GO SLOW

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GO SLOW

I rush for where
the thistles and moss
will absorb the sounds
of my racing mind
and where the thudding
of my heart
can run alongside
those of the others
escaping their enemies,
running toward survival,
until we are one organism,
moving madly, at first,
and then, as though
in spontaneous awareness
of an internal need,
we pause, and slow,
and it’s the greatest
silence we have ever known,
sonorous and pure,
and we can hear
the ladybug flap her wings,
though she decides to stay,
and the grass is heaving
its gratitude for the earth
sustaining it from below.
The birds slice through sky
to nestle in the treetops,
their every movement
conducing a forest symphony
for our delighted ears.
Our own heartbeats
are making sweet music,
calm, rhythmic now,
because we, too, have stayed,
one for the other,
under the watchful moon
and the playful sun.

– Tammy Takahashi

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Silence

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the world
can be a
loud place
the silence
can be
shocking,
a ringing in
the ears
of all the
whispers
missed
over time,
everything
nameless
you are
afraid
is
irretrievably
lost.
the ringing
is loud,
a disturbance,
jarring you
to a new
state of
awake,
in which
the past
stays lodged
far back
in time
and the
silence
becomes
real and
holy and
pure. – TS

15 Ways To Make Friends With Your Mind.

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You know them when you see them: people who radiate joy, don’t sweat the small stuff, naturally attract people to them and who seem to be in a pretty constant state of peace.

What do these people have in common? Well, they’ve all worked hard to tame the beast within and turn their minds into their greatest allies. For the rest of us, life might look a little bit like this: worrying, regretting past actions, stressing out about potential future events, spinning out of control, retreating to worlds of fantasy and distraction … sound familiar?

You don’t want to feel like this. You might be thinking about starting meditation and mindfulness practices, to become more Zen, but don’t know how where to start. As you work up to your Namaste, then, it can be helpful to try a few practical things aimed at familiarizing yourself with the lifelong companion that is your mind, which you definitely want on your team!

1: Recognize that you are not your mind.

Here’s a telltale sign: you can actually observe your thoughts and feelings as they come up, which means you are not inextricably bound with them. This awareness is truly a revolution, and the first step toward empowering yourself to begin the work of calming the mind down and getting it on your side.

“To find out what is truly individual in ourselves, profound reflection is needed; and suddenly we realize how uncommonly difficult the discovery of individuality is.” – C.G. Jung

2: Become a witness of your mind.

Your mind is capable of extraordinary things once you learn to take the reins. One of the main purposes of meditation is to connect to the present moment by accessing your inner witness. Rest quietly and become aware of your body and immediate surroundings. Observe thoughts as they arise and slip away; they will do this over and over. As you distance yourself from your thoughts and feelings, you’ll start to wonder you we attach so deeply to ephemera that come and go like clouds in the sky.

“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.” – attributed to Buddha

3: Be careful what you put into your mind.

In some ways, the mind is very simple: it builds on what you feed it. If you funnel negativity into it, it will soon be hard not to feel negative, because the mind – which is not your enemy, just doing its job – adjusts and happily works with what it’s given. This is known in neuroscience as “plasticity” : our brains work with new stimuli no matter how old we are. Letting the good stuff in will actually, if slowly, make it easier for you to feel positive over time.

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” – Mahatma Gandhi

4: Explore your mind like it’s a foreign country

The best kind of travel is all about being curious, having no expectations, and being ready to be dazzled, even enlightened by what we find. Take the time to be in stillness with your mind and contemplate the thoughts and feelings you find there; they have a lot to teach you about your coping patterns and how you have come to view the world over time. In short: discover yourself!

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” – Dalai Lama

5: Distinguish between knowledge and wisdom

Knowledge involves learning facts and developing the intellect. You might come to realize that accumulating knowledge does not make you feel any happier. Wisdom, on the other hand, involves learning from our life’s experiences about what is meaningful so we can live our best possible lives with heart. Learning things is great, but acquiring wisdom is invaluable.

‘Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.’ – Lord Alfred Tennyson

6: Embrace compassion, the gateway to happiness
As we focus more on wisdom than gathering information, we come to understand whey we are really here: to benefit others and know deep within that we don’t want anyone to suffer, as we ourselves don’t want to suffer. Cultivating empathy compassion through meditation and contemplation is one of the best things we can do by encouraging the mind to serve our purpose of being agents of good in a world that badly needs it.

“More smiling, less worrying. More compassion, less judgment. More blessed, less stressed. More love, less hate.” – Roy T. Bennett

7: Seek truths that thought cannot produce

The rational mind computes, analyzes, discriminates and assesses very well, but left to its own devices, it does not naturally guide you toward greater consciousness. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get there! The mind just need some coaxing. Attempt to remember your dreams. Comb your mind for things people have said to you in the past that struck you as wise. Don’t dismiss insights; write them down. Embrace synchronicities that seem to fall on your lap. Recognize wisdom and deeper truth for what it is and let it support your conscious life.

