The madness of mindfulness

Source: The madness of mindfulness

When I first got a smartphone I noticed how stressed I was in using it. Checking my email and text messages at all hours of the day I became a nervous wreck. My belief was, now that I had the phone, it was expected that I respond quickly to any communication and to always be available.  For the most part, this is true.  Many years ago I realized how this

Many years ago I realized how this affected me and I learned to have the proper perspective in how to use it as a tool.  At first, I loved that I could select my own ring tone (until I got dirty faces because it invaded everyones airspace). The same goes with sounds for text messages versus application notifications. These notices became maddening. Now I usually try to keep the phone on vibrate to avoid this problem altogether.  However switching to vibration mode and silent mode has also gotten me in trouble as I keep forgetting to set it back to vibe me (missing many phone calls as a result).

As the technology has improved over time though, new ways to use smartphones have become more viable and convenient. Generally, these types of apps are meant as tools to assit you with something you would like to do or track in you life. Hence one of those uses – mindfulness and meditation apps.  However, as with all of these apps, fitting them into our lives can be tricky.

Mindfulness and meditation apps can be used to track how often you practice and to encourage you to practice more often.  It also allows you to connect to like minded people and to share your thoughts with them.  I like to use the fixed length timer option of the app I use because it encourages me to meditate longer.  This helped me to get past my practice of stopping my meditation when I experienced a thought or a feeling that I was uncomfortable with.  Outside sounds do not bother me anymore.  I am getting better at staying with emotions and pain.  At one point I even meditated daily for over a year straight. What an accomplishment!!!

But, eventually, I ran into problems with the app (that are common to computer applications of all types).  I lost data, the app rang bells at all times of the day, etc.  Instead of complaining about it,  I did what I usually do when I am not able to control circumstances (at least eventually), I accepted them and adjusted.

Now I only track my meditations occasionally on the app I use as my happiness or unhappiness is not based on what the app tells me.  I no longer use the timer for a fixed about of time all of the time but enjoy untimed meditations as well. I use it as a tool and not as a weight.  There are so many options out there these days.  Finding the right tool may take some patience. Patience is something that needs to be emphasized as a spiritual practice!

The overall gist of the article did bug me though.  As a result there are some points here I’d like to make not related to use of smartphone apps.

  • It is our reactions to the outside world that needs to be looked at and not necessarily the outside world itself. It is an inside job. What was the authors primary need? – to find a mediation app or to seek relief from being overwhelmed from the stress of parenting.  Looking for a quick fix from an app is not reasonable.
  • Mindfulness and meditation, when practiced, can help up with being less stress overall and (god forbid) more productive but this is also missing the point, and short-sighted. You mostly get what you put into things (karma is complicated). The buddha’s teachings are much more than to be used as an escape.  All of the Buddha’s Teaching are about how stress is caused and how to end stress thru developing the skill and wisdom of dealing with it.
  • Let me repeat myself, a regular and consistent mindfulness and meditation practice can “enable a state of ‘being present in the moment, with our full attention, undistracted and not being overwhelmed'” but in order for that to happen you have to practice.
  • I appreciated that the article raised the issue of having false expectations.  As my practice has evolved, I initially cherished being more present, productive, and less stressed (and continue to do so). This in itself is enough for me to continue practicing it but now I feel that ultimate freedom is possible.  The Noble Eightfold path is about evolving.  If I have false expectations then I am going to feel stressed about this at some point.  Hopefully I will reflect on the true causes for my stress, seek to gain the wisdom to see this clearly and then learn to take the appropriate actions to end it.

Some final constructive criticism. There have been rumblings about “fake news” recently.  Related to this is the explosion of opinion and feature articles about subjects that authors have no true understanding about publish. It is very clear that author of this piece does not appear to have a clue about how mindfulness or meditation actually works and is doing a disservice to others by being critical of something not understood. This is a sign of the times. Everyones’ opinion matters even when they are ignorant of the subject they have an opinion on.  Hopefully, readers of the article will not use it solely to judge the merits of starting a mindfulness and meditation practice, nor of using apps that support this practice.

 

Spending 10 Minutes a Day on Mindfulness Subtly Changes the Way You React to Everything

Put it on your calendar.

Source: Spending 10 Minutes a Day on Mindfulness Subtly Changes the Way You React to Everything

Obviously, I am posting this article because it contains some positive information and suggestions on the use of mindfulness in our everyday lives.  Although the emphasis is on business leadership, I feel any reason for the use of mindfulness is a doorway for personal emotional and spiritual growth.  We, as human society, dearly need this perspective.

Even though I try to practice mindfulness in all aspects of my life, I like reminders like these to encourage me to strive towards peace, serenity and freedom – to not blindly accept stress and suffering.

Is Life Suffering?

Source: Is Life Suffering?

Here are some gems that diectly connect buddhism to recovery. The first highlight on suffering opening the door to the path is especially true in my case. I am grateful that I can pass these teachings on.

How to Be Mindful When Life is in Flux – Mindful

Uncertainty doesn’t need to create more anxiety. Here’s how we can embrace change, and a meditation practice for becoming more skillful with relaxing into the ride.

Source: How to Be Mindful When Life is in Flux – Mindful

Abhayagiri Reflections – The Cycles of Addiction

Source: Abhayagiri Reflections – The Cycles of Addiction

This article describes the process of turning feelings into suffering of which the addictive person may not be aware of.  It notes that, during this process, the mind clings to the objects of our desire – blotting out everything else. A whole train of events occurs where what we sense is identified with leading us towards grasping the objects of our desire but being unaware of it.

Cognitive Dissonance, View of Self and Outlook on the World

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-to-convince-someone-when-facts-fail/

Psychology has identified many ways in which the mind skews our view of the world. Cognitive dissonance is one of those aspects of mind that intrigues me because the data provides many examples of how our truths and reality do not align.  In many ways we see what we want to see and are resistent to see things any other way. 

What occurs on a macro level also occurs on a micro level. By this I mean that it makes sense that this also happens internally. Given this evidence, it behoves me to practice looking deeper into my experiece to see where what the think I experience (including my views, outlook and belief system) sways my thoughts, feelings and emotions. 

What about my health? For twenty years I experienced back issues after straining while wrestling with a friend.  It became a lingering chronic issue for me for many years. Some days I experienced severe back spasms but generally I felt constant pain. I was prescribed an endless supply of pain medication, but it generally didn’t help. 

At a retreat a few years ago I talked with a fellow who told me about a issue he had with his hand.  He had severly sprained it a couple years back but had recovered. After a break up with his girlfriend the pain returned. He was introduced to a book by John Sarno on back pain. Dr Sarno was a Physical Therapist for many years who discovered many people were not recovering from their physical ailments similarly to my friend and his hand.  His discovery was that the mind was using the injury to distract people from their emotional stress – calling it Tension Myosis Syndrom (TMS).  His theory is that the body will prevent proper oxygen flow to the effected areas causing pain.  The solution was to bring this connection to the patients attention as was the case with my friend.

At first I was in shock that TMS might have any way of effecting me.  My pain was real and not in my mind.  Today though, suffice to say, my back pain has dissappeared.   Not only that, since then, I have been able to determine what causes most my back pain and to avoid it.

A key to identifying cognitive dissonance and TMS is to identify the stress we experience. Paying attention to when it is present and when it is not.  My spiritual practice provides the foundation for this. Awareness, alert, mindful, and persistent in looking at stress and it possible causes. All directed inwardly.  In this way I try not to avoid my experience, to explain it away, or to blame outward forces (whether they be partially true or not).

It is my intention to bring these possible connections to the attention of others so that they might be free from suffering. 

Sharing this Spiritual Quest (My first Post)

Well. Finally getting this site off the ground. Funny, when I was looking to create a website promoting myself, I found this difficult. But when I turned to thinking about the teachings and insights I have gained from the various spiritual practices I have engaged in since finding recovery, the ideas for the that website was expansive. So here I go.

It will still be challenging.  I get frustrated with myself because I have many defects to overcome, some are discouraging. Writing is not my strong suit. I think that this is easy to overcome though with practice and application of effort.. My mental clarity comes and goes.  This is effected by many factors that I will share at some point My ability to be patient could also use some work. In many ways I have been able to see that all of these are connected. But my love and fasination with the insites that my spiritual practice provides is very fulfilling.That is what I hope to share here.

In many ways, I love Facebook – especially how is allows me to be send  and receive news, opinions and ideas from my friends, family and acquaintances. But in many ways it is too much.  Keeping up with social media can be exhausting.  It can be obsessing too to constantly be putting my take on the world, and what I see as important out for others to see.  I find I just can’t keep up. Does anyone really care about what I think and feel? My is important thatcI express it.

After the endless demands of work, I find it hard balancing all of my other needs and interests – my various musical hobbies, keeping up the news, favorites sports interests, feeding myself, vain attempts to get exercise and get outdoors, reading (almost always spiritual), visiting family and friends, spiritual gatherings, etc.  What I really feel is most of the time I am not doing what matters most.

This site, although primarily focusing on my understanding of Buddhist teachings, will be a channel for me to do just that.  This practice is what I most feel comfortable about when connecting to others. Sharing and receiving joy is what I love most.This practice is both fulfilling and joyful.

Initially my experience with meditation came thru the therapeutic process.  It was suggested that I simply close my eyes and look within.  At the time I did not know that this was meditating.  At first, all I felt were these strange movements of energy in my body that felt like banana slugs crawling inside my intestines. Later, as I continued this inner looking, I found that all of a sudden I felt everything going on inside me.  I have not been able to turn this off.  Another time had a White Light experience –  being enveloped in a blinding warm white light for a few seconds.

Meditation retreat after retreat and over the years and frequent practice at home this has continually evolved.  Calm has become more of a state of being for me.  As I have become more peaceful I have also become more sensative. Most of the time there is this struggle and it feels easier to distract myself. I am more able to listen to others.  I am less judgemental.  My understanding about being human has  grown. My interest in how the mind works has blossomed. It with this understanding that I looked to formally share this knowledge by created a group.  We meditate and discuus these topics and more almost always connected to buddhist teachings.

We are both blessed and cursed in this age of instant and open communication.  Whether we agree or not, everyone who wishes to share their views and opinions about  the world in general is able to do so. Everyone wants their opinion to matter most, to be more correct, to be the right view and the right way. One of the basic understandings in buddhist practice is that what we find important is not important, and we do not finf what is important is important. How we relate to the outter world is how we relate to the inner world.  So what are the subjects that we should explore.  This site is going to explore that.  Because recovery is about getting understanding ourselves, about acceptance of the way things really are, and learning to traverse in this human existence in ways that do no harm.