Month: November 2019

Happy Holidays from Sounds True

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”

—Meister Eckhart 

I believe that if people from all of the different wisdom traditions gathered together and were asked to agree on one focus for a special day of reflection, “giving thanks” would be somewhere at the top of the list. 

Gratitude changes us. Instead of looking at what’s wrong, we turn our hearts for a moment to what’s right. And there are so many things that are right. 

For example, the appreciation of one complete breath (as corny as it sounds, whenever I turn my mind to gratitude, this is the first place I start)—feeling the fluttery exhilaration of the inhale, the excitement at the top of the inhale, the relaxation of a full and deep exhale, and then the interesting open space that awaits when our exhale is complete (you can tell I feel grateful for breathing). 

And then there is the feeling of air on our skin, and the faces of the people we love, and the beauty of trees and the natural world … and we can each go on and on and on and on. 

And let’s do that! Let’s go on and on and on and on about all of the ways that we appreciate what is right and beautiful in this moment (and if you’re at all like me, with a tendency to focus on problem-solving, this might not be your usual perspective). 

And if you do go on and on and on and appreciate the beauty that is right here, you probably won’t need science to tell you that you have shifted the neural pathways in your brain (although scientific studies will certainly confirm that)—you can feel the immediate shift.

As I write this, I feel appreciative of so many beautiful “presences” in my life, including the presence of YOU. I am grateful that you read these posts, that you feel in some way connected to Sounds True, that you are interested in personal transformation, in being wholehearted and of benefit to others. I am grateful that, even though it is through this weird form of a mass communication from me to you, we are connected. 

At Sounds True, we are grateful to the entire ecosystem of which we are a part: to our authors, to the ideas themselves, to our vendors and manufacturers, to the buildings that house us, to the natural world, and to future generations. 

And most of all, we are grateful to you, the individual person who enjoys and derives benefit from the learning programs we create. And we want to make sure we are meeting you “where you are at” and that our programs are accessible and you feel encouraged to explore and learn from different teachers. Like most companies, our deepest discounts of the year are available between now and the end of December, and I want you to know about this, if you are interested. To learn more about these special offers, just click here

Gratitude creates a circle of appreciation. When we express our gratitude, the recipient feels it, lights up, and appreciates our existence in return. I love being in a virtuous circle of appreciation with you. 

 

With love and a grateful heart, 

tami simon sounds true author photo

Tami Simon

Founder and publisher,

Sounds True

P.S. Once again, our deepest discounts of the year are now available through December 20. Please click here to learn more.

3 Simple Habits of a Loving Kindness Practice

3 Simple Habits of a Loving Kindness Practice Header Image

Are you interested in studying loving kindness more in-depth? Check out Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach’s The Power of Awareness, a 7-week mindfulness training and community mentoring program beginning February 18, 2020. Can’t wait? Take advantage of the free video teachings.

 

“A little kingdom I possess, where thoughts and feelings dwell; and very hard the task I find of governing it well.”
—Louisa May Alcott

In his video Seeing the Goodness, Jack Kornfield refers to the practice of loving kindness as “seeing the original innocence, dignity, and beauty of another.”

At first glance, this might sound like a simple thing to do. But what makes loving kindness (also known as lovingkindness) a practice rather than a feeling?

I believe we all have the capacity to embrace loving kindness in our daily lives. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy task. When I sat down to do one of Jack Kornfield’s loving kindness meditations (find it here), I found it surprisingly difficult. Cross-legged on the carpet, I pushed my headphones into my ears and listened carefully to every word—until I couldn’t anymore, and I turned it off.

For the rest of the day, I wondered, why? I think of myself as a kind person. Plus, I meditate fairly regularly. So what was it about this practice I found so difficult?

I ruminated and ruminated. Finally, as I lay in bed drifting off to sleep the other night, the answer came to me at once. My whole life, I’ve been doing it backward—extending love to others and then, only at the end, if there was space left, extending it out to myself. And there isn’t always space left.

WHAT IS LOVING KINDNESS?

loving kindness practice hand

Loving kindness is not just about empathy, presence, and listening in regards to others. It is part of the difficult inner work we all face. This is the work of finding self-forgiveness, releasing shame and guilt, and loving ourselves for exactly who we are. Loving kindness is kind of like looking at ourselves and expressing love—then letting that love reverberate, like two mirrors reflecting one another into infinity.

