Tag: Buddhism

Coach Yourself to Freedom by Letting Go

What does letting go mean to you?

To me it means not allowing events from the past to influence your life today. When you let go, you learn to be in the moment, and experience what is happening right now. Buddhists refer to this as mindfulness or being fully immersed in what you’re doing. Mindfulness allows you to let go of everything going on around you and concentrate on your own actions. Mindfulness lets you to be free from passing judgment or expecting a certain outcome.

Your beliefs and attitudes may be keeping you from letting go and being present in the here and now. When you coach yourself to identify the beliefs that are holding you back, so you can let go of them and your emotional attachment to them. As you let go of the past you will be in the present. If you stop trying to control what happens, you may notice that you also stop criticizing and judging others. It’s simple, coach your mind to shift your words to view the world as the cup is half full and you will not only accept what is, but you will enjoy life more.

Life is a series of choices, many of which we make automatically, unaware of what we choose or why. When we are afraid of criticism or judgment, we are unable to learn from our choices. To be able to simply be, by learning to let go of judgment and ideas of what should be. Replacing your judgments with a sense of self-worth will allow you to develop the emotional intelligence to live in the present instead of dwelling on the past.

Our expectations also cause us to hold on to the past instead of letting it go. You may be disappointed, based on what you feel ‘should’ have happened, or what you think someone else ‘should’ have done. But when you free yourself from your expectations, you will heal yourself and those around you. Just think about how differently you respond when you feel judged, versus when you feel accepted as you are.

An exercise to practice when learning to let go is to ask yourself if you will feel stressed about a situation in the future, whether it be tomorrow, next week, next year, or in five years. The answer, if your honest with yourself will be no; because we do not really know how we will feel when the future becomes the present.

When you allow yourself to be in the moment, you can live your life simply because it gives you joy. Experiencing joy in your life is its own reward.

Meditation: A Tool for Total Wellness

I ablesContemplate on this: Quieting your mind on a regular basis can result in both mental and physical well-being! How wonderful is that?

Meditation may, on a physical level:

  • Lower high blood pressure
  • Reduce stress
  • Reduce body pain caused by tension
  • Improve sleep, mood, behavior, and energy level

On an emotional/mental level, meditation may:

  • Promote feelings of calm and peace
  • Support clearer and more positive thinking
  • Expand awareness and perspective, which can lead to self-revelations and transformation
  • Encourage sharper thinking: New, creative, and productive ideas have the opportunity to arise in a quieted, focused mind

There are many kinds of meditations and ways to meditate. The best type and method of meditation is what appeals to and works for you…after all, if it doesn’t do those two things, you most likely won’t do it! The effects of meditation can be achieved in a few minutes a day, although many people find themselves engaging in longer sessions because of the positive results they experience. Also, keep in mind that the kind of meditation you are drawn to may change over time, as well as the effects you experience. Think of meditation as a personal trainer for your inner “fitness” program. As your inner fitness grows and changes, so will your “workout.”

Here are a few ways to meditate:

Focus your attention on a single thing. It can be a visualized object, a word, a mantra, or just the rhythm of your breath. When you notice your mind has wandered (which our minds are prone to do), gently bring it back to the original focus. Over time, you will experience less distractions and greater singular focus. Some examples of this type of meditation: Buddhist meditation, Loving Kindness Meditation, Chakra Meditation, Kundalini Meditation, Sound Meditation, Mantra Meditation.

Allow your mind to go as it may, without judgment or attachment. Tune in to all of your senses; be aware of sensations, thoughts, and feelings. Acknowledge them and then let them go. Your thoughts and awareness will flow freely in and out, like the waves of the ocean. Some examples of this type of meditation: Mindfulness meditation, Vipassana.

Follow a guided meditation. Normally, you listen to a recording of a meditation that has a specific purpose, such as increasing energy, reducing anxiety, letting go of fear or anger, promoting restful sleep, raising levels of gratitude, etc. There are many different guided meditations available, which you can access online. I particularly enjoy Louise Hay.

Try making meditation a part of your daily ritual, and see what good can result!

A Case for Loving-Kindness Meditation

We’ve all been there—we’re having a conversation that we don’t necessarily want to have and we begin to feel defensive.  Our mind may start racing or our palms may start sweating. Anger starts rising up hot on our necks, and we’ve hit the point of either shutting down and tuning out or getting upset. Usually it’s with someone that we’ve been down this road with before.

It’s true, right? We all find ourselves falling into the cycle of washing and rinsing out one issue, yet, before we’ve even finished ironing it out, we could already be facing more trouble from the same source.  Our immediate response may be to act out of frustration or anger instead of a calm, collected place. That’s were loving kindness-meditation comes in.

As Harvard Business Review explains it:

“To understand why we get clumsy in difficult relationships, consider that habitual patterns of thinking and behavior are like the deep grooves that get carved into a dirt road by the repeated passage of tires. The deeper the grooves, the more likely we are to get stuck in them. This is why we tend to have the same argument repeatedly with certain people, and find ourselves unable to free ourselves from the familiar script. Loving-kindness meditation improves our ability to see those grooves more clearly, to lift ourselves out of them, and to intentionally choose a better, more effective pathway.”

The key is to assuage this issue before it arises internally, and we can only do that by being cool and collected—and most importantly, comfortable within ourselves.  As HBR notes, “without self-compassion it’s hard to find compassion for others.”

Now—start the practice by cultivating someone in your mind that you’re close to. One that loves, honors, and respects you for who you are. They will be the guided thought for your meditation.

Create a mantra based on that idea—and as you’re beginning to feel frustrated with a tough conversation, turn to that to help you make it through. Channel love within your mind and allow it to come through your thoughts and into your words.

Next, set your intentions on the person you’re having the conflict with—Affirmations you can use to assist in setting your intentions into compassion are:

Om, Compassion

You are love, as am I

Compassion is all

The Universe loves you

As you continue this mantra of love for yourself and love for others—you are beginning to set yourself free from the pain of difficult relationships. Changing your heart space to let light in instead of harboring darkness.

Once we find peace in ourselves, the conflicts that we have with others will seem less important to our days, and soon our lives. We learn that through self-control we can create our own existence of harmony instead of discord.

Our lives are short and precious; too short to allow others to negatively impact our days. Give yourself the opportunity to flourish through positive energy; you will change in many incredible ways.

Our Personal Awakenings

In The Truth of Our Existence, a new discussion series from Pema Chodron, she provides wisdom on ‘Four Teachings from the Buddha to Illuminate Your Life’— tools that help open you up to the beauty of enlightenment that’s possible in everyday life for all of us.

She talks of things that are simple yet profound.  An idea that may easily be overlooked. She observes: “You just have to notice and that’s not always so easy. But it becomes easier and we definitely have that as an innate capability; which is our natural awareness, ‘awakeness’—the ability to know what’s happening. It’s an innate quality of our mind; we know what’s happening. Well, we don’t always know what’s happening, but we have awareness of what’s going on— even if we can’t figure it out.”

Which begs the question—are you really awake? It’s more than your eyes being open and your body cycling breath in and out.  Take a moment to ponder, when was the last time you really thought about what’s going on in your life— which is different than trying to solve that problem. The ‘thought’ is examining a situation from a full-picture perspective— the reason something is happening, the why.  Many times we truly are so busy trying to figure out a quick and painless fix, we lose sight of the question; the most important part.

We all know people, maybe it’s even us personally, that continue to hit the same wall time-after-time— suffering and trying to escape the depths and cycles of debt, bad relationships, depression, and the like. Beginning to panic when we see a bill, have a fight or experience a negative thought. Many times, the immediate reaction is to search for an answer instead of identifying the root of an issue.  

It’s important to consider: What’s happening and why is it so? Instead of feeding into continued turmoil by trying to solve problems as we go along— putting the answer as the high priority, how we’re going to fix something before we’ve even considered the question, why something is happening.

When we allow ourselves the opportunity to retrain our brain to examine the situation, to examine our ‘natural awareness’; our ability to come to the best resolution is increased.  By taking Chodron’s advice, we begin to develop our sense of what she refers to as ‘awakeness’—our internal knowledge of ‘what’s going on’ in our lives from a more proactive perspective.

This grand idea even speaks to another pearl of wisdom that Chodron so astutely pointed out in an inspiring piece for Shambhala Sun: ‘be free from fixed mind.’  It so perfectly fits this perspective and the importance of allowing your heart and your mind to be open and to have peace within yourself.  It’s fruitless to try to grasp into the ether to identify an answer to whatever challenges arise—consider all of the components that make the situation as it is—then, you will no longer have to search for the answer, the answer will instead find you.  

Prosperity Through Pain

In today’s world, it can become incredibly easy to lose sight of what’s important. By being inundated with everything from constant digital distraction to ultra-hectic work and home lives, we may feel like we’re barely even in control of our own existence and we just become sick and tired, even complacent, with our routine and the way that we feel about ourselves and our world.

When we’re caught in the vicious cycle of self-loathing, frustration or extreme busyness, what can change for the positive? Not much. And not only do we suffer, the ones we love do, and from an even grander perspective the world does too. We shut ourselves off, becoming oblivious to the grander atrocities and improprieties in the universe. Staving them off for fear that we can’t handle any more strife or disappointment.

The key is to experience an awakening. As Lion’s Roar, formerly Shambhala Sun, examines in their article On Awakening Through Race, Sexuality, and Gender. Enlightenment is a deeply personal and sometimes precarious journey. One that takes bravery, patience and belief that change is possible through small accomplishments. The author, Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, notes that when she began her journey to Buddhism she was drawn in from a feeling of great pain—not pain for herself, however, but an underlying heartbreak for the sad state of our world back in 1988—a world that we know has become even more overwhelmingly difficult to understand as nearly 30 more years has passed.

Calling herself “different in appearance,” Manuel explains, The world had structured itself around appearance. The way in which I was perceived and treated depended on a structure of race, sexuality, gender, and class. The perverse power of these structures made my embodiment unacceptable to others and myself. As a result, I was paralyzed by feelings of isolation in my younger days.”

She continues that she had bitten into oppression’s poison apple, falling into the notion that nothing can change. It wasn’t until she found herself introspective enough to examine her “true nature” that she began to understand how to reconnect with the universe and find her spiritual peace with everything around her.  She continues, explaining that we may desire an “out of body or other extreme experience” that will bring us to awakening, but in practice, all we really need is to examine the external struggles of the universe, and let that be our guide to inner peace.  

She astutely points out,  “If we were to simply walk past the fires of racism, sexism, and so on because illusions of separation exist within them, we may well be walking past one of the widest gateways to enlightenment. It is a misinterpretation to suppose that attending to the fires of our existence cannot lead us to experience the waters of peace.

With the anniversary of Selma upon us, we can still see a very clear picture of what we’ve still got to do when it comes to race relations. With National Women’s Day just passing, we’re reminded of what an incredibly integral role women play in the success of our society and our greater world and the respect, equality and dignity with which they should be treated. With the ever-widening socioeconomic gap we see where we’ve got to do better in making sure that everyone has a fair shake.

It is time to take a look—are your eyes open? Are you aware to what’s going on outside of your own 3-foot circle? Let what keeps you from peace and happiness actually bring you to it by sharing a larger concern for us all. If each of us spent a little bit of time taking better care of others, isn’t it quite possible that we may see it returned to us, maybe even exponentially? We’ve heard forever to ‘treat others as we’d wish to be treated;’ we just may not have been aware of what the power of understanding that perception really holds for us. Enlightenment is the bright and shining beacon of hope for equality and attainable prosperity to all—follow that path to light.

Magnificent Mantras Part 3: Do Good, Avoid Evil, Appreciate Your Lunacy.

This last installment of Magnificent Mantras, ties it all together. Its purpose is to allow our practice to “oscillate between two levels, the profound and the mundane.” Meaning, if we’re too full of wonder in our practice, it does us no good because we allow our thoughts to be too existential; we’re not able to look at it from a real, everyday perspective. We can be, as Fischer explains, ‘soaringly metaphysical and movingly compassionate,’ yet lack the ability to relate to others and/or the worldly problems around us in real life.

The reciprocal, if the our practice is too mundane, we “sink under the weight of obligations, details and daily life concerns.” This is what happens when we become caught up in the thoughts and feelings of it all too deeply. We’re tied up in the needs of others, as well as our own, which doesn’t allow us to experience the magical qualities of life.

Our goal should be to find the sacred space between the ‘profound and practical’ and live within it; continually contemplating how to stay in the balance.

Fischer explains, “This double need, according to circumstances, seems to go with the territory of being human.” As such, how do you get your mind prepared for accepting and acknowledging both sides of our practice? It’s easy—

Do good.  (And mean it.) Anna Quindlen said it best, All of us want to do well. But if we do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough.”  Smiling at a stranger, saying hello, holding a door for someone—they’re all social norms that we’re accustomed to automatically apply. When being mindful of our practice, it’s important to take that a step further. Allow yourself to be actively present in the moment; be genuine and kind. Experience all of the senses surrounding the situation— process the seconds deeply, with compassion and gratitude. Put good energy into the universe, continually allowing it to spread pure light instead of pure pleasantries all around you.

Avoid Evil. In the powerfully inspiring Desiderata, Max Ehrmann cautions us to“avoid vexations to the spirit.”  One of the most powerful ways to do this is “to pay close attention to our actions of body, speech, and mind, noticing when we do, say, or think things that are harmful or unkind.” The more we are mindful of this, the more easily we recognize our moments of mean-spiritedness—and that disheartening realization helps us change our ways.

We want to shield ourselves from trouble or pain, so we’re ultra-protective of the ‘me and mine’ and how things affects us. Instead, we must practice a spirit of generosity whenever possible. Try to allow openness within your heart— practice positivity instead of negativity, avoid letting anger or fear spill from you into the universe and onto those around you.

Appreciate Your Lunacy.

Lunacy, for our purposes here, is really about honesty with oneself. Fischer suggests, “Bow to your own weakness, your own craziness, your own resistance. Congratulate yourself for them, appreciate them. Truly it is a marvel, the extent to which we are selfish, confused, lazy, resentful, and so on. We come by these things honestly. We have been well trained to manifest them at every turn.”

When we allow ourselves to be human, to be okay with being fallible and sometimes dim-witted or vulnerable, we see that everyone around us, as mentioned in Part 2 is just “groping around in the dark,” too.

When we’re able to let out a collective sigh of relief that we’re all just trying to find ‘it,’ whatever that means for us individually, we can accept each other, and ourselves with a much deeper understanding and compassion.  Most importantly, we can laugh at ourselves, and the peculiar nature of this incredibly complex and wondrous existence that we all share— because, as the mantra states, we can’t take it all too seriously.

Now that we’ve concluded these ‘Magnificent Mantra’ examinations and have provided insight to put them into practice; give yourself the opportunity to be open to the gift of awakening. Allow these thoughts and ideas to enter your everyday consciousness and set you free. Enjoy!

Part 2:  http://marafisher.tumblr.com/post/88379727173/magnificent-mantras-to-awaken-your-best-self-part-2

Part 1:  http://marafisher.tumblr.com/post/87595989678/magnificent-mantras-to-awaken-your-best-self-part-1

Magnificent Mantras to Awaken Your Best Self: Part 2


2. Be Grateful to Everyone

“If you feel grateful for what is possible for you in this moment, no matter what your challenges are, if you feel grateful that you are alive at all, that you can think, that you can feel, that you can stand, sit, walk, talk—if you feel grateful, you are happy and you maximize your chances for well-being and for sharing happiness with others.” – Norman Fischer

Sounds simple enough, right? Think about it for a moment—pose these questions to yourself: What are you most grateful for? When did you start to become mindful of this ‘gratefulness’ characteristic of life? Maybe most importantly, who taught you to appreciate that attribute and how did you learn to ingrain it into your consciousness?

We associate gratefulness with pleasure and like-mindedness. We find solace in our own seemingly serene understanding and feel appreciative that we can experience thankfulness for recognizing that gift. Gratefulness, however, is much greater than that—its actual, immediate cultural impact far outshines its surface-level ambiance—and has a lasting impact on our awakened life as individuals.

Fischer notes, “Unhappiness and gratitude cannot live in the same moment.”Meaning each second that we are not happy, especially when it’s for selfish reasons, we’re missing the heart of the matter— which runs much deeper than our own superficial daily, run-of-the-mill unhappiness. We must learn that the projections of our own attitudes directly affect our outside world; The Universe and all of the other humans in it; other humans we so easily forget are so integral to our daily existence. 

As noted in Part 1, sometimes, all that’s needed is a small shift in perception for a perspective to turn negative thought into positive action, as we make ‘all steps important to our journey.’ A path Fischer calls ‘profound understanding.’

That said—gratefulness is more than the appreciation for what we have—it’s an understanding of what we need, as a singular being, and how we can contribute our own gifts to a community of comrades—our fellow humans—that are just trying to make it through their own day as they try to lead their own best life.

From the beginning of our existence, we’ve needed others to survive. When we’re first born, our parents are our refuge. They’re our constant—our way to sustain and continue life—and if we’re lucky enough, we learn to thrive on our own from that example. Curating our own reality for ourselves as adults, we base our judgments upon those fundamental principles that were instilled in us in our young years—for better or worse—when enlightened, by that fact, we’re lead to a more complete compassion for other humans.

“We were all at one time precisely in this situation, and someone or other must have cared for us in this same comprehensive way. Without one hundred percent total care from someone else, or maybe several others, we would not be here. This is certainly grounds for gratitude to others.”

When identifying our interdependence in the scope of the world around us, we can start to look outside of our own three-foot-circle and see the world for what it really is, not necessarily what we hope to take for ourselves individually.

What’s more, in being human, we owe a responsibility to bear the burden for all human kind—but with a silver lining perhaps—the more positive light we shine from ourselves the more brilliance there is in the universe; power we can exponentially create for whomever decides to dwell in the light.

So each time we feel a bit sorry for ourselves—let us be mindful of two things—the impact that this situation has on our path, and also, how our reaction to this situation impacts the lives of those around us who make our lives livable, whether we actively recognize it our not, each and every day.

Celebrate your fellow humans for their flaws and relish in the fact that you’re aware that we’re all working towards something, groping in the dark, for that bright, ominous light of happiness. And now that we’ve touched on the journey and how to be grateful and happy in it, what are we tackling in final part of these magnificent mantras? We’re getting deep with Part 3: “Do Good, Avoid Evil, and Appreciate Your Lunacy.

Miss Part 1 of Magnificent Mantras? Never fear; find it here: http://marafisher.tumblr.com/post/87595989678/magnificent-mantras-to-awaken-your-best-self-part-1

Magnificent Mantras to Awaken Your Best Self: Part 1

Shambahla Sun recently explored ‘an ancient set of Buddhist slogans’ and paired six of them with powerful techniques to ‘transform life’s difficulties into awakening and benefit’ with guidance from Zen teacher Norman Fischer. 

Taking these magnificent mantras and the lessons that can be pulled from them—we’ve highlighted three to explore and examine— sharing how to implement their power into our daily lives.  Highlighting one mantra each week for the next three weeks, cherish these as treasures to enlighten and enhance our everyday existence.  I know I will. Enjoy!

1. Turn All Mishaps Into the Path

There’s a yin and yang of our daily existence; we feel happy and powerful when things go right and we’re sad and defeated when things go wrong. The reciprocal of those most glorious peaks are those seemingly desolate valleys—and when we descend from those peaks into the valleys, we lock ourselves in fear. It’s tough to wrap our minds around the idea of accepting our most tumultuous days as part of the journey and utilizing them as tools to continue moving forward. 

How do we find harmony and balance between the highs and lows? The key is practicing patience. According to Fischer, “Patience is the capacity to welcome difficulty when it comes, with a spirit of strength, endurance, forbearance, and dignity rather than fear, anxiety, and avoidance.”

Nobody wants to feel bad— angry, depressed, defeated or otherwise. Instead of avoiding those feelings altogether, however, our power comes from moving through suffering utilizing the positive counterpoints to combat the negative feelings. We can accomplish that through patience and courage.

I agree very much with Fletcher when he explains: “While trying to avoid difficulty may be natural and understandable, it actually doesn’t work. We think it makes sense to protect ourselves from pain, but our self-protection ends up causing us deeper pain. We think we have to hold on to what we have, but our very holding on causes us to lose what we have.”

