After the ecstasy, the laundry

Highs and Lows

After the high, there’s a low. True dat.

The title of this post comes from a book by American Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield. In his book Kornfield interviews a range of meditation/contemplation practitioners, and quizzes them on their experiences.

The nuns, monks and lay people who he talks to, describe a pattern in meditative experience where occasionally, during meditation, they are swept up from their normal experience of gentle peace or whatever, into a magical realm.

Bliss, no-mind, deep inner peace, the eternal realm, the Kingdom of Heaven, the unmanifested, nothingness, ecstasy – the experience comes by many names (according to your experience and tradition) but has a single feature in common – a feeling of total peace, oneness and connection with Being.

So these experiences do happen.

We know this. But they don’t last.

Inevitably, after the high of blissful spiritual peak experience, there is a return to normality – the laundry. An experience of hum-drum back to ordinary life. This period can be tricky to navigate.

I have recently had what would be called by some mystical experiences during my meditation. Total inner peace and bliss, seeing into the very nature of God and reality. The real McCoy.

What I haven’t coped with so well is the laundry that follows these peaks.

The core of my current issue

My main problem is that today, a couple of months after these recent peak experiences, I find meditating very difficult.

Hard to believe for a meditation blogger? Well, yeah.

The reason being that every time I lie down to meditate, I start (in my head) trying to recreate the blissful experiences I had recently in my mind. Now, as you probably know, trying to do anything other than focus on your meditation object during practice is silly and doesn’t work.

The very nature of a sitting is that it is a moment, or series of unique moments, and you just accept whatever is happening moment by moment, non-judgementally, by following the breath (or a Mantra). Any trying to force anything is just against the whole spirit of the process.

So why do I do it?

Well, the short answer is that I can’t let go. I can’t let go of what happened then in order to see what is happening now.

In meditation, I currently have developed a slight spirit of arrogance and entitlement, feeling that I should have peak experiences all the time.

If I don’t, I’m pissed off.

A solution?

I would love to get back to normal practice, just sitting everyday and seeing the beauty of the present moment. But that experience currently eludes me.

All I can do now is take a temporary break from meditation and hope that a spirit of humility returns.  I’ve had breaks from practice before. I’ve always returned.

Lets see what happens.

If any of my readers have any suggestions as to how to get back in the groove, please leave a comment. I’m always open to new ideas!

Blessings x

Jon Kabat Zinn – A Life in Mindfulness

mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

John Kabat-Zinn – A Life in Mindfulness

I first heard of Jon Kabat-Zinn years ago when I was browsing You Tube one day, and came across a talk he had done at Google recently. The talk was simply called “Mindfulness”. Today that talk has over 3m You Tube views.

In the video he went though some of his experience as a mindfulness teacher, and how he had begun to apply it in a clinical environment. He gave wise advice about posture, focusing on a meditation object, and getting into the habit of letting things go, to enable being present, and to be mindful of what is.

I was impressed at his insight and ability as a teacher, and could see why he had been asked by Google to speak on their campus.

That was years ago.

So exactly who is Jon Kabat-Zinn?

He is best known as one of the leading proponents of modern, mainly secular mindfulness, and for heading the modern wave of the practice influencing 21st Century Western Culture.

According to Wikipedia, Zinn qualified as a medical doctor in the 60’s, and was greatly influenced by the growth of Zen Buddhism and meditation at that time.

Having been schooled in the Buddhist tradition over the next few decades, he encountered many different teachers, including the renowned practitioner Thich Nat Han at one point.

His creative contribution to the field came during the late 70’s when he begun to see the possibility of combining eastern meditative practices with scientific research and methods. Zinn had seen the effect that mindfulness had had on him and the people around him, and wondered if it could be successfully applied in a clinical context, to treat mental and emotional disorders.

So, he founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979.

Secular Mindfulness is Born

What evolved from this project was eventually an 8 week course of what Zinn called “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction” (MBSR), a rather pained name for what has turned out to be a massively influential idea.

Essentially what the course taught is a stripped down, secularized version of the Eastern meditation techniques and practices that Zinn had learned from his previous teachers. This was the jump-off point of a secular mindfulness trend in the West.

This one course spawned, in time, many offshoots, all over the Western world.

In hospitals, psychiatric clinics, prisons and schools, students were introduced to the healing powers of following the breath, stilling the mind and simply being intensely aware of their inner world, moment by moment.

The Perennial Practice

Of course Jon Kabat-Zinn had not invented anything new, he had merely repackaged what he had learned from Buddhist spirituality in the preceding years.

The practice of mindfulness has been known all over the world, in all the world religions, for millennia. In the West in particular, the Christian practice of contemplation (as mindfulness is known) flowered in the Middle Ages, but then receded post Reformation, in the 16th Century.

Today few Britons brought up in a Protestant-influenced culture would consider contemplation as a route to self-knowledge, healing and growth, but would not think twice about going on a mindfulness course to treat depression or anxiety, say.

Much irony here methinks. Nothing new under the sun!

Conclusion

We can see that Jon Kabat-Zinn has profoundly influenced the modern understanding of mindfulness meditation. Without his influence many people would undoubtedly be emotionally and spiritually poorer.

If you are new to mindfulness practice, or even if you aren’t, I would invite you to try the body scan mediation video, narrated by Zinn, seen below. It lasts about 45 minutes, and offers an opportunity just to be quiet, and explore your own inner space (what Eckhart Tolle describes as the “inner body”).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proverb of the Week – “Trust God, but tie up your camel.”

This proverb, taken from the Muslim lands of the Arabian peninsula, gives us a little guidance from above.

It suggests that rather than having a total, all-or-nothing devotional faith in God, that we should actually be more realistic, pragmatic and smart about our faith, without losing the essence of it.

Faith in God

Many of the world’s religions feature great acts of faith by their followers that led to fruitfulness. In the Bible we hear the story of Jesus’ disciple Peter, who gets out of the boat on Lake Galilee to walk on the water to a waiting Jesus.

In the old Testament we hear of the difficult story of Abraham and Isaac, where on God’s command Abraham comes close to sacrificing his own son.

In the end he spares him, but Jews and Christians alike would say Abraham shows great faith here in obeying God to do what is hard to understand.

Again and again we hear stories from the scriptures where ordinary people take extraordinary acts of faith, and are greatly blessed by God as a result.

Shouldn’t we do the same?

So shouldn’t we do the same? Well, maybe not.

What in one time and place is an act of great faith is in another actually potential recklessness.

It can be so hard to discern when you are hearing the Divine voice, or when you have simply been mistaken. I know in my own case I have sometimes thought I have heard God’s voice and have acted or considered acting, then afterwards felt it was actually my own, often ego driven voice in its place, rather than divine guidance.

So I think that what this proverb is getting at is that yes, sometimes situations warrant great faith in the power of God. But other times, it doesn’t hurt to be smart and have an equal valid, but more streetwise pragmatic faith.

Other versions of the proverb

An English rendering of the Arab proverb quoted above might be “God helps those who helps themselves”.

In either form the proverb has a long history across languages and cultures. Wikipedia [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_helps_those_who_help_themselves] tells us that the phrase originated in Ancient Greece. It is found in two of the perennially popular Aesop’s fables.

Funnily enough, the proverb is never found verbatim in the Bible, which may come as a surprise to some. The same can be said for the saying “cleanliness is next to Godliness”, which is not in the Bible either.

In more modern times many authors attribute the saying “God helps…” to Benjamin Franklin.

I think another alternative rendering of the line in question could be: “God helps us, but we have to do our bit.”

Eyes and Hands

I think this version gives it something of a positive spin, explaining that sometimes action is needed, and that God’s ways can be weaved into the tapestry of our lives, covering both prayer and action.

Sometimes we are God’s eyes and hands on earth.

Other interpretations

I will give the final word to an interpretation of the Arab proverb in question I saw on a blog [http://www.joyfuldays.com/trust-in-god-but-tie-up-your-camel/]. It said:

“There is an Arab proverb reminding us that while it’s all very well to trust in providence and have faith that everything will work out, it does not let us off the hook from doing whatever we can at the same time to ensure a favourable outcome.”

Hear hear, says it well!

A Zen Story – “Is that so?”

“The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbours as one living a pure life.

A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him.

Suddenly, without any warning, her parents discovered she was with child.

This made her parents angry. She would not confess who the man was, but after much harassment at last named Hakuin.

In great anger the parent went to the master. “Is that so?” was all he would say.

After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him, but he took very good care of the child.

He obtained milk from his neighbours and everything else he needed.

A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth – the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fishmarket.

The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back.

Hakuin was willing. In yielding the child, all he said was: “Is that so?””

Zen story courtesy of gawker.com.

Reflection on this story

To me, this story seems to be a parable about non-attachment. Hakuin here displays the fluidity of purpose that the wise seem to adopt in most situations.

Note how he doesn’t get angry with the girl when he is wrongly accused of fathering the child. Instead, he shows total acceptance of whatever life brings to him

One senses that he has in his life gone through a process of transformation, to reach a place where he is totally at peace with himself, the world and the present moment.

A key virtue in life: flexibility

The word to describe Hakuin that comes to mind is “flexible”. In this story, he has a very fluid and flexible idea of who he is, and what life his. He bends with the wind, and does not snap.

Could you be as flexible as Hanukin in your life?

BTW – it doesn’t matter if the story is literally true, it’s the message that we get from it that counts!

Hello world!

Hi everyone! Welcome to my blog – Satori Mind. In case you were wondering, the word “Satori” is a Japanese Zen word meaning “sudden Enlightenment”.

Zen teaches us that Satori is the goal of all meditation, indeed of all life. In this blog I hope you will come away with a taste of Satori, and maybe a better understanding of the beliefs and practices that enable skillful, peaceful living.

What topics will my blog cover?

Satori Mind will reflect my interests broadly, and will mainly cover the areas of meditation and spirituality. I hope that my blog will cover a range of topics; my aim is that I give peace and mind and spiritual insight from East and West.

Spiritually wise, my background is Christian. So I will be talking about the Bible and issues such as prayer and church too.

I do however, have an interest in Buddhism. This means I am open to spiritual ideas from the East as well. I don’t see the two sides, East and West, as mutually exclusive; they interpenetrate and enhance each other continually.

What about meditation?

That will be covered too!

I’ve been practicing some sort of mindfulness practice for some years now, and so have a  modicum of insight and experience to share and reflect upon.

My approach to  mindfulness is simply to stay a beginner, no matter how long I practice.

A beginners mind is open and there are many possibilities. Best way to be.

Who am I?

Seek inside and you will find the answer.

Only joking!

I am a 30-something spiritual seeker from the South-West UK, in a place called Swindon. I’ve been interested in faith since my early twenties, and am still on a journey of discovery and learning.

Its been quite a ride!

And there’s more to come…

Get in touch

I’m enjoying writing this blog, but hope it will be a two-way process. If you have a comment or contribution to make, then please leave a comment and get in touch.

I’d love to hear from you!