The Lady Who Runs

By Cynthia MacKay

Cynthia MacKay will be leading a retreat at SMC from August 30-September 2 based on Sakyong Miphams book ,Running with the Mind of Meditation: Lessons for Training the Body and the Mind. Geared for runners, walkers and athletes, this program will offer fresh insights into the activities of meditation and movement. All levels of runners and walkers welcome.

Cynthia runs past Dodgers stadiumIn my neighborhood, there’s The Corn Guy, The Lady With the Boxers, The Couple Who Live in the Victorian and The Korean Grocer. I am The Lady Who Runs. My neighborhood in east LA is called Lincoln Heights. It sits in the shadow of Dodger Stadium, just north of Downtown. People don’t think of Los Angeles as a good place to hill train, run trails and stay off the paved streets but Lincoln Heights is just that. I can run in any of the four directions and have a very different feeling from each run.  

North

On Saturdays, I head north. Saturdays are my long runs and from my house I can get 18 plus miles in on both paved and dirt trails. I have to run through my neighborhood for about 1 1/2 miles to get to the LA River Bike Trail. Once on the Bike Trail, it’s a flat, long, traffic-free 7 1/2 miles to Burbank.

running past sign

There are rare sections of the LA River that are not encased in concrete. A 3 1/2 mile stretch along the Bike Trail is filled with beautiful greenery and a myriad of birds. Families can be seen fishing and wading in the river. The bike trail runs smack next to the busy 5 freeway, so on one side is incredible greenery and the other side cars are whizzing by.

the trail

There are several bridges going over and under into Griffith Park, where there are over 4,300 acres of parkland and trails.

South

the road

Wednesdays are my hill runs and for that I go south. Ernest E. Debs Regional Park is a small city park, only about 300 acres, with an Audobon Center near the bottom. There are several extreme hills that I slog up and down. The view from the top goes all the way out to the ocean over the downtown skyline in one direction and the valleys leading up to the heaving San Gabriel Mountains in another direction.

stretching

Once at the top, it’s a short run to a pond where people may be fishing, ducks may be swimming or dogs lapping at the shore. Snails climb the skinny spindly weeds and hang there in the breeze waiting for the next rain.

path with river

From the pond, it’s a steep downhill on the other side with views of the valley floor south with its endless rows of houses and small hills.

East

I go east on Mondays. I descend into a small tributary of the LA River that comes from the east and handles runoff from the San Gabriels. It’s encased in concrete up until the Rose Bowl where it opens to dirt rivers and shaded ponds. A paved trail runs right next to the small stream of flowing water. After about 3 miles, the small river trail ends at a horse stable with chickens running around and a huge fig tree stocked with delicious fruits in September. I pick up a small dirt trail around a golf course, this and the all white horse running in the corral, are my favorite parts of this run.

eastern path

It’s a single person trail and perfectly rolling so that I can speed up but still have to be mindful of my footing. It’s engulfed in trees so it’s very cool and quiet on a summer morning.

There is a tunnel under the 110 freeway that I call “the bardo.” It’s dark and the sandy earth is loose, so I can’t tell what I’m running on. I raise my gaze to the light at the end and trust that I will remain upright and relaxed. A tinge of fear mixes with confidence as I exit the tunnel and head towards the Rose Bowl in the Arroyo Seco. The Arroyo Seco boasts an archery range, a bass casting pond, another horse stable and several flocks of wild parrots who make a noisy ruckus among the archers and horses.

West

On Tuesdays, I go west. It’s a high dose of both urban and natural beauty. I’ve discovered a stairwell that goes up into the 110 freeway, the first freeway built in the west. There was originally a walkway that has now been sectioned off with fencing and barriers but the stairwell leads into the old walkway.

the stairwell

I run smack next to the cars on the busy 110. It’s a mash of freeways, bridges going over bridges, over freeways and over the LA River. Train tracks run through the whole mess and everything is covered in graffiti. There is something about it that grips a buzzing energy for me–it’s gritty, real and completely alive to all my senses.

western run

The stairwell exits into Elysian Park, home of Dodger Stadium and the Police Academy. Up a few hills and into trails, I head up a steep dirt track that turns east.

