Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

250px-Louis_Oosthuizen_Telkom_PGA_Championship,_Fourth_round,_24_Feb_2008.jpgSunday 18 July was the 92nd birthday of Nelson Mandela and fittingly the British Open Championship was one by a South African, Louis Oosthuizen (pronounced “woost-hazen”). He walked down the 18th fairway, accompanied by his caddie of seven years, Zack Rasego; white and black walking together to victory. Oosthuizen was raised by farmers and needed help from the Ernie Els Foundation to afford to play golf. Zach calls them the “Rainbow Team.”

This is South Africa’s greatest sport summer, first with the World Cup and now with one of their own winning one of Golf’s Major Championships. During apartheid, South Africa was banned from International sport. 
Oosthuizen maintained his composure on the world’s biggest golf stage to extend his 5-stroke lead going into the final round. One commentator described the round as “boring” but I found it quite riveting. Would this 27-year-old kid, ranked 54th in the world, be able to maintain his composure and his lead? This is extraordinarily difficult. Many before him have faltered.
“It was a battle for me to keep calm round this course. That was the biggest goal for me, to keep calm. It’s probably going to hit me tomorrow or the week after what I did,” said Oosthaizen after his victory.

He did so, in part, by focusing on a red dot applied to his golf glove. This red dot served as a trigger to bring him to mindfulness before he made his swing. By his own admission, his thoughts are all over the place, but this dot helped him to draw his attention to now. The results were remarkable. He finished 7 strokes ahead of his closest competitor, leaving names like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in the dust (he beat them by 14 and 18 strokes respectively). 

Upon receiving the Claret Jug, his first words of thanks were Happy Birthday to Nelson Mandela

To read more, visit PGA Tour.com

Dharma Punx: Going “Against the Stream” by Noah Levine

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

In his latest book, Against the Stream: A Buddhist Manual for Spiritual Revolutionaries, Noah Levine, author of Dharma Punx, tells us just how radical the Buddha’s teachings are in a refreshing new way. He starts, “Against the Stream is more than just another book about Buddhist meditation. It is a manifesto and field guide for the front lines of the revolution. It is the culmination of almost two decades of meditative dissonance from the next generation of Buddhists in the West. It is a call to awakening for the sleeping masses.” This revolution began 2500 years ago with Siddhartha Gautama (aka, “Sid” aka, the “Buddha”) but Levine feels it is has gotten bogged down in dogmatism and corruption of the Buddha’s original teachings. He goes back to these teachings and so this book is more about Buddha than Buddhism. It’s a “radical, and subversive personal rebellion against the causes of suffering and confusion.”

against_stream.jpg

The Buddha found a way beyond suffering, but this path does not provide insurance against pain and difficulty; it is not a meal ticket to unceasing bliss. This is one of the first planks of the revolutionary manifesto. The first plank is that there is no self, no “me” to suffer. This is discovered through real-time mindful awareness of the present moment. After his awakening, the Buddha did not set forth to teach right away. He hesitated. “To ask people to accept pain and a spiritual liberation that does not include bliss all of the time seemed crazy.” As it was 2500 years ago, this path is still hard. Levine cautions, “If you are looking for a quick fix or easy salvation, turn back now, plug back into the matrix, and enjoy your delusional existence. This is a path for rebels, malcontents, and truth seekers.”

The Buddha used a metaphor to help direct his future. He looked at a lotus pond and realized the lotuses were at different stages of development. Many were still stuck in the mud and deep under the water. Some had reached the surface, and others had broken through. If the mud is the unenlightened existence of ignorance, hatred, and greed, there were those who, no matter what, would not get the teachings. However there were others that would be more receptive, more ready to here the truth of what he taught and be willing to try it out for themselves. Thus, the Buddha set out on his 45-year teaching career.

To wake up in our society is a radical act. To reject consumerism and the relentless pursuit of pleasure is downright un-American. Levine is right in this way that there was something radical for the Buddha’s insights in the Axial age and that radical spirit persists in the Information Age. His teachings went “against the stream.”

The Revolutionary Manifesto: (1) Defy the lies (materialism, et cetera) “Human beings have created a deeply dysfunctional culture” The American ideal, oppression of native peoples, immigrants, slavery. Organized religion has a history of violence, extremism “I would reject so-called Buddhism along with the rest, because much of what masquerades as Buddhism today is in direct opposition to what the Buddha actually did and taught” (e.g., direct experience versus dogma; the example of the Shugin controversy in Tibet, should people beseech this deity?) “The spiritual revolutionary defies both the internal and external forces of oppression”

2. Serve the truth. “We must dedicate ourselves to finding the deepest compassion and highest wisdom, and from that place we can live in accordance with the truth of reality” “The spiritual revolutionary practices nonviolence … generosity …” and engagement to help others” in other words waking up from our self-centered existence that generates suffering. 3. Beware of teachers. Be a light unto yourselves” said the Buddha. “Don’t believe anything based on tradition or charismatic presentation” Sit down and discover or confirm the truths for yourself.

