Resting In Awareness – w/Guided Meditation

The long-term goal of my mindfulness practice is moment-by-moment mindfulness throughout daily life. At times it’s felt very effortful, but lately I’m struck by how much surrender is involved. Settling. Accepting. Resting in this moment.

It means being willing to be with the relentless uncertainty and unfinished business of life. Life is messy. I’m not perfect. There will always be loose ends.

Resting in the moment also means being willing to feel my emotions. A moment of excitement. A moment of fear. Joy. Grief. Enjoying the pleasant ones, but letting them go. Allowing the unpleasant ones to come, knowing they too will pass. Valuing feeling over feeling good.
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“You give yourself a command”


 
 
Shortly before his death, the writer and spiritual teacher Carlos Castaneda was interviewed over lunch in Los Angeles. The interviewer, Michael Ventura, describes a moment during the meal…

A woman at the table said she loved her job, her husband, and her child, but still she felt a lack — it was that she had no spiritual life. How could she achieve a spiritual life?

Answering this woman, Carlos didn’t change the lightness or generosity of his manner; yet a steely thing came into his voice, a tone that made his words pierce all of us. He said that when she got home at night she should sit in her chair and remember that her child, her husband, everyone she loved, and she herself, were going to die — and they would die in no particular order, unpredictably. “Remember this every night, and you’ll soon have a spiritual life.”…

Later in the conversation this woman asked how she could discipline herself to follow his advice, deeply follow it, so that it wouldn’t be just an exercise. Carlos said: “You give yourself a command.”
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irritated-baby-turtle

Election 2016

I’ve been struggling for days to come to some clarity about how to hold the grief many of us are experiencing as a result of the election. Personally, I’ve gone through waves of deep sadness, a couple restless nights, and about 36 hours of believing that at some point I’d simply wake up from this dark dream. I’ve felt despair. I’ve felt incredibly motivated to engage. And at times I’ve felt strangely numb. Then suddenly, about 20 minutes ago, my fingers started typing out a set of instructions for myself which seemed surprisingly coherent and helpful. In navigating whatever you are going through, I hope these instructions help you too:

  1. Examine the function of thinking & behavior in this moment: are you co-regulating, catharting, necessarily processing grief, anger, fear that needs to be processed (either with others or on your own)? Or is this unnecessary rumination, driving you into the ground? Another way to look at it is: is this moment serving to bring you back into balance, encourage connection (even in grief), and increase awareness/compassion, or is it fueling divisiveness, pushing you further out of balance, and diminishing your capacity to take care of yourself and others and/or get through the day? It could be the same angry words, the same tears, the same painful phone call. The underlying motivation is what matters most.
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winter-forest

Seize This Moment

I leave for retreat today. One month in silence at Insight Meditation Society, in the snowy woods of central Massachusetts. This will be the longest retreat I have done, and a deep dive into my personal exploration.

I'm continually humbled by the courage it takes to thoroughly explore, to see things through, to go all-in. But as the fleeting-ness of life becomes more apparent, so too does my commitment to engaging fully.

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freedom

Freedom is a Moving Target

freedomTo me, “freedom” is a particularly useful word to describe the long-term goal of mindfulness practice. But what does that word really mean? To keep “freedom” tangible and relevant, I like to move through my life asking, “how am I NOT free in this moment?” Often the answer is surprising. As an illustration, consider the example of hearing the unintentionally harsh words of a friend…

Am I free to feel the hurt (sadness, embarrassment) caused by the harsh words, or am I compelled to space out or ruminate angrily? Perhaps I am free to feel the hurt, but am I fully free to speak up in defense of my principles? Perhaps I am free to speak up in defense of my principles, but am I free to do it in a way that is kind and without anger? Perhaps I am free to speak up kindly, but am I free to walk away from that experience without resentment? Perhaps I am free to walk away without resentment, but am I free to maintain a fully accepting relationship with this friend, should that seem the best choice? Perhaps I am free to maintain that relationship, but am I free NOT to maintain it, investing less energy in it if in fact it seems unhealthy?

Freedom is a moving target. In each moment, as conditions change, there are new opportunities to let go and new opportunities to be stuck. New opportunities to choose, and new opportunities to humbly acknowledge the limitations on our freedom of choice. How are you not free in this moment?