Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Welcome to Mindfulness Matters: Tools for Living Now with Dr. Arnie Kozak

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

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I am very happy to be here writing my blog on Mindfulness Matters: Tools for Living Now with Dr. Arnie Kozak. This blog will cover a range of mindfulness-related topics. It will present and comment on mindfulness, meditation, and Buddhist news, research, teachers, centers, books, and events. I will also comment on mindfulness and Buddhism in sport, especially golf with a particular emphasis of golf as a spiritual path. I will present metaphors for mindfulness from my book Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness and new metaphors that will be featured in forthcoming book projects.

I am a mindfulness-based psychotherapist, meditation teacher, and author in beautiful Burlington Vermont. I founded the Exquisite Mind Psychotherapy and Meditation Studio in 2002 and this is a place where people come to learn mindfulness and benefit from its healing power. In 1985 I took the Bodhisattva vows from His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Bodh Gaya India, the holy pilgrimage place where the historical reached his awakening under the pipal tree some 2500 years ago. I was not alone. Also in attendance where 250,000 Tibetans from the exile community and others who had received permission to come to this special Kalachakra Tantra Ceremony. And then there were ten thousand or so monks and about a thousand Westerners from Australia, Europe, Great Britain, and the States. Since that time 25 years ago I have endeavored to fulfill that Bodhisattva obligation of attaining enlightenment for the benefit of others, sometimes better than others. This blog is part of that Bodhisattva path of helping others and to do so through sharing the wisdom of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the central practice that I use to work towards my own enlightenment. Vipassana meditation has been my practice of choice since 1989 when I sat my first ten-day silent meditation retreat with the formidable S. N. Goenka. I also approach my Bodhisattva nature by helping people in psychotherapy, teaching them how to use mindfulness and teaching people in an array of situations: workers in corporations, undergraduate students in psychology, medical students, medical residents, fellow mental health clinicians, and anyone in the community who is interested in bringing more mindfulness into their lives. In 2009, Wisdom Publications, a small and important dharma publisher, published my first book, Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness. My second book, Swing Like You Don’t Care: 54 Golf Axioms, Maxims, and Metaphorsis currently with an agent seeking a publisher. My third book will be the second edition of Everything Buddhism, part of the Everything Series.

Welcome to this journey into mindfulness. The information, commentary, and links that you will find on this blog serve as Tools for Living Now! For more information about my work, please visit my Exquisite Mind website.

Biology Casts Its Vote For Impermanence

posted by exquisitemind

First, mapping the human genome, now creating synthetic life. These are some of the accomplishments of Craig Venter, founder and president of the J. Craig Venter Institute a nonprofit genomics research institute. He was interviewed on the NPR program, On Point. His team was able to create sequences of DNA from four bottles of chemicals according to instructions provided by a computer. This chromosome was then injected into a microplasma micoides cell and was integrated into its replicating process such that after millions of generations it fully integreated the new genetic instructions. Venters calls it a “self-replicating cell that’s parent is a computer.” This is not artificial life or life from scratch, but life modified by changes in DNA. Venter says strikingly in a statement that might have been uttered by the Buddha if he had a Ph.D. in biology, “We change second to second in our cells and we are software driven machines, and the software is DNA.”
This is a good definition of impermanence — we are always changing at the cellular level and as Venter’s research demonstrates, quite changeable. We know that most of the cells of our body die and are replaced every seven years and we also know that the atoms in our bodies change over about once a year — EVERY atom! Now, too we know, moment-by-moment our cells are changing. We are not snapshots, still life’s capturing something fixed in place. We are motion and change, fluid and malleable. We are more video than snap shot, more action painting than still life.
What are the implications of this? In any given moment, I can ask myself the question, “What am I trying to protect here, and why?”  Instead of protection, can we move with the changing nature of things. After all, our cells are changing moment-by-moment and so is everything else. We can celebrate this change, or at least take a keen interest in its undulations and vicissitudes. Or we can try to keep these changing tides fixed. I’m in a good mood right now, my energy bright, my body relaxed. The part of my mind that doesn’t want to understand impermanence thinks this is the way it should be, what I’m entitled too. But, of course, reality doesn’t really care about what I think things should be like or what I think I should be entitled to, it just does its thing of change. So a few moments later I feel a twinge of tension in my neck shooting down to my hip. The frame of this moment looks and feels different from the last. I can complain about this. I can bemoan my fate and put energy into trying to recapture that previous moment. This winds up getting rather tedious after a while. So, rather than putting energy into trying to keep things the same, I’ll reflect on the dynamic, changing nature of my cells, imagine them dancing their dance of life.

Auction for a Mindful Society

posted by exquisitemind

I was excited when my book, Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness was included in the Auction for A Mindful Society, the first annual hosted by the Shambhala Sun foundation. The products and services offered will help you to live a mindful life and proceeds will help to benefit Shambhala Sun Foundation’s Mindful Society initiative. For more information visit Bidding for Good.

“Monk’s Enlightenment Begins With A Marathon Walk”

posted by exquisitemind

11 May 2010 NPR presents an intriguing story of walking Japanese Zen monks. These monks aren’t going for a stroll. One monk completes the “Sennichi Kaihogyo, 1,000 days of walking meditation and prayer over a seven-year period around Mount Hiei. He walked 26 miles a day for periods of either 100 or 200 consecutive days.” That’s the equivalent of a trip around the earth. Japanese Zen is notorious for such feats, but the Sennichi Kaihogyo is a walk in the park compared with the “test” that occurs 700 days into the process. Here, he “prays nonstop for nine days, without eating, drinking, sleeping or even lying down. It’s a near-death experience, the monk says.” Such a test burns away all traces of story and resistance and provides the practitioner with an unencumbered look at existence. This is a existential experience of purity and one must be willing to relinquish everything to have it. The article notes, “Finally, his old self dies, at least figuratively, and he is reborn to help and lead all beings to enlightenment.” These extreme experience cuts away at the illusion of separation, helping the monk to pursue his Bodhisattva path — working for the betterment of all sentient beings. Such experiences are the equivalent of Buddhist Olympics and not the sort of thing that we might contemplate or practice on a daily basis. They are certainly not necessary for us to have a taste of that interconnectedness with everything and everyone around us. Certainly, the Buddha spent a lot of time walking around northern India with his retinue of followers and walking meditation is an important practice for mindfulness. So, we can embody this spirit each time we walk in a deliberate manner. As lay practitioners we may not have the time to spend 1000 days walking the equivalent of a marathon, but as Tich Nhat Hanh reminds us, peace can be in every step.

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