Posts Tagged ‘Jon Kabat-Zinn’

The subtle suffering in our lives may seem unimportant. But if we attend to the small ways that we suffer, we create a context of greater ease, peace, and responsibility, which can make it easier to deal with the bigger difficulties when they arise.

Gil Fronsdal, “Living Two Traditions”

Have you ever listened to your thoughts?

I mean really listened?

Take 5 minutes right now and open Pages or Word and just type whatever comes to mind.

Or scroll through your wall on facebook.

Really pay attention to what’s there.

Do you see (hear) your thinking?

Do you see (hear) the suffering there?

Listen carefully. . . I’m such an idiot (because your computer and ipad weren’t on the same network and wouldn’t sync).

I’m such a loser (because I’m tired at work and bored with what I do because it seems so meaningless).

You’re welcome! (when the person you let go through the stop sign and they don’t wave to you in thanks or acknowledgment).

What the hell’s wrong with you? (when the person in the right lane moves ahead of you in your lane and never uses a signal light AND slows down).

I’m such a slacker (spending one weekend in pain from a root canal and the next two weekends out flat with a migraine).

Do you hear it?  Does it sound familiar?

Whining about the weather being too hot, too cold.

Not having enough money and wanting stuff that can really wait.

I keep crying, I’m such a baby (or one that bugs me. . . for you guys. . . when you say or think I’m crying like a little girl). . . because someone you love has died.

We bombard ourselves with stuff like this all day, all night, every day.

Would you talk to your kids this way?  Your best friend?  Would you let others talk to you this way?

There is a lot of talk today about bullying. . . and we need to talk about it.

And I think we need to first be aware of our own thinking and our own speech.

We can be pretty cruel and cause ourselves so much unnecessary suffering.

Life can be filled with pain, heartache, injustice, loss, and other tragedies. . . why do we add to all of this?

Stephen Levine, in The Grief Process, talks about the little injuries and losses that we sustain throughout our lives that we overlook and let chip away at us.

He questions, at one point, if we were able to have mercy for ourselves and acknowledge these little losses, would the losses of those we love be as big and hurt so much.

A new wound is most likely going to hurt more if it is at the point of a reopened wound.

So mindfulness helps us learn to acknowledge and bring into our full consciousness that which is usually below the surface, despite how much it can impact us.

With practice, we practice having compassion for these thoughts, feelings, and sensations.  Even if it feels rote or fake, we go through the process until our barriers begin to melt and we can hold our pain, our grief, our illness in our conscious awareness and experience patience, compassion, and equanimity.

This isn’t an easy practice but it is a life saving one.  And our very practice helps us to strengthen this life saving tool.

Listen to how you talk to yourself about your practice. . . do you make excuses for not getting on the cushion.  Do you beat up on yourself when you have a “bad session”?

Great moments to practice patience.

Maybe it will be easier to practice compassion for yourself in these moment than when you are in the midst of intense emotions or safer than situations (or people) that are really hurtful.

Life is filled with pain, danger, illness, discomfort, and other difficulties.  But it is vital to learn the difference between what is inherent because of the human condition of fragility and what is our own creation . . . our own layer of additional suffering.

And then of course, as those start to become clearer, mindfulness and lovingkindness give us the tools to transform suffering into peace.

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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.


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

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


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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Are you knew to meditation?  Have you always wanted to practice but weren’t sure how to or where to start?

Check out the category of New to Meditation? series of posts that will be sprinkled, with love, throughout this blog.

Unlike other series that I’ve written, these will not be a week long or a trio of articles but a post that will show up to remind you and of course, a category for you to go back to time and time again as you need a refresher, a boost, etc.

I hope that these important teachings will bring you peace, safety, joy, and deep compassion.  May they be a bell of mindfulness that reminds you to come home to your practice and to attend to the greater sangha.

Metta, Jennifer

Lovingkindness meditation allows us to use our own pain and the pain of others as a vehicle for connection

rather than isolation.  Maybe when people are acting unskillfully we can look beyond

their actions and recognize that they’re suffering, and that they,

too want to be happy.”

“May I be safe (or May I be free from danger)

May I be happy

May I be healthy

May I live with ease

May daily life not be a struggle

“The ‘May I’ is not meant to be begging or beseeching but is said in the spirit of generously blessing

ourselves and others: May I be happy.  May you be happy.”

~~  Sharon Salzberg, Happiness

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Your life span is decreasing continuously.

You know, the Nine Contemplations are such an interesting phenomenon.

They are nothing that we don’t already know… but I don’t think we have a lived-sense or an embody-sense of their depth or truth.

