March Mindfulness 2015

Today I kick off my annual ‪#‎MarchMindfulness‬ campaign to promote the practice of bringing skillful + compassionate awareness to how we engage, are impacted by, and then respond to the world around us.

The Satipatthana Sutta (Discourse on The Four Establishments of Mindfulness) is a foundational text and, ultimately, guiding practice in Buddhism. It is the inspiration and heart of my ‪#‎BodyAwarenessBootcamp‬ series, which ended this afternoon, and truly the ground in which my teaching practice is rooted.

How do we fully establish ourselves in mindfulness? We are diligent in developing a clear comprehension of the realities of our body and mind. It begins with the thread of the breath:

Breathing in,
be aware that [you] are breathing in.
Breathing out,
be aware that [you] are breathing out.

Breathing in,
be aware of [your] whole body.
Breathing out,
be aware of [your] whole body.

Throughout each day this month, let us take a few moments to immerse ourselves in this level of awareness and notice what moves, blooms, dissolves, transforms and even becomes reconciled in our body, mind and heart.‪ #‎RadicalActsOfSelfCare‬

breathing beauty into the world: a mindfulness practice for children (who are learning to see with eyes of compassion)

Each day I rise, waking to a world of possibilities.

I breathe and smile, happy and ready to learn, grow and share.

I see the sky, sun, clouds above me.

I see the earth, plants, water below me.

I feel the air around me.

I breathe and smile, knowing that I am in the world and the world is in me.

I choose to see beauty in myself, my family, my friends, my neighbors, my teachers, my community, and all living creatures.

I choose to speak words from my heart that are true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind.

I choose to act from my heart in ways that are helpful, healthy, inspiring, and kind.

Even when I do not feel or act my best (whether I am sad, scared, confused or angry), I remember to place my hands on my heart and breathe.

I smile, knowing I can begin anew.
I can ask for help and comfort from those I trust and love.

Each night, I rest, thankful for all that I learned and shared.

I see the sky, moon, stars above me.

I see the beauty all around me. I breathe and smile, knowing that I am in the world and the world is in me.

[originally written Fall 2012 + published on dhamma4mama* 2013]

This writing has multiple sources of inspiration:
  • My experiences as an aunt, mother, and substitute teaching assistant for a preschool program;
  • My experiences as a practitioner and teacher of yoga and meditation, which is rooted in my practice of Zen Buddhism in the lineage of Thich Nhat Hanh;
  • My dear friend TaNesha Barnes, who asked me some time last year to create an affirmation for Beyond The Surface, the critical thinking and social justice academy she literally built in her own backyard!  A 21st-century embodiment of Wonder Woman, TaNesha is a mother, entrepreneur (t. barnes beauty), educator and social justice advocate with a clear heart-driven mission to empower students to become “global thinkers for equitable living.” When she recently posted the draft version of this piece (typed one late-night and stored as a memo on my BlackBerry) on Facebook, I was not only honored that she announced it would be recited daily in her upcoming program, Breathing Beauty Rites of Passages for Black Girls, but also compelled to add some long-awaited finishing touches! I am so deeply grateful to have lived, learned and grown up with TaNesha over the last 19 years and, on this 50th anniversary of the March on Washington (#MOW50), am excited to continue collaborating with her on programs that merge spirituality and wellness with social justice.

 

remembrance + reconciliation: prayers for thanksgiving

On my run this morning, I contemplated the freedom/independence “we” are celebrating as a nation today and instantly recalled this prayer of gratitude I posted for Thanksgiving on dhamma 4 mama*–my blog on parenting as a spiritual practice.

Given the complex history of the United States and the current political landscape where civil liberties of marginalized populations are continuously being threatened, there is no monolithic and concrete experience of freedom for all Americans. There’s a myth of a dream that is a nature to shift and transform just when we imagine it’s within reach.

My deepest sense of freedom came from committing to the bodhisattva path and taking refuge in the Five Mindfulness Trainings and in the Three Jewels in 2006. So today I embrace and celebrate my personal and subjective spiritual experience of freedom, which I have learned to cultivate and embody wholeheartedly through movement, mindfulness and meditation.

dhamma for mama*

Today, may we appreciate this food
and remember those who are hungry.
May we appreciate our family and friends
and remember those who are alone.
May we appreciate our health
and remember those who are sick.
May we appreciate the freedoms we have
and remember those who suffer injustice and tyranny.1

I spent Wednesday morning in our tiny kitchen blanching, boiling, carmelizing, chiffonading, chopping, cubing, dicing, sautéing, seasoning, smelling, stirring, and tasting.

As I breathedin the swirl of pungent and sweet aromas from the herbs, vegetables and meat, I breathed out loving awareness and prayers of gratitude for the gift of being able to prepare and share a Thanksgiving meal with my family. My mate and I openly acknowledged that our blessings outweighed any minor irritations that come with hosting a holiday gathering: our good health, solid relationships, comfortable home, and modest but sufficient financial resources.

I quietly returned…

View original post 563 more words

embodied practice [for deep listening]: attuning the heart

May our hearts be as full, open, strong + clear as the bell itself.

bell meditation practice with sangha [sit+study, 4 may 2014]

my gatha for attuning the heart to mindfulness

embodied practice: on the power of mindfulness

“…Meditation is not escapism; it is not meant to provide hiding-places for temporary oblivion. Realistic meditation has the purpose of training the mind to face, to understand and to conquer this very world in which we live. And this world inevitably includes numerous obstacles to the life of meditation.”

~Nyanaponika Thera
The Power of Mindfulness

On “Loving-Kindness” ~ Pema Chodron

Timeless wisdom from Pema Chödrön that invites us to shine the light on habit energies arising in the form of emotions, thought patterns, and ensuing behaviors. How do we tend to our aggression, preferences, and prejudices? Do we investigate or ignore? Do we test the validity of our thoughts/stories/beliefs against the present moment circumstances? Do we remain steadfastly “entrenched” in our perspectives and standard mode of operation? If so, how does it serve us? What do we sacrifice and what do we save when we stick to our patterns? #KissYourBrain #CradleYourHeart

dhamma for mama*

Our personal attempts to live humanely in this world are never wasted.
Choosing to cultivate love rather than anger just might be what it takes to save the planet from extinction.

What is it that allows our goodwill to expand and our prejudice and anger to decrease?
This is a significant question.

Traditionally it is said that the root of aggression and suffering is ignorance.
But what is it that we are ignoring?

Entrenched in the tunnel vision of our personal concerns, what we ignore is our kinship with others.

One reason we train as warrior-bodhisattvas is to recognize our interconnectedness—to grow in understanding that when we harm another, we are harming ourselves.

So we train in recognizing our uptightness.
We train in seeing that others are not so different from ourselves.
We train in opening our hearts and minds in increasingly difficult situations.

~ Pema Chodron, “Loving-Kindness” from The Places…

View original post 7 more words

embodied practice: seeing into habit energies

As far back as I can remember I have been fascinated by the marvelous transformations which take place when a very simple sort of magic is applied to things.

Even the most everyday transformation of something undesirable into something desirable has, to me,  a tremendous magic power back of it, and it is a power which I believe in using more deliberately and often than most people do.

Everyone marvels at such transformations when they come by accident, but it never seems to occur to anyone to make them happen at will.

I am shocked by the ignorance and wastefulness with which persons who should know better throw away the things they do not like. They throw away experiences, people, marriages, situations, all sorts of things because they do not like them. If you throw away a thing, it is gone. Where you had something you have nothing to work on. Whereas, almost all those things which get thrown away are capable of being worked over by a little magic into just the opposite of what they were.

So that in the place of something you detest you have something you can adore. And you have had the most thrilling kind of experience, because nothing is more thrilling than working the magic of transformation…It is not work at all. It is, simply, magic.

But most human beings never remember at all that in almost every bad situation there is the possibility of a transformation by which the undesirable may be changed into the desirable.

~Katherine Butler Hathaway, The Little Locksmith [p.12 -13]

As I prepared for sangha’s contemplation of habit energies, I encountered an article on Access To Insight, which included a portion of the quote above (see the bolded text). It beautifully and succinctly captures the tendencies we have to avoid, discard, or turn away from what we find difficult or unpleasant and to doggedly pursue what brings us pleasure or comfort. Neither is inherently wrong. In fact, it is a primal neurobiological instinct to assess threats (response: fight, flee, freeze) and opportunities (response: accept, seek out, multiply). The question is one of looking into whether our habitual response is skillful–does it generate understanding and compassion?

When we perceive an arising “threat,” we may flee from it–finding it easier to deny, ignore, suppress, push away, or discard it. Our mindfulness practice invites us to strengthen our compassion and equanimity so that we become steady enough to stay where we are in the midst of swirling change, uncertainty, and discomfort. We learn to greet the difficult/unpleasant with breath and loving awareness. To embrace the moment tenderly as a parent would a crying child–to tend to our suffering wholeheartedly. Nothing is left out. All becomes part of the practice of nurturing the heart and mind of love and skillful understanding.

Explore:

Buddha’s Brain  ~ Rick Hanson

embodied practice: on noticing happiness (+ all that arises)

I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” 

~Kurt Vonnegut, “Knowing What’s Nice,” an essay from In These Times (2003)

embodied practice: on the suchness of sangha

“I could hear my heart beating.
I could hear everyone’s heart.
I could hear the human noise we sat there making,
not one of us moving,
not even when the room went dark.”

~Raymond Carver
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

This gem was quoted in the film Stuck In Love (so-so) and instantly evoked for me the image + energy of mindfulness + compassion that we cultivate in what I call the full embrace of sanghaIt is the suchness generated within a community of spiritual practitioners + friends.

 

 


Explore
:

Suchness, Tathata, Mahayana Buddhism ~ India Netzone

The Contemplation of Suchness (.pdf) ~ Jacqueline I. Stone

Tathata: The The ~ Richard Collins

inviting mindfulness in a moment of madness: how I learned to live the meditation when sitting was not an option

Looking back on the journey. Appreciating all the lessons lived! #DharmaForReal

dhamma for mama*

I was pissed!

Once again, despite my wholehearted intentions and efforts, another Wednesday evening had arrived and, instead of meditating with my root sangha (Buddhist meditation community), I was at home.

Feeling exhausted, out of sync, and in deep need of restoring myself in a place of uninterrupted quiet where I could relax my busy mind with the steady flow of my breath and invite the precious moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness that defines mindfulness.

So I was unduly pissed at myself for not being organized (or awake) enough to get there, my mate for not making it easier for me, and all those unforeseeable or unavoidable forces that arose in the course of a day and became “obstacles” to my practice. Adding to my irritation: knowing that I now lived a few minutes away from the temple yet was faced with detours and delays that made getting there seem like a…

View original post 630 more words