“To understand the immeasurable, the mind must be extraordinarily quiet, still.” – Jiddu Krishmanurti

8: Listen to your heart and your gut and let them win

Contrary to conventional belief, it’s been shown that reason and emotions are not two passing trains in the night. Our emotions actually guide our rational and cognitive functioning to a large extent, and our “gut” area has come be known as our second brain. Don’t rationalize your gut instincts away: take the time to listen to the messages you receive from your body and inner wisdom.

“When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object.” – Milan Kundera, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being

9: Tend to your mind like a garden

Before we start on the garden, it looks like a mess of jumbled weeds and dried clumps of earth. Who wants to go there? But with effort, you end up with a gorgeous kingdom of your creation, full of beauty, nutrients and wonder. So it is with the mind – with a little pruning, love and care, persistently attended to every day, it can grow into a gorgeous and fruitful splendor.

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” – Plutarch

10: Develop equanimity

Equanimity means regarding the things you experience without judgment. Stop liking things so much that you can’t live without them, and stop focusing energy on despising things, which only strengthens their iron grip on you. Practice observing your reactions to things, and notice how naming and being aware of these reactions helps make them less intense over time.

“It is simply sitting silently, witnessing the thoughts, passing before you. Just witnessing, not interfering not even judging, because the moment you judge you have lost the pure witness. The moment you say “this is good, this is bad,” you have already jumped onto the thought process.” – Osho

11: Allow wonder in

Little kids are so full of awe at everything they encounter – we can be that way again too! The world is really a playground, and we are infinitely lucky to be in it. Life isn’t always going to be easy, but you can access that innocent, childlike wonder anytime by opening eye and heart to the magic all around us. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself for it!

“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.” – Walt Streightiff

12: Slow down and be silent

We’ve all experienced the overwhelm that comes with trying to be productive all the time. It’s time to stop burning yourself out. Carve time in the day to spend time with loved ones, enjoy the rewards of your labor and reflect on your life. There’s a reason we’re afraid of silence; here we are forced to confront ourselves, and it’s not always pretty. But in coming face to face with our demons, you can overcome them and ease through to peace and harmony.

“Silence is the language of Om. We need silence to be able to reach our Self. Both internal and external silence is very important to feel the presence of that supreme Love.” – Amit Ray

13: Know that you don’t have to be defined by your stories.

Humans have an amazing capacity for storytelling and to create identities based on the stories we tell. It’s key to keep in mind that in choosing which stories you tell and whih memories you latch onto, you are reinforcing certain aspects of your identity, for better or worse. Stories are fluid and can always be rewritten.

“A student, filled with emotion and crying, implored, “Why is there so much suffering?”
Suzuki Roshi replied, “No reason.” – Shunryu Suzuki

14: Replace “what ifs” for “thank you’s”

One of the “best” ways we waste time is to pine over mistakes and wonder, what if we’d done things differently? Well, we didn’t! The life we are living now is a product of the decisions we’ve made, and the best antidote to regret is gratitude. Express thanks for all the million ways in which your life is awesome and worth celebrating, and more of that is bound to come

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” – Maya Angelou

15: Take a walk in nature, be wild and write a poem about it

You don’t have to literally write a poem, but tapping into your creativity is also tapping into your nature. Nature and creation go hand in hand. Humans are among nature’s most awe-inspiring creations, and so much of the discord we feel comes from how far we’ve strayed from our roots. We are designed to think and feel more clearly when aligned with nature’s rhythms. Doing things like breathing clean forest air, sitting under trees and using our natural-born creativity – whether you think you are “good” or not – will do wonders to restore the mind and get it working in your best interest.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.” – John Muir

Hush –

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hush –
she wants to show herself
to you, to enfold you
into one of infinite
possible worlds
nesting here
all along,
with her
ethereal jewel-like colours
hues of ocean and sky
impossible to put
to word, and
the sounds,
pretty and
muted,
hush –
let us spend time here,
and find what is clear
and what is true,
and what we
can bring,
hold,
hush … – TS

Invite the Silence

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silence, my witness
i come to you softly

i shake loose what
has kept me from you

i sit down on a ground
that catches me with

her welcoming. I didn’t
expect this unreserved

warmth. she wants me
here. i close my eyes.

i don’t know what to do.
but where else to be.

and the ground is
telling me, stay. this

is not about knowing.
it is about surrender, and

your firm desire to be here.
to peer into the silence

and find what is shining
bright. the spilling tears

tell me i have come to the
right place. and so i do. – TS

 

The Drive to be Heard: Finding Silence in the Age of Social Media

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“Silence is a true friend who never betrays.” – Confucius

I’m hardly a pioneer in noticing that huge doses of time on Facebook (to say nothing of the Twitters/Instagrams/Snapchats/whatevers/blogs) compromise everything from the way I manage time, the way my brain and mind works, and the way I feel about myself.

