Monday, November 27, 2017

The Art of Savoring

     “The root of the word savor comes from the Latin word saporem which means to taste and is also the root of sapient which is the word for wisdom. Another definition I love is ‘to give oneself over to the enjoyment of something.’ When I give myself over to the experience of savoring, wisdom emerges. Savoring calls for a kind of surrender. We have all kinds of stories in our minds about why we perhaps shouldn’t give ourselves over to enjoyment, whether out of guilt or shame or a sense of fear out of what might happen. Yet we are called to yield to the goodness of life, to bask in it. It is an affirmation and celebration …

      Savoring calls me to slowness: I can't savor quickly.

      Savoring calls me to spaciousness: I can't savor everything at once.

      Savoring calls me to mindfulness: I can't savor without being fully present.

      It also calls for a fierce and wise discernment about how I spend my time and energy. Now that I know deep in my bones the limits of my life breaths, how do I choose to spend those dazzling hours? What are the experiences ripening within me that long for exploration? Do I want to waste my time skating on the surface of things, in a breathless rush to get everything done when all I need is here in this moment?

      There is also a seasonal quality to savoring – this season, what is right before me, right now, is to be savored. It will rise and fall, come into fullness and then slip away. When I savor I pay attention to all the moments of that experience without trying to change it.

      And finally, there is a tremendous sweetness to this open-hearted way of being in the world. Everything becomes grace because I recognize it could all be different, it could all be gone. Rather than grasp at how I think this moment should be, I savor the way things are.”

      excerpted & adapted by the author, from: 

     Christine Valters Painter. “The Wisdom of the Body: A Contemplative Journey to Wholeness for Women.” Sorin Books, 2017.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Simple Profound Advice

     Ajahn Chah's simple, profound advice to an aging student approaching her death:

     "The Buddha told us to see the way things are and then let go of our clinging to them. Take this feeling of letting go as your refuge.

     The world is the way it is. If you allow it to arise in the mind and dominate consciousness, then the mind becomes obscured and can’t see itself. So whatever appears in the mind, just say ‘This isn’t my business. It’s impermanent, unsatisfactory, & not-self.’ ”

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Minding the Mind

     WHILE feeling safe & loved, WE ENGAGE in exploration, play, & cooperation.
     WHILE feeling frightened & unwanted, managing feelings of fear & abandonment TAKES OVER. 
       Underlined words from: Bessel Van Der Kolk. “The Body Keeps the Score. Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.” Penguin Books, 2015.

       How rarely we feel completely safe & loved! Perhaps even more sad is being so used to feeling frightened & unwanted, that we assume this to be "normal".

     Safe & loved feels like: 
while hugging someone you love & who loves you; 
while looking after a 2-year-old grandchild; 
while holding a puppy's face in your hands & staring into each other's eyes; 
while doing work that you find very meaningful & rewarding eg preparing a delicious, healthy meal for loved ones; 
while "struck speechless" by the beauty of nature;  
while quietly reading a book that you love; etc.

      Frightened & unwanted feels like: 
"craving" - lacking, unloved, lonely, alone, small, vulnerable, afraid, anxious, longing, empty, hungry, thirsty, impotent, needy, wishing "if only I could have / do / be X, THEN I would be happy"; 
"aversion" - angry, bitter, hating, intolerant, judgmental, disgusted, cynical, rigid, violent, wishing "if only I could avoid / prevent / eliminate X, THEN I would be happy"; 
"delusion & confusion" - not being able to see things as they are, but only from the heavily biased perspective of our own troubled mind-heart. We feel disoriented, confused, troubled, bored, forgetful, hopeless, nihilistic, sick-and-tired of our repetitive thoughts / self-talk, moods & how our mind works, wishing for clarity, to wake up from what feels like a nightmare. 

     It's critically important for our own & others' quality of life, and even safety & survival, that we detect as early as possible, when we feel frightened & unwanted or any of it's many manifestations. 
     If this "life-or-death" alarm bell is a false alarm or gross exaggeration - and in modern times it almost always is - then we can, and I humbly suggest that we must, intentionally train ourselves to quickly shift back into feeling safe & loved with its associated wise, kind, conscious behavior.

     Of course we all tend to think that most others certainly behave from this primitive survival-based (frightened & unwanted) level of consciousness, we ourselves are, if not consistently, then mostly reside in the evolved wisdom-based (safe & loved) level of consciousness & behavior. 
     So how do these statements sound?: “No one to be, nothing to do, nowhere to go” and: "Whatever appears in the mind, just say ‘This isn’t my business. It’s impermanent, unsatisfactory, and not-self.’" 
     If these sound strange, if not irritatingly "against the grain" of all that we know, then we are usually in survival mode, and WHILE we are, survival mode is at least distorting if not completely controlling all our thoughts, emotions & behavior. We've all had varying amounts of trauma in our lives, but few of us think we've had enough to cause PTSD. But what if ALL of us suffer from some degree of PTSD?

    Mindfulness training involves learning practices with which we intentionally, consciously, continuously, notice as soon as we're in this primitive survival-based (frightened & unwanted) level of consciousness, accept it as our natural biological heritage, then effortlessly shift back into our natural evolved wisdom-based (safe & loved) level.

Katie Hoffman      "TU"

Friday, November 3, 2017

Towards Opening the Mind-Heart ...

     "Open-hearted awareness builds on emotional intelligence, which is the ability to recognize, distinguish, and articulate our emotions. It's also the capacity for understanding and appreciating the emotions of others and the way they communicate with us. Open-hearted awareness does not have to defend against emotions. From open-hearted awareness, we're able to ‘be with’ emotions that formerly would have been overwhelming. From open-hearted awareness, we need not consider ourselves underdeveloped or weak if we go through what St. Teresa of Ávila called the ‘gift of tears.’
     Even when we've awakened from ego-identification, we still need to unlearn and relearn about love. What we call love, or what we think is love, is often mixed with a lot of early personal conditioning, old belief systems, and emotional attachments. When the heart doesn't go out to look for love, but looks instead back to its source - the ground of Being - we can discover unconditional love as who we have always been. Then this new experience of love can become the foundation from which relationships are formed. A whole different emotional way of being and seeing gives rise to a new, vastly more compassionate and connected way of relating. 
     Open-hearted awareness, which is operating from our heart-mind, begins to include necessary judging functions of the mind, but leaves behind the fear, separation, and controlling anger that made us ‘judgmental.’ Our normal judging functions are transformed by open-hearted awareness into discernment and discriminating wisdom. 
     The judge, the critic, and the superego are not essential or rigidly fixed parts of the human psyche. As soon as we shift into open-hearted awareness, an immediate feeling of being nonjudgmental and more compassionate arises. We develop a more mature conscience, a sense of integrity, and an acceptance of what is, while having the capacity and motivation to change what needs to be changed.”

       Loch Kelly. “Shift into Freedom. The Science and Practice of Open-hearted Awareness.” Sounds True, 2015.

Katie Hoffman      "Circe"