Tag Archives: meditation

be the change: violent criminals

marshall rosenberg, the man known for his work in nonviolent communication, appears in the section off the cushion and into life in be the change: how meditation can transform you and the world). he works a lot in prisons.

the people there have done some stuff that i really do not like, like sexually molesting children. so i usually ask each one of them what need of theirs was being met when they did that. and i usually get back, “huh?” because nobody has ever asked them that question before. so i will say, “i’d like to know what need you were trying to meet when you were doing that.” then they’ll usually answer something like, “i do it because i’m a pervert.” and i say, “now you are telling me what you think you are. i am asking what needs of yours are getting met?” and they say, “what the hell are you talking about?” and i say, “i believe you are doing this for the same reason that i do everything. i think you are doing it because it is the best way you know of meeting some need you have. that is what i do every moment – the best i know to meet my needs. and i am confident that if we can get clear about what needs of yours are being met by doing that, i bet we can find other ways of getting those needs met that don’t create so much pain for you and others.

mindfulness is about attending to what’s right in front of us. right in front of marshall rosenberg is a person. it is a person with a past, who has done violence to a child, and a future, who may do it again, or become a priest, or die the next day. but right in front of marshall there is a person, and about persons marshall knows that they have needs. there is something starkly sober and yet infinitely loving about cutting to the chase like that.

“if meditation and mindfulness make me forget the horrible crimes people like that have committed – no thanks.”

“if meditation and mindfulness help me to be loving even in such a tough situation, i want it!”

i can understand both reactions. which one is yours?

be the change: loving awareness

each person can use the mantra, ‘i am loving awareness.’ just repeat this and become loving awareness. then we share that loving awareness with all others.

ram dass

“just repeat this and become …” – these words by one of my favourite writers sound so simple. and they are.  (btw, it’s another quote from be the change: how meditation can transform you and the world)

i am tempted to write something about simplicity now, or about what these words might mean. but i have a sneaking suspicion that neither simplicity nor loving are helped along by this.

so i’ll just post another picture.

images by maurice flower and andyadontstop

be the change: leave a trail of beauty behind

in november, i told you about a book i was reading, be the change: how meditation can transform you and the world by ed and deb shapiro.  in the next few days, i’d like to present you with a few more excerpts from it.  the last part of the book, entitled “transforming us transforms the world” is one that i was immediately drawn to; after all, that’s what my work is all about.  as i said in a post a few years ago:

making lives better, making better lives – that’s the motto of my practice. making lives better: that means not just limping along through our days but actually taking our lives into our own hands and making something really good out of it. enhancing our lives wherever it’s possible.

making better lives means that once we’ve enhanced our lives, often we naturally want to pass this on. our cup runneth over, and now we want help make other lives better, in whatever small and big, silly and serious ways.

so let me present you with the words of some people who have similar thoughts.  here is judith ansara, who is quoted in the book as saying:

my meditation practice has evolved over the years so that it is not separate from another part of my life.  it is not separate from my reaching out to touch another, from getting my guests some tea, from working with a client, from being kind to someone in a grocery line.  it is the fabric of my life rather than something i do.  it is the awareness of breath, of sensation, and the intention to leave a trail of beauty behind me.  when i go to the grocery store, how can i leave a trail of beauty behind me?  when i am working with a client, how can i do that?  it is taking meditation off the cushop so that everywhere we go we leave a trail of beauty.

be the change: how meditation can transform you and the world

the other day i received the book be the change: how meditation can transform you and the world from the great people at FSB associates, who occasionally send me books to review. usually i spend quite a bit of time reading the book and writing a review but since i’m busy with NaNoWriMo this month, i’ll take them up on their generous offer and post an article written by the authors of the book. many thanks, and – enjoy! if you like the book, please consider buying it for yourself or for someone for christmas.

