Meditation Practices IV: Tonglen

This tonglen practice is the core practice for seven-point mind training in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The practice focuses on cultivating compassion in our daily life. The article was originally published in Tricycle Magazine.

Cultivation Compassion: Tonglen Practice
Naropa University’s Judith Simmer-Brown on the Tibetan Buddhist practice of tonglen

Tonglen, literally “giving and taking,” is a Tibetan practice for cultivating compassion, the Mahayana path of the bodhisattva. The great master Atisha brought Tibetans this practice from India in the eleventh century. Tonglen reverses the pattern of self-cherishing that is the knot of our personal suffering. Using breathing as the basis, tonglen opens our hearts to those things we would rather avoid and encourages us to share what we would rather keep for ourselves. The practice shows that there are no real boundaries between living beings—we are all interdependent.

We begin tonglen by taking our seats in meditation with good posture, very simply and naturally. We ask, why would we want to do this practice? Fundamentally it is vast and choiceless. We recognize that the purpose of our human life is huge, to grow larger hearts and open minds, and we celebrate that we can do this in this moment. We are ready for transformation. Glimpsing this motivation begins the practice.

Then we become aware of our breathing, in and out, and establish the flow of the practice. On the in-breath, we breathe in thinking, “heavy, thick, hot,” and on the out-breath, we breathe out thinking, “light, bright, cool.” At first it seems only like words, but it is good to develop a literal sense of this. My teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, suggested that we think of ourselves as air conditioners. We breathe in the stale, smoky, fetid air of the room around us, and we breathe out fresh, clean, cool air. We gradually purify the room. When we breathe, we are breathing with every pore of our bodies, in with “heavy, thick, hot,” and out with “light, bright, cool.” Do this for roughly one-third of the twenty-minute session, or until the texture is established.

Next, we breathe with a continuing sense of the texture we have established. But now we open our thoughts and emotions to all of our personal material. It is good to start with those who spontaneously arouse our compassion. Is there someone we know who is sick or in emotional turmoil? We begin with that person’s face before us and breathe in their heavy, thick, and hot suffering, sharing with them our own light, bright, and cool energy. Be quite tangible with the texture. Whatever suffering we see in them, we breathe it in; whatever sanity and kindness we see in ourselves, we breathe it out to them. When we are ready, extend beyond our loved ones to more difficult people. Are there people we see as threatening or as problematic in our lives? We allow their faces to come to us and then breathe in their suffering and extend to them our sanity and kindness. We are practicing embracing what we would normally avoid, and sharing what we would normally hoard. Do this part of the practice for seven to ten minutes.

We conclude the practice by extending it out beyond our familiar world. One way to do this is to move geographically. We begin in our immediate neighborhood, with the family next door with the two babies, to the college student on the other side who takes terrible care of her lawn, to the elderly woman across the street who recently lost her husband. We move to those people we encounter on our daily routines—our coworkers and our boss; the grocery checker and stock boy; the employees at the cleaners, the gas station, and the video store. Then we extend through our community, to the hospital, the shelter, the jail, the nursing home, including everyone suffering there. And we extend to our state, region, country, and world, our minds going to the painful situations there that are described in the newspaper—the wars, famines, epidemics. We also include the CEOs, the political leaders, and the people of privilege. We extend this practice until the twenty-minute session is over. Then we conclude with a simple session of meditation again.

Meditation Practices III: Insight Meditation

Insight Meditation is the most common mindfulness practice taught in North America and is a foundational practice that  supports other practices such as: loving-kindness, open monitoring and non-dual practice.

Insight Meditation: Wisdom Arising
Sri Lankan monk Bhante Henepola Gunaratana on training the mind’s eye with Vipassana meditation

Vipassana, or Insight meditation, is a way of training the mind to see things in a very special way as they happen. Seeing without using eyes is a special way of seeing. We train the mind to use our innate wisdom without using words, concepts, logic, or interpretation. In this training, concentration and mindfulness are united. Then wisdom arises and disintegrates what appears to be integrated. Our wisdom eye registers the constant flux of events that is taking place in every moment in our lives. Although this unbroken flux of events is what life is, one cannot be fully aware of this truth without paying attention to what is happening to one’s mind and body every waking moment. With developed insight, our mind can be fully aware of the evolving, processing, and dissolving of everything that happens to us.

