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Mindfulness Doesn’t Care

“Mindfulness doesn’t care.”  That is what my teaching partner said to the group of teenagers who eagerly listened, hungry to learn from us. I get (and love) where she was coming from, however, the way I like to phrase it is that mindfulness has no hierarchy of experience: sadness is no better or worse than happiness, when seen through the lens of kind awareness.  Neediness is not inferior to self-sufficiency.  Bravery no better than fear.  Mindfulness doesn’t prefer one over the other or label one as good and the other as bad. Mindfulness just sees what is true.  Mindfulness is the kind awareness that allows the experience to be deeply known by us, whatever it is.  It is our passport to being more fully alive amidst everything feel.

As Sharon Salzberg said, “ Mindfulness practice is not about having a certain kind of experience it is about how we are relating to the experience we are having.”

Imagine the beam of a flashlight shining in a dark room; as it moves around the room it illuminates different things inside the room.  Mindfulness is the beam of light.  It illuminates what is in the rooms of your heart and mind.  The beam does not prefer to illuminate one thing inside the room more then another — its “job” is simply to illuminate.  Because we are conditioned to believe in this hierarchy of experience and then tend to unconsciously avoid what is on the bottom of the list we often choose not to turn on the flashlight at all, believing that if we don’t illuminate what is inside of us maybe it isn’t really there. Without the flashlight of mindfulness our unwanted feelings don’t cease to exist, they just remain unseen (for a while that is, until the day that they can’t be held at bay any longer and they come crawling out of the darkness whether we like it or not).  

But when we do illuminate what is inside these heart and mind rooms, what is “in them” transforms and we are strengthened and healed through this deceptively simple practice.  A “beam” of kind awareness free of any hierarchy of experience changes what is inside the room.  Things that once made us anxious when they “went bump in the dark” become allowable and understood.  Feelings like loneliness, anger, or jealously change from unwanted demons lurking in the shadows into experiences of being human that we come to understand and even have compassion for.  They are no longer something to be avoided […]

Middle Way Parenting

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A colleague of mine, who has been practicing and teaching meditation for a long time, said to me, “Before I had kids I never knew how angry I could feel.”  Ahh, sigh. Our kids bring out the best and the worst in us at times.  And yet isn’t it sooo taboo to feel angry, especially at our beloved children?  However we all sometimes do.  I mean I do, don’t you?

From what I’m hearing “on the street” lately, it seems to me that the “conscious parenting” camp, which is a very respectable map for encouraging family connection and emotionally intelligent children, comes down too hard on the parents.  The message I’m hearing, and that it seems my friends and neighbors are internalizing, is that we are supposed to always know just what to say, just how to resolve, how to console, lift up, teach and role model for our children. I’ve seen so many books and videos that offer really valuable information about how to raise happy healthy children but sometimes the main message that comes across is that we parents should all be trying just a little (or a lot) harder. It leaves me wondering, where are our advocates?  When does a book or video series get produced that talks about happy, emotionally intelligent parents, one that lets us make mistakes, foible and kindly lets us off the hook for getting it wrong sometimes?

Recently, at the park with a friend, while our gaggle of children played, my friend confided in me, “I blew it with my kids this morning.” “Me too,” I say. “Really?” she replies, very surprised.  And the added guilt that, “I, the Mindfulness teacher, should never mess up,” comes traipsing right into my head. I take a breath and send that thought on out. “Yes, I think everyone does sometimes. This is a hard job!” I smile and say (for both of our benefits).

“I don’t think anyone really admits it though.”  she responds.  “Well we all should.” I sigh, “We’re only making ourselves more miserable with these impossibly high standards.”

It all makes me think of the extremes and impossible standards that Siddhartha Gautama (the man who later became the buddha) discovered.  His pendulum swung between having all pleasures and comforts and having none of them.  Much to his surprise, all imaginable pleasures did not bring lasting happiness. So he went running from them, only to discover that denying all all pleasures was nota source of lasting happiness either. The extremes […]

Mindfulness for a Challenging Day

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
― Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter

Let’s Be Real

When I was in my 20’s I thought “being real” meant using the F word emphatically and doing the opposite of what the “mainstream” people did, whatever that might be at any given moment.  So I swore often and quickly turned left when I saw the popular culture turning right.

