Last week the office forwarded the following message to me, a perfectly friendly email. Yet, as I read it, an ancient performance terror reared its scary head. To be honest, it made my blood run cold.
I’m a producer for PBS NewsHour and wanted to check-in about featuring Trudy Goodman in our latest series of profiles….We reach a smart, influential audience of 1.5 million viewers each night (including The President!) We would love to speak with Trudy about her mindfulness practice…”
With a deep breath, kind of a sigh, I agree to do this. (Take one for the team, Trudy, walk your talk).
Cut to InsightLA yesterday afternoon. I’m standing in our empty meditation room staring into the ominous, glassy black hole of a video camera trying to relax. We know that stress disables much of our frontal cortex; I’m trying to remember something – anything – I used to know about mindfulness practice.
I hopefully ask the producer, Steve Goldbloom, if this clip is more for Facebook, maybe? And how many people go on FB to watch the “Brief, but Spectacular” clips? “Oh, around 500,000,” he answers. Seeing my face, he kindly adds, “No, really only my family members watch…”.
Even with Steve’s knowledgeable [...]
Each survival kit for hikers in the Vallecitos mountains includes a booklet about what to do if you’re lost. What fascinated me were the parallels between outdoor survival skills and the mindfulness qualities we cultivate to survive being lost in our urban stress.
I was surprised to learn that children under six have one of the highest survival rates in the wilderness, better than physically fit, experienced hikers, hunters – skilled adults! When they’re cold, they warm up in a hollow tree. When they’re tired, they simply curl up and rest. They don’t push and exhaust themselves. They approach reality instinctively, finding comfort where they are.
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities,” said Zen master Suzuki Roshi. “In the expert’s mind there are few.” When we look at a situation through the lens of our past experience, often expectations and fears mislead us. When I ignore my intuition, I get into trouble. Relying too heavily on what I’ve known, I lose the intelligence and aliveness of the present moment, here, now.
I lose myself. We lose ourselves.
Mindfulness teaches us how to find ourselves, how to listen. We can look with fresh eyes and see the world as an open field of [...]
The Buddha taught: “Just as the footprints of all legged animals are encompassed by the footprint of the elephant, and the elephant’s footprint is supreme; in the same way, all skillful qualities are rooted in mindfulness, lie gathered in mindfulness, and mindfulness is supreme.”
Everyone fits into the supreme ‘footprint’ of loving awareness. It is our home. With each step of mindful walking, our feet can know this: we touch the earth. We touch the truth of who we are in this particular moment in all eternity. Right now, can we simply trust what we see, hear, taste, touch, smell, feel, without doubt?
Grounded in this way of being, how might this illumine the way you respond to a girl who is dying, or to a baby, fresh and new? How do you experience someone falling in love with you, someone leaving you, getting up in the morning, going to sleep at night? My first teacher used to look at us, and laugh, saying, “Soon dead.” How do we relate to this inconceivable truth?
I’m grateful to my teachers, and to all of you, friends along the Way. Every day, you remind me of what we deeply know. With mindfulness and metta (lovingkindness), [...]
Years ago, my ‘wasband’ (former husband) and I did retreat for a winter at Vallecitos mountain ranch, snowed in. The ranch had no satellite phone in those days. We were alone in the wilderness, with months of food and gear pulled in on sleds behind the two snowmobiles that carried us through the forest and off the grid, 13 miles from paved road.
Day after day, we practiced mindful sitting and walking meditation; on sparkling mornings, we ‘walked’ for miles across the pristine diamond mountains on cross-country skis. On windless days, the icy world was silent; birds flown away, flies gone, chipmunks hibernating, squirrels tucked in, bees shivering in their hives. Since we were silent, too, the only sound I heard was skis sliding softly through new powder, the tiny white ice crystals compacting and creaking slightly under my weight.
Preparing a talk a few days ago, I read Margaret Atwood, the Canadian writer: “The Eskimos* had 52 names for snow because it was important to them, there ought to be as many for love.” Learning to meditate, to be mindful, means learning to love: to pay attention, to see what’s real, and trust what’s true.
As I walk along a sun-dappled path [...]
After teaching a retreat in Barre, MA, Jack and I went to hear teachings by the Dalai Lama in New York last week. We walked past food trucks selling thukpa (noodle stew) and momo’s (steamed dumplings), people drumming and chanting, into the Javits Center, where thousands of Tibetan families wearing their finest colorful chubas (traditional dress) of silky beautiful fabrics, monastics clad in dark red and gold, and a sprinkling of Westerners all gathered to celebrate his 80th birthday.
The Dalai Lama spoke about what leads to liberation: freeing ourselves from self-centric views. Over and over, he emphasized the need to train in this: “What is the one thing, that if you have it, all the other virtues are in the palm of your hand? Compassion, the perfection of altruism.”
So much suffering arises from flawed perceptions of the world, especially from seeing the world self-ishly, through the lens of I, me, mine. We need a deeper understanding of the nature of reality so we can perceive accurately. “Inquire,” he said clearly, “Delve into the nature of mind, explore reality!” Looking around the globe, what’s needed is so clear. How can we help?
Along with compassionate altruism, we cultivate the wisdom of equanimity. [...]