Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday prayer blogging

Isn't this lovely?

Art is prayer made visible
Music is prayer made audible
Dance is prayer embodied
But the greatest art we practice
Is the art of compassion
Which is prayer in action and service.

Rev. Dr. Gina Rose Halpern

I found it here (bottom of page).

Saturday, August 29, 2009

How to laugh at your own perfectionism

It's a bumper sitcker I just found:
I am a nobody, nobody is perfect, therefore I am perfect.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Something about unhappiness

This is a wonderfully evocative paragraph about a common attachment:
Much of our unhappiness comes from the desire to be happy at the expense of others. It’s really very ironic that in grasping after happiness in this way we end up causing ourselves pain. It’s like sticking your hand into what you think is a cool stream in order to find relief on a hot day, only to discover that the water is boiling.
It is from an introduction to loving-kindness practice that I found on the Wildmind site.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

So simple, so profound

And so true:
There's nothing like starting off the day with meditation. Whether it's five hours or simply five minutes. The important thing is to start. After 21 days it will be a habit. There are many positive benefits to amaze one. The entire day becomes different. And there are many ways to meditate. Find the way that suits you best. Working on oneself is always an "inside job." One simply needs to kick it off.
I found it right here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How lack of mindfulness can play out

Long time friend of the Center, Paul Rogers, sent us the following:
If you want to do just one thing to improve your primary relationship, make the words "always" and "never" off limits. That usage is both inflammatory and quite an exaggeration. Start by substituting the words "often" or sometimes" or even "most of the time" and right away you'll bring more mindfulness into your experience of the other person.

Being aware without judgment

Here's a description of mindfulness I found recently that I really like:
When you practice mindfulness meditation, you practice being in the present moment, and noticing all of your experiences. You practice being aware of things happening outside of yourself (e.g., things you see, smell, hear), and things happening internally (e.g., your thoughts, feelings and sensations). Importantly, mindfulness meditation involves being aware without judgment. So, you are paying attention to all of these experiences, without labeling them as good or bad.
It's from a little article by Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD that you can find right here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday art blogging

Attributed to Vincent van Gogh

Something about life and our minds

This is interesting:

We think in generalities, but we live in details.

- Alfred North Whitehead

Alfred North Whitehead is one of the most important names in the approach to reality known as process philosophy (or process theology). If you haven't explored it you might like to find out more.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Something about anger

This is an intriguing way of sorting through our anger issues:
Anger is a deluded mind that focuses on an animate or inanimate object, feels it to be unattractive, exaggerates its bad qualities, and wishes to harm it. For example, when we are angry with our partner, at that moment he or she appears to us as unattractive or unpleasant. We then exaggerate his bad qualities by focusing only on those aspects that irritate us and ignoring all his good qualities and kindness, until we have built up a mental image of an intrinsically faulty person. We then wish to harm him in some way, probably by criticizing or disparaging him.

Because it is based on an exaggeration, anger is an unrealistic mind; the intrinsically faulty person or thing that it focuses on does not in fact exist.
It is that last observation that is truly revolutionary when you think about it. What if we were able to realize - on a consistent basis - that the "person" with whom we're angry does not actually exist? WOW!

I found the piece right here. It's by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.

Friday, August 21, 2009

One simple mental thing

I just found a very short, pithy and really focused article on that I want to encourage you to read. It's called "What is mindfulness and why meditation?" by Eddie Adams and here's a brief excerpt:
Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneering author and doctor who's work is responsible for bringing mindfulness into medicine and popular culture, has described mindfulness as "a process of bringing a certain quality of attention to moment-by-moment experience." Our attention, or awareness, is the one simple mental thing that is always readily available to us all at any moment. By cultivating our mindfulness, we can help ourselves respond more skillfully to daily stresses, emotional suffering, and ingrained behaviors that may no longer help us live happily.
Now go see what she says about meditation. The very last sentence is just delightful!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Not a bad definition!

This is fun:

Enjoy doing nothing without falling asleep - meditation.

-- J. Kleykamp

And there's something to that, too!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Doing our own inner work

"Figure of Wisdom"

This can provoke a lot of thought for those who will let it:

We do not receive wisdom,
we must discover it for ourselves,
after a journey through the wilderness
which no one else can make for us,
which no one can spare us,
for our wisdom is the point of view
from which we come at last to regard the world.

-- Marcel Proust

Actually, I don't think this means that wisdom cannot be taught or shared. It does mean, however, that each person has to integrate it and apply it according to his or her own context. We can't just scoop up someone else's wisdom wholesale and run with it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Something about choices

I want to share three quotations with you today because I really think they go together:
Every decision you make - every decision - is not a decision about what to do. It's a decision about Who You Are. When you see this, when you understand it, everything changes. You begin to see life in a new way. All events, occurrences, and situations turn into opportunities to do what you came here to do. -Neale Donald Walsch

To live is to choose. But to choose, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go, and why you want to get there…. - Kofi Annan

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions. - Dalai Lama
It occurs to me that if we really see our choices and decisions as being about who we are, we will be more able to let go of attachments to outcome. And that letting go will hugely reduce our stress and increase our well being.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday meditative picture blogging

Quieting the mind

Today an article caught my attention because of the title: "Pockets of Quietude". Here's the first paragraph:
In our culture we believe that doing, taking action, and making the effort are the most important ways to get out of a crisis. What if the opposite is true? What if you give yourself permission to simply be and rest in order to find peace and solutions to your current confusion? Learning to listen requires two things: a practice that facilitates quieting your mind, such as meditation, prayer, or communing with nature; and an understanding or discovery of how you receive answers.
The author also quotes someone who suggested that having a "not-to-do" list is as important has having a "to-do" list. I'd never thought of it quite that way before.

Go on over and read the whole piece. It's very short.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I just came across a brief article entitled "The 3 Most Common Benefits of Meditation". I actually agree that these, if not the most common, could definitely be considered the most important. They are:
1. peace of mind and tranquility
2. a sense of compassion
3. non-reaction
The writer, Sonia Gallagher (who calls herself a "recovering attorney"!), offers a short descriptive paragraph on each of these benefits. Go on over there and take a look.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Why attachment is such an obstacle

I came across a transcription of a meditation talk by someone named Eshu at Victoria Zen Centre.

Here's part of it:
[A]s we continue to practice, we find that we are very attached to who it is that we think we are.

I think that many people, only think that we’re attached to all the good things that we think we are, but as we continue to practice, we begin to find that we’re also deeply committed, deeply immersed, deeply fixated with our own grief, our own anger, our own likes and dislikes and preferences. We’re even attached to our own failure.

If it’s familiar to us, we are it. So when we come to this place where we are confronting ourselves honestly, when we have entered into this moment with all things as it’s content ... good and bad, light and dark, pleasant and unpleasant ... we’re faced with this choice. Do I actually want to change? Because if we do we have to break through the wall... we have to do things which may be profoundly uncomfortable. We have to let go of aspects of ourselves which we have held up, glorified and fixated to as being 'me'. “I’m this kind of person”, “I’m that kind of person”, “I like this and I don’t like that.” “Ooh, this kind of person is really not my style.” When we start to honestly see where these kinds of choices... where these kinds of fixations have brought us, we’re always faced with this choice... to let it drop... let it hit the floor... and arise as somebody new... to allow this old self to drop away, or to use traditional terms, to allow the old self to die, and to arise anew.
Yes, we are just as attached (sometimes more so) to pain as we are to pleasure. And so learning to let go of attachment will end up benefitting us hugely.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The importance of relaxation

"Vitruvian Man" by Leonardo da Vinci

Interesting to notice who said this!

Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.

-- Leonardo Da Vinci, 1452-1519

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Here's how to be free

This is definitely material for deep reflection:

Live your life so that the fear of death can never enter your heart. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light. Give thanks for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. And if perchance you see no reason for giving thanks, rest assured the fault is in yourself.

-- Chief Tecumseh

Monday, August 10, 2009

About how invisible, internal things fit together

Dear Readers,

I want to call your attention to an article that was sent to me by Teresa Wilbur, long time friend of St. John's Center. It is called Music: Essential for Life however the title does not begin to do justice to the power of the piece which is really an address to parents of incoming students at The Boston Conservatory.

I've always known that my years and years of training and professional work as a musician prepared me more than anything else possibly could have for my spiritual vocation. In fact, I have long been aware that the vocation is one. This brief piece by Dr. Karl Paulnack puts words to why that is true more eloquently than I have ever before experienced. And so I'm posting this on all three blogs today.

I will share only three sentences here:
If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don't expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that's what we do.
Please go read the whole thing. I promise you, you'll be glad you did.
And then listen to some good music today. Something beautiful. Something meaningful to you.

You'll be glad you did that too.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The BIG breakthrough

All of us have difficult people in our lives. Some of us have them only occasionally; others have them fairly consistently. Learning to address this situation skillfully is one of the most important things we can do in life:

As human beings we have good qualities as well as bad ones. Now, anger, attachment, jealousy, hatred, are the bad side; these are the real enemy…The true troublemaker is inside.

--His Holiness the Dalai Lama

All right. It's radical. And it's sometimes hard to take on board. But it's very true. Now this part is important: Simply recognizing that the true troublemaker is inside does not automatically make the other person innocent. Everyone on the planet may well agree with us that the difficult person is objectively a monster. What we learn here, however, is that our suffering and unhappiness come from within. This realization can revolutionize our lives. Honestly.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Something to try

Or at least we could try a variation on this theme:

Maybe we don't have to stand out on the street calling out compliments to complete strangers but what might happen if we made it a point to extend ourselves in terms of affirming the people we connect with every day? Find something - anything - nice to say to each person we enounter. We just need to make sure it is sincere.

These guys just recently went on a ten day tour in order to spread their approach to other parts of the U.S.

Now, I want you to ponder how wonderfully this both draws from and supports our meditative principles. First, I think we can all see how a basic level of mindfulness is necessary in order to do this at all. Second, it is definitely an act that calls for compassion, lovingkindness and sympathetic joy!

I found the original information here.

UPDATE: Here's one definition of compliment: noun. an expression of praise, commendation, or admiration: A sincere compliment boosts one's morale.

Also, many people have never learned how to feel comfortable accepting a compliment. You might like to check out the wikiHow article on this subject. Also here is a webpage that gives some hints on writing a letter of compliment. A number of the suggested phrases are also useful for learning how to express appreciation in person.

Friday, August 07, 2009

One good minute

I just found a short article over on entitled "The one minute meditation technique". Here's one little paragraph that really caught my attention:
In my tai chi classes we always start our practice with a one-minute gratitude meditation. This is a time where we focus on all the things for which we are grateful. Heart Math Institute studies have determined that "appreciative feelings activate the body’s biochemical systems that help diminish stress and stabilize the psyche."
It occurred to me that we could all train ourselves to start our work day in this manner. Suppose that, as soon as we arrive to our workplace, we sit at our desk or stand at our station and simply call to mind what we are grateful for. Then we need to make it routine. I have an idea that our day will tend to go a lot better this way.

By the way, the specific "one minute" technique as described in the article is actually a form of "refuge" practice although the writer doesn't call it that. You might like to click through and read the whole piece.

(The free graphic above was found right here.)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Wednesday life form blogging

Why is letting go so hard?

Many people complain that the process of letting go is simply too hard. They try - they really do - and still seem to be burdened by whatever it was they had decided to relinquish.

First of all, it is important to remember that "letting go" does not mean "getting rid of". The act of letting go doesn't suddenly give us unlimited control over what we don't like! But another reason letting go is so hard has to do with our beliefs about our identity. Here's a brief description of how these beliefs come about:

You have been conditioned since you were very young to relate everything to yourself. As soon as you learn to recognise people and things, you're taught how to relate these to the "I" and "mine"-- my mom, my dad, my toy, etc. As you grow up you're taught how to relate ideas and concepts to yourself. You have to learn that so that you can function properly in society. But at the same time, this process slowly and unconsciously creates a concept of selfhood, and you build up your ego. This build up is strengthened by the values of society. You learn to compete, to achieve, to accumulate knowledge, wealth and power. In other words, you are trained to possess and to cling.

By the time you are grown up, the concept of ego-self has become so real that it is difficult to tell what is illusion and what is reality. It is difficult to realise that "I" and "mine" are temporary, relative and changeable. The same is true of all that is related to "I" and "mine." Not understanding that "I" and "mine" are temporary, you struggle to keep them permanent; you cling to them. This desire to try to keep everything permanent is what makes it so difficult to learn to let go.

-- Dr. Thynn Thynn

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The problem with assumptions

I've been talking with several people lately about assumptions - particularly the unwarranted kind. Here's something that speaks to our often habitual tendency to operate and make decisions on the basis of assumptions that we haven't checked out:

I always prefer to believe the best of everybody - it saves so much trouble.

-- Rudyard Kipling