Calming the Anxious Mind, One Day Virtual Meditation Course, March 20, 2021

Half-Day Loving-kindness Meditation Course, Saturday December 1, 2018

Lakeland Meditation Group is excited to offer a short course on loving-kindness and compassion meditation at the beginning of the holiday season. Loving-kindness meditations are healing contradictions to anger, sadness and worry, and help us to feel more at ease and connected to others.

Whether you are new to meditation, experienced in other styles, or an advanced student of Vipassana, this class is suitable for all levels. We offer a safe and welcoming atmosphere for learning and practicing.

In this 4 hour course, there will be teachings, practice, question and answer periods, and a short break in the middle. We offer beverages and snacks courtesy of the Lakeland Meditation Group.

8AM-Noon, Saturday, December 1, 2018

215 East Bay St., Suite 5, Lakeland, FL 33801

Course taught by Andy Quinn. Space is limited to 10 students. Please RSVP.  No fee, but a donation is traditional. To sign up or ask questions, contact Andy by phone or email: 863-683-9600,

“If there is love, there is hope that one may have real families, real brotherhood, real equanimity, real peace. If the love within your mind is lost and you see other beings as enemies, then no matter how much knowledge or education or material comfort you have, only suffering and confusion will ensue.”

Dalai Lama XIV


Counseling: What You Need To Know

Family Counseling Services in Lakeland

Family Counseling Lakeland

It’s OK to ASK

Family Counseling – Once upon a time I had never seen a counselor.  But I was getting desperate- my life felt like it was falling apart and things were getting to a scary point. I became grudgingly willing to see someone in case there was any way counseling could help me.  I got a recommendation for a therapist from a friend, made an appointment and went…with my tail between my legs.

There, I blurted out my entire life’s story. And in answer to the therapist’s question, I admitted to smoking some pot. She told me she could not work with me unless I gave that up immediately and entirely.  She might as well have shot me in the chest.  Family Counseling I remember leaving feeling stunned, rejected, completely vulnerable and humiliated. She ‘gave’ me an unwanted hug as I left. I was worse off than when I went in.  I suspected help would never come. I was clearly unworthy.

Family Counseling Services

To shorten up a LONG story, I went to self-help meetings for a while and then tried another therapist, and that time it clicked. She and I developed a rapport, and I went on to work hard at recovery for many months. The experience was transformative and set me on a path of recovery and growth. Now, I am happier and healthier than I could ever have imagined. Now I am a therapist, helping others to grow as well.

I remember those feelings: reluctant, desperate, hopeful before the first appointment. I remember the agony of the first appointment- fearing rejection. I remember the mystery of not knowing what was supposed to happen.

Who says what? Counseling Will the therapist tell me what is wrong with me? Will they respect me? Will they tell me what to do? Judge me? Isn’t this stuff written down anywhere?!?

If you are new to therapy, here are a few considerations:

You may have to shop around to find the counselor you work best with. That’s OK.
There are different formats for counseling: individual, group, couple’s and family. Andy also does interventions for people with addiction. That usually means a series of family counseling sessions to prepare for the intervention.

You will need to figure out how to pay for counseling. Some people pay for their own sessions, which can be $50-$150. Relationship Builders charges $100 per hour for individual and couple’s counseling. Some have insurance coverage for counseling- it can be smart to check with your insurance company regarding co-pays, deductibles, and covered providers. Some people have Employee Assistance Benefits through heir employer which offers free sessions. If you have no benefits and can’t afford counseling, group counseling is less expensive and a very effective way to work. There are free self-help groups in most communities, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Narcotics Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous and many more.

Location matters. We are in downtown Lakeland Florida, but are beginning to offer video counseling to people in the state of Florida.

Do you need counseling? Contact us today for an initial confidential consultation.

What a Little Child Can Do

We want our children to have a great childhood. We want to make their lives pleasant and fun. We may even say their only job is to do well in school. But what are we teaching? Dear child, you have only one job in life? Others will take care of the “menial” tasks? You don’t need to know how to cook, clean, care for a home? We may be unintentionally raising people who are bored, distracted, helpless, entitled, and have no idea who they are, or how to take care of themselves.

