Posted in events

Paper Airplane

Last night I took my seven year old stepson to meditation with me. I don’t take kids to meditation unless they ask to go. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that would NEVER take a child to a meditation event and I do understand that. But I believe that, as mindful parents, we should share the practice with them if they’re interested. Some people believe kids can’t really get much benefit from meditation practice and I really disagree with that. A long time ago I used to teach meditation to kids. Sometimes I think about doing that again.

Anyway, he was determined to attend. I don’t know why. There are four children in our house and he’s the only one that seems interested. He has gone in the past and (to my surprise) participated in the whole meditation. An hour of sitting still is a long time for anyone, if we’re honest.

But, although he really wanted to go, he also brought some activities. He said, “Just in case I get bored.” He brought some Dogman books and a notebook for writing and drawing.

I wasn’t leading the practice. I had invited a zen monk named Thich Tam Cu to come lead for the night. He did a great job, by the way. So, I had the opportunity to just be a participant in the meditation practice, instead of leading.

Thich Tam Cu is someone I don’t know very well. He’s from the American South and many years ago he was in the United States Navy. He’s a Zen monk and hospital chaplain now. He’s student of Sunyananda Dharma who, a long time ago, was once my teacher. He’s been studying with him way longer than I did and is still studying with him today.

Whereas I decided a long time ago to take my teaching in a non-traditional direction, Thich Tam Cu did the opposite. He wore a yellow robe when he led meditation, because he wears robes when he teaches. He’s actually not as traditional as I thought he would be, but more traditional than I am. He uses humor just like I do, which I didn’t expect.

It seems like I swear and talk about memes, drinking, and how fucking hard it is to start and maintain a consistent meditation practice in all my dharma talks. Not traditional, a little different. I’d rather be your friend and inspire you than be your teacher.

Anyway, what I discovered was that his style is similar to mine. That time I spent training with his teacher may have had more influence on me than I realize. Who knows.

Maybe ‘traditional’ is just a word I’m attaching importance to that isn’t there. I’m probably not as different as I think. If I’m honest, for a second there I thought to myself, “Maybe I should get the robes out of the back of my closet…”

Anyway. I was there and we were sitting, doing a very similar practice to the one we do when I lead, presented by this monk in a very similar way to the way I present it. 30 minutes of meditation, just like we do when I lead.

My stepson sat with me a few minutes. Then he left to go across the room where he had his bag full of activities. It’s a big room, he was pretty far away.

We were sitting there doing the practice and I heard this ripping sound. Paper getting slowly pulled out of a notebook. Then, I heard some other sounds. He made a paper airplane and he was throwing it. He was, however, still being quiet, as quiet as one can be when throwing a paper airplane.

At first I thought, “Why the hell is he throwing a paper airplane? He knows what we’re doing here! He’s going to bother everyone.”

I was not mad, but I was irritated.

And I decided, since we were meditating, to bring attention to that irritation.

And I realized two things.

First of all: No one cared but me. No one even noticed.

AND
He’s seven years old. He far exceeded all expectations for a 7 year old boy, as far as not bothering anyone. Between the meditation and the discussion (which was a Q &A) we sat there for an hour. That’s a long time for a kid to be quiet and all he did was make a paper airplane. (!)

 

And that’s when I found equanimity. In truth, I was only irritated for a moment. A moment was all I needed. That’s what meditation really gives us, I think. A little extra space between thoughts, or between stimulus and response, or a chance to reflect mindfully and stop a growing irritation. This is something that happens to all of us often. Some nonsense thing happens and we make it a bigger problem in our minds that it really is. We get bothered by so many things. The poet Charles Bukowski said, “We are flattened by trivialities, eaten up by nothing.” I really like that quote.

Would I have found equanimity if I wasn’t meditating at the time? I don’t know. Everything was quiet so it was really easy for me to hear the crafting of a paper airplane. In a more active day-to-day situation I may not have even noticed, and I wouldn’t have had that expectation that I was putting on him to be quiet. And the expectation I was putting on the room to be a quiet place.

The truth is that in meditation we’re learning how our minds work. We’re learning to see those gaps between thoughts. And when we learn how to do it on the cushion, the hope is that we strengthen those pathways in our minds so we can also do it when things happen off the cushion. The training we get in meditation is supposed to help us when we’re not meditating.

Otherwise, why are we doing it?

