Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Self-awareness, Humility & Gratitude

     It's shocking when we start being a bit more self-aware, and thus have some insight into how others likely perceived us in the past. Shunryu Suzuki said that the life of Zen is a series of embarrassments. We become filled with wonder & immense gratitude that so many people could have been so understanding & tolerant of such miserable behavior on our part. Humility looms - only briefly at first.
     Afterwards, when we are subjected to hurtful behaviour, we're less likely to strike back or even criticize. It's now OUR turn to be understanding & tolerant - and there's MUCH to tolerate!
     It's a real tongue-biter when someone with fairly constant bad behaviour is openly critical of our now relatively benign behaviour. Blind spots are invisible to the individual who has them. We see others' faults way more clearly than our own. Super-critical people have minimal self-awareness. Gradually we see ourselves more & more clearly, accept our own imperfection, AND others' imperfection ... and we criticize less & less.

Steve McCurry   http://stevemccurry.com/

Monday, December 30, 2013

Deep Self-care

     "My dear suffering, I know you are there in me.
     I am here to take care of you."                           Thich Nhat Hanh

Apple in Winter

Sunday, December 29, 2013

No Grasping or Rejection of Whatever Arises

     "Nothing can be removed,
      not the slightest thing is to be added.
      Truly looking at truth,
      truth is seen.
      When seen,
      this is complete liberation."                Uttaratantra Shastra

       Franz K. The Beauty of Renunciation. Buddhadharma: A Practitioner's Quarterly. Winter 2013.

Steve McCurry   http://stevemccurry.com/

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Work of This Moment - Clear & Simple

     "Toni Packer ... had a passionate intensity about what she called 'the work of this moment,' which she described as 'a profound kind of listening and openness that revealed the intense power and momentum of our human conditioning,' along with the discovery of 'an inner / outer silence - stillness - spaciousness in which there is no sense of separation or limitation, outside or inside.'
     Toni's insight and expression cut through all forms of self-deception with remarkable clarity and simplicity. She was interested in listening and looking without answers or formulas, without relying on the authority of the past. Everything she said was fresh because she always spoke and wrote out of a listening presence that was vibrantly alive."

       Tollifson J. A Questioning Life. Buddhadharma: A Practitioner's Quarterly. Winter 2013. http://www.thebuddhadharma.com/

Steve McCurry   http://stevemccurry.com/

Friday, December 27, 2013


How many good morning sweeties
and good night sweethearts
create a year?

From love
and confusion.

Looking back 
what happened?

Steve McCurry  http://stevemccurry.com/

Thursday, December 26, 2013

An Open Question - a Koan

     "Any action that harms others is necessarily caused & accompanied by craving, aversion, & ignorance."                         S.N. Goenka

       Larkin G. Stumbling toward enlightenment. Celestial Arts, Berkeley CA, 1997.

Steve McCurry   http://stevemccurry.com/

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Calm, Tranquility, Serenity, Composure - Important but

