mantras

Bearing compassion in mind (Day 43)

100 Days of Lovingkindness

I’d like to suggest a simple practice for you.

For the next hour or so, let the first thought you have when seeing someone or meeting them face-to-face be: “This person suffers just as I suffer. This person, just like me, doesn’t want to suffer.”

“Seeing someone” can include seeing their photograph or seeing them on TV, as well as seeing them in person, or seeing them passing by.

You can try this for a longer period, of course, but I thought it would be good to try it for a very short spell initially, so that you don’t feel you’re taking on a task that’s too big.

I’d advise keeping these two phrases going prophylactically, so to speak; if you just have them running around your head whenever your mind would otherwise go off wandering, then it’ll be easier to call them to mind.

So as you’re driving, you can see cars in front or behind, going in the same direction as you or in other directions, and say to yourself, “This person suffers just as I suffer. This person, just like me, doesn’t want to suffer.”

You can do this as you’re walking along the street or cruising the aisles of a supermarket. You can do it in your office. You can do it when you’re in a meeting.

But it’s particularly to do this when you’re actually talking to someone.

Just try it and see what effect it has.

One person who tried this said it had helped “ground” him and stopped him from escalating tricky situations. Someone else who did this on the bus found that it lead to a loosening of their sense of having a “contracted self” and that they had a feeling of common experience with the other people.

Someone else said, “I felt a connection with the person … even a deep kindness. Think I could have perhaps even went over and gave them a cuddle so we could cry together.”

And yet another person tried this on public transport: “This practice just helped me keep it “chill” during a long, cross-town bus ride during which a baby was crying the whole time. Other riders were getting very bent out of shape, but thanks to this mindfulness practice I just went with the flow with kindly thoughts for everyone on the bus.”

One of the things I found happening today as I was bearing these phrases in mind toward passers-by was that I felt a strong sense of curiosity about them. It wasn’t like I had any specific questions in mind, like “I wonder what his name is,” but that I had a strong sense of an entire life being right there in front of me, just waiting to be explored.

I certainly feel much happier doing this practice. My usual thoughts — which sometimes reinforce unskillful mental states like anxiety and ill will — are displaced, and the new thoughts — “This person suffers just as I suffer; this person, just like me, doesn’t want to suffer,” lead to a sense of well-being, connectedness, and peace.

And this is a practice that you can keep “rebooting” during the day. Try it for an hour, and then another hour, and then another. What happens, I wonder, if this becomes second nature and we don’t even have to think about it? What happens when this ceases to be a practice, and just becomes part of who we are.

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Vocabulary refresher course in the language of mindfulness meditation

Mary MacVean, Los Angeles Times: The vocabulary of meditation can be a barrier for people who feel that they’re entering a strange world, experts say. Here are some common words.

Buddha: meaning one who is awake, in Sanskrit. The Buddha was a person, not a god, who lived more than 2,000 years ago; from a privileged family, he became a seeker of truth and eventually became enlightened.

Dharma: often used to mean the teachings of Buddhism and meditation.

Mantra: a word — “om” being perhaps the most famous — repeated as a way to keep the mind focused on one spot during meditation.

Metta: loving kindness. In metta meditation, a person seeks to evoke such feelings for oneself or others independent of self-interest. Phrases such as, “May I be safe, may I be peaceful and happy,” can be repeated in the meditation.

Mindfulness: “a receptive attention to present-moment experience or attention to present-moment experience with a stance of open curiosity” (from Diana Winston of UCLA).

Transcendental meditation: a form of meditation using a mantra, introduced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and popularized these days by such people as filmmaker David Lynch.

Vipassana: another name for insight meditation to cultivate mindfulness.

Zafu: a round cushion used for sitting during meditation.

— Mary MacVean

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Ignoring the inbox – a new morning mantra

Eli Greenblat, The Age: If you, like most office workers, open your email first thing in the morning, then you might be setting yourself up for a horrible day and wasting hundreds of hours a year.

The work email inbox is a “pandora’s box” of nitty-gritty detail, gossip and distractions that are best dealt with later in the morning, and pressing the “send receive” button as soon as you slouch in your seat is the worst way to start your day.

These are the somewhat controversial views of Danish organisational behavioural expert and corporate consultant Rasmus Hougaard, who has taken his new way …

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No expectations

In practicing mindfulness in daily life, it’s worth watching out for small experiences that lead to tension, stress, or anger.

I noticed several months ago that I’d start feeling resentful as I walked toward a pedestrian crossing with the intention, of course, of crossing the road. The resentment is connected with the number of drivers who don’t stop when they see someone — well, me! — about to cross the road.

But I’d actually start getting resentful before I even reached the side of the road, long before drivers could possibly realize that it was my intention to cross in front of them.

What’s important is that I recognized that this was a source of suffering for me. It wasn’t one of these things that ruined my day, but it created an unpleasant experience that would color at least part of my day.

And it’s completely unnecessary. I was pushing my own stress buttons.

So I got into the habit of saying to myself, as I walked along the sidewalk toward the crossing, “No expectations.” It was just a little reminder that I couldn’t expect drivers to psychically know that it was my intention to cross, and that even once it should be clear that that was my intention, it was pointless having expectations that they would stop. After all, we all have times when we’re a little distracted and don’t respond promptly to things around us. What’s the point of taking these things personally?

The interesting thing is that saying “no expectations” has not just prevented frustration, tension, and anger from arising — when I say those words I find myself relaxing more deeply and enjoying my present-moment experience.

It’s a small thing, but then our lives are made out of the small things.

To apply this approach, we first have to notice that we’re causing ourselves frustration. Noticing this isn’t necessarily easy to do if our habits are longstanding. And in any event, we often tend to think of these petty frustrations as just a normal part of our experience.

And we often externalize our feelings, by which I mean that we blame the outside world for what we’re feeling. We might see it as those drivers are the problem and they’re making me frustrated rather than it’s my frustration toward those drivers that’s the problem. So we have to remember that people do not push our buttons. Our buttons are inside our heads, and we do our own button-pushing.

I can think of other circumstances in which this could be useful for me. When I log in to Wildmind’s Facebook page, for example, I often feel some disappointment when I see that an article we’ve posted a link to has received a small number of “likes.” The link to the article may have been viewed by 2,000 people (Facebook helpfully displays this information) and perhaps only 12 have clicked “like.” Now there’s a side to this where I can perhaps learn to craft better Facebook posts or to find the best times of day to post, but as long as I cling to expectations, I’m going to suffer.

I wonder what circumstances the mantra of “no expectations” could help you in your life?

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Finding right meditation technique key to satisfaction

New to meditation and already thinking about quitting? You may have simply chosen the wrong method. A new study published online July 7 in EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing highlights the importance of ensuring that new meditators select methods with which they are most comfortable, rather than those that are most popular.

If they do, they are likely to stick with it, says Adam Burke, the author of the study. If not, there is a higher chance they may abandon meditation altogether, losing out on its myriad personal and medical benefits. Burke is a professor of Health Education at SF State and the director of SF State’s Institute for Holistic Health Studies.

“Because of the increase in both general and clinical use of meditation, you want to make sure you’re finding the right method for each person,” he said. Although meditation has become significantly more popular in the U.S., Burke said, there have been very few studies comparing multiple methods head to head to examine individual preference or specific clinical benefits.

To better understand user preference, Burke compared four popular meditation methods — Mantra, Mindfulness, Zen and Qigong Visualization — to see if novice meditation practitioners favored one over the others. The study’s 247 participants were taught each method and asked to practice at home and, at the end of the study, evaluate which they preferred. The two simpler methods, Mantra and Mindfulness, were preferred by 31 percent of study participants. Zen and Qigong had smaller but still sizable contingents of adherents, with 22 percent and 14.8 percent of participants preferring them, respectively.

The results show the value of providing new practitioners a simpler, more accessible method of meditation. But they also emphasize that no one technique is best for everyone, and even less common methods are preferred by certain people. Older participants, who grew up when Zen was becoming one of the first meditation techniques to gain attention in the U.S., in particular were more likely to prefer that method.

“It was interesting that Mantra and Mindfulness were found to be equally compelling by participants despite the fact that they are fundamentally different techniques,” Burke said. Mindfulness is the most recent meditation technique to gain widespread popularity, he added, and is often the only one with which a novice practitioner or health professional is familiar. Not surprisingly, Mindfulness was the method most preferred by the youngest participants.

“If someone is exposed to a particular technique through the media or a healthcare provider, they might assume because it’s popular it’s the best for everyone,” Burke said. “But that’s like saying because a pink dress or a blue sport coat is popular this year, it’s going to look good on everybody. In truth, different people like different things. One size does not fit all.”

If an individual is not comfortable with a specific method for any reason, he said, they may be less likely to continue meditating and would lose out on such benefits as reduced stress, lower blood pressure or even treatment for addiction.

Burke hopes to see more comparative meditation studies, especially to determine if particular methods are better at addressing specific health issues, such as addiction. If that’s the case, he said, healthcare professionals would be able to guide patients toward techniques that will be most effective for them. Additional studies are also needed to determine if there is a way to predict which method will be best suited for any particular individual, he said.

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“It can wait.” A mantra for the 21st century

Buddha meditating lying on one side

You’re in the middle of a conversation with a friend, and your phone rings. You stop mid-sentence and suddenly you’re caught up in a phone call. You don’t even think about whether or not to pick up the call. It just happens.

You’re in the car and you hear the ping of a text message arriving. What do you do? Many people succumb to temptation and read the message and — worse — reply to it. (You can recognize those people; they’re the ones in front of you, swerving out of their lane without even realizing it.) Even if you try to ignore the incoming message, you can feel its emotional pull, as if your phone is an emotional black hole, drawing your attention inexorably toward it.

These distractions are hard to resist. How can we reclaim our attention in this world of email alerts, text message alerts, phone calls, IM alerts, and Facebook notifications?

See also:

I’ve found one simple way of regaining control of my attention. It’s a simple phrase: “It can wait.” I didn’t make this phrase up. I borrowed it from a public service advertisement designed to combat distracted driving. I found it simple and powerful.

And I use it in my daily activities. When I feel the urge to look at my phone while I’m driving, even if it’s just to remind myself of the name of the song that’s playing, I say “It can wait.” This simple phrase makes it easy for me to keep my attention where it belongs — on driving safely.

“It can wait” is a reminder of what’s important. The text message, email, or phone call will still be there when I arrive at my destination. I can deal with it then. Right now what’s important is getting to my destination safely. (In theory the song is still there, but in practice I’ll forget to do the detective work necessary to figure out what the track was. Which just goes to show how important it was in the first place to have that information!)

“It can wait” is a tool I also use in my meditation practice.

Sometimes when I’m meditating I find myself getting caught up in some train of thought. Sometimes those thoughts are compulsive. Right now I’ve just moved into a new office and we’re making some changes at work, so I find myself planning how we’re going to use the space, how we can set up better organizational systems etc. It’s all creative stuff. But it’s not what I want to be doing in my meditation practice. So I say, “It can wait.” And again, I find it relatively easy to let go of the train of thought. Sometimes it’ll come back a few times, but I keep saying “It can wait” and the planning part of my mind eventually gets the message.

“It can wait” becomes a powerful statement of affirmation in the importance of the present moment. I find myself planning? “It can wait.” Right now I’m just going to be with my present moment experience. I’ll find happiness by surrendering to the present moment, not by arranging the future in my mind.

So I offer this to you as a practice that I’ve found to be simply and effective. When you need to be focused on the present moment and an emotional black hole appears and tries to steal your attention, just say “It can wait” and embrace the present moment in mindful awareness.

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Woman brings meditation movement into south Chicago suburbs

wildmind meditation news

 Denise Baran-Unland, Herald-News, Chicago: A small, quiet flash mob assembled Dec. 22 at the New Lenox Public Library and, instead of singing, they mediated, leaving behind a spirit of calm, serenity and stillness.

