SIT STILL & JUST DO NOTHING — You Will Be Able to Do More of Something

It is the paradox of our time.  We find ourselves running constantly, trying to fill each moment with doing something.  We find ourselves worrying, stressing, feeling exhausted about the enormity of the tasks we have set for ourselves.  We cannot help but feeling like the proverbially hamsters on a treadmill, running faster, getting no where.

Physiologically our pulse, respirations, blood pressure are mirroring our feelings  We are frenetically being pulled and pushed from one thought and feeling to another.  We lose focus and clarity.  We feel like mindlesspuppets rushing helter skelter. We are wasting time while we believe we are getting somewhere. We are not really accomplishing what we want and as we recognize this truth our fear just intensifies our stress.  We are feeling physically as well as mentally exhausted and overwhelmed by our own self-imposed timelines. There is a strong feeling that we are losing control over our lives and that we never quite finish one thing before being pulled into something else–this is multitasking from hell! 

Paradoxically the more we struggle the less we actually accomplish. Ironically the best way to get somewhere is to go nowhere.  Doing nothing will allow us to do something better.

Spend a few minutes in quiet repose.  Sit and meditate on your breath.  Just be with the in and outflow.  Thinking and feeling will immediately flood your mind.  Take note and gently give yourself the gift of going back to being with your breath.

Enjoy the freedom from thinking and doing nothing for those few minutes.  Soon you will feel more relaxed.  Your body will feeling calm and rested.  Your thinking/feeling mind will settle as well.  You can practice the art of witnessing or observing your thoughts and feelings rather than being carried along helplessly by them. 

 This approach allows you to understand what your mind has been reacting to.  Perhaps there are some deep psychological wounds that underlie your perception that you will never get where you want to go. They can be addressed and healed only if they are observed and acknowledged.

This is mindful as opposed to mindless awareness. This more objective position will allow you to respond to the content of your mind  in a more productive and healing manner.

This practice of doing nothing to accomplish something will hopefully become a regular part of your daily routine.

E N T H U S I A S M — Don’t Curb It !

In all deference to the brilliant Larry David and his HBO series, I suggest we don't curb our enthusiasm.  It is too rare a commodity and one often scoffed at as ingenuous or naive.  Of course there are some individuals who do seem to overdue it–but for the most part, it is in short supply.

It is interesting to note that at one time the term was somewhat derogatory, referring to a vain self- promoting sense of spiritual superiority.  But its original Greek etymology is literally from etheos  meaning god possessed.

Enthusiastic individuals are driven by a sense of optimism.  They are exuberant.  They are not self-conscious about their approach to life and are often oblivious to the condescending opinions of others.  They seem immune to the cynicism and negativity that permeates society in general.

At times we may regard them as annoying because they seem to savor what may appear to the rest of us to be quite ordinary and mundane. In fact on some level we wish we could see the world through their eyes.

So let us embrace enthusiasm.  But if you're not quite ready, at least let's not curb it in others.

PEACE IN THE TIMELESS MOMENT– Existential Joy

Peace, serenity, even joy–are they goals we can even dream of attaining?  They seem like naive, even ridiculous concepts in the face of the often painfully harsh realities of existence.  Our lives seem to be rushing along a torrent of time.  From crisis to crisis we barely seem to keep our heads above the raging river of life.  But what if we could find serenity anytime we choose?  What if it was achievable regardless of life's circumstances? 

And what does existential joy even mean?  In essence it describes a basic optimism about being alive.  It is not dependent upon day to day success or failure.  It is an underlying appreciation and gratitude for just being alive–with all its pleasure and pain.  It offers the eternal possibility of healing and serenity.

Those individuals who have acquired the skill of meditation are often capable of finding such moments.  They can escape the torrent of time by being present in the timeless moment.  Ironically the term seems like an oxymoron–timeless moment.  But what occurs when we stop thinking for a moment and just "be" is precisely that. 

If we can learn the skill of being with our breath.  If we can retreat from thinking and feeling for a moment, we can escape from time as well.  It is fascinating to realize that when we are present with the breath (as described in prior postings) we are not thinkging or feeling at all.

 Now I am not advocating "escapism" as a solution to life's difficulties.  On the contrary meditation allows us to experience our mind's activities from the perspective of the observer.  Rather than suppress them, we acknowledge them.  We then slip away for a moment to be with our breath.  For most of us, this is a short respite.  But with practice the skill can be improved. 

Just recognizing that our mind processes and creates our reality is enlightening.  This awareness may allow us to turn towards moments throughout our chaotic days in which there is exquisite natural beauty we may not otherwise notice.   We tend to be victims of time, feeling the crush of deadlines and  responsibility like a weight of suffering. 

