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Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Coming Soon: Mindfulness A to Z

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Mindfulness-A-to-Z-cover182015 has been a busy year for me publishing books. In May, The Awakened Introvert came out (New Harbinger). In July, The Everything Essential Buddhism Book came out (Adams Media). Soon, Mindfulness A to Z: 108 Insights for Awakening Now (Wisdom Publications). The official release date is September 22 but I received a rush copy the other day!

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Mindfulness A to Z is something of a memoir because it contains a variety of personal stories about times that I was mindful and times that I was not. The book is organized as the title suggests as a dictionary of mindfulness terms with listings literally from a to z. You’ll find entries on acceptance, Buddha, compassion, equanimity, and so forth.

The book has been beautifully produced by Wisdom. It’s not the kind of book that you’ll read cover to cover. You can march through the entries in order or you can skip around. You’ll want to read one or two per day and sit with the wisdom and guidance that it sets forth.

It is my hope that this book through its candid revelations about my own attempts to live a mindful life can help you to live more mindfully too. Each brief chapter contains some important teaching relevant to mindfulness and grounded in the teachings of the Buddha.

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I had the great fortune to receive an endorsement from Tara Brach, one of our most beloved mindfulness teachers and author of the classic Radical Acceptance and more recently True Refuge. She said of A to Z:

You don’t “read” Mindfulness A-Z.  Rather you go on a series of intimate journeys with author Arnie Kozak, and explore the facets of heart and awareness that can free your spirit. Through personal revelation, Buddhist teachings, western science and his own deep wisdom, Arnie offers us a banquet to savor! –Tara Brach, Ph.D., Author of Radical Acceptance (2003) and True Refuge (2013.)

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Here is an excerpt from the preface:

Mindfulness is about paying attention to our life as it unfolds, moment-by-moment.
“To be mindful” is to bring a particular kind of attention
to our experience—one that is keen and focused on what is actually
happening, as opposed to what we wish would happen. Mindfulness
privileges perception over imagination. At its deepest levels, developing
mindfulness helps us to clearly see that we construct much of
our experience of the world and ourselves. And by construct I mean
the quality of our minds determines the quality of our experiences.
We are “put together” by our beliefs, stories, and attitudes. By practicing
mindfulness we can learn to relate to the world, others, and
ourselves in a more open and accepting way, without so many preconditions
for happiness. A serious commitment to mindfulness, practiced
over time, can help to move us toward a more awakened way of
being-in-the-world.

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You can pre-order your copy now from Amazon or your local independent bookseller:

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Life Interrupted

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

axiom_46I’ve been thinking a lot about interruptions lately. When I meditate in the mornings, I prefer to do it at a time when I won’t be interrupted by others. Yet, even in the most protected environment, interruptions are inevitable. My mind will interrupt me far more than any ambient noise or demands from my environment.

This thought is freeing. I don’t have to worry so much about external conditions. I can meditate anywhere no matter how noisy as long as I am willing to include what is happening.

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The reflexive tendency, however, is to exclude what is happening–to draw lines around what we think should be happening or should not be happening. Inclusion/exclusion requires effort and can give rise to overt or subtle stress.

When interruptions occur we can think they are interfering with our meditation but this is not really the case. It’s only an attitude, a misconception that we can change.

The goal of mindfulness practice is to monitor interruptions and to be able to work with them. The goal is not to eradicate interruptions; this is not practical. The goal is to notice and to redirect attention. In a sense, we are stitching over the small rifts in attention that occur with interruptions, whether these are internal or external.

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If you really pay attention to the functioning of your mind, you might notice that no matter how chaotic your external environment is, your internal space may have even more interruptions. This is not a problem and not something wrong with your mind.

Introverts are especially prone to feeling disrupted by interruptions. It’s hard to get back into that deep track of thought or focus. The kind of “interruption mending” we do during meditation can be good practice for the other interruptions in our life–like those at work, home, and wherever life finds you.

Since interruptions are inevitable, we can make them part of our practice. Each time the mind goes somewhere else other than the present moment, instead of seeing this as a nuisance, look upon it as an opportunity to become more adept at handling interruptions.

Life will never be uninterrupted and in letting that particular hopefulness go, we can find ease in this moment.

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Everything Essential Buddhism

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

E-Essential Buddhism.inddI am pleased to announce the release of the Everything Essential Buddhism Book. This book is an abridgment of the popular Everything Guide to Buddhism, 2nd Edition.

As the name implies, this book is a leaner, more essential, treatment of the topic and it can serve as an accessible introduction to the teachings, principles, and practices associated with Buddhism.

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Here is an excerpt from the introduction:

Buddhism traces its roots back to the historical Buddha, a yogi who lived more than 2,500 years ago in northern India. The Buddha discovered a way to live that radically transformed people’s lives, starting with his own. His revolutionary insights have withstood the test of time, and his methods can still transform lives as they did in ancient India. The Buddha taught mindfulness, kindness, and compassion. Buddhism, the family of religions that evolved from the Buddha’s teachings, is one of the great ethical systems that benefit humanity.

While Buddhism may be considered a nontheistic religion, it transcends religious belief into practical experience. You don’t believe in Buddhism; you practice Buddhism. In fact, you don’t even need to be a “Buddhist” to practice “Buddhism.” In one sense, all you have to do is sit down and meditate with openness, curiosity, and dedication.

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I am most drawn now to a secular interpretation of the Buddha’s teachings. He was not out to found a religion. His goal was to ameliorate the woes of himself and the rest of the world. Because his insights and methods worked, he attracted a large following and the establishment of religions, doctrines, and hagiography were inevitable.

Nevertheless, today looking back we can go to the essential teachings that precede the proliferation of the Buddhist religions. We can find value in the psychology that he taught. All we really need to know about the Buddha’s wisdom are contained in the Four Noble Truths. These are enumerated in the book and are really the essence of this teachings. The irony of this essence is that there is no essence. We are all process, as I recently reminded.

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I hope you’ll enjoy this read. It’s a good introduction to the variations of Buddha and Buddhism for beginners and a reminder of the teachings for those of you with experience, with my sometimes irreverent and always practical  take on the subject. Order your copy through your independent bookseller below or get your copy from Amazon here.

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I Forgot to Take a Selfie!

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

IMG_0366

I was at Moss Glen Falls recently. These stunning little falls are on Route 100 in Warren, Vermont. I stopped and took photographs and video footage of them. When I was leaving and getting ready to get back onto my motorcycle, I saw a couple taking a selfie in front of the falls.

I thought to myself for a moment, “Oh that might have been a good marketing shot.” But then I realized that I was more interested in the natural phenomenon itself than promoting myself. I kept walking back to my motorcycle and departed, enjoying that brief moment of anonymity–there would be no record of “me” at the scene.

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Really, why would you want to see me in front of those falls? Why would I? Lest I sound holier than thou, I have certainly taken selfies and will continue to do so at times.

I am more interested in my state of mind when I took this photo–in a strong sense of present moment awareness.

Consider the fabulous popularity of selfie sticks. I think this is a material sign–an emblem if you will–for the the Age of Narcissism.

Even politicians are practicing the art of the selfie and voters.

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Does all this attention to ourselves lead to happiness. The answer appears to be no.

What about self-sufficiency that does not require “me” in the picture. Taking pictures of ourselves just tends to reinforce the notion of self as something that can “have” experiences (as in the sense of ownership) rather than emerging out of the moment by moment process of being alive.

The Buddha attested that more happiness could be found from a self-in-process over a self-as-thing.

I don’t know if I will ever own a selfie stick. I first encountered them overseas where they were very popular among Asian tourists. I am sure the phenomenon will take over the States, if it hasn’t already. I hope I can somehow get through my life without one.

 

 

 

Previous Posts

Coming Soon: Mindfulness A to Z
2015 has been a busy year for me publishing books. In May, The Awakened Introvert came out (New Harbinger). In July, The Everything Essential Buddhism Book came out (Adams Media). Soon, Mindfulness A to Z: 108 Insights for Awakening Now (Wisdom ...

posted 12:46:02pm Aug. 04, 2015 | read full post »

Life Interrupted
I've been thinking a lot about interruptions lately. When I meditate in the mornings, I prefer to do it at a time when I won't be interrupted by others. Yet, even in the most protected environment, interruptions are inevitable. My mind will ...

posted 4:50:31pm Jul. 28, 2015 | read full post »

Everything Essential Buddhism
I am pleased to announce the release of the Everything Essential Buddhism Book. This book is an abridgment of the popular Everything Guide to Buddhism, 2nd Edition. As the name implies, this book is a leaner, more essential, treatment of the ...

posted 5:38:17pm Jul. 18, 2015 | read full post »

I Forgot to Take a Selfie!
I was at Moss Glen Falls recently. These stunning little falls are on Route 100 in Warren, Vermont. I stopped and took photographs and video footage of them. When I was leaving and getting ready to get back onto my motorcycle, I saw a couple ...

posted 10:34:45am Jul. 13, 2015 | read full post »

Happy Birthday to His Holiness the Dalai Lama
July 6 will be the 80th birthday of His Holiness (HH) the Dalai Lama. I first encountered the Dalai Lama when he would have been ...

posted 2:06:43pm Jun. 30, 2015 | read full post »

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