Friday, June 24, 2022

Love - Far, Far More than just an Emotion

     To an old friend, who firmly considers himself a physicalist / materialist, I sent the following email:

These quotes reveal some aspects of meaningful spirituality.

Truth, like love and sleep, resents approaches that are too intense.” W.H. Auden

     “At the bottom of my grievance against a world gone mad, I discovered the vulnerable child who still didn’t know that
love was fully available or truly reliable.” John Welwood. "Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships. Healing the Wound of the Heart." Trumpeter, 2006.

     “… what we resist makes us frightened, hard, inflexible, and what we embrace becomes transformed.” Jack Kornfield

     "I was born
      when all I once feared
      I could love.”                 Rābiʿah al-Baṣrī

     “I would define
love very simply: as a potent blend of openness & warmth, which allows us to make real contact, to take delight in & appreciate, and to be at one with – ourselves, others, & life itself.
love is the central force that holds our whole life together & allows it to function." John Welwood. "Perfect love, imperfect relationships. Healing the wound of the heart." Trumpeter, 2006.

     “No matter how sharp your intellect is,
      don’t forget to filter it through the heart of compassion
      before you manifest it in the suffering world.”                 Dzogchen Ponlop

     "Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough." George Washington Carver

     "You learn about a thing ... by opening yourself wholeheartedly to it. You learn about a thing by loving it." Barbara McClintock - Nobel prize-winning geneticist

     "The truth is, what one really needs is not Nobel prizes but love. How do you think one gets to be a Nobel laureate? Wanting love, that's how. Wanting it so bad one works all the time and ends up a Nobel laureate. It's a consolation prize.
     What matters is love."           George Wald - Nobel prize-winning biologist from Harvard


     My friend responded to my email saying the quotes were "interesting," however "Love is an emotion to me, and not the secret of the universe." I suggested that he consider holding his present stance lightly - as an open question or koan.

    William James, a leading thinker of the late 19th century, one of the most influential American philosophers, and the 'Father of American psychology' wrote:
I have no doubt whatever that most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being. They make use of a very small portion of their possible consciousness... much like a man who out of his whole bodily organism should get into a habit of using and moving only his little finger...
all have reservoirs of life to draw upon, of which we do not dream."

    I've learned that love actually IS the secret of the universe, and much wiser folks than I, like Rabindranath Tagore, seem to agree:

Love is the only reality and it is not a mere sentiment.
It is the ultimate truth that lies at the heart of creation.”

Love is an endless mystery, for it has nothing else to explain it.”

Love does not claim possession, but gives freedom.”

     And Mahatma Gandhi wrote:
     “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth & love have always won. There have been tyrants & murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it – always.

Living without mystery means knowing nothing of the mystery of our own life, nothing of the mystery of another person, nothing of the mystery of the world; it means passing over our own hidden qualities and those of others & the world. It means remaining on the surface, taking the world seriously only to the extent that it can be calculated & exploited, and not going beyond the world of calculation & exploitation. Living without mystery means not seeing the crucial processes of life at all and even denying them.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"The beautiful thing about compassion is that
when it spontaneously arises in you, an inner door opens
into an experience of love,
which is our part of our fundamental reality....
When the inner door opens, it becomes effortless to reach out and connect with others. This is why the greatest antidote to insecurity and sense of fear is compassion. It brings one back
to the basis of one's inner strength.
A truly compassionate person embodies a carefree spirit
of fearlessness,
born of the freedom
from egoistic self concern."
The Dalai Lama

Helen Hamilton: "The Ocean Of Loving Acceptance"


Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Too Beautiful to Die?

“Don’t prioritise your looks my friend, as they won’t last the journey.
Your sense of humour though, will only get better with age.
Your intuition will grow and expand like a majestic cloak of wisdom.
Your ability to choose your battles, will be fine-tuned to perfection.
Your capacity for stillness, for living in the moment, will blossom.
Your desire to live each and every moment will transcend all other wants.
Your instinct for knowing what (and who) is worth your time,
will grow and flourish like ivy on a castle wall.
Don’t prioritise your looks my friend,
they will change forevermore,
that pursuit is one of much sadness and disappointment.
Prioritise the uniqueness that make you you, and the invisible magnet that draws in other like-minded souls to dance in your orbit.
These are the things which will only get better."                         Judi Dench

