Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Working with the Four Veils

This talk will explore the four tricky techniques big deal mind uses to protect solid self: illusions, delusions, attachments, and aggression. I think of these as veils—something that conceals, separates, or screens out. Illusions, delusions, attachments, and aggression all interfere with clear seeing by providing a perspective on your experiences that can be radically different from what’s actually occurring, which has the effect of separating you from the ongoing flow of your life. These four veils are interwoven and often interdependent. When illusions are challenged, delusion steps in to explain the discrepancy, then resistance to any information to the contrary shows up as attachment. Ultimately, aggression steps in to protect all three. The journey though illusion, delusion, and attachment generally occurs so quickly that we don’t recognize their influence until they show up in aggressive mindless reactions.

Watching the activity of the four veils will by keep you from being hooked into mindless reactions and will go a long way to deepening your mindful presence and practice throughout your life. Remember that mindful practice in not about getting rid of the four veils, rather bringing patient, open, and compassionate awareness to the flow of your life experiences.

Here are easy practices you can use in you day to day life that will help remind you to maintain spacious presence and break your reactive cycle. This section of practices will span a four week period. Each week will help strengthen mindful presnence in the presence of your four veils. You will work with your four veils while bringing mindful awareness to them.

Here is the strategy:

Begin and end every day with reminding yourself of the importance of cultivating patience, openness, and compassion. With each of the following pracrtices, take 15 – 20 minutes each day and connect with your breath.

Week one Illusion: During this week begin and end each day resting in the presence of your breath. As you breathe in silently repeat to yourself: I am reminded of my connection to all of life. As you breathe out silently repeat to yourself: I relax into the flow of all life.”

If you mind resists and wanders gently return to your breath and your remeiders.

Week two Delusion: During this week begin and end each day resting in the presence of your breath. As you breathe in silently repeat to yourself: I will listen to my lifes story. As you breathe out silently repeat: I will let go of my story.

Week three Attachment: Druing this week begin and end each day resting in the presence of your breath. As you breathe In silently repeat: I am letting go resistance. As you breathe out silently repeat: I am embracing all that is offered in each moment.

Week four Aggression:
And finally during this week begin and end each day resting in the presence of your breath. As you breathe in silently repeat: I notice my fear/reaction. As you breathe out silently repeat: I strive to offer a patient, open, and compassionate response

The more you watch the four veils the less influence they will have. Bring spacious watchfulness to how the four veils operate, and you bring yourself closer and closer to enhancing mindful responses in your life. Every time you stop and pause with these four practices, you soften the solidity of your experience and create greater spaciousness for patience, openness, and compassion to deepen you mindful presence.

The nice thing about these practices is that you can take them with you throughout your day. When needed pause, return to your breath and silently repeat these reminders. If you are resisting the flow of life return to the reminders practiced in week one. If you are caught up in listening to your stories about the events of your life, return to the reminders you practiced in week two. If you are being stubborn, or otherwise attached, return to the reminders you practiced in week three. IF you are feeling tight and reactive return to the reminders you practiced in week 4.

Also, if you find that you struggle with one or more of these veils return to that chapter and keep working. The more you keep bringing watchful, spacious awareness to the flow of your life the more meaningful your mindful presence will become. This is a process. The more you work with it, the more it will work in your life.

As you navigate through the ongoing ebb and flow of your life experiences, take time to pause and reconnect with your awareness of how your veils of illusion, delusion, attachment, and aggression may be keeping you disconnected from others, from everything your life has to offer, and even from yourself.
Through the difficult work of self-inquiry in part 2 of this book, you’ve come to understand yourself and your ways of responding to the world, creating a foundation you can build upon as you expand your practice out into the world around you. Part 3 of this book will help you apply mindfulness to everyday activities such as eating, walking, and driving—and to your awareness of the world around you. It will also help you bring patience, openness, and compassion to the more substantial challenges of mindfulness in relationships. In the final chapter, I’ll introduce you to the ancient practice of loving-kindness meditation, which will help you extend compassion outward in an expansive way, ultimately to all living beings.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thank a red light!


So often we (me included!) are in a perpetual hurry, our minds firmly fixed on where it is we are headed to that we often miss one of the greatest opportunities to pause and reclaim a sense of mindful presence.

I am referring to the red light! That's right. When busily driving around, take this opportunity to change your perspective. See your driving amidst traffic as an example of how to be in the flow of the events of your life.

Rather than resisting, cursing, hitting your steering wheel about the red light, step back and view it as an opportunity. After all, getting upset is not going to make the light change any faster! They are all on timers! They are really not out to make your life miserable. Your reaction is what is making you miserable.

So when you come upon a red light say: Thank you! Take this time to find your pause (if you are not familiar with how to reconnect with your pause, check it out in my book The Mindfulness Workbook: A Beginners Guide to Overcoming Fear and Embracing Compassion). Rest with your pause and make the most of what this red light is offering too you. Look around you. Notice something pleasant, put a gentle smile on your face.

Again one of many occurrences in our lives that we can take advantage of to bring a greater sense of mindful presence alive for ourselves.

Peace to you.


Monday, August 2, 2010

mindfulness and relationships

I read this quote today and thought of the importance of remaining mindfully present in the way we relate to others.

"What others think of us would be of little value did it not, when known, so deeply tinge what we think of ourselves."
- Paul Valery

Take some time today and reflect: The way we treat others is a mirror of the way we treat ourselves. If we are critical of others, in what way are we critical of ourselves? If we judge others how do we judge ourselves. If we put others down and ridicule them, how is it we do the same to ourselves?

You see it is so very easy to keep the focus on all that stuff out there: politics, religion, the environment, your mother-in-law, the kids, the president, our weight, the car we drive, getting others approval. This makes it very difficult to see that the source of our struggles resides is how we relate to ourselves.

Take some time each day to practice forgiveness, forgiveness towards our-selves. Give our-selves a break. Let our-selves be human and accept that we are who we are without criticism, judgment, or comparison. The more we accept ourselves as we are, the more we will do the same with others.

Watch how, as we learn to go lightly on ourselves we will begin to do the same with others.

Start with patience. Slow down and be more patient with yourself. Be realistic about what it is you expect to get done today. Pace yourself, and make some quiet time for yourself. Your life is unfolding just as it is. Are you going with it or fighting it because you want thing to go faster, get done sooner? Be patient with others around you. Remember they too are trying the best they can and are struggling with their own self judgments, criticisms, and fears. They don't need yours too!

Next practice openness. By openness I mean curiosity. Simply remain open to what is unfolding at any given moment. Whatever is occurring may or may not be what it is you want or think should be happening, none-the-less, it is happening any way. Watch how you try to control, resist, manipulate. By practicing openness, you can remain responsive to other people and you will find that your responses will add to what is occurring rather than fighting against it.

Finally practice compassion. There is a wonderful Zen saying:

"You are none other than me with a different name and a different face."

Practicing compassion when relating to others invites you to bring this awareness to better understanding and responding to others. Remembering this phrase allows you to keep from reacting to how other people may be thinking, feeling and/or reacting and respond with great compassion. Rather than needing to be right you can respond with "how can I help?"

As a final word. The wonderful thing about all this is that all we need to do is check in with ourselves. If we are agitated, angry, sad, disappointed, lonely, all we need to do is re-direct our awareness to what it is that the "out there" is touching "in here." Then it becomes easier. Rather that trying to do battle with, change, control, the others, life, we can focus our attention and energies where we can actually do something about our struggles. Yourself!

Treat yourself with greater patience, openness, and compassion, and you will see how this brings positive things to all of your relationships!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Every day mindfulness

Often I am asked if there are other ways to practice mindfulness than just in meditation.


Unfortunately, the way mindfulness is often portrayed leaves us thinking that mindfulness in just about meditation.

In fact mindfulness is about how to live in the world.

So here are some easy ways you can gently bring mindful attention to your everyday life:

One minute attention:

1. For one minute, stop what you are doing
2. At your desk, at a stop light, before eating a meal.
3. Relax your shoulders
4. Relax your jaw
5. Simply watch your breath
6. When finished, take a beep cleansing breath

Mindful eating:

1. Create an environment that is conducive to eating: Turn off phones, T.V., computers, etc.
2. Put a minimal amount of food on your plate.
3. Take a moment to pause and look at the food you are about to enjoy: look at the colors, shapes, and textures
4. Choose your first bite.
5. Put your utensil down, fold your hands in your lap and chew
6. Pause after you shallow before taking your next bite.

You may be surprised that you do not eat as much.

Walking mindfully.

Walking is something we also do every day. Too often we rush about oblivious to what is going on around us. We miss so much!

Here is a way to use walking as a way to awaken our senses:

1. While walking (in the grocery store, out to your car after work, to a meeting or appointment) just slow your pace down just a bit
2. Choose one of your senses and notice what is going on. What there is to see, or hear, or feel, or smell.
3. Stay with that sense for a minute.
4. Then change to another sense and again notice what that sense is picking up.

As with any practice of mindfulness, if your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the practice.