A Little Softening Goes a Long Way

I’ve been thinking a lot about the pitfalls of rigidity recently. Strict adherence to a certain set of beliefs, or a certain pattern of behavior, without allowing anything else in. It keeps finding me, in conversations and in personal experiences. Since I started meditating 7 years ago, I was pretty much convinced that my particular type of meditation was the answer to all of life’s woes. There wasn’t anything that wouldn’t get better, eventually, with enough meditation. I appreciated that other people had practices that worked for them, but I secretly thought to myself that I had it all figured out, and they didn’t. ‘If only they practiced this type of meditation, they would…’

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Zen and the Art of New Orleans Jazz Fest (or, Everything I Needed to Learn About Life, I Learned at Jazz Fest)

Jazz Fest in New Orleans. It’s my favorite place in the world, the highlight of my year. It’s not exactly what people think of when they think of spirituality, though. This year I brought a new friend with me, and I was telling someone, after the fact, that she was such a great Jazz Fest companion because not only was she awesome, but she was able to take care of herself so well. That prompted them to ask me: “what on earth happens there that she needs to take care of herself? Isn’t it supposed to be fun?”.

For you Princess Bride fans out there, Jazz Fest is like the fire swamp. Sure, there are obstacles, but once you figure them out (where to find air conditioning, how to find real toilets instead of porta-potties), you can live there quite happily for some time. Here are the top 9 life lessons I have learned at Jazz Fest:

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Great Expectations

We all have expectations placed on us. Some are external, and some are internal. Be the best parent, the best spouse, be skinny, wear the right clothes, have a great job, have work life balance. I feel like I wrote the book on setting high expectations for myself- I went to private school, I went to medical school, I got into my first choice for residency, and then I practiced medicine for 10 years in Chicago.

Burnout brought me to meditation. As a result, I was no longer a slave to my stress, to the events of the world around me, and to my reactivity to those events. I felt empowered. Here’s why:

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The Culture of Busy-ness

How many times have you told yourself, ‘I’d love to be able to _____, but I just don’t have enough time’? How many hours have you spent bemoaning the fact that we don’t have enough time to do ______, instead of just DOING it?!

Our motto for the type of meditation I teach is "Do less, accomplish more; Do least, accomplish most; Do nothing, accomplish everything". This is exactly what we want for meditation. Zero effort. Yes, it does sometimes apply to the outside world, but our technique is meant for householders, not monks....

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