Mindfulness Northwest Newsletter Articles

Here are the article from our monthly Mindfulness Northwest Practice Letter plus some additional notes from Executive Director Tim Burnett.
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  • 5 Nov 2018 9:44 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Tim Burnett

    Dear Friends,

    I was recently speaking to a friend about a very difficult relationship she was having with a colleague at work, and it made me think about the many difficult relationships I've had at work. I bet you can think of quite a few too! I thought it might be helpful to reflect on how mindfulness training can help. 

    Starting with acceptance

    Are there expectations that the situation should be different from the way it is? While it's helpful to have hope for change and to look for ways to improve the situation, in mindfulness we find that change doesn't work well unless we start with a deep base of acceptance. Can you fully accept the difficult situation and the person involved just as they are? This may require you to feel some challenging feelings and to acknowledge a strong aversion to the other person or experience very difficult emotions in your own heart.

    Remember the definition of mindfulness from Jon Kabat-Zinn: paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally? Can you apply this simple, elegant, and often not-so-easy, practice to this difficult work relationship. Can you just attend to how it actually is in the moment when you encounter this person without adding judgments about how it should or shouldn't be?

    We start there: accepting that what's happening is what's happening.

    What am I adding?

    A helpful next step is to consider the qualities and habits of mind that are emerging around the situation. I like to ask myself, "what am I adding?" Are you adding a narrative about how this person should or shouldn't be? Are you adding ideas about how much more wisely and intelligently (or cleverly!) you should respond to this person? Are you adding a strong opinion about how the organization you work within should have been handling the situation? Are you adding an emotional tone like fear or anger about this person's presence in your life?

    While it's natural for our minds to attempt to place every situation in a narrative and emotional framework to help us deal with it, there are often elements to this process that do not serve us well. When mindfulness arises along with these mental and emotional additions they have much less power over us. 

    A helpful practice to meet this "piling on" aspect of the mind is the practice of labelling. You can do this practice both formally in sitting meditation and also in the middle of the night when you wake up upset about the situation. Try meeting that complex of thoughts and emotions with a simple label like "ruminating about so-and-so" or "fearful thoughts" or "planning" to see if you can acknowledge your thoughts but not get lost in them. Then it is also so helpful to come back to the breath and the body. Remember that the breathing doesn't worry about Monday morning at work. It just breathes.

    Every moment of resting with awareness in the sensations of the inhale and the exhale is a moment of peace from these "piling on" patterns. This doesn't make the patterns "go away" but it can bring more ease and perspective.

    Seek support, wisely.

    We live in such a go-it-alone culture! And yet as social animals we're designed to need support from others. Whom can you talk to about the situation that will help you bring a wise perspective to it? A warning, however – watch out for friends or co-workers who end up just reinforcing the complaining side of your mind. 

    'm thinking here of a beneficial stress response called "Tend and Befriend" - a response that leads you to seek support for being in a difficult situation. Can you really feel and receive that support? To be okay with the reality that as a person under stress you need love and kindness from others you trust? Be mindful that the whole conversation isn't just about problem solving. True, some new approaches to the problem may emerge from the other person's perspective, but let the bulk of the conversation be about your needs as a person.

    Common Humanity & Self-Compassion

    It's also very helpful to remember how universal it is for humans to have trouble getting along. You might practice with the phrase "just like me..." during a mindful pause before going into work or during formal practice. Say to yourself something like,  "Just like me, many people have difficult relationships at work." Phrase it more specifically and in a way that fits your situation. And really feel into this. You are not alone. Of the billions of people on the planet there are surely a whole lot of them are experiencing a very, very similar situation. This wise internal support you can offer yourself is called a contemplation of "common humanity." Contemplating common humanity is a key part of the practice of self-compassion, along with mindful awareness and inviting yourself to be kinder to yourself.

    Trust your resources - in the moment.

