Now is the Time to Be What You Can Be

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In short I’ve fallen for stoicism. During the January I’ve re-read two books on stoicism: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and Obstacle is the way by Ryan Holiday. Also currently I am reading Ego is the Enemy and I will read the Daily Stoic.

Stoicism is a practical and applied philosophy of a virtuous life. If you cannot practice the thought or virtue, it’s not stoicism. Being a stoic means having inner dialogue, finding what you are in control of and then living the best life you can from there with no complaints about the circumstances or about results. Stoicism is about action, not about attaching to the rewards.

Living the best you can in the present, because stoic recognizes life is only in the present. Nobody can change the past, however with the action in the present we create future. Nor does stoic gets attached to the future – everything goes to the plan because we are creating the plan every moment as we go. Stoic cannot be thus harmed by ill will, because stoic turns any obstacle into opportunity or dies trying.

Literally stoic recognizes the shortness of life: memento mori – remember you are mortal.

It’s only now time to be what you can be. It’s now when you should start not only being, but start the doing. Be the doing you can be!

I decided to modify the words of Gandhi: Do the change you want to see in the world. Doing is being, do not just talk, start doing something about what you want! In the end we never cannot be still to long, we are never complete, perfection is just a day dream. Excellence is what we should pursue. Excellence means the best we are capable of with the given time and resources. We do not need to commit overly too much resources, that would be foolish, yet we need just enough to create excellence, the best possible solution.

Excellence requires letting go and yet finding ways to fulfill the need completely. Excellence is the practice of virtues. Every day we become what we can be if we practice excellence. The time to practice excellence is now!

Everyday Practice to Benefit Others

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 What I like about Buddhist thinking, is the idea of non-attachment and selfless service for others. Also in order to serve others, one must first learn to take care of oneself, which is not an easy task. In fact taking care of oneself becomes an everyday responsibility, because even when one learns the skillful way to deal with anything that occurs, one must also keep on sustaining that habit. Sustaining is the daily practice, that is why masters train every day.

If we want to be the masters of our own lives, we should start to practice also taking care of ourselves every day. Once we overcome our own anxiousness and confusion, we can finally start truly benefitting others as well.

In everyday practice, we must first each morning take care of our own unskillful thinking and then we can turn our practice into selfless service of others, I think this is suitable enough philosophy for a layperson.

Reasons for the ‘best’ way to be helpful diverge after the point has been made that we might need to take care of ourselves first, that’s why we have different philosophies, different branches of Buddhism and even different forms of service.

Almost any rule is a simplification and thus cannot be fully applied. In the sales profession it is necessary to prioritize the needs of others from your current position. However, the Buddhist could argue that one might benefit all the people more, if you first would take the time to reach enlightenment yourself and then remain in this world and help people. Such people are called bodhisattvas and it is certainly interesting perspective.

In my current thinking, combining ideas from many sources and philosophies, I think the taking care of your own thinking in the morning and then retaining skillful practice through the day is a sufficient way for the layperson to progress. You make your life your practice by not attaching to the fruits of your labor. This kind of selfless service idea is strong in Bhagavad Gita and Zen schools of thought and I think it is rather practical philosophy.

Wonder of the Present Moment

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Present is the wonderful state, in which you have everything you will ever have or ever need. Your past cannot be taken away from you, or you cannot lose your future just because it has been promised to you. Only real time is the present, others are just fragments of the past and future has not yet decided how it will appear.

Do not worry about past, you cannot change it.

Do not worry about future, you cannot control it.

Focus to the tiny portion of the present in which you are in control.

“Present is all we have, no past or future cannot be taken away from us.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Be fully present, inhale, exhale! Those are the joys of life. Just as the breath, life is full of energy going in and out. World has plenty of energy, plenty of possibilities, plenty of time!

World is abundant place when you sharpen what it is you want to do in the present moment. At the present moment you only have a space for one thing, you have chosen wisely, make sure to keep choosing wisely!

Have a great present moment!

Janne

Meaning of Work in Relation to Life

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 What is the meaning of work in regards to life? Work is literally the meaning: by work I mean the verb of working. By work I mean the elaborate use of the word meaning literally all activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a result.

As I was reading Bhagavad Gita today on the commute, I understood that too often we attach our minds too much to the end results: the rewards, fruits of labor.

Meaning of work is not the reward on contrary despite all we do and say, but the liberation to give and do without asking. By this statement I do not encourage slave labor, but to find ways to work without the expectation and attachment to the rewards.

Working is part of our nature. In Gita this is described as yoga in practice, however I found the awfully similar idea in Meditations by Marcus Aurelius where he says that it is man’s true nature to work.

Finding ways to work and serve others without any expectation of rewards brings surprising benefits that no fruit or coin can purchase.

Relaxation begins with detachment

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This weekend we spent on island cottage. I think the boat ride makes all the difference in a spiritual sense: when taking only the essentials with and leaving everything allows deep relaxation to begin.

In the book The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz present some powerful ideas about positive, energy replenishing rituals we could build in our lives.

Reflecting the both experiences with island cottage life and the ideas in presented in the book, I think the actual sacrifice and ‘journey to the cottage’ should be in that sense made every time we intend to switch gears from the working mode into the relaxation and recovery mode to allow deeper recovery.

This makes me think, sometimes the duration does not matter as much as the intensity of the experience.

Even short vacations, where a lot of the unessential have been left out both physically and spiritually, can allow tremendous recovery. Healthy boundaries for work are necessary when we need rest, we need to drop down all our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical baggage when we are resting. One ritual, that Ajahn Brahn suggests is to literally pick up a stick and write worries there and then symbolically throw it away, we are literally carrying all this kind of baggage with us and we need rituals to deal with them.

There must be a lots of baggage we can always leave at each doorstep we arrive, that is draining our energy?

What causes certainty?

To my previous post about questioning I would like to add a bit. Questioning everything is great habit that let’s us break down concepts to more understandable form.

In the present moment it’s sometimes difficult to remain certain, so then I ask myself how I can be more certain? Future is quite unpredictable. Well, I do not know really that well, we can only be certain and confident when we have something to support the belief and feeling of certainty.

When such a feelings are not present, then our minds have to find the certainty elsewhere, like the success and stability of other areas of life.

I tried to Google around a bit, with slim results. Entrepreneur magazine lists four qualities to feel more confident: getting rid of negativity, organizing, staying healthy and power poses. This is nice, however I was looking for something more. 

From Quora answers I found a likely explanation for the feeling of certainty: indeed as brain recalls something several neural pathways activate and thus we feel certain. 

With this I’ll dare to guess out loud that certainty seems to be linked with that which is believed to be right. So how do beliefs form then? They are constructs in our minds that are supported by reference points.

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The more reference points, in this case for example memories or experiences we’ve the more the table has legs and therefore more stable it is and more certain we feel.

Interesting question this point on wards how to construct more reference points to feel more confident and certain? One answer that comes in mind is to get minor successes really quickly and then build upon those successes.

Non-attachment and mindfulness practice can help to overcome the difficulties in the process and focus to the action part. Doing simple things is Zen.

Certainty seems to link so deeply to our experience, that story interpretation and telling probably will affect to it as well. That can be only done backwards thought, but however so that our past experiences become a little more supportive of our present day efforts, than they previously were.

If you’ve more or different ideas how to build certainty please leave a comment below, tweet or something!