Friday, December 30, 2011

Verses of Kindness and Compassion

I've put together a revised collection of verses and phrases for the four immeasurables (brahama-viharas) that you can find online here.

Buddhist practice is closely associated with insight, which is said (or implied) to be the highest practice, leading to everything good, including kindness and compassion. Hopefully insight into how things are, and how they work, does lead to kindness and compassion. Unfortunately, it's not always true; half-developed or unbalanced insight can lead to clarity and power that are not connected to kindness and compassion.

And insight leading to compassion is not the only way to go. It works the other way round as well: compassion, when engaged and cultivated in a balanced way, leads to insight.

Sometimes Buddhist practice is said to be the uniting of compassion and insight. I think this is best. But if I had to put one practice above the other, it would be compassion, because the motivation for insight ought to be compassion: to know how to free ourselves and others from suffering.

May all beings be safe, healthy, happy, at ease in their body, at home in the world.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Weasel, Crow, and Coyote on the Dharma Trail

by Sam Hamill

A weasel went out
one day and saw a large crow
dancing in the dust.
"Ha-ha," the crow cried, "Ha-ha."
Poor weasel, not speaking Crow,

thought the old crow
was humiliating him.
"I'll get you for that!"
he barked, "I'll gnaw on your bones!"
Weasel crouched low in the grass

and slowly crept close.
But when he made his great leap,
he came up with dust.
"I'll get you for that!" he barked,
retreating into shadows.

Crow bobbed on his bough.
"Ha-ha, ha-ha," he bellowed.
Weasel leaped again,
snapping the air with his jaws,
"You arrogant prick!" he screamed,

"I'll get you for that!"
Far off, another crow called,
"What's all the ruckus?"
Crow chuckled and replied, "Just
stupid Weasel eating dust.

I tried to warn him
about Coyote," Crow called,
"but all he wanted was to eat me, then got mad
when I escaped. What a fool!"

Weasel slunk away
with his tail between his legs.
Crow called Coyote,
"Hey, old friend, there comes Weasel,
all tried out from meanness.

I tried to warn him,
but he's too mean to listen."
Coyote grinned. He
licked his chops and sniffed the air.
"The angry ones are easiest."

~ from Dumb Luck by Sam Hamill

The Simplest Things

I have had to learn the simplest things
last. Which made for difficulty.

~ Charles Olson

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

If You Come Back

Gandalf: You'll have a tale or two to tell when you come back.

Bilbo: You promise that I will come back?

Gandalf: No. And if you do, you will not be the same.

~ from the trailer to Peter Jackson’s film The Hobbit

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How Many of You Expect to Die?

The three most common ways that old people die and the trajectory and duration of each scenario, from a New York Times blog post from Jane Gross:

Cancer deaths, which peak at age 65, usually come after many years of good health followed by a few weeks or months of steep decline, according to Dr. Lynn’s data. The 20 percent of Americans who die this way need excellent medical care during the long period of high functioning, she said, and then hospice support for both patient and family during the sprint to death. 
Deaths from organ failure, generally heart or lung disease, peak among patients 10 years older, killing about one in four Americans around age 75 after a far bumpier course. These patients’ lives are punctuated by bouts of severe illness alternating with periods of relative stability. At some point rescue attempts fail, and then death is sudden. What these patients and families need, Dr. Lynn said, is consistent disease management to head off crises, aggressive intervention at the first hint of trouble and advance planning for how to manage the final emergency.
The third option, death following extended frailty and dementia, is everyone’s worst nightmare, an interminable and humiliating series of losses for the patient, and an exhausting and potentially bankrupting ordeal for the family. Approximately 40 percent of Americans, generally past age 85, follow this course, said Dr. Lynn, and the percentage will grow with improvements in prevention and treatment of cancer, heart disease and pulmonary disease.
These are the elderly who for years on end must depend on the care of loved ones, usually adult daughters, or the kindness of strangers, the aides who care for them at home or in nursing facilities. This was my mother’s fate, and she articulated it with mordant humor: The reward for living past age 85 and avoiding all the killer diseases, she said, is that you get to rot to death instead. 
Those suffering from physical frailty, as she was, lose the ability to walk, to dress themselves or to move from bed to wheelchair without a Hoyer lift and the strong backs of aides earning so little that many qualify for food stamps. These patients, often referred to as the old-old, require diapers, spoon-feeding and frequent repositioning in bed to avoid bedsores. Those with dementia, most often Alzheimer’s disease, lose short-term memory, fail to recognize loved ones, get lost without constant supervision and eventually forget how to speak and swallow. 
What all of these patients need, Dr. Lynn said, is custodial care, which can easily cost $100,000 a year and is not reimbursed by Medicare. The program was created in 1965 when hardly anyone lived this long.

Source: Jane Gross, How Many of You Expect to Die? 
New York Times, July 8, 2008

Easier Said Than Done

Return & rest: abide in experience as it arises.

Open: vividly experience the whole field.

Look: know the nature of experience.

Do: respond and be free.

Care: help others as much as possible.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Stable Attention

Stick to the body like a shadow. Body is where stability is. Relative stability, of course--in this world, everything, everything changes. But the ground of experience, if there is one, is the body--the flesh and bone and nervous system and biochemical soup in which every perception and experience arises.

We can abide, present in our experience, by alternating and mixing and eventually uniting three increasingly-subtle efforts: focusing, resting, and opening. Focusing means returning to, placing the attention upon, and staying with one aspect of experience: the passing of air at the nostrils, the rise and fall of the abdomen, a visual object in front of us, a sound we make. Resting is resting in that experience: air flow, sensations in the body, color and shape, or sound. Opening means opening to the rest of experience as it rises and falls, while centered and resting with that one aspect of experience: thoughts and emotions come and go while I rest in the breathing body. Focusing, resting, and opening lead to stability that is not narrow or difficult to maintain. With flexible, vivid, resilient, encompassing attention we begin to see the actual nature of what arises.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Regular Exercise, Practicing on Our Own

"Practicing the dharma in our day to day lives is in a way similar to exercise. The oral instructions of the gurus, as well as the scriptures of the Buddha, merely provide a general understanding of what true spiritual practice is. The real details are filled in by our actual life experiences, meeting them face to face. It is important to understand the dharma in this way. In my case, I don’t have many opportunities to spend time with my teachers, so it is up to me to practice the dharma as best I can as much as I can. Sometimes there will be things that we really do not understand and need more clarifications about. But the real practice of dharma is relating to our emotions. Practicing in this way is similar to the need to have regular exercise in our lives."

~ from an interview with the 17th Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorje in New York, July 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thoughts Self-Liberated

Thoughts don't come from anywhere and they don't go anywhere, so how could they be anything other than self-arisen and self-liberated? Just like waves on the ocean. That's how it is.

From an interview with Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso Rinpoche 
Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly, Spring 2004

Saturday, November 12, 2011

All Responsibility, No Control

A bodhisattva takes full responsibility while seeing that there is no control. No control is a fact; taking full responsibility is a choice.

The fact of no control arises from the reality of constant change and interdependence. Everything arises as innumerable causes and conditions come together; everything passes away when the causes and conditions fall apart. There is never a single cause, and never a controlling agent.

The bodhisattva sees how struggle and suffering arise when change is resisted or ignored. From knowing comes the natural wish not only to free oneself from suffering, but to free oneself and others from the confusion and turmoil that lead to struggle and suffering.

The bodhisattva's aspiration is neither a blind craving for pleasure, nor a naive belief that experience can be made to order. One can choose to take responsibility, to respond to the constantly-evolving situation, in ways that tend toward balance and happiness and freedom. Response-ability requires stability and clarity, generosity, patience, and all the rest: a never-ending and joyful training and extending of compassion, capacities, and skillful means.

May all beings be safe, healthy, happy, at ease in their bodies, at home in the world.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sky and Water Merging

Vast and spacious, like sky and water merging during autumn, like snow and moon having the same color, this field is without boundary, beyond direction, magnificently one entity without edge or seam. Further, when you turn within and drop off everything completely, realization occurs. Right at the time of entirely dropping off, deliberation and discussion are one thousand or ten thousand miles away. Still no principle is discernible, so what could there be to point to or explain? People with the bottom of the bucket fallen out immediately find total trust. So we are told simply to realize mutual response and explore mutual response, then turn around and enter the world. Roam and play in samadhi. Every detail clearly appears before you. Sound and form, echo and shadow, happen instantly without leaving traces.

~ twelfth century Ch’an master Hongzhi
    from Cultivating the Empty Field

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dream of a Dream

Dream of a dream, and shadow of a shade...

Cornfield by Moonlight with Evening Star
by Samuel Palmer


Monday, October 10, 2011

Four Friends

Bodhicitta, awakening heart and mind
Disgusted with suffering and illusion, determined to be free, taking refuge in compassion and awareness for the sake of all beings.

Shamatha, calm abiding
Vivid stable attention, abiding in whatever arises without distraction or reaction. Vivid and serene, lucid and unbound.

Vipashyana, clear seeing
Looking deeply to know the true nature of experience, self, and world. Seeing, but not with eyes. Knowing, but not with conceptual mind.

Upaya, skillful means
Compassionate creative responses that free oneself and others from struggle and suffering.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Homeless Dogs

Here we languish, a bunch of poor scholars,
Battered by extremes of hunger and cold.
Out of work, our only joy is poetry:
Scribble, scribble, we wear out our brains.
Who will read the works of such men?
On that point you can save your sighs.
We could inscribe our poems on biscuits
And homeless dogs wouldn't deign to nibble.

~ Han Shan, Cold Mountain (translated by Burton Watson)

30-minute film about Han Shan
-- a documentary by Mike Hazard,
featuring translators Gary Snyder and Red Pine

Friday, September 30, 2011

In the Shadow

uppajjitva nirujjhanti ~ having arisen, they fall

          Whether people be of high or low birth, rich or poor, old or young, enlightened or confused, they are all alike in that they will one day die. It is not that we don’t know that we are going to die, but we grasp at straws. While knowing that we will die someday, we think that all the others will die before us and that we will be the last to go. Death seems a long way off.
          Is this not shallow thinking? It is worthless and is only a joke within a dream. It will not do to think in such a way and be negligent. Insofar as death is always at one’s door, one should make sufficient effort and act quickly.
          ~ Hagakure (In the Shadow of Leaves)

The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.
~ Episcopal Bishop Gerald Burrill

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Moments Between Liking, Craving & Grasping

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Good or Bad?

Yogis tend to tell me that something is "good" or "bad". Or they'll come and ask me whether what happened to them was good. Please don't take an experience as "good" or "bad". It's only good if you understand more about the nature of what has happened, its causes and effects, whether it was wholesome or unwholesome and the value of the experience.

Please reflect on this: Is there any object worthy of greed or anger? Do you truly recognize that craving, aversion, and delusion (and all their relatives) are all unwholesome mental states?

~ Sayadaw U Tejaniya, Dhamma Everywhere, p. 80

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What's Your Motive?

Know that there are three types of [practitioner]:

The inferior are said to be those who by any of the various means strive for their own benefit to merely attain the pleasures of samsara.

The mediocre are said to be those who turn their back on samsara's pleasures and also refrain from evil deeds, yet merely pursue a personal peace.

The superior are said to be those who, through understanding their own suffering, deeply desire to completely end the suffering of all other beings.

~ Atisha (980–1054), translated by Erik Pema Kunzang

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Shabkar's Song of Compassion

by Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol (1781-1851)

Avalokiteshvara, mighty Great Treasure of Compassion,
From my heart I invoke your blessing.
By this blessing, may compassion be born in my mind
And in the minds of all beings under the sky.

If a man has compassion, he is a Buddha;
Without compassion, he is a Lord of Death.

With compassion, the root of Dharma is planted;
Without compassion, the root of Dharma is rotten.

One with compassion is kind even when angry;
One without compassion will kill even as he smiles.

For one with compassion, even his enemies will turn into friends;
Without compassion, even his friends turn into enemies.

With compassion, one has all Dharmas;
Without compassion, one has no Dharma at all.

With compassion, one is a Buddhist;
Without compassion, one is worse than a heretic.

Even if meditating on voidness, one needs compassion as its essence.
A Dharma practitioner must have a compassionate nature.

Compassion is the distinctive characteristic of Buddhism.
Compassion is the very essence of all Dharmas.

Great compassion is like a wish-fulfilling gem.
Great compassion will fulfill the hopes of self and others.

Therefore, all of you, practitioners and lay people,
Cultivate compassion and you will achieve buddhahood.

May all men and women who hear this song,
With great compassion benefit all beings!

Translated by Matthieu Ricard.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Friday, September 16, 2011

Right Here in this Body

"I tell you, friend, that it is not possible by traveling to know or see or reach a far end of the cosmos where one does not take birth, age, die, pass away, or reappear.

But at the same time, I tell you that there is no making an end of suffering and stress without reaching the end of the cosmos.

