“Impermanence is a principle of harmony. When we don’t struggle against it, we are in harmony with reality.” ~ Pema Chödrön
Living in harmony with reality is one of the main goals of spirituality. To live in a state of surrender, free from internal struggle or conflict. One of the biggest roadblocks to achieving internal harmony is the terrifying realization that, one day, your life will come to an end. As beautiful as life is, it can't go on forever. But being aware of your mortality doesn’t need to be a source of stress and anxiety. By coming to terms with the impermanence of existence, you can find even greater harmony within.
All life in the universe is subject to impermanence, it’s a necessary component of existence. Imagine what the world would be like without impermanence keeping things in balance- we would quickly be thrown into chaos. Simply put, without death, life would not be possible. But, if impermanence is an essential ingredient of life, then why does it cause us so much suffering? As Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.”
Resisting impermanence leads to the feeling that time is running out. The realization that life is halfway over, for example, can lead some people to have a midlife crisis. The question is, do you really want life to be never ending? When your favorite song comes on the radio, do you wish it would go on forever? While the song is playing, you don’t get hung up on the fact that it will eventually be finished. You also don’t start to panic at the halfway point, you just appreciate the middle part of the song. Likewise, you don’t get upset when the song is over, you are just happy that it came on in the first place.
So, don’t let yourself get weighed down by your own mortality. All good things must come to an end. No matter where you are in the symphony of your life, the most important thing is to enjoy the music.
“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” ~Anne Bradstreet
This week’s quote is for those of you who are struggling with the winter blues. While it’s perfectly understandable that you feel down during the winter months, it also isn’t necessary. In life, one of the most common causes of suffering is wanting things to be different than they are. Most people don’t like being cold so, whenever it’s cold outside, they reject it and wish that it was warm instead. This rejection of reality continues until the seasons eventually change and it starts getting too hot. Now it’s the heat that gets rejected and resisted in favor of cooler temperatures.
What people forget is that we are living in duality, one in which nothing can exist without its opposite. Just as there can be no experience of light without the presence of darkness, there can also be no experience of heat without the existence of cold. Like up and down, these pairs of opposites have a codependent relationship- one cannot exist without the other. You would have no concept of good weather, for example, if bad weather never occurred. Similarly, you cannot appreciate happiness having never experienced sadness or pain. So, rather than rejecting experiences that don’t match your version of how reality should be, appreciate them for showing you what the other end of the spectrum is like. We all need to endure the occasional unpleasant experience in order to be grateful for the times when things are going well.
"Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude." ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
This week’s quote by Martin Luther King Jr. brings up an important point. While we all aspire to live from the heart, remaining in a state of love requires constant vigilance. Living in a continuous state of forgiveness is one of the most effective ways to keep yourself centered in the heart. Not just occasionally forgiving those that have wronged you, but forgiving everyone, at all times, no matter what happens. As Reinhold Niebuhr puts it, “Love is an act of endless forgiveness. Forgiveness is me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me. Forgiveness is the final act of love.”
Perhaps the best part about forgiveness is that it allows you to be free from the chains of the past. Not forgiving someone who has hurt you feels like a heavy weight on your chest, a burden that you carry with you wherever you go. This emotional weight can color your reality, blocking you from fully experiencing the joy of life. Forgiveness means that you feel so secure in your own energy that you no longer seek revenge or retribution upon those that have wronged you. True forgiveness allows you to put down your burden, to release your emotional weight and move on with your life with a newfound lightness of being.
So, the next time you find yourself getting upset by the actions of others, see how quickly you can move into a state of forgiveness. It might not change what someone just did to you, but it will reduce the amount of suffering you must endure as a result. Don’t think of forgiveness as an act of weakness but rather as an act of strength- one of the highest expressions of love there is. Instead of taking things personally, practice radical forgiveness in which you instantly forgive others, regardless of the circumstances. And keep in mind that, oftentimes, the person in your life that is most in need of your forgiveness is you.
"As we wish each other a Happy New Year, let us determine to be more sincere, compassionate, warm-hearted human beings, trying to make our world a more equal place. That way we'll actually make it a happy year." ~Dalai Lama
Welcome to the new year, full of exciting opportunities and possibilities! The best part about a new year is that you can hit the reset button on life. You can put everything that happened to you last year squarely in the past where it belongs and enjoy a blank slate for the year to come. It’s like wiping all the chalk off a messy chalkboard and being left with a nice, clean canvas upon which you can create a whole new work of art.
That’s why now is the perfect time to set intentions and make healthy resolutions. The story of 2023 hasn’t been written yet, and there is no reason why this year's story needs to be the same one you told last year. This year can be anything you want it to be, as long as you set positive intentions and have the will power to follow through on them.
Of course, the day that we celebrate the new year is completely arbitrary. Our whole measurement of time is derived from our planet revolving around the Sun. We have collectively chosen a specific point on the Earth’s elliptical orbit and, whenever our planet completes a full revolution and returns back to that agreed upon point, everybody cheers and welcomes new beginnings. The thing is, we could have chosen any point on the Earth’s orbit as the official reset point, we just happen to have gone with January 1st. From this perspective, any day of the year could be New Year’s Day. Every day you wake up you are given the same blank slate- the same opportunity to clean your proverbial chalkboard. Regardless of the date, you are always given the opportunity to put the past behind you and take steps to manifest a better future for yourself.
Happy New Year everyone! Thank you for reading- we appreciate you! Looking forward to another year of self-discovery as we continue walking the pathless path together. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if there are any topics you would like covered in future blogs or if you find any inspirational quotes that you like. We'd love to hear from you! Thanks for being a part of our community!
"Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values."
~ Thomas S. Monson
As we enter the darkest days of the year, it’s time once again to get into the spirit of the season. During this time, it’s only natural that we turn towards friends and family for comfort and warmth, finding joy and connection in each other’s company. But what exactly is the Christmas spirit? Is it all just a corporate ploy to encourage more retail spending, or is there more to it?
What we traditionally think of as the Christmas spirit can also be thought of as a celebration of the human spirit. More specifically, it’s a celebration of the positive side of human nature. It’s the time of year when we collectively emphasize the heart-based emotions, reimagining a world in which selfishness and distrust is replaced by generosity and goodwill to all.
This is also when we temporarily stop trying to make ourselves happy and focus instead on the happiness of others. As the author Toni Sorenson puts it, “The true Christmas spirit is putting other’s happiness before your own and finding you’ve never known such joy!”
So, if you are looking for a way to get into the holiday spirit, one suggestion is to practice kindness wherever you go. A smile, a gesture or some kind words is all it takes. In truth, any words or actions that come from your heart will likely be in line with the spirit of the season. Understand that you create the joy of the holidays, not the other way around. This is only the darkest time of year if you forget to bring your light.
“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not.” ~ Octavia Butler
This week’s quote has the potential to be a real game changer. We are all looking for inspiration- searching for that magical ‘aha’ moment that fundamentally and permanently changes life for the better. While there is nothing wrong with being inspired, inspiration will only get you so far. Inspiration is what motivates you to go out and join a gym but, in the long run, habit is what determines whether or not you become a stronger, healthier, happier person. While inspirational quotes have the power to bring a shift to your thinking, if you are serious about making a positive change, there also needs to be a shift in your habits.
Success in life does not hinge on reaching a perfect understanding of the nature of reality- although that certainly would be nice. Rather, your success is the result of developing and maintaining positive daily habits and routines. In life, change is rarely instantaneous, it’s something that takes place over time. No single action is going to immediately transform your life for the better but repeating that action every day for a month or a year will.
Your daily habits have the power to either make you or break you. If you examine your current habits and find they are not serving you, then this might be the best place to start. Ask yourself why you do the things you do. You’ll find that most of the actions you take today are the same actions you took yesterday- and the day before that. We tend to unconsciously create the same day over and over again, perhaps because it brings us a sense of comfort and familiarity. Therefore, if you are ready to change your daily habits and become the best version of yourself, be prepared to step out of your comfort zone. Breaking out of old behavior patterns is always going to feel strange at first simply because it’s not what you are used to. However, after establishing a new, more positive routine, you will soon find yourself back in the groove.
“If you choose not to find joy in the snow, you will have less joy in your life but still the same amount of snow.” ~ Anonymous
This week’s quote does not need a great deal of explanation. Essentially, it’s a reminder that your happiness should never be dependent on forces that are beyond your control. Many people overestimate the amount of influence they have over the Earth’s weather patterns. When a storm hits, you often hear people taking credit for it, as if they are the prime mover of all events. “Of course it’s raining today,” they claim, “since I just washed my car yesterday.” This egocentric thinking leads to all kinds of unnecessary suffering as people falsely believe that they alone are responsible for everything that happens in the world, both good and bad. To avoid this trap, probably the best thing you can do is stop taking things personally. When the snow starts falling, don’t think of it as nature’s way of punishing you or the world taking revenge on you because of something you did. Instead, accept it as a naturally occurring phenomenon that is beyond your control. One of the hardest things to accept about life is that it is not all about you.
Another point this quote brings up is that there are two ways of looking at any phenomenon. The first way is from the standpoint of appreciation that our world is full of beauty and wonder. People who adopt this viewpoint see the snow falling from the sky as another example of the miraculous nature of the Universe. Others, however, will only see the snow as an inconvenience or a nuisance- a hassle that they will have to deal with. The thing is, whether you go with the first viewpoint or the second one, it's not going to make any difference to the amount of snow that falls. So, the next time you find your heart sinking when you look at the weather forecast, ask yourself if being negative will achieve any purpose or give you any kind of advantage over what happens next. Remind yourself that you don’t control the weather- the only thing you control is your attitude towards it.
“Paradise is not a place; it's a state of consciousness.” ~ Sri Chinmoy
What is your idea of paradise? For some, it’s sitting on a pristine, white sand beach in the Caribbean, sipping on a cocktail under the shade of a palm tree. For others, it’s standing on the shore of an alpine lake at sunset, surrounded by pine trees and snowcapped mountains. We think of paradise as an ideal place where everything is perfect, all our needs are met, and there is no trouble or stress. The only problem is, as Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “wherever you go, there you are.” Many people go on vacation to escape from their stressful lives only to discover that they are still the same stressed-out person that they were at home, the only difference is that the scenery has changed. What most people don’t realize is that paradise is not a physical place so much as it is a state of mind. You can go to the most paradisical places on Earth, but getting out of your own head long enough to resonate with the beauty and perfection of your surroundings is entirely up to you.
If paradise is a state of consciousness, then what can you do to cultivate it? It begins by being aware of how you spend your time. If your life is so unbearable that you can’t wait for your next chance to take a break from it, then obviously something needs to change. As inspirational author Seth Godin would tell you, “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” Probably the best way to find paradise is to practice being peaceful and content today. Afterall, if you are not able to let go of your stress right now, what makes you think you will be able to let it go in the future? Especially since, when that long-awaited future does finally arrive, you will inevitably find yourself in the present moment once again. So, don't fall into the trap of only living for your next vacation. While it’s nice to have something to look forward to, sacrificing your joy today only makes it more difficult to experience joy later on. Instead of dreaming about one day finding paradise on Earth, work on creating it within yourself first.
“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” ~ William Arthur Ward
This week’s quote is a timely reminder of the power of gratitude. More than just saying “thank you” after someone does a favor or service for you, gratitude is a powerful emotion that can fundamentally shift the way you experience life. It all comes down to how you view your existence here on Earth- do you see your life as a miracle or as a hassle? When you wake up in the morning, are you grateful for another day or do you feel like your life is an obligation? In other words, is life something that you want to do or is it something that you have to do? By establishing gratitude as the baseline emotion through which you experience reality, you don’t accidentally take life for granted. Regardless of what challenges the day brings, there’s always a part of you that’s just happy to be here.
However, we have only covered the first part of gratitude: feeling grateful. We haven’t even gotten to the best part: being grateful. Afterall, as author William Arthur Ward puts it, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” Think back to a time when you were truly grateful for someone or something. Remember how expansive and heart centered your energy felt? Now remember how it felt to express that gratitude. When you share your heartfelt appreciation with others, not only do you feel good inside, but so does the person that you’re thanking. So, this Thanksgiving, don’t forget to give thanks- both for your life and for the people who make it better.
“You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
Do you find meditation challenging? Perhaps you became interested in meditation because you thought it would help you gain control over your mind. However, when you sat down, closed your eyes, and tried your best to experience the bliss of pure consciousness, you likely found yourself distracted by a constant stream of thoughts and feelings. Instead of an expansive, oceanic experience of universal oneness, it was more like floating helplessly on the surface of an angry sea- the waves and currents tossing you around and dragging you under. This experience can be very discouraging, perhaps leading you to believe that you're doing it wrong. You might even feel like your inability to stop thinking during meditation makes you a failure. Maybe meditation is just not meant for you?
But don’t give up hope just yet! You’re being way too hard on yourself! Trying to stop your mind from creating thoughts is like trying to stop the ocean from creating waves. It’s impossible! The ocean will always generate waves- that’s what the ocean does. Likewise, the mind will always generate thoughts because that’s what the mind does- that’s what the mind is. Meditation is not so much about stopping your thoughts as it is about stopping your resistance to them. It’s not about striving for complete inner silence, it’s about training yourself to feel at ease with the passage of time- learning to breathe, relax and be at peace as time goes by. As the author Sharon Salzberg explains, “We don’t meditate to get better at meditating, we meditate to get better at life.”
If you are meditating and you find yourself distracted by a thought, instead of resisting it or feeling guilty about it, ask yourself where that thought came from. Why is it coming up now? How does it make you feel inside? What is the underlying emotional energy attached to the thought that needs to be recognized and released? As the saying goes, you’ve got to feel it to heal it. By going with the wave to the source of the thought, as opposed to shutting it out, you can begin the process of healing and letting go. Now you are free to move back into the infinite stillness of the eternal now, appreciating the precious space between thoughts... until the next wave arrives.
“If you think you are enlightened, go and spend a week with your family.”
~ Ram Dass
As the holidays approach, it will soon be time to gather with family once again. However, most people who read this week’s quote know exactly what Ram Dass is talking about. You might be doing really well on your personal journey- you might see yourself as strong, healthy, emotionally balanced and mature. And then you get together with your family and everything falls apart. This time of year can often be emotionally challenging, mainly because spending time with family has a way of bringing out the worst in everyone. But, why does this happen? And what can you do to prevent it?
Of course, the quickest way to bring harmony to your family dynamic is by fundamentally changing every family member so that they all behave like you. Unfortunately, that’s not an option. It’s very difficult to change other people- it’s hard enough to bring positive change to your own life. Instead, you have to figure out how to love people for who they are, despite their flaws. As the writer and mystic Thomas Merton says, “The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise, we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”
So, next time you get together with family, see if you can prove Ram Dass wrong. That is, see if you can remain calm on the inside even when emotions start to escalate. If you do find yourself getting triggered, think of it as an opportunity to heal your past wounds instead of making those wounds worse. Most importantly, practice kindness and unconditional love towards others. Remember, it is one thing to reach a state of total inner peace while you are alone on your meditation cushion, but the real challenge is maintaining that inner peace when faced with difficult circumstances.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
~ Nelson Mandela
What are you afraid of? According to this week’s quote, courageous people still experience fear, they’re just able to conquer it. Which all sounds great, but how exactly do you conquer fear? It starts by understanding and accepting fear as a valid emotion. Everyone feels fear at some point in their lives, it is the body’s natural response to a perceived threat. Imagine, for example, that you are on hike and you almost step on a snake. Your whole system will automatically go into a fight, flight or freeze response. Similarly, you might feel a flash of fear when you hear about a new wave of layoffs coming up at work. In both cases, it is your basic safety and security that is being threatened. The threat of loss is also responsible for a great deal of fear. Whether it’s the fear of losing your money, your health, your sanity, your loved ones, your freedom, or your life- it’s all based on a similar threat of loss.
Since avoiding fear is not really an option, what can you do to overcome it? One way is by comparing fear with its opposite emotion, which is love. Whereas fear feels like having ice-cold water inside your guts, love feels more like drinking a hot cup of cocoa- an inner warmth slowly spreading from your chest throughout your whole body. Fear feels tight, closed and rigid compared to love, which is more of a soft, comfortable, open feeling. When you are afraid, you hold your breath in anticipation of what will happen next. When you are in love, you breathe freely and focus your awareness in the present moment. As the saying goes, only love can overcome fear. So, the next time you feel afraid, take a moment to feel all the physical sensations associated with that fear. Then, with full awareness, let that cold internal feeling melt into the warmth of your love. Doing so may not directly eliminate the perceived threats to your safety or security, but it will help you have courage in the face of adversity.
“There is no better time than the autumn to begin forgetting the things that trouble us, allowing them to fall away like dried leaves.” ~ Paul Coelho
As we enter into the darkest time of the year, it is worth taking a moment to recognize how the seasons are a reflection of the larger cycle of life. Spring, for example, is analogous with birth and new beginnings. Summer is like the prime years of your life, autumn the later years, and then winter comes at the end, representing death. Of course, winter is always followed by spring, the return of the light and the rebirth of life. That’s why you see so many skeletons, ghosts and gravestones during Halloween. It’s because we are celebrating the arrival of the darkness. The days will only get darker between now and the winter solstice and, rather than resisting this change, Halloween is how we embrace the darkness- recognizing that death is an essential part of the natural cycle.
Fall is also the time of year where, like a deciduous tree, you have the opportunity to let go of that which no longer serves you. One way to do this is to explore and embrace your own darkness. If you carry emotional baggage like anger and resentment that is weighing you down and limiting your ability to enjoy life, now is a good time to honestly reflect on that. How much longer do you really need to suffer on someone else’s behalf? As the saying goes, holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal in your hand with the intention of throwing it at someone else. In the end, the only person that gets burned is you. Similarly, stewing in resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to suffer the consequences. So, take some time to explore your own darkness this Halloween. What you find might terrify you, but that’s kind of the point. Besides, you can’t let go of something without first recognizing what it is that you’re still holding onto.
“It is only by grounding our awareness in the living sensation of our bodies that our real presence can awaken.” ~ G.I. Gurdjieff
Life can sometimes be overwhelming. Thoughts and emotions have a way of feeding off each other, often spiraling out of control, resulting in panic, anger, sadness, or confusion. As you probably know, the best way to prevent this is to ground yourself. But what does being grounded even mean? A good way to understand grounding is to imagine an ungrounded electrical circuit. It will function just fine but, if a surge of electricity occurs, the circuit will get hot, begin to spark, and eventually melt. By grounding a circuit, you create a pathway for excess energy to be sent into the earth before it can do any damage.
What does this have to do with you? Like an electrical circuit, you also have energy running through your system. Although your physical body exists in solid form, your thoughts and emotions exist as energy. Your sense of self, memories, fears, hopes and dreams all exist as thoughtforms, which are essentially electrical currents running through your nervous system. When your thoughts and feelings begin to overwhelm you, it’s like an ungrounded circuit getting too hot. Maybe that’s why reaching an emotional breaking point is commonly referred to as having a meltdown.
The trick is to ground your excess energy before it has a chance to do any harm. There are many proven ways to ground yourself, including walking barefoot on the earth, eating root vegetables, meditating, and taking mineral salt baths. You can also imagine a grounding cord that extends from your tailbone down to the center of the Earth. However, in line with this week’s quote, one of the most effective ways to be grounded is to bring your awareness into your physical body.
You can sometimes get so identified with the energetic, metaphysical aspect of your being that you completely forget about your body. To remedy this, focus your awareness internally, all the way down to your bones, the most solid part of your being. The next time you feel your mental/emotional energy spiking, simply ground into your body. By bringing your awareness into your body, you create an anchor to something stable within, grounding your energy into your physical being before it becomes too much to handle. By grounding into your body, you can remain calm and centered on the inside regardless of what is happening on the outside.
“Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.”
~ Joyce Meyer
Are you good at waiting? If so, then congratulations! You have conquered perhaps the most challenging aspect of human existence. To master the art of patience is really to master the art of life. That’s because impatience depletes your energy, robbing you of your sense of humor and your capacity to experience joy in the moment. While everyone knows that patience is the key to waiting, most people hate waiting more than anything else. What can you do to become a more patient person? It begins by understanding what patience really is.
As Joyce Meyer explains in this week’s quote, patience is not so much your ability to wait as it is your ability to regulate your emotions while waiting. Next time you are feeling impatient, pay attention to how your body feels. If your stomach is in knots and your chest is tight, it can be very difficult to breathe. The same is true if your chin is tucked and your jaw is clenched. With all this inner tension, it’s no wonder that waiting can feel so awful. When you are impatient, every minute that goes by feels like torture. However, you are not only the victim that has to endure this torture- you are also the torturer.
The secret to being patient is realizing that tensing up and holding your breath doesn’t actually make time speed up, it just makes you feel bad inside as time goes by. Compared to impatience, patience actually feels pretty nice. Instead of a heavy, constricted experience- as if the walls were closing in around you- patience feels light and expansive. So, stop tying yourself in knots every time you have to wait. Impatient people want to move on to the next moment so badly, they completely forget to enjoy this one. Patient people, on the other hand, are just happy to be here, regardless of how long things take.
"Peace is present right here and now, in ourselves and in everything we do and see. Every breath we take, every step we take, can be filled with peace, joy, and serenity. The question is whether or not we are in touch with it. We need only to be awake, alive in the present moment." ~Thich Nhat Hanh
What can you do to find inner peace?
Thich Nhat Hanh would tell you that peace is not something that you can discover, it is something that you are. Your inner peace is a direct reflection of the peace that you perceive in the outside world. In other words, to find harmony on the inside, first tune-in to the harmony that’s all around you. One way to find more peace in the world is by noticing the silence between sounds. Silence is the constant background against which all noise takes place. Any sound you hear arises from, and eventually returns to, this ever-present stillness. By being aware of the eternal silence present in the background of each moment, you can find peace wherever you go.
According to Thich Nhat Hanh, every moment of your day has the potential to be filled with peace, joy and serenity. To achieve this state, all you need to do is be alive and awake right now. When you are fully grounded in the present moment, your mind becomes quiet. That’s because the mind is a problem solver and, when you focus your conscious attention on the present moment, you find there are no more problems to solve. When the mind is quiet, the heart takes over as the center of your awareness. While the mind is always busy judging and criticizing, the heart’s default mode is one of acceptance, gratitude and appreciation. So, if you want to live a more peaceful, joyous life, bring your awareness to the here and now. When you tune-in to the eternal peace of the present moment, you experience life through your heart. And, when you live your life from the heart, joy naturally follows.
“Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory,
of its magnificence.” ~ Alan Watts
This week’s quote reminds us that we are at the center of all experience. For example, it is our ears that create the experience of sound. Sound travels in waves, which are essentially vibrations in the air. These air vibrations don’t actually make any noise until they run into an eardrum, at which point they are translated into the experience of sound.
In the same way, your eyes translate vibration into light. Light exists as vibration that, like sound, travels through space in wave form. Only if these light waves encounter an eye, with all its complicated rods and cones, will they be translated into the experience of light, dark, color and form.
As Alan Watts would say, "you are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself.” The primal energy that manifests as this universe also evolved conscious beings capable of experiencing it. The same intelligent energy that created flowers also created noses that can smell their scent. The same creative force that evolved fruit trees also evolved tongues to taste their juice. So, take the time to smell the roses, bask in the warmth of the sun, enjoy all the sights and sounds that the world has to offer. If you are the universe experiencing itself, then make it the best experience ever!
“The only thing you really control is how you react to things out of your control.” ~ Bassam Tarazi
This week’s quote is for all the people who are currently suffering from the wildfire smoke. Having made it all the way through the summer without much fire activity, you might have thought that the worst was behind us. However, considering the gray, apocalyptic skies that we have experienced lately, it appears that fire season is very much back.
With the return of the smoke comes the familiar feelings of sadness, worry and desperation. One of the most stressful parts of having a wildfire burning nearby is the feeling of powerlessness- the sense that you don’t have any control over what is happening. Wildfires are literally burning out of control and, unless you are a firefighter, there is really nothing you can do to stop them. However, according to Bassam Tarazi, even though life is unpredictable, suffering is still optional. You can’t really prevent bad things from happening in life, the only thing you can control is the way you react when they do.
So, what can you do to get through these difficult times? The best advice we can offer at this time is to focus on taking care of yourself. Take a long bath, get a massage, practice yoga- do the all the things that bring you into grounded, conscious alignment with your Source. If you can't go outside due to poor air quality, remember that you can always go inside by practicing meditation. On clear days, make it a priority to enjoy the sunshine and blue sky. Finally, try to breathe deeply and fully whenever possible, savoring the luxury of breathing clean, fresh air when it's available to you.
