29 Oct 2013 Leave a Comment
We have no reason to harbor any mistrust against our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors, they are our terrors; if it has abysses, these abysses belong to us; if there are dangers, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience.
28 Oct 2013 2 Comments
Sylvia Boorstein, Buddhist writer and teacher, provides us with this mindfulness meditation:
One specific method for practicing mindfulness of body sensations is to
focus your attention on sounds. Sounds, like everything else, arise and
pass away. Just by listening, you can experience the insight of
impermanence, an understanding the Buddha taught as crucial for the
development of wisdom.
Early morning is great for listening.
Sounds start to slip into the stillness. In a rural setting, the sounds
are likely to be those of birds and animals waking up. In a city, sounds
of outside action begin-garbage collection, building construction,
traffic. Even in the rarefied air of a high-rise hotel room, plumbing
sounds and elevator sounds and footsteps in the hall pick up in pace.
Sit in a position in which you can be relaxed and alert. Close your eyes.
stillness of your posture and the absence of visual stimuli both
enhance hearing consciousness. People are sometimes surprised to
discover how much sensory consciousness gets lost in the shuffle of
After your body is settled comfortably,
just listen. Don’t scan for sounds; wait for them. You might think of
the difference between radar that goes out looking for something and a
satellite dish with a wide range of pickup capacity that just sits in
the backyard, waiting. Be a satellite dish. Stay turned on, but just
At the beginning, you’ll likely find that you are naming
sounds, “door slam … elevator … footsteps … bird … airplane … “
Sometimes you’ll name the feeling tone that accompanies the experience:
“bird … pleasant … pneumatic drill … unpleasant … laughter …
pleasant … ” After a while, you may discover that the naming impulse
relaxes. What remains is awareness of the presence or absence of sounds:
“hearing … not hearing … sound arising … sound passing away …
pleasant … not pleasant.”
Think of your listening meditation
now as a wake-up exercise for your attention. However it happens-with
names, without names, with feeling tone awareness or without-just let it
happen. Don’t try to accomplish anything. Just listen.
Sylvia Boorstein is a Buddhist teacher, psychotherapist, and author of That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist. “Sound Meditation” is excerpted from Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There by Sylvia Boorstein. Copyright © 1996 by Sylvia Boorstein. Used with permission from HarperCollins.
26 Oct 2013 2 Comments
To Become Free
I used to think that to become free you had to practice like a samurai warrior, but now I understand that you have to practice like a devoted mother of a newborn child. It takes the same energy but has a completely different quality. It’s compassion and presence rather than having to defeat the enemy in battle.
—- Jack Kornfield, “The Question”
The Buddha described the dharma as ‘going against the stream.’ As long as one swims with the current of a river, one remains unaware of it. But if one chooses to turn against it, suddenly it is revealed as a powerful, discomforting force. The ‘stream’ refers to the accumulated habits of conditioning. The practice of dharma means to turn around midstream, to observe mindfully and intelligently the forces of conditioning instead of impulsively reacting to their promptings.
—-Stephen Batchelor, “Dharma in the War Zone”
Mindfulness is a gentle call to return to the present. It calls us back from the past and future with a quiet, compassionate voice.
Eckhart Tolle talks about the Power of Now, and tells us we cannot be in the now when we are following the fearful, controlling mind (the ego). However, I never fully understood how to access the Power of Now until I started to learn about and practice Mindfulness, then I discovered that ET was talking about mindfulness all along. Thich Nhat Hanh is a proponent of mindfulness. Regardless of what we may think about Oprah Winfrey, positive or negative, here is a short video of her conversation with Thich Nhat Hanh (my guess is that Thich Nhat Hanh does not judge her at all!). This video is especially good because it gives insight into his personal history for those who are not familiar with him, and then goes on to talk about his practice and mindfulness.
Becoming aware of what is in this moment keeps you in the present. Mindfulness is awareness, alertness without judgment. Once we drop awareness, we fall back into the past or go to the future and our conditioning is in charge again. The ego is fear driven, and cannot rest in the present moment.
“… all fear has an element of resistance and a leaning away from the moment. Its dynamic is not unlike that of strong desire except that fear leans backward into the last safe moment while desire leans forward toward the next possibility of satisfaction. Each lacks presence. (29)”
― Stephen Levine, A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last
The mind is caught in things as they seem, rather than as they are. It repeats patterns of thought and feeling over and over and operates from habit. If we are not aware of these habits, we think we are seeing clearly when we are actually not seeing more than our old habits of thought. We can learn what out mental habits are through mindfulness, which is like a loving observer/your inner therapist who wishes only the best for you.
