Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!


Halloween serves an important inner function if we let it:

Psychologically, I think Halloween performs two important functions. First, Halloween allows us to collectively process our eventual death and mortality. The graveyards, corpses, blood, skeletons, and coffins of Halloween allow us, on a yearly basis, to confront our physicality and work through our largely repressed fear of death. In this, Halloween serves an important existential function. Second, Halloween allows us to work through our fears of the uncanny, the things that go bump in the night. This is the second major theme of Halloween, which manifests itself in Halloween’s evening and monster motifs, the bats, owls, ghosts and goblins. The world is a scary place at times, a strange and mysterious place, and we tend to fill its dark corners with “monsters.” Halloween, particularly for children, allows us to roam a night filled with ghosts and ghouls to find only friends and neighbors (and candy!). Again, vague fears are collectively confronted and processed.

Thus, two of the great themes of Halloween—death and the uncanny—are healthy confrontations with our collective anxieties concerning our frailness and mortality. In this, I believe Halloween is empowering to children, giving them a sense of control in a spooky and scary world.

-- Richard Beck

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday cat blogging!


The Voice in the Stillness

This morning I came upon a page that looks at meditative techniques specifically in a Christian context. Here's some advice from that site:
Relax in a tranquil environment: Choose your spot, and savor the setting. It doesn't matter whether it's a waterfall or another natural setting, a park, watching a sunset, taking in a work of great art in a museum, quieting your soul in a church, or any other kind tranquil environment. Take time to savor peaceful sights, sounds, smells.

Body scan: I feel.... my head chest feels... etc. Move throughout your body, simply noting your physical sensations

Progressive relaxation: (progressively tensing then relaxing muscle groups, etc.)

Focus on the breath: Feel the breath going in and coming out of out the nostrils. Or on the rise and fall of the abdomen or chest in conjunction with your breathing. (If it's extremely quiet, you may be able to focus on your pulse.)

Environment scan: I hear this, I see this, I smell this, I feel this, etc.

Focus on a fixed object or sound: Concentrate on something outside of you: for instance, a flower, painting, candle, crucifix, icon, or the sound of water, wind, or traffic.
It's pretty basic stuff and is suitable, really, for everyone.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A reminder

We all know this, really. Yet it seems so easy to forget:

Softly and kindly remind yourself, I cannot own anything. It is a valuable thought to keep in mind as you struggle to improve your financial picture, worry about investments, and plan how to acquire more and more. It is a universal principle which you are part of. You must release everything when you truly awaken. Are you letting your life go by in frustration and worry over not having enough? If so, relax and remember that you only get what you have for a short period of time. When you awaken you will see the folly of being attached to anything.

-- Wayne Dyer

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday meditative picture blogging


Even more about impermanence

It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.

-- J.R.R. Tolkien

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday art blogging

Artist: Hermann Lange

More about the present moment

Oh my, do I ever agree with this:

Most people treat the present moment as if it were an obstacle that they need to overcome. Since the present moment is Life itself, it is an insane way to live.

-- Eckhart Tolle

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Something about being good at living

This sums up a lot:

We can smile, breathe, walk, and eat our meals in a way that allows us to be in touch with the abundance of happiness that is available. We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive.

-- Thich Nhat Hanh

Thursday, October 21, 2010


There's a lot to be said for this:

I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them.

-- Spinoza

As far as I'm concerned, nothing helps with insight into human behavior quite like the meditative process and principles.

(Thanks, Larry and Gerald, for calling my attention to this quotation.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How to avoid discouragement

"When the wind is right and the cloud is gone, you can see down this road as far as Darjeeling," I told her. "But it is a long and difficult road, full of perils, and if a traveler on foot were to look at the length of it, his spirit would be overcome and he would sit down and refuse to go any further. You must not look to the end of the road, Portia. Look only to the step in front of you. That you can do. Just one step. And you will not make the journey alone."

Deanna Raybourn (from Dark Road to Darjeeling)

It's about staying in the moment, isn't it? It's also about remembering the reality of impermanence.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday art blogging

Artist: Hubert Vos

More about reality

It seemed to me we could do with another saying by this ancient philosopher:

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them -- that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.

