Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you with the present – Marcus Aurelius’

What would your life be like if you had calmness, composure and presence of mind to handle difficult situations that arise in your life? (I get angry and irritated like anyone else and equanimity is a principle that I strive to use in my daily life). “Equanimity” is a state of even mindedness, calmness and composure in which you remain unaffected by the daily ebbs and flows of life.

Life is constantly throwing new things at you and to deal with these you could take a number of approaches. You can stand your ground as a craggy rock, resisting the onslaught of daily life and fight your way though it. But, this is futile as life has a way of breaking down your resistance. Another alternative is to imagine floating on the surface of life, like a piece of wood floating on the surface of a ocean. This may seem safe but the risk is that you may get thrown upon the rocks of life or be grounded on the sea shore. The last one, is a buoy tethered to the ocean floor and you rise up and down with the waves but you don’t get thrown around. This represents “equanimity” an inner-resilience that allows you survive any storm of life.

Sensations, feelings, happiness, sorrow and misery are impermanent. They are transitory, coming and going like passing clouds in the sky. You have to endure them patiently and bravely; learn to be unaffected by these. This is what causes much unhappiness in your life. Remaining positive under all aspects of life, even the negativity leads to peace of mind. You remain unaffected by the daily ebbs and flows of life, yet in spite of this there is a inner peace that these cannot be touched by the turmoil and problems of daily life.

So how can you develop equanimity? Well, as always here are my suggestions:

  • Learn to meditate a little, this is a vast topic and I don’t want get into it here. But a little mindfulness meditation can bring you clarity, peace of mind and equanimity.
  • Take a deep breath, if you find yourself getting angry, take a deep breath and step back from the situation. Often I find that anger gets the best of me and I say somethings in haste that I regret later on. (Responding to someone in an emotional state such as anger is never good). When you argue with someone – tell them you need a minute, get some fresh air, take a deep breath and then step back into the situation. If you do this, you’ll find better ways of dealing with that situation.
  • Let things be as they are, learn to let go of judgement that is things being bad or good, if we can look at a situation with a calm, kindness compassion, then we can say “this too shall pass” and let it go and not let it define us. When we  do this we become more content and be evermore present. 
  • Be an observer, and detach yourself from the situation. Don’t react to the situation. Experience the situation with awareness, pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, emotions and external events as they happen, but don’t react (sometimes reacting just makes things worse). This creates a “psychological” space between you and the situation and it helps you to not get caught up in the situation. Try to observe in a non-attached way. This will help you to be in control of the situation as opposed to the situation taking control of you. 

I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teachings my blood whispers to me – Hermann Hesse, Demian

Intuition is difficult to explain. It’s not a feeling, a vague hunch but a subtle thought or a feeling that is not part of the normal mind. The feelings associated with it, has a sense of clarity and or stillness and its typically different from our normal thought patterns, emotions and feelings.

In the midst of the daily chatter of the mind it’s difficult to recognize a glimpse of intuition as its usually lost in the inner narration of the mind. Typically it’s noticed when your in a quiet place and calm, when the inner narration or chatter of the mind has subsided. You notice these inner prompts then and this type of feeling is deeper than ordinary thoughts and feelings.

Intuition is inner-tuition. In the ancient mystery schools it was taught as teachings that arise from within. Everyone has intuition to some degree and it varies greatly from one individual to another. It’s often described as ‘knowing’ without the use of normal mind.

Intuition is the minds inner light. A bridge between the ‘I’ and the highest point of contact with divinity within. It can be likened to a sacred oracle, to which the problems of life can be sought out in calmer moments. Ultimately, intuitive feelings tell us that we are more than what we perceive to be  that a deeper kind of presence is at the base of our ordinary consciousness.

When you glimpse an intuition, it is drawing your attention to something that you may have not paid to attention to before. Normally it is accompanied by a sense of guidance and in many cases it reveals itself further. Noticing these glimpses is acknowledging and trusting intuition. From my own experience I’ve found that intuitions can subtle, direct and personal.

Intuition can also manifest as thoughts that seem to appear out of nowhere, spontaneously. And you have to ask yourself where did that thought come from and why? 

What am I being prompted to notice? Cultivate the attitude of ‘what am I being shown here?’. By doing this more will be revealed, but you have to be alert or you can miss these. Try to spend some time alone without the distractions of everyday life, this is when intuition appears and is more likely to be noticed.

