New Zealand

Interview: hear Vidyamala discuss “Mindfulness for Women”

Vidyamala’s online course — Mindfulness for Women: Declutter Your Mind, Simplify Your Life, Find Time to ‘Be’ — starts today on Wildmind. This course will help you to:

  • Dwell in your body with more peace, self-love and ease
  • Relate to your thoughts and emotions in a more creative and helpful way
  • Love yourself and others with compassion and a sense of deep connection
  • Transform your relationships with others and the world around you
  • Become a force for good in the world breath by breath, moment by moment.
  • Change your mind to change your world.

Vidyamala learned to meditate in 1985 and has been a dedicated practitioner since that time. In 1995 she was ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order and in 2001 founded Breathworks, an organization offering mindfulness and compassion to people suffering from pain, illness and stress.

Last year she was interviewed on Breakfast with Brian Kelly on New Zealand’s The Coast Radio station. You can listen to the interview below.

If you’re interested in the Mindfulness for Women online course, you can read more or enroll here.

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How mindfulness can help all women achieve their potential

Vidyamala Burch

I am proud to come from New Zealand, which in 1893 became the first country in the world in which women gained the right to vote. More recently, New Zealand was also the first democracy to have all key Government roles fulfilled by women, e.g. Prime Minister, Chief Justice and Governor General. I also come from a long tradition of strong women and I feel I owe it to my courageous and heroic forebears to do all that I can to stand tall and true in my own life.

I want to let other women know about how mindfulness has transformed my life over the past thirty years, and how it can transform their lives as well, which is why I decided to write ‘Mindfulness for Women‘.

As I worked on the book I realised that for me personally, many of the themes stemmed from pride in my NZ heritage as a woman. I also came to see it as a tribute to all the wonderful and gutsy women who have populated my life, from my grandmother, my numerous leggy and confident aunts, my mother and my three amazing sisters; to the key friendships formed in my all-girls high school and the women’s Buddhist communities that I have been involved with for decades. Many of these friendships are still going strong today.

I have met women who have achieved incredible things. I am not just talking about careers or outward achievements, but women who in very difficult circumstances – whether illness, pain or other life situations – have managed to create a satisfying and joyful life for themselves through practising mindfulness and the associated qualities of kindness and compassion. This is why I am deeply passionate about women being able to use mindfulness to fulfil their potential.

At school in New Zealand in the seventies, girls were encouraged to dream big and to understand that obstacles were there to be overcome. At that time I was super-fit. I adored the mountains and wilderness and my dream was to be a wildlife ranger. But there was a hitch. The New Zealand Wildlife Service didn’t employ women but I wasn’t going to be deterred. At 15 years old I went to see a Director at their head office and asked what I would have to do to convince him to employ me. He told me to get a very good qualification, which was when I decided to become a veterinary surgeon in the knowledge that this would be the ideal skill to have when working with the magnificent creatures I would be living amongst in the mountains and the sea.

Check out Vidyamala’s online course, “Mindfulness for Women,” starting March 1, 2017

I was happy to co-write Mindfulness for Women with a journalist, Claire Irvin, a dynamic magazine editor with her finger on the pulse of many of the issues facing modern women. Claire’s experience will also resonate with many readers: like many younger women she juggles a full-on career with bringing up her two small children. She has to balance countless demands and organise her life with military precision.

To Claire, mindfulness and meditation were initially just more things to add to the never-ending ‘to-do’ list. But, as we worked together, Claire became increasingly curious about mindfulness and decided to keep a practice diary. This has become an integral part of the book and I am sure many women will relate to Claire’s experience of initial resistance followed by genuine excitement as she began to reap the fruits of taking time each day to stop and get to know her own mind and heart. Also essential to this book are our moving and gritty case studies of women who have found mindfulness, sometimes in the most harrowing of circumstances.

My wish is for women from all walks of life to read the book and discover that inner peace is only a breath away. To find self-belief and to stand tall as they go about their lives. Most of all, my wish is that we recognise how we are continually shaping the world with our thoughts and actions and that, with the help of mindfulness, we can become positive agents of change and transformation in the world. This is what IWD is all about: women believing in themselves and other women and campaigning to make the world a better place for women living today as well as future generations.

Click here to learn more about my online course, Mindfulness for Women: Declutter Your Mind, Simplify Your Life, Find Time to ‘Be’, starting March 1, 2017.

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“Stone, Sea and Sand: Poems and Reflections on the Buddha’s Teaching on Impermanence” by Satyadevi

sudarshanaloka stupa

Between November 2010 and February 2011, New Zealand, a country of 4 million people, suffered two of the biggest disasters in its history.

The Chilean mining disaster had many of us riveted to our TV screens as miner after miner was brought to safety, having been trapped underground for 69 days. This was not to be the case in New Zealand. After an explosion at the Pike River Mine in New Zealand’s South Island, anxious families, buoyed by the Chilean experience, waited for long days and nights for a breakthrough that might bring their men home. None of the 29 miners and contractors survived.

Only three months later, Christchurch, New Zealand’s third largest city, was decimated by its second major earthquake in a year. This event killed 185 and maimed many more, both physically and mentally. Currently many of the historical buildings are being demolished and hundreds of city residents are in no-man’s-land awaiting the bureaucratic Earthquake Commission’s decision as to whether their homes are viable or not. They have been through a freezing winter with major cracks in walls with only tarpaulins to keep the wind out, a bit like Haiti, with snow. Homicide, domestic violence, substance abuse and suicides have risen indicating many inhabitants continue to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder.

The desire to make sense of these tragedies led Satyadevi to compile and publish some of her poetry, donating half the proceeds to the Christchurch Earthquake Red Cross Appeal, with the remainder going towards improving facilities at the beautiful 250 acre valley that is home to Sudarshanaloka Retreat Centre. The photo on the cover features Dhardo Rimpoche’s stupa at the facility.

Satyadevi’s volume combines threads of the raw energy of New Zealand with her Buddhist reflections on impermanence. Receptivity to the underlying drumbeat of this nation’s painful seismic birth and her awareness that it is all but a splash on the tabula rasa of becoming, imbues her poetry with poignancy, beauty and acceptance.

Satyadevi’s own personal grief, like that of Kisagotami, found universalization and acceptance which she has expressed movingly in waiata (Maori lament)

In ancient India, a young mother called Kisagotami had just lost her young son and was mad with grief. She could not accept that her beloved first born was dead. With the dead child in her arms, she ran from house to house asking for medicine for her little son. At every door she begged: “Please give me some medicine for my child,” but the people replied that medicine would not help any more, the child was dead. Kisagotami refused to accept this, despite the coldness and stiffness of his little body. One kind person suggested she go and find the Buddha who was staying in the Jeta Grove in Anathapindika’s monastery.

She burst into the middle of a discourse being given by the Buddha to a large gathering. Totally despairing and in tears, with the corpse of the child in her arms, she begged the Buddha, “Master, give me medicine for my son.” The Awakened One interrupted his teaching and replied kindly that he knew of a medicine. Amazed, she asked what this could be.

“Mustard seeds,” the Enlightened One replied, astounding everyone present.

The Buddha replied that she need only bring a very small quantity from any house where no one had died. Joyfully Kisagotami ran back to the town. At the first house, she asked whether any mustard seeds were available. “Certainly,” was the reply. But then she remembered to ask the second question, whether anyone had died in this house. “But of course,” the woman told her, and crestfallen, she withdrew. She went from door to door but was unable to find any house where no one had died. The dead are more numerous than the living, she was gravely informed.

Towards evening she finally realized that, as she had suffered, so many others had suffered. Her heart opened in compassion to the reality of universal suffering through death. In this way, the Buddha was able to heal her obsession and bring her to acceptance of reality. Kisagotami no longer refused to believe that her child was dead, but understood that death is the destiny of all beings, sooner or later.

She then became a disciple of the Buddha and found peace.

