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Friday, September 28, 2012

Being and doing

Meditation is what you do all the time. Meditation is being in touch with the present moment, with your innate nature, which is always present but gets buried under busyness and thoughts of what you have to do or what you should have done.

 Busy people think they don't have time to meditate. There is too much to do to just be for 20 minutes a day.It is possible, however, to be and do.

Say you are at work. You have a to-do list that goes for miles. Maybe it's not even a list, just a swamp of activity that you have to get through. You can still be present with it. You can still operate from a place where you know what is happening now.

“There is no work-life balance. We have one life. What’s most important is that you be awake for it.”

Financial TImes article here.

Meditation is not what you do in your spare time

Meditation is what you do all the time. Meditation is being in touch with the present moment, with your innate nature, which is always present but gets buried under busyness and thoughts of what you have to do or what you should have done.

When you are at work, you can be at work and focus on the task at hand. Bringing focus and clarity to what you are doing in the moment helps to get it done.

When you are not at work, when you are making dinner or watching a movie or attending a PTA meeting or cleaning, you can simply do those things. Make dinner and notice the colors and textures of the food, the steam rising off the pot of boiling pasta. Don't watch the sauteeing onions just to keep them from burning -- watch how they respond to the heat and the oil, notice the smells.

Be present for whatever you are doing, without judgment, and whatever you are doing will become richer and sharper.

We think we have to compartmentalize, to divide up our time and ourselves between work and home care (like cleaning) and self care (like exercise) and entertainment and on. But those are just tasks. We are the essentially the same person doing different things.

If we can be that person with that same essential nature just doing different things, we can be present with whatever comes.

Photo by Paul Shambroom/ The Financial Times
Janice Maturano created a Mindful Leadership program at General Mills, the massive food company, after becoming a meditation practitioner herself. Although she teaches at the company's corporate offices and the program is intended to help people at work, she says the benefits extend beyond the walls.

“There is no work-life balance. We have one life. What’s most important is that you be awake for it.”


The Financial Times described the program as "a mix of sitting meditation based on Buddhist practice, gentle yoga, and dialogue to settle the mind. The idea is that calmer workers will be less stressed, more productive and even become better leaders, thereby benefiting the entire organisation." Read the article  here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


For one day (or one day a week), refrain from something you habitually do to run away, to escape. Pick something concrete, such as overeating or excessive sleeping or overworking or spending too much time texting or checking e-mails. Make a commitment to yourself to gently and compassionately work with refraining from this habit for this one day. Really commit to it. Do this with the intention that it will put you in touch with the underlying anxiety or uncertainty that you've been avoiding. Do it and see what you discover.

Pema Chodron

What habit can you work with?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Friend your amygdala

From U.S. News and World Report, Sept. 18, 2012

One of the hottest forms of stress reduction today is actually one of the oldest: meditation. But the kind making the rounds of hospitals, community centers, and even schools in increasing numbers doesn't involve chanting "Om" while sitting on a cushion with closed eyes; instead, participants are trained to pay attention to their thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations, and to view them neutrally, "without assigning an emotional value that they are strongly positive or negative," says University of Wisconsin–Madison neuroscientist Richard Davidson, coauthor of The Emotional Life of Your Brain.

The idea is to allow parts of the prefrontal cortex to lessen activity in the amygdala, which is responsible for evaluating threats. This helps reduce the likelihood you will overreact and enhances your ability to see potential solutions to problems, Davidson says.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mandy Patinkin: JewBu. Who knew?

Exhibit1, a Q&A from 2005: Have things ever been better for you?

Patinkin: The greatest gift in my life was getting cancer because it taught me how much I love my life, my family, my friends and my work, and it taught me that I must find a way to find some peace and calm every day. I never could sit still long enough to meditate, but since my experience with cancer, I do it every day. I'm a little baby Zen Buddhist.

Exhibit 2, New York magazine, Sept. 9, 2012, asked if Saul, the character he plays on Showtime's "Homeland" a good guy or a bad one?

Patinkin: “I don’t want to know. I don’t know what’s going to happen five seconds from now, so why should Saul? As an actor, I play the scene the same way whether he’s bad or good. My inner motivation is to make the world a better place; the bad guy and the good guy think the same thing.”

How to Start a Home Meditation Practice -- and Why You Should

Meditation is good for you. New studies confirm objectively what ancient spiritual traditions have said -- it can reduce stress, increase happiness, and foster a compassionate attitude. The techniques aren't complicated, but many people struggle with starting -- and continuing -- a meditation practice.

I'm teaching a four-week class at Samadhi Yoga Studio in Manchester, which will include meditation instruction and techniques, discussion of the benefits of an ongoing practice, how to get started, and how to keep going, and problems you may encounter. Encouragement and support available! And once you've done it for four weeks ...

I am  a teacher with the Interdependence Project in New York, a secular Buddhist organization that promotes mindful living, and I've trained in meditation instruction with Sarah Powers of the Insight Yoga Institute. I lead a weekly meditation class at Samadhi on Wednesdays at 7 p.m., and teach at the Unitarian-Universalist Society: East Buddhist Group at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month.

For details or to register -- you can do all four weeks or drop in -- go to and click on the workshops tab

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The natural beauty of inner landscape

Meditation is another dimension of natural beauty. People talk about appreciating natural beauty — climbing mountains, seeing giraffes and tigers in Africa, and all sorts of things. But nobody seems to appreciate this kind of natural beauty of ourselves. This is actually far more beautiful than flora and fauna, far more fantastic, far more painful and colorful and delightful.

-- Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Friend your body

Meditation practice isn't about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It's about befriending who we already are. - Pema Chodron

"When you talk about yourself, or talk to yourself...try to picture you talking to your own daughter or your younger sister. Because you would tell your younger sister or your daughter that she was beautiful, and you wouldn't be lying - because she is. And so are you." - Amy Poehler