The Four Noble Truths: There Is Suffering

You have probably heard something of the story of the Buddha’s enlightenment and what led up to it*. Before he became the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama lived two very different lives, neither of which brought contentment or peace. He was born in to royalty and before long was prophesied to be either a great king or a great religious leader. His father, hoping to extend the “family business,” sheltered him from the drudgery and challenge of everyday life. He built walls around the castle and gave his son all of the luxuries of life. But the son was unhappy. He wanted to see outside the walls. So one night, his servant took him into the village. What he saw there shocked him. Imagine living 29 years and never seeing a sick person or even an old person! He saw these in spades in addition to the homeless and even dead bodies. Next week, I’ll continue the story into his life of austerity but suffice it to say, the experience in the village brought him insight to The First Noble Truth, There Is Suffering.

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By User:Sacca – Picture of a painting in a Laotian Temple, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=800455

 

There’s a way,” writes Jack Kornfield, “in which we all deeply long to do the work of the heart, but we forget, we get so busy, we might get caught. We forget to ask what needs attention.” I often find myself so caught up in commitments and obligations, that I forget to feel. So busy crossing things off my to-do list, I forget to notice and wonder if what I am doing aligns with my heart. This is the human condition. Our culture even encourages this because if I live in delusion and distraction, I will look for a fix. Tara Brach calls this “the trance of unworthiness,” which drives us to try the newest drug,  cosmetic or shiny new car in order to be happy. We push away our suffering, constructing walls both literal and figurative, to shelter us from the reality of illness (think hospitals) and old age (think nursing homes).

The First Noble Truth urges us to stop, if only for a moment, and not run away from unpleasant sensation. We all have our own stories or narratives for “how things are” or “how they should be,” but what does it really fell like to acknowledge and feel the uncertainty and what comes with it? Great wisdom can come from asking, “What is asking for my attention in this moment?”


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Join Center For Self-Care this and every Monday at 7:15pm at Balanced For Life Yoga in Devon, PA for Simply Meditation. This drop-in class includes a short teaching, a guided practice and time for discussion. A perfect way to support you as you apply the wisdom of meditation and mindfulness to your own life. Contact us or register online today.  September 2019 features an exploration of a new Noble Truth each week!


Insight Meditation is a form of practice that invites such a reflection through ancient but universal instructions. Jack Kornfield, who was my inspiration for the meditation below, describes this as the first task – to acknowledge and stand in the center of our experience, to “be here now.” The meditation below brings one in to the body, the mind and the heart, gently touching what needs attention or click here for a longer version with an introductory talk.

*Check out Jack’s Kornfield’s wonderful Meditation For Beginners audiobook for more on the integration of The Four Noble Truths into one’s life. For a great, brief description of the Buddha’s early life, check out The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson.

 

 

 

Time For Joy

Have you ever wondered “where does joy come from and how can I get it?” I have recently been exploring the Buddhist practice of Muditā, or Sympathetic Joy. It is cultivated by intentional practice of delighting in other’s wellbeing. Sharing in others joy can offer a lifeline, an expansiveness that builds on our connection with others.

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Buddhist teachings offer the Brahmavihāra, translated as the Four Immeasurable Qualities of Being. They include Compassion, Lovingkindness, Equanimity and Joy. Joy is translated from the Pali word Muditā, the nuance of which includes the concept of sympathetic or appreciative joy. The traditional meditation on joy, like those of compassion and lovingkindness, begins by imagining beings and offering your wish for them to experience this state.

While meditating on joy can help settle the mind and make one feel more connected and happy, the most exciting quality to me is its empathetic qualities. Usually we think of empathy in terms of identifying and connecting with difficult emotions in others. But can it work the other way around? By finding joy in others, we can awaken the joy that lives in each of us. How beautiful to think, “I know how you feel” when we see another person full of joy and delight! This activation carries the secret – that we hold the tools for joy inside of us. With presence, mindfulness, and of course practice, we can find joy and experience its benefits.


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Practice with Center For Self-Care every Wednesday night at 7:15pm at Balanced For Life Yoga in Devon, PA. Email or click here to register today.


