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Updated: 7 hours 4 min ago

Headspace: Mindfulness and Intentionality

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 10:48

Increasingly, I am opting out of the typical, American greeting which is some variety of:

Hi, how are you?

           Fine, thanks, and you?

Doing fine, thanks.

My reason for opting out is that in my experience, no one is doing “fine/great/well” all the time. This ritual greeting has lost meaning for me, because it fails to express the reality of my dynamic state from day-to-day, and moment-to-moment. I strive to avoid fluff, and “autopilot communicating” in my dealings with people. If I am asked about my status, my answer is an honest one, and usually based on how I am feeling in the moment. If I initiate the conversation, I will perhaps simply offer “Good morning” or “Hello” without the overt request to know the other person’s status. I welcome the information if he or she cares to share. This approach reflects my focus on clarity and honesty, which I am building into all aspects of my life.

It can feel uncomfortable operating in this mode, when interacting with other people. It is remarkable how much meaningless filler can dominate conversations. Without easy filler to fall back on, gaps in the conversation might crop up. In that moment, there is a choice to make. Instead of rushing to fill the gap, I am interested in seeing what rises to the surface in my mind, which either represents a genuine mutual point of interest, or is something that I truly desire to share or ask. If nothing comes up, then I am OK with silently taking the moment in.

Internally, I am engaged in a similar effort to drop automated and inherited patterns of thinking, to reject assumptions and projections, and instead to look for real evidence on which to base my conclusions and actions. While it sounds simple, operating in this manner is not an easy thing to do, since unchecked assumptions and inherited norms have significantly influenced the way I navigate and see the world. Actively rejecting assumptions, stereotypes, and projections means taking on the job of discerning the reality of situations that may defy easy compartmentalization when critically examined.

Consequences of my move toward intentionality, clarity, and honesty are that I must do more thinking overall, and that the familiar universe that formed my reality yesterday may not exist tomorrow. I accept and in fact embrace these changes because the reward is a heightened sense of purpose and self-respect and an activated mind, all of which enable me to operate at my personal best.

By: Erin Thompson

Space for Meditation

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 11:47

I have tried meditation before. Quite a few times, actually. I have also led meditations for a group and for a loved one. I often grow irritated with myself over my inability to quiet my mind. My thoughts are loudest when the world is quiet and my only focus is myself.

I’ve sat in the meditation room here at the Gandhi House a few times. It’s so quiet in there, so clean and unimposing. I’ve sat my butt on one of those fun round pillows, crossed my legs, and closed my eyes. And from there, I start to feel like a failure. I’m not very nice to myself.

“Oh my god, shut up!” That’s me talking to myself. If I ever heard anyone be so rude to another person, I would surely be unable to keep my butt on that pillow. I’d be rolling up my sleeves and dive head first into serious lecture mode.

But do I come to my own defense?

No way!

So instead of pushing myself to try out the meditation space upstairs at the Gandhi House, I just find excuses not to meditate.

Too busy, too cold, too many people around. To be honest, there are a million things I would rather do than mediate. And yet, there are health benefits to meditation. Which is enough for me to try again.

The issue was that I was trying the same thing over and over again. So I think back on all the times that I thought I had broken through. Certain aspects of meditation that I liked, or made the things I disliked less uncomfortable.

I learned that I didn’t have to close my eyes. That I could stare at something, or at the space between me and something. It made those busy thoughts quieter for some reason.

Then, I learned that you can meditate over a question. That your mind is allowed to contemplate, to stretch and stir a thought around inside your head. Envisioning a space I liked, or single note of my favorite song held and extended, an image of a person that I love. Now, my mind wasn’t chattering listlessly. It had a focus, it was engaged.

Finally, I learned that I didn’t have to be still. When I learned this, I stepped outside of  a meditation space and started to make space for meditation.

I journal now, daily. I’d been journaling prior to working at the Gandhi Institute, but it was mostly about what I had done, what I had eaten, what else needed to be done. I was all caught up in the bullet journal craze. But aside from doodling and practicing ornate cursive and hand lettering, I didn’t think too much of this hobby of mine.

That is, until I sat down with a Gandhi deck and looked through them. I’ve had a deck for two years and had only rifled through it a few times. When I decided to use them as journaling prompts, that’s when I realized that I was meditating. My eyes were open. My mind had a focus. And I was moving. Suddenly, that simple trendy hobby I’d picked up last year seemed like an integral part of myself.

I meditated over those cards, over each question on the back of the cards. I gazed at the pictures and let myself think through my fountain pen. Some entries were like a stream of consciousness, others were brief and sharply poignant. It was such a lovely experience, that I’ve started my meditation all over again.

If you’re not familiar with bullet journaling and the amazing popularity of it over the past few years, please check it out. And if you are familiar, or are just getting familiar, please join me in the following journaling challenge. Find yourself a deck of Gandhi cards and write something for each card. There is no deadline, just the hope that you go through the entire deck. If you’ve got an Instagram, use the following hashtags so that I can check it out too! @rocnonviolence #GandhiDeckChallenge2018

By: Alex Hubbell

M.K Gandhi Institute for Non Violence