Let it Be – Practice Being With…

Everything comes together and then falls apart. This is the cycle of life. Photo courtesy of Cassandra L. Johnson at glasseyedtigress.com

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that.The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” Pema Chodron

The spiritual path leads us back to wholeness; to meet life with a compassionate heart and wise mind. And while it is what we long for, it is also challenging. Because what the path requires, is for us to “let it be…” Just this short phrase contains tremendous potential for freeing the mind and heart from our habitual conditioned responses of trying to hang on to what we like and avoid what we don’t like. In this movement, towards and away, is the stress and suffering that leads away from wholeness. As Pema says, “the healing comes from letting there be room for things to be just as they are…making space for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy. And this is the invitation, whether we are on retreat, sitting on the cushion at home or in conversation with someone. It is to be present, mindful of our bodily, verbal and mental impulses and actions when there is reactivity present. And this  is what we explore on retreat, we sit on the cushion and commit to be with whatever arises, meeting it with the heart of compassion and the wise mind. And in the stillness, is the practice of letting be…

Letting be vs. letting go

We sit so that we’ll be more awake in our lives. Pema Chodron Photo courtesy of Cassandra L. Johnson at glasseyedtigress.com

On one of our previous 5 day retreats, I led an experiential exercise around letting be vs. letting go. There is a significant difference between these two. Letting be arises out of wisdom, when we pause and reflect with mindful non-judgmental awareness on what is happening in this very moment, meeting it with kindness and acceptance. Letting go arises out of ego and the illusion that we are still in control of the situation, we are choosing to let go. Here’s the * exercise I shared (get a piece of paper before  you begin).  I invite you to take a few minutes to reflect on the difference between letting go and letting be:

  • Sit in a comfortable position, setting aside distractions while you do the exercise.
  • Take a few moments to connect with the breath, the body, the heart. let the body and mind settle as you breathe.
  • Get a piece of paper, crumple it and make a fist.
  • Hold your fist out in front of you.
  • Notice what it feels like to hold on to the paper so that it doesn’t fall. Tighten the grip and feel the sensations of holding on.
  • Now imagine what it’s like to make your way in the world in this contracted state. Painful, stressful, uncomfortable and the heart is closed off.
  • Now turn your fist around towards the sky and gently, slowly, open the hand letting the paper rest on the soft palm of the hand. Imagine what it would be like to move through the world like the open hand. Not trying to get rid of anything, not clinging to anything, just learning to let be.

Like a Still Forest Pool

be mindful. Then you mind will become still in any surroundings…Photo Courtesy of Cassandra L. Johnson at glasseyedtigress.com

“Try to be mindful and let things take their natural course. Then your mind will become still in any surroundings, like a clear forest pool. All Kinds of wonderful, rare animals will come to drink at the pool, and you will clearly see the nature of all things. You will see many strange and wonderful things comd and go and you will be still. This is the happiness of the Buddha.” Ajahn Chah

The open hand is similar to the open sky mind that has room for all of life. Sadness, anger, fear, joy, grief can be held this space of loving awareness. This is what we did as we came into retreat; we (both teachers, support staff and participants) created a container that was safe, supportive and compassionate. And as the days passed, we could sense a letting be, a softening, curiosity, openheartedness that came with the capacity to just be with what was arising in this healing. It wasn’t that the reactivity didn’t happen, it wasn’t about getting rid of the aversion or clinging. It was about meeting it with a open receptive mind and a caring heart. And this is the sacred pause, Tara Brach speaks of. A pausing to be with what’s arising be it joy, sorrow, judgement, pain, etc. We let it be and turn towards it with the intention of bringing kindness, and compassion to this experience.

The arising of compassion and wisdom comes when we stop trying to control life and just let it be.  It is only then that the wisdom to do and act in ways that are healing and caring can naturally arise. This is what this path is pointing at. The possibility of freeing the mind and heart from living in a contracted, fearful and defensive state. It’s a gradual practice. I say it is one of learning how to sit with whats uncomfortable. Bringing a sense of compassion to what is difficult. This is what helps to thaw out the icy, defended heart. And the world is in need of compassion and wisdom. So practice for yourself and know that in doing so you are helping to bring healing qualities to the world and that is Noble endeavor.

Our next Insight Meditation retreat takes place on October 29th – Nov 2nd 2020, at the lovely Casa San Carlos Retreat Center and will be led by Guest Insight Meditation Teacher, Gary Steinberg of Stonemountain.org. To register please follow this link. If you have any questions please email us at wbmindfulness at gmail.com

*The exercise was taken from the book 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness by Arnie Kozak, PhD

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The Gift of Retreat – Entering into Noble Silence

‘For someone deeply trapped in a prison of thought, how good it can feel to meet a mind that hears, a heart that reassures.’ Ram Dass and Paul Gorman

The gift of retreat…

Going away on a spiritual retreat is an act of courage and kindness.  When we enter Noble Silence, we take a vow to keep silent for a certain period of time. this commitment is an important part of retreat practice as it is in the stillness and silence that we get to connect with the vibrant aliveness that is always present. We connect with our senses; noticing sights, sounds, smells, touch, tastes and thoughts. This is completely different than the way we usually move through life. When we come into retreat we are making a commitment to be present for life in all it’s joys, sorrows and everything in between. In doing this, we get to reconnect with the wisdom and compassion that is available to us at all times.

The Benefits of Retreat…

At our recent 3 day retreat (October 5th-7th), participants were encouraged to support each other’s

practice, by taking a vow of silence. Initially, there were some

Love and Kindness

Seeing life as it is….

hesitation, nervousness at the though of prolonged silence, especially when the attendees were informed that they should set aside all mobile devices and refrain from contacting friends and family (excluding emergencies).  This is quite a commitment in today’s world of easy access to news, social media family, etc. However, it’s also a gift. The gift of being present to life as it’s happening; of connecting with the aliveness, wisdom and love in an up close and personal way. We make a commitment, to bring a kind and clear attention to our lived experience moment to moment, without judging it. This gives us freedom to just be! And connecting with life in this way allows us to take a much needed rest from the busyness of life.

Gil Fronsdal (lead teacher at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, CA), talks about the benefits of a silent retreat. He says, “Because social conversation keeps the mind active, periods of not talking help the mind rest.  Silence settles the many emotions that are activated by talking, listening, and even in the anticipation of talking.  As our mental and emotional lives calm down, our bodies relax. ”

Quieting the Monkey Mind…

At the start of retreat we read a poem by Kaveri Patel (below) that speaks eloquently about the chattering mind.

THANKING A MONKEY

Monkey Mind

Meditation helps tame the mind….

There’s a monkey in my mind
swinging on a trapeze
reaching back to the past
or leaning into the future,
never standing still.Sometimes I want to kill
that monkey, shoot it square
between the eyes so I won’t
have to think anymore
or feel pain of worry. But today I thanked her and she jumped right
into my lap.
Trapeze still swinging
as we sat still.

Retreat: an opportunity to connect with life as it is…

“Meditation is a way to calm the monkey mind and offers relief from the constant mental chatter. It is actually not a way to make the mind “go” quiet – rather it’s a way to access the quiet that is already there, buried under the 50,000 or so thoughts that the average person has every day.” From the Project Flow Blog.

Be still…be the lotus…

We can and do spend so much of our time lost in the virtual world of thoughts. And while thoughts

are not the enemy, when we react to them as if they’re facts, this can create much stress and confusion in our lives. Coming into retreat, gives us an opportunity to notice, often for the first time, how we are relating to our thoughts and how our thoughts affect us and those around us. For example, when our thoughts are filled with worry, the body reacts by preparing for a threat; tension arises, the heartbeat races, the muscles contract, your digestive system slows down. And that’s all just based on a thought! As the Buddha stated “whatever a person frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his/her mind. In retreat you get to see it, sense it, and learn to tend and befriend the chattering mind. We stop the war against ourselves and life and move towards wisdom, kindness and loving connection.

The Gift of Practice…

Tips for home meditation practiceMindfulness practice allows us to pause and connect with the life as it’s happening. The practice helps us recognize when thoughts are happening; and as space between thought and reaction develops, we notice how the body, mind and heart are affected by the thoughts. This pause allows for wisdom to arise; we begin to learn how to shift from reacting to responding and the reality is, that life is constantly changing. When we resist change we resist life; we get stuck in trying to control what’s happening around us.  This stops us from living and appreciating/responding to life in a way that is wise, healthy and compassionate. Practicing mindfulness, helps shines a light on this, in a way that goes beyond words, concepts and beliefs. It is the practice of sitting with the resistance, with the inner struggle, with anger, with doubt, with joy, happiness etc. It is a noble act to stop running and to be present for the experience of being alive. When we connect with life in this way we sense and experience the preciousness of each moment. It is like holding a precious bird in hand, knowing that  at some point it will fly away and grateful for the gift of it’s presence.

This poem by Martha Postlewaite, called The Clearing speaks about this. Listen with your senses and let the words land in the heart…

Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
patiently,
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue.

Please consider registering for our next 5 day retreat which will take place, April 19th-23rd at Casa San Carlos Retreat Center in Delray Beach, To register and pay in full please go to Eventbrite-April 19th-23rd or to sign up for the installment plan please click here.

If you have any questions please contact us here.

May you be well…

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