Mindfulness, and some good old fashioned growing up, showed me that “being real” means clearly seeing what is really in my mind and heart and staying with whatever I notice rather then distracting myself with something (choose your favorite; movies, food, shopping, gossiping).

The road to getting close to your own truth and “being real” is paved by letting yourself care about what you care about, love what you love, hate what you hate and get close to the truth of how you feel, even if it is something you think you “shouldn’t” feel. 

Mindfulness does not tell us that being real is acting out all of these feelings; instead, it invites us to experience and witness them internally.  In contrast to my time of displaying my “realness” out loud for all to hear and see, this kind of realness is a sweet and personal experience. In fact it has little to do with what others see in you at all.  This realness is a felt experience of being more fully yourself.

I met with one of my teachers recently and during our session she reminded me to stay close to what was happening for me in the moment. I became aware of a very deep feeling that surprised me as I uncovered it. I told her that it was so tender that I wanted to keep it to myself. “Then do.” She said, “you don’t need to tell or explain it to anyone if you don’t want to.” As she said, “What is important is that you feel it and know it for yourself,” I began to feel relaxed, open and calm and… really like myself. 

Then I told her about it, because I wanted to not because I “had to.” She understood completely.  It turns out that when we connect to deep truths in ourselves, they are very much the same as the deep truths in others. This became even more evident to me when I had the privilege to sit with one of my students later that week and guide her in much the same way I had been guided.  My own heart warmed as I saw and heard my student coming into contact with her “realness” and when she […]

Back From Summer Break

I had a sweet summer.  Did you?

Picked and ate delicious cherry tomatoes in my garden each day. Juice dripping down my daughters chins.

Watched a few amazing sunsets with my family. The pink clouds floating in the sky looked almost close enough to touch.

Spent some warm late nights laughing with friends.

Glad for all of it.  Also glad to be back into the rhythm of things.

I’ll be posting an essay once a month and a video once a month.

Happy reading and viewing. I look forward to connecting with you!

Warmly,

Rebekkah

A Mindfulness Break you will love

I’ve been exhausted lately, how about you?

We all need to recharge… a short mindfulness break can do wonders.

Take 5 minutes for yourself right now with this guided mindfulness & meditation break.

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Rebekkah Teaches Mindfulness, Meditation and Gentle Yoga – You can buy her classes on CD through iTunes and CDbaby.com – for more information about her join her on Facebook and visit her website enjoymindfulyoga.com

Roads to you

Reading over insurance claims and medical bills, my breath becomes shallow as I review the compounding information of in-network, out-of-network, what they say I owe, and what I expected to owe.  My stomach ties in knots and my shoulders become like earrings, they are so close to my ears.

As I wash my school-aged daughter’s hair, she howls like banshee in pain. I have carefully avoided their being any contact between her eyes and the shampoo, I’m certain there has been none. We move on to conditioner and I remind her “this one does not sting.” She continues this “war cry.” My whole body is tight so I feel like a Grecian statue, frozen in frustration.

Sitting in my unmoving car on the freeway, hot car fumes waft around me. I check the clock, survey all the lanes for possible movement, clench my jaw and repeat the whole cycle again. The entire freeway is stopped but I feel like I am jumping out of my skin, anxious and twitchy all over except for the rock that has formed in my low back. I want to be anywhere but here.

Our body sends us clear signs that can be like a map to returning to our natural well-being, if we learn how to read them.

By mindfully witnessing my experiences, I’ve noticed the series of reactions that follow difficult situations. The first reaction of our body is to produce adrenalin, which brings quick (and hard to “catch”) mental and physical reactions. At this point two reactions tend to happen simultaneously; thoughts form in the foreground of our experience and body sensations in the background. The “foreground” thoughts, driven by adrenalin, focus solely on fixing or coping with the situation. Our instinct then is to get the situation to stop somehow (any “how”) and from there we can begin to plow through mindlessly, leaving damage behind us. What is in the background are the physical and emotional responses to the stress. These further “amp up” our stress reaction and can easily go unnoticed.  Without mindfulness, these sensations and feelings can begin to “run the show” as we move through the stressful situation and onto the daily events in our lives. Attending to our body sensations first can calm our whole being. From this more balanced place we have more access to our good thinking and wise actions.

If I am not mindful while I scan insurance claims, I will let my short breath and “shoulder earrings” send me into a tailspin that might result in my […]

Fear

Fear: we all have it. Mindfulness does not make it go away. It does, however, help us recover from it.

I went to see a children’s story hour with my young daughters.  My older daughter was frightened by one of the stories. When she began to react to even very sweet moments of the story as if they were scary I knew that she was struggling with something inside of her, not outside.  She was struggling with the trance of fear.  I reassured her that it was OK to be scared and it was OK to hear the story. After the whole show was over and we were outside sitting on the grass, she crawled into my lap and said, “I still feel scared”.

I said, “I understand, I get scared sometimes too.  Actually,” I explained, “everyone in the whole wide worlds gets scared sometimes, it’s part of life.”

“But I feel really scared”, she said in reply.

“Can you give that scared feeling a hug?”  I asked her. Giving our feelings “hugs” is something we do often in our family.

“It’s not working,” said my daughter.

“Can you give your feeling a big hug full of tenderness, and then let it fly away on the breeze?”, which was blowing softly as we sat together.

“No I can’t, it wont go away.” She said

So we sat and cuddled and decided just to feel our hearts and feel our (her) fear…

My daughter is still learning the skill of being with and moving through her fear.  She is right where she needs to be—there is no rush, I remind her— and yet I want to help her with this hurdle. Whenever I realize there is something I want to teach my children, I first try to learn, or re-learn it myself.

Sitting on the grass holding my scared child as she recovered reminded me of something one of my teachers once said —Everyone gets frightened, startled, or jarred sometimes, the key to well-being is being able to return from that place of contraction, back to center. —Mindfulness helps us return from our contracted, rejecting state back to our open, receptive state.

By chance, a learning moment about my own fear occurred a week before my trip to the children’s story hour. It always amazes me how life presents lessons before I even realize I’m in need of them. I had put this one in “my pocket” for later use, and here was my opportunity to take it out.  Feeling into my own experiences with fear was one way of helping […]

Saying Yes – How to be Happier

Life has its ups and downs. We all know that. And yet many of us are habituated to saying yes to the “good” days, and no to the “bad”. Listen and watch this video for some simple tools that can help even the bad days feel good.

Take a Great Trip Without Spending a Dime

Remember snow globes? A little shake and the clear water is immediately clouded by a flurry of snow. But when held still, the water clears again and the snowman in the middle smiles at you. Meditation can have this effect on our minds, taking us from a blur of thoughts to a state of settled clarity. Most of us don’t realize how much time we live in a white out, unaware of our mind as it produces new thoughts that come on like blizzards. Sometimes, certainly not always, after meditation my mind feels like the snow storm has ceased and there is quiet—unbelievably delicious quiet. It is as if my thoughts have taken a vacation and gone somewhere else. Instead of the flurries and storms I am happy and settled right where I am, no matter where I am actually.

One of my favorite quotes from teacher and poet, Adyashanti is, “Let your mind swirl itself into blessed exhausted silence.” For most of us this inner stillness is rare and precious. I know for sure that when most of us sit to meditate, set out on a mindful walk or onto the mat for Yoga, our mind is anything but quiet. And that’s fine—minds wander. Returning to the practice is absolutely part of the practice.  I’ll never forget Jack Kornfield, one of the founding teachers of insight meditation in the west saying, “It doesn’t matter what happens while you meditate–it matters that you meditate.” The room of 400+ people laughed, and he replied simply, “I’m serious.”  I smiled and felt deeply relieved, because I am no stranger to a busy mind.  And what I understand Kornfield was saying, and other brain researchers are saying is that meditation benefits us even if we are distracted, bored, or busy thinking as we are practicing.  I suppose that is why it’s called practice, we just keep at it…. Forever. And slowly overtime the snow settles to the bottom and the water is truly clear.

Being a mother, wife, community member and working leaves me with precious little time for meditation. And while I do maintain a regular home practice, I have not attended an extended retreat since my children were born. I am relieved that many of my teachers call this period of a parent’s life an 18-year retreat. However the extended mental vacations of long meditation retreats I once relied on are not on my calendar for the next 15 years. so I’ve had to get creative.  I found that mental mini-vacations are […]

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