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Musings of the InsightLA teachers

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Musings of InsightLA teachers


From Senior Teacher Michael Stroud
From Senior Teacher Michael Stroud
How many times do we start a new year with big resolutions, only to quickly fall short and give up? 

We assume that change is an either/or proposition — we either “deliver” or we’re out of the game.  Mindfulness practice suggests a much more effective approach. 

When we meditate, we may begin with close attention to our breath or sensations, but over time we are bound to lose the thread of concentration.
We gently bring the attention back and start fresh. Nothing is lost. It’s all part of the process.

It’s a great metaphor for life. When we are thrown off course — when we fall short in our resolutions or are blown off course -- we simply begin again. No self-judgment or making stories about the future. Just pick up and start again.

Beginning again in meditation, says teacher Sharon Salzberg, is “the replica of having flubbed something at work and needing to begin again, or having strayed from our deepest aspirations chosen course and having to begin again, or finding that we’ve fallen down and needing to stand up and begin again.”

What happens if we berate ourselves for losing our attention in meditation? Or if we decide, “I’m going to focus for 30 minutes without losing my concentration for an instant”. Chances are, we’ll quickly get discouraged, and perhaps even give up meditating altogether.

Same with life and new year’s resolutions. Expecting ourselves to be perfect or being overly self-judgmental simply gums up the works. Just begin again. Right now.

The Buddha compared being overwhelmed by circumstances to being shot by two arrows. The first arrow is the pain of the event. The second arrow is the pain from tormenting ourselves over it. If we stop tormenting ourselves, we instantly eliminate half of our difficulties.  Or increase our chances of reaching our goals.

Of course, many would argue that goals or resolutions aren’t very spiritual. Getting too caught up in what we want creates its own suffering, especially when it’s not good for us. So goals need to be held lightly. Especially, since we’re likely to need to begin again many times along the way,

Teacher Phillip Moffitt calls this\ beginning again "and” practice “ When things go wrong, he advocates telling yourself: “ 'Yes, I just got lost, and now I'll just start over.' For example, 'I feel alienated and think my peers don't like me, and I am going to go speak to that guy over there who I usually get along with.’ “

The beauty of this kind of “starting over” is that we don’t have to wait to practice for a new year or the next time we fall down. It’s as close as our next meditation.

Warmly,

Michael

The Subtle Aggression of Self-Improvement
The Subtle Aggression of Self-Improvement

Do you have new years resolutions? Maybe you want to stop eating convenience food so often or you want to meditate every day. Those are wonderful aspirations and could make a big difference in your life for sure.  

Alas, from experience we know that it’s often hard to stop an old habit or to create a new one. 

While you probably already know a lot about creating new habits, have you taken a closer look at your attitude towards where you are now? Why do you want a daily meditation practice? Do you want it because you want to rewire your brain? Get rid of the constant stress and anxiety? Stop yelling at the kids? Nothing wrong with that! But what is your internal self talk around this? Are you kind to yourself, understanding and motivate yourself with love or is the internal talk rather harsh, maybe even condescending or mean? Do you want change from a place of overall love and acceptance for yourself or because you believe that if you change x, y or z you will be happier, more successful or more lovable?

Australian meditation teacher Bob Sharples talks about “the subtle aggression of self-improvement”, the constant urge to make ourselves into a better version of ourselves. When we come from a place of not-good-enough, like we feel that our life is not good enough or we are not good enough – then the internal stress of that belief will be constantly present in the background. 

If we first learn to accept this moment as it is, and then ourselves as we are – in this moment – then change can happen from a very different place. As the great psychologist Carl Rogers said:  “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I can change.” 

Wishing us all a wonderful and self-accepting 2019.Warmly,

Christiane


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