Thoughts on the Importance of Observing the Breath


The other day, I had someone ask why paying attention to the breath is so important for a good mental state and an integral tool for strength.  This was the general idea of my response.   The breath is an amazing phenomena that we as human beings have been given, to not only provide our cells with the oxygen needed to nourish  our bodies with energy and life, but, it is an excellent example of the essence of faith. The breath is a mechanism that illustrates both the feeling of control ( i.e. Taking a Deep breath), as well as the realization of trust (or faith).   When we do not lay attention to controlling the breath, the brain/body takes over and handles the job without fail (well until the inevitability of impermanence rears its truth).

Similarly in life, we have this illusion of ultimate control, as we lay attention to the acute situations in our life and do our best to manipulate in a manner to gain our desired outcome.  Sometimes successfully, sometimes not.  Yet, in the long term, we ultimately experience the truth, which is this perceived control is truly an illusion. Eventually this reality becomes apparent, even if momentary, at some point in life (some sooner, some later) and as we relinquish this illusion of control, we realize the truth behind faith, for that which many call God.

Just as our respiration is regulated without need of our control or interference, faith allows that which was meant to be, come to be. Sometimes the outcome is congruent with the illustration one has in mind, sometimes not….but either way using control or using faith, the outcome ultimately is the same (long term).   Yes, certainly as we attempt to control our outcomes, our destiny, there are small battles that are successful, usually at the expense of enormous amounts of energy and resources.  Yet faith allows for a conservation of energy as well as the opportunity to realize that just as I sit here and write and my breath goes in and out without effort, so too will life with a true understanding of faith.

So are we the master of our own destiny?   Well, I would suppose so, for we are the master of our reactive nature.  Yet often our view of what we desire our destiny to be, and what it ultimately is, are very skewed.   The only real truth we know of is, we are born, the current moment, and that we will eventually move on from this life.   It is truly amazing once one begins living this truth, how everything you need manifests itself.  (caveat…what you need isn’t always what you want….Que Mama Odie from Disney’s Princess and the Frog singing “Dig A Little Deeper”).

So, if you need a boost, some strength, not only trust in faith, experience faith.  Close your eyes and just observe your natural respiration, just as it is.  No control, no interference, just observe.  It is this place that you experience the truth behind faith.  The truth behind God.  Here, you will find the strength you seek. For just as breathing without thought or effort is a miracle of faith…so is the river of life.  For, no matter how much control we think we might have, the river will continue to flow whether we fight its current or have faith and meander down, accepting what it brings with love and a smile.  May you all find peace and strength in your faith my friends and may you all experience the happiness and love we were all meant to live.

A Battle for Peace


***The following audio clip is a complete reading of “A Battle for Peace”.  This is something new I am trying, to offer an alternative to reading, please comment and let me know what you think.***


The other day I had a Facebook interaction with an old friend, concerning a conspiracy theory being pushed around the internet waves.  There are so many battles being waged between mankind. Conservative v/s Liberal, Black v/s White, gun control v/s no gun control, Radical v/s the world, privileged v/s non-privileged, parent v/s kid, good v/s evil. There really is no end to the list, it is a world in Chaos.  As we went back and forth, the most intense battle that was occurring, was the struggle inside of me and the thoughts that rushed through my mind (meditation is good). dscf0137At that point it occurred to me that there is only one true battle that can be won, that can offer long-term peace. That is the internal battle for peace, peace of mind.

The human animal is a funny breed.  We are a creature of habit, we tend to fight the same battles, chase the same desires, deflect the same fears, ( all similar at their root), yet we continue to fight them …over… and over again.  It is a cycle that has existed since we joined the world community.  With this understanding, during this moment of clarity, I realized that to fight the external is a lesson in long-term futility, it was unbelievably liberating.  Mankind has fought many battles over our existence here on Earth, and of course history illustrates the pinnacle of battle in the form of war.  Yet based on our habitual nature, they are all very small, insignificant victories.  As has been observed in our very short span of time on this planet, particularly, the 10000 or so years of “civilization” (1 millionth of a blink of an eye in universal time) so many wars have been waged, so many civilizations have grown and fallen, and the cycle happens again and again.  Do we experience varied times of “peace” on the planet as a result?  Somewhat I suppose, but as observed, the cycle, the battle, will soon start again.

dsc_0516I thought to myself, why? Why do we not learn from our mistakes, why do we not recognize this habit, or better stated, why can we not seem to break the cycle?  At that point, the experiences I’ve had with observing my own microcosm within, through self observation between my internal self and interaction with external catalyst, offered a clarity I had only experienced in the depths of meditation.  I realized that the reason the cycle cannot be broken, is that we externalize our problems.  We look for the external source of our issues, and find ways to battle those issues, in an effort to find some sort of peace (Whether it be peace amongst a people, the peace in the security one finds through power, the peace one finds through wealth and prosperity), regardless, it is not a lasting peace.  No matter the outcome of those benefiting from “winning” the battle, “winning” the war, it will never offer long-term peace, and eventually the cycle will happen once again.

Once I was able to get my arms around this thought, I must tell you, it was as if a giant rock had fallen off my shoulders.  Even with the wisdom and practice I have cultivated in this lifetime, I still externalize many of the agitations that go on in my life. Considering the advent of technology and access to information and interaction with so many external forces, it’s a daunting task not to.dsc_0872  So, with the understanding that, there is really very little that I can do (externally) to keep the cycle from happening again, it was as if I let go of all the ambitions I had for making the world a better place.  I let go of the “battle” I was having with the chaos in this world.  I let go of all the expectations I had for our kind to do “better”!  The external “small battles” I had “won” in the past that offered a glimmer of hope, a moment of achievement, a feeling of “peace”, they were all short-term victories that offered the illusion of accomplishment and the incentive to keep up the fight. Yet with this new understanding,  I was able to let go of the fight!  (Sounds so anti-climactic…but give me a minute).

You see, to externalize an issue, to find fault and definition to the chaos in the world, to the chaos in your life, is a futile battle.  As long as I, as we, externalize the issues, the issues will happen over and over again.  It is our nature, and it has very deep roots.  We may find small moments of peace, but they cannot last, as long as we have external expectations, look to external sources for cause.   For,there is only one true battle, at least one true battle that can be won, that can offer long-term peace, it is the internal battle within oneself.dsc_0884  The battle to find inner peace amongst the chaos, the battle to take personal responsibility for your agitation, the battle to recognize that you are a creature of habit, and only you can overcome the habits that cause the agitation within, the reaction to the external forces, for it is this habit of reaction that is the source of your agitation, not the external force.  Let go of all those external expectations, those perceived external issues. This is the only true path to finding peace within and ultimately the only true path towards world peace.

Does this mean give up on your cause?  Of course not, just give up on the external battle.  Your cause does not need to be a battle, it should be a way of living.  Yet if you feel agitation, remember, the battle is within.  I do hope for lasting world peace one day, but there is only one place that can ever be achieved…..from within.

dsc_0430May you find the wisdom within to let go of all your fears.  May you find the light within and share it with all that cross your path. And…May you find the truth within to guide you towards true peace, true happiness and may you offer this gift to the world.

I offer you all the greatest gift I can give…..and that is LOVE.

The Path


The Path

Sit in Silence

Chaos Blooms

 Conscious Truth

The Past Exhumed

meditation stones

Intense Sensation

Thoughts Cascade

Agitation

Soon to Fade

meditation stones

Objective Mind

Determined…Strong

Observe the Truth

Break the Bond

meditation stones

Fear…Desire

Attached to All

Habit Patterns

Bound to Fall

meditation stones

In the End

Love will Reign

True Selflessness

The Goal Attained

Stones

Show Up and Make Something Good Happen!


As another year of school starts, I hope to tell my daughter…Go Out and Make Something Good Happen! Isn’t that really the point….We educate ourselves…we learn all these different things throughout our lives…..but if we don’t use them to “Make Something Good Happen”….Whats the point??? Be Happy All!!!

Mind Of Matter

MadreTeresaCalcutaconpobres-485x363The other day I attended the funeral of my best friend from childhood’s Mother.  Her name was Carolyn.  She was quite the woman, having an impact on so many lives during her time here on Earth.  Now, when I was young, I looked upon Carolyn with different eyes or at least a different set of values.  The manner in which she approached everyday life appeared, well, kind of calloused and very non-nuturing.  Of course,  that’s coming from her son’s best friend, who was on the outside looking in, but it was always Mark do this, Mark do that….right before we were ready to go out on the boat…Mark, you have to (and a list of 5 things would spout out)…I mean really, it was quite the inconvenience.  You see, as is with most young folks, when the plan didn’t go as expected, well darn it, we didn’t like it.  Let’s just say, the…

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Letting Go!… It Sounds Easy Enough….Right?


dandilion The other day, while giving a little instruction to a meditation student of mine…well she also happens to be my wife,  a way of illustrating one of the goals in meditation, came about.   I was attempting to describe the process of letting go.  Letting go of what, you ask?  Well, I continued on, that during meditation, we attempt to keep our mind focused on something observable, moment to moment.  In this case, it is the breath, the natural breath going in and out of the nose, you know, respiration.  So, while doing this exercise, this meditation, the mind will wander.  It will follow the various thoughts and sensory experiences that it deems important.  As this wandering occurs, it is our job to recognize this, as objectively (with a smile and a no big deal) as possible and then re-focus our attention back on the breath.   It sounds easy enough, right?  Well, I encourage all human beings to start their practice with very low (actually with none) expectations.

little girl holding balloonsSo, here is where the descriptive came along.  I told her that these thoughts and sensory stimulation are very much like balloons.  They are only as strong as the importance we give to them.  So picture those everyday thoughts going through your mind.  Imagine, each of the thoughts as a balloon.  Now picture each balloon (helium filled) that you give importance to, becomes attached to your body.  Now imagine those balloons pulling you in every direction, the stress, the tension!!!!

baloonsOk,  picture yourself, during meditation, as a thought comes up, you follow it (give it importance) and immediately this balloon is pulling you.  At first, you may not even recognize you have followed that thought.  Several minutes, heck, hours might pass and the awareness of following that thought may not be realized.  Yet,  at that moment you do recognize your mind has gone elsewhere,  anywhere but focused on your breath, and the moment of clarity arises and you observe that thought, smile and then let it go.  Let go of that balloon!  Let go of that tension!  Let go of that stress.  Just let it go, off into the air, off into the universe.  No longer attached, no longer holding onto it, just letting it go.  Then as it floats away, you focus your attention back on the breath.  The return of what is now, what is present, what is the moment.  How liberating!

Balloon in handWill that thought come up again?  Yes.  Will your mind follow it….give it importance.  Well, most likely.  But now you have started training that fickle mind of yours, that these thoughts…these sensory experiences are very much like balloons!  Most of these thoughts and experiences are a part of a large grouping of balloons!  So you let go, one at a time and bring that focus back to the breath, back to the moment!  The tension is still there, but you give it just a little less importance (by letting go of that observed balloon), and ultimately working to lighten the load, as you continue retraining this needy mind of yours.

Eventually you will find that it isn’t the balloon that is causing the tension, it isn’t the thought or the sensory experience that is causing the stress.  It is the importance you give to that thought, that experience, that is the source of your stress.  You choose to give it importance, by holding onto it.Stones

As you practice, you experience letting go of the balloons and awareness of the mind wandering, becomes more natural.  You will slowly notice a change in the habit pattern of the mind.  A transformation from the old habit of holding on, to a new liberating habit of letting go.  Letting go of those typical daily tensions.  Letting go of those self-inflicted stresses.  Ultimately, taking responsiblity for the misery in your life and eventually finding true peace….true happiness, in all things…in all experiences.  For now you have experienced the true nature of letting go of attachment.  An enlightening experience for all !!!

BE HAPPY MY FRIENDS……BE HAPPY!!!

How Heavy Do You Travel?


Summer_rentalHow Heavy Do You Travel?

Have you ever seen that Corona commercial, where the couple is sitting on a pair of chaise lounges, enjoying a nice, relaxing day at the beach, with nothing but a chair and an ice cold corona with lime.  Cue the family walking by, lugging all sort of beach stuff around, the guy looking stressed and disorganized.  I’ve always found that commercial amusing. Well, its a fitting segway for today’s little muse.

I was having a discussion not too long ago, with someone about, well, stress.  You see, she had a plethora of things going on in her life  and was struggling with it all.  Through this journey, I have come to see life a little differently and went on to describe my observation.  The point I expressed went something like this.  This body of ours is like a piece of luggage.  Throughout life, we pack all of the things we mentally give importance to, and hold onto throughout our lives.  So you might say, its a mind full of baggage.

Microsoft PowerPoint - Emotional Baggage PosterThese are the things that define our “self”. (yes the image is one sided, but you get the picture.)

Yet, it is our essence, our soul, whatever word you want to give it… that energy that nourishes and gives life to the “self”, who carries the burden of dragging that luggage along life’s path. To take it one step further, it is also this same energy that has the ability to choose what and what not to pack in this piece of luggage. To choose just how heavy to travel.

I left for a work trip to Las Vegas this past week. The trip out was, well let’s say, not smooth. The first leg was to Phoenix, AZ. While waiting in the terminal, a major storm came through, and this of course delayed the flight. As I waited, I observed many of the conversations going on, as well as the faces of those sitting around me. The drama, the despair, the outright depression being passed throughout those weary halls of the terminal. Many of the discussions going on, could have been deemed a duel of the greater hardships going on in their lives and the acute nature of how inconvenienced they were by this terrible disaster of a wait.

big baggage

As the afternoon turned to evening, the plane for which we were to board was found to have mechanical issues. Oh my, now the drama, despair and depression had turned into down right chaos, as if armageddon was upon us. The faces of terror created a new landscape for the zombie apocolypse and its subsequent transformation of normal human beings into a frantic crowd of flesh eating zombies preparing for attack on those whose unfortunate job it was to keep the peace for the airline. I had visions of the lovely airline desk attendant turning into a giant, bone crushing, Ogre as she was continually attacked by these brain sucking zombies.

Irrationality was being spewed, all around. The duels of hardship were becoming so lengthy and orated with such detail. The spectrum of drama touching all range of social interaction with life…. such misery! All, undoubtedly, in the quest for reaffirmation of this misery and sympathy for its plight. Ah, such a funny animal, human kind. Always in the quest for happiness, yet we fill this luggage of ours with such misery, and we hold onto it.Just like a closet full of old clothes and treasures”.

closet  So, cleaning out one’s closet to get rid of those old clothes, those great “treasures”,  takes great effort.   To let loose of those material things is a drama in itself, one might say a great tragedy!  Yet once gone, it is gone, likely never to be thought of again.

Was it the scenario of being held over late that caused this misery to unfold for all of these wandering, weary travelers?  I would say not.  I would say it was just an opportunity to unzip, open up and show each other the baggage they carry around with them. To compare and contrast, to compete, to justify and affirm, to search for favor, and to ultimately give purpose to that oh so precious self.  lugging

This whole experience opened up an opportunity for me to take an objective look at myself. To survey the baggage contained, in this great piece of luggage so graciously bestowed upon me, in this life of mine. You see, I came to realize, just like a piece of luggage, I choose what baggage I keep in the luggage. When preparing for life, just like preparing for a trip, I choose what thoughts to hold onto, just like I choose what items I “need” for my trip. In life, each experience elicits a particular flow of thoughts. The thoughts for which I give importance, that I hold onto, are the thoughts that become my baggage. Those I do not hold onto, that I do not give importance to, pass by and don’t weigh down my luggage. Sometimes I give importance to certain thoughts, and have the ability to let them go.  Just like packing for a trip and thinking I need four pairs of shoes, then coming to the realization that I would rather travel lighter and pack two.

So, really, it is my baggage that defines me.  For, the only difference between me and the brain sucking zombies that came out in that fateful night in June, is the baggage of my mind that I drag around in this luggage of a body, through those weary halls of the airport terminal.

baloons

I have learned to let go and not give importance to those thoughts that flow through my mind.  Don’t get me wrong, the thoughts are there, but I choose not to hold onto them.  I choose not to give them importance.  I choose not to pack so heavy and ultimately, I choose not to give in to that misery.

I wish you all the greatest of happiness in your lives and the ability to lighten your load, to not pack so heavy, to let go of some of that baggage. May you and all living things be peaceful,  be happy and….well…just be!

Trying Your Hardest…An Epiphany !


trying hardThe other day I was sitting with my daughter, helping her with her homework.  Earlier in the day I had received and email from her teacher, letting me know about some of the struggles she had been having in class.  The comment that struck the largest chord, was that when working by herself, she would have difficulty focusing on her work and act as if she could not do it, but when the teacher would work one on one with her, she had no problem.  Ugg, my goal for my job as a dad, was to cultivate an independent, self thinking little lady!  The irony.  Well, so I had to come up with something that would “encourage” her to start doing her work independently.