Below I have added some quotes from Eckhart Tolle, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Thich Nhat Hanh and Tara Brach about mindfulness. They all agree that we can anchor ourselves in the Now by stopping and then looking. However, it is essential to see through non-judgmental eyes, not with the usual ego-bound judging mind. The mind uses memory or conditioned thinking to keep us in the past or future. The mind mirrors the present as a reflection of the past or fantasy about the future. The ego is created by our conditioning. It needs control and approval because it is built on fear of its inadequacy. It fears what it may discover if it stops running from past to future.
Eckhart Tolle: How do you go beyond a dysfunctional relationship with the present moment? The most important thing is to see it in yourself, in your thoughts and actions, The seeing is the arising of Presence. -(my words: not the doing or the thinking, but the seeing, the awareness is touching Presence. Presence is also called the Witness in yoga traditions).
ET: The moment that you see the dysfunction (mind habits, old stories of who you are), it begins to dissolve.
Meditation is one form of mindfulness. Mindfulness could be called “meditation in the midst of life’s activities.” (my words)
—Sri Nisargadatta, “We are slaves to what we don’t know…whatever vice or weakness in ourselves we discover and understand its causes and its workings we overcome it by the very knowing; the unconscious (ego) dissolves when brought in to the conscious (present moment awareness)…”
Question for Sri Nisargadatta: How do I deal with obstacles/my mind?
Answer: “By watching their influence on you. Be aware of them….in your thoughts words and deeds, and gradually their (ego’s) grip on you will lessen and the clear light of harmony will emerge.”
Question for SN: “I see the mechanism of my confusion, but I do not see my way out of it. “
SN: ” The very examination of the mechanism shows the way. After all. your confusion is only in your mind…be alert, observe, investigate, learn all you can about your confusion, how it operates, what it does to you and others….Discover all you are not. ….watch yourself continuously–particularly your mind–moment by moment The witnessing is essential for the separation of the self from the non-self.”
― H.E. Davey “The undiscovered is not far away. It’s not something to be found eventually. It is contained within what is right in front of us. The essence of reality is being born right now. It has never existed before. Reality is constant creation and destruction, and in this constant change is something unborn and undying, something that cannot be approached through the known or the past. It isn’t seen through striving to become something based on ideals stemming from former experiences. It comes to that which is being, not striving. In this state of being in the moment, without the known, without knowing at all, with neither past nor future, is a space that is not filled with time. And in this space, the undiscovered and ever-changing moment exists—a moment containing all possibilities, the totality of existence, absolute reality. Reality is now, and in the now, we can experience the true nature of the universe and the universal mind.”
Do not go by revelation or tradition,
do not go by rumor, or the sacred scriptures,
do not go by hearsay or mere logic,
do not go by bias towards a notion or
by another person’s seeming ability
and do not go by the idea ‘He is our teacher’.
But when you yourself know that a thing is good,
that it is not blamable,
that is praised by the wise
and when practiced and observed
that it leads to happiness,
then follow that thing.” ~~~ Buddha
- A Simple Lesson from Thich Nhat Hanh. (elephantjournal.com)
- Happiness Wisdom from Thich Nhat Hanh (exhilaratedliving.wordpress.com)
- 60 Seconds with Thich Nhat Hanh (heatherlynmann.com)
- Oprah Winfrey talks with Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh.. (neverlamentcasually.wordpress.com)
- In The Presence of Thich Nhat Hanh (mayyoubepeaceful.com)
- Accept the present moment (awesomelyawake.com)
22 Oct 2013 2 Comments
Keep Opening the Door
- Anne Cushman, “Fifteen Weeks of Dharma Dating” from Tricycle Magazine
It’s interesting, to me at least :), that this mindfulness practice is reducing my thoughts, my words. Poems or Haikus seem to be arriving at my dharma door.
Mindfulness #5 Chaos
You urge me to
The cushion is too comfortable
or not comfortable enough
I see you
I hear you
You ache to be
20 Oct 2013 2 Comments
Sitting on the Seawall
Dozens of white striped gray fish
Slip by, circle in the green-gray water
The spotlight of a beam of sunlight
Lets us see their dance.
I wrote this haiku inspired by a friend who sent me an email with two he had written. His were so beautiful that it made me think about writing as mindful seeing. Haiku lends itself to leaving the mind because it is more visual, the visceral than verbal. It allows me to picture a moment– no more than a moment–and look at the rich contents of that small slice of time. Mine is not a haiku in the strict form, but I am not practicing anything these days in the strict form. And am much happier for it…
Here are my friend’s haikus:
crimson shower falls
15 Oct 2013 1 Comment
This is one of the very best descriptions I have ever read about how to look at meditation and why we meditate. I came across it in Tricycle Magazine.
