Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

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!

Transitions, Attachments, and Hope

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Stowe_1It’s been a long winter here in Northern Vermont and elsewhere around the country. The mountain is still frozen and buried in snow. In the valley, the long buried grass, brown and tired, is emerging from under the receding glacier, yet my yard is still buried in snow.

The calendar reads April but we are uncertain about the season. The long grip of winter gives rise to the hope for spring. Attachment presents itself in both pushing away from winter and pulling towards spring.

I have retired my snowboard and I’m ready to pick up my golf clubs. I’ll have to wait though.

The sun was shining yesterday and I took advantage of the sunshine to spend my last day carving up the mountain. From the top of the lift at Stowe, one can see most of the world. The White Mountains are visible to the east. Jay Peak can be seen north. Camel’s Hump and Sugarbush trace the spine of the Green Mountains. And Lake Champlain is very visible because it is still frozen and snow covered.

In Vermont, we are about to enter the next of our six seasons but it is not yet spring. Soon, it will be Mud Season. The heavy snows will eventually melt and the frozen ground will yield to water. The rains will come and the dirt roads will soften into rutted ooze. It will take nearly a month for the water and the earth to come back into balance. Meanwhile we wait.

Of course, the season’s transitions are metaphors for our personal transitions. The seasons happen with reasonable reliability. While winter has been long, it still follows fall and precedes spring. Our own transitions may not have such regularity. Losses, surprises, and uncertainties of all kinds visit us daily.

Mindfulness practice can help us to embrace these uncertainties with a sense of resolve, calm, and dignity. Like the spring, we don’t know when resolution of a problem will arrive. Perhaps never, if it is a chronic situation like chronic pain. So we just breathe with the vicissitudes, coming in and out like the breath.

Mindfulness teaches us patience, too. It asks us to set aside the plaintive narratives. I’ve heard a lot of grousing this winter about the weather. People love to hate the weather, especially winter. When the story is quiet, however, we can be at peace with whatever is present whether that is a grey, drizzly sky or a tumultuous emotion, a difficult conversation, or financial precariousness. We can embrace all of it.

In this transition to spring, I invite you to be open to the changes. Bring curiosity to them. Breathe with patience. Before we know it, we’ll be saying good bye to spring and summer; let’s not be so greedy for their arrival.

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