How to Meditate: Meditation 101 for Beginners
10 Science-Backed Benefits of Meditation
What is Meditation?
How to Meditate: Meditation 101 for Beginners
10 Science-Backed Benefits of Meditation
What is Meditation?
Benefits of Mindfulness: Mindful Living Can Change Your Life
Mindfulness 101: A Beginner's Guide
In this interview, Melli talks to Jack about how to integrate spiritual life with everyday life and what it means to be ‘on the path’ of mindfulness.
I'm your host, Melli O'Brien and I
am just really honored and privileged
to be here today with Jack Kornfield.
Jack has just really been a pioneer
in bringing mindfulness to the
West and Buddhism to the West.
And he's an internationally bestselling
author who was written really extensively
on the topics of mindfulness and living
a more conscious and connected life.
So and he's also the founder of the
wonderful Spirit Rock Meditation
Center in the States, which I
really hope to get to sometime soon.
Jack, thank you so much.
Such an honor and a privilege to
have you as part of the Summit.
Thank you, Mellissa.
I'd love to dive right in and
ask you a question I'm really
curious to get your perspective on.
And, and that is what is the
relationship as you see it between
mindfulness and spiritual awakening?
Is, is mindfulness a kind of permanent
embodiment of, so is spiritual
awakening a kind of permanent
embodiment of mindfulness or is it
something else completely different?
Well, it would depend on what you,
how you define spiritual awakening,
but let's talk about the relationship
between mindfulness and spirituality.
They're not separate.
We live in a culture, modern culture
that tends to divide things so that we
have \the gym where we go and work out
for our body or we have a trainer and
we go to work to make money, and then
we go on vacation to have a relaxed,
good time, and then we go to the church
or the synagogue or the mosque to pray.
As if our body and our work
and our education and so forth,
they're all separate things.
And what mindfulness does, it
actually connects back together
this whole that is always true.
So that in a culture that is
sometimes defined as the absence of
the sacred, mindfulness opens our
eyes and our heart to see the beauty
and the sacredness of life itself.
You can call that
spiritual, if you wanted to.
People live in a way in the complexity
of modern life where they're
multitasking and often over busy and
stressed and they aren't so connected.
There's a line from James Joyce
where he wrote of one character, Mr.
Duffy lived a short
distance from his body.
And it kind of defines the way we
can walk down the street lost in
thought and not see the faces of the
passers by, or the reflection of the
sunset in the rain puddle, you know,
or really even notice where we are.
The beautiful gift of mindfulness is that
it allows us to live the life that we
have, where we are, in a very full way.
Mindfulness means, in
some way, to see clearly.
You could call it mindfulness.
You could also call it heartfulness.
The mind and heart are
the same word in Sanskrit.
But when we see with mindfulness, we can
step out of the small sense of self, the
self preoccupation, what's called the body
of fear, the dramas that we get caught in.
And we do, we get lost in
thought lost in our dramas.
And then there's a moment
where we go, oh, here I am.
I was worried about this and remembering
that and reacting to that, and
actually here's the step I'm taking.
Here's the breath.
Here's the cup of tea and my hand, here's
the face of the person in front of me.
Here's this amazing mysterious
day right in front of me.
And mindfulness allows us to step out of
the whirlwind of thoughts, take a breath
and actually be present for life as it is.
Someone said that the question
is not the future of humanity,
but the presence of eternity.
There's some way that with mindfulness,
and sometimes it can best be translated
as loving awareness and awareness that
has also got compassion or love in
it, that we step out of the tyranny
of time, worrying and remembering and
so forth and come into a sense of the
wholeness of life, even in just a moment.
And we know we're completely
caught up in things.
And then there's a moment where you say,
oh, I was really caught in that wasn't I?
I was upset.
I was angry.
I was worried and so forth.
There's that moment of being
spacious and taking a breath
and saying, oh, here we are.
And mindfulness invites us to do that.
It also is very intimate.
Zen master Dogan said to become awakened
is to become intimate with life.
So when we become mindful, we
become more intimate with our
body and feelings and thoughts.
We become intimate with what's happening
with those around us and with the,
with the circumstances of life itself.
And it's not about some spiritual ideal.
Your initial question as well, you
know, can we have some spiritual
awakening that lasts and is permanent?
You're, you know, if you look in the
Buddhist tradition, one of the very core
teachings is that nothing is permanent.
That everything is a river coming
out of consciousness and playing.
Thoughts are always changing.
Feelings, the whole set of perceptions
of the world around us is constantly
arising new in each moment.
So mindfulness allows us to awaken to
this the way that it actually is, and then
to respond to it rather than to react.
The goal isn't to become
some rigid mindful, okay.
I have it.
Now I can hold onto it, Now I am mindful.
The goal is actually to be
able to flow with experience.
And it's not about perfecting yourself.
It's kind of too late for that.
Most people have tried for, you know,
decades with their workout strategies
in the gym and their therapy and
their, all these things are good.
You want to take care of your body,
therapy's very helpful, so forth, but
the point isn't to perfect yourself.
It's to perfect your love.
It's to perfect your ability to
be awakened, present with an open
heart, to become like the Buddha
that you are and walk through
the world with a compassionate
heart and to really be present.
And when you meet somebody like Zen master
Thich Nhat Hahn, who is the embodiment
of mindfulness, there's a way in which
his presence, you can feel it brings
everybody else around him more present.
And it's not like it's some great state.
The beautiful thing is that you can
become mindful even for a moment.
Even as we're talking, you become
more present and less caught
in how it should be and more
relaxed with the way that it is.
So this is a long answer.
Is that okay?
And I've, you know, I'm, I'm really,
I think it's really wonderful that you
also brought up that, that it's not about
perfecting ourselves and it's not about,
you know, because I think so many people
on the spiritual path have this almost
like a spiritual trap, you could say, that
you get caught in of this idea of maybe,
you know, once I'm spiritual enough,
I'm never going to say the wrong thing.
I'm always going to be kind and wonderful.
I'll never get stressed
and I'll never suffer.
And, and, and sometimes I think people
see those things as a failure, you know?
So I'm, I, I'm so glad that you
brought that up, the natural ebbs and
flows of life are part of the whole.
And in my business, I get to hang out
with lots of spiritual leaders, swamis and
lamas and mamas and gurus and so forth,
and they all also have their problems.
But also, so did Jesus and Buddha.
I mean, you look what happened to Jesus.
It was like, and then when he went
home, he'd had trouble with his family.
The Buddha had trouble
with his family too.
And at times, he had difficulty with
the monks around him and so forth.
Or he had, he got sick with his body.
It's not like you're not human.
But awareness and mindfulness, and more
than that, compassion, allows you to
see this humanity, to see who you are
and who we are, this mystery of being
alive with love, with compassion and
say, oh yeah, not caught in it, but
loving it and tending it beautifully.
I think, you know, that I love, you
know, the, the book title that Jon
Kabat Zinn has, Full Catastrophe Living.
It kind of reminds me of that idea of
being just more deeply in touch with
our humanity, the whole, you know, the
good, the bad and the ugly, so to speak.
And I think, you know, one of the
other challenges that we often faces
as mindfulness practitioners is this,
you know, we, we have the formal
practice of mindfulness, many of us
that we do every day, meditation.
And this, this, challenge, I think
we have sometimes is that, that tends
to be this one area of our lives
that we do come into touch with that.
You know, the sacredness of life and
the mystery of life and then we kind of
get up and go about the rest of our day.
So the informal practice sometimes
is something that we easily forget.
So do you have any tips on
integrating what we might call
spiritual life with everyday life?
Well, I don't divide them really, but
I do see that what happens when people
take time to sit quietly, to quiet the
mind and open heart, that it somehow
prepares them to also then move with
a quieter mind and an open heart,
or to meet someone else in that way.
They say in Zen, there are
only two things: you've sit
and you sweep the garden.
And it doesn't matter how big the
garden is, which is to say, you learn
to become mindful and compassionate
in yourself, and then you practice.
That's why it's called
practice rather than perfect.
Then you practice as you walk or as you
go to work or in your family and so forth.
Now, one of the important things is
that as you sit, you start to experience
after a little while, not just the
calming pleasure, reduction of stress,
but you also see how crazy your mind is.
You get the things that are unfinished
in the heart, that trauma or grief
that you carry will a re-arise.
And it's not always that easy.
My friend, Annie Lamott, the
humourist,, she writes, "My
mind is like a bad neighborhood.
I try not to go there alone."
Which is, you know, just
describing how it is.
Some days we sit down and it's
actually hard to stay with ourselves
because we're so worried or
anxious or caught up or something.
And then you are there with your anxiety
or your fear or your boredom, or your
judging mind, which you mentioned,
cause we're also so hard on ourselves.
And that kind of self judgment
can get reinforced in the
spiritual life, as you point to.
The novelist, Florida Scott Maxwell,
she wrote, "No matter how old a mother
is, she looks to her middle aged
children for signs of improvement."
You know, and there's some way in
which we can borrow that kind of
striving from the worldly ambitions
of the society, and think now we're
going to become spiritually ambitious.
And that just ties us in knots.
So mindfulness has to be wedded with
loving kindness or compassion for
the trauma we carry, for the stress,
for the worry that every human being
has at some point or not, you know.
Like Mark Twain said, "My life has
been filled with terrible misfortunes,
most of which never happened."
We see the mind spin out
in all these stories.
And then when you sit quietly, you
can acknowledge them, oh, this is what
anxiety is like, this is what fear
feels like, this is bored or loneliness.
If we can't be with it, then the
minute it arises, what do we do?
We open the refrigerator or we
go online or something cause
we can't be with our own self.
And then once we've learned this, then
you go to the office, you know, where you
go to the place you work or you're taking
care of your kids or planning your garden
or painting a painting or something.
And those same states of fear or
boredom or upset or reactivity
come and they become familiar.
Oh, I know.
I know what it's like, not only to be
caught, but I also know what it's like to
take a breath and say, and to name it as
you do in mindfulness, in some practices.
Oh, anxiety is like this.
Boredom is like this.
And to let yourself feel that and
not be so afraid of it because
mindfulness is like space.
When you become mindful, you become
broader and vaster and more spacious.
And then, you know, it's like
putting salt or colored dye.
If you put it in a cup,
it gets very salty.
If you put it in a lake,
you can't even taste it.
The water is clear.
And so when the mind and heart
are spacious, and you notice,
okay, this is anxiety, or this
is the planning mind or judging.
You say, thank you for your
opinion, to the judging mind.
I know what the judging mind is like, but
you don't believe it because who you are
is actually the space of awareness itself.
And modern neuroscience shows
how the training of mindfulness
allows us to become both more
resilient and less reactive.
Instead, we can respond in a wise way.
And the simple practice is when you're
in the middle of things and you feel like
you're getting contracted or stressed, you
just pause for a moment, a mindful pause.
You take a breath, aahh.
And then you say what's going on here?
Upset feels like this.
What's going on here?
Oh, I'm worried, angry, you know,
wanting, I want something different.
And then you see this as the wanting mind.
Thank you bow to it and
you become that space.
And when you can do this, even
for a little bit, it not only
settles you, but it starts having
effect on all those around you.
So that again, Zen Master Thich Nhat
Hanh said when the crowded refugee
boats, the Vietnamese refugee boats
met with storms or pirates, if everyone
panicked all would be lost, but if
even one person on the boat remained
calm and centered, it was enough.
It showed the way for everyone to survive.
So you become in those moments, like
the Buddha of compassion and you find
that calmness in yourself and you
say, all right, we can carry on, but
we can do it in a very different way.
It's interesting that, that's been
coming up over and over again in, in this
summit, when I've spoken to people that,
you know, this, when you become more
mindful, when you become more conscious
and connected, it's, it's wonderful.
Maybe it begins about you, but it affects,
you know, ripples out to everything
and everybody that you touch, which
is a really empowering thing to know.
And I, my personal belief, and I
don't know, you maybe share this
belief, but my personal belief is
that, you know, for me, it's the, I
believe that it's the most kind, it's
actually the most intelligent and kind
thing that I can do for the planet.
The greatest act of contribution is
to, you know, find my own inner peace
rather than running around, trying
to sort of engineer things on the
outside, although that's important too.
But my primary focus and my primary
belief is that it's, it's through
finding my own inner peace that I
can spread any kind of peace at all.
Yes, you can't spread peace
if you're not peaceful.
And if you are, as you say, then you can
go and tend the rain forest or the ocean
or the refugees or whatever, but you can
do it with a peaceful and loving heart,
which is the power that the world needs.
It doesn't need more aggression
and it doesn't need fear.
It needs a kind of fearlessness
that comes from a peaceful heart.
And I think of my friend and
teacher Maha Ghosananda, who was
the Gandhi of Cambodia, nominated
for the Nobel prize many times.
And he led these peace walks
through the killing fields and the,
through the landmine areas, bringing
people back to their villages.
And every step they would chant
loving kindness, hatred never ends by
hatred, but by love alone is healed.
They would chant this over and over,
that with each step that they took so
that when they finally returned back,
they felt like they had reclaimed their
land and their hearts at the same time.
And he, he was a peaceful
and very courageous person.
And somehow his practice allowed
all these other people who'd suffered
so deeply to find that themselves
and turn their society around again.
That's an amazing story.
Well, I just have one
final question for you.
It's the same question
that I've been asking.
All the people that have been involved
in the summit, and that is, you know,
there's this talk of mindfulness
becoming mainstream at the moment.
And I think it's entering popular
culture, but I, but you know,
whether, I don't think it's hit a
critical mass yet, let's say that.
So my question to you is this, if it
was to hit critical mass, how do you
think that would change the world?
What kind of a world could that create?
Well, I would put it another way perhaps.
The time that we live in now has
this fantastic outer developments.
No amount of internet and Skyping, which
we're doing, and vast computer technology
and nanotechnology and biotechnology
and space technology and all these
extraordinary things that we're able to do
has stopped continuing warfare, continuing
racism, continuing environmental
destruction, continuing tribalism.
So the outer developments of
humanity now have to be matched
by the inner developments.
Otherwise we'll go on, you know,
destroying ecosystems or one
another in global war and conflict.
So we could just say that, we
could just say that it's time now
for humanity and modern society to
match the outer development with the
development of emotional intelligence
of wisdom, of compassion and care.
And those all grow out of attention.
They all grow out of mindfulness.
And if we can do so, if we can bring that
in, then not only do we live with one
another better, but the problems that we
have to solve in the world become seen
from a place of wisdom and compassion
rather than separateness and fear and
conflict as being the root of them.
So may it happen.
Jack, thank you so much for your time.
I want to be respectful of your time.
And so, yeah, it's just been a, a
wonderful honor to have you as part
of the Summit, and I wish you all
the best on your continued journey.
And Melissa, I will add that for those
who are interested, Tara Brach and I
are doing a really comprehensive and
beautiful seven week online mindfulness
training through SoundsTrue.org.
And it's a really wonderful training.
So that would be good to tell people.
And mostly when people ask about
the obstacles for beginning of
mindfulness practice, there's
really only one important
obstacle and that's not doing it.
If you do it, even if it's boring at times
or you feel like not much is happening,
just the willingness to stop and notice
where you are opens the gateway to see
what's really happening and to tenderize
your heart and to be present in a way that
allows you not only to care for yourself
better, but to care for all you touch.
So thank you, Melissa.
I appreciate it.
Thank you so much for your time.
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