Compassion in the Midst of Madness

By Leo Babauta

Whether you’re in the U.S. or not, the results of yesterday’s election can bring up some strong feelings — maybe outrage or depression, maybe elation and shock, maybe contempt for others.

In this crazy emotional time, I urge you to try a compassion practice.

Perhaps, like some people I know, you are angry about the outcome, and can’t believe your fellow Americans would elect the person they elected. Perhaps you’re feeling vindicated, and are unhappy with the way your fellow Americans have steered this country for the last eight years. Perhaps you’re not from the U.S., and you’re feeling scorn for Americans, or confusion, after the results of this election.

Whatever you’re feeling, it’s likely to come from a place of non-understanding. That’s not likely to help our community, locally or globally, nor will it help our own happiness. It can be a transformative practice to practice compassion right now.

The truth is, we each have personally experienced what the other side is going through. The results of the election represent the feelings of millions of other people — they speak in some way for our fellow human beings. We have each felt these emotions: feeling left behind, feeling frustrated, distrusting, powerless, angry, hopeful for change, disliking the change that we see.

Imagine yourself feeling those feelings, one at a time. Feel how difficult they are. Now imagine that someone from the other side is feeling those things.

See if you can feel compassion for a fellow human being for feeling them. Feel a connection to them, because you too have suffered through this difficulty. Feel a connection to all your fellow humans who are going through their difficulties right now, in the U.S. and around the world.

We are connected, even if we have immense differences. We live and work together, we feed each other and depend on each other, we support each other and share ideas, we all are going through immense change and struggle, we have struggles in our lives and feel helpless to change the world at large.

The other “side” might have a different worldview that causes them to vote a different way than you, to want different policies … but underneath, we all have the same tender hearts. And by finding this common ground, we can reconnect to each other in a compassionate way.

zen habits

The Habit Guide Ebook: My Most Effective Habit Methods & Solutions

habitguidepic

By Leo Babauta

I’m thrilled to share with you my newest ebook about habits, and perhaps my best yet on the topic: The Habit Guide: Zen Habits’ Effective Habit Methods & Solutions.

I wrote this for the Kickstarter backers of my Habit Zen app (so if you’re a backer, don’t buy this, check your Kickstarter updates for links to the book) … but I also had all of you in mind. I think this is a great guide for anyone who struggles with habits

Some of the essentials from the guide:

  • The basic mechanics of forming a habit
  • The one reason we fail to stick to a habit
  • A dozen+ effective methods for overcoming that obstacle (tested by me and many others)
  • Solutions to the most common habit problems
  • A whole section on forming the most common habits: exercise, eating healthily, meditation, journaling, writing, sleeping well, beating procrastination and more.

Trust me, this book is packed as full as I could pack it with all the best methods for forming habits, ones that I’ve tested on myself and many people I’ve coached in the 11+ years I’ve been forming habits.

This book is aimed at:

  • Beginners who want a guide to forming habits
  • Anyone who has struggled with habits
  • People who are willing to put in the work to form one habit at a time
  • People who want to learn to be flexible, overcome struggle, form mindfulness

If you’re an advanced habit practitioner, you probably won’t need this. I only briefly talk about more advanced topics like quitting a bad habit or forming irregular or emotional/mental habits or other difficult practices. I’m going to put out a course in the Spring called “Habit Mastery” that will focus on these types of topics.

But for everyone else, I think this is a great guide. If you’re ready to change your life, one habit at a time, I highly recommend this ebook.

The Ebook & Two Package Deals

I’ve created a few options with this guide … the first is just to get the ebook, and the other two packages have some short videos I’ve created to go with the ebook.

You can buy just the ebook here (in PDF, Kindle & iBooks formats) for $ 5.99:

Buy the Ebook

The first package (let’s call it “Habit Gold“, priced at $ 9.99) also contains three videos to go along with the ebook:

  1. The Meditation Habit: How I’ve set up my meditation habit, what cushion I use, how I sit.
  2. Lentils recipe video: A video of me making the lentils, tofu and greens recipe I am currently eating every day.
  3. The Journal Habit: How I set up my journaling habit and what app I use.

You can buy the Habit Gold package with the 3 video downloads and the ebook in 3 formats here:

Habit Gold Package

The 2nd package (let’s call it “Habit Platinum“, priced at $ 12.99) contains six videos (the three in Habit Gold plus three more) to go along with the ebook:

  1. The Meditation Habit: How I’ve set up my meditation habit, what cushion I use, how I sit.
  2. Lentils recipe video: A video of me making the lentils, tofu and greens recipe I am currently eating every day.
  3. The Journal Habit: How I set up my journaling habit and what app I use.
  4. Mindful Eating Habit: How I practice mindful eating.
  5. The Writing Habit: My daily writing habit, what apps I use, how I write.
  6. Resistance Meditation: The crucial meditation on resistance described in the book, shown in action.

You can buy the Habit Platinum package with the 6 video downloads and the ebook in 3 formats here:

Habit Platinum Package

Contents

Here’s the table of contents:

Introduction: Why Habits Are Important

Part I: How to Stick to a Habit

  • Chapter 1: Overview of Habit Mechanics
  • Chapter 2: Why People Struggle
  • Chapter 3: Overcoming Resistance & Procrastination
  • Chapter 4: One Habit at a Time
  • Chapter 5: Prioritizing Habits & Balancing Multiple Habits
  • Chapter 6: Start Small, Take Tiny Steps
  • Chapter 7: Finding Time for Habits
  • Chapter 8: Remembering — Set Reminders for the Habit
  • Chapter 9: Deeper Motivation
  • Chapter 10: Fully Commit (& the Inertia of Starting)
  • Chapter 11: Don’t Overdo Your Habit
  • Chapter 12: Accountability & Unmissable Consequences
  • Chapter 13: Facing Resistance with Mindfulness
  • Chapter 14: The Just Get Started Mindset
  • Chapter 15: Rule – Don’t Miss Two Days
  • Chapter 16: Distractions
  • Chapter 17: Overcoming Disruptions Like Illness & Travel
  • Chapter 18: Overcoming a Slump
  • Chapter 19: Create the Right Environment
  • Chapter 20: Practice the Skill of Mindfulness
  • Chapter 21: Journaling & Reflecting
  • Chapter 22: Don’t Rely on Feeling Like It
  • Chapter 23: Don’t Talk Yourself Out of It
  • Chapter 24: Getting Through the Dip
  • Chapter 25: Restarting & Re-motivating
  • Chapter 26: On Consistency
  • Chapter 27: Overcoming Adversity
  • Chapter 28: Changing Your Identity
  • Chapter 29: Dealing with Negative Thinking
  • Chapter 30: Habit Questions & Other Struggles

Part II: Quitting a Habit, Common Habits

  • Chapter 31: Overview of Quitting a Bad Habit
  • Chapter 32: Irregular or Frequent Habits
  • Chapter 33: Eating Habits
  • Chapter 34: Exercise Habits
  • Chapter 35: Discipline, Procrastination, & Motivation Habits
  • Chapter 36: Meditation & Mindfulness Habits
  • Chapter 37: Sleep & Waking Early Habits
  • Chapter 38: Writing or Journaling Daily
  • Chapter 39: Financial Habits
  • Chapter 40: Notes on Other Habits

Book Formats

I’ve written the book in PDF, Kindle (mobi) and iBooks (epub) formats. You can buy them all in one compressed file here for $ 5.99:

Buy the Ebook

Kindle Store: If you just want to buy the book from the Amazon Kindle store, you can buy it here for $ 5.99. That will only be the Kindle format, though. I would love it if you gave me a good review and/or rating! (Note: It should be available in all of the global Amazon stores.)

iBooks Store: If you just want to buy the book from the Apple iBooks store, you can buy it here for $ 4.99. That will only be the iBooks/epub format, though. And again, I would love it if you gave me a good review and/or rating! (Note: It’s available in all of the global iBooks stores.)

Also, the Habit Gold package includes the three ebook formats (PDF, mobi, epub) plus a package of three videos for $ 9.99 that you can buy here:

Habit Gold Package

And finally, the Habit Platinum package includes the three ebook formats (PDF, mobi, epub) plus a package of six videos for $ 12.99 that you can buy here:

Habit Platinum Package

Table of Contents & Sample Chapters

If you’d like to see the table of contents, plus the introduction and first two chapters, you can download/open the PDF here:

Table of Contents & Sample Chapters

Questions

You have questions, I have answers.

Q: What do I get when I buy the ebook?

A: If you buy it using the blue “buy the ebook” button above, you’ll get a PDF with links to the PDF, epub (for iBooks) and mobi (for Kindle) files.

If you buy from the Kindle store, you’ll just get the Kindle book.

If you buy from the iBooks store, you’ll just get the epub version.

If you buy the Habit Gold package, you’ll get the three formats plus links to download three companion videos that I’ve recorded.

Finally, you can buy Habit Platinum Package with the 6 video downloads and the ebook in 3 formats.

Q: Is there a print version? What about an audiobook version?

A: No, sorry. This is only being released as an ebook.

Q: I bought the package, but where are the video files?

A: Open the PDF file you downloaded … there are links to download the video files in the PDF.

Q: Did you do the design yourself?

A: No, I wish! The cover was designed by Dave of Spyre, and the interior was designed by Shawn Mihalik.

Q: I’m hugely disappointed and want my money back!

A: I’m sorry to hear that. There’s a 100% money back guarantee on all my books. Just email support@zenhabits.net and we’ll give you a full refund. I don’t want unhappy customers.

zen habits

Video: How We Get Hooked, & How to Unlearn Our Patterns

By Leo Babauta

In more ways than we often realize, we get caught up in our stories, and get latched into mental patterns that leave us frustrated, angry, full of resentment … or cause us to procrastinate.

In other words, getting caught up is the cause of lots of our problems.

I recorded a webinar this weekend for my Sea Change members about how we get hooked into our patterns of fear, reaction, resentment, and more … and how to start changing our patterns to something new.

I’d like to share this video with you because I believe it will be helpful for many. If you’re interested in more on this topic, join my Sea Change Program today to take my newly launched video course, the Path of Fearlessness.

I’ve broken this webinar recording into two parts:

  1. Part I: My talk on the patterns of getting hooked, how to interrupt them, and how to form new mental habits.
  2. Part II: I answered questions on practicing at work and elsewhere, forgiving yourself, big past fears resurfacing, and more!

But if you want to watch or listen to the full webinar in one piece, you can download the full video here, or the full audio here.

Part I: Leo’s Talk (with notes)

You can download this video here, or download just the audio. Or watch below.

Here are the notes from my talk (video is below the notes):

  • Fear has so much power over us because it happens when we don’t notice, and we just immediately get caught up in it.
  • We procrastinate, we lash out, we get caught up in anxiety, we hide in our comfortable activities.
  • It’s a mental habit, of running from discomfort and running to comfort or pleasure. It’s hoping for something better, and then fearing we won’t get it.
  • Instead, we can be present with what is right in front of us … opening up to the task, to the situation unfolding, even to our feelings of fear and resentment and frustration.
  • There’s a feeling of getting hooked, and then going into a chain reaction of thoughts … the initial feeling of “I don’t like this” and then building up a case against the other person, against the situation we don’t like, or against ourselves.
  • It’s a physical feeling, this “getting hooked,” and we can learn to notice it. Spend the day today trying to catch yourself getting hooked, and pause. Notice how it feels. Try to become familiar with this, just as you start to get caught up in the chain reaction.
  • When you notice yourself getting hooked … and you learn to pause … you can actually change your patterns.

For me, I’ve noticed patterns of:

  • Procrastinating and wanting to avoid or run from discomfort
  • Anxiety
  • Rushing
  • Resentment
  • Comparing myself to others

In the webinar video, I talk about some of the replacement patterns I’ve been trying to form instead of these patterns.

Part II: Questions and Answers

You can download this video here, or download just the audio. Or watch below.

Questions answered in this video:

  • How to best remind yourself to pause and interrupt the patterns? It happens so automatically and fast. The idea of a practice day is great–but what about at work etc?


  • Besides focusing on the breath and pausing, is it helpful to ask ourselves “How can I best help this feeling in my body?”


  • I get especially hooked when there is some truth in “the story”. Any thoughts on this?


  • I like the idea of going below the story and I’ve done this and it works. Do you also find that sometimes you have to use the story to better understand the harmful patterns/attachments?


  • How do you go about forgiving yourself for automatically getting hooked in the past – for so much of your life?


  • The more I contemplate my fears, the more I seem to uncover. Am I missing something, or is this normal?

  • In the Fearless Sessions, I’ve been focusing on current fears, but after those seem less powerful, old big past fears are surfacing. I thought the old were gone, so does it ever end?
  • I learned that there are many people that are unenlightened and attempt to try to deny my importance. Am I justified to ignore them?


