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Sacred Simplicity

Guest Blog Contributed by Brooke Binstock //

When I sit down to contemplate simplicity, I am struck by how deeply spiritual and sacred the practice of boiling things down to their essence feels. For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated and even obsessed with getting down to the bottom of things.  I always questioned motivation and maintained a healthy level of skepticism when witnessing other human beings appear so certain in their convictions. I feel committed to knowing what exists beyond the labels and the masks that we are so prone to wear. Especially now, in an age where distraction is at our fingertips at every given moment, I find particular importance in finding out what is really here for us, under the surface.

Every other week, I have the privilege to teach yin yoga and meditation to men at a conscious sober living house in Austin, Texas called Tribe. Having gone through aspects of recovery myself, I understand how deeply raw and vulnerable it is to feel so exposed during those early stages.  It is a truly humbling journey that really begs us to take a deeper look within. At the beginning of each class, I do a check-in with the guys.  In our last meeting, one of the men sitting in the front row, was wearing a shirt that pictured a camping style coffee mug with the words, “keep it simple’ underneath it.

During his check-in, he pointed to his shirt and reflected that it has been an important part of his recovery to simplify his life. As he spoke, I could tell that the other men seemed to be in agreement with him. He shared that when things feel overly complicated, that is when overwhelm and anxiety can creep back in along with all the old behavior patterns. Simplicity is a sweet spot and a portal to silently connect with something greater than ourselves. We had a beautiful conversation about minimalism and then began our yoga practice together, quietly.

We have a tendency as human beings to make things more complicated than they are. A quote often attributed to Confucius comes to mind: “life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”  Likely as a defense mechanism, we make up stories in our heads about what we think is happening—we mind-read, future-think, obsess over what-ifs, and go into catastrophic thought patterns.  We take refuge in trying to figure things out instead of floating in the grey area because it feels safer.

However, what if we actually challenged ourselves to lean into simplicity more? What might we find underneath all the story?  We may begin to slough off the unnecessary layers and expose what is truly important and live with greater levels of authenticity. I love this inquiry by Buddhist psychologist Flint Sparks, who asks “How simple are you willing to let this be?”  I challenge myself to consider this often and it leaves me feeling relieved and spacious.

In a practical sense, we can rely on meditation to bring us closer to our deepest essence. I recall from my earlier days as a practitioner, being introduced to a technique where you visualize peeling back layers of an onion as if they are aspects of your identity.  This really touched me. It helped me see that beyond all the labels I choose for myself, or that have been chosen for me, at the very core we are but pure emptiness. The practice of simplifying things for ourselves is in itself deeply sacred. Who am I if not this label? At the core, underneath all our behaviors and markers of self, we are vast and more connected than we think.

We can also use the breath to illustrate this concept of emptiness. The other morning, during a weekly group meditation that I attend, we discussed the natural pause that occurs at the top of the inhale and the bottom of the exhale—Kumbhaka; how, without even trying, we experience breath naturally on its own. We don’t need to force our will on the breath for it to happen—it just does. What if, in each moment, we could consider simplicity as a form of trust? Just as an exhale inevitably follows an inhale, we can surrender a thought that isn’t serving us and lean into a deeper truth. We may discover what is really happening for us in the moment and connect to the vastness of sacred simplicity.

This summer at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Colorado, Kelly Lindsey and I will be exploring sacred simplicity during our retreat August 5-9. We would be honored to hold space for you there. Learn more here.

You can find out more about Brooke and her heart-centered offerings at her website: https://www.opencirclehealingaustin.com/

 

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: Chuck Roper

 

Where you live?
Austin, Texas

How did you come to meditation?
I came to meditation accidentally (if there’s such a thing as accidents). I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2016. I had been looking for a spiritual path I could relate to before then, but after the diagnosis, I felt an urgent need to find something I could get my head around. Coincidentally(?) at about the same time, I met Kelly Lindsey, an Austin-based meditation teacher. She agreed to teach me meditation skills, and I took her up on it. That’s how I came to meditation, as well as to a spiritual path that I embraced with gratitude.

What inspires you to meditate?
I don’t need much inspiration to meditate. It has become a regular and essential part of my daily life. I get up early, feed and visit with my three dogs, drink two glasses of water and a cup of bone broth, and lovingly set my butt down on my meditation cushion. I give the cushion a minimum of 20 minutes, followed by a half-hour or so of journaling and planning my day. What inspires me is the way that meditation enriches my life and nudges me forward on my spiritual path.

What does your meditation practice look like?
I practice daily, typically between 7:00-8:00 am. I like to begin my practice with a brief ritual that re-establishes my vows to be an ethical person who leads an ethical life. I sit in meditation for twenty minutes, or more if I feel inspired. I sit cross-legged, facing my altar, with lights dimmed and doors closed.

Do you have any rituals or routines that support your practice?
I do. Before I get out of bed in the morning, I say a prayer that was inspired by a description of the Dalai Lama’s morning rituals. I meditate facing my altar, which holds statues and other items that mean enough to me to give them a holy spot alongside the Buddha. I remind myself of my Buddhist vows every morning with three prostrations. I created physical space that supports my spiritual activities and path.

How is your life different because of meditation?
Thanks to meditation, my life is so different in so many ways, but the one that stands out for me is the novel experience of opening my heart, allowing me for (I believe) the first time as an adult, to give and receive heart-centered love with no strings attached. I was always known as a nice guy, a good guy, but my niceness was connected to wanting to be loved, and the “nice” and “good” came from my head and not my heart. Meditation was the essential ingredient that opened my mind and then my heart.

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in your practice?
Easily–my biggest challenge is true consistency–that is, living pretty much according to the goals that I set for myself. I personally live with mood swings that can influence my motivation to take care of myself generally, including my motivation to sit. That said, I don’t remember a single time when I didn’t feel better after 20 minutes on the cushion.

What advice would you share with someone who is just starting a meditation practice?
I’m a believer in getting started with the help of someone who knows at least more or less what he’s/she’s doing. This doesn’t mean hiring a high-dollar private instructor. There are many affordable group classes every day that are led by experienced teachers who are oftentimes happy to share their expertise. And if that’s a problem, then there are scores of good books that describe and illustrate meditation. My favorite is Pema Chodron’s “How to Meditate.” The main thing: Give it a try.

What does your heart most long for?
Easy question… My heart longs for a sense of belonging, where others genuinely want me to be a part of their inner world, and I feel worthy of accepting their invitation. I realize that heartfelt desire in my sangha–that is, my community. We are spiritually like-minded women and men who meet and meditate together at least twice a week and retreat together twice a year. I feel accepted and not judged. I belong. For me, it started with meditation and continues with meditation.

Chuck teaches meditation through Mind Oasis, a non-profit, online meditation community. You can find him teaching their Meditate on the 8s membership classes weekly at 8:08am CT Monday mornings!

 

[Photo by Lacey Melguizo]
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