Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘addiction’

Yadda Yadda Yadda

Just Sit: A meditation guide for people who know they should but don’t. By Sukey Novogratz and Elizabeth Novogratz. Illustrations by Niege Borges. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

412a0ezS86L._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_If the writers of Just Sit could do so, they would reach out from the page (or screen) grab you by the throat, wrestle you to the ground, and hold you there until you started meditating – metaphorically speaking. That is what it seems to take for us to stop with all of our excuses (real and imagined) and actually do it. The Novogratz’s do everything in their power to convince us – joke, explain the benefits, teach us the fundamentals, and answer every possible question. “10 million Americans meditate, 6 million of them because their doctor told them to.” Let’s just pretend our doctor told us to and start doing it.

Whether you are just beginning, or are the oldest living meditator on the planet, the insights and instructions within make a lot of sense. It includes steps for how to meditate, questions that arise once we’ve started, and why we are reluctant to begin in the first place. “Meditation is a way of training your mind to slow down, to be responsive, not reactive, to bring you into your life and out of the constant chatter that’s going on in your head.” It is often this chatter, and mind-fuck, that keeps us from paying attention to our selves, or side-tracts us once we’ve begun. One of the most practical, and enlightening aspects of this book, is how to work with such thoughts, feelings, and actions. How to “observe” our experiences without believing we “are” our momentary experience.

Here are some of the questions people ask. If some of these sound familiar, join the crowd.  “I feel like a fool. How do I get past it?” “How does just sitting there help me train my mind?” “My mind is sharp already. So why would it need training?” “Can anyone meditate?” “What can I or should I expect?” “I understand prayer, but meditation seems a little out there for me.” “Can I do meditating wrong?” Here’s the crazy part. The answer to most of these questions is, “For meditation to work, you actually have to do it.” Go figure. What a wild idea. “The biggest secret to meditation is all you need to do is show up.” Like exercising the rest of the body, the mind needs attention. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes practice.

The introduction says, “Meditation Is Not for Sissies”, which reminds me of another book “Growing Old Is Not For Sissies”. In other words, it’s not always a bed of roses (though that could be quite thorny). One of the reasons people avoid meditation is because we begin to see what’s going on, and what we are telling ourselves about what’s going on (with our body, emotions, and thoughts). It isn’t always pleasant, but it is what it is. Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz invite readers to watch whatever arises. “In order to deal with your shit and have a way better life, you’ve got to be willing to show up and sit in the much.”

So, there you have it. Grab yourself by the scruff of the neck (gently), get a copy of this book and Just Sit. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s hard. It’s difficult. I don’t have time. It doesn’t work for me. I don’t know what to do.” Yadda yadda yadda. Stop believing you are what you think (or feel), and take a chance. What have you got to lose? As the author’s state so simply, and brilliantly, with one of the headings, “WARNING: Conditioning impairs freedom.”

P.S. The illustrations, and layout, match the words, and greatly enrich Just Sit with clarity, wit, and wisdom.

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Is There A Secret Formula?

Through my work as an educator, chaplain, social worker and bereavement counselor (and in the personal sphere), there is one issue that keeps grabbing me by the throat and will not let go. I have met people who are grappling with impending loss or transition and others trying to cope with the aftermath of homicide, suicide, accidents, domestic abuse, child abuse, rape, drug addiction and overdose, deaths from “natural causes” and countless other catastrophes or traumas. What I continue to find both amazing and hopeful, is the resilience, healing, understanding and constructive transitions that can become the product of such intense changes and assaults upon the human spirit.

Events that could and often do, crush us psychologically (and/or physically) can also be used for personal transformation and change. There are some individuals that find hope and opportunity in the midst of adversity. Many a day I recall listening to someone describe a childhood of horror and loss that would have shattered me, yet they have been able to find some meaning in their experience and a means to use their trauma instead of letting it use them. Conversely, there are individuals who appear to never recover or constructively adapt to the changes in their lives and let the traumatic event or death control their every thought, word or deed.

There are some obvious environmental or familial histories that provide some credence and supporting evidence to certain responses, yet to rely on such background alone to predict normal or complicated mourning can be misleading and erroneous. Some people who have come from the most secure, loving homes on the planet can still react maladaptively to grief and conversely, those who have never had much love or support in their lives can respond to the same losses with life-affirming choices and behaviors.

If we can find some common threads among those who’ve learned how to constructively use their response to adversity (specifically loss from death of a loved one), we could perhaps find which characteristics, attributes, environments and support systems should be encouraged, strengthened, implemented and utilized for others experiencing similar loss and bereavement.

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