Updated: Oct 22, 2019
Life is suffering. Well, thank God. Now it makes sense.
It is also happiness. But happiness and suffering are cyclical or wave-like, rather than our expectation that life *should* be happiness and then we get upset when suffering comes. Experiencing suffering is what makes happiness happy.
Meditation is not emptying the mind of thoughts. Meditation is identifying the thoughts and returning to the breath. So when you have a thought, no worries. Observe it and let it settle like a cloud in a sunset.
Take time to notice things. Maybe it’s because I’ve read eight books by Thich Nhat Hanh, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read something like, “When you’re brushing your teeth, pay attention. When you’re washing dishes, focus only on washing the dishes. When you are eating an orange, really eat that orange.” And actually, this does make you happy.
We are not our emotions. We’re not? As an Enneagram 4 this is big news. Turns out our minds actually have the ability—by practicing the observation of them—to override our emotions.
Be gentle with yourself. Because we are more than our emotions, we do not need to blame ourselves for having them. Which leads me to my next point…
Anger and envy are not good for you, but they’re also part of life. So when you experience them, start by awareness. You’ll work your way out—through, really—by naming them, over and over. And you don’t have to banish anger and envy. They need time to cook before they’re done.
Flight or fight is a thing, but not the way it once was. Current flight or fight “emergencies” like traffic and tense conversations are actually not emergencies. But because we are rarely in true life or death situations as our ancestors were, we think of them as such. Don’t feed the beast. You are okay.
Breathing fixes everything. And it may be one of the few things you can control in any situation. It’s a reset and release that no one can take away from you. So breathe deeply.
The best moment of your life is right now. Or at least it can be. Imagine if you thought this way. Imagine if you treated everything you do at any given moment of the day as the exact right thing you should be doing at that moment. Wow.
Now a little backstory. It’s pretty obvious that I’m on a bit of a spiritual quest—and that I read a ton. But these books aren’t the only books I’ve read in two months. (I highly recommend “The Abundance of Less: Lessons in Simple Living from Rural Japan,” Ellie Kemper’s “My Squirrel Days,” and “My Love Story,” Tina Turner’s latest autobiography). And books aren’t the only teachers in my spiritual quest. I’ve attended two different meditation series and recently participated in two events to motivate and manifest in 2019.
The first event is an annual, mimosa-fueled brunch with a few of my favorite ladies to reflect on the year past and publicly name what we want in the upcoming year. We giggle, lament, cry, and sigh over mansplaining, unnecessary stress, moving to a new place, the dream of moving to a new place, and simplifying our lives. It’s amazing to reflect on how much can change in a year. To think that “Wow, last year I was really frustrated by my career, and now I’m not at all.” Or vice versa. Sometimes my lovely lady friends say things that are so beautiful I just want to capture them like Instagram. I said to a friend last year, “Now you just need a marble-covered, rose gold embossed journal to write that in.” She then pulled that exact journal out of her bag.
The second event was targeted to creatives on how to achieve your goals by coach Tim Colman. A small group gathered in Tim’s home to meditate, share learnings, and create vision boards. In fact, “gather” is an apt word for the workshop. Tim’s space gathers inspiration: his paperbacks lovingly disheveled in one bookcase and his wife’s (the German side) hardbacks lined up on another. Old cameras are displayed on the mantle. Pine cones and tree branches gathered in a winter display on his desk. Engineer’s drafting tools hung from the kitchen walls. And perfectly spherical rocks, from a beach in Port Angeles, lined up on a counter. These artifacts from nature and wise minds added to the space and the thought process. There is wisdom in the past and in the outdoors. And when you sit with Tim and this wisdom, you will check in to your truth. At least I did.
So now we’re a month into it, friends. A month into this new year, new you, new gym, new whatever. It can be exhausting, can’t it? That’s why these books and gatherings have been so valuable to me. Yes, it’s important to try and do. But we can also just be. We should just be. It’s in this “be-ness” that we clue into working smarter, unleashing creativity, and being kinder. The suffering will always come. But if you can be with yourself—knowing that suffering will continue to come and go—then you are on your way to a gentler relationship with yourself and the world.
Here are the books:
1. No Mud, No Lotus: the Art of Transforming Suffering, by Nhất Hạnh
2. What The Buddha Taught: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life, by Koprnfield, Jack
3. 10% Happier, by Harris, Dan
4. Making Space, by Nhất Hạnh
5. Rebel Buddha, by Ponlop, Dzogchen
6. The Wisdom of No Escape, And the Path of Loving-kindness, by Chödrön, Pema
7. Do Your Om Thing, Bending Yoga Tradition to Fit your Modern Life by Pacheco, Rebecca
8. The Art of Communicating, by Nhất Hạnh
9. The Miracle of Mindfulness, by Nhất Hạnh
10. Perfect Breathing, Transform your Life One Breath at A Time, by Lee, Al
11. Taming the Tiger Within, Meditations on Transforming Difficult Emotions, by Nhất Hạnh
12. Anger, Wisdom for Cooling the Flames, by Nhất Hạnh
13. How to Love, by Nhất Hạnh
14. Mindfulness, by Langer, Ellen J.
15. The Experience of Insight, A Simple and Direct Guide to Buddhist Meditation, by Goldstein, Joseph
16. Start Where You Are, A Guide to Compassionate Living, by Chodrom, Pema
17. You Are Here, Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment, by Nhất Hạnh