     "Calm ... plays a crucial and powerful role on the path of liberation, yet it is often overlooked or underemphasized in our practice. ... It is the soothing factor of mind that quiets the disturbances. It manifests as peacefulness or coolness in both the mind & body. It is what a tired worker feels upon sitting down in the cool shade of a tree on a sweltering day, or what a child feels when her mother lays a cool, soothing hand on her feverish forehead.
     Passaddhi (Pali term for calm) encompasses both physical composure & mental tranquility. It is this quality of calm that keeps the mind composed & unruffled in times of difficulty. Buddhist psychology describes how it brings along with it other wholesome states, such as lightness, wieldiness, proficiency, and sincerity. While the first three of these associated states seem obvious concomitants of calm, it is interesting to reflect on the last. Why does calm bring sincerity? When our minds are tranquil, a natural genuineness, honesty, and freedom from duplicity are also present.
     In meditation teachings, we sometimes hear of the danger of becoming attached to this wonderfully calming, peaceful state of mind. When we first touch this space of tranquility in our meditation, there is a profound sense of relaxation, relief, and ease, especially as we contrast it with the speed and distractedness of our daily lives, and with the difficulties and struggles we sometimes experience in practice. The tranquility can be so enticing that we might start practicing only for the calm, becoming attached to it and identified with it, and forget that it, too, is a constructed state. We can easily sink into the enjoyment of it and forget to bring mindfulness to it.
     Although this is an important caution, the Buddha clearly emphasized the importance of calm in the list of the awakening factors. The happiness of a tranquil mind plays a key role in the path of awakening. Here, the instructions on the factors of enlightenment, found in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, provide crucial guidance: 
     If the tranquility awakening factor [or any of the others] is present [in him], one knows, “the tranquility awakening factor is present in me”; if the tranquility awakening factor is not present [in him], one knows “there is no tranquility awakening factor present in me.” One knows how the unarisen tranquility factor can arise, and how the arisen tranquility factor can be perfected by development. 
     It is mindfulness that knows whether tranquility is present or not. And investigation, energy, & interest — what we might call 'meditative intelligence' — lead onward to its development & fullness, but without becoming identified with or ensnared by it."
       Goldstein J. "Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening." Sounds True,

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Boredom to Rapture; Anxiety to Tranquility

     "The enlightenment factor of rapture is born from the freedom from remorse that comes from practicing the precepts of nonharming, and the increasing momentum of awareness that comes from sustained, balanced energy. Rapture is the quality of intense interest, and it arises from a close & caring attention to whatever is arising. It is just the opposite of boredom, which is a lack of attention; so when we’re feeling bored or disinterested, that feeling itself is a very useful feedback that our attention has become halfhearted. In The Manuals of Buddhism, Ledi Sayadaw, the great Burmese meditation master and scholar, wrote, “Rapture is the joy and happiness that appears when the power of seeing and knowing increases.” At one time, Ānanda asked about the rewards and blessings of practice:
     “What, Venerable One, is the reward and blessing of wholesome morality?” “Freedom from remorse, Ānanda.” “And of freedom from remorse?” “Joy, Ānanda.” “And what is the reward and blessing of joy?” “Rapture, Ānanda.” “And of rapture?” “Tranquility, Ānanda.”
     The Buddha goes on to say that these states arise naturally, one from the other."

       Goldstein J. "Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening." Sounds True,
Insight Meditation Society, Barre, MA   http://www.dharma.org/

Monday, December 23, 2013

Subjective Experience & Neurobiological Function

     "'not only do all existing theoretical frameworks fail to give a coherent explanation of the relationship between consciousness & its neurobiological counterpart, but such a framework is in fact in principle impossible to conceive of rationally'. 
     ... like the wave–particle duality in quantum physics, we must accept the paradox of subjective experience & neurobiological function. ... we need to develop a science of inner epistemology."

        Thurman SK. Review of 'Neuroscience, consciousness & spirituality.' Mindfulness 2013; 4(3): 286-88.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Enlightenment, Awakening, & Unhelpful Sticky Concepts

     "The temptation when thinking about enlightenment is to come up with something defined that you can imagine, such as a state or quality of being, and then fixate on that ideal rather than doing the practices that lead to freedom. It is absolutely guaranteed that anything you can imagine or define as being enlightenment is a limited & incorrect view, but these views are extremely tempting just the same and generally continue to be very seductive ... Every possible description of the potential effects of realization is likely to feed into this unfortunate tendency.
     ... a famous old dead enlightened guy ... said, 'I have gained absolutely nothing through complete & unexcelled enlightenment.'"

       Ingram DM. Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha. An Unusually Hardcore Dharma Book. ed3, 2007, p261. www.interactivebuddha.com

Mood Swings by Werner Arnold   http://www.fogforestgallery.ca/bios/bio_arnold.html

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Not One, Not Two

     “When I look inside & see that I’m nothing, that’s wisdom. 
     When I look outside & see that I’m everything, that’s love. 
     And between these two, my life turns.”
               Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj 
Pacstar   www.dpreview.com

Friday, December 20, 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Saying Yes to Life as it Is

     "All you have to do is say 'yes.' Don’t make some big project out of it. Don’t make some big deal out of it. Just say 'yes.' You don’t even know what it means to say 'yes,' but you say it anyway. You’ll never know what it means to say 'yes,' but you do it anyway. Freedom and Love arise when you die into the unknown mystery of being."

