Tag Archives: Mindfulness

Connection, Intention, Manifestation

I have an internet addiction. So, the first step is admitting it right?

Problem is, I’ve admitted it many times before, but that alone hasn’t done much. Because changing habits takes conscious effort after the step of awareness. Like my running plan, I need to come up with a concrete program to follow, complete with a declaration and rewards. The internet definitely is not bad, and in fact it has been incredibly useful for tons of things, like reading about barefooting before buying my Vibram shoes… oh no, wait, that was probably time wasted. Because although now I feel like I know more about the benefits of barefooting, when my dad questioned me about the lack of arch support, I mumbled something about a New York Times article I had read about how shoes are ruining our feet, without actually knowing anything concrete about the matter. (And now, I spent ten minutes searching for the article and getting side tracked…. while writing about the evils of internet distractions… yes, it’s really time to set up a plan.)

On first thought, I had resistance to embarking upon a new challenge now since I’m leaving for my Europe backpacking trip in just a week. However, I think it’s actually worked out perfectly, because I have a much easier time following guidelines if it’s for a specific, predetermined amount of time. In this case it’s even better than that because I really can’t afford to waste time online in the next week as I tie up lose ends and prepare to leave.

So, what’s the challenge? I actually had an easy enough time doing a “digital detox” a month or two ago, but like most people, I can’t afford to completely cut the cord so close to my trip. I just felt my fingers itch to open up a tab and type “overcoming internet addiction” to find an idea. I’m so hard-wired to search online for everything now that I’m probably losing my creativity and capacity to think and read… so good, all the more reason to not to anything else, especially not online, until I come up with a challenge by myself, for myself.

I, Elizabeth Cooper, will practice mindfulness online during the next seven days by using a notebook to write down every task I am doing online, and only do that task. If I feel distracted (like I need to follow that link to that cool site to download that awesome podcast, for example) I will simply note, on paper, the desire, and come back to it in the future during a predetermined online “play time.” I will allow myself only a half hour of “play time” online each day for the next week – less if possible. This will include superfluous email, Facebook, blog reading, and surfing. Superfluous will be defined as anything not related to a specific task/question. I will use this method both at work and at home.

my altar

my altar, which I've set up to remind me of connection in various ways: painting on left - I made at SI - love and growth. candles - received from various important women in my life - sense of creating a sacred space. Mala beads - received during Kripalu yoga teacher training - yoga/meditation. Japanese postcard - received from a good friend - reminder of tranquility and my home. My best friend and I laughing - laughter and joy. A photo from my healing heart hands project, where I took photographs of SI students while leading them in a metta, or loving kindness meditation, for a good friend of mine - beauty and love.

Connection has kept coming up as something I’d like to create more of in my life – connection to life, spirit, others, self – and I have found that for me, that feeling of connection does not come from being online. In fact, being online drains me. Except right now, as I’m mindfully being online, completing this one task, using my brain to connect with my own thoughts, and hopefully others once this is posted.

To support myself in my intention of staying connected and calm this next week, I will renew my seven day meditation vow for the Hardcore Dharma Course:

I, Elizabeth Cooper, with confidence in the benefits of a regular practice of sitting meditation, do hereby commit, for myself and no one else, to practicing at least one session of sitting meditation, for as short or as long a period of time as I am willing and able, for each of the next seven days.

The homework and discussion about not multitasking, training our minds post-meditation, has been part of the inspiration for this post, as a reminder of what I already know. The folks taking the course over at the Interdpendence Project in New York just finished up about an hour and a half ago and some of them are probably hanging out right now. If you’re a Hardcore Dharma student, hi there! Can’t wait to listen to this week’s class. Which reminds me, I should go do the reading… (writing it down as my next task)…


Sangha online?

Sangha = a) a spiritual community and b) something I’ve been missing dearly.

Could I find something as intimate as a spiritual community… online?

I’ve been listening to the Interdependence Project’s weekly podcasts, and hearing people talk about Buddhism in the 21st century mentally brings me back to SI and all the wonderful, stimulating conversations we had about the meaning of life – sprinkled with humour and vivacity. I’ve learned a lot about “contemplative practice” over the past year, but as you might be able to tell from that vague description, I don’t atually know that much intellecutally. So, being the nerd that I am, I signed up for the ID Project’s “Hardcore Dharma Summer Series” as a homelistener.

Today, an email from the teacher with the syllabus and expectations of the course excited me. (Actually, come to think of it, much like when I received information about SI, about a year ago.) Yes, homework excited me. Reading! Meditating! Being held accountable! … even if just by the fact that somebody other than myself expects me to read, meditate, and take this course seriously.

More than any of that, I feel encouraged and reinspired to practice because I know that others are in it with me. Community is so, so important to me, and how excited I was about the email to the class list confirmed that for me. Even if I’m not even sharing physical space or even conversation with the people in the class in New York, I feel connected, on some level.

And now, I repeat my seven day meditation vow, which they will repeat each Wednesday in class and I will repeat each Wednesday to myself, outloud, and right now, online for the world to see:

I, Elizabeth Cooper, with confidence in the benefits of a regular practice of sitting meditation, do hereby commit, for myself and no one else [my emphasis], to practicing at least one session of sitting meditation, for as short or as long a period of time as I am willing and able, for each of the next seven days.

I really like what Ethan, the teacher, writes about why we take the vow:

The taking of this vow creates a tangible memory in the mind of the person speaking it. The mind of the vow-taker is tethered to the flagpole of her commitment, bound only by an elastic cord of awareness. Whenever we stray from our vow, may that cord of awareness snap us back—with gentleness and humor—into the space of our practice.

Meditate in a Hammock – just do it!

nowhere to go, nothing to do

nowhere to go, nothing to do

I’ve been taught a lot about meditation and contemplative practice in the past year.

For the three and a half months of SI, (Semester Intensive) we meditated in the mornings, we meditated at the beginning of most classes, we meditated as part  of our daily yoga classes, we meditated as part of our Yoga Philosophy and Practice class, we meditated under the guidance of some big name teachers such as Jill Satterfield, Ethan Nichtern, Noah Levine and Stephen Cope.

So what is meditation? Er…

… at the end of the program, that was actually one of the main questions I left pondering. I could write about one-pointed concentration, on breath, body, movement, mantra, or witness consciousness, observing one’s thoughts… but my type-A personality and my critical analysis approach engrained in me from education want more. I want to know how all these different meditation practices fit together, and what would best suit me and why and on and on…

Despite my lack of context, clear understanding or perspective on what meditation meant to me, I decided that I wanted to explore it more, so I made daily meditation one of my goals for the new year. So I’ve been meditating almost every day since January, with a break in personal practice when I did my yoga teacher training and visited friends, and I’m still not any more clear on any of these questions.

Recently I’ve noticed myself approaching my daily practices (meditation, yoga, journaling and photography) with a bit of a to-do list attitude. Ok, next, check, next, check, next, check… for somebody who set their intention for the year to be joyful, I knew I was veering off that path a bit.

As I approached my cushion this morning, the hammock was hanging over my yoga mat/meditation cushion because a visitor had used it the day before. I decided to give “hammock meditation” a try. I set the intention at the beginning of practice to be open and joyful. During the Speaking of Faith radio program this morning, Krista Tippett described how Thich Nhat Hanh often practices walking meditation hand in hand with a child because they act as complements to each other – the child feels the concentration and groundedness of the adult, and the adult gains the freshness and openness of the child.

I used the hammock as my child this morning, and it worked beautifully. I allowed myself to just be, which I think is an essence of meditation. I smiled. I lay still. I felt my body tingling, alive. I felt my feet slightly elevated. I felt myself supported by all those little, vibrant fibers. I felt myself swinging slightly and then coming to stillness. Nothing to do and nowhere to go.

I have wonderful memories of swinging and sleeping and reading and playing in this very hammock from childhood summers. I’ve been back home for a couple of months and had yet to lie in it for even a few minutes. It’s so easy for me to slip into all work and no play. I got a bunch of books on meditation from the library and was planning on reading them and looking around on blogs to try to figure out what my “next step” was for meditation. Instead, I’m making up my own meditation – the hammock meditation, and I’m going to give it a whirl for the next week.

Appendage – it occured to me that not everybody has a hammock handy, in which case I suggest you meditate with anything that reminds you of your childhood. If you try it, I’d love to hear how it went!