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.
“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
I was lucky enough to interview the very talented and bold author/comedian Jordan Pease. When we began our conversation, I was immediately taken by the 23-year-old’s passion for life and dedication to his craft.
“When I first moved to California from New Jersey, I had grandiose dreams of everything magically falling into place,” said Pease. “But I quickly learned there are numerous amazingly talented people trying to follow the path I’ve chosen. It became clear that if I am to succeed, I need to throw everything into my work.”
“I always had a deep sense of pride in anything I attempted. I was taught from an early age that if presented with an opportunity or a talent, I should give 100 percent of what I’ve got.”
The same is true where his inner-truths are concerned -
“When it became clear that I was gay, I knew I had to be real with my friends and family.”
This included telling his soccer teammates.
“They were totally supportive and treated me like any other player. I worked hard, they worked hard, and that was all that mattered.”
And then his father died.
“I was 19 and in the process of trying to get the balls up to make something of myself. I always felt there was a greater purpose for my life. The challenges I faced (including the death of my dad) pushed me out of my comfort zone and toward LA.”
Pease didn’t know a single person when he made the big move and this didn’t stop him for a second.
“The secret to my success thus far is to never stop. I’ve always got a notebook with me. I never know when inspiration is going to hit or when I may score a gig. So I’m always trying to be one step ahead of the game.”
In 2013 alone, Pease has performed at more than 60 comedy shows throughout the U.S. and abroad.
“I keep hearing tons of excuses from my peers as to why they aren’t working hard toward a goal. One of the lamest is that the economy sucks. I’m going to prove that’s a bunch of B.S.”
Not only does he continue to score gigs, Pease is also the author of two books. His first, Don’t Let me Go, was published in 2010 and is based on his varsity soccer years. The second is a memoir that was published at the beginning of this year. Accidentally Ok satirically chronicles his 90-day adventure through Europe when he was 21.
While Jordan Pease is undoubtably a hilarious human being, I’m most impressed by his willingness to be artfully himself and belief that his wildest dreams will one day come true.
You can’t get much bolder than that!
Enjoy one of his comedy acts, and please pass it on:
Post by 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
If you think you are beaten, you are;
If you think you dare not, you don’t;
If you’d like to win, but think you can’t,
It’s almost a cinch you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost,
For out in the word we find
Success begins with a fellow’s will,
It’s all in the state of mind.
If you think you’re outcasted, you are;
You’ve got to think high to rise.
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man;
But soon or late the man who wins
Is the man who thinks he can.
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