Tuesday at our Fearless Compassionate Care training for clinicians working at the beside of critically ill and dying children and adults, a seasoned pediatric intensive care unit nurse spoke about a difficult moment with the parents of a dying son. She said, “I didn’t know what to say. My mind was blank, so I took a deep breath and fell into my heart.”
This is the gift of her mindfulness practice; she knew to stop for a moment, take a breath, and listen. When the mind goes blank in a moment of fear, courage is calling us, “Open your heart! You can be with this!” Fear calls for compassionate awareness, asks us to trust that our loving quiet presence may be the most healing thing we can offer to ourselves and to another human being.
When we’re willing to feel our life fully instead of thinking about it, this is the power of mindfulness in action. Sometimes we don’t know what else to do but sit and walk and feel our way in to our deep heart of hearts. And in the midst of not-knowing, we can then know — know what to say or what needs to be done — or [...]
This week I’m in personal retreat in the little cottage next to Ram Dass’s house. Like many beings, I love to be around him. He knows how to transmute suffering and radiate love, a blanket of love he wraps around the whole cosmos. He now teaches meditation by this simple instruction: Touch your heart gently and whisper to yourself with each intimate breath, “I am loving awareness.”
Decades ago, I was sitting a retreat with Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein, 6 weeks of metta (loving awareness) practice day and night. At the beginning my mind was filled with resistance to Joseph’s teaching style which went against the grain of the more flowing, poetic Zen practice that was my preference — and habit. Unloving thoughts arose, and I confessed, “This is not for me — too precise and architectural, too granular and detail-oriented.” Joseph said, “I’ve never told you anything like this before, but pretend I’m your guru — and just trust me.”
Okay, after working with children for years I know how to pretend. And I can suspend my aversion, if I’m only PRETENDING to trust him completely… I followed his instructions to the letter. What happened was an unfolding of new [...]
This video, “Empathy: The Human Connection to Patient Care”, was shown to the Cleveland Clinic staff last year. This week we watched it at our staff meeting at InsightLA, after our early morning Deepening Your Practice class saw it.
The video movingly shows a way of seeing others around us more deeply. With eyes of compassion, we see beyond the roles and personalities we inhabit to the one family we actually are. As I wrote last week, meditation allows us to be still and let the heart flower into a new understanding and tenderness – this is the miracle of mindfulness! To paraquote the poet Walt Whitman:
Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Los Angeles,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—
the ships with people in them,
What stranger miracles are there?
When we really see beyond the surface of things, we tune into universal rhythms of both the human and non-human worlds; the [...]
Learning how to be still, to step back and be still, to know ourselves as a human Being rather than a human Doing, may be hard to do, but it’s a great thing. At InsightLA, we learn how to quiet the mind – even for a moment or two! – and drink from the deep well of stillness that is always available underneath the mind’s ever-running commentary. In this stillness, no one is a stranger, no one left out. We are kin with all life, with the beauty and wonder of the universe.
In mindfulness meditation, we call it ‘dropping in’ – dropping our past and future distractions, relaxing in fresh awareness of what is. When we can find some quiet time to relax and be still, our personality and concerns inevitably fall away. Personality is just our particular way of expressing who we are to others, how others see us. We can ‘drop in’ to a felt sense of our own being – very simple, beautiful, profound. We become the blue sky emerging from June gloom, the sweetness of an apple, the light of the full moon.
Even things that are difficult to bear can be held in a steady quiet [...]
Dr. Maya Angelou, called a “global renaissance woman,” passed away on May 28, 2014. She fully embodied the unshakable faith and spiritual values of African-American family life, community and culture.
In a 1985 commencement speech, Dr. Angelou, a professor at Wake Forest University, told graduates that “your destiny is to develop the courage to flesh out the great dreams, to dare to love, to dare to care, to dare to want to be significant and to admit it, not by the things you own or the positions you hold, but by the lives you live.”
“We are all the artists of our own lives,” Maya Angelou said. Deep down, we know this is true. The ways we differ, as annoying or inspiring as they may variously be, weave the warp and weft of a rich fabric, creating the wild tapestry of our shared humanity – woven together by loving awareness. With a little bit of mindfulness about ourselves, we can feel our one love, one heart.
She tells us to: “Find a beautiful piece of art. If you fall in love with Van Gogh or Matisse or John Oliver Killens, or if you fall love with the music of Coltrane, the music of [...]