Edited transcription of Talk/Question and Answer/Guided Mindfulness Meditation on March 19, 2014 to some doctors, managers and staff of the Kliniken Essen-Mitte, a hospital in Essen, Germany. The hospital provides a wide range of services to facilitate support for the needs of patients including oncology, palliative care, psychiatry and Naturopathy It is one of the leading hospitals in Germany offering treatment from physicians/oncologists along with Naturopathy to support a healthy diet, mindfulness programmes for stress reduction, inner healing and exploration of lifestyle. The hospital offers expertise to the highest medical level.
THREE KINDS OF MINDFULNESS
Introduction by Sonja Seibt
I am very happy today to introduce you to Christopher Titmuss. Some of us know Christopher from retreats from India or Germany. I got to know Christopher two years ago on a retreat in the Waldhaus, near Maria Laach (Nickenich, near Bonn).
I sat a retreat with Nicole Stern who Christopher invited to be a Dharma teacher. She said to me the next time you come I am teaching a retreat with Christopher. She said he is a lovely, wise and humorous teacher and person. This is what I found when I went to the Waldhaus. He is one of the most experienced Dharma teachers in the West. His teachings focus on insight meditation, liberation, expansion of the heart and emptiness.
His visit is interesting for us in the clinic because he met Jon Kabat-Zinn at the end of the 1970’s when Christopher was giving a retreat in Massachusetts. Jon Kabat-Zinn was one of his participants, one of his students. They met several times on the retreats when Christopher came to the USA. One day Jon Kabat-Zinn came to an interview with Christopher after Jon had a mental flash that he had an idea to bring what he had learnt and practised on the retreat and apply in the clinic (Worcester Medical Hospital, USA) to patients where he worked.
It would give them the opportunity for transformation for healing and insight through the practise of meditation, the body scan and yoga. It was the start of the MBSR programme. This was the founding of the MBSR programme. We have stress reduction in our clinic.
We have the possibility today to go a little deeper. What is the essence? What are the ethics of MBSR? What are the ethics of mindfulness? What is the base of our work here? What is it to be together here? By having insight into the essence, into the Dharma, we can ask how it is possible for us to develop, to change and to take risks or let something go. How can we work together as a community to develop a vision?
I am sure Christopher can be a help in this for us. We don’t a have specific issue or theme today. You are free to ask questions. You can mention issues and questions. We have already discussed a little in the past days.
Let’s sit quietly together for a minute.
Firstly, a big thank you to the Clinic, Hospital and Sonja for kindly inviting me to come. I have been looking forward to coming to meet with you. I arrived on Monday afternoon and so I have had the opportunity beforehand to have some conversations. Sonja mentioned that there will be time for questions and answers and a guided meditation. We will have a guide meditation together. I will be happy to respond.
I always have got plenty to say (laughter from participants). I would like to start off with a personal health story. There is a small point to be made at the end of the story about the mind/body relationship. A few years ago, I was at the Waldhaus (retreat centre) giving a short retreat. At the end of the retreat, I experienced a great deal of pain, sickness and nausea running through the body.
What’s that about? The pains were extremely intense. I had just no idea what was going on inside my body. I flew to London but London was only the beginning of the journey. I only had a two to three hour stopover at London Airport to fly to Australia that night to start teaching in Brisbane. My mother lives in Brisbane. She moved to Australia some 15 years ago. It might have been to get away from her son that she went to live in Australia to be near my sister. It was a long flight. When I got to Brisbane airport, I said to my mother that I felt very sick, nauseous and had pain in the body. I am not sure what is going on. “I better go to the A and E (Accident and Emergency).” Various patients sit there waiting to be called. After about an hour, a nurse came out and called out: “Mr Christopher Titmuss.” Jet lagged, tired and sick, I put my hand up.
The nurse walked over and said to me: “Would you like to follow me?” Then she said to me: “Your wife can come with you.” This is my 88 year old mother! (laughter). My mum had a huge smile on her face. She said: That’s not my husband. That’s my son!” (laughter). I said to the nurse. ”That’s not my wife. That’s my mother!” (more laughter).
To the very same statement, my mother had a completely opposite emotional reaction to my reaction. I felt worse. It turned out that I had gall stones. The beloved pharmaceutical industry provided penicillin. The body cooled out. I went from a vegetarian diet to a more vegan diet. So far, the gall stones and I have a harmonious relationship. So far….
In connection and in relationship to events, how do we hear things? What is actually stated? What is our actual response to what we hear? There is human inter-action. We spend time together. One important practice is listening to what people communicate to us. Can I listen a little more deeply? In our communications with each other, there can be a reaction that takes place. We have the privilege of our roles enabling us to serve people. To serve people is the most noble and the best of human activities. We are the servant of people to offer them
- practical applications
- appropriate medicine
- appropriate surgery.
We can offer wisdom and clarity to people. It is the best work. This is the noble life.
In this vision to be a real support to people, all of us have to find ways to keep the patients or clients as our priority. At the same time, we must give support to each other. The act of listening is vital to this support. I notice in myself that some communications are difficult. A difficult meeting easily leave an impression. That lasting impression can be at home. We have an argument with our friends, kids, partner, neighbour, on the street or whoever. It can happen in the best of environments including the work environment. We have to keep in touch mindfully with ourselves in our communications.
There are three areas that we really need to observe if there is pressure in the communication.
- Either from myself or the other, the sound of the sound of the voice easily goes up. That’s stress.
- The voice gets faster. We start speaking more quickly. That’s pressure. That’s stress.
- We interrupt the other person. We are not giving her or him the opportunity to speak. That’s our stress making the interruption.
When we speak more loudly, quickly and interrupting, those three pressures within make it extremely difficult for the other person to listen. The whole purpose of communication, of talking, is that there is somebody who is listening. Sometimes we are working against ourselves. We want the person to listen but our attitude, impatience, aggression, agitation in the voice and the body stops the other person from listening. We are human beings. It is a skill to find and to remember that sometimes, when you and I have an important conversation to make, can we come to it with peace of mind and clarity?
Sometimes we are on the receiving end of a difficult communication. People can be negative. Perhaps they find fault with us. There is blame or agitation. Sometimes when I am on the receiving end of blame, l remind myself just to feel the seat under my backside, to keep as much as possible quietly centred in the body.
We can also mindfully breathe in and breathe out while, as Shakespeare said, we experience the ‘bows and arrows of outrageous misfortune.’ Somebody is firing arrows at us. I hope you understand the complicated old English. Sometimes we think it is outrageous that somebody should be angry with us. Sometimes, we sit very quietly and listen.
If we are on the receiving end of an attack, I try to watch in myself three things inwardly.
1. If I am under attack from another, I try to catch in myself, if I notice in myself the desire to try to find faults with the other person? You attack me so I will attack you. Woe. This is how wars start. Watch the voice inside wanting to attack back.
2. We get very defensive. Somebody is criticising us. They are finding fault. We find ourselves trying to explain everything. We can find ourselves getting defensive. The person has already made up their mind. No matter what we say, it is not satisfying for the person.
3. We can easily withdraw, emotionally/psychologically. He or she or they gave me a hard time. They found fault with me. So we withdraw. The problem is that we easily carry an impression that this person does not like me. This person finds fault with me . This person talks behind my back.
That impression from yesterday or last week or last month or whenever gets carried. The event has finished. The memory carries the impression. Mindfulness practice is letting go of the impression. Mindfulness practice is remembering that this issue of conflict or difficulty happened yesterday or it happened an hour ago. Today is a new day. This is a new hour. Can I mindfully let go of that? So that I treat the person with affection and respect. I do not carry the picture from the past. People have problems with each other because we carry painful memories. Mindfulness practice is the practice of not carrying painful memories and finding ways that to learn how we can connect with the person.
I have been coming to Germany forever (laughter). Last year, I met a woman on a retreat who I had not seen for several years. She told me about an agreement that she had with her husband. She told me about a small form or method that that they used. I was so impressed with what she told me. I applied the form when I was in relationship. I have mentioned the form in about four continents. I am very keen on this form.
Once a week, her husband and she would sit down together for an hour. In the hour, he or she would speak about their relationship with each other over the last week. The husband or wife would say all the points that they appreciated, all the gestures of love and kindness, all the touching and beautiful things that took place during the week. They would discuss this. Then they would speak about the difficulty points. What got them pissed off, as we say in English (laughter)? What got them irritated and annoyed? They had an agreement that they would not go back more than one week. This was the insight. It was here and now practice. Here and now meant this week.
If we go back more than a week, then woe, woe! ‘You always.’ ‘You never.’ I can’t stand this any longer.’’ ‘It has been going on like this years.’ All of those images, stories, pictures, frustrations and anger get thrown upon the partner. The couple told me they did this weekly practice, one hour per week, for 11 years. That’s impressive. Being married for 11 years is impressive these days. The average length of a marriage in Britain is eight years. It is going down rather quickly.. In a few more years, the length of a marriage will be down to eight weeks (laughter). They had a quiet commitment to the form. I asked if she and her husband were still together. She said: “Yes. We are married for the past 23 years.”
She said she and her husband do not do this practice any more but just from time to time. It is a reminder of a small mindfulness practice of two people listening to each other without using the past as a weapon against each other. I think the same principle applies in the workplace where there is the vision of the team including the boss, managers, doctors, nurses, psychologists and therapists working together and offering a variety of ways. The cooperation of the team working together helps to make the vision. The vision and co-operation also requires the attention to the difficult periods as well. That’s where the act of the listening really is important. A difficulty may not be about the immediate situation. There may be other stresses and pressures in daily life that easily get carried into the work situation.
I hear it a lot. If the view and the attitude are: “Oh, this job is so hard. It is such a serious job. I have to deal with so much suffering. I have to get people back to health and healing.” If the impression gets stronger and stronger, though there is truth in it, you will lose the happiness. You will lose it.
You have heard of Amnesty International who do wonderful work for political prisoners. I have the privilege of being a member of Amnesty for 40 years. I knew the founder when I was a young man. Amnesty International some years ago asked me if I could come to speak to the staff. They are dealing with such dramatic intense cases of torture and unlawful imprisonment and the suffering of families from executions.
The staff was finding it difficult to hear any more suffering. As a consequence, there was a big turnover in the staff. Some staff said: “I can’t take it anymore. I cannot deal with this amount of suffering every single day. I asked the staff what they did when they got home. Some said: “I turn on the television and watch the news.” (laughter). “I pour out a glass of whisky” or “I pour out a gin and tonic.” Oh dear, oh dear.
If the feeling is in the workplace, that there is a lot of drama and intensity, we need to know the places and the points of mindfulness of happiness. We need to recognise happiness. We cannot live without happiness. We cannot last without happiness. In coming into the work environment, we have to find time to notice the beauty. The spring is coming. We notice the green, the grass, the trees, flowers and herbal plants. We need to notice the many acts of love, of kindness you are offering each other. You are offering kindness to the clients and patients. You are offering kindness to the bosses and the bosses are offering you. The realisation and appreciation of kindness, love and mindfulness must be somewhere in the day. If we don’t, we really become too serious. The work will seem more and more heavy. There will be doubt inside. There will be no peace when we go home. I hear this story everywhere.
This is a huge blessing. It is a blessing. It is only a blessing if you notice all this. It is only a blessing if you see the sky above and the Earth below. You must be mindful of a group of committed people. And that must be in the vision. You then support each other despite the stress and the pressure, the life, the sickness, the death. You need happiness as an antidote, as a medicine, as a remedy for all the big challenges that you all have.
Finally, there is here, and in such facilities, a precious ethic. Ethic is a fancy word. An ethic is a relationship to life, to others; we treat others, as much as humanly possible, as we wish to be treated. That is the ethic. Sometimes, we forget the ethic. There is pressure. We blow our top. We get upset. We get angry. It happens.
Parents and grandparents know outbursts as well. If there is emotional maturity, and we get angry, and we unload the anger on another, then, afterwards, we realise we have been angry, due to the pressure, then we see we are controlling and demanding. We have a responsibility to go to that person, to whoever that person is, and apologise. It is our duty – whether it was the gardener, or the cleaner, or the top boss, or the top boss to the cleaner. It doesn’t matter who the person is. All are worthy of our love and respect. Sometimes, we get pissed off and get upset.
We do not know the impact of the anger. Some people cannot handle anger. The person might appear strong. Some people are wounded. One young woman told me that when she was 20 years of age, her father said something terrible to her when he was drunk and angry. He said a terrible thing to her: He said: “You are nobody and you will never be anybody.” That is brutal. That is an incredibly violent thing to say to another human being.
She said she suffered for ages over what her father said to her. It needed a lot of work on her with therapy, the practice of mindfulness and meditation, until she realised that this was not her problem. This was her father’s problem. Kindness and skill in communication matter. When we lose our calm, then let us notice that. When we have become angry, let’s remember we have become angry. Let us meet with that person and express an apology to her and him, and this apology contributes to forgiveness. And to healing. This is a responsibility.
- and Vision work together.
All of those areas go together. This is the best for everybody.
Q. Sometimes it is difficult when we suppress our emotions. Sometimes we are angry. When we directly forgive because we want to be a good Buddhist….
C: We want to be a good human being is better.
Q. Yes. We do not want to suppress these feelings in our stomach.
CT. The feeling life requires a lot of work and cooperation. It is a major issue for people who are serving others to integrate the heart and mind, thought and feeling. These are two areas. There is always the danger that the mind cuts off the heart. Sometimes this separation of the mind from the heart is because we are afraid to feel into the situation, whatever it might be.
We think of surgeons. Sometimes it is important to keep a distance from emotions. We think of surgeons (in the operating theatre). If we are working very closely with suffering, we can hold to the view that we can’t let our feelings interfere with the work. It may be very necessary at that time to keep focused and single pointed and concentrated on the tasks. But outside of the moment, it is different. The difficulty for human beings is that we get used to having the feelings suppressed. And put aside. We get used to living in the mind. That will make our life heavier and much more serious, controlling, and more difficulty to deal with the feelings of others and our own feelings.
There may be times when the feelings do need to be quiet. This principle also applies in a managerial and organisational role. When the period for the surgeon or manager is over,
- Can the person connect with what she or he feels?
- Can I share my feelings?
- Can I communicate them?
- There is a movement and respect for connecting with the emotional life of love, joy, happiness beauty connectedness.
- Can I voice those feelings?
- Do I have the opportunity to voice and share feelings which are not an attack on the other?
The dynamic of mindfulness is to bring insight into the relationship to heart, mind and body. Hearts mind and body must primarily work together.
Q. Why are you in such a good mood all the time? The Dalai Lama is like you – smiling and laughing without any reason. You are like this. So is the Dalai Lama. Several people I know have meditated for years, for decades. I had seen some of your biography. Usually, I guess that one doesn’t start meditation because one is a happy person. What is going on in the brain for you in the past 47 years?
CT. Let me briefly give you a little bit of the background and the upbringing. I left school at 15 years of age. I got bored with school. At that time, one could leave school at 15. So at the first opportunity, I was out of school. I was in my early 20s. It was the summer of love in 1967. Flower power, the Beatles plus a few things which we smoked (laughter). So it was the overland trip going through Germany and Yugoslavia to India. I actually loved the way of life. I have a lot of happiness on the road. After a period of time, I had travelled through 20 or 30 countries. It felt I had enough of the outer journey and wanted to start the inner journey. I had read various books but what were the practices for the inner journey? I was brought up a Roman Catholic. I did not want to take on board another religion and become a Buddhist. I still do not call myself a Buddhist. Outwardly, I was a Buddhist monk but, inwardly, I have an allergy to labels. Sometimes people ask me questions to do with Buddhism. I say “please ask a Buddhist.” The happiness I experience arose because of the love of what I was doing and the real benefit and, of course, I must say this, of mindfulness and meditation. I mean it. There is also the joy of service and the feeling of great freedom which goes with it.
Q. Are you are so happy all the time.
C. I’m not smiling in my sleep (laughter).
Q. I saw the Dalai Lama. He laughs and smiles. I wonder why he is laughing. What is the reason?
C. The Dalai Lama is a wonderful example of happiness. So is the Venerable Thich Naht Hahn and, as you say, a number of other people really love the practice. The happiness is almost a surprise to oneself. Dharma practice brings out so much happiness even though we are dealing with suffering every day in all sorts of ways. This is why I have been giving you all the reminders about noticing the happiness in daily life. Those moments are small jewels. There is something precious about the moments of happiness. We can recognise, appreciate and share this happiness. This happiness can flow by itself just like a river.
Q. I am curious about what happened at Amnesty International. What did you do?
C. I formed small groups out of the large group. In spite of the challenges, I asked them to remind each other about what they loved about the work. What have they forgotten? I got the small groups of 6 to 8 people to really share. I told them that in the small groups there were not to say a word about suffering. They know about that already. It is not to swing over to the view that life is happy and joyful. It needs the recognition of happiness. People came up with all sorts of things about the happiness of the work that others had never thought of. It is the small things that help to release love, gratitude and appreciation. Let that come through as part of the day. The tough decisions are then balanced with love and happiness.
Q. We are here to look at mindfulness and the work of Jon Kabat-Zinnn. Please give more of the essence behind mindfulness. Perhaps we can go a step further into mindfulness.
C. Shall I speak about mindfulness and further steps of exploration? Do feel free to ask more and interrupt. Going back to the Buddhist tradition, mindfulness has two or three important factors at least connected with it. One of the factors commonly used is the capacity to listen to others and inwardly to see if we can listen without all the judgements, This is one definition of mindfulness, to be really present in the moment, fully attentive to what is showing itself, here and now, without making a judgement or being judgemental. It is just one valuable definition of mindfulness. It is a practice. This practice applies to the voices within that arise. It also applies to the voices that come from without, from others. This is one definition of mindfulness.
There is also mindfulness with a relationship, not to the present, but to the past. The Pali word for mindfulness is sati or smrti in Sanskrit. Sati includes in its meaning the capacity to remember accurately what happened. The more mindful you and I are in the moment then, when that moment has passed, and I go back to that past to remember something important that happened. Perhaps there was in the past people who I met with in the experience of a conversation. If I have practised mindfulness, I can go back to it.
Mindfulness in the moment is not an end in itself. The Buddha said mindfulness is a limb, like an arm or a leg is a limb in the body of the Dharma. It is important that we do not think that the limb is the end result. Practice is not about being mindful in every moment. It is impossible anyway. I have never met anybody who is mindful in every moment. There is mindfulness of memory. When something touches you, you feel its impact. You know something has affected you, whether pleasurable or painful. You are affected by that experience. It can be useful to bring the mindfulness back to that situation.
What is the insight in this situation?
- What do I need to be clear about?
- What can I understand from this?
Mindfulness enables us to go forward as a stepping stone towards insight, understanding and wisdom. Mindfulness takes us in that direction. At times there are situations when we know there is something significant. If we cannot see what the insight is, or what the understanding is, then it may require a communication with another, who we feel is worth talking to and who may help to shed light on that experience. Two people work together. It doesn’t have to be a professional. It can be a good friend in whom we trust. Two people work together to see what they can discover. What can I learn from this experience? Sometimes a transformation confirms a change from the past to the present. A transformation is a break from the past and into a new present.
I was talking with friends yesterday. I mentioned one of the most popular spiritual figures of our time. Eckhart Tolle, the author of The Power of Now. He has a wide following. I remember reading in the first pages of his book. He used strong language. He said that he was very unhappy, depressed and suicidal. He had a lot of emotional and psychological problems. Then there were these transformative moments and there was a real inner change. He was at peace with himself. And at peace with life. Some years later, he wrote very successful books. This is an example, a rather dramatic one, that when there is a change. It can mean a dramatic break from the past. In Buddhist language, the old painful karma has stopped. His unhappiness, depression and suicidal thoughts stopped. A new life begins. In rather the same way, mindfulness can be used for reflection into the past event. The Buddha said to “squeeze the honey” out of the situation.
What do I need to be clear about?
The Buddha was once asked, and it is a common question, “my parents did not love me. or “My parents were never present for me.” Or “My parents did not know how to give.” “Now I am like this because I had parents like that.” There is very little that we can do about our parents.
My mother once asked me: “What do you remember about your upbringing, about your childhood.?”
I said: “My memory is of my parents arguing, shouting, fighting, slamming of the doors and yelling over money and other things.”
My mother replied. “It wasn’t like that.”
“You asked me” I said.
“You had a good upbringing.” She said.
“My upbringing was OK. But you asked me what my memory is. That’s my memory.”
She said: “I am going to ring your sister.” (laughter)
My mother rang my sister Judy. My sister and I hadn’t talked about our upbringing. My sister said to my mum: “Arguing. Shouting. Fighting.” She added: “And that’s why I went to live in Australia.”
Some people had a lovely upbringing with lovely parents. I still have a good relationship with my mum. She is still praying to her God that I will become a Catholic again (laughter). I must tell you that I like the new Pope. He is better than the last one! (laughter).
The Buddha said. “Perhaps it is the truth that your parents did not love you. They were not present for you and did not give to you.” That maybe the truth, the reality. Therefore “your practice is to learn to love, to practise kindness and learn to be present and your practise is to learn to give.” With the painful past, we live in it when we feel sorry for ourselves because of the past. We create unfortunately, the idea, the identity, of being a victim.
“I am a victim of my parent’s behaviour. I am a victim of his or her behaviour.” We lose our power. We have to be with the real. The real was that the past was painful. It was violent. I was abused. We have to find ways to say “enough is enough.” What can I do, as a human being; radically different from what was in the past. That is a movement into love. It is a movement of truth, a movement of commitment. It is a movement of a different way of being. Then there is no identity as a victim. We empower each other. We really have to listen to each other.
1. There is mindfulness without making a judgement.
2. There is mindfulness of the past and out relationship to the past
3. There is mindfulness is with a judgement.
The power to make a judgement is vital. If we do not make a judgement, we can become very passive. We say “I am just being.”- whatever that means (laughter). We are mindful of the situation whatever it might be. We are checking in with our heart and mind. What are the steps that I can take? Mindfulness is then a step or a doorway towards something.
I was speaking at a meeting some 30 years ago in the United States. We were having a discussion about vision. It is very precious to have a vision in life. At the time, the person worked in a rather large mental hospital. One young guy in his late teens had been very impulsive. He behaved very inappropriately. On a bus in the city, he put his hand up the skirt of a woman. She was terrified and screamed. He was arrested and put into the mental hospital and given daily medication. Gradually, his condition got worse, not better. He found himself on the top floor. The mental hospital kept those who were near to leaving on the ground floor and those on the top floor were furthest away from release. He had been in the mental hospital for four or five years.
One nurse really felt he could be released. The young man had become so afraid to leave the hospital that he behaved in such a way to stay in the hospital. He was afraid of the outside world. Then the nurse had an idea. This was her vision. She said to him. “Let’s go slowly.” One day, he would put his foot down facing towards the stairs. She had a piece of chalk. She drew a line on the floor where his toes finished. The next day he put his foot in front so that the same line of chalk was behind his heel. Slowly, slowly, the confidence in the young man began to grow. Over the weeks, he gradually went down the stairs to the ground floor. He had the nurse as his friend who stayed with him. She stayed with him outside and went home with him on the bus. She checked in with him regularly afterwards. Within a few weeks, the young man was absolutely fine.
In such a case, the vision was liberation of the young man from the wards of the mental hospital. He really wanted to be free but he was not. The gap for him was too big. So it was the small steps which bridged the gap. The vision of liberation is beautiful but there has to be the skilful means to take the steps to fulfil the vision. Sometimes, we have vision.
- Mindfulness is a step on the way and belongs to the vision.
- Skilful means belongs to the vision.
- Integration of heart, mind and body belongs to the vision.
- Sharing of responsibilities belongs to the vision.
The vision is there but it requires those small steady steps of people working together.
Mindfulness can bring love and skill to any profession with peace of mind day and night and brings a real feeling and knowing of liberation. Mindfulness is a step towards that way of living.
Mindfulness is not an end in itself. It is precious. It is important. It is a step. It is not the goal.
I am a meditation teacher. I could not let you get out of here without a meditation. Shall we have a short meditation?
Q. Yes, please. Can you speak more about mindfulness with judgements? It would be interesting to hear more about.
C. Let’s have a 10 minute meditation. Then after I will respond to mindfulness with judgements.
In the sitting posture, keep both feet firmly on the ground. Our back is straight. One of the points to remember is that the hips are expanded and moved forward a little. Then we feel the spine and the expansion of the top part of the body.
Ten Minute Meditation on Mindfulness of Breathing.
(There is a 25 second silence between each line of the guided meditation)
- Our hands can rest on the knees or in the lap. This meditation is a meditation on the mindfulness of breathing.
- First, we establish ourselves in the silence.
- Just sitting. Being a mindful human being. Being conscious and present to this moment of life.
- Being mindful of the breathing experience. A human being is inhaling and exhaling.
- The air element is drawn in from our immediate environment. Oxygen is going down into the lungs. Breathing out.
- Our whole body is engaged in some expansion with the inhalation and some settling down, a contraction with the exhalation.
- So we are quietly centred and grounded. We are established here and now.
- We are mindful of the incoming breath and outgoing breath.
- There are times in our daily life when we need to come back to our breath to keep calm and steady….
- We come back to our breath to interrupt the steams of thinking, thinking, thinking
- We bring more oxygen into the cells to release more energy.
- We contribute mindfully to heart, mind and body.
- We are mindful of the inhaling and exhaling.
- Mindfulness of breathing reduces a lot of stress
- We can let go of lot of things that we do not need to hold onto.
- A simple practice with lots of benefits.
- We practice mindfulness of breathing through our direct experience. So it is not a theory.
- Our experience is the evidence of the benefit.
- There is calmness of heart, mind and body.
- When there is calmness of heart and mind, there is less stress on the body.
- The energies of the body can flow more easily.
- We can feel more at home with the condition of the body.
- Mindfulness of breathing can contribute to a wise connection with the physical life.
- We can experience the body as an expression of nature, as the elements.
- We can experience the body as an expression of life, as DNA.
- As a formation in the evolution of things rather than seeing the body as me, as myself, as who I am.
- Mindfulness does not detach us from the body but brings more awareness through experiencing the body as body, as sensations and vibrations, confirmed with every in and out breath.
- We can recognise the kindness, peace of mind, of love and happiness can make a contribution to healing.
- We experience the silence and the stillness. Life breathes in and life breathes out.
- We appreciate that life is both inner and outer. One is not more important than the other.
- Life is with oneself and life is with others.
- May we cultivate ethics in our daily life. Mindfulness contributes to ethics, insight, understanding, co-operation and vision.
- May we all be empowered to serve others, near and far – as an expression of a noble way of life.
Meditation gong rings twice to end the meditation.
There was a question around mindfulness and judgements.
There is mindfulness and the making of judgements, taking risks and letting go. We look at a situation. We might feel concern. We make a judgement about it. One situation comes to mind with regard to this. I had a conversation in India recently with a newly qualified doctor form Switzerland. She is about 30 years of age. She had two or three months in India before her internship in hospital in Zurich. I asked her how long she trained as a doctor. She said; “Seven years.”
How much time in the training did you receive in terms of the impact of diet on health? We probably all recognise the impact of food upon health. Three of the terrors of excess in food are sugar, salt and fat, as well as the chemicals in food and much else. The human organisam is having a real struggle to deal with these kinds of food. Heart disease, cancer, diabetes and dementia have much impact on us through the diet. The evidence shows that people who are mindful with their diet, and take care with it, will live healthier, happier and longer lives. How much time did you spend in terms of diet to health in your seven years of training? She said: “Ten hours.”
I asked an American friend. I had spoken at Harvard Medical School some years ago. I asked one of the physicians there. What amount of time did you spend in training to be training a doctor? He said “Five years.” How much time was spent to learn about the relationship of food to health? He said “Four hours.” He said to me: “Christopher. You have to understand something. Training in medicine is determined by the pharmaceutical industry. It is about their products.” Personally, I think it is a huge blind spot in the training of doctors, a mega blind spot in the training of doctors. One doctor told a friend living in Massachusetts. “Health has nothing to do with the relationship to food.” I found this view a gob smackingly foolish viewpoint.
I look at a situation. I am mindful of it. I listen to the physicians. I listen to what the doctors tell me about their training. I then make a judgement. It is a simple judgement. Diet has to be an indispensable feature for the training for a physician. It has to go from five to 10 hours in five to seven years to a major percentage of the training to include diet. We see the terrible consequences of poor diet all around us. This is mindfulness with a viewpoint or judgement that action needs to take place. It will require much more pressure upon the very powerful medical authorities such as the BMA (the British Medical Association) and AMA (American Medical Association) and here in Germany to point out something so obvious to many of us – that diet is missing from the training to become a doctor. I use this situation as one small demonstration of mindfulness. We make a judgement and we act upon the judgement. It would be a pity to be mindful of this lack of training in diet for doctors and not make a judgement about it.
A significant change in the training for doctors will take place because small groups of people got together, and all of history confirms this, and said to each other: “Something needs to change. Then the group of people made those steps to work for change. They had a vision. They made steps. Once you make steps out of the norm, there is a vision, there is a direction. There is the potential for radical change. Once you step out of the norm, you have to be able to weather criticism, cynicism, claims that you are naïve, foolish, stupid, irresponsible, brainwashed, lost, confused. You have to deal with that kind of language, once you step out of the norm. Some of us have had to deal with such criticism for a long, long time.
For people to stay true to a vision, it is a stepping out of conformity. One has to stay steady with all the views and opinions that may come. It is not easy because we often want the approval of other people. Small groups of people can set the direction for the change. We must keep faith with change. Let’s say, for example, that naturopathy and conventional medicine have to find integration and respect for both. That’s a judgement. It is foolish to cut one kind of medicine off from the other. One has to find ways to increase the healing (emotional/psychological) and the health (physical) of people. We must use the psychological resources and the dietary resources, to question lifestyle and bring it all together. We might need to use conventional medicine such as tablets, surgery and radiation. The two disciplines of conventional medicine and naturopathy are often far apart. They need to come together. This should be the norm in every hospital. It isn’t. It is a rare hospital in the EU. It is a rare hospital in the West and other parts of the world.
It will require the love and co-operation of all of you to show it is important. We cannot continue, and this is another judgement, in the kind of health system which has separated the body from the rest of the human being. We cannot continue like this. The separation of body from heart and mind is not working. We only have to look around us and see all the unhappiness people have around their relationship to their body and to their health. We need exploration and respect for the two disciplines so that we recognise that body, heart, mind, diet and lifestyle must co-operate and work together.
The place of the healers, of the psychologists, the psychotherapists and the doctors and families is important. It has to be team work. More judgements now! In England, one goes to the doctor. If you are lucky, you get six minutes with your doctor. Then you are out. Next one comes into the room. Six minutes and you are out. In our society, the loved ones of the sick person do not know how to deal with the sickness of the family member. A neighbour’s husband died recently from lung cancer. What do you say to the very sick person? How do you communicate? They go through terror, worry and anxieties. Family members on a retreat will ask me: “Christopher, what do we say? What would you suggest?
We need teams of people with communication skills who can help advise, so that everybody can share the weight of responsibility of the sick person. We don’t have that. We go to see the doctor. We go to the hospital. We get sent home. The family are left to deal with the consequences. It is a tragic situation. The exploration that is taking place at this hospital is critically important. Sickness affects all of us in various ways. We need meeting points of the heart
- team work
- different kinds of medication.
Sometimes, when we get a lot of negativity and criticism from others, then the voice inside of myself says: “I must be doing it right.” (laughter).
Q. How do we know the times when we practice mindfulness with a judgement and when do we practice mindfulness without a judgement? When do you find time to make such a distinction? When do you know when is OK to let go and not make a judgement about an issue?
C. This is an important question. It is a question for all of us that is worthy of a lot of inquiry. This is a key and essential question in the process of mindfulness. For myself, with regard to making a judgement, I might be right or wrong but the essential feeling is that I make a judgement because I can make a difference. Sometimes I see with friends or family members, or in my programmes, or retreats, workshops. it is wise and clear not to saying anything, to keep one’s peace and thus not to make any kind of judgement about the situation. That requires from us a trust. It is trust that it is the wise approach. It is the judgement of the non-judgement. It is the wise thing to do.
This means it is wise to let the process, whatever it is about, to unfold itself and not make a judgement. Sometimes it works very well and very effectively. A judgement arises when we feel intuitively we can make a difference. Let me go back to the earlier example that I gave. If I speak long enough about the limitations of the current training for doctors, and that diet has to be essential in the training, then maybe, after a decade one or two, people will hear. Then voices will start to go to the medical establishment. We make a difference when we feel we are heard. Then the judgement works. Sometimes the judgement is just to let go.
I am not very keen on the language of acceptance. In some situations, acceptance of a situation can bring about passivity. Meditation has a weak point in it. There are a few weak points. One of the weak points is that it can contribute to being rather passive. For example, the view of just being here and now. Oh please (laughter).
Let’s have a quiet minute to finish.
MAY ALL BEING LIVE MINDFUL LIVES
MAY ALL BEINGS LIVE WITH INSIGHT AND UNDERSTANDING
MAY ALL BEINGS LIVE WITH LOVE AND A LIBERATING WISDOM.
Three gongs of the meditation bell.
Thank you everybody for coming this afternoon. It was lovely to see you and meet with you and respond to your questions. On behalf of many people, one huge thank you to you all.
Thank you, Christopher.