“You will not find God in an abstract idea. This is something very important. God is here for us through very concrete things.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
“One must not be blasphemous toward gods in whom one has no faith.”
“We are but guests visiting this world, though most do not know this. Those who see the real situation no longer feel inclined to quarrel.”
“The truth waits for eyes unclouded by longing.”
Tao te Ching
It’s lovely to stumble upon a interview, and even audio, promoting the benefits of mindfulness and meditation! Check out an excerpt here and click the link below for the full interview!
“Meditation is a practice, that’s why we call it a practice. It’s a behavior, if you will,” he says.
When Allen began exploring mindfulness and meditation he was in a clear minority. Today major corporations are encouraging mindfulness among employees and books will tell you how mindfulness can give you a competitive edge. A lot of practitioners caution though, the hope of gaining a competitive edge is not the reason to take up mindfulness. Just the same, Allen says he deeply values the role mindfulness has played in his career.
“For me, it really has been, many times, the difference between night and day, my ability to not succumb to in a catastrophic way to some of the stresses to both corporate life and later entrepreneurial life, wouldn’t have been able to do it without the practice,” he says.
The key here is stress. Mindfulness and meditation not only teach people how to manage stress, it can actually lower it.”
Read the full post and hear the audio here: Mindfulness and Meditation
Many years ago I was interviewed on TV for one of my books. The last, rather surprising question was: What is the secret of life?
Without thought or hesitation I answered: Breath.
Even before my father took his last breath almost twenty-nine years ago, an event that rocked my world and set me on a more solid spiritual path than the one I’d been on, I would spend time reflecting on two basic existential questions: What does it mean to live? What does it mean to die?
These two koans are the ones I bring most often to my meditation cushion, even if they are in some other form with some other words. Today, one thing I do know is that my father is no longer breathing and physically with me, but he is definitely still alive in my heart and mind. Another thing I know is that I continue to breathe. So, my father lives in my heart and I live in my breath.
Thanksgiving was my father’s favorite holiday. It is mine, too. It is a special time to pause, reflect and give thanks for my family and friends who are still breathing with me, and to remember loved ones who have taken their last breath and only live in my heart.
On a recent Sunday at an All Day Sit, I gave a dharma talk on the subject of living and dying. I offer it to you here, with love. May you all be safe and at peace and grateful for each and every breath. For we never know which exhale will be our last.
Download my dharma talk here: Dharma Talk
“I think this study offers a very useful component of therapy for these patients, for several reasons,” David Geldmacher, MD, professor and Patsy and Charles Collat Scholar in Neuroscience in the Division of Memory Disorders and Behavioral Neurology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, toldMedscape Medical News.
“First, we know that it’s a stressful experience for people with the illness, especially in the early stages. So anything that can help to address that frustration on a symptomatic level is important,” said Dr. Geldmacher, who was not involved with the study.
He added that a sense of control and self-direction “is crucial” in this patient population.
“This is an illness where people often feel that someone else is starting to drive the bus and that the disease is starting to take away their rights and privileges. So the ability to do something themselves that may potentially alter the course of their illness is important,” he said.
Dr. Geldmacher noted that the physiologic part of this study was also interesting.
“What we don’t know in as much detail is whether this intervention could have an ongoing, clinically meaningful effect or not. Obviously there’s going to be very little harm, if any, to doing this, and we get the psychological benefits,” he said.
“So even if meditation did nothing to the hippocampal structure, it may help to reduce the symptom burden of the illness as a whole.”
Read the full article here: Meditation May Slow Progression of Alzheimer’s.
This soup by Seppo was created too late to make our 3 Bowls cookbook, but it’s become a favorite of mine especially for large gatherings like Sunday’s All Day Sit. It’s a comforting soup for the fall with its array of colors and creamy texture. I usually mix in a bag of frozen green peas along with the corn, organic of course. It’s a crowd pleaser.
This week we served it with a salad of greens, radishes and cherry tomatoes tossed with Honey-Dijon Dressing with Lime, and two choices of corn bread (will save those two recipes for another day).
After eating we chant: “Having finished the midday meal, our bodily strength is fully restored…” And with this meal it certainly was. Thank you, Seppo, once again.
Seppo’s Tofu Corn Chowder*
Honey-Dijon Dressing with Lime
*Hand-written notes to the left indicate 30 servings, and to the right, for 50 servings.
Sometimes the beginning is the hardest part of any task. Check out what Huffington Post suggests to help you begin, and maintain, your meditation practice!
