Cover via Amazon
I have a former client that I saw not too long ago. He’s on a journey, like all of us, and has many of the same stuck places we have. I listened while he told me that he didn’t have time . . .
No time at all.
Meditation doesn’t work.
What’s the point, etc.
It reminded me that he was the kind of person who wasn’t going to be interested in the sweet calm of Thich Nhat Hanh or the empowered feminine wisdom of teachers like Pema Chodron, Tara Brach, or Roshi Joan Halifax.
He was a scientist and this whole thing was well, woo woo and hog wash.
What might, I got to thinking, as even MBSR was shot down as a suggestion was Mark Thornton’s Meditation in a New York Minute: Super Calm for the Super Busy.
I’ve listened to the audiobook a few times. At first “glance”, listening to it on my commute to hospice, I used to think it was technique-y.
He was young, a corporate-type, and addressed the matter of meditation like a professional speaker.
Hmmmm, sounds like just a different shade of “I’m too busy, I know better”, etc.
This former client, this scientist, this closed-hearted person gave me a gift. He was a wise teacher that brought me back to this audiobook with a new awareness. Wise in the way that Pema Chodron talks about in our troublemaker teachers.
I am still not sure that this will go on my top 10 list, but Mark’s straight forwardness that probably works in corporate America, cut through some things for me. I would suggest the book or audio for anyone who has said, I want less stress, I want calm, but just can’t get started.
I learned new things when I listened to it again this time.
I plan to share some of his work because I think that, especially if you aren’t interested in a spiritual path, this words and techniques can be really helpful.
So, at least for today, this is what I will share:
Mark’s technique for teaching meditation is simple. Start off small and allow your embodied awareness to be fostered during mini breaks throughout the day.
No one said it has to be one hour …
60 consecutive minutes …
it can be 60 seconds now, 10 minutes later, 2 minutes later . . .
Think of it as if they were talking about getting your steps in.. you “should have” X-amount of steps every day or X-minutes of exercise every day. But, they find that 5 minutes now, then, later, etc is still effective. And so can your meditation if you design it this way.
But probably more importantly, Mark shares 8 Laws of Meditation with us:
1. Relax – they tell you this all the time. They told me as I began my first All-day sit at the Shambhala Center here in the midwest, but, no, I had to do it perfectly. . . and ended up with pain, stiffness, stress, etc.
I realized the concept of No-Effort when I hooked up to biofeedback and realized that what I was doing as meditation and “relaxation” was stressing my system out more. It was a lack of teaching; it was that I was not understanding in an embodied way.
2. Have a sense of playfulness – Lately, I have realized how little playfulness and lightheartedness I have in my life. Part of that is being away from family and friends that I love. Part of it living in the middle of no where with nothing that I find fun to do. Part of it is not allowing myself to experience freedom and expansion.
If I am not doing it in life, you know that it’s not happening on the cushion. A friend suggested a comedian the other night and I laughed out loud, by myself, for the first time in a long time. Foster a light touch and a sense of inquisitiveness for the sake of your mental and physical health.
3. Practice Gentleness — This reminded me that Thay used to talk about holding your hands on your lap as if you had a baby bird or the baby Buddha in your hands. Gentleness. But we also practice gentleness in our minds as well. No screaming and shouting at ourselves when our minds saunter off. No judgment, just being.
4. Have an open body – I laughed when I heard this one. I’ve told mom this for years. You have greater anxiety and stress when your heart is physically closed off. . . you don’t get enough oxygen and release in your autonomic nervous system. And your diaphragm doesn’t flow unrestricted. I laughed because a “professional” told her that this week and it was like it was the first time she’d ever heard that. (Once a daughter, never a teacher. LOL)
5. Build Calm through Attention — As Mark simply put it. . . where your attention goes, so does your energy. My friend had a problem with some plumbing. Within little time, she got to a place of, oh good, new paint, no walls, new plumbing. . . not me, I thought, all that expense, all that time off from work, all that noise and dust… yes, this is why I sit and am not yet one with my enlightened self. . . point is, her attention went to the positive and the potential. And it was a great experience.
6. Build Calm through Your Intention to drop to your core — Mark defines meditation “as a way to directly experience your heart, moment-to-moment, so that others feel it.” So Law #6 is about setting your intention to be in your heart-space, allowing yourself to sink down into the essence or core of who you are, rather than to grasp at the discursive mind that we allow to rule our lives.
7. Maintenance of Calm — How do you maintain calm (or super calm as Mark likes to say?) moment to moment awareness and when you drop away from that and you realize it, drop the storyline and come back to moment to moment awareness. Huh?
8. Repetition — And how does this all get tied together? In the same way you get to Carnegie Hall. . . practice, practice, practice.
What I like about Mark’s audio is that he uses the word mindfulness once or twice only. He gives us different language, a different way of looking at the practice. Sometimes teachers use the same words, the same teaching stories, and it doesn’t sink in. That’s probably why relying on one guru isn’t probably the best way to go and we have many over a lifetime.
His work is not devoid of spirituality, he talks about spiritual masters, quotes Indian texts, but he’s no-nonsense, engaging, and I did get the feeling like I was watching someone who could be on Oprah’s network, cheering us all on.
But let’s face it. . . if you’ve ever meditated you have probably gotten hooked, been judgmental of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations, and gotten down on yourself. We don’t all naturally cheerlead ourselves into health and happiness.
So if a cheerleader comes along it’s good if we listen to their pep and cheer.
More to come on Mark’s work. . . let this sink in. Think about your own practice in these terms and ask if it jives for you.
And if you don’t have a practice, hopefully this will intrigue you enough to want to know more.
Meditation is a way of living. It’s not to just be picked up when you lose your job, are flattened by pain, exhausted from caregiving, or broken-hearted over loss. It is a way of living congruently while we learn to foster compassionate attention and intention.
Thank you Mr. TroubleMaker teacher for coming around and getting me to set the intention to go back to this audiobook.
Om Mani Padme Hum.
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