I’ve been meditating for many years, spending weeks at a time meditating on compassion and lovingkindness. These meditations ask us to visualize loved ones, friends, strangers, those in need and even difficult people. Oftentimes, these meditations suggest we bring someone who is suffering into our consciousness. We offer them our wishes for compassion, health, safety and peace.

Psychotherapist Brian Williams offers an interesting take on the joy meditation. His meditation asked me to bring someone who is doing really, really well into my thoughts. When I first practiced this, I felt an explosion in my mind. It hadn’t occurred to me to bring someone who was just plain doing well as the subject of my practice. It was an opening: “Oh! I can offer my wishes to those doing great too.” And there is no need to set the bar impossibly high. I began with my children, one of whom has had a strong improvement in school and the other who has been skillfully managing his anxiety. Sure, they have difficulties but in general, things are going pretty well. As I practiced, I was able to recognize their joy and realize that I had my own measure of it as well.

The next time you sit, bring to mind someone who is filled with joy, perhaps someone who is doing really well right now. Create an image of them. Then repeat these phrases silently:

54eba5a005c198b1ae99a9f3b3ddd19b_-real-estate-company-in-lotus_2000-920.jpegMay your happiness increase.

May your success continue to grow.

May you continue to create the conditions for peace and freedom in your life.

I see your success and I wish for it to grow.

I’ve recorded a version of this meditation, 7 Mindful Minutes: Sensing Joy, which you can access via iTunes or Soundcloud.


More tools to cultivate joy

You can subscribe to my podcast on iTunes, Stitcher or Player FM or download individual episodes using the links below:

The Power of a Smile blog or podcast.

The Power of Gratitude blog or podcast.

The Power of Generosity blog or podcast.

Jack Kornfield has numerous talks and writings on joy including the video below.

Another way to share in the joy of others is by journaling on gratitude each week. I do these as part of my reflection on teaching adolescents – usually these reflections and stories involve a discovery by a student or a kind act I witnessed. In this way, I can share in the joy of others and activate it in myself. There is some great research on the benefits of such practice.

originally published March 31, 2017

The Power of a Smile

We all know what it feels like to see a friendly face and a smile in the midst of the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

But that doesn’t always happen because of two dynamics – everyone is in their own world so they don’t remember to smile and we don’t remember to look.

Awhile back, I put together a list of 10 intentions for my everyday life. Along with reducing electronics use and spending quality time with my family, I included the one-word intention, “smile.” While my track record to-date on the other 9 intentions is pretty good, my intention to smile has been neglected. Sometimes I don’t feel like smiling. Nonetheless, just a small amount of practice has me feeling benefits already.

Click to download our most recent podcast on iTunesStitcher or Soundcloud.

This podcast includes a guided meditation on the smile. There isn’t any expectation of results or for it to be a certain way, just an exercise to experiment and see what comes up. If you find yourself saying, “I’m not good at this!” you are probably doing it right! Instead of truly trying to get you to smile all the time, it is intended to support awareness of what’s happening inside, how you are feeling and what you are thinking. You can find a shorter version below or join us for Simply Meditation each week in-person or online,

A simple smile can trigger physiological and chemical changes in our body as well as impact our emotions. You don’t even need to “feel it” to have an impact. Through this process, your can transform an intention into an inclination and then into an action.

One researcher, Dr. Robert Zajonc was responsible for early research that suggested one’s smile can actually contribute to a feeling of wellbeing as opposed to just reflecting it. Daniel Goleman writes of two such studies, one that showed simply placing the muscles of your face in the pattern of a particular emotion elicits that emotion. The other found that blood temperatures in the brain were impacted by different facial expressions, suggesting that brain processes work differently depending on your outer expression. You can find 9 more benefits of smiling by following this link.

originally written by Marc Balcer for the Your Mindful Coach Blog.

Not Knowing

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 10.52.00 AMAs a child, I remember a slogan on a coffee cup that read, “I finally got it all together. Now where did I put it?” Can you relate? My life often feels like a never-ending cycle of figuring things out and then realizing I didn’t have it right. It’s a cycle of Knowing and Humbling. I read a book that brings an insight then build a system or habit to incorporate it into my life. Or I take a new approach in a relationship. At first, it’s working great. My head grows a little bigger and I become self-righteous. And then it falls apart.

