Meditation

Meditation does not have to be boring. Naturally, when you meditate your mind wanders; you drift, you leave the home of your mind for a brief moment before returning for a brief moment. This process of leaving and returning from your mind's home is, in essence, what meditation is. You may go through this process one-thousand times during your meditation session, but as long as you are aware of leaving and returning from your mind's home, you are successful.

To repress your thoughts during meditation is unnatural, aggressive, and counterproductive to the practice. Thoughts should be left to their own devices, given the space to roam as they wish, wherever they choose to go. The aim is not to fight your thoughts, but to let them float by like clouds in the sky - greeting them as they appear, waving them goodbye as they fade away.

When most people sit down to meditate, their goal is to free their minds of all thoughts - to think of nothing, to hear nothing, to feel nothing. Their only objective is stillness, silence - to picture darkness. But this type of meditation can not only be boring, but it can be a lonely experience, too. When I meditate, I want it to be as exciting and adventurous as possible. I want to feel enriched by my thoughts, not enraged by them. I do not want my mind to sit in darkness, thinking of nothing, looking at only a blank canvas. I instead choose to give my mind the freedom to roam, explore, discover.

During my morning meditation session, I focus on creating a new world for my mind to enjoy: I picture myself flying high above the treetops of a lush green forest, walking on top of the oceans deep blue waters whilst watching colourful fish swim beneath my feet, and strolling through the Amazon jungle.

Make your meditation an everyday exploration - an exciting new adventure into the magical world of the unknown.

Thanks for reading.

The Island of Peace

Throughout our life, we live a series of different lives: the life of him, the life of her, the life of our friend, the life of the stranger, the life of our favourite celebrity, the life of our enemy. We spectate and log the accounts of others as if it was our call of duty, wondering who they are, what they are thinking, what they are doing, where they are heading - we are stargazing. And in doing so, we forget to spectate and log the account of ourselves.

With the world getting louder and busier every day, it can be difficult to think your own thoughts, hear your own voice and see through your own eyes.

Can you hear your child’s laughter? Can you see your wife’s beautiful face? Can you spot the rainbow? Can you hear the river flow? When is the last time you were present, truly present? When is the last time you went for a walk in nature and appreciated her majesty? 'I don’t have time to go for a walk,' you may say. So, you are saying you no longer have time to taste the fresh fruits of life anymore? You no longer have time to laugh with your friends? No longer have time to spend time with your children? No longer have time to make love to your wife? Time is all we have, and the universe has been kind in providing us plenty of it. Life is happening all around you. And as you doze further into the pits of darkness, the world is awake and happening at large. The sun is setting, the clouds are taking shape, the birds are singing, and you are asleep - you hear nothing, you see nothing, you feel nothing because you are asleep.

Do not wish to be found when you are not lost. You are not lost, you have only been asleep. Now you simply need to wake up.

If you feel that life is slowly breaking you down and stripping away your spirit, may I suggest taking some time to engage in an activity that has changed my life: quiet contemplation. Find somewhere to be still which is silent and peaceful each day. Your own personal oasis. Your island of peace. Your temple of solace. You can sit in quiet contemplation for as little or as long as you like, but I suggest no less than five minutes - and as much as five hours per day. When doing so, focus on observing your life from afar - from a great height. Ask yourself questions such as: ‘Am I doing what I love each day?’ ‘Am I happy in my marriage?’ ‘What do I stand for?’ ‘How can I better serve humanity?’ If you catch your thoughts wavering from the task at hand, do not aim to reel them back in right away, give them room to breathe and space to roam - they will soon return. Commit to visiting your silent retreat at the same time each day for twenty-one days - as this is the proven structure in cultivating a new habit.

For the man that masters his mind holds the key to unlocking life’s most treasured answers.

Remember, there is more to life than work, money, and bills. Your career is short-lived. Do not squander your time feeling pressured by others or influenced by society to live your life in a certain way. Design your own template for life. Be yourself, write your own book, run your own race, live your own life - be individual.

Thanks for reading.

Resistance Poem

resistance,

why do you push me

away from all I must

far from the now

from the doings I most trust

adrift you catch me

shieldless and weak

why dare you do this

toward that I dream to seek.

To Be Present

During this morning’s walk, I noticed five baby lambs leaping across the field chasing after one another. Usually, when I see something as natural as this, I would simply walk on - but this morning, I sat down with a smile on my face and watched the baby lambs play. I could see from the expression on their faces how joyful they were - each lamb so utterly content in the present moment. The lamb's mothers were also present - just standing there, still and quiet, eating grass. For a brief moment, I experienced what it felt like to be fully present. Any past and future thoughts I may have been clutching onto disappeared - I had entered a state of non-thinking. I was just sitting, doing nothing - a state of non-being that is referred to as zazen in Japan. My ears began to profit from the soothing notes of a bird's song and I started to feel the blades of grass between my fingers, really feel them. The trees around me appeared greener, the sky was much bluer than usual, the sun was aglow and the clouds had shaped themselves into what I can only describe as a message from the Gods: the symbol of a love heart. I know the message was a reminder to love more, because love is life and life is love, and without one or the other, neither would survive. At this moment, everything made sense - life became crystal clear. I was present.

If you’re struggling to be present, think of the lion. Do you think the lion has trouble living in the present? No, of course not. If the lion thinks of tomorrow, his today is at risk - he may fall prey to nature's merciless elements and he, the hunter, will soon become the hunted. There is no other option for the lion but to live presently - moment to moment. The lion does not reflect on yesterday’s events either - he does not boast to his pride about how smoothly he took down that buffalo yesterday. In the wild, it is dangerous to have an ego; ego will get you killed. To the lion, today’s survival is all that matters. Step by step, kill by kill. If the lion was to reflect on yesterday or speculate on tomorrow, not only would he put himself in grave danger but his cubs and whole pride, too. If the lion does not live in the present, the whole species of the lion would soon become extinct. For the lion, tomorrow’s survival depends on today’s efforts.

We often need to be brought back otherwise we will never move forward.

Having walked much in the presence of sheep over the last few weeks, these white fluffy animals have taught me many lessons. The biggest lesson I have learned from sheep is that it takes very little to live presently. They are so happy with who they are and what they are doing. We can learn a great deal from animals if we allow ourselves the time for stillness and silence in their company.

Thanks for reading.

You Are Awake

Do you talk to yourself in the quiet hours and empty moments of life about the things you would like to do with your remaining time on Earth?

“I would love to be a painter,” one woman says. “I want to be a chef,” one man says. Another woman may want to write poetry, another man may want to make the ultimate sacrifice in surrendering all he has and who he is for the service of others. You may want to do something completely different from what you are doing now. Perhaps you feel discontent in your life because you are not doing something you love? Maybe you are bound in marriage to someone you love but are no longer in love with?

Wanting is one thing but doing is something else entirely.

Many of us show disloyalty to who we truly are and the things we wish to do in life. We allow our interests, ambitions, and dreams to fall by the wayside, never giving them the opportunity to breathe  - we simply forget about them. Why? Because we are scared of the unknown. It is easier to play ignorant to the life we want to live over actually living it.

It is only near the end of your life when you wish to begin to live your life - but at this point, it is too late.

Do not waste your remaining years doing something that doesn’t bring you joy. The same goes for keeping company with people you dislike. As of today, look at your life logically, and take note of what is working and what is not. If you’re working in a job that doesn’t fulfill you, withdraw yourself from it and pursue something else. If you’re not happy in your relationship or marriage, aim to rekindle it or cut the connection completely and move on. It is the same for all other things in life: If you not happy, a change must be made.

Up until now, you have been asleep, but here is your wakeup call - now you are awake.

Thanks for reading.

The Magpie Rhyme

We have all seen it. We have all heard it. We have all sang it:

One for sorrow,

Two for joy,

Three for a girl,

Four for a boy,

Five for silver,

Six for gold,

Seven for a secret,

Never to be told,

Eight for a wish,

Nine for a kiss

Ten for a bird

You must not miss.

Whilst the above version is the most recent of the well-known magpie rhyme, there are numerous other versions out there. You may be more familiar with the original written by John Brand in 1780 or the extended version written by Michael Aislabie Denham in 1846. Regardless of which version you have grown up with or now read to your children, each of the published versions of the magpie rhyme all share one commonality: fictional.

