Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

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.

A Special Opportunity for Opening Your Heart in Relationship with Tara Brach

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Tara-WoodsyI’d like to let you know about a special opportunity with my charma friend Tara Brach who is one of the more authentic and beloved mindfulness teachers. She is author of the bestsellers Radical Acceptance and more recently, True Refuge. Please read about this special program below.

It’s often challenging to remain open and trusting when relationships get tough.

Sometimes it can be much easier to walk away in hurt and judgment. And that’s because our own insecurity can become toxic, lead to defensiveness, and cause us to shut down.

Mindfulness can help us get beyond this, to bring intimacy back into romantic relationships, closeness back into friendships, friendliness back into families, and love back into our hearts.

That’s why I’m so excited to let you know about a special new program from my friends at NICABM, featuring beloved and world-renowned mindfulness teacher Tara Brach, PhD.

They’ve joined together to bring you this rare (and unique) opportunity to explore deeply the power of mindfulness to transform relationships and strengthen connections.

Just click here to take a look now.

During this exciting, and unique program, Tara will share with you the wisdom that so many have benefited from. She will be your guide on a journey toward empowering clients to ease away from self-criticism, transform negativity, and open their hearts to more compassion and love.

And this is so much more than just a program. It’s a life-changing experience, focused on giving you the mindfulness skills that can help clients truly radically change their relationships, and even their lives.

Here’s the link again where you can find out more.

I really hope you’ll check it out – it could be the key to transforming your relationships.

Sincerely,

Arnie

Lotus flowers in garden under sunlight.

Equanimity in the Face of Adversity, Controversy, and Memory

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak
Photo credit: The Economic Times

Photo credit: The Economic Times

The Dalai Lama recently visited with President Obama. Not such an unusual event since they have visited before, but the Chinese Government used this as an opportunity to complain, threaten, and posture.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been through a lot. The Chinese occupied his homeland in 1949 and he went into exile in 1959. I won’t go into the politics of this issues or the death and destruction that has occurred, since these have been covered elsewhere (just Google it).

What I will comment upon is the value of a non-violent approach in dealing with conflict, adversity, and tragedy. A bitter, begrudging, and vengeful attitude would seem to be justified for the Dalai Lama in reference to China. But His Holiness has eschewed that approach in favor of compassion.

Why do the Chinese do what they do? Why does anyone do what they do? How can we understand the presence of violence, hate, and coercion in the world? It’s simple. People act destructively because they are in the grips of forces they cannot or choose not to control. Namely, these forces are greed or unrelenting desire, hatred or aversion, and confusion or delusion. When people are not in the grip of these forces, they enjoy generosity, love, and wisdom. Sounds potentially self-righteous, but I wonder if it’s not true.

The power-hungry would characterize this loving approach as weak. Fair enough. But I would tender the question as to whether there is more to this existence than power and control over material? I have no doubt that Mao Zedong got an intoxicating feeling from wielding power. Was he, however, happy? I speculate that he was not. Power breads pleasure but its fleeting nature is bound to bring anxiety too. Power reinforces that sense of “me” and “my” accomplishments.

If we embrace non-contingent love as the Dalai Lama does (and Buddhists and Buddha-inspired individuals all around the world), then the outer circumstances don’t matter. “I love you no matter what.” This doesn’t mean that His Holiness does not work towards political solutions for his people. He works. Yet, he works without attachment. Again, I speculate, but I think we have it on good authority that this is his attitude.

The Dalai Lama said in an interview in the Hindustan Times, “He (Chairman Mao) appears to me as a father and he himself considered me as a son. (We had) very good relations.” – See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/mao-zedong-considered-me-as-his-son-dalai-lama/article1-878134.aspx#sthash.qWtSZHeZ.dpuf

Contrast this attitude to how we typically those who harm us. There is no plaintive narrative about how Mao ruined his life and wrecked his country. Instead, there is fond remembrance. Is this denial? Or is it wisdom?

