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Going Deep into Silence

Over the last three years, I have immersed myself in the teachings of Adyashanti.  I recorded and edited his most recent audio program and book, Resurrecting Jesus; I’ve attended several weekend intensives in the Boulder area, and I’ve listened to countless satsang recordings and online broadcasts. But until a few weeks ago, I had never attended a silent retreat—with Adya or any other teacher.

Now, I can be a loud guy—just ask my family.  If things around me (or inside me) are noisy, I tend to respond with more noise. Still, on retreat, despite my fears, I found it easy to slip into silence.  And the more I let go into the daily pattern of silent sitting—six sitting periods of 30 to 40 minutes each, the first at 7:30 in the morning and the last at 9:30 at night—the more I felt the noise inside me abate.

The retreat was held in North Carolina, and most days the skies were solid gray, with a light rain falling.  Though the oaks had not yet unfurled their leaves, the redbud tree in the courtyard of the dining hall was in full bloom, and when the rain abated, its branches hummed with fat, fuzzy bees.  At each meal, eating in silence, I positioned myself so I could see that redbud tree through the banks of windows.

I loved the morning dharma talks and evening satsangs, when retreat participants could bring their questions to the microphone and dialogue with Adya.  I loved to sit in silence, sensing that vast space inside as it slowly emerged into consciousness.  (Of course, it had been there all along, but thoroughly hidden by the noise of activity, both inner and outer.) And I loved that tree.

One evening, answering a question, Adya said, “Allow the world to find itself in you.” For some reason I couldn’t quite pinpoint, these words resonated deeply for me.  There were times, rising from meditation and walking into the soft light of afternoon, when it did feel that the trees in bloom and the loamy smell of the earth and even the birdsong all arose and subsided within me—which is to say, within that open, aware spaciousness we share. As the days flowed by and the silence inside grew more accessible, I noticed something.  From that silence, words began to emerge, images rise slowly to the surface.  The world found itself in me, and I found this poem.

The Redbud Tree

The fat bees browse
the spindled branches of the redbud tree,
their humming heavy as fruit.
They dwarf the purple blossoms.

Late afternoon, and when
the clouds part, the light
pours thick as honey over the blossoms,
the bees, the mossy branches.

Everything is heavy
and everything barely here.

Long before my birth, bees swarmed
the flowered tree,
bees already ancient
and born again each spring,
rising among the blooms.

And someone—dust now—stood
where I stand, and stared
at their slow dance
among the delicate
petals the wind scatters.

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Free to be the fearless wildness that you are

In your willingness to take the risk of love, to feel it all, to truly allow another to matter, and to expose yourself to the joy and heartbreak of this life, you come face to face with the most devastating fear that you’ve ever known, but have never been able to articulate: that you are loved.

For when you are truly loved, when you are entirely seen, when you are fully held, it is the end of your world as you know it. Things will never be the same. You will never again be able to pretend that you are other than precious and whole as you are. The implications of this are dizzying if you let them all the way in.

It is so exhilarating to be seen and held in this way, but it is also terrifying as you are fully naked now, utterly raw, and achingly wide open. Your life is no longer your own in a sense, and it has been given to your raw, shaky tenderness. This is your refuge now, the golden bridge through which you will connect with hearts everywhere. Give everything to know this bridge!

Even the soft spring breeze feels as if it might be too much, for it goes right through your skin to touch your heart. A sunrise, the longing of a little baby to be held, the spring wildflowers, the honey-infused ice coffee you just spilled on your laptop, the blue eyes of your sweet lover—you may never be protected again. Ah, that’s fine—it isn’t what you really wanted anyway.

The particles of love are interpenetrating your entire sensory world and you are just not sure your heart and nervous system can take it. Oh, friend, you are on the right track.

You are free to be who and what you are now—no longer tied to a past you thought you wanted, no longer bound by the limited and that which is less than whole—willing to risk it all for love, and free to be the fearless wildness that you are.

Gorgeous photography by Robert Maschke - http://www.robertmaschke.de/

Gorgeous photography by Robert Maschke – http://www.robertmaschke.de/

A gift of pure rest

No matter how things are unfolding for you at this time, you can receive the secret transmission of the stars, the sun, and the moon: everything here is path, nothing is out of place, and no mistake has been made.

Though it may appear otherwise, you are not broken and are not in need of fixing. Your heart is being polished, your body is being washed clean, and waves of wholeness and integration are re-ordering your world.

Let go of the weary path of needing to change, to transform, to heal, to awaken, to be more spiritual, to be a better person, to accept everything, and to hold it all together. For just one moment, give yourself the gift of pure rest.

As you sink into the core of what you are, open to the breath as it moves in and out of your lungs. Allow your entire being to be infused with your commitment to self-kindness and to no longer abandon the wisdom-field of your immediate embodied experience, exactly as it is.

As things settle inside and around you, you may start to sense the movement of another substance within you, passing in and out of your heart. But, friend, this is no ordinary air. It is love. Come to end one world and to begin another. Please stay close.

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Beyond Body Image – with Sil & Eliza Reynol...

Concerns about body image and physical appearance weigh heavily in the consciousness of our culture and, left unexamined, have a way of generating a tremendous amount of suffering for young women (as well as humans of all ages and genders). Enjoy this short video from mother-daughter team Sil & Eliza Reynolds as they speak about the discoveries they’ve made and the healing they’ve experienced in this area.

Sil & Eliza are the authors of the inspirational book Mothering and Daughtering: Keeping Your Bond Strong Through the Teen Years.

 

The Meditation Experience – a free online course

Have you been curious about meditation and how it helps to reduce stress and anxiety? Or how it might help you to relax, sleep better, or improve your relationships? Or how it has been shown to stimulate healing of mind and body, and bring about profound new levels of joy, peace, and well-being?

Though you may have often heard of the many benefits of meditation, perhaps you’ve not had the time or resources to learn more and to actually start a meditation practice of your own. Or even if you’ve dabbled a bit in meditation, perhaps you did not have the support to continue or to find a meditation practice suitable for you and your unique approach to life?

If any of this sounds familiar, we’d like to welcome you to The Meditation Experiencea free, eight-part online course designed for those new to meditation, as well as for those with some experience who are looking to deepen their practice or learn about other kinds of meditation. The goal of our course is to help you start meditating right away and to teach you a variety of meditation practices, so that you may experience for yourself the profound benefits of meditation in your daily life.

In addition to written material, questions for reflection, and weekly homework, each session of our course will include one or more guided meditations on audio or video, allowing the course material to come alive in your own personal experience.

*Access The Meditation Experience, a free online course, here*

The Meditation Experience was created to help you learn to meditate right now, and you can join the many millions around the planet whose lives have been radically transformed through learning the inner art of meditation.

The practice of meditation has been used for thousands of years by people in all cultures and of all religions (or no religious inclination at all) to reduce stress, to bring about relaxation, and to experience expanded states of consciousness and well-being. You need not have any background in spirituality, prayer, or religion to benefit from the practice of meditation, nor take on any new beliefs or ideologies. Meditation is a scientifically proven technique that can be applied by anyone, regardless of their religious or spiritual affiliations. Begin your own exploration of this revered art today, with The Meditation Experience.

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Let it R.A.I.N – a home for all of you – w...

Dear friends, some years ago a simple, yet powerful approach to working with difficult emotions emerged out of the intersection of the fields of mindfulness and psychotherapy. Come to be known as the “RAIN” technique (an acronym for the four steps of the process), many therapists, meditators, healers, and practitioners have found it to be incredibly helpful for on-the-spot relief and support during challenging times.

Here, friend and Sounds True author, Dr. Rick Hanson, describes the RAIN practice and the benefits is offers. This article was originally published by our friends at The Huffington Post. We hope you find it helpful and beneficial in your own life – and in the work you may be doing with others.

Let it R.A.I.N. – by Rick Hanson, PhD

When you’re young, the territory of the psyche is like a vast estate, with rolling hills, forests and plains, swamps and meadows. So many things can be experienced, expressed, wanted, and loved.

But as life goes along, most people pull back from major parts of their psyche. Perhaps a swamp of sadness was painful, or fumes of toxic wishes were alarming, or jumping exuberantly in a meadow of joy irritated a parent into a scolding. Or maybe you saw someone else get in trouble for feeling, saying, or doing something and you resolved, consciously or unconsciously, to Stay Away From That Place Forever.

In whatever way it happens, most of us end up by mid-adulthood living in the gate house, venturing out a bit, but lacking much sense of the whole estate, the great endowment of the whole psyche. Emotions are shut down, energetic and erotic wellsprings of vitality are capped, deep longings are set aside, sub-personalities are shackled and silenced, old pain and troubles are buried, the roots of reactions — hurt, anger, feelings of inadequacy — are veiled so we can’t get at them, and we live at odds with both Nature and our own nature.

Sure, the processes of the psyche need some regulation. Not all thoughts should be spoken, and not all desires should be acted upon! But if you suppress, disown, push away, recoil from, or deny major parts of yourself, then you feel cut off, alienated from yourself, lacking vital information about what is really going on inside, no longer at home in your own skin or your own mind — which feels bad, lowers effectiveness at home and work, fuels interpersonal issues, and contributes to health problems.

So what can we do? How can we reclaim, use, enjoy, and be at peace with our whole estate — without being overwhelmed by its occasional swamps and fumes?

This is where R.A.I.N. comes in.

How?

R.A.I.N. is an acronym developed by Michelle McDonald, a senior mindfulness teacher, to summarize a powerful way to expand self-awareness. (I’ve adapted it a bit below, and any flaws in the adaptation are my own, not Michelle’s.)

R = Recognize: Notice that you are experiencing something, such as irritation at the tone of voice used by your partner, child, or co-worker. Step back into observation rather than reaction. Without getting into story, simply name what is present, such as “annoyance,” “thoughts of being mistreated,” “body firing up,” “hurt,” “wanting to cry.”

A = Accept (Allow): Acknowledge that your experience is what it is, even if it’s unpleasant. Be with it without attempting to change it. Try to have self-compassion instead of self-criticism. Don’t add to the difficulty by being hard on yourself.

I = Investigate (Inquire): Try to find an attitude of interest, curiosity, and openness. Not detached intellectual analysis but a gently engaged exploration, often with a sense of tenderness or friendliness toward what it finds. Open to other aspects of the experience, such as softer feelings of hurt under the brittle armor of anger. It’s OK for your inquiry to be guided by a bit of insight into your own history and personality, but try to stay close to the raw experience and out of psychoanalyzing yourself.

N = Not-identify (Not-self): Have a feeling/thought/etc., instead of being it. Disentangle yourself from the various parts of the experience, knowing that they are small, fleeting aspects of the totality you are. See the streaming nature of sights, sounds, thoughts, and other contents of mind, arising and passing away due mainly to causes that have nothing to do with you, that are impersonal. Feel the contraction, stress, and pain that comes from claiming any part of this stream as “I,” or “me,” or “mine” — and sense the spaciousness and peace that comes when experiences simply flow.

R.A.I.N. and related practices of spacious awareness are fundamental to mental health, and always worth doing in their own right. Additionally, sometimes they alone enable painful or challenging contents of mind to dissipate and pass away.

But often it is not enough to simply be with the mind, even in as profound a way as R.A.I.N. Then we need to work with the mind, by reducing what’s negative and increasing what’s positive. (It’s also necessary to work with the mind to build up the inner resources needed to be with it; being with and working with the mind are not at odds with each other as some say, but in fact support each other.)

And whatever ways we work with the garden of the mind — pulling weeds and planting flowers — will be more successful after it R.A.I.N.s.

Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence (from Random House in October, 2013; in 4 languages), Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom (New Harbinger; in 24 languages), Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time (New Harbinger; in 12 languages), and Mother Nurture: A Mother’s Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships(Penguin). Founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom and an Affiliate of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, he’s been an invited speaker at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide. A summa cum laude graduate of UCLA, his work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, CBC, FoxBusiness, Consumer Reports Health, U.S. News and World Report,and O Magazine and he has several audio programs with Sounds True. His weekly e-newsletter – Just One Thing – has over 91,000 subscribers, and also appears on Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and other major websites.

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