Tuesday, August 31, 2010

If you think there is good in everybody...

...you haven't met everybody. 

Some people are just a waste of skin. Let's face it. This goes along with the "it only takes a few muscles to slap someone" idea. But this one goes a bit farther.

Be honest. There are people whom you think should be dead. For whatever reason: you read about them in the news, or they did something horrific (a murderer, a rapist, a pedophile), or they cheated a bunch of people or...

There's a lot of them out there, aren't there? I've often wondered if society has always been so laden with evil or if it's escalating, somehow. Or is it just the media? Do we hear more about these things nowadays?

How do people like that fit into a 'Zen' life? I've always felt that they served as contrast. It's the old "there but for the grace of God" idea. If you consider it, your birth truly was a random event. You were born in a certain country at a certain time of civilization and you had access to certain opportunities. Whether or not you could or would take advantage of those opportunities is irrelevant for this discussion (not irrelevant for your life, of course). The fact that the opportunity was THERE is totally out of your hands.

I often thank Whoever that I was born in the United States and not Bosnia or a Muslim country or somewhere that women are repressed. I don't know what I would have done if I were born into that kind of life. Perhaps I would have accepted it. But worse -- what if I didn't want to accept it? What if I rebelled? What if ...

Think about it. It may sound hokey, but count your blessings. It could be soooooo much worse. And you know, if you think you don't have any blessings--think again. Trust me. You do.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A dog is just a dog unless he is facing you...

Then he is Mr. Dog.

It's all about perception, isn't it?

How often have you looked at something and thought, "Wow. Cool. I wish I had that." Or looked at something and thought, "Lame. Who would want that?"

It's way too easy to simply dismiss what we see based on our own mindset. It takes a bit more work to put yourself in those shoes. The shoes of ... Mr. Dog.

Think about it. You're walking down the street and you see a stray dog. Ho, hum. Yep, there shouldn't be any stray dogs in the world and that's too bad. You see his collar. Okay, somebody 'owns' him and he got loose or was let loose or...

Then he turns and faces you. Suddenly it isn't just a stray. It's a dog, facing you down in the middle of a street. You suddenly pray that whoever owns this dog has kept up on the rabies shots, etc. You hope this dog has had good socialization with those owners. You hope the owners aren't someone who beats a dog and says it's justified because the dog is 'property.'

What is the dog thinking? Now that's the tough part. You don't know his background, you don't know his baggage. All you can do is approach him with your own baggage, your own thoughts, your own way of acting. If it was me, I'd be friendly. If my friendship was rebuffed, I'd walk away. And if he looks like he'll attack, I'd either find a fast way to retreat or find someone to help me.

Now that I think about it, that's a good way to deal with people, too. Do you deal with toxic people on a daily basis? What are some of your coping mechanisms? What works? More importantly: what doesn't?

Who is Mr. Dog in your life? And when you run into Mr. Dog, how do you react? Is it always the best way? Can you learn from encounters in the past that weren't always productive?

And think about this: do you seem to attract the Mr. Dogs of the world? If you do ... why? Are you okay with that? Or can you change some behavior or facet of your outward-facing personality to make sure those people don't attach to you. And if you can't change it ... are you okay with the fact those toxic people are attracted to you. They won't change. You'll have to be the one to change it.

Think about it. Before blaming another person for ruining your day .... is it Mr. Dog's fault?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How old would you be ...

... if you didn't know how old you were?

It's odd. When I was younger, I was more worried about 'acting my age.' Now that I'm <ahem> older, I don't worry much about it. I think, as I've gotten older, I've realized that we are responsible for our lives -- what we do and don't do with them. If I worry about what others think, that often hampers me from doing what I want.

Have you ever done that? Have you considered an action only to back away lest people think you're odd, or flighty or brusque or ...

We can't always disregard what others think, of course. A little bit of empathy goes a long way -- please, THINK, before you crank up that stereo or talk on your cell phone or drive like an idiot. But other times...

Has anything ever held you back? Why? Why is the opinion of others important to you? Are you mentally comparing your life to theirs? What do they have that you don't have? Maybe more importantly -- WHY do they have it? Did they make decisions based on what others thought? Or did they do what they felt was right for them?

Consider it...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

You can go anywhere you want...

... if you look serious and carry a clipboard.

It's funny, but I've found that if I look confident, I can pull off just about anything. It's all in the way you meet another person's gaze and don't look away. Inside you may be churning, but if you look like you know what you're doing, you'll be perceived as being competent (at least) and a rock star (at best).

Think about it: let's say someone asks you to work on a project. My first covert reaction to things like that is "Who do they think I am? Why am I being asked to do that? I don't know anything about that. I can't pull that off."

My overt reaction is to nod and say, "Can I get some more details? What would that entail?" I jot notes, I look confident, I nod, and then I go back to my desk and...

I set it all aside for at least a few minutes. I take a walk, even just to the bathroom. I get a cup of coffee. I think about it. Can I really do it? Why was I asked? Well, probably because they thought I could do it. I wonder why they thought I could do it. Maybe because I've done stuff like this before.

Hmm. What have I done before? Let's break this into small pieces. What's the first goal, the first milestone, the first piece of the puzzle? Start breaking it into pieces and look at it that way, rather than as an overall Big Project. Before you know it, you've figured out how to accomplish the pieces.

If you accomplish enough pieces, you accomplish the project.

Have you ever walked away from something because you were sure you couldn't do it? Did you break it into pieces? Did you walk away because you knew you couldn't do it or because you didn't have the backing of others?

Was that backing essential?

What would have happened if you tried and failed?

Always look at Best Case Scenario and Worst Case. Usually the 'worst' isn't really as bad as we think. And the Best isn't as good as we think. Reality is somewhere in between.

Next time you're asked to do something that you quail at doing, pick up your clipboard, smile, and make some notes. I'll bet you can do it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Inside every fat woman...

... is a skinny woman screaming because she's hungry.

I'll bet this one resonates with a lot of people, doesn't it? I think just about everyone I know has at least one 'fat day' now and again. Of course, it's all about self-perception, isn't it? If I stand next to one person, I feel fat. If I stand next to someone else, I feel thin. The answer, of course, is to stand next to overweight people and...

No, that's not the answer. The answer is to change your mindset about weight. The government has given us guidelines on what constitutes a healthy life, but let's face it: it's not going to happen. Who has an hour a day to exercise? Who has two hours a day to shop for healthy food and prepare healthy meals? Yes, yes, yes, there are all sorts of shortcuts: make mega meals on the weekend and heat 'em up during the week. Get up earlier to get to the gym. Incorporate exercise into your day.

I'll tell you what worked for me, and I speak from experience: I lost 40 pounds in one year, and I did it this way:

1. Change your attitude about food. Food is fuel. You don't need a field hand's lunch (i.e., a Big Mac, fries, and shake) in order to sit at a desk and type.

2. See #1. Eat according to your needs, not your wants. There are bunch of programs on the market to help you figure this out (I use "Lose It" on the Iphone). Figure out what calories you need to get through the day and, hopefully, lose a little bit of weight at a time.

3. See #2. Plan to lose a half-pound or a pound a week, max. If you do that, it'll stay off because *you will have changed your eating habits*.

4. During the week, stick to your plan. Eat small meals (I eat the same thing for lunch every day. Boring? Yes. Easy to count the calories? Yes.) On the weekend, deviate in small ways: splurge on one meal for that Big Mac. Get a hot fudge sundae. But ONLY on the weekend.

5. Move around. Exercise every day. I get in between 7000 and 10,000 steps a day. I do one walk at noon (1/2 hour or 45 minutes). The rest of the time I get up every hour, I take the 'long way' to the coffee pot, I park far away from the door.

The biggest change I made: I don't make excuses. I don't say, "I can't do that because..."-- "I can't do that because I"m busy" or "I can't do that because I don't have time."

Now I say, "I wonder how I can..." as in, "I wonder how I can get in more steps today?" or "I wonder how many calories that has? If I eat just half, then..."

Think about the excuses/reasons you make for not doing the healthy thing. Figure out a way around THAT and you'll be on your way to weight loss.

I'll talk more about what is 'healthy' and self-image in another post. This is long enough for now.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

When life hands you lemons....

...use them to squirt juice in the eyes of your enemies. 
               --Happy Bunny

You thought I was going to say "make lemonade," didn't you? Well, I don't know about you, but I think revenge might be more fun than sipping a cool summer beverage. Of course, if I was going to make a beverage with lemonade, I'd make a Bourbon Sling (recipe below).

What does this have to do with Zen-ness? How can those who strive for Zen have revenge in their hearts?

Remember when I said this blog was about "Zen in the Real World"? Sorry, but there will always be a small kernel of "I hope she gets what's coming to her" in all of us. It's hard to celebrate the successes of people you don't like. It's almost as hard as celebrating the successes of people you do like.

More to the point, though, is the term 'enemies'. How do you define that? I tend to divide people into the following groups:
  • Group A: people I like. They have flaws, faults, and can be exasperating at time, but overall: I enjoy being with them.
  • Group B: people I don't care for. They may be loud, obnoxious, boring, or depressing. I try to avoid them.
  • Group C: everybody else. Believe me, the vast majority of the world is "everybody else." These are people you have to get along with for some reason, or people who cross your path, briefly or not. They can sometimes be group A and oftentimes group B. These are those unknown people who 'friend' you on Facebook or who follow your tweets on Twitter. You don't really know them, you're not sure you want to know them, but they're out there and you'll deal with them if you must.

Notice I didn't mention "enemies." I don't want to give anyone that kind of power over me. I don't want my emotions about anyone to control my perception of reality (you knew I'd get back to some Zen crap, didn't you?) If you let your emotions about a person (their unfair raise, their achievements, their wealth) twist your day, then they've won a little victory over you. So don't worry about them: don't compare yourself to them, don't envy their successes, and don't worry if you're not like them. They're probably in Category C, and if they are: they, like all things, will soon pass from your life. Don't sweat it.

And now, here's what you've been waiting for: the Bourbon Sling recipe.

1 tsp superfine sugar
2 tsp water
1 oz lemon juice *
2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 twist lemon peel

In a shaker half-filled with ice cubes, combine the sugar, water, lemon juice, and bourbon. Shake well. Strain well. Strain into a highball glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.

* Reserve some juice to squirt in the eyes of your enemies.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How This Got Started

I originally was going to compile a bunch of small essays into a book and self-publish it. Then I thought, "Hey, why not just blog instead? If people start to follow it and like it, well, then I'll do the book thing. Until then I'll have fun, though."
So here we are. My thoughts on Zen in the Real World. Oh boy. I can hear you now. Another take on Zen. Being Zen. Breathing. Living the Zen life. Stress-free living.

Ho hum.

Nope. This is different. This is how to be Zen in the Real World. I won't suggest you quit work, go 'back to nature,' take 3 hour walks, or give up your car. I will suggest you look at what you do and consider it.

The sub-title to this is "Crap that Bugs Me." I probably should have called it "People Who Bug Me" but I didn't want to get too personal. In truth, though, this writing stems from my reaction to people who write about their Zen-like objectives, or who blog about their carefree lives. I realize that maybe there's a hidden part to their lives I don't see, but they present what I call the "Golden Facade" to the world. Everyone has different kinds of people who bug them, but I suspect you'll recognize some of the types in my essays. I tell you how I learned to turn off the negative vibes I got from them and how to accept them (somewhat) into my life.

This has come about by borrowing bits and pieces from a lot of books I've skimmed over the years. The operative word is 'skimmed.' I ultimately don't sit down and read a work of non-fiction. I skim through it, looking at chapter titles, headings, italics, etc., trying to glean the meat of the book without having to invest my time, energy, and thought in it. I don't really mind spending the money, but I do make sure I spend the other 'intangibles' wisely (time, energy, thought).

I admit, it's not the best way to absorb information. And you know what? I'm okay with that. There is so much information out there, that I can't easily determine what is good inforrmation and what is crap. So I skim, hoping to find a few gems here and there.

This blog is set up for skimmers like me. I have one suggestion, though: read one 'essay' at a time. Read them in any order, randomly or in order, doesn't matter. That's how I wrote them. Each essay starts with a fortune cookie saying or some other phrase that caught my attention.

Why? Because there are small gems of wisdom in fortune cookies. Sometimes they're crap, yeah, but often there's something there that I can learn from. And I'm passing that learning on to you. I set up a file with each phrase/expression and stuck them all in a folder. Then each day I chose one at random and I wrote whatever popped into my head.

I promise, it's going to be about a 5-minute exercise. I'll provide you with some questions to consider throughout the day. What do you get out of it? Hopefully, a better understanding of how you spend your time, energy, and money. And by understanding that, you may see some ways to simplify, discard, or change what's bugging you.

And if you don't learn anything-- well, hey, you wasted 5 minutes a day. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty darn sure I've wasted at least 5 minutes a day on a somewhat regular basis.

Hmm. Something to consider? Have I wasted my 5 minutes yet?