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23.05.2015
Few things in this world could pull me out of a six-month post-graduate-degree writing silence. I shared the photo -- and some sort of sarcastic remark -- with my social media network and called it a day. It's one thing to feature a young, fertile white girl on the cover of TIME and promote it as "mindfulness." It's another to do it twice over the course of a decade for, essentially, the same watered-down story you're trying to sell the West about what Buddhism means and what, and here's the kicker, it can do for you. And perhaps those who are Buddhist-born (as opposed to converted to Buddhists) laugh as they watch a millions-old religious tradition morph into something that can fit into your pocket. Lastly, it is interesting -- and sad, for this writer -- to see that the face and narrative of mindfulness and Buddhism in America hasn't changed in the last decade.
This totally brilliant little pocket-sized anti-stress colouring book is just the perfect size to pop into your handbag and dip into throughout the day. Gorgeously illustrated, The Mindfulness Colouring Book for adults is filled with pages of intricate and sophisticated patterns, and delightful and familiar scenes. This is one that comes with me everywhere and even five minutes in the car while I’m waiting for one thing or another is enough to assure a much calmer car journey.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know how my life has transformed through the practice of mindfulness.
You were an executive and an entrepreneur who left your career to train and serve in monasteries around the world. After completing my education, I followed the ways of the world and committed myself to finding success in the corporate world. In my entrepreneurial role, I tasted both success and failure, which helped me see the transitory nature of material wealth better. What eventually prompted me to change my path were several instances of seeing this potential of inner freedom as something that’s available in any moment of our lives. At that time in my life, the intensity of seeing this freedom was so strong that I lost all interest in pursuing any kind of worldly life. At a social and cultural level, we’re all subject to influences within the environment we live in. At an internal level, our mind and consciousness harbor impulses and patterns that we don’t seem to have conscious control over. But you asked, ‘how does it play a part in freeing the mind?’ My frank answer is that, although mindfulness has outward benefits and can be a great training ground for many to begin with, it does not lead to the unconditional freedom of mind. I would even go further to say that for many practitioners of mindfulness, and certain forms of meditation, it has become another mechanism for “wanting” to be in control of their lives and their minds. There are many kinds of inquiries, and applying the right form of inquiry is the essence and the real purpose of self-help approaches. Most of us are familiar with the intellectual nature of inquiry, whether in scientific researches or in theological studies.
Who is Discover Your Free Mind written for, and what can readers expect to receive from it? I originally began writing this book as a practical handbook to supplement the retreats I lead and to better coach the few individuals I work with informally. Overall, I feel like the book appeals mostly to the intelligent general audience with some background in meditation, mindfulness, or spiritual practices. However, I do caution potential readers that despite its promising title, Discover Your Free Mind is about the process, rather than the promise of freedom. A serious dose of tough self-love goes a long way with me… And, as soon as I was able to shift into acceptance, my aversion started to melt away. Knowing I only had so much time left to enjoy the house, I found myself feeling much more grateful for it.
This new way of looking at the situation alleviated the sense of loss—replacing it with hope and possibility.
Kate and I discussed the option… The thought of downsizing appealed to us—dedicating ourselves to more conscious minimalism as a family. Moving ahead, we slowed down the pace of our search, only visited homes that fit our vision of what we wanted—and within less than a week—we found another (slightly larger) tiny house—with an even bigger separate workspace, in an even more convenient location.
This indulgent daydreaming phase now dominating, my initial fantasies had the flavor of excitement. Every hour of every day for the world’s longest week, I battled with accepting the unknown.
Then, finally, a week and one day after we submitted our application, Kate’s cell rang.
I grew up an only child with emotionally distant parents, in a relatively remote area of New Hampshire. I can no longer muscle through my days, pretending I’m some sort of robot who can function autonomously without a broader network of connection and support. There seems to be a rising number of secular mindfulness practitioners—but a clear lack of facilitated physical spaces for us to commune with one another outside of classes, sits, and workshops. You need community; you need a brother or sister, or friend to remind you what you already know. Mindfulness is within you, but it needs to be watered in order to manifest and become a reality. A mindful community is a community of resistance, resisting the speed, violence, and unskillful ways of living that are prevalent in our society. I went to a baby shower this past weekend and, literally, salivated at the sea of homemade pupusas waving around in front of me. I wanted to shove ten of these puppies into my mouth and then make a beeline for the layer cake.
