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“The point of Zen practice is to be who we are – a formless field of benefaction.”

Charlotte Joko Beck

Nothing Special Living Zen

how to be who we are

We all want to contribute in some way to our fellow humans. There are many ways to do that. Some people volunteer, others give money. More commonly, we give advice. Lots of it and we think it is a contribution.

Giving advice to others is rarely well-received (i.e., they don’t follow our suggestions) and rarely satisfying for the same reason. We persist expressing our opinions because giving advice is never about the other person. It is always about us, our unreality and the way we think things should be. In truth, we may not have a clear perspective about the best action for anyone else to take. Our advice is based on our beliefs which are the basis of how we cope with our lives.

Being Present to Your Reality

embrace being yourself

These coping mechanisms are often a means of escape from dealing with reality. We use them to avoid the simple business of being present to and living our own lives. We distract ourselves with all manner of busy-ness. Work, social media, sports, TV, more work. Through it all we avoid actually living the moment. We’re thinking about the next moment, what we have later that day or tomorrow, or obsessing over what happened last week. We are anything but aware of this moment.

Enter other people. Although we don’t know how to live our own lives, we’re pretty sure we know how our family and friends ought to live theirs. Last month I wrote that we each have someone we love who isn’t living by our wishes for them. This is one of the chief ways we hide our own anxiety and fear. We focus on someone else and how they should improve. It is an escape.

Re-Mapping Conversations

Who has not been in such a conversation? I unburden my heart only to have it pushed aside with you telling me how to solve my distress. My heartache isn’t heard. Couldn’t you just listen to me? Receive me. My story needs a warm reception. My husband put it succinctly, “I don’t need you to fix it. Just let me in and hear me out.” We perpetrate insensitivity if we think our experience should be another’s guideline. After all, it worked for me, so you should do the same. Or, just as hurtful, pre-empt the conversation to commiserate with the story of our misery.

Even when we forego giving advice it doesn’t follow that we have made room for the other person’s experience. Especially, with our partners who we love and love us. We mention our concern and it isn’t noticed; just a blip in the conversation. Or vice versa, he mentions his concern and we thoughtlessly move on.

Consider Creating Space

be yourself and live a life you love

Space: a continuous expanse that is free, available, and unoccupied. A Blank, that you can fill and to which I will listen. Until we understand how we hide and distract ourselves we cannot be such an open field. Understanding comes when we notice what we do. Watch. Keep an eye. Observe.

Step outside myself and observe my behavior and what’s going on for me in the moment I am faced with another person’s pain. What happens for me then? Do I race to fill the interval with something, anything? What is my struggle to stay conscious to another person’s suffering, confusion, or anxiety and take no action other than to listen deeply. Doing nothing to save myself or them from the abyss of their pain.

The pain isn’t really the problem. We don’t know what to do about the pain and we can’t stand that. If only there were something to do. Our recourse is to ‘go away,’ giving advice or launching into our own story. Anything but being here now.

self acceptance

Facebook has been recently in the news for corporate misdeeds with users’ private data. It is, however, in the culture of Facebook that users are free with intimate information about themselves, effectively, if unintentionally, inviting advice and opinions from anyone who chooses to give it. And, in turn, dishing out their own advice. A good idea might be, if someone wants your advice, make them ask for it more than once. And then be judicious in how you respond. Often, what isn’t offered is the most effective.

What we know is always only the truth for ourselves. The advice we each need is from our own souls. It is the gift of the listening of our fellow beings that can sometimes allow us to hear Ourselves. That is the greatest gift we can give one another. That is what it means to be “who we are – a formless field of benefaction.” May we listen so well to one another that our listening blesses the world.




If you have a desire to focus on communication in your life and strategies for becoming more accepting and open with your interactions, reach out and contact Dr. Sandra Egli at Center of Intention today. Call (480) 860-0400 or schedule your appointment online!



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Meditation: Sandra Egli
Music: Torey Ronhovde

The wisdom of a thousand generations guides you today. Only listen. Without a sound their voices reverberate in your cells. Settle within and choose your path.

All of us come from strength, fortitude, perseverance. No matter how difficult their lives, our ancestors made it through and passed on life for the next generation. Over and over, until it came to you. The intelligence that guided them has also come to you.

To Thine own Self be true.

If I could present you with a single blessing, it would be the gift of Mindfulness. Awareness of yourself: body, emotions, and self-talk, all the time. Our immediate experience is the ultimate exploration that only grows richer with time. What we do or don't do, and the roots of our behavior, are accessible with the simple practice of noticing immediate experience. It is this practice that makes it possible to know and be true to ourselves.


Sandra's graceful way of listening & non-judgmental demeanor allowed me to open up effortlessly. I was certain, as I left her office, that I had received precisely the healing I needed.

Female client, age 44
Phoenix, Arizona