Children deserve more respect than that. Let’s show them respect, teach them self-respect by acknowledging that they are important members of the family. We can help them build confidence by helping them develop competencies. We develop their competencies by teaching them practical life skills and by expecting them to participate in the family work of the household, including vehicles, pets, family business, and care for relatives and the community.

Say what?!? Yes, actual real life responsibility. But, you say, they already have responsibilities of schoolwork, homework and perhaps arts or sports. Yes, and so do you. AND the house must be cleaned, food prepared, kitchen cleaned, dishes washed, clothes washed, dog washed. Who does all that? Why, Mommy and Daddy! Parents are working their butts off to get everything handled, while their offspring are bored, restless, filling their brains with entertainment, and not learning anything that makes them feel needed.

By teaching your children how to manage every aspect of the household, they become accustomed to teamwork, learn vital life skills, gain confidence through self-reliance, learn to earn and relish downtime, and learn to manage the work-school-rest-home-play cycle. They overcome the dependency-entitlement-resentment of waiting to be fed, waiting to be entertained, waiting to be waited on. The extra time you spend teaching them will come back to you a hundred-fold as you gain housemates who share the work of caring for the home and for each other.

Here is a list of things a child can do, because a child can do a lot, and in so doing feel like an important part of a team, gain a deep confidence from becoming able to care for themselves and others, and learn about themselves, their talents and preferences.

What a Little Child Can Do:

A tiny new walker under 2 years can:
Fetch a diaper or wipes for mommy
Pick up the dropped spoon
Put one item in one drawer
Do those things many times a day

At 2 years she can:
Help clean up her own spills and messes
Help make her bed
Put her dirty clothes in a hamper
Put her shoes where they belong
Bring her plate to the sink or dishwasher
Fold washcloths and dish towels
Help with grocery shopping by placing items in the cart as you hand them to her
Scoop a cup of food from the feed bag into the pet’s bowl

At 3 he can:
Put items in the dishwasher on the low rack, such as put spoons in the caddy
Sweep with a broom of a size that fits the child (yes they make those)
Pour juice from a small pitcher into a small cup for himself
Wipe up the spill
Wash the table
Choose items from a tray of available snacks
Put away clothes shoes toys in 5 minutes cycles with someone helping/supervising
Use a cup to scoop animal food from the bag pour into your pet’s bowl
Put an item in the recycle bin or the garbage
Pull their things and trash out of the car
Help set the table
Put clothes in the washer
Take clothes out of the dryer
Fold clothes
Put folded clothes in drawers
Dust specific surfaces
Pick up yard trash
Walk the dog
Take out the trash
Make a sandwich
Stir food on a stove

At 4 she can:
Learn to cut a banana safely with a real knife
Get items to help the chef
Stir a bowl of ingredients
Wash out small paintbrushes
Start the dishwasher
Operate small appliances like a toaster with supervision
Water houseplants with a small watering can
Brush her own teeth
Choose her own clothes for most days
Get dressed
Put up the towel from the bath
Put her clothes away
Put on laceless shoes
Put away her toys, books, art supplies with prompting
Feed and water the animal
Walk the animal, depending on the animal
Gather trash bags from the small trash cans and put it in the larger trash can
Replace the small trash bags
Bring in small grocery bags
Put groceries away with direction
Select clothing in a store
Choose between options in a restaurant

At 5 he can:
Help cut fruits and veg and plate these or add to a pot
Learn to make coffee for mom
Make his own sandwich
Put away the bread, peanut butter, lunch meat
Wipe up after food prep and eating
Wash some dishes by hand
Load the dishwasher
Sweep and mop with the right sized utensils
Separate laundry into whites, darks and colors
Load the washer, measure and add detergent depending on the container, and start the machine
Pull clothes out of the dryer into the hamper
Fold and stack clothes and put them in the right rooms or drawers
Select some familiar and lowly placed items at the grocery store
Order in a restaurant
Make a transaction over a counter
Rake, pull weeds, water indoor or outdoor plants

At 6 she can:
Complete her whole morning and bedtime routine independently
Walk the dog
Feed and water the animals
Run the vacuum
Start a load of laundry
Wash dishes by hand or load the dishwasher
Straighten her room for 10-30 minutes at a time
Help a younger child make a sandwich
Cook an egg on the stove
Help substantially in the kitchen, house, yard, office, farm
Wash a car
Read to younger children

Kids can do a great deal if you take the time to teach them how. A 12 year old can just about run a household. The trick is in a couple of parental intentions and habits. The main thing is realizing that kids can do, enjoy doing, and benefit learning the skills of everyday life. They gain precious things from doing: confidence in themselves and a sense of being needed as part of a homemaking team.

Making It Happen

We start by having them help, even when it would be more efficient to do things ourselves. We increase over time the help and the expectation, as we teach them skills and let them practice. Eventually they string together longer chains of behavior until they can make the sandwich, wash the dog, make the bed more independently. We continue close supervision over potentially dangerous situations such as cooking, until they have the thing mastered and show good judgement, even when things start to go wrong. We expect them to clean up after themselves, including mishaps like spills.

Kids have differing talents, some easily acquire the kitchen skills but struggle with organizational skills like sorting or putting away. The key is to watch each individual child, and carefully note what level of complexity in a skill area is displayed, and what would be the next lesson and/or next level of responsibility. It is absolutely a parent’s job to make sure that by age 18 our kids know how to do all the skills of daily living- money, budgets, food, housekeeping, nurturing others, clothing, yard, cars, pets, dealing with larger communities (teams, clubs, extended family, church) merchants, etc. The point is to keep the lessons and expectations moving forward at a rate that reflects the unique child’s capabilities. This is how we respect them, and how they respect us, and how they respect themselves.

Skills training only works if the parent(s) are willing to expect the participation of their child; and teach their child how to do things bit by bit as the child is able. We teach kids to pick up after themselves by introducing the ‘ten second tidy’ at a very young age, and do it often, many times a day, every day. We are talking literally thousands of repetitions over a young lifetime.

So in any one instance, we are not expecting more than the child can deliver. Kids have fewer resources to deal with moments when they are tired or stressed or craving some distraction. We are patient yet firm. If the two year old won’t put her dirty clothes in the hamper, well we can’t have the bedtime story until it’s done. We may offer one buy-out option per week to lessen the power struggle, but we, like the tide, come again and again with our expectation. Figure out your consequences for chore refusal ahead of time. And/or build a reward for good citizenship or clean room into the weekly routine. That’s actually another article, so I will leave this here. You might be amazed at what a little child can do.

Is My Kid Using Drugs or Drinking Alcohol? Help for Parents

Here are a few items that can reduce your anxiety if you are worried that your kid may use or is using alcohol or illegal substances.

If you attend to the media, you may think that all kids are using, and that they will all end up with a serious addiction. The statistics on teen substance use do not say that. Most kids experiment, a sizable portion are drinking or drugging periodically, but the addicted kids are a small minority.

Teens are prone to substance use because of curiosity, cultural influences, and impulsivity. Because their brain is developing quickly, it can quickly develop into a lifelong problem.

Be preventative. Spend time with your kids. For example, recent research states that having dinner and doing homework with kids is predictor of kids not using substances. Spend non-structured time, and listen. Everyone wants to tell their story, given they have a person willing to listen without nagging, advice-giving and lecturing.

Is your kid at risk? The three biggest risk factors for teen substance use are trauma, divorce and mental illness. In these cases, professional assistance is highly recommended.

Assess your kids. An easy barometer is acceptable grades, participation in chores, social interests with peers, respect of the parents, and are they involved with substances. Although I believe it should be optional for teens, involvement in spirituality can be very powerful for teen development.

Don’t panic! Despite what others think, teens deeply need us more in this stage of their life. They are facing more challenges than any previous generation. Most kids need grounded, well adjusted parents to make it safely to adulthood. Best thing for an anxious parent is to address their own anxiety, before unknowingly making the kid responsible for that parental anxiety. For example, I have worked with many parents that grew up poor, overindulged their kids, and severely regretted it later.

And how not to panic! Get a consult and do not work alone! A family session with parents with a Certified Addictions Professional that works with teens (see resources at the end of this post) can really alleviate some of the anxiety. Other parents, extended family, church and  school resources can be of invaluable assistance. Often parents find value for themselves to see a therapist. Understanding substance use and our own reactions to our kids is paramount to effective parenting in the substance use issue. Some parents will find NarAnon or AlAnon (see resources,) family support groups, very useful and comforting.

Check your own judgements at the door. The most important development task of a teen is freedom. They are supposed to push against us and take risks. Humans are healthy when they do not accept only one view, and when they take risks. Our biggest responsibility is to love our kids and help them become self-sufficient. Can we love them when they make mistakes? The challenge for parents is to recognize teen development, allow for freedom, growth and risks, and help them keep themselves safe.

Understand substance use. Often parents do not understand substance abuse, and make snap judgements and consequences. Kids are caught in a dilemma of feeling good by using with friends, and parents who send the message that using substances is horrible. Human beings are wired to seek to feel good and to avoid feeling bad. Substance use is often just a symptom of other emotional challenges.

Know signs and symptoms of using behavior. The simple ones are secrecy, isolation, change in friends and interests and unexplained mood swings or bizarre behavior. Know signs and symptoms of drugs of abuse (see NIHDrugsofAbuse .)

Keep your kid safe. The silver lining to finding out your kid is using is that you have an opportunity to remove driving  privileges. You will sleep better at night. You have the right to forbid your child from being with a drug user. Secretly your kid could be relieved that someone drew a line in the sand.

Don’t be scared of drug screens. Not only do we use screens to detect drug use, but they help your teen. Many people do not use because they know they have a screen awaiting them (see resources for Drug Screens.)

Don’t be scared of treatment. Most therapists recommend starting with the lowest level of care which is outpatient counseling. The addictions therapist can recommend the best level of care for your kid. The next levels of care are intensive outpatient and residential treatment. Sometimes kids need residential treatment because they can not extract themselves from their using friends.

Resources (short list for Polk County Florida!)

Addiction therapists:

Joe Martin, LMHC, CAP, 863-808-7416

Andy Quinn, LMHC, CAP, 863-683-9600

Rhett Brandt, Ph.D.,863-606-5922

Intensive Outpatient:

Lifecare of Lakeland,  Donna St. Rock, 863-937-9659


Dr. Curtis Cassidy 863-686-0800, late teens only

Dr. Chris Davenport, 863-646-9600, late teens only

Dr Mark Helm, 863-683-2600

Dr. Karen Teston, 863-647-8043

Drug Screens:

Target drug testing: 863-701-0777

Quest diagnostics: 866-697-8378

Polk county drug court: 863-534-4612

Self help groups:

AlAnon 863-687-3800

NarAnon 1-888-947-8885

Mindfulness of Breathing Meditation Workshop, 8AM-Noon, Saturday September 8, 2018

Where: 215 E. Bay Street, Lakeland, FL 33801

Meditation Graphic LogoLargeWhat: Simple Instruction, followed by practice and discussion.
We will have coffee, tea and simple refreshments

Who: Experienced and Inexperienced Students

Cost: Donation to the teacher, Andy Quinn

Please contact Andy 863-683-9600 or for RSVP and other questions

Please bring cushions if you prefer to meditate sitting on the floor.

Course Taught by Andy Quinn

Andy Quinn has been practicing Insight Meditation for 24 years. He was taught by Peter Carlson, the founding teacher of Orlando Insight Meditation Group. Andy then was an active member of the Vipassana Meditation Community of S.N Goenka for 15 years. There he meditated and served numerous 10 day retreats. Andy has also sat two long retreats at Insight Meditation Society in Barre Massachusetts and a long retreat with Peter’s Orlando group. Andy has recently been under the guidance of Peter for teacher training for the last five years. Currently Andy is engaged in study with the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies.  Andy is the founder and teacher for the Lakeland Meditation Group. Andy and the Lakeland Meditation Group have organized one day and residential Retreats for 15 years.


Why Meditate?

Why would you Meditate?

People who are interested in learning meditation for a variety of reasons, such as “I just want improved relationships,” to “I want to witness a kaleidoscope of amazing colors,” or “I have been told that experienced meditators can read minds!” The problem could be a boatload of suffering, such as gut fluttering anxiety, bottomless drinking or explosive tirades, Some folks want to continue accelerating to being that saintly person they destined to be.

There are no bad reasons to learn to meditate, however one’s expectations of interstellar flight will be quickly dashed. For most, meditation does not come easy, but liberation from suffering and an incredible life is worth it. A lot of folks come to meditation practice because they feel as if they are missing something. These folks may say things like “it is never enough,” or “I just don’t seem to fit in.” They can sense the lack of meaning in day to day activities. I call this a lacking pattern. A chronic persistent feeling of something not quite right. Meditation helps us to accept this condition, and the path is includes seeing that everything that we need is within. Love, connection and good will are in reach and there is a such thing as supportive loving community.

So here is a metaphor from the prolific teacher S.N. Goenka. Meditation practice is like surgery. You are given the tools to perform the surgery. Surgery for what? The surgery is to remove the tumors, the defilements. And what is the defilement? In Buddhist psychology it would be the seeds and development of greed, hatred and delusion. In Christian teachings that would be called the seven deadly sins. And what are the tools, the scalpels? Meditation is a very important scalpel, of which there are numerous techniques. For this discussion, we focus on a non sectarian technique called mindfulness meditation. It is important to note there are many meditative techniques, such as Christian based centering prayer, that lead to similar results.

Rosalie Creek, Polk County, Florida

So one benefit is mental purification. Among the long list of other benefits is improved relations with others. When I was a new student of meditation my teacher would say “just observe, just watch, just notice.” Another teacher taught me the value of non reactivity. As we begin to watch, perform the surgery, we see our own challenges, our own mental formations. Meditation trains the mind to be dispassionate towards our mental shenanigans. When we see these mental formations like clouds across the sky, we just don’t take our mental state or narrative as personal. We are less apt to be harsh with ourselves, substituting self denigration with softness. We start to cut ourselves some slack. This training in gentleness gets reflected to others, and life in community becomes more harmonious.

And about reactivity. We cause so much misery to ourselves and others by a lack of awareness and not knowing our motives. Most of us are clueless about what or whom is directing our choices. Modern neurology continues to confirm that our reactions are based on a perception and feeling grounded in previous experience. The surgery has to do with awareness of our particular bearings, which we most often do not question or investigate. Just because we feel a particular way does not mean that I should behave or think a particular way. Meditation helps us to become aware of these inclinations of the mind and make kind well informed decisions. One of the fascinating things that occur is that our choices are much more likely to benefit others and community. More thoughtfulness and love!

Another incredible benefit is intimacy. This intimacy is an interesting expression, leading most of us think of romantic relationships including sexuality. In meditation practice we expand the meaning to include closeness and richness in our daily experience . With training we find richness in even the most mundane of our experiences……such as walking or scrubbing the toilet (am I going too far here?) We experience how this mind of ours is often in the default, checked out mode. Every moment is so rich, every ounce of life is to be cherished. Meditation sharpens the mind to see the subtleties, the nuances, the microscopic movements and tendencies of the mind body system.There are so many amazing things occurring in this mind and body when we walk or scrub. In the beginning of practice, the mind is just too dull or preoccupied to see this. The training is about intimate non reactive awareness. Continuing to bring oneself back to this rich space leads to a natural inquiry to the depth of experience.


Chassahowitzka River,  Citrus County

One of the most common reasons people come to meditation is for tranquility, peace of mind. This society is filled with distractions that are seem engaging, attractive and fun. Three of the distractions are electronics, entertainment and media.These entities can also feel comforting, familiar, and exciting. Most of us are aware that they are insubstantial. They often keep us checked out and dissatisfied. What these activities do is to keep our nervous system in a state of hyperarousal. This hyperarousal so epidemic in western countries, it affects lot of people’s sleep and contributes to anxiety.This state of hyperarousal makes it difficult, if not impossible to accomplish the mental training necessary to remove defilements.

For the last few years I did not attend to the news.My intention was a commitment to cultivate tranquility Those years I can recollect a warm sense of peace. Since this recent presidential election, I got hooked on the drama. I noticed more anger, more sense of separation from others. Recently I recommitted to no news. I feel cleaner, lighter, more concentrated. Despite not attending to the news, I still discvoered the flooding in Houston. Compassion for my brothers and sisters in Houston feels a lot better and less deluded than anger and resentment because of political beliefs.

There are many more reasons to meditate. Meditation training is about mental purification. Making a commitment to a code of ethics and morals stabilize the mind allowing for an intimate awareness and a gentle peacefulness. From there we can further purify the mind through become dispassionate about mental contents, which naturally allow for our essence, love, compassion and good will to express itself.

Lovingkindness Meditation Residential Retreat: Friday December 8, 2017 – Sunday December 10, 2017

                                         Loving Oneself and Others                                                    

Lovingkindness Meditation Residential Retreat

730 PM Friday December 8, 2017- Noon Sunday December 10,2017

Saint Leo Abbey, 33601 State Road 52, Saint Leo, Florida 33574

Hosted by Heartland Insight Meditation Group

Saint Leo Abbey will provide a peaceful setting for a weekend of meditation.  Participants will enjoy:

  • Teachings that reverse anger and hatred and bring about compassion for self and others, sympathetic joy and equanimity, with time for questions and answers.
  • Sitting and walking meditation for beginning and experienced meditators.
  • Beautiful outside grounds for walking meditation or contemplation
  • 6 hearty meals provided by the staff at St Leo Abbey.
  • Cost is $205, plus donation to the teacher.


Course taught by Peter Carlson

Peter has practiced meditation for more than thirty years and taught Vipassana (Insight) Meditation for more than twenty years. He is the founder of Orlando Insight Meditation Group. His training includes three-month courses at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, MA.      


To register: contact Andy Quinn, 863-683-9600


Refund Policy: Cancel greater than one month prior: Full refund

Cancel greater than one week prior:: 50% refund

Cancel less than one week prior to the retreat: no refund





Developing Inner Peace: Meditation Retreat, Bok Tower Gardens, Saturday, April 15, 2017

We return to Bok Tower Gardens this Spring, to provide a peaceful setting to develop inner peace and grow in love. Participants will enjoy:

  • Introduction and meditation instruction with time for questions and discussion
  • Sitting and walking meditation for beginning and experienced meditators
  • Easy access to outside garden space for periods of walking meditation
  • Covered dish vegetarian lunch coordinated by members of the Heartland Insight Meditation Group
  • Admission to Bok Tower Gardens, usable on our long lunch break, or before or after the retreat


Course Taught by Peter Carlson

Peter has practiced meditation for more than thirty years and taught Vipassana (Insight) Meditation for more than twenty years. His training includes three-month courses at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, MA. Peter is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in private practice in Winter Park, Florida.

When: Saturday, April 15, 2017 | 9 AM – 5 PM

Where: The new Discovery Classroom, Bok Tower Gardens, 1151 Tower Boulevard, Lake Wales, Florida 33853

Please bring: Experienced participants can bring a small vegetarian dish to share with the group. Please contact Darek Smith, 863-537-0133 or by email, if you would like to bring a small vegetarian dish. Bring cushions if you prefer to meditate sitting on the floor. The floor is made of hard tile so you may consider a small carpet square or rug.

To register or more information: Contact Jeanette Johnson 321-303-7607 or by email. To reserve your spot, send a $30 check or money order made to:  “Jeanette Johnson” 10465 Montpelier Circle, Orlando, Florida 32821. To confirm your payment, use email to correspond with Jeanette.

Looks are Deceiving…..the Many Faces of Love

Loook at all these happy faces....a backpack trip I led on Cumberland Island

Look at all these lovely faces….a backpack trip I led on Cumberland Island

Facing our Truth?

Years ago I remember finishing an incredible backpacking trip in the Slickrock Creek Wilderness in North Carolina. Stopping at the first available convenience store so the group of us could stuff our faces with junk, I felt rather greedy and ashamed of our wealth in this sparse country.  As I was making my way back to our van, I was struck by the unsightliness of a woman entering the store. It was as if 1/2 of her face had been blown off. The sight of her face stayed with me, and for a few moments I was dumbfounded, and needed to gather myself. Part of me that was grateful that I did not have to deal with her directly. Now I know that in practicing mindfulness I would have been better equip to understand my feelings at the end of this trip.

