Posts Tagged With: meditation

A Collective Moment of Silence

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I’ve written quite a lot in recent years about the benefits of stopping the mind (not thinking) for even a few moments on a regular basis.  With a very interesting (and important) U.S. presidential election looming and large numbers of citizens stressing over the potential outcome as well as worrying about the many other issues facing us at this moment, I can think of no better time for us to collectively turn off our TVs and other electronic devices for just a few moments and simultaneously stop thinking, meditate on peace, sit silently or however you want to participate.

You might wonder what possible good this would do at an apparently critical time like this when we “should” be trying to think of solutions, campaigning for our preferred candidate, posting our opinions on social media, marching against violence….”doing something!”  It is very likely the BEST thing we could do at this point and will probably do more to stimulate creative thinking and bring peace to this country (and to each of us individually) than anything else we could do.

I am personally going with my gut here, but there is considerable evidence that this is an effective exercise.  In the past 40 years or so, a number of studies have been conducted using relatively small groups of persons trained in Transcendental Meditation meditating collectively on peace to reduce violence and generally improve the quality of life in areas like Jerusalem, Beirut and Nicaragua.  The website of the World Peace Group states;

“The effect [of the group meditation] is spontaneous, immediate and systematic. Furthermore it does not rely on any form of social, political or diplomatic interaction between the meditating group and the effected community. The influence is created by just a small group of these meditators equivalent to a tiny fraction of the number in the rest of the population.

This powerful and invisible effect has been documented dozens of times in fifty research studies (Watch video) and is now known as the Super Radiance effect.”

While the World Peace Group proposes to use groups of trained meditators to bring about world peace, I would like to suggest a less formal approach…at least with regard to our current national situation.  For the next 20 days or so (at least), let us all stop for 5 minutes at 5:30 pm Pacific Time/8:30 Eastern  each day and focus on peace.  I mean stop thinking, stop composing responses to those with whom you disagree, turn off radios, phones, ipads, computers and TVs and just focus on peace…on the word, the feeling, etc.  The idea may be a bit scary for you, but this can be accomplished even if you’re driving or engaged in other activities not requiring thought.  It might surprise you, but not thinking does not turn off your awareness.  Doing so while driving may actually improve your safety as much as turning off your radio or phone or other source of continuous noise.

If you’ve never exercised the “off switch to your mind”, I guarantee your mind will wander.  Just accept this and don’t fight it or force anything.  As soon as you notice your mind once again running from thought to thought as normal, gently swing your focus back to peace.  If you have trouble focusing on a word or feeling, focus on your breath….on how the air feels as it passes through your nostrils on inhalation, on your chest filling, the pause at the end of the breath and then the feeling of the air moving back through your nostrils.  Be patient with yourself and be as persistent as you would be learning any other new practice.

Does this sound absurd to you?  It is certainly an approach most of us are not used to, but what harm can come of it?  Has all our screaming and arguing and judging and name calling and stress done anything except escalate issues and cause us to lose sleep?  I challenge all of you reading this to join me and to pass this on to everyone else you know, encouraging them to join in….beginning tonight, just before our third and final presidential debate.  Let’s see if we can get things rolling by encouraging a peaceful and productive debate that gives us a real look at our two main candidates and what they stand for.  What easier way to be involved is there than this?  I think you may be pleasantly surprised at the effects.

What? :  Stop thinking, meditate/focus on peace or just sit silently for 5 minutes (or longer)

When?:   Each day at 5:30 pm Pacific time/8:30 Eastern beginning today, 10/19/2016

Why?:  To help bring peace, understanding and cooperation back to this country and our leaders (to begin with)….and to relieve excess personal stress you might be experiencing.

Together we can do this!  Please join me!

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Canoeing

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I woke up this morning thinking about my experiences whitewater canoeing in Alaska and, as usual, my thoughts moved into how those experiences relate to life. Although I’ve often thought of “normal life” and the processes and stress we often go through while making decisions and getting things set up “just right” for ourselves as “paddling upstream”, I’m not sure that’s always accurate.

I attended my first “poetry jam” last night. I was really impressed with the word talent displayed and the courage it takes to get up and read some of your heart’s most personal expressions in front of an audience, but was also struck by the pain and suffering revealed in many of the pieces. I’m sensing now that life might be more like hurling down a wild stretch of river with two entities in the boat that don’t communicate well.

