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Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Suzanne Matthiessen :: MInd/Body Wellness Awareness Writer, Educator, & Coach

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

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Suzanne Matthiessen is my eMindful.com colleague and a fellow blogger and mindfulness-baseed practitioner. 


She has dedicated her life and work to teaching integrated Mind/Body approaches to well-being for over two decades. She has successfully employed proactive holistic wellness awareness tools and techniques to help individuals and teams strengthen attention and focus, shape positive and productive thoughts, choices, actions and behaviors, reduce stress internally and externally, and build empathy, compassion and interconnection. Suzanne specializes in teaching others to honestly and fearlessly address their shadow thoughts, choices, actions and behaviors and the importance of the impact they have upon all they come into contact with as well as themselves, and how they can actualize lasting, transparent change in their lives.

She recently featured my work on her blog http://suzannematthiessen.blogspot.com/. I am honored and humbled to be called a “contemporary bodhisattva.” It’s a big obligation and one that I embrace. However, I would clarify that I am not a bodhisattva — at least not yet. I am aspiring to be and have taken the vows to move in this direction. 

What do these vows mean? They mean that I am working towards awakening in the service of helping my fellow beings. That sounds a bit grand, if not grandiose. 

At the very least, to take the vows means to not bring more violence into the world. This is a benefit to all, if indirect. More directly, I do my best to reach people and inspire them to embrace the dharma. I do this through my writing and through teaching meditation and through my therapeutic work. By this definition, Suzanne is a bodhisattva too, and I encourage you to read her blog. 

There is a growing web of mindfulness-based practitioners and writers. The wisdom of the Buddha’s teaching is accessible like never before. For a complete list of Buddhist-based blog, visit blogisattva.org (and perhaps someone can nominate one of my blog entries for the 2011 Blogisattva Awards!). 


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Wisdom Wednesday :: Welcome Winter Solstice

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

winter.jpgLast night marked the winter solstice — the longest night of the year. Today the days grow longer, even as we reach into the deep belly of winter here in Northern Vermont and elsewhere. The solstice marks the end of a long contraction, started six months ago at the summer solstice. We are now expanding.

We go through a mini-solstice expansion and contraction cycle each time we breathe. Each time we draw in the next new breath, we’ve completed a cycle of contraction and are now expanding. We embody the changing seasons within us. 
We celebrate the solstice and we, too, can celebrate each breath as a renewal of life. Breathing is a constant reminder of impermanence and an invitation to be with change as the nature of the universe. It’s an invitation to see if we are trying to impose our own agenda of constancy onto things that are constantly changing. That, of course, is frustrating, and futile.
So enjoy the this change and, indeed, each change in each moment — whether expanding or contracting. 

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TED Tuesday :: Kiran Bedi: A police chief with a difference

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak
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Mindfulness meditation in prison? What better place to practice? Kiran Bedi is a visionary Indian civil servant who, among other things, reformed Tihar prison in New Dehli, one of the biggest and most dangerous prisons in the world. Her work was the subject of the moving documentary film, Doing Vipassana; Doing Time.  

In this brief talk, she shares her collected wisdom on acceptance, learned from her parents. They taught her that we construct 90% our experience.
She notes, “Crime is a product of a distorted mind.” Ten thousand prisoners were under her authority and her goal was to make the prison into an ashram through education and vipassana meditation.
Bedi has taken skillful means (upaya) to new heights by bringing the dharma to so many and those, perhaps, in most need of it. She’s a truly remarkable human being.  

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Metaphor Monday: Full Circle

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak


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It’s the end of the calendar year and we’ve traveled “full circle” from the beginning to the end of this year. As if by magic, on January 1 we’ll be starting anew (even though we are really just continuing, one moment after another).

Mu Soeng, in The Heart of the Universe: Exploring the Heart Sutra, offers a compelling
metaphor for enlightenment with the image of a circle. 

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Imagine a circle, the bottom
of the circle would be 0 degrees (or 6 PM if you prefer to imagine a clock).
This is where we find ourselves living in samsara still caught up in greed,
hatred, and ignorance. Not awake and not awake to the possibility of being
awake. 

Having come into contact with the dharma, one has the opportunity to
intellectually understand the Four Noble Truths and concepts like dependent origination. You
are now at 90 degrees (or 3:00 on the clock) This awareness is intellectual not
experiential. 

When it becomes experiential we would find ourselves at 180
degrees on the circle (or noon on the clock). Here we have the opportunity to
experience primordial moments and transcend the suffering created by
involvement with the Three Poisons of greed, hatred, and ignorance. To the extent that we can transcend our categories,
this is experienced at 180 degrees. 

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Buddhahood would occur if one keeps
proceeding around the circle to 270 degrees (or 9 on the clock). This state is
described as Anutarra Samyak Sambodhi

Coming full circle to 360 degrees (back
to 6 o’clock) is “nirvana in action … by employing skillful means rooted
in wisdom and compassion.” 0 is the same place as 360. We end where we begin — in the world — yet different.

This is a very different image then going from point A (samsara) to point B (nirvana) traveling along a path. This image is a trap for striving and Type A achievement mind set that actually interferes with our spiritual progress. 

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Full circle reflects the classic Zen wisdom that in the beginning the mountains are the mountains and the rivers the rivers (0 degrees); in the middle the mountains are no longer mountains and the rivers no longer rivers (90-270 degrees); and in the end the mountains are once more the mountains and the rivers the rivers (360 degrees). The world remains the same; we have transformed.

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