Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

10 Percent Happier Courtesy of Mindfulness, Of Course

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

10percent

Greetings faithful readers. I have been busy finishing up the final draft of my forthcoming book The Awakened Introvert: A Practical Mindfulness Skills to Help you Maximize Your Strengths and Thrive in a Loud and Crazy World (New Harbinger, Spring 2015). I had a chance to read the conversation between the Harris’s and it got me thinking about dualism versus non-dualism. I’ve excerpted some quotes from that dialog and see my commentary below.

Dan Harris, author of 10 Percent Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works—A True Story, talked with Sam Harris (no relation) author of The End of Faith, on his blog Taming the Mind.

Dan: “It’s this thunderous truism: We all know on some level that we are thinking all the time, that we have this voice in our heads, and the nature of this voice is mostly negative. It’s also repetitive and ceaselessly self-referential. We walk around in this fog of memory about the past and anticipation of a future that may or may not arrive in the form in which we imagine it.”

Sam: “And this is why training the mind through meditation makes sense—because it’s the most direct way to influence the mechanics of your own experience. To remain unaware of this machinery—in particular, the automaticity of thought—is to simply be propelled by it into one situation after another in which you struggle to find lasting fulfillment amid conditions that can’t provide it. So there is a point to meditation after all—but it isn’t a goal-oriented one. In each moment of real meditation, the self is already transcended. 

“When you turn attention upon itself and look for the thinker of your thoughts, the absence of any center to consciousness can be glimpsed immediately. It can’t be found by going deeper. To go deep—into the breath or any other phenomenon you can notice—is to start looking out the window at the trees. “It simply doesn’t matter what the contents of consciousness are. The self is an illusion in any case.

I liked the analogy of looking at the glass. You can see your reflection or you can look through to the world. By following the breath out there in the world, you will eventually, reach back to the reflection. All the techniques are like scaffolding (or the raft image the Buddha used; once you use the raft to cross the river, you don’t carry it on your back). Once you have gotten far enough along with the project of getting to know yourself as a human becoming (notice I didn’t say “being”) you don’t need the scaffolding anymore and you can dismantle it. In other words, technique is a transition to a less formal place. That is where you’ll find your reflection, as it were.

The goal reinforces the self that tries to reach the goal. The major work of the practice is to keep showing up and try to be open to what is happening.

A lot of what they discussed is covered by the Third Noble Truth. Self is a construction, it is fabricated when we project a sense of ownership onto our experience. When we can stop doing that, we are nirvana. We are not adding anything to the experience of consciousness. S. Harris is talking about looking at the source of that construction. When we can turn attention to that source that construction, seemingly solid otherwise, becomes flimsy and may collapse. When it collapse the duality disappears, if momentarily. I’m not sure if the Buddha used the language of non duality, but the cessation of nirvana is the same thing.

The question of wanting leads us to the constructedness of self. Remember the exercise of asking what is it that I am seeking when my attention moves away from now? These departures from the moment are in the service of this constructed self. In fact, these desires are what keeps that building up. When the desires stop, the construction collapses and there you are in consciousness without a subject and object.

Sam: “The non-dual truth is that consciousness is already free of this thing we think we have in our heads—the ego, the thinker of thoughts, the grumpy homunculus. And the intrinsic selflessness of consciousness can be recognized, right now, before you make any effort to be free of the self through goal-oriented practice. Once you have recognized the way consciousness already is, there is still practice to do, but it’s not the same as just logging your miles of mindfulness on the breath or any other object of perception.” 

Yes. It is all available to anyone in any instant. However, the more you practice, the more opportunity you’ll have to experience it. It is like what Ben Hogan (I think) said about luck, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” When I was on retreat, the teacher Rodney Smith talked a lot about presence. I think this was his term for the non-dual awareness. We get to presence by relinquishing all secondary agendas. Easier said than done but that presence IS available always but it not reached for as much as revealed.

Sam: “Technically, it’s not true mindfulness at that point, but even when one is really balanced with one’s attention, there is still the feeling that one is patiently contemplating one’s own neurosis. It is another thing entirely to recognize that there is no self at the center of this storm in the first place.

I have written about the issue of mindfulness within the current frame of self versus mindfulness as a radical technology for change. 

Sam: “But I’ve learned, as a result of my humbling encounters with my own mind, to charitably discount everyone else’s psychopathology. I like this statement and it reminds me of one of the more salient fruits of practice—that humility. When you know how complex the brain is and how we are actively involved in constructing our experience and how the self doesn’t exist as we think, it leads to a certain skepticism about our own mind and the mind of others. It’s a daunting process and, again, our job is to keep showing up and make the effort.”

Being the host of ABC’s Nightline gave Dan Harris a great platform for promoting mindfulness and his book:

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Mud Season: The Way Beyond is (Still) Through

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Mud_1Below is a repost of a post on mud season from last year. It’s that time of year again, except that it has come much later this year, several weeks later, almost a month.

Mud season has arrived early in mid-march. Warm days and sunshine are melting the snowpack and the ground is thawing, partially in places and yielding to soft pools of mud in many spots. A sign at the nature preserve near my house has a sign encouraging hikers to walk through the mud and not around the puddles. To do so will help the ground to heal and will not prolong the proliferation of mud by extending the vulnerability of the trails by foot traffic.

