“Nothing like really seeing… ”
1. Do it Now
Procrastination is deadly. The odd part is that the most deadly variety tends to be being proactive in other areas. For example, I’ve worked with people who come in with a short list of issues — say, wanting things to be better with their career, and also wanting a better relationship with their partner. They throw themselves into the work issue, and may even create some success. But the relationship stuff seems to fall off the radar.
Then, of course, a relationship problem re-emerges.
Here’s the odd part. Rather than throw themselves into the relationship with abandon equal to what they created with their career, they make excuses. Or, rather, point to their success in other areas. “But… but… I’m doing so well with my career!”
Zen Living: everything is unique. In other words, we deal with everything one-at-a-time (like putting on your pants, one leg at a time…) Nothing applies to other things. You must work on each thing, and be vigilant all the time.
It’s quite easy to pick the “fun-est” thing first, and then get so transfixed by it that the other stuff falls to the wayside. Or, to work on something, get the results you want, and assume that “things” will just look after themselves. The truth is that this work requires both patience and diligence.
This flows out of the first point, and I suspect we might benefit from proactive practice. In other words, rather than hoping that things will go “OK,” that we actively look for opportunities to challenge ourselves. And the “thing” we have to work with is our life. Or more specifically, the issues that arise. After all, any moron can be successful… when nothing is going wrong.
Most people get to a certain comfort level with this work, and then slow down or stop. Example: They have a dialogue with a friend or partner, amd discover much to talk about, and then find a topic or a direction that raises a few hackles (in them, or their partner reacts to the topic,) so that’s where they stop — they pull back one step from the “juice.”
Zen living: perhaps, the place to be living is on the “shaky side” of every line. If certain topics are scary or chargy, talk about those things. I find it fun, when talking with friends, to notice their discomfort, and to say something like, “I can see that you don’t want to talk about this, so would you like to talk about talking about it?”
Running away, avoiding, dancing around — all are ways to stay stuck in the drama, while excusing yourself. No excuses! Just see each thing as one more thing — one more way to bring yourself into the Now.
3. “Free Your Mind, the Rest Will Follow” — The Band
Letting go of your mind’s dominance is the most difficult part of the Zen path, or any path of self awareness. The mind is sticky and slippery, and much of it is highly invested in maintaining the story you tell yourself.
Stories are the currency of the mind. We think we know who we are, and believe our own press releases about how the world is. Many are the clients who tell themselves all kinds of provocative tales — how hard done by they are, how their nearest and dearest are taking advantage of them, how they have no choice when they act like spoiled children. It’s as if, just because they’ve looked at things one way since they were 16, they MUST look at things that way until they die.
There is nothing “true” about any of the stories you tell yourself. Now, sure, you were born, had parents, and stuff happened and continues to happen. None of your stories about your life, (about the details — about “what happened”) however,are anything other than what you’ve chosen to believe to support your preconceived notion.
Zen living: things are as they are, until they aren’t. Getting your shorts in a knot, or acting like a spoled brat, is just one more mind game.
Freeing your mind really means freeing yourself from your mind’s grip. Life is difficult, and telling yourself stories about how really, really bad it all is does nothing regarding dealing with the the actual living out of your days. If you choose to let go of the story-telling, you can simply make choices, act, and evaluate, then act again. Once you mind is freed to resolve what “is,” “the rest just follows.”
4. Happiness is not the point. Integrity, freedom, and presence is.
We are a “happiness rules” culture, and that’s odd, because virtually no one is actually happy. People seem hell-bent on being happy “some day, when all the ducks line up, if the creek don’t rise…” Chasing after some ephemeral goal called happiness keeps us buying more, judging everything as lacking, and blaming others for the dissatisfaction.
This relates to point # 3 — storytelling. If you see the moment for what it is, you also recognize that most of us live our lives just fine, moment to moment — the trouble comes with the stories we tell ourselves. Our judgements about self, others, and circumstances, all of which is neutral, add the dynamic for our unhappiness.
Zen living: as you bring yourself, again and again, into presence, you start to see that mostly there is not much going on, and precious little to do, other than to be there for your life. Getting bent out of shape — typically over the behaviour of others (code for “They are not doing it the right way!” — meaning, your way) is quite the waste of time. Your opinion is just that — yours — and no one cares.
Drop the need to judge your life as lacking, and immerse yourself fully into the Now.
5. Take time to experience
Stepping back from the mind’s chatter can be quite disconcerting. Without all of that distraction, what ends up being left is sensation. The flow of life-force. Breath. This can either be startling, scary, boring, or interesting.
The point to briskly stepping next to your mind is to open yourself to the endless flow of sensation. You suddenly can hear, and see, and feel, and in this process of being, you come into the actual experience of what’s up. Now, most of the time, your mind will pop in and start judging or complaining. “Here’s what you ought to be doing, feeling, thinking!” And away you go from the experience to the mental games.
Zen living: use your breath to bring yourself back into your body, and then simply feel and hear and see. Be at one with yourself. Have your feelings, experience your experiences, and then… wait for it… go with the flow to the next thing.
You’ll notice a reluctance to fully immerse yourself into the flow and feel of life, as if feeling is a “bad thing.” Have another breath, and go with it. Soon, you tolerance for being fully alive and fully present will grow. You, in a sence, become immersed in living, as opposed to living your life one step removed.
And remember, everything new has the potential to be scary. Do it anyway!