Archive for January, 2009


I Opened the Wardrobe again . . .




It’s been awhile since I posted anything about the spiral development in which I transcend and also include the former stages of  my development (maybe because it is easier said than done – or maybe cause I think most people don’t really give a shit what I think).

I’ve resisted watching “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, by C.S. Lewis ever since the magic and myth behind the story were made into “literal” ideas years ago.  I loved the Narnia Chronicles, however the literal interpretation stole the essence of this beautiful story and made me turn away (the baby and the bath water, yeah?). I have not looked at this story in over 10 years

I watched it this evening.

This is a truly wonderful myth of redemtion. From purple through blue (into green) and up the spiral into yellow (if you’re not sure what I am bloging about  – google Spiral Dynamics).  While not a literalist, this was for me a wonderful film – About ego, humility, the shadow, the dark night of the soul, the sacrifice of love, misunderstanding, redeeming oneself, redeeming other sentient beings, loss of hope and the inner hope of knowing. Very Joseph Campbell – who I owe much of my development to.

Why did I allow literalism to rob me of this?

Just something I need to sit with and breathe through . . .

I do know that developmentally, children (or humans in general)  have to first experience a dichotomous “right and wrong”, “good and evil” before they can move towards Oneness.  This film is in-between the dichotomy and the oneness. So mankind is moving forward, even in the West. So I include this in my development.

Going to bed, I have a hike on the side of a volcano scheduled in the morning.



A Zen Moment Quote


” I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882)

Breath’n and Smile’n,


Of course I am out of my mind, it’s dark and scary in there

With my background as a therapist there are times when I am struck by the similarities between Buddhist Thought and Certain Schools of Psychotherapy.  Several authors have made a living integrating the two (two reputable and favorite authors are: Mark Epstein – author of  “Mind Without a Thinker” and “Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart” and John Welwood – author of  “Toward a Psychology of Awakening: Buddhism, Psychotherapy, and the Path of Personal and Spiritual Transformation“).

Outside of the fact that certain Zen practices such as sitting and paying attention to the breath, can decrease anxiety, lower blood pressure and relax tense muscles – it can also have a concentrated effect on one’s ability to be with the “uncomfortable” – both during the sitting and afterwards with life in general.

For me, sitting and watching shit reveal itself as though I am watching actors on a stage – engrossed but not over-identified – has allowed me to be mindful in other areas of my life. This way of meditating enables me to be more equipped at being with the shit I step into during the times I’m not meditating.  And trust me, my shoes can get pretty messy.

This making friends with  my own shadow, outside of being a  philosophical or spiritual practice,  is also a psychologically therapeutic development  –  An evolution in my relationship with myself and with others.
A willingness to engage in this observation is perhaps one of the greatest acts of compassion you can give to yourself and therefore, all sentient beings.
The first time you sit with shit as it is thrown in your mind’s face, can be rather frightening.  But sticking with the process has remarkable consequences in your personal development and evolution.
John Welwood puts it rather well in this succinct quote below:

If there is one thing I’ve learned in thirty years as a psychotherapist, it is this:
If you can let your experience happen, it will release its knots and unfold, leading to a deeper, more grounded experience of yourself.  No matter how painful or scary your feelings appear to be, your willingness to engage with them draws forth your essential strength, leading in a more life-positive direction.

John Welwood
Source: Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships: Healing the Wound of the Heart, Page: 106


I love to exhale


(just another blog about letting go, why I love the out breath, why I practice breathing and how breathing allows me to observe my thoughts and not identify over-identify, with my feelings or thoughts.  Is it any wonder I love smoking even if I choose not to smoke? Outside of observing the natural flow of my breath – which is for me the most difficult – I also practice breathing techniques for health.  Natural or controlled it is a gift.  What about those of you reading this?  What are your experiences of breath?)

The river flows rapidly down the mountain, and then all of a sudden it gets blocked with big boulders and a lot of trees. The water can’t go any farther, even though it has tremendous force and forward energy. It just gets blocked there. That’s what happens with us, too; we get blocked like that.