Whenever there is attachment associated with it brings endless misery  – Gumpopa, The Jewel Ornament of Liberation

Our thoughts define our world, what we perceive,understand and  see through the filter of our minds. Its a room built full of thoughts; you see the world through its particular windows. You are happy and secure with it, but that all you know; afraid to venture outside. This has become your mind made prison. The ‘ego’ has conned us as we believe thoughts are essential to our survival. The ‘ego’ has control over us though fear and loss of identity. If you give up your thoughts, it seems this would annihilate you and so through fear you keep clinging to them.

There is an alternative. You don’t have to destroy the ego to escape from it. You can use this familiar room as you wish, to come and go as you please. But before, you can do this you need to know that your more than the thoughts you define yourself by. Once you’ve realised this you have the power to change the ‘ego’ from the mind made prison of thoughts.   

Thoughts plague us with the rapidity of a raging river. Thoughts about what you hear, what you see, what you smell, what you feel, what you think, what you plan. On and on they go with no respite from the madness.

Our ‘ego’ tries to make safe an unruly world. Countless impressions, thoughts crowd in on upon us, so that without the ‘ego’ to filter out irrelevant information, we would be overwhelmed and destroyed by this, or so it seems.   

We need thoughts, feelings and sensations and the matrix we call the ‘ego’ for our physical and psychological survival. ‘Ego’ tells us what to avoid, how to satisfy each desire and what to do in each situation. It does this by labelling everything we think, feel and sense. And these labels are filed away and it gives us a sense of security and well being. These labels allow us to know our world and our place in it.

‘Ego’ has convinced us that we cannot survive without it – but that we are it and can do nothing without it. I am my body. I am angry. I am a honest person. I am a good person and I don’t deserve this. I’m lazy. I want to be rich. Definition after definition. 

Most people identify with their thoughts. They cannot separate their awareness from their thoughts. To be aware is different from your thoughts and senses. Your awareness is different and its not attached to any of these senses. 

How do I become aware of awareness?

Try this little experiment:

1. Look at any object in your room 
2. Notice the awareness that is looking through your eyes
3. Close your eyes and notice that your somehow still aware
4. Thus, it is the same awareness that a minute ago was looking out at the room.
5. With your eyes closed, simple observe your awareness.

Meditation asks the question: who are you really? If you are the same as the ego, then we open the flood gates of the ego’s filters and we shall be drowned. Hence, if we are not what the ego defines us by, then the removal of it may not be a great threat to ourselves and it may mean an end to our suffering.

Meditation can break the cycle of endless thoughts and free you from the thought prison and could ultimately lead to your own liberation.

“A good place to begin, is to forgive yourself for judging other people in the first place.”  – Bryant McGill

A big change that I’m trying to make in my life is to let go of judging other people as it’ll make me happier and less stressed. Judging another person, seeing the negative  in another person, hinders your happiness. This is often an obstacle to personal happiness and it often trips me up way more than I’d like it to.

We’re told to ‘never judge a book by its cover’ yet we all judge other people – I think it’s inborn trait or its something that we’ve developed throughout our childhood. Now I’m trying to break this habit, but it’s tough as its so easy to see the negative in another person.

I’m learning to see judging other people as a red flag. So whenever I notice that it’s happening I see it as a sign of something bad and then try to let it go.

Why is judging bad? Judging is a symptom of a negative mind-set, it causes us harm. By harm, I mean that it infects and inflates our ego. What are the causes or situations that occur because I’m judging another person. Well, here are a few: 

  • I think I’m superior to other people
  • I have unrealistic expectations of people
  • I don’t understand the situation
  • I’m ignorant of what the person is going through  
  • I’m not grateful
  • I’m being self-centred
  • I’m not really helping the situation coming from a place of judgement

Judging others, keeps you in a trap – an emotional jail. For example, a typical fake example to show you what I mean. A co-worker is loud and opinionated and thinks they’re superior to other people. and just annoys everyone by being so brash and does other bad things because of their own inflated beliefs and opinions.

I judge them because of what they’re doing, get frustrated and angry with them and dismiss them as not worthy of my attention. This kind of thing happens all the the time  – just replace the co-worker with spouse, friends, family members or kids.

In this example, I’m ignorant of what the persons going through and don’t really understand the situation. She’s been depressed, feeling guilty, feeling stuck or scared of something. Because of these bad feelings, she doesn’t like to think about it but it makes her feel better by thinking that she’s superior to others. I similarly do these things as well, I fail all the time, I feel bad, I feel I’m superior to others even though I’m not.

I’m also being self-centred by focusing on how much better I am than them, how she’s frustrating or annoying me. As you can see I’ve made a judgement here and I can’t do anything because I’ve written her off. You can see how things affect me, they make me frustrated, angry and unhappy, amongst other things.

How to stop judging

The first step is to be aware that you’re judging other people and see it it as a red flag. Letting go of judging is difficult and requires repeated practise. But there are some symptoms that alert you to tell you that you’re judging – if you feel angry, frustrated or dismissive of someone. If you’re complaining or gossiping about someone. These are the tell-tale signs that you’re judging.

Monitor your thoughts
Think about what your thinking about. I tend to think things about other people, judge them and I don’t even realise that I’m doing this. I’m working more on paying attention to my thoughts and then push them in a more positive direction.  To do this you have to mindful of your thoughts. You have to aware of your judgements and simply let them go.

Be aware that thoughts you have are just thoughts and may not be true. Just notice your judgements, label them as judgements and let them go. Practising to let go of judgements  will lessen the power they have over you. With a bit of time and practise, you’ll be able to smile and say, ‘That’s a judgment’ and get on with the rest of your day. 

If monitoring your thoughts, seems difficult you can pause and reflect on the following questions:

Why am I judging?
What are the things about the other person you appreciate?
Can you guess what the other person is going through?
Can you put yourself in the other person’s shoes? 
Can you remember a time when you went through something similar?

Look for the positive
Judging other people is negative. If you really look closely, there is always something positive that you can find in someone. As the mind likes to dwell on the negative, you can try to push your thoughts in a more positive direction and look for something positive to say. And if you can’t find something to say don’t say anything at all.

Stop judging yourself
The more you judge yourself, the more  you’re likely to judge others and gossip about them. When you call someone ‘stupid’ or ‘not very smart’, you avoid feeling bad about yourself and place your burden on someone else. When you’re having problems it’s so easy to judge others. Judging yourself is actually a form of punishment. Judging isn’t effective and it’s not very motivating or helpful. Coming from a place of judgment doesn’t help anyone nor does it lead to getting something done regardless of how much you believe it to be true.

Remember how it feels
Remember how it feels to be judged by other people. I don’t like being judged, neither do you! So try imagine what the other person being judged feels like. Try to put these things into practise next time you feel you’re being negative and you’re judging other people. Use the symptoms as a red flag so that you’re aware your doing this.    

You can’t really do anything helpful if you come from a place of judgement. It’s only when you let judgements pass will you come to a place of happiness and peace.  

Spiritual practise should not be confused with grim duty. It is the laughter of the Dalai Lama and the wonder born with every child. – Jack Kornfield

All the problems that you face can be transformed into a spiritual practice. To do this simply feel yourself becoming invisible, as it were without the solidity of a material body. Now allow the noise of whatever causes you irritation, anger and frustration to pass right through you.

The countless job rejections, the car alarm, the dog barking, the children screaming, the traffic jam, not getting the job after all that preparation. Instead of resisting  and continually telling yourself “this should not be happening to me, why me?” Just let it be, let everything just pass through you.

Being united to the will of God you enjoy and posses him.

It is in his purposes, hidden in the cloud of all that happens to you in the present moment, that you must rely on. You will find it always surpasses your own wishes.

People who have abandoned themselves to God always lead mysterious lives and receive from Him exceptional and miraculous gifts by means of the most ordinary, natural, and chance experiences in which there appears to be nothing unusual – Jean Pierre de Caussade

I have a hard time of letting things go. I would worry, stress and find it difficult to accept things as they are if they didn’t work out as I thought they would. Slowly, I started to realize that this wasn’t doing me any favours. In fact it was causing me a lot of grief. Letting go is something I’m really terrible at and I’m still learning as I go along.

For example someone who may have recently been fired will find it difficult to accept things and have a hard time of letting things go blaming his employer instead of himself. In this instance you have to let things go. You surrender and let it go in spite of the feelings welling up inside you.

It’s not easy to describe  what surrender is, but we know what it feels like – the sudden cessation of struggle, the end (for the time being) of our resistance, the peaceful calm that follows the storm of what is futile effort, the relaxation we enjoy when something gives after a long period of tension and the fight goes out of us.

