In Case You Forgot: Let Me Remind You.

This morning, blessed by the visit of the breeze tiptoeing its way from the yawning shoreline, along with the light percussive rhythm of my alarm clock, slowly increasing in tempo and volume, I woke up.

For the first time in days, weeks, months, I woke up. Out of my literal and spiritual slumber. I woke. I didn’t turn off my alarms until the last possible second for the first time in months. I chose to rise.

I’ve spent weeks to months of attempting to navigate through a multitude of different situations, some troubling experiences, adjusting to changes in schedule and workload, and feeling at times, scatter-brained, confused, uncertain of what course of action to take next.

Finally, and miraculously, I arrive at today. Right here, right now. This moment.

Most people who know me relatively well believe me to be an eternal optimist, someone who truly believes in the power of positive thinking.

That said, we all have times in our lives when we struggle more heavily than others, not only with meeting all of our responsibilities, but also fitting in time to do all the little things we enjoy that keep us entertained, happy and at peace with where we’re at: physically, emotionally, perhaps intellectually, and spiritually. These past few months have been one of those times for me.

When I think about who I am as a person, I often tell myself that the seeds of worry and over-thinking are innate in me. I accept that, and I’ve spent the formative years of my life recognizing it, grappling with it, and learning how to change my patterns of thinking, or rather, just to sometimes STOP thinking, and just be.  Over the course of the past few years, I was able to really embrace being mindful, allowing time to meditate and be present, making a point to drop my worry and over-thinking tendencies, whenever I started to feel slightly overwhelmed. I was in control of my life. But, naturally, we can’t always be totally cool, calm, collected and in control of every aspect of our lives.

Lately, due to a combination of personal experiences and increased responsibilities, I’ve done the opposite of what I’ve always found most helpful in times like these: I’ve allowed myself to become consumed in my barrage of non-stop thought, not allowing myself time to slow down and to just simply be. I’ve been aware of falling into this pattern for the past few weeks or so, and I started setting little goals in my mind to help get out of my head and back into living in a more centered way. One of those things included to start waking up a few hours earlier, whether it’s to plan for work, to get a work out in, to just sit and take my time waking up and drinking my coffee, and collect my thoughts and get organized before starting the day.  This morning, I did just that.

 Somehow, the chill of the morning ocean breeze, seeming to signal what Southern California calls “Fall”, shook me awake and whispered something about a fresh perspective.

Thankfully, I was awake enough to hear it. 

Today, I reaffirmed a conscious choice for my life: no matter how much I am dealing with, personally or professionally, I am going to do my very best to allow myself the time to be centered in all that I do. 

For those of you who may be struggling with similar issues, in case you’ve forgotten your way as well, I’ll leave you with this quote, that speaks to the root of this issue in the most simplified and best way I know:

“The blue sky is always there, above the clouds.”-Rumi

 

-AK

Delete the Di$tr@cti0ns: Right Mindfulness (Post 7/8 Eight-fold path)

Post 7/8 in #eightweeksofmindfulness posts.

“With mindfulness, you can establish yourself in the present in order to touch the wonders of life that are available in that moment.”- Thich Nhat Hanh

How often do you find yourself frustrated or mentally drained in the course of the work day or week?
How often do you find yourself wishing for more moments of clarity, of joy?

I am willing to bet that most of us wouldn’t consciously turn down an opportunity to be happier or at peace on a daily, even moment to moment basis– the key word being consciously.

While most of us genuinely do want to be more happy, more at ease, we often turn down the opportunity to be, when it arises.

What I mean by this is that present moment is a gift which we can decide to appreciate, or to discard. Oftentimes, it is easy for one to become caught up in what may seem like daunting routines of work, school, and other endless priorities which create the illusion that there is no slowing down.

It is often at these times, when life seems full of nothing but complete chaos, that it is perhaps most imperative to just take maybe five minutes out of your day, to sit in silence, to clear your mind and just be. It may sound trivial, or like a cake-walk, but I see it as a challenge.

At least for myself, as a graduate student, juggling two jobs, trying to create art, I have this constant nagging bit of myself that yaps in the back of my mind to “be productive”. It is a challenge for me sometimes to turn that voice in my head off, and allow myself to just being. I trust that many others have a similar experience in the modern world we live in.

Imagine: five minutes, without a screen in front of your eyes, no scrolling through Facebook, instagram, twitter, whatever.

