Sangha and the Importance of Community

As summer draws to a close with the unwelcome return of cold and torrential rain, my heart has been warmed by re-connecting with my sangha in Rotterdam (or more specifically in Schiedam, in the Netherlands). Sangha is a Buddhist term broadly meaning community of practice. In Buddhism, there are said to be ‘three jewels’: “Buddha, the awakened one; Dharma, the way of understanding and loving; and Sangha, the community that
 lives in harmony and awareness.” I have experienced many benefits from practicing mindfulness together with others in my local sangha. I have also been lucky to experience the same deep connection practicing mindfulness with other groups. Plus, I see that this need for community clearly extends beyond Buddhism or mindfulness, and is something we all need to access in our own way.  Continue reading “Sangha and the Importance of Community”

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What is ‘Normal’ Anyway?

We all feel a pressure to be ‘normal’ at times: to live up to societal expectations, to fit neatly into a category, to be clearly understandable by others. But what does it really mean to be normal? And is it actually a desirable state to be in? Through practicing mindfulness, I’ve been able to gain confidence in embracing the ‘abnormal’ aspects of myself and those around me. I have come to realise: that which is out of the ordinary can at times offer us the most beauty, joy and wisdom in life.

Allowing room for difference

The pressures we feel not to divert too far from mainstream behaviors can come in response to different choices, large and small: from what you eat, wear and spend money on, to who you choose to love and how you choose to spend your life. Unfortunately, these pressures can cause a feeling of quiet desperation in those who feel that they just don’t fit in. Continue reading “What is ‘Normal’ Anyway?”

Who Are We: Economic Man or Holistic Human?

By Florence Scialom

In economics, human beings are often viewed as caricatures, based on an exaggeration of certain identity traits: a desire for personal wealth and hedonistic luxury, a resistance to work and being motivated by personal gain alone. Yet in reality we are both more messy and more beautiful than this image of homo economicus allows.

Recently, I’ve been reading Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth. She explains in detail that in order to update economics for the 21st century, we need to move away from perceiving ourselves as ‘rational economic man,’ and acknowledge that we are in fact socially adaptable, holistic humans.

Rather than isolated and selfish, we are interdependent and reliant on each other and upon nature. Rather than being motivated by personal gain alone, we often get satisfaction from helping others and having a deeper sense of purpose. Continue reading “Who Are We: Economic Man or Holistic Human?”

Self-Care as a Radical Act

“Happiness is another kind of inner resource for people seeking social and political change. I don’t see how we can keep giving when we feel depleted and exhausted, when generosity is trying to come out of nothing.” Sharon Salzburg

By Florence Scialom

We live in a rapidly changing society filled with huge challenges; the norms of governance and the stability of the natural world seem to be shaking beneath our feet. We all undoubtedly experience stresses and strains in our daily lives linked to these wider societal challenges, as well as those of a more personal nature too. Against this backdrop of suffering, caring for ourselves can feel deeply selfish. Yet through practicing mindfulness I am learning about self-care as a potentially radical act, which can connect to the wider changes we would like to see in the world. Continue reading “Self-Care as a Radical Act”

Vulnerability is a Strength: An Ode to Stretch Points

By Florence Scialom

I love reaching my stretch point; just outside of my comfort zone, but just before I step into the panic zone. That point at which I really feel like I’m extending myself beyond my usual limits, testing my abilities and hopefully growing as a person. This point can be reached in the actions and choices I make in my life. Plus, as a result of practicing mindfulness, I’ve regularly experienced stretch points in the way I communicate with myself and with others too.

What creates a stretch point?

I experience a stretch point when I push myself to achieve something I’ve long dreamed about. It is often something that makes me nervous and excited at the same time (there’s no English word for this, but in Dutch the word is “spannend”). Continue reading “Vulnerability is a Strength: An Ode to Stretch Points”

Slow Change, Big Impact: Experiencing Bhutan

By Florence Scialom

In Bhutan, I gained a deeper understanding of the importance of connection, interdependence and community. We need each other, and there is a real beauty in that.

I wrote the above words after completing the Slow Change Experience course in Bhutan in November 2016. Applications for the Slow Change Experience 2017 were recently open and this has inspired me to reflect again on the time I spent in Bhutan last year. Continue reading “Slow Change, Big Impact: Experiencing Bhutan”

Practicing Gratitude

By Florence Scialom

It all started at the beginning of 2017, after seeing a post on Facebook. (I wonder how many modern tales start this way..?!) The post said: “This January start the year with an empty jar. Each week add a note with a good thing that happened. On New Year’s Eve empty the jar and read about the amazing year you’ve had.

The idea appealed to me, as I’d heard a lot about the power of gratitude to positively influence happiness and wellbeing. I had been trying to practice writing things I was grateful for each day in my journal, but the weekly jar seemed more achievable, practical and potentially something which could be more social too. Continue reading “Practicing Gratitude”

Reasons for Hope in a Changing World: Chandolin Retreat Review

By Florence Scialom

“The last thing the world needs is our despair… if we want to be agents of change we need to cultivate qualities of hope, understanding, happiness and love”.

These are the words of Ha Vinh Tho, one of the teachers at a retreat I recently attended in Chandolin, Switzerland. The retreat was called Transformation and Healing: Ancient Wisdom for a New World, and explored how we can bring more hope and positive action to these changing times we live in. Continue reading “Reasons for Hope in a Changing World: Chandolin Retreat Review”

Can Mindfulness Change the World? Daniel Goleman Event Review

By Florence Scialom

This post was originally published via Action for Happiness.

Last week I attended an Action for Happiness event called From Mindfulness to Action, featuring the renowned author and Emotional Intelligence expert Dan Goleman.

The theme of the event was the relationship between mindfulness and social change; or how our personal happiness connects to the influence we can have on the wider world. Continue reading “Can Mindfulness Change the World? Daniel Goleman Event Review”

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