Suffering Is Optional

It’s been a tough year for most of us. There have been interruptions to plans and we have learned how much we take some things for granted and many of us have learned a new form of appreciation.

There have been some who have done amazing things and accomplished so much with this time, and some who have celebrated the days they could get out of bed. For many of us there have been a bit of both.

Now after months and months of restrictions and with the seasons changing in the western hemisphere many of us are growing weary of this and asking, “are we done yet?”

We can recognize so many have it far worse than we do and scold ourselves into submission, but I’m not a fan of that. I’m also not a fan of wallowing in what isn’t and can’t be.

I recall a story I heard years ago that has come bubbling back up to the surface for me now. The story recounts a group of people who were captive, they might have been POWs or something like that, I can’t exactly recall. 

The story talks about the fortitude of the men as they waited almost endlessly for their ordeal to end. In the beginning of their time in captivity they were all optimistic that a rescue was certain but from this point they began to diverge in their thinking.

A few believed although rescue was imminent, they didn’t have any idea how long it would take but believed at one point their captivity would end in freedom. The others began to identify a period of time they determined it was reasonable to expect release. 

As the time ticked by and each period of time passed and another “reasonable” date was set. As each passed by with no sign of relief the men who were counting on the dates began to lose hope. They began to doubt they would ever return to the life they loved and the freedom they had. Mentally they began to breakdown and become depressed and despondent, hopeless as each marker passed by.

The few men that had not believed in a particular date but still held the belief that they would be rescued remained steadily hopeful. They were secure in the knowledge that rescue was just a matter of time. 

When the beautiful day of rescue came there were two groups of men, one who had lost weight, become despondent and angry for the length of time passed until rescue. The second group were grateful and ready to celebrate and praise the rescuers.

Years later the bitterness remained with those who felt that time had been stolen from them. Their multitude of unmet expectations scarred them not only in that time as prisoners but because they carried the pain forward, each unmet expectation re-injured the old wound. 

The lesson for me in this story is that the men who were so bitter and disappointed had created the suffering themselves. They had no proof that the times they felt they should have been rescued by were possible. They continued to pick arbitrary dates because from within the confines of the prison camp they had no information upon which to create realistic expectations. 

It’s kind of like where we have been during this entire pandemic. No matter where in the world you have ridden this thing out, many have filled the airwaves with blind commentary of when this would be over.  Arbitrary guesses about future travel, gatherings and expectations of life without fear of human interaction are doing no one any good.

Infectious disease research is usually a years-long process to come up with timelines, vaccines, immunity, safety protocol, etc.  Giving ourselves timelines of holidays or vacation dates is simply an opportunity for disappointment just as the prisoners had.

I encourage you to use this time to focus the things you can celebrate while dreaming for the days ahead like planning for an upcoming trip that hasn’t yet been scheduled.

Take The Shot

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you have a dream, maybe it’s one of those dreams that you don’t tell anyone about. Or maybe a few select group of people know about it.

It’s the one you don’t even dare to dream anymore. It got put in a box when you stopped using your hairbrush as a microphone, or stopped putting on theatrical performances for your family. 

This is the dream that you will never reach and I’m going to say it’s not because you aren’t deserving of it. 

This dream you will never reach because you won’t allow yourself to dream it.

You are the biggest obstacle between yourself and that dream! If you believe it isn’t possible and you don’t pursue any version of it, you are exactly correct!

Does that mean everyone might one day be JLo or Kobe Bryant? No, of course not. But I guarantee you if you never allow yourself to dance you’ll never get close to being JLo . If you never touch a basketball, you can never take the winning shot or even the losing shot.

And will that shot feel any less amazing if it’s in a pick-up game at the park with some friends versus in the NBA (ok well maybe) – but you get the point! It will still be a winning shot and I can guarantee you, you will feel like Kobe if even for a moment!

You see the one thing that those who achieve their dreams (and all of them aren’t superstars by the way) the one thing those people have that you don’t is that they took steps towards their dreams. 

This is not about changing your whole life, it’s about allowing some of the joy in your life that lives in those dreams.

You cannot achieve anything by simply wishing. I’m sorry to inform all the “Secret” fans out there but if you sit on your couch eating bon-bons and chanting affirmations, you’re just going to end up with a belly full of bon-bons and a whole bunch of positive sayings. Shit just doesn’t work that way!

Action is the difference between those who reach their dreams and those who don’t. And along the way, might you find out that your dream is actually different then you thought? Hell yes, but you never will know that if you don’t start.

There is tons of talk about it taking 10,000 hours to achieve excellence in a particular area – whether that is true or not doesn’t really matter.  What does matter is putting in time and attention to improving all the time. Whether it’s 10,000 hours or 6,000 hours who knows, but I can guarantee you it’s not 0 hours.

All the time you spend hiding that dream of yours is time that you could be pursing your learning and growing. 

Will you be embarrassed at some of your early work – hell yes! Just look at my early videos or blogs! I started long before I was great but if I didn’t start I wouldn’t be getting any better – and hopefully you agree I’m getting a little better! 

Regardless of being good, I know it feels easier to me to get in front of the camera than when I started, and I am continually looking for ways to improve to bring you the best, but I’m not holding back what I have now. 

We’re growing together!

So what I am encouraging you to do today it think about those dreams you’ve been keeping under wraps. It’s time to dust them off and begin to explore what could be possible.

I for one would love to support you if you’re willing to share in the comments below – are you going to start that blog? Or pick up that guitar again? Are you going to start somewhere or something?  

Maybe once you start you’ll decide it’s no longer your dream, but wouldn’t it be better to know then never know and wonder about what could have been? If you decide it isn’t a fit anymore this simply gives you space to dream another dream!

You can only ever be what you allow yourself to pursue. Live into that highest vision of yourself and see what is possible in your life!

And don’t forget, a hairbrush still works as a mic when your favorite song comes on! Hey, you going to want to practice before you get to the big stage – or at least feel like a star for a moment!

Reflections Beyond The Mirror

As I entered the gym I had the absolute pleasure of being the first one in on this morning.

It’s not like the gym is crowded because we’re under limited attendance because of COVID, but having the whole place to myself was a treat!

I got to thinking as I set my weights in front of the mirror – why does it even matter? There can only be 4 people in here at once so it’s not like I can’t use the equipment I want. 

As I was focused in the mirror on the muscle group I was working, I didn’t worry about anyone else.  I didn’t worry that I was taking up space someone else needed, or using weights that someone else wanted. I didn’t worry if I didn’t look as fit, or capable, I didn’t worry if anyone saw I was only using 10lb weights.

Funny – for someone who walks to the beat of her very own drummer, who knew I thought about others so much? It got me to thinking that I must not be the only one!

In this state of limited activity with others, it has become increasingly obvious to me how much more I am reflecting on what I want for me instead of wondering what others are seeing.

This is enough of a perspective shift it’s important to share. It goes along with my blog post from last month about focusing on the life you wish to live versus what you want others to remember about you.

If I lift weights and focus on me and my body and what muscles I’m working, I put the best energy I can into what really matters to me. I can identify what is working and what is not and if the effort I’m putting forth is creating the results I want.

On the contrary, if while I’m lifting weights, I’m watching the skinny 20 year old doing yoga nearby wondering what she thinks of me – how much am I focused on my goals? 

If I allow myself to be so concerned about the example I’m setting for the yoga girl, or if she sees how strong I am or what is possible for her when she is a bit older, maybe that is a good result. But it’s not the result for me – it’s for her and ultimately I’m in the gym for me!

See how this works when we break it out this way?

If you are so concerned about how other people are feeling about the way you show up in the world, are you showing up for you?

This might be an oversimplified example but I think many people are living some version of this in their lives. I think that makes this time in life maybe even a bit more lonely, but it also highlights how much of life one might be living for themselves.

Look, you’ve heard me say time and again that our tomorrows are not guaranteed, so I encourage you to take what is left in this space of limited movement to really think deeply. How much of your life you are living for you and your own goals and how much is for your version of yoga girl?

