What is all that fuss about mindfulness?

  Mindfulness has become a buzz word and for some a movement that has strong reservations or objections against it. Mindfulness classes, events and retreats abound in many circles: in some pre-schools, elementary and higher education, work places, corporate and not for profit agencies, jails and federal prisons, health systems, congress, (well, one took the course), the armed forces and of course on many phone apps. As with anything that draws attention and a certain velocity, praises as well as much criticism are abundant. Many articles have been written lately, not always favorable ones,  by three main factions; some who never took the time to experience classes, some by those who have had long time meditation practices, as well by some Buddhist practitioners, all wondering about the current surge of interest and most of them  challenging the purpose and validity of the practices of mindfulness. The typical critical arguments and negative charges about mindfulness programs from these three groups are as follows: “Mindfulness is another fad. Mindfulness classes only reduce stress marginally. The teachers use scientific research and neuroscience to justify its use but it has very little scientific validity. It is another modality being marketed to vulnerable folks for greed. Some Buddhists, claim that it is and unconscionable practice without the ethical focus as the primary foundation. Meditation can be a dangerous practice for some. Some teachers are not qualified and make unsubstantial benefit claims or use them for marketing benefits. It is a program geared to white middle class people or for those who have money.” I am going to address these comments one by one, but first...

Gratitude

  The word comes from the Latin word “gratus” which means “thankfulness and pleasing”. This is the time of Thanksgiving, the practice and celebration of gratitude for food, gifts, connecting with people and engaging in conversations. Everyday is a time for celebrating gratitude in small measures because it leads us in an experience of being alive, preventing us from exhaustion or killing the mind of compassion. Gratitude enables us to realize that we are part of a larger context in which our personal stories are unfolding. It softens our heart, directs our view towards what is meaningful and builds greater capacity for forgiveness and appreciation for the interdependent nature of our existence. We often tend to focus on the negative aspects of our experiences which can lead to a distorted view of what is actually happening, undermining in the process any attempt of empowerment and literally deadening the realm of possibilities. Gratitude is a powerful antidote for our emotional chaos, occasional despair, depression, self defeating feelings and behaviors. It also gives us strength to be with people who habitually tend to only notice things that go wrong or the abundant deficiencies that occur, maybe for a short time only… Meditating on gratitude helps us drop the feeling of loss, envy, scarcity, even jealousy and releases us from the fear of always wanting more than we have. Reminding ourselves of what we are grateful for doesn’t deny life’s daily difficulties and challenges on our planet, troubled times, uncertainties about the future as well as disappointments and betrayals. However the practice will lift the veil of gloom and doom and shift...

Gate of sweet nectar

“Calling out to hungry hearts Everywhere through endless time You who wander, you who thirst I offer you this Bodhi Mind. Calling all you hungry spirits Everywhere through endless time Calling all you hungry hearts All those left behind Gather round and share this meal Your joy and sorrow I make it mine.” We are being one with the Buddha’s in the ten directions We are being one with the Dharma in the ten directions We are being one with the Sangha in the ten directions Being one with all the formless forms throughout space and time Being one with great wisdom Being one with great compassion Being one with great action Being one with Prajna Paramita, the mother of all perfection Being one with the unconditioned Being one with the boundless Being one with the inconceivable May I extend all my love to my own being, friends, enemies, family, community and all creations for so much done on my behalf May all those who practice continue to empower, enrich and enjoy May all creations receive loving benefactors May we always have the courage to bear witness, to see ourselves as Other and Other as ourselves....

Facing Cancer with an Attitude

  It’s been over thirteen years since I was diagnosed with a stage four transitional cell carcinoma and was given four months to live. Often people ask what factors do I attribute to recovering from cancer. I am not sure as to what determinants were effective, there were probably as many as there are variables for so many of us being diagnosed with the big C. One assumption, funda-mentally, I dare say, has lot to do with attitude. What I mean by that is that there are correlations and cause and effect between the mind, the body and the immune system and how they function or become dysfunctional. We all have cancer cells in our body. The questions then become: which particular people have cells that become malignant, what gives the impetus for those to propagate and how do they vanish or come back with a mission after remission? Edwin Friedman in his book “A Failure of Nerve” explains that normal cells have a specific identity and gravitate towards other cells that have similar functions; they specialize in order to contribute to the overall functioning of the larger body. They communicate with other cells in a mutually reciprocal network that regulate each other’s growth and behavior and they become cooperative. They know when to quit and have a gene for self destruction when they are dangerous to the host, which is a formidable altruistic phenomenon, build in bodhisattva cells! Malignant cells differ from normal cells in all the respects mentioned and they lose their capacity for self definition, they are un-self regulating, reproduce uncontrollably, compete and instead of self...

Everyday DZOGCHEN practice, part 1, Dilgo Khyentse

“The everyday practice is simply to develop a complete carefree acceptance, an openness to al situations without limit. We should realize openness as the playground of our emotions and relate to people without artificiality, manipulation or strategy. We can experience everything totally, never withdrawing into ourselves as an rodent hides in its hole. This practice releases tremendous energy which is usually constricted by the process of maintaining fixed reference points. Referentiality is the process by which we retreat from the direct experience of everyday life. Being present in the moment may initially trigger fear. But by welcoming the sensation of fear with complete openness, we cut through the barriers created by habitual emotional patterns. When we engage in the practice of discovering space, we should develop the feeling of opening ourselves out completely to he entire universe. We should open ourselves with absolute simplicity and nakedness of mind. This is the powerful and ordinary practice of dropping the mask of self protection. We shouldn’t make a division in our meditation between perception and the field of perception. We shouldn’t become like a cat watching a mouse. We should realize that the purpose of meditation is not to go deeply into ourselves or withdraw from the world. Practice should be free and non conceptual, un-constrained by introspection and concentration. Vast un originated self luminous wisdom space is the ground of being, the beginning and the end of confusion. The presence of awareness in the primordial space has no bias toward enlightenment or non enlightenment. The ground of being which is known as pure or original mind is the source from...