Sunday, April 12, 2009

Here's a quote I heard from Jay Leno: " I went into a McDonald's yesterday and said, 'I'd like some fries.' The girl at the counter said, 'Would you like some fries with that?'"

Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of my mentors and my former boss, defines mindfulness as "paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment." A big part of paying attention in this way is connected to really hearing, seeing, being with things the way they are, and especially noticing when we fall into the trap of ignoring what people are actually trying to communicate. My day today was filled with discussions with people who were stuck in old patterns of reactivity, and of course my own patterns were triggered by their patterns. We found ourselves in a soup of misunderstandings and confused communication. Some of these folks practice mindfulness, however, and so we gradually found that we could reach some kind of clarity. Working through this together was profoundly connecting. I feel so grateful for being on the planet with people who are willing to wake up to their own expectations, filters and confusion to a shared tenderness and kindness.

The three marks of existence go into a bar

The three marks of existence are ways of framing reality. Through paying attention to what arises moment to moment, within the frame of a settled body and mind, we come to understand them as experiences, not as theoretical constructs. The Pali words, used in the early Buddhist sutras, are dukkha, annicca and anatta. Dukkha means unsatisfactoriness, things being out of alignment. (The original meaning comes from the sound a cart makes when one of the wheels is a little bit off-balance: dook, dook, dook.) Annicca is the truth of impermanence, and and anatta is the recognition that there is no fixed self that abides through time. After a talk I gave about the three marks at the Berwick Street Zendo the other night, my husband and fellow teacher David Rynick, and my colleague at the Center for Mindfulness, Florence Meleo-Meyer, came up with this joke:

Dukkha, Annicca and Anatta go into a bar. Dukkha says, "life sucks!" Annicca says, "it won't last." Anatta says, "Are you talking to me?"

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Not backing down

When I'm afraid to show up in any situation, I often find that I'm having a thought like, "if only I could be better or more accomplished than I (believe I) am." And when I do it anyway, I find that what I really needed was not to be the best, but to be fully committed to the moment ... as present as possible. Here's some inspiration along those lines from from Sasha Frere-Jones, in The New Yorker, April 6, 2009, writing about Bono, the lead singer of U2.

"For all his limitations -- he's one of the last vocalists you can imagine making a solo record -- Bono is the only singer who could possibly make U2's music succeed...Bono's voice can sound strained fairly quickly...Bono's gift is the ability to sound utterly immersed in and committed to whatever his band is proposing. He backs down from nothing that the band starts."