Be the difference · Smile at fear

The wrong voices

We are surrounded by the wrong voices.

People who tell us that our idea won’t work because it’s been tried before.

People who are talking when they should be listening.

People who condemn out of fear, ignorance, hate and intolerance.

People whose minds were never open in the first place.

People who feel powerful only when they make others feel small.

No one is forcing you to heed their call.

It’s a choice to turn off your inner voice of doubt and walk through your fear.

You can follow your passion.

You can do what’s right.

You can make a difference.

We can make a difference.

Let’s get started.

What better time than now?

 

A version of this post originally appeared at http://www.stevenpdennis.com

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

Letting go of ego · Smile at fear

Punished by anger

“You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger.”

–  Buddhist Proverb

There is nothing inherently wrong with feeling anger from time to time. Frustration and anger are perfectly normal human responses to perceived threats, unfair circumstances, unkind words and even the ebb and flow of daily annoyances, like being cut off in traffic or making a simple mistake. Yet it is how we understand our anger and what we do with it that is the problem that ultimately leads to suffering.

Clearly there are vast injustices and truly awful persistent situations that my cause us to stay in anger beyond an initial reaction. But for most of us, it is an underlying fear or painful experience that causes us to “bite the hook”, ramp up our defenses, escalate our aggression and stay stuck in our anger beyond the momentary trigger.

If you are anything like me, trapped in habit, you often latch on to a story that we are being attacked by an outside force, when in fact what is really going on is, deep down, some fear or wound within us is being poked and uncovered. And when we layer on a dose of shame, unresolved hatred or long simmering aversion, we are quickly lost, making matters far worse. Now, if we’ve played out an angry dance with someone we care about, we’ve made ourselves miserable, broken connection in an intimate relationship and likely pushed our friend or loved one away–perhaps forever.

Been there, done that.

How does this serve us or support how we wish to show up in the world? Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron offers sound advice on this topic in her talk The Freedom to Choose Something Different.  She suggests that we must embrace three difficult practices.

First, we must notice when we start to bite the hook, that is, when we begin getting caught in habitual patterns that cause us to suffer. We must learn that getting hooked is a natural, spontaneous reaction. There is no suffering in the hooking itself, only in how we respond to it.

Second, and far more challenging, is actually doing something different, or as Pema calls it, “choosing a fresh alternative.” We must practice changing the negative momentum we are so familiar with and learn to avoid speaking and acting in ways that only serve to strengthen our habits of resentment, anger, blaming others and other patterns that entrench us (and those around us) in becoming more and more unhappy.

Third, is to make this difficult practice a way of life. One or two “good” reactions does not change our negative habitual ways. It is impossible to avoid challenging circumstances and we will be faced with many opportunities to bite the hook. Learning to avoid getting stuck there is the real opportunity and what ultimately sets us on a path to freedom.

Deciding not to punish ourselves is, in fact, a choice and a habit well worth breaking.

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Being vulnerable · Do the work · Embrace the present moment · Smile at fear · Start

We’re never ready

Oh sure, maybe we’re ready for the easy stuff. Ready to leave for work, make dinner, hop in an Uber, do the laundry, pay the credit card bill.

But the work that matters, that enlivens the spirit, that changes us, our tribes and the world around us? That’s another thing entirely.

Naming our fear is helpful, because it is our fear that keeps us stuck.

Letting go of any notion of perfection–the right time, the right skills, the right conditions–is useful as well.

Being willing to get started–to accept that the only way we can ever really know that we are on the right path is to start walking; slowly at first, but faster and faster as we gain confidence–is essential.

Because here’s the thing…

The conditions will never be perfect.

I have no idea what’s going to happen in the future. And neither do you.

Chances are you already have everything you need to take that first step.

And sure it might not work.

Like it or not it’s later than we think.

The fact is we’re never really ready for what really matters.

But we can still start.

What better time than now?

This post was simultaneously posted on my business blog at http://www.stevenpdennis.com

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Being vulnerable · Do the work · Smile at fear

Consumers and producers

Consumer or producer?  At any given time we are likely one or the other.

As consumers we read what somebody else wrote, purchase what someone else made, ponder ideas someone else created, observe problems we hope someone else will fix.

Going to a movie, listening to music, attending a sports event, relentlessly checking Facebook or keeping abreast of the latest scores on ESPN are all about taking in content generated by someone else.

Being a consumer is passive and typically enjoyable. Little is required of us. And it’s virtually always safe. I might feel a bit guilty about spending my Sunday afternoon watching golf on TV but hey, no harm, no foul.

As producers we are doing the work, writing the blog post, making that new product, bringing our art to the world, challenging the status quo, embodying the change we wish to see in the world, putting ourselves out there. But as Seth reminds us, this might not work.

By its very nature, producing takes more energy, more focus, more grit and is riskier than mere consumption. Producing something with the potential to be truly meaningful and remarkable is more challenging and riskier still. It demands vulnerability.

Of course we are all consumers and producers. There is no such thing as a pure consumer or a 100% producer. On any given day, we will spend our waking hours engaged doing some of both. Life, as we know, is ebb and flow, yin and yang, give and take.

So it’s not about being one or the other. And it’s not about labeling consumption as inherently bad and production as fundamentally virtuous.

But I do think it’s worth thinking about whether we’ve got the right mix.

And then working intentionally to produce a better outcome.

 

A version of this post originally appeared at http://www.stevenpdennis.com

 

Being vulnerable · Embrace the present moment · Smile at fear · Uncategorized

When we live in fear

When we live in fear we spin endlessly in worry about the future, rather than seeing the beauty and potential available to us right here, right now.

When we live in fear we assume the immigrant is coming to take our job–or even to kill us–rather than appreciating that they might be the next Einstein or Hamilton. Or that they are simply deserving of compassion and safe refuge.

When we live in fear we cling to the false idolatry of perfection, rather than celebrate our inevitable mistakes, our rough edges, the cracks that let the light in.

When we live in fear we seek validation from others, rather than accept our inherent worthiness and warmly embrace our differences.

When we live in fear we only see the worst case scenario, rather than have faith that we can handle just about anything that might come our way.

When we live in fear we are alone, disconnected, detached, instead of being held safe in the knowledge that we are all in this together.

When we live in fear so much of our energy is wasted trying to control the uncontrollable.

When we live in fear our starting point tilts toward hate, not love and toward revenge, instead of forgiveness.

When we live in fear we see change as the enemy, the dragon to be slain, when dropping our sword, taking off our armor and letting down our guard might just allow us to tap into a world of abundance and unleash a little bit of magic.

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Being vulnerable · Embrace the present moment · Fail better · Smile at fear · Start · Unleashing potential

Holy stuckosity Batman!

“Stuckosity” isn’t a real word. It can’t even be found at Urban Dictionary. Well, at least not yet.

But certainly most of us are familiar with the quality of being stuck. Perhaps you’re feeling it right now.

We get stuck telling the same old stories about ourselves that are familiar, but serve no useful purpose.

We get stuck trying to solve problems with the same level of thinking that got us into trouble in the first place.

We get stuck defending the status quo, even when we know it’s not working.

We get stuck in self-righteousness, which almost never changes the other person’s mind or behavior, but frustrates us to no end.

We get stuck fighting reality, re-litigating the past, trying vainly to predict the future.

We get stuck striving for perfection, when perfect is both impossible and, ultimately, only a recipe for suffering.

We get stuck waiting for precisely the right time and to be fully ready, failing to see that those exact conditions will never ever come.

We get stuck in relationships because we fail to speak our truth and ask for what we want and need.

We get stuck unleashing our full potential because we wonder how other folks will judge us if we were to go out on a limb.

And on and on and on.

The key to getting unstuck is to first see it for what it is. And most of the time our stuckness is merely our habitual reaction to an irrational fear; to a fundamental misunderstanding of risk.

Once we become aware that staying in our fear–and being unwilling to let go of our story, our need for control and our desire to be right–is actually the most risky thing we can do, the door is cracked open to change.

Once we we accept that our behavior is simply habit, the debilitating result of a lifetime of bad conditioning, we can work to establish new, more healthy and useful ones.

Once we are committed to take action, we are finally free. Free to start before we are ready. Free to embrace failure as a natural outcome of growth. Free to be okay with our imperfection.

And that’s good thinking Robin.

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This post also appeared on my business blog at http://www.stevenpdennis.com