PERSONALIZED MEDITATION INSTRUCTION

MEDITATION? REALLY?

Meditation means many things, even if some definitions seem contradictory. We might ‘meditate’ on a decision, which would imply deep thinking. Or, we might let go of thoughts in meditation, which implies a clear state free of mental constructs. And there are just as many reasons why we might do this. Some people are searching for a meditative state, some are seeking a religious experience, some are making a social or fashion statement. To some it’s de-stressing and wellness. And, to many, meditation is something we vaguely believe will help, but find hard to keep up. The idea that meditation can help is very true. But, it would be easier to keep up if it was less vague and more practical. What might make it sustainable is to know not only how to do it, but what it is and why we are actually doing it. Meditation need not be difficult. But, it does require understanding.

 

MEDITATION FROM A WISDOM TRADITION

 

If our meditation is about feeling good, then the moment we don’t feel so good, we are ready to call it a bust. If, on the other hand, our meditation is aimed at developing the wisdom to see our minds, we are actually handed the tools of our liberation.

 

I have experience teaching and guiding meditation in many orientations from wellness companies, to yoga and meditation studios, to meditation centers and, now more and more, with personal one on one instruction. I have guided sessions that lead people on mental excursions through jungles, over cliffs, and across the starlit sky. All of this is interesting and possibly helpful. But, the question of why still arises. Why do you want to be guided into an Hawaiian waterfall or past life living room?  If the answer is as an escape from the pressures of the world, then that is fine. But escape is not necessarily sustainable as an ongoing practice. If our meditation is about feeling good, then the moment we don’t feel so good, we are ready to call it a bust. If, on the other hand, our meditation is aimed at developing the wisdom to see our minds, we are actually handed the tools of our liberation. And, we will be motivated whether or not we feel good. In fact, we might be motivated to look beyond our personal discomfort and really learn something. If meditation, in whatever form it takes, is aimed to gain more wisdom about ourselves and our human existence, then we have a powerful “why” to motivate us. “I have difficulties in my life, and am not in control of my actions”, “I have to face myself and grow up”, “I want to be free of depression.” We can either use meditation to escape from, or turn directly into these afflictive mental states. One is a temporary balm, but the latter leads to a path of greater understanding.

 

There are traditions that are path oriented and promote personal knowing and empowerment over doctrinal acquiescence and academic understanding. We call these wisdom traditions and they have an onus on direct personal experience. Whether they be Buddhist, Native American, Muslim, Christian or otherwise, meditation from a wisdom perspective is a mind training that leads to practical and transcendent wisdom. The point is not to achieve a religious experience or salvation of any sort, but to simply become more sane and balanced in order to discover, develop and deploy our innate wisdom. And, while there are exceptions, Wisdom Traditions are often aligned with established lineages that rely on the daily practice of mind training as a developmental path.

 

The development of wisdom in daily life implies a practical involvement with meditation. The general recommendation would be to develop a daily practice of repeated placement of mental attention on the present moment. We do this in order to train the mind  progressively toward deeper and more stable relaxation and awareness. Many disciplines employ an object of meditation (such as a mantra, the breath, a visual stimulus, or a phrase) to facilitate a return to the present. So, commonly, one would return to the mantra or the breath again and again to stabilize the mind, and allow its awareness to develop more and more deeply into the present.

 

THE POWER OF PRACTICE

 

Sometimes the object of meditation takes on a tutulary function, acting as an agent of protection. Mantra, in particular, is traditionally considered mind protection. The practice of Mantra has its basis in ancient Indian yogic practice as the recitation of magical incantations to ward off evil. However, any tool aiding the mind to return to the present is acting as a protecting agent. Contemporaneously stated, the object of meditation is not protecting us from evil forces so much as our vulnerability to danger when we are not paying attention. The object of meditation protects us by returning us to awareness of present moment. In the present we are most aware and most capable of protecting ourselves. Life happens in the present. When we are not in the present we are entirely vulnerable to advantitions calamity and self-affliction. So, the breath or another object of meditation can be used to protect us, by bringing us back to our seat. Meditation trains the mind to return to the present, which in turn, returns self-agency to our life.

 

The true power of meditation is when the mind develops the capacity to recollect the discipline in everyday life. With training, we will remember to return to the present via the proxy of mantra or the breath every time we become distracted ot lost in our scheming, manipulating or daydreaming. In this way, we become less carried away with ourselves, and are able to retain balance and clarity in our lives. Of the various forms of meditation techniques I have studied, I prefer to begin with the breath, because the breath is reliably in the present. And, most importantly the breath is portable. It is always there with you. So, you can easily return to the present via the breath on a subway, in a car, on a date, in an interview or on the john. Mantra, contemplation and recitation can be used surreptitiously, but there is always a separation from the moment and a sense of doing something to correct the moment. The breath is elegantly brilliant as a tool because no one can fault you for breathing. Its fits right in to to the rhythm of living.  And, perhaps most importantly, the breath is an integral part of our somatic experience. The breath is not only happening in the present, it is happening in our body. So, it connects us to the body, and as we shall see offers us a very practical way of calming and soothing the nervous system to enhance mental clarity.

 

 

THE WISDOM TRADITION OF SHAMBHALA

The Wisdom Tradition of Shambhala is a western application of the traditional Tibetan Buddhist approach. The Tibetan Buddhist approach is very much aligned with its Northern Indian antecedents. In other words, like Indian Yoga, Tibetan Buddhist meditation is about synchronizing body, spirit and mind so the practitioner can have access to the present moment free of illusion, delusion or misapprehension. In Shambhala, however, the orientation is on the development of society into a compassionate and enlightened state. Therefore, rather than a spiritual ideal, it is a very practical way of manifesting ancient wisdom for the present time. Shambhala meditation is not sequestered to a cave, or darkened chamber. Instead, meditation is dedicated to the benefit of the planet and its attendant life. It is a very practical approach. Instead of removing the practice from the world, it is engaged in, and empowered by, our world.

 

I believe ancient wisdom once removed of its religious trappings is often based on very human, and as such, immensely practical, concerns. The Meditation from the Wisdom Tradition of Shambhala uses ancient wisdom to inform very present experiences.  At its core, is a belief in the fundamental goodness of humanity. It is a system based on developing the True Confidence which comes from training the mind. Simply said, if we develop belief in ourselves, and learn to trust ourselves, we can be a great benefit to ourselves and our world.  It is a manual, daily and practical approach that is empowering without ego building. In other words, its not flattering, or aligned with any competition. It does not offer any credentials. It is simply a way of connecting ourselves in order to connect to our life altogether. From that synchronicity, we are more in control of our lives. And, taking a warrior’s seat in meditation puts us directly in the center of that circumstance.

 

PERSONAL APPROACH AND SERVICES

My home school is Shambhala and this is the basis for which the other tools in the kit fit. Having a connection to a lineage offers the confidence to build a very customized approach to the student. I have also had extensive – and advanced – training in Vajrayana Buddhism, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mahayana Buddhist LovingKindness and Compassion Practices, as well as Somatic Experiencing, authentic movement and other therapeutic practices. I have a deep connection to Native American Shamanism and the study of Taoist philosophy and the iChing that informs my understanding of life and practice. It is my belief that ancient wisdom can be interpreted practically to treat modern disconnects, and that meditation is a primary tool for reconnecting to our basic human nature.

 

I am available to offer one time or ongoing support to your mediation practice. We can sculpt an approach that suits your needs and lifestyle. I also have a series of guided meditations that delve into embedded obstacles in our psychological, and somatic experience for those who would like that kind of support. Whatever your needs, feel free to contact me for a free session of basic meditation training. If the clouds part and we continue a deep dive into meditation instruction from there, that is wonderful. My fees for meditation work are donations based on whatever fits your circumstances at the time(s) of our meeting.

 

If we decide to continue with life coaching we can discuss a fee structure.

 

But, should you take the instruction and decide to move on to other support, you will have a basic practice toward a path of self-knowing. In all cases, I am available for phone and textual advice to support your practice, at no charge, as you continue your journey.

 

It is my L I F E W O R K to bring meditation to life. Let me help you find a practice that will remain all your life.

 

joe@josephmauricio.com

347.403.2066

 

A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

HERE IS A LINK TO A TALK GIVEN AT SHAMBHALA NEW YORK (followed by a written companion post. )

 

A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

I’m writing this from deep winter.  It’s a time of environmental, spiritual and moral darkness. My spirits, like many, seem very low at times. Despite the triumphant chorus of another new year, the nights, although growing shorter, are still very long. This darkness evokes an unease and disquiet in the mind. We tend to blur the images, filtering the trauma of our collective and personal life experience into every life challenge.

 

Sometimes everything seems overwhelming.

 

As psychological trauma is buried within our consciousness, so it is embedded in the body. We literally carry this ancient pain consciousness with us everywhere.  Thus darkness in life seems to provoke ancient fears that threaten to cloud every opportunity. Each time we meet a new possibility, instead of the joy and openness that could lead to success, we might feel deflated and unsure. We all experience this sadness sometime. But, some of us feel it all too often until it seems to be the primary informant of our life. This post is especially for you. I feel for you, as I share this darkness too. However, I’m not going to make it better. Sorry. You see, I have found the secret to allowing the darkness to be a profoundly rewarding experience. I have devoted my life to knowing. To discovery. So, it becomes essential that I make a relationship to this shadow that has forever been there. Otherwise, I will never know it.

 

There is much we can say to try and distance our fear. But, as fear is part of an awake mind experience, aren’t we robbing ourselves of an essential wisdom experience when we try and prop ourselves up artificially?  I can tell you it will all work out. That everything has a reason. That it always works out. But these are words. Words are reasoning based on trite sensibilities we find comforting because we’ve heard them again and again. They are not informed by much of anything other than what we think should be happening. Words may calm the mind, but that balm is short lived if we are not addressing the essential HURT at the heart of our depression. And this hurt is embedded in our somatic experience. From there it influences our psychological and life experiences. It is essential that we begin to see. Which means feel. Words can only calm us down until we get there. But, once we get there? All we can do is open our eyes. And begin to absorb the dark until we begin to feel our way in.

 

Okay, then will we find a light at the end of our tunnel, at least?

 

Well, not so fast. How can we find light at all if we’re fixated on what that light will shine upon?  Then we’re looking for a new job, or the right partner.  Something to make us feel better. But we are no longer seeking the truth. We are no longer seeking know. We are thinking instead of feeling, and we will miss the point entirely. But, if the point of this life is to know what that life is we can no longer run from fear or sadness toward comfort and a reward in some other life. If our intention is to know ourselves, we would do best to decode the mysteries in this life.  We can see into the darkness by beginning, after so many years of running away, to look right into shadows.

 

The only way to find a light in the darkness is to open our eyes. If all we see is darkness, then we can simply just stay with that. Through meditation, we can develop the patience to let the mind settle and our mind’s eyes adjust. That means looking into our darkness with all the compassion, patience and strength we can muster. If we have experienced this darkness in one form or another all our known life, then perhaps it’s now time to see into it. Maybe it’s time we get to know this ancient friend. And, if we begin to see anything new about ourselves, or our experience, in the midst of this darkness, then there must be light.

 

That’s right. Maybe it’s opposite of our usual materialistic approach where we have something we’ve imagined in mind and bend the rules until we see it. This is waiting until we begin to understand something. And -possibly that understanding begins the basis for the way out of danger. It’s the seeing itself that brings light.  There is no proof of light until that light shines on an object. It can be posited that until there were objects to be seen, there was no light to see them.  In our case, if we are looking to see something we’ve heard about, we will likely only find darkness, or at best, shadows against the cave wall. But, should we decide to drop any project and simply turn from the cave our eyes will develop the strength to see.

 

Sakyong Mipham breaks the path of meditation into three components: Stability, Clarity and Strength. Stability of mind requires great patience. Patience is our ability to simply wait for the truth to arise. It is dependent on stabilization of mind. An uneasy mind is inherently unstable and will be impatient, looking for the easiest way out of discomfort. This uneasy mind lacks stability, has no patience and cannot see clearly. But, the surest way out of discomfort, is to simply relax there until things settle.  So, stability is developed through the gentle repetition of bringing the mind back to the breathing body again and again. Through this repetition, we gain a familiarity that allows confidence. It feels comfortable settling the mind.  Perhaps darkness itself becomes a balm of sorts. We have developed the patience to simply sit in the dark alone looking for nothing but what we will see. Then through that relaxation, the mind’s eyes open and become adjusted to the darkness.

 

The stability of mind  is dependent on the patience to NOT LOOK. We simply employ the meditation practice to relax into seeing. Boycotting the easy answers we return again and again to ourselves just here, just now, just so in the true present. The True Present is time beyond hours and calendars that is not affected by wanting, or needing or trying.  In the ‘True Present’ time is stable because the mind is stable. From this stability of time, free of looking away, the mind ‘s natural clarity will dawn.

 

Clarity is when we contact and understand what is actually there.  And while there are many extreme life circumstances that might cut through our discursive mind into direct contact with life – such as a car accident, an orgasm, hang gliding or childbirth –  a more sustainable and retrievable proposition would to develop clarity by stabilizing the mind. In this way, the clouds of confusion instead of being ripped apart, will just gently part.This sustainable clarity of mind is dependent on the context of stabilization. A stabilized mind is clear. A clear mind is strong enough to transform any difficulty into further understanding. Then whatever we feel we have the strength to stay openly present. In this way, fear can be used as a tool to keep us sharp and awake. We have developed the strength to allow the mind to open without being hijacked. We have the strength to remain open and see.

 

The Strength we develop from confidence in our clarity, becomes a tool to develop further strength of mind in life, love, work, darkness and light. Meditative repetition develops familiarity that breeds confidence, and that confidence gives us the strength to be able to withstand the pangs of fear in order to remain patient, stable and open.

 

The iChing states that when we perceive a light within, we will find the light to light our way from danger.  And it counsels us to “be like water” and continue flowing through all the deep places, filling up all the deadzones, seeing things from the point of view of the lowest element. Water. That nonetheless is always moving and will reach safety and clarity at some point.  So, as a practical concern, my advice is that all of this becomes easier if we have adopted a primary view of our life’s path. I urge my clients to find a self-statement that can set their journey on course whether or not they can see through the fog, storms or dark of night. What is your navigating principle? This is where rock hits bone. This is where we stop making up feel good tales and start to employ actual navigation of our path. So, my self statement – which is refined in time through daily meditation – is to gain clarity about myself in order to be help guide others to clarity. In this context, surviving darkness is not only assured, its essential. We must go through this because it’s ours to go through. So, rather than trying to help others by making them feel good about feeling bad, it becomes our purpose to give them the tools to better understand their darkness and find own their way out.

 

That light is born of darkness. And, it will guide you into great strength and understanding.

 

A TALE OF TWO WORLDS

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, … it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope…”  

 

In pethaps the greatest run on sentence in literary history, Dickens painted the picture of the modern epoch. This is a precariously magnificant time, a time of unfiltered hatred and burgeoning compassion. Humanity is waking up slowly, but the raging hangover of past indulgences is nonetheless clashing awkwardly with the beauty of a bright new day.

 

But, are we awake or asleep?

 

Buddhist texts refer to these times as the dark age; a time when good and bad rise to a head. It is not dark as in ‘dark obscuring the light’, but, dark illuminated by light. If we are able to leap into believing in the inherent goodness of humankind we can see this as a time when our resistsnce and neurosis become more apparent.  And, hence a time when healing and resolution are most accessible. Rather than leaving darkness sequestered in the night, we have an opportunity to bring this to the light and work with the defensive urges that have been motivating human behavior for so long.

 

Unlike Christian stories of Armageddon where good and evil square off in a movie directed by Michael Bay, the Buddhist version has more to do with a knitting of fabrics, a coming together of elements into a new compound. Maybe more like a film by Daron Aaronovsky. Which means a psychic blending of tendencies that never resolve into easy answers – or a simple movie.  On one hand, we have good and evil becoming more opposed until one – presumably good – wins out. Perhaps the modern definition of good is that which wins out. On the other hand, we have good and evil – light and dark – entwined in a dance fantastique that will spin until the pieces blend, the bubble pops, and a new agency is formed.

 

Tantric master Trungpa Rinpoche likened these times to a cosmic pimple popping – a heightening of neurosis and wisdom that leads to an opening from which new possibilities are formed. One doesn’t defeat the other so much as their clashing brings about greater awareness of pain and the suffering caused by an inapropriate relationship to pain.

 

It is my belief that we can navigate this confluence and take agency in the coming singularity. By training the mind in mindful awareness we gain control of impulses, by slowing down the point of impact and creating a buffer that allows us the time to RESPOND consciously rather than REACT reflexively. By learning to learning to guide ourselves from one trigger to the next without fistraction or reaction we can possibly learn to help  humanity through the turmoil into its next phase. Whether that phase is a greater sense of space and understanding leading to a flowering or its much predicted demise, may be in our hands. And the time to gain MANUAL control of the micro steps of our destiny may be right now.

 

In order to navigate this grand confluence we might have to slow down and begin to unpack the presumptive reasoning of being right. How do we see beyond our framed thinking into an acceptance of all that is coming toward us without losing ourselves? Well, maybe we can stand to loose some of ourselves. Or even a lot of ourselves. Maybe we can begin by recognizing all that keeps us from assimilation, and simply relax into the convergence, turn off our aggression and float into change WITH OUR EYES OPEN.

 

Working with synchronicity is a process of letting go and yet navigating the flow. Unlike other traditions that imply we can either resist or comply with a script, the Buddhist point of view  is that once we awaken – that is when we become conscious – we can navigate rather than aquiece or resist and in effect co-create the script of exustence with the universe. The universe, in this case, is the karmic web created by past actions moving in various vectors into future space. It is like an ocean of currents, each with thier own momentum. Navigating these currents means accepting thier existence and sitting up above the water line, being able to see where we are heading, and having the resolve to move away from the momentum of self interest into the undefined waters of discovery.

 

Navigating the white water confluence of past actions into future possibility takes letting go of our aggression, self-interest and resistance and allowing the natural change of things to take place. By keeping our eyes open during the change we can move into the open space of possibility, discovery and communication. Looking into the fear, darkness and aggression of our ancient pain, we can see our suffering in others. Understanding how misunderstanding our pain has caused us to act blindly, hurting ourselves and others, we can see how others have done the same to us. We are all fighting ancient demons snd blaming each other for our pain. We are all human and we are all suffering by our own hand. If we see this, pethaps the possibility of repairing that cycle of aggression is possible.

 

With our eyes open into the turmoil we can keep our balance and begin to pull each other from the roil. Or, with eyes and fists clenched against the current we will drown ourselves and each other. Maybe the duality isnt between good and evil, left and right or right and wrong. Its about seeing or ignoring. Either we wake up communicate and learn to stabilize the world of compassion, or shut down and solidify a world of hate, pain and aggression.

 

So, is this the best of worlds ir the worst?

 

Yes. It is both and because of that it is a magnificant time to be awake.

 

 


PAYING ATTENTION TO TENSION

Stress is considered a detriment to health. Lowering stress is a commonly stated  motivator bringing people to meditation. There we escape into interior landscapes of calm. We have apps that guide us into internal relaxation free of stress. This is all well and good until we get out in the street and someone buried in their smart phone slams into us, spilling our chill all over our shirt.

 

While these various  forms of escapist meditation bring relief from stress, they dont address the actual problem: tension caused by stress.  We can go to a yoga retreat in Kuai, a medicinal a salt bath in Utah or a deep chakra cleansing in Oregon. Still, three days later that tenacious stress is there. Maybe we should move, get a new job or softer shoes. But, all of that is so stressful. So there’s Xanax. Xanax works, but pills are cheating. And we know they’re cheating so they’re not really working. There’s Zen. And thats better than pills, but soon that all that Zen makes us so bored we start getting stressed thinking of how to bring more stress into our life.

 

So, maybe stress gets a bad rap.  Its clear that some stress is important for us to learn and grow. And each of us respond differently to different stress points. One person is paralyzed at the thought of public speaking, while another may thrive on the opportunity. Some may love physical thrills and extreme sports while others freeze on the way up a diving board. So, maybe stress gets a harsh rap. I mean, if you didn’t value stress, even a little bit, what are you doing in New York City? Or, Baltimore? Or, anyplace in the current United States, for that matter?

 

I believe its not stress that does the harm, as much as the tension we create in relation to it. Tension is a refexive / reactive physical gripping within the body. Its like putting on imaginary breaks while sitting in the passenger seat. Things are not going as we want them to, and mistaking this as a threat, we clamp down and avoid the opportunity to work WITH the situation. Its this gripping in the body that creates discomfort and injury.

 

On the other hand when we thrive on stress its because we have learned not to fear the opportunity and we meet stress with relaxation instead of tension. Serena Williams or Aaron Rodgers navigate stress for a living. They do it through relaxation born of mind and body training. Its about training. Training the mind to see how the body feels and training the body to open to the experience. In this way, we navigate past stress by turning tension into attention by actually leaning in to the stress points.

 

This is so counter to our conditioning, which has programmed us to avoid suffering by a process of aquisitional bandaidery. We apply one “healing” modality atop the other until we are fitter, happier and healthier, pigs in a cage on antidepressants. (Appologies Mr. Yorke.) Societally, We are driven to buy, buy, buy until we are spinning so quickly, we no longer see how our life is robbed. This is stressful. So we clamp down on ourselves, stomping in a frenzied river dance trying to stop that wheel so we can breath.

 

But breath happens as we relax. And relaxation happns as we become aware. Awareness happens as we alliw ourselves the space and time to relax and tension, and pay attention to the life unfolding before us. Our life. What kind of blessing is that? Not only is stress instructional, it is elemental in creating enough tension in the body for us to wake up, release the tension, and relax into attention.

 

So, not only is stress not the problem, but even tension is not a problem if we use it as a reminder to release ourselves from its psycho/somatic imprisonment and open back into our life. It may not be as selfie-potent as that chakra cleansing in Kauai, but mindfulness training is a sustainable way to teach the body to bring itself back to balance in pressured times.

 

Waking in Depression: The Way In

Our beautiful minds are vast and embued with great power. As such, they are a reservoir of great potential. However, we generally ignore this potential in lieu of problems we feel need to be fixed.  The problem is these problems tend to birth more problems until our identity is fixed with fixing things. Our attention becomes focused in tighter and tighter loops and our life reduces into simple iterations of routine.

 

We are caught between the great human potential inherent in all of us and an existential sleepwalk that holds us in lock step. Imagine the power of the universe locked in our laundry closet. At some point something either breaks out or breaks down. But who has time to break down these days? So we soldier on, ignoring the gnawing until we collapse.

Depression is a common and even reasonable reaction to living a life on  everyone elses terms. The root of depression may not actually be fear, but the anger we feel from shortchanging our lives because of that fear. Trying to get away from pain, we actually cause more pain. By trying so hard to be good, we end up living a false life. We have been duped by a cosmic shell game bartering reality for an anxiety dream. We cling to external things to help us fix the mess and in so doing forget the one person who can actually help us. The only person who can help.  The one who has been there all along.  We forget ourselves. When we shunt part of us away out of embarrassment, we become cut off from our inherent power. We begin to believe there is something wrong with us, and that we should be disappointed with ourselves and embarrassed about our depression.

In this way, our depression becomes solid. Our confidence erodes as we feel we are losing a battle.  We fall inward and becoming so small the day itself  feels too big. From this point of view, the potential of the mind must appear dark and forboding. In reaction to this fear, we shrink our awareness in an ostrich like effort to avoid pain. But, as we are occluding awareness, our fearfulness actually begets more fear. This denial of life not only robs us of joy, it also leaves us very vulnerable to manipulation.

 

Ancient humans fought for survival, hunted and gathered food. They died easily and lived short lives. Yet those lives may have had more contentment, community and connection than ours. Perhaps being disconnected from pain we are disconnected from an essential part of ourselves. We relagate pain into the darkness and take refuge in the light. We take solace in being right, even as a part of us suspects the opposite.

 

Our lives move more and more quickly these days. However, the nature we come from, is very slow.  The earth moves at its own pace, in its own way. The same with the heart. The faster we move the less we are able to feel the earth beneath us. And this has to threaten a more ancient part of ourselves, a deeper and intuitive part of ourselves. Whether we are aware or not, this spiritual dissonance causes an internal friction. On one hand, we feel we should be doing so much more. On the other, we’re already working too hard. Caught in this zero-sum vice, our heart, art, compassion and the life part of living have become lost. Placing our hearts on hold, we barter creativity for security causing ourseves and others great pain.

 

This reduction of our life dampens something inside. We can choose to be mute only so long before we forget how to sing. We can stay hobbled only so long before we forget how to dance. We can shut down life only so often, before we lose our will to live. We have told ourselves no so often, we simply shut down in response. So we retreat in fear, collapse inward and, wrapped in the fabric of time and space, hide ourselves from ourselves by becoming consumed in ourselves.

 

Man, it’s actually quite brilliant.

 

Crushed beneath the weight of “me” our mind begins to compile a ledger of all the things left wanting, undone and unfulfilled in our life. Our life force turns inward and the mind turns vicious. The power and potential of our mind is turned against the only foe it feels it can defeat: itself.

 

But, there is a way out. And the way out begins with the way in. By sitting IN our pain, we can become comfortable enough with suffering to find the space within. There is always space. But, in our fear we cling to the familiar and play the same song with such volume we drown all alternatives. However, by training the mind to stay, simply stay, and hold space for our experience, we find we can sit with greater and greater challenges. Eventually, we find a profound stillness. It is within that stillness that we begin to see in the dark. In fact, we become so familiar with the terrain of turmoil, that we learn to walk in the dark. At some point, we may even learn to dance in the darkness finding grace in our simple tenacity.

 

You see, it will eventually occur to our wounded mind, that we are sill here. One we’ve abandoned hope and surrendered to the great despair, we see that being with ourselves is all we have. Ground zero. Right here, right now, just so.

 

Meditation practice will not cure depression. Nor should it. But, a consistent daily practice will strengthen the mind, giving us the bravery to enter the dark, the resilience to remain with ourselves and the wisdom to find the love we need.

 

The love we need.

 

The love we have been looking for all along. The love that no one else can give. The love we learn to give ourselves by simply being here. There is something supremely powerful about beginning to feel lovingkindness for our incomplete life, bruised heart and tattered mind.  We can do this without turning the lights on, forcing a smile or turning the volume down. We can do this simply by being here, and not changing a thing. We can forgo trying to be good and simply be human. And humans suffer. When we connect to our suffering, we are connected to all of life, for all of life experiences suffering.

 

When we find love in the depths of despair, we find an Unconditional Love that compares nothing and accepts everything. Then we have a gift forged in the flames that no one can take from us. Our gift of unconditional love.

 

In the Shambhala teachings we say that practicing lovingkindness is to “place the mind of fearfullness in the cradle of loving kindness.” Learning to open the heart to the sadness of our spirit and finding the strength to hold space for our pain is a profound statement. And that profound statement is an acknowledgement of life itself.

 

Learning to hold ourselves with open arms, reduce the harm and find a connection to all beings is the way of the Bodhisattva.  In the Mahayana Buddhist tradition a Bodhisattva is one who has vowed to forstall their own salvation until all beings are free of suffering. They have vowed to venture into hell to liberate all beings.  We can find strength in this. There have been such people. And there are such people. Those willing to face the darkness and stay there until they get it. And then, be willing to look outward and bring that strength to the world. That is the way out. Benefit for the world. And, if not the whole world, then our world, 0r community. Someone else. Benefit to others is the best way to value yourself.

 

And, it is the way out that comes from finding the way in.

 

AWAKEN THE REPUBLIC

Following the election. Our world feels different. Maybe broken. It’s a good time to find healing and strength in love and sanity. It was hard to fathom. The People have spoken. Only not the majority. Rather, some people have spoken, rather pointedly.

 

Now, all will quiet. It will calm. We will likely not build a wall, or deport, indict or persecute anyone. Everyone will dial back to the center where this country finds ballast continuing nonetheless on a course the election has set. We’ll go back to our lives.  And as we sleep again, 2 conservative justices, a conservative senate and an administration built of lobbyists and special interests will turn back time for women, minorities, policing, jails and healthcare. Sadly, no one will turn back time on our changing climate, which will likely continue on pace, with our country a world leader in its own destruction.

 

You may be frightened. You may be happy that all is turning back from the swing to the left the country has taken. You may feel vindicated. You may be angry. You may be hurting. But, please remember its okay to love, along with hurt. It’s okay to find stillness and feel strength. As we rage in our souls and pour our hearts into every moment, whether we accept, resist, or support the changes, we might also be kind to ourselves. It may not be an easy time to feel light, but remember, we are light. I think we can shine, regardless.

 

This is bravery in the face of the unknown. I believe that we can respond, and act without malice, and without aggression. The power we have lies in awareness. And awareness comes when we don’t follow blindly, but stay engaged and grounded in the present. I believe we can employ non-violent activism and remain in place, awake, if we begin by sitting in the silence of loving kindness.

 

Turning anger into love that is awake and active and engaged. Love is not compliance. It is clear seeing with the heart and the mind. But it is dependent on our stability of mind. Our warrior posture of awake. It is time for this. It is time to move from the ignorance of blind compliance, or the blindness of rage to holding our seat as warriors in our body, spirit and mind.

 

Let’s awaken our republic. Awake New York! Awake DC! Awake LA and Awake America. Gently, but resolutely AWAKE. What other choice is there.  The Buddhist teachings say look at your world without disdain or bias. Meditation master, Chogyam Trungpa said “Look. Look at your world. It is your world. How can you not look.” His son, Sakyong Mipham has said again and again that the world needs us now. And to be brave, we must be “kind to ourselves and merciful to others.” From our seat of warriorship we can enact sanity in ourselves and very natural radiate that much needed sanity to others. So, we are shattered, and we are broken. But, rising up in hate and anger is the coward’s way. It is the way humanity has chosen again and again and regretted the results of the experiment each time. Instead, we can sit in strength and dignity of awake and choose sanity.

 

If survival is where humanity is meant to be going, then choosing sanity for ourselves is an important step. If, on the other hand, we are headed for destruction, well… then sanity seems even more important.


America Awake

2015-08-27 17.42.31There was another mass killing. Which one was that? The terrorist? The Muslim who sympathized? The Syrian who was left out? The Kid in the night club? The white kid in the theater, or the best friends at school?  Its getting so hard to keep count. Kids killing kids, cops killing kids, cops being killed, improvised explosives and suicide vests changing the face of public gathering. The world is erupting.  And with it, the cry to have more guns, and more war and more punishment. As though adding to the problem will somehow solve the problem.

 

But with all the pain, there feels like hope in the cracks of our chaos. With more pain there is, perhaps, more awareness.  There is more here, in front of us, to see and to understand.

 

This is a great time to be alive. Yes.  Not instead of the pain or despite the pain, but entirely because of the pain. Its a blessing that we are here to help and to repair and to work to bring this world back into harmony with the earth that has nurtured us. Its a blessing here in New York City to be among the fortunate, the privileged, the few who have the honor to make a difference. It is our great honor to serve. And it is great to give back. You see, we become weakened as we grab for more. We falter as we turn away.  We fail as we try to win, and win at all cost. There is no wining that does not win for all of us. There is no sanctity except in the grace of living in a world that we support, and are supported by.  And because of this, it is a great time to be awake.

 

The destination is now, and the time is here. We can make a difference, slowly and surely in our lives and now – more than ever in history – even small differences will be heard around the world.

 

America Awake is a call to (open) arms. Awake is a revolution whose symbol is not a raised fist, but an open hand. It is a philosophy of understanding. And, rather than re-knowing what we already know, reiterating what we’ve been told, retelling the obvious and restating that which was written in stone, in an age of stone, we can emerge into a new dawn, and simply have the courage to say . . .  heck if I know. Lets start fresh.

 

How can I help?

 

What is happening now? And, how can I better understand the needs of my sisters, and the truth of my brothers, and the pain of a rainbow of every shade in between?

 

I pledge allegiance to the moment. And equipped with the immense power of wakefulness, vow to listen to the differences and to heal all damage. I pledge to cause harm to no one and bring the world together in a time of darkness.  I pledge to never outrun my fear, but to open my heart to the transformative possibility of my pain.

 

Is that utterly ridiculous?  I suppose so. Its certainly naive and simplistic. And, how cool is that?

 

 

 

 


Wake Up and Relax


Meditation is a practice that allows us gain agency in our lives. We are training to settle our mind in order to wake up into our life. As the mind is more attentive when relaxed, training to cultivate a relaxed attention allows us to more fully contact our life. We sit in a singular connection to the moment, grounded in the security of earth. From that base, the spine can rise to heaven, allowing the mind to open into the vast sky of awake.

 

We rise up to settle down. We wake up in order to rest in the moment. These seeming polarities describe what are actually complementary components of the practice. The Taoist Tradition refers to the “Yin” of relaxing into the receptive earth and the “Yang” of rising to heaven in attention.  It is stated in the iChing that the alignment of the spine to the center of the earth allows us to reconnect to a universal sense of humanity. The Tao Te Ching posits that disconnection from the earth leaves us wandering as ghosts, blown by the vicissitudes of desire and past actions.  At the center of the earth, humanity is connected, clear and complete. On the surface, we perceive difference, distance and disparity.

 

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition meditation is considered a yogic practice. The posture is an asana with the main stretch being the upright spine. Imagine the tailbone as an ancient arrowhead pointed directly down, weighted deep into the earth. Its alignment is plum, neither sticking back nor curling forward. Then feel the spine resting on that base and reaching straight through the body, through the top of the head, describing a line infinitely into the heavens above.  Relax upward into that stretch, as though a string was pulling you up, stretching the spine. This is the “Yang” alignment, a vertical stretch joining heaven with earth. It is awake, and tells the lower mind it may relax now, because someone is in charge. Our higher power is engaged and we are awake at the wheel of life. In just two minutes, it is said, our brain chemistry begins to change. We are, in effect, exchanging cortisol for confidence.

 

With that vertical stretch, the body’s organs and systems gently fall to the pull of gravity and relax into their anonymous work. Contrary to our conditioned thinking, it is actually more restful for the body to to sit upright allowing interior room, than to slump downward, constricting space and creating stress on the internal organs.

 

Now, without compromising the vertical stretch, allow the body to relax down and open. The “Ying” alignment is a continued opening and relaxing of the body. While the upright Yang posture aids wakeful attention, its attendant downward relaxation allows the mind to fall into the body and synchronize with the moment to moment beating of life. This horizontal opening awakens the mind’s receptive potential, as it opens out into a community of awareness.

 

In the practice of mindfulness awareness – or, as I call it, Mindful Awareness we develop a synchronicity to the parts. We combine the solar and lunar experience into a fluid synchronized dance of resting in the moment as we open to the experience. The Yang alignment develops mindfulness by rising to a specific detail of our living experience. It’s counterpoint, the Ying alignment, relaxes into acceptance and expands into an awareness of the environment. Yang establishes form and definition, while Yin accesses space and context.

 

The breathing binds these two components. With the breath we rise up and relax down. We gather in, and expand out. We take in nutrients and release toxins. We gather in the world, and then let go back into it. We bring the mind back to the breath again and again until the mind settles into a peaceful and stable connection to the present, joining heaven and earth.

 

As with any meditation practice the primary point is the effect on our life. With the posture alone, we are learning to wake up into relaxation, and to relax down into attention. We reduce stress and gain greater ability to rest in the present. SO, counter to our conditioning, we actually gain more focus in life not by focusing, or learning to tighten the mind in concentration, but by opening to our experience we can relax into resting in that experience for longer and longer periods of time. And, we always have the body, and its proper alignments – up and down – to bring us back to wholeness and balance.

 

And, as a tool the breath is perfect for balancing the yang and yin. For one thing, it is always there. It is reliably in the present. For another, it is lifting us up and relaxing us down into synchronicity with the moments of life. So, we can use this tool, anywhere as long as we remain alive. We can simply breath and with Mindful Awareness training, come to bring the mind and body back into balance by breathing into the tension, relaxing the breath into the body. The alignments will occur naturally releasing tension, and the stress of the stored tension, and breathe in nutrients to lift our mood and relax our mind.

 

In this way, we bring meditation to life. Training in body and mind awareness, so that we remain in balance with life.