mindfulness in daily life

The joys of Zen Coffee

Zen Coffee, by Gloria ChadwickThere are many paths to Awakening, including the path of Zen Coffee, Gloria Chadwick’s hip new take on Zen mindfulness.

Zen meditation is pure and simple; it’s accomplished by sitting quietly, clearing and stilling your conscious mind by not allowing your thoughts to wander or intrude while letting your mind empty itself. If a conscious thought enters your awareness, you acknowledge it as merely a thought and gently let it go, without attaching any feelings to it, giving it any importance, or thinking about it. You simply allow your mind to be quiet.

The objective is to reach a state of nirvana (the attainment of enlightenment and the freeing of yourself from attachment to worldly things) where you transcend the physical and you’re aware of everything, understanding it completely within your mind as you achieve a state of divine awareness of your inner nature.

A more active form of Zen meditation embraces mindfulness–your thoughts are completely in the present moment, you’re totally aware of where you are, what you’re doing, how you’re feeling, and you’re accepting what you experience without judgment. This keeps you centered and connected with your current emotions and experiences. Mindfulness is first accomplished by simply breathing and being aware that you’re breathing. Your breath brings your awareness into the present moment, centering you completely into right here, right now. The objective is to again reach a level of nirvana (the attainment of a completely enjoyable moment that provides the embracing of an ultimate experience of harmony or joy) which allows you to tune into the calm, peaceful essence of your inner nature.

You can incorporate both forms of mindful meditation into a Zen coffee. How often, while drinking a cup of coffee, have you spaced out, letting your thoughts go completely, emptying your mind and simply enjoying your coffee and a peaceful feeling of just being? You were mindfully meditating, filling your mind completely in the present moment, letting go of all other thoughts except what you were experiencing with your coffee. Perhaps you focused on the warmth of the cup in your hand and tuned into the aroma and steam rising from the coffee. Perhaps the warmth of the coffee soothed your spirit. Perhaps you perceived the steam as an ethereal wisp of your inner nature, letting the aroma of the coffee and the peacefulness of your inner essence completely engulf you.

  Drinking coffee in a Zen moment transports you into a meditative frame of mind…  

Or perhaps you drank it down without a second thought. Even quickly slurping a cup of coffee provides you with an opportunity to transcend your physical nature and the everyday world for a time, if you will take a mindful moment to be aware of and enjoy your coffee. Drinking coffee in a Zen moment transports you into a meditative frame of mind where you are completely in the present moment. Just like the steam rising from your hot coffee, you can rise into the ethereal essence of your inner nature.

Quietly sipping your coffee offers you time for yourself, a nurturing respite from your busy lifestyle. The quiet time you spend for reflection and introspection brings relaxation and refreshment to your mind; it offers you a nice and much-needed breather to get into the calm, peaceful essence of you. You can sit in solitude in a Zen-like state of meditation with your coffee to ease and erase the stresses and strains of your everyday experiences with the warmth, taste, and aroma of your coffee as you nurture the inner essence of you.

The quiet, meditative moments you spend in this manner bring you peace and serenity. It is here, in this quiet time and meditative place of peace and harmony within yourself, that you become in tune with your inner essence, with the true nature of you. This works wonderfully well if you can find a few moments for yourself to sit in silence and just be with yourself. If you can’t, you can still tune into yourself with a cup of coffee in any situation you find yourself in. This is how the Zen of coffee works. You can achieve many peaceful moments of harmony while you’re on the go and racing around, running through life. Coffee gives you a quiet time, a moment or two every now and then, scattered here and there, to de-stress and drink in the mindfulness of Zen; to relax and reflect; to go within your inner essence to replenish yourself and refresh your mind.

Zen Coffee is for people on the go; it offers an active approach to mindfully meditating in every moment of your busy life. It offers you many ways to bring peace and a sense of serenity into all your experiences and activities, to be in harmony with them. As you race through life with your coffee cup in hand, you’ll find many mindful moments to meditate.

Read More

A Room of One’s OM

Yoga Journal: A growing number of yogis have created a dedicated space for practicing yoga and meditation at home. A few have built a true studio space; some have converted an extra bedroom; and others have created a soothing sanctuary in the corner of a room. Regardless of the approach, making physical space at home for your practice can have a profound effect on your life. Read more here.

Read More

Mysticism: where the dharma rubber hits the road

iStock_000004953282XSmallIn Sunada’s view, mysticism isn’t about indulging in out-of-body experiences as a way of escaping the world. It’s about meeting the world head-on and learning directly from it. It’s about as practical as it gets.

If you’ve been reading my blog articles for a while, you may have gathered by now that I’m a rather down-to-earth sort of practitioner, with a keen interest in how meditation and Buddhist practice interplays with the practical aspects of our daily lives. So when I heard that this month’s topic was Mysticism, well, my first impulse was to take a pass. How does Mysticism relate to everyday life? Like Bodhipaksa (as he mentions in his related article), my first stop was a dictionary. And I was somewhat surprised by what I found. It gave the following definition:

“Mysticism: a doctrine of an immediate spiritual intuition of truths believed to transcend ordinary understanding”

With this definition in hand, I’ve changed my view of what mysticism is all about. It’s actually a central part of Buddhist practice, and very much a practical matter. It’s our experience of spiritual intuition that moves the teachings from the realm of intellectual thoughts and concepts into one of personally meaningful truths that inform how we live our lives.

  Mysticism is a central part of Buddhist practice, and very much a practical matter.   

One of those experiences happened to me in 1995 during a vacation to the state of Washington, and a visit to Mount St. Helens. St. Helens had erupted catastrophically fifteen years earlier, causing the most destructive volcanic event in all of US history. After several weeks of rumbling earthquakes and steam-venting, it finally in May of 1980 erupted so violently that its entire north face blew off. Hot gases and ash spewed outward for miles in diameter, instantly roasting and flattening everything in their path.

My husband and I hiked to the peak of a nearby ridge where we came upon an unobstructed panoramic view of massive destruction on a scale beyond belief. As far as I could see, everything was dead and ash-covered. From where we stood, what I knew had once been a dense forest of 40-foot pine trees appeared as though someone had thrown down millions of charred toothpicks. Bare blackened sticks were all that remained — all lying on the ground. But strangely, they were all neatly pointing in the same outward direction from the epicenter of the blast. It was a terrible but beautiful and awesome sight.

I have no idea how long I stood there taking in that vista. In my stunned silence, time had stopped. In one sense, I felt incredibly small and insignificant in the face of such vast power and devastation. But at the same time, I also felt empowered by its greatness. In an odd way that I can’t explain even now, I felt like I was a part of this greatness, that somehow its magnificence was something that was very much alive and part of me. It was my first intuitive inkling of life as something universal. I wasn’t a separate and independent being, but part of something much greater that incorporated the earth and sky as much as my own puny body.

  I wasn’t a separate and independent being, but part of something much greater…   

These kinds of encounters can happen at any moment, in the most ordinary of circumstances. It can happen when talking with a close friend, when a shared moment seems to dissolve all boundaries between us. Or when reading a moving novel, or listening to evocative music, or seeing a work of art that touches us – when we get a glimpse into something in a way that we can’t put into words, but it hits home deeply within ourselves. We’re taken out of our small self-centered viewpoint and see something bigger, something beyond, something universal. I’m sure many of us have had experiences of this sort at one time or another. We may not know what to make of the experience as it’s happening. It may take years or decades for it to mature into something we can even begin to talk about. But something inside gets stirred.

I know that Buddhism appeals to many people, myself included, because its teachings are rational and for the most part built upon observable phenomena. But to leave it at that would be to categorize Buddhism as a philosophy or an intellectual pursuit – which falls far short of its true significance.

To truly take up the practice of the dharma is to open ourselves up to the invitation of those intuitive experiences. We can’t make them happen, of course. But we can stay open and receptive, keep a stance of curiosity and wonder, and refrain from our habitual ways of sizing up situations and overlaying them with expectations or fears. As we practice this more and more, our skills at observing and perceiving become clearer and more refined. And that in turn allows us to see more deeply for ourselves the truth behind the Buddha’s words. We begin to change as well, as we become wiser in our ways of responding to our experiences, and that inspires us to go further still. And the cycle continues upward. This is true practice of the dharma.

So, mysticism is not about going into weird trances or out-of-body experiences as a way of escaping from our world. Far from it! It’s really a way of delving more and more deeply in the world, meeting it head-on, and learning from the school of hard knocks, as the saying goes. It’s about learning and growing from life itself. I can’t think of anything more practical than that.

Read More

From bookshelves to boardroom, ‘mindfulness’ is hot spiritual trend (Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, Indiana)

Psychologist Henry Grayson says his book, “Mindful Loving,” might not have been a bestseller if his publisher had stuck to a title he’d suggested: “The New Physics of Love.”

Three months ago, Body & Soul magazine added the phrase, “The Natural Guide to Mindful Living” to its cover. Mindfulness — living consciously in the moment — has become “just that significant” in American culture, said editor-in-chief Seth Bauer.

Mindfulness books and tapes are frequent bestsellers. Mindfulness training is a staple at seminars, retreats and spas. Hospitals and psychologists are teaching mindfulness as a means to handle everything from chronic illness and addiction to stress and depression.

“There’s a sense that what is missing in our lives is a real connection to what we do, what we think, how we relate to people and how we take care of ourselves,” said Bauer. “Mindfulness brings all of those things together.”

Even corporate America is on board. Some businesses now offer mindfulness workshops to improve concentration, employee relations and ethics. Last year, Spirituality & Health magazine featured an article titled, “Lessons from Mindful Corporations.”

Spiritual trend watchers say mindfulness has become to the 2000s what angels were to the 1990s. Maybe bigger, though there may never be a TV show called “Touched by a Mindful Person.”

“Most of the time, we’re just going, going, going — operating on autopilot,” said Gary Stuard of Dallas, a former Buddhist monk who teaches mindfulness meditation at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration.

“Mindfulness is about paying attention so you don’t go about life absentmindedly,” he said.

Experts say mindfulness is cultivated. The most common way is by sitting in quiet meditation and observing one’s breath. Some people count breaths as they inhale and exhale. Others follow the rising and falling of the breath or some other variation.

“The point of mindfulness meditation is not to zone out but to tune in,” Stuard said.

The challenge comes when the mind drifts. Each time that happens, people are told to take notice, then return to their breath without judging their thoughts and emotions.

“Your breath draws you into the here and now,” said Grayson, the Mindful Loving author. “People are realizing that they spend so much of their lives worrying about the past or thinking about the future that they miss out on the present.”

The point is to bring awareness to all aspects of life.

Whether practiced for spiritual, health or other reasons, mindfulness is all about conscious living. (If you’ve ever mindlessly stuffed yourself while watching TV, you know something about unconscious living.)

Bonnie Arkus, executive director of the Women’s Heart Foundation in West Trenton, N.J., said she dropped 10 pounds in a month by combining the South Beach diet with “mindfulness eating.”

“You’re not just watching what goes into your mouth,” she said. “You actually taste the food because you stop to enjoy it. You’re not just inhaling it on the run, so you tend to eat less.”

Mindfulness is integral to Buddhism, an ancient religion that has enjoyed waves of popularity in America.

In the 1960s, the influence of the Beat writers, such as Allen Ginsberg, became widespread.

The 1970s celebrated Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.”

In the 1990s, Hollywood stepped forward with “Kundun” and “Seven Years in Tibet.”

And now, whenever the Dalai Lama visits, he’s greeted by crowds befitting a rock star.

Many say the seeds for the current mindfulness craze were largely planted by the 1975 book, “The Miracle of Mindfulness” by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk once nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr.

