Premium Member

Mindfulness-Based Classes & Instruction in Central PA

Joshua David OBrien, OM

Hummelstown, PA 17036 phone: (717) 877-7664
Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Mindfulness Meditation is a research based approach to meditation adapted specifically for use in a secular context. Regular practice has been shown to significantly improve our physical, mental, and emotional health.

 

Day and evening appointments in the Central Pennsylvania area are available. For more information about Mindfulness Meditation please visit our Home Page or send an email to meditationscience@live.com

 

Coupon Link for a One Hour Introductory Mindfulness Meditation Coaching Session
Offer expires 1/31/10

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Forgiving Others

 

First, understand that the subject of forgiveness is enormously complex. Are we talking about forgiving slight offenses like gossip and simple unkindness, or about forgiving a grievous offense like rape, infidelity or murder? Does the offense continue to occur regularly, or are you still struggling to forgive something that happened ten days ago or ten years ago? Are we talking about forgiving ourselves, someone else, or seeking forgiveness? What is making it difficult for us to forgive? There are many mindsets and mental habits that make it difficult to forgive and these must be addressed too, thus complicating the subject further.

 

Beyond all of this, what exactly do we mean by the word forgiveness anyway? Is it always a once-and-done spontaneous event? Does real forgiveness mean that we won’t think about the offense or feel strongly about it anymore? Should we forgive for our own sake, for the sake of the offender, or both?

 

We’ll narrow our scope a bit and take a look at a few elements that can help us to cultivate forgiveness for others, but I’d like to suggest that you take a look within and examine yourself a little bit first. A struggle with forgiveness grows out of suffering and it can be difficult to see clearly when we’re hurting. My experience is that we often find a path to healing when we sit with a problem in contemplation instead of trying to figure everything out on our feet so to speak. It can be very helpful and enlightening to allow ourselves to sit with questions like:

“What is making it difficult for me to forgive?”

“Why should I forgive?”

“What are my unexamined attitudes towards the subject of forgiveness?”

“Should I forgive for their sake, mine, or both?”

 

The No’s of Life

To a greater or lesser degree, we all practice forgiveness every day. We forgave the person who brought too many items to the express check-out lane. We forgave the person who crossed in front of our car in the parking lot. We forgave the person who failed to notice that the light had turned green ten seconds ago.

 

Forgiveness, among other things, is a way in which we respond to a “no” in our life by letting it go, not taking it personally, moving on, and not letting it hinder us mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. “No, you may not proceed quickly and easily through the express check-out lane.” “No, you may not proceed unimpeded through the parking lot.” “No, you may not go about your day without this person getting in your way and slowing you down.”

 

The No’s in life are to be expected and most of us have developed the ability to forgive these kinds of No’s through the understanding that it would do us no good to carry them with us and let them get to us. These No’s are easy to let go of (for some of us) and not take personally. But what if we are faced with No’s like:

“No, you will not have a perfect marriage free of infidelity.”

“No, you will not feel safe, secure, loved and cherished in your own home.”

“No, your career path will not be free of miscommunications, misunderstandings and false accusations.”

“No, you will not be able to save for a rainy day let alone retirement.”

 
Suffering Happens

No one likes to suffer, and we’ll do almost anything we can to avoid it, but painful life experiences cannot be avoided completely. When we do suffer, we’re typically responding with our own set of No’s like, “No, this shouldn’t have happened to me.” See if you can tease apart the difference between your feelings about how your life is unfolding at this moment and your feelings for the person you’re struggling to forgive.

 

In other words, sometimes our inability to forgive someone has more to do with our illusions about life than about the person or the infraction. Yes, they are responsible for their actions, but forgiveness flows more easily when we are in a place of present moment acceptance. Practice cultivating the perspective that what is happening now is simply how life has manifested for you and try to not take it personally. Such is life.

 

Distortion of Love

Fear and love are opposite sides of the same coin and our inability to forgive is often rooted in distorted self-love. Understandably, we fear loss, pain, and suffering and we avoid them assiduously. When we experience suffering at the hands of someone else, we often make a silent agreement with ourselves that we will not be hurt like that again. We erect walls of protection and put up defenses like resentment and judgment, and refuse to extend forgiveness because we fear it will make us vulnerable again. This is like an allergic reaction where the system designed to protect us actually causes us harm. We get locked inside and we become increasingly sensitive and reactive to perceived threats.

