Friday, August 31, 2012

Father, why hast thou abandoned me?

     Our reptilian brainstem runs our lives to a far greater extent than we realize. Its job is to keep us as individuals and as a species alive. We instinctively avoid whatever threatens, and approach whatever favors survival. We ignore many things that are irrelevant to survival.
     But we also "ignore" things that we CANNOT avoid or approach - like old age, sickness and death. These go "under the radar", to wreak havoc with our subconscious.
     Meditation is the doorway to consciously get beyond this approach-avoidance barrier. "What is this?" "Who am I?" It's a way of dropping all preconceptions - be they idealistic, nihilistic or cynical. Reality is beyond all our ideas.
     Either life, or preferably meditation practice, strips away all of our reptilian dreams & nightmares. Then we'll feel abandoned, shipwrecked. But then ...

Satori Movement

Monday, August 27, 2012


Can I recognize in everything and everyone - "I am that!"?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Vows AND the way things are

Beings are numberless,
I am freeing them.

Delusions are inexhaustable,
I am ending them.

Dharma gates are boundless,
I am entering them.

The Bhudda's Way is unsurpassable,
I am realizing it.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Love flows through life

I sense the good wishes of my ancestors - that I am the culmination of all their hard work, struggles, sufferings, hard-won wisdom and joy. I am part of an unbroken (maybe seldom-broken) chain of Bhodisattvas' vows making life on earth a bit more decent for each successive generation.

The ultimate challenge is perhaps seeing the Buddhanature in those who appear disinterested or even malevolent towards us, especially if such individuals are parents, relatives, or have other trusted caring positions in our hearts and lives. Such individuals can teach powerful lessons in how NOT to behave.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Growing & Flourishing

     “The sign of an educated man is one who can hold two contradictory ideas in mind at the same time and continue to function.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

      “The greater the ignorance, the greater the dogmatism.” Sir William Osler

"the open-minded person is one who is able and willing to form an opinion, or revise it, in the light of evidence and argument.”  William Hare

         “… let go of identification with form, dogma, and rigid belief systems … how ‘spiritual’ you are has nothing to do with what you believe but everything to do with your state of consciousness.”
          Tolle E. “A new earth. Awaken to your life's purpose.” Namaste, NY, 2005. 

Photo: gilaort

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Seek AND Walk the Way

“I seek the truth ... it is only persistence in self-delusion and ignorance that does harm.” 
                                      Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

“If you think clearly about life and death, you will realize that it’s like mangoes growing on a tree. They grow to maturity, and then they fall and hit the ground. When that has happened, the mangoes won’t be longing for the tree, and the tree won’t be worried about the mangoes.
If our thinking is in harmony with the way things are, we will have well-being.” 
Chah A. (Breiter P. transl) “Everything arises, everything falls away. Teachings on impermanence and the end of suffering.” Shambhala, Boston, 2005.

     "Let no one be deluded that a knowledge of the path can substitute for putting one foot in front of the other."          M.C. Richards 

Photo: Jia Han Dong

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Reality - "a hot knife against your cheek"

     "A simple disciple can see all people in this same light of sympathy and affection – including jerks and assholes. This is not to say the world will be transformed into a place of total goodness and light. You will still be played, insulted, disrespected and abused. The Dharma Gate comes forth like a hot knife pressed against your cheek.
     Will the Dark Side always be thrashed by the Force? Sometimes a non-violent response carries the day. Sometimes a more vigorous response to violence expounds the Way. Sometimes it's a mugging, a rape, a murder. You are not spared. Still, the Pure Land comes forth. Aitken Roshi notes 'even the Buddha Dharma itself is untrustworthy, and there is nothing whatever to rely upon.'
     May we retain this mind and extend it throughout the world so that we and all beings become mature in Buddha's wisdom.

Aitken Roshi comments
     'Here the Bodhisattva reaches the place of total trust in nothing at all and finds there the glorious light of the Pure Land, and vows that this light may shine brilliantly in the conscious mind of all beings.'"