The kicker is that I’m actively curating my own personal descent into the e-rabbit hole with every group I join, every page I like, and even everything I don’t attend to, on purpose or by accident, stuff that ends up disappearing from my virtual existence without a trace, to be replaced by scarily-targeted ads.

I do love being connected.

I live in Japan, and if I couldn’t be online with my friends and various communities, I don’t know where I’d be. But this doesn’t stop the overwhelm from seeping in. This world we’re living in, with its potential for universal communication is delightful, rewarding, democratic and important.

So why are we exhausted and anxious so much of the time? How many of us have the discipline or wherewithal to use technology solely in our best interests, exclusively to promote our sense of fulfillment and well being?

How many us can be mindful about how we navigate the clutter, how we use our time online, and by extension, how we use our time in general?

It seems that our ever-growing online identities are taking on new lives of their own. We catch ourselves buying into the glorious, social-media-versions of the lives of others and even more telling, of ourselves.

We compare. We self-loathe. We share in hopes of hearts.

We vow to get off social media and realize we don’t really know what remains.

This is not nothing; our move into a world wholly relational within a cyber-context and dependent on invisible pathways of connection are, for better or worse, engendering a new mode of existence. We really need to be aware of this, and on more than just a superficial level.

To be truly aware of something, we need to pull back from that thing.

This is also the foundation of meditation—to discover truths about existence, including our true identities. We learn to step back so we can take a profound look at ourselves.

We take the stance of the observer, or the witness. Practitioners of various religious and mystical traditions have understood and practiced living from what we can call the seat of true consciousness, from which the other, more transient aspects of life can be seen as coming and going, ebbing and flowing, fleeting and transitory. Regarding things this way, to put it one way, really appeases the anxiety within.

Before social media, we had a different relationship to ourselves.

There was a time when, as a teenager, I’d wake up in the morning, get dressed, eat breakfast and go to school without so much as looking at the landline sitting on my night table. Except for my family, I had no clue what anyone had been up to in the last (gasp!) 16 hours or so. There was no uploading and updating and checking in.

At most, I was having fake conversations in my head with my crush of the day. Later, I would elaborate on this phantom conversation with my best friend, on my clear landline phone with the neon insides.

It’s fascinating, how when we have a crush on someone that is rapidly entering the obsessive stages, we tend to have a version of them on loop in our minds, so that they are a virtual companion to everything we do, say or think. We might be at the dinner table pretending to listen to our parents speak, while trying to smother a smile at some totally invented, witty joke we just made to the object of our lust.

We are not present in these moments. We have fused our lives with a wholly imaginary realm.

In a very important sense, this is how we are all the time now as we tend to, feed, embellish, try to improve upon, and panic over how others are perceiving our social media identities, as if they are real, live entities. We care for them more than we might be caring for ourselves.

Why do we feel the need to be heard above the din? Who is it that needs to be heard? Do we even know anymore? Most of us are behaving as though we need a lot of attention, but but to what end?

I think that when we need to be heard, it’s a sign that we really need to be listening.

We need to be listening, but not only by glancing at the stories and posts of others online and actively liking and commenting. We need to pull back, be in the world in which we move and touch and hear and see, and listen deep down, to and from the recesses of our hearts.

Everyone has a story to tell, and we would all be doing the world a great service if we could attend to those aspects of others that manifest through their own stories. But, we cannot truly listen if we are part of the noise.

It is only from a place of awareness, which comes through silence, that we can begin tell our stories with any level of conscientiousness and context. We need to tap into the benefits of taking the time to be silent, reflect, read, grow, learn, to be in nature, to reclaim a strong, healthy sense of who we are—even have always been.

From this place of silence and peace, I can meet you.

I can start to see who you are, because I have a growing sense of who I am, in connection with the world that has engendered me, holds me and embraces me, and wholly accepts me.

Before wondering what we can post online to get a reaction (fueling a need to be loved that can never be fulfilled in this way), maybe we can:

  • Spend time in a forest.
  • Take a long walk with no destination in mind.
  • Hug a friend for 30 seconds or longer.
  • Close our eyes and listen to the sounds around us.
  • Gently ask which of our stories no longer serve us, and let them go.
  • Draw something, even a doodle, on a piece of paper.
  • Ask how we can be there for someone today.
  • Close our eyes, place our hands on the heart, and wish for great happiness for all beings.
  • Shut off all screens, and read a book, or have a cup of tea, or sit in gorgeous silence.

“When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.”  – Martin Buber

**This article was published on The Tattooed Buddha.