4. Question everything. “Accept nothing as true until you have experienced it for yourself”

The 8 Hooks: How Mindfulness Can Get You Off the Hook

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

In the Pathamalokadhamma Sutta, the Buddha said,



Among humans, these things, namely,
Gain, loss, status, disrepute, blame, praise, pleasure, and pain
Naturally are impermanent, uncertain, and liable to change,
The wise, ever mindful, understand these things,
And contemplate them as always shifting and changing
Thus, delightful things cannot oppress their minds,
They have no reaction to disagreeable things,
They have abandoned all liking and disliking (for worldly concerns).
Further, they know the path of nirvana, dust-free and without sorrow,

They have reached the other shore of existence and know this correctly.

The Buddha warns about the eight worldly things to avoid. These four pairs of opposites are reflected in the above sutra.

1) Taking delight in money, materials possession; Feeling distress when separated from these things
(2) Taking delight in praise and things that boost the ego; Feeling distress when receiving criticism or disapproval
(3) Taking delight in maintaining a good reputation or personal image; Feeling distress when image and reputation are diminished

(4) taking delight when making contact with pleasurable things; Feeling distress when making contact with unpleasurable things.

What does the Buddha mean here? These are eight hooks for the mind and are thusly eight attitudes that make us vulnerable to dukkha (suffering; pervasive dissatisfaction, and so forth). The Buddha is not encouraging us to become zombie-like with no self-preserving instincts. Rather, he is cautioning against basing our self-worth, happiness, and well-being on their occurrence. In other words, beware of contingent self-worth. All things mentioned here are either not in our direct control (that is, it is something someone else does to us) or they cannot be controlled because they are always changing (that is, the fundamental truth of impermanence). He is not saying don’t enjoy things but he is saying that enjoyment might be a double-edged sword if not tempered by wisdom of impermanence. He is saying don’t take yourself so seriously. He is saying don’t invest so much energy into self-protection. Don’t base your self-worth on what other people think of you. In fact, spend less time on figuring out your self-worth and more time on paying attention to your experience (and while you’re at it, why not focus on helping others, or at least not doing harm to others).

Gain, loss, status, disrepute, blame, praise, pleasure, and pain are eight hooks to avoid and we are beset by them constantly. Inevitably we succumb to them on a regular basis. Alternatively, each moment is an opportunity to recognize the hook and to disentangle ourselves from its barbed grasp. Mindfulness practice helps us to disentangle. To be mindful is to see how we are hooked and allowing fear to overtake us. We can see how our sense of OK-ness has become contingent. If we breathe through the feelings that our emotional brain thro
ws at us, we can realize that while some problem may need to be solved, we are not in mortal peril and don’t require activation of our most primitive defenses. We can breathe into this moment with interest and a commitment to get off the hook or put our energy towards solving the problem in a practical matter. If the problem can’t be solved right away, we can breathe through the uncertainty. That, I think, is what the Buddha meant.

Razor Wire Dharma

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

What could be a better place to practice meditation than prison? Many have discovered the transformative potential of doing time and exploited that opportunity to do important work on themselves. The documentary film, Doing Vipassana, Doing Time depicts the remarkable work of S. N. Goenka in a New Delhi prison. In this city of a prison, he offers traditional Burmese-style 10-day Vipassana meditation retreats. The rules for a Vipassana course are actually more stringent than those for regular prison life. The schedule goes from early in the morning to late at night with hour after hour of sitting meditation. It’s an encounter with your mind where there is “no escape.” Having the escape exits blocked, participants can see clearly into the conditioned nature of experience and the constructed nature of self. This is, perhaps, the only form of truly meaningful prison rehabilitation. The psychologist G. Alan Marlatt has also taken Vipassana to prisons in the U.S. to help substance addicted individuals. In prison, we find discipline leads to freedom.

Another form of prison dharma is found in the poignant and powerful memoire, Razor Wire Dharma: A Buddhist Life in Prison by Calvin Malone (Wisdom Publications). Here is an excerpt where he describes the mundane experience of eating an apple, an apple that stood out from the usual horrible prison food he was subjected to.

“Breathing in I smelled apple, breathing out the universe. Everything there is or ever was was contained in this apple. I could see it with the wild exactness of shattered glass. The answer and the question were there in the apple. i was feeling an inexplicable joy, keenly aware. I never fore felt better in my life. I realized this moment was as good as it gets”

The Buddha’s teaching offer this form of radical freedom. That the happiest moment of your life could occur during a prion sentence. That true happiness could arise from the simple beauty of an apple, a living thing connected to everything else in the entire universe. Our usual days miss this miracle, as we move around lost in our stories and taking the apples and other miraculous occurrences that we encounter for granted. Buddhist practice and the time afforded by prison can be a potent combination for change, as Calvin Malone’s book demonstrates.

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