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.


The End Of Worry

By Peter SperoIt is so easy to become consumed with worry about other people.  I find myself worrying about the wellbeing of friends and loved ones, worrying about their habits, the path they are on, how their future will affect my future.  Have you ever experienced these thoughts about the people close to you?

When I have these thoughts of worry they seem incredibly important.  I am operating under the assumption that if I don’t solve that which I am worried about right now through my own thoughts I will end up worse off in the future, things will go terribly wrong.

Yet, the truth of the matter is that everything in life will come and go except for myself.  My being.  No matter what happens to those around me, what choices they make, or how they create their future, I will always be myself right here in this one moment called the now.  There is nothing that can add to or take away from the being that I am.  And my own future is determined by the state of my consciousness right now.

IMG_0671So instead of trying to solve the problems of everyone around me, I return to the only true place of power, the present moment.  When you find yourself trying to solve the problems of those around you, and begin to feel overwhelmed, or even start to dread the future, come back to your immediate experience.  Shrink the world to the small space you are currently occupying, the perceptions that you are taking in through your five senses, and the breath. 

This is real life.  This is what is actually happening.

The worries, while they seem so real and important, are no more than thoughts in the head.  Although they seem irrefutably valid, allow yourself to relinquish them, and come into the present.  All of the solutions you will ever need are contained right here in the present moment.  They will arise as needed.  The present moment carries you through life with ease and grace.  By allowing yourself to come back into the present, you are allowing life to work all situations for your good.  Being present is the true nature of trust.  Learn to trust the now, trust life, and all of your needs will be, and already are, met.


“In the moment of seeing, of noticing that your relationship with the Now is dysfunctional, you are present.” – Tolle

Wind Tunnel

The first day of teaching for a new year of the after school program always leaves me thinking, “what just happened?”  Now sitting on a comfortable couch at home, I see the pull to hang on to the day.  To stay in the stress, to worry about what it will be like tomorrow.  But when I think about how I felt about the new year of programming this morning, before it at all began, I know I wasn’t worried at all.  I didn’t feel stressed about the prospect of the next class.

Even though the day has a magnetic pull, I can see that feeling like I did this morning would be a much more enjoyable way of being.  I can also see that feeling present and without worry didn’t effect the reality of the experience as it actually occurred.

Worry or not, the outcome is always the same.  The moment always comes to pass.  This is the moment where I have the opportunity to choose again.  Instead of succumbing to the attraction of holding on, I can choose to put down the thoughts of past and future, and return to the only place I will ever be, the present.

How do you feel when the day is done?  If you ever find yourself reliving the day over again in your head, create an experiment out of putting the day down, and allowing yourself to just be where you are.  After all, the only way to see if it feels better than a previous way of being, is to experience it.

spirituality, Uncategorized

What Makes You Present?

536192_10151747318244894_586462762_nPhoto by Rob Kleeman

Today I had the privilege of performing with my family band at a town festival.  Waiting to perform is nerve-racking for me.  But the second I’m on stage and begin to sing all of the nerves just float away, and I’m there, completely present.  I love the feeling of being totally in the moment.  One of my favorite aspects of presence is the experience of joy; the natural state of being that is usually covered up by thoughts and emotions.

 What makes you present?  What snaps you out of thinking and brings in you completely into the moment? 

Presence can be practiced in any situation, but a great place to start is by finding a situation that tunes you into the now.  It could be yoga, taking a walk, straightening your hair, driving, singing, anything at all!  When you find that thing that snaps you into the present, it isn’t really that thing that is so enjoyable.  The joy comes from being fully in the now, without psychological past and future taking up all of your attention.  So give yourself a gift and begin practicing being in the now.  Start with whatever brings you joy!