Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fear-based Rigidity & Wisdom Paths to Mature Consciousness

     Keeping an open mind-heart to reality's incomprehensible complexity, ambiguity, liminality, paradox, constant change, including the inevitable aging, sickness and death of ourselves & everyone we love, is hugely challenging.
     But because of our impressive repertoire of subconscious avoidance maneuvers, we're minimally conscious of how powerfully this impacts our daily life. We're usually unaware of the severity of our existential dread & anxiety
     Nor do most of us have an intelligent, mature, conscious relationship with any wisdom tradition - the inner sciences that arose specifically to navigate these most challenging aspects of life.
     Instead, most of us take one of two extreme, fear-based positions: drift in cynical nihilism - OR - lock into a dogmatic belief system (or go back & forth between these two).
     But there are intelligent, mature approaches to the various wisdom traditions that CAN help intelligent, educated people evolve in consciousness / spirituality. I'm only familiar with Buddhist & Christian paths.

     There are other wisdom paths (Aboriginal, Hindu, Kabbalah, Sufi, etc) & other superb authors. Even outspoken atheists, like Sam Harris (below), recognize the vital role of wisdom traditions. 

               Adyashanti. “The End of Your World. Uncensored Straight Talk on the Nature of Enlightenment.” Sounds True, Boulder, Colorado, 2010.

               Freeman L. “Jesus the teacher within.” Medio Media / Continuum, NY, 2000.

               Goldstein J. "Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening." Sounds True, 2013. 

               Harris S. "Waking Up. A Guide to Spirituality without Religion." Simon & Schuster, 2014.
 
               Hollis J. "What Matters Most: Living a More Considered Life." Gotham, 2009.

               Hollis J. “Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life.” Gotham Books, NY, 2005.

               Keating T. “Invitation to Love. The Way of Christian Contemplation.” Continuum, NY, 1998. 

               Kornfield J. "Awakening is Real. A Guide to the Deeper Dimensions of the Inner Journey." Sounds True (audio) 
               www.soundstrue.com

               May G. "Addiction and Grace. Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions." HarperCollins, NY, 1988.

               May G. “Simply sane. The spirituality of mental health.” Crossroad, NY. 1994. 

               Palmer PJ. “A hidden wholeness: The journey toward an undivided life.” John Wiley & Sons, San Francisco, 2004. 

               Parks SD. “Big questions, worthy dreams. Mentoring young adults in their search for meaning, purpose, and faith.” John Wiley & Sons, San Francisco, 2000. 

               Sawyer D. “Huston Smith: Wisdomkeeper. Living the World’s Religions. The Authorized Biography of a 21st Century Spiritual Giant.” Fons Vitae, KY, 2014. 
 
               Smith R. “Awakening. A Paradigm Shift of the Heart.” Shambhala, Boston, 2014.

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

               Welwood J. ed. “Ordinary magic. Everyday life as spiritual path.” Shambhala, Boston, 1992.




Saturday, November 29, 2014

Religious Orthodoxy, Creative Spirituality - the Archetypal Dilemma

      How many times has an individual enthusiastically suggested a progressive idea to an established institution only to be brushed off, or worse? Likewise, to what degree are we, as individuals, disengaged from institutions - even those to which we voluntarily belong - considering them irrelevant? Respectful communication, in both directions, clearly needs to be optimized. Constant input of energy from creative individuals is essential to keep institutions vital, relevant. Vital, relevant institutions can be healthy hatcheries for vibrant creative individuals.

     "Developing spiritual practice within an organisation can give an important foundation of understanding. As an 'apprentice' it can provide a structured, disciplined and contained environment in which to learn and practice. As we become more in touch with, listen to and trust our own inner truth as to our spiritual path, it may deviate from or become incompatible with the organization we have grown up in."

     He concludes: "Our spiritual journey is personal and individual. As we awaken our innate Buddha potential, it is for each of us to take responsibility for how this may be expressed creatively in the world for the welfare of others. The Bodhisattva is perhaps the perfect example of one whose determination in life is not to avoid incarnation but takes responsibility through compassion to individuate and become a vehicle for ultimate wisdom to be brought into the world."

     The archetypal duality of form & emptiness is beautifully discussed by Rob Preece in his excellent book:
       Preece R. "The Wisdom of Imperfection. The Challenge of Individuation in Buddhist Life." Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca NY, 2006. 
     and summarized: http://www.mudra.co.uk/mudra_individuation.html


lem12   www.dpreview.com

Friday, November 28, 2014

Painful Mistaken Identity

     As a result of emotional wounding, we contract around an identity that slowly becomes fixed and solid. We come to mistakenly assume that we are this painful, defective, solid thing.

     "It can take a sophisticated insight to understand the nature of our emotional wounding and the patterns and defenses that crystallize around it. ...

     When I experience something threatening or insulting me I experience a kind of contraction in myself that grasps at a sense of me. This is a tangible, almost physical contraction that causes a strong emotional tightening in my chest. From this place, before I have a chance to do anything about it, I can react defensively with anger or aggression to protect myself. Alternatively, I may feel hurt or insulted and withdraw into myself for comfort and safety. In all of these reactions I can feel a vivid expression of my grasping at a solid sense of me. At first, this sense of me and its defensive reactions feels as though they relate to something that is a definite central part of me, something solid that must be defended. Only by looking more deeply will I begin to recognize that these reactions hold on to something that is not actually substantial, and they paint a picture of the world that is not real. Even though I may have feelings that I am hurt, frightened, or rejected, if I look deeply at this reactive me, I can see that it is not fixed, permanent, or true. There is no solid base for its existence. It is not to be found in my body, feelings, mind, perceptions, and so on as something existent.
     The emotional process is real enough, but the 'I' that I am grasping at as a fixed sense of self doesn't exist. It is like an emotionally charged bubble that pops when looked at more closely. As this bubble pops, the sense of contracted surface tension that held it together begins to open. A quality of inner space begins to be restored that is not tight and contracted.
     The recognition of the lack of solid self and the subsequent release of the contraction around it don't mean we have no ego at all. It is important to distinguish between normal, functional ego that acts as a focus of our relationship to the world and this emotionally charged solid sense of ego.
     ... It is not the ego that needs to go but the ego-grasping that holds on to a self as solid and ultimately existent."

       Preece R. "The Wisdom of Imperfection. The Challenge of Individuation in Buddhist Life." Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca NY, 2006.

Antonio Celso Lima Mollo, National Geographic   http://photography.nationalgeographic.com

Thursday, November 27, 2014

No Preferences?

     “Only have no preferences” was the advice repeatedly given by a highly-respected meditation teacher. At first we may just feel that it's an odd statement. Later, if we can hold it as an open question, we may find it puzzling. Then it may become intriguing. Gradually we actually start to "get it" - directly, experientially.
     Just as we can learn to control the rheostat (dimmer switch) of our level of consciousness, we can also learn to seamlessly slide FROM "ordinary mind (totally dependent on external conditions for happiness or suffering) TO awareness (that’s independent of external conditions - "no preferences”). 
     Only WE assign how negatively or positively external conditions will impact our lives. We can just as easily assign the reverse, or none at all. Part of psychological flexibility is examining any situation with curiosity, with “beginner’s mind” INSTEAD OF assigning a characteristic (boring) negative or positive judgment.
     ANY and ALL events in life can energize us to grow & thrive - IF that’s what we choose.
     There’s a continuum between ordinary mind and awareness. Awareness is spacious enough to be able to hold ordinary mind. We can be aware, kindhearted, still, peaceful, joyful AND have low-grade thoughts that no longer intrude & disrupt – as when we’re engrossed in a movie on TV, realize that there’s a newsfeed going by on the bottom of the screen, but we don’t bother reading it, remaining focused on the movie.

See: http://mindfulnessforeveryone.blogspot.ca/search?q=energy
and: http://mindfulnessforeveryone.blogspot.ca/2013/11/436-readiness-for-change-is-pivotal.html

Julie DuBose   https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10205141453319375.1073741828.1335888565&type=1&l=e38e547509

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"Expert Opinions" & the Capacity to Learn

     Roger Walsh MD, PhD describes how he learned "to appreciate the importance of an experiential foundation for intellectual understanding and the extraordinary extent of miscommunication and projection which operated in these areas.
     Many times, I listened to people explaining their misgivings about such-and-such a program and I was left wondering if we could possibly be talking about the same thing. I was no exception to these barriers and was amazed to see how radically my perceptions of a person or program depended on my psychological state.
     For example, on first reading the books of Ram Dass, I announced to several people that he was either psychotic or knew so much more than I did that I couldn't understand him, but I suspected the former. Six months later, on rereading the books, I found myself amazed that I could have failed to appreciate the depth of wisdom in them.
     Going through the est training in 1975, I walked out after the first three days feeling that I already knew all this. Some months later, I had the opportunity of meeting its founder Werner Erhard and found to my amazement that the man seemed to know considerably more about the workings of the mind than I did. Somewhat humbled, I went back and redid the est training and was astounded to find out how much it seemed to have improved. It became apparent that I had tried to protect my self-image as a highly trained mental health professional who must therefore know more than the people giving the est training, most of whom did not have professional degrees. I had apparently thus blocked my ability to hear anything of deeper significance than I already knew.
     ... the general principle should be clear by now. Basically, my defenses, biases, and lack of experience limited my capacity to appreciate people or information of greater wisdom than I myself possessed. Moreover, it seemed that not only was I passively incapable of hearing it, but was also at times actively defended against it." 
       Walsh R. "Journey beyond belief." Journal of Humanistic Psychology 1984; 24(2): 30-65.

 


Monday, November 24, 2014

Awake by Choice?

     We need to keep reminding ourselves, and clearly recognize the fact that very few of us are fully conscious, living fully integrated lives.
     We clearly sense the disconnect between what we actually AND should think, say and do. Often we simply stumble along with the momentum of our reptilian instincts. A big part of this primitive momentum is our love affair with distraction - we have MUCH in common with the golden retriever (below). We seem to need to fully exhaust, to become thoroughly sick & tired of being dumb-asses.

     We have all the hardware to be homo sapiens sapiens right here, right now - BUT - do have to CHOOSE to be AWAKE, now, now, now, now ...




Sunday, November 23, 2014

Beyond Self & Self-talk

      "... silence and solitude are the very basis for our engagement with the world. They are expressed in the experiences of inquiry and listening, nonviolence and nonduality, patience and concentration, connectedness and intimacy, authenticity and stillness, understanding and compassion, and seeing beyond language and intuition.”

        Halifax J. “Fruitful darkness. Reconnecting with the body of the earth.” HarperSanFrancisco, NY, 1993. 


Nicolas Marino   www.dpreview.com

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Journey to the Place of Vision and Power

"Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself. It is not far, it is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere - on water and on land."               Walt Whitman
       Metzner R. “The unfolding self. Varieties of transformative experience.” Origin Press, Novato CA, 1998. 

     How we relate to ourselves - our self-knowledge, self-acceptance, self-care and self-transcendence - is how we think, speak and behave. Critical indicators of our heart-mind's health are how we treat women, children, elders, Native peoples, handicapped people, minorities, Nature, other living spaces, the arts.
     A profound confusion, disorientation within each of us requires healing. Each and every one of us is on a lifelong healing journey of self-knowledge, self-acceptance, self-care and self-transcendence. Health and wholeness are at hand.

 
Maurizio Targhetta   www.dpreview.com

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ego OR Awareness?

     Irritation, Recognition, Boredom, Interest, Inspiration, Experiencing, or Integrating?
     These possible responses to any aspect of Mindfulness are worlds apart – like "heaven & hell." AND at the same time, each is immediately present right here, right now. Each moment we have the effortless, instant choice of any of these. See: http://mindfulnessforeveryone.blogspot.ca/2014/11/589-resting-in-awareness.html
     We don't consistently live in awareness i.e. don't fully integrate aspects of Mindfulness into our daily life, to the extent that our ego remains in charge of our life. And we suffer in direct proportion. 
     As we become progressively more aware of what's happening within & about us in each moment, we gradually learn to choose thoughts, words & behaviors that are increasingly more skillful ie cause less suffering & greater joy for all.
     When's a good time to start living wisely?

Austin Beahm, National Geographic   http://photography.nationalgeographic.com



Saturday, November 8, 2014

McMindfulness?

     "... the main delivery system for Buddhist meditation in the modern West isn’t Buddhism; it is science, medicine, and schools. There is a tidal wave behind this movement. MBSR practitioners already account for the majority of new meditators and soon they are going to be the vast majority. If Buddhists want to have any say, they better stop criticizing and start collaborating, working with instead of just against. Otherwise, they might get left in the dust of the 'McMindfulness' movement."                               Willoughby Britton PhD

       Tricycle magazine 4/25/2014 interview: http://www.tricycle.com/blog/meditation-nation


 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

How Best to Mine Diamonds

     "my goal is to pluck the diamond from the dunghill of esoteric religion. There is a diamond there, and I have devoted a fair amount of my life to contemplating it, but getting it in hand requires that we remain true to the deepest principles of scientific skepticism and make no obeisance to tradition."
       Sam Harris. "Waking Up. A Guide to Spirituality without Religion." Simon & Schuster, 2014.

     The general idea of the above statement resonates. Harris would, of course, ridicule a religious person examining science WHILE remaining true to the deepest principles of her religion
     From my understanding, to plumb the depths of any discipline, one must completely immerse oneself in that discipline "with an open mind" - be it learning to speak French, play the piano, or pharmacology. Each discipline has its own internal logic and set of rules. This can, and should be done, without "parking your brains at the door before you enter". There's far greater clarity with direct perception than in today's "gold standard" of scientific skepticism.
     Immersive learning does call for psychological flexibility ie letting go of, if only temporarily, dogmatic rigidity (a psychological affliction in its own right). Huston Smith studied several of the world's major spiritual traditions (Buddhism, Islam, and others) by immersing himself in each for years at a time. Perhaps most inspiring are clergy, like Sister Elaine MacInnes, who while remaining a Catholic nun, is also a Zen Buddhist roshi (master), the highest level of teacher in Zen Buddhism.

Peter Essick, National Geographic   http://photography.nationalgeographic.com

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Mindfulness Meditation & Human Depth in the 21st Century

     "... when you take away all the religious stuff, the world's spiritual traditions have some profound things to say about the art of being human.

     ... self-transcendence - the experience of losing the sense that there's a subject in the center of experience. And when you lose that feeling of self, then in some basic sense, only the world remains. ... Given that Christians, and Hindus, and Buddhists, and Muslims, and even atheists like myself, have this (type of peak) experience in a variety of contexts, we know that this experience can't be data in favor of any religious interpretation. We know that there's a deeper principle at work, and this deeper principle has to be understood in 21st century terms that are non-sectarian, that don't endorse any kind of sectarian tribalism. And that's the challenge I see for us - to get out of the religion business and to talk about the full range of human experience in terms that are intellectually responsible and honest and therefore non-divisive.

     At age 18, I had a profound drug-induced experience that I couldn't forget which was that life could be far better than I was tending to live it. It became very clear, as I did some reading and got my first taste of meditation practice, that the problem was my own mind, the problem was how I was unable to pay attention in the present moment.
     Meditation can be an immensely powerful tool for the mitigation of psychological suffering." Sam Harris

        Sam Harris, author of "Tame Your Mind (No Religion Required)" interviewed by Mary Hines on CBC Radio's "Tapestry": http://www.cbc.ca/tapestry/

Saad Faruque

Monday, November 3, 2014

It's All About HOW We Do Things

     “When I was five years old, my mother always told me happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down 'happy.' They said I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”            John Lennon

     "What matters is the quality of your mind", while doing, whatever you do. There's nothing special about a lot of things we do, however, the way in which we perform the simplest of acts, can show respect for our own life, and respect for life in general, moment-by-moment.
       Larry Rosenberg. Three Steps to Awakening. A Practice for Bringing Mindfulness to Life. Shambhala, Boston, 2013.


Michael Melford, National Geographic   http://photography.nationalgeographic.com

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Waking Up

     "... more and more your life emanates from this place of clear awareness. When the seeing gets very clear and still, it is because 'you' disappear. The great Chinese poet Li Po expressed this beautifully:

          The birds have vanished down the sky
          Now the last cloud drains away.

          We sit together, the mountain and me,
          until only the mountain remains.

     Li Po did not rise up and leave the mountain scenery. His self-conscious mind has left him! He is describing a mind that has stopped churning out ideas, thoughts, feelings, and images. In his case, you might say that he no longer exclaims, 'Look at that gorgeous view. I'm so happy to be here. I can write a poem about this scene, and it will be remembered forever. Perhaps even anthologized.'
     None of that chronic mental activity remains. His poem implies that self-cherishing has fallen away, and what remains is simply clear seeing."

       Larry Rosenberg. Three Steps to Awakening. A Practice for Bringing Mindfulness to Life. Shambhala, Boston, 2013.



Nicolas Le Boulanger, National Geographic   http://photography.nationalgeographic.com