I’m a hopeless romantic; I love walks on the beach, the beauty of a sunset, and the adventures of life. But as a young man I wan inconsolably heartbroken whenever a girl broke up with me (which was often). I would be so depressed and cry and just be in a terrible state of suffering. I was a tragic poet writing about the pains and torment of love.
But then one day after one of my breakups I had an epiphany, an enlightenment, an awakening. I realized that I would always have problems in my life no matter what. There’s no escaping problems and obstacles in life—they are an inherent part of life.
So I realized if I was always going to have problems I might as well enjoy them. I might as well welcome obstacles into my life. I challenged life to give me more problems. “Life,” I said, “give me more!” “Life, give me more!”
That became my motto, my rallying cry whenever I was feeling beaten up by life and problems. “Life, give me more!” I would sometimes scream in anger and tears. I knew that I could handle anything that life threw my way; any problem, any obstacle, any heartache.
Not only could I handle any problem, but I could do it with happiness and confidence. Isn’t that what life is all about, being happy? Who wants to go through life miserable and unhappy? Apparently lots of us because that’s how we live our lives!
We say that we’ll be happy when we get that perfect job, or when we meet Mr. or Ms. Right, or when we have X amount of dollars—It’s always something in the future that will make us happy, it’s not about being happy right now. Why not be happy now?
Being happy now made sense to me. I call it living a coherent life. Coherent means to make sense of be logical. Isn’t it logical to be happy now, in the present? The present is all that we have—the past is gone and the future never arrives, it’s always in the future. But we have right now and right now we can be happy if we choose to be.
“No, I can’t be happy now because I have problems. My wife and kids hate me, my job is a dead end, and I can’t afford a vacation.” We have learned a different set of logic rules—if something bad happens you have to be unhappy. If you have problems you have to be depressed. You can’t be happy if you have problems—what will people think?! They’ll think you’re crazy!!
But it’s your life and your choice to be happy, sad, or whatever. I choose to be happy whenever I can and I try to help others to learn how to do the same. I want everybody to be able to face problems and obstacles head on and say, “Life, give me more!” I want people to be happy every day of their lives. I want you to be happy now!
Doesn’t that make sense?
“The uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love.” Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning.
It is strange and ironic that I have not encountered Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning until this (late) period in my life since it is the search for meaning I have struggled with so mightily throughout my life.
I struggled in high school because I could not see the meaning in the algebra, English, history, biology, and assorted other classes that I was forced to take. At that time I worked in a nursing home and saw the discarded old whose prime and usefulness had seemed to have passed. I could not see the meaning in their lives as they wound down often in dementia, loneliness, and despair.
Also at this same time I saw my father’s despair as he came home each day from work tired and worn, a little bit more taken out of him, a little less life to give. What meaning was there for his life? Was it my fate to live the same meaningless life? (A few years later he seemed to find relief in the cancer that would mercifully end his life.)
After graduating from high school I began an adventure to find such meaning in my life. I hitchhiked and traveled to far off places such as Hawaii and Mexico in search of meaning. Later in work and college I searched for a meaning for my life—at times finding such meaning and at other times losing it.
My inability to firmly grasp and retain the meaning of my life was dependent on my desires for love and money, on my insecurities and psychosis, and on a world that does not reward the nebulous and intangible. “Make a living” not “Make meaning” is the motto of our society.
Frankl writes about two men who had given up on life in the Nazi concentration camp and talked of committing suicide. Both men gave the typical argument that they had nothing left to expect from life. But Frankl turned the question of expectation on its head and asking the men what life expected from them. It turned out that each man had something that life expected of them—one had a daughter living in the United States who was waiting for him and the other man begun a series of books that needed to be finished.
“His work could not be done by anyone else, any more than another person could ever take the place of the father in his child’s affections.”
Each of us has a unique and singular mission, a meaning that life expects of us. Life has presented you with a set of circumstances, obstacles, and experiences that make you the unique person that you are. Even closely knit twins have unique experiences which distinguish them from each other. Why did life give you the life it gave you? What is life expecting from you?
