Beliefnet
Mindfulness Matters

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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 exquisitemind.com 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
stand. 

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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In the poem “Fire in the Earth,” David Whyte tells us of
Moses receiving the command to “take off his shoes” as he approached the
burning bush. This act of humility brought him closer to the earth, to the
ground, and we learn that he “never recovered/ his complicated way of loving
again,” and that “every step he took/from there was carefully placed.” 

This
image provides an invitation to approach our life with reverence and likewise
humility. It invites us to treat each moment as sacred; to step on the ground as
if stepping into a holy place of worship. And we can partake of this worship
regardless of our religious or spiritual beliefs. 

Each place can
become the “church” of life, and this church knows no denominations and
requires no dogmatic beliefs. It is open to anyone who wants to play. This
sacredness can help us to move closer to the divine in our lives, however that
divinity be experienced. 

We can see how mindfulness can be an exercise in values and purpose, what we might call spiritual.
Mindfulness provides opportunities for us to worship the sacredness of now. It gives us a
chance to touch the divine and to embody the divine ourselves. With mindfulness we can approach any activity with this openness to sacred divinity, 

Baba Muktananda admonished his disciples to “Leave Your Shoes with Your Ego at the Door.” Take off your shoes, drop your self-preoccupation and find the truth in this moment. We can bring this deliberateness to everything that we do, especially showing up at work.

Burt Cooper in Mad Men takes his shoes off at work and asks everyone coming into his office to do the same. The ritual can assist being wakeful. Whether you actually take your shoes off or just embrace the metaphor, the opportunity exists to be awake at work.

As we cross the threshold into work we can take our shoes off to find the sacredness that our work embodies. No matter what this work is, that opportunity is present when we are present. Even when our work is less than ideal, which is almost always the case, we can still bring this sense of spirit to our day. After all, this is our life right now. Why not touch the divinity that’s waiting for us?

Mindfulness meditation practice helps us to establish the skills needed to take our shoes off. First we must know that taking our shoes off is a possibility. Next we must be able to take them off; we must be able to untie the laces and release the knots of self-importance. Then we can feel the ground with our bare feet. We can find ourselves home in the ordinary divinity of now. 

Try practicing mindfulness right now. Go to my website exquisitemind.com to listen to and download guided mindfulness meditations. CD1 includes breathing and body scan practices; CD2 includes walking, standing, and standing yoga practices

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

Relationships can be our greatest source of both consternation and joy. Humans are social creatures and social support has as big an impact on health as physical factors such as diet and smoking.

For most of us, our work life is embedded in a matrix of social relationships. As Bob Dylan said, “You’ve got to serve somebody; it may be the devil or it may be the lord but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

That somebody can make a huge difference in our experience of work. A pleasant, supportive, and interested boss, even if challenging contributes much to job satisfaction. A boss who is mean, tyrannical, petty, angry, backbiting, and so forth can contribute to dissatisfaction at work, and worse.


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Q: “Your book, Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants, is about mindfulness and you studied with the Dalai Lama. You’re also a practicing psychologist. Can you tell us how your Buddhist background comes into play in your work as a psychologist?”

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A: For the past 25 plus years Buddhist practices have influenced my work. Earlier in my career I used them to enhance my therapeutic presence and as a method of self-care. I used them implicitly without ever teaching mediation or concepts, such as the Four Noble Truths, to my patients. 

When I started private practice 13 years ago I started to incorporate mindfulness in an explicit way in my clinical work, teaching patients to meditate and offering mindfulness and Buddhist wisdom in a secularized way as a means to alleviate suffering. The Buddha saw himself as a physician or psychologist (but that concept didn’t’ exist 2500 years ago) rather than a religious leader. He taught people how to mange their behavior and mental landscape so as to reduce suffering and dissatisfaction. 

That’s the business we are in as psychotherapists and the Buddha’s insights provide powerful tools to help people change their relationship to the conditions of their suffering.

The Buddha used metaphors frequently in his teaching. 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness make these tools accessible in a fun and approachable way.

“108 sparkling insights into
mindfulness” — Larry
Rosenberg, author of
Breath by Breath

“Playful, wise, and memorable”
— Tara Brach, author of Radical
Acceptance

“”Fresh and straightforward
voice”– Shambhala Sun
Magazine


If you haven’t already, get your copy now: 


Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants on Amazon

Wild Chickens
and Petty Tyrants
 now available for Kindle

Wild Chickens
and Petty Tyrants
from Wisdom Publications

Wild Chickens
and Petty Tyrant
s from Your Local Independent Bookseller



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