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Posts Tagged ‘Alternative’

“People tell me they’re saddened by the ugly, uncivil polarization they see in public life, and the isolation and loneliness they feel in private.  They hunger for cooperation, connection, and community.  Meditation, which teaches kindness, compassion, and patience, is a clear, straightforward method for improving relationships with family, friends, and everyone else we meet.”

Sharon Salzberg, Happiness

I don’t know if we are ever so polarized as during an election year.

Human beings label things, pick sides, need to be right, and have fear.

Meditation teaches us how to label without judgment, to follow the middle path, and to let go of fear for a more compassionate relationship with the world.

I am really excited that I have the opportunity to teach at a local community college and mindfulness is one of my first agenda items.  It’s a skill that we should teach in first grade but if they can be inspired, as I was in my sophomore year, than maybe we have a chance for real change and happiness.

Thanks to Sharon Salzberg for an amazing book and profound and simple wisdom.

Peace, Jen

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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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Here is a visualization from http://www.mindbodygreen.com.

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-5195/Easy-Meditation-Technique-to-Heal-Relationships.html

I don’t use a lot of visualizations other than Yoga Nidra but for some, using more senses in their meditation and stress reduction can help one go deeper into their practices.

Check it out and leave us a post so we know if it is helpful.

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“We’re fascinated by the words–but where we meet is in the silence behind them.”

Ram Dass

Silence can be such a precious commodity.  There seems to be so little of it in today’s world.  Even going to a nearby state park, thinking I can run away and forget the world, and I hear the sounds of the traffic from the highway rushing by the park.

Maybe it’s because I am so introverted that I love silence and am comfortable with it?  Maybe it’s the years of meditation?  Or training as a therapist.  Coming from a small family?  Who knows, but I really do like it.

Silence can take on so many flavors and nuances if one can stand it long enough to touch it.  Right now, I work at a job where silence could be fostered much more than it is.  There are many situations with the clients that we work with where silence would be soothing and deflate situations that become volatile.  But silence is the last thing that is thought about, let alone practiced, when we have our agenda of where we need to be and how things should happen rather than letting things unfold before us.

There is such beauty in being able to sit with someone and being so comfortable in your self that you don’t need to fill the space with words.  Sometimes it’s just that that you can be present to the experience of the anxiety that accompanies the long pauses but I think that is an acquired gift.

Silence can be such a precious gem that we can bestow upon someone. . . a client, an aging relative, someone whose heart has been shredded by grief, or someone is who dying.  There’s no distraction in silence, no busy-ness, no nonsense.  Silence is intimate as two people sit in a starkness and nakedness that can be some uncomfortable and yet might be just the thing that two people are craving — the acceptance that comes with that being-with in silence.

My role is to often be silent with the person I am with. . . to hold a hand, to sit attentively, to bear withness to a person’s story or experience.  Meditation is an ideal practice for slowing down and opening the heart.  One learns, through practice, acceptancce of one’s own thoughts, feelings, and sensations.  One practices having a gentle touch with that which comes into consciousness.

We learn not to get swept away, but to allow an idea or a feeling to come up and release it after labeling it.  We learn to have compassion  for the unending streams that our are brains create.  And it is in fostering this acceptance that we can cultivate this openness for another person.

So much can be created in silence, just think about the phrase a pregnant pause.  Things gestate and grow and become when they have light and space.

As we practice silence with others, we allow them the room to grow before us and in doing so, the roots of that experience grow to unimaginable depths.

Metta

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Meditating in Madison Square Park, Manhattan, ...

Meditating in Madison Square Park, Manhattan, New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Still not satisfied that meditation can benefit you in a whole bodied, interpersonal, spiritual way?

Here is more proof:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120314170647.htm

No time?

No energy?

Afraid?

Check out the New to Meditation?  Category for simple meditation practices, teachings, inspiration.

Just 2 minutes makes a difference.

Practice any where, any how, any way. . . but do it.

Count out the next 4 breaths.  When that’s done, do it again.  If your mind wanders, go back to number 1 and start over.  No big deal.  No big drama.  Just do it and be with your breath.

It’s how most of us start the journey. . .

Peace, Jennifer

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Excerpt from The Five Things You Cannot Change by David Richo

Our spiritual practices have a direct impact on the possibility of our showing love in relationships in an adult way:  Mindfulness helps us practice attention, acceptance, and allowing.  Loving-kindness helps us show affection and appreciation.

As a spiritual practice, ask yourself about the signs that your love for someone is truly unconditional:

  • You feel a sense of connectedness with the other that endures and cannot be supplanted no matter what.
  • You consistently have well-meaning thoughts and are wishing the best for the other.
  • You can act kindly, at times even anonymously, with no expectation of anything in return.
  • You sense your heart opening when you are with the other or thinking of her or him.
  • You maintain a commitment to nurture the other and the relationship more than your own ego demands.
  • You are no longer pushed or arrested by fears of closeness to or distance from the other.
  • You do no engage in ego competitiveness or aggression, actively or passively.
  • You are sensitive to how the other feels and go to any length no to hurt him or her intentionally.
  • You have an effortlessly compassionate, forgiving, generous, and non retaliatory attitude in your thoughts and actions.  (There is no vindictive force in the universe.  Revenge is exclusive to humanity.)
  • You keep your own boundaries intact so that your love is always unconditional, but your commitment is intelligently and appropriately conditional.
  • You are aware of your partner’s negative traits and you see them with compassion and amusement without letting them impinge upon you.  Am I willing to play on relationship’s full check board of light and dark?

Finally, unconditional love is entirely in the present tense.”

Some people may have learned all they needed to in kindergarten but somehow I doubt they learned some really vitally important lessons that many people in long-term commitments never learn.

When I read this passage, what I was reminded of (and am often reminded of) is how importance the cultivation of presence and compassion are, both to ourselves and to our interactions with others.

If we cannot be there and show up in our own lives, we cannot do it in a relationship.  And let’s face it, if we cannot show up and be present, we have no relationship.

I am also struck by the fact that when we have this basic goodness, we can move farther up the hierarchy that Maslow put forth for us.

We have difficulty when those basic needs are not met or better yet, when we have the perception that our basic needs are not met.

But think about this:  as a society , we are become more unhealthy — due to stress, diet, environment, community, pharmaceuticals, lack of priorities, etc.

Are we creating a society whereby in the pursuit of the “good life” we have created a living situation that impoverishes us and keeps us from achieving our highest potential?

The more we endanger our food supply, our surroundings, our bodies, our minds, the less chance we have of being able to be whole — or holy — and the less we are to be able to truly be in communion with each other and our world.

It’s an idea to think about . . . how do we reach the top levels of the pyramid, or greatest good, or anything transpersonal (or unity consciousness, etc) if we have food that does not nourish us, water that is undrinkable, and pain and disease from a multitude of sources.

Can we really have a lived bodily experience and sense of our Oneness, our interconnectedness, or our Interbeing as Thich Nhat Hanh suggests, if we are so ill at ease (dis-eased) in our world?

Can we use our spiritual practices to cultivate deep understanding of how the mandala of life truly comes together in harmony?

Related articles

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Have you started at the beginning?

Have you read my first two posts on the 5 precepts of being a compassionate companion?

If you haven’t seen the my introduction or the First precept, please click these links before you read about Frank Ostaseski’s Second Precept.

. . .

Now that you are up to speed, let’s take a look at the Second Precept:  Bring your whole self to the experience.

I don’t want to sound redundant, especially if you just read my introduction and what I wrote about the first precept, but suffice it to say, that I will.  .  . There is nothing simple about this precept and yet, if healing is to occur, bringing our whole self is vital.

My training is in humanistic/existential therapy and I have had some amazing teachers along the way.  I had a teacher my first year in college in NY tell us a story about a client that used to come to therapy every week, dressed to the 9s.  It was as if her clothing was her protective mask, the image she wanted to portray and to use as camouflage from letting her true self come to the relationship.

He told us that every week he wore jeans and a sweatshirt on the day he saw her.  It wasn’t like it was a mission but he just “came as he was”.  He said over time she experienced him as genuine and heartfelt and well, real.  She connected with him and as she did, that protective mask started to chip away.  When she could come into the consultation room, “just as she was”, with mascara running down her face, or scuffed sneakers, or cheeks inflamed from anger, her healing could begin.

