Breathing

“Our breathing is a stable solid ground that we can take refuge in. Regardless of our internal weather- our thoughts, emotions and perceptions- our breathing is always with us like a faithful friend. Whenever we feel carried away, or sunken in a deep emotion, or scattered in worries and projects, we return to our breathing to collect and anchor our mind.

We feel the flow of air coming in and going out of our nose. We feel how light and natural, how calm and peaceful our breathing functions. At any time, while we are walking, gardening, or typing, we can return to this peaceful source of life.

We may like to recite:

‘Breathing in I know that I am breathing in.
Breathing out I know that I am breathing out.’

We do not need to control our breath. Feel the breath as it actually is. It may be long or short, deep or shallow. With our awareness it will naturally become slower and deeper. Conscious breathing is the key to uniting body and mind and bringing the energy of mindfulness into each moment of our life.”

http://plumvillage.org/mindfulness-practice/breathing/

The Ten Harmful Actions

THERE ARE TEN actions that we must become completely aware of and completely abandon in our lives. They are divided into three unvirtuous actions of the body: killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct; four unvirtutous actions of speech: lying, slander, harsh speech, and idle chatter; and three unvirtuous actions of mind: covetousness, wishing harm on others, and wrong view.

Bringing them to mind often reminds me of monastics about to take ordination. When we first hear the vows, we’re so enthusiastic and confident that we will never commit any of the root downfalls. After all, none of us goes around stealing, or killing, or telling lies. But after taking the vows and observing ourselves more carefully, we find there’s hardly any action that doesn’t hurt someone or cause some kind of harm. Because of that awareness, we’re able to train ourselves to become better.

Sometimes people get very rigid and tense trying to be good, disciplined, and ethical. Tension can also arise when we become more aware of the immense amount of destruction—seen and unseen, intentional and unintentional—that our mere physical existence causes. From a Buddhist point of view, however, this is what it means to be born in samsara, and this is why we need to attain freedom from samsara.

From This Precious Life: Tibetan Buddhist Teachings on the Path to Enlightenment, © 2003 by Khandro Rinponche

http://www.tricycle.com/insights/complete-abandon

Our Support

“When we have the impression that we’re all alone and nobody supports us, we can remember that it’s only a perception. It’s not accurate.  Think of a tree standing outside right now. The tree is supporting us with beauty, freshness, and oxygen for us to breathe. That kind of support is also a kind of love. The fresh air outside, the plants that feed us, and the water that flows over our hands from the tap all support us.”

— Thich Nhat Hanh, The Art of Communicating

Just Breathe

“In the practice of meditation, simply relating with the breath is very monotonous and very unadventurous–we do not discover that the third eye is opening or that chakras are unfolding. It is like a stone-carved Buddha sitting in the desert. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens. As we realize that nothing is happening, strangely we begin to realize that something dignified is happening. There is no room for frivolity, no room for speed. We just breathe and are there. There is something very satisfying and wholesome about it. It is as though we had eaten a good meal and were satisfied with it, in contrast to eating and trying to satisfy oneself. It is a very simple-minded approach to sanity.”

— Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Ocean of Dharma

The Greatest

“The greatest achievement is selflessness.

The greatest worth is self-mastery.

The greatest quality is seeking to serve others.

The greatest precept is continual awareness.

The greatest medicine is the emptiness of everything.

The greatest action is not conforming with the world’s ways.

The greatest magic is transmuting the passions.

The greatest generosity is non-attachment.

The greatest goodness is a peaceful mind.

The greatest patience is humility.

The greatest effort is not concerned with results.

The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go.

The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances.”

— Ven. Atisha

Meditation Is Not Separate from You

“Meditation should not be regarded as a learning process.  It should be regarded as an experiencing process.  You should not try to learn from meditation but try to feel it.  Meditation is an act of nonduality.  The technique you are using should not be separate from you; it is you, you are the technique.  Meditator and meditation are one.  There is no relationship involved.”

— Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Ocean of Dharma

 

A Head in Front of a Body

From Tricycle–a short mindfulness of body practice to prevent anxiety by Jill Satterfield.

Everyone experiences occasional anxiety and some of us might be fraught with it. Tricycle readers especially are most likely no strangers to hearing or reading about mindfulness-based meditation practices that can soothe the feelings of anxiety. But as anyone who has experienced an anxiety attack will know, what’s almost as unpleasant as having one is hearing someone say “just breathe, relax” in the midst of it.

Although awareness can lessen the experience of anxiety while it is happening, learning to identify and focusing your attention on physical sensations that are involved in the slide toward the end of our mental or emotional rope is critical to avoid suddenly ending up there.

The body always gives warnings as to what is about to happen mentally and emotionally, and as you get to know your body’s sensations, you’ll begin to recognize which are signals of upcoming distress. These sensations can be anywhere and range in severity—you might feel, for instance, your shoulder lift, your gut tightening, your jaw tensing, or the holding of your breath. By getting to know how your body exhibits signs of tension, you can be pre-emptive by moving your awareness into the area of sensation and relaxing it before it has to make much more noise, becoming a raging thought or emotion that’s impossible to ignore.

To that end, here is a mindfulness of body practice for noticing previously unfelt physical warnings that can lead to a state of anxiety. If you do it on a regular basis, it can also help to soothe your nervous system in general.

