Those Lost-and-Found Hunter-Gatherer Feelings

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“OUR FEELINGS weren’t designed to depict reality accurately even in our ‘natural’ environment. Feelings were designed to get the genes of our hunter-gatherer ancestors into the next generation,” states author Robert Wright in his recent book, Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment.

He ponders, “Are our feelings in some sense ‘false?’ Or ‘true?’ Are some false and some true?” He goes on to say, “The fact that we’re not living in a ‘natural’ environment makes our feelings even less reliable guides to reality.” As well “… in a small hunter-gatherer village, if someone took advantage of you … you needed to teach him a lesson,” and “In such an intimate, unchanging social environment, it would be worth your while to get so angry over exploitation… .” This could be called a feeling that is “true.”

Using the example of road rage, he comments that there is no benefit of indulging your rage. You’ll never see the disrespectful driver again and he won’t know your rage. Can we then consider the rage to be displaced? He goes on to say that we might term road rage (and for that matter off-road rage) as “false.”

It seems that what he means here is that if we are obedient to these “false” feelings, we could be following an illusion that the rage and revenge is good, yet it might turn out that the feeling isn’t even in our own self-interest or good for the organism. Of course, there might be a fleeting self-satisfaction in some sort of revenge, but it’s often followed by embarrassment, potential danger, or more displaced rage that can potentially turn into a dissociated state of anger.

Perhaps we can bring ourselves back closer to true ancestral or hunter-gatherer feelings. By being engaged in ongoing community conversations we can open ourselves again to this ancestral immediacy where expressions such as righteous rage have a true impact.

Even in an urban setting, living with a meditation practice and simply watching our breath can bring a natural intimacy with ourselves and others. We can then experience closer-to-true feelings that can help us to see more clearly and become more evolved — if we want to!


Above Image Sources:
Left: By David Stanley from Nanaimo, Canada – Prehistoric Rock Paintings, Manda Guéli Cave in the Ennedi Mountains – northeastern Chad
Right: By Achillea – Man gathering honey, from the Cuevas de la Araña, Bicorp
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It’s Time to Play…“Where’s. My. Mind?!”

A Free Game for Kids to Adults

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Start Tonight or When Your Mind is Ready!
During the holiday busy-ness, our minds scatter, our minds digress, our minds stress! But also, our minds can go overboard with joy and giddiness that result in post-holiday mind crashes. So let’s play (drum roll) Where’s. My. Mind? — a 24-hour “game” that you can play by yourself or with family or friends for one day a week or 24/7. It brings you back to the present and can make you laugh, be bemused, slightly embarrassed, self-respecting, or yes, even insightful at what thought was interrupted by your mindfulness bell. It’s a great learning tool to bring you back into the present and keep you there longer. Here’s how it works:

Back to the Breath
Set your reminder/alarm for on-the-hour including your wake-up time, but excluding hours within your sleeping period. It doesn’t matter if it’s on the :08, :30, or :49 or whatever chosen minute, just make it consistent. For example, if you play one day a week you might start with Wednesday at 7pm*, end at 10pm when you go to sleep, and start back up with your wake up time on Thursday and every on-the-hour through 10pm to end the game. When the alarm goes off, set your timer for a minute or so or continue without a timer. Note what you are doing, then quickly go to the mind and observe where it is and sit with it for a minute or two. Then, reel your mind back in if it’s gone elsewhere, back to the breath, and what’s at hand.

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Advanced Players who are good at body-mind scans might like to try out observing your chi (energy) cycle, that according to Chinese traditional medicine system, occurs every two hours and is related to different organs, mental qualities, and mind states. Check out the chart below. To start to get into your natural beat again you can go to Understanding the 24-Hour Chi Cycle —or— Meet the Chinese Body Clock: Is This Why You’re Waking Up at Night?.

Where’s. My. Mind? is a great game — fun and enlightening for the whole family! Have your kids or friends text you after their reminders go off to find out where their mind is and tell them where yours was (well, er, perhaps sometimes not!). It could be a precious gift to you all!

*You can join the group NCMC Sit Home Soul Group on www.insighttimer.com or use your own App and get into the game on Wednesday nights from your home.

Chinese Body Clock image credit: http://www.fiveseasonsmedicine.com

Super Moon Sunday — Sensitize, Synchronize, Salutate!

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If the forecast holds out, we’ll be able to observe the Super Moon, the biggest brightest full moon of the year, on December 3 that is followed a day later by the lunar perigee —the moon’s closest point to Earth in its orbit.

There are many myths regarding the power of the full moon. Perhaps there is something to it rather than to dismiss it as superstition as it’s power is acknowledged in many ancient cultures. Modern science tends to debunk it, but what if with a sensitized, subtle mind, we explore it through meditation?

We’ve found a few online meditations for you to explore over the next four days approaching the Super Moon Sunday:

For those of you who want to approach it as a medicinal, healing meditation you might try this Healing Moon Meditation that mainly requires moon gazing and just letting it happen. It is said you can chanelize the moon energy with Moon Salutation asanas designed specifically for this. Keep it light and within your range. For all you goddesses out there, you might like to try this Wild Power: Full Moon Meditation to tap into your divine feminine power. Or perhaps Shamanic Astral Projection flute music can bring out your essence during your moon gazing.

 


REFLECTION: An Empty Bowl on Our Table

empty blue bowl.jpgMost of us here in the States will have some sort of Thanksgiving celebration or special meal tomorrow, but then again, many will not. Many of us love the day, but many dread it. There are so many reasons for both these extremes — loving families, dysfunctional families, lack of family, delicious food, tryptophan stasis, politics, displaced guests, misplaced historical truths — the list goes on.

One solution to keeping peace, inner or expressed, on this holiday is to bring an empty bowl to the table. What we mean here is to try to bring an empty mind that’s freed from assumptions, bias, preconceptions, and judgement. It’s a mind that can flex at the table and create harmony through, well, a sort of appropriation. Meaning, that we might put ourselves in others’ shoes, feeling compassion for what we might see as ignorance on political matters, stinginess in portions, or obnoxious personalities. Instead, we might see the stress in their faces!

How might we do this? By being in mindfulness as much as we can with an empty mind and a determinedly pleasant attitude. It doesn’t hurt either to consciously appreciate an actual empty bowl placed in front of us, to reflect on the great grace that we have daily to be able to feed ourselves and others.


Image: Yuan Period Jun Bowl; Wikimedia Common; Public Domain

Suggested Holiday Practices for Thanks Giving

inner smile.pngAs our Group Meditations are temporarily postponed, let’s meditate together from our respective homes even though we’re apart. We start at 7:00pm. Choose a 15-20 minute guided meditation or we’ve suggested some. Or practice silently. You can end your session then or continue on with mindful stretches, readings, chants — whatever works for you! We use the free app at www.insighttimer.com as our meditation timer and for some guided meditations. You can find us under Groups at “NCMC Sit Home Soul Group.” If you prefer though, use a different timer. Below we’ve shared some nice teachings that we found online that you might use:

Meditate: Taoist Inner Smile Meditation | David James Lees | 20m | Guided meditation.

Listen: Attitude of Gratitude | Mooji | 9m | Short talk.

Read: The Connection Between the Spirit of Gratitude and Mindfulness | Jack Kornfield | 10m +- | Interview article.

Eat: Simple Mindfulness: Mindful Eating | Thich Nhat Hanh | 6m | Short talk.

Give: Giving is part of our practice. There are plenty of local groups who are helping to feed and shelter. Just 1 dollar or 1 hour can make a positive difference to a neighbor’s sustenance — and — our own minds.


Review: A Sunday Full of Truth and Healing

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Meditation IS Medicine
On Sunday, November 12th, Teacher Kazi opened the People of Color Retreat with a presentation on the meaning and background of Ancestral Meditation Medicine and what it means for us culturally and connectively today. Throughout the day he gently and masterfully guided us in meditation medicine through modes of sitting, standing, walking, and qigong.

That Darn Dukkha!
Andrea Lee and J. Javier Cruz both gave Dharma (truth) talks that clearly explained the meaning of the Sanskrit/Pali word dukkha, an ancient spiritual word that is hard to define. It can mean both mental and physical suffering, stress, and agitation — subtle and extreme — that we cause ourselves and others. They then used their personal disciplines to help us find the ability to let go and open our hearts and minds (note that a single Chinese character means both heart and mind). Javier taught the method of metta (loving-kindness) meditation, while Andrea used yoga discipline to allow us to radiate love out.

Art Forms as Meditation
We all seem to have joy and/or self-discovery in this session whenever we do it — expressing ourselves through drawing or written word — then explaining to our soul group (sangha for the day) how the art manifested and reflecting on its meaning.

Prosody and Performance
Presenters Mesha Allen and Muta Morton both expressed beautifully. Mesha read a powerful original essay in a voice like a hug and Muta instructed in a unique blend of modulating verbal performance and khemetic yoga postures. He chose those that he finds especially healing and we did too!

Cha-cha-cha-chant
To end the program, Kazi led us in his own variation of a chant that he heard in the film Baraka. It was first a slow “Cha. Cha. Cha. Cha.,” then a very quick-paced “chachachachachachachachacha,” going back and forth between the slow and fast. In a sense, he was using the chant as a healing form somewhat like hormesis activity. Kazi also suggested that we also try his Vowel Chant using the ancient aspiration sounds of the vowels a-e-i-o-u. It can be found on the free www.insighttimer.com App under “Meditation Medicine Chant 1”.

Divine Dishing and Doling
We had a delicious vegan meal provided by Arelis Hernandez and Keven Porter of Rabbit Hole Farm. Mary Arthars assisted with lovely side dishes and logistical support. Thank you to Jennifer Becher and Bruno Mendoza for volunteering with registration and venue set-up. We were also pleased to have a 10-year-old who came with his mother who minded him thoughtfully through the day. He joined in on most everything and seemed to learn quickly. We’re grateful to Index Art Center for the venue and director Lowell Craig for his patience and time.

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Choosing to Nurture or Neglect Our Minds

We have a choice to neglect or nurture our minds. To nurture our minds takes a little discipline — the practice of meditation and mindfulness can help to etch good qualities and impartiality into our minds through positive reinforcement and developing intimacy with ourselves. We begin to see the connections between our brain, mind, heart, body, and spirit.

The hard fact is, that to neglect our minds means that we might also be neglecting or even harming others. How often do we see the domino effect that our negative habits and actions can have on those close to us and our community, let alone those of other cultures? This certainly doesn’t mean that we can’t also play with abandonment, but we also then can use our mind skills to get back on track!

Once we’ve established a nurturing mtryptic-01.pngind for ourselves, we might even then extend our efforts to nurture the minds and help heal others. This is where compassion begins and becomes action. Putting ourselves in others shoes we can acknowledge and identify with their pain, unhappiness, and injustices and take good radical action.

Newark Center for Meditative Culture (NCMC) is currently offering three gems of opportunities to plant seeds of positive power and nurture our minds.

On Wednesday, October 25th, by special invitation, Bhante Buddharakkhita of Uganda will give a presentation, dhamma talk, and guided meditation, Planting Dhamma Seeds in Uganda and Nurturing Our Minds from 6:30pm to 9:00pm at City Without Walls. Concurrently, Ib’nallah S. Kazi will lead a Facebook Live meditation, Self-Healing Medicine, the last in a series of four starting at 7:00pm. Kazi’s meditation will also be broadcast at City Without Walls Gallery at 6 Crawford Street in Newark NJ for all attending there. Portions of Bhante Buddharakkhita’s program will be on Facebook Live starting at 7:30 pm.

Then on Sunday, November 12th we will be holding a full-day retreat, People of Color & Allies Full-Day Retreat: Our Return to Ancestral Meditation Medicine, taught by Kazi with assistance by J. Javier Cruz and Andrea Lee. The retreat will be held at Index Art Center at 237 Washington Street in Newark NJ and will run from 10:00am to 5pm. Participants can choose whether they attend full-day or part-day (morning or afternoon session).

These programs are donation-based so that NCMC can generously gift the teachers to support their work. Please contact us by email with any questions at info@newarkmeditation.org.