Friday, July 9, 2010

Simply Spirituality

I have decided to put Carry Water Chop Wood on hold for a while. Please visit my active blog at:

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Go placidly 
amid the noise and the haste, 
and remember 
what peace there may be in silence.
- Max Ehrmann 

Friday, June 4, 2010


How much of your life as you know it
exists within the mind's world?
The world of the remembered past
and the imagined future.
How much of your sense of identity
is based upon memory of past experience?
Who are you in the present,
without reference to the past?
What is life like in the present moment
without reference to the past or the future?
- Leonard Jacobson 

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Simple Truth

The Simple Truth is that there is no life
outside of this moment.
The life which you believe in 
is nothing but an illusion
which you have constructed
in your mind using the power
of thought, memory and imagination.
It is not real.

Nothing outside of this moment is real!
- Leonard Jacobson 

Monday, May 31, 2010

Make each moment 
an occasion to live
in Peace.
- Thich Nhat Hanh

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Simplify, simplify.
— Henry David Thoreau

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Little Behind....

Hi everyone! I've gotten a little behind on posting on this blog.... or maybe it is that I haven't been very present in the last month or two.... maybe a little of both.

The first task I put focus on was trying to be present when as the saying goes - while chopping and carrying, or doing the daily chores of life. I found myself challenged by this, especially while folding laundry.

I would like to share what I've recently come up with.

When one is folding laundry, it it's not about a pair of socks being "exciting." It is about being present with what is REAL rather than what is imagined or made up.

One can only be 1 of 2 places, present with what is real or in the mind.

In the mind is not real, is it imagined, it is either past or future. Where are we instead.... in a disagreement you had yesterday? What I am going to eat for dinner? Where we will go on vacation. It's fine to think about these things. A decision about dinner has to be made at some point. But one does not need to be so focused on these things to the exclusion of what is really happening here and now. (For additional reading on thoughts, please see the post on Simply Spirituality, How to Make a Watch Disappear.)

My experience has been that everything begins to feel more alive..... try it and let me know what you experience in the comments section below!

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Call to Presence

By: Leonard Jacobson

To be fully awake and enlightened simply means to be fully present in the moment of now. To be present is the simplest thing. It is your natural state.

Every moment, you have a choice. Will you be present in the truth and reality of this moment or will you allow yourself to be seduced into the world of the mind? All thoughts take you out of the present moment. And then if you believe in those thoughts, which most of us do, you get lost in the world of the mind.

For most of us, we have become so habituated to thinking, that thoughts never end. They have a life of their own. We are not even choosing to think. Thinking is happening all by itself and we are simply pulled from one thought to another, never really experiencing the sacredness of this moment.

The present moment is free of memories of the past and imaginings into the future. And so the pain and limitations of the past magically disappear when you are present. Anxiety about the future also disappears. You are just here now, fully present in this moment. When you are fully present, your inner experience is one of peace, love, acceptance, power, truth and compassion. Separation and fear dissolve. You exist within Oneness.

When you bring yourself fully present, thoughts stop and your mind falls silent. But there is an even deeper level of silence waiting to emerge. As your mind becomes silent, an inner door is opened, allowing an infinite and eternal silence to emerge. This infinite and eternal silence is the very essence of your Being. It is your true nature. It is the essence of all existence. It is the eternal silent presence of pure consciousness. It is the "I AM" of you. It is that dimension of you that exists in Oneness with all that is. It is your Buddha nature. It is awakened man. It is awakened woman.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mindfulness Quote

Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now
without wishing it were different;
enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes
(which it will);
being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way
(which it won’t).
- James Baraz

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Stillness is a Powerful Action

Stillness is a Powerful Action.....
by Leo Babauta
Zen Habits blog

It’s a bias of our culture that stillness is regarded as lazy, as being stuck in inaction, as a negative.

It’s not. It’s an action, and a powerful one.

