Friday, June 2, 2023

Reminders to Keep Evolving

    A couple of reminders:
    I write these blogs partially as reminders for myself - I aspire towards these things I write about. Like you, I'm in the process of "awakening". The quotes I select seem to me to be wise "fingers pointing toward the moon" - they point towards the Mystery from which, in my (& many others') humble opinion, we arise and to which we return.
    And it's normal for us to initially resist evolution / transformative growth:
    All truth goes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Then it is violently opposed. Finally it is accepted as self-evident.” Arthur Schopenhauer, 19th-century German philosopher
    Anyone with the slightest connection to the power of love (Mystery, Divine, Tao, Source, God, etc) understands that all motivation is based on at least loving & nurturing oneself, one's family & tribe towards long-term happiness. Gradually, this primitive instinctual self-serving love, naturally evolves (from egocentric to allocentric & ecocentric) to include progressively wider circles of compassion eventually including all of life, all of matter.
    Not knowing we are loved & lovable makes the heart grow cold. And all the tragedy of human life follows from there." John Welwood. "Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships. Healing the Wound of the Heart." Trumpeter, 2006. 

    It's very difficult to understand behavior where love seems to be completely missing. Examples: 
    those who continue starting wildfires in our forests & cities while many others lose everything, despite the valiant tireless efforts of firefighters who risk their health & lives,
    •  bullying in schools & workplace
    • "presidents-for-life," populist politicians & other large scale bullies who incite their followers to work against humanity's common good & start wars for personal gain.
    Anger & disgust at such behavior is entirely reasonable & even potentially helpful, BUT it can easily degenerate into dehumanizing individual perpetrators. Though it's not easy to remember, they are human beings, and we need to remember to become curious about the many hidden causes & conditions behind their harmful behavior instead of harshly writing them off as "inhuman." Imagine if one of these "horrible perps" was your only child - wouldn't you want them to get the best, most compassionate mental-health care (rather than the harshest punishment)?
    IF we survive our current reckless disregard for the common good, those reading history books 50 years from now will find it very hard to believe the ridiculous things we said, did & most of all failed to do over the past decade or so. 
    My hope is that there will be enough wise, energetic young leaders - like New Zealand's recent Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern - to inspire & energize our comatose "silent majority" into life-affirming action

    Such, it seems to me, are the mysterious interior conduits of grace in which transmissions of holiness & destiny flow from one awakening heart to another.” James Finley. “The Healing Path. A Memoir and an Invitation.” Orbis, 2023.

    “The easy path of aging is to become a thick-skinned, unbudging curmudgeon, a battle-axe. To grow soft and sweet is the harder way.” James Hillman
     As the quote above suggests, after experiencing hardships, it's natural & easy to shut down, get armored up, yet remain hypersensitive & become easily triggered by reminders of trauma we've suffered.
    But I'm inspired by those who've endured, learned from, healed and have grown wiser as a result of very challenging lives. Two EXCELLENT examples of such exemplars:    
      Isira. "Buddha on the Dance Floor." ‎ Living Awareness, 2014.
      James Finley. “The Healing Path. A Memoir and an Invitation.” Orbis, 2023. 
    And a classic book on the general topic of "post-traumatic growth" - though this term had not yet been used at the time: 
     Elizabeth Lesser. “Broken Open. How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow.” Villard, 2005.

    The body is only an effect, of which Love is the cause. As I realised this I could release myself from the need to validate my being through any body or personality identity. Who or what I had been or am in body is truly an insignificant mirage next to the knowing of myself as Love. Knowing this, and what that love was to do, was the only thing that mattered.
    And that pointed me to one place alone. The past, memories of identity, or the searching of future attainments, are all the ego’s clinging to that which is not real. The place of love was and remains the being I AM, eternally NOW.”
Isira “Buddha on the Dance Floor.” Living Awareness, 2015.


    ... my discovery was that life is the guru. Life is constantly calling you, like the beloved, into its arms, inviting you, not just to have a blissful experience, but through the darkness, through the difficulties, through the challenges, through the darkest places (it doesn’t have to be terrible on the external), but through the places that we hide from ourselves within ourselves, to surrender to that because everything is lovein the darkest places is light. And somehow that was the wisdom I gained from my own direct experience. ... And that’s what changed everything – it was unexpected.” Amoda Maa Talks About Her Life Before Awakening :


     We are human beings, endowed with an incredible dignity; but there’s nothing more undignified than forgetting our greatness & clutching at straws.” Peter Kingsley



Wednesday, May 24, 2023

The Most Important Thing

    “The most important thing is to remember the most important thing.” Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi

    In his fine recent blog, Ron Epstein wrote that for his mother, who had dementia & stage IV lung cancer, "Remembering the most important thing and forgetting the rest helped her to live with calmness, agency, gratitude, & dignity."
wonderful human capacity to thrive, even in situations that we usually fear & try desperately to avoid, is also found among : serious meditators & contemplatives, those who've had post-traumatic growth, near-death experiences,
taken entheogens in carefully-controlled settings, etc.

    Fear and our survival instinct's (understandable) obsession with keeping us alive, despite the inevitability of death, keeps most of us at least a little disturbed for much of our life. The above groups, probably accounting for more than half of us, experience a radical shift in focus of attention from fearful, closed-down self-centeredness, to a profound heart-opening & loving connection with others.

    “We suffer to the exact degree that we resist having our eyes & hearts opened.” Adyashanti

“All the joy the world contains
Has come through wishing happiness for others;
All the misery the world contains
Has come through wanting pleasure for oneself.” 


     As we age, we can't help but notice how even our most basic physical, and some of our intellectual skills, are progressively diminishing. Then as we look at our aging loved ones, friends and even strangers we finally know through direct experience that indeed "everyone is carrying a heavy load." And so, our competitiveness & judgmental tendencies gradually evaporate, and we begin to wish the best for all the rest of humanity limping home.

    "meditate one-pointedly on patience & love until they take root in your being. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

    “… the larger ties that bind us – ties of love, connection, purpose – have ripple effects on our health and the world at large.”
    Kelli Harding. “The Rabbit Effect. Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier with the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness.” Atria Books, 2019.

Light Voyagers, oil on canvas, © Copyright, Mark Henson

Monday, May 15, 2023

Insulted? Reply with, "Namaste"

    I've recently witnessed first-hand Covid's corrosive effects on peoples' mental health. It's frighteningly easy, even for people we had previously considered to be reasonable, intelligent, educated friends, to suddenly vent an alarming amount & degree of nastiness that we never saw coming. Though this could be partially due to alcohol- & age-related executive-function decline, isolation under more-or-less house-arrest conditions for several years, clearly has driven some of us "shack-wacky!"
ego's natural reaction to such violent behavior is to counter-attack, which would just start one more useless, unwinnable, ever-escalating 'pissing contest.' At some point individuals, and finally all human beings MUST realize the utter insanity of ego vs ego battles - no matter how skilled we are at fabricating gradiose rationale for our unacceptable behavior.
    "Is there any rule that one should follow all of one's life? Yes! The rule of the gentle goodness: That which we do not wish to be done to us, we do not do to others."
T'ai-Shang Kan-Ying P'ien (Taoism) Wisdom traditions throughout the ages have advised similar basic rules of conduct.

    Love is the recognition of shared being.” Rupert Spira

     “Maybe, when talking about love, we could say, ‘Let our blind spots fall in love. Let the stranger in me fall in love with the stranger in you. Let the I that I’m becoming fall in love with the you I haven’t yet discovered and can’t even imagine.’ That would be a more realistic way of relating to one another. And, ironically, also more loving.” Vanessa Zuisei Goddard

    "… the essentials are inner virtues or capacities that are activated – switched on and embodied. These inner powers open consciousness and thus enable us to contact and understand the world. The world opens & is revealed to us to the extent that we can open & receive it. This is a kind of physics of the unfolding mind."
    Tobin Hart “The Four Virtues. Presence, Heart, Wisdom, Creation.” Atria, 2014.

