This past weekend, I was extremely fortunate to host a Buddhist author that I have been following for a few years.  He came to town and did a couple talks that were well attended by a great group of people who were excited to have him here.  And since he stayed with me, I got to talk to him quite a bit.  It was amazing!  He brought a very peaceful vibe with him and I felt better just being around him.  I was inspired and challenged, to say the least.  Coming back to work on Monday was quite a shock for both me and my wife.  We discussed it at length and finally decided that the best description we could think of at this time was that this man took us through the wardrobe to Narnia for 3 days.  And then we had to come back through to the “normal world”.  And now we are trying to function in the normal world after having an amazing experience in Narnia, so to speak.  Yeah. The last few of days have been a challenge.

As wonderful as the whole experience was, experiences come and go.  It’s what we practice on a consistent basis that makes up who we are and where our life is headed.  That’s what I’m telling myself when I think, “I miss Narnia!” LOL  I had a pretty intense mental and emotional struggle Monday morning.  Shortly after getting out of bed, I noticed that my thoughts were all pretty negative.  After feeling heavy and sad for a while, I remembered something that was said this weekend.  You can’t life a positive life with a negative attitude.  This is not always easy to do, people.  As someone who has struggled with severe depression in the past, I know that.  But, on the flip side, since I did go through a few years of depression, I can spot its tactics pretty quickly.  So, at some point during that morning, I physically shook myself and told myself that I’ve got to stop this right now.  So I just started thinking of things to say to myself.  Instead of being bummed that the author had to go back to his home, I started being thankful that he came in the first place.  Instead of allowing the thoughts of, “I don’t know what to do with this stirring inside me?”, I started just saying that I do know what to do with it.  Even if it’s not clear right now, why not say that I know, anyway?  And anything else I could think of to be thankful for.  Pretty soon, that heaviness started to lift off.  I can’t say that I came into work doing cartwheels, but it was with a much better mindset than I had early this morning.

Just a few things that I came away with from this weekend.

Gratitude.  Man.  That’s a huge one.  Even on our worst days, being able to think of something that we are grateful for can make a huge difference.

Non-judgement.  For example.  A red light is just a red light.  It’s not good or bad, it just is.  When I can see situations just as they are, without labeling or judging them one way or another, it really cuts down on frustration and similar feelings. And it can also mean seeing things from another person’s perspective.  Other people’s perspective on reality is just as valid as my own.  Or this could be said as, the opposite of what I know is also true to someone else.  He used this example; right now, in your city, someone is rescuing a dog.  But somewhere else in the world, a person just had a dog for lunch.  And we need to learn to be ok with that.  J  Our opinions and beliefs tend to change depending on time, place, and circumstance. And since we all experience life differently, there are multiple theories on what’s best, what’s moral, what’s right, and what’s wrong.  This doesn’t mean we tolerate what is harmful, but often with this mindset, we can see more clearly how we should respond.

Humor.  If I can laugh at myself a little more, I think that’s a good thing.  Like when I get mad at someone in traffic.  I could laugh and say to myself, “Look at you, all mad and everything.  LOL  Maybe that person just has to pee?” 🙂

A positive attitude.  As self-help cheesy as it may sound, it really does help to be positive rather than negative.  For example, if I have a goal to stop drinking, it certainly won’t help me to think or say, “I’ll never be able to stop drinking!”  Even after another failed attempt to not drink.  “I can do this.  I can stop drinking.  I control me, not alcohol.  I chose a healthier way to live.”  Those kinds of things add up and can make a big difference.

There was so much more, but I’ll leave it at that.  Shorter is often better.

As for the overall experience, I’m still processing much of it.  Today, this is how I’m looking at it.  Using the example of Narnia, I can take what I learned there, and apply it here in the normal world.  I believe that will help me to be a person who can bring that same peaceful vibe into other people’s lives and help them have a taste of Narnia as well.  It’s not that we try to escape life by having experiences, but when we do have an experience like I had this weekend, it’s about bringing that peace and joy and compassion into our everyday lives.