We all need to feel a sense of control over our lives. Yet there is so much that we can’t control – the weather, the economy, death. Faith allows us to let go of our worries and put them on the table and just accept things as they are. What will be, will be.

But in life, there are no guarantees that our prayers will be answered as we desire. The comfort comes, not so much from believing that the power to change things is on your side, but from the act of surrender. 

Surrender is not defeat. The act of surrendering may seem like we have given up and that we are no longer in control of the situations or life circumstances we find ourselves in. However to the ‘ego’ it can seem like  defeat. 

If you identify with the ‘ego’ you may feel as though you are the only in who can solve your problems. You’re carrying a burden heavier than it should be.

If you accept that God is the governor of the universe  and that all things and creatures happen under the will of the ‘Big’ one then you will come to the conclusion that the ‘ego’ is not the doer as we like to believe. You put your burdens on the floor and let God carry it for you and let go. This is essentially surrender to the Divine.

When you feel that your life is starting to slide off track, think about  what you can and can’t control. Let go of things that are out of your hands, and work on those that you are in control of. If it helps try saying a few private words to God, and feel the weight lift off your shoulders.

The act of surrender also benefits you from a health perspective. It can alleviate stress, anxiety, fear and worry.

I have come to realize that whatever happens in your life it is God who has willed it for the present moment. Be happy!  

Seeing into one’s self nature is seeing into nothingness. Seeing into nothingness is true seeing and eternal seeing – Shen-hui

This is a great video of an exchange between the Spiritual Teacher Gangaji with a satsang attendee entitled, The face in the mirror. Where he describes his perspective on headlessness – on having no head.

Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it – Ray Bradbury

Zen is known as the religion of every day life. So many people, including me perceive daily life as a source of constant busy-ness, rushing around, stress and nose-to-the-ground grind. We normally think that real life must exist somewhere out there thus completely missing the present and what it has to teach us.

To be honest, I’m still learning this as I go along. Life is the best teacher of all. Most of the time, life does not talk to you. It will just push you around and each push is life telling you to wake up, there’s something I want you to learn here.

We seek out the spiritual life because we think that it is beyond our mundane everyday experience, but this could not be further from the truth. The truth is, every day life is the spiritual way.

If you’ve ever tried sitting meditation you’ll know how difficult it is to keep your attention focused on the breath. Trying to keep your attention focused for long periods of extended time is no easy feat. The monkey mind jumps from here to there but the practise is learning to be aware of when the mind is wandering, and gently returning it to your breath. 

The Zen mind is learning to be mindful of what you’re doing in everyday life. You bring this awareness from sitting to your daily routine. For example, every time you walk up and down the stairs in your house, simply pay attention to every step, every movement, even your breathing. Try to be totally present, be aware that your mind has wandered and bring your attention back to what you were doing.

This practise can help with anything. If I’m writing a blog post, my mind gets pulled in every conceivable direction, but then I take a step back and return to the idea and carry on writing. I also have to be aware of the urges to do something else or wandering mind to other things that may or may not happen in the near future. I struggle with wandering mind as much as anyone else but I’m gradually getting better at it. A reminder to be here and now.

Being in the NOW is important. There is no past and there’s no future. All there ever was, is the NOW – the present. We can gain experience in the past, but we can’t relive it but we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is going to be one or how it will all turn out. Don’t be too attached to that which comes and goes – is always fleeting. Awakening to this ground of awareness is what will lead you to your end goal.  

So then life is lived more fully by simply being in the NOW – the present. Life then becomes a meditation.

Here is just emptiness. There is no getting m ego out of the way, and all that stuff. There is just seeing, shining in great brilliance and clarity – Douglas Harding

Douglas Edison Harding (12 February 1909 – 11 January 2007) was an English mystic, philosopher, spiritual teacher and author. He was born in 1909 in Suffolk, and grew up in a strict fundamentalist Christian sect called the Exclusive Plymouth Brethren. The Brethren believed that they were the saved ones, that they only had the one true path to God and everyone else was bound for Hell. 

However he could not accept their way of life and when he was 21 he left against his fathers wishes. From an early age, he always felt that the power behind the world was one of self-giving love.

So he devoted himself to this quest, trying to understand his true nature. He wanted an answer to the question, “Who Am I?” Most people are content and never seek to answer these important questions and are happy with the answers the holy books teach.