The event was soothing and educational for participants and those spectators unaccustomed to the mechanics and benefits of meditation. More than 20 cities worldwide participated in meditation on the same night, said Michelle Ann Frank, founder of MedMob South Suburban Chicago.

“Some people think meditation is religious, that’s it’s about worshipping false gods or that it’s for pot-smoking hippies, but science has shown we’re wired for this,” Frank said. “I just want people to know all the good it can do. We’ve have the Occupy movement, but this is a way to change things without saying one word.”

Worldwide movement

The New Lenox Library will host a second MedMob on Saturday. Frank’s chapter is part of a worldwide movement to send positive energy into the world through meditation. Frank will offer meditation instruction prior to the event so even the uninitiated may participate if they wish.

The basic method Frank will demonstrate is a simple process of mentally tracking one’s breathing. Sitting cross-legged on the floor is not mandatory. One may successfully meditate from a chair.

“We want you to be comfortable, enjoy the experience and not have any goals in mind,” Frank said. “If you find yourself planning your grocery list, just come back to concentrating on your breathing.”

Frank understands the misconceptions surrounding meditation. She herself experienced them 10 years ago when she first began meditating. Then, Frank thought proper meditation meant ceasing to think. When that did not happen, Frank became frustrated until a teacher simplified the process for her.

“He explained how the act of the mind is thought, so meditation is not about shutting off all thought, because you are going to think,” Frank said. “You just don’t want to get wrapped up in your thoughts while you are meditation. From that point on, I meditated every day.”

Library welcomes group

Kate Hall, director of the library, said inviting MedMob South Suburban Chicago is part of the library’s overall mission: to provide a variety of educational resources to its patrons. Hall had even created a display of supplementary meditation materials for the December event, which she will repeat Saturday.

“So many people today are looking for ways to relieve stress and become healthier, more balanced and centered,” Hall said. “This fit in well with it.”

Dulcinea Hawksworth of Joliet, who attended the December event and plans to participate in the next one, feels the overall environment of the library prepares one to meditate.

“The coffee shop has cinnamon rolls and a lot of wonderful windows close to the landscaping,” Hawksworth said, “so you can sit down, enjoy your coffee and a good book while looking out a window at the beautiful scenery.”

Some people believe prayer and meditation are identical — because they both stress focus — but Hawksworth sees one distinct difference.

“When you pray, you are asking the universe for what you need,” Hawksworth said, “but when you meditate, you get the answer. If you are not meditating, you are not listening.”

The one-hour event concluded with an 11-minute sound bath, where those meditating chanted a single syllable — such as Om — or created certain tones with a singing bowl. At the sound bath’s conclusion, the mob was done.

“People chant at their own pace and men have different voices than women,” Hawksworth said, “but it all came together because it’s the same two or three sounds repeated.”

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MedMob occupies peace at Seattle ferry terminal

wildmind meditation news

Connie Mears, Bainbridge Island Review: If you were searching for peace, rush hour at the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal might not be the first place you’d look, but commuters spilling off the 6:20 p.m. ferry Dec. 22 were met with the soothing sound of – well, breathing.

A group of residents gathered in the terminal as part of a “MedMob,” a takeoff on the popular flash mob movement. Instead of thrashing to “Thriller,” MedMobsters meditate in a public place for one hour, then offer an 11-minute “sound bath,” in this case chanting “Om Shanti Om.”

“We might have gone a little longer than 11 minutes,” said Helen Burke who organized the event based on MedMob.org. The online effort coordinates MedMobs now in more than 250 cities worldwide.

The seed of the idea was planted in July when an ad-hoc group met at Jen Breen’s Karma Yoga House to explore ways to offer “selfless service” to the community. The service can take many forms, such as creating beauty, sharing kindness or helping someone in need. The group has done all that and more, so when Burke suggested they take part in a MedMob event on the solstice, about 40 people responded.

Burke found an image online that summed up the sentiment: Occupy Your Heart.

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Flash mob meditates for brighter future

wildmind meditation news

Shreya Banerjee, The Daily Texan: Although many mobs are affiliated with loud noise and violence, a different kind of mob took over the north side of the Long Center for Performing Arts on Wednesday night.

