Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

TED Tuesday :: Robert Thurman :: Expanding your circle of compassion

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak
TED Tuesday returns with Robert Thurman. More on compassion and the story of Asanga and his search for Maitreya in the form of a mangy dog. It’s a story of compassion through the vehicle of patience and open mind. 
He tells a classic teaching story from an Eastern perspective. The Western version of the story goes something like this. A devout and pious man prays to God everyday. There is a flood predicted but he remains calm and assured, “God will take care of me.” The rains come, the river floods and he finds himself taking refuge on his roof top. A motorboat comes by and the driver invites the man to get on board. He demurs, saying, “I’m waiting for God; he’ll take care of me.” The motorboat goes by. Some time later, a row boat comes by and the rower invites the man on board. “No thank you” the devout man says, “I’m waiting for God.” Finally, as the water continues to rise, a canoe comes by and the paddler invites the pious man onboard. He refuses again. He drowns. While transitioning into heaven, the usually quiet and humble man registers a complaint to God: “I’ve been your devout servant, I’ve prayed daily, gone to church, committed myself to a spiritual life. Was is it too much to ask for your assistance?” God replies, “Who do you think sent you the three boats?!”

  

Metaphor Monday :: Welcome to the Starfish Revolution

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

In the compelling book, The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom present the case for decentralization as an agent of profit and social good. 

Many entities are decentralized, including our brains. There is no central command post in the brain, no single agent issuing orders, no one neuron that holds a particular memory (despite what Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind represented). Memory is distributed across networks of neurons. 
starfish.gif
Likewise, there is great power in decentralized organizations. Some of these “starfish” organizations discussed in the book are the Apache, AA, Wikipedia, and more. A starfish has no centralized brain and command center. If you cut off the leg of a starfish it grows back. If you cut it in half you get two starfish. 
A spider organization is the traditional model with a CEO at the top who’s in charge. These organizations are good at doing some things but not so good at others. If you cut off the head of a spider it dies. 
If we look upon the starfish and the spider as a metaphor for the self, we can see clearly in to the Buddha’s concept of anatta or no-self. We tend to regard ourselves as spider organizations — there’s someone at the top who is in charge, a CEO, a president, an ego. But when the self is examined carefully as mystics have done for millennia and scientists have done for the past 100 years or so, there is no CEO to be found. What we regard to be self arises out of the aggregation and dynamic integration of different processes. 
We are starfish.
  

Stress Reduction Sunday: Mindfulness: The Art of Being in the Present Moment

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak
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It’s Stress Reduction Sunday. Read my weekly post in the Connecticut Watchdog, This week’s entry, The Art of Being in the Present Moment:

In my last entry, Mindfulness: An Ancient Remedy for a Modern Problem, I discussed the importance of mindfulness and gave an overview of a mindful approach to life. In this entry, I will discuss how to practice mindfulness.

Some of us are naturally more mindful than others. That is our attention tends to stay in the present rather than generating worry about the future, regret about the past, or complaints about the present. I am NOT one of these people, so I must practice mindfulness.

Read more …

Mindfulness in Sport: The Embodiment of Awakening (Part Three)

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

It’s Sport Saturday. This entry continues an essay on using sport to awaken. Click here to read part one and part two here

Mindfulness and sport-samadhi can also impact how we deal
with exertion and the limits of our body. I have noticed, especially when I am
running uphill, if my mind is engaged in a future-oriented conversation, that I
am more apt to give up and not push through the pain and discomfort of that
exertion. 

This future-oriented story may be mindless chatter, or it can also be
focused on the activity itself. For instance, if I look up the hill and think
to myself, “my god, that’s a long way up, I’ll never be able to stomach that,”
it is very different than staying with the experience of embodiment at that
moment. 

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The running, when it becomes an experience lived in the moment is a
succession of moments. And as intense as they may be, because attention is
focused on now instead of moments from now, the crush of the future is
relieved. Again, an important distinction is to attend to the experience of the
body at the level of description versus the level of analysis. 

At the level of
description there are sensations, and these may be described as intense, warm,
pulsing, constricting, sharp, dull, and so forth. Notice that I did not mention
pain or fatigue. Pain and fatigue are labels applied by the thinking mind after
it has analyzed the sensations. 

By identifying with the label we are moved away
from the experience. I find that whenever I do this – think about how painful
the running is or how much pressure I feel in my chest — I am apt to stop
running and walk the hill. However, I get a lot more out of myself by staying
in the moment of now and feeling the sensations rather than thinking about
them. 

This is not the same as brute gutting through the experience of what
might be called pain. We need to listen to our bodies and to extract any vital
information out of the sensations and perceptions we are having. We should know
the difference between sensations that can be pushed through and those that
should be respected. 

The experience of attending to sensations at the level of
description can become a useful analog for all of life with similar benefits
from staying with our experiences as experiences in the present moment. 

For
many of us though, this mindfulness experience comes off with the running
shoes. No transition occurs and a split between our sport life and the rest of
our life can emerge. Daily meditation practice can help to eliminate that
transition and to facilitate moving between the meditative experiences of sport
and the activities of your day, including all the activities we do such as
eating, washing dishes, driving, loving, and working.

Previous Posts

Finding the Fall Line: The Technique of Practice
As I was meditating this morning, I came up with a new practice metaphor. There were times when I was clearly in the flow of my body, very attuned the myriad body sensations and there were other moments where I was somewhere else or trying to manage some aspect of the moment, almost as if I was tryi

posted 10:13:53am Dec. 09, 2014 | read full post »

Prime Time, All the Time
An add for television streaming service Hulu states, "Every minute of every day should be considered prime time." This clever quip has a double meaning. On the one hand, it reflects the tyrannical notion that every experience that we have should be exciting, entertaining, and novel. On the other han

posted 9:31:08am Dec. 08, 2014 | read full post »

Giving Thanks 2014: Still a Lot to be Grateful For
There is not now, nor ever, a shortage of tragic, unjust, and violent events occurring around the world. The news media exploits these events and brings them into our brains 24/7 with an unrelenting insistence. Our nervous systems are vulnerable to these kinds of information. They signal danger and

posted 8:56:43am Nov. 27, 2014 | read full post »

Buddhist Icon--Thich Nhat Hanh Recovering in Hospital
Beloved Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh (TNH) has experienced a severe cerebral hemorrhage and remains in critical condition. He recently had his 88th Birthday. I surmise that he is, along with the Dalai, Lama, one of the two most readily recognized Buddhist figures in the world today. Af

posted 6:27:39am Nov. 18, 2014 | read full post »

Mindfulness with a Capital "M"
A recent Telegraph column asked if mindfulness lives up to its hype. The author, Polly Vernon, predicts that "mindfulness" will be the OED's (Oxford English Dictionary) word of the year. That would not surprise me. She goes on to give a favorable if at first skeptical review of the practice. Having

posted 12:19:27pm Nov. 04, 2014 | read full post »


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