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Tag Archives: teaching

Spiritual vs Secular Mindfulness

Yesterday, I finished an online course offered through PESI by Dr. Christopher Willard, a licensed psychotherapist, educational consultant, and author, entitled: Mindfulness Certificate Course for Treating Kids and Teens: Interventions for ADHD, Anxiety, Trauma, Emotional Regulation and More

The course consisted of 9 modules, totaling in at around 18 hours worth of class time. To learn more about Dr. Willard: http://drchristopherwillard.com/

This class spurred in me a deeper consideration of determining for myself what the differences and pros/cons are in regards to developing mindfulness in a spiritual capacity, verses a secular one. Some people question whether it is even wise at all to separate the two: mindfulness and spirituality. Perhaps these folks are concerned about watering down the potency of mindfulness and losing its true spirit and intention. Or perhaps, like me, they might wonder how a person can teach mindfulness if they themselves do not have their own practice in which to draw experience and stability from.

So, is there a right and wrong way to offer mindfulness? Is there a point when it can become too secular?

As our local Dharma teacher says, and I very much appreciate, the classic Zen answer to any question is: It depends.

Has there ever been – and will there ever be – just ONE way in which to do ANY particular thing ALL the time? I think not.

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Pilot Project: 8-minute video talks

For a long while now, I’ve been thinking about starting up a podcast. Then I began to see short mindfulness related talks via video from a couple of teachers whom I really enjoy and it got me to thinking about doing videos instead. I’ve decided that this will be an 8-week pilot project to sort of feel it out and determine from there how I might like to proceed with things. My hope is to offer inspiration, benefit, and tools for other mindfulness practitioners to make use of in their own day-to-day lives, in practical ways which can provide support and nourishment.

Here are the first two! A new talk will be uploaded each Sunday on a different topic for the next 6-weeks on my Youtube channel at: MontanaMusicalNomad

 

 

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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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Nirvana

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In any other context, aside from when referring to the band Nirvana (which I love), I don’t care for the word nirvana. Years of false societal conditioning have led me to paint this highly ridiculous concept of what nirvana means. When I come across the word nirvana, I imagine this pie-in-the-sky, ephemeral land where nothing bad ever happens, that one either enters after they die or when they become enlightened (which is another word I don’t care for). I imagine nirvana to be some kind of other-worldly place, where unicorns trot around and there’s never a cloud in the sky.

In actuality, nirvana means: the extinction of notions.

I’ve been working on this topic of nirvana for a teaching based talk that I am giving tonight at my local sangha, Be Here Now, which will be a joint talk with my husband Mike. He and I have been offering these joint talks now, once a year, since 2014. They afford us the opportunity to collaborate on Buddhist based teachings, which is something we’re invested in together as a couple. I find it especially enjoyable to work together with him given that he and I have different strong suits in how we think about, approach, and incorporate the practice into our lives. From a Buddhist psychology perspective, Mike is more skilled at approaching things from the ultimate dimension, whereas I am more skilled at approaching from the historical dimension. As both are equally important, our ability to join forces then has the potential to speak on a variety of levels to a wider variety of people. In short, the ultimate dimension is often referred to as being like the ocean (or the undercurrent which guides and propels life), with the historical dimension being like the waves (which is us, on an individual level) – while we are each a wave, we are also the ocean, comprised of the same water (or life force/energy) which connects us all.

(UPDATED POST: Here’s a link to the audio file from this talk that Mike & I gave on Monday evening, October 17th. http://www.openway.org/content/joint-talk-nirvana-mike-nicole)

When I think of what nirvana actually means, the extinction of notions, it helps me to connect more with this word when I come across it, instead of shirking away from it as some fictitious concept. However, we want to be careful not to get caught in the form of this teaching. Meaning, it would not be a wise goal to set for ourselves to become completely free of all notions, stories, judgments, and thoughts at some undisclosed time in the far off future. This isn’t realistic. Instead, we must use our own intelligence and discernment process to find ways of enfolding the teaching of nirvana into our everyday life, moment by moment.

How do we do this? How do we incorporate nirvana as a practice? What came up for me around this was to explain nirvana as follows:

Nirvana is an action based on the culmination of mindfulness, concentration, and insight.

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Cultivating Connection & Joy

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I’m currently in the process of teaching a weekly class series I’ve entitled Being Here Now through our local adult learning center.  Next week we’ll be focusing on the teaching of cultivating connection and joy.  So I’m using this blog post as an opportunity to help prepare my talk and flesh out some ideas.  I actually gave this talk yesterday but wanted to post these notes all the same, in case they prove useful to anyone.

Here’s what I wound up saying (roughly):

Over the past three weeks we’ve talked about what mindfulness is, practiced sitting and walking meditation together, discussed the logistics and importance of deep breathing, and last week we had a guided deep relaxation.  As I mentioned last week all of what we’ve been going over are tools that we can use to help create some spaciousness in our lives and learn how to start slowing down.  If we have a want to live more connected in the present moment with ease we need to first learn how to slow down, at least a little bit – and we need tools in order to do that.  Once we start slowing down and are able to interrupt the state of auto pilot we often find ourselves operating on we can then use that opening of space to practice cultivating the art of joy.

We can use the analogy of a garden.  All of us have our own garden full of the same kinds of seeds.  Seeds of happiness, joy, ease, contentment, patience, understanding, love, and so on – and also seeds of anger, anxiety, loneliness, sorrow, impatience, regret, stress, and so on.  And there is a wealth of influences we have that determine what seeds get watered within us: the people around us, the media we consume, conversations we have, the types of food we eat, our daily environment, etc.  If we find that we are often overwhelmed with anxiety, stress, difficult emotions, busyness, or find that we are often irritated or frustrated by seemingly small things on an ongoing basis it may be an indication that our seeds of joy need to be watered and strengthened so that the fruits of joy can grow and flourish in our everyday lives.  While on one hand it is largely the people, places, and things outside of us that affect which of our seeds gets watered on the other hand it’s our responsibility to determine where and how to invest our energy and with whom to spend our time.  We are the gardeners of the seeds inherit to us and it’s up to us to figure out what’s being watered beneficially and what’s being watered that maybe isn’t very helpful to us.

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Being Here Now

PerryBackus_Ravalli Republic, moonsetinbitterroots

A pic I found on a local news outlet website and added Be Here Now to (pic credit on photo).

Starting next week I’ll be teaching a 6-week class series entitled Being Here Now through the adult learning center here in town.  I’ve taught a few other similar class series’ through them as well but its been a couple of years since my last session.  The description I provided for the class is as follows :

When we learn the art of mindfulness through the cultivation of meditation, relaxation, and joy our lives have the opportunity to become more spacious and at ease. This class will be focusing on the practice of sitting meditation, watering seeds of joy within ourselves, and learning how to rest our bodies and minds through the process of guided relaxation. No experience necessary, great for beginners. This is a non-faith based approach to living more happily and mindfully in the present moment, all are welcome. A variety of cushions, benches, and chairs will be provided.

Since it turns out that in the span of 5 days I’ll be giving a talk for Unity Church’s interfaith day of prayer service, performing in a poetry slam (this Friday! Gulp!), starting my class series, and giving a teaching talk at my local sangha I’m especially finding the need to write out my preparations for these speaking engagements in order to keep them all organized.  So, once again in line with two of my most recent posts, this one is to help me sort through what to cover in my first class.

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Posted by on September 8, 2015 in Mindfulness Instruction

 

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Why Sit?

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At our weekly Be Here Now Sangha we’ve been reading a book by Ethan Nichtern entitled One City, A Declaration of Interdependence.  Last week we read a section where he posed a question, in his hip satirical-esque fashion, many meditation students and practitioners ask: How does sitting on my ass help the world?

As I’ve found that answering mindfulness related questions is a great tool to help me hone in my teaching (and writing) muscles and find my own voice I tucked away the question in a small mental pocket to address later.  How does sitting meditation change the world?  Is that the “point”?  Why do I sit?

Sitting meditation is one of the most important things I do with my time.  It enables me to develop and strengthen my foundation of stillness, solidity, balance, attention, and concentration so that I am better equipped to move through the world with joy, ease, and resilience.  Sitting meditation can help us cultivate spaciousness, learn how to slow down, and receive training in the wisdom of adaptation – it’s a practice of learning how to be in and of this world, one impermanent moment at a time.

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