All this got me thinking… Kate and I made the commitment to eat healthier for ourselves. Beyond the benefits of sticking to our personal resolutions to eat healthier for ourselves—and based on the feedback from those around us at the shower—I started wondering if we also had a social responsibility to follow-through with our personal resolutions.
And, as they looked across this data set, as well as others they conducted—they found that 80% of our behavior is basically imitation of our peers, of the people who are around us. You don’t have to go to the extreme of joining a commune—although plenty of people are doing that.
1) Stop hanging out with the people who are displaying the behaviors we don’t want, and seek out friendships with those who are displaying the behaviors we do want to adopt. 2) Once we have the strength to stand tall in our new behaviors, we must personally resolve to stay committed to our intention to continue these new behaviors.
So, I say, YES, we have a social responsibility to follow through with our personal resolutions!
During my month at CML, I woke up at 4:10am almost every day, ate only two meals per day (the last of which ended around 2pm), logged approximately 150 hours of meditation, and upped my meditation practice to a whole new level. Invigorated and inspired by my time at CML, I’m also excited to kick-up my efforts to help facilitate more mindfulness in our communities.
Letting go of the toxic elements of my life was far from easy—in fact, there were moments where the process felt more painful than keeping them around… But, just like removing a splinter often hurts more than living with it—I knew the temporary pain I was feeling would eventually lead to healing.


00000On life’s journey Faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are a shelter, wisdom is the light by day and right mindfulness is the protection by night. I certainly resonate with the first three words of this Buddhist quote, because life IS a journey. Perhaps growing up you were constantly moving and once you reached an age where you could determine for yourself what you wanted, you decided it was time to become rooted. Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. There is no better moment than now while reading these words to consider what you are thankful for. Nevertheless, here is an opportunity to do a practice inspired by this poem that can help us cultivate a sense of gratitude and lovingkindness during this time.
Think of a person or animal who represents light, who represents a loving and kind presence in your life.
Now imagine that person saying to you, “May you be safe and protected from inner and outer harm,” “May you be happy,” “May you be free from fear,” “May you be healthy in body and mind.” You can also create your own wishes and aspirations here. Now imagine your family and friends with you (those who you feel difficulty with and those who you feel more ease with) and with intention, saying those same words.
Take a moment to actually do this practice if you only read the words…then just feel into how you are doing and whatever is there, just letting it be. I deeply thank all of you who have been following the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy blog posts and for interacting below as your posts truly create a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Last updated: 25 Nov 2014Views expressed are those solely of the writer and have not been reviewed. 10 Instant Ways to Calm Yourself Down The Difference Between Sex and Love for Men Are You a Highly Sensitive Person? Deb: I have benefitted from the guidance you provide in this forum as well as your several publications.
I huffed and puffed about the fact that a prominent Western-based magazine was portraying Buddhism in such a Cover Girl way. Look, we aren't the most culturally diverse country in the world, but that doesn't mean we can't break away from the Disney-princess notion that beauty equates to porcelain skin and golden hair.
I don't pretend to be an expert within the sticky world of race and media, so these comments will be quite brief. In Western modernity, Buddhism has become something that you can fit into your life, not something you shape your life around.
Crafted specifically to soothe anxious minds and reduce stress, this book offers a practical exercise in mindfulness that draws on your creativity and hones your focus. Every page has characterful charm apparent from Emma Farraron’s unique drawing style that entices you to meditate on your artwork while you mindfully and creatively fill these pages with colour. Emma’s illustrative style appeals to my own sense of imagination and reminds me of moments of childhood where fantasy was as real as life. I was exposed to different cultures and traditions growing up, and I was also fortunate to be introduced to meditation early on in my life. Yet, in each of the environments where I lived—particularly in the East—questioning tradition, philosophies and religion was not well tolerated.
