Mojo Monday ~ Enjoy Every Sandwich

As medical director of the famed Preventive Medicine Research Institute, Lee Lipsenthal helped thousands of patients struggling with disease to overcome their fears of pain and death and to embrace a more joyful way of living. In his own life, happily married and the proud father of two remarkable children, Lee was similarly committed to living his life fully and gratefully each day.

The power of those beliefs was tested in July 2009, when Lee was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. As Lee and his wife, Kathy, navigated his diagnosis, illness, and treatment, he discovered that he did not fear death, and that even as he was facing his own mortality, he felt more fully alive than ever before. In the bestselling tradition of Tuesdays with Morrie, told with humor and heart, and deeply inspiring, Enjoy Every Sandwich distills everything Lee learned about how we find meaning, purpose, and peace in our lives.

Here are excerpts from Chapter 18 called Living and Dying Outside the Box.

“We create the world we live in.  Some of us have large comfortable homes with room to grow, and others have tiny, boxlike apartments that keep us feeling small and confined.  When I was younger, I lived in a Neuroimaginal box of depression and anxiety where smart people became doctors or lawyers and relationships were like those idealized stories presented to me daily on television and in movies:  Good people get good things, love is pure an romantic, and bad guys always get it in the end.  At that time, I believed that was all there was to life.  I had no way of seeing outside that limited worldview.  it was my truth.

When I lived in such a small box, I couldn’t imagine any other world or life.  I reinforced my limited world over and over by surrounding myself with people who shared my views, passions, and opinions.  I defined myself by the world I had created. 

I had no desire to leave the little box I lived in, because there was enough comfort, security, and success for me to believe that everything was fine.  I came up with justifications for why I couldn’t change.  I had responsibilities to my wife and kids, to my work.  I had invested so many years to build this life and career that the fear of change was greater than my desire to change.  Maintaining the status quo was just enough to get by, and I told myself good stories of a successful life to avoid thinking about change.  I had solid defense mechanisms.  

I was a physician with a wife, children, and a thriving practice.  Everything was supposed to be great, but a restlessness began to grow inside me. This restlessness became anxiety and dissatisfaction, and although I wouldn’t have used this terminology then, my soul began to call out to me for what it needed: a new self, a new world, something larger.  My desire to change began to exceed my fear of change.

I started to explore other options and ask other people about their experiences.  People around me who had changed their worlds told me, ‘Oh, it’s easy; I did it.  And look how happy I am now.  All you need to do is…’ I thought that they just didn’t understand how hard change would be for me.  I was a successful doctor.  They hadn’t lived my life; they weren’t me.

In retrospect, these people had made substantial changes in their lives, but in doing so they forgot what it was like to be stuck in a world of limitations.  For them, changing their world seemed so easy, a no-brainer, and of such great value that they wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“Birthing a new life, scratching your way our of a confining box, is very much the same; the freedom and expansiveness at the other end make you forget how traumatic and difficult the work of escaping was.  Today I can’t imagine living my old life, but I can say that leaving it behind was not easy.  I have not forgotten totally the pain of delivery.

But pain always seems to push us until vision starts to pull us. In my thirties, the pain of living in my depressed and anxious little box finally surpasses my desire for safety, and I began to scratch away at the lining of the box in which I was stuck.  For years, I didn’t even know where I was going.  I just knew that my old world wasn’t enough.  I scratched away at that box with simple tools: meditation, exercise, rock’n’roll, love, and therapy.  I had no idea what I would find outside the walls of that box.  I only knew that it was too painful to live inside it anymore.  I was living the life I was supposed to live, but my soul was withering.  

So I scratched away each morning, each evening, and each and every day until a small streak of light started to shine through.  The wall had become just thin enough for me to know that there was something outside this prison of my own making.  After I could see that small glimmer of hope, the effort started to feel worthwhile and change became possible.  Inspired, I scratched some more.

After years of scratching, struggle, introspections, and disruption in relationships, the thin opening in my small box became wide enough for me to step out.  What I found was scary, unknown place where all my old emotions and thoughts lived but where they were now accompanied by a new worldview in which thoughts and emotions were just of the moment, not the definition of myself.

This new world I had entered, this new home, was a place of transcendence, anger, depression, and joy , and I had to deal with it all.  There was no shield expect love.  Somehow, without being aware of it, I had created a new home for myself.  It was a safe place both to grow in and from which to venture out into the risky unknown.  From this new home, life became and adventure in which difficulty was just something to dive into. Every time I did dive in, I came out stronger than before.  I came out refreshed and renewed. 

This new house of my own creation has changed and now has many rooms.  I have built it over many years with my practices of meditation, prayer, therapy, and journeywork, and it continues to expand.

This home has a room called depression where I can sit after struggling to walk up our small hill because my postradiation lungs are burned, coarse remnants of the pink, healthy tissue they once were.  In this room I sit and listen to Jackson Browne’s ‘Late for the Sky’ and acknowledge what I’ve lost. 

This house has a room called anger where the frenetic energy of punk rock pushes me to flail about until I collapse, usually of exhaustion, expunging anger at those who have hurt me.

This house has a room called joy, where Patti Smith’s ‘People Have the Power’ is cranked up to eleven on the volume dial, where I laugh, jump, and let tears of pure happiness flow.

This house has a room called love where ‘God Only Knows’ by the Beach Boys plays 24/7 and where I sit and feel the petals of gratitude in my pocket.

This house has a room where my family dances together to Johnny Clegg’s ‘Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World’ and I hold my daughter while hearing Joseph Arthur’s ‘In the Sun.’

This house has a room called peace where I meditate and Tibetan bowls ring in their sweet, harmonious tones and overtones, incense burns, and the world of today disappears in the silence of all that is bigger than me.

This house has a room called busy-ness, where a playlist of Springsteen, the Stones, the Beatles, John Prine, the Replacements, NRBQ, and many others are my welcome sound track to a life of doing.

This house has a kitchen where my friends and family gather and create warmth.  My dad sings Sinatra as we make sandwiches together — many breads, many fillings, much love.

This house has a room called death where some day –maybe this year, maybe in five years, maybe when I am seventy-eight — I will go to lie down and this body will stop and some version of ‘I’ will rest at last.  But the music will play on.

I built this house with practice, experience, and love.  It took years of work. It didn’t exist before me, and it may not be there once I cease to be.

You too can build a house of your choosing.  Like any labor of love, it takes time, patience, and practice.  Even if you only have time left to redecorate one room in your existing house, it’s worth the effort.

If you are confined inside four small walls, it is impossible to see what lies outside.  When you are inside a box of pain, scratch away at the walls.  When you are inside a box of depression, scratch away.  A box of perfectionism, scratch away.  A box of self-pit, scratch away at those walls as if your life depended on it.  Because it does. You won’t know where you are going, or how to get there, or what it will look like on the other side.  But if there is pain or worry or unhappiness, scratch away at the walls that imprison you–scratch away with prayer, meditations, yoga, exercise, laughter, art, movement, gratitude, acceptance, and love.  Scratch away with the knowledge that there is so much more to life that what we imagine it to be.  There is so much more to death than what we imagine it to be.  And there is so much more to living and loving and being than can be seen from inside our little walled-in world.”

“We all have this capacity, we can all learn the necessary tools, and we all have God or Spirit and the shaman within us.  We just need to begin to practice, to scratch away at the old Neurimaginal world we have created and build ourselves a new home. 

Patti Smith was right.  People do have the power.

Facing my mortality, chemotherapy, radiation, and especially the inability to help those whom I love has made this the most challenging period of my life so far, but simultaneously, I have felt more gratitude and more freedom and peace and life than ever before.  

Someday you will face your own mortality.  At that moment, I hope you see that your life has been well led, that you hold no regrets, and that you have loved well.  On that day, I hope that for you, it has become a good day to die.”

Questions to ponder and maybe answer

1) Author Lee Lipsenthal states “We create the world we live in.”  What are your thoughts on this statement?  Are you satisfied, content, happy in your current world?  If not, what changes do you want to make to it?

2) If you are living in the world you want and envisioned what took place to get there?  Was the journey difficult or easy?  

3) Lee describes his new life in terms of building a new home.  He then goes into detail about all the different rooms and because music plays an important role in his life he even shares the soundtracks that play in these rooms.  Consider the various rooms he names: depression, anger, joy, love, peace, busy-ness and death. He also mentions a room where he and his family dance and of course the kitchen, where family and friends gather.  Think about your own life and how you would describe the rooms of your home.  Which rooms already exist?  Which rooms might you add on?  If you are a music lover what songs would be playing in your rooms?  

4) On a deeper level what did you take from that whole section about rooms?  

Lee Lipsenthal, MD, ABIHM, was an internist, trained in the prevention of heart disease and in integrative medicine. A popular and acclaimed speaker and author, he was the medical director of Dean Ornish’s Preventive Medicine Research Institute for a decade and has also served as president of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine.  Lee died September 20, 2011, just months before his book was published.  He and his family had grow hopeful over the course of two years that he had overcome the aggressive esophageal cancer.  Yet when he learned it had returned the prognosis was that he had only six to eight months to live.  

In August of 2011, shortly before his death, he wrote an article for the Huffington Post called Dying Awake.  Here is an excerpt:

“It may seem peculiar that I am calm while others in my life are suffering. I can assure you their suffering makes me sad; I wish this weren’t happening. Yet after almost 30 years of meditating, I have learned to embrace optimism, gratitude and the knowledge that I am not in control over my life or death. Instead of being mad at the hand of fate, I am focused on what is going on — mentally, physically, and emotionally — with myself and those that I love. In spiritual language, I am awake. 

I have no bucket list of things to do. I have been living my bucket list for some time now, and when I was first diagnosed, it came to me that the real list in my life was not the places I wanted to see, but the list of friends in my life with whom I want to spend my time.”

Here is one last piece by Lee on “Living Fully” as it appeared in his article The Noetic Change Model – Living  Life of Meaning 

Living Fully
Living fully is having an ongoing transcendent experience.
It is not studying and analyzing the experience.
It is not wanting more of the experience.
It is not buying the right clothing to remind you of the experience.
It is not telling the world that you are the experience.
It is being within the experience.
It is asking “How does this experience inform my life?”
It is asking “How does this experience help me to serve others?”
It is doing the work of love without being seen.

Mojo Monday ~ Breathe

Meditation Poem (On breathing) 
From The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, by Thich Nhat Hanh

The fourth element of our body is air. The best way to experience the air element is 
the practice of mindful breathing. “Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. 
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.” After saying these sentences we can 
abbreviate them by saying “In” as we breathe in and “Out” as we breathe out. We 
don’t try to control our breathing. Whether our in-breath is long or short, deep or 
shallow, we just breathe naturally and shine the light of mindfulness on it. When we 
do this we notice that, in fact, our breathing does become slower and deeper 
naturally. “Breathing in, my in-breath has become deep. Breathing out, my outbreath has become slow.” Now we can practice, “Deep/slow.” We don’t have to 
make an extra effort. It just becomes deeper and slower by itself, and we recognize 

Later on, you will notice that you have become calmer and more at ease. “Breathing 
in, I feel calm. Breathing out, I feel at ease. I am not struggling anymore. 
Calm/ease.” And then, “Breathing in, I smile. Breathing out, I release all my 
worries and anxieties. Smile/release.” We are able to smile to ourselves and release 
all our worries. There are more than three hundred muscles in our face, and when 
we know how to breathe in and smile, these muscles can relax. This is “mouth 
yoga.” We smile and are able to release all our feelings and emotions. The last 
practice is, “Breathing in, I dwell deeply in the present moment. Breathing out, I 
know this is a wonderful moment. Present moment/wonderful moment.” Nothing is 
more precious than being in the present moment fully alive and aware.

“In, out 
Deep, slow 
Calm, ease 
Smile, release 
Present moment, wonderful moment.

If you use this poem during sitting or walking meditation, it can be very nourishing 
and healing. Practice each line for as long as you wish.

Another practice to help us be aware of our breathing is counting. As you breathe 
in, count “one” and as you breathe out, count “one” again. Then “Two/two,” 
“Three/three,” until you arrive at ten. After that, go back in the other direction: 
“Ten/ten,” “Nine/nine,” and so on, until you arrive back at one. If you do get lost go 
back to “one” and begin again. Relax. It’s only a game. When you succeed in 
counting, you can drop the numbers if you like and just say “in” and “out.” 
Conscious breathing is a joy.” 

Mojo Monday ~ Shhhhh….

Turn down 
the volume of demands
and listen
to the grace of
the small,
the silence,
the whisper.

~ Mary Anne Radmacher

Does the pace of the world ever seem frenetic to you?  

Do you ever find yourself struggling in order to keep up with emails, texts, blog posts, facebook posts, on-line classes, and phone messages?  

Do you ever find yourself filling every moment of your day with the many forms of communicating and social networking that are now possible?

While driving or at stoplights do you talk on the phone, text, check email, or surf the web?  

Do you ever feel inundated by too much information and too much stimulus?  Perhaps too many offers to participate in this or that teleconference or amazing life-changing workshop?

Do you ever take time to just sit?

Do you ever take time to just think?
Do you ever carve out quiet time?

Does the idea of quiet time seem far-fetched, because of the demands of your life?
Is quiet time something you long for or is it something you would dread?

This piece started to percolate in my mind after reading that a favorite author of mine by the name of Brene Brown was struggling with being on all the time.  She was finding herself checking emails or the web at stoplights.  She was filling every moment with communicating in some form or other. 
Just the thought of doing those things sounds crazy making to me.  I wondered, when does she get down time, quiet time, time to just think? It made me wonder how other people balance out being busy, with taking necessary time out for oneself?
Once a week, for work, I have an hour drive out of town and then I turn around and do it again in the afternoon to return home.  While the drive can sometimes get stressful due to driving conditions, for the most part, I use this time to simply listen to music and think thoughts.  I may come up with a new idea for an article.  I may ponder something.  I might imagine a new painting.  I may try to work out a problem in my mind.  The idea of using that time to communicate with others is not at all appealing. This for me is a perfect time to be unreachable.  

Is quiet time at all important?  Are we humans missing out on something if we fill our days with constant stimulation such as pinning pictures, reading status posts of friends and family, texting till our fingers are numb, talking on the phone at all hours, or signing up for every teleconference that hits our in-box?  

