I sometimes prefer to speak in a way that is unusual and clunky, but that feels to me like it embodies more mindfulness, presence, freedom, spaciousness, openness, groundedness, and invitation – ways of speech that are more “meditative”.
This post has suggestions for taking a healthy, comfortable posture when meditating in a chair.
A choice that meditators sometimes encounter is whether to practice sitting with our eyes open or closed. I recommend changing it up – sometimes meditating with eyes open and at other times closed – depending on what works best for the situation.
“Circling” is a powerfully liberating and connecting authentic relating practice that has been exponentially growing in popularity, worldwide. As circling has reached wider, people have gotten interested in its roots and history. As a part of an epic Facebook discussion thread on the subject, I wrote a post to clarify my memories of the beginning days of Circling and its evolution since then. I especially focused my writings on the early relationships between some of the major founding figures.
A friend asked me about how to use meditation to avoid feeling physical pain. I replied that, yes, classically, there are mindfulness techniques that help us to turn away from and avoid pain, but usually these are just preliminaries to turning towards and fully feeling the pain.
This post us about how Burning Man seems different to me than it used to fifteen years ago. I wrote it with my friends who used to go to Burning Man back then but have not been back since in mind, although I imagine it is of interest to other people too.
I think that most people who pick up spiritual practice are looking for more peace and stillness; we want our movements, thinking, and speaking to be easeful, unforced, non-compulsive, and perhaps even almost effortless. A common image in Zen poetry is of bamboo swaying in the wind. One explanation for this is that bamboo swaying in the wind moves – but it moves in an unforced and easy way.
One way to understand meditation practice is to see it as similar to the habit of physical exercise and working out, which is something that more people are more familiar with and able to understand.
To me, “The Meaning of Prince” was that I saw him as an unexcelled paragon of the courage of letting his artistic soul shine the way it wanted and needed to, of being who he authentically truly was, of following his inner guide, regardless of what was the safe, acceptable, or practical thing to do.
Even though I get it that there are no objects in this world, only events, I’m still shocked some times when people that simply seem like guiding stars, like point of reference and orientation, turn out to be impermanent mammals as much as the rest of us.
We can get liberated with any sensation: pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, subtle or strong, dynamic or static, mental, physical, or of the external senses. The point is how we relate to the sensation.
For most of my life, I’ve felt that a wedding ceremony should be a reflection of the fact that two people are basically “as good as married” already, and that a healthy commitment grows out of already existing intimacy and trust. But lately I’ve noticed that at least a few couples that I watched get married within two months of meeting each other, and that I doubted would last long, are still going strong years later. Sometimes, it seems, commitment creates intimacy and trust.
Some people seem to think that large-scale organized spectator sports needlessly create competitiveness, violence, and aggression, and that they are a waste of money, energy, and attention that could be better spent on “real” life. But large-scale organized spectator sports are vastly cheaper and healthier than the alternative ways that people act out their territorial aggressions.
I once heard someone say that, “Psychotherapy is about the past, life coaching is about the future, and spiritual work is about the present moment”.
I felt a power to that model when I first heard it. In the years since, I’ve often thought about and examined it. This is what I think.
Years ago, there was a study done about mystics, saints, and great spiritual teachers throughout history. The researchers read the writings and went over their teachings of these folks, and found that there seemed to be a nested hierarchy of mystical and spiritual experiences
Isn’t all coaching supposed to be mindful? What’s unique about coaching via mindfulness-informed sensibilities? How does appreciating and having a personal relationship with mindfulness affect coaching work? What’s your experience with coaching, mindfulness, and mindful coaching?
A hard truth is when one person is unusually authentic and honest in giving another person feedback, in the form of giving a challenge, penetrating them with a different perspective that they may or may not enjoy hearing, and suggesting difficult changes that the speaker feels may help listener to be more mature, happy, and healthy.
People sometimes ask me my opinion of Transcendental Meditation. This is what I have to say about it:
I’ve recently been having great results in being productive by using the pomodoro technique. The basic idea is to work for twenty-five minutes, then take a break for five minutes, and then repeat.