    ALL of us operate at (at least) 2 very different levels of consciousness or 'kinds of psychological history':
    "One is the history of pain, discouragement, missed opportunities, unfulfilled hopes, & unrealized possibilities in relationships. Such a history of neurosis has a compelling quality that can freeze the therapeutic (& all other) relationships into an endless dissection, searching for the origin of inhibited development. The implicit question becomes, ‘Where did things go wrong?’ Such a story is frequently filled with fear, guilt, blame, & aggression; it resembles the history of nations at war, where one war inexorably triggers another in the ageless recycling of insult & territorial revenge. The story line threads together a variety of memories with an explanation of why one event follows another and how one got to be the way one is.
    On the other hand, embedded within the history of neurosis is another kind of history – the history of SANITY. The history of sanity is episodic and often appears fleeting & subtle. This history of wakefulness, dignity, & patience is often lost by people in despair. To perceive the history of sanity, we need curiosity and effort to look beyond immediate appearances.
    Edward Podvoll MD, in John Welwood ed. “Awakening the Heart. East / West Approaches to Psychotherapy and the Healing Relationship.” Shambhala, 1983.
    When we are able to relate directly to 'the other's' wakefulness (Divine or True nature), and can become curious about their history of sanity, a different kind of relationship can develop: one of mutual appreciation & trust, instead of one based on bad behavior or neuroses.

    So if some of our (former?) friends startled us by dumping a bucket of fiery venom on our head, as hard as it is, we should, at least for our own peace of mind, realize that they've probably been traumatized by Covid (& perhaps several other factors) much more than we ourselves have, forgive them, say Namaste - and really mean it

    SEE my previous blogs about Namaste : 



Thursday, May 11, 2023


    "In this world we’re waking up in, we can’t just close our eyes and follow our breath — we have to find a way to contribute what we love to this world. I love to practice because I feel like that aligns me with what I could call my North Star: what will I contribute? What do I love? We’re usually good at what we love, you know.
, where is my heart needed most? That’s the question that comes to me. In some ways, the Dharma saved my life. But service gave me a life worth livingAnd that’s what made it beautiful." Vinny Ferraro


     Our very nature is the activity or energy of loving / nurturing. The more we can embody our true nature the better it is for ourselves, everyone & everything.
written about the pivotal importance of loving & nurturing - it's well-worth re-visiting these blogs imho :


     HOWEVER some, even in the relatively stable & affluent West, will find all of the above irritatingly idealistic & impractical. Why? Because for them, the only practical activity is facing existing difficulties, and everything that might go terribly wrong. For them, this 'glass half-empty' perspective is not a matter of choice, but rather a necessity based on harsh past experience. Personal & inter-generational traumas affect ALL of us, but in highly varying degrees. Refugees from war-ravaged countries; those who've lived for decades in refugee camps; abused women & children; visible minorities; those who've experienced chronic poverty, disability, lack of formal education, lack of relevant work experience, & inadequate English / French language skills; etc, can add up to almost insurmountable challenges that most of us can't even imagine. This large group of people has experienced, & thus now sees the world, VERY DIFFERENTLY!
    And even if we're fortunate enough to have had minimal direct experience of acute or ongoing forms of trauma such as poverty & racism, the news media, all forms of advertising & populist politicians spend billions each year, to keep us insecure, anxiously 'consuming' their (useless to harmful) products.
    One of the world's foremost
PTSD experts: “If you feel safe & loved, your brain (is) specialized in exploration, play, & cooperation; if you are frightened & unwanted, it (is) specialized in managing feelings of fear & abandonment." Bessel Van Der Kolk. “The Body Keeps the Score. Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.” Penguin Books, 2015.


    We clearly can't move forward intelligently while gripped with fear & reactivity. Despite our current very serious challenges, we must learn to stabilize in some degree of spaciousness in order to manifest our true nature - our capacity to nurture ourselves, each other and our planet and extricate ourselves from the mess we've created. More & more mature, wise voices are pointing the way to do exactly this:


    Stephanie Kaza ed. "A Wild Love for the World: Joanna Macy and the Work of Our Time." Shambhala, 2020.

Joanna Macy interview by Krista Tippett:


 "All You Need Is Love" - Beatles

Monday, May 8, 2023

The Basic Basics

     It's eye-opening to periodically travel to another country. Just taking off in a plane, I feel as if I'm leaving all my usual concerns & responsibilities behind, and a whole new world of possibilities seems to open up. We see more clearly who / what WE are - or want to be!

    Individually, most of us, especially in our “WIERD” (Western Industrialized Educated Rich & Democratic) culture, have a gnawing, usually unexamined sense of "lack," "not enough."
get a group of insecure individuals together, it's very easy to rouse an energized mob mentality. Populist politicians expertly manipulate mobs to do anything at all. Throughout history, we've done, & continue doing, every type of collective bullying - "rape, pillage & plunder" - at least partially to avoid our personal nagging inferiority complex. We've called group bullying different names in different times: feudalism / monarchy / dictatorship, patriarchy / sexism / misogyny, religious conflicts, colonialism, slavery, multinational corporations, racism, etc. The ultimate result is always destruction of intelligent, nurturing collaboration and along with it, indigenous peoples & cultures.

    Bullies with the most powerful military, defeat & impose their own political, financial & religious ideas on the vanquished. In their enthusiasm to plunder, invaders are ignorant & intolerant of the human beings, ways of life, values & cultures they destroy. The "winners" go on to write creative history & celebrate their victory over "savages, heathens, etc." "Might makes right!"

    All colonial powers profited immensely from plundering former colonies. Other nations also profited from centuries of free slave labor. "The typical wealth of the 600-700 aristocratic families in Britain is estimated at about £16-20 million ... you likely can double it to account for estate planning." 
    Especially those who've profited most from centuries of bullying, would do well to humbly face the often lurid details of how their personal fortunes were made, and tone down the self-satisfied celebratory hubris. Those of us who've earned our own way in life from nothing might find it easier to empathize with the less fortunate, and be more generous & nurturing.

    Embodying our true nature, imho, is our ONLY security - to nurture all, and in the process, heal ourselves & our planet.

Even as a parent protects with their life  
their child, their only child,  
so, with a boundless heart  
should one cherish all living beings!

Radiating kindness over the entire world ...
freed from hatred and ill-will.
This is what should be done  
by those who are skilled in goodness.

The Metta Sutta (The Buddha's Words on Lovingkindness)

‎⁨St Mary Redcliffe Church⁩, ⁨Bristol⁩, ⁨England

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Want OR Need?

     AS we become increasingly able to sense, and thus 'step back' from impulsive behaviours - when this stepping back is our spiritual practice - we'll begin to see when what we're about to do, has little or no bearing on what actually needs to be done for our own & often others' immediate & long-term benefit. Impulsive wants include: checking our digital devices MANY times a day - including the most inappropriate occasions; 'anxiety eating' - I know this one well; rearranging furniture in one's room, immediately before exams - I've done this more than once!
ur conditioned, compulsive busyness is a type of bypassing - futile attempts to escape psycho-social dysfunction - and/or - avoiding the call to spiritual maturation, through activities that - under normal contexts - have survival benefits. But if we become serious about this practice, then choice gaps become increasingly regular & obvious, and increasingly we'll choose wisely, realizing & focusing on what we actually need, AND gain freedom from our past negative conditioning that drives us toward wants

hat loaded, triggering word, 'spiritual' keeps popping up! But if we're able to set aside 'exclusivist' rhetoric (
HIGHLY recommend: Rami Shapiro. “Holy Rascals. Advice for Spiritual Revolutionaries.” Sounds True, 2017), then we can handle David Rosmarin's definition: Spirituality involves any way at all, of relating to that which is perceived to be sacred, or set apart from the physical world, something metaphysical, something greater than just the mechanics.” If we're blessed with the bandwidth to handle this inclusive definition of spirituality, we might possibly remember (HIGHLY recommend: Tobin Hart. “The Secret Spiritual World of Children: The Breakthrough Discovery that Profoundly Alters our Conventional View of Children’s Mystical Experiences.” New World Library, 2003), or at least sense, how we're all "spiritual beings having a human experience."

    Spiritual aspirants can be broadly classified into four psychological types: the predominantly emotional (The Path of Love: Bhakti Yoga), the predominantly intellectual (The Path of Knowledge: Jnana Yoga), the physically active (The Path of Work: Karma Yoga), and the meditative (The Path of Meditation: Raja Yoga). There are four primary yogas designated to ‘fit’ each psychological type.
    ... these categories are not airtight compartments. Indeed, it would be psychologically disastrous for anyone to be completely emotional, completely intellectual, completely active or completely meditative. Each yoga blends into the next; each yoga balances & strengthens the others.”
The Four Yogas

    Too often, our understandings have been limited by culture, religious debate, & the human tendency to put ourselves at the center.” Richard Rohr


     So our 'human limitations' may have us shut down & run for the hills simply from reading the word 'spiritual,' 'psychological,' or 'yoga,' - or even 'Richard Rohr,' because "he's a Catholic!" - OR - because "he's no Christian! - sounds just like one of them Buddhists!!"
those who earnestly travel a spiritual path might be totally confused by an equally earnest traveler with a very different 'psychological type' eg between a strongly intellectual type and a strongly emotional type. These two may well speak equally passionately, YET very differently of their experience, and perhaps also behave somewhat differently. So there is tremendous need for humility & an open mind-heart - both of which appear to be held up in container ships just offshore.

    "wisdom doesn’t come from building clever structures or thinking things up. It comes from being ground down, because the only way to get to the truth is to let yourself be cracked open so that the truth can get to you.”
Peter Kingsley “A Book of Life.” Catafalque Press, 2021.


    “All that is necessary to awaken to yourself as the radiant emptiness of spirit is to stop seeking something more or better or different, and to turn your attention inward to the awake silence that you are.” Adyashanti 

    “Bringing order to clutter, I begin to see, is ... about balancing the twin poles of spiritual life: cherishing life & holding it sacred, while knowing that it will pass away. It’s about learning to care for the things & people that are precious to me — and, when it’s time, freely letting them go.”    Anne Cushman

“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 Theresa

Saturday, April 22, 2023

No Worries Old Friends!

    Serious, skillful, regular meditation practice gradually & progressively ensures awakening - an endless process which is usually very different from what we had initially hoped for, yet is what we needed. "But meditation is not for everybody."
    Many older folks are rigidly stuck in a closed loop of negative thought patterns. Most of them have no interest in meditation or any other deeply meaningful spiritual practice, but might be open to one or two sessions of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy.

    "I think the Greeks had a more subtle understanding of drugs: we tend to either celebrate them or condemn them. They called them ‘pharmakon,’ and a ‘pharmakon’ could be either a blessing or a curse, a poison or a medicine. Whether it’s one or the other doesn’t depend on the drug so much as the context in which it’s used and the reasons for which it’s used. The drugs aren’t inherently good or evil; it’s very contextual. And that’s a subtle idea. It's about set & setting. Set & setting definitely affects all drugs.

    Psychedelics offer people benefits, particularly as we age. We become more deeply mired in the grooves of habit, the older we get. We have developed a set of very sophisticated algorithms to get us through the day, get us through arguments with our partners, get us through how we do our work — it all becomes kind of habitual, and very efficient for that reason But there’s a trade-off — habit dulls us to reality. Habit helps you get stuff done, but habit cuts you off from experience, fresh experience, from seeing things with fresh eyes. ... maybe psychedelics are wasted on the young. I know lots of young people who’ve had very powerful and valuable experiences. But I think they have a unique benefit to people as we get older and as we’re thinking about death, as we’re thinking about these spiritual questions, but also as we’re set in our ways and as a result, losing contact with experience. On psychedelics, there’s a kind of cleaning the doors of perception that’s going on.
    There’s a wonderful metaphor that a Dutch neuroscientist working in London gave me. He said, ‘Think of the mind as a snow-covered hill and your thoughts as sleds going down that hill. Over time, the more runs of the sled, the deeper the grooves, and it becomes very hard to go down the hill without getting drawn into the grooves. They become attractors. Think of psychedelic experience as a fresh snowfall that fills all the grooves and allows you once again to go down the hill, along another route, any route you want.’ I thought that was a beautiful metaphor."
Michael Pollan and Katherine May - The Future of Hope 4 - On Being with Krista Tippett :  EXCELLENT Interview

    “It’s important to note that the kinds of problems psychedelics seem to be effective with, have a lot in common. They’re all at the end of the spectrum where people’s thinking becomes too rigid, too trapped in deep grooves of habit, whether mental habit or behavioral habit, people in these loops they can’t break out of.
    And what the psychedelics seem to do is give a real jolt to the system that gives people the kind of perspective on their lives that can actually break the mental habit
    And it needs to be accompanied by lots of therapeutic intervention … these are guided ... People are very carefully prepared in advance, told what to expect, how to deal with difficulties if they come up because frightening things can happen, especially if you’re facing your mortality. And then during the experience, the guides are with you the whole time. … the idea is to basically give you a sense of safety. So you can surrender to what can be a very disturbing set of mental events. And then after the session, you come back, usually the next day … and you have an integration session where you tell the therapist what you saw, what happened, what you’re puzzled by, and with the therapists, you try to come to some interpretation of what’s happened and figure out how you can take the lessons, the insights, and apply them to the conduct of your life." 
Michael Pollan & Chris Bache EXCELLENT interview :