Next Saturday, 10 April I will be interviewing Piero Falci. Author and Meditation teacher. Please register for this free event
Change is a permanent aspect of life, and most of the time, we don’t even notice it happening. It is only when change requires us to adjust and use up our resources that we become aware of it. Sometimes, we become distressed when we are not aware of the early signs of distress, or when we don’t have the necessary resources to cope with it.
Mindfulness can help us increase our awareness of our bodily sensations through the interoceptive awareness facilitated by the insular cortex region of the brain. The more attuned we are to our bodily sensations, the better we are able to detect the emerging sensations that arise.
Did you know that there are always accompanying sensations that emerge with every thought, whether we are aware of them or not? These sensations are deeply stored in our system and are often associated with emotions that we can’t describe or that are too intense for us to approach.
To protect ourselves in the moment, we often develop an adaptive system that helps us avoid or fight change. While this can be helpful in the short term, it may not serve us in the long run. Avoiding or fighting change can make it more difficult to let go and can keep us trapped, preventing us from discovering a different way of being.
Mindfulness can help you learn this different way of being, although it may not be easy. By combining mindfulness with self-compassion, you can step out of the cage and liberate yourself towards the good.
Wanting to learn about it? Contact Regina Gerlach email@example.com
Tasting Mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn
“Have you ever had the experience of stopping so completely,
of being in your body so completely,
of being in your life so completely,
that what you knew and what you didn’t know,
that what had been and what was yet to come,
and the way things are right now
no longer held even the slightest hint of anxiety or discord?
It would be a moment of complete presence, beyond striving, beyond mere
beyond the desire to escape or fix anything or plunge ahead,
a moment of pure being, no longer in time,
a moment of pure seeing, pure feeling,
a moment in which life simply is,
and that “is-ness” grabs you by all your senses,
all your memories, by your very genes,
by your loves, and
welcomes you home.”
How did you transition into 2021? Did you get a chance to do this in a mindful way? And what did that mean ‘transition in a mindful way’ to you? Let me share what I did and how it echoed into this fresh new year.
Originally, I’d planned to take part in a mindfulness insight retreat with a very well known Dharma teacher. I was registered and all set up for the online retreat. And then, on the the first day I had to pull out due to some unexpected event. Disappointment passed through the sky of awareness and freed up some new space.
I ended up taking part in a short introduction Thai Chi course. Seven days, 5 minute practice – no big deal. It was a very interesting exploration of the standing pillar and its imprint as well as its inner sensations of movement. Here I was, expecting to learn a Thai Chi routine and being surprised that this course was not about it at all, however. I loved it – the daily practice and the impact of this five-minute insight-way of being worked. This short course was finished on NY and set the foundation and intention for this coming year. My intention COMMIT TO MINDFUL LIVING and MINDFUL ACTION arose from within, from this stable and balance stand. Grounded, rooted and confident.
Mindful Living and Action include regular meditation practice, frequent in-depth insight work and the sharing of my experience with a wider community. After five days of an online silent retreat with two amazing Dharma teachers, Cindy Ricardo and Piero Falci I felt very grounded, calm and inspired. I have had the opportunity to explore the qualities of awakening and was amazed at how much clarity, energy, awareness, wisdom, joy and equanimity arose out of investigation from within. A deep sense of gratitude, appreciation and privilege was felt inside my mind and body. It was like both, mind and body were fully connected.
A very dear friend of mine asked me the other day ‘why do you want to bring your light to the world’?. A question that I carried into the retreat and although I wasn’t searching for an answer, it poured out of me in this very moment were everything felt connected with no boundaries – out of this sense of pure oneness.
And from this place I know that even ‘just’ sitting here, meditating and cultivating this way of being offers so much to the world. It is my contribution to let everyone shine and warm everyone g with my light from inside.
And what is your light? Community is so very important and it can only exist peacefully if everyone learns to own their experience and who is willing to contribute. That it is not so easy, but the good news is it can be learned. Let’s explore this together.
By actively engaging in mindfulness and staying present in the moment, I have experienced a greater sense of non-judgment and awareness. Through practices like meditation, movement, and even reading or writing poetry, I have been able to better understand myself, my behavior, and my emotional reactions, allowing me to become more responsive and resilient. Poetry, in particular, has helped me to hone my awareness of my thoughts and feelings, and explore themes such as non-attachment, acceptance, and purpose. Even something as simple as a walk on the beach can be turned into a moment of mindfulness and equanimity, as I discovered this morning.”
Poetry by the Sea – A morning encounter of beauty, inspiration, love, connection and wisdom – A morning encounter of beauty, inspiration, love, connection and wisdom
This morning, I was greeted by a stunning blue sky with a few fluffy clouds. The rising sun intensified the blue color, creating a strong contrast against the white clouds. A gentle breeze cooled the rising heat and caressed my skin, filling my body with warmth. My mind was fully aware, calm, and present as I sat, stood, and walked on the beach. The sand felt soft and gentle under my feet, providing a firm support. The sound of the ocean was rhythmic, with moments of silence in between. As I walked, I felt connected to nature and arrived at each step, leaving a gentle imprint on the sand. Along the way, I came across letters written in the sand, forming words and sentences that expressed love. I was struck by the artistry and effort that went into creating this display on the beach. My heart filled with joy as I read the quote and wondered who had left it for me to find.
As I took in the beauty of this moment and felt deeply grateful, I was glad that I had chosen to walk with the intention of “kissing the earth with my feet.” Without this mindset, I may not have noticed the poetry on the beach. Many people walked by, seemingly preoccupied with their thoughts and not fully present in nature. I, on the other hand, was fully immersed in the experience of walking and feeling the soft sand beneath my feet, knowing that my footprints would soon be gently washed away by the ocean. It was as if the ocean itself was kissing the earth.
‘Poetry is an act of peace. Peace goes into the making of a poet as flour goes into the making of bread’ – Pablo Neruda
As I reached the end of the written quote on the sand, I noticed an elderly man standing there with a bamboo writing stick in one hand and a camera in the other. He was wearing a hat, a t-shirt, and shorts, and it was clear that he was the creator of this beautiful gesture. His compassionate voice and curious eyes made it easy to connect with him, and we chatted about his art on the beach, the motivation behind it, and the theme of grief and loss. We also watched as the sea claimed back parts of the beach, washing away the letters and words he had written. We both agreed that this was a great opportunity to practice letting go and to celebrate the ever-changing elements of nature.
‘I WAS PUT ON THIS EARTH TO ACHIEVE MANY THINGS – AT THE MOMENT I AM SO FAR BEHIND I AM NEVER GOING TO DIE’ – GWS
Geoff’s loving efforts and creations certainly made a difference to a few lives this morning, including mine. It was an enriching encounter that continued to have a lasting impact on my mind and heart throughout the day
A new year is about to approach and the current year is about to end. The time between ending and beginning can be welcomed as a conscious and mindful transition time. Acknowledging and being aware of transition is an opportunity to stop, pause, reflect, review as an act of mindful self-inquiry. And this post provides some guidance for your mindful self-inquiry.
Mindful self-inquiry can be done in a formal practice of meditation focusing on a particular theme or questions. When you are doing this inquiry bring some playfulness to this practice, no force, no pushing, no pulling – simply be curious to the unfolding.
And here are a few guiding questions for your reflection:
- What comes to mind when reviewing the passing year?
- Is there a particular pre-dominant theme, thoughts or emotions surfacing right now?
- What is it exactly that I am noticing and how can this be felt in the body?
- What is the instant feeling tone whilst doing this self-inquiry?
And a few more questions might pop up for you:
- What stood out for me this year?
- Anything that felt very challenging and how was I able to cope with it?
- Is it still around or does it feel resolved?
- What felt pleasant and how did I relate to experienced pleasant events?
- Is there a person that comes to mind when thinking of the last year?
- Was there anything that felt demanding and forceful? And how did I relate to it?
- How did I take care of myself and was has helped to do so?
- If I struggled with putting myself first, what was in the way, what hindered me to allow myself?
Or if too many questions simply check-in and notice what is coming up for you when concluding this year? What are you noticing right now?
Again, bring an attitude of kindness, compassion and friendliness to whatever is coming to mind when doing this end of year reflections.
When deliberately and intentionally reviewing this year, a few things might pop up. Maybe the new year’s resolution of this passing year is showing up. Memories of good intentions, determination and good will including the enthusiasm encouraging you to do everything or a few things differently this year. Maybe you managed to follow your promises and intentions, maybe not.
There might also be some judgment coming up in case you didn’t succeed with your good intentions. Expectations of others, work, society could have been in the way of following the set intentions at the beginning of this year. Because of our underlying need to be accepted, recognised, appreciated, approved and be seen. And if our good intentions to do things differently differ too much with what is expected of us, we may give up and get hooked again in what others want us to do. This could be the result of avoiding being seen as not good enough and not being successful enough. A vicious cycle keeping us trapped and making it harder to step out. Has this happened to you? Please know that this happens to all of us. We all this common humanity.
Nevertheless, recognising this underlying pattern and motivation helps to gain greater confidence and to do whatever you feel is the right thing to do. This is your one life and you are good enough no matter what the EGO tells you, or what others have to say.
Say YES to putting yourself first as part of self-care and as an act of self-love. What are you passionate about? Is it different to what others are passionate about and could your passion possibly be seen as a waste of time? So what, who cares? Do whatever feels right for you.
And this takes us to the coming year.
Consider what is it that you wish to continue in the next year? Perhaps bringing an attitude of openness and friendliness to your experiences and encounters? Continuing with the practice of mindful movement, yoga, Pilates, relaxation and meditation? See whether it is possible to expand on this list and be open for new experiences. Add to this list right now: what other nourishing activities you want to expand on? …
In summary: use this transition time to reflect on what you are grateful for, what you can let go off, what nourishing activities you want to increase and if possible, consider what is it that you would like to try.
You don’t have to do this mindful reflection all at ones, revisit whenever it feels right. Do the self-inquiry whilst as part of your meditation practice (sitting, walking, moving). And use mindfulness of breathing as a tool for anchoring, settling, calming and new beginning.
If it feels right for you frequently check-in with the above questions and change or add whatever matters to you. Doing something different or new can take us straight into overwhelm.
Remember, if you do experience overwhelm or if you feel pushed out of your comfort zone be kind, practice calming strategies, e.g. mindfulness of the breath, soles of the feet, compassionate touch.
May you be well.
Every year Christmas (oh miracle) is on again. And although this is actually well-known, you may be surprised how quickly the year has passed, and automatically you may fall into the annual hustle and bustle at the end of the year … Sounds familiar?
Somehow you be running out of time, or getting a sense that you are running out of time, so you may have to make all the preparation urgent. And in addition, the house has to be decorated, biscuits to be baked, the ham to be organized, gifts to be shopped and wrapped and various Christmas functions to be attended. Phew …
How can mindfulness help you to stay calm and peaceful? Below are some tips for you:
- Be aware of what is really important to you at Christmas. What do you like, what do you appreciate and how much “do you care” about these things. Think about how you can live more fully in your daily life with mindfulness.
- Who is particularly important to you? With whom do you want to spend time, or have a nice glass of wine, or do some shopping … perhaps sitting under the Christmas tree, or celebrating joyfully with your loved ones?
- With all the gifts and delights, deliberately consider: who would you like to give a present to, and what kind of gift? And why, what is the intention: heartjoy, love, gratitude?
- Practice mindfulness: allow yourself time to step out to be present, i.e., a walk, a cup of tea, a glass of wine, a breathing exercise. Main thing is, you do it with intention.
- Take a moment to think about what you are grateful for. This can really be anything: people, tasks, and the many “little things” that make life lifeable and so often overlooked … Feel this feeling of gratitude, perhaps the joy that comes from it.
In general, less is often more! Not the quantity but the quality counts. Only one thing cannot be done often enough: always be aware of what you are really grateful for!
It is the time of the year where we might feel exhausted, tired, and stressed. It causes some pressure regarding the end of year preparing. The holiday season can even cause some anxiety and that certainly doesn’t help to the nervous system to relax. The more you feel running out of time, and certainly not being able to shuffle 10 minutes aside for yourself, the more you need the time out.
You may remember that you came up with a great new years solution and plan for 2018. Mainly to do with your well-being and health. What happened there? Did you manage to carve out time for making yourself number one priority? If yes, congratulations. If the answer is No then don’t get too upset; simply start now. In the end it is your choice what you are going to do with your time. Just keep in mind pushing yourself to the limit without any down time might not be sustainable.
This 24 day meditation calendar is a gift for you from me and an invitation to catch up on your good intentions, to conclude this year with dignity, calm and peace.
You can make it. Good luck.
This post is about how I have met James Baraz – the co-founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California (https://www.spiritrock.org/), the founder of THE AWAKENING JOY program (https://www.awakeningjoy.info/) and the co-author of AWAKENING JOY (https://www.amazon.com/Awakening-Joy-10-Steps-Happiness/dp/1937006220).
This post is also an invitation to sign up for his Perth workshop in November 2018 (more info at the end of this post).
I have met James Baraz during a retreat in the YARRA Valley in Victoria (Australia) at the end of 2014. James Baraz and Jill Shepherd co-led this insight retreat in this magnificent landscape close to Melbourne.