He goes on to note that many of us are living dangerously without even knowing it. Because we’re ‘attached to what we like and try to avoid what we don’t like’ we try to keep what’s good and cast out what’s negative. We believe that avoidance is the best way to deal with what makes us uncomfortable; it’s not.  We need to step through pain, not away from it. 

Difficulties, when challenged with positive emotion, will undoubtedly reach positive results—so long as we are patient and give ourselves the opportunity to get past them in The Universe’s time instead of our own. This, as challenging as it sounds, will put us in a place where we’re able to feel gratitude in a new and defining way.

Meditate on this consciously: ruminating on the idea of “Turning all mishaps into the path.” Write it down, sit with it, whatever helps to practice it—and watch how quickly your mind and heart will change!

Once you experience one moment of reacting differently, you’ll begin to be aware of your behavior and your ability to be mindful of it. It’s the ability to look at life and say, “this is what it is—now how am I going to tackle it to find gratitude for its necessity to my journey?” Conquering dark thoughts with light can only increase your ability to be happy.

What’s next? The second mantra will be “Be Grateful to Everyone.” This idea explores a seemingly simply concept that can yield incredibly powerful results. 

A Case for Meditation


Imagine all of the things you think about throughout the day. In the course of your waking hours, process, for a second, how many different thoughts must go through your head. Now consider, our technologically-dependent society where we’re constantly stimulated from morning until night— digital devices, many times nearby even while asleep — we’re always devoting our energies outward, particularly in helping make our decisions in our day-to-day tasks and endeavors. With so much time spent looking outside for inspiration, it’s quite easy to forget that we can, and should, look inwards— isn’t it?

According to Pema Chodron, the most popular American-born Buddhist teacher, in an article for Shambhala Sun, Reasons to Meditate, here are five reasons in favor of meditation; but first, like anything of great value, unleashing the potential of these principals requires much patience and practice. Most importantly, being kind to yourself, whether you’re starting a routine for the first time or picking one up after a time away from practicing regularly.

Wherever you fall, it’s paramount to remember that each time we choose to sit and reflect quietly, even for just a few moments, it is a brand new, singular experience— the willingness to take this precious time is a testament to your desire to create or restore order in your life.

Chodron explains, “If we can train ourselves through meditation to be more open and more accepting toward the wild arc of our experience, if we can lean into the difficulties of life and the ride of our minds, we can become more settled and relaxed amid whatever life brings us.”

Not only does meditation help establish a sense of order for the continual chaos of daily life, Chodron says it also “gives us the opportunity to have an open, compassionate attentiveness to whatever is going on. The meditative space is like the big sky—spacious, vast enough to accommodate anything that arises.”

With that perspective in mind, Chodron moves on to her list:

1. Steadfastness: If we can train ourselves through meditation to be more open and more accepting toward the wild arc of our experience, if we can lean into the difficulties of life and the ride of our minds, we can become more settled and relaxed amid whatever life brings us.”

2. Clear Seeing:“Meditation helps us clearly see ourselves and the habitual patterns that limit our life. You begin to see your opinions clearly. You see your judgments. You see your defense mechanisms. Meditation deepens your understanding of yourself.”

3. Courage: “Meditation is a transformative process, rather than a magic makeover in which we doggedly aim to change something about ourselves. The more we practice, the more we open and the more we develop courage in our life.”

4. Attention: When you practice meditation, getting your cover blown is just as embarrassing as it ever was, but you’re glad to see where you’re still stuck because you would like to die with no more big surprises.

5. No Big Deal: “Meditation helps us cultivate this feeling of no big deal, not as a cynical statement, but as a statement of humor and flexibility. You’ve seen it all, and seeing it all allows you to love it all.”

With these five mindful meditations to focus on, now is your chance to try again, or for the very first time— allow yourself the opportunity to reflect on all aspects of your life, frustrations and joys alike. ‘

When you seek what you most desire from within your own self; you will soon start to discover nuances and patterns in many of the decisions you make; opening brand new doors to happiness and peace in everyday life.