Saturday, March 31, 2012

How & What We See

     "So many of the clients I see feel deep anger and cynicism about people. They summarily dismiss some for not meeting their expectations, and constantly put down others for their 'trivial' concerns and 'stupid' pursuits. In their anger and frustration, they do not see that they must change the way they see their fellow human beings if they are to release their own pain.
     When you look at others with the part of you that is feeling bad about yourself, you tend to see other people as bad. I see like that sometimes. When I’m feeling bad about myself, I see human concerns and pursuits that go way beyond trivial and stupid all the way into completely incomprehensible. I can see all that stuff. There is a lot of it to see in people – if you’re into seeing it.
     If you’re not into seeing it, you might want to periodically travel to that part of yourself that isn’t feeling bad, which is the heart, and start seeing the world with the eyes of the heart. The eyes of the heart don’t see bad in people, except with the compassionate desire to comfort and alleviate their pain. The eyes of the heart see the brave and beautiful search of other human hearts looking for happiness, truth, peace, love, and God. Every human being is a seeker of the truth of her own self and of the truth of the universe. When we know that we’re all on this journey together, we no longer concern ourselves with who’s bad and who’s good, who’s stupid and who’s smart, who’s ahead and who’s behind, we just take the journey, following the same searching heart that everybody else is following.

     ‘Make your eyes pure,’ says St. Hildegard of Bingen, and they will see only purity.

     So the next time you look out the window and see multitudes marching into their next round of trivial and stupid pursuits, immediately change your vision, see with your heart, see them all as the pure, searching human heart looking for happiness, truth, peace, love, and God in the best ways they presently know how to do this. Fall in love with them all for doing that. Fall in love with them all, period. They’re heroes and saints and gods and goddesses in magnificent disguise. See them as truth looking for truth, as love looking for love, as God looking for God, and you’ll be seeing truly. ‘The world is as you see it,’ says the sage Vasishtha, so when you see with the eyes of your heart, you see the whole world on a journey to the heart.”

        Alter RM, Alter J. “How Long Till My Soul Gets It Right?: 100 Doorways on the Journey to Happiness.” Regan Books, 2001.

Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia

Friday, March 30, 2012

Look for solutions from within

     "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win."                               Mahatma Gandhi

Thank you Katherine for suggesting the TedTalk below!

 Sanjit "Bunker" Roy's TedTalk on the Barefoot College

Thursday, March 29, 2012


     “...the books we need are the kind that act upon us like a misfortune, that make us suffer like the death of a person we love more than ourselves, that make us feel as though we were on the verge of suicide, or lost in a forest remote from all human habitation -- a book should serve as the axe for the frozen sea within us.”                                            Franz Kafka
     “Protected by … armor of intellectual complacency …”                            Matthiew Ricard

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Avoidance = Suffering

     “You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world, that is something you are free to do and it accords with your nature, but perhaps this very holding back is the one suffering you could avoid.”                          Franz Kafka

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Meeting in Non-dualism

     “we are convinced of the unity of mystical experience, within Sufism and across mystical traditions. 
     As the mystic’s practice advances, he or she remains constantly aware of the presence of one reality behind all appearances. This presence (immanence), moreover, does not impair worldly efficacy. It may well enhance such efficacy by making the world more transparent and, therefore, easier to understand.
      This notion will seem strange to many psychologists who view all experiences as products of the nervous system. Mystics, on the other hand, draw our attention to a nonlocal mind. Indeed, mystical experience can be seen as the method for transcending the local mind (the intellect and emotions) in favor of absorption in the nonlocal mind.
      ... reductionist / constructivist accounts of mystical experience will never be true to the actual mystical experience, although they may account for the effects of carefully orchestrated ceremonies designed to have specific psychological effects.
      In summary, if the transcendent mystical experience is regarded as just another construction placed on physiological processes of arousal, those regarding it thus have little more incentive to seek it than to seek an exciting sexual partner (perhaps less).” 

     Levenson MR, Khilwati AH. Mystical self-annihilation: Method and meaning. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 1999; 9: 251-7.


Monday, March 26, 2012

"My Expertise is ..."

     "An expert is someone who is incapable of learning."                  Anon

      “Wisdom is born of paradox. If we would be wise, we must first recognize that we are not. We are motivated to learn only when we know we do not know.”
         Walsh R. "Essential spirituality. The 7 central practices to awaken heart and mind." John Wiley & Sons Inc, NY, 1999.

     "wise individuals evince less despair and greater equanimity because they're more likely to grapple with existential dilemmas and paradoxes that give life more meaning."
         Le TN. "Life satisfaction, openness value, self-transcendence, and wisdom." Journal of Happiness Studies 2011; 12(2): 171-182.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

It just exists

     "So I get up. Six fifteen. Lyra leaves her place beside the stove and goes to the kitchen door to wait. She turns her head and looks at me, and there is a trusfulness in that look I probably do not deserve. But maybe that is not the point, to deserve it or not, perhaps it just exists, that trust, disconnected from who you are and what you have done, and is not to be measured in any way."

     Petterson P. Out Stealing Horses. Picador, NY, 2005.

Photo: nemesix

Saturday, March 24, 2012

How healthy cells function in a healthy body

     “… day and night, allow all things to come and reside with your heart and mind, and they will function together as a whole. All things will open up and start to talk with you. This wonderful feeling is experienced beyond ideas and thoughts.”

     Katagiri D. “You have to say something. Manifesting Zen insight.” Shambhala, Boston, 1998.

Photo: photodottom

Friday, March 23, 2012

"I am that"

     “You have to understand the life of each thing with compassion, kindness, friendliness, and consideration. … Without intruding or being overbearing, we must put ourselves in the place of others and learn to deal with them as they are.”
      Katagiri D. “You have to say something. Manifesting Zen insight.” Shambhala, Boston, 1998.

Photo: Samuel Aranda, NY Times, World Press Photo 2011 award winner

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Beyond Concepts

     “… humans, rocks, birds, air, and all beings have the same universal, cosmic life.
     But we ignore the great, vast, and inconceivable life that is, behind our ideas of life and death.
     Instead of being tossed about by our speculations about life and death, we have to take responsibility for our capacity to see inconceivable life.
     The final goal is that your worldly life must merge with inconceivable life through actual realization. Before we conceptualize and separate ourselves from the world, there is something inconceivable. There is already universal, cosmic life. It is why you are alive.
     In the truth of zazen, life and death are merging, moment by moment. And thus, because our lives are supported by all beings through the merging of life and death, we bring forth inconceivable life.”

       Katagiri D. “You have to say something. Manifesting Zen insight.” Shambhala, Boston, 1998.

Photo: mjdundee

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"Only have no preference"

     “If you accept life and death without any conditions, your life will become supple instead of rigid. You will not create strife.
     Most people handle their lives in a backward way. They don’t realize the origin of life and death. They always involve themselves with things and issues far from where their life actually blooms. But if you accept life and death straightforwardly, you will be flexible, generous, and forgiving of others in any circumstance.”

     Katagiri D. “You have to say something. Manifesting Zen insight.” Shambhala, Boston, 1998.

Photo: Sonia

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


     "That we are whole, and home, and needed by all of life is where Buddhism begins, in a sense. Most of us, though, have to take quite a journey to arrive where we’ve always been." Bonnie Myotai Treace

     “If we wish to help humans to become more fully human, we must realize not only that they try to realize themselves, but that they are also reluctant or afraid or unable to do so. Only by fully appreciating this dialectic between sickness and health can we help to tip the balance in favor of health.” Abraham H. Maslow

     “… powerful desires, fears, and resistances … keep our mind in motion." Joseph Goldstein & Jack Kornfield

Photo: Andre Gallant


Monday, March 19, 2012


     “Strictly speaking, you can’t really be committed to anything or anyone unless you’re committed wholeheartedly to everything, a la ‘Yes! Yes! And again yes!’ Otherwise, you might get mired forever in the hesitation over whether this is the right moment to which to commit yourself.”