I’ve sat with this contemplation for a while now… and so much has come up for me.

I think I wrote about this in a post not too long ago… about being at the age that I’m at and acutely aware of how much life I have lived in terms of days and years and how many decades are projected for me, given my age, where I live, my health, etc.

Our culture is really good at helping us hide from these thoughts.  But it is in our hiding that dis-ease can take place.  We cannot avoid these realizations because when we try, they go underground, unconscious and come out in ways that are often unhealthy.

Your life span is decreasing continuously.

Tick, tick, tick. . . do you hear it?  Once less inhalation.  One less exhalation.

For some, that might be fine.  They may be rooted in the belief that “this” is not all there is, that there is some greater reward or something more real out there.  And that’s great for someone to believe.

On the other hand, this might fill others with terror, if one believes that one’s last exhalation, that long, deep exhalation is all that there is.    That belief can be the very thing that keeps us up at night, worrying and fretting.  It can be the thing that makes us cling to the things and to others in our lives.  It can be the thing that makes us push away everything in our lives.

I sat in a Thai restaurant this afternoon and half-listened to three high school girls who were waiting to take food back to their dress rehearsal of some play going on in the tiny micro-town that I live in.

I listened to this kind of high-pitched, “and then he said… and then she said.. and can you believe… ” which really cracked me up because when I got to the restaurant, the wait staff was involved in a similar drama about someone who no longer works there…

And as I began to mentally roll my eyes, I took a big deep breath.  My workplace and my actions have been no different over the years. . . or just this week…   They weren’t young teen-boppers or twenty-somethings who didn’t know better… in our office, most of us in our 40s and we do the same nonsense rather than focus on what’s really important.  Is that really how we want to spend out time?

Your life span is decreasing continuously.

Probably even more than on the cushion, it is on the yoga mat where I am so keenly aware of this contemplation.

Corpse pose is a lot more comfortable than proud warrior and I need to do downward facing dog during the day to perk up and get my brain right.

I’m so fair that I don’t have gray’s coming yet, but there are certainly those moments, when they call for all staff to show up, and the younger ones go flying to make it to restraints quickly that I realize, I am no longer the youngest or most able at work and I really don’t want to (for physical as well as ethical reasons) be down on the floor, holding someone for 30 minutes or until they calm down.  I don’t want to feel stiff and sore for the next day any more than I feel regret that part of our job is to restrain people.

Your life span is decreasing continuously.

Work is also a very humbling place for me in that I am constantly an observer to how people in institutions are cared for and cared about.  There isn’t a day that goes by, despite my age, that I don’t think about living in a nursing home some day or having to be in a hospital for an extended period of time.

Someone telling me I can’t nap and I’ve always been a champion napper.

Someone medicating me because I’m up all night (and have always been a night person).

Not having the abilities to tend to the things I have learned to do throughout my life like turn a tv on and off, brush my teeth (hopefully I will still have some), or walk outside to see the full moon.

And what about personal care?  I see people with bibs and disposal briefs every day.  Somehow, I doubt that, even if I had argyle and paisley ones, would I be terribly thrilled about the prospect of either of these things in my life.

There are few of us who escape that existence, even if we are at home, in the care of our loving family, our bodies are of the nature to start to shut down over time and not work in the same way.

We move toward these places,

these instances,

with every breath.

I don’t think it is morbid to think about.  I think it reminds me of my edge. . .  what is at stake.

One day, my parents will be gone and I will have no family.

One day the sweet, soft kiss of my lover will be gone, as he takes his final breath and leaves me for the last time.

One day, I will be cold all the time, possibly unaware of time and place, and lost in a world of memories.  My hope is that when that day comes, I will remember to breathe and I will have created an interior world and a world of memories in which I want to be lost in.

Your life span is constantly decreasing.

Don’t be fooled into believing that with the right serum, pot brownie, relationship, work project, etc., all this will not come.  It has come for all sentient beings that have come before us and it will come for all of those who take our breath here and now.

Hold on to your edge and remember it as you decide if you will cautious walk through this life,

if you will meet everything head on with fury,

if you will accept what is,

or if you will walk from one relationship or experience to another with an open or armoured heart.

Your life span, my life span, is constantly decreasing.

With deep abiding compassion and love kindness,


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Brain scanning technology is quickly approachi...

Brain scanning technology is quickly approaching levels of detail that will have serious implications (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More exciting news from my back yard…

well, not exactly…. more like up the road a bit. . . at the beautiful University of WI campuses. . .

Here’s a short article about Dr. Richie Davidson’s research on the brain and well-being. . .


