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Posts Tagged ‘spirituality’

I really fell in love with the community at WordPress, well, the community that seemed to surround me as I started writing this blog.  And this week has been a great reminder of that kind of love.

There’s something special about connecting, sharing, expressing, questioning, and communing in a way that is heartfelt but free from some of the attachments and “stuff” that we find in relationships with family, friends, and those who are near and far.

The comments I have received this week have been deep, lovely, and so soulful.  I’m glad that people have been moved to share and have wanted to connect intimately.

Deep conversations, like the ones I used to have with friends in college (as we sat by the Hudson River), can be so healing and foster new levels of understanding and connection.

I am deeply honored that you have reached back and shared.

As Namaste would suggest, I honor the light, love, perfection, flaws, and all that is within you, that is within me, and that is all that there is.

Peace, 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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“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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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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“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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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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“Don’t grieve.
Anything you lose comes
round in another form.”
Rumi
 

 I would SO love to tell you, “Yeah, don’t grieve.  It’s not spiritually necessary or enlightened.  We are transcendent beings. . . ”

Whatever!

Most of us are not there and many give lip service to those kinds of messages if we are honest with ourselves.

We hurt when we lose something.

We really hurt when we lose someone.

We have deep connections with the person we loved who died.

They co-create our world with us.

Sometimes they gave life to us (or we to them) and then we created a history, a storyline, a relationship, a family, a network of friends, etc.

We derive meaning and pleasure from our connection.

We sometimes sustain wounds and hardships in those relationships as well.

But they (the person and our experiences with them) are as much a part of us as our arm or leg and there is pain when someone dies as there is when we sustain a physical injury.

What I have come to learn, through my experience and the experience of those around me, is when we acknowledge the presence of the pain, (the upheaval, and the sense of being distraught) and can hold it in our awareness, even if for moments, healing occurs.

We do more harm, expend more energy, and suffer longer when we disavow the pain.

I think we can get to a place of understanding that others really “never leave us” because we get in touch with our interconnectedness with them.  But when we don’t touch the pain and allow it to be, it is harder to connect with more transcendent concepts.

This is one of the reasons why practices like mindfulness are beneficial to our “grief work.”  The practice teaches us to be present, moment to moment, and to accept rather than to fight off.

We then have the energy to live with what “is” and to have compassion for the situation as it presents itself.

So, I don’t think we need to throw ideas like Rumi’s out altogether.  I think we just need to practice a lot of compassion on the way to having a lived-bodily experience of what it truly means.

And without that experience, those words can be hurtful and harmful to someone who is still defending from their pain.

~~As a side note, today is my dad’s birthday!  I can’t be with him today but I am NEVER far away from my thoughts and heart.  Happy Birthday Daddy!  Thank you for all of these decades of love, support, and lessons.

 

~~~~~~~

For more information about learning to allow pain and sorrow, check out Stephen Levine‘s work Unattended Sorrow or The Grief Process CD/Audio.

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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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Fundamental group of the circle

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My first real experience with this shape was in high school.

I was in a program that combined peer counseling, leadership training, and learning how to provide a day camp experience for children.

It was the dreaded circle.  I could not come to pull my chair into the circle.  I didn’t feel like I belonged.

In college, I was part of a year-long intensive, studying Rogerian therapy in a program that was didactic and experiential.

I would not trade this for the world, but we were in circles again.  And as this was the second great experience that taught me about group process, it also taught me that groups can have a shadow side too.  There were times that business didn’t get finished.  People walked back to their dorms hurt, hand in heart, not knowing how to cope with what came up and how to live with it for the following week.

As a project for a meditation class I took in my second philosophy class, I visited my first Zendo. . . in New Paltz, NY.  And I was greeted into a strange circle where people sat facing the wall, in a dark room, with incense billowing.

After school was done, I went to work in social services. . . circles for staff meetings and staff retreats, circle for support groups . . . I couldn’t get away from them.  I was part of a women’s group — all of us were therapists, educators, etc and we came together to process.

As I became a group facilitator, I learned to love the group process and felt comfortable in the dreaded circle.  I was welcomed into a wonderful sangha in Madison, WI — Snowflower Sangha, in Thich Nhat Hanh‘s tradition and I got to see deep listening and compassionate speech.  I got to see a Starting Anew ceremony.  And I saw a wonderful community — like I got to experience at Upaya Zen Center in April.

Along the way, I came across a book, The Way of Council.  I yearned for this kind of group experience.

The lessons, guidelines, and spirit that is conveyed in The Way of Council works for a family, for close friends, for team members, for intimate relationships, etc.

Calling council gives one the guidelines and means for sustaining deep connections in community, to invite ritual into one’s life, and shares ideas for holding council in all of the relationships just mentioned above in the previous paragraph.

I will be writing more about holding council, about nonviolent communication, deep listening, compassionate speech.  I hold these practices in high esteem.  I have seen the light and shadow sides of groups (and families that I have worked with in therapy and in home visits through hospice, staffs that had a lot of undercurrents and lack of health).

I cannot think of a greater gift that I could give to the readers of this blog — to the therapists, to those who might want to start a peer-led grief group, to those who want to create intentional communities and have deep and meaningful relationships.

Creating the intimacy of council, of truly being present, is scary, doesn’t come easy, sometimes hurts, always heals, and is worth the time, energy, attention, and intention.

I hope you enjoy the blogs that will follow.

In the next post on this topic, I will discuss the Four Intentions of Council.

Stayed Tune.

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