     Cohen D. “Turning Suffering Inside Out: A Zen Approach to Living with Physical and Emotional Pain.” Shambhala, Boston, 2002.

Photo: Lensmate

Sunday, March 18, 2012


     “Healing for me is connection to my activity itself, the practice of doing each thing for its own sake, and of course, intimacy with other people, plants, the earth and sky, the laundry, the traffic, the commercials, the mundane anguish of daily existence. There’s nothing special or tragic about it; it’s just my life, day in and day out. Even though our lives are nothing special, it’s not easy to penetrate our numbness and become willing to open ourselves up to all the details of our daily lives, including the stress and pain. Because our conditioning to avoid unpleasantness, the hardest thing may not be bearing the unpleasant experiences we have so much as learning how to experience the details of our suffering so thoroughly that ‘suffering,’ ‘stress,’ and ‘pain’ lose their distinctive character and just become our lives, and rich lives at that. We’re usually so caught up in our opinions that we can’t experience things as they are. We’d rather think about how ‘unfair’ something is, or how morally superior we ourselves are, than experience the actual feelings involved in a disappointment at work. But how we open ourselves to feeling, how we embrace all the experiences life has to offer, has a great deal to do with how connected we feel.”

     Cohen D. “Turning Suffering Inside Out: A Zen Approach to Living with Physical and Emotional Pain.” Shambhala, Boston, 2002.

Photo: Kal Biro

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Seeking happiness

"Like a bird on the wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free."                       Leonard Cohen

     “'Addiction … (to alcohol, food, work, internet, coffee, drugs, sex, cars, travel) … sets up a pattern of avoiding the low emotional places in life. The best therapy is the practice of acknowledging one’s feelings and making friends with them. Then they can be seen as truly transparent.' When thoughts are perceived as ‘transparent,’ it means that we can see through them to their source: the ceaseless busyness of our minds. Thoughts and feelings follow each other, one after the other, in a constant, ever-changing flow. If we can be quiet enough to watch this flow with curiosity rather than agitation, it seems quite arbitrary to become disturbed or transported by any particular one.
     Yet this doesn’t mean that if we see their transparency, we become indifferent to our thoughts and feelings. We continue to have them, of course, but we have a choice about whether to believe they are the only point of view to which we can subscribe. … ‘Feelings, whether of compassion, or irritation, should be welcomed because both are ourselves. The tangerine I am eating is me. I clean this teapot with the kind of attention I would have were I giving the baby Buddha or Jesus a bath. Nothing should be treated more carefully than anything else. In mindfulness, compassion, irritation, mustard green and teapot are all sacred.’”

     Cohen D. “Turning Suffering Inside Out: A Zen Approach to Living with Physical and Emotional Pain.” Shambhala, Boston, 2002.

Photo: Seanky

Friday, March 16, 2012

Porous hospitality

Can we become a house of brick, without windows, doors or roof?
Can winds flow through us without resistance?
Can passing birds rest on and in us?
Can we become porous to all that is without preference?
Can we try it - a bit at a time?

     See also:

Photo: Brigitte Lorenz

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Intimacy with all things

     “… day and night, allow all things to come and reside with your heart and mind, and they will function together as a whole. All things will open up and start to talk with you. This wonderful feeling is experienced beyond ideas and thoughts.”                            Dainin Katagiri

Photo: Brigitte Lorenz

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Anger - "Outraged, upset and angry ..."

     “… the underlying stratum of our lives is anger.
     Since anger and its subsets – depression, resentment, jealousy, backbiting, gossip, and so on – dominate our lives, we need to investigate the whole problem of anger with care. 
     Often … efforts (to eliminate injustice & create justice) are dictatorial, full of anger and self-righteousness.
     In spiritual maturity, the opposite of injustice is not justice, but compassion. Not me against you, not me straightening out the present ill, fighting to gain a just result for myself and others, but compassion, a life that goes against nothing and fulfills everything.
     All anger is based upon judgments, whether of ourselves or others. The idea that our anger must be expressed for us to be healthy is no more than a fantasy. We need to let these judgmental, angry thoughts pass before our witnessing, impersonal self. We gain nothing by expressing them. It is a mistake to suppose that our unexpressed anger hurts us and that we must express it and thereby hurt others.
     An appropriate and compassionate response does not come from a fight for justice, but from the radical dimension of practice that ‘passeth all understanding.’ It is not easy. Perhaps we must go through agonized weeks or months of sitting. But the resolution will come. No person can provide this resolution for us; it can be provided only by our true self – if we open wide the gates of practice.
     Let us not adopt some facile, narrowly psychological view of our lives. The radical dimension I speak of demands everything we are and have. Joy, not happiness, is its fruit.”
     Beck CJ. “Nothing Special: Living Zen.” HarperCollins 1995.

Photo: Andre Gallant

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Practice & Cultivation

     “… practice refers to the discipline of cultivating a crucial capacity of mind, such as wisdom or concentration. Practices are rehearsals of desired qualities, which eventually become spontaneous, natural ways of being. By contrast, … technique and exercise … indicate … specific methods used in a practice. For example, the specific techniques of meditation and reflection are part of the practice of cultivating wisdom.”
     Walsh R. “Essential spirituality. The 7 central practices to awaken heart and mind.” John Wiley & Sons Inc, NY, 1999.

     "How do we cultivate the wholesome and how do we increasingly incline the mind toward the greater good for ourselves and all beings, and thereby defeat this priming that we have? This deep inclination we have toward fear and aggression, because that’s how we manage threats. The classic is a flight-fright / freeze-appease behavioral repertoire. A way to do that is really look for and cultivate positive experiences, not in a deluded Pollyanna way but rather in a very clear-eyed, tough-minded, self-compassionate way that’s also based on justice. Because if you think about it, if most of the experiences we’re having, or most of the facts in our world - positive facts - are the basis for positive experiences, and facts both in the outer world as well as facts in terms of our own qualities, we’re much better people than we usually credit ourselves with being, moment-to-moment-to-moment.
     So if we’re not seeing clearly, in other words if we’re violating the Buddha’s statement that the fundamental root of suffering is ignorance, is not seeing clearly. If we’re not seeing clearly the positive facts within us, or the positive facts within the world, we’re planting the seeds of suffering right then and there. And we’re also planting the seeds of harming other people because when we don’t feel full inside we naturally feel we have less to offer others. Or if we’re cranky or anxious we’re going to be excessively reactive to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune thrown by other people. Or that we think are thrown by other people. And so for both those reasons it really makes sense, both in terms of moment-to-moment quality of life, as well as becoming more beneficial to other people. It makes sense to look for the positive, and then particularly take 20, 30 seconds to register it. Because it usually takes longer to register a positive experience than a negative one."
Photo: Andre Gallant

Monday, March 12, 2012

Original calm & stillness emerge

The water is clear right down
to the bottom.
Fish swim lazily on.
The sky is vast without end.
Birds fly far into the distance.

Wanshi - "Accupuncture Needle of Zazen"

     "When your mind and body allow your original calm and stillness to emerge, your nature will appear. That's the purpose of sitting, and it's especially the purpose of long sittings, which exhaust both the thinking mind and the body until your true nature appears. And when it does, you will know that your nature is just like the water in Wanshi's poem, clear right down to the bottom. ... hollow and empty through and through."

       Kwong J. No beginning, no end. The intimate heart of Zen. Harmony Books, NY, 2003.

Photo: Flip Nicklin/Minden Pictures

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Engagement in Zen

     "‘Both day and night everything we encounter is our life. Because of that, we put our life into everything we encounter. Our life and what is being encountered become one. We exhaust our life force so that our life and encounter might function as they should.’
     The above passage does seem circular, and, in fact, in this respect it is; that when we throw ourselves into our work, there ceases to be a ‘gap’ or duality between our life force and the ‘thing’ or ‘work’ which is being encountered, so that the opposing meanings of all the ordinary dualistic words – ‘our,’ ‘life,’ or ‘force’ on the one side, and ‘thing’ or ‘work’ on the other – fall away.”
       Wright T transl. Zen Master Dogen and Kosho Uchiyama Roshi: “How to Cook Your Life: From the Zen Kitchen to Enlightenment.” Shambhala, Boston, 2005.


Saturday, March 10, 2012


     “A big burly samurai comes to the roshi and says, ‘Tell me the nature of heaven and hell.’ And the roshi looks him in the face and says; ‘Why should I tell a scruffy, disgusting, miserable slob like you?’ The samurai starts to get purple in the face, his hair starts to stand up, but the roshi won't stop, he keeps saying, ‘A miserable worm like you, do you think I should tell you anything?’ Consumed by rage, the samurai draws his sword, and he's just about to cut off the head of the roshi. Then the roshi says, ‘That's hell.’ The samurai, who is in fact a sensitive person, instantly gets it, that he just created his own hell; he was deep in hell. It was black and hot, filled with hatred, self-protection, anger, and resentment, so much so that he was going to kill this man. Tears fill his eyes and he starts to cry and he puts his palms together and the roshi says, ‘That's heaven’."                   Pema Chodron

     “We stay with the awareness of our physical-emotional reactions as long as it takes to reside in them. That means relaxing into them, as painful as they are. At some point we no longer need to push them away.”            Ezra Bayda

Photo: Andre Gallant

Friday, March 9, 2012

Perceptual possibilities

     “Perception is not a passive process but rather is an active creation, and the state of the world we perceive reflects the state of mind within us. The range of perceptual possibilities is vast and extends from what can be called paranoia through pronoia and transnoia. With paranoia, we are consumed with anger, project it outward, and see a hostile, terrifying world filled with people conspiring to attack us. With pronoia we see the love and kindness within us mirrored by the people around us, who seem eager to help in whatever ways they can. With transnoia the world and all people are perceived as expressions of the transcendent and as part of a vast plan to awaken and enlighten us. Spiritual practices heal paranoia, and by opening the eye of the soul, they allow us to live and love in pronoia and transnoia.”

       Walsh R. Essential spirituality. The 7 central practices to awaken heart and mind. John Wiley & Sons Inc, NY, 1999.

Photo: Jonathan Griffith

Thursday, March 8, 2012


     “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”                Bertrand Russell

     “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”                               Albert Einstein  

      “tolerance of ambiguity … involves the ability to recognize and manage the uncertainties in one’s own life and development. It is reflected in the awareness that life is full of uncontrollable and unpredictable events, including death and illness. At the same time, tolerance for ambiguity includes the availability of strategies to manage this uncertainty through openness to experience, basic trust, and the development of flexible solutions.”
     Staudinger UM, Gluck J. Psychological wisdom research: commonalities and differences in a growing field. Annu Rev Psychol 2011; 62: 215-41.

     “Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.      Malcolm S. Forbes

     “To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.”           Lao-Tzu

Photo: Eddie Soloway

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

" Life is like a box of chocholates ... "

"The winds of grace are always blowing, but we must raise our sails."                   Ramakrishna

“I asked for strength
and God gave me difficulties to make me strong.

I asked for wisdom
And God gave me problems to learn to solve.

I asked for prosperity
And God gave me a brain and brawn to work.

I asked for courage
And God gave me dangers to overcome.

