Monday, 28 April 2014

#526 Monitoring My State of Being - Moment-by-Moment

     Awareness of what's going on around us & what's going on inside of us are important components, but nowhere near all of mindfulness. Another vital level of awareness is monitoring our state of being or, in computer jargon, our operating system.
     We've all experienced this unique combination kind / loving, open-hearted, peaceful, silent, still, timeless, hypoegoic / egoless: being with a person or animal we love, performing highly meaningful activity, being in a special place, listening to special music etc.
     We've all also experienced being "stressed-out": fear / anger / anxiety / depression, armored, noise, feeling rattled / shaken, time-poverty, egocentric. If we examine our lives very carefully, the vast majority of our time is spent - to some degree - in this mode.
     Whether we're in the rare open-hearted mode - or - the almost continuous armored mode, we tend to blame external factors entirely. Aside from trying to make the external environment more comfortable & pleasing, we assume we have no control over our quality of life.

     Mindfulness training allows us see clearly & experience directly how WE are ENTIRELY RESPONSIBLE for our own state of being - in which operating system WE CHOOSE to live ie we choose our quality of life independent of external factors.
     You CAN open your mind-heart up to an infinitely greater quality of life.

Puppy Love from:       &       Stressed-Out from:

Sunday, 20 April 2014

#525 Bare Attention Cultivation

     "... keep your attention focused on the tactile sensations of the breath, which change from moment to moment. ... let your mind be as conceptually silent as possible ... during the out-breath, release any involuntary thoughts that have cropped up. ... arouse your attention (counteracting laxity) during the in-breath, and relax your attention (counteracting excitation) with each out-breath. But don't relax so much that you become spaced out or dull. In this way, with each complete breath, you remedy the two major defects of attention.
     Meditation is a balancing act between attention and relaxation.
     The kind of awareness cultivated here is called bare attention, in which the mind is fully focused on the sensory impressions appearing to it, moment to moment, rather than getting caught up in conceptual & emotional responses to those stimuli."
       B. Alan Wallace. "The Attention Revolution. Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind." Wisdom, Boston, 2006.  

     Wondering about your ability to meditate? See:

Jimmy Chin, National Geographic

Saturday, 19 April 2014

#524 Life - As Is

     There's a deep (desperate?) drive in all of us towards perfection - having perfect stuff, experiences, relationships, and even wanting ourselves to be perfect. Haven't we all imagined or at least dreamed of being able to fly? Or having other "super-powers"? "And how's that working for you?"

     Real life sure is a big fat humility pill compared to our daydreams! Mindfulness practice helps us embrace real life, exactly as it is, so much easier.

     See also:

Lerky - Devin & Natalie's guest of honour

Friday, 18 April 2014

#523 Benefits of Mindfulness

     "One of the greatest benefits of a powerful faculty of attention is that it gives us the ability to successfully cultivate other positive qualities. With the powerful tool of focused attention, we can uproot formerly intractable bad habits, such as addictive behaviors or harmful thoughts and emotions. We can use it to develop an openhearted stance toward others and, on that basis, experience profound insights into the nature of the mind and of reality, radically altering our relation to the rest of the world."

       B. Alan Wallace. "The Attention Revolution. Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind." Wisdom, Boston, 2006.
       See also: 

Tiplea Remus, National Geographic

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

#522 "OK, I Know What Mindfulness is About" - Really?

     You undoubtedly have ideas about mindfulness, but like me, you've probably barely scratched the surface. 
     Even theoretical understanding of mindfulness is not really possible without decades of practice. Gradually, progressively, thorough transformational learning occurs. You can become more & more centered in the very midst of life's constant change, sickness, aging and death - the very things that stress most others to the breaking point.
     Mindfulness practice, though not easy, is nevertheless the easiest, most effective way I know of embracing this one precious life with an open mind-heart.

Monday, 14 April 2014

#521 "Ordinary Unhappiness", Ideas about Happiness & the Real Thing

     Freud believed that the optimal state human beings could achieve is "ordinary unhappiness." 
     Today, the pendulum has swung to the opposite extreme. We seem to be obsessed with comfort & happiness. "How can I be happy?" is the central quest for many. Many seem to think that stable happiness is achievable, though they'd much prefer that their level of happiness steadily increased - why not go for the (imagined) "lifestyle of the rich & famous"?
     Don't most of us come to mindfulness practice because we can't realize our ideas about happiness? What if our ideas were "way off"? Can we, instead try, OPENING UP to REALITY?

Claudio Galli

Sunday, 13 April 2014

#520 Imperfections - Others' & Ours

     It's so easy to see how others fall short of our standards of perfection. It's impossible for anyone, including for us, to live up to these standards. Our deluded judgments that arise from this cause a lot of problems - see:
      An ancient wise advice is to not judge others for messing up, but to see how we can learn from their mistakes to help make our own behavior more skillful. This is infinitely wiser than labeling them as "bad guys", while fooling ourselves that we're "the good guys". We're all perfectly human, doing our imperfect best.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

#519 The Feeling of "I'm No Good at Meditating!"

     Are you with a group that's sitting in meditation for 30-40 minutes, but you don't actually feel like you belong because you're just looking around feeling frustrated? Is self-talk flooding the circuits?: "I'm just no good at this"; "Get me out of here"; "When is this going to be over"; "I've got a million things to do"?
     That too is OK! The facilitator(s) can "hold" that too. Unconditional love & acceptance is hopefully being modeled by both the facilitator(s) and your fellow participants. This holding, this space of acceptance is key to nurturing transformation from suffering to wholeness and beyond. 
     Their example helps you yourself to accept & hold the part of you that feels frustrated plus a mixed bag of other challenging emotions. Your inner wisdom is capable of unconditional love for your own fearful inner child (& everyone else's). A part of you resides in peace, stillness, silence, wisdom, timelessness. Practice lowering your center of gravity from the self-talk jungle of the head, down past the jangled turmoil of the chest, down to the belt level (2 inches below the navel) - the hara or dan tien. See:
     How can you modify mindfulness practice to suit your current situation? It's possible that, at this point in time, you most benefit sitting in meditation for a much shorter time period - maybe 5 minutes. 
     You are your own trainer, therapist, sports psychologist - guide your practice wisely, for best long-term results. Never, ever, ever give up on your #1 client! You can & will do infinitely better than you can currently possibly imagine - just keep practicing wisely, ideally with some guidance from those who've been practicing for a long time.

Cary Maures

Sunday, 6 April 2014

#518 Meeting Fear Effectively

     "By inviting fear into the relaxed, openness of your heart, by reaching out to your fear when you feel calm and grounded, you can begin to develop a connection between these two areas in yourself. Later when you become afraid, a connection already will have been established to help you call upon your calm, grounded being. When you feel connected to your inner wholeness, you can offer that as an ally to the place in yourself that experiences the pain and helplessness of being afraid. Shunryu Suzuki said, 'The only way you can endure your pain is to let it be painful' and maybe the same is true of fear. The way to endure our fears is to just be with them. Being present without trying to change our experience is how to tame and transform our pain."
        Phelan JP. Practicing with Fear. Mindfulness - published online 06 September 2012.


Saturday, 5 April 2014

#517 First Self-acceptance Then Self-knowledge

     What we find unacceptable in others, we naturally find unacceptable in ourselves. Rejecting others is relatively easy. When it comes to aspects of ourselves that we judge unacceptable, it's easier for us to suppress these, becoming consciously unaware or "blind" to our own "faults".
     When we deeply deny our own unacceptable aspects, we see or "project" these imperfections onto others and in them we find these all the more reprehensible. We judge others very harshly for having ( our ) qualities that disgust us. An extreme example is narcissistic personality disorder (below). The sickest example is scapegoating - ethnic, religious & other forms of "cleansing".
     Obviously, healthy maturation involves progressively greater degrees of self-awareness, self-acceptance, and empathy for self & others as we slowly become truly civilized & gradually earn our title: homo sapiens sapiens.

     “Narcissistic personality disorder is named after Narcissus, the youth from Greek and Roman mythology who falls in love with his own reflection in a pool. While the term narcissistic is commonly used to describe people who believe they are better than everybody else, in psychiatric terms, it refers to patients who unconsciously believe they are defective & deeply flawed. In order to mask their self-hatred, they develop a veneer of false confidence and superiority over others. Often, this takes the form of being highly critical and setting up impossibly high standards for people in their lives. But this only serves to alienate others, leading to rejection, loneliness, and sometimes suicidal depression.”
     Carlat D. Unhinged. The trouble with psychiatry – A doctor’s revelations about a profession in crisis. Free Press, NY, 2010. 

Thursday, 3 April 2014

#516 Strength, Vulnerability & Reality

     We're all, at some level, aware of our own weaknesses, shortcomings, vulnerabilities. The effect this awareness has on us varies tremendously from person to person, as well as for each of us under different circumstances and over the span of a lifetime.
     Dysfunctional, yet all too common ways of dealing with the reality of our human condition include various types of
          overcompensation eg tough guy / gal, workaholism, narcissistic personality disorder;
          suppression eg pretending everything's always happy-happy; and 
          decompensation eg paralyzing anxiety / fear / depression.

     A healthy way of living in reality, in all its complexity, unpredictability, high ups & low downs is with a clear, open heart-mind. Does this sound as revolutionary as driving sober? It's common sense, yet as we all know, common sense is not common at all.
     Mindfulness practice increases & stabilizes metacognition - ability to observe the workings of our own mind: mental, emotional, verbal & behavioral reactions. We learn to clearly see when these are dysfunctional (noise, friction), accept these as they are, and observe their consequences (increased suffering for ourselves & others). As a result of this clear insight & acceptance of ourselves & others as we are ("our common human condition"), we naturally, gradually, at our own pace, let go of dysfunctional compensations, and become progressively healthier & wiser.

Steve McCurry