Thursday, December 29, 2022

New Year's Challange

    Regarding the previous (Dec 20, 2022 "What Are We to Do?") blog, one serious meditator wrote that he found it "challenging" when he was aware of both small self and Self, and had to remind himself of equanimity, to help accept the need for both.
serious meditator, wrote that she's aware of (negative, fear-motivated) self-talk, and how it's destructive to that ‘silent, still, peaceful Self,’ She can, at times, stay in touch with that still Self. And then fear rises up and is so loud it causes a rushing sound in her head.
of these are very insightful - the fruit of growing levels of mindfulness.

    It's fascinating how fear activates, tries to bring us back into, & keep us in FEAR-based, narrowly self-focused, left-hemisphere-dominant, self-preservation doing mode ('self'), whenever we shift into our true, authentic, LOVE-based, 'Self': spacious, broadly-connected, right-hemisphere-dominant being mode

    "... the only thing we have to fear is ... fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933 inaugural address

    We habitually get anxious about the anxiety we experience, depressed about depression, AND afraid of fear! We tend to have an automatic fight, flight or freeze reaction to fear itself. This creates a LOT of unnecessary ('discretionary') suffering.
mindfulness teaches us to intentionally shift from "fight, flight, freeze" to "tend & befriend" ie to be curious, accept, work skillfully, and thus eventually become intimate with EVERYTHING we experience, which naturally includes "difficult emotions."
is a shift in identity from completely identifying with our mistaken identity of being ONLY a "hurt child" to our true identity of being a "wise elder" who is spacious enough to accept & nurture a hurt child "part" (or subpersonality - see: Richard C. Schwartz. "No Bad Parts: Healing Trauma and Restoring Wholeness with the Internal Family Systems Model." Sounds True, 2021.)

    "Essential well-being is not found by calming our minds or by changing our thoughts or attitudes, but actually by shifting out of our chattering minds and into a freedom that is already available." Loch Kelly

    “Here are the best two things I’ve learned about fear – and this is really going to scramble your brain:
you try to conquer & overcome fear, that effort will either run, or ultimately ruin your life.
if you embrace fear, that effort will turn fear into one of the greatest experiences you have here on planet earth."
Ulmer, for 12 years the best female big mountain extreme skier in the world; the outdoor industry voted her the most extreme “fearless” woman athlete in North America;
mogul specialist on the US Ski Team; US Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame inductee.

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

      "I was born
       when all I once feared
       I could love
Rabia Basri 

    "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less."
Curie, Nobel Prizes in Physics, & Chemistry

     “Sometimes we need a gentle shift to continue our journey in the right direction that supports our growth. Ending the un-winnable war with fear and making friends with it instead, is one of those shifts.
risten Ulmer. “The Art of Fear: Why Conquering Fear Won’t Work and What to Do Instead.” Harper Wave, 2018.

   "... relax, allow life to be as it is, & open your heart to yourself. It’s easier than you might think, and it could change your life.
Neff. “Self-Compassion. The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.” HarperCollins, 2011. 


Tuesday, December 20, 2022

What Are We to Do?

     Yesterday, a long-time meditator friend asked how I was. I answered, "No complaints at all - the timeless aspect is perfect; the temporary part is doing its temporary thing." The answer entirely depends on who answers - the "small self" or the "Self." We all are a mysterious combination of these very different ways of being & experiencing, depending greatly on how, in the moment, narrowly focused we are on ourselves vs how intimately connected we feel with others & the environment. The practice of self-inquiry involves repeatedly checking in by asking ourselves, for example, 'WHO is suffering?'
small self is a way of being & experiencing life with a very narrow, self-centered, short-term-goal-oriented, survivalist perspective. Intermittently, for brief periods of time, this approach is entirely appropriate - WHILE performing a specific task, and WHILE one is in danger. Balanced, short, intermittent action of the small self is referred to as the "quiet ego."
    Most of the time, what's more appropriate is a broad, allocentric (others-centered) & ecocentric (environment-centered), timeless, peaceful, spacious, unconditionally-loving perspective, often referred to as (capital s) Self. This is a dimension within each of us - our true nature - that is deeper or higher than the continuous movement of thinking/self-talk
. The Self is dominant in highly-evolved individuals, often with a long-time meditation, yoga, tai chi / qi gong or prayer practice. Historically, mystics, saints & monastics, but today increasingly ordinary people are awakening to this evolved level of consciousness

lives of dictators, stridently aggressive politicians, CEOs & other cut-throat movers & shakers are dominated by the 'noisy ego' of small self. Sadly, due in large part to the increasingly toxic nature of our culture, many otherwise decent people see only danger & experience nothing more meaningful & profound than the noise of their own self-talk, which too easily drowns-out awareness of the silent, still, peaceful Self.

