Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Head and the Heart

When your mind is like a roller coaster,
you could sit still and enjoy the ride!
My meditation practice has felt a little off this week. My department at work went on a team retreat early this week and there are lots of changes coming, so my mind was filled with thoughts about work. On top of that I've felt angry and aggressive lately. I'm not sure where it is coming from. Maybe it is the coming winter season. Maybe it is anxiety about my wife losing her job. Maybe it is dealing with some of the ideas around Karma that are rocking my world view (see recent posts about Karma).

My morning meditations have felt off balance in the sense that my mind wanders during most of the time that I am sitting. I get anxious and look at the clock
to see how much time is left. When the sitting is over I have to force myself to take it slow, while my impulse is to speed up, jump up and hurry off to work.

In this context I went the Shambhala Center yesterday for an all day class on Karma and the 12 Nidanas. As it turned out our teacher had a family emergency, so he was late for the class and had to step out a few times. This presented the students with an opportunity to do a lot of sitting meditation, which I totally welcomed. When my meditation practice is feeling unstable, its usually because my life is feeling groundless. There is no better way to regain a sense of balance than to sit for longer periods than what I do in my daily practice.

I was sitting there, mind wandering, thinking thinking thinking, and then reminding myself to focus on the breath. I'd do the breathing technique for 30 seconds and then I'd be off and running with a new blog idea, sadness about a colleague that is having a tough time with a sick baby, thinking about how I need to see old so and so who I haven't talked to in a while... and on and on and on.

Then I remembered a really important instruction, which is "embodying" the practice, bringing the meditation down from the head to the heart. Actually, Tibetans believe that the mind is in the heart center, not in the head. When I move my attention down from my head into my heart, I find it so much easier to be present. I can focus more on the way my body is feeling, and less on the ideas and thoughts. When you embody the practice, you are more present and this even helps you bring your practice into everyday life.

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