My own life has given me the unique perspective that I call “The Coherent Life” consisting of the six values of Confidence, Happiness, Love, Peace, Passion, and Abundance. My purpose, the meaning that life expects of me is to share this philosophy with you. My hope is that you will find meaning in your life through my writings.
Right now you might be hurting financially. You may be fighting with your spouse about money problems, how you can’t afford “unnecessary” things. Maybe you hope and pray to hit it rich somehow in some way—just like those recent Powerball winners.
When we think of the word “rich” we tend to think of money. With terms like “millionaire” and “billionaire” we automatically think that they have a million or billion dollars even though they are not called “milliondollarsaire” or “billiondollarsaire.”
Even with the term “well off” we think of people who have lots of money. But we can also be spiritually well off. By practicing meditation, mindfulness, and concentrating on the Six Value Suns of the Coherent Life, we can add to our spiritual bank account. Each act of enlightenment is a deposit into our spiritual bank account.
We withdraw from this spiritual bank account when we encounter stress that brings us down or when we don’t maintain our spiritual practices. We can’t just make a deposit into our spiritual account and expect it to be there at some far off future date. Every day we are making withdrawals as we deal with life’s stresses, other people, and problems that arise. Life is like inflation, it devalues our spiritual wealth.
The only way to become spiritually rich is to be proactive and practice those things that will bring you closer to the God that you are a part of. The Six Values of the Coherent Life: Confidence, Happiness, Love, Peace, Passion, and Abundance are the cornerstones of a spiritually wealthy life. Practice using the Value Suns to add these values to your life so that you can live a rich life.
Has this ever happened to you? You’re in your home at night and a fuse blows so you go to get the flashlight but the battery is dead and you don’t have any extra batteries in the house.
Or maybe your TV remote is broken and the number 2 doesn’t work so you have to press 30 and then go back a few channels to get to channel 27. Or maybe it’s channel 227 you want to watch then you have to go to channel 199 and go forward lots of channels.
Maybe you have a gate latch that’s doesn’t quite work right so you have to fiddle with it every time you close it to make sure it’s securely locked or else the dog will get out (again).
Don’t you have enough stress in your life what with work, traffic, kids, relationships, etc., etc.? Get rid of those easily fixed little stresses so that you can find that much more peace in your life. Buy extra batteries to have on hand. Buy a new remote for the TV. Fix that gate latch once and for all.
By taking care of these little stresses you won’t be thinking “there’s another thing wrong with my life.” Take care of the small things so that you can escape the big stresses in your life instead of adding to them. These are easy fixes to finding more peace in your stressful life.
It’s been a few months since I last blogged. There are many reasons (and excuses) but the important thing is that I’m back writing.
Twenty years ago I was in Amway – I know, run away! Say what you will about Amway and MLM (Multi-level marketing) but my upline leadership instilled in me some very valuable lessons and habits. One was not to make excuses. Whenever someone would complain that they didn’t have time, or were tired, or their favorite TV show was on, or whatever the excuse, one of my leaders, Scott Harimoto, would say, “Any excuse will do.” That means no matter what your excuse is for not doing something, no matter how good the excuse is, it’s still an excuse.
Sometimes we disguise our excuses by calling them “reasons.” You might say that reasons and excuses aren’t the same because reasons are, well, more reasonable. We think of excuses as cop-outs, as explanations for why we didn’t feel like or were too lazy to do. But reasons, well reasons are GOOD excuses. We wanted to do that something, but something, or someone, or life in general got in the way. We had a car accident, we had to work late, the alarm clock didn’t go off. Reasons, we believe, are things that are out of our control.
But those familiar with my blog and the Coherent Life know that I believe that nothing is out of our control. My concept of “God” is the all-encompassing energy and power that is inherent in all things, living and insentient. God is not a separate entity from ourselves but rather we are an integral part of God. God is not some old man controlling our lives, but we are God, actively controlling our own destinies.
So stop making excuses (or even good reasons). Know that you are the one in control. If things are going the way that you want, then look within yourself for the reasons why. Is there something inside yourself that you need to change? Maybe God, that bigger entity that we are a tiny part of, is telling us that what we want isn’t what we need.
Growing up I went to Parochial (Catholic) schools. I remember that in the first grade I took a lesson about Jesus’ concept of brotherly love to heart. After school I raced home and told my best friend Michael Chavez how we needed to love everyone, even the neighborhood bully, even if we didn’t like him.
“Whenever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love.” Mahatma Gandhi.
But as I grew older I began to see they hypocrisy and prejudice of my religious leaders. Later, as I reached adolescence, the concept of an old white guy in heaven controlling everything no longer made sense to me, it wasn’t logical. You might say that point in my life was the birthplace of The Coherent Life, of discovering a life that was logical and rational.
I began to learn about other great spiritual leaders such as Mohandas Gandhi. I first learned about Gandhi from the movie Nine Hours to Rama, a fictional account of his assassination. At the end of the movie after Gandhi is shot he tells his assassin “I forgive you my brother.” Wow—it blew me away!
Later in life I became a Buddhist and learned to respect everyone and everything since all contains the Buddha nature. It was then that I congealed my concept of The Law of Divinity—everything is One; One is the greatest power.
Learn to see yourself as all powerful, as being in control of your life. Don’t blame others, circumstances, or resign yourself to “It’s God’s will.” Right now, right where you are you can change your life and start living a Coherent Life—just decide to be happy. Simple as that, make a decision to be happy.
Now keeping that decision to be happy won’t always be easy. Life throws many problems and obstacles our way. Just keep reminding yourself that your one and only goal in life is to be happy. A happy state of mind is like a muscle, it needs to be exercised to make it strong.
Here are some helpful tips to help you achieve your goal of being happy:
· Write down your goal of being happy and place it somewhere you can see it every day.
· Everyday take a few moments to clear your mind of the noise and clutter; meditate or practice mindfulness.
· Smile and laugh often. Practice belly laughs—from your stomach rapidly expel a series of “Ha-ha-ha.”
· See the world around you as a happy place; while sitting down tell yourself you are in a happy chair in a happy room in a happy house.
Do these exercises daily to build up your muscle of a happy state of mind.
As adults we are often busy multi-tasking, doing many things at one time. We talk on the phone while checking our emails and watching TV. While making dinner we update our status on Facebook and help the kids with their homework. Our attention is pulled in every direction but we give our full attention to nothing.
“Multi-tasking allows us to screw up two things at once.” Author unknown.
Not only do we harm ourselves with the stress of trying to do too much at once, our kids mimic our behavior. Kids text their friends while doing their homework and watching TV. They are shuttled from school to soccer games to the fast food drive thru. In addition to all that stress, with recent mass shootings and gun violence, kids have to be concerned about their safety. There’s no longer such a thing as a “carefree childhood.”
That’s why it’s important for us to help our children find some quiet and peace in their busy lives. Meditation and mindfulness have been found to help improve memory, attention spans, and decision making while lessening mood disorders and depression. Even simple breath-awareness exercises have been found to improve kids’ social skills, increase their sense of calmness, and lead to better sleep.
Here are some simple techniques to help your kids find mindfulness throughout their day:
o They can focus on their breathing, emotions, thoughts, or body sensations.
- There are different things your children can focus their attention on.
o A piece of food such as popcorn or raisin incorporates the sense of smell. o Find something that keeps their interest such as a toy, picture, or something in nature.
- Your children can use their five senses to focus on everyday objects.
o They can even count their breaths quietly.
- Have your children close their eyes and concentrate on their breathing, in and out.
Even simple activities like going for a hike or walk, leaving technology behind, can help brings some peace and quiet to you and your children’s lives. Most of all, set the example, focus your attention to one task at a time, practice mindfulness and meditation, and breathe.
There are lots of things that we do that bring us pleasure: Sex, eating, watching TV, shopping, drinking, etc. But pleasure is fleeting; when the activity ends so does the pleasure.
“Spending our time doing what we please may bring momentary pleasure, but it will not bring us true and lasting joy. We cannot become great artists or great actors of life-we cannot become great human beings. Literature, music and drama are all to be found in our activities for faith-in our prayers, our challenges to develop ourselves through (religious) activities and our efforts to educate others. All value is encompassed in these activities. This is the profound realm of Buddhism.” Daisaku Ikeda, President, SGI.
