A few months ago I turned 40, and as I stand on the precipice of the next decade, I’m reflecting on life. I realize that, for some strange reason, my life doesn’t seem to be getting any simpler! I’m probably not alone and I suspect that you may know what I’m talking about. For many of us, it seems there are more and more responsibilities, and seemingly less and less time in which to tend them. I’ve got more passwords and login’s than I have fingers and toes. There are so many causes to help and support, and with work, family, friends and bills to pay, some days it just seems like an impossible task to balance it all. As I look back on my life, though, I can see the deep roots of mindfulness and meditation bracing me in the midst of these daily challenges, amidst the ceaseless responsibilities and tasks – “the floods of life.” But how?
Although the pace of life today may be somewhat different than 2,500 years ago, when the Buddha was alive, for millennia people have been facing the difficult task of how to navigate daily challenges. At one point the Buddha was asked about [...]
One Sunday morning at our sitting group we were talking about shame. Shame is one of the most common – and hard to bear – experiences we humans have. It’s different from healthy remorse. Working skillfully with our shame calls for the very qualities shame obscures: mindfulness and self-compassion. When shame arises, we instinctively turn away and cringe, curling into ourselves like cellophane in fire. The judging mind can be harsh and unforgiving, far worse than whatever mistake we’ve made.
A social worker in our group talked about how she overcame her shame at judging a client whom she hadn’t seen for over a year, a lady who had spent all her money on drugs, stolen all her mother’s money, and lost her home. She spoke about using her own practice to tune in to the suffering of this scary, addicted woman: “She talks really, really loud and she’s really, really stressed out and enraged, and everything is everybody else’s fault.”
This woman had made so many mistakes. She was upset, intimidating, and living in her van. Our group member was acutely aware of her judging mind, judging her client, then judging herself for being judgmental. She stayed close to her own [...]
“WE PHOTOGRAPHERS DEAL IN THINGS WHICH ARE CONTINUALLY VANISHING, AND WHEN THEY HAVE VANISHED THERE IS NO CONTRIVANCE ON EARTH WHICH CAN MAKE THEM COME BACK AGAIN.” – HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON
One of the great teachings of life is impermanence, the unstoppable flow of experience we call time and change. In time, tomatoes ripen, children grow up, and we know that every relationship we have will end. How we long to escape death and elude loss…When we’re happy, we don’t even want to think about it, we want to slip away from the inexorable embrace of time. When we’re sad, impermanence is our friend. We know that the way things are is not how they will always be.
Mindfulness works in a flash, like photography. When we click a photo or take a screenshot of a friend’s disappearing snapchat, the cascading forms of constant perception stop for a moment, a moment that means something to us. In any instant of mindfulness, a flash of presence can calm us down. We return to our senses, opening up to receive the intensity of aliveness, the vividness of how life feels here and now – capturing the memory for someday, there and then, when that part of our [...]
The other night I dreamed my daughter and I were swimming in an emerald green ocean by a deserted island somewhere far away. Enchanted by the beauty of the black sand shore at sunset, we drank in the sight of deep green water and dark mountains rising above the coast.
Suddenly, the water began to flow in a strong rip current, pulling us out to sea fast. Fear flooded in — there’s no one around, can I save both of us? Mindfulness kicked in: swim diagonally towards shore! I decided to wake up instead.
Before swimming in the ocean the next morning, I checked the lifeguard’s post and read “Rip Currents”. Concerned, I asked the lifeguard about the currents and told him my dream. “Was there a lifeguard in your dream?” he asked. “No…” Then he grinned, “Well, now you have one.” His comforting reminder – this is reality now; you have a lifeguard! you’re safe – dispelled any lingering fear. I swam happily in the roly-poly swells.
Fear colors our perceptions – what just brushed past my leg? It could be a sea monster…And right over there, it looks like the tip of a shark’s fin! When we step back and look [...]
When I asked Betsy Davis if I could share this goodbye, she told her beloved yoga teacher, Denise Kaufman, that she would be honored for all of you to know a bit of her journey. Betsy is an artist who radiates a light-hearted elegance of spirit. She’s dying of ALS, and has decided consciously and care-fully to end her life this Sunday.
How different this is from suicide! Many of us, including myself, know the anguish of losing a family member or dear friend to suicide, leaving no time to intervene, to say goodbye, or complete anything. Wherever you stand among the myriad and divergent views about doctor-assisted dying, Betsy’s remarkable clarity and acceptance show us how — even in times of extreme difficulty — we can be tenderly mindful and choose how we meet our fate….with love.
My dear friends,
I’m off. This Sunday I’m taking the big adventure into the unknown. I’m so fortunate to have the law on my side. Gov. Jerry Brown passed the End of Life Option Act this year to allow people with terminal illnesses a physician assisted death in California.
I want to thank each of you for our unique time together; the conversations, the dance parties, [...]