Sunday, July 31, 2005

The search for truth

Here's another story from Anthony de Mello's One Minute Wisdom:


To a visitor who claimed he had no need to search for Truth because he found it in the beliefs of his religion, the Master said:

"There was once a student who never became a mathematician because he blindly believed the answers he found at the back of his math textbook - and, ironically, the answers were correct."
Think about that. Really think about it. And then remember that the appeal of fundamentalism has to do with an attachment to certainty -- and that's quite different from the search for truth.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Equanimity as respect

Today I want to offer you a single beautiful paragraph by Sylvia Boorstein from her wonderful book, Pay Attention, for Goodness' Sake:

To perfect my Equanimity, I need to accept every experience into my awareness. I cannot refuse to pay attention. Refusing itself, the mind tensing in withdrawal, is suffering. And turning the mind away, refusing to look, would preclude complete and clear seeing. When my mind greets all moments with equal respect, it maintains stature enough to see that causal connections set every experience into its lawful time and place, that everything is always - breathtakingly - the only way that it can be. My heart, resting in Equanimity, can respond with compassion.

I'm very moved by the idea of greeting all moments with equal respect. There's a certain reverence in that approach which settles the mind and calms the heart. Try visualizing a slight but sincere bow to each moment. How simple. How tranquil. How accepting.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging!

Eureka Springs cats:
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Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Do you really want a cure?

Here's a little story from Anthony de Mello's One Minute Wisdom that I've always appreciated:

To a distressed person who came to him for help the Master said, "Do you really want a cure?"

"If I did not, would I bother to come to you?"

Oh yes. Most people do."

"What for?"

Not for a cure. That's painful. For relief."

To his disciples the Master said, "People who want a cure, provided they can have it without pain, are like those who favor progress, provided they can have it without change."

Pain is part of the package. I want to remind everybody of the distinction between pain and suffering in the meditative tradition. Pain is part of life and it is definitely a part of growth. Pain is quite bearable if we stay in the moment and meditate on impermanence. Suffering, on the other hand, is pain plus non-acceptance. When we refuse to accept necessary pain we experience great suffering and that is the part that is optional. Let us be willing to go through the necessary pain in order to grow. This will truly bring us great benefit --- the "cure"!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The purpose of the spiritual path

Sylvia Boorstein, in Pay Attention, for Goodness' Sake, tells about being interviewed on the subject of authentic religion. At one point, the interviewer asked, "What's supposed to happen?"

Here is what she said:

What's supposed to happen? What's supposed to happen is that our vision becomes transformed. We begin to see, with increasing clarity, how much confusion and suffering there is in our own minds and hearts, and we also see the ways in which our own personal suffering creates suffering in the world. That part is heartbreaking. And totally daunting. But that's not all. We also get to see the extraordinariness of life, how amazing it is that life exists and continually re-creates itself in an incredible, spectacular, mind-boggling, lawful way. When we see clearly, our awe and our thanksgiving for the very fact that life is happening makes it impossible to do anything other than address the pain in the world, to try to heal it, to hope never to add one single extra drop of pain or suffering to it. As our understanding increases, our hearts become more responsive. We become the compassionate people we were meant to be. That's the whole point of practice. That's what's supposed to happen.

I'm glad she admitted that the awareness part can be heartbreaking and daunting. It is. Meditation is not for sissies. But the transformation part is real too. Never lose heart about transformation. It is happening all the time. We only need to be faithful to our practice and to persevere. And if we're truly compassionate toward ourselves, perseverance is not that difficult. We become the compassionate people we were meant to be by beginning where we are and that is with ourselves. Give yourself compassion every time you sit to meditate and you will surely experience the transformation taking place.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Wednesday life form blogging

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There are, O monks, these four splendors.
What four?
The splendor of the moon, the splendor of the sun,
the splendor of fire and the splendor of wisdom.
Of these four splendors, this is the best:
the splendor of wisdom.
There are, O monks, these four radiances...
these four lights... these four lusters...
these four sources of illumination.
Of these four sources of illumination, this is the best:
illumination by wisdom.
--the Buddha

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

No complaints

Some people have the habit of complaining a lot. I'm not sure why. It must be gratifying on some level. Maybe it comes from a sense of entitlement about having one's own way all the time. I don't know. What I do know is that complaints poison the mind. Here's a passage from Pay Attention, for Goodness' Sake by Sylvia Boorstein that speaks to this:

I absolutely trust that I can refine the capacities of my own heart, and I inspire myself with stories I hear, and then tell, about people with incredible nobility of spirit. Like the story of the Zen teacher who, with her very last breath - in the tradition of Zen teachers who save their pithiest teaching for their last breath - said, "I have no complaints." I think about her when I hear my own mind complaining, annoyed that things aren't going the way I wanted them to. I know that not complaining doesn't mean not responding. I also know I could be proactive with a loving heart. But I still hear my mind being indignant or self-righteous, or telling itself sorrowful stories. All bad habits. All painful habits.

