Mindfulness is at the core of my life and my work. What does that mean? For me it means that I don't want to miss a moment. I want to be as fully present as I possibly can be. I want to deeply take in the beauty of nature, even in those moments when I'm zooming down the highway and a sunset stuns me, or a hawk flies low across the road. It is actually on the highway that my mindful awareness snaps to attention as I grapple with the reality that my life could be over in a split second if something gets in the way of my 70 mile an hour box of metal.
I don't want to miss a moment, and I want others to be able to cherish their moments too. I want all of us to honor as much of this life as possible, even the hard stuff, at the same time I want to do this peacefully. Not rushing around trying to fit everything in, or only focusing on the fun, but going deeply into the moments into the light and the dark, into what is before us, sensing it, breathing it, having gratitude for having our lives at all!
How can we cherish our moments more deeply? From a therapeutic perspective our inability to be in a state of awe and gratitude comes directly from our conditioning, trauma, pain, and isolation. It is really, really hard to snap out of depression, anxiety, obsession, etc into gratitude, and often we seek help from things that not are not good for us, just to make it through.
Yet what brings people to therapy is an innate knowing that this is their one precious life and they want to be able to live it to the fullest. We feel: blocked, cutoff, frozen, terrified, anxious, helpless, blank, numb, crazy, confused, and in pain. Yet this is still our life. The only life we know of that we will have. Mindfulness is a profoundly helpful path back to the miracle, where gratitude comes easily, as do tears, as we quietly and courageously delve into the fact that we are breathing, that we will die, that we live in a boundless universe, that love is at the essence of it, and that this planet is really, really beautiful. Mindfulness is a practice that helps you to heal by helping you to shift your attention from reacting to experiences to just witnessing them as they are . Very simply it is the practice of stopping, focusing your attention on your breath, and letting the fullness of the moment become who you are: which is everything! We are not separate and yet we are, and that paradox eventually becomes the ground of being, where we are neither. We just are, and that is the miracle.
Mindfulness is a bell ringing, a beautiful bell, that reminds you of the intrinsic beauty and goodness that pervades all of life, even in the most difficult of moments. This bell calls you to attention, as if you are realizing that you are alive for the first time, and that everything around you is new, as if you've never seen it before, and you look deeply into the moment and what arises is love, love for your life, and compassion to yourself for those moments when you have forgotten the miracle. This compassion grows to all others. It becomes your foundation. Anger no longer needs to rise towards others because you see that they just don't get that this is a miracle. Our work then becomes how to create a world where the miracle is honored every where, all the time. Life is awesome. Realizing it happens right now, right here, in this moment.
You can contact me at 413-341-4140 for Mindfulness based Counseling Sessions.
Contemplations on Interdependence: LIFE FORCE July 2017
It is summertime and I am sensing with astonishment the beauty and abundance of life force all around me. There are so many forces seemingly coming from nowhere pushing through into the light. But where does this force come from? How is it in me? How is it in you?
My mind in winter drifts towards darkness, the days shortened and cold everywhere can lead me to my deepest fears. Mortality murmuring through ancestral memories of scarcity and starvation.
But our darkness is our compost, it grounds us in the light. It is food for the life force. The darkness is the clarifying force, the dense nutritive substance of feelings that call out injustice, cruelty and oppression. These feelings become our darkness because there is a layer of shame over our moments of hate, rage, jealousy, and judgement. We push down these feelings because our bodies have become the cage that was fashioned by the violence that came at us as children, or by the indifference, neglect and abandonment we experienced. We push our darkness down because we want to feel safe. Yet over time if it is not brought to the light of consciousness, and released through creative life force, it will make itself known as aberration, tumor, violence, paranoia, threat, anxiety and worst of all for our planet a numbness to the natural world that is shining with beauty all around us, and supports our every living moment.
Our spiritual and psychological evolution is deeply influenced by the environment we experienced when we come into this world. Our families and communities are the soil and sun and water into which our seed soul must grow or perish. We do not know that it could be any different, and we have no choice to plant ourselves elsewhere until we become adults and can walk away. And we as adults do have that choice. But where do we walk to?
As an adult we can walk outside to sit under a tree. The natural world can help immeasurably in making a new story for ourselves. The natural world does not blame us for having dark feelings. We can walk or sit in nature and no matter what we are feeling it will still be there, unless of course we act out our feelings on nature itself. And this is perhaps why our world is dying. People are acting out their dark rejected feelings on the earth itself. Our darkest feelings need to be seen as part of our being human, and witnessed within ourselves with care and compassion in safe environments. If we find ourselves acting out on others it is our responsibility to find ways of expression that do not harm others or ourselves.
Because our adult bodies are often a mask over our broken hearted child self, it can be hard for us to feel that we could walk outside and find a tree and sit, or yell in the back woods, or make a black painting, or write a poem about our grief and rage. Yet that child part of us is longing to live in wonder again, to cry freely when life is hard, and to seek the comfort of unconditional love when we are broken.
The good news is that we are surrounded by the loving presence of the earth itself at every moment, and deep within our unconscious mind we know that this is true. The rocks, the trees, the grass, the leaves, the flowers, the water, the air, the list is endless. This is our home and we are made up of all that is around us, indivisible and whole.
What if every human on earth could sit beneath a tree as the Buddha did, even for just a day? Their awareness might be able to witness the passing by of darker feelings and thoughts until an opening to the simple experience of being connected to the moment to moment reality of the tree would unfold. The unmoving trunk, the reaching leaves, the steady presence of life force around us as our world spins in the vast universe. Our darker feelings can be here without judgement as they dissolve in our minds as the miracle of life unfolds.
Perhaps this would set humanity on a course of inter-being that naturally brings deep peace and self-love. This is a kind of feeling that lasts as long as the wind blows and the river flows, and the stars pass by in our wondering eyes.
Finding Ground October 31st, 2016
What is it to feel grounded? It seems obvious. We are on the earth, and we live our lives on the surface of it. Very simply how we live on the ground is what helps us to feel more grounded or not.
We humans are ground animals at our very core. We do not know how to fly without the use of harnessed energies. In fact the experience of being in cars or airplanes is so far out of our genetic reality that it can very easily create feelings of unreality, disconnection, anxiousness, and even terror. The painful irony is that our society is currently dependent on inherently ungrounded experiences. And to make it worse this way of being is imperiling the biosphere and may lead to our collective extinction. Okay, Big breath here. Feel your feet. Let’s proceed.
At the most basic level being grounded might mean for some of us that we feel calmer, more connected to ourselves and others and to what is really happening around us. That sounds good doesn’t it?
Feeling grounded is to literally feel connected to the ground. We can achieve this connection by noticing where we are and to take in some aspect of the natural world. Even looking up at the sky, helps us to situate ourselves on the earth. From this awareness we can feel more calm and connected to the world around us. Sensing our whole body on the earth is a healing experience.
We often do not even know that we have become ungrounded. Traumatic experiences even on the most subtle level unground us. It is hard for us to know that we are safe to live on the earth after trauma. Our daily lives reiterate this by offering little time for deep reflection, rest and emotional support from others. We end up living in a reality bubble that is energetically pulling us up and away from the ground.
As an experiment take a moment to notice how it feels to be in your body when you say to yourself “I am safe”. The idea of being safe is inherently grounding. It implies that where you are physically is a safe place. This is an ancient need, and our ancestors and we ourselves need safety to relax. I truly hope that you are in a safe place as you read this, but if you are not, even then, you have the power to influence your mind and body by repeating these words and noticing that right beneath you no matter where you are on earth there is ground. Knowing that we have the earth beneath us is something for which we can all be deeply grateful and it opens up a profound awareness that this does not change. No matter what happens to us in our lives, we are still connected to all that is through our intimate relationship with the earth and the universe. We can rest in this awareness.
The great 20th-century Vedantin sage, Ramana Maharshi said that the Earth is in a constant state of dhyana (meditative absorption). The Buddha's earth-witness mudra (hand position) is a beautiful example of "embodied cognition" His posture and gesture embody unshakeable self-realization. He does not ask heavenly beings for assistance. Instead, without using any words, the Buddha calls on the Earth to bear witness. "John Stanley & David Loy" Eco-Dharma.com
When we take time to acknowledge the earth beneath us, we are grounding ourselves and touching into the oneness that exists for all beings. The earth will bear witness to the miracle of you in your perfect connection to everything in the universe..
I woke up this morning and asked myself, who do I want "to be" today? My first reflection was to be loving, my second was to just keep it together. My pile of to dos is two pages long, but at least for now they are on a piece of paper rather than spinning around in my head. But to truly ask myself who do I want "to be" today, I needed to touch into the places inside myself that are either lurking in shadows, or are desperately clawing for attention.
My meditation cushion calls me. I am grateful for it, at this point immeasurably. I sit. First, bowing to my ancestors, then to my teachers, then to myself, this self that has been with me for 51 years but who I am just beginning to know.
I have been many things in this life, dancer, photographer, horseback rider, actress, puppeteer, traveler, teacher, mother and wife, and now for the past ten years I have studied and explored within myself what it means to be a human from the inside out. This path has taken to me to the most simple and yet most profound action of my life. To Stop. To stop and sit on a daily basis and let go of even the processes of thinking, planning, musing, inventing, imagining, designing and ultimately controlling my life with my mind. I have discovered that my mind is tired and ready for this rest. When I sit and ring the bell, and light the candle, and take in and let out three deep breaths, I am letting my mind know that now is the time for rest, and it no longer has to work to keep me safe, mull over the terror of doing something wrong, obsess about old family issues, or plan the next meal. Now my mind can be in service to my heart and body. I ask it to notice this moment.
What is in this moment? My breath and the ocean like flow of its expression and my body and the myriad calls its making about how it feels to be still and suddenly get some attention. I say to my mind, let's listen. My heart soon starts to share and often unburdens a longing, a grief, or a joy, or elicits from me an immense sigh. Full of I don't know what, but then there is more space, and the sounds of the day break into my consciousness. The birds, the wind, the cars going by, the rustle of my sleeping child.
I feel awake, as if out of a dream, and my being is vibrating with the life that it is, that is right now, nowhere to go, nothing to do. Now here is the miracle, I feel love, My heart feels big and full in my chest. My body is vibrating with love. I am in awe of the sheer magnitude of this life that has been given to me. Then my sit is over. I ring the bell again, my mind gets back on line for business, but now my heart is in the lead. It may lead me to things harder and more complex than I have ever wanted to face, but it does not require of me anything more than full, relaxed, mindful attention. This is who I want "to be" today.