Sunday, December 9, 2012

If you want it

If you want it, no one can stop you

If you don't want it, no one can help you

~ Benjamin Lo

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Floating clouds and water running

Floating clouds, and water running . . . 
where's their source? 
In all the vastness of the sea and sky, 
you'll never find it. 

~ poem by Yuan Mei (1716-1798)
translated by J.P. Seaton

~ painting of Kanchenjunga
by Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

What did I think I was looking at?

Every morning, every morning,
I would face that mirror over the sink.
What did I think I was looking at,
I wonder.

~ Shosaku Asada

Monday, November 5, 2012

Freedom & Truth

Freedom. The freedom to do something well. There is no need of any other kind. 

Truths. The truths that teach us to act well and to live well. There is no need of any other kind.

~ Joseph Joubert, Notebooks

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Shadows within Shades

Mountains and rivers and the great Earth
  Are already nothing but dust.
While man, to be sure, is but dust within dust.
Bodies composed of muscle and blood
   Will surely return to bubble and shadow
While human affairs, to be sure, are but shadows within shades.
   If the highest wisdom is not obtained,
   There will be no heart of understanding.

Hung Ying-ming, The Unencumbered Spirit

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The 10,000 things are all there in me

"The ten thousand things are all there in me. And there's no joy greater than looking within and finding myself faithful to them. Treat others as you would be treated. Devote yourself to that, for there's no more direct approach to humanity."

~ Mencius XIII.4 (translated by David Hinton)

Humanity (ren): our inherent goodness, encompassing compassion, benevolence, respect, and virtue.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Breath and Energy

Breath and energy are the essence of qigong.

Most important: mix together breathing, moving, awareness.
Breathe with the whole body.
Be aware of the whole body.
Move with the whole body.

Let breath fill the body, right out to fingers and toes.
Breathe in and out of palms and soles and every pore of skin.

Empty chest, full belly.
Inhaling, let the belly fill up like a balloon.
Exhaling, let the belly empty.
Don’t manipulate the breath; relax deeply and let go of holding and constriction.

Let the pace and range of movement follow the rhythm and depth of the breath.
Bring breathing and moving together in awareness.
Awareness and movement ride the breath.

For awareness:
Inhaling, rise and extend.
Exhaling, return and let go.
Feel every cell of the body: alive, sensitive, receptive.

For power:
Exhaling, rise and extend.
Inhaling, sink and return to center.
Feel every cell of the body: vital and powerful.

Awareness rides the breath through the body.
Whole body breathing, whole body aware.
Life energy rides the breath.

Breathing through palms and soles, feel tingling and vibration.
Breathing through legs, inhale earth energy: strength, solidity, support.
Breathing through torso and head, exhale sky energy: letting go into open fluid freedom.

Breathe naturally, move easily, attend without boundaries.
Awareness and experience and breath do not stop at the skin.

Make sure there is no wrangling 
between the breath and the will.
~ Master Great Nothing of Relaxation Mountain

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Past, present, future

"It is a characteristic tendency of human beings to indulge in emotions such as happiness, grief, or anger in response to present conditions, failing to balance these feelings with the awareness that present conditions are results of past causes. It is illogical to face the present only as an object of enjoyment or tolerance, neglecting to use it as the opportunity to create the future."

~ Muso Kokushi, Dream Conversations

Sunday, September 30, 2012

An Open Letter to the Buddhist Community

As a pioneer in translating Buddhist teachings into Western culture, Ken McLeod has shown acute insight and broad knowledge. At the same time he is a human being with reactive patterns and blind spots.

In the matter between Ken and Patricia Ivan: in 2009, teaching and intimacies were mixed in ways that were harmful to both of them. In several private conversations with me during 2011 and 2012, Ken acknowledged that emotional entanglement and physical intimacies had occurred, and he acknowledged it in a conference call attended by Unfettered Mind board member Robert Conrad, myself, and others (May 21, 2012).

Out of concern for those directly involved and for the wider community, I told Ken I would be as discrete as possible but would not participate in a cover-up. I listened and offered advice while Ken struggled to find an ethical and effective response, but he and the Unfettered Mind board have instead offered public silence and private threats, which have further confused the community and multiplied the harm.

What’s been set in motion cannot be resolved by secrecy, scandal, or lawsuits. I understand reluctance and defensiveness. But it’s unfathomably sad that Ken is so recalcitrant to acknowledge the facts, to apologize for mistakes, and to transform the difficulty into something positive and worthy.

There is no pleasure or pride in making these statements or in my own role in events. I could have been more observant, more discerning, more concerned, and more vocal. I apologize for any hurt or harm I have caused, knowingly or unknowingly.

George Draffan
September 30, 2012

[*] To explore the complex psychological and ethical dynamics between students and teachers, and the need to create a safe and effective container for spiritual practice, I recommend careful study of "At Personal Risk" by Marilyn Peterson, and "Sex and the Spiritual Teacher" by Scott Edelstein.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Buddhists talk about "no-self" but there's no such a thing. "No self" means I am not my body, not my feelings, not my thoughts or emotions. I'm not some thing separate from what I experience, but I'm also not any particular emotion or thought. It also means there is no self separate from others. We are embedded in an unceasing complex web of relationships, conditions, and events. It is not possible not to be part of the complex. It's not possible not to respond. The question in each moment is what is the response that leads to balance and peace and freedom, rather than confusion and suffering. The possibility of self-delusion and self-centeredness is ever-present. So is the possibility of being awake and compassionate. Each moment's choices hinge on the intention and attention we carry at that moment. No control, no escape: just endlessly unfolding conditions, choices, and consequences. May the benefits of my skillful choices be shared by everyone. May the consequences of my unskillful choices be all mine. May everyone be awake, free of confusion and suffering. May everyone be safe, healthy, happy, at peace.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Point

The foundation is to practice experiencing sensations, feelings, and thoughts without shutting down, without being overwhelmed, without reacting from confusion or habit. That's shamatha (calm abiding).

So don't regard difficult experiences as contaminating the meditation; they are what we practice with.

As we experience sensations, feelings, and thoughts without grasping, fighting, fleeing, or freezing, we see more clearly the actual nature of experience. That's vipashyana (insight).

Here are some of the ways things are:
  • Impermanent.
  • Not solid.
  • Not independent of causes and conditions.
  • Vivid and unceasing, but empty of solidity and permanence.
  • Embedded in conditions, but malleable to influence.
  • Intention affects our experience and our interactions; look into grasping and generosity, ill-will and kindness.
The point?

To know what leads to suffering and what leads to balance and peace and freedom.

To free ourselves and others from the suffering that arises from confusion and turmoil.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Looking and letting go

We are not any sensation, feeling, thought, or action. We are subject to the dynamics and consequences of all those, but they are not what we are. What are we? Look again and again, examining and questioning any apparent answer. Whenever we grasp onto and crave any thing or any experience, suffering inevitably arises. Clarifying the nature of experience and self, we let go of increasingly subtle objects. Less grasping, less craving, less suffering for oneself and others. Does it ever end? Keep looking and letting go.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An open letter to Unfettered Mind and the Buddhist community

I’ve studied Buddhism since the mid-1970s, training mainly in the Tibetan and Theravada traditions. From 1993 to 2007 I attended many retreats led by Ken McLeod, and in 2006-2009 participated in the Unfettered Mind teacher development program. 

I’m not naive or cynical, neither apologist nor disgruntled student. I’m a long-time participant of several Buddhist communities who is concerned about the current conflict in which Ken is accused of boundary violations. No matter what the facts turn out to be, Unfettered Mind should agree to engage in mediation with the support of an organization qualified to deal with boundary issues and conflicts between spiritual teachers and students, such as An Olive Branch or FaithTrust Institute. This should be undertaken not as legal defense or to protect reputation, but as ethical action to prevent harm in the community. 

For some time I’ve urged Ken and the Unfettered Mind board of directors to take this course. I'm now making a public statement because Unfettered Mind's silence and the growing Internet rumors are both fueling further confusion without resolving conflict or preventing harm. I don't advocate sweeping anything under the rug, but surely a mutual exploration with compassion for and by all concerned will be more effective than a scandal that feeds innuendo, rumor and confusion. 

