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Posts Tagged ‘meditation’

This material is copyrighted by M. Kirby Moore.  Reproduction without permission is prohibited.  To support Kirby in his business and blogging efforts, please visit Kirby’s website.  Thank you for visiting!

I write this post as I am presently in Florida, checking out the Tampa area to see how I feel about living here.  I want to be exploring the area more but I also feel pulled to go to retreat as well.

I am writing this post because I grew up in America – Hawaii for a seven plus years and then Virginia for more than 25 years.  In being raised in the West (and actually, many “Eastern” cultures are now using a Western paradigm, so this post may apply to a varied demographic), I developed a tendency to feel like I always need to be doing something.  I always need to be working toward some goal.  A day spent not accomplishing anything is a wasted day, a day to feel guilty about…  I could go on, but you know how this ends.  The rat race continues, but I am consciously stepping out of it.  This is not an easy process.  It is messy and there are not many examples to follow to see if I am “doing it right.”  In previous posts, you may have noticed how I have studied with a Western teacher named Julie Henderson (PhD) who coaches that kindness to self is more than just taking an hour or two a day for self care needs.  She mentions that we need to be extra vigilant about the ways in which we are hard on ourselves, especially if we are the anxious, pleaser, hyper vigilant, or depressed sort of individual.  It is time to slow down and truly track what our bodies are trying desperately to communicate.  Do not wait for the nasty crisis to indicate that it is time to change jobs and create an easier lifestyle!  If you are wondering, she created or gathered a set of playful, creative, mischievous exercises (breath, sound & movement) which she calls Zapchen Somatics which helps to come down out of our heads and land comfortably in our bodies.

With this context in place, I am a Buddhist practitioner.  Or at least, I do my best.  However, my rat-race-conditioned-mind makes it difficult to claim a Buddhist lineage when I “do so little practice” in a day.  In other words, all I have to do is think the words, “I am a Buddhist practitioner” and guilt instantly arises.  Why is this?

One reason is that when the Buddhist texts were written, it was in a different culture and a different age.  In ancient India, or Nepal, or Tibet, there were no radios, TV’s, videos, face books, twitters, cell phones, etc.  So their pace of life was much different from our Puritan-work-ethic-influenced lifestyles.  I am confident that there were some days or even weeks when there was no grain to plant or harvest, there were no wars to fight, and people either could not read or grew tired of it.  So that left nothing to do except sit around and drink tea or smoke pipes, etc.  The key words here are sitting around doing very little.

This point was brought home to me as I listened to a Dharma talk by Dr. Hun Lye, the president of Urban Dharma center in Asheville, N.C.  He reiterated that applying the Western work ethic and self-deprecation to the ancient Dharma texts will only lead to trouble.  Here is why – realizing that there were days or weeks in ancient India where people just sat around literally accomplishing nothing, the Dharma texts (sutras and commentaries) state explicitly that one should not be lazy, that one should apply oneself day and night to right action.  Not a single second should be wasted!  Those words are meant for “lazy” ancient cultures.  They are not meant for our frenetic, buzzing, high-speed brains.

Fast forward to today when we have every technological convenience imaginable (and every type of technological distraction available!), then we suddenly have busy busy minds and lifestyles where we desperately need to slow down.  But we don’t know how to slow down.  We don’t think it is okay to slow down.  We feel guilty when someone suggests that we take a vacation because we are working too hard.  Generally it takes some sort of crisis to jolt us out of this horrifyingly brutal pattern of self-flaggilation.  To answer my question above – how is it that I am being kind to myself and slowing down, and yet I have this deep-seated need to be finishing as much accumulation of Buddhist practice as possible – RIGHT NOW.  This dynamic leads to a very complex (and time and energy wasting) inner dialogue.  Some days I set off with the sky as my goal and of course I am disappointed when I fall short.  Luckily, these days I notice faster and faster the ways in which I am biting off way more than I can chew.  But I still have guilt around this topic.

I am presently “attending” a Buddhist retreat where we are accumulating Amitayus mantras.  Amitayus is a manifestation of Buddha Amitabha and Amitayus is one of the long life granting manifestations of enlightened mind.  We “should” do Amitayus practice before starting a major practice to ensure we have the vitality and strength to complete said major practice.  In this practice, we are aiming for 100,000 mantras each.

What if this is unrealistic for me?  Then I would be going against my root lama’s wishes, right?  What if I am truly listening to my heart?  I have spent years doing psychological-astrology analysis of my chart, years receiving process-oriented bodywork and further years of embodying forms of bodywork and yoga.  I am about as grounded and embodied right now as I have ever been.  I am aware of most of my gross psychological fallacies (misunderstandings, conditioned habits, etc).  If there is an inner lama, perhaps I am just starting to hear “his” words of wisdom.  I don’t know.  I definitely do not make this arrogance-inducing claim.  I just wonder if I am starting to hear “his” faint whispers which are urging me to listen to my body, to listen to my heart and to let the old tapes of guilt and ensuing confusion drop away.

Anyway, on the first day of the retreat, I noticed many layers of resistance and frustration arising.  I tried to lie down and then return to the practice.  This simply led to a pause and then further frustration.  So I left early.  And do you know how guilty I felt for departing prematurely?  I actually wondered if I would make it home safely because perhaps the wisdom beings might be upset with me (although in reality it is my own karma which determines this).  So when I returned yesterday, I felt humiliation, guilt and sadness among other less than savory emotions.  But I kept most of this to myself.  When I worked up the courage to approach my teacher, he was joyful and equanimous as usual – as if nothing had happened!  I’m not even sure he was aware of my having left early.  Ooph!  Good grief – all that self-deprecation for nothing 🙂

So I pushed myself yesterday.  There were some occasional pangs of pain as my post-shingles neuralgia pain came and went.  There were one or two contractions in my belly.  But overall I pushed through these on purpose.  I had a dream which indicated I would benefit profoundly from returning to retreat.  That is why I pushed forward.  I did a lot of mantras in six hours.  I am very proud of myself.  I rejoice at my accomplishment.  But who knows what I stirred up in the process.

I say that because today I woke up and my sinuses have decided that a dam has crumbled – they are draining like I have a winter-time cold.  So I threw the I Ching to be clearer about my situation.  Do I go to retreat ASAP?  No – that would be unkind.  Ah ha!  Do I do one session today only and rest before and after?  Yes, that is good.  Ahhhh….  Having that reassurance, I can relax deeper and feel good about missing the morning retreat sessions.  Things change, impermanence is guaranteed.  What can I control?  My reactions to that change.  Just do my best, let go just a little bit more.  And check in every day – am I being as kind to myself as possible?  And perhaps kindness will take many different forms – one day I will do 10,000 mantras and another day I will purposely accomplish very little, allowing my mind and body to rest down and relax deeper.  I don’t promise to feel good about accomplishing very little, but I am coming around!

Thank you for reading!

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The I Ching points out that I, oh by the way I use several interpretations of the book of changes, yes I have a poor habit of falling in love with /fill in the blank/.  Sometimes it is women.  It has been computer games.  It can even be with sports – I used to be very fond of watching college football and then more recently, EPL soccer.  So I have a tendency to fall into whatever I am into at the moment.

My favorite interpretation of the I Ching is still Julie Henderson’s.  She writes for meditation practitioners, somatic therapists, bodyworkers and psychotherapists.  Therefore she does not take life too seriously.  Her background with Zapchen somatics makes it so she adds some humor and playfulness to this ancient text.

In Julie’s interpretation, she says “you have a habit of going overboard with enthusiasm and joy.”  (paraphrased)  Especially with regard to what you (I) desire.  It is okay to enjoy what is offered to me.  In fact, that is most healthy – to be in my wholesome pleasure in the moment.  But my issue is longing for more and more, even after the apparent source of pleasure is gone.  And this is where I really appreciate this interpretation.  Bcause she mentions that I must realize that I am actually the ultimate source of any pleasure.  My karma determines my perception.  And I have the power and the tools to change my karma.  Therefore I can and should change my perception.  She even goes so far as to mention that with the tools and skills of a practicing yogi and bodyworker, I have the ability to rest in alignment right now.  And therefore I have the ability to rest in equanimity now, without “doing” much to attain such a state of balance.  All it requires is to be aware in each moment of my tendencies and of my present state of embodiment.

So what is the take home message here?  I have the skills to rest in equanimity right now.  I just have to be aware of my tendency to become attached to objects of desire.  Then, using breath work and somatic exercises I can locate areas in my body that are contracted and trying to force “their way.”  Then I can dissolve that contraction and find an easy balanced alignment.

Plus she goes on to mention that perhaps I am attached to a feeling or sensation of joy.  You might wonder what is wrong with this?  Well, she says that there might be a primary state which is even beyond this state of joy.  I for one do not know this state, but I guess she might be referring to some form of a natural state, where I have heard yogis and yoginis can rest in clear light mind, free from attachment and aversion.  But I’m just guessing.  I could be way off.  🙂

So, I embark on an ever mindful journey of discovering alignment.  Getting blown off a little, then adjusting accordingly.  And rediscovering alignment with new information in mind.  What a great adventure this can be!

Thank you for reading my random thoughts and have a great day!

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This material is copyrighted by M. Kirby Moore. Reproduction without permission is prohibited. Thank you for reading and visiting.

This is the first post about the April 13th – 15th Symposium at the University of Virginia commemorating the opening of the Contemplative Sciences Center and the Arura Tibetan Medical Group in Charlottesville.

Friday had two events. The first was a talk by Judith Simmer Brown, a professor from Naropa University, about their Maitri program. The second, and more official, event was the opening evening with talks from Dr. Otsang Tsokchen, the President of the Arura Tibetan Medical Group, Dr. Tsem Gonthar, Prof. Robert Thurman, and a welcome from UVa’s president, Teresa Sullivan. It also featured prof. David Germano and the Dean of the Nursing School, Dorrie Fontaine.

I am going to write a little stream-of-consciousness here, please forgive this tangent. I just want to say that this symposium brought together one of the most eclectic groups of people I have ever witnessed (and been apart of). Scientists, meditation practitioners, philosophers, yogis, yoginis, psychologists, Western doctors, Tibetologists, Western nurses, Eastern doctors, alternative health practitioners, religious studies, acupuncturists, Buddhists, recovering Buddhists, neuroscientists, professors and humanists from all the various departments listed above, and more (there was even a famous Tibetan pop singer there)! Incredible!

Judith Simmer Brown gave the initial talk, which allowed her to have more time to discuss Naropa’s (Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s creation) project called Maitri.
Maitri means loving-kindness or friendliness in Sanskrit, where it is Metta in Pali and Champa in Tibetan (I think…) In a nutshell, Trungpa Rinpoche created a series of rooms which were meticulously played with to get the right colors, dimensions, and shapes, and then he chose different postures to hold while lying in each of these rooms. And long story short, students enter these rooms mindfully and respectfully and stay for 20 to 40 minutes at a time, silently watching their thoughts and just attempting to be present with what comes up. You can go to Shambhala’s website to see more on this practice.

My take on Dr. Brown is that she is a present, equanimous, enthusiastic, patient educator who seems to be very articulate. She did not rush her presentation in any way and she was very patient with the many questions which came up afterward in the Q & A. With that said…

I must say I went through an exotic array of emotions and reactions to her talk:
My initial reaction to this description of Maitri was, “is she serious?” It looked a bit like this idea came directly out of a science fiction novel about asylums… Seriously – who would knowingly lock themselves in a purely red, blue, green, yellow or white room for 40 minutes? Something is going to come up! And when I mention the pure colors, she said everything is the same – the ceiling, the plexiglass in the window, the carpet, the walls, everything.

Okay, yes, my initial reaction was strong and considering I have a tiny bit of experience with meditation in an organized Vajrayana Tibetan tradition, you have to admit this type of lying meditation in a colored room seems a touch too easy. Could this actually “work?”

You may chuckle at my next series of thoughts… Once she started talking about how students go through little mini “retreats” in these rooms, meditating for 6 days a week, at least 40 minutes a day, for two to three weeks, I realized, “Wow, this practice might actually do something insightful, and may even be beneficial!” And then she discussed how all students who enter these rooms have some training ahead of time and they have a solid container for discussing what might arise while in this process, meaning there is a supportive atmosphere for airing whatever arose during these meditations. This was sounding better and better! In fact, the more she talked about it, the more I was curious to try it myself.

Brown mentioned each color was associated with a “Buddha family” and that each color and family had a set of traits that went along with it. For instance, red was the lotus (padma) family and it was associated with the afflictive emotion of passion (desire and lust). And within this emotion is discriminating wisdom.

Here comes the chuckling section: Once I realized the potential implications (contemplation, increased emotional intelligence, reflection, enhanced awareness, etc) this Maitri practice could have, and I realized it was being practiced at an accredited university… I had to pinch myself to make sure I was really seeing it! I could be dreaming you know. I realized that for anyone new to meditation, this was a perfect introduction – and possibly quite a potent introduction at that!

So yes, I went from initially feeling disdain and rejection of this idea to pinching myself to make certain everything was the way it seemed to then say, “That’s brilliant!” Or at least it is a good start.

I felt this was a great way to start the symposium considering half the events were to be about contemplative science. I guess I went into this talk with all my unquestioned assumptions and stubborn opinions intact, and after a little contemplation and self-analysis, I realized some of these opinions were not correct. Yes, someone might actually get a lot out of meditating, letting go and resting down in a colored room. And to have a support group around that process is a beautiful thing. [If nothing else, lying down in a colored room and staring at the colored walls would definitely have an affect on the brain’s interpretation of the messages from the cones of the eyes – the color receptors. And who knows what this might look like?]

And now on a personal note…

Maybe I was a little jealous, as my time at the University (UVa) was a bit dry. I would have loved to have any room to take a nap or meditate in, colored or not. I was never brave enough to meditate in the chapel (actually I tried once, but people kept coming and going which was nerve-wracking). I eventually found little nooks and crannies in various libraries to rest in, but come on! At Naropa, they have a class where you get credit for meditating, and lying down to do it. Holy jamoly!

Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for my time at UVa, but if I could change one or two things… I would. But now that the Contemplative Sciences Center is opening, and now that I discovered the UVa Mindfulness Center, along with the Center for the Study of Complementary and Alternative Therapies (a part of the nursing school)… Most of the changes I would suggest seem to be arising. The future is bright indeed I think for meditators, scientists, neuroscientists, psychologists and religious studies (especially Tibetan) students at UVa.

This incredible initiative is actually happening at UVa. I am so very happy, and I am glad I took some time away from work to attend these inspiring, dynamic talks.

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Hello readers!  Hopefully some of you will read this…  har har har.  I am looking to see who you readers are and what you are interested in hearing about.  So please let me know a little about yourselves if you’d like – where are you writing from?  Do you practice meditation or bodywork or astrology or other forms of alternative health modalities, etc?  And also let me know if you are understanding most posts – sometimes the language can be technical.  Then comes the fun part – you get to choose what I write about next!  (this is a picture of me from 2008 with a picture of a “Creative Mind” hat on  🙂

Okay, please let me know which of these topics you are most interested in hearing about.  Generally I spend several days working on a post – several drafts plus whatever research might be necessary.  Now that I am working full time, it might take a little while to get your requests out, but I will do my best!  In my drafts directory, I have started the following stories (as in they are in various stages of completion or arising):

Flu season – tips to avoid the plague

Change what goes into your body

I am not sick, I am angry! (this will take a while to finish, I’m planning to incorporate some medical astrology info and more)

Bodywork as meditation in action

Practicing Dharma in the midst of busy lives

Post on Mercury Retrograde (in depth details)

Post on Venus Retrograde (more in depth)

Thanks!  I look forward to hearing from you.  Many blessings.

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