Month: October 2016

  • 0

Kindness Is A Superpower

Category : Uncategorized

For the first week of May I attended a retreat at IMS (Insight Meditation Society), which is located about two hours outside of Boston in Barre Massachusetts. The retreat was titled, “Mindfulness, Kindness and Discovery” and it was lead by teachers Michael Grady, Susan O’Brien, and assistant Sara Schedler. After I returned to Omaha I felt strongly that kindness was the subject I wanted to highlight in the May 2015 edition of the MOI Newsletter.

Kindness is the generous expression of an open and free heart that isn’t dependent upon conditions or the fulfillment of expectations. We can discover the freedom to embody a kindness that is universal, omitting no one, and inclusive even towards our most challenging interactions.

The power of kindness is not just a quality to admire in the noble exemplars of our lives. Kindness can be practiced and developed within ourselves. Kindness truly is a superpower and as we develop our capacity for kindness we relationally begin to heal, to forgive, and to remember that holding on to the burdens of a hardened heart impedes our ability to live fully.

When we’re faced with hurt feelings and resentments the idea of being kind can seem like a lofty goal. Pretensions of kindness only lead us to a niceness that is shallow and more concerned with self-protection than with acceptance. This type of “nice,” in contrast to kindness, invests in being polite for the sake of social inclusion, approval, and validation.

So how do we develop genuine Kindness? We can evoke feelings of lovingkindness and friendliness towards ourselves and others by practicing metta and compassion meditation. The transformational power of these practices allows us to gently turn towards our suffering and others.

Metta is generosity of the heart that wishes happiness to all beings, both oneself and others. The feeling of lovingkindness expresses the simple wish of goodwill, such as “May you be well.” When we cultivate metta we experience a less reactive, more understanding quality of mind. The practice of lovingkindness unties the hard knots of resentments, illuminates the mind, and softens the heart to greater joy and love.

Compassion as a meditative practice is the loving expression of heart that recognizes suffering, in oneself and others, and wishes to alleviate it. When we enact compassion we express wise action that moves skillfully to meet suffering with understanding and kindness. Compassion enables us to see the suffering in the world while Metta provides us with the wisdom to know how to respond.

What are the feelings that hinder your own ability to be kind? Can you take a moment now to reflect on how it feels to carry burdens of being disappointed, mistreated, diminished, and discriminated against? Be gentle and understanding with yourself as you look to your own suffering, practicing self-compassion, “May I hold this experience with kindness and care.”

As you explore your experience, can you make room to simply be with what you’re feeling? Trust the inherent strength of your heart and express metta to the challenging obstacles to your freedom, “May you be safe, may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you live your life with ease.” When we can lay down the hurts we’ve identified with we find our superpower. The healing power of kindness is needed. Those who have it are healing heroes.

To practice Metta (lovingkindness), follow this link to OnBeing’s segment with Sylvia Boorstein as she guides an audience through a simple lovingkindness exercise. For a deeper introduction to the practice visit Jack Kornfield’s website. If you would like to investigate metta and compassion practice in a more personal, supportive setting MOI welcomes you to join the meditation classes we have available.

By Johnathan Woodside
MOI Founder, Executive Director, and Teacher

Discernment & Judgment

Category : Uncategorized

I would like to bring some attention to the practice of discernment and the difference between discernment and judgment. In so doing, I’m not suggesting that there’s no place for judgment. There are many things we view as right or wrong that can be useful. Right and wrong can serve us well; judgments that we collectively agree upon allow us to enjoy a sense of ease with one another. Growing up we are taught many of these rights and wrongs, e.g. harming another person is wrong, not harming another person is right.

Although some judgments are useful, in reflecting on judgment we can see that it is limited to a dualistic perspective, right and wrong, good and bad, better or worse, my side your side. In reality there are no divisions or categories, we artificially create the divisions and build the mental framework of how we believe things should be and lose sight of how things actually are. A good example of this is the lines of demarcation we see on a map. When we see images of earth from space, there are no lines of separation, we see one whole and complete planet.

