Sitting on a meditation cushion is NOT about achieving peace and calmness

“The path of the spiritual warrior is to have the courage to face life.” Geshe Lama Phuntsho talks to a visitor at the Sand Mandala Dissolution Ceremony at City Hall Austin, April 17.

“We have six consciousness: ear, eye, nose, tongue, touch, and mind. Our suffering comes from our desire to see beautiful views, hear beautiful sounds, feel something pleasant, taste something yummy, and have enjoyable thoughts and feelings. We crave what we like, and resist what we don’t. That is the source of suffering. The spiritual warrior accepts all that is, and learns to see reality for what it truly is, without distortion and illusion.”

Image courtesy of Mayusanctuary.comDid you ever sit on your meditation cushion, yearning for a sense of peace and quiet of mind? Did you ever get frustrated, self-critical, or hopeless, because your mind was racing with thoughts you didn’t want, you had the urge to get up, you got antsy, felt uncomfortable? “This is not what meditation is about! Meditation is about calming yourself, having these alpha and theta waves get stronger, being still! This meditation stuff is not for me. Meditation just doesn’t work!!!” And there you go, ready to give up on sitting on your cushion.

Wake-up, beloved friend! Meditation and mindfulness are not about trying to be this smiley, peaceful Buddha. Mindfulness is about having the guts to acknowledge all the places where we are stuck, all the places we feel hurt, and all the places where we want revenge, slash out, hide, disappear, disconnect, possess, hold on to, and be reassured that everything will be okay. Mindfulness is about opening up to what is true for you in each moment, engage with your very own, personal experience, accept that that’s your reality, and embrace it with care and compassion. That is what it means to be alive, to be a full human being, and to walk around on our precious Earth in your one wild and precious life. Your feelings, thoughts, sensations might not change on your meditation cushion, AND your compassionate and courageous heart can grow in the experience!

Isn’t that what we all want?


You want help to embrace your experience on your cushion with compassion? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free discovery session to see if and how I can help you.

Mara pays me a visit

Mara brought me a visit today. Right during meditation.

He usually does that. I don’t know how he knows when I’m gonna sit -my schedule is rather erratic- but he knows. As if he is around the corner, waiting for me to ring the bell, then barge into my room, pull up a chair, and talk right in my face. Rather loudly too. I never understood how my husband sleeps through his barking, but he does.

Image courtesy to lennemi.files.wordpress.comMara rants in a non-stop stream of words: “You should do butterflies to transform your pain, not this stupid chunking along with your plans. You’re too attached to your ego, you don’t live from your heart. You’re not funny enough, your website doesn’t have nearly as much humor as your sister’s. You’re not giving enough, you don’t really love from your heart, serving without attachment or expectation.”

A constant cascade of words that undermine my self-confidence, self-acceptance, and self-compassion.

This time it’s different. I remember how Mara threw arrows at Buddha, and how Buddha transformed each of them into flowers.

Mara is just doing what he is supposed to do: to create a world of illusion, of suffering, of despair. Nothing wrong with that. We each have a role to play, and Mara is playing his to the best of his abilities. There would not be any mindfulness, any compassion, if it were not for the suffering in the world.

No mud, no lotus.Image courtesy to a3.urbancdn.com

All I need to do is to bring my awareness back to my breath, my thoughts, my feelings.

Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.

Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.

In.

Out.

Breathing in, I know I have feelings of loneliness, sadness, shame in me.

Breathing out, I smile to the feelings of loneliness, sadness, shame in me.

Breathing in, I know I have seeds of solidity and peace in me.

Breathing out, I smile to the seeds of solidity and peace in me.

I look at Mara. He looks rather cute on the tiny, red seahorse chair. “Hey friend, thank you for visiting me. I would love to hear what you have to say. I’ll listen to you after my sit.”

Breathing in, I know I have unconditional love in me.

Breathing out, I smile to the unconditional love in me.


 

You want help to smile to all your thoughts, feelings, and sensations? Contact me for a free, discovery session. I would be delighted to help, 512-589-0482.

Am I my thoughts?