After arriving at the retreat venue and being allocated a bed in a shared room of five people and moving in for the next seven days, I noticed a little bit of exhaustion, nervousness and tension in my body. For one, it was simply the tiredness after such a long travel (flight Perth to Melbourne, then 2hrs care drive) and two, adjusting to sharing a room with four other people, and three, not knowing what this retreat would be like.
I had a very tough year claiming a lot of grief, tension and heaviness in my mind and body. I must admit I was craving for some quiet, for recollection, rejuvenating and greater clarity. There could have not been a better time for this retreat. I felt it was the right space for me to review and conclude 2014 with kindness, embodiment and ease.
Once settled into my accommodation, I went for a little wonder exploring other facilities like the meditation hall, the garden and the walking path.
And then I met James Baraz. A dharma teacher, who was greeting and meeting everyone briefly with a huge smile in his face, with a few words of welcome and love, with an open heart making everyone feeling special and cared for. I have met many dharma teachers, all carrying, humble and loving, but there was something very special about James. Maybe it was his genuine and authentic, very natural and heart warming welcome, his offering of an exchange of loving words and HIS BIG SMILE … Meeting James in this very moment and being in his presence made me feeling very special and safe. I knew right then that he would be there anytime in case my mind, or heart, or body or all together would fall apart during the retreat. Time to relax J
In his daily dharma talks James was speaking about awareness, gratitude, forgiveness, love, joy, compassion, mindfulness, wisdom realities, equanimity and taught us every day a little more on how to apply all these aspects in relation to each moment of our existence. He spoke about the dance of awareness where everything noticing intention comes before action, so one moment to another can string together and dance in a flow.
James spoke about the relationship between wisdom and compassion and the four sublime states of Brahma Vihara: loving- kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity. He talked about the willingness and capacity to face and embrace suffering and acknowledged the amount of courage and compassion this would take. Both, compassion and joy combined and in full balance leads to equanimity, a balanced and non-reactive mind.
James guided us through many shorter and longer practices of Brahma Vihara. Here a re a few examples to recite and cultivate self-compassion by practicing this on a regular basis (and if it feels right placing the left hand over your heart region or any other body part during the practice)
In this moment there is suffering.
Suffering is part of life.
May I hold it in kindness and compassion.
I am aware of this pain.
I care about this pain.
At the right time may this pain release.
May I know peace.
May I hold my experience with balance and ease.
It is as it is.
Life is unfolding as it should.
It is like this.
The profound richness and depth of James teachings have offered me a lot of insight, and it indeed made me feeling much happier and joyful at the end of this silent retreat. I’d gained new perspectives in relation to a few issues that had caused me so much suffering during the year. And returning from the retreat offered me an opportunity to conclude a few chapters of pain with compassion and forgiveness. Something I thought would not have been possible at all. However, in the end it was so very liberating and freeing.
Reflecting back on my retreat experience and of James in particular makes me smiling, remembering what he often said at the very end of each day: ‘DON’T MISS THE MOMENT’ and a few other encouragements like ‘Stop and start again. That is always an option’, ‘Peace is always within’, ‘Don’t cure, but care’ and last, but not least ‘You don’t have to figure it out’.
James and his wife Jane Baraz are visiting Australia in 2018. Please check workshop and retreat dates online and see whether you can attend.
About James and Jane Baraz
James Baraz has a master’s degree in psychology and has been a mindfulness meditation teacher since 1978. He is a co-founding teacher of the prestigious Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California, is a guiding teacher for One Earth Sangha (a website devoted to expressing a Buddhist response to climate change), has taught at the Esalen Institute since 1983, and has led retreats and workshops throughout North America and Europe for more than 30 years. In addition, he created the Awakening Joy course in 2003 and is the co-author of Awakening Joy: Ten Steps to Happiness, the book based on the course. He is also the co-author of Awakening Joy for Kids, which won the 2016 Nautilus Parenting and Family Gold Award. James lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, Jane. He has two sons and three grandchildren. For more information, please visit www.awakeningjoy.info
Jane Baraz, MA, is an instructor of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the University of California Medical Center. She has been meditating since 1976 and is a founding board member of Spirit Rock Meditation Center. Jane completed professional training in MBSR with Jon Kabat-Zinn and is also a trained teacher in Mindful Self-Compassion. She teaches for both the community at large and for a special National Institute of Health study to investigate whether mindfulness can slow down cognitive decline in patients suffering from HIV. In addition to teaching at the medical center, Jane teaches courses and weeklong retreats at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, The Cancer Support Community, and in Europe and Australia. Jane enjoys bringing a friendly, gentle attitude to meditation practices and infuses her teaching with guidance for bringing more self-compassion into our lives.