Archive Page 2

07
May
09

I’ve been all of the above


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

04
May
09

We Get to Carry Each Other . . . One


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)

01
May
09

The most dangerous

crayon

Another reason I sit and breath – it cultivates a new way of dealing with self criticism; the following is from a post by Brian Johnson.  Hope you have a great day re-framing your inner critic.  It kinda reminds me of my responses when I was an adolescent and hadn’t built up a lot permanent “shoulds” yet and let shit roll off my back (well except the response to criticism #1 below –  I may believe it, but it’s worded too damn “lala” for me, I’m too cynical)
And Samuel Goldwyn’s quote is fuck’n brilliant – pointing to the difference between being either caught up in OR being in denial. That fine balance of just being
~John

Ah, the inner critic.As the Buddha says, “More than those who hate you, more than all your enemies, an undisciplined mind does greater harm.”

How true is that?!? How’s your internal dialogue? Are you even aware of just how much you criticize yourself?  It’s pretty crazy when we really start to notice what’s going on up there in our minds!!

And, of course, we face a barrage of criticism from the outside world. In her brilliant book, The Gifted Adult, Mary-Elaine Jacobsen spends an entire chapter walking us through the criticisms commonly thrown at gifted adults and provides some  alternative responses.

Like these:

CRITICISM #8: “Can’t You Just Stick with One Thing?”
NEW RESPONSE: “No, Probably Not.”

CRITICISM #10: “Why Don’t You Slow Down?”
NEW RESPONSE: “Going Fast Is Normal for Me.”

CRITICISM #1: “Who Do You Think You Are?”
NEW RESPONSE: “A Humble Everyday Genius Called to Serve.”

“The most dangerous of our prejudices reign in ourselves against ourselves. To dissolve them is a creative act.” ~ Hugo von Hofsmannsthal

“Don’t pay any attention to the critics-don’t even ignore them.” ~ Samuel Goldwyn

25
Apr
09

Taking the Red Pill


It is easy to be swept away by some overwhelming feeling, so it’s helpful to remember that any stressful feeling is like a compassionate alarm clock that says, “You’re caught in the dream”
~ Byron Katie from Loving What Is

I like the way Byron put that.  For me it’s another way of saying “This is a reason I sit, this is one reason I meditate”.
To wake up.
To wake up in a posture of compassion.
To remain mindful of what’s going on within me and therefore better equipped to be mindful of what’s going on around me.

Waking up means taking the necessary time to examine myself (especially the parts I don’t want to examine) Byron points to this when he calls  them “stressful” and “overwhelming” feelings.
Waking up means taking the time to deepen compassion for yourself and towards the world around you.
Waking up means then letting go of all of that and just “Being”.
(it’s a developmental process – and so I sit – not as regularly as I’d like, but oh when I do  – that compassionate nature which exists in all of us, begins to strengthen and deepen)

It’s important to point out that I am not a Buddhist – although many of my quotes are Zen in nature. 
I am attracted to spiritual concepts – to be more specific – Spiritual Concepts that have a Grounding – Not just arbitrary new age-y, woo woo, positive thinking that throws around a bunch of Love and Fear quotes (although most of those ideas have scratched the surface of Truth – it’s just that there’s no depth there for me, and I’ve seen too many people spin out of control or transcend till they come crashing down to earth or act like zombies who deny anything or any feeling that is “unpleasant” )

Buddhism is more like a philosophy for me that requires a bit of action, a bit of discipline – while also touching on the concepts of psychotherapy and being one path up the mountain of spirit (carved solidly into the mountainside for sure footing) 

It means sitting with something rather than letting the something move me into an unconscious action.
It means, Waking Up and Getting My Ass out of Bed – so to speak.
It is why I am attracted to the Tao, the Writings of Ken Wilber, Sri Aurabindo, Joseph Campbell and even Hollywood films like Star Wars and the Matrix (with many writings  and movies in-between).

Sometimes I wake up slowly and stretch.
Sometimes I wake up,  jump outta bed and have a relieving piss
Sometimes I wake up and really examine my dream
And other times I am half asleep  as I get up and go about my day – in need of becoming fully awake.

~John

17
Apr
09

So a man doesn’t step into a bar and he doesn’t say to the bartender . . .

water-n-rocks

Give yourself a break.
That doesn’t mean to say that you should drive to the closest bar and have lots to drink or go to a movie. Just enjoy the day, your normal existence. Allow yourself to sit in your home or take a drive into the mountains. Park your car somewhere; just sit; just be.

It sounds very simplistic. But you begin to pick up on clouds,
sunshine, and weather;
the mountains,
your past,
your chatter with your grandmother and your grandfather, your own mother, your own father.
You begin to pick up on a lot of things.

Just let them pass like the chatter of a brook as it hits the rocks. We have to give ourselves some time to be.

–Chogyam Trungpa, Ocean of Dharma (Shambhala Publications)

13
Apr
09

Through the Looking Glass

In one his movies, the comedian W.C. Fields walks into a bank and up to the teller’s window. The teller asks, “Can you identify yourself?” Fields says, “Of course. Do you have a mirror?” When presented with one, Fields immediately states, “Yup, that’s me!”It’s meant as a joke, but it carries a ring of truth. Who among us can say they really know themselves, without illusions, beyond the face in the mirror, their name-rank-and-serial-number role in the world, their personas, defense mechanisms, and self-deceptions?

Do we distinguish between when we are being authentic and inauthentic?

Do we know what we really feel about things, what our true values and priorities are, what lies below the surface of consciousness, and what makes us tick?

– Lama Surya Das, from The Big Questions (Rodale)

Here’s to finding out who you really are in the quiet moments.
After a busy and fun holiday weekend, I am in need of some quiet moments – no tv, no internet, no phone, no family and no friends.
I think a walking meditation on the beach is called for tonight, before I even return home from work.
The sound of water & sand, wind, my heartbeat and my breath – Observing my thoughts arise and then watching them fall away, like the water receding and coming to shore again.
Stripped away and back to me.
About 20 minutes should do it – the rest of the night won’t be the same. The rest of my life won’t be the same.
Yeah, it’s time to prioritize.
With Hands Open and Receptive,
~ John

07
Apr
09

T.S. Eliot gets all Zen on my Ass

starry-night-1889-van-gogh

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
but the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.


Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light and the stillness, the dancing.


T.S. Eliot (1888 – 1965)
Source: Four Quartets

05
Apr
09

You can’t hide your Lion Eyes

LION KILLMilarepa: “When you run after your thoughts, you are like a dog chasing a stick: every time a stick is thrown, you run after it.  Instead, be like a lion who, rather than chasing after the stick, turns to face the thrower. One only throws a stick at a lion once.”

It is humbling and satisfying to realize the thoughts that run through my head – often at speed of light (especially when I turn inward) are not that important. 
The only attention they deserve, is to be observed as they pass – not followed.  My ego thinks they’re  priceless and in need of chasing.
There is something very freeing about not chasing . . .
Here’s to Freedom
Keep Exhaling
~John

04
Apr
09

What Color is your Christ?

jesus2Is He more like Scorcese’s Last Temptation or Gibson’s Passion?  Would your Jesus drive an Army Tank or a Prius?  Would He be in support of the war in Iraq or marching in a Peace protest?

Bruce Sanguin, a progressive minister recently featured in EnlightenmentNext magazine, has written a book, The Emerging Church  in which he explores how the changing perceptions of  Christ help to illuminate the evolution of spirituality throughout human history. 

I am excited for the emergence of this book at a time when we seem to be collectively embracing the need for change in our Western American culture.  For many people burned out, or burned by, Christianity, this book may offer a healing and resolution. (And for me this fits in with my integral view and understanding of spiral dynamics and my world)

Here are just 4 perspectives in the development of our spirituality with regards to Christ, taken from the EnlightenmentNext article:

The Traditional Christ: “I am the one and only son of God.  If you give yourself to me and me alone, you shall be saved and granted eternal life.” (where seen: The Left Behind series, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins)

The Modern Christ: “I am an example of extraordinary human potential.  Those who strategically apply my teachings will achieve great success.” (where seen: The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren)

The Postmodern Christ: “My teachings are one among many paths of Truth.  I am an example of universal Love, Compassion and Equality.” (where seen: Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith , by Marcus Borg)

The Cosmic Christ: “I am the Spiritual impulse itself – an evolutionary intuition embedded within the sacred unfolding of the cosmos.” (where seen: The Phenomenon of Man , by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)

Here is a link for an audio: http://www.enlightennext.org/magazine/unbound/media.asp?id=247
The book is available from Amazon

 

03
Apr
09

You can go your own way

Make Your Own Way

Hikers know that there are no passable roads in a virgin forest. However, a road will open up when you pull away the grass, thorns and wisteria. Swimmers know that there are no paths in the water, but as you swim you will create a pathway.

Cultivation is similar. You only need to get on the path and walk and you will create your own path. The roads walked by the Ch’an patriarchs are theirs, not yours. You must depend on yourself to open up your own road.

-Ch’an Master Sheng-yen, from Dharma Drum

31
Mar
09

Gaining Dignity, Letting Go of Desperation

theater-maskThe face of impermanence is constantly showing itself.  Why do we struggle to hide it?  Why do we feed the circle of suffering by perpetuating the myth of permanence?  Experiences, friends, relationships, possessions, knowledge – we work so hard to convince ourselves that they will last.  When a cup breaks or we forget something, or somebody dies or the seasons change, we’re surprised.  We can’t believe it’s over.

… Permanence would be awkward.  There would be no beginning and no end . . .   Everything would last forever.  There’d be no seasons.  We’d never be born, grow up, fall in love, have children, grow old or die . . .

No matter how we want to cling to our loved ones, by nature every relationship is a meeting and a parting.  This doesn’t mean we have less love.  It means we have less fixation, less pain. . . we can relax into the ebb and flow of life.

We don’t have to keep imitating an idea of permanent happiness.

Understanding the meaning of impermanence  makes us less desperate people.  It gives us dignity. . .

~ SAKYONG MIPHAM RINPOCHE, Turning the Mind into an Ally

For me this dignity is essential in cultivating a heart of compassion (and Sakyong points to this also).  If my heart is full of fixation there is no room for anything else to exist.   It’s as if this letting go is a first step in taking the focus off of merely myself and opening up to something larger than myself.

I find that embracing the nature of impermanence in the seasons, in financial areas, and relationships to be easier these days.  The impermanence in knowledge is becoming more evident in this information age as “things” we thought to be true are quickly outdated and replaced by new information – it’s funny,  I still hold certain knowledge to be more permanent – I grasp this tighter; I hold on with a closed fist – especially when I do not see the difference between knowledge and my opinion or I try to make a certain knowledge “fixed” rather than unfolding (which happens when I am caught up in my blue or orange development – see Spiral Dynamics).

I hope to cultivate a bit more dignity in this area.
~John

30
Mar
09

A contemplation on the rarity of human life

sea-turtle1Without commentary by me, more wisdom from  Sakyong Mipham from Turning the Mind into an Ally :
“If we think of how many other beings are born here on Earth, it’s amazing that we’re born human.
A traditional Buddhist teaching on the difficulty of obtaining human birth uses the image of a blind tortoise swimming in the ocean that’s as big as the Earth, with an ox’s yoke tossing on the surface. Once every five hundred years the turtle swims up to the surface. The chances of obtaining human birth are said to be as small as the chances of that turtle emerging with its head in the yoke.
. . . we’ve been born in a time and place where we have the luxury of
hearing,
contemplating,
and putting into action
teachings that awaken us to our enlightened mind”

May you be free from pain,
John

27
Mar
09

12,000 Thoughts

thousands

The average person has 12,000 thoughts per day – most of them a recurring handful of unwelcome distractions (source “Still the Mind” –  Bodhipaksa)

I’ve been listening to a download by  SAKYONG MIPHAM RINPOCHE, the author of  “Turning The Mind Into An Ally” and I am enjoying listening to his teaching as it slowly sinks in to my being (it’s been  a lighter look at his elementary teachings). 
The basic gist is about how we do not have to be at odds with unpleasant or unconscious thoughts as they arise – rather it’s about how to have a better relationship with the distracting or unpleasant mind – the same way we have to work through our relationships with others we love, when they are being unpleasant.  Now this is not about dealing with the Shadow, it’s more about the constant way our mind can go on and on and on – the Monkey Chatter.  I felt his “basic” ideas were worth posting and that some of my blog readers would enjoy his teaching.  I find it has been valuable for me; it’s a simple wisdom that has changed my relationship with myself. Here are some of my  paraphrased words from Sakyong’s introductory interview:

Peaceful Abiding is a basic meditation, for harmony within ourselves – with our mind.  Not at odds with our mind, rather with mind as an ally.  For instance, we never know how we are going to wake up (angry, happy, frustrated etc.) and this is the person we are going to have to deal with the rest of the day.  This is who we are in relationship with for that day.  What kind of relationship will we have with this mind/emotion?  If we are not in relationship with our mind – life becomes very difficult.

As a people we generally like to be in control, this is our human condition.  We like thinking we are in control of our thoughts.  As if  it were natural to think certain thoughts only when we want to. 
However, as we sit down to eat we can all of a sudden begin to think about a bill, needing to fix our car, problems at work, how our friend acted like such a bitch, etc. If we were in control, we would say (and be), “So I am sitting down to eat, I will be present with eating and think about the bills, the car, work, my friend, when I want/choose  to think about the bills or the car or work or my bitch friend”. 
Let’s face it – it doesn’t work that way. We don’t have that kind of control.  So we have to be in relationship with our mind.  Is it our enemy or is it our ally?

In Sakyong’s teaching, it is about making the mind pliable, making it flexible.  A hardened and inflexible mind has no room for compassion; it is jealous, angry, holding . . .  What we are in need of,  is a softening.

In allowing distracting thoughts to arise and pass (and there are various ways to do this), in allowing these to be impermanent, we see that the nature of mind at its core – is peaceful abiding, clear, knowing and powerful.  It is our ally. It is part of our true nature.  And this is one of the values in meditating – peaceful abiding.  It’s not some mystical state, it’s our natural state.

It takes courage to be compassionate (even with the self) when you’re consumed with a thought/emotion.  To make peace with one’s mind takes strength and courage and understanding.  It is much easier to give in, than to be brave enough to remain open to change or possibility (especially if we are angry or anxious). Yet this is the possibility that exists in all of us.

25
Mar
09

Forming an Alliance

Still re-reading  “Turning The Mind Into An Ally” by Sakyong Mipham.  I am so touched by his words.  There is a strength in the concept of creating an alliance, especially when I am in need of softening.  Frustration and Anxiety often appear as though they are in opposition to my mind (which usually leads to restless nights) and then I become hard and inflexible, which does not leave room to foster compassion or love. If I do not form an alliance with my mind, how can I form an alliance with the world around me?  To most of you reading this – this is nothing new,  I just appreciate his wording:

“. . . through peaceful abiding, we can create an alliance that allows us to actually use our mind, rather than be used by it.  This is a practice anyone can do. Although it has its roots in Buddhism, it is a complement to any spiritual tradition.

If we want to undo our bewilderment and suffering and be of benefit to others and the planet, we’re going to have to be responsible for learning what our mind is and how it works, no matter what beliefs we hold. Once we see how our mind works, we see how our life works too. That changes us.

… the more we understand about ourselves and how the mind works, the more the mind can work “

24
Mar
09

Come out, come out wherever you are

During the small time it took to post this, I was paying attention to typing, thinking about what I was going to have for breakfast, what I was going to wear to work, and if one of my coworkers was going to make trouble for my staff:

Ahhh my untamed mind.

Here is a quote from Sakyong Mipham who wrote one of my favorite books, “Turning the Mind into an Ally“:

“In looking for my mind, I discovered that it seems to be in many different places. Sometimes it is drinking a glass of water, remembering swimming in the summer, feeling the breeze. In this contemplation I observed that the self is more elusive than I thought.”

