Posts tagged ‘Buddhism’

Learning to Walk Again

Walking Meditation is still pretty new to me and took some getting used to. I’m finally getting past the wobbly beginner’s stage. Yes, when you walk extremely slowly and mindfully, it’s hard to keep your balance at first, lol. In walking meditation you let your steps be the focus of your awareness rather than your breath when you walk.

A couple days ago while practicing I was struggling to get my awareness out of my head and into my feet. For a moment I thought, “I’ll never be able to walk across the room without being distracted. This is impossible!” Then it occurred to me that I only have to take this step mindfully, not the next twenty. Then I take the next step mindfully and the next…

We can’t take the next 20 breaths mindfully, but we can take this one mindfully. We don’t have next week or even today. All we ever have is now. We don’t even have the past. It’s gone, but we can choose to be here now. To be present. To be mindful. To be awake in this moment.

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To speak or not to speak

Most everyone that’s new to meditation practice has expressed the same conflict and confusion. How do you tell your friends and family about your practice? The internal dialogue surrounding the decision is an interesting paradox worth exploring for ourselves.

You may have been at this for a while now and realize that this is something that you want to become a regular part of your life, or you may have realized that being yourself, being connected to the universe, practicing kindness is your life. It’s only natural to want to talk to others about something good that has happened to you. You may even have the best intentions of wanting others to find the happiness and calm center that you have discovered, but you know that some people in your life won’t be very receptive. Some may even be very judgmental and say hurtful things to you. So there is this conflict of wanting to share about your practice and the way you see the world and being afraid of being judged by loved ones who just don’t understand.

First, we need to explore our motivations for wanting to tell others about it but also explore why we are afraid of being judged by others. On one hand we may want to share our experience with others as another form of seeking approval and validation from people. While not to let anyone know about the changes we’ve experienced is a fear of rejection and losing approval. It’s really a paradox. The ego is at play in both decisions, but realizing how it’s at work gives us areas to explore and work through.

  • What is it about me that craves the approval of others?
  • Why do I need others to validate my experience for me?
  • If I can’t be myself around those that love me, do they really love me or the idea of me?
  • What is it about rejection that terrifies me and paralyzes me?

Second, we shouldn’t try to evangelize others to bolster our own lack of confidence. I ran across a wonderful Taoist insight by Chuang-tzu this week that we could learn from:

She let’s the confused stay confused
if that is what they want
and is always available
to those with a passion for the truth.

When we free ourselves of this desperate need for approval, we can be truly ourselves. When someone that we love has a genuine need or has expressed interest in changes they see in us, we can have the courage and humility to be honest and to be kind in our responses.

Remember, the Buddha said, “Be a lamp unto yourselves.” We don’t have to seek validation for the path that we know is right for us, but we also don’t have to force our way on others who may not be ready at this time or ever.

Practice loving-kindness and mindfulness for their own sake, whether anyone understands why you do or not. Just be yourself. Be present. Be kind. Let your life touch others and let your actions speak louder than words. Explanations won’t be necessary.

Question about meditation

So I saw your post about Christianity & Buddhism. I am a Christian, but I adore other religions teachings as well, especially Buddhism & ones similar to it. Your blog made me not feel guilty anymore about that actually. But what I’m here to ask is; I’ve always been curious about meditation, but I’m unsure of how to go about it. I could merely google it, but I think I’d rather ask you. I think hearing your opinion, advice, or resources would be much preferred. So can you tell me about it?

I think more than anything meditation is about being yourself, being honest with yourself… seeing things as they are. It’s not about getting to a special spiritual state or other-worldly place. It’s about being here, being here now in this moment, because that’s all we have. It’s not always a pleasant experience, although it can be. It just is.

Try not to start out trying to over do it or being something you’re not. A good beginning practice is just breathing or loving kindness meditation. (The links take you to posts I wrote about my experience with both.) Try to sit for just 5 minutes a day, then work your way up. If all you do is put your body there and breath for 5 minutes, it can make a big difference. You can sit cross legged or half lotus or try lying down on the floor with your eyes open or closed, whichever comes easiest for you.

You can try a simple body scan. Just breathe. Notice the air going in and out of your nose, your lungs. Notice your chest rise and fall with your abdomen. Just be there. Notice any tension in your body. Don’t judge it, just be aware of it. When you exhale, imagine you are exhaling into that part of your body and letting the tension drain through the floor. Don’t expect anything to happen or to feel a certain way. Just be you and know that it’s ok.

Hope that gives you an idea. The best simple, non-sectarian book on meditation I’ve read (3x’s now) is Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg. It’s a 4 week guided teaching in 4 types of mediation practices with an audio CD of guided meditations included. It’s really easy to understand and practice.

I wish you well. Feel free to ask any questions. I’ll be glad to answer them privately.

