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    The Surprising Power of “Healthy Embarrassment” | Koshin Paley Ellison

    Perfection is not necessary for beauty and inspiration. Cultivating openness, curiosity, connection, courage, love, humor and compassion can help us walk the Eightfold Path of life. The New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care offers programs that can help one get started on their journey.

    enNovember 30, 2022

    About this Episode

    We’ve all got parts of our personality or our past that we’re ashamed of. We might refer to these parts of ourselves as our demons, our baggage, or our secrets; no one is immune.


    So, how do you want to deal with this situation? Stay coiled in shame and denial? That only makes the demons stronger. An alternative, per my guest Koshin Paley Ellison, is to approach your stuff with “healthy embarrassment.” That allows you to work more skillfully with your baggage so that it doesn’t own you. And once you’re cooler with yourself, that can improve your relationships with other people, which is probably the most important variable for your happiness. And healthy embarrassment is just one of many extremely useful things we are going to talk about today.


    Koshin Paley Ellison is an author, Zen teacher, Jungian psychotherapist, and Certified Chaplaincy Educator. He is the co-founder of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, an amazing place which, among other things, trains people to be volunteers in hospice centers. Koshin is the author of a new book called Untangled: Walking the Eightfold Path to Clarity, Courage, and Compassion, which centers on a classic Buddhist list called The Eightfold Path, the Buddha’s recipe for enlightenment or, as Koshin puts it, “the most awesome combo platter.”


    In this episode we talk about:

    • What is The Eightfold Path and how it fits into another Buddhist list, The Four Noble Truths
    • How to use the list to do life better
    • The danger of perfectionism in putting the list to use in your life
    • How to bridge the gap between what we say we care about and what we’re actually doing with our lives
    • How sitting with your pain can lead to freedom
    • The utility and pitfalls of gossip
    • How we can look at the idea of “killing” in many different ways, including how one can “kill a moment” or “the energy in a room”
    • How the concept of “right effort” can help us find the balance between not doing enough and overworking ourselves
    • How being uncomfortable is a sign of real engagement with our practice
    • And Koshin’s addition of the concept of “mystery” as another aspect of the eightfold path



    Full Shownotes: www.tenpercent.com/podcast-episode/koshin-paley-ellison-528

    See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Acknowledge and deal with personal demons, approach them with healthy embarrassment, follow Buddha's eightfold path to enlightenment, bridge the gap between beliefs and actions, embrace discomfort in meditation practice, and explore the mystery of life.
    • To achieve enlightenment in Buddhism, it is important to acknowledge suffering and take responsibility for it, but also to have hope for transformation and follow the eightfold path, beginning with cultivating the right view and aligning actions with values.
    • By committing to long-term practices, recognizing healthy embarrassment, and cultivating a sense of humor, we can view mistakes as opportunities for growth and offer compassion to ourselves and others, ultimately leading to a growth mindset and deeper human connections.
    • Practicing mindfulness, embracing vulnerability, and aligning values with actions are essential for a mindful and fulfilling life. Paying attention to how we create suffering in the past and aligning our intentions and actions in the present moment can reduce suffering.
    • Right speech begins with how we talk to ourselves and understanding the impact of our stories on thoughts and actions. Practicing it helps us communicate effectively, avoid pitfalls, and promote human well-being.
    • In order to communicate effectively, we must be mindful of our words and consider whether they can cause harm or if they are necessary. It is also important to have trustworthy friends who can keep secrets.
    • We should be responsible for taking the right-size actions in every space and time, instead of burdening ourselves and others. Unpacking our bag of burdens allows us to be open and spontaneous in the present moment.
    • Appreciate and engage in work with values, embody situational ethics and kindness, and avoid negative energy by being mindful and responsible for our actions.
    • Finding meaning and purpose in our work through connectedness and gratitude can sustain us on the long road of right effort.
    • Practicing the right balance of effort, attention, and concentration can help us achieve our goals and be present in every aspect of our lives. Paying closer attention to people and situations can help us be more present, and having good companions and teachers can aid our journey. The eightfold path can guide us in understanding the value of right effort and concentration.
    • Before meditating, address personal barriers through the Eightfold Path, not perfection. Focus on living with vitality and meaningful change for better connections with others.
    • Perfection is not necessary for beauty and inspiration. Cultivating openness, curiosity, connection, courage, love, humor and compassion can help us walk the Eightfold Path of life. The New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care offers programs that can help one get started on their journey.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    Approaching Our Demons and Baggage with healthy Embarrassment through Buddha's Eightfold Path

    We all have our demons and baggage that we need to deal with. Instead of denying or being ashamed of them, we should approach them with healthy embarrassment and work skillfully to not let them own us. This approach can improve our relationship with others, which is essential for our happiness. The eightfold path, part of the four Noble truths in Buddhism, can be a recipe for enlightenment in eight steps. It helps us find the balance of not doing enough and overworking, and it includes the concept of right effort. We should learn to bridge the gap between what we say we care about and what we do. We can look at 'killing' not only in the sense of taking lives but also killing moments or energies in a room. Being uncomfortable is a sign of real engagement with meditation practice, and there's a ninth part added to the eightfold path called mystery.

    The Recipe for Enlightenment in Buddhism

    The four noble truths and the eightfold path of Buddhism lay out a recipe for enlightenment, which requires continuous practice. The first noble truth acknowledges the existence of suffering caused by greed, resentment, and delusion. The second truth encourages taking responsibility for creating one's own suffering. The third truth offers hope for transformation and change. The fourth truth, the path itself, lays out instructions for tending to a life with suffering and making one's way out. Right view, the first fold of the path, encourages seeing that our minds are out of control and living in ways that are not aligned with our values, followed by cultivating healthy embarrassment to provoke us to do better.

    Cultivating a Growth Mindset and Practicing Compassion

    It's important to give yourself enough time to evaluate the effectiveness of your practices, such as meditation, by committing to it for a significant period. Additionally, it's beneficial to recognize the difference between healthy embarrassment and shame, where healthy embarrassment challenges us to be better, whereas shame paralyzes us in self-doubt. Instead of being ashamed of mistakes, we should view them as opportunities for growth and cultivate a sense of humor in the process. This perspective helps us connect with others and offer compassion and understanding, recognizing that everyone has their struggles.

    The interconnectedness of the eightfold path

    Practicing mindfulness helps us become more intimate and connected to the world, instead of getting caught up in our own self-centeredness which exacerbates suffering. Embracing embarrassment and pain in a healthy way can widen our awareness and help us be more free. Right intent is having a correct perspective and aligning our values with our actions to reduce suffering. Retrospective right view is about noticing how we create suffering, while right intent is about aligning intention with action in the present moment. All aspects of the eightfold path are interconnected and important for a mindful and fulfilling life.

    The Power of Right Speech - From Self-Talk to Social Interaction

    Right speech is about more than just what we say out loud. It starts with how we talk to ourselves and the stories we tell ourselves in our minds. It's important to question these stories and understand their impact on our thoughts and actions. By practicing right speech, we can learn to be kind, helpful, and mindful of what needs to be said in a given situation. It's a critical part of social interaction and human well-being. Being aware of our speech can help us avoid pitfalls like gossip and killing the energy in a room. We can also use magic words like 'the story I'm telling myself' to communicate more effectively and practice skillful communication.

    The Importance of Mindful Communication

    Speech is a place of practice. We have to learn when to speak up and when to remain silent. There are categories of right speech like truthful, lying and harsh speech which requires a person to assess whether what they are saying can cause harm or is it necessary. Gossip can be fun with close friends or in a humorous way, but it depends on whether it is creating harm or not. It is important to have good friends who can hold secrets and not spread them around. Silence can also be harsh speech when we don't speak up during unjust circumstances. Therefore, we must be mindful of our words and learn to communicate truthfully and with compassion.

    The art of taking right action by unpacking our bag of burdens and being present in the moment.

    Right action is about attuning to what's the right size of our actions in every space and time, and learning how to take responsibility to act in a spontaneous and lively way. Killing isn't just intentionally taking someone's life, it can also be killing moments by taking up too much space in a room or waiting for others to take care of us. We need to unpack our 'big bag' of burdens and put them down so they don't own us and keep our heads up our asses. We should avoid habitual ways of seeing ourselves in relation to the world and not let our bag make everyone else relate to us in the same burdened way. Only then we can truly be open, available and spontaneous to whatever's arising right now.

    Finding Meaning and Mindfulness in Work

    We should learn to put down our ideologies or beliefs and learn to appreciate things. It's important to find meaning in our work and engage in it with our values. Right livelihood is using our work as a place where we can actually see our mind. We should bring a kind quality of mind to our work, just like how a senior monk cleans everybody's toilet. We should be responsible for our actions. The story speaks about the importance of situational ethics in life and the danger of being a killer vegan person who can kill energy in a room. Overall, the key takeaway is to be kind and mindful while practicing what we believe in.

    Connecting to Work as a Place of Practice

    Connecting to other people through our work can bring us a sense of belonging and gratitude. Those who feel most connected to their work have a deeper understanding of how it benefits others. Right effort is a continuous effort and staying with our practice for the long road is what's possible. We often misunderstand what right effort is about and drive ourselves into the ground, mistaking it for nobility. The basics of right effort are realizing the long road and what's possible for us if we stay on it. Connectedness and gratitude can inform and transform our work as a place of practice.

    The importance of right effort, attention, and concentration in Buddhism.

    Practicing right effort, attention and concentration is key to realizing our goals and being present in every aspect of our lives. It's important to find the right balance, not too much or too little, but just the right amount to attune to the situation. Attention is everything and paying closer attention to people and situations can help us be more present. We must learn how to tend the gap and bring things together by being clear and courageous in hard times. Having good companions and teachers can also help us on our journey. The eightfold path of Buddhism can help us understand the value of right effort and concentration in our practice.

    Unpacking Barriers for Effective Meditation with the Eightfold Path

    The seed of meditation is the place of practice and concentration, but it's essential to unpack our own barriers before sitting down to meditate. The eightfold path creates all the conditions to attend to before meditation. It is not linear and can be engaged on many different levels. The aim is not perfection, but rather to compound marginal improvements making us more alive, loving, and in service to others. Practicing with liveliness and vitality is what matters in our connection with others. It's crucial to realize that we can never be perfect, and we shouldn't squander time by trying to control everything. Instead, we should focus on meaningful change.

    Embodying Openness, Connection and Humor in Contemplative Care

    Perfection is not the key to beauty and inspiration. It's about how someone embodies themselves with openness, curiosity, connection, courage, love, and humor. Koshin Paley Ellison, along with New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, offers various opportunities to practice contemplative care, such as Foundations in Contemplative Care, inspiring volunteers to care for hospices or hospitals, and a Contemplative Medicine fellowship for continuing medical education. These programs help people cultivate clarity, courage, and compassion to walk the Eightfold Path of life. Moreover, one's humor can make a difference in how they inspire others. It's the perfect opportunity to open doors and take the first step towards a more fulfilling life.

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