August 29, 2016

Practicing in the Midst

I met meditation during a difficult time in my life. A time filled with fear, grief, anxiety, and shame. Meditation was true medicine. It reconnected me with myself and reawakened my life. The changes were gradual but important. Yet when I felt better, I stopped my daily practice, thinking, "I'll be fine." Of course, I wasn't. Life again became complicated (life was life), and I returned to daily meditation. Now I clearly see the evidence: If I practice every daywhether life is great or difficultI cultivate awareness, clarity, and love. Some days, I feel ease. Other days, I feel doubt. Regardless, I sit and stay with what is.

Meditation is an experimental lab. It's a way to watch and experience the mind; to form new relationships with thoughts and feelings; to reconnect with embodied sensation; to cultivate love and awareness. But it's not done in a vacuum. I sit in meditation for two reasons: 1) to benefit myself, and 2) to benefit others. When I'm mindful, I more skillfully interact with others. The greatest teachings on a meditation path are out in the world, not on the cushion. We need both: we need to sit and stay with ourselves; and we need to sit and stay with others. Plus we need courage to do this with an open heart. A heart open to joy, play, and wonder; a heart open to pain, loss, and difficulty. 

It's hard to stay with big emotions. They can feel overwhelming. Still, what we resist persists. To practice in the midst, we must ease our way in: establish safety, connect with breath, and open just a littleopen to what's there, with kindness and compassion. This is an honest and gentle practice; a patient and persistent practice. The next time you experience complicated emotions, come here, sit with me, and listen:

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August 16, 2016

Being with What Is

There are days when I wish life was different; when I wish it was somehow easier. Days when I feel overwhelmed, not sure if I can handle another death or injustice or even everyday bad news. Then I remember: resistance causes me pain; loving-presence brings me peace. So I sit down, feel my breath, and stay. I allow for the raw, vulnerable places, and gradually shift from resistance to acceptance. Instead of wanting things to be different, I experience what is. Within each of us, there is an awareness that's like the ocean. It's spacious and wise; it's brave and kind. And it's accessed in a simple way: staying with one breath and then another.

My overwhelm doesn't come from the circumstances of life. It comes from my own actions. When I resist or judge my experience; when I distract from my experience; when I numb my experience, I separate from what I most value: love, presence, compassion, connection, integrity, and wisdom. Staying awake is a brave path. Sometimes I want to go back to sleep. But the more days I show up for life, as is, the more I touch freedom. The more I let things be messy, real, and raw, the more I experience connection. The more I stay with myself and otherseven when, especially when, it's hardthe more I cultivate compassion. I'm trying to be both brave and kind; I'm trying to be with what is.

PS: This is me, real and open to what is:

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August 14, 2016

Embodied Gratitude

Before bed, as I reflect on the day, my mind wanders to the negative: undone tasks, mistakes made, or ways to improve. These thoughts aren't personal to me, they're habit of the human mind. Our brains have a negativity bias. This fearful view is helpful for immediate survival, but it's detrimental to long-term health, well-being, and connection. The good news is we can tilt our brains back toward the positive. And we can do so with small, intentional steps. 

Gratitude is an empowering, positive practice. It's even more powerful when we embody the experience: move it from positive thinking to deeper awareness in the body. With regular 3-breath pausestaking in the good—we re-train our brains. We shift our outlook: instead of fear, we see hope.

Like anything, it's helpful to actively practice rather than just read or study. I created this short video, so we can practice together:

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