It may not be obvious at first and you may not even realize it initially, so I encourage you to really think through it. 

In my experience,  I have found that when I am focused on my own reflection and goals, I end up being that example, showing how strong I am and everything I’m concerned about projecting. This is not because I’m doing it for anyone else and that is what makes it so magnetic.

When you see someone living in their absolute truth it is something almost magical and isn’t that the kind of legacy we all want to leave behind?

Better Than A Eulogy

If you are like me, at one point in your life you’ve done the “funeral exercise.” This is an exercise where you take some time to imagine the end of your life and think about what you hope others will say about you.

This is designed to help you really look at the life you are living and if it is congruent with what you hope to be remembered for.

Here’s the deal – you’ll be dead! Will you really care?

I know, that is not the point, but the point is that you don’t have any control how you are remembered. You only have control about how you show up (or don’t) in your life for yourself and others.

You may think that you will be remembered for all the people you helped and projects you were involved in. You may envision the line standing down the sidewalk waiting to pay their final respects, but that is not what it’s really about. 

It’s really about the people standing inside, next to you while the line files through. Think about them for a minute, what stories they will tell are the important ones. 

So here is a bit of a twist to that morbid exercise, still using the theme because it is a powerful one. It’s a variation on the theme but centers around those you love rather than you. 

Imagine for a brief moment that someone near and dear to you were to become ill or had limited time left on the planet. Would you change anything about how you are living today?

You see, we often don’t realize what we take for granted. We may be doing a grand gesture that many will remember us for at our funeral, but forget what it denies us the opportunity to do. 

This perspective gives you the chance to look at how you are showing up today in your life and in the life of those you love. Or not showing up. 

The question if you stay late at work to get just a bit more done, or go home to make dinner for your family has a different perspective now doesn’t it? Would you listen more intently as your loved one was telling you about their day if it could be their last? 

There is a song by Tim McGraw called Live Like You Are Dying in which he talks about going fishing more, loving more and not arguing as much. Let’s face it, some of the things we worry about, spend time on and are distracted by are things that in the face of limited time we would decide really don’t matter! 

Take that the next step further – and think about what matters to your loved ones. How would they feel coming home to find you not only home from work on time but cooking dinner for everyone? Or when someone spoke to you, you put your phone down and looked them in the eyes and empathized with them and really listened fully?

Is that argument you had really that important? Think about the event or task you said yes to that is taking time away from reading your kids a bedtime story.

Story Time

If time were limited, would you let anything get in the way of story time?

Ultimately we have no control over how we are remembered but we always have control of how we live each day. How we show others they are important and how we honor them in life is really what it’s all about, not what is said in a eulogy that we will never hear.

How people feel about you once you are gone is your legacy, how they feel about you while you walk among them is your life.

Remember, “Some people talk to you in their free time. Some people free their time to talk to you.”

I encourage you to consider these thoughts as you move about your days being intentional about your interactions in life with your loved ones. Make how you live matter to those you love, don’t worry about what will be said when your gone – you’re still here! 

Your Own Becoming

We all love the rags to riches story. We all love when an underdog takes on a big player in their industry and rises to the challenge. As a Bostonian I watched my father’s heart break year after year as the Red Sox dropped yet another tournament run until that one time in 80+ years that they won it.

What an incredible feeling!

Boston Red Sox World Series Champs 2004

Would the victory of a win like that be as sweet without the struggle? 

Do you feel the same elation when the NY Yankees win yet another World Series or any game where the victory is a blow out or feels like it happened before the teams hit the field?

Again, as a Bostonian, my references are sports (hey its part of our DNA that’s injected in the hospital I think!) Tom Brady won respect of sports fans everywhere by leading the team to victory coming from a score gap that was almost impossible. Remember the Super Bowl win against the Seattle Seahawks? 

Would that have been such an exciting game if it hadn’t come down to the final seconds where only minutes before Seattle was a determined champion team?

You get the point we all love a story of overcoming adversity, the underdog against the indomitable force, the tension in every movie where all looks lost until Denzel Washington saves the day in the last minute or MacGyver remembers that stale stick of Juicy Fruit in his pocket! 

