A Fresh Day

Morning reflection straight out of bed:
Freedom is to meet the day afresh, to be in touch with what is in front of us without the weight of the past. To not have any habits of thought. 
It seems impossible does it not? 
We may have tried many times and failed. 
Can we remain open and listen to the space between two thoughts? Is there a way to approach this freedom without effort, yet with clarity? To breathe the present moment as if it was the first time we encountered ‘‘being’ – that precious state we call consciousness. Can we let go of the autopilot default and tune in to an alertness that is both innocent and intelligent at the same time?
(4 mins)

This series of short posts are part of Incrementally – a 366 day writing challenge.

Photo by Grzegorz Mleczek 

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To Do and Not To Do

We all have to-do-lists.
Some of us may prefer not to bother writing them down and keep them in our heads. Others may have simple lists of tasks and commitments, jotting them down on paper or electronically so as not to forget. Others still, may have more elaborate systems with priorities and calendar functions with reminders. Lastly, there are those of us who use robust time-management tools and techniques, to not only stay on top of our to-dos but also to balance our life-work responsibilities and help us focus on short, medium, and long term goals. This is all very fine, but how much do our to-do-lists define our lives? And will we ever feel fulfilled by this seemingly never ending conveyor belt of activities?

Getting things done can be quite addictive as it gives us a sense of purpose, engages our problem solving minds and feels rewarding when we become better and better at juggling and keeping up with it all. The problem lies in that we may neglect its equally important polar opposite: not doing.

Doing nothing may sound boring or even unpleasant, yet I would like to argue here that it is not only necessary for our health and wellbeing but it may actually also be highly fulfilling. Whereas ‘doing’ deals with the measurable, ‘being’ dwells in the immeasurable.

There is an art of being idle, to take the time to enjoy the simple act of breathing, to contemplate the beauty of life and to adopt a child-like carefree alertness. These ‘acts of being’ are not reserved to the poets, philosophers and religious people – they are accessible to everyone.

With practice, we quickly recognise how good it feels to give ourselves a few moments of peace each day. Once we are able to put on hold all the things we have to do, even momentarily, we may touch a sense of freedom that we use to experience as children.

There is nothing wrong with the “to-do”s so long as they leave enough space for the “to-be”s


Photo by Kai D.

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Time peace

time peace

When my younger son was four, he told us very seriously that time did not exist. At the time, we agreed; what an insight we thought. However, I am still unsure what he meant by that. Time is such a vast topic; I could write a thick book about it – the problem is that I don’t have the time and probably would be wasting yours by philosophising about it. I will keep it very brief.

Whether it is a construct of our mind, of our civilisation or a physical/biological phenomenon – time seems to have taken a central place in our lives, and it has become very hard to ignore. Most of us take for granted the way we relate to time, though, and do very little to make peace with it.  If we are restless, always running, trying to fit as much as possible into our schedules, stressed or tired, it is very likely that we are battling with time. Time is often seen as an adversary that we need to manage.

We may have a defunct efficiency ideal – of trying to do more in less time, rather than doing what matters most in the time it takes. Focusing on meaningful activities and looking after ourselves by regularly doing nothing, I believe, is a more effective way to lead our lives. This effectiveness is difficult to master, but it may be one of the most useful skills there is. Make peace with time. Do less, be present, plan a little, breathe, focus and act on the most important tasks, and learn to stop. When we are at peace with time, we may come to the same realisation that my son came up with when he was four. When one is truly mindful, there seems to be a timeless vastness that we can access.


Photo: Yuriy Kovalev

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No control


Many of us are conditioned to think that being in control is a good thing. I am starting to question whether it is the case. When we look closely, we are very rarely in control, and the attempt to gain more control usually creates friction and frustration. What happens we let go of the idea of control?

We can plan, influence and manage projects and to some extent, this gives us a sense of control. But if we look more deeply we cannot really ever have control over situations, other people or even ourselves. We can easily control material things, but as soon as it involves the living, it becomes much more complicated. We may get better at predicting situations; we may learn how to manipulate others, and we may fool ourselves thinking that we are in control of our feelings, but the truth of the matter is that almost everything turns out differently from what we had imagined.

Striving for control is like chasing a butterfly. It is very hard to catch one when it is moving and as soon as it is still the slightest movement of air will make it fly again. Taking a picture of it or catching it with a net and pinning it on a cork board is an option, but we then have lost the magic. The day wrote the first draft of this post, I was trying to take a photograph of a butterfly and the more I tried the further it flew away. I put the camera down and decided to watch it instead. I got fascinated by the dance and then as if it got a gist of the change it came very close and landed on my hand.

Most of us spend a tremendous amount of energy trying to control everything, from our thoughts to our relationships. When we let go of the desire to control, and become more at peace with the complexity and impermanence of things, we create space for different human qualities to emerge. Trust that things are going to be OK, an openness to listen to our intuitions, a freshness to meet the world as it is, the freedom that comes with having no plans, the mindfulness that comes from not being preoccupied and the intelligence and flexibility of meeting change.

The need to control events and people is very ingrained in us, but control is mostly an illusion. The idea of control is constantly challenged by the ever-changing reality of the inner and outer world. When we let go of the desire to control, we become more in touch with the flow and can meet change more readily.

Let go of trying to capture and the butterfly may land in your hand.


One sentence journal – day 20: “Preparing my class instead of my morning routine, I set on a wrong foot; the afternoon was varied and exerting – putting me in a good yogic mood.”

Photo: Loic Lopez

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When the Way Ahead is Blurry


As I sit at my desk, I can hear the sound of a clock. We like to know what comes next. It gives us a sense of security. We like patterns, rituals, the known – the taste of the familiar… it gives us comfort.

Yet, we also crave for a break from the monotony of every-day existence, for the unexpected, and for freedom. The sense of adventure that comes with the new, the stimulation from a new body, the desire to travel to foreign lands… all feeds an unsatiable demand for more.

This is a sort of sabbatical year for me, and so far I have filled my days with activities, some repetitive, some regular and others more unique. Yet there does not seem to be a guiding thread. I am very grateful for most of them and I take things one day at a time. At times my heart is content and does not really wish for more, at others I feel restless and want to change everything.

It all started simple: few commitments and no sense of urgency. But things are getting more complex. With every new meeting comes more responsibilities and we say yes to more.

This is where this project comes in. A desire to discover what matter most, to have a sense of focus and most importantly to complete worthwhile projects. Apparently there is such a thing as choiceless awareness. I like the sounds of this, yet I have never really experienced it. At the moment, I stay with the confused old self, writing down my intentions, choosing to let go of the past and happy to move on… As I travel along, one thing is becoming clearer though is that the way ahead is blurry.


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