Photograph of pelicans by Celeste Budwit-Hunter
When people ask what has helped me “stay positive” on my cancer journey, I should just quote Pema Chödrön. She summarizes the approach that has been the basis of my dharmic path for half my life. I would be miserable without it.
“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to 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.” (from When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön)
Maria Popova, brilliant writer of Brain Pickings, highlights these teachings in a recent blog post.
The “letting there be room for all of this to happen” is an attitude and practice firmly grounded in the experience of meditation. Meditation is the foundation, in my experience and according to traditional teachings, for developing genuine openness, cheerfulness, and bravery.
The busier we are, the more we need a mind that can be clear and focused–one that can pause to take a breath, and think clearly and open-heartedly about the activities we’re engaged in.
I spoke with a friend about this today. Our conversation reminded me how tempting it is, when we’re overwhelmed, to drop the very habits that enable us to maintain our sanity: eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising both the body and the mind regularly. Just as we feel better when the body is healthy and fully-functional, we also feel better when our mind is well-trained.
Sakyong Mipham has likened mindfulness training to weight training. We’ve completed one “rep” each time we gently bring our mind back from distraction to the present moment, back to the breath as the object of our mindfulness. Regular training in mindfulness–just 10 minutes a day–transforms our experience. With a trained mind, we can bring our mind back from overwhelm or from the anxiety of feeling stretched in too many directions.
What a gift this is to ourselves! What a kindness–to feel that we can ride the roller coaster of our life with some sense of gentleness and appreciation.
We all have the same 24 hours in a day–no more, no less (until we take our last breath). We can afford the moments to pause between tasks and re-ground ourselves in the present moment. Five or ten minutes a day as a foundational mindfulness practice is an investment that pays massive dividends.
The funny thing is that mindfulness training may feel like it gives time. Try it for yourself and you’ll see what I mean.
Mindfulness supports another important habit of daily living: to pause and feel our precious, short life. If you pray or practice yoga or write in order to connect with a greater perspective, a regular mindfulness practice will support those activities and strengthen their effects. A settled mind is not a goal in itself–its real power is to enable us to connect in such a way to feel fully alive, present, and authentic.
I have greatly neglected the ADHD arena on this blog. Those who know me will find that just a bit ironic, since I are one. So I’m bringing it up again now, but making it easier on myself by sharing a website that does an excellent job of covering a lot of ADHD-related territory.
If you don’t know FlyLady, I am happy to introduce you here. Find reassuring and practical advice for getting a handle on clutter, kindly developing habits that help you get and stay organized, and feeling better about yourself in the process.
The topic of “Saving Your Saturday” resonates with me because I, too, somehow grew up with the habit of postponing chores. For many years, I would tell friends at work that “this weekend I’m getting organized.” Someone finally said to me, “You said that last weekend!”
You have strengths you don’t know you have. You can be kind to yourself, and on that basis you can be kind to others. Know that the worries you carry can be set down.
My wish for you is that you be free from suffering, anxiety, fear, sickness, emotional upheaval, discord, and financial obstacles. Continue reading
Why do you want to meditate?
Meditation practice isn’t easy. It goes against the grain of our habitual patterns. So it is very important to be clear with yourself: why do you want to sit still, doing nothing? Continue reading
Boy, I do. I don’t just need to get away—I need a meditation program that challenges me. I’ve been fortunate to have been able to participate in a lot of retreats over the years.
Reconnecting on retreat provides experiences that affect your “mindstream” in a special way. When you’re away from the everyday, you’re able to focus on the big-picture aspects of life in a way you just can’t otherwise. You’re able to settle into a different way of being that is present, relaxed, and genuine. I can’t recommend it enough.
I just need to take my own advice.
The Windhorse Podcast – episode 2
Hi, friends. Meditation is a very simple and brief introduction to meditation practice. More to come in future episodes.
I’m committed to keeping these recordings brief, so you can take a break from your daily activity and just listen. So, it isn’t recommended for listening to while you’re driving, or doing anything else, really. Can you give yourself 10 minutes?
Practice these instructions, post your questions by commenting below, and keep an eye out for the next installment.
I’ve been attending Kim Tobin’s class on the “craft of acting.” What a fascinating process. Getting to know myself in this way is a process of self-awareness that has parallels with meditation: respecting moment-to-moment flashes of emotion, the ebbs and flows of feelings we usually try to ignore or flatten. Allowing these energies to arise. Relaxing the conventions of polite society – and our fears – that have us keeping extreme emotions locked down so tightly we’re no longer aware of them. At least that’s my experience.