Category: Enhancing Your Practice
Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 entries.

Enrich Your Life with a Beginner’s Mind

  • Posted on May 15, 2016 at 2:24 pm

By Amira Posner

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.” Shunryu Suzuki

The other day I went to get gelato. The café was jam packed, and the woman working the counter was running around like a chicken with her head cut off. I felt so impatient. There was such a long line and the café was clearly understaffed.

I noticed another person behind the counter, sitting and doing absolutely nothing. Finally, it was my turn and I couldn’t help but mention that the other employee should help out. The woman looked at me and gently said, “Oh, that’s my boyfriend. He shouldn’t even really be here.”

The Healing Power of a Meditation Group

  • Posted on June 16, 2013 at 3:16 pm

By Charles A. Francis

Helping other people on their spiritual journey is one of the most prominent qualities of an enlightened person. When you begin to see your interconnectedness with the rest of humanity, you will see the suffering in other people, and your compassion for them will naturally grow. One of the ways we can help others is by starting a meditation group.

A Meditation Group Can Transform Lives

While many of us enjoy meditating alone, meditating with others can enhance our spiritual growth significantly. In addition to helping people learn how to meditate, a meditation group can bring a tremendous amount of healing to everyone who attends. This can help someone who’s having difficulty overcoming the wounds from his past. There are various other ways a meditation group can be of benefit to its members:

4 Tips for Staying Committed to Your Mindfulness Meditation Practice

  • Posted on December 2, 2012 at 11:57 pm

By Charles A. Francis

These days there is much talk about mindfulness meditation. You often hear about how the practice will transform your life, and how you’ll achieve a multitude of health benefits.

While there are indeed many benefits of mindfulness meditation, for many people, these benefit seem elusive because they’re having trouble getting started and staying committed to their practice.

Which of these statements best describes your experience with meditation?

  • “I’m having trouble getting started, and staying committed to my practice.”
  • “I’ve tried different ways of meditating, but I still don’t see much progress.”
  • “I’m not sure of what to do when I’m meditating.”
  • “My mind is racing, and I have trouble sitting still.”

If you answered “yes” to any of these statements, then you’re not alone. I had all these problems when I started, and so have most of the people I’ve talked to. The good news is that there is a simple approach to overcoming these problems.

The Mindfulness Meditation Retreat: Your Most Powerful Tool for Spiritual Development

  • Posted on May 31, 2012 at 4:50 pm

By Charles A. Francis

Have you ever wondered if there was a way you could speed up your spiritual development? I’m sure you know of some people who are so peaceful and serene that nothing seems to bother them. The secret of their success is actually quite simple. They’ve figured out what works, and they do it consistently.

Why the Slow Progress?

The reason many of us have trouble with our spiritual development is because we don’t avail ourselves of some simple tools that can be tremendously effective. In Buddhism, they have what is called the Noble Eightfold Path. If you’re not familiar with them, these are essentially basic practices that will help us achieve enlightenment, or freedom from suffering.

How to Deal with Difficult People Mindfully, Part 2

  • Posted on May 2, 2012 at 12:21 pm

By Charles Francis

Most of us find it challenging dealing with difficult people in a healthy manner. Our most common reactions are to either become defensive, or go on the offensive. However, these reactions seldom make the situations any better. In fact, the usually make things worse.

In last week’s post, we learned that we have some valuable tools that can diffuse many of these volatile interactions and help cultivate some understanding and healing. We talked about how deep listening can send the clear message to another person that we have no intentions of harming them. In this post, I’ll share with you how I learned to practice mindful speech, and how we can use it to promote peace and harmony with everyone we engage.

For most of my life, I never paid much attention to the effect my words had on other people in my interactions with them. I usually spoke as a reaction to someone addressing me. I never thought about how my words would be received. Very often, what I said and what the other person heard were two entirely different things. Part of it was because of their preconceived ideas about me and the situation. But the difference was also due to my choice of words. They didn’t always communicate the meaning I intended.

My first big lesson in mindful speech came at a retreat. At the orientation, we were told that we would be practicing noble silence for the next 4 days. My immediate reaction was one of panic. I was surprised at this, because my intellect told me that it wouldn’t harm me to go a few days without speaking, but emotionally I felt very vulnerable.

During those 4 days, I could communicate by writing on a notepad. Since it wasn’t feasible to write out a long conversation, I had to choose my words carefully. This is when I began to think about how best to communicate my message. In other words, I wanted to make sure the other person understood exactly what I meant.

It soon became clear that I used my speech for things other than communication. I used it to get what I wanted, and all the superfluous conversation was intended to manipulate people to that end. And since I was primarily interested in satisfying my own needs, I was not so concerned about the other person’s well-being. I may have told myself that I was, but the truth of the matter was that my own wants and desires always came first. I viewed situations in terms of what I was going to get out of them.

What I learned about myself was that my intentions were not as noble as I thought. If I truly wanted to be the enlightened person I thought I was, then I needed to be more mindful of my speech. That is, I needed to choose words that nurtured healing and understanding.

From that point, I began to think before I spoke. I paid particular attention to how my words might be interpreted. One thing I noticed that I did in the past was poke fun at other people. It may have seemed like harmless fun, but it kept people on the defensive when they were around me. That is, they were always on guard and never at ease.

Now, when I’m around other people I try to use words of encouragement to help uplift their spirits. I try to show sincere interest in the things going on in their lives. Not only does it help the other person, but it also helps me because they become more open and provide me with the spiritual nourishment that helps me grow.

Tips for Practicing Mindful Speech

Mindful speech is a tool that takes some effort to develop. However, the rewards to everyone involved are immeasurable. Here are some tips I recommend for practicing mindful speech:

  • Think before you speak. Try to avoid reacting to someone else’s words. Think about how your words will be received.
  • Resist the temptation to engage in a power struggle. It’s not necessary to always be right. If their words are abrasive, then we can easily be drawn into a power struggle.
  • Try to be forgiving, understanding, and compassionate. If we continue to see the wounded person, then it’s easier to be compassionate and understanding of their shortcomings.
  • Choose words that promote trust. These can convey concern for the other person’s well-being.
  • Use words of encouragement. These can promote sincerity, harmony, and healing. Express some enthusiasm for others’ accomplishments, no matter how small they may be.

Though I still consider myself to be learning how to practice mindful speech, my interactions with people are much more enjoyable—whether they are with loved ones or with strangers. You too can enjoy these rewards if you stay committed to your meditation practice, and learn to observe you actions with a mindful eye.

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How to Deal with Difficult People Mindfully, Part 1

  • Posted on April 25, 2012 at 3:19 pm

By Charles Francis

We all have difficult people in our lives—some almost impossible to get along with. It seems like almost every time we engage them, we end up getting caught in a power struggle, which can often escalate into volatile situations. Though it is indeed a challenge to turn these relationships around, we can at least make the situations significantly better.

They Are Wounded People

The first thing we need to remember is that difficult people are that way for a reason. They are often angry at the world because they feel hurt and victimized by the general population, so they take out their anger on everyone they encounter.

Sometimes, they are angry with people from whom they can no longer get justice, such as a parent or sibling who may have victimized them when they were a child. For them, it takes a great deal of work to heal these wounds. We sometimes make things worse by touching those wounds that have not yet healed. When we do this, we usually get a negative reaction.

How Can We Make Things Better?

Though we may not be able to cure difficult people of their emotional afflictions, we can certainly not aggravate the situation. The first thing we need is a great deal of compassion. We need to look behind their wall of defense and see the wounded child looking for respite from the pain and suffering. Once we can see the wounded child in them, it is much easier for us to behave in a more kind and gentle manner. One powerful tool at our disposal is deep listening.

Deep Listening

The power of deep listening never ceases to amaze me. Oftentimes, people who are deeply wounded feel like nobody listens to them. The message they get is that others don’t think they are worthwhile. We can turn that around. By listening to them, we send them the clear message that someone thinks what they have to say is important, and therefore, they too are important. We can sometimes turn an adversary into a friend.

Practicing deep listening takes a great deal of patience. At first, the other person will try everything they can to engage us in a power struggle. We must be mindful of this and resist the temptation to strike back as a response to their harsh words.

The next thing to do is listen to their concerns with genuine interest. They will often be surprised that someone is truly interested in their concerns. When they realize that, their demeanor will usually change. They often become less abrasive.

When we engage difficult people, we sometimes become drawn into a power struggle or volatile situation. We can diffuse these situations by remaining calm and listening deeply to their concerns. When we do this, they will sometimes realize that we are not out to inflict more pain and suffering on them, and are genuinely concerned for their well-being.

Deep listening is one of the tools at our disposal for dealing with difficult people. In Part 2 of this series of articles, we will talk about another useful tool—mindful speech.

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How Mindfulness Meditation Can Help Us Forgive Ourselves

  • Posted on April 11, 2012 at 12:01 pm

We’ve all done things we’re not proud of. Some of us have even done things we’re downright ashamed of. The feelings of guilt, shame, and remorse can be major obstacles to our spiritual development. The good news is that through the practice of mindfulness meditation, we can learn to forgive ourselves and to let go of the painful emotions associated with the memories of our unwholesome acts.

When I was a young man, I was so socially inept that I apologized in advance for any insensitive remark that I might make. In time, I realized that it was safer for me to just not talk and avoid the embarrassment. The problem with this approach was that I alienated myself from people, and as a result, I grew weak spiritually.

As you know, forgiving ourselves is not easy. Have you ever tried just telling yourself to forgive yourself for the things you’ve done? It doesn’t work too well, does it? That’s because forgiving ourselves takes a great deal of spiritual strength.

In my experience on the path to spiritual development, I’ve seen a direct correlation between how strong I am spiritually and how much I can forgive myself for my unwholesome behavior. That is because with a higher self-esteem, I can accept the fact that I am human, and therefore, fallible.

I am also now more mindful of my actions. I am much more aware of my thoughts and actions, and how they can bring either harmony or discord. I have found that by being kind and loving I bring greater harmony in my life, and in the lives of those around me.

Of course, most of this is the result of my meditation practice. Mindfulness meditation has enabled me to be at peace with myself, and with the people in my life, both past and present. I finally have the strength and courage to forgive myself. I can also forgive those who have harmed me.

I realize that some of us may have experienced more traumatic events that require professional help to overcome. Though meditation alone may not be enough, we still need the spiritual strength we get from mindfulness meditation to heal these wounds and be free of them.

It is a wonderful feeling to finally be free of all the guilt, shame and remorse from my past. And helping other people find the same freedom truly enriches my life and gives me the spiritual nourishment that keeps me growing.
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Learning How to Love Ourselves

  • Posted on April 3, 2012 at 10:07 pm

In last week’s post, we talked about some of the difficulties many of us have in loving ourselves. As one commenter noted, our actions often revolve around other people’s expectations. That is, we try to meet those expectations in order to gain their approval. This doesn’t leave much time for taking care of ourselves.

Those of us who have been on a spiritual path for any length of time know how much work is involved in changing our views, thoughts, and behavior. With some experience, we sometimes learn what works, and what doesn’t work. Unfortunately, by the time we learn what does indeed work, we’ve already put in a lot of time in effort.

In this post, I’m going to share with you a very powerful and effective exercise I recently discovered, which can change a lifetime of unwholesome habits in a just short period of time. That exercise is called writing meditation.

Now, this writing meditation is not the same as others you may have encountered. Most of the others revolve around some form of free-style writing of what is on your mind at the time. This writing meditation is nothing like that. In fact, it is much simpler.

In our writing meditation, all you do is copy by hand in a notebook the affirmations that were developed for a specific purpose. The loving-kindness meditation works extremely well for changing our attitudes about other people. Through the meditation, we become more loving and compassionate toward everyone we encounter, or have encountered in the past. The writing meditation has a wide range of benefits:

  • Heals the wounds from the past. As we become more loving and understanding, we’re able to forgive those who have harmed us, including ourselves.
  • Become more outgoing. Our new attitudes about other people will manifest themselves in our interactions with them. We become more sociable and outgoing.
  • Enhances our spiritual development. As we engage more people in a positive manner, we receive the spiritual nourishment we need to grow.
  • Helps us sleep better at night. When done before bed, the exercise will quickly calm down your mind after a hectic day of activities.
  • Learn to love ourselves. The writing meditation will transform our attitudes about ourselves. We’ll finally realize that we are just as deserving of our love as anyone else.

Probably the most amazing thing about this writing meditation is that you will realize these effects without any conscious effort. The only effort involved is in doing the writing meditation for 10 to 15 minutes a day.

The reason this writing works so well is because it literally imprints in your mind the ideals of unconditional love. I’ve found that writing it out by hand is much more effective than simply reciting or listening to the loving-kindness meditation.

Try the exercise for a few days, and share your results with us. You can download the loving-kindness writing meditation with instructions at:

Loving-kindness writing meditation

You’ll see for yourself that it only takes a few days before you start to see noticeable results. I’m sure it will help you learn to love yourself more, and others also.

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