Seeking happiness or contentment based on temporary states or conditions can lead to an experience of changing moods that are fleeting and fragile. When we focus on the sensation of being, we tune into our true essence, our shared life that is radiant, pervasive, and unwavering. We have been taught and conditioned to believe that rearranging and managing our life circumstances is the key to happiness. We work to increase income, status, and raise our social capital, in the hopes that it will bring us greater joy and a sense of peace. Advertisements provide us with a constant source of insecurities, needs and goals to be met that send us scurrying to work, then to the mall. Beyond seeing to it that we have food, clothing, shelter and a social network, very little beyond those basic needs has anything at all to do with reaching a deep state of contentment. How do we know this? It’s quite easy to look back throughout the history of humanity and see that amassing great power or accumulating wealth can be directly correlated with happiness or contentment. There are many examples of individuals, who accumulated massive wealth and fame who were, by their own accounts, apparently quite miserable and unfulfilled. Fame and fortune do not lead to happiness. At the same time, when happiness is studied and measured, what we find is evidence that it has more to do with personal choices, creativity, and the very simple act of pausing our thinking long enough to allow the deep underlying current of the life force that permeates the universe to fill our awareness. We can call this Beingness. Spiritual teachers throughout millennia have all talked about universal love and the feelings that come with simple Beingness, noticing the beauty of nature and acknowledging that you are also part of that beauty, because you are also nature. The act is so simple, yet we forget it’s available. Perhaps we think there must be more to it. Why is it, when so many have studies happiness and contentment, that we still spend so much time and energy striving to achieve material wealth and social Capital? We have the tools, but how are we using them? Imagine someone rushing through traffic in their very expensive car, discussing a business deal on their cell phone, late for their yoga class and now worried they won’t get a good spot near the teacher It’s just as easy to treat spiritual practices as we treat our work, as things to accomplish. It would be hypocritical not to acknowledge that the relentless pursuit of spiritual or religious deeds is in any way different, when it comes to creating space for peace and contentment, than the relentless pursuit of fortune or fame. When we link our self-worth to any form of achievement, whether it be financial, social, or spiritual, we risk missing the entire point of a spiritual practice, which is to bring it us a greater sense of contentment and feeling of connectedness to all that is. Any system that seeks to measure and label spiritual “levels,” creating a hierarchy based on performance or achievement, is a result of a false premise, which is: People must demonstrate the depth of their spiritual status by performing tasks that are observable and measurable. When we realize and acknowledge that spirituality and contentment are not performance-based, we will be closer to our goal because we will have it cleared away so much of the clutter that is burying that which is readily available. Everyone has access to the same spiritual tools, regardless of location, of language, of economic or social status, of age or ability, or of any man made construct or system. Just as the accumulation of things can lead to clutter, so can the accumulation of religious and spiritual practices lead to a burying of the awareness you may have of your true essence ...
Oct 14, 2017
News is what people tell us about what we haven’t experienced. We can improve our life experience, and even our situation, when we consume news in ways that are responsible, nurturing, and beneficial to ourselves and to others. One of the challenges we face when posed with the question, “What should I believe about what people tell me?” is the fact that we are biologically predisposed to believe what people tell us. As we evolved as humans, we developed the tendency to believe stories about potential dangers over things that were potentially neutral. Imagine a group of early humans walking through the forest together. All the members are spread out far enough so they can see and hear one another, but not close enough to see and hear the same things. Some of the members hear a sound come from the bushes and quickly need to decide if it could be an animal or not. If it is an animal, is it one they are looking for or one that might be looking for them? Have they found prey or are they about to become prey? A member of the group closest to the sound decides it’s not worth the risk and starts to run. The others in the group see him running, assuming there is danger, and begin to flee towards safety. They regroup on a nearby hill, ready to defend themselves if needed. Suddenly, a large bird emerges from the bush and flies away. Dinner has eluded them, but everyone is safe. Our need for safety is often greater than our need to confirm what is actually happening in our environment. We are more likely to believe in potential threats, simply because it’s far more acceptable to lose a meal as opposed to losing one’s life. We are wired for defense and that makes us especially susceptible to what people tell us about what we haven’t experienced. Not believing in potential threats can place us in stressful situations. At the same time, believing in unconfirmed threats can make