Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Maintaining Sense in a Senseless World

Unless you have spent the last few years buried in an avalanche, you may have noticed that few things going on in our world today make sense. At least if you consider yourself a sensible person. The question that hangs in the air is simply, why?
To understand the big picture requires a focus on human nature itself. Rather than striving to find common ground between ourselves, humans seem determined to be "right" above all else. As soon as we identify that someone thinks differently than we do, the tendency can be to end further communication and look for more "like minded" people with whom we can connect.
The past several years, (while neglecting this blog), has been spent trying to understand why our world is so divided on ideological lines. The need to be absolutely right on every issue is a pervasive trap that can infect our psyches to the point that a simple disagreement on "how" things should be done births the emotion of hatred for anyone with a differing opinion. 
If it comes, the end of the world will be the result of this irrational hatred manipulated by those who wish to use that hatred in their quest for control and power. Perhaps the people of the world have become too weary to see what is right in front of us or perhaps, we have become too conditioned by being able to listen to only those opinions that agree with ours that we abdicate our ability to think for ourselves.
The need of our collective societies has never been greater to rediscover the common bond that unites each and every one of us. That bond is simply called "humanity". Our struggles as individuals are ubiquitous, beginning with the need of survival and the need to find purpose in our lives.
If we fail as people to discover that each of us has more in common than not, we surrender any chance we have of working together to find solutions to the dogma of hatred that is destroying everything we hold dear. 
Hatred is a powerful emotion that makes us susceptible to manipulation by those who value power over the common good. There is no shortage of people willing to use our emotions for their own gain and simply being aware of the predatory nature of those willing to sacrifice common good to enhance their power allows us to dissect the real meaning of their message.
In the coming new year, may we all take off the blinder of hatred so we can see each other, regardless of ideology, as united more often than divided. Perhaps, this is an unrealistic idea but if we don't, the end result will not be something any of us want to face.

Monday, February 18, 2013

What's Stopping Us?

PossibilitiesIt has been too long since I have even visited my own blog, let alone write something. It's not that I intended to abandon something I loved doing, just an example of how our lives are constantly changing.

A little more than four years ago, I embarked on a new career path that began unexpectedly when one of my children asked me to help him start a political organization to shed light on issues he saw affecting his young family and everyone he knew. I had no illusions that the odds were stacked against us but listening to his ideas and seeing the enthusiasm in his eyes, I told him that we did not have much money, we did not have a single connection in the government power structure and we had no experience in building such an organization so... "what's stopping us"?

This blog is not about endorsing a political philosophy or trying to convince anyone to agree with my views. There is a much more important lesson that I learned since beginning this journey that speaks of what we as individuals can do if we refuse to listen to others telling us that anything is impossible. Having no perceived conceptions on "the way things are done", we focused instead on what we were trying to accomplish instead of getting caught up in how it was done in the past. How many times in your life have you stopped yourself from doing something because you thought it would be too
difficult or outside of your comfort zone?

Often, it is because someone has wrongly convinced us that we are not capable or we have a perception that we are just not good enough to try. Now, if your idea is to jump out of an airplane without a parachute because you think you can fly, let me be the first to tell you that you can't! Many things, however, are completely within our reach if we just take the first step and work hard toward a goal. Our past is full of success and failure but if we let failure dominate how we feel about the future, guess what, we are much more likely to fail.

On the same line, if we measure everything from past successes, we set ourselves up for disappointment when our expectations don't meet the final outcome. This is why it is so important to focus on the present moment. Being open to what is "here and now" allows us to see each experience without judgment based on our own historical bias that in reality has nothing to do with the current situation.

When I started this new chapter in my life, I did not think the chance of success was very good. In all honesty, had it not been the fact that it was my son asking for help, I would have never taken that first step by myself. We learned amazing things about ourselves and each other as we took turns convincing one another to keep pushing when everything seemed futile. Life has no guarantees other than the simple fact that if you don't try, you will never know how something will turn out. It has taken me the last few years to find a little balance in one of the most negatively charged environments
I could ever have imagined.

I hope I never understand why politics makes people hate those who oppose their views rather than embrace the idea that we should be able to disagree and debate issues while accepting the right of others to think differently. What keeps me going is as I travel and speak to people from different backgrounds, experiences and political ideals, I see that in spite of this, we have much more in common than most would admit and some people are starting to wake up to the fact that this hatred is being used against us for political gain.

If we stay open to the possibilities that we can do what seems impossible if we are committed to working through the difficult times, the chance of success can turn into reality regardless of what our minds trick us into believing. If we believe that all things should be easy, disappointment is a certain outcome.

May we all drop any notion of how things "should be" and focus on how things "can be". This will only happen when we start treating each other as individuals rather than thinking that everyone should think like us. Think of how boring the world would be if we were all exactly the same.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Moving beyond the past

When we are willing to search deep within ourselves we nearly always discover that much of our suffering in this life has little to do with the present moment. Events from our past far too often define how we feel in the here and now. In this, we discover one of the core teachings of the Buddhist practice which is moving out of our past suffering.

The Buddha said, “What is in the past is left in the past”. The present moment is where we are right now yet much of the time we allow events of our past control our feelings in the moment. Only by surrendering to the fact that we cannot change our past can we move beyond whatever suffering we have endured and begin to see life for its full potential.

One of my favorite quotes states that “forgiveness is giving up all hope for a better past”. Recognizing the significance of this statement can be the key to ending a life of suffering. Regardless of how bad things may have been in our past, there is absolutely nothing we can do now to change it. Continuing to carry the burden of what we have endured only prevents us from reaching our potential for living a happier life today.