On one of my early trips, I experienced this with my then-wife…an Irish/Italian girl who had operated independently for quite some time before we became canoe partners. In tandem paddling, it’s common practice for the person in the stern (back of the boat) to make directional decisions and call out commands to the person in the bow. When the boat is in fast water and racing toward a rock, it’s very easy for the bow person to anticipate a command and draw left or right before a command is given. This works ok with a team that is used to paddling together and is “like-minded”, but not so well with two strong-minded people who tend to think independently! The object in whitewater canoeing is , of course, to find a safe “line” through rough waters, to negotiate the obstacles and pitfalls keeping the bow pointed roughly downstream. When the bow moves right and the stern to the left as the boat approaches a rock, the result is typically exciting; unwrapping the boat from around the rock, or worse yet, dragging the boat to shore, dumping all the water out of it and trying to dry out yourselves and all your gear however, is not….and often leads to words flying about at levels exceeding the noise of the rushing water.  Otherwise-very-enjoyable trips can turn into unhappy, frustrating or even painful experiences.

As we hurl along on this often-bumpy ride we call “life”, there are also two entities attempting to direct our route that don’t always communicate well—our hearts and our minds. Our minds are right in front, busily taking in all the dangers directly ahead and often reacting out of fear, not waiting for directions from our heart. The results are…well…often exciting, as we have all experienced.

I don’t mean to imply that we’re all schizophrenic. Just as we are all one with everyone and everything around us, our bodies, minds and hearts (soul/Self/essential self) are also one entity….different parts of the whole. The mind, however, left to run wild, can act much like a cancer cell—also part of the body, but operating at odds with it…to the detriment of whole. It “forgets” its connection with the rest of our being, carrying on as if it were completely independent and with little or no regard for the body and the heart. Left unchecked, the mind, like a cancerous tumor, can bring an end to the whole on which it depends.

Our hearts connect us to our source, and their directions are infallible…they are the perfect stern person. However, the “voices” of our hearts and bodies are very quiet–in fact don’t even use language, and it is very easy for the mind to miss their signals over the typical roar of thoughts rushing through it. Our goal in life is to first learn to hear those directions and then to faithfully follow them. If we suffer…find ourselves lodged against a rock or capsized… it is our mind that is behind it, not our heart. When we quiet the mind so that we can hear our heart’s signals…our intuitions…and we follow those directions, we begin to operate as we were designed to…one unit being carried effortlessly downstream, maneuvering flawlessly around all the rocks, sweepers and other dangers than may come along.

Looking back, my former wife and I would have benefited greatly from practicing in calm waters before taking on more challenging runs. In much the same way, it is beneficial for each of us to practice listening in quietness before we enter the chaos of normal life. A quiet location is helpful, but in order to hear our heart, it is also necessary to quiet the mind.

This seems at first to be an impossibility since most of us have gone our entire lives with our minds operating like independent bowmen…never realizing that, just as our electronic devices do, they have an “off switch.” Like my laptop, the mind is a tool that picks up wireless signals from outside itself, gathers information and stores it, facilitates communication and carries on many maintenance functions without me even being aware. It is an amazing tool, but it is not the whole of me….or even in charge!

I also had occasion years ago to solo canoe. This requires some repositioning, but is entirely workable. Interestingly, it involves operating from the center….without a bowman. When we are “centered”, or operating from the heart with a quiet mind, it is also a “very workable” situation…often a preferable one! Without the bowman obscuring our view, we are actually more aware of what is going on around us and ahead of us.

There are times and places for both methods, but whether you’re in a position to tandem paddle or solo, it’s important to practice…daily. There are many methods of quieting the mind; find one that suits you and work with it, but be patient as it takes time to overcome life-long habits! Start out somewhere quiet, hone your skills and then carry them with you when you enter faster waters. I guarantee you’ll have a much more pleasant ride!

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Finding Bliss

boardwalk If you read my earlier post, or even the header and tag line on this site, and already have a set of beliefs you are living by, you might be thinking this doesn’t apply to you…that you already have it all figured out and that you are reading this just to see what this crazy loon is going to come up with next!  Don’t let me scare you away, but if you are reading this, there could be a chance that something you’ve seen or read here resonates with something inside you…or in other words is something that you already know at some level.  It shouldn’t be frightening to us, but it is sometimes a shock when we first start to wake up from the dream most us exist in and remember we are more than just a mind trapped in a physical body.  Please don’t be alarmed….there is nothing new here.  There is no intent here to plant strange ideas in your mind and somehow lead you away from whatever path you are on. The only purpose for this writing is to help us (myself included!) remember where that path leads, and to help us focus not on the pointing finger, but on that to which the finger is pointing…to our natural state, and bliss

How do we know we are more than simply minds trapped in bodies?  Ask yourself this;  How do you know that everything you can experience with your senses is temporary?…that all this around us, including these bodies, will soon pass?  What is the basis from which you judge these things to be temporary?  One of my favorite authors/teachers suggests that if the entire world were blue, we would not recognize the color blue.  We perceive the universe as being a universe of contrast where there is an opposite for everything…at least everything that can be named—darkness/light, hot/cold, dry/wet, misery/bliss, etc.  If we haven’t experienced cold, we can’t recognize warmth; if we haven’t experienced darkness, we can’t see light; if we haven’t suffered, we can’t experience bliss;  and if something in us isn’t eternal, we would have no understanding of temporal.  The idea that some part of us is “not of this world” is the basis of every religion and/or spiritual path that exists and the “common ground” from which these words are coming.

We humans are of many different shapes, colors, backgrounds and beliefs, but one thing we have in common (with a few exceptions) is that we all have minds with which we are strongly identified.  One of life’s greatest ironies is that we are joined by (among other things) the existence of our minds and at the same time separated by our identification with our minds.  That separation, from each other, from nature and from our true selves, is the source of every “problem” that we perceive.  On the flip side, the solutions to our problems (personal and global) lay in the dissolving of that sense of separateness and realizing our unity…our oneness.  How do we accomplish this?  Since the same “force” (which is referred to using many names) animates everything and everyone on earth, we should be able to sense and connect with it anywhere, in anyone at any time, but because the active mind and our identification with it is a very effective screen obscuring our perception of this force, we are challenged with the task of going beyond the mind; a task which can only be accomplished through quieting the mind…finding the off switch.

The discussion of where this is all leading may appear to be very philosophical and complicated, but the means of getting there are very simple; so simple in fact, they are often overlooked or laughed off.  If they aren’t laughed at, they are sometimes shunned out of fear.  We are all familiar with the adage, “An idle mind is the playground of the devil” which comes up often when the subject of quieting the mind is broached.  However, an idle mind is an unfocused mind that could latch onto any thought that might drift through whereas a quiet mind is totally focused and (ideally) free of thought altogether.  The good news is that everything stated here is immediately verifiable, and you don’t have to even “google it!”  Finding the off switch to your mind can be accomplished by simply swinging your focus to something the mind can’t wrap itself around…like your own breath.   The breath is no thing…it simply is.  How can you describe it?  We can talk about the rate of it, the depth of it, the force of it, we can hold it for a short time and otherwise exercise some minimal control over it, but we can’t really describe it…yet it gives us life.  One conscious breath is all that is needed to begin opening the hole in the flute that you represent—“conscious” suggesting that your awareness is focused on whatever the subject is.  Test it now!

If you are not presently engaged in some activity that requires sight, close your eyes.  It is helpful to sit, but you can try this in any position at any time.  Take a deep breath through your nose and focus on the flow of the air passing in through your nostrils.  Note how it feels as the air passes through the hairs in your nostrils, how your chest and abdomen rise as the lungs fill, how it flows out effortlessly, passing back through your nostrils as the chest relaxes and then notice the slight pause at the end of the exhale before the cycle is repeated.  Go ahead…try it now!  If you’re so inclined, try focusing on several breaths…. I’ll wait.

 Well?  Did the world grind to a halt while you were away?  Did you lose your mind?  Did evil thoughts come flooding into your mind like dirt into a vacuum?  My guess is that it wasn’t a bad experience at all for you…in fact it might have been a fairly pleasant one!  If you were comfortable with this, start now doing it whenever you think about it…whenever you become aware that your mind is running wild again and desire even a moment of stillness.  It is an incredibly refreshing and rejuvenating exercise.  Don’t worry about or be watching for something to happen, simply enjoy the stillness.  When the mind drifts away, which it will very quickly at first, gently swing your focus back to your breath…again and again.  If you do this regularly through out the day…while sitting in traffic going to work, sitting at your desk, while walking, etc….you will gradually become more and more aware of what is going on in your mind most of the time, and you may notice that you are feeling less stressed and anxious.  Congratulations!  You have located the off switch to your mind and survived its activation!  Doesn’t it feel great?!!  The peace you seek has begun with you!

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I Am Bliss!

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I lived at an ashram/yoga retreat in the Bahamas for a few months recently and we (staff and some guests) would all rise every morning at 5:30 and be sitting in the temple by 6:00 meditating.  At about 6:30 we would begin a half hour of daily chants…a long series of mantras put to music.  One of those mantras went like this

 “I am bliss, I am bliss, bliss absolute, bliss I am!”

 Even in the Bahamas we had a number of cool nights and mornings, and of course not everyone was always wide awake or happy about being up before the chickens and sitting in satsung.  I remember looking around the temple and laughing at the apparent irony in all the people bundled up in winter clothing, sitting there appearing grumpy and half asleep, staring at the floor singing, “I am bliss!”  At the same time I sensed the truth in the words—that bliss is our natural state and often felt it as I sang!  I am there now!

 Yes…I am in one of my favorite places in Florida and I love the warmth of the gentle spring sun, the happy sound of palm fronds frolicking in a light sea breeze, the songs of Cardinals and Mockingbirds and the joyful cries of gulls and Osprey sounding all around me, the soft scattered clouds highlighting a brilliant blue sky, but that is all surface stuff!  Other surface stuff should be causing me depression and anxiety!  I am jobless, my funds are dwindling, I am alone, I have no idea where I am going or what I will be doing next week, let alone 5 years from now, and I have nothing except an old truck, a few tools, some clothes and a bit of kitchenware with no real home to leave it in.  Now that I’ve listed all those reasons, I AM feeling a bit nervous! LOL!

 What I really want to do though is dance…after I share the bliss with you!  Why?  Because I have finally realized that the ultimate purpose of absolutely everything we engage in (even if we don’t realize it) is to find the bliss…to find our way back to our natural state!…and when we do, there is nothing else we really need.  How do we find bliss?…by quieting the mind.  Yes…as long as we’re in the physical world, our forms require food, water, shelter, and in some climates, some kind of covering.  These needs seem to require constant thought, but they come fairly easily to most non-human life forms…why not to us?  Jesus said, “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”  Most of our bodily processes…healing, constant reconstruction, etc. take place without us even being conscious of them;  why do we think the external world is any different?  Where do we get the idea that the whole world will fall apart without constant effort on our part, endless input from our minds…and lots of stress?  Have you observed lately the kind of stuff that occupies your mind most of your waking hours?  I heard a speaker recently suggest that 80 to 90% of the thoughts we have today are the same ones we had yesterday, and the day before that and the day before that….endless repetition of mostly nonsense!  Don’t take my word for it!  Observe your own mind…for even a few minutes!  Really!  Start now……….

Ok…did anything useful come through?  Did you notice anything new and exciting?  Did any solutions to your problems reveal themselves?…solutions to our collective problems?  If my mind is any kind of example….and I think it’s safe to say it is!…while thought is sometimes enjoyable and it can be fun to relive some of the best moments of our lives or to look ahead and dream of things being better than they are at this moment, and while it is sometimes necessary to focus for short periods on situations that require our attention, most of the really useful material that comes through does so without any effort on our part!  If you read the biographies of great writers, artists, composers, mathematicians and others who have produced works of lasting value, I think you will find that most of them would say much the same thing…that their best work was produced without any real effort on their part…that it seemed to just flow out of them!  Einstein didn’t sit around for hours and hours thinking hard to come up with solutions;  he took long, quiet walks in natural surroundings.  Do you think Handel could have produced the Messiah in 21 days if he had sweated over all the technical details, questioning himself at every turn?  My understanding, and now my personal experience, tells me that the most important thing we can learn is how to get out of our own way!…how to live every moment of our lives as an open channel, a hole in a flute that the beautiful music of the universe can flow through!  What do we gain from learning this?  Everything we could possibly need…and BLISS!

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