    Somehow we have the false idea that endlessly thinking, rehearsing, and ruminating about a difficult relationship or problem will make us wiser and smarter and better prepared for action. But after a reasonable amount of intention setting and planning has been done, we quickly reach a point of diminishing returns. Or worse, further rehearsing and ruminating just wears us down internally. And all for naught since the actual reality of the next encounter with this person almost certainly won't match the future we'd been imagining.

    See if you can coach yourself to trust your resources instead. Remind yourself that you're a competent and intelligent person. Sure you have your limitations, but who doesn't? Remember that you don't know what's going to happen next – which could be an intimidating thought. Or, you could see it as an open and exciting thought: everything changes and you don't know what will happen next. The practice of mindfulness, especially regular formal practice, supports the emergence of more trust that whatever  happens we'll do our best to meet it and that this doing our best will be just that - our best. This is enough. Logically of course that's inherently true! How can we do better than our best? Trust that you'll meet the new situation as best you can and that this is enough.

    It's not easy, but is it really as hard as you think it is

    The mind has a powerful way of amplifying difficulty. See if you can meet the difficult situation with a "just" attitude. Without trivializing or avoiding the difficulty maybe you can reminder yourself that it's just a difficult situation. It's just work. And it's possible to put it down and step away from the situation when you go home, or even while at work, and in a moment that situation is not the present anymore. In fact, if you look carefully at your moment by moment reality I, bet the difficult feelings around the relationship are actually there most of the time! When they come they are powerful, and difficult, but in other moments there are other feelings and thoughts present in the mind and that particular difficulty, in that moment, ceases to exist.

    I'll close with a story from Buddhism that you might appreciate. While written in ancient China and in a Buddhist framework I think it speaks wisely to these situations!

    Layman Pang was sitting in his thatched cottage one day with his family studying the sutras. "Difficult, difficult, difficult," he suddenly exclaimed, "like try to store ten bushels of sesame seed in the top of a tree."

    "Easy, easy, easy," his wife, Laywoman Pang, answered. "It's like touching your feet to the floor when you get out of bed."

    "Neither difficult not easy," said their daughter Lingzhao. "It's like the teachings of the ancestors shining on the hundred grass tips."

    I don't know if you've ever had to store ten bushels of sesame seed in the top of a tree, but we sure do have to do some challenging things at work, and in life. Difficult, difficult, difficult to be sure. And yet is there also an element to this life that is easy, easy, easy? Or is the true reality neither difficult nor easy? Life unfolds as it does. We do our best. Moment to moment to moment.

    Tim


  • 3 Nov 2018 9:44 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    Mindfulness Northwest retreats almost always come with talks on practice. For longer retreats (the Roots of Compassion in August and the Roots of Mindfulness in October), there are series of connected talks with a theme. And all are available on our website, along with the notes for the talks. Next best thing to being there!

    Here's a link to the overall pageRoots Talks

    And here are links to specific retreats:

    2018 Roots of Mindfulness. Theme: The Four Foundations of Mindfulness from the 2018 Roots of Mindfulness. Theme: The Four Foundations of Mindfulness from the Satipatthana Sutta.

    2018 Roots of Compassion. Theme: The four Buddhist Virtues (Loving Kindness, Compassion, Empathetic Joy and Equanimity) and the practices that support them

    2018 Spring Retreat. Topic: Clarity of Mind

    2017 Roots of Mindfulness. Theme: The Foundational Attitudes of Mindfulness

    2017 Roots of Compassion. Theme: The Mind-training Slogans (Lojong). 

    2015 Roots of Mindfulness. Theme: The Four Foundations of Mindfulness


  • 18 Oct 2018 9:31 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Oori Silberstein

    ...And our system is just waiting for an invitation to move in that direction.

    Paying attention in a certain way in any given moment provides such an invitation. I have experienced this repeatedly in myself over many years of practice. I have also observed this in others, over years of teaching and facilitating Mindfulness, meditation, self-compassion and trauma resiliency. But don’t take my word for it. Instead, I invite you to experiment with it yourself to see what you think. Take a day and try out 3 or 4 of the informal practices linked below. Or take a week or a month and practice them every day. But first, a little more background info.

