Tuesday, October 31, 2023

The Reality in which We Live

    The reality we can (more or less) manage, is the reality in which we live.
    Based
on world events on the nightly news, our "consensual reality" is the chaos caused by a lot of  hurt children, hurting other hurt children, so that they'll stop hurting them, and thereby achieve peace & harmony.

    A good friend, who's fond of the singing group Abba, once seriously asked me to stop playing Abba's greatest hits, because if he heard a certain song, he wouldn't be able to get it out of his head for the rest of the day. Most of us probably have our own "ear worm" songs.

    But by far the most potent ear worm for almost everyone is "the story of me" - the saga of one's personal history, dramatized & edited with every re-telling, mostly to oneself through incessant internal dialogue - "self talk." We're hypnotized by the drama of "me, myself & I," asking why me? why not me? whose fault was that? We demonize - feeling regret, pain, anger, disgust, shame, rage, etc'; OR Disneyfy - wistfully dreaming of "the good old days, gone forever"; OR flip flop between the two, according to "my" needs.
    The
bottom line is that self-centeredness, while understandable, especially given the many & varied sources of trauma, is nevertheless the major cause of suffering. Life can easily be a perpetual roller-coaster of emotional highs & lows IF we insist that the causes of our unhappiness are purely external, perpetrated against "me," INSTEAD OF mostly internal - our unprocessed, closed-loop, "story of me."
   
Western psychology is very good at helping us step back from & get some perspective on the "noisy ego" (the hurt inner child protesting so loudly, that our, & our loved ones' lives are dominated, distorted & unhappy). A good psychotherapist can help us see our past & present far more accurately, allowing acceptance & self-acceptance, forgiveness & self-forgiveness, compassion & self-compassion to arise, liberating us from a life-sentence in a repetitive story-of-me echo chamber. We become able to function, with increasing consistency, in a truly healthy manner, from a "quiet ego," which is unburdened from anxious / terrified self-concern.

    In everyday life, we normally emphasize the content * of experience at the expense of being
.** In mediation or prayer, we simply soften the focus of our attention from the content of experience. We allow being to emerge, as it were, from the background of experience and shine in the foreground.
    In time, we begin to notice that the content of experience loses its capacity to veil or take us away from being. As a result, being shines not just in the background of experience, but in the midst of all experience. And as a result, the distinction between everyday life and prayer or meditation begins to dissolve.”
Rupert Spira in: Non Duality Roundtable - Adyashanti, Rupert Spira & John Prendergast : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SH4CSrzlIsk

     * The "content of experience" above is "normally" (usually) dominated by self-referential anxiety in the form of continuous self-talk, distorting one's actual live experience.
    **
"Being" is who / what we truly are, usually completely hidden / drowned out by the "noisy ego."

    Peace & quiet joy are the very nature of our being, and we share our being with everyone & everything. All that is necessary is to understand this, to feel this, and to lead a life to the best of our ability in a way that is consistent with, & an expression of, this felt understanding.” Rupert Spira https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SH4CSrzlIsk 

    “None of us are who we think we are. Who & what we are is beyond imagination, beyond comprehension by the ordinary mind, and yet we are this non-separate, seamless reality that pervades everybody & everything. The realization of this is the greatest joy, the most beautiful discovery. And to embody & live this in our ordinary life is the open challenge & invitation to each of us.” John Prendergast https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SH4CSrzlIsk 

     “I think the mystics are saying, ultimately, we’re addicted to the finite.*** We’re addicted to the finite as being an adequate base of operations.
    And when we learn to break the thread of overly identifying with the finite, the infinity **** that shines out through the finite, can be realized.”
Jim Finley https://batgap.com/james-finley/ HIGHLY RECOMMENDED INTERVIEW

    *** "The finite" refers to the material or finite world, or from a non-dual, mystic perspective, "relative reality," "consensual reality," ie how "ultimate reality" appears temporarily.
    ****
"Infinity" refers to "ultimate reality" or the non-material source of everyone & everything.

    “One could say that enlightenment is simply the recognition of the nature of our being. The inherent emptiness of being, is experienced as peace. The inherent fullness of being, is experienced as happiness. The shared nature of being, is experienced as love.” Rupert Spira https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SH4CSrzlIsk  

by Mollycules www.BuddhaDoodles.com


Monday, October 16, 2023

Accepting, Forgiving & Embracing

    Acceptance is “being open to seeing & acknowledging things as they are in the present moment; acceptance does not mean passivity or resignation, rather a clearer understanding of the present so one can more effectively respond.” Shapiro SL, Schwartz GE. “Intentional Systemic Mindfulness: An Integrative Model for Self-regulation and Health.” Adv Mind Body Med 2000; 16(2): 128-34.

