Tale of the Seeker & the First Bold Step by Lama Surya Das

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.

BUSHguruStripped 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.

Lama Surya Das
Lama Surya Das

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.

- By Lama Surya Das in Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be: Lessons on Change, Loss, and Spiritual Transformation

"Darling I'm Here for You"

thay prayer handsThroughout my days, I can recall distinct moments in which I wish I would have been bold enough to say exactly what was on my mind or dared to use a better set of words toward those I love.

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

Getting to Know Ourselves Deeply

know_yourself"How are we going to choose to live? Who are we? What are we living for?"

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."

highest pass
From "The HIghest Pass' Documentary

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.

child with imaginationA child is self-aware and present in such a profound manner.

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!

-Jen Engevik

3 Steps to Breathing Easier

deep-breathDaily life brings its challenges for all of us. No matter if we are single, coupled, with kids, without kids, tall, short, in amazing shape, in horrible shape, employed, unemployed, rich, or poor.

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

Setting Out on a New Journey & Leaving the Shore Behind

river art journeyIt 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 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

Letting Go and Moving Into a Bold & Beautiful Present

Welcome to day two of 2013! In my search for an amazing year, I am realizing the power of letting go. The process of letting go is not always easy...for it requires that we discover the hero within and take the steps necessary to move forward and create an inspiration-filled life regardless of how scary or daunting it may seem.

Last evening I met up with one of my newest friends named Bruno. He shared with me his philosophy on moving forward with life. In his beautiful Argentinian accent, he said something like this: "Everybody moves forward in their own way and at their own pace...but I think it important that we dare ourselves to face what is brewing inside and come to terms with it all. Don't distract yourself, but be strong enough to work through the things that hurt....and face your fears. Those who continually try to distract themselves never tend to progress the way they wish. They continually make the same mistakes."

For me, I've been through quite a bit in the last handful of months. I've cried bucket-loads of tears in an effort come to terms with the loss of a meaningful relationship - my Mom's health challenges  and her move from my childhood home - and the realities that come with change and adulthood.  Yet -- with the new year at hand, I am increasingly ready to forge forward and claim a beautiful future. Much of my readiness comes as result of my decision to be a hermit for a while and force myself to face all of the thoughts/feelings that have been raging  in my mind/body. If you've never tried being a hermit for a while...I strongly suggest giving it a try (especially if you are needing to process some things)...but then there comes a time in which there is very little more processing to do. And when that time comes, we can say "watch out world! I'm ready to make beautiful things happen!"

Author and lecturer Marianne Williamson often writes/speaks of the beauty of this very fact: There is only one you (me) on Planet Earth. There are no mistakes -- each and every one of us has something amazingly special to offer the world. It is when we dare to move beyond thoughts of limitation and lack that we can harness the power within to create something of supreme value.

On this second day of January, I am challenging myself...and anyone else who needs to move close the door to yesterday and dare to progress with passion and grace. I suggest moving forward with "grace" because moving forward in rage and/or anger doesn't tend to get us anywhere special. Moving into a new space with anger/rage only creates this thing called baggage -- which we all know leads to the ole' crash and burn.

There will always be quiet moments in which we will look back...but with courage we can process our feelings/the past with intention when needed and then breathe ourselves back into the present moment. Let's be gentle with ourselves and allow for the future to unravel naturally...with beauty.

"The human mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild," writes James Allen "If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed-seeds will fall, accumulate, and will reproduce their own kind.  Just as a gardener cultivates the plot, keeping it free from weeds and cultivating flowers and fruits which are required, so may we tend the garden of the mind, weeding out all the wrong and useless thoughts and cultivating toward perfection the flowers and fruits of right, useful, and pure thoughts. By pursuing this process, we sooner or later discover that we are the master-gardener of our souls, the director of our lives."

May we all cultivate strong minds - focused on the present moment - and thereby build a fulfilling 2013...and beyond...

- Jen Engevik

Facing Inner Tigers, Authentic Courage, & the Life of Pi

Yesterday, I was compelled to go see the movie Life of Pi. I decided that it is a film  I need to see by myself, as I'm currently on the  path of self-discovery that requires that I do some meaningful things on my own.

And so...

There I was in the dark watching the Life of Pi -- A boy loses his entire family in a shipwreck and he is left alone with nothing but a lifeboat,  zebra,  hyena, gorilla and lion. It is a long story as to how a  wide-eyed Indian teenager found himself in such a precarious situation. Understanding requires that you go see the film.  Please do...

The movie pushes you into the uncomfortable space called "alone-ness." On the sea, with no land in one to talk to...thoughts of the past, terrifying present, and uncertain future drumming through your head. You can't pull out your iPhone...turn on your car radio...or invite a friend over to save your soul. only have your thoughts and the expansive world around you.

The character named Pi has  a choice. He can either be swept away into oblivion as result of his fears - the pains of losing his family - or find meaning in it all. Finding meaning requires that he has unyielding courage - owns a thing called purpose - and clings to a concept named faith.

Courage. Purpose. Faith.

It is easy to get all whacked out in the modern world when someone throws out the word faith. It implies for many that one is willing to believe in fairy tales or is tied to religious dogma that binds humanity. Early on the the film, Pi's father argues against the idea of faith and urges his son to rely on science.  Regardless, Pi is forced to survive on the endless sea and finds himself with no choice but to leave his fate to the elements. A highly spiritual boy, at one point in the movie he throws his hands towards the sky and cries out to God..."what do you want from me!!! I submit everything I have to you. I have nothing else to give." He sobs. The ocean that surrounds him is vast. Still no land in sight. Silence.

I've found myself in that space in time a handful of times. When I was told that my father had died unexpectedly when I was 10, I cried out hysterically. When I lost one of my dearest friends in a car accident, panic raced through my limbs as i realized I'd never talk to her again. And recently, ending love for the sake of differing journeys has led me to feel as though I am on the lifeboat -- asking the universe "why?"

I've really tried over the past few weeks to face my pains and fears head-on. When feeling the urge to turn on the radio to drown out an intense feeling that rages through my mind and body, I've worked to resist the impulse and dared myself to feel it...and then let it pass. Or when asked by a friend if I wouldn't like to go on a date to replace what I've lost instantly, I've said no. Another friend told me jokingly...just start drinking and time will pass in a blink of an eye. I knew he was being sarcastic...but it really is no joke...I know many people who have taken that approach to loss and one day awoken to the fact that they still had to face their loss/pain.

My mission is to arise from challenge authentically. I don't want to bury my pain or fill my void with something out of desperation. I seek something new -- to set out on a journey in which I can arrive in a new land -- a truly bold and courageous individual.

In order for Pi to survive, he had to do two things: (1) Face himself. Know himself. Be himself and (2) Face the tiger that has survived the shipwreck with him (once again to understand why there is a real life tiger that survived the wreck with him...go see the movie). The Bengal tiger that survived was quite vicious, but he relied on Pi to feed and care for him. Pi at one point decided that he would need to kill the tiger if he were to survive (for the tiger had already eaten all of the other animals on board), but as a Hindu with a love for all living creatures couldn't do it. And so...he seeks to tame the tiger.

He realized that in taming the tiger -- in taming the mind -- in saying no to fear -- survival could be attained. Killing the tiger would be a cop-out -- for after killing the beast there would undoubtedly be another challenge that arose.  In taming the tiger, he could have a fearless companion with which to survive. Pi now had a purpose that extended beyond himself. He was determined to save two souls -- his own...and the tiger.

Without a doubt, our minds have raging tigers within them. Tigers that if left untamed will consume us and negatively impact those we love. The greatest minds throughout history have revealed that the only way we can tame the tiger is to find silence - get acquainted with our pains - and make friends with them.  Forgive. We tell ourselves some wild stories and we think by telling them, we will find true freedom. For example...mine used to equal..."My dad died when I was 10, this is why I am vulnerable and fearful." I am not sure how many times I have told that story...thinking that it would free me from something...but it imprisoned me.

I know now that it takes much more than that. I must be still and face the tigers that rage within my soul. I can focus on the 10-year-old I was when my dad died in my mind's eye...and wrap her up in a warm embrace. I can tell that child about courage...purpose...and faith. The wounds then can heal for real. My new story then can be transformed into what I am doing in the present...and how the courage I have gained by weathering my very own shipwreck is empowering me to undertake an authentic journey. One that will unfold in beauty and love.

What stories are holding you back? I promise that when you get down to the root of your challenges and feel the rawness of your truth, you will survive. It isn't as scary as it seems...

"Life is an act of letting go." - Pi - From the movie Life of Pi

- Post by Jen Engevik