us fearful, paranoid, and disempowered. It’s up to each of us to question the news we hear, to seek to confirm what others tell us about what we have not experienced, and to decide for ourselves how to respond, rather than running in fear because we see other people running in fear. Yes, maybe there is a tiger in the bushes waiting to pounce. It’s probably a good idea to remain a safe distance away until that theory can be proved or disapproved. When we choose to run away from any situation in which we have no first hand experience, not only do we increase our own anxiety due to all the terrible things we imagine, we lose the opportunity to experience the world as it is, to grow and develop, and to nurture and empower ourselves. When someone tells you story of a terrible danger, rather than running away in fear, thank them for letting you know about a potential danger, then do your best to discover the truth so you can take action based on your authentic experience. When we breathe, we consume. When we drink, we consume. When we eat, we consume. When we see and here, we consume. Whatever we consume, we add to ourselves in some way, shape, or form. We consume to nurture our bodies and our minds. The quality of what we consume directly affects the quality of our life experience. We are shaped by our environment and our relationship with it. We are social creatures, sharing a high degree of empathy. It’s quite easy for most of us to imagine the sensations and feelings of other people. When we are exposed to people who are laughing and smiling, we often laugh and smile, even when our experience is brought to us through something as remote as a television or computer screen. Because our minds are equipped with mirror neurons, it’s fairly easy for most of us to experience reflections of what happens to others within ourselves. If you’ve ever cringed when watching someone else getting ph...
Aug 28, 2016
Your mind is wild, untamed, and organic in nature. Thoughts rise and fall like waves in your imagination. Memories play in the theatre of your awareness as your mind wonders into the future, like a child lost in a Bizarre. The question is: What will your experience be, one of panic or of wonderment? Your mind is a beautiful tool. It helps you solve problems, presents you with options, and imagines the possibilities. It offers you myriad paths to follow, some of which will help you reach your goals. You mind is wild, unpredictable, creative, and complex. It loves to identify, label, compare and categorize. It seeks out patterns and makes predictions – and it does all of these things automatically, whether you prefer it to or not. Understanding the nature of your mind and creating a peaceful and prosperous co-existence with it, is one of the goals of the Thoughtfulness Practice. The first step is accepting and acknowledging the dynamic nature of your very creative human mind. Know that having thoughts is not a problem, especially when you consider the alternative. Having an adverse relationship with your thoughts can cause you to suffer needlessly. The good news is, there are ways to change your relationship with your thoughts that will liberate your emotions from the burden of over thinking. Why is it, that certain thoughts seem to create a stronger internal reaction than others? It all has to do with Associations. Your mind is constantly making connections between things, ideas, and feelings. You meet someone for the first time who reminds you of someone with whom you’ve had some conflict, some unpleasant feelings, and you immediately feel those negative emotions, even though you have no history with the person standing in front of you. We’ve all experienced having a certain type of emotional reaction to a person, place, or situation that shares some similarity with another experience from our past. Why does this happen? It’s simply your mind making connections, looking for patterns, exploring possibilities, and making associations between things. Remember: Your mind is a network of memories and those memories trigger emotions. When one aspect of your mind is stimulated, other areas are as well. Thoughts about one thing ignite thoughts and feelings about other things. We know this to be true. An examination of your own thought process will confirm this. Because our minds are making associations between things that are similar, the energies or emotions we experience along with those things are also drawn into our experience. Because we cannot control this process, we sometimes have strong reactions to what we think of as a single event. In reality, it may be a new and unique event, but because our minds are always looking for connections, patterns, and similarities, we experience it along with the memories and emotions of many experiences, some which may carry with them undesirable or unsettling emotions. The more associations our mind makes, the more likely we are to have an intense experience of something. This is your neural-network in action. What are we to do with our wild and uncontrollable minds? How do we stop this process so we’re not reminded of past trauma? How do we control our thinking? We don’t. Your mind is designed to be wild, to be creative, to make associations. This is what makes you human. Don’t make the mistake of viewing the way you are designed as wrong. Taking this position will only cause you greater hardship and suffering. Accept your mind the way it is. Evolution is not about suppression, it’s about creating better relationships. If your mind is wild, accept that it is wild and work with it the way it is. Observe your mind like you would a natural landscape. Do you try to stop the wind from blowing?
Jul 5, 2016
They tell us to clear our minds, to empty the space in our heads, to focus on non-thinking. What tool will you use to reach this state, your mind? Will you think your way out of thinking? Will you clear your thoughts with different thoughts? How will you suppress the parade of images that seem to flow freely? Even if you could press a button and reduced the chatter in your mind, how would you guarantee that only the most useful thoughts remain?
Jun 26, 2016
The universe has been at play since the beginning of time. You are her partner. Every element, the seen, the unseen, the manifested, the un-manifested, the obvious, and the subtle, are waiting for your hand. You don’t have to “do” anything special to be at play, only to surrender to your natural way of being. A good game is enjoyed equally by all, win or loose, rise or fall. The game is life and playfulness is one path to victory. It’s the playful ones who never loose. They know it’s not about holding a trophy when the game is over. They are winning every moment they are awake, thankful for this life and forever amazed at the beauty that surrounds them. They value play over “profits.” A playful moment is a cherished moment. Seek out opportunities to dance with the Devine. Your life is forever creating itself and you are the sculpture. It doesn’t matter what others may believe about you. Dig into the earth and pull out handfuls of potential. Surrender to the beauty of the moment.
Jun 12, 2016
The virtuous one is still and without thought. When he moves he is without design. He keeps no tally of right and wrong, good or bad. Virtuous ones share their gains with All, and from this they derive pleasure. - The Book of Chuang Tzu Becoming the objective observer, refreshing your views through active and unbiased observation, is taking a step along the enlightening path. The more judgment we place on what we observe, the farther from the center of mindfulness we move. Being centered is being free of judgment, being mindful, being empty. Views are what we experience when we observe something from different angles, considering various aspects and qualities. Views help us see a portion of a situation. They can be narrow or broad, but they don't automatically change when situations change, so they are often in need of updating. View points are useful to help us learn about something, but it is when we begin to collect views a memories that we risk moving away from the Center. Views that are held in our memories are no longer in-the-moment experiences and therefore can affect the way we experience the world. As we collect views as memories, we may develop an Orientation, a way of favoring certain types of views and viewing the world in a particular way. When we become oriented in our thinking and life experiences, we may end up rejecting experiences and information that don’t quite fit with those we’ve collected, even when our experiences are first-hand. We unconsciously restrict our perception, our thinking, and end up with a preferred set of views that we hold onto, like old photographs that bring us comfort. If we continue to deepen a particular orientation, viewing the world from the same perspective over and over, without taking the time to observe without bias, without judgment, and seeing through a beginner's eyes, we may eventually take a Position. Positions keep us locked into specific ways of thinking, built from static artifacts of our experiences. They are predictable and often unchanging, even in the light of the truth. A position says, "I don't need to look or listen any longer because I already know what that is." Positions can destroy presence. They keep us far away from center and often, in order to feel balanced, need an opposite position to lean against. Maintaining a position requires work. It requires that we build walls around our minds, our senses, and our hearts. When a position becomes so engrained that we no longer are aware of all the work we’re doing to maintain it, it might become a Belief. Beliefs are notions of the world that supersede our experience of it. They are views that emanate from our internal experiences, rather than our observations. There is nothing unnatural about having beliefs. Everyone believes things. It's only when we place our beliefs in the highest regard, choosing them over our unbiased experiences, that we stray from the center of our mindfulness practice. Being mindful requires that we be willing to update our beliefs, positions, and orientations by taking into account our unbiased observations and first-hand experiences. Experiences meaning what we sense, rather than what we think or imagine. It means trusting our bodies over our minds, remembering that our minds are as creative as the weather is unpredictable. Forming beliefs around thoughts is like building a house on the wind. We find our center when we consider all Views, remember that Orientations and Positions are limiting, and that Beliefs are perceptions of the world that are more rooted in thinking, rather than experiences. Life is growth, change, and forever new. Presence and centeredness develop through observation and attending to in-the-moment experiences, that are uncompromised by thoughts. Thoughts may be interesting, amusing,
Jun 5, 2016
The truth doesn't need words to be known, only your attention. There is nothing hidden in the Universe. Words help us express ourselves. They also lead to confusion and even suffering. They can uplift and bring great sorrow. They often are used to describe the truth, yet almost never do. How can they? They are nothing but distant echoes of experiences, reverberating in our minds. The truth is always ready for your discovery. The truth is rarely the same from day to day, or moment to moment. This is why words often fail to tell the story of the truth. Words and stories are thoughts locked in time. They exist in our minds, whereas the truth, what is true for you, only exists in your present experience. What is the truth of this moment? It is your experience of it. Pause for a to observe your environment, then observe your sensations, and finally your thoughts. This is your truth–right now. People try to change the world through words. Their goal is to influence those around them, which often works, but it is not the world that is changed, only people’s minds. If you allow people to influence you through words, your thinking will change with theirs. This is always an option for you and it’s your choice. You are free to adopt any version of the truth that is presented to you. All you have to do is believe the words of others without questioning or verification. This is very easy to do and it’s what most people in the world do every day of their lives. There is another way to know the truth, which is to be grounded in your own experiences. No one else can do this for you. No one else has your unique experience of the world. This is the way of mindfulness and the enlightening path, moving away from words and stories into your own authentic experience. People will tell you that the world is fast-paced, crazy, and even dangerous. Is it? Take a moment to observe your life situation right now and see if this is true for you? Yes, it might be true for some people who are, in this moment, experiencing some great challenge, but is it true for you in this moment? Some people say that one goal of meditation is to move away from what’s referred to as “Monkey Mind,” a restless, unsettled, and sometimes confused mental condition. Ask yourself: “Is my mind unsettled or just active? What is the natural state of the human mind? If you have observed your own mind for any length of time, you’ve likely noticed that it is very busy, very creative, and often working to solve puzzles. This state seems to be normal for the human mind. In fact, many people seem to experience great satisfaction when feeding their minds extra puzzles! They even spend money on books of puzzles and games to feed their hungry problem-solving minds. Why then, should it be any surprise that our minds are conditioned to be active, to be busy, and to try to constantly solve puzzles? It’s normal for your mind to look for puzzles to solve. When there is no obvious puzzle available, it continues looking. It asks, “What about this? What about that? Could I solve those problems? What if I created some new problems to solve or borrowed some problems that other people have? Your mind is looking for problems to solve–and words, because they are abstractions, are a great resource. “What did she mean by that? What does this or that mean? What did those people mean when they wrote those stories? You have a choice when it comes to how you use your mind’s creativity. You can listen to your own self-talk, as if it were the truth, or you can observe your mind’s activity as if it were your enthusiastic helper who is always working to solve your problems. You can allow your mind to churn out thoughts, while you quickly scan them for anything useful.
May 22, 2016
Artwork by Cameron Grey How can I achieve greater contentment by becoming better at using my mind? This is a question we rarely ask ourselves, yet possibly the most important one we could ever ask. Your mind, as your helper, is constantly presenting you with options, scenarios, possibilities, most of which arise from your very creative imagination. This process is very easy to observe in one’s own mind. One key to an enlightening life, is to take time to observe your thoughts and note their characteristics. This way, you are able to make better choices about how you use the thoughts you have. One common school of thought advises us to attempt to clear our minds of a unwanted thoughts, thereby helping us to focus, feel more at ease, and attend to the present. While the goal sounds simple enough, the process of using one’s mind to clear one’s mind, may not be the most effective or realistic approach. Our minds are much like the Weather, a vast and dynamic system of interconnected forces. The modern human mind is largely characterized by split second pattern recognition, multiple associations, and cross references between not only thoughts, but feelings and emotions, as well as our imagination. Trying to control it may be one of the most difficult paths to take. The adept sailor understands that he will never be able to control the wind and the waves. Instead, he learns to move with them, using what is presented to his best advantage. We can use our minds in the same way. It begins with understanding that not all thoughts are equally useful. It begins with recognizing the different thought types and making choices about which thoughts we use and which ones we don’t. Pay attention to your thoughts for even a few minutes and you will quickly come to recognize that many of them revolve around specific memories. If your past were represented by a series of dots, these events would be exclamation marks. They are the events to which you also have a strong emotional association. These memories become hubs of mental activity. Like giant magnets, they are quickly surrounded with similar thoughts, memories, and emotions-both from your past–and potentially from your imagined future. This is why some people have very strong reactions to specific types of events. It’s not the event itself causes suffering, events are neutral when it comes to emotional charge. Thoughts and emotions, on the other hand, are always personal. How someone reacts to a situation depends not only on the situation itself, but more so on how he copes with the flood of associated thoughts, feelings, and emotions. When confronted with an undesirable “Exclamation mark” situation, our minds leap into action in an attempt to help us answer the questions: “Why is this happening?” “How can I fix this?” and often, “Who is to blame?” At the same time, similar events from our past, and the feelings associated with them, are pulled into orbit around the event, multiplying its effect. As our minds scramble to assist us, the storm of mental and emotional activity created often feels overwhelming, which is why some people have more extreme reactions then others to essentially the same situation. How do we learn to walk the enlightening path? Accept the current situation. There are broken pieces of glass and water on the floor. It’s true that a moment ago there was a glass of water on the countertop. Now, there is something else. What is here now? This is the only relevant question. This is the question that will help you live in the present. What is the situation right now and what can I do to improve it, for myself or for someone else? Accept your active mind. Not every thought you have it is helpful.
May 15, 2016
Mindfulness and Spiritual practices are best when simple and easy to do anywhere at anytime. The practice of OHANA is based in Hawaiian culture and helps manifest the idea that we are a global family. The way to reduce tensions between people and nations is to offer kindness to everyone, regardless of who they are. Learning how to be mindful is simple, but it's up to each of us to make the practice a reality in our daily lives. Learn more about meditation, mindfulness, and spiritual growth with the EVOLVE podcast by Kalani Das.
May 2, 2016
Artwork by Cameron Grey Light moves on its pathways through space, Enters the eyes, and you absorb the luminous. Each sense is a current of divinity, sparkling with mystery. Light, motion, space, vision, awareness – All are composed of omnipresence. The senses connecting you to the outer world and paths of communion with the inner world. Every sight, sound, smell, taste touch ... a greeting from the Beloved. * The Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche It begins with presence, engaging in the here and now experience of life. It’s at the core of happiness, the heart of your humanity, and the path two an enlightened way of being. Your world consists of physical, auditory, visual, and aesthetic experiences. Become the observer of these sensations and life becomes sensational! When we attend more deeply to sensations, we increase the possibility for feelings of appreciation, wonderment, and satisfaction. Are you skilled observer? Are you aware of your body as it rests or moves in your environment? Are you tuning in to the sensation of gravity, the temperature of the air on your skin, and the way changes in light warm and cool your skin? Are you feeling the pulse of life inside your body? Are you feeling the love? Are you pausing long enough to take in the beauty in your surroundings, the shapes, textures. and colors that form the landscape around you? Have you paused lately to observe the beautiful shimmers of light through glass or water, the gentle sway of a spring flower reaching towards the sun, or the movements of life in your environment? Are you seeing the light? Are you listening deeply? Are you aware of the gentle whisper of your own breath, the sound of eating your favorite foods, the music of nature just outside your window, the patter of tiny feet, a bird song, a dog barking? Are you hearing the music? When you take time for a meal, are you attending to the unique and delicious flavors? Are you aware of what you taste, smell, and how those flavors blend to create new ones? Are you savoring the moment? Life is an experience that happens in the present moment. Everything else happens in your imagination. Even memories of experiences are what we imagine them to be. It’s true that happy memories can help elevate our mood in the present. It’s also true that the more time we spend attending to our imagination the less we are attending to the present. Attending to recycled or imagined experiences leaves less space in the present. Have you ever found yourself thinking about something? You were lost somewhere outside of the present. How can you become more skilled at being the conscious observer of your present experiences? It begins with awareness of thought. Reducing the amount of time you spend imagining the past and future will help fill your present moments with more authentic experiences. When you make space for beingness, for awareness of sensations, life evolves naturally and fully. You don’t need to do anything special to be more in the present. All you have to do, is get out of the past and the future. The present is always here, ready to amaze and fulfill. Look, listen, touch, taste, and deepen your life experience right now. You have everything you need to find the extraordinary within the ordinary. What an absolutely amazing gift it is–this life experience. It’s not a competition, but a celebration. You won the moment you showed up. Your life is the prize. Enjoy it.
Apr 24, 2016