Very exciting work.

Want to know more, check out the Mind Life Institute  or any of the books that have been inspired by the meetings with HH, the 14th Dalai Lama —  http://www.mindandlife.org/publications/

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Frank Ostaseski said that forgiveness is “the most useful tool in dealing with my pain, but there is no mandate for forgiveness”.

For the human kind of being, (Dasein, as the existential phenomenologists call us), pain can be experienced on so many levels… mental, physical, affective, emotional, psychological, spiritual, existential, and social.

Not only can we have tremendous pain on all of those levels but we can have suffering at each level as well.

Forgiveness practices can be powerful at helping us to free ourselves from the grips of suffering and ease the pain we have.

When we practice soft attention to our pain and just allow it to be, right there, without a story line, we free ourselves up from its clutches.  Does that mean the pain goes away?  Not always but for most of us, is it the pain from suffering that is most unbearable for us.

On a mental level, we run tapes in our head constantly… I’m no good.  I’ve done it again.  What’s wrong with me.  And concentration practices such as using a mala and/or a mantra can be quite helpful.

So can mindfulness, as we acknowledge the constant flow of thoughts and see how illusory they are, coming and going, like branches floating down a river.  We learn to realize that there are gaps in the stories and we learn to cultivate living in those gaps.

MBSR, Mindfully Based Stress Reduction Program, create by Jon Kabat-Zinn at UMASS is a powerful tool when one experiences somatic pain (ie, physical pain), stress, anxiety.  Not everyone can get out to UMASS or any of the several institutions that it is taught and practiced (like the University of WI).

And of course, Jon has books and MP3s, youtube clips, etc that one can use by themselves.  We learn to have mercy for ourselves by experiencing the pain, not pushing it away, not running from it and free so much of our energy by being fully present to it.

Affective, emotional, and psychological, several forms of meditation can be powerful, simple, and life changing over time.  The practice of tonglen, giving and receiving, is one way.

In this practice, we take in difficult thoughts, feelings, and sensations that the “other” (the object of our meditation) may be experiencing and we send them things such as comfort, deep compassion, light, etc.

So if I am distraught by being a bereft sister or lover, I can do this practice for all others who may be experiencing this in this moment.  I breathe in the deep sorrow of having lost a partner, knowing that another person (someone I know or all beings who have experienced this) maybe I breathe out a sense of unity, of interbeing, of affection, of unconditional positive regard.

We move from the pain that the “I” experiences (ie, my grief) to the experience of all beings, “the shared grief” of existence.

Ahhhh, and now for the spiritual and existential forms of pain — what I most think of as suffering… our disconnection with everyone and everything, our free-floating anxiety, fear, and discomfort that may arise just out of our existence…

We can forget that part of the brain (and the rest of the nervous system) is there to keep us alive and out of harm’s way.  It is how humankind has survived for so long.

We are constantly scanning for danger, in our environment, in our relationships, in our own experience of self.

But when we can be a different way… we can practice… we can sit on our cushions or our chairs, lay on our mats or beds, and practice love in its deepest form. . . lovingkindness meditation. . . metta

For the best resource for metta meditation, check out Sharon Salzberg’s book Lovingkindness Meditation.  In short form, the meditation is:

May I live in safety. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I live with ease.”

Read more: http://www.beliefnet.com/Health/2000/07/Opening-The-Heart.aspx#ixzz1spNsgmJi

We sit on those cushions, in the early hours of the morning, in dark places, so that we can take the lessons out into the world.  We practice forgiveness for ourselves, for those in our immediate world, those we pass on the street, and every other sentient being.

But we start with ourselves, we start with some of the hardest forgiveness to give… but we give it, so that we may heal all beings.

There is no mandate for forgiveness.  We cannot force it.  But we cannot live in peace without it either.

So, start with yourself.  Start here and now.  Do not wait because there is no guarantee that our next breath will come, let alone our next tomorrow.

Start with yourself.

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Original Chögyam Trungpa drawing

Original Chögyam Trungpa drawing (Photo credit: Mattos Gabriela)

“Acts of compassion are eternal; they live forever shining their rays throughout the Universe.” ~~~ Chogyam Trungpa

I found this quote a week or two ago, getting ready for my trip out here to Upaya Zen Center and was trying to get posts ready so I didn’t feel the need to write if I didn’t want to.

What I am struck with, struck like we invite the bell of mindfulness struck, again and again is that there is a simple complexity in life… as caregivers (meaning ALL of us) there are some truths that seem to be more applicable and more important than trying to live my commandments our things outside of ourselves.

What do I mean by that… I mean that compassion, forgiveness, presence, intention are some of the most powerful forces in this world that we know.  They create healing, well-being, foster a sense of community, peace, comfort, kindheartedness, and deep and abounding Love.

I said to someone last night that if I could, you know, the whole magic wand thing… I would want to undo everything that doctors, RNs, and therapists are taught in their professional programs and have them sit on a safe or gomden with people like Ram Dass, Roshi Joan Halifax, Tara Brach, Stephen & Ondrea Levine, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Frank Ostaseski, Roshi Bernie Glassman, etc.  They get it.  They get what true healing is because they have been present to the joys and sorrows, the liberation and the suffering of beings in this lifetime.

Frankly, I don’t want to care what the new DSM says.  I don’t want to know about your ego defenses.  I don’t want to know your attachment type/style.

But what I want to know is what creates suffering for you?

What keeps you from your perfect wisdom, your “holiest” of selves?

What stirs passion in you?

What is it like to be with your thoughts, to be with the moment to moment sensations in your body.

What comes up for you?

What keeps you from being in touch with that?

What keeps you profoundly sad?

And what keeps you from being profoundly compassion and brilliant?

Don’t get me wrong, I would never trade my education in humanistic existential phenomenological psychology.  I would never trade the amazing teachers that I have had scattered amongst the strong brains and hidden hearts of professors.

But what has been most healing to me?

Steven and Ondrea reminding me to have a soft belly.

Roshi Joan’s laughter, great feminine wisdom, and embodied magic.

Frank reminding me to not push away anything.

Bernie taking people to Poland to sit in the snow and recite the names so we NEVER forget the dead or how they died.

This, to me, is the act of true healing.  It is what we gave birth to experience and witness.  This is how we cultivate compassion for ourselves and for this world.

Much gratitude and lovingkindness to all who read this and all who inspired this.

Peace, Jennifer

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Here’s the interview:


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English: A stopwatch is a hand-held timepiece ...

Image via Wikipedia

This past weekend was pretty crazy for me.  Three and a half days of almost a retreat-like schedule of doing school work and working with an editor on a big project.

I did nothing but research, write, take breaks to eat meals, and try to get a good night sleep.

Then came Monday.  I still had the day off from my full-time job but I was utterly aware that my time was “running out” and that I had a lot to do.  I was feeling pressure to keep doing school work. . .

But I had to get to the post office, had to get laundry done (which meant this week taking stuff to be dried at the laundromat), get to Hallmark before a coupon expired to get some cards for upcoming events, make a 1 pm massage appt, and run to the local grocery store for some essentials like juice and organic eggs.

And I kept trying to figure out if I could find 4 hours to run to Whole Foods because it is so far away.

I think this could be classified as insanity.  Or at least, how I tried to approach the day in theory and in practice.

I was really insistent on getting “things done” since I had spent the weekend “doing nothing”… I had only clocked 36 hours of school work in 72 hours.  But I had nothing concrete to show for it.  So, I had to get things done before starting my work week.

But in reality, I could have gone to the post office Tuesday morning.  I could have gone to Hallmark on Wednesday or not worry about using the coupon.  The laundry could have waited a few days.

Or I could have washed it at home, hung some things and then run my blankets to the laundry.  That would have left the store before my massage and well, that would have been fine to do in the amount of time I had.

So, I realized all of this while I was working with the writing coach and made myself take deep breath.  And I decided that when we got off the phone, I would spend the rest of the night being mindful.

Monday reminded me of what I tried to do several years back… rush an hour and a half, twice a week, to meditate with a group.  After a few months, I realized that I was planting more seeds of aggression than if I had decided to sit at home at the same time as the sangha did.

The “full catastrophe of living” (to paraphrase Jon Kabat-Zinn‘s book title) was there but I did not take it as an opportunity to be present; I took it as a sign to speed up and pay little mind.

When I took that pressure off, look at things from a different perspective, I found that once again I was fostering compassion for myself and therefore those around me as well.

Maybe we have to have this lesson brought up every once in a while to remind us, we can choose the hectic chaotic life when we race the clock and at the end of the day, can’t remember what we had for breakfast. . .

Or we can slow down, enjoy the moment, taste our food, fold our clothes, or even be in our body during  a massage.

Maybe we can take a moment to take a deep breath and look at all we do in a day and that we don’t have to have things crossed off our to do list or have something concrete to “show” for our time…

I’d love to hear how you remember to take things slow. . . find a balance between doing and being in your every day life…

In peace and slow, mindfulness.

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