Going Back to the Basics

Before anyone learns how to run, they must first learn how to crawl. Before creating works of art, they must first learn how to draw basic shapes. In any endeavor, anything people try to do, the basics are always important. They build the foundation for everything else. With the basic skills in anything at all, with enough practice and application, they can accomplish wonders. It is in these basics that you learn the building blocks that make up the more advanced skills in anything we do.

Lately, I have been thinking of this and realized that I need to get back to the basics of well…. everything. Before anyone can accomplish great feats of awareness and presence, we need to go back to the basics of awareness and presence of mind. In any book you read, anywhere you look, the most basic of exercises is breath awareness.

Why the breath? Well, everything begins and ends with the breath. We enter this world and take our first breath. We live our whole lives breathing, and we exit this world with our last breath. It is the most basic function of Life. It is a constant, always there, a necessity. With it being always required, always being there, it is the simplest and most available thing to practice awareness on. Anywhere you go, with anything you do, the breath will always be there. We all have to breathe after all.

Breathing, the simplest and most basic thing we do, also the most taken for granted and forgotten thing we do. Its just always there, so we tend to forget about it. How do we become more aware of our breath? Take some time to be alone, somewhere quiet and relaxing. Just sit there and take a few deep breaths to relax yourself. When you feel ready, close your eyes, Feel your in-breath. The way the entrance to your nose, your upper lip, and the skin between your nose and upper lip feel like with the in-breath. Now exhale. Watch your out-breath. How does it feel? Different from the in-breath? The same?

Do not try to control your breathing,  just watch and observe how we normally breathe. Follow your in-breath, follow your out-breath. If a sound distracts you, a thought catches your attention and you realize you are not paying attention to your breath, gently tell yourself  ‘Oops! there i go again! Thinking and getting distracted, now back to paying attention to my breathing’ do not be hard on yourself, it is neither good nor bad when we get distracted, it just is. Just gently bring yourself back to following your breathing. In-breath. Out-Breath. Just follow the natural ebb and flow of your breathing.

Another way to do this exercise would be to count your breath. With your in-breath silently count ‘one…’. Your next out-breath ‘two…’, in-breath ‘three…’ just count all the way up to ten. When you reach ten, start all over again in-breath ‘one…’ out-breath ‘two…’. Dont forget! if you get distracted, and your mind starts to wander, just say to yourself  ‘There i go again! My mind wandering off!’ and then start your counting again, in-breath ‘one…’ out-breath ‘two…’

Some people find this exercise easier with your eyes closed, while others with their eyes open. Personally, i find it easier with my eyes open. I gently focus on a spot a meter or two away from where i am sitting, and just try to be aware of everything around me as i count. Why do i find this easier than when i keep my eyes closed? I noticed i have a tendency to get sleepy and with my eyes closed, all i see is black, providing a blank canvas for my mind to paint more thoughts. If i focus on something outside of myself, i noticed i tend to be able to focus more.

If you find it difficult to maintain concentration and find yourself constantly getting distracted with thoughts, that is great! Why you may ask? It is great because that means you are being aware of being distracted. It shows that you are paying attention! Do not kick yourself for always being distracted, for always losing awareness of your breath, losing count, because the very fact that you caught yourself means that you have become more aware of your mind and how it works!

That’s about it! Pretty simple, although, you will notice that its not as easy as it is in practice. When you get the hang of it, start trying to be aware of your breath while walking, while driving, while eating, while doing practically anything and everything! It not only helps you raise your awareness, but also i noticed it helps you keep calm and relaxed most of the time.

Good luck! I hope that this has helped you in some small way or another, I know that writing this down has helped me focus more and helped solidify thoughts and ideas that have been floating in my head for quite some time. Build up your foundation! Be aware of your breathing, it is the building block that will help spur us on to greater heights of meditation, awareness, and in doing so, greater compassion, love, and appreciation of everything and everyone around us. Yes, that includes ourselves.

Namaste.

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Had a bad day

Today was a trying tiring day to say the least. First off i didnt get enough sleep (my fault though), then first thing when i wake up i knew that it wasnt going to be very pleasant. you know what im talking about, when you can just feel it and you wake up with a frown instead of a smile.

And it goes all downhill from there, from one thing to another, the whole day was long, dull, boring, and if it did get any exciting it was the not so pleasant emotional-wise exciting.

As i was walking home, in the rain, thinking to myself that this day totally sucked, i was having a bad day, and just wanted it over with, i stopped and realized what i was thinking and saying to myself. I realized i was caught in a negative spiral in my head and my thoughts were just running away from me.

So i closed my eyes, and took a few deep breaths. I asked myself, why is it a bad day? What happened? and i thought back on all the crap that happened to me that day, but then after careful thinking i thought to myself that these werent really bad. I just judged them as bad because they didnt fall into my neat little box of ‘nice things’ and so fell into the much bigger box of ‘not nice things’ and in so doing kept on piling up and piling up till i was being smothered emotionally and mentally.

So i took a couple more deep breaths while walking and tried to really ask myself why i was holding on to these ideas and expectation on how the day ‘should’ have gone instead of just accepting it as the reality for what it is. Why couldnt i just accept things as they are, let everything go and just live in the now. So i did,or at least tried to do that. So there i was, walking in the rain, with my shoes and socks and feet getting wet, my pants getting damp, taking slow deep breaths trying to let things go.

Does this mean that in trying to accept the reality of how my day went and let go of expectation that i wouldnt have wanted it to go well? no, of course we all have our preferences and stuff, but that doesnt mean that we cant let those go and just accept what is given to us if we dont get what we want right?

As i got to the train station, i saw that it was crazy in there, people shoving, sweating, and being all bad mood. Then there went my mind again with all its trash talk. I started thinking oh crap! this isnt my day!  Sh*t i wish today would be just over! but then i caught myself again, took a few deep breaths, and in so doing, i noticed the tension in my shoulders, the frown on my forehead, the tightening of my back, so i tried to relax and just accept the reality of the train station and the train ride.

Did accepting it make it less packed? less sweaty? less hot? not at all. Quite the opposite methinks seeing as in accepting reality I tried to immerse and be totally present instead of running away in my head trying to pretend it didnt exist. But do you know what? I have to say, that despite the rain, the wet socks and feet the damp clothes, the sweaty packed filled with annoyed people ride, this was a pretty pleasant evening.

Why? Because i realized that yes, i would have liked it to be different, but it didnt turn out that way, so instead of trying to fight it and pretend it didnt exist, i tried to accept the reality of it, and just live in the moment, to let things go and see the beauty and amazing things the moment had to bring.

Did i succeed in totally letting go of my stress? not really, every time someone would bump me or push me, my initial reaction would be to get annoyed and mad, but then id try to catch myself and let it go. And you know, it helped a lot! I think i was the only one who was calm and half smiling the whole trip!

So the next time you catch yourself thinking that things should have been different, that everything sucks and isnt going your way, just ask yourself, who are we to say what is best for us? what we really need for our growth and awareness? Every single moment, no matter what labels we try to push upon it, is perfect. Perfectly suited to help us grow and wake up to the amazing moment. The only reason why it becomes difficult is because instead of saying ‘oh well, it would have been nice to have it another way, but this way is better and more perfect, so i should open my heart and mind and see what i have to learn from it’ we try to push and control things that we most definitely cant!

Live every moment with wakefulness! wake up to the true beauty of everything around us! open up your heart and mind to the possibility that there is something more than our own petty wants and desires! That things always happen for a reason, and that reason is for us to grow and fully wake up to who we truly are. Then can we truly shine and bring light into this world with love, understanding, acceptance and compassion.