On the other hand if we engage in noble activities such as helping others, pursuing the humanities, or creating a greater good then we are filled with an inextinguishable happiness. True happiness comes when we better ourselves or the lives of others. There is satisfaction in the things that make us and others happy.
Work, school, family, relationships, kids’ soccer, dance class, gym workouts, traffic jams, taxes, church, etc., etc. –how to you find balance with so much on your plate?
“The conservation of energy depends upon getting your personality speed synchronized with the rate of God’s movement. God is in you. If you are going at one rate and God at another, you are tearing yourself apart.” Norman Vincent Peale.
Life often pulls us in many directions. We have responsibilities that need to be fulfilled. We have others to care for, who depend on us. We plan a vacation but then an emergency arises and we have to use our vacation fund to take care of the emergency.
With so many outside forces it’s hard to concentrate on what’s really important in our lives: Our own happiness and peace of mind. We lose track of what truly makes us happy. We don’t set aside time to find a few moments of peace inside ourselves. Instead we just concentrate on reducing stress a little—if we buy the kids the video game they want then maybe they’ll behave for a while; if we allow our spouse to buy that big screen TV or new dress then maybe they’ll show us more affection and love; if we work late maybe our boss will give us a raise.
True happiness doesn’t come from the outside, it’s generated from within. People can lose everything in a fire but still radiate happiness from within. Happiness is the state of being content, satisfied, and at ease. When truly happy you don’t suffer from want; though material goods can bring you momentary pleasure they can’t really make you truly happy.
To find balance in your life remember the Rule of Divinity: Everything is One and One is the greatest power. As Norman Vincent Peale says above, synchronize with this power of the One.
Each day take a few quiet moments to find happiness and peace inside yourself. By doing so you will find balance and learn what’s really important in life.
Is it Spring yet? That might be a question asked by people still suffering cold weather. I’m lucky because I live in Hawaii where it’s sunny and warm most of the time. That’s not to say that we don’t have our share of inclement weather—a few years ago it rained for 41 days straight!
“The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco.” Mark Twain.
We do get the occasional hurricane in Hawaii—the last one was over 20 years ago. And we do get snow in Hawaii! On the slopes of the Mauna Kea Volcano which stands at over 13,000 feet. Just a couple years ago all 50 of the United States had snow.
While the weather in Hawaii might seem unseasonably warm to those visitors who come from snow covered vistas, you will see many locals wearing jackets and sweatshirts with their shorts and flip flops. I joke with my friends in cold weather places that it’s so cold in Hawaii that I had to turn down the air conditioning; that it’s so cold that I had to close the windows part way; that it’s so cold that I had to wear long pants.
Everything is relative, though. I’ve been to places where it was below freezing and people were wearing nothing but t-shirts. While anything under 72⁰ F is cold for me!
And so it is with life. As the old saying goes, everything looks greener on the other side of the fence. If you have an office job, an outside job looks for appealing. If you’re married, single people seem to have it better. If you live in Hawaii, you miss the snow. Okay, maybe the last one doesn’t apply.
There are those who are perpetually dissatisfied, no matter what side of the fence they’re on. The trick is to find happiness and enthusiasm where you are right now no matter what. Happiness and enthusiasm are emotions generated from within, independent of outside forces.
If you want to be happy and have passion for your life then follow this exercise called the Value Suns, based on the Six Values of a Coherent Life.
1. Sit in a comfortable, quiet place.
2. Place one hand in your lap, palm up.
3. While looking at the palm of your hand imagine a small sun, a ball of fire.
4. You are in control of this sun; you can change its size and shape, making it bigger, smaller, longer, or higher.
5. As you look at this little sun feel the emotion of the value you wish to create in your life.
6. Concentrate of the feeling for a few moments.
Each sun has a different color for each of the Six Values:
1. Internal Assurance (confidence) = White
2. Eternal Ecstasy (happiness) = Orange
3. Indissoluble Love = Yellow
4. Armored Tranquility (peace) = Green
5. Fervid Enthusiasm = Red
6. Profound Abundance = Sky Blue
By practicing viewing these suns and experiencing the associated emotions, you will no longer be dependent on outside forces to live the Six Values.