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Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

The Architecture of Bliss: Devoting a Day to Mindfulness

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Studio_01.jpgI led a mini-mindfulness meditation retreat at the new Exquisite Mind Studio. The Studio was drenched with sun the entire day.

We spent the day doing sitting and walking meditation in alternating fashion with two hours of practice in the morning session and two hours in the afternoon. In between we talked about practice and the dharma.
Daily practice is crucial, of course, and there is another dimension that extended practice in a retreat environment provides. First is symbolic. We give our old conditioned habits of mind a clear message when we commit a day or part of our day to practice. 
Next there is the continuity of practice. Extended time in silence is a magical opportunity to explore ourselves and the energy of the moment. Going on retreat, even a mini-retreat like this, closes some of the escape hatches where attention escapes. It creates a durable container — a crucible — for looking at ourselves.
Inside that crucible, old conditioned habits of mind arise, like fear. Fear of pain came up for one participant; fear of hunger came up for me. I had run out of the house that morning in a bit of a rush to get to the Studio to open the door for the retreat. In my haste, I forgot to eat. As I settled into the first sitting session I realized that I had not eaten. Enter stage left, the old conditioned habit of mind, manifesting in the automatic thought: “Oh no, I forgot to eat, I’m going to be wracked with hunger for the rest of the morning; this is awful!!!” Of course, it was not “awful.” It just was what it was. Here was an opportunity to deconstruct this old and irrational conditioning. What was present were sensations — energy in my belly. Clearly, I wasn’t about to starve, so there is no reason my emotional brain needs to be involved. There’s no threat here. Instead, I turned my attention to the energy itself and examined it with interest. After a short while the hunger pangs subsided into the background radiation of sensation.
When we move from this conditioned “story” to the energy of the body we are firmly in mindfulness. When we do this practice in a supportive group in a setting devoted to mindfulness, we have a chance to taste the three bodies metaphor (trikaya in Sanskrit).
The first body is the nirmanakaya or the emanation body. This is our physical body, the one that shows up to practice. Perhaps in the extended work (or play, as one participant suggested) of practice we have a chance to taste sambhogakaya — the bliss body. Practice can be pleasurable and even blissful. Of course if we aim for bliss we’ll miss it, but bliss can be a fairly reliable by-product of doing the practice. It shows up when we don’t strive for it. 
The dharmakaya arises in brief glimpses each time we move from story to energy. There we experience the ultimate nature of things — the dharma — not as an intellectual appreciation but as a full body experience.
We’ll be holding these retreats on a monthly basis, either as a full-day or a half-day of practice. If you are local to Burlington check the Exquisite Mind Psychotherapy and Meditation Studio website for the schedule and plan to join us. If you are not local to Burlington there are places to practice mindfulness around the U.S. and the world. 

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Freeform Friday :: Poetry

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Fall is an easy reminder of impermanence — anicca– in Pali or anitya in Sanskrit. Change is the rep of autumn. We expect it; we relish it. The changing season can be a great teacher, and metaphor, to the moment-by-moment changing of our experience. Every breath we take is a complete cycle of change–death and resurrection. Every moment is transition and we can know this if we are paying close attention. 

I trail run with my Rhodesian Ridgeback several days a week. This year has been particularly glorious and wet. Here are my reflections:


FallingThumbnail image for Fall_02.jpg
 

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It’s the fall time of Fall.

Leaves cover the ground,

the trail no longer showing

its jutting roots and rocks.

A blanket of color from

the awning of becoming.

 

I stop catching my breath

to gaze closely at the pulsating color

green pushing through green

red pushing through yellow.

Shades no artist could imagine,

more Monet than Monet.

Variegated bliss.

 

Watercolor blessings of rain

passing before my eyes

just as my life is.
Fall_01.jpg

I can dive into this pool
where the trail used to beand swim to the horizon.

 

But I’m too busy for that.

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Must keep running,

must meet the clock when it points north.

Perhaps I’ll return tomorrow

to the spot I left today

and find a new triumph

until one day soon

the hum will quiet into crisp.

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Teachers and Talks Thursday :: Larry Rosenberg

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

larryrosenberg_homepage.jpgLarry Rosenberg is a guiding teacher at the Insight Meditation Society and the founder of the Cambridge Insight Medication Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

I have had the great fortune to receive teachings from many teachers over the past 27 years and I owe a debt of gratitude to all. While I have not been his formal student, Larry is the teacher I’ve sat with the most and whose teaching style has most influenced my own.
Perhaps it is because Larry is from Brooklyn and I am from Queens, so we have the same New York-Jewish shtick. Larry is warm, funny, and very direct in teaching the dharma.
I was blessed to have Larry endorse my book, Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness, when he said: “This collection of very useful reflections provide us with 108 sparkling insights into mindfulness, the energy of seeing–so vital for all of us engaged in meditative living.”
Tricycle.gif
He is currently leading an online retreat through Tricycle (you can participate in this retreat by becoming a sustaining member to Tricycle. This costs $30 and includes a subscription to the print magazine and full access to their wonderful web content). 
Larry has authored two books and has another on the way. His first book, Breath by Breath: The Liberating Practice of Insight Meditation is Shambhala Classic. His second book, Living in the Light of Death: On the Art of Being Truly Alive explores the awakening potential of acknowledging our mortality. It’s not a morbid preoccupation, but an invigorating experience of our nature. 
lightofdeath.jpg

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Wisdom Wednesday :: Silence-Containment-Engagement

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

BestPics - 079.jpgNPR commentator Andrei Codrescu said yesterday, “Not answering an email in 10 minutes used to mean you’re dead, but now 10 seconds is enough. After 10 minutes, they’ve already filed away your obituary.”


We’ve come to the nanosecond availability of smart phones and social media. Where, then, is the silence? 

We can find this silence in meditation. First, just by sitting still or walking slowly. Next, by monitoring the inner noise of our minds. 

The goal of mindfulness meditation is not silence–silence is the vehicle. Each time we come back from the future, past, or commentary about now we taste a little silence. 

We find this silence in the transition from fantasy to what is actually happening now. The feel of breathing, the sensations in the body. 

It might be refreshing to spend more time in reality than the incessant fantasies of future and past where we spend most of our time. 

We might find when we pay attention to the reality of now that we are more contained; less likely to act on every impulse, inflame emotions, and get ourselves into trouble.

We will also find that we are more engaged with the world in all its technicolor brilliance. Every moment is a multimedia show. 

This is the wisdom of silence-containment-engagement and the benefit of mindfulness practice. 

Once we post our Facebook status its already in the past. Instead of providing running commentary for our lives we can pay attention to what is actually happening.

Enjoy your silence today, even if it is a brief sip. Tomorrow take a longer one. Then perhaps an even longer one the day after. Make silence a frequent companion.


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