September 19, 2019
As the pace of the modern world continues to speed up, mindfulness has become more important than ever. From long work hours to an unending barrage of technology, mankind is faced with an unprecedented amount of factors vying for attention. There has never been a more relevant time for veteran mindfulness instructor Mark Coleman to release his newest book, From Suffering to Peace: The True Promise of Mindfulness. This gem of a book is one of the most comprehensive and practical books on mindfulness we've encountered. In the preface, Coleman states: "While I draw on the wealth of mindfulness teachings and practices from the ancient Buddhist tradition, my goal is to present this rich body of work - much of it developed by monastics living in a feudal, agrarian culture as far back as 500BC - in ways that are relevant and accessible to twenty-first-century life. I seek to honor this rich and vast tradition and adapt these practices to the needs and demands of our own era." Coleman clarifies that "mindfulness is so much more than simply 'focus' or attention, which is how it is often mistakenly described. Mindfulness refers to the depth of awareness we bring to our whole life, and in doing so we transform ourselves and the way we live in the world. Mindfulness supports us to live an intentional, meaningful life with presence, insight, and compassion."
To say that this book is practical is quite an understatement. Every chapter, including the introduction, ends with a mindfulness meditation practice. Thirty-seven mindfulness meditation practices provide firsthand experience for complete understanding of the concepts illustrated in each chapter. The four main sections of the book titled; Finding Peace in the Body, Finding Peace in the Heart, Finding Peace in the Mind, and Finding Peace in the World are comprehensive with multiple chapters but are also very accessible and easy to understand. Coleman explains, "In each of the four sections in this book, I explore the full breadth of mindfulness, which includes bringing a close attention to four key areas in our life: to our body, our mind, our heart, and the world we live in. I will discuss how, through the arc of practice, we learn to bring awareness to these key facets of our experience. As we practice over time, we slowly discover how mindfulness is a vehicle for insight and wisdom that helps free us from suffering and to live with genuine well being and peace."
As each chapter is contemplated, readers will immediately recognize how each concept plays out in their own lives. Chapter 4, titled "Finding Refuge in Transience and Uncertainty," outlines the importance of mindfulness in relation to the element of change in our lives. Change is the only constant in life so it is very important for each of us to learn how to accept and embrace change. Coleman notes that, "Though most people acknowledge and accept the reality of impermanence, it takes a wise person to live in alignment with this law. Most of the time, we resist it or ignore it. Despite all evidence to the contrary, we easily fall into the trap of expecting things to continue the way they are or have been, only to be caught off guard or annoyed when life upends that assumption." Mindfulness allows us to "learn to savor life's transient preciousness and to let go when that is asked of us. Rather than considering impermanence to be a depressing reflection, we can instead think of it as an urgent call to wake up, to be present and taste the exquisiteness of this fleeting moment. When we really get how brief and uncertain life is, then we stop taking things for granted and pay rapt attention to the beauty and richness of life all around us."
From Suffering to Peace is packed with so many gems of wisdom that it will create a new foundation of awareness for nearly every aspect of our lives. From learning compassionate ways of relating to others, to managing triggering emotions, and embracing loss, to understanding connectedness, cultivating generosity and learning from nature; there are so many practical concepts in this book that you will want share with your family and discuss the many ways each concept will enrich our lives.
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January 17, 2023
Cultivating mindfulness is the key to overcoming suffering and recognizing natural wisdom: both our own and others'. How do we go about it?
In the Buddhist tradition and in Contemplative Psychotherapy training, we nurture mindfulness through the practice of sitting meditation. There are many different kinds of meditation. For example, some are designed to help us relax; others are meant to produce altered states of consciousness.
Mindfulness meditation is unique in that it is not directed toward getting us to be different from how we already are. Instead, it helps us become aware of what is already true moment by moment. We could say that it teaches us how to be unconditionally present; that is, it helps us be present with whatever is happening, no matter what it is.
Mindfulness, paying precise, nonjudgmental attention to the details of our experience as it arises and subsides, doesn't reject anything. Instead of struggling to get away from experiences we find difficult, we practice being able to be with them. Equally, we bring mindfulness to pleasant experiences as well. Perhaps surprisingly, many times we have a hard time staying simply present with happiness. We turn it into something more familiar, like worrying that it won't last or trying to keep it from fading away.
When we are mindful, we show up for our lives; we don't miss them in being distracted or in wishing for things to be different. Instead, if something needs to be changed we are present enough to understand what needs to be done. Being mindful is not a substitute for actually participating in our lives and taking care of our own and others' needs. In fact, the more mindful we are, the more skillful we can be in compassionate action.
December 19, 2022
It's easy to lose sight of the beauty of the world in the midst of tragedy, political upheaval, injustice and suffering. While we continue with our practice, working to ease the suffering of others and living a life of compassion and Love, we also need to be mindful and grateful for the beauty of the world that still surrounds us when we choose Love. Like Pops says, "Love baby. Love. That's the secret."
"What a Wonderful World" [1970 Spoken Introduction Version] along with Oliver Nelson's Orchestra is a song written by Bob Thiele (as George Douglas) and George David Weiss. It was first recorded by Louis Armstrong and released as a single in 1968. Thiele and Weiss were both prominent in the music world (Thiele as a producer and Weiss as a composer/performer). Armstrong's recording was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. Intended as an antidote for the increasingly racially and politically charged climate of everyday life in the United States, the song also has a hopeful, optimistic tone with regard to the future, with reference to babies being born into the world and having much to look forward to.
November 04, 2022