    We all experience uncomfortable moments. Emotionally. Physically. In relationships. In our self-talk. We can't avoid this. As human beings it comes with the territory. This "pain" of living is unavoidable at times. Along with this unavoidable "pain" of living, we also have patterns of reactivity and conditioned responses that add layers of suffering that are not an inherent part of being human. Because the brain is elastic and trainable, we can practice with and over time learn to be able to let go of our layers of reactivity, thereby reducing our stress and suffering in uncomfortable moments. With attention and practice and patience we can learn to make some space around our discomfort in a way that helps our system let go of habituated responses of stress and struggle. Thousands of years of wisdom practices from many traditions have shown this to be true, and so has modern neuroscience.

    Formal Meditation or Mindfulness Practice:

    The simple practice of noticing can be very healing and transformative. Noticing – and allowing what is noticed to just be – there creates a gap or a space between what appears to be bothering us or making us feel uncomfortable, the stimulus, and our habituated response. This gap by itself helps us access our capacity for being okay in the midst of difficulty. Practicing with this during formal practice over time increases how often we find this gap arising outside of our formal practice, and strengthens our ability to find some ease and balance in the middle of everything. Practice also helps us see the difference between the actual experience itself and the reactions to that experience, reactions that arise in the mind and add to the experience of discomfort.

    In formal practice, by which I mean things like sitting meditation, mindful movement practice or the body scan, we practice this over and over again by returning to the breath, or by turning to the uncomfortable experience itself, and allowing whatever is noticed to be noticed with the simple intention to let it be what it is. These ways of noticing, of being with, by themselves disrupt and weaken our habituated responses, without us having to try to do it specifically. It's a by-product of the noticing in a sense. We don't have to try to disrupt, we just choose where to place our attention and our system does the rest. The gap itself is beneficial right in the moment it arises. And, we can also use this gap to step back and make wise decisions that further reduce suffering and increase well-being. 

    Informal Practice: Mixing it In Briefly Whenever We Think of It.

    In addition to formal meditation practice there are lots of very short practices we can do in the midst of our day to disrupt and sometimes reduce the patterns of reactivity that arise in the mind. For example, when we notice difficulty we often try to solve it or figure it out to get rid of the uncomfortable feeling. But that rarely works in the moment when we are worked up or upset or bothered. Instead, we can redirect the attention to something more neutral, like our breath, or the feeling in the body, or the sounds around us.

    As an experiment right now, try the following:

    1. Check in with yourself to see how you feel right now. Really. Just close your eyes for three seconds and take a breath and notice what is going on in your experience in this moment. Just notice, and don't try to do anything with it or about it for a moment.
    2. Now close your eyes again and allow the ears to hear whatever sounds are noticed. It may be one sound (a fan) or lots of little sounds that come and go. And for one whole minute, just keep coming back to noticing sounds whenever the mind wanders.
    3. Now check in with yourself again and notice how you are in this moment.

    For many of us, this simple one-minute break often shifts our experience just enough that we feel a little less entangled or bothered. Or a little more relaxed and easeful.

    More informal practices

    There are other practices we can try in as short as a minute when we notice discomfort or agitation in the body or mind. Follow this link to five of them, on our website:

    Five Informal Practices

    The invitation is to experiment with these and see which ones are useful to you, and then lean into them. And know that what works one day may not feel right another day, so we experiment and build a tool bag we can draw on. I often find a particular practice to be useful for me in a given period in my life, and I take it on as my primary informal practice for week, months or years. I sprinkle in other practices when the instinct arises, and I shift to a different primary informal practice when it seems wise and useful to do so.

    And through all of it, I remember that as I learn and practice different ways of tuning in to my experience that awakens this capacity within me, I increase my ability to feel more okay in the midst of difficulty. So play, experiment, and notice what works for you, and may you find some benefit.


  • 18 Oct 2018 7:30 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    Here are some thoughts from Karen Maezen Miller, reflecting on the myriad reasons she can find to not take the time to practice:

    "There are no barriers to practice, no obstacles or wrong turns. So why do we keep finding them? Ironically, that's what mediation is: sitting down and seeing just how much we tumble in the crosscurrents of our likes and dislikes, desires and judgments, worries and doubt, and (this is the important part) staying put and meditating until the bell rings

    "Perceived obstacles don't just prevent people from beginning a meditation practice; they can derail seasoned sitters. After practicing for a while, we develop expectations and attachments. ... This is when doubts begin to sidetrack a practitioner. Am i doing it right?It doesn't seem to be working for me.. Is there something more to it? This hasn't really improved my life the way I hoped it would.

    "Sound familiar?

    "It takes faith to keep going when you are spinning in a swirl of doubt – faith in yourself. Otherwise practice is likely to become one of a long list of things in life that you start with eager optimism and discard in cynicism and despair...

    "In the meantime, all the fits and starts, highs and lows, are just part of the path.

    "There is no path other than the one you're on. Let's settle down right where we are and see it straight on."

    From Just Get Out of Your Own Way by Karen Maezen Miller, Lion's Roar, November 2018


  • 6 Oct 2018 9:33 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    Dear Friends,

    Lately I've been thinking a lot about kindness and about serving and helping others. I have a big dose of the impulse to be helpful, to be supportive, to try to help, to be kind to others.  I'm guessing you do too.

    On the one hand, this is a very good thing. It's the essential ingredient in a healthy social fabric. If we didn't ever want to be helpful to others what a disastrous world we'd be in! Think of the small kindnesses of strangers as you go about your day. Think of the common courtesies we take for granted from holding a door to waiting your turn at a 4-way stop sign. Think of waiting in line and listening to each other when we speak. It's a wonderful mindfulness practice to just notice more fully the weaving of kindness, sometimes it's subtle, into most of the interactions we have all day. And then think of the many friends, colleagues, family members and acquaintances you interact with each day too. There's a lot of kindness.

    Kindness actually seems to predominate. It's really common! The mind, with its negativity bias and quick triggers, does tend to notice the exceptions to this rule quite strongly and we can easily feel a surge of outrage when someone acts in a way we consider unkind. A rude interaction can stick with us all day, can't it? It's easy to see such things out of proportion to the amount of kindness we're surrounded by. 

    But what I'm thinking about today is one of the "shadow sides" of kindness and being helpful. I'm thinking of when kindness becomes more of a compulsion. I'm exploring the ways I'm deeply conditioned to always be helpful and solve everyone's problems and say "yes" to everything. I'm thinking about how hard it can be form me to say "no." To anything. Ever.

    This is something I've been investigating for a while and I believe it's driven by a deep fear: the fear that others will reject me or not love me. Or that I'm in fact in some way fundamentally flawed and unlovable. There's a kind of endless unceasing quest to be loved and respected that this primitive part of my brain thinks will be completely undermined if I ever say "no" to anything. 

    Case in point

    There are right now three messages in the "priority!" section of my Gmail which are requests or follow ups around things I've been asked to do, one of them I offered to do but now realize I don't have time. And to make things worse at least one of them was something I offered to do earlier!

    I need to answer those messages with a clear, kind, "no, I'm sorry I've realized I don't have time to do that." But it's hard for me to do that. I keep procrastinating.

    That mind – that wants to always be kind and never wants to disappoint anyone – is captivated by the fear of being unlovable. I become paralyzed and I put off answering those messages, which just causes even more trouble. Sometime I stare at my calendar fantasizing about more time being there or some other obligation going away. Other times I distract myself with another task. It gets a little nutty. Do you do something like this too?

    Eventually I'll end up answering. 

    Will I end up saying "yes" partly fueled by the additional guilt that I delayed the conversation so long? Or will the saying "no" just be that much harder for the procrastinating?

    What helps? Sometimes I seek support from my spouse or another trusted advisor. "I really should say no to this right?" It helps to get the affirmation. But ultimately I think like anything else, it's a practice. I need to practice saying "no" and pay attention to what actually happens. Are my projected fears of rejection actually true?

    So far the evidence is clear. When I manage to say "no" to something I shouldn't take on almost every time the person I feel indebted to is just fine with it. Sometimes they even flag it as a model of healthy boundaries that helps them! Might a few people be upset with me? Sure. But just like with the general levels of kindness and unkindness in our world, the upset is quite rare. Most often it's fine. No big deal. We all understand that people have to say no sometimes. And out of our respect for each other we honor that as part of life. 

    Okay: on to my inbox. Time to practice saying "no" a few more times!

    Little by little may our deep fears and insecurities that drive us be lessened through self-kindness and mindful awareness and... practice!

    Tim


  • 6 Oct 2018 8:30 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Tim Burnett

    What are you grateful for?

    This is a really valuable question to ask yourself. In fact, take a moment now to consider this if you would. You might even get out a piece of paper and write down a few things you feel grateful for. 

    Gratitude helps to counteract a tendency of mind called "habituation" – the taking for granted the many things that allow us to live and thrive. The mind, with it's negativity bias, preferentially focuses on the problems and hassles of life and misses the incredible supports we experience every day, such as the very air we breathe and the water we drink. You might take a moment and add to your list any people who've taught you, coached you, and supported you over the years. Would you be where you are now without their support?

    Emotion researchers consistently find that practicing gratitude consistently leads to positive outcomes. According to researcher Robert Emmons practicing gratitude leads to:

    1. Benefits to our mood and energy: we feel more alert, energetic and enthused by life,
    2. Benefits to how we feel physically: this includes feeling better about our bodies and also being more motivated to exercise which has additional benefits,
    3. Benefits to our sleep: we sleep longer and awake feeling more refreshed, and
    4. Benefits to our relationships and sense of connection to others: we feel more affirmed by others and more appreciative of the positive roles they play in our lives leading us to feel less isolated and lonely. 

    A more philosophical point about gratitude

    When we focus on what we're grateful for, as helpful as that is, we’re often operating in a mode of separation: of me over here grateful for that helpful something over there. To counteract this, I love the way gratitude advocate Brother David Steindl-Rast describes the more general and inclusive state of "gratefulness."

    He suggests that this fundamental attitude of gratefulness can permeate our whole lives, whether we're at this moment feeling like we're getting the support we need or not. Perhaps one way to combine "I'm grateful for" with "I'm practicing gratefulness" is to contemplate our gratitude for simply being alive. For being. For this life with all of its twists and turns and challenges and joys. From mindfulness, we know that it is all we have! Even when things are difficult, perhaps gratefulness is more available than we think.

    And then please consider what do you feel grateful for? Right now. As Br. David suggests may we all, "let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you." Because, "then it will really be a good day."

    Wishing us all gratefulness,
    Tim

    Here are some gratitude resources:

    I love watching this lovely invocation of gratefulness with Brother David's narration and the images and artistry of filmmaker Louis Schwartzberg:
    https://mindfulnessnorthwest.com/video/5583225
    Five minutes well worth spending.

    You can watch a section of a talk by Dr. Emmons describing his research here
    https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/video/item/the_benefits_of_gratitude

    and this article by the same group, the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at UC Berkeley, is a nice encouragement to practice gratitude with a few practice suggestions:
    https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/four_great_gratitude_strategies

    Recently the GGSC even created an online tool for practicing gratitude that sends you text reminders to notice what you feel grateful for.
    https://www.thnx4.org/

    I've signed up for it and I'm curious to see how I'll feel if I can stick with it through their 10 Day Gratitude Challenge.


  • 18 Sep 2018 9:36 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)


    There has been a lot of growth at Mindfulness Northwest of late. Please join us in welcoming these delightful people to our family.


