Honoring The Grace Of Small Things

Honoring The Grace Of Small Things

Sometimes life calls us to become still, to be quiet, and to pay attention to the Divine nature of everything around us. In that stillness, we come to acknowledge the beauty of song and the openness of the bruised, the magic of the insignificant and the terror of the unknown.

And from there, we bring the message back to others to, in turn, shake themselves awake and start looking at life again as if for the very first time.

It does not matter what brought you here, or which path stripped away your protective layers to leave you trembling before the awe of life. You are here now, and so I wish to share with you a vision of things that touch our hearts. I want to gift you a glimpse of the intricate and miraculous web of life and see the recognition light up your eyes, even as these things stir the deep memory of endless possibilities to love despite the vastness of an incomprehensible universe.

Today, I awoke to the symphony of birds whose names I’ll never know and marveled at the incredible complexity of their harmonies as they exuberantly welcomed the arrival of a bright new day. It spoke to me of joy.

In the street, parents walked their children to school, small hands swallowed up by theirs, smiling as they inclined their heads to hear stories bubbling from those rosy lips and downy cheeks, excited at the possibilities of a new day, and it spoke to me of hope.

I remembered the way a sloth wove slowly through the branches of a tree hanging upside down so her baby could cling to her belly without fear of falling, and I felt love.

At the base of the stairs, the fern finally succeeded in breaking thru the stony cracks to unfurl its tiny fronds to the warm sun, and it speaks of courage.

The way young people lean eagerly, expectantly into their future even when they don’t know what it holds, and it speaks of confidence.

And the way the old dog stretches out to let the morning sun warm its stiff joints and surrenders to each present moment.

And the way the car hesitates for a moment before the gear engages, reminding me of my own doubts.

And the way the grackles peck at the green oranges in the trees, carefully grooming themselves with the oils and then announcing their gleaming handiwork with loud caws before flying off to what they do next. And I am reminded that self-nurture precedes all service.

And the way a sentence can leap right off the page to pierce your heart with its honesty and truth, so you need to stop for a minute to experience the awe and beauty of it.

And the way you sometimes glimpse someone in a vulnerable moment and see right inside them to the soul that’s there, and your heart wells with compassion and love for its innocence.

Yes, I know that there is a lot of pain and suffering in our world. Good things end and bad things linger on, we fail and struggle and get hurt, hammered by loss and accident and tragedy until, some day, we slip away into the darkness beyond it all.

But I also know that we carry awesome potential and our experiences can make us kinder and more loving if we let them. I know we have a choice in how we respond to life: either dismissing dissonance as nonsense and huddling behind walls, or embracing the things that touch us even when we do not understand their full meaning.

Life speaks to us in a myriad of ways that cannot be measured or understood unless we listen carefully, and then are able to accept the messages of love, courage and hope. I know that life can be a beautiful dialogue with our souls, and for that I am deeply grateful.

About the Author

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit https://www.adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

Chaotic Life? How to Find Inner Peace Amid Chaos

Chaotic Life? How to Find Inner Peace Amid Chaos

“Anyone can build a house of wood and bricks, but the Buddha taught that that is not our real home. Our real home is inner peace.” – Ajahn Chah

How can we possibly experience inner peace at a time when humanity and our planet appear to be tumbling deeper into chaos? Can inner peace even co-exist with chaos?

I believe the answer is Yes!

In fact, spiritual practices such as mindfulness and Buddhist teachings show us how to cultivate inner peace in any situation.

The only time we have is the present; tomorrow is not guaranteed. This present moment, therefore, is the perfect and only time where we can find inner peace. This inner peace, which is also known as equanimity in Buddhism, cannot be found in the outside world. And yet, the potential for inner peace exists in the mind and heart of every individual, so each one of us can learn how to create the inner conditions for experiencing lasting peace within.

One of the perennial wisdom teachings encourages us to view peace as the result of letting go: letting go of clingy attachment as well as letting go of its opposite, which is aversive resistance.

This process of letting go is simple, but not necessarily easy to practice. It requires self-discipline. And so, we tend to shop around for easier ways toward peace, running the risk of getting confused by external voices promising instant bliss and freedom from the human condition.

