alttagCarlaAlpertFunctionalMedicineCoachI spent a weekend with Pema Chödrön recently at Omega Institute. Pema is a American Tibetan Buddhist Nun who spent the first part of her life living a typical western lifestyle as a wife, mother, and teacher. Her personal journey lead her to study with Lama Chime Rinpoche and eventually she became a nun. As an author and teacher she has an incredible gift to translate ancient Buddhist teachings into relatable, easy to understand and sometimes hysterically funny stories. My experience was incredibly meaningful and I wanted to share my take-aways with you.

My desire to attend this retreat (and similar ones) stems from my curiosity and interest to learn more about how our inner dialogue, emotions, feelings and triggers affect our body as I deepen my understanding of the mind-body connection. Some people think that spiritual and emotional growth have nothing to do with overall health, but in my experience and those of other functional practitioners, it’s all interconnected.

What does our mind have to do with the health of our body?

Our thoughts, emotions and triggers affect our stress levels and dictate whether we go through life is a sympathetic (fight, flight or freeze) state or a parasympathetic (rest and digest) state. Health, healing and restoration happen only in the parasympathetic state. If you imagine your body tensing up and constricted from various stressors, you can imagine this is not a state of flow or ease, but rather “dis-ease”. So, if our thoughts and emotions trigger a threat response and keep us in flight, flight or freeze mode, all the organic food, movement, supplements, and meditation will never get you where you want to go. You might feel like Alice in Wonderland going down the rabbit hole as you’re doing ALL the right things and STILL not getting to where you’d like to be. (I can relate!)

At Omega, Pema taught about the Six Paramitas (or perfections) of Buddhism. While I don’t consider myself a Buddhist, I find the teachings are very relative to living your best live as you honor ALL of yourself and that of others by leaning in and letting go. To me this means lean in with patience, self-compassion, and acceptance, and let go with love, kindness, joy and freedom even in the most challenging times. With the understanding that everything is impermanent and changing moment to moment, these practices get easier over time and become the way of life. 

Leaning in and letting go is a practice that allows your nervous system to return to its parasympathetic state and this is where the healing happens.

What is Buddha Nature?

  • the confidence we are OK
  • basic goodness, wholeness of any human
  • how do i use my ordinary life now as it is as a vehicle to fulfill my full potential?
  • self-protection is outdated. long to awaken oneself to wake up others and help
  • make friends with armor. don’t make it bad or yourself bad.
  • essence is to feel what it feels like and don’t make it bad.
  • how do I befriend this feeling?

What does Paramita mean?

  • a Sanskrit work that means going to the “other side”
  • translated as “perfections”
  • our actions that take us to the other side
  • 6 methods or techniques to apply to our daily lives to encourage our potential
  • all 6 work together in no particular order

A river metaphor for the “other side”

  • one side of the river: confused, habitual patterns, in a rut, life is difficult, how do i wake up from feeling bad about myself, how do i feel fundamentally ok when i have so much conflict?
  • other side of river: hope, get unstuck, habitual patterns don’t take hold over you, free to love, care and have empathy, wisdom

How to you cross the river?

  • this is different for each individual
  • the river is unpredictable, susceptible to weather
  • do you have a boat, how small or big is it?
  • put one foot in the water, one foot is out and get used to it
  • as you learn to stay afloat and let go, let it carry you and you get closer
  • train now or drown

How do you get to the other side?

  • Imagine a clenched fist. This represents attachment and constriction. An open fist represents non-attachment. Slowly open and let go finger by finger, open and close as you slowly navigate your way across
  • the process needs patience, acceptance, forgiveness and self-compassion to honor your own pace
  • train in letting go and opening with heart and honesty
  • learn to relax with life as it is
  • leaning in is where growth happens
  • it might take you a lot of titration and time to get across the river
  • this practice lasts a lifetime as you move through various stages and challenges of life
  • getting comfortable with discomfort is where the learning happens—Pema calls this the challenge zone.

The six Paramitas:

  1. Generosity: notion of giving without any attachment. This means NOT waiting for the grandiose thank you for how incredible your gift giving was. This means giving selflessly and not for any reward or expectation. The topic of over giving came up too and Pema related that to low self-worth since there is a need attached to be wanted and loved.
  2. Discipline: taking skillful action. cultivating human decency. not causing harm to self or others. benefiting others, holding space for others without getting triggered.
  3. Patience: letting things evolve at there own pace. work with impatience with heart and compassion. An example would be waiting on a line that’s taking a really long time. Everyone starts to criticize the check out person as the impatience builds making them wrong, bad, and incompetent. what if you looked at the situation with an open heart? maybe the person is having a rough day, can you question the situation with compassion?
  4. Joyful Enthusiasm: connecting with every moment with enthusiasm. the more you give, the more you get. spontaneously and egoless without agenda. enthusiasm instead of blocked energy with the longing to wake up and not hold back or block yourself anymore. don’t look for another now
  5. Meditation: training in coming back to the present moment
  6. Prajna: wisdom, intelligence, clear seeing, wisdom as a way to benefit others and self, selfless action. where you differentiate paramita action from regular action. gives birth the the best of human nature. natural outpouring of generosity

Why is meditation so helpful?

  • we experience everything through the mind, so we get familiar with the mind
  • calms your nervous system and creates more presence and focus
  • frees us of suffering and fills us with compassion and ease
  • ease is an innate gift and there for the taking. somewhere along the way we’ve become disconnected from this basic nature. meditation brings us back to ease
  • helps us to find our way back home to this innate state of being
  • as Tara Brach says, “Put your tush on the cush and take what you get.”

If you’re interested in learning more and watching the recording of the weekend you can purchase it here.

You can also find all of her books on Amazon.

And if you’d like to work together on techniques to bring your body back into a healing state of mind, feel free to contact me.

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You Deserve to be a WELL HUMAN.

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