Posts Tagged ‘meditation’

As the Paradigm Shifts #M: Money and Mindfulness

by Rosie Kuhn on July 6, 2011


Money is very much a spiritual issue. Some think that the pursuit of wealth couldn’t possibly be a path to enlightenment or spiritual serenity. We never know what our path will look like, what’s in store for us, or where our greatest learning opportunities will lay, awaiting our arrival so they can ambush us when we least expect it.

It’s not money per se but our attitudes and action in relation to money that harm us and others. Fear, not money is the root of all evil, and when we fear that we don’t have enough, who knows what antics our survival mechanism will concoct to give relief from the incessant anxiety of “I NEED MORE!”

It’s okay to want money, to have money and to spend money. All businesses are designed to manufacture or produce goods and services in exchange for currency of one form or another. This is a very good thing. We need this interdependent relationship to thrive. It’s when those “G” words come into play – greed and gain, that a healthy dynamic can turn dysfunctional. This is when abuse of power rears its head and resources such as people, animals and the Earth itself become taxed, stressed and depleted of life force. Work environments lose their soul, and so do those whose lives depend on these environments.


The balance of wealth and power takes mindfulness. Mindfulness cultivates awareness of how our actions, our thoughts and our being impact the environment within which we live and work. It’s obvious Mother Nature is beginning to demonstrate her lack of appreciation for how she has been ignored, plundered and taken for granted. And because we are all part of this living system I believe that She’s indicating that we as a species, and also, we as individuals, need to become mindful of our relationship with our selves.

I heard the other day that the extraordinary natural disasters that are occurring in this planet are just a causation of the inner turmoil of every living system on the planet. We need to include our businesses, corporations, religious and financial institutions as living systems too. The lack of mindfulness within each system is the responsibility of us all, because all of us participate in the exchange of goods and services and want what we want when we want it. We can’t keep passing the buck onto those who appear to be in charge. We are all in charge and the practice of mindfulness will make that clear.

The Personal is the Political

We have no idea the degree to which our personal power can transform the world. To mindfully engage at work with integrity and a compassionate heart – you will move mountains.

Stress, disease and illness are caused, generally speaking by a lack of mindfulness. Healing brings about wholeness and awareness of the power to which we can shift and change ourselves and our environments  – acting in my highest good is acting in the highest good of everyone.

Mindfulness requires intention to be attentive to what you are committed to – enough that you’re willing to practice bringing awareness and focus to how you be, to what you do, to your thoughts, feelings and body sensations, witnessing it all in service to fulfilling that which you desire. There’s nothing to give up. There is nothing to lose. And, the gain in this circumstance is self-empowerment, self-honoring and the honoring of the sacredness of all that surrounds you.

Mindfulness also keeps us in the moment, present to what is within. We learn to be present and attentive to which impulses we follow – moving us toward fear-based choices or essence-based choices. There is so much more going on than you can imagine. And, it is so accessible.

As I write, I realize that M also stands for meditation. I’m not one to sit cross-legged on a pillow staring at my navel. My form of meditation is practiced throughout the day staying focused and mindful on the agreements I’ve made to myself and to others that are mine to keep. I emphasize, again, the notion of practice as a way to gain mastery, letting go of the idea that perfection will ever be reached.

Enjoy the adventure!

Flexible Focus #44: Lessons in Life Balance

by William Reed on March 10, 2011

The common word for it is Work-Life Balance, the challenge and stress of giving proper attention and time to both work and family. Part of the challenge is that every individual’s situation is unique. No one pattern fits all.

Sometimes the stress is generated not so much by the situation, as by the person’s thoughts and attitudes in responding to it. Particularly stressful is the effort to do give equal attention or equal time to everything. This cannot be done, though you can work yourself into a frenzy trying.

The juggling pattern

In a previous article in this series we looked at the question, Are Goals Traps or Opportunities? That article looked at four approaches to goals: distracted pursuit, single-minded focus, stepladder thinking, and flexible focus. When you attempt to juggle the elements with anything other than flexible focus, you tend to drop all of the balls.

Juggling is an excellent metaphor for Life Balance, as taught by Michael J. Gelb in his book, More Balls than Hands: Juggling Your Way to Success by Learning to Love Your Mistakes. A good juggler can easily juggle 3 balls with two hands, and a professional can juggle 4 or even 5 balls. However, in life we must juggle far more factors than this, in eight fields of life: health, business, finances, home, society, personal, study, and leisure. This is our challenge.

And yet think about how many things are juggled already in perfect balance without any effort or interference on our part! Your breathing, blood circulation, digestion, sleeping cycles, a vast number of habits and actions we perform without conscious thought or effort. And in the greater scheme of things, the coming and going of the seasons and cycles of nature, the movement of the sun, the moon, and the stars, all of these things are juggled by forces beyond our imagination or control. There is peace of mind in appreciating the process.

A better understanding of balance

A simplistic view of balance is that of equal weights on a scale, like the scales of Lady Justice, dating from ancient Greek and Roman times. While this may be the goal of common law, it is precisely the effort to make everything equal which confounds us in the process of Life Balance. The process is far too dynamic to be able to measure in this way.

Nor is it a matter of trying to please everybody, or do everything. In Japanese, the word happō bijin (八方美人) refers to a person who smiles equally insincerely to everybody. Politicians sometimes fall into this trap, promising all things to all people, and delivering on none.

What metaphors then can help us gain a better understanding of balance, one which is both beautiful and practical? The core metaphor for the Mandala Chart is the zoom lens of flexible focus, through which you can see the big picture, the small detail, and the connections all at once. Through the articles in this series, hopefully by now you have had plenty of practice in flexible focus.

Another metaphor which illustrates the process in an appealing manner is that in the art of Alexander Calder (1989~1976), inventor of the mobile and a pioneer in the art of moving sculpture. It is best if you can see a Calder mobile up close, but there are plenty of Calder art images online to give you the idea. In addition to being asymmetrical and 3-dimensional, they are in constant motion.

Each element able to move, to stir, to oscillate, to come and go in its relationships with the other elements in its universe. It must not be just a fleeting moment but a physical bond between the varying events in life.

~Alexander Calder

It would be hard to find a better poetic description of flexible focus.

Soft focus and a calm center

At the end of the day, what really makes for Life Balance is not how you juggle the parts, but whether or not you maintain a calm center. It is in the central frame of the Mandala Chart, the seat of meditation, where you free yourself from the distraction of forces pulling from the outside, yet maintain your awareness and control. You can see it in the eyes of a Buddha statue, soft focus which is all seeing.

In addition to meditation, you can cultivate flexible focus by calm and deep breathing, such as done in the slow movements of Tai Chi Chuan. A compelling image used in this art is that the number of breaths you draw in your lifetime is fixed. Hence calm and deep breathing leads to long life, while quick and shallow breaths can shorten your life. So what is your hurry?

Flexible Focus #19: Path to the Eureka moment

by William Reed on September 16, 2010

The Greek polymath Archimedes (c. 287-212 B.C.) was asked by the King of Syracuse to determine if his Crown was pure gold, or the goldsmith had tried to deceive him by mixing in other metals. How to measure it? Archimedes is said to have come up with the solution after immersing himself in the public bath, suddenly realizing that the volume of his body could be calculated by measuring the volume of the water that it had displaced. If the volume of the Crown could be calculated in the same way, the density of the gold in the Crown could be measured indirectly. Comparing the volume of water displaced by the crown to that displaced by the bar of pure gold would tell if the gold in the Crown was true.

This was no dry insight. It supposedly caused him to shout, “Eureka!” (I found it!) while running home naked through the streets of Athens. Even if the story has been embellished in myth, the man and his discovery were real. Equally real is the process of that discovery, known as the Eureka moment, the aha-moment, the breakthrough of unexpected discovery.

