Keeping our selves fluid and not freezing

There are two conditions that need to be understood in learning about mindfulness. The first is that freezing or congealing around pain or pleasure brings “suffering”. When we have pain or discomfort and we freeze up in that moment, we suffer. When we have pleasure of even the subtlest sort and we grasp onto it, we suffer. We are cut off from the core of our being.

There are two ways to reduce suffering that is connected to pain or discomfort:decrease the discomfort or pain by changing our circumstances (possible only under some circumstances) or reduce the habit of congealing or freezing up around the discomfort (always possible). Similarly, there are two ways to increase our fulfillment in pleasure: increase the pleasure (not always possible and often leads to addictions) or learn to contact even the subtlest pleasure clearly, eliminating the congealing (always possible). Only with the second option do we have the true freedom that does not depend on situations or circumstances.

To reduce or eliminate our freezing, grasping or holding is what I will call “mindfulness skill”. When we have achieved this skill and can use it on a moment to moment basis in our feeling lives, we are free to be persons of complete feeling. Rather than rigidify and fixate on either fears of pain or desires for pleasure, we find ourselves “flowing” through our emotional lives feeling the incredible lightness of our being.

Shinzen Young

On seeing changes in nature

The swallows are flying low over the fields and are more visible in noisy groups now. They prepare to depart, even though the weather is still very mild. I found it an interesting learning experience to watch them –  the sensation of  joy which I had in their movement  in the late afternoon sun  was immediately followed by a pang of sadness in the thought that they will soon be gone. How hard it is just to allow things be, as they are, without wanting to hold on or immediately adding on some extra thoughts! It is easy to know intellectually that all things change, often in ways that we cannot predict. However, knowing that deep in my bones and accepting it is not always as simple.   In this case,  acceptance was not too difficult to achieve  – swallows come and go in their own time and there is no way to stop them. So I am grateful for these Autumn changes  –  becoming more visible each day – as among the most important tools for learning which I have. They gently repeat,  over and over again,   many of the same truths. They allow me see how change has an effect on my moods and how I like to hold on. They show us how often I  relate to things depending on how they make me feel, rather than with complete freedom. I resist change each day but change is inevitable; my happiness is related to the way I choose  to respond to it.

Nothing is so fleeting as external form,

which withers and alters

like the flowers of the field at the appearance of autumn.

Umberto Eco

Not all growth is visible

If we can possibly learn to trust darkness, to understand that life is a pattern of starts and stops, of celebrating the past,  of coming to terms with the present and of believing the future to be kind, then we can come to understand that the dark parts are only those closing-down moments, like flowers at night, till the sun shines again……Darkness deserves gratitude. It is the alleluia point at which we learn to understand that not all growth takes place in the sunlight. Then we come to understand that God is at work in our lives even when we believe that nothing whatsoever is going on.

Joan Chittister, For all that Has Been, Thanks

Not letting anxiety become fear

The truth is that you will never be absolutely safe. All things change constantly, even what is most precious. You know that you and those you love will die, but not when or how. This is the angst of life, the price of being a conscious human being. It is not a flaw, although many people cannot let loose of seeing it in such a manner. It is just the way life is constructed. When your awareness of this vulnerability is triggered, you can be swept into panic, collapse into depression, or desperately try to distract yourself. One of the values of  practice is that you are able to come to terms with this anxiety in a conscious manner. Your life becomes more integrated because you are no longer trying to deny or avoid what is true.

For instance, you simply forget a meeting, yet you are traumatized, certain that you are losing your ability to focus. Or someone disappoints you and you collapse into complete self-hatred, fearing that you have no worth to the other. With mindfulness practice, you learn to see how the untrained mind is agitated by the human condition and how not to allow this general anxiety to fuel your fear in a specific situation. You also gain tolerance for the unpleasantness of uncertainty and also the naturalness of your own imperfection. You have confidence that “life is like this.” You cannot and are not supposed to miraculously fix it; rather, you gain the insight that happiness and peace come from relating to life just as it is.

Phiilipp Moffit, Freedom from Fear

Learning, deep down in our bones

I used to hurry everywhere, and leaped over the running creeks.

There wasn’t time enough for all the wonderful things I could think of to do in a single day.  

Patience comes to the bones

before it takes roots in the heart as another good idea.

I say this as I stand in the woods and study the patterns of the moon shadows,

or stroll down into the waters that now, late summer, have also caught the fever,

and hardly move from one eternity to another.

Mary Oliver, Patience

Patience with ourselves: Practicing without “should”

Some of us can accept others right where they are a lot more easily than we can accept ourselves. We feel that compassion is reserved for someone else, and it never occurs to us to feel it for ourselves. My experience is,  that by practicing without “shoulds”, we gradually discover our wakefulness and our confidence. Gradually, without any agenda except to be honest and kind, we assume responsibility for being here in this unpredictable world, in this unique moment, in this precious human body.

Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart