Hello,

While considering a holiday message I came across these words of Thich Nhat Hanh, When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love. Isn’t it wonderful to think that we have this capacity within us year round!

MBSR is one method to actualize this capacity.  If you have had the training, I hope your mindfulness practice is flourishing and Hahn’s simple words remind you of what you know.

If you are interested in increasing your mindfulness capacity- please join us for one the upcoming introduction and orientation sessions.  As these occur during the busy holiday season, we will be sure to offer a few tips for handling holiday stress as well.

In response to alumni requests, we are also introducing a special fee for those that want to repeat the course.

As always, thank you for your support.

May your holidays be filled with acceptance, joy, peace, and love, Natasha

I have one more question I’ve meant to ask in reaction to what you said about meditation and crying several sessions ago – and now that this course is drawing to an end, I better ask it sooner than later: I have heard a number of times that not only is it o.k. to cry during meditation but it is also important and a sign of something deeper happening. I cry a lot. Don’t have an issue with that. However, I never seem to cry in meditation (whether in a group or by myself), or in any group setting – and I am wondering if that means that I am not letting myself experience the full thing? As I am asking the question, the question seems silly to me, but I’ve been through so many meditation sessions with people crying, even or especially the “seasoned meditators” (seems to happen a lot in Shambhala), that I am wondering if I am missing the depth of meditation if I don’t? Not that I *want* to cry while meditating, but sometimes I am wondering if I am somewhat shallow not to… To me it is almost the contrary – when I am really on the breath I can’t cry at the same time. I can rather use meditation to stop my tears and gain composure – if I am remembering to meditate in such a moment. What is your take on this?

Good Question:

Basic Response- You are not missing out on anything necessarily.  If you can cry as needed in your life, then you know how to let emotion flow out and through which is what it naturally wants to do.  Sadness, Anger, Fear, (even Jealousy, in my training) are natural emotions- if we don’t know how to feel them through, in the right context, they distort us.

And regarding breath concentration- you say “when I am on the breath, I can’t cry at the same time”- that is essentially true.  Concentration practices have a way of creating some transcendence.  Your concentration on the breath may be too strong to allow emotion to flow?

In this mindfulness training, body and breath are anchors and the bigger practice is awareness- the ability to watch the arising, unfolding, and dissolving of mind phenomena from a place of bare awareness.  The ultimate mindful state is non-interference.

So if you cry you cry, if you don’t you don’t.  The most important part of the practice on the cushion is that you learning how to work with your direct experience- sensations, emotions, thoughts, impulses in a more conscious way.  You are learning how to be with yourself, you are learning how to BE.

There is more to this is all but I think this speaks to your question

What is hard about being present…

Research seems to indicate that when we develop this basic embodied presence, we are integrating brain functions and naturally down regulating emotional re-activity.  We are able to align more with present moment reality- what is actually happening now versus what we think is happening now.  What is called for right now, versus fight/flight/freeze patterns that take over when we are triggered.  This also allows us to be more intentional, to steer our ship where we want it to go, not get thrown off course again and again.

What is hard about being present in this way is that the door to the unconscious or subconscious is more porous.  We are aware of more than usual and can be overwhelmed and flooded by unprocessed past material.  This is where the crying comes in for instance- you are crying for past hurts and losses, it is a form of release and catharsis and healing actually.  Ideally we let it happen, we feel it through and out, we are then more at peace with our feelings and our past experiences, and ready for new and different experiences too.

Yet a lot of us, are afraid of these feelings- afraid to be taken over by them, stuck in them, defined by them.  Oddly we are attached to some of them too, they are part of our story of self and we aren’t quite sure of who we would be without them.   They come up to consciousness and we reflexively stuff them back away.  This is where a rigid concentration practice can be a distorted meditation practice- you are using the practice to hide rather than heal.

With this said, such suppression (conscious or unconsciously initiated) can serve a person if they don’t have the capacity, context, or support to feel it directly right now, or the experience triggers them into a highly reactive or disassociated state.  Sometimes this unconscious blocking is actually a survival mechanism.  When we see the blocking and make a conscious decision “I can’t go here right now”- that can be a skillful, mindful response.

I am not going to be overly technical or philosophical here.  It is a big subject, karma.  It is at the heart of yoga and meditation practice, whether we know it or not.  It is very central to the practice of Vedic Astrology, this is more clear.  For some reason, it’s on my mind lately, so I’ll attempt it.

There are of course various teachings on karma that are similar and different. What I will say here will be my own interpretation and contemplation of what I have learned over time.

My yoga teacher Rama often uses an image of a tree.  I thought it was a common image, but after looking for it elsewhere have come to discover that it is not. She draws (a pun!) this interpretation partly out of her study of the Yoga Sutra’s of Patanjali- a seminal text of the Yoga Philosophy.

At the base of the tree, the ground and roots, are 2 types of karma referred to as Sanchita and Prarabdha.  Sanchita is the sum total of karma- what we have accumulated.  Prarabdha literally means undertaken, and is the portion of karma we are living out.  These karmas are understood to be “fixed” in that they are happening, in process, for reasons we will never be able to totally rationalize or alter.

This brings up the issue of “fate” which can upset people- but suffice it to say that we all have to admit that there are many things that do fall into this category.  I’ll use myself as an example.  I am white, a woman, born in the USA.  This is unalterable and I did not make a rational decision about it.

The body of the tree depicts the 2 other types of karma, Kriyamana and Agama.  Kriya means action and refers to our capacity to act and create.  Agama refers to the new actions you contemplate, your ideas or vision for the future.  These are the karmas that are more malleable, that we can affect through our free will.

The tree is what we see, what is most obvious.  The roots and the soil are invisible unless we dig.  Yet they are one and the same.  The tree comes from the roots, the roots require the soil.  To get more specific:

Sanchitta Karma is the soil and represents the deep past, the mysterious depth.
Pradabdha Karma is the roots and affects the form and function of the tree, our spiritual DNA
Kriyamana Karma is how we relate to our internal and external circumstances, how we are able to use our free will.
Agama Karma is the vision and intention we hold for future action, the unconscious and conscious seeds that we plant.

I told you I wouldn’t be too technical or philosophical so I want to wrap up on a practical note:    We don’t really know what we are doing here, we don’t know why we have the circumstances that we have- it’s interesting and uniquely human to consider it all and I truly appreciate karmic theory.  This theory says that there are reasons for our present circumstances and we do have the ability to work with the present and affect the future.  What you sow NOW through your thoughts, words, and actions is what truly matters.  As my mom’s guru Goswami Kriyananda says with a little laugh and smile “Attitude is Everything.”