So if we all love the story, the feeling, the joy of overcoming something that seems insurmountable, how can we use this to our advantage?

When adversity strikes in your life do you see it as a gift or a curse?

Humans actually do well under periods of stress, it causes them to solve problems and use their minds to figure a solution. Times of stress in history were often followed by tremendous progress. [Please note I said periods of stress, not a life of stress!]

The saying goes necessity is the mother of invention, well I’m going to go just a step further to say that adversity is the birth of creativity.

We are currently living in the most difficult situation many of us have ever experienced. This time in history is kind of like a combination of the Spanish Flu and the Great Depression but with internet! (This has good and bad consequences! That’s another post) 

So with all this adversity stirring up your creativity what are you going to make of it? What are you going to make with it?

I’ve spoken quite a bit over the past few months about the opportunity the stay-at-home orders have given us to think about and plan what we want to allow back into our lives as we move forward. I encourage you to take that next step forward and really think about how you emerge from this adversity.

This crisis has played out differently depending on your situation but everyone has been affected in some way. This period in time is now part of your story! We are in the tension part of the movie or the adversity in the book. 

How are you evolving during this time? What have you learned and used that will help you on the next part of your journey?

You see it’s not really the victory that ever matters, it’s who you become to reach that victory. What skills do you develop that you can use that you developed or strengthened during this time to benefit yourself or others going forward? 

It is not because David slayed Goliath by sheer power that he became celebrated, it was so much more. Ultimately it was the way he approached the battle where David showed who he had become (and hint it had nothing to do with brut strength). 

In the coming months and years, Covid-19 and Corona Virus will become a “time in history” something that we have endured. This will be part of one of the adversities we’ve lived through. 

This is a chapter in your story, how will you use the lessons learned? How will you use the experiences you are living through today in your tomorrows? 

Who you become is based on the adversities you have faced. You have the power to use this insight to build your hero story because we are still in the stage of becoming at this time.

Time To Make Good On A Dream: Why Good Isn’t Good Enough

We have a problem Houston and every other city, state and country in the world.  News flash, this is not a US problem it is a worldwide problem.

Prejudice (or as my 5th grade report called it Prejudism) abounds and we need to make some drastic changes or we will all peril in an “us against them” fight. The more we divide and decide someone is wrong because of their skin, religion, sexuality or nationality the less humanity there is for everyone.

I was raised to be a good person. My parents regularly exposed us to people different than us by culture and color. We didn’t travel but we had exchange students from around the world living with us for as long as I can remember. One student from India lived with us for years and was considered a part of the family.

My parents also taught us early to be involved and we gave our time to causes they believed in. My father was/is also quite an activist from his youth riding with the Freedom Fighters to leadership in teacher’s unions to now working with men coming out of incarceration and beginning new lives. 

We tease my father all the time that the government must have a thick file on him. My dad spends a lot of time writing to Congressional Leaders, Council Members and even the President about how well or poorly he feels they are representing their constituents. I now believe there should be thick files with all of our names on them!

As I became a parent I too involved my children in causes that I feel are unequal burdens. We spent a lot of time working with homeless shelters, hunger programs and donation sites and I felt good about that.

My children each grew up as strong advocates in causes they felt were unjust and equality was sorely missing. From GLBTQ and women’s rights to marijuana decrimalization they have each been loud and vocal advocates.

I find myself here, in this moment thinking, all that is good, but it is so terribly incomplete. Good just isn’t good enough.

I don’t know if you are feeling the same way or not, but for me it is hard to hear that a black man doesn’t step out of his house without his ID for fear he may have to prove why he is walking in his own neighborhood. It is difficult for me to comprehend why a whole race is being blamed for a pandemic because it came from their region. And there will never be a time or reason that I can understand why someone would be killed for their skin color or sexuality.

As long as there are people deciding that their god, race, color, sexual preference or boarders are any better than another’s there is a whole bunch of work to be done. 

This does not mean to drown yourself in shame because of what color your skin may or may not be. It is not to guilt you into marching or getting on a bullhorn to either state your position or post on social media a square you don’t thoroughly understand.

Guilt and shame do nothing positive and actually prohibit the ability to think clearly on how to move forward. We do not need people acting rashly to assuage their guilt, we need people to stop and think about the world they wish to live in.

There are so many issues in this world today that we need to address in all corners of the globe. I encourage you to take a look around at the world you live in and see it clearly for what it is and how things could be. 

If you think change takes time – think again. In a matter of days we closed down a country and planet! We can do this with swift, thoughtful action and everyone becomes safer.

I encourage you to take some time to dream about the world you wish to live in and then take a step, just one step towards creating that. After that, take another. It can be something that you trumpet from your platform or a quiet letter to your senator or you might just read up on who your local sheriff is. Wherever you choose to make a difference, please start today and keep going. 

We can make a difference by each taking action in our own space in our own way. As Mother Teresa says, “If each of us would only sweep our own doorstep, the whole world would be clean.”

Good just isn’t good enough anymore, we can and must do better.

Thank you #BlackLivesMatter movement for waking us all up to the challenges you have faced for ages and inspiring us all to have a dream that one day we will not judge people by anything but the content of their character.

Excuse me, I’ve got a letter to write!

Dance Lessons

Most of my life I’ve danced to the beat of a different drum. In the beginning I didn’t realize that not everyone heard the same music I did. As I began to get older more people questioned my dance and at times it felt like everyone had an opinion about my dance.

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After a while it became supremely evident that everyone did NOT hear the same music I did. To many it seemed as though I was just recklessly breaking norms. At first I cared, then I just felt bad.

I felt like there was something wrong with me for not dancing like everyone else did. At points in my life I even tried to learn their moves and got good at mimicking the dance I saw others doing.

In those years many thought I was doing great and I got less comments about how my dancing was off but for me it was the most confusing time of my life. I couldn’t put my finger on it but something just wasn’t right, and again I felt bad and like there was something wrong with me.

I was dancing in complete dissonance to the music playing inside my head. I had forced myself to ignore or drown out my own music so I could keep beat to the music everyone else seemingly heard.

Do you know how hard it is to dance to music you can’t hear?

At some point I gave up. I stopped dancing altogether and slowly in moments when I got really quiet, my own music returned. Softly at first and as I began to celebrate it, it became a full out symphony!

I finally allowed myself to be who I am and to dance again to my own music. First I danced behind closed doors to make sure no one could see my flawed dance moves. Then as I found the joy again, I danced in public view.

I began to trust my dance and appreciate it even if others did not. I allowed the music I heard to move me and I enjoyed the dance so much I began to “dance as if no one was watching.”

This doesn’t mean that my dance suddenly began making sense to others. Nor does it mean that others didn’t have something to say about it or could even celebrate it because it looked so different.

What it does mean is that today I am able to be in harmony with my own music. I feel right even if I look wrong to others. And while others may still not understand my dance, they can’t help but see it brings me joy.

One of the most precious freedoms of this human experience is to dance to the music you hear. The music was created for you and no one else has to understand it for you to be able to move to it.

We are all here to live our own journey and the fact mine doesn’t look like yours is not better or worse. I know I can’t hear the music you are dancing to so maybe I won’t understand your dance or maybe you’re dance doesn’t make sense to me.

Please dance anyway. You might even find there are others that will dance with you!

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Dance Company Unión Latina of Medellin, Colombia

 

How To Marie Kondo Your Life

I have good news for you in this sea of crisis! There is a whole lot of power in this pandemic.

  • There is inspiration in the isolation.
  • There is clarity in the crisis.
  • There is opportunity in the unknown.
  • There is volume in the quiet.

I am not trying to be a polyanna here nor am I a fan of toxic positivity. While not ignoring the pain, suffering and disruption we are all experiencing, I am acutely aware there is a gift here that I encourage everyone to take some time to appreciate.

We have all been forced (or strongly advised) to physically separate from the world around us. We have been asked to shelter at home, which many of us consider our personal sanctuaries.

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Think about that for a moment, we have not been asked to go to war, we have been asked to remain in the safety of our homes. We have been asked to gather with our loved ones, families or on our own within the confines of our sanctuaries and put aside anything not deemed essential.

Wow! What an opportunity for those who have a home to go to and are safe and healthy where the worst thing at this moment is staving off boredom.

It’s in these moments that I encourage you to bask in the void of non-essential responsibilities and take a look at what you consider essential at this time. I’m willing to bet that there are less things that fall in this category in this moment then a month ago. The items may be a little different for each person and that is ok, but realize what really is essential.

Here is where I believe the opportunity lies for each of us to design what our “new normal” looks like. This is the clean slate from which we can decide what to add as we move into the next chapter.

This is the ultimate KonMarie for our life!images

The opportunity here is to take a deep look at what you have deemed essential in your days at this time. Then take stock of your values and priorities based on this list which should be pretty easy in this time of unease.

From this viewpoint as the world begins to reopen, albeit slowly and likely in phases, I encourage you to be intentional about what you add back into your days. This is where you get to architect your life to the extent that is possible.

Everything you filled your days with prior to this time deserves a look.

  • Is this item essential?
  • Can you be absolutely certain it is essential?
  • Is there a different way it can be accomplished within your values?
  • Does it “spark joy”?

As the orders and advisements begin to lift over the course of the next weeks and months, I encourage you to really take a hard look at what you bring back into your days. Take the clean slate you have and really decide what you will spend your time and energy on and make sure each has a reason to be in there.

We are beginning again and this is an opportunity to design what your life looks like going forward. Choose wisely.

The Pony And The Pile

The other night after a long day, I got ready for bed and I could hear the distress cry of a cat outside. I went to my window and as I was closing my shutters, I saw the cat right outside my window, one floor down staring up at me, meowing urgently.

My first thought was one of empathy wondering what the cat was trying to communicate and my second thought was, Oh no, she’s not going to sit there all night meowing and keep me from sleeping is she?

It was at that moment, I needed to remind myself nothing is permanent – the good, the bad, the suffering or the joy. (OK the cat did not cause me suffering – lost some sleep, but let’s not be that dramatic!) Yet we often take the things that are bad or causing us pain and suffering and act as if they will last forever. When joy arrives we miss it because we are trying to find a way to cling to the feeling for fear it will vanish as quickly as it came.

As humans we are wired to look for danger, but are we also wired to cause ourselves pain? Are we the cause of our own suffering? Are we missing out on the experience of joy for fear of it’s impermanence?

I believe that through changing our focus we can experience more joy and peace in our lives, though it takes practice. Now this is not to say everything is rainbows and puppy dogs, I’m not practicing pollyanna optimism here. It is to say that if we look for the pony in the pile of shit two things can happen. One, we get excited that although we are up to our elbows in shit that there may be something beautiful in it so it makes what we’re digging through tolerable. The second thing that happens is that we stop focusing so much on the shit because we are looking for something in it, not just staring at the shit itself.

Again, don’t get me wrong, we cannot ignore that we are in shit up to our elbows, but maybe there is purpose in why we are there? Maybe there is benefit in the shit? And maybe if we stop looking at the pile of shit and start digging we’ll find a pony or something else.  Maybe we know we we’re looking for or maybe not, but if we begin to dig instead of staring at it and experiencing it in a state of overwhelm, we can begin to clear it up and see what is there.

This does not mean that the pile doesn’t smell badly or that it is pleasant, but looking for the lesson, the good thing that might be in there provides us a way to move through it. It provides an incentive to clean it up and not just stare at it and experience it as a whole pile. It allows us to work through it a bit at a time and get a better understanding of what is in it and sort out if there may be learnings in there.

An example from my life comes from my mother. She used to talk about the gift of cancer. As a 4-time patient of various forms of the disease, I do look to her as a bit of an expert there. She would speak to patients and survivor groups about what cancer enabled her to do versus what it took from her. She spoke of the benefit of the disease bringing to the forefront what was important to her, what she learned about herself and her friends and family through her times in treatment. She looked at life differently because she had faced death. She didn’t deny it was hard, she just focused on what good came from it.

