The Appreciation Challenge

Can you spend today looking for things to appreciate? Can you do this repeatedly throughout the day? And then, when you notice that you have fallen out of this practice, can you gently bring your thoughts and attention back to doing it again?

You may notice that this is not easy and that your mind wanders. It gets distracted by thoughts that have nothing to do with appreciation. Notice what it gets drawn to, and gently bring it back to appreciation again.

Do not let your thoughts tell you there is nothing to appreciate because this is not true, no matter your circumstances. There are countless things in life; your life to appreciate if you take a moment, slow down, and notice.

Therefore, I encourage you to challenge yourself today and try it. Then perhaps you will do it again tomorrow and the next day until it becomes a way of living that brings more peace and joy into your life.

Navigating the Contradiction of Life

The truth is if you take yourself with all your difficulties, pain, anxiety, and suffering to the park one day, you might be surprised to see how much joy abounds there in others.

Your mind will say, but they do not have my problems. And while you listen to your mind tell you this, your anxiety increases, and you begin to suffer even more. You ask yourself, why can’t I experience joy like that? Well, you can if you stop listening to the mind as an all-knowing source. 

If you only concentrate on your pain, that is all you will find. Try concentrating on what feels good. Sometimes even noticing a slight difference can change your outlook. For instance, when you are in physical pain, a slight deviation from level 10 to level 8 is a difference in the right direction, even if only temporary. However, we often overlook this difference and see things as the same even though they have changed. Once you notice these differences, you can find hope again and start moving your attention in a new direction.

Do not forget life is a contradiction. Look at any moment, and with a bit of clarity, you can see that all “states of being” exist simultaneously in this world. Even if you feel you are only experiencing part of them, that does not mean the others do not exist. You can redirect your attention toward something different at any moment in your life.

Now I am not saying that you should not feel your feelings or that you should not look at the truth of your life. You can do that and at the same time direct your attention towards that which brings you joy.

Never forget to lean into your blessings no matter how small they seem. The fact that you are alive and able to watch the sunrise and set is a wondrous gift, even if your mind says otherwise.

Have you forgotten this amid your difficulties, pain, anxiety, and suffering? 

I guarantee you that no matter how much your mind tells you that you have the right to suffer or complain, you also have every right to feel joy. You do not have to believe everything your mind says to you. I can assure you that it is constantly lying about or exaggerating your circumstances. Therefore, when the pain in your body or life speaks up loudly, or some person says something that causes you frustration or anger, witness what your mind starts telling you first. Notice that it tells you how bad things are or how wrong that person is. And then, instead of taking up a conversation in agreement with it, look deeper within. Remember that you have the power to redirect your attention and begin to focus that attention on what feels good or brings you joy. Perhaps you feel that is too much at first, but I am sure that thought came from your mind and is not the truth. Find the smallest of cracks because “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” ― Leonard Cohen. 

Unforeseen and Painful Times

In our efforts during unforeseen or painful times to find security, peace, and comfort, we frequently move too quickly or not at all. We want things to be the way they used to be and try to resurrect our past experiences.

While resting or not moving at all may be needed for a short time, what is more common, is moving too fast. We forget to slow down, pay attention, and notice that we have changed or that our circumstances are different.

We fall into resisting what is without awareness. This happens out of habit, and we make choices based on who we used to be without taking the time to discover who we have become.

We fail to notice how things are in that moment. Instead, we reach back into our memory for something familiar. This error often leads us down the road of suffering and making choices that are not for our highest good.

Our unhappiness persists because we refuse to risk the collapse of the familiar and instead try desperately to hold onto our false ideas and beliefs. This clinging will only lead to increased suffering.

You have probably already experienced what I am talking about and recognize that you only need to surrender to the truth of the moment. This is not always easy, as you know, and yet the faster we do it, the sooner our lives shift, improve, and balance returns. Often after these experiences, we recognize that our lives are better for what we went through. Therefore, slow down, take deep breaths literally, breathe in through your nose and out of your mouth when you find yourself struggling. Rest if you need too but take the time to self-reflect. Do self-inquiry and meditation, especially when things are going well. Because the more you are connected to your true nature, the easier it is to flow through difficult times. And remember, this too shall pass. Life itself knows how to bring about balance, and suffering is mitigated if you are flowing with it rather than resisting or trying to recreate the past.

False Beliefs

Perhaps the Only Way to Stop Worrying

Worrying, have you been able to escape it in your life so far? Probably not.  The truth is if you have thoughts, then at some point in your life, you will experience worry. Why? Because that is where it originates. It indeed affects some of us more than others, but it’s something that we all encounter in our lives.

Has your worry ever affected your sleep, eating habits, or possibly even your health? How many times have you worried about something that never happened? More times than you remember, I suspect, because that is how cunning worry and the mind can be.

When we get caught by worry without awareness, we become trapped by it in our thoughts. The mind runs wild, and our imagination offers endless possibilities, most of which never turn out to happen. They are often negative in context and offer no solution, simply speculation.

So, what can we do about worry? The first thing is to understand it. If you don’t, how will you ever stop doing it?

All worry begins with an unsolicited thought. We have unsolicited thoughts all day long. Most of them go unnoticed. However, we can get caught at any moment by one of them. Once we do, we have identified with it, and it evolves into an inner conversation that we carry on with ourselves.

A conversation like this is seldom helpful. Most of the time, it is persistent and pointless. Rarely is it the truth. These false and exaggerated thoughts seed our worry, which can evolve into anxiety and fear for many.

Therefore, it is ideal to recognize when one of these thoughts arises and not identify with it. At first, we may not recognize the individual thought(s). Instead, we get grabbed in the conversation with ourselves. Yet, we will invariably become conscious of this conversation at some point. Once noticed, we can release our worry. Of course, this may take some practice. Remember, it is not about being perfect. You only need to notice what has happened before, during, or after it occurs. This recognition will eventually lead to the end of worry if done with regularity and kindness.

Your awareness is what notices these happenings. So, it is essential to strengthen it by noticing these thoughts and happenings. Once they are seen for what they are, a lie, exaggeration, or complete fabrication, they cannot cause you to worry. So, ask yourself, “Do I know this to be 100 percent true” any time during the experience. Practice this repeatedly, and it will lead you away from worry and back to peace.

Remember to be kind to yourself when you forget. New circumstances may show you that you still have more practice to do even though you were successful in the past. Awareness can always bring you back to your natural and peaceful nature. However, your thoughts and emotions may be used by your conditioned self to pull you back into worry. So, use your awareness to notice this and free yourself once again.

Surviving the Storm of Suffering

Do you know that everyone suffers at some point in their life? How about those who experience suffering their entire lives. You may not always see this suffering because many people are very good at hiding it, while others do not want anyone to know they are hurting. And, of course, it is easy to miss someone else’s suffering when we are amid our own. And yes, everyone’s level of suffering is different, but that does not make their suffering any less.

We experience suffering based on the specific situation and how we have been conditioned to navigate those situations. Therefore, what might be easy for one person can be extremely difficult or even impossible for someone else.

Notice how your endless thoughts trap you in their seductive and distracting ways, and your day passes by without a thought of the world’s suffering. They can even make you forget about your suffering or amplify it to an unbearable place, even a suicidal place.

Some think they will not suffer anymore if they can only reach a certain level of awakening or enlightenment. However, is this truth or wishful thinking on their part? How can it be avoided? We are, after all, feeling human beings no matter our understanding of our spiritual life and connection. The truth is that you can mitigate your suffering with greater awareness but rest assured that no matter how spiritually aware you are, you are still living the life of a human being too. Would you not feel the loss of a family member, a friend, or a beloved pet and perhaps suffer for some time? Indeed, these are situations that we all face and often create pain for us for varying degrees of time.

Of course, there are numerous types of suffering worldwide. For example, extreme suffering can be caused by war, illness, race, and famine. Have you suffered these or something else? Are you still suffering?

Know that every minute that goes by, millions of us suffer simultaneously. Therefore, know that you are not alone in your suffering. Do not be afraid to reach out when you need to and ask for help. Please do not ignore your suffering or resist it. Learn to feel the pain as best you can in the moment. Because when you do, it opens the door to transformation and healing. Otherwise, it becomes buried in the body, possibly impacting the rest of your life in some way, and it can even influence your health.

Moving through your suffering can be very challenging and require significant effort sometimes. Initially, we may not always be able to deal with things at first, which is okay. However, eventually, we must face our difficulties, without and within, if we ever want to heal and move on. Be more aware of what you might be ignoring or resisting, and never forget that you are not alone.

No One is Ordinary!

Challenging Times

Challenging times can fundamentally change us; in fact, that is what they are meant to do. The only time they do not is when we resist what is happening and fail to remain present. They support the transcendence of our current identity and open us up to new possibilities, but only if we let them.

We will suffer to the extent that we resist what is happening. However, when we see these circumstances for what they are instead of what our thoughts tell us about them, we will gain a new perspective. With this new perspective, our suffering will be diminished, end much sooner, and for some, stop instantly with this awareness.

You do not want to end up being the same person you thought you were before these events took place. Otherwise, you will become more anchored into your conditioned self, leading to more pain.

Know this truth; peace is never found by those who try to avoid life’s difficult times. Without this recognition, you will only see your troubles as unfavorable. And while there may be truth in your troubles, your experience of that truth does not have to be dictated by your thoughts about it. You can rise above them, which means everyone can, not just others who do not have YOUR problems.

Therefore, do not miss any opportunity that a challenging time might bring to you. And yes, it may be hard at first. You may even think it is impossible because you get caught in your pain and fear of the experience. In these times, we do not want to look or forget to look for the positive. We get lost in our endless thoughts, which tell us a story about our suffering, perhaps even how justified we are to remain in it.

We can feel like there is no way out, and we will always feel the way we do now. If you are alive, I presume you have already felt this way, perhaps more than once; I know I have. So based on your past experiences, is it true that you will always feel this way, or there is no way out?

Are you feeling that way right now? And if you are, have you looked for something other than suffering from your experience? Pain can ease with time, but it will rise again unless you find a way to be present with it. Therefore, do not let your fear or thoughts get in the way of you looking for something other than pain. Perhaps you will find something positive, even life-changing, from your challenging experiences, but you will never know if you do not look.

Seeing the Truth Through Awareness

When faced with something in your life that you do not like, rather than immediately resisting, take pause and rest assured that whatever is happening is happening for you and not against you. I understand that you may feel that it is wrong and that it should not be happening. However, you may not have taken time to see or feel anything other than your egos dislike for it and immediately rebelled. When we sit in resistance to the present moment, it is impossible to stand in awareness, and without awareness, it is impossible to see the truth.

You may have already experienced this in your life, perhaps many times. Where you resisted an experience, and then one day after the fact, you looked through the eyes awareness and saw the positive effect it had on you. However, at the time, this was not possible because you were too busy battling with what was taking place.

The level of awareness required to see the truth was there all along but not available until you let go of your resistance. Once you did, you fell back into peace again, or a more comfortable space, albeit for some, this is very short-lived, lasting only until the next event.

Pause, find connection and choose peace rather than harm when you feel overwhelmed in the crashing ocean of life. – Cuong Lu

The harm we cause can be towards others or ourselves and levied through thought and deed. Unfortunately, most of the time, this harm is toward ourselves. However, it is always due to a lack of awareness.

