Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wednesday life form blogging

More on awareness

I found a very interesting article this evening on awareness meditation by Eric Harrison. Here's how it gets started:
Focusing keeps your eyes on the road, but awareness lets you enjoy the scenery. Almost all the satisfaction of a sitting comes not from watching the road but from those sideways glances at the scenery. The physiological shifts, the bodily tranquility, the pleasure of mental freedom are all part of the scenery. When you're focused, you only see the breath.

Since awareness is already part of every meditation, the instructions are unique to it. In an awareness meditation, you don't have any new object to focus on. It's more about shifting your emphasis when you meditate from focusing to watching, from spotlight consciousness to floodlight consciousness. You become a spectator.

In most meditations, you focus inwardly on the meditation object. When practicing awareness, you do the opposite. You still have a focal point, which could be anything at all, but most of your attention goes outward, "just watching" the passing thoughts and sensations.

When doing a formal breath meditation, for example, you would only notice other thoughts and sensations when they grab your attention. When practicing awareness, however, you may still be focusing on the breath, but you allow other thoughts to surface. You deliberately watch them pass through consciousness.
The whole article is interesting and, if you have time, go on over and read it all. It's really good!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What it's really like

I think I've probably posted this before somewhere but I came across it again today and I think it's time for a repeat:

So, what is it that you do up here?” asked the inquirer who had never before traveled up the hill to visit the monastery above his town.

The monk, who was sitting on a big rock that day, replied: “We fall down and we get up, we fall down and we get up, we fall down and we get up.”

-- Origin unknown

This really is the way it is so, please, don't be discouraged when your progress isn't constant and consistent.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday meditative picture blogging

Something to think about

I agree with this:

The spiritual path - is simply the journey of living our lives. Everyone is on a spiritual path; most people just don't know it.

--Marianne Williamson

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday art blogging

"Child with his mother and ducklings"
Margret Hofheinz-Döring/Galerie Brigitte Mauch Göppingen

The importance of a quiet mind

Center participant Krena White sent me this quote and I like it very much:

Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.

-- Hans Margolius

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mindful communication

Any medical people out there? Take a look:
Training in mindfulness meditation and communication can alleviate the psychological stress and burnout experienced by many physicians, U.S. researchers say.

Dr. Michael S. Krasner, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York who was the study leader, says the training can also expand a physician's capacity to relate to patients and enhance patient-centered care.

Mindful communication utilizes the techniques of meditation to help people maintain an open and non-judgmental outlook as they tackle everyday tasks, Krasner explains.

"From the patient's perspective, we hear all too often of dissatisfaction in the quality of presence from their physician," Krasner said in a statement. "From the practitioner's perspective, the opportunity for deeper connection is all too often missed in the stressful, complex and chaotic reality of medical practice."
Of course, the same principles apply to all of us who work with people in any way.

It's from a little article entitled "Meditation training lessens doctor burnout".

Friday, September 25, 2009

Optimism

"Sitting watching sunset"

I found a little article called How to Be an Incurable Optimist over on eHow. Here's part of what it says:

One way to become more optimistic is to meditate. Recently I was in a Women's Spirituality Group. No matter what topic we chose we always ended up talking about "Living In the Moment". That seems to be the main message that buddhist traditions teach and the purpose of meditation. According to Eckhart Tolle, you can't be unhappy if you are truly living in the moment.
I'm certainly not going to disagree with that!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Our natural state of mind

I often tell beginning meditation students that they don't have to let their thoughts and feelings take them hostage. Here is that principle very eloquently expressed:
Meditation is based on the premise that the natural state of the mind is calm and clear. It provides a way to train our mind to settle into this state. Our first reason for meditating might be that we want some freedom from our agitated mind. We want to discover the basic goodness of our natural mind.

To do this requires us first to slow down and experience our mind as it is. In the process, we get to know how our mind works. We see that wherever the mind is abiding--in anger, in desire, in jealousy, or in peace--that is where we also are abiding. We begin to see that we have a choice in the matter: we do not have to act at the whim of every thought. We can abide peacefully. Meditation is a way to slow down and see how our mind works.
I found this at the The Shambhala Meditation Center of Chicago website.
~~~

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Autumnal equinox


Something especially for today:

Does the sun rise due east and set due west at the equinox?

Yes, it does. And that’s true no matter where you live on Earth, because we all see the same sky. No matter where you are on Earth, you have a due east and due west point on your horizon. That point marks the intersection of your horizon with the celestial equator – the imaginary line above the true equator of the Earth.

At the equinoxes, the sun appears overhead at noon as seen from Earth’s equator, as the illustration at the top of this post shows. That illustration shows the sun’s location on the celestial equator, every hour, on the day of the equinox.

That’s why the sun rises due east and sets due west for all of us. The sun is on the celestial equator, and the celestial equator intersects all of our horizons at points due east and due west. This fact makes the day of an equinox a good day for finding due east and due west from your yard or other favorite site for watching the sky. Just go outside around sunset or sunrise and notice the location of the sun on the horizon with respect to familiar landmarks.

If you do this, you’ll be able to use those landmarks to find those
cardinal directions in the weeks and months ahead, long after Earth has moved on in its orbit around the sun, carrying the sunrise and sunset points southward.
From a site called Earth Sky: A Clear Voice for Science.

Stormy skies

We had a ferocious storm here in Tulsa yesterday and right before it hit the skies looked very wild and ominous. A Center participant said that the day reminded him of this painting so I thought I'd share it with you:

"View of Toledo"
Artist: El Greco

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday meditative picture blogging

Simple, to the point

I like this paragraph:
Anyone can meditate; there is no special belief or lifestyle required. Daily meditation is recommended and the time can vary from five minutes to an hour or more. While meditation has been a spiritual practice for centuries, today it is increasingly used in medical settings. At its simplest level, meditation is forced downtime, and that alone is good for you. But meditation has been shown to help make chronic pain such as headache and back pain more manageable. It is helpful for anxiety and panic, sleep problems, gastrointestinal distress, fatigue, job or family stress and skin disorders.
And here's another:
Whether meditation becomes a spiritual pursuit or not is a totally personal call. But if we quiet ourselves, and pay close mindful attention, then what opens up to us in the rest of our lives is always a surprise. When mind and body are synchronized, there is a balance that calls upon the universal wisdom. There you find moments of inner peace, you feel content and happy. And these are snippets of what life is about.
I found both in a little article called "Meditative Strength".

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday art blogging

Artist: Roselyne Clerget

Meditation and music

Many people ask me if it's all right if they meditate "to music" and I consistently recommend against it. Most people mean by this that they want some sort of background music so that they can avoid the silence and this would not be a good plan at all!

However, I have just come across a fascinating article by Evelyn Cash about actually using music as a meditative support (or object).

Here's how it works:
I found myself able to watch my mind as I listened to the music. Certain tracks would bring up certain emotions or thoughts and I could use my meditation as a way to observe this process and watch how my mind reacted to the stimulus. In many ways, this is no different from sitting with slight knee pain or with a dog barking outside. The pain or the barking may irritate you but the point of meditation is to watch that irritation and see that it isn't you and will eventually pass away. I found that music had much the same effect. A track that I recognized would come on and I could watch my reaction to it and note: "recognition," another track might come on that I didn't like and I could just note: "aversion" then watch how my mood or even my body reacted. So the music became less of a distraction and more of a tool and an object of meditation.
I would recommend this only for experienced meditators. But it really is an intriguing notion isn't it?

I also would recommend that you read the entire article quoted above. It's not very long and it gives a focused description of how the author views this exercise.
~~~

Saturday, September 19, 2009

How to grow your brain

Okay. I've told you this before but it won't hurt to remind you. Here's part of a little article on the subject I just found:
Meditation helps increase gray matter. A research team from University of California, Los Angeles scanned the brains of people who meditate and found that certain regions in the brains of long-term meditators were larger than in a similar control group.

Meditators showed significantly larger volumes of the hippocampus and areas within the orbito-frontal cortex, the thalamus and the inferior temporal gyrus - all known for regulating emotions.
There are many benefits to consistent meditative practice and a bigger brain is certainly one of them!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Jewish meditation and the labyrinth

Boston College Memorial Labyrinth

I just came across a very interesting little article that reports on the growing use of labyrinth meditation by members of the Jewish faith. At least one synagogue has built a labyrinth on its property for practitioners to use:
"There's nothing not Jewish about a labyrinth," said Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz, the synagogue's associate rabbi....

"In fact, there's something incredibly Jewish about them, this whole idea of wandering. We spent 40 years in the desert wandering. For the Jews, it was more important to wander and learn what you had to learn wandering than it was to get to the goal. That's ultimately what the labyrinth is all about."

Arnowitz already has used the winding path as a tool during spiritual counseling sessions, and has plans to use the route for services in the future.
Someone who left a comment on the article said the following:
Labyrinths are not Judaic, Christian, Islamic, or other. Labyrinths are universal. They pre-date Old and New Testaments. Labyrinths' architectural designs contains sacred coordinates. Walking the path, following the many twists and turns, yet maintaining some awareness of the center, is a parable for the journey through this life.
Remember, we have a finger labyrinth here at St. John's Center and there are a number of walking labyrinths you can use in Tulsa. For those who live elsewhere, do check out the location of the labyrinth nearest you and try the practice. It can be very, very illuminating.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

More about self-acceptance

I have had occassion recently to reflect about the pernicious nature of self-denigration that often plagues people's suffering. I attribute this, among other things, to the so-called "just world" theory so prevalent in this country. The "just world" notion posits that we deserve whatever happens to us - that if we do everything "right" then our life will go smoothly and we will get what we want. Many, many, many people believe this. That philosphy is exposed when a person who is beset by difficulties cries out, "What did I do to deserve this?"

Radical self-acceptance really is the way. Here's part of a little reflection that I found on a Beliefnet blog:
For me, remaining in the moment is probably the most difficult thing in the world. When I try to meditate, it seems that my thoughts are bouncing off the walls.. I think the more I try to remain still, the less success I have.

Now I am working on acceptance. However I feel,.whatever, is happening, I remind myself myself to accept the present moment unconditionally. If am meditating, and not doing a good job of quieting my thoughts, I am learning to accept that. I remind myself many times during the day, to accept myself..

As I become less judgemental, I reduce the level of stress not only on me, but on people around me. In time, I will no longer have to remind myself to be self accepting, it will become natural.
I think the person writing here is just a little bit optimistic in thinking that we will at some point no longer have to remind ourselves to be self-accepting. It is, however, quite realistic to have confidence that, as we practice, we will need to remind ourselves much less often.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

One problem with attachment to judgment!

~~~


One important principle of meditation practice is that of "acceptance without judgment". I'm just suggesting that the intersection in the Venn diagram above might well increase a bit the more faithful we are to that principle!! :-)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What letting go really means

I've read a fair amount of Melody Beattie's material over the years. I had never read much about her life, however, until I was looking for a bio for this post. Do click through on her name below. Her personal story is truly an eye-opener:

Letting go doesn't mean we don't care. Letting go doesn't mean we shut down. Letting go means we stop trying to force outcomes and make people behave. It means we give up resistance to the way things are, for the moment. It means we stop trying to do the impossible--controlling that which we cannot--and instead, focus on what is possible--which usually means taking care of ourselves. And we do this in gentleness, kindness, and love, as much as possible.

-- Melody Beattie

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A wonderful wish for yourself and everyone

This is said to be an adaptation of a prayer by St. Teresa:

May there be peace within.

May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others.

May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.

May you be content with yourself just the way you are.

Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.

It is there for each and every one of us.

You could consider it a prayer or a meditation or even a metta (lovingkindness) practice.

I found it right here.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

How much meditation time?

There's an important principle here:

Half an hour of meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed.

~Saint Francis de Sales

Give it some thought, okay? :-)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

An important awareness

It's time for another saying found on the marquee of the Nazarene Church down on the corner from my house:
The problem with self-deception is that people are so good at it.
In meditation language, this is called both "absence of mindfulness" and the "mind poison of delusion".
~~~

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Tuesday meditative picture blogging

Kindness and Interconnectedness

A fairly new book by Sharon Salzberg has just come to my attention. It is called The Kindness Handbook: A Practical Companion. Here is just one small paragraph that I think is very focused and to the point:
If we look deeply into any kind of behavior, we will see an urge to feel a part of something greater than our own limited sense of self, a desire to feel at home in this body and mind. This urge toward happiness is often made twisted and distorted by ignorance, not knowing where happiness is actually to be found, and so we do damaging things. But we all share the desire to be happy, a vulnerability to change, to loss, and to fragility. Remembering what we share inspires us toward kindness.
There is a distressing level of truly unnecessary unkindness in our interactions with others. Often the perpetrator thinks it is trivial while the recipient may end up deeply hurt. Giving attention to the practicalities of learning to be kind is all to the good.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Labor and interconnectedness

One of the key principles of the meditative tradition is that we are not really separate; we are all connected. When you think about it, this is what the labor movement historically has been all about:

Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the earth. I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
~~~
If the workers took a notion they could stop all speeding trains;
Every ship upon the ocean they can tie with mighty chains.
Every wheel in the creation, every mine and every mill;
Fleets and armies of the nation, will at their command stand still.
~~~
Although it is true that only about 20 percent of American workers are in unions, that 20 percent sets the standards across the board in salaries, benefits and working conditions. If you are making a decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing that corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts.
~~~
I would like to recommend that we all make a special effort to devote some time today to Lovingkindness Practice - for the sake of workers who are oppressed and for the sake of all who are engaged in the struggle for basic fairness for the ordinary laborer. For that matter, let us do the practice also for those who stand in opposition to fairness and justice for the working person. They too experience pain and suffering and need the benefit of our kindness. Without it, how will their hearts ever be moved?

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Harmony

A simple statement. Profound, too:
Once you realize that at the basic level we are part of a great organic whole, it becomes very difficult for you to harbor the thoughts of hate and violence against anybody. A regular practice of meditation results into a permanent feeling of harmony with the universe.
It's from a blog post I found right here.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Coming to life

Self-definition (and presentation) is a big obsession with a lot of people. I love how Eckhart says we "won't die" if we give this up!!

Give up defining yourself - to yourself or to others. You won't die. You will come to life. And don't be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves, so it's their problem. Whenever you interact with people, don't be there primarily as a function or a role, but as the field of conscious Presence. You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.

- Eckhart Tolle

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Deeply sad

Here's where the meditative principles of the Four Reflections (sometimes called the Four Great Contemplations) will come to our rescue. They are, as you'll remember:

1. Precious human birth
2. Law of cause and effect
3. Impermanence and mortality
4. Weariness with "this world"

Spend time reflecting on these. Such a practice will truly help us all to let go of the attachments we may have cultivated concerning success in "the office" and find our purpose and meaning through compassion and insight instead.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Something about simplicity

I came across a little article today entitled "Secrets Of How To Live A Simple Life". Here's part of what it says:
One secret to how to live a simple life is to look honestly at how we complicate our lives and stop doing those things. It may be different for each of us, but there are some common habits. The first one is taking on responsibilities without fully acknowledging the costs and complexities they add to our lives.

If you bought a new boat, for example, would you think about the time you will spend maintaining it? Would you think about the trip to the insurance office for insurance, the necessity to shop for accessories like life-jackets and fire extinguishers? Would you remind yourself that boats break down, and you'll have to deal with hauling it someplace to have it repaired? Would you consider the trailer-hitch you'll need, the tarp to cover the boat, the tarp to replace that one when it tears, the bearings in the trailer wheels that will someday fail. Finally, would you think about the hours you'll have to work to pay for all this fun?

Nothing is wrong with owning a boat, by the way. If little else is going on in your life, all of the above could easily be a part of "the simple life." No one thing is too much, but when we don't recognize the complexity our choices add to our lives, we tend take on more than we can reasonably handle.
Very thought provoking, don't you think?