Tuesday, August 5, 2008

"How to Embrace Your Ordinary Life"


Step 1:Do the little tasks with as much love and concentration as the big tasks. Wash the dishes with the same enthusiasm you exude while watching your favorite band perform live. Iron your clothes with the same tenderness you give while rubbing your lover's back.

Step 2:Care for your body in one small way every day. I rub almond oil on my hands and feet before bed. It's a small act, but it grounds and reconnects me to what’s important in life in a basic, physical way. Self-care doesn't have to mean expensive trips to the spa, visiting the
gym or hiring a personal chef. Spend 5 minutes stretching your tired legs, meditating, massaging your scalp or taking a walk in your favorite park.

Step 3:Notice your inhales and exhales. Never hold your breath.

Step 4:Ignore the lives of celebrities. Our cultural obsession with the rich and famous must stop. And quick! Reading tabloids and celebrity profiles in fashion magazines will only make you feel inferior. But you aren't inferior. Famous people are people. Just people! They are ordinary people who just happened to have stumbled into a nonsensically worshiped career.

Step 5:Never compare yourself to others. A dahlia does not wish to be a peony; a crow does not wish to be a gull; a person must not wish to be someone other than him or herself.

Step 6:Accept that there is nowhere to “go” and nothing to “achieve.” There is a saying in Zen Buddhism that goes, “Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.” It means, among many things, that no act is more important than another and that life does not change once we reach that elusive “there” for which we are always striving. Getting a promotion at work, getting married, getting a house in a new city will not bring you happiness if you don’t already appreciate what you have in this moment.

Step 7:Learn the difference between heart dreams and ego dreams. The heart is soft, slow, centered. The ego is forceful, ambitious, erratic. Act from your heart. It will lead you toward simple pleasures.

Step 8:Watch other life forms. Whether that means seeing your garden come to full bloom, observing the birds that land in your backyard, taking your dog for a walk, or staring to the stars and wondering about extraterrestrials, cultivating a heightened awareness of other living creatures connects us to the vastness of life, while simultaneously humbling us with reminders that our personal trials and tribulations mean nearly nothing in the big scheme of things.

Step 9:Remember, you can’t take any of it with you in the end. We all die, and so it doesn’t really matter how much you accomplish or how many possessions you accrue. What matters most is the amount of joy you spread, gratitude you exude and peace you cultivate.

Step 10:Accept that you are perfect just as you are. Right now, in this moment, you are beautiful and divine. You need no editing or adornment. Repeat after me: "Right now, in this moment, I am beautiful and divine. I need no editing or adornment." Say it. Memorize it. Mean it. Believe it to your bones. It is true.

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