Self-Compassion In Practice: A Meditation

In Buddhism, we talk a lot about generating compassion for all sentient beings.

The problem is we usually forget that “all” includes “us”!

Here’s a simple self-compassion meditation from my latest show on Lessons In Joyful Living.

Give it a try!

First of all let’s find our seat. We all have different capacities for sitting, so if you find sitting on a cushion to be uncomfortable, sit in a chair.

The main thing is that you adjust your posture so you’re sitting with a nice, straight spine. Ground yourself to earth. Let go of tension in the body. Bring your awareness of the breath.

Remind yourself that you are safe. Any emotions that come up in this meditation, just let them come. Experience them fully knowing that you are in no danger, they will pass.

Now that we’re relaxed and present, take a moment to examine the truth of your own suffering.

We all suffer. There’s no denying that. Look at some examples in your life. Right now in this moment you might be feeling uncomfortable sitting in your chair or on your cushion. You might be too cold or too hot.

In your daily life, you may be going through a tough time at work. There many be family and relationship problems Maybe you’re going through a break-up or even the death of someone close to you. Maybe you’re going through an illness, longterm depression, addiction.

Normally we resist the unpleasant emotions we feel during these times. They may even seem unbearable.

Right now I want you to take a moment to let the feelings of suffering come up without pushing them away. Let yourself become open to your own suffering. Let yourself become tender, soft. Don’t resist. Don’t be afraid. Even if tears are flowing down your cheeks, don’t run away.

Now I want you to generate compassion for yourself. You are a suffering sentient being. The sadness that you feel, the pain, even the agony, is all a part of who you are.

You deserve relief from that pain and  sorrow, from all that suffering.

Just as you would wish for someone you care deeply about: a spouse, a child, a parent, a dear one, generate the wish that you too be free from the suffering you are experiencing.

When that feeling is as strong as you can make it say this:

May I be free from suffering.

May I be free from illness.

May I be free of pain and sorrow.

May I show myself kindness.

May I show myself patience.

May I always have the strength and wisdom to show myself compassion even when I’m feeling great suffering.

Say these words, or any that resonate for you, a few times. Let that feeling sink in until you know without a doubt that you have cultivated compassion for yourself.

Now open your eyes and come out of the meditation.

Dedicate the merit of your practice to the relief of suffering for yourself and all beings.

And that’s it!

So go ahead and give this meditation a try. Try it out for the next thirty days and let me know how it changes your relationship to yourself and everyone around you!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pema Chodron On Gentleness

I know that one of the biggest things that fueled my life of addiction was my lack of gentleness towards myself.

It’s still an issue for me but I’m working on it day by day.

Here’s some beautiful and inspiring advice from Pema Chodron on how to cultivate gentleness towards yourself, others, and the world.

Give her advice a try. How do you treat yourself on a daily basis? Are you kind, patient and gentle? Or are you harsh, judgmental, and aggressive?

Try cultivating some mindfulness about how you treat yourself for the next week (or two). When you find your patience with yourself running short, take a deep breath and resolve to go easier on yourself. Cultivate some love and compassion for yourself. Become your own best friend.

You’ll be amazed at how this simple shift will change your whole view!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Prayer For The Victims Of The Fort Hood Shooting

The Buddhist teachings say that at the moment of death, our experience will be deeply affected by our state of mind.

At the moment that the outer breath ceases, if we are calm, cultivating thoughts of love, kindness and compassion, then there is nothing to fear.

On the other hand, if our minds are filled with anger, violence, hatred, and grasping, our experience will be nothing short of a hell realm.

Untethered from our bodies, unable to find any place to rest, we will be caught up in a tidal wave of disturbing thoughts and emotions. We will tumble helplessly through the bardo of death until we are reborn in another similar state of confusion.

Whether you believe this or not, it can’t be argued that the victims and the shooter at yesterday’s tragedy at Fort Hood, died in such a state of profound unease.

Imagine all they must have been feeling. Fear. Confusion. Desperation. Their thoughts must have turned to their loves ones and families and all their hopes and dreams that would never be realized.

What if you were one of them?

In the days to come, there will be the inevitable media blitz. The lives of the shooter, Ivan Lopez, and the victims will be carefully dissected as we try to understand why things like this continue to happen in our world.

No matter who or what is to blame, those who died deserve all the thoughts and prayers of love and compassion that we can muster.

So I encourage you to hold all those involved in your hearts today. Bring them to mind as many times as you can. Send them light and love.

If you have a daily spiritual practice, dedicate it to all of them. Then generate the wish that peace and non-violence flourish from today forward.

If we can do this, today and every time a tragedy like this occurs, not only will be empowered to face these events with courageous hearts, I truly believe we can change the world.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Meditation On Love

Thank you for joining me last month my first guest radio host spot on Lessons in Joyful Living!

It was so much fun and I’m looking forward to three more shows this year!

In case you missed the show, you can download the MP3 for your listening pleasure here.

As promised here’s a copy of the guided meditation on love I took us through on the program:

First of all let’s find a comfortable seat. It doesn’t matter if it’s a chair or a cushion on the floor, just make sure you can sit with a straight spine.

Check your posture. Straighten and lengthen your spine. If you’re sitting in a chair, make sure your feet are firmly planted on the floor. You can let your hands rest gently on your thighs.

Your shoulders should be wide like the wings of bird ready to fly. Keep your eyes slightly open, jaw relaxed, tongue lightly touching the roof of your mouth.

Bring your awareness now to your breath. Notice the rising and falling of your chest and abdomen. Let yourself relax into the breath’s natural rhythm.

You can mentally scan your body if you like, paying special attention to areas of pain or tension. Try to simply notice these then let the muscles relax as best you can.

You’re now in a state of calm, focused awareness. Even if thoughts and worries come into your mind, you can just notice them and let them go.

Let’s bring our awareness now to the object of today’s meditation by asking this question:

Do I really love myself? Do I hold myself in high enough esteem to allow myself to be truly happy and live a life of purpose and meaning?

To answer this, take a few moments to examine how you relate to yourself on a daily basis.

How do you speak to yourself when you face challenges and difficulties? How do you view your shortcomings? When you make mistakes, what kinds of things do you say to yourself?

Be honest. Many of us are very hard on ourselves. We say horrible things to ourselves that we probably wouldn’t even say to our worst enemies.

Don’t worry. You’re not alone in treating yourself this way so you don’t have to beat yourself any more than you already do.

Relax and remind yourself that you can change any pattern you want to in your life and you’re going to start right here. Today, at this moment you’re going to take a positive step to change how you see and treat yourself.

First of all, look at who you really are. Often times we exaggerate our good and bad qualities to the point that they’re not even close to the reality.

Take some time here to closely examine your negative qualities and shortcomings, the ones that you really get down on yourself about.

Maybe you think you’re fat, not good looking enough, lazy, stupid, worthless?

When we’re viewing ourselves without love it sometimes seems that we are only that thing that we despise. There’s no room for anything else and we only see ourselves in that negative light.

But is this really true?

It may be true that you’re overweight, for example, but is that all you are? Is that the only quality that defines you as a human being?

Of course not.

You have many qualities that make you a complete person, that make you whole.

Take a look at some of them.

Are you kind, patient, funny, easy to talk to, diligent, reliable, honest?

No one who’s ever lived has been completely devoid of good qualities. This includes you.

Take a moment to recognize those good, positive traits. Rejoice in them, celebrate them. Allow yourself to see your own value as a human being.

Let that feeling of warmth and love for yourself fill your whole being.

Tell yourself, “I am worthy of happiness. I am worthy of love. I am worthy of living a life of purpose and meaning. From today forward I will make a greater effort to see myself realistically, to be kind to myself, to respect myself and give myself every chance to improve where I can and to accept my shortcomings with patience and dignity.”

Now rest in this feeling of love for yourself. Let it linger for as long as it does.

Slowly come out of the meditation. Open your eyes.

Now, if you like, you can do a dedication for this practice. Make the wishing aspiration that all the positive energy you’ve created result in happiness and ultimate spiritual awakening for yourself and all beings.”

I hope you enjoyed this meditation on love and that you got something valuable out of it.

Thanks for listening and may you be well and happy.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Meditation In The Movies: Naked Mind

“From the Himalayas to US Neuroscience labs, two filmmakers explore the effects of meditation and it’s potential for collective evolution…”

I stumbled across this trailer for the now-in-post-production film, Naked Mind a few weeks ago.

I recently got in touch with filmmaker, Sarah Barab, who was out filming on location in Asia. She’s excited about getting the film out there as soon as possible but she needs your help.

