Janet, a woman in one of my mindfulness classes, was feeling nervous. She was afraid of speaking up in class. It was a fairly large group – 20 people – and she felt self-conscious about the prospect of so many eyes on her. But she also worried that by staying silent, she wasn’t taking part enough in the supportive community that was forming. And thinking these thoughts made her worry all the more.
I reassured her that there was no requirement to speak up. Everyone was free to talk or not, to the extent they felt comfortable. Just listening in was perfectly OK. Her presence alone was what mattered. But she couldn’t stop fretting about … Read more »
“Don’t meditate to fix yourself, to heal yourself, to improve yourself, to redeem yourself; rather, do it as an act of love, of deep warm friendship to yourself. In this way there is no longer any need for the subtle aggression of self-improvement, for the endless guilt of not doing enough. It offers the possibility of an end to the ceaseless round of trying so hard that wraps so many people’s lives in a knot. Instead there is now meditation as an act of love. How endlessly delightful and encouraging.”
– Bob Sharples, from Meditation: Calming the Mind
If you’re participating in the 100 Days of Lovingkindness, it’s because you want to become a nicer … Read more »
I used to write regularly for this blog. Pretty much every month, for years. But then last summer I went through a major house move that totally disrupted my life and brought my writing to a halt.
But that’s really just an excuse. I’ll admit it’s inertia and my inner critic that’s getting in my way now. Despite my wanting to do it, I’ve always found it hard to write. And when I fell off my routine, and weeks and months passed, it just got harder and harder to get restarted.
I’m wondering if this sounds familiar to any of you out there. When it feels like YOU are the main thing getting in your … Read more »
Sometimes life comes at us full force and overwhelms us. That’s what happened to me the last few months. Things happened that were so overpowering that all my usual routines went out the window just so I could get through each day. My work, my social life – and yes, my sitting practice – pretty much dropped off my plate.
At times like this, people often say, “Life got in my way.” But that’s so not true. This IS my life. Just because I don’t like it, doesn’t mean it’s standing in my way. Actually, I think it’s exactly the opposite. It’s showing me exactly where I need to go to push beyond my comfort … Read more »
We all come to meditation with some kind of wish for self-improvement. Less anxiety, more peace of mind, better focus – these are among the more common goals I hear. But somewhere along the way, most of us get stuck in a trap. When mindfulness helps us see ourselves more clearly, our goal can start looking very far indeed. We’re STILL too distracted. We STILL can’t seem to stop beating ourselves up. We STILL do and say things we regret.
Hence disappointment and self-criticism arise. A poverty mentally sets in. Clearly where I am now isn’t good enough, and I look instead to a far horizon when things will be better. Some day…
That’s the … Read more »
There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt, containing a tornado.
Dam a stream and it will create a new channel.
Resist, and the tide will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry you to higher ground….
I recently discovered this wonderful poem by Danna Faulds (which is an excerpt — the full poem is here.) It has really struck me because the themes of letting go and allowing have been coming up everywhere for me.
My unconventional life, where I’m earning a living as a dharma practitioner and teacher, is full of uncertainty. There are no clear paths for me to follow, and the ups and downs can … Read more »
Can’t seem to find a comfortable way to sit in meditation? Here’s something really simple to try. It’s actually a mindfulness practice in itself. It’s a way to balance your natural ability to relax with the forces of gravity to find a well-aligned posture that’s effortless and free. I do this myself at the beginning of every sit, and find it really helpful.
For a visual cue, imagine your body as like a bunch of children’s wooden blocks, stacked one on top of another. It can rise up pretty high, as long as you place each block squarely on the one below. Gravity exerts a pull straight down the middle of the stack that keeps … Read more »
Joe, a student in my online class, was worried that meditation would hurt his career. He works in a very competitive business where everyone is single-mindedly pushing and driving hard all the time. The whole idea of “letting go” seemed absurd in that context. But at the same time his stress and anxiety levels were sky high. He knew this wasn’t a sustainable way to live.
Yes it’s true that in meditation, we’re told to drop everything and let go. But that doesn’t mean becoming passive and ineffectual. There’s more to this instruction than meets the eye.
There’s an image that comes to mind for me to illustrate what letting go is like. Imagine we’re … Read more »
It’s discouraging, isn’t it, to watch ourselves fall repeatedly into our same old habitual traps. We try to practice mindfulness, but it can be frustrating. Do you ever have days where you’re so caught up that you realize only at night, despite your best intentions, that you weren’t mindful for even one moment?
And it’s especially hard when we’re face to face with lifelong tendencies that resist change in a big way.
But don’t lose heart. It doesn’t mean you’re no good at this. After all, you NOTICED that you weren’t being mindful. That noticing is a positive event. Even though it happened after the fact, you observed something you probably weren’t aware of before. … Read more »
So you start sitting for 10, 20, or maybe even 30 minutes a day. But after some weeks of this, you still feel like things are crazy busy and all over the place. So your meditation isn’t working, you say to me.
Here’s my first thought. I’m wondering if you’re thinking of meditation as something you can drop into your life for say, 30 minutes a day, and have it counterbalance the other 15 or so hours that your mind is on full tilt. (I’m assuming you spend 8 or so hours sleeping or resting). … Read more »