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Archive for May, 2012

image from colorbox

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4817/The-Secret-to-Finding-Your-True-Love.html

I would love to share this article with every middle school girl out there… but that might be too late.

We live our whole lives looking for the elusive one, sometimes not able to stand the “one” that we are. . . because we aren’t smart enough, not thin enough, or whatever else we’ve come to believe about ourselves.

If we don’t learn to foster compassion for ourselves we get into a relationship that might be good for us and then we start to think. . . I don’t think I’m smart enough, thin enough, etc. . . of course the object of my love, who I hold in such high esteem, must think that to.

And then comes, who do they think they are?

Or OMG, if they got close enough, they would learn that thin and smart are just the surface… there is so much more than is wrong with me.

And that perfect mate, perfect relationship, is sabotaged, wrecked, and over before it begins.

I tell my friends time and time again that I am not sure if we need to teach kids how to read, write, and do math when we can’t teach them how to be compassionate and can’t show them compassion.

Does algebra really matter if we haven’t been able to connect with others, develop some sort of healthy self-worth?

I hope that the current trend to teach kids mindfulness continues to flourish.  We have kids who are detached, self-absorbed, unable to parent when they get older, and believe, like many of our CEOs and politicians, that the “other” is just someone to take advantage of, no matter who that “other” may be.

Attachment parenting has been in the headlines since the cover of Time a few weeks ago and I know little about it.  I don’t know if we need to breastfeed for much longer than we need to or sleep with our kids to foster safety.

I do know that I see parents, good people, treat their children like objects.  Referring to them like, “I picked up the kid from soccer practice. . .”

I see teachers and parents not give attention to or appreciate the voice that children and elderly have.

We are so busy that it seems like it benefits us to see “the other” as an object because then they can be manipulated — tailgating until we push them around, used to climb the corporate ladder, livelihoods taken, etc.

There has to be some middle ground between seeing corporations having personal rights and depersonalizing the people in our lives but I think it goes back to basic things . . .

Fostering presence and acknowledging the person we are with

Deep listening

Compassionate, thoughtful speak that seeks to find compromise, clarity, and communion

Cultivating a broader perspective and being able to step back to see our basic interconnectedness or as it is called in Thich Nhat Hanh‘s tradition, Interbeing.

Slowing down and taking time — put down all of the distractions and things that won’t matter some day when we are at the end of our lives.

Taking care of ourselves so we can be stewards of our selves, our resources, and our relationships.

All of these things come with contemplative practices.  And I don’t mean to say that everyone needs to become Buddhist. . . MBSR has shown us that a practice does not need to be religious or even spiritual.

I think that any contemplative practice in any tradition of any kind will help us to work on the things that will make us healthier, create stronger relationships, and bring about true peace.

What are we waiting for?

We all have breath to follow.

We all have access to fire to light a candle to focus on.

We have a treasure trove of literature and spiritual/therapeutic texts out there to teach us about the present moment and how to foster awareness.

I ask myself these questions of our greater world and I ask them of myself every day.

Is it time to embrace our enlightened-nature and foster deep connections with the essential self of others?

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Atisha with Twenty-eight of the Eighty-four Ma...

Atisha with Twenty-eight of the Eighty-four Mahasiddhas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Your life span, like that of all living beings, is not fixed

Your life span, like that of all living beings, is not fixed

I had a client that had major complications after a surgery that was supposed to be “routine”.  Multiple systems shutting down and getting restored which shut down other systems, etc.  It was like a negative feedback loop for a while.

We were sure that she was going to die.  I was totally convinced.  I was the hospice expert, I knew these things.

Well, not really.

I just am more okay with dying taken place when it may be the ultimate healing experience for that person.

But with today’s medical technology, we can sometimes sustain someone well beyond what nature may have had in mind and give them a chance they would have never had before now.

That, however, is not my experience, but it does happen.

My “for sure” was no match for crazy (or what I thought was crazy) medical and scientific intervention.  And she lived on.

Your life span, like that of all living beings, is not fixed

Yet, I remember someone I knew telling me that his mother had gone into the hospital for something acute and the family was told that she was riddled with cancer.

There was an emergency that sent her to the hospital.

She was diagnosed.

The family was trying to make sense out of what was happening that night; trying to wrap their minds around it.

She died the next morning… not from the cancer and not from the acute crisis.

As one of the other Contemplations states, we do not have control over when and how our death will ultimately come.

How many times have you heard, “She was the picture of health”?  That was the case with my mentor who died.  Running 5 miles every morning, yoga, healthy eating, great relationships, ideal jobs for her, etc.

Or how many times have you heard, “He smoked cigars since the age of 12 and his mom fed him lard” and he died when he was 97?

We have no fixed time or fixed amount of breaths that we will take.

We do not know if it will be right now, tonight, tomorrow, or in ten years.

And yet, we live like it we have been granted this fragile life forever.

Everyone we have ever known to die, whether a beloved grandfather or a teen idol, has not lived forever and has had that unexpected time come.

Why do we think that we are exempt and will be the one person to make it out of life alive?

And how many of us take so much for granted because deep down inside, we really believe that we’ll be that one?

How long will you suffer with what is before you create the life you want before it’s too late?

How many times will you walk away angry and not say I love you before you are left with the guilt of having not done that very thing?

I ask these questions, not just of you, but of myself?

Will I learn this time?

Will I be more present, more proactive, more loving, more compassionate, etc?

Your life span, (and my life span) like that of all living beings, is not fixed.

With that knowledge, can we learn to embrace it, in a lived, total way, and create the life that we want because we became active agents during the moments we do have here on earth?

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By Doug Smith, MDiv.

“When we label some deaths right,

and other deaths become wrong.

When we label some deaths good,

and other deaths become bad.

Living and dying create each other.

The easy way and the difficult way are

interdependent.

The long life and the short life are relative.

The first days and the last days accompany each other.

Therefore, the true caregiver of the dying does all

that needs to be done without asserting herself,

and saying all that needs to be said without

saying anything.

Things happen, and she allows them to happen.

Things fail to happen, and she allows them to fail

to happen.

She is always there, but it is as though she is not there.

She realizes that she does nothing,

yet all that needs to be done is done.

In letting go,

there is gain.

In giving up,

there is advancement.

Don’t practice controlling.

Practice allowing.

Such is the mystery of happiness.

Such is the mystery of wealth.

Such is the mystery of power.

Such is the mystery of living and dying.

Excerpt from:  Caregiving:  Hospice-proven Techniques for Healing Body and Soul.

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MORE OF A PHILOSOPHY THAN A RELIGION. BUDDHISM...

“For as long as space endures

And sentient beings suffer

May I also remain

To dispel the world’s sorrows.

~~Shantideva

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Bernard Glassman

Bernard Glassman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“If you were to ask me ‘What is the essence of Buddhism?’

I would answer that it’s to awaken.  And the function

of that awakening is learning how to serve.”

~~Bernie Glassman

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English: Patrul Rinpoche tibetian yogi

English: Patrul Rinpoche tibetian yogi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“In a previous life, the Buddha was born in a hell where the inhabitants were forced to pull wagons.  He was harnessed to a wagon with another person called Kamarupa, but the two of them were too weak to get their vehicle to move.  The guards goaded them on and beat them with red-hot weapons, causing them incredible suffering.

The future Buddha thought, “Even with two of us together we can’t the wagon to move, and each of us is suffering as much as the other.  I’ll pull it and suffer alone, so that Kamarupa can be relieved.”

He said to the guards, “Put his harness over my shoulders, I’m going to pull the cart on my own.”

But the guards just got angry.  “Who can do anything to prevent others from experiencing the effects of their own actions?” they said and beat him about the head with their clubs.

Because of this good thought, however, the Buddha immediately left that life in hell and was reborn in a celestial realm.  It is said that this was how he first began to benefit others.”

~~ Patrul Rinpoche from The Words of My Perfect Teacher

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Light and shade

Light and shade (Photo credit: Ennor)

Death is the omega of our existence, the vanishing point toward which all our moments rush.  Death is the price exacted by life — which always, without exception, is a fatal condition. . .

Yet who really understands that they will die?  Even those who have encountered the reality of death rarely do, other than in flashes.”

~~ Tracy Cochran & Jeff Zaleski, In Awakening to the Sacred in Ourselves

Do not wait until it is too late. . . allow yourself to be open to more than flashes of our nature.

Cultivate spaciousness in inhabiting the pause between breaths.

 

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Ficus religiosa

Ficus religiosa (Photo credit: Eric Hunt.)

“We could all afford to be a little more genuine, a little more authentic, couldn’t we? Why is it that we need to grow old before understand how much joy there is to be found in doing the simple things that reflect and embrace our essential joy and goodness?”
~~ Lama Surya Das, From Awakening to the Sacred

Sometimes we need to schedule time to find ourselves and take stock of our situation.

Using meditation as this time is a great practice, especially when you are dealing with a lot of challenges, i.e., being a caregiver, having a stressful job, or experiencing a lot of upheaval.

It is always helpful to practice while life is going well and the waters are calm.  Science tells us that even 2 minutes a day enhances our coping, calms our nervous system, and helps to bring us back to balance.

I would gently challenge anyone who says that they don’t have that kind of time.

I say that because I challenge myself daily to find the time.

You can find time to practice mindfulness while walking to the mailbox at work, when washing dishes, or even going to the bathroom.  Put down the magazine, turn off the computer and bring your breath into focus.

Don’t wait until you are old and looking back on life. You will find that with minimal effort, you will find more and more of your essential nature.

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Clinical research shows Buddhist mindfulness t...

Clinical research shows Buddhist mindfulness techniques can help alleviate anxiety , stress , and depression (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is a simple to read article by Rick Hanson.

http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/give-your-head-a-rest-from-thinking

Here is a small excerpt:

When your thought processes are tired, it doesn’t feel good. You’re not relaxed, and probably stressed, which will gradually wear down your body and mood. You’re more likely to make a mistake or a bad decision: studies show that experts have less brain activity than novices when performing tasks; their thoughts are not darting about in unproductive directions. When the mind is ruminating away like the proverbial hamster on a treadmill, the emotional content is usually negative – hassles, threats, issues, problems, and conflicts – and that’s not good for you. Nor is it good for others for you to be preoccupied, tense, or simply fried.”

I really liked this article and would totally use it with caregivers, professional or otherwise.  It’s a skill we can all benefit from in one or or another, in our career and private lives, whether we are young or old.

I sometimes don’t like certain “techniques” because they feel so artificial.  They can seem a bit contrived but what Rick shares here, like much of the mindfulness practice work that is out there from Jon Kabat-Zinn, Daniel Goleman, Tara Brach, Chade-Meng Tan, Susan Bauer-Wu, Daniel Seigel, Jeffrey Brantley, Ronald D. Seigel, and so many more.

Take a second right now and do what Hanson suggests in this article from windmind.org. . . look up from your computer screen and breathe in and as you are breathing out, allow your exhale to be deep and long-lasting, really use the abdominal muscles and allow your whole body to benefit.

I did it as I was reading the article and I noticed a definite shift.  As I exhaled, I realized that my shoulders were sliding down and moving to the place that they were designed to be in, not clear up to my ears.

I noticed a bit of an electrical current and any fleeting bit of anxiety dissipated effortlessly.  And I had a shift in thinking.

Now, it’s easy to do this on a good day — little in the way of demands, pain, stress, etc. . . but the whole point is to do it on this kind of day so that when everything gets fired up — when the anxiety, discomfort, and frustration kick into high gear, that exhale just comes. . .

When we start a “practice”, things feel like a technique.

But they probably felt that way when we were learning to sit with a client or use proper body mechanics by the bedside but as we used the technique, to the point of it being burned into our muscle memory, it shifts from being a technique to a way of being.

And mindfulness is no different.

We practice on good and bad days, despite the weather or what else happens so that no matter what is going on, we can bring about calming the mind/body with the breath and with our mindful attention.

Check out some of the resources that I have linked with the author’s names above in this blog.  They are some extraordinary people bringing mindfulness to different populations and in slightly different ways.

Embrace mindfulness and give your brain (and the rest of your system and being) a much-needed break in this worrisome world.

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the clouds are lifting

Wow, I feel like I haven’t been fully present for a while.

Since my wonderful trip to NM, I’ve had a respiratory infection and a 10-day migraine so that’s what I’ve been up to for the past month.

I found things to keep the blog going but didn’t feel like I was fully present to it, save a few precious times.

There’s a balance there, right?

Being there, being present, fulfilling obligations.

So a few things have happened. . .

I have started to add quotes and writing on new categories — Relationship Dharma and New to Meditation?

And I’m looking at adding some others — like work on Nonviolent Communication.

When you blog about grieving and dying, you are writing about being with and embrace the life that you have, cultivating kindness and compassion.

Well, at least, that’s how I’m doing it.

And there is so much more to look at.

From one of the polls I took, people said they were looking for more info on meditation.  There are a lot of blogs out there about this topic but I thought I would add some stuff here.  People looking for help with their grieving or living with illness might not know where to look for help with starting a meditation practice so they won’t have far to look now.

And a big part of our “work” in living with illness and living with grieving is dealing with our relationships.  So in grieving, we look at the relationships we had — the good and the bad, the blessed and the problem some.

But what about the relationships we have right now?

What about the relationships we want to foster?

We can’t neglect them or continue to flounder with relationships we aren’t present to.  Well, we can, but in the face of living and dying, do we really want to continue living as zombies, sleep walking through it all?

I will be drawing on resources such as Thich Nhat Hanh‘s book Fidelity or Ellen & Charles Birx’s book Waking Up Together.

But how can you stop there, right?

I will also be looking at material on living and being in community and true communication.

If I had to put it one way, I guess I would say that I am expanding beyond Right Mindfulness to look at the other parts of the Eight-Fold Path of Buddhism and how it applies to our dying, grieving, and living here and now.

I hope you enjoy the expanded view that you will start to see here.  I think I may have dabbled in looking at a broader view but I’d like to formalize it a bit so that it is easier to go back through the archives and to help me see my own bigger vision.

It is so good to be back, to be thinking clearly and not in pain.  I feel rested and really restored in a way, as if a layer needed to be peeled away while I was sick.

And it’s a great time to be back and fully present to this blog — I’ve just gone over 200 followers in the past week and just in the past 24-hours, I’ve finally hit 15,000 hits.  Very exciting to see that there are that many people interested in the cross sections that are my life — my interest in spiritual practice as a means of cultivating the lives we want and the awareness that benefits us in the present moment.

I have such heart-felt gratitude to all the people who leave me comments and blessings, who let me know that these words make you think or matter or come just at the right time.

This blog was originally started as a way of having a life line as I finish the last year of my dissertation — to help me get in touch with my work in end-of-life care and my Buddhist practices as I have been without community for both of those aspects of my life in the past three years.

I am honored that you spend time with me and I thank you for letting me into your lives.

May sorrow show me the way to compassion

May I realize grace in the midst of suffering

May I be peaceful and let go of expectations

May I receive the love and compassion of others

~~  Metta, Jennifer

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