spirit, mind, matter

"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." – Ursula K. Le Guin


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Don’t Fear Fear

“Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don’t think it’s been until the last couple years of my life that I fully realized that fear seems to be at the root of all suffering.  I see it in the world with senseless acts of violence and I also see it in the smaller everyday life sort of way.  I believe that by understanding fear, what we fear, and why we fear it, we can use fear as a gateway to freedom.

I’ll share one of my many dealings with fear. In the past, I’ve been afraid of conflict. I think many of us can relate.  The mere thought of standing up to someone who has hurt, disappointed, or injured me seemed worse than than just “forgiving it” and letting it go. I mean, I feared conflict more than the average person fears public speaking (which, I absolutely love, by the way).  With that fear of conflict comes a whole host of problems, which I’ll have to save for a later post.

Getting back to this fear and my pathway out.

The first step was identifying the fear. This wasn’t hard. I already knew that I feared conflict. Hell, my body told me so by giving me a tightness in the chest, increased heart rate, and a general feeling of dread. No secret there. The body knows what we fear most and we usually feel it around the heart chakra.

After I realized what I feared, I started to meditate and allowed that fear to be there.  Then, using one of Tara Brach’s suggestions, I asked the fear, “what do you believe?”  I know, that seems odd to ask an abstract thing like fear what it believes, but, at that point, the fear wasn’t so abstract. I could feel it in my body. I had to ask it a few times before it opened and let me see.

See, most of the things we fear come from a belief we picked up somewhere in life, either from school, a parent, or a life event that triggered this reaction. Most times, that belief was never intentionally put there in us, it just happened as a result of human conditioning. Most times, when we ask fear what it believes, we hear an answer that surprises us.

My fear of conflict proceeded to tell me that it had quite a few beliefs. The main one was that if I spoke up against someone, they wouldn’t like me anymore or they would retaliate. Digging deeper showed me that it was approval I was seeking. In some torqued fear logic, if I disagreed with someone, they wouldn’t approve, and I needed other’s approval to be ok.

Once a light was shined on how much I was relying on others to tell me I was ok, good, loved, heard, everything- I realized just how much personal power I was giving away! A quote a dear friend shares with me all the time came to mind, “It’s not your business what other people think of you.” Yeah, sit with that a moment… there’s a reason she’s a dear friend.

 A deep sadness washed over me, as well as a bit of relief. The sadness came from the years of my life lost living in a world where other people were dictating my ok-ness.  The relief came when I realized that I had the power to work through this and change it.

It wasn’t instant, this recovery. It took time, patience, and a more self-compassion than I ever thought possible.  I think it still creeps in from time to time. But, I have a better way of dealing with it. First, I notice it. I see the pattern of thinking and feel the fear. Then I say, “yup, here’s that pesky fear of conflict again.” Second, I remember the fear belief. In my case, I remember that my fear of conflict believes that others must approve of me for me to be ok.  Third, I remind myself that my fear belief is not true. I do not need approval of others, especially others who cause hurt or pain! I remind my fear belief that it’s ok to be assertive and speak up. Fourth, if it’s wise, and I feel the need to speak up about something, I do it. It felt awful at first. It was like being afraid of a high-dive and being repeatedly asked to keep jumping off. But, like high dives, it gets easier and easier. With practice, I stopped reacting to that fear.  This doesn’t mean I speak up all the time. It doesn’t even mean the fear is gone. It simply means that I won’t allow that fear to rule me anymore. Living in fear is exhausting. More times than not, the fear is worse than the actual situation.

Buddhist Mindfullness Teacher, Tara Brach, has a great talk that deals with fear. You can listen here, or watch the video here.

I share this with you in hopes that you can start looking at what you fear and know that there is a way out. It’s possible.  It may be a long journey, but it’s worth it.

Let’s make 2015 a year to stop allowing fear to rule our bodies and minds.

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Seeing Clearly

I wanted to share this quote from Pema Chodron from Shambhala Publications.
I love how she reminds us that meditation isn’t about making thoughts go away, but rather about seeing clearly. That is where the true beauty lies. It leads to freedom, flexibility, wisdom, and love.

November 12, 2014

WHY MEDITATE?

Meditation is about seeing clearly the body that we have, the mind that we have, the domestic situation that we have, the job that we have, and the people who are in our lives. It’s about seeing how we react to all these things. It’s seeing our emotions and thoughts just as they are right now, in this very moment, in this very room, on this very seat. It’s about not trying to make them go away, not trying to become better than we are, but just seeing clearly with precision and gentleness…[We] work with cultivating gentleness, innate precision, and the ability to let go of small-mindedness, learning how to open to our thoughts and emotions, to all the people we meet in our world, how to open our minds and hearts.