You see, random information without context leads to overwhelm and confusion. Instead, we need to discern what is truly useful for us at any given time. We also need to distinguish between the louder presence of random information and the gentle presence of inner equanimity, because that is how we liberate the mind. In the presence of equanimity, the mind is not hijacked by attachment or aversion.

Equanimity further grows when we recognize that all things are inherently neutral; it is simply our thinking that bestows meaning on things so we can then either attach to them or resist them. It is not the facts, but the stories about the facts, that hijack our minds into value judgments and positionality.

In Buddhist tradition, equanimity is seen as a central quality present in beings who have developed deep inner wisdom and alignment with truth, free from hostility and egoic will.

Equanimity relates to inner poise and balance because it rests in a place of non-attachment; centered between attraction and repulsion. It poises in a calm place of neither clinging to nor pushing away from things. Finding that neutral resting place within offers us a higher perspective over issues rather than getting stuck in the egoic interpretation of what’s happening. The more we develop equanimity, then, the more inner peace and spaciousness we experience in life.

Each one of us can develop more equanimity by practicing mindfulness in our lives on a daily basis and using an inner inquiry process to help us unpack emotions as they arise. Here are five steps to help with the process:

1. Set a clear intention to stay mindful

Setting a clear intention reminds us to step out of the ego identification of attachment and aversion; story-making and drama. It is the first step in cultivating true inner awareness.

2. Recognize the triggers

When a trigger arises, we may try to avoid feeling our emotions around it. Instead, we may distract ourselves with shopping or work, or we may attempt to numb our emotions with food or other substances. If we truly want to discharge the impact of the trigger, we absolutely need to become aware and look at it. Sometimes, the simple act of clearly seeing allows our reaction to the trigger to dissolve so we can replace it with equanimity.

3. Become curious

When we feel lost in reactions of anger and frustration to triggers, it is helpful to recognize that there is a desire hidden there, way beneath the frustration or anger. There may be attachment to a wishful outcome, or a craving for safety and security. It can be helpful to ask questions about where the attachment or aversion came from, what it is attempting to accomplish and what needs to be done with it to help us dissolve inner dissonance. We can also investigate the ways in which we distract ourselves to avoid feeling pain or avoid accepting reality.

4. Let go of attachment and aversion

By bringing compassionate awareness to these inner emotions and processes, we can separate out truth from our colored interpretation. Next, we need to ask ourselves if we are willing to let go:

  • Am I willing to let go of control?
  • Am I willing to let go of my attachment or aversion to what showed up in the past or in my present?
  • Am I willing to let go of the way I think things should be?
  • Am I willing to let go of resisting what is?
  • Can I simply let go and allow things to be as they are

5. Embrace peace

Letting go of attachments and aversions offers us the opportunity to return to our innate state of peace. As we let go of these things, we create space for equanimity.

Equanimity is the final result of this deep inquiry process that helps us dissolve inner dissonance, become aware of areas where we are distracting ourselves, and come back into proper alignment with truth and peace within, free from attachment and aversion.

After practicing this inner inquiry, simply bask in the stillness of awareness, allowing the radiant heart and mind spaces to open. Allow life to unfold in its fullness, expanding and contract with each heartbeat of life so you can know the peace of observing all without attachment, and in so doing, find inner peace.

About The Author:

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit https://adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

Tending The Heart: How to Get From Fear to Empowerment

Tending The Heart: How to Get From Fear to Empowerment

Fear constricts and empowerment frees; and tending the heart allows us to find our way to that freedom.

Fear is a deeply rooted meme in society because every generation on earth has faced the need for survival. In earlier times, fear of abandonment was primary for most individuals, because abandonment by the tribe most often led to death.

Fear is also used extensively by egoic minds and unawakened beings to control, manipulate and force consensus, even when it is false.

Fear is an illusion

Fear is truly false, for it presents false evidence in order to coerce us into submission; it often parades the imminent danger of abandonment to make us cower from the possibility of what other humans might do to us.

Even this grandiose posturing of fear is false! In truth, the Creator cannot abandon creation, for the creation is the very expression of Divinity in physical form. To abandon creation, the Creator has to abandon Himself, and that is not possible. Both Creator and creation are one in consciousness; therefore all divisive concepts of fear and abandonment come from the unawakened ego self.

To make space for the realization of Divine support and protection in our lives, we need to evict the fear of what man can do to us.

We need to understand that fear is a man-made phenomenon that has no power over our eternal souls. Only then can we affirm that we are embraced by a loving Creator who does not and cannot abandon His creation.

Tending the heart

Once we have revealed fear for what it is: false evidence appearing real, there is a Zen Buddhist teaching that reminds us there are only two things in this world we need to do: sit and tend the garden.

Even though the world is full of suffering, it is also full of empowerment to overcome. When we stop and become quiet, we can see this.

And so, we need to tend our hearts so we can transition from fear to faith; from disempowerment to true empowerment.

Take the time to sit and calm your heart; feel beneath the fear to the woundedness there that begs for healing. It takes courage to step away from the crowd, to push away the busy schedule and to sit, tending your heart and your soul. Yet all masters knew how important that is: even Gandhi took one day a week to sit in silence, tending the garden of his heart so he could be the change he sought in the world.

Right action

When we’ve taken time to tend the heart, we can engage in meaningful action. How you do your work is as important as what you do. Never act out of guilt, because then you are propagating the very suffering of the world. If you truly wish to grow love and not anger, fear or guilt, then do what you do from love, and not from any other emotion.

When acting out of guilt, anger or fear, we act out of ego, no matter how noble the cause we engage in.

Expand your circle

We also need to stay connected to the whole of life, even as we figure out our individual parts of the journey. Don’t draw your circle of life too small. You are more than one person – you are one with life itself, expressing in this life through consciousness.

Reclaim your connection

It is in sitting and contemplation that we recognize the stillness of the Creator Presence and our connection to all. That awareness can foster in us spontaneous caring and compassion for the woundedness of the world, so we commit to the awakening and care of the world.

Many brave souls have gone before to show the way. I often find inspiration in the beautiful words of author Diane Ackerman’s School Prayer:

“In the name of daybreak

and the eyelids of morning

and the wayfaring moon

and the night when it departs,

 

I swear I will not dishonor

my soul with hatred,

but offer myself humbly

as a guardian of nature,

a healer of misery,

a messenger of wonder,

and an architect of peace.

 

In the name of the sun and its mirrors

and the day that embraces it

and the cloud veils drawn over it

and the uttermost night

and the male and the female

and the plants bursting with seed

and the crowning seasons

of the firefly and the apple,

 

I will honor all life

—wherever and in whatever form

it may dwell—on Earth my home,

and in the mansions of the stars.”

Centuries earlier, the Buddha taught: “To live in joy and love even among those who hate; to live in joy and health, even among the afflicted; to live in joy and peace, even among the troubled; quiet your mind and tend the heart, and free yourself from fears and confusion and attachment, and know the sweet joy of living in the Way.”

What is your gift to the world that only you can bring? Listen closely, push beyond fear to find it, and then commit to do it with love and joy!

About The Author:

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit https://adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

The Search For A Perfect Life

The Search For A Perfect Life

Of the many things that cause us pain, our expectation that life should be perfect, is one of the primary causes. The idea that there exists a perfect Shangri-La somewhere that we can somehow locate, is a form of magical thinking that sets us up for false expectations and disappointment..

It creates dissatisfaction with the life we have and pulls us out of the present moment into an unending search for perfection out there somewhere. It also leads to frustration when our efforts fail to create the perfect outcomes we think we need, deserve or desire.

If we truly desire inner peace, we need to trade this magical thinking for a more accurate version of truth.  Zen teaches that to find peace of mind, we need to “think of life as a series of imperfect facts.”

I have used this helpful reminder in countless ways in my personal practice.

This phrase reminds us that our reactions and outrage often stem from an unconscious belief that life should be perfect – or that our individual lives and outcomes ought to be perfect for us to have peace.

Because this limiting belief operates beneath the surface, we may be unaware of it. If I were to ask  you, “Do you expect your life to be perfect?” you would almost certainly say no.

And yet, we get upset when our lives do not match our idealized dreams! This process is known as cognitive dissonance – the conflict between what we want and what actually shows up.

It is worth checking how often you become angry or frustrated when something relatively minor goes wrong, or when events don’t turn out the way you wanted.  You may even feel outraged when life refuses to follow your commands!

With some mindfulness, we can turn such moments into Zen moments: we can think of life as a series of imperfect facts. And know, too, that sometimes those apparent imperfections are really blessings in disguise.

In the same way that we can become outraged when life “goes wrong,” we can sometimes react very harshly when people let us down, or when our expectations are shattered by some very human behavior.

Our relationships do best when we can accept that people sometimes will behave badly, inconsistently or thoughtlessly. Sometimes they will let us down.

As long as this doesn’t happen all the time and does not put us in danger, it is healthier for everyone when we can see these behaviors as part of the big picture and get over the smaller disappointments.

When we focus on let-downs and disappointments, our relationships weaken and may even disintegrate. By choosing instead to see others as flawed as we are, yet generally doing their best, our relationships with all of life become easier, more relaxed and far more rewarding.

Mother Teresa reminded us of that when she said:
 “People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

When we can see the perfect unfolding of life as a series of imperfect facts, our acceptance of what is, brings freedom and joy.

About the author:
©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit https://www.adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

How to Stay Strong When Things Go Wrong

How to Stay Strong When Things Go Wrong

Do you wish you could stay strong when setbacks hit and things go wrong? If so, you’re not alone! Setbacks and disappointments are a part of life, but learning how to effectively deal with them, can help to strengthen us from within.

When faced with setbacks, disappointments and stagnation, the first thing to do is not to fight back harder, but to step back and regain perspective before proceeding. This may feel counterproductive at first, but it is vitally important.

When we get so focused that we see things as black and white, good or bad, we can get boxed into rigidity. Truth is, life consist of an entire spectrum of possibilities, rather than just two choices. Stepping back and refocusing opens our minds to more ways of seeing and acting in life.

It does not always require a major shift; even a small tweak can make a difference. Just step back and shift your perspective enough to include one more way of looking at that situation. Is it really true that you are the only actor responsible for creating a desired outcome? It may be more accurate to say you represent one of many conditions that need to come together for something to unfold.

Even when we put our best into something, the outcome might not be what we expected. There may be very strong messages from inside and around us telling us that the outcome is the most important thing, yet that is a limited perspective. The outcome is less important than cultivating our capacity to be with whatever is, even when it is not at all what we have wished for.

This means learning to be okay with not knowing, with not being able to control the outcome. We continue to practice and train our ability to at peace within, and we don’t take the outcome personally.

This is at the heart of authentic spiritual work: it includes both being and doing; awareness as well as the discipline of application. What keeps us pliable in this often challenging process, is the attitude of gratitude.

Gratitude is not dependent on external circumstances. We don’t feel gratitude just because everything is going great, although that’s important to acknowledge. We especially need to practice gratitude when things are not going the way we want them to. It’s when things go wrong, that we are faced with deeper attachments and desires that often masquerade as needs.

To stay flexible, we need to practice gratitude anyhow; similar to the concept of “hallelujah anyhow” that is often heard in black churches; giving thanks and finding gratitude not because of our circumstances, but despite them.

The challenge is to stay in a receptive, open place, not fighting against what’s happening, but digging deeper within to live from our core values, to be the difference we wish to see in the world, and to lead by example in making a difference despite the setbacks we may face. It requires us to dig deep and keep showing up, doing our best with the resources and gifts that we ourselves have been given to make this world a better place.

And when our best is not sufficient to change things around yet, we entrust the outcomes to a Higher hand and we stay the course with compassion for ourselves and others. Once conditions are appropriate, the outcomes will be sure. In the meantime, the work remains because living from our true core and purpose is the only meaningful way to live. Even when conditions are not yet appropriate for optimal outcomes to show up, we can say “hallelujah” anyhow, and stay the course.

Setbacks and delays are part of life’s reality, and they are fully workable. Our practice is to not pull away from the dissonance, not to withdraw from what we are faced with; and in that place where commitment and discipline meet the obstacles, our souls learn resilience and strength.