The best possible response to pain - to any pain - is compassion. Maybe the whole of spiritual practice rests on remembering - over and over again - that we are, after all, human beings.

Maybe if we acknowledged that we're human beings after all we wouldn't expect to feel perfect all the time and so it would feel more normal to let go of complaints. This is what it means, I think, to respond to pain - one's own pain as well as the pain of other beings - with compassion.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Monday Meditative Picture Blogging

This is a picture of Bright Angel Trail.
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The correct posture for meditation is often called a "self-supporting" posture. Jon-Kabat Zinn, in Wherever You Go There You Are, uses the word "dignity". Here's what he says:

Sitting down to meditate, our posture talks to us. It makes its own statement. You might say the posture itself is the meditation. If we slump, it reflects low energy, passivity, a lack of clarity. If we sit ramrod-straight, we are tense, making too much of an effort, trying too hard. When I use the word "dignity" in teaching situations, as in "Sit in a way that embodies dignity," everybody immediately adjusts their posture to sit up straighter. But they don't stiffen. Faces relax, shoulders drop, head, neck, and back come into easy alignment. The spine rises out of the pelvis with energy. Sometimes people tend to sit forward, away from the backs of their chairs, more autonomously. Everybody seems to instantly know that inner feeling of dignity and how to embody it.

Perhaps we just need little reminders from time to time that we are already dignified, deserving, worthy. Sometimes we don't feel that way because of the wounds and the scars we carry from the past or because of the uncertainty of the future. It is doubtful that we came to feel undeserving on our own. We were helped to feel unworthy. We were taught it in a thousand ways when we were little, and we learned our lessons well.

So, when we take our seat in meditation and remind ourselves to sit with dignity, we are coming back to our original worthiness. That in itself is quite a statement. You can bet our inside will be listening. Are we ready to listen, too? Are we ready to listen to the currents of direct experience in this moment, and this one, and this...?

What would happen if we reminded ourselves of the principle of dignity throughout the day? Just let that be a true value. I imagine it would prompt more mindfulness in addition to improving our posture!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

When you awaken

Over the years I have benefitted enormously from the works - mainly the tapes - of Ram Dass. Here's a quote I found this morning on a site called Best Spirituality.
When you awaken, you are no longer a Buddhist or a Hindu or a Christian or a Jew or a Moslem. You are love, you are truth. And love and truth have no form. They flow into forms. But the word is never the same as that which the word connotes. The word "God" is not God, the word "Mother" is not Mother, the word "Self" is not Self, the word "moment" is not the moment. All of these words are empty. We're playing at the level of intellect, feeding that thing in us that keeps wanting to understand. And here we are, all the words we've said are gone. Where did they go? Do you remember them all? Empty, empty. If you heard them, you are at this moment empty. You're ready for the next word. And the word will go through you. You don't have to know anything: that's what's so funny about it. You get so simple. You're empty. You know nothing. You simply are wisdom not becoming anything, just being everything.
Letting go of concepts helps us to experience reality directly. That's the emptiness he's talking about, I believe. Just be willing to empty out. Let go of the attachment to ideas and simply experience what is.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The ego

Ego could be defined as whatever covers up basic goodness. From an experiential point of view, what is ego covering up? It's covering up our experience of just being here, just fully being where we are, so that we can relate with the immediacy of our experience. Egolessness is a state of mind that has complete confidence in the sacredness of the world. It is unconditional well being, unconditional joy that includes all the different qualities of our experience.

--Pema Chodron

Friday, July 22, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging!

This is Peppa, the wonderful cat that belongs to my friends Rosemary and Steve Williams in Manchester (England). Peppa kindly posed for me!
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Your best friend

Jim Mulcahy sent me this story:
A man and his dog were walking along a road. The man was enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead. He remembered dying, and that the dog walking beside him had been dead for years. He wondered where the road was leading them.

After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble. At the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall arch that glowed in the sunlight. When he was standing before it he saw a magnificent gate in the arch that looked like mother-of-pearl, and the street that led to the gate looked like pure gold.

He and the dog walked toward the gate, and as he got closer, he saw a man at a desk to one side. When he was close enough, he called out, "Excuse me, where are we?"

"This is Heaven, sir," the man answered.

"Wow! Would you happen to have some water?" the man asked.

"Of ! course, sir. Come right in, and I'll have some ice water brought right up."The man gestured, and the gate began to open.

"Can my friend," gesturing toward his dog, "come in, too?" the traveler asked.

"I'm sorry, sir, but we don't accept pets."

The man thought a moment and then turned back toward the road and continued the way he had been going with his dog.

After another long walk, and at the top of another long hill, he came to a dirt road leading through a farm gate that looked as if it had never been closed. There was no fence. As he approached the gate, he saw a man inside, leaning against a tree and reading a book."Excuse me!" he called to the man. "Do you have any water?"

"Yeah, sure, there's a pump over there, come on in."

"How about my friend here?" the traveler gestured to the dog.

"There should be a bowl by the pump."

They went through the gate, and sure enough, there was an old-fashioned hand pump with a bowl beside it.The traveler filled the water bowl and took a long drink himself, then he gave some to the dog. When they were full, he and the dog walked back toward the man who was standing by the tree. "What do you call this place?" the traveler asked.

"This is Heaven," he answered.

"Well, that's confusing," the traveler said. "The man down the road said that was Heaven, too."

"Oh, you mean the place with the gold street and pearly gates? Nope. That's hell."

"Doesn't it make you mad for them to use your name like that?"

"No, we're just happy that they screen out the folks who would leave their best friends behind."
The meditative principles are about compassion for all beings. That's all beings - not just human.

May all beings be happy and create the causes of happiness...

Thursday, July 21, 2005

A parable

Yvonne Perez sent me the following story this morning. It's worth our attention.

William Clark wrote:

Once upon a time there was a rich King who had four wives. He loved the 4th wife the most and adorned her with rich robes and treated her to the finest of delicacies. He gave her nothing but the best.

He also loved the 3rd wife very much and was always showing her off to neighboring kingdoms. However, he feared that one day she would leave him for another.

He also loved his 2nd wife. She was his confidant and was always kind, considerate and patient with him. Whenever the King faced a problem, he could confide in her, and she would help him get through the difficult times.

The King's 1st wife was a very loyal partner and had made great contributions in maintaining his wealth and kingdom. However, he did not love the first wife. Although she loved him deeply, he hardly took notice of her!

One day, the King fell ill and he knew his time was short. He thought of his luxurious life and wondered, "I now have four wives with me, but when I die, I'll be all alone."

Thus, he asked the 4th wife, "I have loved you the most, endowed you with the finest clothing and showered great care over you. Now that I'm dying, will you follow me and keep me company?"

"No way!", replied the 4th wife, and she walked away without another word. Her answer cut like a sharp knife right into his heart.

The sad King then asked the 3rd wife, "I have loved you all my life. Now that I'm dying, will you follow me and keep me company?"

"No!", replied the 3rd wife. "Life is too good! When you die,I'm going to remarry!" His heart sank and turned cold.

He then asked the 2nd wife, "I have always turned to you for help and you've always been there for me. When I die, will you follow me and keep me company?"

"I'm sorry, I can't help you out this time!", replied the 2nd wife. "At the very most, I can only walk with you to your grave." Her answer struck him like a bolt of lightning, and the King was devastated.

Then a voice called out: "I'll go with you. I'll follow you no matter where you go."

The King looked up, and there was his first wife. She was very skinny as she suffered from malnutrition and neglect.

Greatly grieved, the King said, "I should have taken much better care of you when I had the chance!"

In truth, we all have the 4 wives in our lives: Our 4th wife is our body. No matter how much time and effort we lavish in making it look good, it will leave us when we die. Our 3rd wife is our possessions, status and wealth. When we die, it will all go to others. Our 2nd wife is our family and friends. No matter how much they have been there for us, the furthest they can stay by us is up to the grave.

And our 1st wife is our Soul. Often neglected in pursuit of wealth, power and pleasures of the world. However, our Soul is the only thing that will follow us wherever we go.

