Check out The Center for Healthy Minds

In my recent presentation, Investigating the Power of Silence, at Austin’s Free Day of NLP, I drew on some research done by the Center for Healthy Minds.

I love that name! And I just got on their mailing list.

You may have heard of it. It’s located at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and is run by Dr. Richard Davidson, who was encouraged by the Dalai Lama in 1992 to study the brains of Tibetan yogis. Dozens of monks have flown into Madison over the years, been hooked up with caps of electrodes for EEGs to study their brainwaves and undergone fMRI to see where the brain is most active during meditation, rest, and tasks. These are the “professional” meditators with over 12,000 hours of practice.

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 10.43.54 AMThe research I mentioned in my presentation was done on the Tibetan yogi with the most meditation experience they’ve studied so far, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, who’s clocked an astounding 62,000 hours of meditation (and looks like he’s about 30 years old but is actually 43 in 2018).

Here’s the link to the article, and here’s a photo of the rinpoche.

Yongey Mingyur became a wandering monk for four years, leaving behind his life as a prominent teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, and then resuming it with new perspective. His story includes overcoming panic attacks as a young teenager. Read more here. To find out about his experience wandering, read this.

The Center for Healthy Minds has also improved the rigor of the science behind studies of meditation, holding it to high standards including classifying meditators as beginning, long-term, and professional and distinguishing between types of meditation.

Continue reading

Looking back on a year full of changes

This past year held a lot of change for me. The previous year, 2010, was a year of sitting in meditation daily, and I very nearly accomplished that. It was a year of contemplation, exploring my identity, waking up, and getting clear.

The changes in 2011 helped my external life — how I live in the world — match up better with how my energy and identity had changed after all that meditation.

Changes to the blog

This blog had gotten 5,000 views in January and is ending the year with nearly 27,000. Readership really accelerated. I felt like I hit my stride in the second year, and I want to keep getting better. I currently have 156 followers, which includes WordPress and email subscribers as well as Twitter followers.

I redesigned and renamed the blog (from The Zafu Report) at the beginning of 2011 and stuck with the same template, albeit changing the photo often, for the entire year. I broadened the topics from mostly posting about meditation and yoga to posting about wellness and aliveness. I began including posts about healthy eating and reviews of movies that I’ve found inspiring and expansive.

My intent for 2012 is to be more personal in my writing. I noticed that those are the posts that get the most views, likes, and comments, not the reposts. I will still share the juicy information I come across, but I’ll also tell you why it’s meaningful to me. I’d love to have more comments from you.

Selling my house and moving into a trailer

My house was on the market in January 2011, and I closed and moved out in late February. I immediately bought the vintage Spartan Carousel that I’d had my eye on online for months. I put household stuff in storage (what remained after paring down) and moved in with dear friends until I could get the trailer here.

I found my trailer park in March.

First, I waited to get a title from the state of Washington, and then I waited for flood waters to recede so the trailer could be loaded on a trailer and hauled here. That finally happened in June. We got it set up, repaired, installed cork flooring and an HVAC unit, and I moved in in August. A friend donated a washer and dryer, and I got them set up in my shed in October.

Trailer life is good! I am enjoying living here a lot, and it’s great to have a paid-for, portable, recycled, streamlined, vintage home. I’ve had friends do two house blessings here, and I’ve done some landscaping. I’ve seen deer and a fox in the park, as well as lots of birds. My neighbors have been very unobtrusive.

The only sad part is that my cat, Mango, did not adapt well to trailer park life, and he went back to live with my former roommates, who love him, and we all have joint custody. I see him every week, and he still loves me.

It’s also been a bit of an adjustment, moving from the center of the city to the edge. I do more driving. I listen to music and NLP CDs a lot now while I drive.

My intent for 2012 is to install more window coverings, have a deck built, and get a chimenea and some bird-feeders for viewing pleasure. I look forward to doing more landscaping and gardening. I’ll see what my budget allows in terms of further improvements.

Teaching and studying yoga

I taught restorative yoga weekly through July at an acupuncture clinic. Although the class size was small, that teaching experience was invaluable. I worked with private students and substituted at a lunchtime yoga class — the one I took when I was working — and taught a restorative class in a studio for Free Day of Yoga. Did restorative yoga by invitation on a friend’s moving day.

I did two workshops in 2011 with nationally known teachers, Shiva Rea in January and Judith Hanson Lasater in February. In the summer, I began taking classes from Anusara teachers and later picked up a sweaty vinyasa flow class for a more challenging workout. I love working with accomplished teachers — I’m there to learn more about teaching as well as about yoga.

I’m signed up to take Yoga Anatomy with Leslie Kaminoff in January 2012.  I’d love to combine my love of yoga with my love of massage to work on yogis and help prevent and heal yoga injuries.

Practicing changework

I started this year serving as an assistant for NLP master practitioner training by Tom Best of Best Resources/Texas Institute of NLP. That ended in April. I served as program director for the Austin NLP meet-up for a few months and later co-taught an NLP class to women in prison. I attended Metaphors of Money, a workshop with Charles Faulkner, in the fall.

I offered NLP changework sessions this past year, and some of my clients had some wonderful outcomes, reaching major milestones and fulfilling long-time dreams. The sessions played a role in their success, which is pleasing, of course, and my clients already had a lot of resources when I worked with them. It was fun.

I attended two weekend sessions with Byron Katie in which she demonstrated The Work. I use her method of inquiry on myself often and with clients.

I did a lot of reading and personal experimentation with two healing practices, the trauma releasing exercises of David Berceli and shaking medicine taught by Bradford Keeney. Each has tremendous value.

I practiced the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) every day in January as I waited for my house to sell and found it helped keep me calm and centered. I’ve since taught it to others.

Going to massage school

In April, I learned about hands-on healing from giving it, and that steered me toward massage school rather than acupuncture school (although never say never). I began studying at The Lauterstein-Conway Massage School in late June (the same day my trailer arrived!) and finished my academic work in early December. I’m currently working in the student clinic, gaining the required 50 hours of internship to get my license.

Meanwhile, I’ve worked on about 30 friends and family members and about 25 of my fellow students.

Besides my regular classes, I took a workshop on cranio-sacral therapy. I’ve gotten massages from my teachers as a way of learning, and I’ve been fortunate enough to trade Swedish massage for lomi lomi and reflexology sessions. The learning will always continue.

Once I’m licensed, probably in February, I’ll officially start my practice, although I’ve been doing bodywork/changework sessions for gratis for several months.

Continuing my own healing

I continued to do acupuncture with Patrice Sullivan and did my usual spring and fall cleanses, which I’ve posted about before. This year I finally cleared my liver and gallbladder of stones!

I continued receiving applied kinesiology sessions from Chandler Collins and hands-on bodywork sessions from Bo Boatwright to free up even  more health into my body and life.

I began working with Fran Bell, who gave my walk a makeover. I had been walking as if I was still injured long after my injuries had healed. Sometimes it takes help to change habitual patterns. Now when I walk, my body feels good and has energy.

Also in the past year, I resumed my practice of ecstatic dance, which I fell in love with in 1995. My ecstatic dancing was on hiatus for the past three or so years. My body craved yoga and more silence, stillness, and solitude. It’s good to be back. I feel like I’ve found a good community, Ecstatic Dance of Austin.

In May I had the initial assessment for brainwave optimization, and in June I did 10 sessions with NeuroBeginnings. The benefits continue to show up for months afterward. I feel more centered, myself, and content. I imagine 2012 will bring even more health and healing into my life.

Working 

I started the year jobless, living on my savings. When I realized I had no idea how long it might take to sell my house, I decided to do contract technical writing. The day I posted my resume, I was contacted by a recruiter. I worked at 3M for 3 months.

I’ve done some freelance work writing and editing website copy.

I’m holding a space for a part-time job in 2012 for financial security while I get my practice established.

Spiritual direction

In the spring, I joined my friend Thomas in watching a group of Tibetan monks destroy a sand painting they had constructed painstakingly and then walk in procession to release the sand into Lady Bird Lake. Very moving, a reminder of impermanence.

On the fall equinox, I realized that I felt as if I had finally fully arrived, or one might say, as if I fully occupied myself, as though I became fully present. Gratified. It’s hard to know that is even a goal until you experience it.

I joined a book group in the fall, studying the 4th way Gurdjieffian path as taught by E.J. Gold. I plan to continue with that in 2012.

I also began dating someone this fall after four years of not dating. I don’t know the future, but it totally feels very sweet and lovely to be in a relationship at this time with this man!!

My second Saturn return occurred in December. My astrologer said that for Aquarians like me, rather than age, I “youth”. So far, so good!

So that wraps up 2011, the year of big changes. I don’t do resolutions, but I check in with my intentions, many of which I’ve shared here.

Wishing you all many blessings in 2012.

Tibetan monks in Austin

Some Tibetan monks from the Gaden Shartse monastery are visiting Austin. They made a sand mandala at City Hall over the past week, and yesterday they held a ceremony in which they destroyed it. My friend Tom and I went to see it.

Quite a crowd had gathered at City Hall, with people on the stairs and balconies, gazing down. Bumped into old friends Rebecca and Jutta.

One of the monks was American and explained things well. He said one monk was a geshe and described what it takes to become a geshe (20 years of monastic academic studies and a lot of winning debates with other monks). Another was a lama, a title indicating an honored dharma teacher.

You can see their wonderful hats.

They chanted for a long time. I couldn’t understand a word, but I liked it. I recorded it on my iPhone but can’t figure out how to upload a voice memo to my blog, so you can just imagine the chanting.

After destroying the sand mandala with paint brushes, they gave each person attending a small bag of the sand and suggested it was good for two things — to sprinkle on the four corners of your property as a blessing for your home, and to rub a bit of it into the crown chakra of a dying person to ensure a good rebirth.

I couldn’t resist making the final photo my new masthead photo!

So what is this ceremony about? Nonattachment. A visual lesson about creating something of beauty, intricacy, and special meaning, with highly focused, meticulous, and lengthy labor, and then destroying that creation — because life is change and nothing is permanent — and releasing it back to the Source. The practice of presence. Equanimity.

I loved their energy. One of the monks in particular just radiated so much intelligent alive awareness in his mostly silent presence (and no, he wasn’t the geshe or the lama). I felt connected energetically to them all. They radiated such deep well-being.

Here’s a link to their activities for their remaining time in Austin.

Circling the sand painting

Destroying the sand painting

Chanting at the lake...

...as a monk pours the sand into the lake

Ceremony over, posing for photos