Friday, May 25, 2012

13 Ways to Inject the "Be" into Your Being

I've compiled a list of thirteen strategies, in no particular order, that I follow earnestly. These approaches have the power to bring back the "Be" in your being, allowing you to thrive in the bedrock of Nirvana.

1. Hold up the Inner Mirror
Reflection through meditation holds the key to unlocking an individual's true potential. A sought-after skill on a spiritual seeker's resume, meditation is simple and easy to do, yet many journey through life not ever knowing or benefiting from its transformative powers. Here are some of the benefits of regular meditation:
  • dramatically reduces stress
  • improves focus and concentration
  • unties the knot of emotional reactivity
  • loosens the grip of toxic thoughts and emotions
  • unleashes the inner fountain of creative and intuitive powers
And that's only a start! Ongoing meditation helps service your internal ecosystem much like a maintenance program helps overhaul a car's engine. You schedule the routine appointments, take the necessary time off, and gladly drive your car to the auto-body shop. Isn't it time you tended to your internal engine with the same respect?

2. Accept Yourself
Everybody has shortcomings. That doesn't mean you have to remain shackled to guilt or feelings of inadequacy the rest of your life. Start playing to your strengths and watch the tables turn in your favor. Change what you can; accept the rest. Embrace the package that is you. So uniquely you.

3. Accept People and Situations
Well, you can't change them; you might as well accept them. The greatest advantage is that it's a lot less exhausting to accept people and situations than it is to fight them. The other plus of acceptance is that you begin to have diminishing expectation of others and gradually become more tolerant of others' idiosyncratic habits and behaviors.

4. Suspend the Judgment Campaign
The judgment campaign has only one goal -- to sabotage your well-meaning intentions. Why willing invite this destructive impulse into your life? Suspend judgment and become a good listener instead. Then watch as all of those emotional walls come crumbling down, revealing the original you that is loving, caring, compassionate, generous, cooperative, connected, tolerant, and forgiving.

5. Hang the Personal Responsibility Banner
Take charge of your life. If you want to lose weight, get started. If you want to get out of financial debt, it's the best gift you could give yourself. If you want to volunteer, what are you waiting for? Resources are aplenty: books, classes, the Internet, organizations, friends and family, and most importantly -- your inner guidance. Personal responsibility enhances discipline and focus, for sure, but also creates a vast inner spaciousness that allows the human psyche to function at its efficient best. Step it up, one notch at a time, and watch the world around you unfold.

6. Unleash the Immaterial
Emotional reactivity, since it takes up such significant territory on the mind, is the first line of defense against invaders from the external environment -- life situations that demand reason, objectivity, and patience. For this reason, you must stop playing the blame game and start phasing out your participation in life's dramas. Enliven your current relationships by trading knee-jerk emotional reactivity (anger, irritation, bitterness, hostility, frustration, jealousy, greed) for well-contemplated responses.

7. Light the Flame of Gratitude
A life rooted in gratitude can have a significant, positive effect on an individual's physical, mental, and social functioning. Think of all the people, privileges, and freedoms you take for granted. Acknowledge and cherish all your "haves." Surrender your sense of entitlement. Appreciate the little joys of life.
8. Be Aware of Afflictions and Addictions
The merciless world of advertising and its constant bombardment of sensual messages makes it easy to get caught in the net of afflictions and addictions, which can span the gamut from trivial to overwhelming, from compulsive thinking and shopping to debilitating drug and sexual dependencies. Make a conscious effort to understand the subtle propensity of distractions to become addictions and tirelessly model that message, especially to vulnerable youngsters in the home.

9. Cultivate a Sense of Humor
Yup, laugh a lot. At yourself. At past situations. Harness the power of laughter to keep yourself inspired, connected, grounded, resilient, and balanced.

10. Relinquish the Need to Win
An affliction of the ego, winning is a temporary phenomenon that is rooted in self-importance and ignorance. Treat the need to win the same way a doctor would treat a gangrenous limb -- sever it.

11. Widen the Peephole of Curiosity
No, not in a scandalous, gossipy way, but in ways you can remain open to cool new experiences. Be interested in the happenings of the world and ways in which you can contribute, both directly and vicariously. Be curious about the Universe and how things work. Allow yourself to smell the morning air laden with dew, feel the touch of the lush green grass, watch the hummingbird as it flits from tree to tree. Expand your comfort zone and go take a class in mountain climbing, scuba diving, animation, baking, or sewing. Whatever you do, never lose your sense of wonder. Remember, novelty inspires creativity.

12. Stop the Self-defeating Self Talk
Negative, self-focused rumination is not just limiting, it is detrimental to your progress as an individual. Like a good gemologist, learn to identify and separate your thoughts, to evaluate the color, clarity, cut, and carat of each thought so you can capitalize on the affirming ones, the ones that represent love and the truth, and disregard the rest.

13. Take a Positive Leap
There is no parallel to maintaining a constructive outlook. A positive attitude begets positive changes.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

13 Astonishing Fallacies about Meditation

The following is a compilation of the comments/questions that have come up during my talks and in general conversations. Notice how the human mind is conditioned to aimlessly question everything and to resist new experiences. My responses are in Italics.

1. Meditation is for monks and holy people.
...and for you and me!

2. Meditation is weird and wacky.
Meditation is as weird and wacky as riding a bicycle.

3. Meditation is selfish.
If that's true, then any activity we engage in -- eating, sleeping, exercising, driving, watching television, taking a vacation -- has to fall in the same category.

4. Meditation is boring.
Okay. You got me there! Boredom and restlessness can weigh you down during a meditation sitting. Continued meditation can help you understand the process better and help ward off extraneous distractions.

5. Can meditation cure diseases?
Regular meditation can help you gain mastery over the mind, which in turn could help you maintain good mental and emotional health. But, in itself, meditation won't cure diseases. This is mediTAtion, not mediCAtion.

6. Meditation is a Buddhist thing.
Meditation is a human thing.

7. Is meditation a cult?
No. Meditation is a tool for self-transformation.

8. I don't know if I am equipped to meditate.
If you can breathe, you are equipped.

9. Meditation is a psychedelic experience and results in hallucinations.
Taking drugs is a psychedelic experience and can result in hallucinations. However, to avoid getting into hallucination-like states during prolonged meditation retreats -- which is both time-consuming and detrimental -- it's recommended that you train with a teacher who can guide you on the dos and don'ts of the process.

10. Is there a god in meditation?
First, god is a matter of perception. Next, meditation is a tool, not a religion.

11. Will meditation overwrite my religious views and values?
No. On the contrary, meditation will deepen your spirituality and enhance your values.

12. Will I become a Buddhist if I meditate?
Huh? What?!!

13. How do you tune out the outside noise during meditation?
You don't; you just tune "in" to your inner noise!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Four Mantras for Relationship Success by Thich Nhat Hanh

On Sunday, May 6, the Venerable Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh appeared on Super Soul Sunday on Oprah's OWN network. In a rare interview with Oprah herself, the inspirational monk and gentle spirit discussed his dedication to mindful meditation. Of the many things he talked about, his "four mantras" for relationship success were truly powerful. These mantras are for use not just in intimate relationships, but also in professional, social, and family settings. I have attempted to analyze these mantras within the context of my spiritual framework.

Here are the four mantras that really struck a chord in me:

  • Darling, I'm here for you.
  • Darling, I know you are there for me...and I'm so happy you are truly there.
  • Darling, I know you suffer...that is why I am here for you.
  • Darling, I suffer. I am trying my best to practice. Please help me.

1. Darling, I'm here for you.

Life is a pilgrimage and every individual we encounter in this journey is a pilgrim. Understanding a fellow pilgrim is akin to understanding the cadence of our own hearts. Especially when the fellow pilgrim is a spouse, a partner or a close family member, a simple gesture such as a heartfelt embrace or a brief phone/email message is a great way to express pure, selfless love and concern in a positive, meaningful way. Jamming the mind's brakes to make emotional room for others is really an invitation for personal growth and healing as we, in essence, are connecting with our own inner selves and learning to accept those in our lives with no strings attached. Unconditionally. In spite of deficiencies.

2. Darling, I know you are there for me...and I'm so happy you are truly there.

I see both gratitude and validation expressed in this vein of thought. To be loved, heard, and accepted is a basic human craving, regardless of an individual's placement on the spiritual ladder. What better way is there to express love and gratitude towards a loved one than giving them the gift of appreciation?

3. Darling, I know you suffer...that is why I am here for you.

Compassionate listening, paradoxically, is a self-empowering tool. It helps us remain open to others' points of view. It helps widen our sense of purpose and worthiness, offering an opportunity to cast off judgment by helping us dive deep into our inner ocean of compassion. Ironically, the greatest blessing of compassion, unlike material acquisitions, is that you get to keep it for yourself--forever.

4. Darling, I suffer. I am trying my best to practice. Please help me.

Perhaps the most difficult mantra to articulate and practice is that of self love as also self care. For those unfamiliar with the concept of self love, it is about letting go of fears, self importance, self-pity, separation and all things that are disengaged from the higher self.

Why do we find it so difficult to acknowledge our own turmoil? Why do we always resist seeking assistance? Why do we choose to put up a false front? What are we afraid of? Losing something? Someone? Do we feel that we don't deserve love? Or, is it that the ego -- our security blanket -- believes nobody can help us? How much longer are we going to use the shield of reactions (denial, defiance, frustration, anger, hostility, blame, bitterness) to ward off ambiguities and insecurities?

The ability to comprehend our own suffering is a positive life force -- a cherished gift that can not only align an individual's thoughts, words, and actions in step with universal harmony, but also serve as the launch pad for the individual's emotional and spiritual growth.

In the end, what matters is the blossoming of the human potential for inner transformation, the tightening of the human connectivity matrix, and the deepening of collective healing -- a welcome proposition in a world riddled with divisiveness and strife.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Monday, May 7, 2012

Filmmaker and Author Jenny Phillips reviews "Inner Pilgrimage"

Filmmaker, psychotherapist and author of Lettters from the Dhamma Brothers Jenny King Phillips writes a book review on "Inner Pilgrimage: Ten Days to a Mindful Me."
Inner Pilgrimage: Ten Days To A Mindful Me is a delightfully irreverent and totally compelling book by Raji Lukkoor about her first 10-day Vipassana course. The book is filled with rich, often funny, and very revealing details. As a Vipassana meditator myself, I cherish the honesty and humility of Raji’s account of her battles with her mind. Her experiences match my own struggles to do a good job and be a good Vipassana meditator. Of course, no one was judging my behavior and experience but myself. But that realization only slowly emerges as the mind and body settle.

There are two threads running side by side throughout the book – Raji’s personal narrative of her wild and untamed mind, and her account of the structure and unfolding inner process of the 10-day Vipassana course. In the early days of the course, she is overcome with apprehension and judgments of others. For example, while standing in line in the dining hall she notices that one of the meditators picks up a plate, discovers that it is not clean, and then puts it back down rather than placing it with the dirty dishes. Raji’s inner process is on fire. “Anger splashes across my face. I give her an angry glare. She then helps herself to another plate. Such indiscretion! Wish I could bang the soiled plate on your head!”

Raji’s inner battles of course follow her to the meditation mat as she struggles to focus and observe her sensations without reacting to them. “My attention shifts to my throbbing temples. As it zeroes in on my jaw, pressure and tightness bubble up, gently parting my lips, releasing electrical impulse-like sensations through them. These sensations pulsate, rising, peaking, falling, rising, peaking, falling. A wall of pressure builds in my ears, temporarily blocking my hearing. Numbness takes form in my feet”.

As the course progresses, Raji surrenders to the unrelenting struggle, and slowly begins to see her Self revealed. “As the inner bodily sensations arose and passed away, the layers of worldly expectation and embitterment stripped away. I began to grasp the profundity and preciousness of life and learned to trust my own deepest experience”.

I am certain that writing this book must have been a positive experience for Raji Lukkoor as she documented the tiny details and stories of her first Vipassana course. But these same stories, precisely because they are so honest and courageously open, can be instructive and encouraging to all those who are motivated to embark on a journey inside.

Read Inner Pilgrimage: Ten Days to a Mindful Me!