Responding to patterns of our mind

I was watching a very awesome video by Mattheu Ricard, a French born Tibetan monk. The topic of his discussion was on happiness, I recommend his books and this video to any whom might have an open mind and want to learn from a very deep thinker and sincere practitioner.

However this post is about something he said that fits into what I have been learning. We have patterns of our mind, like I mentioned in my previous post about desire, and when we experience these sensations, emotions, or though patterns we often follow after them, engage in thinking about them in a kind of dialogical way. This typical response to such impulses leads us to common actions and habits: e.g. so when I’m lonely I do….this, or when I’m sad I do…..this.

So Mattheu Ricard was noting that when we have these thoughts, what we do is to focus on the external object of the thought pattern. It was interesting to me as I thought about it that such thoughts and patterns are always usually focused on external things, because we humans naturally look external to ourselves for our satisfaction and our happiness. He suggested that when we experience these thoughts and patterns that we might rather focus or investigate inwardly, investigate and become aware of anger itself or of desire, or fear. To not focus and run with the mind to the external but to turn inward and to observe and be fully aware of the thought patterns themselves. This struck me because it is closely connected to what I talked about in my post on desire, he just put it in a very understandable framework. Look inward, not to the object of our emotions, but to the emotions themselves. As they come and fade, we will learn much more about ourselves and change.

Desire, an attempt to solidify Self

Meditating is a lot about training oneself to be aware of the present moment, so when I meditate, focusing on my breathing, I try to remain present to whatever sensations are a part of my present.  This morning I found myself experiencing strong currents of desire.  The objects of the desire fluctuated and the objects weren’t the point.  As I encountered these sensations, I didn’t try to enter into dialogue with them but merely sought to be an observer of them.  I didn’t just go with the feelings, nor did I attempt to push them down or away, but I let them be: to rise, to vanish and then to return as something else.  In observing these sensations, I was hoping to gain some reference as to the purpose or what my ego intended to accomplish through them, were I to follow them.

After some time of experiencing these sensations then having them disappear, I came to understand that desire, at least for me this morning, was all about wanting to solidify self, to reinforce myself as a fixed and real entity.  This delusion causes me to cling to some things and to avoid others (clinging being the experience this morning).  I have found that avoidance is associated with fear (and anger): fear of failure, illness or even death.  The challenging part is to only be an observer of the present moment and not to pursue the emotions and sensations that are swirling, but it was helpful to experience the impermanence of these feelings, all while returning to the rhythm of my breath in the present moment.

The “Aha” moments in meditation, for me,  are almost always small but can be profoundly significant.  This is a small discovery, but one that will hopefully lead to observe more, follow after less.

these gun rights advocates don’t sound too reasonable or stable

Gun Rights Group Article

After reading this article I have to say that some of these “voices” for Gun rights, realizing that they are leaders among their ideologues, don’t sound very reasonable or stable to me. They are completely unable to consider that there might be a reason to enact some measure of gun control and required checks for gun ownership. I offer a few quotes below, you be the judge. My comments will be added in italics, the quotes will be bolded.

“It’s going to be a very pivotal moment if we can’t get people to stop emoting and start reasoning,” Heller said. “They’ve been waiting for a long time for the perfect crisis. They tried to light the fire with the Batman shooting, and they’re looking for the perfect victims to dance in the blood of so they can get something done.”

Who’s emoting and who’s being reasonable? It sounds like this guy is pretty emotional about his guns and not very reasonable.

“Tensions among pro-gun activists are running just as high in states where legislators have remained quiet on new measures, said Paul Valone, president of Grass Roots North Carolina. coalition members have all agreed on a ‘no compromise’ approach on this issue,” Valone said. “It needs to die. Period…In an open letter to President Barack Obama, Valonespeculated that some gun owners may use violent force to resist government attempts to confiscate assault weapons…The real question, Mr. President, is whether you so hunger for power that you are willing to foment what might be the next American Revolution,” Valone wrote.

These people sound unstable to me. The religiosity they bring to their views about guns, worries me. I say religiosity, because just like many religious arguments, these folks appear to have absolutely no ability to consider that a different understanding could be right, or that their position could be extreme or wrong. I own guns, I believe in the right to bear arms, I just to agree that means any and all arms available. The fact that these voices would even hint at violence in opposition to new gun control, does not seem to be words that a “reasonable” person would utter. Maybe I undertand “reasonable to be something different, where we use our reason to evaluate reality as it is, not as we imagine. Something needs to change. But how we come to value the perspectives that are outside of our preference seems to elude us in our present cultural and political climate.

Balancing the “unbalanced equation” on Gun Control

Americans for responsible solutions

The above link is to an article about Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly starting an intelligent and balance discussion on Gun Control, balancing the equation that has been out of balance for years because of groups like the NRA. They right:

“In response to a horrific series of shootings that has sown terror in our communities, victimized tens of thousands of Americans, and left one of its own bleeding and near death in a Tucson parking lot, Congress has done something quite extraordinary – nothing at all,”

I have to say this it is about time that someone does something. Politicians seem to be afraid of the NRA and are unwilling to risk anything, especially their jobs, in order to do what it right. Gun violence is on the news almost every day; not always like Tucson and Newtown, but lives lost nonetheless. I applaud Giffords and Kelly who are two whose voice will hopefully be heard, after all they know better than most what it is like to be on the receiving end of gun violence. Additionally they are taking aim raising awareness for changes needed in mental health services in our country.

It is time for things to change!

Widening the practice of meditation to a practice of living mindfully

I have been meditating for a couple of years, but only in the last year, 2012, did it become a daily practice. At the beginning of last year, I decided to commit myself to daily breathing meditation. I know that there are many different types of meditation practice but I limit my practice this first year to breathing meditation. It has been one of the best decisions I have ever made and I plan to continue daily meditation for the rest of my life.

I understood meditation to be a training of the mind to live mindfully in the present, and to train ourselves to be aware of the present moment, which is different than my normal “monkey mind” scattered mind. I learned just how much the ego wants to focus on the past or the future and how much of a challenge it is to change our thinking patterns to be mindful of my present. The challenge stems from the familiarity in the patterns my mind has tended to occupy and the natural ease to which my mind returns to those patterns. So while I can say that it is wonderful to practice daily meditation, I can also say that it has been real work to try to expand that practice to the way that I naturally live, which is the goal of sitting daily in meditation.

This year I intend to expand my daily practice. While breathing meditation is fundamental to arriving at a calm awareness, there are other modes of meditative practice that take you from there towards the goal of harmony and mindful living, toward enlightenment. So I hope to gradually expand my practice to begin to include some of those other methods.

I started by purchasing an E-Book of guided meditations from Jack Kornfield, whose writing and teaching style are new to me. I must say that I am really enjoying learning from him and appreciating the way he leads me into meditation through this e-book. In his breathing meditation, he calmly speaks of “this breath, this very moment,” as he is leading the listener to return from wandering thoughts. I have used these words many times recently to take a moment in my day, whether at work, or driving, or even as I lay down at night and slide off into slumber, to pause and to orient and return my awarness into the present moment. Even small moves like this are helping me to expand this meditative practice into mindful living. I look foward to continuing this journey in 2013 and in as many years as I have in this life.