1. “Everything Changes.” Suzuki Roshi
This was Suzuki Roshi’s response to a student who had asked him to simplify his teachings into one phrase.
If there was just one teaching we could all understand, this would be it.
Think for a moment, every time you’ve felt pain, sadness, anger, happiness, joy, excitement or any other emotion, how long did it last?
Whether it lasted a long time or a short time, the fact is at some point it ended.
Nothing lasts – the good or the bad.
So when something good is happening, enjoy it, appreciate the good fortune.
But don’t take it for granted – it won’t last.
Likewise when something bad is happening, or you’re just feeling a little bit down, don’t try and cling to it making it seem like this is how it’s always been and will always be.
Telling yourself, “oh no, this time it’s different, this time it’s going to stay.”
That’s a lie we tell ourselves to make us feel even worse.
This too will pass. It always does.
2. “I feel exhausted if I teach too long.” The Dalai Lama
Everyone is so busy running around “doing things” and then saying, “I’m exhausted, I have no time to meditate or exercise or eat healthy.”
Or “I’m unhappy, exhausted and stressed out – but what can I do?”
There is only so much time in the day, so being aware of what’s exhausting you is really important.
We’re not machines!
Everyone has a limit.
If the Dalai Lama can admit it then so can we.
So what’s exhausting you?
What do you want to say no to in your life?
I struggled with this for a long time.
Trying to spend more time with my spiritual practice and balancing that with work, friends and other activities.
In the end I had to know what my priorities were and more importantly what my limits were and then set boundaries around them.
It’s OK to say no occasionally or even often if that’s what you need.
We’re so afraid to speak up, that we’d rather run ourselves into the ground then risk offending someone by simply saying, “no.”
This takes practice.
If you’re not used to doing it, it will feel very uncomfortable at first (as does anything the first few times you do it).
You can even tell people as you’re saying no that you are practicing this for your own well-being.
I bet you most people will applaud your efforts and many will want to join you.
3. “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” The Buddha
It doesn’t take much for us to get angry: a disagreement, someone disappoints us or even worse they don’t respond to our text right away!
What kind of monster doesn’t return a text?? 🙂
We take things so personally – quickly transforming an oversight into a direct attack.
Anger is seductive, it draws us in on the pretense that we are right and therefore we have a right to be angry.
So we keep fueling the anger (and the burning hot coal in our hand) with stories of how we’ve been wronged.
Exaggerating the story to play up our role as the innocent victim.
Each time we pick up the story (and we pick it up a lot!) we feel tense, aggravated, disappointed and unhappy.
As bad as we’re making ourselves feel we won’t let go of the story or the hot coal.
We are compelled to remind ourselves over and over how we are the victim, we’ve done nothing wrong, this shouldn’t be happening.
We hold onto the burning coal, inflicting pain upon ourself, until eventually enough time passes or in some other way the situation is resolved.
Maybe that unanswered text is finally received!
Only then do we let go of the burning coal not realizing we had the power to drop it a long time ago or maybe we didn’t have to pick it up at all.
4. “No matter how hard the past you can always begin again.” The Buddha
Holding onto the past, is very much like holding on to the burning coal.
Until we let it go, we can’t move forward.
The past does play a large role in shaping who we are today but it doesn’t have to shape who we are tomorrow.
If you are willing to let go.
To let go of the story that you are telling yourself about your past.
I know this is hard for some people to hear.
“It’s not just a story!”
“It was real!”
I’m not denying that it happened.
What I’m suggesting is that it is the clinging to the story that doesn’t enable you to move forward.
That when you wrap yourself in the blanket of that story it’s hard for you to see any other possibilities.
It reminds me of the elephant that is tied to a post when it’s a baby and thinks when it’s an adult it still can’t break free.
No matter what’s happened in your past, it is within your power to let go of the story or even change it and begin anew.
5. “Any man who conquers himself is greater than one who conquers a thousand men in battle.” The Buddha
In some ways I feel like as a society we are starting to figure this out.
But then I turn around and see the Kardashians are still on TV and think maybe not yet.
It’s frightening how much we still covet power, fame, beauty and wealth.
And yet, none of these things even comes close to the peace and serenity of a person who has tamed their mind; who is no longer a slave to their mind but has instead become the master.
Maybe that seems too far out of reach for you.
And yet however much you are able to train your mind: to reduce the negative self-talk, the constant second guessing, or the pain of feeling like you’ve been excluded is one more step towards conquering your mind.
Each small step is a step in the right direction.
Please don’t take for granted even one minute of effort towards taming your mind – it all counts!
6. “Each moment is a chance for us to make peace with the world.” Thich Nhat Hanh
It’s really crazy how much time we spend struggling against the world!
We continually resist what’s happening, trying desperately to change things, to control things that are so often out of our control.
But in the midst of every challenging situation we can pause for just a moment to take a breath and in that moment remember where we are.
We break the chain of thought and come back into the serenity of this moment.
Maybe we can pause just long enough to remember that everything changes, and in that knowing we relax a little bit more.
Just one breath, just one moment, can make all the difference in the world.
7. “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” The Buddha
If our practice is dependent upon someone else then what happens when they leave us, die or disappoint us?
Your whole spiritual path can be destroyed.
Any progress you’ve made is shattered.
I’ve met and learned from many wonderful teachers on this path, that don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk.
I’ve also had experience with others that while they are great talkers, they aren’t really following their own advice.
And I’m OK with that.
Because my spiritual path is not hitched to any one person and neither should yours.
Teachers can help point the way, but we have to do the heavy lifting.
I don’t think it’s healthy for us to put too much confidence in any one person or idea.
Listen and learn from a variety of spiritual teachers.
Then practice what you’re learning to see if it is true or not.
That is what you want to put your faith in.
Your ability to see for yourself what is true and what is not.
What brings you greater peace happiness and what does not.
Don’t ever give up your ability to think critically and to think for yourself!
That is what we need more than anything on this path.