Make It a Good Day

August 19, 2010

As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out of present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care and love – even the most simple action.  ~Eckhart Tolle

Everyday, think as you wake up: Today I am fortunate to have woken up. I am alive. I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself to expand my heart out to others for the benefit of all beings.  ~His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama

While we have almost no control over external events and conditions, our happiness is largely within our control. “Hah!” you say. And I have said the same. But I do believe that dropping our ego identification as much as possible, waking gratefully, and paying attention to the present moment can radically alter our days.  

On good days, I work, I play creatively, and I interact mindfully with others. Mostly, on those days, I can act to make it a good day. I’ve learned that if I pay attention to the nourishing things, instead of despairing over the time-wasters and bad habits, the good things increase.  While I don’t buy any of that Secret stuff about the laws of attraction, it’s just common sense that where we put our attention profoundly affects our lives. 

Tolle makes it sound simple, but the connection between intention and action can sometimes be tenuous for me. I try to remember what Annie Dillard said: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

May we begin each day in gratitude and aspire to act out of present-moment awareness, feeling the flow of life, making it a good day.

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The Myth of Multitasking

October 25, 2009

To do two things at once is to do neither. ~Publilius Syrus

As I read Patti Digh’s Life is a Verb, try syncing my ipod once again (still can’t figure out what’s wrong with it), and check my Email, I run across today’s quote (p. 186 in Digh’s book) and am reminded that I often say that multitasking is a myth. Splitting our attention among tasks likely means that we are not fully present for any of them. But even if we are, it means that our energy and time leaks away during the shifts in our attention.

Edward Hallowell, in his book, Crazy Busy, says, “It is fine to believe that multitasking is a skill necessary in the modern world, but to believe it is an equivalent substitute for single-minded focus on one task is incorrect. It may be convenient or necessary to multitask…however, you will not be doing any of these tasks as effectively as you would if you were doing them one at a time.” Hah–now I have Crazy Busy perched on top of Life is A Verb, and I am blogging in addition to the rest…how easy it is to practice this way of living!

I am putting down Crazy Busy. I am unplugging my ipod to troubleshoot another day. I am closing out my blog entry. Now, I will sit back in my reading chair and finish Life is a Verb like the good unitasker I aspire to be.


Soul Time

October 24, 2009

maple leaves
This is one of the best daily meditations. Sit and allow action directives to come from the Greater Intelligence and bring them into your own lives. To maintain your own inner health, you need to become stewards of your own time.

While you have to work and earn a living and need to interact with the engine that drives commodity time, don’t take up your residence in that pressure tank.

Your home and soul time is organic, regulated by heartbeat, breath, sun, moon, the seasons, and the tides.~Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi, “Take This to Heart”(Graduation Address at the Naropa University, May 8, 2004), in Living the Questions: Essays Inspired by the Work and Life of Parker J. Palmer (Sam M. Intrator, ed.)

How many of us are even aware of our heartbeats, our breath, the sun, moon, seasons and tides? This morning I am feasting my eyes on the brilliant gold-orange maple outside my window, struck by sun rays, aflame. Sometimes these things just rise up and demand our attention. But I want to notice even the subtle shifts. To learn to be a steward of soul time. How about you?


Routine

August 24, 2009

That is the crux of what makes habits difficult to change: They are not so much a function of your attitudes, preferences, and beliefs, but instead they tend to be cued pretty directly by the environment you are in. ~Wendy Wood, cognitive psychologist at Duke University, in Rabiya S. Tuma’s “How to Take Control of Your Habits,” Yoga+ Joyful Living, Jan-Feb. 2008.

Taking control of habits is a recurring theme for me (Challenge to Myself), so I am always alert to new ways to think about establishing better habits, particularly around eating and exercise.

This weekend I was traveling, and so found myself eating out, choosing junk food, not exercising, and sleeping too much when I got home. This occurs more often than I would like, and I have said for a while now that I need to establish more of a routine so that I don’t find myself having to make decisions on the fly when I am tired, hungry, stressed, or otherwise vulnerable.

Habits are useful ways of preserving energy. Tuma writes, “Investigators have found that constant vigilance or attention to our goals, and the need to repeatedly inhibit ingrained responses to the cues around us, can be exhausting.”

Tactics that work to build new habits, according to Tuma, include changing the context (I’ve stopped driving by the DQ on my way home!), keeping goals realistic, and paying attention. Creating a new situation (for example, exercising regularly with a friend) and linking two activities together can also help. “After you brush your teeth, head straight for the meditation cushion. After a few weeks of this, the very act of brushing your teeth will prime you for sitting.”

Now I understand better why I have been craving more routine in my life. It is exhausting having to make conscious choices too much of the time. I have started attending yoga twice a week on my way home from work, so that is definitely a start. I think I will make a list of a few more healthy habits I can build in, using some of the tactics recommended in this article.

How do you stay on track with healthy habits?


Not Knowing

March 9, 2009

Eventually we realize that not knowing what to do is just as real and just as useful as knowing what to do. Not knowing stops us from taking false directions. Not knowing what to do, we start to pay real attention…If you think you know where you are, you stop looking. ~David Whyte, The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship

Ah, here’s the theme of living the questions again! But it’s this line that strikes me today: “Not knowing what to do, we start to pay real attention.” Jose Ortega y Gassett said, “Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.”

To what are we paying attention…as individuals, as groups, as a nation, as a world? Have we stopped looking because we think we know where we are? I hope not. We need unknowing in order to come up with new, creative solutions for old and growing problems–global warming, economic collapse, the shameful disparity of wealth and health and education in this world.

Einstein observed, “Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem–in my opinion–to characterize our age.” We need to stop taking false directions and sit with unknowing. Otherwise there will be no space in which to welcome creative solutions. He also warned us: “Without changing our patterns of thought, we will not be able to solve the problems we created with our current patterns of thought.” I believe changing our patterns of thought requires spending some time in unknowing. What do you think?


Loving the World

January 9, 2009

There is only one heroism in the world: to see the world as it is, and to love it. ~Romaine Rolland

Acceptance is coming up for me again today. When I can see the world as it is, and can also see how it could be so much better, how do I accept what I can’t change, change what I can, and have the wisdom to know the difference? I believe it takes intention and attention.

That old serenity prayer really says it well! It’s a good way to remember my intentions. I want to accept the world just as it is, and still love it (like Richard Nixon, maybe–we luv you, cuz you need it*). I want to discern the places where I can make it better, and to have the courage to foster change. As Donna said in the comments to another post, “Sure, the world is perfect as it is–but it could be better.” I just love that!

So I want to turn my attention to the things I can change, the places where I can make a difference, and stop spinning my wheels in futile endeavors. I want to keep my eyes open to the truth of the world, and at the same time, open my heart to it as well.

How do you do this?

*from Steve Miller Number 5


Shared Prosperity

October 15, 2008

As long as our civilization is essentially one of property, of fences, of exclusiveness, it will be mocked by delusions. Our riches will leave us sick; there will be bitterness in our laughter; and our wine will burn our mouth. Only that good profits, which we can taste with all doors open, and which serves all men. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

In one of the richest countries in the world, it is shameful that so many Americans live in poverty. The Census Bureau reported 37.3 million (7.6 million families) below the poverty level in 2007, and 45.7 million without health insurance, including 8.1 million uninsured children. What can we do? The Economic Policy Institute has A Plan to Revive the American Economy.

The Plan points to a generation of mistaken economic policies, resulting in these statistics: “Since 1973, income for the top one-tenth of 1% of families has grown by 350%. The top 1% of families now takes 23% of the nation’s income, the highest share since just before the Great Depression. Today, top corporate executives earn 275 times as much as the average worker, compared with only 27 times in 1973.”

Take a look at the Plan, the overview of EPI’s Agenda for Shared Prosperity, and/or this video introduction:

Then think about what you can do.