Introducing Online Meditation Series!

Beginning this January 2019………

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What are Dharma Talks with Jen?

Starting this January, I will be delivering four (4) 3-week meditation series online over the course of 2019. They will each follow the format of:

20:20:20

20 minute Dharma talk by Jen

20 minute guided meditation led by Jen

20 minute discussion, reflection, contemplation, and answering of questions

What is the Schedule?

January 15, 22, 29: Holding On to Your Self

6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. EST

Online

$45

Course Description: As we brace ourselves to enter 2019, we will learn techniques in how to Hold On to Our Selves. We will be examining the psychology of differentiation and dive into self-exploration and personal development to help us reconnect, heal and grow intimately with others. Through a path to self-discovery and meaningful relationships it is essential that we know how to Hold On to Our Selves.

March 12, 19, 26: Emerging with Compassion

6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. EST

Online

$45

Course Description: Spring signifies a time of Genesis. New beginnings. Starting Over. This 3-week series we will be excavating what lies already deep within you; your innate ability to be compassionate even amidst hardship, adversity, pain and struggle. We will be examining the science of compassion and taking a deep dorsal dive look into our fears of compassion. What keeps us from extending compassion to our adversaries? This spring, can we allow ourselves to shed these fears and emerge with compassion from an open heart?

August 13, 20, 27: Rebellious Self-Care

6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. EST

Online

$45

Course Description: As we bound into the school year, we recognize the importance of taking care of ourselves in the most profound way. Rebellious self-care is a course on nurturing with sustainability. We are not talking about treatment or luxury service that is over with in an hour. This is a deep look into how a meditation practice can help you self-soothe and create calm on demand even when we are being pulled in a million directions. Rebellious Self-Care teaches us how to “Tie Our Selves to the Mast!”

November 5, 12, 19: Forgiveness Training

6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. EST

Online

$45

Course Description: As we enter winter, it signifies a time of deep introspection. In this 3-week course we will be examining the science of forgiveness and the importance that it has in our own well-being. Forgiveness is absolutely possible, but it requires chivalry, and profound courage. A commitment to restore your boundaries and a willingness to receive healing from past wounds. We will be holding our fears of forgiving with compassion, as we bravely journey forward and step onto this path. Prepare yourself for healing and change.


P.S. Don’t Forget………

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The Big Sit!

January 8th, 2019

Whole Foods/East Cobb/Merchants Walk

6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

We will not be meeting at our usual time of the 1st Tuesday of this January month as that would be New Year’s Day. So we will begin our 2019 East Cobb Sangha on the 8th.

This group meets the first Tuesday of every month at Whole Foods/East Cobb/Merchants Walk from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (please check the schedule prior to attending)

Join us for The Big Sit January 8th as we begin the new year mindfully!


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Registration is open and filling up fast for this one-of-a-kind event.

Treat yourself or a loved one or family member this holiday season and purchase a ticket to this experiential event. Kintsugi is an ancient Japanese art of repairing your flaws, fissues and cracks with gold, thus embellishing their beauty and making us uniquely you! We will be creating a space where we can be imperfectly perfect, using this beautiful art form, yin yoga and meditation.

Why Resolutions Will Fail

Why Resolutions Will Fail

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Why Resolutions Will Fail

If you want to make lasting change in your life, don’t set a resolution, practice Starting Over.

 

I first heard of the phrase “starting over,” used to describe a practice over 5 years ago from the Buddhist meditation teacher and author Phillip Moffit. In his book, “Dancing with Life,” he wrote about a strong message to teach you to dance with both the joy and the pain in your life. He shares the wisdom of the path of self-empowerment, and deeply rooted in this search for a more authentic life is the practice of self-compassion. Without it, we would endure suffering endlessly, as if we were stuck in purgatory. Serious stuff. But, he instead teaches about a gentler way, where we can allow ourselves to find peace and a balanced mind and calm spirit by simply “just starting over.” Again and again. Moment to moment.

 

I was deeply inspired by this phrase, and he instilled a radical attitudinal shift in which I began to seriously examine how my mind was continually stuck in self-criticism, expectations and aimed at unimaginable and quite frankly, unachievable outcomes. How easily I was caught and embroiled in my life. Every time I was reactive in my life, or knocked off of my intended path, “just start over.” I immediately incorporated this into my daily life practice.

 

As a meditation teacher, I am often solicited by students for advice on how they can improve their emotional or relational life, especially with their loved ones. They, like me, have tried an exhaustive list of attempts to change but fail repeatedly. They set goals to get in shape, stay thin, achieve work goals, eat better, react less, love more, parent mindfully but fail time and time again. I listen empathically to each person’s story and cater to their unique needs in a tailored fashion, but the essence of my response is almost always the same. Taking the advice directly from Phillip Moffit,“If you want to change your life and are having difficulty doing so, then you need to master the practice of starting over. More than any mantra, resolution, therapy, or behavioral self-manipulation, this is the practice that creates results.”

 

It is a powerful technique that trains us in self-compassion, gentleness, kindness, and allowing. It is not restrictive but allows us to meet each moment with a freshness that does not pull us into our ceaseless spiral of cognitive vomit, of criticism, shame, fear, imperfection and flaws. It is the practice of training in authentic wisdom, steeped in self-compassion and love.

 

If you have ever tried to meditate, you will notice instantaneously that the mind is constantly being pulled away from the object of discovering your breath and the full presence and existence of your body awareness, and is instead hijacked by mental activity and chatter that causes you to lose that exact awareness of the present moment. The mind sabotages this effort of simple, intentional focus, habitually. In the same way, in our daily lives, we get hijacked by strong emotions, and feelings and we get swept up and entangled into the story line that they create. “I am not good enough.” “I am not enough.” “If only I had more strength, courage, will-power etc….”

 

When we set a resolution to change, for instance we want to drop the middle aged 20 pounds, and your goal is to stop being the way that you are….lazy….tired….out of shape. You want to eat right and feel strong through exercise.  Usually right after you make the resolution to change your behavior, something happens that throws you off track and you return to the undesired behavior. You are invited to Super Bowl parties, and, once again you are drinking too much, not exercising, eating poorly. All of the old, habitual stories flood your mind, along with self-judgment, discouragement, frustration….this is really self-damaging territory.  You try again and again, but you never gain traction and you come to believe that you cannot change and that this is impossible, or that you are just not strong enough, or that you are not enough. You watch other people do it, and then social compare with, “How come I can’t?!” Be cautious here, because in that looking glass they are not perfect either. We are all just perfectly human, which is embodied with limitations and impermanence…..but I’ll save that for another blog post.

 

Often the problem is that you don’t know how to be resolute without also being rigid in your expectations. You haven’t learned how to surf on the waves of the ocean of your life, or of your mind. You haven’t learned how to lean in and then let go. You can however successfully navigate those emotionally charged or intractable parts of yourself that are causing the inner storms in your daily life simply by applying the gentleness practice of starting over. As many times as it takes. Even on the cushion, allowing your self to return to the breath again and again, start over and begin fresh again and again. And each time is an opportunity for brain growth. Strengthening the muscles in the brain, reinforcing neuroplasticity and creating lasting change.

 

Moffit says, “We have somehow learned in our culture the mistaken notion that you must know why you have a problem and must get rid of it before you can act in a more self-empowering manner. Starting-over practice takes a different approach. It switches your focus away from dwelling on those characteristics that limit you and redirects it toward recognizing your strengths from which you can realize your potential.”

 

This shift in focus is attitudinal. You simply apply and attune yourself to every task or person you care about with 100% effort, but when you can’t, you allow yourself to begin again. This is a humble attitude, but is exactly what is needed for you to sustain your resolution.

 

This year, in 2018, free yourself from your judging, self-criticizing, perfecting mind that thinks it can control the results and achieve grandiose expectations that you are capable of impossible things and way more than you can do in the present moment. You will not shoot below par every time you play golf. There are a multitude of conditions that encumber our outcomes. The weather, how much caffeine we have had, how our bad shoulder feels that morning, etc.  You become a more effective person simply learning how to use your time and energy to do what you can do right now with 100% effort.  And start over unapologetically how every many times you need.

 

Starting-over practice is like this – you attend as best you can to the immediate situation or person that is challenging you. This takes practice. Our mind will attempt to shift your attention away from starting over and instead attempt controlling the outcome. You train in abandoning your usual reactions of criticizing, judging, complaining, and lamenting and get back on track. You just say, “Okay, I just got lost, and now I’ll just start over.”

 

When you find yourself getting knocked off balance, don’t judge yourself for getting lost. Observe what happened, how you felt, notice the emotional energy that you waste by judging yourself and indulging in your puritanical mind. It only takes a moment to be compassionate with yourself, let go and begin again.

 

“Yes, I just got lost, and now I’ll just start over.”

 

Let your meditation practice be your training ground for this practice. It is a safe environment that allows you to start over, because no one can see that you are starting over. How wonderful! Simply start here by returning to your breath, returning to your intention and within that practice you are cultivating calmness, peacefulness, equanimity, self-compassion and lasting change. Find the spaces for allowing a fresh start. No matter how many times your mind wanders, don’t be interested in quantifying this, instead, be interested in how well you start over. 

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

“Where the Rubber Meets the Road”

 

I have been on a spiritual quest since my early adolescence. My mother encouraged spirituality but was never quite sure about how to direct me, so she just opened the door and said, “Go explore and see for yourself.” I went with friends to their churches, synagogues, temples, tiny rooms in strip malls, and various other consecrated spaces where individuals sat as a congregated group devoting their time to religious study. I tried Catholicism, Greek Orthodox, Presbyterian and Methodist Christianity, and Judaism. I had discussed finding a religious path with friends who were Sufis, Quakers, Unitarian Universalists, and atheists. Where did I belong?

 

In graduate school in the late 90’s I spent a small stent of time with a Buddhist monk in Blowing Rock, NC. I had never been to a monastery, we met in his home and walked the labyrinth in his yard. I started to learn meditation and ask questions about posture and breathing technique. The spiritual connection, and a new found peace was evolving but was coming from inside of me, not from an external source. This was new, refreshing and scary. It requires you to sit still. Yikes! And examine your thoughts and emotions. Double Yikes! But the more I leaned in, the more I began to trust myself in the face of happiness and deep despair.

 

I began to realize that I was looking for a religion that told me exactly the best way to do everything. Chogyam Trungpa says that if a religion provides a complete home we get spoiled. It’s like wall-to-wall carpeting. “We don’t have to put out any effort or energy, so our dedication and devotion have no fiber. We wind up complaining because we didn’t get the deluxe toilet tissue that we used to get. “

 

So rather than walking into the Four Seasons or Ritz, I had to be willing to start on the primitive level. How am I going to live within my everyday existence willing to encounter myself? This is the personal level of Buddhism. Extremely personal level. No scapegoats.

 

When I took refuge to become a Buddhist this past weekend this is the vow you take. You become responsible for yourself to walk the path. Alone in the sense that you recognize that the cavalry are not coming to save you. But awake and with comrades who are doing the same thing. “The world is no longer a place of salvation.  It is just a mirage, maya. It might mock you, play music for you, and dance for you, but nevertheless the path and the inspiration of the path are up to you.” –Chogyam Trungpa

 

I had no doubts. I had to do this. I am fully dignified in my deep wish to be happy, just like you. I have discovered that the way to that happiness is not outside myself, but inside. The way out is in. The warrior path of the untethered soul. The beginning of an odyssey without an anchor to the ship. Perhaps of loneliness, but of inspiration of being more open. And, when my heart feels secure and safe and strong, because I had skin in the game of building that from the ground up, I automatically, freely and gracefully can turn it toward others without getting blown away by someone else’s intensity. This is the training. This is what I have prepared for.

 

My practice wasn’t always so committed as it has been in the past 5 years, but after so much searching I decided to finally make the commitment and take the refuge vow and become a Buddhist. The credential isn’t really that important, but it’s the intention. I was making a formal commitment and this increases the intensity of the work and the path.

 

“Where the Rubber Meets the Road.” A phrase I heard twice this weekend by very important (Serious VIPs) people in my life. The creator and founder of the Compassion program at Emory, Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, said this upon completion of my CBCT Compassion Training practicum.

 

Then I left that monastery to drive to another to take my refuge vow as a Buddhist, where I was greeted by Acharya Richard John who said the EXACT SAME THING. (I know!!) Two monasteries in one day and on my birthday (which may or may not be serendipitous). What were they trying to shake up in me? This is where the real work happens! This is THE crucial moment of action. The heart of the matter lies within me. WHAT is most important, and WHERE the magic is. This is the GAP between being effective and ineffective. So where does the rubber meet the road in our lives?

 

 

Let’s pause….this might be a moment of TRUTH.