Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Me Being . . .

Mindfulness practice helps us to see more clearly the ways in which we get lost in the moments of craving and aversion--when "me" wants something--and is focused on getting it. This may be wanting something that's happening to keep happening or stop happening.

In these moments, "me" is calling the shots and we can forget there is much more to who we are than "me," and we have the capacity to make decisions driven by more than "me's" momentary impulses and needs.

It can be helpful during such time to remind ourselves that "me" is assuming center stage trying to get what it wants.

You may find calling on the phrase "That's just ME being . . . ." to be helpful.

So the next time you are feeling jealous and its its affecting not only your connection with another person, but perhaps even your wellbeing, note to yourself

"That's just ME being jealous."

When you're feeling angry . . .

"That's just ME being angry."

When you're feeling frustrated . . .

"That's just ME being frustrated."

Doing so can help to place a wedge of awareness between you and the part of you that is caught and needy in the moment.

It can free you to see more clearly what is taking place and respond more effectively to what's called for in the moment.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

WelcoME and Entertain Them All

Among the most frequently recited poems at mindfulness trainings and workshops across the globe is Rumi's "The Guesthouse."

In it, Rumi offers us a poignant insight on the value of "welcoming" momentary thoughts, feelings, and sensations that visit us throughout our lives.

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival
A joy, a meanness, a depression
Some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor

Welcome and entertain them all

Though he makes reference to pleasant emotional experiences, like "joy," he focuses mainly on the unpleasant ones--on the visitors we rather not let in.

Focusing on "sorrow" he writes,

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture

Still treat each guest honorably
He may be clearing you out for a new delight.

While the poem is powerful and the insight keen--and ripe for mindfulness discussion--the ultimate question is raises for many is . . .

How do I welcome them?
How to I entertain them all?
How, especially if they are a crowd of sorrows?

In today's blog I offer a suggestion for taking on this seemingly daunting mission. I draw on something explicit in the poem, but generally not explored.

A hint can be found at the end of the word, "welcome." ME

There is much more to ME than the more salient affective state. We embody them all.

The invitation is a simple and straightforward one--Welcome and entertain "THEM ALL"

Often we open ourselves to more directly noticing and experiencing the challenging emotion--anger, fear, sorrow, doubt.

But arising alongside these emotions, in a softer voice and more subtly form is its complement--affection, courage, joy, confidence.

But because these more subtle forms are less noticeable we tend not to notice them or to welcome them.

So, the next time you are visited by a "momentary" visitor and you are able to bring awareness to this happening, invite not just the more palpable emotion, but look around for its complement, and welcome them all.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Mirror and the "Me Roar"

Have you ever heard your Me roar? It's the ego shouting aloud or within that something is terribly wrong and that something is going to have a devastating effect on our wellbeing. Perhaps it is a colleague who gets the nod, instead of you for a promotion. It may be the boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, who wants to break up. It could be the driver in front of you that isn't turning its blinker off, or is driving too slow. It could also be you raising your hand in a class or workshop insistent on being heard because what you have to say is so important--or will demonstrate to others that you are smart or funny or thoughtful or insightful, and so on.

It's the Me, feeling worried that if something doesn't change, if you don't say or do something soon--maybe even NOW!--a once in a lifetime opportunity will be missed and ruin will follow.

In fact, all we have are "once in a moment opportunities" and we do wish to take advantage of them, bringing our better selves to the fore.

And while there is a part of us ready, willing, and able to do so, this pesky ego can get into away sometimes. It's not that the ego doesn't have a role to play, it surely does. It can be very helpful at noticing opportunities, and energizing ourselves to do something. But, often, it takes over the show. And because it is a little biased in its concern for "ME," when it calls most of the shots, outcomes can feel shallow and less than satisfying.

This is where the Mirror comes in. And because the ego is a somewhat complicated aspect of ourselves and the mirror is not so complicated, the rest of this blog will be short and leave you to experience what it is to be a mirror, rather than try to explain it.

Awareness--allowing, receptive, open, engaged--has nothing to say. It notices and in the noticing, our capacity to be present and respond with wisdom and compassion to the needs of the moment flows effortlessly.

A mirror doesn't speak.

Often there is much less to say or do than we believe. We can learn a great deal by engaging with others and responding the the call of events with fewer words and less doing.

A mirror doesn't move.