 

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Sangha

There is a term that i stumbled upon in this book im reading now. “Sangha” Wiki(thanks to Google define:) defines it as “Sangha (Pali: सन्घ ; Sanskrit: संघ ; Wylie: ‘dus sde) is a word in Pali or Sanskrit that can be translated roughly as “association” or “assembly,” “company” or “community” with common goal, vision or purpose.” – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sangha

What Sangha means(and from what i understood from the book im reading) to me is a community of like minded people that come together to meditate, chant, and discuss the Dharma. In other words, it is a group of people that come together to support each other and learn from each other. The book im reading also mentioned that the Sangha is more than just a group of ppl that go into the temple and meditate together,  it is everyone around you, everyone that has touched you, that you have learned from. Everyone you see on a daily basis, because lets face it, more often than not we see them a lot more than we see people at any religious ceremony.Take the Catholic Sunday Mass for example, which could be considered a form of Sangha, they come together to Worship and support each other in their spiritual growth.

Yet, there are a lot of ppl in our lives… Friends, Family, Co workers, People we pass on the street. And every single one of these ppl that cross our paths everyday are important to us. They are there to teach us something, to show us the way to true awakening and compassion. Through the simplest to the earthshaking acts that they do, they are always there to teach us and show us that there is no other time but now. nothing else but this moment.

They are our teachers, or guides on this journey we call life. Something that we should always be grateful for, no matter what they do or how they do it, be it ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in our eyes, it is always something we need to accept, learn from , let go, and just love them and shine with compassion and understanding.

Yes, there are special people in our lives, special people that hold a special place in our hearts. The one’s we run to when we ourselves are tired and drained, when we need a shoulder to lean on, an ear to listen to, for we are still human after all. These should be cherished and appreciated. They are a gift to us, and not something to cling onto, but something we appreciate as they are there, and bid a fond loving farewell if their paths ever move away from ours.

Yet, everyone we see, meet, and interact with should be special to us. They are there to show us the way, to help us wake up to the present moment, to be aware of the beauty and wonder of reality. To let go of expectations and just take things as they are, to be at peace and hold joy and love in our hearts.

So the next time we walk down the street or corridor, The next time we see a co worker or a friend or even a total stranger, no matter who they are, or what they are doing. Be it helping us out in some small way, just passing us on the street, getting in our way as we walk, doing something that annoys us, or makes us laugh, or cry. Let us ask ourselves, what is it they are trying to show us? to teach us? how can i use this to wake up more to the present?

Let us look around with eyes that have been opened a little more, and not regard ppl around us as just ppl, just there to fill the empty space. Let us regard them as wonderful Beings, full of the potential to love and shine with compassion, to show us that love and compassion even if they do not know it themselves just yet. To keep in mind that we are also a part of their lives, that we are there to help them wake up even just a bit. Be it a smile, a kind word, or help in some small or big way.

Everyone and Everything is a part of our lives, a part of who we are, to help us grow spiritually and wake up to the perfectness of where we are at the moment. All we need to realize and keep in mind that they are our support, our community, an integral imporant part in our growth and awakening, our Sangha.

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Drained and Tired

Been feeling so tired and drained lately. A lot has been happening right now, nothing major nor bad. Just a lot of things have been taking me away from meditation and focus. I am feeling that this is a lesson too for myself. I always make it a point to go to the gym, get enough sleep (which has been difficult these past few days), eat regularly, etc… Daily things that one needs to survive (yes, exercising is part of that for me). Yet, i noticed that the first thing that flies out the window and gets sacrificed is my meditation and focus.

The minute i am remotely tired or sleepy i just say “ill do that tom”, or “ugh, too sleepy, wont be able to concentrate anyways”. Yet, i keep on forgetting that meditation is the key to staying focused, to calming one’s mind of random thoughts to be truly aware of the present.

The lack of sleep has been making focusing during the day difficult, and i catch myself spacing out and living in my head a lot more than usual (which may be a good thing seeing as i need to be more aware of the times when i do). I noticed that it also comes when i skip my meditation, which is something i should be doing daily but failing miserably at due to one excuse or another.

And that’s just it, its all an excuse! do i make excuses to not gym? not go to work? not eat? not sleep? not shower? okay… maybe the “not gym” part i always make excuses for too (mental note, start going to the gym regularly again). We all take care of our physical selves so meticulously, with the clothes, the hair, the food, etc… But what about the inside? The heart? the mind? the soul?

I must confess that i forget about those too, especially when im tired, or stressed, or sleepy. But what I need to realize is that the inside is just as important, if not more important than the outside. A strong mind makes a strong body, and vise versa, as they say.

So starting today, i will commit to meditating everyday, trying to stay focused, and developing my heart, mind, and soul just as much as i try to develop and maintain my physical body. Tired or not, Sleepy or not, stressed or not, I need to develop that discipline in taking care of myself fully, 100%.  Mind, Body, and Soul.

Only then will i be able to develop the focus to accept, to let go, to embrace everything with loving kindness and compassion. Then i will be able to shine and awaken to the wonder, beauty, and the “perfect-ness”, of everything, everyone, and of every single moment. Because everyone gets tired, everyone gets sleepy, everyone gets stressed, we are human after all. And that is what is so great! and amazing! We are human, perfectly amazingly ourselves that we need to be at that very moment, everything we need to wake up, to be one with the moment, and truly see everything as everything truly is!

So dont give up hope if you get sleepy, tired, or stressed and you feel like you arent doing a good job being nice, or responsible, etc. Just keep at it, dont give up, keep in mind that we are human, this is who we are, what is important is that we embrace it, accept it, then let it go, to let the love and light of compassion shine through us, to use this to grow, to wake up to the present moment! to just Be.

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Drowning

Ever had one of those days where you felt like everything was just piling up and you just kept on getting hit in the gut and pushed in the mud over and over again?  Like all those little things and problems just keep on coming and coming and no matter how much you struggle and fight they just seem so overwhelming that it feels like you drowning in them?

Be it a lot of small little annoyances and problems, or one major huge problem, we all have something that stresses us out or annoys us or swamps us everyday.  It happens to me all the time and you know what? Lately, ive been realizing that maybe, we should be grateful for these things that happen.

Of course, im not some masochist that wants to suffer and get hurt and be in pain all the time. I just try to view these occurences not as something that is negative that needs to be avoided and fought against, but something more. Because think about it, they are there. No matter how much you refuse to accept it, how much you fight against it. It will always be there. It just and always will be there. It is.

So why do i think we should be grateful? As i said, these are a part of reality, a part of our lives, a part of who we are, and we should always be grateful for all things that happen to us, because they are us in a way.

 I am slowly learning to accept them, to not judge them as good occurence or bad occurence, i just look at them and say to  myself that this is what is happening right now, it is neither bad nor good, it just is. If we stop trying to fight it,  to keep on thinking and wishing that it didnt happen, that it could have been different. If we just accept it with a loving and open heart. Accept the now, Embracing the reality and what this moment truly has to offer. I can learn how to let these things go.

I believe that in accepting these problems and annoyances, in embracing them, in taking a deep breath instead of holding it all in, in relaxing into them, acknowledging them, looking at them with love and compassion, i, and you too, can rise above it all.

That these will cease to become ‘problems’ or ‘annoyances’ or ‘bad things’ and will just become things. It will transform into something that kicks us down, and throws us in the mud and dirt and muck into something that just is, its there, and i am there, and everything fits into place.

We will be able to see it as it truly is, a learning experience, a way for us to grow, and wake up to the reality that is surrounding us, wake up from the sleep that we have put ourselves in, to shake off the dream we have spun around ourselves with our minds and finally open our eyes.

When our eyes are fully open, when we shake off the cobwebs of illusion and dreams that we have created ourselves, we will see that there everything is at it should be. That things are just the way they are because they are. With no judgement of good or bad. That everything is as it should be, and our hearts will open up like a flower, shining with the peace and love and compassion of the knowledge that everything is just… Perfect in their own little way, that there is a greater picture and purpose in everything, and we are a part of that great picture, and everything comes together to form something just wonderful, and magnificent, and perfect.

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Tonight’s gonna be a good night!

Tonight is Sat night, where everyone looks forward to going out and having fun with their friends, or spending a quiet night at home. Everyone is filled with excitement and expectation with how this night is going to be, or should i say how it is supposed to be?

People are always filled with desires and expectations. I want things this way, i want this, i want that, i want this to happen, this is how i want my day to be. There is a slight problem with that though. That is that things will never come out exactly like you expect them to be. When that happens our minds are always filled with thoughts like “This isnt what i wanted”, “this isnt how it was supposed to be!” “this shouldnt be happening” “my day is now ruined!” sounds familiar? It does to me.

Will we always suffer and rile against the unfair-ness of life? How life and the Universe or God doesnt give us what we want? CAN we do anything about it in the first place?? The answer is, well, No. There is nothing you can do, you can wear yourself down trying to control everything in your life but that just wont work. Its like trying to hold back the tides, or keep the earth from spinning on its axis, or keeping the sun from rising, or the moon from changing phases, or the rain from coming, or… or… well, you get the picture.

So what can be done? Well, from my experience, what can be done is just accept. We need to learn how to let go of our expecations of everything, who says what we want is the best for us in the first place? I am pretty sure that most of us have had something really bad (or so we thought at that time) happen to us but then in the end it turned out to be the best thing that happened to you. It is exactly that that we need to keep in mind. How do we know that this thing that, at least in our heads, isnt supposed to happen is not the best thing that can happen to us?

Good thing? bad thing? who knows? all we have to do is accept that they are there. There is nothing that we can do about it. When we stop fighting reality, stop fighting what is around us, always trying to say no, its not like that! no! i refuse to accept! and just let go, accept, and realax into the what is instead of living in our head and clinging onto the what should be, then we can truly be alive.

So this sat night, let us make plans, yes, but let us say to ourselves ‘these plans are nice, but if it doesnt happen, if something else happens that totally goes against these plans, i will accept it, love it, and live it because that is all that there is, because this is who i am, , the present” . We accept, we embrace, then we let go, with love and acceptance and compassion in our hearts. Then can we trully be alive and live, able see the glory and the wonder of where we are at the moment. Then can we slowly realize that there is nothinbg but this moment, and it is good. and wonderful and perfect.

So this sat night, let us go out with a smile on our lips, a twinkle in our eyes, and a shine in our hearts and bring this light and love and happiness and joy into the world. Let us shine like the bright stars that we are.

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Emotional Storm

Im very agitated right now.  Lets just say that certain events in my work life that has happened today just seem to be bashing at me and causing me much frustration and resentment. I can feel it, this emotional storm inside me, raging and making me want to lash out. To shout, scream, lose my temper, we all have been in this situation at one point or another.

But I will do something different today. I will not let this emotional storm affect me. I will not let this storm take over me. I will be still. I will focus. For There is a part of me that sees these emotions, that recognize it, yet is also apart from it. Today i will live the saying “Emotions are like the weather, they come and they go, but you will always remain”.

Because yes, a lot of us get ruled by our emotions. We embrace them so totally most of us cannot see where the emotions end and we start. A lot of ppl would argue that we are our emotions, that they are an integral part of who we are.

Yet, if I really think about it, my emotions come and they go, yet there is always this small part that always remains ME. It is in finding that part, that always is who i am, the one that no matter what is happening around me there is always one small part that is at peace,  that is calm, that is shining. Even if that shine is dulled and covered up by whatever emotion may be around it. Like a jewel covered in mud.

And the next time your emotions rage, take a deep breath. and another. and another. Stilling you thoughts, finding that small elusive center inside of you that is always shining calmly with love and compassion. And look at your emotions, and accept them, Do not label them good, nor bad. They just are. There are there, a part of  life, of who we all are, your present. And then let them go.

It is in accepting the reality of why these emotions are here in the first place, of the situation that has caused them, and us fighting this reality that cause such a storm. Like two pieces of wood, one our expectations and wants, and the other what is reality, rubbing against each other causing a fire. If we let go of our expectations and accept reality for what it is with an open heart, it will be easier to embrace them and ultimately let them go with a loving heart.

It is then we will find peace. Where our hearts will shine with love and compassion. Where everything will get easier, when we just stop fighting things and accept them, and smile.

May you always walk with a smile on your lips, a shine in your eye, and compassion shining from your heart.

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