“Mindfulness is the miracle by which we master and restore ourselves,” wrote the monk, who lives in France.

Some Buddhists are troubled that mindfulness in the American mainstream is being commercialized in ways that have nothing to do with spirituality.

“It’s not just mental training or a self-improvement technique,” said Sharon Salzberg, a well-known Buddhist teacher, author of spiritual books and co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Mass.

For Buddhists, mindfulness is embedded in ethics and compassion.

In spiritual circles, mindfulness is a path to inner awakening. In the medical community, it’s seen as a path to better health.

More than 200 U.S. hospitals and clinics use mindfulness training to promote mental and physical health.

Austin family physician Paul Keinarth, on the verge of burnout, turned to mindfulness meditation four years ago. Racing thoughts, worries and stress plagued him. He had difficulty sleeping. He was emotionally distant from his family.

“The change has been dramatic,” said Keinarth, who now teaches mindfulness courses. “I’m living my own life as it unfolds now instead of living a lot of stories about what happened to me or to other people. My relationships to my family and to my patients have vastly improved.”

Dr. James Ruiz, a radiologist from Baton Rouge, La., said his interest in mindfulness began when his 6-year-old son was an infant. When the baby would cry in the middle of the night, he would hold him while doing a walking mindfulness meditation.

Mindfulness has changed the way he parents, he said.

“Being up in the middle of the night with a child in distress is not what drives you to madness,” he said. “What drives you crazy is that you want to be back in bed. Mindfulness is letting go of that, accepting the reality and attending to what’s in front of you.”

The Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School uses many techniques to teach mindfulness. One exercise involves taking 20 minutes to eat two raisins. Participants notice how the raisins look and smell. They feel the texture. And finally, they taste.

Mindfulness isn’t alternative medicine, but complements traditional medicine, said Saki Santorelli, the center’s director.

“This approach which used mindfulness was pretty radical when the program started,” he said. “But we showed the medical community that it wasn’t taking advantage of its greatest ally — the patients themselves.

The link to Buddhism isn’t emphasized, he said.

“People who come to our clinic don’t care about Buddhism or any -ism,” he said. “They’re suffering and want relief. Mindfulness helps them tap inner resources.”

But some in the medical community say more scientific studies are needed.

“Given the potential benefits and increasing popularity of mindfulness training, it seems critically important,” Ruth Baer of the University of Kentucky’s psychology department, wrote last year in a scholarly paper.

Being disciplined about meditating is the hardest challenge, many people say.

At the Maria Kannon Zen Center in Dallas, people gather every day to meditate. Executive Director Helen Cortes said 200 students may pass through in a year, but only a few will stick with it.

“Not everybody likes sitting still for 25 minutes or an hour,” she said. “But there are other choices. People need to follow their own temperament to develop mindfulness.”

She said sweeping the floor, mowing the lawn, washing dishes and even cleaning toilets can serve as mindfulness meditations.

“We remind people you wash dishes not in order to get them clean, but rather to simply wash the dishes,” she said. “You feel the water, smell the soap, be aware of your body when you put the dishes away.”

Scholars say concepts similar to mindfulness are found in other religions — the daily cycle of prayers said by Christian monks, Orthodox Jews and Muslims. These observances are ways of paying attention to the presence of God in all things.

Original article no longer available…

Read More

Pulse: Health briefs (LA Daily News)

LA Daily News: I barely have time to exercise. How can I add meditation to my daily routine?

Eric Harrison has heard that complaint before. He demonstrates in “Flip the Switch” (Ulysses Press; $10.95) that even the most hectic schedule has room for spot meditations.

  • Do some deep breathing in the car at a red light.
  • Focus on relaxing different parts of the body while standing in line at lunch.
  • Intersperse meditation exercises between reps at the gym.
  • Even mundane activities such as folding laundry provide ample opportunity to clear the mind.

Harrison, director of the Perth Meditation Centre in Australia, offers 40 spot meditations that can be done in less than five minutes. Now that’s multitasking.

Original article no longer available.

Read More
Menu