For a period of 7+ years, I worked in Singapore, Australia, and the United States and was involved in a couple of start-ups. Despite pursuing a path that held lucrative financial rewards, there was always a sense of inadequacy in the back of my mind.
And, in my early 20s, I lost my mother rather suddenly, which added to my growing insecurity on the nature of life itself.
I realized later, it was not necessary to live in monasteries to see the nature of this transformative inner freedom. We chase after experiences and states of mind that lead to “bliss” and “avoidance of pain.” Once we experience a certain exciting state of mind, whether through a glass of vodka or while kneeling in prayer, we then condition our mind to cling to it—chase after it—again and again. Along with certain secular practices, the quality of having an inquiring mind helps to shift our perspective and releases us from our mental conditioning. In my role as a mindfulness coach, I acknowledge that mindfulness in its current secular model in the west is perhaps the best form of training in freeing the mind.
The benefit of this is a greater ability to be anchored non-judgmentally into the present moment experience rather than into the narrative of the mind—which for many of us is self-critical. This is the duality trap of mindfulness practices, which reinforces our sense of self and egoism. Some of us are also familiar with psychological forms of inquiry aimed at self-improvement and mental health.
The book provides model questions to prompt inquiry as an attempt to show the “beneficial” and practical application of utilizing it as a method for addressing everyday complexities. I don’t expect people who hold strong religious beliefs or those who believe ONLY in the potential of science to be receptive to its message and arguments. Please join me and a growing number of like-hearted souls in celebrating mindfulness as a way of life. And, watching all of this happening was the most frustrating part… Intellectually, I knew I was causing all the angst by not accepting the situation. But then our landlady changed her mind and decided she didn’t want to rent the tiny house longterm, after all. I see the importance of this communal component to my mindfulness practice. But, is there a space for sangha—for community—outside the Buddhist context, within the secular mindfulness movement?
Online mindfulness spaces abound, and I’ve found a sense of community within these spaces to a degree.
We cannot go to the ocean as a drop of water—we would evaporate before reaching our destination.
When we can look at ourselves and at others as beautiful, unique flowers and trees we can truly grow to understand and love one another. When we can appreciate each member’s contribution and see our weaknesses as potential for growth, we can learn to live together harmoniously. So, this is a shout out to all you dedicated mindfulness practitioners out there—I think it’s time for us to find one another and make time for BEing together.
I had to physically block my mouth with my hand to keep myself from eating one of these things.
One way to help ourselves do this is by undertaking a dedicated deep, internal, practice—such as meditation and mindfulness. Because science is now proving that our personal resolutions aren’t just about us, personally, anymore. You’ll also hear about the pioneering work that CML founder and guiding teacher, Soryu Forrall is doing to merge mindfulness with responsibility in our society.
Sound appealing?… If so, keep an eye out for announcements about how to get involved with mindful community-building activities and opportunities (both virtually—and locally in the Los Angeles area).
And, although this realization felt painfully scary at the time, I knew that, if I ever wanted to feel any true sense of contentment and wellbeing—it needed to be done.


And, letting go of the pieces of my life that weren’t serving me would, eventually, make space for the things that would help me flourish.
In each case, the mental activity involved is the act of paying attention; and, at all times, the instruction is to pay attention with an attitude of curiosity and compassion, even when (or, especially when) negative judgments naturally arise within the mind. If a man lives a pure life nothing can destroy him, If he has conquered greed nothing can limit his freedom.
It becomes easier to open up and reveal our own gifts to this world when we feel positive loving encouragement within.
This can be a good friend who is alive, maybe someone who has passed away, a pet, or maybe a spiritual figure such as the Dalai Lama, Jesus, or even the hand of God. May this be a springboard for you to cultivate this sense of gratitude and lovingkindness, which even though it may come with some uncomfortable feelings at times, can be a source of much psychological healing and feelings of well-being. Its presence and imagery choice stirred up issues about gender, beauty, race, religious marketing, and how the "face" of mindfulness and Buddhism in America hasn't changed in over a decade. Flawless make up, perfect bone structure, skin as supple as Snow White; this girl was getting a lot from the "Mindful Revolution." What's her secret?! Does this continue our cultural ideology that thin, white, blonde women are the beauty elite? But it is important to mention this within the context of Buddhism, a religion that originated in Asia and whose majority adherents are Asian.