There is an oft-repeated story that sheds light on our efforts create certainty and stability out of a mysterious and chaotic world,

The Chinese tell the story of an old man who owned a bony plow horse. One spring afternoon the horse ran away. The old man’s friends, trying to console him, said, “We’re so sorry about your horse, old man. What a misfortune you’ve had.” But the old man said, “Bad news, good news-who knows?”

A few days later the horse returned home leading a herd of wild horses. Again the friends came running. Filled with jubilation, they cried, “How wonderful!” But the old man whispered, “Good news, bad news-who knows?”

Then the next day, when the farmer’s son was trying to ride one of the new horses, the young man was thrown to the ground and broke both legs. The friends gasped. The old man stood still and said, “Bad news, good news-who knows?”

And a short time later when the village went to war and all the young men were drafted to fight, the farmer’s son was excused because of two broken legs. Good news. Bad news. Who knows?

Adapted from http://topmoralstories.blogspot.co.uk/2008/05/bad-news-good-news-who-knows.html

So I can try to figure everything out or I can just allow myself to not know. I can have a guess based off probabilities but I don’t have to foreclose the rest of the possibilities. As it turns out, not knowing can be exhilarating or even relaxing. Not knowing can open our minds and hearts to curiosity and wonder.

In the video below, Zen Master Bon Soeng declares “Knowing separates things. Good, bad, right, wrong. Not knowing greets wonder and curiosity and aliveness.Being in this moment. Right here and now even if we can’t quite make sense of it. Not knowing is alive. With uncertainty, anticipation, fear and excitement.

Technology and interconnection have enabled us to have 24/7 access to information at our fingertips. So we have the perception that everything is knowable. Comedian Pete Holmes observes, “There was a time that if you didn’t know something, you just didn’t know!” So we have less practice of sitting with uncertainty because much of what we think we want to know can be uncovered with a simple Google search.

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Join us every Wednesday at 7:15 pm for Simply Meditation at Balanced For Life Yoga Therapy, 45 Berkley Road, Devon. Each week, we offer a short teaching, a guided meditation and time for shared reflection. Register at https://www.balancedforlifeyoga.com/schedule.html or email marc@center4selfcare.com for details.

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Don’t Know Mind

Zen Master Suzuki Roshi wrote, “A beginner’s mind is wide open and questioning. An expert’s mind is closed.” The certainty of knowing limits the possibility of change. Not knowing can be a powerful tool for developing wisdom and accessing intuition. Our experience is impermanent and ever-changing such that what we think we know is true no may not longer be true, or perhaps it never was.

We can practice inviting uncertainty in meditation. It may be as simple as offering the phrase “don’t know,” whenever we get caught up in a thought or busy solving a problem. Or we can invite it into the challenges and difficulties we face to see what comes up. A helpful resource is Pema Chodron’s short book, Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion.

What To Do With A Busy Mind

busymind
https://www.stresstostrength.com/tame-your-busy-mind/

There is nothing wrong with a busy mind. The human brain entertains thousands thoughts each day, perhaps as many as one every second. We walk around with a “monkey mind” sitting atop our shoulders. This mind creates stories and narratives as we make sense of our experience.  It is evolutionarily adaptive, helping us survive physical threats and navigate psycho-emotional challenges. That said, most of our thoughts are repeats, the “Top Ten Tunes” of anticipation, worry and regret.

What can we do with a busy mind? While we can’t eliminate thoughts, we can literally train our brain to become less reactive to whatever impulses or urges find their way in to our consciousness. If you’re like me, any efforts to ignore or exile thoughts just causes them to multiply. So we aren’t going to clear or empty our mind. Instead, we can bring a curious attention to whatever arises, instead observing and engaging with thoughts so they don’t have quite the control over us that they usually do.

You’ll find four strategies for working with a busy mind below,

1. Let the mind wonder and wander

mind-wandering.jpgMany beginning meditators find themselves frustrated that they can’t clear their mind. But that is not the point. A first step might be simply allowing what arises and being curious about it. There is no need to judge or try to make things a certain way. This practice can be relaxing and relieving because it is not asking you to do anything but to observe the unfolding of your experience.

