Month: December 2014

Keep doing the good things

Keep doing the good things

I really tire of the endless dribble regarding New Year’s resolutions, and everyone making such a big deal over the year changing from 2014 to 2015. Sure it is a great excuse to drink yourself into a coma, or do some other mindless activity, but give me a break. Many people feel compelled to decide to make radical changes, and more power to you, but beware these things often go unfulfilled. Let’s take someone who doesn’t exercise regularly and then decides I am going to workout everyday and become physically fit. This will probably last about a week or two and then the person falls back into their old habits, and is now donating to the gym where they bought their membership. If it takes a new year to get you motivated then so be it, but the fact that it will be 2015 doesn’t really instill any resolve in you or will it make much of a difference.

I contend that you must keep doing the good things you have started and if possible do more of them. So if you already exercise regularly then increase the intensity or variety. If you have been working on quitting a bad habit or two, then keep it up. If you are meditating every couple of days, then build on that and do it every morning. If you are generally positive and encouraging to others, then try to be that way all the time. Think of the impact you will have when every day you stay positive during good and bad times, and you complement and encourage those around you instead of criticize. How will you feel about yourself? What will the people you live with and work with think?

It is much easier to exploit some of your good behaviors than to create brand new patterns. I’m not saying you shouldn’t choose to set a new course in your life, but don’t let the start of a new year be the incentive, do it because it makes sense and you have the resolve to stick with it. Take advantage of the good things you do, and do more of them, after all they are already behaviors that can be enhanced and with much less effort. Before you know it, all those good things you are doing are crowding out the not so positive behaviors and the world will seem like a better place. I will end this post with the following quote by Aristotle:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  Aristotle

Happy New Year and keep doing the good things.

The Power of Zazen

In Zen Buddhism zazen means seated meditation. Without boring you to death zazen meditation is done with the eyes open and sitting in full lotus, half lotus, Burmese (legs crossed with ankles in front), or kneeling. I woke early today after somehow getting myself all worked up over my current living situation, full of anger, I decided to just getup, it was around 3:00 a.m., a couple hours earlier than usual. I was thinking about why I was so angry and feeling more upset with myself for losing control of my emotions. Now if this would have been the first time in a while it might be understandable, but this was the third time in as many days that I just exploded. I walked into my office and sat down, started up Pandora and listened to the yoga station, and began to meditate. It took me some time before I was beyond an angry state, and then other things came into my head, these thoughts lingered a while, and finally after about 20 minutes I was feeling better, and I had no thoughts. Sometimes I try to drown out other thoughts with affirmations or quotes. Here are a couple I used this morning:

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” Lao Tzu

“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” Bruce Lee

I repeat the Lao Tzu quote frequently during meditation, but for some reason the Bruce Lee quote was also meaningful today.

Regarding zazen itself, here is a good quote from one of the Zen Masters.


It appears that my recent behavior indicates I am not as diligent with my zazen practice as I should be, and in my case it may be time to make it a twice a day habit. The power of zazen is that it can help you control your unhealthy emotions, and lead you to a calmer state of mind. There are many reasons to meditate, but if you are anxious, stressed out, angry, burning the candle at both ends, consider zazen as the way forward.



Holiday Excesses

Holiday Excesses

It seems like this time of year we decide that we need to celebrate Christmas with copious consumption, mainly gifts for family and friends. It is all very well intentioned, and the retailers count on you going a little crazy and racking up those credit card bills. I live in a very large city that has more than its share of poor and homeless people, and I wonder if I need to be part of this attempt to shift wealth from myself to Amazon, Walmart, Target, Kohls, or Best Buy. I guess it does make me feel better for a moment or two to see the gift recipient pleased with whatever it was that I bought them, but only for a fleeting moment as I then create more garbage from all the gift wrapping paper and boxes. It’s not that I don’t like the holiday season, but I’m beginning to be less enthralled about this compulsion to participate in buying things for people who already have so much. It all seems to be expected, and pretty much an annual ritual, we are really no more introspective than the Geese that migrate south every year.

As I was looking out the window on the 11th floor of the office building where I work, I noticed a man walking across the field very slowly pretty much headed nowhere. He had an old hooded sweatshirt on and I couldn’t tell if he was young or old, but he was fairly thin. Maybe he was homeless, maybe not, maybe he was unemployed, but in either case he seemed in no hurry to go anywhere. With so much poverty around me I am beginning to question this need to buy things for people who don’t need them.

I’m not advocating you don’t celebrate the holidays or participate in giving out gifts to friends or family, but maybe we can take some portion of that money and help someone less fortunate. If you want to feel a real sense of giving, take some of that money and give it to someone who really needs it. You have a roof over your head, a warm place to sleep, a source of income, enough food, then count yourself a lucky person.

Here is a related quote:

You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you. -John Wooden

Look around you and take a few minutes to find a way you can share your good fortune with others. I’m sure the folks at Amazon or Walmart will survive with a few less dollars.



The world belongs to you

I was thinking about a quote that I posted to Twitter and my blog yesterday. The quote is as follows:

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu Lao Tzu was a philosopher and poet of ancient China. He is best known as the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching and the founder of philosophical Taoism, but he is also revered as a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions. Wikipedia

I hesitate to over analyze this quote as it is so well written, and I would never attempt to modify it, but we can at least use this time to appreciate what it is telling us. To be content with what you have may be best understood as to be content with the material possessions, vocation, and relationships. The next statement says to rejoice in the way things are, not be satisfied with the way things are but to rejoice in them. If one can find contentment in what they have and rejoice in the way things are it leads to a realization that nothing is lacking. If a person can then have an attitude that nothing is lacking then the world belongs to you. Breaking it down to something we could begin our mediation sessions with we might form an affirmation like:

  • I am content with all I have
  • I am overjoyed by the way things are
  • I lack for nothing
  • My mind is clear of distractions
  • I can accomplish anything

If my mindset consists of continuously wanting something, feeling depressed about not having it, comparing myself to others I will surely compromise any chance for contentment. All the shiny objects you desire fade away once they are under your possession, the new car feeling quickly fades, and you become a junkie to materialism looking for another fix. The endless cycle of desire, acquisition, and never enough, only begets unhappiness. Try to start each day with the affirmation above to begin reversing the years of your addiction to things and comparison to others.

Thanks Lao Tzu.