Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dynamics of Mindfulness Practice Groups, Sense of Community, Belonging, Social Capital, Sangha

     Folks who sit with a group, even for the very first time, notice the positive influence of the group on their sitting. A "sense of community" * or "community-belonging" is part of the explanation. Another, more subtle explanation may be the high level of "social capital" *** associated with belonging to a group committed to mining the depths of each member's being in order to uncover and share what is discovered with the greater community.
     "the odds of daily smoking were higher among female primary care givers of children who reported high levels of community-belonging in locations characterised by relatively low levels of social capital. Similarly, (another study) found that, in deprived areas, children of mothers who reported knowing many (vs few) of their neighbours had worse mental health outcomes, while in wealthier areas, children of mothers who reported knowing many (vs few) of their neighbours had better mental health outcomes. Thus, these findings suggest that the influence of community-belonging on health should depend on context."
       Hystad P, Carpiano RM. Sense of community-belonging and health-behaviour change in Canada. J Epidemiol Community Health 2012; 66(3): 277-83.

     * sense of community “a feeling that members have of belonging and being important to each other, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met by the commitment to be together.” McMillan DW (1976) quoted in:
       Chipuer HM, Pretty GMH. A review of the Sense of Community Index: Current uses, factor structure, reliability, and further development. Journal of Community Psychology 1999; 27(6): 643-658.
     *** "In sociology, social capital is the expected collective or economic benefits derived from the preferential treatment and cooperation between individuals and groups. Although different social sciences emphasize different aspects of social capital, they tend to share the core idea "that social networks have value". Just as a screwdriver (physical capital) or a university education (cultural capital or human capital) can increase productivity (both individual and collective), so do social contacts affect the productivity of individuals and groups."

Monday, January 28, 2013

Spiritual Bypass / Spiritual Bypassing

     "spiritual bypass refers to the unhealthy misuse of the spiritual life to avoid dealing with psychological difficulties. ... serves an avoidance function; it allows the individual to avoid the often painful and difficult psychological work of healing old wounds.... As such, the person in spiritual bypass actually might be best conceptualized as in a state of developmental arrest, which may result in increased psychological symptoms. 
     Spiritual bypass has been hypothesized to manifest in a number of ways, such as extreme external locus of control and abdication of personal responsibility, spiritual obsession, and the repression of emotions, as well as spiritual narcissism — an 'I'm enlightened and you're not' syndrome. The genuine spiritual path involves awareness and acceptance of present moment circumstances. In contrast, spiritual bypass involves a denial of at least some aspects of this experience.
     Because spiritual bypass is a phenomenon that takes place largely outside an individual's conscious awareness, paper-and-pencil measures of spirituality are unlikely to fully capture the function of spiritual practices in the lives of persons experiencing spiritual bypass.
     ... many people may not mature into their personal and genuine spiritual life until after their college years."
       Cashwell CS, Glosoff HL, Hammond C. Spiritual bypass: A preliminary investigation. Counseling and Values 2010; 54(2): 162-174.  
Photo: Noah Genda

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Shine the Light of Awareness, Embrace & Process

     "the essential common ground between Western psychology and Buddhism ... (is) their understanding that suffering comes from the parts of our being that are not recognized and embraced in the light of awareness. 'What the two traditions share ... is shining a light on the rejected, unprocessed parts of the psyche.'"        Tara Brach

Shambhala Sun March 2013

Photo: microsurgeon

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Who am I? What is this? How do I fit in? What to do?

     “Be attentive to the wordless teachings of Nature. Sense your place in the great Web of Life. Reach out with your spirit to the living world that sustains you. Transcend your separate identity and allow a ‘knowing’ of the ‘Whole’. As Black Elk says:

     ‘Peace comes within the souls of men when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the centre of the Universe dwells Wakan Tanka, and that this centre is really everywhere, it is within each of us.’

     Open your heart to the Great Mystery of life that may be appreciated, but never solved.”

        Freke T, Wa’na’nee’che’. “Thorsons Principles of Native American Spirituality.” HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1996. 

Photo: tourist-at-home

Friday, January 25, 2013

Continuous Ceaseless Practice

     “the problem of suffering still remains in the world and will remain in the world so long as greed, anger, and delusion on both the individual and collective level remain.

     In the long run if you want to really have an effect on the world’s anguish, learn to work ceaselessly on yourself even as you continue to strive, on a daily basis, to do the best you can for others.”

       Young-Eisendrath P, Martin R, eds. “Awakening to Zen. The teachings of Roshi Philip Kapleau.” Shambhala, Boston, 1997.

