mindfulness in a crisis

I close each meditation with a practice I’ve crafted over the years — with hands to the heart in gassho and a prayer of reflection:

“To honor and acknowledge ourselves and our commitment to self-understanding and well-being.

To honor and acknowledge the practice itself as it reminds us to listen deeply, see clearly and respond skillfully to what arises as it arises.

And, to honor and acknowledge one another for collectively generating the energy of mindfulness, compassion and understanding.”

Today, nowhere near the cushion, I call on this same affirmation to re-center me after a momentary family crisis. Even when others do not share my practice or draw upon similar skills in the face of madness, I honor how being a compassionate witness to their actions can help bring me back to mine.

dhamma for mama*

Exploded and firefighters are two words you don’t want to hear from an unfamiliar caller, informing you that your mother needs you to come over to the house immediately.

Already in the car, heading in the opposite direction, with my husband thankfully behind the wheel. My first response was not to panic but to pause and assess. In reflection, I recognize: This is my brain on mindfulness.

And let me say right now that mindfulness is not a quick fix tool that I acquired after some 6-8 week stress reduction workshop. It is the result of 10-plus years as a dharma practitioner with feet grounded firmly on the Zen path and a lifetime of exploring contemplative spiritual and wellness practices that have helped recalibrate my fiery temperament “to be more able more often” to generate skillful responses.

I’ll be straight up: it doesn’t “work” all the time…

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Winter Immersion [1/24]: Faith + Discernment

“For faith to be alive and to deepen we need to use our power to inquire, to wonder, to explore our experience to see what is true for ourselves. This requires us to approach life with an inquisitive, eager, self-confident capacity to probe and question. It requires us to examine where we place our faith, and why, to see if it makes us more aware and loving people.

To develop VERIFIED FAITH* we need to open to the messiness, the discordance, the ambivalence, and, above all, the vital life-force of questioning.

If we don’t, our faith can wither. If we don’t, our faith will always remain in the hands of someone else, as something we borrow or abjure, but not as something we can claim fully as our own.”

~ Sharon Salzberg, “Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience”
[*emphasis mine]

THE DHARMA FOR REAL

3jewels.winterimmersion.brave
sarasvati + durga (a card i received from a friend last fall)

It’s been a tough season for so many of us navigating illness, loss, uncertainty, and atrocious acts of injustice that get closer and closer to home. Anger, fear and doubt easily arise. It presses on the soul and depletes our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual resources.

So grateful to many, many loved ones who bolster me with laughter, inspiration, and perspective. Offering special appreciation to a dear friend + interspiritual minister, Holly Makimaa, for immediately suggesting and sharing her copy of Salzberg’s book on faith when I spoke with her about sangha’s study and practice of the 5 Spiritual Faculties.

FAITH (Pali: “Saddha” with TRUST or CONFIDENCE offered as surrogates for those who are less comfortable with the deeply religious connotations of faith) can feel the heaviest and most complicated — as frustrating and elusive as any attempt to meditate when the mind feels restless and foggy!

Last Sunday, we contemplated CONCENTRATION + DILIGENCE with a fresh understanding that the root meaning of the latter is “love, take delight in.”

Calling on the energy of delight how might we “brighten” and “verify” faith (a trajectory that Salzberg delineates in her book) and sharpen discernment through our practice of mindfulness?

Join us this Sunday, 11 – 12:30 PM, at Heartdance Studio for 3 Jewels Yoga Sangha’s final dharma discussion on the 5 Spiritual Faculties as we explore the relationship between DISCERNMENT + FAITH.

NEXT PRACTICE: February 14th ~ “Beginning Anew” to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
RSVP on Facebook ~ 3 Jewels Yoga Sangha | Winter Immersion

embodied practice: four foundations of mindfulness

3jewels.winterimmersion.faith1As sangha opened the 2016 Winter Immersion series last week with the 5 Spiritual Faculties, I pointed back (as I often do) to the Four Foundations of Mindfulness to anchor us in the spacious awareness of body, breath, emotions, and mental formations as we develop and strengthen Concentration and Diligence/Effort.

Here are a few resources on the Buddhist discourses on the Mindfulness of Breathing (Ānāpānasati Sutta) and the Foundations of Mindfulness (Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta). This list was originally compiled for a previous post on the wisdom of the exhale.

3 Jewels Yoga

Bhante G

Gil Fronsdal

Updated 15 February 2019

embodied practice: tonglen

I have to be real: even after a decade of practice, conjuring compassion or loving-kindness is not always my default response in the face of arising difficulty or suffering.

Anger, irritation, disappointment, fear — primal and deeply-programmed — seep to the surface when peace, stability, safety and simplicity are threatened. They are quelled with time and, most important, my faith, effort, concentration, mindfulness, and discernment (five spiritual faculties). To penetrate and dissolve those strong feelings first takes faith, or conviction, in practices that offer me a deep sense of refuge. I literally need to move through it by going for a walk or run. The effort of exertion generates a physical and energetic heat that helps me burn off tension and generate enough concentration and mindfulness to spark clear-seeing wisdom. As the body cools off, so too does the heart and mind. Emotions, though tempered by mindfulness, are not so easily released. I still have two hands to hold anger or frustration alongside this newly-stoked calm clarity.

The practice of tonglen speaks to me deeply because it allows space for the complexity of our human-ness, where both the suffering and the relief co-exist. It feels more accessible and authentic to me than the Metta Meditation, which seems to require superhuman leaps and bounds toward lovingkindness. Beautiful as it is, I find it reminiscent of the fake-it-til-you-make-it philosophy. It’s a worthy aspiration. Just not one that I can sustain in practice. Tonglen seems to honor the teeny-tiny baby steps and stumbles and the slow, tentative climb out of the pit back onto solid ground. Sometimes that’s all I can muster. I trust it to be enough.

 

More from Pema Chodron: The Practice of Tonglen [Shambala, 2007]