Sunday, May 27, 2012

How to Dissolve Resentment

It's easy to get fixated on resentment in life. We resent not being loved; we resent snarky remarks; we resent our talents going unnoticed; we resent prejudice; we resent not being perfect. But resentment is the ground for us to work from, when we realize that resentment is a cowardly and ineffective attempt to avoid pain.

To be clear, I'm not talking about anger or saying we shouldn't be angry sometimes. When we see people being oppressed, anger seems the appropriate response. What I'm talking about is petty resentment, which often leads us to talk a lot of smack in the face of something we interpret as a personal affront.

It takes courage to work with our resentment, and it takes a mind that is aware of the object of resentment, our fear and the impulse to escape from it. At the bottom of resentment is pain and we need the courage to run straight into that pain. The way in is the way out.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Five Ideas for Practicing Mindfulness in Daily Life

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche has said that true confidence is synchronization of mind and body. This rings true for me, based on experience. I recently came away from a dathun (4 week meditation and mindfulness retreat), and when people ask me how the experience made me feel, the best answer I could give them was, "confident." That might sound odd at first, but confidence most accurately describes the way I feel when I focus all of my energy on one thing at a time. When I can totally focus my mind, I'm not such a pushover. I feel unshakeable.

During dathun our teacher shared ideas about how to bring mindfulness into our daily lives, and I've continued to ponder this. This list includes some of my own ideas, but also borrows from Cara Thornley, who led the dathun I attended, and from Ani Pema Chodron.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Putting a Rock on a Leaf: 4 Steps to Beginning a Meditation Session

In Turning the Mind into an Ally, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche describes the act of starting your meditation session with intention. He says it is, "like putting a rock on a leaf." It's really helpful for me to conjure this image whenever I'm starting my sitting meditation practice. It is firm and gentle at the same time, the way you would tell a child not to pull a dog's tail. This is exactly the type of mindset one needs to cultivate in meditation.

Making sure that your practice starts out right from the first few seconds of a sitting session has a strong effect on the rest of your meditation. Lately, I've paired the image of the rock on a leaf with several steps to make sure the rock is firmly on the leaf. It helps ensure that my mind isn't blown away by thoughts, at least not right at the beginning of a session (that can happen!).

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Three Things I Learned at Dathun

I learned a whole lot of things at the mostly silent 28 day meditation retreat called dathun, from which I just returned. I learned that Mahakala (the fearsome Tibetan protector deity known for severing the heads of those who pervert the Dharma) loves his daily shrine offering of Cheerios. Sometimes he gets Rice Crispies too. I learned that eating all of your meals in the Zen Oryoki style can take a few inches off your muffin-top; and little screw-ups during Oryoki can leave a room full of people helplessly giggling. In a dathun you can totally mess with people by putting terrible songs into their heads. I also learned that getting to know people without talking to them is an amazing way to notice things about how your mind works. But of all the things I learned, there are three big ones that I wanted to share with you, so here goes...