Archive for April 2011

Taking mindfulness to work

This week our topic is exploring how we earn a living and how our work influences and is influenced by our practice of trying to live more skillfully. Steve will lead on Thursday and Vasu on Friday.

From Steve:

Skillful in the workplace

I interact with loads of people at work, both clients and fellow staff.  Having done this work for 31 years, hopefully I have mastered most of the mystery

Things change constantly, though.  And some newbie will more easily absorb the new technologies and software.  So, in the end, I am paid and useful for the many scars on my back.  Knowing the history of how things got to be here is useful in troubleshooting problems.  And often a new problem is just an old familiar one in disguise.

What has changed, with practicing mindfulness on the cushion and in the precious circle, is a clearer understanding that imparting knowledge is often secondary.  Work presents many opportunities to affirm and lend support.  If I pay attention and am present during a conversation, rather than being off in numbers and Regulations, I can see more clearly the opportunity to smile or laugh.  And when it is important to sympathetically listen.

Thich Nhat Hahn reminds us that how we consume can profoundly affect the work of others.  As we buy electronics for the home or car, we are encouraging the strip mining of rare earth elements.  If we buy local and/or organic foods, we support alternatives to corporate agriculture.  The insight of interbeing tells us that for the things we hold dear to arise, we need to help create the conditions for their manifestation.

Hello Habit Energy! :-)

This week we look into ways the mindfulness traditions help us learn the skills of thinking in clear and useful ways, so our actions flow from skillful understanding. Steve will lead on Friday and Barry on Thursday.

A note from Barry: The topic is again from the Eightfold Path: Right Action.  “Positively formulated, right action means to act kindly and compassionately, to be honest, to respect the belongings of others, and to keep sexual relationships harmless to others.” (This text is found on several websites, although an author is not specified.)

A note from Steve: Hello Habit Energy!  

Last week Leslie read from Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching.  Our way of acting depends on our way of thinking and our way of thinking depends on our habit energies.  We can make good friends with our habitual patterns of thinking and acting. Hello habit energy! When we can accept these ingrained thoughts and not feel guilty about them, they will lose much of their power over us.  Then, as our thinking becomes skillful, our actions will be so.

Habit energies are those little high strung voices in our belly that draw us toward thoughts and actions, without much reason or explanation.  Like walking into the room and turning on the tv – just out of habit.  Then realizing two hours have passed by.  Do you notice sometimes overreacting to someone’s words or facial expression.  The expression “pushing his or her buttton”.  

One mistake we meditators tend toward is trying to purge our habit energies.  We can teach ourselves to notice the reaction as it begins to arise and try to block or distract it.  But read Thay’s practice suggestion above.  Rather than judging the habit energy, make friends with it.  Be curious about what it is up to.  You will have plenty of chances, because our habit energies visit us again and again.  We can live in fear of the tiger and run away when we first sense its growl. Or we can patiently and carefully befriend the tiger and begin to see that the fierce tiger is really a tame cat.


Making room for strong emotions: Many places at the table

This week we look into ways the mindfulness traditions help us learn the skills of greeting and handling strong emotions.  Doug will lead on Friday and Barry on Thursday. After the third meditation, Doug will share how these teachings influence his practice.   

Doug writes:

The second function of shamatha is calming.
When we have strong emotion, we know it can be dangerous to act, but we don’t have the strength or clarity to refrain.
We have to learn to become solid and stable like an oak tree, and not be blown hither and yonder.
In the Zen tradition, the center of the body, the solar plexus, is known as the “wise mind”.   Thich Nhat Hanh suggests we learn to bring strong emotions into this wise mind, allowing the emotion to follow the in breath deep into our center.  We delicately rest the anger, jealousy, fear…on the cushion of the in breath.  And we invite the feeling to loosen its grip with the out breath. 
The wise mind is the trunk of the tree, stable and calm in the fierce wind.  If we allow the strong emotion to stay up in our head, we are blown hither and yon.  As the storm grows, the breath guides us to shelter in the solid center.