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Tag Archives: self-awareness

You Are What You Think

This is me preparing for another teaching-style talk at my local sangha Be Here Now. So, while it may not be the most riveting post for you to read, my much-appreciated friends, it does offer me a great platform and outlet in which to figure out what it is I’d like to say – and I am reminded of the ending statement I recently heard from Hemingway’s acceptance speech from 1954 for winning the Nobel Prize: “…A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it.” Of course, my motivation lies in writing about it in order to speak about it, but I am nourished by this statement just the same.

I’ll also be giving this talk jointly with my husband Mike, which we’ve been doing once a year for the past 2-3 years. We’ve entitled it: You are what you think and we’ll be offering it on Monday night, October 23rd.

On an introductory note, for those of you sticking around to read this through :), the topic for this talk was spurred by coming to the realization of how a lack of self-acceptance is one of the largest obstacles on the path of healing, growth, transformation, and well-being. In having been attending a meditation group virtually every week for the past 15 years, where we have an open sharing circle built into our format, it’s become very clear to me just how much people give themselves a hard time about ALL kinds of things. But it’s only recently been an insight of mine that this is in fact one of the greatest roadblocks we face in regards to living more mindfully and skillfully, with more ease and balance.

My husband will be talking first, for about 20-minutes, and plans on focusing his segment on highlighting what a thought and a view are and what the differences are between them. The idea being that our long-held views are what shape our thoughts, and our thoughts are what fuel our words and actions. Most of us are not well in touch with what our views are – our deeply held beliefs that have shaped us and continue to shape us. A guiding quote for us is one from Thich Nhat Hanh:

Attachment to views is the greatest impediment to spiritual growth. – TNH

For my portion of the talk I plan on opening with a psychological exercise that I recently learned, which will prompt folks to get in touch with how they talk to themselves internally while in the process of doing it.

As for what I’ll say, here goes:

If it were as easy as just stopping giving ourselves a hard time we would’ve all done that by now. Most of us know when it is we’re being hard on ourselves or beating ourselves up over something. So just stopping this particular habit is most likely not a realistic thing to expect to have happen. And the reasons are 1. We’ve been practicing this internal dialog for probably our whole lives, so it’s deeply ingrained and thus will take time to transform and 2. Because when we get stuck in our intellect it keeps us from developing the necessary actions it takes to embody whatever it is we’re looking to work on in regards to our own growth and well-being. So just because we know something in our mind intellectually doesn’t mean it translates into an embodied experience, which is what’s necessary in order for us to progress on our path. Knowing is not enough – knowing is a critical first step, but we need to pair knowing with doing, in order for transformation and healing to take place.

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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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Just Sayin’

One of the greatest gifts I’ve learned, and continue to learn, from having a mindfulness practice is this:

My state of mind and quality of being are never created or alleviated by anyone other than myself. The more responsibility I take for my thoughts, feelings, speech, and actions, the happier and lighter I become.

 

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Praise & Blame

I’ve been thinking about the notions of praise and blame lately. Mainly about how common it is to fall prey to them and how empty they are of value and meaning. The other day, when I was on an airplane coming home, one of things I wrote down in my journal was:

As long as we’re looking for something outside of our own inner landscape to complete, validate, or otherwise be the maker of our sorrow and/or happiness, we will continue to suffer. And suffer we will – for the rest of our days.

What praise and blame have in common is that they help perpetuate the illusion that other people’s actions and words are what determine our quality of life. We are often dependent on others to both build up and maintain our self-worth and value and take the fall for any amount of discomfort or discontent we experience. We are continually putting our state of mental and emotional well-being in the hands of those around us.

 

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Posted by on June 4, 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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Sugar

stylized_granulated_sugar

It’s been 2 or 3 years now since I gave up what I call “dessert sugar.” Funny, how I’m not sure how long it’s been. Funny how it doesn’t even really matter. When looking back, individual years acquire a different sort of time stamp in our memory, which dramatically lessens the significance one experienced while actively living it.

I’ve been a life-long sugar addict. One for whom chocolate and cookies stir a deep adoration no other food product comes close to matching. Those were my DOC’s (drugs of choice): chocolate and cookies. On the addiction scale I’d say I was somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, edging my way over the line into the “Danger, Will Robinson” zone.

I came up with the “dessert sugar” phrasing in an effort to find a quick way to explain myself in response to the inevitable quizzical look that would follow after turning down a sugar filled offering. Apparently, people often find it curious when someone doesn’t partake in sweets, which is similar to what used to happen when I would decline libations before I fashioned a largely sober friend base. It would be easier for people to understand if I were, say, a diabetic trying to watch my carb intake, or an alcoholic on the wagon, but as someone who chooses to voluntarily avoid both substances, I become the equivalent of a talking unicorn found serendipitously in the woods on a long hike.

“Dessert sugars” mean just that. They refer to the eats one would commonly consider a dessert product: cookies, cake, brownies, ice cream, pie, and anything having to do with chocolate. If I weren’t limited to explaining myself in the time frame of someone’s minuscule attention span, I would further add that I’ve given up both dessert sugars and junk-food sugars. Junk-food sugars being: candy, breakfast pastries, funnel cake, sugary cereals, and anything else one tends to eat large quantities of and is socially allowed to have at any hour of the day. For a reason I have yet to pin down, I feel it necessary to report to anyone who’ll listen about how I’m not foregoing ALL types of sugar, just the sort that might trigger my particular proclivities. I continue to eat fruit and granola bars most every day. I even drink juice, un-caffeinated sodas, and sweet tea every so often. I guess I just don’t want people to get the wrong idea and wind up stewing in a falsely held judgement about how I’m a hypocritical wind-bag, when next they spot me sipping on a smoothie.

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Posted by on December 27, 2016 in Everyday Practice

 

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Disliking the Telephone

untitledI can think of 3 people right off the bat who would be filled with childlike glee if I were to suddenly and spontaneously become a phone person. And by phone person I mean: someone who picks it up when it rings, routinely calls back those who leave messages, and has a general fondness for the invention of being able to talk to people through the magic of wires, all of which do not apply to me.

What people don’t understand is that it’s not personal. It’s not like when the phone rings I run over to see who’s calling, just so I can flip them off and sneer at them by name. “Ha ha, grandma! I’m not picking up the phone because you’re stupid and I hate talking to you! Take that!” When the phone rings in our house it’s sort of like when you pass by that one inappropriate homeless guy who shouts obscenities on the street corner. We take notice, but just enough to avoid a personal interaction.

For the simple fact that it would be the end of me, I don’t have a cell phone. If I were to carry around an apparatus through which I could exchange text messages and check my email, I would never look up from it to engage anyone eye-to-eye ever again. I know myself well enough to know that I wouldn’t have  enough self-restraining ability to be fully present with whoever I was with or whatever I was doing, when my phone was beeping or dinging or otherwise jovially indicating that a new message had come in. As someone who’s both at home a lot actively on their laptop, and an avid emailer, my need for a cell phone is next to nil. When people find out that I don’t have a cell phone, they often comment on how awesome that is, as though it’s a noble choice they wish they could make themselves. It’s not. It’s really just a matter of self-preservation. Well, that and the fact that I have no want or need, nor find myself important enough, to be contacted when I’m out doing other things away from my house.

I do, however, have a land line. One of those old fashion clunky cordless deals with an answering machine attached – ya know, the thing I never answer. Aside from the 3 people who would be overjoyed if I were to ever pick it up when they called, the only other people who generally try to contact me are those that caused me to be repelled by its ringing in the first place. Namely, creditors. Those who call incessantly in attempts at retrieving money from me that I don’t have. Not that I’m giving them a hard time – I mean, they’re just doing their job. It’s not like they’re making up the fact that I owe them money. I do owe them money. So why shouldn’t they be calling? (I have a lot of unpaid medical bills from a plethora of different chronic health issues.) However, it’s also not like I’m withholding money from them out of some vain, spoiled rich girl conditioning where sticking it to the medical establishment feels like some sort of great victory. If I had the money, I’d give it to them, and I do, on occasion.

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Posted by on November 28, 2016 in Everyday Practice

 

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