Of course, at first, I was grilling her on the importance of being able to do things for herself and giving examples of when she did start doing various tasks on her own…i.e. walking, talking, taking a shower and so on, how proud she felt and expressed so. That, of course, elicited the glaze over in the eyes and eventually a rolling to go along with it. I had to do a reset and think.  I thought to myself, the teacher mentioned that when she was working alone, she was having issues staying focused.  Hmm, so instead of giving her encouragement and motivational talks, i would give her a specific task.  “Try your hardest,” I said (wow, I just made the world shake…right…ha).  I went on, “Try your hardest to focus on  every little movement, every little thought, every little part of the task at hand.  In this case, it was writing her name and a sentence, with proper placement of letters, proper punctuation, proper sizing and so on.  So, each letter, for example, I would tell her to “try your hardest” on each part of the letter as she wrote it.  To “try your hardest” to pay attention each moment with each movement of the pencil.  I then told her to “try your hardest” to recognize when she was not “trying your hardest.”  Then when she recognized that she was getting off track, to take a deep breath and blow it out.

epiphanies

That moment, KABOOM, I had an epiphany!!!  It’s amazing how often wisdom comes out of my interaction with my daughter.  What I realized at that moment, was that “Trying your hardest” is a fantastic tool, a fantastic reminder for bringing oneself into the moment.  To bring oneself completely into focus.  Just this simple phrase can initiate ones ability to reset the mind, and focus on the task at hand.  Very much like we train ourselves in meditation, to keep the mind in the moment by staying focused on one point and noticing when the mind is no longer focused on that point and bringing it back.  The only difference being, this is a way to bring our focus back during our everyday experiences.  Regardless of what it is, making breakfast, doing a spreadsheet at work, talking with a client, doing homework with a child, or writing your letters….tell yourself, “try my hardest” at every aspect of the task.  I tried it after my epiphany, and it was amazing how quickly I was able to observe my mind getting off task, and when I told myself to “try my hardest”, that I got right back on task.

Really, its nothing you haven’t heard before.  My parents always used to tell me to try my hardest and do my best.  Of course, I probably got the glaze over my eyes with a subsequent roll, but the truth is, whether they knew it or not, there was wisdom in those words.  The problem was, my interpretation of the words and subsequent defensive reaction of, “I am trying my hardest!,” was based more on being obsessed with the outcome of whatever task I happened to be engaged or the fact that in all reality I had other things on my mind, other “tasks” that i would rather be doing.  Funny the struggle between parent and child!

wandering mindThis, as we all know, is the plague of the human mind, always wandering somewhere else, anywhere else, instead of being focused on what is going on right now!  It is the scourge of productivity!  It is the nemesis of a peaceful mind!  It is the creator of all stress and misery!  Yes, I know, a bit dramatic, but it is the truth!  For a mind that is in the moment, can never be stressed, can never be miserable, for it is in this state that it can process all that is necessary to make it through.  It is in this state, that the machine we all call our brain works at its highest efficiency with the least effort.  It is the state in which we can observe our true nature, our true self, the energy that exists beyond that which we call…I…me.

So, “try your hardest,”  it is nice reminder, a catch phrase if you will, a reset button, for bringing the focus back to the moment.  Just like my daughter, when writing her name, what exactly was trying her hardest?  Trying her hardest was to place attention to every part of the construction of writing her name.  From the grip on her pencil, to the placement of the pencil on the paper, to every movement of her hand while making each little line or curve, to the proper spelling of the word, to the orientation of which she would write it.  Who knew there was so much involved in writing a letter, let alone a word. Yet, ultimately, it was placing all focus on the task at hand, on the moment!

happy childSo I say to you, my faithful reader….go out…and challenge yourself to..”TRY YOUR HARDEST”..  Remind yourself, as you meander through your day, creating your masterpiece of life, to “Try Your Hardest” to focus on each and every moment of your creativity!  To “Try Your Hardest” to be aware of this gift we call life, and live it in its only reality, which is, moment to moment!  Of course, as is with anything, the more you “Try Your Hardest”….the easier it will become to find yourself being in the moment and living a happier….more peaceful….and more productive life.

I wish you all much happiness….much peace….and much success with this beautiful thing we all call life!!!