An excerpt from DailyOM: Inspirational Thoughts for a Happy, Healthy and Fulfilling Day (Hay House) and is available at all bookstores or online at www.hayhouse.com
Zen Commute: Discovering Ourselves in Traffic
No one wants to be angry with a fellow human being who is lost or confused, but if we get stuck driving behind one, we may find ourselves feeling wildly, uncharacteristically impatient. It is our earnest goal to have compassion and love for other people, but when one of them cuts us off, we feel personally offended, angry and hurt. The good news is that by experiencing these difficult emotions, we have the opportunity to see ourselves and change our approach. In that light, being stuck in traffic can become a vital part of our spiritual practice.
Sages of all faiths agree that the current moment is the only thing that really exists. The past and future are equally irrelevant in the presence of the now. Therefore, at the deepest level, there is nowhere to go, because the only place we need to be is here, now. Just reminding ourselves of this in the midst of traffic can be extraordinarily helpful. The Zen mantra "Nowhere to go / No one to be / Nothing to do" can work wonders on our panicky misperception that we need to get somewhere fast. By remaining in the moment, we inevitably get to our destination. We don’t need to push or rush or panic.
Another tool used throughout the ages to maintain enlightened awareness is breath meditation. The simple act of consciously inhaling and exhaling grounds us in our bodies, reminding us where we are, who we are, and how precious our life is. When we connect deeply to our own existence in this way, many of the petty thoughts and feelings that can dominate our minds dissolve without any effort. We have breathed our way back to sanity.
From this place of awareness, you can feel compassion for the drivers who are banging their steering wheels and blaring their horns, even if they are honking at you. You know it is not personal; they have simply lost perspective. On your exhale, send out a wish that they, too, find the cool ease of the present moment.
Sky-Blue Healing: Blue-Light Guided Meditation
Please sit comfortably with your back very straight, your legs uncrossed, and your palms facing upward. If this is not comfortable for you, this meditation may be done lying down as well.
Start by imagining the color of the sky on a sunny day: sky blue.
Now, imagine that same sky-blue color to be made of light – a healing light.
Begin to breathe this in; feel it.
Imagine an opening in the top of your head. Every time you take a breath, you are inviting this color into your body, pulling it in with your breath.
Start to breathe in the blue light.
Now, begin to place it in your abdominal or pelvic area. Imagine that your pelvis is a bowl and you are going to fill it up with this beautiful blue light.
Begin to breathe it in a little harder. Passionately inhale through your nose, and push the blue light into your pelvic bowl. Make lots of noise through your nasal passages to bring in the air, and remember to exhale out your nose, not your mouth. The breath is your power.
Fill your pelvis with the blue light. Do this for a few minutes. Let your pelvis fill up with the beautiful, healing blue light.
Bring your breath back to normal now, and allow that blue light to start to rise. Permit it to move upward into your belly and your stomach. Keep letting it rise through your chest, neck, and head…and, finally, let it encompass your entire body.
Just be with it and feel it.
You have just done some powerful healing on yourself. Sit for a while and let it be integrated within you. Be well.
Heights of Awareness: Highly Sensitive People
Some people are born into the world with their ears and eyes open to the strong energy pulsating all around them. They experience everyday sensory input in a uniquely heightened way that can cause both pleasure and pain. In an environment overflowing with subtleties of thought, chemicals, noise, light, scents and both positive and negative energy, these highly sensitive people do not have the ability to filter the emotions, substances, and sensations they take in. They can be easily overwhelmed in crowds and may require quiet time alone to regroup their feelings. But highly sensitive people are far from being weak. On the contrary, they are strong, perceptive, intuitive, and exceptionally artistic individuals who have a wonderful gift of insight to offer.
Highly sensitive people feel emotions deeply and, since they tend to be empathic, find themselves affected by the emotions of others, even those of actors or characters in books. Because of this, they are perceptive of people’s needs, joys and pains; and they cannot simply dismiss their feelings. They are as hurt by an insult to another as they would be by one directed at them and try to avoid most conflict. When faced with negative emotions or situations, highly sensitive people can easily suffer from depression or anxiety. Their unique mode of perception allows them to develop a strong appreciation for nature, music, art and literature. Many talented artists are sensitive, and most sensitive people are artistic in some way.
This sensitivity exerts itself physically, as well, which can cause the nervous system to become overloaded when faced with bright lights, loud noises, strong tastes, or erratic environments. Such people may be allergic to a number of foods, fabrics and chemicals. Thus, they fare best in peaceful, harmonious settings that offer strong support, and they may find that they build their strongest bonds with other highly sensitive people who understand their needs. To minimize stress, it can be beneficial to create a daily routine, seek out calming activities, avoid jarring noise and lighting, meditate, and use relaxing essential oils.
Although some highly sensitive people develop animosity toward their way of experiencing the world, it should be understood that it is not a curse, but a path to wisdom. Denying your sensitivity can lead to unhappiness, but exploring its benefits can bring about positive change in yourself and others, particularly when you choose to seek out the world’s beauty and demonstrate to others the heights it can reach.
People Who Don’t Get It: Compassion for All
You may be someone who understands the true nature of reality, perceiving deeply that we all emanate from the same source, that we are all essentially one, and that we are here on Earth to love one another. To understand this is to be awakened to the true nature of the self, and this understanding is a blessing. Nevertheless, people who just do not get it are seemingly everywhere and, often, occupy positions of power. It can be frustrating and painful to watch them behave unconsciously.
We all encounter individuals such as this in our families, at work, and in all areas of public life. It is easy to find ourselves feeling intolerant of these people, wishing we could be free of them even though we know that separation from them is an illusion.
It helps sometimes to think of us all as different parts of one psyche. Within our own hearts and minds we have dark places that need healing, just as the heart and mind of the world have their dark places. The health of the whole organism depends upon the relative health of the individuals within it. We increase harmony when we hold on to the light, not allowing it to be clouded by judgment, anger and fear about those who behave unconsciously. It is easier to accomplish this if we don’t focus on the negative qualities of individuals and instead on how increasing our own light will increase that of the overall picture.
When dealing with people who seem very unconscious, it helps to remember that everyone must find their own way to awakening, and that the experiences they are having are an essential part of their process. Holding them in the glow of our energy may be the best way to awaken theirs. At the same time, we are inspired by their example to look within and shed light on our own unconscious places, sacrificing the urge to judge and surrendering instead to humble self-inquiry.
Fluid Like a River: Living Like Water
The journey of water as it flows upon the earth can be a mirror of our own paths through life. Water begins its residence on Earth as it falls from the sky or melts from ice and cascades down a mountain into a tributary or stream. In the same way, we come into the world and begin our lives on Earth. Like a river that flows within the confines of its banks, we are born with certain defining characteristics that govern our identity. We are born in a particular time and place, into a specific family, and with certain gifts and challenges. Within these parameters, we move through life, encountering many twists, turns and obstacles along the way – just as a river flows.
Water is a great teacher that shows us how to move through the world with grace, ease, determination and humility. When a river breaks at a waterfall, it gains energy and moves on. As we encounter our own waterfalls, we may fall hard, but we always keep going. Water can inspire us not to become rigid with fear or hold fast to what is familiar. Water is brave and does not waste time clinging to its past, but flows onward without looking back. At the same time, when there is a hole to be filled, water does not flee from it, fearful of the dark; instead, it humbly and bravely fills the empty space. In the same way, we can face the dark moments of our life rather than running away from them.
Eventually, a river will empty into the sea. Water does not hold back from joining with a larger body, nor does it fear a loss of identity or control. It gracefully and humbly tumbles into the vastness by contributing its energy and merging without resistance. Each time we move beyond our individual egos to become part of something bigger, we can try our best to follow the lead of the river.
Let Yourself Be Carried: The Flow of the Universe
The flow of the universe moves through everything. It is in the rocks that form, get pounded into dust and are blown away. It is in the blossoming of a flower born from a seed planted in the spring. The growth cycle that every human being goes through is part of this natural flow, which is also the current that takes us down life’s paths. When we move with it rather than resisting it, we are riding on the universal wave that allows us to flow with life.
Many people live struggling against this current. They try to use force or resistance to will their lives into happening in the way they think it should. Others move with it like a sailor using the wind, trusting that the universe is taking them exactly where they need to be at all times. This flow is accessible to everyone because it travels through and around us. We are always riding it – it is just a matter of whether we are willing to go with it or we resist it. Choosing to go with the flow is often a matter of relinquishing the notion that we need to be in control at all times.
The flow is always transporting you where you need to go. It is merely a question of deciding whether you plan on accepting the ride or having it take you there with your feet dragging. Learning to step into it can help you feel a connection to a force that is greater than you and is always there to support you. The decision to go with the flow takes courage, because you are surrendering the belief that you need to do everything by yourself. Riding the flow of the universe can be effortless, exhilarating, and unlike anything you ever expected. When you are receptive to being in it, you open yourself to possibilities that exist beyond the grasp of your control.
As a child, you were naturally swept by the flow. Tears of sadness falling down your face could just as quickly turn to tears of laughter. The mere tiniest wave carrying you forward off the shores of the ocean could transport you into peals of delight.
Our souls feel good when we go with the flow of the universe. All we have to do is make the choice to ride its currents.