Sunday, December 20, 2009

being kind to yourself

"Because of all the ways your brain changes its structure, your experience matters beyond its momentary, subjective impact. It makes enduring changes in the physical tissues of your brain which affect your well-being, functioning, and relationships. Based on science, this is a fundamental reason for being kind to yourself, cultivating wholesome experiences, and taking them in."

Rick Hanson in Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom pp. 72-73

Thursday, December 10, 2009

garden of eden

In the heart of every man and every woman a kind of Garden of Eden endures, where there is no war, no death, where wild animals and deer live together in peace.

Irene Nemirovsky, speaking for the 1941 characters in her novel Suite Francaise.

Reading words of this novel is a poignant experience. The author reflects on human experience as France is being occupied by Germany in WWII. She is writing as events unfold, before the outcomes are known.

We know outcomes, even the outcome for the author. She completes two books of an intended five from within this dramatic time in world history, but in July of 1942 she is arrested, separated from her husband and two small daughters, deported to Auschwitz, moved a couple times, and dead by August 17, 1942.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

transforming consciousness

We have the joy and great adventure of learning how to bring the meditative skills of the monasteries and forest monks into our daily lives. We can become our own monasteries, taking refuge in our innate capacity for awakening.

Ten immediate suggestions here for making your life a monastery:

• Consider increasing your daily meditation practice – extending the length of your sitting meditation practice or adding an additional sitting, even a very short one in the middle of the day (an attentive coffee break).

• Choose to make an entire day or half day a time to experiment in intentional practice in all activities, also incorporating traditional practices. Remove distractions for the time period, like electronics.

• Incorporate contemplative reading, sutta or scripture study in your formal practice times or as recreation. Give yourself this little pleasant break from daily routines.

• It is useful periodically to keep a daily log of how you spend your time. You will find you have more time than you think and that the observation alone modifies your behavior. (see below a series of Practice Books to support this process)

• You could tally the number of breaths or pauses in your daily life, even just in one hour. How often do you intentionally turn to your breath? Pause? Or pause, relax, and open?

• Take a few minutes each day, for even just seconds or minutes, to consider what your specific intentions are for clarity of mind, for fostering wholesome qualities, for diminishing what furthers suffering.

• Choose some additional time to be with other beings who manifest the qualities you intend to foster – or who are interested in fostering the same.

• Focus on self-care, as if you are on retreat. Get plenty of sleep. Go to bed early. Get up early. Keep things simple. Eat what is nourishing. Spend extra time on grooming, caring for yourself tenderly.

• Play. Have you heard the ads encouraging children to go outside and play an hour a day? Can you do that for yourself? Move your body. Do a body practice like yoga or dance. Canoe, ski, or just walk. Any movement that is pleasurable for you.

• When struggle or self judgment arises remember that nothing is as substantial as it seems. Do not identify with what is arising as substantially you or substantially true. Everything is in process (bubbles, froth and foam).


Nutshell Publications has just published a six book series of Practice Books to support this process.

Work with these on your own, in private sessions, as companion practices to reading Being Prayer, or as a review and deepening of instruction offered in a beginning meditation course. Share work with one or more of the books with friends.