Posts Tagged ‘mindfulness’

[music: Cathedral – Cocoon]

October is tomorrow and it is supposed to be my lucky month! But I figure that even luck can use some help; awareness of its presence, openness to the opportunity, and space to follow it.

So, this post is about the fourth tetrad of mindfulness-mediation. After we have calmed the mind and are able to concentrate, we can turn our attention to knowing and release.

This is an excerpt from the entry on Anapanasati Sutta in Wikipedia:

“Contemplation of the Mental Objects (dhammā)
Focusing on impermanence
Focusing on dispassion
Focusing on cessation
Focusing on relinquishment”

Any search on the internet will present you with a much wiser choice of references and interpretations.

Nevertheless, this is my take:

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3 Gifts

Posted: August 11, 2012 in Mindfulness
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I have received three gifts on my trip so far:
1. Which happiness do you want? – Daisy
2. The Snow Leopard – Davide
3. A Somdej Wat RaKang Amulet – Yul

3 weeks to prepare, 3 gifts, 3 weeks to kill the dragon.

“Do not be Amazed by the True Dragon” Dogen Zenji (1227)

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The Middle Path

Meditation Retreat part 1

Posted: August 2, 2012 in Mindfulness
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I thought that it would be easy to write about a week-long meditation retreat, well it’s not. Almost one week later and I am struggling.

It’s difficult not because it was insignificant, but rather because it is so personal, coming up with something to say that can be meaningful to readers has been posing me a challenge. So I’ll write a short summary here of what it ‘was’ and then I’ll try and give some impressions through my thoughts on things I did in subsequent posts.

A week in silence and meditation, is first and foremost time with yourself. The silence removes distractions from human interaction (gossip, small talk, debates) and digital connections (phone, iPad, camera, music) as well as books and one should also refrain from self-distractions such as writing a diary. All of these things are opportunities to escape the objective of the retreat which can be summarised as : concentration & contemplation.

During some of the talks, I observed mind mind wondering if my iPhone was on ‘silent’. My phone was in a safe somewhere, turned off, and had been for days…

The retreat also serves to remove daily worries such as food and shelter, everything is provided. A schedule of meditations is also provided so that there is nothing left to do but practice concentration, observe your mind, practice mindfulness, and contemplate.

I would say that a week is about the minimum necessary for novices. It takes time to calm the incessant chatter of the ‘monkey mind‘. It takes time to be fully present, to observe and then really spend some time with yourself, understanding one’s attachments, cravings, suffering.

Key benefit #1: I observe my mind, it’s not me, it’s just a part of me that likes to play games. I have started to label these games and it is easier to recognise them for what they are.

Key benefit #2: easy to distinguish between needs and wants, all we really need is food, shelter, and health to survive.

Key benefit #3: alcohol, cigarette, junk food, meat, gossip and other addiction detox. But they do have instant coffee 🙂

A few people have told me that a week of silence and meditation would drive them crazy or that they do not have the time to invest. I look at it like this: is not a week with yourself to better understand who you really are, not a wise and small investment of time? The monetary cost is according to your means (a donation to the foundation at the end).

Side benefits: the food is good, Dipabhavan is in the nicest place I could see on Kho Samui (I did not visit any resorts…), there is probably nothing more authentically Thai around.

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Meditation Hall

A Long Wind

Posted: July 17, 2012 in Change, Mindfulness
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[music: Caught in a Long Wind – Feist] – a song about both a little bird and the sea…

Manu Chao last week – the Dipabhāvan Meditation Center in a few days. This blog IS about change and July was about the unexpected. So today I decided  to put some thought behind what I originally set out to do.

I am discovering that change and the unexpected are things many people fear. Even though no two moments are the same, we are all changing as individuals, as groups, societies, the universe; people/groups/organizations (hereafter referred to only as persons/people) generally fear the unknown, they are not curious about what’s out there… or ‘in there’. Looking for the comfort and stability of routines, many let the years pass smoothly; but how can you be both mindful and in a comfortable and familiar routine?  Clinging to routines is by definition blocking out the possibilities of the world around you, deliberately existing unaware. It seems to me that fear of change and mindfulness are incompatible.

Part of being aware means being receptive to the unexpected and open to change – and thus personal risk.

Maybe this is a sign of the times in the Western World – sufficiency through superficial connections to real people and the real world. I found this interesting metaphor on the internet: “…un cinéphile qui, au cinéma, visserait les écouteurs de son iPod sur ses oreilles pour s’assurer de ne pas se laisser prendre par l’histoire du film (ne pas avoir peur, ou rire, ou pleurer).” Is Brandon in in McQueen’s movie ‘Shame‘ the role model for the 21st century; living “in an underworld melodrama of fear…“?

Have we abandoned the search for meaning? Can we really find happiness in our selection of an endless supply of video games, social events, TV series, endlessly re-hashed movies, shopping, internet surfing, and meet ups?* Have we replaced the simplicity that emerges from grappling and coming to terms with real life complexities (emotional, inter-relational, societal, intellectual) with ready packaged doses that instead allow us to easily ignore and flee the task?

*not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with any or all of these activities, I refer to them here as easy means of escape from or as substitutes for meaningful life events.

Though I have more questions than answers, I think that I have learnt a few things:

1. Change is happening regardless of our ‘awareness’ decision; to people, to groups, to organizations, societies and the natural world around us. Humanity generally chooses to deny or ignore these changes, but there are exceptions.

2. Change in of itself is a priori neither positive nor negative. But it is the point of view of this blog that at an individual level, awareness, acceptance and engagement lead to superior outcomes.

3. The decision to embrace change and accept the consequences is personal. All efforts to change someone will be unproductive unless they have embraced the decision themselves. All one can do is extend a helping hand.

So in a few days I am off until September. First stop, a break from all electronic links to the world that I have become addicted to: iPhone, computer, e-mail, internet, music. Instead, meditation, seated, standing, walking, chores, and more meditation. Parts of my world could end, I will only know at the end of the retreat. Once the retreat is over, I’ll the the Universe decide what’s next and see what wind carries me.

[Bonus track: Babylon – David Gray]

[music: Who by Fire? – Leonard Cohen]

Last night, my friend Lingyun and I toasted ‘Gan Bei’!  In chinese Gan Bei means to to finish the cup (Gan = dry; Bei = cup), the end – and a new beginning. It was a celebration.

There are so many ends, some go by, almost imperceptibly, others are traumatic and we grieve. The toast made me think of a passage in the book Mindfulness in Plain English (see a short excerpt below). I thought to myself, we are the cup, experiences are what fill it. I chose the music specially for this post. How am I filling my cup?

How are you filling your cup? Something fresh, something stale, emptiness?

干杯

“And you suffer from the same malady that infects every human being. It is a monster in side all of us, and it has many arms: Chronic tension, lack of genuine compassion for others, including the people closest to you, feelings being blocked up, and emotional deadness. Many, many arms. None of us is entirely free from it. We may deny it. We try to suppress it. We build a whole culture around hiding from it, pretending it is not there, and distracting ourselves from it with goals and projects and status. But it never goes away. It is a constant undercurrent in every thought and every perception; a little wordless voice at the back of the head saying, “Not good enough yet. Got to have more. Got to make it better. Got to be better.” It is a monster, a monster that manifests everywhere in subtle forms.”

Mindfulness In Plain English By Ven. Henepola Gunaratana (p 7)

Unpredictable Things…

Posted: July 4, 2012 in Mindfulness
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[music: Slug – Passengers]

July will be the month of unpredictable things. For me, every month this year has been full of unpredictable events, but here goes, I’ll raise my glass to yet another month of the unexpected.

On the 1st of July (Canada Day, by the way), Cyprus took over the Presidency of the European Union. I celebrated by visiting MAPPING CYPRUS: CRUSADERS, TRADERS AND EXPLORERS. I should have celebrated my Spanish lessons by taking a walk in Sabadell.

The exhibit was unexpectedly bad. Entirely centered around religious iconography and maps, with a cursory look at history. I found that the Othello connection was the most interesting part, but hardly worth a trip. Overall, they attempted to stay away from the controversial and succeeded;  nothing crossed the green line.

Laurence Durell’s Bitter Lemons is more informative and entertaining.

My quest to see the Euro-Cup Final was more interesting. It started out in Place Lux, which was packed, then moved towards Matonge before being intercepted by free tickets to Couleur Café.

I started to ask myself how many unexpected things have happened these past days. In the past, how many chances have passed me by because being entrenched in my way of thinking?  Have I listened and observed carefully enough, have I been present? Have I been to focussed on myself and not the people and environment around me? Am I sufficiently aware and receptive to the unpredictable?

Let’s see what happens in July…

 

[music: Orange Crush – REM]

The climber was stuck. Anne R. was belaying from a sitting position down below, the climber wasn’t going anywhere, she looked over at me and said “Dans les endroits difficiles, il faut aller vite.” (In difficult places, you have to move fast)

Anne R. was coaching a climber up the side of a cliff. Beginning climbers tend to cling to the wall, gripping the rock face tightly, pulling themselves up with their arms instead of trusting their legs to push them up to a higher handhold. They tire quickly and their forearms turn to jelly.

In difficult passages, you must be relaxed, aware and trust your knowledge, plan ahead, but do not overthink the rock face; don’t waste your energy, rest only when the wall lets you.

“Dans les endroits difficiles, il faut aller vite.” Her comment resonated with me and I commented that it was a good life lesson as well.

I believe that when faced with difficult decisions, deep down, most people know what they should do. The hesitation and confusion they face is part of the process of uncovering their inner truths. We are all changing and change in our lives is often what we fear the most. Resisting and challenging ourselves is how we learn.

I took a short break from indoor climbing and when I returned, I found that I was much more fluid and relaxed in my movements. I need to get back into shape (!), but that is simply a question of effort, my brain has assimilated the knowledge I developed through experience and what I could not believe possible a two months ago is now more natural. I don’t think in difficult passages, I trust myself and move forward.

Take a break to rest and let your brain do it’s work, but when you decide to affront change and climb the wall, you must move quickly in difficult passages.

Sometimes we fall, and that’s why we all need a wise belayer like Anne R.