Formal Practice, by Izzy

Next time you are with someone,
try an experiment.
Let the content of what is said be in the background of your awareness.
Then pay attention to 
the  tone, volume and melody of their voice,
their facial expressions and gestures,
their body movements,
their pauses and the timing of their responses to you, and 
the crescendos, decrescendos and  contours of how they manifest.
Pay also attention to your body  and how you feel inside 
in this person's presence.
Notice the subtleties of your own physical sensations and emotions
as they unfold in this person's presence from moment to moment.
Notice what unexpected thoughts arise.
How do you feel? What do you learn and discover?


The Mindfulness Lectures
Reflections from the Salt Mines
From a Course Participant

Dear Mindfulness Community,

J. wrote me in a recent email: "Funny how smart you became when I turned fifty." I thought to myself this is a good deal! My smartness is directly proportional to my students' age. I also remembered how certain things my first meditation teacher told me 40 years ago made sense only after half a life time.

Aging is the accumulation of experience, and experience wires the brain and modifies gene expression. How we handle experience seriously determines the quality of aging. Aging well is not easy. Certain cultures promote unquestioned respect for the elders, but this is tricky business. Some people live and process experience with a deep commitment to ignorance. Others don't see the point of asking deep questions, and many live their lives on autopilot like zombies. Unfortunately, getting old like that is not only uninspiring, but often toxic for both, the aging person and those around them. Watch out, then - if you are getting older and some people around you are not getting smarter, that is a bad sign for them (and for you if you stick around).

J. obviously feels growth within himself, which made me ask the question, "how would I want my students to age and what example would I want to give?" Five points come to mind I want to share here. 

As you get older,
1. Focus on noticing improvement, not on creating perfection - your life is a 1000-year project.
2. Never lose touch with the ?lan vital, the life force that fuels your curiosity about life - beware of stagnation and boredom.
3. Let go of your opinion and liberate yourself from the opinions of others as defining influences - sing your song with a full voice.
4. Discover the rich and foundational reality of the unspeakable, the open plane of infinite possibilities - cultivate stillness and spaciousness.

Dr. T. 




A 5-lecture series on mindfulness 101*:

Why and how to meditate


Over the course of 5 lectures we will explore the foundations and principles of mindfulness meditation. Why meditate? How do we best meditate? What is stress? How are meditation and stress related?


From lecture to lecture we will follow the gradual emergence of a new, invigorated approach to living, replacing our old, ingrained, rigid and stale patterns of suffering that have bogged down our lives, curtailed our creativity and undermined our passion and hope for life and the future.


Each lecture's journey begins with a short review of the previous lectures, followed by the exploration of one aspect of what and who we really are as living human organisms. Over the course of the lecture series we will gradually acquire a bird's eye view of how we are embodied, including how our brain is wired, and the relationship between body, mind and spirit. From this base we can then understand the tools we use to meditate, which we will learn to apply, one by one as we proceed from lecture to lecture.


* All lectures provide some common-sense directions about how to practice mindfulness.

Cooling the heat of emotion   


Saturday, April 11, 2015
3:00pm - 5:00pm   

We continue our exploration of the intriguing world of Interpersonal Neurobiology, which in this lecture will lead us to the third frontier of meditation: Alignment with emotions.

In helping students and teachers of meditation I am always impressed by the mind's tendency to regulate energy flow in a way that severs, confines, categorizes and dogmatizes. The brain craves certainty and substantiality as a means for survival and tends to favor neurofiring patterns that create the subjective illusion of predictability and solidity. This 'neuro-psychological' trend is further enhanced by the aging process, which comes with various degrees of physical rigidity, loss of tissue water, increased calcifications, slower reflexes, less precise movement patterns and incomplete repair mechanisms. Habit creates a sense of security because it always moves us within the familiar territory of what we know, even if it is outdated, destructive or driven by pseudo-knowledge. Our intuitive sense of increasing vulnerability as we age feeds right into the jaws of habit. Let's call this attitudinal bias towards the security of solidity the rigidity trap.

When we do not look closely, the rigidity trap has an ally in the way we experience daily life as a Newtonian left-brain world of steady time flow, three separate spatial dimensions, and objects in both space and consciousness that can seemingly be observed and manipulated independent from each other. The separation between body and mind is one of many such stubborn delusions, enabling a whole world view based on the principle that phenomena can be studied in isolation from each other without impacting our knowledge.

In meditation training the rigidity trap manifests for example in the way people struggle to freely move between knowledge disciplines. The Jesus story seems so separate from the scientific explanations of how the brain's safety system works, the Buddhist descriptions of subjective experience so separate from sensorimotor psychotherapy of trauma, and reflections on emptiness so diametrically opposed to scientific knowledge of epigenetic and synaptic processes. The way we parcel reality into chambers without communicating doors is a form of dissociative rigidity that tries to contain the chaos we experience when without training we open our minds to connections we are not used to making. 

Rigorous mindfulness training requires us to counter the rigidity trap through deep inquiry. Can we get a glimpse of the whole elephant of reality by making new associations between widely distributed and often seemingly independent fields of knowledge?  Can we learn to freely move from synapse to subjectivity, society and spirituality, back and forth between all those ways of knowing, without feeling jarred by unbridgeable gaps of knowledge? Can we learn to appreciate the inextricable relatedness of these domains as our reflections and investigations deepen? Can we freely and flexibly shift our energy flow from science to metaphor, from the language of mindfulness to the language of spirituality, without causing indigestion? Can we discover the splendid emptiness of being in a synaptic cleft and the left brain hard-nosed scientific concept in the vastness of being? Can we with rigor and discernment bridge the many ways of knowing and being we encounter in a lifetime, and freely embrace reality in its wholeness without oversimplifying its mysterious complexity?

THAT is mindfulness.

I recently received an email from P. He writes:

"I stayed and did the Wednesday night meditation group. To my surprise I was able to sit for the entire 50 minutes of the meditation without getting up or completely getting lost in my thoughts. During the meditation my awareness mainly stayed in thought and image space. Only toward the end did I feel physical sensations and that is because my butt started to hurt - haha. In short, it seems that my brain for whatever reason is hyper-active. There was not any thought that came to mind which would have provided a clue as to what might be going on, so I suspect its one of the following things: Too much stress in my daily life with the boys and business and I need to get more help, or being unhappy/unfulfilled with the work I do on a daily basis, or a combination of both.


You hit the nail on the head yesterday when you mentioned that I previously have achieved happiness 'because of the position of the stars' and not really knowing why or how I got there. That statement hit me hard because I was very proud of myself for finally reaching a point where I felt content, was sleeping well, was patient with my boys, and everything was sort of flowing. I thought that would continue and I would only become healthier. But that was not the case; I fell back into this negative space and my sleep started to be affected.


I will continue to practice daily mediation and see where it takes me. My goal is to get to a point where I can live a consistently peaceful and somewhat happy life. I am prepared to do whatever it takes to get there."


Confusing meditation practice with a medicine we take when we need it is a common mistake we can fall into. Practice is like daily weaving our parachute, as Jon Kabat-Zinn would say. If we don't, chances are high that the parachute won't open when we need it. Meditation is a way of being, not just a remedy against certain ailments. After all, the liberation from suffering is not about improving our circumstances, but recognizing the truth and flow of reality through all our circumstances and wiring the brain to meet them all with discernment and equanimity.


Meditation takes passion, patience and perseverance, skill and flexibility, knowledge and discernment. As one of my students came to realize, the best time to meditate is when you feel meditation is a waste of time and not working for you.



Do you know someone who could benefit from this information?  
Please forward this newsletter by clicking ' Forward email' at the bottom of this newsletter - they'll appreciate it!

I cannot express enough gratitude for being able to enjoy the privilege of working with so many talented, thoughtful, irreverent, creative and dedicated fellow travelers on this journey of inquiry, transformation and daily life application of what is most important for our human existence.

With kind regards,

Dr. T.

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Copyright ? 2015 by Dr. St?phane Treyvaud. All rights reserved.