Friday, June 30, 2023

A Simple, Powerful Practice

    Awareness is the very essence of each of our minds. It is the gravitational pull of our true nature on the apparently separate self or finite mind. That is where the power of meditation comes from – the gravitational force of our true nature attracting itself back to itself.Rupert Spira, "Self Enquiry vs Mantra Meditation" :

    Below is Helen Hamilton's wonderful self-inquiry practice guiding us to embody our true nature, and thus enjoy profound peace. This occurs as we release our fear-based 'me alone against the world' delusion, and we open up to embrace the 'unitive mystical experience' - a profound felt sense of oneness - a key component of all of the world's mystical traditions.
derive the most from Helen's instructions, I suggest turning on & listening to her video (bottom of page) WHILE reading along using this transcript:

    “We are in satsang today for the highest of reasons – the culmination of human evolution is to realize the true essence of our being, what it actually is who we really are.
    And that is something very different to what we might have thought we were. This illusion persists for quite some time, that we are a separate person living in a body that’s separate to everyone else; that there are an infinite number of beings; and that when the body goes, we go.
    So in satsang we’re here to turn that around to the experiential, lived & effortless, constant realization that of who we really are. What does it actually mean to live constantly, effortlessly knowing who we are – when it’s not a mentally remembering anymore? What does this actually entail?
    I can only ever speak from my own experience and for me that was peace – a deep, profound peace. It’s not something up in our head that we’re carrying around – this understanding that I’m not separate to anyone else. It drops deeper than the mind. It drops into the heart, and then even eventually deep down, right into the cells of the body. And this understanding that I’m not separate really, that there’s only one of us here, no matter what our mind may think, results in this deep, deep quietness & peace, and eventually a complete lack of fear. Eventually that manifests as a kind of deep love & intimacy with all of life, all of existence, because underneath our mind’s ideas, we know deep down that it’s all always our Self that we’re meeting. Even if we think we’re meeting someone else, we never really have actually. So we all need reminding of who we really are until we don’t anymore, until it’s become effortless.
    And that’s what satsang is for. And the role of any authentic teacher is really to just keep saying this same thing over & over again, which is all I’m doing here, showing the same thing over & over again. And each time we see it, it cuts through the fog or veil of illusion that we are this someone, and it begins to quieten the mind down, when we realize more & more deeply that: what we’re thinking about; who we’re thinking about; where we’re trying to get to; and who we’re trying to become, might not actually be based on reality. That the actual reality is that there’s only one being here in existence, and it’s manifesting, appearing as all of this universe in fact.
    So all of our thought processes about what to do about this other being; what to do about this other thing that we want, or need, or want to get rid of; become less & less relevant and eventually we’re just not interested anymore. And that takes as long as it takes, but we can fuel & speed that process by coming to satsang like this.
    I wanted to take a different look at self-inquiry and do some
self-inquiry live today. For me, self-inquiry was perhaps the thing I was confused about most, for the longest time. I had the sense, when I first came across this phrase ‘self-inquiry,’ that it was something that the mind had to get. In my mind, it was like, ‘Everybody’s tried to make it very complicated,’ as a way of resisting doing it. ‘If it feels too complicated, I don’t want to go there,’ – that kind of feeling. ‘I’m never going to be able to figure it out naturally.’ But I was surprised and delighted to discover that self-inquiry is one of the simplest things we can actually ever do.
    Self-inquiry could be as simple as asking to find out who we really are, what we really are, and then noticing the answers. Most of us have this belief that it’s hard to find out who we are, and we experience that belief. And it’s even harder perhaps, we feel, to live as that. So I want to approach self-inquiry from a different perspective today – in a way that I’ve called, very lightly, the inclusive method.
    We’re perhaps more familiar with the neti neti approach, which just means everything that I perceive, I am not that – in an attempt to get down to the most essential core of my being, I’m not my thoughts; I’m not my emotions; I’m not my experiences; I’m not my desires; I’m not my body; - on & on & on it goes, until I’m left with nothing, literally 'no thingness' – that must be what I am. And that’s the only thing that that’s not going to go. Well this approach has worked for many, many beings, but I never really got to grips with that approach, at least at first.
