Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday cat blogging!

Creating problems...

Here are two interesting statements by Alan Watts:
At times almost all of us envy the animals. They suffer and die, but do not seem to make a "problem" of it.
If we live, we live; if we die, we die; if we suffer, we suffer; if we are terrified, we are terrified. There is no problem about it.
Maybe it would be helpful to practice simply experiencing what we experience and give ourselves permission not to frame difficulties as "problems". At least not all of them...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wednesday life form blogging

Seeing our own impermanence

Here are some suggestions about to think things through when we become confused about ourselves:

Let go, and respond to the immediate needs around you. Don't get caught in some false perception of yourself. There will always be another person more gifted than you. And don't perceive your position as important, but be ready to serve at any moment. If you can let go of who you think you are, you will become free--ready to love others. If you learn to see your impermanence, you will be able to live for the moment and not miss opportunities to love by pushing things into the future.

--Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A sincere wish for all of you -- and myself, too

Here's a wonderful blessing by a great master:
May you be at peace.
May your heart remain open.
May you awaken to the light of your own true nature.
May you be healed.
May you be a source of healing for all beings.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wednesday life form blogging

Bring the mind back

Here is a truly beautiful description of the meditative process:

When I dance, I dance; when I sleep, I sleep; yes, and when I walk alone in a beautiful orchard, if my thoughts drift to far-off matters for some part of the time for some other part I lead them back again to the walk, the orchard, to the sweetness of this solitude, to myself.

-- Montaigne

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A translucent whole

If you are having any difficulty right now - any difficulty at all - this will help. It really will:

Sometimes say softly to yourself: " What is happening to me now? This is now. What is coming into me now? This moment?"

Then suddenly you begin to see the world as you had not seen it before, to hear people's voices and not only what they are saying but what they are trying to say and you sense the whole truth about them. And you sense existence, not piecemeal - not this object and that - but as a translucent whole.

-- Brenda Ueland

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday meditation picture blogging

The most important of all voyages

How very true this is and how beautifully expressed:

What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.

-- Thomas Merton

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The incomparable value of appreciation

Here's a re-post of something I shared with you back in 2006. It seemed to be well worth a repeat:

Do you appreciate appreciation? Have you ever thought about it? I want to share with you a practice called "mudita" which is the Pali word for appreciation of the joy and success of others. Mudita is also translated "sympathetic joy".

The instruction is found in Kevin Griffin's One Breath at a Time:
Very slowly move through these phrases in your mind, contemplating their meaning and letting their meaning penetrate beyond the idea to the actual feeling itself.
"May I be appreciative and grateful."
"May I be aware of beauty and joy [in others]."
"May I be open to beauty and joy."
"May I respond to beauty and joy with appreciation and gratitude."

Think of those who are dear to you and offer them the same wishes. Say their names to yourself as you repeat the phrases, "May ___ be appreciative and grateful." Envision them experiencing mudita.
"May___ be aware of beauty and joy."
"May___ be open to beauty and joy."
"May___ respond to beauty and joy with appreciation and gratitude."

After wishing those who are dear to you mudita, move out to people more neutral: neighbors, colleagues, people you see in your daily routine. Instead of using names, you can visualize them and say, "May you be aware of beauty and joy." You can see many faces as you repeat the phrases.

Finally, wish mudita for those who are difficult, people you resent or fear, or someone who has harmed you.

Then radiate mudita outward to all beings nearby, and gradually out to the whole planet, and finally the entire universe.

Here is a link to an article on mudita you might like to read. And here's another. Both articles bring joy just by reading them.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday cat blogging!

More and more peace

Etty Hillesum, who died at Auschwitz in 1943, has inspired me perhaps as much as anyone else whose works I have read. Here is something she said that I don't think I've taken note of before:
Ultimately we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. The more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I've talked to you before about the "metta" practice - or loving-kindness. Here's what Jeffrey Brantley has to say about it in Calming Your Anxious Mind:
With a kind and compassionate heart, all you attempt - including your practice of mindfulness - will flow more easily. Loving-kindness meditation uses repeated phrases, images, and feelings to evoke kindness and compassion. It is not exactly a mindfulness practice, yet the qualities it cultivates are crucial to the practice of mindfulness.

This meditation is not about sentimentality or about manufacturing "good" feelings. It is about connecting with and cultivating a capacity for kindness and friendliness that is already within you. At first it may feel mechanical or clumsy. It may arouse painful feelings like anger or grief. Don't let this disturb you. Keep up your practice and discover what happens next. When you have difficulty, hold yourself with kindness and compassion.
As you remember, I have recommended the phrases, "May I be happy; may I be well; may everything be well in my life," and then extending that to others. Here is the formula Brantley recommends:
May I be happy.
May I be healed and healthy.
May I be filled with peace and ease.
May I be safe.

Then, of course, as you extend the practice out from you, change the pronoun to "he", "she" or "they".

As Brantley says:
With some practice a steady sense of kindness can develop. You will be able to work with directing kindness toward all kinds of people - even difficult people.
This is a good time of year to work on loving-kindness practice. It is a wonderful antidote to stress and tension and an overall sense of busyness.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Close attention

It's so easy to go through the day on automatic pilot without paying real attention to what we experience and encounter. Here's a reminder not to do that:

The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.

--Henry Miller

Friday, September 09, 2011

Friday cat blogging!

Attachment to "stuff"

Hello, friends. You may think it surprising or even incongruous for me to post the following on a meditation blog. But I want to assert that there really are profound implications here for our practice. Let me simply call to your attention the basic meditative principles of impermanence, the power of attachments to give rise to suffering, and how we get trapped by habitual tendency:

Thursday, September 08, 2011

A little reality check

This is about seeing how things really are - not trying to convince ourselves that they are really otherwise:

Let go, and respond to the immediate needs around you. Don't get caught in some false perception of yourself. There will always be another person more gifted than you. And don't perceive your position as important, but be ready to serve at any moment. If you can let go of who you think you are, you will become free--ready to love others. If you learn to see your impermanence, you will be able to live for the moment and not miss opportunities to love by pushing things into the future.

-- Thich Nhat Hanh

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Wednesday life form blogging

The role of conscious determination

Here's an inspiring paragraph by Lama Surya Das from Awakening to the Sacred:
Can we be a little kinder, gentler, more loving to those around us? This requires a certain amount of conscious determination. I find that it is important to think about speaking kindly and gently, and being more present with others, even when we feel burdened and busy. We have to think about using words that convey acceptance and support. We have to think about being more generous with what we have - with our time, with what we know, with our financial resources, and with our feelings and emotions. A little kindness, a little warmth, a little affection, a little empathy goes a long way in all our relationships. We know this is true with our children, our mates, and our friends. But it's also true with others - even in chance encounters with those we may never see again. We need to live in ways that express our belief that lovingkindness matters.
I like the emphasis on thinking. In other words, don't expect kindness and gentleness to be automatic. Thought and effort are required.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The value of a trained mind

Here are a couple of sayings from the Dhammapada:
Hard it is to train the mind, which goes where it likes and does what it wants. But a trained mind brings health and happiness. The wise can direct their thoughts, subtle and elusive, wherever they choose: a trained mind brings health and happiness.More than those who hate you, more than all your enemies, an untrained mind does greater harm. More than your mother, more than your father, more than all your family, a well-trained mind does greater good.
I found these on the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation website.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Monday Meditative Picture Blogging

More about personal equanimity

Quite a number of the people I have worked with individually over the years have experienced suffering because they don't live up to what I call the "idealized self image". They have the mistaken belief that if they judge themselves harshly that somehow they will do better. Well, not long ago I came across a wonderful quotation that speaks to that:

Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself. I mean do not be disheartened by your imperfections, but always rise up with fresh courage. How are we to be patient in dealing with our neighbor's faults if we are impatient in dealing with our own? He who is fretted by his own failings will not correct them. All profitable correction comes from a calm and peaceful mind.

-- St. Francis de Sales

Well, he's talking about equanimity, isn't he? I like the point that we will not really correct our faults if we fret about them. That's been my experience - with both myself and in observing others. Deep acceptance is paradoxically what helps us change.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Making friends with ourselves

I see so very much suffering when there is an unshakable attachment to "getting it right":

"As long as our orientation is toward perfection or success, we will never learn about unconditional friendship with ourselves, nor will we find compassion. "

Pema Chödrön

Friday, September 02, 2011

Friday cat blogging!


Something about empathy

Empathy is the capacity to feel what another is feeling, to be in genuine solidarity with another, to lose the sense of separateness between yourself and another. Now it's relatively easy to have empathy for someone who is grieving or who has been hurt by another, but what about having empathy for someone who does wrong - who is cruel or unkind? Here's an excerpt from The Power of Empathy: A Practical Guide to Creating Intimacy, Self-Understanding, and Lasting Love by Arthur P. Ciaramicoli and Katherine Ketcham:
Empathy leads us to tolerance, for only with empathy can we build bridges to others who seem so unlike us. Only with empathy can we reach out to people we initially want to push away because we imagine that in their brutality or their simplicity or their stupidity they are not like us. Empathy reminds us that the evil in others is a potential that we also carry within our own hearts. The capacity to hate, to exact revenge, to refuse forgiveness, even to take a life is in you as it is in me as it is in all human beings. That humbling realization and acceptance of our own shadow inevitably and unfailingly leads us to tolerance.
It is so easy to judge another. If I realize that I, too - under the right circumstances - am capable of that for which I judge another, I will have not only tolerance but true compassion.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The moving landscape

This is from 1,001 Meditations by Mike George:
Sit quietly and reflect on your life right now. It is changing. The future is unknown; some of your hopes will not be realized - but neither will some of your fears. Also, you are getting older. You are on a journey, moving in a landscape that itself is in constant flux. All these changes constitute "home". Take a few minutes to appreciate where you are now in your life... and feel grateful for it.
This is a meditation about impermanence. Often we perceive impermanence to be something we don't like. But think about it. Without impermanence we could not grow or develop. We would not be able to change in the ways we want to change. So let's cultivate an appreciation for the fact that things continually change.