The other night on the phone I was talking with a friend who, as a survivor himself, was now watching his mother take on her own journey with cancer. A comment he made struck me, he said, “I’m amazed at how strong she is, I had no idea.”

It was such a beautiful comment and even as I write this it brings tears to my eyes. As a mother myself, I think we often down play our strength or it seems to be taken for granted. For this son to be able to experience his mother in a new and beautiful light is an incredible pony in the terrible shit that is this illness.

So as we move through our days, we know that some will be joyful and some will not and that is the way life is experienced. What we can do is create our focus point so that when the joyful times come we are present to enjoy every bit in that moment and know that although it wont last forever, it will come again.

As you face painful or uncertain times your focus is essential to move through them knowing that these times will not last forever either. I encourage you not to sit in the big pile of pain rather to begin to dig into it a little at a time and ask for help if it’s really tough. If necessary, bring in an entire excavation team so you are supported as you dig through it.

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Having experienced many piles in my own life, I have found that there is always something I learn from the tough times.  As I focus on my learning instead of the pain I find peace returns and I am able to move through the pile better.

As I write this we are facing unprecedented uncertain times. Even though I began this post before the preverbal shit hit the fan, it seemed to be good timing to publish it as I work hard in my own life to remain focused on the lessons and pray for this to pass. I am hearing from my community they are in this shit with me and if we all dig maybe we can fill a whole stable by the time it passes!

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Photo Credit: Markus Korenjak

 

An Unhappy Monk

While I don’t consider myself an enlightened  Buddhist, I do subscribe to many of the teachings of Buddhism. It seems to be such a no-nonsense, practical way to look at life usually and besides that, I’ve never seen an unhappy monk!

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Often times when I find myself in a state of uneasiness, I look to those who seem to have a process I might follow that will work for me in any given situation. This is where the principles of the Buddha’s teachings showed up for me.

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These philosophies and principles are based on the universal truth that nothing lasts forever.

I used to have a bit of a self-deprecating statement that I had an attachment disorder. Now, I’m not so sure that this is a bad thing, maybe it turns out it is a really good thing.

This does not mean that things, people and places are not important to me, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I absolutely love deeply and those who enter into my life and make any type of impact, regardless of the length of time experienced, are held in my heart for life.

What this does mean is that I allow the place, person or object to be what it is in each moment. Today they may be part of my everyday routine or with me for my morning coffee, tomorrow they may be a text message or video chat once a month or we reconnect at another time and location.

I may return to a place I once called home but I never experience it the same way. Change happens and people and places change, and if they don’t, I have. In this case to hold on to the expectation of what it used to be for me could cause a lot of disappointment.

This relates to the second Noble Truth that the origin of suffering is attachment. For me this does not relate to not being attached to the person or place, but to allow it’s place in my life to move with life itself.

For example, I will love my family eternally, that will surpass all constricts of time and space. I know this because 20+ years after my mother has died I still feel her love in different moments. I feel joy instead of sorrow because I have been able to release the need for the physical experience I used to have with her. I now am able to celebrate a more heartfelt experience of love washing over me as a butterfly flits by me while on a hike in the middle of any country I happen to be in.

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Because of this change in perspective or adapting to what is now and not suffering over what used to be that can’t be any more, I can truly celebrate the feeling. My mother’s love can reach me in places she never would have been with me. Those of you who knew my mother know she would never be on a cliff walk with me no matter how much she loved me!

Life is a constant state of evolution and these days change is happening quicker than ever before.  The more we cling to how things “used to be” or our expectations of how the “should” be, the more pain and suffering we cause ourselves. The more we adapt to how things are and find the celebration opportunities where we can, the more joy and peace we can have in our lives.

I encourage you to think about attachment in your life and how a new perspective might ease suffering, disappointment or sorrow for you and bring you more peace and joy.

In the end, we could all use a bit more peace and joy in our lives, couldn’t we?

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