Sensei Koshin Paley Ellison is a Zen teacher and Co-Founder, with his partner Robert Chodo Campbell, of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care —the leading organization engaging and integrating contemplative training with caregiving through study, care and meditation. He serves on the faculty of two medical schools, their curriculum is now implemented in thirty-five medical residency programs, and they have trained over 1100 physicians from across the world in contemplative approaches to care of the dying. We sat down with him to talk about his book, Awake at the Bedside.
Hope, expectation, anticipation, the desire for a certain outcome. Hope is what moves us forward, motivates us and keeps our faith strong during the hard times. Hope is essential for our existence; yet there are times — when the world seems to be in a state of chaos — when it is easy to wonder where hope is.
In thinking about hope and how to find it in our world, I realized that for me, hope comes from my yoga practice and my kids, as both remind me on a constant basis that hope dwells within us, not outside of ourselves, and that in order to tap into that wellspring of hope, it is essential to find the peace within to let hope blossom.
Believe it or not, spring is right around the corner! In Los Angeles where I live, it has already started: The days are getting longer, the birds are chirping louder outside my window and I’m starting to feel that subtle energy change, both in my personal training clients and in myself!
This is the time when there is so much “newness” happening that I like to use it as a catalyst to create a resurgent flow of energy for the rest of the year. The best thing about creating this flow of energy is that the byproducts can include a fitter body, more energy and an influx of self-confidence.
But I can’t stress enough that change takes time. Starting too many things all at once usually ends in exhaustion and a feeling of “I MUST DO” instead of “I WANT TO.” One of the best ways to overcome the inertia and the absolute best way of creating a habit and sticking to it is to change slowly and repeat the new positive pattern over and over again. And over the next ten weeks, that exactly what we’re going to do!
I didn’t always love to walk my dogs. It used to feel like a chore. One more thing on a long “to-do” list.
I would walk them, sure. But though my legs were taking me around the neighborhood, my mind was somewhere else entirely. Working through a magazine article I was writing that was giving me grief. Or having an in-my-head conversation with a friend I had argued with. Maybe berating myself for not waking up early to go for a run.
Despite a diet of organic, holistic dog food. Despite a pesticide-free yard. Despite daily exercise and plenty of TLC, our six-year-old dog Polar was diagnosed in October with osteosarcoma, an aggressive and indiscriminate type of bone cancer that leaves little time for weighing options.
The other night, I fell down the stairs. Not the whole flight, but the last four gray-slate stairs in the main lobby of the athletic club where I teach yoga. I was fully dressed and in view of at least three people when I tripped over my own boots, breaking my fall with my shins and hands. After the stars stopped swirling and the pain kicked in, I stood up, put on a brave smile and told the wincing front desk staff that I’d be okay. Then I limped out into the dark and, when it felt safe, I started to cry.
Michael Phelps’ Olympic swimming success has made him the supernova of the swim world. Part of his winning came not just from his supremely fine-tuned physique, but also from a wise coach who taught Phelps as a child to fine-tune his mind through relaxation, meditation and visualization.