Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

No More Fooling Around: Changing the World Through Mindfulness

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

AA030865Today 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 accomplished through sustainable business practices and leaders who embody mindfulness.

Without transformation at an individual level nothing much can happen. When the three fires prevail people will continue to perpetuate violence. I don’t just mean aggression. I mean speaking with integrity as in Nonviolent Communication and being cognizant of how actions affect others and the world around us. We perpetrate all manner of violence and these violences can be traced to the Three Fires.

So, we’ll start with these fires. They are greed, hatred, and confusion. You may also see these referred to as the three poisons but the Buddha used the metaphor of fire. These fires burn and consume our lives and without the mental training that has mindfulness at its core, they are likely to continue burning. It is possible that the fire can go out.

Greed aka desire, blinding passion, and lust operates on gross and subtle levels. The obvious level is the obsessive dedication to the acquisition of material wealth. Having more and more things and the underlying but mistaken belief that such acquisitions will lead to happiness.

Greed also operates at a less obvious level. We want things in micro fashion too. We want to feel a certain way, to think a certain way, to be seen a certain way. In fact, every moment of existence is colored by some type of desire most of it out of awareness. Yet, despite being out of conscious reach, these desires shape our behavior. The more unaware of these desire-based commitments the more attached to them we are. The more attached we are, the more anguish we will feel and inflict through unskillful behavior.

Meditation practice can bring this hidden world of grasping into focus. We can see how the mind reaches out for things in every moment, whether these are material things or experiential things. We want confirmation, validation, and reassurance. These desires are ceaseless, endless, and bottomless. They can never be fully satisfied.

Hatred aka aversion is our tendency to push things away. It is overt hatred and hostility and it is the more subtle not wanting of experience. We don’t want to be uncomfortable, uncertain, or inconvenienced. We seek power over things rather than cooperation with them, including other people. We separate ourselves from others through linguistic distinctions all in the form of “us” versus “them.”  These comparisons are countless and each one accentuates a sense of separation that would cease to exist if examined closely enough.

That examination occurs during meditation. We discover that it is the mind that constructs and supports these labels, distinctions, and categories. They originate in the mind and are perpetuated by culture and we take them for granted.

The combination of greed and hatred results in a ceaseless pushing against and pulling towards every moment of existence. This pushing and pulling requires time and energy that could be spent making the world a better place but is wasted in the futile attempt to seek a secure foothold in an impermanent world.

Confusion aka ignorance and delusion is a misapprehension of the three marks of existence. We are confused about the how the mind works, how physics work (impermanence), and what the self is. These will be covered in their own entry next time.

These three fires drive behavior in the world that leads to harm. Simple as that. The comedian Jim Carey hitting a serious note in a graduation address said, “The effect we have on others is the most valuable currency there is.” Mindfulness can facilitate these effects to be beneficial, promoting the greater good.

Mindfulness for Introverts

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

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. I discuss how it is important for us introverts to befriend our introversion and at the same time not become too identified with this label. Ultimately, we move beyond the notions of introversion and extroversion to find a more enduring sense of place in the world that is fluid, peaceful, and mindful.

We’ll be exploring these themes in more depth and with the experiential practice of mindfulness at Kripalu from August 3-8.  23.5 continuing education credits available for psychologists and social workers.

The transformative power of mindfulness . . .

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

jackkornfieldAs 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 change in your life, mindfulness practice is one of the most effective ways to do it (and it even takes less time than you might think).

But how can we wade through life’s challenges and obligations to make mindfulness a regular part of everyday life?

This is a unique opportunity to experience the power of mindfulness in a new and exciting way, and begin to open your heart to greater compassion, healing, and joy.

You’ll be part of the Mindful Learning Community, a group of people from all over the world who have come together to learn from one of the world’s most cherished mindfulness teachers.

So I hope you’ll take a moment to have a look and see what this extraordinary opportunity is all about.

Sincerely,

Arnie

PS If you’ve been looking for a way to create more balance and peace in your everyday life, this can help.

PPS Registration won’t be open for long, just a week, so just click here to take a look now.

7 Contemplations for Realizing the Spiritual Introvert Edge (for introverts AND extroverts)

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

NMYRSpirituality Defined

“Spiritual but not religious” is a popular designation. What does it mean to be spiritual? There may be as many definitions of spirituality as spiritual people. Everyone puts their unique imprint on what it is to be a spiritual person. These definitions range from religious without the ritual, super-natural, and mystical on one end of the continuum to humanistic, value-based, and practical on the other. I tend to prefer the latter—a spirituality defined as anything that transcends the individual narrative of self. It manifests in your values: what you consider to be most important in your life. It goes beyond selfish concerns to a compassionate engagement with self, others, and the planet-at-large. Spirituality opens us to realms of consciousness that are simply not available when we are self-preoccupied. Introverts and extroverts have equal access to spirit and will approach it from different angles.

Introversion and Extroversion Within All of Us

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about introverts and extroverts. We all have qualities of both, with most of us having a center of gravity that resides in one end of that continuum or the other. Our introvert tendencies have a preference for thinking over action, quiet time to boisterous socializing, and intense focus on one thing over a multiplicity of activities. An extroverted form of spirituality can be found in evangelical Christianity. Here, the spiritual action is social—converting people to the faith with less of an emphasis on quiet contemplation. An introverted form of spirituality can be found in the teachings of the Buddha, a quiet path of interior contemplation, meditation, and stillness.

The Interior Door to Spirit

The inner door to spirit requires a quiet place of solitude to be realized. It is found when the body is still and the mind stops its talking, commentary, and judgment. The interior will be more familiar, comfortable, and accessible for introverts. The interior is also accessible for extroverts when they develop an interest towards the internal world of imagination, concentration, and contemplation. Access to the interior is a learnable skill; you can practice it whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. This access will likely involve slowing things down so you can appreciate the subtleties of your senses and the mind. The interior can be a nuanced form of perception as well as an explosion of emotional intensity, creativity, and insight.

The Buddha was a Spiritual Introvert

Siddhartha Gotama, the Buddha to be, was most likely an introvert who was forced to behave like an extrovert during the earlier part of his life. He went from the extreme of 29 years of a princely life of indulgence, luxury and privilege to an austere life of deprivation in his six years of seeking a way beyond suffering in the forests of Northern India. His famous discovery of the Middle Way navigated between these extremes and was also a call for a balance to between our introverted and extroverted tendencies. On the verge of death from starvation, the Buddha remembered a day when he was eight-years-old and fell into a spontaneous meditation under a rose apple tree. This memory inspired him to seek the middle path and was a rare instant when he had some solitude in his early life. The Buddha’s spirituality advocated an introverted path of meditating alone with a community of like-minded others. He valued silence, stillness, and seclusion that was not lonely.

The Buddha’s Spirituality

The Buddha’s teachings were non-speculative and promoted a vision of humanity that was non-contingent. The Buddha deflected all metaphysical questions seeing them as a distraction from the pressing task at hand: how to relieve the sense of anguish that besets us in every moment. This is all he cared about: the causes and end of suffering. He compared speculation on the nature of the universe, soul, and rebirth to a man struck with a poison arrow who refuses medical treatment until he can know every possible detail of that arrow. If you are bleeding out, does it matter what kind of wood the arrow was made from? The Buddha also discovered that happiness does not depend on anything. It is non-contingent on conditions, internal or external. Life is a continual process and there is nothing that stands outside of this flow—not even our sense of self. When we can experience this never-ending process we can come to know great peace and relief from the relentless suffering that motivated his spiritual journey in the first place.

Introversion as Solitude, Quiet, and Focus

The introverted aspects of everyone’s nature emphasize solitude, quiet, and focus. Each of these is central to the Buddha’s spirituality. American society has become overly reliant on extrovert qualities such as talking frequently and loudly, doing more and more, and never slowing down or being disconnected from communications and information. This extrovert culture has squeezed out solitude, drowned out quiet, and dispersed attention. We have forgotten Thoreau’s lessons from Walden on the value of quiet, undisturbed contemplation. Life moves too fast to go deep with concentration. The pace of life is relentless with no room for quiet spirituality. Meditation is a vehicle for bringing these three introvert qualities back into the forefront of attention.

Mindfulness Gives You the Introvert Edge

Mindfulness is growing in popularity in part because we are starved for silence in our lives. Mindfulness nurtures that connection to the interior by training the mind to extricate itself from involvement with painful, difficult, or distracting stories and, instead, to pay attention to the ceaseless flow of life happening in this moment. Whether you are prone to be an introvert or an extrovert, mindfulness gives you the advantageous edge of introversion: looking within from solitude. Mindfulness meditation practice develops your ability to focus and to reclaim your attention from the fragmented, loud, and chaotic demands of everyday life. Mindfulness trains the mind to be spiritual by giving you access to that interior flow and releasing you from self-preoccupation. Join me in August for a 5-day workshop at the wonderfully spiritual, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. The Introvert Edge: Mindfulness Meditation for Finding Peace and Quiet in a Loud and Crazy World will run from August 3 to 8. Click here for more information and to Register Now.

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