Friday, November 6, 2020

The Mature Human Being

     “Do not confuse motion and progress.
     A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress."         Alfred A. Montapert

"Now we will count to twelve

and we will all keep still,

for once on the face of the earth,

let's not speak in any language;

let's stop for a second,

and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment

without rush, without engines;

we would all be together

in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea

would not harm whales

and the man gathering salt

would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,

wars with gas, wars with fire,

victories with no survivors,

would put on clean clothes

and walk about with their brothers

in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused

with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about...

If we were not so single-minded

about keeping our lives moving,

and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with death.

Now I'll count up to twelve

and you keep quiet and I will go."


Pablo Neruda


      "Non-doing" is not doing nothing, rather it is the sense of effortlessness, arising from the felt sense of rightness, balance, authenticity. Non-doing is wise, nurturing behavior which minimizes suffering & maximizes long-term flourishing, peace & joy for ourselves & others. Our 'wise elder' part becomes stable, and holds our own & others' 'inner child' in safety & unconditional love. Inner & outer conflict, friction & noise are minimized; silence, stillness & peace maximized.
     This is not science fiction, this is just us being mature, civilized human beings.



Saturday, October 31, 2020

On Our Way Home

      “There is a light in the core of our being that calls us home ..."
       John J. Prendergast. “The Deep Heart – Our Portal to Presence.” Sounds True, 2019

     “The center is the focal point that stands for whatever is of enduring importance – the core, the meaning, or the hub around which life evolves. For archaic humanity, the creative mound represented the feminine principle, the womb of life and the center of the world. Later, as the masculine principle emerged, the mound was surrounded either by upright stones or an enduring central pillar, symbolically connecting earth and sky as the world’s axis, ensuring the continuity of life.
     A human personality, initially an ego, that cannot journey toward the center of its own being, the Self, is left unconnected, at the mercy of unconscious compulsions and motivations as well as social conventions. Paradoxically, however, these same drives may create the suffering that reflects our inner healer’s efforts to get us into sufficient conflict to begin the voyage home.
     An ancient legend speaks of the old Hebrew shepherd who, in speaking of his small village on the edge of the desert, remarked, ‘I am happy living here.’ Then he added, ‘But if I saw Jerusalem, I would not be happy anymore.’ His simple words are filled with a natural wisdom.
     Jerusalem, Delphi, Mecca (the eternal cities), Mount Fuji (the central mountain), the Holy Land, and other numinous places have been considered symbolic centers of the sacred world. Ironically, many people among us live – metaphorically – in small villages far from their center, on the outer fringe of their personality, and seem quite happy there. Others of us seem chosen by life to be thrust into an inner journey. We become seekers. Initially, we seek peace and happiness. But once we see Jerusalem, once we see through ourselves to the center, we cannot be happy again where we were. We see beyond the external, material destination we are likely to have been seeking and become aware that the pilgrimage is eternal – and inner. We may even feel alone in this crowded world, with only our inner Hidden One for a companion. However, if we can learn to continue, turning our (often reluctant and too rational and willful) focus inward to cooperate with this inner healer, then we begin our pilgrimage to completeness, to
wholeness, toward feeling at home in ourselves and in the world.”
     Bud Harris. “The Journey into Wholeness: A Jungian Guide to Discovering the Meaning of Your Life’s Path.” Daphne, 2020. 

      Mindfulness practice is "cultivating a certain kind of intimacy with the core of our being."
Jon Kabat-Zinn PhD

The Way It Is              by William Stafford

“There's a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn't change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can't get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time's unfolding.
You don't ever let go of the thread.” 


Thursday, October 22, 2020

Feel the Radiance

     Check in with yourself first thing in the morning - HOW DO I FEEL? Is it:
'Shit, I'm tired. I don't know if I can handle all this #@><* today.'
'Yes! A brand new day awaits me! I wonder what new adventures I'm going to experience?'
      Your felt sense is probably somewhere along the continuum between:
• closed, up-tight, afraid/anxious/angry/pessimistic, and
• open, relaxed, kind/warm/realistic/gentle.
     NOTICE how the mood you choose to stay with, powerfully impacts the quality of your day, and ultimately, the emotional tone of your life.

     "My research has convinced me that we all have extraordinary creative, humanitarian, and spiritual possibilities but are often alienated from them because we are so focused on a very narrow slice of who we are. As a result, we aren’t fulfilling our full potential. We spend so much time looking outward for validation that we don’t develop the incredible strengths that already lie within ..."
      Scott Barry Kaufman. “Transcend. The New Science of Self-Actualization.” A TarcherPerigee Book, 2020.

