Practical Meditation

Relatively Speaking, pt.1

Relatively Speaking, pt.2

To Have / Have Not

Wait-Loss Diet

Self Caring and Peace


Counting Problems






Practical Meditation

Ok, let’s start with some of the misconceptions about meditation.  It’s not about emptying your mind, at least not in the current understanding of the word “empty.”  (perhaps we’ll discuss that in another installment…)  You don’t have to be a Buddhist, or spiritual, or a Bhodisatva, or any kind of guru or special person to meditate.  It’s  not a practice only for the zafu cushion or meditation corner in your spare room or the local zen center or… Ultimately it becomes a way to live your life  — in presence.  Aware.  Awake. Participating in your own life.  Every day.  Every activity. Every breath.

Do you breathe? Then you can meditate. 

That means anyone, everyone, can meditate, because I’m pretty sure we all breathe. 

So, here it is:  Once a day, every day if possible, take one slow, conscious breath.

And here’s how: Pick a time that you can commit to daily for this conscious, 5- or 10-second breath.  Just upon waking or falling asleep are great times because you do both of those activities every day.  You’re just adding one thing to that routine. But any consistent time will work.  Make this commitment to and for yourself.  Honor it.

Sit, stand or lie comfortably and prepare by thinking: “I am going to take one conscious breath.” Then, inhale slowly through the nose, into the belly, being aware that you are breathing in.  You could think some variation of “I am breathing in” as you inhale. Notice if it is a very deep breath, or not so deep.  Notice what it feels like to breathe in at that moment. Notice if there is an urge to pause at the top of that breath for a moment before you are ready to exhale and, if so, honor it.  Then, through the nose, exhale slowly, being aware that you are breathing out.  You could think some variation of “I am breathing out” as you exhale. Notice if it is a very slow breath, or not so slow.  Notice what it feels like to breathe out at that moment. Notice if there is an urge to pause at the bottom of the breath and honor it. Smile. :-)

And you’re done! You now have a meditation practice, something you can do every day! 

Of course, if you’re inspired to take two of those conscious breaths or to breath consciously twice or more a day, please do not resist the urge.  Take three or four!  Do it all day! Take a lifetime’s worth because it’s one of the greatest free gifts in the universe.  

Once a day.  10,000 times a day.  Breathe with consciousness and you will live with consciousness. One conscious breath at a time.

Namaste.

Back to the TOP - Back to ARTICLES - Back to HOME

**

Relatively Speaking, pt.1

Think about this:  Duality is not what it appears to be. (Remember, the Buddha encouraged us to not believe everything we hear or read.  Investigate it.  Meditate about it.  Find the truth for yourself.)

There are so many apparent dualities in our lives — up/down; right/left; wrong/right; good/bad; want/don’t want; like/don’t like; us/them — yet if examined, we can see that all of them are relative.  Relative to something else.  Up or down, right or left from where, from what starting point?  In space, for example, there is no up or down, right or left, east or west.  Not without a starting point like earth or the moon or something and even that’s kind of iffy.  

Good or bad, right or wrong compared to what?  Our ideas, beliefs and ideals?  Those change generationally or even faster.  What was right before is wrong now.  For example, for generations mankind thought the world was flat.  A flat world was right and a non-flat world was wrong.  The supposed shape of the world was right or wrong based on our interpretation of the world, our beliefs, not on what actually is.  We all believe now that the world is round.  So, now, right is a round world; wrong is a non-round world.  It’s relative.

Want or don’t want; like or don’t like are relative to our opinions of something, at the time or long-term.  Haven’t some of your opinions changed over your lifetime?  Haven’t our collective opinions changed over or within generations? What we like/want, don’t like/don’t want is relative to our opinions, our age, our upbringing, our experiences, social pressures and other dogmas, etc. And opinions, likes and desires vary from person to person.  How can they, therefore, be an absolute, permanent duality?

Even us and them.  Aren’t we all made of the same elements?  Aren’t we all born from the same earth? Aren’t we all the same species, homo sapiens?  Our true differences are only from our belief systems, from what we learn from our families and societies.  Our differences stem from our thoughts.  In reality, we’re the same.  Our “us-ness” is absolutely relative to the learned similarities to those around us. The stories we share. If we were born somewhere other than where we were born, we’d believe different things.

Meditate on this: Sit or lie comfortably and take a few deep, conscious breaths.  Imagine your inception.  Two half cells (one from mom, one from dad) join and begin to multiply. They go on to develop into the blastocyst, the embryo, the fetus, the baby (you!) ready to be born. Mom’s contractions start, you turn to go out the birth canal.  There you go, head first, you’re crowning and getting ready to take your first breath and POP! you come out from between another woman’s legs!!  In another part of the world! Into the waiting arms of, well, strangers!  First breath.  This is your life now.

Who are you?

Back to the TOP - Back to ARTICLES - Back to HOME

**

Relatively Speaking, pt.2

So, is there true duality in a world where everything is connected and duality is so clearly relative? I think there’s at least one as-true-as-can-be duality.  Here it is:  Every day we must navigate the duality of our our little, personal world and the world at large.  

For most of us, our personal world is pretty stable and complete.  We have a place to sleep, we have the clothes on our back and possibly more than that, we’ve some change or a couple of bucks in our pocket or maybe even a few dollars in the bank, we have our own transportation or available public transportation, we have one or more friends, we’ve probably eaten in the last 24-48 hours, we can see colors, we can smell the air, we can hear sounds, we can touch things and feel them with awareness, we’re mobile or relatively so, and more.  For most of us, based on our small, immediate world, all the conditions for happiness exist, and “in this moment, all is (relatively) well.”  

And yet, the bigger world, the world-at-large, is an increasingly scary place right now. The leaders of several countries, with the maturity of 5-year olds, have immediate access to weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear bombs.  Non-white-male privileges are being eroded, reduced and removed weekly. The environment is being less and less, instead of more and more, carefully and lovingly protected.  The rich are giving themselves tax breaks while the rest of us are expected to take up the slack. And “us vs. them” looms larger and more threatening than ever.

When we practice presence, however. we learn to make conscious choices to live in the best balance we can between the scary big world and the familiar, comfortable, personal world. This is the duality dance we must do every day.  Many times a day, perhaps. And we learn to see it isn’t an either/or choice.  It’s additive - it’s an and/and choice.  We can choose to see the big, frightening world as the only world, therefore, spending our time in fear and making our little world just as frightening as the big.  Or we can choose to see that both worlds co-exist and we live between them. Both options are open to us in all moments, so we can choose one or the other, and in the next moment re-choose if we wish. 

Choosing both, however, gives us the chance to better navigate the apocalyptic landscape because we’re doing it from a place of strength and balance (“in this moment, all is well.”).   Problems approached from a position of presence, of strength and balance, will resolve more easily.  A sturdy tree with deep roots can withstand a high wind better than a sapling.

Namaste.

Back to the TOP - Back to ARTICLES - Back to HOME

**

To Have / Have Not

“To have is to have the suffering of having.  To not have is to have the suffering of not having.”  — Old Buddhist saying

It seems that, whether we have or don’t have what we think we want, there is still suffering to experience.  The Tao reminds us that when we have many possessions, we spend much of our time and energy protecting them. That becomes our life.  Planning for and worrying about our stuff and whether it’s been stolen or broken or is clean or the “right” thing to own or if we have enough (though, rarely, if we have too much….hmmmm) or or or.

When we don’t have the thing(s) we think we want, this too becomes our life. Dreaming and worrying about what we don’t have but want.  When and how will we get it? Why don’t we have it now? What does it say about us that we don’t have this or that, or the right this or that, or even if we have that instead of this or this instead of that? 

What does it say about us?  Really, nothing.  We are not our possessions or our thoughts.  Or our thoughts about our possessions. (We’re not our bodies or our feelings either, a topic for another time…).  Yet, so many believe that our external trappings define us, at least in the eyes of others, but certainly not least, in our own eyes.  It’s an insidious falsehood that what we have (from possessions to body parts) is who we are.  I suppose, in a strange kind of way, our stuff and life styles do say something about us.  They show our insecurities and lack of self-worth and, so, say we are insecure and feel valueless without objects of value. 

But even that isn’t who we truly are. Eckhart Tolle says:  the truth is, you don’t have a life, we are a life. Our very existence connotes value. The life force of this planet decided that your temporary confluence of energy was worthwhile enough to create. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to defy the law of physics that says “everything goes towards entropy (chaos)”  to pull together a life form and keep it there for several decades. Our very existence is kind of miraculous. All life is kind of miraculous.  How could a Lexus or a vacation in Paris or a second home even come close to that miracle?? Do your external trappings, or lack thereof, make you belong or not belong? Belong to or rejected from what? To some thought construct that is momentarily popular? And if that construct changes (which it inevitably will as the only thing that doesn’t change is change), are you then left empty and valueless and alone? But how can that be?  Aren’t you the same basic being before you joined (or  bought the car/house/vacation/etc.) as after? Aren’t you still just a temporary confluence of energy on this planet? Don’t you always belong to the group of “life on this planet?” 

You are one of the infinite possibilities in an infinite universe!  There is nothing more exceptional or valuable than that.

Inhale:  I am alive!

Exhale:  I smile!

Love, Zora P.

 

Back to the TOP - Back to ARTICLES - Back to HOME

**

 Wait-Loss Diet

Eckhart Tolle, in Stillness Speaks, asks: “Are you an habitual ‘waiter?’ How much of your life do you spend waiting?”  He goes on to distinguish between small- and large-scale waiting. Small-scale is activities like waiting on lines, in traffic, for a friend, etc.  Large-scale is waiting for a better job, a vacation, to become enlightened, and on and on.

I ask: What are you waiting for? The future? Why are we rushing towards that which we fear the most — death? Because there is nothing more certain about the future than our deaths.  Listen.  I don’t say this to be morbid. (If death makes you uncomfortable, I suggest you stop reading here, or spend some time in contemplation about death.  It could make your life feel more valuable.  Or feel valuable at all…) An old Tibetan Buddhist saying goes something like: “Tomorrow or the next life; which comes first we never know.” So understanding and acknowledging that death lies somewhere in our future, we can then re-see, re-evaluate, the present with amazement.  We’re not dead yet!! 

The state of mind of waiting means you want the future more than the present.  Yet, we now see that the future holds the distinct possibility of death and the present doesn’t. Isn’t the present a better choice? In this moment I know, with as much certainty as I know anything, that I am alive.  I know (same certainty) what this moment feels, looks, sounds, smells, tastes like.  There has been very little in life about which I can be even somewhat certain. Even what I have already experienced I cannot be as certain about because most of us don’t have perfect recall and time (and our clever, creative minds…) tends to alter memory.  My immediate experience, then, as clearly as possible, holds the possibility of greater certainty. 

Do you want certainty in life?  Then look at this moment.  Live this moment.  Only in this moment can we know that “there is never any need for you to wait for anything.  …when you fully accept what you have got, … grateful for what is, grateful for being. Gratitude for the present moment and the fullness of life now is true prosperity.  It cannot come in the future.

So next time somebody says, ‘Sorry to have kept you waiting,’ you can reply, ‘That’s all right.  I wasn’t waiting. …’” I was being.

 

Breathing in:  Dwelling in the present moment

Breathing out:  I know it is the only moment

 

(all quotes from Eckhart Tolle’s Stillness Speaks book.  Read this.  Really)

 

Namaste

Love, Zora P.

 

Back to the TOP - Back to ARTICLES - Back to HOME

**

 

Self Caring and Peace

Sacrifice is often a red badge of courage, but only when we sacrifice for someone else. Think: Mother Theresa.  We rarely take kudos for sacrificing for ourselves.  Maybe because we apply duality falsehoods to this and think that all self giving is selfish, bad.  But, if we don’t take care of ourselves, what have we got left to give to others? If all our energy goes out, the inside will soon be depleted and there will be nothing left for ourselves or others.  Taking care of ourselves first, to ensure we have enough (energy, compassion, love, caring, time etc.) to give to others, is essential.  Give up the silly, puritanical concept that only giving to others has validity/will get you into heaven or whatever way you’ve been taught to see this. Even the Dalai Lama, when asked how he can be so compassionate to others, so forgiving, laughed that wonderful Dalai Lama laugh and said something like: “It’s really very selfish.  When I give to others, the first person to benefit is myself.”

Again, if we deplete ourselves, what will we have for others?  Think of it like your cell phone, tablet or laptop. Or car.  When you run down the battery or run out of gas you must refill in order to use the device again.  You are not much different.  We refill by eating and sleeping, going on vacation, having the weekend off, or what have you. This makes sense, right? (Remember one of the basic tenets of Buddhism is to look for yourself.  Explore these ideas in your contemplative meditations. Find their truths for yourself, don’t just believe me or the Dalai Lama or the buddha.)

But have you given thought to the quality of the refilling you give yourself?  Do you snatch food on the run? Eat fast food or other poor quality nutriment and/or load up on coffee or other artificial stimulants? Do you sleep poorly or not long enough?  Do you wake up ruminating about problems and fears? Do you live for your time off (see “Wait-loss Diet”) and in that time, run yourself ragged “having fun?”  

Is there another way?

Thich Nhat Hanh says, in The Heart of Understanding, “To smile is not to smile only to yourself, the world will change because of your smile.  If you establish serenity and happiness inside in yourself, you provide the world with a base for peace.

If you do not get peace with yourself, how can you share peace with others? If you cannot begin the peace work with yourself, where can you begin peace work? And, therefore, to breathe, to smile, to sit, to look deeply at things is the basic thing you do for peace.”

 

Breathing in: I’m aware of my heart.

Breathing out: I smile to my heart.

 

Ohm shanti, shanti, shanti.  Ohm peace, peace, peace.


Back to the TOP - Back to ARTICLES - Back to HOME

**

Counting Problems

There is a story about the Buddha that goes something like this (the numbers may be different, but the intent is the same):  The Buddha said everyone has 64 problems.  When one problem resolves, another comes and takes its place.  But, if having 64 problems is a problem, you have 65 problems.

Deepak Chopra says:  “Suffering is sometimes unavoidable but misery is always optional.” To me, this is just another way to say the 64 problem thing.  Suffering is the 64 problems.  Misery is the 65th (and 66th, 67th, 68th, etc!).  Here’s an example:  If you were to break a wrist, you would suffer because breaking a bone really hurts and wearing a cast is quite inconvenient (especially if it’s one’s dominant hand) and uncomfortable and physical therapy is uncomfortable and it could take a year to get full (or close) use of the wrist back and, when the weather changes, you might feel that in the broken area for years to come. This is suffering.  If, on top of that, we add thoughts like “I hate this!  Why did this happen to me? This is the worst problem ever!  My life sucks! I’ll never be the same!” and on and on, then this is misery.

It’s bad enough that we are suffering, but then we add misery to the pile in the form of thoughts that, frankly, are really irrelevant to the situation and utterly unnecessary. Hating the fact that your wrist is broken doesn’t change the fact, or help you heal faster (it could even slow down the healing process…). It just gives you one more problem - a broken wrist plus hating it! Wondering why it happened to you can only truly encompass the facts of the break. It happened because you fell (or what ever actual physical occurrence caused the bone to break), not because you are a bad person, you deserve this, or it’s payback for some other imagined transgression that happened in another aspect of your life. Only misery comes from that line of thinking.  The worst problem ever? Really? One (or two) bones out of over 200 in the whole body? Worse than starvation? torture? rape? imprisonment? enslavement? inequality? amputation? a long-term painful terminal illness? Perspective please! Your life sucks?  Perspective again, please.  It’s just a broken bone.  It’s a temporary inconvenience and it’ll heal. You’ll never be the same?  Well, that’s true.  But it’s also true that, with or without a broken wrist, every day we are not the same as the last.  We are different every day; different morning and night; different year after year.  This is a given because the only thing that doesn’t change is change. Every occurrence in life, especially time, alters us in some way.

How, then, do we release ourselves from unnecessary misery? First, we must recognize that we are creating the misery out of our suffering.  Sitting in meditation we learn to see that thoughts are causing our misery, not the situation itself.  The situation itself only brings problems. Our thoughts cause us to be miserable. Second, we must remind ourselves that we are creating the misery every time we recreate it!  And we will recreate it repeatedly, so must remember each time that it is just a thought arising.  Let it go.  Again and again.  And again.

And, lastly, remember that we only have 64 problems and an infinite number of non-problems like: I don’t have a toothache! I’m not homeless!  I’m not dead yet! I’m not blind! I don’t have TB! I’m not ___________ [put your non-problem here]!

Breathing in:  I’m aware of the painful feeling(s)  in me
Breathing out:  I smile to the painful feeling(s) in me

Breathing in:  I’m aware of my non-problem
Breathing out: I am happy

Wow! Two gathas for today’s meditation!  Enjoy. 

Namaste.

 

Back to the TOP - Back to ARTICLES - Back to HOME

**

 

 

 

  Back to

Back to