Think about it. How much care and attention do you give to your spiritual practice? Why not examine your priorities today and give more attention to that first wife?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Wednesday life form blogging

Here's another one of Cynthia's amazing pictures - this one of a man working on a Navajo reservation:
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In Praise of Non-Doing

Here's another passage from Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn:

If you sit down to meditate, even for a moment, it will be a time for non-doing. It is very important not to think that this non-doing is synonymous with doing nothing. They couldn't be more different. Consciousness and intention matter here. If fact, they are key.

On the surface, it seems as if there might be two kinds of non-doing, one involving not doing any outward work, the other involving what we might call effortless activity. Ultimately we come to see that they are the same. It is the inward experience that counts here. What we frequently call formal meditation involves purposefully making a time for stopping all outward activity and cultivating stillness, with no agenda other than being fully present in each moment. Not doing anything. Perhaps such moments of non-doing are the greatest gift one can give oneself.

I agree. I'm so saddened by people who have their identity caught up in doing, doing, doing. It's an addiction, really. If you're like that, train yourself gradually in non-doing. Try just five minutes at a time. When you realize it won't kill you, it will truly get easier and your quality of life will vastly improve!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Experiencing awareness

Here's another helpful passage from Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn:
Awareness is not the same as thought. It lies beyond thinking, although it makes use of thinking, honoring its value and its power. Awareness is more like a vessel which can hold and contain our thinking, helping us to see and know our thoughts as thoughts rather than getting caught up in them as reality.
Meditation does not involve trying to change your thinking by thinking some more. It involves watching thought itself. The watching is the holding. By watching your thoughts without being drawn into them, you can learn something profoundly liberating about thinking itself, which may help you to be less of a prisoner of those thought patterns - often so strong in us - which are narrow, inaccurate, self-involved, habitual to the point of being imprisoning, and also just plain wrong.

I believe the critical point being made here is that meditation is not changing our thinking by thinking some more! I know many people try to change their thinking by analysis. Although analysis has its place, it is not helpful in developing pure awareness. Just notice and accept without judgment. Keep doing that over and over, coming back to the meditative support each time.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Monday Meditative Picture Blogging

Another one of Cynthia's stunning pictures:
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The question of getting it right

I'm aware that many people, especially beginning students, are very concerned with whether or not they are doing what they're "supposed" to be doing when they meditate. Jon Kabat-Zinn speaks to this in his marvelous book, Wherever You Go There You Are:

Try being aware of all the times in meditation when the thought comes up: "Am I doing this right?" "Is this what I should be feeling?" "Is this what is 'supposed' to happen?" Instead of trying to answer these questions, just look more deeply into the present moment. Expand your awareness in this very moment. Hold the question in awareness along with your breathing and with the full range of this particular moment's context. Trust that in this moment, "This is it," whatever and wherever "this" is. Looking deeply into whatever the "this" of the present moment is, keep up a continuity of mindfulness, allowing one moment to unfold into the next without analyzing, discoursing, judging, condemning, or doubting; simply observing, embracing, opening, letting be, accepting. Right now. Only this step. Only this
It strikes me that the words, "only this moment" would be a good mantra for maintaining mindfulness throughout the day. We could simply go about our daily routine and regularly say to ourselves, "only this moment," and let those words bring us into the here and now.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The most delightful tea of all

Here's a story from The Heart of the Enlightened by Anthony de Mello:

There was a group of elderly gentlemen in Japan who would meet to exchange news and drink tea. One of their diversions was to search for costly varieties of tea and create new blends that would delight the palate.

When it was the turn of the oldest member of the group to entertain the others, he served tea with the greatest ceremony, measuring out the leaves from a golden container. Everyone had the highest praise for the tea and demanded to know by what particular combination he had arrived at this exquisite blend.

The old man smiled and said, "Gentlemen, the tea that you find so delightful is the one that is drunk by the peasants on my farm. The finest things in life are neither costly nor hard to find."

I drank a lot of ordinary tea while I was in Ireland and England these past two weeks. And yes, it was delightful! I'm so glad to be back home in Oklahoma, though, and back to updating the blogs. I hope everyone is well. Blessings to all.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Saturday cat blogging!

Hello, everyone! I'm back from my wonderful vacation in Ireland where it was so easy to stay utterly in the moment and just be. I also went to England briefly (Manchester to be precise) to see my friends Rosemary and Steve Williams. And there was this wonderful cat statue on the dresser in the guest room:
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