     "All that is necessary to awaken to yourself as the radiant emptiness of spirit is to stop seeking something more or better or different, and to turn your attention inward to the awake silence that you are."                              

At the Cafe - Balzacs by Jane Hunter   www.fogforestgallery.ca

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Control, Force, Effort, Striving, Pushing towards Goals in Meditation

     "What if you let go of every bit of control and every urge that you have, right down to the most infinitesimal urge to control anything, anywhere, including anything that may be happening with you at this moment? If you were able to give up control absolutely, totally, and completely, then you would be a spiritually free being."

     "We think there’s someplace other than here to get to — that’s what drives the whole pursuit. Only when the pursuit ceases, is it possible to recognize what comprises you: pure being, pure consciousness. This is actually the very substance of your own self and being."                                                     Adyashanti

Tantramar Marsh from Middle Sackville by Peter Manchester   www.fogforestgallery.ca

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Suffering & the End of Suffering

     "Ego is the movement of the mind toward objects of perception in the form of grasping, and away from objects in the form of aversion. This fundamentally is all the ego is.
     This movement of grasping and aversion gives rise to a sense of a separate "me," and in turn the sense of "me" strengthens itself this way. It is this continuous loop of causation that tricks consciousness into a trance of identification. Identification with what? Identification with the continuous loop of suffering.
     After all, who is suffering? The "me" is suffering. And who is this me? It is nothing more than a sense of self caused by identification with grasping and aversion. You see, it's all a creation of the mind, an endless movie, a terrible dream.
     Don't try to change the dream, because trying to change it is just another movement in the dream. Look at the dream. Be aware of the dream. That awareness is It. Become more interested in the awareness of the dream than in the dream itself. What is that awareness? Who is that awareness? Don't go spouting out an answer, just be the answer. Be It."   Adyashanti


cgravel   www.dpreview.com

Monday, December 16, 2013

Operationalizing Pragmatic & Sacred Dimensions of Mindfulness Practice

     "Even though washing dishes is one of life's necessary chores, and in spite of Thich Nhat Hanh's pragmatic approach to washing dishes mindfully (in order to enjoy the dessert which follows), he nevertheless (equally) sees washing dishes as a spiritual or sacred practice. As he elaborates:
     Each thought, each action in the sunlight of awareness, becomes sacred. In this light no boundary exists between the sacred and the profane. I must confess it takes me a bit longer to do the dishes, but I live fully in every moment, and I am happy. Washing the dishes is at the same time a means and an end - that is not only do we do the dishes to have clean dishes, we also do the dishes just to do the dishes, to live fully in each moment while washing them.
     With these two dimensions of mindfulness (being fully present in both ordinary, everyday and near transcendent experiences) established, a central challenge of the present study was to operationalize mindfulness ..."

       Brinkerhoff MB, Jacob JC. Mindfulness and quasi-religious meaning systems: An empirical exploration within the context of ecological sustainability and deep ecology. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 1999; 38(4): 524-42.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Freedom & Responsibility

     During meditation we intuit
     Meaning independent of all we've known
     Self-concept & worldview - radically transforming
     Great freedom
     Now integrating, embodying
     Vast openness in everyday life

Tea Break by Don Pentz   http://www.fogforestgallery.ca/bios/bio_pentz.html

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mindfulness & Healing Artificial Splits: Sacred-Profane, Man-Nature ...

     "Quasi-religion involves 'groups and activities which deal with the sacred but are anomalous given the American folk category of "religion" [ie they lack formal organizational components, particularly a church].'
     ... quasi-religious phenomena ... can be just as sacred or spiritual as 'sacred' ones. (and may elicit) spiritual experiences that rival and perhaps even surpass the sacred nature of much formal religious observance.
     An important component of the quasi-religious reaction against modernity is the deep ecology movement whose operative assumptions lead to its central thesis: In order to prevent a generalized ecosystems collapse before the mid-twenty-first century, humankind must experience a change in consciousness comparable in its intensity & comprehensiveness to the cultural shifts accompanying the agricultural & industrial revolutions. Transcending what deep ecologists see as environmental tinkering in the form of limited, disconnected laws & policies ('shallow' ecologies), this change in consciousness centers on healing humankind's alienation from nature in terms of a dualistic subject/object split that permits violence directed towards the earth, justified by the drive for material accumulation.
     In their pursuit of resources to heal what they see as alienation from nature, deep ecologists have focused on Eastern religious traditions, particularly on meditative phenomena. In a meditative experience, following deep ecological assumptions, the dualistic, subject/object split of Western science and materialism is assumed to recede, to be replaced by a sense of unity with one's natural environment. Deep ecologists, then, see meditative experiences as a primary vehicle for humankind to transcend anthropomorphism and find a wider identification with nature, culminating, by definition, in an ecocentric worldview."

       Brinkerhoff MB, Jacob JC. Mindfulness and quasi-religious meaning systems: An empirical exploration within the context of ecological sustainability and deep ecology. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 1999; 38(4): 524-42.

     See: http://healthyhealers.blogspot.ca/2013/01/going-against-grain-egocentric-vs-going.html
lljohnson   www.dpreview.com

Friday, December 13, 2013

Form, Function, Nature

     "A case might be made that mindfulness is not a quasi-religious phenomenon; rather, it should be considered a religious experience. Mindfulness is one of the directives from Buddhism's Eightfold Path that is purported to lead the earnest seeker to enlightenment. But, while Buddhism, as one of the world's major religious traditions, does possess the elements of formal religion (monasteries, institutes, etc), its tenets, particularly in their translations to Western settings and sensibilities, have been selectively appropriated by a wide cross-section of groups and individuals, resulting in a non-formal spirituality that comfortably fits within the definitional requirements of quasi-religion. In reference to the adaptive nature of Buddhism, particularly Zen Buddhism, it has been said that 'like water it takes the form of the vessel that contains it without any change in its nature.'"

       Brinkerhoff MB, Jacob JC. Mindfulness and quasi-religious meaning systems: An empirical exploration within the context of ecological sustainability and deep ecology. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 1999; 38(4): 524-42.

Winter Walk by Anna Syperek   http://www.fogforestgallery.ca/bios/bio_syperek.html

Thursday, December 12, 2013

On Being Curious & Open-minded Towards All Phenomena

     In mindfulness training we encourage participants (& ourselves) to be nonjudgmental, have an open mind & be curious towards all arising phenomena, even those we would normally consider unpleasant. 

     "Curiosity is the predisposition to recognize & search for new knowledge and experiences. The psychological urge evoked by curiosity is accompanied by increased engagement with the world, including exploratory behavior, meaning making, and learning. For decades, scientists have narrowly focused on how curiosity is relevant to achievement in school, work, and sports, & an appreciation of art. Curiosity ... is relevant to any context where there is the potential for novelty, uncertainty, complexity, surprise, and conflict between the urges to approach or avoid stimuli. Several scientists have argued that a family of individual difference variables that conceptually overlap with curiosity (ie novelty seeking, uncertainty orientation, need for structure, need for closure, need for cognition, openness to experience) are relevant to healthy social interactions & relationship. The present research extends this work about the relevance of curiosity to social functioning.
Results: A curious personality was linked to a wide range of adaptive behaviors, including tolerance of anxiety & uncertainty, positive emotional expressiveness, initiation of humor & playfulness, unconventional thinking, & a nondefensive, noncritical attitude.  
     Conclusions: This characterization of curious people provides insights into mechanisms underlying associated healthy social outcomes."

     Kashdan TB,
Sherman RA, Yarbro J, Funder DC. How are curious people viewed and how do they behave in social situations? From the perspectives of self, friends, parents, and unacquainted observers. J Pers 2013; 81(2): 142-54. 

     Read "Creativity & The Brain Review": http://www.knowyourbrain.ca/Library/Library.html

Jett in deep contemplation - by Amanda Wintink PhD

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ego Permeability, Openness, the Transpersonal

     "ego permeability is included as a mediator to address the manner in which ego boundaries (ie the psychological boundary demarcating one’s sense of self from those aspects of experience that are considered not-self) operate & influence how individuals experience themselves. While both conventional & transpersonal approaches to spiritual identity acknowledge the existence of ego boundaries, with the latter being a bit more explicit in addressing the nature of such boundaries in terms of their expandability, neither approach gives sufficient attention to the manner in which the boundaries themselves operate. 
     There are a variety of psychological constructs that have appeared in the literature that directly concern themselves with ego & psychological boundary properties & functions. Though most widely known as Openness due to its representation as a major trait of personality as per the Five Factor Model of personality, this trait, along with the notions of ego permissiveness, boundary thickness, & transliminality all relate to the extent to which the ego boundaries are able, on structural grounds, to permit information from different parts of the total psyche or personality to cross into conscious awareness. To further illustrate this point, specific to the idea of openness ... 'openness is seen in the breadth, depth, & permeability of consciousness, and in the recurrent need to enlarge and examine experience'. Research has shown that malleable/permeable ego boundaries are associated with a number of variables including higher levels of reported spiritual & non-ordinary states of consciousness as well as to both growth enhancing & pathological states."

       MacDonald DA. "Identity and Spirituality: Conventional and Transpersonal Perspectives." International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 2009; 28(1): 86-106.

Tangled Garden   http://www.tangledgardenherbs.ca/

Monday, December 9, 2013

Identity, Sense of Self, Beyond Ego ...

     "In most conventional psychological theory ... identity is typically defined in egoic terms. That is, a person’s sense of self is generally seen as circumscribed (ie has defined boundaries), is highly individualized, & is, for the most part, subjective. ... Within such conceptualizations, spiritual identity most often is defined as how the individual ego relates to & incorporates spirituality into its personal sense of self. ... how one experiences & integrates their sense of relationship to the transcendent into their egoic self-sense.  ... 'a role-related aspect of an individual’s overall sense of ego identity' which manifests 'as a persistent sense of self that addresses ultimate questions about the nature, purpose, and meaning of life'. 
      In contrast, there is another view, best represented in the mystical, philosophical, & spiritual literature but now formalized most ostensibly in transpersonal theory, that argues identity may not be delimited to ego & egoic functions but rather is fundamentally spiritual in nature. From this perspective, the boundaries that demarcate the ego (ie self from not-self), are not absolute & immutable but rather are constructed, malleable, & even arbitrary, capable of being modified (eg expanded or contracted) or dissolved altogether."

       MacDonald DA. Identity and Spirituality: Conventional and Transpersonal Perspectives. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 2009; 28(1): 86-106.

Tangled Garden   http://www.tangledgardenherbs.ca/

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Capacity to Deal Realistically with Constant, at times Severe, Changes

      Developing a healthy ego or self-concept is only step one. Next we must gradually learn not to take this, or any other concept too seriously. We, concepts, the world - everything is in a constant state of flux. We're always undergoing quantitative changes - assimilating new stuff into our current self-concept & worldview. Periodically we all undergo shipwrecks, where our whole world, including ALL our concepts fall apart. Now we're forced to see reality more clearly, and accommodate by creating a new, qualitatively different, more accurate self-concept & worldview.
     Rigidity, though common, is dysfunctional & tragically inappropriate for shipwrecks; psychological flexibility, though uncommon & depends on intelligent, mature conscious choices, is adaptive & absolutely essential, particularly in times of shipwreck.

     "differences in identity styles are based on a differential balance in the use of the processes of assimilation & accommodation. Assimilation ... the process of incorporating or assimilating new information into one’s existing worldview whereas accommodation involves changing one’s worldview to accept the new information. 
     ... a balanced use of assimilation and accommodation characterizes only the informational style whereas the normative style is characterized by an overreliance on assimilation processes and the diffuse-avoidant style is characterized by an overuse of accommodation processes.
     ... theoretically the informational style, with its balanced social-cognitive processing, should allow for the most mature defense use. In contrast, the unbalanced processing associated with the normative and diffuse-avoidant styles should be associated with less mature forms of defenses; namely, those that are associated with distortion (neurotic) & denial (immature) of reality, respectively."

       Seaton CL, Beaumont SL. Identity processing styles and defense styles during emerging adulthood: Implications for life distress. Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research 2011; 11(1): 1-24.

     See: http://mindfulnessforeveryone.blogspot.ca/2013/07/361-beyond-stress-management-resilience.html
     and: http://www.johnlovas.com/2013/10/from-egocentric-to-hypoegoic-to-anatta.html

stickpointed   www.dpreview.com

Friday, December 6, 2013

Common Steps toward Wisdom

     "six common elements constitute the heart of the art of transcendence:
1) ethical training;
2) development of concentration;
3) emotional transformation;
4) a redirection of motivation from egocentric, deficiency-based needs to higher motives, such as self-transcendence;
5) refinement of awareness; and
6) the cultivation of wisdom."

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

vasilpro   www.dpreview.com

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Energy Awareness & Micromanagement

So slowly we learn
to invest our finite time & energy
not just generally - but moment-by-moment
in directions that serve
to decrease suffering
and increase meaning & joy

These healthy direction choices
are always fresh
without momentum
appropriate in this specific moment
and differ from the tired momentum of our lives

The energy rescued
from habitual sufferings
is now available
for opening to real life
as it arises fresh in each unique moment

Our fictitious stories of 'me, myself & I'
we drag around - for a while
but nothing real is solid
we are free, changing, growing
so much more than we're now capable of knowing
everything is flowing expanding energy
manage & guide it wisely

microsurgeon   www.dpreview.com

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Polishing the Mirror Bright, & Beyond

     "'constructionists' argue that all experience, including mystical experience, is constructed from & filtered through a variety of inescapable personal & cultural experiences...

      Yet this may be only part of the story

     At the very highest reaches of meditation, transcendent experiences of a wholly different kind, radically discontinuous from all that have gone before, are said to occur. … Here descriptions & comparisons fail! For these experiences are said to be ineffable, indescribable, beyond space, time, and limits of any kind.  
     In the words of the Third Zen Partriarch: 
          To this ultimate finality 
          no law or description applies…. 
          The more you talk and think about it 
          the further astray you wander from the truth."

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

CM Tam   www.dpreview.com

Monday, December 2, 2013

Stone Walls Invariably Crumble

     The transtheoretical model of change (http://mindfulnessforeveryone.blogspot.ca/2013/11/436-readiness-for-change-is-pivotal.html) reflects our natural evolutionary, personal & species-wide, transition from rigidity towards ever-increasing psychological flexibility.
     Rigidity is an understandable, yet primitive, fearful avoidance of change. Change that we feel is beyond our current ability to handle & survive. See: http://mindfulnessforeveryone.blogspot.ca/search?q=rigidity
     Psychological flexibility, on the other hand, is about bravely opening up to clearly examine & skillfully engage with what's facing us, right now. See: http://mindfulnessforeveryone.blogspot.ca/search?q=Psychological+flexibility
     Need for change may be obvious to everyone except the person who is rigidly avoiding change. The rigid individual is unable to fundamentally (qualitatively) transform to a new self-concept / worldview. At best, this individual may think in terms of minor (quantitative) adjustments to reduce stress.

     Difficulties, friction, noise, liminality are various ways of experiencing a boundary - a "line in the sand" between our current self-concept / worldview and the one for which we're ready, or almost ready.  
     Boundaries are imaginary - not solid walls, nor necessarily sources of suffering. A great deal of energy is trapped by trying to maintain old boundaries, which when released, makes this energy available for loving & living.

The Danforth by P. Michael Lovas