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Showing posts from October, 2012

Stepping out of Obsessive Thinking

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I’d gone into therapy during my sophomore year in college, and remember the day I brought up my current prime-time fixation: how to stop binge eating. No matter how committed I felt to my newest diet plan, I kept blowing it each day, and mercilessly judged myself for being out of control. When I wasn’t obsessing on how I might concoct a stricter, more dramatic weight-loss program, I was getting caught up in food cravings.
My therapist listened quietly for a while, and then asked a question that has stayed with me ever since: “When you are obsessing about eating, what are you feeling in your body?”As my attention shifted, I immediately noticed the painful, squeezing feeling in my chest. While my mind was saying “something is wrong with me,” my body was squeezing my heart and throat in the hard grip of fear.
In an instant I realized that when I was obsessing about food—craving it, wanting to avoid it—I was trying to escape from these feelings. Obsessing was my way of being in control. T…

Planting Ourselves in the Universe

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Here in this body are the sacred rivers: here are the sun and moon, as well as all the pilgrimage places. I have not encountered another temple as blissful as my own body.  —Tantric song
When I meet with people at retreats or in counseling sessions, some will tell me they feel numb, lost in thoughts, and disconnected from life. Others might tell me they are overwhelmed by feelings of fear, hurt, or anger. Whenever we are either possessed by our feelings or dissociated from them, we are in trance, cut off from our full presence and aliveness.
In Buddhist meditation training, awakening from trance begins with mindfulness of sensations. Sensations are our most immediate way of experiencing and relating to life. All our other reactions—to thoughts, to external situations, to people, to emotions—are actually in response to physical sensations. When we are angry at someone, our body is responding to a perceived threat. When we are attracted to someone, our body is signaling comfort or curiosi…

The Radiant Awareness Living Through Us

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Sometimes you hear a voice through
the door calling you, as fish out of
water hear the waves, or a hunting
falcon hears the drum's come back.
This turning toward what you deeply love
saves you …
—Rumi
Soon after his enlightenment, the Buddha set out to share his teachings with others. People were struck by his extraordinary radiance and peaceful presence. One man asked him who he was. “Are you a celestial being or a god?” “No,” responded the Buddha. “Are you a saint or sage?” Again the Buddha responded, “No.” “Are you some kind of magician or wizard?” “No,” said the Buddha. “Well then, what are you?” The Buddha replied, “I am awake.” I often share this story because it is a reminder that what might seem like an extraordinary occurrence—spiritual awakening—is a built-in human capacity. Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha’s birth name) was a human being, not a deity. When Buddhists take refuge in the historical Buddha, whose name literally means “one who is awake,” they are drawing on the inspir…

Meditating Daily…”No Matter What”

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Even after practicing and teaching meditation for more than 35 years now, I truly understand that sustaining a regular practice can be challenging. During the twelve years I lived in an ashram, for instance, I had others to practice with each day. With that kind of support, creating the time for daily meditation became a given in my life. It wasn’t as easy after I left. Within a year I gave birth to my son, Narayan, and found myself with a new infant and an increasingly erratic schedule.
One morning, I woke up feeling particularly ornery, and, after I snapped at Narayan’s father for forgetting something at the supermarket, he recommended that I take some time to meditate. I handed the baby over, plunked down in front of my little altar, and immediately dissolved into tears.
I missed the rhythm of my practice. I missed making regular visits to myself! In those moments, with the sun flooding through the windows, and the background sounds of my husband chatting away to Narayan, I made a …