Beliefnet
Mindfulness Matters

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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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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. 

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. 

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. 

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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WCPT_frontcover.jpgThere’s still time for last minute Christmas and Holiday gifts. Give your loved ones, or yourself, Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness, the gift of mindfulness. This book has been well-received by the mindfulness community and is a fun, accessible, and useful way to bring mindfulness into your life. 

I am happy to play my small role in the mindfulness revolution that is beginning in the West. Mindfulness with the help of many bloggers like myself and many authors, researchers, and practitioners are making mindfulness a household name.
Robert Frost warned, Unless you are at home in the metaphor, unless you have had your proper poetical education in the metaphor, you are not safe anywhere.” 
And metaphors are not just colorful devices to spice up language, they are a fundamental part of how we speak and think. Whether we realize it or not, we are using metaphors all the time. 
In one compelling example, the late psychologist Julian Jaynes discussed how the verb ?To be comes from the Sanskrit bhu that mean to grow or to make grow. “Am” and “is” evolved from the same root as the Sanskrit asmi that mean to breathe. He concludes, “It is something of a lovely surprise that the irregular conjugation of our most nondescript verb is thus a record of a time when man had no independent word for ‘existence’ and could only say that something ‘grows’ or that it ‘breathes.'”


Wild Chickens was selected as one of the top 50 Spiritual Books of 2009 by Spirituality and Practice. 


Here is some of the praise for the book:
“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.”

-Larry Rosenberg, Founder Cambridge Insight Meditation
Center, Author of Breathe by Breath

“If you want to receive mindfulness teachings in a way
that is playful, wise and memorable, read this book.  Arnie uses the most
ancient of teaching devices–metaphorical stories and images–to convey the
possibility and blessings of living a life of presence.” — Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance

“Open this book anywhere and read three pages. Live in
accord with the advice and your life will change.” — Rev. Taihaku
Gretchen Priest, Founder, Shao Shan Spiritual Practice Cen
ter

“According to Aristotle, skillful use of metaphor is
the sign of true intelligence. Arnie’s book of mindfulness metaphors will
contribute to your spiritual IQ.” – Shinzen Young, author of Break
Through Pain: A Step-by-Step Mindfulness Meditation Program for Transforming
Chronic and Acute Pain

“Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants offers both student
and teacher a vivid vocabulary for those, all too frequent moments, when
preconceptions can substitute for the essentials of mindfulness practice.
Written with a light touch and drawing on sources as diverse as rock lyrics and
past episodes of Star Trek, this book is highly recommended.” 
Zindel V. Segal, Ph.D., C.Psych. Morgan Firestone Chair in Psychotherapy,
Professor of Psychiatry, Co-Author of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for
Depression and The Mindful Way Through Depression

“Metaphor is our mental root of imagination and language.
Arnold Kozak offers fertile metaphors for growing your knowledge of the
Buddhadharma. If you contemplate these brief stories, your emotional
intelligence and mindfulness will develop effortlessly from the insights they
provide.” – Polly Young-Eisendrath, Ph.D., author of The Resilient
Spirit and The Self-Esteem Trap, Co-editor of Awakening and Insight: Zen
Buddhism and Psychotherapy, The Psychology of Mature Spirituality: Integrity,
Wisdom, and Transcendence.

“What I loved most about this book was that the language was
current and the values were traditional.  It was useful wherever you
dipped in to refresh yourself. A delightful book that brings your life and
practice together whether you are an old timer or new practitioner.  —
Grace Schireson author of Zen Women


EB.jpgMy second book, Everything Buddhism will be shipping in January and is now available for pre-order through Amazon

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
–Dalai Lama

That’s easy for the Dalai Lama to say–but for the rest of us, understanding this mysterious, multilayered faith can be very difficult. With this updated and revised edition of the classic Buddhist primer, you can delve into the profound principles of nonviolence, mindfulness, and self-awareness. From Tibetan Buddhism to Zen, you’ll explore the traditions of all branches of Buddhism, including:

  • The life of Buddha and his continuing influence throughout the world
  • A revealing survey of the definitive Buddhist texts
  • What the Sutras say about education, marriage, sex, and death
  • Buddhist art, poetry, architecture, calligraphy, and landscaping
  • The proven physiological effects of meditation and other Buddhist practices
  • The growing impact of Buddhism on modern American culture

In this guide, you’ll discover the deceptively simple truths of this enigmatic religion. Most important, you learn how to apply the tenets of Buddhism to your daily life–and achieve clarity and inner peace in the process.

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It’s Stress Reduction Sunday. Read my weekly post in the Connecticut Watchdog. Here is my CT Watchdog posts from last week:

I’I was walking down Church Street in Burlington, Vermont (Church Street is a pedestrian marketplace in the center of our small city), and noticed a poster in the window of the new Lotus Shop. It read, “Keep Calm and Carry On.” I was intrigued by this message. It sounded like the Buddha talking but it’s actually a British propaganda poster slogan from 1939. It was set to be deployed if Germany invaded Britain, and since this never happened the poster did not see wide distribution.

This is a message of equanimity and is a valuable tool to have in your stress reduction tool kit. Whatever the situation, “remain calm.” In other words, don’t freak out. What is served by that? Nothing. It’s energy wasted. It’s time wasted. And it does nothing to forward the solution of the problem.


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