So we train the mind to see things as they happen, neither before nor after. And we don’t cling to the past, the future, or even to the present. We participate in what is happening and at the same time observe it without clinging to the events of the past, the future, or the present. We experience our ego or self arising, dissolving, and evaporating without leaving a trace of it. We see how our greed, anger, and ignorance vanish as we see the reality in life. Mindfully we watch the body, feelings, sensations, perceptions, and consciousness and experience their dynamic nature.

Watching impartially opens the mind to realize that there is no way that we can stop this flux even for a fraction of a second. We experience the freshness of life. Every moment is a new moment. Every breath is a fresh breath. Every tiny little thing is living and dying every fraction of a second. There is no way that we can see these momentary existences with our eyes. Only when the mind is sharp and clear, without the clouds of craving, hatred, and confusion can our mind be fully aware of this phenomenon. When we don’t try to cling to these experiences, we experience great joy, happiness, and peace. The moment we try to cling to any part of our experience—however pleasant or peaceful—joy, peace, and happiness disappear. The very purpose of Vipassana meditation is to liberate the mind from psychic irritation and enjoy the peace and happiness of liberation. Nevertheless, if we cling to peace or happiness, that instant that very peace and happiness vanish. This is a very delicate balance that we should maintain through the wisdom that arises from Vipassana meditation.

Awakening, Step by Step
Insight Meditation teacher Peter Doobinin introduces walking meditation.

Walking meditation is a practice through which we develop concentration and mindfulness. We learn to cultivate mindfulness of the body while the body is moving. We learn to be awake. Walking meditation is a particularly important practice in that it enables us to make the transition from sitting meditation to being awake in our daily lives, in our work, and in our relationships. In the end, that’s what it’s all about.

Walking meditation is a simple practice. You choose a straight path—indoors or outdoors—roughly fifteen or twenty steps long. You walk from one end of the path to the other, turn around, and walk back. You continue in this fashion, walking back and forth, focusing your attention on your feet. Your posture is upright, alert, and relaxed. You can hold your hands at your sides, or clasped in front or behind. Keep your eyes open, cast down, and slightly ahead. You can experiment with your pace, perhaps walking quite slowly or at a more regular speed, in an effort to find the pace at which you’re most present. As you walk, direct your attention to the sensations in the feet, to the bare experience of walking. Try to feel one step at time. Be fully, wholeheartedly aware of the physical sensations involved in taking each step. Feel your foot as it lifts, moves through the air, places down against the ground. In particular, pay attention to the touching down of the foot, the sensations of contact, and pressure. Remember that you’re feeling each step, you’re not thinking about the foot, or visualizing it.

You’ll find, of course, that it isn’t always easy to stay focused on the meditation object, the sensations in the feet. The mind wanders, drifts. Your job is to notice when you’ve strayed, when you’re lost in thought. Be aware that you’ve wandered. And return gently to the physical sensations, the lifting, moving, placing of the foot. Just keep bringing your attention back.

As you walk, cultivate a sense of ease. There’s no hurry to get anywhere, no destination to reach. You’re just walking. This is a good instruction: just walk.

As you walk, as you let go of the desire to get somewhere, you begin to sense the joy in simply walking, in being in the present moment. You begin to comprehend the preciousness of each step. It’s an extraordinarily precious experience to walk on this earth.

You can start by practicing walking meditation for ten minutes a day. Gradually, you can expand the amount of time you spend on this formal walking meditation.

In addition to this kind of formal practice, you’ll want to practice walking meditation in “real life” situations. You can practice “informally” just about anywhere, walking along a city sidewalk, down the aisle in the supermarket, or across the backyard. As always, the objective is to pay attention. Pay attention to your feet. Or pay attention to your whole body—the felt experience of your body as it’s moving. In this informal context, you’re aware, to some extent, of what’s going on around you, but your focus is on your walking. Practicing in this way, you begin to live more mindfully. This is when meditation practice takes hold and assumes a new relevancy. Being awake is no longer reserved for the times you spend in formal sitting meditation; it is the way you live.

Meditation Practices II: Loving-kindness Practice

Loving-kindness is an essential complimentary practice to mindfulness.  Try it, be patient and enjoy a mind that is happier and less judgement.  The article below originally appeared in Tricycle Magazine.

May We All Be Happy…
Metta meditation instruction from author and teacher Gil Fronsdal

May all beings be happy.
May they live in safety and joy.
All living beings,
Whether weak or strong,
Tall, stout, average, or short,
Seen or unseen, near or distant,
Born or to be born,
May they all be happy.
—From the Metta Sutta, Sutta Nipata I.8

Metta, or lovingkindness, is one of the most important Buddhist practices. Simply stated, metta is the heartfelt wish for the well-being of oneself and others. When describing metta, the Buddha used the analogy of the care a mother gives her only child. Lovingkindness is also understood as the innate friendliness of an open heart. Its close connection to friendship is reflected in its similarity to the Pali word for friend, mitta. However, metta is more than conventional friendship, for it includes being openhearted even toward one’s enemies, developed from insight into our shared humanity.

Metta practice is the cultivation of our capacity for lovingkindness. It does not involve either positive thinking or the imposition of an artificial positive attitude. There is no need to feel loving or kind during metta practice. Rather, we meditate on our good intentions, however weak or strong they may be, and water the seeds of these intentions. When we water wholesome intentions instead of expressing unwholesome ones, we develop those wholesome tendencies within us. If these seeds are never watered, they won’t grow. When watered by regular practice, they grow, sometimes in unexpected fashions. We may find that lovingkindness becomes the operating motivation in a situation that previously triggered anger or fear.

To practice lovingkindness meditation, sit in a comfortable and relaxed manner. Take two or three deep breaths with slow, long, and complete exhalations. Let go of any concerns or preoccupations. For a few minutes, feel or imagine the breath moving through the center of your chest in the area of your heart.

Metta is first practiced toward oneself, since we often have difficulty loving others without first loving ourselves. Sitting quietly, mentally repeat, slowly and steadily, the following or similar phrases: May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.

While you say these phrases, allow yourself to sink into the intentions they express. Lovingkindness meditation consists primarily of connecting to the intention of wishing ourselves or others happiness. However, if feelings of warmth, friendliness, or love arise in the body or mind, connect to them, allowing them to grow as you repeat the phrases. As an aid to the meditation, you might hold an image of yourself in your mind’s eye. This helps reinforce the intentions expressed in the phrases.

After a period of directing lovingkindness toward yourself, bring to mind a friend or someone in your life who has deeply cared for you. Then slowly repeat phrases of lovingkindness toward them: May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.

As you say these phrases, again sink into their intention or heartfelt meaning. And again, if any feelings of lovingkindness arise, connect the feelings with the phrases so that the feelings may become stronger as you repeat the words.

As you continue the meditation, you can bring to mind other friends, neighbors, acquaintances, strangers, animals, and finally people with whom you have difficulty. You can either use the same phrases, repeating them again and again, or make up phrases that better represent the lovingkindness you feel toward these beings.

Sometimes during lovingkindness meditation, seemingly opposite feelings such as anger, grief, or sadness may arise. Take these to be signs that your heart is softening, revealing what is held there. You can either shift to mindfulness practice or you can—with whatever patience, acceptance, and kindness you can muster for such feelings—direct lovingkindness toward them. Above all, remember that there is no need to judge yourself for having these feelings.

As you become familiar with loving-kindness practice during meditation, you can also begin to use it in your daily life. While in your car, or at work, or in public, privately practice metta toward those around you. There can be a great delight in establishing a heartfelt connection to everyone we encounter, friends and strangers alike.

Meditation Practices I: Zen Just Sitting

The  practice of Zen Meditation is described below from an article in Tricycle Magazine. Enjoy.  More meditation methods will be posted soon. Eric

Leave yourself alone!
Zen teacher Barry Magid describes the practice of just sitting.

Imagine sitting down in front of a mirror. Your face automatically appears. There is no effort required; the mirror is doing all the work. You can’t do it right or wrong. The Zen Buddhist practice of “just sitting” is like that. When we sit, our mind automatically begins to display itself to us. Our practice is to observe and experience what appears moment after moment. Of course, just as when we look in a real mirror, things don’t stay that simple for long.

We notice how our faces or our bodies look in the mirror, and we immediately have an emotional reaction and form judgments about what we see. Rainer Maria Rilke wrote that Paul Cezanne was capable of painting a self-portrait with utter objectivity, of looking at his own face with no more reaction than “a dog which sees itself in a mirror and thinks, ‘Here is another dog.’” For the rest of us, it’s not so easy to simply observe who we are. Looking in the mirror, we are tempted to use it as a makeup mirror to touch up the parts of our self-image we don’t like.

Our minds are never what we want them to be. That’s part of why we sit in the first place. We are uncomfortable with ourselves as we are. The greatest dualism we face is the split between who we are and who we think we ought to be. Sometimes that gap fuels our aspiration to follow Buddhist teachings, sometimes it simply fuels our self-hatred, and all too often we confuse these two notions of self entirely.

Just sitting means sitting still with all of the aspects of ourselves that we came to Buddhist practice in order to avoid or change—our restlessness, our anxiety, our fear, our anger, our wandering minds. Our practice is to just watch, to just feel. We watch our minds. Minds think. There’s no problem with that; minds just do what they do. Ordinarily we get caught up in the content of our thoughts, but when we just sit, we observe ourselves just thinking. Our body’s most basic activity is breathing: No matter what else is going on, we are breathing. We sit and breathe, and we feel the sensation of our breath in our bodies. Often there is tension or even pain somewhere in our bodies as well. We sit and feel that too and keep breathing. Whatever thoughts come, come. Whatever feelings come, come. We are not sitting there to fight off our thoughts or try to make ourselves stop thinking.

When we sit, we realize how unwilling we are to leave anything about ourselves alone. We turn our lives into one endless self-improvement project. All too often what we call meditation or spirituality is simply incorporated into our obsession with self-criticism and self-improvement. I’ve encountered many students who have attempted to use meditation to perform a spiritual lobotomy on themselves—trying to excise, once and for all, their anger, their fear, their sexuality. We have to sit with our resistance to feeling whole, to feeling all those painful and messy parts of ourselves.

Just sitting means just that. That “just” endlessly goes against the grain of our need to fix, transform, and improve ourselves. The paradox of our practice is that the most effective way of transformation is to leave ourselves alone. The more we let everything be just what it is, the more we relax into an open, attentive awareness of one moment after another. Just sitting leaves everything just as it is.

Are You Addicted to Being Judgy?

When we practice investigating judgments and diffusing them we can learn to choose how we look at things and react to them.

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Of all the wondrous array of thoughts that are possible, negative judgments about ourselves and others are one of the mind’s compulsive obsessions. It’s as if the human brain has a hyperactive gland that secretes judgments, just like the adrenal gland secretes adrenaline. Negative and reactive judgments can arise instantaneously and in regard to almost anything. Sometimes they focus almost exclusively on you, and sometimes almost exclusively on others.

Exercise: Investigating Judgments

If you allow critical judgments to remain unexamined, they can come to occupy many of your thoughts and emotions, and even your dreams. But if you examine them, you’ll find repetitive themes that are connected to earlier life events and discover that even your judgments regarding others are often rooted in self-judgment or events that happened earlier in your life—sometimes when you were very young. It’s a good practice to investigate all of your judgments, and this practice will help you do exactly that. Give yourself about thirty minutes for this inquiry.

  • Settle into the moment. Spend at least five minutes practicing mindful breathing.
  • Recall a judgment. Next, see if you can remember a strong judgment you’ve had about yourself or someone else in the last few days.
  • Take note of the sensations in the body. As you feel into the judgment, notice if there’s a physical component—something you feel in your body. Spend a few minutes investigating the way your body feels as you reflect on this judgment.
  • Explore the thoughts accompany the judgment. Was there anything automatic in the way this judgment came up? For example, was the judgment a reaction to something or someone? Spend at least five minutes investigating the thoughts that arise in relation to this judgment.
  • Explore the emotions that accompany the judgment. For example, some judgments may call forth anger, whereas others evoke shame and yet others evoke compassion. Spend some time investigating the emotions that arise in relation to this judgment.
  • Notice your observing mind. Notice that the part of you that is investigating this judgment is not itself judging anything; it’s simply observing bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotions with balance and curiosity.
  • Recall whether this kind of judgment has come up before. Does it come up often? If so, do you have any sense of why you have this strong and automatic reaction? Does it isolate you from others or make you feel more connected? Can you sense where it comes from? Please spend a few minutes reflecting on the historical associations related to this judgment.
  • Write about some of the ideas that just came up. Take a little time to write about what came up for you as you investigated your judgments. What sorts of physical sensations and emotions were associated with different judgments? Did you discover any associations between judgments and earlier life events?

If you allow critical judgments to remain unexamined, they can come to occupy many of your thoughts and emotions, and even your dreams.

Try this exercise the next time you find you’re having a strong critical reaction toward someone. See if you can notice what happens in your body, how your body feels. Then imagine that you’re leaning toward the other person with your index finger pointing at the person and a tense, mean look on your face (sometimes you might even actually catch yourself in this posture). Appreciate that when you point at others, you have three other fingers pointed back at yourself. Follow them back to yourself and investigate how this judgment toward someone else has something to do with you. Many judgmental thoughts about others have their origins in painful events earlier in life. These kinds of judgments call for deep personal non-judgmental inquiry.

Defusing Judgments

Judgments are like bombs that can be triggered by life events. Imagine that you’re in the grocery store and see a mother angrily slap her daughter’s leg, and the child looks humiliated when she sees you watching. Or imagine that someone cuts in front of you near an intersection, so that you get stuck at the stoplight while he drives on. Picture a scenario in which your spouse criticizes your house cleaning. These types of events can trigger strong judgments and anger.

Negative judgments can explode in our minds at any moment and overwhelm us with immediate and emotionally overwhelming condemnations of others or ourselves. The body contracts, blood pressure rises, and the breath moves up into the chest and becomes shallow and rapid. The fight-or-flight response has been triggered, and an urge to say or do something floods you. In these moments, regrettable words can leap out of your mouth and injure others, and even yourself. Many of us have extremely short fuses when similar triggering events occur again and again, and our reactions can be like bombs that go off almost instantaneously.

Although we’re usually unaware of our projections, we can learn a great deal about them if we’re willing to investigate our reactive judgments with an intention to defuse them.

The bombs with the shortest fuses are often found in our relationships with other people. Politicians and strangers in traffic are a common source of small, frequent reactions that come and go like firecrackers. But our love relationships can set off huge explosive reactions that can create enormous suffering for years. Careless words can cut deeply and leave scars that never go away. Because love relationships are so intimate, they have the capacity to call forth emotional reactions that are tied to earlier traumatic interpersonal events. This is one reason why these relationships are so rife with projections. Projections are ego defense mechanisms that operate mostly unconsciously and impose on current relationships the emotional injuries from earlier close relationships, such as with your mother, your father, or your first love. Although we’re usually unaware of our projections, we can learn a great deal about them if we’re willing to investigate our reactive judgments with an intention to defuse them.

Exercise: Defusing Judgments

This practice will help you strengthen your ability to defuse judgments by bringing awareness and compassion to aversive feelings. An inextricable part of developing this skill is to deliberately make contact with difficult feelings. However, if at any point this mindful exploration becomes too disturbing, return to feeling your breath in your belly. This is a home base you can return to throughout the exercise until you feel grounded, and then you can be with the difficult feeling once again and try to stay with it. Also, please note that defusing a judgment doesn’t mean getting rid of it; it means neutralizing it or removing its sting.