    "The Buddha taught that all phenomena, including thoughts, emotions, & experiences, are marked by three characteristics: impermanence (anicca), suffering or dissatisfaction (dukkha), and not-self (anatta). These three marks apply to all conditioned things—that is, everything except for nirvana. According to the Buddha, fully understanding & appreciating the three marks of existence is essential to realizing enlightenment.
    Everything changes, the Buddha taught. This may seem obvious, but much of the time we relate to things as if their existence were permanent. So when we lose things we think we can’t live without or receive bad news we think will ruin our lives, we experience a great deal of stress. Nothing is permanent, including our lives
, suffering or dissatisfaction, is among the most misunderstood ideas in Buddhism. Life is dukkha, the Buddha said, but he didn’t mean that it is all unhappiness & disappointment. Rather, he meant that ultimately it cannot satisfy. Even when things do satisfy ― a pleasant time with friends, a wonderful meal, a new car ― the satisfaction doesn’t last because all things are impermanent.
not-self, non-essentiality, or egolessness—is even more difficult to grasp. The Buddha taught that there is no unchanging, permanently existing self that inhabits our bodies. In other words, we do not have a fixed, absolute identity. The experience of “I” continuing through life as a separate, singular being is an illusion, he said. What we call the “selfis a construct of physical, mental, & sensory processes that are interdependent & constantly in flux.
is the illusion of a separate, permanent self that chains us to suffering & dissatisfaction, the Buddha said. We put most of our energy into protecting the self, trying to gratify it & clinging to impermanent things we think will enhance it. But belief in a separate, permanent self leads to the craving that, according to the four noble truths, is the source of our suffering.
Buddha’s teachings, especially the practice of the eightfold path, provide the medicine to cure our illusions, so that we become less self-centered & less attached to impermanent things. As we investigate the truth of the three marks of existence, we develop factors of enlightenment such as equanimity—the ability not to be jerked around by our likes & dislikes — and serenity." 

    Nirvana (above) - which alone is NOT characterized by impermanence, unsatisfactoriness & not-self - is the awakened state or enlightenment.
Buddha was a human being who around 500BCE felt the urgent need to end his own & humanity's existential suffering, found the cure for it, and over a 50-year period, taught thousands of others to reach his level of awakening from suffering. His teachings are
universal - for everyone, so there are even Catholic nuns & Jewish Rabbis who at the same time are highly accomplished practitioners of Buddhism, especially Zen.
    Below are glimpses of awakening - experiences of a higher dimension than
conditioned phenomena, our usual frame of reference, so words are inadequate:

    "To be enlightened is to be intimate with all things." Zen Master Dogen

    "Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. 

If only they could all see themselves as they really are. 

If only we could see each other that way all the time. 

There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, 

no more greed… I suppose the big problem would be that 

we would fall down and worship each other....

There is no way of telling people that they are 

all walking around shining like the sun...."                                 Thomas Merton

If we could really, really, really see right now, all that we really, really, really are, we’d see the infinite mystery of God pouring itself out and giving itself away as the intimate immediacy of all that we really are. That vivid state, in the fullness of that state, would be the unitive mystical experience. And then we can learn to be habituated in that state and translate it into love for other people." Jim Finley Interview


     “We are here to find that dimension within ourselves that is deeper than thought.” Eckhart Tolle 


    “Carl Jung said, ‘How can we claim the years have taught us anything, if we’ve not learned to sit & listen to the secret that whispers in the brooks?’ 

    So if I look at a fire, for example, with ego-consciousness, I see a fire. But if I gaze into the flames, in that contemplative gazing at the flames, I sense in the flames the intimations of the holiness and the mystery manifesting itself as this flame. 

    That’s why I think when we try to talk about it, we’re trying to grab it in words. But if we sit in meditative silence infused with love, the state of wonder, we intimately taste directly for ourselves for which no words can be found. That’s why we long for the experience to which our words are aluding to, and how to stabilize in it, and how to share it with people.”  Jim Finley EXCEPTIONAL Interview

“You know you have loved someone
when you have glimpsed in them
that which is too beautiful to die.”                                      Gabriel Marcel


by Mollycules


Friday, June 17, 2022

Pure Gold

    While striving to survive or to "make it big" in any job, business or profession, we tend to see a less effortful path as at least strange, if not a frightening, lazy waste of time.
    But at some stage, we may start to experience a surprising ambiguity about, & increasing independence from our belongings, status, accomplishments, experiences & relationships. At the same time, we start knowing a profound peace, loving connection & wholeness, that is minimally influenced by our health, financial situation, social status or time left to live.
     While still in the striving 'go getter' stage, we're repeatedly devastated by threats / loss / damage to our health / life, financial situation, social status, belongings, status, accomplishments, experiences & relationships. We may rely entirely on growth, or at the very least stability, in income, health, possessions. At the same time - at least subconsciously - we know that 'perpetual growth / stability' is consumer-society's fairy tale. In fact, changes of every kind happen constantly, and unless we die young, aging, sickness & death are inevitable & universal.
    Eventually, we all will let go of fairy tales, face reality & learn how to live in harmony with what's real. Mystics, saints, & increasingly, 'ordinary people' around the world are 'awakening' and leave pointers - infinitely more precious than pure gold - to help the rest of us awaken to the profound peace, loving connection & wholeness that is independent of ever-changing circumstances:
"There is a light that shines beyond all things on earth, 
beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. 
This is the light that shines in your heart."  
Chandogya Upanishad

