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Less Excuses Provide More Harmony

Who is the best excuse maker around? You? Me? I would guess all of us are good at making excuses.

I am great at making excuses because I love to rationalize my behavior, my attitudes and what I think about what's going on.

Excuses give us a sense of well being that is delusional but we feel good about it all.

Well, sometimes. I bet there are times when you made an excuse you didn’t feel so good about but then maybe that was because you did not tell the truth.

Our excuses are good stories we tell. They sound good and make us feel good because we want to be accepted by others.

Living in the Moment (or Trying To)

On Zen Wednesday

Happy Zen Wednesday everyone! This week, I have been thinking about presence, or more accurately, what it means to be “present”. But in order to contemplate the present, I found myself also considering the past and the future…..and some interesting revelations occurred to me that I wanted to share.

First off, we humans spend a hell of a lot of time thinking about the past and the future. I mean, how often are we running some past incident over in our minds, again and again, trying to figure out “what did they mean by that? “ Or “Why did I do that?” or thinking about some future event that hasn’t happened yet, “gee, wouldn’t it be great if….? Next month, I wish I could..” These types of thoughts are a normal part of the human condition, and pretty much unavoidable. But what struck me is that when you talk about past or future, the verb associated with it is “thinking”. I am “thinking” about the past…..I am “thinking” about the future…. And why is that? It’s because you cannot actually experience either one. The past is done, it’s over – and the future hasn’t and may not ever happen. So really, the only way to experience the past or the future is through the filter of your own mind. Which we all know is riddled with beliefs, opinions, subjective perceptions….all in all, not a very reliable medium. Which leads to this mind-blowing insight, the past and the future, as seen by your mind, are not real, and they can therefore never be true. What you’re really getting is your mind’s story of the past or the future. This story can, and will change over time, and it will be different from person to person. Whoa! Then why are we spending so much of our precious time on this Earth thinking about things that aren’t real, and telling ourselves stories that aren’t true? Why indeed?

Here’s why I think that trying to cultivate a mindful life is worth the effort; It’s because the present moment…that is real. What is happening right now, what you can see, and hear, and feel, and experience…that is the truth. Hugging your spouse or your kids, playing with your dog, running in the rain…this is real life. And I don’t want to miss my life. I want to experience it. You hear people say that time seems to go by faster and faster as we get older, well I find this to be true, but more so when I am spending time agonizing over past mistakes, or worrying over future outcomes. When I bring awareness to where I am now, and pay attention to what I am actually doing, time slows down. Or it seems to at least. In fact when I am really in the flow and present with a task, time doesn’t seem relevant at all. I don’t even pay attention to it. This is when I feel truly alive and happy. Have you ever had the experience where you’re so engrossed and focused on what you’re doing that you have no concept of time? That’s being in the present moment.

We all suffer every day: procrastination, feeling overwhelmed, irritated, or frustrated, wishing things were different, comparing ourselves to others, worried we’re missing out, wishing other people would be different, feeling offended, fearing failure, not wanting to do something, wishing we were skinnier, wishing our partner was more perfect, not liking our jobs, feeling wronged by someone, wishing our family would accept us. What’s interesting about these types of problems is that the issues are mostly self-created by our own minds. Unless we are actively faced with a threatening situation or in real physical pain, most human suffering comes from worry, fear and anxiety about things that have already happened, and we can’t change, or things we fear may happen, but haven’t yet. So much energy we waste stressing over imagined dragons and the stories we tell ourselves.

This is why trying to be present is so important, even though it’s difficult in our culture of distractions. The present is where real life happens. It’s where we awaken from the dream state we’re most often lost in. Being awake means we’re conscious of what’s going on inside us, as it happens, and we can therefore make more conscious choices rather than acting on our impulses all the time. It means we are truly living.

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