What’s in Your Mirror?

Years ago, I had a website called the Magical Mirror Machine.  It was based on the premise that the world reflects you to yourself.  If you’re relaxed and content, you see the world as friendly, even beautiful.  You can get so caught up in wonder that you forget you even exist.  If you’re grumpy, the whole place is a mess, worthy of your complaints and condemnation.  Either way, what you’re seeing isn’t so much what’s “out there” as what’s going on inside you.

It’s really quite amazing how that works.  It’s the basis for all synchronicity, this mirror thing.  Once you get accustomed to looking at the world as mirror, it becomes a marvelous teacher.  In every moment, it stands ready to reflect your thoughts and attitude right back at you, giving you an opportunity to savor or correct.

I was reminded about that as I read through my Twitter stream today.  I subscribe to a variety of sites—breaking news, political commentary, one with adorable baby animals, a few with zen quotes, some on positive psychology.  Today’s stream happened to be laden with comments generated by this week’s tragic school shooting and most of them were brimming with anger.

I was getting angry myself, just reading them.  Then this tweet from Ram Dass popped up:  “When I start to get angry, I see my predicament and how I’m getting caught in expectations and righteousness. Learning to give up anger has been a continuous process.”

Oh!  There’s that mirror, come to show me where I am and remind me who I want to be.  It was a big help to me.  It let me get back into my Observer mode, reading to see what others were concerned about, taking the temperature, so to speak, of my social environment in an objective kind of way.  I can be more helpful to others when I understand what’s going on with them.  I can empathize and relate to them.  Then I can gently offer a slightly broader view that lifts them from the discomfort of a too-narrow focus.

The very next Tweet I read, from @hackspiritorg (a great site, which I heartily recommend if you’re a Twitterer) confirmed my experience:  “No thought has any power.  You have power.  And when you identify and believe in the thought you give your power to the thought.”

That reminder packed some wallop for me.  It’s one of those statements you can gloss over, thinking you already know what it’s telling you.  But I’ve learned that four of the most dangerous words in the English language are “I already know that.”  And the message came at exactly the right time.  (The mirror is like that.)  It underscored the importance of paying attention to what thoughts I’m entertaining—which reminds me of another saying I heard once on the topic:  “You can’t stop a thought from knocking at your door, but you don’t have to entertain it.”

I was centered then, awake and relaxed, and I went back to my reading.  Haha!  The very next one, from @InstantDharma, said “If you become a little alert you will find love, light, and laughter everywhere—Osho.”

That’s because, when you’re truly alert and centered, the mirror shows you your true self.

So shake yourself alert, and let the mirror remind you what a loving, light-filled being you are.  “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle,” a Buddhist proverb says.  “Happiness never ceases by being shared.”

Photo by Kellpics at Pixabay.com
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Awareness in Fuzzy Bodies

Awareness

I was at the creek the other day, a stream whose width and depth varies with the amount of rainfall that works its way down from the hills.  Rain has been scare here for a bit, and except in its deepest hollows and grooves, the creek was nearly dry.  I like it when that happens.  I can walk on the exposed slabs of shale out to center of its bed for a whole different view of the surroundings than I usually have.

Because of the dry weather, leaves have already been tumbling down and they blanketed the shale and floated in the water, their rusts and golds shining like coins.  I had to pick my way carefully to the center, watching where I stepped.  When I reached my destination, I stopped and looked around, enjoying the view and breathing in the fragrance of the autumn air.  Then, when I looked down again to take another step, I laughed in delight to discover a white, fuzzy caterpillar on one of the rocks.  What a long journey he had made to arrive there!

He seemed in no hurry.  He had paused at the rock’s edge and, like me, seemed to be taking in the view.

That’s what we’re here for, I thought.  Just that.  To take in the view.

If you let the events of the world be your focus, the view can look frightening.  We’re dealing with so much chaos on so many fronts right now.   I imagine the sudden heap of autumn leaves can look pretty chaotic to a caterpillar, too.  But here was this little one, peering at it all from his perch on the rock, seeing it from a higher point of view.  And I must say, he seemed quite at peace with it all, even though he was in the middle of a creek bed where water rushed in rivulets between the rocks and fallen leaves three times larger than he was challenged his path.

I think he was a teacher, a wise, enlightened being in caterpillar form.  Fear was alien to him.  From his point of view, everything was simply phenomena.  He didn’t label it good or bad, safe or dangerous, kind or cruel.  He didn’t tell himself stories about it, or try to figure out if he deserved it or not.  He simply took in the view and traveled on.  He was nothing but pure awareness in a fuzzy body, and he knew it.

We’re not our bodies, or our thoughts, or our feelings.  Those are just phenomena, too—things that we perceive.  We’re much larger than that.  We’re more spacious and free.  We’re the awareness itself, in fuzzy bodies, come for the joy of taking in the view, the kaleidoscopic dance of sacred energy.  No matter what the view is.  No matter how chaotic the moment may seem.

That’s what the caterpillar told me.  Take in the view, and travel on.

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The Wisdom of Engaging with the World

Engaging with Life

I’m one of those people who spends a significant number of hours each week surfing the web. Primarily, it’s my curiosity that drives me. I like to explore ideas, spot trends, and just in general see what’ going on out there.

