It’s a Sunday morning and, when I have time, I listen to On Being with Krista Tippett. It comes on at 7am on the East Coast and is an inspiring and nourishing way to begin the day. This morning, she interviewed neuroscientist Richard Davidson and they talked about a lot of things that have kept me thinking throughout the day.
One of the themes was neuroplasticity, the ways in which our brains change with new learning. Davidson talked about how our behavior around and with others changes their brains and that got me to thinking, yet again, how important it is to model kindness as we move through our daily lives. The implication from neuroplasticity is that if we are taking actions or speaking in ways that convey kindness, we are literally spreading that around as people’s brains spontaneously respond to our acts of kindness.Read More “743rd Week: Neuroplasticity and Kindness”
There is no question that we live in stressful times and that the challenges facing humanity and the planet are of global proportions. Those of us who pay attention to science reports and environmental conditions understand the dangers we have helped to generate around environmental degradation. Those of us who pay attention to social sciences and to social movements understand that humanity is currently going through a powerful time of polarization between people who are deeply afraid of, and feel threatened by, certain “others” and people who are comfortable experiencing connection to all members of their global family.
Collectively, we are in a time of intense activation, from a trauma perspective, and one of the key antidotes to this kind of activation is finding out how to re-center, re-ground, and re-stabilize ourselves. When our brain is triggered into a threat response, we perceive through that lens and it can be very challenging to re-center and settle ourselves down. Fortunately, there is help available, as many people currently share ways to help ourselves find that place inside us that is always steady, even when we feel quite unstable.Read More “739th Week: Re-centering, Re-centering, Re-centering”
887th Week: Orienting to Lovingkindness
Note: At the end of this written practice is a recording of the Lovingkindness meditation. Please remember never to listen to recorded meditations while driving or using dangerous machinery.
The practice at the center of this week’s offering is heart-oriented. I’ve written many times about the importance of accessing and listening to the “heart-brain”, as it has a different take on many things compared to what the “head-brain” perceives and understands.
In our current political climate, characterized by a style of interaction that began 30 to 40 years ago, there is a new habit of thinking about the “other” in deeply negative terms with labels such as “devils”, “traitors”, “enemies”. This style of interaction has moved about as far from heart-centered styles of perception and interaction as possible. In the years before the current style of political conversation started, people understood that there are disagreements about policies, but this didn’t lead to a direct attack on the characteristics and attributes of colleagues.
All this got me to thinking about the importance of remembering that we are one human family and that we need each other in order to survive. It also orients me to the practice of lovingkindness, where I can remember and affirm that all living beings want the same thing—to be free from suffering and to be happy. It’s sometimes hard to access this awareness when it feels like we have lost the ability to disagree with one another without an attack and alienation as part of that disagreement.
For this week’s practice in conscious living, I invite you to orient to lovingkindness, if you aren’t doing this kind of practice already. This means to remember that anyone and everyone you encounter along the way wants the same thing. It can be helpful to remember that people who tend go attack are often being driven by fear.
Here’s one version of Lovingkindness practice that I have on my website:
How to use this Meditation Exercise:
It’s been my experience that doing this meditation once or twice a week, when you have time to really sit with it and enter into the spirit of what it touches, can have a powerful healing effect over time. Doing it regularly in this way creates a state of mind that promotes greater self-acceptance, compassion, tolerance, and ease with ourselves and also with others. It also offers a way to experience and honor mixed feelings while continuing to open your heart. (Note: Doing this practice doesn’t preclude feeling outrage or the need to take action on behalf of social and environmental justice…) If you choose to experiment with this meditation, give it several months to have an effect and notice how you feel as you use it over time.Read More “”
A friend sent me this quotation after a particularly violent and challenging week in American life and it touched into an awareness that’s been growing in me over recent years. There is so much suffering within our human family, so many acts of cruelty and violence around the world, and we are aware of so much more of it with the Internet. Because of this, it can be hard to remember wholeness, the wholeness inherent in our human family, when we see so many examples of how we, as a species, are capable of hurting one another.
I was very moved by the quotation from Howard Zinn and wanted to share it as part of this week’s practice. I think that it not only inspires but it also speaks to a powerful and ever-present truth: within wholeness there is more than whatever aspect of it is in the foreground at any given moment in time.
Here’s the quotation: Read More “731st Week: Wholeness”
In a recent On Being broadcast on NPR, I heard a story about Howard Thurman’s grandmother. Howard Thurman was a prominent figure in the civil rights movement and was an influential theologian. He was a mentor of Dr. Martin Luther King and also one of the principle architects of nonviolent protests. His grandmother was a former slave who owned land in an area where there were also white people.
Apparently, Thurman’s grandmother had a neighbor, a white woman who apparently was unkind to all in her neighborhood and not just to Thurman’s grandmother. At one point, the neighbor began to gather chicken droppings from her chicken coop on a regular basis and dump them on the garden of Thurman’s grandmother. Rather than retaliate, his grandmother turned the chicken droppings into the soil each time they arrived. In time, her garden flourished because of all the natural fertilizer in the chicken droppings.
The neighbor woman eventually became quite ill and, because of her way of relating to people, no one was willing to visit her or help her. One day, Thurman’s grandmother went to visit the woman, taking her a large bouquet of flowers. The woman was surprised and delighted to receive the flowers and commented on how beautiful they were. Thurman’s grandmother said in response that the flowers were so beautiful because of all the neighbor’s contributions of fertilizer to her garden.Read More “814th Week: Being Kind Doesn’t Mean You Have to Agree”
I’ve developed a practice when I walk across Central Park each morning of taking the time to thank all the various volunteers and employees I may pass along the way—people who give their time and energy to helping keep the park clean and well- tended. One recent morning, after a particularly heavy rain, Read More “Week 629: Expressing Gratitude”