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Archive for the ‘New to Meditation?’ Category

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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“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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“When we’re lonely and cut off, when we suffer and need healing, that is the time to come home to ourselves.  We may also need to be close to another person. . .  Every one of us is seeking emotional intimacy.  We want to be in harmony.  We want to have real communication and mutual understanding.”

~~ Thich Nhat Hanh, Fidelity:  How to Create a Loving Relationship That Lasts

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Excerpt from The Places that Scare You:  A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times

“As we train in the bodhichitta practices, we gradually feel more joy, the joy that comes from a growign appreciation of our basic goodness.  We still experience strong conflicting emotions, we still experience the illusion of separateness, but there’s a fundamental openness that we begin to trust.  This trust in our fresh, unbiased nature brings us unlimited you — a happiness that’s completely devoid of clinging and craving.  This is the joy of happiness without a hangover.

How do we cultivate the conditions for joy to expand?  We train in staying present.  In sitting meditation, we train in mindfulness and maitri:  in being steadfast with our bodies, our emotions, our thoughts.  We stay with our own little plot of earth and trust that it can be cultivated, that cultivation will bring it to its full potential.  Even though it’s full of rocks and the soil is dry, we begin to plow this plot of patience.  We let the process evolve naturally. . . 

A traditional aspiration for awakening appreciation and joy is “May I and others never be separated from the great happiness that is devoid of suffering.”  This refers to always abiding in the wide-open, unbiased nature of our minds — to connecting with the inner strength and basic goodness.  To do this, however, we start with conditioned examples of good fortune such as health, basic intelligence, a supportive environment — the fortunate conditions that constitute a precious human birth.  For the awakening warrior, the greatest advantage is to find ourselves in a time when it is possible to hear and practice the bodhichitta teachings.  We are doubly blessed if we have a spiritual friend — a more accomplished warrior — to guide us. . . 

Whenever we get caught, it’s helpful to remember the teachings — to recall that suffering is the result of an aggressive mind.  Even slight irritation causes us pain when we indulge in it.  This is the time to ask, “Why am I doing this to myself again?” Contemplating the causes of suffering right on the spot empowers us.  We begin to recognize that we have what it takes to cut through our habit of eating poison.  Even if it takes the rest of our lives, nevertheless, we can do it.”

I am grateful to Pema Chodron and her teachings.  There have been times in my life where I feel like I survived by listening to her voice, playing audiobooks again and again, finding comfort and wise words that helped me to hold my seat despite what was going on in my interior and exterior worlds.

My practices and my life have been informed by Pema Chodron’s teachings and our world is truly better for having had her wisdom and her devotion to teaching the Dharma and for continuing Chogyam Trungpa’s teachings for so long.

May Ani Pema be blessed with long life, health, great compassion, and love.  And may she be here for a long time to help guide us through that what scares us and remind us that are shenpa is showing!

With great devotion and gratitude, Jennifer

Related Video Links

http://www.veoh.com/watch/v471374rScnEhqA — Bill Moyer and Pema Chodron

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DafQYGo3Zkc&feature=relmfu — Pema Chodron on Bodhichitta

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFuotEZxPCA&feature=relmfu  — Pema Chodron on Bodhichitta Intention

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGrPz9fQWI8&feature=relmfu — Pema Chodron on Working with “Shenpa”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ID5GSnmCNOA&feature=related — Pema Chodron on Gempo Abbey

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buTrsK_ZkvA&feature=related — Pema Chodron on “This Lousy World”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7kFvETUT3s&feature=relmfu — Pema Chodron on “Dunzie”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3sPGxurY-w&feature=relmfu — Common Tacits of Aggression

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From Advice for Dying & Living a Better Life by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

“It is crucial to be mindful of death — to contemplate that you will not remain long in this life.  If you are not aware of death, you will fail to take advantage of this special human life that you have already attained.  it is meaningful since, based on it, important effects can be accomplished.

Analysis of death is not for the sake of becoming fearful but to appreciate this precious lifetimes during which you can perform many important practices.  Rather than being frightened, you need to reflect that when death comes, you will lose this good opportunity for practice.  In this way contemplation of death will bring moreenergy to your practice.

You need to accept that death comes in the normal course of life.  As Buddha said:

A place to stay untouched by death

Does not exist.

It does not exist in space, it does not exist in

the ocean.

Nor if you stay in the middle of a mountain.

If you accept that death is part of life, then when it actually does come, you may face it more easily.

When people know deep inside that death will come but deliberately avoid thinking about it, that does not fit the situation and is counterproductive.  The same is true when old age is not accepted as part of life but taken to be unwanted and deliberately avoided in thought.  This leads to being mentally unprepared; then when old age inevitably occurs, it is very difficult.”

Deep gratitude to His Holiness for all of the teachings he has shared with us over the past seven decades, but no teaching more precious than the teaching he has given us of the example of his life.

May His Holiness have a continued long and healthy life.  May He live to see His people politically free and safe from harm.

Blessings, Jennifer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAjCzEAdlng — Peace Panel Pt 10 with Roshi Joan Halifax

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIX3tdFPolg&feature=related — Finding Happiness in Troubled Times

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XFhWI6QOHg&feature=relmfu — 76th Birthday Celebration

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeryKuwHqUU&feature=relmfu — On Birthdays

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYpLaQ56Cdw&feature=related — News clip on Richard Gere going to see HH

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2wZh6wbXJI&feature=related — Clip from the Today Show

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyAoFdx6914&feature=related  — Richard Gere interview from 2007

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxhVvXqBiDc&feature=relmfu — Talk for World Peace

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Would love to get some feedback from readers on the recurrent series of posts I am leaving with tips for people who are new to meditation.  Please feel free to leave a comment or to drop a note on the Ask Here tab on the blog.

“Meditation teaches us safe ways to open ourselves to the full range of experience — painful, pleasurable, and neutral — so we can learn how to be a friend to ourselves in good times and bad.  During meditation sessions we practice being with difficult emotions and thoughts, even frightening ones, in an open and accepting way, without adding self-criticism to something that already hurts.”

~~ Sharon Salzberg, Happiness

Mindfulness has such huge implications for things like working with what we label mental illness — our afflictive states such as anxiety, depression, despair, angst, sadness, phobia, stagnation, boredom, false euphoria, lack of concentration and mindlessness.

It also plays a major part in everyday life-like relationship, loss, illness, dying, communication, community, family, work, and just simply living.

This quote by Sharon Salzberg reminds me of Frank Ostaseki’s and Roshi Joan Halifax‘s teachings on being with dying.

I would love to teach every therapist and every teacher out there. . . in addition to every caregiver, every doctor, every patient. . . well, that could be all of us, couldn’t it?

Imagine teaching our children how to stay with their problems without running, hiding, drinking & druging, without losing themselves in peer pressure, sex before they are ready, self-mutilation, or eating disorders.

What would it do for our self concept?

Or our ability to make choices (really informed choices?)

Or create healthy relationships. . .

work spaces

neighborhoods

families

towns

I have to believe that we would grow a different world. . .

one where people could have time and space to explore what ails them rather than push it away

one where loved ones could be present to the needs of our children, the elderly, and ill

one where we didn’t go running for the bottle or the prescription pad

but rather

moved toward the meditation cushion, using walking meditation

or held the space for people to creatively and compassionately deal with their difficulties and those of others.

or foster open-hearted communication,  group problem-solving, and nurturing for all.

So much good could come from those two minutes of breathing at your desk.

Or 10 minutes on your cushion

Or the walk where I listen to the rustling of leaves below my feet

Or that plate of food I savor and eat, bite by bite.

So what keeps us from it?

How do we teach others?

How do we model what kind of world we could have and what kind of world we want?

The answer (and the power) lies in the space between our exhale and inhale. . .

Does that sound cryptic?  It really isn’t.  Pick up a book about meditation and then try it.

You’ll get it!

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English: Picture of Sharon Salzberg.

English: Picture of Sharon Salzberg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is a great clip from Sharon Salzberg answering a question about mindfulness….

Mindfulness is more than just an awareness of what’s going on. . . take a listen. . .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fQjWSSKhgA&feature=youtu.be

Would love to know what you think about this, given your own practice of mindfulness.

