Don’t Take Things So Personally

I know what THAT look means. What is it? Is it my tatts you’re disapproving of? Is it my piercings? My wild hair? My colorful outfit? Geese. Why do people have to be so judgemental? I mean, here I am having lunch, minding my own business, and this dude has the gall to stare at me like THAT?! Who does he think he is? Does he have nothing better to do? Is my alternative appearance so displeasing? People are such haters.

Uh-oh. Crap. Now he’s coming over here. Great. Here we go.

“Excuse me, would you mind closing the shade right next to you? The glare is quite something over where I’m sitting.”
“Uh. Sure.”
“Thanks so much, I really appreciate it. My eyes thank you, they’ve been stuck in squint mode ever since I sat down.”

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Will Meditation Change My Life?

Spurred by the feature article in the current May 2017 edition of Lion’s Roar magazine, entitled How to Meditate Like the Buddha, which highlights eleven leading Buddhist teachers answers to common questions, I thought I would try my hand at answering one of the questions that were posed. Here goes:

Q: Will Meditating Change My Life?

A: (in my own words)

Yes. And no. (Classic Zen response, right?)

In the sense that meditation has the capacity to open new mental pathways, expand our perspective, and deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us, yes, meditation has the very real potential to change our lives in a variety of beneficial ways. To be clear, though, it will only change our lives to the degree in which we actively, diligently, and appropriately practice it.

However, meditation will not change anything in the Being Human department. We will continue to interface with everything related to our human manifestation, regardless of how much cushion time we log: aging, illness, death, sorrow, loss, anger, standing in line FOREVER at the grocery store, tax season, paying bills, challenging co-workers, world politics, and so on.

While the physical happenings around us won’t change, what CAN change is our relationship to them – our inner experience and attitude, the way in which we interact mentally and emotionally with those physical happenings. Developing a meditation practice allows us to create spaciousness, stillness, and quietude in the otherwise extremely full, cluttered, and chaotic atmosphere of our mind’s landscape. And from this creation of space, we have the opportunity to respond with more ease, understanding, and compassion in our everyday lives – which changes everything.

Flight Travel

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Part of me has always figured I’d make a good flight attendant. It’s the part of me that has to tuck her head in-between her knees for the 20 minutes prior to landing that has reservations. But other than the debilitating wave of vertigo and nausea that strikes me upon descent I’d be a shoe-in.

I love flying and I love people. It’s not that I love the flying itself. I love the flying experience. And it’s not so much that I love people individually but more that I love the experience of people.

As I’ve met only 1 or 2 others who don’t detest participating in metal-winged travel, I’d take great pride in being the flight attendant to help shift the collective pool of shared consciousness. The way I see it, we’ve been programmed to hate flying. And our hate spreads like the plague infecting everyone in our wake, thereby perpetuating and strengthening our cultural distaste.

The super good news is that hate isn’t the only thing that spreads. Positivity spreads, too. With my brass wings pin glinting in unison with my smile I’d win over one sour-puss traveler at a time, convincing them that enjoying the flight far exceeds loathing it, in the quality-of-life department.

As I made my way through the cabin handing out tiny, scratchy pillows, tiny plastic cups filled with 80% ice and 20% ginger ale, and tiny packets of peanuts, I’d throw in my cheery disposition free of charge, slyly coaxing others to rewrite a new internal story about what it means to partake in the awesomeness of flight travel.

P.S This post and yesterday’s post I borrowed from my writer’s facebook page, but many of my FB posts don’t travel here to my blog. If you’re interested in reading my daily musings please check out my page: https://www.facebook.com/InMindfulMotion/

Perspective

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It’s funny how wildly different one person’s idea of a bad day can be from another’s. And by “funny” I mean tragic.

This morning I read a short travel story entitled: The Flight from Hell, amid a collection in the book I’m currently reading. It would take a pile of harrowing and painful occurrences for me to even consider branding a travel experience with that honorific stamp. I’m pretty sure those hanging oxygen bags said to drop down in the event the cabin loses air pressure would need to be deployed. It might even take an unscheduled water landing for me to start pondering the merits of later telling my friends and family that I had, in fact, had the “flight from hell.”

