Positive living: Don’t wait for the other person

Sometimes we pass through periods in our life when it seems safer to close in on ourselves. We may get blocked in some relationships, or harden around what we perceive to be a hurt caused by others, or simply drift apart. And so we pull down the shutters and withdraw.  The mind loves categories, and when we get threatened these get more polarized, making it harder to see the world from any other viewpoint than our own. A lot of our energies go into convincing ourselves that we are right, ensuring that  any cognitive dissonance between our values and our actions is eliminated.  Self-justification then kicks in, that useful  strategy  which blinds us to the possibility that we were wrong, allowing us sleep at night by reducing regret and reinforcing our actions.

However, closing ourselves off from others may not always be right, even if  our safety mechanism tells us it is. It can keep up trapped in the past, which we cannot change , rather than seeing new possibilities in the present. So, when you notice that you are running a story about what others have done to you, see if you can remind yourself that you are the one who has the power to determine how you feel about what’s going on. Everything is workable, and thus you can work with the words and actions of other people in contact with you. Your response is entirely up to you. To live a fuller life, we often we need a generosity that operates on a different kind of logic, one which does not count or measure but rather dares to take the first step.

Initiate giving. Don’t wait for someone to ask. See what happens — especially to you. You may find that you gain a greater clarity about yourself and about your relationships, as well as more energy rather than less. You may find that, rather than exhausting yourself or your resources, you will replenish them. Such is the power of mindful, selfless generosity. At the deepest level, there is no giver, no gift, and no recipient . . . only the universe rearranging itself.

Jon Kabat Zinn,  Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life

Take time – today – to celebrate


May you receive great encouragement
when new frontiers beckon.

May you take time to celebrate
the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

May you experience each day
as a sacred gift
woven around the heart of wonder.

John O’Donoghue, Benedictus

Hiding our true selves

Many poets are not poets for the same reason that many religious men are not saints: they never succeed in being themselves. They never get around to being the particular poet or the particular monk they are intended to be by God. They never become the man or the artist who is called for by all the circumstances of their individual lives. They waste their years in vain efforts to be some other poet, some other saint…They wear out their minds and bodies in a hopeless endeavor to have somebody else’s experiences or write somebody else’s poems.

Thomas Merton

Practicing mindfulness: Come back to the present as much as possible

Today I rose early and the weather had cleared after yesterday’s rain.  It was a lovely fresh morning, before the cloud and mist moved in again.  The birds are beginning to sing again and there was a sense of light and joy.  Bright mornings make it easy to feel clear and spacious within. And when we do, we find it not so difficult to be kind. It makes it possible to believe in the natural goodness deep inside us. However, even with bright starts on days like this we can still see that the mind has brief moments when it can get confused and dark. When a combination of circumstances come together that frighten us, we can become flustered and defensive.  It is always interesting  to see the mind’s capacity to wander from the way things are and live in thoughts and wonderings and wishing things were other, with the potential narrowing that this brings.

In sitting practice we are reminded to practice “starting over” – to return again and again to the breath when the mind wanders, without being harsh with ourselves. It is a lesson for life also. We frequently get distracted. We sometimes get lost.  And then we wander away from the natural kindness that exists when we are calm. So the practice is to simply try to start over again, by dropping into this moment, noticing what we are doing, becoming conscious of the breath or of the sensations in our body.  We do not need to add the extra judgment about how unworthy our behaviour makes us to the existing situation. We do not make a drama out of it. We acknowledge honestly and simply that we have gotten lost, or are in the wrong, and then go back to start over again.

Everything is of interest

There is no such thing as an isolated event. Everything we experience, and the choices we make, impact on the way our life will be in the future. Thus, the best way to live a full life is to pay attention to and appreciate each passing  moment,  living them in kindness and openness, not closing the heart.

Every moment and every event of everyone’s  life on earth plants something in their soul.

Thomas Merton