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Cause-Effect vs. Intention-Manifestation

One of the key models for goal achievement is that of cause and effect. This model says that your goal is an effect to be achieved, and your task is to identify and then create the cause that will produce the desired effect, thereby achieving your goal.

Sounds simple enough, right?

However, the main problem with this model is that nearly everyone seriously misunderstands it. And that misunderstanding comes from not knowing what a “cause” really is.

You might assume that the cause of an effect would be a series of physical and mental actions leading up to that effect. Action-reaction. If your goal is to make dinner, then you might think the cause would be the series of preparation steps.

To an outside observer, that certainly appears to be the case. The scientific method would suggest that this is how things work, based on a purely objective observation.

However, within your own consciousness, you know that the series of action steps is not the real cause. The actions are themselves an effect, aren’t they?

What’s the real cause? The real cause is the decision you made to create that effect in the first place. That’s the moment you said to yourself, “Let it be” or “make it so.” At some point you decided to make dinner. That decision may have been subconscious, but it was still a decision. Without that decision the dinner would never manifest. That decision ultimately caused the whole series of actions and finally the manifestation of your dinner.

Where does that decision arise from? It might arise from your subconscious, or in the case of conscious decisions, it arises from your consciousness. Ultimately your consciousness is the greater power, as it can override subconscious choices once it becomes aware of them.

Missing this very simple distinction has contributed to quite a number of failed goals.

If you want to achieve a goal you’ve set, the most crucial part is to DECIDE to manifest it. It doesn’t matter if you feel it’s outside your control to do so. It doesn’t matter if you can’t yet see how you’ll get from A to B. Most of those resources will come online AFTER you’ve made the decision, not before.

If you don’t understand this simple step, then you will waste a lot of time. Step 1 is to decide. Not to ruminate or to ponder or to ask around and see whether or not you can do it. If you want to start your own business, then decide to make it so. If you want to be married and have a family, then decide to attract a mate. If you want to change careers, then decide to do so.

It blows my mind that people think that something else has to come before the decision. People waste months trying to figure out, “Is this goal possible?” And this makes a lot of sense to do so if you’re at a certain level of consciousness. But all you’re really doing is creating delay, and you’ll simply manifest evidence to suggest that the goal is both possible and not possible. You think doubt in your head, you find doubt in the world.

Time and again I’ve seen evidence that not only people, but the universe itself, can sense a lack of commitment to a goal. Have you ever heard someone tell you about a goal of theirs, and you can just sense how wishy-washy and uncertain they are about it? They say things like, “Well, I’m going to try this and see how it goes. Hopefully it will work out OK.” Is that evidence that a clear decision has been made? Not remotely. Are you going to help this person? Probably not — who wants to waste their time on someone who isn’t committed?

But what happens when you sense total certainty in the other person? Will you help them if they ask for it? You’re far more likely to help a committed person because you can tell they’re eventually going to succeed anyway, and you want to be part of that success. You even feel more energized and motivated yourself to contribute to the success of people who are very clearly committed to a goal that resonates with you and which is genuinely for the greatest good of all.

Don’t you think this process works the same way within your own mind? If your consciousness is divided against itself, do you think it will commit all its internal resources to your goal? Will your subconscious give you all the energy and creativity it possibly could, or will it hold back? Think of your subconscious mind as a multi-tasking computer processor. What percentage of resources will it devote to a task that you’ve told it to execute with the words, “Run this for a little bit and see if it works, but quickly dump it if it seems too difficult”? Now what if you gave that CPU a process labeled, “Run this now”?

The universe itself works on the same principle. Think of it as the superconscious mind. When you’ve made a clear, committed decision, it will open the universal floodgates, bringing you all the resources you need, sometimes in seemingly mysterious or impossible ways.

Whenever you want to set a new goal for yourself, start by setting it. Take the time to become clear about what you want, but then just declare it.

Say to the universe, “Here is the goal. Make it so.”

Do not ask the universe for what you want. Declare it. Don’t ask. This is very similar to prayer, but you are not praying FOR what you want. You are praying WHAT you want. You are simply saying, “Here it is. Make it so.” It is like planting a seed in the ground. You do not say to the ground, “Here is the seed. Please, can you make it grow?” You simply plant the seed, and it will grow as a natural consequence of your planting and tending to it. It is the same with your intentions. Simply plant them. There’s no need to beg.

Intend that your goal manifest in such a manner that is for the greatest good of all. This is very important, as intentions that are created out of fear or a sense of lack will backfire. You may get what you want, but it will yield a bitter aftertaste. Or you may get the exact opposite of what you want. But intentions that are genuinely made for your own good and the greatest good of all will tend to manifest in a positive way.

After I declare my intention, I wait for the resources and synchronicities to arrive. Usually they begin to manifest in 24-48 hours, sometimes sooner. Sometimes these synchronicities appear to be the result of subconscious action. I just happen to notice things that may have been there all along, but now I see them in a new light, and they become resources for me that I never noticed until after I declared my intention. But many times it’s nearly impossible to explain such synchronicities as the result of my own subconscious action, even if I step back and try to look at them purely objectively. Sometimes they come in such unusual avalanches that I can only explain them as the result of superconscious action. On some level the universe itself is aware of my intention and is doing its part to help manifest it. I also find that the more inviting I am of these synchronicities, the more easily they flow. Right now I typically experience about 10 per week on average, and I think that’s because I have many different intentions in the process of manifesting, so there’s a constant flow of resources coming to me.

The mental and physical planning and action steps come later. That’s how I organize the resources that have arrived. Once enough resources have come to me, I can begin to see how they all fit together to achieve the goal. But if the path seems too complicated or difficult and I don’t like what I see, I put out some new intentions to make it the way I want it to be. I declare, “Let it be simpler.” I again wait for the synchronicities to arrive, and a simpler approach becomes clear. Usually for an approach to be simpler, it means I have to get past some personal block within me. I have to grow on some level in order to be able to take advantage of a simpler solution. Or perhaps I have to learn a new skill first. So while it might be simpler, it might also be harder on a personal level. For example, by putting out the intention to do more to help people, I had to develop my communication skills. That makes the goal easier to achieve, but it’s more work up front.

It took me a number of years to be able to trust this approach before I could begin to use it as my default manner of goal achievement. I have to be open to achieving goals in unusual ways sometimes. I get what I intend, but not always what I expect. So when the synchronicities begin dropping me clues, I do not always understand how they’ll be part of the path to the goal. But invariably there’s an intelligence at work, and if I trust it, it will work just fine. Usually it will bring me new information first, so I can raise my own awareness and knowledge to the level required to achieve the goal.

For example, if you declare your goal to become wealthier, within a few days you might see all sorts of synchronicities related to spirituality. They may seem to have nothing to do with wealth whatsoever. So you figure it’s just a coincidence, and the approach isn’t working. But the approach is sound, and it is working. Most likely it’s a signal that the path to wealth first requires you to improve your consciousness. This is especially true if your intention was for the highest good of all. If you become wealthy before your energy and consciousness have reached a certain level, then greater material wealth may only feed your problems — your goal cannot yet manifest for the greatest good of all. But if you first learn to use your energy and consciousness positively, then the greater resources that wealth provides you will be a positive manifestation instead of a negative one.

In truth this is a simple and direct process. But our minds are so cluttered with the flotsam and jetsam of social conditioning that we have a hard time thinking on this level. We get so attached to seeing our goals manifest a certain way because that’s how they manifest in TV shows or in movies. Or maybe that’s how our parents or friends did it. But this attachment to a particular “how” blocks us from allowing our goals to manifest far more easily. If we could loosen up a bit on the “how” and just learn to allow the manifestation to occur in its own perfect way, goal achievement would be far easier.

