Saturday, July 2, 2011

Jump Into The Ocean!

"To go beyond ordinary thought is to truly understand.  If you just stay with your usual understanding of things, you will be like a frog that only swims in his small pond.  Staying just within your little territory, you will never know anything about the larger world in which you live.  You have to jump into the ocean.  Then you can understand your small world for what it is." 
From You Have To Say Something: Manifesting Zen Insight by Dainin Katagiri

Have you ever met someone who is mindful all the time?  If you have, I'd LOVE to meet them!  The truth is that most people, even those with the best intentions, struggle to remain mindful at all times.  Mindlessness is part of the human experience that keeps us trapped in a very narrow worldview (like our friend the frog!).  We may catch little glimmers of mindfulness here and there. We may experience moments of complete awareness and clarity - oceans of wide open space! And then... we forget.  In a split second we get distracted, we get drawn into to the busyness and commotion of life and then once again we find ourselves sleepily swimming around and around in our own tiny little pond.  We fall back into a very small and shallow pool of experience.  We get stuck with no hope of growth or expansion.

From the foundation of the present moment we can go beyond the chaos of the our ordinary thoughts.  Mindfulness is a process and pattern.  It's a lifelong practice to continually bring ourselves back to this present moment.  Back to this breath. Back to this vast ocean of awareness.

As human beings prone to distraction, we need to wake up to life and our true nature again and again - and as many times as it takes.  The more we practice being awake the easier it gets.  The easier it gets, the more glimmers we get.  The more glimmers we get, the larger our pool becomes and then one day... SPLASH!  We take the leap and find ourselves in the wide open sea of our life unfolding.

Until next time...

What can you do right now to wake up?  Try this meditation:

Mindfulness Meditation 

Sit. Relax the body. Relax the mind. Be as still as possible. Sit comfortably, with the spine upright and supported and the head balanced naturally, looking forward with eyes closed gently. It's ok to sit on a chair, or on the floor, on the knees or cross legged with support, such as a pillow. The body must become still and remain still for a period of time for the mind to start to calm down and deeper states of awareness to be experienced. With practice, prolonged stillness can be achieved without discomfort. Any mindfulness meditation technique will require some discipline and perseverance to get the results.  

Then begin to watch the movement of thought. Do not attempt to control your thoughts. The more we try to control thoughts, the stronger they become. Observe the breath with passive awareness. Observe the thoughts, feelings and sensations with compassion and tolerance. Don’t engage your thoughts by judging or analyzing them. Let them arise and dissolve, like clouds drifting across a blue sky, noting what comes with passive curiosity, and return to the breath.

Let the breath be natural and gentle. Breathe through the nose, letting the belly rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale. Soften the belly. Let the chest rise last, filling up from the belly first, like a vessel filling with water.
The importance of attention to breath cannot be over-emphasized. It is the central key to any mindfulness meditation technique. So much suffering could be alleviated simply by placing mindful attention on the breath, focusing on the belly, or the area of the heart. Within the breath is the key to your greater Self. Emotion can reside in the body as chronic tension. The breath can undo this tension, and restore balance and peace to the mind. We forget the breath most of the time. Experiment throughout your day. See if you can count the number of times you remember to watch your breath. You may be surprised to realize how difficult it is to remember.

When we feel pain -- physically or emotionally -- we tend to react by tensing up. This tension causes the pain to be sustained longer. Sustained pain is what we call "suffering." 
The practice of non-resistance is another core principle of mindfulness meditation. Letting go with each breath. Sometimes I see beginning meditators making effort to relax and let go. They breathe out with great force, through pursed lips, as if getting ready to lift a heavy weight. This is not true letting go. True letting go is effortless.

Why is it so difficult to remember the breath?
Because staying connected to the breath loosens the grip of the ego. The ego is the constellation of thoughts, emotions, and self-images that we cling to at all costs, in an effort to sustain our personal identity and importance. The breath leads us into an expanded state of Self-awareness that can feel like the death of what was known as "self." So we resist because of our attachment -- our fear of letting go -- fear of the unknown. It is a fear of becoming nothing. This fear is usually quite unconscious, yet it affects everything we do and feel, keeping us imprisoned by the invisible chains of the mind. 

(Meditation courtesy of

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