Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Transitions Into Spring

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak


winter_spring
The weather is such a great metaphor. Spring is reluctant to arrive. On a Monday it was 80 degrees and then on Wednesday it snowed several inches. The nights have continued to be below freezing and the greening landscape is shy to come forth.

We are variations of energy, mood, and awareness. Unlike the weather, it is harder to predict our own vicissitudes. Yet, with practice, these changes won’t matter so much.

When it is cold, we put on more layers, perhaps we’ll even shiver. When it is hot, we’ll take off those layers and perhaps we’ll shiver. We can meet the present moment conditions as they are.

If we can relinquish our desire for them to be a particular way, the sweating and shivering won’t be a problem. We aim to respond skillfully to the conditions of each moment.

The rising and falling of emotions always reveals something about what we want and don’t want in that moment. It’s amazing how many desires we have. It’s as if we are nothing else. What would happen if all the desires were stripped away?

I am sitting eating ice cream and cake. I notice that I don’t want the pleasant sensations to go away, so I am risk for gluttony. I was just out walking outside in the relative mild temperatures (nearly 60 degrees). The dogs were romping and the grass was greening. I wanted to enjoy a sense of peacefulness but then there were other people and there was an altercation. Not really an altercation, just an interaction. I had to tell someone that they shouldn’t be doing something that they were doing. All sorts of wanting adhere to this exchange. I wanted to make things right. I didn’t want to be seen in negative light. I felt a mild influx of agitated energy encroaching on that peaceful state. I could go on an on cataloguing this intricate web of cravings but I’ll spare you. Suffice it to say, things change, inexorably.

Yet, a greater sense of countenance can prevail when I stay with my breathing and make the small efforts to disentangle my attention from the ceaseless flux of conditions, desires, and grasping.

I can feel time moving too. It is moving at a faster rate than I would like, the weekend slipping away. Here too, I can remind myself that I participate in the construction of time. If I enhance the resolution of my attention on the present moment, time will slow down. The markers that make it go fast will drop away and I’ll just be here with whatever experience is prevailing now.

Just as we are transitioning from winter into spring, we are always transitioning from one moment to the next and from one state to another. Happy next moment!

Transitions, Attachments, and Hope

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Stowe_1It’s been a long winter here in Northern Vermont and elsewhere around the country. The mountain is still frozen and buried in snow. In the valley, the long buried grass, brown and tired, is emerging from under the receding glacier, yet my yard is still buried in snow.

The calendar reads April but we are uncertain about the season. The long grip of winter gives rise to the hope for spring. Attachment presents itself in both pushing away from winter and pulling towards spring.

I have retired my snowboard and I’m ready to pick up my golf clubs. I’ll have to wait though.

The sun was shining yesterday and I took advantage of the sunshine to spend my last day carving up the mountain. From the top of the lift at Stowe, one can see most of the world. The White Mountains are visible to the east. Jay Peak can be seen north. Camel’s Hump and Sugarbush trace the spine of the Green Mountains. And Lake Champlain is very visible because it is still frozen and snow covered.

In Vermont, we are about to enter the next of our six seasons but it is not yet spring. Soon, it will be Mud Season. The heavy snows will eventually melt and the frozen ground will yield to water. The rains will come and the dirt roads will soften into rutted ooze. It will take nearly a month for the water and the earth to come back into balance. Meanwhile we wait.

Of course, the season’s transitions are metaphors for our personal transitions. The seasons happen with reasonable reliability. While winter has been long, it still follows fall and precedes spring. Our own transitions may not have such regularity. Losses, surprises, and uncertainties of all kinds visit us daily.

Mindfulness practice can help us to embrace these uncertainties with a sense of resolve, calm, and dignity. Like the spring, we don’t know when resolution of a problem will arrive. Perhaps never, if it is a chronic situation like chronic pain. So we just breathe with the vicissitudes, coming in and out like the breath.

Mindfulness teaches us patience, too. It asks us to set aside the plaintive narratives. I’ve heard a lot of grousing this winter about the weather. People love to hate the weather, especially winter. When the story is quiet, however, we can be at peace with whatever is present whether that is a grey, drizzly sky or a tumultuous emotion, a difficult conversation, or financial precariousness. We can embrace all of it.

In this transition to spring, I invite you to be open to the changes. Bring curiosity to them. Breathe with patience. Before we know it, we’ll be saying good bye to spring and summer; let’s not be so greedy for their arrival.

A Special Opportunity for Opening Your Heart in Relationship with Tara Brach

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Tara-WoodsyI’d like to let you know about a special opportunity with my charma friend Tara Brach who is one of the more authentic and beloved mindfulness teachers. She is author of the bestsellers Radical Acceptance and more recently, True Refuge. Please read about this special program below.

It’s often challenging to remain open and trusting when relationships get tough.

Sometimes it can be much easier to walk away in hurt and judgment. And that’s because our own insecurity can become toxic, lead to defensiveness, and cause us to shut down.

Mindfulness can help us get beyond this, to bring intimacy back into romantic relationships, closeness back into friendships, friendliness back into families, and love back into our hearts.

That’s why I’m so excited to let you know about a special new program from my friends at NICABM, featuring beloved and world-renowned mindfulness teacher Tara Brach, PhD.

They’ve joined together to bring you this rare (and unique) opportunity to explore deeply the power of mindfulness to transform relationships and strengthen connections.

Just click here to take a look now.

During this exciting, and unique program, Tara will share with you the wisdom that so many have benefited from. She will be your guide on a journey toward empowering clients to ease away from self-criticism, transform negativity, and open their hearts to more compassion and love.

And this is so much more than just a program. It’s a life-changing experience, focused on giving you the mindfulness skills that can help clients truly radically change their relationships, and even their lives.

Here’s the link again where you can find out more.

I really hope you’ll check it out – it could be the key to transforming your relationships.

Sincerely,

Arnie

Lotus flowers in garden under sunlight.

Equanimity in the Face of Adversity, Controversy, and Memory

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak
Photo credit: The Economic Times

Photo credit: The Economic Times

The Dalai Lama recently visited with President Obama. Not such an unusual event since they have visited before, but the Chinese Government used this as an opportunity to complain, threaten, and posture.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been through a lot. The Chinese occupied his homeland in 1949 and he went into exile in 1959. I won’t go into the politics of this issues or the death and destruction that has occurred, since these have been covered elsewhere (just Google it).

What I will comment upon is the value of a non-violent approach in dealing with conflict, adversity, and tragedy. A bitter, begrudging, and vengeful attitude would seem to be justified for the Dalai Lama in reference to China. But His Holiness has eschewed that approach in favor of compassion.

Why do the Chinese do what they do? Why does anyone do what they do? How can we understand the presence of violence, hate, and coercion in the world? It’s simple. People act destructively because they are in the grips of forces they cannot or choose not to control. Namely, these forces are greed or unrelenting desire, hatred or aversion, and confusion or delusion. When people are not in the grip of these forces, they enjoy generosity, love, and wisdom. Sounds potentially self-righteous, but I wonder if it’s not true.

The power-hungry would characterize this loving approach as weak. Fair enough. But I would tender the question as to whether there is more to this existence than power and control over material? I have no doubt that Mao Zedong got an intoxicating feeling from wielding power. Was he, however, happy? I speculate that he was not. Power breads pleasure but its fleeting nature is bound to bring anxiety too. Power reinforces that sense of “me” and “my” accomplishments.

If we embrace non-contingent love as the Dalai Lama does (and Buddhists and Buddha-inspired individuals all around the world), then the outer circumstances don’t matter. “I love you no matter what.” This doesn’t mean that His Holiness does not work towards political solutions for his people. He works. Yet, he works without attachment. Again, I speculate, but I think we have it on good authority that this is his attitude.

The Dalai Lama said in an interview in the Hindustan Times, “He (Chairman Mao) appears to me as a father and he himself considered me as a son. (We had) very good relations.” – See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/mao-zedong-considered-me-as-his-son-dalai-lama/article1-878134.aspx#sthash.qWtSZHeZ.dpuf

Contrast this attitude to how we typically those who harm us. There is no plaintive narrative about how Mao ruined his life and wrecked his country. Instead, there is fond remembrance. Is this denial? Or is it wisdom?

What would we gain if we viewed the setbacks in our life within a fond frame of reference? Enmity, rumination, and complaint only foster negative feelings for the host, not the perpetrator. This is the wisdom of letting things be, of letting go into this moment. By letting go, the best action moving forward can be engaged because it is not being obstructed by attachments to the past.

There is freedom in relinquishing the narrative and dwelling in the present. We can learn a thing or two from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He keeps pursuing his cause but he does not appear to be base his moment-by-moment happiness upon it.

Can we be agents of unattached change in the world too?

 

Previous Posts

Transitions Into Spring
The weather is such a great metaphor. Spring is reluctant to arrive. On a Monday it was 80 degrees and then on Wednesday it snowed several inches. The nights have continued to be below freezing and the greening landscape is shy to come forth. We are variations of energy, mood, and awareness. Unli

posted 7:39:13pm Apr. 20, 2014 | read full post »

Transitions, Attachments, and Hope
It's been a long winter here in Northern Vermont and elsewhere around the country. The mountain is still frozen and buried in snow. In the valley, the long buried grass, brown and tired, is emerging from under the receding glacier, yet my yard is still buried in snow. The calendar reads April but

posted 3:02:56pm Apr. 07, 2014 | read full post »

A Special Opportunity for Opening Your Heart in Relationship with Tara Brach
I'd like to let you know about a special opportunity with my charma friend Tara Brach who is one of the more authentic and beloved mindfulness teachers. She is author of the bestsellers Radical Acceptance and more recently, True Refuge. Please read about this special program below. It’s often

posted 8:12:05pm Mar. 26, 2014 | read full post »

Equanimity in the Face of Adversity, Controversy, and Memory
The Dalai Lama recently visited with President Obama. Not such an unusual event since they have visited before, but the Chinese Government used this as an opportunity to complain, threaten, and

posted 7:24:11pm Mar. 14, 2014 | read full post »

Sit Still
If you listen carefully to my meditation instructions, you might detect a contradiction. On the one hand, I de-emphasize the posture because I don't want people to get deterred by the physical difficulties of sitting. On the other hand, I encourage everyone to sit still and to resist the reflexive t

posted 7:48:21am Feb. 11, 2014 | read full post »


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