Friday, November 30, 2012

Momentum of the World

     "The masters of the past suggest we should constantly remind ourselves about: the imminence of death; the futility of our worldly activities; and the worst news of all, that there is no end to samsara's sufferings. Just look around you and you will see that the world never ceases to churn out more and more of the same thing, and that the result is unremitting pain and unbearable suffering. It's no surprise, then, that the masters have pointed out, that to maintain mindfulness for as long as it takes to drink a cup of tea accumulates more merit than years of practicing generosity, discipline, and asceticism."

         Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse   Shambhala Sun January 2013

"You better stop
Look around
Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes, here it comes

Here comes your 19th nervous breakdown."     Rolling Stones

     The role of cognitive defusion - "I am not my thoughts" - to help extricate ourselves from the momentum of the world is worth deep investigation. Though "cognitive", the "defusion" can become established at visceral / subconscious depths - as we cultivate the will and vow to become porous (realize our porous nature)?

Photo: Juraj Lacko

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Willingness and Openness to Embrace the Truth

     "... we feel annoyed when we are forced to acknowledge the illusory nature of our lives and the reality of death. We also take exception to contemplating it, even though death is an irrefutable universal truth. Our habitual reaction is to pretend it will never happen - which is how we deal with most of the other inconvenient truths we find difficult to stomach.
     Instead of becoming resentful, though, it is important for anyone who sincerely wishes to become a dharma practitioner to develop a willingness and openness to embrace the truth, because the dharma is the truth."

       Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse   Shambhala Sun January 2013

Andre Gallant

Monday, November 26, 2012

Spirituality & Meaning

     Spirituality can be defined as “a search for existential or transcendent meaning. It can be achieved through religious affiliation, or independently of one as well. It is compatible with the religious pluralism that has emerged in recent decades, as tolerance for diverse beliefs has become part of our common culture. Even many people who are committed to formal religious practice are open to those who are not.
     Spirituality is a highly personal issue, and each person is his or her own expert on its definition. Because of this, we should attend to what people say for themselves …” 

       Galanter M. Spirituality and the healthy mind: Science, therapy, and the need for personal meaning. Oxford University Press, NY, 2005. 

Photo: Pete St

Friday, November 23, 2012

Guided Mindfulness Meditation & Hypnosis - Overlaps & Differences

• “guided meditations are different in structure and intent than solo meditations
• guided meditations in a clinical context for therapeutic objectives are different than those employed for personal or spiritual growth
• the linguistic, neurophysiological, and social psychological overlaps between guided mindful meditation and hypnosis are evident
• therapists using guided mindful meditation approaches in their treatments would benefit greatly from studying hypnosis for its deeper consideration of the role of suggestion and other interpersonal dynamics in catalyzing experiences that clients in treatment find helpful and enlightening”

       Yapko MD. Mindfulness and hypnosis. The power of suggestion to transform experience. WW Norton & Co, NY, 2011.   

     Hypnotherapists, and other clinicians, would benefit greatly from having an ongoing meditation practice, under the guidance of a qualified teacher.

Fall in Nova Scotia

Thursday, November 22, 2012

May all beings be happy - simple theory, not easy practice

     "The Sanskrit word maitri and the Pali word metta both mean 'loving-kindness' or 'loving care,' and refer to an attitude of friendliness, good will, and generosity of heart. When we are filled with loving-kindness and a sense of loving care, we have a very simple wish: May all beings be happy.
     This kind of love has many qualities that distinguish it from our more usual experiences of love mixed with desire and attachment. Born of great generosity, metta is caring and kindness that does not seek self-benefit. It does not look for anything in return or by way of exchange: 'I will love you if you love me,' or 'I will love you if you behave a certain way.' Because loving-kindness is never associated with anything harmful, it always arises from a purity of heart."
       Goldstein J. A heart full of peace. Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2007.

     We can read information like that many times over many years, and readily notice how others fail to live up to these wonderfully wise standards. Then suddenly, we're shocked to realize - heh wait a minute, I'm not doing this! - sparkling insight - another chance to let go of a portion of my conditioning.