Satyadevi dedicated her poem “Kisagotami” to the families of the Pike River Miners. She writes:

In time Kisagotami’s heart found full release and the end of grief –
when she perceived that all things worldly must decline
when their conditions cease.

The poetry is not only an expression of the mystery of death but a way in which we can come to terms with it, or if we cannot make sense of it, to use it to become better human beings.

In this crowded world of the sound byte, it is increasingly rare to find material born of deep reflection and solitude. Such a volume of work sings songs of fresh possibilities in a fragmented, troubled era.

Stone, Sea, and Sand is available from Lotus Realm.

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Children find meditation a blissful experience

Matt Bowen: Silence dominates here.

It’s noon in room two at St Paul’s Catholic School and noise is everywhere else – the four walls are ablaze with colour, art and slogans; outside, the Ngaruawahia sun is laced with the din of schoolyard kids in play.

Inside though, not a sound – the children are meditating.

The class of 14 six-year-olds is sitting in a close circle on the carpet with teacher Judy Craven the centrepiece on a chair.

Her eyes are closed, too.

The kids sit cross-legged – hands rest either on knees with thumb and forefinger touching or in laps with fingers interlocked …

Read the original article »

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Adventures in mindfulness

Gill South tries a meditation retreat but finds it hard to keep to the code of silence.

It’s probably not the best idea to arrive at a peaceful, “silent” leadership retreat, red-faced and sweating. The walk to its location at Eden Garden on the side of Mt Eden took longer than I’d thought.

My meditation retreat today is being run by clinical psychologists Lisa Markwick and Marijka Batenburg – the workshop is based on Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn’s “mindfulness” methods. Lisa is an experienced leadership facilitator and coach with her company Mindful Adventures and has been recommended to me by Barry Coates, the executive director of Oxfam New Zealand, an excellent big thinker and an advocate of meditation.

According to Lisa, mindfulness is not something you have to get or acquire. It is a rich resource of aliveness already within you, waiting for your attention.

In this workshop people are asking themselves questions such as: How can I slow down when all around me is speeding up? What wisdom am I missing as I “think” my way through big issues? All this is very topical as everyone in the room is reeling from…

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the news about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.One of the core transformational aspects of the workshop is that it puts us in touch with compassion for others.

I am a bit of a usurper – the rest of the group of 10 are two thirds of the way through an eight-week “Mindful Way Summer Series”. They are professional men and women who I get to pretty well completely ignore. Not being able to speak makes this incredibly relaxing. There’s none of the usual obligatory small talk.

We kick off with a yoga session, which reminds me, once again, that I am useless at yoga. Jon Kabat-Zinn, on his CD, kindly tells me to just visualise doing something if it is too hard to think of nothing – I abuse this suggestion shamelessly.

One of my favourite parts of the morning is when we are told to go off and do some standing meditation, where we walk freely around the gardens, stopping and staring, taking in the small things.

I have a special moment. Climbing up to a viewpoint, I come across an incredible view across the gardens. Some of the ferns and trees are truly vast and it’s so peaceful. I feel awestruck, as if I’m in a rainforest in South America rather than in the middle of chi chi Auckland.

I describe my experience to Lisa as a bit of an out of body moment. She gently corrects me, it is anything but an out of body experience, it’s about being embodied. I was transported, she tells me.

Do I manage to remain silent the whole time?

My healthy appetite after the hike from home is my undoing. Food starts arriving in the room toward the end of the morning session. A plate of toasted ciabatta bread slathered in butter, and another of sizzling bacon completely ruins my concentration.

I break the silence rule, murmuring appreciatively as I help myself to a large serving.

You really can’t take me anywhere.

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From merchant banker to monk

Laurence Freeman OSB, Spiritual Teacher of the World Community of Christian Meditation is in Auckland April 17th to 21st.

From merchant banker to monk and a life of meditation – that was the path taken by Laurence Freeman after he graduated from Oxford with a Master’s degree in English Literature.

He tried his hand at journalism, at working at the United Nations and at merchant banking.