In 2009 I spent a couple weeks at the Wat Pahnnanna Chat monastery, in the austere and celibate Thai Forest Tradition. Most of the long-term monks seemed distant, unavailable for conversation, and even emotionally cold. I had friendly chats with one guy, though, an old Sri Lankan monk, who had kind eyes and always seemed warm and open. One morning we had the following exchange:
We can recognize a deeply effective mindfulness technique by noticing that it usually has three aspects to it: concentrating the mind, providing deep sensory richness, and cultivating a calm, steady, equanimous mind.
As we know, our modern electronic internet/social networking/cell phone culture is stimulating, entertaining, and short-attention-span-ish, but accomplishments that fulfill us the most take patience, focus, and a long attention span. A quote that I just saw and like, from “The Organized Mind” by Daniel Levitin : “As already noted, the Internet has helped some of…
For many people establishing a meditation practice, buying a sitting cushion of one’s own is a big moment. Many people find that there is something special about having their own cushion…
I think of my car as an object. But the cars that I’ve owned and driven around in the past are no more – I think now that the steel, fiberglass, plastic, aluminum, etc molecules that made up their parts are scattered all over the planet.
‘What is there in this that is unbearable and beyond endurance?’ You would be ashamed to confess it! And then remind yourself that it is not the future or the past that afflicts you, but always the present…
What is real to us when we are in dreamless sleep? What is a dream made out of, and where does a dream happen? If “God” does not exist, then what is “God” made out of? Nothing, a void.
The technique that I have found most useful for meditation while driving is to simply be present and focused on the sense impressions of the act of driving – to see what is going on around us, to keep our ears open for the sounds of traffic, and to be aware of the bodily feeling of sitting in a car seat holding a steering wheel. We can developing an all-round awareness of what is to our sides and behind us as well as in front, inside our cars and outside, repeatedly releasing wandering thoughts so as to bring ourselves back to the richness of the present moment.
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…
There are five domains of social experience that your brain treats the same as survival issues: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness,
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.
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. The other is slow, steady, regular time put in moving towards a goal
I’ve noticed that it feels unmistakably more fun and satisfying to challenge myself, to get out and go climbing, to get on some routes that are edgy and difficult for me, and then to be skillful, brave, and persevering, and do what it takes to get all the way to the top. This is, of course, similar to many other areas of life: we don’t have to take on challenges, and we don’t have to succeed at them – but it sure does seem to feel better to win than not to play.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fifteen years ago, I felt unsettled after reading a transcription of a talk given by one of my Zen teachers, Tenshin Reb Anderson. The piece was entitled “A Ceremony for the Encouragement of Zazen”.
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”.
I spent five years in the nineties as part of research teams studying how to improve drug and alcohol treatment. My job was to manage and clean the data, and to do statistical analysis
In my first job after university, I worked on a team that examined “proximal outcomes” for recovery, both for twelve step programs and cognitive behavioral therapy. The idea was, each modality of treatment program suggests various activities for people to do if they want to get sober – but which of these many activities are actually most effective in helping people to stay clean?
A traditional teaching in the Buddhist lineage is that the best times of day to engage in formal, still meditative practice is first thing in the morning, upon waking up from sleep and before the day gets going, or right before sleeping, as the challenges of another day on Earth wind down and slip away. I personally feel best about the practice of meditating first thing in the morning
A friend emailed me yesterday, and asked “If the Buddhist doctrine of anatta (which holds that the self is an illusion) is true, who is it that is accumulating karma? I’m genuinely puzzled by this, especially as it pertains to the concept of re-incarnation and the Atman (two seemingly incongruent concepts to anatta).”
My friend was asking about karma, which is the idea that we are the inheritors of the results of our actions – in other words, the idea that what we sow, we reap. A common example of karma: if we eat healthily, exercise, and get enough sleep, we will probably be relatively physically healthy, and, if we don’t, we won’t. Simple enough.]
The most mature spiritual paths are those with that balance between a simultaneous rising up towards the one and sinking down into the many; this means realizing that the imminent and the transcendent are both Divine
A friend of mine posted on Facebook a graphic making fun of religious notions of morality as “handed down from God”. I responded: I think a lot of atheistic objections to religion are a reaction to a simple-minded concept of the Divine. Yes, many people do indeed think of Divinity as an all-powerful Man with a White Beard who has a bunch of rules, a bunch of demands, and a quick temper. But that vision does not fit with the more sublime and subtle Divinity that, for example, the deep spiritual mystics and sages throughout the millennia have talked about experiencing.