  • When we have the pattern of comparing ourselves and our ways of doing things with ours and when we feel better, sometimes I feel I can help others by telling them my/our way is better. But how can I tell whether my way is really better or I just feel so?




zen habits

The Path of Fearlessness

By Leo Babauta

The more I work with people who are struggling with habits or life problems, the more I see how fears are holding us back.

Fears stop us from building healthy and productive habits. Fears cause us to procrastinate, keep us from finding work that is meaningful (or doing that work if we’ve found it). Fears keep us from finding friends or connecting with people on a deeper level. Fears keep us from being happy in each moment.

Underlying all of those fears are a few key fears:

  • Fear of failure or being unprepared
  • Fear of uncertainty
  • Fear of being inadequate or being rejected

The two key fears are the fears of uncertainty and not being good enough, and in my experience, they’re both the same thing. We’re afraid of the uncertain future (and uncertain situations) because we don’t think we’re good enough to handle whatever might come out of the chaos.

These two fears (uncertainty and inadequacy) affect our lives in so many ways, and yet we rarely face them. We don’t want to feel these fears, so we run. We distract ourselves. We keep busy instead of being still to feel them. We find comfort in food and smoking and alcohol and TV.

In the end, the running doesn’t work, but only makes things worse.

There’s an alternative: the Path of Fearlessness.

Three Keys to Developing Fearlessness

What would our lives be like if we didn’t have fear holding us back?

We might find the freedom and joy that comes in being present with each moment.

We might find the underlying goodness that’s always there in each of us.

We might be able to finally live the lives we’ve always wanted to live.

So how do we walk this Path of Fearlessness?

Three practices to work with:

  1. Facing the fear mindfully. The truth is, we rarely allow ourselves to feel our fears. We run from them, pretend they aren’t there, distract ourselves, lash out at others, trying to find control. But we don’t even admit we have these fears, most of the time, let alone actually allow ourselves to feel them. So the practice is to just sit there when you notice yourself feeling any fear, and see if you can stay with it for awhile. Don’t stay with the story about the fear in your head, but rather how it feels in your body. See that it is stressful or painful or uncomfortable. Notice the particular physical feeling of this fear, this time. See if it changes. See what you can learn about it. See if you can be compassionate with it.
  2. Seeing your underlying goodness. As we sit in meditation, we can see that this moment is actually pretty wonderful. And this moment includes ourselves. We are part of the unconditional goodness of every single moment, and if we sit still we can start to feel that. There is goodness in our hearts, all the time, if we allow ourselves to feel it. There is the ability to appreciate and wonder, to feel and to love, to be present and to be grateful. Start to appreciate this, and you’ll start to develop confidence that you’ll be OK, even in uncertainty, even if you’re being judged, even if you put yourself out there with vulnerability.
  3. Embracing the joy of groundlessness. Uncertainty is scary because we don’t like the feeling of not having stable ground under our feet. We want certainty, control, stability, permanence … but life is filled with uncertainty, impermanence, shakiness, chaos. This causes the fear. Instead, we can start to embrace this uncertainty, see the beauty in impermanence, see the positivity of groundlessness. This uncertainty means we don’t know what will happen, which means we can be surprised by every moment! We can be filled with curiosity about what will emerge. We can reinvent ourselves each moment, because nothing is set, nothing is determined. There is joy in this groundlessness, if we embrace it.

No, these are not easy practices. But you can practice with them right now, and set aside a few minutes each morning to practice. You’ll see your confidence emerge, your fears dissipate a bit, your ability to appreciate each moment and yourself grow.

The Path of Fearlessness is one of mindfulness, of daily practice, and of finding the courage to face and push past the fears into joy.

My New Course: The Path of Fearlessness

I highly encourage you to join me in my Sea Change Program for one of the most important courses I’ve ever offered: The Path of Fearlessness.

It’s a six-week video course that’s a part of my regular Sea Change Program (free for 7 days, $ 19/month after that), and consists of:

  1. 2 video lessons per week
  2. A Fearless Challenge: Do daily 5-10-minute Fearless sessions
  3. A live video webinar with me
  4. Daily challenges on the forum (optional but recommended)
  5. Questions about the course can be asked on the forum

Sign up here: Sea Change Program

zen habits

The Mental Habit of Feeling Rushed & Overwhelmed

By Leo Babauta

As we dive into the holiday season, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, rushed, even irritated by family members and others around us.

I’d like to encourage you to try a mindfulness practice.

Here’s the practice:

  • Notice each time you feel rushed, anxious or overwhelmed. Try to develop an awareness of it throughout the day. The sooner you can catch it, the better. Make it a game: try to see it when it happens, as often as you can.
  • When you feel rushed, catch yourself and pause. Notice your mental habit of rushing, rushing to the next thing. Don’t let yourself waste your time with that habit. Instead, try building a new mental pattern: pausing, relaxing with the feeling that’s in your body, and then doing the single task in front of you, letting that be your entire world. Trust that you’ll be able to handle the next task after it without worrying about it right now. Enjoy the doing of the task in front of you.
  • When you feel anxious, catch yourself and pause. Notice your mental habit of letting anxiety carry you off into a chain reaction of worry. Don’t let yourself waste your time with that habit. Instead, try building a new mental pattern: pausing, relaxing with the feeling that’s in your body, and then trusting that you can handle the uncertainty in front of you. Embrace the uncertainty and smile at it, relaxing into it.
  • When you feel overwhelmed, catch yourself and pause. Notice your mental habit of thinking about all you have to do and feeling anxious about being able to do it all. Don’t let yourself waste your time with that habit. Instead, try building a new mental pattern: pausing, relaxing with the feeling that’s in your body, taking things one task at a time, breathing and enjoying that task. Trust that you’ll be able to do everything you need to do, and that you’ll be OK.

This is the practice. As you can see, it’s basically the same for all three (related) mental patterns, and it takes practice. You’ll mess up, but that’s OK. Smile and enjoy the practice.

zen habits

The Fearless Challenge

By Leo Babauta

There’s a big part of all of us that doesn’t ever want to face our fears.

The fears operate in the backs of our minds, affecting our lives in so many ways: we procrastinate, lash out at others in frustration, hold ourselves back from connecting with others in a meaningful way, stop ourselves from finding our purpose or creating work that matters, and much more.

But we don’t face the fears, despite their power over us, because we don’t like even thinking about them. We don’t want to acknowledge them. And this is what gives them their power.

Today, I’m challenging you to change this.

I’m challenging you to take a small action each day to face your fears. To become fearless, one small step at a time.

From now until the end of the year, commit to a daily Fearless Session.

What’s a Fearless Session? It’s a few minutes of courage:

  1. Sit for a few minutes (3-4 minutes) simply facing your fears. Notice the fears that have been arising in you, and see how they affect your body. What feelings do they arise in you, physically? Be brave enough to sit with them as long as you can (feel free to stop if it gets too intense).
  2. Try to look at the fear with compassion. You are stressed or hurting in some way. Wish for an end to your stress or pain. Wish for your own happiness. Give yourself some love.
  3. Sit for another minute and try to see the goodness in yourself, underneath the fear. This takes practice, but start to see how wonderful you are, underneath everything. This goodness is always present, but we don’t often look at it. See the love, compassion, beauty, good intentions, kindness, that are inside of you all the time.

It should only take about 5 minutes total, though you can start by doing just a few minutes. I recommend starting a timer for 5 minutes (or 3 to start out if you want).

Then every Saturday, make a brief report on this form (anonmymously). This will keep you honest and help you learn from the experience.

Join my challenge today: post about committing to the Fearless Challenge on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with the #fearlesschallenge hashtag, or just tell your close friends that you’re doing it.

Why This Matters

Why bother doing this challenge? Because fears control us, but we don’t have to continue with that pattern. We can find the courage to face our fears, in small doses, and find compassion for them. This can help melt the fears and change our mental patterns, so we’re not so caught up in our stories about them.

Over time, you might notice yourself catching your fears during the day, when you’re not doing a Fearless Session. You might see the fear starting up, and then stop yourself from builidng it into something bigger. You might stay with the physical feeling of it starting, and then all of a sudden you’re back to the present moment, awake to what’s going on right now. This waking up in the moment of starting the fear train is a really valuable skill.

The last part, of seeing the goodness in yourself, is a fascinating exercise. This goodness is in all of us, all the time, but we don’t often notice it. It’s underlying everything we do, even the fear — we have good-hearted intentions, and we fear they won’t come true.

If we start to see the goodness in ourselves, that’s there all the time, we start to have confidence that we’re good enough. We doubt ourselves less, have less fear that things will go wrong, because we have a basic confidence that we’ll be OK no matter what situation arises.

