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What Mindfulness Isn’t

I watched a video this morning of author and meditation teacher Susan Piver speaking as part of the Mindful Relationship Summit, happening for free online right now for a limited time. Her talk was entitled: A Celebration of Love, Mindfulness, and Passion. If you’re interested in signing up, go to: http://www.mindfulrelationshipsummit.com/?ref=ba4b546cf7

I really appreciated the way she spoke about what mindfulness is, and isn’t:

Mindfulness is not a synonym to calm. Mindfulness means being with what is. And sometimes what is is calm, and sometimes what is is terrifying. Mindfulness is not about converting everything into an equal tone, it’s about going in fearlessly into what you do experience, with your eyes, mind, and heart open – without knowing what you’re going to find.

This morning, I wrote this on my writer’s facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/InMindfulMotion/)

Today’s unexpected gratitude (and it’s only 8:30am!):

Around 1:00am this morning, our smoke/carbon monoxide detector began to chirp its low battery alert. At first, it sounded only sporadically, allowing us, eventually, to ignore it and fall back asleep. (You see, this particular alarm is both hard-wired into our electrical system and operates on a 9-volt battery, so the only thing to silence it would be to change its battery, of which we did not have replacement for.)

I woke up to my alarm at 5:00am only to discover that the low battery chirping had amped itself up to sounding once PER MINUTE. Yeah. Not great.

After taking a shower, through which I could still hear the incessant chirping (that’s how loud it was), I called Rosauer’s Grocery Store, to find out what their hours were, and was over- joyed to discover that they open every day at 5:00am. With wet hair and pajamas I immediately fled the house and headed there.

I was the sole customer in the store and wondered if the cashier who checked me out was at all curious why I was there at 5:20am buying only a 9-volt battery (a pack of two, actually, so that we now have a backup).

Thank you Rosauer’s, for opening your doors at the crack of dawn and for carrying 9-volt batteries!

P.S. I know it makes total sense but FYI: 5:30am is a super chill time to go grocery shopping.

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Montana Open Way Sanghas Spring Family Retreat

Our 2017 Montana spring family retreat, in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, in pictures:

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Sometimes, Things are Just Hard

It’s easy to sometimes regard the practice of mindfulness and/or meditation as being some kind of magical elixir (especially by new practitioners), as though we could (and should) use them to cure us of our woes and ailments – that somehow if we are mindful enough and meditate enough, we’ll be able to fix whatever it is we feel needs fixing. But, the truth is, sometimes, things are just hard. Having a mindfulness practice and sitting in meditation can strengthen our ability to stay present, balanced, and well-grounded in our own experience of whatever is unfolding – which can be invaluably beneficial – but, in the end, neither mindfulness or meditation can alleviate the causes and conditions of struggle, pain, sorrow, and so on. Our relationship with life can change, but life itself will always entail a certain degree of suffering, difficulty, challenge, and heartache.

What I’m trying to highlight here, is that it’s important not to use the practices of mindfulness and meditation to form some kind of emotional smoke-screen to hide or otherwise distort the simple and very real truth that sometimes life is just hard. And, in my experience, there is a strange and great relief in coming to this understanding. There is a powerful release in being able to simply state, with clear intent, that things are just hard sometimes – without trying to explain further or apologize or rationalize or sugar-coat something for someone else’s perceived benefit. Sometimes, things are just hard. End of sentence.

I recently watched a TED talk given by Susan Kaiser Greenland on the ABC’s of Attention, Balance, and Compassion. In her talk she stated that mindfulness isn’t about changing or fixing, it’s about understanding and being aware. And on one of her slides, it stated: Wisdom comes not from being perfect but from being present. I think we can get carried away and swept up in the false notion of perfection when it comes to a lot of things. But perfection is a relative construct – and I would go so far as to call it a farce.

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Will Meditation Change My Life?

Spurred by the feature article in the current May 2017 edition of Lion’s Roar magazine, entitled How to Meditate Like the Buddha, which highlights eleven leading Buddhist teachers answers to common questions, I thought I would try my hand at answering one of the questions that were posed. Here goes:

Q: Will Meditating Change My Life?

A: (in my own words)

Yes. And no. (Classic Zen response, right?)

In the sense that meditation has the capacity to open new mental pathways, expand our perspective, and deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us, yes, meditation has the very real potential to change our lives in a variety of beneficial ways. To be clear, though, it will only change our lives to the degree in which we actively, diligently, and appropriately practice it.

However, meditation will not change anything in the Being Human department. We will continue to interface with everything related to our human manifestation, regardless of how much cushion time we log: aging, illness, death, sorrow, loss, anger, standing in line FOREVER at the grocery store, tax season, paying bills, challenging co-workers, world politics, and so on.

While the physical happenings around us won’t change, what CAN change is our relationship to them – our inner experience and attitude, the way in which we interact mentally and emotionally with those physical happenings. Developing a meditation practice allows us to create spaciousness, stillness, and quietude in the otherwise extremely full, cluttered, and chaotic atmosphere of our mind’s landscape. And from this creation of space, we have the opportunity to respond with more ease, understanding, and compassion in our everyday lives – which changes everything.

 

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Preferences

For the past few years I’ve been replacing the idea of New Year’s resolutions, which I’ve never cared for, with the development of new mindfulness exercises. I’m currently working with a number of new mindfulness practices to incorporate into my daily and weekly routine, which started at the beginning of the year. It’s worth mentioning, however, that typically I wouldn’t encourage the cultivation of so many new practices all at once, unless a practitioner has invested time in building a strong, diligent foundation in mindfulness, as trying to take on too much too fast is an easy undertaking, and an easy undoing of our stability.

My new practices include:

– Saying a short verse to myself upon waking up each morning

– Uni-tasking while brushing my teeth (verses multi-tasking)

– Saying a personalized closing verse to myself after breakfast each morning

– Jotting down observations I make in a small notebook when I’m in my car at red lights, or in other such instances where I’m stopped and waiting (at the bank, for instance)

– Mindful Morning Saturdays, where I devote the hours of 5:00-8:00am as a concentrated time to practice mindfulness (I read passages in our chanting book, do sitting meditation and three touchings of the earth, practice the 16 Qi Gong stick exercise routine, practice mindful eating of my breakfast, and watch a portion of a Dharma talk video online)

– Paying special attention to my preferences: what they are, how they show up in my life, looking deeply into whether they are helpful or harmful

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Traveling + Mindfulness = Life is Good

Traveling without some form of mindful awareness often leads to a not-so-great time – without mindfulness, that is, an ability to  remain grounded in the present moment, it becomes super easy to get swept up in feelings of impatience, frustration, and separation. And it becomes commonplace to consider every unplanned thing that happens as an obstruction factor to our contentment. Traveling can be described many ways but unpredictable is perhaps the most apt adjective.

I’ve found the practice of mindfulness to be a great travel companion, as it helps me to stay in touch with both the small and larger picture embodied in whatever present moment I find myself in, whether it’s standing in a security line at the airport or weathering a delayed flight or experiencing an especially kick-happy dude sitting behind me on the plane.

As I’m currently visiting family in southern Arizona, along with my husband and stepson, I’m also tuning into how the practice of mindfulness supports and nourishes me when I’m away from home and my regular schedule and routine. A couple of the things I’m finding to be particularly important for me while we’re visiting family are: maintaining my early wake-up time and doing sitting meditation before everyone gets up in the morning and continuing my gratitude practice at every meal.

Waking up at my regular 5:00am enables me to enjoy some personal time and stillness before a full day of activity and human interaction begins, which offers me a strong foundation of ease and spaciousness. Here in AZ, much like at home, I enjoy slow cups of tea, read, write, and, as an added bonus here, sit outside and enjoy watching as the morning sky alights over the mountains. We’re off nestled in the hills not far from the Mexican border, with no neighbors close-by, and the only sounds I hear right now, as I sit outside and type, are my clacking keys and the twittering of birds. Having time to myself in the morning is a vital component to my daily spiritual health and wellness, whether at home or off and about.

I don’t have the luxury of not sitting in meditation everyday – that’s how crucial it is to my state of wellness. Daily sitting meditation practice gives me the energy I need to greet a fresh new day – and thank goodness for that :)

 

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2017 in Travel

 

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Mindful Morning Saturday

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The above pic was the first thing I read early this morning, to kick off my new practice of Mindful Morning Saturdays. I ordered a few new books for our library at the Open Way Mindfulness Center and a few of them arrived yesterday. One of which is Thay’s new book: At Home in the World, Stories and Essential Teachings from a Monk’s Life. The above pic was taken from inside the book jacket.

As a recap from my post last Saturday, I’ve just started a new practice of dedicating Saturday mornings, from 5:00-8:00am, to the intentional cultivation of mindfulness, on a deeper level than I tend towards on other days. No matter how mindful and present I think I am in my everyday life, there is always more work and practice I can do to deepen my connection to the here and now. Mindful Morning Saturdays are an opportunity to devote my full attention to coming back home to myself and tending to the garden of life that is available in the present moment. Today was Saturday #2 in my new endeavor, and I am feeling wonderfully energized and refreshed with Dharmic inspiration.

I respond and work well with having a schedule to follow, as it helps to keep me focused, so today my morning looked like this:

5:00am Wake up
Reading: Thay’s new book and then some things from our chanting book
6:00am Sitting Meditation, followed by Three Earth Touchings
6:30am
Stick exercises
7:00am
Silent, non-multitasking breakfast
7:30am
Watched an interview online with Sister Peace & the Huff Po

The interview I watched was very good (on peaceful activism and social justice) and I would highly recommend it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LakovFKhtXw

Here are some of the responses I jotted down from Sister Peace:

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