The Angry Baby

Image result for angry baby tiger

As a mindfulness instructor, it’s challenging to come up with an “elevator speech” or lesson about anger. Many people come to me seeking to become rid of their anger. This is not the goal of mindfulness training.

Anger is a reflexive emotional response to disappointment and aggression (real or perceived).  The yogis explain the powerful emotion springs from the four primitive fountains, which are inherent to all sentient beings: food, sleep, sex, and self-preservation.

Self-preservation is the most powerful urge. It makes sense, there is an inherent drive to keep oneself alive.  Eastern Philosophy would argue, many times (especially in the developed world) the reaction is to threats which exist only in our mind. The ego perceives the potential death of one of our many personae.

Physiologically, our amygdala switches on the sympathetic nervous system and our body is flooded with cortical hormones. It’s the classic flight or fight response.  This isn’t inherently bad, it serves an important purpose–it’s how our ancestors survived so we can be here to discuss this! 

The problem is many of us are overly reactive and every little ego-death causes us to fly off the handle. We’re literally a bunch of raw nerves.

So, shouldn’t we try our best not to feel anger? 

The answer is no! Anger is a signal that something is wrong (even if it’s in our imagination). We don’t want to become numb. We need to learn how to feel the emotion without becoming consumed by it. We should learn to react skillfully. 

The first step is deciding that we no longer want to be a slave to our emotions. Talk to yourself, connect with what is meaningful to you. Tell yourself when you are you’re possessed by anger that it takes you away from what matters. It puts strain on relationships and impedes connection.  

Next, (and you may need to find a teacher to guide you) you practice observing yourself when you’re feeling angry.  This isn’t easy and it takes willpower. This is one of the reasons systematic yoga meditation is powerful and effective: during the body scan you methodically move attention throughout your own body.  This helps you to develop a sense of actually inhabiting your body–most people are a little disconnected from their amazing human suit.  Over time you can use this skill to observe your body when you are feeling angry.  Perhaps you feel your chest tighten and your heart rate quicken.  This can signal you to use another technique from systematic yoga meditation, deep diaphragmatic breathing.  This counteracts the fight or flight response and helps to calm the nervous system.

In deeper stages of meditation you become a witness to the mind in its natural habitat, allowing the thoughts to come and go. This affords the ability to see thoughts and emotions as objects that are inhabiting the mind–they are not the mind itself. In a nutshell, you can observe anger in the mind with awareness it is not the entirety of the mind.

At this level of practice, you create a little space from anger. In that pause, which you develop during meditation, you can choose to act from the anger or to allow the wave of anger to arise in the mind and body and, when it abates, continue with a wise course of action.

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh explains,  “Anger is like a howling baby, suffering and crying… Your anger is your baby. The baby needs his mother to embrace him. You are the mother. Embrace your baby.”

The anger isn’t evil; however, we may do evil while in its clutches.  Anger is shaktithe power of creation.  However, we can choose to create while blinded with anger or allow the anger to wake us up and enact positive change.  The anger can catalyze a course of action fueled by that which brings us closer to our higher self.  This is acting from love–this is acting skillfully.  But, in order to do this we have to broaden the space between the trigger and the anger–it has to become less reflexive.

Ignoring anger is just as detrimental as continually exploding.  The stored up anger has to come out–remember it’s the creative power of the universe.  It will manifest either in an H-bomb or in other deviant behaviors.

Rumi lovingly metaphorized emotions as visitors in his oft-quoted seminal work The Guest House:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Will you pause and listen to the guide or allow it to take over your mind while the Real You watches idly by?

 

Small Steps Toward Inner Peace

baby steps

Part 5: 30 Days of Peace

Why is it difficult to simply sit and meditate?

The practice should not be seen as daunting–it is your right and privilege.

Yet, so many people plan on beginning to meditate for years…

First of all, I speculate, when we sit in the silence uncomfortable feelings, thoughts, memories, and emotions come forward.  It can be a stark contrast to the idealized bliss we associate with the image of a meditator on the beach.

In order to meditate successfully, you must develop a different understanding of your how your mind works (you don’t try to stop thinking or suppress the thoughts) you learn to  look at them as an experience–consider their transience. In a sense, you have thoughts; but, you are not your thoughts.

The problem is, at the beginning (and maybe for a long time afterwards), you identify with them– I think therefore I am (not)!

If you wanted to learn to speak a new language or learn calligraphy, you start with small steps. Instead of expecting to sit for 30 minutes and experience nirvana, just hang out with your mind.  But, do this with a playful attitude– be amused and amazed at your inner workings– 1,2,3 minutes in a quiet room, just watching the stream of thought is amazing.

The other reason people do not meditate is lack of discipline.

I know it sounds judgmental; but, I am speaking from experience.  There were many years when I liked the idea of meditation more than I really wanted to do it.  It was a great leap forward when I acknowledged that I really would rather do something else.  When I was honest with myself I could see there is greater value in getting up a few minutes earlier or turning of the TV and getting off my couch.  Believe me, I have to recommit regularly.

If you really want to go further, just begin to work with the breath.  Don’t over complicate it, deep breathing, awareness at the diaphragm (below the breastbone, above the navel) 1,2,3 minutes.  Just focus on the breath and let the thoughts come…  But, you have to get up and do it.

But, if you begin a sincere practice, I can promise the world unfolds to aid you in coming to the Center of Consciousness.

You are what you are looking for… You are the Inner Peace.

There you go, you’re on your way.

Blow Us Away


holding hands

helping each other stand

Much more than a friend

the best us strongly depends

on the goodwill we send

in intricate crafts unmanned

releasing bombs of intensity and number

that no man can outrun or withstand

perfect explosions shake us from slumber

drawing us to the front lines

divine weapon at our command

us and them surrender and combine

to a nuclear reworking that demands

peace and compassion as our mission

an art to be practiced and refined

beginning the proud tradition

of improving each other’s position

freeing our brilliant minds

from the confusion of opposition

setting the stage for our grandest designs

CBH

Benefits of Mini-Meditation

image

Greetings seeker! While you are on the quest for enlightenment (whatever that means to you), there’s no denying our mundane lives are hectic. In fact, an aspect of mindfulness development is acknowledging busyness–as opposed to denying it. With heightened mindfulness (the practice of paying attention to and seeing clearly whatever is happening in our lives) we develop discernment to determine if our busyness is serving us. We also develop presence; we are able to handle what is put in front of us with grace and intelligence.

Recently, I had to make a choice to cleave one of my activities. My time is short and precious. There was attachment, and as a result disharmony; but, I’m feeling lightened. I made the choice from a place of deeper knowing–an awareness cultivated through meditation.

In the Yoga tradition this intelligence, the decider, is called the Buddhi. Yes, it shares an etymological root with Buddha (also bud); the Buddhi is higher wisdom.  Yoga meditation is to wipe the dust of the world off of the decider mirror do it can reflect the truth… So you can see clearly (remember what I defined mindfulness as)!

Meditation bestows numerous other treasures; I call them the fringe benefits. Those are the ones you’ll hear on Good Morning America: lower blood pressure, a healthier brain, and (this is the one they’re really pushing these days) a better sex life.

It’s totally fine if that’s all you want; but, I want the jackpot. The clear lens is just the beginning. It allows the false identities to be set aside so we can experience Union with the Truth–not merely conceptual knowledge. True absorption.

So where does mini-meditation come in? Well, first of all, none of the aforementioned bounty requires retirement to a Himalayan cave. The most important factor is the desire–the desire to attain more awareness, the desire to attain this Union. Once you find that this becomes very important to you portals will open up and draw you in. But, you have to extend your hand. The  Center of Consciousness transcends time and space. But, it does require that you routinely regularly endeavor to visit. Five minutes, even less–if you don’t even have one minute then maybe this isn’t the path for you. Believe me I’ve had to ask myself this question repeatedly.

Get up in the morning, and before you begin your tasks, splash a little cold water on your face. Next, sit for three minutes. Move your attention around your physical body. Then, take some deep diaphragmatic breaths. Shift to holding your attention in one space–the bridge between the nostrils is effective for steadying attention. You can repeat this process again at work, in a bathroom stall. Repeat it again before retiring. Nine minutes may change your life.

This is how my practice is at this time. I have two children, I’m a single mother, and I have a full-time job. I sit for three to five minutes in the morning, then I sit for, at least, 10 minutes in the evening. When opportunities arise for longer sittings I take them. I don’t judge myself for my life, I embrace it.