“1. Make a Contract with Yourself
There’s this funny thing about the brain. It wants to appear consistent to itself, and really dislikes things that make you look contradictory or hypocritical. This naturally applies socially, but it turns out that you want to appear consistent even to yourself. This is a psychological principle called “consistency bias,” and here’s how to make it work in your favor.
Write up a contract with yourself, explicitly committing to meditate every day, and then sign it. Once you put something in writing and sign it, your brain has a strong desire to appear consistent. You will actually begin to change your beliefs and actions to come into line with this written commitment. So even when you don’t feel like meditating — there’s a concert, or television show, or sleeping late, or whatever you would rather do — somewhere in the back of your mind you will remember that contract, and that can push you over the edge toward sitting down and meditating first.
2. Make a Calendar
You can make your written commitment even stronger if you create a calendar each week, containing specific meditation goals for each day. Post this calendar prominently, in a place where you see it all the time, and put a large X through each day after you sit. Combining this tip with the contract makes both work more effectively.
There are also all kinds of great applications that don’t only serve as a meditation calendar, but that actually remind you to do it. On Windows, Outlook or Lightning can be used to create a meditation calendar, and are integrated with email clients you may already have. If you want a stand-alone Windows program that is also free, Rainlender comes highly recommended. (I haven’t used any of these programs myself). On my Mac, I really like the Todo program from Appigio. Cross-platform, by far the best web-based application is Google Calendar. All of these can send you reminders to motivate you to sit down and meditate.”
Read all of the steps here: 5 Ways to Get Your Meditation Practice on Track
October has been a month of ups and downs: Mercury in retrograde affected all sorts of communication and perhaps contributed to the logy feeling I carried with me to the hospital this week. Prior to this week, I’d always been completely present and engaged during my visits, and I always left with an uplifted spirit and a full heart. This week I didn’t have this experience. Maybe it was me, maybe it was the patients, maybe it was the mood of the universe; or all three combined. Next week will surely be different: maybe better, maybe not. Maybe the murderous rage I’d got in touch with a couple weeks ago was still rumbling around in my gut and threw me off balance. This is what I wrote in my journal about that:
In battle with M on Sunday and Monday. My murderous, yes, murderous rage surfaced. His badgering, old habit of cyclical, obsessive focus on why, what happened, and on & on & on & on. I would not make a good POW. I’d give up the country’s secrets in a minute. Maybe this inner murderer is why I’m writing murder mysteries. Do not kill precept. I realize if pushed far enough I am capable of killing. I think we probably all are. Sometimes I feel like I’m not a very good Buddhist because I like to watch violent movies and read and write about murder and people being bad. Some of it I shade my eyes to, but the harm we do to each other every day, even if it’s just a thought re another’s behavior and how it affects us, is astounding. I think about killing the Ted Cruz’s of the world. If there is such a thing as evil there are a lot of evil people cloaked in fine suits.
And the ugly feeling that got triggered by M’s behavior had me wanting to do him harm just to shut him up. It’s scary and shameful and I don’t want to share the fact that I had this very real, visceral urge. But there it is. I wrote more about this is a recent blog.
The day after the discord/fight/awfulness with M, I was emotionally hung over and my spirits were low when I headed to the hospital. I was hoping N was still there so I could visit her first and be uplifted by her incredible spirit. I’d seen her two weeks in a row; first time she said “I won’t be good company.” I sat with her anyway and she revealed that music and scriptures helped keep her going, but she’d forgotten her bible. Before I left I said I’d put her in my prayers. She opened her eyes wide, looked straight at me for the first time and said “Oh, I’d like that.” When I brought her a new testament later in the day she was grateful and much more alert, had me inscribe it to her. The following week she was so happy to see me, had told everyone about the bible. I wanted to hug her, or maybe have her hug me, but she was hooked up to some machine that was draining fluid from her chest. She wasn’t there the morning I sought her out for inspiration. I had to rely on my own inner light that had been made brighter by her memory.
I did get a hug that day from a man in the Psych ward that I’d visited every week so far. He wasn’t toting his bible as usual, was in very good spirits and didn’t need/want to talk more. I appreciated the hug. I then had three visits with patients in that ward with whom I had lengthy discussions about Buddhism. I am encountering so many patients who identify themselves as Buddhist leaning to varying degrees and are grateful to meet a Buddhist. It makes me feel useful.
I met two patients that day who had had surgery that made them unable to speak, so they communicated by writing. Both interactions were lively. Both patients had lots of people praying for them, both acknowledged the power of that, and both were grateful to be alive and breathing. They helped right-size my own issues.
A few days later, during the right livelihood dyad at the retreat, from the same deep place in my body, from the same “me” who wanted to kill her husband, from who the hell knows where, came an overwhelming emotion, accompanied by the idea of becoming a Baptist preacher (not sure which came first, the feeling or the words). Perhaps the bible readings over the past month, the clear evidence of the power of prayer, and the patients I’d met who were comforted by scripture, the words of my childhood, unearthed this emotion. I also wrote about this in a recent blog.
I’ve resisted a lot of the Contemplative Care course work this month: the assigned readings, meeting with my buddy, setting up a mentoring session.
First the readings: I skimmed through some of the beginning of Street Zen as Issan hit his bottom. I’ve heard so many stories like his, I knew the terrain and wanted to get to the upside. I was also reminded of my very first favorite monk who died of AIDS related causes just after he talked me into doing kessei in 1991 when I’d been fired from my job, and before kessei started. His death was as devastating as my own father’s; maybe even more so because I was sober for his.
I’m resisting Jon Kabat-Zinn’s guided meditation CD because I can’t skim through the parts I already know, and to spend three hours with him right now feels above and beyond, but I will get to him eventually. I’m thinking it’s something M and I can do together, since his meditation practice continues to grow and it could be a bonding experience. Also, maybe I can pick up a few tips to incorporate in my own teaching. Weirdly, I feel like I’d rather be reading the bible, which I am less familiar with. I think this would help me even more with Christian patients. I know enough about Buddhism to be helpful there.
I met once with my buddy this month even though I didn’t want to. I didn’t think I could learn anything new. Ugh, I hate this about myself. Especially since I learn something from every encounter I have. Even though I know this, that old habit keeps popping up. So I initiated the contact and pushed to have a meeting. She wanted to have a phone session. I thought it best that we try to meet in person, so we found some time that worked for both of us. We both went out of our way, which felt good. The meeting was fine and I was able to share about a recent experience re the second precept of not stealing in relationship to others. It was good to air that, have a witness to my not-so-perfect side.
I caught my mind straying while with a coaching client recently. A couple of times during our session I completely missed a few things she said while my mind was off thinking about something else. This so rarely happens. I consider myself a pretty good listener. But that day I was not. I stole that time from her. I paid it back immediately by extending the session ten minutes.
The most heartbreaking and yet wonderful encounter this month was with S, a man whose face, neck and head were being eaten away by cancer. His mouth and chin were the only areas yet untouched. His partner was with him and there was clearly a lot of love between them. He was a very sweet man who confessed to having no religious faith. We eventually got around to his interest in Zen Buddhism. His face lit up when I told him I was a Buddhist. We spoke for a long time. We closed the door and I taught them both how to sit, be still and just breathe. It felt like a very sacred time. I recommended some books. I hope it helps them negotiate their challenging path.
It’s been a rough couple of weeks. Mercury retrograde ended Nov 11. Praise Jesus!
“A 2005 breakthrough study published in Neuroreport found meditation increased the thickness of the brain’s prefrontal cortex. Normally, as the brain ages the cortex thins and the brain shrinks. The prefrontal cortex is associated with attention, higher thought and planning.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School in Boston took MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) brain scans of 20 experienced meditators and 15 non-meditators. During scanning the meditators did insight meditation while the non-meditators thought about whatever they wanted.
The meditators practiced insight meditation for about six hours weekly for an average of nine years. Insight meditation cultivates mindfulness — an awareness of the present moment.”
Read the full article here: Meditation Positively Changes Brain Structure.
A term for mental training reaches the height of trendiness, and like yoga before it, may be leaving its mark.
“As Soren Gordhamer patiently quieted a packed Wisdom 2.0 event in San Francisco in September for a guided meditation, a few in the communal meeting space known as the Hub couldn’t resist thumbing another message or two before pocketing their sacred devices. A willowy young brunette in a black T-shirt shot video of the crowd with her iPad from her front-row seat. Even after Mr. Gordhamer, who is tall with a sculptural face and Errol Flynn hair, urged the group to “come into presence,” his voice rising in emphasis, someone’s phone was buzzing like a dragonfly.
Mr. Gordhamer started Wisdom 2.0 in 2009 to examine how we can live with technology without it swallowing us whole. The wait lists for his panel talks and conferences now run into the hundreds.
The “Disconnect to Connect” meet-up was typical. The audience was mostly young, mostly from the Silicon Valley tech scene and entirely fed up with taking orders from Siri. “There was a time when phones didn’t tell you to do everything,” said Mr. Gordhamer, 45, as the conversation got rolling. “What’s work, what’s not work, it’s all become blurred.”
Read the full, and very thought provoking article here: Mindfulness getting its fair share of attention.