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Posts Tagged ‘mindful’

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

“For as long as space endures

And sentient beings suffer

May I also remain

To dispel the world’s sorrows.

~~Shantideva

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