This is true especially when you feel outnumbered and alone. Don’t get locked into the duality of blame and shame! You cannot be successful by feeding what you are fighting, so when you reach this point, step back and regroup!

Do something good instead. Recognize that we need the shadow to show us the light, and navigate by forgiving the limitations of the shadow and finding a way to shine the light.

One of the biggest pitfalls in our society is the way in which personal preferences are mislabeled as needs. People often attempt to manipulate others by presenting their emotional preferences as needs, and then demanding these “needs” be met. Listen to individuals for a day and you’ll notice how often this is used to manipulate: “I need you to be quiet now,” “I need you to listen to me,” “I need you to do this right now,” and the list goes on.

In reality, these statements confuse emotional preferences with needs. They are indicative of misappropriate use of the limbic brain, where needs and preferences are often confused in early childhood. Adults who get stuck in this dysfunctional behavior, create a lot of chaos for themselves and others.

An emotional “need” is not the same as the biological need for oxygen, food and shelter; it is simply a preference. In fact, psychologist Steven Stosny identifies only one valid emotional need for adults, and that is to act consistently on deeper values.

When we consistently act from our deeper values, all the emotional preferences that parade as important needs, will either be satisfied as a byproduct of meaningful living, or they will drop away as unimportant in the bigger lens of living a purposeful life.

The best way to attain the life you want to have, is to approach it from the perspective of living it in alignment with your deeper values and meaning, not from emotional preferences masquerading as “needs.”

When you do that, you will find your roots digging deeper so you can stay strong when things go wrong.

About The Author:

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit https://adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

Cultivating Peace Within

Cultivating Peace Within

Some people possess a very special gift: they embody the presence of peace within. When we have a chance to sit close to someone like that, we also feel calm. They radiate inner peace in a way that deeply touches us. The presence of their inner peace stills our wandering thoughts and calms our anxieties.

Whenever we have a chance to be with a soul who lives in the eternal Now, we can feel this subtle source of peace and joy. Through their presence, we’re able to connect to that source as well. Their inner tranquility calms the turbulence in the world around them, and they teach us by example how to find peace within.

You too can learn to live this way. Living from a place of inner peace is not reserved for gurus and spiritual masters only. It is a learned behavior, just as constant worry is learned.

You can shed your learned ways of hurry and move through life as if there is no need to be somewhere else in this moment. You can move through life as if you already are exactly where you need to be — as if you are arriving with every step. Every moment of your waking consciousness can bring you closer to that perennial peace within —embodied in the presence of Now.

When you choose to move through life this way, you dissolve your sense of isolation in the world. You start remembering that you’re not a separate individual rushing about to avoid bad and reach for good. Instead, you start feeling again your connection to the whole, like droplets remembering they belong to the ocean. The drop of water does not need to do anything – it simply feels the embrace of the ocean and lets itself be carried along by the current in each present moment.

That inner current of peace is your spiritual core; the inner voice that whispers to you whenever you tune out the brassy loudness of the material world. To truly feel alive and at peace, it is essential to learn how to tune in to the presence of one’s spiritual core in each moment, and to live from that inner presence instead of reacting to the outer chaos.

When we forget this, we act in ways that cause pain or separation between ourselves and others. We become reactive; we may misunderstand others and lash out in fear or anger. And afterwards, we beat ourselves up with guilt, shame and regret.

You cannot change the past, but you can release its hold over you. The power of healing the past lies in this present moment. From this place of mindfulness, you can choose forgiveness and reconciliation to clear away misunderstandings, anger and grief from the past. It is exactly in this moment, Now, that the work of healing must be done to set you free.

No matter how difficult the challenges of the past were, they are over. You are here Now, reading these words. You are alive Now! Treasure the fact that you are alive in this moment and embrace the opportunity for healing it offers. Sit down quietly and go within: meditate to look deep and sweep away the woundedness, prejudice and mistakes of the past. Accept the opportunity offered by the presence of Now, so you can be free.

This present moment offers a gift. It allows you to forgive, to heal and return to peace within, which is your natural state.

Life is present in this moment, waiting for you to choose what to do with it, and your choices determine the quality of your peace within.

About the author

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit https://www.adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

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