Older But Not Necessarily Wiser

QuailIt would be nice if becoming another year older meant you actually became another year wiser.  But I have not always found this to be the case.  As I approach my birthday I’ve noticed that I can look back at my younger self and learn from an understanding that I had once gained but later lost.  On a smaller scale, there are some days when I really feel in tune with the rhythm of life, and others when I am lost in the darkness of my own ignorance.

How is it that wisdom and understanding come and go so easily?  They are measured by the degree to which you are present.

When you choose to be the witness of your thoughts, emotions, sense perceptions, environment, you inhabit the space where all knowledge and inspiration reside.  When you are strung along by habitual thought patterns, you step out of the flow of life.

In the moment you become aware of your breathing, of the beating of your heart, you are wiser than anyone could ever aspire to be.  May we all meet there together.


The Crazy Idea I Didn’t Know I Believed

LightIt wasn’t until a job training that focused on “positive discipline” for children that I realized I was walking around with an insane idea that greatly affected my relationships.

A slide in the presentation read, “It’s a crazy idea, really: to make children do better, they have to feel worse.”

Have you ever unknowingly operated from this crazy idea?  I know I have.  When I care about someone deeply and want their behavior to change, for their benefit or my own, I make them feel bad about it.  It sounds harsh, and consciously of course I wouldn’t try to make a loved one feel worse.  But up until this idea was exposed to me in such a clear manner, I was making people feel worse when trying to “help” them.

Human beings do this all the time, and not just when disciplining children.  We do this with our spouses, siblings, friends, and co-workers.

Jane Nelsen, author of the Positive Discipline series, talks about the deep roots of sprouting behavioral issues in children.  But how can we react when encountered with an adult close to us whose behavior we want to change?

That question cannot be answered in one small post.  But there are a few essential steps before you go about trying.

Firstly, take a look at the “man in the mirror.”  Ask yourself what parts of the issue bothering you, do you contain within yourself.

Then completely accept the other person as they are, and forgive them.

Lastly, become utterly present.  Let go of the unhappy story you are telling yourself and instead focus on the feeling of your hands and feet.  Feel the inhale and exhale of your breath.

While this won’t necessarily change someone else’s behavior, it will change yours.  Whatever you do in a state of presence will be positive and productive for everyone.  Of course the consequences of this presence will not be known until it is tried and tested.  I will attempt these steps the next time I feel the impulse to change someone else’s behavior through the old, criticizing manner. Comment and let me know how it goes for you!


How To Know If You’re Being Present

RumiOn my walk home from work tonight I looked up at the moon and thought, “I don’t have to accept everything about my life. I only have to accept what I am experiencing at this very moment.” I then suddenly tripped over an uneven crack in the sidewalk and just barely caught myself from falling. This startlingly answered my initial train of thought: thinking about being present is not the same as being present.


Why I Changed My Mind About Sam Harris

A few weeks ago my aunt Nancy sent me a video that blew me away.  I was about to share it when I discovered the speaker was none other than Sam Harris, a popular critic of religion.

That same evening after I decided posting something by Harris wouldn’t be in keeping with my own views and intentions of peace and unity, I posted an entirely different video and received an email that another blogger had “liked” it along with a list of popular posts to check on their blog.  The first post I saw written by this blogger was entitled, “Atheist Sam Harris changed my perception of him forever when he said this.”  I was led right back to the video I had tried to stay away from.

I was snapped out of my identification with my own views, along with the thoughts and opinions I had attached Sam Harris to. Human beings are not the thoughts they think, the opinions they hold, or the perceptions others have of them.  My perception of who another person is will never come close to the reality of their being.  Now, after letting go of the need to know who Sam Harris is, it is clear to see that attaching myself to a judgement about another person will cut me off from experiencing the gifts they offer to the world.

It is with an open mind, and understanding heart, that I gladly share this beautiful moment of presence:


3 Ways To Be At Peace Now

IMG_0992Today driving back to Chicago from my parents’ house in the suburbs I was particularly cautious because of the dark flurry-filled highway.  Night was fast approaching on my drive home and by the time I reached the city streets there was no longer any sunlight to aid me.

When I had stopped at a light on Lincoln Avenue I glanced out the car door window.  Suddenly I realized it was not a low-visibility snowy evening, but a crisp clear night.  At this I instinctively prompted the wiper fluid.  Lo and behold I had been unnecessarily struggling from something I had expected even before I got in the car, a night where the air was filled with snow, which would be difficult to drive in.  The night air was as clear as it had been on any cold cloudless night in Chicago and I just did not realize all I had to do was clean the windshield.

Just as I needed to clean the lens through which my highway journey was viewed, any successful moment starts with clarity of mind and perspective.  I had been feeling stress during the week about situations with my cold apartment and a blown fuse, and the prospect of work that had to be done.

Every time I thought I was making some progress, something else would come up and require my attention.  As I began to flounder I realized that before anything could be done, like decisions, work, and planning, I first had to relax into a state of peace and perspective.  My actions were not yielding positive results.  The results were expressing the energy with which I had produced them. 

So before you try to fix a situation so that you can be at peace, remember that the only way to create the success you want is to first be at peace and then go about doing whatever it is you have to do. You need to go beyond the mind to untangle yourself from the thoughts that are creating the dis-ease.

When I arrived home I received a “Present Moment Reminder” email from Eckhart Tolle stating the three things you can do to become peaceful at any given moment, “Wherever you are, be there totally.  If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options:  remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally,” Eckhart Tolle.


When are you “just now?”

In this inspiring video Ryan Levinson teaches a powerful lesson in what it means to truly exist in the present moment, and how he is able to get there.

Take a moment today to find what brings you utterly into the present moment.  That experience of presence can teach you what it feels like to be right where you are, instead of in past or future thoughts.  After experiencing a profound oneness with the present moment, it will be easier to practice present moment awareness in all aspects of life.


One Domino In Front Of The Other

The SinkThere are a million tiny things we do each day.  Some actions are so small and routine we hardly even notice them.  Things like taking a breath before drinking a glass of water, blinking our eyes to adjust to daylight after waking up, brushing hair out of our eyes, turning the lights on and off, nodding at a passing stranger, saying “bless you” after someone sneezes.  The entire day is composed of minuscule, seemingly insignificant actions.

The following video of an impossible and beautiful display of dominos reminded me that each of us is only seeing from the perspective of one small domino.  In each moment we witness a single domino, the present.  All amazing feats of humanity, like landing on the moon, the creation of vaccines that cure diseases, and the building of the Sears Tower, are beautiful images like those shown in this video of what happened after all of the dominos had fallen.  But their creation was made up of one domino at a time, one small moment, one tiny insignificant action after tiny insignificant action.

When life becomes tedious, and nothing seems to be getting accomplished, think of the domino effect.  You are currently witnessing the slow fall of one small domino, which holds the power of the outcome, the vision, the entire purpose of your being here.  Even though it seems small and insignificant, you need only take one step, for as the old adage truly states, contained in the one step is the entirety of the journey itself.