 

“If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

 

Look below the anger, resentment, and inability to forgive and you’ll find fear. Look below the fear and you’ll find an unskillful application of love for self.  When you come across this fearful aspect of yourself, extend loving-kindness and compassion to it and practice Metta meditation. As you help to heal the fearful self, the need for walls and defensiveness will relax, your openness to life will arise, and your ability to extend forgiveness will flow more easily.

 

Control or Rather the Illusion of Control

Withholding forgiveness is often based in an unconscious attempt keep us safe and control the world around us. It’s readily apparent, however, that this only presents an illusion of safety and control. Not forgiving someone will not ensure you won’t be hurt again, and forgiving someone won’t ensure you will be. People are unfolding events, not things.

 

Letting Go

“Letting go is an act by which you release your need to control every situation, person, place or thing in order to ensure that your sanity (and safety) is not threatened.”  ~ James J Messina, PhD

 

Letting go can be very scary and can come with unwanted feelings of vulnerability. Fortunately, the vulnerability we feel is only a temporary state that occurs as we make the radical shift from our illusion of control and safety to openness and acceptance of life. 

 

“Letting go is the natural release which always follows the realization that holding on is an energy drain and it hurts. Letting go happens effortlessly when there is no other choice. Letting go does not mean giving up.” ~ Larry James

 

Letting go of what cannot be controlled and what cannot be changed ultimately comes with a profound sense of freedom, potency, resilience, and peace of mind. In fact, true happiness and true freedom are impossible without learning to let go of our need for:

Control

Certainty

Consistency

Predictability

Perfection

Knowing why things have happened the way they have.

 

“Letting go is a journey that never ends.” ~ Larry James

 

Stress and anxiety; mental, emotional, physical exhaustion; dysfunctional relationships with ourselves, others, and life – these are all directly correlated with our inability to let go.

 

The Grieving Process

“When a deep injury is done us, we never recover until we forgive” ~ Alan Paton

 

Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross has named five stages of grief people go through following a serious loss. Sometimes people get stuck in one of the first four stages. Their lives can be painful until they move to the fifth stage - acceptance.

 

Denial and Isolation - At first, we tend to deny the loss has taken place, and may withdraw from our usual social contacts. This stage may last a few moments, or longer.

 

Anger - The grieving person may then be furious at the person who inflicted the hurt (even if she's dead), or at the world, for letting it happen. He may be angry with himself for letting the event take place, even if, realistically, nothing could have stopped it.

 

Bargaining - Now the grieving person may make bargains with God, asking, "If I do this, will you take away the loss?"

 

Depression - The person feels numb, although anger and sadness may remain underneath.

 

Acceptance - This is when the anger, sadness and mourning have tapered off. The person simply accepts the reality of the loss.

 

Letting go, acceptance and forgiveness go hand-in-hand. Realize that grieving is a process, and so is the journey towards acceptance, letting go, and forgiveness. Be kind to yourself. Allow yourself time to heal. With this in mind, it is better to regard forgiveness as a skillful life principle, not as a rule or a moral imperative.

 

Sometimes our ability to heal and forgive will come quickly and easily. At other times and in other circumstances we may find that healing and forgiveness takes days, weeks, months, or even years. Forgiveness is not always a once-and-done event. We may be confronted with the memory of an act long after we have forgiven a person for it and be faced with the same rush of feelings we had when it first happened. This is ok. It doesn’t mean that your efforts at forgiveness were in vain. It simply means you’ve had a painful memory resurface.

 

Being In the Now

“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” ~ Paul Boese

 

When we find ourselves plagued by painful memories we can utilize our mindfulness practices to transform the moment into an opportunity to learn about ourselves.

 

Let go of the rumination – Anchor yourself in the present moment by using your senses. Feel your body breathing, tune into your sense of touch, taste, smell, hearing or sight.

 

Be with Your Emotions – Really feel your emotions in the body in a physical or visceral way. Resist the need to label the emotion you’re experiencing but regard the experience with a sense of curiosity like, “What is this?” Explore the sensations of the emotion in your body. Where does it seem to be located? Is it associated with a temperature? Is it sharp or dull? Is it moving about your body, pulsating, vibrating?

 

The more comfortable and friendly we become with our emotional life, the more our emotional selves have the opportunity to arise and pass away. What we resist, persists. What we allow, passes. By employing this skill we help ensure that we are not repressing, suppressing, denying, or avoiding our authentic experience. Letting go, acceptance, and forgiveness are not synonymous with repression, suppression, denial or avoidance.

 

The less we resist what is happening within us emotionally, the more opportunity we have to be present for the experience and see what might be below the surface. Employing this skill is how we begin to see the love behind fear, compassion behind hate, forgiveness behind resentment, and the more we understand ourselves the more we will understand others.

 

For My Benefit and Their's

“Sincere forgiveness isn't colored with expectations that the other person apologize or change. Don't worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them. Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time.” ~ Sara Paddison

 

Much of what we have looked at so far is with regard to how practicing forgiveness is helpful for our own health, wellbeing, and general benefit. There is also, however, the possibility of extending forgiveness to someone for their benefit as well.

 

Understand that in some cases they too are suffering. In the case of a loved one who has hurt you, they are now naked and all of their darkness is revealed. Their illusion of perfection is shattered. Their greed and selfishness is out in the open. They have nowhere to hide. This can be a good place to be if they are to grow as a human being, but it isn’t easy and it’s a very painfully isolated experience. Also realize that others wound us because they are wounded. They cause suffering in the world around them because they too are suffering.

 

Imagine that you stop at the video store to return some movies. The clerk is acting very strange, rude, and offensive as you drop the DVD’s in the return box and leave. Later, on the evening news, you learn that the video store had been robbed and the clerk murdered at the same time you were there to drop off your movies. They replay the surveillance tape showing you walk in, drop off your movies and leave, while the perpetrator crouched below the counter holding a gun to the clerk’s belly. He needed help. Perhaps he was hoping you would notice.

 

While this isn’t a perfect analogy, it gets close to the reality of what’s really going on when someone is cruel to you and perhaps can help awaken a caring and giving heart within you. You don’t always have to let someone know that you’ve forgiven them, but it can often lead to a release and a freedom for both of you if you choose to do so.

 

Do No Harm

While it’s not always possible, I encourage you to refrain from doing harm to another in thought, word, or deed. As a principle, try to keep the phrase, “Do no harm” close to heart, especially when you have been harmed by someone else. Try to not gossip. Watch your intentions when talking to other friends about the person who betrayed or wounded you, particularly if it is a loved one. Exact no revenge whether in little ways or big.

 

“Most of us can forgive and forget; we just don't want the other person to forget that we forgave” ~ Ivern Ball

 

Maintain your own dignity. Protecting yourself is one thing; punishing someone is another matter entirely.

 

Making it Easier to Forgive

Try the following. You’ll feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally and your capacity to forgive, let go, and accept the present moment will grow organically.

 

Mindfulness Meditation Practice – Sit for 20 minutes each day simply feeling the bodily sensation of breathing. When the mind wanders off and you’re no longer simply feeling yourself breathing, just come back to the breath without judgment.

 

Metta or Loving-Kindness Meditation Practice – Take time to sit and extend thoughts of wellbeing, peace, happiness, and love to yourself and the other person(s).

 

Compare and Contrast – Depending on the offense, it may feel more painful or less so in relation to what you compare it to. By way of analogy, I am very rich compared to most of the world’s population and very poor compared to Bill Gates. See if you can manage to find relief by comparing your suffering to that of others who are in situation that is far worse than your own.

 

Breathe – No, really! It helps. Let your insides relax and feel yourself breathing deep into your belly for a few moments each day. Your body and mind will relax, the chronic tension that comes with suffering will soften, and you’ll be able to think more clearly and creatively.

 

 You can find more information about Mindfulness Meditation practice at www.whyimeditate.com and as always, feel free to email me anytime for anything.

 

Being Nurtured and Protected,

Mind Clear and Alert,

Body Fit and Strong,

Heart Pure and Open,

May you Dwell Always,

In Peace and Love.

 

Yours,

Joshua
meditationscience at live dot com (to prevent spam)

Thursday, December 31, 2009
Warm Greetings,

Attention West Shore Group Members: No West Shore Group meeting this Sunday
This is moving week and we're really looking forward to meeting in the new studio soon (Yay!). Unfortunately, we won't be able to meet this Sunday as we're at the in-between phase of moving out of one studio and into another. We hope you can join us at our East Shore Group instead.

This Week's Topic - "Letting Go: Beyond Forgiveness"
As we head into the new year we'll take a look at forgiveness and letting go of the past from the perspective of mindfulness meditation.

Until Next Year
I hope 2010 brings you new friends, new opportunities, new insights, and many new blessings!

"We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called 'Opportunity' and its first chapter is New Year's Day."
~ Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Happy New Year,
Joshua :)
___________________________________________________________________________________________________

This Sunday's Mindfulness Meditation Group Topic and Practice

This Week's Topic:
Letting Go: Beyond Forgiveness

This Week's Practice:
Mindfulness Meditation

"Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future." ~ Paul Boese

See you there!
____________________________________________________________________________________________________


Weekly Mindfulness Meditation Group

East Shore Mindfulness Meditation Group
DATE: Sunday, January 3rd
TIME: 2:00 to 3:30pm
LOCATION: Harrisburg
RSVP: Click here to RSVP
____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Weekly Quote

"When a deep injury is done us, we never recover until we forgive" ~ Alan Paton
____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Freebies

Have you visited the "Support" section lately? We have a great selection of eBooks, meditation timers and bells that you can download for free. Check it out!

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Online Member's Forum

The Meditation Community of Central PA's "Member's Forum" is a great place to:

* Announce any free community events of interest.

* Connect with other like-hearted people in the community. Go ahead - connect!

* Inspire others by sharing your own writings, poetry, or life experiences from your journey of self-discovery and growth. Don't be afraid to shine!

* Share your favorite quotes, poems, songs, movies, books, and authors. If you found it inspirational and transformative we want to know about it!

* Ask a question about meditation in general or about your own personal practice. You can even post anonymously.

* Offer your suggestions. Is there a particular topic you'd like us to discuss at our weekly mindfulness meditation meetings? Would you like us to host a particular guest speaker/teacher or would you like to offer a presentation yourself? Let us know! We'd love to hear from you!

The forum is brand new and it's still looking a little thin, so click over and post something to help us warm it up a bit. :)
Friday, December 25, 2009

Consider what makes some moments of our lives more meaningful than others.

 

Holidays

Take for example the Christmas season.  In our predominantly Christian society, we place special importance on a particular day of a particular month to celebrate the birth of a particular person over 2000 years ago. We decorate our homes, exchange gifts, send cards, gather with friends and family, and say things like “Happy Holidays,” or “Merry Christmas.” We even donate more to charity during this time of year. The date, however, that we celebrate the birth of Jesus is a matter of social convention. We’re not really sure when Jesus was born.  Depending on the source, Jesus was born on December 25th, October 2nd, September 29th, or April 6th! The significance we give to this time of year is completely arbitrary; strictly speaking, the reason for the season is a matter of debate.

 

Birthdays

Celebrating a birthday is a beautiful way to honor the anniversary of the day a human being came into this world, but what about leap year (day) babies? The way we keep track of time has evolved over thousands of years and the calendar has not always been the way it is now. Is it any less meaningful to celebrate their birthday on February 28th or March 1st during a non-leap year? It’s not the date that’s important, but the sentiment and feeling we bring to the date we choose to honor their birth.

“Time has no meaning in itself unless we choose

to give it significance.” ~ Leo F. Buscaglia 
 

Songs and Symbolism

I have deeply patriotic friends who are moved when they salute the American flag and sing “The Star Spangled Banner” and I have devoutly Christian friends who are moved when they sing “Amazing Grace.” The power of their experiences, however, lies not in the songs themselves, but in the meaning the songs have for them individually.
 

Rituals around holidays, birthdays, special songs, or symbols are intended to infuse meaning and special feelings into daily life. But again, the quality of our ritual experiences lie not in the rituals themselves, but in how we relate to them.  In other words, “the more significance you give the moment, the more the moment has the opportunity to be significant.”

Daily Mindfulness Practices

In previous classes we’ve talked about the various ways we can integrate mindfulness into daily life. For example, our days are full of “transition moments,” little fragments of time when we are moving from one chore to another, one place to another, or one activity to another, and we can use these little moments to stop doing and just “be” for a few seconds to break free of our habitual tendency to live on auto-pilot. When you’re done brushing your teeth, when you’ve finished doing the dishes, when you get into your car, etc., just pause, feel yourself breathing, check in with your body, take in your senses, and really embody the present moment. When you drift off into thinking, come back to your senses if only for a few seconds.

 

Using Daily Rituals to Support Mindfulness

“Transition Moments” invite us to be mindful in small pauses throughout the day. The use of Daily Ritual invites us to be mindful in routine tasks, thus transforming the mundane into something meaningful. We learn to see that there are no ordinary moments in life; every moment is sacred and deeply spiritual if we are open to changing how we relate to those moments.

 

“When every moment is rich with eternal

significance, there is neither the lingering clinging

to the dead past, nor a longing expectation for the future,

but an integral living in the eternal now.”

~ Meher Baba


Showering

Consider that much of the world’s population doesn’t have access to clean water, let alone clean hot water on demand. We don’t have to walk to a water source and carry water back home. We don’t even need to heat it. All we have to do is turn a knob. It’s truly a miracle and something to be thankful for every day.
 

Our morning shower is how we care for our body and keep it clean and healthy. We’re among a privileged few in the world who can do so. Taking a shower helps to keep our body free of diseases, infections, and infestations. As you shower, be mindful of these facts, slow down just a little, pay attention to how it feels to care for your body and thank your body for taking care of you.


Getting Dressed

In the big picture of things, there is really no difference between getting dressed for your inauguration as President of the United States, getting dressed for work, or getting dressed for a day of chores. The difference only exists in the meaning we attribute to the occasion, not in the act of getting dressed itself.  Slow down. Turn getting dressed into a sacred ceremony once in a while. Whether you’re donning a tux/elegant gown or an old pair of jeans, imagine you are getting dressed for a momentous occasion – you really are – today is the only moment you have and it’s a miracle that you have it.

 

Meals

As you prepare a meal and as you serve the food slow down and really notice the process. Be physically present with the moment and connect with heartfelt gratitude. Engage your senses. Imagine that you are taking part in a sacred ceremony from the Native American, Japanese, or Hindu cultures. It’s fun, completely refreshing, and transformative.

 

Entering your Home or Your Meditation Room

There are a wide variety of rituals for entering a room, home, or sacred place from nearly every major religious and cultural background. Even in our Western culture it is common to wipe your feet before entering someone’s home. You can do this mindfully and you might enjoy adding one of the following traditions to your daily routine:

 

Stop and bow as you cross the threshold into your home or your meditation room.

Mindfully remove your shoes before entering your home or meditation room.

Offer a short blessing as you enter your home such as, “Peace to everyone who finds shelter in these walls.”

 

Meditation Rituals

Before you sit to meditate, dim the lighting, light a candle and some incense, offer a blessing or prayer, and ring a bell before you start and when you’re finished.

 

“The Sabbath was Made for Man, Not Man for the Sabbath” ~ Jesus

Remember that rituals are just tools to help you stay present in the moment and connected to the significance of each moment. If you find yourself just going through the motions, refresh your intention to be mindful by coming to your senses and connecting with your body and heart.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009
I wanted to share with you a little poem I came across today entitled, "Shoveling Snow with Buddha." I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Peace,
Joshua

Shoveling Snow With Buddha
by Billy Collins

In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009

This Sunday's Mindfulness Meditation Group Topic and Practice

This Week's Topic:
Turning Daily Rituals into Spiritual Practice

This Week's Practice:
Mindfulness Meditation

"The more significance you give the moment, the more the moment has the opportunity to be significant." ~ Unknown

See you there!

East Shore Mindfulness Meditation Group 
DATE: Sunday, December 27th 
TIME: 2:00 to 3:30pm
LOCATION: Harrisburg
RSVP: Click here to RSVP 

 

West Shore Mindfulness Meditation Group
DATE: Sunday, December 27th
TIME: 6:30 to 7:30pm
LOCATION: Mechanicsburg
RSVP: Click here to RSVP

Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Warm Greetings,
 
Please Note: The East and West Shore Mindfulness Meditation Groups will not be meeting this coming weekend, but will resume the following weekend.
 
No Mindfulness Meditation Groups December 20th, 2009
Meetings will resume on December 27th, 2009
 
Until then,
We hope you find yourself
Surrounded by good friends and family
Filled with peace, joy, and gratitude.
 
In Holiday Cheer,
Joshua :)
 
Quote 
Weekly Quote
 

"Above all, it is not necessary that we should have any unexpected, extraordinary experiences in meditation. This can happen, but if it does not, it is not a sign that the meditation period has been useless. Not only at the beginning, but repeatedly, there will be times when we feel a great spiritual dryness and apathy, an aversion, even an inability to meditate. We dare not be balked by such experiences. Above all, we must not allow them to keep us from adhering to our meditation period with great patience and fidelity. It is, therefore, not good for us to take too seriously the many untoward experiences we have with ourselves in meditation. It is here that our old vanity and our illicit claims upon God may creep in by a pious detour, as if it were our right to have nothing but elevating and fruitful experiences, and as if the discovery of our own inner poverty were quite beneath our dignity. With that attitude, we shall make no progress."

 
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
 
 
eBooks 
Freebies
 
Have you visited the "Support" section lately? We have a great selection of eBooks, meditation timers and bells that you can download for free. Check it out!
 
 
MembersForum 
NEW: Online Member's Forum
 
We've added another great (and free) feature to our whyimeditate.com website. The Meditation Community of Central PA's "Member's Forum" is a great place to:
 
* Announce any free community events of interest.
 
* Connect with other like-hearted people in the community. Go ahead - connect!
 
* Inspire others by sharing your own writings, poetry, or life experiences from your journey of self-discovery and growth. Don't be afraid to shine!
 
* Share your favorite quotes, poems, songs, movies, books, and authors. If you found it inspirational and transformative we want to know about it!
 
* Ask a question about meditation in general or about your own personal practice. You can even post anonymously.
 
* Offer your suggestions. Is there a particular topic you'd like us to discuss at our weekly mindfulness meditation meetings? Would you like us to host a particular guest speaker/teacher or would you like to offer a presentation yourself? Let us know! We'd love to hear from you!
 
The forum is brand new and it's still looking a little thin, so click over and post something to help us warm it up a bit. :)
Friday, December 11, 2009

Previous Workshops and Presentations

 

Mindfulness in Plain English: A comprehensive, 16-week course in formal mindfulness meditation practice. Individual instruction only.

 

Previous Workshops

Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation: An eight-week workshop. Unity Church of Enola.

 

Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation: An eight-week workshop. Dauphin County Library System.

 

Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation: An eight-week workshop. Dragonfly Healing House.

 

Mindful Parenting: From “Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting” by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn. Om Baby Pregnancy and Parenting Center.

 

“Mindfulness of Eating: Nurturing our bodies, cultivating gratitude, and bringing awareness to our unconscious attitudes towards food”

 

“Mindfulness of Relationships: How to foster a deeper connection with ourselves, others, and life through visceral experiences and the heart”

 

On the Science of Mindfulness Meditation

“Neuroplasticity: Training the mind to change the brain”

 

“Name that Emotion: How mentally labeling our emotions can decrease the response of the amygdala and the severity of our emotional reactivity”

 

“Physical and Psychological Posture: How they are interrelated and why good psychological posture is good for your health”

 

On Stress Reduction

“Stress Reduction: The Fight-or-Flight Response of the sympathetic nervous system versus the Relaxation Response of the parasympathetic nervous system”

 

“Mindfulness Meditation for Stress Reduction: The physical, mental, and emotional components of stress”

 

“Working with Stress, Pain, and Illness through mindful acceptance, awareness, and meditation”

 

“Embodying Stillness: Finding peace of mind in the midst of stressful circumstances”

 

“Are You Breathing?: Why practicing breath awareness is profoundly good for our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing”

 

On the Psychology of Mindfulness Meditation

“Distinguishing Moods and Emotions: Differentiating our relationship to them in formal mindfulness meditation practice versus daily mindfulness exercises”

 

“A Mindful Boost of Self-Esteem: How regular practice helps us to identify less with critical and judgmental self-talk”

 

“Letting Go: Beyond Forgiveness”

 

“The Power to be Vulnerable: Developing mindfulness of counterproductive social and interpersonal fears”

 

“A Train of Thought: Mindful awareness of thinking as distinguished from thinking about thinking”

 

“Mind Your Thoughts and Beliefs: A discussion of the placebo and nocebo effects”

 

“The Impermanence of all Things: Learning to simply observe thoughts and emotions through formal mindfulness meditation practice”

 

Traditional Mindfulness Meditation Topics

“The Five-Hindrances:  How to work with the five universal mental factors that prevent the arising of mindfulness”

 

“Metta, or ‘Loving-Kindness’ Meditation: The development of loving-kindness for ourselves and all living things by retraining the mind with Metta practice”

 

On the Spirituality of Mindfulness Meditation

“Flow States and the Art of Living: How formal mindfulness meditation practice can help us to get out of our own way”

 

“Finding Your Own Answers: Cultivating insight and “Aha!” moments through mindfulness meditation and contemplative practices”

 

“Mindfulness Meditation and Spiritual Growth”

 

“Turning Daily Ritual into Spiritual Practice”

Friday, December 11, 2009

Finding Your Own Answers:

Cultivating “Aha!” Moments

 

"An essential part of seeing clearly is finding the willingness to look closely and to go beyond our own ideas." ~ Cheri Huber

 

We’ve all had to face difficult situations and tough choices in our lives. Sometimes they come in the form of a dysfunctional relationship, a financial dilemma, a creative impasse, a mid-life crisis, or a catch-22. We know what it’s like to feel worried, stressed, anxious and overwhelmed, or depleted, stagnant and depressed because we just can’t figure out what to do next. Our thoughts run around in fitful circles, rehashing the facts, rehearsing our next uncertain steps, and we get nowhere emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.

 

We know there has to be an answer or a solution out there somewhere, but we’re just not able to see it. We seek advice from our friends, confide in our online social network, and browse the internet looking for an answer. Sometimes these methods work well, but sometimes nothing feels right or resonates within us and we end up feeling stuck and paralyzed.

 

At other times we may feel like we’re looking for the next step on our spiritual path. We want to be inspired, learn something new, and see something we’ve never seen before. We gobble up quotes, read books on spirituality, philosophy, psychology, or self-help. We listen to our favorite teacher or speaker hoping for a clue, a spark, or an epiphany. Again, sometimes these methods work well, but sometimes nothing feels right or resonates within us and we end up feeling stuck and paralyzed.

 

Going, going, going

We’re so heavily conditioned to be doers that it rarely occurs to us to just sit. Our minds chatter on, informing our perceptions, feeding our emotions, and leading us on wild goose chases all the time. It’s a frenetic pace around a Mobius strip that never transcends a superficial awareness of how we got there and how to get off.

 

Don’t just do something, sit there

Sit with the situation. Stop feeding the mind agitated energy. Like quicksand, the more we struggle the faster we sink. It may be hard to remember, but the advice is to just stop. You don’t have to listen to the harried, querulous, victimized ranting of your thoughts. The following are some healthy ways to disengage from inductive rambling and engage some deductive reasoning.

 

Shhhh…Be still

When our minds are agitated, our bodies are tense and vice versa. Take the time to be still. Make time for yourself. Schedule it in if you have to. Pick a quiet spot in your home, turn the lights down, and start with a body-scan to become aware of and release any physical tension you might be carrying. Take a few, deep, conscious breaths to stretch out the ribcage. On the exhale, let your breathing settle down into your belly and let your core muscles drop and release. When the body relaxes it sends signals to the brain that it too can relax. This really helps. Really.

 

Next, engage some of your Mindfulness Meditation practices. Become aware of your body breathing. Just feel the breath coming in, pausing, going out, and pausing. Find the tactile sensation of breathing wherever it is most predominant for you. Some find it more easily in the belly, some in the chest, and some find the sensation of breathing just inside the nose easiest to locate. When your mind wanders and you realize that you’re no longer gently paying attention to breathing, just return to the breath. Avoid confusing conceptualization with feeling. Your mind may have the tendency to analyze, think about, or conceptualize the practice. Just recognize that this is more mental wandering and gently return to the breath without thinking about it.

 

As you return the mind to the breath, it is naturally more present in the here-and-now, felt quality of this moment. As you continue to patiently follow through with the practice, the mind will begin to settle down, become quiet, and take on a more spacious feeling that is bright, aware, alert, and treads lightly through your conscious experience. You can’t help but notice the shift, and it does come with time, but it doesn’t come by way of force. You cannot break into mindful awareness by brute mental force. It’s more like an agreement that takes place between the ego and deep-consciousness. Just lean on the practice of breath awareness, and the door will slowly open for you.

 

Speaking from the Quaker perspective, J. Brant Bill in Holy Silence describes the experience as having “cast off from the shore” and made way “around the edge of the spiritual sea,” we “launch out to the depths,” to a place that is “deeper spiritually” and “higher emotionally” than “any place we normally live.”

 

“Contain your experience with the divine so that it does not escape you but rather shapes you.  Be silent.  Silence will help you avoid engaging in the games of competition and illusion that regularly seduce us in the outside world.  Silence also helps you avoid distraction.  It helps focus the busy mind---the mind that always has to be doing something, thinking something, the mind that always has to be otherwise engaged lest it become introspective and allow the soul's voice to override its own.  The silence I am describing is a silence that you use to contain the grace you receive when you enter the Castle of your soul.  This quality of silence allows you to engage in discernment.“  ~ Caroline Myss

 

Contemplation

Contemplation isn’t the same as thinking. It’s more of a spacious, peaceful, and receptive state of mind that doesn’t search, grasp, or analyze. When you feel the mind shift to this settled and alert awareness you can pose your question or problem with intention, but cast it off, let it go, and try not to think about it again. Make no demands, set no expectations, and don’t try too hard. Simply rest in the moment, exert no effort to figure it out, and just watch in mindful awareness. If your mind becomes agitated and busy with the problem again, simply start over by relaxing the body, returning to the breath, and allow time for the mind to settle.

 

Deeper wisdom will arise when we allow it time to float to the surface. Wisdom, in fact, is there always, but its gentle whisper is rarely heard above the din of the unskillful mind. Watch for the mind to become agitated with the practice. Watch for the mind to get busy with the daily affairs of life. Watch for the impulse to get up and do something and just BE with it. Resist the urge by non-resistance.  Just watch. Just be. When you feel in your heart that you have sat long enough, express gratitude, take a few conscious breaths, slowly open your eyes, and slowly return to physical activity.

 

Contemplation is a mental skill which will grow over time with practice. Even if you have no moment of epiphany, the body, the mind, and the emotions will enjoy a deep and cleansing moment of peace. This, in and of itself, makes the practice worthwhile, and will refresh your ability to think creatively as you head back out into the world. It’s not, therefore, unusual for the “Aha!” moment to come later that day like a “tip-of-the-tongue” experience.

 

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” ~ Albert Einstein

 

Other Contemplation Suggestions

Who or What am I?
What is the meaning of life?
What is the nature of change and impermanence?
The preciousness of life and the inevitability of death.
The interdependence of all beings.
What legacy do I want to leave when I am gone?
What values and principles are worth living for?
How can I help relieve the sufferings of others?

 

As always, feel free to email me anytime for anything.

 

Yours,

Joshua

 

 

 

“Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation. will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation.” ~ Jean Arp

Thursday, December 10, 2009
Warm Greetings,

The weather is getting colder every day, but things around here are heating up! We'll soon be announcing:

* A few group volunteer opportunities with Bethesda mission (thanks, Joy!).
* The first date for our monthly movie night (thanks Frank and Steve!).
* A few new guest speakers.
* And another visit from Buddhist Monk, Bhante Sujatha.

Also, we have a great topic slated for this week and a few requests left-over from last week so read on!

In Holiday Cheer,
Joshua :)

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This Week's Mindfulness Meditation Group Topic and Practice

"An essential part of seeing clearly is finding the willingness to look closely and to go beyond our own ideas." ~ Cheri Huber

This Week's Topic:
Finding your own answers - Cultivating "Aha!" moments

This Week's Practice:
Mindfulness Meditation and Self-Inquiry

See you there!

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

East Shore Mindfulness Meditation Group
DATE: Sunday, December 13th
TIME: 2:00 to 3:30pm
LOCATION: Harrisburg
RSVP: Click here to RSVP

West Shore Mindfulness Meditation Group
DATE: Sunday, December 13th
TIME: 6:30 to 7:30pm
LOCATION: Mechanicsburg
RSVP: Click here to RSVP

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Weekly Quote:
"Contain your experience with the divine so that it does not escape you but rather shapes you. Be silent. Silence will help you avoid engaging in the games of competition and illusion that regularly seduce us in the outside world. Silence also helps you avoid distraction. It helps focus the busy mind---the mind that always has to be doing something, thinking something, the mind that always has to be otherwise engaged lest it become introspective and allow the soul's voice to override its own. The silence I am describing is a silence that you use to contain the grace you receive when you enter the Castle of your soul. This quality of silence allows you to engage in discernment." ~ Caroline Myss

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Monthly Inspirational Movie Night

Our dream of having a monthly inspirational movie night for the community is now even closer to becoming a reality. We have the projector, the screen, and a few amazingly generous venue offers that we're thrilled about, but we still need to hear from you! We're still looking for ...

* Poll Responses: What day of the week and what time of the day would best suit your schedule for a monthly movie night?

* Movie Suggestions: Movies like "What the Bleep Do We Know?" "The Peaceful Warrior," and "The Secret."

* One back-up volunteer for equipment set-up once a month.

* Business or individual sponsors. (As always!)

Please, shoot us an email. We want to hear from you!

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

NEW: Online Member's Forum

We've added another great (and free) feature to our whyimeditate.com website. The Meditation Community of Central PA's "Member's Forum" is a great place to:

* Announce any free community events of interest.

* Connect with other like-hearted people in the community. Go ahead - connect!

* Inspire others by sharing your own writings, poetry, or life experiences from your journey of self-discovery and growth. Don't be afraid to shine!

* Share your favorite quotes, poems, songs, movies, books, and authors. If you found it inspirational and transformative we want to know about it!

* Ask a question about meditation in general or about your own personal practice. You can even post anonymously.

* Offer your suggestions. Is there a particular topic you'd like us to discuss at our weekly mindfulness meditation meetings? Would you like us to host a particular guest speaker/teacher or would you like to offer a presentation yourself? Let us know! We'd love to hear from you!

The forum is brand new and it's still looking a little thin, so click over and post something to help us warm it up a bit. :)
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