Sunday September 6 & September 13: “Closed”

Hi Sangha!

We will not be meeting this Sunday (long weekend) and the one after (we’re all away) . Next time we’ll meet is on a Sunday is September 20.

If you’re looking for something to do with your sunday evenings, check out the TED talks if you haven’t yet that were posted last week. ¬†ūüôā

Tuesday meditations will continue as usual. No interruptions there.

Keep well until we meet again,

Annamarie

2015.08.16 – Compassionate Abiding

Picking up on themes from last week’s discussion, let’s turn our attentions to consider the place in our lives of what is perhaps most clearly translated as ‘compassionate abiding’. This is also known as ‘acceptance’.

‘Acceptance’ is indeed popularly associated with Buddhism/Mindfulness -it’s a central aspect of the teachings! ¬†As was observed last meeting, it’s something easily taken out of context, or misunderstood. ‘Compassionate abiding’ more clearly conveys the emotional resonance. ¬†Another one of my favourite alternative expressions of this is ‘patient endurance’. However you say it, you need to understand it as having a tone of compassion. Of warmth. Peaceful even.

Mindfulness without patience and compassion becomes a means for self-aggression, and avoidance. It’s easy us to relate to practice as a means to escape. Sound Mindfullness (or mindfulness propertly applied) ¬†aligns with other elements from the 8fold Path – Sound View and Understanding. That is, this practice encourages us towards acceptance, in order to relate directly with the fullness of life! It’s cyclical – through clear seeing we develop better understanding and wisdom. With that understanding and wisdom we can see more clearly.

This includes, fundamentally, seeing and relating to yourself, too.

Yes. It’s one of the great challenges.

On Sunday¬†we’ll discuss in greater detail the value of cultivating patience and compassion, and specifically how to do that with ourselves.
During the next few days, pay attention to how you’re relating to yourself and how that is colouring your perspectives or your behaviours. Some exercises/questions to help you do that:
1. Consider the situation as if a good friend were relating it to you. How would you counsel them? How would you view them? If you find that’s different than how you feel towards yourself, see if you can shift your view.
2. Reflect on your relationship with your body. Do you care for it (such as eating well, getting enough sleep, taking it to the doctor)? Do you run it down? Are you critical of it? It’s easy to forget that our body’s needs, ¬†pleasures, pains are actually our own. We are not separated from our body at all! Think about what it would look like to take care of your body, and try that out.
3. Practice seeing the good in yourself. We all have positive, negative, and neutral qualities. It’s important to see the whole mosaic, the complete picture. Maybe start with looking at yourself through the eyes of a friend – what do they like, respect, appreciate in you? Consider this from different parts or different times of your life! Take it in so that other people’s knowings of your goodness becomes your own. Try inviting a voice from within you to list some of your positive qualities. And listen to it.
4. Show/express compassion to yourself. Maybe your body hurts, or you’ve had a miserable day. Acknowledge that. Mentally (or out loud) offer yourself words of loving compassion. For example, “Darling, I see your frustration”, “Darling, I care about your pain”.
5. An interesting mental exercise to try: ¬†Experiment with extending friendliness and forgiveness to what you perceive as your bad parts. Then flip the story line. From the perspective of ‘your bad parts’, relate to them as if they are your better qualities and see what it feels like to extend friendliness and forgiveness to the rest of yourself.
6. When you practice meditation at home,¬†Recall Pema Chodron’s analogy of training a puppy. The following is a quote out of her book “The Places that Scare You” :
The pith instruction is, Stay. . . stay. . . just stay. Learning to stay with ourselves in meditation is like training a dog. If we train a dog by beating it, we’‚Äčll end up with an obedient but very inflexible and rather terrified dog. The dog may obey when we say “Stay!” “Come!” “Roll over!” and “Sit up!” but he will also be neurotic and confused. By contrast, training with kindness results in someone who is flexible and confident, who doesn‘‚Äčt become upset when situations are unpredictable and insecure.
Common throughout these exercises explore any reluctancies and see what’s there, too.

Sunday, August 9, 2015: Pay Attention!

We’ve spent the past few months working through the Ennobling 8 Fold Path (or Three Fold Training). The concepts of Wise This and Sound That can be somewhat hard to relate to or really retain because they’re not concepts we’re familiar with. They’re not ‘speaking our language’.
That’s what’s powerful about western interpretations of Buddhism – these practices or ideas becomes really immediate and tangible.
This week we’re going to talk about one of the basics: ‘Paying Attention’.
It’s probably self obvious why we want to build our ability to direct our attention (‘wise mindfulness’). Moment to moment, there are flows of thoughts, feelings, sensations! Our brain is continually shifting from one item to the next… but as we know from experience-dependant neuroplasticity (science) what we hold in our attention physically is shaping our brain.¬†¬† Controlling our attention – being able to place it where you want and keep it there – means we can pull away from harmful mental habits like ruminating on the past, mental self criticisms and the like.
So we cultivate neural factors of attent, getting our brain on our side, so to speak! How? Mindfulness practices!
Here are a few suggestions from Rick Hanson. Pick 2 and focus on them for the next few days. We’ll discuss on Sunday¬†how we find these suggestions (helpful? not?)¬†and explore other tips and tricks.
  1. (Practice formal mindfulness meditation, like we do at LMC.)  Set the intention to sustain your attention, to be mindful. You can do this both top-down, by giving yourself a gentle instruction to be attentive, and bottom-up, by opening to the sense in your body of what mindfulness feels like.
  2. Relax. For example, take several exhalations that are twice as long as your inhalations. This stimulates the calming, centering parasympathetic nervous system and settles down the fight-or-flight stress-response sympathetic nervous system that jiggles the spotlight of attention this way and that, looking for carrots and sticks.
  3. Get a sense of the body as a whole, its many sensations appearing together each moment in the boundless space of awareness. This sense of things as a unified gestalt, perceived within a large and panoramic perspective, activates networks on the sides of the brain (especially the right – for right-handed people) that support sustained 3 mindfulness. And it de-activates the networks along the midline of the brain that we use when we’re lost in thought.
  4. For 10-20-30 seconds in a row, stay with whatever positive experiences you’re having or lessons you’re learning. Since “neurons that fire together, wire together,” this savoring and registering helps weave the fruits of your attentive efforts into the fabric of your brain and your self
  5. Gently encourage some positive feelings, even mild or subtle ones. For example, think of something you feel glad about or grateful for; go-to’s for me include my kids, Yosemite, and just being alive. Open as you can to an underlying sense of well-being that may nonetheless contain some struggles or pain. The sense of pleasure or reward in positive emotions increases the neurotransmitter, dopamine, which closes a kind of gate in the neural substrates of working memory, thus keeping out any “barbarians,” any invasive distractions.