Letting go at the end of the out-breath, letting the thoughts go, is like moving one of those boulders away so that the water can keep flowing, so that our energy and our life force can keep evolving and going forward. We don’t, out of fear of the unknown, have to put up these blocks, these dams, that basically say no to life and to feeling life.

–Pema Chodron, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Vol. I,


It’s All equal. . . all (no judgment)

Why is the tao so valuable?
Because it is everywhere,
and everyone can use it.

This is why those who seek
will find,
And those who reform
will be forgiven;
Why the good
will be rewarded,
And the thief who is cunning
will escape.

(Lao Tzu)


The Gordian Knot of preoccupation


I am thankful for my ego.  Having had the circumstances in life that allowed the development of a healthy sense of “self”, is the very reason I can look beyond that self.  Developing a healthy ego is a gift, allowing me to function in what often seems to be a crazy world with all its normal stressors and joys.  And like all steps in development this evolution serves a purpose and foundation for the next level.  I would not be able to see that there is something beyond my ego if it were not developed in the first place – the same way I would not be able to think in abstract terms had I not first learned to think concretely.  I would be a mess (ok, more of a mess) if I could only think in concrete terms – I would be so limited in life.  I’d also be limited if all I understood about the self was merely egoic in nature.  The journey towards “beyond self” begins with first knowing the self. It is why I breathe, it is why I cultivate mindfulness, it is why I understand the profound power of compassion. So today anyway, I give thanks for my ego.
The following are the words of John Snelling, from Elements of Buddhism.  May it move you towards your own enlightening. With open hands, John

Central to the Buddha’s teaching is the doctrine of anatman: “not-self.” This does not deny that the notion of an “I” works in the everyday world. In fact, we need a solid, stable ego to function in society. However, “I” is not real in an ultimate sense. It is a “name”: a fictional construct that bears no correspondence to what is really the case. Because of this disjunction all kinds of problems ensue.
Once our minds have constructed the notion of “I,” it becomes our central reference point. We attach to it and identify with it totally. We attempt to advance what appears to be its interests, to defend it against real or apparent threats and menaces. And we look for ego-affirmation at every turn: confirmation that we exist and are valued. The Gordian Knot of preoccupations arising from all this absorbs us exclusively, at times to the point of obsession. This is, however, a narrow and constricted way of being. Though we cannot see it when caught in the convolutions of ego, there is something in us that is larger and deeper: a wholly other way of being.
–John Snelling, Elements of Buddhism

does the ringing in my head mean i’m calling myself to prayer?

There are certain themes that reoccur (not just recently – but over long periods of my life):

One theme is the unfamiliar perspective of non-judgement – “not already knowing” the answer – when something is presented to me.

One is about being a compassionate and kind container to hold uncomfortable thoughts and emotions as they arise.

One is how I touch the Witness behind the ego – the greater self who watches the “John” as he  plays at life.

Yeah, these replay themselves a lot in my life.
I like how Jack writes about these things – enjoy . . .

“Mindfulness is a directed attention to what is actually here before we have all our judgments and ideas about what is right and wrong and what is good and bad.  Mindfulness means paying attention and seeing things clearly without reaction.

From there we can respond in wise ways rather than be caught in our habitual patterns.”When we take the one seat on our meditation cushion we become our own monastery. We create the compassionate space that allows for the arising of all things: sorrows, loneliness, shame, desire, regret, frustration, happiness.

Spiritual transformation is a profound process that doesn’t happen by accident. We need a repeated discipline, a genuine training, in order to let go of our old habits of mind and to find and sustain a new way of seeing.

To mature on the spiritual path we need to commit ourselves in a systematic way. My teacher Achaan Chah described this commitment as “taking the one seat.” He said,”Just go into the room and put one chair in the center. Take the seat in the center of the room, open the doors and the windows and see who comes to visit. You will witness all kinds of scenes and actors, all kinds of temptations and stories, everything imaginable. Your only job is to stay in your seat. You will see it all arise and pass, and out of this, wisdom and understanding will come.”

