Tuesday, April 24, 2012

One Breath at a Time ~ Poem by Tomomi Kojima

One breath at a time
I hold onto a glimpse of everything in this world
All the smell, all the tastes, all the touch
Wetness of fog
How oddly green the grass looks
Sound of the air
Roughness of rocks

Because my time is limited
I may have another day, or another moment.
I don’t know how long it lasts

When I feel how hard and lonely this journey is
I remember we are all on our little boats
Dimly lit by our little lamp
We can only see a foot ahead
But I see many dimply lit boats a foot around me

We’re all heading towards the same direction
But we don’t know where it’s heading

All I know is that we need to keep rowing
Because we need to keep growing

This world, they say it’s an illusion
Maybe it is, maybe it ain’t

But I can feel content either way if I know this moment is all I’ve got
I’ve decided to live with this totally raw way of living
One breath at a time
Until my breath runs out.



Tomomi Kojima is a registered yoga teacher and poet. See her website to
find out more about Tomomi:
www.tomomi.ca

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Triggering Mindfulness

...Part 2 in a series on Meditation, Yoga and Triggers. See #1 here.


Sometimes we get triggered by something that sends us into an emotional upheaval of anger, passion, fear or any other conflicting emotion. You might be in a yoga pose that taps into some buried memories that are stored in the body and you have an emotional release, or you are in a grocery store line-up someone says or does something that triggers a reaction of anger. You can probably think of some of your own personal examples. It's good to have compassion for ourselves and others when these things happen because we are all vulnerable to being triggered by situations and memories. There are many teachings on the mind of compassion that help us take advantage of these experiences and make use of them. Yet, this in only half of the picture.

"...we are all vulnerable to being triggered by situations and memories. There are many teachings on the mind of compassion that help us take advantage of these experiences and make use of them. Yet, this in only half of the picture."
The other side of this picture has to do with the positive qualities of mind and the deeper capacity we have for mindfulness and awareness. As human beings we have many positive potentials that can be triggered besides our memories and habitual tendencies. Some of these positive potentials can be triggered suddenly and to develop them we must apply ourselves, to recognize them and stabilize our ability tap into their presence.



For example, an intense experience that triggers our anger or passion can equally trigger our mindfulness, awareness and compassion. When someone we are attached to moves away, or dies, then this experience of loss can awaken us to our vulnerability and also to our deeper potentials of love, compassion and wisdom. When we discover that we can be mindful and aware in the moment, through meditation, then we also discover that we can be mindful and aware in daily life with positive, neutral and also negative experiences. Rather than reacting unconsciously to situations, we can tap into our awareness and see our reactions clearly. When this happens, then our experience becomes an opportunity for waking up rather than another painful reaction that feeds into itself and causes further suffering.

Yes, we can have many reactions to life, people and situations that throw up a lot of negative emotions. Its important to realize too, that we can also trigger our deeper strengths. If we are habituated to thinking negatively, then we may need to do a little bit of "self-hypnosis" in order to look at things differently and see what we may have been missing. Simply studying about mind and practicing meditation can be helpful. In practice we can look at triggers as something that can go either way, and that we are the ones who are in control of how it plays out. Is our trigger going to trigger a defensive reaction of anger or is it going to arise as an opportunity for us to see more clearly and to better understand ourselves? The choice is up to us, especially once you have the skills and knowledge about how to do so. This requires both study and sitting meditation. We need to know how mind works and how to tap into its potential and then we can actually do it.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mindfulness for Goofballs Most Popular Post 2010-11

Hi,

I am re-posting this article as it was the most viewed post over the past year.
Interested that Mindfulness for Goofballs was #1. There must be a lot
of goofballs interested in meditation out there!


http://amindfulnessblog.blogspot.com/2011/01/mindfulness-for-goofballs.html

Cheers,

Mike Munro

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Shopping in Yoga Class ~ Before Zen I think about food, After Zen I think about Food.

Before I started meditation practice I would think about all sorts of things I had to do. My mind would wander about what to do next, what groceries to get, who to see, what party to go to etc.


Then I was introduced to meditation and yoga. I was given a practice for letting go of thoughts and focusing my mind on the present. When sitting in meditation or doing a yoga pose one brings one's attention to the present. It is quite a blissful experience to fully arrive in the present you know. I often tell yoga students to leave their shopping lists at the door in their coat pockets. The "to do" lists and expectations can be put on hold until after practice. This is generally a good practice for any contemplative art. There is however, a serious potential pitfall. 

The pitfall has to do with perfectionism and taking sides against thoughts. While we direct our attention to the present, it does not have to mean that suddenly we are against thoughts. The grocery list may still come up in your mind while practicing. A mistake people make is to then judge themselves as "bad meditators" or "bad yogis" just because they shopping list arises in their minds. The practice is not to shut off and shut down the mind. The practice is to allow the space for the thought to arise, to see it and also let it go. If that is allowed to happen then there is no judgment necessary. It takes relaxation.

I know this because I have been through it myself. When I started meditation I thought about groceries. Then I tried to suppress the thoughts of groceries in search of a better experience. There had to be some better experience more spiritual than thinking about groceries right? That became stressful. So now I let the thought come up, and let it go. It's not about not having the thought, but letting it arise and letting it go. It seems that it can be included.

So what has changed since I started this practice 20 years ago? I still think about what I have to do, what to get at the store. Maybe its just that I am content either way. I found myself thinking about what groceries to get at the store yesterday in class and giggled. With relaxation comes a sense of humor. If you are trying to make it "perfect" chances are you will find yourself way too upset about something that is just an ordinary thing.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Diary of a Dietitian: Practice Mindful Eating ~ Guest Blog

~ By Jennifer Brenton

Date posted: March 14, 2011

One of the tools I use to learn about my clients eating habits is the “24 hour recall”. I simply ask people what they ate yesterday.  I am always shocked to see how many people “forget”.  Think about it – what did you eat yesterday?  Try to write down every single thing.   It is harder than it sounds!

After some research into “mindful eating” I was not surprised to learn that over 77% of us eat while distracted (in fact I would have thought this number would be higher).  Atlantic Canadians are most likely to eat while distracted compared to our fellow Canadians in Montreal who have the most “mindful” eating habits. I believe strongly that we eat with our “minds” instead of “our stomachs”.  It is no wonder we are always hungry – our minds are not paying attention to the food we eat – so therefore we look for more food.

I am an incredibly fast eater.  I am always the first to finish a meal then I endure the awkward moment when people say – “there is more there if you want seconds”.  They must think I am starving!  I am also a very “busy” person.  I thought “multitasking” was strength!

Since my Yoga Teacher Training began – I started to focus more on the present moment.  This is a very powerful experience.  I have taken my Yoga off my mat and to the dinner table.  I have begun to notice my food more.  Tastes, textures – likes and dislikes.  I have even taken “mindful” eating into my Dietetic Practice. I have had so much success with my clients!  I have found that we eat less when we pay attention – because the “mind” becomes “full”!

I dare you to try it.  EAT without distractions this week.  Pay attention.  Be prepared – it can be a challenge – similar to the ability to calm our thoughts on the yoga mat – “mindful eating” takes practice.  Do not get discouraged if you can’t do it at first.  Enjoy the act of eating!

From: http://www.optimyz.com/blogs/837


Friday, September 23, 2011

Lucid Awareness

You can practice being present awake and lucid at any moment. For this, our senses are our friends. There is no need to withdraw from the sensory world. Certainly, if you are surrounded by chaos and turmoil, you need to remove yourself from such an environment so that you can practice awareness with some stability. Once you are familiar with practice then it is quite possible to practice amidst chaos. To give yourself some familiarity with mindfulness and awareness you can notice what is happening now.

Right now, you could be aware of your body position, feel the contact of your body with the support of the earth below you, feel your breath and heartbeat. You can relax, breathe naturally and take in the environment. What do you see, in front of you and around you? What do you hear? What sounds are coming from nearby and from further away? What sounds and sights can you find that were escaping your awareness? Right now I am just noticing a new Ford Mustang driving by this Halifax North End Starbucks. There is a Nirvana song playing in the background. I like the baseline, now that I can hear it. Take a breath. Notice what is around you without adding extra thoughts and labels. Notice the lucidity of the very awareness that takes in all of these aspects of your vivid world.

Then, you can just go back to what you were doing, yet maybe with a little more ease, and a little more wakefulness. That's what I'm practicing right now.


For more on meditation with the sense gates see this previous post:

http://amindfulnessblog.blogspot.com/2010/12/peanut-butter-rainbow-wine-triangle.html

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Meditating During A Freakout!

Have you ever had a freakout? Have you ever been on the recieving end of someone elses freakout? A common example is "road rage" which anyone stuck in traffic for a long time can probably palpate. Sometimes it is someone close to us who triggers our freakout or freaks out on us. I don't think I need to define freakout. Unless you come from another planet, you probably know what I'm talking about.



The question for meditators is... what use is sitting meditation and mindfulness in those situations? Does sitting and following your breath have an value in those moments? Well the answer seems to be that it can, yet that is up to us. For example, when you are in a driving freakout, or working with someone in a difficult situation of any kind, there is a tendency to enter a state of high anxiety with lots of mental activity and thoughts. Sometimes the thoughts become overwhelming and we may think "terrible" things. Meditation comes into play on a couple of levels.


Body

Connecting with body: it is possible to notice the state of your body in the middle of a freakout. You can notice the tension in your shoulders and face, the restriction in breathing, you can notice the environment. It is quite possible. Once you notice your state of physical tension, it is also possible to relax. You just have to take a breath and do it. Let the physical tension soften. There still may be a situation, yet our position in it has suddenly shifted by choosing to relax tension. This doesn't mean you stop relating to it, you may still be acting in response to a situation. The difference will be that rather than "re-acting", you can be "responding".

Mind

One thing about a freakout that is helpful, is that thoughts can get really LOUD. Sometimes we have to sit to see our thougths because they are kind of subtle. In sitting we can see them and relax, let go and observe the breath. It often takes sitting to develop clear seeing and relaxation with one's mindstream. Luckily, during a freakout the thoughts are SO LOUD that you don't need to sit to see them. Yet we can apply the recogition of the nature of thoughts in that moment. It is something we train in during sitting, which you can apply in the middle of the choas. So when the thougths get loud you can see then and say "A HA,  that's a thought". There is a gap suddenly between you and your thought, you can see it and see what it is. Then we don't have to act on the impulsive thoughts that tend to come up during a freakout which would be harmful. So, in a way, a freakout creates the intesity of mind that might allow you to recognize the nature of mind. You have to choose to practice with it.

So in short ... during a freak out
  • notice your body tension
  • breathe
  • relax the physical tension 
  •  look at your mind 
As to what effect this has during a freakout, there is only one way to find out.


Resource:
Link for instructions on sitting meditation:
http://nalandabodhi.org/courses/path-of-meditation/how-to-meditate