Tuesday, March 20, 2018

100 Billion Hamburgers Served AND Few are Serious about Nutrition

     "The human species possesses – has within its physical being – the capacity for a mode of conscious awareness that is qualitatively different from our ordinary form of consciousness.”
       Richard P. Boyle. “Realizing Awakened Consciousness. Interviews with Buddhist Teachers and a New Perspective on the Mind.” Columbia University Press, 2015. 

     But if you mention something of real depth, meaning or significance in life, even close friends suddenly become very uncomfortable, lost, confused or zoned out. Many of my generation don't even have the vocabulary to discuss, or have any way of approaching what may be of deep meaning or substance. They display a level of embarrassment akin to discussing sex with my parents' generation. Such avoidance is a common sign of maturation arrest. See: http://healthyhealers.blogspot.ca/2018/03/confusion-sleepiness-to-avoid-our-own.html This is equally prevalent among the "conventionally religious" - see: http://www.johnlovas.com/2013/11/fowlers-six-stages-of-faith.html

     “It takes courage to endure the sharp pains of self discovery, rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives.” Marianne Williamson

     "There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction." John F. Kennedy

     “In traditional cultures, special terms surround this quality of self-knowledge, connecting it to the direct human participation in a higher, all-encompassing reality. The existence of these special terms, such as satori (Zen Buddhism), fana (Islam), pneuma (Christianity), and many others, may serve for us as a sign that this effort of total awareness was always set apart from the normal, everyday goods of organized social life. And while the traditional teachings tell us that any human being may engage in the search for this quality of presence, it is ultimately recognized that only very few will actually wish to do so, for it is a struggle that in the last analysis is undertaken solely for its own sake, without recognizable psychological motivation. And so, embedded within every traditional culture there is said to be an ‘esoteric’ or inner path discoverable only by those who yearn for something inexplicably beyond the duties and satisfactions of religious, intellectual, moral, and social life.”
       John Welwood ed. “Awakening the Heart. East / West Approaches to Psychotherapy and the Healing Relationship.” Shambhala, 1983.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Our Narrow, Conditioned Self-concept AND Something Much Larger

     “Beneath the fragile sense of personal identity, the individual is actually an innumerable swarm of disconnected impulses, thoughts, reactions, opinions, and sensations, which are triggered into activity by causes of which he is totally unaware.” Jacob Needleman

     "Self-knowledge ... is solely a matter of digesting deep impressions of myself as I actually am from moment to moment: a disconnected, helpless collection of impulses and reactions, a being of disharmonized mind, feeling, and instinct." 
       John Welwood ed. “Awakening the Heart. East / West Approaches to Psychotherapy and the Healing Relationship.” Shambhala, 1983.

      “We have little choice about anything, moving around as we do in a sleepy, anxious cloud of habit and conditioned response. …
     The only choice we have anyway is to wake up.” Stephen Butterfield
       John Welwood ed. “Ordinary Magic. Everyday Life as Spiritual Path.” Shambhala, 1992.

      “The essential purpose of practice is to liberate us from attachment to a narrow, conditioned self-structure (our 'conditioned nature' or 'small self' as described above), so that we realize we are something much larger (ie discover our 'true nature' or 'unconditioned nature').

     Becoming fully human involves working with the totality of what we are – both our conditioned nature (earth) and our unconditioned nature (heaven). 
     On one hand, we have developed a number of habitual personality patterns that cloud our awareness, distort our feelings, and restrict our capacity to open to life and to love. We originally fashioned our personality patterns to shield us from pain, but now they have become a dead weight keeping us from living as fully as we could. 
     Still, underneath all our conditioned behavior, the basic nature of the human heart is an unconditioned awake presence, a caring, inquisitive intelligence, an openness to reality
     Each of us has these two forces at work inside us: an embryonic wisdom that wants to blossom from the depths of our being, and the imprisoning weight of our karmic patterns. From birth to death, these two forces are always at work, and our lives hang in the balance. Since human nature always contains these two sides, our journey involves working with both.

     ... practice involves exploring who and what we ultimately are – our true, essential nature, shared alike by all human beings. The direct, experiential realization of true nature has been a particular specialty of the Eastern contemplative traditions.
     Eastern teachings emphasize living from our deepest nature, turning the mind around so that it can see into its very essence, rather than constantly facing outward, focusing on tasks and objects to grasp and manipulate. Recognizing the essential nature of our awareness as an open, wakeful, luminous, and compassionate presence allows us to relate to our life in a much richer and more powerful way. This realization is what allows us to liberate ourselves from the chains of past conditioning … 

     As humans we have two kinds of awareness available to us at any given moment: we are focused on personal problems, needs, and feelings, while also having access to a larger awareness that allows us, if only briefly, to step out of those problems, take a larger perspective on them, and experience some freedom from their entanglement
     Real change and growth happen in therapy when both these levels of awareness are addressed, namely: 
     (1) when we first of all respect our needs and feelings, face them directly, and see what they are telling us, rather than belittling or avoiding them; and 
     (2) when we can bring our larger awareness to bear on these personal issues, so that we can begin to see how what we are is always wider and deeper than all the problems we carry around.
     It is in being called on to span and connect these two halves of our nature – the personal and the more-than-personal – that the heart begins to stir and awaken.

      ... meditation provides a very direct, practical way to discover the larger awareness and aliveness in us and to learn to trust its natural direction toward well-being. ... It helps to cultivate a friendly attitude toward all the phenomena of the mind – so that the inner struggle and conflict of trying to get rid of neurotic patterns can be replaced by ... unconditional friendliness toward oneself. At the same time, it allows a person to tap into a larger awareness in which ordinary emotional entanglements are seen in a different perspective – as clouds in the sky, rather than as the whole sky itself. Meditation, then, provides a basic practice for awakening the heart – which includes both developing warmth and compassion toward all our fears, insecurities, and emotional entanglements, as well as discovering our basic oneness and goodness underneath them.

     "If man fails to recognize his true nature, the true object of his love, the confusion is vast and irremediable. Bent on assuaging a passion for the All on an object too small to satisfy it, his efforts will be fruitless, a terrible waste." Teilhard de Chardin

       John Welwood. “Toward a Psychology of Awakening. Buddhism, Psychotherapy, and the Path of Personal and Spiritual transformation.” Shambhala, 2002.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Let's Examine this "self"

     "The unexamined life is not worth living."            Socrates

     "Rumi has this wonderful one-liner: ‘If you are here unfaithfully with us you’re causing terrible damage.’ What I think he means by this is unfaithful to your own truth - unfaithful to some ongoing effort to live an examined life. ... the point is, not only to do that inner journeying, that exploration of the inner landscape of our lives, but to connect that with what goes on outside of us."

      Parker J. Palmer An Undivided Life: Seeking Wholeness in Ourselves, Our Work, and Our World”  http://www.soundstrue.com/shop/An-Undivided Life/2530.productdetails;jsessionid=1FZoA99VGf9KVaG7fjtv.27

     "In the great traditions, the term self-knowledge has an extraordinary meaning. It is neither the acquisition of information about oneself nor a deeply felt insight nor moments of recognition against the ground of psychological theory. It is the principal means by which the evolving part of man can be nourished with an energy that is as real, or more so, as the energy delivered to the physical organism by the food we eat. 
     Thus it is not a question of acquiring strength, independence, self-esteem, security, ‘meaningful relationships,’ or any of the other goods upon which the social order is based and which have been identified as the components of psychological health. 
     It is solely a matter of digesting deep impressions of myself as I actually am from moment to moment: a disconnected, helpless collection of impulses and reactions, a being of disharmonized mind, feeling, and instinct."
        John Welwood ed. “Awakening the Heart. East / West Approaches to Psychotherapy and the Healing Relationship.” Shambhala, 1983. 

     No wonder this "small self" has also been referred to as "the pain body." It's pretty bleak if we (incorrectly) assume this to be the sum total of who / what we are. Yet most folks do. However, wise people "get over themselves" ie transcend this "small self", realizing that who / what they are is infinitely, qualitatively greater.

      "If wisdom is defined as a combination of
           • cognitive (an understanding of life & the desire to know the truth),

           • reflective (the ability & willingness to look at phenomena & events from different perspectives), and
           • affective (sympathetic & compassionate love for others) personality qualities,
      then truly wise people, such as Jesus Christ or the Buddha, can also be described as the most psychologically developed persons. They are mature; psychologically healthy; autonomous; fully liberated from all outside & inside forces; and are, therefore, the masters of their own fate.
      Because people who grow in wisdom gradually come to accept reality as it is (and not as they would like it to be), including the negative side of their personalities, they are able to learn from their experiences, which allows them to overcome their negative tendencies and to gain inner peace through the de­velopment of equanimity. Hence, they tend to be less affected by external events and internal drives than other people, which results in greater autonomy and control.
      Yet wise individuals are also selfless; that is, they have transcended the egotistical self and feel more part of the ocean instead of an individual wave. How can we explain the paradox that the highest level of self-development requires a quieting of the ego and the transcendence of the self?"

         Ardelt M. "Self-development through Selflessness: The Paradoxical Process of Growing Wiser." in Wayment HA, Bauer JJ eds. "Decade of behavior." American Psychological Association, Washington, DC, 2008.
     See also: http://www.johnlovas.com/2013/03/suffering-mindfulness-wisdom-equanimity.html

"The Last Word" - Halifax, Nova Scotia

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Anesthesia and Amnesia - Our Primary ‘Sins’

     We go numb to try to cope with the fact that we have not been granted what we need to thrive. The levels of addiction in our society are off the charts, and I’m not just talking about alcohol and drugs; I’m talking about shopping, working, sex. Addictions are an attempt to cope with intolerable states. The meager lives we are asked to live, in which we are often reduced to ‘earning a living,’ are themselves intolerable. We are meant to have a more sensuous, imaginative, and creative existence. As children we are enchanted with the world, yet as adults we end up, as poet Mary Oliver said, ‘breathing just a little, and calling it a life.’ That’s the anesthesia.


     We are living in what writer and cultural critic Daniel Quinn calls the Great Forgetting. Many of us have forgotten that we’re a part of an ecosystem, a watershed. We’ve forgotten that we’re kin to all the other animals. We’ve forgotten that we need each other. We have forgotten what I call the ‘commons of the soul.’
     For thousands of years we were nourished by being members of a community, gathering around the fire, hearing the stories of the elders, feeling supported during times of loss and grief, offering gratitude, singing together, sharing meals at night and our dreams in the morning. I call these activities ‘primary satisfactions.’ We are hard-wired to want them, but few of us receive them
     In their absence we turn to secondary satisfactions: rank, privilege, wealth, status — or, on the shadow side, addictions. The problem with these secondary satisfactions is that we can never get enough of them. We always want more. But once we find our primary satisfactions, we don’t want much else. Though primary satisfactions are rare in our culture, we do experience them. We can remember what that felt like and let our longing for that state become our compass, telling us what direction we need to go to get back to those satisfactions. We can find them through our friendships, by spending time in nature, by risking being vulnerable with someone we trust."

     It's SO easy to intellectually and or spiritually bypass our real task of growing up via deep meditation / contemplation / self-reflection. Cynicism and or desperately adhering to some dogma - despite feeling completely wrong - remain sadly common secondary satisfactions. Regardless of age, we're all drawn towards zoning out - like curling up with thumb in mouth & our favorite blankie. But ONLY what's true, real and deeply meaningful can satisfy.

     "I don’t use soul in a religious sense but rather the way psychologists Carl Jung and James Hillman and the Romantic poets like Keats, Wordsworth, and Blake use it: to speak of the experience of depth in our lives. Soul invites the marginal, the excluded, and the unwelcome pieces of ourselves into our attention. Soul is often found at the edges, both in the culture and in our lives. Soul takes us down into the places of our shared humanity, such as sorrow and longing, suffering and death. Soul requires that we be authentic, revealing what lies behind the image we try to show the world, including our flaws and peculiarities. Soul doesn’t care at all about perfection or getting it right. It cares about participation. Soul is revealed in dreams and images, in our most intimate conversations, and in our desire to live a life of meaning and purpose."

       “The Geography Of Sorrow - Francis Weller On Navigating Our Losses.” The Sun Interview: by Tim McKee, October 2015. https://thesunmagazine.org/issues/478/the-geography-of-sorrow

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Beyond Polarity and Duality

      We're very, very familiar with "the story of me" - our very personal perspective on ourselves & the world - "our reality". We're so familiar with this that we wrongly assume that it's accurate, true, & beneficial (even for us).
     The more we practice meditation or other means of deep introspection, the more we realize that "the story of me" (& resultant habitual reactive patterns) is a fear-based, primitive survival strategy based on our past but which now is a powerful impediment to our health, maturation, wholeness, & deep quality of life. See: http://jglovas.wixsite.com/awarenessnow/single-post/2017/11/10/Returning-Remaining

     "A significant shift occurs after we integrate the internal and external worlds: we move beyond polarity and duality and learn to see both worlds at once. We contain this paradox and are able to see the many options available to us. This more accepting and expansive way of thinking increases our tolerance for ambiguity, which is a function of wisdom. The ability to move beyond black or white, good or evil, helpful or harmful, signals wisdom’s presence.
     Although wisdom can be expressed at any age, it is less than becoming if we are not able to develop it in our later years and provide a consistent model for younger people. Our work in the second half of life demands that we neither be entrenched in the polarities of our daily experiences nor be rigid, harsh, or unforgiving in our approach. We are stretched to shift our perspective and our actions from the dualism of either/or to holding the paradox of both/and. This allows something greater and more creative to emerge. It is an essential perspective for problem solving. Wisdom always looks for the most elegant solution, the one that will create a genuine win-win and serve the greater good of the majority of people.
     Two extraordinary examples of what can happen when we hold the paradox of both/and to allow something greater to emerge are the restorative justice process of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in resolving apartheid issues and the unprecedented creativity and collaboration that created the European Union. Because the people involved avoided remaining in fixed, entrenched positions, they generated outcomes that far exceeded initial expectations or imagined results.
     If we can embrace the meanings and experiences in both our internal and external worlds, melding the sacred and profane, we will be rigorously challenged to transform opposition to paradox. The essential task is to allow all sides of an issue, or pairs of opposites, to exist in equal dignity and worth until their hidden unity is revealed. This is our initiation into the embodiment of wisdom, the entry point into authentic spiritual maturation and personal transformation.
     When we shift our perspective to look beyond dualities, opposites, and polarities, we can simultaneously consider many diverse options and possibilities without applying solutions that may seem quick, easy, and expedient but are in fact premature. In our later years, it becomes imperative to increase our capacity to hold creative tension, allowing far grater and more inclusive solutions and options to emerge. By befriending and strengthening our capacity to hold paradox, we can explore the realm of deep spiritual growth. As we actualize all aspects of ourselves and weave them into an inherent symmetry and whole, we become more skillful problem solvers, mediators, stewards of justice, and models of patience and mercy. We become an unshakably wise presence that harnesses the good, true, and beautiful for the grater good of all concerned. This is wisdom’s way and our primary task in the second half of life.”

       Angeles Arrien. “The Second Half of Life. Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom.” Sounds True, 2007.


Monday, March 5, 2018

For Kate #2

          One old man 
          with a runny nose, 
          aches & pains all over 
          feeling the fleeting preciousness of time 
          as a friend hovers at the threshold of mystery

          May you feel safe
          May you feel happy
          May you feel whole
          May you be at ease ...

Saturday, March 3, 2018

For Kate

I won’t die
I won’t go anywhere
I’ll be here
But don’t ask me anything I won’t answer             Ikkyu 

“In Ram Dass’s book Still Here, he describes a trip in India on a very slow train. He becomes impatient, thinking: ‘This trip is going to go on forever …. This present moment will never end. I’ve been on this train my entire life and I will never ever get off. Now what?'

Accepting and releasing into just what is …. Being willing to settle into just this experience – this is the teaching of saying yes to our life, not giving in to thoughts of another life.”

Katherine Thanas. “The Truth of This Life. Zen Teachings on Loving the World as It Is.” Shambhala, 2018.