In Buddhist psychology we are taught to face the truth of our own experience and be honest with ourselves……what this mind of ours is truly up to. I judge. We judge. And I am skeptical about those who say they do not. I wonder if they lack insight. As human beings we have a tendency to judge others often based on superficial information. We are superimposing our narratives upon the circumstances. Telling a story like that to others would have left me feeling all the more shamed and flawed. One story I sometimes share is about how much of a phony I feel to be sometimes. But being mindful-reflecting on my self- has helped me accept and begin to change those unwholesome parts of myself.

We identify with our face and others faces. I do not recognize my friend Bill as his legs, or introduce myself as my arms. We connect or disconnect with our faces. So when I see Bill, I already have my story of what Bill is about. Although the amount that I truly know about him is minuscule, I have filled in the blanks about who he is. An interesting way to practice is to be mindful of faces…take them all in.

We recognize something in every face that we see. People that we love, family friends, lovers this is a very pleasant feeling. We have very pleasant stories about the ones that we love. This is where we have imposed a perception upon the sensory data. When I see our child Lenora a pleasant sensation arises. A warm, agreeable, and heart felt connection. If I see a child that has caused my daughter some pain an unpleasant sensation arises. This perceptual process can lead to dissonance, a non attractive, not safe feeling. Disconnected, averse, distant, unfriendly. And there are those that we find neither pleasant nor unpleasant, invisible, non remarkable, and we may become indifferent, and the mind will become slothful, lazy. In some of these situations, we may try make some sense of the situation, and we fit some dialogue on top of that.  Age, culture, class, and gender has a lot to do with it. The problem is that the mind is deluded when it is becomes indifferent.  Recent research finds that neglect is worse that sexual abuse. Sometimes it seems as though the more unaware we are, the more checked out we are, and the more indifferent we become.

However all three perceptions are lacking….pleasant towards my daughter, unpleasant towards the alleged enemy, indifference towards the  non remarkable person. We sense that we are jumping to conclusions based on incomplete information, and that we really don’t want to make judgements, or assumptions- we really want to give all a fair shot. But sometimes in this frenetic, grasping society we often go to the default mode which has to do with aversion or checking out entirely.

These relationship impairments often lead to dissatisfaction, angst, and emptiness. We are coming to find in the interpersonal neurobiology of Daniel Siegel, and beginning with the attachment therapy of John Bowlby, that our sense of self is created in relationships.

Attachment research is now holding out that our entire concept of self is formulated through relationships. Those who did not have stable warm attached relationships as infants and toddlers, or were subject to trauma at some point in their life,  are likely to have a non attached worldview. Also subject to attachment issues are folks that have addictions, depression or anxiety. Their brains are not integrated; different parts of the brain, particularly the middle prefrontal cortex,  are not entirely wired together.

Mindfulness practice has been shown to lead to integration, wiring the brains’ different sections back together. This gives validation to the notion that spiritual communities and fellowship aid in developing a more healthy; and complete; mind and body.

“I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.”

Mother Teresa

As spiritual or psychological practitioners we need to have some faith and confidence that we are full of love. And that others are full of love also. What gets in the way is our own sense of woundedness, in other words non integration. This is truth for me. I see this when I am consciously connective, warm, intimate, loving. When I feel closed, cold, disconnected, I feel a lack of love, aversion, disgust and there could be a host of other unpleasant descriptors. So when we interact with others, we recognize the disconnect and accept the disconnect with mindfulness. The best place is to accept this within the body. Can I notice the sensations? What are the sensations like? Hard versus soft, hot versus cold, moving versus still etc. Then can I hold this in a space of mindfulness and equanimity? One of the most important tenets of parents who are securely attached is that they are comfortable in their own skin. So what we do is to notice and accept the unpleasant phenomena and create a loving response.

Several years ago I was counseling a young man from a local high school. As is so often the case, I would walk this person to the park and do our session there. My client was aghast when I would freely and happily say hello to anyone who happened in our path. His question was “Why are you doing that”  My response was “to not do that makes no sense!”.

So there is a responsibility with this truth (Dhamma.) How fortunate one is to be exposed to this incredible truth, and have the energy to continue to practice living in this truth. We have the opportunity to have a huge impact on our friends and families, the community and the world through this precious truth.  We can recondition our habitual responses to self and others, and create a more loving world for all.

“Reverence, humility, contentment, gratitude and hearing the good Dhamma, this is the best good luck”

The Buddha