Friday, June 22, 2012

Perspective shift - possible & necessary

     “the choice to experience the world as sacred and meaningful – to do so by dint of effort and will – is a choice that is within our power to make. It is a choice that takes strength and courage and persistence, of course; perhaps it takes even a kind of heroism. But it is possible … And more than that, it is necessary in the modern world.”

     Dreyfus H, Kelly SD. All things shining. Reading Western classics to find meaning in a secular age. Free Press, NY, 2011.

Photo: Fl_Gulfer

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Root Cause of our Grievences

         “Not knowing we are loved and lovable makes the heart grow cold. And all the tragedy of human life follows from there.
         When people do not know they are loved, a cold black hole forms in the psyche, where they start to harbor beliefs that they’re insignificant, unimportant, or lacking in beauty and goodness. This icy place of fear is what gives rise to terrorist attacks of all kinds – not just in the form of bombs going off, but also in the emotional assaults that go on within ourselves and our relationships.
         … people in whom love is flowing freely do not throw bombs. Terrorism, like war itself, is a symptom of the disconnect from love that infects our world.
         … how can humanity actually overcome its addiction to violence and its cynicism about love? What I suggest in this book is that war arises from grievance against others, and that this grievance is rooted in our love-wound – which we blame on others, taking it out on them. This book lays out a practical path for deeply understanding and addressing this core human problem.” 

             John Welwood. "Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships. Healing the Wound of the Heart." Trumpeter, 2006. 

Photo: Marco Carmassi

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Maturity - Accepting Anicca, Anatta & Dukkha - the Unreliable Nature of Things

     “maturity comes from witnessing the unreliable nature of things – a lot of old age, sickness, death, and disappointment – and, most essentially, from realizing that there’s nothing scarier or more ‘groundless’ than relying on the unreliable.
     Let’s face it, we never know what happens next – we don’t know what’s on the other side – and the sooner we accept that reality, the better. And I don’t mean just ‘face the facts.’ I think we can enjoy living this way, don’t you?”

         Mattis-Namgyel E. The power of an open question. The Buddha's path to freedom. Shambhala, Boston, 2011.

Photo: Hideki Ueha

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

To do the right thing - Standards?

     "It has always been difficult, in certain situations, to act in accord with the standards of living well - the Greek philosophers called this difficulty akrasia, or weakness of will; it is the inability to do what we know to be the right thing.
     But in the contemporary world we face a deeper and more difficult problem. It is not just that we know the course of right action and fail to pursue it; we often seem not to have any sense for what the standards of living a good life are in the first place. Or said in another way, we seem to have no ground for choosing one course of action over any other."

         Dreyfus H, Kelly SD. All things shining. Reading Western classics to find meaning in a secular age. Free Press, NY, 2011.

see health care's unique perspective on akrasia:

Photo: Geza Radics

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Transformative Learning

     Transformative learning can be achieved in three stages: 1) reflecting, 2) directly experiencing, and 3) knowing. Reflecting involves critically examining a statement to see if it makes sense. When you intellectually know that a statement is at least logical and theoretically possible, then you go to step 2. Directly experiencing is immersing yourself in the statement. Through mindful compassionate awareness, see if the experience is valid for you personally – in your body – as a felt experience. Here theory becomes a living wisdom rather than a philosophy. Step 3 is knowingmindfully integrating what you have just learned and felt into your daily life. In scientific terms, this is referred to as “knowledge translation / utilization”. Without this crucial last step, you return to old habits ie there is no real benefit.
       Moffitt P. Dancing with life. Buddhist insights for finding meaning and joy in the face of suffering. Rodale, 2008.

     "There are three kinds of wisdom: Sutamayā paññā, cintāmayā paññā, and bhāvanāmayā paññā. Sutamayā paññā is information you get from reading, from listening to Dhamma discourses, or from discussions with teachers. Cintāmayā paññā is intelligence or knowledge acquired through thinking, reasoning, or intellectual analysis. Bhāvanāmayā paññā is insight or wisdom gained through direct experience. In short, we refer to them as information, intelligence, and insight."
       Ashin Tejaniya "Dhamma Everywhere: Welcoming Each Moment with Awareness+Wisdom."

Photo: Geza Radics

Monday, June 11, 2012

You are not special

     "Wellesley High English teacher David McCullough Jr. told graduates 'You are not special. You are not exceptional,' quoting empirical evidence. 'Across the country no fewer than 3.2 million seniors are graduating about now from more than 37,000 high schools. That's 37,000 valedictorians ... 37,000 class presidents ... 92,000 harmonizing altos ... 340,000 swaggering jocks ... 2,185,967 pairs of Uggs. Even if you're one in a million, on a planet of 6.8 billion that means there are nearly 7,000 people just like you.'
     McCullough makes a statement about parents who overdo it in a modern society focused on collecting achievements. 'You've been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble wrapped ... feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie.' But 'You see, if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. ... We have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement."
     McCullough's address does push students to recognize real achievement: 'The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life is an achievement,' and he encourages graduates 'to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance.'"

Photo: Rhyn Williams

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Continuous goodwill

     Sitting meditation should not be a break from "real life". Nor should our life off the cushion be "a break" from sitting meditation. Suddenly, the thought arises: "But when do I have time to be my 'self'?" That's exactly why we practice continuous mindfulness.

     "But what dies?
     In Zen practice it's your conditioned self and self-centeredness that die. When we become aware of these delusions, they begin to dissolve. Therefore you are not hindered by these obstacles. Then your true being vividly comes alive."
     Kwong J. No beginning, no end. The intimate heart of Zen. Harmony Books, NY, 2003.

     "you don't want your goodwill to be just an ungrounded, floating idea. You want to apply it scrupulously to the nitty-gritty of all your interactions with others. That way your goodwill becomes honest. And it actually does have an impact, which is why we develop this attitude to begin with - to make sure that it truly animates our thoughts, words, and deeds in a way that leads to a happiness that's harmless for all."          Thanissaro Bhikkhu       
          "I want to be ... Loving" Shambhala Sun, July 2012

Talented local artist Shelagh Duffett at the Halifax Seaport Farmer's Market

Saturday, June 9, 2012


     "goodwill is often a more skillful attitude than overt expressions of love ... for three reasons. The first is that goodwill is an attitude you can express for everyone without fear of being hypocritical or unrealistic. If the people around you haven't been acting lovably, it's good to remind yourself that although you don't condone their behavior - you don't even have to like them - you still wish them well.
     The second reason is that goodwill is a more skillful feeling to have toward those who would react unskillfully to your love. There are probably people you've harmed in the past who would rather not have anything to do with you ever again, so the intimacy of love would actually be a source of pain for them, rather than joy. There are also people who, when they see that you want to express love, would be quick to take advantage of it. In these cases, a more distant sense of goodwill - that you promise yourself never to harm those people of those beings - would be better for everyone involved.
     The third reason is that goodwill acts as a check on your behavior toward those you love to keep it from becoming oppressive. It reminds you that people ultimately will become truly happy not as a result of your caring for them but as a result of their own skillful actions, and that the happiness of self-reliance is greater than any happiness coming from dependency. If you truly feel goodwill for yourself and others, you won't let your desire for intimacy render you insensitive to what would actually be the most skillful way to promote true happiness for all.
     In this way goodwill protects you from the unskillful excess of both your ill will and your love - and protects everyone around you as well."          Thanissaro Bhikkhu       
          "I want to be ... Loving" Shambhala Sun, July 2012

Photo: Kent Shiraishi

Friday, June 8, 2012

What is Love?

         “I would define love very simply: as a potent blend of openness and warmth, which allows us to make real contact, to take delight in and appreciate, and to be at one with – ourselves, others, and life itself. Openness – the heart’s pure, unconditional yes – is love’s essence. And warmth is love’s basic expression, arising as a natural extension of this yes – the desire to reach out and touch, connect with, and nourish what we love. If love’s openness is like the clear, cloudless sky, its warmth is like the sunlight streaming through the sky, emitting a rainbowlike spectrum of colors: passion, joy, contact, communication, kindness, caring, understanding, service, dedication, and devotion, to name just a few.
         According to the saints and mystics, love is the very fabric of what we are; we are fashioned out of its warmth and openness. We don’t have to be great sages to recognize this. All we need to do is take an honest look at what makes our life worthwhile. When the presence of love is alive and moving in us, there is no doubt that our life is on target and meaningful, regardless of our outer circumstances. We feel that we’re in touch, connected with something larger than our small self. This lifts the burden of isolation and alienation off our shoulders, filling us with peace and well-being. But when the presence of love is absent, something often feels sad, not quite right; something seems to be missing, and it’s hard to find much joy, even in the midst of favorable circumstances. We easily fall prey to meaninglessness, anxiety, or despair.
         These simple truths are also upheld by neuroscience research, which confirms that our connections with others affect the healthy development and functioning of the brain, the endocrine and immune systems, and our emotional balance. In short, love is the central force that holds our whole life together and allows it to function. …"

             John Welwood. "Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships. Healing the Wound of the Heart." Trumpeter, 2006.

Photo: Dana Reed

Instead of revenge, a noble response

     "the Buddha advises that if others are harming you with their words or actions, you should spread thoughts of goodwill to them and then out beyond them, to the entire cosmos, making your mind as expansive as the River Ganges or as large as the earth - in other words, larger than the harm those people are doing or threatening to do. When you can maintain this enlarged state of mind in the face of pain, it doesn't seem so overwhelming and you're less likely to respond unskillfully. You provide protection - both for yourself and for others - against any unskillful things you otherwise might be tempted to do." Thanissaro Bhikkhu
     "I want to be ... Loving" Shambhala Sun, July 2012

Photo: Shivaa Shukla

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Process of awareness

     "Conscious and unconscious experiences do not belong to different compartments of the mind; they form a continuous scale of gradations, of degrees of awareness."        Arthur Koestler (1905-1983)

     There appears to be a life-long (quantitative) process of "wiping the mirror bright" in order to purify the mind of defilements (gradual enlightenment), periodic qualitative leaps of insight (sudden enlightenment), as well as life-long practice to integrate these insights.

     An arahant is said to be fully conscious, not to have any unconscious. "... completely free, liberated through final knowledge."           (Majjhima Nikaya 1. 141)

Photo: Geza Radics

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Stable resolute determination

And as a mountain, a rock, stable and firmly based, does not tremble
in rough winds but remains in precisely its own place, so you too
must be constantly stable in resolute determination; going on
to the perfection of Resolute Determination,
you will attain Self-Awakening.

BV 154-55
Knaster M. Living this life fully. Stories and teachings of Munindra. Shambhala, Boston, 2010.

Steve Armstrong & Sayadaw U Tejaniya   from:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Gift of ... Everything

     "Pay attention. Just pay attention, and it will become clear. This is so simple. And the Buddha's teaching is that, it's just that! It's this amazing gift of independence. He's saying, 'I'm going to talk to you about this quality of mind, so you can see for yourself what leads to what, what works, what doesn't work. You can see for yourself clearly. You do not have to believe anything, anybody. You can just use that one quality, and then you'll see for yourself.'
     For me, I see it as independence. The Buddha is giving me my independence. He's saying, 'Here Pascal, take this, treat it really carefully, use it well, use it all the time, every time you remember - use it, and you will find for yourself everything that you're interested in.'
     This quality of mind is 'sati' in Pali - we translate it as mindfulness."

Pascal Auclair's excellent (54min) drarma talk: "Mindfulness is Receptive Curiosity"
Saltspring Island, August 2009

Photo: omtapas

Monday, June 4, 2012

Timeless wisdom

Refraining from all that is detrimental,
Cultivating what is wholesome,
Purifying the mind -
This is the teaching of all the Buddhas.

The Dhammapada 183

        Knaster M. Living this life fully. Stories and teachings of Munindra. Shambhala, Boston, 2010.

Photo: Stefano M

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sila: morality, ethical conduct, virtue

     "In making a voluntary commitment to sila, Munindra recognized its intrinsic value in creating harmony. Honoring the precepts is considered a 'great gift' (mahadana) to others, for it creates an atmosphere of trust, respect, and security. It means we pose no threat to another person's life, property, family, rights, or welfare."

        Knaster M. Living this life fully. Stories and teachings of Munindra. Shambhala, Boston, 2010.

     see also: 

Photo: krikman

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ongoing purification of heart and mind

     "The very fact that Munindra was not perfect still inspires Kamala Masters. In particular, she recalls a few occasions when he mentioned that certain unwholesome states arose within him from time to time. Through mindfulness, he would see greed or anger coming and then going. By way of explanation, he readily admitted to her, 'My path is not yet finished.' Kamala understood this as an ongoing engagement in purifying his heart and mind of greed, hatred, and delusion; he was not yet fully realized. She says, 'It gave me permission to be human and not to expect myself to be a perfect being.'"
       Knaster M. Living this life fully. Stories and teachings of Munindra. Shambhala, Boston, 2010.

Ancient one still working at IMS

Friday, June 1, 2012

Right speech

     "when ... once questioned regarding a particular teacher in India, about whom there was much damning media, Munindra said nothing untoward about him. He simply commented, 'A perfect rose can come from an imperfect giver.'"

       Knaster M. Living this life fully. Stories and teachings of Munindra. Shambhala, Boston, 2010.

Photo from IMS website: