Fellow Yogis and Friends,
Often times, in life, we feel tossed around by forces out of our control. We work hard to fulfill our desires, and once things are just right, the experience shifts and a sense of uncertainty and dissatisfaction return. Sometimes this unsettled feeling can be merely uncomfortable or frustrating, other times it can be more distressing.
At times, in social situations, I become very concerned with what others think of me. When I feel included and well received in the group there is a sense of safety and relaxation. However, if I feel somehow misunderstood or excluded I experience a frustrating sense isolation. The experience is constantly changing, despite efforts to hold onto some ideal sense of reality.
This desire for things to be a certain way is a normal and natural behavior of the mind. The problem comes when we believe it to be true, when we try desperately to fulfill our desires.
Through mindfulness practices we begin to see that mental states are like waves: they arise momentarily and are then reintegrated back into a vast sea of awareness. Instead of trying to control natural phenomena, we can learn to respond to our moment-to-moment experience with compassion and understanding.
Looking forward to our continued exploration. See you all next week.
Fellow Yogis and Friends,
Once, feeling very unhappy and confused, I asked a therapist I was seeing at the time how he felt, was he was happy? He laughed and said, “Sure—except when I’m not.”
It can be very difficult to recognize life as an ever-changing experience where each moment is completely fresh and new. We become very attached to the idea that we are a certain ‘type’ of person in possession of enduring or defining qualities.
Often times when I am with a group of people, even those I am most comfortable with, I feel isolated and disconnected. I imagine there is something very wrong with me, something that keeps me from feeling acceptance and human connection.
But when I expand my awareness to include the larger experience I see that this idea isn’t really true. Despite having struggled with these difficult feelings for many years I have developed several close friendships and improved problematic relationships with my family. Furthermore, I have an incredibly intimate and loving relationship with my girlfriend.
No matter how powerful my sense of isolation feels in the moment, it is simply an experience among so many others. That this experience is mine or in some way defines me is only true if I believe it.
Great seeing some new faces on Tuesday—hope to see others of you next week.
Fellow yogis and friends,
It always seems like there is so much to be done, so many problems requiring our attention and energy. Of course we have to be attentive towards our loved ones, take care our personal needs and be responsible professionals and community members. But maybe the burden we feel is not as heavy as we imagine it to be.
With everything I am struggling with emotionally, I sometimes have a difficult time taking care of myself, managing personal responsibilities, dealing with internal and external problems. When I am having a ruff day I often think to myself, “this isn’t so bad now, but what am I going to do in 4 or 5 years when I have to manage a career and a family.”
But by thinking this way I put an unnecessary burden on myself. The reality is, right now, I don’t have children. Right now, I am responsible only for myself. 4 or 5 years in the future is a time that exists only in my mind, a time that will bring unexpected struggles and joys. So why worry too much about it?
In one story about Achaan Chah, the monk points to a large boulder and asks his student, “is that rock heavy?” “Of course!” the student replies. Achaan Chah smiles and says, “Only if you pick it up.”
Great seeing some of you last night. Always a pleasure to share in the silence.
Fellow yogis and friends
Listening to fellow practitioners share their experiences with meditation is always fascinating. Last night several people talked about noticing the positive effects this practice is having in their everyday life. In the past people have often shared difficult or unpleasant experiences with sitting.
At times it feels like we have figured the practice out, the correct method or approach. Other times we feel certain our approach is wrong. Maybe we compare ourselves to others and imagine they are progressing better than us. Or, lost in our suffering, we wish to recreate some past experience of clarity or deep relaxation.
In my own life, I find it so difficult not to become attached to the idea that I have my life figured out. This belief causes me to, at times, be incredibly closed-minded. A minor criticism about my behavior or work can bring up feelings of deep inadequacies, causing me to shut down or become defensive.
Although acknowledging our imperfections can feel like failure, it is in fact our only opportunity for growth. It can be helpful to explore our beliefs and attitudes towards failure: if we can open up to a larger idea of ourselves, we can begin to access our infinite potential.
Consider the words of the Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki: “Each of you is perfect just the way you are…and you could use a little improvement.”
Hope to see you all again soon.
Dear fellow yogis and friends,
So great to sit with some of you Tuesday night. Our evening meditations are a rare opportunity to gain real insight about what is true for each of us.
When we feel stressed or frustrated with our jobs, our relationships, our lot in life, the mind tells us we need a change. Change can serve us, but it must be thoughtful change. Efforts to escape, resist or attack our problems turn our suffering into enemies and strangers. In this state, resolution is not possible.
Coming face to face with pain may be the most difficult thing to do. Admitting to myself or to others that I am scared or hurt invariably causes me great discomfort. The buried pain surfaces and is felt more completely. Vulnerability is not always pleasant, but it is the key to understanding our suffering and beginning a path towards self-realization and freedom.
Looking forward to continuing our exploration of self next week.
Fellow Yogis and Friends,
Sometimes I find myself thinking, “man college would have been so amazing if only I had put myself out there more—girls gotten, fun had, teachers and classmates impressed, etc…” But of course, this isn’t true. The world of ‘might have been’ exists only in my mind and has nothing to do with reality.
So often, we have a tendency to embellish our actual experience. We hear someone make a negative or spiteful comment and we think of him or her as an angry or unhappy person. Maybe we even imagine the rest of their life—upbringing and personal relationships—to be unpleasant or joyless. But in reality we know very little about this complex individual.
Our primal instinct is to constantly be on the lookout for what’s wrong and how to fix it; and so we have a tendency to create problems that may not even exist. Our view of reality is distorted by thoughts and beliefs.
Each time we sit in silence with the intention to see what is in this moment—sounds, sensations—we begin more and more to recognize the truth of our experience. Tension in the neck is simply a sensation; it isn’t misery and it isn’t the obnoxious neighbors fault.
Sharing this practice of awakening with even just a few of you every week is truly an honor. I am grateful for your presence and look forward to continuing this process of discovery together.
Fellow yogis and friends,
A dying Zen teacher was asked by one of his disciples how he would sum up the teachings of his lifetime. His answer was, “appropriate response.”
Last night I talked about how “fight or flight” is rarely an appropriate response to our normal day to day struggles. When we are running late for a meeting, our life is not in danger, although sometimes it may feel that way. When someone criticizes our ideas, our credibility or intelligence is not under attack.
I think most of us walk around with a general feeling of dissatisfaction or a sense that something is not quite right. Through meditation we begin to break free of mental delusion and see things as they really are.
Next time you find yourself experiencing some anxiety or worry, ask yourself, what am I believing about myself or my experience? Is it true? How might I respond more appropriately to this?
Great seeing a couple of you last night. The small groups bring an intimacy that is always interesting.
Hope to see some of you next week.