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Posts Tagged ‘meditation’

I know, you are probably wondering, where’s Jennifer been?  She just disappeared.  So much has happened in the last 7 months and I am not really sure where to begin…. Maybe it’s been even longer than 7 months… I am not sure anymore…I guess, like everyone else, I should start at the beginning.

We tend to think about loss and grief when it is connected to the loss of a person, our great love, our children, our parents, our siblings…   And that’s not wrong at all…. It’s just part of the story of our lives.  Stephen Levine has written about this and has audio recordings about such everyday grief.  If you’re not familiar, check out some of his work.  He and his wife Ondrea are such amazing teachers.

I put this blog on hold when my full-time job got crazy.  I work in social services and in a sort of residential setting.  We had 12 admissions, all at once, and life was crazy for so long.  During this time, I was also teaching a psych 101 class at a local college; hired only a few weeks before the semester started.  There were so many other life changes, losses, regrets, and lost opportunities.  And along with all that, grief came.  Not a little, but a full-on grief journey.

I have always heard from clients that grief is an invisible wound, much like chronic illness, like Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, etc.   I get that description, of an invisible illness…  I mean I have understood that in the past, but it’s been very real to me in the past year.

“You look fine” because you learn to hide it or people just get used to you looking tired, being under the weather, or moving slow.  The “you” who they see every day has become the picture they have for you.  Not the “you” who you were 2 yrs ago, 6 yrs ago, or whenever it was that you were happy, healthy, or in balance.  They don’t get that this shell in front of them is not the “you” that you see when you look in the mirror.

So, I think that this may be a topic that I explore here.  The loss so great no one can see.  The daily losses that chip away at you and can leave you hollow if you have nothing to fill back in the space.  The losses that pile up so high, you realize you can’t see the sun, even when there was never a sunnier day.  I’ve listened to a lot of stories in the past year, had a few losses, journeyed with a few others, and got in touch with some people who I had lost and are found again.

Maybe you’ll join me as we take this leg of the journey.  Who knows where we will end up?  Wherever we end up, let us hope it is not in the place where it all began.  Journeys move us forward, even when we are standing still or treading water.  There is no “reverse” on our gear shifts because even when we think we are going back or can go back, we are never ever that same person in time or space.  I’d love to hear from you along the way and just remember, this is where we honor the light that is within you, no matter where you are, how much you’ve lost, or how far you’ve gone.

 

Peace, Jennifer

 

 

 

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“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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“Every human being wants to love and be loved.  This is very natural.  But often love, desire, need, and fear get wrapped up all together.  There are so many songs with the words, “I love you; I need you.”  Such lyrics imply that loving and craving are the same thing, and that the other person is just there to fulfill our needs.  We might feel we can’t survive without the other person.  When we say, “Darling, I can’t live without you.  I need you,” we think we’re speaking the language of love.  We even feel it’s a compliment to the other person.  But that need is actually a continuation of the original fear and desire that have been with us since we were small children.”

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

I was sick last week and did not get to post this. . . Aug 2nd was my parents’ 52 wedding anniversary.  I wish that everyone could experience the ups and downs that they have and the bond that has kept them together.

Much love and deep bows of gratitude to Bob & Judy Stevens.  Thank you for all the love, sacrifice, and compassion they have fostered in our family!

Namaste, Jennifer

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

(Photo credit: ronsaunders47)

“Our Buddhist vows are basically good medicine

for our wayward minds and forgetful hearts.”

~~Thich Nhat Hanh,

For the Future To Be Possible:  Buddhist Ethiccs for Everyday Life

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Wow, this summer has been 10 times crazier than I ever would have thought.  I snapped the photo above when I was running errands about 10 days ago.  Even when it’s busy, you’ve gotta stop and check out the clouds… it’s been too hot for a lot of stopping and smelling those proverbial roses.

I’m getting ready to teach General Psych for the first time this fall.  I start in less than 3 weeks and it is a LOT of work, on top of dissertation work and working a stressful 40 hour work week.

So, I have to admit that this blog has suffered.  And I thank all of you who stopped by, left me messages, checked to see if I was okay, etc.  I really enjoy doing the blog and unfortunately, there are only a few things in life that I can put on the back burner.

I’m thinking the Fall will be just as busy but I will do my best to find still, clear moments to share things I’ve read, videos I’ve watched, etc.

I’ve just re-watched Clara’s Heart with Whoopi Goldberg and Neil Patrick Harris several days ago when I was home with a migraine.  It’s the story of several losses and how everyone involved deals with their losses.  And well, it’s fun to see Neil Patrick Harris as a little boy.  If you have Netflix check it out.

I picked up a new book for my Kindle. . . The Wisdom of Listening by Mark Brady.  I have to say that I am really enjoying the few stolen moments that I find to read a couple of passages.

In this book, Mark states,

Once you have the attitude in your mind and heart, no matter how distressing your work environment, you can be really happy. . . Before beginning your daily meditations, spend some time reflecting on the suffering in the world, or your friends’ or patients’ suffering, and as their suffering touches and opens your heart, let your compassion grow even deeper, and your intentions to help even stronger.”

There is a lot of suffering that goes on at my full time job.  Our direct care staff work long hard hours with little gratitude.  We work with very difficult clients and there isn’t a day that goes by that their shifts are probably not very demanding.

Add on top of that all kinds of threats in the last year. . . the Governor will close your site.  The Governor is going to take a big chunk of your pay.

And then there is the world at large that might not impact us day to day but it does wear on our psyche. . . a new shooting today in neighboring WI. . . because someone’s religious beliefs and looks were different.

And a few weeks ago, another shooting in Colorado. . . in Aurora which is not that far from Columbine and it is the story of many systems going wrong. . . the mental health system, schools, enforcement of gun control or the lack thereof.

Of course, there is also the hostility that is the backdrop of most elections. . .

The Buddha was so wise is saying that our problem was suffering and illusion.  We can spend a lot of time focused on the lack, the need, the pain, etc.

But I like Mark’s reframe in this quote.  It’s much like the concepts of metta and tonglen.  We cannot ignore or be ignorant of the pain and suffering in the world.  If we do, we can become foolish or calloused.

But we cannot fret and let the world paralyze us or worse, make us wall off our hearts.

So what do we do?  We walk the middle path. . . we acknowledge the suffering in the world, we hold it close and let it fill us with compassion so that our hearts break open to hold more.

There is so much pain in the world and sometimes it feels like not nearly enough love.  So, when we look at holding compassion and lovingkindness for those who suffer, are filled with fear, are alone, etc., we generate lovingkindness in its midst.  We create love because of the suffering of others.

I know that some will say that just praying for people doesn’t do any real good.  I would disagree.  I don’t know if praying for some different outcome will work, but opening your heart and allowing it to expand to hold much more can never be wrong.

So, before you settle in with a difficult situation, a full schedule, chronic pain, heart break, and other craziness in the world, take those 10 minutes to sit with the suffering on a global level and allow it to touch your innermost essence.  And allow the space for your essence to foster new and deeper love as well.

May all beings be free from suffering and the root of suffering.

JRS

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The Buddha encouraged us to think of the good things done for us by our parents, by our teachers, friends, whomever; and to do this intentionally, to cultivate it, rather than just letting it happen accidentally.

~~Ajahn Sumedho, “The Gift of Gratitude”

I am truly thankful for all those who are in my life. . . my loving and devoted parents, my dear supportive friends, and wise teachers.

Life is nothing without love, compassion, and faithful companions.

Deep gratitude and prostrations to you all.

Namaste, Jennifer

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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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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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English: Thumbnail portrait of Atisha based on...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Your body is fragile and vulnerable.

The Sixth of the Nine Contemplations of Atisha. . . your body is fragile and vulnerable.

Think about how easily we can be overcome by something microscopic like a germ cell.  We don’t need a tiger to kill us, a few cells can do the trick.

It’s been over 90 in the Midwest for a couple of weeks and it’s been several days with temperatures above 100, without the heat index and on the news last night we heard that two elderly people in the area had died because they had stayed in their homes without air conditioning.  So even something that cannot be seen under a microscope can take these very lives of ours.

Our own bodies can turn on us, as when we have an autoimmune disease.

We grow up in this country to believe that we are rugged individualists, that we have boundless freedom and are invincible when we get good grades, get a job, marry, and raise the perfect family.  And most people can probably name at least a handful of people for whom this narrative isn’t the case.

Your body is fragile and vulnerable.

Our teeth decay.

Our muscles grow weak.

Our cells multiple, sometimes out of control and cancer grows.

Sometimes our bones break.

Our sleep gets disturbed.

We “catch” the flu.

Our muscles spasm and our arches fall.

It doesn’t take much water or ice on the floor to bring us to our knees or drop us on our heads.

Think about your mindful breathing. . .

Don’t you take for granted that as you focus on your in-breath that an out-breath will follow and then another in breath?

Would you if you had asthma?

Your body is fragile and vulnerable.

And what about our minds?  We often forget that there is interconnection between our minds and bodies and think of them as separate entities.

It doesn’t take a lot for our minds to “betray” us too.

We have afflictive emotions.  We have perceptions, sensations, feelings, emotions, and thoughts.

We can have hallucinations, dreams, and forgetfulness.

We take little pills to change our thinking and feelings.

Some of us will be born and develop depression, schizophrenia, autism, or dementia and although we see the effects of these diseases, we can only conjecture what really happens, despite our collective belief in levels of serotonin, problems with synapses, etc.

Your body is fragile and vulnerable.

Illness, like death, is an edge for us.  It is a mindfulness bell.  We usually don’t appreciate good health until we have lost it much in the same way that our love grows fonder and deeper when the object of our love has died.

A sore tooth or an aching back remind me of how fragile my physical life is.

I appreciate the rest of the teeth I have while I am sitting with the discomfort of a root canal.

When I have a migraine, I am painfully aware of the week I have had without the pain, sensitivity, nausea, etc. but that does not mean that I have been mindful to the lack of pain during that week.

So, can we use our physical presence and bodies in our meditations?

Definitely!

We cultivate awareness with meditations like body scans and progressive muscle relaxations.

Or focus on attention by practicing Yoga Nidra.

We allow our awareness to the sensation of our abdomen rise and fall with our inhalation and exhalation.

I remember a story from my first philosophy teacher. . . she was the one who introduced me to Buddhism and meditation.  I remember her telling me that her friend, during meditation, knew that there was something wrong with her kidneys and was able to get hydrated and get to the doctor before it was too late.

Our bodies may be weak, vulnerable, and fragile and we will ultimately die from something.  Not even the Buddha himself was able to avoid it.

But our cultivated aware and attention can be powerful as we practice meditation.

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