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Familiar Suffering

17 percent:
the success rate of the oldest residential drug & alcohol treatment facility in the world.
17 percent
of people stay sober for a year after they leave.
17 percent.
And it’s the highest success rate of any treatment center in the w h o l e world.
17 percent.

*Data from the book A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, published in 2003.

One of the most recent studies on recidivism rates – which most often refers to the rate at which a person relapses back into criminal behavior after being released from prison – showed that 67.8% of people were rearrested within 3-years of being released from prison, within 5-years that number increases to 76.6%. And of those prisoners, a little more than half were arrested by the end of the first year of being released.

I often ponder why it’s so hard to break our cycles of detrimental behaviors and habits. These are more extreme examples, of course, but the thread is the same for all of us. We all have a hard time letting go of the suffering we’ve grown strangely accustomed to. Even when we know what we’re doing is not working. Even when we’re miserable. Even when we’re crippled by shame and guilt and fear.

A common deterrent towards making positive changes that I’ve heard often from people, in a variety of contexts, involves the deeply rooted and long-held view that they’re broken, un-fixable, damaged beyond repair. My husband used to think he was one of those people. I have at least two friends and a family member I can think of that feel this way, too. And it makes sense to me that if we think we are broken then there’s little sense in trying to change course – because there’s a core belief that nothing will work.

“Attachment to views is the greatest impediment to spiritual growth.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

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Posted by on October 12, 2017 in Everyday Practice

 

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Sovereignty

The best definition I found for the word “sovereignty” is stated in the image above: autonomous; free from external control. I’ve been resonating with this word over the past year and find that my personal sovereignty is developing and deepening along with my mindfulness practice, as they seem to go hand-in-hand.

I’m finding that the state of sovereignty is much like the state of joy in that when I talk about it people inquire further, not knowing how to develop such qualities of being. So, this is my first attempt at trying to put into words what this particular characteristic is about, from my own experience that is.

Sovereignty, in regards to oneself, is about having a strong and unwavering sense of self-reliance, internal direction, and self-assurance (in a humble and well-grounded fashion) – it’s about taking and claiming full and total responsibility for one’s own quality of life and state of being. To summarize, sovereignty is about being at home with yourself wherever you go, regardless of outer circumstances. And this is the crux of Thich Nhat Hanh’s mindfulness tradition: to come back home to ourselves in the here and now, with joy and ease, so that we can then be of service and benefit to others.

Developing our own sovereignty is not about disconnecting from others or regarding ourselves as superior or becoming a “lone wolf.” It’s about being able to depend and trust in our capacity to generate joyfulness and solidity no matter where we are or who we’re with – to befriend and keep good company with our own selves and emanate that outwards, un-tethered from the clutches of self-consciousness, self-judgement, and self-doubt. It’s a state born from mindfulness, concentration, insight, and diligent practice.

I’ve often mentioned my interest in breaking down mindfulness/Buddhist-based teachings in order to make them more palatable and practical so that they might become more applicable to a wider demographic of people, especially those who are looking for more straight-forward “how-to” guidance. So with that in mind, what are some actions we can take to actually practice the development of sovereignty? Let’s see what I can come up with:

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Posted by on September 21, 2017 in Everyday Practice

 

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The Art of Organizing (part 2 of 2)

This is part 2 of a two-part post, to read part 1 click here: https://goingoutwordsandinwords.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/the-art-of-organizing-part-1-of-2/

Please note: All of these suggestions are simply what I find useful in my own life.

6. Meditate in the mornings. Starting the day with a few minutes of meditation helps to lay the groundwork for a more solid and stable platform in which to build your day upon. Having a regular meditation practice allows us to strengthen our inner muscles of resiliency, concentration, solidity, ease, patience, openness, and equanimity, all of which serve important functions in our day-to-day lives. And being well-organized internally translates, over time, to being well-organized externally, too.

7. Make self-care one of your priorities. I believe that for a person to be well-organized and have it be a sustainable and prolonged way of living, one must find ways in which to replenish their own energy tanks. If self-care is ranked low on the list of importance, the chances are good that eventually we’ll burn ourselves out and become stressed, overwhelmed, and utterly exhausted by all of the things we choose to do with our time. In an effort to address a common misunderstanding, self-care is not the same as being selfish or self-indulgent. For me, investing in acts of self-care has to do with understanding how my well-being affects that of those around me – when I’m taking good care of myself I am also taking good care of others, there is no separation. I practice to care well for myself in order to care well for those around me, and to continue being active and productive in all the ways I want to be without getting overly taxed and depleted. Self-care will look differently for each of us – for me, since I live with chronic pain and illness, I’ve found that taking a short nap most everyday is vital to my ability to function optimally and manage my pain levels. I also make sure to set time aside to do the things that I most enjoy, such as: writing, playing music, volunteering, going on retreats, paddle-boarding, and photography. It’s important to investigate what self-care looks like for our own individual needs and to practice not feeling guilty about making it happen.

8. Don’t compare. One of my favorite quotes is from Theodore Roosevelt: Comparison is the thief of joy. To continue with his train of thought I’d like to add: Comparison is the thief of time and energy. From an efficiency standpoint, getting stuck in comparison games is a huge waste of time and energy that could be much better spent elsewhere. When we’re constantly weighing, judging, and re-evaluating what we’re doing in comparison to what someone else is doing, it often leads to second guessing, hemming and hauling, and non-action. Drop the tendency to compare and strengthen your confidence in your own capacity to take decisive action.

9. Practice belly breathing. When breathing, many of us use primarily our upper register to inhale and exhale, aka: our lungs. When we practice to deepen our breathing – bringing it from and into our belly – there are certain very practical and helpful benefits. Deep breathing aids us in raising our mental clarity, focus, and alertness – all of which, of course, are key to being well organized. It also helps increase circulation, reduces fatigue, lowers blood pressure, improves digestion, and bolsters our immune system.

10. Take responsibility for your life. It’s easy to operate in such a way where we feel life is rather heaped upon us, as though we were a victim of all the things needing to be taken care of. But the truth is, the life we lead is made up of our own volition, consisting of the results of our choices and decisions we make. The quality of our lives is up to us – we can either view challenges and difficulties as opportunities to grow or as occasions in which to complain about and blame others for, the choice is ours.

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