If we are aware, we can notice it in the moment, and if not, we may still be fortunate enough to see it after some time passes. However, on too many occasions, it goes unnoticed, which can cause problems for us, either emotionally, physically, or both. Not to mention the consequences it can have on our relationships with others.

The impact on our personal lives can happen immediately, or multiple events can build on each other, leading to a very uncomfortable body, illness, sleep problems, emotional issues, or other disorders. For example, have you ever been upset with someone and gotten a headache or became sick to your stomach? Maybe you think this is no big deal, or you believe that this is just how you are because it has been happening for years. If it happens repeatedly, it could be missed as the underlying cause of your health issue or emotional state since it seems normal to you.

There are many ways to deepen your awareness. Therefore, I will not go to great lengths in this post. However, like a muscle, regular use will make it stronger. A good starting point is to pay closer attention to your thoughts and your actions. Are they unkind at times? Are you easily distracted when you try to pay attention to your thoughts? What does your mind say to you when you try to pay attention? How does your body feel when you are upset or try to pay closer attention to your thoughts? Have you ever noticed? Or is it hard to do anything else but feel your body during these experiences?

Please keep it simple to start with and allow grace to guide you. Do not solely rely on your intellect and knowledge for this guidance because for many, it keeps them stuck in mind. Know that intention gives awareness direction and is the spark. Therefore, make a clear and unbending intention to deepen your awareness, and you cannot fail. Failure is impossible unless you begin to believe what the mind is telling you without awareness. And remember to reach out for support if you need it. That is not a sign of weakness but a higher level of awareness.

Thinking, Feelings, and Finding Peace

Much of your life is spent thinking; even when you wish it would stop, it doesn’t, does it? We tend to think about how we feel too, which, of course, is not feeling at all — it’s thinking.

Through thought, our mind tells us that it is too uncomfortable to feel our feelings. We then get caught in a loop of thought about how painful we feel without ever really exploring our feelings. We can even have body sensations that confirm our thoughts about it. This tendency of the mind leads us down an exhaustive path of pain and suffering.

The truth is we must begin to notice this ploy of the mind to break free of it and then feel our feelings fully. However uncomfortable that may be—resisting them leads to a much lengthier healing process and an increased level of suffering.

Feelings are energy, and as such, they must keep flowing. Resisting them means we hold onto them, and the energy gets stuck in our body, which can cause physical pain and even illness.

Recognizing this truth or knowing it on an intellectual level is not enough; you must have a direct experience to embody this truth. We often end up stopping short on the spiritual path and in life of realizing this because the mind tells us that we know it already, whatever it is. Then we get distracted by thought again and sent down another path without ever having a direct experience. The mind has endless offers to distract us, and many of us can spend our whole life seeking and not finding. How many years or decades have you been looking?

Therefore, the next time you find yourself suffering, notice if you are in your head and having a conversation with yourself. Bring your attention down to your chest, the heart area, and notice that your thoughts begin to slow down. Then focus even more attention there and begin to feel your feelings. They literally are your friend and not something to fear. Know that the mind will try to stop you through thought, physical sensation, and intensity.

Be with your feelings, let whatever needs to arise, and let the energy flow again—knowing that you are entirely safe. Some of you may feel the energy flowing along with the emotion, and some may not. Either way is perfect. Do not let the mind come in and question whether you are doing it right or not; it is just another distraction. Keep your attention in the chest. If you are guided by the feeling to another part of the body, follow it. Just stay with your feelings and keep breathing. If it feels too overwhelming, you have the power to slow it down or stop it at any time.

The mind may tell you otherwise, but I can assure you this is the most loving thing you can do for yourself and your body. You are the only one who can offer yourself this kind of unconditional love. We have all felt someone’s love for us being taken away before because it was not unconditional. However, once you feel this kind of self-love, you will know it can never be taken away by anyone. Therefore, do not be afraid to feel your feelings because what is often disguised as pain can blossom into something beautiful if you let it.