Beliefnet has a great little summary on the divide of "ethnic" and "elite" [read: "immigrant" vs. And during this period of trying to cope with the external stress of a busy life, I went back to seeking meditation for mental balance. The game changer was a momentary seeing through into the overwhelming sense of inadequacy and dichotomy that was making me miserable. The necessary change is, instead, one of reversing our perspective and of training ourselves in appreciating the nature of this inner freedom. Of course, many philosophers and spiritual teachers have spoken about this danger, from Socrates to Buddha. Such a shift away from our egoic impulses is liberating, and each of us has experienced it to some degree. Mindfulness can thus be a therapeutic practice, and thanks to researchers, it’s getting widely embraced within scientific circles as well. Ultimately, we must go beyond these concepts and practices of mindfulness to discover the true nature of inner freedom.
But inquiry can also have a “heart” quality to it wherein our heart seeks to learn and know. But as the book developed, I was encouraged to write it for the general audience and to provide substantial anecdotes and references. To really gain benefits from this book, I encourage readers to come back after the first reading and try out the inquiries and exercises. But in reality, stepping into inner freedom is the simplest practice once you discover its potential.
I also knew the only way to put a halt to this maniacal mindset meant rigorously redirecting my focus. I mention this, not to play victim to my neurological differences from the norm—but to bring to light that my using it as an excuse to not partake in community needs to change. Our practice is to see that we are a flower or a tree, and we are the whole garden as well, all interconnected. While for some the holidays are a time of connection and being with family and friends, for others it’s a source of stress only reinforcing a sense of loneliness and difficulty. Even the positioning of her head, tilting up as some sort of divine call-to-action, soaking up erethral rays, screamed Western Christianity.
While I couldn't find any authenticated studies reporting that beautiful, white women sell more magazines in my online hunt (I'm sure they exist, write me if you find 'em and we can link), clearly this is information being shared internally 'cause white women keep popping up everywhere.
True, putting an Asian on the cover meditating or being "mindful" would have created a stir as well -- "You can be Buddhist and white!" -- but my tip-toe into the racial issues of this cover involve the bougie-ness of modern Buddhism. This new definition of Buddhism is perfect for those who want to dabble around spiritually without fully committing to a set of moral or ethical rules. I've heard too many people call Buddhism a "philosophy, not a religion" than I care to admit. Intuitively, I can tell there’s something on the other side of that wall for me to explore. But, how do I get there? And, because of this, I learned to conform and restrain myself to not allow my inner doubts and inquiries to take shape outwardly.
In recent times, Richard Dawkins and Susan Blackmoore have written about this “meme” effect and how replication of ideas spread like viruses. Using such momentary seeing as our path to freedom is an independent journey into Free Mind. So it has now morphed into a book with real life stories, illustrations, scientific references and inspiration from other teachers and philosophers. Just by participating with other practitioners in life’s daily activities, we can experience a tangible feeling of love and acceptance. And what they found was that people were more likely to stop smoking if the people around them stopped smoking.
These two covers, taken at surface-newstand-value, reveal that when it comes to mindfulness & Buddhism in America, you're not getting the whole story.
It also presents a philosophical question as to whether the traditional approaches in spirituality and religion are more binding than freeing.
Recognizing the fundamental unit is not the individual, but the social group—the best way to act out your intentions, is to change who you associate with […]. During a conversation on this topic, a friend brought up the fact that historically, women are the ones striving to "self-improve," or at least taking visible action to do so. Because only affluent white people would be crazy enough to leave their cushy life, shell out $10,000, temporarily take retreat in an "impoverished" country, and meditate on other people's "suffering." [Yes, many retreats are domestic, but these international retreats exist and are quite popular]. The "elite" are craving those mindfulness books, those meditation tapes, and those month-long retreats, perhaps because they feel like they need to catch up intellectually on a religion they converted to, or simply because they think it's a fun hobby. The men in my life -- and I am well aware most of them fit within a my social and racial demographic -- all follow this trend.



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