Tuesday, October 4, 2016

What is Mindfulness?

Beautiful clip describing this practice. It is truly a gift to connect with and practice Mindfulness. Life becomes more than just a moving from one activity to the next and the next. We pause to actually be with what we're experiencing moment to moment. Instead of living in the world of thoughts, we live in a vibrant, alive, aware world; the world of living, loving and dying. We stop avoiding certain experiences and feelings and instead learn to open to life; connecting with wisdom (clear seeing) and compassion.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Life is a Gift

Life is precious. From the first breath we take to the last is truly a gift.  

And so how can maintain this awareness of the preciousness of every moment, every breath, every contact we have with life? Can we do it with reverence, with forgiveness for the times we're caught up in reactivity, fighting and resisting the way life is? 

It's possible to meet the pain with acceptance, understanding and compassion

It sometimes feels impossible to open to pain. It can be a deep wrenching grief that tosses us like a little dingy in a vast ocean. Sometimes the grief, sorrow and sadness can send us rushing to the bottom of the ocean and it feels as if we will stay there forever. At some point, I believe the heart begins to mend and we once again rise to the surface. We rejoin life and it little by little color seeps into our view of the world. 

Wisdom comes when we see things beyond the way they should or shouldn't be and respond with compassion

I guess the most important thing to remember is that wisdom can come from suffering. I don't say this lightly and I'm not minimizing how devastating loss can feel. I believe that how we get through the challenges in life really matters. We can either look at what happens through the lens of victim-hood or through the lens of clarity and wisdom. This is the way life is. And even that feeling of victim-hood is a part of the healing process. It's the resisting and clinging that comes right before we let go. We relax our grip on trying to control things that are beyond our control. Therein, paradoxically is the power to choose how we meet these challenges.

I love this poem by Rumi that speaks to this.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
A teaching story translated by Coleman Barks 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

What you are seeking is right here...

Have you ever been on a quest to find the perfect person, place, feeling or thing?  What happens when you find it? Does it satisfy you? 

So it could be that we're looking for someone who will love us just the way we are and we want that person to be with us forever. We want to feel a sense of security and safety whether it's in relationship, at work or in the world. As humans we seek connection and security. We want to feel loved so we seek a partner who, when we're with them we experience a feeling of being treasured. Or we want to feel financially secure so we work long hours, and save every thing we can. But sometimes we go to the extreme. So we save our money but our social life is non-existant and when we are with our beloved we're irritable and exhausted. Caught up in the illusion of if only I had _____all will be well, we seek happiness and peace in the external world and end up like a cat chasing it's tail; occasionally they catch the tail but then it slips out of their grasp. So the wanting/seeking can be so intense to the point of being painful. This is what the Buddha called desire and with desire comes suffering/stress/dissatisfaction. 

Soon after "we" get what we want, we get bored, frustrated, criticize it or want more of it. It's like an insatiable monster that is never satisfied. The monster is the mind and what keeps us seeking are the way we relate to our thoughts. We often relate to thoughts as if they are true. Sometimes our thoughts follow a story line and pretty soon we've written a whole novel about something that hasn't happened, isn't happening and may never happen. Sometimes the story can be pleasant, unpleasant and sometimes it's just downright boring but in the end it's just a story. The reality is that life is passing and instead of connecting with the vibrancy and aliveness that surrounds us we are living in our heads. Our hearts are closed off and our aliveness is dulled. It's as Tara Brach,  meditation teacher and Psychotherapist says, it's like we're caught in a trance...we cut off from our bodies and we leave "this space of awareness that is the source and essence of all aliveness."  

Mindfulness Meditation helps us reconnect to life as it's happening....

Meditation helps us come into direct contact with what is happening within us, as it's happening.  As we come into stillness we watch the movement of the mind; we witness thoughts arising and passing awayAs we breathe and feel the breath come into the body we come into direct contact with this aliveness. The practice of meditation allows us to train the mind so that when it wanders off into thoughts we notice and that moment of noticing is a moment of mindfulness. It's a moment of connecting with the present, of opening to emotions, sensations and thoughts as they are happening. In Vipassana (Insight Meditation) practice we begin to investigate using the acronym of RAIN as follows:

Applying the acronym of R.A.I.N. is a great way to begin practicing mindfulness. Just the shift towards opening to this practice helps us to recognize that being present for our moment to moment experience, to be connected to our body, mind and heart, to see things as they really are and to respond in a way  that is healing and healthy is essential to our overall well-being. We begin to notice the the life around us, we open our hearts to each other. Not in some new age or "kumba ya" manner, but in an authentic, compassionate and kind manner. Why? Because we realize that we are all walking in the same direction. Everyone of us, no matter what we look like on the outside, or how much money we have/don't have, are made of the same matter. We have a body, mind and heart; are vulnerable to illness, old age, death and change and in the end the only thing we have control over is how we respond to life. As beautifully stated by Thich Nhat Hanh in the drawing below.

In the tug and pull of desire’s grip
I unravel
Tattered shreds of a once regal robe fall away
Nothing comes….nothing
I ride out the battle
with time and breath
time and breath
time and breath
Acceptance breezes in (crafty sage that she is)
Wraps this heart in sumptuous golden silk
Warms this heart to a trusting stillness, then
Leaves a knowing kiss upon this slowly smoothing brow.

Donna Sherman, “Acceptance”