Welcome to Mondo Samu - Questions and Answers about my self-work.

Mondō: "questions and answers"; a recorded collection of dialogues between a pupil and teacher.
Samu: Work service; meditation in work.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Emotional Chaos to Clarity - Exercise One

I've been reading the book Emotional Chaos to Clarity by Philip Moffitt with the Buddha Book Club run by my dear friend @DharmaApple.  Since I haven't been posting here much, and I have stuff that is too lengthy to post for twitter, I figured this might be a great place to post my process of working through the book.  This way, it will help me get back to writing here and - with any luck - perhaps it will help someone else discover some things that could help them on their own path from Emotional Chaos to Clarity.

Before I go any further, I should say a couple of things about my mindset going in to this book.  I like Phillip Moffitt a lot.  I discovered him one day while researching something and have followed him since.  I was very excited about his new book.  Once I saw what it was about, however, I admit to having a little trepidation.

I've read just about every self-help book & business productivity book on the market, I think!  When I started looking in to this book, it really seemed a lot like a business productivity book with a Buddhist slant (which makes sense given Mr. Moffitt's background.  He was a hugely successful business magazine editor before leaving that life and devoting himself to the dharma).  I thought a lot about this before beginning.  I had a lot of feelings of this book being too "self-helpy" for me.  I'm kind of done with those books.  Anyhow, after a great amount of consideration, I ultimately decided a few things:
  • If I think I don't need clarity, that's probably a sure sign that I do.
  • My thinking it is too self-helpy for me is probably me being judgmental.
  • What do I have to lose? It's always good to refresh with a little "Don't Know" mind!
So, with that out of the way, I dug in to the book.  I am reading the eBook, and listening to the audio (only after reading it because a certain someone that rhymes with @SharmaFlapple says just listening to the audio is cheating!).  I'm actually really enjoying it this way, as it's a lot to soak in.  I'm reading it, and using that method for highlighting and study.  I'm going back to the previous chapters and listening to the audio after reading them, mostly just to soak in the info a little more, maybe pick up on some bits I didn't catch on my read.  I'm also doing the exercises in the book along the way.  

Often when I read books that have exercises in them, I either don't do them, or I do them randomly or maybe after reading.  This time, because it's part of the club and because we have plenty of time allotted for it, I'm doing them as I go.  Also, I heard early on that if you want to truly get the most out of the book, you needed to do the exercises.  So here goes....

Emotional Chaos to Clarity by Phillip Moffitt

Chapter 1 - Beginning Your Journey To Clarity - Exercise

After opening the exercise section with the above paragraph, Phillip Moffitt goes on to describe how he wants you to perform this basic, daily, mindfulness meditation.  Since I started my practice with basic mindfulness meditation, and return to it always as my primary practice, I am very familiar with how to do it.  Because of that, when I first read this exercise I blew it off as basic instruction that I already know how to do.  I posited that since I do this routinely already, there is no need for me to do this first exercise.  After reading several chapters, I started seeing the wisdom in approaching the book with the proverbial "beginners mind".  I went back and spent a couple of weeks of practice on this one.

Instead of just repeating the basic mindfulness meditation instructions here verbatim, I will just summarize.  But I highly recommend reading it, paying close attention to it, and spending a couple of weeks at least with just this practice - regardless of your current level of practice.

The author says (in a nutshell) to:

  • Start by finding a comfortable place and position.
  • Feel your body and recall your intention to be mindful.
  • Notice tension in the body and relax with a few breaths.
  • Turn your full attention on your breath and let it be your anchor throughout.
  • Spend some time noticing all of the places in the body you feel the breath and find the easiest to stick with.
  • When you mind wanders - and it will - return to the breath.  Do Not Judge!
  • While following the breath, note the characteristics: Short, long, deep, shallow, etc.
  • If your mind really gets stuck in planning - comment to yourself on what it is doing "Planning, planning" or "remembering, remembering"
  • Be patient, be kind to yourself and start over.
  • Start over.
  • Start over.
  • You get the idea.

He ends the first exercise instruction with this deeply important and (seemingly) mundane paragraph.  Read it several times and consider its importance:

I don't have anything remarkable to report with this exercise.  As I said, I do this all the time and it's a standard part of my practice.  If you have been reading my blog for a couple of years, you already know the profound impact this kind of basic meditation had on me.  It continues to do so.  The only important message I have for you on this first exercise is to DO IT!

If I were to boil it down even further than I did here, it would be like so:

  • Sit
  • Breathe
  • Notice
  • Start over, if you need to.
  • Don't judge.

Sounds SO very simple, and it totally is.  But you have to do it long term, daily - even if only briefly - to realize the full benefit.  But you will, if you do.

I hope this helps.  It gets on to other much more (seemingly) interesting stuff, so stay tuned!

Warm regards,