Prepare for the Best!

It’s been said that success is where preparation meets opportunity.

Operating from the assumption that something wonderful is going to happen to you very soon (might as well assume the best ;-)), you better start preparing for it!  What might this be?  Who knows. But the more you prepare for it, the more you will attract it into your life.  “Act as if,” as good ole Bill Shakespeare used to say.

STORY TIME!

For much of my schooling career I’d prepare for the worst.  For example, in an American Literature class, I found myself too preoccupied with partying to actually do the reading.  I also didn’t like reading much at the same time, so the motivation was scarce.  To prepare for each class, I’d skim the SparkNotes, extracting the bare bones of the central events of the reading.

One day in class, no one knew the answer to a question the teacher posed, and I had remembered reading about it in SparkNotes, so I raised my hand and recounted a tale of Frederick Douglas’s when he wrestled his slave owner and, as a result, was never whipped again.  Of course, not critically examining the meaning behind the events of the story, I had nothing else to say. The teacher asked me to go on with my thoughts on the event, but I had none. I sat silently, nothing to say – no thoughts, aside from anxiety.  The teacher went on, “Well thanks for sharing, but that’s also something anyone could get from even glancing at SparkNotes.”  He was on to me.

In preparing for the worst, the situation turned out possibly even worse than if I hadn’t even spoken up at all.  In my lackluster preparation, I created a lackluster situation.  By only looking at the SparkNotes, I in no way empowered myself to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the material.

Looking back, my best play after minimally participating might have been to openly admit that I had looked at the SparkNotes, and that it didn’t add any benefit to my understanding of the story, so perhaps I should read the book next time.  Honesty is the best policy.

If magically placed in that situation again, the evening before preparing for the class, I’d become absolutely clear on the result that I was seeking, and then prepare in such a way that the result would nearly become inevitable.  If I wanted to demonstrate keen insight and perhaps a bit of wit, I’d read and think about the material until I grasped it completely.

Regardless of how we prepare for any event, our experience of the event directly reflects our preparation for it.  In the classroom example, I was not enthused or joyous in my preparation, but instead felt it a bare necessity.  Just so, in my experience, I felt that I barely made it out of that classroom alive, and with a much depreciated sense of self.  The teacher may have lost some respect for me too, as I did not show respect for him in my preparation.

Whatever you put in, that’s what you’ll get out.  This is the law of sowing and reaping.  If you expect the best and prepare for the best, then when the time comes, you will receive the very best.  Being clear on the outcome you desire is fundamental to having it.

Practice Makes Better

Dictionary.com defines practice like so: “repeated performance or systematic exercise with the purpose of acquiring skill or proficiency.”  So you mean to tell me, Dr. Dictionary, that just through repeated performance and systematic exercise I can acquire a skill?  Amazing!

“Practice makes perfect” is an ancient saying that I don’t fully agree with, yet it’s principle is profound.  Let’s change it to “Practice makes better” and then discover how awesome this idea really is.

If you want to get better at anything, practice!  Or, if you want to experience anything more fully, practice!  If you want to become a better basketball player, go play basketball, or even just imagine yourself playing basketball very well, and that will improve your skills.  If you want to experience greater Peace, practice Peace.

What would practicing Peace look like?  That’s up for you to decide.

Practice, practice, practice.  Through repeated performance, we possess the capacity to improve in any skill we can imagine.  To really appreciate this truth, it’s important to remember that every single thing we do is essentially the expression of a skill.  Whether we are talking with people, walking, breathing, enjoying our food, finding humor in any situation, empathizing with another, or happily flowing through the day in a spirit of joy and harmony – these are all skills.

If you can answer the question, What do you really want most in life?” then you can easily identify skills that will empower you in acquiring your desires.  I personally would love to teach yoga, meditation, and simple, sustainable, spiritual living, catalyzing the growth of healthier and happier communities .  Having identified the main desire as one of teaching, then I can ask, what are the critical skills for great teachers?  Asking a question is a great way to receive an answer 😉

If it’s not immediately clear what skills would empower you to have that which you desire, you can also look to role models who have already attained what you seek, and learn from them.  Going back to the teaching example, I can look to people in my life who I consider great teachers and identify their strengths. Thinking back on some of my favorite teachers, they were all masterful communicators.  I remember the physical movement of their bodies being almost as important as their words for conveying the message.  Of course, one my teachers who didn’t move very much had an incredible sense of humor and referenced an absurd amount of pop-culture to keep students engaged.  Perhaps the key, then, to great teaching, is identifying your own style of communication and owning it.

Whatever you want in life, likely someone has achieved it before you.  If you want to make a billionaire dollars, study billionaires and practice the commonalities you find between them.  If you want a mass following, study Gandhi, Barack Obama, or Oprah, and see what makes them such compelling figures.  If you are looking for more Peace and Happiness in life, I hear the Dalai Lama hardly ever stops laughing, so maybe study his example.  If you’d like to attract an abundance of devilishly attractive women, there is plenty to learn from Hugh Hefner.

Whatever it is you seek, look the great ones who have come before you, learn from them, and practice the principles which they preach.  Surely, anything you want, there is a skill you can learn to greatly increase your ability to acquire what you seek.  A spoonful of humility might help in mustering the courage to look to others as an example and make a few changes to your life.  Of course, if you truly want something, any change you make to acquire it is definitely worth it.

Time to start practicing!

 

“The Greatest Man in History was also the Poorest.” – Emerson

Whether Mr. Emerson is talking about Jesus, , Buddha, Gandhi, St. Francis of Assisi – who knows.  As far as I’m aware, none of them had a single dollar to their name, or a single coin for that matter.  These men all realized the incredible value of that which rests beyond the wealth of the world, dwelling peacefully inside each and every one of us.

I shared this quote with my dad this morning.  His response: “I don’t think that’s true at all.  Jesus was abundantly rich with his spirituality, relationship with God, and friends.”  True!  Yes indeed, no arguing that.  Of course, I don’t think Mr. Emerson was referring to those higher forms of riches when he claimed that he was “also the poorest.”  Emerson must have been referring to the material wealth of the man, for if you look at the spiritual wealth which Jesus possessed, surely he was the richest man on earth!

How do you define rich?  This question was shared with me and my fellow graduates at Wake Forest by the CEO of Habitat for Humanity, Jonathan Reckford.  Answering this question is vitally important for each one of us in establishing what we value.  For, as Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”  If we place our values in material objects, than that is our reward.  If, on the other hand, we find our treasures in loving relationships, Peace of Mind, Mother Nature, Spirituality, the imagination, learning and growth – these are all treasures we have access to at all times.  What wonderful gifts!  So if we choose to value these infinitely accessible treasures, then suddenly we’ll realize that we are surrounded by riches each and every moment.

Certainly, Jesus was poor in the material sense.  But, he was absurdly, ridiculously, abundantly wealthy in the sense that matters most for creating enduring fulfillment in Life.  He stored up his treasures in Heaven, in the eternal gifts of Life.  Transcending fear and attachment, he discovered some of the greatest truths of history and a Peace of Heart and Mind unequaled.

If we really want to live a more fulfilling life, all we need to do is look to some of the great men and women from history and listen to the story.  Aristotle determined the purpose of education is to elevate preferences.  In this way, if we educate ourselves as to the stories of the heroes of history, we can elevate our preferences and begin to value that which is truly meaningful.

One of the greatest gift we’re given as human beings is the Mind, or Consciousness.  Yet, often we forget how miraculous we really are and resort to activities that lower our consciousness and squash our intellects.  Studies show that watching television, drinking alcohol, and a sedentary lifestyle all have detrimental effects to the health of the body and the brain.  Similarly, looking at the life of Jesus – you’d find he didn’t watch must television either. 😉

Pathways to living greater, happier, more fulfilling, peaceful, and joyous lives have been known to many of us since our early youth.  Of course, because our parents encouraged us to read and to play outside and socialize, we might have done the exact opposite.  At least, that’s the story of much of my younger days.  However, we all reach a point in our lives where we can accept the wisdom of our parents and the wisdom of the great men and women of history.  By accepting the wisdom and doing our best to live this wisdom, we’ll slowly but surely begin living the wonderful life that we are so worthy of.

If you are already living this wonderful life, as I know many of you are, keep sharing the joy with others.  Calling attention to the beauty of Nature or how good it feels just to breathe can be a good place start.  Also, one of my favorites, express gratitude all the time!  Acknowledge the abundance all around.

Speaking of which…I am grateful for this abundance!  Hallelujah 🙂

Lower Your Standards for Enjoyment and Enjoy More Abundantly!

I used to not laugh very much.  I’d insist on only hear the most perfectly told stories.  I was very hard to please.

One day I realized that these high standards of mine for what I found humorous held me back from enjoying more of life.  Laughing and enjoyment are ideals for me, so the more I am experiencing a sense of joy, the more I am living close to that ideal.

For better or for worse, – probably for the very best 😉 – it took me a long time to realize the fruitlessness of my high standards.  My high standards for enjoyment may have stemmed from playing too much of a certain video game, in which nearly every second you’re blowing something up or being blown up, in outer-space no less.  It was an incredibly fun game, but whenever I left the video game world I didn’t reap nearly the enjoyment and fulfillment that I now do from this more vivid world in the ‘Real Life’ game that I find myself playing 24/7.

Even after I stopped playing the video game, I noticed that I still demanded a lot from the world in order to feel wonderful.  Only when I wrote an exceptional paper, aced a test, or shared a great meal with friends did I allow myself to experience a deep sense of fulfillment and joy.  Today, all that has changed, and I’ve drastically lowered my standards for what I find fulfilling and enjoyable.  Now I sometimes find merely touching the bark of a tree and dropping a tennis ball to be one of the most delightful activities of my day. Gravity is very fun to play with.

During my week of homelesness in NYC and the ensuing 6 months of moneyless adventures, I trained my consciousness to find joy in the simple pleasures of life.  In spite of all the materialistic programming of American culture, those two journeys in my life  were the times when I felt the most rich.  Very minimal material possessions opened my mind to discovering all of the intellectual and spiritual riches within.  I also began deeply appreciating the Beauty of the natural world, as well as revering all the life – animals, people, and plants – existing and flowing so harmoniously around me.  No longer fettered by distractions of the media, pop-culture, or what other people thought of me, I experienced a great freedom from attachment and worry.  My eyes slowly but surely opened to the treasures present in every moment, regardless of external circumstance.

Now, back in a land of materials, currently staying with my parents in a cozy home with many worldly luxuries, I’ve found myself getting upset with events that I’d otherwise consider trivialities in the homeless / moneyless life.  In a sense, it’s much easier to be aware of the spiritual treasures of the present moment when there are not any material possessions to grab our attention.  Yet, like with anything, with practice I believe it’s possible to gain that same level of wonderful awareness that keeps us completely open the presence of spiritual riches regardless of how much materialism we might find ourselves in.

Gandhi Knows Best

Over the past few days, I’ve rekindled my relationship with one of my favorite of Gandhi’s mottos,

Do it with Joy or not at all.”

Joy has become a central focus of my consciousness and my meditations.  I’ve spent a lot of time consciously breathing and thinking of joy with every inhale and exhale.  Also, when I juggle or walk, I think of joy.  Sometimes when I’m doing a walking meditation and focusing on joy, I’ll sporadically release an ecstatic squeal.  Who knows what my parents think of these celebratory noises, and really, no matter what they think, I’m not going to hold back that delight.

Thinking of joy in and of itself feels amazing.  No matter what we are doing – whether it be washing the dishes, taking out the trash, grading papers – we always have the capacity to think of joy, and in our thinking we can quickly experience the realization of that wonderful thought 🙂

To this amazing ability we have to consciously choose or thoughts and focus on what we’d like to experience, I say Hallelujah!

Think Great Thoughts – It’s for Your Own Good

Last night I was feeling particularly moved.  I had experienced lots of synchronicities (i.e. “coincidences”) throughout the day, and had a pretty good feeling that something awesome was about to happen.  Sure enough, the Universe delivered. 🙂

Around 10 PM, I finished sorting through some of my word documents that had been open for a very long time.  I felt like it was a good time to go downstairs to fetch some water from the filter.  Glass in hand, I trekked down the steps towards the kitchen.  However, before I reached the abundant water filter, I noticed a lamp light on in the den, and me being the environmentalist type, just had to turn it off.  As I turned off the lamp, my head turned to catch a glance of the bookshelf on my right.  Not thinking anything of it, I turned back to walk out of the room.  But then it hit me!  The book I saw on the shelf, that I didn’t register seeing until after I began to walk out of the room, was titled, The Great Thoughts, written by George Seldes.  Understanding the book as a sign, I turned back, snatched the book off the shelf, plumped down on the couch, and turned on the light.  (Fancy that a light brought me the forthcoming realization!)

Sitting with the book on my lap, I asked that I might open the book to a page that offers a meaningful message and direction for the future.  After taking a few deep breathes, I attempted to flip the book open to a page at random, letting the book open itself.

What page did the book open to?  The title page!  All it said was,

THE GREAT

THOUGHTS

So I sat there, giggling a bit, thinking that I should probably try again to open the book to a page with some novel words on it.  This couldn’t possibly be the page I was supposed to turn to, right?    Then I thought again – yes, it really could be so simple.  This page contains the message for me.

All we are is what we have thought. – Buddha

A man’s life is what his thoughts make of it. – Marcus Aurelius

A man is what he thinks about all day long. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I began to realize the importance of thoughts alone.  Not necessarily the importance of any one thought specifically, but of generally great thoughts.  The more we are thinking great thoughts, the more our feelings and actions are directed towards greatness.

We become what we think about. – Earl Nightingale

There is a video on YouTube that I’ve watched well over 100 times.  It is called The Strangest Secret, and you can watch it here.  Until last night, the profundity of the truths stated in the video never hit me so hard.

Mesmerized by the words, The Great Thoughts, I continued sitting on the couch, looking at the cover page for over 30 minutes.  My thoughts were essentially answering the question, “What are the great thoughts?”  My mind rattled off all kinds of words and ideas. “Unconditional Love.  Gratitude. The best things in life are free. Oneness.  Caring.  I am so grateful. I am unconditionally safe and supported.  Health.  Freedom. Purity.  Perfection.  Heaven on Earth.  The Kingdom of Heaven is Within.  Joy.  Peace.  Harmony. Laughter. Absolute Freedom.  Spirituality. Beauty. God. Spirit. Agape. Infinite Potential.  Goodness. Grace. Energy.  Abundance. Service.  Enthusiasm. Playfulness. Cheerfulness. Mindfulness.  Flow. Acceptance. Reverence.  Holiness. Hugs. Smiles. Presence. Here. Now.  Buddha. Jesus. Martin Luther King Jr. Mother Teresa. Abe Lincoln. Gandhi. St. Francis.  The Highest Good. Truth. Power. Unity.”

The list went on and on, and as I continued to think what I considered great thoughts, my body filled with a sense of vitality.  Pretty soon I started feeling my temples vibrate. The great thoughts created wonderful feelings in my physical body.  I thoroughly resonated as the great thoughts flowed through my consciousness.

I began to understand how important it is that we cherish our free will and consciously choose the thoughts that we think.  Exercising our self-control to think only thoughts that are of benefit to ourselves and to humanity as a whole is one of the most important choices we can make; however, the process of thinking only great thoughts offers a worthy challenge.  The mind is often likened to a monkey swinging from branch to branch because it’s so hard to tame. Especially with so many distractions from the external environment wanting to influence us, it’s important to practice vigilance regarding what we give attention.  For this reason, I am not a fan of television, as I never really know what sort of message will pipe in from commercials created by a bunch of people conspiring in a room about ways to get my money (which of right now is very little ;-)).  Some advertisements and television shows can be quite entertaining, but ultimately I can never be certain that the creators of such programs really have my best interest at heart, so I do my best to avoid the idiot box.

Assuredly, I have my own best interest in mind when I decide to consciously think great thoughts, and I believe this is true for all people.  Another word for this practice of choosing to think great thoughts is meditation.  I once read in A Very Short Introduction to Buddhism that Buddhists meditate on what they want to become.  If we think about a quality we might like to more fully embody, then to us, that is a great thought.

It is the responsibility of each one of us to decide what are our own great thoughts, and then think about them as much as possible.  Hone your focus.  What is great to you?

The more we consciously think about what is great to us, the more fully we will realize that greatness in our lives.

As Albert Schweitzer said, “Men don’t think.”  Of course, he’s referring to both men and women, and mainly to those who aren’t successful.  Using our minds, also known as thinking, is one of the most incredible things we can do as human beings, so let’s do more of it!  We weren’t given this miraculous three pound organ to sit around on our cabooses all day and watch other people live exciting lives.  I’m pretty sure we are supposed to live those exciting lives ourselves. 😉

Instead of mindlessly drifting through our day-to-day routines, let’s start thinking great thoughts and realize greatness in our lives.

Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

   

Dogs: Mindful Masters of the Present, Here & Now. We can All Watch and Learn from Them.

Everyone in the world would benefit from having a dog.  That being said…

Last night, we at the Buechner household celebrated my sister’s birthday.  Present at the birthday was cake.  So much cake, in fact, that my mom sent me on a journey to the neighbor’s this morning to deliver some of the remains.  In past lives, I’d probably insist on offering up my body as a human garbage disposal to eat all the cake so that others wouldn’t have to subject their bodies to such cruelty, but thankfully I’ve risen above that delusional thinking, and also have been finding a great deal of joy in renouncing lower preferences, like that of cake, for higher ones, like that of self-discipline, truth, and health.  Also, on day 10 of a 30 day raw food experiment, the last thing I wanted to do was break the streak with a piece of coconut opera cream birthday cake.  As delicious as it sounds, ultimately it’s impermanent anyway…so might as well be impermanent someplace other than in my stomach 😉

Meanwhile, at my neighbor’s this morning, the cosmos granted me the pleasure of talking with my neighbor’s housekeeper for quite a while about nothing else other than the magnificent nature of dogs!  Dogs – yes, I love them too.  Wonderful, humble, citizens of the world.  They don’t ask for much, are open to training, and always down to play.  Perhaps best of all, they don’t speak English, so none of those dumb verbal fights about politics or dinner.

For the past week, I’ve woken up and look at quote of Lao Tzu’s.  It goes,

The Tao’s highest excellence is like that of water.  The excellence of water appears in its benefitting all things, and in its occupying, without striving to the contrary, the low ground which all men dislikes.  There is nothing in the world more soft or weak than water, and yet for attacking things that are firm and strong, there is nothing that can take precedence of it.

Water flows – effortlessly.  Resisting nothing, in harmony with the natural laws of the universe, it just is. In its humble flow, it serves the Highest Good.  Does this sound like the way dogs behave?

Dogs are pretty much down to do anything.  Granted, they might not have that much of a choice, but nevertheless, it seems like they always prefer play and engagement to indifference and laziness.  They also seem to have an incredible sense of energy flow, which is why they are so drawn to children and physical touch.

In some ways, I feel like our abundance of human faculties can overwhelm us to the point where we miss out on sensing the energy of laughter or touch, or even of life itself.  If you watch a dog, you’ll notice they are acutely aware of the life forces that flow around them.  People, other dogs, squirrels – you name it, dogs enjoy life in all its forms and appreciate other life by giving it attention and awareness.

Some of my most joyous moments in life have come from observing dogs observe life.  Watching a dog be present and fully engage the moment can bring us more fully into the moment too.

With these magnificent minds of ours, it is very easy to drown in our own thoughts of the past and future.  Dogs, fortunately, don’t face this challenge.  Thankfully, they also provide an astounding example of how to practice mindfulness in our day to day lives, so that we can more fully connect with this present, wonderful, moment.  Not saying you have to go around sticking your nose up people’s butts, but you can at least notice the sounds of life all around you.  Let your ears perk up a bit.  And smell your food.

Be like dog!

The Miracle of Juicing: Who knew healthy foods could be so delicious?

Have you ever made your own juice before?  Perhaps you’ve had the fortune of squeezing your own orange juice, maybe a grapefruit.  Delicious, right?

If you’ve been really fortunate (and a tad adventurous?) in your food explorations, you might have even purchased a juicer. But, just purchasing the juicer is not enough.  To really benefit from having the juicer, it’s important to remove it from the box, clean the individual parts, and then juice up something fierce.  And by fierce I mean superbly filling you with that warm fuzzy feeling inside.

My mom purchased a juicer this past the summer but never went through with the whole “assembly” thing.  Just buy something and don’t assemble it – sure, why not?  Little did she know, a catalyst for an abundance of health, energy, and deliciousness waited patiently in her basement, waiting to unleash its awesome powers.

Just yesterday, I vivified the beautiful Jack LaLanne Power Juicer and went to town looking up some of Jack’s favorite recipes.  Flipping through the pages of his juicing book, I found a tall glass filled with some orange beauty, Elaine’s Vegetable Garden.  A sweet potato, red pepper, tomato, two stalks celery, and a handful of baby carrots – little did I know, this was all I needed to understand what heaven on earth might taste like.

Not only was the taste of pure delight, but the process of creating the juice, equally amazing.  Seeing the vivid colors pour out of the spout into the measuring glass filled my mom and me with an excited enthusiasm for what we may soon be enjoying.  In fact, so excited was I to sip the juice that I even forget to enjoy it mindfully (a 30 day habit in the works since January 1), and instead poured out the juice into two shot glasses for my mom and I to cheers.  “To the fruits of the earth!”

Needless to say, the juice so satisfied our taste buds that we were practically giddy with anticipation over the awesome potential of juicing to totally transform our experience of food as well as our personal health.   With juicing, eating fruits and vegetables is no longer a sacrificial task often shunned and dreaded because of an unsatisfying gustatory experience, but suddenly…enjoying healthy foods is now preferred by both the mind and those pesky little taste buds.  Win / Win!

Juicing has shattered my questioning of why God made the most delicious foods the worst for us.  I now realize that donuts, cookies, and pumpkin pie – although delicious – perform meagerly next to freshly juiced fruits and vegetables.  My experience now tells me that the healthiest foods are also the most tasty, and that most definitely deserves and Hallelujah!

After sipping on that first shot glass of juice, I couldn’t help envisioning the great potential of Senor Power Juicer.  Never before did I consider that not only could you extract juice from something like a bell pepper or sweet potato, but also that it would taste so incredibly delicious!  And the health…the health!!!  Ahh.  As much as this story of juicing is based on a purely sensual experience, in some many ways it goes beyond words.  My imagination never before opened up to the potential of juicing so many wonderful fruits and vegetables of the land.  And it makes being healthy so simple and enjoyable…

 

I’m a big advocate of healthy living.  Back in the summer of 2010, I decided to test out a vegan lifestyle for 30 days, and never since went back (…except for those 6 months I lived without money…hard to be picky about foods then ;-)).  The increased energy alone is a great reason to test out vegan foods, not to mention that it likely aligns more with your moral compass than a diet based on slaughtering innocent animals.  Nonetheless, on this quest to promote more conscious, healthier lifestyles, I did not think that juicing would offer such an amazing solution.  No longer is there reason to consume the un-pronounceable ingredients you might find hidden away in opaque plastic bags.  Juicing is an easy way to more fully enjoy the raw treats of the earth while also nourishing the temple that is your body!

Just yesterday, the day I discovered juicing, I began the day by looking in the mirror and telling myself, full of enthusiasm and trust, “Something wonderful is going to happen today.”  And, voila, juicing.