When I became committed to finally meditating on a regular basis, I soon discovered that I needed to sit with no intention. It’s hard for the ego to think “no intention” is acceptable or even good; the ego is driven by achievement and gain. However, those are just the things that block us in meditation. I decided that I needed to sit without knowing what the result would be. I needed to be in “let go” mind and allow what comes to unfold. That is mindfulness.
“Mostly when we sit down to meditate, we bring with us our motivation. This
comprises the aspects of our past that we wish to overcome, combined with
inspirations from aspects of the past that promise to produce our hoped-for
future where we are finally the person we would like others to think we are. We
sit down in a moving train of thought and follow its momentum. We are moved
along from feeling to feeling, thought to thought, even if this thought is the
end of thoughts or the stability of mind. We cannot bear to leave the familiar
dynamism of thinking and knowing. We cannot bear to diverge for very long from
the familiarity of our problems, our longings, our shortcomings, our
aspirations, from the busy mind that ceaselessly produces such things.
Learning about meditation, learning to meditate, practicing meditation, we
think perhaps we could leave the tensions of thinking and the anxieties of the
world of the known behind. We could enter the free and unconstrained expanse
beyond thought, free of causes and conditions, hope and fear. Thus, in our
meditation practice we desperately press to leave, control, or finally end the
world of thought.
But in the path of meditation, relating to thoughts is the unfolding of
compassion; relating to what is beyond thoughts allows the spontaneous presence
of wisdom to bloom. The two are inseparable. It is a process akin to what
George Gershwin said about composing music: “I frequently hear music in the
heart of noise.”
Meditation, then, is not a matter of developing mastery or control.
Enlightenment expands, speaking to us. The rich world of complete wakefulness
is always vibrant, regardless of the qualities that appear in our experience.
It is singing in silence and chaos. “
Douglas Penick studied with Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and other Tibetan
teachers for more than 40 years. He wrote the Canadian NFB’s series on the Tibetan
Book of the Dead and the libretti for two operas: King Gesar and Ashoka’s
Dream. His most recent novel is Dreamers and Their Shadows. He is
married to the renowned clarinetist Deborah Marshall.
01 Oct 2013 4 Comments
in metta Tags: awakening, buddhism, Eckhart Tolle, ego, Lineages, living in the present, mindfulness, Religion and Spirituality, self-realization, The Present Moment: A Retreat on the Practice of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh, United States, Zen
I am participating in what is called an “intensive” with my Buddhist group. Seventy of us (of a much larger membership) have signed up for three months of studying and practicing mindfulness in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. I’ll be keeping an online “journal” of my experiences for the next three months.
I’ve thought for a long time that not enough credit is given to the power of mindfulness. This is why I was happy to find the group I am in called the Florida Community of Mindfulness. I like the idea of a “community” of people having as a goal to become more mindful which means to be present for each other and our own lives; to be aware of our actions, reactions and their consequences; to be able to look deeply; to be able to stop and practice “being.”
How radical is the notion that we will not keep running like gerbils according to the whims of our run-away minds. How radical to see, to face our habit energies and thought formations that have been constructed by families and cultures caught on the gerbil wheel.
The wheel spins from past to future. The gerbils don’t recognize that the place the wheel spins in the present. It never stops in the present moment because the “now” is not considered important enough to stop for. How is that? The mind, run rampant and wild, cannot stop because its reality is not in the present, but only in the past and the future. If it stopped it would not be doing it’s job—to keep us from our true nature. I’ve heard it said that the mind is a good servant but a terrible master. Most of us are the servants of mind, not its masters. In the mind memory and projection create a fun-house mirror of the present moment while the mirror when undistorted, reflects clarity and steadiness even in turmoil.
My dog has only weeks to live. How to live in this limbo she and I are in? The challenge, I’ve found, is to live fully in the present with her as she is, as I am. Today she is quiet, but not sickly yet. Today I notice my anxiety that comes from living in the future and my sorrow, from living in past memories. I accept all of that as best I can, but practice naming what is not in the present moment: she is still well,;I can care for her; I am well; today all is well. This is not easy, but it is better than unconscious suffering that causes me to lash out with anger or tie myself into knots of tension. Today all is as it is and I need to keep turning the mind back to the present.
Mindfulness is a gold mine. I am beginning the mining.