What’s more, it can change your day, and in doing so change your life.

You’re in the middle of a frazzled day, swamped by work and meetings and emails and interruptions, or hassled by kids and phone calls and errands and chores. You pause. Stay still for a minute, and breathe. You close your eyes, and find a stillness within yourself. This stillness spreads to the rest of your body, and to your mind. It calms you, centers you, focuses you on what you’re doing right now, not on all you have to do and all that has happened.

The stillness becomes a transformative action.

Stillness can be a powerful answer to the noise of others. It can be a way to push back against the buzz of the world, to take control. It can remind you of what’s important.

How to Practice Stillness, oddly, doesn’t come naturally to many people. So practice.

1. Start your day in stillness. Whether it’s sitting with a cup of coffee as the world awakes, or sitting on a pillow and focusing on your breath, stillness is a powerful way to start your day. It sets the tone for things to come. Even 5-10 minutes is great.

2. Take regular stillness breaks. Every hour, set an alarm on your computer or phone to go off. Think of it as a bell that rings, reminding you to be still for a minute. During this minute, focus first on your breathing, to bring yourself into the present. Let the worries of the world around you melt away — all that is left is your breath. And then let your focus expand beyond your breath to your other senses, one at a time.

3. When chaos roars, pause. In the middle of a crisis or a noisy day, stop. Be still. Take a deep breath, and focus on that breath coming in, and going out. Find your inner stillness and then let your next action come from that stillness. Focus on that next action only.

Let stillness become your most powerful action. It could change your life.

“Through return to simple living Comes control of desires. In control of desires Stillness is attained. In stillness the world is restored.” ~ Lao Tzu

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Folding Laundry

I just finished folding laundry. I tried... I REALLY tried to be present with the laundry, but just how stimulating is it to be present with a pair of socks?

I even turned off the TV. Usually I sit and watch TV while I fold, just to take my mind off the folding... BUT that is exactly what this year long experiment is all about - being more present no matter where I am or what I am doing...... being with the folding and being with the socks and not, instead, being lulled off by Matt, Merideth and Al.

For those of you who know my Simply Spirituality blog I've written about my laundry folding friend. I wrote about her in the July 2009 post titled Taking Stock/Mindfulness. She folds laundry more peacefully than anyone I've ever seen! I actually enjoy watching her fold laundry because of that sense of peace she brings to it. (Yes, I know that sounds a little nutty!) I will just add that this is a very busy person with her own business, kids, pets, a house.... but when it comes to folding laundry she slows down somehow!

As a follow up, when I was at her house recently, we were in her daughter's room. My friend picked up a FITTED sheet and calmly folded it as we talked. I have trouble staying present folding the socks.... I doubt that I have ever folded a fitted sheet in any manner resembling peace or presence. In my book, that is definitely something to be over and done and finished with in as little time as possible. If there's a few wrinkles, no one will notice when you put it on the bed again! ; )

I am going to ask for tips below in the comment section. I would especially like to hear from my laundry folding friend, if she will give all of us, some of her tips and explain how she accomplishes this feat! That is if she can fit it in, in between all those other things she has going on!

Join me in the present!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Shoveling Snow

Last night it snowed, so that groundhog in Pennsylvania seems correct at least for the moment here in Minnesota! So adding to my morning routine included shoveling the sidewalk so the kids could walk to school. I really did not have time for it given that I still had to make breakfast, pack lunches, and get everyone out the door on time, but shoveling did still have to be done.

About half way down the sidewalk, I realized that while my body was outside shoveling, my mind was inside thinking of everything I still had to do. I also found that my body was racing as fast as I could go to get this over with as fast as possible.

First thing - I realized this! Progress! (YAY!)

Next thing I did was SLOOOOOW WAAAAY down. I actually stopped for a moment and looked around. No one was outside. It was silent! The only sign of life was the set of bunny tracks across the back yard! I looked across the yard at the evergreen trees with snow on them that looked like a Hallmark card! The air was crisp and cold on my nose and cheeks.

