Monday, December 31, 2007

bloom vividly

If you want ot survive a dry place, if you want to go shamelessly green in the middle of nowhere, you must emulate alfalfa. If you want to bloom vividly, you must learn to put down a taproot that plunges to phenomenal depths in search of sustenance.

Debra Marquart in The Horizontal World: Growing Up In the Middle of Nowhere: A Memoir

Saturday, December 29, 2007


There were lots of reasons, I guessed, to raise a white flag and surrender interest in the material world. Aside from the well-trod pleasures of the quotidian--holidays at the beach, dance parties--you could still feel a greater need for something else entirely. You could feel a hunger and emptiness. You could be tormented by unanswered questions. Modern life leaves many people feeling insignificant and a bit lost. If you were living a spiritual life--and believed you were helping to end suffering--that could make you feel quite potent. And while secular life has a tendency to lose its shimmer--how many dance parties, or holidays at the beach?--spiritual life is infused with supernatural events. From a spiritual perspective, the world can always seem new and wondrous, the way it felt to us as children.

Martha Sherrill in The Buddha from Brooklyn: A Tale of Spiritual Seduction

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

going home

Perhaps its true that, as Thomas Wolfe wrote: "You can't go home again." Mostly because, as in Wolfe's case, after you write about the place you're from, people are waiting at the city gates with pitchforks and burning torches the next time you try to visit.

But another reason you can't go home again is that the shape you made upon leaving does not match your shape upon return...

Debra Marquart in The Horizontal World: Growing Up In the Middle of Nowhere: A Memoir

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Clutter accumulates when energy stagnates, and likewise, energy stagnates when clutter accumulates.

Karen Kingston in Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui (p 11)

Karen attributes stuck energy to two causes in addition to clutter: physical grime and predecessor energy.

Western science clearly recognizes clutter and dirt as contributors to dysfunction. In healing facilities (hospitals, recovery centers, and mental health institutions) the first treatment is providing a clean and uncluttered environment. It is a small step to accepting that dirt and disorder could cause our vitality to be depleted.

Predecessor energy may be more difficult cause for the western mind to consider, but we can at least suspend our disbelief and consider the possibility.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

active solitude - merton

Comments from Howard Griffin on Thomas Merton's view of solitude:

Actually, solitude for him was a realization, even kind of a creation as well as a liberation of active forces within him. As a mere condition solitude could be passive, inert, and basically unreal: a kind of coma. To avoid this condition he had to work actively at solitude.

Thus, the need for discipline, for techniques of integration that keep body and soul together, harmonizing their powers to bring them into one deep resonance oriented to the root of being

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

sutta - enough

For a long time, monks [practitioners, anyone],
you have experienced suffering, anguish, and disaster,
and swelled the cemetery.

It is enough to become disenchanted with all formations
enough to become dispassionate toward them,
enough to be liberated by them.

SN 15.1; II 178

Read a similar sutta on line - SN 15.3: Assu Sutta

Link to online dharma resources in on the website at

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

the mist

As the mist leaves no scar
On the dark green hill
So my body leaves no scar
On you, nor ever will

When wind and hawk encounter
What remains to keep?
So you and I encounter
Then turn then fall asleep

As many nights endure
Without a moon or star
So will we endure
When one is gone and far

Blue Alert

Monday, December 17, 2007

clearing clutter (mind and body)

Things not dealt with in your home reflect issues not dealt with in your life, and they are a constant drain on your energy. There are the niggly repairs, such as fixing the broken drawer, mending the broken appliance, repairing the tap that keeps dripping, and the bigger jobs, such as redecorating the house, servicing the central heating, or taming the jungle that has become your garden. The larger the scale, the more these things impinge on your ability to get on with your life.

Buttons that need sewing on, phone calls you need to make, relationships you need to move on from, and many different forms of loose ends in your life will hinder your progress if you do not deal with them. Your subconscious mind will suppress these things nicely for you if you ask it to, but it takes a lot of energy to do so. You will be amazed at how your vitality levels soar if you complete all your unfinished business.

Karen Kingston in Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui

Sunday, December 16, 2007

rest in silence

What binds me has been slain,
...what surrounds me has been destroyed, desire has been brought to an end,
...ignorance has died.

I ...was set loose ...(from) the chain of forgetfulness which exists in time. From this hour on... I will receive rest i[n] silence.

Borrowed from Magdelene Community
A Reading from the Gospel of Mary (trans. Karen King)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

nothing is as substantial as it seems

A primary theme in Being Prayer-Transforming Consciousness is that nothing is as substantial as it seems. We fuel a dynamic spiritual unfolding when we reach a realization of the insubstantiality of what we believe to be true, when we see that both our doubts and certainties need to be challenged.

Understanding insubstantialtiy does not mean that things do not exist at all. Instead it invites us to a looser perception, an awareness that we are each conditioned by our life experiences. This conditioning contributes to our uniqueness but also limits our view and colors all of our perceptions. We can learn to widen our perceptions and open to what is most real, to vitality, energy, enthusiasm, and joy.

Monday, December 10, 2007

news from the greater sangha

I am just back from a training program at Spirit Rock. We worked intensely for five days, exploring possibilities for unfoldment of the dharma in the West.

These interactive sessions were led by several Spirit Rock Teachers (James Barez, Eugene Cash, Jack Kornfield, Thanissara) but also two representatives each from Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

One of the lead teachers referred to the week as a contemporary "mini-council." Buddhist Councils are rare but critical turning points in the unfolding thread of the dharma.

Friday, November 30, 2007

noticing the quality of attention

The ability to pay attention selectively, ignoring distractions, develops throughout childhood at least until adolescence. So does the ability to shift attention quickly and efficiently.
-Sharon Begley quoting Helen Nelville in Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain. (p160).

Begley goes on to say that as we age our ability to suppress unattended inputs increases. Brain signals associated with what we do not pay attention to decreases with age. (p160)

This growing ability (or tendency) to suppress information could help us keep focus on a particular object or particular kinds of objects and thus maintain calm and stillness or other wholesome qualities of mind - or it could keep us trapped in delusion. It might be easier to miss valuable information.

There are good reasons for being tightly or broadly focused depending on circumstances. It seems wise to maintain flexibility of attention so we can interact skillfully. Awareness of the quality of attention and the degree of attention needed in any given situation is an important skill.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

attention as a gate

...attention works like a gate, to open and let more neural information in. People think attention is some kind of psychological construct, but you can touch it. It has an anatomy, a physiology, and a chemsitry.
Helen Nelville to the Dalai Lama as quoted by Sharon Begley in Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain (p.160)

Buddhism had long taught that mental training, in which focused attention is key, can alter the mind. Sharon Begley (p.159)

The pattern of activity or neurons in sensory areas can be altered by patterns of attention...Experience coupled with attention leads to physical changes in the structure and future functioning of the nervous system...moment by moment we choose and sculpt how our everchanging minds will work...
Sharon Begly quoting Mike Merzencih (p.159)

Monday, November 26, 2007


It is axiomatic, based on the world view of Buddhism, that since people and indeed all creatures share in each other's existence, there is no true benefit for one group alone that is won at the cost of another.

Thomas Cleary, Entry into the Inconceivable, p.3

Saturday, November 24, 2007


The earth will belong equally to all, undivided by walls or fences. It will then bear more abundant fruits spontaneously. Lives will be in common and wealth will have no division. For there will be no poor man there, no rich, and no tyrant, no slave. Further, no one will be either great or small anymore. No kings, no leaders. All will be on a par together.

This passage (according to Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan in The First Christmas) is from one of the Jewish Sibyline Oracles, fictional prophecies borrowed by Judaism and early Christianity from Rome.

Friday, November 23, 2007


Our son came Wednesday night and stayed all day Thanksgiving. As we sat over our now traditionally non-traditional meal, my eyes fell on family pictures on the wall behind our warm happy gathering. I noticed especially my parents and considered the fact that they were once a vital part of all my holidays - once living, now gone.

After our son left, we sat quite full of both joy and sorrow at another sweet coming together and going apart that is characteristic of all holidays. With the sweetness also came the awareness of loss - of all precious losses, yet also awareness of how lucky and blessed we are to have these times at all.

We didn't want to read, to watch a movie, or eat. The poignancy of the moment was as rich as any that life can bring. We didn't want to miss or trivialize it. So we sat and talked awhile, staying in touch with our feelings and physical sensations. We had a meditation time and waited to hear our precious son was safely home -and fully aware that sooner or later we too will be part of the once living, now gone.