Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Teachers and Talks :: Jon Kabat-Zinn

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

No one, perhaps, has done more for the transmission of the dharma in the West than Jon Kabat-Zinn and he has done so without ever mentioning the word dharma. 

Anyone who teaches mindfulness in a secular, healthcare setting would probably not be doing so had Jon not started the Stress Reduction Clinic at U Mass Medical Center over 30 years ago.
I first heard Jon speak at a conference in Boston in 1992. Eight years later I went to Worcester to complete the Professional Internship program that he founded at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society. 
It is with great respect and love that I present this talk by Jon.


Wisdom Wednesday :: “Am I OK now? How ’bout now? And now?”

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Perhaps my mind is singular in its craziness, but my experience with others tells me that I’m not alone. Our minds are constantly asking the question: “Am I OK?” To answer this question, there must be an “I” that is relationship to events, circumstances, people and so forth.

“Am I warm enough?” “Do I have enough to eat?” “Does everyone think I’m cool?” “Am I missing out on anything?”

These questions reinforce a duality and also freezes us in time. Such questions take a snapshot of experience and usually a hasty one at that. This snapshot may be taken at a funny angle or taken in such a way that some things are obstructed from our view. Or the picture may zoom in on one aspect of our life in that moment giving it more emphasis than it deserves.


Of course, a danger in asking the question is that the answer may not be good. We may conclude, “I am NOT OK” and further conclude, “This is awful.” Distress, anguish, and suffering may ensue.
What if we didn’t ask this question, or didn’t ask it so frequently. What if we asked once per month rather than once per second? Chances are that we’d manage our lives just as well and have much less distress to contend with. 
The question, itself, is a leading one. What if instead, we could assume, “I am OK” and then when we looked our circumstances we could do so in a more objective fashion. There may be difficulties or problems to fix in the moment, but we are not the problem.

Mindfulness meditation trains us to be aware of how often we are asking these questions and gives us the option of disengaging from them and returning our attention to this moment, a moment that is free of questions and holds the potential for joy (even when we are working to solve a problem.


TED Tuesday :: Robert Thurman :: Expanding your circle of compassion

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak
TED Tuesday returns with Robert Thurman. More on compassion and the story of Asanga and his search for Maitreya in the form of a mangy dog. It’s a story of compassion through the vehicle of patience and open mind. 
He tells a classic teaching story from an Eastern perspective. The Western version of the story goes something like this. A devout and pious man prays to God everyday. There is a flood predicted but he remains calm and assured, “God will take care of me.” The rains come, the river floods and he finds himself taking refuge on his roof top. A motorboat comes by and the driver invites the man to get on board. He demurs, saying, “I’m waiting for God; he’ll take care of me.” The motorboat goes by. Some time later, a row boat comes by and the rower invites the man on board. “No thank you” the devout man says, “I’m waiting for God.” Finally, as the water continues to rise, a canoe comes by and the paddler invites the pious man onboard. He refuses again. He drowns. While transitioning into heaven, the usually quiet and humble man registers a complaint to God: “I’ve been your devout servant, I’ve prayed daily, gone to church, committed myself to a spiritual life. Was is it too much to ask for your assistance?” God replies, “Who do you think sent you the three boats?!”



Metaphor Monday :: Welcome to the Starfish Revolution

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

In the compelling book, The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom present the case for decentralization as an agent of profit and social good. 

Many entities are decentralized, including our brains. There is no central command post in the brain, no single agent issuing orders, no one neuron that holds a particular memory (despite what Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind represented). Memory is distributed across networks of neurons. 
Likewise, there is great power in decentralized organizations. Some of these “starfish” organizations discussed in the book are the Apache, AA, Wikipedia, and more. A starfish has no centralized brain and command center. If you cut off the leg of a starfish it grows back. If you cut it in half you get two starfish. 
A spider organization is the traditional model with a CEO at the top who’s in charge. These organizations are good at doing some things but not so good at others. If you cut off the head of a spider it dies. 
If we look upon the starfish and the spider as a metaphor for the self, we can see clearly in to the Buddha’s concept of anatta or no-self. We tend to regard ourselves as spider organizations — there’s someone at the top who is in charge, a CEO, a president, an ego. But when the self is examined carefully as mystics have done for millennia and scientists have done for the past 100 years or so, there is no CEO to be found. What we regard to be self arises out of the aggregation and dynamic integration of different processes. 
We are starfish.
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