Building community in a changing world

May 29, 2023

How to Heal What’s Broken

Here are some random thoughts from this recent podcast by Jonathan Foust:

– It’s not the strongest or quickest who survive – it’s those that adjust quickest to change.

– Ask yourself questions as your mind will answer. ‘How can this be an opportunity for waking up? How can I grow from this?’

– “Rain” practice – recognize, allow, investigate and nurture.

– 70% of better healers have a positive attitude- taking responsibility, staying determined and having desire, connected socially and visualization of healing and expectation of full recovery.

Kintsugi is from 16th century Japan and uses tree sap with gold to celebrate breaks to make them art. Breaks are stronger.

– Psychic wounds could make us wiser and more compassionate than before. Bring our wounds to the fore.

– Three things to think of:

1. Bring relaxation for more flow and less tension. Chi and spirit.
2. Turn towards what’s there rather than turning away. Coming into intimate contact. Connecting the dots. Where the attention goes, the energy goes.
3. Explore wholeness. Bring empathy. Explore visualization. Bathe area with warm healing colors.

– What is “Reiki”? It’s about universal life force. Infinite possibilities. Orthodox and reformed schools of thought. Different levels for teachers. Quantum healing.

– How do you move beyond being a “doer” in life to be a recipient? Slow brain waves and relax. Breathe or visualization. And then use focus. Pay attention on purpose. Whatever fires together, wires together.

May 22, 2023

Four Ideals to Guide Your Practice

Here are some thoughts made in this podcast from Jonathan Foust about four suttas / sutras allegedly spoken by Buddha for those bodyistrahas whose goal is to wake up in life (heart and mind):

1. Cultivating aspiration for awakening for as long as you live (AFGO – opportunities to learn about reality) – whatever arises, use as an opportunity to awaken

2. Cultivating spiritual friends for as long as you live – company is stronger than willpower. They can be hard to find and may be the most important thing. Not a ‘nice to,’ it’s a ‘need to.’ Our culture is designed to have you look for happiness in all the wrong ways. Very difficult to practice on your own. You need sangha.

3. Practice patience, openness and kindness for as long as you live – stay present without demonizing the enemy as a way to create community. Points the way out of self-absorption. One of the best ways to break out of depression is to be of service to others. It’s really for yourself. Lubricating your system to wake up and being fully alive. Your cup will overflow. It’s hard as you may get compassion fatigue.

4. Spending some time dwelling in the wilderness – synonym for meditation. Wilderness of the mind. What is 40 days and nights in the desert for you? So you can regain balance by becoming fully present. The power of being in nature. The power of animals who live in an alpha state, which rubs off.

May 16, 2023

The Quickest Way to Happiness

Here are some thoughts made in this podcast from Jonathan Foust about becoming happier:

– Choose what you already have.

– What’s between you and being happy? Connecting to your true nature.

– Cultivating beginner’s mind. Infinite possibilities. Experience each moment fresh.

– Being caught in the state of wanting more. The hungry ghost where you’re never happy. We’re all afflicted with this to some degree.

– Desire and happiness are diametrically opposed.  If we let go of desire, you become happy.

– When you begin to cultivate non-judging awareness, you become more aware of what’s between you and being happy.

– Using these five elements from Martin Seligman’s book about psychology (perma) to determine where you might level up to break a cycle and become happier:

  1. Positive emotional – feeling good
  2. Engagement – how much do you feel absorbed in activities
  3. Relationships – authentically connected with people around you
  4. Meaning – purposeful existence
  5. Achievement – sense of accomplishment

March 6, 2023

Cold Water Therapy. Yummy…

I’ve been dabbling with cold water therapy the past few months, culminating in a 10-minute immersion in an ice bath. You can see me emerging from a silo that contained 15 bags of ice. I wasn’t cold during the immersion or afterwards.

During this time, I’ve discovered that the aversion to cold water is widespread. I hazard to guess it might be the thing that unites all of us. So you would be surprised to learn that it takes only about two days of taking cold showers to get used to the cold (if you simply take some deep breaths and ensure you’re not tense as you stand in it). The health benefits of cold water therapy are many – I’ve learned a lot from Wim Hof and watching his introductory videos on breathing will get you started nicely. And once you start taking cold showers, you actually begin to crave them…

February 14, 2023

Ram Dass on Dying and Unconditional Love

Here are two excerpts from this NY Times magazine interview with Ram Dass from a few years back – a piece in which Ram Dass described himself as being ready to die (which he did do a few months after the interview):

You’ve said that you’re ready to die. When did you know? 

When I arrived at my soul. Soul doesn’t have fear of dying. Ego has very pronounced fear of dying. The ego, this incarnation, is life and dying. The soul is infinite.

O.K., here’s something I’m struggling with: You teach that we’re supposed to be free from desires. I can imagine myself being free from the desire for prestige or money or some unattainable person’s attention. It’s much harder to imagine being free from the desire, for example, that my loved ones not come to any harm. Are we even supposed to let go of desires like that?

Yep! Desire is desire. Attachment is attachment. When I came back to the U.S. from India, I came back bringing the message of Maharaji. I had never experienced the love that he showered on me. It was unconditional love. Everything in my life had been conditional love. When I was a good boy, then they loved me. When I was a good student, they loved me. When I was a good lover, they loved me. I thought that I could come back and show unconditional love. The core message is that kind of love.

February 2, 2023

Ethics Matters Per Warren Buffett

This article about Warren Buffett’s advice for young people smacks of mindfulness. The three credos shared from Warren include:

1. Define success by your “inner scorecard”
2. Surround yourself with mentors
3. Protect your reputation at all cost

I love this quote in particular: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” As someone who has blogged daily for 20 years, I know all about the risk of saying something inappropriately just a single time to bring you down to size. Luckily, I haven’t done that yet…

December 18, 2022

1st Annual Old Glebe Pickleball Tourney

1. Location & Time: Old Glebe Park on a Saturday afternoon. Both tennis courts get reserved for 90 minutes.

2. Player Pool: 16 players in the tourney (with two alternates in case some folks drop). First come when the announcement is made, first into the pool. Regular players can be given a heads up as to when the announcement will be made on the What’s App so they can be ready to join if they see fit.

Announcement asking people if they want to enter the tourney will be made on the Monday or Tuesday before the Saturday we play – if we make teams too far in advance, too many people drop in the interim and it’s tough to keep adding in new players.

3. Team Selection: Your teammate will be assigned randomly, drawn from a hat. So the teams will be uneven. Life is unfair.

4. Tourney Rules:

– Each team will play each other nearly once (you’ll play 5 of the 7 other teams – which teams you’ll play will be drawn randomly in advance from a hat), with the two most winning teams playing each other at the end in the Championship Final (if there is a tie for 2nd most winning team, the 2nd team will be determined by coin flip).
– Games will be “straight 9” or 12 minutes long, whichever happens first.
– Three minute breaks between each game.
– This will allow for 6 games to be played – the 5 games of group play and the one Championship Final game where those that didn’t make the Championship Final will be free to cheer for their favorites. Wagering permitted.

5. Entry Fee: $2 per player to defray court reservation fees (unless a corporate sponsor is obtained to cover all costs). Each player on the winning team in the Championship Final will receive a dollar bill, suitable for framing.

December 12, 2022

Touch Someone

I love to be touched. I’m a hugger. I like to hold hands with my wife. I like to be petted while watching TV. I’m lucky that I’m not one of the many who don’t feel the same way because studies have shown there are real benefits to being touched.

Here’s a few selected excerpts from this article in “Medical News Today”:

  • Famous studies have demonstrated that children — as well as the infants of non-human primates — who grow up without affective touch have severe developmental issues and are unable to relate socially.
  • A study from Sweden — the findings of which were published last year in the journal Research on Language and Social Interaction — found that embracing and patting children in distress has a soothing effect for them.
  • A study found that women who offered physical touch as a symbol of support to their partners showed higher activity in the ventral striatum, which is a brain area involved in the reward system.
  • Moreover, a series of studies conducted by Dutch researchers showed that hugging could relieve a person’s feelings of existential fear and remove self-doubt.
  • One study published in 2014 in the journal Psychological Science suggested that the stress buffer provided by shared hugs actually has a protective effect against respiratory infections.
  • Finally, touch is very effective when it comes to relieving physical pain. Massage therapies can be a great way of soothing all kinds of aches, from headaches to back pain.

November 29, 2022

“Present Moment Self-Observation Without Judgment” (Witness Consciousness)

In this dharma talk, Jonathan Foust talks about what it’s like to be really free – that there are other states of consciousness other than being awake, sleeping (falling asleep and being aware of sense of where time and space get disoriented) and dreaming (having a dream and being aware that you’re dreaming it). Specifically, Jonathan digs into:

1. What is “Present Moment Self-Observation Without Judgment”?
2. How you can cultivate the optimal environment to develop the witness?
3. How to avoid the near-enemy of being the witness (states that look like they’re the witness but they’re not really).
4. What it means to be aware of the light behind the observer – awareness itself. Not just aware of your thoughts, but what it means to be fully awake. Awake to what’s happening and free (or aware of) reactivity.

November 14, 2022

Understanding the NVC Model

Here’s an excerpt from the “30 Day Challenge” offered by “The Antiracist Table” about how the NVC (nonviolent communication) model works: Understanding the need starts with seeing what happened without judgment and criticism. In other words, sticking to the facts. From there, one has to identify what they feel. NVC’s four main components:

1. Observations – What happened? Stick to what is factual. Avoid the characterization and judgment we are prone to. Describe what happened as if you were an uninvolved observer.

2. Feelings – Label the feelings coming up. Use the feelings list to help increase your emotion vocabulary. Feelings fall into two categories, unmet and met. Remember, feelings are not good or bad, they are information that can help you understand the underlying need. Labeling feelings can also take away some of their power.

3. Needs – Get to the heart of the conflict–what matters most to you and the other person in the conflict. Remember, “everything we do, we do to meet a need.”

4. Requests – Ask for what you want using a request, not a demand. A demand prompts criticism, judgment, and defensiveness. A request shows empathy towards the other person’s needs.

As part of NVC you work through steps 1 – 3 for yourself and then you work through steps 2 and 3 for the person involved in the conflict. When someone shows you that they see/hear your needs it can be very powerful–it can disarm the angriest of people; it can soften the hardest mindset. Start using these skills in low stakes conversations together with your AntiRacist Mindfulness Practices (being aware of what is happening in the present moment in a nonjudgmental way) and spend time each day reviewing the feelings and needs list to improve your feelings and needs vocabulary.