Wednesday, 28 December 2016

#733 Time for Intra- & Interpersonal Qualitative Change?

     "Einstein said that we cannot solve the problems of he world from the level of thinking that we were at when we created them. I think a lot of people embrace this concept, while underestimating what it really means. A different level of thinking means a different level of thinking. It does not even mean just a different kind of thinking. It does not mean a different emphasis in our thinking. It does not mean a more loving kind of thinking. It means what he said, a different level of thinking, and to me, that is what meditation brings.
      Meditation can change the world because meditation changes us. That is the point. The world will not change until we change. The state of the world is a reflection of who we are. The state of the world is the effect; the state of consciousness of human beings is the cause. Mahatma Gandhi said the problem with the world is that humanity is not in its right mind and that is what meditation addresses. It returns us to our right mind, and until there is this evolution in consciousness, we will stay locked in a fear based perspective in which we continue to see ourselves as separate from each other, and in which we continue to think we can do something to someone else and not reap the result ourselves."    
Marianne Williamson

        Ed Shapiro, Deb Shapiro eds. "Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World" Sterling Ethos, 2011.

Ancient Chinese Dragon

Sunday, 18 December 2016

#732 Stopping Practice: Stop, Tune In, Open, Proceed

     One of the simplest (MBSR) tools we offered people who wanted to live more mindfully was the word STOP itself. Practicing with STOP allows us to have a tiny little mini-retreat right here, right now. Many people use stopping practice to help reduce stress and tension. The relief of stress can be a wonderful side effect of learning to recognize our awakened nature. 
     For me, the power of stopping practice lies in its simplicity and adaptability to every situation. The first part of stopping practice is “S”: learning to actually stop. Whatever you are doing, thinking, or saying, alone or with others, you can always pause. You can stop for a moment, or for a longer period of time. 
     Stopping is powerful, especially if you are busy and hassled. You can practice pausing throughout the day, turning it into a new habit. Maybe you can set a bell to ring on your computer, or put a little sticker on your phone that says, “STOP!” If you’re with other people, you can say, “Can we just take a little pause before we continue?” Or, “I just need a moment.” 
     The next part, the “T,” stands for “take a breath,“ “take a moment,” or “tune in.” We breathe, pause, and remember we have a body, not just a busy mind. We directly and intimately encounter whatever is here, without judging it or needing it to be different.
     When the Buddha sat down and vowed to be still and quiet, his awakening revealed some universal truths to him. He realized that the main obstacle to seeing clearly is our wish for things to be different, our desire to fight reality. If things are good, we want the good times to go on forever. If things are bad, we want them to change into something good. When we stop and tune in, we can clearly recognize our longing for things to change or to stay the same. We realize that when we try to fight reality, we always lose.
     Once we have stopped and tuned in, we are ready for “O.” We can “open” to everything: first to our own sense perceptions, thoughts, and emotions, and then to the whole wide environment in which we find ourselves. This is the moment when we see the morning star, when we discover the iguana in the tree. In this opening, clarity arises in our thoughts as well. We may turn the “O” into “Oh! How wonderful!” Or, it can be “Oh! How awful!” The important part of opening is not whether we like or dislike what is happening, but that we are seeing what is happening clearly.
     Finally, there is “P.” After the opening, after the clarity and spaciousness of our widened view, we know what to do. We “proceed” if that’s what seems to be the wisest course. We take action. 
     Meditation practice is not only about sitting around and being quiet and still. It is about seeing clearly how to be effective participants in the world. Instead of adding to the suffering and pain we find everywhere, we can contribute to healing and reconciliation. Of course, because being a human being involves taking chances, when we make a decision to do or say something, we may discover that we are wrong. Our clarity and wisdom may be missing a few important pieces of information, and we may receive feedback directly or indirectly that we have made things worse. 
     At that point, we can start all over. The “P” could also stand for “pull over and park.” Maybe it’s time to turn off the computer, take a nap, have a snack, or call a dear friend. 
     Throughout the day, we can practice STOP in an endless cycle of pausing, acting, and learning. Even if we are at an actual silent retreat, the habit of stopping is still necessary, because the mind doesn’t come to a rest simply because the body does.

Melissa Myozen Blacker

Mr. Pickles & Jett practicing STOP

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

#731 What is there to hang onto?

     It's fascinating to think of a newborn baby having an oceanic relationship with the external world - no sense of separation.
     Gradually, she gains a sense of being a separate individual, though still very much identified with her caretakers. 
     Later she comes to identify with & tries hard to "fit in" with her peers. 
     As a young adult, she will differentiate somewhat from her cluster of friends. 
     But in all probability, she will remain more-or-less unconsciously identified with her tribe (sex/gender, religion, nationality, race, ethnicity, etc). She may even intentionally join some cult, which demands conformity to their group-think. See:

     Very, very few of us evolve past tribal consciousness. This requires a surprising amount of courage, as well as patient, intentional, disciplined practice of letting go of absolutely everything we assume our "self" to be - that's letting go of a lot. But ...

          If you let go a little, you will have a little peace.
          If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.
          And if you let go completely, you will have complete peace.
Ajahn Chah

     Lots more on the ego: