Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saturday Night West Coast Re-Post: Continuing the Dialogue about Mindfulness

So, today I drove to Santa Monica with my friend Shannon to listen to the great Buddhist psychotherapist, Dr. Mark Epstein. I imagine many of you know his books -- there's Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart and there's Psychotherapy without the Self: A Buddhist Perspective, and also Thoughts Without a Thinker. His new book is called The Trauma of Everyday Life. After being introduced by the equally great Jack Kornfield, Epstein read many passages from his new book, told us stories and led us in a 10 minute sitting meditation that included turning ON our cell phones and then listening throughout those ten minutes. Mindful listening to the beeps and whirs and pings and rings from hundreds of people's cell phones was incredibly interesting and, at least for me, hilarious. It made me realize, again, that we are not our thoughts, that the values and judgments we impose on circumstances are just that: impositions. I'm not sure that I articulated that in the best way -- what struck me is that while we normally are highly irritated when we hear cell phones go off in quiet rooms, looking at them as intrusive, when instructed to do so, to just listen and almost welcome the sounds, the experience became light, easy, even funny.

So where's the re-post? I thought the following post from almost exactly a  year ago, that I found when I searched the blog for Mark Epstein, was perfect to post here, especially in light of the comment exchange that we had here the other day with a fellow blogger who wondered how some people "cope" better than others. I still maintain that "coping" -- particularly with trauma -- is not something done "well" or "better" than others, but that the practice of mindfulness meditation is profound and life-changing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


What arises in our experience is much less important than how we relate to what arises in our experience.
                               Mark Epstein 

I'm not sure I've ever written about the first mindfulness meditation class that I took about fourteen years ago when Henry was a newborn baby and Sophie, a screaming for unknown reason three year old with uncontrolled seizures. I look back on many phases of my life since my children were born and wonder how in the hell I got through them, but here I am. Through them and sort of, kind of, prepared for the next phase.

One of the things that helped me most, that didn't just help me, actually, but transformed me was a class called Mindfulness Meditation for Stress Reduction. Each week, I traveled to the deep, dark San Fernando Valley for a three hour class with a group of people whose problems included chronic pain, depression, severe illness, trauma and post-traumatic stress syndrome. We were taught the basics of mindfulness meditation and the practice of sitting, as well as the benefits of utilizing the principles throughout one's daily life.

I'm not a master at meditation, but I know that the practice enables me to cope in far better ways than the frantic pleading and praying I did previously. For me, there had been so much dread in the practice of a religion with no resonance, and when I began to meditate, I finally found a bit of the peace and connection with divine love that I had only read about. More importantly, though, the practice of meditation helps me to deal with nearly everything difficult and challenging -- it doesn't make anything not difficult or challenging, but  somehow, almost by stealth, the seemingly impossible becomes possible.


  1. I'm so glad that you got to hear these two wonderful teachers, and that you shared what you learned with us - thank you. The cell-phone meditation is particularly interesting. There is a peace in meditation that is different from word-prayers. I'm grateful that you found it.

  2. I love the cell phone meditation! I think a lot of people have the idea that meditating means silencing or pushing away the world. But that's a great way to show that instead it just means BEING with the world. Right?

    (WV: ymakfun)

  3. Thank you for reposting, and thank you for the cell phone story! I just finished a 21-day meditation challenge, and I so agree that mindfulness is the "trick," to "doing it," when asked how do we do it?

  4. I too am inspired by those who teach about developing a personal connection with spirit.

    I think the greatest challenge I face is quieting my brain. My mind is constantly chattering, learning to quiet it is so difficult for me. I have found if I think about thought, emotion and spirit as being separate entities, it is a little easier for me. I find that often I allow thought to rule and must learn how to give emotion and spirit a chance to also be heard. Particularly spirit.....I think many of us have lost this inner voice since "religion" was often force fed into our bodies instead of being breathed slowly into our being.



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