Live Simply, Think Gently

horse woman TheresaOtero

“Life is simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Wisdom of Confucius

I like to be barefoot, I like to take it slow.  I enjoy riding a bike, and I enjoy being near the water.  I like finding beauty in my life where I hadn’t noticed it before.  I like to have time to think before I speak and I like to feel connected to the ones I love.  I like to spend time with horses and I like to walk my dog.  I like to live simply.

I’m moving more toward a simpler life as I continue on this journey.  I have been moved to clean out my entire house this summer and shed myself of anything that has no purpose or meaning.  I’ve shed the clutter in my house as I’ve tried to clear out the negative thoughts that clutter my head.  With less “stuff” to worry about, I find it easier to live mindfully in the moment and create space to really connect with my friends and family.

I want to feel light, I want to feel fresh.  I want to hear wind chimes and birds singing when I step outside into the cool morning air.  I want to feel unencumbered by technology and start my day with my own thoughts.  I like the smell of hot coffee and the feel of warm morning sun as I start my day.  I want to live simply, but I also want to think gently.

This pull toward a simpler existence has spun my mind in directions it’s not used to.  With a life cluttered with tasks and too much “stuff”, I found my mind was constantly on high volume and there were several thoughts competing for my attention at once.  Living simply is not just about my surroundings and my belongings, it’s about living with more ease on the inside as well.  Being kind and gentle with myself involves an effort in my body, mind and spirit.  Quieting the alarms that have been pre-set for ages has not been easy.  Slowing down and trying to think one thought at a time has been a way to start.  Deep breath, look at the sky, close your eyes.  Exhale.  Move on.

I do love the hardly bearable feeling of craving something that I want so badly that I can barely stand still, but I enjoy the calming, soothing feeling of swinging on a hammock in the afternoon more.  I appreciate the feeling of yugen which is to awaken an array of inner thoughts through mere suggestion.  It is an intense, breathless feeling of inspiration and beauty.  But, a feeling such as yugen is meant to be enjoyed in small doses.  You can’t live in a state that takes your breath away, but you can revel in it for a moment, appreciate it, and find joy.  Thinking gently is about finding a state of mind that you can enjoy and still be a productive, functioning member of your life.

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Find balance, seek peace, crave joy.

When you learn to think gently, the volume is lowered and the level of intensity becomes manageable.  If you are kind to yourself and treat yourself the way you would treat someone you love, you may begin to notice more calm feelings and find more space for relaxing in your life.  Gone are the days of feeling guilty for taking a moment to myself.  I’ve reached the age of permission and I’ve earned my right to feel happy just by being born.

We deserve to be happy.  So I’m choosing to live simply and think gently.

 

photos from morguefile.com

Becoming a Butterfly

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“Does the caterpillar know it is turning into a butterfly or is it in panic, stuck to a tree feeling all fat and crispy” -Becky Walsh, Mind Body Spirit Magazine

Our world is filled with BIG and FAST, so we may be conditioned to get what we want right in the moment we want it.  But, transition takes time and patience.  Change for the better is best achieved thoughtfully and slowly.  Nature gives us plenty of examples to support this theory like the caterpillar becoming a butterfly. We don’t know for sure what goes on inside that cocoon.  I wonder how that caterpillar feels as it creates it’s new home.  Does he have time and space to prepare for this change?  Is he looking forward to becoming a butterfly or was he happy being a caterpillar?  Let’s assume he is simply following his instincts and having faith in the process.  Wouldn’t it be comforting if we were all capable of that kind of trust and belief in our lives as we experience our own changes and transitions?  Sometimes enjoying the journey takes endurance and poise and sometimes you just hang your head out the window like a happy dog feeling the wind.  It all depends on the day.

