My first podcast! Mindfulness Meditation

I told one of my students, Annie, in NYC over a year ago that I would do podcasts for all my New York students when I moved to Zurich. A lot has happened since then - getting married, becoming pregnant, having a baby and moving overseas... but I finally did it! And on her birthday as a surprise. Happy birthday, Annie!

The end cuts off without any fanfare or clear ending, but baby was waking and I thought something is better than no thing. 

I definitely need some help with simplifying the editing process, so if anyone has pointers, shoot them my way!

Much love, 

about tonglen - by pema chodron

about tonglen - by pema chodron

Tonglen reverses the usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure. In the process we become liberated from very ancient patterns of selfishness. We begin to feel love for both ourselves and others; we begin to take care of ourselves and others. Tonglen awakens our compassion and introduces us to a far bigger view of reality.

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Dancing Open Your Heart

I recently completed my third weekend of buddhist studies immersion and meditation instructor training with the Interdpendence Project.  This weekend was comprised of roughly twelve hours of instructing, receiving instruction or discussion on compassion and loving-kindness meditation.  A lot can touch your heart when a group of people come together and focus two and a half days on these practices.  As the weekend slowly fades in the distance of my “busy” New York life, I am left with a sense that what transpired was a dance of the heart.  It was a dance to help us all remember that even in the darkness of our worst self-aggression, glimmers of true happiness arise.  And even in the shadows of ourselves where envy, ill-will and judgement dwell, the opportunity to see the light that casts the shadow is ever greater…. 

Compassion practices take us home to the tenderness of our hearts, which is both incredibly powerful and quite jarring at times.  Practices like metta (loving-kindness) ask us to work with not only those people who inspire and support us, but also those with whom we may have conflict or challenge us in some way.  Metta doesn’t stop there.  It further looks at the ways in which we move away from the open heart, ways that we cling to or create conditions for the love we give to ourselves and others.  

So nothing about Metta is fluffy.  It is not all love and light, and that is what makes it such profound work.  One of the things I appreciate about this work, is that it very much forces us to keep it real, to look at our shadows with great gentleness and work with the things that bar us from the vast capacity of our own heart.   

Dancing is also not just fluff.  It is gritty, sexy, light, fluid, graceful, sometimes awkward, still or frenetic, intensely sad or humorous.  While remaining a serious discipline it also evokes all of the hues and saturations that color a life.  

As we sit down to open our hearts, we might contemplate our work as a dance.  We can approach it with a real sense of discipline, but we will not be surprised when it evokes tears or tightness in our throats or deep longing.  We can work with these emotions just as we work with the heart: with gentleness, openness and hopefully an occasional giggle or fit of laughter.  

For more on compassion practices, check out Sharon Salzberg, or join a course at IDP. 

may you be protected and safe.

may you be light of heart.

may you be in tune with the rhythms of your own body, mind and path.

may you be naturally unfettered, unadorned, and at ease.  

….  my own interpretations on the cushion with lovingkindness (metta/maitri) meditation.  what words or phrases work for you? 

mindful group poetry

At the end of my “Joy in Everyday Life” course at the Shambhala Center recently, we had a feast (which is paramount to the Shambhala gathering-of-any-kind tradition I am learning)…  Part of the ceremony this time around included the group as a whole participating (even by listening) to a free-form spoken word or poetry circle.  I had never done anything like this so it freaked me out a little.  (Imagine facing one’s fears at a place like Shambhala -ha)  Nevertheless I tried to clear my mind and allow myself to participate in any way that felt natural.  Believe it or not, I spoke a line out loud spontaneously, surprised at my own lack of inhibition. 

Here is what we came up with as a group.  Each line is a different person speaking.  All in all it probably took not much more than a minute to compose, however I am impressed by its resonance and how it could be read.

Despite all my initial hesitations, I do think this could be fun in a lot of settings…  

Joy Poem

I’ve learned that pain and suffering aren’t the same
Reality is a ripper
Try not to cling on to the sides of the river
Be present
Put on your oxygen mask first
Hear the music, feel the magic
Don’t change change
Synchronized swimming in the vast blue sky
Parting is such sweet sorrow
Supported by my sangha
Losing is gaining
No feeling is final
What a beautiful feast

Listening Fully

Ever try listening to someone speak for five minutes without responding or interjecting? We practiced listening fully in my Shambhala meditation course today. It was amazingly eye-opening.

Try it sometime with a friend. Pick a topic that could be something you both care about. Time five minutes of talking/listening for each person. Take turns speaking genuinely and then listening fully. As you do this, watch yourself, your reactions, tendencies and discomforts.

You might learn a lot. I found it revelatory.