We had a lovely talk on beauty, impermanence and Autumn, and also the wonderful way that babies can teach us to see everything as new and changing. Yet, we often view impermanence with a sense of poignancy. Can we reconcile these two emotions? Do they contradict each other?
Autumn Light: Pico Iyer on Finding Beauty in Impermanence and Luminosity in Loss
Many thanks this week to Lillian (and curious George) for bringing her own sense of joy and wonder into my life:
It’s easy, and oh so human, to find yourself saddened and overwhelmed by the troubles effecting us on the national or world scale as well as on a personal level. There’s nothing wrong with feeling sad or overwhelmed at times. The trick is not to be fooled into rewinding our stories of woe to play them over and over.
Pema Chodron writes:
The reason we often start to go downhill with losing heart is that we allow ourselves to get hooked by our emotions. When we get hooked—when we get really angry, resentful, fearful, or selfish—we start to go a little unconscious.
On Not Losing Heart
Also, we talked about the streaming series: The Mind, Examined, and the episode that focuses on mindfulness. I highly recommend you check it out. The episode featured Tibetan teacher Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, who talked about his attitude toward his crippling dealings with panic attacks. He wrote: In Love with the World: A Monk’s Journey Through the Bardos of Living and Dying, which we also talked about and sounds like a fascinating read.
We had a good talk on the nuances of sadness and the pros and cons of smiling all the time (Americans tend to be kinda smiley, but maybe they just want to show off their dental work!)
Reflecting on impermanence is not meant to make us miserable.
The Secret Strength of Sadness
There’s a new book out called “How to Do Nothing,” so we talked about doing nothing and what it means to each of it. I highly recommend this review, and then try reading Odell’s original essay (the link is included in this article).
Plus, I read this poem:
WHEN I AM AMONG THE TREES
by Mary Oliver
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
…or thoughts about thinking. Whatever, we discussed some myths about thoughts: discursive, annoying, distracting, rewarding, you name it. This article from Psychology Today has some interesting myths about thoughts that clearly parallel Buddhist thought:
Today we did a sort of “mini Recollective Awareness” (a’ la Jason Siff) and I invited us to just go through our experience with the first 15 minute meditation. We didn’t really share anything very earth-shattering: just our different experiences with watching the mind become calm, then distracted, then dull, then calm again, and then distracted and fretful, all in different ways.
I recommended a visualization from my yoga teacher, Nancy Bloemer, which goes like this:
Give yourself permission (or let me give you permission) to take this time for yourself, whether it’s 15 minutes or an hour, this is your time and your space. You are going to clear out all distractions in this time that is just for you.
Imagine yourself in a bubble or energy field or draw an imaginary circle around you. Imagine sweeping or cleaning this space of all the things that are part of your busy distractable world. If there are people (or pets) in your thoughts and space (imagining this) ask them kindly to leave. Tell your friends and loved ones that you will be back and not to worry, but this is your time. Turn phones off and put them out of this field as well. Just clear this space for yourself; you can even imagine a broom or vacuum cleaner.
When your sitting is over, you can invite whomever you wish and whatever is going on in your world back in again!
Here’s Nancy’s visualization. Enjoy!
Just a typical Sunday chat: I introduced these readings, and the group managed to talk about whether free will exists and whether we can ever really know anything! But we ended with a body scan so everyone ended up more relaxed (I hope).
Maya Angelou on Home, Belonging, and (Not) Growing Up
More comedy in the midst of the human condition, this time from “The Good Place”:
…And worrying about what’s going on with other people…why?
More on our continuing investigation about meeting those who don’t agree with you with compassion, which is not always easy. We had a great conversation on our own ideas about science and pseudoscience and our deeply held beliefs as well as our tendencies toward self-righteousness.
Here’s the article I highly recommend on getting beyond the Us vs. Them barrier:
Carl Sagan on Moving Beyond Us vs. Them, Bridging Conviction with Compassion, and Meeting Ignorance with Kindness
It’s been another week, and it seemed like a nod to humor might be in order. This is a lovely article on the importance and even courage it takes to laugh instead of cry:
Brainpickings:Viktor Frankl on Humor as a Lifeline:
The good news is that some say (the British!) that American humor has been improving over the last 2.5 years.Here’s an example from Randy Rainbow (that is his real name):
At today’s talk I was sort of enthralled with animals. This is because a skunk’s smell woke me up abruptly this morning, and also because there are a mess of hummingbirds fighting outside my window. Here’s just a few of the braver hummies today (note the mature male coming in to fight).
My point was that humans tend to think we’re the apex of evolution, when animals are better at a lot of things we tend to think only we’re good at, like deep emotions and problem-solving, and even appreciating good music!
Snowball Channels Freddy Mercury
Seven Creatures with Skills that Easily Beat Humans
And don’t forget to sign up for the upcoming class at this link:
Going Forth: A Buddhist Model for Retirement and Beyond