By being attuned to seeking  the timeless moment we may become more aware of other moments– when compassion and kindness are expressed.  These are times which we might  just ignore because its signs are not as loud and intrusive as anger, insensitivity or fear.

Seek to find the timeless moment.  It may be a difficult task but well worth the effort.

BEING IN THE PRESENT MOMENT — Non Judgmental Awareness

I have been reading about Mindfulness and recommitted myself to my meditation practice.  But today I am "feeling" what it might be all about.  While reading Full Catastrophe Livingby Jon Kabat-Zinn  I was struck by his "Attitudinal Foundations of Mindfulness Practice".

He begins with non-judging and moves to patience. 

 These are two qualities that most of us (speaking personally) do not possess in great abundance.  Our tendency is to judge every person, experience, thought or emotion which inundates our mind.  It is so natural for us to do so that we are unaware of its power over us. 

 Every mental state is judged along a scale of extremely positive to neutral to extremely negative.  Our bodies and emotions react powerfully to these judgments.  Our ability to step back and observe the contents of our minds becomes  diminished.  

Then patience steps in–or the lack of it.  We react immediately to our own judging mind and demand action. 

 We find it difficult to be a peace in any given moment because of our tendency to compare where we are where we believe we "should" be.   We declare a certain future goal or place to be of a higher value than where we are at the present.  We are impatient with the time we are "wasting" until we get to that planned experience.  We essentially devalue the present moment and the unexplored richness it offer.  We accept it as a necessary evil in order to get to some future, un experienced fantasy.

For example, we may find that being alone is nearly intolerable because we are indoctrinated with the belief that only other people can make our moments valuable.  We suffer because of this delusion of awareness. 

Instead we need to recognize the value of wherever we are in the present moment.  There is truth and beauty in the present moment even if we "judge" it as being not what we fantasize as being somehow "better". 

 We can honor ourselves through the practice of meditation.  It is time when we are strictly alone with the content of our minds.  Exploring the true nature of reality can bring us serenity we cannot find in a crowd of others.

But what if we endeavor to experience each moment without comparing it to any other ? 

 Perhaps we could actually be present in the moment when we brushed our teeth, for example.  Perhaps we could dress, shower, even eliminate our wastes with a mindful presence.  Perhaps that wait in traffic would not result in distress and suffering, all of which, quite obviously, is self-induced.

Even moments of suffering can be understood on a spiritual plane to be necessary experiences.  Although our first reaction is to escape from or deny these experiences we need to understand that each moment is capable of teaching us about ourselves and offer us opportunities.

Our dark moments offer us opportunities to learn compassion for the suffering of others, to motivate us to seek change, to learn about how the universe works and how we can grow as well.

Of course this observation does not dictate that we abandon goals, aspirations or not look forward to rewarding, pleasant or profound experiences.  We clearly need to live with an awareness of what we must do in order for the future to unfold according to our desires.  But we should avoid becoming fixated or stuck in either the future or the past.  This only creates more anxiety, agitation, worry and suffering. 

 Serenity is best experienced in the present moment.  Even the most mundane can be savored for what it is–the only moment that exists right now.

SEEKING CYBER SANITY — Pause Before the Next TEXT/TWEET/EMAIL

Our  current obsession with instant communication 24/7 has unhealthy consequences.  We can never relax.  We behave as if addicted to our cell phones.  We cannot even be with someone in person without constantly checking for incoming messages from someone who is not. 

 I recently became aware that many young people literally sleep with their phones, afraid they will miss a text/tweet/email.    I would not be surprised if brain scanning via SPECT or functional MRI reveal activation of pleasure centers not unlike what occurs after a mind-altering addictive drug.  Perhaps dopamine or other neurotransmitters are released as we increasingly feed our need to stay in touch. 

 If someone of my generation can feel upset when we leave home without our cell, I can only image how a generation raised on them feel under similar circumstances.

But problems are already arising.  Attention to particular tasks is limited.  They are continuously being interrupted by the distracting pull to check for messages.  A sense of tension and anxiety must arise.  Serenity dissolves under the constant secretion of adrenaline and stress cortisol.  Multitasking is a true illusion.  The mind becomes a ping pong ball and never at peace.

Is there possibly a solution on the horizon?  A feel the answer is to seek to step out of the raging torrent of cyber technology.  You don't have to seek to connect every moment of the day.  Put your phone down.  Do something else.  Go back to it at intervals.  There are no emergencies, no messages from friends or foes which cannot stand to develop some patience.  We have created our own hell by demanding immediate responses from others and doing so ourselves.

Perhaps meditation offers hope.  Although an ancient spiritual tool it has proven scientific healing abilities. It is an official time out.  We sit and purposely do nothing.  We are in a state of being rather than doing.  We breathe into the solitude we so desperately seek.  The world will wait for us to finish and in that state our minds are free. We can observe our breath, witness thoughts and feelings but not be attached to them. 

 We know that when our meditation is over we will join the torrential flow of our lives.  We will miss nothing.  But perhaps we will regain something more important–a place of serenity, of sanity.

A Caveat to OccupyWallStreet – Denounce Anti-Semitism or Lose Your Soul

Economic times are bad.  And desperation is the mother of revolution.

I was a child of the sixties and understand that frustration with society (and the war which seems missing this time) needs to be heard. Taking to the streets makes the message  and social media tech allows it to stream at light speed.

But apparently the participants involved emerge with a myriad of agendas. Anarchists, communists, anti-capitalists are ready to highjack the legitimate concerns of Americans who are out of work and reaching the boiling point. 

In a democracy they are all free to express their opinions. But when hatred of any groups rears its ugly head it must be denounced, and powerfully. 

Scapegoating of Jews as the ultimate capitalists is not new.  Hitler new it.  So do some members of the OWS contingent.  Is the Tea Party racist?  I don't know.  But members of the African American community who feel it is need to be heard.

Likewise, the blatant and documented antiJewish rhetoric documented from "some" member of the OWS crowd need to be rejected.  And swiflty.

If not their message emerging out of a genuine frustration witht the status quo will become fatally infected.

And P.S…..it is interesting that the status quo , the Obama admistration, seems to welcome their message.  How peculiar.

THE SOLITARY SEEKER

Sitting at the back of the room, the auditorium, the hall, at the end of an aisle. I am always one moment away from leaving.

 I am not sure why. This has been brought back home to me during my recent attendance at the Mindfulness Meditation conference in NYC sponsored by the Omega Institute.

 I seem to reject gurus in favor of my own clumsy seeking. This was also brought home to me when I picked up a book on Transcendental Meditation (T.M.). This differs from Mindfulness in one fundamental way–it depends on the repetition of a mantra.

But as interesting as T.M. seemed, as popular as it is, as much as it has been scienifically validated to produce peace of mind and brain changes, I was turned off by one aspect of it. Everyone receives a private, personal mantra which must be obtained by a "guru". The exact nature of the mantra is cloaked in mystery but is based on Sanskrit. This notion that another human being would "grant" me a mantra just seemed wrong to me.  Perhaps this is similar to being uncomfortable with the idea of a priest or intermediary in dealing with Spirit.

 Perhaps no one else would understand this reaction. But I just don't believe another human being can offer me something as powerful as a meaningless mantra with vibrational power.

I just find the quote I use on the first page of my book which is ascribed to Siddhartha Gautama, Buddha too compelling…..Do not believe what you have heard. Do not believe in tradition because it is handed down many generations. Do not believe in anything that has been spoken of many times.  Do not believe because the written statements come from some old sage.  Do not believe in conjecture. Do not believe in the authority of teachers or elders.  But after careful observation and analysis, when it agrees with reason and it will benefit one and all, then accept it and live by it. 

Now clearly this approach does not lead to a community of spiritually like-minded individuals.  And perhaps that is why I find myself a solitary seeker at this stage in the journey. 

In my case I doubt that I will ever find "the truth".  Instead, like an onion, I hope to peel away levels of  personal ignorance. 

 Seeking is a journey not a destination.  It is a process rather than an event.  It is a verb  not a noun.

Although a solitary seeker I desire to share my thoughts and observations with others.  I welcome comment and criticism.   I fully believe that I am always a breath away from discovering some new insight.  And I am open to welcoming others who share this approach to their own pesonal quest. 

Rather than a leader-follower relationship, I perceive the metaphysical journey as souls travelling in tandem, sharing, exchanging ideas and experiences but essentially alone. 

 And I'm perfectly fine with it. 

DANIEL SHECHTMAN & THE DISEASE OF ANTI-SEMITISM–A High Holiday Posting

My news alert that Israeli Daniel Shechtman won the 2011 Nobel prize in chemistry motivated this posting.

As long as there are Jews there will be anti-semitism. But quite frankly as a Jew I'm sick and tired of it.  It has permeated Western civilization for millenia and resulted in the death and suffering of millions.  Israel is the anti-semites proxy and they join radical Islamists in their desire for elimination from the face of the planet.

 The origins and reasons for this are perverse and all-pervasive.  The purpose of this posting is not to attempt to explain it.  Unfortunately, in a world where humans suffer and seek others to blame for their lack of satisfaction, success, happiness the Jews are the perfect scapegoat. 

