Free Your Heart

“Free your heart. Travel like the moon among the stars.” – Buddha

What matters in life is simple. Are you free and loving? Are you bringing your gifts to the world that so badly needs them? The joyful news of the Buddha’s way is that you can do so, you can live with freedom and compassion in every part of your life.

Mistakenly, people associate Buddhist teachings exclusively with sitting quietly in meditation. This error reflects our divided society where the body is relegated to the gym, work to the office, healing to the hospital, enjoyment to two weeks vacation, and the sacred to weekly visits to church or temple. The wholeness of awakening is the message here.

All aspects of your life are the precise place to find freedom and compassion. From politics and parenting to meditation and education, from sex and drugs to poetry and art, every part of your life is sacred. This very life, your work, your family, your community is the only place for awakening. In Zen this is called “no part left out.” – Jack Kornfield

I recently traveled to Los Angeles for a series of trainings in my profession. I was able to travel with friends/coworkers and had an opportunity to engage in some sightseeing. There were some things I noticed, one f them immediately. As a lifelong New Yorker who has visited NYC on two separate occasions and who has little desire to return, and an Introvert, I noticed the pace to be much more to my liking on the West coast. I worried little when I crossed busy streets as there appeared to be a collaboration between those in cars and those of us who were pedestrians. In NYC, those pedestrians take their lives into their own hands, and it becomes a game of speed chess. As one who loves the calmness of water and the mountains, I found both within a quick 30-minute drive of my hotel. I still never see myself living in such a large city, but if that works for you. I spent time at a 20th anniversary party for a vendor I use and met briefly with the CEO and found him and his team to be the oppositive of what I expected. I had allowed like I have a tendency to do my expectations to lead my thoughts to a place of judgement that brings with it stress and anxiety.

The second thing I noticed was my attitude. I felt the calmness of the area where I was staying. I found the stresses that normally occupy space in my head or perhaps a better way to say it are those stresses that I allow to take up rent space in my head were not there or at least not to the degree they are normally present. Vacation, whether or not there’s work involved has a tendency to help us relax but we need to help those efforts by allowing ourselves the opportunity to relax. This allowance is something that can take place whether or not we are on vacation.

Too often we spend our time worrying about what we have done and what needs to be done. I’m not talking about the fact that the grass needs to be cut this weekend or the other chores that occupy our minds, I’m talking about the other worries that we allow to rent space in our heads such as work, retirement, etc. A friend of mine in her early 50’s recently experienced a heart attack, had a stent put in place and was lucky enough to not have suffered any heart damage. As a result, she has made positive life changes and finds herself to be happier and healthier.

The gifts I purchased while on this workcation were well thought out gifts for each of the recipients. There were no t-shirts or other what I call “useless” gifts, not that there’s anything wrong with those. I purchased books signed for me with a personal transcription by the author that will allow my grandchildren to have something to have for the remainder of their lives. I chose time spent with friends seeing sights I had only seen and heard about from others. I enjoyed good meals with friends. I’m not judging anyone’s gifts. These choices were my personal choices and it’s what I found necessary as part of my personal process of growth.

I also paid attention to my relaxed mood and affect, yep, I had to work in some social work terms there, my lack of judgement, my feeling more awake, less judgmental of myself and others. I felt it easier to forgive myself and others.

This is the work in which I engage for myself and to offer to others. I wish others to know that with some modicum of work these goals can be achieved if only we stop listening to our inner critic and allow ourselves to be free.



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