He wasn’t about to take others opinions and beliefs about the matter, neither was he going to accept what religion or society told him about himself. He wanted to find this out directly for himself.

At the time, philosophy was influenced by the ideas of relativity. He realised that his identity depended on the observer – from several meters away he appeared to be human, but at close range he was cells, molecules, atoms and from further away he was absorbed into the rest of society, life, the planets, the stars. He realised that like an onion he had many layers.   

But what was the the centre of these layers? Who was he really?

For example, take this writing. I can read  it now only because I am at just the right range – almost 20 inches, and the words are bristling with meaning. Nearer still provided I sharpen my vision with electronic aids – the screen is a collection of patterns called molecules and beyond these atoms, particles, quarks and finally space itself is packed full of energy. Neither the page or anything else will stand up to close inspection.  

The “penny” dropped for him at the age of 33. He accidentally stumbled upon a  drawing by the Austrian philosopher and physicist Ernst Mach. It was a self portrait but with an unusual difference:


What is so unusual about this self portrait? The unusual thing is that you don’t see the artists head.

For most people this fact is interesting. However for Harding he had discovered the keys to his identity, as he noticed his head was missing to. So at the centre of the world there was no head, no appearance – nothing at all. This nothing was special as it was alive and fully awake to the world.

However he was still seeking the answer to the question, “Who Am I ?” And this occurred to him with the realization and so he happened by chance to walking in the Himalayas.

The best day of my life – my rebirthday, so to speak – was when I found I had no head. This is not a literary gambit, a witticism designed to arouse interest at any cost. I mean it in all seriousness: I have no head.

What actually happened was something absurdly simple and unspectacular: I stopped thinking. A peculiar quite, an odd kind of alert limpness or numbness, came over me. Reason, imagination and all mental chatter died down. Past and future dropped away. I forgot who and what I was, my name, man hood, animal hood, all that could be called mine. It was as if I had been born that instant, brand new, mindless, innocent of all memories. There existed only the NOW, that present moment and what was clearly given in it. To look was enough. And what I found was khaki trouser legs terminating downwards in a pair of brown shoes, khaki sleeves terminating sideways in a pair of pink hands, and a khaki shirt front terminating upwards in – absolutely nothing whatever! Certainly not a head. 

– Douglas Harding, from his book, “On Having No Head.”

Douglas Harding had seen his own original face. He saw that emptiness contained a world. And nowhere did he find any evidence of a head. Hence the original face is also a koan in Zen Buddhism: What did your face look like before your parents were born? You are what you experience in the NOW moment.

Think about this for a brief moment! Your head only exists as a concept. You imagine yourself to have a head when there is nothing there but emptiness.

Do the exercises below with an open mind. Simply rely on present evidence rather than imagination, memory or assumptions. Look for yourself – it is only you alone that can see who you really are and no one else can do it for you.

I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books:  I have begun to listen to the teachings my blood whispers to me – Herman Hesse, Prologue To Demian

I have struggled, it has not always been easy. Life has been painful, disappointing and full of surprises – many highs and lows. But it is life nevertheless, a great spiritual teacher once said that it is because of suffering that you are drawn to the spiritual search. If there wasn’t any pain or suffering in your life, would you have even started the spiritual search?

Do you really want to be on your deathbed, thinking, oh well my life wasn’t too bad, I suppose it could have been better? Do you really want that? Do you want your life to just be okay? Sometimes I feel really good, sometimes I feel really bad. Oh well…that’s how life is. Do you want to suffer or do you want freedom?

When I was suffering, what I really wanted was freedom from suffering, freedom from unhappiness. In a way, it was a blessing in disguise as it led me to start the spiritual search. Your true calling is to discover it for yourself – awaken to your original nature.

Reading books, listening to CD’s, watching DVD’s and going on spiritual retreats can only take you so far. They are helpful in your spiritual search and may point  you in the right direction but you will have to abandon these at some point and start your own spiritual search. On the spiritual search you are your own authority, you just cannot depend on others for your own liberation.

A powerful spiritual practise is to meditate deeply on the mortality of your own physical form. It’s called: Die before your die. Your physical form is dissolving, is no more. Then a moment comes when all feeling, emotions and thoughts also die. Then there is nothing left, yet you are still here.

This is the realization of your true nature. And the secret is to “die before you die” – and find that there is no death.