Friend by Kristiina Lehtonen

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pain, Growth, Maturity, Liberation & Joy

     “when one is in the wholehearted pursuit of an ideal, pain is not resented; it can provide an unparalleled opportunity for growth and maturity. Pain is the fire in which the dross of our personality – the loathings, desires, doubting, and fears – is burned away and the mind tempered and strengthened, not unlike brittle metal annealed into steel. Moreover, when pain, which the Buddha proclaimed as a condition of existence, is courageously accepted, it is a means to liberation in that it releases our natural sympathies and compassion and thus enables us to experience pleasure and joy with new depth and purity.”

       Young-Eisendrath P, Martin R, eds. “Awakening to Zen. The teachings of Roshi Philip Kapleau.” Shambhala, Boston, 1997.

Star Forest by Kristiina Lehtonen

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Diet, Health & Spiritual Life

     “In the profoundest sense, health is more than a matter of eating the right kind and quantity of food. We are nourished or depleted just as much by our thoughts as by proper quantities of proteins, calories, and vitamins. A mind feeding on lust or greed or revenge or despair or anger will poison the most nutritious food, leaving the body-mind vulnerable to disease. In the end, without zen, which purifies the heart, clarifies thought, and invigorates the body, macrobiotic diets, sattvic diets, all diets, are deficient.”

       Young-Eisendrath P, Martin R, eds. “Awakening to Zen. The teachings of Roshi Philip Kapleau.” Shambhala, Boston, 1997.

Winter Apples by Kristiina Lehtonen

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Embrace The Full Catastrophe, including Pain

     “when you experience pain and discomfort, do not resent it but become one with it. Pain can be a brilliant spur to continued effort and growth and, eventually, to Awakening.”

       Young-Eisendrath P, Martin R, eds. “Awakening to Zen. The teachings of Roshi Philip Kapleau.” Shambhala, Boston, 1997.

Inn of Knowledge by Kristiina Lehtonen

Monday, January 21, 2013

Enlightenment, Development & Congruence

     “there are shallow satori, deep satori, and full satori. A hundred candles lit in a pitch-black cave obviously give off more light than one or two. It is therefore pointless to ask, as many do, ‘How would the enlightened person act in such and such a situation?’ as though every enlightened person would respond in the same way. The satori person is an abstraction. There are only individual people of satori, or enlightenment, whose character and personalities vary according to the depth of their insight and practice. Zen masters have said, ‘It is not the quality of the enlightenment that makes the person, but the quality of the person that makes the enlightenment.’ Enlightenment does not automatically confer perfection. It is merely the foundation of an edifice whose many-storied superstructure would correspond to the perfected character and personality of the spiritually developed individual.”

       Young-Eisendrath P, Martin R, eds. “Awakening to Zen. The teachings of Roshi Philip Kapleau.” Shambhala, Boston, 1997.

Photo: stickpointed

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Kensho & Makyo - Enlightenment & Illusion

     “KENSHO (Jap.): literally, ‘seeing into one’s own nature.’ Semantically, kensho and SATORI have virtually the same meaning and are often used interchangeably. In describing the enlightenment of the Buddha and the great masters, however, it is customary to use the word satori rather than kensho, satori implying a deeper experience. (The exact Japanese expression for full enlightenment is daigo tettei.) When the word dogo (literally, ‘the way of enlightenment’) is combined with kensho, the latter word becomes more subjective and emphatic.”

     “MAKYO (Jap.): various illusory experiences, visions, and sensations that can arise as the surface levels of the mind settle during extended periods of ZAZEN. Ultimately anything less than enlightenment is a makyo. There are many kinds and levels.”

        Kapleau P. “Straight to the heart of Zen. Eleven classic koans & their inner meanings.” Shambhala, Boston, 2001. 

Pioneer by Kristiina Lehtonen

Saturday, January 19, 2013

And All Manner of Things ARE Well

     “Actually everything, just as it is, is a koan, the expression of perfection. To realize this perfection is the working out of a living koan. All koans – and there are many of them – express this perfection in different forms, but all of them reveal the essential perfection of existence lying beyond the realm of ever-changing appearances.”

       Kapleau P. “Straight to the heart of Zen. Eleven classic koans & their inner meanings.” Shambhala, Boston, 2001.

Photo: ChristophH

Friday, January 18, 2013

Silence & Responding Appropriately to the World's Anguish

     “My salvation is to hear and respond. For this, my life must be silent. Hence, my silence is my salvation.” Thomas Merton

Summerhill II by Kristiina Lehtonen

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Friendship, Doing & Being

     "Friendship needs a lot of nurturing. Often people devote their primary attention to the facts of their lives, to their situation, to their work, to their status. Most of their energy goes into DOING. Meister Eckhart writes beautifully about this temptation. He says many people wonder where they should be and what they should do, when in fact they should be more concerned about how to BE."

       O'Donohue J. "Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom." Cliff Street Books, 1997.

Photo: vajrasattva

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Agency AND Grace

     India's great religions have been criticized, even within India, but especially in the "pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps" West, as being passive, resigned to destiny, going nowhere. Nevertheless, Eastern and Western religions alike recognize a mysterious unearned element, generally referred to as "grace," that seems essential for awakening into a new consciousness.
     Of course, we can actively collaborate with grace through "random acts of kindness," as well as through organized efforts such as Halifax, Nova Scotia's "Waves of Compassion"

Photo: zaw min tun

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Individuation of Dharma Practice

     “The individuation of dharma practice occurs whenever priority is given to the resolution of a personal existential dilemma over the need to conform to the doctrines of a Buddhist orthodoxy. Individuation is a process of recovering personal authority through freeing ourselves from the constraints of collectively held belief systems. If training with a teacher of a certain school leads to a growing dependency on that tradition and a corresponding loss of personal autonomy, then that allegiance may have to be severed. At the same time, unprecedented exposure to a wide range of Buddhist traditions today makes it difficult to accept each school’s unquestioned assumption of its own superiority. In valuing imagination and diversity, such an individual vision would ultimately empower each practitioner to create his or her own distinctive track within the field of dharma practice.”

     Batchelor S. “Buddhism without beliefs. A contemporary guide to awakening.” Riverhead Books, NY, 1997.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Everyday Ordinary Magic

     Early this morning when I was about to drive to work, I saw a narrow linear band of bright blue in the sky. It was amazing and mysterious. I had no idea what it was, until it seemed that the whole sky started moving. Only then did I realize that the amazing and mysterious linear band of bright blue was not in the sky, but was the sky itself! (and all of the dark stuff was just a huge dark gray cloud.)
     This was very meaningful for me. The gray I had incorrectly assumed to be the dark early morning sky, but was but a cloud. While the amazing apparition was in fact what we normally take for granted, the endless sky!

Summer Night by Kristiina Lehtonen

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Intertwined Interbeing

     “Our relationships and our beliefs about the world have a direct effect on the deep sensations in our body that link into emotion and perception.” Richard Freeman

       Stone M. The Inner Tradition of Yoga. A Guide to Yoga Philosophy for the Contemporary Practitioner. Shambhala, Boston, 2008.

Photo: srcalva

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Openness - Having No Opinions

     To what extent can we drop the past, drop the future, and be completely open to the unfolding mystery of the present moment?
     "Only have no opinions" was one meditation master's single advice to his students. If you get rear-ended hard on the highway, what impact does your opinion or expectation of whiplash injury have on future symptoms? If you're sure you're going to have severe problems, isn't it almost certain to come true? If you're desperately hoping you won't have any problems, isn't there a part of you that thinks you will? Isn't the most accurate AND healthy attitude about how your back will be, quite simply: "I DON'T KNOW?"
     Why pollute the future? Can we learn to flow with the dynamic mysterious complex interactive process that is life?

Sprouts by Kristiina Lehtonen

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Me, alone against the world, or ...

     “When the division between myself and the rest of the world is driven by confusion and turmoil, this sharp differentiation hardens even further. My distinctiveness is frozen into an absolute aloneness. I feel abandoned, trapped in my body.
     Again, I need to stop. I may be able to start thawing this isolation by focusing on the complexity that I am. I may be able to ease the spasm of self-centeredness by realizing that I am not a fixed essence but an interactive cluster of processes.”

     Batchelor S. “Buddhism without beliefs. A contemporary guide to awakening.” Riverhead Books, NY, 1997.

A "bluebell wood", Ireland

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Leading from behind, like midwives, with open questions, turning phrases ...

     “true friends seek not to coerce us, even gently and reasonably, into believing what we are unsure of. These friends are like midwives, who draw forth what is waiting to be born. Their task is not to make themselves indispensable but redundant.”

       Batchelor S. “Buddhism without beliefs. A contemporary guide to awakening.” Riverhead Books, NY, 1997.

Music of Silence II by Kristiina Lehtonen

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Confidence in Awakening

     “Self-confidence is not a form of arrogance. It is trust in our capacity to awaken. It is both the courage to face whatever life throws at us without losing equanimity, and the humility to treat every situation we encounter as one from which we can learn.”

       Batchelor S. “Buddhism without beliefs. A contemporary guide to awakening.” Riverhead Books, NY, 1997.

January 1, 2013