I can only assume that the fellow who penned the story had lived a charmed life before his fateful trip from Jamaica to L.A. And perhaps his perspective had been so incredibly skewed by having never encountered real suffering that he simply had no frame of reference. I kept waiting for the hellish part to present itself. Then the story ended, leaving me still waiting. His idea of a “flight from hell” was basically the equivalent of a minor paper cut.

I’m hoping that upon discovering that his travel story is sandwiched in-between accounts of other writers having been ping-ponged over middle-eastern borders and arrested promptly in each new country, swarmed by army ants and hand-sized tarantulas falling from the ceiling, stranded at sea off the Java coast surrounded by vomit, and rafting down a river full of sewage he came to realize that his “flight from hell”, which literally amounted to sitting on the tarmac for 90 minutes at LAX and then having to wait 10 minutes for his luggage to arrive, sorta paled in comparison.

The Shift of Perspective

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Snapshots

Two ears. A nose. A forehead. Two feet.
Could be almost anyone right?
What if I said: Buddhist?
How does that change the image
developing in your mind’s eye?
Or, what if I said: Drummer?
Or: Nanny?
Did I mention she has long hair?

Switching.
Two ears. A nose. A forehead. Two feet.
Hospice patient.
Beloved grandmother, close with her family.
Sharp as a tack.
Who do you envision now?

Switching.
Two ears. A nose. A forehead. Two feet.
Super into screwdrivers (the tool, not the drink)
Enthralled with construction machinery
but off-put by vacuum cleaners.
Did I mention he was 1 1/2 years old?

Switching.
Two ears. A nose. A forehead. Two feet.
And two more feet.
Fuzzy.
Loves romping around at night and catching mice.

The more info we receive
the clearer our understanding can become,
until there is no more data left to collect.
And then,
we need to empty ourselves
back out again
of everything we think we know
about someone.

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Sometimes That Happens

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If I had a slogan or a message I’d like to pass along to future generations to keep in mind it would be this: Sometimes that happens.

It can serve in many practical functions. It’s a great way to respond to children about all sorts of things:

  • Little Billy breaks his favorite toy – “Oh darn, sometimes that happens.”
  • Little Sally complains about eating her broccoli – “I know it’s not your favorite, sometimes that happens.”
  • Little Frank falls down and skins his knee – “Ouch, sometimes that happens.”

It’s a great way to respond to our own inner and outer environments, or other adults, as well:

  • You or someone you know has a crappy day – “Sometimes that happens.”
  • You say to yourself: Gosh I feel sooo lousy today – “Sometimes that happens.”
  • The roads are super icy and challenging to drive on – “Sometimes that happens.”
  • The lady in front of you in line at the grocery store is taking FOREVER! – “Sometimes that happens.”
  • The dude in the car behind you is honking at you for stopping in the middle of the street because he doesn’t see that you’ve done so to let a pedestrian cross in front of you – “Sometimes that happens.”

It’s a widely adaptable phrase.  One to carry with us in our pockets on the go.  And we don’t have to necessarily say it out loud even.  We can say it in our minds, in our hearts, and in the our actions that follow.  We say it with love, care, and a deep sense of connection and understanding.  We say it as a way to acknowledge, embrace, and let go.

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Perspective

On a popular in town hike on Mount Sentinel overlooking Missoula, Montana

It’s easy to get stuck in ourselves.  To internally ruminate and spin and worry and spin some more – and then worry some more.  One of the fruits of developing a daily mindfulness practice is the widening of perspective.  Chances are if we’re unable to move through a particular challenge or situation our perspective has become very small.

In my experience it can be helpful to physically change one’s vantage point in order to help gain perspective and unstick ourselves from being caught in our own unharmonious cycles of thought.  It can be something as simple as looking up.  It may seem trivial but think about how often you look up during the day.  How often do we notice ceilings, the roofs of houses and buildings, tree tops, the sky?  Our field of vision is oftentimes directed straight ahead or down.  The practice of looking up throughout the day helps us to get out of our own head space and expand our viewpoint.

We can also put in a little leg work and go for a walk around the neighborhood or on a hike.  Spending time outside, in nature, or around bodies of water also works great to open up perspective.  Oftentimes we need to cultivate the art of getting out of our own way in order to begin a transformation process.  The use of physical movement and/or nature involves this process inherently.

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