The mind has a way of replaying past events over and over again causing us to define our present life based on past experience. The expression “a cast of thousands” describes the voices from our past that we have allowed to define who we are as if the conditions that created our suffering never change. Only by admitting to ourselves that we will never change our past can we begin to move through this suffering, releasing the burdens we have been needlessly carrying.

Ask yourself how much of how you feel right now has anything to do with where you are right now. You may find that most of your reactions to people and events are based on historical events that have no place in the present moment but rather are the defenses you developed to deal with pain that is long past. Healing requires us to acknowledge this pain but we will never move forward without also acknowledging that we are helpless to do anything to change it.

Let the present moment define who you are and may you find peace in the here and now.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Looking for weeds in a meadow of wildflowers

So often in life we are distracted by our situation or mood that we forget to see what is most important. During these times we fail to see all the good things around us, focusing on typically insignificant negatives that have little to do with the facts of the situation at hand. "We find ourselves searching for weeds in a meadow of wildflowers".

Rather than look at the beauty around us, we allow ourselves to focus on a single negative aspect thereby identifying a situation in a narrow perspective leading to an overshadowing of positive thought. All of us have been guilty of this at one time or another as it is a part of human nature.

Think for a moment about what it would be like if we could redirect these thoughts back to the flowing green grasses and flowers of the meadow. The process is simple yet somewhat difficult when our mind wants to focus on finding the negative weeds of the situation. The challenge is to just stop and give ourselves that little moment to take in the beauty around us rather than allow ourselves to be overwhelmed with the insignificant details.

It has been some time since I have attended to this blog. My current work has found me immersed in a world that makes it difficult to maintain a positive perspective. It is only by coming back to the image of the meadow that reminds me that many of the details of thought have little to do with the bigger picture.

While I know that the work I am doing is important, it has led me into many discomforting situations surrounded with thundering negativity making it difficult at times to maintain a healthy perspective. After months of pushing myself, I took a much needed day off to spend a little time hiking in the mountains. Cresting a ridge to find the meadow in the picture was a gift as it clarified this concept that has troubled the back of my mind for some time. That is, our stress often has much more to do with our focus on detail than the reality of a given situation.

My sincere hope is that each of us will keep the image of the meadow available when our world seems to be overrun with weeds. It is said that the devil is in the details and when it comes to our focus, it really is.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Letting go of control (repost)

There are relatively very few things outside of ourselves that we have control over, yet we spend enormous amounts of emotional capital on things we cannot change. If we look closely we may find that this is nothing more than a way we distract ourselves from being present. By transmitting our energy onto something or someone else we push our minds away from whatever emotion we are feeling in the present moment.

Focusing on controlling the actions and thoughts of others moves us away from dealing with our own issues. We make the excuse, "I will deal with my problems once I fix theirs". In the end, this thinking comes with the risk of doing more harm to both ourselves and those we are focused on.

Much of the Buddhist practice is centered on letting go of the hindrances our minds cling to. Letting go of control is one of the most difficult tasks most practitioners face. We think we feel safe when we are in control yet the truth is that when we are controlling, pain and conflict are never far away.

Learn to let go. Peace comes from learning that we not only cannot control all the things and people around us, but also in the understanding that we do not need to. Next time you feel the urge to control someone, stop yourself and just observe. See what happens when you just let things happen.

As you practice letting go of control, you will start to realize how unimportant much of what has happened in the past really is. The things you held onto so tightly will reveal themselves as nothing more than stories built within our own mind. We will enjoy better relationships with all that is around us, letting us focus in the present moment where all happiness lives.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Moments that shape us

Life is an interesting thing. From the moment we are born, events and experiences begin to shape us.

Since I was born at a very young age, I don’t remember much about the first few years although I am sure that this was a time of great change. Then and since, all my experiences have made me what I am today. What I experience today will make me what I am tomorrow.

Every joy, every sorrow, manipulates our brain cells, altering our outlooks and aspirations both for the better or the worse. While we can control to a degree how we choose to look at things, we can not escape the fact that we have changed.

I will be a different person, albeit slightly, when I finish writing this post. You will be a different person by the time you finish reading it. While I do not expect my words to dramatically alter your life, the simple fact that you are reading this means your brain is processing thoughts through chemical rearrangement.

Most of us can think back to our early years and beyond, remembering our life changing experiences. Traumas, successes, and failures place their indelible marks on our psyche changing each of us as we travel down the path of life.

For us to find peace, we need to leave the past in the past but sometimes it helps if we take a moment to understand how we ended up where we are.

Understanding that some events were not in our control and others were, can illuminate the reality of life allowing us to learn from both our successes and mistakes, helping us to forgive ourselves and others who may have unintentionally hurt us.

Let us understand that we are the product of our past but in no way is this the sum of our future. We can not stop ourselves from changing, only make the best choices we can to make changes for the better.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A message for today

Although my time has largely been committed these past few months to things that have not allowed me to enjoy many interactions with you, my friends, it is your support and the wise words so many of you write that help me maintain the perspective that their is still good in this world.

On this Christmas day, may you be filled with the blessing of joy and peace.

Merry Christmas,

Not to blame, not to strike, to live restrained under the law, to be moderate in eating, to sleep and sit alone, and to dwell on the highest thoughts--this is the teaching of the Awakened. "Buddha"