Friday, January 30, 2015

Only Nurture and Persevere

     "You cannot predict the outcome of human development.
All you can do is like a farmer create the conditions under which it will begin to flourish." 

       Sir Ken Robinson

Monday, January 26, 2015

Don't be Afraid of the Dark

     We all experience ups & downs numerous times each day. During meditation, we see & feel our actual life with minimal distraction, and therefore much greater clarity. That’s why we can experience emotions so powerfully during meditation and also why we're able to learn, through our meditation practice, to live with progressively increasing skill & wisdom. 
     However, many of us have experienced significant trauma in our lives, the echos of which can repeatedly re-emerge in various disruptive ways into our present life. Sometimes these energies are "too sticky" for us to process physically, on our own, during meditation. In such cases, professional counselling offers established psychological techniques for effective processing.
     A variety of challenges from our past, including, but not limited to what we consider significant trauma, can resurface as challenging mental content in meditation. There are many things that we may not consider to be "significant trauma" that can, nevertheless, have significant effects in meditation. Verbal abuse, witnessing domestic violence, various forms of neglect, having alcoholic parent(s), divorce, etc can all leave people with unresolved issues. For example, neuroimaging studies suggest that exposure to verbal abuse - considered relatively "minor" trauma - can have even more significant effects than more easily recognized forms of trauma, like sexual abuse.
     So choosing to seek counselling may be very wise. Counselling can markedly benefit both our overall quality of life, as well as our effectiveness in performing our wide variety of tasks - including meditation!
     Counselling is completely confidential. At least a third of us need counselling at some point. Far from jeopardizing our career, obtaining necessary help is as much a professional obligation as being sober at work.
     Should concerns or difficulties arise during meditation, make sure you discuss it during group meditation or on a one-to-one basis with the meditation teacher, trusted family or friends, - and or - a mental-health professional (who ideally also has meditation experience).
       *** I thank the wonderful mental-health care professionals in my immediate family who kindly help refine some of these blogs with their wise suggestions.***

     "This is a dark time, filled with suffering and uncertainty. Like living cells in a larger body, it is natural that we feel the trauma of our world. So don't be afraid of the anguish you feel, or the anger or fear, for these responses arise from the depth of your caring and the truth of your interconnectedness with all beings. To suffer with is the literal meaning of compassion."

                        Joanna Macy         

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Individuals & Wholeness - Not One, Not Two

     "Individuation is the discovery of our own personal quality of wholeness that is intimately connected to our experience of the whole. We stand upon a threshold where the individual meets the universal yet retains a unique sense of self. This inner sense of wholeness is then open to the interdependence of ourselves with all others. I am reminded of the metaphor of there being one light though the lamps are many."

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

Friday, January 23, 2015

Physically Processing Bad Things

     “When you're born a light is switched on, a light which shines up through your life. As you get older the light still reaches you, sparkling as it comes up through your memories. And if you're lucky as you travel forward through time, you'll bring the whole of yourself along with you, gathering your skirts and leaving nothing behind, nothing to obscure the light. But if a Bad Thing happens part of you is seared into place, and trapped for ever at that time. The rest of you moves onward, dealing with all the todays and tomorrows, but something, some part of you, is left behind. That part blocks the light, colours the rest of your life, but worse than that, it's alive. Trapped forever at that moment, and alone in the dark, that part of you is still alive.”
       Michael Marshall Smith, from: "Only Forward"

     Mindfulness practice involves physically processing "Bad Things", as they surface. We do so by meeting all the various challenging physical feelings (that naturally arise, stay a bit, then dissipate), with curiosity, acceptance, patience, and if need be, perseverance. It's important not to weave stories about these physical sensations. Physical discomfort is much, much easier to accept & manage than mental/emotional suffering.
     Mental/emotional suffering is created when we decide to create a long, painful story (self-talk) about the physical sensations. This unskillful, yet extremely common addition can maintain both physical and mental/emotional suffering for as long as we "keep picking at the scab".
     So instead, we intentionally let go of words & images, and directly experience with curiosity, and kind acceptance, all phenomena - which then behave naturally - ie are transient.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Come Together ...

    "It is possible that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual.
     The next Buddha may take the form of a community - a community practicing understanding and loving kindness, a community practicing mindful living.
     This may be the most important thing we can do for the survival of the earth."                                                       Thich Nhat Hanh

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Finding Inner Truth

     "The Buddha's message is to test the teachings and see if they work or fit our lives. His teachings emphasize a process of self-exploration and self-realization that does not take on institutionalized truths but rather finds inner truth. Even the essential principle of Buddha nature rests not on salvation by some outer agency or god but on a genuine awakening to our own true nature."

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


Monday, January 19, 2015

One Love, One World

     "In a real sense all life is inter-related. All persons are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the inter-related structure of reality."

     "Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear, only love can do that. Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it."                                                           Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Wisdom of the Bigger Picture

Brent Bambury:
     "It seems unjust that you didn't have the same opportunities that you would expect (after winning an Oscar)."

Louis Gossett Jr:
     "Well that resentment, that mentality almost killed me. I don't do that anymore. There's a bigger picture. I had 20 minutes with Nelson Mandela, and if anybody had a reason to be rejected and be resentful, it would have been him. He came out of that prison after 27 years with a smile on his face. It's a bigger picture than that. So now I'm in a position to teach young people what is most important. The Oscars are extremely important, so are the Emmys, but the mentality of us being one people on this planet is bigger than the Oscars."

Louis Gossett Jr. on race, Hollywood & the Oscars:

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Genuine Love

     "All genuine love ... is based on the possibility the beloved offers to the lover for a fuller unfolding of his own being by being-in-the-world with her."                      Medard Boss

     "For the first time in history, the relations between men and women lack clear guidelines, supportive family networks, a religious context, and a compelling social meaning."

       Welwood J. "Toward a Psychology of Awakening. Buddhism, Psychotherapy, and the Path of Personal and Spiritual Transformation." Shambhala, Boston, 2002.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Respect for All

     "People who cultivate achievement and virtue do not slight anyone in their hearts, always acting with respect for all."                                             Hui-Neng
       Cleary T. transl. "The Sutra of Hui-Neng, Grand Master of Zen, with Hui-Neng's Commentary on the Diamond Sutra." Shambhala, Boston, 1998.

Friday, January 2, 2015


     "as long as they are not enlightened, buddhas are human beings; the moment they are enlightened, human beings are buddhas."                                                     Hui-Neng

       Cleary T. transl. "The Sutra of Hui-Neng, Grand Master of Zen, with Hui-Neng's Commentary on the Diamond Sutra." Shambhala, Boston, 1998.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ingram's Two Finger Meditation

     "I sit quietly in a quiet place, close my eyes, put one hand on each knee, and concentrate just on my two index fingers. Basic dharma theory tells me that it is definitely not possible to perceive both fingers simultaneously, so with this knowledge I try to see in each instant which one of the two finger's physical sensations are being perceived. Once the mind has sped up a bit and yet become more stable, I try to perceive the arising and passing of each of these sensations. I may do this for half an hour or an hour, just staying with the sensations in my two fingers and perceiving when each sensation is and isn't there. This might sound like a lot of work, and it definitely can be until the mind settles into it. It really requires the concentration of a fast sport like table tennis. This is such an engaging exercise and requires such precision that it is easy not to be lost in thought if I am really applying myself. I have found this a very useful practice for developing concentration and debunking the illusion of continuity."

        Ingram DM. "Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha. An Unusually Hardcore Dharma Book." Aeon Books, London, 2008.