Shambhala and the Art of Being Human

August 24, 2015
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I have an internal commentary going off in my head from the time I wake up in the morning to the time I go to bed. This narrator, of sorts, is doing one of two things. It’s either replaying something in the past or anticipating something in the future. I will be at an event and try my hand at sarcasm, sometimes it comes out a little flat or just plan rude. When something like that happens, I will stew in that moment for days, sometimes weeks to come. Now, it’s not all the time that I replay this event, but at least a few times a day, I’ll revisit that moment and berate myself because of it. Other times, my ever-present inner chronicler will be forecasting some event that hasn’t happened yet to get a grasp on what I’ll say, how I’ll act, where I’ll stand, and how I’ll come across. It’s never ending. Let me repeat that – It’s never ending. EVER!

Now, I do think it’s a good idea to prepare yourself for things to come (e.g. – like a presentation, or a meeting, etc.), but don’t overplay things – which I do all the time!

My sister gave me this book, 10% Happier, by Dan Harris, one of the co-anchors of the weekend edition of Good Morning, America. Cool guy! He was a field reporter for quite a long time (still is) and had an on-air breakdown (it was an anxiety attack) where he forgot what he was supposed to say and froze. He pretty much came out unscathed, at least from a public viewpoint. But it jarred him a bit, as I’m sure it would most anybody. He was covering the “religion beat” for his work and he basically went on this journalistic journey that took him from religious sects to self-help gurus to just plan whackjobs, but he learned a tremendous amount of valuable information and started meditating in his daily life.

HALT! Did someone say mediation? Alright, I’m gonna read something else now! But if you want to stick around….continue reading….

I recently went to Shambhala training and for those of you who are unsure of what that is, it’s a form of meditation, in Buddhism. We participated in sitting meditation and walking meditation (which I thoroughly enjoyed) over the course of a 3-day weekend. Our Shastri (teacher) for the weekend guided us through a journey of self awareness and told us to care about ourselves. It’s the art of being human. Basic goodness comes from within and she related it to the first time she fell in love, or the first time she bit into a lemon, or that moment right before you shovel snow off of your driveway. It’s basic goodness, which I feel like it’s there all the time, but we really have to open our eyes to it. I know this is hard to read, but I sat with myself (just myself, no iphone, no TV, no reading a book) and tried to just “be” – it was unbelievably painful. It’s really hard to focus on your breath, and your body, your mind, and your heart. But when you let go and realize it’s ok to be with yourself and the way you feel, there’s kind of a weight that’s lifted off your shoulders. You feel alive and sad and happy and angry, one after the the other. And it’s all ok.

I realized a few things on this 3 day weekend. 1) I work too much and it’s my form of escaping from myself. 2) I can’t seem to get comfortable with being in the present moment. 3) I tend to let little things bother me (an asshole driver, the old lady taking forever in line at the grocery store, my non-punctual coworkers, etc.). 4) I need to change the way I think and feel about certain things.

In walks meditation! I’ve had a daily-ish practice for a couple of months now, and it’s going really well. I’ll set my alarm and do 15 minutes in the morning when no one is in the office and maybe 10 minutes at night when I get home. If I forget or if I’m too busy (which some would say is the very reason why you should meditate in the first place), I’ll skip it. But it’s there with me, and I have it when I need it. It’s a really cool thing to do – I challenge you to try it. Think of it like going to the gym. You go to the gym to develop your muscles, right? Maybe you’re there training for a race or just want to be in shape. Well, meditation is the same way. You exercise your mind to be in the present, in the now.

Now, just so you know, you don’t always have to be in the present to be meditating. Meditation is not (I repeat, NOT) about keeping your mind clear of any and every thought. It’s about letting your emotions and thoughts come to you, explore them (and kind of lean into them), experience the thought or the feeling, and then let it go. Because everything is fleeting, all of our moments are escaping us at all times of the day. Right now, as I write this word, that experience I just felt is gone. Accept these feelings and sit with them, it’s okay to feel, just don’t stew! Don’t stew in anything. You’ll start to find that when you lean into your feelings and experience them, it’s much easier to let them go. Hence, the end of your inner narrator. Well, maybe not that quickly. I still have my inner speaker and probably always will, but I’m getting better at calming him down!

That weekend helped me forget about my analytical mind, it helped me get in touch with myself. Have you ever spoken to yourself, I mean, really listened and asked imperative questions. Because I’ve lived probably close to half my life already. It’s time to start being happy and cherishing these moments that we get with our loved ones, family and friends. I need to focus on my relationships and not my work all the time. I need to get involved with the community. These are the things I’ll remember when I die, these are the things I’ll probably be able to take with me, wherever we go. It’s important to remember that there are good things out there for you, there are people who care, and places that you’ll connect with. It’s the art of being human.

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