On some days I hear the patter of many feet as I come out of one trail to cross to another. Coming down the hill will be the in-line, strong formation of police cadets in training, running these hills in unison in perfect time with perfect posture. They greet me one by one with “good morning ma’am.” It’s very sweet.

I turn to head home through some more dirt trails and across the historic Broadway Bridge, once again crossing the incredible pulsing artery of our city, the LA River.

the bridge run

 

Free Your Genius From Myth

 

Ronald Alexander Book

It has been said of Vincent Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, John Nash, Franz Kafka, Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Michael Jackson, Nick Cave, Kurt Cobain, Billy Stayhorn, Billie Holiday, Roman Polanski, Marlon Brando, Winston Churchill, Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Tchaikovsky, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, well…anyone famous and Russian. The myth of the Tortured Genius dates back to the ancient Greeks who attributed to the god Dionysus the realms of music, wine, inspiration and madness.

Dr. Ronald Alexander sees it differently.

“The idea of the Tortured Genius is both a reality and a perpetuated myth.” He points out that the lives of many accomplished and inspired individuals, like those listed above, were afflicted with mood disorders. Depression and bipolar disorder, usually. Most of them suffered at a time when psychology was ill-equipped to address their needs, and society had little understanding of how the mind and body work together to create a personal experience. But it is important to separate the myth, and its false perceptions, from the reality.

The myth was that people believed the extreme moods, behavior and general affect were the source of a person’s creativity. Without suffering, there would be no inspiration. But in 1974, Dr. Alexander was doing clinical work in Hollywood, California. He introduced meditation and other mindfulness practices to patients who often came from creative industries: the recording industry, the film industry, fashion and media. And what he witnessed when his creatively inclined patients gained the evenness of mind from regular contemplative practice was that they could “dig deeper and more regularly” into the creative state of mind.

So much for the myth of the tortured genius. The reality is: Rather than lose one’s creativity, a regular practice of opening the mind and grounding personal experience reveals that one’s creativity is never conditional. This rang true with Dr. Alexander’s experience too. His father was bipolar, and he suffered from bouts of depression. At 20 years of age, he began to meditate. At 23, he went to see Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Nowadays, he maintains a practice grounded in Zen, Dzogchen and Vipassana, which he finds especially helpful for unblocking his own creative obstacles.

Ronald AlexanderSo how do we debunk our own myths about creativity? Dr. Alexander says the first step is identifying hinderances. Anything in our experience of consciousness can be blocking a richer, more playful way of thinking. Then, we cultivate the ability to tune-in to receive what is available. This stage is called Open Mind in the Zen tradition. To move into the next stage, called Wise Mind, we discover the capacity to let go of fixed positions/attitudes/forms. This allows us to play wholly in the present moment and be creative.

Creativity is not the sole property of the famous artist. In every life circumstance, there is the opportunity to open up and receive the wisdom and the joy contained in the present moment. Whether you work in the arts, play with art, or want to live your life artfully, the conditions required to do so are, in fact, unconditional.

Dr. Ronald Alexander welcomes you to his retreat based on his book, “Wise Mind, Open Mind” at Shambhala Mountain Center from July 5-7

Why Samadhi?

by Erica Kaufman

Erica Kaufman at SMC

We like to think of ourselves as living in independent time, separate from each other and from cosmic influences. But that is just it. We “think” and create mind play for our thoughts. In a way our minds are like the dominant child within us, the one that steps forward and likes to take over but is not always the most sensitive or intuitive. While our bodies are more like the quiet child within us, the kind that needs patience and is worth the wait.

That is why Lîla Yoga™ is such a powerful harmonizing tool. It is both meditation in motion and philosophy in motion. Through our asana practice we learn to quiet the mind and allow the truths within our body to lead us to a more revealed state of awareness. From this state of being, our true Self is more easily exposed. This process is called Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (absorption). It takes great discipline and consistent practice to calm the mind into a tranquil state of stillness for Dhyana. So why bother?

This life offers us the opportunity to learn, to understand who we are, how we function and react. It gives us an opportunity to reflect on the quality of our time spent. By practicing Dhyana we cleanse our active minds and allow the truths within our heart to shine. The more often we visit this exposed state of Self, the easier it is to access and the more it aids our perspectives in our daily activities.

I, like all of us, dwell in the creative manifestations of the material world, known in yoga by many names: shakti, prakriti and maya. I am deeply involved in this life; happily and knowingly interacting with the illusions of duality. I also know that no matter what cerebral activity I am involved in, I have tasted a deeper unwavering place that continues to intrigue me. My body is not the answer but the rhythmic cycles of my body are connected to larger forces (the tides, the pull of the moon, the sun) and provide me with a sounding board in which I can begin my journey into Dahyana and if I’m lucky, into Samadhi. My plans for this evening are to lie down in the open sky and watch, feel, join, meditate, absorb–will return soon, rested and ready.

Please join me for the Lila Yoga Retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center June 28-30, 2013

Love Blessings Faith

Om Shanti

~Erica~

Way Seeking Mind: A Meditation and Yoga Retreat for Women

by Katharine Kaufman

open pavilionI offer a women’s retreat twice a year, on the hottest, longest days in the middle of summer, and the coldest, dark winter days. I see myself as more of a facilitator of this retreat, rather than a teacher. We arrive alone and together, 12 or 15 of us, and we simply practice yoga, sitting, sharing. Something subtle and close transforms because of this turning our discursive gaze inward. There is a luxurious break in the afternoons to hike, read, rest, or visit with each other. Transformation is not always a smooth ride. We have our practices, the support of the schedule, teachings, to hold us—and each other.

My favorite part of this retreat is when we individually choose a place outdoors, and practice solo the four postures of meditation. These beautiful places we choose offer us the chance to simply be in one area in nature, with no agenda. We understand the gentle wind, grasses, texture of rocks, as good friends, not just scenery. We can lean against a tree, close our eyes, listen, create a temporary nest.

It seems natural to pause, reflect, sit, gently move, talk and find silence amongst other women. This phrase, ‘Way Seeking Mind’ struck me when I first heard of it during a Zen women’s retreat. I hesitate to define it. It should speak directly to one’s heart and marrow, and not pause too long in any cerebral place. We have a sense of what that mind is—what that journey is. Or perhaps it is a big mystery.

This women’s summer retreat is special to me since it takes place in the eight-sided pavilion, which happens to be built on the old Girl Scout’s fire ring. This rustic pavilion is separate from the main area, tucked in the pines. The winter walls will be removed so that we experience a space both inside and outside—a living metaphor for our practice. To me, this is coming home to a place that has always been waiting—wild, familiar, natural. It’s reflected outside but of course, also in us.

The gap between what we experience and what we desire—inside and out—is not so far apart as we had imagined.

This retreat is now full.

Meditation with Rhythm

by Christine Stevens

Ever since I heard world-famous sound healing expert Jill Purce say, “The purpose of sound is silence”, I have been asking myself: What could meditation and drumming possibly have in common?

In meditation, placing our attention on the breath occupies the mind. In drumming, the rhythm becomes a mantra that captures our attention. You can’t drum while thinking. Both act as mind sweepers; to clear the mental space of worries and negative thought patterns. Both help us get out of our heads and into our hearts.

Meditative states are quite natural and simple, but not easy. Both meditation and drumming are practices that focus on remembering rather than learning.  Within the rhythm of the drum, we remember our heartbeats in the womb and rhythms our bodies long to express. Meditation and drumming are both tools to connect with spiritual realms and the non-physical. We travel along both the silence and rhythm paths as portals into the spiritual space where we breathe deeply, relax and re-connect with the heart and soul.happy drummers

However, drumming just may be better suited for hyper, over-active, ADHD types of people—like me! After a drum circle at the Teton Wellness Festival, a participant came up to me and shared that drumming helped her “drop in” to her meditation practice immediately.

Here are some tips on how to drum your way into silence;

  • Create a sacred space where you can settle in.
  • Prepare to drum by placing your hand over your heart. Take a deep breath. Breath into an intention for your meditation. Place your open hand on the drum and rub the drum in a circular fashion, infusing your intention into the drum.
  • Now you are ready to drum. Play a simple pulse, rhythm or whatever feels good to you. Don’t think. Don’t think. Don’t think. You may use a play-along CD as well, like The Healing Drum Kit which includes twenty-seven play-along rhythms for specific intentions. The specific rhythm is not as important as releasing all self-criticism and allowing yourself to liberate your creative spirit.
  • Give yourself at least a minimum of four minutes to fall into the beat. Significant biological signs of relaxation typically occur after four minutes of drumming.
  • When you are ready, come to a stop by fading your drumming into silence.
  • Put down your drum and focus on your breath. Feel the rhythm of your breath gently drumming your body. Stay in this meditative state for as long as you desire in a sitting meditation.
  • Complete your practice by gently returning and honoring your drum.

Christine Stevens is a music therapist, social worker, and author of the Healing Drum Kit. She has appeared on NBC, CBS and Living Better TV. Christine will be teaching at Shambhala Mountain Retreat Center on July 12 – 14.

Please watch Christine’s personal invitation to you to join her program.

Waking Up to the Wild on Shambhala Mountain

by Kay Peterson

hikers stopped in the woods

While leading a mindful hiking retreat through the mountains last weekend, I was reminded of a line from the J. R. R. Tolkien poem in The Lord of the Rings —”Not all those who wander are lost.” As we paused in a meadow for an intentional “aimless wandering” practice, we gleefully explored our surroundings and noticed the details—the blue-eyed grasses beginning to bloom and the lady bugs swinging on the tall grass. How liberating it feels to stop and just look up at the sky without worrying what other people might think.

Of course, Tolkien was also referring to the powers of perception. Sometimes we forget that things are not always as they first seem and rarely remain as they first appear. For me, there is no more powerful way to remind myself of this than by wandering in nature. In the course of a summer day at Shambhala Mountain Center, I can wake up to the birdsong signaling the promise of a warm, sunny day. As that day unfolds, I watch the clouds build over the mountains in the west. I feel the weather change and I brace myself for a storm. Then by late afternoon, anticipation lets go to showers so sweet that the fresh scent of wet sage lingering in the valley reminds me that the earth’s thirst has been once again quenched.hikers approach mountain ridge

Nature gently highlights the opportunities I miss when I’m quick to judge a person or situation based on first appearances or familiar assumptions. Like that supposedly sunny day, I can unintentionally make my world very small with limited possibilities.

When I woke up that day, I immediately felt the excitement and anticipation of the hike I planned to take to the top of the mountain overlooking the continental divide. As I followed each switch back up the mountain, I marveled at the diversity of vegetation and relished the vast span of open space that I could call home, if only for a short time. As I clamored up the last section of rocks toward the vista I could feel my heart beat with eagerness. I looked up and there it was—the grandeur of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains spilling out across the horizon as far as the eye could see. It stopped my mind and a sense of stillness and calm washed over me. Suddenly, my eye caught a small patch of lighter green on the distant mountainside and my mind locked on. I could feel myself search for explanations,”Must have been a clear cut from the seventies or so. What a shame. This pristine forest marred by consumption.” I turned and looked over my shoulder toward the dark clouds building and started to plan my journey back down to shelter.

Tori gate and Hiker

Emotions are a natural part of being human, but they can also capture and blind us. In a flash, I can go from feeling a sense of awe at a spectacular vista to remembering something I need to do and worrying about the future. One moment I’m enjoying the dynamic mountain sky and the next I’m worrying that I’ll get soaked in a rainstorm. The good news is that this bigger, sacred world remains all the while just waiting for me to stop, see and appreciate that all that I need is already there.

Stupa amid clouds

The name of Tolkien’s famous poem is “All That is Gold Does Not Glitter.” In our fast-paced and high-tech world, we’ve learned to pay attention to the sound bytes, the flashy buttons, the clever speech and all too often miss the deeper message. Not that one is better than the other—I learn a lot from my urban life as well—but I can easily get swept into a virtual world that leaves me feeling like something’s missing. Then I know it’s time to refresh my connection to the natural world, slow down, rest in the simplicity of the moment and gain some perspective on my life and place in the universe by laying on my back looking up at the vast, starry sky.

As I look out over the continental divide from my favorite vista at Shambhala Mountain Center, I realize that I too can relax into the natural flow of the Rocky Mountain streams meandering toward the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. I giggle like I did the very first time I saw this view. With this kind of awareness, I can continue my journey into the unknown with confidence, curiosity and maybe even a little sense of humor.

Kay Peterson will lead two retreats at Shambhala Mountain Center this summer. Waking-up to the Wild: Hiking as Meditation June 28-30 and Waking-up to the Wild: Mindful Hiking on August 1-4

 

 Photos by Doug Hamilton

The Art of Creative Transformation for Happiness

by Dr. Ronald Alexander

I believe that within all of us lies dormant the potential for tremendous transformation that can lead to greater happiness. In my many years as a mind-body psychotherapist, educator, trainer, and consultant I’ve watched thousands of clients let go of their false beliefs about who they are and what roads are open to them. They found new paths to fulfillment and happiness that were previously hidden by their fears.

miner pulling donkeyThe art of creative transformation begins with the willingness to be mindful of your hidden resistance to making a change, examining it, and breaking it down. You might find yourself closing your eyes to any other avenues available to you, obsessing about the past and trying to reclaim what was once yours. This resistance blocks you from recognizing that what lies ahead for you might actually make you happier than you’ve ever been.

The second step is tuning in and listening to the wisdom of your soul or unconscious, the state in which core creativity takes place. I particularly recommend a mindfulness or insight meditation practice, which allows you to see the true nature of your experiences. Other forms of meditation that help you access an open mind are prayer, contemplation, mindful movement such as martial arts, tai chi, and yoga, and just being in nature.

The final step is to create a practical plan to manifest your goals. Any plan or vision requires research if you want to make it a reality. Don’t rush. Learning about how people have overcome obstacles and achieved success can help you identify the elements in their winning formulas, but then you must apply their insights to your own life. A vision board may help keep you on track.

Quite often, my clients begin the process of envisioning a new life by insisting that they need more money. Instead of assuming that money is your golden ticket to a fulfilling life, think about how you can increase the number and range of opportunities available to you.

Rebuilding after any great loss can be extremely difficult, but I’ve seen people use meditation and the art of creative transformation to pull themselves out of a valley of despair and even create successes they never would’ve dreamed of before their initial loss. A forward-thinking view can lead to reinvention and healing.

Ronald Alexander, PhD is a leadership consultant, psychotherapist, international trainer, and the Executive Director of the OpenMind Training Institute.  He will be leading a retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center July 5-7. He is the author of Wise Mind, Open Mind: Finding Purpose and Meaning in Times of Crisis, Loss and Change upon which this article is based.

What I know to be true

By Sue Frederick

book coverWhat I know to be true is this: Our pain is on purpose. Our joy is the gift. Our heart is all that matters. Our mind is a great monkey loose in the forest and running amuck; he must be tamed or our heart can’t be heard and our joy can’t be felt.

Our truth is inside – always. It’s the inner voice that only speaks loud enough when we turn within, tame the savage monkey mind, pull away from the surface, and surrender assumptions; when we dip a trembling hand into the deepest water that terrifies us most and help someone who is drowning right beside us.

Our truth only speaks up when we see the heartbreak in all of our journeys, the struggle in everyone’s life, the pain shared by each family member, the divine inner guidance that we mostly forget. This compassion is the fabric of our universe, and it guides us flawlessly through the night. This is all that matters. I will remember this now.

What I’m trying to say is that even when we don’t know it, when we feel completely alone, there are people who are part of our soul posse who show up in our hour of greatest need and help us in ways we may never know and never see. These soul mate agreements are always working in our favor even when we feel hopelessly abandoned, they’re standing where they should be standing and lending a hand in just the way that will save us.

And mostly it’s only at the end of our life or in brief glimpses of the divine that we fully see this luminous connection, this brilliant pattern, and know that it’s real and that we’ve always been held in grace. This final knowledge breaks us wide open in speechless, awestruck gratitude – even as we take our last gasping breath and our bodies disintegrate into a million shards of light.

Join Sue Frederick for Bridges to Heaven: A Grief Healing Retreat July 12th to 14th.

The Generosity of a Samurai

by Christopher Seelie

shooting range in snow

The snowfall began the night before, and by the time we arrived in a loose caravan of 4 cars Zenko-Iba was covered in white. Of the thirteen of us Shambhala Mountain Center staff who came to Boulder on this day to receive instruction in Kyudo—literally “the way of the bow”, a Japanese practice of meditation in action—only one had taken First Shot before. So we did not receive instruction in the snow. Instead we gathered in the free-standing garage, now converted to a shrine room and indoor practice space. The walls were decorated with photographs from Kanjuro Shibata Sensei’s life of practice, along with documents of merit and souvenirs. Three hay bales wrapped in plastic canvas were peppered with puncture holes. The distance was negligible but kyudo is not a sport like the western form of archery, where the distance between archer and target is a concern second only to where on the target one’s arrow enters.

Shibata Sensei and CarolynWe sat on gomdens and waited as Shibata Sensei—a green 91 years young and recently recovered from a bout of pneumonia—was escorted in with his wife and translator, Carolyn, and their little gray dog. He was dressed in dark wash jeans, a puffy winter jacket, pale grey slippers that had been warmed by the cast iron stove in the corner, and a black winter hat that had XX embroidered in white on the forehead—signifying his lineage identity as the 20th Kanjuro Shibata. We stood, and for a moment of solid silence Shibata Sensei stared at us, taking in our faces with direct purpose before bowing to us and we to him. Then he walked forward and looked closer before bowing again. Once seated, we waited for him to speak but he took his time in communicating. When he did, his command was to relax.

Carolyn explained that he thought we were sitting like elite monks.

Despite being twentieth in an unbroken line of imperial bowmakers and kyudo masters, Shibata Sensei does not abide dignities and honorarities that build ego. Cutting through the pretensions that could make a ragtag, baker’s dozen of curious students presume to a discipline more severe than warranted, Shibata Sensei told us to relax and then commented on how auspicious it was that the snow was falling.  Casually, he told us that from the snow he felt Trungpa Rinpoche’s presence here this morning. He spoke briefly on kyudo as a practice and then allowed for his more experienced students, Vajra, Sue, and Suzanne who had come from Berlin to visit Sensei, to lead us through the stages of the practice.

instructing kyudo

Kyudo is, as Shibata Sensei explained to us, a heart-cleansing practice. The emphasis is on the form one takes in the manner of shooting and the qualities of mind that are experienced in the process. When I asked Shibata Sensei later in the day about the obstacles a practitioner encounters in kyudo, he said that hitting the target is good and not hitting the target is good. “This Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche understood immediately.” When asked how he met Trungpa Rinpoche, Shibata Sensei says it was “very straight kyudo”.

We did not shoot our first arrows that day. The repetition of the form is our practice until such time that we are ready for taking the first shot. From that point, all of Shibata Sensei’s students are of a kind. There are no black belts, no officers, no gold medal winners or blue ribbon archers. These are the honorarities that repel Shibata Sensei’s understanding of kyudo. Becoming familiar with something inexpressible cannot fit into stages of a hierarchy.

calligraphy meaning wind tree fire mountain

“FU RIN KA ZAN” by Shibata Sensei. “Wind Tree Fire Mountain”

The friendship between the founder of Shambhala Mountain Center and Shibata Sensei is a profound example of how different cultures and disciplines find commonality in the wisdom that they share. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was a meditation master, an academic and administrator displaced when Tibet was conquered by the Chinese. In his homeland, Shibata Sensei is a living national treasure and a lineage holder patronized by the Emperor of Japan. But Trungpa Rinpoche recognized the power and purpose of Shibata Sensei’s kyudo—a practice developed out of the samurai’s need for heart-training to balance out the fight-training so as to remove pride and aggression with the same tools that might engender it. And while the external differences between tonglen, shamatha, maitri, and other techniques Trungpa Rinpoche brought to the west and the kyudo of Shibata Sensei makes them truly diverse practices, the two men saw through those differences with complete clarity.

Shibata Sensei with student

The day ended with tea and cookies as Shibata Sensei answered questions. Last fall, he had made the two hour journey up to Shambhala Mountain Center to give a talk on the importance of making offerings. Since then, the staff has made it a point to offer rice, water, and salt at the Kami shrine that sits behind the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, nestled in the hills above the MPE campgrounds. Now kyudo too has returned as a regular part of life at Shambhala Mountain Center. May it be of benefit.

Kanjuro Shibata Sensei XX will meet with his students for a kyudo retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center June 30 – July 7th.

The Unfaithful Yes

by Janet Solyntjes

 

“Saying “yes” to more things than we can actually manage to be present for with

integrity and ease of being is in effect saying “no” to all those things and people and

places we have already said “yes” to, including, perhaps, our own well-being.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn from Coming to Our Senses

 

Having a manageable life is a key concern for most adult members of society. Unfortunately, it is becoming a big concern of our children as well. As Jon has often pointed out, we live in society afflicted by Attention-Deficit Over-activity Disorder. We simply have too much on our plate. We want to slow down, do less, have more time for our self, but it’s not happening.

Moving through life at high speed can be addictive. Overcommitting is fashionable. Saying “yes” when we want to say no is often a cloaked desire for approval. In our longing to know that we are lovable human beings, we look outside our self for selfworth. If we take on too much, saying yes to the many requests of friends, co-workers, supervisors, and family, we will inevitably be unfaithful. We must relearn our loveliness and practice saying “no.”

meditator on cushionWhy do I think that relearning our loveliness comes first? When we fully love our self and know that our nature is open, wise, and caring, the need to establish our identity in the outer world diminishes. We know how to be content in our own being, comfortable in our own skin. Embracing our deeper nature, we know the path of personal integrity. If saying yes to busyness means losing the capacity to truly listen to our loved ones when they have something meaningful to say, why would we do so? If that extra trip to the store to satisfy an urge to acquire something means losing a few precious moments of alone time at home for meditation, reflection, or just simply non-doing, then why would we say yes to the impulse?

When leading MBSR retreats I sense participants’ struggle with surrendering to an entire weekend of accomplishing nothing. Slowing down is like coming off a drug. There’s a withdrawal period that is uncomfortable. Practicing mindfulness asks us to move into a place of faithful yes to our innermost nature. We faithfully say yes to each moment, not compromising it for a future fantasy or the play of reminiscences.

Janet Solyntjes

If we want to heal the societies ADOD, feeling, as we do, that its absence would only enrich our experience of living with others, then we should take a look at the times when we offer an unfaithful yes to the world. Only we know when that is.

That’s why it comes down to knowing within our self the feeling of contentment. Living with integrity is much more interesting and satisfying than managing hyperactive over-activity. Don’t you agree?

Janet Solyntjes will be teaching Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction at Shambhala Mountain Center on June 27 – 30.