Posts by Saddhamala

A Buddhist’s perspective on biblical ways to love

I just read a list of ways to show love and I was inspired to write this article including a Buddhist’s perspective of ways to carry out the biblical suggestions on the list.

Ten ways to show people you love them:

  1. Listen without interrupting. (Proverbs 18) – When someone is speaking, the most loving thing we can do is listen. And, if we are really listening, we are not thinking of how to respond or how to get our point across or asking questions or saying anything. We are simply listening to hear and understand what the person is saying. So, the next time you are listening to someone, wait until the person is finished and then respond.
  2. Speak without accusing. (James 1:19) – We all have times with our partners, family members and friends when we disagree, feel disappointed, feel hurt or get angry. When someone accuses us of doing something, we can respond honestly, without blaming or accusing them, by gently speaking from our own experience including: how we felt, what we heard and how we responded. Whenever we accuse or blame someone, they feel defensive and communication is blocked.
  3. Give without sparing. (Proverbs 21:26) – A friend of mine suggested “Always follow through on an impulse of generosity”. I love this idea and put it into practice as often as possible. Yesterday I was selling tote bags and jewelry at a Crafts Fair. A young woman, with two young children, was at a table next to mine. She came to see my jewelry and found a necklace she liked. She told me she would love the necklace but she works at a Child Care Center and cannot wear jewelry to work. She went back to her table where she was selling things her students made so they could take the proceeds and purchase holiday gifts for children who otherwise wouldn’t have them. I put the necklace she liked in a box and gave it to her and told her I would like her to have it. We were both very happy. At the end of the Crafts Fair, she came back to my table with a box, filled with goodies to make a gingerbread house and offered it to me. I accepted her gift and agreed with her when she said “After all, it’s all about creating community.”
  4. Pray without ceasing. (Colossians 1:9) At times in our lives when we feel overwhelmed, uninspired, exhausted or hopeless, the best we can do is to meditate or pray.
  5. Answer without arguing. (Proverbs 17:1) Recently I received an email from a friend (Cindy) who told me she heard from a friend (Janet) who was upset because they had not gotten together for a long time. Janet has a relationship that is on again, off again and Cindy hears from her when the relationship is in the “off again” mode. Janet expects Cindy to be available when Janet wants to get together. Cindy loves Janet but feels Janet takes advantage of their friendship. Cindy wrote to Janet and expressed her feelings. Janet got defensive and argued her case. Cindy refused to enter into an argument and although they didn’t come to an agreement, Cindy left the door open for further communication. When two people argue, it is unlikely they will find a resolution.
  6. Share without pretending. (Ephesians 4:15) Real sharing comes from the heart, without pretense of giving something because it is expected or given with strings attached.
  7. Enjoy without complaint. (Philippians 2:14) Real enjoyment comes when we are wholeheartedly in the present moment. When we have a tendency to find fault with or complain about things, we stop ourselves from enjoying life.
  8. Trust without wavering. (Corinthians 13:7) Many people grow up in situations where they learn not to trust people. This lack of trust can become a habit, a way of protecting ourselves, but it also interferes with closeness with others. When we are aware that we lack trust, it is important to make a resolution to learn to trust again, not blindly, but with wisdom and compassion for ourselves and others.
  9. Forgive without punishing. (Colossians 3:13) People will disappoint us and we will forgive them and when we do, the forgiveness should come without conditions or punishment.
  10. Promise without forgetting. (Proverbs 13:12) It is so important to follow through with our promises so that we are trustworthy and dependable.
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Mindful ways to get a good night’s sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is vital to feeling energetic and making the most of our days. Some nights, even though we are very tired it is difficult to get to sleep because there is so much going on in our minds. When this happens, we feel stressed and that makes it even more difficult to get some rest.

Here is a list of techniques you may want to use to clear your mind before bed:

1. Write a list of what you need to do the next day. Having the list helps to let go of worrying that you will forget to do something.

2. Practice yoga. Practicing yoga takes concentration so it takes your mind off all the thinking that stops you from being able to go to sleep. Concentrating on the yoga asanas helps to quiet the mind and lying in savasana helps the body to relax.

3. Take a warm bath to relax muscles so that falling asleep occurs easily.

4. Read, but not in bed. Part of the reason we have trouble sleeping is because we work, check our cell phones, work on our computers and read in bed. In order to fall asleep easily, it is important to use bed for sleeping and sex and that is all. That way, when we go to bed, we associate bed with sleeping.

5. Listen to soothing music.

6. If you go to bed and cannot keep your mind from thinking too much,  get out of bed and do something (read, write a letter, fix a broken appliance) until you are very tired and then go back to bed.

7. If you are worried or concerned about something or someone, remember that worrying does not help the situation and think about all the times you worried and what you were worried about never happened.

8. Write down what has happened during the day that was troubling and what was positive – it helps to clear your thoughts about the day.

9. Write in a gratitude journal, a list of things you are thankful for.  Going to sleep in a positive frame of mind will bring sleep sooner and make dreams sweeter.

10. Visualize yourself on a beach, in the warm sun, listening to the waves of the ocean.

It is helpful to have a list of techniques that help to clear your mind before going to bed, so when you are in bed and cannot fall asleep, you know what to do rather than tossing and turning and feeling stressed because you cannot sleep.

I hope some of these techniques will work for you and you will sleep peacefully, have sweet dreams and wake up refreshed.

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Meditation – how many forms should we practice?

There are many different types of meditation practices. Most familiar, perhaps, are mantra meditation, Mindfulness of Breathing, Metta Bhavana (Development of Loving Kindness), and the candle meditation. Recently I was asked by a student if I thought she should add a third meditation practice to the two forms of meditation she already practices. As a “good teacher”, I responded to her question with a list of questions to consider before she made her decision. I hope these questions will be helpful to you as well, if you are considering adding other practices to your meditation repertoire.

Regarding adding another form of meditation to your meditation practice – there are differing ideas about doing that. In my own meditation process (from 1993 – 2000), it was recommended that I practice the metta bhavana and the mindfulness of breathing (which some believe can take us all the way to Enlightenment). When I was ordained, in September 2000, I was introduced to two more forms of meditation – the Six Element Practice and an Amitabha Buddha visualization practice. Those practices were taught during a seven week retreat and I had an opportunity to practice both forms in a context where I received instruction and support.

It’s probably a good idea to consider the intention underlying one’s desire to take on another meditation practice. Here are some questions to consider:

1. Am I bored/tired with my practice as it is? If so, why?

2. Which meditation practice do I practice most? If I just practice the Mindfulness of Breathing as a way to become more focused and mindful, should I practice the Metta Bhavana for a while so that I am developing loving kindness for myself and others? Is there a reason I practice one practice more than another? Am I having difficulty concentrating or feeling positive emotion for myself and or others? If there is resistance to one practice, understanding the resistance can be valuable.

3. What do I want to accomplish by taking on another meditation practice?

4. Do I know enough about the practice to do it without the support of a teacher and practice group?

After reading this list of questions, another student responded:

“Thank you for the list of questions to consider when thinking about trying another meditation practice. Your first question struck home with me in that sometimes after I have been doing a particular meditation for awhile I have more difficulty staying focused. It just struck me that maybe instead of switching to another method, I need to just sit with the restlessness of my mind and see what happens. Not being able to stay still emerges once again.”

It’s a good idea to be aware of your meditation practice, and to take stock, now and again, to see if changes (additions or deletions) might be helpful.

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Using focus to come back to peace of mind

One of the most valuable things we can have is peace of mind.

When we are not feeling peaceful, our mind may be racing, or we may be thinking obsessively, and we are likely feeling stressed and frantic.

Meditation, even for only a few minutes, can be the key to your peace of mind.

Have you ever had trouble concentrating on a project, or falling asleep at night because your mind is racing or you are obsessing over a problem?

It seems that the mind has a mind of its own! Meditation is a method to tame the mind and bring a sense of peace and serenity.

The next time your mind is moving like a locomotive, try this meditation technique: close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and then count your breaths. When you get distracted and lose track of the counting, gently refocus on your breathing and counting.

You will probably have to refocus many times, but that is okay – the important thing is to keep coming back to counting your breaths and be gentle with yourself rather than feeling frustrated.

The more you practice this technique, the longer you will be able to concentrate.

Another form of meditation to bring calm to your mind is the candle meditation. Just light a candle, relax, take a few deep breaths and concentrate on the candle flame.

The mind can only concentrate on one thing at a time, so when we keep focused on the candle flame, we let go of what is troubling us and gain a quiet mind.

The candle meditation has a similar effect as gazing at a fire in the fireplace – it is calming and peaceful.

We may not always have a candle handy to use for a meditation, but we can visualize one and we always have our breath and counting breaths can bring peace of mind.

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Listening to our children

Listening helps children feel important, appreciated, and respected. A conversation that could have just touched the surface, deepens dramatically when we really listen to our children.

Parents who listen to their children help them to know what that have to say matters.,

Active listening is a skill that goes beyond just hearing words. It takes energy and understanding what feelings are beneath the words — the emotions and context within which the words are framed.

Here are some tips for active listening:

1. Give your child your entire attention. Don’t be thinking of what you will say when it is your turn to speak.

2. Maintain eye contact and make sure your body language shows you are listening by leaning forward.

3. Don’t multitask when you are listening – just listen to what is being said.

4. Do not get distracted by noises, people or your own thoughts.

5. Keep open to what your child is saying. If you don’t agree, take in what your child says and wait until he or she is finished before responding.

6. Ask clarifying questions without interrupting your child.

You will know you have actively listened when your child seems more at ease after your conversation. Listening to our children validates their experience.

Each evening when you put your child to sleep, ask them what was the best or hardest part of their day and really listen. Your child will know that he or she is important to you.

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Meditation on happiness

Happiness – we all seek it and want to know the secret of it. Self-help books on happiness line the shelves of book shops and libraries and there are all kinds of theories about happiness.

Over the years what I thought about and desired as a means to gaining happiness have changed as I have… matured (I like the word matured better than aged). Here is my list, organized by decades.

From ages:

0-10 I wanted to be cared for, safe, nourished and nurtured to be happy (although I could not articulate all this at the time).

11-20 I wanted friendships, fun, freedom, popularity, a car and someone interesting and sexy to date.

21-30 I wanted a college education, to go to lots of parties, a satisfying career, a marriage partner, pregnancy and healthy children, and a nice house in a neighborhood with a good school system.

31-40 I wanted to further my career as a Social Worker and Educational Consultant, a happy marriage, and healthy, independent kids.

41-50 I wanted to understand what spirituality meant, to know the meaning of life, to go beyond my self and live in an altruistic manner.

51-60 I want freedom, health, prosperity, deep friendships and to simplify my life more and more.

Throughout these decades there have been some things that did not change from decade to decade, including:

  • health, love and happiness for myself, my family members, friends and all people
  • stimulating work that helps people
  • a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing home
  • good friends, a happy marriage and independent children
  • peace in the world
  • that everyone have food to eat

For the past ten years, my quest for happiness has focused on things that, at younger ages, I would not have thought important, including:

  • a spiritual practice and community
  • deep friendships based on caring, trust and mutual generosity
  • a life simplified by having less – fewer material things, a small living space
  • simple pleasures – watching otters and ducks on the pond by my cottage, watching the seasons change, spending time in natural settings, cooking for friends, phone calls and visits from my kids
  • peace, tranquility, compassion, and acceptance of myself, my children, my friends and acquaintances
  • acceptance for all that is
  • living mindfully, ethically and compassionately

I realize happiness comes from what I value most, what brings me pleasure, challenge, contentment and peace.

Whatever is on your list of things or values that bring you happiness, I hope you revel in them.

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Mindfulness – twenty ways to bring it to work

Bringing mindfulness to work allows us to:

  • be more focused
  • feel less stressed
  • communicate more effectively
  • bring compassion to the workplace and
  • feel confident at work.

When considering how we approach work, we can ask ourselves:

  • How do I relate to myself?
  • Am I aware of my thoughts, feelings and actions or do I run on automatic pilot?
  • How do I relate to my colleagues, coworkers and boss?
  • Am I kind, friendly and compassionate or do I need to have my own way?
  •  How do I relate to my work? Do I bring curiosity and creativity to my work or is it just a means to a paycheck?

Here are twenty ways to bring mindfulness with you to work:

1. Set an intention for the day .  Ask yourself, “What do I want to accomplish today? How will I accomplish it?”
2. Communicate honestly and from the heart.
3. Be friendly.  Not everyone at work is your friend, but we can be friendly to everyone.
4. Bring curiosity to each new day rather than seeing each day as a replica of the past. Look at things in a new way and listen to what your colleagues suggest.
5. Do not believe everything you think!
6. Know yourself.  Be aware when you get distracted and bring your mind back to the task at hand, back to the present moment.
7. Understand the positive effects of teamwork and skillful action.
8. Bring presence, intention and wholeheartedness to your thoughts, actions and speech.
9. Remember to breathe.
10. Be receptive to new ways of doing things.
11. Listen actively.  Focus on what the person is saying, not how you are going to answer.
12. Enjoy your work, find the pleasure in it.  You may not enjoy everything you do at work, but take pleasure in the aspects you appreciate.
13. Let go of attachment to outcomes.
14. Allow creativity to surface by relaxing and being open to possibilities.
15. Ideally whatever we do for work is an integral part of our lives where we incorporate our values, thoughts, words and actions (i.e.greening practices, nonviolence ahimsa).
16. Become a mentor.
17. Be aware of triggers and remember triggers comes from within, not from anyone else.
18. Watch your reactions to triggers and use these instances as opportunities to change, to “let it go”.
19. Remember, we create our worlds and we have the choice to react or respond to a situation. Reacting is an automatic reflex — responding is a thoughtful, reflective response that considers creative alternatives and considering options and consequences.
20. Make a copy of this list and keep it by your desk, and remember to read it often.

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How to free your mind from worries

It is difficult to let go of worries. The very nature of worrying seems to keep the mind busy, thinking of the concern over and over again. The more we think about the concern, the more anxious we feel, but there is a way to free the mind from worries.

