Thursday, November 8, 2007

Lighten up!

From Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron

"Being able to lighten up is the key to feeling at home with your body, mind, and emotions, to feeling worthy to live on this planet. For example, you can hear the slogan "Always maintain a joyful mind" and start beating yourself over the head for never being joyful. That kind of witness is a bit heavy.

This earnestness, this seriousness about everything in our lives--including practice--this goal-oriented, we're going-to-do-it-or-else attitude, is the world's greatest killjoy. There's no sense of appreciation because we're so solemn about everything. In contrast, a joyful mind is very ordinary and relaxed. So lighten up. Don't make such a big deal.

When you aspiration is to lighten up, you begin to have a sense of humor. Your serious state of mind keeps getting popped. In addition to a sense of humor, a basic support for a joyful mind is curiosity, paying attention, taking an interest in the world around you. Happiness is not required, but being curious without a heavy judgmental attitude helps. If you are judgmental, you can even be curious about that.

Our shelter in the storm

I bought Mary Pipher's book after hearing her speak at the Palo Alto Mother's Symposium in Winter 2007. With a little country in her voice she told stories about families, about anger between partners, about adolescents who rebel, about groups of people struggling to stick together. A therapist looking at the world through the eyes of an anthropologist, she related these problems to larger cultural stresses--to the way the culture presses down on families and endangers the tender shelter we have among each other.

Here's a piece from her book.

From The Shelter of Each other by Mary Pipher

"Families are our shelter from the storm, our oldest and most precious institution and our last great hope. Families were once powerful institutions, strong enough to withstand assaults. But now almost every force in our culture works against families.....

Our culture of consumption has thoroughly confused most people about how to live in families. We live in the United States of Advertising and many therapists have inadvertently played a ert in the spread of existential flu. Advertisers and pop psychology dovetail to produce a certain kind of adult--one who is shallow, self-absorbed, concerned about inadequacies.

Popular psychology has impoed that if one's intimate relationships are in order, life will be fine. But the situation is more complex than that. People cannot be whole and healthy unless they connect their lives to something larger than their own personal happiness. Freud postulated a great need for sex; I say our greatest human need is for love. We need to be reconnected with one another.

Therapists can train families to look at their culture with they eyes of anthropologists. We can help them to examine the effects of technology on the lives of their family and to make conscious choices about what technology to keep and reject. Psychologists can be what Donald Meichenbaum called "purveyors of hope." And we can encourage people to form a "tiospaye" for the families around them. The new millennium will be about restoring community and rebuilding the infrastructure of families. We need to take back our streets and our living rooms."

Become a resevoir of joy and freshness

From Teachings on Love by Thich Nhat Hanh

"If you take good care of yourself, you help everyone. You stop being a source of suffering to the world, and you become a reservoir of joy and freshness. Here and there are people who know how to take good care of themselves, who live joyfully and happily. They are our strongest support. Everything they do, they do for everyone."