The California Vipassana Center (more formally known as ” Dhamma Mahavana”, or “Great Forest of Buddhist Teachings”) is a large meditation center in the wooded near Fresno, in central California. It is the place where I did my first intensive meditation retreat (in 1994), and I have sat two more there since then (in 1996 and 2003). The CVC is also the place where many of my friends have done their first (and only) meditation retreats. “To do a Vipassana” is a phrase that I hear fairly often, and it means to do a ten-day retreat at the CVC, or one of it’s affiliated meditation centers.
Here is an brilliant excerpt from a talk by master meditation teacher Shinzen Young, discussing a difference between psychotherapy (where we completely deal with one memory percolating up from the subconscious at a time) and insight meditation (where we slowly bring awareness and openness to the whole mind, conscious and subconscious)
If you are someone who has had issues at some point with ADD or focus issues, then I recommend to you taking supplements containing the amino acid l-tyrosine, which I have been finding helpful for me, and might be helpful for you, too.
There have been many times in my personal growth career when I have made an interpersonal behavioral commitment to another person, and many more times that I have accepted them from others. I have most often participated in making commitments during men’s teams work and in the coaching training that I took. Making structured formal interpersonal commitments has, at times, been a powerful tool for helping me to help my life to be more powerful, intentional, healthy, and clear.
One thing that I think helps with clear communication is to be conscious of the on the fact that boundaries are not always bilateral or reciprocal. That is to say, I think that “Heyyyy! You just asked me to not do x, and now you’re doing that exact same thing!” is usually an unproductive thing to say.
I believe that breath meditation is the best place for people to start a regular meditation practice; it is the most basic, foundational, beginner meditation practice. This post contains some breath meditation instructions for beginners.
Not only is “mindfulness” a popular trend that’s sweeping the nation, but “mindfulness in the workplace” specifically is too. This post will give you some suggestions for helpful techniques for staying spacious and open when working an office job.
I just spent about a week staying and practicing Buddhism at the Sōgen-ji Rinzai Zen temple and monastery in Okayama City, Japan. Sōgen-ji is known for its long-time abbot, Shodo Harada Roshi, who many people have told me is one of the few great living Zen masters. I had heard of Shodo Harada Roshi for years before my visit, since he is the longtime teacher of my teacher Ryoshin Paul Haller (the abbot of the SF Zen Center), and of Soryu Forall (the Dharma heir of my teacher Shinzen Young). Harada Roshi also apparently has written a few books and offers yearly retreats at the One Drop Zendo on Whidbey Island in Washington State near Seattle, which some of my Zen friends have apparently attended.
A friend recently emailed me and asked:
I have been running into an insanely simple but complicated problem and wanted to know if you could offer any advice:
People warned me before I got to India. They said: traffic is insane, Indians drive along constantly honking, everything is dirty, cows wander on the streets, men pee along city streets, people throw trash down anywhere and everywhere, it’s such a mix of people and cultires, it’s the land of extremes. They said, it’s an assault on the senses – a barrage of colors, beauty and ugliness, words, music, sounds, smells. Not much works efficiently, logically, predictably. People told me: nothing can prepare you. So, I took all their words to heart, and was ready for too much.
I have entered many deep, rich, alive spaces over the years listening to my friend Guy Sengstock speak during the workshops he teaches. I have been regularly amazed by his spiritual clarity, how he naturally attunes to the deep way of things.
Here are some written quotes by him that leave me feeling open, inspired, and clarified after I read them:
In Buddhism, it is taught that, ultimately, liberation comes though insight. It’s difficult for me to explain what “insight” means in this context, but I suppose in simple terms you could call it, seeing existence as it truly is. The traditional teaching, though, is that deep insight usually requires a concentrated focused mind, and that developing concentration usually requires a foundation of ethical behavior.
A few folks have asked me to let them know what I find out about long long-term yoga training opportunities while here in India. I haven’t done as many yoga intensives as I fantasized I would, but I do think that I have however learned good stuff about what the yoga opportunities are here – by taking retreats, and also taking individual classes, talking to yoga teachers and students, staying at ashrams, and reading things online
I realize that many of my reasons for coming here to Asia for a year of travel were not conscious to me before I got here. As many of my friends know, however, the biggest conscious motivation for my journey was to experience “spiritual practice” (mostly Buddhism, but yoga/Hinduism too) in the old countries. I mean, it stands to reason that, if one wants the authentic, deep, true experience, one heads to the point of origin – amirite?
