Saturday, December 31, 2011

Towards an undivided life

     "Our colleges and universities need to encourage, foster, and assist our students, faculty, and administrators in finding their own authentic way to an undivided life where meaning and purpose are tightly interwoven with intellect and action, where compassion and care are infused with insight and knowledge. In some contexts it may make sense to distinguish between facts and values, but they should never be reified into divisions that fragment us and our world."

       Palmer PJ, Zajonc A. "The heart of higher education: A call to renewal. Transforming the academy through collegial conversation." Jossey-Bass, 2010.


     "What wisdom is acquired during the course of a life is a result of the mind's tenderness toward the heart."

James Cowan - Australian author

"The Great Bell Chant"

Thank you Nancy for bringing attention to this inspiring video:

Friday, December 30, 2011

WHO is afraid?

     "Even if (whatever we fear) is going to attack me, all that it can attack is that which is not me. All that it can harm is the body, the feelings, the perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. That is the only stuff that can get damaged, and that's not me, that's not self. That which knows of these cannot be touched."     Ajahn Chah
       Amaro Bikkhu "Small boat, great mountain." 2003
     Staying with (acceptance of) the physical sensations of fear, AND witnessing it all objectively (a process Western psychology calls cognitive defusion) is how we "process" or work our way through the fear. We grow out from the clutches of fear (anxiety, chronic pain, etc). All that we fear, worry about, or are otherwise imprisoned by, thus "loose their solidity." We are no longer one with, identified with, or fused to these phantoms of the mind. We may remember "the story", but it's no longer "my drama," for the emotional charge has dissipated. We are free. Our mind-heart is relaxed, free, open. We come home to the stillness and silence - to that which knows.


Bladder wakes me
Legs walk me to the can
Eyes connect with sparkling stars
Through the window - it's indoors now
Body parts, "me and mine"
Yet all of it is in the mind
Except some of it is in the toilet

63 today
abstract number
the stillness within
was never born
has seen countless birthdays
and inbetweendays

who says bladder woke me?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Successful aging

     “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

     "Aging is inevitable; becoming wiser with age is not. Researchers, theorists, and clinicians have noted that older adults approach their lives in one of two ways: Either they draw on their strengths and live life to the fullest, or they magnify their weaknesses and restrict their lives to succumb to life's inevitable end.
     Rigidity is a tendency to resist change, while flexibility is the ability to adapt to change. The conscious aging theory espouses late life as a period of deeper meaning and personal growth.
     As long as one remains engaged late in life, personality continues to develop. One's sense of self changes as one negotiates the conflicts proposed at each stage (of psychological development). The conflict assigned to 'old age' is that of integrity versus despair."

       Giblin JC. J Psychosoc Nurs Ment Health Serv 2011; 49(3): 23-6.

kate t. parker, National Geographic

Learning from others

     “When you see a good man, try to emulate his example, and when you see a bad man, search yourself for his faults.”


Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Single skill

     Aiming “incessantly toward the development of a single skill: ... the capacity to unbind from distress-creating habits and qualities, the ability to let it all go.”

Wallis G. “Basic teachings of the Buddha. A new translation and compilation, with a guide to reading the texts.” The Modern Library, NY, 2007.

From the heart

     "When we give our hearts to whatever we do, to whatever we experience, or to what is happening around us, without personal agendas or preferences taking over ... the space of awareness, is exactly the same."

Amaro Bikkhu "Small boat, great mountain." 2003 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Embracing the moment

     "It is said that before the Buddha awakened, he sat down and established the intention that he would not get up until he was fully realized. In that moment the power of his dedication aligned his mind, heart, and body, and there was no glancing or wandering away from the moment. I believe that resolved intention was his enlightenment. He was ‘here and now’ to stay. What we renounce in Dharma practice is a partial heart, because such an unresolved presence is an incomplete embrace of the moment.”

Smith R. "Stepping out of self-deception. The Buddha's liberating teaching of no-self." Shambhala, Boston, 2010.


             At our best, when "my story" rests, we experience our connectedness by a bond akin to that between the cells in a healthy body. There's no sense of separate individuals, time, or space - only witnessing and joy. Blessed family - all.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


              "awareness is not a thing ... it is an attribute of the fundamental nature of mind ... that awareness, that knowing nature of mind (is)  ... the one who knows."

Amaro Bikkhu "Small boat, great mountain." 2003 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The point of meditation

     “The point of meditation is to see what we are bringing to experience, and then to see that whatever we bring is extra and needs to be discarded. The relationship we bring to an experience is based upon what we want from it. The wanting is from a ‘me’ that feels undernourished and in a complaining mode. By connecting first with the complaining, then bracketing the complaint within awareness, everything coexists in perfection. Nothing needs to be added or eliminated. There is not a better moment waiting after the complaint is acted upon. When the complaint dies within awareness, the vertical is integrated within the horizontal, and all is still.”

Smith R. "Stepping out of self-deception. The Buddha's liberating teaching of no-self." Shambhala, Boston, 2010.

Perpendicular Universes - Part 2

     “Each universe has its own set of laws. The horizontal universe operates according to the principles of pleasure and pain; when we are entranced within this sphere we seek the pleasant and avoid its opposite. The vertical universe cannot seek or avoid anything since there is only what is. Within the horizontal, we like to imagine we are somewhere we are not. We go on excursions in time, and through our imagination create a better place than the here and now. Desire and fear operate by convincing us that the future is a concrete fact, and the present is malleable and can be shaped through our expectations. We then operate under the assumption that life is fulfilled in the future, and the present is either an aid or a limitation toward that goal. The present is only useful as a way toward procuring what we want, and means nothing by itself. Meanwhile, the vertical universe remains still.
     The sense of being someone is supported by the horizontal. We feel three-dimensional because memory ties the past moments together into a story. We are born in such and such place, went to such and such school, etc., and up ahead is our destiny. With the story comes meaning, value and purpose. We live life for the value we invested in, but we will despair if the ideals we create are unreachable. The vertical universe is empty of separate content and void of meaning, but this absence of purpose is not meaningless or despairing. Because it is not going anywhere, every moment is complete. It just is, without any sense of itself.
     We love to be distracted because if we are quiet within ourselves, we will have to acknowledge the vertical universe. Frolicking within the fields of time gives us the correct dosage of mental activity and holds us firmly within the horizontal reality. As a result we live much of our life within a state of restlessness and discontentment because we are continually seeking distraction from stillness. By staying ahead of stillness, we get to be a separate someone with direction and distinction, but if we stop, the vertical universe will reveal the inherent emptiness of all things.
     The horizontal dimension has a flaw; dissatisfaction and discontent are inevitable. Ignoring the vertical universe and focusing exclusively within the horizontal dimension causes suffering. When we desire and run toward something in the horizontal plane, we also fear and run away from its opposite. This tension between desire and fear defines our life and creates the resistance that forms each of us as individuals. Once ‘we’ are created, we must remain in a state of tension to subsist. It is therefore inevitable that we will suffer because the state of resistance is the birthplace of our individuation.
     The payoff of the horizontal dimension is considerable. First and foremost we get an identity we can build upon, and in addition the identity can acquire material objects, status, owner, control, and prestige. These payoffs are only satisfying as long as we imagine that we can keep acquiring without experiencing loss. To validate this dimension, we have to pretend we will not die, or lose, or forget, or age. The horizontal universe holds itself together by denying the losing half of its reality. The vertical meanwhile denies nothing and does not perceive from the perspective of individuation, vanity, or ego. It sees in totality without priority. Everything is equally important and unimportant at the same time.
     Clinging separates the universe into two distinct dimensions. Playing out our needs and wants keeps us from looking up and acknowledging the ever-present vertical plane that has no agenda. When we become weary of the greed and loss of the horizontal, we begin to search for another universe. The journey begins by owning the pain we inflict upon ourselves through the play of time. We see time past and time future as a fabrication that has only relative truth within the horizontal dimension. Eventually we realize that if we are going to create time, we will also create change and inevitably suffer. Suddenly we have an urge to look up.”


       Smith R. "Stepping out of self-deception. The Buddha's liberating teaching of no-self." Shambhala, Boston, 2010.

Perpendicular Universes - Part 1

     “The laws of the unconditioned (which we will call the vertical) are inherently contradictory to the laws of the conditioned (which we will call the horizontal). The horizontal and the vertical are perpendicular to one another, but do bisect at one location, the present. The vertical ‘is,’ and that is about all one can say about it. The vertical requires nothing to be added because nothing is missing. It is intrinsic to all things, but makes no demands upon them. It cannot be perceived because it is within perception itself. There is no way to it, and there is no way out of it.
     The horizontal world of conditioning is a time-driven, labor-intensive, multidimensional universe, extending far beyond its junction with the vertical. To the left, as far as the mind can see, is time past, and to the right is the infinite expanse of time future. Since future and past have no reality outside thought, the horizontal universe is both composed and driven by concepts. This means it has no true authenticity other than the validity we give an idea or image. The only uncontested point is the here and now, at the place where it bisects with the vertical universe. The person on the horizontal rarely acknowledges the touch of the vertical; there is little interest in a timeless universe.
     From the horizontal perspective, the present is a moment between time past and time future, a deprived moment on its way to some other time. The future holds the hope and potential, the present holds the pain of who I am now, so the momentum is to move as quickly as possible away from the present of what I am, in the direction of who I will become.
     The vertical perspective of the here and now is very different. Since the moment is not being squeezed between the rock of the past and the hard place of the future, it is open and expansive. In fact, it is infinite and total, encompassing all things including thoughts about past and future, because all thoughts are occurring here and now. So the vertical universe actually encompasses the horizontal universe. Noting could possibly escape the moment or ever be outside it, so the vertical universe is always abiding and never moves. Things move within it, but it never moves. Moment after moment we are taking birth in the vertical universe; the problem is we think we are in the horizontal. Occasionally we pause sufficiently to see the intersection of these dimensions and not merely think our way past them. It may be in a moment of wonder, mystery, beauty, or a moment too precious to deny.”

       Smith R. "Stepping out of self-deception. The Buddha's liberating teaching of no-self." Shambhala, Boston, 2010.


     “In silently wondering deeply without knowing, the conceptual world is left behind. Are we going into the question in this way?
      All too often our yearning for something to alleviate the inner suffering gets in the way of deep inquiry. Rather than asking, ‘What is enlightenment?’ can we question our inner feeling of insufficiency? We have tried to fill it with fantasies of all descriptions, with entertainment, acquisitions, achievements, relationships, spiritual searching, and solemn vows – anything to fill
the aching void. But have we ever really explored it directly, unconditionally?
      Becoming conscious of it … can we be with the ache of emptiness, not calling it by any name? Let all labels fly into thin air and stay with what is here, discomfort without calling it discomfort. Staying here with what’s indefinable. Not resisting, not fighting, not looking for anything else. Just letting what is here be here in its entirely, physically, mentally, totally. Letting it be without knowing. Not becoming the doer for or against it. Just this quiet presence in the midst of the silence of chaos. In this there is an unfolding transparency. It happens when one sits patiently, silently, unconditionally. By ‘sitting’ I simply 
mean being totally with what is here. Not moving away or toward something else, just remaining with the whole thing – an intense presence that includes all the bodily sensations, breathing, wind-storming, raining, sunning, birding, coughing, fans humming – everything right here, all at once, without a seam. Observing thoughts coming up, emotions, feelings, sensations arising and more thoughts, emotions, feelings, sensations unfolding and abating – being with it all. There isn’t any place to escape to. Everything is here without separation.”

       Packer T. “The Wonder of Presence and the Way of Meditative Inquiry.” Shambhala, Boston, 2002. 


Self Compassion

     “We need a deep-rooted compassion for ourselves in order to allow for our fallibility and vulnerability on the path. There is little point in trying to base our lives on unreal ideals that only cripple us. My experience has led me to conclude that a fundamental aspect of the journey is the uncovering of our personal spiritual pathology and its gradual resolution. At each stage of the path, new aspects of pathology may emerge, and their resolution will enable us to move forward. Our willingness to learn and grow from this process is perhaps one of the most extraordinary qualities of our human nature. Considerable wisdom comes from our state of imperfection.”

       Preece R. “The Wisdom of Imperfection. The Challenge of Individuation in Buddhist Life.” Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca NY, 2006.

Antonio Celso Lima Mollo, National Geographic


     "Everywhere I go I find that a poet has been there before me."

Sigmund Freud

What IS important in meditation practice?

     “I meet all sorts of people who’ve had all sorts of experiences and they’re still confused and not doing very well in their life. Experiences are not enough. My students learn that if they have so-called experiences, I really don’t care much about hearing about them. I just tell them, 'Yeah, that’s O.K. Don’t hold onto it. And how are you getting along with your mother?' Otherwise, they get stuck there. It’s not the important thing in practice. Asked what is the important thing in practice, she replied, 'Learning how to deal with one’s personal, egotistic self. That’s the work. Very, very difficult.'”                               Charlotte Joko Beck


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Immediately Available

     “until there is no movement to escape this environment for a better spiritual setting, we will continue to suffer.”

     “The most important understanding … is the immediate availability of awakening. Awakening need not arrive after a long, protracted practice history unless we believe that this is necessary. We deliberately delay our readiness because we are divided about what we really want. We practice until we are tired of preparing for what has always existed here and now, then we become quiet and surrender.”

       Smith R. "Stepping out of self-deception. The Buddha's liberating teaching of no-self." Shambhala, Boston, 2010.