MANY situations call for our acceptance – now!
    Thoughts & emotions of sadness etc about past events, and fear etc of future imagined events need acceptance now.
    The thought of death – our own & that of our loved ones – though frightening, is best dealt with a friendly, open mind & heart. These existential fears take time to fully accept, but there’s no wise alternative. If we “lean into” (rather than keep avoiding) even the hardest things with curiosity, self-compassion & acceptance, at our own pace & possibly with expert guidance, we benefit greatly in the long run!
    Anger over just having broken something or some other current mistake, needs acceptance now. Our repeated outbursts of anger - held within or vented - actually cause unnecessary suffering. This is completely avoidable by gradually learning to accept that we cannot control the world to keep us consistently safe & happy.
    Each bout of anger = non-acceptance, which we ALSO learn to gently accept, knowing that anger will gradually diminish, replaced gradually by equanimity (imperturbable peacefulness, despite a constantly changing environment).
    Even while participating in a meditation course, there are many things we’re called to gently accept. A great example is feeling the warmth radiating from our heart area!

     The first few times I practiced Loving-Kindness meditation, especially directed towards myself, my heart area felt nothing (remember the wrestler 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin?). That was some twenty-five years ago. Since then, I've practiced & guided others in this profound meditation hundreds of times. Over the years, my chest very easily radiates warmth with little or no coaxing.
    However, like myself originally, I find almost all those taking meditation (MBSR) courses have solidly armored hearts. This armoring process is a natural, background event akin to acquiring calluses - "growing a thick skin" - from prolonged hard manual labor. For us to survive life's many & varied hardships (war, homelessness, poverty, racism, physical / emotional / sexual violence, etc, etc, etc) many of us toughen-up to an extent that even we ourselves are shocked. As an extreme example, what (armoring-up) changes must take place for a soldier to survive a year of combat in a war zone? For civilians, it's not possible to comprehend the extremely difficult de-armoring such soldiers (should ideally) undergo before they could safely re-enter their home & civilian society
.
    We have millions displaced from their homes due to war, famine & poverty in refugee camps all over the world; millions who've suffered early childhood trauma (ACE studies); and millions who continue to suffer from poverty & racism. A much larger proportion of our population than we realize are heavily-armored. Armoring usually includes a strong aversion to accepting, embracing & gradually shedding one's own armoring! Once armored, we have great difficulty realizing that armor is not only unnecessary now, but that is actually blocks our ability to live a happy, wholesome life
.
    If
YOU were now told, "You are armored", would you angrily deny it? And how would you interpret that response? OR would you reflect on it, "Well, I suppose I could be" with gentle, relaxed curiosity?

    WHEN repeatedly practicing Loving-Kindness meditation is not able to set the heart free, there is a "Forgiveness Meditation" to help initiate this de-armoring process.
    Bhante
Vimalaraṁsi “Guide to Forgiveness Meditation: An Effective Method to Dissolve the Blocks to Loving-Kindness, and Living Life Fully.” CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015.
    Of
course consulting a trauma therapist may also be wise.


KINDNESS
Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken will stare out the
window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness, you must travel where the
Indian in a white poncho lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans and the simple
breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you
must know sorrow
as the other deepest thing. You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day
to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

 

"Quiet Reflection" ... by Mollycules www.BuddhaDoodles.com

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

What Do We REALLY Want?

    "One way to think about suffering is as a failure of getting what we want." Bokin Kim PhD 

    I'm often reminded of stories (like W. Somerset Maugham's wonderful book, "The Razor's Edge") about the idle, independently wealthy, who regularly migrate from one opulent getaway to another, 'because things get terribly boring.' A particularly wacky aspect of human nature is our tendency to 'double down,' doing more & more of something that obviously doesn't work, until we 'hit rock bottom,' or worse. Suffering mostly arises from wanting people, things & experiences to provide lasting satisfaction ie wanting the impossible.
    Many simply
can't stop trying to control the world to make it provide permanent safety & happiness. Wanting to become a marathon runner is understandable. BUT if a fish has this desire, then even if it manages to get out of the water onto dry land, it just can't be happy. The whole idea of running a marathon simply goes against the fish's true nature.

