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Mindfulness Matters

IMG_2982 (1)What is the true self and how do we access it? These are questions that we will explore in the upcoming workshop: Finding Your True Self through Mindfulness and Nature at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.

On the weekend of June 10, Saltwater Buddha author Jaimal Yogis and I will facilitate a retreat workshop where you will have a chance to taste what this true self is and learn methods for bringing it more centrally into your life.

Here are some details on the program:

Awaken to your luminous life in this moment. Mindfulness and meditation practice can provide refuge, sanctuary, and deep inner peace. Reclaim unity and oneness in a program that offers

  • Basic mindfulness skills using formal and informal meditation practices
  • Nondual states of awareness that can be accessed through contemplation and writing
  • Ways to develop and apply a love of solitude to the hectic demands of life
  • A working knowledge of the Buddha’s psychology of awakening.

This life-changing weekend engages you through mindful self-exploration, humor, poetry, heartfelt discussion, and a creative method for leaving your painful and limiting stories behind. It also includes time at Kripalu’s lakefront to explore the transformative power of water.

Register now >>

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Cover_108MetaphorsI am also pleased to announce that my first book–Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness is being re-released under the title 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness: from Wild Chickens to Petty Tyrants. It has the same metaphors that many people have grown to love and trust in their daily mindfulness practice in a new book design (astute obersvers will notice that it is very similar to Mindfulness A to Z. Here is an excerpt from the preface that I wrote for the new edition:

Since the initial publication of 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness in 2009, I’ve come to appreciate further the Buddha’s mastery with metaphors. Indeed, Buddhist scholar Damien Keown said, “The Buddha’s skill in teaching the Dharma, demonstrated in his ability to adapt his message to the context in which it was delivered. Parables, metaphors, and similes formed an important part of his teaching rep- ertoire, skillfully tailored to suit the level of his audi- ence.” The Pali Canon, which is the written record of the Buddha’s teachings, contains over 1000 met- aphorical references addressing over 500 different concepts.

You can pre-order your copy here (official release date is June 14, 2016).

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IMG_2714What is the self beyond language concept, and story? Can we find an identity in the unfolding awareness of the moment?

When we let go of stories and release ourselves into the flow of the moment, we start to realize the world that we live within is much bigger than we realized. It’s not only big—it’s vast.

The ocean reminds us of that; the sky reminds us of that. The mountains tell us what is possible. The vastness of the nature is not only a metaphor. Our blood is salty like the sea; our bodies mostly water. Our atoms are the stuff of the universe—bits of the Big Bang inside each one of us.

The vast also exists within our brains. If we spread out all the branches of each one of our neurons, the length is a staggering 50 million miles. That’s over halfway to the sun. This vastness is impossible to see, yet whenever we turn our gaze within with mindfulness, we are getting a glimpse of this stupendous connectivity.

There are also vast spaces within each atom that comprises our bodies and all other material of the world and the universe. What seems solid—even that hardest steel—is hauntingly hollow. If we somehow removed all the space from all the atoms in the universe, we’d have something about the size of a bowling ball leftover.

Despite these magnificent examples of vastness, we tend to live in our stories—the who, what, when, where, and why of identify. We miss the vast in our relentless pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain, discomfort, and inconvenience.

Stories are compelling, addicting, and habitual. Perhaps, too, we ignore the Vast because it can be dangerous. Larger than our story. Larger than our small self and doesn’t care about that small self.

The vast reminds us of our vulnerability, precariousness, and aloneness. Just imagine being shipwrecked in the middle of the ocean. On the ocean, we are always on the edge of being or not being amidst the forces of the tide, waves, and depth (not to mention the creatures that dwell in the sea). In other words, impermanence is made plain by the Vast.

We can also take a surfboard into the vastness of the ocean and learn to ride its vicissitudes, making friends with that very impermanence as Jaimal Yogis has done and lovingly reported to us in his books Saltwater Buddha: A Surfer’s Quest to Find Zen on the Sea and The Fear Project: What Our Most Primal Emotion Taught Me About Survival, Success, Surfing . . . and Love.

Sati is the Pali language term that has been translated as mindfulness. It literally means “to remember” or to “recollect” oneself. From this perspective of remembering, mindfulness is the antidote to forgetting the Vast. It puts us in touch with the vast that is our bodies breathing in and through time.

Je me souviens is the motto of Quebec. I remember myself. Perhaps this can be the motto for reclaiming our place in the Vast—our small place in the great context that is existence. With mindfulness, this is possible.

I am excited and honored to be teaching a workshop with my dharma brother Jaimal Yogis where will be exploring issues related to the Vast in a workshop: Finding Your True Self Through Mindfulness and Nature at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts (June 10-12). Wherever we make contact with our true self, it is sure to be in the open expanses of the Vast. Join us then and there for that workshop.

 

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Photo credit: Erik O. Cathcart

Photo credit: Erik O. Cathcart

At a recent workshop at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, I coined a new phrase: equanimity equity (EE). EE is the rationale for practice. The more we practice, the more equanimity we have in the bank. When difficulty hits, we can draw on that balance to handle the situation without being overtaken by reactivity.

A lack of reactivity, after all, is the aim of mindfulness practices. Such reactivity colors every aspect of our being and that “noise” keeps us from experiencing the world as it is with an open and loving heart.

For those of us blessed with the natural countenance of a Buddha, equanimity is always at your disposal. For those of us not blessed (which is pretty much everyone, including Siddhartha Guatama before and after he was the Buddha), then practicing is required.

The mind is a powerful force and shaped by a lifetime of conditioning. Intention, will, and commitment are valuable attributes but usually not sufficient to pull off the feat of equanimity in any given moment.

Intellectually, I understand the value of non-reactivity. My familiarity with mindfulness and Buddhism spans decades now. However, despite that understanding, I find that the more I practice, the more I can actually do it.

Depictions of the Buddha portray him as immune to reactivity–absolutely imperturbable. This may be myth. While the Buddha was supremely non-reactive, there are instances of frustration presented in the sutras. He, like all of us, was a human being, subject to the laws of physics and the demands of the moment.

I keep practicing, not to reach some unreachable place beyond reactivity, but for the sake of practice itself and to keep myself engaged in a conversation with equanimity. The longer you live in a home, the more equity you acquire through paying your mortgage. Similarly, my ongoing practice is equity in my mind–to bias the probability of equanimity arising in the next moment and all the moments to come.

 

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