Quick Pleasure or Lasting Bliss?

Quick Pleasure or Lasting Bliss?

Quick Pleasure or Lasting Bliss?

“The purpose is to transcend pain and suffering.”

What is meditation? What is the message of Jesus? What is the message of Buddha? Their message is that there is a zone within us; a zone where there is peace and tremendous joy. When you touch this joy, you know that it’s internal and you know that it’s real. In this zone, the pain of the body goes away; the pain of the mind goes away, and you experience existence in its most natural state.

While you’re having sex, or when you drink alcohol, use drugs, or take part in whatever it is that you do to escape, you are basically connecting with that zone. That’s when the peace comes. You don’t smoke to be happy, you smoke to forget the pain of the body, or you drink alcohol to forget the pain of the body. Now for me, any “sudden jerk” in trying to connect with that zone–that inner zone–without a systematic process is just like smoking and drinking and having sex.  It’s like walking into someone’s house and seeing them drinking and being blissful, being happy, and then walking into someone else’s house and they are crazily jumping and dancing and speaking in different tongues. It’s the same thing. They’re experiencing some kind of joy, but once they step out of that experience they can’t carry forward that experience, so they feel depressed and sad.

This is where systematic practice is required to help you understand what mindfulness is, what meditation is, and how to gradually get into it. Life is a very long phenomenon; it’s not like you just live for 10 days. It only takes a few years to get to the point of experiencing this bliss. All we need is to develop the narrative. We need to develop the conversations. People should start talking about the scientific way of exploring the inner life and they should get into the practice of naturally touching those internal zones. In all my years of meditation, I have never done anything crazy. I’ve never danced, no drama, never have psyched myself up. Once in a while I used to connect and feel all this is good, but then I quickly stepped away from this knowing that those feelings weren’t the “real thing”–They were not permanent. 

For me, I wanted to be in this zone permanently. I didn’t want to just start something accidentally. I wanted to be able to find that zone again. If you approach meditation gradually you might not experience tremendous energy and crazy things happening all of a sudden, but gradually you will experience it and enjoy it. It’s a better idea to experience gradual enlightenment because you need to know the path, you need to know how you got to that zone so that you can go back to it at will. 

Ultimately, what is the purpose? The purpose is to transcend pain and suffering. Do you want to go beyond pain and suffering for one moment and fall back into it? I mean it’s like this: Do you want to go beyond your pain and suffering completely and experience tremendous blessing one moment and then fall back into the body consciousness where the pain is still there, or do you want to gradually reduce the pain of the body, and gradually reduce the pain of the mind by connecting with that zone again and again, by going deeper into meditation? The pain of the mind reduces by understanding it, by watching the thoughts. In that understanding, you grow. This is why I say the best meditation without any doubt comes from the middle path.

When you touch the inner zone through external means such as sex or alcohol, it’s only momentary, and as soon as “the high” is gone, you’re right back to where you were, only feeling worse, because you’re not experiencing that bliss anymore.  The middle path is simply integrating quiet, meditative time into each and every day. Be mindful throughout the day, and watch your thoughts. There won’t be any “sudden light”, but the light will gradually get brighter and brighter until every day of life is full of bliss and you can live from that inner zone without external stimulation.

What matters

What matters

What matters

I’ve never climbed in the Himalayas but I’ve read a lot about those who do. And it is there climbers encounter above twenty-five or twenty-six thousand feet a place known as the Death Zone. It is so named because at that altitude there is a variety of conditions that if not overcome will painfully kill you.

Of course the most obvious one is the thin air. Even with supplemental oxygen the body won’t perform with its usual efficiency. And because one’s faculties are typically impaired there,  a climber is more exposed to falling, various forms of edema and other potentially fatal results. Weather is also likely more extreme and dangerous, causing many climbers to bivouac in places where survival is unlikely at best.

A very small percentage of climbers ever experience the Death Zone of the highest mountains in the world and for good reason. It’s just too dangerous.

However, in life there are some reasons we might live in our own Death Zone of sorts. In fact, we can’t avoid it. It’s living knowing that at any moment our life on this earth could end. We could be gone or someone we love simply won’t be around. Morbid? Creepy? A little out there perhaps? Yes, in some ways. What would we do if death were looking us in the eye all of a sudden? 

I think the answer gives us some essential things to think about doing NOW without living in some sort of dark, fearful place in the process.  Let me suggest a few. 

First, make the most of every moment you can. No, none of us can savor each second of every experience, but we can slow down and enjoy people and opportunities a bit more.  We can quit cramming so many things into our lives and running by people we love as though they are hardly there. We can stop and watch our kids and grandkids longer, spend a few more minutes with a spouse or friend and just enjoy little special moments of nature that occur every day all around us.

Second, take inventory. Be brutally honest about how many things you’re doing that really matter for the long-term versus those that are just because everyone’s doing them. Yes, there’s nothing wrong with leisure, goofing off now and then and simply having fun. But are we letting the temporary push aside the eternal and the things we think we should invest in for our gain steal time from the people we want to invest in because we love them?  Have we pushed the most important things and experiences into the I’ll-do-them-someday-when-I-have time category?

Third, say what you want to say now. I’ve often thought we should have everyone’s funeral before they die if possible. That way people can say to another’s face what they want to say about them and would likely say once they’re gone. Well, in a sense and in the same way we would be wise to say what we want to say to people before one of us is gone. Do we need to forgive, tell them we love them or that we are proud of them, let go of some past hurts or remind them of how much they meant to us?  Do it now.

Has the Older Generation Screwed up the World?

Has the Older Generation Screwed up the World?

Has the Older Generation Screwed up the World?

(Full transcription of video)

There is a popular wave among young people that seems to have taken hold of their minds and imaginations, and it’s shaping the way they are looking at the past and the future of being a part of the human community, as well as being a part of nature. That idea is that, “The adults have screwed up, not just certain things, but everything, and we young people are going to set it right.”

“We are going to bring back a synergy between human beings and nature. We are going to stop killing animals for food. We will be sensitive toward the people of other religions, color, and sexual orientation. The older generation has done none of these things. The older generation has been destructive, they have destroyed the planet, and they’re continuing to do it. Somebody has to stop them!”

It’s a very popular idea. Environmentalists talk about it, and millennials are totally obsessed with this idea. It’s obvious that this idea is real and it’s there in their mind, because they don’t listen to the older generation. Beyond a certain age, they are not interested in the wisdom of the older generation. That’s a serious problem for a culture, and for human beings, because information and knowledge can be passed between people of same the age groups, but wisdom, more often than not, comes from experience. It comes from the richness of the experiences of life.

Whether you want to believe it or not, wisdom can only be passed from the past, to the present, to the future. It can only be passed by those people who have already been through the experience of life, and who know certain things the younger generation doesn’t. I truly believe the younger generation has misunderstood technological innovation to be intelligence. Intelligence is a completely different phenomenon, and gadgets and gizmos are a completely different phenomenon.

Just because a certain generation did not have iPhones doesn’t mean that they were idiotic; they simply had no need for it. I mean language is a double-edged sword – you can argue either way. You can say the older generation was smarter because they didn’t even need an iPhone. Today’s generation needs all these things to be able to make sense of life, to connect with people.

Simplicity of life is what they had embraced and it worked for them. For the sake of argument, let’s take the example of the coronavirus. It is not man-made, it is not a product of modernization, and it is not a product of modern habits. If anybody says that the coronavirus is the result of what we have been doing over the last few years or few centuries, they simply don’t know anything about human history. Viruses have always been there, they have always wiped out populations, and it has nothing to do with human activities. Viruses and bacteria are the cleansing mechanism of the earth. Without them, a dead body (plants and animals) would not decay. It’s the process, right? It’s the way in which the balance between organisms and nature is maintained.

When a certain population, let’s say sheep, or cows, or a population of some species begins to explode and dominate and smother other species, something like this happens. The precise reason for these things is unknown, but it’s a way in which nature balances itself. As far as nature is concerned, there is no good or bad. If there was, then such a thing as virus would not exist. It is bad for us because it affects us, it hurts us, and it kills us. We are a tiny part of this vast landscape of life, we have to protect ourselves from nature, and viruses are a part of nature.

The tree-hugging generation has totally forgotten that it is our modern amenities that are keeping us alive today. Just imagine if you let go of all the modern accomplishments of the human race over the past hundred years – take away the communication channels, the advancements in medicine, transportation systems, internet, architecture, house construction – take away all that, you would have probably one in five chances of surviving. That’s why this virus would have wiped you out. The reason why you are alive is because you are finding shelter in the very same things that you are blaming the older generation for. They created this. They didn’t destroy the planet, they have given an opportunity for the younger generation to live in peace for the first time.

Today, a young person can let go of the basic fears of life that human beings lived in for a very long time: Protecting themselves from the environment, from diseases, from wild animals, from other people, from wars, and communal violence. For the first time, this very same older generation that’s being blamed for everything has given today’s young people an opportunity to pursue a life of imagination and creativity. Because they have taken care of the basic necessities, you are standing on the shoulders of their work.

That is why you are even able to see so far ahead and contemplate your position amidst nature and life, and plants and animals. They have worked to give you the platform. If you are not given the platform, you would be at exactly the same level as the rest of the animals. Forget about compassion and contemplation, you’d be struggling to survive.

This argument between the old and the young, modern and ancient, or traditional and modern, is totally superficial. In reality, human beings have intelligently explored their environment and they have reshaped it according to their needs. The problem that we are facing is not our modern lifestyle or destruction of the environment. That is not the problem. The problem is meaning and purpose, which has always been missing.

A human being has always been subjected to asking this most important question, “What is the purpose of my life?” We try to find meaning in different things. In fact, our love for the environment, love for animals – this feeling that the generation before us completely disregarded the environment, comes from our need to connect with everything. That very same need is what pushed generations of people before us to accomplish what they’ve accomplished.

Try to understand this: Modernization/civilization is not one man’s idea. It is not one individual’s dream or desire. We’re not slaves to modernization. We are all a part of it, we are in it, and we are enjoying the benefits of it. Now, one thing this particular virus has done is given us an opportunity to step back and look at the relationship between man and nature. We have always been thinking that a perfect correlation between man and nature can exist; man can live amidst nature in perfect harmony.

What this virus has shown us is, if you want to live in perfect balance with nature, you should also accept the laws of nature. The law of nature is impartial death, meaning that nature doesn’t care who you are – whether you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate – when nature chooses to kill you, you have to die. Will you accept that? You cannot, right? So, by the very nature of how things are, we have to fight against nature to survive. Where did we forget this? If we don’t fight with nature, nature will consume us. We are just a tiny part.

Now, are you so selfless that you’re willing to sacrifice yourself for the sake of nature? Of course not! You can talk about environment, and you can talk about absolute synergy, you can talk about all kinds of things, but you are talking about it, you are at the center of everything. When your life is in danger, when your survival is in question, then the relationship between you and nature changes. If the very same tiger that you’re conserving, that you want to be protected, is chasing you, and if you were given an opportunity to kill the tiger or die, what would you do? Would you say, “The tiger is more precious than me, so consume my life?”

It is an undeniable fact: “I” stands above everything. It is not an idea – Self is not an idea. Self is your reality – and that’s the only thing you have, and that’s the only thing that you’re fighting to protect. As long as you possess that self you can talk about environment, and you can talk about synergy with nature, and all that. But when your survival is in question, nothing else matters.

So, what has the previous generation destroyed? They have destroyed the absolute possibility of your destruction. They have created civilization. They have created a system under which you can stay alive – basic, plain, and simple. Because you can stay alive, then comes other contemplations, other desires.

Having compassion toward animals is actually a higher form of thinking. I’m not degrading it. What has it taken for us to get to that level where we can contemplate on higher things, apart from just worrying about our survival?

I think this “social distancing” time is a wonderful opportunity to step back, take a break, relax, and see life for what it is. On one hand it is a struggle for survival, and that’s what the older generation had to deal with. The generations that have come before us had to fight for everything. They had to create things. The very amenities that we are enjoying, they had to put in their blood, sweat, and energy to create. That is one part of it: Survival.

Then comes appreciation, involvement, and celebration of life! This is a great opportunity. Since the older generation has given us a basic platform without having to worry about some animal attacking or even somebody attacking you, I would say it’s one of the most wonderful opportunities to step back and relax – be in silence, be in solitude. Just meditate for a while. Settle into the experience of life. When you don’t have to worry about running around, you can look at things more closely. You can play with your children, you can be amidst nature. Isolation doesn’t mean that you lock yourself in a room, it means stay to away from people, stay by yourself. This doesn’t mean that you cannot walk into nature. It doesn’t mean that you cannot go hiking. It doesn’t mean that you can’t go outside (in America anyway). Isolation is really just to not become an agent of spreading the disease. Whether you get personally ill or not, you can become a carrier. So, just stay away from people.

What a wonderful thing! In fact, even without this virus, I have been saying, “Step away, get away from everything. Take a break. That’s what meditation is all about.” In fact, silence, solitude, stillness, I’ve been talking about it like a prescription for coronavirus. I don’t even know what that virus is, but I’ve been talking to you about it like a prescription, because that’s what heals. That’s what I mean. Rest is how healing takes place.

We need to look at this as an opportunity to relook at certain aspects of life; that we look at our relationship with the environment. You can love nature, but you should also accept that nature is a dangerous place. It’s pretty from the outside. The forest looks beautiful, nice and green, with flowers blooming, and birds chirping. When you have to live in it, that is when you will know that everything will be trying to eat you.

All the modern accomplishments have just been a way to keep ourselves safe. This poses another challenge: Because we have developed this understanding that we can protect ourselves, we’ve got to understand that a virus is nature’s way to eliminate the sick, the old, and the dying. It affects everybody, but it kills those who have some problems health issues. Right now, this is where our confrontation is, this is where our intelligence is.

We cannot allow nature to do that to our elderly people, or people who have issues, because we have intelligence and we can take care of them.  There itself is your confrontation with nature. Love for nature, respect for nature, and a true understanding of nature is something you can look at in these times – not just blind, mad, tree-hugging stuff.

There is a reason why humanity is the way it is: If you look at a lot of our amenities and facilities, it’s basically an extension of nature. It’s an extension of the very same things nature provides. If an alien were to drop on this planet and go in search of intelligence, it would find intelligence in the city, not in the forest. It would move around in the forest and realize that there are animals there but there’s not much intelligence.

Animals are a part of nature. This is just the process. This animal cannot survive on its own but here is a species that has fought this system, and that’s where I see intelligence. Now, tell me if you can postpone your death, even by a single day – isn’t that a part of intelligence? Wouldn’t you call that intelligence? There was a time when the mortality rate was so high that people usually died around the age of 30-40. If somebody could live until 50, that was an achievement. Anything and everything could kill you; a fracture could kill, a bacterial infection could kill you. 

Our continuous fight against all these things is our fight against nature, because nature is raw, impartial, and not interested in human beings. That is where the whole problem is. Human beings are interested in human beings, but nature is not interested in human beings. Nature is interested in the balance. So, in nature there is no difference between a mosquito and a human being. Can you develop that level of compassion? Can you look at a mosquito and a human being with the same indifference and the same compassion? The day you’re able to do it, you’ve become a true environmentalist.

Until then, accept the fact that you are human-centric. Nature is a part of us. First, importance has to be given to human beings and the way we think, the way we are progressing. It is easy to love dolphins, dogs, cats, and other animals, but it’s a lot more difficult to love human beings. That’s what is happening. We’re falling in love with everything, and we are hating our own kind. To say, with such arrogance, that the previous generation has messed up! That itself is a testimony of how grossly we have misunderstood the contributions of people who came before us.

All these things that are happening show us that life is still very simple; it’s not about buildings, it’s not about advancement. Those things are necessities, but that’s not the fulfillment of life. What the current situation shows us is, a single virus – that is invisible – has shaken everybody from presidents to prime ministers to poets to writers and religious thinkers. Everybody shut up and stay at home! A thing that you cannot even see – a thing that you cannot fight with a sword, is knocking you down. Humility. There is so much more to life. There’s so much that we don’t see or understand.

We cannot just be blindly arrogant about our place in the environment. Yes, we can alter our environment to help our survival, to keep our children safe, that is who we are. That fear to stay alive helps us to keep creating things. We are naturally creative beings. Innovation is not just about survival; it’s also about enhancing our capabilities, and our desire to touch lives. If I have the capability to touch 10 people or 100 people, I will choose 100 people. That’s where technology and industrialization comes in.

When you put all these things in perspective, you can see that there is a balance, but that balance comes from our understanding. If we are just one-sided – all for environment or all for modernization, we miss certain things. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to see the balance: Somebody’s pushing and somebody has to resist. We love nature, but at the same time nature can destroy us. There cannot be a 100% synergistic way of living amidst nature. We need a wall, we need a boundary that can keep us safe. That’s what we call our homes, and the moment there is a home, there is a requirement to take care of it. Then comes all kinds of other amenities.

The entire modern world is built on a very simple premise: The moment you say you’re not living in the forest, you’re living in an artificially created environment, you need a lot of things. If you’re just living in the forest you don’t need things like air conditioning, heat, and running water. It’s just nature. Animals don’t worry about all that.

Where do all our necessities come from? It’s because we want to stay away from raw nature, we want to protect ourselves. Then comes all the requirements and necessities. If you say this is a destruction of the planet, then you are missing the point. How can it be destruction of the planet if it is to keep you alive? You might say, “Well, I’m not questioning individuals and homes, and things like that, I’m talking about industries. I’m talking about big corporations. I’m talking about organizations or industries that create lots of pollution.”

They are the machinery that is allowing us to live this way. It’s a mechanism. Of course, an industry, just by being the way it is, operates at a certain scale. Since it operates for multiple people, it appears like a big problem. Well, if you take away all these industries – you take away paper mills, you take away crude oil industries and such as that, what kind of world are you envisioning? My request for the younger generation is: There’s enormous wisdom that you can learn from people who have been through the experience of life. Life is not all about what’s happening right now. If you have lived 50, 60, or 70 years you would have seen these cyclical things. You would have seen financial cycles. You would have seen cycles of diseases, natural destruction, and you would have understood the balance. This is how nature functions, and you would be prepared for it.

But when you’re young, you might look at all these things as a problem. For all you know, this virus is a cyclical thing – it just happened. Because of the position that we are in, having the internet, technology, and all our available resources, we are made aware of the number of people who are dying. Every single individual who is being affected, you are able to look at them like statistics: By country, by region. This was not possible before.

What we need to do now is to stay away from people. We need to protect ourselves and others. Most importantly, we need to re-evaluate our relationship with the environment.

What is the Connection Between Stress and Creativity?

What is the Connection Between Stress and Creativity?

What is the Connection Between Stress and Creativity?

What is the connection between stress and creativity? Let’s first understand what exactly stress is. Stress is a fight or flight response of the mind triggered because of fear. This fear can either be real or perceived. When the mind is gripped by fear, it can race faster than normal, making it extremely difficult to stay focused and relaxed. In a way, stress is the absolute destroyer of our sanity.

Throughout the day and even during the night our mind is constantly in stress. Our mind is constantly chasing something (worrying about the future) or trying to run away from something (thinking about the past). This constant running and chasing creates stress. Over many years of this constant running, stress builds to eventually become a chronic problem sapping our vital energy and creativity.

Let’s rewind our minds back to our childhood and answer one question very sincerely. Are we more creative now or were we more creative when we were children? Of course, we were more creative during our growing up years. The sheer amount of learning that happened in our early years of life is proof of this. We solved more problems during the first 5 years of our lives than in the last 25 years combined

We have gotten so used to thinking about the future and dwelling on the past that complacency toward constant stress has made it immune and strong. So strong that it is becoming more and more difficult to identify and deal with stress. We just think it’s normal.

Creativity is a natural state of the mind. When the mind is not in stress, when it is in the present moment, it wants to solve problems; it wants to use its energies to positively express itself in many ways. A stress-free mind is a creative mind.

Creativity is not a domain of life. It is an essential and integral quality of our being. Not only are we a part of the creative expression of existence, existence is also a part of our creative expression. Stress can completely drown this creative force by not allowing us to rest and relax. When the mind is racing between the future and the past it is impossible for us to be creative.

Only when we slow down, take deep breaths, and just be in the present moment, can we be creative. This moment is all we’ve got; nothing was ever created in the future, and the past is just that–it’s the past–it’s gone. Enjoy this moment and embrace the creativity that flows from being in the present.

Your Mama was Right!

Your Mama was Right!

Your Mama was Right!

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!

Ever look back at all the things our mothers told us when we were growing up? I know I do. Some of it didn’t make any sense at the time, but by revisiting what she said, I can see the relevance to making life better. Let’s look at a few examples:

Make your bed.  Clean up your room. Seriously? “I’m just going to get right back in it tonight, and I’m not even going to be here all day long, so why bother?” Well, look at it this way: When you walk into your space, doesn’t it just feel better when the bed is made up and the room is clean? It actually makes sense because clutter creates chaos and confusion; things get lost which wastes time looking for them, causes undue stress, and it actually takes longer to clean up a big mess than just keeping things picked up along the way.  Not to mention if someone happens to drop by……

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.  Man, there are a lot of people on social media who need to revisit these words! Today’s world needs a HUGE dose of “nice”. It’s so easy to just be rude when you’re not face-to-face with someone, so why not just listen to mom–don’t respond at all.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  How true this is! If you want something bad enough, there is a way to do it. It just takes courage and belief in yourself. Get out of your box and live! You are the creator of your reality; you can keep on doing the same thing day after day after day and wish for something different, or…or.. — you can do something different! No one else is going to do something different for you–you are in charge!

Go outside and play. Wow, how we all need this today! Put your “homeland security tracking device” (aka cell phone) away and take a hike. The fresh air and nature will do wonders for your mood and the movement will get your blood moving (as mama used to say).

Sit down and be quiet. These are probably the most important words our mothers could have told us, but of course, they weren’t meant in the way that they should have been delivered. We all are way too busy nowadays and we really don’t take time out for quietness. Our minds are constantly working and really, it’s exhausting! A few minutes of just sitting quietly every day works wonders for our moods and attitudes, and well, everything for that matter.

Mamas are special people. Listen to them and love them while they’re around, and when they are gone, remember all the special times and learn from the bits of wisdom they passed along.

The Mind Game

The Mind Game

The Mind Game

I had a boss years ago who used to say, “If you don’t want to know the answer to the question, then don’t ask the question.” At first, I thought that was a stupid saying but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.

Let’s say for example that you ask your significant other, “In all your relationships, who have you been the closest to?”. They answer with a matter-of-fact honest answer that it was their high school sweetheart, who left them for someone else.

Nothing else has changed, your significant one still acts the same way toward you, but you just heard them say something that you hadn’t heard before. It changes the way you feel inside, doesn’t it? We get so caught up in constantly “doing things” that we forget that most of what we perceive as reality is, in fact, the part of life that we can’t see, like happiness, jealousy, sadness, joy, anger, and love.

Dealing with these tidbits of information that are unsettling to us can be a challenge. That’s where having a regular routine of sitting quietly and letting the mind relax helps out. When you sit quietly and just watch your thoughts it’s easier to keep thoughts from upsetting you. After practicing this for some time, you’ll see how your mind goes on its own little tangents, coming up with things you don’t want to think about, nonsensical things, and how you perceive and react to this “inner world” is what you have complete control over. It’s what is known as “the mind game”.

When you wake up in the morning, it’s totally up to you to start each day fresh or pick up baggage from the day, weeks, or even years before. Forcing our minds to take a break from thinking is the secret to controlling what we think, and sitting quietly on a regular basis is the method of forcing our minds to take a break and stop controlling our lives.

Plant, Animal, or Human?

Plant, Animal, or Human?

Plant, Animal, or Human?

Our lives aren’t so much different from that of animals, or plants for that matter. Think about it: When you pick a plant or pull a leaf off a tree, within a short time it withers, dies, and decomposes. That spark of life has been severed and survival is no longer possible for what has been picked. Similarly, when a person dies, that spark of life is gone so the body withers and returns to the earth.

That spark is the exact same spark for all living creatures; it’s called existence. We’re all swimming in it and don’t even recognize it. As Avi says, “We are like fish swimming in the ocean; we can recognize everything except the water, because we’ve always been in the water.” In this analogy, water is the spark of life.

Subconsciously (I imagine) for ages, people have equated human situations to plants in language. We have been comparing ourselves to the plant kingdom without giving it serious thought, but the sayings have a great foundation. For contemplation, here’s a sampling of horticultural words we use to describe human situations:

When you move from one town to another, it takes a while to “put down new roots”

Once you do put down new roots, you’ll always be a “transplant”

Large companies have “branches” and they “branch out” into new territories

A successful meeting could be considered as “fruitful”

A naughty child is sometimes referred to as “rotten”

Notebooks with separate sheets of paper are called “loose leaf”

When you’re in a situation great for learning, it’s called “fertile ground”

A “leaflet” is a small pamphlet

A “sprout” is a baby or small child

People just starting out in a creative endeavor are referred to as a “budding musician”, or a “budding artist”.

Take the word “ovule”. It’s used in both the plant as well as the animal kingdom–it’s used to represent the very first stages of life in each. Once we start growing, we take different directions, but we both started with ovules!

I think it’s fascinating to look at all the similarities we share with the plant and animal kingdoms. Makes the world feel a little more like home, doesn’t it?

The Secret of Inspiration

The Secret of Inspiration

The Secret of Inspiration

Why is it difficult to stay inspired and motivated all the time? What is it in the nature of life that makes it so hard to keep our motivation going? Let’s try to understand the science of motivation. More importantly, let’s try to understand why we lose the ability to stay motivated as we grow up.

There is no debate in the argument that we were a lot more motivated during our younger days. Irrespective of our age now, we can all reflect back on the time when we had more energy and enthusiasm. We can all recollect a time from our past when we were a lot more inspired and motivated.

One important reason it’s difficult for us to stay inspired as we grow up is our changing understanding of life. As we grow, our understanding of life changes and so does our attitude toward what inspires and motivates us. Since the very definition of “growing up” is a process of changing, staying motivated is a big challenge

The trick to staying inspired most of the time lies in our mind. If we are able to understand the nature of our minds clearly, we will be able to learn how to keep ourselves motivated.

As far as the mind is concerned, motivation is simply a state. In fact, our mind doesn’t understand motivation at all. The main thing it understands and recognizes is different states of our mind; positive and negative states. Being in a positive state of mind corresponds to being motivated, and a negative state of mind corresponds to demotivation and lack of enthusiasm.

It is amazing how much time, money and effort is spent in trying to motivate people. Most people understand motivation as a surge of energy; hence they fall into the age old trap of instant energizing, only to lose their energy all too quickly.

We cannot approach our personal motivation in this manner. Rather, we need to understand it as a way of keeping our mind in a positive state of mind. The biggest secret to motivation is knowing the difference between a negative and a positive state of mind. When we know what triggers a negative or a positive state of mind, it becomes possible for us to control our motivation levels.

The easiest way to stay motivated is by listening to the continuous conversation of our minds and not encouraging negative conversation. This sounds too simplistic to work, but it works brilliantly. Just by listening to our thoughts we can weed out negative and unnecessary conversations and cultivate an internal atmosphere of positivity and energy.

The Art of Self-Sufficiency

The Art of Self-Sufficiency

The Art of Self-Sufficiency

Many years ago I was at a job interview and the interviewer asked the question, “What are your goals?” By that point in my life I was getting weary of the 8-hour-per day grind, listening to employees whining and complaining about everything, and just feeling like I was missing life.

My answer to his question was a very matter-of-factly orated, “I want to be retired from corporate life, living in a cabin on the river, in as self-sufficient a manner as possible by the time I am 35 years old (I was 32 at the time). He laughed, and his response was “Yeah, I read Mother Earth News too.” Is it just me, or does everyone dream of living their own life on their terms?

I got the job, and when I was 36 my late husband and I bought 88 acres on a river in Cumberland County, Tennessee. A year later the place I worked for offered an early retirement incentive for folks who wanted to retire, so I did! We cut and milled trees to build a cabin, purified our own drinking water, had a composting toilet and a small garden, and I played in the woods a couple of years. We needed more income, so I had to go back to work for 14 more years. At least I got a taste of it for the time being.

