An Aesop Fable and Introversion

We have been experiencing some very windy weather here in the Pacific North West. Accompanied by some unseasonably cold temperatures, the wind chill has been cutting through everyone. The skies have been clear and the strong winds have given a clarity to the air, while at the same time making swift work of the autumnal job of removing the trees of their leaves - piles are accumulating along the sidewalk.

While out and about in this weather a short story that I first heard when I was a child popped into my mind. The tale has never left me. As a child I was struck by it’s message, for reasons that I didn’t understand at the time, but something in there just felt right. This time I decided to look up the story.

Having nowhere to reference the story and unsure of how well known it was, I reached for Google. It turns out that the story was one of Aesop’s fables. I found many versions of it online, and share one of those below. It’s relevance to introverts and the quiet leaders of this world is there clearly to be seen. I hope that you enjoy it.


The North Wind and The Sun

The North Wind boasted of great strength. The Sun argued that there was great power in gentleness.

“We shall have a contest,” said the Sun.

Far below, a man traveled a winding road. He was wearing a warm winter coat.

“As a test of strength,” said the Sun, “Let us see which of us can take the coat off of that man.”

“It will be quite simple for me to force him to remove his coat,” bragged the Wind.

The Wind blew so hard, the birds clung to the trees. The world was filled with dust and leaves. But the harder the wind blew down the road, the tighter the shivering man clung to his coat.

Then, the Sun came out from behind a cloud. Sun warmed the air and the frosty ground. The man on the road unbuttoned his coat.

The sun grew slowly brighter and brighter.

Soon the man felt so hot, he took off his coat and sat down in a shady spot.

“How did you do that?” said the Wind.

“It was easy,” said the Sun, “I lit the day. Through gentleness I got my way.”


From my searches online, the message from the story is commonly articulated as, “Gentle persuasion is stronger than force.” If we were to substitute, as you might already have done, the wind as an extrovert and the sun as an introvert, we see a recognition in the story that quieter ways have their place in the world. The louder ones don’t always win.

Another version of the story has the sun acknowledging the power of the wind and its capabilities. I think that this addition is important and gives the message more strength. It is not a message of either/or but both/and.

But still, the important lesson is that in order to effect change, strength and ability can just as well rest with the quiet ones. Indeed at times, it is those to whom you should turn, though the manifestation of strength might not be what you were envisaging.

Broad Shoulders Aren't Always Necessary

How do you deal with those situations where someone dishes out an attack on you, offering accusatory remarks that are untrue? Their words are spoken before reaching out and trying to understand where you are coming from. You know that an image of you is now out in the world, however small a corner of the world, which is unfounded and not a true representation of who you are. What do you do?

From my observation…and experience, a few common ways of dealing with this sort of situation are:

  1. You can go back and fight your corner, but now there are two of you angry and a two person fight will just serve to increase the wedge between you, and probably the misunderstanding with it.
  2. You can contact the person and try and explain your way out of the accusations. That might work, but then again it might not. Indeed it might make the situation worse. Anger, as we have all experienced at some time or another sadly blinds us of wanting to hear, understand or take a step down from the position that we are standing in. If the other person is consumed by anger, you showing up to tell your version of the story might be like throwing another coal on the fire…just your presence.
  3. You can develop broad shoulders and just learn to ignore the situations as they arise. In my opinion this is better than the pervious two in that you are not continuing the conflict, and in the best case scenario you are holding the door open for reconciliation further down the line when the time feels right. However, I believe that there is a fourth option which holds the door further open. I think that there is a danger with this third option that the broad shoulders become a stance of toughness, “I can put up with that.” “I don’t have to stand for their nonsense and will ignore it.” The fourth option I will expand on for the rest of this post.

Non-Violence

This fourth way might be called a way of compassion, a way of non-violence. Within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, compassion is defined as the wish for beings to be free from their suffering or their problems. When we are angry, regardless of the how right or wrong we are, we are not happy. Our blood is boiling, our mind is mass of churning thoughts, our heart is beating fast, we’ve probably lost our appetite and it is hard for us to find any peace of mind in that moment. Within this fourth way the issue is not about what you have been accused of, rather it is about the other person who is accusing you and what they are going through as a result of their disagreement with you. It is about a relationship that has been wounded and holding the door open for reconciliation. It is not about you claiming that you don’t make mistakes or get angry, rather in this moment where we have been wrongfully accused it is about seeing if we can lay the foundations for building bridges and if that is not possible to move forward in our lives without holding a grudge.

Of course this is all easier said than done. It is easy to read these words, but when we are feeling wronged the voices inside us start shouting loudly in defense and we soon fall back into accusatory ways. The trick is to have a commitment to something that can act like a trigger to catch yourself before you react.

Presence

The commitment that I would like to suggest of you is to being present, to being aware of now. By coming back to this moment, we are moving towards the root of our own suffering. That root is not concerned about whether we have been wronged or not, but how we are reacting to the situation. Is our response going to protract the suffering or work to remove it?

This commitment of being present speaks to our mindfulness practice. It is taking our meditation practice off the cushion and into our daily life. By committing to be present, we are more likely to catch ourselves when we feel that we have been criticized unfairly. Through that catch, there is a pause. In that moment we have a choice - we can fall back into old ways, or choose another path, a path that does not exacerbate conflict but looks to build bridges.

Keeping the Gremlins at Bay

See if this rings true for you? You’ve just got off a telephone call or are out of a meeting where something was said to you that felt like a blow to the solar plexus. However, you barely have time to come up for air and take stock of the situation when your schedule calls you to your next appointment.

So you are sitting in your next appointment trying to stay focused on the people and task at hand, but that last conversation is banging at the door and won’t leave you alone. How do you handle this situation until you have time to give the troublesome conversation your attention?

The Pink Floyd song, “Hey You” from their album  The Wall has the lyric,

and the worms ate into your brain.

That unhappy line is followed by sounds that perfectly conjure up the image of something niggling away at your mind, insidiously aggravating you with its presence. A mass of wriggling worms feels to me like the perfect analogy (with all due respect to worms).

The world of mindfulness and Buddhist meditation speaks a lot about being present to now, to what is going on in the present moment. We are advised that, “the past has gone, the future is yet to come, now is the knowing.” This is sound advice and bears constant reflection. It is easy to discount its wisdom as it is not an easy instruction to live by. However, whether it is easy or not is not reason to discard it. Some of what is most worthwhile requires of us our deepest effort. That being said, when there has been a deep blow to us the best laid plans can seem a distant stretch. At such times we can easily find ourselves craving distractions of assurance and comfort over trying to keep the noises at bay.

