To thine own self be true

Yet another famous quote from one of Shakespeare’s works. It is most often used in context with honesty and commitment. It is said to remind you that you are better than that. But, I would like to take another perspective on this saying, perhaps a deeper awareness of self.

There is a Japanese term, “ichigyo-zammai,” that basically means full concentration on a single act. It comes from the Buddhist notion that we do not express our own true nature when our focus is not complete. That our true nature cannot fully express itself when we are constantly distracted, but when we are truly just doing whatever we’re doing, we start to express our true selves.

Roshi Zuzuki, the Zen master credited to having brought Zen Buddhism to the West, advised to concentrate on the activity which we do in each moment. “When you sit, you should just sit; when you eat, you should just eat.” I personally see this as yet another example of our subconscious mind being more powerful than our own conscious thoughts. The inability to concentrate on a single task without distraction and interruption. This is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to be fully present in the moment.

 

How to do one thing at a time

This is my own personal practice. A form of meditation. Not unlike the “walking meditation” as practiced by Zen master Thich Nath Hahn.

  • Start an activity, turn to its with your full attention and set an intention to be present with the act, do nothing but this activity. You might think, “just walk” or “just read” or “just drink tea.”
  • I practice complete awareness as I do this activity becoming fully engaged with the entire moment. I become aware of my own physical body as I interact with objects from the outside world.
  • When I notice myself thinking about something else, having my attention pulled elsewhere, or starting down a pattern of judgment, resentments, etc.- I make a note to being fully present with the activity at hand. I consciously reset my mind back to what I am doing.
  • I gently tell myself that this distraction is the reason why I need to practice this activity with awareness, for the same reason that I need to practice meditation. That’s through this practice I expand my awareness.
  • I embrace the activity as if it is the first time I have ever done it. Like a child. I allow it to unfold and surprise me.
  • I treat each object with reverence as if it is the first time I ever saw it. I marvel at how the lights catches it and reflects into surrounding objects.
  • I become aware of the brilliance of that moment, but that activity, that underlies everything around us.
  • I allow gratitude to wash over me.

Just write. Just shower. Just give someone your full attention.

As I give each activity my full loving attention, I start to appreciate each person, each object, everything around me as something worthy of my respect, love, and gratitude.

The mundane becomes a miracle. Awareness changes our perception to see the perfection in imperfection.

This is a practice, not the end result. I am plenty distracted to not be in gratitude at all times. But feeling grateful is something I like to return. A lot!

Jai

Unlocking Possibilities

 

ALMOST THERE!!!

Only a few days left on Kickstarter before the real fun begins for me.

The physical keys that I began producing about 3 years ago, came to me in a meditation where I was pondering over “spiritual key-words”. For some reason, I began to see skeleton keys with words on it jump out to me. I immediately stopped meditating and began feverishly google images of keys with words on it. I became quite excited to see that no-one had made them in the same way that I envisioned them. I felt I was on to something. Not long after that, I had the first keys in hand. I did little with them, but everyone liked how they looked and could see potential in them.

I tried on several occasions to sell them to businesses and organizations alike but lacked the sales drive to transform the idea into a commercially viable business. My poor mom and several friends have boxes of these in their homes, waiting for me to do something with them. I have continued my life-coaching and service work that I have been involved in for a number of years prior to this. Work that has brought me immense meaning and purpose in my life.

Around this time last year, my circumstances changed suddenly. A person that I had been helping had suddenly turned on me and had begun poisoning my community where I was doing the bulk of my work. It was a sudden and inexplicable chapter in my life that left me baffled and uncertain of my purpose. It essentially moved me away from this work, into a new chapter in my life. It was devastating at the time, but it pushed me into this new direction. The phrase “God is doing for me, what I couldn’t do for myself”, springs to mind. Because I would never have left that situation as I would always have felt some sense of duty to the people that I was trying to help. As usual, miracles were happening all around me, and despite personal uncertainty, I felt safe in the knowledge that everything was going to work out just fine. I had faith.

This last year has been difficult, but never have I strained too far from peace and serenity to plague my well being. I am fortunate to have an amazing community of loving friends through fellowship and service. This last year has granted me time to write this book on hope, and all these experiences that have reaffirmed and pushed me into a deeper understanding of this very beautiful spiritual principle.

HOPE is abundant, but it can be cultivated through understanding – I began writing on the topic of hope in a very logical and almost scientific approach to this subject at first, but it felt mechanical and emotionless. Friends with whom I had shared my idea and offered to help unanimously advised me to add my own personal experience, to add depth and allow the reader to relate to what I was saying. This was not something I really wanted to do. There were many parts of my life that I really didn’t want people to know about me and I still felt embarassed about. Writing about my own background, turned out to be a cleansing experience. Difficult and utterly emotionally draining, but I no longer fear the judgment of self that held me back. Writing this book has given me a better understanding of hope. Your support has given me HOPE.

I am truly grateful.

Jai

Forgiving

Don’t you just hate the clichés about forgiving? And that “forgetting” part? Ridiculous! Sorry, I was given a brain, and it’s really quite good at recalling stuff. Maybe less impressive with names and certain dates, but really good at remembering how others’ have betrayed my trust.

I’ve read just about everything one can about letting go of anger. I have been told, “you have to forgive, in order for you to find peace”. And, whilst this is easy to want, deciding to forgive and feeling peace can seem entirely impossible. It doesn’t matter that just about every religion/philosophy in the world come together in this. I desire peace, I really do. I simply am stuck with my conception of justice sometimes.

I know what it feels like to be lied to, abused, controlled, forgotten, rejected or in some other way wounded by someone you loved and trusted. I know that you do too. Every one of us has been wounded by others in some form or other and I count myself extremely blessed and fortunate when I hear another’s story. It is often enough to bring me back to gratitude. But yet, it is easy to get caught up in the moment with that sense of injustice hanging over my head.

 

When it does I can feel sick in my core to think that people that have betrayed my trust will just walk away scott-free. I want revenge. I want retribution. The fantasies that follow in my head are outrageously ridiculous sometimes. Perhaps this is why I used to enjoy violent movies, because I could find the similarities in the reactions to betrayal in the movie. Back-stabbers beware.

Clinging on to this fantasy of revenge is because we’re simply not ready to give up on the fight for justice. So, we hold onto anger. We justify our anger and we stew and poison our soul. And we transmit that poison to every person we interact with. Anger glosses over the hurt and damage that has been done, and instead it tells us that vengeance will somehow make everything alright.

Forgiveness seems impossible. We want to forgive, because we know it’s the healthiest choice to make. We want to find that peace that comes from forgiveness. We want the madness in our brains to quiet down, and yet we cannot find a way to get there. It is only when the suffering of not forgiving outweighs the desire to set things right, that the willingness to forgive enters our lives. At that moment, the decision that restoring your own peace is finally a bigger priority than disrupting someone else’s.

Much of this comes through awareness and understanding. Two things that elude us whilst caped in anger and resentment. The realization that making another suffer for their betrayal is not going to fix anything.

Your vengeance simply means you are going to cause suffering in another’s life. It will do nothing that brings back anything positive into your life. I used to rationalize this kind of thinking. That this will cause others to think twice to do anything like this to me again, but instilling fear in another person is really no way to move your spirit forward. It has no positive consequences. None.

We also lack understanding of what the other person was thinking or more importantly feeling, when they did what they did. The deception of who we thought they were has blind-sided us so badly that we never get to contemplate of why they did this. We go through the process of trying to understand, but because of the hurt to self, it is a shallow process. An incomplete investigation of what was going on at the time, let alone knowing what has happened in a person’s past in order for them to act or react that way.

When you have come to that point of realization of your suffering, and become willing to forgive. Then further steps can be taken. I normally begin with reminding myself what forgiveness isn’t. These are important for me to understand:

  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean you are pardoning or excusing the other person’s actions.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean you need to tell the person that he or she is forgiven.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any more feelings about the situation.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean there is nothing further to work out in the relationship or that everything is okay now.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean you should forget the incident ever happened.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to continue to include the person in your life.
  • … and forgiveness isn’t something you do for the other person.

By forgiving, you finally give up hope for a different past. It means knowing that the past is over, the dust has settled and the destruction left in its wake can never be reconstructed to resemble what it was. It’s accepting that there’s no magic solution to the damage that’s been caused. It’s the realization that as unfair as the hurricane was, you still have to live in its city of ruins. And no amount of anger is going to reconstruct that city. You have to do it yourself, and it doesn’t necessarily have to include the person you are forgiving. In fact, for me it rarely does.

So, the process that works best for me is a process of acceptance:

  1. Accept that it happened. Accept how you felt about it and how it made you react. Accept that you are uncomfortable with change.
  2. Acknowledge the growth you experienced as a result of what happened. What did it make you learn about yourself, or about your needs and boundaries? Not only did you survive the incident, perhaps you grew from it.
  3. Accepting the flaws in everyone. Now think about the other person. He or she is flawed because all human beings are flawed. He or she acted from limited beliefs and a skewed frame of reference. When you were hurt, the other person was trying to have a need met. What do you think this need was and why did the person go about it in such a hurtful way? Accept your own flawed response to that suffering.
  4. To accept this present moment for what it is. To accept that everything is exactly how it is meant to be, and that dis-agreeance with that, is what brings suffering.
  5. To accept that everything happens for a reason, and to be open-minded that this was necessary for your own personal growth.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to make amends with who hurt you or that your safety is reliant on their amends. It doesn’t mean that you have to accept them into your life again with the same trust that you held before.

If you desire to have a relationship with them, it is to accept their flawed nature and love them for the sum of who they are, not its parts. To understand that they too accept your flaws and accept all of you. The relationship is not dependent on them healing you and putting you back together. After all, you’re not broken.

Forgiveness isn’t about letting injustice continue. It’s about creating justice for yourself, your own karma and your own destiny. It’s about getting back onto your feet and deciding that the rest of your life isn’t going to be miserable because of what happened to you. It means walking bravely into the future, with every scar and callous you’ve incurred along the way. Forgiveness means saying that you’re not going to let what happened to you define you any longer.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you are giving up all of your power. Forgiveness means you’re finally ready to take it back.

Jai