Mindfulness – An Invitation to Open to this Precious Life

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver

Butterflies in the night

Every moment is precious…

Since practicing mindfulness, I’m more aware of my surrounding. I find myself focusing on and attuning to the natural world; experiencing the poignant beauty of life. I’m not talking about the aesthetically pleasing, although that can be inspiring, but more so the beauty that is seen in all of life. That to every living thing, there is birth, growth and death and that’s not to be feared, but more so to be honored and appreciated.

Everything has it’s time; everything is constantly changing…

On an intellectual level, we all know that change is a constant, but on an embodied level it’s a totally different experience. When we practice mindfulness, we drop from living in the world of the intellect/thought making mind to connect with the aliveness that is here in this body, mind and heart and in the world around us. Being with and present to the changing sensations, emotions, thoughts, and witnessing these changes in the natural world is different from thinking, analyzing, and opining about them. It is like ice cream; unless you taste it, you won’t know it. Being mindful as we walk through life helps us broaden the lens of our experience and as we do this the boundaries between internal and external  begin to fall away. We no longer see ourselves as a separate part of nature, we realize and recognize, in real time that we are a part of nature.

Watching the growth of a flower, we can see how it reflects the natural cycle of life. We see it reflects the natural cycle of our existence. We, like the flower require light, nourishment and care. So, what is it like to be present, to sense the aliveness in the breath, to take in the warmth of the sun, to feel your feet touching the earth or to take in the smell of the rain? What’s it like to hear and share in the joy of others? Or to be present and sit with someone in pain, without the need to fix or say anything? These are the experiences that can begin to wake us up out of mindless living. Instead of categorizing life as things; collecting intellectual knowledge about them, or how they serve a purpose, what we can use them for or get from them, we come into direct contact with life as it is. As we shift how we are relating to the natural world, we see and experience life in this heartful, embodied and transformative way. Our hearts open to the full spectrum life has to offer. Birth, growth and death are not things to be avoided, but part of life that is to be experienced.

A poem that so beautifully expresses this is the Guest House by Rumi. Take a moment to let the words resonate within:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.

All is welcome…

Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He/she may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,
Learning to let be…
And so the invitation is to open to life unconditionally. To cultivate the compassionate heart and the wise mind is what frees us from living in a dead zone of virtual thoughts.To be with life as it’s happening, is what helps us wake up out of thinking and chasing a better there than here. As we do this we begin to appreciate the preciousness of life.
Again, the invitation is to to reflect on the possibility of living mindfully; meeting life with a compassionate heart and a beginner’s mind, as you reflect on Mary Oliver’s question,  “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
May you be well…

To register for our Sunday, weekly mindfulness meeting please join us at West Broward Insight Community-Coral Springs.

To register and pay for our next retreat, which takes place from January 3-7th at Casa San Carlos Retreat Center in Delray Beach, Fl.  please click on 5 Day Vipassana/Mindfulness Retreat

 

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The Two Wings of the Bird; Mindfulness and Self Compassion

“The two parts of genuine acceptance — seeing clearly and holding our experience with compassion —are as interdependent as the two wings of a great bird. Together, they enable us to fly and be free.”

It is said that mindfulness is like a bird; it needs two wings to fly. The two wings are clear seeing or wisdom and compassion.

In our meditation circle, we spoke about this and why cultivating compassion is such an important part of the practice. It is like the image of the bird, both wings need to be in balance in order for the bird to soar. When compassion isn’t informed by wisdom, it turns to pity. Too much wisdom and it turns into intellectualization. So, there must be a balance between compassion and wisdom, to help us stay present with the challenges we face in life, and to learn from them. In this post I’d like to focus on the wing of compassion/self-compassion.

Why it’s important to begin with self-compassion…

As a therapist, I counsel clients, who are facing challenges in their lives. So compassion towards their suffering, is an important part of the healing process. It is also important to have self compassion, to be a compassionate witness to what is difficult to be with. Compassion and self-compassion, are healing antidotes to pain. It is indeed powerful medicine, when we are able to meet pain in this healing way. Meeting pain in this way helps us stay grounded and present. It also helps us slow the chain of reactivity and come into connection with the qualities of mind and heart that are able to open to, and hold what is difficult. We become aware, of our moment to moment experience, meeting it with curiosity and kindness.  With this present moment awareness, we can attend and befriend that which is in need of kind attention. This is the opposite of what we usually do when we are hurt, angry or grieving. Our habitual reactive response to these feelings, is to defend ourselves. This isn’t helpful, as it takes us further away from the healing power of the heart. And this is where self-compassion is needed.

Rumi speaks to this in the poem below:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.1 Buddha Relics
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,

With mindfulness, we become aware of how we are paying attention to what is happening in the present moment. When we pause and slow down the reactive mind, wisdom can arise and with wisdom, a moment of choice. This moment is a pivotal choice point; continue down the road of reactivity/suffering or shift towards a more healing response.  This is the power of self compassion. We shift from needing to find the villian in the story (others, ourselves), to helping ourselves tend to what is tender and in need of acceptance and kindness. There isn’t a need to go after, or punish anyone. Instead, we turn towards the pain and recognize, that this is a moment of suffering. With that recognition, self compassion arises and we can then be with what’s happening, bringing kindness and compassion to it. So what does that look like?

Turning towards pain

Image result for self compassionIt’s not an easy practice, this turning towards pain. Especially when we’ve been conditioned to respond to pain with aversion, as if it’s not a part of life. So, as you are learning to practice self compassion it is important to be patient with yourself. What I’ve found to be most helpful, is to shift from the story about what happened/is happening to what is felt in the body. so I’ll experience anger as a burning feeling in my stomach, when I feel that, I place my hand on my stomach as a symbol of care and compassion. This instantly brings me into contact with what is happening in the present moment. I feel the pain that is beneath the anger and if I stay with it, breathing into the area of distress and softening around it, the hurt begins to soften. This didn’t happen when I practiced for the first, second or 20th time. It took time to really learn how to shift from feeding the anger with thoughts and stories, to be with the direct painful experience that was happening in the present. A resource that helped is Kristin Neff’s book Self Compassion; The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.

It also helps to belong to a Mindfulness Meditation Circle that focuses on exploring the practices which help us cultivate wisdom and compassion. Our Sangha, has definitely helped me to deepen my own meditation practice and how these teachings help us cultivate wisdom and compassion. However, if you don’t have a local group, there online groups you may join, that practice on a regular basis.

With the state of the world today, there truly is a need, for all of us to learn how to be a healing presence for all living beings. This helps us and when we are more compassionate towards ourselves, we are able to be more compassionate towards others.

Want to learn more? Join us at our weekly meditation circle, RSVP at Meetup.com or at our upcoming 5 Day Residential Mindfulness Retreat at Casa San Carlos Retreat Center. To register go to our Event Registration page.

If you would like more information on this practice, please feel free to contact me here.

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Cherish This Very Moment…

“Cherish this very moment. Let go of the stream of distress and embrace life fully in your arms.” Thich Nhat Hanh
Butterflies in the night

Every moment is precious…

These words are from a lovely poem by Vietnamese Buddhist Monk and Peace Activist, Thich Nhat Hanh.  Listening with an open mind and heart allows the words to move you, to realize that each moment is a precious gift. That when we approach life with a real honoring of each moment, it allows us to shift from living in a mindless haze to being fully present; feeling our body, breath and the life energy moving through us. When we are truly present for life, aware, open in body, mind and heart, we stay open hearted and allow the suffering of the world to touch our hearts. This shifts us towards pausing, sensing what’s here, and what’s needed or how can we respond to suffering in a way that is both wise and compassionate . This is something that is desperately needed in our world. It is both a privilege and a honoring of life when we are present for it, when we respond to the need, when we cherish each moment, each person and every living being.

Please take a moment to read the poem…don’t rush through it. Receive the words as a blessing, let them touch the heart and as he says enjoy moments of happiness and offer it to everyone. Open to life in all it’s different forms and meet it mindfully and compassionately.
Our True Heritage
 
The cosmos is filled with precious gems.
I want to offer a handful of them to you this morning.
Each moment you are alive is a gem,
shining through and containing earth and sky,
water and clouds.
 
It needs you to breathe gently
for the miracles to be displayed.
Suddenly you hear the birds singing,
the pines chanting,
see the flowers blooming,
the blue sky,
the white clouds,
the smile and the marvelous look
of your beloved.
 
You, the richest person on Earth,
who have been going around begging for a living,
stop being the destitute child.
Come back and claim your heritage.
We should enjoy our happiness
and offer it to everyone.
Cherish this very moment.
Let go of the stream of distress
and embrace life fully in your arms.
 
This poem is from “Call Me By My True Names” The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh.

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