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As a graphic designer, I understand the concept of white space, so this post by Leo on Zen Habits really struck a chord. I’ve done – and am always refining – some of the things suggested in his post, but never thought of it as white space before. Loving this!

Read Leo’s post here: Zen Habits

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Recently I’ve had cause to fret over various things of various size, which led me to think more about the emotion we call worry. Worry, to me, is a fairly useless emotion unless you use it for what it was intended: as a call to action. Being frozen in place, unable to think, is not what worry is all about – it should be the trigger that gets your brain firing on all cylinders so you can work through your options and priorities, then make a decision about what to do. Monkey Minds worry in circles, and that eats you alive.

If you can’t control it, don’t worry about it. Let go.

Here’s a list of things that have been on my mind, and my thoughts:

The economy. Besides doing the best job I can so my employer values me (therefore staying employed and able to spend money), there is absolutely nothing I can do to change the economy. Not only does my understanding of economics barely scratch the surface, I don’t believe that economists and financial experts know that much more than the average Joe who pays attention. I think when it comes to the “experts”, it’s 25% knowledge and 75% gut guesswork.

My health. This is 90% in my control, 10% genetics. You’re born with the body you’ve got, and it will have its natural weaknesses. However, as I’ve mentioned in other posts, its up to me to keep this body in the best shape I can. That process ebbs and flows depending on immediate priorities, but for the most part I try to stay tuned-up.

My bank account. Totally in my control (including hubby, of course). We decide how much to spend and how much to save. We decide where to cut when the wallet gets thin. We might even decide to pick up a second part-time gig if we feel the need.

D’s homework. This is a recent issue, as this year there is more homework then ever before. Homework is technically not in my control – it’s his responsibility to know what to do, be prepared with all resources, and do the actual work. I’m putting 50% of this in my control for now. Until he’s mature enough to be fully independent in this regard, he needs someone to teach him how to stay organized and check his work. It will come.

Other people’s actions, reactions, perceptions, reality, emotions. Not mine. I’ll do the best I can with my own actions so you can see me clearly, but ultimately your vision is your vision. I can’t truly see through your eyes, I can only guess.

Have something to add to the list? Leave a comment. 🙂

The first key to changing your life is to recognize what is going on in the first place. Noticing how you react and why to whatever is happening in your life. Even if you can’t get to the why, if you can start to catch yourself just before you act, you can choose another action.

This is from today’s Daily Dharma from Tricycle Magazine:

The Importance of Clarity
Seeing our moment-to-moment automatic conditioned reactions is crucial. Without that we will just continue the mess we are creating in our world, in our loveless relationships. Without clarity, the self-pitying or self-aggrandizing soliloquy takes up all the space; then there is just this little stage for the actor, the victim, the hero, the star. If that isn’t seen, self-pitying and self-promoting proceeds and makes oneself and others miserable.

-Toni Packer, “The End of the Story” (Summer 1996)

This is an excerpt from Why Meditate? Working with Thoughts and Emotions by Matthieu Ricard. I’ve borrowed it from the Fall 2010 issue of Tricycle magazine.

As you read it, remember that the unstable, disorderly mind that he talks about is the Monkey Mind we all live with at times – at least until we start to bring it under control. The veils are all the crap in our heads that we see through and that create the way we think and perceive our reality to be. Meditation is but one way of many that we can use to calm Monkey Mind, but all the different methods work by recognizing the big issues first and progressing to the small issues – gross to subtle. There’s no way we will even see the subtle elements of something until we understand the bigger picture.

“In order to recognize the fundamental nature of the mind, we have to remove the veils created by automatic thought patterns. How do we do that? Suppose you are trying to retrieve a key that has fallen into a pond. If you poke about on the bottom with a stick, you’ll completely muddy the water and won’t have the slightest chance of spotting the key. The first thing you have to do is let the water settle until it becomes clear. After that, it will be easy to see the key and pick it up. We must work with our mind in the same way. We have to begin by making it clear, calm, and attentive. After that, we can use this new skill to cultivate other qualities, such as altruistic love and compassion, as well as to develop a deeper insight into the nature of mind.

Most of the time our mind is unstable, disorderly, and driven by whims as it bounces back and forth between hope and fear. It is self-centered, hesitant, fragmented, confused, and sometimes even absent, as well as weakened by internal contradictions and a feeling of insecurity. It rebels against any kind of training and is constantly occupied by a stream of inner chatter that generates a constant background noise we are barely aware of. Because these dysfunctional states are nothing but products of the mind itself, it makes sense that the mind can also remedy them.

So the idea is to gradually progress from a state of mind where unfavorable conditions prevail, to another state that is characterized by stable attention, inner peace and clarity, confidence, courage, openness toward others, benevolence, the ability to deal with emotions, and other qualities of a vast and calm mind.”