Just allow yourself to be excused from the distractions and sit with being.

Developing the habit of taking a few moments, regularly for yourself, for your own clarity, and your own peace, will allow you to greet your responsibilities with a renewed sense of calm, to engage in interactions with others in a much more inviting way.

Right Mindfulness is allowing yourself to be attentive to your mental state, and how you relate to the world around you. It is allowing yourself time and space. It is allowing yourself to access the abundant joy which exists here and now.

With this post, I invite you to go inward for however long your busy schedule allows, to bring about awareness in each moment, and to be full of joy that you are living it.

-A.K.

Go Deeper: Right Effort (Eight-fold Path)

Post 6/8 of #Eightweeksofmindfulness posts based on the Eight-fold path

Having just ended, or perhaps just begun a journey this evening, through the depths of heartbreak, loss, fear, doubt and also physical pain that comes along with suffering through the arduous journey of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, all the while, still sitting in silent solitude in my apartment, as I closed the back cover a memoir, in which the protagonist hoped her three month hike might also be a path leading towards her true self, a simple, two-word phrase came to my mind…

Go Deeper. It rang loud and clear in my head, permeating my silent moment. It’s come to me before, time and time again. And tonight, I wanted to sit with it.

Many times throughout this novel, Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild”, I found myself, within her story, not necessarily in the nature of all her experiences, but in our shared humanity, our shared suffering.

The being lost and the being found.

The being found that comes only from hurling yourself into the great unknown, allowing yourself to be displaced. For Strayed, it was isolating herself for months, to conquer thousands of miles of rugged terrain, and to wrestle with her grief, all the way from the Mojave Dessert in California to Portland, Oregon. For me, it has been number of experiences, thus far.

The first of these experiences was moving to Bordeaux, France in 2012, and all the many things I experienced there. How profoundly alone I had felt, and how much of that time spent in solitude in a foreign country that allowed me to really understand myself, as I was then, for the first time. It allowed me to deal with things I’d been locking up inside of myself, pushing them further out of sight for months and years, that were then almost forced to become front and center, the only option being to face them head-on, to conquer them, to release them, and finally, to heal.

Another instance was just this past August, uprooting my East Coast life, moving to Southern California, with only what few possessions I could fit in my little Subaru Impreza, and a friend, who, luckily, for me, at the last minute, decided to join me on my cross-country feat.

I’ve come to discover the only way of finding myself time and time again, is throwing myself into the unknown, or rather, where I am unknown, where I can come to find the nature of who I really am, and where I fit in among the vastness of the world.

To me, this is the essence of Right Effort. Perhaps we don’t always need to be in solitude for a prolonged period of time to make this sort of effort, but it certainly can help.

The essence of Right Effort is always, to turn inward, to Go Deeper… to explore that which is within you, to address your fears and faults and wounds and to begin to repair yourself, simply because you owe it to yourself.

When you come into the place of Right Effort, you come into the place of abandoning all unwholesome states ( five hindrances: sensual desire, ill-will, laziness, worry, doubt) which you have previously harbored, choosing to work towards preventing further unwholesome states which have not yet arisen, while you work towards cultivating wholesome states and maintaining those in your daily life and practice.

When I think of Right Effort, and what that means to me, I think of Going Deeper in all aspects of my being: It is my wish to meditate more deeply on my feelings and why certain feelings arise, to utilize this insight in my relationships with others. I wish to explore more deeply the nature of my thoughts, as well as go deeper in my writing, becoming less worried about being vulnerable and honest on the page. In general, I would like to challenge myself to Go Deeper in all matters of the heart: to feel fully, to express and share myself more fully with others, and essentially, to BE fully and unabashedly.

This is my challenge of Right Effort, for myself.

Feel free to be brave with me, by exploring and looking inward.


-A.K.

Right Livelihood (Brief post 5/8 on the Eight-fold path)

Post 5/8 in #8weeksofmindfulness posts (much delayed!)

“Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.” ~ Buddha.

The previous post hinged on Right Action, which is definitely closely linked with Right Livelihood. According to my own understanding, Right Livelihood relates more towards profession than towards all action.

In the traditional sense of Right Livelihood, the Buddha’s emphasis was on making a living in ways which are honest and free of harm towards other sentient beings.

Some professions which the Buddha believed one should abstain from are as follows:
a) Dealing in flesh as a butcher (b) Dealing in weapons and arms c) Dealing in slave trade and prostitution (d) Dealing in intoxicants or liquors and drugs.

