I truly love it when friends, colleagues, clients, pass on to me resources about paths and practices that lead to inner resilience and well-being. Thank you Karen Recktenwald for passing on The Wisdom of a Meaningful Life by John Bruna, counselor, educator, mindfulness and spiritual teacher. The book will be published August 9, 2016.
The only thing that separates the person you are from the person you want to be, are the actions you take.
[I will be teaching about taking wise, compassionate and courageous action in the Fall 2016 Mindful Self-Compassion course at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, September 13-November 1, 2016 and at the Mindfulness and Compassion in Therapy and Society conference in Freiburg, Germany September 23-25, 2016]
After sorting through common misconceptions about the pursuit of happiness and the power of mindfulness, John focuses on:
Attention: noticing what we are choosing to attend to rather than unconscious habits “dragging us around”; noticing whether what we are focusing on is actually relieving our suffering – or not.
Values: the need to live in alignment with our core values for the benefit of ourselves, others, and the greater good. “How can I make this day meaningful?” (Sometimes overlooked in teachings on either happiness or mindfulness.)
Wisdom: recognizing habits, biases, projections and learning to relate skillfully to people and events as they are.
Open-heartedness: the transformative heart practices of equanimity, loving kindness, compassion and empathetic joy.
Taking action: the importance of perseverance in practice. You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.” – Rabindranath Tagore
The book gracefully includes John’s personal story and many exercises for the reader to practice. One of my favorites:
TRANSFORMING UNSKILLFUL EVENTS MEDITATION
Take a few moments to relax and breathe. Bring all of your awareness into your body and rest your awareness there. Relax any tension you find in your body. Let each in-breath be an invitation to relax. Let each out-breath be an opportunity to release – letting go of any and all tensions, worries, or concerns. Breathing in, relax. Breathing out, release. Do this until you are relaxed and centered.
Now take a moment to set a strong motivation for engaging in this precious opportunity to transform your life. Set the motivation to be compassionate with yourself and with others. Remember, you are taking the time to participate in your life in a meaningful way. So take a moment to clearly establish your motivation, to participate in this meditation, to transform and improve the quality of your interactions with others, and to make your life meaningful.
Now call to mind that life is messy and all of us have done things we feel good about, as well as things we don’t feel so good about. Remember all others are just like you, trying to find happiness, trying to avoid suffering. All others also know despair and sadness. They’re trying to have their needs met. And just like you, they are learning how to live. We are all in this together, doing the best we can with what we have.
Now call to mind a situation you would like to transform. A situation in which you didn’t feel good about your interaction. It could be an event, an activity with others, or just a continuous mental habit. Take a moment to all it to mind as clearly as possible, as though you are watching the scene in front of you. Keep in mind that all parties in the scene are doing the best they can with what they have. Step back from the scene and observe it. What can you learn about yourself? What was triggered? What is your sense of the needs of the others involved? Step back from the scene and see what you can learn about what happened. What’s the inner cause that provoked your unskillful response? In what way was this situation harmful to you or others?
Having gained insight into this unskillful event, how could you have responded more skillfully? How could you have responded in a way that was more beneficial? How would you like to respond the next time this situation happens? Take a moment to strongly call to mind the way you would like to respond in the future. See yourself responding in this way. How could the outcome be different? Now set a firm intention that whenever a situation like this arises again, you will do your best to respond in the more skillful way. Take a moment to set this firm intention.