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Posts Tagged ‘Religion and Spirituality’

English: The Red ribbon is a symbol for solida...

Image via Wikipedia

Before me sat an angry young man,

Confused and wounded.

A soldier fighting too many enemies

And not know who they really were.

Before me sat an angry young man,

wanting his way in all that he did.

And not knowing what path to take to find his way in the world.

This young man,

reluctantly tried

to keep his armor from getting scratched by me.

Me, a worthy opponent he knew not what to make of,

let alone believe.

He struggled and fought and tried every trick.

And flashes of magic seemed to finally come, though sparingly at first.

A stumble, a trip, but still on his path

with book in hand, soon beginning to understand what it was all about.

Here sat before me

A handsome young man,

believing in miracles when he could remember that they were all around.

This young man, who had walked behind me,

unable to trust or love,

struggling to walk on the path,

was soon by my side.

We walked hand and hand

as fears were conquered and dreams became more real.

This angry young man is no more.

He opened himself up to all that Is

and his spirit began to soar.

This striking your man now knows

each day, that the greatest battle to fight is to Be each day.

Now god and miracles are not foreign land.

And strangers and enemies do not exist,

for we all are One,

no enemy left, except the past,

which melts away with each passing step.

And now this man

has become a soul friend.

Someone to be proud of

and stand by until the end

No longer his enemy,

no longer his guide,

blessed to see the

miracle of his growth and the wonder of this man on his journey.

By:  Jennifer R. Stevens,

for all my dear friends who have died of AIDS long ago and recently.

And to my only and dearest brother. . . You are not forgotten.

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To acknowledge that you are dying is to recognize that you are alive.

~~ Dean Rolston, Memento Mori: Notes on Buddhism and AIDS

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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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“If we examine our motives honestly, we will usually find that there is some sort of fear inspiring our prayers.  We are afraid of something.  And we are asking to be protected from whatever we are afraid of.

The fear that inspires us to pray actually gives us the most significant clue in our efforts to understand an unanswered prayer. When our prayers aren’t answered the way we want them to be, we often have to expereience the things of which we were afraid.  We are forced to confront our fear.”

~~John Welshons, When Prayers Aren’t Answered

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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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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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From Advice for Dying & Living a Better Life by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

“It is crucial to be mindful of death — to contemplate that you will not remain long in this life.  If you are not aware of death, you will fail to take advantage of this special human life that you have already attained.  it is meaningful since, based on it, important effects can be accomplished.

Analysis of death is not for the sake of becoming fearful but to appreciate this precious lifetimes during which you can perform many important practices.  Rather than being frightened, you need to reflect that when death comes, you will lose this good opportunity for practice.  In this way contemplation of death will bring moreenergy to your practice.

You need to accept that death comes in the normal course of life.  As Buddha said:

A place to stay untouched by death

Does not exist.

It does not exist in space, it does not exist in

the ocean.

Nor if you stay in the middle of a mountain.

If you accept that death is part of life, then when it actually does come, you may face it more easily.

When people know deep inside that death will come but deliberately avoid thinking about it, that does not fit the situation and is counterproductive.  The same is true when old age is not accepted as part of life but taken to be unwanted and deliberately avoided in thought.  This leads to being mentally unprepared; then when old age inevitably occurs, it is very difficult.”

Deep gratitude to His Holiness for all of the teachings he has shared with us over the past seven decades, but no teaching more precious than the teaching he has given us of the example of his life.

May His Holiness have a continued long and healthy life.  May He live to see His people politically free and safe from harm.

Blessings, Jennifer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAjCzEAdlng — Peace Panel Pt 10 with Roshi Joan Halifax

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIX3tdFPolg&feature=related — Finding Happiness in Troubled Times

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XFhWI6QOHg&feature=relmfu — 76th Birthday Celebration

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeryKuwHqUU&feature=relmfu — On Birthdays

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYpLaQ56Cdw&feature=related — News clip on Richard Gere going to see HH

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2wZh6wbXJI&feature=related — Clip from the Today Show

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyAoFdx6914&feature=related  — Richard Gere interview from 2007

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxhVvXqBiDc&feature=relmfu — Talk for World Peace

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“When you are a loving person, love, which is itself nothing other than your essential nature, manifests.

If you find a partner, she or he also is a manifestation of the same loving essential nature.

When this insight is a reality for you, even as you wait for a lover, you directly experience that love has already arrived.”

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

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