So, that’s my story.

A real and personal lesson. The gaps are really important. The space between thoughts. If we can get handle on that, we’ll be a lot happier.

 

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You can listen to me on:  The Kansas City Meditation Podcast

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Posted in meditation

Development and Acceptance

It’s a really good feeling sometimes when we think our meditation is working. If we’ve been struggling for a while and then we are suddenly able to stay with the breath or stay with our experience for several minutes, that can be a satisfying experience.

We spend so much time in the daydream, not being fully present that when we step into this moment it can be a shock to our system sometimes. And that can create it’s own problems. Once we have a moment of clarity, we might tend to cling to it. It can be very discouraging when some of our meditation sessions feel successful and others do not. It’s so hard to maintain a passive attitude sometimes.

What I want to encourage you to do is accept whatever your experience is in your meditation practice. This can be very challenging. We want to have feelings of satisfaction or frustration and just notice them, just be aware of them and be with them. If we attach a lot of significance to either experience, then our practice could suffer. We want to be with these feelings and not cling to the satisfaction but also not push away the frustration. The fact is that sometimes our sit will feel really successful and other times it will feel like a failure.

Your attention will improve over time. This is about training the mind. No one expects you to be great at this right away. No one is great at this right away. Our minds naturally wander and get lost. What we want to try to do is have a passive attitude so we aren’t really hard on ourselves when we get off track. We want to try to learn how to gently bring the mind back.

New meditators sometimes feel like their minds are just too crazy to meditate and that sort of misses the point. We’re not meditating because it’s easy to still the mind and be present. We’re meditating because it’s hard.

Hopefully with practice it gets a little easier to simply notice when our minds are wandering and to just bring them back to the present moment without getting caught up in it.

 

Posted in tattooed buddha

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is simply engaging our experience in the present, moment after moment, dwelling in our experience as it is.

It is opening ourselves not just to the aspects of our lives that we like or dislike or see as important, but the totality of our experience.

When we practice mindfulness we can see the world as it really is. But, more importantly, we can see ourselves as we are: part of an interconnected whole. Allowing ourselves to really engage our experience takes some effort and practice. Until we make a concerted effort, mindfulness of the moment can be very slippery and easy to lose a grasp on. It’s so easy to get distracted and come out of this moment.

We do it all the time. That’s why mindfulness takes practice.

We are practicing to come into reality as it really is, right now. After we practice we start to realize that we can be mindful in any activity. It’s not only possible when things are easy or quiet. We can be mindful when we are working, when we’re driving, when we’re doing housework. We can also learn how to be mindful when we are afraid or upset.

When we are mindful we can act with clear thinking. Rather than having our decisions distorted by how we feel about situations, we can still think clearly.

As we continue practicing, our attention becomes more powerful. Practicing attention releases us from the delusions that are always distracting us. Practicing helps us control the constant chattering “monkey mind” that’s always dragging our thoughts around and distracting us.

To be mindful is to simply be aware.

As thoughts come without getting involved in the thoughts—not going off on a train of thought, not worrying about where a thought came from—but simply being aware that thinking is happening. It helps to make a mental note that we are “thinking” every time a thought comes.

Observe the rising of a thought without judging or reacting to it—without identifying it. Our thoughts are only thinking.

You will see that when we aren’t so attached to our thought process, that thoughts don’t last as long. As soon as we engage a thought with mindfulness, it disappears. Sometimes people find it helpful to label thinking in a more complete way, noting differing kinds of thoughts such as: thinking, desiring, remembering, etc. This can serve to strengthen our focus.

Try to note each thought the moment it arises.

When thoughts are noted in this way, they don’t have as much power to disturb our minds. Thoughts aren’t obstacles to our meditation, they are just an object of meditation, like the breath or a mantra. Make the effort to clearly note each thought and not get carried away by them. In this way, we will come to clarity.

If something comes into your mind, let it come in and let it go out; it will not stay long. Don’t try to stop thoughts, just let them come and go. Gradually, our minds will become calmer and calmer. Many thoughts come, but they are just from our own minds, which means they are under our control if we can just learn how to manage them.

This practice will bring about a state of balance and calm. Keep the mind aware of the thoughts that are arising from moment to moment.

Mindfulness is engaging this moment as it is.

This moment is all there is and all that we need.

http://thetattooedbuddha.com/what-is-mindfulness/