December Greetings from Jonathan Foust: The Heart Practices, 5 Breaths - 5 Scenes and More!



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  With the exception of the beech trees, whose leaves stay through the winter, it's now 'stick season' here in the mid-Atlantic. The deer are rutting, rushing and crashing around heedless of roads and cars and the fox are yelping nightly and establishing their territories.   One nice thing about bare trees is that it's easier to see raptors along the river's edge. In the last month I've discovered where the bald eagles like to hang and a red shouldered hawk who has a tree it seems to call home.   I wish you well as you head into the winter months.   welcome spacer-25 

The Heart Practices

  I learned how to open my heart at a silent retreat at Spirit Rock, the Insight Meditation Center in California.   In addition to hours and hours of daily mindfulness meditation, each afternoon of that month we dedicated time to the heart practices.   The first week the practice entailed offering kindness and compassion to ourselves. The classic phrases I like:   May I feel happy.   May I feel peace.   May I feel safe from inner and outer harm.   May I feel free from suffering.   The second week we turned our attention to a 'benefactor' and to those we know are 'on our team'. These can include pets, friends, family, ancestors, well-wishers.   The third week we turned our attention to a 'neutral person.' We were instructed to select someone with whom we felt no particular charge - no strong attraction and no strong aversion. "Try the guy at the post office," one teacher suggested.   I chose our retreat manager. She struck me as a fine, but unremarkable person. Each day I would think of her and wish her happiness, peace, safety and freedom.   About day four of that week, at the end of a meditation I opened my eyes and noticed her coming into the hall.   My heart soared. "My beloved has arrived!," I thought as my heart started gushing.   I was falling in love with our retreat manager!   There is a saying that goes like this: "Where the attention goes, the energy flows."   When you turn your attention to healing your heart, things happen. First you'll notice what's between you and openness, but with patience and persistence, you may well find and experience states of immeasurable kindness, compassion and joy.   If you'd like to listen to the series, you can go here:   Loving Kindness   Compassion for Self   Compassion for Others   In future talks I'll be exploring joy and equanimity.   You can sign up for the podcast here and online streaming here.    

Upcoming Events

December 4-6:

Relationships Retreat at the Garrison Institute with Tara Brach Learn More

December 7:

Evening Class at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington Learn More

December 14:

Evening Class at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington Learn More

December 21:

Evening Class at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington Learn More

December 28:

Evening Class at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington Learn More    

Images from Last Month

  While each month on the river celebrates change, this month offers more drama as we move into winter.   The wind can tear up and down the river and quickly strip the trees of leaves.   1a spacer-25 Sunrise around the tip of Gladys island.   2a spacer-25 Morning light illuminates the barren woods.   3a spacer-25 Mature Bald Eagles on a cold and windy sunrise.   4a spacer-25 A few days later, an immature Bald Eagle on a more balmy sunrise.   5a spacer-25  

Five Breaths/Five Scenes: November on the River

  One of the most efficient and powerful ways to shift your physiology, consciousness and quality of presence is to change how you breathe. This "Five Breaths / Five Scenes" video features mostly stills from this most recent month on the Potomac. Just five, slow breaths can help you refresh your mind and heart.      

Year of Living Mindfully

  If you live in the DC area and are interested in dedicating a year to practices that support transformation, you might like to check out The Year of Living Mindfully.   I've not yet updated the site with all the details, but if you'd like to check out last year's course description you can go here.   Stay tuned for more information down the road. spacer-25

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Bringing Kindness to Pain

  I hate migraines.   I've been getting them since I was about six and still dread the first sensations that indicate I'm due for an extended visit.   When we're in pain, we contract. This is an utterly natural response that can allow us to tolerate what is arising. Equally naturally, though, is the tendency to harden and calcify around unpleasant sensation.   Kindness can be a kind of salve or lubricant that allows you to feel what is there and find new ways to be with it.   Imagine you've stubbed your toe. One strategy is to stay angry and upset. Another strategy is to soften, relax, maybe even hold your toe in your hands, take a few deep breaths and offer it a little compassion. Whether the pain moves or not, the second option is a lot juicier.   I led this meditation at a recent IMCW Retreat. It's a buffet of experiences for working with pain in the body. I hope you might find it helpful.    

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