    A major gift of old age, for some of us, is having had ample opportunity to learn that we cannot get lasting satisfaction from anything - EXCEPT love - very specifically being the SOURCE of unconditional love.
    So
a wise, mature orientation will have us nurturing all those we love, so that we may thrive. And 'those we love' gradually expands to embrace everyone & everything. This way of being is probably more natural & essential to us than breathing, eating, sleeping & our heart beating. It is not something we should do in order to get something else, or go somewhere else, or become someone else. We are simply expressing our essential true nature - who we are, have always been & will be - we're just being natural.

    Tony Parsons was a wealthy home builder when, at age 65, he underwent a dramatic liberation (awakening / enlightenment) experience, after which "there was no longer a ME, only absolute love." He expresses, imho, very similar understandings to other evolved mystics I've read about & listened to. However, Tony uses much more direct, uncompromising, even provocative language, that sometimes stimulates an energetic shift in the listener, evaporating their 'me' - their noisy ego.
    Reading about
Tony's perspective may cause your noisy ego angst - possibly even more

“Basically, all there is is this. All there is is wholeness, oneness. I like to call it ‘boundless energy.’ Boundless energy is all there is, and it arises as everything there is and everything there isn’t. So this boundless energy is immeasurable, it can’t be tamed, it’s wild, it’s chaotic and it also appears to be ordered.
    And one of the things that it appears to be is a separate energy, a contracted energy that seems to happen uniquely to human beings. Some way or another, that sense of being separate begins a clock. A clock starts ticking, and throughout the separate energies there, the ‘me’ story begins. And ‘the story’ and ‘me’ are both the same thing. ‘Me’ can’t exist without ‘the story,’ and ‘the story’ can’t exist without ‘me.’ And that all happens in a separate reality
.
    For
the individual, it seems as though that reality is real. The whole idea that the person has free-will and choice and that their life has a purpose, and that story also includes cause & effect, all of those things arise, and all of those things seem real to the individual. And so the individual goes into what it thinks is it’s reality, but in some way or other that reality can at times seem dissatisfying, because of course the ‘me is living in a separate reality. So the ‘me’ never sees a tree naturally, never sees the sky naturally, never has feelings in the natural way they are, because all of those things are experienced through separation, as though those things arise as if through a filter. So the tree is somehow always an object out there, everything else is an object because already the ‘me’ has seemingly become a something. So the ‘me’ lives as though it is a real something, and it lives in a world of real somethings – everything 'real' out there is something else that’s happening to this 'real' something here.
    And somewhere there’s a sense of dissatisfaction about that, it feels unfulfilling to somehow live in this separate world. And so some people start to try to find an answer for that sense of dissatisfaction and they go to teachers, but of course they have with them that belief of free-will and choice, and the way they can ‘learn’ how to find that fulfillment, would be through their own choice, and through their own action. And so they go to teachers who also speak within the dream story about personal enlightenment and the way that that can be attained.
    But of course what’s happening all the time is that the ‘me’ is living in a circular world, in a separate world, and those things that it experiences come and go because they are happening in a world of time only, they are just time-oriented happenings or experiences.
[Called by some, 'consensual reality' or 'relative reality'] So the things that people learn from teachers, like self-inquiry or meditation, bring up experiences that come & go. They are transient experiences and they never have any permanent or constant satisfaction about them.
    So ‘the open secretbasically is revealing the myth of ‘me’ and the myth of ‘the story,’ and it’s pointing to the possibility that all of that is an illusion; that that whole story and the me is living in an illusory world which is circular, just with experiences coming & going, coming & going. And the strange thing is, that what seems to be happening when that is revealed at meetings, is that the whole sense of ‘me,’ the whole idea that the ‘me’ is real, or the embodied sense that the ‘me’ is real, seems to crumble. And the other thing that happens in the meetings, and obviously this doesn’t have to be at meetings, this dropping away of the ‘me’ can happen anywhere and at any time, but in the meetings it seems that somehow the contracted energy of the separate ‘me’ seems to melt back into the boundless energy of what is, and there’s nothing that’s left in that. And that is what I would call liberation. It’s my term for liberation from the illusory imprisonment of being a ‘me’ in a story.”
    Tony Parsons Feb 3, 2012 interview : https://batgap.com/tony-parsons/

 



Saturday, October 7, 2023

Ending Suffering Alone

    “We need to be aware of what we are practicing in any moment. Because whatever we practice, we get better at, whether it’s the skillful OR the unskillful.” Christina Feldman

