Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

P is for Perfectionism; M is for Mindfulness

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

1704_1083img16The February Kripalu Compass Newsletter featured an article I wrote on perfectionism and mindfulness. You can read it here.

“My basement was a disaster for months, a dumping ground for junk: empty boxes, retired appliances and gadgets, books, old LPs, outdoor gear. Each time I walked through the clutter, I felt anxious. I also felt stuck. And, because my studio is down there, no creative work was getting done.

Perfectionism can be a limiting force in our lives. When we’re not mindful of its effects, it can keep us stuck, disappointed, and frustrated.”

Read more.

I will be teaching at Kripalu in March. Find out more and register now:

Mindfulness A-Z: Getting Unstuck from Regret, Perfectionism, and Procrastination

 

The Mindful Revolution Comes of Age: Cover Story in Time Magazine

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

TimeMindfulness made the cover of Time Magazine this week in an article entitled: The Mindful Revolution: The science of finding focus in a stressed-out, multitasking culture.

This is not the first time meditation has graced the cover of time. For a review of the gender politics of these covers that both feature beautiful blondes meditating, see Joanna Piacenza’s Huffington Post critique.

This is good exposure, cover notwithstanding, for the proliferation of mindfulness in our culture. A good shot in the arm. But the article does not cover much new ground.

It starts in the right place with the writer Kate Pickert taking an MBSR course. It follows Jon Kabat-Zinn’s story of founding MBSR in 1979 and give some contemporary updates.

The one interesting tidbit I gleaned from the article is how it is now so trendy to do mindfulness in Silicon Valley that if you’re not doing it, eyebrows will be raised. I hope this continues.

 

Report from the Internal Front: A Week of Silence

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

IMSGreetings everyone. I have a report from the meditation retreat I embarked upon in early December. I should have written sooner when the impressions were fresher, but daily life has a way of asserting itself.

The week in silence feels like a blur now. The interminably long days have given way back to days that just don’t have enough hours. There is a fascinating relationship between the quality of attention and the experience of time and also the agendas we attempt during the course of a given day.

On retreat, life is elemental. The principle activities of the day are sitting and walking meditation. These comprise about nine to ten hours each day. In between cycles of sitting and walking meditation are meals with some break time.

One of those break periods are for work practice where yogis do a housekeeping or kitchen job and continue to practice mindfully and silently. I also got outside walking and running. In the evening, the teachers, Narayan Liebenson Grady and Rodney Smith, gave dharma talks–lectures on Buddhist psychology, ethics, and practice.

The day is long when you do nothing other than sit and walk and eat and all the other little things that happen during the course of a day deveoted to presence.

It’s easy to have expectations for a week like this. It takes a lot to make the arrangements, to say good-bye to loved ones to enter into silence, and letting go off all your daily responsibilities, goals, and commitments. When you show up, you naturally want to make the most of this time. However, if that desire takes the form of striving that effort will get in the way of getting the desired results. It is only by not trying that you can get what you want.

It’s easy to get caught up on marking time on retreat. I certainly did this. After the first day on Saturday, a day that seemed to stretch on forever, we had completed one of the six full days of the retreat. Only five more to go! The more I did these tabulations, the slower time moved. The paradox of time reveals that it is only by not counting time that it starts to flow. A solid week of silence is interminably long yet the week is really comprised of this moment followed by the next moment on and on until the final bell has rung.

Retreat time is an opportunity to train the mind. It’s like boot camp–dedicated, intensive, out of the bounds of the usual. Patience is one of the primary trainings. Just trying to dwell in presence reveals how impatient the mind usually is, at least my mind. It took three solid days of leaning into the future to finally arrive, fully, in the present moment. This occurred on Tuesday morning, the fourth day of the retreat. I was over the mid-way mark, and perhaps this helped my mind to let go. I woke up as I did each morning at 5 AM and that morning I had energy. Sitting was effortless and time lost its shoes (as Pablo Neruda might have said).

I became presence. Just dwelling in the moment with very little talking in my mind. I was alive and without stories to confirm, doubt, and worry, a great peacefulness accompanied the sitting. At the end of the retreat, my perceptions of the world had changed. The sky, snow, and trees had a dimensionality that I had heretofore missed. I could feel how the trees were alive and how we were all, in some way, connected. The only thing that separated us were the obstacles created by thinking.

I encourage everyone to have a retreat experience of their own. The Insight Meditation Society (IMS) is a wonderful place to go on retreat. People have been dwelling in silence there since the late 1970s and I can think of no better place to do this work. The facilities have been recently updated and every retreatent gets a private room. The food is nourishing and wholesome and the teachers wise, warm, and available. You can find out more by visiting dharma.org. 

 

Enlightenment Meets Enlightenment: Finding the Buddha in the Secular West

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

no_dogmas_allowedI recently gave a talk at the University of Vermont College of Medicine called “Beyond Stress Reduction: Mindfulness as a Radical Technology. In this talk, I spoke about the indictment that the healthcare and corporate-related applications of mindfulness are tantamount to “McMindfulness.”

If you read my post on this issue, you know that I think the criticisms of secularized mindfulness go to far. In my talk, I made the point that secular dharma is a uniquely Western dharma.

Secular Buddhism, which seeks enlightenment, accords with the Enlightenment era values of rationality, empiricism, and skepticism.

The Buddha was not the founder of a religion. He did not start Buddhism. In fact, there are many Buddhisms or Buddhist religions.

He was a teacher and saw himself more as a physician, healing humanity. He had followers and eventually these followers proliferated and traveled. When they did, they created a new religion.

When Bodhidharma brought the Buddha’s teachings to China they merged with indigenous cultural and religious elements to become Chan. When the teachings moved north to Tibet, another morphing of culture and religion took place.

When Dogen brought Chan to Japan, it became Zen. Same deal.

Now in the West, you can find Japanese replica temples with all the rites and rituals that you would find in Japan. You can go to Tibetan Buddhist centers where you are exposed to all the Tibetan colorful forms that have been imported to Western soil.

This wholesale importation of Buddhism strikes me as unprecedented. I am not aware that it has happened anywhere else. Each host country has put its imprint on the teachings.

The secular mindfulness and buddhism movement is our uniquely western spin on the Buddha’s teachings. This does not water the teachings down or corrupt them any more than what has happened in Tibet, China, and Japan (and many other countries).

The creed of Western Dharma is sympathetic with the late artist Stephen Huneck’s plea: “NO DOGMAS ALLOWED.” Simple as that.

The Buddha’s teaching can be studied without dogma, rigidity, or prescieintific superstition. They can be experienced this way as well, particularly on a vipassana style meditation retreat.

As it turns out, I am about to embark on one of these retreats in a short while. I will be at IMS or the Insight Meditation Society, the premiere secular Buddhist practice center on the East Coast.

I will be doing sitting and walking meditation from 5 AM to 10 PM for the next seven days in silence. No talking, reading, or writing. This is Noble Silence.

Consequently, I won’t be posting until I get back. This will be a week to test the Buddha’s teachings in direct fashion. I will see how the three fires operate. I will fill greed, aversion, and confusion beset my mind and then the breath will come into to liberate me from these stories.

This cycle will happen over and over again, countless times during these many hours of practice. I don’t have to take any articles on faith; I just have to sit with my experience and work with my mind. Hopefully, I’ll be able to move my mind in skillful ways and enjoy the gift of silence and inquiry that the retreat provides.

It is hard to set aside the constant doings and connections of everyday life, yet retreat is a powerful way to deepen our practice and to become better people in the process: more present, compassionate, and contended.

See you after the 13th!

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


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