Approximately 150 people gathered to participate in a meditation event held by the group MedMob in conjunction with International Day of Peace.

The participants silently meditated for one hour and then did a sound bath afterwards. The sound bath is an 11-minute interval in which the members chant one word together — with “om” being the most common — as a way to supplement their meditation.

“We spend most of our time hearing bad stories, and it’s nice to spend time with people who haven’t lost hope on a brighter future [and are willing] to stand up peacefully and make a difference in the local and global community,” said Austin resident and participant Elspeth Allcott. “It’s a living affirmation of hope.”

The roots of MedMob began Jan. 28, when 10 members of the yoga community in Austin decided to utilize the sound resonation at the state capitol in order to create a powerful meditation experience. As word spread, the event grew, and 250 Austinites as well as people from seven other cities chose to participate in the February meditation mob events. Over time, approximately 150 cities around the world joined the movement, and group organizers said the number is increasing every month.

“MedMob is an invitation to people of all backgrounds to collectively meditate and pray,” said MedMob co-founder Joshua Adair. “I believe that meditation is natural for humans, and it has been lost to suburbanization.”

MedMob’s current goal is to spread to other countries and host meditation mobs in other languages. MedMob’s Italian operations went from 10 cities to 48 in two weeks, and coordinators are making contacts for meditation mob events in South America and Russia.

“I’m so humbled by how far this has gone,” said UT alumnus Joshua Whisenhunt, MedMob core member.

MedMob aims to have meditation mobs in conspicuous places in order to get people accustomed to the idea of meditation.

“MedMob won’t need to exist in four or five years because through MedMob now, we will already have a world where it is natural for people on streets, parks, grocery stores, et cetera, to sit down and meditate,” said Patrick Kromsli, MedMob co-creator.

MedMob has already begun to have effects on its participants.

“It’s brought me out of myself,” participant Cara Hopkins said. “Even if you don’t talk to anyone here, it’s nice to just to come and sit and know that everyone is meditating.”

Though there is not an official MedMob student organization through the University, MedMob has held meditation mobs on campus. The previous one occurred on the first day of school and included approximately 70 people.

“Students on campus are often disconnected,” said MedMob organizer Jessi Swann, a human development senior. “Medmob has three goals on campus– instill campus unity, inspire future leaders and uplift students. We want to be the model for college campuses around the world.”

The next MedMob event at UT is scheduled from 1 to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28 on the East Mall.

See an archive of the original article…

Bodhipaksa

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Tibetan exile mani stones

Tammy Winand writes:

Mani Stones are stones featuring carved mantras, most often the Chenrezig Buddha of Compassion mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum. They may be heaped together in mounds or walls, and often appear near Buddhist places of worship (temples, stupas, holy lakes and mountains, or remote places where strong spirit presences are believed to exist).

The following are some examples I have come across during my travels in Tibetan exile communities in northern India.


Mani Stone Outside the Main Temple of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama-McleodGanj, India


Mani Stones and Image of Guru Rinpoche near Tsuglakhang, McleodGanj


Mani Stones, including a Kalachakra Mantra, at Tsuglakhang


Mani Stone Pile Outside Choekling Monastery in Bir Tibetan Settlement

In 2009, Tammy Winanda came to McleodGanj, India, capital of the Tibetan government in exile and home to HH the 14th Dalai Lama. She became involved in a small non-profit where she volunteered as an English conversation teacher and helped plan events to broaden awareness of the Tibetan situation.

While in McleodGanj, Tammy became acquainted with numerous Tibetan exiles, including former political prisoners, monks and nuns. Their personal stories moved her deeply. When she returned to the US and spoke about her experiences, Tammy realized that a surprising number of people have little or no knowledge of the Tibetan situation. She began to develop Everyday Exile Project, a way to bring the Tibetan situation to a wider audience. It quickly developed into an on-going internet outlet for Tibetan exile voices.

Since April 2011, the focus has shifted to covering news from exile communities and providing information on Tibetan culture and organizations.

She now blogs at Everyday Exile, and has added a companion photojournalism blog at Everyday Exile Photojournalism.

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