Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Jon Kabat Zinn on Mindfulness Meditation @ Google

Fantastic FAQs on meditation

I found this website that has very good FAQs. The questions cover many many aspects of meditation experiences, kinds of meditation, problems, etc and the answers are pretty good.
Jim Malloy, who compiled this FAQ seems to be very knowledgeable and full of wisdom gained from his meditation practice and experiences. Really worth a visit if you are into meditation. Here's the link.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beuatiful songs

The 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje was in Seattle last summer. I was there for his talk in one of the big auditoriums in Downtown seattle. The introductory song, consisted of 'Karmapa Khyenno'...
This song, whose lyrics I didn't understand, struck a chord with me.. I was deeply resonating with its tune and it seemed to remind me of something...I was a little in tears listening to this song.
I found it on youtube later on:

Here's a similar tuned song:

To worry or not to worry: That is the question!

'To be or not to be: That is the question', is a oft-quoted one from Shakespeare's Hamlet.
'Being' is a state. You can be happy, sad, fearful, joyful, high, low, peaceful, or in a state of 'worry'.
Let's look at worry.

If you say, you are fearless and yet worry, you do not understand worry completely.
When you worry about something, when you worry for example, on whether your relationship is headed in the right direction or not, or whether your career is unfolding as you expect it to: The basis for these worries is fear. You fear the consequence of the relationship not turning out well. You fear the consequence of your career not turning out as expected.
There is a distinction between being cautious and planning ahead vs worrying about it. Worrying is a repetitive state of mind, where one plays out 'what-if' scenarios in one's head repeatedly. It is a state that begets more of itself. That is to say, the more you worry, the more you can worry!

The understanding that stems out of examining worry is that, it serves no purpose, at all! It could probably keep you stressed, it could probably keep you tense, it could probably make your heart beat fast, and it could also affect your health adversely.
But positive affects of worrying? None, whatsoever. (Let me know if there is one!)

All this is easy to understand, but to say, 'Ok I am going to stop worrying. I will plan ahead, but I will not worry' - That might not work out. Why, you ask? It's because the mind does the worrying and you are asking the 'mind' to stop worrying. You are talking about calming down the mind!
Who said that's an easy job?
When a 'direct' approach to stop worrying doesn't work, one can turn to 'indirect' approaches. Some of them are:
a) Having positive thoughts about whatever you are worrying about. Example: It's all going to work out well, It's all going to be good, etc.
b) Distracting your mind from the worry through focusing on something else. For example, focusing on your work..Putting all attention to it. Or, taking a break and doing a favorite activity, etc.
c) Understanding the mind-body connect: Relaxing the body, calms down the mind and calming down the mind, relaxes the body and applying it by using a relaxation technique to relax the body and thus calm down the mind.
d) Meditation - Active or passive.

What do a),b),c) and d) have in common? They are all centering tools.. They center your awareness to the present moment, which is free of all worries, fears, regrets, hurts, etc: All the things that keep you from being happy. So the idea is simple: Be in the present moment(i.e. your mind focused on the present), whatever activity you maybe engaged in and that's the key to happiness.
Sound's simple? But the implementation is the tough part. As with anything, the implementation is made easier through practice.
For me, this is a totally sound basis for using these centering tools. The last centering tool, meditation is as varied as you can imagine. In meditation, centering can achieved by focusing on one's breath, which is ever present, or focusing on an object of one's choice, outside of oneself or within one's own imagination. Meditation can also be of a passive kind, where you can act as an observer to whatever's happening at the present moment. You can also be an observer to your own thoughts! 'I am observing my own thoughts!' - Isn't that funny?
The next question is, if you are observing your thoughts, who is thinking them? :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hiking and Meditation

How are these two related?
I remember the first hike I had once my spring quarter ended in 2008. I was going through a rough patch in life and I hadn't hiked in a while. Going on in my mind was a lot of worries and fears.. What if? Will that happen? Oh my god, where is my Phd headed? You know, I was a good 'worrier'.

When I went hiking on that spring afternoon, I remember thinking, what the heck? So many thoughts rushing through my head and all of them are my fears and worries. All through my hike to the top of tiger mountain and back, I had these thoughts rushing through.. I was helpless, I was a mere observer. I wasn't engaging them, I wasn't doing anything, it was just happening.. I was a mere observer. Atleast I tried to be, but I was also worrying about these worrisome thoughts in my mind!! The next day, I went hiking again to a different place, and felt a little better. The next day, I went hiking to Wallace falls state park, it was raining all through, it was pouring, but I enjoyed the hike.

The connection between hiking and meditation is this: In the meditation I do, I just observe whatever thoughts are going on in my mind, passively, without engaging them.. This is also known as mindfulness meditation.
During my first hike, these thoughts were rushing through.. Being in nature, being in solitude, puts you in touch with your unwanted worries and fears.. That's why some people fear being alone.. They don't want to face their thoughts. Hiking in nature is like a soothing caress.
If there is excess baggage that you are carrying around in your mind, nature brings it out, so that you feel better at the end.. That's what happened to me during that hike.
This happened to my friend too.. He came hiking with me and he just couldn't stop talking.
I asked him to enjoy the hike but he said that if he stopped talking, he had to listen to all the chatter in his mind!! So he did the next best thing, listen to music on his mp3 player.

I remember another ocassion, I was very worried about something. I had to take a break and go for a walk. There was a trail near Udub I hadnt explored. I went in that direction, found that trail and that trail went to the edge of the lake union, beautiful place that is. In the beginning I was continuing my worrisome state, what if? Oh what should I be doing, etc. But as I entered the trail, my thoughts slowed down. I had a distinct recognition that I was more peaceful now than before.. I started enjoying the scenery around, I came back refreshed. Nature is a wonderful, nurturing place to be in.

Combining hiking and meditation. Since there is a definite parallel between hiking and meditation, why not combine them? Thats what I have been doing on my recent hikes.
Stop, and smell the flowers. Admire the tall tree. Be amazed by the different shades of green all around. Sit in a quiet spot on the trail, and just enjoy the silence. Enjoy and be grateful for the fact that you are in a wonderful place, right here, right now. Hiking, I love it.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Dream big, dream a lot!

From heavenletters, a daily email I get:

God said:

Dreams beyond your imaginings are coming true. I have told you this before, and I am telling you again.

You may still be thinking the world is unchanged, and that your hopes and dreams will be dashed as they may have been in the past.

Beloveds, no longer use the past as your reference point. It is not reliable, and, frankly, the past is not relevant.

The world is not the same. Nor are you the same. You know you are not what you once were. What makes you think you have changed and the world hasn’t? The world has kept up with you. The world may well be ahead of you now. In any case, the world you once knew is not the same world in front of you today.

If I told you that you are standing at the edge of an abyss and you are in great danger, you would believe Me, is that not so? How easily you believe in doom and danger. And now I tell you that you are standing at the edge of a new world. This world has washed its face, and you will hardly recognize it. Come, children, believe in the joy that is on its way to you. Dare to believe, and dare to make new dreams so that they may come true.

This is the world dreamed of, and now it is yours. Now it is the world you live in. Oh, some of the pictures of the former world you lived in remain, yet those held-over pictures are fading fast.

Rain falls from the heavens. Snow as well. Dreams fulfilled will also fall from Heaven, and why not for you? Why not your dreams, beloveds? In case you have grown beyond your old dreams, dream new dreams now. Dream of what you want now. Go beyond even your finest material dreams. What do you really want? What dreams do you really want to come true? Dream them. Keep dreaming them. Keep having dream after dream, one on top of the other. Let your dreams spill over into the world. The world is thirsty for your dreams. It will lap them up. From your dreams, the world will grow. Your dreams are sprouting now.

You are the manna from Heaven. You create the gifts that Heaven bestows on you. First you dream. Then you receive. All your blessings do not really fall from the sky. They fall from you. It is you who tosses them up. You make it possible for you to receive your dreams. Dreams are thoughts. Thoughts radiate. Dreams radiate. Dreams come true because you radiate them.

Your dreams are like gifts you give. One dream nests within another, the way boxes fit inside another. When you open one box, you find a host more of boxes inside. So with dreams, you find one following after another. Dreams are something like cut-out paper dolls, each attached to the other, each dream holding hands with another. There is dream after dream, each one pulling the next one along.

Start your dreams, beloveds. Let them rise like balloons up into the sky. Let them rise. Your dreams will gather their fruit and then return themselves to you. You will see your dreams come true. They will dance before you. Dreams dreamt become dreams realized. You will have dreams to the right of you, dreams to the left of you. Dreams beget dreams. You will gradually see that life is all made of dreams come true. Let your dreams precede and follow you.

Dream your dreams, beloveds. Dreaming manifests. Have good dreams. Watch for them to multiply.


Veronica on After life

Bashar, Veronica, St. Germain - These 'non-physical' entities are my favorite source of information and inspiration.

Here's a video by Veronica on after life:


Monday, June 01, 2009

It's been a year... Part I

Since I began meditating. Lot of changes have happened within me. What I mean by that is, there have been changes in my attitude towards life, the way I respond in any given situation, the way I compose myself, etc. Meditation helps you identify patterns that you indulge in unconsciously or subconsciously. It's been 3 incredible years I have had in Seattle....This post will also double up as a flash back of relevant periods of my life!

Fight or flight
I read recently in the book, 'Surprised by Grace', by Amber Terrell on how we indulge in the 'fight or flight' pattern. What this means is, given any situation, if the situation is perceived to be unfavorable by some yardstick that is unique to every individual, then there is a tendency to either fight the situation or run away from the situation.
What else could you do, you ask? Well, you could become 'comfortable' with the uncomfortablness!
Really, that's what meditation has put me in touch with: becoming comfortable with the 'uncomfortable', the 'unacceptable', the 'oh no - not again', the 'never agains', etc.

OCD and Meditation
Infact, I suffered from a chemical imbalance 9 years back and the disease was called, 'Obsessive Compulsive disorder' (OCD), although this wasn't the repetitive action thing.. It was a repetitive thought thing. In the common form of OCD, people tend to repeat actions, like washing hands 20 times to make sure it's clean or checking if the door is closed 10 times before leaving the house etc. In the OCD I had, I would get repetitive thoughts of a particular kind. These thoughts I absolutely detested and wanted them out of my mind.. But they would come anyway uninvited and not once a day, or once an hour, they would remind me of their presence every minute.
Sleep was my only respite from these thoughts. I constantly prayed to god at that time.. please relieve me of these thoughts that trouble me, please help me become comfortable with myself.
You see, it was all about becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable, the unacceptable.
In 2003, my 2nd year of my undergrad program, I attended a 3 day workshop by Swami Sukhbodhanada, where I learnt a few meditation techniques (Read about that here). Until then I had been on medication: I was using a drug called fludac and it was supposed to calm the mind. But in hindsight, I think the drug wouldn't have done me a whole lot of good if I had continued with it. I stopped using this drug after I learnt the meditation.
Infact, when I did the observation meditation, I attempted at becoming comfortable with the unacceptable, detestable thought. That was the beginning of my recovery from this dis-ease.
I practiced that meditation for sometime, and then I discontinued it once I took up running, another excellent way to get in touch with your self and come out of depression... (I had small bouts of depression too during that period). I also practiced a relaxation technique called Shavasana every day, which was very effective in keeping my body relaxed.
From then on, my life took a change. Really, sometimes I just couldn't bear the thoughts I had, it was because I had a strong hatred for those thoughts from my childhood. Sometimes I thought, I would go insane. But it didn't happen, infact now I see the dis-ease as my training ground.
Through the OCD experience, I learnt how strong I am, mentally strong that is and I also learnt that constant hatred can set you up for an experience like I had, where you learn to be at peace with anything and everything, no matter how unacceptable it may be.
It' s not that you favor the unacceptable, it's just that you don't pay attention to it. And you do that by first making peace with it, and second, by letting it go.

Coming back..
That was a brief flashback! Yes, well, OCD was my first ginormous life-challenge that I overcame successfully. My second set of life-changing experiences began when I landed in Seattle to pursue my Phd program. More on this Part II of this post..!

Meditation, I find is fundamental to my life.. It's the reason, I overcame the OCD, it's what has kept me stable during periods of instability(see part II of this post). My gratitude abound for meditation being a part of my life today.