This always makes me smile – so many reasons (I need this reminder – and I am thankful for it)
Sometimes my quiet time surprises me – like when I observe what arises in the silence and realize that I’m attached to the feelings that are standing before me – up in my face as if to say “What about this Bitch?!”. And then that’s where it ends. No enlightenment. No “letting go”. No “moving on”. No flow. Just “here I am”. Me and my feeling – going nowhere fast.
I like what Sharon writes below about living in a world where we still speak out; we take action – but not without also paying attention to ourselves, listening from a place of acceptance and nonjudgment about our own feelings. Because unless I do this first, how can I ever be in a place to acknowledge someone else with all their varied feelings and perspectives?
If I cannot acknowledge and accept the darker side of myself and am always in a rush to change it “quickly” without listening to it – then I’m doomed to rush others and not accept where they are. I’ll never listen to them.
Kindness and Understanding begin at home. Cultivating a compassionate listening ear begins with the Self. There is no sense in speaking out unless you can also listen to yourself first. Why bother even trying to listen to another without doing this step, cause you’ll never even hear them.
– Sharon Salzberg writes:Mindfulness enables us to cultivate a different quality of attention, one where we relate to what we see before us not just as an echo of the past, or a foreshadowing of the future, but more as it is right now.
Making the effort to truly see someone doesn’t mean we never respond or react or take very strong action. . .
We can and do attempt to restore a failing marriage, protest loud cell phones in public places, or try, with everything in us, to rectify Injustice.
But we can do it from a place that allows people to be as textured as they are, and that admits our feelings to be as varied and flowing as they are. A place open to surprises. A place that listens. . .
the following quote was sent to me thru Tricycle today and it made an impression:
The practice of lovingkindness is, at a certain level, the fruition of all we work toward in our meditation. It relies on our ability to open continuously to the truth of our actual experience, not cutting off the painful parts, and not trying to pretend things are other than they are. Just as spiritual growth grinds to a halt when we indulge our tendency to grasp and cling, metta can’t thrive in an environment that is bound to desire or to getting our expectations met.
In lovingkindness, our minds are open and expansive—spacious enough to contain all the pleasures and pains of a life fully lived. Pain, in this context, does’t feel like betrayal or an overwhelming force. It is part of the reality of human experience, and an opportunity for us to practice maintaining our authentic presence.
– Sharon Salzberg
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought.”
Thus, the transformation of sociological and psychological structures must take place initially in our own minds. . . (this is) the blueprint for revolutionary change, first in the individual, then in the community of which he or she is a part. . .if we truly hope to address the root cause of social suffering -Charles Johnson
When this homeless guy sang this last part of the song’s lyrics he got a little teary-eyed –
“What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here. I don’t belong here…”
If you don’t get what you want, you suffer; if you get what you don’t want, you suffer; even when you get exactly what you want, you still suffer because you can’t hold on to it forever.
Your mind is your predicament.
It wants to be free of change. Free of pain, free of the obligations of life and death.
But change is a law, and no amount of pretending will alter that reality.
Taming the Monkey
The biggest hindrance to (mindfulness) is constant intrusive thoughts.
This is normal for everyone and from the beginning you should expect it. The nature of our mind is to think, and it is childish to imagine that we can simply turn that process off when we wish to.
Our minds have been almost completely out of control for most of our life.
Recognizing this can help us to be practical and patient—it may take us some time and a lot of skillful practice to tame the crazy “monkey mind.”
Trekking any spiritual path is a balancing act. As you gain effort and mastery, you also gain ease. That means that while you may work harder, the effort will come more naturally. While you will certainly encounter new distractions—and who does not?—you also have the means to overcome them.
Do not be discouraged.
There is always a new moment in which to experience living kindness.
–Donald Altman, from Living Kindness (Inner Ocean Publishing)
Rapid technological advances. Increased wealth. Stress. Stable lives and careers come under the pressure of accelerating change. The twenty-first century?
the sixth century B.C.E.—a time of destructive warfare, economic dislocation, and widespread disruption of established patterns of life, just like today.
In conditions similar to ours, the Buddha discovered a path to lasting happiness. His discovery—a step-by-step method of mental training to achieve contentment—is as relevant today as ever.
Putting the Buddha’s discovery into practice is no quick fix. It can take years.
The most important qualification at the beginning is a strong desire to change your life by adopting new habits and learning to see the world anew.
Bhante Henepola Gunaratana from “Getting Started ,” Tricycle, Fall 2001
(ahh history just continuously repeats itself ~John – but you don’t have too)
We’re All in the Same Boat
We’re all in the same boat. Born as we are in this human body, we can’t escape the blessings and tortures of the human brain.
From our first breath, we yearn for love and understanding in the most complicated ways imaginable. We find it most satisfying as we learn to give it. The ability to do this comes from acceptance of our frailties. By understanding the conditions of our own lives, we accept the conditions of others.
Compassion is not condescension, but a leveling of the playing field, a recognition of yourself in others and an acceptance that their stress is your stress, that their happiness is your own. The gulf between us all is imaginary, born of insecurity and fear.
– Stephen Schettini, from “What to Expect When You’re Reflecting,” Tricycle, Fall 2008
I have not been in an altruistic space the last few days, although the thought below has been an ever present whisper among my own self absorption.
My body is tired, my lower back has been out for several days, sleep has not been easy for over a year, the workload has been pressure filled and family life has been, well, complicated. I do not want to sit with any of this; I just want some relief. I just want to return to a sense of comfort.
I’m not beating myself up over it, but I’m not pleased either. So for right now I just remind myself through teachings and readings . . . and remembering the universal compassion which is at work even when I do not feel it – even while avoiding my shit.
Eventually I’ll stop avoiding, but for now I just feel like bitching . . .
When we’re afraid, the mind tends to dart away instead of diligently and deeply entering the fear. It gets confused and thinks, “Let me take care of myself first,” as if it weren’t responsible for the whole world.
Part of what zazen—sitting meditation—does is to help us settle down into gentle, unswerving attention and peel away that false sense of separation.–Bonnie Myotai Treace, from “Rising to the Challenge,” in the Spring 2003 issue of Tricycle
Human Nature – so complex. . . especially the personality/mind. This translation by Sogyal Rinpoche really spoke to me recently and I have gone back to it several times (along with an article about the dangers of meditation – these two writings are a good balance – so I ‘ll publish the other one next time) For now enjoy this analogy.
Rest in Natural Great Peace
When I meditate, I am always inspired by this poem by Nyoshul Khenpo:
Rest in natural great peace
This exhausted mind
Beaten helpless by karma and neurotic thought,
Like the relentless fury of the pounding waves
In the infinite ocean of samsara.
Rest in natural great peace.
Above all, be at ease, be as natural and spacious as possible. Slip quietly out of the noose of your habitual anxious self, release all grasping, and relax into your true nature. Think of your ordinary emotional, thought-ridden self as a block of ice or a slab of butter left out in the sun. If you are feeling hard and cold, let this aggression melt away in the sunlight of your meditation. Let peace work on you and enable you to gather your scattered mind into the mindfulness of Calm Abiding, and awaken in you the awareness and insight of Clear Seeing. And you will find all your negativity disarmed, your aggression dissolved, and your confusion evaporating slowly like mist into the vast and stainless sky of your absolute nature.
–Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (HarperSanFrancisco)
Just as energy can be used for many different purposes, so can pure existence be experienced in relation to any phase of life—anger, hatred, or jealousy as well as love and beauty.
Every human action must be carried on through the ego, which plays a role comparable to that of a pipe or channel through which energy is conducted for different uses.
We usually think of the ego as a kind of constant, unchanging entity. In fact, however, it is simply a succession of physical and mental events or pressures that appear momentarily and as quickly pass away.
–Katsuki Sekida, from A Guide to Zen (New World Library)
Just reflecting on my stream of thoughts this morning
When I take the time to focus on my breathing, I begin to pay attention.
When I pay attention it often leads me to being mindful of myself and my surroundings.
When I am mindful of my perceptions and surroundings I become less attached.
When I am less attached to my perceptions and judgments, I often see that I have more choices in my life.
When I have choices I tend to be more open and receptive to things as they are.
When I experience openness, compassion arises within me.
When I allow compassion to arise, I move beyond myself.
When I move beyond myself, I am resting in Grace
The highest good is like water.
Water gives life to the ten thousand things and does not strive.
It flows in places men reject and so is like the Tao.
The universe is sacred. You cannot improve it. If you try to change it, you will ruin it. If you try to hold it, you will lose it. (from Tao Quotes)
Such great words for me. This captures a snapshot of my place of “letting go” .
Sitting still and going beyond mind – touching the place of grace – this void is almost always sweet for me (even if the process of getting there appears bitter sometimes).
In some ways this is the easy part.
Easy in that, I get wrapped up in my day to day shit. I do my stress over paperwork at the office, client issues, talking story with friends, car repairs, medical bills, traffic, the news . . .blah blah blah. Sitting lets everything just be.
It is the other practice, when I am not sitting, that is more difficult (although less so than 10 years ago – yay for discipline – and the gifts of compassion and kindness in my life).
This other practice is “mindfulness”. It is a moment to moment “letting go” and letting things be as they are – as I engage with my perception of things as they arise. Being with the paperwork, issues, friends, traffic, etc – and less so than with my perception, less attached to my judgments of these things. It is a breath that softens the hard and tight places within me. It is the wonderful insignificance in what “I think”.
I call this place in my life – Grace.
And for this I am thankful.
I have been privileged enough to have some great people and opportunities in my life to practice and develop a sense of self kindness. I cannot express more, how I wish that everyone has the chance to practice self compassion. It has made such a difference not only on how I view myself, but also on how I see the the world and treat others. It has been life changing.
I’ve got a ways to go yet in cultivating this stance; however, I am so grateful for what has awakened in me thus far.
Here’s a post from Tricycle on the subject:
Open Yourself to Yourself
When you don’t punish or condemn yourself, when you relax more and appreciate your body and mind, you begin to contact the fundamental notion of basic goodness in yourself. So it is extremely important to be willing to open yourself to yourself. Developing tenderness toward yourself allows you to see both your problems and your potential accurately. You don’t feel that you have to ignore your problems or exaggerate your potential. That kind of gentleness toward yourself and appreciation of yourself is very necessary. It provides the ground for helping yourself and others.
Chögyam Trungpa, The Sanity We Are Born With (Shambhala Publications)
I came across this and it felt right, so I thought I’d share it; enjoy – John
A Post written by Leo Babauta.
Just for a moment.
Listen to the world around you. Feel your breath coming in and going out. Listen to your thoughts. See the details of your surroundings.
Be at peace with being still.
In this modern world, activity and movement are the default modes, if not with our bodies then at least with our minds, with our attention. We rush around all day, doing things, talking, emailing, sending and reading messages, clicking from browser tab to the next, one link to the next.
We are always on, always connected, always thinking, always talking. There is no time for stillness — and sitting in front of a frenetic computer all day, and then in front of the hyperactive television, doesn’t count as stillness.
This comes at a cost: we lose that time for contemplation, for observing and listening. We lose peace.
And worse yet: all the rushing around is often counterproductive. I know, in our society action is all-important — inaction is seen as lazy and passive and unproductive. However, sometimes too much action is worse than no action at all. You can run around crazily, all sound and fury, but get nothing done. Or you can get a lot done — but nothing important. Or you can hurt things with your actions, make things worse than if you’d stayed still.
And when we are forced to be still — because we’re in line for something, or waiting at a doctor’s appointment, or on a bus or train — we often get antsy, and need to find something to do. Some of us will have our mobile devices, others will have a notebook or folder with things to do or read, others will fidget. Being still isn’t something we’re used to.
Take a moment to think about how you spend your days — at work, after work, getting ready for work, evenings and weekends. Are you constantly rushing around? Are you constantly reading and answering messages, checking on the news and the latest stream of information? Are you always trying to Get Lots of Things Done, ticking off tasks from your list like a machine, rushing through your schedule?
Is this how you want to spend your life?
If so, peace be with you. If not, take a moment to be still. Don’t think about what you have to do, or what you’ve done already. Just be in the moment.
Then after a minute or two of doing that, contemplate your life, and how you’d like it to be. See your life with less movement, less doing, less rushing. See it with more stillness, more contemplation, more peace.
Then be that vision.
It’s pretty simple, actually: all you have to do is sit still for a little bit each day. Once you’ve gotten used to that, try doing less each day. Breathe when you feel yourself moving too fast. Slow down. Be present. Find happiness now, in this moment, instead of waiting for it.
Savor the stillness. It’s a treasure, and it’s available to us, always.
From the Tao Te Ching:
It is not wise to dash about.
Shortening the breath causes much stress.
Use too much energy, and
You will soon be exhausted.
That is not the Natural Way.
Whatever works against this Way
Will not last long.
Simple and Brilliant – Great post – by Oxherding – thought I’d share
I am finding that in order to get to the answers I seek in life, asking the question with openness is essential (aka, asking the right question).
So is sitting back and observing who is doing the questioning (without attachment to the question let alone the answer – or the “questioner” let alone the “answerer”)
And in the end it is “being”, aka “grace” (aka love) which has its essential nature in everything.
But being human – it begins with the question, because that’s what we do. . .
It is non-attachment that carries us forward in the process
It ends with being, because that’s who we are . . .
“Life is like an ever-shifting kaleidoscope -—a slight change, and all patterns alter.” –Sharon Salzberg
There are so many meanings that can be drawn from the above statement, I should probably let it go at that (but I won’t *wink).
When I allow my mind to shift in the direction of unconscious thought or action, my life and all its pattern go one way and when I am mindful, my life and all it’s patterns form a different picture.
Each person, every thing I come in contact with changes the pattern – but not as much as the letting go in my own heart and mind . . .
Have a great one luv,
A rare morning: practiced Big Mind/Heart, EFT and Self-Identity Ho’oponopono. I rarely take the opportunity to have such a coordinated mindful practice before breakfast(but I was awake earlier than usual and not groggy); it was quite relief to walk out the door feeling so emptied out – like a Big Kosmic Piss.
Here are a couple of quotes I came across today that express how I was feeling:
I genuinely feel I know a lot less now than I did 20 years ago. It feels wonderful! lt’s like letting go of mental constructs.
~ J. Goldstein
The truth you believe and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new.
Sitting, Concentrated, Focused, Calm, Dispassionate
(based on Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness, by Arnie Kozak, Ph.D.)
It takes mindfulness to see the choice.
i sit my ass down
mind won’t take a seat, just walks
guess i’ll babysit
Someone asked me about why I practice meditative processes such as sitting and mindfulness when things in life don’t really change, don’t get better or worse – that to live is always having to deal with the good, the bad and the ugly. His question reminded me of Albert Camus’ take on the Myth of Sisyphus where Sisyphus pushes a boulder up the mountain only to have it role back down in which he begins the task again. The ability to embrace the absurdity of life as it is, according to Camus – allows a sense of freedom (btw, I am not an existentialist – I just find value in some of its teaching)
Camus is interested in Sisyphus’ thoughts when marching down the mountain, to start anew. This is the truly tragic moment, when the hero becomes conscious of his wretched condition. He does not have hope, but “[t]here is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.” Acknowledging the truth will conquer it; Sisyphus, just like the absurd man, keeps pushing. Camus claims that when Sisyphus acknowledges the futility of his task and the certainty of his fate, he is freed to realize the absurdity of his situation and to reach a state of contented acceptance. Camus concludes that “all is well,” indeed, that “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” (taken from Wikipedia)
Meditation practice for me has in its beginnings an acceptance of the absurd, which is at the same time a “letting go”. It is being present with the boulder as I push it up the hill or aware of my thoughts and feeling as I watch it roll back down. Not dwelling on past walks up the mountain or future walks down. I don’t see certain forms of existentialism as pessimisstic; I find their views kind of honest and refreshing and a nice counter balance to pollyana optimism (although there are time I embrace the latter too).
Daily – I am NOT present. I get lost. I resist against the task of the boulder. So I meditate. Here is a passage from Thubten Chodron, from Taming the Mind (Snow Lion) that explains the task of meditation for me . . .
The Value of the Present Moment
Recognizing that past turmoil and future rhapsodies are projections of our mind prevents us from getting stuck in them. Just as the face in the mirror is not a real face, the objects of our memories and daydreams are likewise unreal. They are not happening now; they are simply mental images flickering in the mind.
Reflecting on the value of our precious human life also minimizes our habit of ruminating. Our wondrous potential becomes clear, and the rarity and value of the present opportunity shines forth. Who wants to ruminate about the past and future when we can do so much good and progress spiritually in the present.
Ever get lost in the rules?
Hope you enjoy this passage . . .
Seung Sahn would say, “When you eat, just eat. When you read the newspaper, just read the newspaper. Don’t do anything other than what you are doing.”
One day a student saw him reading the newspaper while he was eating. The student asked if this did not contradict his teaching. Seung Sahn said, “When you eat and read the newspaper, just eat and read the newspaper.”
–From Essential Zen, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi and Tensho David Schneide
I’m still throwing around the concepts of “being” and “action” like two tennis players in my head that keep smacking the ball of reality into each other’s court.
Today’s post by Christopher Titmuss, from An Awakened Life has been a great volly between 2 experieced and qualified concepts.
Knowledge and theories about wisdom are like carrying books on the back of a donkey. We may carry around many ideas of worthwhile changes that we would like to make in our life.
To evolve, we must put those ideas into practice or they will become a weight for us. We need to look into every area of our daily existence. It would be a pity to live an unexamined life and only rely upon external voices of authority and our inner conditioning to tell us what matters and what to do with our life.
For consciousness to evolve, we must commit ourselves to living a conscious life. To know ourselves, to go deep into ourselves, awakens the mind.
–Christopher Titmuss, from An Awakened Life
The Challenge of Enlightenment
If the traditional realization of enlightenment is that everything is already perfect and whole, then why should anyone bother trying to improve themselves or the world? In the following excerpt from a classic dialogue between American Buddhist pioneer Roshi Bernie Glassman and EnlightenNext founder Andrew Cohen, these two teachers explore the potential danger of complacency and self-satisfaction on the spiritual path:
|COHEN: The challenge of enlightenment is that on one hand everything is already full and complete and already free and, at the same time, there is an overwhelming amount of suffering that urgently needs to be responded to in every moment.
GLASSMAN: Exactly. Some people experience that first stage and get caught there. They think, “There’s nothing to do.”
COHEN: Yes. And they may even use it as an excuse not to have to do anything. That’s how many people actually squelch the expression of their own conscience, their own humanity. That’s a pretty bad place to be.
GLASSMAN: That’s sort of where I started—trying to encourage people not to remain in that place. There’s a state in Japanese Zen that’s called the “Cave of Satan.” It’s that place where you just stay—because there’s nothing to do. And you can get in that state and it can be an overwhelming experience. But the point is to kick the person out of that cave.
a thought arises
down the rabbit trail again
breathe in, breathe out – here
There is a paradox between great faith and great questioning.
We need faith to anchor us and questioning to open us.
With faith only, we might stagnate and become narrow-minded, with questioning only we might become disturbed and agitated. These two qualities balance and support each other.
–Martine Batchelor, from Principles of Zen
I’ve been all of the above ~ John
One compassionate word, action, or thought can reduce another person’s suffering and bring him joy.
One word can give comfort and confidence, destroy doubt, help someone avoid a mistake, reconcile a conflict, or open the door to liberation.
One action can save a person’s life or help him take advantage of a rare opportunity.
One thought can do the same, because thoughts always lead to words and actions. With compassion in our heart, every thought, word, and deed can bring about a miracle.
–Thich Nhat Hanh, from Teachings on Love (Parallax Press)
Heaven and Earth last and last.
Why do they last so long?
Because they are not self-serving!