Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Our True Nature?

     Many of us get impatient, frustrated & angry with the tiresome imperfections of daily living. We dearly want the "death-by-a-thousand-cuts" aspects of life to be over & done with, so we can finally be the way we're meant to be, enjoying an ideal, pleasant existence. 
     BUT we forget that such aversion to real life, and grasping for some theoretical ideal is the basic cause of suffering
     How does life change when we effortlessly shift from our "ordinary mind" - the stressed-out "hurt inner child" operating system, and into our wise, loving operating system? The answer can only be experienced directly for ourselves.
       Loch Kelly. “Shift into Freedom. The Science and Practice of Open-hearted Awareness.” Sounds True, 2015.

     "First things, first. Our coming together is first and foremost to recognize our fundamental nature and realize the ground of being. The only true freedom is to be That, fully in the world. The embodiment of this realization is an extraordinary ordinariness – an expression of seamless wisdom and love. Often there is still a thread that says the ‘me’ is going to get it; the ‘me’ is going to wake up. And it just isn’t true. It actually wakes up out of the ‘me’." 
       Sharon Landrith

      “The teachings we need most are those that will actually strengthen and inspire our practice. It is all very well to receive teachings as high as the sky, but the sky is not that easy to grasp. Start with practices which you can truly assimilate – developing determination to be free of ordinary concerns, nurturing love and compassion – and as you gain stability in your practice you will eventually be able to master all the higher teachings.” 

       Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

“If I create from the heart

nearly everything works … 
if from the head, 
almost nothing.” 
       Marc Chagall

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Silence, Stillness and Identity

     “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. 
     … we awaken to our true nature and experience the deep nourishment that comes with this realization. As we recognize and embody our true nature, our conditioning naturally dissolves and we see that when we rest in silence we can move into anything in life, including chaos and sorrow, with a sense of ease and well-being. 
     … we learn that deep inquiry is not something the mind does, but the process of love perceiving its own nature through your physical form.” 

        Sharon Landrith

Cheryl Braganza       "The Healing Cloak"

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Art of Savoring

     “The root of the word savor comes from the Latin word saporem which means to taste and is also the root of sapient which is the word for wisdom. Another definition I love is ‘to give oneself over to the enjoyment of something.’ When I give myself over to the experience of savoring, wisdom emerges. Savoring calls for a kind of surrender. We have all kinds of stories in our minds about why we perhaps shouldn’t give ourselves over to enjoyment, whether out of guilt or shame or a sense of fear out of what might happen. Yet we are called to yield to the goodness of life, to bask in it. It is an affirmation and celebration …

      Savoring calls me to slowness: I can't savor quickly.

      Savoring calls me to spaciousness: I can't savor everything at once.

      Savoring calls me to mindfulness: I can't savor without being fully present.

      It also calls for a fierce and wise discernment about how I spend my time and energy. Now that I know deep in my bones the limits of my life breaths, how do I choose to spend those dazzling hours? What are the experiences ripening within me that long for exploration? Do I want to waste my time skating on the surface of things, in a breathless rush to get everything done when all I need is here in this moment?

      There is also a seasonal quality to savoring – this season, what is right before me, right now, is to be savored. It will rise and fall, come into fullness and then slip away. When I savor I pay attention to all the moments of that experience without trying to change it.

      And finally, there is a tremendous sweetness to this open-hearted way of being in the world. Everything becomes grace because I recognize it could all be different, it could all be gone. Rather than grasp at how I think this moment should be, I savor the way things are.”

      excerpted & adapted by the author, from: 

     Christine Valters Painter. “The Wisdom of the Body: A Contemplative Journey to Wholeness for Women.” Sorin Books, 2017.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Simple Profound Advice

     Ajahn Chah's simple, profound advice to an aging student approaching her death:

     "The Buddha told us to see the way things are and then let go of our clinging to them. Take this feeling of letting go as your refuge.

     The world is the way it is. If you allow it to arise in the mind and dominate consciousness, then the mind becomes obscured and can’t see itself. So whatever appears in the mind, just say ‘This isn’t my business. It’s impermanent, unsatisfactory, & not-self.’ ”

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Minding the Mind

     WHILE feeling safe & loved, WE ENGAGE in exploration, play, & cooperation.
     WHILE feeling frightened & unwanted, managing feelings of fear & abandonment TAKES OVER. 
       Underlined words from: Bessel Van Der Kolk. “The Body Keeps the Score. Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.” Penguin Books, 2015.

       How rarely we feel completely safe & loved! Perhaps even more sad is being so used to feeling frightened & unwanted, that we assume this to be "normal".

     Safe & loved feels like: 
while hugging someone you love & who loves you; 
while looking after a 2-year-old grandchild; 
while holding a puppy's face in your hands & staring into each other's eyes; 
while doing work that you find very meaningful & rewarding eg preparing a delicious, healthy meal for loved ones; 
while "struck speechless" by the beauty of nature;  
while quietly reading a book that you love; etc.

      Frightened & unwanted feels like: 
"craving" - lacking, unloved, lonely, alone, small, vulnerable, afraid, anxious, longing, empty, hungry, thirsty, impotent, needy, wishing "if only I could have / do / be X, THEN I would be happy"; 
"aversion" - angry, bitter, hating, intolerant, judgmental, disgusted, cynical, rigid, violent, wishing "if only I could avoid / prevent / eliminate X, THEN I would be happy"; 
"delusion & confusion" - not being able to see things as they are, but only from the heavily biased perspective of our own troubled mind-heart. We feel disoriented, confused, troubled, bored, forgetful, hopeless, nihilistic, sick-and-tired of our repetitive thoughts / self-talk, moods & how our mind works, wishing for clarity, to wake up from what feels like a nightmare. 

     It's critically important for our own & others' quality of life, and even safety & survival, that we detect as early as possible, when we feel frightened & unwanted or any of it's many manifestations. 
     If this "life-or-death" alarm bell is a false alarm or gross exaggeration - and in modern times it almost always is - then we can, and I humbly suggest that we must, intentionally train ourselves to quickly shift back into feeling safe & loved with its associated wise, kind, conscious behavior.

     Of course we all tend to think that most others certainly behave from this primitive survival-based (frightened & unwanted) level of consciousness, we ourselves are, if not consistently, then mostly reside in the evolved wisdom-based (safe & loved) level of consciousness & behavior. 
     So how do these statements sound?: “No one to be, nothing to do, nowhere to go” and: "Whatever appears in the mind, just say ‘This isn’t my business. It’s impermanent, unsatisfactory, and not-self.’" 
     If these sound strange, if not irritatingly "against the grain" of all that we know, then we are usually in survival mode, and WHILE we are, survival mode is at least distorting if not completely controlling all our thoughts, emotions & behavior. We've all had varying amounts of trauma in our lives, but few of us think we've had enough to cause PTSD. But what if ALL of us suffer from some degree of PTSD?

    Mindfulness training involves learning practices with which we intentionally, consciously, continuously, notice as soon as we're in this primitive survival-based (frightened & unwanted) level of consciousness, accept it as our natural biological heritage, then effortlessly shift back into our natural evolved wisdom-based (safe & loved) level.

Katie Hoffman      "TU"

Friday, November 3, 2017

Towards Opening the Mind-Heart ...

     "Open-hearted awareness builds on emotional intelligence, which is the ability to recognize, distinguish, and articulate our emotions. It's also the capacity for understanding and appreciating the emotions of others and the way they communicate with us. Open-hearted awareness does not have to defend against emotions. From open-hearted awareness, we're able to ‘be with’ emotions that formerly would have been overwhelming. From open-hearted awareness, we need not consider ourselves underdeveloped or weak if we go through what St. Teresa of Ávila called the ‘gift of tears.’
     Even when we've awakened from ego-identification, we still need to unlearn and relearn about love. What we call love, or what we think is love, is often mixed with a lot of early personal conditioning, old belief systems, and emotional attachments. When the heart doesn't go out to look for love, but looks instead back to its source - the ground of Being - we can discover unconditional love as who we have always been. Then this new experience of love can become the foundation from which relationships are formed. A whole different emotional way of being and seeing gives rise to a new, vastly more compassionate and connected way of relating. 
     Open-hearted awareness, which is operating from our heart-mind, begins to include necessary judging functions of the mind, but leaves behind the fear, separation, and controlling anger that made us ‘judgmental.’ Our normal judging functions are transformed by open-hearted awareness into discernment and discriminating wisdom. 
     The judge, the critic, and the superego are not essential or rigidly fixed parts of the human psyche. As soon as we shift into open-hearted awareness, an immediate feeling of being nonjudgmental and more compassionate arises. We develop a more mature conscience, a sense of integrity, and an acceptance of what is, while having the capacity and motivation to change what needs to be changed.”

       Loch Kelly. “Shift into Freedom. The Science and Practice of Open-hearted Awareness.” Sounds True, 2015.

Katie Hoffman      "Circe"

Monday, October 23, 2017

On the Path towards Wisdom

     Tejaniya encourages us to “keep practicing continuously ... Eventually wisdom will outweigh the defilements***, and you will begin to gather momentum. The practice will then become interesting; new avenues will open to you. Then you will begin to see and be part of a simpler and less complicated reality …”

*** Defilements: ‘unwholesome qualities that can defile or taint the mind’ – negative qualities of mind that have the potential to make us suffer and cause trouble in our lives. Defilements in meditation practice (refer to) greed, hatred or aversion, and delusion. There are many subcategories of these three defilements …”

     We're "hard-wired" for our minds to slip into defilements: we have a fully functional brain stem that reacts automatically to even the mildest dislikes; the mildest preferences; and the many, many in-between "neutrals"; with immediate visceral feelings of, respectively: hatred, aversion, anger; or  greed, clinging, attachment; or boredom, delusion or confusion. In cave-dwelling times, this crude survival-mating focused level of consciousness helped us survive. But now, in our closely-interconnected, interdependent, collaborative world, this primitive level of consciousness causes a great deal of harm, and little if any benefit. See:
     It's also very helpful to understand how trauma ramps up the power & persistence of this fear-based level of consciousness. “If you feel safe and loved, your brain (is) specialized in exploration, play, and cooperation; if you are frightened and unwanted, it (is) specialized in managing feelings of fear and abandonment.” Bessel Van Der Kolk. “The Body Keeps the Score. Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.” Penguin Books, 2015. Fortunately, we have neuroplasticity & the ability to learn healthier ways of thinking and behaving.

     Secular philosophical & psychological wisdom studies, and all of the world's wisdom traditions advise us to intentionally mature from primitive egocentricity, towards the much more appropriate & evolved allo- & ecocentricity

     "Four central features of wisdom (are recognized) in both European & Asian philosophy: self-knowledge, detachment, integration, and self-transcendence. …
     (These) four features can be conceptualized as developmental stages:

     Self-knowledge is awareness of what constitutes one’s sense of self in the context of roles, relationships, and beliefs.
     Detachment refers to awareness of the transience of external aspects of one’s sense of self.
     Integration means overcoming the separation among different ‘inner selves,’ that is, accepting and integrating all facets of one’s self.
     Finally, self-transcendence refers to independence of the
self of external definitions and dissolution of mental boundaries between self and others. … ‘self-transcendence is equivalent to wisdom and implies the dissolution of (self-based) obstacles to empathy, understanding, and integrity’.”
       Staudinger UM, Gluck J. "Psychological wisdom research: commonalities and differences in a growing field." Annu Rev Psychol 2011; 62: 215-41. 

Courtesy of Buddha Doodles

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Meditation Practice

     Peacefully "gathering data", observing & learning to understand nature: the lawful unfolding of causes & conditions?  
     What IS this, right here, right now?


     Fearfully re-playing the endless "story of me" in the quicksand of obsessing about "I, me & mine"?


     Gratefully mindful that attention is noticed being off course, attention effortlessly, gently, patiently, seamlessly shifts back to reality: 
     "Just this" right here, right now.

THEN  ...

by Georgia Peschel

Friday, October 20, 2017

Over-reacting & Suffering

     When we're betrayed by someone we assumed loved us, doesn't it feel as if we've physically been "stabbed in the back"? When we're "heart-broken" doesn't it feel physically real? And there are many other examples of emotional trauma feeling as if someone had actually tried to kill us, leaving us mortally wounded.
     Threats to our sense of self are interpreted, & thus feel very much like attempts on our life. That is why we feel them and react to them so powerfully, so viscerally. We unknowingly conflate our ego (self-concept, reputation, plans, etc) with our very life.

     So we take many things way too seriously, way too personally. We over-react and therefore suffer & cause others to suffer. An insult is NOT attempted murder (even though it can feel like it).

     “Until we have developed the wisdom to see what is necessary or not necessary for our survival, we will continue to suffer. From the wisdom that we develop, a moral standard will emerge that can be the guiding principle by which we can measure all of our actions. This is a principle that is not conditioned by concepts or conceits but is one of the very principles of nature itself and can form the way in which we conduct our lives. This is right action.”
     Sayadaw U Tejaniya. “Where Awareness Becomes Natural. A Guide to Cultivating Mindfulness in Daily Life.” Shambhala, 2016.

Katie Hoffman      "Swimming in a River of Shit"

Sunday, October 15, 2017

What is the Right Effort?

     An intelligent, highly-engaged participant in an 8-week Mindfulness-based stress reduction program recently asked these questions:
     • Do you have any information (written or pictorial) on how to perform the various meditations/breathing exercises etc? We are “doing” them so there is no time to record exactly what we are doing. I find it difficult sometimes to remember (which hopefully will improve through being mindful) what it was that we did so having a sheet that outlines the steps will help me a lot with home practice.
     • Also I do not understand this: "The type of goal-oriented effort we tend to use to 'get ahead' at school and the workplace is not universally optimal nor even suitable." 

     Can you comment on this statement to make it clearer? I take the “goal-oriented striving effort” to mean you work hard and strive for accomplishment. You have steps you have mapped out to reach your goals. I would take that as ensuring you are doing your daily practice etc. If that is an appropriate example I do not understand why it would not be optimal.
     • Also “psychological health involves skillful balance between goal-oriented effort and acceptance”. What does this mean? Can you offer an example?

My response:
     I hope you’ve received the 10-Minute Guided Meditation audio file, which I hope clearly reviews the key meditation instructions. 
     Ideally, we can patiently follow the instructions as we perform the mindfulness practices together & in this way we effortlessly internalize them - allowing / welcoming them in. If instead, we worry about getting it right or perfect i.e. remain in a future-oriented striving mode, instead of engaging fully in the present-moment practice, we “remain in our heads” & may well become confused & stressed. The urge to use the default goal-oriented effort, & want to write all the steps down on paper, is completely natural, understandable & very common (more on this below).

     RE: "The type of goal-oriented effort we tend to use to 'get ahead' at school and the workplace is not universally optimal nor even suitable."
     Our usual attitude of mind or level of consciousness is based on ancient survival instincts: if I can achieve X in the future, then I’ll survive, and perhaps even thrive & have offspring. This has allowed the human & less evolved species to survive for a very long time, and is generally beneficial for basic survival

     But what if this were the ONLY or STRONGLY DOMINANT attitude of mind or level of consciousness we could access, and: we’re at a romantic get-away, birthday party, massage, wine tasting, poetry reading, music class, fine art exhibition or symphony? OR attending a Mindfulness-based stress reduction course, or silent meditation retreat? How would Sheldon, from the "Big Bang Theory," appreciate / enjoy such events?
     Yes, our usual goal-oriented effort does help us achieve certain goals, but it actually gets in the way of achieving many others, which require a completely different set of attitudes & far more evolved level of consciousness or state of being: acceptance, a quiet ego, quiet mind, stillness, silence, patience. 

     North American society seems to operate almost exclusively on a relentlessly fast-paced schedule of goal-oriented “doing”, mostly ignoring “being” who / what we already are. Silent self-reflection, asking deep questions like “Who am I?”, “What’s going on?” “What is the meaning to all this?” are drowned out by the noise of rushing to get / become more / bigger / faster. Yet, no matter how much fame, money, power etc we amass, we’re no happier, - in fact the opposite. At some level we all know that racing towards goals, and or trying to run from our demons through continuous distraction, only makes us exhausted & frustrated. Quantity simply can’t replace quality.

     The key is a healthy balance between looking after ourselves AND seriously investigating & investing quality time in what brings about real quality of life & deep meaning. We require 2 very different AND complimentary attitudes of mind or levels of consciousness to live full, deeply meaningful lives. As we mature, this healthy balance involves a progressive shift from self-concern, towards concern for others and the environment.

     More about this:

Marc Chagall "I and the Village"

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Who is Minding the Mind?

     A toddler breaks his favorite toy and experiences perhaps his first "shipwreck" - his whole world crumbles and cries his heart out. His grandmother sees this, smiles, and gently reassures the child, who then fabricates a new worldview, one that now includes the possibility of life even after one's favorite toy breaks.
      The toddler's quality of life is completely dependent on & controlled by his external circumstances. He reacts automatically - almost machine-like - to his environment. Such reflexive reactions typically bring about "short-term gain", which we realize at some point, usually comes with "long-term pain." Reactivity can remain a dominant, destructive force throughout one's entire life.
      A very wise individual's quality of life can be stunningly independent of external circumstances. See: Instead of reflexively reacting to environmental changes, they experience a gap in time, during which they can choose from a variety of possible responses ranging greatly with respect to the probable long-term effects on themselves, others & the environment. The wisest choice is that which is thought to bring about the most long-term improved quality of life, & least amount of suffering for all concerned. When wisdom is the highest priority, true happiness & peace arise.
      Reactivity increases from reacting mindlessly to situations. Wisdom increases from responding wisely to situations. Whatever we choose to train in, becomes stronger & easier to use. Prolonged patient continuous mindfulness practice inevitably leads towards greater wisdom-based happiness even under the most challenging situations.
      So we always have a choice: prioritizing the practice of minding our mind - OR - allow the mind to continue running on autopilot?

     "Our true nature is far more ancient and encompassing than the separate self defined by habit and society. We are as intrinsic to our living world as the rivers and trees, woven of the same intricate flows of matter/energy and mind. Having evolved us into self-reflective consciousness, the world can now know itself through us, behold its own majesty, tell its own stories, and also respond to its own suffering." Joanna Macy

     The wisdom level of our consciousness ("the wise grandparent") is inherently part of us. The often dominant autopilot reactivity ("self-centered todler") is ALSO an inherent part of us. We need to explore, get to know & accept ALL aspects of ourself (all our subpersonalities) and thus gradually stabilize in the wisdom level of our consciousness.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Buddhism - a Closer Look

     Xenophobia is usually a form of aversion, even hatred: "fear & distrust of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange." Less commonly, xenophobia is expressed in the form of clinging or greed: "an uncritical exaltation of another culture in which a culture is ascribed an unreal, stereotyped and exotic quality." 
     We laugh at Homer Simpson when he says exactly how he feels: "I don't like him - he's different." But there's a little Homer in every one of us. We're far less evolved than we'd like to believe.
     From the start (~500BCE), Buddhism has sought the "middle-path" between extremes, and has seen aversion, greed, & delusion, as the basic causes of human suffering. Nevertheless, xenophobia remains a powerful primitive reaction, easily over-ruling higher forms of reason. "The world we experience comes as much, if not more, from the inside out as from the outside in." Anil Seth

     "Buddhism ... is not primarily a philosophy or description of reality. It is a pragmatic path whose goal is to lessen suffering and increase happiness." Melvin McLeod, Lion's Roar, November 2017

     The Buddha 
• denied being divine; 
• only claimed to have "awakened" by dropping greed, hatred & delusion; 
• for 40 years taught many to achieve the same awakening he had; 
taught people not to rely on him or anyone other than themselves to awaken; and 
taught that even his own teachings (later called "Buddhism") were like a raft to cross a river, a vehicle to be discarded after one has awakened.

     Like the Hippocratic Oath, the Buddha's primary interest was lessening suffering and increasing long-term happiness. So Buddhism has a lot in common with, and has often been compared to, a form of medicine or psychology.

     "Pragmatism considers thought an instrument or tool for prediction, problem solving and action, and rejects the idea that the function of thought is to describe, represent, or mirror reality. Pragmatists contend that most philosophical topics—such as the nature of knowledge, language, concepts, meaning, belief, and science—are all best viewed in terms of their practical uses and successes. The philosophy of pragmatism 'emphasizes the practical application of ideas by acting on them to actually test them in human experiences'. Pragmatism focuses on a 'changing universe rather than an unchanging one as the Idealists, Realists and Thomists had claimed'."

Lambert's of Taos, NM

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

"Our Suffering" is the Very Material with which we Practice

     “The path of spiritual practice is often called purification of the heart. We don’t have a choice about what we purify – rather, what needs purifying shows up in our lives. The question is whether we can be mindful enough to be present to it. Sometimes the suffering and pain we internalize goes deep into the core of who we think we are – whether it is a thirteen-year-old boy’s feeling of hating how he looks, other judgments we make about ourselves, or the multitude of judgments the world can make about us.
     The practice of mindfulness invites us to see that we are so much more than who we think we are and our full and beautiful lives are so much more than just our suffering. Can we be present to all of that too?”

       Larry Yang. “Awakening Together. The Spiritual Practice of Inclusivity and Community.” Wisdom Publications, 2017.                        excerpt published in Lion’s Roar, November 2017

At a Store's Doorway, Taos NM

Monday, August 14, 2017

Zen's Big Picture

     "Enlightenment is our true nature and our home, but the complexities of human life cause us to forget. That forgetting feels like exile, and we make elaborate structures of habit, conviction, and strategy to defend against its desolation. But this condition isn't hopeless; it's possible to dis­mantle those structures so we can return from an exile that was always illusory to a home that was always right under our feet.
      For many of us, there is something that pushes us and something that pulls us. We're pushed by our own pain and the pain we see in the world around us; we're pulled by intimations that there's something larger and more true than our ordinary self-oriented ways of experiencing life. Here's a tradition that says, Yes, we understand that, and there are ways to make those intima­tions not simply a matter of random chance but readily and consistently present. It's possible to make ourselves available, in all the hours of our days, to the grace we so long to be touched by, and to spread that grace to the world around us."                 Roshi Joan Sutherland 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Refining Disenchantment

     A recent post concluded with: "We can prevent a great deal of unnecessary suffering by carefully observing how craving & aversion operate in our daily life, recognizing their arising early, ... and shifting attention from these towards matters that will actually benefit us."
     Easy to say, but how can we actually put this into practice? First of all, we need to become disenchanted with life as it is. For some, especially those who've had a challenging childhood, and are reasonably in touch with what's going on internally & around them, disenchantment can start early in life. For many, disenchantment hits like a sledgehammer on their deathbed. For others, disenchantment ensues from major trauma, shattering their illusion of control, self-concept & worldview all at once ("shipwreck")
     "Disenchanted" is an interesting word, implying that our default tendency is sleep- or trance-like. So wisdom traditions, especially Buddhism, teach that we need to wake up or else continue suffering needlessly over & over again. So like a gardener, if we don't like the crops we're producing, we have to re-assess & optimize our gardening procedures. As in gardening, we are to minimize & finally eliminate all that impedes healthy crop growth - in our case, evolution of consciousness.

      “In practical terms, cultivating (the perception of not delighting in the whole world) can be implemented through a willingness to let go and relinquish whatever one is accustomed to clinging to, in particular one’s opinions and preferences, judgments and views. In this way a refinement takes place compared to ... freedom from sensual desire through dispassion and freedom from ill will and harming through cessation. At the present juncture even the more subtle traces of unwholesomeness in the form of any type of clinging are being relinquished.” 
     Analayo. "Mindfully Facing Disease & Death: Compassionate Advice from Early Buddhist Texts.” Wisdom, 2016.

Morning Sea Fog at Conrad Beach, Nova Scotia

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Zen of Not Knowing

     "Beginner’s mind is Zen practice in action. It is the mind that is innocent of preconceptions and expectations, judgments and prejudices. Beginner’s mind is just present to explore and observe and see 'things as they are.' I think of beginner’s mind as the mind that faces life like a small child, full of curiosity and wonder and amazement. 'I wonder what this is? I wonder what that is? I wonder what this means?' Without approaching things with a fixed point of view or a prior judgment, just asking 'What is it?'"
       Zenkei Blanche Hartman. "Seeds for a Boundless Life: Zen Teachings from the Heart." Shambhala, 2015. 

Photograph by David A. Lovas

Monday, July 10, 2017

Transcending Extreme Views

     We live in a time of partisanship: bias, prejudice, one-sidedness, discrimination, favoritism, partiality, sectarianism, factionalism. Vicious reflex aversion or frenzied blind support for topics ranging from politics, economics, religion, sex, gender, even sports, is based NOT on careful analysis of evidence, BUT solely on identification with certain groups. If "one of us" is criticized, no matter how justly, we immediately react as if it were a life-threatening personal attack. Yet it's just our ego being criticized.
     There is a much more nuanced, wiser & healthier approach:

     “Sympathizing with (extreme ends of a) perspective is easy; walking the knife-edge between them is more difficult. Can we employ each viewpoint to interrogate the other, without accepting either perspective as absolute? Such an approach can be discomforting because it is so destabilizing: what remains of one’s own standpoint? This process invokes the understanding of Buddhist practice … which emphasizes the realization of ‘nondwelling mind”: a mind that does not identify with any particular forms, including thought-forms such as ideologies, whether religious or secular.”
        David R. Loy. “A New Buddhist Path. Enlightenment Evolution and Ethics in the Modern World.” Wisdom Publications, 2015.

Soccer Hooligans - Getty Images

Friday, July 7, 2017

What If?

     If creative imagination materialized continuously, in real-time, each piece of material could perceive only "self" - who or what they are. Might not myriad pieces of material mistakenly assume separate individual identities, forgetting their true identity, nature or origin?
     But what if the materials began to realize that their properties were impermanence, unsatisfactoriness & not-self?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Are You Sure?

     "Real faith means holding ourselves open to the unconditional mystery which we encounter in every sphere of our life and which cannot be comprised in any formula. Real faith means the ability to endure life in the face of this mystery.” Martin Buber 

When You Are Old
W.B. Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep, 
And nodding by the fire, take down this book, 
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look 
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace, 

And loved your beauty with love false or true, 
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, 
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars, 

Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled 
And paced upon the mountains overhead 
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

     “If you want a barometer for progress in practice, look at how skillful you are at holding ‘not sure’. It’s very different from what most spiritual disciplines teach. Exercise the skill of being mindfully ‘not sure’, apply it and try it out. Remember this is not just another technique or position we grasp in our search for security. Really try it out in your formal practice and in daily life. Start to experiment with the result of restraining the mind’s tendency to grasp at wanting to be sure.” Ajahn Munindo 


          "In the Forest" watercolour on rice paper by Krista Hasson