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Posts Tagged ‘mindfulness’

“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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English: Mindfulness Activities

English: Mindfulness Activities (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is the difference between mindfulness as it’s used in secular mindfulness-based courses and as it’s used in a Buddhist context? Not so much, I think. Most Buddhists will feel familiar with the practice of cultivating awareness through a regular meditation practice—sitting, walking, lying down—and working with mindfulness in everyday activities like eating, working, relating with others and so on. And this is also what’s practiced on a secular mindfulness course (at least in the MBSR model). So, the practices themselves are likely to be quite similar. What may be different is the context and framework—whereas mindfulness in Buddhism is one aspect of the eightfold path, it is the primary explicit teaching in a secular mindfulness course. Having said that, the attitudes towards practice that people learn on a mindfulness course are generally very consistent with what is taught in most Buddhist contexts—gentleness, openness, loving-kindness, a certain kind of effort and a certain kind of letting go—as is the shared notion that people are basically good and that our practice is a means to uncover an innate wisdom that we can use to work skillfully with our life situations. Many mindfulness teachers (at least up till now) have a Buddhist background and work to embody these qualities in themselves, and in so far as they’ve managed this, they will naturally transmit these qualities to their course participants, implicitly if not explicitly. It will be interesting to see if this changes as more people come to practice and teach mindfulness who don’t have a Buddhist background.

Excerpt from a great article.. The Mindfulness Manifesto.

 

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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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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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Thich Nhat Hanh, Sister Chan Khong and Kenley

Thich Nhat Hanh, Sister Chan Khong and Kenley (Photo credit: kenleyneufeld)

Here is a clip of a song which is often sung in Thich Nhat Hanh‘s tradition.

“Happiness is here and now,

I have dropped my worries,

Nowhere to go,

Nothing to do,

No longer in a hurry

Happiness is here and now,

I have dropped my worries,

Somewhere to go,

Something to do,

But I don’t need to hurry.”

And here is a PDF of some of their other songs

Today I had some dental work done and I can honestly say that I have more angst about going to the dentist than my own death.  At least with death, there is probably an end of suffering.  At the dentist, it certainly doesn’t feel like it.

I know I am not the only one who has this problem.  Google dentist and dukkha and you’ll see what I mean.

I try to bring my iPod and listen to Thich Nhat Hanh while I am there.  I find him comforting, especially when he is chanting in Vietnamese.  It soothes my “soul”.

What I was listening to was the audio version of Living Without Stress and Fear.

I didn’t plan to listen to that but I used the search function, typed in Thich Nhat Hanh and it was the first audio that came up.

Between my angst, the drill, stopping for Xrays, etc, I could actually hear bits and pieces of the talk.

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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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Buddha Shakyamuni

Buddha Shakyamuni (Photo credit: secretlondon123)

“The Buddha said, “The mind, through its action, is the chef architect of one’s own happiness and suffering.”  It’s hard for the mind to be peaceful when the body is not in a physical space that’s peaceful.”

~~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Look around right now. . .

What’s your space like?

Does it reflect your interior space too?

Is the room you find yourself in cramped, cluttered, in total disarray?

If it is, are you in the middle of being creative. . . turning the chaos into magic?

Or it is the dark claustrophobic like cramped, “this doesn’t fit” kind of space?

Is the desk or table you sit at made of fine wood, leather, marble?

Or is it a 2×4 between milk crates because you aren’t buying furniture because you aren’t staying long?

And what color our your walls?

Are they three shades of off white?

Are they rich deep hues like wine, forest, crimson?

Are they light and airy like a French kitchen?

What about windows, light?  Is there a sense of spaciousness?

Does the air feel stagnant and stale or is there a crisp fresh breeze?

Now take a minute and close your eyes.

Breathe in and out slowly, 5 times.

Get in touch with your physical body and after you do, pay close attention to your heart space, your third eye. . .

Is your perception of your physical space mirrored in your body, mind, spirit?

Do your relationships and work resemble the area?

Are you satisfied with your answers?

If so, savor the feelings of coherence with your world.

If not, ask yourself, what now. . .

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