Photo: MNet

Monday, August 20, 2012

Direct contact

     “Our spiritual work is to live more fully in the present. The first given of life, the fact of impermanence, means that everything in our lives will keep changing. Joseph Campbell says: ‘Hell is being stuck in ego,’ stuck trying to control things so that they stay the same. By practice and grace, we can awaken into a new consciousness. The ever-present and ineradicable opportunity to change is a reason never to give up on ourselves or others. Then even hell is impermanent.

     As long as we are feuding with life’s rules, we will fear the direct contact with reality that is the essence of true growth. We will find mindfulness difficult because it insists on full presence in the moment as it is. We may enlist many outs to protect ourselves: money, sex, alcohol, coffee, food, smoking, drugs, and, of course, the ceaseless movements of our frantic mind itself with all its hopes and fears. When we look deeply into our fears, we see that, at base, every fear is a fear of not having control.” 
         Richo D. “The five things we cannot change … and the happiness we find by embracing them.” Shambhala, Boston, 2005. 

Photo: ANAYV

Sunday, August 19, 2012

How do I relate to my worldview?

     “A paradigm, most simply, is both a model of and a template for reality. Complementary terms include ‘belief system’ and ‘worldview.’ Just as a fish cannot breathe outside of the water it swims in, so an individual operating within a paradigm is subject to the illusion that the paradigm represents the whole of reality. But no paradigm does. All models of reality, no matter how complex, are bound to leave out some aspects of the ‘reality’ they are attempting to model. Many paradigms come to constitute relatively closed conceptual systems that discount or exclude incompatible information, regardless of its potential validity within another paradigm. In the Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1970), philosopher Thomas Kuhn demonstrated that, far from being an accurate model of reality, the most a paradigm can be is a set of beliefs about the nature of an ultimately unknowable universe.

     The limitations of paradigms are counterbalanced by their advantages: paradigms provide clear conceptual models that facilitate one’s movement in the world. In acting not only as models of – but also as templates for – reality, paradigms enable us to behave in organized ways, to take action that make sense under a given set of principles. ‘To paradigm,’ if you will, is to create the world through the story we tell about it. We then can live as cultural beings in the organized and coherent paradigmatic world we have created. We cannot live without paradigms. But we can learn to be conscious and aware of how they influence our thoughts and shape our experience, to understand that they open some possibilities while closing others. That awareness can bring a rare kind of freedom – the freedom to ‘think beyond.’
     Davis-Floyd R, St. John G. “From doctor to healer. The transformative journey.” Rutgers University Press, London, 1998.
     You first have to realize that you're in a box, before you can think outside the box. 

Photo: Laura Diliberto

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Early Warning Signs in the Sangha

     "Early warning signs that a group is headed for trouble: 

1. Over-adulation of the teacher 
2. Too much power residing in the teacher, with lots of 'yes' men and women, and no checks and balances 
3. Believing that the ends justify the means (as in having healthy young people go on welfare at ZCLA so they could be on 'staff') 
4. Talking about us 'inside' who know the truth and the 'outside world' who do not 
5. Resultant loss of outside perspective 
6. Lack of clear ethical guidelines, maintained first and foremost by the teachers 
7. Resultant misuse of power – monetary, sexual, etc. 
8. Secrecy 
9. Manipulation, intimidation, coercion or threats."

Jan Chozen Bays

NOTE: Jan Chozen Bays' entire "letter" is valuable reading

Photo: CK NG

Friday, August 17, 2012

Seeing clearly?

        "Empathy is ... the criterion by which we know that we are seeing clearly and not caught in small motives." John Tarrant

        Murphy S. Upside-down zen. Finding the marvelous in the ordinary. Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2006.   - a powerful book!

Photo: smb 2

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Evaluating Teachers

     "How exactly do we know that someone is a bad (or good) teacher? We observe them carefully over time; pay attention to our own mind, heart, and gut; and trust our own best judgment. We ask ourselves, 'Does this person's behavior consistently follow and uphold the essential principles of human connection, compassion, and service?'
     If we can't or won't trust our own judgment, then we will probably end up as part of a deeply abusive cult. We'll find a very sexy, very charismatic, and thoroughly exploitive (and, perhaps, mentally ill) spiritual teacher. He will tell us that we need to trust everything he says and does, and that we must put ourselves unquestioningly in his hands, with the same innocence that children are asked to put their faith in God. And then he will steal our energy, money, and sanity." Scott Edelstein

Photo: Arthur Teng

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Awakenings AND Gradual Integration

     The late Robert Aitken's awakening "wasn't a big-bang experience ... but it began a process of widening insight that ultimately made him a wise, compassionate, skillful, and upright teacher. Unfortunately, a big-bang realization doesn't ensure such a result.
     ... a characteristic absolutely central to Aitken Roshi's nature and to his teaching and writing: his emphasis on the precepts and on living out the Dharma in all its ethical dimensions. This is the contribution to Western Buddhism for which he surely was best known and will be best remembered."              Nelson Foster & Jack Shoemaker

     "Living out the Dharma in all its ethical dimensions" seems the surest prerequisite to awakenings that, through a lifetime's continuous work, lead to thorough transformation - as we progressively approximate BEING the teaching. An awakening experience may precede and instigate living an ethical life (one of the Zen patriarchs had been a murderer).
     Either way, behavior reflects one's level of attainment. But Anais Nis is also likely correct:
“We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

Photo: Tim A2

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Where road signs are scarce

     "on any journey worth taking you will be in new territory a lot of the time." John Tarrant

        Murphy S. Upside-down zen. Finding the marvelous in the ordinary. Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2006.    - a truly wonderful book - highly recommended

Photo: karl mohr

Monday, August 13, 2012


     "compassion is what shapes all of life in a really simple direct sense. You wouldn’t have made it successfully to coherent adulthood without someone loving you as best they could. The altruism of the fundamental bonds between people – in all that is wrong with the world, don’t miss that. We can focus on the shortcomings of people and miss the fact that they’re here, they’re alive, they are breathing, they are in front of us, they are feeling pain, they are doing their best."     Susan Murphy - "The Sufferer's Standard" Dharma Talk

Photo: rok urankar

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Self-talk, once Adaptive, has become a Liability

     "we developed this ego a couple of hundred thousand years ago probably. And why did we develop the ego? It was probably useful when life was a lot simpler: we were living in a cave or something, and we had very simple communication. Out of that communication came language. Out of language came this self-talking ability we have. It was probably useful when you and I were deciding who is going to plant the seeds and who is going to plow the soil or who is going to go out and kill the gazelle and who is going to take care of cooking it. Very useful. But today, in today’s world things have really changed. ... 500 years ago we had 5,000 thoughts a day, now we have 55,000 thoughts a day [Peter Baldwin told me]. It really has turned into an evolutionary disadvantage. I mean most of our stress, our unhappiness, our anger, our fixation are driven by this self-referential narrative. It is no longer useful and we're no longer capable of handling it, with the very limited capacity we have of handling seven plus or minus two things at a time in short term memory. We're no longer capable of dealing with this incredibly complicated world (using self-talk)."      Gary Weber
BG 260: Enlightenment is Capable of Endless Enlargement 

Photo: Don Hanna

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sex & Spiritual bypassing

     "It is not too much to say that Joko Beck transformed the nature of Zen in America. At a time when a focus on kensho experiences and becoming enlightened after the manner in which we imagined our Japanese masters led to a dismissive attitude to problems that were 'merely' psychological, Joko restored a sense of emotional reality to a scene increasingly plagued by scandal and misconduct by our allegedly enlightened role models. She had the courage to say that her own teacher’s training had done little to curb his own alcoholism or deal with his character problems. Furthermore, his wasn’t merely an unfortunate exception but that it pointed to a deeply ingrained tendency to enshrine emotional bypassing into the very heart of traditional Zen training. She put dealing with anger, anxiety, pride and the self centered sexual exploitation of students into the center of what we must deal with in practice."     Barry Magid

     "Sex can make a fool of anyone and often does.
     How we deal with desire is a pretty good indication of where we are on the path, but that we (can be) tripped up by it is nothing that should surprise any of us."

Photo: Pugru

Friday, August 10, 2012

Objectivity & Observer mind

     “You can be aware of bodily sensations, mental feelings, and mental activities. But do not think of them as ‘mine’; they are just what they are: sensations are sensations, feelings are feelings, mental activities are mental activities – that is their fundamental nature. Always try to observe them with this view in mind; if you don’t, ie if you experience them as ‘mine’, attachment or aversion will inevitably arise.”
         Ashin Tejaniya “Don’t Look Down on the Defilements – They Will Laugh at You."

Photo: Julius T. Santos

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Steady, continuous effort

     “Right effort means perseverance. It does not mean focusing hard, controlling, forcing or restricting yourself. Focusing hard arises from greed, aversion, or ignorance of practice.”

       Ashin Tejaniya “Don’t Look Down on the Defilements – They Will Laugh at You."

Artist Felicia Knock, Lunenburg Folk Art Festival, Nova Scotia

Monday, August 6, 2012

Expressions of the Inexpressible

     We sit to experience directly who we am - an ongoing process of "dropping off" many onion layers of unnecessaries.
     Off the cushion, we attempt to embody this reality.

Annual Lunenburg Folk Festival - Aug 5, 2012 -

Thursday, August 2, 2012

9/11, Post-Traumatic Growth, & Psychology's Expanded Role

     "Focusing on transformative experiences that have emerged out of the trauma and conflict of September 11 (9/11), we find signs of a cultural transformation of consciousness and propose to articulate the foundations for a transpersonal theory of cultural evolution. In emphasizing instances of integral consciousness and the spiritual aspects of responses to 9/11, we are not devaluing mourning, fear, anger, or the national pain of loss. However, as researchers we cannot deny the evidence of another class of phenomena in the aftermath of 9/11, such as complex spiritual, imaginative and transformative. These experiences can also be described as transpersonal, sacred, altruistic, and positive.

     Surveys and focus group responses to 9/11 resulted in psychologists acknowledging the resilience of the U.S. populace. The need was not for coping strategies to avoid pathology but for self-exploration and the acknowledgement of trauma as transformative in the cultivation of positive values and altruistic action. 
     Psychology can be more aware of the subtleties of phenomena as they present themselves within complex lived experience. At the same time, the broad, interdisciplinary, inclusive cosmologies will be complimentary for psychology to assess the patterns of development in cultures.
     We call upon psychology to develop a further understanding of imaginative responses to conflicts and trauma, and to study and develop means of introducing and cultivating social practices that facilitate integral consciousness in world cultures.
     Although it is not always acknowledged, psychology has a culture shaping function. A shift towards an emergent evolution oriented psychology able to accommodate spontaneity and acknowledge the reality of cosmic and non-dual realms might be a factor in the formation of non-violent cultures in the future."
       Wall K, Louchakova O. Evolution of consciousness in responses to terrorist attacks: Towards a transpersonal theory of cultural transformation. The Humanistic Psychologist 2002; 30(3): 252-273.

Photo: TClair

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Levels of Knowing - the Body's Wisdom

      "If experience is not coming from the body, it is not known. You can say 'I know I am going to die', from your head. But it's something totally different to be told 'You've got 6 months to live' - then it's coming from the body that knows it's going to die. ... something totally different happens when it's experienced at the muscular level." Marion Woodman, Jungian Analyst

     Simple concepts are relatively quick and easy to grasp. But the cerebral cortex is much further from the marrow of one's bones than we suspect! Deep understanding of life's complexities, and full integration of valuable knowledge into one's life, requires decades of dedicated effort. I suspect the brains (not just bodies) of PhDs in physical education who don't exercise, differ radically on neuroimaging from the brains of high-level athletes. Of course top athletes can also have PhDs. But which group has the deepest, most complete understanding of phys ed?

     These "levels of knowing" differ not merely quantitatively, but are ascending, qualitative steps in ways of being in the world, with a corresponding impact on the world.

     "The success of a work depends on the interior 'state' (assuming the balance to be at the highest degree of tension towards wisdom) of its creator". Andre Breton, 1957