In wondering about this very thing I came across this quote by the Dalai Lama:

“If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, 
we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”

Why would the Dalia Lama believe such a thing?  Would a violent free world really be the result of all the children meditating?  Would meditation really change them and our world that much?  

Cynthia Dawn,  a writer, children’s meditation facilitator, raw and vegan food enthusiast enthusiast, and co-creator of The Intention Tree Project, shares this about meditation:

“Meditation is a powerful adeptness for anyone and we are learning (remembering really) that when we have this modeled to us as children the reverberations are profound!
On a physical level, scientific studies have found that meditation:
* increases levels of immunity
* prevents and/or reduces cancer and autoimmune disorders
* improves hyperactivity and attention deficit disorders
* alleviates respiratory disorders and digestive problems
* reduces the severity of asthma and panic attacks
On a mental and emotional level, experts have found that meditation:
* encourages a healthy sense of self
* promotes well-being and self-esteem
* increases focus, concentration and problem solving skills
* fosters awareness and creativity
* instills connection, understanding, and compassion
On a Universal level many believe that meditation is a large part of the solution for world peace. When we are at peace with ourselves and no longer fighting a physical, mental, or emotional war ~ we can be true peacemakers within our world.”
The sentence that really impacted me from above is:
 “When we are at peace with ourselves 
and no longer fighting a physical, mental, or emotional war ~ 

we can be true peacemakers
within our world.”  

I also came across this report about meditation in public schools:

“A University of Michigan study concludes that two, ten-minute meditation sessions per day in a public school setting reduces stress in children and teens and promotes emotional stability.  Participants within the study group were found to exhibit less verbal aggression, anxiety and loneliness.  Based on this study, a growing partnership of Detroit area parents, teachers and physicians are now calling for schools around the country to offer meditation breaks each day.  ‘It wouldn’t be difficult,’ a spokesperson said, ‘and it requires no expensive equipment, no special outfits or footwear.’  Since meditation is not a religion, proponents claim that meditation would be an appropriate stress reliever in the schools.”

It seems that with meditation or even just the practice of getting quiet regularly, allows you to center yourself.

BJ Gallagher at the Huffington Post wrote a brief post titled Buddha: How to Tame Your Monkey Mind that explains more.

Buddha described the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, chattering, carrying on endlessly. We all have monkey minds, Buddha said, with dozens of monkeys all clamoring for attention. Fear is an especially loud monkey, sounding the alarm incessantly, pointing out all the things we should be wary of and everything that could go wrong.
Buddha showed his students how to meditate in order to tame the drunken monkeys in their minds. It’s useless to fight with the monkeys or to try to banish them from your mind because, as we all know, that which you resist persists. Instead, Buddha said, if you will spend some time each day in quiet meditation — simply calm your mind by focusing on your breathing or a simple mantra — you can, over time, tame the monkeys. They will grow more peaceful if you lovingly bring them into submission with a consistent practice of meditation.

Do you long for more peace in your heart and mind?

Are there things that feel unsettled for you?

Do you feel content and happy most of the time?

Do you have time in your life to just be, to dream, to imagine, to just breathe?

What would it really take for you to start a meditation practice of your own?

What would it take to simply ensure that you get quiet time regularly?

“If we have not quiet minds, outward comfort will do no more for us than a golden slipper on a gouty foot.”

~ John Bunyon

“We need quiet time to examine our lives openly and honestly…spending quiet time alone gives your mind an opportunity to renew itself and create order.”

~ Susan L. Taylor

Mojo Monday ~ Be the Change

I look up at the stars and I feel both small and big at the same time.  Gazing at the stars leaves me with both a sense of wonder and a realization that we are all on this planet together, connected.  This week’s headlines in the world news left me feeling sad.  Headlines that feature violent acts, which in turn illicit fear, anger, misunderstanding, disconnection, and calls for revenge and yet more violence.  Such stories can lead people to grow fearful of people that they don’t even know and it can lead to beliefs that there is an “us” and a “them.”

Recently my husband and I saw a bumper sticker that read “I am already against the next war.”  Yes, indeed, that is how we both feel.  Yet, what can we two small individuals do in the big scheme of things to prevent something as big as war? 

I have been reading a book in bits and pieces, as there is much in it to contemplate and digest.  The book is by Ed and Deb Shapiro and is called Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World.  The authors include amongst their own stories the stories and words of more than one hundred meditation practitioners.  Those included vary from Oscar award-winning actress Ellen Burstyn, to Jon Kabat-Zinn who is director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, to best-selling author and inspirational speaker Marianne Williamson. 

In one section entitled “What One Person Can Do” here is what is written:

“One person can make a difference, as we have seen many times throughout history.  Usually, the only thing that stops us from stepping out and taking action is our own sense of inadequacy or doubt.  Rama had a vision of bringing people together, and, as a result, nearly 10,000 Soviet and American citizens have participates in her Citizen Summit programs.  And yet when she began this work, she was a housewife and a yoga teacher with no idea how or if she could do anything.”  Rama Vernon shares this about her story “The Cold War was at its peak.  The Korean Airlines disaster had recently occurred, bringing us very close to a nuclear war.  As I put my children to bed, they would ask, ‘Mommy, are we going to be blown up?’  ‘No, of course not,’ I would reply, reassuring them as much as myself.  ‘Our government would never let that happen.’  And then, through my yoga-teaching work, I was invited to travel with thirty others on a Peace Mission to the Soviet Union.  So, quite unexpectedly, I was in Moscow, standing in the center of what Reagan had termed the Evil Empire, behind what Churchill has called the Iron Curtain.  I was raised to believe that our thoughts create our reality, and what scared me most was that I was not alone in my fear, that thousands of Americans shares those same fear, and that if enough of us continued to hold those fears, we would create the very thing that we feared most.  I realized that the only way to change such a stereotype that we have been conditioned to believe is to bring people face to face with one another.  We could not take the Russians to the United States, so I resolved to bring the United States to Russia.”

While there is a great deal of depth in this book, there is also sometimes humor.  One such moment is when Ed Shapiro’s shares a personal story about him and his wife Deb’s private meeting with HH the Dalai Lama: “After some thirty minutes of discussion, I was feeling so moved by this gentle, simple, and loving man that I just wanted to stay there and learn from him.  I did not want to leave!  I was completely in love with the compassion and wisdom emanating from this delightful being.  Finally, I said to him, ‘I don’t want to leave; I just want to stay here with you!’ I thought he would say yes, how wonderful, I recognize your sincerity, but instead he just smiled and said, ‘If we were together all the time, we would quarrel!’”

It was both surprising and refreshing to hear that a revered spiritual leader and icon like the Dalai Lama could admit to at times being quarrelsome.   It also led to a brilliant realization by Ed when he shares this about relationships:

“So, relax, if HH the Dalai Lama, someone who meditates for a few hours every day, can quarrel, then so can we!  Inevitably, there are going to be times when a relationship is troubled, when differences collide and egos clash, when stories and histories intrude, or needs are not met.  But the holding on to such disagreements and the ensuing shame, blame, and hostile silence is the real problem.  There will always be times of flow and times of discord.  Having a disagreement or even getting angry does not make us an angry person; it is not the whole of us.  Who we are is still basically good; we needed to make a point and just may have done it in a rather unskilled way.”

Interfaith Peace mandala
When Deb and Ed Shapiro were with the Dalai Lama they also asked him what they could do to help humankind to awaken to caring and kindness.  The Dalai Lama said that people of different religions should come together in peace and respect and talk openly, honoring each other’s differences and similarities. 

Do you meditate?  If yes, do you do it regularly and why? 

What are your thoughts about being the change?  Do you feel empowered to create change? If yes, how?  If no, why?

What do you think you could do to make a difference? 

In the midst of events taking place on the larger political scene there are things that give me hope and that demonstrate how people from around the world want us to come together in peace.  On I came across a slideshow of photos taken at a pro-USA demonstration in Libya following the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.  You can find the slideshow of photos by clicking here

I have also been following the Israel Loves Iran campaign on Facebook.  The photos, letters and stories that continue to be published on-line are incredibly touching and show the very personal side of people who do not wish to be at war with one another.  Here are a handful of the photos that have been shared.

Hillary Clinton also made powerful remarks in light of the recent violence.   

If you would like to read more about meditation and transformation ~  Here are some more stories that appear in the book Be the Change:

Sylvia Boorstein – “The point of meditation is to keep the mind free of confusion. Meditation, past calming our nerves, past being good for our blood pressure, past allowing us to work out our own internal psychological dramas, which it does, past helping us to get along with our kin and our community, is a way of really deeply seeing the truth that the only way to ameliorate our own suffering and the suffering of the world is to keep our minds clear.”

Robert Gass and Judith Ansara – “We can get lost in the story, which usually has fault or blame attached to it—I’m feeling this because this happened or you said that—and so we have learned to just drop the story.  Even when we are not in the place that we would like to be, we do not process about how we got there or about how we are going to get out of it; we just stop, because otherwise we can start tearing at each other.  Usually, one of us will say, ‘Are we having a conversation that is contributing to the greater good?’  We get connected first and then talk about what was disconnecting us, rather than tearing at each other from a place of disconnection, thinking that will get us connected.”

Seane Corn – “First yoga changed my body; then meditation changed my attitude.  Then I realized that whether my practice was fifteen minutes or four hours was irrelevant because it was not about how yoga changed me, but how I, through this practice, can being to change the world.  What I really felt was how dare I not step into the world and hold that space?” 
“I first started by working with child prostitutes in Los Angeles.  I did not know how my life was going to change when I entered the shelter, but I met my shadow there.  I hated those girls —and it wasn’t just girls, it was young boys too—they were so arrogant and defiant as they were so wounded.  They were also like a mirror in which I saw the part of myself that had been abused, and how I had nto dealt with my own defiance, arrogance, or wounding.  They really did not accept me at first.  Are you kidding?  This big-mouthed, floppy-headed white girls from new Jersey bounding in to tell them how to do yoga?  They slaughtered me!  It was the most humiliating experience I had ever had because I went in trying to fix them.  I did not go in there recognizing that I am them.  They took one look at me and were totally unimpressed.  No way I wanted to go back.  I sat in my car and cried and cried. The next time I went, I was way more humble as I had recognized that we were there to serve each other.”

Ajahn Sumedho – “We are not isolated entities; we do affect each other.  The more we experience this in meditation, the more we recognize how our own relationship to society need not be one of just being critical or putting up with or ignoring it, but of using our abilities, intelligence, and talents to serve each other.  If I feel a sense of ‘me’ as a self-centered isolated being, then I will just think of my own immediate pleasure or needs and I have no relationship of sensitivity to anything else.  But as I open to the truth of our connectedness, then I have a respect for all life; I no longer see others as just there for my own selfish exploitation.”

Kirsten Westby-  “I needed to mediate before I could even leave my room in the morning.  It gave me the strength to recognize that suffering is the human experience that we all have in one form or another, and not to feel overwhelmed by it, not to lose my balance…I worked with Urgent Action Fund for five years, traveling into war zones and listening to stories of what was happening to women and girls…More than anything else, meditation released me from anger.  I could feel anger coming up, but I knew that my way of surviving and working in this context was to let it go, to know that these boys were not the enemy, but were just as much a victim of this whole machine of war, forced into the army at such a young age.  Really there was no enemy; it was just a whole environment of people who had been used and abused.  I would constantly remind myself of their human qualities so I could start the day without any aggression.”

Joseph Goldstein – “There is one basic understanding that helps us in every dimension of relationship; that each one of us is totally responsible for our own emotions.  Some time ago, I was in a relationship with someone and as we were having a little argument, she turned to me and said, ‘Stop making me feel aversion.’  I started to laugh, which, of course, did not help the situation, but nobody makes us feel anything.  How we feel and how we relate to what we are feeling is completely up to us.  Generally, we blame others for how we feel; we think others are responsible for our mind states.  If we all took responsibility for our own emotions, then most of our interpersonal relationships would be a lot easier.”  “If we have the view that other people are responsible for how we feel, then we are turning over all the power to them.  We cannot control what other people do—their minds, their attitudes, or their behaviors.  But if we understand that how we are feeling is completely up to us, then we can reclaim that power.  Then, no matter what anybody else does, it is up to us how we react, how we relate.  Nobody can make us feel a certain way.”

Mark Matousek – “Albert Einstein described human self-absorption as a kind of optical delusion of consciousness.  Our obsession with physical survival prevents us from seeing beyond this primitive level, which is why meditation is so mind blowing.  Dropping below the animal level, we discover another way of seeing and being that is more vast, inclusive, loving, and durable than the fearful, self-protective mind we use ordinarily.  With meditation, prayer, yoga, or some tool for reaching through the selfish mind to our greater nature, we are doomed to remain in the animal mind.”

Mojo Monday ~ Time

One afternoon after having picked up my twin daughters from school and arriving home I began to shuffle through the piles of paperwork they had in their folders.  Only in kindergarten, each day they usually still come home with a stack of completed worksheets, art, newsletters, homework packets and various event and activity announcements.  Since school started in August we have already sold Ducky Derby tickets, raised donations for a Jog-A-Thon, purchased school t-shirts, put in an advance order for a school yearbook, ordered reading books from Scholastic to raise money for their class, donated snacks a couple of times for the classroom and I’ve gone on two field trips.  I actually love seeing their completed work and “ooh and ahh” over their art and the field trips with my daughters were wonderful.  I wouldn’t have wanted to miss them for anything.  Yet on this one particular day, as I saw requests for parent volunteers for the upcoming Harvest Festival, the sign-up sheet for parent conferences and yet more announcements, I felt like I was either going to cry or hyperventilate. 
In the midst of this new role of kindergarten mommy I still work a 40 hour job Monday through Friday and I still pursue my writing and art interests.  The last two are simply a big part of who I am as a creative person.  There are at times other events that come into play.  The most recent was preparing for my mom’s 70th birthday party.  It didn’t help that I went through a melancholy state prior to the big event.  Fortunately my creative and artistic sister-in-law sent some much needed inspiration my way and before I knew it I was in full blown creativity mode putting together photo posters, a memory/photo book, and a slide show.  It was all fun and I loved the reason for doing it.  There was however also a moment, much like the hyperventilating/crying episode, where I told my husband in the kitchen, in the midst of the mayhem of a dog, a cat and two very busy and talkative five-year-olds, that I felt more like a human doing than a human being. 
The act of going through loads of family photos to create a memory/photo book also made me take a good long look at the passage of time and how it all flows and moves and spirals along.  There was nostalgia and this thought that in some regards the passage of my mom’s 70 years on this planet went by so quickly. The same goes for my 42 years.  It seems like my five year old daughters were just babies and I do know that, in what may seem like just a blink of an eye, they will be teenagers and then adults.
Perhaps it was divine intervention or synchronicity working its magic, but I happened to receive a newsletter from a Buddhist publication called Tricycle Magazine.  Honestly I get so many emails that some days I just go through and delete anything that isn’t from a human being I actually know.  This time I happened to take the time to peruse the newsletter and a book by Lama Surya Das called Buddha Standard Time: Awakening to the Infinite Possibilities of Now was featured.  The synopsis caught my interest and I ordered a copy.  I felt a little desperate to learn how I might better handle time.
The very day the book arrived I read the introduction that night in bed.  I had to laugh out loud when only on page five the author writes this (note the bold section is my emphasis, not the authors):
“One of the main obstacles to making peace with time is that we tend to experience it linearly: we keep moving forward, doing and accomplishing things, rather than just being.  We are human beings, after all, not human doings.  It costs us dearly to live only on the linear axis of time.  We lose connection with our deeper and most authentic selves, too often mistaking mere movement for purpose and meaning.  We adapt to a fast and faster tempo that keeps us feeling busy, but rarely with a sense of accomplishment.  Staggering forward on a treadmill of events, we gather momentum until we lose any sense of how to stop.  We are expert adapters, but the complexity and speed of our world require something other than merely adapting to its pace.”
In the introduction the author also shares these thoughts to which I found myself shaking my head in agreement:
“Many of us feel that the modern efforts to save time have backfired, bringing onerous new problems of their own. Our technological advances and constant availability have blurred the line between leisure time and work. No sooner do we wrap our minds around a new computer program than it becomes obsolete. We can end up wasting precious minutes stuck on the phone with someone on the other side of the world, trying to figure out how to reset the computer brain in our dryer, or stove, or espresso machine. It takes time to learn how to do online banking, connect with friends on Facebook, master the complexities of smartphones and GPS units, and download a best seller to our e-readers. When Excel crashes and the work is lost after we’ve spent an hour entering data for a deadline, our blood pressure skyrockets. There’s even technology to fix stress created by technology. I recently learned of an experimental Google feature called Email Addict that shuts you out of your inbox, forcing compulsive e-mail checkers to give it a break.

Don’t get me wrong. I think we’re living in an amazing age, as miraculous and futuristic as anything out of Star Trek and Jetsons episodes of my youth. I love being able to talk on my laptop face-to-face with someone on the other side of the world or to download a book or piece of music in a minute. The problem for a lot of us is figuring out how to disconnect from all this intensity for some peace and quiet. And how much of the time-related stress in our lives comes from trying to accommodate every single person who wants a piece of our day? Do you suffer from the “disease to please,” striving to satisfy all those who make a claim on your time? Many of us are torn between the desire to be generous with our time and the need to conserve our own energy. It takes only a few seconds to read a 140-character Twitter message, but the cost of the total distraction lasts far longer. The thinner we spread ourselves, the more we skitter over the surface of our lives, never going deep. And since we can be tracked down just about anywhere, anytime, it seems there is literally no escape.

In the pages that follow, I’ll teach you how to wean yourself from the addictions that sap time and energy, to clear out all the debris and distraction—in much the same way that a snow globe becomes calm and clear when you stop shaking it and allow the flakes to settle. You’ll see, for example, that we can stay at our desks or in a traffic jam and, however momentarily, genuinely give our attention to the present moment as a way of finding inner peace.

I want to show you how to coexist peacefully with the inevitable, the inexorable march of time. As a Buddhist, I’ve long studied the question of how to live authentically and joyfully in the present moment, and how to remain mindful, centered, and harmonious no matter what challenges come my way.”

In my own head I am shouting “Yes! Please show me how to find inner peace and coexist peacefully with time!”

As I’ve delved deeper into the book here are some excerpts I have highlighted and would like to share:
“If we cultivate clarity, detachment, and equanimity, we can learn to remain still and calm amid the torrent of commitments, no longer our over scheduled lives to rob us of the time we need to recalibrate and connect to the natural world, ourselves, and each other.  For time moves on whether we are hurtling through life or savoring it.  The big transformations can take place outside our daily awareness, until a stark reminder catches us up; hearing the new crack in the voice of a teenage son, perhaps, or seeing the unwelcome surprise of a gray hair, or wondering how it ‘suddenly’ became winter.”
“In my lectures, I always advise people to spend some time outdoors every day, even if only taking on e deep breath out of the window or star gazing on their way to their front door…When was the last time you felt the supportive, accepting vital energy of our earthly mother?  Was it when you were a child, lying on your back in the grass?…Nature is the original fountain of knowledge, beauty, sustenance, and spiritual inspiration for all people everywhere,,,And then when you get a chance, go outdoors and find a quiet place to experience that moment of grace.  It is a choice to go through life with a cell phone in your hand. Disconnect yourself from the wondrous gift of our technology often enough to remember that natural wonders have always existed and have always brought solace.”
“Don’t discount the possibility that you are putting unnecessary pressure on yourself…Ask yourself, Will it really change anything if this gets done a little later, or tomorrow?  If not, relax and work out a realistic schedule. IF so, keep going, but intersperse the task with brief exercise, meditations, breath, or phone breaks, and don’t worry that they’re keeping you from your work, because they’re not: they’re enabling you to complete it.”
“One study indicated that in the busiest, most fast-paced modern American cities, people were the least likely to stop in the street and exhibit basic helping behavior, whereas slower-paced cities, such as those in the South and Southwest, exhibited more such altruism.  It’s been theorized that cognition narrows through making haste, and also that as the speed of life increases, ethics becomes a luxury.  As Rumi, the sublime Persian poet and mystic, wrote, ‘Come out of the circle of time and into the circle of love.’”
Creating a sacred space is another suggestion of the authors and he describes his own practice this way.  “For over forty years, I have always kept a little altar or shrine of some sort, made out of furniture, logs, stones, cardboard boxes, crates covered with cloth, or whatever was handy and fitting.  Such a space helps focus my meditation as well as my energies and daily home life.  Now I have a meditations room in my home and I sit there first thing every morning for an hour, and sit there, however briefly, at night too…On the altar, I like to see a peaceful Buddha statue and some flowers or fruit offerings, incense, perhaps a crystal or special mirror to remind me of the timeless, ever-shining innate light of Spirit.  Sometimes, during the day, I just cruise by, wave, and say hi to my teacher’s picture and the icons on the wall – just to cheer myself up.  It’s like putting myself through a little karmic drive-through car wash, and I come out brighter every time.”
In the closing chapter Lama Surya Das shares these thoughts:
“When you make peace with time, and are not hurried and harried, you will find that room mysteriously opens up for new possibilities.  Each moment is a doorway to the divine state of grace.  Patience is a facet of the jewel of love, allowing enough time to create intimacy in relationship rather than experience them as ships passing in the night, which rushing through life is likely to give you instead.  Mental calm, centeredness, and clarity provide a healing, nourishing pause in the frantic activity of our lives.”
Last, but not least, the final chapter closes with the author’s Ten Tips and Pointers for Befriending Time.
  1. Rest in the breath while letting go of all thoughts, concerns, plans, worries and preoccupations.
  2. Be mindful of the physical sensations you feel right now.
  3. Feel the good earth beneath your feet or the seat that cradles you.
  4. Chant a mantra or sacred phrase again and again, with pure, undivided concentration and focus.
  5. Make eye contact with another being, and feel compassion and loving-kindness for whomever you are with.
  6. Smile at someone, hug someone, or help someone.
  7. Go outside and make contact with nature through the sky, clouds, trees, a flower, a body of water, the earth between your fingers, or any other manifestation of the magnificent natural world.
  8. Read sacred words from the world’s wisdom traditions and scriptures.
  9. Take a bread, a sacred pause, an “honorable rest” – whether for Sabbath or just for an hour or two – at least once a week, if not every day.
  10. Listen to music, sing, dance, create, pray, and play.

Now breathe, smile, and relax…You have time.
So has the wisdom of the book sunk in yet?  Am I feeling more at peace with time?  Am I likely to hyperventilate any time soon?  The first step I have taken, which is the author’s first recommendation, is to turn to nature for my grounding.  I have always loved nature.  I have always found some peace in just gazing at a scenic natural view.  When life gets busy, even doing this can get cast aside.  There are times like today when I went for a walk through the neighborhood with my daughters.  We marveled at some of the giant leaves lying on the ground.  We stopped and watched some birds at a neighbor’s giant bird feeder.  I pointed out some mushrooms and a gnome almost hidden in another neighbor’s woodsy front yard.  When we returned home the three of us raked leaves in the back yard.  It is cute what can entertain and amuse five year olds.  After creating piles the two of them then had a ball jumping in the leaves.  My heart was happy at watching my daughters enjoy such a simple pleasure.
And sometimes, when time feels more fleeting, I am merely reminding myself to stop, take in the view of the sunrise, or my backyard bathed in the golden light of an autumn evening, or marvel at a gaggle of geese flying above, and simply gaze.