Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesday life form blogging


Valuing the "small work"

I've seen so many people give up on accomplishing anything at all because they disparage beginning steps and because they have contempt, really, for doing the sorts of things that don't immediately and obviously lead to some great result. And so I really think the following is very important:
If we just worry about the big picture, we are powerless. So my secret is to start right away doing whatever little work I can do. I try to give joy to one person in the morning, and remove the suffering of one person in the afternoon. If you and your friends do not despise the small work, a million people will remove a lot of suffering.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday meditative picture blogging


The ability and willingness to change one's mind

Probably the attachment that creates the most suffering - both to ourselves and others around us - is the attachment to being right, to believing in our own certainty. As you can see below, the true foolishness of this attachment was recognized many centuries ago by a powerful Egyptian pharaoh:

True wisdom is less presuming than folly. The wise man doubts often, and changes his mind; the fool is obstinate, and doubts not; he knows all things but his own ignorance.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday art blogging

Artist: Martinus Rørbye

Why meditate?

Every day I get an email or two from the Care2 Make a Difference folks (who publish articles on a variety of subjects). Here's the beginning of an article that was recommended today:

What is Meditation?

Meditation is a practice that makes it possible to cultivate and develop certain basic positive human qualities in the same way as other forms of training make it possible to play a musical instrument or acquire any other skill.

Among several Asian words that translate as “meditation” in English are bhavana from Sanskrit, which means “to cultivate,” and its Tibetan equivalent, gom, meaning “to become familiar with.” Meditation helps us to familiarize ourselves with a clear and accurate way of seeing things and to cultivate wholesome qualities that remain dormant within us unless we make an effort to draw them out.
You can read the rest of it right here. Also, some of the comments after the article are quite inspiring.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


This has real meaning for me:

Friendship consists in forgetting what one gives, and remembering what one receives.

-- Dumas the Younger

Thursday, September 23, 2010

This merits reflection, I think:

We don't change what we are, we change what we think what we are.

-- Eric Butterworth

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Generosity and mindfulness

Perhaps if we cultivate the discipline of being generous with ourselves, as Jon Kabat-Zinn suggests, we will find it easier and more appealing to be generous with others:

Generosity is another quality which, like patience, letting go, non-judging, and trust, provides a solid foundation for mindfulness practice. You might experiment with using the cultivation of generosity as a vehicle for deep self-observation and inquiry as well as an exercise in giving. A good place to start is with yourself. See if you can give yourself gifts that may be true blessings, such as self-acceptance, or some time each day with no purpose. Practice feeling deserving enough to accept these gifts without obligation-to simply receive from yourself, and from the universe.

- Jon Kabat-Zinn

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday meditative picture blogging


More about impermanence

This is really very moving. And illuminating:

Because we do not know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well and yet everything happens only a certain number of times - and a very small number really. How many times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your life that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more? Perhaps not even that. How many times will you watch the full moon rise, perhaps twenty, and yet it all seems so limitless…

-- Paul Bowles

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday art blogging

"The Fossil Hunter" by Rita Greer

Why do we meditate?

The passage below is from a truly excellent piece by Matthieu Ricard:
Our mind can be our best friend or our worst enemy. The aim of meditation is to transform the mind. As things stand now, our mind is often filled with troubles. We spend a great deal of time consumed by painful thoughts, plagued by anxiety or anger. It would be such a relief, if we could master our mind to the point where we could be free of these disturbing emotions.

We readily accept the idea of spending years learning to walk, read and write, or acquire professional skills. We spend hours doing physical exercises in order to get our bodies into shape. We do so because we believe that these efforts are going to benefit us in the long run.

Working with the mind follows the same logic. It will not change just from wishing alone. Meditation is a practice that makes it possible to cultivate and develop certain basic, positive human qualities in the same way other forms of training make it possible to acquire any other skill.

The goal of meditation is not to shut down the mind or anesthetize it, but rather to make it free, lucid and balanced.
I do really like that last sentence. Many people who come to the Center for meditation instruction are under the illusion that we should "bliss out" when we meditate and what they mean by that is essentionally to anesthetize the mind. Instead, we learn to be both deeply relaxed and powerfully alert at the same time.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

More on impermanence

This is an observation about what we feel with and in our bodies:

When the senses contact sense objects, a person experiences cold or heat, pleasure or pain. These experiences are fleeting they come and go. Bear them patiently.

-- from the Bhagavad Gita

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday cat blogging!


Oh, human being, know yourself

This is an ancient teaching. It is also as imporant a teaching as any that may exist:

I must first know myself, as the Delphian inscription says; to be curious about that which is not my concern, while I am still in ignorance of my own self, would be ridiculous. And therefore I bid farewell to all this; the common opinion is enough for me. For, as I was saying, I want to know not about this, but about myself: am I a monster more complicated and swollen with passion than the serpent Typho, or a creature of a gentler and simpler sort, to whom Nature has given a diviner and lowlier destiny?

-- Socrates

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The importance of training the mind

This was said by a former US Navy SEAL:

We all knew there was just one way to improve our odds for survival: train, train, train. Sometimes, if your training is properly intense it will kill you. More often -- much, much more often -- it will save your life.

-- Richard Marcinko

The same, I would assert, is true of meditation with regard to our emotional and psychological life.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wednesday life form blogging


Something interesting about our interests

This is a paradox, of course. But give it some careful thought. There's something important here:

Little minds are interested in the extraordinary; great minds in the commonplace.

-- Elbert Hubbard

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Something about clarity

Good friend of the Center, Annie C., sent us the following:

Seeing our moment-to-moment automatic conditioned reactions is crucial. Without that we will just continue the mess we are creating in our world, in our loveless relationships. Without clarity, the self-pitying or self-aggrandizing soliloquy takes up all the space; then there is just this little stage for the actor, the victim, the hero, the star. If that isn’t seen, self-pitying and self-promoting proceeds and makes oneself and others miserable.

-Toni Packer

I would suggest that the word "clarity" here as it is used is very much related to the notion of "observer consciousness".

Monday, September 13, 2010

The limits of hedonism


Many people wonder why impermanence is valuable and beneficial even when it's about things we like. Why would we want those things to end? The above video helps us understand that. Do take the time to listen. It's only one minute and fifty-one seconds long. The teacher's name is Ven. Dhammika.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday art blogging

Artist: Margret Hofheinz-Döring

Coming home

Quite some years ago, I came across a little book by Lawrence LeShan entitled How to Meditate. It is truly a gem and has deservedly become a classic. Here is a brief excerpt:
A few years ago, I was at a small conference of scientists all of whom practiced meditation on a daily basis. Toward the end of the four-day meeting, during which each of them had described at some length how he meditated, I began to press them on the question of why they meditated. Various answers were given by different members of the group and we all knew that they were unsatisfactory, that they did not really answer the questions. Finally one man said, "It's like coming home." There was silence after this, and one by one all nodded their heads in agreement. There was clearly no need to prolong the inquiry further.

This answer to the question "Why meditate?" runs all through the literature written by those who practice this discipline. We meditate to find, to recover, to come back to something of ourselves we once dimly and unknowingly had and have lost without knowing what it was or where or when we lost it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Interesting observation on kindness

This is something to ponder - that is, the ready assumption that people who are consistently kind find it easy to be so. Maybe not:

Kindness is not without its rocks ahead. People are apt to put it down to an easy temper and seldom recognize it as the secret striving of a generous nature; whilst, on the other hand, the ill-natured get credit for all the evil they refrain from.

- Honoré de Balzac

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday cat blogging!


About thinking

Here is an interesting way of looking at meditation:

We are sick with fascination for the useful tools of names and numbers, of symbols, signs, conceptions and ideas. Meditation is therefore the art of suspending verbal and symbolic thinking for a time, somewhat as a courteous audience will stop talking when a concert is about to begin.

-- Alan Watts

I would hasten to add here, that this does not mean we can (or should) make our mind "go blank". What Watts is saying here is that we can choose not to indulge or chase after the discursive thoughts that arise in the mind during meditaiton. If we are reasonably consistent in bringing the mind back to the meditative support when such thoughts make their appearance then, yes, we are, in effect, suspending verbal and symbolic thinking.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Everyone's errand

Here's something that, while said by a politician, is also very consistent with the meditative principles of both compassion and interconnectedness. I believe it is a moving statement and that we would all do well to ponder it:

You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.

-- Woodrow Wilson

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Wednesday life form blogging

Cynthia sent me an email this morning from a place called The Inner Journey. In it was the following quotation:

If each of us sweeps in front of our own steps, the whole world would be clean.

-- Goethe

So true. We contribute more than we know to the well being of the whole world when we are doing our own inner work.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Experiencing realization

This evening in ongoing class we were teasing out the meaning of "realization" as it relates to meditative practice. Here's something that speaks to this matter:

The great teachings unanimously emphasize that all the peace, wisdom, and joy in the universe are already within us; we don't have to gain, develop, or attain them. We're like a child standing in a beautiful park with his eyes shut tight. We don't need to imagine trees, flowers, deer, birds, and sky; we merely need to open our eyes and realize what is already here, who we really are.

-- Bo Lozoff

Monday, September 06, 2010

Monday meditative picture blogging


Simple, concise, really good:

Friend-of-the-Center Larry H. sent the following along this morning:

"If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it."

~ Mary Engelbreit

We can go a long way with that one, folks.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Sunday art blogging

Artist: Winslow Homer

Some valuable reflection questions

When we go to a medicine person or healer because we are feeling disheartened, dispirited or depressed, he or she might ask questions like:

'When did you stop singing?'
'When did you stop dancing?'
'When did you stop being enchanted by stories?'

-- Angeles Arrien (American Cultural Anthropologist and Author)

Friday, September 03, 2010

Friday cat blogging!

(Notice: this one is a polydactyl.)

Letting go = falling in

Cynthia just sent me the following and I absolutely love it:

Listen, are you breathing just a little,
and calling it a life?...
For how long will you continue to listen to those dark shouters,
caution and prudence?
Fall in! Fall in!

Of course, I've loved just about every line Mary Oliver has ever put to paper. Reading her poetry is on my "self-soothing/uplift" list.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Who and what we really are

I have enountered so many people over the years who persist in beating themselves up, who engage in self-loathing. And, most of the time, they think they are doing the right thing. I wish I could shout the following from the housetops; I really do:

Who you are, in truth, who everyone is, is whole and perfect and beautiful. And if that can be recognized, then it is possible that self-torture can stop!

-- Gangaji

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Wednesday life form blogging


Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The problem with focusing on "improvement"

The quotation below strikes me as articulating a very important principle. In this culture we've been socialized to be intensely goal oriented, haven't we? I would assert that we would benefit by questioning that in a truly thoughtful way:

No one imagines that a symphony is supposed to improve in quality as it goes along, or that the whole object of playing it is to reach the finale. The point of music is discovered in every moment of playing and listening to it.

It is the same, I feel,with the greater part of our lives, and if we are unduly absorbed in improving them -we may forget altogether to live them.

-- Alan Watts