Angels Among Us

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A smile in a moment of despair; someone to hold your hand; someone to guide you when you needed direction; a word of encouragement when you least expected it. The teacher who took the time to help you understand a difficult subject. An open door when your hands were full. A job offer when things weren’t looking so good. Someone to hold you in the dark. Medicine when you were sick.

A ray of sunlight, a gust of wind. A glass of water to quench your thirst. There are angels if you’ll open your eyes.
Angels come in other forms too: Perhaps your Mom and Dad. Your child. Family or a friend who needs assistance. Angels come in other forms you’d least expect: A homeless person asking for help. Someone who cuts you off in traffic. An unkind word. Cancer. A terribly painful and difficult relationship. Betrayal. The loss of someone you truly loved. Death and dying. Lessons on gentleness, generosity, patience, impermanence, the fragility of your life – the lessons are abundant.

The greatest teachers in your life, the greatest teachings, the lessons learned – you don’t know who is who exactly, angels come in many different forms. In the tradition that I have matured in, we come to understand that they are everywhere, you just have to open your eyes. Perhaps you’re an angel in the making, temporarily fighting off the demons. Look beyond yourself, beyond the ordinary view, in your life right now, there are people who are trying to help, love, and cherish you. Open your heart. Life is very different with this change of view – beautiful and magical, a series of unending teachings and instructions. A gift. Do you see them?

The Miracle of Peace

If we have never been amazed by the fact that we exist, we are squandering the greatest fact of all. – Will Durant

I sit in loving awe. So wondrous. How did you and I meet?  How did we get here? If you were take a minute and think about this you might say we met through so and so – a friend perhaps. As a matter of convenience, it might be the polite thing to say, but what if we were to go further? What if we were to not just take a step back, but really zoom all the way out, and not just get a birds eye-view, and not just a telescopic view, but instead – a universal and holographic view of our place in this existence, this time and space.

How many causes and conditions led us to this moment? I mean let’s try and add it up for a minute. Where would we even start? Our ability to read – our shared language and understanding. Every breath you and I have ever taken. Our parents. Their parents. And their parents. All of evolutionary biology and chemistry. All of the food we have ever eaten. Every stitch of clothing you are wearing. All of the people involved in that. The crops. The earth, The water. The formation of planets, stars and galaxies. Space and time. A computer, a phone, a tablet. Light. The Sun. And even this understanding falls forever short of understanding the totality of all.

The reality begins to sink in. How many causes and conditions have led to this moment? This supposed chance meeting of you and I? Every moment of your life and every life. Was it ever really random at all?

Infinite causes and conditions have come together to make this moment possible – there is no escaping this overwhelming conclusion. That at the very least – up until this moment – reality could not be different than it is. What would the consequences be if you held this broad spacious view with increasing frequency, that it became a staple of your life, experiential knowledge and walking day-to-day wisdom? What would life look like if you woke to this large, vast and spacious view? How would you treat yourself, others, and the environment?

Life would look very different in many respects if you adopted the rational view that infinite causes and conditions have come together to make every moment possible. One effect would be that you would immediately stop blaming yourself for all that has gone wrong. And of course, from there you would never blame another. You would smile continuously at the grandeur of being. Taking responsibility would look very different too – where you would be more responsible to hold the view of infinite causes and conditions then to hold yourself or another responsible for events that have transpired. You would be much more understanding, you would be wise and most importantly – you would be peaceful.

Your present notion of holding yourself and other people accountable for their actions would be turned on its head. Your ego would be crushed and devastated, but your heart would be open.

To accept infinite causes and conditions in every moment would be the end of your frustration and anger because you would stop demanding that reality be different than it is. You would understand that reality in every moment is beyond your ability to fully comprehend and you would have a beautiful open and trusting heart full of wonder. You would be free.

Going forward you would focus on solutions when there is difficulty instead of narrowly focusing on problems and finding the culprit of your narrowly assigned responsibility. You would be endlessly forgiving. You would understand things are as they are. You would discover the inner peace of the deepest self-acceptance. You wouldn’t feel so alone once you realized that you were deeply inter-connected with everything. You would no longer have the anxiety of worrying terribly about the future because you would know that everything would come together just as it does. You would be able to exhale, to let go, to breathe it all in, and to rest.

Your stress would diminish and then dissolve if you discovered the timelessness of all. You would see that there is no true birth and death, that instead that all appearances come and go like time and tide. We are experiencing the waves of infinity rushing over and through us. Ego sees itself as an individuated birth and death, but nothing could be further from the truth. All things rise and fall, as is their nature. When a waves comes we don’t call it birth, and when it falls we do not call it death and so it is with us as we rise, crest and fall once more from moment to moment and life to life.

To accept infinite causes and conditions in every moment would be to accept that violence is the furthest thought away from accepting the universal thread of continuity. You would know that you could move peacefully from relationships – cherishing what was instead of needlessly focusing on the troubles or the end.

If you understood that infinite causes and conditions were interlaced and interwoven in every moment your health issues would be seen in a very different light. Your sadnesses and depression would be very different if you knew that truly at the deepest level your need for a profound love has already been met by the very virtue of you just being here, right now – that your life is held so very sweetly in the loving arms of limitless spacious presence. That you have come together at all is a miracle, a blessing, an act of loving generosity – a gift from forever – from both forever and a not so distant long ago.

May you awaken to your beauty, to your infinity. May you love and feel loved. May you see yourself in everything, and may everything see itself in you. I pray that you know that you cannot be separate, that you are a very necessary part of everything, May you find peace in your heart, and may you find peace in this world. That is all.

The picture is of the Heart Nebula from the constellation Cassiopeia. ❤️

The Wisdom of Generosity

Heartwarming Video on Generosity

Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need. – Khalil Gibran

Soon after returning from monastic life in Asia, I took a job as the director of a hospice in the mountains of Colorado. A number of truths became quickly apparent when working with the dying, and other insights quietly surfaced:

Your remaining years and death will be graceful, peaceful and filled with hope if you have lived a charitable life; therefore a life of generosity is the greatest investment in your future happiness. For those who have spent their life giving all of themselves there is a grace in dying, an ease and a sublime willingness to let go – to release the grasping for this world and existence.

Conversely and proportionately the more an individual tries to covet and and maintain possessions and control others they grow older and die in painful proportion. The poorest days of my life were when I looked out for myself first. I thought if I could acquire or store enough wealth that I’d be less fearful, less doubtful and feel successful. I would be foolish to not notice that I stopped seeing myself as inadequate when I started living a life devoted to charity and sharing.

When you switch your attention from the subject to the object is when you will become successful in the highest sense. When you start giving to the world all in which you had previously hoped to receive is the day you will feel most whole, most complete.

I had always wished for someone to love me, to listen to me, to be understanding, to give of their time, and if needed – I would like to have known that someone would have been there materially.

The day I started giving everything I ever wanted – was the day I started receiving. Life has informed me that if I’m not expressing my generosity, than I am expressing my greed. Greed incapacitates your good heart and sensibility, generosity frees your smile, love, and wisdom.

Your hands were born open, and so was your heart. Somewhere along the line perhaps, something shifted.

The intention and quality of giving matters. I remember wanting to ask for help when I was younger. I felt humiliated; I was somehow lacking. I would sometimes steal to avoid the humiliation of being discovered that I did not have enough. This is known as poverty mentality. And it truly doesn’t matter how much you have, if you think you don’t have enough, there is no amount of money or possession in the world that will ever satisfy you. I remember this lesson when I offer assistance now, to remember to go out of my way to not have the other person feel humiliated.

Strive to let each person that you assist know that this is a temporary situation; that they’ll be strong enough soon to stand up, give back, and pay the kindness forward. I love to try and foster that sense of confidence in others.

When people give only because they have an excess of funds, that doesn’t make them generous, it just makes their previous miserliness more tolerable. The real value of a gift is not determined by its price, but by the amount of attachment overcome. Be prepared to be overwhelmed with happiness when you start giving from the heart. If you keep it up, you’ll likely discover that you’re happy virtually all of the time.

As long as you give without strings attached or outcome expectation you’ll be fine. That means don’t expect thanks or applause either. If you can give anonymously, that’s the best way. You are your own witness, so even if others think you’re miserly, that’s an even greater opportunity to test your true understanding. You can never be taken advantage of, or disturbed, unless you’re giving with attachment.

Some of the greatest lessons in generosity are also learned when the gift is used differently then directed. When there is pain in generosity it is invariably a sign that we’re still holding onto something – typically a combination of anger and self-importance.
Don’t forget that you’re not superior to the recipient, they are affording you an opportunity to be happy and lighten your load. Be generous and grateful for the chance to be helpful. Looking at the recipient as lower than ourselves even in the midst of apparent generosity, is just another example of class warfare in disguise – a beautiful gift in a poisoned wrapper.

Watch what happens when you give to someone who has nothing – that nothing just become their everything. Watch their face light up and then be happy for their happiness. You can change someone’s life by giving in some small way, as long as you give with all of your heart. In competition, be generous and always offer victory to the other. Let them have what they want, and help them to get it – then both of you will be happy. There are few greater joys then being happy for the happiness of another.

Try not to be capricious with your generosity: give equally regardless of someone’s wealth, privilege or standing. Give of yourself with equanimity: Perhaps the object will change, but give nonetheless. Time, an ear, a hug, advice, love, give as much as possible for the highest happiness. True generosity doesn’t discriminate.

At times perhaps it’s best to be patient instead of giving immediately; There may be a more significant and wiser way to be generous than the one that seems most apparent. It will take a higher level of realization to notice that you’ll enjoy all of your possessions even more when you give them away. To train yourself in generosity give away what you cherish most, item by item and discover the happiness unfolding in your heart. For those on the spiritual path, loving and maintaining material possessions is seen as a weakness in wisdom, a confusion to be overcome. Generosity enriches you, and there is no easier way to be poor, than by being selfish.

Why do some people see reality as dark and bleak while others see the same place as an opportunity for hope and possibility? The world you see is a reflection of your character and values. Your priorities are your character. A world seen as dark and impoverished is created by an attitude of self-cherishing and greed. A world of abundance is created by a heart and mind filled with love and generosity. May you be magnanimous, and may you give freely.

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Listening Deeply

  
Listening Deeply

One of the easiest ways to disturb yourself is to care what others think and say about you. Freedom comes from being yourself without seeking permission, acceptance or validation from others. When others judge you they do not define you – they define themselves. People seem not to realize that their negative views of others and the world is a reflection of their own character. Conversely the beauty that others find in you is also a reflection of their heart and spirit. Often people speak negatively of others because they feel threatened by all that’s right. You can tell an awful lot about a person by what they choose to see in you. And not that we’re seeking it, but one of the nicest feelings is when someone appreciates everything about you that someone else took for granted.

The reality is you could be amazing, genuine and sincere and still be completely missed. Try and be at peace with people who don’t like or even run from you. Resist the temptation to fight back; energy flows where the attention goes and you have better uses for your positive resources. When you realize your value you’ll find it increasingly difficult to associate with people who don’t. When you’ve put so much work into changing for the better don’t forget to stop from time to time and love the person you’re becoming.
Give up on teaching anyone anything, and instead just encourage others to think for themselves – and to think deeply. Freely admit what you don’t know – which happens to be most everything. The wisest men are humbled by realizing that they actually know precious little. Try to speak and act from the heart without expectation of praise or applause. 
 It’s in your interest to give up on jealousy and competition and simply wish that everyone succeeds at finding happiness. With the right view and attitude you’ll discover that without exception life gives you whatever experience would be most beneficial for your evolution and development. You can never lose if you learn. 

May you be happy, well, safe, peaceful and at ease🌷

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Endless Compassion

  
Recently I was asked how it was possible to remain upbeat and cheery when meeting with so many people day in and day out with so many difficulties. 

This type of query is not about counseling or therapy though. This is about something much larger, much bigger than a profession. 
Who among us hasn’t tried to rescue someone? Tried to save someone? Become involved in the suffering of others only to make things worse? Who among us hasn’t fruitlessly thrown money at problems? Given unheeded and/or unhelpful advice? Become weighed down by the very people we thought we were helping?

Look at the projective nature. Better to ask what is it in yourself that wishes to be rescued? What is it in yourself that wants to be saved? That believes if only the right person would enter your life with just the right words, or if only you had ‘x’ amount of money that everything would be okay.

How to remain present with people when they’re suffering? How to bear compassionate witness to others in the midst of pain without being drawn in to their drama is a teaching for all of us. To be an empathetic witness who doesn’t stoically compartmentalize for fear of the pain they might feel. To not suffer from tyrannical compassion and walk the delicate line and to feel the pain of others without trying to commandeer or control the other persons emotional outcome is a skill. To not suffer from idiot compassion and become complicit in the loss of boundaries and drown in unhealthy copendency is a skill. 
A skill for whom? For everyone alive, in family, in relationship, in friendship, as lovers, as neighbors, as enemies, in society, in the environment and simply – in the world. 
While there are endless facets to examine in helping to avoid these common mistakes of compassionate caring – there is a foundational basis that needs to be there to keep your sanity, composure and your good heart intact.
When you can look into the suffering face of another and see them as inseparable from yourself, as a reflection of your own being – only then is your compassion aligned with wisdom. 
To be compassionate with suffering first requires an acceptance of suffering. Suffering is an intrinsic part of life and cannot be avoided. You can’t help anyone to change who doesn’t have an intention to change or doesn’t see an issue with their actions. I can’t tell you just how important it is to be able to separate out the difference between your version of another persons suffering and their actual suffering. Even more importantly to know the difference between their suffering and your discomfort with their suffering. To react to your own discomfort has nothing to do with compassion, but is more aligned with fear. 

May you practice a gentle loving and living compassion for others that is not contingent upon their actions, behavior or your expectations of outcome. May you see yourself in every suffering being, and may you recognize them as a reflection of your own unfinished business. May every suffering being you meet be met with a heart and mind imbued with a deep genuine concern for their happiness, safety, peace and well-being. In this way may we all experience the fruits of our loving and compassionate heart in this very life.

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