The Buddha lists discipline as one of the six paramitas, or transcendent actions, that help us move toward enlightenment. It's not one that most people are eager to talk about. Discipline brings up fears of shame, blame, and deprivation. Buddhist teachers say it's not so. In the Shambhala teachings, it's said that discipline bring joy.
Last week Brett Boyar’s post on this blog, titled “Use Your Non-Dominant Hand”, got me thinking about being more mindful about the tasks I do every day with my hands. As Brett described that week’s mindfulness exercise, and the interesting insights he gained from it, I started to wonder if I should give it a try once in a while and see what would come of it.
Yesterday on the N train, a man who was standing in front of me suddenly reached over and punched the open window above me in order to close it. I had just put down my book and was in this in-between state, still sort of in the world of my book, coming back slowly into the world of the subway, and this loud noise and violent motion startled me. Even though no harm had been done to me or anyone, waves of anger and fear arose. My annoyance at this man churned in my thoughts and fueled my feelings for the next twenty minutes. I got curious about that.
Nearly every morning of my life for the past dozen-ish years has included a loud whir, a prolonged blast of heat, and a clamping down of sizzling metal plates—all of which can last up to forty minutes. Convinced that my hair in its natural state of waviness was/is unacceptable to society (and to myself,) I have been ironing the living curls out of my hair since I was in middle school, and I recently realized how angry I am about the fact that I have never questioned this ritual.
Meditation is about making friends with our whole being and learning to accept what we're tempted to reject, suppress, or avoid because it feels uncomfortable. I know, from personal experience, that's a beneficial thing. Now there's scientific evidence.
Gender generalizations make me uneasy. But after practicing psychotherapy for many years with women from diverse racial, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds, there’s one that is unfortunately consistent: most women struggle with genuine self-care.
Lots of schools are using mindfulness meditation to help students improve their focus and ease stress. There's both empirical and anecdotal evidence that it works. But one Ohio school system is moving the other way, dropping mindfulness instruction due to parents' objections.