Yet it is just within this fathom-long body, with its perception and intellect, that I declare that there is the cosmos, the origination of the cosmos, the cessation of the cosmos, and the path of practice leading to the cessation of the cosmos."

~ Shakyamuni Buddha, in the Rohitassa Sutta (SN 2.26)
    translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Friday, September 9, 2011

Calm, Clear, Kind, Strong

Calm abiding eases turmoil and struggle

Clear seeing ends the confusion of not knowing how things are

Kindness and compassion wish all to be happy and free

Presence is strength and power

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Prayer for Those Affected by Fire

Praying for the safety and peace of those affected by the forest fire in eastern Washington: ancient trees, wildlife, residents, the Greek Orthodox Christian community at the Monastery of St. John the Forerunner, the Buddhist community at Ser Cho Osel Ling Land of the Clear Light Golden Dharma, the firefighters, and travelers passing through.

May all be safe, healthy, happy, at peace.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What Am I?

Curious, how preoccupied we tend to be with ourselves, so self-centered, and yet how little we actually know about it. We spend our life defining and defending it, trying to please its every wish, agreeing with its opinions, obeying its orders, and yet... what is it?

When a sense of self arises, turn with curiosity and kindness and look deeply -- look into what you call self. What is it? What is it made of?

What sensations arise with this self?

What feelings and emotions?

What stories does this self tell?

What impulses and behaviors follow the arising of a self?

When this self appears, how does it affect how the world looks?

Look and look again until you know its true nature, lest you become, in the words of Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, "the slave of a ghost."

Whatever the phenomena through which we think of seeking our self identity, it turns out to be transitory. It becomes false, for what lasts for a moment is deceptive...
~ Buddha Shakyamuni, The Origin and Cessation of Suffering (Dvayatanupassana Sutta)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Frittered Away

... By mistake I fell into the web of the mundane, and thirty years of my life have been frittered away...

~ Tao Yuanming

Without Will

There is certainly one truth about this practice: it seems that if we give ourselves away to it, completely, for even a moment, then without will, an unexpected intuition may manifest which can change a life.

~ from the Mt. Cobb Sai Sho Zen-ji newsletter, September 2, 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Fight or Flight Reactions

The sympathetic nervous system's fight or flight reactions to danger, real or imagined:
  • Acceleration of heart and lung action
  • Paling or flushing, or alternating between both
  • Inhibition of stomach and upper-intestinal action (digestion slows or stops)
  • General effect on the sphincters of the body
  • Dilation of blood vessels for muscles
  • Inhibition of the lacrimal gland (responsible for tear production) and salivation
  • Dilation of pupil
  • Relaxation of bladder
  • Auditory exclusion (loss of hearing)
  • Tunnel vision (loss of peripheral vision)
  • Disinhibition of spinal reflexes
  • Shaking


~ from The Book of Qualities by Ruth Gendler

Trust is the daughter of Truth. She has an objective memory, neither embellishing nor denying the past. She is an ideal confidante -- gracious, candid, and discreet. Trust talks to people who need to hear her, she listens to those who need to be heard, she sits quietly with those who are skeptical of words, her presence is subtle, simple, and undeniable.

Trust rarely buys round-trip tickets because she is never sure how long she will be gone and when she will return. Trust is at home in the desert and the city, with dolphins and tigers, with outlaws, lovers, and saints. When Trust bought her house, she tore out all the internal walls, strengthened the foundation, and rebuilt the door. Trust is not fragile, but she has no need to advertise her strength. She has a gambler's respect for the interplay between luck and skill; she is the mother of Love.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Please Don't Forget It

"When we dream of first being filthy and then getting clean, when we do not know we are dreaming, both the filth and the cleanliness seem to truly exist. When we know we are dreaming, the filth is mere appearance and the cleanliness is mere appearance. In the true nature of the dream, there is neither filth nor cleanliness. That is easy to understand -- please don't forget it."

~ Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche

   Sun of Wisdom, p. 112. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Steal It

When I notice something of mine,
I steal it and give it to others.

~ Shantideva 8:159

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Craftsman Ch'ui

~ from Chuang Tzu, chapter 19 (Hamill & Seaton)

The craftsman Ch'ui could draw a line straight as taut string and make a circle as perfect as a compass because he let his hand change with the change of things and didn't let his heart and mind get distracted. Therefore he kept his spirit's abode unified, yet unfettered.

If the shoe fits, you forget your feet. If the belt of office fits, you forget your waist. Knowing may forget right and wrong if heart and mind fit. If you don't want to be changed by what's internal or made to follow what's external, then you're fit to the task. Begin with what fits and never let it not fit, then you can forget about fitting.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Clear and True

May all beings be clear and true to their hearts.

May they not be penalized for being exactly who they are.

May they love without anger or retaliation and may it be returned in full measure.

May they accept change with ease; abide in ease and go with ease.

May love resound until not even the word for suffering is heard.

May we all be free.

~ composed by Julia King Tamang, blogger at Parenting As Spiritual Practice and teacher at Kagyu Changchub Chuling

Friday, August 26, 2011

We're All Mad Here

Alice: "But I don't want to go among mad people."

Cheshire Cat: "Oh you can't help that; we're all mad here. I'm mad, you're mad."

Alice: "How do you know I'm mad?"

Cheshire Cat: "You must be, or you wouldn't have come here."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Working with Reactive Behavior and Emotions

Unintended behaviors tend to arise when our internal stories are taken at face value. When I believe that someone is a bad person, impulses arise to defend myself, to argue, or to criticize.

When we look closely, we see how stories are attempts to manage unpleasant emotions. Our habitual stories are very convincing, but stories are just stories, and retelling them again and again just reinforces the emotions that give rise to the stories.

Aren't disturbing emotions a reaction to protect or enhance some sense of self? In the long run, engaging in reactive emotions just reinforces our suffering; they are "negative" emotions because they exacerbate suffering.

That sense of self is also a reaction -- a contraction that tries to dispel the confusion of not knowing how things actually are. Awareness is mistaken for a self, and perceptions are mistaken for other selves or objects. Even our own thoughts and emotions are regarded as other, objects to be grasped or opposed depending on whether they are pleasant or unpleasant. We construct a habitual way of being that becomes our "self." When we stop grasping at the sense of self, its defensive reactive emotions also stop arising.

As the stability and clarity of attention deepens, we see all this more deeply, and we can begin to bring stability and clarity into more situations. There is a progression, a capacity that grows over weeks, months, and years. Practicing at the edge of our capacity, so that we are sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding, is the optimal way to train.

In the meantime, there are some practices that are helpful.

Form clear intentions. Forming intentions aligned with our deepest values helps our behavior and thoughts tend toward what we actually intend. An example might be to not say unkind things when frustration arises. Another example might be the intention to cut self-centered stories as soon as possible, because we see that they are exacerbating the suffering. Forming a clear intention plants a seed that definitely bears fruit; following through on an intention creates the conditions for the seed to grow and the fruit to appear.

Cultivate healthy conditions. We can use our intelligence to take care in situations that overwhelm us. We have to relate to people at work, but we don't necessarily have to hang out with them at lunch or in the evening. We can't avoid meetings with difficult co-workers, but we can try to schedule them when we are relatively calm and centered. Ultimately we know that the apparent "cause" of our reactions is actually just a trigger for our own emotions, but we can take care of ourselves and others by being careful to minimize the situations that create turmoil. Alternatively, form relationships with people who share your deepest values, and create the conditions for your practice to thrive. 

Share the benefits: As the benefits of stable and clear attention take hold, we can dedicate those benefits to the welfare of all beings. We can in intention and in practice share the benefits as much as possible, even with those who are triggers for our reactions. This will deepen our capacity. It will give us a growing ability in difficult situations. And eventually it changes our relationship with challenging emotions and challenging people. 
This is often difficult to see in moments of disturbance, but when we sincerely try it, we see how it works over time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

That's All There Is

Shamatha is calming the runaway train of actions and thinking. Vipashyana is knowing that starting it up again won't be helpful. Compassion is accepting that others are in the very same situation, that confusion is confusion and pain is pain, regardless of who is feeling it. Faith is the empty opening through which calm and knowing and compassion can move and do some good. That's all there is. Anything else is an elaboration which may be helpful, in a particular situation, up to the point that faith must open.

Friday, August 19, 2011


by Sulak Sivaraksa

We have more than enough programs, organisations, parties, and strategies in the world for the alleviation of suffering and injustice. In fact, we place too much faith in the power of action, especially political action. Social activism tends to preoccupy itself with the external. Like the secular intellectuals, activists tend to see all malevolence as being caused by "them" -- the "system" -- without understanding how these negative factors also operate within ourselves. They approach global problems with the mentality of social engineering, assuming that personal virtue will result from a radical restructuring of society.

The opposite view - that radical transformation of society requires personal and spiritual change first or at least simultaneously - has been accepted by Buddhists and many other religious adherents for more than 2,500 years. Those who want to change society must understand the inner dimensions of change. It is this sense of personal transformation that religion can provide. Simply performing the outer rituals of any tradition has little value if it is not accompanied by personal transformation. Religious values are those that give voice to our spiritual depth and humanity. There are many descriptions of the religious experience, but all come back to becoming less and less selfish.

As this transformation is achieved, we also acquire a greater moral responsibility. Spiritual considerations and social change cannot be separated. Forces in our social environment, such as consumerism, with its emphasis on craving and dissatisfaction, can hinder our spiritual development. People seeking to live spiritually must be concerned with their social and physical environment. To be truly religious is not to reject society but to work for social justice and change. Religion is at the heart of social change, and social change is the essence of religion.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

How Poor

If those who owe us nothing gave us nothing,
how poor we would be.

~ Antonio Porchia

Monday, August 15, 2011


The more I practice, the luckier I am.
~ Ben Hogan

Sunday, August 14, 2011


by William Blake

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sunrise

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Busyness and Well-Being

I often hear from people I work with that they suffer from a chronic sense of being too busy. Busyness is so common -- nearly ubiquitous in modern culture -- that it's easy to regard it as a given over which we have little influence. But whatever causes suffering is worth looking into. Busyness, perhaps not surprisingly, is complex, operating on multiple levels. Maybe we could regard outer busyness as too many activities, inner busyness as too many thoughts, and hidden busyness as too many intentions. That is, "too many" for a sense of balance and well-being.

When we do too much for too long, we are probably going to be tired, we may not think clearly, we may not eat or sleep, exercise or meditate  as well as we'd like, and we may miss opportunities to play and relate with family and friends. Busyness affects our well-being in many ways. Until we slow down a bit and some space opens up, there may not be much clarity about how to take care of what's most important. Priorities are confused, too much is taken on, and we jump onto the horse of busyness, riding off in all directions.

Everyone has their own circumstances and conditions, habits and imbalances, but regardless of the details of your version of busyness, there may be some broad arenas worth exploring. David Rock and Dan Siegel have described seven areas of life that affect our well-being. They are explained in terms of benefits to the brain and mental well-being, but they apply to the body and heart as well. Here are the seven:

Focus Time ~When we closely focus on tasks in a goal-oriented way, we take on challenges that make deep connections in the brain.

Play Time ~ When we allow ourselves to be spontaneous or creative, playfully enjoying novel experiences, we help make new connections in the brain.

Connecting ~ When we connect with other people, ideally in person, and when we take time to appreciate our connection to the natural world around us, we activate and reinforce the brain's relational circuitry.

Physical Time ~ When we move our bodies, aerobically if medically possible, we strengthen the brain in many ways.

Time In ~ When we quietly reflect internally, focusing on sensations, images, feelings and thoughts, we help to better integrate the brain.

Down Time ~ When we are non-focused, without any specific goal, and let our mind wander or simply relax, we help the brain recharge.

Sleep Time ~ When we give the brain the rest it needs, we consolidate learning and recover from the experiences of the day.

For more on Rock and Siegel's Healthy Mind Platter, click here.

Busy ones, take care with this. You could make yourself even busier by trying to engage in more or better activities in each of the seven categories. Instead, I recommend finding -- or making -- some "down time" to "tune in," at least a few minutes once or twice a day.

Sitting in a chair, or lying on the ground, feel the weight of your body resting. Feel the contact with chair or ground. Feel the weight of your body. See if you can let your weight be supported by the chair or ground. See if you can let go of holding yourself up. Let the momentum of doing and thinking slow down a little bit. See if you can, for a few moments or minutes, just rest awake in the sensations of the breathing body. When you get up, see if you can bring a little of that sense of awake resting into your activities.

Begin to let what you discover gradually seep into your body, heart, mind, and life. Planting the seeds of clarity and balance is a gentle, subtle art. The fruits will appear in time, if you plant the seeds and nurture the conditions that allow them to grow.

Happy practice!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow."

~ Mary Anne Radmacher

Monday, August 8, 2011

Buddha In the Jungle (from Santidhammo)

Body-based practice and harmony with nature... 

Buddha In the Jungle

from Santidhammo Bhikkhu's blog

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Suffering Is Nothing More

[T]he root source of human suffering is [the] very split between "me" and "my experience." Suffering is nothing more than the observer judging, resisting, struggling with, and attempting to control experiences that seem painful, scary, or threatening to it. Without that struggle, difficult feelings can be experienced more simply and directly, instead of as dire threats to the survival and integrity of "me."
~ John Welwood, Toward a Psychology of Awakening, p. 101

The secret is just to say "Yes!" and jump off from here.
~ Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, Not Always So

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Empathy, Sympathy, Compassion

Empathy: knowing what another is feeling.

Sympathy: knowing and caring.

Compassion: recognizing your common humanity.

~ from an interview with Kristin Neff

Bright & Shining

To recognize the quality, significance, or magnitude of: appreciated their freedom. To be fully aware of or sensitive to; realize: I appreciate your problems. To be thankful or show gratitude for: I really appreciate your help. To esteem or value highly. To raise in value or price, especially over time.

Mid-15th century, "good will," from Middle French gratitude, Medieval Latin gratitudinem "thankfulness," Classical Latin gratus "thankful, pleasing, agreeable" (see grace).

Old English glæd "bright, shining, joyous," from Proto-Germanic glada (Old Norse glaðr "smooth, bright, glad," Danish glad "glad, joyful," Old Saxon gladmod "glad," Old Frisian gled "smooth," Dutch glad "slippery," German glatt "smooth"), from Proto-Indo-European ghel "to shine" (see glass). The modern sense is much weakened.

"Emptiness is without characteristics. Illumination has no emotional afflictions. With piercing, quietly profound radiance, it mysteriously eliminates all disgrace. Thus one can know oneself; thus the self is completed. We all have the clear, wondrously bright field from the beginning. Many lifetimes of misunderstanding come only from distrust, hindrance, and screens of confusion that we create in a scenario of isolation. With boundless wisdom journey beyond this, forgetting accomplishments. Straightforwardly abandon stratagems and take on responsibility. Having turned yourself around, accepting your situation, if you set foot on the path, spiritual energy will marvelously transport you. Contact phenomena with total sincerity, not a single atom of dust outside yourself."
~ Hung-chih Cheng-Chueh (Hongzhi Zhengjue) (1091-1157)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Let the Flower of Compassion Bloom

Let the flower of compassion bloom
In the soil of kindness.
Tend it with the pure water of equanimity
In the cool shade of joy.

~ Longchenpa, Kindly Bent to Ease Us

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Spirit of Awakening

Bodhi means to be awake, or to be awakening. Chitta is heart, mind, spirit, and intention. So bodhichitta is the aspiration, the intention, and the experience of waking up, knowing how things actually are, in order to bring about the deep and genuine benefit of oneself and others. This bodhichitta, or spirit of awakening, includes two inherent, indestructible abilities that we all possess: the ability to know the nature of what is arising in our experience, and the ability to to respond in ways that bring benefit to oneself and others.

These abilities are more than possessions; this is our very nature -- our buddha nature -- which cannot be lost and cannot be destroyed. It can only be temporarily covered over by the emotional turmoil and reactions that arise from the confusion of not knowing how things really are. When we can abide in the turmoil, and clear up the confusion, we are buddha: awake and responsive to experience, situations, and other beings.

Don't underestimate the power of confusion and turmoil to create suffering. And don't underestimate your very nature: responsive awareness.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Insight Suffused with Calm

Knowing that the mind's afflictions are overcome
Through penetrating insight suffused with stable calm,
You should first seek the peace of calm abiding,
Which is found in joy and non-attachment for the world.

~ Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva, 8:4
(translated by Adam Pearcey)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Deep Path, Nothing There

To make a deep mental path, we think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.
~ Henry David Thoreau
‎It is only your lack of awareness and your grasping that make thoughts seem to have some kind of reality. If thoughts had any inherent existence in the absolute nature of mind, they should at least have a form, or be located somewhere. But there is nothing.
~ Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

May All Beings Be Happy

May all beings 
be content 
at ease in their body
at home in the world

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Take equal parts kindness, compassion, and awareness. 
Mix thoroughly until body~heart~mind are completely suffused. 
Offer to everyone you meet. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

One Sole Purpose

There are many different kinds of creation-phase and completion-phase meditations -- hundreds of gods and goddesses, and all kinds of things to meditate on. Creation phase is more connected with relative truth, completion phase with absolute truth. But in any case, it doesn't matter which one and which kind one is doing; all of those methods and practices are for one sole purpose: to reverse clinging to the 'reality' or 'truth' of these confused appearances. That's the purpose of all those practices. If those practices aren't in fact reversing that kind of clinging, which is arising due to the notion of their true existence, then we have attachment (or desire) to those appearances that seem pleasant and we have aversion (or hatred) to those that seem unpleasant. If that kind of ordinary outlook -- seeing everything as solid, actually existing and responding to reality in terms of either attachment or aversion -- is not reversed, if there is no realization of that as being like a dream, and if grasping is as strong as ever, then all that meditation is meaningless. All those practices are of no benefit.

~ Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, 1995, Creation & Completion, Boulder, Colorado, p. 12. Translated by Sarah Harding

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Smaller, Simpler, Kinder

Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction.

~ Albert Einstein

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Sea of Benefactors

Sitting comfortably, bring attention to the points of contact where your legs and back are resting on the chair or cushion. Feel the weight of the body resting, supported. Notice the sensations and movements of the body as it sits and breathes. See if you can rest in the experience of the breathing body. Inhaling, the body expands. Exhaling, the body contracts. Sitting and breathing, the body balances itself, supported by the chair or cushion and the ground underneath. Sitting, breathing, resting, supported.

Now recall someone whose actions have benefited you. It might be someone in your family, or a friend, the clerk at the store, or someone in the street who spontaneously smiled at you, bringing you a moment of friendliness or a sense of ease. It doesn’t particularly matter how well they know you, or how much or how purely they intended to benefit you; some action they did, large or small, actually did bring you some benefit.

Recall your parents, siblings, and other family members. You may have some difficult relationships with some of them, perhaps some painful memories, but also recall that since before you were born, they have been there, feeding you, taking care of you, sharing their time and energy and experience with you. Before they knew what you would go on to do, before they knew who you would become, they sheltered and educated and supported you. Recognize the enormity of what you have received from your family.

Bring to mind a few of the many people who are involved in the production and delivery of food, clothing, shelter, heat, material goods of all kinds. You may not know many of these people personally, but they are all around you, doing what they do best in order to make available all the life-giving and nurturing things you need, everything you need to survive and thrive. Their energy, knowledge, and actions are supporting you. The interdependence of beings and events is deep, broad, subtle, and profound.

Recall the environment from which you draw life and enjoyment: the earth, the cooling breeze, the warm sun, the clean flowing waters, the plants and animals that provide you with food and companionship and a kinship that goes beyond species.

Recall a teacher who taught you something. It might be a teacher from grade school or high school, or a college professor. Recall a mentor, someone who supported you or encouraged you to grow. Recall a spiritual teacher or guide who has written or spoken or shown you something that made a difference in your life, someone whose work or life has been an inspiration to you.

Continue to recall mentors, teachers, friends, and benefactors of all kinds, large and small, spiritual or practical or mundane, those from the past, those who support you now, and those who will support and benefit you in the future. Imagine this large and growing group of benefactors out in front of you -- a sea of benefactors in front of you.

There is nothing you have to do to earn their support and receive all these benefits. Your benefactors, known and unknown, have been supporting you since before you were born. They have been there your entire life, and will always be there, giving you what you need, teaching you what you need to know, supporting and inspiring you spiritually. Imagine the sea of benefactors in front of you, smiling, accepting you just the way you are, wishing you well, acting on that wish in order to benefit your health and well-being.

Recognize, acknowledge, and appreciate the benefit you receive from this sea of benefactors. Feel the support and rely on it. Rest in the experience of being supported and receiving infinite benefits. Feel your body, sitting and breathing, supported physically, emotionally, spiritually.

From the center of your body, feel a warmth, a warm radiating light. Gradually, naturally extend that warm radiating light throughout your body and beyond, radiating warm friendly light into your surroundings, received by everyone, so that they receive the warmth and benefit. Continue to sit, breathing, supported, radiating good wishes to yourself and to everyone, all human and non-human beings.

With deepest gratitude for all his teachers and benefactors, this contemplation was offered by George Draffan in June 2011.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Take Not

Take not blessings from the gods;
Give alms to the poor.

~ Serlingpa
   Mind Training: The Great Collection, p. 189

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What Turns Around and Runs You

What you shut out is exactly what turns around and runs you.

~ from an interview with Charlotte Joko Beck

Tighten & Loosen

Outwardly, relax clinging to objects!

Inwardly, give up clinging to the body!

Secretly, loosen clinging to mind!

Tighten with intensity, and then gently relax!

The tightening is the method, and the loosening is the wisdom!

~ Padampa Sangye, Lion of Siddhas, p. 281

To Cherish Others

To cherish others is the source of every admirable quality.
~ Tsongkhapa

To have just that one teaching is the same as having all the teachings in the palm of the hand. What is the one? It is great compassion.
~ from the Realization Story of Avalokiteshvara

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Testing, testing...

Can you find anything that is permanent?

Can you find anything that is ultimately satisfying?

Can you find anything that is independent, separate from the many causes and conditions that came together to produce it?

Look at your internal experience (sensations, feelings, thoughts), and look at things in the world around you.

Especially look at things you really like, at things you really dislike, and at things you tend to ignore.

Look deeply, with your body, using all your senses. Use your heart and your intuition, as well as your thinking mind.

Look, again and again, putting everything that arises, and especially those experiences and events that are challenging for you, to this three-fold test.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Don't Volunteer

Samsara is suffering -- don't volunteer for it!

~ Padampa Sangye, Lion of Siddhas

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Awakening ~ Stability, Clarity, Kindness

Each of us has, actually is, buddha nature -- the inherent, indestructible ability to know what arises and to respond in ways that lead to freedom and happiness. When we discover that we can rely on that nature, when we begin to take refuge in it, we can cultivate it until it is available and expressed in everything we do.

~ Abiding (shamatha), resting in experience as it arises and subsides, is the stable foundation of the path. Without a growing capacity to be present and open in experience as it arises, any other practices are impossible or ineffective.
"The object of practice is not to have a smooth ride; the object is to stay in the boat."  (Ken McLeod)
~ Seeing clearly (vipashyana) is the result of looking deeply into everything that arises. We come to know the nature of experience, to know how everything that arises is interdependent with various causes and conditions, to discern what leads to struggle and suffering and what leads to freedom and happiness.
"Seeing is easy; to stabilize that seeing is difficult."  (Milarepa)
~ Kindness (metta) and compassion (karuna) undermine the illusion that our suffering and happiness are separate from the welfare of others. We begin to interact with others in ways that are not based in self-centered confusion and reactivity.
"Of all the grounds for merit, kindness surpasses them all and shines forth, bright and brilliant."  (The Buddha, Itivuttaka 27)
These three -- resting, looking, and kindness -- are the necessary bases for effective practice. The art and mystery of practice is to persist, flexibly and creatively in the midst of our particular internal and external challenges, gradually integrating the three and making them a way of life -- our buddha nature made manifest.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Abhinivesa: insistence; automatic perceptual and conceptual belief in the apparent existence of self and objects; the way things appear due to conditioned patterning of perception and thought.

Prapanca: conceptual fabrication, the stream directed by imprinted preconceptions, including the internal flow of thought constructs and the self and the environment they create. Conceptual elaboration... clinging to words or concepts... the web of words and concepts in which one gets entangled when clinging... the root of all contentions.

Samsara: the world of habitual patterns; from sam, together, intensive; andsara, to go, run, flow, hasten; so samsara means going about, busyness, endless migration, unceasing commotion and unrest. The created world of dissatisfaction and struggle.

Samskara: conditioned mental formations, all constructs, good, bad, or indifferent: dispositions, tendencies, volitions, impulses, emotions, strivings, and reactions. The process by which reactive emotional patterns are formed by, and then continue to form, our experience of the world. The volitional factor in samskaras is motivated by desire, which gives rise to karma.

Samyojana: internal formations; knots; agglomerations; binding together; fetters. Five dull knots: confusion, desire, anger, pride, doubt. Five sharp knots: viewing body as self, extreme views, wrong views, perverted views, superstitious views.

Upadana: compulsive automatic patterning of perceptions, thoughts, and emotional reactions according to the conditioning of past experience.

Vasana: tendencies and inclinations; literally, fragrance, from vas: dwelling, residue, remainder. Subliminal inclinations and patterns, traces of past experience and action, residues of thoughts and actions, particularly the residue of ignorance. The driving forces that color and motivate attitudes and future actions; habit energies giving rise to present samsara.

Vikalpa: patterning; the structuring of cognition due to past experience and the traces they have left. Vikalpa gives rise to the apparent world of self and environment and all our emotional reactions to such appearances.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Zen Healing Prayer

from Sensei Pat Enkyo O’Hara
Village Zendo and Zen Peacemaker Order
To the absolute light, luminous throughout the whole universe,
unfathomable excellence penetrating everywhere.

Whenever this devoted invocation is sent forth
it is perceived and subtly answered.

We dedicate all merits
to the buddhas and bodhisattvas in the realm of prajna wisdom;
to the guardians and protectors of the Dharma worlds
and to their relations throughout space and time;
to all ancestors of this community,
and to all beings in the Dharma worlds.

May penetrating light dispel the darkness of ignorance.
Let all karma be resolved
and the mind-flower bloom in eternal spring.

We pray for the health and well-being
of all those afflicted by diseases of body, mind, or spirit,
and all those working towards the healing of those afflictions.

We especially pray for _________, ________, and ________.

May they be serene through all their ills,
and may we realize the Buddha Way together.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Little Ways That Encourage Good Fortune

by William Stafford

Wisdom is having things right in your life
and knowing why.
If you do not have things right in your life
you will be overwhelmed:
you may be heroic, but you will not be wise.
If you have things right in your life
but do not know why,
you are just lucky, and you will not move
in the little ways that encourage good fortune.

The saddest are those not right in their lives
who are acting to make things right for others:
they act only from the self—
and that self will never be right:
no luck, no help, no wisdom.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Don't Let Go!

Instructions are given, but few practice them.
Don't let go of the instructions!

~ from page 105 of Lion of Siddhas: The Life
   and Teachings of Padampa Sangye

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

To Get Started

The way to get started is to quit talking, and begin doing. 
~ Walt Disney

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Video: Tai Chi for Better Balance

Tai Chi for Better Balance

Video: Eight Pieces of Silk Brocade

Eight Pieces of Silk Brocade qigong

Video: Shibashi tai chi qigong

Shibashi - 18 movements of tai chi qigong

Your Footsteps Are the Road

Walker, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more.
Walker, there is no road, the road is made by walking.
Walking you make the road, and turning to look behind
    you see the path you never again will step upon.
Walker, there is no road, only foam trails on the sea.

~ Antonia Machado, Proverbs and Songs
(translated by Willis Barnstone)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Opinions Are Like Playthings

Our quaint metaphysical opinions, in an hour of anguish, are like playthings by the bedside of a child deathly sick.

~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Monday, May 9, 2011


by Denise Levertov

Sometimes the mountain
is hidden from me in veils
of cloud, sometimes
I am hidden from the mountain
in veils of inattention, apathy, fatigue,
when I forget or refuse to go
down to the shore or a few yards
up the road, on a clear day,
to reconfirm
that witnessing presence.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Doubts & Dangers

The doubts of some are more indicative of a love for truth than the belief of others. 
~ John Ker

The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.
~ Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Prayer to Empty the Six Realms

Countless beings are wandering, trapped in cycles
   of confusion and struggle.
My heart goes out to them!
Through karma gathered from beginningless time,
The force of reactive emotions creates realms of suffering.
There is no refuge but awakened compassion.
May I fully awaken for the benefit of all beings.

Through reaction and habit, the force of anger
   creates the hell realm.
Hot anger and cold hate, attacking and revenge, what torture!
Opening to this experience, knowing it completely,
   reaction and struggle come to an end.
May we awaken to kindness and harmony.

Through reaction and habit, the force of greed
   creates the hungry ghost realm.
Hunger and thirst, craving and grasping, frustrated misery!
Opening to this experience, knowing it completely,
   reaction and struggle come to an end.
May we awaken to generosity and gratitude.

Through reaction and habit, the force of instinct
   creates the animal realm.
Fearful hiding, seeking safety and comfort,
   the thick fog of dullness!
Opening to this experience, knowing it completely,
   reaction and struggle come to an end.
May we awaken to intelligence and creativity.

Through reaction and habit, the force of desire
   creates the human realm.
Restless searching, fleeting pleasure,
   the stress of constant activity!
Opening to this experience, knowing it completely,
   reaction and struggle come to an end.
May we awaken to contentment and ease.

Through reaction and habit, the force of jealousy
   creates the titan realm.
Stab of envy, furious competition, unjust defeat!
Opening to this experience, knowing it completely,
   reaction and struggle come to an end.
May we awaken to appreciation and sympathetic joy.

Through reaction and habit, the force of pride
   creates the god realm.
Deluded pleasure of self-absorption,
   the shock of humiliation when it ends!
Opening to this experience, knowing it completely,
   reaction and struggle come to an end.
May we awaken to humility, connection, and service.

In all my lives, may I meet whatever arises
   with awakened compassion.
Opening to the depths of each realm,
   I rest in experience just as it is.
Knowing and freedom arise together;
   may I not take birth in the six realms again.
With a heart open to the cries of others,
   realms are emptied and beings are freed.

From seeds planted, fruit grows. Seeking to escape from pain, we may discover that others are suffering too. Relying on the teachings of Thangtong Gyalpo and Ken McLeod, George Draffan gathered these words to remind himself and others of a way to meet confusion and turmoil.

printable version here

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Emptiness is Full

Sunya: (suna, from sva, swell, akin to English swell): to increase, to become hollow inside.

In a negative sense, no thing is there; in a positive sense, an empty hollow has room for everything -- the fullness of life and everything is experienced as such (suchness, thusness, tathata).

Insight practice is painful or disorienting to the degree that I’m invested and clinging to self and other; it’s a welcome relief to the extent that I can open to the fullness of experience.

Friday, April 29, 2011

You’re Bound to Become a Buddha

You’re bound to become a buddha if you practice.
If water drips long enough
Even rocks wear through.
It’s not true thick skulls can’t be pierced;
People just imagine their minds are hard.

~ Shih-wu (1272-1352)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Aim of Life

The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.

~ Henry Miller

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds and the source of power for practitioners. Reflect on how everything is constantly changing, and remember how everything we do influences what happens in and around us. Reactivity will fall away, and time will not be wasted.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Not Being Defeated by the Rain

Ame ni mo makezu by Kenji Miyazawa

not losing to the rain
not losing to the wind
not losing to the snow nor to summer's heat
with a strong body
unfettered by desire
never losing temper
cultivating a quiet joy
every day four bowls of brown rice
miso and some vegetables to eat
in everything
count yourself last and put others before you
watching and listening, and understanding
and never forgetting
in the shade of the woods of the pines of the fields
being in a little thatched hut
if there is a sick child to the east
going and nursing over them
if there is a tired mother to the west
going and shouldering her sheaf of rice
if there is someone near death to the south
going and saying there's no need to be afraid
if there is a quarrel or a suit to the north
telling them to leave off with such waste
when there's drought, shedding tears of sympathy
when the summer's cold, wandering upset
called a blockhead by everyone
without being praised
without being blamed
such a person
I want to become

I don't know whose English translation this is, but the original Japanese and a transliteration are here.

