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Community Spotlight: Kirk Miller

  • April 13, 2019
  • Blog
Where do you live?

Austin, TX

How did you come to meditation?

I discovered meditation out of that empty place where so many awakenings are born….that place called rock bottom. That was the place where I found myself after finally reaching the “American Dream.” In the course of one year, I lost it all, job, family, beautiful home, almost my life. From that place of complete brokenness, I rented a one room apartment overlooking a tranquil river, bought a nice chair, faced it out over the water and began being silent and writing and meditating. I decided I was not leaving there until I found peace.

What inspires you to meditate?

The taste of stillness that I have found. The quietness.

What does your meditation practice look like?

I have started waking up and simply sitting in silence for 30 minutes. Usually, after breakfast I consistently do my meditation practice. Throughout the day and my life I find meditation in writing, being out on a trail, being on my paddleboard on the water, yoga most days, tai chi and qigong practices. Although I have found nothing to compare with playing at a park with a five year-old.

Do you have any rituals or routines that support your practice?

Being part of Dakini’s Teacher Training program has certainly supported my practices. Being a very unscheduled, artistic personality, setting a morning practice at the same time each day has enabled me to develop a consistency, like brushing my teeth. I now also meditate 30 minutes to an hour prior to sleep, which bookends a day of life in the world.

How is your life different because of meditation?

Meditation increasingly has helped me develop a calm, spaciousness around myself within the world. Most things do not phase me anymore and I attribute this to meditation. Friends and family have found me to be a more calming presence than the person I was a decade ago. Meditation has also taken me much deeper into myself, which at times can be very painful. But I become aware that this part of me would have been buried there had I not taken time to acknowledge it and sit with it. I think these are the deeper waters.

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in your practice?

I have a very busy and active “monkey mind” like so many other people. Some days my active mind wins the day. However, it is with the consistency of meditation daily over long periods of time that I begin to notice and become aware of a greater change taking place.

What advice would you share with someone who is just starting a meditation practice?

My greatest encouragement would be to commit to yourself the gift of consistently sticking with it for at least 30 days. Even if you can only sit for 5 minutes at the same time each day for 30 days, something will have happened and you will long for more. Everyone has an active mind. Do not let that deter you in the beginning from sticking with the practice.

What does your heart most long for?

My heart longs for others to find freedom from deep suffering. Once you have witnessed this up close and personally, you will be forever changed. You will know what Buddhism refers to as the “quivering heart” of compassion. To know this suffering exists on some level for so many is a suffering that I long for others to be freed from. I am learning that this freedom can only begin for others as I begin to free myself from my own suffering. Meditation has offered this path to freedom.

Kirk is offering two opportunities in May to take his series “Mind Like Water,” one locally in Austin at Meditation Bar, and one online through Mind Oasis

meditate with kirk on mind oasis

Five Wisdom Energies

  • April 5, 2019
  • Blog
Intro to the Five Wisdom Energies

Each of us expresses a unique mixture of energy through our thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and actions. Although we often think of the world and our bodies in terms of our physical existence, it is the underlying energy that brings to life the quality, texture, and feeling of our actual experience. Meditation is about getting in touch with that basic energy, and through that energy cultivating a more intimate relationship with ourselves and our experience.

What are the Five Wisdom Energies

The Five Wisdom Energies offer a framework for cultivating a greater understanding of our own energy as well as how it arises in relationship to others.

Applying knowledge of the Five Wisdom Energies allows us to alleviate confusion and negative emotions, and invite clarity and wisdom to arise in their place. We do so by working with the energy of our bodies and minds. It is important to consider how the spiritual practice rests within the physical practice. That is to say, how meditation practice helps us to become more grounded and present in our lives–physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

The Five Wisdom Energies are grouped into five “families” known as Buddha, Karma, Ratna, Padma and Vajra. Each Wisdom Energy is connected with particular elements, energies, and emotions. The way we hold our bodies in meditation and the way we breathe strongly influences the movement of energy in our bodies and our minds. The practices associated with each of the Wisdom Energies are designed to create a container that is conducive to awakening our innate wisdom.

The Buddha Family

The Wisdom Energy known as the Buddha Family is associated with the element of Space and a felt sense of spaciousness. If this energy is out of balance, we might feel spacey or like there is not enough space in our lives. When this energy is in balance, we might feel open and available to meet life as it is. The Wisdom associated with the Buddha Family is called All Encompassing Wisdom, and when this energy is in balance, we may feel open, spacious, and available to meet life as it is in each moment.

In his book Healing with Form, Emptiness, and Light, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche writes: “Everything arises from space, exists in space, and dissolves into space. In us that sacred element of space manifests as awareness. Experience is what arises in awareness, as the content of awareness, but it is not something other than awareness. When the space element is balanced in us, there is room in life; whatever arises can be accommodated. There is enough time, enough emotional capacity, enough tolerance.”

Suggestions for Connecting with the Wisdom Energy of the Buddha Family
  • In meditation practice, settle into stillness and connect with space. Let go of the need to grasp to a specific meditation technique and just open fully to whatever you are experiencing. Play with keeping your eyes open and raising your gaze and/or allowing your hands to rest palms up on your thighs.
  • When walking outside, take time to look at the sky. Open yourself fully to the vast expanse of the sky and feel that expansiveness in your body. Discover in yourself what the yogi Milarepa taught: “The body is ultimately like a cloudless sky.”
  • In daily life, take time to pause and open your awareness to the world around you. Resist the temptation to fill up any open spaces with unnecessary activity (checking your phone, facebook, chit chat, etc…) Pause and breathe and notice what you are present to.

If you’d like to learn more about the Five Wisdom Energies, please join Kelly online via Mind Oasis for a 6 week series of meditation classes beginning Tuesday, April 9th. Kelly will also be offering a 5 week women’s group at Dharma Yoga in Austin beginning April 14th.

Community Spotlight: Melissa Grogan

  • March 16, 2019
  • Blog

shamatha

Where do you live?

Austin, Texas

How did you come to meditation?

Wow. I think I first started meditating when I was a little girl. I’m using the term a bit loosely here, compared to what meditation is to me now. But I was having very terrible nightmares as a child. My father taught me how to direct my thoughts so that I could make my dreams turn into good ones. That was when I was 3. I’ve been doing that since.

Then, as a teenager and adult, I used meditation in acting classes. We would use guided meditation regularly. It was something that came quite naturally to me. As I continued my studies for acting, and teaching voice/movement/and speech, I continued to use meditation to help me deepen in the exercises. It was somewhere around high school that I began using meditation from cassette tapes. I did that with my mother to support her as she was going through a difficult time. It helped me, too, of course.

I honestly can’t remember when the first time I did a meditation more in the traditional way we think of it – following the breath, focus on a candle, etc. My journey has always been very fluid. Huh. I’m glad you asked me this question. I’m realizing it has always been a part of my life, to meditate.

I first found Kelly Lindsey, and Dakini Meditative, 8 years ago when I first moved to Austin. I am very picky with whom I consider my yoga teacher. She qualified instantly. So the first time I sat with Kelly was around 8 years ago. I guess, to answer your question, that I have always been directed to meditation as a way of healing, a way of using mind over matter, a way of directing the mind, connecting mind/body/spirit, and a way of expanding my awareness beyond what the eyes can see.

What inspires you to meditate?

The depth, feeling of being grounded, and clarity it brings me. It helps me to remain clear even in the midst of chaos. I stay connected to myself and my goals. I feel that I move from a place of greater ease in my life when I have meditated. And I feel a strong pull from my heart and soul to touch back quite regularly to the depth I feel when meditating. Life inspires me to meditate. The evolution of my soul inspires me. My heart guides me to come back to it again and again.

What does your meditation practice look like?