Just as when we sit in meditation, we do not speak or act in the face of myriad thoughts, feelings, and sensations--and in doing so, we learn a great deal about ourselves--spend a little time practicing in the sam manner when out and about.

A mirror reflects the beauty of each person who pass before it.

A mirror reflect the beauty of the world, as it is.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Befriending the Beleaguered Ego

Our ego expends a great deal of energy keeping us safe. They take on a great task, and in the long term, a thankless one. Driven by the singular objective of survival, the ego is bound to fail in its mission. But along the way, it feels a great sense of accomplishment. Surviving each trial and tribulation, and coming to see another day represent great milestones in the life of an ego.

But to optimize it taking seriously the charge of sustaining us day in and day out, the ego becomes terribly overreactive. It does not do a particularly good job distinguishing serious and consequential threats from those that are of modest concern, if any at all.

Mindfulness practice offers us the opportunity to notice when the ego is feeling threatened and, through that noticing, create the space with which to better apportion the threat. Much has been written about this--and here is a spontaneous practice you can bring to those moments--borne out of mindful awareness and engaged through compassionate understanding.

A few posts ago, we connected EGO with AMIGO. During times of fear and worry, the ego can feel all alone and can use a friend. Who better than you.

The next time you begin to notice yourself moving into a scared or worried place, bring awareness to your breathing--perhaps even nudge it gently into a slower rhythm--and remind yourself:

"Everything will be okay, Mi Amigo."

Doing so, several wonderful things happen. First, you become aware that you are feeling worried. Second, you recognize you have a choice of what to do next. And third you choose to offer yourself a wise and compassionate embrace.

By befriending a beleaguered ego, you wake up a little bit to a truer sense of the moment.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Time: Learning to "Be Me"

In developing a sitting practice, a common experience is that the sitting is difficult because it is challenging to remain still, or focused, or because it is experienced as "boring," or seems to "take forever."

Of course, these all stem from thoughts ("this is taking forever"), feelings ("I feel antsy") and body sensations ("restlessness") that the insight of mindfulness regards as the very objects to which we pay attention.

Because we may not yet be adept at noticing these experiences and sitting with them, we turn our attention outward in the hopes of finding "a more immediate" relief. Ready solutions include: getting up, jotting down a reminder, getting something to eat, deciding to find a better time to sit later in the day--and so on.

Often, and somewhat interestingly, we imagine we would sit just fine if the experience went faster. And "on good days" we might marvel over "how fast it went." But of course when we sit on a cushion or chair and meditate, we are living life--perhaps more fully than we do much of the day when our minds are caught in distraction--and what does it suggest to us that we wish it went faster, or are pleased when it does?

So, rather than force our way through a sitting--impatiently wanting it to go faster-let's rejoice in the time that it takes, whatever that may be. And it will feel different each time we sit. Just as the breath changes, so to does our perception of the passing of time.

And just as the breath can be the object of our attention, so to can our perception of the passage of time. Sometimes is it slow, sometimes it is fast. Sometimes it is smooth, and sometimes it is choppy.

If we would like our life to proceed at a comfortable pace (let's call this its natural pace, unencumbered by the distracted mind and restless body), so that we are less likely to look back and wonder where did the time go and how did it go so fast, let's bring into our practice an interest and appreciation for the passage of time--and perhaps a joyful embrace of its sometimes slow pace.

We might think of the coming together of our perception of the passage of time with the passage of time (whatever that means) as "right time."

Finally, as a reminder of this insight, notice that the word time ends in "me." Notice also, that the beginning of the word, "ti" is the seventh note of the major scale (remember "Sound of Music") and the seventh note is "B."

Notice time, embrace its passage, and learn to "Be Me."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Am Ego or Amigo: Cultivating Sympathetic Joy

One of the deepest forms of personal liberation is developing the capacity to feel joyful for another's good fortune. The challenge of this practice (and beauty of this state) is realized most immediately when a person, with whom we are competing in some way, is presented with an opportunity, or achieves recognition, in an area we wish were ours to claim.

Often, the challenge and opportunity of sympathetic joy (i.e., finding joy in another's success) arise alongside the mixed feelings we experience. We are happy for our friend or colleague and jealous at the same time. This simultaneous arising offered a rich opportunity for transformation and growth.

At the heart of the matter resides the ego's yearning to be appreciated and valued in the midst of a circumstance that it interprets as threatening to these very needs. Often these interpretations are overreactions--but we believe them to be true, and subscribe to the implications we sense will follow.

Mindfulness and other meditative practices offer us a keener glimpse at the inner processes at play. With awareness, we are able to see more clearly a penultimate choice of picking between I "Am Ego" and my "Amigo" Do I turn my friend into a foe? Or do I share in my friends pleasure?

By paying attention to the thoughts, feelings and body sensations arising when we fall into the grips of discomfort, we can come to know ourselves more deeply, learn lessons, and experience an opening of the heart.

Mindful.Me Insight and Exploration: As you practice sitting and noticing your inner experience during these moments, you may glimpse a penetrating insight--the realization that the discomfort hints at at . . . the fear of annihilation.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Channel Me

It is a curious thing when we set the intention to meditate and then choose another course of action instead. A reason might be that we don't have time or have a deadline that we need to meet. But more often than not, our reasons amount to an avoidance of sitting and paying attention to . . "me."

It's a strange paradox that we spend so much time satisfying "me," and so little coming to really know "me."

It's like watching television. There are many channels--drama, sports, comedy, nature, history, food--that we can spend a great deal of time watching, effortlessly.

And there is one channel that gets very little attention. Channel ME.

It's often regarded as "the boring channel," or the channel that doesn't have a lot going on.

When you turn to it, it can appear empty for a bit or have random dots or snow.

And so we'd rather shift out attention to where the action is--on another channel.

But if we hang out on this channel for a while (which is challenging given how terrific the other programming seems to be), this dynamic begins to change.

More on this in the next post.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My "I" Made Me Do it.

Today's blog post concludes discussion of the ways we draw upon the use of "I" and "Me" in daily discourse to strengthen our sense of self--and separateness. Previous blog posts are found here and here.

Having begun to notice our use of "I" and Me" and experiment with not using it at times, we now bring the "awareness" we are cultivating in our mindfulness practice into the conversation. . . literally.

When we practice mindfulness, whether while sitting, or engaged in daily interactions and situations, we notice the rumblings of the ego. We can feel urged to act in ways that we sense are not kind or helpful, but nonetheless have a satisfying quality, or soothe an irritated and agitated self.

At times, we will utter "I" or "Me" as part of the exchange. When you do, in your mind (or verbally if you feel comfortable doing so) replace "I" with "My I."

Doing so, "I need to get this done" becomes "My 'I' needs to get this done."
"I think you're acting irresponsible" becomes "My 'I' thinks you're acting irresponsible."
"I am so sad" becomes "My 'I' is so sad."
"I can't believe this is happening" becomes "My 'I' can't believe this is happening."

If you find that the use of "my" imparts its own egoic grab (though one step removed and offering a measure of perspective), you can reframe the way you hear the word "I" in the first place. Pause after saying "I" so that it stands apart. That subtle and simple shift can also change the experience.

I Me "Mines"

In an earlier post, we explored our use of "I" and "Me" in daily discourse and how things might be different were they not a part of our vocabulary.

While the two words can be helpful to communicate, they can prove counterproductive to intimacy and collaboration---daresay destructive--as we call upon them to assert and maintain our sense of control, our individuality, and an endless collection of needs.

In this regard, they are like little "mines" that we drop here and there to protect us from egoic tangles with others.

Whether we know it or not, each time we use them--not to provide helpful pointers in communication--but to delineate the boundaries of who we are, and who we are not--we lose a little bit of our "non-selves," the aspect of our presence that is loving, compassionate, and open to the mystery of the unknown.

The great Zen teacher, Dogen said: "To know the self is to forget the self" and a great many spiritual and contemplative traditions explore the value of coming to understand our true nature.

Pema Chödrön writes of Dogen's observation:

"We might think that knowing ourselves is a very ego-centered thing, but by beginning to look so clearly and so honestly at ourselves—at our emotions, at our thoughts, at who we really are—we begin to dissolve the walls that separate us from others."

Today, notice how "I" and "Me" serve as little land mines--seemingly innocuous--but that nonetheless, in subtle and not so subtle ways, separate you from those in your midst at home, work, and, ultimately yourself.

Every now and again, take an "I", "Me" holiday and notice what changes. Don't worry, it might just kill "you."

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Experiment with I/Me

How might we be different were the words "I and "Me" not a part of our language?

Consider conducting the following I/Me experiment (or, rather, experiment)

1. Pay attention to your usage of "I" and Me" in your conversation, self-talk, and in what you write. Rather than do anything differently, just notice. Perhaps take a breath when you realize the I/Me has entered the picture.

2. After you gain a larger sense of your use of "I" and "Me," see what it is like to limit your use of the words, whenever possible.

You may even find, from time to time, that the comment you were about to make was largely unnecessary and gratuitously offered in the first place.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Judge Not

Mindfulness practice invites us to pay attention to the thoughts, feelings, and body sensations arising inside us when we feel agitated and distressed (or, of that matter, elated and invincible). Doing so, we spend a little more time attending inward, and a little less looking to people and situations as the source of our distress--and the target of our plan to fix things.

With less energy directed toward the "other" as a source of our discomfort and means to feel better, we are less likely to "judge" others.

Mindfulness is often referred to as non-judgmental awareness--which most succinctly can be understood to mean that we free ourselves from the weight of being judgmental when we notice our judgments, and pay attention to the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that accompany them.

Through the lens of mindfulness, the wise proscription "Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged" takes on an added meaning. Not only is it a reminder not to judge others, it also speaks to the way the structure and function of our brains--and of our personality--may change as we develop greater mastery over our "judgmental" natures.

"Just not lest ye be judged" comes to mean in a very direct and personal way that as as we refrain from judging others--and become more naturally inclined in this direction--we will not feel judged by others.

Judging and being judged are interpretations. As we become less judgmental of others, we will be less likely to interpret the words and deeds of others as being judgmental. Even more, we will not feel the sting of "being judged."

Judge Not and Yee Will Not Feel Judged

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Your Own Personal Cato

In the world of "ME" everyone is a source of either pleasure or pain. Think of the people you like and want to spend time with and those you don't. There are also those with whom we have no regard, one way or the other, but that would likely change were you to begin spending time with them. Yet curiously, despite our primal instinct to move toward pleasure and away from pain, we do not always do so--especially in establishing and maintaining relationships. These relationships, often a seemingly endless source of pleasure and pain, offer a wonderful opportunity to practice mindfulness.

In the classic "Pink Panther" films, Peter Sellers played Inspector Clouesau who would keep his instincts razor sharp by employing Cato, who would jump out and attack him when he returned home each day. In many ways, those closest to us can resemble an emotional Cato. When we least expect it, they surprise us with some statement or action that disappoints, angers, and frustrates us. These moments offers us two paths--the path of conditioned reactivity and the path of mindful responsiveness. Which one we take is up to us--not them.

Importantly, Inspector Clouseau knew to be on guard. Often we forget. Notwithstanding that the tactics we are exposed to repeat themselves again and again, we can become lost in reactivity each time. But each time also presents yet another opportunity to practice mindfulness and to grow. It is never too late; the moment is always here.

Equally important is the recognition that our emotional Catos are not trying to actually hurt us. They are doing the best they can; often they too are suffering. But because we ourselves are caught in our own conditioned patterns, and because their actions can trigger our deepest stuff (which may be why we chose to be with them in the first place), the challenging moments can seem endless.

So, the next time someone you care deeply about does something that causes you to feel agitated, rather than playing out the same drama (familiar thought it may be), appreciate the opportunity that awaits, and bring a measure of mindfulness (your personal practice) into the moment--just a wee bit more than otherwise might arise.

Here is a link to a scene from the Pink Panther.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

It's All About Me

A common reason we meditate is to experience greater ease in life. Unwanted, undesirable, and unexpected events arise all the time, triggering reactivity that can lead to feelings of stress, disrupt focus, and compromise our well-being. A natural tendency is to look outward to fix the problem. And often we can bring about short term changes that temporarily soothe the discomfort brought about by the unpleasant event.

A powerful insight that the meditative practice enlivens in us as that it is our resistance to the event, not necessarily the event itself, that creates the lions share of the discomfort.

A reminder of the role we play in experiencing greater ease in life is that we can change our relationship to the events taking place in our life and that doing so changes its effect on us. The slogan to the Mindful .ME blog--that "Meditation Begins with Me"--is a reminder of this profound insight.

The Mindful .ME Blog offers insights and exercises that allow you cultivate a more mindful way of being in the world.