Contributed by: Fern LaRocca

As we ended our 6-week journey together practicing and exploring the meditation mindfulness process, I was touched by the feedback that Thom and I received. We started with leaning in with our bodies. The proper posture that allows us to touch in with the breath and also to feel relaxed. As we softened to the nuances of the stillness of the body, we started working with the mind. The stream of thoughts that come and go are like the various clouds in the sky. We watch them pass and we watch how they affect our bodies and we watch how they bring up emotions. Yet we always bring our attention back to the breath – the clear blue sky

Pema Chodron led us into how to develop the mind of compassion for ourselves and for others. We used the tool of curiosity. Looking into our thoughts with the curiosity of a child to see their transient nature. 

When we catch ourselves with the heaviness of the darkness of the world, we look to appreciation to remind us of the simple beauty that surrounds us- the laughter of the children, the chirping of the birds, the sound of cars passing just outside of our sacred space. 

Tonglen or the compassionate breathing exercise helped us take in the suffering of the world and give out love and compassion on the spot and as an extended meditation. The instructions for both mindfulness meditation and tonglen are in the back of the book for you to refer to.

I also shared some of the latest research about mindfulness meditation:

  • Meditation almost certainly does sharpen your attention. mindfulness may be able to slow cognitive decline, even in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Long-term, consistent meditation does seem to increase resiliency to stress.
  • Mindfulness may improve your immune response mindfulness meditation appeared to increase levels of T-cells or T-cell activity in patients with HIV or breast cancer. This suggests that mindfulness could play a role in fighting cancer
  • Meditation does appear to increase compassion. It also makes our compassion more effective.
  • Mindfulness may help reduce psychological pain
  • Mindfulness could have a positive impact on your relationships.
  • Mindfulness seems to reduce many kinds of bias.
  • Meditation does have an impact on physical health—but it’s modest. meditators seem to have increased activity of telomerase, an enzyme implicated in longer cell life and, therefore, longevity. 
  • Mindfulness could help people at risk for heart disease by bringing blood pressure down.
    • Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital

“According to the Shambhala teachings, however, we have to recognize that our individual experience of sanity is inherently linked to our vision for a good human society.  So we have to take things one step at a time. If we try to solve society’s problems without overcoming the confusion and aggression in our own state of mind, then our efforts will only contribute to the basic problems, instead of solving them. That is why the individual journey of warriorship must be undertaken before we can address the larger issue of how we can help this world.

Still, it would be extremely unfortunate if the Shambhala vision was taken as purely another attempt to build ourselves up while ignoring our responsibilities to others.  The point of warriorship is to become a gentle and tamed human being who can make a genuine contribution to the world. The warrior’s journey is based on discovering what is intrinsically good about human existence and how to share that basic goodness with others.” – The Collected Works of Chögyam Trungpa: Volume 8 Great Eastern Sun; Shambhala

FIT will announce our second program starting March 29th, and we will study and discuss Pema chodron’s book, Awakening Loving Kindness. I look forward to seeing you then. Be aware that FIT is taking all precautions to keep us safe and we as individuals will be mindful of the safety to ourselves and others during this difficult time. We are evaluating options for you to join virtually should that be your preference and will keep you posted. 

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