~ Namaste

Holding Our Anger: Ram Dass & Thich Naht Hahn

 

A Bi-lingual Heart: Christian & Buddhist

I’m not sure how to answer that question anymore. I was raised as a Christian and claimed that faith for my own when old enough to understand what I was doing. I have committed over half of my 35 years on this planet to Christian ministry as a minister. I have a weakness for this faith that makes me swoon over things like Jesus, grace, incarnation, hymns, and liturgy, but so much of what is considered “Christian” these days in America repulses me and makes me want to run away. The expression of Christianity that resonates most with me is old, simple, organic, and real. Krista Tippett’s answer to this question really reflected how I feel also:

I do consider myself to be Christian, or this is the way I would say it: that’s my mother tongue. That’s where I come from, and that’s my mother tongue. That’s my heritage.

– Krista Tippett, from an interview with Buddhist Geeks podcast, “Carving Out a Life of Meaning”

Christianity is my mother tongue. It’s what I know, who I am, and in my blood. I’m very comfortable and fluent in speaking it, even though most conversations are about what it isn’t as much as what it is.

I first began practicing mediation about two years ago in response to a health crisis I experienced. (You can read more about it here: My Journey Into Real Happiness) It was a purely secular, self-help attempt on my part because medication was not working. I didn’t even entertain the thought of Buddhist teaching for a long time. It was simply something that helped me and made me feel better. Almost a year ago I started reading more about Buddhist teaching to gain some understanding and context for what I was experiencing in meditation. The dharma, the teaching, really ignited my meditation practice and helped me to take the practice off the cushion and apply it to everyday life.

Buddhism isn’t a religion as such. There is no one to worship. There are teachings but not some universal dogma which everyone must believe or suffer for all eternity for rejecting. We’re already suffering here and now, and most of it is of our own making, Buddhism teaches. In Buddhist practice we can walk back down the path that led us into this mess. We can begin to understand it. We can make choices to be aware of our thoughts and actions. We can be kinder to ourselves and others.

Somewhere I read that Buddhism isn’t something you believe or something that you are, it’s something that you do. When one master was pressed on the question “Are you a Buddhist?,” he simply answered, “I practice Buddhist meditation.” I don’t think Buddha himself would self-identify as a Buddhist, nor would Jesus likely be able to identify with all that has been done in His name.

I think my best answer today at this point in my life  is that I am a follower of Jesus who practices Buddhist meditation. Christianity may be my mother tongue, but I’m bi-lingual. As I become more fluent in this Eastern tongue, it has informed my Christian faith and enriched my daily life. There will never be a day when I cease to follow Jesus, but I have incredible respect and appreciation for this ancient path that has at last introduced me to myself.

Namaste and Peace Be Unto You


If you are interested in the correlation of the two practices, I highly recommend:

  • Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian by Paul Knitter
  • Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Naht Hahn
  • The Enoch Factor by Steve McSwain

My Journey Into Real Happiness

I first meditated almost two years ago. At first it was a purely an attempt to gain control over an immune system out of control and stress consuming my life. I experienced an immediate change in my health and was able to get off a lot of prescription meds soon after with the help of vitamins and supplements.

For almost a year afterwards meditating was something I did sporadically as needed, when I had time for it. It was an exercise in self-help. While I continued to derive health benefits from the practice, the principles, and natural vitamins, I didn’t take it seriously.

About 9 months ago I began sitting with more regularity, at least weekly. When I picked up Sharon Salzberg’s book Real Happiness in January of this year, it gave me tools to deepen the practice and engage it more fully.

I began sitting for several times a week until I was sitting everyday by the end of the 28 day journey through the book. By the time I finished the book mindfulness was no longer just something I did sitting on a cushion in the corner. I began practicing mindfulness throughout my day. I continued the practice since February, sitting almost daily with a few exceptions. I also learned not to beat myself up for missing a day or getting off course.

A month ago I decided to go through the 28 days of Real Happiness again and made a serious commitment to sit at least 20 minutes a day everyday from now on. This practice became much easier with the support of my wife and kids who recognized it was here to stay, and I hope also saw that I was more pleasant to be around as a result.

The second 28 days has just ended, and I have really enjoyed the journey. There were several not so pleasant moments on the cushion such as dealing with a monkey mind, difficult emotions, or sleepiness, but I had discovered a way to work with those moments so that even they were included in my practice.

While I intended to just sit at least once a day, I quickly found myself sitting twice a day most days of the week. It was no longer something I had to make time for. It was something I truly wanted to do, and it began to feel more and more like the path that felt right for me.

This is how I came to the practice of meditation or how the practice came to me. It’s something that I have committed to continue and make a regular part of my life. The challenge is “taking the practice off the cushion,” seeing how it affects everyday life, and trying to practice mindfulness and lovingkindness in each of those moments. I don’t always get it right, but at least I’m aware and awake for perhaps the first time. When I blow it, I can always start over and just begin again.

Choosing a Path or the Path Choosing Me

Theravada Buddhist meditation is feeling more and more like the path for me. That is not to say anything negative against Mahayana, Vajrayana, or Zen Buddhism. I still enjoy several teachers from those schools and continue to learn a lot from them.

Next to Theravada I have the most affinity for Soto Zen, but overall I just feel most comfortable with Theravada, in particular Vipassana and Metta. All of this has been pretty confusing for a while, but I think it comes into focus when it’s supposed to and not a moment sooner.

“Be a lamp unto yourself.” – Buddha