Archive for March 24th, 2012

The National Unplugged Day… well, I wrote about it the other night… so how did I do…

Well, Friday morning, I was laying in bed and my iPhone went off… Sting was singing to let me know it was time to wake up… “You’ll remember me when the west wind moves Upon the fields of barley You’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky As we walk in the fields of gold. . . ”  time to wake up… really?  Time to hit snooze and see if Sting will come back 8 minutes later…

What was the next thing I did?  I went to look at my 11 emails and as they popped up, I… well, I swore… and then laughed.  That was before my head came off the pillow and I was surrounded by things like my Macbook Air, my iPad, etc… So far, not doing to well.  The next few hours were like that and I finally had compassion for myself.

Electronics are a part of my daily life.  There is no denying it.  It’s the way I connect to my aging parents who live 1.5 hrs from here, to my friends all around the country because I don’t have that many friends near where I am right now… (except one incredible friend who is here daily with support and laughter… and a wiz at photography!)

It’s how I get my news.

It’s how I know what’s going on at school.  Heck, it’s how I can be a scholar today… with online databases of professional journal articles rather than musty libraries with moldy stacks.

But, the day did do something for me.  (and someone actually posted a similar comment during some part of the day that I read this morning when I went through comments)…

I realized I need to pick more days to “Unplug”.  What?  I didn’t even do this one well.

Well, I didn’t do this one as suggested.

But this is what I did do:

I was in the shower, even before getting some juice to start the day, and I found myself thinking about a work situation and letting my thinking go down the yellow brick road of misery… telling myself tales…

I thought to myself, “I see your shenpa” in Pema Chodron‘s voice.  (Will be posting about shenpa soon but for now, click the world shenpa and you will find an article by Ani Pema on Shenpa from the Shambhala Sun)….

And I thought to myself, unplug!  I was actually excited when I said it startled myself.  Unplug!

I realized that this is what we do with our thinking, when we are on the cushion… we label it thinking.

We do this to feelings, sensations, etc.  And we label it, bring it into our conscious awareness and stop ourselves from getting caught up in it, or at least not as caught up as we could (or usually do).

I realized that the story brewing in my head was stuff that I had made up, I was conjecturing about… I was tired, grumpy, and thinking the worst.

When I said “unplug” to myself, things changed.  I laughed.  I realized that I did not really know if what I was thinking was true.  And I realized that it really didn’t matter in my life.

All that it was doing was taking my energy, my attention, and creating a dark place in my heart.

I found myself doing this for the rest of the day.  I didn’t do it all the time, I didn’t catch everything, but I did it enough to notice when I was creating drama in my head, heart, mind, body… and I realized that I could do something about it.

I know to some, this might not seem big.  I experience it on the cushion but it seemed like the stars were in alignment for this to be a powerful lesson for yesterday.  That chuckle that would come was the way of ease.. it allowed space, compassion, time… It could be followed with tonglen or metta or something much less formal.

Now, I know I have colleagues that would suggest that I didn’t do anything more than good old CBT thought stopping… but I would disagree.  It’s more than that when you have a meditative practice to couple it with.

It’s a different ball of wax when you not only stop your thoughts but you do it with gentle compassion, with humor, and keeping in mind that what you do as your practice, as your life, is to train, practice, and live so that all beings find a way out of suffering, not just you.

So, I don’t feel like I failed the day.  And I rather enjoyed it.  I was on the computer less.  I went to bed earlier.  But, I won’t lie.  I read off my Kindle and not a paper book.

(And there is a new book out on Buddhist psychology that I really want and one about to come out too but they aren’t out on Kindle and I’m holding out..)  I don’t want the clutter nor the allergy-holding paper books anymore.. I want space and health in my life….

And I worked online with a friend on some photos.

I Skyped with my parents.

But I feel like the pain that I kept myself from stewing in at times during the day was more important than not being on the very pieces of technology that help bring me out of this little town and into contact with the people I love the most and the teachers out there that I respect the most.  I did spend less time surfing and less time on facebook.  And as I was doing those things, I was mindful of what I was doing, and how much time I was spending.

So, I think once a week, I will wake up with the intention to unplug… to spend a day or half day of mindful attention while being in the world… off the cushion.  in everyday life… at work.  at the grocery store. in the car.  wherever I find myself.  Not just on-the-spot but a more significant period of time.   And this will be in addition to practicing mindful eating, yoga nidra, and the other practices I’ve written about.

Some people say that they don’t have time to meditate.  I don’t agree.  I think an on-the-spot practice with our own thinking or a compassion practice for ourselves and others, or setting a timer to ring to remind us to focus on our breathing for 60 seconds are all things that we can do.

And if those instances are like other healing things, the more we do them, the more we will look at our priorities to see what matters and can we take the time to readjust for the things that can change us, and our world.


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Call Me by My True Names by Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile, learning to sing in my new nest, to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower, to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry, in order to fear and to hope. The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river, and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond, and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence, feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin as bamboo sticks, and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat, who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate, and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands, and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my people, dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life. My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names, so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once, so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up, and so the door of my heart can be left open, the door of compassion.

~~Thich Nhat Hanh

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“We may think forgiveness isn’t necessary, or that it might be seen as a sign of failure if we forgive.

But even the best of relationships among family members, friends, and lovers, because of everyone’s

subtly different desire systems, the matrix of wants and needs that underlie the personality,

may well have some slight unfinished business —

 that is, forgiveness — that needs tending to.

Life is a relationship;

openness and kindness keep it dynamic.

Forgiveness keeps our life current.”

~~ Stephen Levine, Unattended Sorrow:  Recovering from Loss and Reviving the Heart

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