An Attitude of Gratitude

glass-half-full-splash2

 

Can you ever have too much gratitude? I doubt it?

This is a repost from 2014; however, I was reminded, through a cascade of`teachable moments, to be eternally gratefully–for every moment.  There is no need to anticipate, and this does take effort, the next moment will get here!


Prayer is an interesting activity.  Like meditation, it is an opportunity to go inside and merge with stillness.  However, so many people pray their power away–they ask for assistance, intervention, and blessings; but, they do not, simply, offer gratitude for what is going well.

Recently, I was challenged by a dear friend to post 3 statements of gratitude, for a week, on my Facebook page.  Over, the years I have done several exercises in gratitude– which is something I continue to work on cultivating.  Whenever, I make a conscious attempt to find something to be grateful for, the gratitude flows in abundance.  One positive thought, attending to one gift, becoming aware of an inkling of Prasad becomes a river of plenty.

Many people mistakenly believe that prayer is not part of the Yoga tradition.  Conversely, this tradition has consists of four pillars: meditation, contemplation, mantra, and prayer.  However, it is taught, prayer begins as a dialogue and converges into a unification.

Prayer instills us with bhava, the strong emotion of devotion–but, we don’t have to pray our power away.  Offer gratitude for what is working.  You and the Divine Source are one and the same– therefore, nothing can be against you.  Sit with the blessings before asking for intervention.  You may discover that you are all the resources you need.

Uncoupling my consciousness

image

A Starlet, who will not be named, popularized the term “conscious uncoupling”. At first, I thought it was pretentious; however, at this phase in my life, I can see validity in the statement. Moreover, it’s reciprocal is poignant.

Sitting still, in silence, affords us the opportunity to uncouple our consciousness from it’s habitual moving outward. In silence, we can peel back the layers that we have created to the substratum– the ground matrix where the Truth is.

It is so simple; yet, for many of us, it is not so easy.

We are always plugged in, we are always stimulating ourselves–even if the stimulation appears benign.

For example, a person may say “my meditation is working in the garden”. Communing with nature is a beautiful and healthy action. But, it’s still doing something. Listening to classical music is edifying; but, listening to music about engaging the senses. What is being avoided?

The senses are the vehicle through which we experience this world. Aside from sleeping (and many of us don’t do that) they are constantly being engaged. Furthermore, due to our hectic lifestyles they are exponentially more engaged then at any other time.

Being in a quiet room is disengagement from the sense of hearing. Deliberately sitting still is disengagement from our action sense of movement and the importer sense of touch. Closing the eyes is disengagement from the sense of sight. Now this energy can be directed to inner exploration.

This is the true uncoupling. The uncoupling of your temporary ego driven self which goes willy-nilly for everything wants and you open yourself, the definition of yoga , to Eternity.

The Driving Dead

1501100007

I have a visceral reaction to rush-hour traffic–it is abhorrent. But, I live in metro-Atlanta, it’s unavoidable. It’s also a great opportunity to test my spiritual practices It’s my own laboratory: I listen to “edutaining” audiobooks, I try to remain present, I avoid judging other drivers, I resist the phone.

The Yoga Sutras suggest five behaviors for a spiritual seeker to cultivate; one of these attitudes is mindfulness (smriti).  Which is simply, paying attention to whatever you are paying attention to.  It is also seeing that the path is every step you take; not compartmentalizing spiritual life and secular life.  I am learning a great deal about myself while I am behind the wheel.

Recently, while wrestling with the traffic juggernaut, one of my greatest teachers abruptly tested me.  She wanted me to see if I was grounded in my practices. During a particularly frenetic moment, my five-year-old daughter, Clementine, exclaimed from her booster seat, “I don’t want you to die and leave me alone!”

This was seemingly out of nowhere; yet, in a previous post, I noted our home is in a state of transition. So, the outburst wasn’t entirely unwarranted.

My mind was in a whirl; how do I explain impermanence to a child while, paradoxically, trying not to kill us on the road?

The answer was simple, my practices had prepared me, I surrendered.  Yoga practices make you flexible–not as a contortionist.  Sadhana is a process of systematically reducing reducing attachments, such as expectations, and attaining a state of pure spontaneity.

So, without being too kerflummoxed, I was in a new role–Teacher Mom.  Off went the radio, deep breathing resumed, and a truly beautiful moment ensued. I told Clementine that everything she can see is a cosmic ocean.  I explained we are all waves in the ocean.  A wave rises and falls; but, is never removed from the ocean.  In the same manner, we have not and cannot ever be apart.  She continued to be emotional; but, she found comfort in knowing she and I are One.

I offered a prayer of gratitude for my car temple.  What a sublime moment of intimacy in the sea of automotive chaos.  Every moment is Divine.

 

All Yogic approaches account for surprise and/or grace.

Part 9 of “How do you Qualify Yoga?

About a year ago, I was facilitating a workshop and met someone who is now a dear friend.  Our connection was instant; he had been raised a devout Hindu and was very complementary about my ability to simplify teachings he had previously learned.  We culminated our discussion with the idea that, assuming you subscribe to belief in Saṃsāra, how it took everything we had done up to that moment to even be in that workshop–to even be discussing teachings which were, at one time, only available to the chosen few.

According to Swami Rama, “…There is also the activity of grace. Grace is the impulse or the impetus of the energy to dispel darkness. There is the grace of the scriptures, from the wisdom that has passed down from others. There is the grace of the teacher, who imparts that wisdom and helps bring it to life in the student. There is the grace of God, or pure consciousness, that is alive and ever present in everyone’s life. Integral to these three graces is the grace of oneself, having the will to undertake a purposeful journey in life, to do the spiritual work of life, and to prepare oneself.”

What is the source of the impulse?

According to the mahavakyas:

  1. Brahma satyam jagan mithya–Brahman is real; the world is unreal
  2. Ekamevadvitiyambrahma–Brahman is one, without a second
  3. Prajnanambrahman–Brahman is the supreme knowledge
  4. Tat tvam asi–That is what you are
  5. Ayamatmabrahma–Atman and brahman are the same
  6. Aham brahmasmi–I am brahman
  7. Sarvam khalvidam brahma–All of this is brahman

If Brahman–which is an arbitrary word for the Center of Consciousness, the nameless apex, or whatever you wish to call it–and we are one and the same, the source of the impulse is from within.  We heard it said before, “You are who you are seeking.”  Ironically, the picture above says “to serve another”–there is no other.  There is only one.

There is no need to anthropomorphize the Center, I am not suggesting “someone” is pulling strings.  But, to paraphrase Ma Tri, when you done all the preparatory work, when you have gone deep enough in your meditation, eventually it is a surrender and grace that carries you the final distance.

Hence, meditation, affirmative prayer, contemplation, and gratitude–try to do some every day.

The closer we come to Enlightenment the more ordinary we become

Part 8 of “How do You Qualify Yoga?”

Toward the One,
the Perfection of Love, Harmony, and Beauty,
the Only Being,
United with all the Illuminated Souls,
Who form the Embodiment of the Master,
the Spirit of Guidance.

I find such comfort in this prayer from the Sufi master, Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan.  Especially when I contemplate the line, “all the Illuminated Souls who form the embodiment of the Master”.  Pause to savor that concept.  There is not one Master, there is not one path.  When the Buddha was asked, “who are you”?  He replied, “I am awake”.

Self-realization is an experience shared by numerous individuals from numerous traditions.  One can argue that the Buddha, the Christ, and Rumi were all describing the same level of consciousness with different words.  To believe that the omnipotent Ultimate Reality is confined to one tradition belittles it.

One hallmark on enlightened Masters is simplicity.  Not merely renunciation; because like a dry drunk, mere physical renunciation without renouncing internally is playing a role.  Internal renunciation is the letting go of the attachment to the outcome; yet continuing to strive for ultimate Reality, as described in my previous post.

All illuminated Masters incline towards simplicity.  Furthermore, the closer they are the less they are drawn to the fleeting transient world.  They taste what is “real” and tasting leads to savoring.  What could be more satisfying; to know the Ultimate Reality or to go on with the mundane temporary–even if it is stimulating to the senses.  Everything “out here” is subject to change.  The only constant is that core, “the perfection of love, harmony, and beauty”.