Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Metaphor Monday :: Stop, Drop, & Roll

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

We all learned “Stop, Drop, and Roll” in fire safety.

This mnemonic helps to avert panic and the proliferation of the fire. In fact, when done correctly you can put the fire out limiting its destructive impact. 
In the Buddha’s Fire Sermon, he warned, “Monks, everything is burning.  And what is burning? Monks, the eye is burning, visual consciousness is burning, visible forms are burning…Burning with what? Burning with the fire of desire, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion.”
Our minds could use the same safety approach. We often “burn” ourselves with anguish, anxiety, and stress. We catch on fire, getting engrossed in a story of how someone has wronged us, or how things are not going as we would like. 

The mindfulness version of “Stop, Drop, and Roll” is accomplished through attention. Here it is:

Thumbnail image for BS15014.JPG

Stop the story.
Drop into the body.
Roll with the moment.
Just like that. This metaphoric axiom can help us to avert panic in a pressing situation. Stop, Drop, and Roll can help us to keep the problem from proliferating. 
No story; no proliferation. We can’t be anguished without a story. Of course we need to recognize that we’re engaged with an anguish-producing story; we have to know we are on fire. 
Mindfulness practice will help us to see that we’re on fire. Once we’ve seen that we’re in the story there is a moment where we can stop. With enough discipline we could just stop the story cold. However, it is often helpful to refocus attention on something concrete that is happening now. 
The story will give rise to emotions and emotions will give rise to sensations in the body. That is our concrete now. Drop into the body and notice what is going on. Explore these sensations with interest, curiosity, and perhaps even fascination.
What then? Whatever comes next. We can Roll with the present as it cascades into the future, one moment at a time. 
If we can handle a problem this way, we deal with whatever is most pressing right now. This isn’t a story but a practical approach to the moment. “What does this moment require?” “What’s the best way for me to take care of myself?” Now we’re rolling!

Stress Reduction Sunday :: How To Interupt Cycles Of Stress Overload

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

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It’s Stress Reduction Sunday. Read my weekly post in the Connecticut Watchdog, This week’s entry, Mindfulness :: How To Interrupt Cycles of Stress Overload

In previous entries we’ve explored the nature of stress and how paying attention to the present moment through mindfulness can be an effective antidote to stress. Today we’ll explore how lower levels of chronic stress overload might save your life.

Coritsol is one of the chief hormonal products of the stress response. It’s beneficial in short bursts but can be dangerous when chronically elevated. A study in the Journal Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (reported in BBC News) investigated the relationship between elevated levels of cortisol and cardiovascular mortality.

The study focused on 860 individuals over the age of 65 and followed them for six years. 183 people died during the study period. Those with the highest level of cortisol (the top 1/3) had a five-fold increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease but not other causes.

Read More …


Mindful Politics

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

As the mid-term elections approach, political rhetoric is ramping up and along with it the usual fervor, apathy, distortion, and promulgation of hope (mostly false hope, I’m afraid). Here is a mindful perspective on politics from renown  Buddhist author and editor, Melvin McLeod.

Melvin McLeod edits the
volume Mindful Politics (Wisdom, 2006). “Politics is really about how we
live together as human beings, and all spiritual practices point to one simple
but profound truth about human life–that only love leads to peace, hatred
never does. This is as true for nations as it is for individuals.”

His proposed political
platform: (if The Buddha was a politician and the Brahma Viharas)

  • May all being enjoy
    happiness and the root of happiness
  • May they be free from
    suffering and the root of suffering.
  • May the not be separated
    from the great happiness devoid of suffering
  • May they dwell in the
    great equanimity free of passion, aggression, and ignorance.

mindfulpolitics.jpg

Universal in application
— all. Politics is emotions gone awry — vengeance, war, intolerance of
difference, and so forth. 

As Buddhism (particularly through mindfulness)
promotes emotional and social intelligences it might have something to offer
the world as an antidote to hostility, inequity, and damage. The dualistic and
false sense of “us” versus “them” underlies much of the
conflict. 

If we are not in this all together than we are divided one against
another. According to McLeod the keys to change are: forgiveness, awareness,
kindness, and selflessness. Politics is ultimately about relationships and all
relationships brook in power and conflict. 

How will these conflicts be
resolved? With mindful awareness or through the perpetuation of the Three
Poisons (which seem to be an apt laundry for the world’s problems).

Individual transformation
is the prerequisite for societal transformation. The first step is not to save
the world, but to save your self. If each individual works to limit or even
eliminate hatred, greed, and ignorance the world will be a better place through
the aggregation of this absence.

From Buddhist Monk and
Vietnam veteran, Claude Anshin

hellsgate.jpg

 Thomas in his book At Hell’s Gate: A Soldier’s
Journey from War to Peace.

Peace is not an idea. Peace is not a political movement, not a theory or
a dogma. Peace is a way of life: living mindfully in the present moment … It
is not a question of politics, but of actions. It is not a matter of improving
a political system or even taking care of homeless people alone. These are
valuable but will not alone end war and suffering. We must simply stop the
endless wars that rage within… Imagine, if everyone stopped the war in
themselves –there would be no seeds from which war could grow.” (Quoted
in Mindful Politics).

We Are Poetry

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

The psychotherapist Connelly turned to William Carlos Williams to elucidate the “poetry” of living. Williams said, “The underlying meaning of all [our patients] want to tell us
an have always failed to communicate is the poem, the poem which their lives
are being lived to realize”

The philosopher Suzanne Langer reminds us that a “Poem has the capacity to bring about a moment of
intense awareness of many feelings, paradoxical, yet confluent.”  

Poetry is often used in teaching mindfulness and there are many poems that make the rounds in mndfulness teaching circles. Wonderful poems, by Mary Oliver, Rainer Maria Rilke, Derek Walcott, Wislava Symborska, Rumi, and many others.

One of m favorite discoveries is a poem by W. S. Merwin entitled “One of the Butterflies” This poem captures the core of the Buddha’s teaching — how we create anguish for ourselves through our relationship to desire.

Merwin says:

The
trouble with pleasure is the timing

butterfly.jpg

it
can overtake me without warning

and
be gone before I know it is here

it
can stand facing me unrecognized

while
I am remembering somewhere else

in
another age or someone not seen

for
years and never to be seen again

in
this world and it seems that I cherish

only
now a joy I was not aware of

when
it was here although it remains

out
of reach and will not be caught or named

or
called back and if I could make it stay

as
I want to it would turn into pain

(from The Shadow of Sirius)


When we are not being mindful, we are reaching missing our joys because our minds are preoccupied with some memory or some anticipation. We can our entire lives in anticipation and memory, the now abstracted into a story.


When we cultivate mindfulness, especially through mindfulness meditation, we train ourselves to linger in experience before transforming it into memory where we attempt to hold onto to it. Life becomes a stream of experience and in that stream there is only joy, sadness, and beauty. There is no anguish or pain until we start to think about these experiences. 

Merwin captures the Four Noble Truths. There is pain and its self-inflicted. What Merwin only implies is the way beyond this self-imposed anguish. And that way includes mindfulness as a central practice. 


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