The Zen of Now

“The Pure lotus growing in muddy water is a metaphor for enlightenment. The lotus arises from all its impediments.  It actually needs the impurity of the water for its nourishment.  In the same way, in our personal development, we can’t just work with what we like about ourselves.  We have to work with our muddy water.  We have to work with our problems and our hang ups because that’s where the action is.”  – Bernard Glassman, Instructions to the Cook

Lessons sometimes repeat themselves.  Ever felt like you are DONE learning something?  You might say something like, “I never want to feel that again! I know now!”  Or “wow, glad I learned that, never fool me again.” or perhaps in the area of personal growth you think, “well, I am certainly past that hang up”.

In the area of personal growth that we often have layers to sort through when seeking the growth we crave.  We might deal with the superficial stuff and feel like we can declare victory.  We overcame the fear, or resistance or pattern.  And then we are confronted again with it!  What the <insert your favorite expletive> is going on?!  I mean seriously, we thought we evolved past this right? We think ourselves beyond the muddy water referred to in the quote, when in reality, we need to keep using the muddy water to grow.

Depending on your personality type an life’s circumstances, you may react a few different ways: depression, competition or acceptance.

Depression:  when you get own on yourself, letting your inner bully take over.  You beat yourself up and have a hard time wanting to keep pressing forward in your growth.  This could be temporary or long term – it depends on you. Here you are not using the muddy water – you have become the muddy water, abandoning your lotus energy.

Competition: your inner warrior bursts forth and refuses to accept defeat.  You battle the idea that you have more to grow, or that you somehow didn’t get it all the first run through.  A bit of denial can show up with the warrior, an impatience to simply be victorious.  Here you are trying to be all things: the water, the mud, the lotus, the sun…forcing all of them to do what you want.

Acceptance: where the Zen of Now kicks in.  In this energy you can be exactly where you are.  You acknowledge the growth you have achieved and don’t discount it, but also see with clarity the exact place you find yourself in: you see what is, not what you wish or want.  With acceptance, you allow all to contribute as it needs to in order to thrive.

In the Zen of Now you can work with what you have, what you are and see where you are in the universe.  In the Now there is no past and no future, you are the culmination of what has happened, using it to always be in the Now.

You have heard the stories and seen the action of fighters – they find their physical center and operate from there.  The physical power comes when they are most centered. any speaking of fighting from their center not just physically, but also spiritually and mentally.

I recently went through a prolonged period of low energy. I felt disconnected to things I was previously inspired by and I found myself continuing to reach back, alternating between the warrior and the depression modes of response to the lessons appearing.  It was super frustrating and I kept banging my head against a spiritual wall wondering what the heck I needed to do to shake it off.

Throughout this I kept being drawn to the concept of Zen.  Zen is simply Zen.  It is the current reality, just as it is.  I kept finding myself drawn to simply being: to enjoy the moment, to be where I was, to not fight what was happening, but to immerse in it.  I resisted on many an occasion.  I wanted things to be different.  I kept ignoring my in the moment intuition and then found myself regretting missed opportunities.

I found this sense of resistance shifting on my travels in July.  Our plans changed, they shifted around, we encountered delays and obstacles, things didn’t go as we have envisioned it.  But I found myself relaxing into the current reality and resisting it less and less as the month went on.

It had been easier to shift my energies away from home – the physical difference allowed me to see with more clarity what was happening with me and just be.  We followed our desires, allowed the  moments to happen, we didn’t plan much – even going so far as to book hotels on the fly as we traveled through Colorado.

I came back from our travels much more open and a couple of weeks later I really felt that sense of oppression lift.  Being able to find clarity sometimes requires us to step away physically in order to bring the mind back to the present – like a spiritual slap in the face.

I love to read and a few books showed up during this time you may enjoy experiencing as well.

The first is a short book of quotes, readings and stories, only 188 pages divided into 8 sections.  A good “flip to a page and get inspiration” kind of book I have found myself referring to it daily since it showed up in my life.  “The Wisdom of Zen” from One World of Wisdom is a great addition to your reading list.

The second is a book from Thich Nhat Hanh called “The Miracle of Mindfulness”  It’s focus is on the practice of meditation and truly focusing on where you are.  140 pages of wisdom, direction and ideas for focusing on your daily moments.

Wherever you are, be there right now.

 

 

Living Dangerously: Being Afraid and Doing it Anyway 

In a recent post I talked about the concept of having faith in limitless possibilities as it related to The Art of Living Dangerously.  To remind you, when I talk about how I define this energy of Living Dangerously, what I am talking about are energies of: 

  • Being afraid and doing it anyway
  • Knowing there is more and going for it
  • Trying new things – taking the leap
  • Seeing new perspectives
  • Experiencing instead of Existing
  • Living by your values
  • Never settling
  • Transcending expectations
  • Having faith in limitless possibilities (read the post)

Maybe one of those resonates more true to your desires or energies…that call from your repressed rebel, closet creative or aspiring adenturer.  Perhaps you need to really get intimate with it and with that intimacy you will discover YOU.  The true you that defies your current reality, but is the energy you feel most called to live.  

My intuition is being drawn to write next on the idea of Courage: Being afraid and Doing it anyway.  

Fear can paralyze us if we allow it to.  Fear is a healthy biological function that keeps us safe.  But we can invest in outcomes that scare us as an excuse to not do something.  We may find ourselves making statements like: 

  • I can’t own my own business, 95% of businesses fail in the first 5 years.  I can’t afford to fail. 
  • I can’t leave this unhappy relationship, our kids will suffer. 
  • I’m afraid to ask for a raise, what if I get fired instead?
  • Yes, I want that change, but I’m afraid life could be worse than it is now and not better.  
  • If I tell him/her/them how I feel I’ll be hurt. 

What these represent are possible uncomfortable outcomes.  And all of them are about you, your discomfort, your personal belief or idea.  How do you overcome that?  How do you press past fear and take the action you want to take? I have three energies I put into action to overcome fears: 

1.  Information.

In many cases, fear of the unknown is king of the reason you don’t act.  I am still constantly surprised after hundred of coaching hours at the number of people I encounter who want something, but have done zero information gathering on the thing they want.  There is a huge information void that allows imagination to collect falsehoods instead of facts.  

Collect the information, figure out the steps, consult your council and consider information versus imagination. 

2.  Focus. 

What if what you focused on flourished?  Let’s pretend you could lose weight with ONLY the power of your mind…you focused on healthy eating, exercise and the picture of you that you wanted.  In my scenario you’d become that picture.  Or if you chose to focus on the version of that you don’t want: the extra 10, 20, 100 pounds.  You wouldn’t shrink, you’d grow! 

For every anxiety or fear you develop, focus on how you want to feel, the result you want and the energy you want to promote in your life. 

3.  Flexibility. 

As disappointing as this may be to you, none of us can magically manifest everything we want immediately.  What an ugly world it would be if we could.  No anticipation, no surprise, no creation…

Instead, we have to be flexible.  Things arrive when we are ready for them, at the right time in our lives, with the right people, etc and so on.  It requires us to be flexible, patient and have faith.  And sometimes what we wished for is green and we actually needed blue.  And when blue shows up we realize our truth.  But it’s there because we put the effort in: we gathered the information and we focused not just on the “thing” but on how we wanted to feel and be with it – so the right thing could arrive. It’s a little bit spiritual right? 

Be flexible with the outcome, continue to do the work and trust that what is in highest vibration for you will be produced. 

Courage is being afraid and doing it anyway and faith is trusting that you will be okay along the journey.  I have been in business a little over 5 years now and there hasn’t been a point in every year that I have wondered if I was supposed to keep going: a downtime, a tough client encounter, a missed opportunity, a fear that I wasn’t good enough and more.  I wake in the middle of the night wondering if this is the month it all collapses.  I find a reason to doubt my abilities and being to let doubt turn into a harsh inner critic which allows fear to take hold and self-sabotage grips my neck in a strangle hold.  It’s fear, bold and brash attempting to form around my world. 

I have to put to work all three of my countering energies in those times:  Information, Focus and Flexibility. 

Here is one: 

Late last year I formed a non-profit for veterans – a veteran myself I was passionate about the cause we were working toward. Fear showed up immediately as we decided whether or not to pursue this big thing. We pressed past it. As we went on though,  I found myself struggling to make time for it, hard pressed to get everything done,  missing the signs that my partner and I were on different wavelengths and living in fear of how it would all come together.  

I sat down and looked at the three energies and I realized this about them: 

1. Information.  When I examined the facts around my schedule, my commitments and where the organization was, I realized my role had come to a conclusion. I clearly saw what was needed next and knew I had the skills to take it on, but that it wasn’t mine to do. 

2.  Focus.  This was not an entity I could part time focus on.  And it wasn’t going to flourish under part time, stressed out focus.  Financially I was not in a position to focus more fully, and there was a timeline being pressed that I couldn’t support. 

3. Flexibility. I had to concede to myself that I was not the right person for this organization anymore.  I had to realize that the way the mission was shaping up was not the mission I had originally envisioned and that instead a new worthy mission  formed from another’s vision was growing.  And that was awesome. 

So I resigned.  I’d love to say that was received with the grace I intended, but it wasn’t.  There were harsh words, accusations and insults hurled about me – unfortunately never to me.  In the final analysis, I could see all of the points at which I had been afraid and done it anyway from concept to conclusion of my role.  And now – an organization is growing to serve vets in a really cool way in this community.  

Recently the idea of breaking up with a bad situation was shared with me.  As I write this, I realize that my story of being afraid and doing it anyway is also a break up story with the pain of that experience with the non-profit.  Facing the fear around self doubt in that entire process, putting to rest the energy associated with it and opening myself up for the work I truly want to do to help veterans.  So now I get to work the process all over again: information, focus and flexibility! 

Whatever you want, but are afraid of…work the process and press past the fear. 

Live Dangerously, Be You

How do you Define Living Dangerously?

 Take a moment and consider what feels most dangerous to you: is it physical, spiritual, intellectual or emotional in nature?

Conventional wisdom would suggest all kinds of radical options.  As I have asked this question in workshops and discussions I have heard a few!   Things like:

skydiving

motorcycle racing

speaking in public

falling in love

climbing a mountain

swimming with sharks

parenting (that got a good giggle)

 

There were a ton of other physical risks that have come up in response to this question.  And yes, these things are risky…but if you notice, most people head right for the physical risks with the exception of falling in love.

These are easy answers – pick something with the potential to inflict bodily harm and we can all agree that it is dangerous.   Right?

Yes.

There is another way to think about it though and that is what I want to focus on.

The Art of Living Dangerously creates the path to you skydiving, moto title winning or swimming with sharks. This path fires your emotional, intellectual and spiritual body – more than your physical.   What if we think about living dangerously in these terms:

  • Being afraid and doing it anyway
  • Knowing there is more and going for it
  • Trying new things – taking the leap
  • Seeing new perspectives
  • Experiencing instead of Existing
  • Living by your values
  • Never settling
  • Transcending expectations
  • Having faith in limitless possibilities

Imagine you lived in opposition to any of those thoughts…let’s take “Having faith in limitless possibilities” first.  What would it mean if you have faith in limitless possibilities?  Consider an area of your life you feel stuck or trapped in, it could be anything from a relationship, a job, a volunteer commitment or a belief.

For example when I was wanting to become a life coach, I was very locked into the idea that I couldn’t leave my 6 figure job and the obligations it had created or my life would fall apart.  There were a lot of trapped and stuck attachments there:

  1. I had accumulated debt directly correlated to the amount of money I had: cars, houses, lines of credit, etc.
  2. I did enjoy my job and did well at it. I loved the people I worked with and generally enjoyed seeing them.  Yet I didn’t feel inspired by my job, I didn’t see how my role was really serving others in the way I wanted to.
  3. I had an idea of what people expected me to be and I was fearful of disappointing them.
  4. My family had become accustomed to my salary, my schedule and my life the way it impacted them; and I couldn’t let them be affected by my desires – they needed to always take first priority.

When my life coach suggested that it was possible for me to create the life I wanted if I dedicated myself to figuring out what it was, I resisted at first.  I was so focused on the narrow range of options I had decided were available that it was a good year of coaching with her before I was able to really open up to all of the things that could be if I allowed them into my life.

I had to do a few things to move past my self-created opposition to possibilities:

  1. I had to decide what an ideal day for me would look like.
  2. Sorting out what was important and what wasn’t to me then taking action to get free of what wasn’t.
  3. Realign my time to support what I wanted instead of what I felt like I “should be” doing.
  4. Starting to create that Ideal by pulling elements from it into the life I was living then.

On a daily basis I would ask myself “is this getting me closer or farther away from the life I truly want?” as I encountered challenges and opportunities.

I learned that not everything is worth the fight.

Over the next few weeks I will be tackling each of those Living Dangerously ideas as I prepare for my 2016 Art of Living Dangerously Creation Experience here in Cedar Rapids Iowa on September 9th and 10th.  You can take a look at the agenda here and then grab early bird registration before August 15th.

I hope you’ll stay tuned to this blog and follow the steps to both the idea of living dangerously and the way I overcame my opposition to it!

Jennifer Murphy is a coach, teacher, mentor and leader at No Limits Life where she partners with the closet creatives, aspiring adventurers, and repressed rebels to move beyond expected success to create the kind of fulfilling life they crave.  To learn more about Jennifer and her team visit www.nolimitslife.guru

The Interview by Don Marlette

What would the conversation consist of if the you you want to be interviewed the you were were or are right now?

I am a HUGE advocate for making choices and never looking back.  Much like driving down the road, the minute we start to look into the past, we often start to drive in circles and eventually crash.  My motto has become that of the 19th-century monk, Boniface Wimmer:  “Forward, forward.  Always forward!”

 I also believe that where you are now is always at the perfect time.  Every choice, decision and consequence we experience in life create a blend of experiences and attitudes, with their share of challenges to make us perfectly suitable to life at the present moment.  Even the work we feel an inner pull to follow in later life only makes sense with the bumps and bruises of our earlier self.

 With all that said, I am going to look back at my younger self, and pose some questions – complete with their answers from the less-experienced me.  What would it be like for me to coach my younger self?

 My history is rather involved, so here is a quick description to get you up to speed.  I became Catholic in high school, went off to college seminary then joined a monastery for four years.  I was sent to complete my Master’s degree, and then I left monastic life just before ordination.  After leaving the monastery, I chose to work as a full-time parish worship and music director.  At the time of this interview, I’m doing very well.  I’m well-known as a musician and composer, making a high salary, and I’m quite successful.

 May this interview be a teachable moment for me…and for you.

–Start Interview–

New Self:  Are you happy?

 Old Self:  Honestly, no way.  I dread coming into work each day.  This work has become an albatross on my back for years, stemming from when I started doing it.  You know, I really didn’t want to do this work to begin with, even though I’m becoming well-known for being good at it!  I just needed a job when I left the monastery, and this seemed like a good fit for what I could do.

I’ve felt nothing but frustration, even anger.  I don’t fit.  I don’t feel supported.  Everyone loves what I’m doing, but I hate it.  I get migraines before every rehearsal, and I rejoice on  the days when I’m sick and can’t come to work!  Quite frankly, I feel very disillusioned in all this, and I want out in the worst way.  The problem is that I feel trapped.  I don’t know what else I could possibly do. So I guess I’ll just keep plugging away, put up with the personalities and politics, and look forward to finally retiring.

 New:  It sounds like things aren’t what everyone thinks they are.  Truthfully, I can feel the frustration in your voice, the choices of your words, and even your hunched body posture.  You honestly don’t seem happy, so it’s good that you can be honest about that.

 You also sound like you’ve condemned yourself to this work out of a sense of entrapment.  You say there isn’t another way out of this.  That you are going to just put up with everything until you retire.  But from my end, I think when you retire, you are going to be one bitter old man!  You’re already there, in case you haven’t noticed.  You do know you’re going to die one day?  Is this how you want to be then?

 Old:  No way!  I’ve thought about that a couple of times.  I know that if I keep doing what I’m doing, I’m going to just get worse and worse, and I’m going to end up at my deathbed, wishing I had done something different.

 New:  Like what?

 Old:  I have no idea!  I just want to do something that gives me joy, that makes me happy, that helps me to spread that happiness to everyone else.  I guess I could entertain people, but that’s a hard life.  And it’s too late for me to go back for another degree and start over, though.  I’m married with two children already, so I can’t make time to do all that.  I can’t afford it.  That’s why I feel so trapped.

 New:  What do you like to do, though?

 Old:  I like to entertain people, like I said.  Of course, I also like to talk with people one on one.  I always liked doing that.  I guess I could say that I really like to help people.  That’s all I do here at the parish office: help the staff people with their own problems and stresses.  I usually know what’s on the mind and heart before they say anything, so it’s easier for me to get to the bottom of things.  They like it, and I feel so much more alive – really alive! – afterwards.  But, like I said, I can’t get another degree so I could do that for a living. 

New:  I noticed how you perked up just now.  Did you?  What’s holding you back from doing it – from helping people for a living?

 Old:  I told you already!  I don’t have the time or money to get another degree.  That’s why I’m still doing this job.  I can do it, and it pulls in the money.  True, I never see my family since I work seven days a week – even on vacation!  But that’s the sacrifice I have to make.  I don’t like it, but it’s all I can do.

 New:  Do you really believe that you can’t break out of this?  I don’t think it’s true.  You’ve got some talents you haven’t owned yet, like….

 Old:  Just stop there.  Those “talents” you’re talking about are wrong around here anyway.  No one will ever accept them.  It’s fine to entertain people with, but that’s it.  It doesn’t feed a family.  I can’t do that.

New:  So you’re just going to stay stuck…by choice?

Old:  I just don’t see any other way.  I’m stuck.  Period.

–End Interview–

 I would love to end this interview on a positive note, but it doesn’t.  I chose at the time to remain stuck, to refuse to think outside the box, to live a life of real misery.

 Living my dreams was not an option.  All that changed later, after a lot more suffering, anxiety and intense frustration.  I waited.

What about you?

Don Marlette is, among many other things, a member of the No Limits Life team.  His unique blend of psychic insight, mediumship and practical wisdom guide spiritual practitioners and everyday people through the perils of everyday getting by to build lives that feel like they are singing their heartsong.  Learn more at http://www.nolimitslife.guru