While these may sound a bit dated, there is still obvious relevance.

However, the message of Right Livelihood seems to have a larger significance that goes above the industry or job category. How you treat your coworkers, how you treat the other individuals you come into contact with on a daily basis on the job, the integrity of your work, are all things you can control to create positive interactions and a positive work environment.

If we allow ourselves to simply pay attention and not become lost in the routine of the every day, to put care into our work, if we at least begin to begin to notice our actions, we can begin to become the versions of ourselves we long to be: the versions of ourselves we owe to each other.

-A.K.

YOUR ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN: ur new years resolution fb post

Right Action
Post 4/8 of #8weeksofmindfulness based on the Eight-fold path in Buddhism

With our world fast approaching the New Year in the hours to come, we will all be clutching our cell phones, laptops, tablets, fingertips poised for posting our statuses, tweets, or blog posts about our New Years Resolutions, how this one will be different, etc.

However different 2k15 may turn out to be, there is one thing that will inevitably remain the same: our continued connection to each other.

We will continue to be interdependent beings in 2015, whether we like it or not. We will still all continue to share this thing called human connection. We will share our stories and experiences with one another, and we will ultimately influence and impact each others lives, both directly and indirectly.

HAVING SAID THAT, Why not help to improve the quality of life for those around us?

While I don’t particularly believe in the significance of New Years resolutions, I do believe in goals: long-term, short-term, big and small. I constantly set little goals (and big goals) of not only things I would like to achieve, but also, things I would like to improve on physically, mentally/emotionally, spiritually.

If you are looking for some goals to discover a healthier, more positive version of yourself, or for a renewed outlook to start off the year with, a good place to start may be with examining your actions. Below are the five main aspects of Right Action from the eight-fold path the Buddha taught:

1) Respect life 2) Generosity 3) Avoid Physical misconduct 4) Loving speech and deep listening 5) Nourishment of your body

A little elaboration:

Focusing in on respecting all forms of life can allow us to appreciate the beauty and miracle that exists within all life forms. In this year we can remind ourselves to not take that for granted.

We can be generous with our presence and effort towards others. By doing so, we demonstrate genuine compassion for others. We care for others, and perhaps, in turn, are cared for. We are unselfish in our actions. We can choose to make the happiness of others a priority before our own.

In the physical misconduct category, the Buddha primarily taught of the dangers of sexual misconduct, which are issues of attachment and desire. I would venture further to include all physical misconduct, to any form of violence, physical harm towards another being.

Next, We can choose to offer loving speech and to listen deeply to the people in our lives in order to better understand them, their concerns and needs, because, sometimes, all we really need is to be heard, really heard.

Lastly, we can focus on nourishing our bodies. We can choose to make healthier choices to take better care of ourselves (whatever that may mean for you, specifically). Maybe, it’s to finally stop smoking, to eat more vegetables, or stop binge eating junk foods and learn to eat them in moderation.

The Buddha sums up Right Action in a small section of the Dhammapada:

“Watching his speech, well restrained in mind, let a man never commit wrong with his body. Let a man keep these three roads of action clear, and he will achieve the way which is taught by the wise.”

The moral to this story is simply that we are allowed to take baby steps to our self-improvement. We need not make some elaborate, extreme resolution of how we are going to become radically different in the next few hours.

We can simply make a continuous, positive effort to improve our world, by allowing mindfulness and compassion into our hearts, minds and extending this into our actions and our interactions with others.

With that, I would like to wish you all the very happiest of New Years!

Namaste ॐ

“The scent of flowers does not travel against the wind, nor that of sandalwood, or of Tagara and Mallika flowers; but the odor of good people travels even against the wind; A good man pervades every place.”
-The Buddha

-A.K.

“OH…FUUU–DGE…” on Right Speech (the eight-fold path)

Post 3/8 in #8weeksofmindfulness

First off, Merry Christmas Eve! I intended to have this up by last night to have you all ready to go for your family functions! Hopefully you will still find this enjoyable or of use.

As with most principles / practices in Buddhism, there is both an emphasis on renunciation as well as cultivation of certain patterns/habits (see previous post for reference).

The primary aspects of Right Speech the Buddha emphasized were as follows: abstinence from false speech, malicious speech, and abstinence from idle chatter.

When we allow ourselves to relinquish speech which is not promoting happiness and harmony among people, we are allowing ourselves to be aware of energy we are putting out, which generally increases positive interactions.