I took a breath and realized that THIS WAS IT! This is what I wanted to write about on this blog - PRESENCE, STILLNESS - the stillness was palatable. I wish I had better words to convey what it felt like for that moment.... maybe PEACE comes close.

About that time a school bus came by reminding me that my own kids still needed attention inside, so back to the shoveling.... but this time with ATTENTION and PRESENCE! The Universe was working in my favor today since the snow was light and fluffy and easy to shovel. Each step, I stayed in the moment, place the shovel, lift, toss the snow.... again, place the shovel, lift and toss. A sort of rhythm began.... over and over up the walk way. When I got to the end, I found myself wishing I wasn't finished already.

Tip to take from this post.... when one is present, there is no time or time seems to fly!

Join me in the present!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

February Focus

For the next month, February 2010, the focus of these posts will be on the actual chopping and carrying. That is presence during tasks, chores and work. This seemed appropriate to address first, since this is the title of the blog! I invite you to think about the chores and/or work in your own life and how you might bring more presence to them.

Each month the posts will have a different focus such as food, people, recreation, meditation, but not exclusive of other things that may be going on with presence. Also, let me know in the comments section below if there is particular topic you would like to see addressed.

Join me in the present!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Challenging Situations

I recently had a number of challenging situation one after another come up in my life. Remembering my desire to remain present, I did attempt to do so, but without much luck. I found myself more quickly being pulled into patterns and habits. I also found that I had not written much over the last week or so, but given that I want to share the challenges as well as the triumphs, I will write about both.

What I feel is important to take from this is two things.....

1 - What I wrote a couple of posts ago. That we do not have to get it all at once and to continue remaining as present as possible during non-challenging situations. Over time we build "spiritual muscle" so to speak and will be more present more of the time.

2 - I again found that when I stopped wishing for things to be different than they were, the suffering was alleviated and it was easier to be more present.

Join me in the present!

Sleep... or the Lack There Of....

After a tiring day, weekend, week.... I can say for sure that lack of sleep or feeling tired contributes to a lack of presence or awareness.

It was much easier to slip into old patterns and habits when feeling tired.

What I did find helpful was to stop wishing for things to be different than they were. When I stopped wishing to NOT be tired, it was as though the "suffering" was removed and only the more factual situation remained. I was still tired, but did not feel as bad about being tired.

Join me in the present!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ask and the Universe Answers!

I love how the Universe works! It does not always respond this quickly. I had just asked the question about how the rest of us at the bottom of the mountain should remain present. While listening to a recording of Eckhart Tolle last night, I got what I believe, is the answer.

Tolle says to begin small (most of you know I like simplicity!) Begin being present in nature or in peaceful settings. For most of us this is the most simply way to become present... in woods or by water. [To take your own minute in the waves, click here!]

Next, he suggests adding repetitive daily situations like brushing one's teeth or starting the car. Try to be present with each tooth as you brush it, or take 30 seconds before starting the car (unless an emergency situation!) Tolle (paraphrasing here) then goes on to say that many people live their lives as though everything is an emergency and this is not what he is talking about. He did not say this, but I believe Tolle is suggesting breaking the habit of living life as though it is an emergency by introducing more presence into every day activities.

He suggests those activities that we find most challenging, as I mention in the previous post, may be the last activities in which we are able to bring presence into regularly. It somewhat felt like permission to not have to "get it" all at once.

Over the next year, I will further explore what this looks like in daily life. Please come back to this blog over the coming months to read more or read my other blog, Simply Spirituality, for related information!

Join me in the present!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mountain Top

I have another question that I want to explore in more detail over the next year. Maybe at the heart of this blog. If one is a monk, meditating on a mountain top, it seems it would be quite simple to remain present given little or no interruptions, commotion, chaos..... life in general intervening.

Most of the rest of us have jobs, significant others, kids, extended family, school, volunteer jobs, homework, co-workers, church or other organizations to which we belong or attend.... not to mention the daily stresses in life such as ..... Traffic, bills, housework, laundry just to name a few!..... So, how do the rest of us, living at the bottom of the mountain remain in the NOW?

More questions!
Join me in the present!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Present..... NOW.... Present Moment

What is the Present? NOW? This is another of those questions I hope to explore on this blog. I looked up "now" in Webster's and it says the present time or moment... so I had that much already!

Think of every moment leading up to this moment in time... that is past. Every moment that has not yet happened, that is future. If we imagine that both of those do not exist, what we are left with is NOW. In reality the past no longer does exist since it is over and in reality the future has not happened yet, so in reality, all we really are left with is NOW! I would love to hear comments you may have on that!

So if that is the case, why do so many of us (myself included) act as if we are in the past or future. Some planning for the future is good! To paraphrase Marianne Williamson, "Don't just show up at the airport and expect there will be a seat for you on the plane where you want to go!" I am talking more about getting lost in the future, like living for the weekend or looking forward to a special event to the exclusion of where you are in the moment.

Many of us act from the past as well. Have you ever had a heated exchange with someone only to recount it over and over in your head for the next hour, or day or week or longer.... and all the lucky people in your life also usually get to re-live it again with you! We've all done that!

I'll share an example from my own life. In 11th grade, I was the passenger in the front seat of a car that was in an accident. My head hit and broke the windshield (I can hear some of you saying - "OH, that explains a lot!") ;) My point is that to this day, I am still a very nervous passenger because of that accident nearly 30 years ago. How can something that happened 30 years ago in the past have such an influence on me NOW? If I could let it be in the past, it would be over, right?

So far, I think I am asking more questions that answering!
Join me in the present!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Present during Boot camp!

What was I thinking?!?! The very first thing I do after starting this new blog, was head to Boot Camp. No, I didn't join the army. There is a class at the local gym called "Boot Camp." I probably don't have to tell you that it is pretty challenging!

Not more than 5 minutes in, I found myself, in pain, already thinking about the end of class and wishing for it to be over. Not very present! Thankfully, the teacher is awesome, full of energy but also realistic and gave us lots of options. So, I stepped it back just a bit, and focused on being where I was, pain and all. A few minutes later, during squats..... AGAIN! OK Penelope, get back in class! So breathing through the squats and being in my aching body, on went the class. Finally, the stretching phase.... over way too quick!

The teacher really helped. Her high energy and great music helps to keep one centered in what they are doing, along with her watchful eye and encouraging words!

So - all in all, I will call this a small victory. No, I did not stay completely present for the entire class, but for a lot of it. The times I was present the exercises felt "fuller" or more complete.... like I really used the muscle and not just going through the motions!

Please join me in the present!

Carry Water Chop Wood

Welcome to my NEW blog! Carry Water Chop Wood.... this comes from the Zen saying, "Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water." What’s the difference? The tasks are the same. The need is the same. What about the frame of mind? Who is chopping? Who is carrying water?

Some of you may notice that my blog title is the opposite of the saying... this is simply because that domain name was taken... and backwards seems a good approach to take to me right now anyway. That is to look at my life differently than I have in the past and try something new. I need to give credit to my good friend, Debbie, for suggesting the title.

This is going to be a year long experiment on living in the present moment. On the blog I will share the ups and downs, challenges and triumphs of attempting to live in the present moment and how it changes both myself and my family over the course of a year.

I hope to address questions such as what does it mean to be present?

Is it realistic to be present in every day life?

How does it change my experience of every day activities?

How does it change the experience for others?

This will be a more relaxed format than my other blog, Simply Spirituality, and I plan to post on a weekly rather than monthly basis. I also welcome comments and experiences of others in the comment section below!

Please join me in the present moment!