WOMEN’S GROUP COUNSELING WITH HEATHER LOFINK, LMHC
HEALTHY COMMUNITIES – By Pierre Zimmerman 2/1/22
Connection is an important aspect of well-being. Within healthy communities we seek refuge from instability, from ignorance, and we discover that no matter who we are, no matter what we have done, we can find sane belonging.
We all want to form and maintain lasting, positive and impactful interpersonal relationships in order to thrive and grow. It has been demonstrated that when people feel lonely, their brain circuits light up in the same regions that register physical pain. In a mindful culture, a shared perspective surrounds us, in terms of what we think, believe, feel and do. In this culture we discern what is fair, true, useful and ethical. To thrive it must become a seed that can grow in the soil of this particular time and place, particularly when there is divisiveness.
Cultures are fed by small acts of communication, gestures of kindness, transparency, collaboration and statements of inclusion. We can intentionally nurture attitudes, values, practices and goals that benefit each member. At the same time, dissent or tension keeps a community healthy because we don’t want to cultivate “group think,” a dangerous notion for an exclusive and righteous membership. Reflection and inquiry help us to understand how things are actually happening, rather than how we would like them to happen. It is a call to inquire into what has gone unseen and unrecognized.
Compromises are always required and constant feedback voiced. Maybe we need to take a moment to show the community a mirror, which symbolizes how the mind reflects all phenomena and, at the same time, how all phenomena are a mirror of the mind. Feedback is a way for communities to hold up their mirror. It is an act of courage to look into the mirror, because we are afraid of what we might see, some people will say there is something wrong with the mirror itself, yet, this is the only way to recognize what needs to be improved or changed. This is how we maintain a sense of humility and curiosity.
Critical thinking and discernment are forged bonds based on a collective vision rather than a doctrine, far-fetched theories or delusional dreams. Compassion is the medium in which deep and meaningful relationships with others can grow and flourish, protect us from falling into judgment and cultivate tolerance with patience.
INTENSE GROUNDLESSNESS – By Pierre Zimmerman 1/1/22
From the Desk of Pierre Zimmerman:
We begin another year, another winter with news about Covid and its variants, knowing we are only going to be free of it when the last few protect themselves from the invisible virus for the benefit of all. Most of us, most of the time, go through life wanting to have freedom and at the same time, we have a tight grip on whatever we experience. Groundlessness creates discomfort and the fear of possibly having the rug pulled out from under us.
How do we manage to relax with no stability under our feet? It is as if a person were to run after flickering fireflies at night. As this person becomes consumed by the desire to catch them, he loses sight of the ground he was standing on, falling over a deep cliff. By chance on the way down into an abyss he is able to catch a thick branch and hold on to it for dear life for what seems to be a very, very long time. There is nothing under his feet, no foreground or background in his mind to provide safety. And just as he is going to let go, unable to hold on any longer, the moon appears from behind the clouds. There and then he realizes that he was only a couple of feet above solid ground. In that moment, he is free to let go.
We can feel at ease in our bodies by trusting that we are held by something larger than ourselves, experiencing profound surrender into a benevolent field with awareness, the constant ground of being in the midst of impermanence. We try to avoid groundlessness at any cost. The paradox is that when we attune to our inner knowing, we can experience deep relaxation by trusting in life’s small or unfamiliar moving moments and expect we will find firm footing. Letting go can often feel like a free fall when attuning to being fully alive, not knowing outcomes and letting go of resistance. Yet, we might experience fluidity and freedom, develop new relationships, find new connections, while trusting new revelations and deep wisdom for the sake of all.
THE ACT OF BEING – By Pierre Zimmerman 12/1/21
THE SHEER ACT OF BEING
Becoming Fluid Like Water – By Pierre Zimmerman 11/1/21
UNCONDITIONAL PRESENCE, Becoming Fluid Like Water.
Most of us live in a state of continuous contraction and constricted awareness that forms a nucleus of avoidance, attachment, or both. Often we develop an identity and view of ourselves and the world based on rejecting experiences we don’t like, or grasping onto others that are attractive to us. In order to hold on to this identity, we develop stories about the way we are or what reality is; stories which in essence are just mental interpretations of our experience, a way of organizing our beliefs and opinions, but not the experience itself. One story tends to reinforce another story, which creates an increasing distortion of reality.
How do we move from constriction and partial views of reality? One way is to engage in being present with our experience, with what is, in the moment. We call that beginner’s mind. Unfortunately we have become experts at being ourselves, and in the process, loosing our ability to be open in a fresh, open-minded fashion. The totality of our present experiencing is much larger and richer than anything we can know or describe about it at any given moment.
This meditative tradition through most of the different lineages always presented the great discovery of pure awareness and un-fabricated knowing, clear and fluid like water. We are immersed in this sea of pure awareness, but our busy mind is constantly hopping from one thought island to another thought island, rarely resting. Here we learn to become more comfortable with the space between one breath and the next, so that we can merge with the fresh edge of the moment and relax our body-mind.
Join us! Offices for Rent at One Roof
Art Show Fundraiser/Event to Benefit Beyond My Battle, Oct. 28th
Mary Kathryn Jablonski at Saratoga Arts October 23rd
Bridging the Divide – By Pierre Zimmerman 10/1/21
From the Desk of Pierre Zimmerman:
BRIDGING THE DIVIDE
Fear divides us because we feel powerless. COVID isn’t going away, and the rawness of emotions is vivid. It is the opposite of kindness, because the reptilian brain is very active and in a state of arousal. When in such a state, we often get in a mode of “us versus them.” We feel that we are different, maybe better off or worse, others being wrong in their beliefs and opinions. There is always sorrow, or grief underneath fear, which tends to create more isolation.
We face fear with mindfulness, integrating the frontal cortex, to call on compassion, a shared, caring spaciousness, so that we are not hooked. Kindness is the pathway to a larger more resilient space, relaxing into a natural sense of caring through intention, a longing of our human heart to be spiritual, to want to live the truth of who we are. It is an energetic heart opening.
A true sense of belonging gives us more access to connect with common universal issues. We can change the “unreal other,” formerly categorized as bad… We can pause, make a U-turn, check out our inside world and befriend it.
Tara Brach, has an acronym that is very helpful called RAIN:
Recognize the emotion/or what’s going on
Allow the emotion/experience to be there, just as it is, a wave in the ocean
Investigate the body/the emotion with kindness
Natural awareness of what you experience, and non-identification with thoughts/feelings/experiences.
This is coming from a caring place, living from a more integrated range, including the other, with kindness… seeing the bigger picture. The basic intention is to understand their view, their life value, and what matters to them. Recognizing that they also wish to reduce their suffering, which is our common ground. Keep stretching the effort to build connection and hold disagreement, replacing mistrust with basic trust, bridging the divide. It is a liberating experience even though it is disagreeable or might seem futile for a moment!
EQUANIMITY – By Pierre Zimmerman 9/1/21
By Pierre Zimmerman
Given the political, racial, and economic divides these days, cultivating equanimity is called for more than ever. Using the four immeasurables and the image of the sun, we can think of equanimity as the full moon reflecting the light of the sun in a vast cloudless night sky. For compassion it is the sun setting, meeting the darkness of suffering with tenderness and care. Sympathetic joy carries the image of the sunrise, brightening everything in its path, moving upward with inspiration and freshness, while loving kindness is the sun at noon, bright and strong, shining on everyone.
The cooler quality of the moon reflecting the sun doesn’t signify a lack of caring, in fact, it balances the other three aspects of love, so that we don’t burn out in expressing the other aspects of love to others. It keeps us grounded, centered, and resourced. Equanimity means impartiality, tolerance, letting go. It is the capacity to see the full picture, accept inclusiveness and perceive a situation in its entirety without bias. We can stand firm without taking sides, see a given circumstance from all angles and cultivate spaciousness.
Thich Nhat Hanh used to have this simple meditation exercise: “Breathing in, I dwell in the present moment; breathing out, I know this is a wonderful moment.” This meditation doesn’t ignore or deny the suffering in our world, it is not indifference. It is the ability to hold pain and terror as well as great love and wisdom. It is coolness in a world that is only getting hotter. The climate surely reflects this. The question is: how do we see from all sides and include them in our hearts? Seeing ourselves as beloved, not victims, we are in opposition to no one. Our only enemies are delusion, craving, ignorance and hatred.
With equanimity, we know how not to make things worse when suffering arises, we can choose not to add to suffering by resisting, suppressing or judging it. Instead we can open to our own or someone else’s suffering, knowing it is part of life. Experiencing peace, we give no fear in the process and are given in return ample freedom.