From, The Wisdom of No Escape And the Path of Loving-Kindness by Pema Chödrön, page 14


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Freedom in Spontaneity

Things at Spirit, Mind, Matter have been busy over the past month. While I haven’t been posting frequently, we have had friends from the states visiting for the past month. Posting should become more regular soon. In the meantime, I wanted to share one of my favorite quotes:

“Laughter is the closest distance between two people.”
– Victor Borge

Victor Borge was a combination pianist-comic who filled my childhood with laughter. I was thinking about this quote and how it relates to mindfulness. When we are living in the present moment we are free and flexible. Our openness allows us the opportunity to see spontaneous humor in life and respond to the little moments in life with wisdom, humor,  and kindness.

I had a moment with this the other day.  I recently accepted a job back in the music classroom. I was moving things into my new classroom when I saw a little boy (perhaps 2nd grade) hop out of the window on the ground floor to go to the playground. Don’t get too worried, it was a 4 foot drop, at the most, and it was after school.   The kiddo cleared that window ledge with amazing agility!  He landed directly in front of me and his face showed that he was certainly not expecting to see an adult standing there.

Earlier that day I noticed that I was rushing around.  I made a mental note to practice mindful walking from the school door to my portable classroom outside. This little incident happened as I was really dropping into the present moment. It gave me freedom.  Instead of yelling at him and dragging him to the office, I felt something different. Something inside tugged and gave me a different response. Instead, I was able to ask a gentle question, “is that a safe way to exit the classroom?” He clearly was thrown at my lack of yelling. After a moment or two, he said no, and I asked him to please go back inside and exit the classroom safely. He was relieved, we smiled, and we introduced ourselves to each other. He assured me that jumping out of the window wouldn’t happen again.

Ah, kids. 🙂

Here’s the thing. The same result happened as would have happened had I gotten mad at him and been “mean” about it. I think it’s important to think through our responses to things to see how we can get to the same end but using the freedom and spontaneity that mindfulness gives us. In my opinion, this is where the practice of ahimsa happens.

So, today, as we encounter people and situations, let us practice mindfulness to appreciate the kind spontaneity that can permeate our day!


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Stop, Breathe, and Think App Update

***REPOST AND UPDATE***

This app is now available on the web and for Android!

Please visit the google play store or http://app.stopbreathethink.org to get it!

My best friend told me about an app she has started using for meditation. I tried it out, and I love it!  If you’re looking for a good app to enhance your meditation practice, I encourage you to check out Stop, Breath & Think.  I’ve only seen it as an Apple app, but it might be available for Andriod.  What I love about it is that it allows you to track your feelings, moods, and emotions and then gives you specific meditation practices that can work with your current experience.  I have really enjoyed weaving the new ideas into my own practice.  Even better, it’s free!

Check it out: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/stop-breathe-think/id778848692?mt=8

The companion website is http://stopbreathethink.org/

Stop, Breathe & Think: A New Meditation App To Boost Compassion And Creativity | via FastCoCreate

Do you have any meditation apps that you really enjoy? Please leave a comment and share!


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Molding the Inner Life

From Everyday Health.com click here to subscribe to the daily quotes

 

“I do believe it is possible to create, even without ever writing a word or painting a picture,

by simply molding one’s inner life. And that too is a deed.”

– Etty Hillesum

About Etty Hillesum

Etty Hillesum, less famous than her contemporary, Anne Frank, lived a short life of great courage. She was born in 1914 in the Netherlands to a Dutch father and a Russian mother. She studied law, Slavic languages, and psychology. Hungry for knowledge, she cut down on food in order to buy books. She went voluntarily to the Westerbork camp to help fellow Jews interned by the Nazis. Her letters detail her experiences; her more meditative diary focuses on issues of faith. She died at Auschwitz in 1943.

 


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Our True Nature

Our true nature is like a precious jewel: although it may be temporarily buried in mud, it remains completely brilliant and unaffected. We simply have to uncover it. Pema Chödrön

 

(source)

 

Meditation offers us the opportunity to explore or true nature. Take a few moments today, and all throughout the week to see if you can uncover your true nature.

 


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Steadfastness

I subscribe to Heart Advice: Weekly Quotes from Pema Chödrön. You can subscribe by clicking here

The quote from this week:

August 27, 2014
STEADFASTNESS
We’re encouraged to meditate every day, even for a short time, in order to cultivate steadfastness with ourselves. We sit under all kinds of circumstances—whether we are feeling healthy or sick, whether we’re in a good mood or depressed, whether we feel our meditation is going well or is completely falling apart. As we continue to sit we see that meditation isn’t about getting it right or attaining some ideal state. It’s about being able to stay present with ourselves. It becomes increasingly clear that we won’t be free of self-destructive patterns unless we develop a compassionate understanding of what they are.

 

Pema Chödrön in A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation: Practical Advice and Inspiration from Contemporary Buddhist Teachers, page 161

 

This teaching came at the perfect time. I have been mentally wavering in my practice. I still practice yoga and meditation daily however, getting started has been the hard part. I will dilly-dally around, play on the internet, do chores, or do any other stalling technique before surrendering. A minute or two in, I’m always so happy I did it, but something about getting started has been difficult lately. 

This is why this quote resonates with me. I know that sitting and practicing under this current weather system of the mind that I’m experiencing, will continue to teach me how to be compassionate with myself under all circumstances. It also keeps me honest in my practice of both yoga and meditation. 

So today, remain steadfast in your practice and continue to cultivate compassion. 


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Lotus Meditation

Here is a repost from March. I really love this meditation and have found it particularly inspiring as of late. So, I wanted to share it again. 

One of my favorite meditations is the Lotus meditation. It seems to speak to me each time I practice it.

I found a well-written example here and I have copied it below.

Imagine that you are a lotus seed buried beneath a muddy lotus pond. There is mud all around you, and you can feel them clearly. Above you, above this muddy pool of dirt, mud and filth, are sunshine and air. You are not disheartened as you begin your journey towards the surface.

With a determined heart, you begin to wiggle in the earth. You grow roots deep, deep into the mud. Your little stem grows up slowly. Suddenly, “pop” you are out of the mud! Your stem grows higher and higher, taller and taller. You rise up slowly, fighting against the muddy water. All of a sudden, you are out of the muddy pond! You reach up towards the warm sun, shining down on you.

Your lotus bud begins to grow on top of your stem. It expands and grows larger and larger, finally bursting into full bloom. A white lotus flower. You stand beautifully above the muddy water, not dirtied by the mud from which you grow. You are white, fragrant and beautiful.

Everyone who saw you marvelled at your beauty! Your determination to grow out of the muddy pond reminds them of the Buddha and his journey towards Enlightenment. The Buddha, like a lotus, is determined to grow out of the muddy surroundings, that is the defilements and sufferings of life. He has done all that is to be done and he is showing us that we can all do it too. We may have defilements but we all have the potential of growing out of our defilements and achieving wisdom, like the Buddha.

You are a beautiful white lotus flower, and your role is to remind people to rise above their defilements and sufferings, just as you are arising above the muddy water and not dirtied by the mud from which you grow. 

 

Tara Brach has a wonderful talk about this subject. You can listen here.

Have you tried this meditation before? If not, you may want to spend a little time exploring this!

 

 


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Addictive Doing

My favorite story was told by Tara Brach on her latest podcast

Hindu teacher Swami Satchidananda was asked by a student if he needed to become a Hindu to go deeply into the practice of yoga. Satchidananda’s response was, “I am not a Hindu, I am an undo.”

 

Meditation is a great way to de-condition the “doing-mind.”

If you’re anything like me, you notice the weather system of “doing” and how it permeates your day. I know, for me, the “doing” self often masks uncomfortable feelings and anxiety. I also notice that my ego can be hitched to getting things done. Thankfully, Tara Brach talks about this in her latest podcast. Take an hour or so and listen to her podcast. 

From her website: 

One of the core domains of egoic trance is addictive doing – chronic activity driven by fear and wanting that keeps us from realizing a wholeness of Being. This talk looks at how addictive doing keeps us in the map of time, identified as a separate self, always on our way somewhere else. We then explore ways we undo this conditioning by pausing and opening to the liberating dimension of Being.  

 

You can listen on iTunes, clicking here, or visiting her website

Today’s Opportunity for Mindfulness: Take a pause, arrive in the moment, and set the intention to un-do the conditioning of busy-ness. 


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Mindfulness in the News: How Negative Thoughts Are Ruining Your Life

I read an amazing article on Psychology Today that I wanted to share with everyone. 

How Negative Thoughts Are Ruining Your Life

This article gives wonderful practical advice for dealing with the idea of an inner critic. You know, that voice that tells you everything bad about yourself. Please take a couple of short minutes to read the article! 

Although the article is not written through the lens of mindfulness, it is certainly present in the strategies given to overcome the inner critic.  Like most mindfulness practices, the article teaches us to start with noticing. We must become the observer who can watch our thoughts, feelings, and emotions and then become aware of how we react to them. 

After we can recognize what we’re doing, we can then step aside and chose not to react, but rather respond with a useful pattern, thought, feeling, or idea. 

Since it’s a given that we all have some sort of inner critic, let’s agree to be aware of the voice of our own critic and cultivate compassion for ourselves and for others. 

Namaste