InsightLA Blog

Before we learn to meditate, our minds are like unsupervised toddlers careening around unsteadily, oblivious to danger. When we learn to be mindful we realize, somewhat horrified, that our uninhibited – quite shameless – toddler minds may wander anywhere, wobbling around from mushing food in our hair, peeing under the table, or suddenly shrieking and running wild. How do you pry open sticky little fingers clutching a favorite fantasy or distract yourself from happily snacking on someone else’s (anyone else’s!) business? How do we open our vise-like grip on our thoughts and cravings? From Mindfulness in Action, by Chögyam Trungpa: “There is a tendency for our minds to shift around a great deal, jumping from one thought to the next. When this happens, the best way to tame the mind is to give it a toy. The best toy we can provide is something that is similar to the mind. It’s not mind itself, but it feels familiar to the mind, almost like a portrait of it. It is like giving a child a doll or a teddy bear, which is small and cuddly and somewhat like the child. It’s like an image of yourself, almost like a surrogate. In meditation, [...]
Mon, Apr 13, 2015
InsightLA Blog
The spring equinox is the time in the earth’s annual cycle around the sun in which day and night are equal in length, a moment of perfect balance – the darker half of the year on one side and the light half of the year on the other. Our days are longer now, buds spring forth from ‘dead’ branches, wildflowers and grasses are reborn, resurrected from the earth. Many great temples of the ancient world, Angkor Wat, Chichen Itza, the Great Sphinx in Giza, align with the spring equinox. From ancient times, spring symbolizes new life and spiritual realization. Spring equinox, fall equinox, the movement of the seasons is emblematic of what each of us goes through in our practice – a perfect moment of poised and mindful presence – followed by the inevitable fall out of balance. Sometimes it seems that having a mindfulness practice encourages the very mistakes it’s supposed to free us from! Like judging ourselves in terms of right and wrong ways to be, in terms of external standards to meet. Only now it’s “am I being mindful enough? kind enough? Measuring up?”. Where can we find our balance when each season of life is so achingly [...]
Fri, Apr 10, 2015
InsightLA Blog
Beth Sternlieb and I are teaching our Passover/Easter retreat in a beautiful retreat center nestled against soft sand-colored mountains opening to the wide plain of the Lucerne Valley. It’s Spring, and the desert is coming alive with wildflowers tossing in the blue sky breeze, little songbirds murmuring lullabies at twilight as the full moon rises, snakes slowly rousing from their winter sleep. I’m hoping to catch a glimpse of a kingsnake, racer, or even a gopher snake, but snakes are shy. They slip away, flashing out of sight. It’s amazing how they manage without arms or legs, stuck on their bellies forever, sliding so gracefully – liquid life! Here in nature, I marvel at how all creatures find their way to live. Like us, they adapt. Yet, as our habitat changes faster than the pace of evolution, all of us in existence are challenged. And many of us, too many of the species on earth, are unable to exist; extinct, or barely hanging on to astonishingly creative ways of being. How will we meet this challenge? According to the UN study, “The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment,” 60% of the biosphere has already been ruined “to meet human demands for food, fresh water, timber, [...]
Mon, Apr 06, 2015
InsightLA Blog
The spring equinox is the time in the earth’s annual cycle around the sun in which day and night are equal in length, a moment of perfect balance – the darker half of the year on one side and the light half of the year on the other. Our days are longer now, buds spring forth from ‘dead’ branches, wildflowers and grasses are reborn, resurrected from the earth. Many great temples of the ancient world, Angkor Wat, Chichen Itza, the Great Sphinx in Giza, align with the spring equinox. From ancient times, spring symbolizes new life and spiritual realization. Spring equinox, fall equinox, the movement of the seasons is emblematic of what each of us goes through in our practice – a perfect moment of poised and mindful presence – followed by the inevitable fall out of balance. Sometimes it seems that having a mindfulness practice encourages the very mistakes it’s supposed to free us from! Like judging ourselves in terms of right and wrong ways to be, in terms of external standards to meet. Only now it’s “am I being mindful enough? kind enough? Measuring up?”. Where can we find our balance when each season of life is so achingly [...]
Mon, Mar 30, 2015
InsightLA Blog
When we step out of distraction, the gift of mindfulness allows us to see what’s really happening around us. We tune into the joys and the struggles of humanity wherever we are; we see and hear compassion everywhere. Listening to the radio this morning, I heard the poetry of Bengali workers in Singapore. My heart wept tears for families who’ve been separated for so long, sometimes for years, missing each other: “what you and I have, is remembering.” Compassion connects us, with insight and kindness, to reality as it presents itself in a flow of unfurling moments forming and dissolving, like bubbles in a stream.  Compassion connects to the overlooked sorrows and hidden parts of life.  And then it responds — wanting ourselves and others to be free from suffering.  Compassion happens when I feel unselfishly sorry with, not for, you, caring about your pain and my own, and wanting to help. With compassion, the pain and difficulties we face become part of the path of mindfulness, instead of obstacles to finding the relief we know mindfulness can bring. There’s no way to be bad at compassion, or to fail, because we’re not trying to force anyone or anything to be other [...]
Mon, Mar 23, 2015
InsightLA Blog