I live in New England and my sons, who visited for Christmas last December, were traveling during a blizzard. I worried about them. Would they be warm enough? Would they make their travel accommodations on time? Would the transport be safe?

I have worried before and have found that the worrying is not a good use of energy – after all, it does not help a situation.

One way to free your mind from worries is to be in the present moment. Whatever you are doing, pay full attention to the task.

If you are arranging your CDs, focus on putting them in alphabetical order. If you are cleaning, pay full attention to the cleaning. If you are working, focus on the work. If you are driving, focus on the driving.

When we are attentive to what we are doing we enjoy many benefits:

1. improved concentration

2. higher quality communication and relationships

3. heightened clarity

4. improved efficiency

5. increased sense of flow

6. less stress

7. keener insight and intuition

8. authenticity

9. increased resilience to change

10. strengthened self-confidence as well as

11. a mind that is free from worry and anxiety – peace of mind.

So the next time you find yourself worrying, remember to pay full attention to what you are doing and your mind will be free from worries.

 

 

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5 ways to do nothing and bring stillness to your life

We live in a world filled with input from television, radios, the Internet, social networks, email, news broadcasts, newspapers, magazines, white papers, books, Kindles, movies and more.

Our society is fast paced and we are proud of our ability to multitask. We begin our days by listening to the news as we get dressed in the morning. On the way to work or school, we listen to the radio in the car and use ear phones to listen to music or talk on our cell phones.

Our days are filled with talking, doing, accomplishing, gathering, spending, earning, and accumulating facts, relationships and material things. We are fast becoming human doings rather than human beings. All this doing is exhausting and it depletes us of our energy and leaves no time for wonder.

It is possible, however, to find stillness, no matter how busy our schedules are. By taking time for reflection, by being silent, we can find the stillness of inner peace.

Take a moment to recall what it is like waking up on a winter morning after a night of snow falling on the earth. Without even looking outside, there is a palpable stillness – it is so delicious, so full of wonder.

If you have ever been in a kayak or canoe when the water is smooth, the air is fresh and the sun is warm,  or skiing along a snow covered path in the woods, you know about stillness.

We can bring that same stillness to our lives by taking time to meditate and reflect, to quiet the mind and listen to the language of the heart.

Pablo Neruda says: “If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death.  Perhaps the world can teach us as when everything seems dead but later proves to be alive.”

Here are five ways to “do nothing” as we “prove to be alive”:

1. Before getting out of bed in the morning, take a moment to listen to what surrounds you. Perhaps it is very early and the only sound you hear is the ticking of the clock.

2. While eating breakfast, do not talk, but enjoy the taste and texture of your food.

3. While on your way to work, do not put on the radio or listen to a CD.

4. Take a day to do only one thing at a time, silently, a “no multitasking day”.

5. Before you enter your house after a long day, pause in silence to leave the work day behind and bring an open heart to your family.

Try bringing stillness to your life and experience its benefits.

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How to stop your mind from wandering

The mind is made to wander – just take a few minutes to sit quietly and watch the mind flit around like a butterfly going from flower to flower.

With all that thinking, worrying, justifying, wondering, story telling, imagining, assuming, compulsive activity – it is a wonder we actually get anything done in a mindful way. But there is hope.  There is a way to stop your mind from wandering.

Meditation and mindfulness are two buzz words that nearly everyone is familiar with. In a world where multitasking is considered a positive trait necessary for working, it is fascinating that there is so much interest in meditation and mindfulness – which are the opposites of multitasking.

We think that when we work on more than one task at a time, we will save time and get more done. That may occur, but it is more likely that we will get more done, more accurately and creatively, when we concentrate on just one thing at a time, with mindful attention and one-pointed energy.

More times than I would like to admit, I have rushed through projects only to find many mistakes and problems necessitating the project to be looked at again and corrected. When I take my time and focus my mind on one project at a time, I am much happier with the results.

This happens at work and at home. When I am multitasking – baking blueberry muffins, sorting the mail and ironing a shirt to wear the next day – the blueberry muffins often end up on the shall-we-say crispy side.

When I focus on just making the muffins, just sorting the mail and just ironing the shirt, each action becomes a meditation, my mind stops wandering and I am in the flow of attending to what is waiting for my undivided attention.

Have you ever been at a restaurant with a friend who is looking around the room as you are talking to him or her? That situation is a visual representation of a wandering mind. The person is distracted from what you are saying because he or she is not focused – his or her mind is wandering – “hmmm I wonder who just came through the door” or “I wonder if my boss realizes I’ve been at lunch for an hour and a half”.

The next time you find yourself and your mind multitasking, appreciate that awareness, take a few deep breaths and focus on one thing at a time – write one email at a time, mindfully drink your cup of tea, drive to work without a cup of coffee in hand – and you will have found the way to stop your mind from wandering – and have perfectly baked blueberry muffins.

 

 

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