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”
—Confucius

It’s a practice of recognizing our own inner beauty and watching it manifest as love and healthy attachment in our relationships. It’s about embracing compassion as a state of enlightenment, as the highest nature of ourselves and the true nature of God. It’s about seeing beyond guilt and shame to the fundamental, universal innocence of all beings.

The origins of the word innocent are various. They are even more fascinating when taken together. In the 12th century, the word inocent (Old French) meant simply “harmless; not guilty; pure.” The prefix, in, meaning not or un-, is attached to the suffix nocere (Latin), meaning “to harm.” Nocere itself originated from the root nek-, meaning “death.” In that regard, we can read innocence as meaning not harmful or not deathful; not yielding death. Infinite.

GENTLE HABITS FOR CULTIVATING LOVING KINDNESS

loving kindness practice habitsI don’t think I’m alone in finding it easier to extend compassion to others than to myself. And I don’t think I’m alone in experiencing repeated bouts of resentment and sadness toward people I love—probably partly from expecting to receive my self-worth from them.

So, how do you get started on something that seems so simple, but isn’t?

Here are three small, but profound, ways to gently maintain a lovingkindness practice.

GROUNDING

What helps you relax? Write down a list of things that help you feel calm, creative and focused. Maybe you feel better after a long shower or bath. I know people who absolutely love puzzling, coloring and Sodoku for this. It can be talking to a good friend, taking a walk, spending some time in nature, or curling up with a good book, watching television, meditating, or yoga. The list can be as long as you want!

As you practice loving kindness, begin to recognize whenever you feel uprooted: instead of compassionate, you might feel irritated, resentful, or bitter. You might feel afraid instead of loving. You might feel defensive instead of communicative. Hold these grounding practices close to your heart and use them whenever needed. They are for you.

SELF-COMPASSION

Jack Kornfield writes in A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life, “Much of spiritual life is self-acceptance, maybe all of it.” One of the things that’s hard about lovingkindness, I think, is that it’s possible to feel loving of others while quietly holding onto self-doubt. Whether it’s daily, weekly, or multiple times a day, make a plan for checking in with yourself: How are those inner voices speaking to you right now?

Once you do this enough, it becomes a habit, maybe even automatic. You can get to know these voices, and they can get to know you. They will learn what can and cannot be tolerated and that you value being treated gently, just as you wish to treat others. It is a vital first step on the path toward loving kindness—one that, for many, is the most difficult, but affects our spiritual practice from every direction.

GRATITUDE

Gratitude is like an orb of everything you want from loving kindness. It is a way to thank yourself, others, and the Universe all at once.  The closest to real peace I’ve ever felt was in a moment of gratitude. I felt suspended in the air.

In a grateful space of consciousness, it is much easier to have compassion for others. We can see further into different perspectives. We can have mercy on ourselves. Gratitude is not about removing boundaries, but about understanding this moment as an irreplaceable one. It’s about comprehending that each person is infinitely unique, including you.

 

ABOUT JACK KORNFIELD

Jack Kornfield Author Photo
Jack Kornfield, PhD, trained as a Buddhist monk in Thailand, Burma, and India and has taught worldwide since 1974. He is one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practices to the West. He holds a PhD in clinical psychology and is the co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society and of Spirit Rock Center in Woodacre, California. He has written more than a dozen books including The Wise Heart; A Path With HeartAfter the Ecstasy, the Laundry; and more.

ABOUT THE AUTHORDani Ferrara Blogger Author Photo

When she isn’t writing, playing music or teaching, Dani Ferrara blogs at Sounds True and researches the alchemy of healing. Explore her art at daniferrarapoet.com.

Mark Nepo: Authentic Expression is Heart-Based

“All my work is about devotion to the messy, magnificent human journey”

—Mark Nepo

Every day, we learn. We take in more of the new. And yet, we can only respond to situations based on what we know already. We rely on the old.

Mark Nepo seems to be asking about the space between. What does it mean to grow and change with grace? What does it mean to have faith in that process? And what does this have to do with writing and expression?

We are constantly tasked to face the unknown using tools that may have only worked for us in the past (and that is freaking scary).

I believe that asking questions is elemental to human nature. But, it is impossible to truly know any of the answers.

For Mark, there is no one right way forward. There is no way out of fear. There is only a sensibility that can be adopted: that is, the willingness to listen. 

In other words, there are no objectives. There are no end products. The “answer” is in letting go of resistance to what we know, have, and are.

That way, the invisible can make itself known.

WITNESSING

“How do we talk about the things that matter that you really can’t see?”

—Mark Nepo

The ephemeral connection between ourselves and the world of essence exists within our hearts. With this practice—this practice of inner trust, perhaps even surrender—we can begin to gesture at expressing the unsayable.

What’s clear about Mark Nepo is that he is first and foremost a writer. However, his ideas can be applied to any form of expression.

To bear witness in writing, Mark advises giving full attention to whatever is in front of you, then describing it in as much detail as possible. It’s important not to make it seem magnificent or assign it “a bunch of meaning.”

Don’t evaluate it.

We are the observers and not yet the translators.

There is another part to it. Look inward. Feel what is moving through you at that moment. “Paint” that feeling with words. Don’t judge. Don’t bother with meaning. This disposition is inherently freeing. 

In this state (and I fall in and out of it even as I write this), reality moves up to our eyes like a mirror. We can look at it and hear it, be part of it.

THE INVISIBLE WORLD

“You can’t see light except for what it illuminates. All the forces that hold us and support us are invisible”

—Mark Nepo

We name things all the time. We have to. It keeps chaos at bay.

But, naming things tends to keep us separate from them. That is this and I am this and you are there and I am here.

In his Insights at the Edge episode with Tami, Mark mentions that we are accustomed to listening in this way.

We immediately assign names, places, spaces, reasons, meaning and significance to everything we see and feel. We judge and assume (partly because it is efficient; partly because we are so used to doing it).

This is in stark contrast to the “essence of wholehearted presence, however and whenever that appears.”

IMMERSION

“The truth is, I barely understand half of what comes through me. The other half leads me”

—Mark Nepo

Immersion is a different kind of listening.

Rather than naming, one engages in a mutual conversation with the world. Discovery and creation unite as the byproduct of participation in oneness.

For Mark, immersion is a way to stop resisting our naturalness and be… whatever it is we were meant to be, as humans.

When he talks about “the things that matter,” what he seems to mean is the invisible world, “that which holds us together.” In immersion, we have the chance to interact with the invisible source of our unity.

Like the fiery and untouchable sun from which our individual experiences emanate.

WHOLEHEARTEDNESS

“It’s a gift that we can’t reach what we’re trying to say or what we see, because of all that it gives us”

—Mark Nepo

In his interview, Mark says to Tami about art-making, “What matters more is our wholeheartedness than whether we do it well.”

Tami’s response struck me. “I notice, as you offer that answer, there’s a part of me that really softens.”

Creation can be a meeting place. Rather than prescribing, you meet something somewhere, and then you embrace whatever happens. You accept what is present—and in return, you are accepted just as you are.

Wholeheartedness: letting go of expectation for the sake of the unsayable.

SELF-EXPRESSION

“Just because I write it doesn’t mean that I have the meaning of it all”

—Mark Nepo

As a writing teacher, I often tell my students that if they’re stuck, they may not be empty of ideas. In fact, they may be too full.

Creating space for the heart allows the bubbles to rise up. Like attracts like. We see what we see.

“If you’re not quite there, go back to the heart of whatever the expression is about, and get closer, and get stiller, and put your defenses down, and get closer. … Go back and have a more open heart, and see what comes then.”

Sometimes, it’s unpleasant.

Sometimes, it’s utterly nonsensical.

Poetry, as one possible example of this art, has long emptied itself of pragmatic purpose and precise meaning for the sake of beauty and potentiality.

You may end up with something that you don’t understand for years. You may just take that thing out later and realize what you meant. Authentic expression is not a product. It’s a message from you to you, from the universe to the universe.

And it is always miraculous.

On The Mindfulness Revolution and Our Fear of Authenticity (with Jon Kabat-Zinn)

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Deepen your personal healing practice with guided meditations, audio presentations, and learning intensives by Jon Kabat-Zinn on Sounds True »

Have you ever wondered who coined the term ‘mindfulness’? That was Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. He describes it as “paying attention on purpose with a non-judgmental attitude.”

“I take an enormous amount of pleasure in actually not trying to get anywhere” —Jon Kabat-Zinn

Partly because of his work and research, this concept of ‘mindfulness’ has become mainstream. We see it at colleges, small businesses and large corporations, and—perhaps most notably—in medicine (Kabat-Zinn also founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School).

In Tami’s interview with Kabat-Zinn on Insights at the Edge, the two begin asking: Why is mindfulness gaining popularity in the first place? In the process, they explore what’s simple, profound, and relatable about it.

AGE OF MINDFULNESS

mindfulness revolution woman

“Once you realize that we are completely embedded in an interconnected world … the only real response is a sense of profound appreciation or affection for the fact that we are not separate” 

Mindfulness has always been a part of humanity. It has been called different names and interpreted by different lenses, but the concept of some greater unity of which we are all a part—that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

So, even if it’s a trend, couldn’t there be more to it? In a way, mindfulness seems to take on the breath of intuition, not necessarily logic or reason. It is truly the air of possibility.

YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS

mindfulness revolution thoughts

You cannot get rid of your thoughts. But when you create distance between yourself and your thoughts, you can let them wash through you. You do not have to fight to maintain them or believe them. And, you do not have to fight to let them go.

“Suppose the sky is awareness. If a bird flew through, then the sky would know it. … [The sky] has its own sort of ground condition of just being the sky, just being awareness”

He describes this awareness not as a state of being, but as a shift in seeing. There was always space there. We just needed to rotate a lens.

Have you ever retreated your vision while meditating, so that you were gazing out from between your two closed eyes? Like that. That field of awareness stretches infinitely—as conscious beings, it weaves us together.

This feeling is both humbling and terrifying in its awesomeness. When the sky is so big, we don’t know what we are. But we can accept this uncertainty. Our minds, our egos, our bodies—can expand with it.

WE ARE ALL GENIUSES

mindfulness revolution connected

Homo sapien sapien literally translates from Latin to “the species that knows and knows that it knows.”

In the episode, Jon and Tami talk beautifully about mindfulness’s fundamental humanness. There is an utter connection between our feet grounded on this Earth, and the spaces we don’t understand.

“There is something about mindfulness that is absolutely core to our humanity … the final common pathway of what makes us human”

Sometimes, meditation helps us feel the truth of this. Once we know this awareness is there, we can integrate it into the ways we think and make decisions.

FEAR OF AUTHENTICITY

mindfulness revolution authenticityWe reach for purpose; we wish to understand our place in the universe. (It isn’t weird for us to do this. If I were an alien, and I heard humans were doing this, I would be like, well, yeah.)

Yet, we are afraid to be ourselves. We don’t want ourselves to disappear. So we keep inside our deepest sorrows, anxieties, and emotions.

The parts of us we try and protect so carefully end up banging on the walls inside of us, stuck.

“It’s not like we can never suppress that shadow side … but if we can come to understand it in a deeper way, then I think there is a potential … [to] elevate what is most beautiful and good about all human beings”

What if we gave all of it—ourselves, and our connection to the world—the space to breathe?

(And the possibilities begin to shimmer.)

 

ABOUT JON KABAT-ZINN

Jon Kabat-Zinn Author Photo

Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, is professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he founded the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society in 1995, and its world-renowned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Clinic in 1979. His trailblazing research has helped bring mindfulness meditation into mainstream medicine. He is the author of 10 books, including the bestsellers Full Catastrophe Living; Wherever You Go, There You Are; and Mindfulness for Beginners.

Take a look at Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book and accompanying CD of guided practices, Mindfulness for Beginners, published by Sounds True!

★★★★★ Easy to read and informative as well as inspiring. —gus c
★★★★★ In my opinion, a must-read for all humans. —Yves N

ABOUT THE AUTHORDani Ferrara Blogger Author Photo

When she isn’t writing, playing music or teaching, Dani Ferrara blogs at Sounds True and researches the alchemy of healing. Explore her art at daniferrarapoet.com.

 

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