Sunday, September 30, 2012

Meditation, Freedom and Ethics

     “In meditation, the content of our mind is really just a jumping off point. We do want to recognize what kind of thoughts, what kind of feelings, what kind of emotions - but I think meditation, and the (Buddha’s) teachings in general then go much deeper than that. And they go deeper in a couple of ways.
     One is there’s an ethical framework to the teachings. There’s a real recognition that some mind states are unwholesome – that is they lead to suffering for oneself and others; others are wholesome – they lead to happiness. And there’s an ethical imperative that follows from that if we really care about happiness and peace in the world. So that ethical framework I think is quite important. 
     But even deeper than that, is when we go from an interest in the content of what’s arising, to the nature of the process itself, and we’re giving more emphasis to seeing just how everything in the mind and body is simply arising, and is there for a short while, and passes away. And so we go from a level of content to a level of process. And that’s where our insight into the truth of change, of impermanence becomes strongly integrated in our lives. The more we see the changing nature of things, the less we’re attached. The less we’re attached, the less we suffer. And so that’s why it’s a path to freedom.”      Joseph Goldstein

     Above from the excellent full-length (8hrs 24min) 2010 documentary movie "Eastern Mystics - Discovering the Sacred in the Ordinary". The shorter {78min} version is: "With One Voice. Awaken to the Reality that Unites Us All"

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Love - by Czeslaw Milosz


Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills - 
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.

Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn't matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn't always understand.
                                                                        Czeslaw Milosz

Shambhala November 2012

Photo: Cariboou

Friday, September 28, 2012

When the rubber hits the road

     The depth of our practice is measured by how we respond to the constant challenges life feeds us with grandmotherly love. Tiny insults to our ego are the appetizers, serious illness and death of loved ones the main course, and our own illness and death the dessert.
     It's remarkably sad to see health-care professionals, priests, nuns and other clergy who are morbidly afraid of not only their own mortality, but the very topic.
     Meditation practice is not a rabbit's foot with magical powers. Spirituality starts when we finally let go of magical thinking - and don't we all dearly love fairy tales!
     Life is one bustling restaurant - let's not be "shocked" when - not if - our plate appears in front of us. 

     "The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong in the broken places."             Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms       (thank you Tracy for the quote)
     SO, as an ephemeral being, balanced on the razor's edge, what can I do - now - to meaningfully help my ephemeral siblings? How can I help - now - to decrease suffering, and add a bit of joy?!home/mainPage

“Set me a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm, for love is strong as death.”
Elizabeth Smart

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Practicing mindfulness - remarkably agentic!

     When we carefully study the results of causes and conditions, we start realizing how thoroughly our behavior ("output") is based on all previous and current events ("inputs") in our lives. It also becomes increasingly clear, that if we wish to elevate our behavior above mere reflexive reactions to circumstances, we must change a fundamental condition - that of our consciousness!
     Neuroscientists have shown that the structure and function of the brain changes dramatically between an untrained musician eg violinist, and one who's highly trained. The same has been shown numerous times with novice vs long-time meditators. With more practice, the brain changes more, and with these further neurologic changes, the capacity to practice and act mindfully increases, making practice, and life, easier. And on it goes with iterative processes.
     Establishing a consistent mindfulness practice is a remarkably agentic step forward - from relying on brain-stem reflexes - to living consciously as Homo sapiens sapiens.

Photo: Shihan Chintaka

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The way things work

     In the current movie "The Words" the characters make certain poor choices, which have serious repercussions on their lives. The more closely we adhere to right speech and right action, the more clearly we can perceive reality and in turn, the more closely we can adhere to the basic laws of life. We can gradually let go of our tiny self-absorbed fiction, and realize the big clear blue-sky of reality.

Develop continuous awareness

     “It is the nature of the mind to be constantly in contact with objects, so you do not have to make a special effort to see an object. Just become aware of what is there and do not try to see what you think is the right object. There is no need to control or manipulate your experience.

     When people start meditating, they tend to have fixed ideas of how the practice should develop. But you do not need to do or create anything. You just need to develop continuous awareness to watch and observe. That’s all. You cannot make things happen, but when you develop awareness correctly, things will happen. The same is true for the arising of understanding, be it simple or deep, even enlightenment!”
         Ashin Tejaniya “Don’t Look Down on the Defilements – They Will Laugh at You.

Photo: kaw209

Friday, September 21, 2012

Altering Consciousness as a Trait of Being

     “Freud saw no way out of suffering but to bear it; the Buddhist psychologist offers an alternative: alter the process of ordinary consciousness and thereby end suffering. The state of consciousness which transcends all the ordinary realms of being is the ‘Buddha realm.’ Buddhahood is attained by transforming ordinary consciousness, principally through meditation, and once attained is characterized by the extinction of all those states – eg anxiety, needfulness, pride – which mark the ordinary realms of existence. Buddhahood is a higher-order integration than any suggested by the developmental schema of contemporary psychology.
     What is particularly intriguing about the Buddhist developmental schema is that it not only expands the constructs of contemporary psychology’s view of what is possible, but also gives details of the means whereby such a change can occur, namely, that via meditation – an attentional manipulation – one can enter an altered state, and that through systematic retraining of attentional habits one can alter consciousness as a trait of being. Such an enduring alteration of the structure and process of consciousness is no longer an ASC (altered state of consciousness), but represents an altered trait of consciousness, or ATC, where attributes of an ASC are assimilated in ordinary states of consciousness.” Daniel Goleman

         Walsh R, Vaughan F eds. Paths beyond ego. The transpersonal vision. Penguin Putnam Inc, NY, 1993.

Photo: giants

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Valid Epistemology for Human Potential

     “There exist within us … latent but unexplored creative capacities, depths of psyche, states of consciousness, and stages of development undreamed of by most people. Transpersonal disciplines have emerged to explore these possibilities …
     any valid epistemology (way of acquiring knowledge) is welcome. In practice, transpersonal researchers have encouraged an eclectic, interdisciplinary, integrative approach that makes appropriate use of all the so-called ‘three eyes of knowledge’: the sensory, introspective-rational, and contemplative. … To date, the transpersonal disciplines stand alone in adopting an eclectic epistemology that seeks to include science, philosophy, instrospection, and contemplation and to integrate them in a comprehensive investigation adequate to the many dimensions of human experience and human nature.”

         Walsh R, Vaughan F eds. Paths beyond ego. The transpersonal vision. Penguin Putnam Inc, NY, 1993.

Hollis & South, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sculpting the Self - Finding Buddha

     What we choose to do, each moment, is our best shot at survival, avoidance of suffering, and grabbing a bit of happiness. The choice is not necessarily wise ie well-reasoned with respect to our own and everyone else's long-term best interests, but it's the best we can do for now.

     ‘The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.’                   Michelangelo

     Wisdom traditions suggest that perfection - Buddhanature - is within each of us amazing spirits walking around in rags. Through mindfulness practices, we learn to take the rags less and less seriously, and live more and more from what's inside.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Transpersonal experiences - universal potential

     “Humanistic psychologists wanted to study human experience and what was most central to life and well-being, rather than what was easily measured in the laboratory. One discovery in particular was to have an enormous impact and eventually give birth to transpersonal psychology. Exceptionally psychologically healthy people tend to have ‘peak experiences’: brief but extremely intense, blissful, meaningful, and beneficial experiences of expanded identity and union with the universe. Similar experiences have been recognized across history and have been called mystical, spiritual, and unitive experiences, or in the East, Samadhi and satori.”
     “Transpersonal experiences may be defined as experiences in which the sense of identity or self extends beyond (trans) the individual or personal to encompass wider aspects of humankind, life, psyche, and cosmos.
     ... one interpretation of transpersonal is that the transcendent is expressed through (trans) the personal.”

         Walsh R, Vaughan F eds. Paths beyond ego. The transpersonal vision. Penguin Putnam Inc, NY, 1993.

A view from Wolfville, Nova Scotia

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Reptile, Buddha - Not one, not two

     "Pema Chödrön has talked about how the practice of seeing herself as Buddha helped her open up her practice to everything she experienced. She said she did this by labeling whatever she was feeling as buddha. For example, if she was hungry, she would call herself 'hungry buddha.' When you feel afraid, that is 'fearful buddha' or 'scaredy-cat buddha.' She used examples, such as, if you have indigestion, that is 'buddha with heartburn.' Similarly, we could say, if you are bored, recognize that as 'bored buddha.' If you are enraged, that is 'angry Buddha;' if you are in a jealous state, then recognize that right now you are 'jealous buddha.' In Zen meditation, you might regard yourself as 'thinking Buddha,' which is more constructive than wishing you were not thinking or feeling like a failure when you are thinking. Recognizing and acknowledging your actual experience is the first step in accepting whatever you are experiencing as being something completely acceptable to practice with. The space created by being aware of our experience interrupts the domino effect of one feeling or reaction automatically cascading into the next."

         Phelan JP.  Practicing with Fear. Mindfulness - published online 06 September 2012. 

Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fear and the Illusion of Separateness

     “Fear is the primary mechanism sustaining the concept of the ‘other’ and reinforcing . . . loneliness and distance in our lives. [Through fear] we identify with a fragment of reality rather than with the whole. Metta [loving-kindness] overcomes the illusion of separateness... (and thereby) ... overcomes all of the states that accompany this fundamental error of separateness — [including] fear, alienation, loneliness, and despair . . . ”            Sharon Salzberg

         Phelan JP.  Practicing with Fear. Mindfulness - published online 06 September 2012. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

and behind Fear?

     "behind all hardening and tightening and rigidity of the heart, there is always fear. But if you touch fear, behind fear there is a soft spot. And if you touch that soft spot, you find the vast blue sky. You find that which is ineffable, ungraspable, and unbiased, that which can support and awaken us at any time”.                 Pema Chodron

         Phelan JP.  Practicing with Fear. Mindfulness - published online 06 September 2012.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fear and Love

     "The idea of loving-kindness being an antidote to fear reminds me of how sometimes I can feel myself going back and forth between the fear of going into a new group to do a presentation and a warmness of heart that comes from wanting to make an offering of who I am as a Buddhist practitioner in the most honest and helpful way I can. For a long time, I have thought that one of the most important parts of giving a talk, at least for me, is saying, 'Good morning.' I actually practice saying this, but what I am really practicing is making an offering of goodwill by trying to open myself to a place beyond self-consciousness and judgment; so, if nothing else, at least I can offer this heartfelt wish. Saying, 'good morning,' helps me connect within myself to a place of warm regard."

         Phelan JP.  Practicing with Fear. Mindfulness - published online 06 September 2012. - I found this entire (3 page) paper to be exceptionally wise & useful - highly recommended

Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Processing what is on my plate

     Can I let go of words, concepts, hopes, stories, and all the other barriers I erect between myself and raw reality? On or off the cushion, dancing with this moment, being-doing is realized. 

What is this?
Who am I?
Not one, not two

Monday, September 10, 2012

One thing matters - AUTHENTICITY

     Let's face it, when it comes right down to it, only one thing matters - that we've loved well. First our immediate family and closest friends - to the degree that our life circumstances made that possible. Then, all those with whom we interacted in various ways. And then ...

     Authenticity is, at the level of my current understanding, loving awareness that embraces as much as one can, knowing that eventually, we will each embrace all of it. We're very much in this thing together!

Contemplating the ineffable at Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia on Sept 9, 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Time - only a construct

     “As Kant pointed out two centuries ago, time exists solely as a construct of the mind, expressed in linear form, sequentially, as chronos and vertically, meaningfully, as kairos.”

and yet, isn't time one of our greatest worries?

"Fear not.
What is not real,
never was
and never will be.
What is real,
always was
and cannot
be destroyed."                 The Bhagavad Gita

        Hollis J. What matters most. Living a more considered life. Gotham Books, NY, 2009.

Photo: Bartosz Budrewicz

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The purpose of practicing

     “The purpose of practicing is to grow in wisdom. Growth in wisdom can only happen once we are able to recognize, understand, and transcend the defilements. In order to test your limits and to grow, you have to give yourself the opportunity to face the defilements. Without facing life’s challenges, your mind will remain forever weak.”
       Ashin Tejaniya “Don’t Look Down on the Defilements – They Will Laugh at You."

Photo: PeterBraun

Friday, September 7, 2012

A journey of learning and understanding

     “Always keep an open mind about whatever you experience. Try not to jump to conclusions. Simply keep observing and investigating your experience thoroughly and continuously. Jumping to conclusions will prevent your understanding from deepening.

     Learn to be interested in difficult situations. By being present with them in a gentle manner, you may suddenly understand what caused them."

       Ashin Tejaniya “Don’t Look Down on the Defilements – They Will Laugh at You."
The Grain Exchange building, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Gathering information with an open mind

     “Always keep an open mind about whatever you experience. Try not to jump to conclusions. Simply keep observing and investigating your experience thoroughly and continuously. Jumping to conclusions will prevent your understanding from deepening.”
       Ashin Tejaniya “Don’t Look Down on the Defilements – They Will Laugh at You."

      In medicine, a well-recognized source of diagnostic error is "premature closure" - when a physician fails to listen to patient's full history because s/he "knows" the rest, having "heard it all before." It takes considerable effort to patiently retain an open, beginner's mind, particularly for 'experts'.
     One definition of an expert is one who is incapable of further learning.

Winnipeg Children's Museum

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

To study the self ... all of it

     "When you observe your mind, you will be surprised, amazed and possibly even shocked to discover fixed ideas, wants, fears, hopes, and expectations which you have not been aware of."
       Ashin Tejaniya “Don’t Look Down on the Defilements – They Will Laugh at You."

      "Ignoring the shadow side of our personalities can only lead to what Freud once called 'the return of the repressed'.”                    Mark Epstein MD
Bárány felhő = clouds resembling a lamb's coat

Monday, September 3, 2012

When one's Worldview Sucks

     Amazingly, our primitive (reptilian) approach-avoidance reflex also influences whether we continue functioning at that level OR allow ourselves to mature & function at a higher (human) level.
     How do you feel after being involved, perhaps only as a listener, in hours of "small-talk"? People who've known each other for many years can still carefully manoeuvre away from topics of any depth or meaning, quickly calling these "depressing", or making cynical jokes about spirituality, and dogmatically stating that mindless escapism of blowed-'em-up movies is the ultimate entertainment - "as good as it gets."
     Cynical nihilism, for too many of us, appears to be better than nothing. Fear (avoidance) makes us hang onto any belief system, no matter how bankrupt and miserable.
     It takes courage to even look at, never mind let go of our own worldview, even when it's outlived its usefulness in our life. 

     See also:

Manitoba Legislative Building, Winnipeg

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Primitive fantacies & nightmares

     Doesn't the phrase "primitive fantacies & nightmares" sum up all our hopes and fears, our autopilot strivings, aversions, all of our mental chatter?
     Don't we sit to allow this mud to settle, so that clarity can manifest? To see what's real?

Downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba