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Fully Present Wakefulness

August 2, 2019 by  
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So, what can we do to make our lives happy and contented as we age, like when you are over 55, 65 or, like me, at 75? So much of our lives depend on our thinking and it can be a bit of a challenge to put and keep the positive thoughts our minds.

I came across an interview I did years ago with the world-famous skier Stein Eriksen. He had so much passion in his life even up to shortly before he died. In the interview, I asked Stein if he had as much passion in the process of becoming a world champion as he did when he won the gold medal. And he said he absolutely did, that he both enjoyed and was totally passionate about his workouts, and his many, many practice runs down the snowy slops of Norway and Utah. He built in his mind what he was going to do each day and he almost always did it, even in his mid to late 80’s.

That passion and determination most always starts with our brain and what we are thinking. I read a cute comment recently: “Don’t believe everything you think.” It is so easy, especially as you age and know that your time on this planet earth is so much shorter than when you were 25 or 30 or even 50 or 60, to let go of that passion. Our “self-talk” can really lead us down the wrong path.

So, one big thing, or big THINK, we need to do as we get closer to the end, is to be very mindful of the little negative self-talk that goes on in our brains. Then we need to work on changing that little voice in our head to do some major positive self-talk. If you meditate even for just 10 or 12 minutes a day this can help with changing your negative self-talk to positive self-talk.

Quoting from Pema Chödrön’s book Living Beautifully, “The key practice to support us in this mindfulness is being fully present right here, right now. Meditation is one form of mindfulness, but mindfulness is called by many names: attentiveness, nowness, and presence are just a few. Essentially, mindfulness means wakefulness–fully present wakefulness. Chogyam Trungpa called it ‘paying attention to all the details of your life.’”

As we get older, it’s even more important to live in the right now moment and, of course, that takes a lot of positive self-talk. Pema also wrote that, “The specific details of our lives will, of course, differ, but for all of us, wakefulness concerns everything from how we make dinner to how we speak to one another to how we take care of our clothes, our floors, our forks and spoons. Just as with the other aspects of this commitment, we’re either present when putting on our sweater or tying our shoes or brushing our teeth, or we’re not. We’re either awake, asleep, conscious, or distracted. Chogyam Trangpa emphasized mindfulness and paying attention to the details of our lives as ways to develop appreciation for ourselves and our world, ways to free ourselves from suffering.”

Additionally, Pema wrote, “You build inner strength through embracing the totality of your experience, both the delightful parts and the difficult parts. Embracing the totality of your experience is one definition of having loving kindness for yourself.”

This type of thinking and action certainly has made me more productive and keeps my mind busy. That along with setting a schedule and coming up with some new goals that fit my age and stage has been quite wonderful. At first it seemed quite silly for me to pay total attention to getting dress or taking a shower, but I have found it to be a good, and important, experience.

A Beautiful Life Now

July 12, 2019 by  
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If someone is really rude and totally offends you but then later offers a very sincere apology, most of us would probably forgive that person and move on with our lives. However, when most of us human beings make a mistake or screw something up, in many cases we will not forgive ourselves and so we carry that guilt around for days or years and that can hurt us in so many ways.

Quoting from Pema Chodron’s Living Beautifully, a great book that I’ve quoted before, “Over time, as thinking minds begin to settle, we’ll start to see our patterns and habits far more clearly. This can be an experience. I can’t overestimate the importance of accepting ourselves exactly as we are right now, not as we wish we were or think we ought to be. By cultivating nonjudgmental openness to ourselves and to whatever arises, to our surprise and delight we will find ourselves genuinely welcoming the never-pin-downable quality of life, experiencing it as a friend, a teacher and a support and no longer as an enemy.”

Pema talks a lot about acceptance of ourselves and the world as it is and how we should appreciate it as it is now. She talks about what she calls the “third commitment”, which is key to this kind of acceptance and appreciation. (You need to read her book to find out what the first and second commitment are and how they can greatly improve a person’s life.) To quote her again, “The everyday practice is simply to develop a complete acceptance and openness to all situations and emotions, without mental reservations and blockages, so that one never withdraws or centralizes into oneself.” She goes on to add that, “The attitude of the third commitment is that we live in a world that is intrinsically good, intrinsically awake, and our path is to realize this. Simply put, the practice at this stage is to turn toward your experience, all of it, and never turn away.

Pema talks a lot about being kind to others especially to ourselves. She talks about the process of growing-up and working toward feeling totally relaxed and free. She says, “that process, that transition, is one of becoming comfortable with exactly what we’re feeling as we feel it. The key practice to support us in this is mindfulness–being fully present right here, right now. Meditation is one form of mindfulness, but mindfulness is called by many names: attentiveness, nowness, and presence are just a few.”

Pema Chodron further explains that we need to pay attention to all the details of our life. “The specific details of our lives will, of course, differ, but for all of us, wakefulness concerns everything from how we make dinner to how we speak to one another to how we take care of our clothes, our floors, our forks and spoons”.

