We are happy to introduce a new series on the Plum Village App. A course comprising short teachings and meditations, in an audio format, it’s a companion to Kaira Jewel Lingo’s We Were Made for These Times: Ten Lessons in Moving through Change, Loss, and Disruption. This book from 2021 imparts accessible advice on navigating difficult times of transition, drawing on Buddhist teachings on impermanence to help us establish equanimity and resilience.
Kaira, a dharma teacher, is also the creator of this course and will guide you through the 10 audio lessons (plus one short introduction to the series). She began practicing mindfulness in 1997 and is now a teacher in the Zen and Vipassana lineages. For 15 years, she has been ordained in Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastic community, and teaches both Buddhism and secular mindfulness internationally, as well as writing and offering spiritual mentoring with a focus on waking up in daily life.
➛ Find out more about Kaira and her current projects on her website.
In this era of global disruption, threats to our individual, social, and planetary safety abound. At times, life can feel overwhelming, like the rug is being pulled out from under us. Things that we have relied on as being steady and reliable change, or we lose them completely. Not only are loss and separation painful, but even positive changes can create great stress.
In these 10 lessons, we’ll learn powerful ways to meet life’s challenges with wisdom, resilience, and ease. We’ll practice ancient teachings of Buddhist psychology and meditations that develop presence and compassion, helping us release the fear, doubt, and resistance that hold us back. Each session will present a teaching and conclude with a guided meditation practice to nurture deeper freedom and stability in daily life.
Here are the lessons, with short introductions from Kaira:
When we are profoundly unsettled by change and challenge, a key step to help us begin to settle ourselves is to come home to ourselves in this moment, no matter what is happening. In this opening session, we’ll explore how to find your way back to the true home inside of you, that no one can take away or destroy, and how to dwell there more often. We’ll learn that taking care of this moment is the best way to take care of the future. The guided meditation will support you in arriving home and in setting your intention to be fully present for yourself.
In this session, we’ll learn a practice entrusting our deep and troubling questions to the depths of our consciousness, like planting a seed down in the soil. Rather than trying to think our way to an answer, we trust that being present and aware in daily life is the nourishment that the seed needs to one day sprout into a clear answer or direction. In the guided meditation, we’ll soften and rest back into the unknown, building confidence that clarity will come in its own time.
Something that can make navigating times of transition and challenge even more difficult is resisting what is happening, or thinking that there’s something wrong with our life – or with ourselves – when the road gets bumpy. But transition and challenges are a part of life. In this session, we look at the inevitability of pain and how to not add suffering on top of this. The meditation we’ll practice supports us in letting go of resistance, and opening to acceptance and peace with what is.
How can we manage times of overwhelm and crisis, when it feels like we can’t find any space inside? In this session, we’ll learn powerful practices of staying rooted and grounded in the midst of life’s storms. We will discover how to return to the reality – and safety – of the present moment, through intentional, focused belly breathing and mindful walking, learning to stay connected to the Earth in full awareness.
In this session, using a powerful teaching from Buddhist psychology about how our minds work, we do a deep dive into how to really be with and to soothe strong emotions, which can be so painful and disruptive in times of change. In the meditation, we learn and practice how to access mindfulness to help us recognize whatever painful emotion is arising, accept it, and then embrace it like a loving adult would hold a crying baby. As we do this, our emotion settles down and we are able to look deeply to understand it at its root in the deeper layers of our mind. This leads us to insight and gradual transformation of habit patterns that keep us stuck in reactivity, fear, and anger.
Many of us may get lulled into believing that what we have now will always be here. This is a central cause of our suffering. We want that which has the nature to change, to stay the same. In this session, we will pay attention to the ways impermanence, a key characteristic of our existence, operates from moment-to-moment in daily life, as well as in times of larger upheaval and turmoil. Facing the truth of impermanence frees us up to live more fully and stop being controlled by unconscious fears. We will practice a profound meditation offered by the Buddha on the Five Remembrances, and allow the insight of impermanence to wake us up, help us feel more alive, and deeply touch the preciousness of life.
Each of us must go through the “10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows”, the ups and downs that any life brings. In this session, we learn about the eight worldly winds: pleasure and pain; gain and loss; praise and blame; and fame and disrepute, and how they are like spokes in a wheel that is constantly turning. But in the center of the wheel is a hole; this is our true nature: of emptiness, of not-self, another key characteristic of existence. Not-self helps us see that we are not a separate self but, in fact, we contain everything. We are empty of an independent self and part of something more vast. When we touch our nature of interdependence, we experience that which does not get blown about, which is not conditioned by fortune and misfortune. And this leads us to touch the freedom of non-fear.
What can help us come back to balance when we are pulled and pushed this way and that by the disruptions and upheavals of our life? In this session we will learn about ‘upeksha’ – equanimity and inclusiveness – a capacity we can cultivate that helps us to see the bigger picture and look with patience and understanding. We can grow our equanimity through staying open to learning, relaxing, and letting go of whatever we are clinging to. The guided visualization will help us to offer space to ourselves and our difficulty so that we can come to greater peace with it, and will teach us powerful statements on equanimity that we can apply at any time in our daily life.
We may believe that, in order to be happy and at peace, our suffering has to disappear completely. In this session, we’ll learn how we can nurture and strengthen the good in us so that we can draw on it in difficult times. Gratitude is enormously transformative in moments of hardship and a huge booster of resilience and strength. We’ll learn effective ways to develop it in daily life, including with the children in our lives, and even in the midst of heartbreak. This is an orientation towards life in which we live the present moment in such a way that we create a beautiful past.
In this final session, we will gather our courage and confidence to meet whatever difficulties and transitions we are facing. We already have all that we need to meet this moment. In each mindful step and every conscious breath, our mindfulness practice has prepared us to engage with life just as it is. We’ll harness the power of guided visualization to see ourselves moving through our challenges or times of transition until we have reached the other side. We’ll practice to embody now how we will look and feel when the storm has settled and we are confident and at peace. We’ll deepen our intention through a closing compassion practice for ourselves and all others who may also be experiencing hardship, that we all may rest in our true home.
➛ Music kindly provided by Joe Riley.
➛ We Were Made for These Times, the book, is available to buy from Parallax Press.
➛ You may also like to listen to episode 27 of the Way Out Is In podcast, which features Kaira as a special guest.
☁️ As has been the case with Buddhist teachings for millennia, there is no charge for the Plum Village App and its digital content. However, if your means allow, please consider offering a donation to support our small team’s continued work on the app.