Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Who or What are We?

    If and when we reflect on our identity, we get scared, settle for the first idea that pops into our heads, then quickly escape to an easier topic. 
     This fundamental error is "premature closure" - jumping to simplistic, wrong conclusions. So we live our lives assuming that we're far inferior to who / what mystics & saints have always told us we actually are:

"We are luminous beings. We are perceivers. We are an awareness.
We are not objects. We have no solidity. We are boundless.
The world of objects and solidity is a way of making our passage on earth convenient. It is only a description that was created to help us.
We or rather our reasons, forget that the description is only a description and thus we entrap the totality of ourselves in a vicious circle from which we rarely emerge in a lifetime. We are perceivers.
The world that we perceive though is an illusion. It was created by a description that was told to us since the moment we were born."

Don Juan

      “Silence is the basis and the background of everything. We are an expression of this primordial silence and stillness. But the habits of our mind overlay this simple truth and keep us from experiencing ourselves as a full-spectrum human being."                   Sharon Landrith

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Education for the Heart-Mind

     Effective physicians know how to genuinely connect with their patients on a human-to-human level. How much the physician genuinely cares for the patient's well-being is clearly felt by the patient. This therapeutic alliance in turn positively affects the patient's hope & expectancy.
     Educators have a very similar high calling. Educators have a great influence - positive or negative - on their students.
     We all must take the influence we have on each other very, very seriously.

First Day of School   by   Sheree Fitch

Here, take my child.
He has a fistful of crayons,
Is ready to begin
To enter the halls that smell of chalk dust and lemon oil.
He wants to colour a picture.
Help him to see that the colour he chooses,
The pictures he makes, are beautiful…..
Before you ask him to paint the Sistine Chapel.

Here, take my child.
She knows one and one makes two.
I want her to learn to add,

Without being subtracted from.
I want her to multiply her abilities,
But not if it divides her against herself.

Here, take my child.
He has a book he wants to read.
Let him read it first,
Tell you why he likes it,
Before you ask him to read a book
You think he should read…..
To be up to “the level”.

Here, take my child.
She has written a poem:
“dandy lions are golden buttons in the grass”
Smell those dandelions, see the image,
Before you tell her dandelions are weeds or
Dandelions is not spelled correctly.

Here, take my child
but... TAKE CARE.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Centering First Before Doing

Lately I've been fascinated by the skillfulness of Bill Morgan's teachings on cultivating a "holding environment" for ourselves at the beginning of each meditation:

Joanna Macy's advice below for all of us (not just "activists") resonates strongly with our need to repeatedly center. If we are to decrease suffering & increase benefit for ourselves and others, we must remember to first return to our true home - loving awareness. Only then can we speak and act authentically, with integrity, in the world.

"The activist's inner journey appears to me like a spiral, interconnecting four successive stages or movements that feed into each other. These four are:
  1. opening to gratitude,
  2. owning our pain for the world,
  3. seeing with new eyes,
  4. going forth.
The sequence repeats itself, as the spiral circles round, but ever in new ways. The spiral is fractal in nature: it can characterize a lifetime or a project, and it can also happen in a day or several times a day. The spiral begins with gratitude, because that quiets the frantic mind and brings us back to source. It reconnects us with our empathy and personal power. It helps us to be more fully present to our world. Grounded presence provides the psychic space for acknowledging the pain we carry for our world.

In owning this pain, and daring to experience it, we learn that our capacity to suffer with is the true meaning of compassion. We begin to know the immensity of our heart-mind, and how it helps us to move beyond fear. What had isolated us in private anguish now opens outward and delivers us into wider reaches of our world as lover, world as self."

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Reality of War

     "Of course, war and the large military establishments are the greatest sources of violence in the world. Whether their purpose is defensive or offensive, these vast powerful organizations exist solely to kill human beings. We should think carefully about the reality of war. Most of us have been conditioned to regard military combat as exciting and glamorous - an opportunity for men to prove their competence and courage. Since armies are legal, we feel that war is acceptable; in general, nobody feels that war is criminal or that accepting it is a criminal attitude. In fact, we have been brainwashed. War is neither glamorous nor attractive. It is monstrous. Its very nature is one of tragedy and suffering.

     War is like a fire in the human community, one whose fuel is living beings. I find this analogy especially appropriate and useful. Modern warfare is waged primarily with different forms of fire, but we are so conditioned to see it as thrilling that we talk about this or that marvelous weapon as a remarkable piece of technology without remembering that, if it is actually used, it will burn living people. War also strongly resembles a fire in the way it spreads. If one area gets weak, the commanding officer sends in reinforcements. This is throwing live people onto a fire. But because we have been brainwashed to think this way, we do not consider the suffering of individual soldiers. No soldiers want to be wounded or die. None of his loved ones wants any harm to come to him. If one soldier is killed, or maimed for life, at least another five or ten people - his relatives and friends - suffer as well. We should all be horrified by the extent of this tragedy, but we are too confused.

     Frankly as a child, I too was attracted to the military. Their uniform looked so smart and beautiful. But that is exactly how the seduction begins. Children start playing games that will one day lead them in trouble. There are plenty of exciting games to play and costumes to wear other than those based on the killing of human beings. Again, if we as adults were not so fascinated by war, we would clearly see that to allow our children to become habituated to war games is extremely unfortunate. Some former soldiers have told me that when they shot their first person they felt uncomfortable but as they continued to kill it began to feel quite normal. In time, we can get used to anything.

     It is not only during times of war that military establishments are destructive. By their very design, they are the single greatest violators of human rights, and it is the soldiers themselves who suffer most consistently from their abuse. After the officer in charge has given beautiful explanations about the importance of the army, its discipline and the need to conquer the enemy, the rights of the great mass of soldiers are almost entirely taken away. They are then compelled to forfeit their individual will, and, in the end, to sacrifice their lives. Moreover, once an army has become a powerful force, there is every risk that it will destroy the happiness of its own country.

     There are people with destructive intentions in every society, and the temptation to gain command over an organization capable of fulfilling their desires can become overwhelming. But no matter how malevolent or evil are the many murderous dictators who can currently oppress their nations and cause international problems, it is obvious that they cannot harm others or destroy countless human lives if they don't have a military organization accepted and condoned by society. As long as there are powerful armies there will always be danger of dictatorship. If we really believe dictatorship to be a despicable and destructive form of government, then we must recognize that the existence of a powerful military establishment is one of its main causes.

     Militarism is also very expensive. Pursuing peace through military strength places a tremendously wasteful burden on society. Governments spend vast sums on increasingly intricate weapons when, in fact, nobody really wants to use them. Not only money but also valuable energy and human intelligence are squandered, while all that increases is fear.

     I want to make it clear, however, that although I am deeply opposed to war, I am not advocating appeasement. It is often necessary to take a strong stand to counter unjust aggression. For instance, it is plain to all of us that the Second World War was entirely justified. It "saved civilization" from the tyranny of Nazi Germany, as Winston Churchill so aptly put it. In my view, the Korean War was also just, since it gave South Korea the chance of gradually developing democracy. But we can only judge whether or not a conflict was vindicated on moral grounds with hindsight. For example, we can now see that during the Cold War, the principle of nuclear deterrence had a certain value. Nevertheless, it is very difficult to assess all such matters with any degree of accuracy. War is violence and violence is unpredictable. Therefore, it is better to avoid it if possible, and never to presume that we know beforehand whether the outcome of a particular war will be beneficial or not.

     For instance, in the case of the Cold War, though deterrence may have helped promote stability, it did not create genuine peace. The last forty years in Europe have seen merely the absence of war, which has not been real peace but a facsimile founded fear. At best, building arms to maintain peace serves only as a temporary measure. As long as adversaries do not trust each other, any number of factors can upset the balance of power. Lasting peace can only assuredly be secured on the basis of genuine trust."

       Dalai Lama  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Nothing to Achieve, Nowhere to Go, No One to Be

     Buddhist understanding can sound very counter-intuitive & counter-cultural. 
     Nevertheless, as we mature with our practice, we come to understand as if for the very first time.

     "To reach truth 
      is not to accumulate knowledge, 
      but to awaken to the heart of reality
      Reality reveals itself complete and whole 
      at the moment of awakening. 
      In the light of awakening, 
      nothing is added and nothing is lost."           Thich Nhat Hanh

 "Anesthesia" - an excellent 2015 movie, available on Netflix