This awareness is imperative, always, but especially this time of year.

It can be difficult to reunite with family members, perhaps estranged, or otherwise distant. It is easy to make sarcastic remarks and to engage in hostile conversation, perhaps out of frustration, due to the high levels of stress associated with the Christmas season.

But I challenge you to take your time, to take a breath, to think before you speak, to ask your self: Is this compassionate? Is this necessary? Is this helpful?

I invite you to see if your interactions with family members can be better than ever this year, if you apply this awareness during your holiday visits. Maybe you will find renewed closeness, perhaps it will just make your holiday more bearable, if you add a little sweetness to your speech!

Give it a whirl and see for yourself ! =)

It may help you more than you know. I wanted to keep this brief, since it is the time to be enjoying with your loved ones.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

Namaste ॐ

-A.K.

Tis’ the Season for Setting the Intention (Right Intention Eight-fold path)

Let’s begin with a simple question: How often do you observe your thought patterns?

a. Often b. Occasionally  c. Never  d. WHAT DO YOU EVEN MEAN??

Whatever the answer, in the second part of my eight weeks of mindfulness posts, I want to focus in on Right Intention which is primarily centered on the qualities of our thoughts.

How important is this anyway?

In my humble opinion, it’s something we should choose to tune into if we really want happiness, peace, and all that jazz with ourselves and in our relationships with others. I’m willing to bet the majority of us don’t want to be miserable, though some of us are and it feels inevitable. There is always work to be done which can allow us to live happier, more fulfilling lives. I’d like to suggest that observing our thoughts and changing our thought patterns can really help us to help ourselves be more happy and at peace, with ourselves and the world.

        A Little Background

Right Intention is also oftentimes referred to as Right Thought.  There is a lovely little Buddha quote that I think nicely summarizes the importance of intention in our lives:

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.”-Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha)

Keeping this in mind, we know that from our intention, stems our actions and speech(parts of the eight-fold path which will follow this one). Our thoughts do indeed shape our world.  In the practice of Buddhism, there is significance placed both renunciation and cultivation: in this case, renunciation of unwholesome thoughts, habits, actions while cultivating wholesome thoughts, habits actions.

Right intention consists of dropping desire, cultivating the intention of good will and harmlessness. The importance of ridding ourselves of desire is not because desire is necessarily evil, but because it causes us to suffer. In this holiday season, what better practice than to cultivate good will, and to let go of desiring.

In Practice

If we allow ourselves to be free of desire, we allow ourselves to be happier. Of course, there are always going to be things that we want in life, whether they are material things or things we’d like to see in our relationships with others. This is not always a bad thing. We set goals and work towards the objects we ‘desire’. However, the desire I speak of is one that consists of wanting things in such a way that it disrupts your inner peace. It may cause you to have negative thoughts centered on the “WHY do I not have this or that when others do?” This is an unhealthy pattern. It may cause you to resent others who do (at least on the surface) have the things that you want. This is also a harmful way of thinking and separates us from others, rather than bringing us closer together in a way that we can appreciate and be there for one another.

Exercise: Practice contentment. When thoughts arise about needing that newest piece of technology, or comparing yourself or situation to others’, practice contentment. Let go of the desire that is causing your current dissatisfaction, and notice how wonderful everything truly is.

In regards to cultivating good will and harmlessness, this can simply come from noticing when a judgmental thought arises about another person, and choosing to realize that the two of you are one in the same, that that person is your equal, you are both on this journey of life, and you are both choosing to deal with things differently. You can drop the habit of thinking unkindly about others; you can cultivate the habit of thinking compassionate thoughts, wishing them well, even if you do not understand their motivation or intention, and perhaps, sending them the type of positive energy they need. If we cultivate compassion towards others, we will feel better than if we are harboring negative thoughts about them, and we will also perhaps cause them to be compassionate in return.

Surely changing our thought patterns can’t happen instantaneously; it is a process, but certainly if we become conscious of the quality of our thoughts, and what they are telling us about our inner state of being, as well as our attitudes towards others, if we become aware, where we haven’t been before, then we have the potential to change them up entirely.

Being that it is, after all, the season of peace on earth and good will towards men,

I myself, hereby set the intention to cultivate that good will, and invite you to do so as well.

 

Post 2 of 8 in 8 Weeks of Mindfulness of the Eight-fold Path.

-A.K.