In the Very Here and Now

Something is off with me today. I don’t know what it is. I’m more critical than usual. Nothing has happened to make me angry, but I am afraid the smallest thing could set me off.

I am struggling to enjoy the present moment. I am thinking about the past. I am getting frustrated about a future that has not even happened. My mind is a whirlwind struggling to stay grounded in the now. I don’t like who I am right now, this person who cannot discipline his mind.

I am reminded of this Buddhist saying: Do not pursue the past. Do not lose yourself in the future…look deeply at life as it is, in the very here and now.

It is so easy for me to give advice to others suffering from depression. I can look at their pain and what they have lost objectively, thinking that it does not affect me. But I have been there before, I am partly there now, and I will certainly be there again in the future. It is a part of being human. We suffer because we do not have what we desire.

How often did I pursue the past? Instead of learning the lesson, I went back and revisited it over and over. Can I change it? Can I bring back the dead, undo a wrong, or make a decision that would bring less suffering to the present? I cannot, so why do I stay in this place in time that I have no business dwelling in? Why do I lock myself into this misery that is no more?

Do I know what this future will bring? Do I know how I will die? Will it be on own terms? I am reminded of a friend who thinks she will pass in the same way as other members of her family. They all died at an early age, and it gives her much anxiety. As an outsider unaffected by this family condition, I am not completely empathetic to her worries. Why worry about something outside of our control? Oh, the fool that I am! Maybe I don’t consider how I will die in the same way she does, but I allow myself to get upset about something that may or may not happen later in the day. I grow anxious about the problems of tomorrow and what may come around the corner next year. Am I not the same as she?

I am reading Eckhart Tolle’s Oneness with All Life. I read a chapter of this book at night before bed. It is a beautiful book that is really speaking to me. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 7’s Becoming Present:

We can learn not to keep situations or events alive in our minds, but to return our attention continuously to the pristine, timeless present moment rather than be caught up in mental movie-making. Our very Presence then becomes our identity, rather than our thoughts and emotions.

Only Presence can free you of the ego, and you can only be present Now, not yesterday or tomorrow. Only Presence can undo the past in you and thus transform your state of consciousness.

It is not an easy thing to be present. Yet all is not lost, we can learn to be present. That is a beautiful thing because it gives me hope that I can stop pursuing the past or lose myself in the future. It gives me the opportunity to do what needs to be done now. Being locked into the present, I can give my full attention to being a good husband and a father. I can give my full attention to being a good man, a good human.

There are those I care about whose suffering is only in their mind. Yet their suffering is so great that it is affecting their bodies. Maybe it is you or maybe someone you know. We can remember our past. We can remember and love the ones we have lost. We can acknowledge our mistakes with the hopes of not repeating them. But what has happened has happened. We cannot go back. We cannot change it. The only thing we can do is go forward. And yes, we go forward into an unknown future. We do not know what will happen. There will be uncertainty, and there will be hardships. But there will also be joy, and there will be love. Whatever happens will happen, but we cannot lose ourselves in it before it happens. We must live today. We owe it to our friends and family, to our parents, our spouses, and our children. We owe it to ourselves.

Take a breath. Be aware of the breath. It is the only thing that matters in the very here and now. That breath. The breath you took before it is no more. The breath you take next doesn’t matter if you don’t take the breath you have now. One breath through your nose into your belly extending upwards to your chest. Don’t be afraid, breathe it all in. Pause at the top, savor the moment. And then, let it all out. This is freedom, and now you are free to take the next one, to move forward.


Feature photo by RKTKN on Unsplash

Current Meditation Practice: Think, Then Act

It has been awhile since I did a guided meditation. Honestly, I don’t think they were working for me. More often than not, I was falling asleep listening to the voice of the guide.

Over the last month, I have begun a new habit that has been serving me well so far. When I wake up at four in the morning, I get dressed to work out. I go into the living room and lay down on the floor. I set my timer on the Insight App for ten minutes and begin my meditation. My preference is to lay on the floor rather than sit up. I think it helps to align my spine a little better to be on the hard floor.

During those ten minutes, I think about the workout I am going to do. I visualize myself doing the exercises. How hard, how long, and anything else I can think of. I try to maintain good breath control, but that is not my primary focus. When my mind wanders to other things, I go back to thinking about my workout. After the bell rings, I get up and walk to my home gym in the garage. My workout is intense and focused. What I pictured in my mind, I complete in reality. It works.

On the days that I work, I try to get to the parking lot 15-20 minutes early. I park at the back of the lot where there is less distraction and once again set my meditation timer for another ten minutes. I picture my day at work. I think of the tasks I have to do and the places I have to be.  More importantly, I think about my interactions with my coworkers. I visualize having a good and productive day. More often than not, the things I picture in my mind, I complete in reality. Again, it works.

Visualize it.

Bring it to life with action.

Enjoy your day.

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become. –Buddha

How Big Is Your Universe?

Over the last several months, I began a habit of storing most of my projects on a thumb drive. I did it for convenience, because it gave me the ability to have the same data at work and at home. Those projects are what I believe the foundations of my life’s work, at least what I am presently hoping for. I only kept it on one thumb drive, so I had to protect it. If I lost it, my foundations would be lost. I didn’t lose it. That cheap little thumb drive that hadn’t been backed up in over a month stopped working. My foundations have crumbled. There goes my life’s work. My world is crashing around me.

Okay, that may be a little dramatic. The foundations have already been laid. I just have to rebuild. But in today’s world, we hear phrases like “my universe is falling apart” pretty often. In some instances, it doesn’t take very much to have one of these apocalypse events take place. When was the last time the sky really fell? Sometimes the anxiety we create is so great that we become blind to everything outside of our immediate surroundings.

After completing my 30th day in a row of meditating (This is becoming the newest habit I am most excited about), my perception on this tragic loss of thumb drive is much different than it would have been in the past. My world is barely a speck in the universe. When time is added to the equation, that tiny speck is even more insignificant. Time and the universe continue on. In the grand scheme of things, this instance is nothing.

If our own individual worlds are so insignificant, then one might ask if there is any point to our existence. There might not be. But what if your individual world had a greater effect on other worlds? If I only live for myself, then the chances of my world crashing around me tend to be much greater. But if my mission in life involves others, then my universe gets much larger. All of a sudden, these minor setbacks become less apocalyptic and the mission goes on.

Note: I have learned a lesson here that I should have remembered from the past. This isn’t the first time I have lost data. I need to back up my work on a regular basis. Maybe even spread it around, so all my eggs are not in one basket.

Do Not Retaliate

 

This is my 27th consecutive day meditating. I have never picked up a new habit so easily and so transforming. The following is the thought that presented itself to me this morning. I acknowledged it, stored it for later, and then continued the practice.

You do not have to retaliate. Not against yourself. Not against others.

Yourself. You can accept your weaknesses and work to correct them. There is no need for self-flagellation. There is no need to give yourself lashes physically or mentally. Accept who you are and if necessary make the appropriate course corrections in a way that will lead to long-term sustainable growth.

Others. Being Christ-conscious is not weakness, it is strength. There is no need to retaliate against those that offend you. That is pride. That is ego. It is also your perception of an offense that may have been given unintentionally. Operate from a space of humility and demonstrate the true strength of self-control. You have the power to function on a higher level. Do this and the offensive situation will lose the oxygen that feeds the fire.

Meditation –On Happiness

Meditating is a new practice for me. It is one that I hope I can stick with. Why am I doing it? Am I trying to achieve nirvana? It isn’t my intention, but I am receptive to the possibility. This whole focus on my breathing and trying to find my center, what’s the purpose? Is it to lower my blood pressure or feel better about myself? I am sure those are some nice secondary benefits, but what is the real reason?

In the first few sessions, I found my mind wandering. I was constantly trying to remind myself to focus on my breath. The “path” is one of the concepts I am concentrating on these days and applying it to all aspects my life. To find my path, to know it, and to stay on it. If meditation is like this path, the breathing is helping me to stay on it. It is guiding me back on course. In the bigger picture, I am always trying to correct my course. I am trying to stay on my path. It is the reason why I am meditating. I need to find my center. I need to discover who I really am and where I want to go. The meditation is going to help me get there.


I breathe and I think. I am not happy. I am not where I want to be in life. There are things I want, and I don’t have them. I am trying to get to the place I want to be, but do I have to be unhappy on this journey? Do I have to go on with an iron resolve and a stoic countenance? The stoicism I heard of as a child was related to unhappiness and a stern face. But that is not stoicism, is it? I am not being stoic by being unhappy. I’m being an ass to both myself and those around me.

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions. –Dalai Lama

I am choosing to be unhappy. I am choosing to not be content with the things I have. I am choosing the wrong path. I can choose to be happy. I can be grateful for the things I have and the people in my life. Every morning I have been writing three things I am grateful for. Do I believe it? Am I really grateful, or am I just going through the motions? Why is it that the morning after a rough day, say a day full of pride, I don’t express my gratitude on paper? If I was to fill my soul with happiness, then the gratitude should come gushing out onto the paper. I need to choose to be happy. I need to change my attitude and get on the path.


I had a flashback to my youth. I was walking in line back to the locker room after a tough junior high school football game. I was tired and hurting, but I wanted to maintain my composure. When I passed by a few cheerleaders, one asked me why I always looked so serious. In my mind, I thought I was training to be a warrior and had to look the part. I should have learned my lesson. I should have learned it when so many people over the years have asked a similar question. Why am I so serious? Why do my brows furrow on my face? Why don’t I smile more? I like to tell myself, and others, that I am happy on the inside, and I just forget to show it on the outside. But I think that is just a façade. I am fighting a war within myself. When virtue reigns over my vices, I find myself happy. The opposite is true as well. When I give into my vices (laziness, gluttony, all the other things keeping my from realizing my full potential) I find myself unhappy and my face will surely show it.

What is the happy life? It is peace of mind, and lasting tranquility. This will be yours if you possess greatness of soul; it will be yours if you possess the steadfastness that resolutely clings to a good judgment just reached. How does a man reach this condition? By gaining a complete view of truth, by maintaining, in all that he does, order, measure, fitness, and a will that is inoffensive and kindly, that is intent upon reason and never departs therefrom, that commands at the same time love and admiration. In short, to give you the principle in brief compass, the wise man’s soul ought to be such as would be proper for a god. –Seneca, Letter 92: On the Happy Life

Meditation: On Pride

I know I need to meditate more. Yesterday was day one. Ten minutes in the morning before leaving for the gym to meet a client. 10 minutes again sitting in the car before walking into work. Later that evening, I lost my focus and subsequently lost my temper. Now I am on the second day, and it needs to be better than the first.

I set the timer for 15 minutes. It is dark outside as I sit in my car in the parking lot. 15 minutes to meditate and then 5 minutes to walk into work. I close my eyes and sit. I try to center myself, but something is missing. Oh yes, my breath. In. Out. Why did I get angry last night? I should have known better. I should not have fell into the trap. In. Out. Pride. It was my pride. My pride was injured. It wanted to retaliate. My pride is me. Not some separate embodiment acting of its volition. My pride. My ego. I own it. No one else is to blame. Blaming others is the easy path. The wrong path.

My thoughts begin to drift. I think about work, about the things I need to do today. Something is not right. My breath. Focus on my breath. In. Out. Back to pride. Back to anger. How do I eliminate it? How do I become stronger? This pride, my pride, is a weakness. When it is in control, I am more prone to anger. Anger is bad. It leads me down the wrong path. It leads to stupid and rash decisions. It leads to thoughtlessness. Chaos.

What will I do this weekend? What will I read? Write? This is not the time to let the mind wander. Concentrate on the breath. Breathe in. Take in the oxygen, the life. Exhale the breath. Expel the pride. Like the Om, expel the pride. When the anger comes, the walls crumble. My defenses are weakened. A city unprotected. My walls are my strength. My protection.

In. Out. Courage. It takes courage to be strong. It takes courage to overlook a perceived offense. It takes courage to not retaliate. Courage, not pride. With courage is strength. Pride is weakness. Anger is weakness.

In. Out. The timer goes off. My mind is now focused on courage. My prayer is to have the strength to be courageous. The strength to put away pride and anger. One last breath in and then exhale. It is time to walk to work.

A city breached and left defenseless are those who do not control their temper. –Proverbs 25:28