In our emotional life we might heed the same advise. To heal we need to walk through the mud and not seek to go around it. The classic wisdom urges: the way beyond is through. When we avoid our difficult situations we prolong the muck. Healing happens through courageous exposure to the painful situations of our life. There is an old Buddhist saying: “Hot Buddha sweats; cold Buddha shivers.” To this we can end “Buddha walking in mud season gets wet and muddy feet!” That’s the reality of walking through the mud, our feet get wet and mud gets between our toes. That is what is so.

But we might add something to this — a resistance to this simple moist and cool reality. We don’t “want” to get our feet wet and we are willing to walk around the puddles to avoid this. In the process of doing so we damage the trail, prolong its “healing.” And what is this wanting all about? What’s wrong with wet feet? What’s the big issue with muddy toes? We typically don’t reflect on these questions and go directly to a conditioned response of aversion. And this aversion can lead to avoidance. And this avoidance can lead to an inability to heal from the situations that confront us, if we take the metaphorical suggestion of the trail to its logical conclusion. Behavioral psychology has shown us that avoidance prolongs fear conditioning.

Our natural tendency is to avoid situations that make us anxious. The avoids relieves that sense of anxiety and thereby becomes a potent reinforcement (negative reinforcement in this case). Therefore, the next time anxiety arises we are more likely to avoid it again, engaging the behavior that has been reinforced. This avoidance can become a habit, even a way of life. So the best counsel is to take a straight line path through the mud.

Notice how the mud feels, its coolness, its dampness, its texture, and so forth. If we are open to noticing in this way we might even remember the pleasure of playing in the mud as a child, long before we insisted on things being just so. There was a freedom we once had and have now lost when we impose so many conditions on the conditions we confront. To realize our Buddha nature we just need to feel the mud between our toes. If we can do so with interest and a smile we are well on our way to recapturing that lost freedom

Read more: http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/mindfulnessmatters/2010/03/mud-season-the-way-beyond-is-through.html#ixzz3071Daog3

Turtles Don’t Surf is Now Available!

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

 

TDS_book_final_-page-001-1024x1024

Jamial Yogis, author of Saltwater Buddha (SWB) and The Fear Project, has written his first children’s book, Turtles Don’t Surf (a sort of SWB for little ones)

I read an advanced copy of this book last summer and it is a lovely and touching tale about going beyond our limitations in a compassionate way.

Bravo and blessings to Jaimal on this new venture.

Here is a message from Jaimal:

Just a reminder that the launch for my first children’s book, Turtles Don’t Surf, is this Saturday at our new house across from Ocean Beach from 11 AM – 1 PM. Here are the details. There will be live music, a reading, a benefit raffle, and healthy snacks!

If you can’t make it, Turtles Don’t Surf is now on Amazon. Or you can get a signed copy through my website.

Coincidentally, Turtles Don’t Surf is the Book of the Week at Sensible Suggestions. And here’s a recent review!

Hope to see you this weekend!

Jaimal

www.jaimalyogis.com

P.S. — I’ve been doing readings at pre-schools around Northern California. Let me know if you’d like me to come to your school.

Transitions Into Spring

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak


winter_spring
The weather is such a great metaphor. Spring is reluctant to arrive. On a Monday it was 80 degrees and then on Wednesday it snowed several inches. The nights have continued to be below freezing and the greening landscape is shy to come forth.

We are variations of energy, mood, and awareness. Unlike the weather, it is harder to predict our own vicissitudes. Yet, with practice, these changes won’t matter so much.

When it is cold, we put on more layers, perhaps we’ll even shiver. When it is hot, we’ll take off those layers and perhaps we’ll shiver. We can meet the present moment conditions as they are.

If we can relinquish our desire for them to be a particular way, the sweating and shivering won’t be a problem. We aim to respond skillfully to the conditions of each moment.

The rising and falling of emotions always reveals something about what we want and don’t want in that moment. It’s amazing how many desires we have. It’s as if we are nothing else. What would happen if all the desires were stripped away?

I am sitting eating ice cream and cake. I notice that I don’t want the pleasant sensations to go away, so I am risk for gluttony. I was just out walking outside in the relative mild temperatures (nearly 60 degrees). The dogs were romping and the grass was greening. I wanted to enjoy a sense of peacefulness but then there were other people and there was an altercation. Not really an altercation, just an interaction. I had to tell someone that they shouldn’t be doing something that they were doing. All sorts of wanting adhere to this exchange. I wanted to make things right. I didn’t want to be seen in negative light. I felt a mild influx of agitated energy encroaching on that peaceful state. I could go on an on cataloguing this intricate web of cravings but I’ll spare you. Suffice it to say, things change, inexorably.

Yet, a greater sense of countenance can prevail when I stay with my breathing and make the small efforts to disentangle my attention from the ceaseless flux of conditions, desires, and grasping.

I can feel time moving too. It is moving at a faster rate than I would like, the weekend slipping away. Here too, I can remind myself that I participate in the construction of time. If I enhance the resolution of my attention on the present moment, time will slow down. The markers that make it go fast will drop away and I’ll just be here with whatever experience is prevailing now.

Just as we are transitioning from winter into spring, we are always transitioning from one moment to the next and from one state to another. Happy next moment!

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