Showing posts from September, 2012

Undoing All the Doings

Meditation students often ask me what will help them remember presence in the thick of things. My first response: “Just pause.” My second response: “Pause again, take a few conscious breaths, and relax.”
Our lives are constantly tumbling into the future, and the only way back to here and now is to stop doing and just be. Even a few moments of un-doing, of suspended activity, a mini-meditation of just being still, can reconnect you with a sense of aliveness and caring. That connection will deepen if, during those moments, you intentionally establish contact with your body, breathe, and relax.
A game I often play with myself is to see if I can spontaneously remember to pause in situations I usually charge right through. Washing the dishes. Walking from my office to the kitchen. Moving through e-mails. Eating popcorn.
Pausing is a wonderful and radical way of plucking myself out of virtual reality and discovering myself once again at the hub, awake, open, and here. A deliberate meditative…

Beyond the Defended Self

During the years right after college, I was the director of a yoga studio at the ashram where I was living near Boston. One day, at a time when we were behind in promoting our major event of the year, which featured a number of well-known teachers, the head of our local community arrived late to our weekly staff meeting, visibly upset. I asked him what was wrong. 
In a barely controlled voice, he thrust in front of me a flyer I’d created for the event. “Just take a look at this.” Immediately, I saw the typo in bold print—it was the wrong date. My heart sank: we’d just printed three thousand of them; I’d screwed up big time.

Although my mind scrambled to solve the problem, the weight of failure sat like a big stone in my chest. At the end of our meeting I began an apology: “This was my responsibility,” I said in a low monotone, “and I’m really sorry for messing up . . .” Then as I felt the others’ eyes on me, I felt a flash of anger and the words tumbled out: “But, you know, this has …

You Are Not Your Space Suit Self

Whatever came from being is caught up in being, drunkenly forgetting the way back. - Rumi

We are born with a beautiful open spirit, alive with innocence and resilience. But we bring this goodness into a difficult world.
Imagine that at the moment of birth we begin to develop a space suit to help us navigate our strangenew environment. The purpose of this space suit is to protect us from violence and greed and to win nurturance from caretakers who, to varying degrees, are bound by their own self-absorption and insecurities. When our needs aren’t met, our space suit creates the best defensive and proactive strategies it can. These include tensions in the body and emotions such as anger, anxiety, and shame; mental activity such as judging, obsessing, and fantasizing; and a whole array of behavioral tactics forgoing after whatever is missing—security, food, sex, love.
Our space suit is essential for survival, and some of its strategies do help us become productive, stable, and responsible adu…

Entrusting Yourself to the Waves

I was drawn to my first Buddhist mindfulness retreat during a time when my son, Narayan, was four, and I was on the verge of divorce. During a slow, icy drive through a winter snowstorm on the way to the retreat center, I had plenty of time to reflect on what most mattered to me. I didn’t want a breakup that would bury the love I still shared with my husband; I didn’t want us to turn into uncaring, even hostile, strangers. And I didn’t want a breakup that would deprive Narayan of feeling secure and loved. My deep prayer was that through all that was happening, I’d find a way to stay connected with my heart.
Over the next five days, through hours of silent meditation, I cycled many times through periods of clarity and attentiveness, followed by stretches when I was swamped in sleepiness, plagued by physical discomfort, or lost in a wandering mind. Early one evening I became inundated by thoughts about the upcoming months: Should my husband and I hire lawyers or a mediator to handle the…