Thursday, December 23, 2010

holiday and new year greeting

Freedom and happiness are available in any moment whatever our circumstances. It often may not feel like this is possible, but it is the season's message, a message that is articulated in both Buddhist and Christian traditions.

The story of the birth of Jesus is a story in which God, understood as ultimate power, chooses surrender and vulnerability, being born into the world as a precious and powerless baby. We celebrate the season by accepting our own vulnerability, our need for others, our desire for peace and harmony. We surrender to things as they are.

Are we ready now, as human beings, capable of living this truth? Can we each in our own lives choose to face each moment as it unfolds, however it unfolds? Can  we choose non-violence, kindness, and good will toward all living beings? And to our planet?

In a recent article in the Inquiring Mind Jack Kornfield paraphrased some Buddhist descriptions of freedom and enlightenment. Perhaps we can take one or more of these to make our holiday practice and New Year intention live up to the season's message.

Ajahn Cha
If you let go a little, you'll be a little happy. If you let go a lot you'll be a lot happy. If you let go completely, you'll be completely happy.

Ajahn Cha
Just let go, and become the awareness, be the one who knows.

Mahasi Sayadaw
To find emptiness, note every single moment until what you think to be the world dissolves, and you will come to know freedom.

Dipa Ma
Love no matter what.

Thich Nhat Hanh
Rest in mindfulness, this moment, the eternal present.

Ajahn Jumnien
Be happy for no cause.

Suzuki Roshi
Just be exactly where you are. Instead of waiting for the bus, realize you are on the bus.

What are your own words of wisdom? Let us share them both verbally and through our living them!

Wishing us all peaceful and happy holy days now and through the new year,


Monday, November 22, 2010

right effort of letting go

right effort in the face of adversity

What is right effort when you realize there is nothing you can do to effect skillful behavior or wholesome change in the mind?

What is right effort when a persistent thought keeps arising, robbing you of peace of mind?

What is right effort when unwholesome will not die?

letting go

Consider surrendering any efforts to be free, accepting things as they are, stopping and simply recognizing the characteristics of existence:

Nothing is permanent, nothing can be clung to.
There is nothing that is ultimately satisfying or fulfilling.
We are not as substantial as we take ourselves to be – no me, my, or mine.

Revisit an investigation of form, feeling, perception, formations, and consciousness, recognizing their insubstantial and continuously fluctuating nature. Is there clinging to anything? Is there clinging internally or externally? Clinging to personal states or to relationships?

Remember that whatever is arising is due to causes and conditions, causes and conditions of which you are a part. You influence positively the next moment and future moments by stopping the struggle, by letting things be as they are.

Monday, November 1, 2010


[The word dukkha] is often translated as suffering, but it means something deeper than pain and misery. It refers to a basic misunderstanding running through our lives, the lives of all but the enlightened. Sometimes this unsatisfactoriness erupts in to the open as sorrow, grief, disappointment, or despair; but usually it hovers at the edge of our awareness as a vague unlocalized sense that things are never quite perfect, never fully adequate to our expectations of what they should be. -Bhikkhu Bodi

An unsatisfactoriness? A vague unlocalized sense that things are never perfect? Can you relate to this?

It is really a blessing if you can be aware of these subtle nuances of the heart. Unless you are awake, unless you are attentive to experience, you may miss these subtleties. Or assume them to be dis-ease, depression, something that is not a natural part of life. Have you been awake enough to notice this hovering at the edge of awareness?

Are you willing to experience what is difficult, what is challenging? If so you can come to a new kind of happiness, a happiness that includes the whole of life, the good and the bad, the sweet, the sour, and the sorrow. A happiness that rises among and above the vicissitudes and cruises in its own space of peace - despite circumstances - in wisdom and integrity.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

inevitable suffering

A fundamental challenge of contemplative spiritual practices: "Are you willing to look directly in the face of suffering?"

This suffering refers especially sickness, aging, and death. These are the inevitable sufferings of life. Everything living is subject to illness, aging, and death. To really look at these, to really see their inevitability, is to face our own mortality, the reality of the temporary status of this life, of any life. This is the suffering we cannot avoid.

The Buddha's teaching of the ending of suffering does not mean a termination of the life cycle, the end of the flowing processes. However, it does begin with seeing the nature of this constant change and altering our relationship to change. The end of suffering comes with not clinging to anything. With this awareness we value life more deeply. We can come to appreciate the changing nature of things and flow with rather than fight them.

Embrace the truth of things by being willing to look directly at sickness, old age, and death. Instead of turning away from illness, when we see an animal or human suffering from illness consider, "This body, too, will sometime be sick."

When we see elderly and aging beings, "This body, too, is growing old. It will only grow older, not younger. I am as young as I am ever going to be in this life. Let me live this life fully. Let me grow into old age with grace and wisdom, appreciating the beauty and strength of maturity."

Let us not turn away from death wherever we see it. The dying process of friends and loved ones, the people killed in war or other acts of violence, from starvation, from poor living conditions. Animals killed by automobiles, for sport, and as part of the food chain. "This body, too, will someday loose its life force. I do not know when or how, so I will live every day, every moment fully now. With integrity, with good will, with the intention to be kind to all other beings, to not contribute to the suffering of any living being, including my self. To take only what I need."

This willingness to see what is true is not depressing or negative. It is a coming to terms with what is true, a choice not to hide from what is true. In this openness what unfolds is joy and contentment with things as they are right now. A gratitude for each breath. And also a matured integrity of being. Though we can't end the life cycle, the inevitable sufferings (nor would we want to - ending death would also end life), we can consciously choose to help create a world that is kind, a world free from violence, by not choosing it our selves, even in very small ways. This includes not punishing ourselves for not being perfectly kind. for making foolish mistakes. Our conditioning takes time to unwind. Seeing what is true is really all that is needed. With seeing clearly what is true, natural kindness and integrity gradually arise.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

profoundly intuitive

"...the nature of reality is not a matter of mere intellectual analysis...but depends upon deep absorption, so that awareness moves from the merely superficial to the profoundly intuitive."

Mu Soeng in The Heart of the Universe

Monday, August 23, 2010

cultivating lovingkindness

Since a single mind moment cannot contain both a wholesome (kusala) and an unwholesome (akusala) emotional tone, learning to develop the quality of loving kindness moment after moment in a sustained manner has the effect of purifying the mind as it locks out competing unwholesome states.
Andy Olendzki, Pali Scholar

“If one frequently thinks and ponders upon thoughts of loving kindness, one has abandoned thoughts of ill-will to cultivate thoughts of loving kindness, and then one’s mind inclines to thoughts of loving kindness.” - Andy paraphrasing from the Dvedhavitakka Sutta (M 19)

Thus the mind stream or stream of consciousness is purified by both the presence of a wholesome state and the absence of an unwholesome state.

Monday, August 2, 2010

nibbana, nirvana

The goal of Buddhist practice, cessation, is not annihilation, but an extinction of the suffering of wanting things to be different than they are. When we come into balance of internal and external circumstances we are free to live and love without grasping. We are not indifferent, but responsible, acting with skill and wisdom.

Indeed the sage who's fully quenched
Rests at ease in every way;
No sense desires adhere to him[her]
Whose fires have cooled, deprived of fuel.
All attachments have been severed,
The heart's been lead away from pain;
Tranquil [s/he] rests with utmost ease,
The mind has found its way to peace.

Andy Olendzki's translation of Cullavagga 6:4.4

Monday, July 12, 2010

ancient wisdom

It is a universal belief that that words have a creative power; they symbolize the manifest world. Music, on the other hand, brings us into harmony with the non-manifest, and to understand music is to be at the secret source of Li [right behavior or right action]' *

*Quoting Rees and Rees in Celtic Heritage (1961) who quote P.D. Hardy in The Holy Wells of Ireland (1836) quoting the Book of Rites.  A Wiki search on the Book of Rites yielded a 1962 translation of the Book of Rites.  The idea expressed above, about language and music,  can only be intuited from this translation. The website which includes this translation fo the Book of Rites is a rich resource for Celtic history

Sunday, May 23, 2010

what cannot be lost

Once you've recognized Ultimate Reality within and around you, the knowledge does not go away. You may have other doubts, but this doubt disappears. A certain confidence and trust arise - and never leave.

Mother Theresa of Calcutta also said something like this. Her words: "Once you've got God within you, that's for life. There is no doubt. You can have other doubts, eh? But that particular one will never come again."

According to one book about Mother Teresa, she had many doubts, but not an ultimate doubt. As I've read about this aspect of her life, I feel that the authors may do her and Truth a little disservice. She didn't seem to emphasize this doubt, but lived in faith of that which she knew to be true.

And I'd like to go a step further with this. Once we realize what is ultimately true...(we could use the word God here, as Mother Teresa would, but I prefer some less abused, more open-ended words like Buddhist translations of Nibbana. Naming only a few: Ultimate Reality, the Deathless, Truth, emptiness, suchness...)

Once we realize what is ultimately true, darkness is no longer a bad word, not a parallel of wrong, bad, or evil. It is open space. We may stumble upon and embrace a darkness that is pure faith and includes, even requires, release of reliance on self, or who or what we identify with as self.

If we are lucky this stumbling upon may be more like being grasped by deep hunger or even as a sense of being deeply loved. We may cling to the love as if it were a solid thing, ours to own, rather than opening to the great unknown, realizing love is a living flowing tide that only lives and grows as it flows.

Is it Not Time

Is it not time
to free ourselves from the beloved
even as we trembling, endure the loving?
As the arrow endures the bowstring's tension
so that, released, it travels farther.
For there is nowhere to remain.


References to Mother Teresa from Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light - The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

ulimate reality in bloom

“Just as... the great ocean is vast, boundless, fills not up for all of the streams [that flow into it]. Precisely so Nibbana [Ultimate Reality] is vast, boundless, fills not up for all of the living beings [that pass thereunto].

But again further, – the great ocean is all in blossom, as it were, with the flowers of its waves, – mighty, various, unnumbered. Precisely so Nibbana [Ultimate Reality] is all in blossom, as it were, with the Flowers of Purity, Knowledge, and Deliverance, – mighty, various, unnumbered.

Nagasena to Milinda (King Menander, a Greek king who ruled in northwest India from 163-150 BCE)

I love this passage. Can you consider all things that arise in this life as a kind of flowering? Everything is the result of causes and conditions. We can choose to participate in creating what is wholesome and beautiful. This is the nature of Ultimate Reality, to continually bloom.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

ancestral healing

...they are in us, those long departed ones, they are in our inclinations, our moral burdens, our pulsing blood, and in gestures that arise from the depths of time. Rilke

Remembering the gifts, the character strengths of our ancestors, these can live on in us. They can develop, blossom, deepen. These strengths can infuse our lives and current culture with their wisdom, their truth. They can further our conscious evolution.

Of course, the primitive gestures of our ancestors also arise when circumstances call them forth. Our job is to be mindful enough to see what is arising in our continuum of experience and to bring to bear what is most wholesome in our inclinations.

It is so important to realize that these arisings are a result of causes and conditions, many beyond are conscious awareness or personal experience. But our conscious awareness and intentional responses do contribute to what is cultivated and what is dissolved or released and therefor to the good or ill of ourselves and all other beings.

Recognizing time as a construct, and therefore not substantially true; if time is then flexible, this wholesome awareness, response, and influence is something that might also positively influence anything "arising from the depths of time," including not only currently arising phenomena but those beings and events that we experience as long time passed.

Monday, May 3, 2010

beginning meditation

Beginning Meditation Course (online) and for donations only! Insight and Mindfulness Meditation - Vipassana

This is a course posted on line in 2004, a very rough beginning for the current computer based course, Going Beyond - First Steps. Though its structure has changed a little from the 2004 original, it remains very much as the original course.

Make a payment only after you have done the course. (It is delivered by autoresponder, which your spam checkers may not like. So check junk mail and watch for each of the 10 emails)

Friday, April 30, 2010

loving what is strong

And what might we regard as strong? The rhinoceros comes to mind, or the ox, or the predators of land, sky and sea (lions, raptors, and sharks, for example). Strong might also mean tenacious, such as the weeds you seek in vain to eliminate from the garden, or the persistent pests inhabiting the dark corners of your kitchen or basement. Or strength could refer to political and economic power, such as that wielded by the generals of the hunta, the lords of the financial industry, or the jailers of the innocent.

Can we experience loving kindness, even toward these? ... Even the strongest creature will inevitably grow old, infirm and will face death. Power will inevitably slip from the grasp of even the most triumphant. Again, it is not that such people “deserve” our loving kindness, as much as we deserve to be without hatred for anyone at all...
Andy Olendzki - from his on line Metta Sutta Study 

Perhaps we could also recognize, love, and appreciate what is powerful and does not cause harm. Strength can be a virtue, depending on its character. Is the character wholesome or unwholesome? Does its manifestation cultivate kindness toward others and toward myself?

I saw a couple fighting over a baby in a park one day. Without thinking, or I probably wouldn't have acted in this way, I went up to them and said, "Someone has to let go of the baby."

Was the young woman strong who kept the baby? Or the young man who let go?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

loving what is weak

It is not so difficult to feel loving kindness for the weak, is it? There is something in us, no doubt inherited from our mammalian ancestors, that moves us to care for what is weak, to value what is fleeting, and to protect what is vulnerable. The cherry blossom in Japanese tradition is so beloved because it is so fragile and fleeting; beauty and sadness are bound together in a single moment’s poignant aesthetic appreciation. As an active exercise of visualization, look around you and see if you can call to mind, with a compassionate attitude, all those quiet, hidden things that are less robust than you are.
Andy Olendzki - from his excellent (and free) on line Metta Sutta Study 

Join us on the Practice Board to work further with his commentary in small steps at a time, like this one. Consider his suggestion to look around or see if you "can call to mind, with a compassionate attitude, all those quiet, hidden things that are less robust than you are."

We might also look inside ourselves, see what is weak and love that, too.

Friday, April 23, 2010

ulitmate reality

 Ultimate Reality or Nibbana - from a famous debate between a monk, Nagasena, and King Milinda (Menander) sometime between 160-153 BCE
    “Reverend Nagasena, you are continually talking about Nibbana. Now is it possible to make clear the form or figure or age or dimensions of this Nibbana, either by an illustration or by a reason or by a cause or by a method?”

    “Nibbana, great king, is unlike anything else; it is impossible.”

    “This, Reverend Nagasena, I cannot admit, – that if Nibbana really exists, it should be impossible to make known its form or figure or age or dimensions, either by an illustration or by a reason or by a cause or by a method. Tell me why.”

    “Let be, great king; I will tell you why.”

    “Is there, great king, such a thing as the great ocean?”

    “Yes, Reverend Sir, there is such a thing as the great ocean.”

    “If, great king, some man were to ask you: ‘Great king, how much water is there in the great ocean? And how many living creatures dwell in the great ocean?’ If, great king, some man were to ask you this question, how would you answer him?”

    “If, Reverend Sir, some man were to ask me: ‘Great king, how much water is there in the great ocean? And how many living creatures dwell in the great ocean?’ I, Reverend Sir, should say this to him: ‘The question you ask, Master man, is a question you have no right to ask; that is no question for anybody to ask; that question must be set aside. The hair-splitters have never gone into the subject of the great ocean. It is impossible to measure the water in the great ocean, or to count the living beings that make their abode there.’ That is the reply I should give him, Reverend Sir.”

    “But, great king, if the great ocean really exists, why should you give him such a reply as that? Surely you ought to measure and count, and then tell him: “There is so much water in the great ocean, and there are so many living beings dwelling in the great ocean!”

    “It’s impossible, Reverend Sir. That question isn’t a fair one.”

    “Great king, just as, although the great ocean exists, it is impossible to measure the water or to count the living beings that make their abode there, precisely so, great king, although Nibbana really exists, it is impossible to make clear the form or figure or age or dimensions of Nibbana, either by an illustration or by a reason or by a cause or by a method. Great king, a person possessed of magical power, possessed of mastery over mind, could estimate the quantity of water in the great ocean and the number of living beings dwelling there; but that person possessed of magical power, possessed of mastery over mind, would never be able to make clear the form or figure or age or dimensions of Nibbana, either by an illustration or by a reason or by a cause or by a method.”
This is the first part of a famous dialogue between the monk Nagasena and Menander, a Greek king who reigned between 160-153 BCE. A fuller version (Milndapanha 315-323 -abridged, E.W. Burlingame trans.) is posted on the Member Practice Board.

Friday, April 16, 2010

let's wake up in business

PAUL SOLMAN: ....people need enough dollars to survive... But, after that, humans want autonomy, a sense of purpose, mastery.

DANIEL PINK: We do things because they're interesting. We do things because we like them. We do things because we get better at them, because they contribute to the world, even if they don't have a payoff in getting a reward or satisfying some -- some biological drive.

This is not a plea for a kinder, gentler approach to business. This is a plea for saying, let's wake up. Let's get past our outdated assumptions, and let's actually run businesses in concert with what the science shows about human performance.
 excerpt from Paul Solman on PBS news in business

We do need a certain amount of income to be comfortable and at ease in life, but beyond that money is not the primary motivation of human beings. It is also not a motivator that is kind to people.

Business organizations may be motivated by money; that is to say, the organizational structure cannot replicate human motivations. This may be one reason that a business should not be legally treated as a person.

Monday, April 12, 2010

only the strong survive

Some creatures are moving because they are agitated, unsatisfied, or driven by craving, and this in the Buddhist context invokes the sense of frailty or weakness. Similarly when one is firmly grounded, tranquil and at rest, this expresses a condition of greater strength and stability.
Andy Olendzki commenting on the metta sutta

How different our take on "only the strong survive" when we look at strength and weakness from this context. It is strength of character and mind that survive. The truth is our shelter, not dominating power born from fear, agitation, or craving. Brute strength may get some temporary results, but nothing lasting.

Craving and fear are normal, human qualities of mind, but when acted upon mindlessly indicate frailty or weakness, an inability of the mind to be with itself and respond skillfully. Strength of mind gives us the power to be with things as they are, to respond skillfully and appropriately given current circumstances and long term effects.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Gautama Buddha was famous for his honesty. He valued highly speaking the truth, and, reputedly, never lied -  more precisely, he never misrepresented the truth. This is a powerful capacity, perhaps synonymous with being awake, being fully realized, enlightened. Yet it is a clear and simple goal. It seems attainable. Doesn’t it?

Of course, seeing what is true is not so easy. Ignorance is our primary poison because it is so insidious. However, as we remove obscurations, as we develop our capacity to walk the path, we see more clearly, we deepen clarity and wisdom.

In our culture, perhaps the most pervasive blindness is that caused by being entranced by all our wealth and its benefits. It is easy to be comfortable, to be removed from the realities of life, from what is really true, from what is painful and uncomfortable, but also what is immediately precious – any moment of being really alive. Instead of seeing the beauty of being alive, we escape into all kinds of mindless pleasures, mind blurring use of mind-altering substances is only the most obvious. There are many other things.

Not to discount the chemical addictions (drugs and alcohol). Discontinuing mind altering substances is the most direct and immediate thing we can do to open to what is true - clearing the mind to be in direct contact with our experience and feelings. We can quit participating in our cultural addictions like redundant news that isn't really news, enticements to buy, buying to make up for what we are being taught to think of as missing.

It is shocking but helpful to be reminded by life of what is insubstantial - that is to say, everything.
  • Loss of a family and dear friends to death
  • Loss of life, health, and youth
  • Losing what seems so evidently right
  • Losing perspectives about who we think we are
  • Getting what we want and realizing it doesn't hold our interest
  • Betrayal
We will be betrayed by people we trust. Seldom due to ill intent. In fact, we also will unintentionally hurt other people.

We will suffer loss of loved ones. And, ideally, recognize the potential in ourselves. My body, too, will be like this. This body, too, will die. The heart will stop beating. The breath no longer flow. This body, too, will get ill and age. The skin will wrinkle, discolor and lose its plasticity. Eventually, the whole body will disintegrate, returning to dust, to basic elements. There will be loss of dreams and desires and just rewards.

What we can all do is choose to be honest – radically honest. We can let ourselves see what it true. Of course, we don't drown in what is painful, but we can see things as they are. We choose to be interested in any experience.

A friend died of a sudden aggressive cancer that went to the brain. She lost one capacity after another in quite short order, including motor skills and capacity to speak. One of the last intelligible words to go was "interesting." She repeatedly referred to the disintegrating process as interesting.

Can we be interested enough in things as they are to be in touch with what is true? Can we look unflinchingly at current reality and have a certain sense of ease or integrity, of strength in just knowing we know, knowing we can see the truth and stand up to this moment and the next, at ease in just being.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

the virtue of loving kindness

One who actively develops loving kindness,
Mindfully and without limit,
Sees their attachments wane;
Their bonds become worn thin.

If one shows kindness with a clear mind—
Even once!–for living creatures,
By that one becomes wholesome.
Having mercy in his or her heart for all creatures,
A noble person brings forth abundant goodness.

Those who conquer the earth, teeming with beings,
—Kings and priests who scurry around sacrificing—
They surely do not partake in even a sixteenth part
Of the heart well developed in loving kindness
—Shining like the moon among all the crowd of stars.

One who neither kills nor makes others kill,
Neither steals nor makes others steal
Is one who has love for all living beings,
And no hatred for anyone at all.

Itivuttaka 21-22 = III.7 = 27
translation, Andy Olendzki

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

standing in our own way

In Our Own Way

Ever turned toward what we create, we see in it
only reflections of the Open, darkened by us.
Except when an animal silently looks at us through and through.
This is our fate: to stand
in our own way. Forever
in the way.

From the Eighth Duino Elegy (see link below for source)

This poem sounds fatalistic, but I think only because we so often do stand in our own way. Yet getting out of the way in any individual moment is a very real possibility. We just need to be awake. Being awake in one moment reinforces the possibility of increased wakeful and attentive moments in the future.

A Year with Rilke: Daily Readings from the Best of Rainer Maria Rilke, translated and edited by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows. NewYork: HarperCollins. 2009.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

rewards of listening to Dhamma

There are these five rewards in listening to the Dhamma. Which five?

One hears what one has not heard before.
One clarifies what one has heard before.
One gets rid of doubt.
One's views are made straight.
One's mind grows serene.

These are the five rewards in listening to the Dhamma.

AN 5:202

These are simple yet powerful reasons for listening to Dharma talks, on line or in person. Notice that only one of these reasons is really about hearing something new. Perhaps we may hear something new or have something clarified. Either way we grow in confidence, integrity and serenity.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

guardians of the world

...self-respect and respect for others, are called guardians because they are always operative in all wholesome states, while their opposites, lack of self-respect...and lack of respect for others...are present in every single unwholesome state. Andy Olendzki

This passage is from Andy's soon to be released book: Unlimiting Mind: The Radically Experiential Psychology of Buddhism. Wisdom Publications, 2010.

In this passage, Andy, a Pali scholar, is discussing the depth in meaning of mindfulness as understood from the Abhidhamma perspective. From application of this reading I have found a great practice tool: In any moment asking, Am I being mindful? Really mindful? Is their self-respect? Is there respect for others?

What I find is that if self-respect and respect for others are not present in those moments, the qualities seem to arise from the act of asking the question, thus creating more wholesome mind moments.

From BCBS Bhavana Program 2010/02/20-2010/02/27. The Bhavana Program offers a wonderful retreat experience - combining a nice balance of study, interaction, and formal practice. I think of it as a silent retreat first - with a few hours for study and interaction to deepen and enrich the practice experience.

Friday, February 19, 2010

seek what is deathless

Before my enlightenment, while I was still only an unenlightened bodhisatta, being myself subject to birth, aging, ailment, death, sorrow and defilement, I sought after what was also subject to these things. Then I thought: 'Why, being myself subject to birth, aging, ailment, death, sorrow and defilement, do I seek after what is also subject to these things? Suppose, being myself subject to these things, seeing danger in them, I sought after the unborn, unaging, deathless, sorrowless, undefiled supreme release from bondage, Nibbana?
M 26.13

There is nothing wrong with enjoying the pleasures of this life. Sense experiences are only a problem if we become attached to them. Attachment to ease and comfort make it difficult to make hard choices - both for us as individuals and for us a society.

If we stay in touch with reality and the genuine possibilities that occur through recognizing the truth of insecurity, we might be able to see how our comforts have become handicaps, keeping us from being fully alive, vital, happy, and engaged - fully responsible for ourselves, each other, and the planet.

Moderation, careful attention, and integrity are a few of the qualities that I am recognizing today as timeless values. Let's discover others and let them be our defining characteristics.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

doing too much

Doing one thing at a time seems to be a vanishing art, and in fact many of the situations people put themselves in do not even allow for such a unified state of mind. The busyness and confusion that so often accompanies multi-tasking takes a toll, however, and it not usually a rewarding, or even healthy, way to use the mind. Consciousness is a precious resource, and if it is spread too thinly by trying to manage multiple factors at once, its coherence diminishes.

Andy Olendzki
online sutta study

You can participate in this work with Andy by visiting the website of the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies or join me as I work with his study on the Practice Board

Sunday, February 14, 2010

way of negation

"...once we let go of what we're not, the nature of what is Real becomes apparent... And as that Reality is beyond description, it is not appropriate, and least misleading, to let it remain undescribed. This is the essence of the 'way of negation'..."

p. 27 THE ISLAND, a compilation and commentary on wisdom texts (regarding Nibbana) in the early Buddhist teachings (Pali Canon)by Ajhan Amaro and Ajahn Pasanno

Share a study and exploration of these texts on our Practice Board at

Saturday, February 13, 2010

peace of heart

peace of heart, emotions from Andy Olendzki (3/3)

What does a moment of emotional peace feel like after a period of turmoil? If you’ve just had a big fight with a friend or partner who has stormed out of the room (or perhaps you have stormed out), what does it feel like to have the strife and discord come to a sudden halt? Or perhaps you’ve just watched a movie, or read a book, or had a discussion with someone, that took you on an emotional roller coaster; or maybe you have been sitting with an ailing or dying friend, or come through to the other side of a bout of anxiety, fear, or despair. In any case it is a matter of feeling the contrast between the prior moments of agitation and the current moment of calm. What does it feel like to have something that had been raging with such intensity come to a stop, replaced with an experience of relative peace?

* RIGHT NOW! What emotional states are reverberating in the heart?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

peace of mind

practicing peace of mind from Andy Olendzki

What does it feel like to rest the mind after a period of busy activity, of multi-tasking, or of having to shove the mind through a series of words or numbers or stories in order to accomplish some task? If you have just finished some complex project, or something involving a lot of reading or listening or speaking, see what if feels like to relax the mind and let it wander free and easy. Perhaps this involves gazing off out the window, or into the landscape, or at the empty sky; perhaps it is closing the eyes and thinking about nothing whatsoever for a few moments; or maybe you can grab half an hour or an hour to sit in meditation and watch the spinning of the mind gradually spiral down and down into deeper levels of calm and relaxation.

* RIGHT NOW! What mental qualities are presenting themselves to inquiring attention?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

peace of body

After our retreat this weekend, I'd like to share some of Andy Olendzki's practice suggestions around the experience of peace.

Andy: "peace is a word that can mean many things in many different contexts, and this is what we can explore in direct experience"

"In each of these cases we are trying to connect directly to the experience of peace, to come to recognize it, to investigate it, and gradually also to cultivate it. By experience we mean not the idea of peace, or thinking about peace, or merely noticing the absence of various forms of turmoil—rather we are pointing to a way of actively exploring the texture of the mind and body in this present moment as it manifests peace."

He proceeds to offer several suggestions. The following is the first on peace in the body, physical peace.

"What does it feel like to sit quietly for some time after a period of heightened physical activity? As you sit quietly after a vigorous workout, a hard day’s work, or some other form of bustling activity, see if you can explore the texture of the peacefulness that descends on the body. Feel the muscles relax; feel the breathing slow down; feel the calm as it settles upon the systems of the mind and body as a tangible state, an experience in itself. Peacefulness is not just the absence of agitation or activity, but is itself a positive quality or state that can be accessed, investigated, and understood viscerally."

"* RIGHT NOW! What sensations are arising and passing away in the body?"