Cloud less, Thought less

“Every day is a good day when thoughts do not remain.” Zen saying quoted at a dharma talk by Fred Eppsteiner, Florida Community of Mindfulness main teacher.

From here

on land

in our bodies

Looking up from

Inside of our story of what

The world is

Clouds appear solid

as facts

as thoughts

it seems yet

diaphanous, dispersing

both gather

for a moment

Then disappear, then

Reappear as thunderheads

Dramatic as ruminations

Building one upon the other

In our minds.

Never still

never the same

White, gray, black

Thin as a sliver

or thick as a mountain

Clouds

And thoughts

Tumble and

Chase each other

A cloud,

like a thought,

cannot be held in the hand

for it is

Weightless

as a memory

empty

as our selves

formless

as words

spoken into

the protecting, patient

empty

sky

of darhma.

From Tricycle Daily Dharma

One Thousand Buddhas | March 19, 2015

Where there are one thousand human beings, within one thousand ways of living, one thousand buddhas are revealed. Buddha is revealed through mountains, valleys, trees, and grasses, through a multitude of phenomena. The heart that can be revered in whatever form we see, in whatever direction we look, this is the true heart of Buddhism, this is Buddha life.

– Soko Morinaga Roshi, “One Chance, One Encounter”

Daily Dharma from Tricycle Magazine

Softening Judgment | March 18, 2015

Falling down is what we humans do. If we can acknowledge that fact, judgment softens and we allow the world to be as it is, forgiving ourselves and others for our humanity. The Buddha’s First Noble Truth—that suffering exists—is, in itself, a permission to be human and not demand more of ourselves than we’re capable of. Our compassion arises from our very fallibility, and love takes root in the soils of human error.

– Lin Jensen, “An Ear to the Ground”

Succinct Explanation of the Ego

Posted March 5, 2015

We need the matrix of thoughts, feelings, and sensations we call the ego for our physical and psychological survival. The ego tells us what leads to what, what to avoid, how to satisfy our desires, and what to do in each situation. It does this by labeling everything we sense or think. These labels put order in our world and give us a sense of security and well-being. With these labels, we know our world and our place in it.

Our ego renders safe an unruly world. Uncountable sense impressions and thoughts crowd in on us, so that without the ego to filter out irrelevant information, we would be inundated, overwhelmed, and ultimately destroyed by the overload. Or so it seems.

The ego has convinced us that we need it – not only that we need it, but that we are it. I am my body. I am my personality. I am my neuroses. I am angry. I am depressed. I’m a good person. I’m sincere. I seek truth. I’m a lazy slob. Definition after definition. Room after room. Some are in high-rise apartments – I’m very important. Some are on the fringe of the city – just hanging out.

Meditation raises the question: Who are we really? If we are the same as our ego, then if we open up the ego’s filters and overwhelm it, we shall be drowned. If, on the other hand, we are not exclusively what the ego defines us to be, then the removal of the ego’s filters may not be such a great threat. It may actually mean our liberation. But as long as the ego calls the shots, we can never become other than what it says. Like a dictator, it offers us paternalistic security at the expense of our freedom.

We may ask how we could survive without our ego. Don’t worry – it doesn’t disappear. We can learn to venture beyond it, though. The ego is there, as our servant. Our room is there. We can always go in and use it like an office when we need to be efficient. But the door can be left open so that we can always walk out.

 

– Ram Dass

Prose Poem:

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.
~W.B. Yeats

Listen…
Yes, you there…
step back from the edge of the precipice that you came upon, shocked now
with no warning
in your mind.
I know you are afraid. It was not this way for you before.
I am here for you as I have been
by no choice but through
A love that is not mine to question, that beats electric in me
unbidden like a heart.

You were fierce and feared.
You strode through the dark your chest puffed out like
a predator, piercing the night with sickly white fluorescent lights
as if the streets were hospital wards.
And they became so
Crowded with patients you called customers
Whom, it was said, only you could cure.

Now you shiver in the heat under the roof you constructed to cover your planet.
You shield your eyes
from seeing the harsh landscape
your very own handiwork.

Listen. This is how you got here:
You looked at me through blinders and called me a tree. Then you named me: Banyan, Live Oak, Maple, Sequoia. You wrote that down in a book
as if it was truth.
I became a fact you could dismiss or use as it suited.
That was your first mistake.
When you cut me and my sap ran
you did not recall the same stickiness of your own blood.
You did not believe we shared anything in common, certainly not
the atoms and minerals of the ancient stars that died to birth us.
So, I knew that our reunion would have to wait
until we had no choice. Like now.
I could see that you were too busy
to notice who you are.
You had to conduct a war against all that stood
in your way.
You ordered mines dug, swamps drained, earth smothered by cement

Now you are surprised.
How did your millions of miles of roads end here at this precipice?
Why does this abyss open before you?
You ordered it filled over and over, yet it opens again and again over and over.
You ordered the sea walls to be rebuilt higher again and again, yet the waves roar at them and walls crumble
over and over.
Your hand shakes as you grab at your pockets for your rosary of coins.
What is it that rocks the shale beneath your feet?

You ruled
in the corridors of power, in the penthouses, on the chemical grass golf courses that erode the bones of ancients.
Now you watch the news and see
coyotes leap over the walls of guarded houses.
Mountain lions roam yards.
Bears rummage through your trash, swim at their leisure in your Olympic-sized pools.
You have homes hidden behind steel gates, but the animals know these woods and canyons; they have mapped the paths in their veins, feel the land in their hearts, see through the dark and know exactly what needs knowing upon the air.

Like a god, you proclaimed who could live and who would die.
Here now, at your winter home in Florida, you stand at the edge of a sinkhole
staring at your Mercedes filled with mud.
Nearby, as if in a dream, you hear someone saying words like
limestone, aquifer and underground cave.
But you don’t understand any language not spoken in banks.
You shout your mantra, Fix it! Fix it!
But the palms tower over you indifferent to your demands.
The alligators, robbed of their swamps, snap at your feet.
Seagulls ride the up drafts and down drafts laughing with ease
while you struggle to stay upright in the gales.

You thought your bombs were perfect protection
for you and yours.
Now you realize
you too would become just more particles in the radioactive soil
yet the flowers would flourish.
You reach into your vault of millions for your talisman of dollars and find
a time bomb lodged in one corner.
When this bomb is triggered by the last floods and the final fires even you
will become brethren to the lowest insect, the stalk of grass.
You tremble because you do not recognize this as enlightenment.

Now for the first time, you hear the alarms. Your senses open like a deer listening for the hunter’s next step. The weapon you wielded, your very own
has turned on you.

Listen. I give what I am made to give.
My breath supplies yours
“An acre of trees supplies 260 lbs of oxygen per year for 19 people per acre per year.” ~~Environment Canada

and cleans the air you dirty.
“One acre of trees consumes the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent to that produced by driving an average care for 26,000 miles.”~~U.S. Forest Service
My skin and bones house you.
My roots hold the earth in place for you.
The soil in your fields that grows your food is comprised of my skin of bark and leaves. Even in death I feed you.
Plowed and poisoned, plowed and poisoned until
what grows now depletes your own children
children like those who toiled for you in distant lands.

This was your next mistake: You did not know how to destroy
what needs destruction. Or when or where.
You did not understand creation as the gift of destruction. Fire and wind were your enemies. You feared the power of water.
On the contrary, fire was my friend.
Lightning a pre-ordained, blessed energy.
The fires cleared our savannahs and marshes for new growth. The lightning knew where to strike and when; dried by time, I did not fight the burn. The seasons are a precise clock. In time I would return green and sturdy.
You, running from death,
Could never stop to learn from the river’s flow and flood.
You mowed when it was time to sow.
Demolished what it was time to save.
You understood only how to ravage
but not how to prune.

Listen. You did not see, or else you feared those who shared this place with you.
That was your biggest mistake:
Yet, if you look east, west, south, north, up to the stars, down to the valley you will see. What they call you is not what you are.
Your name is only a thing on paper.
To call yourself a tree like me is more accurate
though not yet enough unless you
Listen to what speaks quietly
in both of us:
Live
Live
Live

In Honor of MLK’s Birthday

Another way that you love your enemy is this: When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy, that is the time which you must not do it. There will come a time, in many instances, when the person who hates you most, the person who has misused you most, the person who has gossiped about you most, the person who has spread false rumors about you most, there will come a time when you will have an opportunity to defeat that person. It might be in terms of a recommendation for a job; it might be in terms of helping that person to make some move in life. That’s the time you must do it. That is the meaning of love. In the final analysis, love is not this sentimental something that we talk about. It’s not merely an emotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual.

~Martin Luther King Jr.

Mind Magic

Posted: 12 Jan 2015 02:42 PM PST

Photo by: Shell Fischer

In the book My Stroke of Insight, brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor explains that the natural life span of an emotion—the average time it takes for it to move through the nervous system and body—is only a minute and a half, a mere ninety seconds. After that, we need thoughts to keep the emotion rolling. So, if we wonder why we lock into painful emotional states like anxiety, depression, or rage, we need look no further than our own endless stream of inner dialogue.

Modern neuroscience has discovered a fundamental truth: Neurons that fire together, wire together. When we rehearse a looping set of thoughts and emotions, we create deeply grooved patterns of emotional reactivity. This means that the more you think and rethink about certain experiences, the stronger the memory and the more easily activated the related feelings become.
For example, if a young girl asks her father for help and he either ignores her or reacts with irritation, the emotional pain of rejection may become linked with any number of thoughts or beliefs: “I’m not loved,” “I’m not worth helping,” “I’m weak for wanting help,” “It’s dangerous to ask for help,” “He’s bad. I hate him.”

The more the child gets this response from either parent—or even imagines getting this response—the more the impulse to ask for help becomes paired with the belief that she will be refused and the accompanying feelings (fear or hurt, anger or shame). Years later, she may hesitate to ask for help at all. Or, if she does ask, and the other person so much as pauses or looks distracted, the old feelings instantly take over: She downplays her needs, apologizes, or becomes enraged.
Unless we learn to recognize and interrupt our compulsive thinking, these ingrained emotional and behavioral patterns continue to strengthen over time. Fortunately, it’s possible to break out of this patterning.

Researcher Benjamin Libet discovered that the part of the brain responsible for movement activates a quarter-second before we become aware of our intention to move. There is then another quarter-second before the movement begins. What does this mean? First, it casts an interesting light on what we call “free will”—before we make a conscious decision, our brain has already set the gears in motion! But secondly, it offers us an opportunity.

Say you’ve been obsessing about having a cigarette. During the space between impulse (“I need to smoke a cigarette”) and action (reaching for the pack), there is room for choice. Author Tara Bennett-Goleman named this space “the magic quarter-second.” Mindfulness enables us to take advantage of it.

By catching our thoughts in the magic quarter-second, we’re able to act from a wiser place, interrupting the circling of compulsive thinking that fuels anxiety and other painful emotions. For instance, if our child asks us to play a game and we automatically think “I’m too busy,” we might pause and choose to spend some time with her. If we’ve been caught up in composing an angry e-mail, we might pause and decide not to press the send button.

The Buddha taught that to be free—not identified with or possessed by thoughts or feelings—we need to investigate each and every part of our experience with an intimate and mindful attention. The first step is pausing, making use of the magic quarter second, and the second, choosing to be present with our moment –to- moment experience.  We need to recognize the fear-based thoughts and the tension in our bodies with an accepting, curious and kind attention. The fruit of this presence is a capacity to release habitual reactivity, respond to our life circumstances with a wise heart and step out of the grip of oppressive emotions.

Adapted from True Refuge (Bantam, Jan., 2013)’

© Tara Brach

Beautiful Impermanence

No Loneliness

Mindful New Year: Changing Habit Energies

Future Rock StarYesterday the dharma talk in my sangha was about Habit Energy. Since the New Year makes people consider the past and old habits, I thought I’d summarize the talk a bit for you.

Habit energy is what was created a long time ago when we were children, and even when we were so little that we could only pick up non-verbal messages through our feelings. These statements and feelings about who we were, what life is all about, and more, we took into ourselves. Children have a tremendous capacity for learning and we spent all our energy trying to understand the world we were born into. We did this uncritically, assuming we were learning about reality from adults who understood it.

Since we habitually thought certain ways as we grew, the habits of thought were repeated over and over, and grew stronger and stronger until we had created a “self.” Now, we reacted to life and others through our habituated responses and beliefs (habit energies). This seemed, to us, perfectly natural and correct. But we started to find that our habits of thought came unbidden as if they had powerful energy beyond our control. Often our negative habit energy, like anger, jealousy or fear butted heads with someone with different habit energies leaving us confused and hurt. A simple innocuous remark from someone might elicit a disproportionate or even crazy response from us and we are surprised by the intensity.

Habit energy is an involuntary response to life. For example, I automatically have negative thoughts about myself–I’m not good enough in any number of ways. If I stop, physically stop and sit and breathe instead of following those thoughts or analyzing them, they float away. Mindfulness takes the place of mindless negative thinking and emotions. Mindfulness is non-judgmental investigation, not analysis or shame. When I stop and apply mindfulness to see my habit energy I see it and name it what it is. Next I must calm myself and only then when I have regained some peace investigate the genesis of my habit energy of negative self-talk.

I hope this is helpful to some of you. May your new year free you from destructive habit energies and bring mindfulness into your life.

 

 

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