Resistance: The Root of Pain, Suffering, and Insanity.

We are either resisting life or accepting it.

Whether that be sitting in traffic, aging, sickness, or our own mortality. Many ignore the truth and live in an imaginary world of what life is supposed to be or should be. Anytime you say should or suppose to be, you are resisting the truth. Resistance to the truth of life causes suffering. So why do people choose resistance? Accepting the truth is scary while resisting gives us a false sense of security and control. It’s easier in the short-term to avoid or resist aging, disease, and death than accept it. In the long-term, it can cause a tremendous amount of suffering within you and the world.

Suffering = Pain x Resistance 

  • The world should be at peace, but it isn’t.
  • My parents should be supportive, but they’re not.
  • I shouldn’t be stuck in traffic, but I am.
  • Relationships aren’t supposed to be this difficult, but it is. 

Here is an example that will show you exactly what I’m talking about.

Jack and Jill are both studying for a Biology final at Harvard. Both don’t enjoy studying, it causes them both mental and physical pain to sit down for 5 hours in a room. They would rather be outside on a hike or hanging out with friends. Jill accepts that this necessary to pass the class while Jack resists and complains the whole time. Jill is at peace and actually enjoying studying, taking breaks to watch Netflix or call a friend. Jack sulks and stares at the book. They are both in the same exact situation, only Jill accepts the pain of studying and makes the best of it.

The most impressive study of acceptance vs. resistance is Victor Frankl’s story in his 1959 book Man Searching for Meaning. Victor Frankl was an Austrian Jewish neurologist, psychiatrist, and holocaust survivor. While at Auschwitz concentration camp he kept himself sane by studying fellow inmates behavior and noticed an astonishing correlation. Those prisoners who accepted their truth and found meaning were both healthier and happier than those who resisted their new life. Their suffering was caused by their resistance to life and not mere outside influences. If someone can find peace, purpose, and meaning in Auschwitz concentration camp there is hope for all of us.

But Johnny, shouldn’t we resist harmful situations?? Isn’t acceptance just giving up? I don’t want to lay down and give up!

I understand this perspective because I once believe that acceptance was giving up but nothing is further from the truth. We must accept our situation before we can make it better. The people who accepted their captivity in Auschwitz were not merely giving up but awakening to that they have no control over being prisoners in a concentration camp. What these prisoners did have control over was how they spent their time, how they perceived their circumstance, and to make the best out of it. They saw resistance as a waste of energy on what they could not control. Accepting the truth is both practical and logical for peace within.

Paradoxically, we must accept suffering before we can transcend it. We have to accept our suffering before we can be at peace with ourselves and the world. Accept that you have no control over other people’s actions and beliefs. Accept that everything is impermanent and that we can only control a small amount of our life.

Try to avoid all should or suppose to be statements. Ease your grip on life and how it’s “suppose” or “should” be. More acceptance and less resistance is key to a peaceful life with less suffering and more joy.

My mission is to alleviate suffering in all living beings.

“What we resist, will persist.” – Carl Jung

With Aloha,

Johnny Hoffman

 

Staying Present: Breaking Free of Stress and Rumination.

Stay present. I’m sure you have all heard this cliche phrase, but what does it mean and why is it important? Nothing could be more important to your life than staying present in the moment. Nothing more crucial to your happiness. The present moment is all that we are guaranteed. Life is short and we must make the best of what we are given. Every moment is a blessing.

Suffering occurs when we worry about the future or ruminate over the past. I have struggled with this my entire life. My mind has been trained to obsess about the past and future while I suffer in the present moment. I’m not saying that thinking about the past and future is all bad. Our past can guide us to make better decisions in the present moment. The future can excite us and motivate us to make better actions now. The key words are actions and now. The past and future mindset is much like a treadmill, lots of effort but you haven’t moved forward. Let’s start training our minds to stay in the present 90% of the time while letting our past guide us and our future excite us the other 10%!!!

Now take a breath, look around, and enjoy this moment. Start to get outside of the constant mental chatter of the mind and enjoy life. The peace and joy that comes in the moment feel amazing. Think of the joy of being in an amusement park or doing something new. It’s pure bliss.

You might be asking how I stay in the present moment? I go on long walks, meditate, and practice mindful breathing. I stop periodically and ask “what am I doing right now?”. In those moments of full presence, I feel truly alive and awake. Peace and joy are the by-products of the present moment. I want all of you to live a more meaningful life.

With Aloha,

Johnny Hoffman

Impermanence: The Beauty of Decay, Death, and Transformation.

I know death is a hard topic to discuss. We tend to avoid it out of fear even though we logically know that everything is impermanent. I’m grateful for life and death. There can’t be one without the other. 

You and I will die. The Earth will die. Our Sun will die. Our Solar System will die. The Universe will die.

Well at least in our conventional sense of death….

The First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another.

If energy can neither be created nor destroyed then we are infinite. The matter that makes up our body has been around since the dawn of the Universe and it will live on for infinity after we die. On a cellular level, we are constantly transforming, with old cells dying and new cells being born every second.

The Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and many other Buddhist teachers talk about the laws of Physics in their discussions about death, life, and impermanence. Impermanence is one of the key principles of Buddhism and many Buddhist’s meditate over their own death. Why not prepare for the inevitable? It’s one of the few things we are guaranteed.

Be grateful for death, without it we wouldn’t be alive. Just think of the approximately 108 Billion people who have lived and died on Earth. The Billions of Dinosaurs that had to die for us to eventually evolve into conscious species. A supernova (death of a star) creating the matter for our Sun, Earth, and Solar system to be created. Without the death of our ancestors, we would not be alive and our death will allow other humans to get a chance at life.

Without death, there is no life.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s teaching’s discussed that there is no birth or death, just transformation. You and I are a transformation of our parent’s DNA, and our bodies are a mixture of elements that have been transformed into a conscious human being. We are not full of human but full of elements like oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen.

Many of us walk around as if we live forever. We all logically know our own death but choose to ignore it. We assume that we will get old and deal with it then even though we could die any minute. This is all a delusion that is motivated by fear. If we fully embrace impermanence today we can live our life full of gratitude, love, and freedom. Without the fear of death, we can fully enjoy life. Freedom from the fear of death is a great feeling, one that I try to cultivate in my meditations.

I know this topic is hard to discuss and I thank you for reading this blog post. My intention is not to be sad or dark, but to bring light to the darkness. To change our perspective on death from one of fear to love and from anger to gratitude. 

With Aloha,

Johnny Hoffman

 

Authentic Living: Are your Actions Inline with your Values?

Aloha!

In this week’s blog post I want to discuss values, authenticity, and how it can benefit you and the world around us. Authentic living is trending in the mindfulness community because many of us are awakening to the unauthentic world around us. A world where corporations, politicians, and celebrities say one thing but their actions show their true intentions. Let’s not blame them though, we are the problem but also the solution. I’m 27 years old and most of my adult life I have lived an unauthentic life. I portrayed myself as a man with good values but my actions showed otherwise. An unauthentic life caused great anxiety, stress, and fed my gambling addiction as well as many unhealthy habits. Here are some of the unskillful actions that I have done in life.

  • Cheated, lied, and misled my ex-fiance.
  • Lied to my mom, dad, brother, best friend, and to myself.
  • Littered and mistreated the environment.
  • Treated women like sex-objects.
  • Lost thousands of dollars gambling.
  • Abused my body with fast food, processed meat, and an absurd amount of alcohol.

There are no excuses for my unauthentic and unskillful actions. I am sorry. I will do better.

I know now that my actions matter. Living authentically is living in line with your values. The first step is to find out what your values are and write them down. In my early 20’s I didn’t even know my values which led to many unskillful actions. I might have told you that I valued my health but then go drink 10 Coors lights and eat a whole meat lovers pizza. With the help of Author Timber Hawkeye and “The Minimalists”, I have established what my values are. The next step is to cross-reference my actions with my values and see if they are in line. Here are my foundational values, the ones that define who I am.

  • Love
  • Compassion
  • Growth
  • Contribution
  • Relationships
  • Health

Authentic living isn’t about living a perfect life in which all your actions are perfectly in line with your values. That’s a sure way to live a very discontented life. Authentic living is about mindfully looking at your life and intentionally changing it to who you want to become. You would be surprised how small steps in the right direction can lead to astonishing results. Leading to a less stressed and more content you.

I wanted to end this post with an example of how I live a more authentic life. Over the last six months, I have slowly transitioned to a plant-based diet with a small amount of fish and dairy. I cut out meat because it’s not in-line with my values of compassion and health. Factory farms are disturbing and cause great suffering to animals, workers, and the environment. I have compassion for these animals as living beings who don’t deserve to suffer. I know that the dairy industry and fishing can cause suffering as well, hence why I’m slowly cutting down my consumption to soon become a vegan. I cross-reference every action with my values and try my best to act accordingly. From the clothes I wear, the bed I sleep on, my toothpaste, and the food I put in my body. I feel less anxious and more at peace when my actions are in-line with my values. By changing your actions you are in fact changing the world.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

With Aloha,

Jonathan Hoffman

 

Tending Our Own Garden: Focusing our Energy on Self-improvement. 

 

Tending our own garden is to focus our energy on what we can do to make our life better. Over my own life, I have spent countless hours worrying about other people lives. I thought I was helping others but what I was really doing was neglecting my own life. I also realized that people will change in their own time and that meddling in other peoples lives is both a waste of energy and can ruin friendships. I truly believe that people love positive changes but hate being changed by others. We know this intuitively when we see the joy in someones face when they lose weight or learn a new skill. The two most valuable commodities in our lives are time and attention. If we spend our time and attention on meddling in others lives, we lose out on living our own life.

Like I have said before, we must become the beacon of light for others to follow. For example, if we want others to eat a healthy and nutritious diet we have to first evaluate our own diet and see how we can improve it. Let’s focus our energy on fulfilling our potential with the wisdom that others will follow suit in their own time. Forcing others to change is unskillful because it usually alienates people, sometimes pushing them further away from your advice.

Flowers only bloom when they are ready. People are the same way. You cannot rush or force them to open just because you think it’s time. Be patient.”      -Timber Hawkeye

Be patient. Focus on your life. Accept others how they are today and not how they should be according to your standards.

With Aloha,

Jonathan Hoffman