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Tag Archives: human behavior

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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Diversity Training #4

For the purposes of this particular post, I plan on focusing on Diversity Training #4 – to read all 7 of the Diversity Trainings, please click here: https://goingoutwordsandinwords.wordpress.com/?s=diversity+trainings. Our local sangha, Be Here Now, which meets on Monday nights at the Open Way Mindfulness Center here in Missoula, MT, has taken up the 7 Diversity Trainings as a 7-month series. Once a month, on the first Monday, we have a different sangha member give a short talk on one of the trainings, and then we open up for community sharing centered around whichever training we’re on. Tonight, we’ll be on #4.

I only recently became aware of these Diversity Trainings this past January, so I am still getting familiar with each of them and forming my own relationship to them. As a writer, what better way is there to foster this relationship than by writing about it?!

Diversity Training #4:

Aware of the suffering caused by intentional or unintentional acts of rejection, exclusion, avoidance, or indifference towards people who are culturally, physically, sexually, or economically different from me, I undertake the training to refrain from isolating myself to people of similar backgrounds as myself and from being only with people who make me feel comfortable. I commit to searching out ways to diversify my relationships and increase my sensitivity towards people of different cultures, ethnicities, sexual orientations, ages, physical abilities, genders, and economic means.

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Smoke

Missoula Valley. Photo Credit: Brian Christianson Photography

Here in Missoula, Montana we’re in the midst of our fifth annual season: fire season. In western Montana, the order is as follows: winter, spring, summer, fire, fall. So the “water cooler” talk right now in town is centered largely around air quality and wildfire activity. Whether at the check-out line in the grocery store or during a chance occurrence with a friendly acquaintance, the topic de jour is about how awful the smoke settling in the valley is, how sad it is to know our forests are burning, and how everyone hopes it’s over soon.

Regardless of the season, this dialog is no different than our collective griping about the weather. Come winter time it shifts to how cold and gray it is. Come spring time it’s too rainy, or not rainy enough. Come summer it’s too hot. Come fire season it’s too smoky. And fall’s biggest detractor is that it has arrived too soon and isn’t summer.

This post isn’t my own gripe about other people griping, but instead is my way of trying to process this cultural phenomenon and shed light onto an opportunity in which to practice. Despite my propensity for writing – which I do A LOT of – in person, I gravitate towards the quieter side of the verbal scale. So, when people I meet proceed to talk about how awful the smoke is, my tendency is to simply smile and listen. But I do invest contemplative time in trying to fashion some kind of response that would be an authentic expression AND also not be dismissive of what someone is saying. Once in a while I manage to say something that I hope will serve to rally against the commonplace mentality of complaining about the weather, but mostly I have found little to offer in return when it comes to this dialog exchange.

I’ve written about this topic here on my blog a few times over the years. How we engage with the weather is a litmus test for how we engage with life. Our reactions to the weather are an indicator of how well we deal with uncertainty and change, how well we are able to go with the flow of what’s being presented in the here and now, and how skilled we are in the art of letting go. It’s worth our time and energy getting in touch with what our own relationship is to the weather, and paying close attention to what it is we say and how often we talk about it with others.

Our quality of life depends on what we do in the in-between-the-cracks moments – those instances we disregard or let fall to the wayside or way underestimate as being important. There is no such thing as an insignificant moment. Every weather-based conversation and simple exchange matter.

So, as always, the practice continues…

 
 

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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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Discomfort Practice

The more we attempt to regulate our environment to suit our preferences, the less resilient we become in managing fluctuations when they occur. This week: practice weathering (and perhaps eventually embracing) small discomforts by doing such things as:

  • not putting on the AC in your car when running a short errand around town
  • eating a meal without being on your phone/laptop/TV
  • foregoing your favorite morning beverage for one day
  • doing something you’ve been putting off because you don’t feel like doing it
  • eating something that you tend to generally avoid
  • listening to a song you would otherwise thumbs down on Pandora
  • doing something nice for a co-worker who you don’t particularly like
  • voluntarily standing in the longest check-out line at the market
  • walking much slower than your normal pace when going a short distance from one place to another
  • not falling asleep with the TV on for one weekend
  • intentionally leaving the house without your phone for a whole day (or 1/2 a day – or even 1 hour!)
  • not using your phone to kill small increments of time (when stopped at a red light, waiting in line, in-between errands or bites of food…)

We’re becoming a culture unable to forge strong, intelligent relationships with our own selves – so quick are we to run, distract, intoxicate, ignore, and fight against even the slightest of uncomfortable situations. If we are incapable of managing the small stuff, how will we be able to sort through the big stuff, like dealing with grief and loss, handling stress, or going through emotional/physical/political/societal upheaval?

Valuable practice: Start small so you can work big.

 

 
 

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Texting/Email Etiquette

The lack of texting/email etiquette is increasingly becoming a pet peeve of mine. I’m referring to the absence of friendly greetings and basic civility that would otherwise accompany a live in-person conversation but is routinely side-stepped altogether when it comes to people pecking away at their smartphones or laptops. At the risk of sounding terribly old fashioned, when did we become so boorish? I have a few friends that don’t even take the time to type out Hi or Hello, they just launch directly into whatever it is they have to say, without so much as a polite salutation or proper good-bye.

Since texting and emailing are some of the most common ways we communicate with one another, I think it’s worth investing time creating some kind of mindfulness-based practice around these methods of electronic connection. Here are some ideas:

Ways to infuse mindfulness into our texting/emailing routine

  • When beginning a new conversation strain, start with a greeting, such as: hi, hiya, hi there, hello, sup, good morning, top of the day…something to indicate that you’re not a caveman who’s totally unfamiliar with the subtleties of being kind and polite.
  • Tune into whether you’re feeling rushed when texting/emailing someone. So often we’re caught up in rapid-fire responding, fingers or thumbs ablaze. We can ask ourselves: Do I really need to be moving this ferociously?
  • Be attentive to your tone of voice when typing. It takes more time and will require more focused awareness than perhaps you’re used to, but how we communicate is perhaps the most important element in determining the quality of our relationships. Take the extra time to ensure that what you’re typing is coming across in a friendly manner. Remember: tone of voice comes across differently through our electronic gadgets. We have to enfold extra time and concentration into making sure we’re coming across well, since people cannot see our body language or hear our actual tone of voice when communicating.
  • Sign off in a manner that doesn’t make it seem like you’re just droppin the mic and walking off-stage. So many people that I receive texts or emails from don’t take the time to offer a short closing, they just stop typing and press send. It’s as though they were suddenly abducted by aliens and were unable to formally say good-bye before getting beamed aboard.
  • Read what you write before sending it off into the electronic ether. Don’t just skim for quirky auto-correct mistakes, read it for content and tone of voice.
  • A :) goes a very long way. Never underestimate the power of a well chosen opportunity to put a :) into your text or email.

Happy texting/emailing everyone :)

P.S I’d love hearing your own experiences with electronic forms of communication, please comment below if you feel so inclined!

 

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2017 in Everyday Practice

 

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Scatterings of Thought

I’ve been thinking about what this, my next blog post, would be about for the last few days but have had a hard time landing on just one idea to write about, as a few different practice-related topics have been bubbling around for me, as of late. So, I thought I’d just include a list of the topics along with a brief synopsis of each one, in an effort to get my creative juices flowing a bit. Please note: these scatterings of thought may not make a whole lot of sense just yet.

  1. There is a great importance to develop our relationship with solitude, stillness, and silence if we have a desire to get in touch with ourselves on a deeper level – which is not possible in the fray of everyday life. We need to cultivate a connection to the art of being in and of the world – not getting solely fixated on our doing nature, becoming distracted and dispersed.
  2. How do we best support loved ones going through difficult times? While it’s true that deep listening and loving speech go a long ways to help reduce the suffering of others, sometimes additional action is necessary. How do we best hold both of these truths: 1. We cannot support those who are not ready to receive it, despite how good our intentions are or how “right” we may be in our assessment of how their actions/behavior should change in order to benefit their situation.  2. Sometimes a loving intervention or decisive action may be in order, as oftentimes those who are struggling profoundly are unable/unequipped to ask for help. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
  3. What tools do I feel, as a budding Dharma teacher, are most supportive for people to focus on in regards to getting started (and remaining) on the path of mindfulness, in the context of Thay’s tradition?
  4. Is the fact that my friendships and priorities are changing simply a natural unfolding, or is there something I’m missing that I should be actively working on to address or otherwise adjust?
  5. What is the balance between being self-possessed and strong-willed and not overshadowing/offending others? How much responsibility do I take on in regards to the feelings/thoughts/views of others – especially when I judge that others are often threatened by my strengths and what I have to offer and/or are highly sensitive people which tend to take things very personally and are overly dramatic in nature?
  6. When, if ever, is it appropriate to attempt to correct someone’s falsely held notions about something?

And the inner musings continue…

Ah, life. What a splendid manifestation it is!

 

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