    Teresa Johnson, who, in addition to being a Teacher has been working at MNW as Youth Programs Coordinator and Administrative Specialist since Spring, has been promoted to Programs Coordinator, Youth and Adult Programs and will have responsibility for the planning  of all of MNW's community and organizational offerings. Teresa has dedicated much of her adult life to supporting youth and families, professionally and as a community volunteer. She holds a BA in Secondary Education. and has served youth of all ages in a variety of settings and completed the Mindful Schools and Making Friends with Yourself trainings to teach mindfulness and mindful self-compassion to children and teens. Over the past year, she simultaneously completed the Mindfulness Teacher Training Program and the MBSR Teacher Training Program through Mindfulness Northwest, and she will be co-teaching one of our Seattle MBSR classes (with Beth Glosten) this Fall.  Facilitating and witnessing inner growth in others is her greatest joy, and she’s excited about the many new opportunities to do this in her roles with Mindfulness Northwest.


    Outreach and Events Coordinator Catherine Duffy earned her Master of Arts in Policy Studies from the University of Washington and has worked and volunteered in a variety of leadership positions in both the public and private sectors. When a family member was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in 2012, Catherine began studying and practicing mindfulness and is now a certified mindfulness instructor.  As the mother of four grown children – one of whom lives with developmental disabilities – and a new grandmother, Catherine continues to learn the value of pausing, taking a breath, and inviting quiet moments to reset and refresh the day. She currently is completing the UCSD Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher Training program and is also beginning work as a Listening Mothers facilitator.  Catherine loves to support and encourage the transformative effects of mindfulness in people’s lives and is delighted to join Mindfulness Northwest in their thoughtful work toward this end.


    Teacher Beth Glosten, MD, grew up riding horses on Bainbridge Island in the Pacific Northwest. She attended Occidental College, and then the University of Washington School of Medicine. She had an academic Anesthesiology career until physical issues prompted her to step back from that hectic life. She then studied pilates, and through this system embraced moving mindfully. An avid dressage rider, Beth applied the movement principles of pilates to horseback riding (Rider Pilates). She was drawn to meditation several years ago and found it meshed naturally with her approach to teaching movement: turn focus inward to listen to and befriend one’s self. From this place, growth and healing possibilities emerge. Beth is a certified Mindfulness Teacher through Mindfulness Northwest. She incorporates meditation into her pilates-based movement classes and teaches mindful movement and meditation to prison inmates through Yoga Behind Bars.


    Teacher Joe Arellano has devoted his 30 plus year career to the realm of Complementary Alternative Medicine. A graduate of ground-breaking programs through UCLA, the Institute of Psycho-Structural Balancing, and Mindfulness Northwest, he is a Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Mindfulness Teacher and is enrolled in our MBSR Teacher Training program. Joe has a private practice in Anacortes.





    Teacher Oori Silberstein has been a life long student of what makes us happier and more at ease. He discovered Yoga in high school and Tai Chi in college, and forgot the lessons they taught him for many years. The anxiety he experienced in the business world led him to Buddhist practice and Mindfulness in 1999 which changed his life. He quit the business world ten years ago and committed himself to supporting and teaching others. Oori teaches meditation, mindfulness and self-kindness to adults and teenagers. His style is light and playful, and is informed by the belief that we are all whole and have the innate capacity for deep contentment and happiness, but we sometimes need some support accessing it. He has a background in trauma support and grief support and has worked and taught in schools and hospitals. He is trained as a Chaplain and is an ordained Buddhist minister. Oori is also interested in sharing mindfulness, self-compassion and meditation to populations that do not currently have easy access to such trainings, by supporting those communities and their members in their own move towards self reliance and empowerment. He has been teaching with MNW since April.


    Teacher Cheryl Beighle recently retired after 31 years of practice as a Pediatrician. She completed a fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona in 2002 which lead to her exploration of other effective modalities of healing that are not traditional to Western Medicine. She has studied hypnosis, becoming an approved consultant with the American Society of Clinic Hypnosis, studied energy medicine, chi gong, yoga and, in 2008, started training to teach MBSR at the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She finished her training to be a qualified Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Teacher in 2018. She now teaches for Mindfulness Northwest, is the medical director for Integrative Services at Providence Regional Cancer Partnership and does consultative Integrative Medicine at the Everett Clinic.


  • 17 Sep 2018 7:40 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Michael Kelberer

    I intend that this writing benefit all beings.

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the lack of an overtly spiritual practice in my life. I’ve gone through quite a few in my six plus decades: Catholicism, sect-less Christianity, shamanism, Buddhism (although this mainly involved reading about Buddhism, not practicing it).  And here I am still seeking.

    I thought mindfulness might be just the ticket, and meditation would be The Answer. No canon of beliefs, no antique rituals, just “connection.” After two and a half years though, I can still feel the spiritual hole. 

    I recently read an article in Lions Roar (May 2018) with the title “Through this merit, may all beings awaken.” It was about a Buddhist practice whereby, when you finish your practice, whether it be meditation, yoga or praying, you dedicate any “merit” (goodness or value) you have gained from that practice to the benefit of all beings. This, says Lama Palden Drolma, “expands our meditation beyond ourselves.”

    “Expanding beyond ourselves.” It seems like that is a common thread in human kind’s search for spiritual meaning. And a definition that works for me. At face value, meditation appears to be self-centered and isolating, but those who practice know that it profoundly influences one’s relationship with the world. Lama Drolma’s guidance takes this further, encouraging us to feel part of the greater world. Adding a spiritual thread to our practices is the act of connecting to a sense of the greater good itself.

    Lama Drolma says that when she first started this practice, “I immediately noticed a big shift in my meditation. It felt like my whole practice opened up and become more effortless. It wasn’t just about me anymore.”

    While it is fine to make the dedication to any group of beings, she suggests making the group as large as possible, by including “humans, animals, and any and all sentient beings – maybe even alien life forms – in our practice. This expands our consciousness to the unbound vastness.”

    This also, she adds, has the effect of helping us get beyond any beliefs we might hold about our separateness from other life. “When we dedicate the merit of our meditation to all beings, we are in alignment with the truth [that we are interdependent], and our self-concept expands, even if we don’t immediately notice it.”

    So how do we actually do that?

    The dedication itself comes at the end of the practice, and in the article Lama Drolma gives several examples from Buddhism. Here is one that fits my more secular spiritual sensibility:

    “I dedicate whatever fruits have arisen from my practice to the wellbeing of all living creatures, that they may awaken and be free.”

    Lama Drolma also suggests that we can add to this practice by setting a complimentary intention at the start. For example, beginning a meditation session by setting the simple intention of benefiting all beings by virtue of your practice.

    She also points out that the acts of setting an intention and making a dedication can bookend not just our formal practices, but really any activity we perform throughout our day. We can do it before and after washing the dishes, cooking a meal, or walking the dog. I like this idea a lot – being not just mindful during the mundane acts of my life, but elevating each into a spiritual practice.

    So I’ve made a commitment to try this practice (when I remember!), and am looking forward to seeing if quenches my thirst for an “overtly spiritual practice.” 

    I dedicate whatever merit has arisen through this writing to the benefit of all beings, that they may awaken and be free.

  • 10 Sep 2018 4:48 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

    We're excited to be adding a new teacher training program next year. Applications are now being accepted for the 2019-2020 cohort.

    Building on the foundations of our Mindfulness Teacher Training Program (MTTP) or on other training you have in teaching and facilitating, our new

    Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Teacher Training (MBSR-TT)

    Is a hands-on intensive training in becoming an excellent MBSR teacher. MBSR refers to the specific 8-week mindfulness class described here: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

  • 8 Sep 2018 10:46 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

    You can now listen, and for some of them read the notes, for the 2018 Roots of Compassion retreat's prepared talks. The theme was the powerful set of Buddhist teachings called the "4 Divine Abodes" or "Brahma Viharas" which for an integrated set of practices around compassion.

    Check it out here: 2018 - Brahma Viharas

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