 

2. Walk it off with The Mind Eraser

4319_f33bc8c05e5d02556bbeaf5e74caccbdSitting still might feel like torture when the mind is busy. A wonderful movement-based practice to try is Walking Meditation. In particular, try out sequential counting, or as I call it, The Mind Eraser. To begin, walk at a natural pace. Become aware of the cadence of your steps. Then count each step, in a very particular way. The right foot is “one,” the left foot is “one,” the right foot is “two,” the left foot is “one,” the right foot is “two,” the left foot is “three”. The sequence of counting will look like this: 1, 1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on until you get to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Then begin to count down, start with “ten,” then “ten, nine” and so on until you get to 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. What next? Begin again. If you lose track, just pick up wherever you think you may have been. Confused? That’s practically the point. The mind becomes overwhelmed with counting and the discursive thoughts become a bit quieter.

3. Ask the mind a question

If you can ask a beautiful question, you’ll find the answer often lies several layers below our normal mode of thinking. In fact, the answer might be held in the body, in a felt sense that can not be named but is instead felt. In this practice from Martine Batchelor, the question becomes the anchor of the meditative experience. Instead of seeking a response to “What is this?” the practitioner instead notices what arises.

 

4. Let it be

In her poem Allow, Dana Faulds begins, “There’s no controlling life. Try corralling a lighting bolt. . .” Buddhist philosophy identifies three poisons that keep us in a state of suffering: grasping, aversion and delusion. We seek pleasure, avoid pain and bend reality to our preferences. Another possibility is to try to let things be just in this moment. Perhaps we will act or speak differently in the future, but whatever is here now is here now. Meditation teacher Tara Brach offers some suggestions in practice of what one can say when dealing with unpleasant thoughts or sensations. I particularly like her offer to say “yes” or “this too” or even “I consent” to whatever comes up.


Simply Meditation

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The practices of meditation can be transformational but they aren’t always easy. It helps to have a group and a local teacher to support you in your practice. Every Wednesday evening at 7:15pm, Marc Balcer and Center For Self-Care offer a drop-in teaching and guided meditation at Balanced For Life Yoga in Devon, PA. Click here to register and join us.

 

 

Self-Compassion Isn’t Selfish

What do you say to a friend that is struggling, failing or suffering? Most of us have great care and compassion when we encounter a loved one going through difficult times. We seek to listen, to comfort, to empathize and to help. We say things like, “I see how hard this is for you” or “You are doing the best that you can.” But what do you say to yourself when you are struggling? I am guessing it’s a bit different. You are not alone if you say something like “How could I be so stupid?” or “I am a disaster.

b6cb0e98eb69cb29df561dde9450e50f_XLOver the last few weeks, I’ve been teaching self-compassion, beginning each session with these two questions. It seems each group enjoys sharing their insights on how to support a friend. And then I offer the second question. Suddenly, body language shifts. Perhaps an audible “Uh-oh!” is declared as we together recognize that perhaps we need to flip the Golden Rule on its head. For all the care and compassion we offer to others, we usually reserve a healthy dose of judgment and criticism for ourselves. Do unto ourselves as we would do unto others. At least when it comes to compassion.


Kristin Neff wrote the book on Self-Compassion. She attributes much of the self-flagellation we impose to cultural norms that suggest self-criticism is a great motivator. As if when we give ourself compassion, we’ll just give ourselves a free pass for every one of our transgressions and end up lazy and broke. Research suggests that the opposite is true and I agree based on my experience. When we practice self-compassion, we snap out of the illusion of perfectionism and are more willing to take risks. More willing to try knowing that we might fail and failing is okay. Neff identifies three components to self-compassion: Self-Kindness, Shared Experience and Mindfulness. Check it out below,

The next time you catch your self-critic beating up on you, try the Self-Compassion Break by Kristin Neff. Simply come to stillness and silently repeat the following phrases,

  • This is a moment of suffering.
  • Suffering is part of the human condition.
  • May I be kind to myself in this moment.
  • May I give myself the compassion I need right now.

I’ve provided some additional writings, talks and guided practices that will support you on your self-compassionate journey,

The Art Of Self-Compassion, A Personal Reflection

The Art of Self-Compassion, Meeting The Critic

Meditation For Beginners: Equanimity

We continued our Cultivating The Heart series with the topic of equanimity. Our work over these classes examines the Four Immeasurable Qualities of the Heart or the Brahmavihāras. The first two, compassion and lovingkindness,  are states that we can cultivate and incline our minds towards. But this isn’t to the exclusion of unpleasant qualities – the true practice of meditation is feeling what we are feeling while we are feeling it. When we are sad or grieving or frustrated or furious, it is helpful to be able to identify this so our words and actions reflect who we are and not the state that we are in.

This winter, Center For Self-Care, in conjunction with Balanced For Life Yoga Therapy, offers four stand-alone beginner’s meditation workshops in Wayne, Pennsylvania. The series is called “Cultivating The Heart.” Each week, two meditations are offered, one from the tradition of insight meditation and one from the tradition of mindfulness meditation. We’d love you to join us. But if you can’t, you can find resources and recordings to try this out yourself at home.

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And thank goodness! The day of this evening workshop, I taught seven straight classes to 7th through 11th graders, coached two sports and stayed up too late the night before. But through it all, I could find brief periods to notice and allow my experience.

Equanimity reflects a fairness and even-mindedness of the mind/heart that can be cultivated with mindfulness and meditation. Releasing the effort to make things a certain way, we instead “become aware of the waves and rest seated in the midst of them.” Below are two practices you can try to arrive at this awareness:

Here are some books that I’ve found helpful in this exploration: The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully by Frank Ostaseski and The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship by David Whyte. Among Ostaseski’s invitations are to “Find a place of rest in the midst of things” and “Welcome everything, push away nothing.” Whyte addresses the question of finding balance by reminding us that it isn’t just about “work/life” balance but is instead a delicate dance of our vocations, our relationships and our selves. When we try to compartmentalize things that aren’t going right, they infect the other arenas in life. Our task instead is to integrate these three marriages because they just can’t be separated.



Equanimity is not about ignoring what’s happening or being indifferent to it. Jack Kornfield describes how we can appear serene by standing stoically and may even find a bit of peace or relief as we withdraw or seclude. Indifference, he adds, is based on fear, “True equanimity is not a withdrawal; it is a balanced engagement with all aspects of life. It is opening to the whole of life with composure and ease of mind, accepting the beautiful and terrifying nature of all things.”

One traditional meditation comes directly from Jack Kornfield’s book The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness and Peace. Find Jack’s version here or listen below to cultivate the qualities of equanimity.

In this practice, we offer phrases that include

  • May I be balanced and at peace.
  • May I have true equanimity.
  • May I learn to see the arising an passing of all things with equanimity and balance.
  • May I bring compassion and equanimity to the events of the world.
  • May I find balance and equanimity and peace amidst it all.

As we continue through the meditation, we bring loved ones, strangers, even difficult people to our imagination, offering these wishes to them as well. We do this with a deep self-compassion as we remember, Your happiness and suffering depend on your actions and not on my wishes for you.

The practice of meditation can lead us to an experience of equanimity. But it requires work. I think to the three refugees in Buddhist tradition: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. By practicing regularly with love (Buddha), learning and inquiring (Dharma) and gathering in community (Sangha), we can deepen and reinforce a practice that can be a lifelong companion.


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Join us on Thursday, March 14 at 6:30pm for our final session of Meditation for Beginners, Cultivating the Heart. Our focus with be Joy.

Want more? Register today for A Mindful Pause: Finding Refuge and Peace in a Busy Life on Sunday, April 28 at Bryn Mawr College. Choose from a morning or full-day option. This offering is by donation and is suitable to all levels of experience including brand-new beginners.

Meditation For Beginners: Loving-Kindness

Repetition of simplicity leads to insight.” – David Nichtern

This winter, Center For Self-Care, in conjunction with Balanced For Life Yoga Therapy, offers four stand-alone beginner’s meditation workshops in Wayne, Pennsylvania. The series is called “Cultivating The Heart.” Each week, two meditations are offered, one from the tradition of insight meditation and one from the tradition of mindfulness meditation. We’d love you to join us. But if you can’t, you can find resources and recordings to try this out yourself at home.

We began our second session with a simple practice from Jonathan Foust called, “Moving From Thought to Sensation.” We spend so much of our days analyzing, judging and comparing. This important function kept our ancestors alive 20,000 years ago when they were being chased by wild animals. It also serves a critical role in advances in the field of science, technology and medicine. But sometimes, a different state of mind is called for. A state where we use our sense to arrive in the present moment.

May you be seen. May you be comforted. May you be loved.

Loving-kindness takes practice. At first you might find it mechanical. Stay with it. It may transition to feeling a bit awkward and then to natural and organic!

Catch Yourself

Be Gentle

Begin Again

One way to support this is through a practice called “Name it to Tame It.” In this practice, we note or name what arises in our mind, whether it be a thought, memory, emotion or felt sensation. It can be as simple as saying, “Thinking, Thinking” and then returning to the anchor of our breath. If you’ve ever been upset and said aloud, “I’m just really frustrated right now!” you may have experienced a feeling of relief.

Author and Doctor Dan Siegel has shared research on the impact of naming our states on settling our mind. In this process, our emotional system, which senses threats for us and warns our body that something is amiss. But when we involve our thinking brain, the prefrontal cortex, we are able to soothe emotions through an integrated connection of neurons and synapses that send messages to our emotional system that the perceived threat is not quite so urgent and doesn’t require a reactive response. It is best to practice this in a quiet, calm space then use this practice to enter the world with an approach of thoughtful responses instead of habitual reactions.

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Join us on Thursday, March 7 at 6:30pm for our next session of Meditation for Beginners, Cultivating the Heart. Our focus with be Joy.

Want more? Register today for A Mindful Pause: Finding Refuge and Peace in a Busy Life on Sunday, April 28 at Bryn Mawr College. Choose from a morning or full-day option. This offering is by donation and is suitable to all levels of experience including brand-new beginners.

The recording below is the full workshop from a previous Meditation for Beginners class,

“The practice is not about mastery. It is about trying.” – Ethan Nichtern (David’s son)

Cover art from the “Be Kind” series. Please support the artist, David Gerbstadt, by visiting his Facebook or GoFundMe page and getting some for yourself. 

Meditation For Beginners: Compassion

This winter, Center For Self-Care, in conjunction with Balanced For Life Yoga Therapy, offers four beginner’s meditation workshops in Wayne, Pennsylvania. The series is called “Cultivating The Heart.” The title recognizes the practice of mindfulness and meditation as a process. There is no sudden awakening or enlightenment. Instead, by gently tending the garden of our mind and heart, we set an intention that inclines us toward kindness and compassion. It just takes regular practice. We’d love you to join us. But if you can’t, you can find resources and recordings to try this out yourself at home.

Grant yourself a moment of peace,
and you will understand
how foolishly you have scurried about.

Learn to be silent,
and you will notice that
you have talked too much.

Be kind,
and you will realize that
your judgment of others was too severe.

-from The Tao of Wealth

We spend so much of our days analyzing, judging and comparing. This important function kept our ancestors alive 20,000 years ago when they were being chased by wild animals. It also serves a critical role in advances in the field of science, technology and medicine. But sometimes, a different state of mind is called for. A state where we use our sense to arrive in the present moment. That’s what meditation and mindfulness can offer.

Catch Yourself

Be Gentle

Begin Again

Try the focused breathing practice below to get a sense of it. Just like training a puppy, our task is to pause, reset and begin again.

Just as we go to the gym to build physical strength, we practice in meditation to build mental strength. And it ain’t easy. It’s basically “failing practice,” right? We intentionally sit and allow ourselves to become distracted so that we can practice returning. So it will require one more thing: compassion. Without compassion, we may turn this work into a grim duty, a mechanical act that mimics all the other things we are trying to perfect about our life despite the utter impossibility of arriving at that state.

We worked with a traditional compassion practice that you can try out yourself. In this practice, we combine an image, a wish and repeated phrases to soften and open our heart to a deep compassion for ourselves and others. As we repeat these phrases silently, we slowly expand the circle of our care to include others, even all beings.

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Join us on Thursday, February 28 at 6:30pm for our next session of Meditation for Beginners, Cultivating the Heart. Our focus with be Lovingkindness.

Want more? Register today for A Mindful Pause: Finding Refuge and Peace in a Busy Life on Sunday, April 28 at Bryn Mawr College. Choose from a morning or full-day option. This offering is by donation and is suitable to all levels of experience including brand-new beginners.

The recording below is the full workshop from a previous Meditation for Beginners class,

Showing Up for Our Lives

“One life on this earth is all that we get, whether it is enough or not enough, and the obvious conclusion would seem to be that at the very least we are fools if we do not live it as fully and bravely and beautifully as we can.”

-Frederick Buechner

How do we truly show up for our lives? Show up for ourselves? Show up for each other? Show up for our kids?

How do we make the most of our time while we are here? Having a meaningful life, being present and living life to the fullest moment to moment, right here-right now? Feeling connection with what’s here-ourselves and each other.

I believe the first step is, we have to show up for ourselves, take care of ourselves. If we do this, we are more able to show up and be present for each other.

Here’s the other part, showing up can be difficult. Being present can be difficult. There are things that get in the way and prevent us from being right here. They get in the way of our ability to show up, care for ourselves, and each other.

Things like stress, worry, fear, shame, judgment, insecurity, doubt, pain, and struggle. The constant to do list, being pulled in a million different directions-all things we have to get done in this hour, this day. Sometimes when I am feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and worried my thoughts of judgment can take over. Here are a few: I am not good enough; I can’t handle this; I am the only one going through this. Let’s not forget about the blame, the finger pointing, or the complaining about others.

And then when this all takes over, there can be a resisting, when things don’t feel good, uncomfortable, or unpleasant. Things like avoidance, pushing away, and ignoring can happen. Striving and grasping can also appear. If only I had this or this was this way or I liked that way better. Sometimes I want to run as away from it as possible or hide for that matter.

What I realized is that this gets exhausting. When this happens, I disconnect from what is right here, myself and the people around me because I am stuck in my head.

So perhaps a shift. Instead of pushing away or being alone. All of this is what makes us human. We are all imperfectly human. This is when we need each other most, to offer care to ourselves and each other.

How can we start our day in a way where we welcome everything and show up for our lives?

Each morning we wake up what are we paying attention to? There are many mornings I wake up and I am focused on what is wrong and what needs to be fixed. The what ifs and coulda shouldas take over, living in the past and the future. I would be happier if this happened or it was still this way or if only these things were occurring.

These things take me away from what is right here in front of me. I am swept away from this present moment. The moment I notice that this is happening it is an opportunity for me to pause and acknowledge what is here. This act of paying attention is a choice. We can choose what we pay attention to and how we pay attention to it each and every day.

Once I have acknowledged and allowed myself to feel and take in my experience, I can make a choice to begin my day with gratitude, appreciation, joy, and well-being. There are so many wonderful things going on around us. It can be an essential part of our day to ask ourselves this questions, what is most important and matters most? We can then take as much time as we have an need to pause, reflect, and notice what arises when we ask ourselves this important questions. This isn’t about forcing feelings it is a chance for awareness and perspective.

At some point, each of us has been sent the message to enjoy the simple things in life. When I used to hear this I would brush it off and say to myself this is cheesy or too cliché. As I began to ask myself-what is most important and matters most, I realized that it is the simple things that are most meaningful and precious. I have so much to be grateful for and appreciate.

So, I woke up today. I was able to stand on my own two feet. I was breathing. I was able to take a hot shower and put clothes on my back. I kissed my wife goodbye and saw my kids sleeping safely in their beds. I make a cup of coffee and this was just the first thirty minutes of my day.

What a wonderful life I have. We can have it all, the pain, the joy, the love, and the fear. Each morning we can make a choice of how we go into our day, how we want be with ourselves and the people in our lives. We can all make a choice of how we want to live our lives. When we take care of ourselves, we are showing up for our lives, and each other.