Friday, June 21, 2024

Informal Practice Works!

     Many times each day, we all feel discomfort, not enough, yearning, hunger or void. This unpleasant feeling motivates most of us to seek physical / material relief - by doing things: eating, exercising, reading, blogging, working smarter, harder & longer, taking a nap, watching TV, playing NYT Games. But NONE of these satisfy!
    And
at a level deeper than 'personal mind' ('separate self,' 'ego,' 'small self') - we know that these 'doings' merely distract but do not cure. But our 'personal mind' is only capable of urging us to keep doing more & more of these activities - that don't work. And this, we might recall, defines insanity.

    We usually take our physical / material existence far, far too seriously. Our default mode is 'doing' - to act, move, do something, do anything even if we realize that we're just spinning our wheels, getting nowhere: http://www.johnlovas.com/2020/11/the-mature-human-being.html There's a great reminder:

    "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff … and it's ALL Small Stuff!"

    Sometimes we go to the other extreme & take nothing seriously. Clearly there is a happy medium. But "the middle way" recognizes the limitations of the physical / material plane of existence AND the personal mind which works at this relatively low level. As long as we remain confined to this plane of existence & mindset, we suffer BECAUSE our deeper intelligence knows there's MUCH MORE to life than what we can see, hear & touch, AND that we are MUCH MORE than our body.

    “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
     We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

    This may lead us to informal spiritual practices! As soon as we feel the annoying discomfort, not enough, hunger, void, INSTEAD OF MINDLESS DOING, we can CHOOSE Self-inquiry - asking ourself 'Who feels this dys-ease?' 'Who is suffering?' 'What is this?' 

    Self-inquiry practice ultimately leads us to our true Self, which, although is beyond understanding by our 'personal mind' & thus can't be adequately put into words, can nevertheless be directly experienced as Silence, Stillness, Awareness, Equanimity, Love, Joy, Freedom, Presence, Ultimate Reality, Vastness, Emptiness

    It's too easy to spend an entire lifetime chasing one's tail. Our precious life can be so much more pleasant & meaningful IF we experience & learn to act from our true Self

    A short, concise, powerful introduction to timeless non-dual understanding can be found in the short, ($3) book : Tim Freke. “Lucid Living. Experience Your Life Like a Lucid Dream.” Watkins, 2016.
    For
more in-depth look at non-duality, I recommend Helen Hamilton's and Rupert Spira's books, eg Helen Hamilton. “Dissolving the Ego.” Balboa, 2021 and Rupert Spira “Being Myself.” NewHarbinger, 2021; & interviews online.

 WATCH Helen Hamilton: “You are the Sought and not the seeker





Saturday, June 15, 2024

Gradual AND Sudden Awakening

    A few nights ago, shoulder pain woke me around midnight. I got up & meditated on the meaning of the chronic, day & night pain, versions of which has been tugging at me for attention for at least three years. Soon after sitting down to meditate, I became immersed in a very complex, beehive-like buzzing - a manifestation of energy. And the pain & suffering melted away. This insight was a wonderful reminder of how everything is complex, intelligent, loving energy, and that pain is only one, tiny, insignificant, transient manifestation of It. I found this quote the day before, with the same message:
    The center of every man’s existence is a dream. Death, disease, insanity, are merely material accidents, like a toothache or a twisted ankle. That these brutal forces always besiege & often capture the citadel does not prove that they are the citadel.”
G.K. Chesterton
    I
understood his word 'dream' to mean Mystery - our actual identity, dreaming up what we assume to be reality when we forget that we are the Dreamer, not the dream.

    Everything changes once we identify with being the witness to the story, instead of the actor in it.” Ram Dass 

    'Witness' is easier to understand for our personal mind than 'writer-producer' - the One dreaming all of this.

    “It is said that awakening is an accident, and when we keep practicing, we become more accident-prone.” Nikki Mirghafori

    chance only favours the mind which is prepared…”
Louis Pasteur

    Zen teacher Henry Shukman concisely describes how - IF we're INTERESTED - we do evolve / grow / mature:

    "Broadly speaking, there are two approaches in human spirituality: gradualist and 'subitist.'
    The gradualist approach says we need to painstakingly, gradually improve our states of mind & heart, and we need long term training to do this.
    ... you work systematically ... reducing negative mind states, then eliminating negative mind states so they don't arise again, and gradually reducing & eliminating the causes of negative mind states. ...
    The subitist approach ... means 'sudden.' The idea here is that we're already whole, perfect & pristine, but we don't realize it. We actually are, but don't see it.
    Therefore, the logic of the practice here is to realize it, and suddenly see that that is indeed the case. We are already whole and okay, as expressions of a blessed empty boundless unity that all things belong to. Some call this 'pure consciousness,' others 'buddha nature' or awakened nature
.
    The
reason this kind of practice is known as sudden is that it’s a matter of finding what is already the case. Nothing really changes, except that we have a revelatory moment when we realize that all has been well all along, so to speak.
    This might sound extremely counter-intuitive, when the world is manifestly on fire, with war, oppression, cruelty & suffering. But actually, the logic here is that the world is only this way because we haven't realized how okay things actually already truly are. If we only see that, then our behavior will no longer be guided by our illusory way of seeing things, based on a separate sense of self, but by the reality of a larger wellbeing previously unnoticed, but always right here, which all things share.
    So one question is: are these two views and approaches reconcilable? And is it possible they're both right? The answer is surely, yes. It could be that by temperament some people are more drawn to one or the other, and that we may change our orientation as we change through practice. And it could also be that one without the other is incomplete. ...
    Either way, we are slowly & incrementally becoming more aligned with the underlying order of things, the fundamental wellbeing that is unfolding as this world – and which, paradoxically, we have always been expressions of anyway. But what a world of difference it makes to realize it. Yet, at the same time, on another level, it makes no difference at all.
    So on we go, down the pathless path."
Henry Shukman henryshukman.com

    "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff … and it's ALL Small Stuff!"

    It's remarkably effective to remember who we truly are whenever life feels stressful & heavy: http://www.johnlovas.com/search?q=self-inquiry

     LISTEN to Eckhart Tolle clearly & humorously summarize, in 14 minutes, the heart of what I've been trying to say in over a thousand blogs: "The Mind's Limitation in Understanding Awareness" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrjHWpBQcFw


Saturday, June 8, 2024

Rise and Shine!

     The vast majority of us would like to be far happier. Most of us gradually realize that how we pursue greater happiness - chasing after more & better possessions, experiences, friends, lovers, physical health, longevity, etc - is frustratingly useless.
    Our
default mind (ego, small separate self, personality) has evolved to quickly find advantage (Albert Szent-Györgyi) - to optimize our chances for survival, not to penetrate deeply meaningful Truth. What takes most of us a lifetime to realize, is that the bigger & louder our ego, the shallower, more meaningless our life becomes. Even under fairly low-levels of stress, the noise of our ego hides from us our deepest, most peaceful, contented, joy-filled human level of consciousness.

    “The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not 'the thinker.' The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence.” Eckhart Tolle

    Pain is inevitable as long as you are identified with your mind.” Eckhart Tolle

    We are called “to serve not our limitations but what’s whole & unbreakable, our true Self. It’s easy to identify with all the places we’ve been hurt & abandoned, but can we identify with the timeless wholeness that weathers every condition? If we can’t, we may spend this life protecting ourselves and never risk really living.” Bonnie Myotai Treace

“The challenge awaiting us is to go much deeper as human beings,
to abandon superficial prejudices & preferences,
to expand understanding to a global scale,
integrating the totality of living, and
to become aware of the wholeness of which we are a manifestation."
Vimala Thakar

     We are extremely fortunate to have numerous wise, evolved teachers & their guidance instantly available on the web. Most recently I've deeply re-connected with Helen Hamilton's guidance. She gently helps us see how we're far more than the stories we keep telling ourselves (self-talk) about ourselves. When we learn to take our self-talk very lightly, we let go of the idea of being a small, isolated, insignificant accident of nature, struggling to survive in a hostile, meaningless universe (atheist dogma). When not lost in this dark cloud, we can directly experience our Oneness (Unitive Consciousness) which is radically more life-affirming.
     Most mystics & saints of all different traditions & times; serious meditators & contemplatives around the world; near-death experiencers (NDE); those who've journeyed with plant medicines (entheogens); astronauts who've experienced the "Overview Effect"; and many who've had spontaneous awakenings eg Eckhart Tolle; all seem to share some version of pantheism - the direct mystical experience & understanding that "reality, the universe, and nature are identical to divinity or a supreme entity. The physical universe is thus understood as an immanent deity, still expanding and creating, which has existed since the beginning of time."

 

     We are one, but we will only feel that when we love everything.” Ram Dass

    "Treat everyone you meet as if they were God dressed in drag." Ram Dass

    "To be enlightened is to be intimate with all things."
Zen Master Dogen

    “The only real purpose of being here on this earth is to learn or to re-remember our original natural state of no limitations.”
Lester Levenson 

    “The only service you can do for anyone (including yourself) is to remind them of their true nature.” Stephen Levine

     IF you devote quality time, deeply listen, & integrate Helen Hamilton's positive suggestions into your days, your quality of life will progressively improve.
    Here
are 3 of her many excellent free YouTube videos. To read along, just click the CC button for text

 

‘The Silence and The Fear’ interview by Iain McNay :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYTJDL7l15A&list=PLF004A8F551CE8FB9
(59min)

Helen and Walter chatting non-duality - amazing interview! :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0aRSPDoj28
(78min)

 

“You are the Sought and not the seeker” :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CATgxM71gwc
(71min)

 

    "... the truths discovered by the Buddha are already in your heart. There is a One Who Knows within you who already understands & is free. If you can turn towards this natural awareness and rest in it, then everything will become simple." Ajahn Chah https://jackkornfield.com/learning-the-middle-path/?mc_cid=84d6b00a6f&mc_eid=cd718e6a49 

 

    Helen Hamilton guides listeners to discover & rest in this natural awareness within all of us. We CAN experience it directly. Other descriptors: Silence, Stillness, Awareness, Equanimity, Love, Joy, Freedom, Presence, Ultimate Reality, Vastness, Emptiness.

 

"Earthrise" - photo by Apollo 8 astronaut, the late William Anders

 

Sunday, June 2, 2024

We are Called

    “In Europe there is a long tradition of telling, during long train journeys, one’s whole life story to complete strangers. It allows the heart to ruminate on matters we are fearful of broaching in the company of those it may concern.” David Whyte, “The Heart Aroused. Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America.” Crown Business, 2002.

    Now that to me sounds like a beautiful, meaningful adventure, for both storyteller and rapt listener. But in our present culture, honest meaningful self-disclosure and deep listening seems like a rare & precious gift - mostly found in highly-skilled psychotherapists' offices.

    “That which is threatening to the ego is liberating for the heart.” Amaro Bhikkhu

    “The human mind (ego) was not designed by evolutionary forces for finding truth. It was designed for finding advantage.” Albert Szent-Györgyi, Nobel laureate 

    Indeed, our usual way of being - perceiving, thinking, speaking & behaving - is more or less adversarial & at best transactional. Most of us are unconsciously trapped in primitive survival mode - not life but ego survival: opinions, status, popularity, influence, etc, resulting in at best shallow 'ordinary unhappiness.' While struggling to keep (our ego) from drowning, we cannot hear the gentle call of our heart towards truth.

    And yet, some of us can sense a great, wise, unconditionally loving force always subtly inviting us back to our authentic Self. Saints, mystics, artists, writers & poets are this force's messengers.

     Like we from time to time, Frodo finds himself desperately overwhelmed and understandably, just wants to back out of a dire situation, in the movie, "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001 (Prime Video).
    F
rodo: “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” 

    But Gandalf, the wise old wizard reminds Frodo - and all of us - of our vital role in the greater scheme of things.
    G
andalf: “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.” 

Your task is not to foresee the future,
but to enable it.”
            Antoine de Saint-Exupery 

    These are dark times and each one of us is being called to remember & embody the very best in us! This involves: being aware of who & what is right here in front of us right now, sensing what is needed, and wisely, lovingly nurturing so that we may all collectively flourish.

    “It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.” Mother Teresa

    “Were one asked to characterize (spiritual life) in the broadest & most general terms possible, one might say that it consists of the belief that there is an unseen order, and our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto.” ​William James,​ ​“The Varieties of Religious Experience"

“There is a light in this world,
a healing spirit more powerful
than any darkness we may encounter.
We sometimes lose sight of this force
when there is suffering, too much pain.
Then suddenly, the spirit will emerge
through the lives of ordinary people
who hear a call
and answer in extraordinary ways.”
Mother Teresa


    “There is more hunger for love & appreciation in this world than for bread.”
Mother Teresa

    “The important thing is not to think much, but to love much, and so to do what best awakens us to love.”
Saint Teresa of Ávila

    Many have ruined the term 'God,' hence the increasing use of less tainted, non-partisan, non-proprietary, more descriptive terms like love, force, truth, universal intelligence. Saints - like Mother Teresa, mystics, and serious meditators, contemplatives, artists, writers & poets still use the term 'God' in its original potent, meaningful manner:
    "Former CBS anchor Dan Rather found himself unprepared for a television interview with Mother Teresa. Ron Mehl described the newsman’s encounter:
    “When you pray,” asked Rather, “what do you say to God?”
    “I don’t say anything,” she replied. “I listen.”
    Rather tried another tack, “Well, okay … when God speaks to you, then, what does He say?”
    “He doesn’t say anything. He listens.”
    Rather looked bewildered. For an instant, he didn’t know what to say.
    “And, if you don’t understand that,” Mother Teresa added, “I can’t explain it to you.”


 

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Hero's Journey

    Some still imagine that they're floating along on a lazy, hazy "smooth ride," but a jarring wake-up call has been clanging for some time. Real life is dragging ALL of us - personally & collectively - to rehab right now.

Personal level - one's health
    Anne
Lamott's older brother “John still had such a handsome, hard casing that when God finally reached a tipping point with him, He or She had to use a very heavy hand: John got severe rheumatoid arthritis, which sent him to bed for days on end during flare-ups. He cut his work life in half, needed a cane to walk, and then a cart for longer distances, like getting around the Chico’s Costco. Then his liver began to harden and die off in spots. And those things he had always kept at bay – the grimy, the real, and the powerlessness – were now obvious aspects of his life. The smooth ride was over.
    Anne Lamott. “Small Victories. Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace.” Riverhead, 2014.

Collective level - earth's health
    "
The people who have contributed the least to the climate crisis, whose wise indigenous cultures have been plundered to create hyper-individualistic economies, and who have the least financial resources to manage their local waters, air, and soils are already suffering the most. It is shameful that instead of joining hands to face the climate derangement, the current global geopolitical order is inflicting gory violence upon people in the Middle East, where everyone will be displaced by ongoing global heating in the next few decades.
    A vibrant and ongoing sense of local community that takes meaningful actions cannot be created without vulnerably connecting over stories and releasing our layers of personal and collective grief, rage, fear, and guilt-shame.”

    Kritee Kanko PhD "Climate Grief, Communal Power. A Zen Teacher Invokes the Parable of the Mustard Seed to Call for Intersectional Solidarity from the Larger Buddhist Community." Tricycle, April 4, 2024.

Personal Unconscious - Universal Consciousness?
    A
week or so ago, I had a strikingly clear, memorable dream. I was driving in downtown San Francisco towards an archway, where the road appeared to simply end. So I stopped the car, got out, and walked a little bit ahead of the car and to my shock, I saw that the road sharply bent straight down at a 90° angle, to the street ~10 stories below. There was no sign of crashed cars at the bottom.
    I walked over to the left, to an adjoining archway, and there too, again without any posted warnings, the road bent almost as sharply downwards, but here, there was a wide, extremely steep stairway down to the street far below, with no handrails, so that at least theoretically, one might survive the very long, extremely steep climb down
.
    In the dream, I
was absolutely incredulous, and mad that there were no warnings whatsoever, that this was the catastrophic end of the road for my "smooth ride."

    This dream suggests (screams) that our collective next move is unexpectedly, right now, & highly uncertain. Are enough of us up to having a genuine "hero's journey"? - "A sudden & unexpected journey, promising adventure & peril. A test of character, strength, & skill. An ultimate battle that tests the hero's resolve. A triumphant return home." Can we first learn & then spread the understanding that life has real meaning & purpose?

    Wise collective action is demanded, which must be lead by wise, mature leaders. Our collective behavior will demonstrate whether enough of the human race can quickly, radically evolve to become a blessing - OR - continue devolving as an unsustainable invasive species.


"How wonderful it would be when all beings
experience each other as limbs
on the one body of life." 
Shantideva


Simon & Garfunkel - A Hazy Shade of Winter


 

Friday, May 10, 2024

An Open Invitation

    “A student once asked the spiritual teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti what his secret to peace & contentment was. He leaned over & whispered: ‘I don’t mind what happens.’ ” Toni Bernhard

    Life is this constant invitation to a radical form of simplification, of giving away peripheral complications to get down to the essence of it and carry that essence into the world and to other people. And so there’s always something to be given away.” David Whyte, SUPERB MEANINGFUL Interview: "Everything is an Invitation" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsMgGN8jOws

    “Only boldness can deliver us from fear. If the risk is not taken, the meaning of life is violated.” C.G. Jung, “Symbols of Transformation”

     I realize that many habitually shut down & run as soon as they spot anything outside of their own comfort zone. BUT be bold, have courage & allow yourself to see through this, now 70yo, recovering alcoholic woman's wise, funny, deeply perceptive, loving eyes. Below, is a tiny sample from Anne Lamott's GEM of a book, “Small Victories. Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace.” Riverhead, 2014. Savor, enjoy!

    “I learned early in sobriety that there were two points of view about me – how my close friends saw me, and how I saw myself. I figured it was obvious that I was a fraud, and kind of disgusting. My friends thought I was irresistible, profoundly worthy of trust. I thought at first that one view must be wrong, and I made the most radical decision, for the time being, to believe my friends. I welcomed my lovable self back, with a small party, just the cat, me, and imaginary cups of tea, which I raised with an outstretched pinky.
    This welcoming toward myself took a big adjustment, a rebalancing of my soul. There had been so much energy thrown into performance, achievement, and disguise. I felt I had gotten a permission slip for the great field trip, to the heart of myself, in the protection of a few trusted friends.
    Frankly, I was hoping to see more white cliffs and beaches, fewer swamps and shadows, but this was real life, the nature of things, full of both wonder and rot.
    As soon as I was able, my friends encouraged me to go back to reclaim the devious, dark part of me. I invited her in: Pull up a chair at the table, hon. We’re having soup tonight.
    So our families were train wrecks; we’ve ruined the earth; kids die all the time. How do we understand something welcoming remains, sometimes hidden, that we can still trust? When all seems lost, a few friends, the view, and random last-ditch moments of grace, like Liquid Wrench, will do. Otherwise, I don’t know. We don’t exactly solve this problem, or much of anything, although one can learn to make the perfect old-fashioned, or blinis.
    I’ve discovered that offering welcome helps a lot, especially to the deeply unpleasant or weird. The offer heals you both. What works best is to target people in the community whom no one else seems to want. Voila: now welcome exists in you.”

     And David Whyte, in his POWERFUL book, “The Heart Aroused. Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America.” Crown Business, 2002. writes:
    The only real question is not one of winning or losing, but of experiencing life with an ever-increasing depth. … ‘Why not go down … into the lake, consciously”’ Don’t die on the shore. The stakes are very high; the stakes are your life.”

    A good book should be an axe for the frozen sea within us.” Franz Kafka 

    We naturally try everything possible to achieve a state of perfect, unwavering blissful happiness - AND to FAIL - because Nature, life's external circumstances, are simply not tailor-made to comply with each one of earth's 8 billion individual human desires! Our quest is doomed from the start when we incorrectly assume that we are not good enough, not worthy, too broken, etc AND can only be OK AFTER we have fully controlled the external environment, which is not possible.
    SO
, our
task is to re-discover our true identity, as Zen puts it, to find "our original face, before we were born." Who we truly are is compared to: the deep, still ocean, whereas who we usually assume we are are the choppy waves on the surface; the movie or TV screen, whereas who we usually assume we are are the movies seen on the screen; the blue sky, whereas who we usually assume we are are the dark clouds.
    Some
of these metaphors are skillfully explained & expanded upon by Rupert Spira in this excellent interview https://resources.soundstrue.com/podcast/rupert-spira-the-quiet-joy-of-being/?utm_source=Z-Customer%20Service&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=N240512-Spira%20%2801HXCFSXPN2PA95KBJN8QTKYYX%29&utm_klaviyo_id=JsSQsZ&tw_source=Klaviyo&_kx=oubFt43NAjNBb0_NppHaGCF951bovtuCAx1o4i41Tys.JMDgaq Should you prefer to read the transcript : https://resources.soundstrue.com/transcript/the-quiet-joy-of-being/ 

 

David Whyte : davidwhyte.com