Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Teachers and Talks: Pema Chodron

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Ani Pema Chödrön is an American Buddhist nun and author whose teachings and writings on meditation have helped make Buddhism accessible to a broad Western audience. She currently directs the Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, Canada, the first Tibetan monastery in North America for Western monastics and lay practitioners.

Pema Chodron is the author of many fine books, including Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advise for Difficult Times, and Uncomfortable With Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Fearlessness and Compassion, the book that inspired the title of my book, Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness. 

Watch her interview with Bill Moyers on his series Faith and Reason:

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/faithandreason/portraits_chodron.htm

Wisdom Wednesday: Waiting for a Train and the Beauty of Persistence

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Over Labor Day Weekend, I found myself waiting for a train at Newark Airport. I arrived about 15 minutes late for the train I wanted to catch, the 9:30. I grumbled to myself with a complaint about having to wait. Before that thought could finish echoing through my tired mind another thought arose. “45 minutes? A perfect time to meditate” I sat down in the then empty train station and began to practice in the industrial quiet. 

Soon, the air was filled with the arising and fading away of sound. I heard Asian languages, Slavic languages, English with a Spanish accent and the baritone booming voice of the station master calling in trains and announcing delays.
Perhaps my train would be delayed too? No matter, I’m enjoying my practice. 
This is the beauty of mindfulness meditation practice. It is both portable and durable. We can do it wherever we are in whatever conditions we find ourselves. I felt refreshed and renewed after practice. My travel-weary body transitioning into the next moment (and challenge) with ease.

impatiens.jpg

Challenges always arise during family visits for reasons Buddhists and psychoanalysts alike can appreciate. Lot’s of old conditionings to confront.
But that’s not the point of this entry. Instead, I wanted to talk about the beauty of persistence. At my parents home in New Jersey, my mother has planted impatiens in planters around the front entry way. Impatiens are an annual variety, needing to be replanted each season. 
These precocious impatiens had reseeded themselves and were making an initial foray towards being an invasive species. Some had sprouted in a crack on the asphalt driveway, a testament to the will to life. In a sense these flowers, too, demonstrated portability and durability as they seeded themselves all around and in unlikely places.
These impatiens are a metaphor for the juxtaposition of the sacred and mundane, beauty and starkness, natural and artificial. 
I hope your labor day contained moments of mindfulness and surprising beauty. These are always available when we give ourselves permission to look!
With blessings and gratitude,
Arnie. 

TED Tuesday: Rev. James Forbes: Compassion at the dinner table

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Continuing with the Charter for Compassion talks. Rev. Jams Forbes presents a refreshing and everyday perspective on compassion, including sympathetic joy — rejoicing in successes of others. He grew up in a family asking, “Are all the children in?”

Metaphor Monday: Change the Gravitational Constant of the Universe

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

This metaphor comes from the Star Trek Next Generation (STNG) episode, “Deja Q.” In this episode Q arrives freshly kicked out of the “Q Continuum” stripped of his omnipotent powers. He’s now merely human.

He’s reluctantly trying to help the Enterprise crew solve a problem. An asteroid is veering dangerously close to a planet and will cause devastating earthquakes and tsunami if they can’t divert its course. Q suggest petulantly that they simply change the “gravitational constant of the universe.” Of course, he could have done that if he still had his power, but the idea is heuristic and helps the crew to find a solution.
 
Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKANJJleIxU&feature=related 
 
There are situations in our lives, often at work, where we are confronted with the challenge of having to examine our fundamental assumptions about the situation at hand. The solution requires us to undergoe a paradigm shift, to examine our fundamental assumptions, values, beliefs about the situation and to see if they are necessary, true, and useful. Perhaps they are just conditioned by habit. Perhaps they served a useful function in the past but are now limiting, biasing, or even distorting our currrent perceptions.
 
These challenges provide an opportunity for us to examine how we related to ideas about ourselves, others, and the world. If we grip these ideas tightly we expend a lot of energy and may generate anguish for ourselves and others. If we can hold these ideas with a firm but not crushing hand, we may be in a better position.
 
An inflexible relationship to ideas is the antithesis of mindfulness.
 
Take TED for example. TED (Technology-Entertainment-Design) is an annual conference in Montery. Tickets cost $6000 and sell out rapidly. The TED.com website presents talks from the conference free and actually encourages their distribution. In fact, their tag line is “ideas worth spreading.
 
It would seem counterintuitive to do this. Who would want to buy the cow if you can get the milk for free, right? Wrong. Since offering this content online TED has raised the admission price to the conference by 50% and it sells out just as fast.
 
TED has changed the gravitional constant of the universe through this paradigm shift of giving away content. Had they clung to the old paradigm idea of selling content we’d all be worse off
 
Enjoy TED talks relevant to mindfulness every Tuesday here at Mindfulness Matters.
 
 
 
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