Bringing your whole self to the experience means not relying on technique, distance, or feeling like you have some magic that the other person doesn’t.  It’s not about you fixing your family, the person whose home you are volunteering in, your elderly grandmother who is living with dementia.  It’s about being present and being genuine and congruent.  It’s about understanding that in any relationship there are two people who create the space.

There is no time when faced with dying to stand on ceremony.  There’s no time for platitudes like, “I know just how you feel.”  When we use nothing but techniques and hide behind our title (whatever it might be — daughter, therapist, best friend, lover, etc) we stay in the realm of false pity rather than being able to be truly open to one’s pain with genuine empathy.

Our head nurse at hospice used to say leave your baggage at the door (before going in to be with a family) and while that was true, you didn’t want to let your frustration about traffic distract you from your encounter, we can’t leave the important parts of ourselves by the welcome mat.

Bringing your whole self to the experience.  Frank suggests, in his training, that it is in our exploring our own suffering that helps us to create an empathetic bridge with the other.  I love that idea and believe it is because of this very thing that healing takes place.  And I think we have to be honest and face facts. . . whether you are a therapist or a companion to the dying, when you are together you are both touched, both changed forever, both healed.

Not too long ago, someone complimented me on my “skills” when talking to someone who was in the midst of grieving.  Although I knew the compliment was being truly offered in a sincere way, I chuckled to myself.  There was no pretense on my part, no thinking in my head, “what would Roshi Joan say” or “what task would Teresa Rando say this person is on in their grief process.”

It was about opening the heart, extending one’s self to a person whose heart might be hurting.  It’s about every so lightly, touching the memory of my own grief experiences and allowing that to be close to me.  It was about a genuine care and concern for another individual, even though it was someone I do not know very well.

And with that came curiosity, not rubbernecking, morbid curiosity but wanting someone to know that I wouldn’t side step her grief just because we were at work.  I wanted that person to know that I was open to listening if she wanted to tell her story.

To me, bringing your whole self to the experience is about not sitting with a desk between you and your client.  It’s not about wearing a white jacket.  It’s none of that professional coldness that gets drilled into us.  It’s not about never touching a patient who is struggling to talk and having difficulty breathing from the intensity of their anxiety about death approaching.

It is about being vulnerable and at the same time not letting the situation be all about me.  It’s about meeting a situation and being okay to see where it takes you, or more appropriately, allowing yourself to be led instead of trying to fix the other person.

Can you have enough compassion for yourself and the person you are with so that you can be open to the reciprocal gifts of the moment?

Bring your whole self to the experience.

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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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Soren, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Jack Kornfield: The...

Soren, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Jack Kornfield: The Power and Practice of Mindfulness (Photo credit: elizaIO)

http://blogs.kqed.org/newsfix/2011/12/23/interview-jon-kabat-zinn-gives-advice-for-unhappy-news-junkies-audio-guided-meditation/

Great interview…. here is a sample:

JKZ:  First of all you’ll have so much more time, and second of all real life still unfolds. You will still have a full life. And if you’re unemployed and you have to find a job then maybe you won’t be so bummed out that all the possibilities seem against you. You can tap into what’s possible, independent of what all the experts are saying is possible. That’s a hugely powerful way to work with things.

So one way is to just cut it out for a period of time and see how addicted we are to it and what the affect of it is. I had that experience once when I went on retreat right after 9/11. I was on retreat for six weeks, no newspaper, no radio, no nothing. I was just meditating and sitting and walking all the time for six weeks. . .

Check out more in the article.  And there is a link to a meditation.

Related articles

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“The person you choose for a life partner has a tremendous impact on your life.  It is one of the most important decisions you make in life, and it calls for careful consideration.  There is the saying, “Love is blind.”  However, if ever there is a time when you need to see clearly, it is when you are entering into a committed relationship.”

~~ Ellen and Charles Birx, Waking Up Together:  Intimate Partnership on the Spiritual Path

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