So often I see people sabotage their own goals because they do not understand the power of intention. Realize that EVERY thought is truly an intention. Every thought. So most people manifest a cluttered mish-mash of conflict in their lives because their thoughts are in conflict. They simultaneously set a goal and then unset it. “I want to start my own business.” “I wonder if it will work.” “I wonder if I’ll succeed.” “Maybe this won’t work.” “Maybe John is right, and this is a mistake.” “No, I’m pretty sure it will work just fine.”

If you are trying to achieve goals on the level of action-reaction, meaning that you’re purely focused on the action steps, while at the higher level of intention-manifestation, you’re putting out conflicting thoughts, then you’re sabotaging yourself. If you go on a diet and exercise like crazy, while all the while thinking, “I’m fat. This is hopeless. This is taking too long,” then your higher level intentions will override your actions, and negative or incongruent results will follow.

If you want to achieve a goal, you must clear out all the “hopefully” and “maybe” and “can’t” nonsense from your consciousness. You cannot allow yourself the luxury of a negative thought, and that is an intention to manifest what you don’t want. This takes practice of course, but it is the essential art of learning to use your consciousness to create what you want. When you are congruent in your thoughts, your goal will manifest with ease. But when you are incongruent in your thoughts, you will manifest conflict and obstacles. As within, so without.

Why is it you’re able to do this? Because you have that power. Not believing in yourself simply means you’re using your own power against yourself. You’re like a god saying, “Let me be powerless,” and you don’t even realize it. If you think/intend weakness, you manifest weakness. If you project your power outside yourself and onto the external world, you lose your power.

You don’t need anyone’s permission to do this. It is a natural human ability. But it takes practice to develop your consciousness to the level where you can apply it and especially to learn to trust it.

What happens if you decide to manifest a really, really big goal, one that seems physically impossible? The process will still work. It’s just that there will be a lot more steps, and you may be led through various synchronicities for years before you’ve reached the point where your ultimate goal can manifest. It might take longer than your human lifetime if the goal is so big. But you will certainly make progress if you use this approach.

So what is your goal? Say it out loud right now, and let it be for the greatest good of all. Then say to the universe, “Make it so.” Wait for the synchronicities and unusual coincidences to arrive. Follow them where they want to lead you, even if it seems strange at first. Allow your goal to manifest.  October 17th, 2005 by Steve Pavlina

For more articles by this inspiring author check out his website at:

Affirmations Vs Declarations, Is There a Difference in The Law of Attraction?


You've heard it over and over again. Say your affirmations each day and you will be/do/have whatever it is you want. So we start saying things like "My bank account is getting bigger every day", "I am going to meet my life partner", or "My business is a huge success". We say these words and a little voice creeps in and whispers in our ear. "When?" or "No, it's not". What we aren't realizing is that by saying affirmations we are keeping what we want in the future by continually repeating, "I am going to..." etc. So then, we say, okay, what if I say my affirmations in the present tense. "My business is growing everyday". Better, but there is still something missing. Ownership. And that is where declarations come into play.

I looked in the dictionary to find the distinction between affirmations and declarations since I already had my own way of discerning between the two.

To affirm means to "state positively, confirm".

To declare is to "make known officially, formally, to make evident"

Now on first glance, they may seem to be interchangeable. I mean, if I am saying "My business is a huge success", I am stating this positively and aren't I also making it official? Well, not really. The difference here, and the reason why many people get frustrated when they don't see results with affirmations is a very subtle, yet powerful one. When you affirm, you are stating something in the positive, many times in the future, (which will always remain in the future, but we'll talk about that later) but when you declare, you are owning it NOW. You are coming from a place of being as opposed to trying to get somewhere. Let's take a closer look at the difference and how they apply to the Law of Attraction and deliberate creation.

Affirmations are statements which are trying to get you from you from one place to another. In the "real" world that is actually what you are trying to achieve, isn't it? However, in the vibrational world, which is the underlying current of all that we are creating, you are experiencing resistance to the present. This acts as an obstacle in the road of getting/experiencing what you want. If you state your affirmations as a process, "I am getting richer everyday" this softens it a bit as it is much easier for many people to view it as a process then to just state that they "are". This is still, however the process of getting from one place to another and you haven't yet embodied that thing that you desire. We can look at this more closely by seeing the energetic difference in declarations.

When you declare something you are stating to the Universe (and also yourself - which is extremely empowering) that you already are this thing/person what you want. I Am That. When you come from a place of being you embody all the qualities and characteristics of it now from a vibrational standpoint and thus become aligned with it. This all happens before it is actually in your physical reality. It then must come to you. You state your declarations in the present tense in the form of I AM statements. I am wealth. I am love. I am beauty. I am success. Can you  feel the difference from "I am getting wealthy?". Seems so subtle in the wording and yet possesses a huge energetic distinction.

When you declare something you are making a statement from a place of being - you are already there. You can imagine and feel what it would be like to be thisperson you would like to me. How would I act and feel if I were a person who now was wealthy or was a successful business owner or a great partner? When you can become this person (we've all heard of acting as if...) now, you will start to see evidence of it in your life in a short period of time, with consistent practice.

There is a wonderful formula that I heard recently that will help exemplify this:


First you become the person already having what it is you want. When you can feel what that is like, it will start affecting your thoughts throughout the day. As deliberate creators know, your thoughts carry energy that attract to you that which you think about most. Then, as you think the thoughts of a person already having this, your speech will in turn align with your thoughts. This takes a little practice and a lot of self-awareness at first, but soon it becomes second nature. You will start paying more attention to your self-talk as well as the casual conversations you have with friends, colleagues and even strangers. When someone asks "how are you" will now think twice before answering as you now understand the true power behind the words, I AM....

As your thoughts and speech begin to shift, so will your actions. You will be inspired to take those actions that will move you to seeing the results you want. Actions are really just the vehicle in which you can receive. For example, you desire to be really rich, but your past shows you all evidence to the contrary. So, you start to "be" a person who is rich. You imagine what you would do with the money, how it would feel to have all your debts paid off, you would start planning where you'd like to take vacations, etc. Then you start thinking thoughts throughout the day noticing how rich you already are. You have a car, a lovely place to live, food always when you are hungry, etc. You then start saying things to people such as "I choose not to purchase this now" as opposed to "I can't afford it". A few weeks later you decide to attend a family gathering that you were invited to. Family gatherings were never your thing, but this time you feel an urge to go. You find out that you are about to inherit $50,000 from a relative who has recently passed. Since you have already been in alignment with being "rich" you are allowing a this into your experience. See how it all comes together?

So, how to start making declarations work for you?

1) Start making a list of I AM statements of all the things you desire for yourself. It can be a way of being, the type of person you'd like to be, experiences or physical things you'd like to manifest.

2) Repeat your I AM statements each day (consistency is very important) and throughout the day as you remember. I have found it to be extremely helpful to just say to myself "I am peace" when I find myself in a somewhat potentially stressful situation. You can instantly feel the energetic shift as you remind yourself you get to decide how you will react/experience your life.

3) Spend some time each day imagining or visualizing you already being that person. The more rich details you can add to this, the more powerful the vibration you are sending out to the Universe that you already embody it and therefore own it.

Laura Gevanter
Professional Life Coach

Article Source:

Serenity of Mind
Freedom from Thoughts - Peace of Mind
By Remez Sasson

We enjoy inner peace and feel happy and satisfied when life flows smoothly, and we have good relationships, good health, a good job and a good financial situation. We are usually at peace when there is nothing to worry about, no tension and no need to hurry.

Everyday life it isn't always like that. There is always something that causes worry, tension or fear, and which does not let us feel peaceful and calm. Nevertheless, we can enjoy peace, regardless of the state of our outer circumstances. Peace of mind is an inner state, and is independent of outer conditions. Why wait for never, for circumstances to be "right"? Why let outside circumstances decide for us the state of our mind?

Inner peace is within reach of everyone. It is not dependent on outer conditions, riches or poverty, health or sickness, physical freedom or lack of it. Everyone possesses the potential to enjoy it here and now. It is independent of outer circumstances, and a trained person can enjoy it even under the most trying circumstances.

Thoughts and Peace of Mind

Thoughts arise in us and we think them. We may choose to ignore them and experience real inner freedom, or we may choose to water them with the power of our attention and make them grow.

When you have to think, choose only positive, happy and uplifting thoughts. Think about and imagine only what you really and truly and desire and that will come to pass. Always remember that life is shaped according to your thoughts.

When the mind is silent there is happiness inside and happiness outside. It is a great asset and advantage to be able to silence the mind when its services are not needed.

The attainment of serenity of mind, which is actually freedom from the compulsion of incessant thinking, is open for everyone, provided the proper training is undertaken. Just reading this article you will not bring you peace of mind. When you understand its value and have a true desire to succeed, nothing can stand in your way. Though this is an inner state, work, time and persistence are required, just like the attainment of any other tangible goal.

Most people are enslaved by their predominant thoughts and habits. It does not occur to them that they can become free from their grasp. From the moment they wake up in the morning, to the moment they fall asleep at night, the chatter of the mind continues incessantly, giving no moment of rest. The habit of constantly thinking futile thoughts that prevnt inner tranquility is very deeply ingrained in the human race. Nevertheless, this habit can be undone. The mind is a great and useful instrument, but it should not be allowed to rule our lives. It has to be obedient to us.

To change or get rid of an undesirable habit, we have to be aware of it, and consciously and attentively act in a different manner. Whatever new skill we develop, we have to train ourselves, until it turns into second nature and becomes easy to use. The same is with control our mind and thoughts.

True control the mind is not just the ability to concentrate on one thought and disregard other thoughts. It is the ability to cleanse the mind completely and make it silent. Sri Ramana Maharshi, the great Indian sage, has said: "Mind is only a bundle of thoughts, stop thinking and show me the mind". When one becomes really free from incessant thinking, he or she becomes free from slavery to the mind, as both thoughts and mind are one and the same thing. One then also comes to see and understand the illusiveness of the mind.

When the clouds hide the sun, it is still there, beyond the clouds. Our Essence, our inner Self, is always here. We only need to remove the sheets and covers that envelope it in order to experience peace and calmness. These sheets and covers are our thoughts, ideas, habits and beliefs. I do not mean to tell you that you have to stop using your mind. You need it in order carry on your life. I mean that it has to be under the control of the Self. It should be your servant to serve you right, and not your master.

Advice for Attaining Inner Serenity and Peace of Mind

You don't have to feel uncomfortable with words such as Self, Inner Self, Inner Essence, Universal Consciousness, etc. They may now seem to you meaningless words, but they are not. They symbolize something very real, not hazy concepts. Concentration and meditation make these words meaningful. Advancing on the spiritual path is not something hazy, imaginative and unpractical as some may imagine. By personal experience you will come to really know what I mean.

Everyone can learn a new language, but not everyone can reach the same level of expertise. Everyone can engage in bodybuilding, painting or writing, but each will reach a different level. It depends on the inner aptitude, the earnestness, and the time devoted to these activities. Yet, everyone will make some progress. So it is with training yourself to become free from the compulsion of incessant thinking and attain peace of mind.

Try to calm your mind when you feel agitated. Mentally, take a step back and watch your mind, as if looking at someone else's mind. This has the tendency to calm and relax it. Develop concentration power and meditate. All these actions calm the mind and make it serene.

Following the suggestions in these pages and using the techniques mentioned in this web site, will start you on a marvelous journey. Practice, read articles and books on the subject and persevere in your training. One day you may meet someone who may teach you personally, as the saying goes: "When the student is ready, the teacher appears".

Try to watch your thoughts during the day, as if they are not yours, without being sucked into them. Become conscious of the fact that you are watching your thoughts. Then this awareness of watching will increase.

You will have to remind yourself incessantly to practice watching your thoughts, as your mind will probably make you forget. Do not give up and you will succeed. If you practice as often as you can, you will be on the way to success. It may take some time, but the effort is more than worthwhile.

You can also increase your peace of mind by developing the power of concentration, by meditation, by physical exercise and by correct breathing.

You are not your mind!
You are not your thoughts!
You are not your ideas!
You are not your beliefs!

They may be yours, but they are not you.
They are instruments that you use. Do not let them control you.
What remains after they are rejected, is you, the real "I".

When thoughts cease, you still exist. There is no vacuum. When the emptiness of no thoughts is reached, you begin to feel your existence, your being. This emptiness is filled with something great, wonderful, powerful and sweet. You start living in Peace. You sail on the water of the calm mind.

This is Pure Existence.

When you realize this state you are free from thoughts and worries.
Then you are really free.

In this state nothing can influence you.
You stop acting instinctively on the prompt of each passing thought.
You become a completely conscious being, alive, strong, beyond everything.

Think of serenity of mind as a feasible possibility. Calm your mind with concentration, meditation and affirmations, and start enjoying peace of mind.

article taken from:

 How to Calm Down the Mental NoiseBy Remez SassonAfter reading the article on the mental noise, it is time to start doing something about it. As you now know, the mental noise is the inner dialogue and constant chatter that goes on in the mind almost all the time. Sometimes we are not aware of it, and at other times it is most disturbing and distracting the attention.When do you become more aware of the mental noise and find it disturbing?
When you need to focus your mind on a certain activity, such as studying, reading, solving problems or anything else. At this time you become more aware of the buzz and constant flow of irrelevant, and often useless or distracting thoughts. This is the mental noise.How can you calm down this background noise and enjoy inner peace?
How can you learn to focus the attention on what we are doing, and so do it better?
How can you be aware of solutions and opportunities?
How can you live and focus on the present moment?We need some tools to reduce the acuity and duration of the mnetal noise, or if possible, switch it off. We need to be able to press the button that causes the mental noise to subside.How do we do that?By strengthening our power concentration. This ability helps us focus on one subject and ignore other, irrelevant thoughts.Through meditation, going within, closing the mind to distracting and disturbing thoughts, and enjoying inner peace and happiness.The above two tools, concentration and meditation, together with other techniques, help in gaining inner peace and calming down the mental noise.You don't have to be a yogi to meditate. You don't have to devote hours to these practices, unless you want to. Even a few minutes a day of practicing these techniques will bring you results.
The Power of Concentration
Part OneBy Remez Sasson
When I was a child, I saw how a magnifying glass could burn a piece of paper, when the rays of the sun were focused through it. The fire could start only when the sun's rays were concentrated to a small point. When the magnifying glass was moved too far away or too close to the paper, the rays were not focused enough and nothing happened. This experience describes vividly the power of concentration.This power can be described as focused attention. It is the ability to direct the attention to one single thought or subject, to the exclusion of everything else.When our mind is focused, our energies are not dissipated on irrelevant activities or thoughts. This is why developing concentration is essential to anyone who aspires to take charge of his or her life. This skill is essential for every kind of success. Without it, our efforts get scattered, but with it, we can accomplish great things.Concentration has many uses and benefits. It assists in studying and understanding faster, improves the memory, and helps in focusing on any task, job, activity or goal, and achieving it more easily and efficiently. It is also required for developing psychic powers, and is a powerful tool for the efficient use of creative visualization.When this ability is developed, the mind obeys us more readily and does not engage in futile, negative thoughts or worries. We gain mental mastery and we experience true peace of mind.This ability also plays an important role in meditation. Without it, the mind just jumps restlessly from one thought to another, not allowing us to meditate properly.Do you now realize, why it is very important and worthwhile to develop and improve the ability to concentrate?To develop this power you need to train and exercise it. Forget all your excuses about not having the time or being too busy. Do not say that the circumstances are not appropriate or that you cannot find a quiet place to exercise. With a little planning, desire and motivation you can always find the time to exercise each day, no matter how busy you are.Part TwoConcentration ExercisesBy Remez Sasson
Sharpening the needle of concentration requires practice, as everything else in life. Do you go to the gym? If you do, how many times during the week and for how long? Do you study a foreign language? If you do, how much time do you devote to it? Developing concentration is not different; training is required. Even ten minutes a day of concentration exercises will do you good.The mind does not like discipline and will resist your efforts to discipline it. It loves its freedom more than anything else, and will try to stand in your way to master it, in any way it can. It will cause you to forget to do the exercises, tempt you to postpone performing them or make you feel too lazy. It will find many tricks to stop and disturb you, but you can and must be stronger.You will find below, some simple concentration exercises to perform. Always remember that the choice is yours, to be a slave to the mind and its whims, or to be its master. By practicing mental exercises, it is possible to train the mind and master it, and put it in its proper place, as your servant, and not as your boss and master.You are not the mind nor the thoughts that pass through it. Though it might be hard to accept this idea, the mind is not you, the real you, but only a tool that you use. It is an instrument, which has great value, but it has to be taught to obey you.Most people believe that they are the mind, and erroneously believe that controlling the mind means holding themselves back and denying their freedom. They feel that controlling their mind is not natural, and that it is some sort of repression. These beliefs are not correct.The proof that we are not the mind comes with training. Accept the idea in theory, and in time, as your control over your thoughts grows, you will know it as a fact. In reality, you, the real you, is the one mastering the mind. It is not the mind mastering itself.
 Advice for Practicing The Concentration Exercises

Find a place where you can be alone and undisturbed. You can sit crossed legged on the floor if you can, or on a chair. Sit with your spine erect. Take a few calm deep breaths and then relax your body. Direct the attention to your body, and relax each muscle and part of it.

I will now give you some exercises to practice. Sit down to practice for about 10 minutes, and after a few weeks of training, lengthen the time to 15 minutes.

Start with the first exercise, practicing it daily, until you are able to do it without any distractions or forgetfulness, and without thinking about anything else, for at least three minutes. Every time you get distracted, start again, until the 10 or 15 minutes pass away. You have to be honest with yourself, and proceed to the next one, only after you are convinced that you have practiced it correctly and with full concentration.

No timetable can be given, as this may be frustrating. If for example, I tell you that a certain exercise has to completed in a week, two things may happen. You may get disappointed, if you cannot get the desired concentration within a week, or you may move on without practicing the exercise correctly. Mastering the exercises successfully might take days, weeks, months and sometimes even more.

Put your whole attention into the exercises, and do not think about anything else. Be careful not to fall asleep, daydream or think about other matters. The moment you find yourself thinking about something else, stop the exercise and start again. After you become proficient, lengthen the time, and if possible, include another session in the afternoon.

Do not attempt too much at the beginning, and don't try to perform them all at once. Go slowly, without overdoing them or tensing your brain.

If you find it too difficult, or thoughts distract you and make you think about other matters, don't despair. Everyone encounters difficulties along the way. If you persevere and never give up, in spite of difficulties and disturbances, success will crown your efforts. Remember, even those with powerful concentration had to exercise their minds.

It does not matter if your concentration is weak now, it can be developed and strengthened like any other ability, through training and investing the necessary time, energy and earnestness.

In time, you will find out that you can concentrate anywhere, anytime, no matter where you are. You will be able to focus your mind, think and function under the most trying circumstances, while remaining calm, relaxed and collected. The reward is worth the effort a thousand fold.

Now to the exercises. Some of them may be familiar to you, and some may seem too easy to perform. Some were taken from various sources, and others were created by me.

For full benefit, it is advisable that you practice each exercise for one additional week, after you are convinced that you are practicing it correctly and with full attention.

 Concentration exercises

Exercise 1
Take a book and count the words in any one paragraph. Count them again to be sure that you have counted them correctly. Start with one paragraph and when it becomes easier, count the words in a whole page. Perform the counting mentally and only with your eyes, without pointing you finger at each word.

Exercise 2
Count backwards in your mind, from one hundred to one.

Exercise 3
Count in your mind from one hundred to one, skipping each three numbers, that is 100, 97, 94, etc.

Exercise 4
Choose an inspiring word, or just a simple sound, and repeat it silently in your mind for five minutes. When your mind can concentrate more easily, try to reach ten minutes of uninterrupted concentration.

Exercise 5
Take a fruit, an apple, orange, banana or any other fruit, and hold it in your hands. Examine the fruit from all its sides, while keeping your whole attention focused on it. Do not let yourself be carried away by irrelevant thoughts or associated thoughts that might arise, such as about the shop were you bought it, about how and where it was grown, its nutritive value, etc. Stay calm, while trying to ignore these thoughts and not be interested in them. Just look at the fruit, focus your attention on it without thinking about anything else, and examine its shape, smell, taste and the sensation it gives when touching and holding it.

Exercise 6
This is the same as exercise number 5, only that this time you visualize the fruit instead of looking at it. Start by looking at the fruit and examining it for about 2 minutes, just as in exercise number 5, and then do this one. Close your eyes, and try to see, smell, taste and touch the fruit in your imagination. Try to see a clear and well defined image. If the image becomes blurred, open your eyes, look at the fruit for a short while, and then close your eyes and continue the exercise. It might help if you imagine the fruit held in your hands, as in the previous exercise, or imagine it standing on a table.

Exercise 7
Take a small simple object such as a spoon, a fork, or a glass. Concentrate on one of these objects. Watch the object from all sides without any verbalization, that is, with no words in your mind. Just watch the object without thinking with words about it.

Exercise 8
After becoming proficient in the above exercises, you can come to this exercise. Draw a small geometrical figure, about three inches in size, such as a triangle, a rectangular or a circle, paint it with any color you wish, and concentrate on it. You should see only the figure, nothing else. Only the figure exists for you now, with no unrelated thoughts or any distractions. Try not to think with words during the exercise. Watch the figure in front of you and that's it. Try not to strain your eyes.

Exercise 9
The same as number 8, only this time visualize the figure with the eyes closed. As before, if you forget how the figure looks like, open your eyes for a few seconds and watch the figure and then close your eyes and continue with the exercise.

Exercise 10
The same as above in number 9 but the eyes open.

Exercise 11
Try for at least five minutes, to stay without thoughts. This exercise is to be attempted only after all the previous ones have been performed successfully. The previous exercises, if practiced correctly, will endow you with the ability to impose silence on your thoughts. In time it will become easier and easier.


The Mental NoiseBy Remez Sasson

Mental noise is the constant chatter of the mind that never stops. It is the inner conversation or inner monologue that constantly goes on in the mind.Many are unaware of this mental noise, because it has become a deeply embedded habit, and is considered as a natural and inseparable part of life.This mental noise is like a background noise that never ceases, from the moment of waking up in the morning, to the moment of falling asleep at night. Often, it even prevents you from falling asleep. It is a sort of inner voice that constantly analyzes everything about our lives, surroundings and the people we know. It is a voice in the head that just keeps talking and talking!The mind often repeats the same thought over and over again, like in a loop or like a record that got stuck. If this is a positive thought that's fine, but too often this a negative thought or a negative mental images that just intensify stress, worry, anger or frustration. These are thoughts that you absolutely do not need.Thinking is a useful activity required for solving problems, analyzing, comparing, studying, planning, etc, but too often, the mind roams where it wills, occupying our attention with trivial matters and unimportant and useless thinking that waste our time and energy. 
What is mental noise and how to identify it:
1. Thoughts that repeat themselves like a tape that keeps playing the same tune.
2.  Reliving negative past situations or visualizing fears over and over again.
3.  Dwelling on the past or fearing the future. This prevents us from enjoying the present. The past is gone, and the future is the product of our present thinking and actions. The only time that exists is now, the present moment.
4.  Compulsive inner monologue that disturbs our peace and makes the mind busy.
5.  Never being here. Always thinking on something else, instead of what we are doing now. If we always think on something else we never enjoy the moment.
6.  Constant analysis of our and other people's situations, reactions and behavior. Analyzing the past, the future, things we need or want to do, our day, yesterday and distant past.
7.  Almost all involuntary thinking and daydreaming are some sort of mental noise. This is often a constant background noise, which often intrudes into foreground in the middle of everything we do.

Too often, this is tiring and exhausting, and makes us impractical and lazy. This constant mental chatter also makes us miss opportunities, due to insufficient attention to what is happenning around us.The mind is a useful tool, but it also needs to be controlled. Wouldn't it be great if you could achieve a state where you can think when you need to, like solving a problem or making a plan, and then after that just switch off the mind?Switching off the mind brings on a state of inner peace. It is a state sought by all spiritual traditions and teachings, and which is of great importance to both spiritual seekers and people who wish to improve their life. Stop reading for a moment and see if you can stop your mental noise. Just stop thinking, watch your mind and notice what happens. You will find you are thinking on stopping your thinking, which means that you are still thinking. After a few seconds you will probably forget that your objective was to watch your thoughts, and your mind will continue its incessant mental activity. This shows how restless the mind is, and how it lacks disciplineSometimes, on rare occasions, you might experience a brief period of inner peace, without mental noise. This happens involuntarily, when your attention is completely absorbed in some interesting activity or when watching a beautiful and inspiring landscape or picture. At these times you get a short glimpse of inner peace.Shutting down the mental noise voluntarily, when you wish to do so, is not achieved by reading books. This ability develops gradually, and over a long period of training the mind through concentration exercises and meditation.Speaking of concentration, people often say that they meditate, but yet, cannot calm down their mind. If the concentration power is weak, and the mind easily wanders from one thought to another, how can one meditate? Sitting down to meditate, but letting the mind run where it wills, thinking and visualizing all kinds of things, is not meditation. This is why it is so important to develop at least some degree of concentration ability, before starting to meditate.When the power of concentration increases, there will come a time when you would be able to meditate without words, mental images or thoughts. Then, the inner peace would gradually increase and deepen, first, while meditating, and then in your daily life, while working, reading, talking, etc. This is a state of inner silence, but being at the same time fully awake and alert. The mental noise would cease in a natural way, without effort. This condition will not make you unable to think. On the contrary, when you need to think, you will be able think very clearly. Your mind will become more alert, focused and powerful. You will be able to switch off your thoughts when you don't need to think, or when you have finished thinking, analyzing or planning.Most people, when thinking about a certain matter, seem unable to let go after reaching a conclusion or finding a solution. The mind seems to go on thinking on the same subject over and over again. It is like a broken record that keeps repeating the same tune.Shutting down the mental noise means inner peace. This results in saving a lot of mental energy and time wasted on thinking on matters that do not add anything to your life.
Do you identify with this article? Read how to stop the mental noise under the PEACE link or click on the word PEACE 

The Law Of Abundance

The more you learn what to do with yourself, and the more you do for others, the more you will enjoy the abundant life. —William J. H. Boetcker

Abundance has been defined in a variety of ways, by different people at different times and in different cultures. Today, we typically measure abundance in terms of the money and objects we possess. We think that those who possess the most are the most free and powerful individuals and that they therefore enjoy the most abundant lifestyle. Yet for Plato, Aristotle, and the Roman Stoic philosophers, the most free and powerful individuals were those who could be happy with the fewest things. While our culture values those who earn and hoard the most, among certain tribes in New Guinea, the most valued members of society were those who gave away the most.In the end, we could say that abundance is the feeling of enough and to spare. Well all right, but how much is enough? Does a man with a "net worth" in the millions, whose mood fluctuates with the stock market, and who feels himself to be lacking relative to his country club companions, experience abundance? What about a "primitive" in the rainforests of the Amazon who, with the simplest of technologies and a leaky temporary hut for a shelter, feels himself blessed by the bounty of the forest? Clearly, having no quantifiable frame of reference, abundance is a state of mind, or more precisely, of being.In attempting to define abundance, a look at the origin of the word itself as well as those of other terms we associate with wealth and prosperity will help. The word abundance is derived from the Latin abunda-re, meaning "to overflow." Wealth is derived from the Old English wel or wela, meaning "well" or "well-being." Well is to wealth, as heal is to health. The word prosperity is derived from the Latin prospera-re, meaning "to render fortunate." Rich comes from the Old English rice, meaning "strong," "powerful." While today we associate all these terms almost exclusively with money and material gain, in their origins all had meanings that address quality of life in broader terms.To live by the law of abundance is to be fully alive, free of any sense of lack or desperation. The following little story gives the essence of abundance. A man leaves the remote peasant village of his birth and travels the wide world. After many years, he returns home. His friends, relatives, and neighbors gather round him and ask, "How is life in the world?" He replies, "Same as here. It is good for those who know how to live."The law of abundance is not the art of making money, but the art of knowing how to live. This knowing how to live is the essence of what I call the "Tao of Abundance." The Tao of Abundance is a not a "get rich quick" or "think your way to riches" approach to prosperity. It does not encourage you to "think like a millionaire," "dress for success," or "climb the corporate ladder." It speaks to deeper experience of abundance than can be realized by the mere accumulation of goods or by amassing an impressive balance sheet.Applying the eight principles of the law of Abundance may, in time, bring greater material abundance into your life. Certainly, applying these principles will assist you in opening to receive the creative ideas from which all wealth ultimately springs. Yet this increased material abundance will come not from struggling to attain it as a goal in itself, but rather as a natural by-product of experiencing a deeper state of psychological abundance. The new feeling of abundance that you enjoy within will come to be reflected in all aspects of your outer life, including your finances. Yet even if you make not one dime more, or even a few less, but come to earn your money in a way that truly reflects your nature and expresses who you are, your experience of abundance will be enhanced. Indeed, some may find that a truer experience of abundance requires that they relinquish their attachment to social status or excessive material consumption.Real abundance is about so much more than money. A "healthy bottom line" does not equate with a healthy and abundant state of mind. Evidence of the psychological and spiritual poverty of the rich and famous fills our newspapers, magazines, tabloids, and television programs and hardly needs repeating here. Suffice to say that many who own great stockpiles of material possessions, and who are, to all outer appearances, extremely wealthy individuals, do not enjoy real abundance. They are never content with what they have and live in fear of losing it. Clearly, real abundance must be something more than having a lot of money and things. But then how do we approach it?The fundamental premise of the law of Abundance is that the universe is you and is for you. If you put yourself in accord with the way of the universe, it will take care of you abundantly. To experience this abundance, there is nothing you need do first. It is not necessary for you to earn one more dollar, get a better job, buy a new home or car, or go back to school. All that is required is that you become aware of the inner process through which you create an experience of lack and struggle in your life, and refrain from doing it. Feelings of abundance and gratitude are natural to the human being; they do not need to be added or put on. We have only to become aware of how we are resisting and inhibiting this natural state.The law of Abundance asks you to accept responsibility for creating your own experience of abundance or lack. Of course, no individual operates in a vacuum. It would be absurd to deny the impact that the values and organization of the broader society have on us as individuals. In an effort to secure the ever-expanding productivity and consumption upon which its "health" depends, modern commercial culture vigorously promotes a "lack consciousness." We buy things we don’t need (or even want), because we have become convinced that we will be somehow lacking or inferior without them. We do work we don’t want to do, because we have become convinced that there is a scarcity of good jobs and that we can’t create our own work. Thus, even while we amass more and more stuff, the feeling of abundance keeps eluding us. In addition to the role that the values of the broader society have in promoting a psychology of lack within the individual, the current organization of society poses institutional barriers to his or her creative development and financial independence.Nevertheless, ultimate responsibility for the individual’s experience lies with the individual, not with the culture into which he or she has been born. Awareness of the broader social dynamics that promote a consciousness of lack, as well as the inner ego drives that bind us to them, empowers us to break, once and for all, the chains of psychological poverty and lack. The law of Abundance addresses the root causes of the psychology of lack, and how these can be overcome.Ultimately, the system is the ego. Freeing ourselves from the dominance and control of this system will be our primary concern. What we see reflected in the broader social and economic system—alienation, attachment, struggle, resentment, craving for approval, competitive hostility, pride, greed, and chaos—originate within the ego. We are the system, or, as J. Krishnamurti put it, long before the popular song: "We are the world." The way of the ego necessarily produces a psychology of lack—one that cannot be overcome, regardless of the quantity of money or goods we accumulate. Alternatively, the way of the Tao naturally yields a feeling of abundance, regardless of how great or meager our accumulation of money and goods may be. Though he was often without money, and at times even food, William Blake’s poetry exudes abundance. As he put it:I have mental joys and mental health,
Mental friends and mental wealth,
I’ve a wife that I love and that loves me;
I’ve all but riches bodily.This is not to say that we should reject material wealth or shun the blessings that come with it. With money, much good can be done and much unnecessary suffering avoided or eliminated. Moreover, in the culture we live in today, time is money and money is power. It takes time to appreciate and enjoy life and all of its simple beauties. It takes time to stop and listen to the voice of our true selves. It takes time to develop our gifts and talents. It takes time to learn and grow. It takes time to develop and nurture meaningful relationships. And in making time for all of these, money is a great help.Money can also give us a measure of freedom from the control of others and in this respect is more important today than ever. Throughout most of human history, one did not need money to live, that is, for the basic necessities of life. For one unable or unwilling to fit into society’s mold, there was always the option of retreating to some remote place and subsisting on the land—an option that isn’t really feasible today.The Taoist values freedom and preserving the dignity of the human spirit and, in this respect, would not object to Humphrey Bogart’s assertion that "the only point in making money is, you can tell some big shot where to go." The idea here is not to express (or harbor) hostility toward others but to affirm and follow your own path, free from intimidation or the control of others. The big shot might be a boss for whom you do soul-draining, monotonous work—or a landlord or mortgage-holding bank, whom you must pay for the privilege of a little peace and quiet. In as much as money is an important factor in determining the time we have to enjoy life and the power and freedom we have in it, the pursuit of money is a worthy goal. On the other hand, if we are looking to money to fulfill or satisfy us, we are sure to be disappointed.In lacking money, we too often think a lack of money is our only problem. Money can give us the time to appreciate the simple things in life more fully, but not the spirit of innocence and wonder necessary to do so. Money can give us the time to develop our gifts and talents, but not the courage and discipline to do so. Money can give us the power to make a difference in the lives of others, but not the desire to do so. Money can give us the time to develop and nurture our relationships, but not the love and caring necessary to do so. Money can just as easily make us more jaded, escapist, selfish, and lonely. In short, money can help to free or enslave us, depending on why we want it and what we do with it. In this respect, nothing has changed in the two thousand years since Horace wrote, "Riches either serve or govern the possessor."The Role of Money - Law Of AbundanceMoney is a relatively simple issue. There are only two important questions: (1) How much do you need? (2) What is it going to cost you to get it? It is keeping these two questions in mind that gives us a true sense of money’s relationship to abundance. If we have less than what we need, or if what we have is costing us too much—in either case, our experience of abundance will be incomplete. As things stand in the modern world, you need money to eat, sleep, dress, work, play, relate, heal, move about, and keep the government off your back. In what style you choose to do each of these will determine how much money you need, that is, your lifestyle. Remember in choosing your style that it comes with a price tag. How much money it costs is not the issue, but how much the money costs you is of critical importance. Keep in mind:Money should not cost you your soul.
Money should not cost you your relationships.
Money should not cost you your dignity.
Money should not cost you your health.
Money should not cost you your intelligence.
Money should not cost you your joy.When it comes to determining how much you need, there are two important categories to keep in mind. First, there are the material things you need to keep body and soul together. Second are the areas of "need" related to social status and position. With both, you have a great deal of discretion. The ancient Taoist masters were keenly aware of the cost of money and were particularly skeptical of the cost of attaining social status and position. In the Lieh Tzu, Yang Chu says:In the short time we are here, we should listen to our own voices and follow our own hearts. Why not be free and live your own life? Why follow other people’s rules and live to please others?Why, indeed? In a recent study, 48 percent of the male corporate executives surveyed admitted that they felt their lives were empty and meaningless. When one considers the cultural taboos against such an admission, the figure is surprisingly high and leads one to conclude that the real number must be higher still. Many think they’d be happy if they had enough money to give up working altogether. Yet this is often only a reaction to the drudgery of working day after day at things they find meaningless or even absurd. In response to my previous books Zen and the Art of Making a Living and How to Find the Work You Love, I receive many communications from people about their experience of work. One day, I received a phone call from a man halfway around the world who, at forty-five, had never worked a day in his life. As a beneficiary of a sizable inheritance, he was free of the need to earn his daily bread. Yet he was not a happy man. Indeed, he was deeply troubled by the fact that so much of his life had gone by without his having expressed his own talents or made a difference in the lives of others. Like good health, spiritual growth, and nourishing relationships, meaningful work is one of the abundances of life that we neglect at our peril.By now, you’re probably getting the idea that what I mean by the "Tao of Abundance" is something altogether different from the Dow Jones version of abundance. The Tao of Abundance is more wholistic in its scope, addressing the entire issue of quality of life, and not simply financial goals. Because the psychological dimension is so important to our experience of abundance, it is addressed at length in The Tao of Abundance. The eight Taoist principles discussed in the book provide powerful keys to embracing and integrating a psychology of abundance. The first two chapters lay a groundwork for overcoming the sense of alienation and separation that are the underpinnings of a psychology of lack.For most of us, the feeling of lack is not a result of a lack of things or material stuff. It is a sense of struggle and a lack of ease; a lack of energy; a feeling of powerlessness and blocked expression; a lack of harmony and connection in relationship; a lack of time to be, grow, and relate; and a lack of opportunity to fully appreciate and celebrate the beauty in life—that give a sense of deficiency to our existence. Each of these "lacks" are considered respectively in chapters 3-8, both in terms of understanding their causes, and in terms of practical suggestions for creating greater abundance in each of these areas. The exercises at the end of the book will help you to integrate and apply the information you encounter in the text.Law Of Abundance - The Road to Total AbundanceThere are three primary tasks for us on the journey to a life of total abundance. The first is to recognize the inner and outer forces that conspire to make us believe in scarcity and thus to feel lack. Awareness of these factors will help us to overcome their influence over us. The second task is to cultivate a spirit of abundance in our lives, celebrating the gift of life with joy and thanksgiving. As we focus in our thoughts and actions on things that bring a feeling a connection with all life, we begin to move with the flow of the Tao. In this way, we allow blessings to come to us as a part of the "overflow" of an abundant spirit—not as things we crave and struggle for from a sense of lack or desperation. To come from lack can only bring lack, even when we get what we think we need. On the other hand, when we come from the spirit of abundance, we attract ever greater abundance.Finally, as we move in the world from the spirit of abundance, we become a liberating and empowering force in the lives of those with whom we interact. We help them see, not by preaching, but by example, that we all live in an abundant world and that they as well can free themselves from lack consciousness. Together, we can unite in a spirit of abundance and create new patterns of community and social organization, new lifestyles, and new ways of relating, based on cooperation rather than competition. As envy, greed, and competition flow from lack, so compassion, service, and cooperation flow from a spirit of abundance. It is this spirit of abundance that will be our guide as we embark on the journey to creating total abundance in our lives.The principles of of the law of abundance are stated in English. The corresponding Chinese term is often not, nor is it intended to be, a direct translation of the principle as expressed in English. Rather, the Chinese terms give the essence or active ingredient of the principle. For example, when I use yin/yang in correspondence with the harmony of abundance, I do not mean that yin/yang literally translates as "harmony." Rather, I mean that an awareness and understanding of yin/yang dynamics will help us to find greater harmony in our own lives.Throughout the book 'Tao Of Abundance', a contrast will be made between the Way of the Tao and the Way of the Ego.1. The Unity of the Nameless Tao The Separation of the Ego
(lack of connection, alienation)
2. The Nature/Receptivity of the Tao The Attachments of the Ego
(lack of spontaneity and inspiration)
3. The Ease of the Tao The Struggle of the Ego
(lack of ease, tension, stress)
4. The Flow/Joy of the Tao The Resentment of the Ego
(lack of energy and zest for life)
5. The Power/Dignity of the Tao The Craving for Approval of the Ego
(lack of power and inner direction)
6. The Harmony of the Tao The Competitive Hostility (Envy) of the Ego
(lack of inner and outer peace and harmony)
7. The Leisure of the Tao The Greed of the Ego
(lack of time and rest)
8. The Beauty of the Tao The Chaos of the Ego
(lack of meaning, nihilism)



I have been having some email discussions this week with my old friend and teacher Brother David Steindl-Rast about his favorite subject, gratitude. David has been thinking about gratitude for many years. The title of his most famous book is Gratitude, the Heart of Prayer, and now, in his seventies, he is getting very excited about the internet and is hard at work on an ambitious web site, called, I think, Gratitude. And if you are fortunate enough to meet Brother David you will feel his gratitude. When you meet him you will feel that he feels grateful to meet you, even though it might be hard to understand why. He just seems genuinely grateful for the world and all that is in it. He is a person with a viewpoint, very politically involved, and he has his likes and dislikes. But he never seems to complain, and gratitude is never far away from his thoughts and feelings. He appreciates the world.

He sent me an article he wrote about gratitude. In it he writes, “Do you remember a time when you went outside at night and looked up at the stars, seeing them as if for the first time?" He quotes Eugene O’Neil: "For a moment I lost myself - actually lost my life. I was set free! I dissolved in the...high dim-starred sky! I belonged, without past or future, within peace and unity and a wild joy, within something greater than my own life.. -to Life itself! To God, if you want to put it that way. For a second you see the secret - and seeing the secret, are the secret. For a second there is meaning!"

Brother David sees this sudden and immediate sense of belonging that you sometimes can feel, and that I think is fostered by our practice, as being the condition of gratitude. When we see ourselves as separate atomized individuals in a world full of other separate atomized individuals, we don’t feel grateful. Quite the contrary, we are complaining all the time because there is plenty to complain about. We have so many things we want and need, and whatever we actually get is never enough. No amount of love or possessions or gratification could ever fill the gap between us and the world. So we're looking for something, thirsting for something, always dissatisfied. In Buddhism they call this trishna, thirst.  Like hungry ghosts we are thirsting endlessly for something that we never can get. We are deeply restless and dissatisfied.

But when we feel suddenly a rush of belonging like the one O’Neil describes- something that comes really for no reason, something that we haven't earned or created for ourselves, but it just arrives, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, perhaps when we are not expecting it at all, we naturally feel a profound existential gratitude. Brother David says, "Why do I call that wild joy of belonging 'gratefulness'? Because it is our full appreciation of something altogether undeserved, utterly gratuitous -- life, existence, ultimate belonging - and this is the literal meaning of grate-full-ness. In a moment of gratefulness, you do not discriminate. You fully accept the whole of this given universe, as you are fully one with the whole."

I think most of the time most of us feel as if we are looking for something.  We go through our days and weeks more or less happy or unhappy, but mostly not really attending to our condition. When we do take the time to attend to what we are feeling in the depths of our heart I think we are rarely feeling contentment. Mostly we are feeling a lack, something missing. Sometimes we don’t know what we think is missing, and sometimes we have an idea what it is. But I wonder if we ever actually know what it is.  We think we want something in our lives we don’t have, or want something out of our lives that we do have but don’t want, but really I don't think that’s the source of our restlessness. Because we have all had the experience of getting that good relationship or that good job or the new house or degree, and still, after a while, we feel again the empty space inside.

The other day I spoke to an old friend who has had a recurrence after many years of cancer. I think she is in a rather dire situation but she seemed surprisingly cheerful and upbeat to me- even though she had just had major surgery, and had, a few months ago, just lost her sister to exactly the same cancer she now has. She said to me, "I don't spend too much time on ‘why me?’ or on thinking about all the terrible things that might and probably will happen. I am just trying to stay with every day as I find it and to do what I can." She reminded me of a talk Issan Dorsey gave at Zen Center many years ago, in which he told people he had AIDS (Issan was a Zen center priest, a very outrageous fellow who had been for years a drug addict and famous female impersonator. He founded the Hartford Street Zen Center and Hospice. He died of AIDS in 1990). She said that Issan said, "I don't say, why me? I say, why not me?"

As far as I remember, Issan, like my friend, accepted his condition with a grace and cheer that was truly remarkable. Rather than complaining about what he had that he didn't want, he took pleasure in his condition, he enjoyed his health and his illness up until the day he died. Saying 'why me' means we see ourselves as separate beings among many beings. We want good things for ourselves and we want to avoid bad things. Saying 'why not me' means that we know that we belong with everything and everyone, we aren’t separate. What can happen to any one of us can happen to me and I can accept it. It's not a tragedy and it’s not a surprise. Gratitude is wide enough even to cover our own suffering.

People ask many times about suffering and spiritual practice. "How can we open ourselves to the suffering of the world?" they ask. "Doesn't doing that make our lives sad and depressing? Don't we need to be careful about compassion? Won't we get burned out and discouraged if we open ourselves to all the world's problems and difficulties?"

Well from the point of view of separation this is certainly so.  If we see the world as separate atomized individuals all of whom have needs to be fulfilled, then it is certainly true that we will be overwhelmed by all the unfulfilled needs of the world, and we will feel that it really isn't a good idea to be concerned about the needs of others. It is much too difficult. Just seeing to our own needs is difficult enough.

But if on the other hand we see the world as a world of belonging, a world of connection, a world in which all things swim together as one, without edges and boundaries, like the stars in the nighttime sky, making one ineffable pattern, one continuous being, then I don’t think we are weighed down by suffering.

It is true that our hearts will be tender, and tears will come to our eyes when we see suffering. Recently I was in Northern Ireland with His Ho'liness Dalai Lama and we were listening to stories of victims of the troubles there- a woman who could no longer walk, a man who could no longer see, a murderer whose heart and spirit had been broken, probably for the rest of his life, by what he had done. And His Ho'liness cried to hear their stories. And yet, that same afternoon, only a short while later, he was laughing uproariously as he yanked on the beards of a Catholic priest and a Protestant Minister between whom he was standing for a photo opportunity. He was so overcome by hilarity, really it seemed as if he'd lost it! The picture of His Ho'liness cracking up as he held the white beards to either side of him was in all the European papers the next day.

So yes, when we feel and train in the fundamental reality of belonging we do sympathize deeply with suffering, but this is not something hard to bear. Because along with the sadness we feel a powerful gratitude for what is. We cry, but also we can see the beauty of what is, even in the midst of suffering. Where there is this true sense of what the world actually is, a vision we have of belonging, a felt sense of it, there is always mixed in with the sadness of suffering a wide calm feeling. And there can even be joy as well, perhaps the purest sort of joy, as we recognize the preciousness of life, and its utter gratuity: life is present in us and all around us. Why? Did we earn it? Did anyone earn it? Even when life is difficult it is still life, it is still connection, and where there is life, where there is consciousness, there is gratefulness.

All my life I have been contemplating a question of Heidegger’s that has always struck me as strangely profound: why is there something, why not rather nothing?

Have you ever thought about that? We take our life, we take life, we take existence, for granted. We take it as a given, and then we complain that it isn't working out as we wanted it to. But why should we be here in the first place? Why should we exist at all? Why should anything exist at all? Really there's no reason for it. Why not nothing rather than something? Nothing would be simpler.

Our world began about 15 billion years ago, cosmologists tell us. At that time there was no time, no space, no matter, no life. No one can say what there was.  To say there was nothing isn't even right. No can can say and no one can know- it seems to be beyond the scope of consciousness to know what was before there was anything like was or is or will be. It is only in the next instant after that that we can say anything. A tenth of a millionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second later (that's 10 to the minus 43rd power) the heat of the big bang, whatever that actually means, cooled off to 100 million trillion trillion degrees, cool enough so that something that hadn't been before- the force of gravity - could appear.

After that not much happened for 10 to the minus 34th power seconds- in other words, a tiny tiny fraction of a second passed uneventfully, allowing the universe to cool down even more, enough so that matter in the form of electrons and quarks appeared. There was also an equal amount of antimatter and the development of more forces, like the strong force, the weak force, and electromagnetic force. In the ensuring teeny tiny fractions of a second many more things took place: the first second of time after the initial bang or whatever it was was probably the most eventful instant in the history of the universe. Matter and antimatter evolved several more kinds of particles, and then something unexpected took place. No one seems to know how or why.

Where there had been a perfect equilibrium between anti matter and matter, so that there was, in a sense, no existence but only perfect statis, there was all of a sudden an imbalance. This imbalance, though very very slight, caused the matter and antimatter to fall out of their perfect balance and to necessarily collide. The collision produced light. This is before the existence of any stars, any suns.  Some sort of primordial cosmic glow. Let there be light.

The collision destroyed almost all of the antimatter, leaving mostly matter.  About a minute after that, neutrons and protons began coalescing together to form heavier nuclei such as helium, lithium, and hydrogen. The temperature cooled down to about a billion degrees.

About 300,000 years later, with the temperature now at only about 3,000 degrees, atoms were created.

After a billion more years these atoms formed large clouds that gradually swirled into galaxies.

After another two billion years matter coalesced further into stars, which threw off planets to create their own solar systems.

Three billion years later, circling an average star, an ordinary planet we call the earth was born.

It would appear that none of that had to happen. Certainly you and I had nothing to do with it, and our recent appearance in this universe, although connected absolutely to all of it, the necessary causal fruition of it all, is literally gratuitous. It seems to me that gratitude then isn't so much an emotion or a feeling as an actual fact, maybe even the primary fact, of our being at all. If we are, in other words, we belong, radically belong, are possessed by, embraced by, all that is, and gratitude is literally what we are when we are most attuned to what we are, when we plunge deeply into our nature, and stop complaining.

But of course just as our gratitude is a natural fact, so is our complaining also natural. I am sure that as long as there have been human beings there has been complaining. It must be that that small imbalance between matter and antimatter that I mentioned a moment ago is the source of the complaining. Existence itself is a result of imbalance. That things exist at all means that something is off kilter. So existence has this job- to recognize its being off kilter, to complain about it, and then to return to, to restore, the balance, even though it never is actually restored.  Existence strives for balance and never achieves it, but it has to strive for it. So we do that too; we are unhappy and we complain. That's natural and necessary. But we can’t just complain. Our complaining has to lead us to gratitude, otherwise our imbalance becomes something destructive.

The Cabalist Isaac Luria had a very effective metaphor for this. He said that in the beginning of the creation of the world some mistake was made. God had been pouring the divine spirit into vessels but one of the vessels cracked and the light fell down into what became the world. It was the purpose of spiritual practice, Luria said, to find the light and return it to its source, so as to return wholeness to the world.

So in our practice we need to work to cultivate this sense of gratitude, that comes from our feeling of belonging. Although as I said gratitude just comes to us without our creating it, still, we need to cultivate it, we need to open ourselves up to be able to receive it as a gift.

Most religious practice has to do with cultivating gratitude.  When we do zazen, as Dogen tells us, we are not examining ourselves or trying to make personal improvements. We are sitting within Buddha's heart, releasing ourselves to that aspect of ourselves that deeply belongs to the universe and is grateful for it. When we bow and make offerings and chant sutras and dedicate them we are expressing our gratitude that there is something and not nothing, and that we have a way of entering that something which is also nothing in the fact of our existence. There are also many other practices, from recitation and visualization, to tonglen practice, where we breathe in the suffering of others and breathe out relief for that suffering, actually taking in others suffering with gratitude and offering peace and healing.  And we can invent other practices that we can do all day long to recall gratitude and let go of complaining. To practice this way is not to make an effort to make ourselves stupid, forgetting all the horrors of this world, or pretending that everything is fine when it is not. No, to be grateful for and with what is, doesn't deny difficulties; rather it embraces them and accepts them as a necessary step in the healing of them.

I myself try to cultivate the open space of gratitude every day.  And when I feel it- grateful for my own body, grateful for the clouds and sky, grateful for my family and my teachers and for the teaching of Buddha- I know that my spiritual health is in order. When I don’t feel it, I understand that I am off, and I try to right myself.

Gratitude is something very profound. It takes us to the edge of time and space and beyond. To be grateful for life as it truly is is also to be grateful for death as it truly is- not to underestimate life, not to underestimate death. Our complaining mind divides the mystery of life and death into two parts, one called life, and one called death. But in the light of gratitude, we know that things really aren't like that.

In Buddhist funeral services we always say, in true reality there is no coming no going no increase no decrease no birth and no death. This is a deep expression of our gratitude for existence as it is, our knowing that life in order to be life is always full of death, and death, in order to be death, is always full of life.

Because of this understanding we don’t see impermanence as a threat or a tragedy. We don't see aging and dying as necessary evils we brace ourselves to endure, but rather as fruitions we try to enter with calmness and appreciation.  I find it interesting that although we more or less see death as a personal defeat, and do all we can to deny and avoid it, the great religious founders of the world have always seen death as a sublime victory. Jesus's death is his most perfect act, containing within it his eternal life and redemption; Buddha's death is his Parinirvana, not a sad loss but a joyful culmination. Through our practice of gratitude we can imitate our teachers and go forward with our lives, come what may, whether it is suffering or joy, arriving or leaving, in the spirit of gratitude. And we do this not only for ourselves alone- which makes no sense at all anyway- but for and with everyone.

— from a talk on gratitude given at Green Gulch, November 2000









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