Be Present To Presence

“We can spend our whole lives escaping from the monsters of our minds.” -Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

One of the central tenets of Buddhism is an emphasis on being present to our experiences in the here and now. The problem though is that .we’re almost always somewhere else. We’re either reprocessing the past or worrying about the future. If we watch our mind, it doesn’t actually think many original thoughts. We just keep thinking in the same problematic ways that our minds love to operate. Some call this “the monkey mind.” All spiritual teaching is about showing us how to be present to the moment. When we’re present, we experience “the presence” and in so doing, we can tame the monkey mind.

Pema Chodron writes in her excellent book “When Things Fall Apart” about Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, a Buddhist monk and international teacher. Following in the ancient tradition of wandering ascetics, Rinpoche left his post as abbott of the monastery to spend several years on a retreat journey. Below is part of the letter he left for his students before departing:

In parting, I would like to give you one small piece of advice to keep in your heart. You may have heard me say this before, but it is the key point of the entire path, so it bears repeating: All that we are looking for in life—all the happiness, contentment, and peace of mind—is right here in the present moment. Our very own awareness is itself fundamentally pure and good. The only problem is that we get so caught up in the ups and downs of life that we don’t take the time to pause and notice what we already have.

Don’t forget to make space in your life to recognize the richness of your basic nature, to see the purity of your being and let its innate qualities of love, compassion, and wisdom naturally emerge. Nurture this recognition as you would a small seedling. Allow it to grow and flourish. . . .

Keep this teaching at the heart of your practice. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, pause from time to time and relax your mind. You don’t have to change anything about your experience. You can let thoughts and feelings come and go freely, and leave your senses wide open. Make friends with your experience and see if you can notice the spacious awareness that is with you all the time. Everything you ever wanted is right here in this present moment of awareness.

That Annoying Roommate

“There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind – you are the one who hears it.” -Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul

“We are all unreliable narrators, not just in the way we tell our stories to others, but how we tell them to ourselves.” -Deb Caletti

“If you had a manager that talked to you the way you talked to you, you’d quit. If you had a boss that wasted as much of your time as you do, they’d fire her. If an organization developed its employees as poorly as you are developing yourself, it would soon go under.” -Seth Godin

Think of the most annoying roommate you’ve ever had. That person pales in comparison with the roommate inside your head. The one who never stops talking, never stops worrying, never allows you one second of peace or focus. Kinda like this scene from the movie “Adaptation.”

Michael Singer writes about this in his excellent book “The Untethered Soul” which I highly recommend…

How would you feel if someone outside really started talking to you the way your inner voice does? How would you relate to a person who opened their mouth to say everything your mental voice says? After a very short period of time, you would tell them to leave and never come back. But when your inner friend continuously speaks up, you don’t ever tell it to leave. No matter how much trouble it causes, you listen.

The solution? First, you must realize that you are not your thoughts. You are the one who hears your thoughts.

This simple, yet profound shift, is the beginning of everything. Transformative growth starts there.

It’s time to wake up and say goodbye to that annoying roommate forever.

No Prize

“When the archer shoots for no particular prize, he has all his skills; when he shoots to win a brass buckle, he is already nervous; when he shoots for a gold prize, he goes blind, sees two targets, and is out of his mind. His skill has not changed, but the prize divides him. He cares! He thinks more of winning than of shooting, and the need to win drains him of power.” -Tranxu, a great Chinese sage

Do it because you love it.

If you concentrate solely on the “love” part, everything else takes care of itself.

Two Modes Of Listening

On stage–because it’s all about conflict and playing objectives to the hilt–listen with a strong point of view. A strong want. Listen with intent. Probe. Listen to find the opportunities where you can CHANGE the other person. Actively listen. Want to jump in and interrupt the first chance you get.

Off stage–or for most of your life–do none of the above. Just LISTEN. Let the other person speak. Allow for silence. Don’t try to solve or change anything about them. Just listen. And listen some more.

The Greatest Asset

When we think of assets, we tend to think in economic terms.  Cash, stocks, bonds, land, buildings, etc…Numbers on a balance sheet. And they certainly all have value.

But the most valuable asset you have as an artist and/or producer is trust.

Plain and simple…Does your audience trust that what you have to offer comes from your heart and is made with excellence and generosity at every turn?

A Simple Why Will Do

I recently re-watched one of my favorite performances by my favorite actor, Jack Lemmon in “Days Of Wine And Roses.” If you haven’t seen, it’s a must. Lemmon and Remick are at the top of their game portraying a couple destroyed by the ravages of alcohol.

I came across the original trailer for the film Here. What’s fascinating is that at the 90 second mark, the film clips end and Jack Lemmon walks out to the soundstage and talks directly to the camera. He speaks from the heart about how much the film means to him, so much so that for the first time in his career, he’s appealing directly to the audience to see it. Simple. Classy. Earnest. Powerful.

When you’re marketing your passion project and/or explaining your “why” to people, you can do it just like Jack…Look ’em square in the eye and tell them how much it means to you. Your why doesn’t get any better than that.

Contemporary Takes Care Of Itself

“Art doesn’t have to be contemporary to feel contemporary.” -Jacqueline Stewart, Chief Artistic & Programming Officer, Academy Museum

Consider that Anton Chekhov wrote this in 1897 (from his play “Uncle Vanya”)…

You can stoke your stoves with peat and build your barns of stone. Well, all right, cut wood when you need to, but why destroy whole forests? Russian forests are groaning under the axe, billions of trees are perishing, the homes of beasts and birds are devastated, the rivers grow shallow and dry up, wonderful landscapes disappear beyond recall, and all that because lazy man isn’t smart enough to bend down and pick up fuel from the ground. Isn’t that so, madam? You have to be a senseless barbarian to burn this beauty in your stove, to destroy what we cannot create. Man is endowed with reason and creative power to increase what’s been given to him, but so far he’s been destroying, not creating. There are fewer and fewer forests, rivers are drying up, wildlife is disappearing, the climate is ruined, and with every day the earth becomes poorer and uglier.

Feels like it could’ve been written today, doesn’t it?

Don’t worry about staying contemporary. Worry about being truthful and authentic. When you capture truth, contemporary takes care of itself.

Be One

“Far too many people are looking for the right person, instead of trying to be the right person.” -Gloria Steinem

“Be the change you that you wish to see in the world.” -Mahatma Ghandi

“Waste no more time arguing what a good [person] should be. Be one.” -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Not…”If only someone would just do something!”

It’s…”I’m doing this! Who’s coming with me?

Go Help Them Make Their Art

If you don’t have a passion project right now, that’s perfectly okay. You haven’t found it yet, or it’s not the right time.

But if you know someone who’s attempting theirs, do whatever you can to help them out. Support their efforts as best you can.

They could use it. You’re doing a good thing. And who knows?…It might provide the inspiration you were searching for.

Go Help Them Make Their Art

Emotional, Not Logical

“When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.” -Dale Carnegie

“May I say that I have not thoroughly enjoyed serving with humans? I find their illogic and foolish emotions a constant irritant.” -Spock

The next time you read a script and a character’s behavior causes you to think, “I would never do that.” Or, “That wouldn’t happen.” Or “It doesn’t logically make sense for that character to act that way.”…

…Just remember humans are waaaaay more emotional than logical.