-- Lao Tzu

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What we already know

Here's something to ponder:

At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are, and you know what you want.

- Lao Tzu

The trick is, of course, to learn how to access the true center of one's being. And that's where meditation comes in. (You knew I was going to say that!)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday cat blogging!

A valuable observation

Well, this gave me quite a chuckle:

Life is hard, but it's harder if you're stupid.

-- Michael Crichton

I think it's important to remember that we're not utterly helpless about this matter. It is true, of course, that some of our native intelligence is determined by our genetic make up. However, there is also that kind of "stupidity" that is another word for the mind poison of "ignorance" or "delusion". We can certainly train ourselves to become less stupid in this respect by diligently reminding ourselves to notice, to be aware. Yes, life is difficult. It can be a little less difficult if we are careful to pay attention.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The mind

This is a very famous quotation - undoubtedly because it is so very true:

"The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.."

John Milton (from Paradise Lost)

It would be skillful, I think, to call this to mind the next time we find ourselves believing that our misery or our happiness is dependent on something or someone outside ourselves.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Something about apathy

This makes me think. A lot, actually:

Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.

-Aldous Huxley

There's something about taking things for granted that is clearly opposed to the effort of cultivating mindfulness.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Is there a lesson here? :-)

Sent to us by friend-of-the-Center Paul R. Thanks, Paul!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Reclaiming people

Friend of the Center, Carolyn L., sent us the following:

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.

-- Audrey Hepburn

People do that, you know; throw other people out, I mean. I think this happens due to the cognitive error known as "mind reading". Person A believes something particular about Person B's motives - usually that Person B really meant to give offense when Person B actually didn't mean that at all. Then Person A writes Person B off.

I've seen it a lot. Sad. Unnecessary.

The meditative principles of compassion, impermanence, and considering difficult people to be "precious teachers" will all help.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


It's a good question. Really:

Simplicity of life, even the barest, is not a misery, but the very foundation of refinement; a sanded floor and whitewashed walls and the green trees, and flowery meads, and living waters outside; or a grimy palace amid the same with a regiment of housemaids always working to smear the dirt together so that it may be unnoticed; which, think you, is the most refined, the most fit for a gentleman of those two dwellings?

-- William Morris

Friday, October 08, 2010

Friday cat blogging!

Learning to stay in the present moment helps

Maybe time as sequence and duration (the way we usually experience it) is simply our perception of it:

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.

-- T. S. Eliot

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Harnassing the benefit of habitual tendency

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.

-- Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Wednesday life form blogging

There's a QuickTrip convenience store not far from the Center that has a nice little pond behind it so it's not really all that unusual to see ducks and geese hanging around the place. I spotted this fine feathered creature one day when, fortunately, my camera was in the car.


Oh, good for the Nazarene Church down on the corner. They've come up with another clever slogan for the marquee:
If you don't learn from your mistakes,
what's the sense of making them?
You can actually spend quite a while teasing that one out - linguistically as well as philosophically!

I get a little chuckle whenever I drive past it.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Teachers all around us

I may well have posted this quotation before but I just came across it again today and I think it deserves a repeat:

Whosoever may torment you, harass you, confound you, or upset you, is a teacher. Not because they're wise, but because you seek to become so.

-- Mike Dooley

This is very similar to the long term meditative principles of seeing enemies or difficult people as "precious teachers".

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Sunday art blogging

Artist: Taisia Afonina

Words from the Awakened One

I'm wondering if I've posted the following before. If so, it's worth a repeat I think:

Live purely.
Be quiet.
Do your work with mastery.
Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds!

-- the Buddha

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Training the mind

Sometimes people are very harsh with their minds while practicing meditation. Here's an absolutely marvelous description of the process that is meant to be relaxed and gentle:

Try looking at your mind as a wayward puppy that you are trying to paper train. You don't drop-kick a puppy into the neighbor's yard every time it piddles on the floor. You just keep bringing it back to the newspaper.

-- Anne Lamott

Friday, October 01, 2010

Friday cat blogging!

Just for fun (with a lesson too...)

The meditative tradition has long insisted that people do what they do because they're trying to be happy. They may be very mistaken in how they go about it but the desire for happiness is considered the universal motivation. Here's something that humorously illustrates this point: