Thursday, July 25, 2013

Relieving Suffering by Dispelling Illusions - a Universal Need

     "Although at this time mindfulness meditation is most commonly taught and practiced within the context of Buddhism, its essence is universal. Mindfulness is basically just a particular way of paying attention. It is a way of looking deeply into oneself in the spirit of enquiry and self-understanding. For this reason it can be learned and practiced, as we do in the stress clinic, without appealing to Oriental or Buddhist authority to enrich it or authenticate it.
     ... it is no accident that mindfulness comes out of Buddhism, which has as its overriding concerns the relief of suffering and the dispelling of illusions."

      Kabat-Zinn J. “Full catastrophe living. Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain and illness”. Dell Publishing, NY, 1990. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wisdom, Awareness & Self Transcendence

     "If wisdom is defined as a combination of 
          • cognitive (an understanding of life & the desire to know the truth), 
          • reflective (the ability & willingness to look at phenomena & events from different perspectives), and 
          • affective (sympathetic & compassionate love for others) personality qualities, 
then truly wise people, such as Jesus Christ or the Buddha, can also be described as the most psychologically developed persons. They are mature; psychologically healthy; autonomous; fully liberated from all outside & inside forces; and are, therefore, the masters of their own fate.
     Because people who grow in wisdom gradually come to accept reality as it is (and not as they would like it to be), including the negative side of their personalities, they are able to learn from their experiences, which allows them to overcome their negative tendencies and to gain inner peace through the de­velopment of equanimity. Hence, they tend to be less affected by external events and internal drives than other people, which results in greater autonomy and control.
     Yet wise individuals are also selfless; that is, they have transcended the egotistical self and feel more part of the ocean instead of an individual wave. How can we explain the paradox that the highest level of self-development requires a quieting of the ego and the transcendence of the self?"
        Ardelt M. "Self-development through selflessness: The paradoxical process of growing wiser." in Wayment HA, Bauer JJ eds. "Decade of behavior." American Psychological Association, Washington, DC, 2008.

     More from Ardelt's chapter:

Amateur Sony Shooter

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Flash, the Shimmer, the Nervous Quiver - Anicca

     This cup that I hold in my hand - regardless of how I feel about it - "is already broken."

     In the movie Apocalypse Now, the meat-grinder reality of jungle war suddenly transforms into a stage full of Playboy Playmates suggestively gyrating to "Suzie Q". Just as suddenly - mass chaos erupts as love-starved soldiers storm the stage to grab hold - clinging, clinging, clinging. Helicopters whisk away the Playmates & music ... dukkha, dukkha, dukkha. Gone as if it never happened ... yet another rainbow, vapor, ephemeral moment-in-time ... anicca, anicca, anicca.

     But WHO is suffering? Anatta, anatta, anatta ...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mind AND Heart to Disengage from Conditioning

     "Over the years of teaching, I've found a growing need for profound lovingkindness & compassion -- a transformation of the heart -- to underlie the insights and understandings that come out of the practice. An opening of the mind needs to be supported by compassion from the heart if the practice is to be integrated, fulfilled, and lived in our lives. 
     The value of mindfulness practice is discovered in the freedom we find through awareness. Without awareness, we repeat the patterns of fear & conditioning that keep us entangled individually & collectively. Without awareness, we suffer. With awareness, we can see the contractions of the mind, how the mind gets caught and how we can learn to let go. With awareness we can reawaken to the purity of joy and freedom that is fundamental to our true nature."                        Jack Kornfield

Eliza taking a well-earned rest

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Understanding & Releasing Suffering

      “I’d like to underscore a point the Dalai Lama has made repeatedly: ‘Buddhist teachings are not a religion, they are a science of mind.’ This does not deny the fact that for many people around the world Buddhism has also come to function as a religion. Like most religions, it offers its followers a rich tradition of devotional practices, communal rituals, and sacred stories. But this is not the origin of Buddhism or its core. The Buddha was a human being, not a god, and what he offered his followers were experiential teachings and practices, a revolutionary way to understand and release suffering. From his own inner experiments, he discovered a systematic and remarkable set of trainings to bring about happiness and fulfill the highest levels of human development. Today, it is this path of practice and liberation that draws most Western students to Buddhism.
     (These) teachings … are a compelling challenge to much of Western psychology and to the materialism, cynicism, & despair found in Western culture as well.”

        Kornfield J. “The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology.” Bantam Books, NY, 2008. 


Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Full Range of Awakenings are Available

     “In place of the word enlightenment, which is laden with so many ideas and misunderstandings, I have used the terms inner freedom and liberation to clearly express the full range of awakenings available to us through Buddhist practice. I want the stories and awakenings of students and practitioners to help us trust our own profound capacity for kindness and wisdom. I want us to discover the power of the heart to hold all things – sorrow, loneliness, shame, desire, regret, frustration, happiness, and peace – and to find a deep trust that wherever we are and whatever we face, we can be free in their midst.”

