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Working on Ourselves At Home... And Some Advice From Tilopa's Mahamudra

In the unusual circumstances we find ourselves in, many people are finding both new challenges that they need to address, and opportunities.   Among the challenges is the need to focus in a confined environment surrounded by distractions.  But in confinement also offers us a chance to focus on inner work, as all spiritual traditions know very well.   We encourage you to check out our ongoing series of meditation videos - they will help with both these endeavors, and so will the resources below. Focusing We all know the feeling - when you really need to get things done, the cat keeps pushing things onto the floor, the television's on in the next room, the phone keeps ringing, and between your laptop and your smartphone, you have infinite entertainment options at your fingertips. The focusing techniques detailed in the article below come from Western monastic practice, but there are a few things from other traditions that might be of more help. First is the Zen practice of samu, doing physical labour with attention.  Physical work creates a different mental dynamic than brain work, and it's often easier to sink into awareness with it.  Taking a break for a physical task, or physical exercise, is a great way to reset your concentration. Second, contrary to what the Western monks did, keeping the mind taut all the time is a good way to damage your mind in the long run.  Relaxing, relaxing into focus, appreciating what you are doing, trying to have fun with it, this is the path to the creative state.  It not only takes less energy on your part, but it creates room for inspiration to flow.  Trying to fight distraction will only drive you to distraction. Guided Meditations For Particular Goals Sometimes, in the course of paying attention to our own inner life, we find ourselves drifting in a particular direction, and we don't know how to correct our course.   There are indeed problems that are much easier to resolve with the help of a guide than with self-guided meditation or any other autonomous exercise.  Many of these problems don't have an obvious tool to address them, and many others we simply may not see our way out of.   The YouTube channel below is particularly good at offering guided meditations for these problems that are relatively accessible and easy to follow.  The catch is that most of them take at least an hour, and require total relaxation.  Setting aside an hour before bed is a good idea - you'll be fairly tired afterward. ASMR Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response has a great following on YouTube, despite being a fairly understudied phenomenon - as the article below will tell you.  It refers to that tingly feeling you might sometimes experience in your brain.  The idea is that certain types of sensory input tend to provoke this response.   Personally, I find most videos tagged 'ASMR' - such as the endless stream of no-bake dessert preparation videos - are simply using it for marketing purposes.   Even so, many of those videos are quite relaxing.  There's something about just sitting and watching someone create something, or animals in their natural environments, that calms us down and gets us into the present moment.  It's a great way to take a break and let your mind relax for the tasks ahead.  Let us know your experience of ASMR.

Just Being

Tilopa's Mahamudra instructions to Naropa seem oddly applicable now.  We may not be practicing in forest retreats, but our concrete jungles have sure gotten quiet.  We may not have renounced the world, but we sure have less contact with it. 

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