Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

TED Tuesday :: How complexity leads to simplicity

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

According to ecologist Eric Berlow in this 3-minute talk, complex is not necessarily complicated. This sounds to me like the human brain — the most complex thing in the known universe. What that brain does can be complicated — if we are in the grips of habitual thinking or it can be simplicity when we are practicing mindfulness. 

He concludes by saying, “For any problem the more you can zoom out and embrace complexity the better chance you have of zooming in on the simple details that matter most.” 
This again sounds like it could be the instructions for mindfulness meditation. When we can embrace the complexity of what our brains are doing — the infinite thoughts, the seemingly random chaotic frenzy of the mind we can find in this complexity the simplicity of breathing — “the simple detail that matters most.”


Metaphor Monday :: Drinking Saltwater

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

BS15027.JPGPema Chödrön said, “Since impermanence defies our
attempts to hold onto anything, outer pleasures can never bring lasting joy.
Even when we manage to get short-term gratification, it doesn’t heal our
longing for happiness; it only enhances our shenpa (getting hooked). As
my teacher Dzigar Kongtrul once said, “Trying to find lasting happiness from
relationships or possessions is like drinking salt water to quench your


This quote embodies two metaphors — getting hooked and drinking saltwater. Today I’ll focus on the saltwater. What’s wrong with trying to find lasting happiness from relationships or possessions? This is a point of the Buddha’s teachings that is often misunderstood as being against pleasure. It’s really all about our relationship to pleasure and our expectations around it. 

The operative term here is lasting. The problem is that nothing lasts. Things are constantly changing. Our moods, appetites, and perceptions are constantly changing. Phenomena are constantly changing. The earth revolves around the sun, the weather, and countless events change in every moment. We breathe change in every moment. Life is a process not an outcome. It’s a ceaseless dance. 

And if we relate to it as an outcome rather than a process we are bound to be frustrated. 

The Young Rascals explored this issue in their hit “How can I be sure?”

How can I be sure
In a world that’s constantly changin’?
How can I be sure
Where I stand with you?


Whenever I
Whenever I am away from you
I wanna die
’cause you know I wanna stay with you

How do I know?
Maybe you’re trying to use me
Flying too high can confuse me
Touch me but don’t take me down


Whenever I
Whenever I am away from you
My alibi is tellin’ people I don’t care for you
Maybe I’m just hanging around
With my head up, upside down
It’s a pity
I can’t seem to find someone
Who’s as pretty ‘n’ lovely as you


How can I be sure
I really, really, really, wanna kno-o-ow
I really, really, really, wanna kno-o-ow

How’s the weather?
Weather or not, we’re together
Together we’ll see it much better
I love you, I love you forever
You know where I can be found


How can I be sure
In a world that’s constantly changing?
How can I be sure?

I’ll be sure with you. 

This song embodies the pangs of attachment. It concludes with a glimpse of the dharma, and I take the liberty to paraphrase:

“How can I be sure in a world that’s constantly changing? How can I be sure?” “Well I can’t; I can’t make the impermanent permanent. But what I can do is to find that surety within myself. To connect to the thread of this moment playing through my breath. I can find peace in the process of loving with all its vicissitudes and challenges.” 

In this moment, the suffering lover becomes wise, he finds love in being rather than possessing. This wisdom desalinates the water making it drinkable, quenching a deep thirst. 


Stress Reduction Sunday :: Strategies To Deal With Difficult Bosses and Other Problem People

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

It’s Stress Reduction Sunday. Read my weekly post in the Connecticut Watchdog, This week’s entry Strategies To Deal With Difficult Bosses and Other Problem People


Does Mindfulness Have to Offer? Part Two

are a variety of scenarios we might encounter with a difficult boss or
co-worker. I recognize there are situations that may be intractable no matter
what you do. In these situations we are confronted with the choice of suffering
with the abuse, quitting, or radically changing our perspective. We’ll leave
this worst-case scenario for last.


Read more …

Read the entire Stress Reduction
Series to date on CT Watchdog >>


Book Shelf: Be Love Now

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Be Love Now.jpgThank you Ram Dass. It’s good to hear from you again. For many of us, Ram Dass has been an integral part of our spiritual path. I first became aware of him while in college. I read The Only Dance There Is. Ram Dass was an inspirational role model — psychologist turned yogi. No doubt, my decision to go to India after college to deepen my yogic practices was influenced by his example and teachings. 

Be Love Now is really the same book he wrote forty years ago, the classic Be Here Now. To be HERE now is to be LOVE now. To be present is to be love. Simple as that. In this spiritual memoir Ram Dass rectraces his steps with Maharaj-ji focusing more on the opening of love than the other aspects he did earlier in life, for example being blown away when Maharaj-ji read his mind regarding his mother. 
He starts:
Imagine feeling more love from someone than you have ever known. You’re being loved even more then your mother loved you when you were an infant, more than you were ever loved by your father, your child, or you most intimate lover–anyone. This lover doesn’t need anything from you, isn’t looking for personal gratification, and only wants your complete fulfillment. 

This love is actually part of you; it is always flowing through you. It’s like the subatomic texture of the universe, the dark matter that connects everything. When you tune in to that flow you will feel it in your own heart–not your heart or your emotional heart, but your spiritual heart, the place you point to in your chest when you say, “I am.”


Unconditional love really exists in each of us. It is part of our deep inner being. It is not so much an active emotion as a state of being. It’s not, “I love you” for this or that reason, not “I love you if you love me.” It’s love for no reason, love without an object. It’s just sitting in love, a love that incorporates the chair and the room and permeates everything around. The thinking mind is extinguished in love.”

The thinking mind is extinguished in love and we also find that love when we extinguish the thinking mind. To “love for no reason” we must give up all conditions, agendas, and expectations. That’s a tall order, and one that mindfulness can facilitate. 

If we think about where our attentional center of gravity is in any moment. Chances are it is engaged in a story about the past, the future, or the present. These stories may be tinged with anxiety or fear and thinking is designed to protect ourselves from threat, whether real or imagined. Other candidates are resentment with its attendant anger, and desire with its attendant fear that we might not get what we want or that what we have won’t last. 
Protecting ourselves from actual threats is our first order of business as biological creatures. For most of us in the privileged West, real threats are uncommon. Most of us don’t contend with predators, starvation, freezing to death, or real social threats. Most of our “threats” are aimed at our self-image or our sense of desire. Ideas, in other words.
If we can disengage our attention from these threat-related stories what happens then? We come to this place of love that Ram Dass speaks of. It is always there waiting for us, and it does so without judgment or complaint. When we don’t engage in fear, we open to our loving and playful nature. And I mean nature in its literal sense, this loving playfulness is in our DNA. 
Once the threats are handled our attention can move towards long-term projects like healthy development and nurturing the next generation. Play is our nature. Love is our nature. We don’t spend enough time in playful love because of our preoccupations with stories of threat and loss. Stop engaging with those stories and see what happens. See what you feel.
This background radiation of love is present when we practice mindfulness and move from the stories into the energy of the body. It is what the Buddha called sambhogakaya — the bliss body. We can connect to that bliss in any moment we give ourselves permission to do so. However, this permission cannot take the form of an “I want.” It’s an allowing not a doing. It’s not a desire, goal or objective. It’s what we find when we wake up to the shining presence of this moment.
Be Love Now!
With blessings and love to Ram Dass for all you have given us over the years. 
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