Beginning Meditation

This weekend I learned that someone I work with was a monk. He meditated regularly and it showed. At first, I didn’t realize it because it’s unusual to meet a monk but his personality reflected it. When he spoke, he had a light in his eyes. The words he chose beamed with positivity. As you held a conversation, he was there, not in his mind, but there with you.

While I certainly believe that some people are naturally this way, I want to make an effort to have these qualities. Originally I used meditation to relieve stress and my anxiety attacks but now I want to return to it. I don’t want to set a particular amount of time for meditating, so I’ll just say I want to start sitting with myself more often.

In reality, meditation is both logical and silly. The goal of sitting with myself is to calm my mind and to cultivate presences. It’s silly because we are never away from ourselves but it’s logical because we don’t spend enough time doing nothing. I want to become familiar with myself, and to take time for growing. It’s silly but it’s something I need to do. For the next week, I’m going to dedicate myself to more meditation.

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Language and Happiness (Living without Words)

What is the connection between language and happiness? We all know that we use words to define the world around us. “The ground is flat” or “this room smells like oranges“. The difficulty is that we cannot stop defining our environments. Try for the next 30 seconds to look around without thinking any words. . . I bet that your mind was full of them.

It appears that we have difficulty removing adjectives or basic words that act as descriptors. In the short phrases above I underlined the words the we have difficulty forgetting. Our minds immediately think “flat”, “hot”, and even fill with some nouns that have memory association like the smell of oranges. No matter how hard we try, it feels like we cannot stop ourselves from describing the world.

Yet, I believe that our happiness is dependent on the removal of language from our experiences. Next time you have a cup of coffee, don’t think of any words. Find a gap in your mind where there is no description, only experience. Really taste the coffee but don’t think of any words to put with it. As you look around your room, don’t describe it – just look.

It sounds silly, but when you label your experiences you rationalize them. You reduce them to the quality of words in your head. For example, when you look at the sky and think “blue”, you’ve labeled it. You don’t really see the sky anymore, your mind has filled in the details with the memory of blue. Instead of really experiencing the richness of the sky, now you’re living in the memory of it.

Here’s an easier example, bake something in your house that your family traditionally makes. If you bake, let’s say, an apple pie, let the kitchen fill with that smell. When you walk into that room, you will undoubtably remember a memory associated with the smell. Maybe it’s cooking with your grandma or when you first tried the pie. The important part of this is that once that feeling hits, the memory or familiarity, you’ve lost the real experience. You can’t smell what’s really in front of you anymore. All you can do is describe it with a memory or a simple word.

The reason I say that happiness and language cannot coexist is because you can’t experience true happiness through memory. You can only remember happiness. The only time you can have rich, full, and lively, experiences is now. The memories that are in your head are only a fragment of reality, they don’t really exist. They are a construct of the mind.

Therefore, if you want to really feel life, start to remove the descriptors. When you’re walking outside, don’t look at the grass and think “green”. Just let the grass be as it is, with absolutely no judgement. “Green” is a judgement. When you’re drinking water, taste it. I know it sounds ridiculous but we don’t really do tasks anymore; we walk and talk on our cell phones, we listen to music while we write, we sit on the computer and watch Netflix. We don’t really experience life in a full way. We only get a fraction of it.

My assignment for you is, for the next hour, try to live without words as much as possible. If you need to talk to somebody, okay, but do not talk to yourself. Stop describing your life and just live it. It’s as simple as that!

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Why does pizza taste better at 3 a.m.?

The human mind is capable of so many paradoxical phenomenon: have you ever been on a temporary diet and when you finish it, you feel like food tastes twice as good? Have you ever been at the beach all day, then later walked into an air-conditioned room? What about when you spend a few hours standing up – sitting down feels incredible, right?

Nothing has changed in any of these scenarios other than our perspective. The pizza you ate after your diet has the same flavor as before you started. Most of us live in air-conditioned houses, and the only time we seem to notice it is when we leave or enter the building on a hot day. Each day we wake up and get out of bed, throughout the day we sit down and get up constantly. Why is it that when our perspective changes, these common activities become so pleasurable? The only variable that changed is us.

Is there a way that we can live and make each moment as incredible as that first bite of pizza? Can we feel relief every time we sit down to relax? What is it that conditions us to forget these simple pleasures and seek greater ones?

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note#14. moving on

Life is about moving on and letting go. It’s about experience but only as it happens. After the moment is over, we need to move on. When we feel emotions, we really need to feel them. But after they’re gone, we need to let them go. Don’t hold onto anger, frustration, and don’t claw after happiness.

When relationships aren’t working and friendships are falling apart, let them go. If it’s meant to be, it will come back. You can’t hold everything together. You can’t stop a ship from sinking, you can only plug the holes until another one appears.

You have to be willing to sacrifice everything that you know to live in this moment. When you feel directly through your senses and before you think about what you’re seeing or what it means. You must depart from moments as they leave so you can make room for the next moment. Holding onto every second is too painful.

Now I’m working on letting go of what isn’t working. I can’t make a failing relationship bud or fix a friendship that isn’t meant to be. I must depart from it and let it go in its own way. Life is about moving on to open room to experience. I can’t grow if I always look back, I must realize what it in front of me now.

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You cannot pass your Realizations to Others

Everyone looks at the world in a unique way and understands it from their own perspective. We know where our life is going and we look ahead at our own path. When we do this, we neglect other’s paths. Each person exists in their own world, oblivious to the real world in front of them. By focusing on our own life, often we think that others are walking with us in the same direction. However, this is not the case, everyone moves in their own way.

Your goal in life could be to make a lot of money and retire into a pleasurable life. Every day you focus on building that dream and walking down that path. You go to college for a profession that will assist in this ideal and you spend most of your life working until your retirement.

Another person’s goal could be to see the world. Each day they focus on traveling and how they can support it. Instead of going to college, they choose to be a waitress at a restaurant. This job provides them with enough money to travel to a new place, where they can get a new job until they leave again. Everything they do is about experiencing a new place. They don’t understand the concept of retirement because their goal is to travel over their entire life, not just later in life.

Imagine these two very different people go to a bar. They sit down and have a drink together. The conversation builds until they start talking about their life. The traveler doesn’t understand the worker because her only focus is on traveling. The most pleasurable thing for her to do is to find a new place to live and experience. On the other side, the worker can’t understand this because it’s a dream for the end of life. How could they abandon their life to visit new places? How will the traveler ever retire?

We look at the world from our own perspective and often this means that we neglect others. The worker may see the traveler as “irresponsible” for moving but the traveler thinks the worker is too “uptight”. Immediately there is a difference between these people: all the worker’s actions support their retirement while the traveler just wants to explore.

Both of these people only look forward on their path, the actions they take will only benefit them. The traveler won’t benefit by taking the worker’s characteristics. His path leads to retirement, not world exploration. Therefore, both will be unsatisfied by taking one another’s path.

This isn’t a difficult concept because we know that everyone has different goals in life. We understand that what works for you may not work for me. This is because we’re moving in different directions. So why is it that we treat others like they’re wrong for their actions?

We all exist on different levels of consciousness, with a different understanding of the world. The traveler understands how to live off $15 everyday to save for moving. The worker knows how to dedicate himself to his job and secure his retirement. When the traveler speaks to the worker, she doesn’t understand the other person’s skills. She assumes that worker knows how to live off $15.

When she gives advice, she acts as though it’s easy to live on such little money. For the worker, this would be incredibly difficult. He’s used to working and spending much more money. Their skills don’t line up and the advice may be useless.

Now apply age to the equation and it become much clearer. If you have a 25 year old explain how to live independently to a 15 year old, they’re going to be a lot of confusion. The younger one doesn’t understand how to live alone, nor can he learn by being told. He has to figure it out himself.

The knowledge you have is only useful in context. It’s not usable for people who aren’t ready for it. The traveler can’t understand the meaning behind work until she becomes curious for it. The worker can explain it to her because she won’t understand it. He’s trying to get to retirement, so the meaning behind work is obvious. She had to find her own context to why work is important to her.

This is why you can’t tell a person something they are not ready to hear. It goes over their head and often ends in frustration. The only thing you can do is intrigue thought and questions. Other people have to walk down their own path to their own dreams. You can’t tell them how to arrive or which way to walk. Your advice only has context for what you understand.

The purpose of this long post is to show you that there are some things that you can’t intellectualize. You can explain a concept to another person for hours but unless it has meaning, it will remain useless. Meaning is something you cannot supply, the other person has to be intrigued and apply it to their path. Everyone moves in their own way.

Here’s a quote recited by the Dalai Lama:

  “The Buddhas do not wash away the karma of other beings,
    Nor do they remove the consequences with their hands;
    They do not transfer their own realizations to others,
    But they reveal the truth that liberates beings.”

The only way you can help others is to provoke that questioning behavior. To make them engage in their own though and come to their own realizations. You can’t tell a 15 year old what it’s like to on have $50 for food or what it’s like to work 40 hours a week. That’s something they have to experience. You can provoke them to question what it would feel like but you cannot give them your understanding. You cannot transfer your knowledge to another person.

By leading your life and following your own pursuits, you will find that others can learn through you. Your actions cannot be fully understood by others but they can intrigue thought. You can’t give them your thoughts but you can excite them to find their own thoughts. To find their own way down their own path in life.

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Let go

One of the things I struggle with, and I think many of us struggle with this, is trying to find ground. When we have situations that discomfort us, we resort to certain things. Stereotypically, women love chocolate after break-ups. That’s a ground. When someone dies, a ground may be looking at photographs of them.

As I’ve been reading further into Buddhism, I’m finding that a huge part of our suffering as humans comes from this grip towards a ground. We try to find solace in materials things or memories in our heads. The truth is, there is no ground. There’s no point of absolute stability that you can stand on.

By accepting that there is no ground, or replacement for what we’ve lost, we can move on to to the next stage of our being. We can accept what is.

This is my struggle right now – I search for a ground and I’m tired of trying to find peace. I’m tired of trying to find solace. I place my ground as producing art, driving my car pointless around, and, mostly, by giving time. I think that if I reach for time and think everything will be better in a few years, I don’t have to deal with what is happening now. I find comfort knowing parts of my life will end. That’s a ground that I struggle with.

Realize that there are no true grounds in life. A ground is a replacement for what truly is in front of you. It’s the excuse to not accept what is in your life. Things are hard, trust me I know, but things are much easier once you accept them. Stop trying to hold onto everything.

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Let go of the outcomes

Perhaps the most important lessons in life are to be in the present moment and to detach from the outcomes of your life. We spend so much time struggling with the flow of life that we don’t realize that usually what we struggle against is just ourselves.

We spend so much time dissolved in thought that we distract ourselves from living our lives. Without paying attention to our lives, we get swept away and lost in possibilities. We could have had that happen if we had done this, or we could become that if we did this. The truth of the matter is, usually the outcome doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter if we get the white picket fence, what matters is the journey to the picket fence. The family we build and our relationships with them. If we have a dysfunctional house, does it matter if we have a nice appearance to everyone else?

If our dream is to become rich, we may become so preoccupied with the outcome of being rich that we miss the things we want to be rich for. We may want money to go out and have fun with friends but, in the effort of getting money, we lose all of our time. We trade one thing for another.

That’s why we need to detach from the outcomes and let go of them. We can want the white picket fence without needing to have the white picket fence. We can want to be rich and find a balance between working and having free time.

Being present is just as important. What good is an adventurous life if you’re always dreaming up your next exploration? Position your sails to go in the direction you want but don’t spend all day staring out at sea to see if you’re going in the right direction. Be here and now and experience life.

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