Part 2 | Strengths and Meditation

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June 29, 2016

When it comes to the goal of meditation, one might say that the goal is that there is…no goal.  In general, we can think of mediation as a time dedicated to “doing nothing”, which, in our day and age, is something that, oddly, we must be intentional about.  Doing nothing is hard work!

Our cultural OS is results-driven.  It is not difficult to see evidence that we are living in a time of schedules, deadlines, and benchmarks—in some ways, it’s how we are instructed to ascribe “value” to things.  So, it can be difficult to let go of that model and simply have no objective, no goal, and no activity.

This isn’t a totally foreign concept, however.  Take, for example, a coffee date with a friend.  Is there a definite “goal” to that meeting?  Usually, there is not.  We simply sit, talk, and see where the conversation takes us.  We don’t try to steer it toward a set, fixed, or predicted outcome.  In fact, the value in sitting down to coffee with a friend is that there is not an intended outcome.  It’s like a mini, shared voyage into the unknown (enriched by caffeine).  Think of how disastrous and awkward the coffee-date would go if we kept interrupting the flow of conversation to ask, “Are we doing this right?”

The difference between meditation and coffee-talk is that we simply have more practice and more experience catching up with other people than we do catching up with ourselves.

And, that sentiment is at the core of meditation.  Meditation is like a coffee date with our inner-self.  We take some time to sit quietly and alone, and “see where the conversation goes”.

In a global sense, there is no right way or wrong way to meditate.  If we go into our meditation practice with this idea in mind, we preempt the probability of feeling like we are not doing it “right”.  Instead, by sitting quietly and just tuning into the mind—whose thoughts appear effortlessly and perpetually—we can get a glimpse behind the curtain at what else is going on.

Action: Decide the night before when you will have time the next day to sit for 5-15 minutes.  Write it down and schedule it like an appointment.  The next day, set the timer on your phone for your allotted time (5-15 mins) and sit and…do nothing.  Try this for three days in a row.  Jot down a few notes about what you experienced.

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

Zach Bio copy

Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world.  He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Transformation Coach.

Connect with him:

Email: zstrengthslife@gmail.com

Twitter: @zstrengthslife

Facebook: Zach Carlsen

Part 1 | Strengths and Meditation

IMG_9677June 23, 2016

If we tune into the news, we will find no shortage of contradictions. Take chocolate, for example, or red wine or, even, exercise.  Depending on whom we listen to, we might hear that it’s healthy to consume massive amounts of dark chocolate one day—and then the next day we might be instructed to avoid it completely.

Similarly, we may hear that it is good to exercise daily; then we might hear that daily exercise is actually unhealthy; then we hear that it’s okay to exercise every day, but only in specific ways; next we hear that those specific ways actually have negative longterm effects, so only do them for a certain period of time; then we learn that we should actually never do them; then suddenly we hear that it’s okay to do them, but only under a full moon…

You get the point.

So, meditation can be like this too.  Overtime, most of us have picked up a variety of ideas about what meditation is and can be.  In this process, we’ve likely heard conflicting idea.

For example, we may have heard that the “point” of meditation is to clear the mind and think about nothing.  Then again, we may have also heard that, when in meditation, we should focus on a specific idea, word, or theme.  Then again, we may also hear from people like Thich Nhat Hanh who tells us that everything can be a meditation, each and every step.

So, what is meditation to you?  Have you heard conflicting messages about why a person might want to try it?  What is your interest level in cultivating a practice?

Action: Write down your personal definition of what it means to meditate.  Then, write down the steps of what it would take to “do” your definition of meditation.

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

Zach Bio copy

Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world.  He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Transformation Coach.

Connect with him:

Email: zstrengthslife@gmail.com

Twitter: @zstrengthslife

Facebook: Zach Carlsen

Part 2 | Strengths and Resilience

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June 16, 2016

Perspective and perseverance are about more than simply “putting on a happy face”.  Sometimes overcoming adversity, challenge, and hardship means transforming.

Consider the allegory of the carrot, the egg, and the coffee beans.

Take a pot of boiling water and put the carrot in it.  What happens?  The carrot goes soft.

Take the same boiling water and add the egg to it.  What happens?  The egg hardens.

Last but not least, stir in the coffee beans and see what happens.  The coffee becomes the water.

In each scenario, it is the same hot liquid producing three totally separate reactions.  If we consider the boiling water to be “life” and the objects—the carrot, the egg, and the coffee—to be how we are affected by it, the message is clear.

Do we allow ourselves to be weakened like the carrot?  Do we become hardened like the egg? Or do we adapt and change, literally transforming the world around us, the way coffee transforms the water?

While it may not always feel like we have a choice about what life throws our way.  We do, in most cases, have a say in how that situation ultimately affects us in the long-term.

The moral: Be like coffee.

Action: Think of a time in your life when you faced a challenge and reacted to it like the carrot.  That is, was there a time when life threw a challenge you that was so great that you were broken by it and weakened temporarily?  Looking back, knowing what you know today, if you were to “rewrite” the story, would there have been different actions that you could have taken that would have changed the situation and made you more like the coffee beans?  Are you facing anything today that might benefit from this perspective?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

Zach Bio copy

Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world.  He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Transformation Coach.

Connect with him:

Email: zstrengthslife@gmail.com

Twitter: @zstrengthslife

Facebook: Zach Carlsen

Part 1 | Strengths and Resilience

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June 14, 2016

Our perspective can turn a disaster into a gift.  It may not happen overnight, but each moment is an opportunity to practice grooming our minds to expect the best long-term outcome—even when the present feels grim.

In 1914, Thomas Edison watched ten of the buildings in his plant burn to the soil in a chemical-infused blaze.  Not only was this more than half of his site, labs, and factory, it was also a sizeable chunk of his life’s work—poof!—up in smoke.

Not devastated, but in awe of what he was seeing, he told his son, “Go get your mother and all her friends.  They’ll never see a fire like this again.”

Edison, age 67 at the time, stood all night watching the fire and, though exhausted, he stated, “I’ll start all over tomorrow.”  Which is exactly what he did.  He began to rebuild immediately.

When asked why he wasn’t angry, devastated, and depressed, Mr. Edison confidently said, “All our mistakes are burned up.  Thank God we can start anew.”

How does this line of thinking apply to your life today?

Action: Think back to your life as a child, teen, young adult, and recent past.  Write down one experience from each time period that, at the time, felt insurmountable.  Next to each experience, jot down notes about how these trials changed you and forced you to grow.  Generally, our stresses as teenagers would be much less today through our adult perspectives.  Perhaps as a child we had a friend move away and it felt like the world would end.  However, looking back, it is clear that there were many important life lessons, which changed us for the good.  Look for the lessons.  Then, ask yourself, what would your 100 year old self tell you to do today in regards to your current life’s challenges.  Write down that response.

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

Circle Photo

Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world.  He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Transformation Coach.

Connect with him:

Email: zstrengthslife@gmail.com

Twitter: @zstrengthslife

Facebook: Zach Carlsen

Part 5 | How to Live in the Present Moment

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June 10, 2016

Let’s say that we don’t necessarily need to have a precise definition of what a “present moment” is in order to make use of it.  Let’s say, for example, that the present moment is like an iPhone, in that we don’t need to know how it works or who designed it in order to benefit from it.  Living in the present can be like that.

After all, most of life is like that.  Take the human body, for example.  Who among us can explain how a gallbladder works in such a way that the gallbladder itself works better?  Learning everything that there is to know about an organ does not necessarily allow us to reap greater benefits from it.  It does what it is designed to do despite our knowledge or lack of knowledge.  That is, the gallbladder will help us digest fat and produce bile regardless of whether we know how it does it or not.

Or, take gravity, for example.  We don’t need to understand science in order to see something fall when we drop it.  Each and every time.  Pick something up, let it go…it will fall.

So, being caught up in trying to understand what “being present” means will, by definition, take us farther from the goal that we are after.  That is because, in order to ask the question we must step outside of the present moment, which is constantly reinventing itself as the next “present moment”.  As we capture one moment, the next has already replaced it.

It’s like trying to capture the motion of the tide by scooping up water from the ocean.  As soon as we hold it, it ends.  We cannot stop a moment long enough to look at it and analyze it.

Time is like that.

So, what can be done about it and how can we embrace the power of the present moment?

Here are two easy exercises to try:

  • Accept that we all have a past and that it cannot be rewritten or changed, it can only be learned from. Most people are pulled out of the present by thinking about things from the past that cannot be changed.  By mentally agreeing to accept the past for what it was, and acknowledging that it can be a learning tool, allows us to position ourselves in the here and now.  A simple affirmation is this: I can accept my past and grow stronger from it.
  • Schedule time to “do nothing”. Write it down on your calendar, set your timer, and grab a cup of coffee or tea.  Commit to truly doing nothing.  Start small, try it for 5-10 minutes each day.  Some call this “floating the cork”.  Just sit and let your mind wander in and out of its thoughts like a cork floating in water.  Like the gallbladder from earlier, our mind will keep thinking and producing new thoughts effortlessly—and, we can watch it.  Set aside some time to just let the mind relax and do its thing.  Observe the mind and allow whatever rises to the surface to be there.  In most cases, our mind will present us with thoughts that can be valuable—especially when it relates to ideas that we are trying to avoid thinking about, which can be exhausting.

What situations allow your mind to drift and to truly be where you are—not in the past or the future, but in the now?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

Circle Photo

Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world.  He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Transformation Coach.

Connect with him:

Email: zstrengthslife@gmail.com

Twitter: @zstrengthslife

Facebook: Zach Carlsen