A Matter of Practice

During the time you are practicing mindfulness, you stop talking—not only the talking outside, but the talking inside.

The talking inside is the thinking, the mental discourse that goes on and on and on inside. Real silence is the cessation of talking—of both the mouth and of the mind.

This is not the kind of silence that oppresses us. It is a very elegant kind of silence, a very powerful kind of silence. It is the silence that heals and nourishes us.

—Thich Nhat Hanh

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A typical meditation consists of focusing your full attention on your breath as it flows in and out of your body.

Focusing on each breath in this way allows you to observe your thoughts as they arise in your mind and, little by little, to let go of struggling with them.

You come to realize that thoughts come and go of their own accord; that you are not your thoughts. You can watch as they appear in your mind, seemingly from thin air, and watch again as they disappear, like a soap-bubble bursting.

You come to the profound understanding that thoughts and feelings (including negative ones) are transient. They come and they go, and ultimately, you have a choice about whether to act on them or not.

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Mindfulness is about observation without criticism; being compassionate with yourself. When unhappiness or stress hovers overhead, rather than taking it all personally, you learn to treat them as if they were black clouds in the sky, and to observe them with friendly curiosity as they drift past.

In essence, mindfulness allows you to catch negative thought patterns before they tip you into a downward spiral. It begins the process of putting you back in control of your life.

From:

~ Mark Williams, Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World

 

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You’ve Got Mail

Alan Cohen received the following letter from Hilda Charlton, his mentor. In some respects, however, it could have been sent to any one of us by our “deep knowing” that goes by many names.

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Dear Alan,

I just want you to know how much I love you and I believe in you. You are doing wonderful things. Don’t be put off by adversity. You are on the road your soul came to master. You have help from unseen sources. You are blessed and deeply loved.

Hilda

As quoted in: The Tao Made Easy: Timeless Wisdom to Navigate a Changing World by Alan Cohen

Breathless Unity

As children, the play of the sun on rippling water brought us before God’s throne. Did you ever see an infant gaze at a lightbulb or the moon?

Spiritual techniques are discovered naturally by infants and little children: holding their breath, staring unblinking, standing on their heads, imitating animals, turning in circles, sitting unmoving, and repeating phrases over and over until all else ceases to exist.

Stop thinking that meditation is anything special. Stop thinking all together. Look at the world around you as if you had just arrived on Planet Earth.

Observe the rocks in their natural formations, the trees rooted in the ground, their branches reaching to the sky, the plants, animals and the interrelationships of each to the other.

See yourself through the eyes of a dog in a park. See a flower through its essence. See a mountain through its massiveness.

When the mind allows its objects to remain unmolested, there may be no mind and no object—just breathless unity.

—Surya Singer

Looking at the World

 

When our thinking mind subsides, what we might call our heart-mind takes over, and we can begin to live in love. ~ Ram Dass, Polishing the Mirror

As children, the play of the sun on rippling water brought us before God’s throne.

Did you ever see an infant gaze at a lightbulb or the moon?

Spiritual techniques are discovered naturally by infants and little children: holding their breath, staring unblinking, standing on their heads, imitating animals, turning in circles, sitting unmoving, and repeating phrases over and over until all else ceases to exist.

Stop thinking that meditation is anything special. Stop thinking all together.

Look at the world around you as if you had just arrived on Planet Earth.

Observe the rocks in their natural formations, the trees rooted in the ground, their branches reaching to the sky, the plants, animals and the interrelationships of each to the other.

See yourself through the eyes of a dog in a park.

See a flower through its essence. See a mountain through its massiveness.

When the mind allows its objects to remain unmolested, there may be no mind and no object—just breathless unity.

—Surya Singer

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Dwelling in the Flow of Things

The Opening of Eyes 

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read…

It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.h

~ David Whyte,  from Songs for Coming Home

 

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Out Beyond Ideas

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.

~ Rumi

 

 

Journey of Awakening

Perhaps at some time you have sat quietly by the side of an ocean or river.

At first there is one big rush of sound.

Listening quietly, you begin to hear a multitude of subtle sounds: the waves hitting the shore, the rushing current of the river.

In that peacefulness and silence of mind you experience precisely what is happening.

It is the same when you listen to yourself.

At first all you can hear is one “self” or “I,” but slowly this self is revealed as a mass of changing elements, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and images, all illuminated simply by listening, by paying attention.

The Practice of Mindfulness Meditation

In mindfulness you are aware of what happens in each moment.

You remain alert, not allowing yourself to become forgetful.

When you develop mindfulness and concentration together, you achieve a balance of mind.

As this penetrating awareness develops it reveals many aspects of the world and of who you are.

You see with a clear and direct vision that everything, including yourself, is flowing, in flux, in transformation.

There is not a single element of your mind or body that is stable.

This wisdom comes not from any particular state, but from close observation of your own mind.

—Ram Dass, Journey of Awakening

Inner Peace

We get what we cultivate in our lives. Like seeds, our thoughts take root in our experience.If we focus on failure, we fail.Even our unexpressed thoughts affect our work, our relationships, our daily lives… As we change our attitude, we change our world. ~ Diane Dreher, The Tao of Inner Peace

 

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Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the University Of Massachusetts Medical Center’s Stress Reduction Clinic, advocates seven attitudinal foundations of mindfulness: They are: non-judging, patience, a beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance, and letting go.

To help you develop a mind-set for mindfulness, consider the following:

Non-Judging
Are you able to observe your thoughts without judging? How often do you judge yourself rather than simply observe the thoughts as they arise? Learning to be unconditionally accepting of others begins with being non-judgmental of yourself.

Patience
Do you seek instant pain relief and instant pleasure, rather than allowing events to occur at their own pace and time? A complete openness to each moment requires patience.

A Beginner’s Mind
Do you consider yourself an expert or a beginner? From Zen philosophy comes the notion of the beginner’s mind, which means that you are learning to experience each moment and activity as if it were for the first time. Children provide excellent models of this concept.

Trust
How often do you wait for others to decide before making a personal decision? Learning to trust yourself rather than looking to others is a key to developing mindfulness. In the process of observing thoughts, feelings, sensations, and bodily experience, you learn to trust that as everything in nature changes, so will the experience of the moment change.

Non-Striving
Most of our waking day is spent in “doing” or striving to go somewhere or get something. Non-striving infers “being,” and striving infers “doing.” Creating our identity is often based on what we do or what gets done. Developing a proper mind-set for mindfulness requires an awareness of being open to anything and everything that is experienced. Learning to be happy in the moment and finding a time to “be” each day without constant striving is at the heart of the mindfulness practice.

Acceptance
Do you have a hard time accepting yourself? In practicing mindfulness, you accept each moment as it comes, and you are with it fully. Acceptance is learned as you observe the thoughts, feelings, sensations, and experiences that arise without judgment. Learning to accept your past, despite the pain, failures, and problems, will be difficult unless you learn to accept what is happening in the present.

Letting Go
How often do you “hang on” to experiences and people from the past? Forgiveness means letting go. One of my favorite quotes is “Hanging on to resentment is allowing someone you despise to live rent free in your head.” If you can observe and let go of the thoughts, feelings, sensations, and experiences that arise from moment to moment, it will be easier to let go of the past.

~ Jerry Braza, Moment By Moment

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Mindfulness Meditation

To meditate upon thoughts is simply to be aware, as thoughts arise, that the mind is thinking, without getting involved in the content. —Joseph Goldstein

When you are practicing Zazen meditation do not try to stop your thinking. Let it stop by itself.

If something comes into your mind, let it come in and let it go out. It will not stay long.

When you try to stop your thinking, it means you are bothered by it. Do not be bothered by anything.

It appears that the something comes from outside your mind, but actually it is only the waves of your mind and if you are not bothered by the waves, gradually they will become calmer and calmer.…

Many sensations come, many thoughts or images arise but they are just waves from your own mind. Nothing comes from outside your mind.…

If you leave your mind as it is, it will become calm. This mind is called “big mind.”

Just let things happen as they do. Let all images and thoughts and sensations arise and pass away without being bothered, without reacting, without judging, without clinging, without identifying with them.

Become one with the big mind, observing carefully, microscopically, all the waves coming and going.

This attitude will quickly bring about a state of balance and calm.

Don’t let the mind get out of focus. Keep the mind sharply aware, moment to moment, of what is happening, whether the in-out breath, sensations, or thoughts.

In each instant be focused on the object with a balanced and relaxed mind.

—Suzuki Roshi in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind