Sunday, 23 August 2015

#717 Many Contemplative Practices

     There's a bewildering array of ways to intentionally go deeper, to experience and engage more profoundly with this amazing human journey (see illustration below). Nor is this illustration complete - missing are the numerous and varied specific secular mental-health approaches.
     All of these paths can help one function better and live a happier life.
     A small proportion of people elect to follow a path until it leads to complete transformation of heart-mind-body, referred to in some traditions as awakening, enlightenment or liberation.

© The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society
Concept & design by Maia Duerr; illustration by Carrie Bergman

Friday, 21 August 2015

#716 How Mindfulness (MBSR) Can Change Your Life

     "Mindfulness is a way of being - a basic human quality of awareness that is cultivated by learning to pay wise attention to whatever is happening in our lives.
     People who participate in a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program, learn through their own experience how to take better care of themselves, by understanding the interplay of mind and body, allowing for greater access to inner resources for coping, growing and healing. 
     MBSR is an approach that combines meditation, dialogue, reflective inquiry, mindful yoga and movement, as means to assisting participants to work more effectively with stress, pain and illness, as well as the challenges of life in the 21st century."


Thursday, 20 August 2015

#715 A Quick Introduction to Mindfulness

     Jon Kabat-Zinn PhD, originator (in 1979) of the now immensely popular Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, presents the helpful brief (12min) introductory video below.

     Key suggestions:
               • Practicing just for fun, out of curiosity. 
                          Not to get anywhere, or become anything eg more relaxed, a great meditator etc. 
                          Not to solve some problems you're having.
               • Simply holding this moment in awareness
               • Maintaining a still, dignified posture
               • "Meeting this moment in it's fullness with alertness"
               • Seeing if we can feel the breath (instead of think about it)
                          Seeing if you can surf on the sensations of the breath coming in & out of the body, moment by moment by moment
                          Letting everything else going on in the mind, in the room - sounds, everything, just be in the wings. Not suppressing anything, just featuring the breath.
                          Letting the breath take center stage in the field of awareness, as if your life depended on it, which of course it does, in more ways than you may think.

     See also the superb brief intro to "awareness": 

Monday, 17 August 2015

#714 Cultivating Attunement

     “When we cultivate our capacity for balance and attunement, 
     we can experience joyful inner liberation, 
     no matter what the outer circumstances.”                                           Jack Kornfield

     "Love is omni-inclusive,
     Progressively exquisite,
     Understanding and tender
     And compassionately attuned
     To other [and] self."                                             R. Buckminster Fuller  [I replaced "than" with "and"]

             • bringing into a harmonious or responsive relationship;
             • causing (a person, company, etc.) to have a better understanding of what is needed or wanted by a particular person or group; 
             • becoming aware or responsive;
             • a feeling of being "at one" with others.


Saturday, 15 August 2015

#713 Acceptance of Circumstances - Outer & Inner

     “the painful aspects of life, the really hard times … That’s the stuff you work with. … It may seem like the outer circumstances are the problem, but the challenge is actually what they bring up in you – the inner experiences of anguish or sorrow or suffering that they provoke or trigger in you.
     I don’t feel self-loathing and those kinds of intense emotions anymore, but I sure remember what they feel like. I know that the single most important thing for people today is the extent to which they feel really bad about themselves. I have a passion for finding a way of talking about this that can help people make friends with themselves. That requires a deep acceptance of yourself and learning how to accept things inside you that are considered unacceptable.
     Usually we spend our whole lives trying to avoid feeling that ‘there’s something fundamentally wrong with me.’ The view I’m coming from is that we’re actually complete and whole, and there is nothing fundamentally wrong with us. In fact, we are fundamentally good, and we can connect with that goodness. We can move closer to accepting and honoring all parts of ourselves, while knowing that almost everybody shares those bad feelings about themselves. This is just what it’s like to be human.”                          Pema Chodron

        “Connect with the Best of Yourself – An Evening with Pema Chodron and k.d. lang.” Shambhala Sun, September 2015 

Friday, 14 August 2015

#712 Curiosity, Questioning, Progressive Opening ...

     "The path opens up as soon as one's life is exposed as a question rather than a bundle of more or less interesting facts. This questioning is not intellectual curiosity. Zen speaks of it being asked through one's skin and bones."

       Stephen Batchelor. "Living with the Devil. A meditation on good and evil." Riverhead Books, NY, 2004.

 Photograph by P. Michael Lovas

Saturday, 8 August 2015

#711 Who Am I Really?

     “Today, we tend to live within an ethos of authenticity. We tend to believe that the ‘true self’ is whatever is most natural and untutored. That is, each of us has a certain sincere way of being in the world, and we should live our life being truthful to that authentic inner self, not succumbing to the pressures outside of ourself. To live artificially, with a gap between your inner nature and your outer conduct, is to be deceptive, cunning, and false.”
       David Brooks "The Road to Character." Random House, NY, 2015. 

     The refrain "I've got to be me", and Paul Anka's song (made famous by Frank Sinatra) "I did it my way" is very much like Brooks' statement above. The question arises: is our true nature simply equivalent to our egoic tendencies?

     A fascinating statement from a senior Zen teacher: 
          "You're perfect as you are.
           Try harder!"