3 mini meditations to help you through your day (or night)
by ed and deb shapiro,
authors of be the change: how meditation can transform you and the world

what stops you from sleeping through the night? is it when things are not going your way or they look topsy-turvy and you just want to scream; when your life appears chaotic and you are not sure if you are coming or going; or when it feels like everything is piled on your shoulders?

life should be an exciting and outrageous adventure. isn’t it a wonder how a spider weaves a web or a bee makes a hive? did you ever notice the small, everyday miracles, like the fact that you can breathe in and out? but how many of us get to experience this miracle? sometimes life just feels too awful. we want to feel good, we want to be happy, in fact happiness is our birthright. but so often there are just too many difficulties to deal with. and although we may know that meditation chills us out, if we are feeling stressed or irritable then it just doesn’t seem so appealing.

so here are three mini-meditations, moments to just stop and breathe and remember why you are here. a moment to check yourself out, to look within, and to find what is really meaningful to you. you can get it together even when you think it is all falling apart.

mini-meditations can be done on a train, walking down the street, at an airport, standing at a bus stop, in an elevator, while sitting in the bathroom (often the only place you can be alone!). silently count your out-breath up to ten times, or walk with awareness of each step for up to ten steps. or relax each part of your body, then silently repeat “soft belly” for five breaths.

if you are at work, then use your lunch hour to find a quiet spot, perhaps in a park, or even in the office if everyone else has gone out. if you are traveling then use that time to consciously breathe, letting your awareness follow your breath from your nose tip to your belly and back out again. if you are driving or operating machinery and feel you are getting tense, then stop for a moment, breathe into your belly and silently repeat “soft belly, soft belly.” focus on any part of the body that is feeling tight and breathe into it, until you relax and let go. silently repeat “soft shoulders” or “soft neck” and so on.

as you walk down the street or ride in an elevator, practice a mini-loving kindness by silently wishing everyone be well, wishing that everyone be happy. in the office you can spend a few moments repeating the names of everyone you work with and wishing them happiness. on your way home from work reflect on your day and generate loving thoughts to all those you met. when you send out relaxing and loving thoughts it relaxes the space around you and often any chaotic or disturbing energies will dissipate. what you put out comes back to you ten fold

1. mini breath meditation

sit comfortably with your back straight. take a deep breath and let it go. begin to silently count at the end of each out breath: inhale . . . exhale . . . count one, inhale . . . exhale . . . two, inhale . . . exhale . . . three. then start at one again. just three breaths and back to one. simply following each breath in and silently counting. so simple. do this as many times as you want, eyes open or closed, breathing normally.

2. mini walking meditation

you can do this walking along a country lane, a city street, in the office or the garden. you can walk slowly, normal or fast, whatever feels right. as you walk become aware of your walking, of the movement of your body and the rise and fall of your feet. become aware of your breath and see if you can bring both your breathing and your walking together. just walk and breathe with awareness for a few minutes.

3. instant letting go

find a quiet place to sit, have a straight back, and take a deep breath and let it go. then quietly repeat to yourself: “my body is at ease and relaxed . . . my heartbeat is normal . . . my mind is calm and peaceful . . . my heart is open and loving.” keep repeating this until you have let go of the tension and are at peace. then take a deep breath and have a smile on your face!

©2009 ed and deb shapiro, author of be the change: how meditation can transform you and the world

***

author bio

ed and deb shapiro, authors of be the change: how meditation can transform you and the world, are the award-winning authors of fifteen books on meditation, personal development, and social action. they are featured bloggers for the huffingtonpost.com and for care2.com, teach meditation workshops worldwide, work as corporate coaches and consultants, and are the creators and writers of the daily chill our inspirational text messages on sprint cell phones. the shapiros’ books include your body speaks your mind, winner of the 2007 visionary book award; voices from the heart with contributors such as president gorbachev, his holiness the dalai lama, and bishop tutu; and meditation: the four-step course to calmness and clarity. ed, from new york, trained in india with paramahamsa satyananda, with sri swami satchidananda, and with chögyam trungpa rinpoche. deb, from london, trained with tai situ rinpoche. the shapiros have taught meditation and personal development for more than twenty-five years. they currently reside in boulder, colorado.

buddhist carnival – september 2009 edition

welcome to the september edition of the buddhist carnival, where we showcase treasures from the buddhasphere. today we have compassion and helping hands, cockcroaches, sleep, returning to the centre and a bunch of (no)selves. as always, let’s start off with a poem:

we dance around in a ring and suppose;
but the secret sits in the middle, and knows.
– robert frost

thank you, zenbananas, for giving this to the buddhasphere.

compassion – even when it is difficult

this blogger extends compassion to the person who ended the life of george tiller, who died earlier this year because of his commitment to helping women who need abortions

in mahayana buddhism, the bodhisattva kshitigarbha, best known by his japanese name of jizo, is the helper of beings who suffer in the hell realms and of children who die before their parents, including those who are stillborn, miscarried, or aborted. for the past day i have been thinking that jizo will protect dr. tiller, who did his best for the unborn whom jizo helps to good rebirths. as i was reading about him this morning, i realized that jizo will help the doctor’s murderer, too, if he wants to get out of the hell he’s in.

for the rest of the entry, read here.

and the new heretic makes friends with cockroaches

instead of swatting at and smashing and scurrying about the roaches so i could paint, i simply talked to them (yes i talked to them) or at other times just waited and thought kind words towards them, and asked them to move so i could paint… and they moved out of the way.

buddha’s judas

saradode shares an interesting dream; she reflects it was about betrayal, and makes a connection between the biblical judas and bddha’s brother-in-law, devadatta

as for devadatta, the scriptures…assign him a role that is similar to judas in the gospel story.

i understood right away that this was what my dream had been about. i kept reading, and came to the story. devadatta had become (or had always been) egotistical and ambitious, and wanted to take control of the sangha from buddha. he plotted to kill him, but that didn’t work.

the book described how devadatta then “decamped” with 500 or so of buddha’s monks, whom he had convinced that buddha had become “given over to luxury and self-indulgence.” as i read that part, my lip began to twitch quite violently (one of his ways of getting my attention), and i saw, again, “last supper.”

devadatta’s plan, however, failed, and the monks returned to buddha. the next thing i read stunned me:

some texts tell us that devadatta committed suicide; others that he died before he was able to be reconciled with the buddha.

this dream really intrigued me. my first thought was, how do we betray ourselves in life-denying ways?

return to centre

a beautiful image and a few quick thoughts on this topic:

“things get crazy and we forget to work from our center.”

so, i began to think, “how can i start to do that again?”

well, tonight, grace summed it up at the beginning of our meditation practice at blue heron sangha.

“tonight we begin as we hear the sound of the bell, returning to our center.”

somehow the realization came that we begin to work from our center again by returning to our center. and, how do we do that?

start with something simple. pay attention to something. anything. breath is always good.

sleeping and samsara

liza solomonova, a graduate psychology student from montreal, blogs about sleep, dreams, and states of consciousness. in this post she reports on allan wallace’s shamatha project

the goal of such practice is to experience the subtle level of consciousness, a ‘substrate consciousness’ from all mental stuff originates and into which it essentially returns. every one of us experiences this ‘substrate consciousness’ when in deep sleep, in dreamless state, there is no identity, no imagery, virtually nothing, as if our ‘self’ is dissolved into something more basic. similarly at the moment of death, according to buddhist thought, we experience this subtle essential state of consciousness. in a metaphorical way, we die every time we enter deep sleep. and then… from that subtle consciousness, from that non-discursive state – dream arises! a whole world, a whole new and compelling identity (it is new if you are not lucid dreaming, of course) is ‘born’, and with it a whole range of emotions, feelings, sensations and so on. as the first rem cycle is over, we ‘die’ again, return to the deep sleep. and then another dream arises, and with it a whole new world, which probably has nothing to do with the previous dream world, and is only marginally related to the world of our waking life. and then we die again…

the self – what self?

in a fabulous (and long) interview with zen teacher shinzen young, interspersed with illuminating videos, har prakash khalsa delights us with shinzen young’s take on the nature of the self and enlightenment as it is perceived in buddhism, hinduism, christianity and the jewish tradition. here are a few excerpts from his thoughts on the self:

hpk – when you say “the perception that a thing inside us called a self” goes away, do you mean completely away?

szy – the ambiguity is the word perception. the actual word is ditti in pali, or drishti in sanskrit, which i think you know means “view”, literally. in this context ditti or drishti refers to a fundamental paradigm, or concept about something. so in this case perception is perhaps not the best word. it’s more like the fundamental conviction that there is a thing inside us called a self disappears. according to the traditional formulation after enlightenment that never comes back. however, if by perception of self we mean momentarily being caught in one’s sense of self, that happens to enlightened people over and over again, but less and less as enlightenment deepens and matures.

i like to analyze subjective experience into three sensory elements: feel (emotional-type body sensations), image (visual-thinking) and talk (auditory-thinking). those sensory elements continue to arise for an enlightened person forever. sometimes when the feel-image-talk arises the enlightened person is momentarily caught in them but even though they’re caught in that, some part of them still knows it’s not a thing called self. that knowing never goes away. the frequency, duration and intensity of identifying with feel-image-talk diminishes as the months and years go on as you go through deeper and deeper levels of enlightenment. there are exceptions, but typically it takes months, years, indeed decades learning how not to get caught in feel-image-talk when it arises.

so to sum it up, what disappears at enlightenment is a viewpoint or perception that there is a thing inside this body-mind process called self.

… and more (or less) self …

ambud has a series of posts on critics of buddhism. here he, too, reflects on the idea of no-self, a concept that is hard to grasp for anyone, let alone critics who typically haven’t spent a lot of time steeping themselves in buddhist ideas.

the author stumbles and misstates his argument by equating anatta with nonexistence. buddhism isn’t nihilistic, anatta refers to soul-lessness; the idea of non-self in the ultimate sense. anatta isn’t an argument against a ‘self’ as defined by physical properties etc., of which we are all aware, it is instead, a statement about that which has no inherent existence, that which is caused.

if you have any articles you’d like to see here, let me know. the next edition comes out on october 15.

image by axel buehrmann

february buddhist carnival – on mental health (part 2)

this is part 2 of this month’s buddhist carnival. part 1 is here.

the wild mind and the wise body

i like this article by the wild moods that takes the actual here-and-now feelings and sensations of mental illness and uses them to get in touch with mental health

… take a second to think about how the wild moods sign themselves on your body. glurky stomach? acid stomach? headache? flushing heat in the chest? but it may actually take some concentrated focusing to see what the body is doing when depressed or anxious, because we can get so used to experiencing these signatures as depression and anxiety that we are not really aware of them as distinct and repeating physical sensations.

so why is this important, to become aware of these sensations? because when we are able to be aware of the sensations as physical events, then there is the opportunity to break the cycling whirlpool of mood, where negative thought causes unpleasant sensation, which generates another negative thought, reinforcing another negative sensation, and around and around, deeper and deeper.

the empty bowl

joanna poppink is a counsellor who helps people with eating disorders. she offers the buddhist ritual of the empty bowl as an active meditation tool, inspired by a thanksgiving post about how people struggling with eating disorders might get as well as give benefits by helping to provide food for hungry people. joanna poppink suggests entertaining an “unseen guest with an empty bowl” as if they were sitting at your table with you.

the idea is to make an extra place setting with an empty bowl at your eating place. before you eat, look at the empty bowl. pray or meditate or think about or send kind thoughts to people who face this empty bowl every day.

put money, as you can, small even tiny amounts are okay, in the empty bowl in appreciation for what food you have available today.

i propose that this is useful for anyone, with any problem. for example, when i went through my last fear-of-flying adventure (something yet to blog about), what helped me the most was imagining that i was connected to other people who were in pain as well, and imagining sharing with them whatever small goodness came my way (e.g. a drink of water, putting on warm socks). this is, by the way, also a 12-step principle. the suggestion there is that one of the best ways of dealing with the affliction of addiction is to help others with the same problem.

speaking of which …

buddhism and addiction

darren’s blog is about the intersection of buddhism and the 12 steps. here he talks about attachment and realization:

for us [addicts], teachings on attachment are a no brainer. tell us we’re attached to our betting, babes, booze or benzos and we’ll give you an eyebrow raise and an, “and your point is?”

… this process, looking at the condition of our minds, returning to the present moment, noticing our attachment, is kind of like digestion. the teacher echoed my thoughts in saying that zen practice is like adding the right enzymes. as we engage in observing, not reacting and being present to our lives, we become more familiar with what we really are underneath all the concepts, grasping, attachment and addiction. we take a bite of zen, digest samsara and shit out realization. clean like a whistle.

more addiction: hoarding

one city has a lovely entry on extending good wishes to a neighbour whose life is burdened by hoarding, an addiction perhaps, or an obsessive-compulsive behaviour (i tend to see a lot of connections between the two)

the real fruits of my internet search for information about compulsive hoarding turned into an extension of my meditation practice in cultivating compassion for someone i don’t even really know. i can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to live as a hoarder, but i can imagine the suffering and the courage that it takes to start the real, hard work on improving your life; sorting through things, throwing things away, decided what is worth keeping, how do you start over? and having to think about all the things that led up to the hoarding that could have been a trigger or a lingering cause. i think it really does take courage.

i would like to close this blog post by sending along some metta (e-metta?) to my neighbour across the way.

may she be healthy, may she have happiness.

stigma

finally, a post on stigma. echo pen touches on an aspect of stigma that, i believe, is not talked about enough – self stigma. i believe that one of the best ways to deal with mental health stigma in the world “out there” is to strengthen our own feelings towards our mental health. if i believe that i am deficient, it will usually come through in my communication with others. when i believe in my own strength and worthiness, i can deal with societal stigma from a place of strength.

recently, while meditating, irrational thoughts and memories of the stigmas issues i’ve dealt with [came up]. i have experientially recognized them as irrational self judging and self defeating. when these thoughts come during zazen… i explore them including feelings of apprehension, worry, guilt, resentment…the bodily feelings of anxiety… all in the context of the here and now..become aware of them accept them and then i let them go, and continue sitting with clarity and peace.

that’s it for this month’s buddhist carnival.  if you have any submissions for next month’s carnival (march 15, 2009), please send them to me here, or, if you have a hard time connecting to blog carnival, drop me a line.

february buddhist carnival – on mental health

a laughing buddhist nunfor this month’s buddhist carnival, i’d like to focus on buddhist approaches to mental health issues. this is partly in preparation for coping digitally, a panel discussion about mental illness and social media that i’ll be part of at this year’s northern voice blogging conference here in vancouver this coming friday and saturday (february 20 and 21). airdrie came up with this fabulous idea; the other person who will participate is tod maffin. i’ll be talking more about this conference tomorrow.

we always start this carnival with a poem. today i’ll open it with one of my haiku:

feeling rising when
i see the kitchen: messy.
oh, hello anger!

and here are the blog entries. i’ll present them in two parts; overwhelming people with information is not the buddhist way …

meditation and medication

the buddhist blog talks about the need for both meditation and medication.

as many of you know i have been living with schizoaffective disorder for most of my life and have found great refuge, relief of symptoms and calm from buddhism and meditation in particular … i notice that the more i meditate the easier it is to deal with my condition. yet meditation alone isn’t enough in my situation because despite meditating i still am debilitated by disabling symptoms such as paranoia, hallucinations, delusions (psychiatric delusions such as being convinced that you are the most horrible person on earth), mood swings and chronic depression. thus i have found medications help fill the void and basically keep me alive because my depressive episodes easily lead to suicidal thoughts.

buddhism and borderline disorder

the american buddhist muses on how buddhist approaches may be helpful for people with borderline personality disorder. he goes through the dsm-iv criteria for this condition and suggests the use of specific buddhist concepts for each of them. it’s a bit simplistic – as a counsellor, i certainly wouldn’t suggest to a person battling with a fear of abandonment to meditate on impermanence right off the bat – but the ideas are nevertheless interesting. for example

the problem of splitting, or seeing others in the extremes of idealization and devaluation (as “all-good” or “all bad”), is a matter of delusion, failing to see the enormous grey area that we all inhabit. perhaps a meditation on the qualities of a candle can help. begin by seeing the positive qualities: light, warmth, dance. but acknowledge also that it may burn us, that it will not last forever, and that it is certainly limited in its power to please us. through this we learn a gentle acceptance, even appreciation, of the candle. people are the same. they may be the light of our life, or they may badly burn us – or both at different times.

will buddhism drive you crazy?

kyle takes up the fear by some people that delving into buddhism can drive you to the brink of insanity, and right over it.

i have heard so many different misguided opinions about how buddhism is ‘dangerous’ and can cause ‘psychosis’ and even ‘permanent mental illness’. i have heard leaders and the priestly class of other religions say this, i have heard psychiatrists say this and even some historians. they claim that the kamikaze pilots in world war two shows how twisted buddhism can make one become. some psychiatrists will point to patients having psychotic breaks sometimes needing hospitalization and even having permanent mental issues caused by practicing some form of buddhist meditation.

