Start with what you love. Select one thing from all the things you love. How much time do you spend with it? How often? How long has it been? What can you do to increase frequency and duration? Will you do it? Imagine putting a frame around your selection to isolate it for your own personal reflection. Reflection is the path to new realizations. Realization is equivalent to illumination, enlightenment, awakening, awareness. You can get there without reflection, and you can get there via reflection. Reflection is practice in the art of pursuing realization. If you had rather not, that's your business. If you had rather take up the practice, come on along. With your selection framed and ready, make a list of the things you love about what you love. What is lovable about it? What do you find attractive about it? What pulls you to it? What lifts it above every other thing? Why it? Explore your connection with it. What does it say about you? How are you like it? How is it like you? What are the things you have in common? What does it have to do with you? What do you have to do with it? In what ways does it exhibit, reflect, symbolize you? In what ways do you exhibit, reflect, symbolize it? In what ways are you it? In what ways is it you? In what ways can you live to be more fully it? How can you live to exhibit it, express it, incarnate it, exemplify it, bring it forth, bring it to life, be it in your life? Make it your mission, purpose, practice to be what you love in each situation as it arises all your life long.
Zen is what happened when Taoism met Buddhism. Zen masters would sometimes give novices koans to solve on their way to enlightenment. A koan is a riddle where every answer is a wrong answer, including no answer at all. It is a box with four sides, a top and a bottom, with no doors or windows. How do you get out of it? That's a koan. "What is the sound of one hand clapping," is another. "What was your face before you were born?" is another. Trying to come up with a solution to a problem that cannot be solved forces us to transcend the problem, embrace absurdity, and make our peace with how things are and also are. Contradiction, paradox, anomaly, discordance, dichotomy, polarity, conflict, confusion, chaos and irreconcilable contraries are realities that cannot be solved, and must be lived with. Seeing that life is lived within the tension of eternal opposites is an enlightening realization that allows us to do what needs to be done in one moment, and do the complete opposite in the next moment, and something entirely different in the moment after that. We draw the line here this time, and there next time. We are all like the wind that blows where it will, changing with the times and the circumstances, in response to the needs of the moment at hand. Free to do what needs to be done, while being bound by the limitations of our available choices. Laughing and dancing all the way. Or moaning and complaining all the way. Or bucking and snorting all the way. How we proceed along the way is a reflection-- an expression-- of how enlightened we are, with "enlightenment" being the degree of our alignment with the givens of our situation in each situation as it arises, or of our being in accord with the Tao of the here and now, moment-by-moment, all our life long.
We are always talking to ourselves. Our life is always speaking to us. Are we listening is the question. What are we saying? What is our life saying? What are we missing? What do we need to hear that we are not hearing? It's time we find out. All it takes is sitting down (Or walking, standing, lying around), being still and quiet and paying attention to what arises withing. When you do that, what are you most aware of? Sounds? Feelings? Moods? Images? Words? Conversations? Memories? Fears? What dominates the silence? Sit with it. Listening, feeling, sensing, remembering, ... being with what you carry around. Making your peace with you. Hearing what you have to say. Do this for as long as you are able, as often as you can wherever you are. Pay attention to your nighttime dreams. Explore them for recurring themes. Give them titles, as though they are a movie, or a book, or a commercial. What do they stir to life in you? How do you respond to them-- within the dream and upon awakening? Dreams are like mirrors, and Rorschach inkblots. What you see says as much as what is to be seen. How you react reflects how you see, how you see governs what you see, and says as much about you, here and now, as what you are looking at when you observe your dreams. Become aware of it all. Awareness of it all is the key. Work to be aware of everything without reacting to any of it. Become an interested observer of yourself living your life. See without judgment, without evaluation, without opinion, but with compassion and curiosity, interest, and acceptance, allowing things to be just what they are, without labels, bias, prejudice or preference. You are simply listening to yourself, to see what you have to say. Befriending yourself, trusting yourself to be befriending you by showing you how things are with you at the present moment in your life-- as a way of saying, "Here we are. What are you willing to do about it? I'm here to help if you will allow yourself to be helped!" There is a lot of help surrounding us all, but we have to be able to be helped for it to help. A receptive attitude makes all the difference.