When something is contrary to the mental framework we’ve established as appropriate or acceptable we judge it harshly. When something is compliant with the arbitrary shifting lines of our acceptability we judge it positively. Our favoritism of what is right and wrong changes as our relationship to the world and our experience changes. These changes often come about through exposure and education.

The flowing patterns of judgmental thoughts also supports and strengthens our identification with self. There is someone that is doing the judging, employing judgment to try and support, protect, or compensate for the self. Fighting or struggling with judgments is not the practice of discernment; rather discernment is to mature in our relationship to experience by being mindful.

We can think of discernment as the maturation of judgment. While judgment is based in duality and a sense of self, discernment is based in wisdom and the recognition of what leads to fulfillment and what leads to suffering. Not what we think fulfillment is but what fulfillment actually is. To be more precise we could exchange the notion of fulfillment with genuine contentment.

To help illustrate the distinction between how judgment and discernment might look we can use the dessert analogy. Imagine that you’ve just had a full and satisfying meal. Shortly after the meal, dessert is brought out and it’s your favorite. Judgment might see the dessert and label it good, because this particular dessert resides in your favorable mental framework. Judgment might see dessert and generate thoughts of “I shouldn’t eat the dessert, I’m trying to follow a diet.” Additional judgment — eating it would be wrong, not eating it would be right. Discernment on the other hand, sees the dessert and mindfully recognizes the judgment, “dessert is good” or “dessert is bad”. Discernment then goes further, it might check in with the body and notice the sensations around the stomach, questioning, “what’s it going to be like if I eat the dessert?” further recognizing that to eat more would lead to discomfort, i.e. suffering. Without discernment we are simply acting out all our old patterns of conditioning whether or not they entangle us or lead us to inner freedom.

Life can be complicated, how we meet life’s challenges is a personal matter. There’s no easy formula for navigating the difficult decisions we sometimes need to make. If we can allow ourselves to be discerning with our experience we realize wise discrimination, which can be tremendously empowering.

From a reactionary right or wrong, discernment exhibits a responsive further knowing and recognition of what leads to suffering. The idea being that when we relate to our experience more with discernment and less with judgment we meet results that are characterized by wisdom.

By Johnathan Woodside
MOI Founder, Executive Director, and Teacher

Relating to Complications

Category : Uncategorized

There’s more to all of this than meets the eye. We can look at the world around us and see all the complications. There are uninvited difficulties and challenges, stresses and sorrows, mistakes and failures that appear to welcome themselves into our lives as fate. Life does feel very complicated at times. It’s a human life after all. Whatever you’re going through, whatever you’re feeling, even in this very moment, it’s all part of the human condition; we are in this together.

Is there something basic and fundamental about life and the living of it that is innately simple? We may not have control over the complications of life but we do have sovereignty over how we relate to them. There is an ennobling characteristic in relating to complications with clear insight. We can live simply with our complications.

How we relate to the world engenders an understanding of duality, that there are two sides to life and that they can both be seen with clarity. As we grow in understanding we gain the insight that the two sides are actually different vantage points of a whole – life is both complicated and simple at the same time. Complication isn’t inherently bad just as simplicity isn’t inherently good; it’s all in how you see it.

We can be compassionate with ourselves as we meet the circumstances in each moment while remaining attentive to the simple fundamental qualities of life. When the appearance of life’s complications is overwhelming we can remind ourselves and recognize the simple truth that things change. If we can see clearly such an intrinsic truth we begin to recognize ease through acceptance.

Just reading it, hearing it, thinking about it doesn’t make it a personal insight. It requires experiential practice. We practice recognizing the basic fundamental qualities at the threshold of our relationship with life’s circumstances. We observe the mind to understand ourselves and our view of the world.

If we can relate to what is complicated with acceptance, softness, and openness, by remaining sensitive to the subtle underlying nature of things, recognizing that there is more to all of this than meets the eye, we learn simplicity. We learn that whatever appears is impermanent and ever changing.

When we can relate to life’s circumstances free from greed for the pleasant, aversion to the unpleasant, and delusion about what is really there we begin to discover a spaciousness and balanced quality of mind. It takes practice to realize and strengthen but it is a simple way of being in complicated times.

By Johnathan Woodside
MOI Founder, Executive Director, and Teacher