Sunday, December 20, 2009

being kind to yourself

"Because of all the ways your brain changes its structure, your experience matters beyond its momentary, subjective impact. It makes enduring changes in the physical tissues of your brain which affect your well-being, functioning, and relationships. Based on science, this is a fundamental reason for being kind to yourself, cultivating wholesome experiences, and taking them in."

Rick Hanson in Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom pp. 72-73

Thursday, December 10, 2009

garden of eden

In the heart of every man and every woman a kind of Garden of Eden endures, where there is no war, no death, where wild animals and deer live together in peace.

Irene Nemirovsky, speaking for the 1941 characters in her novel Suite Francaise.

Reading words of this novel is a poignant experience. The author reflects on human experience as France is being occupied by Germany in WWII. She is writing as events unfold, before the outcomes are known.

We know outcomes, even the outcome for the author. She completes two books of an intended five from within this dramatic time in world history, but in July of 1942 she is arrested, separated from her husband and two small daughters, deported to Auschwitz, moved a couple times, and dead by August 17, 1942.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

transforming consciousness

We have the joy and great adventure of learning how to bring the meditative skills of the monasteries and forest monks into our daily lives. We can become our own monasteries, taking refuge in our innate capacity for awakening.

Ten immediate suggestions here for making your life a monastery:

• Consider increasing your daily meditation practice – extending the length of your sitting meditation practice or adding an additional sitting, even a very short one in the middle of the day (an attentive coffee break).

• Choose to make an entire day or half day a time to experiment in intentional practice in all activities, also incorporating traditional practices. Remove distractions for the time period, like electronics.

• Incorporate contemplative reading, sutta or scripture study in your formal practice times or as recreation. Give yourself this little pleasant break from daily routines.

• It is useful periodically to keep a daily log of how you spend your time. You will find you have more time than you think and that the observation alone modifies your behavior. (see below a series of Practice Books to support this process)

• You could tally the number of breaths or pauses in your daily life, even just in one hour. How often do you intentionally turn to your breath? Pause? Or pause, relax, and open?

• Take a few minutes each day, for even just seconds or minutes, to consider what your specific intentions are for clarity of mind, for fostering wholesome qualities, for diminishing what furthers suffering.

• Choose some additional time to be with other beings who manifest the qualities you intend to foster – or who are interested in fostering the same.

• Focus on self-care, as if you are on retreat. Get plenty of sleep. Go to bed early. Get up early. Keep things simple. Eat what is nourishing. Spend extra time on grooming, caring for yourself tenderly.

• Play. Have you heard the ads encouraging children to go outside and play an hour a day? Can you do that for yourself? Move your body. Do a body practice like yoga or dance. Canoe, ski, or just walk. Any movement that is pleasurable for you.

• When struggle or self judgment arises remember that nothing is as substantial as it seems. Do not identify with what is arising as substantially you or substantially true. Everything is in process (bubbles, froth and foam).


Nutshell Publications has just published a six book series of Practice Books to support this process.

Work with these on your own, in private sessions, as companion practices to reading Being Prayer, or as a review and deepening of instruction offered in a beginning meditation course. Share work with one or more of the books with friends.

Monday, November 30, 2009

real mindfulness

Once sati is established, every moment is pregnant with the potential for awakening.

Analayo in Satipatthana : The Direct Path to Realization, p 252

The real challenge, the place requiring skillful effort, is in establishing sati, establishing sati in formal practice so it can bear fruit in every experience of life.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


"...thought, as one knows it, generally is in time; it is based on notion of time; thought itself is time; thought itself creates time; when there is no time there is no thought."

Ramesh Grover - reflections on Bohm and Krishnamurti The Ending of Time in Kalachakra Meditations

When you are dwelling in the past or the future - remembering, planning, regretting, fearing - you are not alive in this moment. You are missing this moment, lost in time. Time is a construct. The past does not exist substantially in the present, nor has the future come to be.

Can you choose to be alive right now? Can you choose to be fully open to this moment? To this breath? To sounds and sensations right here, right now?


Thursday, September 10, 2009

lost in emptiness

Many questions come up about non-duality. This passage addresses one problem with embracing the experience or an idea about it too quickly. Non-duality includes a need to be deeply aware of clarity, spaciousness, and stillness but to also know clearly and immediately how to pay attention and navigate skillfully in the world.

The danger is that we hear too much too soon. We think we have understood shunyata, err on the side of the absolute in a nihilistic fashion, and are obscured by concepts. Nagarjuna said, "it is sad to see those who mistakenly believe in material, concrete reality, but far more pitiful are those who believe in emptiness." Those who believe in things can be helped through various kinds of practice, but those who have fallen into the abyss of emptiness find it almost impossible to re-emerge, since there seem to be no handholds, no steps, no gradual progression, and nothing to do.

Nyoshul Khenpo

Friday, July 17, 2009


"All along the vast extent of samsara's journey, we have become ingrained in misconceptions about things all around us, believing mere forms to be facts of life. The truth is that all things, big or small, in the ultimate sense, are a mere heap of elements, a mass of elements, a collection of elements, a lump of elements, and nothing more. The definitive insight is the first light of the Buddha's Teaching, knowledge in comprehending the Dhamma...

Earth has the property of hardness or softness. This property is the earth element, in the ultimate sense.

Water has the property of cohesion or liquidity. This property is the water element, in the ultimate sense.

Fire has the property of heat or cold. This property is the heat element, in the ultimate sense.

Wind has the property of support or motion. This property is the wind element, in the ultimate sense.

The meaning of these four great elements should be digested and learned by heart."

from The Manual of Light by Alan-Kyan
translated by Ledi Sayadaw

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Insight, Mindfulness, and God

…the blazing fire, by means of that flame which burns ardently with a gentle breath, offers to the human a white flower, which hangs in that flame as dew hangs on the grass. It’s scent comes to the human’s nostrils, but he does not taste it with his mouth or touch it with his hands. And thus he turns away and falls into the thickest darkness, out of which he cannot pull himself. And that darkness grows and expands more and more in the atmosphere.

Hildegard of Bingen Book Two: The Redeemer and Redemption, Vision One, The Redeemer (from her Scivias as translated by Mother Columba Hart, OSB, and Jane Bishop. Creation and Christ: The Wisdom of Hildegard of Bingen. New York: Paulist Press, 1996: pp 49-50)

In this passage, I particularly love the phrase ‘that flame which burns ardently with a gentle breath.’ That combined with a delicate white flower offered hanging on the flame bring together some apparently impossible images. I see it as an invitation to come into direct contact with the source, with wisdom, with God, if the word God does not limit your openness to further unfolding of God’s self to you.

I understand here an invitation to tasting and living the experience of God, to not getting lost in discussion, philosophizing about God, assuming that with our minds alone we can know God, but instead to fully live the experience. We can easily get lost and out of touch with what is real through the creations of our minds, getting further and further removed from what is true. Reason has its place, but it is a human tendency to get lost in the concepts, removing our selves from our own immediate experience, our open invitation to meet this flower and gentle breath of the flame in any and every waking moment.

Buddhist practices support this understanding and practice of the Christian message. For the Buddhist practice does not speculate about God. It just says, live your life with integrity. Explore and trust your direct experience. Combined with a Christian perspective, if you live your life with integrity, tasting and experientially exploring the fullness of all your ways of knowing, you will meet God face-to-face. You will live God.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

love is a river

a road might end at a single house
but it's not love's road

love is a river
drink from it

from a friend, Mary B, quoting Rumi

Monday, March 9, 2009

insight refrain


This passage is offered repeatedly in the Satiptthana Sutta with slight variation to apply to each segment of the sutta.

"In this way, in regard to the body s/he abides contemplating the body internally, or s/he abides contemplating the body externally, or s/he abides contemplating the body both internally and externally.

S/He abides contemplating the nature of arising in the body, or s/he abides contemplating the nature of passing away in the body, or s/he abides contemplating the nature of both arising and passing away in the body.

Mindfulness that 'there is a body' is established in him/her to the extent necessary for bare knowledge and continuous mindfulness.

And s/he abides independent, not clinging to anything in the world. "That is how in regard to the body s/he abides contemplating the body."

Listen to the passage at

A contemplative practice to use with this passage

Thursday, February 5, 2009

four noble truths

Now this, monks, is the noble truth of suffering: Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair are suffering; association with the unbeloved is suffering, separation from the loved is suffering, not getting what is wanted is suffering. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are suffering.

And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of suffering: the craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion and delight, relishing now here and now there — that is, craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.

And this, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering: the remainderless fading and cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, and letting go of that very craving.

And this, monks, is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of suffering: precisely this Noble Eightfold Path — right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.