I think the bottom line is, if we pay more attention to the details of our lives it will give us more ways to free ourselves and that can help us free ourselves from suffering. So, we need to accept ourselves, appreciate our life as it is now, and pay attention. And we need to do all that, right now.

More Notes on Beautiful Uncertainty

December 11, 2015 by  
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As I promised in my last blog here, I have other high points from Pema Chodron’s wonderful book Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change. These super great gems will not only save you time but I really believe they can help most people’s lives in a big way. And maybe it will even motivate you to read her book.

Page 52: One big key that Pema talks about over and over about is “mindfulness”. I need to work on this more in my daily life.

Page 56: “And even when fame is achieved, does it bring the happiness that people anticipate?” Consider how common it is to have wealth and fame but be miserable, like Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis.

Page 72: When one gets to speak or teach, remember to not tune out others; try to pick up on their feelings, etc.

Page 73: Let go of negativity about other people.

Page 72-73: A monk taught Pema to practice saying to herself when waking up, “I wonder what will happen today; that’s the spirit of taking a leap.”

Page 104: Chogyam Trungpa’s comments on ‘enlightenment’. Basically it is when you hear or see or smell something for the first time like you did when you were a child; that’s enlightenment and I do need to pay more attention to those things around me to have more enlightenment, and look deeper to see or experience new stuff.

Page 108: Be fully open to whatever is coming along right now.

Page 111: To know self is to forget the self.

Page 112: To forget self is to be enlightened by all things.

Page 115: Embrace the world as it is.

Page 115: “Peace and prosperity come from how we, the citizens of the world, are working with our minds. By not running from the vicissitudes of life, be fearlessly opening to them all, we have the opportunity not only to change our own life but also to help change the earth.”

Page 133: Pema ends her book by saying “… so I leave you with a question: Are you ready to make a commitment? Is the time right for you to commit to not causing harm, to benefiting others, to embracing the world just as it is? Are you willing to make any–or all–of these commitments for a lifetime or a year or a month or even a day?”

It’s so interesting to me to write these words that I’ve read so many times before and realize that, once again, the review motivates me to work on these great principals to enhance my life. It’s amazing how most of us humans know something and know it well but tend to neglect that knowledge way too quickly. We get distracted and stop doing, thinking and living what we once learned. It tells me one more time to keep reviewing and reviewing and reminding myself. Remember this great quote “To know and not to do is not yet to know.” –Guru Neem Karili Boba

Side Notes on Uncertainty

December 6, 2015 by  
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Years ago I picked up a habit that has served me well for many years and I still do it to this day. It’s simply this: When I’m reading a book–especially a book with good advice, concepts and life lifting ideas—I write notes of those statements that I find profound and powerful,  those things that I don’t want to ever forget.  I write those gems on the blank pages in the front or back of the book with the page number of the quote.  That helps me tremendously weeks, months or years later when I want to quickly review the high points in that particular book, and I can do so in a matter of a few minutes.  Those quick reviews re-motivate me, remind of many things that I’d forgotten, and help me find and follow good pathways.

Let me show you what I mean. Here are my notes from Pema Chodron’s book Living Beautifully with Uncertainly and Change.

Page 3.  “Our attempts to find lasting pleasure, lasting security, are at odds with the fact that we’re part of a dynamic system in which everything and everyone is in process.”

Page 6.  “Change….when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment….”

Page 7.  “What a fundamental ambiguity of being human points to is that as much as we want to, we can never say, ‘This is the only true way. This is how it is. End of discussion.’  In an interview Chris Hedges also talked about the pain that ensures when a group or religion insists that its view is the one true view.”

Page 10. Our habitual response to feeling ensues…when we’re hooked, we turn to anything to relieve the discomfort–food, alcohol, sex, shopping, being critical or unkind.”

Page 12. “…emotions like anger that are an automatic response last just ninety seconds from the moment it’s triggered until it runs its course.”

Page 16.   My thought from reading this page is I try to notice when I am trying to escape from the fundamental uncertainly of life!

Page 26.  “We all have our familiar exits: zoning out in front of the TV, compulsively checking e-mail, coming home at night and having three or four or six drinks, overeating, overworking.”  Note to self: I need to become more aware of these escape methods and not do them myself.

Page 29. “Don’t believe everything you think.”

Page 30.  My thoughts from this page are that I need to think about what I’m thinking but then I shouldn’t try to totally repress thoughts I don’t like but I need to work on refraining from doing it again.

Page 50. “Accept yourself as you are right now.”

Page 53.  “Loving kindness for self means making time for meditation and self-reflection, for kindhearted, compassionate, self-honesty.”

Since we all have limited time in our lives (even if you live to be 80, that’s still only 960 months and you know how fast a month flies by!), we all need to be as efficient and productive as we possibly can and that’s why I encourage you to use your time wisely. I really think my habit of capturing the best items of the best books as you read is a great habit to develop for life enhancement and productivity.

I hope you glean as much wisdom as I did from these high points of Pema’s great book. I will post the rest of the notes that I made in the front of her book next week. Right now I need to go to my club and play some more tennis. Yep … we all need to balance our lives to get the most out of the limited time we have here on the planet earth.