I just finished reading the book “Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing“, which was written anonymously under the pen name “Jed McKenna”. I had heard about this book for years, but had formed mostly negative impression based on the words and actions of those who said that they had read it. Several friends who I trust also suggested that I read it, however, so I reconsidered my attitude, read the book, and am glad that did. Continue reading
An excerpt from David Rock’s informative book “Your Brain At Work”:
There are five domains of social experience that your brain treats the same as survival issues: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness. The model describes the interpersonal primary rewards or threats that are important to the brain. Some of life’s most intense emotional reactions involve a confluence of the elements of S.C.A.R.F.. Continue reading
In this post I will describe two writing practices that I have found helpful in quitting addictions. I recommend them for working with any behavior that you have attachment to, that has major negative consequences, and that at least part of you would like to quit. Continue reading
I came up with a theory many years ago that there are two main ways for us to make significant-impact positive growth in our lives.
One way to make a big impact on our life for the better is instantaneous, emotional, intense, and invokes making a courageous and bold big change. Examples of this would include to decide to take our life in a completely different direction (to go back to school to get a graduate degree, to quit a job and become a yoga teacher), to go and ask someone for something (a cute stranger for their number, one’s boss for a raise), to make a big public declaration (“I am going to quit this addiction from here on”, “You can count on me from now on to do XYZ”, etc), to make an apology or ask for one, to try something new for the first time, or to make a phone call or send an email with important content (“I’ve never told you how much I love you”, “I quit”, “let’s start a organization together”). Continue reading
“In India, two amusing figures are used to characterize the two principle types of religious attitude. One is “the way of the kitten”; the other, “the way of the monkey.” When a kitten cries “meow,” its mother takes it by the scruff of the neck and carries it to safety; but as anyone who has ever traveled in India will have observed, when a band of monkeys come scampering down from a tree and across the road, the babies riding on their mothers’ backs are hanging on by themselves. Accordingly, with reference to the two attitudes: the first is that of the person who prays, ‘Oh, Lord, O Lord, come and save me!’ and the second of one who, without such prayers or cries, goes to work on himself. In Japan the same two are know as tariki, ‘outside strength,’ or ‘power from without,’ and jiriki, ‘own strength,’ or ‘effort from within.’ And in the Buddhism of that country these radically contrasting approaches to the achievement of enlightenment are represented accordingly in the two apparently contrary types of religious life and thought.”
– “Myths to Live By,” Joseph Campbell
I’ve heard it said that many of the attitudes that spiritual seekers take towards the path of growth can be grouped in two ways. One is to say that all is perfect as it is, and that all we need to do is relax and realize this inherent perfection. This orientation is expressed in many specific forms of religious and spiritual practice throughout time and across cultures, for example the Indian “way of the kitten” and the Japanese “tariki” described by Joseph Campbell above, or the medieval Catholic idea of “Salvation Through Faith”. Continue reading
Ordinarily, when we encounter another person, we unconsciously begin to tighten. Rather than opening wider to the encounter, we contract and withdraw our energy, in much the same way that a snail retracts its body inside the protective covering of its shell when it senses danger. As we become more sensitive to the tactile changes that are constantly occurring within our body, we can begin to monitor these shifts, and realize how painful it is to close our hearts and tighten our bodies in the presence of another person, no matter how subtly.
The opening of the heart is literally dependent on the softening of the musculature around the chest. As Jesus said, “Fortunate are they who have softened the rigidity within, for they can gain access to the universal healing power of Nature.” (This is a closer and more literal translation from the original Aramaic language in which Jesus spoke than the more frequently translated version, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.”) The [upright, relaxed, and open] posture of meditation allows us to begin to soften our rigidities. The more we are able to soften the holding and tightness in our bodies, the easier it is to open our hearts. The cycle feeds on and reinforces itself, for the more our hearts come softly open, the more our bodies shed the tightness and rigidities that make the experience of relaxed and resilient balance so elusive.
– Will Johnson, in “The Posture Of Meditation”
Many of us with a desire to be truly emotionally close with other people eventually come to the conclusion that interpersonal relating can either be under control, safe, and artificial, or it can be raw, real, and genuine. A corollary of this is that there is no way around the anxiety that comes from being truly close with people – being intimate involves making space for a certain amount of anxiety without trying to manage it or make it go away. Continue reading
Accept everything that arises: Accept your feelings, even the ones you wish you did not have. Accept your experiences, even the ones you hate. Accept yourself even with your human flaws and failings. Learn to see all the phenomena in your mind as being perfectly natural and understandable … be gentle with yourself: Be kind to yourself. You may not be perfect, but you are all you’ve got to work with. The process of becoming who you will be begins first with the total acceptance of who you are.
— Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, in “Mindfulness In Plain English”
I imagine that most people would agree that it is often difficult to find appropriate words of condolence when a friend is grieving. I personally do not want to say to a grieving friend that I hope that they feel better soon, because I think that it is healthy for a human psyche to go through a period of pain when it has lost someone or something that it cares about. I believe that people often say “feel better soon” because they are uncomfortable in the presence of another person’s pain, and that that phrase can sometimes feel like an unpleasant pressure put on a grieving person to have it all put back together sooner than would be otherwise natural for them. Continue reading
“Put your thoughts to sleep,
do not let them cast a shadow
over the moon of your heart.
Let go of thinking.”
One question that sometimes comes up for people who are learning how to meditate is whether it is a good idea to meditate in the period between climbing into bed and actually drifting off to sleep.
In the ancient Buddhist scriptures, The Buddha purportedly recommended four postures as most suitable for formal meditation – sitting, standing, walking, and lying down. So, meditating before falling asleep may have The Old Man’s imprimatur. And many modern teachers, famous vipassana teacher S.N. Goenka among them, assign students to practice a formal meditation technique while lying in bed at night with the lights out. Continue reading
I felt fine about Tenshin Roshi expressing the common Zen teaching that full liberation (and “oneness with the universe”) is not something that we can simply capture or do through our own intentions or efforts, but that we can align with our true place in the cosmos by sitting meditation (called “zazen” in Japanese Zen). What this piece said that I had not heard before, and disliked reading, was the idea that the true meaning of meditation is only realized within the context of a “ceremony”. Continue reading