By (Rev.) Andrew Blake
When we develop a daily time and space for mindfulness practice, it’s an act of kindness. It interrupts our usual busyness, where we don’t slow down very often. We are conditioned by a natural drive to accomplish things and achieve; practice may feel like we are doing nothing…what ‘good’ are we then. For some sitting silently might even seem kind of boring to our “gotta do something” mindset. But actually, there’s lots happening when we sit. When we are aware in our practice, we begin to see our minds with greater clarity. But we need to slow down so we can observe and witness the moment.
The first step is to see one moment at a time. By learning to catch the rise of our attention (mindfulness) and then with an intention to stay present, we can pause and be with things. In general, our mind can travel far and wide without us even noticing. So this act of choosing to practice brings an immediate awareness to our situation. It’s kind, because we can shift from distress, anxiety or ruminating to being aware of what state we are in. And with more practice, it brings a sense of ease, relaxation and heightened awareness, even clarity. In a more open state, we are able to contemplate, reflect and cultivate inner awareness that lead to compassion, lovingkindness, and equanimity.
This is a guided practice inspired by Roshi Joan Halifax’s Strong Back, Soft Front meditation. It guides you through a mindfulness practice and then later through a contemplation on the open heart. Enjoy!
ABOUT (REV.) ANDREW BLAKE
As a lay Buddhist chaplain and psychotherapist, Andrew began his Buddhist training as a teenager, and in his mid 20’s became a meditation teacher with the Sunray Meditation Society, under the guidance of his root teacher, Ven. Dhyani Ywahoo. The ground from which he shares the teachings has included years of sitting practice and study with Tibetan/Bhutanese teachers, including Khenpo Tsewang Rinpoche, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Khenpo Karma Rinpoche, as well as training in End-of-Life caregiving and later becoming ordained as a chaplain with Roshi Joan Halifax in the Zen tradition. An avid student of Buddhism, he is passionate about bridging Buddhist philosophy/psychology into our daily lives as Westerners and to find the skillful means for transforming our obstacles, where he draws upon his work as psychotherapist. For the past 15 years, he’s been developing training skills for those in the healthcare and end-of-life care field and in 2105 launched the Mindfulness + Compassion Certificate Training that is now offered at SickKids Hospital in Toronto.