Thursday, November 20, 2008


The Buddha spoke of emptiness as an open space where the idea of being an isolated and permanent self is no longer able to ensnare one. This emptiness is “the abode of a great person,” where one can encounter and respond to the world in a selfless but caring perspective.

A bleak nihilistic void in which meaning and value have been lost is the exact opposite of what the Buddha meant by “emptiness.” For him, an understanding of emptiness transformed a compulsive cycle of fears and cravings into a path of wisdom and care that enhanced inner freedom and empathetic responsiveness. Rather than an absence of meaning and value, emptiness is an absence of what limits and confines one’s capacity to realize what a human life can potentially become.

Stephen Batchelor
Living with the Devil: A Meditation on Good and Evil p. 7

Monday, October 6, 2008

downward mobility

Twenty years ago we were discussing downward mobility as an option for taking responsibilty for our cultural over consumption. We were also aware that if we did not make the choice, sooner or later simpler lifestyles would be imposed on us.

Today the freedom of simplicity may not be a free choice anymore, but a necessity. However, there is no reason it cannot be a happy choice. In fact, the big surprise may be how happy we are when we can say yes to downward mobility!

From my summer reading: Susan Bonne, Living Small in the Big Woods. The Ely Summer Times: 2008, pp.13-14.

In Not so Big House, Sarah Susanka notes that "we long for a sense of shelter and comfort...but tend to use words like 'spacious' and 'expansive' to describe what we think we want." What most of us actually want is a place that feels 'spacious' and 'expansive;' or to put it another way, to feel less cramped by our over-busy lives and too many obligations, possessions, chores, lists.

Paradoxically, living small makes that possible. Less square footage equals less stuff. What isn't owned doesn't have to be maintained, cleaned, or stored, which frees up time and other resources for more fulfilling pursuits, from gardening to travel to playing with the kids.

Less space means a lower (or no) mortagage, lower taxes, and lower utility bills. A smaller footprint also has less impact on the environment, destroys less wildlife, and requires less energy to heat and cool.

Monday, August 11, 2008

wisdom of non-attachment

For what purpose, friends, is the spiritual life lived under the ascetic Gotama [the Buddha]?
It is, friends, for the fading away of lust [clinging] that the holy life is lived...
Excerpt from SN 45:41-1

I added clinging to the passage above because when we read lust we usually think of lust of a sexual nature. But lust or clinging (attachment or grasping) refers here to a more general wanting, any effort to escape the flow of our experience of the present moment.

The result of effort away from what is true in the moment, whether we do it through grasping, avoiding, or ignoring, is a cause of suffering. Lust is the root of hostilities and violence. Choosing openness to the moment is the most important thing we can do to end suffering in our lives and open to happiness.

Dealing immediatly with these automatic responses is not the same as actions we might want to take. Skillful actions can only arise out of awareness and acceptance of our experience as it is. This is what is true in the moment. It is then skillful to take action when circumstances require it. This is Wisdom.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

inexaustable love

How many people live a boring and sterile life in this world,
loveless, looking for love to fill them but never finding it.

Or suffering the bitterness of disappointed love.
Or the anquish of impossible, lost, or forbidden love,
and not finding fulfillment.

Or the sadness of love returned that does not satisfy.

These people could be overwhelmed with love
and their limitless capacity for love, tenderness, and self-surrender
could be filled, if they would only turn inwards
to the inexaustable love that lives and breathes within them.

Ernesto Cardenal

Saturday, June 28, 2008


The body's like a ball of foam,
And feeling is like a bubble;
Perception is like a mirage,
Formations like pithless trees,
And consciousness is like a trick;
-So says the kinsman of the sun.

However one reflects on them,
And carefully investigates:
They are empty and deserted
To one who sees them properly.
No essence is discovered here.

S 22:95

Read a comment on this passage in the newsletter -

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

interpersonal practice

The mind emerges from the activity of the brain, whose structure and function are directy shaped by interpersonal practice.

Daniel Siegel, The Developing Mind, p.1

This critical value of interpersonal practice is the reason we make interaction part of our meditation practice.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

mindful vs mindless

A May 27 article in the New York Times describes the enthusiastic application of mindfulness meditation in therapeutic settings and concludes that the real issue in research with meditation, mindfulness [and therefore the validity of research results], “is whether the science will keep pace and help people distinguish the mindful variety [of meditation practice] from the mindless.”

“Mindfulness meditation is easy to describe.” However, grasping its depth, its profundity, and integrating the practice into all life experience (not to mention into therapies), is a gradual process that requires careful attention, committed and long time practice.

Note: This article will be of interest to mental health professionals. Free registration is required to view the entire article at this New York Times address.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

another reason to practice

"stepping to right of our left hemisphere"

the awesome experience of a stroke through perceptions and language of neuroanatomist, Jill Bolte Taylor

Friday, March 7, 2008

saying yes to life

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of humankind as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.

Helen Keller

Sunday, March 2, 2008

a new earth with e tolle

Oprah's webclass with Eckhart Tolle on his book A New Earth begins Monday evening. It is a teaching consistent with Vipassana (Insight and Mindfulness) and with Being Prayer-Transforming Consciousness.

I understand that you need to sign up tonight if you wish to participate. Sessions are available live on Monday nights at 8 pm but also later as downloads.

This is a link to the course or go to Oprah's website to find it yourself

Monday, February 11, 2008

love is a constant

We are mirrors of God, created to reflect [God]. Even when the water is not calm, it reflects the sky.

Ernesto Cardenal
Love: A Glimpse of Eternity

This is a new translation of a book that was my early spiritual practice. For two years it was my only practice - a lifeline. It is poetic prose and sings of the fullness of the universe and love as the most fundamental truth.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

last night

At night my lost memory of you returned
and I was like the empty field where springtime,
without being noticed, is bringing flowers;

I was like the desert over which
the breeze moves gently, with great care;

I was like the dying patient
who, for no reason, smiles.

Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Last Night
translation by Agha Shahid Ali

Thursday, January 10, 2008

nothing's lost

nothing's lost. Or else: all is translation
And every bit of us is lost in it
(Or found

James Merrill
Lost in Translation lines 208-10
as quoted by Agha Shahid Ali in The Rebel's Silhouette

Monday, January 7, 2008

why experience pain?

I declare, monks [dhammafarers], that actions (kamma) willed, performed and accumulated, will not become extinct as long as their results have not been experienced, be it in this life, in the next life or in future lives. And as long as these results of actions willed, performed and accumulated, have not been experienced, there will be no end to suffering.
-words of Gautama Buddha

Parallel saying in contemporary Christian tradition:
I heard a priest once say the fires of hell and the pain of purgatory weren't literal fire, but the burning pain of regret around unhealed or unresolved harmful actions.