    I’m sure many teachers have done this – but I stumbled upon this (‘inclusive’) inquiry of including everything. And I had this epiphany one day that maybe the answers to the question, ‘Who am I?’ ‘What am I?’ are so immediately obvious that we can’t accept them; that we don’t accept them.
    So ask this question, that really worked for me, ‘What am I?’ And if you prefer, you can substitute the question, ‘Who am I?’ or ‘Where am I?’ – whichever one you like. I’m going to go with the question, ‘What am I?’ just for the sake of what really worked for me. And we’re going to accept that if we are the only thing in existence, the moment we ask this question, we must receive an answer. So it’s about opening up, and including all the answers we wouldn’t have previously included as answers. So work with this, and perhaps you’ll begin to see self-inquiry in a different light.
    To begin, let’s keep our eyes open, at least at first. Ask this question, ‘What am I?’ Immediately, I can hear a computer fan going, so there’s my first answer, ‘I am the computer fan.’ I can also hear my own breathing – ‘I am my breathing.’ I notice my body sitting here – ‘I am my body too.’ I hear birds singing outside the back of the house – ‘I am the birds singing, the bird-song.’ I can feel the air touching my face – ‘I am the air too.’ A car just drove past outside my house as I was saying that last sentence – ‘I am that car too.’
    So these might be answers that we wouldn’t normally include in a question, and as human beings we tend to fixate only on the answers that appear between our ears or feel inside our body. So this inclusive method is really just a way of opening up to all the answers that are being given right now.
    My body feels quite warm, so I am that heat. What else am I? Well, I am this (scarf I’m wearing), and these (bracelets I’m wearing), there’s another person in the room – Claire – I am Claire too. I see all of you – I am you too. In this way of opening up to who we really are is so immediate, that perhaps we might reject it. I am all the objects in the room that I’m perceiving. Everything my senses are taking in – I am that. And if I am you, I’m also everything that your senses are perceiving. If someone were to knock on the door or a phone were to ring or an ambulance siren went off, I’d be all of those too. If I got an itch or I had to sneeze, I’d be those too.
    This might be a different way of doing self-inquiry than you’re used to, but just feeling that your body can recognize the truth of the immediacy of this way of doing it. In between these words there’s a silent stillness – I am that too. There’s a spaciousness between all the objects. It’s also silence – same, same, I am that. But that is just another answer here in this inquiry. It’s not ‘the’ answer. It’s not even the right answer. There isn’t a right answer. There’s just the question, ‘What am I?’ and all the answers.
    Just looking around your environment, listening to what you’re actually hearing – subtle sounds, what subtle answers are you getting right now? Are there any smells? Are you hot or cold? Can you accept that these are answers to this most important question – ‘What really am I?’
    Self-inquiry for me, became so very immediate or I saw that it had always been. The moment I’d wanted to find out what I was, the very first time I realized that there was something to realize, life was answering that question consistently & continuously. And it took me all that time to learn to receive the actual answers. Wherever my body could go, if it could go to the other side of the universe somehow to a distant galaxy, I would also be everything I was experiencing there, and everything in between. I am these words. I am your experience.
    When we use this inclusive method, our body begins to relax. The more that we open and focus on the question – not trying to focus on the answers because the answers are all just coming – naturally there’s just peace, because we’re not limiting ourselves to any particular definition. We’re not even saying, ‘I am the silence, and not these words, these sounds.’ We’re including everything: phenomena and that which they arise from – all objects and that which is not an object. If some fear were to arise, I am that too – another answer. If I feel confused and not sure if I’m doing this right, I am that confusion too. If I have an epiphany, an aha moment, I am that too.
    But your whole life then, every experience, every moment, can be an answer to this question, ‘What am I?’ I am my boss when he’s angry. I am my friend’s birthday party. I am the airplane. On & on & on with phenomenal answers, and the noticing more & more constantly of the non-phenomenal answer: the Noumenon – the silent, stillness, consciousness, presence – whatever you want to call that. Not even preferring the Noumenon over the phenomena, because they’re really one and the same. So could the answer to this question be not so much of a thought process, or even an epiphany, although those are fine, but a lived, constant receiving of the answers to this question? Life is showing you constantly what you really are. And really moving away from trying to find a final answer, because there isn’t one, there’s one answer that’s always present: the silence, the stillness. And we come to notice it more. But it’s not really the right answer. There isn’t one. It’s just the only constant answer. It doesn’t make it better. It doesn’t make it different to the phenomenal answers which are coming and going. They’re just checking your environment around you noticing the subtle answers you’re receiving, even now. Noticing that your body begins to really resonate with this inclusive method. There’s no work here to do. There’s just an opening up to all the different types of answers that we receive to this powerful question, ‘What really am I?’
    We might even begin to realize that we’ve only really suffered because we valued our mind’s answers more than everything else, and perhaps excluded everything else, that we only value mind’s answers & thoughts – we experience those. We can simply open up at any point and see what other answers we’re missing out on. Maybe self-inquiry then becomes something that we be rather than we do; becomes a way of living, a mode of being, where everything we encounter – internal phenomena, thoughts, experiences, emotions, sense perceptions, everything external, seeming other beings, other things – begin to be recognized as our very own self. The more we practice this inclusive open way of inquiring, the more & more obvious it becomes that all of this is you. If these words aren’t coming from somewhere outside of you, they’re coming from inside, inside your own being, the only being.
    And maybe life can be simply a process of life showing us which answers we have excluded because we don’t like them. Fear, guilt, shame, anger, other beings that we have a challenge with, and being willing to include them. That is also me, this is how I’m showing up right now. I’m also appearing as this shame, this frustration, this irritated person in front of me at the supermarket.
    You can appear in an infinite number of ways. And as you practice like this, you lose the attachment to the particular body that’s here right now. I am all of these bodies. Bodies are coming and going constantly. Yes, we look after and value this body, but we don’t need to be scared when it’s gone. And we recognize we are all of existence. So just feel right now, just for in terms of getting used to self-inquiry, if you like it like this, and this has been easier for you, then this will take you all the way into full realization.
    Just remembering gently to ask the question throughout the day, ‘What am I?’ ‘What else am I?’ Seeing every now and again if we haven’t closed up and begun to exclude things that we think are external – sounds and other people and all of that. Out of habit, we close back up again, and start to only listen to thoughts & emotions, giving them a specialness over everything else that’s in existence. But here in this way of inquiring, a thought is really no more special than a sofa, a human body, or a cloud. They all have the sameness. It’s just another way I am appearing. I’m appearing as this judgmental thought, as this angry thought. I’m appearing as bliss, or peace, or frustration, or sadness, or snow, or sunshine. Appearing as the smallest subatomic particle and the whole universe itself. Anything that I can perceive must be an answer to this question, ‘What really am I?’
    Can we accept that it can be this simple and direct? Do we have to make it more complicated than this? Then just living like this for a while becomes a habit, where you somehow, in the middle of all that, forget how to divide yourself into me and other. The more we include, include, include, the bigger our self-definition gets until it becomes as big as the universe and its source. And that need not take very long at all. What takes the time is our habit of closing back up, excluding again. So for a little while you’ll be opening up, including, then forgetting about that and focusing back on thoughts and beginning to suffer, and then you’ll open up again and feel peaceful, expansive, and then you’ll close down again. After a little while, with consistency, you’ll forget how to focus on only one type of answer - on thoughts. I hope that you’ve had a different experience of self-inquiry than maybe you’ve had before. I hope that it is more accessible, and perhaps more pleasant and peaceful and much more effortless. It really is just about asking the question and being open to see how immediate the answers might be. Being willing to see the different types of answers, things that perhaps you wouldn’t normally guess as answers to a question: a bird singing, the siren wailing, the rain falling – yet they are here. When I ask the question, what I experience must be the answer.”
Helen Hamilton "What really am I?"

