#265 HOW TO BE FRIEND WITH SELF Part 2 March 24 19

 The Path to be friend with self: Knowing, Accepting, Loving. Part 2

 The way our minds works is always by opposites and contrast—good-bad, up-down, in-out, right-wrong black or white etc.—so what we see positively simultaneously provide of the opposite.

That contrast is challenging but it is where the real work of to be friend with yourself begins.

As we practice, we uncover our layers and layers of ideas about ourselves. It is clear that we are accepting some aspects of ourselves and rejecting others. Some parts of us are so well hidden away that we can pretend they are not there at all. Friendship with self is reduced to like and dislike.

The challenge of the path of meditation is to continually expand the bounds of our heart, of our love and friendship. We start with ourselves by simply looking inside like a flash light looking in the dark.

We come up against our fear of opening up to our negative views about ourselves.

We also come up against the opposite that is our arrogance.

By taking a mindful and honest look at the kinds of thoughts and feelings we have about self, we learn about the limits we place on our friendship with self and others.

Why meditation can be useful in our self-discovery?

This meditative path is one of greater acceptance. We are learning to accept and befriend not just the parts we like of course, but also the parts o we dislike /hatred as well. Sometimes we identify with only our acceptable side, with our successes, and at other times we identify with our flaws and failures.

But as our meditation practice progresses, we become the watcher, the observer of our stream of thoughts and opinions. Rather than clinging to one positive or one negative trait, we find we do not need to fixate on either extreme. We are all those things, and our experience is constantly in flux.

Of course, there will always be aspects of ourselves we like and those we dislike, aspects we are proud of and other aspects we are ashamed of. But the more clearly we come to know all these aspects, the more we are able to accept and relax.  

Instead of seeing parts of self, we discover the whole self as it is. You don’t fight anymore with yourself because you are signing a peace treaty with yourself. In fact, we may discover that our failures and flaws are more powerful teachers than our successes.

With the benefit of sitting practice without overthinking or trying to fix anything, we become clearer and less emotional about our strengths, weaknesses, our accomplishments, failures, our obstacles and our breakthroughs. Both aspects are challenging.

Coming to appreciate ourselves in this way doesn’t mean we become complacent, egoistic or narcissistic.  Accepting our extremes doesn’t mean that we cannot make decisions about what is beneficial, what is harmful and how to fix ourselves.We should not take it personally, it is just information. Now, when we meditate, we do so from a realistic perspective and from a feeling of warmth and friendship. Meditation practice is almost like a courtship with ourselves.

We become less defensive. We make discoveries and experience breakthroughs. It is hard to cut through our fantasies and take a realistic look at ourselves, but it is also a big relief.

There is something very enjoyable about the whole process. We find that the more aspects of ourselves we welcome the lighter we feel about self. The burden of self-protection is a heavy one, and it feels good to let it go. We are more likeable without this self-protective shield shield.

Final words:

There is no particular end point to the process of making friend with yourself. It can be a life time quest and no rush is required.

But there is a wonderful spill over: each time you accept and open your heart to yourself you become a bit more open to those around you. As you develop a base of friendship with yourself, the quality of your daily social relationship will enhance.

With meditation practice, you are simultaneously taming the mind and opening the heart. It is so simple and natural: from interest comes knowing, from knowing comes acceptance, and from acceptance comes love.

It is impossible to express empathy and compassion to others w/o starting with self.

#264 HOW TO BE FRIEND WITH SELF March 17-19 Part 1

                                               Being friend with our self. Part 1

“What am I?” is a classic koan given to Zen students to solve.  What do we really know about ourselves.?

We put many different masks depending of the circumstances and goals. There are so many choices. Our participation in this social game of appearances can become so second nature to us that we hardly notice it. Apart from all these appearances, who am I really? Do I actually know? We also might wonder, do I really want to know? We are afraid of what we might find out. Are we friends with ourselves? Are we accepting self as it is, notwithstanding that improvements are always possible. Are we creating a self before even knowing the self?

Because of our Western education & culture, ego-centered mentality to be the best, to win, control and achieve perfection, self-doubt and poor self-image are very frequent and we need constant reassurance thru achievements such as work, money, control, loved ones and friends.

Strangely, although you are your most intimate companion your true self is hidden deep.

So the process of making friend with yourself goes to know yourself at a deeper, almost spiritual level far beyond its mundane profile

To truly make friends with yourself, you need to remove all social masks that you are using since young age. This journey of truly making friend with yourself is a difficult and tricky one since one has to avoid being too self-centered and narcissist.

It goes beyond simply feeling good about you, and it is not based on convincing yourself of anything or being convinced by others.  This journey of deep friendship with self does not rely on credentials or affirmations but on a tender step-by-step process of opening yourself to yourself in the most natural way. It happens on the path of meditation because this intimate quest of self- discovery has nothing to do with better insight or analytic and cognitive thinking such as CBT or psychoanalysis.

Simply just sit with nothing to do and no one to impress. This step is all about being curious, inquisitor and the longing to meet yourself at a deeper level. No mind set. It will end-up that what you will discover be reliable, true, genuine, worthy and that too many of your flaws are a mind-set distorted view.

We are taught how our thoughts capture us, and how we can simply let them come and go like clouds in the sky.

We are encouraged to be steady as our emotional states rise and fall, rather than being jerked up and down by every roller coaster passing moods.

In short, we are encouraged to take a fresh look at our experience. In the context of making friends with yourself, starting fresh means that we drop all our ideas of who you are or who you should be and just look in a mindfully way. (You could also try this approach when you meet a new acquaintance—pause for a moment, instead of instantly sizing them up, and try to see that person with fresh eyes.)

There is a quality of tenderness in meditation practice. It is a mental open window and you catch a glimpse of something trustworthy and good within yourself. That glimpse awakens a longing within you.

You know you have discovered something valuable and you want to figure out how to go further with it.

You realize that you have tapped into an inner dynamism or force for growth.Although you might have many such glimpses, they usually come and go.

They tend to be not only brief but subtle, and because such glimpses are not all that graspable, self-doubt easily creeps back in. You are pretty sure you are onto something good, but maybe it’s too good to be true. At the same time, without your familiar masks and credentials, you feel a bit naked and groundless because what you discover is not what you thought about yourself.

#263 HOW TO HACK SERENITY March 10h 19

How to hack “happiness”? or better said,  how to hack serenity?

How often do you say silently:“I am grateful of…” NEVER. We take everything for granted & we deserve whatever, In this talk I will use the word happiness by convention rather than serenity, which is the real meaning. We all claim we want happiness and yet, many of us are too often, somewhat unhappy.

We complain all the time. We fight with family members. We play dirty office politics with co-workers. We shout and scream at other drivers in traffic. But, the recipe for happiness is not some kind of secret.

How do we hack happiness?

There’s a high probability that you’re currently chasing something.to make you happier all the time.

You want a bigger house, new car ?  A better paid job? A promotion? A new partner?, great friend?, health. Get more followers on social media? Get kids? Travel to a different country?

We also want to erase anxiety, anger, sorrow, meet your dreams, etc… etc…

The list of our desires is endless because the choices are illumined and specific to each of us.

Looking for our external dreams to make us happy or even serene will never do the trick since the list to get whatever is endless and the happiness effects from getting them are all transients like mirages.

 So what is missing? 

As the Dalai Lama used to repeat: “One of our problem is that we are unable to be grateful! It is time to change that.”  There are many ways to achieve inner serenity. We talked about them few times, but here we should look more specifically  at ……..

………Gratitude because it is one the most effective hack if you’re looking for better happiness & serenity.

By trying to be grateful to what we are, what we have, what we do,  you will see that not only we will feel better, but we will also get a better life and better relationships.

No one said it better than Oprah Winfrey:

“Be thankful for what you have. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, and what you want you will never, ever have enough.and you will be unhappy.”

Conversely, when you don’t appreciate what you have or what people do for you, you become bitter and resentful. You then push the positive people away and you will only be surrounded with a bunch of other ungrateful people “What to do if people in my life are ungrateful with me and my loved ones?” you may ask.

Try to share with them why gratitude is important. But don’t convince them because people never listen. We only change when we have a desire to change.

There’s a price you pay for living life & thinking in a certain way. Most people don’t have a philosophy for life because it is dominated by material stuff. That also comes with a price.

Don’t let ungrateful people into your life. Step away from them including, even, family members and friends because of that. You might see them once or twice a year, but have no ties with them. They will only drag you down. Instead, go up.

Life is beautiful but will always contain bad if not dramatic events. Just accept things as they are and not as you want them to be. Treat every meal you eat like the best meal that you’ve ever had. Appreciate the people in your life. Say thank you. No matter how little others do for you, pay them back with big appreciation such as your cashier, neighbours, co-workers, flight attendant, baby sitter, plumber, etc. 

And most importantly, appreciate where you are in life. You’re alive. Thank your parents for being, thank them for turning you into an independent adult.

In all my years of reading and talking about the good life, I’ve never seen anything with a bigger impact on the quality of our lives than gratitude.

Gratitude toward life and its contents, including acceptance of its bad moments is the best hacker to penetrate the realm of long lasting inner serenity and contentment. 

Serenity is contentment, a constant state of mind rather than intermittent and superficial happiness which belongs to our transient emotions. Relentless quest for external material stuff will never achieve what gratitude will offer because this quest is endless and the results always transient.

“ I don’t have what I want & I have what I don’t want” is a recipe from chronic unhappiness and suffering.

This quote to finish:

Do not regret and be grateful of getting older everyday. It is a privilege denied to many .

# 262 Minding our mind …24/7

                                            Minding our  mind 24/7… or almost

As long as our minds are running around non-stop like a dog chasing its tail or unless we are focusing on a specific task requiring our attention, practicing mindfulness on the go is almost impossible, at list for beginners. Why? Because  our body is here doing something almost
automatically whereas our mind is always somewhere else doing something else.
Zen calls this body-mind split “day
sleepwalking
”.

We are “day sleepwalkers” from the time we wake up to the time we fall
asleep.

Practicing short exercises of mindfulness during the day is literally and figuratively like practicing breathing. When you mindfully practice breathing, you may actively regulate how you breathe because you are conscious of it. When we don’t practice mindful breathing, our breathing is automatic and totally subconscious.

In other words, when we practice mindfulness either by formal sitting or on the go, we consciously control and shape our mind. I call this “minding the mind” because we force the mind to slow down by focusing on x, y or z, enabling us to watch the mind being forced to slowdown its flow of thoughts since the mind/brain cannot have two thoughts at the same time i.e. focusing + another thought. However, it will take over very quickly in its wandering escape. Up to you to refocus on x. Minding the mind is a cat and mouse mental game: you against your mind and your mind against you.

When we are conscious, our daily routine, mental activities made of thoughts, feelings, day-dreams of the past, expectations of the future are distract us from any occasion to practice minding such as focusing on our breathing. If, for example, we are feeling anxious or angry, we “breathe” anxiety and anger and they get stronger. If, instead, we practice minding such as being mindful to our breathing, we can, somehow, regulate its pace and, at the same time, observe the anxiety or anger instead of being the target of them. The gift and challenge of mindfulness is that, unless you are deciding to focus on breathing or something else you can’t control your emotions..However, by observing your breath, control becomes possible. If you consciously breathe for a minute, you will naturally settle into deep, steady breathing. In that minute, you relax.

To control more efficiently your breathing circles

Count each exhales from 1 to 10. In a minute of breathing like that, you will take about 6 to 8 breaths.

Although you may not have enough time or patience to sit still for 15 minutes of meditation each day, you can build a strong mindfulness practice by breathing consciously 3-4  times a day at a pace of 6 breaths per minute for 5 minutes at a time. If you do that 365 days per year, you will experience rapidly the benefits of a daily mindfulness practice on the quality of your life and how you are dealing with your emotional roller- coaster.

At first, 3 times a day will be challenging. 5 minutes may feel like an eternity but, as your practice strengthens, you will find yourself checking in on your breath more often than three times per day. You will be able to settle from emotional highs and lows in fewer than five minutes. As you target your mindfulness practice toward moments of elevated stress, boredom, anger or fear, you will get better at easing yourself out of those emotional states.

Because our ego-centered minds are constantly forming around our habits, mind-set, emotions and dreams and expectations, an hour spent in anger today can turn into thousands of hours of anger over the course our lives. Remember that our ego mind is addicted to emotions because they are parts of our personality and self-image.

The same is true of a breathing-based
mindfulness “addiction”. Practicing 3 times per day, 6 breaths per minute, for
5 minutes, 365 days per year, will bring you some relief each time you do it
and immense relief over your lifetime.

If you can do it with breathing, you will be able to expand this with your emotions and  looking for some relief in your life.

Thank you.