5 Ways to Find Balance & Bliss in Daily Life

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Our past does not have to define or confine us. We have the power to choose, now, in this moment, to say YES or NO or MAYBE. We have the power to affect our present and future, yet the wisdom to know that there are many things outside the realm of our control.

Finding our balance is lifelong work. If we were perfectly balanced all the time, that wouldn’t be much fun, would it? We wouldn’t appreciate the times when we find balance because there would be nothing to compare it to, no growth, just a stagnant, too-easy, status-quo balance.

Here are some wonderful ways to cultivate more balance and wellness into our daily lives:

1) When you wake up every day, repeat this Shantideva verse three times (Pema Chodron swears by it):

Just as all the Buddhas of the past
Embraced the awakened attitude of mind,
And in the precepts of the bodhisattvas
Step by step abode and trained,
Just so, and for the benefit of beings,
I will also have this attitude of mind,
And in those precepts, step by step,
I will abide and train myself.

Bodhisattvas are human beings who strive to benefit all beings (including themselves) and choose to stay in the human realm helping inspire everyone to achieve enlightenment. The precepts include a long list of things to avoid (killing, stealing, etc.), the Buddhist version of the ten commandments. What it all boils down to is cultivating openness, honesty, compassion, loving kindness and equanimity. 

2) Be in touch with reality. Remember the simple truths of life: everything changes; be kind and grateful as much as possible; eat things and consume ideas that are wholesome, nourishing, and in alignment with nature.

3) Be in touch with your breath, taking time each day for some yoga and meditation practice, and always cultivating loving relationships with self, family, friends and ultimately all beings and things.

4) Choose to slow down, shed toxicity and be patient. Awareness of how our minds and bodies and hearts work is the first step. Acceptance is the next. And, simultaneously, striving to improve, to be more disciplined yet more spontaneous, more natural and open. I know it’s paradoxical to be content with how things are in this moment and to set goals and achieve them. Life is full of paradox!

Thanks for reading! May this article be of benefit. Please pass it along to someone who could use it, if so inspired!
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Year of the Yin Fire Rooster

{original post on elephant journal}

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Monday, February 27, 2017, marks the beginning of the new year in the Tibetan calendar, also known as Losar or Shambhala Day.

As the rooster crows to welcome the sun, we wake up.

A mindful morning ritual helps us begin each day with a solid yet flexible plan. Healthy habits help keep us more creative and less destructive during these politically uncertain times.

We need to take a bird’s-eye view, seeing beyond the veils of delusion and illusion, looking at the current situation from a higher perspective and remembering that this too shall pass, whatever it is—pleasant, neutral or unpleasant.

Face reality. Keep up the good work. Never give up.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and to go to extremes: reading and thinking too much, obsessing and fretting over the world’s problems, which are all our problems. Then, to bounce the other way into denial or avoidance: hearing disturbing news, and not knowing what to do, where to go, how to handle or process it.

Here’s an eloquent reminder from Howard Zinn:

“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. An optimist isn’t necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.”

This year, this moment, is all about raising consciousness, collectively and personally. This life is all about finding the balance—the spot on the continuum between too much and not enough.

I keep remembering the dharma story about the stringed instrument: A musician cannot play his guitar if the strings are too loose. No sound will come out. Yet, if they are too tight, the strings will break. We need to find the right combination of tension and ease in order to make beautiful music.

Staying aware of important issues and prioritizing self-care and self-love in order to be able to offer love and care to others in need. We are all in need.

“Rooster greets the new day with all the elegance, strength and vibrancy of its entire being, in service to the community. Let us all do the same. “ ~ Karen Abler Carrasco

May all beings sharpen our skillful means. May we discern what to hold onto and what to let go of. May we share our true feelings and our honest voices.

Tashi Delek! (Good Luck!)

“There are seasons in your life in the same way as there are seasons in nature. There are times to cultivate and create, when you nurture your world and give birth to new ideas and ventures. There are times of flourishing and abundance, when life feels in full bloom, energized and expanding. And there are times of fruition, when things come to an end. They have reached their climax and must be harvested before they begin to fade. And finally, of course, there are times that are cold and cutting and empty, times when the spring of new beginnings seems like a distant dream. These rhythms in life are natural events. They weave into one another as day follows night, bringing, not messages of hope and fear, but messages of how things are.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche 

The Myth of Work-Life Balance.

The whole concept of “work-life balance” is flawed, because it implies that “work” is somehow separate from “life.”

Life is life. Work is life. Play is life.

We may mentally categorize our lives into work time, family time, social life, and so on, but these separations are an illusion. Every part of our lives (and the universe) is interconnected—and everything is in flux, all the time.

For years, I was at war with my career.

It had morphed into a wild beast with a mind of its own. It—among other things—drove me to depression, anxiety, mania, insomnia.

One of my jobs made me resort to suicidal fantasies, another led to my penchant for habitually smoking a bowl before work and/or on my lunch hour. I would go find a patch of shaded grass in which to sit and eat my sandwich and do a minute of yoga and be outside in the fresh air with some semblance of cerulean freedom… before dragging myself back to the grey computer in the grey cubicle in the big grey office building.

Like so many people, I was basically a paid corporate slave who “earned” two weeks of vacation per year. Plus national holidays!

In a scenario like this, there is no possibility of balance.

Even if your schedule is more flexible and you “work from home,” is that better or worse? Instead of working for the weekend, we’re working on the weekend—to make ends meet and/or because our “office” is in our pocket.

If you hate your job and must compartmentalize it as separate and mutually exclusive from your “real life,” this is a sure sign you need to find a better suited job or career or vocation or living.

Is the salary, health insurance and retirement plan really worth it?

Keep reading

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Translation: Go to school. Get a job. Get married. Procreate. Follow the style. Try to be normal. Don’t go crazy. Watch TV. Obey the law. Save for retirement… Now, repeat after me: “I am free.”

How to Find Balance in Daily Life

{read it on elephant journal, por favor}

1. Know that there is no such thing as perfect balance.

If there was, life would be pretty boring, would it not? Without failure, there is no success. Without darkness, there can be no light. We can approximate balance, but to be 100 percent perfectly balanced all the time is an impossible dream, a problematic myth. There is no ¨having it all.¨

And yet, paradoxically, everything is already in perfect balance. We do have it all when we can live our life as it unfolds in the present moment.

2. Let your discontentment be a catalyst to change your life. Disappointment is actually precisely what we need.

The attainment of enlightenment from the ego’s point of view is extreme death, the death of self, the death of me and mine, the death of the watcher. It is the ultimate and final disappointment.

… We fall down and down, until we touch the ground, until we relate to the basic sanity of the earth.

… We are just a speck of dust in the midst of the universe. At the same time, our situation is very spacious, very beautiful and workable. In fact, it is very inviting, inspiring. If you are a grain of sand, the rest of the universe, all the space, all the room is yours, because you obstruct nothing, overcrowd nothing, possess nothing. There is tremendous openness.

You are the emperor of the universe because you are a grain of sand. The world is very simple and at the same time very dignified and open, because your inspiration is based upon disappointment, which is without the ambition of ego.

– Chogyam Trungpa, The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation

3. Balance letting go of ego and taking compassionate action.

When we stop competing and start collaborating, amazing things can happen.

4. Balance making plans and having a vision with letting go of the plans and seeing reality as it is.

It is great to have a plan, a vision, a dream. It is also essential to let it go as life unfolds, moment to moment. When we get stuck on our plan and our expectations of how things should be, life becomes unfun.

5. Balance independence and solitude with interdependence and community.

Be an introvert and an extrovert. Listen to your intuition. Be alone and soak up time in silence and solitude as needed. Be around people, and communicate and socialize when that is what you need to do. Both are of value.

6. Balance rest and relaxation with activity and ambition.

Take it easy. Breathe. Chill. (Sometimes.) Go for a walk or run. Work. Create. Be on fire. (Other times.)

7. Balance study and scholarship with practice and experimentation.

Read books about stuff that fascinates you. Learn. Let your mind be a sponge. And also take the ideas and concepts that you learn about and apply them. Use them. Interact with them in your day to day life.

8. Balance birth and death, doubt and faith, the in-breath and the out-breath.

Right now, I am traveling in Colombia with my husband and our one year old daughter. The day we arrived in Bogota, last Friday, an old friend of my husband’s tragically died. He was just 41 years old. We went to his wake the following evening. I never knew him, but his death touched me deeply. Being in a room full of his family and friends, along with his lifeless physical body lying in a coffin, I almost felt that I had known him. The details are unclear, but he died from an accidental fall.

How inconceivable—to be alive and breathing one moment, and gone from this world the next. But such is life, although we continually deny or ignore that fact. Death will come, certainly. The time and reason are unknown. Instead of being depressed about this reality, I strive to balance my life. The joy and sorrow. Beauty and ugliness. My own doubt and faith. My inhale and exhale.

May all beings find freedom through balance!