Stephen Schettini

What We All Want to Hear

Excerpt from It Begins With Silence: The Art of Mindful Reflection by Stephen Schettini:

March 17, 2013Dozens of self-help books today provide techniques that, their authors claim, work in ten days or even ten minutes. Clearly, their pubishers know the market all too well, for that's exactly what we all want to hear, but they're pandering shamelessly to our most childish fantasies. 

Some of my students have been initially disappointed to learn that I don't breeze through life on a cloud of meditative calm, but my job is to demonstrate that awakening to your full conscious potential is a commitment of body, mind and life. 

Nevertheless, I've learnt, and I teach, that from the day we begin, the meditative lifestyle enhances all we do at work, at home and at leisure. It's sometimes easy and sometimes hard, but nothing's more wonderful than the sense that what we're doing is worthwhile and that your little corner of the world has become a brighter place. 

Mindful of Your Motives

"Empathy isn’t just a gooey feeling. It’s an acquired skill, and it takes a light touch. At first I was horrified by my insincerity, filled with self-disgust. I pledged to never be that way again. That didn’t help at all. No motivator is more useless than neurotic guilt.

What helps is mindfulness, but only if it’s intelligent. An astonishing number of meditators believe that watching the breath for hours will magically make them more insightful and loving. They’re dreaming. If you need to change your motives, be mindful of your motives, not your breath...

...Mindfulness steps us away from consoling rationalizations to quietly observe what we’re actually doing, feeling and thinking. It’s not guided by hope, but it’s not hopeless. It’s fearless...

...To have lasting results, mindfulness must turn you back to the realities you turn away from. By accepting your own dilemma you recognize everyone’s. Then real empathy simply happens. Once you get over the initial shock it’s strangely consoling. To face fear is to negate it. You see that your condition doesn’t define you. Empathy frees you to be a force of nature, not limited by your fears but empowered by an open heart."

~ Stephen Schettini, from "When Empathy is Dumb"


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Natural Community

Excerpt from "Sick Love" by Stephen Schettini (Jan. 14, 2013):

I loved the Buddha’s teachings. I found them invaluable and still do. However, I mistook Buddhists for the Buddha and lost my way. Still, I was lucky and my eyes opened one day to the contrived righteousness of communal life. I understood that it was time to move on. Technically, I was free, under no physical and only gentle psychological pressure to stay. However, it took me a full year to extricate myself, to let go of my need for love and validation from this group, to give up the image of myself on a holy and righteous path and return to the plain truth that purity is an illusion, that there is no security and that I had to pursue my mundane way alone.

That in fact, I’d been alone all along.

There is life after a spiritual community. There is such a thing as natural community, not contrived to support your fondest wishes but to commiserate with on life’s hard byways. There is no preexisting group out there waiting for you. Real community forms organically, spontaneously. Prepare yourself for it by traveling light. People of like mind are not found in any particular monastery, school or social group. It’s rare to meet others with whom we truly commune. We know that. You know that. Locking yourself into a gated community, pretending you’re safe and sound, is a sure way to not bump into anyone intimately.

Get out there, vulnerable and honest. Admit you’re alone on your path through life and you’ll sooner or later meet fellow-travelers. You’ll share your insights as equals. Some of them may for a while become mentors or guides. Bear in mind though, that relationship will deteriorate the minute you abandon your discernment, the instant you stop taking your own risks.

Otherwise, how will you know when they’re speaking nonsense, as from time to time we all do? How will you realize that they’re manipulating you, as they might if they see you can’t hold your own? They might even be doing it because they love you.

How would you know what sort of love that is?

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