Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Mindfulness Revolution

Mindfulness is experiencing a great surge in popularity. Internationally, across all religions, people are recognizing the benefits of compassionately observing their minds and emotions in the present moment. Mindfulness is taught in schools, hospitals and businesses. It is working its way into therapeutic models. Even without looking for mindfulness, people are being exposed to it. Our global consciousness of mindfulness is expanding.

The expanding awareness of mindfulness may be changing the world, but the revolution takes place in each of us on a personal level. The revolution of mindfulness occurs in you when the dictator who has been controlling your life is peacefully transformed into a benevolent monarch (like the butterfly).

The revolution occurs in you, both gradually and all at once. It begins with a sense of suffering. If you notice suffering in yourself or in others, you naturally want a way to make it stop. That is your natural compassion showing itself. When you notice that happening, with awareness, you are being mindful. At first you may not recognize that as mindfulness. The gradual beginning is noticing the terms of mindfulness around you and practicing them on your mind.

All around you, on the internet, in books, movies, television, and conversations, the popular ideas of mindfulness are floating around our collective consciousness. Be present, Return to your breath. Let it go. Be compassionate, loving and kind. Our minds and bodies are connected. Life happens now. Meditate. You are what you think. When you become aware of these ideas as practical and applicable to your life and your suffering, you begin practicing mindfulness, mindfully.

When your mindfulness practice begins, the revolution is under way. As you watch your mind, you begin looking for the dictator in you. Notice how you think about yourself. Do you think about yourself kindly, or critically? Notice how you judge others. Are you seeing their basic goodness or finding faults? Once you recognize that you are living with a dictator that is you, propped up by beliefs and habits, you have initiated the transformation.You have joined the revolution.

As you compassionately observe yourself going through emotions, thoughts and feelings, moment to moment, you notice changes. When you recognize a change of habit, or try a new response to an old problem, you gain confidence that you have influence over your internal experience. As you continually practice exercising that influence, you accumulate techniques. You practice breathing, listening, meditation, generosity, compassion, and build these skills into your repertoire. Then the revolution has happened. Your basic belief in yourself has transformed. The dictator may still offer judgements and decrees, but they will be delivered into awareness and met with compassion in a process of continual transformation.

As you practice transforming your suffering, the world becomes a better place. It’s happening, in you, now.


The Importance of Basic Goodness

The reason that it is important to understand your fundamental goodness is that some people don’t. Many people don’t believe that they are good enough. When we don’t believe in our innate goodness, we waste a lot of energy trying to decide if we are good or not. That wasted energy leads to all kinds of problems from depression to world wars.

On a personal level, understanding our basic goodness protects us from insults and insecurities. It allows us to be who we are and be comfortable with that. When we understand that we are good and we let our lives flow from that goodness, we think good thoughts and do good things. Then other people can easily recognize our goodness too. That feels good.

When we understand our own basic goodness, we can also recognize it in others. We can see how people’s misperceptions cause them to suffer. Because we understand, we want to help. Whenever you have the feeling that you want to help another person, that is further proof of your basic goodness. When you have the desire to hurt another person, that is proof of your confusion. When another person hurts you, that is proof of their confusion.

Unfortunately there is a lot of confusion in the world. That is why it is important to remember your basic goodness. It is always with you. Whenever you can recognize it, you are less confused. Understanding your basic goodness allows you to put judgements aside and work on your life goals. When your goals come from your goodness, you achieve greatness.


The Simple Path

Sometimes you can engage in complications, sometimes you can engage in simplicity. Complicated is thinking about things. Simple is not thinking about things. When we are so used to thinking about things, not thinking about things is not always easy. We get so busy with our thoughts, that we forget that we can take a break. We get so used to riding ourselves, that we forget that we don’t need a rider. We get so worried that we might forget something important, that we forget what is important.

The simple path is always remembering what is important. Before you remember what is important you have to decide what is important to you. What is most important is always the simplest. If you can’t imagine what is most important, ask a child. The answer on the simple path is always simple. Love, joy, happiness, and peace are some simple, important things. When you can remember the simple important things, you will be able to handle all sorts of complications.

When you experience a complicated emotion, focus on the emotion. If it is stress, feel stress. If it is sadness, feel sadness, If it is anger, feel anger. When you feel what you are feeling, it is not too complicated. If you are having difficult feelings and do not feel them, but focus on thinking what you are thinking, those feelings will get in the way of your better thinking. If you can think well enough to remember what is important, you will remember to let your complicated thoughts go for a while and take the simple path.

Do things you enjoy doing. Love the people you love. Be yourself. That is the simple path. When you practice taking the simple path, you will see that you are always on the simple path. When you see that, you free yourself to engage fully in complications.


Remember Your Goodness

It is important to remember your basic goodness. If you wonder if you are good or not, take this simple test. If you see a friend  of yours is crying, would you rather comfort them or poke them in the eye? If you choose comfort, you are basically good. That is your basic nature.

Remembering your basic goodness is important, because it helps you stop checking your thoughts and behaviors to see if your are good or not or good enough. Your basic goodness is good enough. You know what it feels like to suffer and you would rather not suffer, and you would rather that your friends not suffer. When you recognize that basic quality is enough, the pressure is off.

If you can recognize your basic goodness, then you have also recognized your basic intelligence. Suddenly you are not only good, you are good and smart. That’s also enough. You don’t need to be anything more than that.

When you are confident that you are good and smart, you can use your wisdom to explore your goodness. You can check in with your goodness whenever you make a decision. You can see if your actions are causing suffering or providing comfort. You can use your wisdom to see what the best way would be to give comfort. You can give what comfort you can. Then you are compassionate and kind.

That is what comes from remembering your basic goodness. Although goodness is enough, when you look into it and check in with it, you will see that it leads to wisdom, compassion and kindness. Practicing that leads to happiness for your self and others. How good of you want to create happiness.


Judging Yourself

There is a big difference between judging yourself and evaluating yourself. Evaluating yourself can be done with understanding and compassion. Judging yourself only undermines your basic goodness. If you look into your idea of self, you will see that you are basically good. You can see that you love and are loved, that you want happiness for yourself and others, that you would prefer not to suffer. Those are the qualities of basic goodness. If you look into yourself and cannot see basic goodness, then you have been a harsh judge of yourself and you need to change that habit. If you can recognize your basic goodness, then you can see the futility of judging yourself. If you understand your goodness, then additional judgements can only detract from that goodness.

In order to stop the judgements you need to give your internal judge a time out. The judge has a hard time stopping. It is a habit. If you make the choice to stop your judge, your judge will fight you. It will continue to undermine your efforts. It will tell you you can’t do it. It will tell you, you’re wasting your time. It will tell you anything it can think of to stop you from stopping it. As you give the judge a time out, your job is not to judge. If the judge offers an opinion, recognize it and let it go. If you judge the judge, that is the judge again. Recognize that and let it go. If the judge makes a judgement that makes you feel bad, remember your basic goodness and let the judgement go again.

To give your judge time outs, set some time aside each day and sit with your mind to watch your judging habit. Take five or ten minutes and watch your thoughts. Focus your attention on your breath and remember your goodness. Keep breathing. When a thought arises, see if it is a judgement. See if it is categorizing your experience into good or bad. Return to your breath and remember your goodness. Remember the goodness that is beyond judgement.

If you learn to watch your judgements in those five or ten minutes of time out, you will build your capacity to notice judgements. You will begin to notice them all day long and by noticing them you will deplete their power. As you practice, you can expand your awareness to see how you judge others. See how you judge your circumstances. These are natural objects of a judging habit. They hurt too.

It is not necessary to eliminate your judging habit. Even if you are able to stop all judgements and see basic goodness in everybody, everybody else will still be judging. They will judge themselves, each other and you. When you are skilled at noticing all the judgement going on, you will see how it interferes with understanding basic goodness and causes suffering. When you develop that understanding, you will no longer feel bad for yourself when somebody judges you, you will feel compassion for them. If you condition yourself to remember your basic goodness each time you judge or notice somebody else judging, you will always remember your basic goodness. That is how judging yourself can make you happy.


Naturally Mindful

Mindfulness may seem like a difficult practice that takes special training and abilities to practice, but in many ways we are naturally mindful, whether we practice mindfulness or not. Everybody has awareness. That is how we know that we are suffering. We know we’re anxious. Whether we practice mindfulness or not, we notice our breathing. We notice that we have a body. We notice the taste of our food, the smells in the air. We notice that we feel good when we are generous. We notice that we like it when people are nice to us. We notice that we feel wonderful when we feel loved. We don’t need a special practice to notice these things. That is what we do because we are alive.

Whether we practice mindfulness or not, we train our minds to manage our emotions. We practice habits that create our typical moods. We live according to our beliefs to create as much happiness as we are able. Even if we don’t practice mindfulness, we live in the present moment. That’s all we have.

Making the transition from not practicing to practicing mindfulness is not always a question of choice. You don’t always choose what to believe. If you somehow begin to believe that you can train your mind to create your emotional states, then you naturally begin a mindfulness practice. You don’t even have to believe it whole heartedly. You only have to suspect that it might be true. Then you begin experimenting by watching your mind. In any moment that you consciously watch your mind, in any moment that you are aware of your awareness, if you suspect that this awareness is creating a difference, you are being mindful.

When you begin entertaining the belief that you are constantly, either actively or passively, training your mind, then your mindfulness practice expands into every moment. You know you are practicing when you test your beliefs by engaging with your difficult emotions. If you find yourself purposefully breathing in the heat of your anger to see how quickly it passes or dismissing a judgmental thought as another thought, then you are doing it.

When you start to notice that bringing your awareness regularly to your present circumstance creates subtle or profound changes, then you reinforce your beliefs and begin collecting tools to help your practice. You may consciously set an intention for your practice, such as to train your mind to feel happiness, or to train your mind to work through sadness, anger or grief. You may begin a meditation practice to improve your focus. You may learn breathing techniques, yoga or a martial art to assist your practice. As you gain skills and techniques to work with your mind, you become an active participant in your changing mind. That feels good. When you recognize your own basic goodness, there is no turning back. Compassion naturally arises.


Zen Easter – Bunny

The other side of Easter is about a rabbit who lays eggs, or at least hides them. The Zen practice of finding your basic goodness, your True Self, can be likened to recognizing the Bunny within you. Bunnies are inherently adorable and lovable. They are also at the bottom of the food chain. It behooves them to be afraid of everything. Any shadow could be a hawk. Any noise could be a fox. They need to be on constant alert. They are not constantly afraid, only cute, lovable and alert. That is our Bunny Nature.

Although we have a Bunny Nature, we are not rabbits. Our lives are not generally threatened by shadows and noises. Yet we are often experience fear and other difficult emotions. If we remain alert and aware of our Inner Bunny, we will find it easy to be compassionate with ourselves. We can remember how  cute, lovable and vulnerable we are. We can recognize fear and look into the shadows to see if they are hawks. We can look into the sounds to see if they are foxes.

We can also recognize the Bunnies in other people. We can understand that everybody is protecting a scared rabbit inside themselves. We can always spread happiness by looking for that in others. If we notice their suffering, we can offer them a carrot.

When we practice nurturing our Inner Bunnies and those of others, we see that vulnerability is part of lovability. When we let our bunnies out they become magical. They share happiness with their multicolor eggs. No predator ever ate an Inner Bunny or an Easter Bunny. Happy Easter.


Zen Easter – Jesus

Jesus’s journey from suffering on the cross to death to resurrection provides a good example for how to transform suffering into awakening. Crucifixion, death by torture, is an extreme example of suffering. Death is an extreme example of acceptance, of giving in to the inevitability of circumstances. Physical resurrection from the grave is an extreme example of awakening. Sometimes it is helpful to have extreme examples to point out a more moderate path.

In Zen we are fortunate to have to opportunity to resurrect ourselves constantly. We begin by noticing that we are suffering, that we are on the cross. We recognize our inherent divinity or basic goodness. We understand that we don’t want to be on the cross and we don’t deserve to be on the cross. As we learn to accept our circumstances, which include our experience of suffering, we can see into the nature of our suffering. We can see into the nature of suffering. At that point we give up our resistance and experience a peaceful, living death. As we continue to live our life with this realization, we experience resurrection.

Once we learn to transform our suffering and practice resurrection in every moment, we can help others learn to work with their suffering and their minds to experience their own transformation. When we remember our basic goodness, we naturally feel compassion for everybody as they bear their crosses. Happy Easter.