Thursday, December 31, 2009

Many people make resolutions for the New Year or, if they don't, at least find themself taking stock. Often that stock taking involves analysing what we think is wrong about ourselves and wishing - if not actually resolving - to be different. Here's another approach:

In over a dozen years as a stress consultant, one of the most pervasive and destructive mental tendencies I've seen is that of focusing on what we want instead of what we have. It doesn't seem to make any difference how much we have; we just keep expanding our list of desires, which guarantees we will remain dissatisfied. The mind-set that says "I'll be happy when this desire is fulfilled" is the same mind-set that will repeat itself once that desire is met.

-- Richard Carlson

So, if you're doing some stock-taking now as the New Year approaches, do look at what you like about yourself and your life as well as considering what you think needs to be changed. I imagine that will create a really helpful perspective. Remember, the primary meditative principles are those of acceptance and compassion. Accepting ourselves and having compassion on ourselves are essential to living out said principles.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wednesday life form blogging

Worth repeating

My goodness. I just realized today that I started this blog on November 27, 2004. So it's been chugging along for a little over five years now. Here's something from that very first post:

True quiet means keeping still when the time has come to keep still, and going forward when the time has come to go forward. In this way rest and movement are in agreement with the demands of the moment, and thus there is light in life.

- The I Ching

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Class cancellation

On the off chance that any Center particpants come here instead of to the Center website, we are cancelling both tonight's and tomorrow morning's classes due to the weather forecast.

Everybody stay safe! We'll be back to our usual schedule next week, weather permitting!

Many blessings to you all.

Short, profound

Just look at this:

Enlightenment means taking full responsibility for your life.

-- William Blake

And many people have a huge aversion to just that.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday meditative picture blogging


More about compassion

This is truly something to ponder:

Aligning our minds with the most compassionate words and thoughts we can muster can bring connection and a sense of peace. For some, it means giving up almost an entire way of life, but only this will allow glints of joy to shine through.

-- Laura Berman Fortgang

I'm really saddened by the assertion that "for some, it means giving up almost and entire way of life." I can only imagine how very difficult that must be even if someone is at all willing to attempt it. Maybe that can help us have compassion especially on those who seem to have none for others.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sunday art blogging

Artist: Vincent Van Gogh

Something to ponder

This is new to me. It's very simple. Very profound:

I am poor and naked, but I am the chief of the nation. We do not want riches but we do want to train our children right. Riches would do us no good. We could not take them with us to the other world. We do not want riches. We want peace and love.

- Red Cloud

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Something to remember

An anonymous person said the following:
If you understand, things are just as they are;
if you do not understand, things are just as they are.
And, yet, the more we understand, the more we can let go of our attachments to things be other than they are.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The experience of feeling suddenly alive!

Was there ever a time when you felt suddenly alive? It was like the doors of the world opened for a minute and you could see directly into life. You were able to touch life directly and were not lost in your fears and worries. This experience may not have been during a big event like performing in a play or playing in a championship game; it may have been while walking in the woods or talking to a friend. All of a sudden you felt alive, awake. This quality of waking up, or penetrating into life, we could call mindfulness. Mindfulness simply means being aware, being present.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The season of celebration

Whatever you celebrate this time of year, let the following encourage you:

The clouds above us come together
and disperse; The breeze in the
courtyard departs and returns.
Life is like that, so why not relax?
Who can keep us from celebrating?

-- Lu-Yu

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wednesday life form blogging


"Just like me"

Well, dear people, we are getting thoroughly into the holidays now and many of us will have considerable challenges over the next few days as we interact with people with whom we may have a bit of difficulty in terms of getting along. I want to recommend the "Just like me" practice that I talked about in class at the Center a couple of years ago. Here's what you say to yourself:
* This person has a body and a mind, just like me.
* This person has feelings, emotions and thoughts, just like me.
* This person has at some point been sad, disappointed, angry, hurt or confused, just like me.
* This person has in his or her life, experienced physical and emotional pain and suffering, just like me.
* This person wishes to be free from pain and suffering, just like me.
* This person wishes to be safe, healthy and loved, just like me.
* This person wishes to be happy, just like me.
I found this particular version of the exercise in a Huffington Post article entitled "Cultivating Compassion: Meditation for Better Relationships". There are a few more exercises in the article which are quite wonderful.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Something about human nature

This is about everyone's need for affirmation, for belonging, for acknowledgment, and for a sense of connectedness.

You don't really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around - and why his parents will always wave back.

-- William Tammeus

Remembering this will help us hugely in our approach to spiritual generosity throughout this season and into the New Year.

I found it on the website "Inspiration Peak" .

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

An observation for the season

I really do like this:

As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded by December's bad weather, it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives who are worth this aggravation, and people to whom we are worth the same.

~ Donald E. Westlake

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday cat blogging!

Posture really does make a difference

The very well respected teacher of meditation, Sakyong Rinpoche, offers the following on this subject:
To get started, he suggests creating a favorable environment to make it easier to practice. There should be a sacredness about one’s place of meditation. Mindfulness meditation is best undertaken in a place of silence that is not too disturbing. Some people create special alcoves in the home with candles, plants, yoga mats and fountains, where they can be at peace to meditate each day. Others retreat to their gardens, an uplifting place of respite. Another group of people prefer the company of other like-minded individuals at a special meditation center.

In that comfortable place, one should begin mindfulness meditation with the proper posture. It seems that lying down would be the most comfortable position, but that is not how meditation works. A meditation teacher will instead instruct pupils to sit upright, with hands resting palm-down on the thighs and hips straight. Some people who meditate sit on a zafu or gomden cushion on the floor, with their legs crossed. Others prefer to sit upright in a chair, with their feet touching the ground. “The energy flows better when the body is erect,” explains Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, “and when it’s bent, the flow is changed and that directly affects your thought process.” This posture will help meditation pupils remain awake, even though they are very calm.

The above excerpt is from a little article entitled simply "Mindfulness Meditation: Let Go of Your Thoughts" .

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Once again, folks, it's all material!

Beliefnet published an article this morning all about the challenges many people face when spending time with their families over the holidays. Here's one of the tips that's very much in line with meditative principles:
Envision your family situation as an inspiring growth challenge. If one of your spiritual goals in life is to learn patience, compassion, forgiveness, or serenity, your difficult family members can give you some wonderful “feel the burn” workouts! It’s no sweat to be patient, compassionate, forgiving, or serene with people who aren't in your family, but if you can learn to do it with your most irritating blood relatives, then in looking back at your life you will definitely be able to say you’ve done some crucial inner work on your spiritual journey.
The article is entitled "Making Peace with Your Family" and you can read all of it starting right here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wednesday life form blogging

Young llama

Fulfillment in being ordinary

It was really breakthrough stuff for me when I let go of believing it was better to be special in some way and instead began to value the ordinary. I recommend exploring this principle:

And while it takes courage to achieve greatness, it takes more courage to find fulfillment in being ordinary. For the joys that last have little relationship to achievement, to standing one step higher on the victory platform. What is the adventure in being ordinary? It is daring to love just for the pleasure of giving it away. It is venturing to give new life and to nurture it to maturity. It is working hard for the pure joy of being tired at the end of the day. It is caring and sharing and giving and loving…

-- Marilyn Thomsen

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday meditative picture blogging


The "purpose" of meditation

Here are a few thoughts on meditation that I found, interestingly, on the BBC website:
The purpose of meditation is to stop the mind rushing about in an aimless (or even a purposeful) stream of thoughts. People often say that the aim of meditation is to still the mind.
If we are consumed by craving or aversion, we will experience the world very differently from the way we will experience it if we are overflowing with generosity and kindness.
Some classical meditation methods use the meditator's own breathing. They may just sit and concentrate on their breathing... not doing anything to alter the way they breathe, not worrying about whether they're doing it right or wrong, not even thinking about breathing; just 'following' the breathing and 'becoming one' with the breathing.

It is important not to think: "I am breathing". When a person does that they separate themselves from the breathing and start thinking of themselves as separate from what they are doing - the aim is just to be aware of breathing.
You can find the entire article right here.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday art blogging

Artist: Georges Seurat
Image from Wikimedia Commons

About reality

I just discovered the website for The Institute for Applied Meditation based in Tucson. Here is something that I think is rich material for reflection:

The experience of reality breaks through as a surprise. You know it's reality because it's so much stronger than anything you could imagine, and it's not the way you thought it would be. If everything that happens to you is predictable, just as you thought it would be, you are probably imagining the way things are and blocking out what doesn't fit. The experience of continually learning is one of awe and wonder. Reality breaks through in your mind as a surprise, upsetting your model. The surprise is that you had assumed your perceptions and beliefs were already based on reality, and yet here is an event, a challenge, or an idea that cannot be accommodated. One of two things happens next: either you expand your model of reality, or you deny the new event and freeze your model. The first path leads to insight.

-- Puran Bair

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A review of meditation benefits

I've brought you this information before from time to time but I think it's a good idea for us to remind ourselves of the following on a regular basis:

Meditation has the following physiological health benefits:

* Meditation leads to a decrease in the metabolic rate and also lowers the heart rate. This indicates a state of deep rest and good regeneration. * Meditation can reduce stress which is indicated by lowered levels of stress-hormones like cortisol.
* Meditation also reduces high blood pressure, and the benefits of these are known to all.
* Meditation can help asthma patients and make them breathe easier.
* Meditation appears to slow down the aging process of the brain and also thicken the grey matter of the brain, which only leads to an increase in the size of the brain.

Meditation has the following psychological health benefits, and these are proven by many numerous studies:

* Meditation leads to an increase in the coherence of brain wave patterns in the brain, which goes to suggest that it improves creativity and learning and alters the way the brain works.
* Meditation helps in decreasing anxiety and depression and also irritability and moodiness.
* Meditation leads to an improved memory.
* Meditation increases the euphoric feelings of joy and happiness and contentment.
* Meditation leads to an increase in emotional stability.
The above is from a little article entitled Meditation Class for Your Well Being from a website called Carrie and Danielle.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Appropriate and necessary confidence


I want to assert here today that a lack of appropriate confidence comes from low self-esteem and low self-esteem comes from believing stuff (mainly about ourselves) that simply isn't true. The meditative process helps here by teaching us to confront the mind poison of delusion and to see things as they really are.

I really like the following quotations. May they truly give you material for reflection today:

"I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence, but it comes from within. It is there all the time."

-Anna Freud

"Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they're yours."

-Richard Bach

"Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong."

-Peter T. Mcintyre

I especially want to call your attention to that last one. So many people I talk to truly believe that the way to happiness and success in life is to make sure they never make mistakes. Needless to say, the stress such people experience is enormous. Even if it were possible not to make mistakes (and it's not) such a condition would make us very stagnant.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Icon meditation

We do something very similar to this in Session 4 of the Foundations class:
First of all, find a picture or painting that brings you pleasure. Next, find a place to sit where you can be comfortable and won’t be disturbed. Position your picture in front of you where you get a good view without straining your neck or your eyes. Now close your eyes. Focus on your breathing. Inhale through your nose, and exhale through your mouth. Be aware of your body as the air moves in and out of your lungs. Establish a tempo to your breathing. After a few minutes, your body will start to relax.

Now open your eyes and gaze at your picture. Take note of the colors, the background, and any unusual and interesting details. Try to memorize it, then shut your eyes again. Now try to recreate the picture in your mind and visualize yourself becoming part of it. Actually put yourself in the picture. Wander around inside it and see what the various components look like up close.
This can also be done with children as a game. It will help them with both focus and emotional regulation.

I found it right here.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Wednesday life form blogging

Worth pondering

And there's a lot in this to ponder, I do think:

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.

- Chinese proverb

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A benefit from loving-kindness meditation

I think this is quite wonderful:
The purpose of loving-kindness meditation is to develop the mental habit of altruistic love for the self and others. It is said to "sweeten the mind."
Isn't it encouraging to think that we can actually make our minds sweeter? This can bring us great consolation if we let it. And it can also be a strong motivation for remembering to practice loving-kindness meditation regularly.

I found it on this page.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Monday meditative picture blogging

This was sent to me yesterday by my photographer friend, Walter P. Calahan, who lives in Maryland. You can find Walt's website right here.

Thinking about language as metaphor

I was looking up something else by Nietzsche today and came across this:

We believe that we know something about the things themselves when we speak of trees, colors, snow, and flowers; and yet we possess nothing but metaphors for things — metaphors which correspond in no way to the original entities.

-- Friedrich Nietzsche

It reminded me of a story I once read about two Tibetan lamas who are simply sitting outside together in companionable silence. Suddenly one of them starts laughing as he points away from himself. "They call that a tree!" he exclaims to the other.

It also reminds me of the great Jewish existentialist philospher, Martin Buber. In his ground breaking book, I and Thou, is a chapter that begins with these words: "I consider a tree." Recommended.

Extra: I just found a wonderful sermon about Buber and the I-Thou relationship called "My Favorite Philosopher". Do read it. It's very good!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Sunday art blogging

Wall painting in a Berlin apartment

More motivation

Here's a way of looking at perseverence in meditation that I hadn't thought of before:
Meditation will only be of limited benefit to you if you practice it on-and-off. The key to success in meditation is the commitment to meditate once or twice every day. Like embarking on a new career with a new employer: if you turn up for work only when you feel like it, you are unlikely to go very far in your career!
It makes so much sense, doesn't it?

I found this on a page entitled "Advanced Guide to Meditation".

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Trusting our meditation

It occurs to me that when we experience meditation as a struggle it is simply because we have forgotten that we can trust it. I think the following advice, therefore, is very helpful:

Be soft in your practice. Think of the method as a fine silvery stream, not a raging waterfall. Follow the stream. Have faith in its course. It will go its own way, meandering here, trickling there. It will find the grooves, the cracks, the crevices. Just follow it. Never let it out of your sight. It will take you.

- Sheng-yen

Thursday, December 03, 2009

When things get worse before they get better

Many people who are fairly new to meditation are convinced that something must be wrong when meditative practices seem to make their minds worse in the early stages. Not so, really! Here's why:

You may meditate because you want peace. All sorts of expectations can arise in your mind. It is possible that you may experience peace, but most of the time you will not. Why? It's not a problem with the meditator. At the beginning there may be a sense of calm and peace. But after a while your mind will seem even worse than before. Even though your mind may seem worse, actually it is better.
The reason why your mind seems worse after meditating for a while is that your emotional problems are coming to the surface. It's important to let what needs to come out, come out. Try not to judge your thoughts. And do not chase after them or hold onto them. If you follow this instruction, meditation becomes very easy. When these emotions come up, hold on strongly to your mental focus. If your mind is calm, your focus can be more relaxed. All meditators experience emotional upset and crying when they practice. Let this be and afterwards there will be peace.

-- Lama Gursam Rinpoche

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Wednesday life form blogging

A transformed attitude

Universal responsibility does not mean we are required to fix everything in the universe. It means, rather, that no sentient being is outside the realm of our compassion, outside the realm of our ability and willingness to respond:

If you can maintain mindfulness of universal responsibility, everything you do — walking, sitting, sleeping, working, talking, eating, whatever actions you engage in — will be transformed by this positive attitude. Every action of your body, speech and mind will immediately become service for other sentient beings.When you sleep, you sleep for others; when you eat, you eat for others; when you work, you work for others; when you talk, you are talking to benefit others, to bring them happiness. The moment your attitude changes in this way, whatever you do becomes an action that benefits others.

- Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A very thoughtful observation

And one very much worth remembering:

If our lives demonstrate that we are peaceful, humble and trusted, this is recognized by others. If our lives demonstrate something else, that will be noticed too.

- Rosa Parks