 Frustrated and pathetic there are many who seek to explain their own sorry state by seeking the conspiracy behind the way the world works.  Their websites obsess over who is a Jew and what they are doing to make their pathetic lives miserable. They cannot possibly accept the truth they may be unintelligent, untalented or unmotivated to seek and achieve what they deem missing. They suffer from some sort of disturbed obsessive mental /emotional "disease".

Personally, I have met many Jews in my life.  Some are compassionate, caring, brilliant, creative, successful geniuses.  Others are sad, disturbed, losers.  The point is this–they are just human beings like every other group on the planet.

Here are the facts if anyone is interested.  Jews represent .24% of the population of the world.  That is less than one quarter of one percent ! 

Jews represent more than 20% of Nobel Prize winners since its inception in 1901. 

Do Jews "influence" business and Hollywood?  Are they more highly represented than their .24% of the population.  Yes!  But why has that happened?  Could it be that they have worked harder, are talented and intelligent?  "No", the anti-semites will proclaim.  Its a conspiracy!

I find it more than curious that the anti-semites never speak about the "influence" of Jews in literature, art, music, chemistry, physics, medicine etc.  Those are the "influences" which, by the way, help everyone on this planet.

It would be my deep preference if we all stopped stereotyping each other based on religion, ethnicity, race, political positions etc. and "judge" every individual as just that–an individual.

But if that isn't going to happen any time soon, then just be open to the real facts about Jews and move on.

THE BIRTH 0F A “SALESMAN”–The Mindful Approach

Let me introduce myself. I come from a family of salesman. My dad was one. My son is in training to become one. I have come to realize that I am one too.  

Do we still envisionArthur Miller's Willy Loman when we think of the salesman–pushing, cajoling, sweating through one   after another ? I guess I suffer from the same reaction to the term that many of us do–"A salesman, hmmm. What do they want from me. How can I trust them?" Are salesman even obsolete in this age of instant information and communication? Will  , internet based business render them obsolete? Can medical care be obtained on-line without the need of a physician? Was my Dad's insurance business obsolete when anyone can purchase insurance on line as well?

I knew, for instance, that my dad was one of the most ethical human beings on the planet. I knew that his successes in business were modest but more a result of his lack of desire to make tons of money at the expense of his personal time. He did very well for the effort he exerted. His tools were simple–we was a smart individual who understood his product, he was pleasant and outgoing, he was totally sincere, honest and stood by his reputation. Sales, for him, was merely being himself and presenting information. There was no need for him to study strategies, acquire learned skills on how to close the deal, or take seminars on the art of doing so.

I became a physician. I never understood what it meant to be a salesman.  I had never believed I possessed the skills necessary. I was not as outgoing or as personable by nature as my Dad.

Medical practice put me in direct contact with many individuals. I soon came to realize that I was offering my opinion and skills to them. They could choose to follow my recommendations or not. I came to realize that what they were doing was evaluating me–as a physician and as a human being. They could not possibly comprehend all the medical aspects of their own problems. So at some point they were going to have to turn themselves over to someone whom they trusted. That might be me. I was doing sales. I guess what has propelled my career are those same qualities that my Dad possessed.

The Buddhists might say that I am practicing Mindfulness when in their presence because I attempt to be  completely with them in the moment.  I try to be mindful of them as human beings and sense their emotional, physical and spiritual state of being. I embrace a Kabbalistic notion that their presence in my office is a spiritual gift to me. They are offering me an opportunity to do good and I appreciate it.

I want them to feel the sacred place my exam room becomes. I want them to feel as if they are the only patient in my practice. I will then produce a proposed diagnosis to help their situation, a plan of action and then listen and "feel" their response. Are they in line with what I have proposed? Are they doubtful? If so, why? Can I offer alternative therapies, options? I need to perceive their reaction  and address any concerns at that moment.

I believe that personal contact will never be duplicated by a computer based interactions.  

I observe what takes place when intelligent layman obtain their medical information from the Internet. They are confused. They are often unable to evaluate what information if really knowledge. I need to provide answers to their questions or at least to assure them that I will follow up. I need to speak with confidence but not bravado. I need to understand their point of view, what will make them comfortable or uncomfortable.

But I need them to realize that I have the knowledge and experience that they seek. I need them to understand that our sales meeting is not over when they leave the exam room. If I recommend a procedure I am selling them a product. They need to believe that I am capable of providing that product safely and competently. They need to "feel" that I will guide them through the process of their illness. They also need to understand that when they become my patient they are entering a relationship with me–for the duration of their treatment. They also need to know that our relationship is a process, one that must deal with outcomes–positive or negative.

When a service is provided that can only come from a living, breathing, reacting human being, when an ongoing relationship defines the process—then a salesman is essential. And there is nothing wrong with that.