    "The most important question a human being needs to answer according to Einstein: 'Is the universe a friendly place or not?' ... If we believe that the universe is unfriendly ... peace will be elusive at best." Joan Borysenko. “Fire in the Soul. A New Psychology of Spiritual Optimism.” Warner Books, 1993.

    “the world we believe in becomes the world we live in. If I see the world as a hostile place where only winners thrive, I may well become aggressive, selfish, and grandiose to survive in such a milieu. Later in life I will gravitate to competitive environments and endeavors that can only confirm that view and reinforce its validity. Our beliefs are not only self-fulfilling; they are world-building.” Gabor Maté, Daniel Maté. “The Myth of Normal. Trauma, Illness & Healing in a Toxic Culture.” Alfred A. Knopf, 2022. IMPORTANT BOOK!

    “Emptiness is two things at once:
the absence of self
and the presence of the Divine.
Thus as self decreases,
the Divine increases.”     Bernadette Roberts

    "There’s only one happiness and it’s who you are. There’s only one place to find lasting happiness, and that is to know who you are and to be who you are.” Francis Lucille

     So what can we do? Perhaps practice & do our best to continuously embody mindfulness, which Caverly Morgan defines as: “Being here and now with


Kindness is the Way ... by Mollycules

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Beyond the "small self"

    Wisdom is deep understanding & practical skill in the central issues of life, especially existential & spiritual issues.
    Existential issues are those crucial & universal concerns all of us face simply because we are human. They include finding meaning & purpose in our lives; managing relationships & aloneness; acknowledging our limits & smallness in a universe vast beyond comprehension; living in inevitable uncertainty & mystery; and dealing with sickness, suffering, & death. A person who has developed deep insights into these issues – and skills for dealing with them – is wise indeed.”
    Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield. “Seeking the Heart of Wisdom. The Path of Insight Meditation.” Shambhala, 2001.

    Our task is to discover a freedom that's independent of all circumstances & times. Jack Kornfield, Paul Breiter. "A still forest pool. The insight meditation of Achaan Chah." Quest Books, 1985.

    “As we travel through life, we are all seekers
after something larger than ourselves…” Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer PhD

    “The only real purpose of being here on this earth is to learn or to re-remember our original nature state of no limitations.” Lester Levenson

    “Only a very few people alive today can make me smile just to think of them: the Dalai Lama is one and Huston Smith is another. And when I reflect on it, I realize that this is partly because both celebrated teachers are voracious in their pursuit of wisdom and able to push back their own assumptions in order to learn from everyone they meet; both radiate a calm & openness that can come only from an inner shrine that is unwavering. More deeply, with both of them the sense of wisdom is infectious because they are light in every way: alive with mischief & sparkle, unimpressed with themselves and ready to see, and bear out in their every action, that delight is as much a part of life’s adventure as is sober rumination.”
    Dana Sawyer “Huston Smith: Wisdomkeeper. Living the World’s Religions. The Authorized Biography of a 21st Century Spiritual Giant.” Fons Vitae, 2014.

    "The most important factor in maintaining peace within oneself, in the face of any difficulty, is one's mental attitude. If it is distorted by such feelings as anger, attachment, or jealousy, then even the most comfortable environment will bring one no peace. On the other hand, if one's attitude is generally calm & gentle, then even a hostile environment will have little effect on one's own inner peace. Since the basic source of peace & happiness is one's own mental attitude, it is worthwhile adopting means to develop it in a positive way." Dalai Lama

    “When everything that can be let go of is let go of, what remains is what we desire above all else.” Rupert Spira

    After you let go of enough ego, you naturally feel the peace & joy of your Self.” Lester Levenson

    "If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is: Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern." William Blake

    "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."
Finley WONDERFUL Interview

    "It was when I was loving that I was happiest. That happiness equated to my capacity to love rather than to being loved." Lester Levenson

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

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,
what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.
And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am."
    Rainer Maria Rilke - Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29 Translated by Joanna Macy

    “When you came into this world, you cried and everyone else smiled. You should so live your life that when you leave, everyone else will cry, but you will be smiling.”
Yogananda, quoted in Dana Sawyer “Huston Smith: Wisdomkeeper. Living the World’s Religions. The Authorized Biography of a 21st Century Spiritual Giant.” Fons Vitae, 2014.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Sparks of Wisdom Glowing Brighter

    From a very young age, from before I could speak, I've had a calm, intuitive sense of what's right, true & meaningful, and felt a deep empathic connection towards suffering humans & animals. This same sense seems to have given rise to a few sporadic instances of my inexplicably knowing, with a quiet confidence, that an important, specific, future event would turn out well.
get a glimpse of this unusual sense of intimate familiarity or oneness with the cosmos after a few drinks - the feeling of being "in love with the whole world." There's immediate pressure then to quickly dismiss it as "just the booze talking." After all, the only taboo remaining in our Western society is the one against anything that might be deeply meaningful!
    Indeed, by
around age 2, we start being conditioned by the prevailing dogmatic belief that human beings & other living "things" are accidental,
isolated lumps of matter, in a mechanical, meaningless universe. So, we spend much of our adult lives trying to be as happy as possible given this narrow, stunted worldview.

    “Our talent for division, for seeing the parts (reductionist left hemisphere), is of staggering importance – second only to our capacity to transcend it, in order to see the whole (right hemisphere).” Iain McGilchrist

    “Not only is the universe stranger than we think,
it is stranger than we can think.” Werner Heisenberg

    “There is but one cause of failure
And that is man’s lack of faith
his true Self
.” William 

All shall be well,
and all shall be well,
and all manner of things shall be well." Julian of Norwich, English Christian mystic

    “So long as one is merely on the surface of things
they are always imperfect, unsatisfactory, incomplete.
    Penetrate into the 
everything is perfect, complete, whole.” Philip Kapleau

    "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

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

    Fortunately, at least a small "spark" of early-childhood's innocent form of unity consciousness survives into adulthood, and many feel that at this pivotal time in human history, this spark is increasingly becoming fanned towards awakening.

    Spiritual practices are methods that can begin to soften our stance toward our self, toward life in general, and to open us to what transcends the habitual. They are invitations to become intimate with the wisdom of silence & stillness.”
    Dorothy Hunt. “Ending the Search. From Spiritual Ambition to the Heart of Awareness.” Sounds True, 2018.

 Two (imho) EXCELLENT 15-minute Eckhart Tolle videos:

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Deeper Dimensions of Acceptance

    We all keep the seriously-challenging & most meaningful aspects of life at a tolerable distance by exclusively relying on our left hemisphere. The left hemisphere can only undervalue & try to drown out the right hemisphere. The right hemisphere is open to the left hemisphere's valuable but limited role IN CONTEXT of the right hemisphere's infinitely broader & deeper perspective of life & our true nature.
of us would do very well to immerse ourselves in psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist's decades of research findings, which skillfully update our understanding of how our two brain hemispheres profoundly affect our self-concepts, worldviews & our very survival:

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

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

    "I was born
     when all I once feared
     I could love.” Rabia Basri

    "Once we are willing to be directly intimate with our life as it arises, joy emerges out of the simplest of life experiences." Roshi Pat Enkyo O'Hara

    These 3 documentaries are imho well worth watching: "Stories We Tell" (2012, Netflix); "Selena Gomez: My Mind and Me" (2022, Apple TV+); and "Stutz" (2022, Netflix). In each, a well-known celebrity: Sarah Polley, Selena Gomez & Jonah Hill, respectively, lovingly share intimate details about themselves, as if we were very close friends.
movies are gentle, indirect invitations for each of us to open our own hearts - classically - first to ourselves, which is the most challenging for many of us, and then to loved ones, 'neutral' folks we barely know, then folks we have a bit of difficulty with, and finally long-time 'enemies. Sharon Salzberg is the go-to meditation teacher for 'Loving-kindness meditation' eg

    Here's my humble suggestion for the 'BEST PRESENT EVER.' I promise that this will make you feel happier & more 'in control of your life' - in the best possible ways - than from any present you've ever received or given.
    START TODAY! Take 15 minutes to sit quietly by yourself. Bring to mind
one person whom you've had a difficult relationship, and whom you'll be meeting within a week or so. This could be a
family member, someone you work with, client, etc. I now warmly encourage you to do loving-kindness meditation specifically for this person. For just a few minutes, intentionally replace your usual adversarial self-talk about this person with kind wishesat least once a day, for a week. With heart-felt sincerity, offer these wishes for this person, silently, 3 times slowly:

        May you be safe.
        May you be as healthy as possible.
        May you be happy.
        May you live with ease.

    • First, YOU are transformed as your heart de-armors, relaxes, opens & warms up a bit;
    • Then HOW you engage with this person, pleasantly surprises them, because you're now naturally embodying more balance, kindness, relatability & approachability; and less armoring / anxiety / anger / aggression.
    • This puts THEM at ease,
    • Then YOU find them surprisingly more pleasant & enjoyable to be with.

    You’ve just performed a miracle - transformed a hellish relationship into at least a neutral one, but perhaps a real friendship! You've ended a 'hurt child's' adversarial cycle & intentionally nurtured a wise elder 'tend & befriend' cycle! ENJOY your best present ever! Now you may well be motivated to continue with loving-kindness meditations for others - INCLUDING yourself.

    “It never hurts to think too highly of a person (OUR SELF INCLUDED!!!); often they become ennobled & act better because of it.” 
Nelson Mandela


Treasure Yourself ... by Mollycules