Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Dalai Lama Op-Ed in New York Times: “Many Faiths, One Truth”

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak
His Holiness The Dalia Lama wrote an op-ed in the New York Times on Monday 24 May 2010. He begins by saying, “WHEN I was a boy in Tibet, I felt that my own Buddhist religion must be the best — and that other faiths were somehow inferior. Now I see how naïve I was, and how dangerous the extremes of religious intolerance can be today.” He points out extremism on all ends of the spectrum from religious fundamentalism to atheist anti-religionism. He urges that our interconnectedness “demands that we promote peaceful coexistence and understanding across boundaries.” This is a lofty ideal and an invitation towards what the Buddha might have called upekkha (equanimity/interest). The result of this interest might be the possibility that people could pursue their own faith and simultaneously, “respect, admire and appreciate other traditions.” Upekkha seems to be what is absent in the world today. We can find this lack of interest at so many levels — in politics, religion, and in our day-to-day interactions with each other. Every group as an agenda, it seems, and that agenda is to further their own interests. The underlying sentiment is that my beliefs are better than yours, more true, more necessary. For this reason, His Holiness’s message of acceptance is crucial and his admission that his beliefs are no better than the beliefs of other religions is unprecedented. His Holiness reflects on his meetings with the Christian monk, Thomas Merton in the 1960s and the centrality of compassion for both faiths (a point lost to Brit Hume when he urged Tiger Woods to return to Christianity because Buddhism had nothing to offer on forgiveness).  In fact, compassion is central to all faiths. This sentiment is echoed in Brad Warner’s irreverent treatise, Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth About Reality when he says:
It’s only when people believe that their beliefs are above questioning, that their beliefs alone are beyond all doubt, that they can be as truly horrible as we all know they can be. Belief is the force behind every evil mankind has ever done. You can’t find one truly evil act in human history that was not based on belief-and the stronger their belief, the more evil human beings can be. 

We always have a choice between identification with our own stories and the stories of our religious affiliation and interest in the millions of colors available to our eyes. Identification tends to lead to division, a duality between “us” and “them,” “you” and “me.” Identification leads to a duality within ourselves between the potential richness of our lived experience and the idea about that experience. To paraphrase the of quote William James, in my book, Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness, our intellectual life consists almost wholly of substituting a conceptual order for the perceptual order in which our experience originally lives. It is in this perceptual order that we can find the space for compassion. Compassion arises when we don’t feel beholden to ideas we must defend, agendas we must forward, and boundaries we must protect. His Holiness urges that, “Harmony among the major faiths has become an essential ingredient of peaceful coexistence in our world.” The way to harmony is through interest in what is around us, including the beliefs of other people. 
By the way, Happy 75th Birthday to His Holiness:

Yoga Sanga

posted by exquisitemind

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Rocio Morales the founder and director of Yoga Sanga: The Yoga Online Magazine for Texas.

Hot Buddha Sweats; Cold Buddha Shivers

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

It’s been record-breaking temperatures in New York and
elsewhere on the East Coast this week. Oppressive heat and humidity. Record
demands on electricity as everyone seeks to cool off. It’s a real challenge in
acceptance and one not easily met. There is important information in this
severe heat and we must take precautions against heat exhaustion. But beyond
staying safe, the heat is just uncomfortable. There is a saying,
“Hot Buddha Sweats; Cold Buddha Shivers.” This wisdom is timely. We
can examine the heat from four different perspectives, or levels like the
stories in a building. On the ground floor are the sensations that arise from
being hot. These include sweating, a sense of warmth, increased body temperate,
and so forth. Here there are just sensations. No judgments. No complaints. It’s
objective. The brain’s job is to make sense of these sensations and this occurs
on the second and third floors of the building. On the second floor the brain
recognize the pattern of sensation as “hot.” For most of us, this kind of heat
and humidity is unpleasant. So the brain continues to do its job on the third
floor by registering a feeling tone to the experience. Is this pleasant,
unpleasant, or neutral (in other words, should I approach this, avoid this, or
ignore this)? On the fourth floor we begin to have conscious thoughts. Because
the heat may contain important safety information we need to keep our brain
online to evaluate if we are getting enough water and not exerting ourselves to
the point of heat exhaustion. These thoughts are adaptive and necessary.
Meanwhile, we are likely to have other thoughts and these thoughts are neither
adaptive nor necessary. This is where the mind complains, “I can’t stand this
heat!” “When is this going to end?” And it is here that distress arises. What would happen, however, if we came
down from the fourth floor and its complaints about the heat and paid attention
to the sensations on the ground floor? Hot Buddha sweats. We’d just be hot Buddhas,
that’s all. No distress; just perspiration.



In Northern Vermont it’s also helpful to remember that
such heat is very impermanent and that it was snowing on Mother’s Day not too
long ago. We longed for warmth then. So we can embrace the heat, once we make
sure we are safe and enjoy the summer as it is. And if climate change science
is correct, there are a lot more hot days ahead.

*Image courtesy of NASA 

FOMO: The Cost of Being Permeated by Desire

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

I recently heard a new acronym: FOMO
(fear of missing out). This is a panic that runs through our culture. It
permeates, if we are not mindful, every bit of our psyche. FOMO account for one
large portion of the variance of our suffering. Another portion can be
attributed to a new acronym I just coined: FOGWINE (fear of getting what is not
expected). Together these comprise the vast majority of what the Buddha called
dukkha. Dukkha, often translated as suffering, is more aptly translated in on a
broader canvas as “pervasive dissatisfaction.” What are we
dissatisfied over? FOMO and FOGWINE. If you watch television, you are inundated
with messages about what you might be missing out on. If you don’t join the
Army, you’ll be missing out on glory, pride, and advancement of your career. If
you don’t drive this car, you’ll be missing out on excitement, status, and the
best bargain of your life. If you don’t get this drug from your doctor, you’ll
be missing out on strengthening your marriage, great sex, and fun. The
opportunities to miss out are endless. We keep watching television programs for
fear of missing out on something big that everyone else will have seen and will
be talking about. We stay at the party later for fear of missing out on that
something special that might happen, that Kodak moment that will define this
instant in time.

FOMO is the representation of what I call the “deprivation
mind” in my book, Wild Chickens and Petty
Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness
.” Are we really missing out? And
what is it exactly that we are missing out on? This is a problem that besets us
when we look outside of ourselves for fulfillment. The desire that underlies
FOMO is endless, a bottomless pit that can have us chasing our tails in
pointless pursuit. FOMO keeps us on the wheel like a hamster never reaching
that place of satisfaction (at least the hamster is getting exercise). Like
everything that arises in our minds, FOMO can be examined as a mental object.
We can see it as a production of our brain and not a reflection of ultimate
truth. We can challenge it too. What would be so terrible if we did miss out on
something? Why is it so important to have EVERYTHING? There is an episode of
South Park that features Cartman pacing in front of a game store awaiting the
release of the new Wii. Unfortunately for him (and everyone around him) the Wii
won’t be released for another three weeks. Cartman grunts, “Come on … Come on …
How much longer …” He bemoans his fate, “Time is slowing down, It’s like
waiting for Christmas, times a 1000″ Certainly we don’t want to resemble
Cartman in any way, shape, or form. So we can look at FOMO as it arises
throughout our day and try to touch it with mindful attention. We can breathe
into this fear and see what happens. 

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