You might think that you need lots of property, lots of knowledge, and lots of money to be self sufficient. Not so. There are many different levels of self sufficiency, and all of them feel good. Of course, a lot of folks start out with growing some of their own food to become more self sufficient. You do need some property to grow the veggies, but a very small (10×10 garden) will produce a surprising amount of vegetables.

Making your own soap and body care products such as shampoo and moisturizer is another way to avoid chemicals in the store bought products, and get the satisfaction of doing it yourself.  Making clothes, doing your own mechanic work, building construction–it all gives one great satisfaction, but there’s another way of being self-sufficient that most of us never even dream of.

The most wonderful aspect of life that I discovered during my self-sufficiency exploration was the spiritual part; the part that no one can see but me. Taking control of that aspect of my life has been the most amazing journey. Most people don’t pay any attention to their innermost being, but it’s as real as the nose on your face. And truthfully, the only way to access it is through self-sufficiency; after all, it is the self.

I discovered that my self is not some pie-in-the-sky abstract theory, but is truly a reality. The way to access your self is through sitting quietly and watching your thoughts. After doing this for some time you will realize that your mind isn’t interested in being with your body because it’s always off on some tangent, and your body isn’t part of your self because it changes all the time and your self doesn’t. The realization that I was a crowd of three was just the beginning.

After sitting quietly on a routine basis for several months, I also noticed that I didn’t get upset over things that used to bother me. My patience with others increased, my desire for entertainment (tv, movies) drastically reduced, I didn’t enjoy drinking alcohol as much, and I found myself reading more books and finding company with like-minded people. Seems like discovering my “self” made me like me a lot better. You’ve probably heard the saying, “How can you expect someone else to like you if you don’t even like yourself?”

It’s time for us to let go of the excessive amount of external stimulation we’ve got going on in this day and age and go inward. If people would just start slowing down, sitting quietly, and introspecting, there’s no limit to how wonderful the world could be. It’s time to become self-sufficient!

Mind and Sleep

Mind and Sleep

Mind and Sleep

All of us at some point in time have had trouble sleeping. No matter what we do, the body wants to sleep, but the mind says, “No way!” Why does this happen?  Sleep is our birthright!

Sleep doesn’t just happen (or not happen) during the night. How you sleep is affected by what goes on during the day. If your day involves constant thinking, jumping from one thing to another without any rest, then guess what? That’s going to continue into the night.

We need to understand that life has no upper and lower limits. We can work ourselves to death, we can think ourselves to death and we don’t realize it. We think that, “Oh, it’s just thinking; it’s wonderful, it’s nice,” but you can go crazy, you can go mad just by thinking. There’s really no upper limit since the mind is not a limited phenomenon. It’s only the body that is limited; the mind is totally free to imagine whatever it wants to imagine. It can go deeper and deeper into layers and layers of thinking where you can get totally trapped.

Our minds are like the engine of a car that we never shut off. We leave it running continuously, day after day, year after year, letting it just go crazy with thoughts. We need to learn how to shut the engine off when we’re not using it so we can get some rest! The way to do this is to incorporate “conscious rest” into our daily routines.  Conscious rest is simply to sit quietly and watch your breath. Each hour, if possible, sit for 10 minutes and just watch your breath. When a thought comes into your mind, just let it go; don’t entertain it. The monotony of watching the breath can magically keep thoughts at bay because your mind can only handle one thing at a time; if you’ve got it tied up watching the breath, then there’s no room for any imaginary trips of horror into the future or depressing dramas from the past.

This is going to seem impossible at first, because the mind has never been approached like this–it’s had free rein to think whatever it wants, whenever it wants. To gain control, you’ve got to be persistent. Just think: If you work for 8 hours per day and are able to sit 5 or 6 times during the day (and a little after work as well) and practice watching the breath, after a week or so you’ll start getting the hang of it. Then, the next time you lay down to sleep and your mind says, “I’m going off on a tangent now,” you can say, “No way–I’m watching the breath. You be still.”

And sleep will come.

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