I'm grateful for Ken’s translations and teachings, which have been of genuine benefit to many people. At the core of those teachings is the capacity and willingness to meet and work directly with whatever arises. When imbalances arise in relationships, they need to be acknowledged and brought back into balance. Ken and the board of Unfettered Mind should make a public statement, sincerely engage in mediation to resolve conflict and restore trust, and do whatever is necessary to prevent further confusion and harm. 

We each have an inherent, indestructible ability to know what is arising and to respond in ways that bring balance and peace. Whether we engage that ability makes all the difference. 

George Draffan 
August 29, 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Forget enlightenment

"Forget enlightenment... Are you facing in the right direction?"

~ Stephen Levine

Friday, August 24, 2012

Don't Stop at Technique

Meditation techniques might get you to the door of direct experience, but genuine transformation depends on two things deeper and more profound than any technique: A heart-intention more profound than the impulses and motivations that typically choose and drive technique. And knowing in the body that is deeper and more intelligent than thought or reason. Intention is formed by recognizing, acknowledging, appreciating, and honoring genuine aspirations rather than obeying habitual impulses. Knowing comes from including all of one's senses rather than relying simply on conceptual knowledge and narrow logical structures. Don't let fascination or frustration with technique keep you from opening to and relying upon deeper and more profound intention and knowing.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

27 sources of mistaken conduct

  • attachment  
  • aversion 
  • to be wild  
  • mockery  
  • pride  
  • self-infatuation  
  • exposing others’ faults  
  • causing dissension  
  • deceit 
  • praising oneself  
  • criticizing others  
  • insulting others 
  • picking a quarrel 
  • desiring gain  
  • desiring respect 
  • desiring fame  
  • desiring a circle of attendants  
  • desiring personal service  
  • wishing to give up working for the benefit of others  
  • desiring to pursue one’s own welfare  
  • wishing to have conversations that are pointless or that incite attachment and aversion  
  • being impatient  
  • being lazy  
  • being fainthearted 
  • being boastful 
  • talking nonsense 
  • being attached to one’s own group 
~ from Shantideva's The Way of the Bodhisattva, 5: 48-53
from the translation at Rigpa Wiki

Monday, August 13, 2012

Even Buddhas can't save us

"Buddhas cannot wash away others' negative potentials, nor remove their suffering like one would pull out a thorn from a foot. They cannot transfer their realizations to anyone. They can only indicate the way by teaching about reality."
~ The Connections Sutra

Going There by Colleen J. McElroy

Going There

by Colleen J. McElroy

we will cross where the border is porous
where deals are unmade and papers transparent
we will cross where everyone can see us
without suspect or hurry we’ll make it
to the other side—we’ll seek a place
of some safety where origins are of less concern
than the craft of what we can offer
we’ll pretend the guards are friendly
and make our way uncertain yet surefooted
we’ll spell home for them in several languages
we’ll observe all of the necessary gods
the prayer wheels and beads we always carry
we’ll turn into the wind and leave no scent
we’ll take it all with us and hope
there is room when we get there
we’ll cross before darkness can hide us
and no one can find us if the border disappears

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Keep it simple

Completely accepting whatever you're experiencing is freedom...

Doing what needs to be done brings benefit...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Whatever arises

whatever arises in my experience, thoughts or emotions, pleasant or unpleasant -- 

whatever appears in the world, objects and phenomena of any kind --

may its arising serve to free all beings from struggle and confusion

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Awareness and compassion undermine self-centeredness

Suffering is created by the self-cherishing that inevitably follows self-grasping. Self-cherishing is undermined by kindness and compassion for others. Self-grasping is undermined by directly seeing that self is a construction empty of permanence, solidity, and satisfaction. 

Before, during, and after

Before a habit-pattern arises in experience, we can practice forming the intention not to be take over by it.

After the experience, we can remember that the experience was just an experience, and reflect on whether we were able to maintain our intention in the face of it.

But during the experience itself, we have an opportunity to look deeply into the nature of the experience itself, to see its true nature.

Being able to be present and intentional in the experience is stability (shamatha). Looking deeply to see the true nature of what arises results in insight (vipashyana).

Monday, July 16, 2012

Boundless Attitudes

Metta (lovingkindness) = friendly kindness that wishes self and others well.

Karuna (compassion) = the trembling heart that responds to pain and suffering.

Mudita (sympathetic joy) = appreciating the good in the world, enjoying others' happiness and success.

Upeksha (equanimity) = balance and clarity in the midst of experience. 

The four immeasurables are alternately aspirations, intentions, attitudes, and feelings. 

They do not depend on outer circumstances nor on one's inner state. 

They lead to insight -- to knowing how things are. 

They lead to the ability to be present and responsive. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Shamatha Vipashyana Mahamudra

Shamatha (calm abiding) is the capacity to abide in vividly clear experience without reacting (fighting, fleeing, or freezing). This non-reactive capacity comes from focusing on a chosen object, or from resting in the experience of the chosen object. Classic objects are the breath, body sensation, a physical object, a mental image, or the totality of experience. There is no shamatha separate from stable abiding in vivid experience as it arises. 

Vipashyana (clear seeing or insight) is “looking” (non-conceptually examining and sensing) experience to know its actual nature: not permanent, not separate, not self, not satisfying. The result is knowing directly that every internal experience and external object is “empty” of any imagined characteristics. There is no insight or thing that is “emptiness” separate from knowing the nature of experience as it arises.

Shamatha calms habits of emotional turmoil and struggle -- the habit-patterns are interrupted temporarily. Shamatha is necessary for insight. 

Vipashyana cuts the confusion at the root of turmoil and struggle. Vipashyana is necessary for freedom. 

If we can't be non-reactive in experience, we need shamatha. 

If confusion and struggle still arise, we need vipashyana. 

Mahamudra is the effortless union of shamatha (calm abiding) and vipashyana (knowing). 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Three Doors

awareness of impermanence
heart of compassion
foundation of faith

Inspiration, like any sensation or feeling, comes and goes. The essence of practice is to practice every day whether you feel inspired or not. Motivation is different than inspiration; motivation depends on connecting with your own experience, directly and personally. Much of practice is just that connecting and reconnecting, taking the practice to heart.

Buddhism is a huge collection of various practices. The different methods can be helpful in focusing energy and leverage, but in general practice should be as simple as possible, so that the methods and structures don't get in the way.

Likewise, study can be helpful, but reflection and practice are more important. The big picture according to the Shangpa tradition is that there are three doors to freedom: insight, compassion, and faith.

Insight is seeing how things are. Perhaps the two most fundamental insights are that things are impermanent and interdependent. Everything is impermanent, constantly changing. Everything is interdependent: nothing exists by itself, separate from causes and conditions. So practice recognizing the never-ending flow of experience and events. And recognize that everything is dependent on causes and conditions. That's challenging, but it can be simple. Practice keeping a continuous thread of attention on the flow of sensations, feelings, and thoughts. Whenever you lose track of the flow, just return to recognizing it.

Compassion means recognizing, appreciating, and caring that struggle and suffering arise for ourself and others. We can't control our experience, but we can bring each instance of struggling to an end, and we can make our intention to live in ways that minimize suffering and tend toward balance and peace. A direct and simple way to practice compassion: whenever struggle and stress arise, recognize it, accept it, and care about it, regardless of anything can be done about it in the moment. Just recognizing and caring is profound and powerful.

Faith is the capacity and willingness to open to whatever arises -- to let be and let go. The capacity to do that is partly a result of insight and compassion. When we see how things are, and we care, then we have some confidence to proceed. And even when we lack confidence, still we long for what is good and true, and draw hope and inspiration from others. Faith can also be cultivated: again and again aspire to be able to open to whatever arises, and practice opening. Trust your inherent, indestructible ability to know, to respond, to let be and let go.

The three doors of insight, compassion, and faith overlap, and each leads to the others. When we see clearly that everything is impermanent, we gain confidence that we can experience and survive whatever arises. As we see how things don't just arise, but are dependent upon causes and conditions, compassion arises for those caught up in cycles of reaction and suffering. As we clarify the causes of suffering, we gain faith in our ability to make choices that make a difference. As we connect with our abilities we see they are naturally available, and we wish that everyone were free of suffering, and genuinely happy.

We will end up entering all three doors, but we tend to have more affinity and access to one or two doors at any particular time in our life or phase of our practice. Keep using the doors that are open to you; your freedom depends on it.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

When I'm Happy

When I am happy, may my good fortune 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"

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tiger's strength ~ Dragon's fluidity

Inhaling earth energy: strength, solidity, support, resources.

Exhaling sky energy: letting go, openness, fluidity, freedom.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Discussion On Making Things Equal

by Chuang tzu 

Joy, anger, grief, delight, worry, regret, fickleness, inflexibility, modesty, willfulness, candor, insolence -- music from empty holes, mushrooms springing up in dampness, day and night replacing each other before us, and no one knows where they sprout from. Let it be! Let it be! [It is enough that] morning and evening we have them, and they are the means by which we live. Without them we would not exist; without us they would have nothing to take hold of. This comes close to the matter. But I do not know what makes them the way they are. It would seem as though they have some True Master, and yet I find no trace of him. He can act -- that is certain. Yet I cannot see his form. He has identity but no form...
Once a man receives this fixed bodily form, he holds on to it, waiting for the end. Sometimes clashing with things, sometimes bending before them, he runs his course like a galloping steed, and nothing can stop him. Is he not pathetic? Sweating and laboring to the end of his days and never seeing his accomplishment, utterly exhausting himself and never knowing where to look for rest -- can you help pitying him? I'm not dead yet! he says, but what good is that? His body decays, his mind follows it -- can you deny that this is a great sorrow? Man's life has always been a muddle like this. How could I be the only muddled one, and other men not muddled?...
The torch of chaos and doubt -- this is what the sage steers by...
He who dreams of drinking wine may weep when morning comes; he who dreams of weeping may in the morning go off to hunt. While he is dreaming he does not know it is a dream, and in his dream he may even try to interpret a dream. Only after he wakes does he know it was a dream. And someday there will be a great awakening when we know that this is all a great dream. Yet the stupid believe they are awake, busily and brightly assuming they understand things, calling this man ruler, that one herdsman -- how dense! Confucius and you are both dreaming! And when I say you are dreaming, I am dreaming, too...
Once Chuang Chou dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was Chuang Chou. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Chuang Chou. But he didn't know if he was Chuang Chou who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Chou. Between Chuang Chou and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.
~ from Chuang tzu, Chapter 2. English translation by Burton Watson.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

No Separation

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For heaven and the future's sakes.

~ from Two Tramps in Mud Time by Robert Frost

Two Poems for My Friend Bosai

by Ryokan

Yes, I'm truly a dunce
Living among trees and plants.
Please don't question me about illusion and enlightenment --
This old fellow just likes to smile to himself.
I wade across streams with bony legs,
And carry a bag about in fine spring weather.
That's my life,
And the world owes me nothing.

The gaudy beauty of this world has no attraction for me --
My closest friends are mountains and rivers,
Clouds swallow up my shadow as I walk along,
When I sit on cliffs, birds soar overhead.
Wearing snowy straw sandals, I visit cold villages.
Go as deep as you can into life,
And you will be able to let go of even blossoms.

~ from Dewdrops On A Lotus Leaf

Thursday, May 17, 2012

How many legs does a dog have?

Abe Lincoln: If you call the tail of a dog a leg, how many legs does that dog have?

Fool: Five.

Abe: No. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.

Ryokan's rules

Take care not to:
talk too much
talk too fast
talk without being asked to
talk gratuitously
talk with your hands
talk about worldly affairs
take back rudely
smile condescendingly at others' words
use elegant expressions
avoid speaking directly
speak with a knowing air
jump from topic to topic
use fancy words
speak of past events that cannot be changed
speak like a pedant
avoid direct questions
speak ill of others
speak grandly of enlightenment
carry on while drunk
speak in an obnoxious manner
yell at children
make up fantastic stories
speak while angry
ignore people to whom you are speaking
speak sanctimoniously of gods and buddhas
use sugary speech
use flattering speech
speak of things of which you have no knowledge
monopolize the conversation

~ from Ryokan's Dewdrops On a Lotus Leaf
(translated by John Stevens)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Wish-fulfilling Jewel

Compassion and awareness united, each a seed bearing the fruit of the other, each fruit containing more seeds.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Everything Changes

The one thing to know is everything changes. 

