Sunday, July 17, 2011

For moments of anxiety

This has been a hectic time of transition as I completed the semester, and packed up my belongings from Anderson Hall, after nearly 10 years as faculty resident. My new “second home” is in a nice condominium apartment, less than 10 minutes walk from the university. During this time I have noted down many blog topics – such periods in life evoke tumultuous thoughts and feelings – but actually writing and posting them has not made it onto my list of urgent “to dos.” It seemed a form of self-indulgence, taking time from more pressing imperatives, even though I recognize that my reflections may sometimes provide value to others.

During the moving out > moving in process, however, I have continued to listen to “On Being” (formerly “Speaking of Faith”) podcasts. An interview with Silvia Boorstein ( ) entitled “What we nurture” has proved particularly valuable and readers may find it valuable as well . Boorstein is a founding member of the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre California. She was one of the first to begin raising consciousness of Americans about the value of Buddhist teachings in the 1970s. Like The Buddha himself, she does not identify Buddhism as a religion, primarily, and continues to identify herself as Jewish. The combination of humor and wisdom that characterizes her teaching is captured in the title of her first book, That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist and in the two brief excerpts from her teachings, below.

I call the first, “the war between the two wolves:”

Two wolves are at war for my heart.

One is loving and compassionate.

The other is angry and resentful.

The wolf that wins the war will be the one that I feed.

(Note how this captures ideas about how the way we think actually changes the structure of our brains, described in the work of Richard Davidson and others on “neuroplasticity.”)

The second teaching is a reminder she speaks to herself in moments of anxiety.


You are in pain.

Relax; take a breath.

Let’s pay attention to what is happening.

Then we’ll figure out what to do.

Take time to listen to Krista Tippett’s interview with Silvia Boorstein. I promise you won’t regret it.

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