Helen Hamilton "What really am I?"

Monday, June 26, 2023

Turning Words and Moments

    In Zen, a 'turning word' is a phrase from an awakened teacher to help prompt awakening in a student, already on the verge of awakening. Everything hinges on our readiness to hear or see what's 'hidden in plain sight.' And then, we may, at least briefly, pass through the 'diaphanous veil' or 'gateless gate' between heaven and earth.      

“And I have felt a presence that disturbs me with
the joy of elevated thoughts;
a sense sublime of something far more deeply interfused,
whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
and the round ocean and the living air,
and the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
a motion and a spirit that impels all thinking things,
all objects of thought,
and rolls through all things."
William Wordsworth, 'Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey'

    Below are the closing paragraphs of Thomas Merton's book ‘New Seeds of Contemplation,’ which James Finley considers worthy of repeatedly quoting. In it, Merton lists several turning moments, if you will, 'ordinary miracles' we all encounter from time to time. (NOTE Merton referred to God exclusively as ‘He’ because in the 50s & 60s they didn't know better.)

    “What is serious to us is often very trivial in the sight of God. What in God might appear to us as ‘play’ is perhaps what He Himself takes most seriously. At any rate the Lord plays and diverts Himself in the garden of His creation, and if we could let go of our own obsession with what we think is the meaning of it all, we might be able to hear His call and follow Him in His mysterious, cosmic dance. We do not have to go very far to catch echoes of that game, and of that dancing. When we are alone on a starlit night; when by chance we see the migrating birds in autumn descending on a grove of junipers to rest and eat; when we see children in a moment when they are really children; when we know love in our own hearts; or when, like the Japanese poet Basho we hear an old frog land in a quiet pond with a solitary splash – at such times the awakening, the turning inside out of all values, the ’newness,’ the emptiness and the purity of vision that make themselves evident, provide a glimpse of the cosmic dance.
    For the world and time are the dance of the Lord in emptiness. The silence of the spheres is the music of a wedding feast. The more we persist in misunderstanding the phenomena of life, the more we analyze them out into strange finalities and complex purposes of our own, the more we involve ourselves in sadness, absurdity and despair. But it does not matter much, because no despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there. Indeed, we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it to or not.
    Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance.

    Thomas Merton. “New Seeds of Contemplation” New Directions, 1961.

    James Finley's commentary on the above:
    “The passage invites us to see how life is such that, from time to time, an extraordinary thing happens. We’re going along ruminating over this and that, when in something as simple as turning to see a flock of birds descending, or in something as simple as watching children at play, where something as intimate as knowing love in our own hearts, we’re interiorly quickened, we’re interiorly awakened to a deep visceral realization that this is holy, that this is real, that this is precious, that this is the way that every moment, deep down really is. These are moments that disclose to us the inherent holiness of life itself, the already perfectly holy nature of the present moment, just the way it is.
    It seems then to me, that by taking these moments and reflecting on them deeply, they can provide for us a way of beginning to understand what it means to live a contemplative way of life in the midst of today’s world. What it would be like, if we could only learn to walk around this aware all the time, of what our life always is. That is, what would it mean to walk into a room, and instantly become aware of the inherent holiness of everything that’s there, and to interiorly reverence it, and to honor it, and to be faithful to it?

    James Finley, “Thomas Merton's Path to the Palace of Nowhere. The Essential Guide to the Contemplative Teachings of Thomas Merton.” Sounds True, 2014. (9h 34m Audiobook - also available from the Halifax Public library via the free app Hoopla) EXCELLENT

    “Pay attention to the world around you, to the leaves and the flowers, to the birds and the rain. If you can stop and look deeply, you will recognize your beloved manifesting again and again in many forms.” Thich Nhat Hanh

    “When we trust with our open heart, whatever occurs, at that very moment that it occurs, can be perceived as fresh & unstained by the clouds of hope & fear.”
Dr. Jeremy Hayward


"The Three Sisters" Ballachulish - Glencoe - Scotland


Saturday, June 17, 2023


    “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” C. S. Lewis 

    This unquenchable thirst for more is surely the common experience of most maturing humans. Of course not all of us mature. And how we perceive the world depends entirely on our level of spiritual maturity.
    It is our great fortune to have, readily available, the writings of profound mystics like the late Thomas Merton, and his student, former monk, clinical psychologist & Merton-scholar, James Finley
    As I ever-so-slowly walk along our one common healing path, the path towards becoming whole, mature human beings, I increasingly recognize, understand & resonate with the message Merton, Finley, and mystics of all wisdom traditions have been trying to convey throughout time.

    "Mystics are those who have largely dropped the desire to become, and who are able to be with life as it is. John of the Cross put it succinctly when he wrote,
            'To arrive at being all,
             desire to be nothing.'
    The goal of the spiritual life is to discover that there is in fact no goal, that we are to be 'that which, in God, we have always been,' in the words of Meister Eckhart. As Thomas Merton once said at an Asian conference of Christian & non-Christian monks, 'My dear brothers, we are already one. But we imagine that we are not. What we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are.' When we're no longer trying to become somebody, when we've ceased struggling to be anything, we are able to rest in the truth of what we already are." 
Terence Grant. "The Silence of Unknowing: The Key to the Spiritual Life." Liguori, 1989.

    "We need each other. 'The begging bowl of the Buddha,' Catholic monk Thomas Merton explains,' represents not just a right to beg, but openness to the gifts of all human beings as an expression of this interdependence of all beings... Thus when a monk begs from the layman it is not as a selfish person getting something from someone else. He is simply opening himself to his interdependence.'
    Be open like the monk with a begging bowl. Be open like a flower to the sun. Be open like an artist awaiting her muse...
    Recognize that like a monk with a begging bowl, your openness to the gifts of the universe is what holds you in its warm embrace."
Frederic Brussat, Mary Ann Brussat. "Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life.” Scribner, 1996.

    This imho is Thomas Merton's take on the ancient Hindu greeting, 'Namaste' which he wrote shortly before his death:
    "At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of 'absolute poverty' is the pure glory of God in us. It is so to speak His name written in us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence, as our sonship / daughtership. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of the sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely... I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere."
Donald W. Mitchell, James A. Wiseman. "The Gethsemani Encounter. A Dialogue on the Spiritual Life by Buddhist and Christian Monastics." Continuum, 1997.

Blue Rodeo "Lost Together"


Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Nutrition in a Fast-Food World

"There are those who are trying
to set fire to the world.
We are in danger.
There is time only to work slowly,
There is no time not to love." Deena Metzger

     James Finley is a wise 'finger pointing at the moon.' He's a mystic whose primary path happens to be Christian, AND is deeply influenced by Buddhism, AND deeply respects Hindu, Taoist, Aboriginal, Jewish, Sufi and other mystics.

    “When you consider all the saints and prophets as legitimate and no longer differentiate between religions, you have arrived at the stage of truth.” Ostad Elahi (1895-1974)

    “It seems to me that this transformative process continues on throughout our lives. For as long as we are on this earth, we are children of the light finding our way through darkness. The task, it seems to me, is for us to continue to pass beyond immature understanding of spiritual matters formed in times of innocence and in times of trauma and abandonment by learning to cultivate more mature, reality-based ways of understanding the deep healing that spirituality brings into our lives. At the same time, we must be careful not to allow our adult, conceptual comprehension of such things to close off the childlike opening of wonder through which the graces and gifts of God flow into our lives. We must always keep in mind, as Gabriel Marcel phrased it, that ‘we do not see the light; rather, we are the aperture through which it shines.’”
    James Finley. “The Healing Path. A Memoir and an Invitation.” Orbis, 2023. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