Sharing an experience

Earlier this week I had an experience similar to what I have described here. I put the phone down feeling winded, sent an email to a friend just to share and offload, and then headed to my qigong class. Engaging in a meditative exercise certainly helped. It was easier to cope with than a busy meeting, but I was still yearning for some alone time to process the worms that were eating into my brain. As we moved on with the class, and as the noise from the phone call crept into my mind, I kept bringing myself back to the qigong practice. That noise after all was just a series of thoughts, given substance by the attention that I gave to them. Slowly the noises quietened. They never completely went away, although there were moments when I forgot about the call as I became more focused on the qigong. That in itself shows that the mental voices only react to the power that we give to them.

With the class over I could feel the ripples from my earlier call build again, and I went home to reflect on its implications. But the words also made me reflect on the words of the eighth century Indian Buddhist saint Shatideva who said,

There is nothing at all which cannot become easier through practice.

Meditation

Meditation can be a deceptive practice. The instruction is simple yet the practice requires commitment and perseverance to experience the results. Meditation is not an escape into a quiet world (though at times there might be good reason to use it for that). Rather it is a familiarization with a world that many of us do not visit, our own minds. It is a familiarization with and retraining for how we interact with what arises in the mind.

Aided with a motivation or reason for being on the cushion, with time you can start to experience the workable nature of the mind. The worms might still knock at the door of your brain, but you realize that you don’t have to let them in. Acknowledge them, say “Hi,” and let them go on their merry way. This starts on your cushion but with time and familiarization this practice creeps into your daily life. You are deepening your awareness and creating new habits in your mind. These efforts are felt in your own life and ripple out into the world around you.

Strive for Perfection, Stay in Practice

Practice - to rehearse, to work at, to train; from the Greek, praktikos - active, practical.

Practice is a word that we use to describe our meditation and yoga training. We speak of a meditation practice, our yoga practice, our qigong practice. In this vein, what might _practice_ have to say about our day to day endeavors that surround these trainings?

When we turn up for our yoga class or sit to meditate invariably there is that part of us that is looking to be better than last time - to have a clearer mind, to hold that position longer than last time. We look round the room full of other yogis and create stories in our mind that do not serve us. The narratives speak of how we should be, and we feel that until we get into that position our own practice is somehow lacking.

But let’s stop and look at that word practice. There is a sense of ongoingness about it, continuity. One rarely hears about the end or conclusion of these trainings…unless we choose to pack them in. What practice is telling us is the never-ending nature of the activity that we are engaging in. There is not a finishing place, a goal to which we are headed, rather a continuous learning and deeper exploration of what it is we are engaged in. If we are willing to explore, with each learning another door opens to reveal deeper truths that are waiting to be discovered. It is an understanding and realization that you are never quite there, you are always practicing to reach that next level.

Returning to the narratives that we tell ourselves, in time holding ourselves to those expectations becomes exhausting. Just the practice and asking of our body and mind to do something that it is not use to doing becomes enough. To give yourself competition on top of that just becomes too much. So you let go of the striving and just show up to practice.

We strive for perfection, creating in our minds a world that does not exist for us right now and may never do so, and in doing so we miss being present to where we are now. Practice is not about reaching for perfection, it is being present with who we are now, bowing to the insights that that brings us, and moving through the same motions again to see what else might be revealed to us. 

Practice shows to us the elusiveness of perfection, even if in the eyes of others we have achieved it, for in getting there we see that more is possible. We can go deeper, and the practice continues. This is even true if our body doesn’t allow us to bend further, run faster. We still ask ourselves, “what more is there to learn here?”

So in your work strive to do well, strive to do your best, but remember the practice element of it. What is there for you to learn in this moment?

Meditation In Service of Introverts

Meditation and introversion have something in common - the mind. For introverts the mind is a place of activity, but also a place of refuge. Meditation is an activity for familiarizing ourselves with our mind, and for developing its unrealized potential. That might sound exciting and scary in equal measure, but hopefully this article will lend some perspective. With this close connection, I believe that there is a place where meditation can be of service to introverts.

As a way of finding balance and wholeness, introverts seek solitude and alone time. Time with themselves, their inner selves. As Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, says:

“…I also believe that introversion is my greatest strength. I have such a strong inner life that I’m never bored and only occasionally lonely. No matter what mayhem is happening around me, I know I can always turn inward.”

Mind and Meditation

The mind is the precursor to our actions and the lens through which we see and experience the world. It is something that we are so close to and yet so unfamiliar with at the same time. In the same way that as we get to know an employee or student better we understand what they are truly capable of and how to bring those qualities out of them, so as we get to know our mind better the tool of meditation can help develop the potentialities of the mind.

While introverts can spend much time in introspection at times the internal dialogue, our place of retreat, can seem as noisy as the world that we have tried to get away from. In such instances the activity of meditation, which will take us inside, can seem like the last thing that we would want to do. On the one hand is the image of meditation as providing peace, on the other is having to go inside and face the noise that we are trying to get away from.

The practice of meditation offers many tools for working on the mind. One of these tools is mindfulness. Mindfulness allows us to observe the dialogue taking place in the mind but not get involved. As you are only observing the chatter, there is nothing for the mind to latch onto and develop the stories. You are not giving the mind any fuel to keep going and so in time the stories burn themselves out. The mind being the mind, a new conversation will start up soon enough, but you are there only to observe. See the mind as like a glass of muddy water that has been allowed to sit. As the dust settles, so the noise slowly quietens.

Mindfulness in Daily Life

The formal practice of mindfulness might see you watching your breath, just observing the ebb and flow of the breath as it enters and leaves the nose. From time to time you will be distracted by thoughts arising in your mind. You simply acknowledge them with no judgement of good or bad, simply ‘a thought’ and come back to your breath.

That is the formal practice of mindfulness, but the practice is not limited to solely that time that you are on your meditation cushion. No, mindfulness is a tool that is there for you to use whenever you choose. For introverts this can be especially useful if you are hitting saturation at the end of a busy day, during a long meeting, at a socializing event. For introverts that sense of exhaustion can be felt in the body and mind. We will sense the weariness coming on, latch onto those feelings and start identifying strongly with what is arising in our body and mind. However, by using our mindfulness practice we start to recognize that these noises in our body and mind are not solid, they are passing, ephemeral, transient. This is not to suggest that they are not real - you are still the exhausted introvert who would like to get home as soon as possible. The trick though is in how you identify with what is coursing through you. You can either see the aches and pains of your body and mind as solid and fixed, or as mindfulness enables us to experience, impermanent and ever changing.