When the Buddha lay dying in a forest grove in Kushinagara,
surrounded by five hundred of his disciples,
he said to them with his last breath:
"It is in the nature of all things that take form
to dissolve again.
Strive with your whole being to Awaken."

"You may imagine that there are many things you need to learn
and realize in order to attain enlightenment. That’s okay.
But essentially, there’s only one thing you absolutely must realize — 
the essential nature of your mind.”
Lama Tharchin Rinpoche

"In search of balance in the relative world, it is helpful to think of everything
— every quality, action, or object — as inseparable from its opposite: 
male and female; night and day; inside and outside. 
No matter how much you might like to have only the positives in life — 
freedom, peace, love — 
if you are seeking a static state, 
you will always be disappointed.

For every thing also contains its opposite and 
both sides must be balanced:
form & space, creativity & receptivity, activity & rest, growth & decay, 
manifest creation & the unmanifest source of all creation.

The good news is that, as your sense of balance grows, you’ll find it easier
to integrate the other side, ‘the negatives,’ into your life; 
you’ll discover the clarity in the midst of confusion, 
the stillness at the center of motion, 
and the love that waits behind fear & anger.

If you can learn to dance with the innumerable paradoxes of your life 
while staying anchored in an extraordinary suppleness & flexibility, 
you will create the stability necessary to actually find balance in your life."
Michelle & Joel Levey
 "Living in Balance: A Mindful Guide for Thriving in a Complex World."
Divine Arts, 2014.

"Thus shall ye think on all this fleeting world:
A star at dawn,
a bubble in a stream,
a flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
a flickering lamp, a phantom,
and a dream."
Gautama Buddha
"Diamond Sutra"

“This is essentially our practice, to be conscious & awake moment to moment, and to embody the enlightened values of love, wisdom, & compassion to whatever degree we are capable and willing.”  

“May we meet in the silence of the heart, may our practice be committed and joyful, and may we encourage the light and goodness in others 
whenever and wherever we encounter them.” 
    Dive even deeper into independence from dukkha:
by Mollycules


Sunday, June 12, 2022

Playing Small Does Not Serve the World

    One of the world's foremost experts in PTSD wrote: “If you feel safe & loved, your brain (is) specialized in exploration, play, & cooperation; if you are frightened & unwanted, it (is) specialized in managing feelings of fear & abandonment." Bessel Van Der Kolk. “The Body Keeps the Score. Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.” Penguin Books, 2015.
    We immediately (incorrectly) assume that we're in the first "normal" group, and only a few war veterans & perhaps some severely traumatized first responders fit in the second "damaged" group. What proportion of your day do you feel anxious, needy, alone, uncomfortable COMPARED TO feeling light-hearted, carefree, adventurous, excitedly participating in group adventures? We can EITHER be afraid (hurt child) OR loving (wise elder) - our two basic 'ways of being' or 'operating systems,' - only ONE of which can be running at a time.
    Van Der Kolk writes that all of us have been exposed to a wide variety of traumas. The degree to which traumas have impacted our lives will clearly show by our dominant attitudes & moods. In Westernized societies like ours, I suspect very few of us grow up retaining a young child's innocent trust, feeling safe & loved, playing care-free and exploring the world with an open-hearted attitude towards all. 
    So most of us have endured sufficient direct & secondary trauma to have developed defenses against further injury: physical defenses - contracted, tight, stiff, tender muscles; emotional defenses - walled-off hardened heart, cynicism, suspiciousness, pessimism, fatalism, nihilism, anger, disgust; & mental defenses - left-hemisphere dominant, self-centered, narcissism, materialism. 
    Many of us are locked into this very constricted bleak worldview, so much so that it forms a sense of a very small 'self.' We're so emotionally bonded to this small sense of 'self' that when we're shown that we're so much more, it just makes us angrily defensive. This dark worldview draws our attention to, & magnifies everything that confirms, and away from, & trivializes anything that contradicts our dark, small worldview & self-concept.  
    As Anais Nin & others have said, we see things as we are. Our ego / left-hemisphere craves 'being right,' consistency & certainty, even if that means being stuck in misery. So it's incredibly easy to get stuck in despair & disgust - one just needs to become a CNN news junky. 
    It’s essential to remember that our disgust about past & ongoing human atrocities, no matter how justified our anger may feel, is nothing more than transient thoughts & emotions that are best “held lightly” with huge helpings of self-compassion & compassion for ALL
    One way to make some sense of this: A wise elder may disapprove of & be deeply saddened by her grandchild's criminal behavior, BUT nevertheless holds the child in safety & unconditional love (instead of hatred & vengeance) trusting that nurturing will bring about even his evolution (instead of giving up on a 'hopeless case' & 'throwing away the keys'). Our justice & prison system clearly need to evolve.
    “So long as one is merely on the surface of things, they are always imperfect, unsatisfactory, incomplete. Penetrate into the substance & everything is perfect, complete, whole.” Philip Kapleau. “The Zen of Living and Dying. A Practical and Spiritual Guide.” Shambhala, 1998.
    With practice, we can all gradually grow out of the fearful hurt child "fight, flight, freeze reaction" phase of life, and remember to mature back into, & re-assume our true nature the wise loving elder "tend & befriend" & "nurturing" phase. We progressively widen our circle of intimacy & nurturing, which happens naturally as we remember to reconnect with our true nature.
    And the practice boils down to simply noticing when we're once again in a dark place (mentally, emotionally, physically - usually in some combination), and 'sense' our way back to the light by 'deeply listening' (metaphorically speaking) for that within us that is always there, but is very, very subtle, with the characteristics of silence, stillness & peace. So effective meditation is very different than most of us imagined when we started.

    “As we sit quietly without any intention to change things or to have any particular experience we will begin to feel a sense of relaxation that deepens into a peaceful state as we progress. By letting go of wanting peace we begin to see that it is already here. It will be seen in time that all our attempts to get something simply clouds our awareness of what is already here.” Helen Hamilton. “Dissolving the Ego.” Balboa Press, 2021.

    There are excellent current guides to help us shift from chronic existential angst, frozen in anxiety, dread, sadness, hopelessness & meaninglessness into the process of awakening to our true nature. They all have many free youtube videos, as well as books & trainings programs:

    Helen Hamilton :
    Louise Kay :
    Eckhart Tolle :
    Adyashanti :
    Judith Blackstone :
    Stephan Bodian :
    Dorothy Hunt :
    Mooji :
    Be prepared to meet resistance to attempting this all-important shift, because
our dominant ego/left-hemisphere interprets it as an attack on our life! Much like when we were kids & someone called us a "bad name" & we felt as if we'd been seriously physically wounded. Especially at a "mature" stage in life, psychological rigidity tends to dominate - “Can’t teach old dogs new tricks.” BUT if we're interested in maturing / evolving, we know that we have to learn to become psychological flexible
    Be very kind & patient with yourself, as when teaching a 2-year old child or a 2-month old puppy. When training yourself, as with little children & puppies, our primary responsibility is to hold the 'student' in safety & unconditional love. 'Success' is the student feeling safe & loved, regardless of whether learning seems to be occurring at all, slowly or quickly. As per the top of the page, the absolute essential conditions for exploration, play, & cooperation are feeling safe & loved.
“In this choiceless, never ending flow of life
There is an infinite array of choices.
One alone brings happiness -
To love what is.” Dorothy Hunt
COLIBRI, art by Martina Hoffman
Artist website:



Saturday, June 4, 2022

Barnacles upon Barnacles ...

    No matter how it appears to others, we're all doing the best we can with what we've got. After all, we're all trying to be happy. Now our ideas about what happiness means & what level of happiness we can realistically achieve differ greatly! I once asked a young woman what she hoped for in the future. Her response: 'a Lazy-Boy recliner.'
    Many just want to be as comfortable as possible in what they believe to be a hostile, machine-like,
meaningless world. Because they have little or no knowledge or experience in these matters, they're absolutely certain that worldviews & self-concepts centering around loving inter-connection & universal consciousness are simple-minded, deluded & mere wishful thinking.

    “I don’t believe consciousness is generated in the brain any more than television programs are made inside my TV. The box is too small.” Terence McKenna

    More & more people - including the brightest & most highly educated - are continuously experiencing intimate, loving, nurturing connection with everyone & everything, and their peace & joy have become independent of their circumstances, including pain, sickness, aging & death. This highly-desirable & sought-after state - awakening / enlightenment - is considered the pinnacle of human consciousness maturation / evolution, shared by shamans / healers, mystics, saints & "ordinary folks" of all cultures & traditions throughout the ages (see 'perennial philosophy' below).

    Despite such vast differences in worldviews & self-concepts people hold, each individual tends to be absolutely certain that they are right, regardless of evidence to the contrary. Our minds seem far more interested in consistency than truth, so we often 'fail to see' or devalue data that contradicts, but gravitate towards & magnify data that confirms our stance.

    “We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Anais Nin

    Whatever I believe to be true is immediately true for me. Whatever I know and am certain is real will be experienced as real to me.”
    Helen Hamilton. “Reality Check. A Simple Guide to Final Enlightenment.” Balboa Press, 2021.

    We all inevitably experience hardships severe enough to cause our immature worldviews & self-concepts to shatter, forcing us to rebuild more mature, more realistic, more trauma-proof ones. It is often a very slow road to discovering our true self & real happiness, which are independent of conditions.

    If we're fortunate enough to live past middle age, then nagging aches, pains, stiffness, & progressive physical & mental deterioration will test us increasingly. Under 60 years of age & used to good health, you may think, 'No problem, I'll be able to handle it.' But in fact it gets tiresomely unpleasant as a wide assortment of barnacles relentlessly stick, progressively weighing down one's only leaky old rowboat! There are many valid reasons for old folks to feel grumpy - temporarily.

    “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” Joe Klaas

    Seniors' conversations often revolve around symptoms, disabilities, illnesses, surgeries, prescriptions, medical appointments, death & dying. And it's unbelievably easy 'to contract around' - to obsessively focus exclusively on one's own & loved ones' problems, desperately wanting to get rid of them ASAP, while feeling frustrated, angry, tired, hopeless & sad. This is especially so as pains & disabilities no longer quickly heal & resolve as they did in youth, but instead relentlessly eat away at one's body, mind & patience. Our usual egoic mind (small self) is specialized to survive & mate. In old age, we're no longer giving birth, and the fact & proximity of death is absolutely obvious. This profoundly unsettles one's ordinary egoic mind. And sadly, this limited, isolated sense of self is ALL many people are aware of! 

    BUT a solid spiritual practice, ideally established before stuff hits the fan, can make the "difference between heaven & hell" during trying times. Despite the current dogma of materialism, one's quality of life CAN be independent of circumstances.

    “The term 'perennial philosophy' (Agostino Steuco 1497-1548), refers to these four realizations:
      (1) there is only one Reality (God, Mother, Awareness, Self,
Tao, Dharmakaya, Brahman, Great Spirit, Allah ...) that is the source & substance of all creation;
      (2) that while each of us is a manifestation of this Reality, most of us identify with something much smaller, that is, our culturally conditioned individual ego (the 'small self');
      (3) that this identification with the smaller self gives rise to needless anxiety, unnecessary suffering, and cross-cultural competition and violence; and
      (4) that peace, compassion, & justice naturally replace anxiety, needless suffering, competition, & violence when we realize our true nature as a manifestation of this singular Reality.
    The great sages & mystics of every civilization throughout human history have taught these truths in the language of their time & culture. It is the universality & timelessness of this wisdom that makes it the perfect focus for the spiritually independent seeker."
      Rami Shapiro. “Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent.” SkyLight Paths, 2013.

    "Our true nature is far more ancient & encompassing than the separate self defined by habit & 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

    “... grief, if you are afraid of it and pave it over, clamp down, you shut down. And the kind of apathy and closed down denial or difficulty in looking at what we’re doing to our world stems not from callous indifference or ignorance so much as it stems from fear of pain. ….
    That became perhaps the most pivotal point in the landscape of my life: that dance with despair. To see how we are called to not run from the discomfort, and not run from the grief or the feelings of outrage or even fear. If we can be fearless to be with our pain, it turns. It doesn’t stay. It only doesn’t change if we refuse to look at it. When we look at it, when we take it in our hands, when we can just be with it, when we keep breathing, then it turns. It turns to reveal its other face. And the other face of our pain for the world is our love for the world. Our absolutely inseparable connectedness with all life.”
Joanna Macy, interviewed by Krista Tippett on the On Being podcast

    "To be alive in this beautiful, self-organizing universe -- to participate in the dance of life with senses to perceive it, lungs that breathe it, organs that draw nourishment from it - is a wonder beyond words. Gratitude for the gift of life is the primary wellspring of all religions, the hallmark of the mystic, the source of all true art. Furthermore, it is a privilege to be alive in this time when we can choose to take part in the self-healing of our world." Joanna Macy

 Helen Hamilton - The Way Of The Self