    Tastes of 'mysticism' ...
    “Let’s say that you’ve been fortunate to be in a deep marital love relationship, that has been for you so transformative and so profound and so life-changing that you feel immense gratitude. You get a phone call from someone you knew in high school but haven’t seen in years, and they say they’re passing through town and wants to catch up with you. You’re glad, because you were friends in high school, so it would be interesting. And you’re talking & sharing about your work and what’s happened, and so on. And you tell this person about your spouse – about how you met, about the person’s character, you show photographs of what the person looks like, and your friend says, ‘Yes, I know, but what I’d like to know is this, who is it that you know the person to be, not factually, but in your love for this person?’
    And all of a sudden you realize that nothing you could say would do justice to who you know the person to be in love, and your heart breaks when you try. And your grace would be strangely made whole by having your heart broken by this love that can’t be expressed adequately in words. That’s mysticism. It’s like the unexpected nearness of the upwelling of a gift that cannot be explained. It washes over you and it touches you."

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

    "Thomas Merton at the end of ‘New Seeds of Contemplation’ gives a litany of examples of this. He says in the midst of nature imagine you’re out walking and you turn to see a flock of birds descending. And he says, as if out of the corner of your eye, you catch in their descent something primordial, vast & true, and you’re interiorly quickened in a kind of subtle enrichment of awareness – a sensing that in some way you can’t explain, God’s the Infinity of the intimate immediacy of the birds in their decent. And the birds in their descent is the concrete immediacy of God. And the concrete immediacy of God is in you being awakened to that. And your mood is to just sit down and sit there for a while – ‘Like what in the hell was that?’ I can’t say it, but having tasted it, I will not break faith with my awakened heart. I will not play the cynic. In an unexpected hour I was quickened with this oneness.
    He says, sometimes it can happen also in the presence of a child, reading a child a good-night story, and you’re just literally unraveled by the presence of this child.
    Or we’re sitting in the presence of a dying loved one – like the mystery of it all.
    We’re lying awake at night listening to the rain pour down all about the house and a sense comes over you like this.

    So I think we all have moments like this, but we don’t live in a society that teaches us to become students of these moments. Because what starts to happen for some people with these touches that happen every so often - there’s the desire to abide in the depths of the leadingly glimpsed. That is, having tasted the Oneness, and it has about it the feeling of that which never ends.

    What would be a path or a way of life, where could I find someone well-seasoned in such things that could guide me? And this is the guidance of the mystic, turning to the mystics for guidance. They offer practical guidance. First of all, how to discern that it’s happening to you? Because sometimes it’s so subtle, you don’t calibrate your heart to a fine enough scale to pick that up, and then how can you cooperate with it? How can you go along with being transformed by God into God unexplainably forever in the ordinariness of your life? That’s the feeling that it has for me.

    In the momentum of the day’s demands, just the complexities of life, most of the things we notice, we notice in passing on the way to something else. Then you get the feeling that you’re skimming over the surface of the depths of your own life. And what’s regrettable is that God’s unexplainable Oneness with you is hidden in the depths over which you’re skimming. But in moments like this, like a hiatus in sequential time, you’re born again, like you’re quickened like this. And then being quickened, This is what the root world religion means – religio – a religio is a ligature to be rebound to the origin. We need to be rebound because we’ve been exiled from it. So how can I be rebound to this upwelling of this flowing out of this Divine generosity which alone is ultimately real? And how can I be more habitually sensitive to it and responsive to it so I can live it every day and share it with others by the way I treat them, listen to them, and walk the earth?"
    James Finley (1hr 28mins) interview – EXCEPTIONAL :



