MT Musing

Don’t Meditate to Get Better


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Beware of self-help formulas—such as the many pithy well-intentioned memes on social media—that reinforce conditional thinking, including any semblance of a formula conveyed by this brief article! For example, "If you let go of fear, then you will be free."

You are already free, regardless of what you're experiencing. Now...integrating that insight into one's consciousness is another story, although it's a story worth entertaining.

Don’t practice meditation and self-improvement methods to get better. Practice to see clearly and think & act skillfully, with kindness and compassion. Better is a relativistic concept; striving to be "better" can sometimes be a subtle form of self-rejection. The cultivation of clear thinking, skillful action, and compassion is an intentional, values-based orientation that can guide you in a direction to make a difference in your life and the lives of others.

What are the keys to a path of clear thinking, skillful action, and compassion?

  • Know your intentions and values. Knowledge is the power that energizes them. If clear thinking, skillful action, and compassion align with your values and intentions, become familiar with those qualities by closely observing how you and others embody them.
  • Commit to your intentions and values. Commitment creates a context for holding yourself accountable; accepting your shortcomings with kindness is recommended. While knowledge is the fuel, commitment is the engine that can move you along this path.
  • Practice expressing your intentions and values through your thoughts, speech, and actions. Practice is the essential vehicle for cultivating skills that can liberate you. The paradox is that you are already liberated. The practice of mindfulness meditation ultimately reveals this truth.

As the ancient poet Rumi asks, "Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?"

In Rumi's parlance, the invitation is to, "Move outside the tangle of fear thinking. Live in silence. Flow down and down into ever-widening rings of Being."


© 2017 Larry Cammarata, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist and Mindfulness Educator

Mindfulness Travels provides continuing education retreats to inspiring places throughout the world with leaders in the field of mindfulness-based psychology and mindful movement.


Transforming your Mind: From Garbage to Flowers

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When Crazy is Normal

During a recent mindfulness meditation retreat, many participants found much humor and encouragement in the following quote, which keenly reflects upon what is often discovered in the process of sitting still and observing the mind:

 “Somewhere in this process, you will come face-to-face with the sudden and shocking realization that you are completely crazy. Your mind is a shrieking, gibbering madhouse…utterly out of control and hopeless. No problem. You are not crazier than you were yesterday. It has always been this way and you never noticed (Gunaratana, 1991)."

Meditation Misconception

New meditators are prone to misunderstandings about meditation in general and mindfulness in particular. Some students and patients tell me that, "I can't meditate because I can't stop my mind." They're relieved when I tell them that there is no requirement to stop the mind, calm the mind, or clear the mind. What's necessary is an intention to pay attention to the mind-body as it is, without judgement or striving to change it.

From Garbage to Flowers

I'll never forget the sage reply made by my first meditation teacher in response to another student's comment at a residential mindfulness meditation retreat. With great concern, the student stated, "I have a lot of garbage in my mind!" The teacher replied, "We all have a lot of garbage in our minds." This reminds me of the pithy Zen saying by Thich Nhat Hanh, "No mud, no lotus (Hanh, 2014)." Without tending to the garbage of your mind with acceptance, gentleness, kindness, compassion, and humor, the flower inside of your heart is not likely to bloom.


References

Gunaratana, H. (1991). Mindfulness in plain english. Boston, MA: Wisdom Publications.

Hanh, T.N. (2014). No mud, no lotus: The art of transforming suffering. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.


© 2017 Larry Cammarata, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist and Mindfulness Educator

Mindfulness Travels provides continuing education retreats to inspiring places throughout the world with leaders in the field of mindfulness-based psychology and mindful movement.


      © L. Cammarata 2017