A History Of Circling

“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.

Longer Attention Span

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…

Lessons I’ve Learned From Rock Climbing

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.

Interpersonal 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.

What I Say To Friends Who Are Grieving

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.

A Couple Lessons From My Research Career

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?

Morality Part I: Moral Rules

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.

Quotes By Guy Sengstock

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:

Buddhist Practices For Dealing With Addictions

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.

Music And The Mind

“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

“If”, by Rudyard Kipling

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;

Tassajara Zen Monastery: Learning From Kitchen Work

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).

Love Remains At The Heart Of Things

“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.”

Looking For Patterns Of Happiness And Unhappiness

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:

Truth

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.

Dating, Sexuality, and Buddhist Teachings

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.

Scheduling Groups of People

I have found that instead by far the best way to set a date, for groups of say six or smaller, is for the person with the tightest schedule to send out a comprehensive list of all the dates that they are available during the possible time span, someone else in the group to edit that list down to just the dates that they are also free and reposts, and so on, until, when the last person posts, and you are left with a comprehensive winnowed-down list of date that all people are free.

Book Review: “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie

Some general themes of the book “Codependent No More” are cultivating boundaries, a healthy sense of separation, solid self-respect, saying “no”, paying attention to one’s own business, and being able to strong and brave in walking one’s path. It’s also about finding balance and general emotional health, and cultivating the ability to love and care for others for real (in a way that isn’t draining).

Book Review: “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, by Stephen Covey

“Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People” is a deceptively basic-seeming book that will actually will reward the reader with as much depth as they are willing to seek from it. Some themes in the book are developing a sense of purpose and intentionality in life, cultivating self-discipline and ethical behavior, and ways to create social networks that work (which, in the end, comes down to love). A big theme in the book is taking on practices and self-cultivations in the service of self-improvement.

Joining Facebook

I noticed years ago that you can have fun cyber-interactions with folks that don’t actually seem to make a huge difference in the texture or depth of the feeling the next time I see someone in the real world. Even emails often don’t seem to really take a relationship deeper. The thing that seems to really open up and deepen relationships are real time interactions, especially if it involves something relatively intense : traveling or living together, dating cuddling or otherwise physically touching, working on a project together, being a men’s/therapy/personal growth group, or otherwise going through a fire of real life together.

Some Favorite Quotes About Having Healthy Relationships

We’ve discovered certain behaviors and attitudes nurture relationships and help them grow. Healthy detachment, honesty, self-love, love for each-other, tackling problems, negotiating differences, and being flexible help nurture relationships. We can enhance relationships with acceptance, forgiveness, a sense of humor, an empowering but realistic attitude, open communication, respect, tolerance, patience, and faith in a Higher Power. Caring about our own and each other’s feelings helps. Asking instead of ordering helps. Not caring, when caring too much hurts, helps too. Being there when we need each other helps. Being there for ourselves, and doing our own personal growth work helps.