But, as one who had been educated by the Benedictines, he found his true calling as a Benedictine monk.

Along the way he embraced meditation and went on to become the founder and spiritual teacher of the London-based World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM).

He is also founder and director of the John Main Centre for Christian Meditation and Inter-religious Dialogue at Georgetown University.

Internationally, Laurence Freeman is regarded as one of the leaders in the burgeoning contemplative interfaith dialogue movement. A good friend of the Dalai Lama, these two spiritual leaders have jointly led The Way of Peace dialogue; in Bodh Gaya, India in December, 1998, Florence, Italy in May, 1999 and Belfast, Northern Ireland in October, 2000.

Writing in Interreligious Dialogue Laurence Freeman says:

“If religions – with all their rich diversity and contradictions and all their cultural roots – can listen to each other, to learn from their differences and to share what they have in common, then there is ground for hope that political, military and economic power-holders in our different nations, states and trading blocks will learn to do the same. Indeed, if religions cannot do this, what hope is there that politicians, multinationals and soldiers will ever do it? The stakes for dialogue are much higher than ever before in history.”

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Meditation and the art of capital-raising (Stuff, New Zealand)

The New Zealand Maharishi Foundation, which seeks to spread peace and harmony through transcendental meditation, wants Kiwi businessfolk to contribute $15 million for a “peace palace” in central Auckland.

The Auckland Peace Palace would be the first of eight planned for New Zealand’s cities and one of 3000 sought globally by the five million devotees of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, made famous by The Beatles in 1968. Since 2000, three of the 3000 have been built – all in the US.

Among those lending their names (but not necessarily their money) to plans for Auckland’s palace are former New York marathon winner and healthcare product manufacturer Allison Roe, Auckland District Health Board mental health director Dr Nick Argyle, McKay Shipping chief executive Craig Harris, former Young & Rubicam boss Peter Scutts, Auckland property developer Greg Liggins and New Zealand Institute of Management Canterbury divisional head Reg Garters.

Foundation PR adviser Tony Edmonds said many senior business people involved in the project are regular meditators.

“But they don’t necessarily want to talk about it because if they do, people start humming the theme to The X-Files and rolling their eyes because they don’t understand . . . But now it’s time to talk about it.”

One supporter of the plan is former PSM Holdings chief executive, North Harbour coach and All Black selector Peter Thorburn. He said he turned to transcendental meditation more than a decade ago following the death of his wife.

He dropped it later in the ’90s but picked it up again about six months ago after a stressful tour coaching in England.

“It helps me to relax. It makes a real difference to your general sense of well-being.”

Not involved in the palace plans, though a supporter of the concept, is Michael Hill of jewellery retailer Michael Hill International. He says with meditation, the mind can “unleash unbelievably powerful inner thoughts, particularly business decisions: where one wants to go and what one wants to do with one’s life, all becomes clear.”

Hill remains sceptical about Maharishi followers’ claim that meditation can reduce violent crime, ethnic tensions and even terrorism. Devotees believe that, if enough people meditate in a community, social tensions ease and crime rates fall.

To achieve this Auckland’s Peace Palace must attract regular twice-daily meditators numbering more than the square root of 1% of the city’s population, or about 100 people.

To sceptics it’s far-fetched, but New Zealand Maharishi Foundation directors Graeme Lodge and Martin Jelley – son of Arch Jelley, coach of Kiwi runner John Walker – reel off results from 600 scientific studies they say back the claims.

The palace’s $15m price tag includes about $5m for buying the land and constructing the building, while the rest is earmarked to help pay for 100 to 200 professional meditators. Getting the necessary seed funding for the project should not be the problem, rather, finding the land, Lodge said. This should be finalised this year, so building can begin next year.

Internationally, those who have dabbled with transcendental meditation include, famously, The Beatles and actor Clint Eastwood; movie director David Lynch, the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, physicist John Hagelin, comedic actor Andy Kaufman and former US vice president Al Gore.

Original article no longer available

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