 

20
Mar
09

get over it already

van-renselar-abstract-art-abstract-art

There is a quote I came across from Mark Epstein, while I was scanning over his book “Thoughts Without A Thinker” again (btw – I recommend any of his books).
For me,  this thought is not only central to any type of spiritual practice or discipline, it is also central to achieving psychological health.  While psychology is a fairy new discipline and Buddhism is over 2,000 years old – isn’t it funny how relevant this idea of over-identification is to the human experience and how certain schools of thought keep bringing it up?
I can’t even begin to blog how often I over-identify with my thoughts or feelings (let alone how easy it is for me to see it in other people before I notice it in myself). Or how I try to find some damn “meaning” in a feeling or thought so I can make sense of it or understand it.
(this is truly the dilemma for anyone suffering from a  Bipolar disorder or the general narcissism found in society – it’s what marketing firms and advertisers count on yeah?)

It’s just a feeling.
It’s just a thought.
They arise and they pass . . .
Why do we try to so hard make them permanent and concrete?
Why is it so difficult to just observe them?
(Again, this is why I practice sitting.  Or at least one of many reasons I practice)

Enjoy Mark’s perspective on this:

“Because of our craving, the Buddha is saying, we want things to be understandable.

We reduce, concretize, or substantialize experiences or feelings, which are, in their very nature, fleeting or evanescent. In so doing, we define ourselves by our moods and by our thoughts.

We do not just let ourselves be happy or sad, for instance; we must become a happy person or a sad one.

This is the chronic tendency of the ignorant or deluded mind, to make ‘things’ out of that which is no thing.

Seeing craving shatters this predisposition; it becomes preposterous to try to see substance where there is none.”

19
Mar
09

Let your mind become like a fog at sunset

fog-at-sunset2

Divinity has one ultimate secret, which it will also whisper in your ear if your mind becomes quieter than the fog at sunset: the God of this world is found within, and you know it is found within: in those hushed silent times when the mind becomes still, the body relaxes into infinity, the senses expand to become one with the world-

in those glistening times, a subtle luminosity, a serene radiance, a brilliantly transparent clarity shimmers as the true nature of all manifestation, erupting every now and then in a compassionate Radiance before whom all idols retreat,

a love so fierce it adoringly embraces both light and dark, both good and evil, both pleasure and pain equally….

~ Ken Wilber
Source: “Simple Feeling of Being”

(and this is one reason why when I do not sit regularly in meditation, life is not the same.  And when I do sit,  life is not the same – John)

17
Mar
09

You in the front row, sit down and watch the show

stage_curtains

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

16
Mar
09

I say, I say, look-ee here boy

rooster

There is only One Time when it is Essential to Awaken.
That time is Now.

~ Jack Kornfield, Buddha’s Little Instruction Book

(what can I say, I sleep a lot  – John)

12
Mar
09

We don’t need to be particularly saintly in order to be compassionate

waterflowingrocks

Seeing the suffering in the world around us and in our own bodies and minds, we begin to understand suffering not only as an individual problem, but as a universal experience.

It is one of the aspects of being alive. The question that then comes to mind is: If compassion arises from the awareness of suffering, why isn’t the world a more compassionate place?

The problem is that often our hearts are not open to feel the pain. We move away from it, close off, and become defended. By closing ourselves off from suffering, however, we also close ourselves to our own wellspring of compassion.

We don’t need to be particularly saintly in order to be compassionate. Compassion is the natural response of an open heart, but that wellspring of compassion remains capped as long as we turn away from or deny or resist the truth of what is there.

When we deny our experience of suffering, we move away from what is genuine to what is fabricated, deceptive and confusing.

–Joseph Goldstein, Seeking the Heart of Wisdom

11
Mar
09

Worst Enemy / Best Friend

reclining-buddha

Our  own worst enemy cannot harm us as much as our unwise thoughts.
No one can help us as much as our own compassionate thoughts.
~ Jack Kornfield, Buddha’s Little Instruction Book

Thank you for all the well wishes, offers, chants and prayers.  I am feeling much better, just a bit fatigued now.  Many Blessings,  John

09
Mar
09

The Mindfulness of being Sick

iao
Just some observations of being consumed with a fever “on and off” for the last 14 days:

I love to escape –
get lost in a DVD in order to forget how I am feeling
or use food to self nurture

I am very resistant to being ill
It’s difficult to focus on normal routine things when sick
It’s easy to be aware of other areas when you just go with the illness and stop resisting

There’s a fine line between focusing on health and accepting what is

Dreams are crazy during a fever
I am very aware of my body
I am very aware of taste
Fresh food is a gift and a miracle
Acheyness and being grumpy are a natural pairing for me
I am very aware of breathing
Breathwork is easier when I’m well
Cool showers are a tactile delight (and I tend to rush through them when healthy)
Wow, I’m really not that aware when I’m not sick

I’m really not missing all that much when I don’t access the internet
I spend too much time on the internet when I’m healthy
People on tv are really consumed with Chris Brown, Rhianna and Octomom
“Match Game” reruns make me laugh (and feel better)

I miss my dog
My neighbor can be very loud
I’m sensitive to light and sound
My home gets messy fast when I don’t have energy to clean
Laundry piles up quick when you sweat a lot
I don’t like a messy or dirty house much

I have a very compassionate doctor
I have some very compassionate coworkers
I suck at slowing down and taking rest when my body tells me to
My mother is horrible at masking her concern/fears and it’s sweet to listen to her try to sound cheerful

I take a good night’s sleep for granted, way to often
I have a love/hate relationship with antibiotics
It’s hard to let go of work issues

I look forward to being well again
I miss exercising
Walking is never a chore when I’m healthy
I’m happy it’s raining and cool

05
Mar
09

“To do” list

After 8 days of a fever and various other side effects, my body and mind are returning to normal (whatever the hell that is).
I am thankful.
I am smiling.
Now to get back to my “to do” list.  (I borrowed this one from Jack Kornfield)

Things to do today:
Exhale
Inhale
Exhale
Ahhhhhhhhh

24
Feb
09

I gotta be honest

I am achey all over.
I go between having the chills and sweats.
I have the knowledge that this too shall pass.
And I do not wanna be with this. 
I just wanna escape (even if it means just sleeping)

So for now I am resisting and I don’t give a crap
(oh well at least I know)

I am soo thankful for fresh ginger though

23
Feb
09

Multitasking is Overrated and Over Valued

hubbleeaglenebulawidefield1

About once a year, when I am not paying attention and my mind is a million miles away, I make a quick movement  as I bend down to pick something up and “Aargh”,  I strain my lower back.

About once every 3 months or so I’ll be in a hurry to work out and get my reps over with – not  paying attention to the movement of the weights in my hand, nor the movement of my muscles, nor the movement of my joints and “Snap” I sprain a muscle.

Every so often I will not sit and breathe, practice my Qigong and rush off into my day and I will come home with a tightness between my shoulder blades (it’s where my body holds stress)

It was one of those weeks this past week.

3 quotes from Buddha’s Little Instruction Book by Jack Kornfield helped to  realign my thoughts so I could realign body (or is it vice versa? ? ?)

Our body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care. (pg 48)

When you walk, just walk. When you eat, just eat. (pg 65)

Stay centered.  Do not overstretch. Extend from your center, return to your center. (pg 69)

19
Feb
09

Zen and the Virus

hiv

What happens when Zen crosses the path of HIV AIDS and Death and Dying?
If you wanna know,  read this interview from Poz.com to find out.
I was humbled and impressed by Chodo’s experience – will you be?
(It’s a lengthier read than any other post I’ve had on here – but I think it’s well worth the read)

Zen and the Virus

by Oriol R. Gutierrez Jr.

Wellness is the concept of getting and staying healthy by taking care of your body and your mind. Taking your meds, getting regular exercise, maintaining a balanced diet and meditating can all help you achieve wellness. For many HIV-positive people, wellness also involves taking care of your spirit through faith.

Robert (Chodo) Campbell credits his Buddhist faith as a major contributor to his wellness. Originally from the United Kingdom, Chodo (his Buddhist name) was baptized in the Church of England, but religion was not a part of his upbringing. Growing up gay and dealing with abuse impacted him—and his beliefs—profoundly.

Chodo launched his career as an art director in fashion and photography in London. He moved to New York City to open a branch office for his employer in 1983, the year Chodo believes he became HIV positive. He owned his own creative services company by 1988, the year he was diagnosed with HIV. All the while, he immersed himself in the gay party scene until drugs and alcohol took over his life.

Years after getting sober, in 1993 he started practicing Buddhism. He joined the Village Zendo, a Buddhist community with many gay practitioners. In 2002, he began studying formally to become a Buddhist monk. He was ordained in 2005.

Today, Chodo is the co-founder and co-executive director of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care along with Koshin Paley Ellison, a Buddhist monk who also is Chodo’s husband. Honoring Buddhist principles, the center seeks to transform suffering through a chaplaincy program, educational retreats and other outreach.

Chodo also works with the Robert Mapplethorpe Residential Treatment Facility, which provides assisted living for people with HIV/AIDS. Total wellness is the overall goal of all his work.

I visited with Chodo at the Village Zendo, which is located in downtown Manhattan. As an HIV-positive person on my own journey to wellness, I was inspired by his energy and his insights. I also was challenged when he guided me through a hands-on introduction to Zen meditation. Visit poz.com/video to watch Chodo show me—and you—the basics of meditation.

How does Buddhism inform your perspective on wellness?
In Buddhism, we talk about [how] the only thing that we really have is this moment. And in [each new] moment, I have an opportunity to take care of myself, to notice my body, to notice my environment, to be aware of everything.

If I’m totally aware, I’ll notice when I’m not feeling well. I’ll notice when something’s off with my diet, with my bowel movements, my thoughts, my [level of] anxiety, my temperament. I have an opportunity, through my meditation practice, to just keep coming back to the moment, [to understand] what’s going on right now [with my whole being].

How does meditation help improve wellness?
Meditation [helps] to bring us to that place of stillness. When we’re in that place of stillness, we’re in a much better position to notice what is out of whack, what is off kilter. We can’t do that unless we’re paying full attention to ourselves.

We talk about the mind and body being one thing—there’s no separation. If we take care of the mind, we’re taking care of the body. If we take care of the body, we’re taking care of the mind.

I [want] the last word [on my health] to be mine; I want that to come from a place that is calm and centered and true. The only way I can get to my true essence is through meditation.

How do you integrate the advice of doctors and other health care providers in your plan for wellness?
I’ve been HIV positive now for 26 years. When I was first diagnosed, my doctor at the time recommended that I go on a drug called AZT. My [CD4] cells were very low, and I said I really didn’t want to go on AZT.

We were hearing so much about its side effects [like how it affected bone marrow], and people were dying. I said, “I don’t want to do that.” My doctor said, “Given where your numbers and your blood work are, you’re looking at 24 months to live.”

Then, AIDS was still a very new disease. We still didn’t know enough about it, but I knew I didn’t want to take an experimental drug.

My doctors never have the last word on my health. I also use my therapist, and my Buddhist teacher, to help inform me. I take all the information, process it and come from a place—not only of intellectual understanding—but [also] a place of real deep intuition.

What’s kept me healthy for the last 26 years is to not believe that the doctor—or anyone else—has the last word [on my health].

How do you apply your perspective on wellness to the day-to-day task of taking care of yourself?
I’m not anything other than a human being with my faults, my pathology, my fears. There are moments when I do forget to take care of myself. In my [Buddhist] practice, we talk about how we can separate from ourselves. When I separate [from myself], I can neglect what’s going on in me. I can not pay attention to my bad mood or I can not pay attention to how tired and exhausted I get because I’m constantly running.

As a caregiver and as a person that trains people to give care to others, one would think my first duty to myself would be to take care of myself, but in fact it’s difficult. My meditation practice is a way that I can be reminded [to be healthy]. [Daily] I can bring myself back to a cushion to remind myself that I need to take care of Chodo.

Speaking of taking care of Chodo, you already have overcome many hurdles in your life. How has learning to overcome them supported your sense of well-being?
I arrived at Buddhism through sobriety. I had been sober for five years and was actually not doing well. Though I was sober—I had no impulse to drink or to go back to [using] cocaine—I was feeling spiritually bankrupt. I met a Buddhist monk during one of my therapy supervisions, and she guided me to the practice.

I had real difficulties in coming to terms with my whole life prior to getting clean and sober. It was very painful. There was a lot of stuff I didn’t want to look at, and I was actually still living in it as though it were happening, as though the trauma was still happening for me.

Through my Buddhist practice, I realized that I could be in a place of knowing that yes, traumas did take place, abuse did take place, my addictions did rule my life for many years—and yet I could change that.

I think the very first time I sat on a meditation cushion was the first time in my life that I actually stopped running—both physically and mentally. I was able to listen to the constant chatter in my mind, the constant negative thoughts, the constant craziness that seemed to run my life.

It was really difficult for me during the first year—coming back to the cushion, just sitting there. I was told to sit with whatever came up—whatever anger, whatever sadness, whatever fears, whatever joy—to just sit with the feelings, to not attach the story, to simply experience them.

My stories had kept me from my peace, my true center. After 15 years, I still have those stories, but now they’re not running the show quite so much.

Could you explain further what you mean by “stories”?
We have the actual event that took place. Then there’s our interpretation of the event and the “story” we build around it. The “story” is something that we continue to carry.

[For instance,] the event has happened. [He taps the table loudly.] That’s the event. Next week, [you may tell yourself a story that starts] with, “Oh my God, when he tapped that table, it made me jump. I can’t stand it, it makes me so frightened.” You will then continue to live out of that story, so it becomes bigger. [Your remembrance is] no longer the event, it’s the story.

If I’m an adult living in the story of what happened to me when I was 5 years old, it’s not really serving me. It’s not to make the 5-year-old’s event any less important or traumatic, but [Buddhist meditation] gives me an opportunity to move away from that. I’m not going to live in that trauma anymore.

In addition to Buddhism, what else has helped you get to a place of wellness?
I’ve had many years of psychotherapy, and I’m still in psychotherapy. I don’t think there’s ever going to be an end to my psychotherapy. Just as in my Buddhist practice, my story, my life, is always evolving. I started in therapy when I was 34 years old, and I got sober a year later. I’ve been sober for 22 years.

Support groups for people who have gone through similar traumas, whether it’s sexual abuse, drug abuse or other events or traumas, are important.

I could not have worked [successfully through] the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous without my therapy. My therapy is enhanced by my Buddhist practice, and my Buddhist practice is informed by my therapy. It all works in tandem; I don’t separate any of them out. I need them all.

Assisting people who are going through the process of dying is part of your daily practice. Why is it important for you to do that work?
Many people who come through alcoholism or drug abuse will tell you that suddenly they feel alive. For many years, they had felt dead or anesthetized.

I anesthetized myself for years with drugs and alcohol. When I got sober, I felt alive. On some level, I [had already] experienced death. More importantly, I experienced a rebirth because I felt for the first time that I was actually alive.

I had no idea what I was going to do with this new life that I had found. In Buddhism, we talk a lot about service to others, which is something I had never really done in my life.

I started volunteering in a hospice, and it was one of those light-bulb moments. For me, it’s very profound work. It’s a great honor to be with anyone that is dying. It reminds me constantly how fragile life is, how fragile we all are. It keeps my life real for me.

How is wellness connected with death and dying?
You can’t live a whole life without embracing the fact that you’re going to die. We live in this world of denial. We live in a culture that doesn’t face death. We live in a society that pushes death to the side. We put our aged in nursing homes; we don’t speak about [diseases like] cancer or HIV/AIDS.

You’re born, you’re going to die. To live in denial of that is deprivation, which is not wellness. It’s not wholeness. It’s not looking at our life span as a whole. We’re not looking at the decline of our health, whether it’s through AIDS or any kind of disease, or just through the natural aging process. [Life is] inevitably going to bring you to the point of death.

Your New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care also plans to provide end-of-life care. Can you elaborate on that?
>From my volunteer experience in hospices, I went on to train as a hospital chaplain. My partner [Koshin], who’s also a Buddhist practitioner, felt that there was a real need for Buddhist practitioners in the field of health care, especially hospice care.

We co-created the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care and a program that trains caregivers from a Buddhist perspective. It’s a contemplative perspective. We now have 65 students.

They’re from all walks of life. They’re hospice workers, doctors and nurses, retired school teachers, ministers. They either want to enhance the work they do through contemplative practice, or they just want to experience a different way of doing it.

It’s really important to us that people, whether they’re sick or dying, are allowed to be treated with dignity, respect and have a spiritual experience [in the final days and moments of] their lives.

Our idea is to create a building that will house end-of-life suites and studio apartments. It’s not so much hospice, [but rather] it’s end-of-life care. The hospice component will be [handled by] a third party brought in for certain treatments. [Our place will be] a place where people can come and begin that journey toward the end of their life.

On your website there’s a wonderful short documentary titled “Center for Contemplative Care: A Film” that features a woman named Rose Tisnado. Can you tell us about her?
I met Rose through another Buddhist practitioner who was a great friend of hers. Rose was given six months to live. She had been diagnosed with cancer, and she was very scared.

Rose heard about my work through our mutual friend. She wanted to meet me to see if we could work together just in doing meditation practice to bring her to a place of calmness.

When I first met Rose, I was immediately struck by her life force. Even though, at that point, we thought she had only six months to live, she was very much alive. She was very clear that she didn’t want to do chemotherapy, she was ready to go toward the end of her life, but she needed to be in a very different place [emotionally and spiritually].

She wanted to be calmer; she wanted to understand what [death was] going to be like. There was fear around the actual journey toward death. In my work with Rose and many other people, we recognize that [when you’re dying] there’s no time for bullshit. There’s no time to not speak truthfully.

Many people have issues that are unresolved. They don’t feel they can speak about [them] with their families, their spouses, their partners. In our work, we create a wonderful space for people to open up to who they really are. It’s not always pretty. Not everybody dies a great death. But Rose was willing to go to those places where her demons lived.

We had many conversations about her lifestyle and about her fears about the people that perhaps she had not been so kind to in her life. We did some very intense meditations on dying, what it would be like, the dissolution of the body.

There’s a meditation that we do in our practice, “The Nine Contemplations,” about what’s it going to be like when you die. Nothing’s going to stop that, not your friends or your money.

Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
I’m lucky enough to still be living with HIV after 26 years. There’s no judgment on my part; each of us lives our lives how we see fit. I’m not saying that the way I live my life is the only way to do it.

[My life] could have gone any way with my drug addiction, with the choices I made. I could easily have wound up in a residence [for people dying from AIDS], but [thanks to facing my past and changing how I lived my life] I didn’t.

If a person chooses to place his or her life entirely in the hands of the medical profession, then that’s his or her way. We each find our own way. There’s no right way, there’s no wrong way. There’s just the way that each of us chooses to do it.

Visit zencare.org to watch “Center for Contemplative Care: A Film.”

19
Feb
09

Respect Yourself

upcountry-in-feb-059b

Co-dependence – I recognize this quality surprisingly often; it’s one of those qualities that’s easy for me to see. I am thankful that it is less prominent in my own interactions as my personal evolution progresses.
What I tend to come across is a misunderstanding of self love.  There is either a selfishness with no humility, no regard for another or a displacement of caring onto another, with little regard for ones own needs.  In fact, I come across couples (and have been such a couple) who embody each of these qualities – polarized ends of the spectrum. Void of a middle way and primarily meeting the needs of ego.
When I am practicing mindful awareness there is a self care that addresses more than my egoic needs –  It’s a befriending of the “good, the bad and the ugly”.  A true self respect
Here is a teaching by Sharon Salzberg with a quote by the Buddha and Walt Whitman.
I hope it continues to foster your own self compassion, as it has mine.

The practice of metta (lovingkindness), uncovering the force of love that can uproot fear, anger, and guilt, begins with befriending ourselves. The foundation of metta practice is to know how to be our own friend. According to the Buddha, “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” How few of us embrace ourselves in this way! With metta practice we uncover the possibility of truly respecting ourselves. We discover, as Walt Whitman put it, “I am larger and better than I thought. I did not think I held so much goodness.” 
 
–Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness

17
Feb
09

Come out of the closet

The sun is up, the sky is blue

It’s beautiful and so are you.

Won’t you open up your eyes?

Look around . . .

13
Feb
09

Keep’n it Real

upcountry-in-feb-061c
Just another reason why I breathe.
It’s an ego check.
AKA – a reality check.
Enlightenment is after all about “Keep’n it Real”.
Enjoy the quotes,
John

“There are no perfect human beings! Persons can be found who are good, very good indeed, in fact, great. There do in fact exist creators, seers, sages, saints, shakers, and movers…even if they are uncommon and do not come by the dozen. And yet these very same people can at times be boring, irritating, petulant, selfish, angry, or depressed. To avoid disillusionment with human nature, we must first give up our illusions about it.” ~ Abraham Maslow from Motivation and Personality 
 
As Rumi reminds us, “There is no worse sickness for the soul, o you who are proud, than this pretense of perfection.”

08
Feb
09

Cool water

Themes.
I’ve written before that when I pay attention there are certain themes that reoccur.
Yesterday’s post by Pema Chodron spoke of the rain as just allowing, a gentleness and softening of the hard earth.
While this concept embraces many things – one is a sense of self compassion and releasing. Not so much of trying, but of allowing. And for me this is such an important lesson – my background (especially my German post-modern upbringing) places a great emphasis on “trying and doing”, so these reminders are valuable to my being.

Today I came across on ad in the mail for Shambhala Sun in which Thich Nhat Hanh speaks on mindfulness and also uses the analogy of water, not struggling and no effort. It also reminds me of one of my favorite songs – U2’s “One”
Enjoy,
John

I have often been asked, “How does mindfulness bring happiness?”

Our Emotions and Perceptions are like seeds in the garden of our minds – and mindfulness is like cool water. When we water the seeds of joy in ourselves, they grow and flower without effort.  This is one of the simplest and most wonderful of miracles.

When you nourish yourself and others in this way, you see that all things – this piece of paper, the air you are breathing, you and I – are deeply interconnected.  This is the truth of interdependence.  No one can be one’s self alone.  We have to inter-be to be.

07
Feb
09

not Mud wrestling, more like a mud bath – so relax

This post is very much reminds me of open hands  and exhaling . . .
Here in Hawaii, the indigenous teaching about blessings and “mana” is that it is like rain falling upon your head. The following teaching adds a new perspective to what it means to be blessed and have power . . .

We try so hard to hang on to the teachings and “get it,” but actually the truth sinks in like rain into very hard earth. The rain is very gentle, and we soften up slowly at our own speed. But when that happens, something has fundamentally changed in us. That hard earth has softened. It doesn’t seem to happen by trying to get it or capture it. It happens by letting go; it happens by relaxing your mind, and it happens by the aspiration and the longing to want to communicate with yourself and others. Each of us finds our own way.

–Pema Chodron, Start Where You Are

From Everyday Mind, a Tricycle book edited by Jean Smith

06
Feb
09

You can’t always get what you want, but you may find you get what you need

Is synthetic happiness equal to happiness you stumble upon?  Science seems to think so. Being with what “is” appears to be able to make us happy.   That’s why advertising to Zen monks isn’t necessarily profitable . . .

04
Feb
09

And we’re roll’n (roll’n), roll’n (roll’n), roll’n on the river

yellow-river1

There’s a Zen story in which a man is enjoying himself on a river at dusk. He sees another boat coming down the river toward him. At first it seems so nice to him that someone else is also enjoying the river on a nice summer evening.

Then he realizes that the boat is coming right toward him, faster and faster. He begins to get upset and starts to yell, “Hey, hey watch out! For Pete’s sake, turn aside!” But the boat just comes faster and faster, right toward him. By this time he’s standing up in his boat, screaming and shaking his fist, and then the boat smashes right into him.

He sees that it’s an empty boat.

This is the classic story of our whole life situation.

–Pema Chodron, Start Where You Are

01
Feb
09

Mindful Eye

When I am out with my camera I am 99.9% of the time in the moment.

The lens helps me to focus, be present and observe my surroundings .  What a great way to practice; I have so much to be thankful for.  Why do I forget that?  Oh yeah, cause I’m a damn human on the path to enlightenment – no more or less an asshole than the rest of the planet.

With my camera, I slow down, my breathing becomes more integrated, I begin to notice the subtleties and I feel more centered. I definitely feel more connected to my surroundings.

The trick is that I don’t go out to photograph anything in particular. I just go for a hike, a walk, a ride in the car, etc.  There is no preconceived idea of what needs to be done – there is just an openess to explore the world around me.  There is no particular subject matter that is assigned, just an observing mind.  No prejudgement regarding the subject, the lighting, the composition.  Just a willingness to pay attention and discover.

Here’s a few of today’s results:

Moss

Floral

Fountain

Fallen Tree

man and nature

Enlightenment

31
Jan
09

I Opened the Wardrobe again . . .

 

 bird-flats-025b

 

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.
Breathe,

John

30
Jan
09

A Zen Moment Quote

dog

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

Breath’n and Smile’n,
John

28
Jan
09

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

27
Jan
09

I love to exhale

water-n-rocks2

(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,

25
Jan
09

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)

24
Jan
09

The Gordian Knot of preoccupation

gordian_knot

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
21
Jan
09

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

20
Jan
09

Inauguration Day

barack

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

18
Jan
09

one life with each other

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

17
Jan
09

quandary

Haleakala Sunrise

Haleakala Sunrise

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

17
Jan
09

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

16
Jan
09

why? why not?

prisoner3

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

http://www.andrewcohen.org/meditation/purpose-of-meditation.asp

15
Jan
09

A beginner at the ole in out, in out

saloon-door

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

13
Jan
09

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,
John

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
http://www.andrewcohen.org/teachings/volitionality.asp

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
http://www.elephantjournal.com/2009/01/what-is-karma-alicia-keys-thinks-its-fate-actually-its-just-the-opposite/

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

circle-hands-bwsm

12
Jan
09

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
11
Jan
09

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

 
 

 

shadow12

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”)

 




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)

July 2020
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