“My meditation practice was a godsend to me because it allowed me to relax while not feeling like I was frittering away precious time” – Brad Warner, “How to Not Waste Time” (Tricycle, Summer 2012)
Conflicts between people are a natural part of life. We even fight with ourselves, criticizing our past actions and denying our ability to cope with the future. Meditation doesn’t seek to erase conflicts or turn meditators into placid doormats. Instead, it teaches a path in which life’s problems are approached with understanding, patience, and love.
Vietnamese Buddhist priest, teacher, and author, Thich Nhat Hanh, offers these instructions for performing metta (lovingkindness) meditation as a path to cultivating love for oneself and others (“Cultivating Compassion” Tricycle, Spring 2015):
Oregon Public Broadcasting TV (OPB, Ch. 10) is broadcasting shows on meditation and mindfulness that might interest you.
44 years ago I enrolled in an Introduction to Philosophy class offered by my local community college. One essay I read asserted that my life was filled with choices and I would always have to choose. Even refusing to choose was itself a choice.
Today is Day 2 of the new school year and the Hum 110 conflicts of last year have already reasserted themselves. Because absolutely nothing in my academic training qualifies me to opine on the ideal Hum 110 curriculum it is tempting to turn my back on the dispute and gaze upon the sabbatical year stretching out before me.
Weekly silent meditation will continue on Tuesdays this semester from August through December 2017 in the Eliot chapel. Sessions run from 12:10-12:40 pm and are open to all members of the Reed community and campus visitors. Drop-ins* are welcome! Learn more at Our Schedule and Our Practice.
* “Drop-in” means you can arrive and leave whenever it is convenient for you. Late arrivals and early departures are both fine. We do not take attendance.
I recently tackled a new issue: how to get children to practice mindful activities (Mindful Games for Kids, 10 Aug 2017). In that post I said, “I can’t picture an 8 year-old sitting on a cushion, silently counting in- and out-breaths.” Now a post on the Trike Daily blog (A. Tzelnic, 2 Aug 2017), “Little Buddhas in the Classroom,” tells me that I may have underestimated the possibilities. Perhaps starting Chem 201 classes by putting away phones followed by 30 seconds of silence?
Disclaimer: the post describes 4th-6th graders so 10-12 year-olds?
Gary Snyder ’51 begins his essay, Just One Breath: The Practice of Poetry and Meditation (Tricycle, Fall 1991) with a straightforward teaching:
In this world of onrushing events the act of meditation — even just a “one-breath” meditation — straightening the back, clearing the mind for a moment — is a refreshing island in the stream.
What is this “meditation” that even one moment is good? Snyder says,
… it is a simple and plain activity. Attention: deliberate stillness and silence.
Whenever someone brings “mindfulness practice” into conversation with me, I naturally expect to hear stories about people struggling with “adult” problems like stress, overwork, focus/multitasking problems, emotional trauma, pain, grief, and addiction. I don’t expect to hear about the problems of 8-year-olds, not because I think they lack for problems, but because I can’t picture an 8 year-old sitting on a cushion, silently counting in- and out-breaths. They have trouble sitting still for a simple count-to-10, right?
In the last few years, however, I’ve discovered that there are ways for children to practice mindfulness, and there are real benefits to be had. As I suspected, the practices that are commonly recommended for adults (“sit down – be quiet”) require some major reworking for the elementary school audience, but there are ways to make a mindfulness connection at any age.
How to Help Your Kids Practice Mindfulness (Without Making them Sit Still) (Trike Daily, 5 Apr 2017) contains a bunch of useful insights about how to work with children (hint to aunts & uncles – the kids don’t have to be yours) as well as a link to Susan Kaiser Greenland‘s web site. Greenland, a parent, meditation teacher, and author, presents a number of practical ways to work with children, and even your inner child. Rolling my mouse over the icons on her site turned up headings like “watch,” “listen,” and “shout out,” each of which led to a set of practical suggestions and tips for mindful activities. Greenland has also packaged her materials as a book (Mindful Games) and a card deck of activities (Mindful Games Activity Cards) that might fit very nicely into a summer camp counselor’s backpack.
For the record, I haven’t found any form of meditation that espouses “No Pain, No Gain” as a tenet. Sitting still and silent may feel awkward. Sitting may even elicit some of the uncomfortable emotions and thoughts we commonly associate with pain, as in “I can’t take this anymore,” but the point of meditation is neither to produce pain, nor to use pain as a yardstick. On the other hand, pain is an unavoidable fact of life (I’m sure my birth caused my mother plenty of it), and aches and pains can serve a useful purpose (don’t put wait on that sprained ankle yet). So how should one relate to pain?
Long-time meditation teacher Ezra Bayda writes(“More than This Body,” Trike Daily, 26 July 2017)
Pain, by definition, kind of sucks. …
We usually try to simply get rid of it. Being cured of pain is the outcome our culture teaches us to expect — we carry a sense of entitlement that life should be free from pain. But one of the worst parts of the pain syndrome—whether the discomfort is short-term, as in meditation, or long-term, with chronic pain — is that our physical pain and our urge to nullify it feed off one another in a most unfortunate loop, and our life comes to revolve around our discomfort. …
It is essential to understand that both our pain and the suffering that arises from it are truly our path, our teacher, in that we can learn from them and experience our life more deeply as a result. …
When pain arises, instead of immediately thinking, “How can I get rid of this?” we can say “Hello” to it, and ask, “What can I learn from this?” It’s not always easy to do this, but when possible, it turns the whole experience upside down.”
Bayda’s article goes on with exploration of the different dimensions of pain, our responses to it, and a menu of tools for experiencing life-with-pain free of the mental hangups that normally present themselves.
Summer is when we Portlanders stash the raincoats, dig out the sunglasses and sneakers, and conquer! It’s exercise time. No more rainy excuses for being a couch potato. It’s time to swim, run, and bike, because that triathlon is just 4 weeks away and we need to be ready.
But exactly how do you reap the maximum payoff from strenuous exercise? According to a recent article in the Times, “To Train an Athlete, Add 12 Minutes of Meditation to the Daily Mix” (21 June 2017, Phys Ed), a new research study found that athletes who practiced meditation for a few minutes a day became “better able to withstand the mental demands of hours of strenuous physical training.”
So no more whining because that finish line isn’t coming any closer. Sit down for 12 minutes and meditate with me, and then go, go, GO!
I’ll be here when you’re finished.