“You can be presented with some rather difficult situations that bring about the transformation needed for you to fly.”  -Becky Walsh, Mind Body Spirit Magazine

The good news for the butterfly is that when it emerges it will be able to fly.  The process to get there may be unpleasant or it may be cathartic, that we will never know.  The process is private and looks different for everyone, and every caterpillar.  The key is to be kind to yourself and remember that the things in life worth waiting for are usually the best things we encounter.  Often at the other end of a trying time is a realization that you have come to know yourself better from your experience.  When you figure out the thing or things that you want most in this life it’s hard to sit still and wait, but manifesting change with intention takes time.

“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” -Billy Crystal as Harry in When Harry Met Sally

Love may be the easiest way to demonstrate that feeling of eagerness and craving when it comes to transition, but there are several things in life that work that same way.  Anyone who finds themselves feeling stuck in a career and suddenly has a realization that there is something better out there will relate to this process as well.  The process of learning what you need to know to start a new career may be slow and tedious, but in the end, after all of your preparation, you feel strong and ready to charge out of the gate running.  Anyone who has a dream knows the anguish of waiting and working towards the hopeful day that it will come true.  The important component in all of this is to take your time and put intentional energy into getting to know yourself and learning to be at peace with your life’s path.

“The key to transformation is simply this: the better we know ourselves, the better equipped we will be to make our choices wisely.”  -Gregg Braden, Mind Body Spirit Magazine

Meditate On It

 

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“It’s almost like mindfulness is becoming a folk religion of the secular elite in Western Culture.” – David McMahan (Buddhist Scholar)

SInce Buddhism and meditation have been brought to Western Culture, it has been reinterpreted and reapplied to fit the needs and intentions of the varied followers who practice.  Are the meditation practices being used today truly in alignment with original Buddhist practices?  Or, is what we practice now just a modernization of an ancient practice that is meant to be independent of culture and time? Are we meditating authentically? Do we concern ourselves with these thoughts and comparisons or do we just meditate in our own way and veer from tradition to simply extract what we can and pull what we need from it?  This topic would no doubt give Buddhist scholars much to pontificate about, but my opinions here are those of a Westerner who holds a deep respect and appreciation for all that Buddhism, meditation and mindfulness have taught me.  I am not Buddhist, but I enjoy reading about what it has to teach us.  I do meditate and feel that I do it in my own way following my own agenda.  I try to live mindfully, but I interpret what that means for my life.  In my position in life it would be impossible for me to live up to true Buddhist customs.  I do what I can with what I’m handed.  I don’t concern myself with popular belief, I concern myself with what serves me and what makes me feel at peace.  Meditating in my Meditation Garden for as long as I have time for is what works for me.

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What is being done in present day may be more like a quick and convenient shot of meditation espresso, but I feel that may be what we need and all we can accommodate right now. The life of a modern day member of Western Culture looks much different than that of a Buddhist Monk.  And, if the end result brings us the desired outcome then should we bother even considering our means to a desired end?  If our intentions are good then our methods are sound.  I see people pick their method and adapt their ways to fit their busy lifestyles and I don’t judge.  Judgement of these things would, of course, not be in alignment with practices such as this anyway.

However, if you decide to incorporate your version of relaxation meditation, understand that your result will be just that: relaxing.  Without internalizing dharma by reciting scriptures and sinking deep into your own mind for devoted periods of time as the Buddhist Monks do, you will technically not reach the insights intended to be learned through ancient meditation.  But, don’t misunderstand me.  My message here is one of support to all of you who meditate for as long or as short as you wish and in whatever way you decide.  “Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do.  Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” -Ella Fitzgerald

In this world of chaos and unpredictability, for me it is comforting to turn to meditation to quiet my mind and relax my body.  I feel comfortable calling what I do meditation even though it follows the guidelines of more popular beliefs about meditation than the Buddhist protocol.

With a healthy dose of self love and a whole heap of good intentions, mindfulness and meditation in any capacity will serve you well.  “Put it in your heart where tomorrow shines” – Shiny Happy People REM

photos taken in my meditation garden

The Story of a House

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Just after coming back from a lovely walk, a car slowed to a stop in front of my house.  I yelled out a “hello” and asked if he needed something.  He was a nice, Hungarian gentleman who went on to tell me that his name was Laslo and he had built our house with his bare hands in the 1950’s.  He said he had lived here for 20 years after he built it and raised a son here.  Every time he is in the area he takes a drive past the house, this time I just happened to be outside.  He told me that our house was the first one built on the street and that he used to walk to his job just up the road at a factory.  He explained that in the beginning, the house would flood when it rained because of the pitch of the driveway which was why he installed the sump pump at the base of the driveway.  He told me that he put a penny in every corner of the main room under the wood floor.

I invited him to come in and take a look to see what had changed in the house over the years.  I told him about the addition the previous owners had built and about how much we had done to the backyard.  He declined and even started to drive away when I mentioned it.  I think his memory served him well and he wanted to visit this place in his memory, not learn about what we had done to change things.  He looked over at my neighbor Pete, also Hungarian, who was in front of his house trimming the hedge.  He explained that Pete’s house was the second on the street and built in the 1960’s.  He said they knew each other back then and that they helped build the street we live on.  To my surprise, he never took a second glance at Pete or slowed his car as he passed him to offer a hello to his old neighbor.  When we were done talking he just took a long last look and drove away.

I went inside with new thoughts about my house, this place that I come home to every day without even thinking about it.  You get numb to your routine, you find comfort and settle in to a pattern.  So often we forget to be grateful for all of the things that surround us.  After meeting Laslo I took a new look around my house.  I became grateful for his hard work and his care of this house all those years ago.  I wondered who else had lived here since then and I realized that I was now a part of the story of this house.  Maybe someday I will drive past and tell my part of the story to a new family of how I raised my daughters here and spent countless, relaxing hours at the park right across the street.

People spend a lot of energy and time making their private space just the way they want it.  We leave our mark on the world with the way we live in those moments.  At home is where you relax and let it all go, hopefully.  I thought about how attached people become to their homes when really I think they are attached to the space in time represented by that house.  I don’t necessarily feel attached to the brick and mortar of this house, but rather I feel an affection for the times I have had here.  I’m grateful for the strength and integrity of the house itself, but it’s the memories and the time that I will carry with me long after I leave this place.  I have other special places like this as well, and something still makes me long to be in those spaces sometimes.  Being there helps me remember, feel, and even smell the memory from way back when…. and that is nice.

So, thank you Laslo, for coming by and paying a visit to your memory.  Thank you for reminding me that life goes on and that we should take time to be grateful along the way.

No Ordinary Journey

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I love to walk.  I love to just walk out the front door and go wherever I feel.  Sometimes I listen to music, sometimes I go for more of a mediative walk, but I always love the act of moving and looking and being out in nature.  My neighborhood is lovely, but I decided to take a break from my usual path and head into a new neighborhood across town.  I drove until I found the right place to park and I got out and started to walk.  It felt great to be in a new place with no plan of where I was going.  I saw beautiful houses, new people and wandered down different streets.  It was refreshing.  It’s not the familiar path that I enjoy when I’m walking, it’s the act of getting out and feeling the walk.

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” ~Dalai Lama

Create more joy in your life!  Find more adventures in your own backyard and have control over your happiness!  Take an inner journey to learn more about how you feel and how you respond to varied experiences without outside influences seeping in and tainting your true feelings.  Life is never going to be perfect or even how you predict it to be, but if your happiness comes from within, external circumstances can only exist around you and cannot affect your true feelings.  Take a vacation from the familiar.  Free yourself from the influences that may be seeping in to your thoughts and impacting your choices.  Take a new walk and let go of your old routine.  Change things up and you will feel the change!  Take note of how you feel and reflect on how you can use it to grow.

Instead of saying, “I’ll be happy when…..” just decide that you are going to be happy as you move through your life and work towards your goals.  You don’t have to achieve a goal to bring you to some magical happy place, start enjoying happiness NOW by enjoying the ride and appreciating your own hard work along the way.  Do something familiar in a new place, take a walk in a new neighborhood, just create a new experience for yourself.  Break free from your routine and explore how you feel.

“Life is a journey, not a destination” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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As I walked, I noticed the brick that still made up the road in this neighborhood, something I don’t see only a few miles away near my home.  I thought about the history of that brick and how the whole street must have looked that way so many years ago.  I noticed the difference in architecture on this side of town and the way the streets turned and wound around the ravines over there.  So many subtle differences right there in the same town.  After some time had gone by, I realized I was successfully able to break free from my normal, reoccurring thoughts that normally fill my head when I walk in my familiar surroundings.  I felt grateful for this break from my routine.  Where will I walk tomorrow?

This was no ordinary journey and for that I was grateful.

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Judgement Vista

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You spend time in nature and enjoy magnificent views. You hear lovely sounds and smell fresh, crisp air. The wonder of natural things replaces the burdens of everyday thinking and you are grateful. If just for a moment, or for the moments in between, you take in the beauty and feel the experience and naturally place a judgement on what you see. You decide that what you see is beautiful or strange or what you smell is refreshing or pungent. Nature is as varied as the opinions of those who enjoy it. One person may assign one judgement and another will see things with a different reasoning. None of that changes the ancient layout that has been growing and changing since the beginning of time. It is YOU that places a name, opinion or judgement on those things, nature will exist and grow regardless.

You are standing on Judgement Vista.

When you look out at nature, your judgements are most likely simple and sweet. You see the beauty, or not, and with all of your senses take in the moment and process how you feel about that scene. But, the scene itself is unchanged. What if we could see all of life and all people with the same eyes we use when we are in awe of those magnificent views? What if those breathtaking moments of awe could exist within us and we could learn to live on that vibration consistently?

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

When I look at nature and stand on MY Judgement Vista. I like to absorb the beauty and stand in awe that I am a part of it. I don’t mind feeling small and insignificant within it’s surroundings because it takes the pressure off of me to be bigger than life which is how I normally tend to feel in my world of caring for others. If I can take that simple, peaceful feeling that I feel in nature with me into my everyday world, my judgements may be lighter and have less ignorance. Maybe I can gain more perspective of how small I actually am in the scheme of things and revel in the simple things that make me happy. I often wish I could spend more of my time in nature instead of trying to channel the feeling, that would make me happier, but for now I will take it all in and refill my reserves.

Existing in judgement is natural, we need to judge lots of things all day long to keep us safe and healthy. We judge whether or not it’s safe to cross the street and we sniff the milk to judge whether it’s still fresh enough to drink. We need to have good common sense and reasoning to get along in our daily lives. Good judgement is a quality I hope to manifest well in my daughters. Without judgement we are in danger.

We also judge each other. We either judge from a place of necessity or negativity. I judge whether or not I think people will be nice and have things in common with me when I meet them and hope to find a friend in them. I judge whether people are devoted, committed and responsible when I consider doing business with them. I judge all the time and I make an effort to do it from a place of goodness. I am only human after all, a small piece of the nature that created judgement. I place these judgements, but I do it with care and respect.

I judge myself. I consider whether my reasoning and savvy are being put to good use and I try hard to develop the wisdom it takes to use my judgement for good. I am often hard on myself with my own judgement and I try to remember to take it easy and be kind. I am a work in progress. I aim to stand on my Judgement Vista as often as I can to remind myself the true nature of things and how I can let go of negativity and be in awe of the beauty of my life. It’s healthy for me to be reminded, gently.

Moving from judgement to admiration of people and situations just as I am when I look out on a beautiful scene of nature is what I hope to accomplish more often than not. Those same people who receive our judgement are also creations of nature and are imperfect just like us, and imperfectly perfect just like that scene in nature.

I hope I have made you as happy as you’ve made me. I hope I can judge you gently and you can see me through eyes that have visited YOUR Judgement Vista. Because if you judge me with eyes that have not yet looked out at your world with awe and gratitude, then I choose to acknowledge your judgement and release it. It doesn’t serve me and it doesn’t serve you for me to receive it.

“When you delete critics and fault-finders from your life, good things will start to happen to you, and it won’t be a coincidence.” ~Art Jonak

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