“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world”
– The Buddha
To continue with my series on mindfulness, I want to talk today about thoughts. What if I told you that you are not your thoughts? Most of us are so habitually tied to what is going on in our heads, that the idea that there is a separation between what we think and who we are sounds crazy. As you spend time observing your mind, you start to notice that your mind can produce some really weird stuff from out of nowhere. If a mime stubs his toe, does he make a sound? I really should get that report done for my boss, but flamingos are only pink because of the shrimp they eat. Our minds are designed to produce thoughts in much the same way that our stomachs are designed to produce acid and along the same lines if it were to stop, we’d probably be in trouble. The trick in all this is not to get too hung up on what the mind produces. With practice, we can see things such as angry, frustration, and sadness arise, but not get swept up in the tidal wave of emotion. Imagine how nice it would be to get cut off in traffic and stop the anger before it ruins the day.
“With mindfulness, you can establish yourself in the present in order to touch the wonders of life that are available in that moment.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
Several people asked me last week how long a person should sit and breathe when they’re just starting out. My answer to this is as long as you can stand it. In all honesty, most people start out with as little as 5 minutes of meditation at a time. The amount of time someone spends in quiet contemplation is often a factor of convenience, comfort, and desire. I typically sit for at least 15 minutes at a time. When I attend service at the Atlanta Soto Zen Center, we meditate for three 25 minute sessions with short 5 minute breaks in between. In my opinion, the thing that really matters is consistency. I often compare my meditation practice to my habit of brushing my teeth. When I don’t brush my teeth, I certainly know it and I’m pretty sure that those around me can tell as well. Sitting is like brushing my mind. When I haven’t sat I find that I’m more easily upset and frustrated. Meditation allows me to ground myself before venturing out into the world. So the next time you think your day is going to be tough, start it out by spending some time being quiet.
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”
– His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso
Today I want to talk about something that we could all use a little more of and that’s self-compassion. Have you ever noticed how quick we are to forgive the short comings of others? Oh it’s ok. She’s just really busy right now. He’s still learning. He’ll get it right next time. And yet when it comes to ourselves we drop the hammer. I’m such an idiot. I should have known better. Why didn’t I just make a different choice? And on and on until we tear ourselves completely down. Do yourself a favor. The next time you make a choice and it doesn’t turn out exactly how you would have wanted, take a deep breath cut yourself some slack. Use each opportunity to learn and grow yourself instead of slash and burn your self-esteem.”If your compassion does not extend to yourself, it is incomplete. ” Jack Kornfield
“Never look down on anybody unless you’re helping him up.”
– Jesse Jackson
“In nature, we never see anything isolated, but everything in connection with something else which is before it, beside it, under it, and over it.” This quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe reminds me that we are all connected in some way to each other and to everything around us. Regardless of how we may see things, if we look close enough, we start to see that every action we take both positive and negative has a ripple effect throughout not only our immediate environment, but also the larger world. If we stop to offer assistance to someone, we may affect them in ways beyond our wildest dreams. How often have you heard someone famous mention the most random event as having a tremendous impact on their lives? So the next time you see someone who could use your help, don’t just pass them by. When someone does something that upsets you, take a deep breath and forgive them. It is these simple acts of kindness that work to change the world for the better. “Remember, there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” – Scott Adams