How to be a Monk or a Nun & Bring Peace on Earth in Five Easy Seconds

I was recently asked to return to my old counseling job to fill in for an old colleague who had been forced to take a leave of absence.  At first, it was to be quite temporary, just a week or two, but it turned into two months.  That gig ended, I’m happy to report, just last Friday.

Prior to returning to this work, for the three previous years I had been living mostly a “sanyas” lifestyle  (e.g., retired from worldly ambitions and seeking to glimpse and abide in the Greater Realities, either as a householder monk  at   Heart Mountain Monastery, or as a pilgrim traveling the world, or a poker player with other old geezers.)   Told I would be counseling  my colleague’s clients for only a single session, I felt challenged to come up with some kind of basic, yet multi-layered little “practice” that I could quickly share  with these folks on a one-time basis that might serve them the rest of their  lives, might help them move along their paths with greater freedom, ease and peace of mind. It was a delicious challenge.

Although, imperfect (aren’t all “practices” by their very nature imperfect?) I did come up with such a practice— one that in its briefest form takes just five seconds to engage.  Although it takes just five seconds, if we can stretch it out to ten or fifteen seconds, that’s even better. But five seconds works. Come to find out (no surprise here) it’s the same practice that leads one to be a monk, or a nun, or peace on earth, at least momentarily, at least for five seconds.  The practice is simple—condensed  in just eight words—though it takes a little longer to explain. I call it the Zoom Love practice.  Here’s why it works:

Disciple: What is enlightenment?

Zen Master Huang Po: “Your ordinary mind.”

Let’s admit that most of us most of the time are unconsciously running away from our ordinary selves, and are habitually at war with our ordinary minds. We run away from our ordinary selves by running after more money, more fame, more sex, more security, a cleaner house, better friends, faster car, and/or peace and justice for the poor and overworked. There’s lots to run after, here on this planet.

We run after these things because we have been led to believe that more of these things will make us happier than we are in this moment.  And attaining these things does make us a little bit happier when we get them, for a moment.  But the happiness from attaining these various things fades very quickly, so we’re off and running again.

Not only do most of us run after all these outer things but most of us are also at war with our inner ordinary minds simply because the inner mind itself is always running, running, first here, then there, chasing after one thing, running away from another, angry with this piece of life, wanting more of that piece.

In brief, we are always carrying on, carrying on, first here, then there, then somewhere else. To be a monk, or a nun, or peace on earth, if only for a brief moment, we need a practice that reminds us of what magic, beauty and completeness are already here, right now, in our ordinary day lives. Thus, the Zoom Love practice. To wit:

The Zoom Love practice:

1st step:  Stop. Yes, for  just a second, just stop whatever you are thinking, feeling or doing. (It’s okay to stop for just one second, isn’t it?)

2nd step: Relax.  We can stop what we are thinking, feeling or doing but still remain uptight, which is how most of us live our lives. So after we stop, the second step is to simply relax, let go, of the tension, unfurl the wrinkle between the brows, drop the shoulders, take a deep breath, just de-contract for a moment. (It’s okay to relax for just a second, isn’t it?)

3rd step: Just love  (just be, just enjoy). Whatever you are doing in the moment, whatever you are feeling in this moment, just love it! If you are pissed off at something or someone, just love being pissed off!  If you are driving to work, or grocery shopping, or working on your novel, just love it!  Just love what you are doing and who you are being in this moment, just love what you are thinking or feeling,  whether its exalted or crabby. Just love your ordinary self, your ordinary feelings and thoughts, the ordinary challenges that are appearing in this ordinary moment. Just love your ordinary relationships, ordinary circumstances. Just love your ordinary self and whatever it is thinking, feeling and doing here in this moment. Enjoy what’s happening, if only a little, if only for a second. Right here, right now. (You’re just loving for a measly little second. It won’t kill you!)

4th step:  Zoom Out.   After you take a second to love your ordinary life, this is like giving yourself the “view from the blimp.”  Let your point of perception zoom away, outside the building you are in, away from any face to face challenge you are in. Allow yourself a wider view of your momentary mental, emotional and physical condition. This “zoom out” step moves you from “narrow focus” to “open focus.” When you “zoom out” you are playing with and in awareness itself, reconnecting with the freedom of awareness itself. We want just a simple moment of life, of love, of rest, peace.

Step 5: Carry on. The last step of this quick little exercise is simply to resume whatever it was that you were doing before you did the exercise. Just continue on.  Go wherever you need to go. Be who you normally are, after gifting yourself this quick little refresher. We don’t have to worry about this 5th step because we are always  “carrying on” anyway. The Zoom Love exercise helps us take a breather from “carrying on.” But the 5th step helps us to integrate our love and peace and freedom with whatever it is we are doing in life.

This “Zoom- Love” exercise takes just five seconds or so (one second for each step.) If you can stretch it out to 10 or 15 or 20 seconds, so much the better. But five seconds will do.  This exercise is not (at first, or necessarily) a replacement for any other meditation or activity.  Rather, as you practice it, you will discover that it eventually makes your whole day brighter, easier, more effortless.  Here’s why:

Your ordinary self—awareness itself –is naturally relaxed, at ease, at peace, enjoying the moment. Awareness  does not need any particular activity to make it peaceable, or happy. Awareness, which is your ordinary self,  is magical, alive, unlimited Doesn’t it make sense to reconnect? Or more accurately, re-member?

The more your practice being your ordinary self, awareness itself, the easier it will be to be at peace in all you do. Which is what a monk or nun endeavors to do.  Again:

  1. Stop
  2. Relax
  3. Just love
  4. Zoom Out
  5. Carry on.

You are encouraged to do this little exercise five times a day, or 10 or 20 or forty times a day. But even once a day is better than nothing.  This “zoom-love” exercise is absolutely NOT hazardous to your mental, emotional or physical health! On the contrary, it is absolutely the healthiest thing you can do for yourself, and the planet,  day after day, year after year. Don’t take my word. Try it.  Experience for yourself how life flows more easily!  Grace and humor, wisdom and energy all grow beautifully.

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