Ha! Great question. My meditation practice is varied. I will meditate (shamatha or vipassana) 20-30 minutes a day during the morning, typically. But I’ve been known to sit up in meditation for an hour or two at night. In fact, it is my favorite way to bring in the new year; in meditation. I celebrate many special days (solstice, equinox, new and full moon) with lengthened meditations. I always meditate before teaching any class, even if I can only squeeze in 5 minutes. And I always meditate before working on a new client, even if I can only spare 2 minutes.

Additional methods I use, besides shamatha and vipassana meditation, include Yoga Nidra, movement (somatic movement and yoga), sound (playing drum, bowl, or binaural beats), walking, and contemplative meditation. I use meditation when receiving acupuncture, craniosacral, and chiropractic treatments to deepen the healing. I use a meditation from Pranic Healing, called Twin Hearts, to help facilitate my own healing and the healing of the world. My practice is varied. But every day I sit for at least 30 minutes. Every day I do that.

Do you have any rituals or routines that support your practice?

I light candles and incense. It helps me keep the moment sacred. I turn off the ringer on my phone; I want no distractions. Simple movement loosens my spine and opens my torso. I get comfortable. And I always start by using vision, then sound, then sensation to help me settle my attention to the present moment. I have picked up different techniques from different teachers.

One that I particularly like was to rotate the eyes in the sockets so that they point to the forehead point, just above the third eye. The instruction given while doing this was “Just watch!” Just watch. The teacher said to keep your focus here and let the thoughts pass by. Keep your focus on the point on the forehead. “Just watch,” he said. It works! Really helps me deepen and focus.

I notice my inner knowing craving meditation in the morning the most. There is an inner pull that brings me to my zafu (seated cushion). The pull is accompanied by a sense of excitement and joy.

I also go to classes regularly. It helps to connect with fellow meditators to keep the practice fresh and new. At a meditation I recently attended the facilitator stated, “Every meditation is a group meditation.” It is so true. And going to class helps me reconnect with the truth of that. So, every meditation is a way for me to connect to people and beings all over the world. For someone who lives alone, this is a very big thing. It will keep you coming back, for sure!

How is your life different because of meditation?

Goodness. It is richer. Every moment is full of opportunity for delight. When I go through difficult times, I am able to sit with the feelings with compassion. That allows me to grow spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. My life is richer. And, honestly, I have meditation to thank for still being here in this life. Things have gotten tough in life. My ability to meditate is the biggest thing that has gotten me through. I know for certain that I would not be where I am without it. I would not be able to have the level of trust in life, the feeling of bliss, gratitude, and compassion were it not for meditation. It is empowering.

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in your practice?

Doubt that I was doing it “right”. Judgement that having thoughts meant I was failing. Fear of what I found during meditation. Lack of self care including placing others needs and agendas above my own. I would make excuses to avoid sitting for too long. Sometimes I would see things that I didn’t want to see and run away. Or I would work non-stop and not take time to recharge.

I recently had a concussion. That was challenging, for sure. It was no small concussion. It took me out of work for almost 2 months straight. I tried meditating 3 days after… uhm… no. That didn’t work. I couldn’t do it. It simply wasn’t possible. I had to find another way. So I used guided meditation to begin. Then I moved onto binaural beats, listening to them as I went to sleep. And I utilized Yoga Nidra to help me rest. Meditation became my primary healing tool from concussion. But it didn’t come easily and I had to use a lot of outside support.

What advice would you share with someone who is just starting a meditation practice?

Sit. Come back. Initially you may want to use a lot of support. Find a teacher that resonates with you. This is essential. If you don’t like one teacher, one method, keep trying. There are so many ways to meditate. And there are many different teachers. I would also say to eradicate the notion that meditation is about not thinking. It is no such thing.

Most people stop themselves for two reasons, I think. One is that they think they can not get their brain to stop thinking so they are not good at it. No, that’s not the case. The mind will think. What we are doing is training the mind and that is NOT EASY. We are directing the mind where we want it to go. You’ve not failed if it wanders off. You’ve noticed it! Yay! That’s already success because most of us don’t notice it. So, bring it back. That is meditation.

Additionally, I think people stop because they get antsy “just sitting”. If that is the case, I would suggest to move a good bit before sitting. If your nervous system is saying “MOVE!” and you try to get the body to sit still it will be maddening. Move to begin. Satiate the body’s desire to move. Move any old way you please; go for a run, a walk, play basketball, swim, do yoga, dance around your living room, stand up and shake your whole body. Whatever you do, let it please you. Then take your seat.

Also, I recommend starting with a shortened time to begin. First try two minutes. Then ten. Then more. Go gradually. You’ve got a lifetime to get this down. There is no rush. The journey is the point. The work is in the process.

What does your heart most long for?

Love. Peace. To be seen and heard. To be held safely. Connection. To be free. To help others do the same.

Melissa Grogan is currently participating in the Dakini Meditative 300-Hour Meditation Teacher Training. To learn more about her work, see her bio here or check out her business website:

[Photography by Theo Love]

The Perfection of Wisdom

  • March 8, 2019
  • Blog

The sixth and final perfection is prajnaparamita: the perfection of wisdom. It is this quality of wisdom that makes all the other perfections “perfect.” The essence of wisdom is understanding that there is no one reality. There is no one way that things really are. Pema Chodron says it like this: “there is no such thing as a true story.”

The perfection of wisdom is complex, broad, and expansive. It is not about accumulating information. It is definitely not about becoming some kind of walking encyclopedia. Wisdom is not conceptual, but rather very personal and experiential. It is about exploring our life and what it means to us, while understanding that the truths we come to are ours, and ours alone. They are not applicable to others. We cannot solidify wisdom and apply it to every person and every situation, or even to ourselves for the rest of our lives. It is fluid and arises always and only in relationship to the present moment. Every person, every situation, every moment, is unique.

Additionally, the perfection of wisdom is open, accepting, accommodating. When wisdom is present, compassion naturally arises. Judgement is an obstacle to wisdom. Any time we find that we are judging ourselves or judging others, we can be certain that wisdom is not present. Wisdom also has a relational quality. It is dynamic. It informs how we relate with others and with our world.

The perfection of wisdom is innate. It already exists within us. Sometimes we are connected to it and sometimes we are not, but we can have confidence that it is there. Meditation is a practice that allows us to access the wisdom within us. It invites us to pay attention fully in the present moment.

Here’s a short practice to explore:
  • Sit quietly in meditation for a few minutes, gently resting attention on the beautiful simplicity of your body breathing.
  • Bring one hand to your heart and silently say to yourself: “in this moment, this is how I feel.” Be open to whatever comes.
  • Place your other hand to your belly and silently say to yourself: “in this moment, this is what I know.” Be open to whatever comes.
  • Finally, bring your hands together in prayer at your heart, joining feeling and knowing together in the simplicity of being. Rest in the light of your true self.

Photography by Lacey Marie

Community Spotlight: Leanna Gilliam

  • February 22, 2019
  • Blog
Leanna Gilliam
Where do you live?

Austin, Texas

How did you come to meditation?

Initially, meditation was a refuge and resource during a health issue that caused extreme pain and a lot of anxiety. Four and a half years ago I attended an MBSR program based on the teachings and research of Jon Kabat-Zinn. The practice was transformative and I stuck with it on my own, then through instruction with several meditation teachers using shamatha meditation practice.

What inspires you to meditate?

Meditation brought to light a deeper understanding of the sacred connection of mind and body. This was crucial to my healing. Now I’m open to all of life- pain, suffering, joy, and happiness- knowing everything is temporary. The transformation I’ve gone through physically, mentally and emotionally is the reason I still sit everyday. It helps me be more at ease in the world, in the circle of people I see day to day, in my family and in my own head. I’m a kinder, more present Mom, Wife, Daughter and Friend because I meditate.

What does your meditation practice look like?

I gave myself permission to not have a “set” time for my daily practice. With two teenagers and a third grader in my home, my practice may happen first thing in the morning, last thing in the evening or sometime in between. I go with the flow on the timing of my practice because everyday is different. Luckily, my meditation space is separate from my main home so it is private and clear of distractions of family life which for me is really helpful. I use a zafu meditation cushion. In addition to a daily solitary practice, I enjoy practicing in group classes as often as possible.

Do you have any rituals or routines that support your practice?

Yes! I am a routine kind of person! I have to admit that I like to do the dishes before I sit on the cushion. It’s become a ritual that actually is quite pleasant. I mindfully clear the kitchen of dishes and clutter, moving slowly, and somehow this practice has become a beautiful segue to sitting on my cushion. Also, I’m experimenting with journaling prior to sitting and am finding this to be beneficial. I always light incense when I practice.

How is your life different because of meditation?

I’m awake! I’m awake to the beauty all around me, to smiles from strangers, to knowing most everything is workable and that I am enough (this one can be hard though!). I think I live more wholeheartedly because I’m not distracted by unimportant things as much as I used to be. Meditation helps cultivate inner wisdom which guides my decisions more and more as I grow within my practice. I can’t say it’s 100% of the time, but a lot of the time I’m now able to respond to a difficulty or question versus react to it. I am able to distinguish between thoughts and emotions and can look with curiosity at what is happening instead of getting swept away in the story my mind creates.

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in your practice?

Consistency. As I healed and felt better physically, I didn’t sit on the cushion as often. Although I still had a practice it was not as constant and I found the benefits of meditation floating into the background of life. I am now happily practicing daily and can’t imagine not doing so! I am so much more at ease. Also, I’ll say that travel tends to be a challenge. I give myself permission to sit for shorter periods of time so I can work it into a more active travel schedule. And I bring my cushion with me. Literally having the support of my cushion makes meditating on the road more doable for me. So proud to wear my Dakini Meditative backpack and cushion around the airport!

What advice would you share with someone who is just starting a meditation practice?

Be kind to yourself. Self-judgement is sneaky- be aware when the inner critic shows up and know that this is called a practice not perfection. Consistency will go very far in bringing the benefits to the surface. Rejoice in the fact that you’ve started on the path. Beginning is courageous!

What does your heart most long for?

Peace. I want to be a light in this world.

Community Spotlight: Josh Walpole

  • January 12, 2019
  • Blog

Where do you live?

Austin, Texas

How did you come to meditation?

I moved to Austin 4 years ago. A couple weeks after we moved into the neighborhood a new business opened and erected a huge sign above their storefront – “Meditation Bar.” I don’t think I even saw the part that said ‘meditation.’ I was so excited to have a bar in the neighborhood where I could go to and walk/stumble home from. Growing up this was the only way I knew how to deal with stress in my life – drugs and alcohol. I walked through the doors and was surprised to find no booze, no cocktail peanuts, no soggy coasters, but what I did find was a community of people. Not unlike the community of people in a traditional bar, these people were all searching for something only they were doing it in a healthier fashion. I stayed for the meditation that night and never left. I haven’t had a drink in over two years, and now I’m committed to sharing the gifts I received from the practice of meditation with others.

What inspires you to meditate?

My inspiration is my family. At first, my family only included my immediate family, but as I continue to practice my family has become not only my wife and kids, mom and dad, brothers and sisters but also my community, our society, and all beings everywhere.

What does your meditation practice look like?

I sit for at least 30 minutes every day. Sometimes less, sometimes more but I always try to make time for the practice. I don’t always take a traditional posture when meditating, but for me this is a form of self-compassion. Allowing the practice to be what it is without putting too much pressure on myself.

Do you have any rituals or routines that support your practice?

I like to do some asana practice before I sit, and I also enjoy using sound in my meditations. Crystal bowls, gongs, drums all guide me in my practice.

How is your life different because of meditation?

I have become less reactive, more open and inquisitive. I enjoy being in my own skin and in the moment instead of always trying to escape.

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in your practice?

I recently went through a period of meditation burnout. I was being too hard on myself and the practice became a chore. It was suggested to me that I give myself permission to let expectations go. That one suggestion has made such a difference in the way I approach my practice.

What advice would you share with someone who is just starting a meditation practice?

Find a teacher and community where you can ask questions and share your experience. A lot of things will eventually come up in meditation and it’s good to have people around you who are going through or have gone through similar experiences.

What does your heart most long for?

True Understanding

Josh Walpole is now the owner of Meditation Bar where he teaches several classes a week. 

Joyful Effort

  • January 5, 2019
  • Blog

Joyful effort is the fourth of the six perfections. The other five are: generosity, kindness, patience, meditation, and wisdom. When you reflect on these qualities in your meditation, and then bring them into your life, you begin to notice your life changing. Your heart opens, your world expands. You contact the natural warmth, goodness, and joy that is available in each moment.

Virya paramita —  is the fourth perfection of joyful effort. The heart essence of this practice is taking joy in helping others.

Once, a student asked his teacher, Ramana Maharshi: “How are we to treat others?”

Ramana Maharshi replied, “There are no others.”

In considering what it means to take joy in helping others, it is important to remember that you are included in “others.” You are not separate from others. When you care for yourself, you are benefitting others. When you care for others, you are benefitting yourself. The perfection of joyful effort through the practice of taking care of others is not about ignoring your own needs to put others first, but a rather a recognition that caring for others increases your own happiness and enjoyment of life. It is why you are here.

Here are five suggestions for how you can feel more joyful effort:

1. Remember your intention. Reflect on your larger reasons for why you do what you do.

2. Recognize and honor all the ways in which you naturally care for others, and rejoice in that goodness!

3. Practice gratitude and express appreciation for your life and the opportunities to care for and be cared for.

4. Let go of joyless striving. Let go of all “shoulds” and “supposed to’s”. Let go of doing things that you can’t do with joy (or find a way to increase your joy in doing them).

5. Smile– while meditating, while sitting at your computer (go ahead, try it now ;-), while walking down the street. While helping others. Notice how this simple gesture brings a quality of joyfulness to your experience.

The poet David Whyte reminds us that “Joy can be made by practiced, hard-won achievement as much as by an unlooked for, passing act of grace arriving out of nowhere.”

Join Kelly Lindsey for a live, online, interactive class to dive deeper into the Six Perfections! This series begins on January 29th on Mind Oasis. Learn more here.

Community Spotlight: Rosa N Schnyer

  • December 8, 2018
  • Blog
Where do you live?

Austin

How did you come to meditation?

I was introduced to meditation when I was 14 living in Mexico City. I was then fortunate to encounter Zen in my early 20’s. After practicing on my own for a while, I went to live at Dai Bosatsu Zendo, a Rinzai Zen community in upstate NY. My travels took me eventually to Boston, where the gentleness of the insight tradition helped rekindle my formal practice and where I was first introduced to the teachings of Pema Chödron and the Tibetan heart practices. In Austin, I found a steady source of wisdom and inspiration in the Quiet Mind, Open Heart sangha led by Kelly.

What inspires you to meditate?

Meditation allows me to fully inhabit my life and to bear witness to the unfolding of this precious but challenging human existence. It helps me to engage with purpose and meaning, to feel connected to others, to overcome self-centeredness. It really is the backbone of my day to day life.

What does your meditation practice look like?

I sit for a good while just about every morning. At this point, I combine quietly sitting, complemented by loving kindness and Tonglen. I try to sit and study with others a couple of times per week, to continue delving into the teachings and exploring the big questions. I aspire to infuse my clinical work with the foundations of practice, and try to attend tenderly to the human heart. Often, my work in clinic and my sitting practice blend together. It’s a bit trickier to stay present with other day to day tasks.

Do you have any rituals or routines that support your practice?

A good cup of morning green tea, a sunrise bike ride, a brisk walk, and yoga practice.

How is your life different because of meditation?

There are moments when I can actually pause, before reacting, a huge task for my inner volcano! I see and feel with greater intensity what’s unfolding around me. I often feel immensely grateful. I’ve learned not to take myself so seriously.

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in your practice?

I’ve gone through periods of agonizing doubt. I’m not a devotional person, and I’m rather pragmatic, I have to feel the truth in my bones to make it real. That can sometimes be a challenge. It’s difficult to juggle everything and still be able to devote as much time and energy as I’d like to devote to practice.

What advice would you share with someone who is just starting a meditation practice?

Just sit and let your breath bring you home. With kindness and steadfastness, don’t get up until the bell rings. Let the practice ignite in you a sense of wonderment, and let the beauty of life as well as the suffering of the human heart, inspire your practice, everyday.

What does your heart most long for?

To make a long lasting difference somehow, somewhere. I would love to find courage and the know how to decrease homelessness.

The Perfection of Patience

  • December 1, 2018
  • Blog
The third paramita — kshanti paramita — is the perfection of patience. Let’s begin with a conversation about what patience is not, and what the perfection of patience is, according to the Tibetan Buddhist view:
Patience is NOT
Giving up
Resignation
Repression
Ignoring
Grinning and bearing it
Accepting everything
Not doing anything
Trying to get resolution on our own terms
Patience IS
“Getting smart”
Pausing and getting still
Being really honest with ourselves about how we feel
Creating space for our experience
Responding instead of reacting
Cultivating courage to sit with discomfort, discord, or disagreement (or any other “dis”)!
Patience is an antidote to anger and aggression. Here is a link to a great article from Pema Chodron:  The Answer to Anger and Aggression is Patience.
How Our Meditation Practice Leads to Patience
Our meditation practice helps us to cultivate patience because it teaches us how to be with our experience without repressing or indulging it, but rather witnessing it with kindness and curiosity. Meditation invites us to be fully present with ourselves in a kind and non-judgmental way, and this helps us to be more fully present with others….even those who push all of our buttons! No one said this was easy!
But Pema Chodron does say: “Patience is an enormously wonderful and supportive and even magical practice. It’s a way of completely changing the fundamental human habit of trying to resolve things by going either to the right or the left, calling things right or calling things wrong. It’s the way to develop courage, the way to find out what life is really about. … We discover that as a matter of fact joy and happiness, peace, harmony and being at home with yourself and your world come from sitting still with the moodiness of the energy until it rises, dwells, and passes away.” 

Community Spotlight: Kaleigh Carter

  • November 24, 2018
  • Blog

Where do you live?

Austin, TX

How did you come to meditation?

I came to meditation because my body forced me to slow down.  During this period of my life I was doing yoga five or six times a week and I loved the way the movement of my body could create a clarity in my mind—without having to sit still! “Yoga is my meditation,” was almost a mantra for me, which wasn’t entirely untrue; however, I recognize now that my relationship to it at that time was more about trying to escape my mind rather than make friends with it.

After herniating two disks in my low back I was searching for ways to continue to experience that feeling I’d come to cherish. Since I couldn’t move the way I was accustomed to, eventually I was led to meditation, which by no means gave me the same feeling when I started out, but has had so many more myriad benefits in my life since establishing a consistent practice.

What inspires you to meditate?

I’m inspired to meditate by my firm conviction that meditation can lead to a happier and more peaceful life that will ripple out to in turn create a happier and more peaceful world. I have a deep yearning to help make the world a better place, and I used to believe that this would be something I would accomplish through a job or career or by some act of going out into the world and doing.

Now I realize that I can make a huge difference by going within and learning how to be in the world. This doesn’t mean lack of action in the world, it means that because of my time in meditation that I can act in different and more beneficial ways. This is oftentimes what motivates me to get on my cushion when I’m feeling resistance.

I recently found great inspiration in this quote, which I feel sums it all up:

“The principle of nowness is very important to any effort to establish an enlightened society. You may wonder what the best approach is to helping society and how you can know that what you are doing is authentic and good. The only answer is nowness. The way to relax, or rest the mind in nowness, is through the practice of meditation. In meditation you take an unbiased approach. You let things be as they are, without judgment, and in that way you yourself learn to be.” – Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

What does your meditation practice look like?

Right now I’m in Dakini Meditative’s Meditation Teacher Training and we’re studying Culadasa’s instructions for shamatha meditation as elucidated in The Mind Illuminated text. So, every day my practice is 20-30 minutes of meditating with my breath as the object. My current focus within each session is on finding or conjuring a felt sense of joy in my body while I meditate so that it becomes something I automatically want to return to day after day.

Do you have any rituals or routines that support your practice?

I have a little altar with my Dakini meditation cushions set up in front of it (I use both a gomden and a zafu for extra height and support for my low back). My altar has pictures of people who inspire me to meditate, pretty artwork, and crystals on it. I try to always take a few minutes to move my spine before I sit, and I burn Palo Santo to cleanse the space. At the end of every practice I dedicate my time sitting in the hopes that all beings will one day be happy and free from pain.

How is your life different because of meditation?

I feel like I’m a completely different person since meditation has come into my life. Since it’s one of the most important things in my life now I take it into consideration during most other activities of my life. I don’t drink anymore (which was a big part of my life pre-meditation) mainly because I know the headache the day after will prevent me from meditating. I try to stay well-rested so that I can have a shot at having a good practice.

In addition to practicing better self-care because of my practice I also have healthier relationships with myself and others in my life. Meditation allows me to have clearer seeing of my habitual responses, and often (not always) helps me find the ability to pause so that instead of reacting in my instinctual way I can choose how to respond to a situation. I have much more patience because of my practice and I feel like I’ve become more generous and more compassionate to myself and others.

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in your practice?

I’ve probably faced all of the challenges in the book: doubt, resistance, dullness, agitation, physical pain, finding consistency… One of the biggest challenges was when I was doing a practice that required elaborate visualizations. My brain isn’t that great at conjuring up images, so I constantly struggled to have the motivation to practice. Then I would hear about others who were doing the same practice and having amazing results and I would judge myself, leading to huge resistance to practicing. Another challenge I’ve faced is simply the ability to find the right time of day to practice. Even when I’m well-rested, it’s hard for me to wake up and feel alert enough to practice first thing in the morning, however if I wait until later in the day it’s easy to forget or end up just fitting it in right before bed.

What advice would you share with someone who is just starting a meditation practice?

There are three main things I would share with someone who is just beginning.

1) Don’t get discouraged when you begin meditating and it seems like you’re actually having way more thoughts now! It’s actually just that you’re becoming aware of all the thoughts that were already there. And, they’re not supposed to go away… Contrary to popular depictions, the point of meditating isn’t to stop your thoughts and only feel calm and peaceful. It is to welcome whatever is there, just as it is, with no judgment— even if that is a racing mind, angry thoughts, sadness, joy, boredom—whatever! It’s all okay.

2) There are many “flavors” of meditation. If you try one and it doesn’t work for you, don’t give up on meditation altogether! Keep trying different styles until you find the one that makes you want to keep doing it, while also keeping in mind that meditation doesn’t come naturally to us and that whatever type you land on will feel different to you every day according to your particular circumstances.

3) Find a meditation teacher. There’s only so much you can learn from reading about it on the internet. Finding a real, live meditation teacher will help you to overcome the resistance, the doubt, and other obstacles that will certainly arise in your practice.

What does your heart most long for?

My heart most longs for a peaceful, loving society that is based upon mutual respect and understanding of the fact that all beings (not just humans) want to be happy and free from suffering.

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