Mindfulness Exercise

Buddhism and Modern Psych Week 2: Mindfulness Meditation and the Brain

In preparation for meditation, the teacher first talks about being mindful — our brains often wander off to random topics.  We all do this.  While involved in one task, you’re thinking about others.  He says that, anecdotally and scientifically, meditation helps to calm and quiet those extraneous thoughts.  The first step, as in the first step to realizing dukkha, is simply to realize this is happening.

The Challenge:

Walk down the street, and see what you normally pay attention to.  Then mindfully pull your attention from that, and see what you’ve been ignoring.  Other people, the sky, billboards, building materials of the structures?  If you usually are focused on the crowded path, the smelly odors, or the trash on the sidewalk, can you instead look at the expansive sky, notice a happy baby, feel compassion for a downtrodden pedestrian?

This is not directly quieting your mind, as you are still in fact observing life around you.  But it helps you to be aware, and helps retrain your mind to new areas.

I always saw my tile counter top as “ugly grey,” but when he said to notice more, I mindfully looked a little deeper, (since I had my computer on the tile while washing dishes as a chore of love!), and I realized they are an intricate pepper-speckling of white and black dots along with various shades of grey (not the steamy book!) There is no solid background color, it’s a detailed pointillism of color!  While I still don’t like it in my kitchen, I feel I at least have a bit more appreciation for the confetti-like speckles of the tile.  Perhaps I can train myself to think “fiesta!!  Party!” every time I see them :)

What other things could I notice in a new light?

 

Buddhist Christians?

Christianity and Buddhism — more alike that we think?

Despite the teacher’s constant downplaying of Christianity in a way that makes it clear he does not believe in the Christian beliefs (and perhaps is even trying to hide a desire to mock it), I feel that the more I learn, the more I see parallels between Buddhist teachings and Jesus’ teachings.

I do think that America (and likely Europe before) have “Westernized” the Christian faith, much in the way they have “westernized” modern medicine.  Modern medicine often starts from natural remedies — aspirin was discovered based on willow bark; red yeast rice lead to the creation of statins.  Yet, if we revert back to the origin, and start to bring more natural cures and treatments into medical practice (yoga, meditation, herbs, acupuncture, etc) this has been scoffed at as voodoo, quackery, and hippie stuff.  Yet science is, time and again, finding out that there is something to these practices that can be backed not only by increasing anecdotal evidence, but also by scientific literature.  Likewise, I believe that the Christian faith may have “quacky” or “mystic” origins that modern day teachings have lost track of, and would now scoff at, or find offensive.  Perhaps we should have a warmer embrace of some of the Buddhist views – and that perhaps Jesus himself was sharing the same teachings – but to say that aloud is to invite attacks from some church communities that I am tainting His word, that I am being blinded by “the enemy,” that I am opening myself to witchcraft by practicing yoga, etc.  But it is a statement I have made many times – that I believe we have put God in a Westernized box, so we can try to understand Him (even though the Bible tells us He is beyond understanding.)  That was have taken someone who is huge, miraculous, and abstract and tried to restrain Him to 66 books in the Bible (with some additions for Mormon and Catholic branches of Christian faith.)

When I dig deeper into the Bible, and the original meanings of Hebrew words, I learn there is so much more exciting “mystical-seeming” stuff that is right there!  Besides the oft-taught miracles of healing and turning water to wine, there’s the raising people from the dead, 40-days of fasting and meditating before Jesus sort of “came into his own”, Words as Power (God spoke things into existence; Vedic chants are words that they believe can cause things to happen; and in studying physics and anatomy/physiology, there are vibrational forces within spoken words – I wonder if there may be, of had been, some power there that has been lost.)  And perhaps I can make notes about that some time, but it is a long, long list of things to share — and I want to continue through this lecture first :)

By findingsilverlinings Posted in Musings

We All Have a little Keanu In Us

Buddhism and Modern Psych Week 2: The Eightfold Path

In the lesson today, I was caught off guard by the comment the professor made:

“Buddhist practice, in the spiritual sense, involves having a little Keanu Reeves in you, you know.”

Adorable Neo chibi by Claudiney

Adorable Neo chibi by Claudiney

And while I first laughed, I know this is a true allegory.  Referring to Neo of the movie series, The Matrix, The professor states how Buddhists felt the movie resonated with their beliefs that we all need to “wake up” and better see the truth of the world; and I know many Christian friends who said the same.  Both groups have made comments that the movie portrayed the fact that we are blinded by this current physical world, and cannot see the truth of the spiritual battles around us.  Like Neo (Keanu’s character), many of us feel sort of “stuck” in our lives, and that there’s something bigger and deeper out there, and that we want to WAKE UP! and see what the truth is — even if it’s scary, and dangerous, and takes a lot of work!

Christianity offers freedom through Christ; Buddhism offers it through the Eightfold Path  – and there are actually many overlapping guiding principles/rules here.

EIGHTFOLD PATH:

  1. Right View (understanding)
  2. Right Intention
  3. Right Speech (no gossip, insults, lies, etc)
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness (beginning meditation)
  8. Right Concentration (deeper meditation)

I look forward to learning more about each of these parts of the path!  Let us continue down this rabbit hole…

Perhaps Life Is Dukkha (suffering, craving, temporary)

But perhaps we can be delivered from it

and focus on the wonderful things in life

and break our attachments to things that bring us down!

By findingsilverlinings Posted in Buddhism

Meditative Ashtanga

I am in the process of learning the Ashtanga full series of yoga.  I never expected to enjoy it – I thought that it would become boring and routine to do the same set of poses over and over.  And, admittedly, since I’m still in process of learning the series, there’s a chance I will decide that later.

But today, I was loving it.  I have memorized Sun Salutations A and B, and was working through the Standing Poses.  But to be able to go at my own pace, and be forced to listen to my breathing to determine the rhythm of the asana flow, was shockingly meditative and calming.  I am so accustomed to power yoga, where ujayii breathing often is forgotten as I pant and sweat.  I may maintain a mental calmness through power yoga, but it is nothing compared to the physical calmness I felt in the series today.  It still created heat through the movements, still got me breathing, but it was all so controlled and expansive!

After working on that for 30 minutes, I sat down and meditated for 10 or 15 minutes to peaceful music. What an amazing way to start the day!

By findingsilverlinings Posted in Asana