What Does Mindfulness Have to do with Pride Month?
Edge vs. Edgy?
Pride Month is a funny thing. Of course, its main focus is on sexual and gender minorities; folks who don’t fit into the majority’s boxes of male, female, heterosexual, or cisgender. This week, after all, is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion, a crucial turning point in the contemporary LGBTQ rights movement. But in recent years, Pride has become a holiday for everyone.
Why I Meditate
Before I started meditating, I assumed meditation would hinder my ability to compete in the sometimes cutthroat world of TV news. And also that I might be required to wear yoga pants to the office.
I have come to believe that, applied correctly, mindfulness enhances rather than erodes your edge – by which I mean, your ability to take on challenging work at home or in the office with rigor, intelligence, and effectiveness.
But I know there are many people who still have similar concerns.
Meditation and Climate Change
I don’t know what I’d do without a meditation practice.
These days, after many years, it’s a regular habit. But it wasn’t always that way. For years I tried to cultivate a regular practice, but I found it hard to stick to a routine. It was easier to hit snooze, or get up off my cushion before the timer went off, or skip the weekly gathering at the Zendo.
But I had an incentive: I was a hot mess.
The Risk of Honesty
Every week, I hear from students and friends who are deeply fearful, anxious, and angry about global warming. For those informed about the issue, it’s not an abstraction; it threatens the lives our children will be able to lead, not to mention those of folks already caught in natural disasters exacerbated by global climate disruption.
If you’ve experienced any of that fear, anxiety, and anger, please read on, because I’ve found mindfulness to be a valuable ally in staying sane, staying engaged, and making a difference -- whatever your political and philosophical opinions.
Is Your Mind an Amusement Park?
A friend of mine works with a writer who constantly misses deadlines. In terms of work, it’s actually not that big of a deal, because my friend knows this about the writer, and course-corrects by giving him deadlines that are weeks prior to when my friend actually needs something turned in.
The challenges arise not because of the lateness, but because the writer can’t seem to accept this shortcoming about himself. He writes long emails with excuses as to why he’s late again—imaginative stories that my friend knows aren’t true.
A Birthday Contemplation
When some people hear about meditation, they may imagine that it’s a cool, calm chill-out with no distracting thoughts or feelings disturbing the Zen.
And then, since that’s not what anyone actually experiences, lots of people become convinced that they can’t meditate because their minds are so busy and distracted.
The truth is, though, distractions happen! Whether out in the world or seated in meditation, the mind will pretty much always find something to do - and it’s not always going to do the thing we might hope.
What can you do?
Change Your Posture, Change Your Mood
My 48th birthday was last week, and I feel great about it.
This might be a feature of middle age. I’m no longer astonished (or embarrassed) at how old I am, like I was a decade ago, when turning 40 seemed like the end of the world. (Hint: it’s not.) Yet I’m still youngish and healthy, surrounded by blessings of family, work, the spiritual life, and love.
For years, I’d been wrong about what getting older is actually all about. Twenty years ago, I worried that it meant an unfortunate decline in attractiveness, coolness, and having awesome experiences like spending all night dancing in crowded nightclubs. (God, I’m glad that kind of awesomeness is mostly in the rear-view mirror.)
Relationships and Radical Uncertainty
According to neuroscientific research, you can change your mood simply by changing your body posture.
Of course, everyone knows that body posture can reflect our emotions. Picture an Olympic sprinter crossing the finish line with their arms in the air, and head thrown back in celebration. Or picture the audience in a horror movie, instinctively cringing and curling up when something goes bump in the night.
But can it also work the other way? Can body posture influence our emotional state, as well as reflect it?
The Trouble with Gratitude
Several years ago, I ran into a particularly rough time in my marriage. I’m not talking about the kind where you have a fight, storm off, and then make up. No, this was the kind of rough time that seemed to have no particular cause. Though there was nothing to fight about, we fought about everything. Nothing was bothersome, but everything one of us did bothered the other. We had no particular problems, but everything we tried to do—eat a meal, make the bed, decide what to watch on television—somehow became a huge problem, impossible to navigate without truly pissing each other off. In short: we could not get along.
When the World Falls Apart
I’m rushing down the street, despite the pleasant weather and flowers blooming. No one else is on the street—I live in a peaceful, quiet, small city, yet I’m hurrying and stressed; I have somewhere to go.
And then I see the old man. He suddenly appears at the end of the block, turns the corner, inches forward as he leans his weight on his walker, lifting one leg slowly, slowly, then the other. My face softens, I immediately slow down, embarrassed by my hurrying.
A rush of thoughts and emotions flood me:
Selfies at the Mona Lisa
Like many of you, I watched in horror as one of the world’s greatest works of art, the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, burned to the ground this week. I find myself reeling.
The strength of my reaction surprises me. Although I’d twice visited the cathedral, and studied it in art history class, I have no special connection to Notre-Dame. I’m neither French nor Catholic. And yet I feel personally attacked, like a part of me has been torn out.
The Wisdom of Spring
Hard to believe, but here's an astounding true fact: For the vast majority of human existence, including all but the last few of the 14,000-plus years since nomadic hunter-gatherer clans coalesced into nascent human civilizations, we didn't carry a fabulous instant camera in our pockets and photograph every single moment of our existence.
The Science of De-Stressing
For folks in most of North America, this is a time of stretching, opening, and awakening. In colder states, it might mean finally putting away those winter coats. In warmer states, it might mean the return of beach weather. Wherever you are, it’s an opportunity to notice how what we think of as “I, me, and mine” is actually… not us at all.
Worry is Wasted Energy
A couple years ago I defended my dissertation. Now, as anyone who has ever defended a dissertation will tell you, the whole process is a stress-inducing imbroglio, a veritable blitzkrieg of queries and provocations hosted by a stone-faced faculty tribunal intent on punching holes in the drywall of your thesis, which you've just spent one or two or three years building up out of a combination of blood, sweat, and far too many obscure academic citations.
Don’t Just Sit There: An Introduction to Walking Meditation
Much of my energy can be drained by fear and worry. I’m not talking about big, scary fears of harm or death -- I’m actually not an especially fearful person. Some might even think I am brave. As a young woman, I traveled in foreign countries on my own. I’ve changed jobs often and started multiple careers. I do long silent meditation retreats. I’ve faced cancer three times.
If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all
When meditation is depicted visually, it’s almost always in a picture of someone sitting down, usually with eyes closed. And, it’s true, sitting and paying attention to your breath is probably the most common form of meditation today.
But sitting has a serious downside: it takes time and space to do it. Whether you’re devoting five minutes or forty-five minutes to meditation, that’s time you’ve got to carve out of your day.
What is 'Natural Awareness'?
“If you don’t have anything nice to say….”
You know the rest, right? Don’t say anything at all.
My mom used to tell me that all the time when I was a kid. I guess that’s because I was always saying things that weren’t so nice!
Awareness is a capacity of the human mind. As we ordinarily understand it, it’s the ability to directly know and to perceive, sense, feel, or be cognizant of experience. We might think of awareness simply as the state of being conscious of something.
Every sentient being is aware, in this sense of the word. But human beings (and, who knows, maybe some animals) also have an additional capacity: to be aware of awareness, or aware that they are aware.
And this is where it gets interesting, because the “awareness of awareness” has been a focus of meditation for hundreds of years.