Wednesday, 29 April 2015

#672 Black-Box Life

     For most people, life is a black-box: imagined to be solid, unchanging, indestructible, impenetrable, dark, not to be looked at closely. Never mind the wise counsel that "a life unexamined is not worth living." 
     Most of us do our utmost to keep feverishly busy, precisely so we won't have to ponder the two most meaningful questions: "Who am I?" and "What is this?" Avoidance, magical thinking, dogmatism and rigidity go hand-in-hand. A quick hard response to complex questions keeps things simple & controllable - but only in fairy tales.

     Sitting still, letting go of self-talk, opening oneself, remaining as open as one can, as long as one can, to actual reality - things as they are - is the opposite of a black-box life. It's a decision to step out of a dark, boxed-in prison, into the light and openness of real life. It's a bit scary at first, but prisoners can and do become acclimatized to, and come to enjoy freedom.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

#671 What Feels Healthy?

     Fear shuts us down. It makes our heart-mind, our whole body feel tight, constricted, stiff, rigid, cold, shaky, lousy.

     What do we fear? We fear constant change, aging, sickness and death. We fear having little or no control over our lives, others' lives, our stuff, our world. We fear meaninglessness.
     Fear is feeling unloved. Above all else we want unconditional love.

     What if each of us is the SOURCE of unconditional love?

     How does it feel while we radiate unconditional kindness towards anyone, anything & any activity?
     How does the above compare with how we usually feel caught up in our cravings, aversions & self-absorbtion?
     Which of these clearly feels healthy?

Monday, 27 April 2015

#670 We CAN Open Voluntarily, Intentionally

     but most of us need to undergo significant trauma before our minds and hearts will open, even for a short time. Hard nuts have to be cracked open.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
 "Anthem" Leonard Cohen                          
Monet's garden, Giverny

Friday, 17 April 2015

#669 Who's Responsible If Not Me?

     It's fascinating to observe our fellow human beings. Even in situations where one would imagine that anyone would be completely happy and grateful, one sees a surprising proportion of people showing obvious signs of sadness, disappointment, and downright misery. Life just does not measure up to their hopes and expectations, no matter how fine it is. A sadly large proportion of us assume that there's a mechanical connection between our happiness and our idea of what a perfect world is. Of course this is completely off base.
     One's happiness is entirely dependent on one's ability to hold all of life in a loving embrace, regardless of what's going on. This is precisely the opposite of what most of us think. We are entirely responsible for our attitude, which has nothing whatsoever to do with what's happening on the outside or even inside of us. It's all about us not just having, but being unconditional love. And, "whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're right."

Monday, 13 April 2015

#668 We Can Do Much Better Than "Quiet Desperation"

     Desperately hoping for luck, or special favors from god, nature, the universe is childishly silly, even from a religious / spiritual perspective. We waste our limited time & energies into trying to control largely or completely uncontrollable things & situations.
     Desperation feels like being a greyhound perpetually racing around the track after a fake fox, or like being a duck or buck during hunting season. Perpetually chasing or being chased feels anxious, fearful, tight, cold.

     Adult maturation to a large extent involves letting go of wishful, magical, egocentric thinking. Mindfulness practice trains us to accept things as they are now, with an open heart-mind. With this clarity, equanimity and loving-kindness, we can truly accept things we can't change, and intelligently change the things that can and need to be.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

#667 Experiencing the Benefits of Meditation Practice

     "Gradually, by experiencing the benefits of concentration and insight first hand, you will gain confidence that you have the capacity to endure pain with equanimity, that you are able to let go of destructive habits, and that you are worthy of the joy of a deeply tranquil mind."

       Shaila Catherine "Wisdom Wide and Deep. A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhana and Vipassana." Wisdom, Boston, 2011.


Saturday, 11 April 2015

#666 Practice - Perseverance - Embodiment

     "It is a natural law that actions have effects; even if your development is not as rapid as you would like, progress occurs through meditation."

       Shaila Catherine "Wisdom Wide and Deep. A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhana and Vipassana." Wisdom, Boston, 2011.

