Posts tagged ‘happiness’

To speak or not to speak

Most everyone that’s new to meditation practice has expressed the same conflict and confusion. How do you tell your friends and family about your practice? The internal dialogue surrounding the decision is an interesting paradox worth exploring for ourselves.

You may have been at this for a while now and realize that this is something that you want to become a regular part of your life, or you may have realized that being yourself, being connected to the universe, practicing kindness is your life. It’s only natural to want to talk to others about something good that has happened to you. You may even have the best intentions of wanting others to find the happiness and calm center that you have discovered, but you know that some people in your life won’t be very receptive. Some may even be very judgmental and say hurtful things to you. So there is this conflict of wanting to share about your practice and the way you see the world and being afraid of being judged by loved ones who just don’t understand.

First, we need to explore our motivations for wanting to tell others about it but also explore why we are afraid of being judged by others. On one hand we may want to share our experience with others as another form of seeking approval and validation from people. While not to let anyone know about the changes we’ve experienced is a fear of rejection and losing approval. It’s really a paradox. The ego is at play in both decisions, but realizing how it’s at work gives us areas to explore and work through.

  • What is it about me that craves the approval of others?
  • Why do I need others to validate my experience for me?
  • If I can’t be myself around those that love me, do they really love me or the idea of me?
  • What is it about rejection that terrifies me and paralyzes me?

Second, we shouldn’t try to evangelize others to bolster our own lack of confidence. I ran across a wonderful Taoist insight by Chuang-tzu this week that we could learn from:

She let’s the confused stay confused
if that is what they want
and is always available
to those with a passion for the truth.

When we free ourselves of this desperate need for approval, we can be truly ourselves. When someone that we love has a genuine need or has expressed interest in changes they see in us, we can have the courage and humility to be honest and to be kind in our responses.

Remember, the Buddha said, “Be a lamp unto yourselves.” We don’t have to seek validation for the path that we know is right for us, but we also don’t have to force our way on others who may not be ready at this time or ever.

Practice loving-kindness and mindfulness for their own sake, whether anyone understands why you do or not. Just be yourself. Be present. Be kind. Let your life touch others and let your actions speak louder than words. Explanations won’t be necessary.


My Journey Into Real Happiness

I first meditated almost two years ago. At first it was a purely an attempt to gain control over an immune system out of control and stress consuming my life. I experienced an immediate change in my health and was able to get off a lot of prescription meds soon after with the help of vitamins and supplements.

For almost a year afterwards meditating was something I did sporadically as needed, when I had time for it. It was an exercise in self-help. While I continued to derive health benefits from the practice, the principles, and natural vitamins, I didn’t take it seriously.

About 9 months ago I began sitting with more regularity, at least weekly. When I picked up Sharon Salzberg’s book Real Happiness in January of this year, it gave me tools to deepen the practice and engage it more fully.

I began sitting for several times a week until I was sitting everyday by the end of the 28 day journey through the book. By the time I finished the book mindfulness was no longer just something I did sitting on a cushion in the corner. I began practicing mindfulness throughout my day. I continued the practice since February, sitting almost daily with a few exceptions. I also learned not to beat myself up for missing a day or getting off course.

A month ago I decided to go through the 28 days of Real Happiness again and made a serious commitment to sit at least 20 minutes a day everyday from now on. This practice became much easier with the support of my wife and kids who recognized it was here to stay, and I hope also saw that I was more pleasant to be around as a result.

The second 28 days has just ended, and I have really enjoyed the journey. There were several not so pleasant moments on the cushion such as dealing with a monkey mind, difficult emotions, or sleepiness, but I had discovered a way to work with those moments so that even they were included in my practice.

While I intended to just sit at least once a day, I quickly found myself sitting twice a day most days of the week. It was no longer something I had to make time for. It was something I truly wanted to do, and it began to feel more and more like the path that felt right for me.

This is how I came to the practice of meditation or how the practice came to me. It’s something that I have committed to continue and make a regular part of my life. The challenge is “taking the practice off the cushion,” seeing how it affects everyday life, and trying to practice mindfulness and lovingkindness in each of those moments. I don’t always get it right, but at least I’m aware and awake for perhaps the first time. When I blow it, I can always start over and just begin again.

Life Never Better, Death Never More Certain

If you’ve read much of my blog, you will know that I’ve been like a kid in the candy store the last year and a half learning to live life all over again. I’ve been through self-admitted detox to break my addiction to vocational Christianity and have begun the journey to truly know Christ and to know myself. My family is well and happy. I wish I could freeze time and keep my two boys at 4 and 1.5 years old forever, if not for the joy of watching them grow up. I’m in love with my wife who is still my best friend after 13 years. My business is finally turning a corner, and 2006 is looking to be my best year yet. I’m in love with life and am pursuing my passions.

Before you think I’m in a state of disillusioned euphoria, let me tell you that I have never been more in touch with reality. My mood vacillates almost as much as the balance in my checkbook. All things considered life is good, very good, and for that reason death is beginning to sting. Watching my kids grow up and the seasons change makes time seem to race on by. Who knows how many more years God will allow me. Forty, if I’m lucky. 1976 didn’t used to seem that long ago. My grandparents are getting older, and their health is failing. My grandfather was invincible when we were growing up, and now he seems very human. My grandmother has alzheimers and doesn’t even know her own husband or her own children anymore.

I read the Bible differently these days. I try to read it for what it really says, not for what I want it to say, or for what others have told me it says. [This is the point in the movie where you may want to change channels for a bit or risk getting really messed up theologically.] I’m not so sure anymore what I believe about heaven and hell. If both are real, something tells me people won’t be divided up so nice and neatly as we’ve been led to believe. If Jesus told us anything about it, He said that there will be a lot of surprises for many people. Some days I default to the nice Sunday School version of life that allows you to sleep in peace knowing that you’re an insider and have nothing to worry about. Some days I think that the blood of Christ covers every sin and no one is turned away. Some days I wonder if we just don’t die like every other creature and cease to be, simply return to the earth from which we came. No matter, death still stings.

I fell in love with the music of Johnny Cash some time last year, especially his later recordings. Johnny Cash was a man in touch with death and pain. He was able to vocalize what we think and feel about death like no other. You cannot listen to his music and not come face to face with your own mortality, which, I believe, is the key to truly enjoying life. The stark reality of death makes life more precious.

I don’t think we should live in fear of death but nor should we surrender to it. I’ve seen many terminally ill people over the years who cling to every last breath they can muster long after their body has given out. There is something in the human spirit that fights against death and clings to life. I’m not afraid to die, but not because I know exactly what happens after death. I’m not afraid to die, because I know God and trust Him to do with me what He will. Until my time comes, and it will, I will celebrate life and enjoy every day I’m given. One day, I will fight the good fight then lay this body down and rest in Him.