Letting go · Radical acceptance · Smile at fear

Dragging the raft

There is a Buddhist parable concerning a man trapped on one side of a fast-flowing river. He faces great uncertainty and danger by staying on his side.  And he soon realizes he must cross the river to find safety.

Alas there is no bridge or ferry for crossing.  So the man decides to construct a make-shift raft from logs, branches and vines. Eventually he is able to paddle himself to the other side.

The Buddha then asks the assembled monks a question: What would you think if the man, having crossed over the river, said to himself, ‘Oh, this raft has served me so well, I should take it with me as I continue my journey on land’?  The monks replied that it would not be very sensible to cling to the raft in such a way.

The Buddha continued: What if, instead, he lay the raft down gratefully, thinking that this raft has served him well, but is no longer of use and can thus be laid down upon the shore? The monks agreed that would be the proper attitude.

If you are anything like me, you may find yourself clinging to beliefs, techniques and practices that once served you well but were meant for an entirely different set of circumstances.

If you are anything like me, you may hold on to the familiar–the comfortable–despite ample evidence it is no longer working.

If you are anything like me, you may be carrying around the proverbial hammer in search of the next nail.

Many of us have some version of a raft we continue to drag behind us.

Maybe, with the passage of time, we will find ourselves in the exact set of circumstances where that raft will turn out to be exactly the thing we need.  Maybe.

But there is so much freedom, so much speed to be gained, so much possibility to be claimed, in simply letting go.

This post originally appeared at http://www.stevenpdennis.com

Do the work · Letting go of ego · Radical acceptance

They’ll see it eventually. Or not.

When we believe another person is unable to see the harsh reality of their words or actions it can particularly frustrating. When those words or actions affect us directly by activating our own worry, shame, sadness or pain, it can be especially difficult. Even traumatic.

Maybe we want to change their perception of past events.

But then again “truth” is a relative concept, often simply held in the eyes of the beholder.

Perhaps they can’t let go of a something we’ve done in our history together.

Yet the idea that we can magically make their feelings go away by our well reasoned arguments is a fool’s errand.

Maybe we don’t like their choice of friend, lover, job, outfit, hair style, the book they are reading and on and on.

But it’s probably worth remembering that it’s their life and most of the time their decisions have little or nothing to do with us. It’s also worth reminding ourselves that much of the time we rarely have the full picture anyway.

Maybe we want them to see us fundamentally in a different light, to focus only on our good parts, or forgive us for past ills we’d prefer they ignore, or just simply extend us more grace and compassion.

Yet their journey is their journey. And our is ours.

Things will unfold in their own time, despite our attempts to jam the accelerator to the floor.

Hope is not a workable strategy. Acceptance is.

In the absence of a fully functioning time machine (which, by the way, I HAVE added to my Christmas list) we can only start where we are.  And we can only work on what is within our control and, whether we like it or not, that’s our stuff, not theirs.

It may well be that the other person is in denial, or using poor judgment, or making a terrible mistake. It turns out this is what we humans do.

And eventually they’ll see it. Or not.

Either way, OUR work is the same.

The longer we stay in judgment, blame or resentment toward the other person, the longer we make ourselves miserable.

 

Letting go of ego · Open heartedness · Radical acceptance · Self-compassion · Uncategorized

That which we worship

“What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or for restoration.” – Greg Beale

The word “worship” most often has a religious connotation. But we can revere, adore, exalt, venerate and glorify many things beyond whatever concept of a Higher Power we have–or don’t.

We can worship money.

We can worship being right.

We can worship a bigger house filled with more and sexier stuff.

We can worship the demonization of people different from us.

We can worship busyness.

We can worship expanding and protecting our ego.

And on and on.

Of course we can also worship compassion.

Or generosity.

Or acceptance.

Or forgiveness.

Or love.

The thing to remember is that which we worship is a choice, each and every day, in the present moment.

The other thing to remember is that, ultimately, we become what we worship.

 

Do the work · Fail better · Radical acceptance

Wabi-sabi

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic concept that finds beauty in imperfection and the universe’s natural cycle of growth, decay, and death.

Embracing wabi-sabi means eschewing the unnecessary, getting rid of the clutter and valuing authenticity above all else.

Wabi-sabi requires us to accept the reality that nothing lasts, nothing is ever truly finished, and nothing is perfect. It requires us to not only believe that this is okay, but to see that there is great power and serenity in the practice. It points us to the notion that imperfection is an incredible gift.

For me, it is precisely my wrong-headed attachment to the concept of perfection that keeps me spinning and stuck and caught in my fear of shipping.

For me, I can easily get distracted, adding needless complexity to a project or adorning an idea with superficiality, when it’s more than good enough just as it is.

For me, it’s so easy to see the risk in being wrong, without seeing the greater risk inherent in my inaction and the uselessness of endless worry.

When I inject wabi-sabi into my creative process, I produce more and stress less.

When I embrace wabi-sabi I am unleashed from the shackles of thinking for thinking’s sake.

When I practice wabi-sabi I am able to fail better.

And that’s perfect enough for me.

image2

A version of this post originally appeared on my business blog.

Radical acceptance

A monkey with a gun

Monkeys can be pretty entertaining. Some are awfully cute. It’s easy to get fascinated by their behavior which–especially with chimpanzees–is often quite similar to human’s. We can get seduced by some of their charming qualities.

At the same time, monkeys are inherently aggressive and can be prone to attack when put on the defensive. It’s also common for them to fling their feces all over the place for no apparent reason. And perhaps, like me, at some point you’ve been at the zoo with your young children and found yourself having to stumble through an explanation of why “that monkey is touching himself.” Let’s just say when it comes to sexual matters, monkeys can be rather impulsive.

Once we accept that a monkey is a monkey just doing monkey things, why would we be the least bit shocked when they act like a monkey? In fact, time spent hoping or expecting them to start behaving like a human, a zebra, a bird, or anything other than a monkey, is simply time wasted. Our best intentions, our righteous indignation, our efforts to change them only results in our being frustrated and, perhaps, a pissed off ape.

If we really understand how monkeys are we know what is safe to let them do and what would be reckless and dangerous. So it would seem rather obvious you’d never give one a gun because something like this could very well happen.

If you have the misfortune to find yourself confronted with an AK 47 wielding chimp you have a few choices. You can run like hell. You can try to stop him. Or you can just hope it all works out.

Of course, the very best thing we can do is never let a monkey get anywhere close to a gun in the first place. Another good thing to do is to never lose sight of a good metaphor.

8ogxg2

Being vulnerable · Letting go of ego · Radical acceptance

Our own Kellyanne Conway moments

Trump spokesperson Kellyanne Conway is off-the-charts good at what she does. If you care to witness a master class in denial, spin and gaslighting, just watch just some of her interview from the other night with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. And if after viewing it you feel like clawing your eyes out, perhaps this will cheer you up.

I don’t believe in Hell, but if it turns out to exist there will definitely be an extremely special section for her. But I digress.

Anyway, it seems clear that Ms. Conway is a very intelligent, well educated and highly skilled political operative. So for most of us it’s easy to conclude that she knows the truth, but is very intentionally setting out to mislead. That should be rather easy for any and all of us to judge quite harshly.

What is perhaps harder to see–and accept–is that many of us engage in our own Kellyanne moments; sometimes with great frequency. It’s just that the target of the denial, spin and gaslighting is often ourselves, and we do so unintentionally and subconsciously.

We can have an interesting argument as to how damaging the incoming Trump administration’s propensity for manipulation will turn out to be. We can debate the degree to which we might affect a different outcome and what tactics should be taken to stand up to this often dangerous and malicious nonsense. We can prop up our own egos by blogging, tweeting and posting on Facebook our various forms of righteous indignation. In fact, most days I wonder if that is precisely what social media was invented for.

But we shouldn’t discount how pernicious our own capacity to ignore reality is and how we can often do everything in our power to avoid confronting our own stuff.

Deflection and intellectual tap dancing my amuse or horrify when we spot in others, but we are only harming ourselves when we can’t wake up to the little bit of Kellyanne in all of us.

anderson-cooper-and-kellyanne-conway-800x430

 

 

 

Chase remarkable · Embrace the present moment · Mindfulness · Radical acceptance

So much of any year is flammable

At a time when many of us are reflecting upon (dissecting?) the year that just ended and now find ourselves perhaps already struggling to live up to a new set of resolutions, I’m reminded of the words of the poet Naomi Shihab Nye:

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.
 
So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.
 
Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.
 
Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.

So much of life is impermanent.  So much is out of our control despite the illusion that often holds us, twists us around, sends our monkey minds into overdrive and compels us to grip the wheel even harder.

Very little of what consumes our thoughts, fills most of our days and fuels our resentments matters one little bit over the long run. Much of it doesn’t even serve any useful purpose right this very second.

We don’t need another resolution. We need better perspective, mindful awareness, radical acceptance, an open heart, the courage to act.

So rather than sweat the small stuff or lament the things that only access to a time machine would allow me to fix, I’m looking ahead, without a long list of impossible to meet resolutions, mindful of the important things I have yet accomplish, where the crackle still calls.