Meditation creates intimacy with the breath, the body and eventually with all creatures, even the ones we exclude. Maybe there are parts of our body that don’t communicate? Maybe we have parts of the personality that also don’t relate well to one another. Meditation is the intimacy that heals these disparate aspects of ourselves. This sets the stage for healing. Healing comes through intimacy. Our ideas about who we are and what we want or don’t want obscures the moment to moment living of life. Being born into a human existence is a precious opportunity and we are so very lucky to be alive. But when we are stressed, overcome with undigested grief, or unable to work with pain, or even clinging to old joys, we become disillusioned. We don’t see the depths of things. And we lose our connection to appreciation and gratitude.
Leave your emails. Leave your phone. Explore silence and spaciousness. See how healing spaciousness is. You cannot stop thinking anymore than you can stop breathing or being human. How can we find a measure of freedom within this human matrix? Can we understand the nature of feeling and thinking and see that peace is about choice. We have no choice when we are caught in compulsion. So the only work we can do is make space to see reactivity. Then thoughts naturally settle and are not a problem. Meditation is not an awakening that takes you to a better life or another world. Meditation is this worldly. It is the opposite of escape.
Let’s not fool ourselves. Maybe we believe too much in ourselves. And then when we experience quiet we are threatened. Or we see how busy our minds are and that we don’t have the skills to get settled. This is where we get the motivation to practice meditation. The formal practice of sitting still is practical. It comes alive in everything we do. From dishwashing to expressing ourselves, meditation teaches us how to take care of our acting out, acting in, blame, judgment, and compulsions. We learn over time how to work with stress, anger and anxiety. Then we tap into the joy and fluid ease that exists underneath the distraction of obsessing about who we are and what our place is. The heart knows. Its nature is to know.
Let’s be faithful to the body and breath. To return over and over to the simple practice sitting. Then standing, waking, walking, working, being. We will train in these cd’s to know what an open heart feels like. This takes practice. Do not get discouraged. This is as easy as breathing. This reforms the self. This transforms what we are into genuine compassion and stability. Absorbed in our own busy minds we forget who we are, what we are and we lose track of ourselves. We cannot afford to live an unexamined life. What we think of as our lives is not a true story. The true version of our life shapes us in silence and underneath what we think. Moment by moment perception teaches us how to see, how to hear, how to feel, how to pay attention to the actual facts of our your lives. Otherwise we get swept away. What leads to happiness and what does not? Can we be honest about the tools we have ? which ones work and which ones do not? When we see this clearly we can come to life fully.
Mindfulness meditation inverts the typical stories we have about trying to plan for the future or rescue the past. To live immediately is to ask: what wants to move through me? Stories can change. Even the structure of our pelvis and spine can change with training. So we begin here, in this body with this breath, even with our likes and dislikes. We open. We accept. We breathe our situation as we enter. The body is the anchor, there is no other vehicle.
Breath by breath we see that the whole universe fits into these small but infinite moments that make up our lives. Just as my body is made of the food I eat, my personality is constructed and re-enforced by habits of attention. We are a fluid collection of actions. So meditation is an action. It’s about planting seeds of non- reactivity. It’s learning a new set of skills for being attentive without clinging. So much of our personality is constructed through people’s approval or disapproval. Because of this we can get stuck in negative thinking and self- judgment that stops our meditation practice in its tracks. Be gentle with yourself. Go slow. When you return to your breath and body be gentle and kind.
If we want to wake up there is some urgency to our practice. Our life is precious partly because it’s short. We have a responsibility to ourselves, our family and society to live in a way that generates benefit for all. It makes no difference what stage of life we are in. Something called you to this audio program, something calls us to stillness. Trust that. Something calls us to wholeness.
Getting Started: Why Meditate? (11:35)
Breathing Meditation (30:26)
Meditation: Who is Breathing? (30:10)
How to Deepen Practice (5:16)
Transforming Unresolved Conflict (32:11)
Savasana: Opening to Death and Dying (27:24)
Shôken Michael Stone was an author, activist, father, and teacher who sought to illuminate the teachings and practices of Vipassana meditation, yoga, and Mahayana Buddhism for the postmillennial age. A Fellow in Residence at the University of British Columbia, he was the author of several books including The Inner Tradition of Yoga and Awake in the World. He passed away on July 16, 2017 at the age of 42.
Michael Stone leads Centre of Gravity . He is a psychotherapist, yoga teacher, Buddhist teacher, author and activist, committed to the integration of traditional teachings with contemporary psychological and philosophical understanding. The components of his practice include Yoga postures, breathing techniques, meditation and textual study. Over the years, his goal has been to cultivate long-term relationships with people who want to deepen their understanding of Yoga and Buddhist teachings and practice while bringing these practices into conversation with medicine, economics, ecology and mainstream media. He maintains a dedicated workshop and retreat schedule in communities in Canada and abroad, and teaches regularly with True North Insight, Upaya Zen Centre and the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care.
His research and teaching explore the intersection of committed spiritual practice and social action.
Michael teaches courses and workshops to clinicians (doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, palliative care workers, psychotherapists) that integrate Buddhist teachings and meditation practices with contemporary approaches to clinical work. He ran the well-respected Leading Edge Mindfulness for Clinicians Course in Toronto, as well as training retreats. Michael's academic background includes studies in psychology, psychoanalysis, philosophy and comparative religion. His primary teachers are Richard Freeman, Norman Feldman and Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara. He lives in Toronto with his son.
His yoga teaching method is to slow down the traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama sequences in order to bring deeper awareness to the subtle aspects of postures, balancing attention to alignment with meditative awareness. His meditation teachings integrate traditional Vipassana and Zen forms with insights from Yoga and Mahayana Buddhism, without losing the integrity of each tradition.