Peace and love are always alive in us, but we are not always alive to peace and love.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Hermit Power - This visualization will put you in touch with a more contemplative way of living - an antidote to the action-oriented culture of Western society. Imagine that you are living like a hermit in a cave. Completely alone, free from the demands and restrictions imposed by work, family, relationships and the rest of the outside world, there is little to distract you from the present moment. Whether you are tending to your basic needs for food, warmth and cleanliness, or engaged in quiet contemplation, you are completely present with yourself - able to appreciate the joy of simply being alive. How would it feel to live such a life? Consider how you can bring some of the benefits of hermit-living into your everyday routine.
Well, one way is to cultivate the "hermitage within". We can be surrounded by people and activity and yet have a place within that is solitary and deeply quiet. But, of course, we need a certain level of literal silence in order to learn how to find that place reliably. Get creative. Find ways of being alone for the purpose of getting to know your own deep center. It will then become easier and easier to tap into the reality of silence and solitude.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Whenever you're out of sorts, remember gratitude. Make the effort to call to mind something for which you are thankful. Start with your five senses. Be grateful you can see, hear, etc. That will get you started. Then other awarenesses are sure to follow.
Gratitude is the state of mind of thankfulness. As it is cultivated, we experience an increase in our "sympathetic joy," our happiness at another's happiness. Just as in the cultivation of compassion, we may feel the pain of others, so we may begin to feel their joy as well. And it doesn't stop there.
— Stephen Levine in A Year to Live
Friday, April 28, 2006
Anyone who maintains an aquarium know that caring for fish involves paying attention to what's called fish stress. Small details such as water, tank size, and temperature all contribute to the health of the fish. If even one thing is off too much, or everything is off a little, the fish are said to be "stressed" and will die. People should take care of themselves the same way. Incidentally, studies show that people who keep fish in aquariums have lowered stress levels, particularly when looking at their aquariums.
Stress reduction is important and meditation will help. If we meditate regularly it will also help prevent stress from building up in the first place.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
The figure of the Wise Old Man is a Jungian archetype. A source of ancient spiritual wisdom, this figure can take us to higher levels of consciousness, giving us new perspectives on our lives. To contact this archetype imagine yourself walking along a path through a dark forest. Suddenly you break through the trees and see the rocky summit of a mountain towering above you. Continuing up the path for some time, you see an old man sitting at the mouth of a cave. Approach the man with respect and introduce yourself. Describe the situation you are facing and ask for advice. What is his response? It may take the form of words, actions or images. How does his response shed light on your current predicament?Of course, when we do this exercise we are really making contact with our own inner wisdom. But we bypass the controlling ego with the visualization if we do it in an open and spacious way.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Even though the night darkens your spirit, its purpose is to impart light. Even though it humbles you, revealing the depth of your wretchedness, its purpose is to exalt and uplift you. Even though it empties you of all feeling and detaches you from all natural pleasures, its purpose is to fill you with spiritual joy and attach you to the source of that joy.
~~ St. John of the Cross (1542-91)
So don't expect the journey to feel like uninterrupted progress. There will be times of great difficulty and the feeling that we're getting nowhere. The thing for it is to persevere anyway and remember the importance of practicing distress tolerance. In time we will see that the dark period actually contributed to our maturity.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Misconception 11: A couple of weeks of meditation and all my problems will go away.
Sorry, meditation is not a quick cure-all. You will start seeing changes right away, but really profound effects are years down the line. That is just the way the universe is constructed. Nothing worthwhile is achieved overnight. Meditation is tough in some respects, requiring a long discipline and a sometimes painful process of practice. At each sitting you gain some results, but they are often very subtle. They occur deep within the mind, and only manifest much later. And if you are sitting there constantly looking for huge, instantaneous changes, you will miss the subtle shifts altogether. You will get discouraged, give up, and swear that no such changes could ever occur. Patience is the key. Patience. If you learn nothing else from meditation, you will learn patience. Patience is essential for any profound change.
I'm so glad I didn't give up early in the game. Sure it's taken years for profound effects to manifest. But the years have actually gone by fairly quickly. And they will for you too. Don't give up. This is a sure bet. Meditate regularly and you will benefit. And the years will still go by whether you meditate or not. So why not meditate and improve your quality of life along the way?
Monday, April 24, 2006
You might like to check out Bill Miller's blog, Tulsa Time. He has a series of photos on his most recent posting of stately old houses in Tulsa. Bill regularly contributes his photos to Meditation Matters. Our thanks to him!
Meditation does produce lovely blissful feelings sometimes. But they are not the purpose, and they don't always occur. Furthermore, if you do meditation with that purpose in mind, they are less likely to occur than if you just meditate for the actual purpose of meditation, which is increased awareness. Bliss results from relaxation, and relaxation results from release of tension. Seeking bliss from meditation introduces tension into the process, which blows the whole chain of events. It is a Catch-22: you can only experience bliss if you don't chase after it. Euphoria is not the pupose of meditation. It will often arise, but should be regarded as a byproduct. Still, it is a very pleasant side effect, and it becomes more and more frequent the longer you meditate. You won't hear any disagreement about this from adavnced practitioners.
People are sometimes disappointed when bliss states do not arise. It's important not to judge your meditation. The whole point is to learn to accept whatever thoughts arise without judgment. Let your meditation be what it is. As long as you're bringing your mind gently back to the meditation support then you're meditating.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Permit me to say without reservation that if all people were attentive, if they would undertake to be attentive every moment of their lives, they would discover the world anew. They would suddenly see that the world is entirely different from what they had believed it to be.
— Jacques Lusseyran in Against the Pollution of the I
Saturday, April 22, 2006
I just found a new website called Spirituality & Practice. There's a page there called, "Earth Day: 12 Spiritual Practices to Honor the Earth" that I want to call to your attention. Here's one of the suggestions:
Rededicate yourself to the live lightly and respectfully on the planet. Repeat this vow:
We join with the Earth and with each other.
To bring new life to the land
To restore the waters
To refresh the air
We join with the Earth and with each other.
To renew the forests
To care for the plants
To protect the creatures
We join with the Earth and with each other.
To celebrate the seas
To rejoice in the sunlight
To sing the song of the stars
We join with the Earth and with each other.
To recreate the human community
To promote justice and peace
To remember our children
We join with the Earth and with each other.
We join together as many and diverse expressions of one loving mystery: for the healing of the Earth and the renewal of all life.
— U.N. Environmental Sabbath Program
(quoted in Prayers for Healing edited by Maggie Oman)
And I would be remiss if I did not share with you my favorite way of connecting with the Earth: Go outside barefoot and find a place to stand. Place your consciousness in the soles of your feet and have the sense that a stream of energy connects you to the center of the planet. Just stand there for a while and relish the relationship between you and your environment.
The spiritual issue in anxiety is that we’re all fragile and mortal, and can’t ever make ourselves completely safe from danger. No matter how well we take care of ourselves, we’re all going to get sick, we’re going to get old (if we’re lucky), and we’re all going to die. We’ll all experience the loss of people we love, as well as our share of disappointment and pain. That is just how life is. As human beings, we’re all aware of this fact, and the consequence is that all of us experience some degree of anxiety.
Meditation helps prevent this angst from getting out of hand by focusing awareness on the present moment. Anxiety is an anticipatory response – it’s always about the future. When we train our minds to focus on the present, we make a remarkable discovery—that the present moment, however unpleasant it might be, is always essentially safe.
Meditation also decreases anxiety by revealing the depth dimension in our being. When the mind becomes quiet, we begin to sense a reservoir of unconditional love in the center of our hearts. This love isn’t something we have to cultivate. It’s our birthright, our true nature. Until we find it, we’re always somewhat restless and fearful. Once we do find it, we know it as the one thing that can satisfy the longing we’ve sought to fill in sex, in relationships, in work – in all our strivings. This love is the antidote to despair and meaninglessness, separation and loss. This love is what lifts us out of fear and allows us to live our lives with courage and peace. With regular practice, you can learn to center your life in that quiet love. Keep at it!
It is very difficult to meditate if you're in the middle of a really severe anxiety attack and sitting may be next to impossible. But I still want to recommend walking meditation at such a time. Force yourself to do slow, mindful walking even when anxiety is intense. Stay in the moment and don't judge the anxiety. Remind yourself of impermanence: the episode will run its course. Then when you calm down go back to ordinary sitting meditation.
Friday, April 21, 2006
While we cry ourselves to sleep, gratitude waits patiently to console and reassure us; there is a landscape larger than the one we can see.
There's a lot to cry about in the world today - the destruction of the Earth, the current wars, the threat of nuclear war and economic devastation for many. The way to manage that pain and those fears is to accept what is and to be in the moment. Right this minute there is much to be grateful for. For this moment the world survives. Let that console us.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
I Ask You
What scene would I want to be enveloped in
more than this one,
an ordinary night at the kitchen table,
floral wallpaper pressing in,
white cabinets full of glass,
the telephone silent,
a pen tilted back in my hand?
It gives me time to think
about all that is going on outside--
leaves gathering in corners,
lichen greening the high grey rocks,
while over the dunes the world sails on,
huge, ocean-going, history bubbling in its wake.
But beyond this table
there is nothing that I need,
not even a job that would allow me to row to work,
or a coffee-colored Aston Martin DB4
with cracked green leather seats.
No, it's all here,
the clear ovals of a glass of water,
a small crate of oranges, a book on Stalin,
not to mention the odd snarling fish
in a frame on the wall,
and the way these three candles--
each a different height--
are singing in perfect harmony.
So forgive me
if I lower my head now and listen
to the short bass candle as he takes a solo
while my heart
thrums under my shirt--
frog at the edge of a pond--
and my thoughts fly off to a province
made of one enormous sky
and about a million empty branches.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
When you set out to look for the Way,
At once it changes to something
That is to be sought in your self.
When sight becomes no-sight,
You come to possess the jewel,
But you have not yet fully penetrated into it.
Suddenly one day everything is empty like space
That has no inside or outside, no bottom or top,
And you are aware of one principle
Pervading all the ten thousand things.
You know then that your heart
Is so vast that it can never be measured.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Do you truly know what is positive and what is negative? Do you have the total picture? There have been many people for whom limitation, failure, loss, illness, or pain in whatever form turned out to be their greatest teacher. It taught them to let go of false self-images and superficial ego-dictated goals and desires. It gave them depth, humility, and compassion. It made them more real.
Whenever anything negative happens to you, there is a deep lesson concealed within it, although you may not see it at the time. Even a brief illness or an accident can show you what is real and unreal in your life, what ultimately matters and what doesn't.
Seen from a higher perspective, conditions are always positive. To be more precise: they are neither positive nor negative. They are as they are. And when you live in complete acceptance of what is which is the only sane way to live - there is no "good" or "bad" in your life anymore. There is only a higher good - which includes the "bad."
It helps me to let go of judging situations as "good" or "bad" if I cultivate "don't know" mind. I really don't know. Something may seem bad when it happens and yet I may truly benefit from it down the road a bit. If I just remember that I truly don't know then I'm much more likely simply to be in acceptance rather than judgment.
Monday, April 17, 2006
It's hard not to have expectations, I know. And I think we often have them unconsciously and then experience great disappointment when they're not met. The way to work with that reality is to accept the feeling disappointment without judgment when it arises and then to say, "Oh, I guess I had the expectation of such-and-such." The next step is to let go of the attachment to whatever the expectation was. In this way we can learn to sit loose to our expectations even if we can't eliminate them altogether.
Any kind of expectation creates a problem. We should accept, but not expect. Whatever comes, accept it. Whatever goes, accept it. The immediate benefit is that your mind is always peaceful.
William T. Hathaway, award-winning author and former U.S. Special Forces soldier, has published a new anti-war novel set amidst the current war on terrorism.
Hathaway’s first novel, A WORLD OF HURT, won a Rinehart Foundation Award. Both it and SUMMER SNOW explore the attraction that war has for men and how they can be healed of the pathology of patriarchal machismo.
"In the first book I focused on the blocked sexuality and the need for paternal approval that draw men to the military," says Hathaway. "I was trying to uncover the psychological roots of war, the forces that so persistently drive our species to slaughter. Our culture has degraded masculinity into a deadly toxin. It’s poisoned us all. Men have to confront this part of themselves before men and women together can heal it."
SUMMER SNOW takes a more spiritual approach than his first book. Hathaway says, "My military experience convinced me that to prevent war we need to raise human consciousness. A look at the history of revolutions shows that switching economic and political systems isn’t enough. The same aggressive personality types take over and start another army. We have to change the basic unit, the individual.
"I’ve found Eastern meditation to be the most effective way to change people. Unlike prayer, it works on the physiological level, altering the brain waves and metabolism. It refines the nervous system and expands the awareness so that the unity of all human beings becomes a living reality, not just an idealistic concept.
"After a while of meditation people stop wanting to consume things that increase aggression, such as meat, alcohol, and violent entertainment. They become more peaceful.
"I think it’s very true that peace begins within you. As Gandhi said, ‘We have to become the change we want to see in the world.’"
As always, anything that motivates us to meditate is all to the good. Let's hope the desire for our own inner peace will keep us all meditating or inspire us to start up again if, for some reason, we've let ourselves backslide.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
I swear I will not dishonor my soul with hatred, but offer myself humbly as a guardian of nature, as a healer of misery, as a messenger of wonder, as an architect of peace.
May the day be glorious for everybody!
Saturday, April 15, 2006
We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily difference we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.
A lot of people want to make a difference with their lives and feel inadequate if their work seems to be ordinary. Actually we make a huge difference by just deciding to be open, kind and generous in all our dealings.
Meditation helps us with such a commitment because through meditation we relax our defenses and are less likely to view others as hostile or, at the very least, unhelpful. We see that others are full, complex, complete human beings just like us. That makes it much more likely that we will approach others with compassion and lovingkindness.
Friday, April 14, 2006
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy... is a cutting-edge approach to treating people with anxiety and depression. Only a handful of therapists are doing it.
Developed in the late 1990s by a team of researchers led by Zindel Segal, a professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Toronto, the technique has been shown to be highly effective in staving off repeated bouts of depression.
In 2000, Segal and two other researchers published a study of 145 patients showing that those who took an eight-week course to learn how to practice mindfulness were half as likely to suffer a relapse into depression over the next 12 months as those who received only the usual treatment.
The technique was found to be most effective for those who have suffered three or more episodes of depression before receiving it, reducing the risk of relapse from 66 percent to 37 percent.
A follow-up study, published in 2002 by Teasdale and Helen Ma in Cambridge, produced comparable results, showing the therapy reduced the rate of relapse from 78 percent to 36 percent in those who had three or more episodes of depression.
Meditation really works!
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Student: You are telling us to 'let go', but it is very difficult.
Papaji: That's because you have the idea that 'letting go' is something that you have to do. To move from one place to another may be difficult if the journey is long and hard. But if you don't have to move at all, how can you say that it is difficult? Just give up the idea that you have to do something or reach somewhere. That's all you have to do.
~~Dialogues with the Master Sri H.W.L. Poonja (Papaji)
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
You are the unchangeable Awareness in which all activity takes place.
Always rest in peace.
You are eternal Being, unbounded and undivided.
Just keep Quiet.
All is well.
Keep Quiet Here and Now.
You are Happiness, you are Peace, you are Freedom.
Do not entertain any notions that you are in trouble.
Be kind to yourself.
Open to your Heart and simply Be.
Monday, April 10, 2006
When you are thirsty, no explanation in the world will quench your thirst like a glass of water. Similarly, when you embark on a spiritual journey, you have to taste it for yourself or it will never become yours. If it isn't yours, then it's never there when you really need it.Sometimes people will demand more and more explanations and complain that they are unsatisfied when they don't "get it". Explanations don't help if what the person is resisting is the willingness to let go of being satisfied! Next time you don't "get" something, let that be okay and, instead, rededicate yourself to the practice of letting go of judgments in meditation.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Saturday, April 08, 2006
Friday, April 07, 2006
ALL THE GOOD THINGS
The Babemba tribe of southern Africa has a social structure with an elementary criminal code. Their close community living makes harshness unnecessary. A visitor was deeply impressed by the tribe's handling of antisocial, delinquent behaviors, which are exceedingly infrequent.
When a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he/she is placed in the center of the village, alone, unfettered. All work ceases. All gather around the accused individual. Then each person of every age, begins to talk out loud to the accused. One at a time, each person tells all the good things the one in the center ever did in his/her lifetime.
Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy, is recounted. All positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length. No one is permitted to fabricate, exaggerate or be facetious about accomplishments or positive aspects of the accused person.
The tribal ceremony often lasts several days, not ceasing until everyone is drained of every positive comment that can be mustered. At the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe. Necessity for such ceremonies is rare!
You know, that works for individuals as well as tribes. The next time you disappoint yourself in some way, instead of scolding yourself, try affirmation instead. Tell yourself all the good you have done - not as a way of excusing yourself but rather as a way of calling to mind the kind of person you are in your deepest nature. Being convinced of your own fundamental goodness will do more to rehabilitate you than harshness or self-punishment any day.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
When you are in the world of the thinking mind, you are somewhere in the remembered past or the imagined future. You are in a world of thought, memory, concept, idea, opinion and belief. You are not here now. What you are experiencing is not of the present moment. It is not real. You are in a world of illusion... and yet you have come to believe that it real. Almost the entire human population is lost in this illusion. It is the sole source of our suffering.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Whatever predicament besets you in your life today, be willing to let go of any obstacles to peace you may be experiencing. And give yourself deep permission to enjoy the strawberry. "Each moment is just what it is."
A woman is running from tigers. She runs and she runs, and the tigers are getting closer and closer. She comes to the edge of a cliff. She sees a vine there, so she climbs down and holds on to it. Then she looks down and sees that there are tigers below her as well. At the same time, she notices a little mouse gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries emerging from a nearby clump of grass. She looks up, she looks down, and she looks at the mouse. Then she picks a strawberry, pops it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.
Tigers above, tigers below. This is the predicament we are always in. We are born and sooner or later we die. Each moment is just what it is. Resentment, bitterness, and holding a grudge prevent us from seeing and hearing and tasting and delighting. This might be the only moment of our life, this might be the only strawberry we'll ever eat. We could feel depressed about this or we could finally appreciate it. We could delight in the preciousness of every single moment.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Quoted in 'The Virago Book of Spirituality' Ed. Sarah Anderson
It is as if a raindrop fell from heaven into a stream or fountain and became one with the water in it so that never again can the raindrop be separated from the water of the stream; or as if a little brook ran into the sea and there was thenceforward no means of distinguishing its water from the ocean; or as if a brilliant light came into a room through two windows and though it comes in divided between them, it forms a single light inside.
Monday, April 03, 2006
You are not your story. The world between your ears--all those beliefs, concepts, and images that make up this "person" you take yourself to be--is not real. It is just something you have made up. Enlightenment is seeing this. When you, as consciousness, as the witness, if you like, see it, the entire psychological and emotional component of thinking starts to fall away, and your head becomes astonishingly clear, and your heart opens wide. Then you live always, consciously, in the present, but no longer with any limiting sense of an "I" or "me" who lives in the present. You're just here, and you're truly free. It's wonderful!
~~ Jim Dreaver
Sunday, April 02, 2006
Here are ten points from the Manifesto for Happiness.
* Get physical. Exercise for half an hour three times a week.
* Count your blessings. At the end of each day, reflect on at least five things you're grateful for.
* Talk time. Have an hour-long uninterrupted conversation with your partner or closest friend each week.
* Plant something. Even if it’s a window box or pot plant. Keep it alive!
* Cut your TV viewing by half.
* Smile at and/or say hello to a stranger. At least once each day.
* Phone a friend. Make contact with at least one friend or relation you have not been in contact for a while and arrange to meet up.
* Have a good laugh at least once a day.
* Every day make sure you give yourself a treat. Take time to really enjoy this.
* Daily kindness. Do an extra good turn for someone each day.
And I would add: meditate! At least 5 minutes a day. Everyone can do that much.