Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Seeing Through the Difficulties with Others

+Amazing World 
Family and friends should be able to see through and around difficult issues. It's so sad and tragic that so many cannot. The way I see it, most people have not had the blessing to learn about themselves, others, and how to better relate with both. For that, they deserve patience, understanding, and above all compassion.

They also don't mean to do, say, think, or feel such terrible things either. They just don't know how to do any different. They also don't have enough awareness of themselves to acknowledge that they need guidance. It's actually completely understandable. 

For that I knew I needed help, went out and received that guidance, and that even though repeatedly the system failed me so many times, I simply never gave up. I continued to get back up and fight for a better today so I could wake up and create a better tomorrow, not just for myself, but for everyone I meet.

I really have so much to be thankful for every single day I wake up, with every breath I take, and with every person I have the pleasure to meet. That's my motivation for my daily living.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Healing of Relating: From Esoteric to Mental Retraining

+Wonderful World
Being how and what we are is not separated from the experience of those around us. Feeling and experiencing happiness is a state of being in most if not all cultures. It is an individual experience that has benefits to those in the vicinity of the person experiencing it. However, some people have varying capacities to empathize and relate to each other in reciprocal ways. 

This isn't a simply esoteric discourse, either. 

There are biological and neurological components to how we relate to each other that are based in actual scientific evidence. 

Mirror neurons are present in our brains that connect our experiences and sensations with each other, everything, and our perceptions of both. The presence of these mirror neurons have been proven in primates and other animals. Although direct proof of a human mirror neuronal network is lacking, there is ample indirect evidence. When human beings perform an action, certain areas of the brain are stimulated and are observable using fMRI. These same areas of the brain are also stimulated when the same person observes someone else performing the same action. 
+Wonderful World

For some people in modern society, this reaction has become reversed for some reason. People instead experience the happiness or other positive characteristics of others as negative or harmful. These people have internalized issues regarding their own states of mind and being.

This can be seen through the lens of the over-personalization of the  experience of others. In other words, somehow the feelings and states of mind of others are somehow focused directly and personally at oneself. 

These people are somehow shut off to the positive or beneficial emotional or mental states of happiness, joy, and relief within their own minds. They simply create the perpetrators as those experiencing the positive or beneficial states of being.

+Wonderful World
This is similar to a negative feedback loop. Observing positive experiences and situations begins a mental-emotional process that has the reverse, compounding effect of previously existing negative thoughts and feelings. This would seem to indicate a general lack of empathy or even reverse empathetic response for those with this affliction. They have stopped relating with others and their environment in a realistic way. 

Whether or not a person is openly happy or not will have no negative or positive effect on someone in that shut off, over-personalized state of being. In fact, the continued sheltering of people from the positive, beneficial mental and emotional states of others can foster and perpetuate those negative, self-defeating patterns. 

What can we do to break these patterns within ourselves and within others?

We have to retrain our mind to relate in a more healthy, realistic, and beneficial way with others.

+Wonderful World
It’s also crucial to understand that there are absolutely valid reasons why the human mind alters the way it relates to itself, to others, and to its environment. The mind does this to survive and to adapt to circumstances and situations. 

If we do not apply understanding and patience to ourselves and others at every step in this mental retraining process, we are setting ourselves up for relearning and reinforcing mistaken and broken ways of thinking.

This is not a process as simple as turning on the lights with a simple switch. However, the more times we attempt to do something different, the more times our mind will learn this is what we want to be doing. We want to reconnect to ourselves, to others, and to our environment. We have to keep at it. 

For some reason it became easier to stop relating. Although that was understandable and is understandable to return to repeatedly, as it had become the routine and the new normal, we are deciding to do something different. 

+Wonderful World
We are actively deciding this. We are making a new choice.

It is in beginning to make those positive choices to reconnect and renew our relation, first to ourselves, then to each other, then to our surroundings, that we become reconnected to our presence and awareness in the present. Not based on some past hurt, either, but based on a belief and the actual reality that we are all connected.

