Friday, January 31, 2014

The Forest & the Trees

     Is the forest we live in a bad dream of desires, concepts, shoulds & regrets? For many of us, it is.
     But if we keep wiping sleep from our eyes & really look, there are real living individual trees all around us.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Be Quiet, LISTEN & Learn

     In our "culture, where language is associated only with vocalization and speech, we fall within a 'discursive rationality' which makes the world amenable to linguistic and discursive ordering, molding, & systematization. Any speech act is 'potentially normative,' ... as 'the speech act selects an aspect of reality simply by speaking about it, and whatever is said is then transformed into the statutory basis of a discourse' which 'can ultimately result in constraint and epistemic control'. In a culture of 'discursive rationality,' the dominant form of knowledge is one that objectifies, organises, conceptualises, normalizes, & dictates. To 'know' the world, we categorize what we see and experience in the world – things, people – into concepts & ideasInstead of being open to the rich moment-to-moment experiences in our encounters with people and things, we 'know' & relate to them primarily through our presumed concepts about them. Such orientation produces a sense of cognitive order & control in our relations to the world. A well-known example is the European empires’ extensive categorizing & detailed mapping of the geography, fauna, flora, habitat, & people of their colonies in their effort to rule & control them.
Listening rationality,' on the other hand, functions in the context of 'silence.' It quiets our mind, takes away our (illusory) sense of security & control, and opens us to the untidiness, contradictions, & richness of being which cannot be bound by conceptual ordering. It invites us to the openness of not knowing and the 'risk' of growth. Silence can be 'a very fertile way of relating, (as it) might indicate a healthy desire to set aside certain automatic defenses that are only intended to fill emotional vacuums' and 'a desire to abandon automatic verbal sequences that fill our games (of social interactions). The highest function of silence,' therefore, 'is revealed in the creation of a co-existential space which permits dialogue to come along'. Listening in the context of silence involves 'the renunciation of a predominantly molding & ordering activity' and represents 'the readiness to tear away ideologizing modes of reflection which define & constrict the ways of coexistence'. It can be 'a support to the hermeneutic effort whereby we seek to establish a relationship between our world and a different "world," between our own attitude and a different attitude'.  
     Listening is also 'the attitude which can unblock the creative resources immobilized by the rigidity of traditional "logical" education'. It requires considerable 'dialogic patience' to give space to the 'inexpressible,' so that 'the inner experience which is less suited to being "spoken" can be expressed in some way'. In 'listening rationality,' the person who knows is someone who transforms him/herself in order to know, rather than objectifies the world in order to recognize her/himself in his/her cognitive conceptual immobility. To reach the 'highest function of listening silence' for coexistence to be possible, therefore, it is important that we are not confined by the conceptual mind and dominant discourses which categorize, normalize, & exclude. bell hooks proposes education as 'the practice of freedom.' I suggest that is also what critical social work education is about: the practice of freedom from the predominant order of things, that is, 'to transgress' the mode of 'discursive rationality' which privileges the mind and has been governing our production of knowledge & our relations to the world."

       Wong Y-L.R. "Knowing Through Discomfort: A Mindfulness-based Critical Social Work Pedagogy." Critical Social Work 2004; 5:(1)


Monday, January 27, 2014

"Gotta Serve Somebody" ... Something ... or Wake Up!

     "in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles -- is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive
     If you worship money & things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. 
     Worship your body & beauty & sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It's been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.
     Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. 
     Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.
     But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful, it's that they're unconscious. They are default settings. They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing."
                                                                                                         David Foster Wallace

      Wallace's entire 2005 Kenyon College Commencement Speech is WELL worth 22 minutes of your time:


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Choice, Freedom, Responsibility - Beyond Automatic Self-centeredness

     "Choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centered."                  David Foster Wallace


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Tanya Tagaq Roars Plain Truth - a Poem

Plain Truth Roars - But Who Can Hear It?

