Who would you be without your name?

Are you familiar with Byron Katie? She teaches a four-question method of inquiry for exploring and releasing yourself from suffering. She calls it The Work.

She came on my radar sometime in the past two years and although I haven’t read any of her books (yet), I have casually engaged with the free materials available on her website. And I have been listening to her podcasts and watching videos.

Fundamentally, to paraphrase what I hear Katie saying over and over in different ways is: ‘Did you ever notice that it’s not the world that causes your suffering? It’s your thoughts about the world. And that distinction means the end of suffering.’

And to quote her directly: “I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment. That joy is in everyone, always.”

Katie’s approach when she sits and talks with people is to directly engage with where they are at, with their specific thoughts, feelings and beliefs. I imagine it’s much like it is said that the Buddha taught: in direct response to specific suffering. As she guides individuals through the simple steps of The Work, its beauty and wisdom are revealed in the application of that inquiry. And she invites anyone to try it. To look clearly at what is going on in your direct experience, and to consider alternative interpretations.

So, since there isn’t an overall doctrine (in fact The Work functions to question ALL beliefs), I have struggled a little with what would be most useful to re-blog here. But while listening to a podcasted interview today, my mind was blown when Katie explained how she uses her method of inquiry to explore the most essential question: ‘Who am I?’ So I thought, why not go right to the deep end, I’ll write and re-blog about what excites me!

What she explores (very briefly at 30:50 minutes) that got me excited is: ‘Am I my name?’ If you’re already familiar with teachings on the selflessness of persons and phenomena — what is called ’emptiness’ in Buddhist traditions — you might really enjoy this fresh and direct approach.

If you want to play along at home, and engage in a little inquiry into your true nature, here are the four questions of The Work for you to apply to that one fundamental belief: I am [insert your name].

1. Is it true?

2. Can I absolutely know that it is true?

3. How do I react — what happens — when I believe that thought?

4. Who would I be without the thought?

The best way of engaging here is to be still and ask your heart. Sometimes you might take time to sit in meditation with the questions, and you might also gently inquire throughout your day whenever you notice the thought comes up.

There are other steps to engage fully with the process, such as filling in the Judge-Your-Neighbour-Worksheet and Finding the Turnarounds. If your interest is piqued, I recommend exploring the podcasts and videos where Katie works directly with people. That way you get a taste for how The Work works and how to work it (couldn’t help myself there). And you might see your own suffering and gain wisdom from hearing other people question their beliefs.

Everything you need to Do The Work is available for free.

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It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it

Over at her website, much-loved teacher and author, Tara Brach, has hundreds of dharma talks available to stream or download free! As she sweetly says at the beginning of each episode, they are “offered freely, and your support matters.” I subscribe to her podcast directly through iTunes and enjoy listening while driving, walking the dogs or working out.

In her most recent offering, Three Attitudes that Nourish a Liberating Practice, Tara shares her experience and insights from a recent retreat. She begins with the line of inquiry that lead to her developing the talk: ‘what way of paying attention really wakes us up out of the dream of being a separate self?’ And then, throughout the hour, she answers this question by sharing stories and guiding brief meditations. Spoiler alert: the three special attitudes to bring to your spiritual practice that will yield results (regardless of your particular practice or faith tradition) are 1) relaxation, 2) interest and 3) friendliness.

While I’m at it, if you haven’t read it, Tara Brach’s book, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha, is truly wonderful.

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Breathe gently into your heart

A healing guided meditation by Jack Kornfield to open your heart. Find a quiet place, 24 mins and enjoy:

“As you breathe in the heart area gently… let yourself remember and feel the sorrows you carry from betraying or harming others… from betraying or harming yourself… and from being betrayed and harmed by others.”

Allow the meditation to take your heart from the feeling of sorrow to the peace of forgiveness, and finally to the mind of lovingkindness, for your self, your friends, your enemies and all living beings.

Hearthands

(via ZenFriend)

Bathe everything with your lovingkindness

We did a variation of this sweet Ajahn Brahm lovingkindness meditation tonight at Just Sit!

Oh, boy! I just love the build up. Brilliant, natural progression:

In order to generate a spontaneous feeling of love and caring, first imagine an easy-to-love being (we used a helpless baby bird). Then gradually, in ever-widening circles, spread that feeling of tenderness to other imagined beings, until eventually you have imagined including all sentient beings. Finally, in a surprise twist ending, give that lovingkindness even to that person who can be the most challenging of all to love and accept: your self.

Go, find yourself a quiet corner, take 36 mins and wash your heart.

water heart

(via ZenFriend)

Mindfulness is a superpower

Another sweetly animated and succinct mindfulness video narrated by Dan Harris, the practically-minded author of the New York Times bestseller 10% Happier.

“Mindfulness is not going to solve all your problems. It’s not going to render your life a non-stop parade of unicorns and rainbows. Nonetheless, this is a superpower. And one that is accessible by you immediately.”

I sure do share Dan’s view on the future of mindfulness and meditation:

“It’s going to join the pantheon of no-brainers like brushing your teeth, eating well and taking the meds your doctor prescribed for you.”

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If you missed it, enjoy Dan’s and animator Katy Davis’s: Meditation 101: A Beginner’s Guide

(via happify.com, video animated by Katy Davis gobblynne.com)

May all beings be happy

April 2018 – Hi folks, I’ve temporarily made this post stick at the top of the blog posts so that students in the current Lovingkindness meditation series can easily find it. If you are currently taking the course in Grimsby and Port Colborne, and are active on Facebook, you can also find resources in our student group, “The Hut” — simply click through, there should be a ‘join’ or ‘ask to join’ button, and I’ll add you to the group.

Ambika Cooper’s beautiful melody has the power to embed the lovingkindness (metta) verses in your heart. It’s in just the right key for me to sing along and I am loving that it’s become an earworm, with the prayerful verses surfacing in the spaces of my day.

Plus, Sharon Salzberg joins in this kirtan-style recording, bringing it to a beautiful close with her spoken word version of the verses.

Digital download, regularly $1.99, is currently available free: vanarasmusic.com

Sample the melody:

Metta-Chant-FINAL

METTA CHANT

May I be happy and peaceful
May I be healthy and strong
May I be safe and protected
May I live with ease

May you be happy and peaceful
May you be healthy and strong
May you be safe and protected
May you live with ease

May we be happy and peaceful
May we be healthy and strong
May we be safe and protected
May we live with ease

May all be happy and peaceful
May all be healthy and strong
May all be safe and protected
May all live with ease

(via Facebook)

Sitting through March

We’ve added more dates, continuous now through the end of March 2015, for the “Just Sit!” sessions on Tuesday evenings. (Please check back monthly for future dates.) These guided meditations are open to any and every one. All levels of experience and all faith or no faith backgrounds are welcome. Just Sit! is an opportunity to sit with others in contemplation and meditation, whether you are just learning how to meditate or have been at it for years.

For those of you who haven’t come to sit — or haven’t come in a while — we are currently dividing the hour into three meditations, or, one mediation with three sections. However you slice it:

Part 1 — 15 mins on the breath, developing concentration and allowing our mind to settle by counting our exhalations (to 3 sets of 21 exhalations) and then simply sitting without counting for a little longer, deeply experiencing the breath.

Part 2 — 20 mins on allowing, noticing and meeting our direct experience with an embracing mind of love, coming back again and again and again to the direct experience of each moment, allowing, allowing, allowing…

Part 3 — 20 mins on ‘feeling into’ our basic nature: the awake, alert awareness in which direct experience is arising — that which is always already present. We turn our focus from the experiences, the thoughts, feelings, sensations and pay attention instead in each moment to the space in which the experiences are arising.

 

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December meditation sessions in Guelph

Two more Just Sit! sessions are scheduled for 2014: tomorrow evening, December 9th, and next week, December 16th. Join us from 7-8pm at 123 Woolwich St, 2nd Floor, for simple guided meditations. Learn to be still and relax. Sessions will resume in the new year, dates TBA (to be announced — check back here in the next few weeks).

There is also a final 2014 sit in December with Ken Hood, over at Living Yoga & Health, 105 Wyndham St N, 2nd Floor. Join him this coming Sunday, December 14th at 10:30am. Ken is planning to continue regular sessions in the new year too.

 

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