The Direct Experience Practice:

Take your meditation cushion or a folded stiff blanket(s) and lie down with it directly under your hips. If this causes any discomfort in your lower back, don’t lift the hips so high; use one less blanket or a thinner cushion. Your shoulders and head will be on the floor. Bring your arms down by your sides, palms facing the sky.

Allow yourself to melt into the blanket or cushion, bending your knees and letting your legs relax and knees drop towards each other. Draw your attention kindly to sensations in your body. Watch them as if they were curiosities that you’d like to become more familiar with. If you notice an unwinding of tension, pay attention to any places that started out as tight; most likely these are the areas of your body that will tense before the onset of anxiety and give you warnings about what is to come. Stay with your mind awake and body relaxed for 10 minutes or more. When you’re ready to come off the support, lift your hips, push the cushion to the side and roll down to your back. As you lie flat for a moment, notice changes in how your body and your breath feels—discern as much as you can about how the posture altered your body, breath, and mood so that you know the benefits it might hold for you and why you might wish to repeat it.

When you stand up, continue noticing whatever you can that has changed from when you began the practice: do your feet feel like they have more weight or do you feel them on the ground more? Is your breath more relaxed? How is your mood now?

You can go through this mindfulness of body practice daily, for longer than 10 minutes if you’d like, and even before bed. Like any conditioning, eventually it will alter your system, changing what has become a normal state of high alert to one of being more at ease, as well as allow you to become much more familiar with the territory of your body. Knowing the body can be key to working with the mind, and with intention and kind attention, the body can become one of our greatest allies in alleviating our own suffering.

Jill Satterfield is the founder of Vajra Yoga + Meditation, which integrates Buddhist meditation and philosophy into the practice of (hatha) yoga.

http://www.tricycle.com/blog/head-front-body

The Work That Reconnects

The Work That Reconnects maps a process that helps us build motivation, creativity, courage, and solidarity for the transition to a sustainable human culture. The sequence works as a spiral because it repeats itself. The spiral can take place over the course of a day, a project, or a lifetime. We come back to it again and again as a source of strength and fresh perspectives.

1. COMING FROM GRATITUDE

To be alive in this beautiful, self-organizing universe—to participate in the dance of life with senses to perceive it, lungs that breathe it, organs that draw nourishment from it—is a wonder beyond words. The spiral begins with gratitude because that quiets the frantic mind and grounds us, stimulating our empathy and confidence. It helps us to be more fully present and opens psychic space for acknowledging the pain we carry for our world. There are many practices that we can use to strengthen our sense of gratitude. Even the simple act of naming the things we love about being alive can help us as we move from gratitude to honoring our pain for the world.

2. HONORING OUR PAIN

This is a dark time, filled with suffering and uncertainty. Like living cells in a larger body, it is natural that we feel the trauma of our world. So don’t be afraid of the anguish you feel, or the anger or fear, because these responses arise from the depth of your caring and the truth of your interconnectedness with all beings. “To suffer with” is the literal meaning of compassion. For each person the process of honoring our pain involves acknowledging our despair for the world, validating it as a wholesome response to the present crisis, letting ourselves experience the pain, and acknowledging it with others, recognizing that we are not alone.

3. SEEING WITH NEW EYES

Out of this darkness a new world can arise. Even though we cannot see clearly how it’s going to turn out, we are still called to let the future into our imagination. We will never be able to build what we have not first cherished in our hearts. We can sense how intimately and inextricably we are related to all that is. We can taste our own power to change, and feel the texture of our living connections with past and future generations, and with our brother and sister species. For individuals this shift to seeing with new eyes arrives in different ways at different times. You can’t force it to happen, but it will come naturally as a result of doing the work of gratitude practices, honoring our pain, and experiencing our interconnectedness with the world.

4. GOING FORTH

We go forth into the actions that call each of us, according to our situation, gifts, and limitations. Many people don’t get involved in the healing of our world because there are so many different issues that seem to compete with each other. Shall I save the whales or help battered children? The truth is that all aspects of the current crisis reflect the same mistake: setting ourselves apart and using others for our gain. So to heal one aspect helps the others to heal as well. Just find what you love to work on and take joy in that. Never try to do it alone. Link up with others; you’ll spark each other’s ideas and sustain each other’s energy. We don’t wait for a blueprint or fail-proof scheme, for each step will be our teacher, bringing new perspectives and opportunities. Even when we don’t succeed in a given venture, we can be grateful for the chance we took and the lessons we learned. It is helpful to go forth by stating a particular action or path you intend to pursue to others, and receiving their blessings in return. This way you can carry the support of others in your intentions to heal our world.

FIVE VOWS

I vow to myself and to each of you:

To commit myself daily to the healing of our world and the welfare of all beings.

To live on earth more lightly and less violently in the food, products, and energy I consume.

To draw strength and guidance from the living earth, the ancestors, the future beings, and my brothers and sisters of all species.

To support others in their work for the world and to ask for help when I feel the need.

To pursue a daily spiritual practice that clarifies my mind, strengthens my heart, and supports me in observing these vows.

– Joanna Macy and Sam Mowe

http://www.tricycle.com/special-section/work-reconnects