Monday, February 19, 2018

Physical Processing & Energy Shifts

     At times during meditation practice - including loving-kindness meditation, we can experience considerable discomfort, even physical pain without a direct physical cause. The pain may be severe enough to cause profuse sweating & crying, so emotions can definitely be involved. And when the process is over, one feels a sense of relief akin to having worked something to a satisfactory conclusion (rather than mere relief that discomfort has ended). Such experiences can be called physical (vs intellectual) processing of trauma or of psychological problems (karma?). It's a type of catharsis - purification & cleansing of emotions, resulting in renewal & restoration.
      At other times, one can experience surprisingly rough, even bumpy shifts of energy through the spinal column area - dismantling of energy blockages / melting of psychological armor. These can simply feel surprising & odd, but no other emotions may arise. These latter energy shifts seem more like physical adjustments to accommodate deeper, non-physical shifts that had recently taken place.

      "Sometimes there's an experience of actual heat in the body of burning. It feels uncomfortable. The mind will want to get rid of it, but when we're being anything that is arising, we're not separate from it. We can be the discomfort, we can be the fear. We can be the fire that feels like it's burning in your gut. Because our awareness has no boundaries whatsoever. This is boundless, timeless awareness. It can go anywhere and it is not separate from any experience or any moment. We're just inviting that which we are, this heart of awareness that both is aware but also compassionate into the center of this discomfort or this feeling. It could be a feeling of rage, or jealousy, or fear. It could be lots of things that come up, not to be judged, but they come up to be seen and to be liberated back into the wholeness of our being. 
      When we're not separating ourselves from them, we'll feel there's a softening that happens. There's a deeper acceptance that what's here is just what's here. It's not a judgment about a self. It's just an expression. We're not the victims of life necessarily, we're its expressions, and so often we feel like a feeling or even bad weather or whatever that we become victims of life. I'm not saying there aren't moments where we truly have felt victimized, but that's on the relative plane. In the deeper dimension, we're not victims of life, we're expressions of it."
         Dorothy Hunt "Entering the Heart’s Cave" very fine interview with Tami Simon of Sounds True, Feb 13, 2018.

 Lynn Ellis photograph - used with permission, copyrights reserved

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Dogen on Life and Death

     “Let go of and forget your body and mind; throw your life into the abode of the Buddha, living by being moved and led by the Buddha. When you do this without relying on your own physical or mental power, you become released from both life and death and become a Buddha. 
     Do not immerse yourself in mental and emotional struggles. Refrain from committing evil. Neither be attached to life nor to death. Be compassionate toward all sentient beings. Revere that which is superior and do not withhold sympathy from that which is inferior. Do not harbor hatreds nor covet anything. Do not be overly concerned with trivial matters nor grieve over difficulties in your life. This is the Buddha. Do not search for the Buddha anywhere else.” 
       Dogen Zenji, Shoji (Life and Death) chapter of the Shobo-Genzo

Transformation by H Kopp-Delaney

Monday, February 12, 2018

Mindfulness and Attachment Insecurity

     "Attachment theory postulates that adult attachment style, a trait-like pattern of affect regulation strategies, develops as a reflection of the sum total of experiences of being cared for in close relationships. 
     When individuals have repeated experiences of caregivers being sensitive & responsive to their needs, they score low in both anxiety and avoidance, reflecting a secure attachment style characterized by a balanced approach to support seeking and emotion regulation. Attachment needs are not denied or suppressed, and nor are they overwhelming. 
     Those who experience caregivers who are inconsistently available & responsive score highly in attachment anxiety. Such individuals tend to engage in hyperactivation of the attachment system, characterized by increased efforts to seek proximity and protection, a hypersensitivity to signs of rejection, and excessive rumination on one’s own shortcomings and immediate relationship threats. 
     Those who experience caregivers that are consistently rejecting or non-responsive score high in attachment avoidance, and tend to engage in deactivation of the attachment system, characterized by avoidance of proximity seeking, denial of attachment needs, and the suppression of signs of vulnerability."
       Jodie C. Stevenson, Lisa-Marie Emerson, Abigail Milling. "The Relationship Between Adult Attachment Orientation and Mindfulness: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis." Mindfulness 2017; 8: 1438–1455.

