Mindfulness Matters

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. 


My University of Vermont friends and colleagues, David and Carla
Osgood, teach a unique course in Bali. Continuing Education credits are
available for mental health professionals. This course has changed the life of
my students who have had the fortune to take it. The course will take place of
UVM spring break, 4-13 March 2011. For students, 3 course credits are available
(HLTH 296). 

Here is what David has to say about the course:

For the past ten years we have been teaching
courses and professional seminars in three traditional cultures:  Bali,
Indonesia: Belize, Central America and Samoa, South Pacific

Our work in these countries has given us and
our students an extraordinary opportunity to learn and grow personally and
professionally through developing ongoing relationships with host country
families by participating with them in their daily lives.

We utilize several key frames as we enter these
cultures. Some of the frames include : Constructive Developmental theory,
Transpersonal Psychology (particularly the perspective of non-dualism and
mindfulness) , Balinese Hinduism,  Traditional Balinese Medicine and the
theories of intercultural communication.

We hope to build a small learning community
with folks from a wide range of backgrounds, interests and ages. We think that
this course may have particular interest to people interested in traditional
healing and practicing mindfulness in their lives. An excellent article on Balinese
traditional healing is below:

The seminar will be limited to 12 participants.

The link to this winters UVM Bali Course (HLTH
296)  is below along with a link with some pictures taken last winter.
Tuition remission is available to those elegible

If you are interested and have questions we
need to speak with you. Please call us at (802) 899-3965 or e-mail

Our best,

Carla and David Osgood

Sharon Salzberg is a cofounder of the Insight Meditation Societyand the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, both in Barre, Massachusetts. Shehas studied and practiced Buddhist meditation since 1970 and has been teachingworldwide since 1974. She is a guiding teacher at IMS and the author of Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness(with Jon Kabat-Zinn), A Heart As Wide As the World, and Faith. She also writes about meditation fornational magazines such as O, the Oprah Magazine, and Tricycle.

Sharon is one of the more accessible Insight Meditationteachers. Her writing is clear and inviting. My favorite quote is ““Thesimple act of being completely present to another person is truly an act oflove” — Sharon Salzberg 


Sharon Salzberg “A Practical Tool” from Omega Institute on Vimeo.


The Buddha spoke of four postures for meditation: sitting,
walking, standing, and lying down. Walking meditation is another form of
mindfulness practice that helps us to bring mindfulness into movement and our
activities in the world. If we are blessed the ability to walk (a miracle that
most of us take for granted) then we have many opportunities to practice
mindfulness throughout our day.

Walking meditation can be piggy-backed onto the walking we
already do during our day. You could designate a stretch as mindfulness
practice time and work to bring your attention to now during that walking time
— say from your car to the office, or a particular corridor at work. 

Walking meditation can also be done as a formal practice
just as you would do sitting meditation. Pick a spot in your home and walk back
and forth in that spot slowly. You can also circumambulate a room. The goal is
not to get anywhere or to get exercise. The goal is to be fully with the
experience of walking. We can pay attention to the overall experience of
walking or particular sensations that arise during walking like those on the
souls of our feet. Of course, we can also attend to the breath.

On my website you will find guided
meditations for slow walking, standing meditation, and standing yoga postures. Click here to listen to the tracks and to download them as .mp3s for your iPod or other device (Note:
you will need QuickTime installed to hear these tracks; if you are on a PC you
will need to right-click on the links at the bottom of the page to save the
files to your computer). 

Track 1 contains instructions and an overview on mindful
walking. Tracks 2, 3, & 4 provide guided practice that get successfully
slower in each track. In these practices, the mindful steps are linked to the
breath, and we step with each breath according to the instructions. During
track 4, you will need to take small steps to stay with the instructions.
Remember, we are not trying to get anywhere! 

Standing, along with walking, sitting, and lying down is one
of the four orientations to experience mindfulness. Track 5 provides a brief
standing meditation that borrows the image of a mountain to provide a
dignified, noble, and strong way to stand. Standing practice also brings us
into daily life and can be done any time we are somewhere waiting where we can

With walking and standing practices we never need be bored
again! We can always practice waiting for a train or standing in line at the
super market. The standing orientation continues in track 6 with a series of
gentle yoga postures that are conducted mindfully. The goal is to be mindful in
movement and to explore the frontiers of our embodied experience. Yoga
practices continue on the next CD.

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