"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: Deepak Chopra

posterity and the moment. . .

IM000281_2If you have had a chance to read my recent posts about being in the here and now, you will have gathered that according to Buddhist ideas, there is only happiness within, found in a present moment. In the past few days, I’ve gathered more books from the library about happiness-Buddhism-Asian thought and am struck by how often numbers play a role in scaling the sheer wall of enlightenment (although it’s not supposed to be linear, remember?)

One book by Thich Nhat Hanh, “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching” presents us with a dizzying number of things to understand and follow:

– “the twelve turnings of the wheel”

-“the noble eightfold path”

-“the three Dharma seals”

-“the three doors of liberation”

-“the three bodies of Buddha”

-“the three jewels”

-“the five aggregates”

-“”the five powers”

-“the six Paramits”

-“The seven factors of awakening”

“the twelve links of interdependent co-arising”

Honestly, I couldn’t read it after awhile.

Then I took out Deepak Chopra’s book from the library entitled “The Ultimate Happiness Prescription – 7 keys to joy and enlightenment.” At the end of each chapter, Chopra includes a reminder entitled: “To activate the (Sixth) key in everyday life, I promise myself to do the following.” This format and approach seemed like an ultra-linear approach to seeking happiness by following seven steps.

Finally, I took out what appeared to be the most readable book of all, a book of Zen koans called, “One Hand Clapping.” Laid out like colorfully illustrated Aesop’s Fables, I could glean some understanding of the oftentimes inchoate-seeming world of Asian philosophy.

So, there you go: from the myriad multiple-ness of innumerable tenets and a seven-step rather than a twelve-step (alcoholics anonymous) recipe or prescription for happiness, we land onto some koans that illustrate how to listen to one-hand clapping.

I am not making fun of Buddhism. I am just describing the observations that I’ve had trying to see the forest for the trees as I try to make my way out of the woods of so many numbered items having to do with happiness or enlightenment. It is mind-boggling.

Despite this, I have experienced something in the last few days by being ONLY present in the moment, not allowing myself to be seduced into thinking about the past NOR worrying about the future. What looked like a steep precipice of “what-ifs” turned out to be nothing at all, especially since everything having to do with the outcome was out of my hands. I could do nothing about it but to wait. And it was the quality of the waiting that had transformed into equanimity: I waited not in obsessive worry which is what I might have done before, but behaved in an accommodating and calm manner. It was transformative.

I’ve also been thinking about old age and posterity a lot. I don’t know what made me think of it but it occurred to me recently that people usually don’t get a chance to see their children in old age. It’s usually just the other way around: children get to see their parents grow old but we parents usually don’t get to see our kids in their seventies–not unless we live beyond our early nineties.

So, with the march of time, parents die usually when their children are middle-aged or approaching their sixties. Not often are parents still living when their children reach seventy and beyond. So, there’s usually not much chance to take care of our kids when they’ve gotten to be as old as we are now, the way that they take care of us now. See what I mean?

You may not think this to be a very interesting observation. But the truth of the matter is that as my daughter takes care of me by writing emails to me in the morning before she leaves for school to teach her classes, stays in touch with me when she is away on trips by sending me photos or by our mutual taking care of each other by sharing socks, down vests and jewelry that we both enjoy; I probably won’t be around when she’s reached my age. I hope that the younger generation of nieces will be as thoughtful and tender towards her as she is to me now.

In any case, how is this all related?

I’ve learned how to be in the moment, breaking old patterns of worry about the future and consciously avoiding a pointless waste of psychic energy worrying about things outside of my control. So all that reading had to do some good, right?

Second, I realized that what is most precious appears in very small things: daily emails, a shared photo or two, a pair of socks. These are moments of happiness, guys. That’s right. It’s that simple.



proving yourself . . .

Well, I’ve been thinking more about the holidays after listening to Deepak Chopra’s wonderful set of affirmations aloud on my laptop yesterday. Somehow, his voice and words convey a path to understanding myself more deeply. More importantly, a better understanding of my relationship with others.

This morning, I woke up thinking about how proving ourselves impacts the attitude or the intention of what we set out to do. For example, I have been feeling more put-upon and tired preparing for Thanksgiving this year, saying to myself, it’s because of my age and/or all the other myriad of projects that I don’t have room for to do during these weeks of preparation.

But then, I thought, “nope that’s not it.” I think it’s because there was, and has been (notice I’m using past tense verbs here) the notion in the back of my mind that I had to prove myself once again: that the roast chestnut dressing had to be wonderful, so labor intensive and frustrating when a good chestnut was hard to find–or that the bird had to be aromatic, juicy and tasty (even though the oven overheated to scorch the baked potatoes and then underheated while trying to roast the turkey;) that the brussel sprouts couldn’t be watery but crisped in a little butter before adding the bacon pieces. You get the picture.

OF COURSE IT’S EXHAUSTING when one’s perfectionist leanings that fuel me to prove myself kick in. And, in the process, makes me feel resentful (who’s doing this to me anyhow?) and the whole labor is not one wholly of love, but of obligation. Wow, that’s disheartening to realize, isn’t it? BUT, it’s actually very liberating because I realize that what’s really going to happen at the NEXT holiday–which is Christmas(!) and just around the corner, dear friends, is that I’m not going to be wearing that wet blanket around my shoulders again.