“One way or another, we all have to find
what best fosters the flowering of our
in this contemporary life, and
dedicate ourselves to that.” Joseph Campbell

      According to Abraham Maslow, most of us are partially alienated from our full potential, even after our basic needs for physical health, safety, belonging, & esteem have more or less been met.

     One of the author’s clients “was able to identify a core belief that had plagued him his whole life. Despite being raised by loving parents, he did not think or feel that he was lovable enough, and he felt compelled to compensate for this apparent lack. As a result, he could never rest as he was. He was always trying to be a different and better self. This is the self-improvement project that few of us are immune to.
     Almost everyone struggles or has struggled with an underlying sense of lack, of not being enough in some way. This belief can take various forms. Instead of thinking that we aren’t lovable enough, we may feel that we are not worthy enough. Have you ever secretly believed this? If we are honest with ourselves, we almost always feel like we aren’t ____ enough. You can fill in the blank.”
      John J. Prendergast. “The Deep Heart – Our Portal to Presence.” Sounds True, 2019

     It's easiest to see the paradox when others appear blind to how much they have: a billionaire acting as if penniless; a thin person being convinced they're fat; a strikingly attractive person being sure they're ugly. Their perspective, their capacity to see reality, is distorted or even blocked, by past ± ongoing traumatic conditioning.

     Much of our attention is absorbed by the repetitive, self-centered STORIES we keep telling ourselves - "the story of me." We habitually dissociate ( into "self-talk," and too often neglect to directly engage with what's actually taking place in real time. We're so worried about ourselves (based on past traumas & other aversive conditioning), that we find it difficult relating & responding wisely to reality.

     At the same time, the advertising industry so expertly conditions us to believe that buying & owning more & more of the latest stuff is the only path to happiness, that we distrust & ignore all other options. A lot of us become perfectionists & workaholics, since working harder & better + achieving more & more + buying bigger & better is the only current socially-sanctioned path to happiness. But noticing that we're no happier, we double-down to work even harder & better + achieve even more + buy even bigger & better.

      “In an age of great material excess, we suffer dislocations from the energies of our deepest being and, in return, suffer emptiness, anomie, aimlessness ... (And) our culture’s treatment plans ... are materialism, hedonism, narcissism and nationalism, as well as a coursing nostalgia for a world that never really existed.”
     James Hollis. “Living Between Worlds. Finding Personal Resilience in Changing Times.” Sounds True, 2020

     Surprisingly slowly, we start realizing that no matter how many widgets we crank out per hour, no matter how "perfect" each widget, no matter the recognition at work, no matter how huge our house, no matter how fancy our cars, and no matter how extravagant our vacations, we STILL feel that gnawing "lack"

     Some sadly will nevertheless ride this train to the bitter end: cynicism, bitterness, burn-out, heart attack, stroke, death. 

     Some, however, try to understand & investigate - "lean into" this unpleasant persistent lack and realize that all of us have qualitatively higher needs than more money, recognition, & material possessions.

“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and
the joy will burn out the pain.” Joseph Campbell 

      What if we directed attention towards the subtle feel of our own life energy? What if our deepest desire was authenticity to who/what we (all) basically are?

     “There is a light in the core of our being that calls us home – one that can only be seen with closed eyes. We can feel it as a radiance in the center of our chest. This light of loving awareness is always here, regardless of our conditioning. It does not matter how many dark paths we have traveled or how many wounds we have inflicted or sustained as we have unknowingly stumbled toward this inner radiance. It does not matter how long we have sleepwalked, seduced by our desires and fears. This call persists until it is answered, until we surrender to who we really are. When we do, we feel ourselves at home wherever we are. A hidden beauty reveals itself in our ordinary life. As the true nature of our Deep Heart is unveiled, we feel increasingly grateful for no reason – grateful to simply be.”
       John J. Prendergast. “The Deep Heart – Our Portal to Presence.” Sounds True, 2019

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

From Alienation to True Intimacy

     "Americans suffer inordinately with what therapists call problems of the self - an inability to self soothe; an inability to sustain a satisfying and cohesive sense of self over time; an inability to warmly love the self; an inability to maintain an ongoing sense of belonging and a deep sense of meaning and purpose in life. … we live cut off from a sense of our true deep mutual belonging and interdependence, and we suffer from a painful sense of separation – a separation from the life of the body; a separation from the hidden depths of life, its mystery and interiority; a separation from the source of our own guidance, wisdom, and compassion; and a separation from the life-giving roots of human community.”
       Stephen Cope. “The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker’s Guide to Extraordinary Living.” Bantam Books, 2006.