“Melodies which run through one’s mind … may give the analyst a clue to the secret life of emotions that every once of us lives … In this inward signing, the voice of an unknown self conveys not only passing moods and impulses, but sometimes a disavowed or denied wish, a longing and a drive we do not like to otherwise admit to ourselves … Whatever secret message it carries, the incidental music accompanying our conscious thinking is never accidental” — Theodor Reik, in “The Haunting Melody: Psychoanalytic Experiences in Life and Music
I just finished visits to the astounding Ajanta and Ellora caves, both World Heritage Sites, in the middle of the Indian state of Maharashtra. These cave systems are thirty and thirty-four, respectively, huge caves, hand-carved over decades, chip by chip, out of solid cliffside rock. Many of them contain elaborate religious detail-work.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
Years ago, a friend wrote home that he had reviewed the Landmark Education Forum personal growth course while traveling in Asia. At the time. I thought to myself, man that’s a great idea. Inspired by that, I just reviewed the Landmark Advanced Course this last weekend, here in Mumbai/Bombay India.
Five wise blind elephants were discussing what humans were like. Failing to agree, they decided to determine what humans were like by direct experience.
The first wise blind elephant felt the human, and declared, “Humans are flat.”
The other wise blind elephants, after similarly feeling the human, agreed.
I just finished a refreshing five-day meditation retreat the Bodhi Zendo monastery in south India. It felt wonderful, relaxing, and peaceful to be there – Bodhi Zendo is, I think, one of the most tranquil and pleasant places I have been in my life. My time there was certainly a refreshing and quiet contrast with the chaotic overwhelm that for me has often characterized traveling in India.
My last night in North India, after three weeks there, was an emotional one. I was in Bodhgaya, a town best known as the spot where Buddha yes THE Buddha attained full liberation/enlightenment, after he sat all night under a tree in the middle of the open field. Modern Bodhgaya is no longer that serene, 2,500 years later. Instead, it has paved streets full of the typical busy Indian overwhelm that I have become familiar with – jostling noisy crowds of people vehicles and cows, people constantly coming up wanting me to buy something, crumbly buildings and homes, and even snaggle-toothed beggars wearing dirty rags and holding outstretched hands (which is actually a rare sight for me in India).
Varanasi (formerly known as “Benares”) is situated along the banks of the Ganges river, in North India. According to Wikipedia, it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, older than most of the major world religions, and the oldest in India. Mark Twain apparently said, “Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together”. Wikipedia also says that it is the holiest city in the Hindu and Jain religions, is the spiritual capital of India, and is often referred to as “the city of temples”, “the holy city of India”, “the religious capital of India”, “the city of lights”, “the city of learning”, and “the oldest living city on earth”.
I just spent a few weeks at Wat Ram Poeng, a temple two miles southwest of Chiang Mai that features an English-language meditation program. Perhaps it is less accurate to say that Wat Ram Poeng “features an English-language meditation program”, and it is more accurate to say that they provide space for foreigners to meditate. Almost all of what I did during my time there was meditate by myself, eight to fourteen hours a day, inside the simple, clean, comfortable, and pleasant little room they provided me with. I alternated sitting meditation, mostly on the bed, with equal lengths of time doing walking meditation, slowly pacing back and forth the length of the room.
After my retreat at Wat Pah Nanachat, I rode trains for a couple days to get to Wat Suan Mokkh International Meditation Hermitage, and sit a ten day meditation retreat there. Suan Mokkh is a meditation center located on the long narrow peninsula that extends from Bangkok south to Malaysia. Similarly to Wat Pah Nanachat and Ajahn Chah, the Suan Mokkh IMH was founded by one of the more famous twentieth century Thai Buddhist masters (in this case, Buddhadasa Bikkhu) as a place for Westerners who wanted to study with him but could not understand the language at his Thai-language monastery.
I just finished a two week stay at Wat Pah Nanachat monastery, here in Thailand. Quoting Wikipedia, Wat Pah Nanachat (spelled วัดป่านานาชาติ in Thai, and meaning “International Forest Monastery”) is situated in a small forest in north-east Thailand about ten miles outside of the city of Ubon Rachathani. The eminent Thai meditation master Ajahn Chah established the monastery in 1975 to serve as a training community for the many Europeans, Americans, and other non-Thais who were pursuing study with him along traditional Thai Forest monastic lines at his famous Thai-Wat Nong Pah Pong monastery. Wat Pah Nanachat’s monks, novices and postulants include a wide range of nationalities, but the primary language of communication and instruction is English.
Shinzen Young is one of my two top Buddhist teachers (along with the inimitable Gil Fronsdal). It was Shinzen’s vision of the Buddha Way that first got me interested in Buddhism in 1989 (!), and his teachings are still, to this day, the most compelling and resonant vision of the Dharma for me out of all that I have encountered.
Six years ago, at Tassajara, I had a delightful, far-ranging, deep conversation with an SFZC alumni priest named Steve Allen. As the conversation ended, he invited me to come practice with him and his partner Angelique at their little hermitage on the side of a mountain in Crestone, Colorado. I set an intention then to go and visit them; keeping in mind my search for a Buddhist practice that resonates with my deepest intentions, I wondered if his style of Zen might match with my own.
Bodhi Manda monastery sits, with a bar on one side and a Catholic convent on the other, along the rural highway that runs though the villiage of Jemez Springs. The monastery is a complex of maybe seven large buildings, most of them dating back to the mid-twentieth century, back when the compound apparently served as a chill-out for misbehaving Catholic priests. The solidly constructed, venerable edifices are surrounded by a beautiful treasure trove of gardens, statues, bird feeders, ponds, creeks, and trees. When I was not hustling around being busy, it felt wonderful and peaceful to be on the grounds.
The courage to be is the courage to accept oneself, in spite of being unacceptable.
— Paul Tillich
It is flat-out strange that something – that anything – is happening at all. There was nothing, then a Big Bang, then here we all are. This is extremely weird.
— Ken Wilber
The return of the light. These days, as we leave the Zendo (meditation hall) after the dinner ceremony ends, we walk into daylight. It's sometimes even warm, too – like, warm enough to wear just a long underwear shirt, or even just a t shirt, under the thick layers of our ceremonial meditation robes. The afternoons are mostly hot, dry, and bright. Mornings, a few blooming trees shower the air and ground with a swirl of pink and white pedals. Birds are singing, bugs are orbiting and swarming, green things are sprouting. There is even sometimes a hint of a warm breeze at four in the morning, as we hustle through the lamp-lit blackness to the first period morning meditation. I am enjoying it all.
Tomorrow we begin a nine day sesshin (meditation intensive), so I am sitting down here in my cozy little dorm room, with the afternoon sun warm outside my window, to finish this letter, before the wall of silence falls. Reading over my last letter, I think that when I started compiling notes to write it, I was in a place of crystalline purity, clarity, infinity, depth, vast open space – a feeling of freedom and expansiveness that had been building over the previous two months. It was like, This is IT
Heading back to the city after three months of simple stillness in the monastery, I was staring out the car window at the passing gas stations and shopping malls, at all the billboards and the neon. I turned to the Zen priest driving me, and said, “It all seems like a dream.” He shot back, “What makes you think that it isn’t”?
These letters are funny things. They generally feel good and healthy to write – writing them seems to put a seal on my experiences here, like an epilogue to a book, a desert to a meal, a shavasana to a yoga session. Also, somehow, I can’t explain how, I usually get a clear intuition about what things to write about in them, and what not.
But, I wonder, what is it that motivates me to write : is it to connect and share myself with people, or is it to try to share (teach) something liberating uplifting and inspiring with people – and, if either, which people. Or am I writing this for myself, and, if so, is it my future self (to remind myself of what I learn and experience here), or is it for my present self (to help move the energy through as I experience things here, like a diary, or a conversation with a friend where you get something off your chest). I also wonder how much to just bluntly share what’s happening, no matter how raw and freaky it is, or how much is it better to wait until I have worked through things more and I can write in a more neatly packaged form – with an inspiring uplifting moral to the story, and maybe looking better in the process.
I just finished a nine-day break from working in the kitchen. We monks who are assigned to the kitchen sat a seven-day sesshin (all-day meditation intensive), with a “personal day” tacked on at the beginning and end. Various Zen people, some of ’em coming in from the outside world, did the kitchen work during those days.
The group for this retreat has a little over forty monks in it, which fewer than the sixty to eighty who were here when I have been here for ninety-day retreats in the past. This means that all groups of monks (the work crews, the meal serving crews, the kitchen crew, etc) are on a smaller scale. We’ve had a number of people coming and going, which is fine, but I also find that I liked better the tighter container that I experienced in past years (i.e., where everyone who is here at all is here no less than the full three months).
In August 2005, I sat a ten day vipassana meditation intensive at the Tibetan Buddhist center Vajrapani, in the hills of Santa Cruz, with my teacher Gil Fronsdal. In the evening of the last of the ten days, all the meditators gathered by the center’s stupa (pictures above) for an acknowledgment ceremony that actually turned into something of a talent show. People sang songs and did some comedy, but mostly people recited impromtu poetry they had just composed about their days sitting in silence on the retreat. Today, I came across the poem I came up with that night, and wanted to share it here. For people who have been on sitting retreats, the experience may sound familiar.
Today’s guest is Adam Coutts, a meditation teacher and practitioner who has worked with hundreds of individuals and groups to guide them to discover the experience of meditative awareness and to customize a spiritual practice that fits their personality and into their lives. So, join us as we enjoy the power and simplicity of meditation and the profound peace and bliss that comes from learning to rest in awareness and consciousness itself.
“Do you know that old age, disease, and death must overcome us, no matter what we are doing? What do you wish to be doing when it overtakes you? If you have anything better to be doing when you are so overtaken, begin on that now.”
“What I’m about to tell you is very real – I’m telling you the truth – I’m telling you what’s really so for those people: their inability to respond, their bound-upedness, is the highest expression of love which they are able to muster. About this I know the answer: they have a capacity for love, like yours or like mine, which is absolute. The only thing bound up in their life is the expression of that capacity. So, what you’re getting is a bound expression of an absolute love for you.”
Recently I did some thinking and writing about the texture of the time that I have been an adult, the ebb and flow of happiness in the twenty-five years since I graduated high school. I started listing, what were all the months and years of greatest growth, expansion, opening, and generally good things; in other words, what activities, experiences, and factors seemed to correlate with my life coming more alive. What I came up with were:
So what is it to be a “true person”? One of the simplest definitions of what is “Truth” (and perhaps pointing to the “truth that will set you free”) is that we are being truthful when we do what we say and we say what we do. We can tell the truth at least to ourselves, and maybe even to others too. Living in truth, there is a harmony between our words and our actions. Buddhists would go one step further, and say that truth is expressed when there is a harmony between our “beingness”, what we really are, with what we say and what we do – in a sense, when they are the same.
I have read that there is scientific-evolutionary-biological evidence that homo sapiens were not meant to be completely monogamous. For example, they’ve found that only a small percentage of sperm actually are able to impregnate an egg; the function of more than half of sperm is actually to destroy any other males’ seed that may…
I once read a book on sex that suggested that healthy sex has at least three aspects: respect, honesty, and consent. Within that framework, the book suggested, do whatever your dirty li’l minds come up with. That definition made a positive impression on me. And now, years later, having developed in my Buddhist practice, I like those three as good guidelines for a basic foundation of “right sexuality” that fits with the modern world that I live in.
Going to university in Santa Cruz, though, I got all into psychospiritual growth – Buddhist meditation, psychology and therapy, hatha yoga, twelve step programs, communication skills and processing, Joseph Campbell and Ram Dass, holotropic breathwork, sweat lodges, encounter groups, men’s circles – and workshops, endless workshops. Exploring, deepening, and expanding the psyche felt more real and more compelling to me than making art or music. In this world, where there’s politics people, travel people, money-making people, creative people, hipster people, sports people – I found that I am a psychospirtual growth person.
The molecules on the outer edge of “you”, say the ones on the edge of the cell membranes of the cells that are on the outer edge of your eye, are just as enmeshed, electron-swapping-wise, with the molecules in the air around you as they are with the molecules further back in the cell wall. In other words, it is scientifically impossible to say where “you” end and “your environment” begins – from this perspective, it all seems to be one interconnected whole.
One core teaching of classic Buddhism is “the Brahma Viharas”. The first on the list is “metta” or “maitri”, which translates as “loving kindness”. The second is karuna, compassion. The third is “mudita”, sympathetic joy. The final one is “Upekka”, equanimity, an evenness of emotionality.