Awareness, responsibility, compassion

Awareness and responsibility versus belief and protection.

Awareness can be cultivated through reasoning, observation, faith, or kindness.

Awareness integrates many aspects of one's experience.

Belief leads one to disregard or belittle some aspects of experience, and to try to protect oneself from those experiences.

Responsibility arises from sufficient awareness, but can be cultivated through compassion -- being aware of and responsive to suffering, one's own and others'.

Compassion is the result or expression of true awareness.

Compassion (warm regard for suffering) can also lead to awareness (integrating the aspects of one's experience).

The faults of imperfect compassion are perhaps less dangerous than the risks of partial awareness.

True awareness and true compassion are infused with humility.

Awareness is knowing the whole of one's experience. Compassion is knowing that others feel too.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Final Words of D.T. Suzuki

Don't worry. Thank you! Thank you!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

What He Carries in His Heart

A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart.

~ Goethe

Thursday, February 17, 2011

May the Ocean of Suffering Run Dry!

When I am happy, may my merit flow to others;
May its blessings fill the sky!
When I am unhappy, may the sorrows of all beings be mine;
May the ocean of suffering run dry!

~ from Mind Training Taking Joys and Pains onto the Path

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Nothing But the Self

Nothing burns in hell but the self.

~ Theologica Germanica

Friday, February 11, 2011

Some Day I'll Start Meditating...

The thought that at some time in the future
I will put right all my tasks and plans
And then start a perfect dharma practice
Is in fact the devil which brings all downfalls.

~ Gungthang Tenpai Dronme

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Great Opportunities

We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.

~ Thomas Edison

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sitting Dead

If you wish to understand yourself, you must succeed in doing so in the midst of all kinds of confusions and upsets. Don’t make the mistake of sitting dead in the cold ashes of a withered tree.  
~ Ryo-an Emyo Zenji (1337-1411)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Like a Dream

everything is 

like a dream

like an illusion

like an hallucination

like a mirage

like a reflection in water or in a mirror

like an echo

like a fairy city

like a projection

like a water bubble

like lightning

like a rainbow

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Man Made a Long Pilgrimage

from Robert Grudin, Time and The Art of Living, XIII.5

A man made a long pilgrimage to a holy city. As he neared the city he saw, looming among the lower irregular shapes of other structures, the walls and roof of the great temple that was the object of his journey. Yet again and again, as he searched through dark narrow alleys and small marketplaces, he failed to find its entrance. As best he could, in a language not his own, he made inquiries of the townspeople; but all of them, taught in a newer religion, seemed neither to know nor to care. After much frustration, he was directed at last to a priest of the old faith, who told him that the great temple had in fact long ceased to possess a formal entrance, but rather could be entered in many ways, through any of a large number of the narrow houses and tiny shops which surrounded it. Yet in the end this revelation gave the pilgrim no help at all. Each house or shop he entered seemed so dark and squalid, its furniture so alien, its occupants so forbidding, that it seemed manifestly incapable of opening into the grandeur and freedom of the temple vault. The man left the city in bitterness and sought an easier faith.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

You're Never Too Poor

You're never too poor to pay attention.

~ Jim Dodge

Why Do We Say "Pay Attention"?

Mila and the Demons

(version from Start Where You Are by Pema Chodron)

One evening Milarepa returned to his cave after gathering firewood, only to find it filled with demons. They were cooking his food, reading his books, sleeping in his bed. They had taken over the joint. He knew about nonduality of self and other, but he still did’nt quite know how to get these guys out of his cave. Even though he had the sense that they were just a projection of his own mind -- all the unwanted parts of himself -- he did’nt know how to get rid of them.

So first he taught them the dharma. He sat on this seat that was higher than they were and said things to them about how we are all one. He talked about compassion and shunyata and how poison is medicine. Nothing happened. The demons were still there. Then he lost his patience and got angry and ran at them. They just laughed at him. Finally, he gave up and just sat down on the floor, saying, “I’m not going away and it looks like you’re not either, so let’s just live here together.“

And at that point, all of them left except one. Milarepa said, “Oh, this one is particularly vicious.“ (We all know that one. Sometimes we have lots of them like that. Sometimes we feel that’s all we‘ve got.) He didn’t know what to do, so he surrendered himself even further. He walked over and put himself right into the mouth of the demon and said, “Just eat me up, if you want to.“ Then that demon left too. The moral of the story is, when the resistance is gone, so are the demons.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Waiting for Houdini to Come Up

by Jim Dodge

Magic is not the manipulation of appearance.
It is the expropriation of the real.
Not mastered sleights blurred with patter
but the actual rabbit in every hat.
No tricks. Not the key to the shackles
from her mouth to his
passed in a good-luck kiss
just before they chain him in the trunk
and drop it in the cold, real river.
Not the key, but the kiss itself,
tender, fearful,
as wild as the release within us
when he floats out of the weighted trunk
and from the river bottom begins to rise,
escaping the skilled deceit,
freed from the illusion of escape.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Poem for Humankind by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

We should behave toward our fellow human beings as if they...

Were born, and will grow old, suffer and die, like us
Enduring the wheel of existence, of samsara
Living under the power of attachments, like us
Subject to desire, rage, and delusion, and
Careless in their ways, like us
Having no idea why they were born, as we have no idea
Stupid in some things, as we are sometimes stupid
Indulging their own whims, as we indulge ours
Wanting to be good, perhaps prominent, even famous
Taking advantage of opportunities to take advantage of others, like us.

They have the right to be crazy, to get drunk, to become obsessed
They are ordinary people who cling to this or that, as we do
They are under no obligation to suffer or die in our place
They are our fellow citizens, in secular and spiritual realms
They behave sometimes in haste, carelessly, like us
They have the duty to be responsible for their families, not for ours
The have the right to their own tastes, their own definition of well-being
They have the right to choose (even their religion) to suit themselves
They have the right to a share of public resources equal to our share
The right to be insane, in the world's opinion, as do we
The right to seek our help, and pity, and compassion
The right to our forgiveness, depending upon the merits of the case
The right to be socialists, or liberals,
To think of themselves before they think of others
They have the right to every right we claim, to live in this world.

Could we all but think this way, conflict and discord would not arise.

Translated by Susan F. Kepner, University of California, Berkeley