In reflection about myself and how one wears oneself out trying to show your love for your family at the same time that you also want them to just really enjoy it, there’s this aspect of “proving oneself.” And that added ingredient just doesn’t help. I was also thinking about this concept when a new friend asked me almost rhetorically, why she was pushing herself to make more pots when she had been sick and fell behind, and the weather had delayed the firing of her kiln of wares for the holidays. It doesn’t have to do with our age inhibiting us, I don’t think. It has to do with either that we are still proving ourselves to ourselves and to others. Or we are doing it out of the joy of doing something for its own sake and because we care about others. In her case, I think it’s the latter.

Are the distinctions I am making too fine to understand? I don’t think so. At least for me, the proving of myself, even at my age with my grown daughters–has to do in the end, with proving one’s self-worth. Or, to put it another way, a way to justify one’s very existence. What that means is that we feel if we don’t prove ourselves and make everybody happy in the process, then, well, we’re just not worthwhile. Is this a women’s thing? Unfortunately, I have a feeling that it is.

So where are we? I don’t know about you, but I’m letting go of a LOT of old habits and baggage because I realize it’s not helping me or anyone around me. In fact, I know it’s long overdue. I have to say that this release is huge, and due largely to listening to Deepak’s deep and gentle voice by myself yesterday in the cottage (and in the car on my way back home.) The affirmations have helped me to understand things like intention, and compassion and that e-g-o- means “edging God out” and that judgment (“judge not today”) blocks out creativity. The net effect on me has been that the affirmations have released me from comparing myself to others and to be clear that I, (and you, all of us, everyone of us,) am worthwhile, just because.

If you want to see a little more for yourself, take a look at Soul Healing Affirmations (March 25, 2008) on I-Tunes. It is a very simple and profound set of affirmations that go alphabetically from A-Z. Each one lasts less than 2 minutes or no more than about 4 minutes.

I feel a lot better. And I hope you will too when thinking about whether proving yourself is really worth it when you don’t have to in the first place, and maybe, not anymore.


“judge not today”. . .

On the day after Thanksgiving, my daughter and I were browsing in a Christmas Made-By-Hand gift shop in the small town next to the cottage. One after another visitor greeted the two women at the table who were minding the store. When asked how their Thanksgiving was, there ensued various comments about the Thanksgiving that they had, their family, and the food as their conversation drifted about in the store. Not many were positive. Not overall.

Later, I wondered about where unhappiness or dissatisfaction comes from. Especially when it happens to ourselves. So today, I was browsing on I-Tunes for some cleansing music and looked in the meditation section. Lo and behold, there was Deepak Chopra, leading meditations and speaking in his musical, soulful way, giving advice for the spirit. One meditation in particular struck me and I listened to that segment a few times before purchasing it for $1.29 (isn’t I-Tunes great?) Then, I found the text on-line, provided by another grateful listener. I share it here with you today.

Deepak Chopra: “Judge Not Today”:

“Judgment creates turbulence in our mind. When there is turbulence in our mind, then it interferes with the creativity of our soul. Creativity and judgment don’t go together. Judgment also means that letting go of the need to classify things, to call them either right or wrong, to label, to define, to describe, to evaluate, to analyze.

Let go, today. Judge not today. Today I will practice non-judgment.

This affirmation is about releasing the need to be judgmental. Just make this your lesson today. Consider what happens when you judge someone – it makes another person wrong. Someone else is wrong to feel a certain way, to look a certain way, to hold certain opinions. Judgment immediately creates separation. Any person who is wrong then becomes ‘them’. The need to judge arises from the need to be isolated – this is the ego’s form of defense. But at the same time you are pulling away from your true self. The same walls that keep other people away also shut off the flow of Spirit.
When you learn not to judge, you are basically saying, “I am willing to let anything in without deciding first whether it is good or bad.”

In the practice of openness, you will be inviting your soul to be intimate with you. So put your attention in your heart right now, and just repeat to yourself:

Today, I will judge nothing that occurs.
Today, I will judge nothing that occurs.
Today, I will judge nothing that occurs.
And by letting go of my judgments today, I will experience silence in my mind.
By shedding the burden of judgment today, I will experience silence in my mind.
And in this silence, I will find the ecstatic impulse, which is also the evolutionary impulse of the universe.
And I will align myself with the ecstatic evolutionary impulse of the universe, by letting go of all my judgments.
Today, I will not classify
I will not label
I will not define
I will not describe
I will not evaluate
I will not analyze.
Today, I will shed the burden of judgment.”

I thought it was pretty wise and maybe today, I can follow his suggestions. We can all be defensive about whether we are judgmental or not. Actually though, I don’t think I know anyone who isn’t judgmental because it’s hard to distinguish when we’re thinking about something to then realize we are being judgmental just by HOW we are thinking about it.

Anyway, it’s worth a try, don’t you think?