Monday, June 24, 2013

'Me' and My Shadow

I'm continuing a lovely, slow stroll through Ron Siegel's book, The Mindfulness Solution. As a therapist and teacher (Harvard for more than 20 years) his experience of life is a lot different from a priest or rabbi or Zen master. I'm appreciating his perspective (below).

Wise words follow...

Carl Jung described the parts of our personality that we don't acknowledge because they don't fit our conscious identity as our shadow. We all have one, made up of everything we don't like about ourselves.

By illuminating how we construct our identity, mindfulness practice helps us recognize and accept our shadow moment by moment. Every desirable and undesirable feeling, thought, and image eventually arises in meditation, and we practice noticing and accepting them all.

We see our anger, greed, lust, and fear along with our love, generosity, care, and courage. Seeing all of these contents, we gradually stop identifying with one particular set and rejecting the other. We eventually see that we have a great deal in common with everyone else, including those we are tempted to judge harshly. We see for ourselves why people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

It has been said that mindfulness practice is not a path to perfection but a path to wholeness. We don't wipe out the aspects of our personality that don't fit our desired identity, but rather make friends with these elements. This is humbling but also freeing.

By simply practicing awareness of present experience with acceptance, we can see ourselves and others more clearly, not distorted by the desire to see ourselves in a certain light. Despite all our attempts to distinguish ourselves from one another, we share so many human foibles. We naturally start to relate to others with compassion when we see they're just like us. We also come to appreciate that we are unique--just like everyone else.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Practicing PRESENCE

Anne Lamott says, “My mind is like a bad neighborhood—I try not to go there alone.” But our minds are also rather like grammar school playgrounds—it’s not wise to leave the kids unattended. Seeing both of these metaphors as shrewd and potentially helpful invites us to cultivate them both. Go often to the playground and regularly to the bad neighborhood—but never go alone. Vaya con Dios, go with God, with Presence—whether our idea of Presence is “He walks with me and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own.” Or our idea  of Presence is “Being Itself.” Or our idea of Presence is the quality of mindful awareness we cultivate and do our best to bring into any moment—focused, non-judging, kind, and curious. Go often. Vaya con Dios.     

Below are 3 rich reflections about Presence.

With every breath I fill with God. And my life is a table where I offer God to the world.
–Thomas Aquinas

"There is need for awareness that the mountains and rivers and all living things, the sky and its sun and moon and clouds all constitute a healing, sustaining sacred presence for humans which we need as much for our psychic integrity as for our physical nourishment. This presence, whether experienced as Allah, as Atman, as Sunyata, or as the Buddha-nature or as Bodhisattva; whether as Tao or as the One or as the Divine Feminine, is the atmosphere in which humans breathe deepest and without which we eventually suffocate."  --Thomas Berry

Flickering Mind

Lord, not you,
it is I who am absent....

I elude your presence.... Not for one second
will my self hold still, but wanders anywhere,
everywhere it can turn. Not you,
it is I who am absent.

You are the stream, the fish, the light, the pulsing shadow,
you the unchanging presence, in whom all
moves and changes.
How can I focus my flickering, perceive at the fountain's heart
the sapphire I know is there?             --Denise Levertov

Monday, June 3, 2013

Welcoming Anxiety

I dove into mindfulness practice because I needed a better way to work with raw family tensions. My daughter was 16, I was worried about her, and my worry--though coming from deep love for her--was too often expressed in ways that felt nothing like love to her. Getting better at working with my own anxiety about her showed me over and over how to better embody my love for her.

Of course we're still working with our stuff--anxiety, frustration, communication, even as we continue to find ways of anchoring love in day to day life. Still, it's not a stretch at this point to say it's been a game changer.

Our lectio for this morning's mindfulness group was about working with anxiety with growing skill. Wise words follow....

Oh the house of denial has thick walls
and very small windows
and whoever lives there, little by little,
will turn to stone.
--Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings

Fear is our mind and body's ancient, hardwired response to every perceived threat, no matter how subtle. We are therefore frightened much of the time though we often don't think about it this way.

All worry is anticipatory. Even in terrible current circumstances, our worry is about what is going to happen next, not about what is happening right now. Since mindfulness practice cultivates awareness of present experience with acceptance, it tends to bring our attention out of the past or future and into the current moment. And the present moment is usually safe.

Mindfulness oriented approaches to anxiety involve sitting with experiences (however disturbing) and letting them run their course rather than trying to change them. When we do this, it interrupts an important mechanism that maintains anxiety, since we're no longer generating fear of the anxiety itself. This approach also frees us to make intelligent or skillful choices. Welcoming anxiety is actually a powerful way to develop courage.

                                    --Ronald Siegel, The Mindfulness Solution