If taking a bath was all there was to it, then breakthrough insights would be as easy as stepping into the shower. It happened to Archimedes because of who he was, and because of his total engagement in solving the problem. With full engagement it is possible for anyone to experience how a small thing can trigger a big discovery.

Thomas A. Edison (1847–1931) is one of history’s greatest geniuses. His numerous inventions, including the electric lightbulb, the motion picture camera, and the electric power generator, have made the modern world possible. Edison is a perfect example of full engagement, famous for his quote that, genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Often interpreted as a vote for diligence and hard work, in fact it describes a prerequisite to the Eureka moment. The electric lightbulb, Edison’s most famous invention, is now a universal symbol of creativity and inspiration.

Using the Mandala for meditation

The Mandala Chart emerged, or at least was influenced by Buddhist philosophy. Any discussion of clarity would be incomplete without also mentioning meditation. In Japanese Zen Buddhism, the approaches to meditation which are most relevant here come from the Sōtō School, and the Rinzai School. At the risk of oversimplification, one of the primary differences between the two schools is in their respective approaches to meditation.

Sōtō Zen emphasizes the practice of just sitting (shinkantaza), which far from laziness, demands the utmost of vigilance to your posture, breathing, and existence in the present moment. Rinzai Zen also employs meditation in the seated posture, but emphasizes the practice of solving a series of paradoxical parables called kōan, questions unanswerable by logic such as, What is the sound of one hand clapping? This training is also quite rigorous, for you cannot solve kōan through verbal discourse or clever word play. Students are watched closely and expected to do the same, gaining satori or sudden insights and understanding in stages along the way.

In either school the path is rigorous. It demands a level of commitment and dedication that is difficult to maintain in modern life. In many countries there are places where you can experience or practice Sōtō or Rinzai Zen, and it can be an excellent way to deepen your understanding. However, for many people this may not be a preference or even an option. As an alternative, I would like to propose two accessible practices which achieve some of the same effects, and can also enhance your ability to use the Mandala Chart.

The first is walking, just walking if you will, walking with awareness and attention to your body and your environment. There is much more to this than meets the eye, but walking can help you gain clarity on a problem or decision. It helps to begin or end your walk with a good look in the Mandala mirror of your choice.

The second is writing, the extended pursuit of a subject on paper. This has some parallels with kōan meditation. Writing can be done before, after, and even during your walkabout. Simply take a writing break in a park or café along the way. Writing makes your thoughts visible, and helps you find your way to the Eureka moment.

It is best to do your writing by hand. You can always collect and organize your thoughts later on a computer. Handwriting is more personal, more portable, and more spontaneous than typing on a keyboard.

Walk and Write for Clarity

For full engagement, it is important to involve both your hands and feet. The combination of walking and writing does just that. Ideas light your way, and help you see the path at your feet and the way ahead. What can you gain from this process?

  1. Freedom from attachment. Your mind will become freer to see things from any level of focus or perspective, releasing you from the grip of a fixed point of view.
  2. Beginner’s mind flexibility. In a famous saying by Zen Teacher Suzuki Shunryu, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”
  3. Insight and awareness. The combination of walking and writing develops insight and awareness at a deeper level.
  4. Centering and reset. As with meditation, walking and writing with the Mandala helps you get centered and find the core of the issue.
  5. Clear communication. The more clarity you have, the better your mind reflects. This clarity will also be reflected in how you communicate your ideas to others.
  6. Release of energy. Let go of the burden of unproductive thoughts and negative feelings, and you will have extra energy to focus on your ideas and insights, and how you can use them to help others.
  7. Eureka moment and humor. You need not run naked through the streets, but you will experience the joy of sudden discovery in the Eureka moment.
  8. Awaken to your mission. The progressive effect of experiencing such moments is greater clarity on why you are here, and what you need to do.

Download the CLARITY MANDALA to use as a worksheet to help you on the path to the Eureka moment. Then enjoy and experience the process.