Having just returned from a week in Germany, working on massage, learning, meditating, living at a completely different pace - unplugged, slow, I thought I would share some of my thoughts and reflections.
During and up toward the end of my stay, conversations among the students again and again returned to the following; "I WOULD like it so much to even manage to have some of this stress free time at home - but it is so difficult" . "Or:" I have to finally TRY TO LET GO and allow this feeling of relaxation to LAST. "Or," I MUST do more for me "I MUST!
Robert, our teacher, and Zen Master, in his wonderful German "English" says "Look out how you deal with you. Be careful that you do not set up again under pressure ". The challenge, is not that I must exert myself now to become a better person. I come home and want to change something, I think I might have had the characteristics that thought and behavior patterns with which I have been pressured me, now just trying to let go. All this effort, however, can in turn lead to new fatigue and feeling, not create it the way I liked it!"
The Hawaiians have a very different approach. There is in each of us a built in sense of our own needs! Instead of this feeling of having to constantly put oneself under pressure to perform for the outside; for family, for friends, for work, for others, allow yourself to be more vigilant. Pay more attention to and LISTEN more to your inside. When I do I notice that - my feelings are clear. It's constantly there, that feeling, and it tells me what I need at any given moment. Internal guidance, all you need to do is listen.
When I'm hungry, I eat something. I do not eat too much or too little. I don't overeat, for when I do, I don't feel good. Have you ever been out at a restaurant or in the company of others at a gathering and felt pressure to order or eat more than you feel that you want to? Why? When I'm thirsty, I drink a little. When I am cold, I put on a sweater. Its quite easy actually. And the same is true also in the needs for movement, for peace and for relaxation. I try, and as well you should to to organize my time so that I can follow my needs.
The same actually applies to this recent trip. I took a week away from work, from family, from the pressures and stresses of life. I was away from my cellphone, away from my email. One way to look at it would be "selfish". How can you spend that money for a plane ticket, or how can you go when there is so much work to do. But I realize that I will never have the extra money for the ticket and there will never be a time when there is no work to do, so I just go. And it is that simple. If I wait for outside conditions to be perfect, I will likely be waiting forever.
You are the center of the universe, your universe, ( As I am the center of mine), your events, your breathing, sentient experience, no matter where you are going. Your body, your awareness, each experience, whether you are at work, at a party or alone, unfolds uniquely for YOU. And only you
are responsible for your mood by listening in every moment to that guide inside. Instead of what we usually do which is to be constantly put under pressure to persuade others to think better of you.
It is not about being selfish, it is about taking care of yourself so that you can be a better person, to yourself and for others.
fe"The question for me as I return to "real life, is how easily the good feelings I have when away are erased. The plane lands, the messages on my phone come rolling in, the "while you were away" emergencies...the feeling of panic comes flooding back, and I find myself longing for that solitude again.
"Oh, now the stress starts again and the difficult thing is to keep the relaxation mood now, but I have to try! "Nonsense! If you try to keep something, then it slips out. Try not to even bother. Trying takes much effort. Instead simply allow yourself, to exercise your feeling during the daily working life.
The people around us have their reasons why they think, speak and act as they do so. And often also feel they are under pressure because they fail to feel inside. Then they can not help but try to pass the pressure on us. Therein lies the key for you then: if you realize this, then you should be clear. People may have expectations and wishes for you - but you need not take part. That is their universe unfolding - and intersecting with yours. Don't let them annoy you, don't take it personally. You come to decide what you accept and what you will not. Clarity. Soon, you will notice less and less "compromises", i.e. doing things that you do not really want to do. And THIS is a really great way to learn to relax in the here and now!
When is a NO really a YES ?
So a "NO", saying no to others, is really a "YES" - you are saying YES to yourself. You will see that others will respect this more and more. Its not about being selfish. If you are hungry and you reach for something to eat, is that selfish? You know what you need.....just listen and act accordingly.
This is not an invitation to be a boor - and a selfish lout. This is not saying that you must get everyone to do what you want. Its not about other people, its about becoming attuned to and nurturing your own needs. Tending your own garden. Inso doing you will become a better friend, lover, partner, parent, child, caregiver.
Would you like to be loved? To be accepted the way you are? Here is where you start, with you. because loving you means you accept and expect others to accept you as you are.
On the subject of "Try" -
"I have to change myself, I try to change, but it doesnt last, or its too hard." - again effort! And then you think, "I've tried it, yes, but I have just not made it" - so again you have found here a reason to give up. But honestly, we also do not need to try anything! And why is that?
Replace the word "try" with "practice".
I When I say I practice it, I allow for mistakes. So today, If I find myself back again, under pressure, then I become aware, forgive myself, and keep going. Of course, I want to follow my needs, but I do not always succeed, and that's ok....its a progression, and a balance. But more and more, I try to make sure that I take my own needs into consideration, in ways that really feel good tor me. Listen to that inner voice - make small changes. Practice. Balance.
Do you want to change?
Do you maybe want to become happy, wise, peaceful, or simply – a better person?
When you look deeply into your desire for change, you may find something uncomfortable at the bottom – a lack of self-love and self-acceptance.
In ancient teachings reaching right back to the time of the Buddha, we can find ways to cultivate loving-kindness toward ourselves and others.
First the good news:
Each one of us has the capacity for boundless love and kindness.
That’s why it can’t be given or acquired.
I's like water. Water can’t become any wetter, because being wet is not something apart from water.
In the same way, love and kindness are not attributes that we can add to our being. Our true self is loving and kind at its core - its just how you choose to use or not use it.
Zen Master John Tarrant says :
If you are busy thinking you should be kind, you might miss the reality that kindness is already present In you.
“Ok then,” – you might want to ask – “if that’s the case, why am I often grumpy and struggle to feel kindness in my heart?”
The answer is simple: our capacity for boundless love and kindness is buried deep within. So deep, that we sometimes can’t feel it at all. It’s as if the heart goes numb.
There is a way to uncover the natural radiance of your heart.
It won’t happen all at once, though.
Think of the process like a bud opening. At first it’s closed and you can’t even see what it will become. Then – little by little – the bud begins to unfurl and finally the flower appears in all its beauty.
You can’t hurry up the process. You can’t bend the petals of a bud outwards in order to make it flower sooner. Well, maybe you can, but the bud will be ruined.
Can YOU feel deeply – or is your heart numb? It can happen to all of us that our heart goes numb. At such times, even if we know that we love others, or that we love life – we can’t quite feel it. It’s like looking out over a landscape on a misty day. You can sense the outlines, but clarity is missing.
Children can show us what it’s like for the heart to be awake. Children have innocence. They lack self consciousness. They just feel. And express. On impulse.
Why does the heart go numb?
Numbness of the heart is a natural protection from pain. Every time we have a painful experience, we tend to grow a protective layer around our heart. The awful thing is that this protective layer doesn’t just shield us from pain, it numbs all emotions.
There is a way we try to rationalize our numb heart. Maybe we think, “I’m a realist, not a romantic”, or “I don’t like all that lovey-dovey stuff,” or, “I’d rather not get hurt.” Or we respond to others or ourselves in a sarcastic, cutting or snide way. These are all signs of a numb heart.
How can the heart awaken? There is a natural way of awakening the heart that we all know about. It’s falling in love. Ask any one who is freshly in love, and they will rave about how wonderful the person they love is. And how beautiful the world is. How bright the colors are, and how unique and wonderful every human being is.
But there is a problem … the euphoria doesn’t last.
Luckily, there is another way of awakening the heart. A way that lasts. And that is through loving-kindness practice.
What loving-kindness does is to ease away the protective layers around the heart. The practice of loving-kindness (or Metta) allows love to transform us.
What holds us back from the transformation of love is fear. The English psychoanalyst John McMurray spoke of people being either ‘fear-determined’ or ‘love-determined’:
There are two…emotional attitudes through which human life can be radically determined. They are love and fear. The fear-determined have no sun in themselves and go about putting out the sun in other people. Whereas the love-determined have life in them, abundant life. They are the people who are really alive, of whom it can be said that they possess eternal life as a well within them perpetually springing.
Is your life determined by love or by fear?
As John McMurray says, “the fear-determined … go about putting out the sun in other people.”
What does he mean by, “Putting out the sun in other people”?
It’s when we focus on other people’s faults and weaknesses. It’s when we put others down, when we use snide or sarcastic comments in order to put out their light.
If you are ruled by fear, you not only go about putting out the light of others, you also extinguish your own light.
Here are the thoughts that put out your own sun:
“No use trying!”, “I’m hopeless at that!”, “I’ll never learn!”, “This is too difficult!”
Each time you play these negative tapes, you extinguish your light, and negate your potential. And when you look at others and their perceived talent and success, you may feel envy – which is really a wish to extinguish the light of others.
How can we move from fear towards love?
The key is intimacy We move from fear towards love when we start to connect deeply with ourselves.
What does that mean?
It means being present to our experience of the moment. Whether we experience joy, or anguish, or restlessness, or fear, or anger – if we shine the soft light of awareness on our experience, we are no longer separate from ourselves.
What is the natural state of the heart?
Imagine that you release your heart from all the protective layers. What do you find at the core?
What you find is that the heart is joyful, radiant, and boundless. Our natural way of being is a state of intimate connection with all beings.
Maybe you feel worlds away from such an experience?
It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because we are all on a path. All that counts is that everything we do moves us closer to our aspirations. On the spiritual path there is no fast or slow. There are no big or small steps. All you need to do is to practice loving-kindness – and little by little, your radiant heart will shine through.
How to uncover the radiant heart within.
You can uncover the radiant heart by practicing loving-kindness, or metta meditation. This meditation was taught by the Buddha as an antidote to fear. It’s the practice of cherishing the goodness in us, as well as in others. Thich Nhat Hanh translates the term loving-kindness or metta as “the intention and capacity to offer joy and happiness.”
The most important point here is that you need to start with yourself. You need to offer yourself loving-kindness. It’s the foundation of loving-kindness practice.
The magic of loving-kindness is that as you go deeper into the practice, you find that this ‘I’, this self – is without boundary.
The self includes mountains, rivers, wasps, hedgehogs, the warmth of the summer sun, the sharp winter wind, those close, and those far away. This ‘I’, this self, contains the whole universe.
As you breathe in – cherish yourself
As you breathe out – cherish all beings
You can either practice this during seated meditation, or you can pull out this meditation at odd moments during the day.
Here is a story that shows how to cherish something or someone completely. It’s from Maurice Sendak, the author the magical children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are.
Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it.
I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.”
Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.”
That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”
- Maurice Sendak
See. Love. Eat.
This little boy knew how to cherish completely.
Loving-kindness practice is simple. But it can transform the way you experience life.
As your heart’s capacity for love and kindness grows, you’ll find a great fullness of being, discover a warm kinship with all beings, and reveal the radiant heart within.
So you have a choice. Do you want to be the person that puts the sun out in other people, or the person that puts a smile on their face?
with thanks to Mary Jacsch
When we touch another person we exchange energy. There is no way to avoid the fact that a kind of energetic communion takes place, even in such seemingly innocuous acts as shaking hands or touching another on the shoulder. Touch itself, communicates a great deal energetically, and actually influences our own energy field. This is something we all know intuitively
--William Collinge, Ph.D
Sensitive touch by hands compels us to spontaneously to return to the feel of the present moment, because quite often our thoughts - a constant "thought carousel" are usually somewhere else. Of course, we are at all times in the here and now, but rarely do we notice or appreciate the reality of the present moment. Most often we do not. We are texting, chatting, watching TV, consuming all manner of sensory input, and thinking…..worrying, about the future. Tomorrow, next, week, next year. And alot of times these days we are doing two or more of these at once!
The brain is a future thinking machine; it is the one thing that separates us from all other animals. Man is the only being that can contemplate the future......and that is where the trouble lies. Because only in thinking about the future, do we find stress, and worry, and panic.
In both touching and being touched it happens that we bring ourselves very concretely back to the present moment.
In massage, we can focus on the internal. We notice first, how we are feeling, what is our mood, how is the temperature in the room on our skin? What about the sounds, the smells.......all sensory inputs about the present moment. This is how one begins to relax. Some people will talk about “emptying your mind” I hear that phrase a lot, and it is more difficult to do for the average person who is not experienced in meditation. So maybe one idea is not to empty the mind, but to push away the thoughts of the future or external, and replace them with thoughts of the present and or internal.
Our thoughts are almost always focused externally: "What should I do about this? and that. Then she said this, and then I answered that ... " "This person did this" So, rotates the carousel thoughts.
In Lomi Lomi, there is very much a giving and a taking between the person receiving the massage and the person giving it. It as both an exchange of energy, and it it is also and exchange of touch for the person giving. The body on the table gives feedback to the sensitive nerve endings in the fingers. For me it is like reading Braille, the way I try to read a body. So I am giving touch but I am also receiving. There are 2,500 nerve receptors per centimeter just on the fingertips! Maybe 20,000 per hand! As well there are over 7,000 nerve endings just in the feet? Is it any wonder why rubbing of the feet feels so good.
For you on the table, touch is a way to bring you into focus. Focus on where is the hand is now, how does it feel ? Where is it going? What is the pressure? does it float on your skin like a piece of paper upon the water? There is a rhythm and a fluidity. This is aided by the rhythm of the music, and as well by the aromas, sometimes of lemongrass, sometimes grapefruit. Try to notice. All of these sensory inputs are designed to put your thoughts into the present moment, so that there is not room for the thinking about the future. The massage experience is like giving that part of the brain a rest……sort of like when we sleep, except that in restless sleep too often our future thoughts can still invade, in the form of bad dreams.
So - what happens when we experience a Lomi massage and enter into touch? We feel and we give at the same time. We give warmth by the type of contact. Because we let ourselves go entirely to the experience we feel and e give a lot of love. We sense what is needed. How can it be that we, as the giver, have the ability to sense? How can it be that we arrogate to ourselves, we purport to know what the other person needs? Quite simple really. For we are not so different, we are human. Something in us already knows, if we allow ourselves to become attuned, we can feel what is actually needed.
Touch, I believe is as essential as water to life and to living. It is not something to be feared but to be acknowledge and enjoyed.
In Lomi, we touch as if we were the ones receiving – we are touching, but again also simultaneously receiving. We allow ourselves to feel empathy. Something in us knows what feels good and all the moves, all the techniques, all kinds of touch that we learn in Lomi training spring from this deep empathy. There is no script. The body is the script.
There is an apparent paradox. At school, or in the office we always learned that learning is a process in which we would have to add information. English Vocabulary for example: Clearly, we need to learn vocabulary - Add words to the brain. When learning Lomi massage something else happens. Although we first learn the basis of specific techniques and we learn to let our body loose and move smoothly, but the deeper we dive, the more we feel that it just comes out. Actually, it is a kind of "ex-learning" of the rigid patterns of movement. Then the body of the recipient in connection with our body can really become our script. That is why each Lomi experience is different.
And when it is concluded, the feeling is that of being back in balance. Imagine floating naked, in a river or sea of calm, warm clean water – peaceful, in balance. Happy, just because!
We all go through our lives almost on autopilot, our minds generally elsewhere, occupied with other thoughts as we float through the real world like ghosts.
We sit at a computer, have a coffee, eat a snack, use the bathroom, wash our hands, drive home … and barely notice anything about any of those activities.
This is called “being occupied”, and we do it all the time.
Instead, I suggest we practice occupying the current moment. Inhabit it, by really being in it, fully experiencing all our senses in everyday ordinary actions.
Whatever you’re doing right this moment is not an insignificant thing to be rushed through to get to the next thing. What you’re reading, where you’re sitting, the urination you’re going to do soon … these are not minor things.
They are everything.
As you wash a dish, instead of having your mind elsewhere, instead of rushing through it, give that task a little space. Be there, with that task. Feel how your body feels standing in front of the sink. See the water, the dish, the food residue you’re washing off. See the light in the kitchen, hear the sounds of the refrigerator and the passing cars outside, notice the spilled drops of coffee on the counter.
As you pee, don’t just think of it as something you’ve done thousands of times, to be taken for granted. Feel the sensation like it’s the first time. Be a child who has never noticed what the bubbles of pee look like in a toilet before. It’s a thing of wonder, a thing to behold with the same weight as we behold all of life, and sex, and death.
Imagine you have a month to live — what would each moment be worth to you then? Each bite would be one of your last. Each sip of coffee, each sun soaked morning trip to the kitchen, each step on the grass, each conversation with the people you know and take for granted.
These are limited, and so valuable. They are precious and contain wonders.
Well, you might have more than a month to live (who knows for sure?), but your moments are still extremely limited. These are still valuable experiences, not to be taken for granted.
Practice this. Every action you take today, no matter how little … give it weight. Put some space around it. Start it intentionally, with the intention to be mindful, to inhabit that action fully, to notice with all your senses the entire moment. When the action is done, don’t just rush to the next one, but take half a second to appreciate what you just experienced. Then move to the next with equal weight and space.
reprinted Leo Babauta
How to Master the Art of Living Imagine you had a gorgeous blueberry sitting on the otherwise empty plate in front of you. You pick it up gently, place it on your tongue, and begin to taste it.
You already know how a blueberry tastes, and so when this one is a bit riper than you’d like, you make a face, feel the disappointment, swallow it with displeasure.
Or perhaps it tastes exactly as you’d expected: no big deal. You swallow, and move on with your day.
In the first case, the blueberry was disappointing because it didn’t meet expectations. In the second, it was boring because it met expectations.
Now try this: have no expectations of how the blueberry will taste. You don’t know because you haven’t tried it yet. You’re curious, open to a variety of tastes.
You taste it, and really pay attention. You notice the tanginess, the firmness of the skin, the sweet mushiness of the center, the complex flavors that emerge as you eat it. You didn’t know how it would taste, but this is brilliant! It’s new, because you’ve never tasted anything quite like it.
This is sometimes called the Beginner’s Mind, but also think of it as a mind free of expectations.
The blueberry, of course, can be anything in life: a massage or any experience, any person you meet, any cup of tea, any task before you, any interaction with a loved one, any thought that enters your head, any moment of the day.
If you approach any of these with expectations, they will often disappoint or frustrate you … or be bland, blah, usual. And you move on to the next disappointing or frustration or usual experience, and so on, so that life is nothing but a series of things you barely like and barely notice.
If you approach each moment, each task, each person, without expectations … and just see that moment or person as they are … then you will really see that moment. Really appreciate it. Experience it like you’ve never experienced anything before, because you haven’t.
This is the Art of Living.
reprinted - Leo Babauta
I write about things that I myself need to be mindful of. ways in which I would like to improve. It is not from the perspective of preaching - but rather writing helps me work out what I myself need to do - we are all in this together.