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Archive for the tag “mindfulness”

Freedom in the popularity of Mindfulness

When I was first exposed to mindfulness practice it was Buddhist in nature.  Theravada Buddhism to be exact; as there  are many different traditions in Buddhism.  As someone who was raised Catholic, I felt I had a choice to make, and working in a Catholic school I felt I needed to be careful how I spoke about my new practice (not that you have to be Catholic to work in  a Catholic school). Even though my Buddhist mentor consistently advised me that there was no need to choose, I was rigid and content on doing this right!

I eventually had a group of likeminded people coming to my house on Sunday mornings to “sit.” Sitting involved just that – sitting. We would sit and meditate mindfully for 20 – 40 minutes. We would then break for tea or coffee and return to listen to a Dharma (teacher) talk for another hour or so. It was. . .enlightening. Unfortunately, I never let go of my struggle of choosing.

In 2009, my sister was diagnosed with Leukemia, and the next couple of years were filled with her extreme illness, and eventually her death, and the illness and death of other people in my family of origin.  I was busy planning Catholic funerals and had lost the ability to “sit.”  My sister actually said at one point in her illness that she didn’t really want a Catholic funeral, but this was early on, and I could never really get her to engage in actual plans of her passing (she really thought it wasn’t going to kill her). So I did what any good Catholic daughter would have done – I planned a Catholic funeral knowing this is what our mom needed.  I have said often that I love the way Catholics do death.  There is hope and peace present in a Catholic funeral.

I finally felt the veil of grief lift slightly in the late summer of 2013. The intense waves finally subsided to dull pangs. I once again was called to “sit.”  Death and life does something to you (if you are lucky); there are lessons in all of it. I wasn’t so rigid anymore. I didn’t feel called to one particular Tradition. In fact I discovered American Buddhism and a Mindfulness Practice that had gained much popularity since I had last practiced. These practices were less spiritual – more psychological.  I didn’t feel defensive, upset, or rigid about it.

Once again on Sundays, a group of folks gathers at my home to “sit.” Some are Christians, some are Buddhists, some simply know there is a God and they aren’t it. We all believe that slowing down, creating space between our feelings and others’ feelings,  and not taking things so personally helps us grow emotionally and spiritually.

Even though I am not suffering from the intense waves of grief, sitting is not easy.  Life is still difficult, so sitting with it can be difficult too. Even though it’s difficult, I’m surprised to hear people say they can’t do it. It is just sitting. Mindful sitting, however, allows me to watch my thoughts. In watching my thoughts I see the vulnerabilities in me and how they can be stirred by people I encounter in my life. When this happens I become angry, sad, proud, frustrated, etc. My first reaction is to blame the person that stirred me, but in sitting, I see it is me being stirred. By sitting and seeing this mindfully, I can usually stop acting out in the ways I used to.

After all of these years, I still don’t do it right, but I now know that doing it right isn’t at all the point.  Doing it is the point. That is progress. Living mindfully brings peace to myself. . .and to those I encounter.  I’m still Catholic although I do enjoy going on silent Buddhist retreats.  I think Jesus would be a big fan of mindfulness.

Peace.

Cartoon Amazing Race to Enlightenment

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Daily Ground – – -January 16th

To truly listen is to risk being changed forever. “ Sa’k’ej Henderson

Truly listening is a skill.  I love to talk, but that does not mean I haven’t learned to listen.  I remember the days when I was afraid to be changed by human connection – when I couldn’t truly listen.  I would appear to be listening, but I was trying to figure out what you were going to say so I could have some profound response.  Driven by fear before I could be changed by connection.

A few years ago,  I attended a 4 day silent retreat. Some people were incredulous learning I was going – either remarking how they could never do this, or offering their opinions of how I couldn’t do it. It was pure gift. It makes one realize how often we use language to distract us. I would see someone, and want to say, “I love your hair, yoga pants, energy, etc.” Because it was a silent retreat, I was left with myself to ponder, “What is the importance of saying that?  To make others feel good? Is that my job? To make others like me? Am I really worried about that? ” This isn’t to say any of this is bad or good. What the silence provided was a slowing down of the automatic pilot that is usually in control. It put a stop to simply being driven to speak, and allowed me to discern.

The art of listening is becoming rare in the digital age.  I cannot pretend to be truly listening if I am checking my phone, or surfing the web.  Today, I will be open to being changed by truly listening. . .to you. . .to myself. . .to God. . .to whomever is in front of me.

Peace

Daily Ground – – -January 12th

Today I will trust God, Higher Power, Universe.  I will not look for God to physically come to me in some way that my ego needs. I will not ask God to heal the sick or raise the dead or change a traffic light from red to green.  Instead I will try to get away from ego in order to see the ordinary things and people present – in front of me – as spiritual gifts. I know there will be peace in this if I get out of the way and recognize blessings.  Today I aspire to see the ordinary as sacred.

Peace.

Daily Ground – – -January 10th

Love is not liking somebody. Anyone can do that. Love is loving things that sometimes you don’t like. – – -Ajahn Brahm

Being married over 20 years does not guarantee comfort.  My spouse and I have been through the proverbial “think and thin,” and yet we still bump up against those things that cause us to avoid each other, eye contact and certain subjects.  Communication is difficult. Coming to the table to actually talk about things that hurt, or are shameful – things we want to keep to ourselves and control – is difficult.

How does one stay married like this? Faith! Hope! Love! Actually it’s having a sense of humor, laughing at ourselves and others, and continuing on a spiritual path (not always the same one). We continue to get angry and disappointed, but we don’t lose sight that we also continue to be delighted and joyful. When single people get uncomfortable – they want to be hooked up, and when couples get uncomfortable, they fantasize about being alone. All of us want to run from being uncomfortable.

People  sometimes say, “You two have the perfect marriage.” And, maybe we do.  Perfect in all of its imperfections. Relationships are difficult – long term relationships come with aging and change.  It doesn’t have to be your significant other – maybe its a trusted friend – but when the going gets tough or uncomfortable  – do something really crazy – don’t run – sit still – and talk – real, intimate talk.

Peace.

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