CULTIVATING THE GROUND FOR JOY
How do we cultivate the conditions for joy to expand? We train in staying present. In sitting meditation, we train in mindfulness and maitri: in being steadfast with our bodies, our emotions, our thoughts. We stay with our own little plot of earth and trust that it can be cultivated, that cultivation will bring it to its full potential. Even though it’s full of rocks and the soil is dry, we begin to plow this plot with patience. We let the process evolve naturally.
How about a traditional tarot card today? After yesterday’s Love card from the Unicorns, I was startled to draw the Lovers, reversed. If only they had been right side up, they would have been a perfect match with yesterday’s Love card! Here they are for your perusal.
This card is a caution. Yes, as I wrote yesterday, forgiveness and love do always triumph. But here comes the fine print. Only true love, pure love, unconditional love, will always triumph. Don’t confuse true love with a romantic fantasy, and don’t let your belief in true love cause you to give up control over your own decisions and life path to a lover who may be, to put it gently, caught up in his or her own neurosis.
How can you tell the difference between pure, true, unconditional love and a romantic fantasy?
Hey, you’re asking for a lot from a card of the day!
But here is my best advice: love that brings out the best in you is generally a pretty safe bet. Does this love that you are questioning cause you to hold yourself to your own highest standards? Or does it cause you to lower your own standards (not your standards for what you are looking for in a lover, but your standards for what you look for from yourself), bit by little bit? There’s the answer to your question. No matter what happens in your relationship, you are responsible for your own mission in life.
A final comment: Yesterday’s Love card wasn’t necessarily about romantic relationships — and this one needn’t be either.
After yesterday’s Fairy card from Doreen Virtue’s Magical Messages from the Fairies deck, I thought it would be nice to try pulling a card from another Virtue deck, Magical Unicorns. Asking for a message for the readers of this blog (and if you are one, you are among the few!), I pulled the card you see at left: Love. Below the unicorn, the banner reads “The answer that you’re seeking is love.”
This is an especially good card if your particular current life obstacles involve adversity stemming from another person. It sounds patronizing to say that other people often bring negative events into our lives, but unfortunately, it often seems that way. I’m not really referring simply to people who irritate us. If the worst other people have ever done to you is to act annoying, then lucky you. Many people have experienced far worse at the hands of others: violence, assault, abuse, betrayal, or in some cases hurt that stems from indifference or rejection. We are often counseled to stay far far away from people who hurt us, and in certain kinds of cases that is really the best advice. In other cases, though, it falls to us to break the cycle of hurt with an act of forgiveness. Either way, however — whether or not you choose to remain close to people who have hurt you or whether you choose to keep your distance, the path to healing that hurt is forgiveness and love.
But the person who hurt you doesn’t deserve to be forgiven? Got news for you. It doesn’t matter. You deserve healing, and that’s what matters. Breaking the cycle of hurt by not striking back, by turning the other cheek instead, also matters. And putting positive instead of negative energy out into the universe matters very much.
It’s not about justice.
It’s not about dessert.
In the end, it’s about change.
Forgiveness and love triumph over hate and spitefulness, every time.
“Everything’s Okay?” Maybe you don’t agree. Peaceful Occupy protesters are being attacked with pepper spray–and as horrific as that is, protests in Egypt have been far more turbulent and violent. People are still struggling with the financial chaos caused by the banking crisis. Newt Gingrich is running for President. The list could go on and you probably have your own personal list of non-okay items as well. I have my own list of non-okay stuff too.
But tonight I started idly shuffling Doreen Virtue’s Magical Messages from the Fairies deck. I asked the cards simply, “Is everything okay?,” closed my eyes, and drew a random card. And what did I pull but the card pictured here: “Everything’s Okay.” Um…okay then. Maybe for right now, in this moment, everything really is okay. Maybe everything is all working out in a beautiful way, as this card assures me (in case you can’t see all the lettering, the bottom of the card reads: “Don’t worry. It’s all working out in a beautiful way.”).
What would it mean to you if you took the circumstances of your life, and applied the idea that everything is all working out in a beautiful way? Could it really be true that everything happens for a reason? Are the negative and the non-okay aspects of your life part of a larger transformation that you will be glad, someday, to have been a part of? I can think of many many types of non-okay situations where the answer to these questions will be a defiant, “no!”. But I can also think of many non-okay situations where the answer, once you really look deep within and think about it, is a definite, “yes.” Take the time to look within and consider the possibility.
Today I drew the Lotus Rose card from Toni Carmine Salerno’s beautiful Universal Wisdom deck. As a Buddhist, I’m always delighted to see a lotus! To me this card signifies a time of blessings that are about to unfold. Lotuses grow out of mud and muck. This reminds me that although life can be full of negative experiences, often something wonderful comes out of those experiences. It starts with wisdom — the wisdom to make a choice to, in fact, grow up and out, rather than remaining mired in the muck. And then, once one is courageous enough, wise enough and bold enough to grow, full of faith that there will be sunshine and fresh air out there if one can only rise above all the negativity, one finds reason to celebrate and to be happy again.
It may seem as though I am saying that the reason for us to be happy and celebrate is out there, if we are only brave enough to stand tall and find it. But that’s not quite what I am saying. What I AM saying is, the reason to celebrate lies within us. When we stand tall, grow and rise above negativity, we merely show ourselves what we already possessed but didn’t realize we had.
Do you see why this card truly is about life’s blessings?
The thing I hate about most productivity advice (as I think I’ve said before in this space) is that it assumes that unproductive people procrastinate or get distracted because they are not organized enough. But some of us are beautifully organized and still have trouble being productive — because we are stressed out or depressed or worried about a particular issue and as a result simply cannot focus on the task at hand.
That’s where the Pomodoro Technique comes in. Unlike most productivity books, The Pomodoro Technique does not require the user to set up a whole new system of organization. There are no context-based task lists, complicated virtual or physical organizers to set up, or filing systems to implement. If you are depressed, anxious or worried, and try to implement a typical getting things done system, your will to get something done will be used up by the time you set up your new organizational system — leaving you even further behind on your work and more worried than ever.
The Pomodoro Technique, though, you can try right away. While Pomodoro refers to the tomato shaped kitchen timer that the author chose to use, you can start by setting an alarm using your cell phone or an online alarm clock — or even an ordinary alarm clock. Chances are that you have some form of timer available to you somewhere — no procrastinating going out to buy the perfect timer! The system is simple: set your timer for 25 minutes, and sit down to work. If you are distracted by worries, thoughts, and the sudden desire to do laundry, tell yourself that whatever it is can wait until your 25-minute Pomodoro is done.
I tried this system and it works. I modified it, of course (I love tweaking other people’s productivity systems) — I made my Pomodoros 30 minutes long instead of 25, so that I could record the Pomodoros on my time sheet more easily without having to calculate what percentage of an hour 25 minutes adds up to. (I avoid opportunities to do math at all costs.) According to the rules of the Pomodoro Technique, if you stop in the middle of a Pomodoro to do something else, it doesn’t count. You can’t record half a Pomodoro. You have to throw that Pomodoro out and start over. That one simple rule activates (and harnesses) my obsessive nature, so that I feel I truly cannot stop what I am doing until the timer goes off. (You see, neurotic obsessions can be harnessed as forces of good, not merely as evil temptresses of procrastination.)
There is one more rule you’ll want to keep in mind if you try this technique. After each Pomodoro, take a five minute break and do something that might normally tempt you to procrastinate. Go throw that load of laundry in the washer, or do the dishes. Or spend five minutes on Facebook (in which case I’d recommend you set your timer to make sure that you stop after five minutes in order to get back to another Pomodoro).
Why does the Pomodoro Technique work? I believe that it works because the units of time are short — it would really be embarrassing if you couldn’t focus for 25 minutes! — and because it harnesses our natural OCD tendencies in order to use them for getting things done. And it’s simple: no trips to the office supply store, no new filing systems, no downloading new to do list software — just setting a timer and getting to work. You can start right now if you want to. All you need is your work, a timer, and a 25-minute block of time.
For more information, visit http://www.pomodorotechnique.com.