Image courtesy to Wikimedia
Image courtesy to Wikimedia

I love meditation. I love sitting on my cushion, lighting my candle, inviting the bell to sound, and bringing my attention to my in- and outbreath. And whenever a thought arises, labeling it as ‘thinking’. My meditation cushion is my sacred haven.

This morning I sit on my cushion again. I am so happy to have these 20 minutes to myself, to enjoy this open and loving space in which I can relax into my breath and let go of all my worries, anxieties, struggles, plans, and have-to’s. Just sitting and enjoying my breath.

“Now I understand why I felt so uncomfortable and disoriented at the retreat. That is my habitual fear of abandonment. It has nothing to do with the retreat, it has to do with an internalized pattern of fear. It is exactly the same experience I had when I was eight years old at girls scout camp.” It takes me a while, before I notice I am lost in my thoughts. I quickly label them as ‘thinking’ and bring my attention back to my breath. I relax and adjust my body as I breath in, and let go as I breath out. In, out. In, out.

“I remember how homesick I was, when my dad visited the camp. I just wanted him to take me home…” ‘Thinking!’ Bringing my attention back to my breath. In, out. In, out.

“I can talk to my empathy buddy about this. This is a rich topic to explore, and it would probably…” ‘Thinking.’

What!? Who are you to interrupt this thought process? Who are you to tell me that I should go back to my breath and let go of my thoughts? Huh?! Who do you think you are to tell me to stop this super interesting line of thought?”

And finally it dawns on me. I am attached to my thoughts. They make up my identity. I don’t know whom I would be without my thoughts. Whom would I be in this wide open space of presence. It sounds too scary. Too little me. Too little of the well-known, carefully crafted person I’ve come to identify as Elly.

Thich Nhat Hanh talks about our historical and ultimate dimension. The ultimate dimension is the shore of liberation. It is the insight of interbeing, that we consist of self and non-self elements, that we all are waves and water.

I realize I am not so sure I want to be liberated. It sounds all yummy and good, and I realize I want to linger a little longer on the shore of the historical dimension. It is a well-known place that brings me comfort and security.

Let me just breathe into that attachment for now. Let me just breathe into my fear of letting go. In, out. In, out.

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You want help to let go of attachments? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.

Meditation is being on the spot, right on the spot

Meditation“In the practice of mediation, an upright posture is extremely important. Having an upright back is not an artificial posture. It is natural to the human body. When you slouch, that is unusual. You can’t breathe properly when you slouch, and slouching is also a sign of giving in to neurosis. So when you sit erect, you are proclaiming to yourself and to the rest of the world that you are going to be a warrior, a fully human being.” (Shambala, the Sacred Path of the Warrior, Chogyam Ttrungpa, 2007, 18-26).

Trungpa gives us the following instruction for sitting meditation: we focus our attention on our out-breath, and adjust our posture on our in-breath. When a thought arises, we label it ‘thinking’ and bring our attention back to our breath. This harmonizes body and mind.

I love proclaiming my spot, my humanity, my warriorship, so this morning I’m gonna pay special attention to adjusting my posture to regal position on every in-breath.

I follow my out-breath and adjust my posture on my in-breath, I follow my out-breath. ‘I’m a warrior. I like that.’ ‘Thinking’: right on the spot!

I follow my out-breath and adjust my posture on my in-breath. ‘Garbanzo beans and broccoli. Enough protein. Enough vitamins. Hum. Not so yummy. Too dry. Maybe add tomatoes?’ ‘Thinking’ ‘I got that one too!’

Back to out-breath, adjust posture. ‘Tempeh is too dry, too. Good for protein, not for taste. I don’t have veganaise, so how shall I make it more creamy? Oh! I have tempeh sausages! Super! That is so yummy! It adds bite, flavor, protein. Perfect combination!’ I feel relieved and satisfied with my breakfast solution. Really satisfied. I’m looking forward to eating it. Minutes pass before I even notice how entangled I am in my thoughts. When I finally notice, I feel so disoriented that I don’t even label my thoughts as ‘thinking’. I go straight back to my out-breath, posture and in-breath.

Gosh, I knew mediation is hard work, and I never expected it to be this hard. “It has to be on the dot, right on the dot.”

Let that be my practice, to be on the spot, right on the spot.

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You want help to be on the spot, right on the spot? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would love to share my practice with you.