Category Archives: Mindfulness
The path through which I came to an interest in Buddhism was a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course in Ottawa. Posts related to that practice.
Just the other day, I was excitedly posting about a crafter who knit a bunch of hats and then hung them up all around her downtown core so homeless people could take them and use them to warm up over the winter months. I was psyched about the possibility of bringing a similar project to the nearest big city to me (that’s Toronto, Ontario, Canada). And I wrote that post calling on all my crocheting and knitting friends to join me in yarn-bombing downtown Toronto.
But after I finished it, I didn’t feel quite so good about it. It gradually dawned on me that the whole idea seemed to be all show and no substance.
Okay. So Jews have Hanukkah. Hindus have Diwali. Christians, obviously, celebrate Christmas. Pagans kick back even further in time and celebrate what Christmas was before it had Christian symbolism attached: they call that Yule. Africans have Kwanzaa, though technically Africa is not a religion. And Muslims have Ramadan, even if it doesn’t always fall neatly in the time period we’ve designated as “the holiday season”.
But am I the only one who never heard of the Buddhists’ December holiday?
Just a short post for now, because that’s probably all I can fit in between my 5pm ibuprofen fix (just past) and my 7pm dose of Tylenol-3. Yup, the random back pain that floored me last weekend finally caught up with me in a really big way last night. At three o’clock in the morning. With repetitious almost-screaming. Something I think sounded a bit like “Owowowowowowownonono!!!” Let’s just say I’ve seen my husband happier.
See, here’s the thing about pain. It hurts. A lot. I really don’t like it. Self-evident, no?
But the eternal optimist in me has this to say: I am learning from this pain. It seems meaningless and random, sure. But I am a person who is absolutely horrible at taking care of herself. I’ll put absolutely anybody before me, even total strangers. (While waiting to be seen in the ER last night, I kept wanting to go help the migraine sufferer next door, and I made a point of telling an absolute stranger I loved her shoes.) Maybe an apparently meaningless pain is the universe’s way of giving me a chance to practice asking myself what I need, and making sure it gets delivered.
And if you think that can’t possibly be effective, try bringing me my Tylenol-3 any later than 7pm on the dot.
As an aside, I noticed something interesting while waiting for my doctor’s visit and having a particularly difficult time concentrating on the book I brought. When the girl with the migraine had her most horrible peaks of pain, the nurses advised her to breathe deeply and focus on her breathing – the same techniques I learned while studying mindfulness meditation. As much as it may be good for your psyche and your soul, mindfulness meditation is also a good way to manage pain. That’s the entire philosophy behind the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, but apparently it’s also making its way into the best practices of standard medical care . . . or at least the care I witnessed around me last night. It’s not clear whether it’s actively taught to nurses in training or if it’s just something last night’s duty staff has picked up through experience, but it’s a pretty powerful recommendation for the healing power of breath work if it’s being used to manage pain and suffering at its most acute source.
Speaking of acute pain and suffering, back to bed with me. One hour and fifteen minutes until my next dose of Tylenol.
I tripped across a Yoga Journal advice column that discussed heartbreak, romance, and the emotions involved therein from a mindful and spiritual perspective. You might find it especially resonant if you share the current romantic problems the readers described – the end of a romantic relationship, a disruptive attraction, an obsessive romantic fantasy. Personally, I found it really fascinating because of what these relationships had to say about our spiritual searching and yearning for a connection with God.
God is Love. It’s been said a thousand times. Is it true? I’ve always believed it, which is probably part of why losing track of God has been so difficult and distressing to me: it’s as if I lost track of love, too. And since we’re hard-wired for connection and love, that’s a terrible nightmare to consider.
I’m not very good at loving-kindness. Not when loving-kindness starts with me. Oh, I can love anybody else with ease. Even people who probably don’t deserve it. I’m just full of love and forgiveness for other people. But I get down on myself like nobody’s business. The meanest thing anybody’s ever said to me can’t hold a candle to the meanest things I’ve said to myself. One time in a meditation class, the teacher tried to guide us through a loving-kindness meditation by Sharon Salzberg. I got frustrated and a little upset when she was guiding us to offer loving-kindness to the entire universe, and I still hadn’t been able to dredge up a scrap for myself. It was a bit like falling behind in math class – once you’ve missed that many interim steps, it’s not easy to get caught up.
So how do you have a relationship with the Divine when your relationship with yourself is so terrible? It seems to me that’s a good reason for practicing loving-kindness, a branch of Buddhist meditation that involves cherishing all living beings, including oneself. Okay, sure. I can cherish pretty much every other living thing. Maybe I’ll have a little problem with spiders, but I can work on that.
The problem is that, when it comes to making friends with myself, I don’t really know where to begin.
Dr. Ronald Moglia, in some of his writing, tells a story about a visit to Sri Lanka:
We had to take a ride; it was only about 30 or 40 miles, but it was across country. In Sri Lanka that takes about seven hours by car. We didn’t know that, so we kept asking the driver, “What time will we get there?” He kept saying, “Oh, soon, fine, pretty soon, just a little while now”. The next day I told a medical colleague who’s Sri Lankan, “I’m amazed at how people don’t care about time here!” And I related the story.
He started to laugh and said, “You don’t understand. Time is in God’s hands. If that driver said, ‘We’ll be there in six hours,’ he’s taking God’s right to determine how long it’s going to take to make that trip.” How stupid of me, to take my values and cultural learnings and throw it on this person’s shoulders.