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Archive for the ‘Mindfulness & Buddhism’ Category

Thich Nhat Hanh, in 2001, wrote a book called Anger.  This is one of my favorite quotes:  If you can relieve a lot of his suffering.  Listen with only one purpose:  to allow the other person to express himself and find relief from his suffering.  Keep compassion alive during the whole time of listening.  Anger, TNH.

Okay, I have an awesome team of medical people helping me:  neurologist, PA, plenty of RNs and LPNs, LCSW, Psych, Biofeedback, PT, Acupuncturist, etc.  Most have been very sweet and kind to me during my stay to try to break up my migraine cycle.

But here’s the thing. . .  People come in and look at the computer screen and ask you how you are.  They ask a question but do not listen fully or mindfully.  Often times, one part of the team does not know what the other side is doing.  Showing up 5 minutes after I’ve woken up and having not even gotten to the bathroom, someone bubbly comes in and asks how my headache is.  Really?  Thich Nhat Hahn is right about people needing to share their story, their myth, etc so that they can free up the energy and emotions that keep them suffering.

I’m not knocking the staff.  Trust me, care here is way above just being cordial.  They are a great team.  It’s just sad that when you tell your doc that your advanced directives are done and you are my age, that he looks up with a question mark.  Hello?  I’m the one who has lived around dying, caregiving, and grief for 34 years and I know what I want and don’t want — my choice.  That’s why those of us in end-of-life care have worked tirelessly.  NO matter what age you are, you deserve to have the autonomy to chose; you have a right to decide how much suffering you are willing to put up with in situations like these.  Sorry, I get frustrated over end-of-life topics.  We need to start making all docs, nurses, etc take up communication classes and end-of-life classes.  It’s one smart.

But compassion and empathy are they places to start.  How do we teach those things?  Can they be taught?  Who is it in your life that affirms you and gives you their whole attention and mindfully listens to you with no corrections, advice, shaming, doubting, etc, I mean really just listens?  And who do you do that for?

Have you ever sat in and watched a class of children in the past 10 years?  Where I live, there is very little use of the word mindfulness and even when it is used, it is not what Thay, Salzburg, Brach, Pema Chodron, etc teach us.  Classes are too big and kids problems are too expansive.  Not enough time in the day for teachers to “fix” the kids in a classroom of 38, when they are teaching to the test.  Wow, what would happen if we gave kids 10 minutes a day to be listened to, heard, and empathetically listen to others?  I bet it would change an awful lot in this world.

 When we take turns compassionately listing and loving speech, we communicate with one another, not at one another.  It is there, in the space between the two communicating that true communication, true empathy, true love and grow!

(Aside, check out Thay’s books:  True Love, The Art of Communicating, Beginning Anew, Reconciliation, and the Miracle of Mindfulness.)

With Love and Gratitude,   Jenn

 

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We need a kind of collective awakening.  There are among us men and women who are awakened, but their awakening is not enough; most people are still sleeping.  We have constructed a system we can’t control.  It imposes itself on us, and we become its slaves and victims.

~~Thich Nhat Hanh, The Bells of Mindfulness

I love this quote!  Especially well-needed for our current climate. . .  both the climate of the planet and of life in the US.

When do we meet critical mass so that we reach a tipping point?  When does the light lose the darkness?  Can it still be light with no darkness?  Are they a real dichotomy anyway?

Sometimes I wonder what Heidegger would say about the current state of affairs in the world?  He thought that in this world of ours, we were driven to distraction. . . Its got to be more distracting; at least ten-fold.  We have our big screens we can talk to, our watches and iPhone and laptops to record every little thing about ourselves.  We can Skype, Facebook, or Instagram.

And what about social media. . . . it keeps us slaves to the internet.  (BTW, thank goodness that Pres Obama knew how to use the internet unlike some of his counter-points across the isle).  We friend our acquaintances’ friends though we don’t know them;  we refer to them as our friend or acquaintances too.  All day long, all night long, 5 min here or there, we give our opinions about EVERYTHING.  How do we relate at all to the natural world, the seasons, the tide, etc.

We NEED (MUST) wake up as a world and straighten the injustices and the mastery of the masses by a few select people.  We seem to love it when people lie to us, especially when we believed the lies in the first place.  We allow the silence of Fukushima, or Gitmo, or even the crazy amounts of money we use to fund other countries, fund are corrections (or outsource to private for profits), and defund again and again Human Services, Agencies on Aging, etc.

