bringingupbuddhas

suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

Tag: awakening

mindfulness: don’t buy it, try it. if it doesn’t work, try something else.

Have you noticed the hard sell on mindfulness lately? “Step right up here! Step right up! Start meditating today and watch your troubles will melt away! Sit here, sir, sit on this cushion – have you ever felt so peaceful and healthy? Get your mindfulness today!”

Okay, okay, the traveling medicine man reference is a little dramatic, but you get what I mean. Mindfulness is being called the future of healthcare and I don’t disagree. I teach meditation and mindfulness because it has helped me personally and I have seen how it helps others. But buyers beware – Mindfulness is not a miracle cure and should not be “sold” as one.

A recent study out of the University of Exeter says that prescription drugs and mindfulness are about equally effective in longterm recovery from depressive episodes. The relapse rate over 2 years was 44% for mindfulness practitioners (weaning themselves off meds) and 47% for those taking antidepressants with no mindfulness support.

Between the lines of this report there is a thread of realism that I appreciate because it is often missing in articles and lectures touting the power of mindfulness: Mindfulness works for many, not all; and the practice does not guarantee a lifetime of sunshine and rainbows. Practicing mindfulness does not protect us from from the loneliness, from the fear, from the crazies, from the pain. After all, no one is exempt from the human experience. We all hurt. We all suffer.

The biggest hurdle to suffering is that we typically wrestle our problems on the surface of our lives – complaining about our jobs, arguing with family, hiding behind clutter, drinking too much, wishing for a different life, feeling tangled in the frustrating experiences we’ve woven for ourselves, which we mistakenly believe to be the reasons for our suffering. But these situations are superficial manifestations of something happening much deeper, generated from a shock of pain in the root ball of our lives. That pain pulses all the way up to our point of contact with the world, to the Now, and here the pain is triggered easily by people and circumstances surrounding us.

There are a lot of ways to expose that root source – clinical therapy, medication, prayer, time, experience, revelation… the list goes on and on. And of course mindfulness is included on that list.

If you’re like me and mindfulness is the healing practice you buy into, bringing our fullness of presence into thoughts, speech, and actions provides us with useful insight into the sources of our struggles and allows us opportunity to soften pain at its root.

Once healing begins below ground, it permeates the surface and those difficult, superficial experiences take on a new look. They aren’t so all-encompassing. They’re not so unmanageable. They’re not so friggin’ annoying.

This takes practice. Life can present us with a crisis at any time and establishing a solid mindfulness practice today can prepare us to manage chaos *when* it comes.

Crisis can be a tiny trip-up or a whopper shocker – from locking keys in the car to losing a job. Typically it creeps up on us when we’re not expecting it. And when we are entrenched in its immediate magnitude, peace of mind feels suddenly inaccessible because we default to survival mode. Panic, knee-jerk reactions, and the like.

Mindfulness helps us recover to composure so we can think clearly and make good decisions.

A major crisis – like we might experience during a depressive episode – is not an ideal time to begin a mindfulness practice for the first time. We could engage little bits of mindful awareness, for example, trying to maintain focus only on what we are doing at the present moment. But the mind has been hijacked by fear so emotional composure is most likely unavailable. Our thoughts are bouncing around wildly so that the stillness required for productive healing is absent. We feel so lonely and stuck that the last thing we want to do is examine the roots of our pain. Heck, we barely want to get out of bed.

There will eventually come a break in the pain, be that through antidepressants or psychotherapy, a natural lifting of the burden or a Moses-style burning bush. That break is the right time to engage in wholesome, compassionate self-awareness. It’s time to begin practicing mindfulness.

Begin practicing WHAT? What really IS mindfulness? You might ask. People talk about mindfulness all the time but how do you actually DO it??

Personally, I define mindfulness as spiritually-based mental health. Western medicine has watered down the Buddhist practice of mindfulness to make it acceptable in our secular society; but political correctness aside, mindfulness is a heart-opening practice, a spiritual practice, a practice that provides us the vigilance required to remember we are more than skin and bones – “we are spiritual beings having a human experience” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin).

It’s also an incredibly practical practice. We start by watching our thoughts and trying not to judge them, remembering to breathe. Slowing down. Saying no to relationships and projects that don’t align with our goals. Saying yes to people and places that make us feel good. Meditating. Having honest conversations. Serving people who need help. Asking forgiveness of the people we’ve hurt. Forgiving people for hurting us. Forgiving ourselves for the million things we’ve screwed up. Doing what we can to make our lives easier. On purpose.

As we fill our lives with experiences that are happy and wholesome, forgiving and accepting, we find that there is less time for their opposites – negative and destructive, regretful and blaming.

Next, or maybe simultaneously, we remind ourselves to just notice. We form good habits like taking a deep breath before we speak. Like eating at least one healthy meal a day. Like making eye contact with with people on the sidewalk.

These little things draw us into presence and toward gratefulness but sometimes we forget to do these things so we can also surround ourselves with gentle reminders. Here are some fun, practical examples. Start with one:

Let the color yellow engage your practice.

When you see yellow, take a breath.

Draw a heart on the back of your hand with a Sharpie. Smile when you notice it.

Wear your watch on the wrong wrist. Feel it and make a good decision.

Put an neon collar on your dog. Remember to feel loved.

Paint your kitchen light switch turquoise. Flick it and turn on your inner light.

Once you get used to responding to this one thing, start adding more things. Within a few months, you’ll be breathing and smiling and loving at multiple triggers – or maybe you’ll be noticing that you’re not breathing or smiling or loving. And if that’s the case, you may find yourself ready to understand why you’re not, at which point you can try meditating on the roots of love and pain in your life.

It’s a beautiful and effective practice for many, but mindfulness is not a magic pill, it’s an open door – inviting us to be okay with the process of healing no matter what that looks like, to examine the wounded place at its source, to find a little sanity in this crazy world.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

http://www.vanessagobes.com

god wants you to be happy. that’s all.

Sometimes I read something so darn pretty I just need to share it:

“God’s will for you is perfect happiness… Your joy must be complete to let His plan be understood by those to whom He sends you. They will see their function in your shining face, and hear God calling to them in your happy laugh…

For this you came. Let this one be the day that you succeed! Look deep within you, undismayed by all the little thoughts and foolish goals you pass as you ascend to meet the Christ in you.”

This is from Lesson #100 in a spiritual text called A Course In Miracles​, a modern day interpretation of Jesus’ teachings. To be honest, I never thought Jesus was for me. I was so turned off by Christians baptized in judgment and anger and righteousness, that I let the behavior of fear-minded strangers sever my innate curiosity surrounding Jesus. I thought Jesus was scary and separate and kind of mean.

The Buddha on the other hand, with his placid face and round belly, was much more inviting. His followers didn’t judge. They didn’t recruit. They didn’t stick swords in each other or picket abortion clinics or look my little boy in his sweet brown eyes and tell him he’s going to hell. (This actually happened to my son last week and it was shocking, especially because it was his great-grandfather who said it.) So for these reasons and many others, I turned my back to Jesus and invested years in Buddhist studies and New Age – and I began to find myself.

You can imagine my surprise when, one day while rummaging through the Eastern Philosophy stacks, I closed my eyes in contemplation and discovered Jesus rummaging with me. A few weeks later he sat with me while I chanted Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. Then he hovered over me while I explored past lives under hypnosis. He held my hot hands in his during Reiki classes. I didn’t invite him to join me on those occasions, I only invited The Love. But Jesus came along with The Love because, as it turns out, Jesus IS The Love.

Jesus and I are only in the newlywed phase, but he seems to have my back *regardless,* which, again, surprises me because I can be such a beast of a person. During my weakest, most vulnerable moments, when I’m about as cuddly as a crocodile, I close my eyes and he’s waiting there behind my lashes, drenched in light, arms open wide, taking me in like a lonely baby bird, petting me and comforting me and loving me, all patience and forgiveness and humility and assuredness.

He must see something in me that’s precious and beautiful, something that’s worth his effort. I wonder how he recognizes that beauty so easily, when it’s so hard for me to see it in myself. I wonder why he has such faith in me, even when I’m not always so sure about him.

And then I read something like Lesson #100 in A Course in Miracles. And I understand a little more.