More on the way…

Hi all.  I have lots of things going on in my head as far as things to write about.  I’ve started writing about business, wealth and our attitude towards it, the concepts of good and bad, and contentment.  It’s interesting to me how many ideas, concepts, and practices are connected to so many other things.  For example.  The idea of going with the flow.  Generally speaking, I could apply going with the flow to all the ideas I have listed above.

On a different note (or maybe not?), I’m traveling with my 20 year old daughter for the next couple of days.  It’s just a short trip to an event that we both enjoy every year.  I’m looking forward to it for a couple reasons.  One, even though she still lives at home, it seems like I never see her!  So it will be good to have some hours in the car to talk and catch up.  My kids grew up in church.  Well, sort of.  When we quit going to church, my daughter was 9 and my son was 5.  And we were still kind of churchy for a few years.  But when my beliefs started shifting, I really didn’t talk to my kids much about it.  Not in a way that would seem like I’m trying to make them believe differently.  If they asked me something, I answered them.  Now, I feel a little more free to share things that I believe will help them in life, regardless of religious or spiritual beliefs.  And I think that is one of the things that will be good regarding this trip.

I’ll leave you with a quick story/parable regarding good vs bad from the Taoist tradition.  I’m sure some have heard it before, but it always makes me go, hmmmm….

It’s a story of a farmer and his horse.
One day his horse runs away. And his neighbor comes over and says, to commiserate, “I’m so sorry about your horse.” And the farmer says “Who Knows What’s Good or Bad?” The neighbor is confused because this is clearly terrible. The horse is the most valuable thing he owns.
But the horse comes back the next day and he brings with him 12 feral horses. The neighbor comes back over to celebrate, “Congratulations on your great fortune!” And the farmer replies again: “Who Knows What’s Good or Bad?”
And the next day the farmer’s son is taming one of the wild horses and he’s thrown and breaks his leg. The neighbor comes back over, “I’m so sorry about your son.” The farmer repeats: “Who Knows What’s Good or Bad?”
Sure enough, the next day the army comes through their village and is conscripting able-bodied young men to go and fight in war, but the son is spared because of his broken leg.
And this story can go on and on like that. Good. Bad. Who knows?

How does this apply to the really “bad” stuff like Hitler, or losing a child, or something like that?  I don’t know. We’ll talk more about this in the near future.

I hope you are well.  I look forward to writing more soon.


Why am I so angry?

I’m not sure how long this has been going on?  Maybe a year?  But I’m angry and annoyed with Christians and the Christian church.  Not any particular Christians or churches, just kind of as a whole.  I recently drove by a new church in the city I live in and I thought to myself, “Oh great.  That’s what we need here is another church!”  I live in the south/mid-south and there are an abundance of churches, to say the least.  Probably more churches per capita than any other city in the US.  Are my feelings and reactions just delayed?  Most people are angry when they first leave church/Christianity.  Mine seems to have surfaced, years later.

Ok, let’s back up a little bit.  I quit attending church on a regular basis in 2006.  I wasn’t angry with the church or hurt or anything like that.  At that time, I had begun to see how ineffective the institution of church is at communicating God’s love to people and helping them to discover who they are in that love.  That was my opinion at that time.  And I just thought there must be a more relationship oriented way of doing this.  Some call it an organic way of sharing God with people, outside the walls of the institution of church.  Then my views on things changed more and more until now, I really wouldn’t consider myself a Christian anymore.  Again, this was not out of hurt or anger or spite or anything like that.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Christian church.  I just started seeing things and asking questions.  And voila! Here I am.

I’m wondering if the meditation and mindfulness and other practices are bringing out repressed feelings that I didn’t know were under the surface?  Hmmm… could be?  Most of the Christians that I know are kind and genuine and loving people.  I’ve encountered hypocrites who claim to be Christians, but I think most people are hypocrites to some degree.  Everyone is fighting battles and has issues.  I’ve known that for a long time so I don’t think it’s anything like, I’m mad at hypocrites.  When I drive down the road and see Bible verses on billboards, I get annoyed.  My wife is still a practicing Christian and when she tells me about the church service, I get annoyed.  I don’t let her see it.  Or try to not let her see it. I know it helps her and I just try to be happy that she is excited about what she just experienced.  And often when I pass a church, I just feel angry.  I’ve caught myself a few times taking sides with other people who are angry at church and Christians and God.  I don’t want to take sides.  People will always have differing opinions.  Especially with religion and politics!  But I want to be able to disagree without it becoming personal.  This is an excerpt from Timber Hawkeye’s book, Buddhist Bootcamp that sums up where I want to be regarding these thoughts:

You don’t have to agree with, only learn to peacefully live with, other people’s freedom of choice. This includes (but is not limited to) political views, religious beliefs, dietary restrictions, matters of the heart, career paths, and mental afflictions.
Our opinions and beliefs tend to change depending on time, place, and circumstance. And since we all experience life differently, there are multiple theories on what’s best, what’s moral, what’s right, and what’s wrong.
It is important to remember that other people’s perspective on reality is as valid as your own. This is why the first principle of Buddhist Boot Camp is that the opposite of what you know is also true.
No matter how certain we are of our version of the truth, we must humbly accept the possibility that someone who believes the exact opposite could also be right (according to their time, place, and circumstance). This is the key to forgiveness, patience, and understanding.

Well said.  I especially like, the opposite of what you know is also true.  Yep.  Something that I’ve learned over the last few years that is very different from the way I used to think, is how to deal with something about me that I want to be different.  It used to be that I would fight the anger and annoyance and find scriptures to read that I thought would help change the way I look at things.  One thing that I’ve learned from tai chi is that when you fight or resist something, you give it more power to be able to defeat you.  In many Chinese martial arts there is a saying, yield to overcome.  I first heard of taking a different mindset when reading Eckhart Tolle, and then other authors.  Simply notice the thoughts or feelings or behavior.  Notice, in my case, the anger toward Christianity, without judgement.  And be curious about it.  What triggers it?  What thoughts arise?  What feelings does it produce in my body and where?  Things like that.  This noticing and curiosity often will simply dissolve these “negative” feelings without any combative effort on my end.  So why is the annoyance and anger in me still hanging around?  I don’t know?  I have to admit that I haven’t been consistent in my noticing and curiosity.  So maybe by writing this out, it will help me to be more mindful about that.  I do want to say that I don’t believe that you shouldn’t resist saying or doing things that are hurtful.  For example, I might have the urge to slap the stew out of someone for some reason, but it is best if I restrain myself from acting on that urge.  LOL  And it’s probably also good to go back and read things like what Timber talked about, similar to when I used to read Bible verses in the past.   I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt me to do so.  🙂


Go with the flow, revisited

I’m becoming increasingly fascinated by the Taoist concept of Wu Wei.  I wrote about it to some degree in the “Go With the Flow” post back on March 8th.  I recently found the following short definition of Wu Wei that I really like:
Wu Wei (Chinese, literally “non-doing”) is an important concept of Taoism and means natural action, or in other words, action that does not involve struggle or excessive effort. Wu Wei is the cultivation of a mental state in which our actions are quite effortlessly in alignment with the flow of life.

It sounds great, right?  Right!  Now, how do you that?  I don’t know.  LOL  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I have some idea of what this concept is and have been adjusting my thinking a bit to help me go with the flow if what is going on.  But it’s not really anything that I feel like I can sit down and teach someone how to do, yet.

But, it seems to be happening in my life to some degree.  One thing that I noticed recently is that I seem to be more productive at work.  I have a very stressful, high paced job where most things are very time sensitive.  So customers want what they want, now!  There have been times where I’ve been up to 5 days behind, even though I was working 60-70 hours a week.  Crazy.  Right now, I’m less than a day behind on emails and I’ll put in about 50 hours this week.  And it’s been that way for a little while.  But I can’t say that I can think of a point where I purposely did anything to make that happen.  But I have been reading about Wu Wei whenever I get a chance.  I’ve also been thinking about it a lot.  So is it possible that by having that on my mind on a pretty consistent basis has caused it to somehow work its way into my life?  I think that’s a definite possibility.

I also think that the concept of Wu Wei and many of the other things I’ve been practicing are connected.  It’s kind of like losing weight.  There have to be certain mental adjustments that take place.  I have to change what I eat and how much I eat.  And I have to move more.  It’s a pretty simple formula, but if I leave any of those three things out, it makes it more difficult to accomplish my goal.  But if I practice those things consistently, the weight loss happens.  Similarly, I’ve been practicing things like mindfulness; accepting what is happening without judgement of it being good or bad; going back to my breath; tai chi, yoga, and meditation; and thinking about the concept that I want to be happening in my life.

But how do the things that I’m “doing” fit into Wu Wei, “non-doing”?  Well, there are days where one of the things I’ve been practicing just seems to come easier than other things.  Or, I can tell that I need one of the tools more than others on certain days, or at times throughout the day.  So I go with that flow.  That fits in with our definition, “…means natural action, or in other words, action that does not involve struggle or excessive effort… cultivation of a mental state in which our actions are quite effortlessly in alignment with the flow of life.”

Wow.  That last paragraph just came to me while I was typing it out! I love it when that happens!  You guys just shared an “aha!” moment with me where I got a little more understanding of Wu Wei.
Cool.  🙂
And (another aha!), I just realized I’ve been practicing this to a degree with my body.  Even though there are times where I discipline myself to do some physical activity because I want to get better at it, I’ve also been listening to my body more.  Some days it seems that my body needs tai chi more than it needs yoga.  And vice versa.  So I follow that and do what I feel like my body needs that day. Whoa!  It really is all connected…

How fun!  Ok, so where do we go from here?  Hmmm… this might be a good stopping point for now.  In terms of people who are public speakers, there is a saying; “The short winded shall be invited back”.  I think there is some truth there with bloggers as well.  🙂

Until next time.  Smile.  Breathe.  Go with the flow.

Monday Monday…

Hey all.  Whoever “all” might be.  🙂

I’m still here.  I’ve got a few drafts of some possible posts, but nothing is really coming together.  I’m reading a lot and trying to digest a lot as well.  Maybe it’s too much reading and digesting?  Could be…

I did find an interesting article on Taoism that I’m working through.  In case anyone is interested:

Even though I’m reading a lot of stuff, I’m endeavoring to keep my daily practice simple.  I’m paying attention to tension in my body and trying to let that go.  And then just going back to the breath.  Oh, and also smiling.  On purpose.  That can be hard to remember to do, sometimes.  Especially on a Monday.  LOL  Yep.

I hope everyone is well.  More soon.


Go Back to the Breath

I’ve been reading some pretty heavy stuff lately.  For example.  If you Google, “A Buddhist view of interdependence”, the first thing that should come up is a very interesting article that is actually a book excerpt by Alan Watts.  But I’ve read it a few times, and I’m still trying to grasp it.  I had read lots of Tolle in the past, and I’m reading “After Zen”.  With a whole bunch of other stuff in between.  I read stuff about how grasping causes suffering.  So I try to let go of my grasping.  But I’m told that by trying to let go, that is really my ego in control, and it’s actually a form of grasping, in itself.  Yeah…  Stuff like that.  Things that make you say, WTF?  I have a feeling that when I’m through with my current reading phase, I’ll probably go back to some Thich Nhat Hahn.

I like reading TNH because he is very simple in his approach.  When the deep philosophical questions arise, and it’s just a little too much, I can remember that he says, just be where you are.  Be as fully present as possible.  I won’t spend much time on that here, please see the blog post from March 9, Being Where I Am, On Purpose.  But I will say that it’s a simple thing to do without having to have all kinds of spiritual insight of any kind.  Just be as present and I can be, right now, with what I’m doing.

The other thing that I often remember TNH saying is go back to, or follow the breath.  What does that mean, exactly?  It just means to pay attention to your breathing.  Pay attention to when you are inhaling, and pay attention to when you are exhaling.  You might even say to yourself, “inhaling” when you inhale, and “exhaling” when you exhale.  You don’t have to make yourself breathe, you are doing that already.  Just be aware of it.  It’s that simple.  You might also notice things like what the air feels like when I inhale, and what does it feel like when I exhale.  Like the other things that I practice, this is not a cure all.  But I do find that it helps me calm down, it quiets my mind, and just helps me feel better.

Sometimes I do intentionally breathe deeper into my belly.  And then try to relax with the exhale.  I try to notice tension in my body, and keep my focus on that spot as I naturally exhale.  It’s like when you blow up a balloon and let it go.  It makes that ppphhhtttt sound and the air just comes out as it flies around the room.  🙂 That’s what I try to think of exhaling.  Don’t force it.  TNH talks about saying this to himself when he breathes: “Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”  Sometimes I’ll say “I calm my body”, just because it’s shorter and fits better for me.  And I’ll also substitute “a wonderful moment” for “the only moment”.  I’ve heard him say that as well.  I’ve used this with good success in stressful situations.  Whether at work, or allowing an intense alcohol craving to pass when I’ve decided not to drink, or getting shots in the palm of my hand to numb it before stitches to sew up a bad cut… yep, ouch!… it helps.

I encourage you to give watching or following your breath some practice during some not so stressful times to just get the hang of it, if that is something you aren’t used to doing.  And as you learn to pay more attention to your breathing, start to work it into the stressful or intense situations that come your way.  I think with some regular practice, you will start to notice some positive things happening as you go back to the breath.

Now I feel like I should say, “namaste”, or something like that.  🙂

Am I broken?

One thing that bothered be a little when I was in religious circles, and bothers more now, is the idea that we are born sinners.  The Bible (at least the way it was taught in my circles) says that we are born into sin and there is nothing you can do about that.  It was passed down from Adam and Eve.  So, we need Jesus to save us from our sin nature and the consequences that come with that nature.  We are broken and need Jesus to fix us.

When I started learning about Buddhism and other eastern traditions, I noticed that much of the teaching is just the opposite.  For the most part, the things that I have read teach that humans are born with an innate goodness.  Many times, that goodness gets covered up with various types of abuse, neglect, mental illness, etc.  But deep within us remains that innate goodness.

I’m reading a book by Brother Phap Hai called “Nothing To It”.  It’s very good! There is a section of the book that I have read several times now.  And will probably read, and meditate on, many more times.  He is talking about how we tend to look outside ourselves for happiness, peace, and joy.  We look to things or people or food or alcohol or money or fun…  And these things can be, and often are enjoyable in the moment.  But it’s really just a temporary fix.  He talks about how we think that we need one more condition, just one more thing.  If we hold this attitude, however subtly, we practice life not by deeply trusting in our own innate goodness and the innate goodness of others, but rather we see ourselves as “broken”, as needing to be “fixed”.  He mentions a teaching from the Plum Village chanting book that reads, “Our mind is always searching outside of itself and never feels fulfilled”.  It’s always running after the next thing.  He says that this is where the Buddha’s teaching is really radical, because the Buddha basically tells us, “You do not need even one more thing; you are already what you want to become.”

Wow.  What a difference that last statement makes.  I already am what I want to become.  So now, instead of seeking for something that I think is not there or that I don’t have, it becomes more about uncovering and discovering who I already am.  That’s pretty cool!  I do want to mention that by saying, “you are not broken”, that does not ignore the effects of hurts and abuse and the other kinds of negative things that people have experienced in life.  And, it also doesn’t mean that seeking outside help from a friend, doctor, counselor, medication, etc, is wrong.  All those things now become tools to help uncover and discover who you really are.  It’s a subtle shift in the way we think and look at things, but I think it can make a huge difference.  It takes me from thinking that I’m broken and I need this and that to fixe me; to thinking that I’m already who I want to be, but I might need help to see that more clearly.

I’m going to be meditating on this for a while and see what kind of changes happen in my life.  “You do not need even one more thing; you are already what you want to become.”  The thing that first comes to mind for me is alcohol.  I’m not judging anyone for drinking alcohol.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with drinking for lots of folks, but for me, it’s become a problem.  I’ve managed to decrease my consumption quite a bit from where I was not long ago.  But I am still struggling with stopping completely.  I understand that my body and mind crave the alcohol because of the chemical effects that come along with drinking.  But there is also a part of my mind that says, “Alcohol will make it better!”  Whatever “it” is.  I wonder what would happen if I said to myself, “No, it won’t make it better.  I do not need even one more thing; I am already who and what I want to become”?  I’m pretty sure that the cravings will not instantly stop.  But from that different perspective, I think it will help.   I’ve also sought outside help, and will continue to do so.  But now it’s not about fixing the broken me, it’s about finding people to help me uncover and discover who I already am.

It would be interesting to have several folks think on this throughout their day as well and see what kind of changes take place, if any.  Maybe give it a shot for a while and let me know what happens.  I’ll do the same.  🙂

Weekend musings…

For the M-F folks, it’s finally the weekend!  If you work weekends, I hope you enjoyed whatever days off that you do get.

I have lots of different ideas swimming around in my head about many different topics.  I’ve written and re-written a post about doing all the things I’m reading about.  Walking the talk, so to speak.  It’s still a work in progress.  Part of the swimming going on in my head is because I read several books at a time.  LOL  Yeah.  In fact, I’ve started reading “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” for about the 6th time.  I really enjoy that book!  It stirs me.  I’m not sure exactly how it stirs me or what to do with that, if anything?  If you will bear with me, I’ll share a small section that I read today that made me go, yep!

Socrates (the teacher) talking to Dan (the student) – “You fear death and crave survival.  You want Forever, you desire Eternity.  In your deluded belief that you are this ‘mind’ or ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’, you find the escape clause in your contract with mortality.  Perhaps as ‘mind’ you can wing free of the body when it dies, hmm?…  Consciousness is not in the body;  the body is in Consciousness.  And you are that Consciousness – not the phantom mind that troubles you so.  You are the body, but you are everything else, too. Only the mind resists change.  When you relax mindless into the body, you are happy and content and free, sensing no separation.  Immortality is already yours, but not in the way you imagine or hope for.  You have been immortal since before you were born and will be long after the body dissolves.  The body is Consciousness; never born; never dies; only changes.  The mind – your ego, personal beliefs, history, and identity – is all that ends at death.  And who needs it?”

I think I agree with that…  At least today I do.  🙂

Have a good weekend.

Agnostic Taoism?

I’m not sure what it is about human nature (or maybe just my nature) to wants to label things?  In the “about” section of a site like this, or any site where you are asked to tell about yourself, what do you say?  People say things like; I’m a dad, I’m a husband, I’m this and that.  So, labels.  Well, with my shifting beliefs, it’s difficult to put a label on myself.  I get that, and yet, it seems that an underlying urge is still there to find an appropriate label to put on my “spiritual beliefs”.

I had an interesting conversation with my brother in law lately about this.  I asked him if he had any kind of a belief system anymore.  He said no, he did not, nor did he want one.  I like that!  I think it’s easier to flow and shift through life and the various stages and changes that way.  That’s just my opinion, of course.  It doesn’t mean that it’s absolutely true.  In a recent search for a possible label for myself, I came across a website or blog (I don’t remember exactly where I found it) that talked about agnostic Taoism.  Then he went on to write a short explanation that I will post here:

Agnostic Taoism:

When asked about my religion, I say “Well, it’s not really a religion, but I consider myself an Agnostic Taoist.” Which, of course, makes the socially religious pause and do the RCA dog head tilt. When I stop giggling inside, I typically follow up with “That means I have no idea about the afterlife or our souls or even the nature of God, but I find the world has paths and flow to it and you can surf those waves and follow those paths if you simply stop resisting so much.  There are behaviors that increase suffering and there are behaviors that decrease suffering. There are thoughts and beliefs and ways of being that can ease our personal and the world’s way through the day.  I try and do those thoughts and behaviors. It makes it easier on everyone.”
Which, of course, gets me the question “Do you believe in God?”  Which, of course, makes me sigh and know they did not hear a word I just said.

I like that.  So maybe I’m an agnostic Taoist, with some Buddhist tendencies?  LOL  This might, and probably will, change over time.  And that’s ok.  I don’t think there is just one right way for everyone.  How great would it be if we could share what’s working for us at this moment with others (assuming they are interested in hearing about it) without trying to convince them that they should be doing it our way?  I enjoy asking people about their beliefs and how those beliefs help them get through life.  It’s fun to see people get excited about sharing with someone who is interested in what they think and believe.  I encourage you to try it, if the situation presents itself.  I think you will have fun, too.

Practice, practice, practice.

For a couple years, I spent Friday nights meditating with Buddhist practitioners at a local monastery.  There was also teaching that went on during the sessions.  When the head monk would teach, throughout his talk he would say, “practice, practice, practice”.  Whether he was talking about being mindful or compassionate or forgiving… practice, practice, practice.  And you know what?  He was right!  If you want to train the body to do certain things, and to keep doing those things at a high level of proficiency, you have to practice.  The mind is the same way.  Buddhism is about training the mind to think differently, to think in ways that reduce suffering in our lives.  What do I mean by that?  Well, like being grateful for what I have instead of complaining about what I don’t have.  Or being “here”, but my mind is “there”.  Or wants to be there.  Or taking things personally.  All these things cause a certain amount of suffering in my life that is unnecessary.  After a while, that suffering adds up and can turn into depression or anger or resentment, etc.

I’ve been a martial artist for most of my life.  I’m not getting any younger, so there are many things that I can’t do now that I could do in my 20’s.  But, when I’m training on a regular basis, my mind is more alert, my reflexes are noticeably quicker, my body is more relaxed, and my overall attitude is better.  It doesn’t take many days of not training for things to start to slip.  I’ve found that it’s the same with my mind.  If I’m not practicing mindfulness and gratitude and compassion, etc, I start to slip.  There are signs of slipping.  Oh yes!  There are signs.  LOL  Crankiness, complaining, sighing, negative attitudes, and such.  I’m not saying that you won’t have challenges if you are practicing training your mind on a daily basis.  I’m not saying you won’t have cranky moments and sad moments and such.  But it should keep you from days of suffering at a time.  Yesterday was a day where it all came together and crashed.  Looking back, yesterday’s crash had been coming for a few days.  I handled a difficult morning fairly well, considering how the day started.  But by the end of the day, I was miserable.  I was dreading waking up today and facing what I thought I would be facing.  I’m still not in a great place, but I’m better.  Another thing I notice when I’m not practicing is that it takes me longer to get out of these funks.  Sometimes it takes several days.  And that’s no fun.

I do want to add that I don’t think there is anything wrong with any particular emotion.  If I’m feeling sad or anxious or some other feeling that is not preferable, I normally just let myself feel it.  I stay with that feeling, paying attention to it and allowing it to be.  But that in itself is a practice in a type of mindfulness.  And normally, the feeling passes without me actively trying to change it or get rid of it.  If it doesn’t pass, that’s fine, too.  But then I’m normally mindful about whatever else is going on and I find that the feelings and emotions always change.  The last few days have been different than that.  I’m finding that I’ve been swept away by the emotions and feelings and imaginings of my mind.  None of which have been positive!  And I’m reacting to the emotions that have swept me away.  And those reactions have not helped me at all.

So, what do I do at this point?  For me, I’ll start with the most basic thing.  Paying attention to my breath.  Even if just for a few inhales and exhales.  I’ll first notice that I’m breathing.  Then notice what it feels like on the inhale, and what it feels like on the exhale.  Just typing and doing this has already helped me feel more calm and peaceful.  After a while, I’ll practice something else.  I’m not sure what that will be yet, but from a point of more calmness, I’ll know what I need to focus on next.

Whatever it is that you do to keep yourself in a good place, I encourage you to practice, practice, practice.  🙂