Maui Buddha by Andrea Smith

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The prison walls WE build

     “… we effectively make our own limits by our own thought processes. Then, too often, we forget that we have created these boundaries ourself. Consequently, we get stuck and feel we can’t get beyond them.” 
       Kabat-Zinn J. “Full catastrophe living. Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain and illness”. Dell Publishing, NY, 1990.

     There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”             Nelson Mandela

Photo: Jeet Sutaprim

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Deep Self-Reflection, Suffering, Meaning

     “Michael Kearney, an Irish psychiatrist and hospice physician, defined suffering as ‘the experience of an individual who has become disconnected and alienated from the deepest and most fundamental aspects of him or herself.’ Psychiatrist, Victor Frankl … asserted that: ‘Man is not destroyed by suffering, he is destroyed by suffering without meaning.’

       Coulehan J. Compassionate solidarity: suffering, poetry, & medicine. Perspect Biol Med 2009; 52(4): 585-603.

Photo: Ashley Osborne

Monday, November 19, 2012

Compassion = Allocentricity + Ecocentricity

     “Great compassion means to be in unity with the needs of all beings, even the plants and inanimate phenomena of nature.”

       Brazier D. "Zen Therapy." Constable, London, 1995. 

Photo: Mat Rick

Nibbana - Nirvana

Having nothing,
clinging to nothing:
that is the Island,
there is no other;
that is Nibbana, I tell you,
the total ending of ageing and death. 

~ SN 1094 
The Buddha

The Blooming Plumtree   Vincent Van Gogh

Sunday, November 18, 2012

An honest look at our mind - as it really is

     "We get embarrassed when this beautiful person that we hoped to become one day is suddenly raging about some silly thing. We think we are in charge, but as we continue to practice we realize it's really just blind habits - blind conditioning, blind responses. They are blind because they are acted upon before our mindfulness can even catch them.
     When we are mindful, we are conscious; we can see clearly. But often habits are so strong they catch us off guard and can manifest as a punch - punching our world, our reality. This is not always obvious, as habits can be hidden behind a smile or an appearance of politeness. A punch can even look quite sweet.
     So in our meditation practice we begin to see the details of our mind. We ask, what is happening right now? Am I at peace? Do I have what is happening or not? Do I wish to be somewhere else? Do I force myself to be here? These details are not always acknowledged, and yet this is the material of our practice. The Buddha said, 'I teach for those who know and those who see.' They are very simple words, aren't they? But for me it means a lot. If we don't see our mind as it really is, there is nothing much we can do."

        Ajahn Sundara - Forest Sangha Newsletter No. 91, 2012

Photo: The Mick

Friday, November 16, 2012

Discomfort with Closeness, Strong feelings, & Meditation

     Many people, particularly male physicians and dentists, have "marked discomfort with closeness and an even more marked reluctance to acknowledge this discomfort or deal openly with it. Such tendencies are particularly prominent among those who have compulsive personalities, in which difficulty with the management of strong feelings, both positive and negative, is a central feature."        Gabbard GO, Menninger RW. "The psychology of postponement in the medical marriage." JAMA 1989; 261(16): 2378-81.

      One of the determinants of the choice of the medical profession may be to defend against the horrible existential dread associated with feelings of impotence in the face of one's own ultimate death. ... another grand paradox on which to reflect is that those individuals who are so vulnerable to feelings of helplessness choose a profession where they are repeatedly reminded of their inherent impotence in the face of disease and death."
       Gabbard GO. "The role of compulsiveness in the normal physician." JAMA 1985; 254(20): 2926-9.

“Life and death are not, as they say, rocket science. We can all understand them because we all can, and must, experience them. When we take up meditation or go into therapy, at the most basic level, we are looking for a way to cope with the fact of impermanence, which ultimately comes down to the fact of our mortality. At first, we inevitably try to deny it, control it, or avoid it. Eventually, if we stay with a real practice of emotional honesty and awareness … we may discover the joy that underlies life as it is – this fleeting, ungraspable, uncontrollable life-as-it-is.”
        Magid B. "Ending the pursuit of happiness – a Zen guide." Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2008.

Photo: Suhdeep Mehta

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Transcending the Duality of Agency & Communion

     "Agency is about getting ahead, dispositions that individuate and advance the self; communion is about getting along, dispositions that contribute to a social collective. ... “The villain is unmitigated agency. The moral imperative is to try to mitigate agency with communion."

     "agency and communion are, for most people, modular — psychologically, one is active at any given time; their integration is the exception. What the virtuous have done that other leaders have not is reconciled the duality of human existence."
        Frimer JA et al. Hierarchical Integration of Agency and Communion: A Study of Influential Moral Figures. J Pers 2012; DOI 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2011.00764.x

     “Agentic heroes separate to fight the dragon; only heroes on the higher, mythological level, integrating agency and communion . . . raise their swords to battle the real dragon within.” 
        Nasby W, Reed NW. The inner and outer voyages of a solo circumnavigator: An integrative case study. Journal of Personality 1997; 65: 757–1111.

Fall in Nova Scotia

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sitting - Breath - Universe

     "The ideal of sitting is to forget the breath. ... each breath is an independent thing. Your breath and the breath of the universe are the same. You share the same breath. Sitting and breathing in stillness is like a person who just shot an arrow. A moment later the result will be there, but all you know now is that the arrow is moving all right. It has left your realm, and yet you sense it is running well."

               Kobun Chino Roshi

Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly, Fall, 2012 

Photo: Andreati

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Seeing with Wisdom - Beyond Self

     "The eye that sees the relationship of all dharmas, all existences in this relative world, is called igen, wisdom eye. The wisdom eye observes the relationship of all beings, not just your position, but everything related, interrelated, arising, and falling. Whatever comes to the mind, comes to your being, comes to your meditation, is nothing but your portion of this relationship. So whatever is experienced or observed can become the source of teaching.
     It is very important to experience the complete negation of yourself, which brings you to the other side of nothing. You go to the other side of nothing, and you are held by the hand of the absolute. You recognize yourself as the absolute, so naturally there is no more insistence of a self, of yourself. You cannot even speak of 'no-self' within that absolute. Before this, although everyone is there and helping you, you are a closed system. When you flip to the other side of nothing, you discover everyone, everything, is waiting for you there."  
               Kobun Chino Roshi

Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly, Fall, 2012 

Photo: mattersdorff

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Love - where we Begin & End & ...

         "I was born when all I once feared
          I could love.”                               
      Rābiʿah al-Baṣrī

     “At the bottom of my grievance against a world gone mad, I discovered the vulnerable child who still didn’t know that love was fully available or truly reliable.”

        Welwood J. "Perfect love, imperfect relationships. Healing the wound of the heart." Trumpeter, Boston, 2006.

Photo: JohanAT

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fearlessly embrace all that the present moment holds

"Confess your hidden faults.
Approach what you find repulsive. 

Help those you think you cannot help. 
Anything you are attached to, let it go. 
Go to places that scare you."                       Machik Labdron

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

Montreal, Province de Quebec

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Meaningful Communication & Spiritual Maturity

     “Even where there are irreconcilable differences in doctrine and in formulated belief, there may still be great similarities and analogies in the realm of religious experience… On this existential level of experience and spiritual maturity, it is possible to achieve real and significant contacts and perhaps much more besides.”           Thomas Merton

Lipsey R. Freedom in the midst of action. Tricycle, Fall 2012

Fall in Nova Scotia

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Middle Way transcends extremes

     "The middle way says don't fall into an extreme. Extremes are dead ends. There everything is crystallized and solid, it creates it's own opposition, nothing can move. I want to give you an example of a person who's gone through some rigors in life, and here is how he sees things now:
     'I've come to see:
• we have an instinct for right and wrong, and push it aside when it's inconvenient; 
• that the more deeply we're motivated by emotion, the more insistently we pass it off as reason; 
• that denial is a force to be reckoned with, and our principle obstacle; 
• that ethical codes are as likely to produce hypocrisy as goodness; 
• that belief is precarious, especially when it demands certainty; 
• that no religious, scientific or academic faith can be trusted that can't laugh at itself; 
• that the only way to respect truth, is to take it with a pinch of salt; and 
• that life leads nowhere, until we consciously take the direction it provides.'       Stephen Schettini"

Ken McLeod
"There is no enemy: A toolkit for change" Buddhist Geeks Conference 2011

Artist: Joanne Hunt CSPWC, SCA

Monday, November 5, 2012

Creating Enemies, Externalizing, Projection, Avoidance, Suppression ...

          "When you're in a hole,
          Stop digging!"                    Will Rogers

     "An enemy is an experience that we can't tolerate, or we choose not to experience. Something comes up in us, and we can't experience it. Maybe we lack the skill, maybe we lack the capacity - certainly the case when we're small children, maybe we lack the willingness, maybe some combination of all of those. But we can't experience it. And so the only thing we can do then is to get rid of that experience. One of the ways we do that is we suppress it. But we don't really get rid of the energy of that experience it goes into the body and makes us sick in various ways. The more common way we discharge that energy by expressing it. We react in other words. 
     'There is no enemy' is a way of saying that there is another way, perhaps, to experience everything that arises. What is an enemy? It is the projection of our rejection of our own experience.
     When we encounter someone in our lives, or encounter a group or situation, and we say no, it's because something is coming up in us, which we can't tolerate. And so we have to push that away. Or if we can't push it away, then we seek to destroy it or neutralize it, or annihilate it ... This is how enemies come about."    Ken McLeod
"There is no enemy: A toolkit for change" Buddhist Geeks Conference 2011

Artist: Joanne Hunt CSPWC, SCA

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The process of Awakening

     "Awakening ... the opening up of a way of being in this world that is no longer determined by one's greed, hatred, fear, and selfishness. ... not a state but a process: an ethical way of life and commitment that enables human flourishing. ... Likewise, nirvana - the stopping of craving - is not the goal of the path but its very source. For human flourishing first stirs in that clear, bright, empty space where neurotic self-centredness realizes that it has no ground at all to stand on. One is then freed to pour forth like sunlight."
       Batchelor S. A Secular Buddhist. Tricycle, Fall 2012

Artist: Joanne Hunt CSPWC, SCA

Saturday, November 3, 2012

"Doing your Best"? Yes, but "Try Harder" - sort of ...

in memory of - John T. Smith - a fine martial artist

     If one were able to know and understand the effects of ALL of the inputs: genetics & environment (nature, nurture ± past lives) that make up an individual's "causes and conditions", their behavior under any new set of circumstances would be more predictable. Even identical twins behave differently, because their inputs, though similar (if raised in the same home) are not identical. Basically, expecting a person to behave differently than they do is unreasonable.
     Recently, I asked a colleague for a minor favor. It was a perfectly reasonable request that most people would expect to happen, but I had no expectations at all (due to my colleague's health). When he agreed to help, I was truly elated and happy. It was a wonderfully pleasant surprise.
     Most of us have inadequate insight even into our own causes & conditions, so we should try to have an open mind, & a patient, non-judgmental attitude even towards our own behavior. I suspect that each one of us has a heavy load of stuff to process in this lifetime. Each of us has different abilities to carry out this life's task. And each of us tries our best to be gentle, intelligent, patient, as together we slowly, tirelessly, persistently all move towards wisdom.

     An inspiring recent movie that you might find nurishing:

Friday, November 2, 2012

Natural state of awareness - nothing special

     “Awareness is our true self; it’s what we are. So we don’t have to try to develop awareness; we simply need to notice how we block awareness; with our thoughts, our fantasies, our opinions, and our judgments. We’re either in awareness, which is our natural state, or we’re doing something else. The mark of mature students is that most of the time, they don’t do something else. They’re just here, living their life. Nothing special.”             CJ Beck

Fall in Nova Scotia

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Just This Moment - as it Actually Is - OR - Perseverative Cognition

     “… it takes a bit of meditative presence to be with what is – just as it is – without being distracted by all the evaluations and comments that habitually arise about our situation. We suffer more from our stories than from the actual situation as it is.”         Toni Packer 

     “My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes – most of which have never happened.”        Mark Twain

Perseverative Cognition: Brosschot JF, Verkuil B, Thayer JF. Conscious and unconscious perseverative cognition: is a large part of prolonged physiological activity due to unconscious stress? J Psychosom Res. 2010; 69(4): 407-16.
Psychology of Stress:

Montreal, Canada