     Participants of 8-week MBSR courses, those who attend longer meditation retreats (& those who participate in skillful psychotherapy) are provided with & are taught to provide for themselves & others: a “safe holding place”, non-judgment, self-acceptance & perhaps above all, unconditional love - i.e. "re-parenting." No wonder mindfulness meditation (& psychotherapy) can profoundly ameliorate attachment insecurity. 
     "Just because someone doesn't love you the way you want them to, doesn't mean they don't love you with all they have.” Anon

     “On a retreat, a healer and psychologist who had devoted fifteen years to spiritual practice was struggling yet again with the question of relationships. Feelings of longing and craving and blame kept coming up again and again. We talked and I suggested he spend some days directing a loving-kindness meditation toward himself. At first he resisted; like so many of us, he felt uncomfortable focusing on himself. It was awkward to offer the intention of love and kindness to himself over and over for days. But as the retreat went on, his heart softened. Forgiveness for himself and others arose. The world began to look more beautiful. And then came a realization: 

     It is I who must love myself. No one else can make me feel whole. Only I can provide that love. Now I know that wholeness is always accessible to me and all beings everywhere. This knowing allows me to live with a new peacefulness and kindness to myself and others. In the simplest way, it has changed my life. 
     Again, the lesson of spiritual practice is not about gaining knowledge, but about how we love. ...

     We become the love we have sought. And in this love we are also returned to ourselves.”
        Jack Kornfield. “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path.” Bantam books, 2000.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Inherently Enlightened

     “Dogen Zengi says: ‘Consider that nirvana is itself no other than our life.’
     How do we experience this for ourselves? Such experience gives us indestructible strength; it gives us confidence, conviction, and peace. Our life is nothing but this blossom of nondwelling, nonattached nirvana. How can you confirm this for yourself?” 
       Taizan Maezumi. “Appreciate Your Life. The Essence of Zen Practice.” Shambhala, 2001.

     "Both day and night everything we encounter is our life. Because of that, we put our life into everything we encounter. Our life and what is being encountered become one. We exhaust our life force so that our life and encounter might function as they should.
     ... when we throw ourselves into our work, there ceases to be a ‘gap’ or duality between our life force and the ‘thing’ or ‘work’ which is being encountered, so that the opposing meanings of all the ordinary dualistic words – ‘our,’ ‘life,’ or ‘force’ on the one side, and ‘thing’ or ‘work’ on the other – fall away.” 
       Thomas Wright transl. Zen Master Dogen and Kosho Uchiyama Roshi: “How to Cook Your Life: From the Zen Kitchen to Enlightenment.” Shambhala, 2005. 

     “Long ago a monk asked an old master, ‘When hundreds, thousands, or myriads of objects come all at once, what should be done?’
      The master replied, ‘Don’t try to control them.’
      What he means is that in whatever way objects come, do not try to change them. Whatever comes is the buddha-dharma, not objects at all. Do not understand the master’s reply as merely a brilliant admonition, but realize that it is the truth. Even if you try to control what comes, it cannot be controlled.” 

        Eihei Dogen, “Moon in a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen.” North Point Press, 1995.

     “At the time of his great awakening Dogen was practicing shikantaza, a mode of zazen which involved neither koan nor counting or following the breaths. The very foundation of shikantaza is an unshakable faith that sitting as the Buddha sat, with the mind void of all conceptions, of all beliefs and points of view, is the actualization or unfoldment of the inherently enlightened Bodhi-mind with which all are endowed.” 
       Philip Kapleau “The Three Pillars of Zen.” Anchor Books, 2000.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


     “The contemplative branches of every religion dwell in the questioning mind. They dig deeper than the words and doctrines into some ineffable place. 
     Most people think that place of questioning, that no man’s land, is unsettling and scary. But in reality, it’s wondrous. Even when it’s difficult or painful, there’s a feeling of appreciation and wonder. In this space, which is bigger than anything we can define or reduce to a doctrine, we appreciate the reality of being alive beyond our various reality-reducing notions of what we think or are told being alive is. 
     When life is an open question, life is appreciation. We still have to deal with whatever problems we have on a practical level, but underneath that there’s life as open question, immense in all directions – Wow, we’re alive! We have been given the gift of this magical, this mysterious, this impossible-to-define life!” 

Norman Fischer - Lion’s Roar, May 2017