News from Jonathan Foust - March 2015



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Warm Greetings

We've been locked in a deep freeze here in the DC area. This weekend we ended a retreat early and my return home, which normally takes about 25 minutes, took 3 hours of white-knuckled navigation. I called on every bit of training I've had as a resident of Wisconsin and New England to navigate through slush, ice, blizzard conditions and most dangerous of all, traumatized southern drivers.   Blessings in your winter experience and may you have some warmer weather soon!   SlipandSlideonBeltway Slip and Slide on the Beltway spacer-25

The Backward Step

Tara and I recently made our annual trek up to the Forest Refuge in Barre, MA for a period of self-guided meditation.   The Forest Refuge was created for long-term meditators. I was on my own for the entire time with no set schedule. The only requirements during a week are two 15-minute interviews with a teacher, two evening talks and a daily 'yogi-job'. I seemed to be pegged now as prime pot-washer material when I go up there.   I love waking up in the morning on a retreat knowing that I will be in silence for days and days ahead and with open, unstructured time other than the grueling mid-day encounter with pots and pans.   You may know this classic analogy for meditation practice: Imagine a glass of muddy water set on a countertop. Over time, the muddy water settles. The mind becomes clear.   My mind was not just muddy. It was as if it had just been poured out of a high-speed blender.   The more I tried to settle my mind, the more I experienced restlessness and agitation. Eventually I recognized the agitation as some kind of generalized anxiety. Restlessness begat more restlessness and I became more and more frustrated with the unending sessions of fidgeting and unease.   I looked closer and saw that what I called 'anxiety' was more like plain old fear. In a morning meditation I had a thought that screamed something like this: "Screw this! Quit dancing around with this anxiety. Let's go to the root."   A great yogi once said, "The greatest wonder in the world is that everyone dies. The second greatest wonder of the world is that no one thinks they will."   "I am not afraid of death," Woody Allen said. "I just don't want to be there when it happens."   The Buddha said when you intimately and sincerely investigate the 'Heavenly Messengers' of sickness, old age and death, it can radically reframe your life.   The more I kept my attention on the fact of my eventual death and the inevitable death of everyone I know, the more I surfaced waves of fear, anxiety and grief.   I'm not a stranger to death. I grew up on and worked on farms for many years and was present and often responsible for the death of many a creature. I was with my father for his last exhalation last year and have accompanied a handful of people through their transition.   Despite all of this, I could feel a consistent clench, a dread, inside. At one point I recalled a near-death experience I had when I was revived in an emergency room after going into anaphylactic shock. As I replayed the event - the trip to the hospital, my experience of slowly but quite consciously losing a sense of time and space and the quite clear memory of floating near the ceiling watching six people feverishly work on my body - I remembered that the process was surprisingly interesting and even blissful. When spatial and temporal awareness became more distorted and fell away, there was a rush of 'home coming,' a widening of awareness that felt light, free and vast.   Over time on my retreat, the inner clench relaxed. The more I embraced the reality of death and impermanence, the more I saw how I held back from life. I recalled relationships where I had not forgiven and others where I need to ask forgiveness.   I understand more deeply than ever that my capacity for aliveness and creativity is directly related to my capacity to die fully into each moment.   If you can make the time to take a retreat this year, I consider it one of the best investments you can make.   You can listen to a talk I gave called "Lessons Learned on My Retreat" here.   Here is what happens to me on retreat - it's a two-minute video: "The Blessings of Stillness":      

Upcoming March Events

March 2:

Evening Class at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington Learn More

March 16:

Evening Class at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington Learn More

March 21:

IMCW Daylong retreat in Fredericksburg, VA Learn More

March 23:

Evening Class at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington Learn More

March 26:

“Accessing Your Inner Wisdom” daylong retreat at Psychotherapy Networker Conference, Washington, DC Learn More

March 30:

Evening Class at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington Learn More    

Recent Photographs

  WindBlastedTrees Wind-Blasted Trees at the Forest Refuge spacer-25   EarlyMorningFrozenRiver Early Morning by the Frozen River spacer-25   AboveGreatFalls Above Great Falls spacer-25   NewEnglandSnowscape New England Snowscape spacer-25

Latest from the Blog

The Blessings of Stillness

On Concentration and Mindfulness

Winter Cold Snap

Meditation: Willful Breathing to Relaxed Awareness (26 minutes)

Lessons Learned From My Retreat

A Room and My View

Meditation: 10 Minutes on Aliveness and Awareness

Five Breaths, Five Scenes: Winter


Forming Wholesome Habits

The Year of Living Mindfully started this last weekend and I'm revisiting again how I might develop routines that give me more energy and focus.   One key to creating habits is to start small.   Too many times I set a high bar, hoping to invoke some kind of massive change. Each time, I fall short. Then I heard about "the minimum effective dose," from Tim Ferriss. What is the smallest amount of effort that will result in the maximum amount of change?   For me, this meant lowering my standards, starting small and creating routines that are easy to keep going.   A few successes:   side-spcr 1. Seven minutes of yoga every day means I do something daily and often more because I enjoy it and don't feel guilty when I do the minimum. side-spcr2. Journaling with no targeted word count means I write a few times a day, sometimes at length.   side-spcr3. Shooting one photo and one video clip a day means I'm more inclined to get into super-creative flows and generate ideas for projects.   side-spcr4. Meditating until I feel 'done' means I sit every day, guilt-free, often more than once and sometimes for longer sits.  

You might enjoy this article from James Clear, who speaks of what gets in the way of creating change.    


If you are interested in a painless way to be reminded to meditate, check out telesangha. Created by Mo Edjlali, founder of ZenCEO. You can sign up for a time when you'd like to meditate each day.   At the appointed hour, the phone rings and you are connected with a community. You'll sit for 20 minutes, have a brief check in and get on with your day. This is an amazing way to join a community, create accountability and track your efforts.

"Guiding Kripalu Meditation and Aasana" to be offered in the DC area

If you are interested in working toward your 500-hour Professional Certification in Yoga and want something local to Washington, DC, you might check out an eight-day training I am co-leading with Michelle Dalbec called Guiding Kripalu Meditation & Asana: Exploring the World Within, schedule for April 8 -15 at Dream Yoga in McLean, VA.

  If you like, you can listen to a teleconference we had recently exploring some of the research on meditation and about Kripalu’s unique approach to meditation and asana. Click here to listen.   Follow this link: for more information and to register.  

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