For the man who saw one magpie this morning on his way to work may believe he is condemned for sorrow until sorrow arrives. Thoughts of being laid off at his job, of his marriage ending, of his child falling ill. Now the man's whole day is ruined - always thinking of how and when sorrow will greet him. But what if the man spots two magpies, is he automatically joyful? No, of course not. The man could spot one magpie and then see a beautiful rainbow. The man could spot two magpies and then trip over and sprain his ankle.

Have you ever stopped to consider how miserable the writer of this rhyme may have been during the time of writing it? He may have written it in selfishness to escape from his own unsown wounds and anguish. Perhaps the world was full of sadness during this time and the writer was happy but felt lost, so he turned to sadness to be found. Or maybe the world was happy and the writer was not, and he felt the need to repent against the world by acting miserably. Who knows, perhaps the writer was just drunk. Perhaps not. The important thing to remember is that you do not join in with neither the sadness or the joy of the world, the important thing is that you go on feeling how you feel naturally at the time of feeling - as an individual, not being swayed here nor there due to the sighting of one or more magpies.

Other believers may spot a dead bird lying on the ground and believe it to be an omen. What nonsense this is! A dead bird does not represent an omen - it simply is what it is: a dead bird. Some people get so absorbed in the world of superstition that they forget real life. Stop plastering your own and your child’s mind with useless information. Why deceive your own child into buying into something false instead of teaching them the truth? The magpie rhyme and others alike own no meaning and own no truths - they are non-sensical. Teach your child something real. The rest is hocus-pocus.

When you next see a magpie or group of magpies, instead of reciting the rhyme in which has been drilled into your mind from a young age, begin to appreciate the magpie for what it is: a beautiful black and white bird with subtle blue feathers - a living thing, a divine creature. Look at the magpie, listen to its chirp, hear it sing, watch it fly. There is everything but sorrow to experience here.

Thanks for reading.

Patience

The mind is the most powerful tool we possess - it can be our greatest opponent or our most loyal ally. Our muse and our clamour. Our spirit and our sin.

Today, my mind was not mistaken: I simply did not write enough - and what I was able to write proved unworthy of publication. Therefore, for a moment, my mind deceived me into thinking that I should be ashamed of calling myself a writer and instead begin seeking a new profession in a different field.

Now, after some reflection time, here I lay, untroubled and undefeated about the shortage of words I produced on this day.

When sloppy days of writing befall me, I do not allow myself to feel guilt or wallow in self-pity. Instead, with the aim of not allowing the blank page to get the better of me, I simply carry out other tasks: reading, walking, meditating, stretching, taking a nap.

When writing is going well, writing is going well. If I am struggling to write, I am struggling to write. The blank page, just like a mirror staring back at us, never lies. It’s okay, struggle through it. I struggle until the first few words appear on paper and then continue to struggle a great deal more until I have written a further one or two thousand words thereafter. When I have reached my word count for the day, which is two thousand words, whether I am satisfied with what I have written or not, I put my pen down and stop writing.

In the artistic world, I see many individuals becoming a slave to their ambition - this is a sorry sight to see, especially those who are greatly talented. These artists work so much that their whole life becomes work, only to leave them in the question of why they began creating the art they once loved in the first place.

When you're going through the rough with your art, remember that art is as much about self-love as it is the creation. For without self-love, creation is not.

Thanks for reading.

The Artist’s Way

Last week, I had a short-lived conversation with a former school friend about my working life.

“So, what do you do for work these days, Chris?” he asked.

“I’m a writer,” I said.

Rather taken back by my answer, he looked at me rather strangely, squinting his eyes in curiosity, almost as if to think I was joking or thinking that I am a fool for choosing a profession in writing.

“What’s the money like?” he asked.

“It can be as much or as little as the writer wishes for,” I replied.

End of conversation.

Maybe he is right. Maybe I am a fool. I mean, let’s face it, writing isn’t easy - and even producing great writing owns no guarantees. But if that means I live the rest of my life doing what I love, I’d be more than happy to accept and own the label of a fool.

Do what you love - and if you’re lacking confidence in following your heart, do what you can’t as that will soon prove that you are doing the right thing. Do not become the sheep that follows the herd just because the farmer and his sheepdog believe you should. Do what makes you happy and act upon the calling in which your nature demands of you. even if it means living in poverty for the rest of your life.

Ask yourself: “If money wasn’t a concern and I had all of the time in the world, would I still do what I am doing today or something different?”

Everybody has a purpose in life, but very few are brave enough to pursue it with the same determination as they would a glass of cold water if they were severely dehydrated.

Don’t be afraid to own your life.

Thanks for reading.

Remember You Will Die

There are a vast number of people who are only content with the most in life: more money, more fame, more power, more recognition, more relationships, more material possessions. There are few and far between individuals who are content with the opposite in life: the bare minimum. I, not to say I always have, fit into the latter criteria. I am content with very little and desire nothing more than I need: food, water, shelter, community. If I am handed a new book to read from time to time, a pencil to write with and a sheet of paper to write on, I am content beyond the highest degree.

Some may label me as a stoic in today's world. Some may prefer to label me as something different: a minimalist, a simpleton, a recluse. But I am not a label, therefore, I cannot be labelled. I am an individual. I am me. The same goes for you.

This way of living has helped me to overcome many fears. One fear in particular that no longer frightens me is the fear of my own death - and the death of others around me. It wasn't always like this, and it has taken a lot of time and practice in order to reach this state of non-fear towards death, but now I understand the importance of death's purpose in life: we need death in order to appreciate life. Without death, life would remain shapeless and scant of hope. Those who choose to play ignorant to their own and their loved one's inevitable mortality will struggle to live a worthwhile life - a life that is devoid of meaning, faith, and compassion.

The death of another: a friend, a family member, a lover, a guardian or distant relation is not to be grieved over - it should be celebrated. Your mother dies and you say, 'I am upset that she is gone.' Naturally, as you would be - for your mother has been with you since the beginning of your life. She carried you in her womb, gave birth to you, nurtured you, has been a mother to you - your mother provided you with the gift of life. For the child that has loved their mother unconditionally while she was alive, whilst upset is a natural emotion to feel, to be distraught over her death is a sin. If, following your mother's passing, you weep uncontrollably, you are saying without saying, 'I wish I had loved my mother more and spent more time with her whilst she was alive.' Now, a stream of guilt is flowing through you. You have missed the chance to love when love was possible, and now you cannot love as the opportunity to love has been and gone. Death of a loved one is a beautiful thing for those who showed them much love when they were alive.

It is important for us to own an equal amount of comfort in knowing our death is soon to be upon us the same as we would take comfort in making love to our partner, soaking in a warm bath, walking in the countryside or looking into a child’s eyes. Until you have accepted that death will not rest until you are firmly within its vices, your life will be an ongoing struggle for accomplishing anything worthy.

Epictetus once wrote:

“Men are disturbed not by things, but by the opinions about the things. Thus death is nothing terrible, for if it were, it would have seemed so to Socrates; for the opinion about death, that is terrible, is the terrible thing."

Whether or not you are to meet death due to a fall from a great height, drowning in the ocean, eaten by wild animals, a cruel disease or through old age or another natural cause, it is all the same. You may live next to a beach, up in the mountains, in the city, but wherever you reside, death will find you. Death arrives unswerving: it never takes anybody without surprise, and it never fails to fulfil its single duty as one of the most important parts of life: by putting the old to sleep and providing life to the new.

Thanks for reading.

Who Am I Buying This For?

Sadly, we live in a world where social status is everything. The more popular the brand of clothes we wear and the higher the price tag that is attached to them the better. People will even go to the extent of burying themselves in heaps of debt in order to improve their social image – but not for themselves, for everybody else.

For many people, projecting the perfect image for themselves is more important than their friends and family. As harsh as it may sound, it’s true. 

He buys a luxury car.

She buys a diamond necklace.

I buy this for you, you buy that for me.

‘I may not know who I am as a person but I wear a Rolex watch, so who cares!?’ has become the new norm for a lot of people in today’s society. 

The cycle of purchasing things we don’t need and can’t afford to impress people we don’t like is vicious, demanding and unrelenting. 

The most shocking thing about it is that most people don’t have a viable reason why they buy the things they do.

Our identities are now more about what we own than who we are. Perhaps now is a good time to ask yourself: ‘Who am I, really?’

Thanks for reading.