This week my travels brought me face-to-face with more insanity than usual. By week’s end, I concluded that it’s an absolute marvel that the world functions at all.

But it brought insights, too. And it took me back a few decades to the wisdom of zen philosopher Alan Watts. I first encountered his work when I was living in San Francisco during the infamous “Summer of Love,” the cresting of the so-called Hippie era. Contrary to popular conceptions of the time, many of the people who gathered there that summer were young and ardent intellectuals searching for new solutions for society’s ills.

On Sunday nights, the local radio station carried a program called “The Transcendental, Multi-Lingual Two-Ton Mustard Seed,” which featured in-depth conversations with people like poet Alan Ginsberg and philosopher Alan Watts. Watts’ philosophy intrigued me. It seemed a natural extension of the ideas of Emerson and Thoreau that had captured my mind the previous autumn. I bought a few of his books and read them while I sat on a platform of a light house in San Francisco Bay.

Now here I was, encountering him again. Just in time. He rescued me from a slide into despair over the sheer madness I was seeing unfold in the world.

I had a partial grasp on understanding the conflict and the willingness to latch onto any passing idea that promised safety from chaos. Jordan Peterson had explained that people form and use their beliefs as a way of protecting themselves from the unknown, which appears to them as a potential threat. The more frightened they are, the more overwhelming the world seems, the tighter their hold on their beliefs. So we end up in imprisoning beliefs that set us at odds with those whose beliefs differ from our own.

But Watts modafinil200mg.net went deeper. In his book The Wisdom of Insecurity, he says this:

“To put it still more plainly: the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath. A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet. We look for this security by fortifying and enclosing ourselves in innumerable ways. . . These defenses lead to divisions between us, and so to more insecurity demanding more defenses.”

The answer is to keep breathing, to recognize that life is an endless, every-changing flow. If you try to put running water in a bucket, he says, you won’t succeed because the bucket traps it and it can no longer run. And you can’t encase life in a belief system either. Because life is an infinite flow. The best you can do is to engage with life fully, to be fully present in this very Now, which is all there really is.

That’s easier said than done, of course. Our minds are chattering monkeys. But you can practice and get better at it and stay present for longer and longer periods of time. And when you do, you get glimpses of how exquisite it all is, and how much you truly are one with it.

I heard a story once where a child asked her grandmother, “Is everyone like this?” The grandmother asked her what she meant. And the child replied, “So much bigger on the inside than on the outside.”

Qigong master Chunyi Lin leads students in a meditation where the key phrase is, “I am in the Universe; the Universe is in me.” Practice being fully present in the Now, and the inside and outside become one, as the two sides of a coin.

You don’t have to believe it. It’s not a matter of belief. Just be the river, and let life flow on.

 

 

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Mindfulness Practice: Your Point of Power

Mindfulness

Given the chaos of our times, all of us suffer, on some level, an anxiety about what might happen next.  Where will the next threat come from?  What’s coming that will impact my family, my livelihood, my security and peace?  So today I wanted to talk with you about some ways you can maintain your sense of balance and equanimity by returning to your personal point of power. The key is to learn to learn the knack of mindfulness, or living in the Now.

Of all the moments you have ever lived or ever will, the present one is the one that holds all the gifts–this very moment, right now.

Now–and only now–holds the miracle of your beating heart, the power to direct your attention, the power to experience the richness your senses provide.  Now is when you feel.  Only now holds the power to notice, to imagine and to choose. Now is the only moment in which you can act.

Because now is the moment where your spirit intersects your body and where consciousness infuses your mind, now is you point of power.

Freedom from Anxiety

When you’re wholly focused on what’s happening in this instant, allowing yourself to accept whatever it offers, you place yourself in a position where you can enjoy its multiple layers of dazzling richness.   Your feelings of worry and anxiety dissolve, because both are based in fears focused on an imagined event in a non-existent future moment, not on what’s happening right here and now.

Even if the present moment holds a crisis, by bringing your attention fully to it you center yourself, allowing you access the full range of your inner resources.

The mind simply can’t ride two trains of thought at the same time.  Bring it back to the present and you will be in the only place where it’s possible to create the decisions and actions to move you toward an outcome you prefer.

In his Introduction to his book The Power of Now, spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle gives this advice:

“Realize that the present moment is all you ever have.  Make the Now the primary focus of your life.  Whereas before you dwelt in time and paid brief visits to the Now, have your dwelling place in the Now and pay brief visits to past and future when buy generic klonopin online required to deal with the practical aspects of your life situation.  Always say ‘yes’ to the present moment. . . Say ‘yes’ to life—and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.”

Practice Makes Perfect

Because we’re creatures of habit, learning to be mindful of the present–and to return to it when our thoughts and emotions carry us off down their accustomed paths–takes a little practice. Those familiar paths, even when they’re unpleasant, are built right into the neural pathways in our brains.  The more you practice, the more you aid your brain in building new pathways, ones that lead buy augmentin online usa you to the here and now.

The peace and freedom of being in the present can take a little getting used to.  Compared to all the intensity that negative fantasies generate, it’s easy to feel disoriented in the present.  We’re not sure what to do with it, and rather than stay here and explore, we let familiar habits draw us away.  But its openness to the present, a willingness to explore it, that brings us freedom and peace, allowing us to experience the ultimate truth of our own being.

The Now is not some static place where everything stops. It has endless depth and breadth and motion.  Attend to it and you experience its kaleidoscopic, ever-changing nature—and the nature of the Grand Awareness, which, at your core, you are.

Mindfulness Tips

One interesting way to anchor yourself in the present is to tell yourself in words what you are doing:  “This is me, reading about my point of power,” or “This is me, stretching.”  It’s a helpful practice to play with.

Your senses are always bringing you information about the present.  You can practice directing your attention to the sounds you can hear, to what your skin is feeling, to how the light is casting shadows, to what fragrances are in the air.

You can practice paying attention to your breathing, focusing on the movement of your stomach and lungs, or on the changing temperature inside the tip of your nose as air flows in and out.

You can find more detailed information on practices that will bring you into the present in my article “Mindfulness by the Minute.”   Or you may  enjoy practicing with one of the brief, helpful videos provided at Instant Mindfulness. 

If you’ll weave increasing visits to the Now throughout your day, it won’t take you long to appreciate the clarity of mind they bring and the enhanced abilities they provide to focus on whatever task you choose to do and to make more enlightened decisions.

The present truly is your point of power.  Dip into it often.  It will let you make the most of life and bring you gifts of great awareness, peace, freedom and effective action.

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The Practical Wisdom of Prudence

PrudenceSome time back, I decided to give all my inner voices names.  I thought that would make my dialogues with them more intimate.  There’s the brave one, Sally Forth, for instance, who encourages me when my confidence is drooping or I’m feeling shy.  And there’s May Bull with her soft, deep drawl, who coaxes me on when I’m tired or the going gets rough.  “Come on, honey,” she’ll say.  “Just a little more.  You can do it.”

For the most part, they’re a good bunch, valued players on my team.

The only spoilsport in the bunch was Prudence.  She’s the strict one who’s always pulling back the reins on my free spirit.

For a long time, I thought of Prudence as “the nag.”  She watches my spending like some green-shaded accountant.  If I reach for a second piece of chocolate cake, she’ll cluck.  She believes in regular bedtimes and exercise, and being prompt.  And any time I’m facing some moral dilemma or mulling some point of etiquette, she’s right there with her two cents in hand.

It took me a long time to appreciate her worth.  It’s something you have to grow into.  But now that I see the genuine value and practical wisdom of Prudence, I’ve crowned her Chief of Staff.

Let me tell you why – because you have an inner Prudence, too, whether you’ve named her or not.

What Prudence Does

Prudence brings with her quite a heritage.  Her name, according to Wikipedia, “comes from Old French prudence (14th century), from Latin prudentia (foresight, sagacity). “    Prudence is considered one of the four Cardinal Virtues of antiquity.   The other three are Justice,  Temperance (or Self-Control),  and Fortitude (or Courage).   Among them, she is foremost, because her knowledge is necessary to direct the remaining three.

Despite her grand history, her name has gone out of fashion these days.  Mostly we refer to her now as “Practical Wisdom.”   But personally, I don’t think that has the same ring.

If you took the VIA Character Strength Survey,  you would see Prudence defined as “caution, prudence, and discretion,” and if you have this personal strength in good supply, the Survey report would tell you that “You are a careful person, and your choices are consistently prudent ones. You do not say or do things that you might later regret.”

But while that’s a neat little overview, it doesn’t really tell you about Prudence’s worth.  She does so much more for you than that.

Prudence upholds your true values.  She’s your inner moral compass, “that still, small voice” that urges you to seek for and choose the higher path.

Prudence believes in goodness, both as a means and an end.  She asks you to imagine the best possible outcome in every situation and then to move toward it in the most effective way for the benefit of all concerned.

She challenges you to listen both to your heart and to your head.  She asks you to look at both the big picture and at the details involved.

In other words, Prudence requires you to be mindful, to thoughtfully consider both your actions and their potential consequences in terms of what you genuinely value.  Then she expects you to implement them with courage, and strength, and efficiency.  She helps you live from a place of true authenticity.

“Are you doing your best?” she asks.  “Is this who you want to be?”

It takes learning and experience for her voice to mature.  You can cultivate it by paying attention to the wisdom and errors that you see others using in the world around you, and in movies and literature.  She takes on more authority as you go through your own life experiences and learn from your own triumphs and mistakes.

In time, you learn to listen to her counsel a kind of reverence.  Instead of seeing her as a nagging shrew, you learn to turn to her and trust her when you need to be wise.  And in the end you come to appreciate why, since time immemorial, Prudence is considered the mother from which all the other virtues spring.

*            *             *

This article is one in a continuing series on positive psychology’s 24 character strengths.  To find the others, go to our Article Index and scroll down to, “Strengths, Individual.”

If you found this article of value, passing it on would be a prudent thing to do.  Just click a button.

Illustration by Cieleke at stock.xchng
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