Monday, September 09, 2013

Breathing: how deep is too deep? Why do I want to increase and decrease stress at the same time?

I listened to track 4, “Deep Breathing” of Relax; 6 Techniques to Lower Your Stress with Daniel Goleman to focus my morning practice today.  I felt some hesitation to use this CD in my morning practice.  I’ve been practicing for years after all- I could give meditation instruction.  Do I really need a CD?  However, I decided to be open and see what I could learn from it.    

Goleman starts by explaining that when we feel tension, we make our breathing more shallow and fast.  He provides simple instructions to put my hand on my belly, deeply breathe in relaxation and breath out tension.  I found the instruction and practice to be a helpful thing to which to return when my mind started to drift.  I started to breath deeper and longer than he was suggesting and actually found that made me winded, so I slowed it down.  I tried to keep my attention on the practice while also letting other thoughts, emotions or sensations flow through me.  I remembered I was planning to make a phone call to a government agency that I was feeling anxiety about.  I observed the desire to make my breath more shallow and used a touch of effort to deepen it.  At another point, the sun rose to a point where it was gently shining on my face.  In this case, it eased and supported my relaxation practice.   I made a phone call to a government agency.  At the end of the practice, he recommends keeping the practice throughout the day.  I kept my hand on my belly when I made the actual phone call and simply observed how shallow my breath really got.  I then deepened my breath slightly.  
I understand that meditation and yoga lower stress hormones like Adrenaline and Cortisol.  I also understand that psychologists differentiation between good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress).  I enjoy what I understand to be an adrenaline rush when I go on a roller coaster or mountain bike down a hill, or face a work challenge that I consider meaningful and manageable.  Why would I seek to increase Adrenaline in some circumstances (while biking) and decrease it in others (while meditating)?  To me, biking and meditating seem to compliment each other as part of a balanced life, but are they actually working in opposition to each other?      

Monday, April 08, 2013

2013 Street Retreat Donation Request

I don’t do street retreats to understand poor people better.  
On street retreats, we stay on the streets for 2 or 3 nights with no money.  When I go on the streets, I’m not pretending to be homeless or experimenting with a life I would live in an alternative reality.  Its just me, Ari, same person as always.  There’s a liberty I get on the streets, not despite the physical discomfort and practical difficulties, but because of them.  It gets me in touch with something- something I find traveling, something I find in meditation.  It helps me cut through the bullshit. 

I go on the streets in order to understand poor people.  
I go on the streets to understand myself better, to undertand my friends, family and coworkers better.  By getting out of my comfort zone and routine, my habitual way of seeing the world loosens up.  It helps me see all people in front of me for who they really are instead of who I think they are.  

From this perspective, the man sitting next to me at a soup kitchen isn’t some guy hidden in the corner.  He’s a person sitting next to me.  And maybe I feely happy to sit next to him or maybe angry or repulsed.  I practice bearing witness to whatever comes up and acting accordingly.  This impacts how I do my service work.  It impacts how I do everything. 

Raising a Mala
For all of the street retreats organized by Zen Peacemakers, a donation is requested of the participants in order to offer donations to the social service agencies that support us.  I am committed to raising $500 for this end, plust $71 for travel.  In our Zen Buddhist practice we call this assembling a Mala – a rosary of prayer beads.  If you contribute, your name will be attached to a mala bead that I will wear on my retreat.  As such, you will join me on the retreat and I will share my experience with you when I return.  Please click the link above or send a check made out to "Hudson River Peacemaker Center" to

Ari Pliskin
79 Prospect St
Greenfield, MA 01301

Text about my last street retreat 
Photos of my last street retreat