Hunter senses, kills, butchers, eats animal
Direct transfer of life energy
Warm meat to warm meat
Direct, plain truth

Tanya Tagaq roars
Mind-heart trembles
Life force to life force
Direct, plain truth

Plain truth roars
For all to hear
Permeating all
Within and all about

     For Tanya Tagaq's magnificent performance - giving amazing life to the historic black & white movie "Nanook of the North" - in Halifax, on Jan 24, 2014, accompanied by violinist Jesse Zubot and percussionist Jean Martin.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Single Common Language - Rhythm of the Universe

     Isn't THAT what we're all after? Not that we're all, individually, at the same level of psychosocialspiritual development. But in our own humble personal way, as we all crawl, stumble, walk, fly & levitate majestically from the primordial swamp - are we not all evolving - in a massive timeless single will of the human heart-mind - one for all & all for one, towards full & complete enlightenment?

Night Watchman (Budapest), 2009 Tamas Dezso

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Heal the Healer First, Then Heal Others

     "First keep the peace within yourself,
then you can also bring
peace to others."                                  Thomas A. Kempis

       Streep P ed. Spiritual Illuminations. Meditations for Inner Growth. Viking Studio Books, NY, 1992.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Connecting with the Flow of Reality

"Do not say, 'It is morning,' and dismiss
it with a name of yesterday. See it
for the first time as a new-born
child that has no name."                   Rabindranath Tagore

       Streep P ed. Spiritual Illuminations. Meditations for Inner Growth. Viking Studio Books, NY, 1992.


Tamas Dezso photography

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Opening, Letting Go, Flowing

     letting go of dependence on small parts
     letting go of aversion to small parts
     accepting preferences AND letting them go
     feeling it all flow through
     being the flow AND the opening
     flowing flowing flowing

Tamas Dezso photography

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Unethical Behavior Causes Oneself Distress

     “The central recognition of psychosomatic medicine is that mental distress can lead to physical distress, and the distress of unethical actions is no exception.”

       Walsh R. “Essential spirituality. The 7 central practices to awaken heart and mind.” John Wiley & Sons Inc, NY, 1999.


at the Lion & Bright Cafe Wine Bar, Halifax

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Timeless Process of Open-hearted Engagement

     The fundamental error we tend to make is rushing towards some desirable concentrated refined perfected essence - the perfect mate, the perfect job, the perfect holiday, the perfect meal, the perfect retirement .... 
     Mindfulness meditation practice is precisely the opposite or flip-side of this. We open to & embrace what is right here & now, with a timeless attitude. This is our life, on & off the cushion.

The Dream that must be Interpreted by Odilon Redon

Friday, January 17, 2014

Where To?

     Adults should consistently work towards living an exemplary, moral, altruistic, empathic life - ie towards full awakening. The details of one's life must be directed by & fit into this overall trajectory of consciousness evolution.

     "A young person who both explores & commits is said to have an achieved identity status, whereas a person who does neither is said to have diffuse identity status. A person who commits without exploration has a foreclosed identity status, and a person who explores but does not commit remains in moratorium identity status." 

       Helson R, Srivastava S. Three paths of adult development: conservers, seekers, and achievers. J Pers Soc Psychol 2001; 80(6): 995-1010.

Snowflake by Alexey Kljatov

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Key Ingredient - "If I Could Only Bottle It"

     Laziness! Isn't it a common wish to "bottle" a transcendent feeling we might have briefly, maybe once in a lifetime, and that may have occurred only after many years of struggle & failure? Maybe the hope for such a peak experience is the allure of recreational drugs - yet drug-induced experiences apparently only have a magical quality the first time.
     The hard lesson seems to be that life cannot be reduced. We may look for happiness in some tiny fragment of life, yet this very process is misguided & leads to suffering. Our fulfillment is the ENTIRETY of life - the "full catastrophe" - the entire process of living to be embraced as a whole. Likewise, the goal we seek by sitting in meditation IS our state of being in the process of sitting meditation. This same all-embracing wholehearted process is to be lived on & off the cushion. We transform our life, not by a pill or some trick, but ........ BY TRANSFORMING OUR LIFE.
     "It's all hidden in plain sight!"

The Dream by Odilon Redon

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Patterns, Momentum ... & Beyond

     It's such a relief & joy to climb out of the swamp of self-concern, if only periodically. So refreshing to see the recurrent patterns of one's own (& to some extent others') life from a bit of an objective distance. No longer to be continuously sucked along without choice in the momentum of one's small individual life, but released from the gravitational force of the tiresome planet "me".
     Our only freedom of choice is really to see clearly the recurrent pattern, and break free of repeating automatically, slave-like, our habitual reactions to repetitive inputs - endless re-runs of "Groundhog Day".
     Personal evolution of consciousness is much like the human race learning to fly by repeatedly crashing to the ground, yet persevering - trying more & more reasonable ways of flying free of earth's gravity. We transcend our limitations, we evolve, despite repeated failures, our trajectory is well beyond our present ability to imagine ...
     Precisely what Goldstein was saying:

Girl with Flowers by Odilon Redon

Monday, January 13, 2014

Four Principal States of "Self"

     "The ancient Indian texts called the Upanishads contain the world’s first recorded map of consciousness. The earliest texts — dating from the sixth or seventh century BCE — delineate three principal states of the self — the waking state, the dream state, and the state of deep and dreamless sleep. Later texts add a fourth state — the state of pure awareness. Waking consciousness relates to the outer world and apprehends the physical body as the self. Dream consciousness relates to mental images constructed from memories and apprehends the dream body as the self. In deep & dreamless sleep, consciousness rests in a dormant state not differentiated into subject and object. Pure awareness witnesses these changing states of waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep without identifying with them or with the self that appears in them."

       Thompson E. "Waking, Dreaming, Being: New Light on the Self and Consciousness from Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy." Columbia University Press, 2014. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Three Aspects of Consciousness

     "According to the Indian yogic traditions, which broadly construed include Buddhism, we can distinguish three aspects of consciousness. The first aspect is awareness, which is often likened to a light that reveals whatever it shines upon. The second aspect is whatever the light illuminates, that is, whatever we happen to be aware of from moment to moment. The third aspect is how we experience some of these contents of awareness as “I” or “Me” or “Mine.” To understand how we enact a self, therefore, we need to understand three things— the nature of awareness as distinct from its sensory and mental contents, the mind-body processes that produce these contents, and how some of these contents come to be experienced as the self."
       Thompson E. "Waking, Dreaming, Being: New Light on the Self and Consciousness from Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy." Columbia University Press, 2014. 
Le Bouddha by Odilon Redon

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Joy & Sorrow

"Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, 'Joy is greater than sorrow,' and others say, 'Nay, sorrow is the greater.'
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced."                                                                                                                                  Kahlil Gibran

Friday, January 10, 2014

Spiritual Flexibility

        "Say not, 'I have found the truth,' but rather, 'I have found a truth.'
         Say not, 'I have found the path of the soul.' Say rather, 'I have met the soul walking upon my path.'
         For the soul walks upon all paths.
         The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
         The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals."
                                                                                              Kahlil Gibran
       Streep P ed. Spiritual Illuminations. Meditations for Inner Growth. Viking Studio Books, NY, 1992.

Owl Sculpture at Tattingstone Inn, Wolfville, NS

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Disappointed? Excellent!

     "When we see deeply that all that is subject to arising is also subject to cessation, that whatever arises will also pass away, the mind becomes disenchanted. Becoming disenchanted, one becomes dispassionate. And through dispassion, the mind is liberated.
     It's telling that in English, the words disenchanted, disillusioned, and dispassionate often have negative connotations. But looking more closely at their meaning reveals their connection to freedom. Becoming disenchanted means breaking the spell of enchantment, waking up into a fuller and greater reality. It is the happy ending of so many great myths and fairy tales. Disillusioned is not the same as being discouraged or disappointed. It is a reconnection with what is true, free of illusion. And dispassionate does not mean 'indifferent' or 'apathetic.' Rather, it is the mind of great openness and equanimity, free of grasping."

       Goldstein J. Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening. Sounds True, 2013. - except published in Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly, Winter 2013.

Shelf Portrait by Flibble

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Seeing Clearly

     "essential aspects of the practice:

• Contemplating our experience internally, externally, and both;

Contemplating the nature of impermanence: the arising, the passing away, and both the arising and passing away in regard to our experience;

• Establishing enough mindfulness to recognize simply what is unfolding moment to moment - without mental commentary - and to remain mindful of what's happening;

• Abiding without clinging to anything that enters our realm of experience.

       Goldstein J. Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening. Sounds True, 2013. - except published in Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly, Winter 2013.

Berries, Thorns & Paint - Dundas in December

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Impersonal Causes & Conditions and Knowing

     "We begin to see that everything that we call self is simply this pairwise progression of knowing and object, arising and passing moment after moment. And we also see that the knowing in each moment arises due to impersonal causes and not because there is some abiding 'knower.' So we can say that knowing (consciousness) arises spontaneously when the appropriate causes and conditions are present. Going even deeper, we see that the knowing faculty is not altered or affected by what is known, and this realization has liberating consequences for both our meditation practice and our lives. In meditation, as we go from painful sensations to pleasant ones, we see that the basic quality of knowing is not affected - it is simply aware of what is arising."

       Goldstein J. Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening. Sounds True, 2013. - except published in Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly, Winter 2013.

Outdoor sign for Toronto restaurant Moments

Monday, January 6, 2014

Forms & Attaining Formlessness

     “A Way consists of principle (ri) and techniques. The principle is formless or abiding in the Tao. Techniques are forms which were once spontaneous expressions of principle by a master. By perfecting form through countless repetitions, a person attains to formlessness. Then a person accords with the myriad changes naturally. Without principle, technique is mechanical; without technique, principle cannot be expressed.”

       Sayama MK. “Samadhi. Self-development in Zen, swordsmanship, and psychotherapy.” State University of New York Press, 1986. 

December's Children

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Communication - Now We're Talkin'

     “Apart from the normal communication between men through language and action there is another quite different sort of mutual influence. It is that of the rhythm of the Original strength which permeates all human beings and all Nature. Through it every individual thing in essence and, as it were, underground is connected with every other. If then one who is further removed from the working of the Primordial Force is close to one who lives more in accord with it, the rhythm of the Primordial Force will certainly be transmitted from the one to the other. The latter without knowing it exerts a good influence on the other.”

       Sayama MK. “Samadhi. Self-development in Zen, swordsmanship, and psychotherapy.” State University of New York Press, 1986. 

     “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”                                Maya Angelou

Wall Magic in Toronto, Dundas Street

Saturday, January 4, 2014


     “through our activity we communicate with each other, intentionally and unintentionally. We should always be alert enough to communicate with or without words. If this point is lost, we will lose the most important point of Buddhism.”

       Suzuki S. "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind." Weatherhill, New York, 1970. 

December's Children

Friday, January 3, 2014

What on Earth is Going On? - Physically Process Reality - Persevere!

     "Actually the best way to relieve your mental suffering is to sit in zazen, even in such a confused state of mind and bad posture. If you have no experience of sitting in this kind of difficult situation you are not a Zen student. No other activity will appease your suffering. In other restless positions you have no power to accept your difficulties, but in the zazen posture which you have acquired by long, hard practice, your mind and body have great power to accept things as they are, whether they are agreeable or disagreeable.
     When you are sitting in the middle of your own problem, which is more real to you: your problem or you yourself? The awareness that you are here, right now, is the ultimate fact. This is the point you will realize by zazen practice. In continuous practice, under a succession of agreeable and disagreeable situations, you will realize the marrow of Zen and acquire its true strength."

       Suzuki S. "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind." Weatherhill, New York, 1970.

December's Child

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Agency, Opportunity, Timing

     “Now is the time, and we are the ones we have been waiting for.”        Hopi elders

Outside a Toronto restaurant

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

True Nature Resumes Itself

     “While you are continuing this practice, week after week, year after year, your experience will become deeper & deeper, and your experience will cover everything you do in your everyday life.
     The most important thing is to forget all gaining ideas, all dualistic ideas. In other words, just practice zazen in a certain posture. Do not think about anything. Just remain on your cushion without expecting anything. Then eventually you will resume your own true nature. That is to say, your own true nature resumes itself.”            Shunryu Suzuki

P. Michael Lovas