“Be an artist of consciousness. Your picture of reality is your most important creation. Make it powerfully, profoundly beautiful.” ~ Alex Grey
Last week we discussed the importance of connecting to the love in your heart and then expressing that love in the form of kindness. However, kindness is not the only way to express love in the world, there is also creativity. Alex Grey talks about a “cosmic creative force” that is fundamental to all life. This creative force is the evolving, intelligent energy that “manifests our universe and flows through all beings and forms.” Everyone you meet and everything you experience is an expression of this creative force. According to Alex Grey, creativity is spirit in action. When you express yourself in a creative way, you allow the creative force of the universe to work through you.
This week’s quote is a reminder that creativity is not limited to artistic expression. Whether you are aware of it or not, you are the creator of your reality- you are the artist of your life. Reality is the ultimate block of clay which can be shaped and molded into whatever your heart desires. Consciously creating your reality means manifesting from a place of love instead of a place of fear. That’s because, to create something beautiful, you first need to conceive of it in your mind. If your internal picture of reality is riddled with fears and anxieties, your reality is going to reflect that. So, challenge yourself to maintain a profoundly beautiful picture of reality, allowing the creative force of the universe to flow through your heart and create the life of your dreams.
“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” ~ Dalai Lama
This week’s quote by the Dalai Lama is a reminder that spirituality doesn’t need to be complicated. You don’t need fancy cathedrals or elaborate rituals to connect to your higher power. All you need to do is connect to the love that’s already in your heart. However, consciously connecting to the love that is present in your being is only half the equation. To be fully expressed, this love needs to be put into action.
So, what can you do to become a kinder person? Perhaps kindness can be best summed up as doing what love would do- behaving in the world the way that love would behave. Kindness means having compassion for others and doing what you can to help them on their path. Remember, your heart may be the temple where you can connect with your inner love, but it is your kindness towards others that allows you to share this love with the world.
“You took birth here because you have certain work to do that involves the suffering you do, the kinds of situations you find yourself in. This is your curriculum. It’s not an error. Where you are now with all your neurosis and your problems; you’re sitting in just the right place." ~ Ram Dass
The purpose of this week’s quote is to remind everyone that everything is ok. It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that you are living the wrong life. You might carry the belief that, at some critical point in your journey, you made the wrong choice or the wrong decision. You might even believe that this reality you are currently experiencing is not your true reality- that this isn’t the life you are supposed to be living.
Thankfully we have people like Ram Dass to reassure us that everything in life is exactly as it should be. In fact, there is no other way than this. Similarly, wherever you are on your personal journey, that is exactly where you are supposed to be. If, as Ram Dass says, you are here on Earth to grow as a soul, then even your challenges can be seen as part of the overall perfection of life. Besides, without challenges, there would be nothing to overcome and, therefore, no growth would ever take place. When you stop clinging to an image of how you think life ought to be, you begin to appreciate life as it actually is.
“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
Do you want to experience more happiness in your life? Of course! Who doesn’t want that? However, it’s not like you can wave a magic wand and now everything in your life is perfect. It’s more about learning to be happy even though your life is imperfect. To do this, you first have to take responsibility for the role you play in your own suffering. According to Eckhart Tolle, it’s not life’s situations that cause you to be unhappy, rather it’s your thoughts about these various situations that bring you down. Understanding this simple concept is one of the keys to inner freedom.
Problems, for the most part, exist as thought forms in your mind. Every so-called “problem” in your life exists primarily as a situation or as a set of circumstances. Situations and circumstances have no emotional weight of their own- good or bad, things simply are the way that they are. You suffer when you resist what already is.
As a reasonable and intelligent member of society, you have a pretty good idea of the way things should be. When the reality of the situation is different from your ideal, it makes you feel bad. That’s how people end up with the weight of the world on their shoulders- they falsely believe that their suffering over a set of circumstances somehow helps to solve the problem. But, all the stress and anxiety in the world is not going to change what has already happened. And feeling stressed out over the way things are right now has no measurable effect on what happens next.
When you live your life in perpetual acceptance, nothing can bother you anymore. You soon discover that your happiness is no longer reliant on outside circumstances, rather it relies upon your ability to create and maintain a state of inner harmony wherever you go. So, the next time that things go differently from the way you would prefer, try accepting the situation rather than rejecting it. It won’t change what just happened, but at least you will no longer have to suffer from it.
"This is the pathless path. Where the journey leads is to the deepest truth in you.
It is really just returning to where you were initially before you got lost."
~ Ram Dass
This week’s quote is another one of those sayings that sounds very wise until you realize that it leaves you with more questions than answers. How can a path be pathless? What is the deepest truth in you? And, where were you initially before you got lost?
Let’s start with the pathless path. Ram Dass begins by reminding us that the spiritual path is a metaphor. He would tell you that, to reach your spiritual goals, you don’t actually need to go up a winding path to the top of a mountain- you don’t need to go anywhere at all because the only place you can ever be is right here. Also, the only time there can ever be is right now. If enlightenment does happen in your lifetime, the place where you will be is here- and the time will be now.
The next question is, what is the deepest truth in you? Of course, only you can answer that. For some, the deepest truth is that they are love. Other’s may discover a deep well of compassion for the suffering of all beings. There is also the realization that you are it- that there is no fundamental difference between you and the universe that you exist in. The purpose of the spiritual journey is to discover your deepest truth, whatever that may be.
Finally, where were you before you got lost? According to Ram Dass, the real reason you are here on earth is to awaken from the illusion of separateness. Before you were born, while you were still in the womb, all was one. There was no sense of self and no idea about other. There were no thoughts of “I” or any notion that you were something separate from your environment. In fact, there were no thoughts at all, just the bliss of pure consciousness. You were born with this unity consciousness but, as you grew up and developed your ego, you become convinced that you are separate from others and from this world. So, where were you before you got lost? The short answer is, you were home.
“The meaning of life is just to be alive.
It is so plain and so obvious and so simple.
And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic
as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”
~ Alan Watts
What is the meaning of life? Is our time on Earth just arbitrary or is there a greater purpose to existence? We put a great deal of pressure on ourselves to achieve and succeed, always looking for new ways to transform and improve ourselves. While there is nothing wrong with having goals, we are often so busy preparing for life in the future that we completely forget to enjoy life in the present. What if all you needed to do in life was enjoy the experience? What if, as Alan Watts says, the meaning of life is just to be alive?
Since our time here is finite, there is often a nagging feeling that time is running out. This leads to the “great panic” that Alan Watts is referring to, as people rush around trying to get the most out of life- to have as many experiences as they can while they are here. But, unless you learn to slow down and be present, you won’t truly experience anything. That’s because when you are in a rush, your breath becomes short and shallow. You become more anxious and self-absorbed with each passing minute.
Someone who is in a hurry is often too caught up in their own thoughts to appreciate the subtle beauty of the world. In contrast, a person who is grounded and present is able to breathe easily, experiencing the richness of life through all five senses. The main difference is that one person is desperately trying to get somewhere, whereas the other person has already arrived.
So, take a moment to slow down, breathe and be present with your reality. There’s no need to rush when you are already there.
“And into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul.”
~ John Muir
Are you looking for the next great wellness trend? Something that makes you healthy and happy, puts your mind at ease, and brings you back in touch with your authentic self. The answer might be as simple as taking a walk in the woods- one of the best things you can do for your mind, body and soul.
In Japan, they have taken this notion to a whole other level, creating a practice called shinrin-yoku, which translates literally to “forest bathing” or “absorbing the forest atmosphere.” While no actual bathing takes place, the idea is to open your senses to the natural environment. Studies have shown that, by simply being present with their experience, taking in all the sights and sounds and smells of the forest, people have been able to lower their blood pressure, heart rate and stress levels. In addition, those who spent at least 20 minutes immersed in a natural setting regularly reported increased levels of happiness and well-being.
To be clear, when John Muir talks of going to the forest to lose his mind, he doesn’t mean succumbing to madness so much as quieting down the chatter in his head. Walking in the woods calms the inner voice, giving the thinking mind a chance to rest. When you allow the stillness that you discover in nature to permeate your inner world, you experience inner peace. Ultimately, by dropping the thinking mind, you come to your senses- allowing your soul to resonate with the tranquil beauty of the natural world. So, if you are looking for a quick and easy way to boost your well-being, look no further- go take a walk in the woods!
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About The Author
Nick Hughes is a massage therapist, yoga instructor and co-owner of Well Being. Influenced by the ideas of Alan Watts, Eckhart Tolle, Ram Dass, and Deepak Chopra, Nick presents his unique take on human existence with the goal of helping others live a happier life.