–Jack Kornfield, A Path with Heart


Inauguration Day


warmed with inclusion
the cold winter’s afternoon
proud, humble, hopeful


one life with each other

not pointing fingers 
don’t need to ask forgiveness 
just breathing today



Haleakala Sunrise

Haleakala Sunrise

summit air descends:
early morning winter’s chill
blankets or zazen?


the words . . . the video . . . make me weep – still . . .

There’s an old Zen story: a student said to Master Ichu, “Please write for me something of great wisdom.” Master Ichu picked up his brush and wrote one word: “Attention.” The student said, “Is that all?” The master wrote, “Attention Attention.”…

For “attention” we could substitute the word “awareness.” Attention or awareness is the secret of life and the heart of practice….[E]very moment in life is absolute itself. That’s all there is. There is nothing other than this present moment; there is no past, there is no future; there is nothing but this. So when we don’t pay attention to every little this, we miss the whole thing. And the contents of this can be anything. This can be straightening our sitting mats, chopping an onion, visiting one we don’t want to visit. It doesn’t matter what the contents of the moment are; each moment is absolute. That’s all there is, and all there ever will be. If we could totally pay attention, we would never be upset. If we’re upset, it’s axiomatic that we’re not paying attention.If we miss not just ONE moment, but ONE moment after another, we’re in trouble.

–Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special: Living Zen


why? why not?


So why the hell do you meditate? Everyone has their reasons. Individuals and teachers vary on this subject.  Usually there’s a common theme – it’s about tapping into something deeper than what’s typically going on, on the surface.
Some side effects of deeper can be peace, insight, centeredness,  health but it can also be terror, frustration, confusion, anxiety.  Few people tell you that second part.  Over identification with these “swinging doors” of positive and negative emotions or thoughts is the stumbling block or the prison.
Freedom for me is being the watcher, the observer who just notices what is arising. To notice what’s going on and very naturally let it go and move beyond it. That’s one reason I meditate. To remember the deeper me behind the ego. Remembering is needed since my ego likes me to forget.
So  do you meditate?  If so,  please share why – I wanna hear what you have to say.  Choose not to meditate? Post why not – I wanna hear that too . . . Below is an explanation on the purpose of meditation by Andrew Cohen that I  find useful.

The Purpose of MeditationQ: Why is it important to meditate?

A: You meditate to remind yourself that you’re not a prisoner. If there is power in your meditation, if your experience of the ground of being is deep and profound, you will discover and rediscover, over and over and over again, that you are not a prisoner. You are not held captive by your own mind; nor are you imprisoned by your own emotions. It sounds simple, but it’s so easy to forget. If all you are aware of is the endless rollercoaster ride of thoughts and feelings, of course you will believe you are trapped.

The ground of being is a deeper, infinitely more subtle dimension of your own consciousness that simply cannot be perceived by the gross faculties of the conditioned mind and ego.

You can’t see it; you can’t taste it; you can’t touch it.
So even if you have directly experienced the unconditioned freedom of that empty ground, when you return to the world of conditioned mind and ego, you’re likely to doubt it. The mind simply cannot cognize this ground, and the ego cannot know it. That is why it’s very important to meditate as much as you can. If you meditate regularly with a strong intention, you will keep rediscovering that you’re not a prisoner. You cannot recognize that enough.Until your conviction in your own freedom is unwavering and you’re able to prove it through unbroken consistency in the way that you live, you need to keep having that experience. Each and every time you realize that you’re not a prisoner, it gives you a deeper confidence in the limitless inherent freedom of that empty ground that is your own deepest Self. It builds a conscious conviction in no-limitation, and, as I teach it, this is the most significant purpose of meditation.

~ Andrew Cohen


A beginner at the ole in out, in out


When we practice zazen [Zen Meditation] our mind always follows our breathing. When we inhale, the air comes into the inner world. When we exhale, the air goes to the outer world.

The inner world is limitless, and the outer world is also limitless.

We say “inner world” or “outer world,” but actually there is just one whole world. In this limitless world, our throat is like a swinging door. The air comes in and goes out like someone passing through a swinging door. If you think, “I breathe,” the “I” is extra. There is no you to say “I.” What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves; that is all.

When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no “I,” no world, no mind nor body; just a swinging door.

–Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind


Instant Karma, Karma Chameleon, Karma Police (there’s no escaping karma . . . in music)

karma incense

Okay, if you don’t have the incense to burn away your accumulated Karma, you might be interested in these definitions.  They are some of my favorite and each touch on very different aspects of Karma.  Sure,  I could post hundreds of aspects or viewpoints on the subject by teachers, musicians, poets . . .  Today, I just happen to like these three . . .
With open hands,

Karma is created every time you act out of unconsciousness, ignorance, and selfishness in ways that cause suffering to others. For most of us, karma is a powerful force—the accumulated momentum of literally countless actions. The momentum of karma is what makes the personal world of ego and unenlightenment appear so attractive to us.
The authentic self in each of us is compelled to become enlightened and perpetually evolve, but the ego is driven by the need to always be in control and ever remain the same. And it is the choices that we make in every moment that determine which part of our self will be creating our destiny. Each time we act out of ego, karma is instantly created.
Enlightenment means freedom from karma.

~Andrew Cohen

It’s the law of interdependence—that every action produces a reaction, and that when you combine billions of actions with billions of reactions, and they begin to react to one another’s reactions…well that’s why it’s not as simple as if you do good, good things come back to you. Or if you do bad, that bad things will happen to you. Why? Because your karma could, boomeranging back toward you, come into contact with other streams of karma, either good or bad.
But if you want to keep things simple, live by these words:
“If you want to be happy, think of others. If you want to be unhappy, think only of oneself.” It’s the Buddhist version of Christianity’s Golden Rule: Do Unto Others as you would have Others Do Unto You.

~ Waylon Lewis

“We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh



man, how often I act as an 8 yr old!

Well, not as often as I used to – but I do it enough anyway.  This sorta follows Frizz’s answer to yesterdays blog

So Joseph Goldstein has given me a few wake up calls over the years; the latest is no different.  Just another facet, another post, another mention of letting go . . .

Munindra-ji is used to say that in spiritual practice, time is not a factor.  Practice cannot be measured in time, so let go of the whole notion of when and how long.

The practice is a process unfolding, and it unfolds in its own time.

It is like the flowers that grow in the spring.  Do you pull them up to make them grow faster?  I once tried to do that with carrots in my first garden when I was eight years old.  It does not work.

We do not need any particular length of time for this process of letting things be.
                                                                                                                                  –Joseph Goldstein, Insight Meditation

If you were to die today, what one word of advice would you have for all other human beings?




Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
You’re only dancing on this earth
For a short while

And though your dreams may toss
And turn you now.

They will vanish away –
Like your Daddy’s best jeans
Denim blue fading up to the sky

And though you want him to last forever
You know he never will
(You know he never will)

And the patches
Make the goodbye harder still.

Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
There’ll never be a better chance
To change your mind

And if you want this world
To see (a better day)
Will you carry
The words of love with you

Will you ride
The great white bird into heaven

And though you want to last forever
You know you never will
(You know you never will)

And the goodbye
Makes the journey harder still.

Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
You’re only dancing on this earth
For a short while

Oh very young
What will you leave us this time.

~Cat Stevens


When their time comes, even kings and queens pass away.
And enjoyments, loved ones and friends cannot follow after.
But wherever beings are, wherever they go,
The results of their behavior follow after them like a shadow.