Please leave a post/comment below.

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A Post-it note is a piece of stationery with a...

A Post-it note is a piece of stationery with a re-adherable strip of adhesive on the back, designed for temporarily attaching notes to documents and other surfaces. Although now available in a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes, Post-it notes are most commonly a 3-inch (76 mm) square, canary yellow in color. A unique low-tack adhesive allows the notes to be easily attached and removed without leaving marks or residue, unless used on white boards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You have sticky notes… I know you do… if not, you have scrap paper or something. . . old wrapping paper, etc.

You have a cell phone, a tablet, a computer. . . I know you do…

So why not turn these every day things into every day mindfulness bells?

Mindfulness bells, for those of you who are new to meditation or mindfulness, are things that wake us up and remind us to stop sleepwalking, to pay attention, and to be present to what is going on inside of us and around us.

Here are some ideas for you to put around your house, in your pocket (on your cell phone), to burn into wood, to write in lipstick on your mirror, because remember, wherever you go, that’s where you are…

Make every moment a time to pause and re-member what’s important.

“Forgetfulness is the darkness; mindfulness is the light.  I bring awareness to shine upon all life.” (great for light switches and lamps)

“The mind is like a computer with thousands of pages.  I choose a world that is tranquil and calm, so that my joy will always be fresh.”

“Mindful breathing brings your body and mind back together.”

“May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.”

“May I be safe and free from injury.” (Good one for the car?)

“May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.”  (Find your toughest place to be; maybe hang this all over that place.”

“May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.”

“May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.”

“May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself.”

“May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself ever day.”  (Good for the kitchen, near the placemat, fridge, etc)

“May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.” (Great for work!)

All of these can be found in Thich Nhat Hanh‘s Creating Space.

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Cover of "Meditation in a New York Minute...

Cover via Amazon

I have a former client that I saw not too long ago.  He’s on a journey, like all of us, and has many of the same stuck places we have.  I listened while he told me that he didn’t have time . . .

No time at all.

No patience.

Meditation doesn’t work.

What’s the point, etc.

It reminded me that he was the kind of person who wasn’t going to be interested in the sweet calm of Thich Nhat Hanh or the empowered feminine wisdom of teachers like Pema Chodron, Tara Brach, or Roshi Joan Halifax.

He was a scientist and this whole thing was well, woo woo and hog wash.

What might, I got to thinking, as even MBSR was shot down as a suggestion was Mark Thornton’s Meditation in a New York Minute:  Super Calm for the Super Busy.

I’ve listened to the audiobook a few times.  At first “glance”, listening to it on my commute to hospice, I used to think it was technique-y.

He was young, a corporate-type, and addressed the matter of meditation like a professional speaker.

Hmmmm, sounds like just a different shade of “I’m too busy, I know better”, etc.

This former client, this scientist, this closed-hearted person gave me a gift.  He was a wise teacher that brought me back to this audiobook with a new awareness.  Wise in the way that Pema Chodron talks about in our troublemaker teachers.

I am still not sure that this will go on my top 10 list, but Mark’s straight forwardness that probably works in corporate America, cut through some things for me.  I would suggest the book or audio for anyone who has said, I want less stress, I want calm, but just can’t get started.

I learned new things when I listened to it again this time.

I plan to share some of his work because I think that, especially if you aren’t interested in a spiritual path, this words and techniques can be really helpful.

So, at least for today, this is what I will share:

Mark’s technique for teaching meditation is simple.  Start off small and allow your embodied awareness to be fostered during mini breaks throughout the day.

No one said it has to be one hour …

60 consecutive minutes …

it can be 60 seconds now, 10 minutes later, 2 minutes later . . .

Think of it as if they were talking about getting your steps in.. you “should have” X-amount of steps every day or X-minutes of exercise every day.  But, they find that 5 minutes now, then, later, etc is still effective.  And so can your meditation if you design it this way.

But probably more importantly, Mark shares 8 Laws of Meditation with us:

1.  Relax – they tell you this all the time.  They told me as I began my first All-day sit at the Shambhala Center here in the midwest, but, no, I had to do it perfectly. . . and ended up with pain, stiffness, stress, etc.