The Pliable Mind

Your formal mindfulness sessions will reveal to you the transient, ever changing nature of your thoughts. This does not change when you go about your everyday life. So as you notice tiredness or aches and pains creep into your body, watch those feelings. Chances are as an introvert you are doing more listening than chatting, so use that quiet time at the meeting or social event to just be with the tiredness, observe the “I want to go home” thoughts, acknowledge the aches…and then just let them go. Just observe them, don’t engage or put any judgement on them. The wish to get away is still there, it is real, but now you are not allowing it to have such a firm grip on you. There is more space there with which to work, to relax (yes relax) into. You are still battling the storm of tiredness, but now you are finding time to come for air. An introvert is who you are, yes, but you are not boxing yourself into an image of what that means to you. Your mind is revealing to you who you are and what might be possible.

Mindfulness allows us to develop a pliability of the mind by seeing through and not fixating so rigidly on the images and stories that we tell ourselves. Mindfulness practice shows us that reality and gives us the malleability of our mind to work with in our daily lives. With that experience the world, not just for introverts, becomes more workable.

Riding Up That Hill

I’ll have to ask you to fill in the blanks on this one. I am writing about extroverts and introverts, but any dualism can be exchanged in replacement for these opposites. This article is primarily about awareness, a tool that is central to meditation practice. I’d also like to suggest that it is central to our interaction with others and in that vein it is also a post in support of introverts.

Awareness

Within meditation practice, awareness is that little watcher in our minds that keeps an eye on where the focus of our mind is. In there is a paradox - it is faculty of the mind that keeps an eye on what the mind is doing. Are we staying with the object of meditation or have we wavered onto some more pressing - of course our meditation practice is important but once we ask our mind to focus, the subject of what we are going to eat for breakfast or that afternoon meeting suddenly becomes more interesting.

So awareness watches and catches us when we stray from the object of meditation and gently brings us back. In our everyday life awareness is like a self-policing. Do we know the full story of what is going on here? Are we responding appropriately to this situation? Awareness is continually asking of us to ask deeper questions. Do we have the full picture here? I’ll explore this from a perspective on the extrovert/introvert interaction…from the introvert perspective. But first bicycles.

Bicycling

I enjoy cycling. I enjoying cycling not as a sport but as a recreational cyclist. I own a couple of bicycles for getting around. My trusty work horse is a Brompton a British designed, fold-up bike that gets me around the city of Portland. For longer recreational rides I have a Specialized road bike. The Specialized has twenty gears, the Brompton, six. The Brompton is a good strong bicycle but it does make me work harder on the hills, longer rides and pedaling against the wind. I jump on the  carbon fibre Specialized and suddenly cycling becomes like putting a hot knife through butter - effortless.

When you are on a bike there are hills, and there are hills. Some of the regular hills are so gradual that if you are in a car you probably don’t even notice them. However, for the cyclist the gradual incline soon works its way into your muscles. You might choose to take a break while riding the incline, find yourself panting for breath at the barely perceptible top and wearily free wheeling down the other side, having little inclination to pedal but a wish to rest those tired legs. Because of the time taken pedaling up the hill you might take in some details of the route traversed, the sites passed, the smells in the air.

The car driver however, through no fault of their own, does not recognize the hill. The car strains little if at all. You are soon at the top, quite possibly not even recognizing or registering it as a ‘top,’ and carry on with your journey. The awareness is not there of a hill having been traveled along, or the details of the journey itself.

The Monkey Mind

I use this to illustrate the unintended lack of awareness that extroverts can bring to the needs of introverts. This article is not about “never ending introvert suffering”! Indeed we can all bring a lack of awareness to anything that is not a major player in our own lives. No, the intention here is simply awareness, or lack of - whether it is from introverts to extroverts, vise versa or between those blanks that you filled in at the beginning.

Without an awareness of the needs of introverts to have some quiet time to recharge. Without an awareness of introverts ability to make informed decisions though maybe taking longer over it. Without an awareness for introverts working better on their own or in small, like minded groups. Without this awareness, the needs of introverts are not understood and introverts can be looked on from a critical, ‘less than’ perspective and in doing so skills and opportunities be overlooked.

From the meditation perspective awareness is what catches the mind from running off in its own dialogue and brings us back to the object of meditation. Without awareness in our meditation we get lost in the mind’s games and word plays. We need awareness to keep us focused, keep us on track and for the meditation to be of benefit. A meditation session with no awareness just becomes a spaced out session, just sitting back and watching the mind’s show. I’m not suggesting that you have to be completely focused 100% of the time, far from it. Meditation is that moment where you do catch yourself.

Many people do not realize that they have this monkey mind, charging off in all directions and we consequently become a slave to our minds. Without this awareness to the needs of the introverts or whoever the different groups are in your life, our interactions become reactions that are based in our old habits and beliefs.

Stop, breathe, look, ask.

Quiet Time, Space, Mindfulness and Focus

How much time do you give to be just with yourself? Why should you want to? 

For six mornings of the week members of Portland Japanese Garden have access to the Gardens for two hours before they open to the general public. The other morning I finally made it up there to benefit from this special privilege.

The silence and stillness on that summer’s morning, the sound of the birds singing and running water, the vividness of the views seen many times before, but being all the more precise with the absence of people.

Why, or why had I not made it up there earlier?

I can in part answer this for myself. Morning quiet time is important to me. Unless I know that I am getting up for an early meeting or to travel somewhere, I plan on starting the day away from busyness and noise. There is plenty of time for that during the day, and my introverted self starts better with a quiet, self-reflective boost before the day gets going. Secondly is my daily meditation practice which is a stable for me just like having breakfast, or the sleep that I have just woken up from. So walking to the car, a drive and walk up to the Gardens, and an uncertainty of just how busy that journey might be and how many conversations I could get drawn into along the way, tends me more to the assured quietness of home.

I was nudged out the front door yesterday morning by some busyness at home. The Japanese Garden seemed like a good second option. As I travelled further up the hill it became apparent just how quiet it was going to be. There were few people around, and beneath the trees was the stillness of a day just starting. On entering the Gardens I walked to find a place to practice Qigong, before moving down to the Rock Garden to meditate. The few people there moved around respectful of their fellow visitors’ space, speaking in hushed voices.

After an hour I headed for home, nourished not only by the silence but also the time spent in nature. The day was still ahead of me.

Returning to those two initially posed questions. How much time do you give to yourself each day? Time free from meetings, emails, other people, phones. And if you were to do so, what would be the benefit? Our over busy, multi-distracted lives aside from not being good for our health, can also lead to less productivity and less time checking in with ourselves. The multitaskers are praised and celebrated, but time spent continually switching between jobs and worrying about what the next distraction coming down the pipe might be, all means less concentration and focus on the current job in hand and with those whom we are working with.

In our run around what is driving us - our fears, concerns, habits and reactions, or our clear thought through ideas? Time spent with ourselves is a “STOP” in the middle of the freneticism. It allows the dust of busyness to settle and what we are really feeling to rise more to the surface - is our body telling us we need to rest, are we really happy with the suggestions being made, would we prefer more time to think through this solution? More time spent in this space starts to change the habits of where we work from. Familiarity here does not breed contempt but a knowing of who we are and how we react to different situations. In the long term the result becomes us catching ourselves more quickly when we find ourselves simply reacting as opposed to coming from our heart.


Quiet Time

So what might this alone time look like? Here is a suggestion. Not a full blown, formal mindfulness meditation session, though the essence of it is here.

Early morning is a good time to give yourself some quiet time. You are fresh from the stillness of your night’s sleep. The day is still as the world wakes up. Before your reach for your smart phone, checkin on the news or your email, schedule ten minutes to be alone with yourself. Find a comfortable chair, or if you like sit on the floor. The important thing is to have a straight back. This allows the mind to stay fresh and alert.

Now as you sit there, just be aware of what is arising for you in those moments. What is arising in your mind? What sensations are there in your body? There is no judgement in what arises, just observation. Be like an usher collecting tickets at the theatre. You see the people walk up to you, and then they are gone. If you catch yourself getting involved in a conversation with your observations, without judgement let that go and return to the observing. If this is not something that you are use to doing, ten minutes alone could feel like an age, but stick with it.

During the day it can be helpful to reinforce the habit of mindfulness that you were observing in the morning. Look for opportunities to remind you to come back to yourself for as little as a few seconds. Here are some suggestions:

  • A telephone ringing - don’t just reach for it, take a deep breath, feel your presence in the chair and then answer the phone.
  • The brake lights of the car in front of you.
  • A stop light.
  • Try driving without the radio on or music playing.
  • Standing in line for food or a drink. If you are by yourself, don’t check your phone but be aware of your breathing. Deepen your breath. Be aware of your feet on the ground.
  • If you are eating by yourself, don’t eat and read. Just be aware of yourself eating. The chewing of the food, the texture of the food, swallowing the food.
  • When walking walk mindfully, staying aware of yourself walking. Use your breath, or the stepping of your feet as an anchor to keep yourself focused. I have written on this here.

So why should you want to give time to yourself? For you own well being, but also for the benefit of your work and those with whom you work and live. You’ll start to catch yourself being distracted, working off autopilot and find the space to stop and better consider the situation that has presented itself to you. You will start to find space where at first there appeared to be none.

The Silent Warrior

When I hear the word “warrior” I usually think of a fearsome character going off into battle, probably on horse back. Such a person appears to me as an ancient and noble figure, adorned in ornate clothes, and carrying some masterly crafted weaponry.

In this article I’d like to introduce to you to two other types of warrior. One is established and known within some circles. This warrior is motivated by altruism to battle the ignorance and suffering in the world.

The second type of warrior is one who has probably existed for centuries, but who I see emerging and gaining more prominence in this time.

In Mahayana Buddhism there exists the concept of the Bodhisattva. A Bodhisattva is one who has the bodhicitta mind. Etymologically bodhicitta is a combination of two Sanskrit words. “Bodhi” means “awakening” and “enlightenment.” “Citta” has the Sanskrit root “cit” which means “that which is conscious.” Bodhicitta is quite often translated as, “mind of enlightenment.” It is also referred to as an unusual mind. Why “unusual” - because very few beings have it. It is a mind that thinks of others before self. For most of us self normally shows up in the picture somewhere. How often do we offer of ourselves with absolutely no wish for anything in return?

The Bodhisattva is sometimes referred to as a warrior. Like other warriors, the Bodhisattva warrior goes into battle. This warrior is fighting against the delusional self-interest that causes so much pain to individuals and nations. To engage in this battle the Bodhisattva carries two weapons, compassion and wisdom. Compassion is that deep wish to see all suffering be removed from the world and to personally engage in the work required to alleviate this suffering. However, compassion alone is not enough. With only compassion there is the danger of burnout. The other weapon is wisdom, the insight to see into the true, interconnected nature of reality. The web of life that binds us all together. This is the root of all suffering. Like compassion, the weapon of wisdom cannot act alone. It is too cool, analytical. It needs the warmth of compassion.

It is with the Bodhisattva in mind that I see the emergence of another warrior in our midst. This warrior has a different, but no less important mission. Their mission is to enrich the world with the qualities that a quiet, but attentive mind offers. In a noisy world, this warrior reminds us of the value of silence, of observing closely, of listening deeply. I call this warrior the Silent Warrior. What weapons might the silent warrior carry? I’d like to suggest a few to you.

  • Patience: The qualities of a quiet mind might take a while to take root in the world. During that time the silent ones might be misunderstood, not heard. The Silent Warrior is not deterred. They know that they have some something of deep value to give to the world and are prepared to wait.
  • Persistence: With their rich inner lives, the silent ones have resources to draw on when the going gets tough.
  • Listening: The Silent Warriors listen deeply, carefully, feeling no need to rush in with their opinions. They take note of what is being said and act accordingly.
  • Relationships: For those with whom they connect, the Silent Warrior will build a close relationship. Not for them to run around and create shallow relationships. They will spend time with you, get to know you and see in what way they might be able to help.
  • Leadership: Feeding off the last two items, as a leader the Silent Warrior will not force their opinion on their team. The Silent Leader will work collaboratively, listening to what others have to say, encouraging team members to offer and synthesize their ideas.

These five weapons are the principle ones that I have identified the Silent Warrior as carrying. Are there others that I have missed? Are you a Silent Warrior, gathering your weapons to bring your quiet presence to the world?

A Bed of Leaves

British winter days are short. Throw in a blanket of grey cloud cover and any daylight there was soon diminishes. For some this sort of weather is just too much - I think of those suffering from SAD. For me though, and I’ve lived in and loved many other climates, I feel a deep affinity with the British winters. Access to a warm, dry house does help.

While living in South Wales, the winter times were particularly quiet. The trees stripped of their leaves, frost on the ground, or rain falling brought fewer people out to the Retreat community, apart from those seeking the solitude that this time of year brought. When I had finished work I would like to put on a good coat and boots and head off across the fields for a walk. The sheep would bleat as you drew near, watching you skeptically before darting off after deciding that you had nothing for them. Their constant nibbling had given the fields a close crop.

I remember one walk that took me to a small woodland. At the edge of the woods a tree draped its branches over a small depression in the ground. The hollow was full of leaves, I would guess more than a year’s worth of autumnal offerings. It was late afternoon, still, cold and a damp mist hung over the region. I walked down into the depression. In that dip the distant roar of traffic was silenced. I laid out on the mattress of leaves, spread out my arms and just starred up at the branches above me. I don’t know how long I lay there, but I allowed the leaves to support me, seeming to sink deeper and deeper into the natural cushion beneath me, allowing the fallen foliage to hold me up, take on my tiredness, my wish for some silence, my wish to let go of any stress or bothers that were nagging at me. I stayed there as long as I dared myself, as long as I wanted to. It all seemed like a luxury to be able to do this and at the same time I was saying to myself, “I need this, I want this,” so I let go and allowed myself to just ‘be’.

Ten years on this experience is still very vivid and real to me.

Why do I share this story? I share it because of what it gave me and what it enabled me to do, but also because of the theme of being held and what that can give you.

Time in nature has always been important to me and led me to the study of ecopsychology. Because of the nature (pun intended) of my life and work in Wales, I found myself experiencing the world which I lived in in a very intimate way. A way that I believe can only come from time spent being and observing. So that experience of lying on a bed of leaves in the stillness and coolness of a winter’s evening gave to me so much more than what simply resting on a bed might have done. There was a visceral experience of being held and experiencing something that I was very close to and with that I could trust, namely the earth.

To be held is a very empowering process - introvert, extrovert, whoever we self-identify as. That sense of being deeply held whatever the challenges of life bring to us. We can be held by family, by a loved one, by a community of like minded friends, by our faith, by a coach. When we are held in this way, there is no expectation put on us to be anyone but ourselves. With that belief in us, the holder is with us wherever we are, whatever we are doing. In conversation with us they might celebrate us, encourage us, or perhaps challenge us, but it is always done because they believe in us unconditionally. That is powerful, strengthening, emboldening.

That winter’s day in South Wales the earth held me. I breathed in her scents, dressed myself against the evening chill, felt the dampness. It was real and instinctual, and I think because I have a deep love and connection with that small corner of the world, the experience lives with me. The earth is always there.

So who is holding you? Who is always there for you unconditionally? What do you need to create that relationship, a relationship beyond conditions?

The Hypnotic Sound of Silence

Life can be a game of give and take at times. We’d prefer things to be one way but for one reason or another we are called to meet the situation halfway. One area where this can be a real challenge is when our comfort zone is confronted. Unless resolution is strong to push through resistance, we’ll spew forth with reasons why we couldn’t, shan’t, are not able to show up.

As an introvert one area where this is particularly true for me is when I am in need of some silence and solitude. I have been through a particularly busy period and a window of opportunity to some quiet time alone opens up - I’m in! Like a glass of shaken up muddy water, my mind has hit overload and is yearning to allow the dust to settle. As the swirling mire of dirt particles start to come to rest in the glass of my mind, the noise in my head subsides and with that relief, comfort and deep nourishment start to envelope me.

This is all fine and I’m sure something that introverts can relate to, but perhaps they can also relate to,

  • “When spending a heavenly weekend alone means that you’re missing out on time with friends,”
  • “And you fear that by doing so, you are nearing ‘hermit’ status.” 

What about when the tug becomes between work needing to be done and the quiet recharge? The pull of quiet time becomes hypnotic. You start to feel the deep comfort wrapping itself around you like the ultimate comfort blanket. Hypnotized by the relief that the solitude gives us, we are sucked into inaction (and let’s not forget, rest as well) - friends go unseen, work languishes or at least is given less than our full attention.

Full time alone whether hour or a weekend has its place, but sometimes we need the click of fingers in front of our face to wake up and move into action. This is not about ignoring our introverted tendencies or becoming an extrovert, it is about adaptation. Adaptation in order to be in the world. To use words from the start of this post, it is about give and take.

Silence is golden for introverts, at least it is for this one, but I would guess that I am not the only one. As Susan Cain, author of  Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking has said,

“Solitude matters, and for some it is the air that they breathe.”

So all the more so, when we are called to step away from that which feeds us so deeply, it is helpful to have a strong motivation to give us the strength to keep going when we would prefer to be elsewhere. I have written a little about this sort of motivation here, but in essence it is about stopping and reflecting on why you need to step out of this quiet zone. Perhaps it is because of connecting with friends who you value deeply and haven’t seen for a while? Perhaps it is to do with why you are attending this meeting or networking event, the importance of it to your work? Sit and be with your need to be elsewhere for a while, that reason for putting aside your comfort blanket. Let this motivation seep into you and it will lend fuel to your action. With strong resolve and give and take, we can more comfortably step out from under the spell of that silence.

Here are some suggestions for managing our needs against the needs of being in the world. The motivation is personal to you. Find it, be with it, and then embracing adaptation step into the world.

  • Know that at least once a year, perhaps every few months (pick a time span that works for your life,) you will take a period of time to yourself.
  • During a weekend alone, timetable your time. You might spend the afternoon with friends, but make sure that the evening is yours.
  • At business events, give yourself a time that you will stay until. When you arrive explain that you have to leave at such and such a time. If you stay longer, so be it.
  • Let people know what you are needing in your life so that they respect when you excuse yourself.
  • At business gatherings and social events with friends set yourself a number of people who you will connect with. Spend time with those people. When you have hit your limit, unless you feel like staying longer, excuse yourself.

Have you caught yourself wrapping yourself in your comfort blanket? What strategies have you used for stepping out of your comfort zone?

"I Use to be an Introvert, But..."

When people ask what I do and I reply that I work with introverts I am surprised how often I hear back the comment, “I used to be an introvert, but…,” and the person then proceeds to explain how they managed to transform themselves. As I listen to them speak, I invariably get the sense that they feel as though they have overcome an impediment that was holding them back.

I believe that the statement and assumptions that underlie it arise out of a misunderstanding of what introversion is. I don’t doubt that the person who I have spoken to has overcome something that was holding them back, but I’m sure that what they have overcome is not introversion.

For me two assumptions are present in this statement. One, that introversion can be fixed, and two, that if you do fix it, i.e. are no longer an introvert, life will be better. Let’s examine these two assumptions.

First, introversion is not something that you grow out of. You either are an introvert or you are not. What you might be is shy, a social anxiety. This might overlap with your introversion, but it is not the same. Extroverts can be shy. Shyness is something that you can work on and with time overcome. Introverts have no problem meeting new people. They can show up for parties, even if their tendency is for more intimate gatherings. After a lot of socializing introverts find a need to retreat and recharge in their own company. Introverts who find social events draining can increase their capacity for social mingling. I’ve offered a couple of solutions in this article, however that does not take away who they are and their preference for quieter gatherings and time to refresh themselves.

This need for alone time is sometimes misunderstood as the person lacking confidence, being shy or a loner, i.e. something that is wrong with the introvert. Or, with the introvert moving away from the group, the group members can find themselves thinking that the introvert perceives that something is wrong with them. However this is not about anybody doing or thinking anything wrong, it is about the introvert doing what they need to do - take some alone time, some quiet time, to recharge, think, process. An introverts’ mind is wired to need that solitary time. To take a more prosaic example, no one thinks twice if someone excuses themselves to go to the toilet. There is a need and someone is taking action to fulfill that need.

One could also look at the issue of overload. We all hit times when we just need downtime. Life - demands, noise, what we can deal with - just get too much and we just need to take a time out. For an introvert who spends a lot of time in their head, that threshold is lower than for extroverts. With a lot going on, perhaps at a party, the need to take some time away, leave early can cut in before others. As an introvert, though, I have been the last to leave a gathering on more than one occasion. The trick? Usually I have got into a conversation with one or two people - the party has just turned into a small gathering, much more manageable!

Moving onto the second issue, implicit in that assumption is that introversion is something that one would want to get over. That those who are introverts are in some way lacking; not bad people, but that their situation in some way puts them at a disadvantage - so look for ways to move on if you can. In listening to the person who asked me the question, I am always left with the feeling that the person feels as though their life has moved on to something better now that they are ‘no longer’ an introvert. From my side I am left with the unspoken question, “Why would anyone want to get over introversion anyway?” I believe that this simply comes down to misunderstandings, fed by cultural conditioning, of what works in the world today and the introverts place, or lack of in that world. To be born into a culture where the extroverted nature is dominant the message that one hears from a young age is that if you want to get ahead, you are better off being one way rather than another. However, with a third to fifty percent of the population being introverts, that is a lot of people to look down on, and probably includes family members, friends and work colleagues (you might be surprised to find out who the introverts are in your life). We both, extroverts and introverts, have skills, qualities and strengths that can benefit each other and the world in which we live in. Reaching out and exploring and learning about those strengths is a stronger and more beneficial place to come from.

So if you find yourself saying, “I used to be an introvert, but…,” catch yourself and ask yourself what it is that you feel you have overcome. You probably have grown in who you are as a person, but no longer being an introvert is not what has changed. You are either are an introvert and still are, albeit with different social skills, or never were in the first place.

Viewing Life from Another Perspective

Whether introverted or extroverted in nature a change in perspective can help navigate trying times, indeed even make the seemingly impossible possible…even if just temporarily.

On one of my walks into town I pass a man sweeping the road. Morning seems to be the time to catch him. I have no idea what his age is, but I would guess that he is around the 70 mark. He sweeps with intention and strong focus. He has a grey, scraggly beard and wears a reflective jacket.

He sweeps near a busy junction - people walking to work, yoga or a late breakfast - traffic vying for position to either join the freeway or cross over it. The reflective jacket is a good idea. Drivers are pretty aware of pedestrians and cyclists in this city, but early morning preoccupations can distract an otherwise focused eye.

I might be wrong, but I don’t think that this man works for anyone. The two nearby restaurants I don’t believe would require the sort of sweeping that he does. You see he has this fervor about him that gives me a sense that he has taken this job on for himself, for whatever reason. With his broom he takes small, very small, jabbing actions, digging his brush deep into the pavement. There is normally little rubbish there, and what there is most other people would take only a few long sweeping actions to clear. Of course, I could be very wrong on all of this, but the intensity of his work seems to be more than is necessary. However, what really interests me is his focus. If there is dirt there, he will find it and there is no distracting him from that task.

Seeing this man in action always make me think of a Buddhist story. Its truth or otherwise is not important, what is important is the story that it tells.

A young monk was struggling with his studies. He’d learn one word, move onto the next and forget the first. So he’d go back to memorize the first word and forget the second. His colleagues were soon well ahead of him and he was despairing as whether he could accomplish anything. At this point the Buddha came along and handed him a broom. The Buddha instructed him to sweep the monastery’s courtyard while the monks were inside chanting their prayers. While he was sweeping, the Buddha instructed the monk to repeat to himself, “clean away the dust, clear away the dirt,” and with that the young monk set to it.

Time passes by and the monk finds himself reflecting as he sweeps. He reflects that not only is he cleaning away the dirt but also that he needs to sweep away the negative thoughts in his mind. In other words, he is becoming mindful of what is going through his mind, catching himself when the disparaging, unhelpful thoughts arise and transforming them into something more positive - i.e. anger into patience. Of course there is a happy ending to this story, with the young monk becoming enlightened.

We are constantly telling ourselves stories in our head, stories that don’t help us - how bad we are, annoyance at that person who is getting in the way, that room full of people that we would prefer not to interact with - but they are just perspectives on life. Then I see the man sweeping by the side of the road and I am reminded that I can transform that view, look at things from another perspective - clear these unhelpful perspectives from my mind.

These opportunities for transformation are all around us - opening curtains, opening myself to what a new day will bring - closing a door, putting an end to the ill will I express to others. With that transformation our perspectives broaden and the world of possibilities opens up for us. Look for the ordinary in life that can act as a prompt, as a reminder for you to transform the unhelpful into the helpful in your life, the negative into the positive, the ordinary into the profound.

Managing Overwhelm (II)

In the last article we looked at scenarios where you find yourself becoming overwhelmed. That is you are at an event, whether business or social, and you start to notice a creeping sensation of exhaustion enveloping you. There might be pain involved, physical or mental, and consequently you have to muster all of your strength just to stay present.

If you have the opportunity to excuse yourself and leave, you are free. You can go home, take a walk, or do whatever you need to do in that moment to recharge. If however circumstances dictate that you have to stay around and be involved, you are going to need some resources to draw on - and I am not talking about a stiff drink, though some may choose that.

For the introverts reading this I’m sure that you can relate to this experience, though I am not just writing this for introverts among us. We can all find ourselves in situations where we are called to be engaged, but our body and mind are screaming for us to take a time out. In those situations, whoever you are, you need something to keep yourself afloat and present.

The last post looked at the meditation technique of “breathing through.” This article will look at mindfulness.

Mindfulness is about bringing a presence of mind to what you are feeling now - what is arising in this moment? However at the same time you are not getting involved with the thoughts or sensations that are here now. I mentioned last time about using _breathing through_ in everyday situations, but also giving yourself some solitary practice time, quiet meditation. Here we will look at the solitary practice first. This is because the mind responds well to constant familiarization, indeed the Tibetan word for meditation, göm, means to become familiar with. Through this when you find yourself in certain situations you respond in a way congruent with a trained mind as opposed to falling back into old habits. That might sound dry, but that is what meditation is enabling you to do - to familiarize yourself with states of mind - focus, love, patience.

So find a quiet and safe place to sit where you will be undisturbed. Make yourself comfortable. Then start quieting the mind by bringing your attention to the breath. Not a forced breath, but the simple sensation of the breath entering and leaving the nose. The mind will wander, for sure, but don’t scold yourself, just gently bring yourself back to this awareness as though you are a silent observer. The observing mind will wander off with regularity - no matter, just gently come back to the breath.

When the mind has settled start to observe your thoughts. Don’t get involved with them, just watch. You are not aiming to silence the mind, though that might happen briefly, so don’t start setting yourself goals. Rather you are simply observing your thoughts. An analogy might be looking out of a window at the scenery; you are not involved, just watching. As you watch you’ll notice that all these thoughts follow a similar pattern - arise, hang around for a bit, and then dissolve away. With the mind being the precursor to all our actions, this familiarity with the nature of what is passing through the mind has implications for how we experience and act in our lives. We’ll explore this by looking at our overwhelm scenarios.

Transitioning back to our party or business meeting where tiredness is creeping up on you, ask yourself how is that tiredness manifesting - weariness, aching, heavy eyes, other? Notice those feelings. I’m sure that there are moments when you are not talking, when you are not so involved so that you have that space to be with yourself. Observe those feelings and thoughts, see their transitory nature and allow them to go. A second later they will probably show up again, but once more just let them pass by. Observe that feeling of overwhelm and let it go. Part of what causes us discomfort is feeling as though these thoughts and feelings are solid, but they are not. Moment to moment they are changing. Recognizing the nature of these sensations and their corresponding thoughts allow us to let go of them more easily. From this we can develop some mental space to be with that which we don’t like. In short, the situation becomes more workable.

I offer these two techniques, breathing through and mindfulness, in the hope that they can offer you some respite when life is becoming difficult for you. If you choose to try them out, don’t expect to see instant results, and at the same time don’t give up too easily. Our mind is habituated into ways of being and essentially we are trying to retrain it. That takes time. Be easy on yourself.

Having said all of that, do use common sense. If things are just getting too much, do what you have to do to make things right for you.

Managing Overwhelm (I)

This is the first part of a two part article exploring ways of helping yourself when you feel that you are hitting overwhelm. While written from my experiences as an introvert, these techniques are applicable to anyone. We all have our limits. When we reach them if we are still called to act, we need ways to keep ourselves afloat and stay focused.

Here are some scenarios:

  • You’ve had a long day, the conference has been very interesting but perhaps your stimulation levels have maxed out. Though you’d much prefer to retire to your hotel room, there is still the evening session to go.
  • The party is still going strong. You’ve had a good evening, met up with a number of old friends, made some new ones but are feeling exhausted now. You’d like to leave, but your partner wants to stay a while longer.
  • It’s been a day of hard negotiations with various challenges to deal with coming in from all sides, sometimes unexpectedly. You can see the end in sight, but you are not there yet. You are going to have to muster all your will power to stay with the process.

Do any of these ring true for you? I’d guess that within the outlines there is a seed of something that you have experienced. What do you do when mind and body are screaming “I want to leave,” but you know that the situation requires of you to hang in there a bit longer - and not only that, full presence is required?

In these situations we have two conflicting voices inside ourselves shouting for attention. On the one hand there is the body and mind that is exhausted and wants to go home to put their feet up, and on the other is the external situation that is demanding your undivided attention. While not denying your tiredness, and honestly responding to it where the need justifies, we need some way of acknowledging but keeping at bay the tired voice while allowing ourselves to muster all the strength that we can to be present to the task at hand.

When in such situations I have found a couple of practices to be of great help. They are both meditation practices and can happen without the knowledge of anyone around you, thus not getting in the way of what it is you are doing. In this context do not see meditation as something that happens in a quiet room while you are sitting on a chair or cushion. There can be that side to these practices, and we shall touch on them. Rather look on these as tools that you can take with you into the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Tools that take up no room, but are always with you.

In this post I shall look at the practice of “Breathing Through.”

With breathing through you are being purposefully present to the struggle or emotion that you are dealing with. When you feel overwhelm it becomes something palpable to your experience. As the sense of overwhelm hits you, imagine that you are breathing it into yourself through your nose. Breathe this overwhelm down into you and through your heart, allowing it to dissolve as it passed through your heart. Imagine your heart cradling and holding the pain and discomfort that you are feeling, and in doing so the tension and weariness that you perceive dissolves away. At times in doing this you could well notice resistance as you breathe in the overwhelm, the emotion not making it to your heart. This comes from our old habits, for example not wanting to deal with the pain or being use to calling it a day once the exhaustion presents itself. Acknowledge the resistance and breathe in the discomfort again. The capacity of the heart for holding pain is limitless. With time that which was difficult will become possible.

This practice allows you to increase your capacity to hold that which is difficult. Its intention is not to make you like something that you previously disliked, though that may happen as well, but increase your capacity to be with discomfort. As that capacity increases so you will be able to give more of yourself to the party, meeting or whatever it is you are being called to stay ‘overtime’ for.

Time spent rehearsing this practice in quiet meditation can be very beneficial. Sit comfortably, whether on a chair or cushion, and bring to mind a situation that you have found uncomfortable. As you breathe in, breathe in that discomfort bringing it down to your heart and allowing it to dissolve. Again when resistance arises allow it to be there, don’t fight it, and return to breathing in that overwhelm. By spending your own quiet time practicing this meditation, you will be more familiar with the approach when the real life situation arises. As the Zen Master Thich Naht Hanh has said, “meditation is not an escape from life … but preparation for really being in life.”

In the next article we shall look at the practice of mindfulness and how it can enable the holding of discomfort.

Just Showing Up

Sometimes it is just about showing up.

No matter what our resolution is for a project, and despite what I wrote about in my last post, sometimes getting anything done can feel like near impossible. For some reason the chances of us moving ahead with our undertaking feels like a trudge through treacle. Enthusiasm is thin on the ground, self-belief seems to be taking a day off and reasons to just run for the hills seem to far out weigh doing any work.

What are we to do in such situations? After all we know where we would rather be. Even if in that moment being far away feels very appealing, in our heart of hearts we know that that project is where our passion really lies.

While I was living in a Buddhist Centre in South Wales, the community would meet twice during the day for meditation practice. The gatherings would bookend the day, early morning and late evening. Especially if we were going through a busy period, courses being run, many people visiting, the morning sessions could seem too early and the evening sessions just felt too late. You were too tired to really engage with the practice and so it felt that all you were doing was turning up, you were a body in the room. But with time it became apparent that that was what it was about, just showing up, going through the motions if that is all that you could do and then onto the next thing - the day or bed. It was just about showing up and seeing what happened. You were cultivating a habit of being there on the cushion. How easy it would have been to just turn away, but no this was about being there. Even when your mind was tired, when you were contemplating other options, you were present on the cushion and surrounding yourself in what you really wanted to do.

So when that blank screen appears too blank. When that yoga class or the gym feel too far away. When it feels as though there are too many barriers to your project moving forward. When it feels like too much effort to get to your own meditation cushion, just show up and see what happens. ….and make that resolution to show up again and again, no matter what.

Motivation's Role In Your Adventures

This article first appeared on Arthur Coddington’s Peak Performance website.

Call to adventure…

The vision is set. The goals are in place. You are positioned in front of your computer, note book, or on your way to your office (even if that it is 30 second walk from bed to another room in the house), and nothing is going to stop you. Today is not only the first day of the rest of your life, but also the day that your life vision is to take birth – business, sport, learn a new musical instrument, walk round the world – the “what” does not matter. {{more}} What does matter is that today is that day, finally, that you and the world (though they don’t know it yet) have been waiting for. You are about to launch yourself. Watch out everyone…

…and then

Fast forward to five o’clock in the evening. The fist pumping enthusiasm of earlier that day is still there, though perhaps not knocking the punch that it did that morning. You’ve read a few more blog posts than you intended, got to know your social media timelines more intimately, and got up to make yourself a few more hot drinks than you usually do. Hhmmm, what has happened to that “watch out world” enthusiasm of 8 hours ago? You are feeling deflated and struggling to find a kick, and on top of that there’s a hollow pit in your stomach due to the lack of accomplishment. All that reading that you had been doing had ratchet up your sense of untouchability. This was your year, month, day. Now was the time that you had been waiting for and you were now going to head out and live your dream…..but you feel it faltering before it reaches the first hurdle. Or perhaps to be more accurate, the hurdle was already sitting there, you just did not see it.

Finding your resources

Wishing to live your dream, to make real that which you feel as though you were put on the earth to do requires of you resolution and strength that has to be fed from somewhere. That somewhere can in part come from close family, friends, a significant other, but there also needs to be an inner resource from which you can draw. This becomes even more relevant when there isn’t someone in the wings offering that support.

Any endeavor that is seeking to take us out of the norm that our everyday lives currently inhabit is like a call to adventure. Within that call are voices that are sitting there waiting to give us every good reason not to set off. If all that we rely on is an adrenaline fueled pump of energy to keep us going, we better have a good supply of Red Bull sitting in the refrigerator as sooner or later that initial surge is going to wane. As the initial enthusiasm dies off, the doubting voices will start to emerge out of the shadows telling us what a dodo we were to even think that we could embark on this journey in the first place. All best laid plans will in some way be rendered useless by the voices and slowly we’ll find ourselves dragged away from that which we believed in.

What we need to do is create a stronger base on which to build our vision. The foundation needs to be stronger. So what are the ingredients that can help to build that stronger foundation?

Building a solid base

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition before we start a meditation session we are instructed to set ourselves a motivation for engaging in the practice. This can be anything, but the one that is suggested within the Tibetan tradition is to familiarize ourselves better with our mind, so that we can develop it to be better able to help others. At the end of the session we dedicate any benefits, any insights gained from the practice to the accomplishment of the goal that we set ourselves at the outset. The reason behind this short ritual is to first set a direction and then cement within us what we have learnt from our meditation.

It is very easy to just plump ourselves down on the cushion to meditate and then jump up afterwards and get on with our day without reflecting on what we have just done. I’m not going to suggest that you will get no benefit from ‘just’ sitting but by engaging in the ritual of setting intention, the reason for which you are engaging in the meditation practice will become more firmly embedded within you. Even when you don’t feel like sitting, you’ll have your off days, the motivation can help bring you to the cushion. The distracting voices are kept at bay by your continual resolution to accomplish a goal, in this case developing a mind more infused with patience, love and compassion.

Renewed resolve

As we set ourselves our goals for that grand plan that we want to embark on, it is useful to stop for a moment (perhaps a day, a few quiet hours away when things are less hectic) and reflect and embed within in us what deep down inside is driving us. In our vision for our future were values. Our vision was built upon standards that we hold as very important and dear in our lives. However, in the enthusiasm and adrenaline high of wishing to succeed, we didn’t take time to cement within us what the dream was being birthed from.

To quiet the doubting voices we need to become deeply familiar and intimate with these values that drive us. Take a moment each day to remind yourself of what is driving you and use that as a resolution to drive yourself towards your goals.

The Rewards of Staying Present

This is an experience of mine, see if this rings true for you. I am out walking, let’s say on my way somewhere as opposed to just being out for a walk. I am in the world, but also in my own world, living in a world of thoughts that people around me are completely unaware of. That inner world can be harmless, but it can also be your worse enemy.

If there is no hurry for me to get to my destination, I am fine. I can take my time. Obstacles on the way will go by pretty much unnoticed. I’ll arrive at my destination fresh and ready to get on with whatever I am there for.

But what if I leave late, or a never ending list of obstacles seem to get in the way? I am getting later. I am in the world, but inside my head the impatience meter is moving up and with that my sense of ease and happiness is rapidly diminishing. When I do arrive at my destination I am frazzled and probably in less than the best situation for dealing with the task at hand. Can you relate to this? If so, what to do?


First let’s reflect on where the annoyance and impatience gets you - frustrated, short tempered, agitated, less than happy, and in not the best frame of mind for accomplishing tasks. However as a challenge to this state of mind, there is a quote by a 9th century Buddhist saint which says,

If you can do something about, why get upset? If you can’t do anything about it, why get upset?

This short verse is saying getting upset over the matter will not help you. If you can do something about being late, great, do it but don’t get hot under the collar. If you can’t do anything about it, getting annoyed will not solve the problem and so better just to accept the situation.

As an aid to staying more present when you are on your way somewhere, watch you mind. In your mind, where are you? Have you already arrived at your destination? Are you off solving a problem for tomorrow? Catch yourself and come back to your footsteps as they tread the path to your destination. Be aware of your feet as they take the steps. There is no need to slow down or speed up, just be aware of what you are doing, walking. Be present. Be with where you are now. And as you do so you should notice your concerns and frustrations drop away. Two minutes later (if not sooner) those agitations will more than likely raise their ugly head again, but just go back to your walking. The more familiar that you get with this practice, the more it will come to mind as you set off walking, and the fresher you will be when you arrive at your destination. Fresh and ready to get on with the task at hand.