July 24, 2017 – LOVING-KINDNESS

Theme – The theme for this week is Loving-Kindness. At its core, loving-kindness is the deep and sincere wish for yourself and others to be genuinely happy. It is not an attached love or kindness focused only on people we like or who are kind to us. By cultivating loving-kindness, we are cultivating the direct antidote to the mental and emotional states of anger and hatred. You cannot have love and hate for the same thing at the same time. You can have love turn to hate or hate to love in a moment, but they cannot exist simultaneously in the same moment. The more love and kindness we have, the more difficult it is for anger and hatred to arise. Understanding this, we can recognize the value of consciously cultivating the immeasurable attitude of loving-kindness. As it grows within us, it limits the space available for harmful attitudes to take root.

Inspiration – “It is through giving warmth and affection, through being genuinely concerned for others —in other words, through compassion— that we gain the conditions for genuine happiness.” 14th Dalai Lama

Today’s inspiration continues the dynamic we have been working with for the last couple days. Our attitudes and how we treat others have a direct impact on our own well-being. In fact, it is the most determinant factor of our own sense of value and ultimately the degree of happiness and well-being that we achieve in our lives.

There is a direct correlation between how much we think only of ourselves and our desires and how much mental and emotional suffering we have. The less self-centered we are and the more other-centered we become and the greater is our sense of value and genuine happiness. It turns out the more self-centered we are, the less self-esteem we have. Likewise, the more self-esteem we have, the less self-centered we are.

When we focus only on ourselves, we will naturally be in a constant state of comparison and competition with others. Instead of growing a sense of connection with others and an attitude of gratitude, feelings of dissatisfaction, insecurity, worry, fear, anger, and hatred are more likely to arise, robbing us of our inner peace, well-being, and joy. These feelings are predominantly self-centered and self-concerned. They spring more from our desires than our needs. In general, our actual needs are usually met but our desires can become endless.

Cultivating loving-kindness and a genuine concern for others takes us out of our own cycle of self-interest and allows us to focus on meaningful activities that foster a deeper connection with all life has to offer. Instead of being the center of the universe, we become an integral part of it.

Activity – Today we invite you to notice how often your desires get confused with your needs. Try to think of everyone you meet today as a dear friend and approach them with care and concern.

Weekly Mindfulness Exercise – This week we invite you to participate in a three minute mindfulness practice. This is another great practice to help you stay mindful and present in the moment.

Sit or stand up straight and relax your body.

First minute – Focus all of your attention on your breath. Let the breath be natural and just focus your attention on the sensations of the breath.

Second minute – Focus your attention on the physical sensations of your body.

Third minute – Expand your attention by becoming aware of your surroundings. Just observe without engaging. What do you see and hear?

Try to do this at least 3 times during the day.

Aspen Public Radio, April 14, 2016

Carbondale couple aims to make mindfulness more accessible


Learning how to meditate can be difficult, and developing something called mindfulness can be just as tricky. Now a Carbondale couple aim to make those activities a little easier to achieve.

Carbondale resident John Bruna has seen and experienced a lot. He’s been homeless, worked as a corporate manager, trained to be a buddhist monk, all among many other things. Now Bruna and his wife, Laura Bartels, are creating an online community for people interested in mindfulness.

“There’s no agreed-upon definition of mindfulness that’s universal,” says Bruna. “But one version of it is the ability to bear in mind who you are and what your values are.”

Bruna and Bartels are based at their Way of Compassion Dharma Center in Carbondale. This newer project is called the Mindful Life Program, with daily teachings and other resources posted online for subscribers.

“The basic research right now says that on average, mostly in the U.S., our mind is wandering about half the time that we’re awake,” says Bruna.

He and Bartels have taught mindfulness courses for a while, usually traveling outside the Roaring Fork Valley, to help participants make better choices, avoid bad habits and generally stick to what students find important in life.

Bartels, who has made a name for herself as a straw bale construction expert, says she and Bruna noticed their courses didn’t seem to be enough. “We also wanted to be able to support people on a daily basis,” she explains, “because when you have daily support, and you feel connected to a community of support, that’s where you can really change habits.”

That can be especially true for folks in addiction recovery. A woman we’ll call Aaron is a member of the Mindful Life Program and says it’s been helping her in the early stages of putting her life back together. She heard about the project–and daily emails– from Bruna.

“I use [the project] all the time,” she said by phone last week. “I watched all the videos that [John Bruna] and Laura [Bartels] did. And when I wake up, that’s the first thing I read in the morning, is the email. So yeah, I use it a lot.”

“Part of the vision is to always make this accessible to people,” says Bruna. He points out that the people who usually have time for mindfulness courses have a fair amount of disposable income, too. “We really wanted to take it out of the domain of the wealthy, educated, upper middle class community.”

Bruna and Bartels are up against a plethora of meditation and mindfulness phone apps. So far they have more than two hundred paying subscribers, and hope to sign up tens of thousands in the coming years.