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What favorite quote has changed your life?

What favorite quote inspires and uplifts you? 

Do you have a favorite quote you live by?

Mine comes from a Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh.  It has resonated throughout my being for decades now.

“My actions are the ground I stand on.”

It is so powerful yet simple.  Stop talking and do it.  Do the right thing.  For if you do not, you are standing on quicksand.

“My actions are the ground I stand on.”

At the end of a life, what else will you have? 

All the material possessions, they turn to dust.  They are just trinkets, baubles or as Robert Kiyosaki calls them, “doodads.”  Meaningless.

But to have live a life of right minded action?  The experiences, results, all flow from how we be and do.

A few thousand years ago, Siddhartha Gautama, a man, became known as the enlightened one.  The Buddha.  His teachings became what is now known as either a religion or a philosophy depending on who you talk to.  One of the most powerful teachings is the Eightfold Path.

These 8 steps lead to a path of a good and successful life.  It’s a Middle Way – not too hot and not too cold.  Just right.  It’s like the original 7 Habits of Highly Successful People!  Only one louder!

Here is the Eightfold Path

  1. Right Understanding
  2. Right Intent
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Concentration

These are not rigid rules or commandments.  It’s not authoritarian.  It’s a self-help book.  It’s the original coaching program.  Thanks Sidd!

Anyone Can Use Them

And you don’t have to call yourself Buddhist to benefit.  These days I call myself Catholic and Buddhist.  Perhaps one day I’ll expand that to other labels too.

But there’s no conflict.  All spiritual paths are good.  There is no difference.

Really.

Sure there are religious practices that look different from the outside.

  • Making the sign of the cross.
  • Bowing to Mecca.
  • Chanting in Hebrew.
  • Chanting in Latin.
  • Chanting in Sanskrit or Pali.

It’s all the same with minor external differences.

The real culprit in the world is absolutism

Puritanism.  Fundamentalism.  Holding too strongly to anything.  I’ve seen it in all areas of life.  Snobbery leads to arrogance leads to condescension and separatism.  It’s tribalism.

There are coffee snobs who would never ever drink Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.

Wine purists who do not drink Merlot.

Music teachers who have frozen in time all methods of certain master teachers as if time stood still.

People who judge others by the shoes they wear, the cars they drive, the words they use.

Hmm.  That’s it.  Judgement

“No judgements.”  That’s another good quote to live by.

It gets in the way.  Acceptance is the new middle way.

And to accept I need to change my thinking, being and doing.

“My actions are the ground I stand on.”

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awakening spirit

Do you know how to hear the secret chord?

“Well I heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord”

– Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah

I’ve been listening for that chord. 

It haunts me.  Just when I think I hear it, it slips away like a distant echo.  A foghorn on the black lake in the mist.

Years ago, in Thailand, I heard someone call my name.  I turned around, and there was a guy I didn’t recognize.  He was incredulous.

“Don’t you remember me?”

“No.  How do I know you?”

“We spent last summer in Taiwan together.”

“I wasn’t in Taiwan last summer.  In fact, I was only there once as a child.”

“No, dude, you were there.  It’s me Carter.”

“Carter?  Well, I don’t know how you know me but I don’t think we ever met before.”

We ended up spending days together.

We talked and talked. It was as if every question I had, he had the answer to.  And every question he had, I had the answer to.  It was like the secret chord was not a sound, but rather a conversation.

I slip in and out of periods of extreme magic. 

Unswerving faith in an invisible sun and powerful connection with a force.

And then I go all the way to the other side.

It’s like the title of a book I read long ago:  power versus force.

Sometimes I’m surfing the waves of power. 

Effortless, magical waves of abundance flow through me.

And then I get stranded on a rock.

Unable to move, marooned for what feels like eternity. 

No matter how hard I try, it seems I make little progress.

And then I remember to let it go. 

I breathe into the wind.  I let it lift me and somehow I get a little lighter.  The color of the light changes and I begin to move with flow.  The distant mountain that I so desperately sought flashes by me as I reach even higher vistas without effort.  I smile with relief.

Until I forget it all again.

Lately, I’ve been remembering again.

It all begins with internal dialog.  Is it filled with awe and gratitude?  Or has it turned to checklists and self-critiques?

I begin to practice saying it over and over.

“I love you.”
“I love you.”
“I love you.”

And a slight tingle begins.

“I love you.”
“I love you.”
“I love you.”

I try to remember this throughout the day.

It’s easiest to remember in the grey dawn light before lists and worries start to crowd the edges of my mind.

“I love you.”
“I love you.”
“I love you.”

Today I awoke at 4:34 am.

I laid in bed with my mantra.  Letting it flush through me, a golden sparkly white light coming in waves.

And out there, on the edge, somewhat distant, I think I hear it.

The secret chord.

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recommended reading

A Guide to the Good Life

I recently finished William Braxton Irvine’s A Guide to the Good LIfe:  The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, published by Oxford University Press.

This was my first exposure to the philosophy of the Stoics, which to me seems like a Greek/Roman version of Buddhism.  There are a lot of parallels to the East with pragmatic advice that resembles Taoism, Confuscianism and Buddhism.  One of the main practices Dr. Irvine explains is “negative visualization.”  This is where one actually takes some time to visualize what the worst thing that could happen would be.  It’s important to note that one does this only periodically as it is meant to be a sort of “wake up” to the psyche to realize that the worst has not happened yet and we have the gift of the present moment.  Vietnamese Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh often leads a meditation on death which is very much like this.  To meditate on one’s own death as well as the death of loved ones better prepares one for the inevitable but also sweetens the moments we have with our loved ones.  It’s a method of reducing the pain and suffering of life and to shift the focus to the positive.

Irvine actually puts forth a good argument for modernizing Stoicism which is not all denial of pleasure as the Cynics were.  Rather it’s living and enjoying a good life.  This is one without excess but one where we actually are present and conscious of our treasures.

There’s also a good overview of the major Stoics like Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Zeno, Epitectus and reading list of the major works. – Recommended.