Wednesday, May 24, 2023

The Most Important Thing

    “The most important thing is to remember the most important thing.” Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi

    In his fine recent blog, Ron Epstein wrote that for his mother, who had dementia & stage IV lung cancer, "Remembering the most important thing and forgetting the rest helped her to live with calmness, agency, gratitude, & dignity."
wonderful human capacity to thrive, even in situations that we usually fear & try desperately to avoid, is also found among : serious meditators & contemplatives, those who've had post-traumatic growth, near-death experiences,
taken entheogens in carefully-controlled settings, etc.

    Fear and our survival instinct's (understandable) obsession with keeping us alive, despite the inevitability of death, keeps most of us at least a little disturbed for much of our life. The above groups, probably accounting for more than half of us, experience a radical shift in focus of attention from fearful, closed-down self-centeredness, to a profound heart-opening & loving connection with others.

    “We suffer to the exact degree that we resist having our eyes & hearts opened.” Adyashanti

“All the joy the world contains
Has come through wishing happiness for others;
All the misery the world contains
Has come through wanting pleasure for oneself.” 


     As we age, we can't help but notice how even our most basic physical, and some of our intellectual skills, are progressively diminishing. Then as we look at our aging loved ones, friends and even strangers we finally know through direct experience that indeed "everyone is carrying a heavy load." And so, our competitiveness & judgmental tendencies gradually evaporate, and we begin to wish the best for all the rest of humanity limping home.

    "meditate one-pointedly on patience & love until they take root in your being. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

    “… the larger ties that bind us – ties of love, connection, purpose – have ripple effects on our health and the world at large.”
    Kelli Harding. “The Rabbit Effect. Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier with the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness.” Atria Books, 2019.

Light Voyagers, oil on canvas, © Copyright, Mark Henson

Monday, May 15, 2023

Insulted? Reply with, "Namaste"

    I've recently witnessed first-hand Covid's corrosive effects on peoples' mental health. It's frighteningly easy, even for people we had previously considered to be reasonable, intelligent, educated friends, to suddenly vent an alarming amount & degree of nastiness that we never saw coming. Though this could be partially due to alcohol- & age-related executive-function decline, isolation under more-or-less house-arrest conditions for several years, clearly has driven some of us "shack-wacky!"
ego's natural reaction to such violent behavior is to counter-attack, which would just start one more useless, unwinnable, ever-escalating 'pissing contest.' At some point individuals, and finally all human beings MUST realize the utter insanity of ego vs ego battles - no matter how skilled we are at fabricating gradiose rationale for our unacceptable behavior.
    "Is there any rule that one should follow all of one's life? Yes! The rule of the gentle goodness: That which we do not wish to be done to us, we do not do to others."
T'ai-Shang Kan-Ying P'ien (Taoism) Wisdom traditions throughout the ages have advised similar basic rules of conduct.

    Love is the recognition of shared being.” Rupert Spira

     “Maybe, when talking about love, we could say, ‘Let our blind spots fall in love. Let the stranger in me fall in love with the stranger in you. Let the I that I’m becoming fall in love with the you I haven’t yet discovered and can’t even imagine.’ That would be a more realistic way of relating to one another. And, ironically, also more loving.” Vanessa Zuisei Goddard

    "… the essentials are inner virtues or capacities that are activated – switched on and embodied. These inner powers open consciousness and thus enable us to contact and understand the world. The world opens & is revealed to us to the extent that we can open & receive it. This is a kind of physics of the unfolding mind."
    Tobin Hart “The Four Virtues. Presence, Heart, Wisdom, Creation.” Atria, 2014.

    ALL of us operate at (at least) 2 very different levels of consciousness or 'kinds of psychological history':
    "One is the history of pain, discouragement, missed opportunities, unfulfilled hopes, & unrealized possibilities in relationships. Such a history of neurosis has a compelling quality that can freeze the therapeutic (& all other) relationships into an endless dissection, searching for the origin of inhibited development. The implicit question becomes, ‘Where did things go wrong?’ Such a story is frequently filled with fear, guilt, blame, & aggression; it resembles the history of nations at war, where one war inexorably triggers another in the ageless recycling of insult & territorial revenge. The story line threads together a variety of memories with an explanation of why one event follows another and how one got to be the way one is.
    On the other hand, embedded within the history of neurosis is another kind of history – the history of SANITY. The history of sanity is episodic and often appears fleeting & subtle. This history of wakefulness, dignity, & patience is often lost by people in despair. To perceive the history of sanity, we need curiosity and effort to look beyond immediate appearances.
    Edward Podvoll MD, in John Welwood ed. “Awakening the Heart. East / West Approaches to Psychotherapy and the Healing Relationship.” Shambhala, 1983.
    When we are able to relate directly to 'the other's' wakefulness (Divine or True nature), and can become curious about their history of sanity, a different kind of relationship can develop: one of mutual appreciation & trust, instead of one based on bad behavior or neuroses.

    So if some of our (former?) friends startled us by dumping a bucket of fiery venom on our head, as hard as it is, we should, at least for our own peace of mind, realize that they've probably been traumatized by Covid (& perhaps several other factors) much more than we ourselves have, forgive them, say Namaste - and really mean it

    SEE my previous blogs about Namaste : 



Thursday, May 11, 2023


    "In this world we’re waking up in, we can’t just close our eyes and follow our breath — we have to find a way to contribute what we love to this world. I love to practice because I feel like that aligns me with what I could call my North Star: what will I contribute? What do I love? We’re usually good at what we love, you know.
, where is my heart needed most? That’s the question that comes to me. In some ways, the Dharma saved my life. But service gave me a life worth livingAnd that’s what made it beautiful." Vinny Ferraro


     Our very nature is the activity or energy of loving / nurturing. The more we can embody our true nature the better it is for ourselves, everyone & everything.
written about the pivotal importance of loving & nurturing - it's well-worth re-visiting these blogs imho :


     HOWEVER some, even in the relatively stable & affluent West, will find all of the above irritatingly idealistic & impractical. Why? Because for them, the only practical activity is facing existing difficulties, and everything that might go terribly wrong. For them, this 'glass half-empty' perspective is not a matter of choice, but rather a necessity based on harsh past experience. Personal & inter-generational traumas affect ALL of us, but in highly varying degrees. Refugees from war-ravaged countries; those who've lived for decades in refugee camps; abused women & children; visible minorities; those who've experienced chronic poverty, disability, lack of formal education, lack of relevant work experience, & inadequate English / French language skills; etc, can add up to almost insurmountable challenges that most of us can't even imagine. This large group of people has experienced, & thus now sees the world, VERY DIFFERENTLY!
    And even if we're fortunate enough to have had minimal direct experience of acute or ongoing forms of trauma such as poverty & racism, the news media, all forms of advertising & populist politicians spend billions each year, to keep us insecure, anxiously 'consuming' their (useless to harmful) products.
    One of the world's foremost
PTSD experts: “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 clearly can't move forward intelligently while gripped with fear & reactivity. Despite our current very serious challenges, we must learn to stabilize in some degree of spaciousness in order to manifest our true nature - our capacity to nurture ourselves, each other and our planet and extricate ourselves from the mess we've created. More & more mature, wise voices are pointing the way to do exactly this:


    Stephanie Kaza ed. "A Wild Love for the World: Joanna Macy and the Work of Our Time." Shambhala, 2020.

Joanna Macy interview by Krista Tippett:


 "All You Need Is Love" - Beatles

Monday, May 8, 2023

The Basic Basics

     It's eye-opening to periodically travel to another country. Just taking off in a plane, I feel as if I'm leaving all my usual concerns & responsibilities behind, and a whole new world of possibilities seems to open up. We see more clearly who / what WE are - or want to be!

    Individually, most of us, especially in our “WIERD” (Western Industrialized Educated Rich & Democratic) culture, have a gnawing, usually unexamined sense of "lack," "not enough."
get a group of insecure individuals together, it's very easy to rouse an energized mob mentality. Populist politicians expertly manipulate mobs to do anything at all. Throughout history, we've done, & continue doing, every type of collective bullying - "rape, pillage & plunder" - at least partially to avoid our personal nagging inferiority complex. We've called group bullying different names in different times: feudalism / monarchy / dictatorship, patriarchy / sexism / misogyny, religious conflicts, colonialism, slavery, multinational corporations, racism, etc. The ultimate result is always destruction of intelligent, nurturing collaboration and along with it, indigenous peoples & cultures.

    Bullies with the most powerful military, defeat & impose their own political, financial & religious ideas on the vanquished. In their enthusiasm to plunder, invaders are ignorant & intolerant of the human beings, ways of life, values & cultures they destroy. The "winners" go on to write creative history & celebrate their victory over "savages, heathens, etc." "Might makes right!"

    All colonial powers profited immensely from plundering former colonies. Other nations also profited from centuries of free slave labor. "The typical wealth of the 600-700 aristocratic families in Britain is estimated at about £16-20 million ... you likely can double it to account for estate planning." 
    Especially those who've profited most from centuries of bullying, would do well to humbly face the often lurid details of how their personal fortunes were made, and tone down the self-satisfied celebratory hubris. Those of us who've earned our own way in life from nothing might find it easier to empathize with the less fortunate, and be more generous & nurturing.

    Embodying our true nature, imho, is our ONLY security - to nurture all, and in the process, heal ourselves & our planet.

Even as a parent protects with their life  
their child, their only child,  
so, with a boundless heart  
should one cherish all living beings!

Radiating kindness over the entire world ...
freed from hatred and ill-will.
This is what should be done  
by those who are skilled in goodness.

The Metta Sutta (The Buddha's Words on Lovingkindness)

‎⁨St Mary Redcliffe Church⁩, ⁨Bristol⁩, ⁨England