        Kornfield J. “The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology.” Bantam Books, NY, 2008. 


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Buddhist Teachings - Religion? Philosophy? Psychology?

    "Buddhist teachings are not a religion,
     they are a science of mind."               Dalai Lama


     For those "not running away from life, but seeking a wise path through it."
       Kornfield J. “The wise heart. A guide to the universal teachings of Buddhist psychology.” Bantam books. NY, 2008.

Stefano M

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Liberating Quality of Nonabiding

     “Whenever you have feelings of love or hate for anything whatsoever, these will be your aides and partners in building parami*. The Buddha-Dharma is not to be found in moving forwards, nor in moving backwards, nor in standing still. This, Sumedho, is your place of nonabiding.”               Ajahn Chah, in a rare letter, to his student Ajahn Sumedho

       Amaro Bhikkhu "Small Boat, Great Mountain. Theravadan Reflections on the Natural Great Perfection." Abhayagiri Monastic Foundation, 2003. (available in pdf format without cost on the web)

     * Parami / paramita = spiritual perfections

Light Wooden sculptures by P. Michael Lovas

Monday, July 15, 2013

Equanimity, Honesty & Compassion

     “… liberation arises when we are ‘without anxiety about nonperfection’ … when we are able to see ourselves and the world with honesty and compassion.” 

       Kornfield J. “A path with heart. A guide through the perils and promises of spiritual life.” Bantam books. NY, 1993. 

Kevin Van Paassen / The Globe and Mail

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Head & Heart can be Miles Apart

     It's amazing how much one can read & know (facts) about a religion / philosophy of life, without this knowledge having any appreciable affect on one's way of living, and thus, quality of life. People can be very smart, and at the same time, be far from living wisely. For transformational learning to take place, learning has to be welcomed in & embraced by mind, heart, emotions, body - all that we are.
     But, for many of us, (with apologies to Vegas) 'What happens in the head, stays in the head'. Many of us remain "scientific materialists" at heart. We may accept the Buddhist ideas we read and hear about, but don't actually believe in them. "Instead, we live as if the world were dead and this (material) reality the only one that exists."

       Ray RA. Indestructible Truth. The Living Spirituality of Tibetan Buddhism. Shambhala, Boston, 2000.

Martin Kristiansen

Friday, July 12, 2013

Just Take One Step at a Time ...

      “if you just take one step at a time, you can do anything. … your limits are mostly in your mind.”

        O’Halloran M. “Pure Heart Enlightened Mind: The Zen Journal and Letters of Maura ‘Soshin’ O’Halloran.” Charles E. Tuttle Company Inc, Boston, 1994. (a profoundly inspiring book)


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Connections, Interbeing, Oneness ...

     “When we come to perceive our interconnectedness, we come to know that fundamentally we each want and need the same things – we each want happiness and we don’t want suffering. Then we begin to see through the veil of illusion that obscures our views to the point where we wind up justifying or even passively accepting the denial of civil rights. A true awakening would have us step back and expand our awareness that all living beings are impacted by our thoughts, speech, and actions. If we can develop this awareness, we naturally come to universal love and compassion for the welfare of all ‘others.’ We might even notice someone amidst our daily routine standing a little taller and straighter, and breathing more freely.”

      “We are constantly ‘voting’ with our words, thoughts, and deeds for how the world is and shall be."

       Das LS. "The Big Questions. A Buddhist Response to Life’s Most Challenging Mysteries.” Rodale Inc, London, 2007.

     “all life is interrelated” … we are all “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
       Martin Luther King Jr


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Death, Meaning & the Nature of the Cosmos

     “At the deepest level, I would suggest that meditation was a technique developed to address, in some form, certain control issues related to death, meaning, the nature of the cosmos. As such, it has been used as a technique to help gain experiential understanding about the nature of the universe, reality, and oneself at the deepest and most fundamental level of knowing.”

        Shapiro DH. Examining the content and context of meditation; A challenge for psychology in the areas of stress management, psychotherapy, and religion/values. Journal of Humanistic Psychology 1994; 34(4): 101-135. 

     See also Ways to Wisdom:


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Patiently Observe the Bare Experience - Gather Data

     “I would like to beg you … as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to cherish the questions themselves as if they were closed rooms or books written in a very strange tongue. Do not search now for the answers, which could not be given to you because you would not be able to live them. It is a matter of living everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, one distant day live right into the answer.”            Rilke
       Palmer PJ, Zajonc A. The heart of higher education: A call to renewal. Transforming the academy through collegial conversation. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 2010.

Udayan Sankar Pal

Monday, July 8, 2013

Directly Knowing Experience Moment-to-Moment

     When Larry Rosenberg was very sick with dysentery in Burma, and everything that could had already been done medically, he was encouraged by Mahabu (his meditation teacher), to see if he could use this illness as practice.
     “He advised Larry to practice with the experiences just as they are, drop the words fever, dysentery, and so on. Let those go, and stay with the direct moment-to-moment experience that you’re having – sensation and feelings being known. Explore (though it may at times be hard). When he did, he noticed it was extraordinary – quite amazing what a difference it made being really open to the process, moment-to-moment
     Larry said that when he was labeling things and putting concepts on them, they seemed to get worse. But when he dropped that and got into the direct knowing, the direct experience, it didn’t get worse, and in fact at times there was a lot of calm and a lot of joy. He could see things come and go. Unpleasant? Yes, but they were arising and ceasing.”
       Sky Dawson 2013-05-17 "Reflections On Aging, Sickness and Dying"


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Truth over Comfortable Delusions

      “as a spiritual seeker I (am) interested more in the unsettling nature of the truth than in the safe confines of doctrine.
     What matters is that we take the deadness of the soul seriously; that we pay attention to the contents of the heart; that we ask the hard questions, and fearlessly face the hidden parts of the self. What matters, Jung says, is that we shine the light of consciousness in the dark corners of our life. What is not brought to consciousness, he says, comes to us as fate.”

       Lesser E. “Broken open. How difficult times can help us grow.” Villard, NY, 2005.


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Connections, Interbeing, Oneness, ...

     "Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone."           Margaret J. Wheatley

     “As human beings, we all … search for a sense of connection, pattern, order, and significance … the fitting, truthful relationships among things.”
       Parks SD. “Big questions, worthy dreams. Mentoring young adults in their search for meaning, purpose, and faith.” John Wiley & Sons, 2000.

     “many people are scared to death of their deeper nature. … these people – more than the others … are longing to connect with their warrior’s heart and with the hearts of their fellow humans.”

       Lesser E. “Broken open. How difficult times can help us grow.” Villard, 2005.

Portia and Hildie

Friday, July 5, 2013

All Inclusive Unconditional Love

     “Fyodor Dostoyevsky [1921-1881] lived in a hopeless time and place, a world of pogroms, starvation, filth, and syphilis. His life was plagued by epilepsy, mental problems, and poverty. Yet he left this message: ‘Love all of God’s creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light! Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. And once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it ceaselessly, more and more every day. And you will at last come to love the whole world with an abiding, universal love.”

       Pipher M. “Writing to change the world.” Riverhead Books, NY, 2006.

     "Handle even a single leaf of green in such a way that it manifests the body of the Buddha. This in turn allows the Buddha to manifest through the leaf."
          Dogen Zenji (1200 - 1253)


     “The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of bigger ideas, never returns to its original size.”          Oliver Wendell Holmes

     More on Love:

Martha expressing the Dharma

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Letting Go of Words, Opening the Heart-Mind

     Close the language-door and
     open the love window. The moon
     won’t use the door, only the window.                  Rumi

Portia contemplating Noah; Noah contemplating grass

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Dismantling Boundaries & Worldviews through Mysticism vs Mental Illness

     “The mystic, endowed with native talents … and following … the instruction of a master, enters the waters and finds he can swim; whereas the schizophrenic, unprepared, unguided, and ungifted, has fallen or has intentionally plunged and is drowning.”           Joseph Campbell

rok urankar

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Serenity Trap

     "Serenity is not the end of the Path. The Buddha saw from his own experience that such peace of mind was not the ultimate. The causes underlying the process of existence had not yet been brought to cessation. The conditions for rebirth still existed. His spiritual work had not yet attained perfection. Why? Because there was still suffering. So based on that serenity of samatha he proceeded to contemplate, investigate, and analyze the conditioned nature of reality until he was free from all attachments, even the attachment to serenity. Serenity is still part of the world of conditioned existence and conventional reality. Clinging to this type of peace is clinging to conventional reality, and as long as we cling, we will be mired in existence and rebirth. Delighting in the peace of samatha still leads to further existence and rebirth.
       Ajahn Chah, Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly, Summer 2013.

Rodrigue Zahr

Monday, July 1, 2013

Trusting Emergence over our Ephemeral Ideas & Worldviews

     "I have experienced doubt ... as a place where things have broken apart. It feels physically, viscerally, like something whole has shattered, like a glass dropped on the ground. Through my practice and through feedback from guides, I have come to realize that this signals a new stage in my practice, a place of crossing a threshold into the unknown. The ability to be with the unknown is such an important part of practice. When we don't know what's going on, it's so important to open up to it and just be with it - be with the mind and heart and body coming together in different ways."
       Kamala Masters, Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly, Summer 2013 - an exceptionally useful issue

     See also:

Elizabeth Jameson