      “If you pin your hopes on things outside your control, taking upon yourself things which rightfully belong to others, you are liable to stumble, fall, suffer, and blame both gods and men.
      But if you focus your attention only on what is truly your own concern, and leave to others what concerns them, then you will be in charge of your interior life. No one will be able to harm or hinder you. You will blame no one, and have no enemies.”
       Epictetus (55 – 135 AD), Greek Stoic Philosopher


     "... the philosopher and psychologist Eugene Gendlin, creator of a therapeutic approach called ‘Focusing,’ beautifully clarifies the nature and character of what is known through interoception, the viewing and experiencing of the body from the inside. Gendlin developed the widely influential notion of ‘felt sense,’ referring to what the body knows directly of itself, without the mediation of the thinking mind. For Gendlin, the felt sense, the ability to know one’s own interior, somatic experience, is the open sesame of successful psychotherapies.
     Through (body-centered meditation practices), we learn how to extend our awareness into our body and we begin to sense what is there ... we are softening the boundary between our highly intentional, restricted, conscious ego mind and the limitless, unconscious domain of the body. When we do this, our conscious mind begins to tap into and connect with the somatic awareness that is already going on - mostly unbeknownst to us - in our body. In this larger field of consciousness, we are still conscious but in a very different way.
     It is as if we are waking up, within our Soma, and we suddenly find ourselves in a new world. We are uncovering a completely different experience of what our body is. We begin to see that what we formerly took to be our body was just a made-up version with little correspondence to anything real. We find in our body previously unimaginable vistas of spaciousness, experience arising that is ever surprising and fresh, an endless world of possibilities for ourselves and our lives.”
      Reginald A. Ray. "The Awakening Body. Somatic Meditation for Discovering Our Deepest Life." Shambhala, 2016.


       “When we sit in meditation, we can discover a way of being that is very different from our typical interactions with the world. For the period of time that we sit, we agree within ourselves to quiet the familiar internal chatter that goes on most of the time. We sit so that we can discover in ourselves this capability for stillness, for intimacy with our self. We can uncover the heart.
     This process of stilling the mind and opening the heart brings a great feeling of ease that courses through the body, releasing the sensation of holding back, of fragility or tightness, and freeing us to work with the challenges of life. I call that true intimacy. When we can actually feel what we are feeling, experience what we are experiencing, and recognize what we are thinking, then we become intimate with ourselves. This intimacy is a closeness, a quality of interiority, a nearness. To be intimate with yourself is to be so attuned to your own feeling-state and mind-state and perception-state that nothing is hidden, your whole being is available to your life. In this intimacy with self, we begin to recognize the habits of thinking that stop us from living confidently, generously, and vigorously. And we begin to trust ourselves.”
      Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara. “Most Intimate. A Zen Approach to Life’s Challenges.” Shambhala, 2014. 


     "In human relationships, as mutual love deepens, there comes a time when the two friends convey their exchanges without words. They can sit in silence sharing an experience or simply enjoying each other's presence without saying anything. Holding hands or a single word from time to time can develop this communication. This kind of relationship points to the level of interior silence ..." Thomas Keating 


"The flute of interior time is played whether we hear it or not,
What we mean by 'love' is its sound coming in.
When love hits the farthest edge of excess, it reaches a wisdom.
And the fragrance of that knowledge!
It penetrates our thick bodies,
It goes through walls —
Its network of notes has a structure as if a million suns were arranged inside.
This tune has truth in it.
Where else have you heard a sound like this?" Kabir


“May I meet this moment fully;
May I meet it as a friend.” Sylvia Boorstein


Susan Paterson "Strawberries and Cream"

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Persevere! We have what it takes!

“Beyond a ‘nice to have’ wellbeing benefit in the workplace or an alternative to prescription drugs, … cultivating the innate capacity of mindfulness and its essential qualities such as attention regulation, receptivity, meta-cognition, cognitive flexibility, embodiment, emotion regulation and kindness could be foundational in responding to the complex challenges of the 21st Century.” Jamie Bristow & Rosie Bell

"Your vision will become clear
when you look into your own heart.
Who looks outside dreams.
Who looks within awakens." C.G. Jung

“The truth will set you free,
but first it will piss you off.” Gloria Steinem 

“Every transformation demands as its precondition
‘the ending of a world’ – the collapse of an old philosophy of life.” C.G. Jung

“Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” Mary Anne Radmacher

There is power in love. There's power in love to help and heal when nothing else can. There's power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will. There's power in love to show us the way to live.” Bishop Michael Curry, Prince Harry & Meghan Markle’s wedding address

“We are equipped for the journey. We possess the resilience of our ancestors who clung to this spinning orb, tumbling through measureless space, and we survive … rich for all that has accumulated on our journey.” James Hollis. “Living Between Worlds. Finding Personal Resilience in Changing Times.” Sounds True, 2020.

Charlotte Day Wilson


Thursday, September 24, 2020

Meditation - Why Specifically?

      In the previous post, I used phrases like "true nature," "lack," and "profoundly satisfying quality of life." We could have a long, interesting conversation about any one of these. Some friends tell me that they find such concepts baffling, and feel uncomfortable talking about them. Other friends tell me that they value my blogs because I'm the only one they know who discusses such depths of human experience.

     It's becoming increasingly 'normal' to be so swept-up in our contemporary culture of consumerism & materialism that little or no time & energy remains to seriously investigate the deeper, more meaningful aspects of life. This is despite the fact that for over 20 years we've known that after we have sufficient food, shelter, & clothing, additional material gains have minimal impact on well-being. Those who nevertheless continue to focus on accumulating wealth & material possessions, are "at greater risk of unhappiness, including anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, & problems with intimacy—regardless of age, income, or culture." Tim Kasser PhD "The High Price of Materialism." Bradford Books, 2003. 

     And many of us are not even that interested in accumulating more stuff. But decades of conditioning to prioritize only "things" we can touch, manipulate, control - leaves us with the impoverished notion that "the physical" is exclusively what life is about. All else has long been ridiculed & dismissed as "soft," "unscientific," old-fashioned, superstitious nonsense.

     So if you feel that your life seriously lacks some essential ingredient - as many of us do - the answer is not likely to come from working even harder & longer, more social media, more & finer food/drink, bigger/finer home, more expensive toys, more trips of a lifetime, or exploring exotic, dangerous 'experiences'! 

     Since we've run ourselves ragged doing more & more of what doesn't work (the definition of madness), and have possibly irreversibly ruined the earth in the process, isn't it time to seriously try a different approach?

     “Our civilized existence is a contracted kind of consciousness.” Ralph Metzner PhD

     “Part of becoming more conscious is that we start to understand the human condition more and have more compassion about it. We start coming from our heart instead of from our head.” Adyashanti

     “In the ‘ecozoic era’ into which we are moving, our worldview will shift from seeing the world only as a ‘collection of objects’ to seeing it also as a ‘communion of subjects.’ Thomas Berry PhD

     "A self-transcendent orientation unlocks worlds of possibilities." Adyashanti

     Perhaps a healthier, more sustainable way of life is exemplified by (healthy, mature) grandparents and how they nurture their beloved grandchildren, in a holding environment of safety & unconditional love. This is a model we can all relate to, at least theoretically, even if our own childhood was far from ideal. We can also envision how the (healthy, mature) owner of a puppy or other pet, or how a gardener, provide all that the pet or plants require to flourish, without the recipients ever having to earn continued loving attentiveness. Perhaps the simplest, most readily apparent model of nurturing is how our left & right hands help the other - as if they were one and two. An attitude of loving-kindness, and the nurturing behavior that tends to flow from it, is what we as individuals and as a global community desperately need right now.

"Everything you do right now ripples outward and affects everyone.
Your posture can shine your heart or transmit anxiety.
Your breath can radiate love or muddy the room in depression.
Your glance can awaken joy.
Your words can inspire freedom.
Your every act can open hearts and minds." David Deida

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Meditation - Why?

     "These days there are increasing numbers of meditation apps available for busy people who are dealing with a wide range of problems from anxiety to poor sleep. These mindfulness-based, problem-focused meditations are helpful on a practical level, but they aren’t the kind of meditation that I will be describing. If you are interested in discovering your true nature, a different approach to meditation is needed."
     John J. Prendergast. “The Deep Heart – Our Portal to Presence.” Sounds True, 2019

     Those who register for an 8-week Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction course are generally there to improve some aspect of their life and realize that "meditation" is part of the deal. Much more variable however, is how they imagine, or have up till now experienced, meditation, and what specifically they hope to accomplish through meditation practice.

     Certainly relief from stress, anxiety, depression, anger, reactivity etc is an important initial step for many of us. But here's a surprise: there's no off-switch for these tendencies. As we heal & mature, their impact on our life becomes progressively less problematic, but doesn't completely disappear.

     So we start this journey with the wish to perhaps eliminate one specific problem eg stress, and for many, some stress reduction makes life "livable" again, and that's good enough, at least for a while. However, a gnawing sense of "lack" remains, only its intensity fluctuates. 

    Some of us are called to search deeper for a profoundly satisfying quality of life, an "intimacy with all things." We sense that through our meditation journey "a more intimate, honest, loving, and open-minded participation in the human experience can flower.” Adyashanti