Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Month: December 2010 (Page 2 of 2)

Riding the Wild Waves of Mind

The wild waves of mindLately, so many strong emotions have been popping up for me.  Anger, attachment, jealousy, fear.

I find that I still get swept away, but I no longer drown.  And it’s far easier to get back to shore.  This is all due to having perspective.

As you may know, mindfulness meditation effectively calms the mind. But it’s not permanent.

Our mind is like a glass of muddy water.  If you don’t stir it, the mud will settle to the bottom and the water becomes clear.  But as soon as you stir it, the water becomes muddy again.

Life is constantly stirring us up.

Mindfulness practice reduces the chaos of relentless thinking, but we need something more to fully uproot our fundamental misperception and the tendency to repeatedly embroil ourselves in all these captivating emotions.  This is clear seeing – an entirely different perspective – which gradually emerges from the bedrock of mindfulness.

People often mistake meditation as a way to eliminate thoughts and emotions.  That’s impossible.  Your current thoughts and emotions are the result of your past actions, thoughts, and emotions.  This is the law of cause and effect known as “karma.”  There is a drama going on, but it’s one you’ve created yourself.

If the idea of “karma” seems too exotic for you, think instead of “habits.”  The more you repeat a habit, the stronger it grows. We are the sum total of our habits – our thinking and emotional patterns, recurring reactions, typical behaviors.  For most of us, it’s an endless cycle of dissatisfaction interspersed with occasional moments of happiness. But, there is a way out.

The Magical Display of Mind

The trick is to understand the nature of thoughts and emotions themselves – to establish a different view or perspective.  This is what ultimately releases us from the suffering of turbulent emotions.

Simply said, whatever appears in the mind is the magical display of your true nature.  Think of waves in the ocean.  The waves aren’t separate from the ocean.  They are just a momentary expression of water and wind.  They arise from the ocean and return to the ocean.  Sometimes the waves are huge, some times they are barely a ripple.  But the ocean is never fundamentally disturbed by the waves.

It’s the same with mind.  Thoughts and emotions are simply the expression of the nature of our mind. They rise from our true nature and dissolve back into it.

The trouble with us is that we take our thoughts and emotions far too seriously.  We think they are solid and real and cling onto them for dear life.  But thoughts and emotions are neither real nor unreal. They are just transitory phenomena like the waves on the ocean.  You can skillfully ride a wave – recognizing its true essence – until it naturally dissolves back into the ocean. There’s no need to immerse yourself in the wave or to be battered or bruised by it.

As long as you have mind, there will be thoughts, emotions, perception, experience.

The risings of mind don’t change.  What changes – with the support of meditation – is how we perceive and respond to them.  This is what creates positive karma.

Even if you are a great meditator, strong emotions will rise up from time-to time.  It’s an inevitable surge of past karma encountering causes and conditions – the potential triggers in our life.

Unlike the past, I now understand that the best approach is to simply surrender.  Of course, I still protest, wriggle, struggle, and try to fight against difficult circumstances and my responses to them.  But in moments of clarity, I let go.  In those moments, all the pain and suffering drains away.  For a moment, I can see how ridiculous it is to hold on to anything at all.

I can’t control the circumstances that manifest around me.  People may be friendly or unkind.  Challenges and tragedy may appear out of nowhere.  All I can really change is my perspective.

Reflection:  Clear Seeing

For this week’s reflection, I’ve chosen a quote from the great 14th century spiritual master Longchenpa.  These insightful words capture the unceasing play of emptiness and appearance within our mind and the world around us.

“Since things neither exist nor don’t exist,
are neither real nor unreal,
are utterly beyond adopting and rejecting –
one might as well burst out laughing.”

You wouldn’t get angry at a rainbow.  So why fret about thoughts and emotions?

Of course, this is far easier said than done.  Acquiring such a profound view is a lifelong journey.  While it might be easy to understand intellectually, great teachers always warn us not to mistake understanding for realization or realization for liberation.  Nevertheless, savor any glimpse you have and let it blossom into a stream of clear seeing.

What do you do when your mind is stormy?

This post is part of my weekly series of Reflections for An Inquiring Mind which appear every Sunday.

If you enjoyed this article, please share the link with others.  Thanks so much!  Sandra

One Powerful Word: A Simple Approach to New Year’s Resolutions

I love the simplicity of choosing a single word as a focus for the coming year.

I believe in the power of one – one word, one goal, one focus – as an extraordinary catalyst for transformation.

But honestly, it can be one word or two.  It can be a whole phrase.   It can be for a whole year, six months, or until it’s done.

There are no rules! This is your life.  You can play with this idea any way that you like.

So why not skip the exhaustive list of New Year Resolutions?  We all know they quickly fall by the wayside.  Instead inspire yourself with one powerful word!

Discovering Your Perfect Word

Is there is a single word or a phrase that captures what you would like to manifest in your self or in your life in 2011?

Your perfect word may immediately pop into your mind.  Or you might need to let the idea percolate for a while.  Then see what bubbles up.  There’s no rush.  It’s easier to see clearly once the chaos of the holidays have passed.

These questions may help you with the process of finding your perfect word:

  • Is there a quality you would like to grow in your life?
  • Is there a quality that you would like to diminish?  If so, what’s the opposite?
  • What outcome would you like to see at the end of the year?
  • What activity is primary for the coming year?
  • What change would you like to see in yourself or in you life in the coming year?
  • Can you capsulate a goal for the year in one word?
  • What do you want your year to look like?

Your word might be eminently practical.  Or it might be creative.  It might be light-hearted.  Or it might be laser-focused.  It simply needs to be the perfect word for you.

A few sumptuous words to set the wheels in motion:

  • Serendipity
  • Tranquility
  • Movement
  • Light-hearted
  • Free-Spirit
  • A-list Blogger
  • Dynamic
  • Fearless
  • Aware
  • Awake
  • Dreamlike
  • Whimsical
  • Intuition
  • Receptivity
  • Health
  • Time
  • Space
  • Productivity
  • Clarity
  • Eco-Friendly
  • Minimalist
  • Active
  • Slender
  • Nourishment
  • Frugal
  • Moderation
  • Exercise
  • Flexibility
  • Safe
  • Mechanical
  • Fun
  • Garden
  • Yoga

Interesting phrases and proverbs

  • Wabi Sabi, Embrace the Imperfection (from J. D. Meier at Sources of Insight)
  • Nying je, a Tibetan word which means love, affection, kindness, compassion, gentleness, generosity of spirit, warm-heartedness, sympathy, and endearment altogether.
  • Bien dans sa peau, which is French for feeling well in your skin, well in yourself.
  • Kaizen, a Japanese word that means continuous improvement.
  • As easy as pie.
  • Rise and shine.
  • As happy as a clam.
  • This too shall pass.

Unleash the Power of Your Word

A single word can be immensely powerful if you invest in it.  Spend time with your word!  Embrace your word.  Recall it daily. Let it swim in the unconscious waters of your mind.  Meditate on it consciously too.  Let it be the focus you lightly return to again and again.  Let it be the measure of your thoughts and actions.  Your touchstone.  Your guidepost.

There’s no need to obsess on your word.  Just have fun with it.

Here are some ways to bring your word alive:

  • Post your word in a visible place around your house.
  • Post your word on a desktop sticky.
  • Reflect on your word.  What does this word really mean to me?
  • Write a story or a poem about your word.
  • Draw a picture or paint a painting about your word.
  • Create a collage about your word.
  • Journal your process and insights as your word sparks evolution in your life.
  • Create affirmations with your word.
  • Blog about your word.

My Word for 2011

I haven’t chosen a word for 2011 yet.  These are the contenders:

  • Full Throttle Healing – A commitment to deep healing.
  • Contentment – To be content with whatever appears in myself and my world as a way to bypass unnecessary suffering.
  • Comfort and ease – A fully body and being experience of contentment.
  • Confident Faith – I need more faith!  Faith brings ease in life and confidence at death.

I see that each one of these words could almost contain the others.  I don’t know how I will decide!

Have you tried the one word approach to New Year’s Resolutions?  What word will you choose for 2011?

In Part 2: One Powerful Word 2011 – Mine and Yours, I reveal my word for 2011, offer more creative ideas, share links, and your perfect word too.

If you liked this article please share the link with others.  Thanks!  Sandra


Sneaking Up On Willy-Nilly Consumption

Gift - Over ConsumptionBeth Terry – the amazing plastic-less advocate – has a brother named Will.

Will is a “normal guy and not some tree-hugging freak.”

He says he’s a slacker by nature. But he clearly loves his sister and he’s proud of her too.

As time moved on, he couldn’t help but fall under the spell of her plastic-free passion.

Remarkably, he’s now standing up and confronting his own plastic consumption. He’s searing a hole through his irrational beliefs that have allowed him to consume plastic willy-nilly.

But he needs help. Its’ not easy. He can’t go plastic-less overnight. He needs to sneak up on mindful consumption. So he’s asked Beth to come up with 3-5 of the most important and high impact ways to reduce his plastic usage.

Bravo, Will. You have guts.  And an awesome sister too.

Fostering Understanding and Acceptance

Let’s face it – most of us are like Will. Even if you are a card-carrying green living, plastic-less, minimalist, vegan activist right now, chances are you were once like Will.

It’s not easy to be green.  It’s not easy to suddenly engage in mindful consumption.  It’s not easy to be different in a culture that lures you into competitiveness and a sense of scarcity through Black Friday mega-deals.  How do we support and help each other? How do we avoid righteousness and arrogance?  Because people change through receiving love, not hate.

I’m not 100% pure myself by any means, but I’m willing to keep training to become better.  In the meantime, I want to foster understanding and acceptance instead of judging people for their current choices.

Reflection: Nourishment and Healing

This week’s reflection is one way to train in mindful consumption.  It is one of the Five Mindfulness Trainings from Thich Nhat Hanh called “Nourishment and Healing.”

What’s the real point of conscious consumption?  It deeply nourishes your body, mind, and spirit. It makes you happier.  At the same time, it nourishes and heals the planet. It’s a win-win for all.

“The practice of mindful consumption and mindful eating is the object of the Fifth Mindfulness Training. The Fifth Training is the way out of the difficult situation our world is in. When we practice the Fifth Training, we recognize exactly what to consume in order to keep our bodies, our minds, and the Earth healthy and not cause suffering for ourselves and for others. Mindful consumption is the way to heal ourselves and to heal the world.”

Nourishment and Healing – The Fifth Mindfulness Training

“Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations. I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.”

from The World We Have, A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology by Thich Nhat Hanh

Yep, Thich Nhat Hanh is suggesting a few huge leaps.  What, no alcohol!

As a start, this passage is simply food for thought, something to reflect upon.  Later, you might enjoy reading it – or the parts that resonate for you – regularly as a way remind yourself of the main point and to help you gradually train in mindful consumption.  Or you might like to read Oprah’s Interview with Thich Nhat Hanh to give you more of a feel for his beauty and approach.

I realize for a guy like Will, this might sound exotic. He just needs it straight.  But I hope this quote might inspire and resonate for some of you.

Will, thanks for helping me to remember what it’s like to make new changes. I will definitely be thinking of ways I can make it easier for others.

I would love to hear your thoughts about supporting each other and about the Fifth Mindfulness Training.  Does it resonate for you?

You might also like:

Thanks for reading. If you liked this article, please share the link with others.  Thanks so much,  Sandra

A Magical Recipe for the Supreme Emotion

Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama

Imagine the most sublime emotion possible.  What would that be?

Here’s the magical recipe.  Take one part each:

*generosity of spirit

Blend, shake, mix, rock n’roll.

What do you get? 

Nying je.

Nying je?  What’s that?

It’s a Tibetan word usually translated as ‘compassion.’  But, it contains far more meaning, as the Dalai Lama explains:

” [Nying je] has a wealth of meaning that is difficult to convey succinctly, though the ideas it conveys are universally understood.  It connotes love, affection, kindness, gentleness, generosity of spirit, and warm-heartedness.  It is also used as a term of both sympathy and of endearment.  On the other hand, it does not imply “pity” as the word compassion may.  On the contrary nying je denotes a feeling of connection with others, reflecting its origin in empathy.

“…It is both the source and the result of patience, tolerance, forgiveness, and all good qualities.”

My heart lit up when I discovered this amazing word.  It gathers together so many wondrous qualities that we all wish for at our very core.  It also expresses the inescapable sense of interconnection that exists among all that is alive.

Empathy + Reason = Compassion

Nying je – we’ll say compassion for short, arises from empathy.

The Dalai Lama believes that empathy is a universal quality within all of us.  He describes it as  “the inability to bear the sight of another’s suffering.”   It is one of our most important characteristics because it allows us to connect with and enter into another’s pain.

This sense of empathy may be deeply submerged in some individuals, but the basic predisposition is never fully erased.  Our basic nature is to be empathetic and, from this empathy, compassion arises. We all share a capacity for loving-kindness and we all need loving-kindness to thrive.

Although it’s not our fundamental nature, we also have the capacity for negative emotions and actions.  This is why we need to actively cultivate positive qualities – to override our negative emotions and resulting negative actions.  Those pesky difficult emotions which have come habitual.

This is the good news. Compassion belongs to the category of emotions that have a more developed cognitive component as opposed to those that are instinctual. Compassion is a combination of empathy and reason.  Thus it is far different than emotions like anger and lust, which only bring us trouble.

We can use our natural empathy as a starting point and employ reason to grow our love and compassion.  We can win out over negativity through regular practice of all the marvelous qualities that make up compassion.

In fact, the more we give birth to kindness and compassion, the more ethical our behavior becomes.  Not only that, we ourselves experience more happiness and inner peace and less suffering too.

Actively practicing compassion breaks down our habitual preoccupation with self, which typically brings us suffering.  Compassion also brings a sense of inner peace within our own hearts that radiates peace to everyone around us.  Sounds good, doesn’t it?

The Dalai Lama ask us,

“Could anything be more sublime than that which brings happiness and peace to all?”

Compassion – with its full spectrum of life-enhancing qualities – is the supreme emotion.  It is the most powerful means to bring about inner and outer harmony throughout the world.

An Appeal from the Dalai Lama to You

This is Part 5 of my series A Simple Guide to Inner and Outer Harmony based on Ethics for a New Millennium by the Dalai Lama.  The Dalai Lama concludes with this appeal:

“Therefore, with my two hands jointed, I appeal to you the reader to ensure that you make the rest of your life as meaningful as possible. Do this by engaging in spiritual practice if you can.  As I hope I have made clear, there is nothing mysterious about this.  It consists in nothing more than acting our of concern for others.  And provided you undertake this practice sincerely and with persistence, little by little, step by step you will gradually be able to reorder your habits and attitudes so that you  think less about your own narrow concerns and more of others’.  In doing so you will find that your enjoy peace and happiness yourself.

Compassion is the magic that will bring about your own happiness and the happiness of the world!  Please share the secret.  Please be the secret.

What are your thoughts on the empathy, reason, and compassion?  Do you think compassion is the supreme emotion?

A Simple Guide to Inner and Outer Harmony

In this 5-Part Series, we’ve taken a journey through the first five chapters of Ethics for a New Millennium.  Here are the key points that we’ve covered:

  • The vast majority of the problems in the world today are man-made.
  • Only a spiritual revolution can fully change the world. We need to take practical action too, but without a spiritual revolution, there is no hope.
  • By “spiritual revolution” the Dalai Lama means the rekindling of basic human values like kindness, compassion, tolerance, and forgiveness among others. These qualities of the human spirit need not be linked to religion. They can be cultivated by one and all.
  • We all wish to be happy and we all wish to avoid suffering.
  • It’s simply the nature of reality that we are all inextricably interconnected. Due to this interconnectedness, helping others ultimately helps you whereas harming others, harms you.
  • True abiding happiness does not come about from possessions or sensory experiences.  In fact, the transitory happiness that comes from possessions or sensory experiences only leads to more suffering.
  • True happiness arises from inner peace.  It is a stable sense of serenity, calm, and contentment that does not depend on external factors or circumstances.
  • We can alter our attitude and our actions to cultivate a greater sense of inner peace.
  • Altruism is an essential component to those actions which lead to genuine happiness.
  • Actions inspired by the wish to help others are the most effective way to bring about lasting happiness.
  • Love and compassion – which also encompasses affection, kindness, compassion, gentleness, generosity of spirit, warm-heartedness, sympathy, and endearment – arises from empathy.
  • Empathy – the inability to bear the sight of another’s suffering – is a universal emotion.
  • Compassion belongs to the category of emotions with a developed cognitive component.  Therefore, we can use reason to grown our compassion.
  • Compassion brings about happiness for all.  For this reason, it is the supreme emotion.

Please consider reading this remarkable book yourself.  These are the topics covered in the remaining two sections of the book.

  • The Ethic of Restraint
  • The Ethic of Virtue
  • The Ethic of Compassion
  • Ethics and Suffering
  • The Need for Discernment
  • Universal Responsibility
  • Levels of Commitment
  • Ethics in Society
  • Peace and Disarmament
  • The Role of Religion in Modern Society
  • An Appeal

Thank you for reading and being a part of this wonderful journey into the heart of compassion.  If you haven’t done so already, I hope you will enjoy the other articles in this series – A Simple Guide to Inner and Outer Harmony – based on Ethics for a New Millennium by the Dalai Lama.

Image of the Dalai Lama from his Facebook Page.

Please let your friends know about this article by using the share buttons below.  Every share helps me reach out to others.  Thanks so much for your support!  Sandra


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