something positive that came from that.  Once you start to see the “silver lining” you start seeing it everywhere.  Gratitude for your pure existence is enough, but your existence is not separate from the existence of the whole, which means gratitude becomes universal.  Look at the silver lining without feeling guilty about overlooking the “negative” in any situation.  There are enough people around to focus on the negative.  Let them do their job.  They don’t need your help.

7. Compassion - It comes with the understanding that things could not be any other way.  People could not be any way other than they are.  If “you” were in “their” shoes, having experienced their life, then you would be doing/saying exactly the same thing.  When we’re unconscious, we are just playing out a story and have no choice to change it, even if we pretend to.  You are them, and they are you.  The Awareness that is looking through your eyes right now, is the same Awareness that is looking through their eyes right now.  The shell and the mind are the only differences.  Compassion and empathy are at your finger tips at all times.  A simple shift in awareness is all it takes to forgive all.

8. Stopping - What’s the hurry?  Stop frequently, if only for a split second.  Waiting half a second before responding to someone can dramatically improve communication.  It’s not like stopping to think about what you are going to do or say, though that might happen.  It’s about breaking routine and habitual action.  That momentary pause gives us a quick dip into presence, which allows a lot more positive actions to manifest.  Take a deep breath if it helps bring the world to a seeming halt.  Take frequent stop breaks throughout the day, a couple of seconds here and there just to be still (mentally and physically).

9. Self Forgiveness - Spiritual seekers (a.k.a. people who want to be happy) may find a road map in the form of words from a spiritual teacher, and that be just what they need.  We seem to stumble upon teachings right when we need them, and we pick up the ones that resonate with us and leave the rest.  In a lot of cases, we continue to follow the map, memorize it, look beyond it, find what we’re looking for, then apparently lose what we were looking for.  Foretastes, glimpses, aha moments, awakenings, realizations, whatever you want to call experiencing Reality, leaves one with the knowing.  That knowing then gets used as a yard stick to judge our current situation.  If we’re not living that realization, then we don’t feel like we have it.  Even if someone tells you that “it” can’t be lost, it may serve as a further damper on things because that is not your experience.  The end result can vary from total disillusionment to disappointment to depression, or it can lead to a deeper level of acceptance and self forgiveness.  Like it or not, it has to be this way.  Your stress, anxiety, anger, fear, frustration, all emanate from a place of resistance to the way things are, and in many cases the way “you” are.  When you’re an Ass and you know better, when you find yourself being judgmental, when you lash out, when you do stupid things, it’s important to remember that those things are also necessary parts of your path. Welcoming even your ugliest parts of yourself brings about peace.  In fact, there’s no other way to.  You have to accept and forgive your unconscious behavior, in order to overcome those last pockets of resistence that hide out in self judgment.  Accepting what is, doesn’t stop “out there.”  It’s ALL inclusive.

10. Commitment - It seems at times like there is an insurmountable amount of mind identification going on, and that we are constantly getting sucked back into our egoic behavioral patterns.  As previously mentioned, that can lead to disillusionment unless accepted as part of your journey.  Constantly seeking anything, whether it be the present moment or self acceptance, can lead to burn out.  The thing is, you don’t have a choice but to continue doing what you’re doing.  If you’re reading these words, then you have already been bitten by the “enlightenment bug.”  You’re already committed to “waking up.”  You’re committed to giving up a great deal, especially the seeking itself.  Make a conscious commitment to allow Life to guide you.  Commit to surrender your beliefs in the name of Truth.  Commit to it ALL.