There are alarms everywhere. . . pick one thing to give a care about and then dive in.  No one every said you have to volunteer for breast cancer, walk for AIDS, or read to kids at the library, fund a new school in your district; however, there is a ton of stuff to do. . . will it fix the earth?  to sure.  Will it fix the people we who hurt people on a mass scale, physically, spiritually, psychology.  Or hurting Gaia?

The point is:  we need to wake up from our constant slumber.  We need put down but the gadgets down.  Step up to the plate. . . .  stop being selfish.  What is it that you have a talent for?  Can you make phone calls somewhere?  Do you have artistic abilities?  Do you have mornings or afternoons off and could you help take your neighbor to the doctor?  Or get the OK from the parents in the neighborhood and teach kids some of your old family recipes so they continue to live in the future.  

If we don’t know and treat our neighbors with kindness and compassion, or change the way we hurt the earth, we will have no one and no planet.

Best, Jennifer

PS, Pope Francis and Thich Nhat Hahn’s tradition are reaching out and calling for parishes and sanghas to go beyond thinking green.  Maybe right now, it’s better to think Code Red rather than to think green.

 

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Caregiving has always been a “thing” that my family did.  Growing up, my brother and parents helped take care of our land lady, Grandma Martin, who lived upstairs and had Melanoma.

In 8th grade/Freshman year in high school, I volunteered at The Jewish Home for the Elderly of Fairfield Co.

We took care of my grandfather after heart surgeries.  And there were a number of them.  Some cardiac surgeon probably built a gazebo with all of the stays my grandfather had at Yale.

1993-1995, we were caregivers to my dying brother.  Don’t try to be a caregiver if you don’t have support and a good massage therapist, yoga teacher, and awesome friends!

I’ve worked with people who have DD diagnosis, addicts, hospice, and general counseling.  Have helped my parents with food prep for their freezer or late night computer questions.  Weight Watchers leader, etc.  Have done that since Dec 2013.

Then sometimes, the tables are reversed; some times out of choice, some times because that’s the way the world turns….

I find myself as patient right now and will be again this Spring.  Hospitalized from uncontrolled migraines.  And this is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself, save completing my Advanced Directives.

But being on the other end of caregiving has been weird the past 2 1/4 days.  It’s weird to have folks kind of waiting on me.  It’s weird being pushed down the hall in a wheel chair rather than pushing (which is what I did when I hurt my back at the nursing home).  And I figured out in less that 24 hours, they gave me 102 oz of ice water to drink.  God, my Grandma (Gussy) would have loved all the ice water.

Anyway, the staff at St Joseph’s Hospital in Chicago, have been sooo awesome!  I cannot say that enough.  What a difference in caregiving from what I see every day, day in and day out at my workplace.  I had not planned to order dinner but at 5:30, I even had the cafe call and ask if I was planning to order.  How nice and dedicated to service this hospital is.  This is also the unit (floor) for the Diamond Headache Clinic and I always feel I get good care there too.

But, when I was wheeled down for an MRI, this tiny woman from Yugoslavia pushed me in the wheelchair.  She was well over 60 and I felt like a heel for them having her do it.  I was doped on Valium but could have pushed myself down there.  What went through my head was, you don’t deserve this, I am able and competent. . . yada, yada. . .

But I heard myself, as I talked to myself.  I was raised that the way you do good in this world, the reason you took this life, (or that the gods gave it to you) was to love others, be of service, and emulate your life like the great wise ones (well, as a catholic girl, that was Mary, Jesus, etc).  I have felt guilt for years if I wasn’t the one making things better.  But, as I read on the wall downstairs, we are here to give love to our neighbors and treat them well. . . not something being seen much in the media, social media, etc etc.

So here are some of the questions I am asking myself while I try to be mindful during my stay here:

What does caregiving mean to me?  Am I comfortable with the role of caregiver and care receiver?  If not, why?  Who have been the caregivers in my life and what was our relationship?  Who have I given care to?  Do I remember them all (as a professional who worked with HIV clients, I’ve had many patients die).  What gifts that I and my wards give each other?  What blessing did my caregivers grant me, if any?  If you are still currently a caregiver, do you use your support system, do you say no, how do you recharge your battery, how do you balance issues of intimacy?  Can you turn off your caregiving to be present at home?  What’s the most important part of caregiving for you?  What kind of care do you need.

In spirit… Jennifer

 

 

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All violence is injustice.  Responding to violence with violence is injustice, not only to the other person but also to oneself.  Responding to violence with violence resolves nothing; it only escalates violence, anger, and hatred.  It is only with compassion that we can embrace and disintegrate violence.  This is true in relationships between individuals as well as in relationships between nations.

~~  Thich Nhat Hanh, “Cutivating Compassion to Respone to Violence”

This quote is a bit of a hard one to chew on right now.  First because it feels like we are enveloped in a violent world.

We’ve ravaged the planet.  Multiple countries are at war in the world and no one except, maybe France, has declared war. . . or so it seems. Our political candidates are inciting mobs to injure people and some are saying hateful things about certain groups that if the candidate laid a hand on the people they hate so much, it would be called a hate crime because of their protected status.

A war on drugs.  On cancer.  On the left.  On the right.  Women.  Abortion.  Christmas.  We seem to have a constant sale on wars and we can’t get enough.  And all of this violence and absolutely nothing feels just.

On a personal note, this quote is a bit tough to meditate on becuase I find myself getting so angry when I read Facebook.  I want to (and admit I sometimes do) post messages that are mean, name-calling, etc.  It is all just TOO much.

But then, I take a minute and reflect which then leads me to reflect on more things for more time.  One of the things I keep trying to bring to my mind’s eye is a picture from a Thich Nhat Hanh talk (I don’t remember if he said this in 2003 when I saw him or if it was an audio Dharma talk).

He said when you are seated on your cushion, sit tall and steady.  And place your hands on your lap, palms up, and imagine a baby Buddha sitting in your palms.  Hold your hands like you are cradling the baby Buddha and allow a half-smile to come to your face as you glance down at the baby.

I find when I can remember to do this, to take the time, it settles me.  I try to think, what if whomever I am angry at was the baby Buddha.  How would my anger, my frustration, my mindlessness affect the baby? Would I want to do that to the baby Buddha?

And lately, I have been asking myself, can you hold the whole planet like it is the baby Buddha?  Some days I can and I feel at peace.  Other days, I don’t think I can hold anything because I have fists, not open palms.

Right now, where are you?  Can you sit and imagine yourself as the baby Buddha?  The planet?  The person who cut you off on the parkway?  Your boss?  The person at the grocery store?  Can you imagine any little bit of love that can start to cool the embers that envelope us all on this planet?

Take gentle care and remember those around you are suffering just like you.

Love and peace, Jennifer

 

 

 

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“May all beings be free from suffering, may all beings quietly between breaths follow the path across the horizon.  The out-breath brings dreams that has no beginning and no end drifts through the song that precedes our birth and dispels the illusion that we are or are not who we think we are”.

Ondrea Levine, “The Healing I Took Birth Ford:  Practicing the Art of Compassion.

Stephen and Andrea Levine are two of my favorite meditation teachers and writers.  Their work is so profound and intimate.

Suffering takes different forms for different people but it always the same; that which takes us out of the moment and into our heads. . . obsessing, grasping, hurting, hating, clinging, perseverating, wanting, etc.  It is the stories we tell ourselves. . . you know them….

“I’ll be happy when. . . ”

“I start a yoga class while. . . ”

It’s also ego-clinging and not being able to let go of our beliefs and ways.

Do you know what causes your suffering?  Do you know that there is a way to end suffering?

Come back for my articles on the Eight-fold Noble Path.

May we share the merit of all of our good intentions and actions with those whose suffering is never-ending.

In health and compassion,

Jennifer

 

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Whether we’re looking inside ourselves or outside ourselves, we need to cut off the head of whatever we meet, and abandon the views and ideas we have about things, including our ideas about Buddhism and Buddhist teachings.

Thich Nhat Hanh, “Simply Stop”

Well, this is probably a paraphrase of one of the most famous Buddhist sayings. . . in other words, “If you see the Buddha in the middle of the road, kill him.”

Yes, I am continuing my topic of letting go that I started earlier today.  In that post, I wrote about letting go of a friendship that is no longer useful, beneficial, or healthy.  But what about our ideas?

Here’s an interesting one from my personal life. . .   My father was estranged from his sister for a good portion of his life.  I grew up hearing that he would walk on by even if she was struggling and needed help.  He would not talk to her for any reason.  She tried to call a few times and he refused to take them.  Mom tried to get him to talk to her.  Finally, as my dad’s aunt (the only living sibling from that generation) was getting on in years, closer to dying, she talked to my dad about this a lot.  There is great wisdom in the generations before us.  Especially from our elders.

Dad went back home to go to his aunt’s funeral and he took the trip over to see his sister.  I thought I might die of a heart attack.  I never, never thought I would see that day.

They didn’t get any closer in the 2 years prior to her death.  He called from time to time to see how she was and she was so sickly he usually talked to her eldest daughter.  He did return for her funeral as well.

I’m not sure if he found peace of mind (and heart) by getting a hold of her, but he felt that out of his respect and love for his aunt, it was the right thing to do.

How many times do we hold on to things we heard growing up?  How often do we continue to listen to the tapes again and again?  Or worse, how many times do we refuse to look at a thought because we can’t imagine who we would be without it?

So here are my questions to you:  What things to you believe to be truthful about the world you live in (your personal world and the world we all share?  What are the thoughts that you would die to defend?  What are one’s that you question but haven’t been able to let go of?  What thoughts or beliefs have you been able to shed and how was your world changed without them?

Yours truly on this crazy journey.

Jennifer

 

 

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It is hard to let go of things, harder to let go of ideas, and even harder to let go of spiritual pretensions. Over time, as we familiarize ourselves with the many subtle twists and turns of letting go, we begin to be more savvy about how ego steps in to appropriate the entire process. In the millions of mini-decisions we make day by day and moment by moment, we are challenged each time either to let go or to re-solidify.  ~~~  Judy Lief, “Letting Go”

This has been a huge topic in my life this year and I finally came to grips with the face that I needed to sit with this topic or go mad.  Well, not really.  More like be mad, frustrated, hurt, angry, disappointed, betrayed, etc.  And I think I could write 100 blogs articles on this topic and never feel satisfied.  But from now until my next birthday, March, I plan to look at this topic, again and again, to see what truth it holds for me.

The hardest thing to let go of this year was a long time friendship. . . no the long, long ones, but someone who I’ve known about 10 years and had immense faith in up until recently.

It’s so painful to feel betrayed and lose the fidelity of someone you consider to be family, to be a sister, and someone whom you’ve shared the intimate stories of your life.

I’ve long known that friendships did not last forever.  I’ve lived in many places and have lost touch with people mostly because we were out of proximity.  I few people I’ve even turned away from when my grief was too much and I could not take the energy expenditure it took to keep up with the friendship.

And what I have found with time is that letting go of idea, belief, quest, dream, person, etc. is that there are layers and layers to let go of.  For example, when Mike died, I lost a brother.  I lost my big brother.  I lost the person whom I looked up to, especially on things of culture as he loved music, fashion, the arts, cooking, etc.  I miss that influence in my life.  Genetically, he was the person closest to me in the world.  And for those of you who haven’t lost a sibling, that might not make sense and I hope you never have occasion to “get it”.

But just as this was true for Mike or Harris & Barb, or anyone else I have loved, it is true of our dreams, our fears, and our desires.

I ask you to join me, in the months ahead, to look at your life and see what no longer fits, what hurts, what you never use, what you can’t have because there is no space in your life, or who you need to let go, by choice or my circumstance.

Ask yourself:  How does this benefit my life today?  Does it bring me closer to my dreams?  Does it connect to the deepest part of me?  Can I trust this person?  Do I trust them enough to bring up the subject and work through the problem?  What about your health, your mental health, your body, etc?    Are there things you need to let go of, release out into the cosmos?  Do you need to say goodbye to stress, anxiety, mindless eating, anger, a stale job, or habits that do nothing or perhaps harm you?  Ask yourself what are you willing to look at?  Do you have support as you look at these things?  Maybe even start of with that question first — if you are going to let go and allow healing to occur, who is there to support you in your process?

Feel free to share via post or email.  If you use the Ask Here tab, you can email and if you tell me not to share it in a post, I will happily respect that request.

May your heart know great love and gentleness.

Jennifer

 

 

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