“Many people forget their own body. They live in an imaginary world. They have so many plans and fears, so many agitations and dreams, and they don’t live in their body. While we’re caught in fear and trying to plan our way out of fear, we aren’t able to see all the beauty that Mother Earth offers us. Mindfulness reminds you to go to your in-breath and to be totally with your in-breath, be totally with your out-breath. Bring your mind back to your body and be in the present moment. Look deeply straight in front of you at what is wonderful in the present moment. Mother Earth is so powerful, so generous, and so supportive. Your body is so wonderful. When you’ve practiced and you are solid like the earth, you face your difficulty directly, and it begins to dissipate …”~Thich Nhat Hanh 

Be Like a Lion 

  

“When you run after your thoughts, you are like a dog chasing a stick; every time a stick is thrown, you run after it. 

But if, instead, you look at where your thoughts are coming from, you will see that each thought arises and dissolves within the space of that awareness, without engendering other thoughts. 

Be like a lion, who rather than chasing after the stick, turns to face the thrower. One only throws a stick at a lion once.”

 ~ H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

Andy Puddicombe: All it takes is 10 mindful minutes…

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I guess we all deal with stress in different ways. Some people will bury themselves in work, grateful for the distraction. Others will turn to their friends, their family, looking for support. Some people hit the bottle, start taking medication. My own way of dealing with it was to become a monk. So I quit my degree, I headed off to the Himalayas, I became a monk, and I started studying meditation.

People often ask me what I learned from that time. Well, obviously it changed things. Let’s face it, becoming a celibate monk is going to change a number of things. But it was more than that. It taught me — it gave me a greater appreciation, an understanding for the present moment. By that I mean not being lost in thought, not being distracted, not being overwhelmed by difficult emotions, but instead learning how to be in the here and now, how to be mindful, how to be present.

I think the present moment is so underrated. It sounds so ordinary, and yet we spend so little time in the present moment that it’s anything but ordinary. There was a research paper that came out of Harvard, just recently, that said on average, our minds are lost in thought almost 47 percent of the time. 47 percent. At the same time, this sort of constant mind-wandering is also a direct cause of unhappiness. Now we’re not here for that long anyway, but to spend almost half of our life lost in thought and potentially quite unhappy, I don’t know, it just kind of seems tragic, actually, especially when there’s something we can do about it, when there’s a positive, practical, achievable, scientifically proven technique which allows our mind to be more healthy, to be more mindful and less distracted.

And the beauty of it is that even though it need only take about 10 minutes a day, it impacts our entire life. But we need to know how to do it. We need an exercise. We need a framework to learn how to be more mindful. That’s essentially what meditation is. It’s familiarizing ourselves with the present moment.But we also need to know how to approach it in the right way to get the best from it. And that’s what these are for, in case you’ve been wondering, because most people assume that meditation is all about stopping thoughts, getting rid of emotions, somehow controlling the mind, but actually it’s quite different from that. It’s more about stepping back, sort of seeing the thought clearly, witnessing it coming and going, emotions coming and going without judgment, but with a relaxed, focused mind.”

Andy Puddicombe

Meditation: Identifying the Gaps Between Thoughts

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Digital art by Cyril Rolando

“When people begin to meditate, they often say that their thoughts are running riot and have become wilder than ever before. But I reassure them that this is a good sign. Far from meaning that your thoughts have become wilder, it shows that you have become quieter, and you are finally aware of just how noisy your thoughts have always been. Don’t be disheartened or give up. Whatever arises, just keep being present, keep returning to the breath, even in the midst of all the confusion.

In the ancient meditation instructions, it is said that at the beginning thoughts will arrive one on top of another, uninterrupted, like a steep mountain waterfall. Gradually, as you perfect meditation, thoughts become like the water in a deep, narrow gorge, then a great river slowly winding its way down to the sea; finally the mind becomes like a still and placid ocean, ruffled by only the occasional ripple or wave.

Sometimes people think that when they meditate there should be no thoughts and emotions at all; and when thoughts and emotions do arise, they become annoyed and exasperated with themselves and think they have failed. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As long as you have a mind, there will be thoughts and emotions. Thoughts and emotions are the radiance and expression of the very nature of the mind. They rise from the mind, but where do they dissolve? Back into the mind. Whatever arises, do not see it as a particular problem. If you do not impulsively react, if you are only patient, it will once again settle into its essential nature. When you have this understanding, then rising thoughts only enhance your practice. But when you do not understand what they intrinsically are—the radiance of the nature of your mind—then your thoughts become the seed of confusion.