kyle’s conclusion is that it’s important to have a teacher. generally, i’d agree with it, except that the teacher has to know what she or he is doing. i’ve had a few experiences with another approach – kundalini yoga – where the teacher actually denied that anything out of the ordinary could happen, which was contrary to my own experience. that felt pretty crazy-making for a while!

go on to part 2.

image by poorfish

november buddhist carnival, part 2

here’s part 2 of this month’s buddhist carnival.

thoughts … thank you!
gigablonde offers making peace with meditation, something i can relate to very well. she opens up space for a whole new relationship with meditation through principles of jack kornfield’s buddhist meditation for beginners.

meet whatever arises with kindness and balance and wisdom … and whatever comes to you can be a part of your meditation.
“oh, here’s remembering. thank you for your contribution.”
“worry, thank you.”
“aah, planning.”

buddhism in thailand: ordaining as a monk
we have two posts relating to thai buddhism this month. here is an interesting description of a thai tradition:

in thailand it’s a tradition to ordain as a monk at least once in your lifetime. some ordain for just a few hours while others do it for a whole year. traditionally, it was done for a period of three months known as the rains retreat. ordaining gives you a chance to study and practice lord buddha’s teachings and it gives your parents the opportunity to offer you the monk robes, alms bowl and other necessities.
for someone who isn’t the least familiar with buddhist culture, it would be only natural to view monks as beggars and therefore a burden to society but according to buddhist teachings giving and generosity are meritorious deeds.

read more at monk in thailand.

thai charms and amulets
dr. callaway’s blog has only been around for a short while – talk about a niche blog. it concentrates exclusively on lucky charms and mystical amulets from thailand, made and blessed by buddhist monks. i think there’s quite some potential there – i liked the stories callaway tells, and i hope he keeps up with this blog. good luck charms are a way of life in thailand and southeast asia. it is believed that when chants and prayers are spoken to these charms, the spirits invoked will reciprocate to the owner of the charm or amulet, good luck and protection from harm.

of course this is very different from the more cerebral, less mystical buddhism that we hear about in the west – but i think it’s useful to remember that buddhism, a religion practiced by millions and millions of people (300 million is a number i’ve often seen). with so many adherents, there is a wide variety of practices, and i find it quite fascinating to look at all the different varieties. at any rate, here is dr. callaway’s post, lucky charms.

timeless lessons
reading this post, i am reminded of a twitter remark by merlin mann today, “90% of all self-help is buddhism with comfortable chairs and a service mark“. flippancy aside, i agree with him, although i’d probably refer to buddhist “techniques” rather than buddhism. buddhism as a whole is a rich historical, cultural, spiritual and theological stew, and part of that stew are these techniques – the things practiced by many buddhists: mindfulness, meditation, compassion, etc. of those techniques, many are totally straightforward, and that’s what this last post is about: peaceful simplicity: 10 refreshing ways to live in the here and now. this excerpt is about the practice of smiling:

the foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet. feeling joyful is not paramount for presence, but it’s one of the most powerful ways to induce it. joy creates an almost immediate sense of expansion ” an inner smile that’s like a warm bath. some call this warm bath “flow” or “spirit.” experiencing it connects us to ourselves and to everyone and everything around us.

think about someone or something that you love. this could be a child, a corner in nature, or a cherished memory. whatever you choose, make sure that just contemplating upon it creates an automatic inner smile. then surrender to that inner smile. let it light you up. feel it spread through your body and even beyond it, uniting you joyously with your surroundings.


NaNoWriMo

oh, and before i go, i need to say something about NaNoWriMo, right? here’s a hello then to enlighten up’s buddhist blogger lans in texas, who’s not blogging this month because he, too, is working on completing a 50,000 word novel in november.

that’s it then for this month, folks. if you want to read part 1 of the november buddhist carnival, here it is. as for next month’s – it’s on december 15, and will be hosted by loden jinpa.

if you have a buddhist blog post you’d like to contribute, please send it to me here, or, if you have a hard time connecting to blog carnival, drop me a line.