Living in that knowing changes everything.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

No Sense

We ignore the direct evidence of our senses, and give too much credence to our stories.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Nothing To Be Done for Such People

Worthy admonitions cannot fail to inspire us, but what matters is changing ourselves. 

Reverent advice cannot fail to encourage us, but what matters is acting on it. 

Encouraged without acting, inspired without changing -- there’s nothing to be done for such people.

~ Confucius, Analects 9:24

Monday, April 23, 2012

Four Essentials of Practice

Refuge and Awakening
Recognize that suffering arises. Form the intention to discover and renounce the causes of suffering. Cultivate the intention to wake up and generate good for all beings, actually practice doing that. Appreciating the difficulty of doing so, respect and rely upon those who have shown the way.

Awareness: Shamatha ~ Vipashyana
Ground your body in the here and now. Rely on the chair or floor or ground supporting you. Rest attention in the sensations and movements of breathing. Ride the breath a while. Open awareness to the whole experience of bodyheartmind, here in this place. See sensations and perceptions arise and dissolve. See feelings of like, dislike, and indifference arise and dissolve. See thoughts, images, emotions, and memories come and go. See the space between thoughts and feelings. Rest in just recognizing.

Caring and Relating: The Four Immeasurables
Consider others -- friends, strangers, and enemies -- and notice how you feel about them. Recognize that everyone wants to be happy, wants to be free of suffering. No matter how you feel about them, cultivate the wish that they have happiness and the causes of happiness. Cultivate the wish that they be free of suffering and its causes. Share their suffering and celebrate their successes and happinesses.

Sharing the Benefits
Appreciate the effort you are making. Recognize the benefits of your practice. Dedicate the benefits to others -- to all others. Actually share them, in real life.

an awareness of impermanence 
a heart of compassion 
a foundation of faith
~ Sangye Nyeton, Jamgon Kongtrul, Ken McLeod

Friday, April 20, 2012


"Wisdom wears an indigo jacket. She takes long walks in the purple hills at twilight, pausing to meditate at an old temple near the crossroads. She was sick as a child so she learned to be alone with herself at an early age.

Wisdom has a quiet mind. She likes to think about the edges where things spill into each other and become their opposites. She knows how to look at things inside and out. Sometimes her eyes go out to the thing she is looking at, and sometimes the thing she is looking at enters through her eyes. Questions of time, depth, and balance interest her. She is not looking for answers."

~ from The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Taste of Freedom

Just as the ocean has one taste, the taste of salt, even so this Dhamma has one taste too: the taste of freedom.

~ The Buddha, Uposatha Sutta

Saturday, March 24, 2012


From this hour, freedom!
From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master, total and absolute,
Listening to others, and considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that
would hold me.

I inhale great draughts of space;
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.

I am larger, better than I thought;
I did not know I held so much goodness.

~ Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Nasrudin was sent by the king to investigate the lore of various kinds of Eastern mystical teachers. They all recounted to him tales of the miracles and the sayings of the founders and great teachers, all long dead, of their schools.

When he returned home, he submitted his report, which contained the single word "carrots."

He was called upon to explain himself. Nasrudin told the king, "The best part is buried; few know -- except the farmer -- by the green that there is orange underground; if you don't work for it, it will deteriorate; and there are a great many donkeys associated with it."

~ from The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin by Idries Shah

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Experience is comprised of five groups (skandhas) of experience: sensations, feelings, thoughts and emotions, impulses, and consciousness. The sense of self is a projection of continuity and independence onto experiences which are actually impermanent and dependent, arising and disappearing depending on causes and conditions.

The reactive emotions that lead to suffering are part the self’s habitual emotional and behavioral attempts to cling to pleasant experiences, push away threatening experiences, and ignore neutral experiences.

Attachment, aversion, and ignoring are the traditional three poisons that push the cycle of reactivity. Reactive patterns, since they are based on false projections of independence, permanence, and control, never deliver the satisfaction they seek.

Fully experiencing sensations, feelings, emotions and thoughts, and impulses in attention, knowing them to be experiences and not facts, breaks the cycle of reactivity, and gradually dispels the confusion and projections that result in cycles of suffering.

~ for a graphic depiction of the five skandhas, click here


Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?

~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Sunday, February 26, 2012

To Ease the Pain

Well, while I'm here I'll do the work --
and what's the work?
To ease the pain of living.
Everything else,
drunken dumbshow.

~Allen Ginsberg

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Essence

Everything changes

Struggle and suffering arise

The essence of what ends suffering: compassion and awareness

Awareness: knowing what is arising

Compassion: feeling and caring

Friday, February 17, 2012

You Can't Win & You Can't Lose

"Then the path of peace depends on being patient with the fact that all of us make mistakes.  And that’s more important than getting it right.  This whole process seems to work only if you’re willing to give yourself a break, to soften up, as you practice patience.  As with the rest of the teachings, you can’t win and you can’t lose.  You don’t get to just say, “Well, since I never can do it, I’m not going to try.”  It’s like you never can do it and still you try.  And, interestingly enough, that adds up to something, it adds up to appreciation for yourself and for others.  It adds up to there being more warmth in the world.  You look out through your eyes and you just see yourself wherever you go -- you see all these people who are escalating their suffering just like you do.  You also notice people catching themselves just like you do, and they give you the gift of their fearlessness.  You begin to be grateful for even the slightest gesture of bravery on the part of others because you know it’s not so easy.  Their courage increases your trust in the basic goodness of yourself and all beings throughout the world -- each of us just wanting to be happy, each of us not wanting to suffer."

~ Pema Chodron, Practicing Peace in Times of War, p. 53-54

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Come Back

Will you seek afar off? you surely come back at last,
In things best known to you finding the best,
   or as good as the best,
In folks nearest to you finding the sweetest, strongest, lovingest,
Happiness, knowledge, not in another place but this place,
   not for another hour but this hour...

~ Walt Whitman, A Song for Occupations

Monday, February 6, 2012

Calm and Clarity

"Because by cultivating concentration and inquiry together, you are then going to develop creative awareness and creative engagement. And that’s why personally I don’t worry so much about the exact technique because I am more interested in them developing samatha and vipassana, whatever way it is. Because what I think is important is to develop the calm and the clarity.
"But I believe that the way concentration works is actually by returning, not by staying with the thing all the time. So that each time you return you’re not feeding your habit, and you dissolve [its] power. And that’s what will create some spaciousness. And then with the questioning what I believe is that by cultivating the questioning, you’re dissolving the tendency we have to permanentize, by becoming more aware of change."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Examining Experience

Attention in the breathing body, aware of the rising and falling of sensations, feelings, thoughts, memories, impulses, actions... asking of any experience that I seem to grasp at or reject:

Is this experience not changing?

Is this experience not made of up other sensations, feelings, and thoughts?

Is this experience not dependent on many causes and conditions which are coming together and falling apart?

Is this experience in my control?

Is this experience me or mine?

Is this experience ultimately satisfying?

Is this experience worth grasping or rejecting?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Creating A Path

by Stephen Batchelor

"As we learn to play this complex instrument of bones, flesh, nerves, impulses, thoughts, and feelings, we trace a path that weaves its way like a channel through the landscape of our experience. It is guided by an intuitive yearning for what we value most deeply; its space is the openness we are able to tolerate within our hearts and minds; it is sustained by the networks of friendship that inspire us to keep going. The path follows the contours of our life as one day turns into the next. It is found amidst the most mundane of circumstances as well as the most sublime...
To create a path is to become intimate with the space opening up withing, around, and before us. This intimacy comes from the mindful awareness of what is unfolding in our body, feelings, minds, and worlds from moment to moment. We get used to the taste, the feel, the texture of the path. It ceases to be something to which we self-consciously aspire.. When we stray from it, we feel its loss as an act of self-betrayal."

~ Stephen Batchelor, Living With the Devil, p.79-80

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid

by William Stafford

There is a country to cross you will
find in the corner of your eye, in
the quick slip of your foot -- air far
down, a snap that might have caught.
And maybe for you, for me, a high, passing
voice that finds its way by being
afraid. That country is there, for us,
carried as it is crossed. What you fear
will not go away: it will take you into
yourself and bless you and keep you.
That's the world, and we all live there.