There is a story about a seeker who travels to the Himalayas, looking for an enlightened Buddha in order to receive personal teachings. This seeker wants the last word on the subject of enlightenment. Walking and trekking for days, he begins to drop his heavy gear as he makes his way to the top of a high peak in Nepal. He drops his tent, his camping equipment, and his heavy backpack.
Stripped of almost everything and having breathed so many hundreds of thousands of breaths, he has finally forgotten about his worldly preoccupations. He is ready to arrive and very ready to listen. He pulls himself up over the final rim of the mountain and looks into the mouth of a cave. Amazingly enough, the Buddha-like master is sitting right there.
Stunned, relieved, and overjoyed, the seeker asks the Sage, “What is the first principle? What is your most important truth and teaching?”
The seeker thinks this is going to be his big moment and that he is about to become enlightened. He is going to discover the one essential thing for him to ponder. And then the Buddha replies: “Dukkha. Life is suffering, life is fraught, life is difficult.”
And the seeker is totally disappointed! He looks around wildly and shouts, “Is there anyone else up here that I can talk to?!!”
I love that story. What do we do when we experience something that isn’t quite what we hoped for, or worse, when we experience something that is truly difficult?
A Buddhist wise guy’s rendition of the First Nobel Truth of dukkha (or dissatisfaction) is that in life pain is inevitable, BUT SUFFERING IS OPTIONAL. How much we suffer depends on us, our internal development, and our spiritual understanding and realization.
By recognizing this, we can learn to use loss and suffering in ways that help us grow wiser and become more at peace with ourselves and the universe.
I believe that this is the time to become warriors for peace and dialogue, not warmongers or mere worriers. We must learn the hard lesson that without the pain of inner irritation, the pearls of wisdom will not be produced within us. I lovingly call this The Pearl Principle: no pain, no transformative gain.
Healthy Mind & Body
“Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.” – John Watson
I begin my post with these word for one simple reason — I read them in a book by William Hart entitled The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation as Taught by S.N. Goenka. The book has been sitting on my shelf for a handful of years entirely unread. I had tried to read the first page a number of times, but for some reason couldn’t continue. And then…just at the right time, I have found myself devouring it.
Why am I devouring it now? There are numerous reasons why, but here are a few very candid ones:
2. I want to become more compassionate.
3. I need to let go of some things in order for the next chapter of my life to evolve.
4. I want to deal better with suffering and loss.
5. I need to reconnect with my true purpose and inner truths.
The list could go on and on, but these are my main goals.
So, Sir Goenka created a meditation philosophy and technique that at one point requires you engage in a 10-day silent retreat. In the process you burn through your mental garbage — limited perceptions and the dramatic stories we tell.
One of my best friends has done it twice. The first time PJ dared to experience the process, he said the first day of complete silence freaked him out.
“You can’t imagine the mental noise that I experienced. I began by thinking of the things I should be doing, then I moved on to the things I have done, then I thought about crazy dramas from my past, and sometimes I even found myself humming in my mind. I couldn’t help myself!”
As the ten-day period progressed, he dove deeper into the pains that he had suffered in his life. His failed marriage, his relationship with his parents, failed business pursuits, and the list goes on. In his silence, he would all of a sudden find himself sobbing as he relived moments. He forgave himself and others for mistakes made along the way.
And then one day…
He sat on his mat and he experienced complete mental silence.
“Jen, you wouldn’t believe it. I didn’t have anything else to think about, and I was perfectly fine.”
And so yesterday it was September 25, 2013 — strangely, it is almost four years to the day that my friend told me about his experience. And I’m finally ready to experience the process myself.
What I’ve learned so far is that I am the possessor of a mind (and you too) that has so much potential. But, before we experience our full-potential, we have to become friends with ourselves. “Become an island unto yourself. Strive hard and become wise,” Hart quoted Buddha within his book.
This doesn’t mean that we abandon those we love. It means that we seek to become healthy and whole, which will enhance our relationships with others. True satisfaction in life can’t be attained through obtaining massive riches, experiencing “the right” relationship, reaching the greatest of goals, etc.
This comes when we are OK with silence…a personal friendship with ourselves…and the truth that lives within.
– Jen Engevik
Project BE Bold
As the sun rises in the East, I often find myself reflecting on those moments and silently vowing I will never make the same mistakes. Thankfully, with a new day comes the power to wake anew and set specific intentions to act with authenticity and love.
I recently listened to a conversation that Oprah had with Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh (also known as Thay or teacher by his students). Their discussion equipped me with a set of Mantras that I want to apply to my daily interactions with others.
I hope they will be valuable to you as well:
1. “Darling, I’m here for you.”
Use these words to reveal that your loved one has your full support. He or she will be filled with a new sense of strength and belonging.
2. “Darling, I know you are there, and I’m so happy because you are truly there.”
The simple acknowledgement that a loved one exists and provides meaning to your life is utterly priceless. Don’t get caught in the fable that you have forever, be here and now — acknowledging the beauty of your person’s presence.
3. Darling, I know you suffer, that is why I’m here for you.”
When a loved one suffers, there is no need to come up with a solution or blast them with your opinions. Simply listen and offer your heart.
4. “Darling, I suffer and I’m trying my best to practice. Please help me.”
Rather than hiding your pain and fears away, ask for support. If your loved one has disappointed you and your natural reaction is to lash out or crawl into your shell, be humble enough to ask for help.
“You must go to him or her and practice this,” says Thay. “You will suffer less right away.”
– Jen Engevik
Project BE Bold
These were three questions poised by Anand Mehrotra at the end of the documentary “The Highest Pass.”
I was blessed with the opportunity to finish the film this evening and found my eyes welling up with tears a few times. There is something to be said for being willing to risk life and limb to accomplish a goal.
In this case, it was a group of motorcyclists — with very little experience riding — daring to trek over the “highest pass” in the Himalayas. One rider in particular said something so very profound. To paraphrase him, he said at the beginning of the film that when things got rough on the trail he wanted to run home to his family.
After much thought, he chose to stay and continue the journey. In the end, his being was filled with a new sense of love. “Now instead of returning to my family out of fear, I want to return to them out of pure love.”
As we go through our days, it is common to seek comfort — the easy way out. Yet at the same time our hearts are crying out for some sort of adventure — authenticity.
Soren Kierkegaard once wrote, “Boredom is the root of all evil – the despairing refusal to be oneself.”
We walk around with our hearts aching — our minds wishing we could accomplish something beautiful and lasting, experience love in its fullest sense, get over the hang-ups and patterns we cling to.
Mehrotra, Kerkegaard, and Socrates alike teach the importance of knowing ourselves deeper. Discovering our most precious and sacred hopes and dreams that were planted in our hearts for a reason.
Those who say things like, “he/she is a dreamer…her head is in the clouds” are those who tend to lack vision. What if Steve Job’s parents told him he was a dreamer and he was silly enough to listen? Kiss your iPhone and iPad goodbye baby! :-D
When we know ourselves, we can be reintroduced to our child within — that being that understands the power of imagination, dreams, and life in the present moment.
“To inherit the kingdom of heaven, you must be like a child.”
To me, these words spoken by Jesus mean much more than taking a trip to a place beyond the clouds of this world. It’s that for the most part children aren’t as jaded as we adults. They have so much to accomplish, so much to see, and do. They laugh when their tummies tickle and they weep when their hearts are pained.
Why do so many of us adults rob ourselves of the same enjoyment? Why not dream and stick our necks out to undertake something bold and amazing?
How about we take time to connect with our purest selves? Discover our fearless and powerful beings. The only way to surmount our challenges and create life anew is to dig in and feel the emotions, pains, disappointments, frustrations, and fears we have experienced throughout our lives. No more burying our histories with silly, meaningless diversions.
Authenticity is where its at — and once we dig deep inside there is no turning back. Our true purposes will be uncovered.
“Beautiful things will be revealed. It’s just that you have never given yourself the opportunity to reveal what you are capable of. Do not let fear keep us from our own capacity.” – Anand Mehrotra
Be good to yourself!
This is a photo of Harold Whittles — hearing for the very first time after a doctor placed an earpiece in his left ear.
What an experience this must have been for the beautiful boy. In one way frightening…in another mesmerizing. The comfort of his soundless world forever lost, yet a whole new world presented.
The process of self-discovery is just that — both thrilling and terrifying. New experiences, feelings, and truths push us to our limits. No longer can we look at the world or ourselves the same way.
When this occurs, we must dig deep and find the courage to progress — dare ourselves not to hold on to our pasts or former mindsets. New information and experiences offer the opportunity of a lifetime — a true, heartfelt journey.
May we look within and without our beings to notice our many blessings — the people from which we draw strength and those we give it to — beautiful skies and natural wonders — animals that lick our noses — the food we have to eat — and the journeys yet to be taken.
With eyes wide open, we can be thankful and live with purpose…
And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
– By Jen Engevik
A few days ago I had a conversation with a woman with a four-year-old child and a baby on the way. “I miss the days that my life was my own,” she shared. The wild thing is that just a few minutes earlier I had been thinking about the fact that I don’t have any children, and I’m single to boot. To be honest, earlier in the day I had felt a deep sense of envy for those with a family.
And there I stood looking into the eyes of a woman who was overwhelmed and wishing she could experience once again the freedom I own. Having said this, I can’t help but think we all need to learn to breathe easier – no matter our station of life:
1. Be thankful for NOW. We human beings are pros at being half-present in our daily lives. We fret about the past, freak out about the future, and get lost in a web of confusion.
One day in the future I may find myself bogged down with familial responsibilities and wish that I had experienced my singleness and freedom with joy. Or, the woman with child will wish she could have poured her being into motherhood the day she sees her daughter go off to college.
Author Leo Babauta suggests thinking of three good things a day to avoid becoming bitter or frustrated. Or, I’ve been trying to make a concerted effort lately to do something to disrupt negative thought patterns — such as a long walk or workout.
2. Get in a flow. Breathing into the moment and pouring focus/energy into being and doing results in “flow.” The concept coined by Mihaly Cskiszentmihalyi (a positive psychology expert) sees a person fully immersed into what they are undertaking. He or she operates with “energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process” of an activity.
If you need a bit of reference for this type of being, think back to when you were a child swimming in a pool or climbing trees. You were in the “here and now” so very deeply. Activities were pursued with passion, laughter, and sometimes tears.
Let’s get back into that groove as adults, pouring ourselves into our lives with all we possess. I’m thinking we’ll sleep much better and smile more.
3. Meditate and or pray. Take time to find silence. Discover a meditation or prayer practice that works for you and dedicate at least five minutes to it per day.
Bonus Tip: Love freely. “Those who can’t say I love you, can rarely say I forgive you.” I recently heard these words. I find them so simple, yet so very profound.
Our breath is also directly connected to our ability to love and forgive. If we can’t love ourselves and others — if we can’t forgive ourselves and others — how can we breathe with ease? Our insides instead become gobbled up with resentments, frustrations, and fear.
Life is so very short!!
Let’s dare to enjoy the moment, get in a flow, and find a bit of quiet time reserved for breathing free.
– Jen Engevik
It feels amazingly freeing to blog for a second day in a row. In order to climb my mountain of self-discovery, I must return to my purpose. Wildly enough, this includes pouring my soul out to strangers, those who have known me for a lifetime, and everyone in between.
I truly believe that within each of our beings (if we are quiet enough) we can hear soft whispers that reveal what we are meant to do and who we are meant to touch. Throughout my 37 years, sometimes a whisper ignored has turned into a sonic boom that has forced me in a new direction.
Setting out on a new journey can be frightening. We leave behind the “comforts” and assurances that have been our security blankets for so long and set into the unknown with a hope and a dream.
I’ll never forget the day I left home for the first time. Mom accompanied me to college, stayed a couple days in town, and then left with a hug, a few tears, and a wave. I watched her drive away and felt an urge to run after her. That evening I tried my very best to stifle my fears. At one point, I panicked and felt my world spin on its axis.
As the days progressed, I began to pour myself into my studies, met new friends, and explored the campus. My being expanded and a new sense of courage arose. I found my smile and giddy laughter once again.
Such is life.
“A life without a cause is a life without an effect.” Yesterday, I shared these simple yet profound words by Paulo Coelho.
This morning I wonder…is this why there is so much unhappiness on Planet Earth? Are too many of us without a true cause? Are we ignoring the whisper of our souls because we are too afraid to expand and grow?
For me, one of the first pains I felt in life was when my parents tried to wean me off of my “blankie.” My completely worn blanket that I took with me everywhere I went. When I was tired, I sucked my right thumb and held my blankie to my face. Oh the pain of trying to sleep without it for the first few times!!
As hard as change can be for us all, I’m certain failure to grow to new heights leads to suffering in one way or another.
Courage is the answer.
Whether this means turning off the TV and going outside for a run — throwing away the fatty crap that sits within a fridge and replacing it with veggies — leaving behind what is familiar to explore the world, a new occupation, etc — or freeing ourselves of patterns and relationships that are killing our souls — we must heed the whisper (or the sonic boom) within if we are to find our smiles again.
Thomas Bayancya, Elder of the Hopi Nation once penned a powerful poem on personal progress. Here is the part that I love most:
There is a river flowing now very fast,
It is so great and swift.
That there are those who will be afraid,
They will try to hold onto the shore.
They will feel they are being pulled apart,
And will suffer greatly.
Understand that the river knows its’ destination,
The elders say we must let go of the shore.
Push off into the middle of the river,
Keep our eyes open and our heads above water.
Namaste to you, and me too!
– Jen Engevik