Thursday, October 30, 2014

Buddhism, and Other Contemplative Traditions

     "... much of what I’m saying about Buddhism also applies to the contemplative traditions of other religions. In fact, contemplatives of different faiths often have more in common with each other than they do with practitioners of their own religion. It comes down to how much we personify or solidify the absolute —whether it’s a supreme being who passes judgment on us or an open expanse of love and awareness. In their experience of God, Thomas Merton, Rumi, and Martin Buber had more in common with the Buddha (and each other) than with most practitioners of their own faith.
     The difference is that meditation is the very essence of Buddhism, not just the practice of a rarified elite of mystics. It’s fair to say that Buddhism is the most contemplative of the world’s major religions, which is a reflection of its basic nontheism.
     Buddhism is about realization and experience, not institutions or divine authority. This makes it especially suited to those who consider themselves spiritual but not religious."

       Melvin McLeod. "Are You Spiritual But Not Religious? 10 Reasons Why Buddhism Will Enrich Your Path." Shambhala Sun, October 2014 edition

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Perfectly Imperfect - Own It!

''Troubles overcome are good to tell.''  

                                                                                        Yiddish proverb, Primo Levi ''The Periodic Table''

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

All in the Family - OR - Evil Outsider?

     As the worst of human nature erupts yet again today on Ottawa's Parliament Hill, the temptation to wipe such "evil" off the face of the earth arises, yet again. 
     But wait, isn't that precisely what these & other terrorists claim to be doing? And if Canada and her allies were able to "eliminate" each terrorist involved in this attack, and apprehend and imprison all of their (immediate) supporters, what exactly would it accomplish? Isn't Israel far better at this approach than we Canadians? And how's it working for them? Hasn't this approach been clubbed to death over the past million years or so?
     Haven't the Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and a host of other wise people repeatedly told us that an eye for an eye only makes more and more of us blind? How long must we keep beating this dead horse?
     Evil is not in others, the evil is within our own individual heart-minds, it is our "shadow". We project this evil onto "the other". All groups, even "peace" activists & "right-to life" activists, have members who are willing to be violent, particularly towards "the other, evil side."
     The willingness and ability to act out our OWN demons requires THERAPY, not encouragement & support. 
     Only when we stop supporting others' DIRTY WORK, will atrocities diminish. All of us who support heart-mindless violence against "the other", must rethink what we're doing - our minds, hearts & hands are also bloody. Quickly & definitively eliminating "evil" once and for all can't be done. Both World Wars were supposed to "end war for all time".

     The current state of affairs is repulsive to all evolved human beings, regardless of faith, nationality, race, etc and is ineffective. We live in an age in which we must recognize & transcend this inherited reptilian reflex within ourselves, first & foremost
     Human beings are ONE FAMILY. We can only solve our problems as ONE FAMILY PULLING TOGETHER

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Self, Ego and Selflessness

     "... the end of polarities is the completion of all skillful means, all practices, and all methods that were used to surmount ignorance. When ignorance is no longer pitted against wisdom, there is nonreferenced ease. ... We have to extract the 'me' from our salvation and prohibit identification with the self's return. Many people can understand selflessness; few can keep the self from meddling its way back in. This is not accomplished by forcing but through understanding. To understand exactly what the self is is to end the self. Once understood, it assumes its rightful place in our functional lives but never again assumes a place of power and authority. It takes just one polarizing moment that has gone undetected for self-centered living to resume."

       Rodney Smith. Awakening. A Paradigm Shift of the Heart. Shambhala, Boston, 2014.

"polarities" refers to opposites, the divided mind, boundaries etc
"nonreferenced" means unconditional - independent of causes and conditions
"functional" a healthy ego is described in Western psychology as like a verb (functional) rather than a noun (a solid object)
"polarizing moment" as soon as we identify with one (versus another) view, opinion, preference, the fictional "solid self" is re-created. This imaginary solid "identity" causes suffering.

October near Lewis Lake, Nova Scotia, Canada

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Guardedness, Appreciation, and Opening One's Heart & Life

     "Sometimes people with early childhood scarring complain that they are unable to feel their emotions. We all have emotions, but some of us have learned to ignore them and turn away. I often suggest that those who ignore their emotions awaken to their emotional life through tenderness: looking around until something stirs their humanity, then resting their gaze quietly upon that. When they begin to experience a felt sense of beauty, they will also feel tender, open, and peaceful. Their emotions will begin to percolate through this process, and appreciation will arise within that tenderness. Appreciation is the quiet thank-you of the heart that opens across the landscape."

       Rodney Smith. Awakening. A Paradigm Shift of the Heart. Shambhala, Boston, 2014.

October on Lewis Lake, Nova Scotia, Canada

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Creativity - from Where?

     "The dictionary defines creativity as 'the use of imagination or original ideas,' but that definition is what happens after the creative moment. It is impossible for the conditioned mind to think something original. It is discerning awareness that sees in a novel way, and when we look closely, we see that the actual act of creation is completely still, without thought. The absence of thought allows awareness to see, free from all constraints, but soon after, the mind possesses the creative moment and thinks about what just occurred. The person having the creative moment then claims ownership by believing he or she used his or her imagination to come to this insight, when the person was not even in the picture when creativity occurred."

       Rodney Smith. Awakening. A Paradigm Shift of the Heart. Shambhala, Boston, 2014.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Morality First, in the Middle, & Last

     "We awaken out of ourselves and our self-centered position, but awakening is often incomplete. The awakened state offers such power of position and mind that if it is incomplete any residual ego will be forced to the surface. Then, all hell may break loose. If the ego refuses to acknowledge the tension that remains, it can rationalize everything it does as 'crazy wisdom,' a very dangerous term. If, however, ethical behavior has been a central theme throughout our spiritual journey, we will continue to reference our conduct during the uprooting of the sense-of-self. The egoic state is a conditioned state, which means it draws from its storehouse of responses. When not harming ourselves and others becomes the conditioned way we live, then this theme will also be played out as our conditioning is being surmounted. As our conditioning decreases and wakefulness increases our innate response not to harm begins to take over. When our spiritual journey is tied tightly to nonharm, we are less likely to harm in the beginning, middle, and the end
     Another component of this is the understanding that awakening is the journey to complete sanity. We know sanity when we see it, and we should encourage that intuitive response forward rather than succumbing to the power and influence of any teacher. If it feels off, it probably is. We are such a doubting culture that we think. “Who am I to doubt someone as wise as my teacher.” Dropping the doubt, who are we not to? 
     It should be noted that awakening does not carry the skill of personal interactions along with it. Just the contrary, if we were untrained in personal relationships in the beginning, we will be untrained when we awaken. We ascribe so much to awakening that we believe everything that is uttered, every interaction undertaken, all arise from some pristine state of being, when it is more likely occurring because we have not learned the competencies of how to live."

       Rodney Smith, author of Awakening. A Paradigm Shift of the Heart. Shambhala, Boston, 2014. being interviewed:

Sunday, October 12, 2014

From Egocentricity towards a Wise Heart

       Do we really want instructions on how to fear our hearts?
     "Over the last twenty years, the political systems of the western world have become increasingly divided—not between right and left, but between crazy and non-crazy. What’s more, the crazies seem to be gaining the upper hand. Rational thought cannot prevail in the current social and media environment, where elections are won by appealing to voters’ hearts rather than their minds. ..." from the product description of the book with the (misleading) title: "Enlightenment 2.0" by Joseph Heath.

     "But interest can easily be corrupted by the mind into intellectual curiosity. Intellectual curiosity is the mind's attempt to understand through language and reasoning what life is about - as opposed to the primary curiosity that is attempting to silently merge life into itself. The mind's (intellectual) curiosity builds a body of knowledge that can become a source of self-esteem and personal power that is strongly tied to the image of us, the knower. Meanwhile, the primary curiosity of discernment moves toward absolute contentment and stillness."

       Rodney Smith. Awakening. A Paradigm Shift of the Heart. Shambhala, Boston, 2014.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Next Step from the Top of a 200 Foot-High Pole

     "Lost within the dependency on any structure is the sacred formless, infinitely available once form has been released.

     There is no bridge between form and the formless, and all form can ever do is establish a readiness to surrender to the formless.

     Is our present spiritual form ever going to let go of us? Will it ever say, 'Job well done, you are finished and ready for the formless,' or is that readiness going to have to come from us - with the understanding that the 'feeling of readiness' may not be part of what it means to be ready?"

       Rodney Smith. Awakening. A Paradigm Shift of the Heart. Shambhala, Boston, 2014.

Tangled Garden

Friday, October 10, 2014

Meditating in Nature

               We sat together, the forest and I
               Merging into silence
               Until only the forest remained.                Li Po

       Jack Kornfield & Christina Feldman. Soul Food. Stories that Nourish the Spirit & the Heart. HarperCollins, 1996.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Formless Awareness - Sacred Space

     "Sacred space is a place where human beings find a manifestation of divine power, where they experience a sense of connectedness to the universe. There, in some special way, spirit is present to them."
       Peter Knudtson & David Suzuki. Wisdom of the Elders. Stoddart, Toronto, 1992. p123

     "To get a feeling for how formless awareness encompasses all experience, do not move or make any deliberate sound, simply listen to what is already present. What is arising and passing away in this moment? Is the moment the content that is passing through this time frame or the space that holds the content? Get a feeling for each of these. 
     The content is the experiences that are arising: the sights, sounds, smell, tastes, physical sensations, thoughts, emotions, and states of mind - all in movement, luring you into the future through their story and emotional charge. We talk ourselves into the future. 
     The space is the formless awareness of the content, and the space is not in movement. The space heals the content because it will not move with the content and therefore does not encourage a personal narrative. Once the narrative ends, so does the conditioning."
       Rodney Smith. Awakening. A Paradigm Shift of the Heart. Shambhala, Boston, 2014.

Port Williams, Nova Scotia, Canada

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Living Truth

     "Truth makes little sense and has no real impact if it is merely a collection of abstract ideas. Truth that is living experience, on the other hand, is challenging, threatening, and transforming. The first kind of truth consists of information collected and added, from a safe distance, to our mental inventory. The second kind involves risking our familiar and coherent interpretation of the world - it is an act of surrender, of complete and embodied cognition that is seeing, feeling, intuiting, and comprehending all at once. Living truth leads us ever more deeply into the unknown territory of what our life is. ...

     (Buddhism) is concerned not with truth that is fixed and dead, but with truth that is alive and constantly emerging. And it is only this kind of truth that is 'indestructible' because it is not a reified version of the past, but a reflection of what is ultimately so in the immediacy of the present." 

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

Port Williams, Nova Scotia, Canada

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Acceptance, Letting Go of Force

     "Even the lapses of mindfulness we struggle to resist have their own value on a spiritual journey. The darkness of forgetfulness feeds the light of remembering like winter feeds spring. As we begin to move outside the strongly conditioned self-reference model of events, where each experience implies something about me and what I need to do about it, into a more universal understanding of how reality operates on its own, we see there is nothing missing or out of place. From that view the absence or presence of self-awareness is simply the current configuration of reality, and any tension we exert to correct it sustains the dichotomy of 'the aware me' pitted against 'the unaware me.' ... we see this is a resurgence of the divided mind, and any force in either direction ultimately obstructs unification. Relaxing and accepting whatever reality presents is the only way to heal the rift and end the egoic notion that we are in charge."

       Rodney Smith. Awakening. A Paradigm Shift of the Heart. Shambhala, Boston, 2014.

View from The Port Pub, Port Williams, NS

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Authenticity, Certainty, Self-centeredness

     "All of us have had the experience of dropping our guard when engrossed in the natural world and living for a brief moment free of our mental discursiveness and language. We suddenly feel 'at home,' relaxed, and connected to the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations around us. In fact, this loss of self-centeredness and the accompanying sense of connectedness may be one of the reasons we appreciate being in nature. With this experience as a guide, we can begin to question whether this self-center is authentic or whether it is keeping us from something natural. Could our mental need to label and fix experiences into a rigidly certain world be the only inauthentic aspect of nature?"

       Rodney Smith. "Awakening. A Paradigm Shift of the Heart." Shambhala, Boston, 2014.

     "The small man builds cages for everyone he knows. While the sage keeps dropping keys all night long for the beautiful, rowdy prisoners."                                Hafiz

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Suchness Beyond Labels

     "Calling (an) object something, naming it, doesn't make it 'something,' it only makes it what the mind says it is, though something seems to remain in the silence after the words have faded away. (This object) now floats free of the mooring to definition and becomes empty and almost translucent yet somehow silently connected with the rest of the muted world. The silence we now find ourselves in may be a clue to the object's true nature, but let's keep this inquiry alive and see where it takes us."

       Rodney Smith. Awakening. A Paradigm Shift of the Heart. Shambhala, Boston, 2014.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Two Levels of Practice

     "There are two levels of practice.
     The first is the foundation, a development of precepts, virtue, or morality in order to bring happiness, comfort, and harmony among people. 
     The second, more intensive and unconcerned with comfort is the practice of Buddha Dharma directed solely toward awakening, toward the liberation of the heart. This liberation is the source of wisdom and compassion and the true reason for the Buddha's teaching."

 A Still Forest Pool. The Insight Meditation of Achaan Chah.
Jack Kornfield and Paul Breiter eds. Quest, 1985.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Sunnata - Voidness, Emptiness

     "Sunnata doesn't mean 'nothing' or 'nothingness'; it means void of atta (self).

     Nothing whatsoever should be clung to as 'I' or 'mine'.

     ... in the sphere of the Buddhist teachings ... there are the questions, 'Is there dukkha?' and 'How can it be quenched?' Knowing the root cause of dukkha, one will be able to extinguish it. And that root cause of dukkha is the delusion, the wrong understanding, that there is 'I' and 'mine'."

Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree - The Buddha's Teachings on Voidness 
by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, Wisdom, 1994

On Reflection

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fundamental Principles of Buddhism

     "To call something a 'fundamental principle of Buddhism' is only correct if,
          first, it is a principle that aims at the quenching of dukkha (pain, misery, suffering) and, 
          second, it has a logic that one can see for oneself without having to believe others."

Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree - The Buddha's Teachings on Voidness
by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, Wisdom, 1994

Eagle Lake