I highly encourage you to contribute what you can to the post-production fundraising effort…we need more movies like this!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Turning On The Light Within

Today I’m hosting my first ever internet radio show!

Do you ever feel unworthy? Do you think deep down that you just don’t measure up?

It’s these feelings of low self-esteem that prevent us from living our lives to their fullest potential.

Join me today at 1pm EST on Lessons in Joyful Living as I share a practical method for transforming our negative self-image into the recognition of our basic goodness.

To listen live or download the show later, click here.

And if you’d like to check out the transcript of the guided meditation from the show head on over here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2013: Looking Back, Looking Forward

I love the holidays in the States. Whether we know it or not, they’re packed with deep spiritual meaning regardless of religious (or lack thereof) affiliation.

It’s a time to cultivate generosity, to show the ones closest to us how much we love them, to reflect on where we’ve been for the past year and to hope, dream and plan about where we might be able to go in the next.

2013 was a milestone for me. After three years of hard work and persistence, I saw the publication of my first book, The Narrow Way, become a reality.

It didn’t turn out as I had imagined. There was no unprecedented advance from a Big Five publishing house. There were no appearances on Oprah or Fresh Air with Terry Gross. There was no twenty city book tour (although six cities in two states wasn’t too shabby).

First Stop on the Tour With Monte Cristo Owner, Chris Jones.
First Stop on the Tour With Monte Cristo Owner, Chris Jones.

In the end, I’m glad there wasn’t that kind of splash. It’s been such an adventure to learn how to continue to promote the book through guest blog posts, magazine articles, conference panel discussions and, my personal favorite, Internet radio shows.

The people I’ve met along the way, from new readers to new friends and mentors, have been the best part of it all.

I’m excited, too, because I will be continuing all of these efforts in the year to come.

My new webpage, www.chrislemig.com, is in the works. I have articles coming out in several online and print magazines. I’m learning how to use social media without it using me.

And (drumroll please) I’m in the process of developing my own radio show that will launch in 2014!

As if that we’re enough, I’m on track to finish my first novel, American Yogi, before I head back to India next summer.

I’m looking forward to seeing how all of these exciting projects manifest over the next year and I can’t wait to share them with you as they do.

In the mean time, I hope that your next year is a joyous one, that any obstacles to your goals, both worldly and spiritual, are easily overcome.

But whatever may come up, I hope that you always remember that you are worth all of your dreams coming true.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Commit To Sit: Helpful Hints For Starting A Mindfulness Practice

This article first appeared on ThoughtBrick.com

Buddha

Mindfulness is everywhere in the news these days. It’s all over the place and you can’t seem to attend even the driest of corporate strategy planning sessions without hearing about it.

We all know the value of mindfulness practice. It can lower blood pressure, decrease stress and increase happiness. It can make us more productive, more patient, more at ease.

So why don’t we just sit on our butts and get to it?

I know, I know. We don’t have the time.

But the thing is, a mindfulness practice doesn’t just require time.

Here’s what we really need to get (and keep) our mindfulness practice going.

Commit to Sit

Yes, I know. Commitment is a scary word.

But you’re reading this article, aren’t you?

Mindfulness is important to you. You want to cultivate more of it into your life.

So how do we do this?

As Lao Tzu said: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Our first step is making the promise to sit. Not just once. Not just twice. But every day.

This may be daunting at first. It may even be a little frightening. But, trust me. You can do it!

So say this with me:

“I promise to make my mindfulness practice a central part of my life. I will stick with it no matter what comes up.”

Set The Motivation

Many times we’re going to want to challenge the promise we’ve made to sticking with our mindfulness practice. We’re going to try to bend the rules.

“I know I promised myself to sit everyday but my mother-in-law is coming for a visit and the kid’s need a ride from school because it’s a half day and I’ve got to get my origami finished…”

Buddha Moon - Buddha Stones

There will always be a thousand reasons to skip “just this once”.

This is where a solid motivation can help.

Why are we working on mindfulness in the first place?

Yes, we sit to bring happiness and serenity into our own lives.

But if we can widen the scope of our purpose to include others, then we have a better chance of sticking with it.

Think about how our mindfulness practice can also benefit our family, friends and neighbors. If we work at it steadily, we will be able to cultivate more patience, kindness and understanding towards everyone we meet.

If we know that we can do even this little bit to bring peace, calm and sanity into the world, then we will be more motivated to sit.

Create the Space

So you’ve decided to start a mindfulness practice. Congratulations! You want to succeed right? The single best way to do this is to do your practice at the same time and in the same place everyday.

The time is up to you. For me, I like to practice early in the morning. It sets the tone for the day and I find that I’m less likely to be distracted as the world gets going.

Once you’ve set the time, create the space.

Keep your cushion or chair in one place. Make an altar if you like. Make it beautiful with reminders of what it is you’re doing in that space. It could be a statue of the Buddha, beautiful flower arrangements, candles or anything at all that changes the space into one that is sacred for you.

If you have a separate room for this, great. If not, a corner of your bedroom or living room will do just fine. The main thing is to have a space set aside to act as an anchor for your practice.

“Patience Padawan”

Once you’ve got a steady mindfulness practice going, don’t forget to treat yourself with patience and respect.

Sometimes your mindfulness practice is going to be great. Sometimes not so great. Don’t expect anything out of it. The results and benefits come over time. Usually it takes many years to see anything even resembling results.

Don’t worry. We worry too much as it is. Just make it a part of your life. Stick with it.

And remember, this is your time to be open, spacious and free.

Integrate

Mindfulness must first be grounded on the cushion (or the chair or whatever spot works best for you). But once we’ve committed, motivated and stuck to it we can then begin to bring mindfulness into our daily lives.

Remind yourself to be mindful while you’re waiting at the stoplight, standing in line at the grocery store or even when listening to a co-worker complain about his workload.

Allow yourself to simply be aware while you’re eating, walking, watching television (or the sunset), jogging, playing or just taking a shower.

Don’t judge. Don’t evaluate Don’t worry. Just be.

I hope these tips help you in keeping your mindfulness practice going.

Experiment. Explore. Play. And if you get good results (or bad), please don’t hesitate to share what you learn!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Guest Post On Sober Nation

Here’s a piece I recently wrote for Sober Nation. What do you think: Is Buddhism the ultimate path to recovery?

Ocean Beach

I was a drug addict and alcoholic for twenty-three years. Last month marked my sixth year in recovery. At first I relied mostly on 12-steps and therapy to keep me sober. But I know now that if it weren’t for Buddhism, I wouldn’t be here writing this article today.

For me at least, Buddhism works as a path of recovery in and of itself. It gives me the guidance, humility and self-discipline I need to stay clean.

But even if it’s not the ultimate path of recovery for everyone, I think it has a lot to offer anyone who’s made the decision to work at staying clean and sober.

Let’s just take a look at a few of those things that the Buddhist path can do to strengthen our sobriety.

Ending the Cycle of Suffering

The Buddha’s first great insight into our human experience was that life is permeated by suffering…

To read the rest of this article and more on Sober Nation, click here.

photo by: Malin Helene
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Shortcomings

Sunset

One of the most important aspects of recovery is forgiving ourselves and embracing our shortcomings. If we let ourselves be consumed by regret for all the mistakes we made in the past we’ll never be able move forward.

Here’s a piece from The Narrow Way where I had that realization in the middle of a meditation retreat in Dharamsala, India:

With my face hidden there in my arms, I begin to realize that

it’s ok to feel vulnerable and afraid. It’s ok that I spent years

hiding the truth about myself. It’s ok that I was lonely and angry

and a little bit crazy. It’s ok that I hurt myself and even the ones I

 love. It’s ok that I made so many mistakes. Right here, right now

all can be acknowledged, all can be forgiven.

 

As I embrace all of these shortcomings I begin to feel myself

let go. The merciless inner critic who used to slash me down to

the bone is silenced and for the first time in years, maybe even

for the first time in my whole life, I feel real compassion for

myself. Finally, I see the reality of my own suffering and I am not

so afraid of it anymore.

 

I lift up my head and the sun is still shining warm on my

shoulders. I look around and see that there are many sets of

glistening eyes looking right back at me. It is a good sight, not a

sad one. I know now that all of these people have seen something

good and fertile and rich within themselves and that they too

have decided to keep it and till it into the deep soil of their lives.

I take a slow, deep breath, the kind that hurts your lungs after a

long cry; then I let it go.

photo by: nigelhowe
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment