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What are you doing?

Have you ever asked yourself “What am I doing?”, while you’re doing the dishes, riding your bike, listening to a friend? And then answer truthfully?

I hadn’t. I had heard the question before, but I always thought it was a trick question. To test that you really, really understood the Buddhist teachings. Like: “I am taking a shower, but actually, there is no self, so I cannot talk about an ‘I’. The shower and I interare, there is no separateness between me and the shower, so the shower and me are both taking each other.” And so on, till I got so lost, that I had no clue how the question was supposed to be answered.

Thich Nhat Hanh, Plumvillage.orgYesterday, I read ‘The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings’ by Thich Nhat Hanh:

“Sometimes I ask one of my students, “What are you doing?” to help him release his thinking about the past or the future and return to the present moment. I ask the question to help him be – right here, right now. To respond, he only needs to smile. That alone would demonstrate his true presence.”

My goodness, after all these moments of trying to come up with a smart, carefully crafted answer, I read that the question is only meant to bring my attention back to what I am actually doing.

I usually am actually doing something different than what I think I am doing. I am meditating, but I am actually planning my evening. I am in conversation, but I am actually watering the seeds of fear, disconnect, and judgment. I am writing my blog, but I am actually thinking about the letter of condolences I am gonna write.

And you know what, the question is a fun game! “What am I doing?” helps me to stop, breathe, and check in with myself. And then make a choice. “Do I want to continue planning for tonight, or do I want to pay attention to my breath?” “Do I want to water judgments, or do I want to use words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope?” “Do I want to contribute with my blog, or do I want approval?” The question opens up a whole world, that was previously unknown to me. It helps me to connect to and understand my attention and my intention. And that is a delight.

What are you doing?

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You want help pausing and making new choices? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be honored to help.

Don’t give up

Have you ever planted a seed? Carefully crafted a hole in the ground, planted it, and watered it every day? Have you ever felt that excitement, the anticipation of the moment the first leaves unfold on a warm, sunny day?

Image courtesy to Wikimedia.orgAnd then, after days and days, nothing happens? Sure, all the weed pierces through, happy with all the care and protection you offered. But none of the leaves of your beloved walnut pit.

You continue with watering, watching, weeding. But after weeks, you give up. Your planting program failed, the walnut is infertile, you move on to a new plan.

Too soon. While you were watching, weeding, watering, the walnut pit sprouted in the deep, dark safety of the earth. Your carefully crafted gardening plan slowly softened the hard shell. The roots started to dig deeper, the leaves started to reach for the light. And just before it popped up, you stopped with your care and protection, and the precious plant-to-be died, before it could manifest and grow into the magnificent walnut tree it was meant to be.

A friend complained that this mindfulness thing, this sitting meditation didn’t help at all. She suffered just as much from restlessness, depression, anxiety, and frustration. Hell, yeah, she even yelled more than before. She was done sitting on a cushion and observing her breath. It didn’t help at all.

Thich Nhat Hanh invites us to keep practicing mindfulness, joy, and compassion, even if we don’t see results right away. Some seeds in our store consciousness take a long time to sprout and grow into their potential. Some seeds are protected by such a hard shelf, that it takes patience and commitment, before the rain and the warmth of the earth finally help it sprout and grow up. Some seeds have been watered for so long, that their roots are strong, and they are firmly grounded in your habit energy.

The path of mindfulness, joy, and compassion is not about results, expecting peace, and opposing anger, depression, jealousy, and anxiety. The path is about loving to be a gardener and taking care of all the plants that manifest in our mind consciousness. Gently, patiently, and with delight. Looking at all the plants with a sense of wonder. “Oh, this is what anger looks like… I understand… Gosh, now I get what my neighbor is feeling…” “Ah, this is what craving feels like… My goodness, that’s what my friend must experience when she can’t stop drinking…”

In these moments of openness, acceptance, and curiosity, we can enjoy tending to our gardening with non-attachment and non-aversion, and trust that the innate qualities of love, life, and light will manifest in their own time.

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You want help to enjoy being mindful and open to life? Read testimonials of people who hired me as their coach. I would love to help you too! Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a free, discovery session.

Smile therapy

Have you ever heard of smile therapy?

I hadn’t.

So I invented it.

Throughout the day I bring my attention to my facial expression and invite myself to smile. You wouldn’t notice the difference probably, my smile is fainter than that of the Mona Lisa, but I do.

Image courtesy to theartofchildhood.files.wordpress.comJust inviting a smile changes my experience. I soften and open up.

The Second Mindfulness Training “True Happiness” says: “I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy.”

So here I am, disappointed that I didn’t make the money I wanted, sad that my friend didn’t call back, scared that my parents will die this year, angry that the driver in front of me cut me off, and I notice the corners of my mouth turn downward in dissatisfaction with what life offers me.

And I start smiling.

I look around in my experience and notice this cognitive dissonance between my inner experience and my outer expression. Something isn’t right. I can’t have unpleasant feelings and smile at the same time. One of the two has to change to establish a sense of alignment and integrity. And since I am devoted to my smile therapy, it’s gonna be my experience.

Instead of holding on to my anger, disappointment, jealousy, grudge, or self-righteous indignation, I start searching for things I can smile about. What can I appreciate in this moment that aligns with my smile? Maybe it is the sun on my arms, or the mockingbird singing? Or the relief that we still live in our beloved house? Or the fact that my headache is gone? Or the joy of my Compassionate Communication Group last Monday?

And you know what?

It is super easy to find something to be grateful for.

Thich Nhat Hanh is right: I have more than enough conditions to be happy.

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You want help to find things you can be appreciative of? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary discovery session.

Generosity generates happiness

Thich Nhat Hanh tells us that giving makes us happy. Since I lately struggle with feelings of fear, depression, and discouragement, I am willing to give it a try. In each and every moment I’ll focus on generosity and “share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need”, including myself.

Sitting as silent witness as Lisa Coleman is executed is my act of giving. I know my vigilance won’t save her life, repair the pain and suffering of the boy she beat and starved to death, or bring peace to those left behind. I only know that I can be with her in spirit and send her love and peace, while she counts down the last minutes of her life.

As I drive up to Capitol Hill I am noticing how appreciative I am that I am alive. How grateful I am that I can feel the sun on my arm, my hands on the steering wheel, my breath flowing through me. I might muddle through life, and yet everyday offers a new opportunity to live and love.

Image courtesy to WikimediaAnd as I sit and imagine her fear, despair, anger, and loss as she is strapped to her death bed, I feel my anger towards society dissipate. We are in this together. We are confused and lost as to how create connections that are inclusive, supporting, open, and loving. We don’t know how to reach out to those on the fringes of society, at the top of corporations, and bridge the differences. We make mistakes with sometimes horrendous consequences, and we punish by killing, because we lost sight of our compassion and interbeing.

I look at the cars stopping at the traffic light in front of us. I look at the drivers and the passengers and wonder who they are, where they are going, what they’re doing. I imagine their families, their loved ones. I see them as children, maybe happy, maybe unhappy. And I tap into this universal reservoir of limitless love: “May you be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit. May you be safe and free from injury. May you be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.” And all I wish for is that they will never kill, be killed, or lose a loved one to killing or execution.

Sitting as silent witness when someone is executed and sending out loving-kindness to everyone in this world is a simple way of giving, and I feel elevated by it.

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You want help to practice generosity and giving? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary discovery session.

I am never bored…??!

My sister tells me that she feel impressed and inspired, because I am never bored. I happily confirm the assessment. “You’re right, Saskia, I am never bored. Especially not since I started meditating. I have always something to do, even when I am waiting, because I can always focus on my breath and observe my thoughts, feelings, and sensations.

I feel proud, relieved, and excited that I have found something that brings me joy in every moment.

Image courtesy to WikimediaAs the days pass, I start to pay attention. To the truth of my experience. How utterly bored I feel on my meditation cushion, many, many times. Just focusing on my breath, and nothing else going on. Not enough distraction, not enough entertainment, too much antsyness. I follow Thich Nhat Hanh’s instructions:

Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.

Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.

In.

Out.

Okay, okay, I get it. Focus on your in-breath as you breathe in, and on your out-breath as you breathe out. But 20 minutes in a row???! I get the idea in two minutes, can I do something else the rest of the time?

Let’s try Pema Chodron’s advice. Sit up straight, tongue resting lightly on my palate, mouth lightly open.

Breathing in, I adjust posture.

Breathing out, I let go.

Way better. My neck needs adjustment. I need to straighten my back. Relax my belly. I have something to do, some distraction. Then there is a ring-tailed cat outside. Cool! I have to pay attention to her. You see them seldom, because they are so shy. Now I have an interesting thought. Let’s elaborate on it, it’s a perfect outline for a post.

I am never bored??!… I am bored all the time. Especially with what’s most crucial to my life: my breath.

Jack Kornfield has this story:

There once was a Zen Buddhist student monk. His teacher shared one practice with him: focus on your breath. The student practiced for years, and years, and years. Then finally he tells his teacher: “Master, I have practiced focusing on my breath for all these years. I’m getting bored. Can we add another practice?” The teacher grasps his head, pushes it down the water basin and holds it there till the student grasps for air. Then he lets him go and asks: “Are you still bored with your breath?”

That student is me. Learning to find delight in each and every breath.

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You want help to enjoy every breath? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary discovery session.