Friday, 10 April 2015

#665 Negativity isn't Enough

     "... natural negativity bias ... is our hardwired tendency to notice and amplify threats. It explains why so many people tend to believe that human life is brutal and cold, despite all evidence to the contrary. Negativity bias is the essence of natural selection: people who run away from a man with a gun or avoid a car running a red light are more likely to pass on their genes to the next generation. And these harrowing moments are more likely to burn themselves into our neurons than the gentle ones, so that we can avoid similar threats in the future." Jeremy Adam Smith "You Can Count on Goodness" Shambhala Sun, May 2015

     So, many (most?) of us are "nattering nabobs of negativity". Like those who are drowning, we'll latch onto anything that floats by - strongly-held opinions, dogmas etc. Even something as dysfunctional as cynicism seems more secure than "not knowing". But the fact is that we don't know much, and right within this space of "liminality" is where learning, creativity and growth happen. While rigid adherence to a jaundiced philosophy of life, though common, is pathological. See:
     Instead of rigidly closing down in the face of uncertainty, we can thrive in our complex, ever-changing reality using a very different approach: bravery, curiosity, openness, resilience, perseverance and love. We can intentionally, progressively let go of fear-based rigidity, and learn to live vibrantly, embracing life as it is. See:


Tuesday, 7 April 2015

#664 Awareness & Love

     "How few understand what love really is, and how it arises in the human heart. It is so frequently equated with good feelings toward others, with benevolence or nonviolence or service. But these things in themselves are not love.
     Love springs from awareness. It is only inasmuch as you see someone as he or she really is here and now, and not as they are in your memory or your desire or in your imagination or projection, that you can truly love them, otherwise it is not the person that you love but the idea that you have formed of this person, or this person as the object of your desire not as he or she is in themselves.
    The first act of love is to see this person or this object, this reality as it truly is. And this involves the enormous discipline of dropping your desires, your prejudices, your memories, your projections, your selective way of looking ...a discipline so great that most people would rather plunge headlong into good actions and service than submit to the burning fire of this asceticism.
     When you set out to serve someone whom you have not taken the trouble to see, are you meeting that person's need or your own?"                                                          Father Anthony de Mello

Monday, 6 April 2015

#663 Open Minds Open Doors

"The greatest discovery of my generation
is that human beings can alter their lives
by altering their attitudes of mind." 

William James

Akos Stiller

Sunday, 5 April 2015

#662 The Ultimate Nature of Human Existence

     "Do we understand the domain of being, or do we not? 
      Can we inhabit our lives while we have them to live, as if they were worth actually knowing with some degree of intimacy, so that we could live the lives that are ours to live and do actually the work that's ours to do, as opposed to being driven by a whole range of complex motives...?"                                     Jon Kabat-Zinn

Saturday, 4 April 2015

#661 Life's Short - Clarify the Mind

     “There is no question I am having the most fulfilling time of my life,” British political strategist Philip Gould wrote in his book When I Die: Lessons from the Death Zone, which he began after receiving a terminal diagnosis of esophageal cancer. “… I have had more moments of happiness in the last five months than in the last five years.”
     A death sentence is a licence to take shears to what remains of your life, leaving only what is vital. “I feel intensely alive,” Oliver Sacks wrote in a New York Times essay that was far more popular than any story featuring “multiple metastases in the liver” has a right to be. “I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight. … I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential.”

       Elizabeth Renzetti, "We can't live every day like it's our last, but dying does seem to clarify the mind." The Globe and Mail, Saturday, April 4, 2015

two of Monet's flowers

Friday, 3 April 2015

#660 Strengthening Continuity of Awareness

     "For most lay practitioners, formal meditation averages only an hour or so per day - a tiny fraction of our time. Distraction poses a formidable barrier to concentration. Therefore, to build momentum, we must augment the sitting meditation with careful attention during daily activities. To strengthen the focus on the breath, become sensitive to the breath as you are drinking coffee, bathing, cooking, conversing, slipping on shoes, mowing the lawn, photographing your child, balancing your checkbook, delivering a lecture, or eating breakfast.
      Notice at any time and during any activity how your mind is disposed, where it wanders, how it apprehends sensory objects; then encourage a composed and calm awareness of the breath as you continue to do your work or engage in the activity. During daily activities, it is not possible to exclusively focus on the breath, yet, whether you are walking, working, talking, or eating, you can use your interest in the breath to encourage a balanced state of calm composure."

       Shaila Catherine "Wisdom Wide and Deep. A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhana and Vipassana." Wisdom, Boston, 2011.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

#659 Do We Have It All Backwards?

     We (particularly men) rigidly pretend that happiness, our very survival, is entirely under our control. How? By surrounding ourselves metaphorically with a perfect semi-permeable membrane that keeps bad stuff out & pulls good stuff in. Many of us are obsessive doormen. Such a simple boundary, between a separate 'self' and a foreign, hostile environment, may be OK for amoebas, but ... 

     As we mature, we gradually release this illusion of control. Increasingly we recognize how deep quality of life is found in embracing every aspect of life - "the full catastrophe" - with an open heart-mind. Mindfulness practice is about consciously, intentionally maturing, coming home to our full potential, right now.
     Rather than anxiously flipping back & forth between aversion & craving, we gradually stabilize awareness, acceptance, spaciousness, ease & love. 

     No Boundaries:
     Wise Aging: