Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness in Sport: The Embodiment of Awakening (Part Three)

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

It’s Sport Saturday. This entry continues an essay on using sport to awaken. Click here to read part one and part two here

Mindfulness and sport-samadhi can also impact how we deal
with exertion and the limits of our body. I have noticed, especially when I am
running uphill, if my mind is engaged in a future-oriented conversation, that I
am more apt to give up and not push through the pain and discomfort of that


This future-oriented story may be mindless chatter, or it can also be
focused on the activity itself. For instance, if I look up the hill and think
to myself, “my god, that’s a long way up, I’ll never be able to stomach that,”
it is very different than staying with the experience of embodiment at that


The running, when it becomes an experience lived in the moment is a
succession of moments. And as intense as they may be, because attention is
focused on now instead of moments from now, the crush of the future is
relieved. Again, an important distinction is to attend to the experience of the
body at the level of description versus the level of analysis. 


At the level of
description there are sensations, and these may be described as intense, warm,
pulsing, constricting, sharp, dull, and so forth. Notice that I did not mention
pain or fatigue. Pain and fatigue are labels applied by the thinking mind after
it has analyzed the sensations. 

By identifying with the label we are moved away
from the experience. I find that whenever I do this – think about how painful
the running is or how much pressure I feel in my chest — I am apt to stop
running and walk the hill. However, I get a lot more out of myself by staying
in the moment of now and feeling the sensations rather than thinking about


This is not the same as brute gutting through the experience of what
might be called pain. We need to listen to our bodies and to extract any vital
information out of the sensations and perceptions we are having. We should know
the difference between sensations that can be pushed through and those that
should be respected. 

The experience of attending to sensations at the level of
description can become a useful analog for all of life with similar benefits
from staying with our experiences as experiences in the present moment. 

many of us though, this mindfulness experience comes off with the running
shoes. No transition occurs and a split between our sport life and the rest of
our life can emerge. Daily meditation practice can help to eliminate that
transition and to facilitate moving between the meditative experiences of sport
and the activities of your day, including all the activities we do such as
eating, washing dishes, driving, loving, and working.


Site/Sight :: The Mindful Art of Ellen Kozak

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak


Over Labor Day Weekend I visited the gallery opening for my cousin, the artist Ellen Kozak at  Argazzi Art in Lakeville Connecticut
Ellen’s work Site/Sight is a reflection on the impermanence of nature from the perspective of the surface of water. She lives part of year along the bank of the Hudson River and goes to the river for her inspiration. Her work is a meditation on the changing nature of reality.
Here is an excerpt her artist statement:
I work from observation sometimes finishing paintings in one session but more often continuing to work on a painting for days or months. i am interested in looking at things, at change at the passage of time through the mediating lens of reflective surfaces. 
The Buddha loved river metaphors comparing the self to a river. It has some kind of identity and is changing moment-by-moment.  
To sit in the “chapel” of Argazzi Art and contemplate these representations of nature can be a meditation experience. Each piece captures a moment of perception, a moment of being alive and awake to see the beauty that is around us at all times in the form of light reflecting off surfaces.
We, too, are reflections off a surface. We don’t apprehend reality as much as construct through our perceptions. What we take to be “self” is such a reflection. Changing depending on the light and the angle from which it is construed. We too are fleeting representations of color and light. 
If you are local to Lakeville, CT, I encourage you to go see the show, which hangs until 6 October 2010. 


Teachers and Talks: Pema Chodron

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Ani Pema Chödrön is an American Buddhist nun and author whose teachings and writings on meditation have helped make Buddhism accessible to a broad Western audience. She currently directs the Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, Canada, the first Tibetan monastery in North America for Western monastics and lay practitioners.

Pema Chodron is the author of many fine books, including Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advise for Difficult Times, and Uncomfortable With Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Fearlessness and Compassion, the book that inspired the title of my book, Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness. 

Watch her interview with Bill Moyers on his series Faith and Reason:



Wisdom Wednesday: Waiting for a Train and the Beauty of Persistence

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Over Labor Day Weekend, I found myself waiting for a train at Newark Airport. I arrived about 15 minutes late for the train I wanted to catch, the 9:30. I grumbled to myself with a complaint about having to wait. Before that thought could finish echoing through my tired mind another thought arose. “45 minutes? A perfect time to meditate” I sat down in the then empty train station and began to practice in the industrial quiet. 

Soon, the air was filled with the arising and fading away of sound. I heard Asian languages, Slavic languages, English with a Spanish accent and the baritone booming voice of the station master calling in trains and announcing delays.
Perhaps my train would be delayed too? No matter, I’m enjoying my practice. 
This is the beauty of mindfulness meditation practice. It is both portable and durable. We can do it wherever we are in whatever conditions we find ourselves. I felt refreshed and renewed after practice. My travel-weary body transitioning into the next moment (and challenge) with ease.


Challenges always arise during family visits for reasons Buddhists and psychoanalysts alike can appreciate. Lot’s of old conditionings to confront.
But that’s not the point of this entry. Instead, I wanted to talk about the beauty of persistence. At my parents home in New Jersey, my mother has planted impatiens in planters around the front entry way. Impatiens are an annual variety, needing to be replanted each season. 
These precocious impatiens had reseeded themselves and were making an initial foray towards being an invasive species. Some had sprouted in a crack on the asphalt driveway, a testament to the will to life. In a sense these flowers, too, demonstrated portability and durability as they seeded themselves all around and in unlikely places.
These impatiens are a metaphor for the juxtaposition of the sacred and mundane, beauty and starkness, natural and artificial. 
I hope your labor day contained moments of mindfulness and surprising beauty. These are always available when we give ourselves permission to look!
With blessings and gratitude,
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