  • Sit comfortably and begin by bringing your full attention to the breath coming and going in your belly. If you like, place your hand on your belly and feel it rising with the in breath and falling with the out breath. Stay with this practice as long as you like before proceeding.
  • Recall the judgment you explored in the previous exercise, or any other judgment that you’d like to explore and defuse. First note who or what you were judging. Notice the reactive thoughts and emotions connected to the judgment, including any stories, beliefs, or memories that emerge. What are you judging about this event and the people involved in it? Be open to and welcome the emotions that arise in this exploration, and respond to these feelings with kindness and self-compassion. Note that these feelings and memories are connected to the judgment yet separate from it.
  • Feel the bodily sensations connected to the memories and emotions that came up as you considered your judgment, and move back and forth between these sensations and the thoughts and emotions a few times. Notice the difference between the mental formations (thoughts, emotions, memories) and the sensory formations (experiences of sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste). In this way, you can use the body to anchor in the here and now and defuse di cult thoughts and emotions, removing some of their charge.
  • Notice your observing mind. Shift away from focusing on the judgment and the mental and physical phenomena associated with it and take a few minutes to reflect on the part of you that just explored these mental, emotional, and physical states—a part of your consciousness you can think of as the observing or witnessing awareness. Notice that the part of you that is aware of judging is curious but not itself judgmental. Awareness can notice the judging and the mental and physical phenomena associated with it without getting caught up in them. As you reflect on this awareness, notice if your heart softens in any way and you feel a little less critical.
  • From this perspective you can extend love and compassion to yourself for whatever comes up for you in this mindful reflection. You may also extend compassion and loving-kindness to whomever you may have been judging. What are the words and gestures you would like to offer to yourself for any pain or unhappiness that came up? What would you say to someone you love who was feeling this way?
  • Notice what happens in your body and mind as you offer these expressions of compassion and loving-kindness. Pay attention to what comes up for you physically, mentally, and emotionally, and look for connections between mental events and their emotional or physical counterparts. For example, self-compassion may create a feeling of release in the chest, or self-forgiveness may allow the belly to soften.
  • Return to conscious breathing, bringing your full attention to the breath coming and going in your belly for a few moments before concluding this exercise.
  • Take some time to write about the thoughts and feelings you experienced in this exercise. Write about your reflections on the questions above as specifically as possible. Bring particular attention to reactive judgments and any historical associations they may have in your life, as well as any sensations associated with the judgments you worked with. What words of self-compassion and loving-kindness came up for you in this exercise? How did the sensations associated with judgments change when you offered yourself words of loving-kindness and compassion?

Sometimes our thoughts and feelings create reactive judgments simply because we refuse to acknowledge or feel them.

Wisdom grows from the “one step removed” kind of awareness cultivated by this practice. Indeed, simply naming a thing (“judgment”) is a powerful first step toward defusing it. Sometimes our thoughts and feelings create reactive judgments simply because we refuse to acknowledge or feel them.

 

This article was adapted from Dr. Bob Stahl’s and Steve Flowers’ book, Living with Your Heart Wide Open.

Meditating with Noise

How To Meditate with Noise: A 3-Minute Practice for Anywhere
Meditation can’t always happen in blissful silence. By tuning in to the cacophony of everyday activity, we can find a space to rest and settle the mind.

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1. Begin this meditation by noticing the posture that you’re in. You may be standing or sitting or lying down.

2. Notice your body exactly as it is. See if you can tune in to any sensations that are present to you in your body in this moment. There might be heaviness or lightness, pressure, weight. There might be vibration, pulsating, movement, warmth, coolness, These sensations can be anywhere in your body, and all you have to do is notice them. Notice what’s happening with curiosity and interest.

3. Take a breath. As you breathe, relax. Not much to do except be fully present and aware.

4. Now let go of the body’s sensations, and turn your attention to the sounds inside or outside the room. There may be all sorts of sounds happening: loud sounds, quiet sounds. You can also notice the silence between the sounds. But the sounds are coming and going. Notice them coming and going.

5. Note the sounds instead of narrating them. One tendency of our mind is to want to think about the sounds, to start to make up a story about the sound, or we have a reaction to it: I like it, I don’t like it. See if instead, you can simply listen to the sound. Notice it with curiosity and interest. The sounds are coming and going.

6. Check in before you check out. Now once again, notice your body standing, present, or seated, or lying down. Notice any body sensations that are obvious to you. Take another breath, soften, and when you’re ready, you can open your eyes.

Gratitude: Three Good Things

Three Good Things Each Day

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Each day before going to bed take a few minutes for gratitude. Before I made this practice a daily ritual I typically went to sleep focusing on either self-critical thoughts or planning, which both tended to keep my mind overly busy.  That has all changed.  Now by practicing gratitude, I experience my compassionate soothing emotional system blossoming relaxing my mind and body which helps me drift off to sleep. Try it yourself for a week and see what you notice.

HOW TO DO IT – 5-10 minutes/day for one week.

(source Greater Good: http://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/three-good-things)

Each day for at least one week, write down three things that went well for you that day, and provide an explanation for why they went well. It is important to create a physical record of your items by writing them down; it is not enough simply to do this exercise in your head. The items can be relatively small in importance (e.g., “my co-worker made the coffee today”) or relatively large (e.g., “I earned a big promotion”). To make this exercise part of your daily routine, some find that writing before bed is helpful.

As you write, follow these instructions:

  1. Give the event a title (e.g., “co-worker complimented my work on a project”)
  2. Write down exactly what happened in as much detail as possible, including what you did or said and, if others were involved, what they did or said.
  3. Include how this event made you feel at the time and how this event made you feel later (including now, as you remember it).
  4. Explain what you think caused this event—why it came to pass.
  5. Use whatever writing style you please, and do not worry about perfect grammar and spelling. Use as much detail as you’d like.
  6. If you find yourself focusing on negative feelings, refocus your mind on the good event and the positive feelings that came with it. This can take effort but gets easier with practice and can make a real difference in how you feel.

Letting Go of Judgment

3-Elements-of-Self-Compassion1

Self-Observation Without Judgment  

by Danna Faulds

Release the harsh and pointed inner
voice. it’s just a throwback to the past,
and holds no truth about this moment.

Let go of self-judgment, the old,
learned ways of beating yourself up
for each imagined inadequacy.

Allow the dialogue within the mind
to grow friendlier, and quiet. Shift
out of inner criticism and life
suddenly looks very different.

I can say this only because I make
the choice a hundred times a day to release the voice that refuses to
acknowledge the real me.

What’s needed here isn’t more prodding toward perfection, but
intimacy – seeing clearly, and
embracing what I see.

Unconditional

Unconditional ( by Jennifer Paine Welwood)

Willing to experience aloneness,
I discover connection everywhere;
Turning to face my fear,
I meet the warrior who lives within;
Opening to my loss,
I gain the embrace of the universe;
Surrendering into emptiness,
I find fullness without end.

Each condition I flee from pursues me,
Each condition I welcome transforms me
And becomes itself transformed
Into its radiant jewel-like essence.
I bow to the one who has made it so,
Who has crafted this Master Game;
To play it is purest delight –
To honor its form, true devotion.

Little Mind and Big Mind: It’s All ONE

Shunryu Suzuki uses a metaphor of waves and water to talk about “big mind, little mind” excerpt from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind:

(source: Traverse City Sangha:  http://tcmmg.org/big-mind-little-mind/ )

waves“That everything is included within your mind is the essence of mind. To experience this is to have a religious feeling. Even though waves arise, the essence of your mind is pure; it is just like clear water with a few waves.  .  .  . To speak of waves as apart from water or water apart from waves is a delusion. Water and waves are one. Big mind and small mind are one.  When you understand your mind in this way, you have some security in your feeling. As your mind does not expect anything from the outside, it is always filled. A mind with waves in it is not a disturbed mind, but actually a simplified one. Whatever you experience is an expression of big mind.”