Friday, June 2, 2023

Reminders to Keep Evolving

    A couple of reminders:
    I write these blogs partially as reminders for myself - I aspire towards these things I write about. Like you, I'm in the process of "awakening". The quotes I select seem to me to be wise "fingers pointing toward the moon" - they point towards the Mystery from which, in my (& many others') humble opinion, we arise and to which we return.
    And it's normal for us to initially resist evolution / transformative growth:
    All truth goes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Then it is violently opposed. Finally it is accepted as self-evident.” Arthur Schopenhauer, 19th-century German philosopher
    Anyone with the slightest connection to the power of love (Mystery, Divine, Tao, Source, God, etc) understands that all motivation is based on at least loving & nurturing oneself, one's family & tribe towards long-term happiness. Gradually, this primitive instinctual self-serving love, naturally evolves (from egocentric to allocentric & ecocentric) to include progressively wider circles of compassion eventually including all of life, all of matter.
    Not knowing we are loved & lovable makes the heart grow cold. And all the tragedy of human life follows from there." John Welwood. "Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships. Healing the Wound of the Heart." Trumpeter, 2006. 

    It's very difficult to understand behavior where love seems to be completely missing. Examples: 
    those who continue starting wildfires in our forests & cities while many others lose everything, despite the valiant tireless efforts of firefighters who risk their health & lives,
    •  bullying in schools & workplace
    • "presidents-for-life," populist politicians & other large scale bullies who incite their followers to work against humanity's common good & start wars for personal gain.
    Anger & disgust at such behavior is entirely reasonable & even potentially helpful, BUT it can easily degenerate into dehumanizing individual perpetrators. Though it's not easy to remember, they are human beings, and we need to remember to become curious about the many hidden causes & conditions behind their harmful behavior instead of harshly writing them off as "inhuman." Imagine if one of these "horrible perps" was your only child - wouldn't you want them to get the best, most compassionate mental-health care (rather than the harshest punishment)?
    IF we survive our current reckless disregard for the common good, those reading history books 50 years from now will find it very hard to believe the ridiculous things we said, did & most of all failed to do over the past decade or so. 
    My hope is that there will be enough wise, energetic young leaders - like New Zealand's recent Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern - to inspire & energize our comatose "silent majority" into life-affirming action

    Such, it seems to me, are the mysterious interior conduits of grace in which transmissions of holiness & destiny flow from one awakening heart to another.” James Finley. “The Healing Path. A Memoir and an Invitation.” Orbis, 2023.

    “The easy path of aging is to become a thick-skinned, unbudging curmudgeon, a battle-axe. To grow soft and sweet is the harder way.” James Hillman
     As the quote above suggests, after experiencing hardships, it's natural & easy to shut down, get armored up, yet remain hypersensitive & become easily triggered by reminders of trauma we've suffered.
    But I'm inspired by those who've endured, learned from, healed and have grown wiser as a result of very challenging lives. Two EXCELLENT examples of such exemplars:    
      Isira. "Buddha on the Dance Floor." ‎ Living Awareness, 2014.
      James Finley. “The Healing Path. A Memoir and an Invitation.” Orbis, 2023. 
    And a classic book on the general topic of "post-traumatic growth" - though this term had not yet been used at the time: 
     Elizabeth Lesser. “Broken Open. How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow.” Villard, 2005.

    The body is only an effect, of which Love is the cause. As I realised this I could release myself from the need to validate my being through any body or personality identity. Who or what I had been or am in body is truly an insignificant mirage next to the knowing of myself as Love. Knowing this, and what that love was to do, was the only thing that mattered.
    And that pointed me to one place alone. The past, memories of identity, or the searching of future attainments, are all the ego’s clinging to that which is not real. The place of love was and remains the being I AM, eternally NOW.”
Isira “Buddha on the Dance Floor.” Living Awareness, 2015.


    ... my discovery was that life is the guru. Life is constantly calling you, like the beloved, into its arms, inviting you, not just to have a blissful experience, but through the darkness, through the difficulties, through the challenges, through the darkest places (it doesn’t have to be terrible on the external), but through the places that we hide from ourselves within ourselves, to surrender to that because everything is lovein the darkest places is light. And somehow that was the wisdom I gained from my own direct experience. ... And that’s what changed everything – it was unexpected.” Amoda Maa Talks About Her Life Before Awakening :


     We are human beings, endowed with an incredible dignity; but there’s nothing more undignified than forgetting our greatness & clutching at straws.” Peter Kingsley