Tag Archives: instructions

Earth Day 2019

Today is Earth Day, a day in which we might reflect on our relationship, past, present, and likely into the future, with all that surrounds us. Have we treated the Earth well? What, if anything, must we do to guarantee that the essential systems of air, water, minerals, plants, animals, microorganisms, sunlight, tidal flows, and so on, will be intact for our children and our children’s children so that they can lead the lives we wish for them?

These are big questions, and like any big question, they really wrap many questions together. We are living beings whose evolution has been shaped by forces both microscopic and cosmic, and questions arise on every scale…

  • Every cell in our bodies contains molecules – sugars, fats, proteins, nuclei acids – constructed from carbon atoms. These atoms were produced by the explosion of a long dead star. How do we guarantee the chemical integrity of our bodies, and minimize the risk of exposure to chemical pollutants and toxins?
  • Our cells, our bodies, are filled with fresh water. The food we eat also requires fresh water, but this water is an increasingly scarce commodity. In a warming world of melting ice, how do we guarantee that adequate fresh water will exist to support the world’s population?
  • For every cell in our body, there are roughly 10 bacteria. While bacteria were once scorned as predatory invaders, we now recognize that many of them provide essential services – food digestion, protection from invasion by pathogens, and so on – that sustain our lives. How do we understand coexistence with the life forms around us? Do we see a “them” that competes with us, or do we see a world of connection and interdependence?

And so on, and so on. We are makers of our environment, but we are also crucially dependent on many natural systems in our environment for food, water, shelter, light, warmth, and more. We re-make these systems only at our own peril.

Meditation can bring us into a deeper appreciation of nature, a direct sense, if you will, of what nature looks, sounds, smells, and feels like. Mark Coleman, mindfulness teacher, wilderness guide, and author of A Breath of Fresh Air (Tricycle, 2005), describes 7 different meditative experiences one can practice, whether in the woods of Forest Park or in front of a window plant at home. Additional guided meditations can be found at his web site.

For more on nature and meditation, click the word nature in this web site’s word cloud.

Instructions for a DIY Mini-Home Retreat

My friends in the Portland meditation community always seem to be talking about meditation retreats. It seems like every few months one of them is headed off to the mountains, to the San Juans, to the beach, a spot in the country, spending the better part of 24 hours to 7 days with others in silence.

I haven’t done this myself, but it always raises questions for me. How would I fit something like this into my schedule? What special things does a long period of stillness offer? Should this be part of my path?

If you are asking yourself these questions, check out How to Create a Mini-Retreat at Home (Trike Daily, 19 Mar 2019) by Chris McKenna. This article was originally published under the title, Getting Real About Exhaustion (Inquiring Mind, Fall 2013), and the emphasis on mini-retreat-as-restoration-of-body-&-spirit comes across very strongly.

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March is Meditation Month at Tricycle

Tricycle magazine runs a support campaign every March for meditators and the curious. Whether you already have a regular meditation practice, or have tried meditation before and moved on (do you know why?), or are just curious about how to meditate, this campaign is for you. And me.

As things stand in March, 2019, my personal take on my meditation practice is: I wish I meditated every day, but I don’t. Not right now. These days a ‘good’ week of practice will include 4-5 days with 20-60 minutes of meditation, but most weeks aren’t ‘good.’

Why don’t I respond to my wishes? The reasons are several, and they are tangled up with each other like the t-shirts and socks in my laundry basket. Too many commitments. Not enough time. Not always drawn to the idea of sitting still. Right now just doesn’t feel like a good time. And so on.

This is where I find the Tricycle campaign (among other things) supportive and helpful. They provide links to several insightful and inspiring online articles that reassure me that my situation is far from unique, suggest simple things I might do to sustain myself even when I feel too busy (or substitute: overwhelmed-lethargic-apathetic), and remind me why I became interested in meditation in the first place.

And, maybe best of all (is there a best of all?), there are online guided meditations. A new one is being posted every week this month, and there will be four in all (see below). I have listened to the first one, and I provided a summary (see below). Briefly, it is wonderful. Simple, yet inspiring. I will summarize the next three after I have given them a listen, so keep checking back.

We are all in this together. Thank you for reading. -Alan

 

Guided Meditation #1 – Beginning with Mindfulness. Well-known meditation teacher and author, Martine Batchelor, is Tricycle’s meditation guide for 2019. I have read/own several of her books, including the gorgeous and informative Meditation for Life.

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When Things Disappear

Nearly all meditation practices involve a point of focus: the breath, sounds, body sensations, mantras. For me this often means finding that focal point and watching and watching until … I notice that I’m no longer watching. One, perhaps unfortunate, by-product of this approach is it reinforces my sense of “I”. I’m watching. I’m watching. Whoops. I’m not watching any more. I should be watching!

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I Can’t Meditate, It Doesn’t Work for Me

“I can’t meditate, it doesn’t work for me,” is a phrase I’ve heard so many times in the past 10 years. Not wishing to be impolite, I don’t push back on this, but I do wonder, “What part of meditation is broken?”

One possibility is sitting still. That can be hard for some of us (me!) to accept, at least, at first. But there is an easy solution: notice when you get antsy and stop. Who said 90 seconds of meditation ‘doesn’t count’? (I don’t think we give prizes to the person who sits the longest.) Anyway, once you can sit quietly for 90 seconds without feeling that you’re being punished, add another 90. Sit for 3 minutes.

Then there’s the Mind Game.  Continue reading

To Cultivate Love Look Deep

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):

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Mindful Games for Kids

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.

No Pain, No Gain

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.