So have a spacious, open, and compassionate attitude toward your thoughts and emotions, because in fact your thoughts are your family, the family of your mind.
We often wonder what to do about negativity or certain troubling emotions. In the spaciousness of meditation, you can view your thoughts and emotions with a totally unbiased attitude. When your attitude changes, then the whole atmosphere of your mind changes, even the very nature of your thoughts and emotions. When you become more agreeable, then they do; if you have no difficulty with them, they will have no difficulty with you either.

So whatever thoughts and emotions arise, allow them to rise and settle, like the waves in the ocean. Whatever you find yourself thinking, let that thought rise and settle, without any constraint. Don’t grasp at it, feed it, or indulge it; don’t cling to it and don’t try to solidify it. Neither follow thoughts nor invite them; be like the ocean looking at its own waves, or the sky gazing down on the clouds that pass through it.

You will soon find that thoughts are like the wind; they come and go. The secret is not to “think” about thoughts, but to allow them to flow through the mind, while keeping your mind free of afterthoughts.

In the ordinary mind, we perceive the stream of thoughts as continuous; but in reality this is not the case. You will discover for yourself that there is a gap between each thought. When the past thought is past and the future thought not yet arisen, you will always find a gap in which the Rigpa, the nature of mind, is revealed. So the work of meditation is to allow thoughts to slow down, to make that gap become more and more apparent.”

Sogyal Rinpoche

From the Tibetan book of Living and Dying

No irritation, no pearl…

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“If her past were your past, her pain your pain, her level of consciousness your level of consciousness, you would think and act exactly as she does. With this realization comes forgiveness, compassion, peace. The ego doesn’t like to hear this, because if it cannot be reactive and righteous anymore, it will lose strength.” Eckhart Tolle

Sometimes people piss me off, especially selfish or ignorant people who have little to no regard for others or awareness of how their actions impact others. To the person that hit my less-than-a-month-old car and drove off without leaving a note, yes, I am talking to you. There are around seven billion of us trying to coexist on this beautiful planet, and sometimes people need a little reminder that we’re all in this together. We’re all connected whether you an aware of it or not.

I try and live a mindful existence, aware of my thoughts, my speech and actions. I understand that cultivating a peaceful life means being present and living in the Now. Yet despite my efforts, people can and do piss me from time to time. I am a human being after all and I am not immune to irritation. And undoubtedly, I’m the source of annoyance for others too, I’m sure my husband can attest to that. 😉

Thankfully, getting annoyed with people is happening less frequently for me these days and when it does happen, I see it as the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness. When a stranger treats others or myself with blatant disregard, I get really annoyed. My annoyance and ego will flare up instantaneously and I’ll judge them. I might think, what an asshole! Such a selfish prick! It arises so suddenly that I feel helpless to stop it. Thankfully, stopping such thoughts isn’t the goal of mindfulness. Awareness is.

The fact that you can identify unhelpful thoughts is paramount. If I can catch my ego having a rant, the mere act of being aware of it can take the wind out of its sails. I can apply some metacognition and change my ‘what an asshole’ dialogue to something like ‘He/She is doing the best they can. They don’t know any better.’ And the irritation simply dissolves.

I often remind myself of what Deepak Chopra says, “people are doing the best that they can from their own level of consciousness.” That gives me comfort and enables me to show some much needed compassion. For the most part, people aren’t inherently assholes, they’re doing the best they can with the level of consciousness they have attained at this time. I can also apply this compassion to myself; I don’t need to live a perfectly equanimous life, although it would be nice. I need to live an unequivocally mindful one.

Namaste!

The Eyes of the Elephant Queen: Thich Nhat Hanh

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The following extract is taken from The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology (2008) by Thich Nhat Hanh.  

Every step we make has the power to heal and transform. Not only can we heal ourselves by our steps, but we can help the Earth and the environment.

The Mahaparinirvana Sutra describes the life of the Buddha during his last year—the places he travelled, the people he met, and the teachings he gave. In the sutra, it is said that the Buddha had just spent the Rains Retreat near the city of Vaishali, north of the Ganges River, and that he then decided to travel north in order to return to the town of his birth, Kapilavastu. Although he knew this was the last time he would ever see the beautiful city of Vaishali, he did not lift his hand to wave good-bye. Instead, we find this sentence in the sutra:

The Buddha, on his way, turned around, and with the eyes  of an elephant queen, he surveyed the city of Vaishali for  the last time and said, “Ananda, don’t you think that Vaishali  is beautiful?”  After having surveyed the city of Vaishali with a gentle gaze that took in all of its beauty, the Buddha turned back to the north and began to walk.

When the Buddha looks, he does so with the eyes of the elephant queen in order to look deeply and recognize what is there. We, too, have the eyes of the Buddha and of the elephant queen. If you see deeply into the beauty of nature around you, you’re looking with the eyes of the Buddha. It is extremely kind of you to look on behalf of the Buddha, to contemplate the world for the Buddha, because you are his continuation.

So when you practice sitting meditation, sit for the Buddha. The Buddha in you is sitting upright, the Buddha in you is enjoying every in-breath and out-breath, the Buddha in you is contemplating the world with mindfulness and getting in touch with the beauty of nature.

If you know how to contemplate the beauty of nature with the eyes of the Buddha, you will not say that your life has no meaning. You can listen with the ears of the Buddha, you can contemplate the world with the eyes of the Buddha, and thanks to that, your children and their children will also be able to look and contemplate like the Buddha. You transmit the Buddha to your children and to their children, in the way you walk, sit, look, and listen, even in the way you eat. This is something that you can do now. Starting today, you can already be a real and true continuation of the Buddha, our spiritual ancestor.

Every minute of our daily lives is an opportunity for us to walk like a buddha, to listen with compassion like a buddha, to sit as peacefully and as happily as a buddha, and to look deeply and enjoy the beauties of the world like a buddha. In doing so, we are helping our father, our mother, our ancestors, and our children in us to evolve, and we are also helping our teacher to fulfil his vow, his aspiration. In this way, our life will truly become a concrete message of love. Living our lives in this way, we can help prevent global warming from harming our planet.

When we look deeply into ourselves, we can identify elements of the Kingdom of God that are available in the here and now. To me the Kingdom of God or the Pure Land of the Buddha is not a vague idea; it is a reality. That pine tree standing on the mountain is so beautiful, solid, and green. To me the pine tree belongs to the Kingdom of God, the Pure Land of the Buddha. Your beautiful child with her fresh smile belongs to the Kingdom of God, and you also belong to the Kingdom of God. If we’re capable of recognizing the flowing river, the blue sky, the blossoming tree, the singing bird, the majestic mountains, the countless animals, the sunlight, the fog, the snow, the innumerable wonders of life as miracles that belong to the Kingdom of God, we’ll do our best to preserve them and not allow them to be destroyed. If we recognize that this planet belongs to the Kingdom of God, we will cherish and protect it so we can enjoy it for a long time, and so that our children and their children will have a chance to enjoy it.

The Buddha teaches us about the cycle of samsara, a cycle in which the same suffering repeats itself. If we don’t practice, we won’t be able to step out of it. With mindful breathing, mindful walking, and mindful dwelling in the present moment, we don’t need to consume and run after objects of craving in order to be happy. In our monastery at Plum Village, nobody has their own bank account, no one has a private car or a private cell phone, and the monks, nuns, and laypeople who live here don’t receive any salary. And yet there’s joy and happiness, there’s brotherhood and sisterhood. We don’t need the “American dream” anymore. Breathing in, we get in touch with the stars, the moon, the clouds, the mountain, the river. When we’re inhabited by the energy of mindfulness and concentration, every step we take leads us into the Kingdom of God, the Pure Land of the Buddha.

When we look deeply into a flower, we see the elements that have come together to allow it to manifest. We can see clouds manifesting as rain. Without the rain, nothing can grow. When I touch the flower, I’m touching the cloud and touching the rain. This is not just poetry, it’s reality. If we take the clouds and the rain out of the flower, the flower will not be there. With the eye of the Buddha, we are able to see the clouds and the rain in the flower. We can touch the sun without burning our fingers. Without the sun nothing can grow, so it’s not possible to take the sun out of the flower. The flower cannot be as a separate entity; it has to inter-be with the light, with the clouds, with the rain. The word “interbeing” is closer to reality that the word “being.” Being really means interbeing.

The same is true for me, for you, and for the Buddha. The Buddha has to inter-be with everything. Interbeing and nonself are the objects of our contemplation. We have to train ourselves so that in our daily lives we can touch the truth of interbeing and nonself in every moment. You are in touch with the clouds, with the rain, with the children, with the trees, with the rivers, with your planet, and that contact reveals the true nature of reality, the nature of impermanence, nonself, interdependence, and interbeing.

We have destroyed our Mother Earth in the same way bacteria or a virus can destroy a human body. Mother Earth is also a body. Of course, there are bacteria that are beneficial to the human body, that protect the body and help generate enzymes that we need. Similarly, if the human species wakes up and knows how to live with responsibility, compassion, and loving kindness, the human species can be a living organism with the capacity to protect the body of Mother Earth. We have to see that we inter-are with our Mother Earth, that we live with her and die with her.

It’s wonderful to realize that we are all in a family, we are all children of the Earth. We should take care of each other and we should take care of our environment, and this is possible with the practice of being together as a large family. A positive change in individual awareness will bring about a positive change in the collective awareness. Protecting the planet must be given the first priority. I hope you will take the time to sit down with each other, have tea with your friends and your family, and discuss these things. Invite Bodhisattva Earth Holder to sit and collaborate with you. Then make your decision and act to save our beautiful planet. Changing your way of living will bring you a lot of joy right away and, with your first mindful breath, healing will begin.

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Detach From Your Thoughts

How I feel when I meditate. 🙂 How adorable is this Japanese Snow Monkey? There’s plenty more cuteness where that pic came from.   Found on mymodernmet.com1082111860

‘The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not “the thinker.” The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence. You also realize that all the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind. You begin to awaken.’

Eckhart Tolle, Practicing the Power of Now: Essential Teachings, Meditations, and Exercises from the Power of Now

 

Noteable Read: Unorthodox Confessions: The Importance of Dharma, Karma, and Reincarnation by Nadia Ballas-Ruta

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I’ve read more spirituality autobiographies over the past few years than I’d like to admit, but few appear to have been as relatable, intimate and honest as Unorthodox Confessions: The Importance of Dharma, Karma, and Reincarnation.

This novel is a remarkably frank recount of author Nadia Ballas-Ruta’s life and spiritual journey thus far. Beautifully written, without an ounce of ego in sight, Nadia shares her experience in moving from pain and suffering, to a life filled with greater inner-peace and harmony. This is not a sad nor depressing read, rather a celebration of how she began living a more authentic life, in touch with the Divine.

As a relative novice to Buddhism, I found the knowledge pertaining to dharma, karma, ego and reincarnation incredibly helpful. It was such an enjoyable and profound read that I had to share it on here.

Here are a few quotes that really resonated with me.

  • ‘Your soul is the Divine within you. Fear is not Divine-it is created by the ego.’
  •  ‘Is everything destined? No. Is everything subject to free will? No. However, everything is subject to dharma. What does this mean? It means that whatever action we choose, there is a natural consequence of that action within the confines of our dharma.’ 
  •  ‘The law of karma is not a punishment. Rather, it is a balancing out of energy, and from this balancing process, we are supposed to learn, and attain wisdom. Karma is not a negative thing, but a very beautiful concept that is designed for our greater good.’
  •  ‘So the goal of the law of karma is not to be fault-free, but rather to reach the level of self-actualization wherein a person is so mindful of every moment that they realize we are all connected, and that what I do to you, I do to myself as well.’ 
  • ‘Awakening is a never ending process. You reach one level of understanding about the true nature of life, only to find another level awaiting you.’ 
  • ‘To be awake means to see life as it truly is, and not to be fooled by the illusion, while to be asleep means that one is consumed with the illusion, and therefore cannot see God.’ 
  • ‘My heart hurt for how the Divine must feel for giving us so much, and yet we think He/She/It does not exist. Talk about unrequited love- the Divine is the most unrequited lover in human history.’ 
  • ‘Anytime we are not at peace, the ego is ruling us. Anytime we feel true inner peace, the soul is what is guiding us.’
  • ‘Your ultimate goal is to attain liberation. How do you do that? By mastering the self. And how do you do you master the self? You look inward, and work on all the things that are holding you back from living from your soul, your innate Divinity.’ 
  • ‘Modern spirituality makes it seem that once you become aware of spiritual truths, you have arrived, and all is perfect. Nothing could be further from the truth.’

If you’re interested, you can buy a copy here: Unorthodox Confessions: The Importance of Dharma, Karma, and Reincarnation

Osho: Accept, and then simply observe

 

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“Through awareness, transformation happens spontaneously. If you become aware of your anger, understanding penetrates. Just watching, with no judgment, not saying good, not saying bad. There is lightning, anger, you feel hot, the whole nervous system shaking and quaking, and you feel a tremor all over the body – a beautiful moment, because when energy functions you can watch it easily.

Close your eyes and meditate on it. Don’t fight it, just look at what is happening. Just like you watch a storm in the sky – the whole sky filled with electricity, so much lightning, so much beauty – lie down and look at the sky and watch. Then do the same inside.”

-Osho

The Longest Journey You Will Ever Make

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Picture taken from http://artofmob.blogspot.com.au/

‘One thing: you have to walk, and create the way by your walking; you will not find a ready-made path. It is not so cheap, to reach to the ultimate realization of truth. You will have to create the path by walking yourself; the path is not ready-made, lying there and waiting for you. It is just like the sky: the birds fly, but they don’t leave any footprints. You cannot follow them; there are no footprints left behind.’

Osho