    Sadly most of us (unconsciously) routinely practice avoiding the present moment, opting instead for all manner of distractions, as well as outright dissociation. Something about the present moment gets us to shut down, run away & hide, often alone.
    BUT when
we're suddenly hit with an existential bomb - the diagnosis of a serious disease like Parkinson's; or our world is rattled by serious physical injury eg our body crashing against a bus' windshield; or worse, being overwhelmed by a whole series of serious challenges in rapid succession - we MIGHT actually open up to ourselves, those close to us, & possibly mental-health specialists about what we're going through, and share our experience of shipwreck.
    Such
shared curiosity & examination of life's most challenging & most meaningful moments is precious intimacy - with ourself, others and life itself, and feels refreshingly expansive, wholesome & healing! Very recently, I had the privilege of deeply listening to two old friends share their journey through major current challenges.

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

    “It is the perspective of the sufferer that determines whether a given experience perpetuates suffering or is a vehicle for awakening.” Mark Epstein MD

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

    Whether we're part of a joyous celebration, OR shoveling a large mound of sand from one spot to another, OR undergoing a searingly painful medical procedure, we're at our BEST when we're fully open to & fully engaged with present moment reality - not judging it in any way, neither trying to hold onto it, nor trying to escape it. This may sound weirdly counterintuitive & counter-cultural, however, the proof is in practicing & experiencing this for yourself.

    Siddhartha Gautama was born over 2,500 years ago, in what is now Nepal, to royal parents. But when he realized that despite his privilege of youth, health, wealth, power & position, he & everyone he loved - like everyone else in the world - are subject to constant change, aging, sickness & death. He was shocked but inspired, leaving all that he had behind (his wife, young child, parents, possessions & kingdom) to search for the cause of suffering and the way to end it. After years of severe asceticism, and meditation, he succeeded, attaining enlightenment, after which he was called the Buddha.

    "The Buddha stated the cause of suffering through his Four Noble Truths:
        
There are suffering & dissatisfaction in the world & in our lives.
        • The cause & origin of that suffering is Craving.
        • The cessation of Craving is the cessation of suffering.
        • The eight-fold path leads us to the end of that suffering.

    This is Buddhism in brief: suffering, the cause of suffering, the end of suffering, and the path leading to the end of suffering.
   
Buddhism is not about rites, rituals, prayers & incense. It is not a religion, but a scientific investigation into overcoming sorrow at all levels of mind & body ... certainly beyond any religious belief system ... as well as beyond anything science currently offers.
    ... the Buddha made it clear that if you follow the directions, awakening can be achieved in a single lifetime, even in as little as a few days. This is as true today as it was at the time of the Buddha."
David C. Johnson. “The Path to Nibbāna. How Mindfulness of Loving-Kindness Progresses through the Tranquil Aware Jhānas to Awakening.” 2017. 

    "The wisdom that the suffering doesn't belong to you will itself get you out of suffering, without you having to do anything." Shri Atmananda

    I stumbled on this insight on my first longish (10-day) silent meditation retreat. My suffering from "meditation pain" felt so massive, that I was certain it couldn't possibly be mine alone, and that I must somehow be helping to process all of humanity's burden of suffering. As soon as I gained that perspective, the suffering disappeared, replaced by blissful ease & joy.
    So
suffering is impersonal - nobody's out to get us, we're not unlucky or cursed, etc. Yet we take many things, especially suffering, VERY personally. Learning to LET GO of the sticky mental habits that cause suffering is considered skillful practice ie a practice that reduces our own & others' unnecessary suffering.
    A
long the same lines, the sense of being a 'self' that's alone & separate from everyone & everything else - a lone wolf, me alone against the world - is an inherently cold, contracted, lonely, fearful. Our natural state is inherently warm, expansive, connected, joyous.
    We
can actually practice residing in our natural state. And when we retract into separate self, we can learn to recognize & release this, and return to our natural state.

    “Suffering is not enough.
     Life is both dreadful and wonderful.
     To practice meditation is to be in touch with both aspects.

     Smiling means that we are ourselves, that we have sovereignty over ourselves, that we are not drowned in forgetfulness.
     How can I smile when I am filled with so much sorrow?
     It is natural— you need to smile to your sorrow because you are more than your sorrow.”
                Thich Nhat Hanh

    "Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside." Ramana Maharshi


the days pass slowly,
but when you look back,
you realize how quickly the years have flown by

Michael Caine