What would we gain if we viewed the setbacks in our life within a fond frame of reference? Enmity, rumination, and complaint only foster negative feelings for the host, not the perpetrator. This is the wisdom of letting things be, of letting go into this moment. By letting go, the best action moving forward can be engaged because it is not being obstructed by attachments to the past.

There is freedom in relinquishing the narrative and dwelling in the present. We can learn a thing or two from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He keeps pursuing his cause but he does not appear to be base his moment-by-moment happiness upon it.

Can we be agents of unattached change in the world too?

 

Sit Still

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

AA039964If you listen carefully to my meditation instructions, you might detect a contradiction. On the one hand, I de-emphasize the posture because I don’t want people to get deterred by the physical difficulties of sitting. On the other hand, I encourage everyone to sit still and to resist the reflexive tendency to scratch every itch. Sitting practice opens to a new dimension when you are not compelled to relieve every discomfort that comes your way.

So, which is it? Don’t sit still or sit still? Perhaps the contradiction is avoided by viewing the transition from not worrying about the posture to being still like a rock through time.

I have observed in my own practice that whenever my attention leaves the present moment to explore some story, my body starts to move. I re-adjust my posture, crack my back or neck, and scratch itches without realizing it. I recently came across some notes on embodied cognition, a fascinating field of research that confirms that many of our concepts reflect embodied states. Giving someone the cold shoulder or a weighty idea are not just flourishes of language, they represent actually embodied states. That is, people feel colder when they are socially rejected; a clipboard with important ideas feels heavier.

These findings from embodied cognition have implications for meditation practice too. If the body is moving, perhaps the mind is moving. If the body is still, perhaps this gives the mind a better chance to be still. I say a better chance because we certainly no that it is not a guarantee. The physical posture of sitting becomes an embodied metaphor for stillness. You come to understand the potential for stillness in the mind by experiencing stillness in your body.

If you read Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, you will find detailed instructions on how to sit. In fact, these are pretty much the entirety of Shunryu Suzuki’s meditation instructions. The practice of sitting and sitting still is the practice. If you start out trying to sit in a rock-solid technical way, you might be deterred from practice. This is why I de-emphasize posture for beginning students. However, if you don’t eventually work at becoming still, your practice will get stuck.

At the same time, you can get stuck by focusing too much on the physical posture. Some people are just good at sitting and the mind can still be off the leash. As with everything, we seek balance. Try to firm up your posture and notice what effect this has on the mind.

Enjoy sitting still!

Previous Posts

A Chilling View Inside the Quiet Room: Electric Shocks Preferred to Sitting Still
A study recently published in Science provides a window into the restless soul of Americans and a compelling case of why we need mindfulness. University of Virginia psychologist Timothy Wilson and colleagues conducted a series of experiments where subjects spent time alone in an unadorned room. We

posted 8:53:12am Aug. 29, 2014 | read full post »

Drive by Shooting: Mindfulness on NPR
It's not surprising when a feature on mindfulness appears in a major media outlet. Mindfulness is popular. This time it is a sub-four minute interview on NPR. Tamara Keith spoke with Sharon Salzberg, one of the co-

posted 6:25:54pm Jul. 22, 2014 | read full post »

No More Fooling Around: Changing the World Through Mindfulness
Today I will start a series of posts about how we can change the world through mindfulness and the wisdom of the Buddha's teachings. This transformation starts with individuals and progresses through groups, corporations, and then societies. Ultimately, a global movement is possible and will be acco

posted 10:47:16am Jul. 16, 2014 | read full post »

Mindfulness for Introverts
Mindfulness is a natural fit for introverts. The act of meditation itself is an introverted activity and at the same time equips introverts to navigate their interior without getting stuck in rumination. I recently wrote an essay for the Kripalu Thrive blog entitled Mindfulness for Introverts.

posted 3:26:51pm Jul. 08, 2014 | read full post »

The transformative power of mindfulness . . .
As I mentioned last week, there is a special learning opportunity upcoming with Jack Kornfield. I hope you got a chance to look at his videos. Registration is now open to take advantage of studying mindfulness with one of the most beloved American teachers. When it comes to creating real, lasting

posted 11:28:48am Jun. 17, 2014 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.