Think about this: if you fear messing up, and hope for success … what happens if you are confident in your goodness and think you’ll be OK no matter how you do? You can just do the job, make the presentation, take on the project, without fear that things will not go the way you want. Because even in that case, you’ll be fine, you’ll figure it out from there.

Stopping our mental patterns, finding compassion for the pain of fear, and seeing our basic goodness — these are the antidotes to fear.

Join my challenge today: post about committing to the Fearless Challenge on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with the #fearlesschallenge hashtag, or just tell your close friends that you’re doing it.

Then every Saturday, make a brief report on this form (anonmymously).

My New Course: The Path of Fearlessness

I highly encourage you to join me in my Sea Change Program for one of the most important courses I’ve ever offered: The Path of Fearlessness.

It’s a six-week video course that’s a part of my regular Sea Change Program (free for 7 days, $ 19/month after that), and consists of:

  1. 2 video lessons per week
  2. A Fearless Challenge: Do daily 5-10-minute Fearless sessions
  3. A live video webinar with me
  4. Daily challenges on the forum (optional but recommended)
  5. Questions about the course can be asked on the forum

Sign up here: Sea Change Program

zen habits

How to Not Be Driven by Your Aversions

By Leo Babauta

I have a friend who doesn’t realize how much he dislikes so many things — much of his life is spent avoiding things he doesn’t like, or trying to rush through things like exercise, or annoyed by people who do things he doesn’t like.

We all have aversions to things, more than we probably realize. It’s not a problem to have aversions, but if we’re driving by the aversions, we’re locking ourselves into a limited life.

For example:

  • If you hate vegetables, it’s hard to eat a healthy diet.
  • If you hate exercise, it’s hard to be strong and healthy.
  • If you dislike when people do certain things (smoke, drink, eat junk food), you’ll be annoyed by people often.
  • If you dislike traffic, politics, reality TV stars, bureaucrats, you’ll be frustrated by many life situations.

Note that aversions aren’t always “bad” — actually, I don’t think they’re bad at all. Some aversions can be helpful: not liking being abused, for example, or being averse to eating unhealthy food. However, they can restrict us in many cases and make us unhappy if our lives aren’t free of the things we’re averse to. So in that sense, working to not be controlled by our aversions is freeing and better for our happiness.

I’m not saying I’m free of all these aversions — I definitely have my share, and I’m working with them. I’d like to share how I work with them.

Becoming Aware of Aversions

The first step, of course, is becoming aware of your aversions. Take a minute to make a list of the things you hate, that you avoid, that annoy you, that you can’t stand.

For example, do any of these bother you?

  • Certain kinds of foods
  • Types of exercise or activities
  • Kinds of TV shows
  • Certain behaviors of people you know
  • The way some people behave on the Internet
  • Some websites or apps
  • Deal-breakers of potential dating partners
  • Situations that commonly frustrate you
  • Specific social situations

There are lots of other examples, but start a list. Add to it every time you get frustrated, see yourself avoiding something, or get annoyed … add to the list.

Notice your desire to avoid certain things. When you notice, try working with that feeling of aversion, using the ideas in the section below.

Working with Aversions

When you notice your aversion, just sit and face it.

Notice how it feels in you — not your story about it, but how it feels in your body. Where is it located, what is the quality of its energy, is it a changing sensation, is it intense, throbbing, pulsing, stabbing, dull, tight, aching?

Open yourself up to this feeling. Don’t run from it. Don’t instantly reject it. Accept that it’s there, and be curious about it. See it as something to study. Most people want to ignore it, but you’re willing to find out more.

Be friendly with the feeling. Relax, be open, be curious, be gentle. See that it’s not so bad. See that you can survive, even if you sit with the feeling.

See that it changes. For me, it can be strong, but then it crests and then fades. It’s momentary, temporary, just a passing feeling like any other feeling.

Notice that you don’t have to be controlled by this one feeling. In fact, every feeling or thought is just something that arises, not something that you have to get lost in or controlled by.

You have the freedom to eat vegetables or converse with annoying people without falling apart, and in fact if you stay present in the middle of the situations, you can appreciate the beauty of it.

And in the end, you can embrace these aversions instead of running from them. They are a part of the human experience, come from a loving part of our hearts, and are not anything to panic about.

We can be free from having a fixed mind, and develop flexibility.

We can move through the world of desires and aversions with love and joy and an appreciation for everything around us.

zen habits

The Way to Finding Powerful Human Connection

By Leo Babauta

As I write this, I’m sitting in cloud-filled rainforest at a retreat in Ecuador, surrounded by the calls of thousands of tropical birds and creatures, dense lush greenery, and some of the most open-hearted human beings I’ve ever met.

Before I came here, I had some anxiety about meeting everyone, worried what they might think of me, worried that I would be awkward at talking to everyone or not fit in. This anxiety made me not want to come. That would have been a huge mistake.

I realized that I was telling myself a story about how bad I am at public speaking, at meeting new people, about how unworthy I am of others liking me. This story was not helpful, and was getting in the way of me doing something with the potential to be amazing. So I asked myself if it was definitely true, and the answer was, “I don’t know.”

That “I don’t know” scares me. I decided I had to look at the “I don’t know” in a different way — so I told myself instead, “I don’t know, and I would love to find out. Who knows what I’ll discover?”

This helped me to get on the plane, and then I was forced to meet an entire group of 24 strangers. And I could see them as 24 people who were potentially going to judge me … or I could see them as fellow human beings, who have aspirations and who struggle, who have love for others and frustration and anger, who want to be better people and who are disappointed in themselves that they are not, who want to make a difference in the world and feel guilty that they procrastinate, who are beautiful but who judge themselves, who are so different from me in many wonderful ways but who at their core have the same tender heart of humanity beating with strength and fragility, just like me.

I met them, and smiled. I felt the anxiety coming up again, but I turned with curiosity to them. I felt myself wanting to run away and be alone and comfortable, but I tried to find their aspirations and struggles.

I opened my heart to them, and they came in with kindness. And changed me. And made the effort of overcoming my fear and anxiety of being judged and failing completely worth the effort, a thousand times over.

Human connection is not so common in our age of connectivity. We see lots of people but find our little cucoons to hide in. We don’t realize we’re craving a deeper connection with others until we find it.

It’s hard to connect, because cultural norms get in the way — we’re supposed to talk about the weather and sports and the news, but not our deepest struggles. We’re supposed to say cool or witty things, but not share our greatest hopes for our lives or the person we want to become.

It’s hard, but human connection is one of the most powerful forces available to us. We don’t realize we thirst for it, but we do, and the thirst is deep. When I find real human connection, it nourishes my soul, changes me, moves me to tears. I can’t count how many times I’ve cried this week. My heart feels raw, in a way that opens it up to further connection.

So how do we connect, when it’s so hard? I’d like to share some thoughts:

  • Put yourself in a place with people with your interests. This retreat is filled with people trying to change their lives and interested in mindfulness. That’s such a rare thing, to be with a group of people like this, but we each made the intentional choice to come here. Find a group like that — at a small conference, a retreat, group meetings, a running club, a tech meetup, anything. Do some online searches for ideas, but say yes to at least one.
  • Overcome your resistance. I always find resistance to meeting up with people, and big resistance to coming to give a presentation and meeting with a bunch of strangers. The resistance can keep us from ever getting out of our comfort zones. Don’t let it. The benefit of connection is so much greater than the resistance that you should push through it.
  • Smile, and be curious. When you meet these scary strangers, open yourself up. Smile, ask them about themselves, try to find out more. People often appreciate a good listener, and questions can start a conversation and keep it going.
  • Share when you can. While listening is better than talking, I’ve found that when I can be vulnerable and share my fears and struggles, people feel they can do the same. This is when you make a real connection, getting below the surface. It takes a little skill to know when you can open up, and how much you can share — you don’t want to share your deepest secrets as soon as you meet, but you can slowly open up, as the other person does the same. Some people are not comfortable opening up, so don’t push it too deep or expect everyone to want to make this kind of connection, but be open to it.
  • Open your heart. These are other human beings in front of you — and they have tender hearts and pain and hope just like you do. Open your heart and see who you find in front of you and appreciate who you find. Be yourself, and trust that you are worthy of others’ love as well. Let others in. Give hugs.
  • Connect in groups and one-on-one. If you’re at a conference or in a big group of 20 or more people, it can be hard to really find connection. I much prefer one-on-one, so I’ll try to turn to someone and start a private conversation if they’re open to it, getting to know them better. I also value small group conversations, from three to six people, and think they can be great bonding experiences and a lot of fun.
  • Don’t hide in your phone. Many of us have the tendency these days to use our phones when we’re in crowded public spaces, but when you’re going somewhere (like a conference) that has a lot of people, it’s a big mistake to shut yourself off. Instead, seek interaction, even if you feel awkward about it. I like to start off with a simple question, or sometimes with a simple joke that diffuses the tension.
  • Practice makes you better and more comfortable at it. I’m certainly not the world’s best conversationalist, nor the most comfortable talking in a group. However, I’m better now than I have been in the past, because I’ve been purposefully practicing over the last decade or so. I still have a long way to go. But it’s amazing to see the progress I’ve made, and the more I do it, the less nervous I get.
  • Use each other to dive deeper and find clarity. If you can have good one-on-one conversations, or even small group talks, challenge each other to go deeper into your struggles and challenges, aspirations and life purposes. You’ll often find a lot of clarity in these talks.
  • Use each other for continued support. I often offer to give someone accountability if they say they’ve been struggling to deal with a habit. Or if we’re both struggling with something, we might try to support each other’s efforts to overcome the struggle in the near future.
  • Make an effort to keep in touch. If you make a real human connection, find a way to keep up the conversation, and even meet again in person if it’s possible. If it’s not possible, make a skype date so you can talk face-to-face.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, nor to be any kind of expert. I still get nervous and awkward. But these ideas have helped me, and I hope they help you. Because simple connections with wonderful human beings have changed my life this week, and the power of the love from these connections has left me completely devastated.

zen habits

Soaking in the Wonder of the Emerging Moment

By Leo Babauta

Lately I’ve been using the image of an empty cup to find a more peaceful state of mind.

One of the most peaceful, meditative states is when you’re just open to noticing what’s around you and happening in the present moment. You’re just receiving the world around you (yourself included), soaking in the light, colors, shapes, sounds, touch sensations, just noticing.

When you’re completely open to noticing this moment, it can be amazing — you notice things you wouldn’t have if you were in your normal dream state, you start to appreciate little details of everything around you. Most of us miss this almost all of the time. We all walk around in a trance, thinking about what we need to do, spinning stories about what’s happening.

Here’s the thing: if our minds are full of thoughts and stories already, we actually can’t notice the present moment. We can’t see what’s all around us, when we’re caught up in our normal dreamlike state.

You can’t fill a cup up with the present moment, when it’s already full.

So I have been practicing emptying out my cup.

I notice that I have an emotional state or story that has filled my mind and is blocking me from noticing what’s in front of me.

I let all of that flow out of the cup of my mind.

And then I soak in the present moment, noticing the physical sensations of everything around me. Noticing my body and how it feels. Noticing what’s flowing through my mind.

Then, of course, I get caught up in my thoughts again. When I notice this, I empty my cup. I soak in the moment. Then once again, I get caught up, I empty my cup, I soak in the moment.

Over and over, I empty my cup. And that leaves me open to whatever is happening right now, the wonder-filled beauty and joy of the emerging moment.

zen habits

Relax Into the Moment

By Leo Babauta

You might be surprised how often we’re resisting life.

If you assess your body right now, I bet you can find some kind of tension or tightness. For me, it’s often in my chest, but sometimes it’s in my jaw, face, neck or shoulders.

Where does this tightness come from? We’re struggling against something — perhaps we’re irritated by someone, frustrated by something, stressed or overwhelmed by all we have to do, or just don’t like whatever it is we’re faced with. This causes a resistance, a hardening or tightening. Everyone does it, most of the day.

It’s normal, but it causes unhappiness, an aversion to the present moment, struggles with other people or ourselves, struggles with the task we’re faced with. What I’ve found useful is the idea of relaxing into the moment.

Try this:

  • Notice where the tension is in your body right now.
  • Notice what you’re tightening against — it might be someone else, or whatever it is you’re faced with.
  • Relax the tightness. Just let yourself melt.
  • Face the same situation, but with a relaxed, friendly attitude.

And repeat as often as you can remember, throughout the day. Just use the phrase “relax into the moment” to remind yourself.

What this does is helps us to face the day with less tension and greater contentment. We struggle less with how other people are, and instead might open our hearts to them and see that they, like us, are struggling and want to be happy.

We might face a task with less resistance, and instead do it with a smile. We might just notice the physical space around us and start to appreciate it for the unique gift that it is. And in the end, we’re changing our mode of being from one of struggle and resistance to one of peace and gratitude.

zen habits