Initially, we may have disconnected to protect ourselves or others. 

Today, we reconnect to heal ourselves in order for us to be more present and aware to clearly see ourselves and others.

We can do this. We always could. We always have. We choose again. We choose today.  

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Moving Beyond Reactivity: The Atmosphere of Respect

Many people don't understand respect. It's an atmosphere you create around you. It's not really something you can barter back and forth. 

Also, people that have known you for a long time are apt to discount any progress you make because it may expose feelings of lack of progress in their own lives. That's just one option. They also don't want to be left behind. The crucial lesson is that there are many reactions people have when you change. 

Too often, we can over personalize what people do or don't do, say or don't say to us when mostly it has nothing at all to do with us and more to do with whatever their own issues might be. Taking it personally is often what some desire, either intentionally or unintentionally.  

Certainly, it seems personal when it's being said directly to us or being done to us, but most people are just acting out learned behaviors and responses based on their life of pain and suffering. We have that in common with everyone. If we can consider this before reacting emotionally, we will help not only ourselves, but possibly them as well.

I try not to take anything personally by others, even family . . . especially family. Sometimes, people are looking for that reaction so they know they still have some control over you. Other times, people simply have no concept of the ripples and waves of their choices, words, actions, and intentions in the lives of everyone around them. Lacking the ability to connect causes and effects is also something we all have done at some point. 

The key is to remove the knee jerk reaction, not just externally but internally as well. By allowing the mind to become aware instead of simply being reactive, we allow our natural state of awareness and objectivity to clarify and focus the mind. We then can more clearly see our thought process and what feelings develop, postulate as to why this is happening, and then determine what actions, if any, are actually necessary. 

Over time, our ability to more accurately discern in the moment will improve, and we will be able to learn as we go from our seat of awareness. As we gain confidence in this process and path, others will either accept it or they will want no part of it. That's okay. Change and transformation are not something that everyone is prepared to embrace or have staring them directly in their face. 

That doesn't mean we go back to embracing our ignorance, does it?

Every step we take or don't take can be a conscious choice to become more aware, to broaden our understanding of ourselves and of all others. We are truly no different from anyone else. They just might be choosing a different choice. As much as we are okay with what we are doing, we must be okay with what they are doing. That is what the atmosphere of respect truly is. Being aware. Being okay.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Abiding With Our Nature Amongst the Broken

We stumble sometimes when we get out of bed. Sometimes, we can stumble if we’ve been sitting awkwardly for too long or if we’ve become unused to moving in certain ways. Whenever we begin doing any new projects or activities, we are capable of injuring ourselves in a multitude of ways. It’s important to remain patient with not only ourselves and others but also our bodies and our environments in these moments.

In this new, ever increasingly difficult world where bureaucracy increases while the gears and mechanisms of bureaucracy seem to work less effectively and efficiently than ever before, we often face a seemingly ceaseless drip-drip-drip of distractions, obstructions, and obstacles that seem to be both personal and aimed directly at our own personal progress. 

These may even be targeted at us, as bureaucracy often can be. More likely, though, it is the inefficient, ineffective, and thoughtless gears grinding away with no conscious target. Regardless, bureaucracy must keep itself alive by creating a need for itself to be fed. And, do we really want to fight that beast on this battlefield at this time?

Clear your mind. Clear your heart. Let go of your reactionary nature.

These stumbles can be dealt with appropriately and accordingly. It might be distracting us from a greater purpose, a lofty goal, or an objective for the benefit of others. It is only when we allow ourselves to feel assaulted that we become further victimized. This increasing victimization has been perpetuated in our minds, not by the bureaucracy, but by our reaction to the broken systemic nature of modern life.

We can retrain our minds to let go of our reactivity and defensiveness. Sometimes, gears are just gears. When you slice your finger while slicing onions, you don’t blame the knife. When you begin to cry from the sliced onions, you don’t blame yourself, either. It’s simply a natural reaction to a natural stimulus.

Abiding with our nature and with the nature of the world and the society in which we find ourselves within is crucial to achieving our objectives. By not reacting or overreacting to stimuli, we begin to allow our natural awareness to begin informing us of where we are, how we are, and what we are in this whole system. Then, we just might discover there is so much more that we can actually accomplish, not just with ourselves, but with everyone we encounter. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Coping with Loved Ones in a Toxic Coma: Revisited

I needed to revisit this topic before writing my next article. 

I left it mostly as is, but added some photos. 

I also wanted to thank the world for such wonderful experiences that have helped me better understand myself.  

Thank you, world. 

There are people in all of our lives. Each is important but some we consider to be family. These bonds aren’t always by blood, as in our close friends or spouses. We love and care for each of them. If those loved ones are blessed enough, that love and care is returned. The return of that good will should never be the reason we are patient, generate understanding or compassion for anyone. These must be given freely, without the strings of attachment or expectation. It’s the difference between being selfish and selfless. 

We may not even be in direct contact with a loved one in order to wish them peace, joy and happiness. Imagine someone in a coma. We can’t have any realistic expectation of a return for our love and care for someone in such a condition. That doesn’t mean we don’t care or that we don’t love and wish them to get better.

There are other conditions and circumstances that our loved ones can be experiencing that are similar to a coma. Someone may have experienced a great loss, have been traumatized or sick from disease or injury. Mostly, we think we can see these diseases, injuries, losses and traumas very clearly in those closest to us. Sometimes, it’s not so obvious. Other times, the person with the condition isn’t even aware that they are sick. 

In even extreme cases, people can be so unaware of how sick they are that they are capable of destructive acts, wreaking damage and potential devastation to those they love and that love them. These people are still worthy and in great need of patience, understanding and compassion. We sometimes lack experience in how to interact with them without causing even greater pain and more intense suffering as well as causing harm to ourselves in the process.

Some people are just so sick that they turn everyone into the enemy or a villain. There can be symbiotic relationships that feed on one another’s sickness. As these relationships develop, instead of gaining insight into why they are both suffering so much, they back up their dysfunctional views of themselves as well as their mutual distaste for others. This has a very isolating affect, intensifying their conditions and increasing the potential damage. They see good will as condescending, misconstrue compassion for pity. There are infinite ways sick people push away their loved ones. When someone is in a coma, we can’t be pushed away.

When we find ourselves at the end of all of that understanding, having been so patient, having really generated true compassion for a loved one in such an isolating situation, we need to begin treating them like a loved one that’s in a coma. This person is not capable of hearing us, nor capable of truly seeing us as fellow human beings sharing a common humanity. Further interaction only intensifies the hold of their conditions and isolating symbiotic relationships. Unless there is obvious evidence of injury or trauma, we even lack a mechanism where someone with authority can intervene.

Most abuse is internalized, unable to be verified by simple observation. Abuse is obvious when an arm or a leg is cut off in an angry rage. However, most abuse is emotional, as words leave no physical scars. Even bruises go away and external wounds heal. What compounds this terrible situation is the growing isolation that the relationship sustains in order to hide the dysfunction so as to not have to contend with those loved ones striving to alleviate some of the pain and comfort of the suffering that they both experience.

These are such difficult situations for everyone. What do we do? We begin to treat them as if they are a loved one in a coma. We think about them, we generate compassion for what they are going through. If they were to wake up, we will be there for them, but we don’t have to remain in the room. 

When someone is filling their immediate environment with toxic fumes, we don’t just stay inside to reason with them. That’s idiot compassion. Instead, we open the windows, open the door and try and get out of that deadly place. We can’t force someone to leave unless they are truly incapacitated or we are strong enough to lift them up and take them out of their toxic environment. In these extreme moments, it may become necessary to discontinue an active, engaged relationship with someone in such a terrible situation. In these most difficult of interpersonal relations, we must tread and consider carefully.

There are few singular reasons to make this break with someone. It has to be a preponderance of the evidence coupled with the history of not only our interaction with this individual but also our overall understanding of the personal histories, relevant capacities and skills balanced with their personal willingness and openness to gain insight or accept guidance. 

We may even discover our own current situation is incompatible with this person’s toxic existence, which raises the potential damage for us. We cannot stay forever in the room with a coma patient, nor can we withstand relentless abuse and trauma from our loved ones. At some point, we really have exhausted all of our reasonable options. We can’t heal the world if we’re being actively injured by our loved ones.

If the patient doesn’t want the remedy, doesn’t even admit to the sickness, we simply cannot force them to do so. In fact, in some cases this could be highly counterproductive. We don’t have to have an active, engaged interaction to genuinely love and care for a person. We don’t have to sink our own vessel. If there’s someone on board a cruise ship hell bent on killing others or sinking the ship, you throw that person overboard to save yourself but more importantly to save others. We can throw that person a life preserver or give them a life raft, but if there is no willingness to grab hold or get into the boat, we cannot let our ship go down because of one angry and out of control person.

We must be careful to not simply think the worst of others. 

There are no external relationships that can be salvaged by one person alone. We can love and care for loved ones without having direct contact. We don’t have to let someone back on our ship until we become satisfied they are no longer a danger to us or others. We don’t have to let someone back in the house when that person is actively spewing toxic venom.  

We can love and care for someone, even if that person is in a toxic coma.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The 'At Peace' Killer

+Wonderful WildLife
We should never measure a human being against a memory we have concocted in our minds. By doing so, we've created the self-fulfilling prophecy of no one measuring up ever. Too often, the memory we cling to of someone in our past isn’t reality-based. We either focus primarily on the positive or the negative memories and attributes as opposed to the breadth of experiences that we have had with that person. 

Our minds are both imaginative and creative as well as stubborn and ignorant. We can use them against ourselves as well as others simultaneously. There are other options. Chances are we’ve experienced mistakes, missteps, or traumas within and out of relationships and friendships; perhaps, we are widowed. Learning from our past is beneficial; becoming fixated on it is problematic. 

However, we’re all works in progress. 

Anyone who thinks that working on themselves can't coexist with working on a relationship is likely never going to achieve either objective. I’ve heard people claim that they must be ‘at peace’ with themselves or become ‘stable’ before they can do anything with their lives. 

What does being 'at peace' with yourself or becoming ‘stable’ even look or feel like? When you achieve that will you be static or dynamic?

Why are we trying to define ourselves? Trying to put ourselves in a box or a cage sounds a great deal similar to what we often attempt to do to others, does it not? Do you want to be quantified and tagged? 
+Wonderful WildLife

Just learn to be. Be aware. Be present. Be a mess if that's what we are today. If we're trying to not be what we are, we'll never be 'at peace’ with ourselves, whatever that is.

Self-awareness is a killer of bad relationships, and that is great news. It may not feel good in the moment, but embrace that feeling, learn to trust those feelings. Learn about ourselves and others by not ignoring our thoughts and feelings. Those thoughts and feelings are communicating something important to us about our environment and those within it.

By linking positive and negative labels to feelings and thoughts, we've embraced a brittle life, not just for ourselves but for all those we encounter throughout it.

People feel all sorts of feelings. People thinks all sorts of thoughts.

Being 'at peace' isn't about having it our way; it is about being okay with whatever comes about because of where we are, how we are and why we are.

Don’t let being ‘at peace’ or being ‘stable’ be the killer of your present. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Our Precious Blood Stained Bones


The corpse is bloated, blue, and festering.

The corpse is crawling with insects and worms. 

Crows, hawks, vultures, wolves tearing it apart to eat. 

All that is left is a skeleton with some flesh and blood still clinging to it.
All that is left is a skeleton with some blood stains, but no more flesh. 
All that is left is a skeleton with no more blood stains. 
All that is left is a collection of scattered bones-- 

Here an arm, here a shin, here a skull, and so forth. 

All that is left is a collection of dried bones. 
The bones have decomposed, only a pile of dust is left.
(Awakening the Heart, Thich Nhat Hanh)

What we were was dust, what we are is dust, what we will be is dust. The truth that we have a consciousness and a mind that can fathom and comprehend that truth is precious indeed.

What are we doing with this collection of flesh, blood, and bones?

How are we challenging this mind that clings to these blood stained bones?

Is our life seizing this precious opportunity or sucking it dry completely?

What we think, how we feel, why we are . . . Do we even consider any of it?

Some may think these blood stained bones and thoughts of decaying corpses are all too morbid.
Challenge those perceptions. 

If our bodies and minds didn't change, we would never grow up. We could never never overcome. We could never fall in love.

It's because of the very nature of our decaying, dying flesh that we can do anything with our lives that is much more than just consumption and destruction.

Challenge perceptions. Challenge the mind. Challenge the body. Challenge this life.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Don't Punish, Acknowledge and Move Forward

Life and the modern world is very busy, complicated, and at times highly confusing, disorienting and distracting. All this work we've been achieving, every effort we've taken, and every moment we've created has not been lost, no matter how many days, weeks, months or even years have seemed to have been squandered by our lack of focus, attention and intention.

We must be certain to not punish ourselves when we do become aware again. We then acknowledge what has happened then explore how and why this happened. If we take a judgmental approach to ourselves, we're apt to lose our objectivity. We may either ignore some crucial aspect of our behavior and circumstances in order to avoid accountability or we may apply extreme measures in response that are counterproductive to learning and moving forward.

Meditation is something we do every day. We all do it if we're aware of it or not. Meditation becomes focused and intentional when we guide it with our intentions. As we learn new methods and new aspects of our mind through different methods and aspects of meditation, we can become renewed and refreshed anywhere and anytime. Remembering to do these intentional practices in the throes of anger, frustration, stress, physical pain, and emotional turmoil is very difficult.

Never punish yourself for forgetting to meditate.

Slowing ourselves down, both mind and body, can help make our lives more manageable, even though that often feels counterintuitive when faced with mounting concerns, unresolved issues and relentless stimuli. We have to train our minds, and really even in our bodies, to do what we want and what we need them to do. This alters the dynamic in our daily lives.

What we don't need is to be exhausted or distracted. What we don't need is to be tense or reactive. What we don't need is to continue to be active without thinking when we could do something different entirely.

That's the entire path and vector that meditation takes us toward. We begin to see ourselves more clearly. Then, we begin to more clearly see our surroundings and others.

Has what we have been doing been producing a more happy, fulfilling life for ourselves and others? Are we even able to be honest with our own observations about ourselves?

Meditation isn't necessarily about making us feel better. It's about allowing us to be more aware so we can do something about how we feel and how we are.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Omnipresent Seat of the Full Awareness of Breathing

In a few moments, any of us can reacquire our awareness in the present. However, connecting knowledge with both action and actualization of practice in the heat and throes of pain, suffering, turmoil and conflict is terribly difficult if not seemingly impossible for most. This is why exercising our awareness of breathing can be so potent in aiding us in our daily lives. Simply put, we continue to breathe during all of our daily experiences, even the most difficult and most terrible.

Sometimes, the mind attempts to remind us of this when we're under extreme stress. We become short of breath, panic attacks begin that feel as if we cannot breathe, or we become all huffy and heavy with our breathing; our mind is communicating to us to pay attention to it. Instead, we often continue to ignore it. In this way more systemic, chronic conditions begin to develop. Our capacity to breakthrough these conditions can become limited or obscured as a result of our general inattention and daily lack of awareness. We can retrain our mind if we consistently apply effort to do so. One such vehicle for retraining is through a renewed awareness of our breathing.

Breathing is what connects all of our moments, from birth to death. We should pay attention to it. In fact, we should take every available opportunity to become fully aware of our breathing. Further than that, we have to create those opportunities consciously and consistently for ourselves in an ever more distracting world. Then, when we encounter those inevitable high stress situations, we will have our daily relationship with the full awareness of our breathing to draw upon.

How do we build this relationship with the full awareness of breathing?

We seek guidance from others.

There are those who have contemplated and researched the potency of the awareness of breathing thoroughly, but we should not simply take the words and experiences of anyone as truth; we have to experience these ourselves. However, we can use what others have already accomplished as a starting point of our own exploration.

There is one Buddhist sutra, or scripture, that may assist in exploring a full awareness of breathing. The Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing is a powerfully, direct step-by-step guide to begin this process of exploration. Commentaries accompany Buddhist sutra. Modern commentaries can be quite useful, Thich Nhat Hanh, for instance, has a very accessible perspective on this topic.

It may seem crazy to spend hours reading about how to become fully aware of your breathing. However, many others have written books on the topic. An aspect of our lives that is omnipresent: it transcends barriers of language, skill level, capacity, gender, age, and race. We all breathe or we're not alive.

Explore different voices and perspectives on the awareness of breathing. Find one that resonates with your daily life. The goal here is not to be abusive or harsh to ourselves but to make what natural work toward our wellbeing, not against it.

We must explore our awareness of breathing on our own.

Breathing happens naturally without any conscious effort on our part. When we explore that breathing, we're really exploring our mind's awareness using our breathing as a focal point. Is our mind able to focus at all? Is it stressed or relaxed? What else is rolling through our mind besides being aware of our breathing?

Self-exploration is not only recommended, it is imperative. We cannot take anyone's experiences or guidance as factual. It is critical to apply what we think, what we read and what we've been told so as to gain our own experiential information to ascertain a direct understanding. Otherwise, we will never rely upon it during difficulty.

When we become aware that our mind has wandered off again, don't judge or punish the mind. Simply acknowledge this as thinking or feeling and refocus awareness once again. If the mind continues to gallop off repeatedly, try paying complete attention to it. Let it go without trying to restrain it. Why is it doing this? Maybe, there is a very significant reason for this distraction. Explore it thoroughly. Be curious. Don't judge the mind, explore it instead.

We can develop our own working, adaptive understanding through exploration and contemplation.

If we don't create multiple opportunities to explore just our own personal, individual relationship with breathing and its interaction between our body and our mind, we've missed taking that omnipresent seat in our lives. From that seat we can be, see, feel, touch, taste, think, expand, and understand any and every aspect of our lives.

We begin by not working at or worrying about this process. This is not about forcing our mind to do something unnatural. In fact, the objective is to reclaim the natural state of our mind-body connection. Then, we can reforge our connection to our daily lives and to the people within those daily lives.

Breathing, I am aware I am breathing. 
Breathing in, I am aware I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I am aware I am breathing out.
Breathing in, I am aware of how I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I am aware of how I am breathing out.
Breathing in, I am aware of my body.
Breathing out, I am aware of my body.
Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body.
Breathing out, I am aware of my whole body.
Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I calm my body.

Try the above exercise. Do you feel better? Does your body feel physical relief? How about your mind?

This is the expansive power of returning to the omnipresent seat of the awareness of our breathing. We begin to clear our minds of the cumbersome thought processes that aren't beneficial or productive; we relate directly with our bodies; we connect better with others, helping us to navigate a more complex and distracting world.

We begin ridding ourselves of ineffective and ineffectual mental habits, instead, forming new mental habits that have real, tangible physical, emotional and mental benefits. This is only the beginning steps in this exploration of the full awareness of breathing. We need only crack open the door on the potency of our awareness in order to take our seat and reap the rewards.  This doesn't mean we won't experience pain and suffering, but it will give us a better opportunity to understand and appreciate it.

Source: Awakening of the Heart: Essential Buddhist Sutras and Commentaries, Thich Nhat Hanh