~Tibetan Poem, from “The Blissful Path of Liberation”
(the headline is taken from “The Mindful Leader, by Michael Carroll”)



so today I’m a smoldering fire and I’m calling it “discomfort” anyway


Changing Like the Weather

The first noble truth says simply that it’s part of being human to feel discomfort. We don’t even have to call it suffering anymore; we don’t even have to call it discomfort. It’s simply coming to know the fieriness of fire, the wildness of wind, the turbulence of water, the upheaval of earth, as well as the warmth of fire, the coolness and smoothness of water, the gentleness of the breezes, and the goodness, solidness, and dependability of the earth. Nothing in its essence is one way or the other. The four elements take on different qualities; they’re like magicians. Sometimes they manifest in one form and sometimes in another…. The first noble truth recognizes that we also change like the weather, we ebb and flow like the tides, we wax and wane like the moon.

–Pema Chodron, Awakening Loving-Kindness



have you hugged a flying monkey today?

To open your heart like a Buddha,  we must embrace the ten thousand joys and the ten thousand sorrows.

~ Jack Kornfield, Buddha’s Little Instruction Book

(there is no picking and choosing  . . .)


the shadow and the secret

I love Stuart Davis’ way of  zen and his embrace of the 3 selves – especially the shadow (I had to post this after all the chats with Frizz).  This is a classic for me.

PS – not for the faint of heart, this is a stick upside the head kinda zen


Holy Crap

The more I take time to sit, the more I make time to do my QiGong, the more I take time to pay attention to the activties in everyday moments – like when I am eating a piece of food and turn my attention to this activity, rather than wander off in my head or in front of the TV as I shovel food in my mouth –  the more I relax into who I am beyond my ego.

Slowing down, emptying out and paying attention have some wonderful side effects (lowering blood pressure, destressing, muscles becoming less tense, etc.).  An often overlooked benefit however,  is a wide-openness in  relationship with the self.   Sounds great, huh? (ok, now I’m chuckling – or is it snickering?)

You see,  I do not subscribe to a romantasized view of enlightment (or love) so at first this openness may not exactly seem like a benefit.  Because just as with any relationship we have that grows deeper, the relationship with the self as it opens, brings to the surface all the dark stuff, all the shit, all the obstacles – anxieties, triggers, the raw-ness, the mistrust that comes from being in love and getting closer.  It’s honesty – a being honest with who you are in an integrated wholeness.  I take me as I am,  not just the enlightened stuff, warts and all (or is it “ego” and all?)

Sticking with it – like a committment I’d have with any other love relationship – and being sure to treat myself with kindness, compassion and honesty allows me to be the container that can hold these areas as they arise.

So while we may all believe we need to love ourselves more, I am reminded what real love entails.  It means being with the shit.  Not ignoring it or reacting to it.  This is true with the others I love as well as myself.  And lets face it, if that type of development were easy we’d all be in enlightened relationships . . .

So I continue to sit
(and watch the Stuart Davis show on the web – I like how he integrates the shadow and I usually always laugh – especially the show on “The Secret”)


While the King was looking down, the jester stole his thorny crown

Ok, so much of my focus on here is on letting go,  meditating and being mindful. 
Cause it’s what I need more of in my life and I figure why not share; I’m probably not the only one.

Sometimes letting go however, is not about sitting and being empty it’s about re-framing a thought or refocusing attention, trying a new behavior or holding a new idea. A change in perspective from an old habit to a new (and if that ain’t mindfulness, I don’t know what is). 

The following is by Tony Robbins.  It’s amusing to me that I like to make fun of him at times, yet always find wisdom in what he has to say. He’s like the jester in my court (I am king of my world after all) and he always brings some form of wisdom no matter how silly I think it is. Which reminds me – go to the link on the side of this page “Zen – the possible way” and check out the Montey Python skit/post.  I’ve been going back to it regularly. It’s a great post

Tony’s words also helped me be a more evolved observer of my own thoughts – since I love the definition he gives for thinking. A simple piece of wisdom. As I examine my own “monkey mind” I am able to better smile at the self. You know, generate a little self compassion regarding my own anxiety.
Enjoy . . .

Thinking is really just a series of questions and answers we pose to ourselves. We’re constantly asking and answering. Asking and answering. Asking and answering.Yah? Now, if we believe that we’re constantly asking and answering questions, it begs the question (pun intended): “What kind of questions are we asking ourselves?!”
Simple examples: You’re having a rough day. Didn’t work out when you said you would. Boss is being a jerk. Traffic sucks. Whatever. What do you ask yourself?

Grrrrr…Why can’t I ever do what I say I’m going to do?!?!” vs. “Hmmm…I wonder, how can I make better commitments and have fun following through with them?!?”

Why is my boss being such a jerk again?” vs. “I know I’m always reading that life is our class-room, so…How can I learn from this situation and have fun while I’m doing it?”

Why is there always soooo much traffic?!?!” vs. “Wow. I wonder how much conscious breath work I can get done on my way to work today?!? Lucky me. There’s traffic!”

ok – that “lucky me. there’s traffic” part was a bit much – but all in all, some great words, yeah?




the courage to let go of thoughts

Then I went off to fight some battle
That I’d invented inside my head
. . . . .
I had to stop in my tracks for fear
Of walking on the mines I’d laid
                               – Sting, Fortress Around Your Heart

. . . the courage to express genuine bravery in our everyday life must start with letting go of thoughts.

. . . by sitting still we stop dressing up our emotions as forms of entertainment

. . . such a pause requires courage – to let go of our hesitation, security and doubt and engage the unknown directly
                                – Michael Carroll, The Mindful Leader


Beginner’s Mind in the Moment


I’m back posting after a busy holiday visiting with family on the mainland.  

4 to 6 week old twins. I was with them for what was a fourth of their life thus far.  I saw changes – in weight, hair loss and gain, in their ability to focus on people and objects . . . talk about a lesson in impermanence!  Their world is wondrous and alive – full of possibility and a desire to explore – not prejudged and predetermined.  Theirs is literally a beginner’s mind.

And no matter what I already know about infants, each one is different.  Similarities exist between all us humans (let alone some similarities with other beings in the animal kingdom).  However, there is nothing like a set of twins to awaken the Self to “possibility” of  “not already knowing”.  They do not respond exactly the same and what works for one does not necessarily work for the other – what interests one does not necessarily interest the other.  They are unique – as we all are. (I hope I can remain this open with them as they grow older – I hope I can be more open in the present with others in my life as I have relationship with them).

As Shunryu Suzuki wrote,  “In the beginners mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

This theme reoccurs in my life no matter how it is communicated, phrased or written.

You can prepare and read and even have experience of past infants, but each baby makes you well aware of what you don’t know and how none of us is exactly the same.  They will quickly make you aware of your attachment and the difficulty of letting go ( I am very attached to them and very aware of it).  

And then, as their wise mother said to me – “look how she (the baby) went to sleep after her gas passed – I’d still be complaining about the pain for an hour after it passed, she just went into an immediate relaxed sleep”.  And believe me that little thing screamed in pain and then just as quickly let it go and dropped off into slumber.

I spent so much time “in the moment” with them.  Whether it was seeing through their eyes (it’s amazing how captivating Xmas lights and ceiling fans are) . . . or realizing how uncomplicated and “in the moment” their needs currently are. . .  I’m hungry, I have gas, I need to be changed, I’m going to sleep, I want to be touched . . .

I found zen moments in washing bottles, dancing with a baby in my arms, in feedings, burpings and in changing diapers.

A gift given to me by Lucas and Julia.  The challenge for me now is to be of beginner’s mind and mindful in other areas of my life.

We’ll see. 

Happy New Year Everyone,

Live'n Aloha on Maui.
Lately just posting pics, artwork, vids, & music with just a headline (less seems to be more).
Into Wilber, Beck, Zen Stuffs, Spiritual Concepts, Philosophy and Humor (kinda geeky humor).
Currently attempting to strengthen my meditation skills (this has been a 20 yr process).
Thanks for stopp'n by and please leave a comment. Poz or Neg, all comments welcome.
"I don't like Spam" (said with a British accent)

January 2009