I realized the concept of No-Effort when I hooked up to biofeedback and realized that what I was doing as meditation and “relaxation” was stressing my system out more.  It was a lack of teaching; it was that I was not understanding in an embodied way.

2.  Have a sense of playfulness – Lately, I have realized how little playfulness and lightheartedness I have in my life.  Part of that is being away from family and friends that I love.  Part of it living in the middle of no where with nothing that I find fun to do.  Part of it is not allowing myself to experience freedom and expansion.

If I am not doing it in life, you know that it’s not happening on the cushion.  A friend suggested a comedian the other night and I laughed out loud, by myself, for the first time in a long time.  Foster a light touch and a sense of inquisitiveness for the sake of your mental and physical health.

3.  Practice Gentleness — This reminded me that Thay used to talk about holding your hands on your lap as if you had a baby bird or the baby Buddha in your hands.  Gentleness.  But we also practice gentleness in our minds as well.  No screaming and shouting at ourselves when our minds saunter off.  No judgment, just being.

4.  Have an open body – I laughed when I heard this one.  I’ve told mom this for years.  You have greater anxiety and stress when your heart is physically closed off. . . you don’t get enough oxygen and release in your autonomic nervous system.  And your diaphragm doesn’t flow unrestricted.  I laughed because a “professional” told her that this week and it was like it was the first time she’d ever heard that.  (Once a daughter, never a teacher.  LOL)

5.  Build Calm through Attention — As Mark simply put it. . . where your attention goes, so does your energy.  My friend had a problem with some plumbing.  Within little time, she got to a place of, oh good, new paint, no walls, new plumbing. . . not me, I thought, all that expense, all that time off from work, all that noise and dust… yes, this is why I sit and am not yet one with my enlightened self. . . point is, her attention went to the positive and the potential.  And it was a great experience.

6.  Build Calm through Your Intention to drop to your core — Mark defines meditation “as a way to directly experience your heart, moment-to-moment, so that others feel it.”  So Law #6 is about setting your intention to be in your heart-space, allowing yourself to sink down into the essence or core of who you are, rather than to grasp at the discursive mind that we allow to rule our lives.

7.  Maintenance of Calm — How do you maintain calm (or super calm as Mark likes to say?) moment to moment awareness and when you drop away from that and you realize it, drop the storyline and come back to moment to moment awareness.  Huh?

8.  Repetition — And how does this all get tied together?  In the same way you get to Carnegie Hall. . . practice, practice, practice.

What I like about Mark’s audio is that he uses the word mindfulness once or twice only.  He gives us different language, a different way of looking at the practice.  Sometimes teachers use the same words, the same teaching stories, and it doesn’t sink in.  That’s probably why relying on one guru isn’t probably the best way to go and we have many over a lifetime.

His work is not devoid of spirituality, he talks about spiritual masters, quotes Indian texts, but he’s no-nonsense, engaging, and I did get the feeling like I was watching someone who could be on Oprah’s network, cheering us all on.

But let’s face it. . . if you’ve ever meditated you have probably gotten hooked, been judgmental of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations, and gotten down on yourself.  We don’t all naturally cheerlead ourselves into health and happiness.

So if a cheerleader comes along it’s good if we listen to their pep and cheer.

More to come on Mark’s work. . . let this sink in.  Think about your own practice in these terms and ask if it jives for you.

And if you don’t have a practice, hopefully this will intrigue you enough to want to know more.

Meditation is a way of living.  It’s not to just be picked up when you lose your job, are flattened by pain, exhausted from caregiving, or broken-hearted over loss.  It is a way of living congruently while we learn to foster compassionate attention and intention.

Thank you Mr. TroubleMaker teacher for coming around and getting me to set the intention to go back to this audiobook.

Om Mani Padme Hum.

~~JRS

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“With true calm comes new energy.  The inner quiet engendered by concentration isn’t passive or sluggish; nor is it coldly distant from your experience — it is vital and alive.  It creates a calm infused with energy, alertness, and interest.”

~~ Sharon Salzberg, Happiness

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