Today you don’t need to be enlighted to benefit from some of the practices of the mystics and awakened beings of the past. In fact, even poets like Rumi can provide guidance on how to live a more grateful and happy life. His “beloved” often thought of as representing God, was actually written to his lover, in real life. His inspiration for loving god was his deep outpouring of love for his “friend.”
How To Find Your Peace
Here’s the trick. Being okay with things just as they are in this very moment is a ninja mindfulness move. Tolle has banked his entire career on giving us more and more ideas about how to return to the NOW of this present moment. It’s easier said than done, but I have some ideas about how to regain your NOW-ness.
I’ve written about mindfulness a lot in the last year, as I have begun devoting a good bit of my study and time to getting PRESENT and letting go of pains of THE PAST and fears about THE FUTURE. That’s it. There are only three points in time, in our minds. And most of the time anxiety, fear, and frustration come from our unhappiness in the present moment as we dwell or ruminate on the other two states.
Here are some ways I soothe my monkey mind.
Arrive In This Moment
“In this very moment I am not in danger, I am not at risk of death or injury. In this very moment, I am here, breathing, thinking, and I can feel the love and safety around me. In this moment, there is nothing wrong. This moment is just as it is, perfect. I am exactly where I am supposed to be.”
Detach From the Past
“My regret and pain about the past is easy to let go of when I return to the joy of the present moment and my comfort in it. Who or what is holding me in love in this present moment? God? Higher power? A lover? An idea of the present moment? A breathing or moving exercise? An appreciation for my awareness of self, and my place in this moment?”
Take Action On Things You Control
“My fear of the future is largely based on things I cannot control. I will work to take action on the things I have stroke over, and I will actively let go of my attempts to control or worry about the future events I have no possible way of influencing.”
My Mood In This Present Moment
Moods are not always good guides or indicators of where you should focus your attention. Often, moods, ideas, emotions, are tied to both non-present modes: regret about the past, fears of the future. If we can pull our thoughts and moods out and examine them (a mindful practice of awareness) we will see their influence and energy for what it is: a thought.
Letting go of those moods when they arrive in life is part of my lifetime practice at walking my path on the Earth. As I’ve gotten better at identifying and labeling my moods (“Oh, I’m having a sad thought about the loss of my kid time.”) I can tie an action to the mood and make some forward momentum from the painful memory. Or, I can see the sad thought, and let it go. (“My kids are at an age where my priorities and their priorities are very different. If they don’t respond to a loving text for a few days, it’s just their lives, it does not mean I’m a bad father.”)
Mostly, identifying and labeling the mood is the main process of becoming more aware of where you are spending your mental energy. Are you cycling in the past problems or losses? That’s quite unproductive. You can take action today, based on some of those regrets, but you do yourself no favors by lulling into a depression by lamenting the losses that have already happened. You can only affect your own actions and reactions. I can ask my kids again, today, about some interesting data points or interests we share.
Resetting Disappointments and Finding Contentment
Our goal, the goal of Buddha’s mindfulness practice, is to let go of our attachment to the outcome of life and learn to be happy right where we are. This is not an easy state to remain in, but if you can find it and point your thoughts toward it (this contentment goal) you can spend more of your life in this mode. “I am content at this moment, just as things are. I rest in this contentment and know that I am home, safe, and free.”
It’s when we dwell on the disappointments and frustrations about the way things ARE (or seem) and the way we want things to be. For example, I’d love to have 20-million dollars in the bank. I could do so much to help people in my circle of influence. I could spend more of my time writing, playing music, playing tennis, traveling. AND… that’s not what’s real for me. But I can be pleasantly content with my life anyway, despite my lack of multimillionaire status.
I am ambitious about the future. I am actively moving my life in ways that support a more mindful and intentional experience. I am learning to walk more confidently in the present moment, just as things are, and be open to each moment as it unfolds in my life. There is very little benefit in worrying about the future of my career or my retirement savings at this moment. I can take intentional action on those ideas, yes, but I can also let go of any worry that things will fall apart.
Ambition vs. Contentment
This was one of the critical koans of my creative life over the last 30-years. Here is the question, “Which is more important to you, ambition or contentment?”
At the time I was asked, I was in Los Angeles playing a pop festival with my band, Buzzie. I was in a car heading across town with a fellow musician from Australia and a music fan who was giving us both a lift from the afternoon club to the evening club in Orange County. Micheal and I contemplated the question.
I have continued to contemplate this question for years.
As a creative person, I have ambition. I have things I want to accomplish in my creative work. I have books to write. I have music to write. I have grand performance schemes that will take years to develop. I am ambitious.
As a creative person, I am also fairly content. Sure, I’d like my music or my books to connect and take off so I could devote more of my time to them, but as it is, I have a fairly balanced and happy life. Sure, I have a day job, that I am grateful for, but I am also excited about my current energy and enthusiasm about my creative projects. Maybe I would like to be Sting. Perhaps that fame is a prison, or a soul cage, that he can no longer escape. I do love enjoying a quiet morning eating breakfast at a local Mexican food restaurant, which I’m guessing would not be possible for someone quite famous.
I am content at this moment with my life. This is a lovely place to be. And it’s a powerful reflection that I can turn to hundreds of times a day.
While it may sound a bit like Seinfeld’s Serenity Now bit, it is more important and salient than that. I am not trying to will myself into contentment, I am recognizing that AT THIS VERY MOMENT (typing these words) I AM SAFE, HEALTHY, and HAPPY.
Boom. That’s the magic trick.
Stop the random ramblings of your mind as it tries to spin you off into regrets and fears. Just pull yourself back to this NOW, this moment. Release those moods, ideas, regrets, as just passing thoughts. Notice them. “Hello, darkness, my old friend.” Label them, “I’ve come to talk with you again.” And then determine the next right action for your life.
Solving the Creative Koan
What I’ve discovered over the years of contemplating the contentment vs. ambition question is this: I am most happy when I’m content in my own creative ambition, and not tied to monetary success or fame as my measuring stick. I am content and happy when I am creating, in creative mode. My joy is not about an audience or even a reader. My innate joy is simply in creating something. A poem is the best example of frivolous creative joy. It is unlikely that I will become the poet laureate of any country, but I can celebrate each and every love poem or poem of despair.
Expressing my life as an act of prayer and mindfulness is my current path. I walk in this present moment, aware of things around me, aware of past sorrows, aware of anxious potentials, and I’m choosing to return to the clicking of my fingertips on these keys. In this moment, I am safe, happy, and home. I am loved too. First from within. Then I am able to show up and be present for *my* beloved.