I asked for love
And God gave me people to help.

I asked for favours
And God gave me opportunities.

I received nothing I wanted.
I received everything I needed."                 Sufi poem, attributed to Hazrat Inayar Khan 

Photo: Michael Wood

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


     "Our intelligence and dignity themselves are developed by our being alive for everything, including the mundane anguish of our lives. Just our awareness of our sensations, of our experience, with no object or idea in mind, is the practice of not preferring any particular state of mind. Such intimacy with our activity and the objects around us connects us deeply to our lives. This connection—to the earth, our bodies, our sense impressions, our creative energies, our feelings, other people—is the only way I know of to alleviate suffering. To me, our awareness of these things without preference is a meditation that synchronizes body and mind. This synchronization, the experience of deep integrity, of being all of a piece, is a very deep healing."                                         Darlene Cohen (1942 - 2011)

Photo: Tom Evans

Monday, March 5, 2012

Armouring - discovery phase

     While we sometimes notice tightness in the neck, shoulders and back, our first multi-day meditation retreat will very clearly reveal just how armoured we are.

     “Wilhelm Reich was a student of Freud's who believed that the body plays an important role in an individual's expression. Crucial to his understanding of psychology is the concept of armoring which is basically the physical component of repression as understood by Freud.
     Armoring occurs when an impulse is halted at the muscular level. For example, it is natural for a child to cry when they are sad. However, a child who is punished for crying will find a way to inhibit this behavior. At first, this inhibition is conscious, and may include tensing the muscles of the eyes and face, holding the breath, or whatever else works that the child is capable of doing. Reich said that normally a child will cease the inhibition once the threat passes, but when a child is repeatedly subjected to the same kind of treatment, the inhibiting behavior becomes learned and integrated into the child's way of being, along with the accompanying muscular armoring. It becomes habitual and unconscious, and the person no longer notices they are ‘doing’ anything at all.
     Reich viewed the purpose of this armoring as protecting the child from perceived threats, but the cost is the diminished freedom that comes fighting against constant muscular contraction as well the energy that is required to maintain this state of contraction.
     You may be able to fight and win battles in a suit of armor, but when you're wearing one all of the time without knowing it, it becomes impossible to dance.”

Photo: Mike Ronesia

Sunday, March 4, 2012


      “Whether we recognize it or not, each one of us has a central sacred question around which our lives circle. It may be apparently abstract, such as, ‘What is truth?’ or ‘What is wisdom?’ Or it may be eminently practical, such as, ‘How can I learn to love?’ ‘How can I best contribute to others?’ ‘What is my gift to the world?’ Whatever the question, how passionately we pursue and live it in large part determines how fully and wholeheartedly we live and how peacefully and contentedly we die.

     Stress may be as much a question of a compromise of values as it is a matter of external time pressure and fear of failure.”

      Walsh R. Essential spirituality. The 7 central practices to awaken heart and mind. John Wiley & Sons Inc, NY, 1999.

     The challenge is to transform flashes of illumination into abiding light.                          Houston Smith

 - Post #100 -

Roger Walsh MD PhD on Living a Spiritual Life

Saturday, March 3, 2012


     "Anxious quiver of being" is Ezra Bayda's description of how he experiences an aspect of life.

     In the dark time of the year. 
     Between melting and freezing
     The soul's sap quivers.                             T.S. Eliot - Little Gidding (No. 4 of 'Four Quartets')

      “Richard Rohr suggests that the only way out of a person's entrapment in 'normalcy, the way things are,' is to be drawn into sacred space, often called liminality, where he believes all genuine transformation occurs. Liminality, from the Latin word for threshold, is the state of being betwixt and between where the old world has been left behind but we have not yet arrived at what is to come.”
     Franks A, Meteyard J. Liminality: the transforming grace of in-between places. J Pastoral Care Counsel 2007; 61(3): 215-22.

Photo: Michael Wood