He’s rooting for me not because I’m special but because he’s rooting for all of us. Come on, kids! You can do this! I know all that suffering is hard to feel your way through, but trust me! Just TRUST ME! Happiness is yours today if you just open your heart! You are made to succeed and this is the day you can do it!

And with this I know that Jesus isn’t just a cameo who appears in the suffering. He is permanence itself. And permanence is happiness. Reliable and intimate. He is campfires and belly laughs, sunshine and dragonflies, cherry tomatoes and fists full of dirt, newborn babies and wrinkled old hands. He is there in it all, living it up in our joy, taking a little break from our burdens and woes.

I don’t know if Jesus is the *only* path to salvation. Who am I to make such a definitive statement? But I’m learning that he is *my* path because he’s the one who keeps showing up for me, without judgment or anger or righteousness.

There’s another line in A Course in Miracles: “It is God’s Will that He has but one Son. It is God’s Will that His one Son is you.” Me. You. My happiness. Your happiness. It’s not about recruiting or sermonizing or even being right. It’s just about us feeling the happy *regardless.*

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

Please share if you connect to the message.

http://www.vanessagobes.com

monica / me

In January 1998 I arrived in Washington DC, a bright, young intern for a national news broadcasting bureau. When not in the newsroom, I spent most days hanging around The White House pressroom, eager for Mike McCurry to sputter some juicy soundbites about stained dresses, or chasing down senators at on Capitol Hill in hopes of snagging a word or two about impeachment. Monica Lewinsky was THE story in DC and I had a front row seat.

Monica and I had at least three things in common: We both spent our 22nd year getting to know the scene at The White House, we both had the same hair cut and long black wool jacket (I cannot tell you how many times I walked past a sidewalk stakeout and heard photogs yell, “Monica! Monica!”), and we both had a crush on Bill Clinton.

I remember the first time I heard her name. I was sitting in a classroom, waiting for our morning presenter, ABC’s Ann Compton, to arrive. She was late. Finally Ann dashed in breathlessly, unbuttoning her royal blue blazer and wiping her brow. She had big breaking news and we lucky students were the first to hear her account. “President Clinton had an affair with his former intern Monica Lewinsky,” she reported. She colored a shocking picture for us. Her raw enthusiasm was intoxicating. I couldn’t wait to get to work and hear all the salacious details. And I wasn’t disappointed.

My own newsroom was absolutely on fire. People were laughing and speculating and gossiping, imaginably excited to switch gears from dry Congressional hearings examining black lungs and dead cowboys (thank you Phillip-Morris) to blow jobs and slippery cigars.

Procuring news about Monica was part of my job. And I wouldn’t consider my attitude about this procurement neutral. Like I said, the scandal was downright thrilling. I heartlessly joined the crowd of news shapers and rode atop the wave of public humiliation crashing over Washington.

I never considered Monica the young woman. I never imagined her crying into her mother’s arms at night, afraid to leave her house, dreaming of ways to end her life, while we in the newsrooms reveled in her humiliation.

I may have imagined myself in her shoes from time to time, but certainly not in a way that was inspired by compassion. Amongst us students, “Would-you-or-wouldn’t-you do it with Bill?” was a hot party topic. I myself fell into the “would” category, along with the majority of my girlfriends (and a few of my guy friends).

Fortunately for me, my only access to the President was from 20 feet away during press conferences in the East Room. And also, fortunately for me, my own boss was not a charming world leader, but a 50 year old lesbian whose claim to fame was getting fired from her last gig for throwing a chair at a cameraman. Clearly the question of “inappropriate sexual relations” with my boss was a non-issue.

Fast forward 17 years. I’ve moved on. Grew up. Got married. Had kids. Found peace. My internship in Washington DC is a fond, fading memory. But until this day, watching Monica bravely deliver a TED Talk on public shaming, I never stopped to think what happened to her. Never considered that 17 years later a part of her is still the girl under the desk in the Oval Office. A part of her doesn’t get to move on. A part of her will be 22 for the rest of her life.

I reflect upon my own contribution to that gotcha-style news coverage that ravaged this young girl’s reputation. Granted I was just a kid, an intern, but I was there. I was a part. My energy fed that beast, too.

I stop. I cry. I reconcile.

I’m humbled and grateful to Monica for this lesson.

Check out Monica’s most excellent TED Talk here: https://www.ted.com/talks/monica_lewinsky_the_price_of_shame?language=en. And #clickwithcompassion.

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Me working The White House beat, age 22.

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My friend and I having a grand old time with Paula Jones at The White House Correspondents Dinner in 1998. I chose this picture because it shows the back of my head. You can imagine this bouncy black hair paired with a long black wool coat might cause some confusion.

final steps

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Small feet padding on a hardwood floor make a very distinct sound, especially when said feet are bare. We parents begin to hear it when our children are toddling. A slapping noise. Deliberate. Not heel-toe, heel-toe. It sounds more like the palm of a hand followed by the palm of another hand. Sort of clumsy, but delicate at the same time. Heavy and light.

My son is almost six. My youngest. My last. The expiration date on this footy sound, welcoming me to rise from bed each morning, is nearing. Fast. The echo of his undressed size twelves will soon be replaced by other equally welcome noises, like late night giggles and mid-morning snores; but this morning, I’m taking the time to really sit with the rhythm of my boy’s steps. The quick patter telling me wordlessly that he’s excited to greet a new day, that he’s likely still wearing his jammies, and that great speed is required to move from room to room. The sound breathes directly into my heart space, suddenly filling me with gratitude.

I’m nearing the close of something very special with my son, and all my kids, really. No more diapers, no more nap times, no more shoe-tying. The end of an era. But some sweet delights of toddlerhood linger a little longer amongst my ten-and-under crowd… The little hands that slip automatically into mine when I stretch my fingers behind me. The dinner plates with tiny portions, spread into smiley faces or colorful rainbows. The insistence for bedtime snuggles and stories.

Knowing that these early childhood connections will soon be memories inspires me to step into my full presence of mothering. It’s mornings like this, sitting in my house, listening to the clap-tap-clap-tap of bare feet on hard wood, my mind and my body share the same space and my human experience blurs into the now. As I’m spontaneously moved to deep gratitude, my sock-less son dashes by on a very important mission in his almost-six-year-old universe.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa


Originally published at www.artofdharma.com.
To learn about Om School Meditation, serving the Boston area, visit www.vanessagobes.com.

thoughts from the intersection of socks and mindfulness

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Every morning before school, my kids eat breakfast, scribble out some homework, and start loading on backpacks, jackets, and sneakers.

For the past seven years, I endured the shrill last minute morning demand of at least one child, “Mommy! I forgot socks! Will you go upstairs and get them for me?”

For seven years, I responded with either, “You go get them! Run! See if you can do it in 20 seconds! 1…2…3…” or with, “You need to remember to put your socks on! I’ll do it today but no more!” (The lies we mothers tell our kids!)

For seven years, I accepted this sockless scenario as part of child rearing, without questioning it.

The big-picture reason for this unquestioning acceptance? Confession time. I was born disorganized. One might even have diagnosed me as a walking, talking, breathing natural disaster. (Gasp!) It’d always been impossible for me to keep my house (physically and mentally) in order.

My now-disciplined mind has been well-earned through a maturing meditation and mindfulness practice, though my home continued to function in a rigid state of loose disorder. I’d surrendered to my messy surroundings, believing that chaos was a necessary cog in assembling multiple children for their daily presentation to the world.

But wait! One thing my mindful parenting practice has taught me is that I don’t have to accept chaos in my home. And I don’t have to respond to logistical panic with more logistical panic. (ie. “No socks! What am I going to do?? There are no clean socks!!!”) Mindfulness has also taught me how to think in solutions as a default.

Solutions in the form of a basket of socks by the back door.

You’re probably thinking, “Vanessa, you are not only the most disorganized, but also the lamest mother on the planet. I’ve been doing this for years and your story is downright droll.” But again, please remember how painfully disorganized I am (WAS, how painfully disorganized I WAS) and appreciate the miraculous transformation that would have to take place for me to look at my children’s morning disembarkation process and say, “My kids don’t need to be screaming. I can make our lives easier. I’m going to bring all of their socks downstairs and leave them in a basket by the door.”

And then to actually follow it up with ACTION! A trip to TJ Maxx to buy a basket! This is HUGE for a naturally disastrous person like me! To add to the miracle, it’s been over a month and the basket is still full of socks. (In other words, I’m slaying laundry duty. Yah baby!)

I’m also thinking that either God is rewarding all of my meditation work with a dose of self-motivated discipline, or He’s really tired of hearing my kids scream in the morning, too. Either way, I’m confident that it was my mindfulness practice that inspired this most excellent (and organized) footwear solution.

www.vanessagobes.com

The Flawed Foundation of Feminism

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I enjoyed watching Emma Watson speak on feminism in this video. She articulated beautifully the need for worldwide immediate action toward gender equality. My concern is that while we women demand respect and equality from our male counterparts, the foundation of our argument is weakened by our own interpersonal habits.

By gossiping about each other and cutting each other down through our words and actions, we disempower our entire gender. Yes, our entire gender. Because it’s not just me doing it, it’s not just you doing it. Almost *all* women do it. And if we’re not woman-bashing out loud, most likely we’re struggling with jealousy or pettiness in our heads.

If the sisterhood should thrive in political and economic society, it must first thrive within itself. And while international campaigns shine a bright light on civil imbalance, the movement really starts with private, daily efforts in consciousness. Tiny efforts that eventually become a new normal.

This movement is a political overhaul in the making, but I’m suggesting an overhaul of the female ego. We can start by vowing very simple things: “Today I will not engage in idle gossip. Today I will be kind to every woman I see. Today I will support another woman in business.”

We’re stronger together!

What are your thoughts on this recent surge of the feminist movement? Is feminism only the new black? Why is it that vulnerability is a requirement for women to support one another while vulnerability seems to be detriment for men to support men? What are you doing to propel the feminist movement? Why or why not?

http://www.vanessagobes.com

Emma Watson Delivers Game-Changing Speech on Feminism

goodbye back pain

I’ve had constant lower back pain for several years. I’ve tried yoga and chiropractic and massages, but nothing really made it go away. I mean, all those things made me feel great, but the back pain still lingered.

Okay, switching gears for a minute – hold tight, this will come around.

I am typically messy and disorganized and forgetful and overcommitted. It’s a problem for me and it’s a problem for those around me. So I’ve made deliberate efforts to simplify all parts of my life and have been super disciplined and organized for about two months. I always strive to walk my talk, but these months I’ve been absolutely intentional about it. Will power and discipline are my #1 and #2 challenges in life so this effort has taken *extreme* concentration and commitment!

I’ve noticed, as I’ve become more disciplined, my back pain has dissipated, to the point that my lower back feels loose, flexible, and healthy. The pain is gone. And there’s no reason for it to be gone. But it’s gone nonetheless.

Physical pain is a manifestation of spirit’s last ditch effort to communicate with us. “There is something really wrong here! Please pay attention! I’m talking to you!!!” I’m totally convinced that God has rewarded my organizational efforts by alleviating my back pain. I can find no other explanation and I do not believe in coincidences.

So whether or not you buy into my healing hypothesis, consider this: What could your body be telling you? Do stress and challenges manifest for you physically? Have you ever equated your physical pain with emotional pain?

Here’s a fun exercise – write down something going on with your body that’s troubling you. (Headaches, allergies, back pain, tummy troubles, etc.) Now write down your biggest challenge or source of stress. (Be careful not to name another person as your source of stress – this has to be all about you!) Spend 3 weeks working deliberately and intentionally to ease that emotional challenge and see what happens to your physical pain.

Share your thoughts!

http://www.vanessagobes.com

do you believe you’re perfect?

Self work (that’s Self with a capital “S”) is something that we all experience over the course of a lifetime.  This work begins with our very first breath, when we start figuring out how to survive on earth, how to use what we learn to create new experiences.  Some make choices that lead to hardship and struggle.  Others experience hardship and struggle that lead to better choices.

I’ve gone both ways – creating messes and surviving them.  And I’ve found that both ways of living are equally valuable.  I can especially see this now, after several years of active awakening.  Though I fail at tasks, though I say the wrong things, though I fall short in my domestic responsibilities and sometimes feel overwhelmed by emotion, I trust that my Self is perfection and I don’t feel embarrassed or egotistical for saying it.

Perfection is funny word.  It’s stacked with all sorts of subjective assumptions.  Can a person be perfect and still make mistakes?  I think so, yes.  Because my interpretation of perfection is through a divine filter.  Every time I’ve royally screwed up, the screw up has led me to a healthier or more productive place.  So in that regard, I see “imperfection” as a catalyst to course correct, and therefore is actually divine perfection.  And I see all of those decisions that led me to the royal screw up as perfect opportunities to more deeply connect to love through the empathy and compassionate understanding that only comes with personal experience.

My meditation practice allows me to see my own perfection and to do the best I can to live in that state of acceptance; but I still get mad.  I still feel jealous.  I still get overexcited.  Just not as much as I used to, and not for as long.  (Thank God for that!!!)

It’s not that feeling these things is wrong or bad.  Anger, jealousy and excitement are important parts of the human experience.  But they are also feelings that manifest physically in the form of conditions like anxiety, depression and IBS among other things.  Contentment, joy and acceptance, on the other hand, manifest physically in ways that can make us feel pretty great:  restful sleep, younger skin, emotional well-being and a thousand others.  The practice helps the practitioner to notice the more challenging feelings when they arise so that they can be processed and balanced in a period of time that does not wreak havoc on one’s body.

But even in the course of writing this story, I’m sliding in and out of my perception of perfection.  For example, sometimes I’ll read articles or books written by gurus who are further along in their spiritual development than I.  And then months later I’ll watch them in an interview or read another account in which they appear to be attached to material things or fame or power, and then I get miffed.  I assume that because the guru seems to be far along the path that he should have the strength and wisdom to resist temptations and challenges – that he should be more resilient to those things – more so than us reg’ler folk.  That he should be “perfect” in his choices and behaviors because he is on a huge platform instructing people how to live through spirit.

But I have to remind myself that for the most part, with few exceptions, they’re just reg’ler folk, too.  Today they’re enlightened.  Tomorrow they’re swirled up in a twister of materialism, competition and Nielsen ratings.  The day after that they may be enlightened again.  (Not that I think it all happens that fast.  😉  The awakening process is a practice, as is enlightenment.  Imagining that enlightenment is a higher level of awakening, even an enlightened person must continue his Self work.  Humans are only human, after all.

This said, I find that more than any spiritual teacher or guru, the person I need to trust the most is myself.  When I follow my heart I can’t go wrong.  And I can never disappoint myself, because I know I’m perfect – in my own way and in my own time.  I need not worry about the state of someone else’s practice because depending on someone else’s state of awakening only distracts me from my own.  I do my own work and I encourage others to do theirs, in their own way.  As the Buddha said, “Work hard to gain your own salvation.”

So we’ll try our best not to judge ourselves or those around us as we all stumble and glide and stumble and glide through life collaboratively.  We can lower our expectations while raising our frequency to find harmony with the perfection that exists in each of us.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

wake up, sleepyhead

enlightenment is ultimately something i seek on my own, but sangha is an important part of practice.  fortunately, every day more bu-curious americans join the conversation, looking to learn and share, even if that means committing to two religions at once.  some christian critics call this religious fusion “trendy“.  (go ahead, click on the word trendy, you know you want to.)

in my neighborhood, there aren’t many  buddhists; so i’m thinking “trendy” isn’t the right word for it.  “shifty” is more like it.  this shift, as i see it, is not only a widespread shift in people’s spiritual affiliation, but also a shift in an individual’s view of his/her own human potential.  we are rubbing the sleep out of our eyes, awakening by recognizing the pure consciousness that exists in our hearts.

my step-dad reminded me of a lesson last weekend.  he said, “christ is not someone’s last name, you know.”  yep.  that’s right.  christ is not a surname, christ is consciousness.  each of us has the potential to awaken the christ consciousness within us.  in buddhism we call it buddhahood.  but it’s really the same thing.  we shed the ego, and we allow our spirit to shine.  it’s a very simple idea, but certainly no easy task.

knowing that you are responsible for your soul’s salvation, knowing that enlightenment is within your reach, knowing that your body is here for a limited time only, how does the game change?  can you see beyond the obstacles?  can you focus clearly on the goal, regardless of your circumstances?  can you break away from the pack and give this life your best effort?   just for the day, can you be the best version of yourself?

from mine to yours,

vanessa

“and now instead of him watching TV we all sit around and watch him”

the blog title and pic above are of shel silverstein’s famous  jimmy jet.  the following quote by robert thurman is in ed and deb shapiro’s book BE THE CHANGE, how meditation can transform you and the world.

“Meditation is a neutral and very powerful tool.  The choice is what are we going to meditate on?  Most people let themselves be guided by a culture that this trying to make them buy things or make them afraid through the news.  When we watch television and we see a commercial, it is like a guided meditation on dissatisfaction.  We have to guide our meditation in a positive direction.  We do this when we meditate on freedom, on penetrating to the deep nature of reality.  In other words, if we meditate on being egotistical, we will become more egotistical, but if we meditate on being selfless, we will become more caring and altruistic.  When we experience ourselves as totally integrated with everyone, we are naturally going to be compassionate and kind to them.”

i never really thought of tube time as meditation, but after reading these words i can see how this is so true.  so often, we sit in front of the television and vegetate.  vegetating is meditating, right?  so whatever is streaming into our consciousness is going to marinate for as long as we sit on the couch with the tube on.  and then it becomes a part of us.  this could be scary.  powerful.  advertisers are changing who we are on a cellular level through commercials.  seriously.  this is true.  and this is CRAZY.  it’s like brainwashing.  no wonder why every kid i see has a friggin pillow pet.  that commercial must run a hundred times a day.  they almost have no choice but to put the thing on their christmas lists.

i just had a conversation with my daughter’s montessori teacher yesterday about how different children are these days – how much bolder they are with adults.  how quick they are to inflict an abrasive comment on their teachers.  there is little doubt, for me, that the kids learn this snarky behavior from TV.  the way children act on “family” sitcoms is atrocious.  the characters are rude to their parents, they are rude to their neighbors, they are rude to other children’s parents.  (i’m thinking of shows specifically on disney and nick – “icarly” and “good luck charlie” such.)  whether we choose to believe it or not, the fact is, our children are modeling their own behavior after these characters.  they think that these actors are cool.  and they think that the behavior of these characters is…  wait for it…  NORMAL.  yes, that’s right.  scary.

and then, of course, is the programming that is pouring into that wide open channel in our adult brains while meditating in front of the TV.  through most news media and dramatic programming we are being programmed to fear.  notice how the tense of the verb changes.  we are no longer actively making a decision about how our brains are functioning; the television producers are making decisions for us.  we ARE BEING programmed.  not to get all big brother on you, but, well, it’s sort of like big brother.  right?

early last year, i banned all real housewives and most news programming from my house.  this was a big decision for me.  i reaaaallllllyyyyy loved my housewives.  BUT.  while watching the new york housewives reunion on bravo, my husband walked into the room and sat down on the couch.  the women on TV were verbally slaying  each other and hubby goes, “oh, v, my jaw is getting tight just listening to this.”  and then i scanned my own body.  my chest was tight and i had a big lump in my throat.  i turned it off and walked away for good.  and then i noticed the physical reactions i had while watching other programming, specifically local news.  i’d get tight and squeeze-y.  i encourage readers to do a physical scan while you watch TV.  it’s madness.  so now i limit my TV intake to programming that lifts me up or educates me.

my kids love TV.  i usually let them watch PBS, animal planet (they love “river monsters”) and some nick jr.  but as of today i’m pulling in the reins.  (oh, god, please give me the strength to do this.)  if they are going to do something as powerful as meditate on an idea for 30 minutes, it’s sure as shit not going to be what some money-focused CEO at disney wants for my kids.

meditation is a powerful tool.  maybe THE MOST powerful tool.  make a mindful decision about how you use it.  start by turning the channel.

from mine to yours,

vanessa

(this entry is reposted with edits from my blog “everything old is new age again“, may 18, 2012.)