Aarti has been trained in a variety of methods and tools that cultivate personal mindfulness and compassion practices. The following are some of the tools and philosophies that that Aarti brings in her training.
Mindfulness is the act of paying attention to a single object or multiple objects. Everyone practices mindfulness the moment we pay attention to anything. But often times, our minds are not paying attention. Instead, we begin to think about things that are not happening right in the moment, but about the past, or about the future. Our minds are often moving. Mindfulness meditation is the practice that allows us to train our minds to rest on a single object. Many people think they cannot meditate, however, meditation is just a practice, and anyone can do it. Suppose you want to learn to play piano. To do this, you might have to sit down and practice. You may not get the hang of it immediately, but over time, it starts to come naturally. Mindfulness meditation can be like that. The focal point of mindfulness meditation can vary from focusing on the breath, to a visual object, deeply tasting a food, or feeling the feet when we walk.
Shamata, which literally translates to “peaceful abiding” is a type of mindfulness meditation practice in which we focus on attention on our breathing, which is always happening in the present moment provided we are alive. As the mind inevitably wanders away from paying attention to one’s breathing, we just continue to come back when we notice, in a simple non-judgmental way. All thoughts are regarded as equal, and the idea isn’t so much to pay attention to what thoughts we are having, but to train our minds to continually come back to the present moment.
Tonglen is the Tibetan word for sending and taking. This practice is about cultivating compassion in our hearts. In the tonglen practice, we focus our attention on taking in other’s pain and suffering, and transforming the pain into wisdom, healing and compassion, and sending it back to them. In Tonglen, we can visualize someone we love, or as we begin to get familiar with the practice, we can challenge ourselves to do the practice for those who we particularly have a difficult relationship with. We can also practice for ourselves. Tonglen cultivates love and compassion for ourselves and for other beings.
In a contemplation meditation, we focus our mind on a particular phrase or something we wish to deeply think about or gain incite about. We begin with a few minutes of Shamata, then we repeat the words or phrase we choose to contemplate. We allow ourselves to take the words in, and to think about what they mean to us. After a few minutes of deeply thinking about the words, we let the words along with the storylines completely go. What is left is some kind of feeling. We let ourselves feel the feeling, without a story line attached. Then, we let it all go and go back into Shamata. Often times, contemplation can allow us to go deeper than we could with just the thinking brain. We may discover something deep about the meaning, or find something out about ourselves.
The basic principle of Warriorship training comes from the Shambhala Buddhist tradition, and can be read about in the book, Sacred Path of the Warrior, by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. The idea of Warriorship is in this sense is that a Warrior is literally (from the Tibetan), “one who is brave.” Bravery in this context does not mean using aggression, speed or waging war. Instead, bravery is about cultivating our own sense of fearlessness by being willing to fully learn more about ourselves and training to give up our own habitual patterns of thinking. By working with our habits and fears, we develop the deep compassion, courage and fearlessness it takes to work towards peace and justice in the modern world. Shambhala Meditation Centers offer deep training programs in cultivating Warriorship. More about Shambhala Training can be found here.
Deep Mindful Listening
Holding open space and deeply listening in a mindful way can help us to cultivate deeper relationships in our lives. It can also be a tremendous gift we can offer to our loved ones. We can train ourselves to hold space for others. Often times, when we listen, we form opinions about what the other person is saying to us. By practicing deep listening, we can begin to notice our own habits of when we don’t listen, or when we listen in a limited capacity. Once we understand how we listen, we can begin to learn how to let our own biases go, and hold open space for others. Deep Mindful Listening comes from Otto Sharmer’s 4 stages of listening from Theory U and Adam Lobel, a senior instructor in the Shambhala tradition.