A Little Practice Can Go a Long Way

A Little Practice Can Go a Long Way

"If you've put off practicing meditation because you envision that it requires long periods of practice before realizing any benefit, take heart: These studies show even a short period a day—probably less than what you spend surfing the Internet—increases your cognitive judgment and your emotional resilience." ~ Doubglas LaBier

Fully Present

Fully Present

When we are fully present, we are receptive to phenomenal world around us. Opening to sense perceptions, we become a sensate being, embodied. Being fully present, when we look, we actually see; when we listen, we hear; when we smell and taste, we savor it; when we touch, we truly feel. Connecting to the phenomenal world in this way is the key to contacting reality directly, beyond concept.

Basic Training in Mindfulness Techniques

Basic Training in Mindfulness Techniques

Ryan helped introduce a bill that would support bringing integrative health to Veterans Affairs and mindfulness techniques into the military as part of basic training, making members of the military "more proficient in how to deal with trauma"—a concept investigated recently by research on Marines and mindfulness

Powerful Empathy Machine

Powerful Empathy Machine

"Movies are the most powerful empathy machine in all the arts. When I go to a great movie I can live somebody else's life for a while. I can walk in somebody else's shoes. I can see what it feels like to be a member of a different gender, a different race, a different economic class, to live in a different time, to have a different belief."~ Roger Ebert

To Be Fully Alive

Double-crested Cormorants traveling over Lake Champlain, July 6, 2014

Excerpt from "The Pursuit of Happiness" by Phillip Moffitt:

Herein lies the paradox common to mystical teachings in most spiritual traditions: In order to be fully alive, you also have to die. When you cling to the past or future, believing you are holding onto something precious, you are denying what is sacred about life. Your life, with its unique pains and joys, can only be reconciled in your surrender to the truth of your experiences as they arise one moment after another, never fixed, always moving. A beautiful sunrise, a baby's smile, a broken heart, cancer, the loss of love; open fully to the experiences of your life in all their mysterious manifestations. Meet each of these moments with compassion, loving-kindness, and your very best response. Then let loose of each in turn, for however beguiling in their beauty or their horror, they are truly only life dancing."

Read the entire essay...

You Keep Falling

Photo: Jake Rajs, "Cherry Blossom," Washington DC

Love Recognized
by Robert Penn Warren

There are many things in the world and you
Are one of them. Many things keep happening and
You are one of them, and the happening that
Is you keeps falling like snow
On the landscape of not-you, hiding hideousness, until
The streets and the world of wrath are choked with snow.

How many things have become silent? Traffic
Is throttled. The mayor
Has been, clearly, remiss and the city
Was totally unprepared for such a crisis. Nor
Was I yes, why should this happen to me?
I have always been a law abiding citizen.

But you, like snow, like love, keep falling,
And it is not certain that the world will not be
Covered in a glitter of crystalline whiteness.

Silence.


Robert Penn Warren reads his poem "Love Recognized"

This is What You Have Been Waiting For

The Gate
by Marie Howe, from What the Living Do

I had no idea that the gate I would step through
to finally enter this world
would be the space my brother’s body made. He was
a little taller than me: a young man
but grown, himself by then,
done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet,
rinsed every glass he would ever rinse under the cold
and running water.
This is what you have been waiting for, he used to say to me.
And I’d say, What?
And he’d say, This—holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich.
And I’d say, What?
And he’d say, This, sort of looking around.


See also:

  • "The Poetry of Ordinary Time," On Being, April 25, 2013
  • Howe, M. (2008). The kingdom of ordinary time. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. (library)
  • Howe, M. (1998). What the living do: Poems. New York: W.W. Norton. (library)
  • Howe, M. (1988). The good thief. New York: Persea Books. (library)

What Really Gave You Joy

How to Make Origami Paper from Notebook Paper

Stuart Brown in conversation with Krista Tippett, from "Play, Spirit, and Character," On Being, June 19, 2014: 

I don’t want to foster broken bones and concussions and that sort of thing in kids, but an inherent part of being playful is taking risks. What you don't want to do is have the risks be excessive. And the natural history of play in the world, both animal and human, is that persistent play increases the risk of death and damage while it's taking place, but it appears to be absolutely necessary for the well-being and the future of the species.

So it's a conundrum. But to remove all risk from kids' play is to not allow them the spontaneity from within to develop themselves. It's a judgment call on the part of parents. And this is where I have some beef with the media — in that "if it bleeds, it leads" — the perceptions of the levels of violence and risk in our culture are really beyond what the actual risks are, so that a responsible parent feels they can't let their kid be out on the streets in the afternoon and that sort of thing...

I think it's safer for the person who is a player to take a few hard knocks and maybe have a fracture in childhood, than it is to insulate them from the possibility of that. I think that that constricts their psyches and their futures much more.

Any parent with a young child — say a child over three but under 12 — if you just observe them, and don't try and direct them, and watch what it is they like to do in play, and get some sense of how their temperament intermixes with their play desires, you often will see a key to their innate talents. And if those talents are given fairly free reign, if you allow those innate talents to build upon themselves and the environment is favorable enough so that it supports that...I think that then you see that there is a union between self and talent.

And that this is nature's way of sort of saying this is who you are and what you are. And I'm sure if you go back and think about your children or yourself and go back to your earliest emotion-laden, visual and visceral memories of what really gave you joy, you'll have some sense of what was natural for you and where your talents lie. I think it’s pretty important.

Listen to the whole conversation...

Citizens of Two Realms

"The search for reason ends at the known; on the immense expanse beyond it only the sense of the ineffable can glide. It alone knows the route to that which is remote from experience and understanding. Neither of them is amphibious: reason cannot go beyond the shore, and the sense of the ineffable is out of place where we measure, where we weigh. We do not leave the shore of the known in search of adventure or suspense or because of the failure of reason to answer our questions. We sail because our mind is like a fantastic seashell, and when applying our ear to its lips we hear a perpetual murmur from the waves beyond the shore. Citizens of two realms, we all must sustain a dual allegiance: we sense the ineffable in one realm, we name and exploit reality in another. Between the two we set up a system of references, but we can never fill the gap. They are as far and as close to each other as time and calendar, as violin and melody, as life and what lies beyond the last breath."

~ Abraham Joshua Heschel, from Man is not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion


See also:

How One Surrenders to the Emptiness

Buoyancy
by Rumi, version by Coleman Barks from The Essential Rumi

Love has taken away my practices
and filled me with poetry.

I tried to keep quietly repeating,
No strength but yours,
but I couldn’t.

I had to clap and sing.
I used to be respectable and chaste and stable,
but who can stand in this strong wind
and remember those things?

A mountain keeps an echo deep inside itself.
That’s how I hold your voice.

I am scrap wood thrown in your fire,
and quickly reduced to smoke.

I saw you and became empty.
This emptiness, more beautiful than existence,
it obliterates existence, and yet when it comes,
existence thrives and creates more existence!

The sky is blue. The world is a blind man
squatting on the road.

But whoever sees your emptiness
sees beyond blue and beyond the blind man.

A great soul hides like Muhammad, or Jesus,
moving through a crowd in a city
where no one knows him.

To praise is to praise
how one surrenders
to the emptiness.

To praise the sun is to praise your own eyes.
Praise, the ocean. What we say, a little ship.

So the sea-journey goes on, and who knows where!
Just to be held by the ocean is the best of luck
we could have. It’s a total waking up!

Why should we grieve that we’ve been sleeping?
It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been unconscious.

We’re groggy, but let the guilt go.
Feel the motions of tenderness
around you, the buoyancy.

The Spaces between Words

Migratory Words by Su Blackwell

"This is the art and alchemy of poetry: through the spaces between the words, borne along on a wave of rhythm and sound, the life breath of the reader joins that of the poet. In this union of forces, an awakening can happen that is not only new from reader to reader, but in a great poem, from reading to reading."

~ Roger Housden, from Ten Poems to Open Your Heart

Painting Mental Images with Words

Imaginary Paintings
by Lisel Mueller, from Alive Together 

1. How I would Paint the Future

A strip of horizon and a figure,
seen from the back, forever approaching.

2. How I would Paint Happiness

Something sudden, a windfall,
a meteor shower. No
a flowering tree releasing
all its blossoms at once,
and the one standing beneath it
unexpectedly robed in bloom,
transformed into a stranger
to beautiful to touch.

3. How I would Paint Death

White on white or black on black.
No ground, no figure. An immense canvas,
which I will never finish.

4. How I would Paint Love

I would not paint love.

5. How I would Paint the Leap of Faith

A black cat jumping up three feet
to reach a three-inch shelf.

6. How I would Paint the Big Lie

Smooth, and deceptively small
so that it can be swallowed
like something we take for a cold.
An elongated capsule,
an elegant cylinder,
sweet and glossy,
that pleases the tongue
and goes down easy,
never mind
the poison inside.

7.  How I would Paint Nostalgia

An old-fashioned painting, a genre piece.
People in bright and dark clothing.
A radiant bride in white
standing above a waterfall,
watching the water rush
away, away, away.

Learn to See Humanity

Excerpt from "The Psychology behind Morality," an On Being conversation with Jonathan Haidt and Krista Tippett:

Ms. Tippett: Here’s something from your writing that — it’s a very striking statement. “The myth of pure evil,” — and again, religions are a place we talk about good and evil — “the myth of pure evil is the ultimate self-serving bias, the ultimate form of naive realism.” That’s a pretty strong statement.

Dr. Haidt: One thing that you find in most of the great wisdom traditions is the idea that reality as we see it is an illusion, it’s a veil, it blinds us, and enlightenment is taking down the veil, seeing things as they are, transcending dualities. And that, I think, is really crucial for thinking about civility, because that’s what happened to me in writing this book and in doing this research.

I was a self-righteous, conservative-hating, religion-hating, secular liberal. And, in doing this research over many years, and in forcing myself to watch FOX News as an anthropologist, with just, I’ve got to understand this stuff, over time, I realized, well, they’re not crazy. You know, these ideas make sense. They see things I didn’t see. The feeling of losing my anger was thrilling. It was really freeing. When you get people to actually understand each other, and they let down their guard, and they learn something new, and they see humanity in someone that they disliked or hated or demonized before. That’s really thrilling. And that, I think, is one of the most important emotional tools we have to foster civility. Because once you get it started, it’s kind of addictive.


See also:

  • Friendliness Resistance Training
  • Haidt, J. (2012). The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion. New York: Pantheon Books. (library)
  • Haidt, J. (2008, March). Jonathan Haidt: The moral roots of liberals and conservatives. (TEDTalks

Row for Your Life

West Wind #2
by Mary Oliver, from West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems

You are young. So you know everything. You leap
into the boat and begin rowing. But listen to me.
Without fanfare, without embarrassment, without
any doubt, I talk directly to your soul. Listen to me.
Lift the oars from the water, let your arms rest, and
your heart, and heart’s little intelligence, and listen to
me. There is life without love. It is not worth a bent
penny, or a scuffed shoe. It is not worth the body of a
dead dog nine days unburied. When you hear, a mile
away and still out of sight, the churn of the water
as it begins to swirl and roil, fretting around the
sharp rockswhen you hear that unmistakable
poundingwhen you feel the mist on your mouth
and sense ahead the embattlement, the long falls
plunging and steamingthen row, row for your life
toward it.

Training Individual and Collective Adaptive Capacities

"It's really important to be able to come back to the present moment. This is where change can happen. This is not just adaptive capacity for individuals, but it resonates out to collective adaptive capacity: more resilient organizations, more resilient communities, more dynamic, flexible institutions. These are the capcities that can face any possible future. We don't have to be able to predict, because we can't. Humans can't. But then we can really show up and meet any experience."

~ Dr. Elizabeth Stanley, from "Optimizing the Caveman within Us," TEDx Talks, October 2013   


See also:

  • Mind Fitness Training
  • "The Biology of Risk," by John Coates, The New York Times, June 7, 2014 
  • Clark, T. (2011). Nerve: Poise under pressure, serenity under stress, and the brave new science of fear and cool. New York: Little, Brown and Company. (library)
  • Linden, D. J. (2008). The accidental mind: How brain evolution has given us love, memory, dreams, and God. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap. (library)
  • Ryan, T. (2012). A mindful nation: How a simple practice can help us reduce stress, improve performance, and recapture the American spirit. Carlsbad, California: Hay House. (library)
  • Stanley, E. A. (2009). Paths to peace: Domestic coalition shifts, war termination and the Korean War. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press. (library)

Your Story Was This

Baxter, June 7, 2014

It Was Like This: You Were Happy
by Jane Hirshfield [listen]

It was like this:
you were happy, then you were sad,
then happy again, then not.

It went on.
You were innocent or you were guilty.
Actions were taken, or not.

At times you spoke, at other times you were silent.
Mostly, it seems you were silent—what could you say?

Now it is almost over.

Like a lover, your life bends down and kisses your life.

It does this not in forgiveness—
between you, there is nothing to forgive—
but with the simple nod of a baker at the moment
he sees the bread is finished with transformation.

Eating, too, is a thing now only for others.

It doesn’t matter what they will make of you 
or your days: they will be wrong, 
they will miss the wrong woman, miss the wrong man,
all the stories they tell will be tales of their own invention.

Your story was this: you were happy, then you were sad,
you slept, you awakened.
Sometimes you ate roasted chestnuts, sometimes persimmons.

Poetry Can Help Us Live with Death

"Poetry does seem to be especially good at certain things. For example, we are all going to die. Poetry can help us live with that. Poems are made of words, nothing but words. The particulars in poems are like the particularities, the personalities, that distinguish people from one another. Poems are easy to share, easy to pass on, and when you read a poem, you can imagine someone's speaking to you or for you, maybe even someone far away or someone made up or someone deceased. That's why we can go to poems when we want to remember something or someone, to celebrate or to look beyond death or to say goodbye, and that's one reason poems can seem important, even to people who aren't me, who don't so much live in a world of words."

~ Stephen Burt, from "Why People Need Poetry," TED Talk, June 2013 

See also: