Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Stages of Gratitude by Gregg Krech

Stages of Gratitude 

by Gregg Krech

from the Thirty Thousand Days website

Many of us wish to be conscious of how our lives are blessed. We don’t want to be stuck in a complaint-based life. We want to be grateful. Yet we constantly regress to a state of mind where we focus primarily on our problems and complain about how hard and unfair life is. Our state of mind (and spirit) is a roller coaster, going up and down between feeling grateful and sinking into despair or resentment. The following stages may reflect where you are at any given moment. We don’t “attain” some higher stage and remain there. Instead we can develop the capacity to notice where we are and step back and simply reflect on ourselves and our lives. A moment of gratitude is also a moment of grace!

Even though I am supported and cared for by others, I have no awareness of it and I spend most of the time complaining.

I am somewhat aware of the care and support I receive, but I feel I deserve it and spend much of the time complaining.

When something unexpected is done for me, or given to me, I am grateful, but I take most things for granted and complain quite a bit.

I am frequently aware of how fortunate I am but I feel I’ve worked very hard to get here and do a lot for others. I often complain when things don’t go my way.

I am aware, almost daily, of how I’m consistently supported and cared for by others and that I don’t give back nearly as much as I receive. I know I shouldn’t complain, but I do anyway.

I am aware on a daily basis of how much I receive from others and how little I give back in return. I have a growing awareness of my tendency to be focused on myself and I’m conscious of the problems and difficulties I consistently cause others. I feel both grateful and guilty. Given all this, I’m amazed that I still complain so much.

I’m aware each day of how much I receive from others and how little I give. I make an effort to give more to others as a result. My life is blessed and I clearly don’t deserve what I have. Whatever I have accomplished was only done with the support of others. No matter what, I still cause troubles and inconvenience to others, the awareness of which humbles me and makes me less judgmental of others. When I forget all this, I still complain.

from the Thirty Thousand Days website

= = =

Monday, November 25, 2013

Time is a passing illusion

Never to arrive, never to return, precious opportunity... Do not waste this passing illusion...


The spirit of awakening is the antidote to ignoring, passivity, and automatic routines.

Renunciation and restraint are the antidotes to harmful impulses.

Body-grounded awareness is the antidote to wandering in thoughts and emotions.

Stable attention is the antidote to reactivity.

Seeing clearly is the antidote to delusions of permanence and solidity.

Undistracted non-reactive presence is the antidote to willful manipulation.

Equanimity is the antidote to grasping and rejecting.

Kindness, compassion, and sympathetic joy are the antidotes to fearful self-centeredness.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Drop Off Your Skin, Accept Your Function

Hongzhi says: 

In daytime the sun, at night the moon, each in turn does not blind the other. This is how a patch-robed monk steadily practices, naturally without edges or seams. To gain such steadiness you must completely withdraw from the invisible pounding and weaving of your ingrained ideas. If you want to be rid of this invisible [turmoil], you must just sit through it and let go of everything. Attain fulfillment and illuminate thoroughly, light and shadow altogether forgotten. Drop off your own skin, and the sense-dusts will be fully purified, the eye readily discerning the brightness. Accept your function and be wholly satisfied. In the entire place you are not restricted; the whole time you still mutually respond. Right in light there is darkness; right in the darkness there is light. A solitary boat carries the moon; at night it lodges amid the reed flowers, gently swaying in total brilliance.

~ Cultivating the Empty Field

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Five ways to practice with self-other

Pick the experience of being "the odd one out" (or the experience of being "the one who fits right in"). See if you can rest in this experience for a few breaths, for a few moments, for a few minutes. Use the breathing body as an anchor to help you remain centered and grounded as the experience unfolds.

See how the experience is a actually a bundle of intertwined sensations, feelings, thoughts, impulses, and behaviors, coming and going, appearing and disappearing, ever changing. See how sensations and feelings and stories and impulses arise together, triggering and depending on and supporting each other. This is the nature of what we call "an experience."

Now rest in the experience and recognize its nature at the same time. Rest in the recognizing.

Consider the possibility that the experiences of "odd man out" and "fits right in" are common human experiences -- maybe even universal. Acknowledge the struggle and suffering that come out of these two experiences for you, for others, for groups, for humans as a whole. Open to our common struggle and suffering, gradually forming the intention not to act out or exacerbate these human tendencies. Consider the possibility that your willing tolerance of these difficult experiences, and your capacity to see the true nature of them, might actually save others a little trouble.

As you build the capacities to do these practices, try deliberately adopting the role of "odd one out" or "fits right in" for an hour or a day. Just adopt the view that this is who you are. Without anyone else even noticing, go through your day being in that role. Don't act it out. Adopt the persona to see how it colors your perception of the world. Do this as a secret practice to sharpen your insight and test your capacity to transform your experience of yourself, of others, and of the world.

Dedicate your effort and any benefits to the freedom, peace, and happiness of all living beings.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

We are but whirlpools

"We are but whirlpools in a river of everflowing water. We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves." (Norbert Wiener, Human Use of Human Beings, p.130).

Some patterns lead to suffering, some to happiness and balance. Take care. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Compassion, opening, integrating, responding

Compassion the purpose and heart of practice, with insight and clarity as methods and tools for seeing how my experience and the world around me are connected and interdependent.

Rather than focusing or generating special states or attacking patterns in an attempt to get rid of them, softening and opening to the reality I'm experiencing. Bringing together the sensations, feelings, stories, and behaviors that arise: integrating, healing, whole-ing.

Taking responsibility, cultivating response-ability: responding to suffering, rather than trying to fix a problem or save the world.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

When craving becomes grasping

By all means, honor your heart's aspirations and let them form deep intentions. But when craving becomes grasping, suffering surely follows.

Time is a river, a tiger, a fire

Our destiny is not frightful by being unreal; it is frightful because it is irreversible and iron-clad. Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.” 

~ from A New Refutation of Time by Jorge Luis Borges

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Without complete understanding

We can love completely without complete understanding...

~ A River Runs Through It

Wear the teachings

Vast is the robe of liberation, 
a formless field of benefaction. 
I wear the Buddha's teachings, 
caring for all sentient beings

~ Dogen Zenji 

Monday, September 2, 2013

The universal host

Invite open awareness of the totality, the universe of experience: no picking and choosing, no ignoring, no indifference.

Regard yourself as the host of everything and everyone that appears: you don't control what happens but you have infinite space, infinite resources, and infinite rights, skills, and interests.

Exclude no one who shows up; everyone is your guest: acknowledge their arrival, invite them in with utter enthusiasm, serve them whatever they need, introduce them to the other guests, and enjoy their presence.

Act directly, freely, and quickly in response to whatever arises, without hesitation or calculation: you don't control the consequences of your actions, but you are infinitely responsive, you have unlimited capacity, free of fear, with nothing to defend.

Accept all consequences and conditions, favorable or unfavorable, as equally appropriate and fitting: every situation is auspicious.

Stability: awareness is open, unbounded, without distraction or dullness.

Clarity: perception is vividly clear, making the finest distinctions in each thing and situation.

Knowing: directly sees how everything inside and outside is equally empty, vivid, pure, and unceasing.

Effective: responses are direct, free, without hesitation or conflict.

Union: these four aspects of awareness~compassion arise together, inseparable, spontaneous, complete.

"Free of fear" means fear is no obstacle to knowing and effective action: thoughts and emotions arise empty, pure, vivid, and transparent, like a rainbow, like a storm, like a magic show.

Vajrayana practice and activity does not cancel out the other levels. Hinayana means purifying behavior and doing no harm. Mahayana means purifying intention and doing good. Vajrayana means purifying perception and enjoying. The ability to keep all three vows is power. Power is linked with joy. Joy is unconditional gratitude.

Dedicate every effort and every benefit to the well-being of all. Sarva mangalam.


Dedicating virtue and merit to sentient beings

Throughout my many lives and until this moment,
whatever virtue I have accomplished,
including the merit generated by this practice,
and all that I will ever attain,
this I offer for the welfare of sentient beings.

May sickness, war, famine, and suffering
be decreased for every being,
while their wisdom and compassion
increase in this and every future life.

May I clearly perceive all experiences
to be as insubstantial as the dream fabric of the night
and instantly awaken to perceive the pure wisdom display
in the arising of every phenomenon.

May I quickly attain enlightenment
in order to work ceaselessly
for the liberation of all sentient beings.

~ from a Red Tara dedication by Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Seems to me when we're overwhelmed by circumstances, and our physical and / or mental health are stressed, we can respond on several levels:

  • Stay gently grounded in the body; disengaging physically can trigger a racing mind or conflicted heart. Just gently and naturally drop back into awareness of the body as often as possible.
  • Exercise, eat well, and make time and conducive conditions for healthy sleep.
  • Engage the best medical and natural healing treatments, without expecting magic or miracles.
  • Seek the ongoing support of genuine friends; tell them you are having a difficult time and that you appreciate their understanding and would like their support.
  • Call on spiritual, emotional, or physical energies of the universe that you long for and sense would be helpful to you. The heart-felt, wordless, intuitive calling out is itself the practice. 
  • Regard gratitude, hope, love, and awe as practices, as seeds that have manifold practical results. Invite them to arise, and notice when they do, and appreciate their power.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Thomas Merton on silence and poverty

"When I am liberated by silence, when I am no longer involved in the measurement of life, but in the living of it, I can discover a form of prayer in which there is effectively, no distraction. My whole life becomes a prayer. My whole silence is full of prayer. The world of silence in which I am immersed contributes to my prayer.

"The unity which is the work of poverty in solitude draws together all the wounds of the soul and closes them. As long as we remain poor, as long as we are empty and interested in nothing but God, we cannot be distracted. For our very poverty prevents us from being "pulled apart" (dis-tracted).

"If the light that is in thee be darkness... 

"Suppose that my "poverty" be a secret hunger for spiritual riches: suppose that by pretending to empty myself, pretending to be silent, I am really trying to cajole God into enriching me with some experience -- what then? Then everything becomes a distraction. All created things interfere with my quest for some special experience. I must shut them out, or they will tear me apart. What is worse -- I myself am a distraction. But, unhappiest thing of all -- if my prayer is centered in myself, if it seeks only an enrichment of my own self, my prayer itself will be my greatest potential distraction. Full of my own curiosity, I have eaten of the tree of Knowledge and torn myself away from myself and from God. I am left rich and alone and nothing can assuage my hunger: everything I touch turns into a distraction. 

"Let me seek, then, the gift of silence, and poverty, and solitude, where everything I touch is turned into prayer: where the sky is my prayer, the birds are my prayer, the wind in the trees is my prayer, for God is all in all. 

"For this to be so I must be really poor. I must seek nothing: but I must be most content with whatever I have from God. True poverty is that of the beggar who is glad to receive alms from anyone, but especially from God. False poverty is that of a man who pretends to have the self-sufficiency of an angel. True poverty, then, is a receiving and giving of thanks, only keeping what we need to consume. False poverty pretends not to need, pretends not to ask, strives to seek everything and refused gratitude for anything at all. 

"Far from ruining the purity of solitary prayer, petition guards and preserves that purity. The solitary, more than anyone else, is always aware of his poverty and of his needs before God. Since he depends directly on God for everything material and spiritual, he has to ask for everything. His prayer is an expression of his poverty. Petition, for him, can hardly become a mere formality, a concession to human custom, as if he did not need God in everything. The solitary, being a man of prayer will come to know God by knowing that his prayer is always answered... Gratitude is therefore the heart of the solitary life, as it is the heart of the Christian life."

~ Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Positive attention is the secret formula

"[L]earning to pay positive attention is the secret formula of almost all mature religion. Any ideological, angry, or fear-based process will only reinforce the False Self. The ego always has an opportunistic agenda. The soul has no agenda whatsoever except to see what is -- as it is -- and then let it teach you."
~ Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond, p.16

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Encountering Grief

May I be open to the pain of grief.

May I find the inner resources to be present for my sorrow.

May I accept my sadness, knowing I am not my sadness.

May I accept my own and others’ anger, fear, anxiety, and sorrow, [knowing that our hearts are not limited by these feelings].

May I accept my grief, knowing it does not make me bad or wrong.

May I forgive myself for not meeting my loved one’s needs.

May I forgive myself for mistakes made and things left undone.

May I be open with myself and others about my experience of suffering and loss.

May I find peace and strength that I may use my resources to help others.

May all those who grieve be released from their sorrow.

(from Joan Halifax, Being With Dying)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Straying is easy

from Tsele Natsok Rangdrol:

"Resting one’s mind without fabrication is considered the single key point of the realization of all the countless profound and extensive oral instructions in meditation practice such as Mahamudra, Dzogchen, Lamdrey, Cho, Zhije and so forth. The oral instructions appear in various modes due to the differences in ways of human understanding.

Some meditators regard meditation practice as simply a thought-free state of mind in which all gross and subtle perceptions of the six senses have ceased. This is called straying into a dull state of shamatha.

Some presume stable meditation to be a state of neutral dullness not embraced by mindfulness.

Some regard meditation as complete clarity, smooth bliss or utter voidness and cling to those experiences.

Some chop their meditation into fragments, believing the objective of meditation to be a vacant state of mind between the cessation of one thought and the arising of the next.

Some hold on to such thoughts as, "The mind-nature is dharmakaya! It is empty! It cannot be grasped!" To think, "Everything is devoid of true existence! It is like a magical illusion! It is like space!" and to regard that as the meditation state is to have fallen into the extreme of intellectual assumption.

Some people claim that whatever is thought or whatever occurs is of the nature of meditation. They stray into craziness by falling under the power of ordinary thinking.

Most others regard thinking as a defect and inhibit it. They believe in resting in meditation after controlling what is being thought and tie themselves up in fixated mindfulness or an ascetic state of mind.

In short, the mind may be still, in turmoil as thoughts and disturbing emotions, or tranquil in any of the experiences of bliss, clarity, and nonthought. Knowing how to sustain the spontaneity of innate naturalness directly in whatever occurs, without having to fabricate, reject or change anything is extremely rare."

~ Tsele Natsok Rangdrol, Lamp of Mahamudra

Thursday, July 11, 2013

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.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Empty arisings

Just like a reflection in a mirror,
I understand that the nature of appearances is empty.
Just like seeing some spectacle displayed in a dream,
I understand that the nature of being empty is to appear.

~ from The Great Melody of Experience by Drakpa Gyaltsen (in: Straight from the Heart)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dealing with fear

"Dealing with fear is the central moral question we have to deal with. If you think of moral questions as not being about principles but more [about] moral sentiment... in other words...
How do I live with empathy as opposed to alienation?
How do I live with a sense of my own value as opposed to a feeling of deficiency?
How do I live n a spirit of hope instead of fear?
How to be in the world and capable of moral engagement with other human beings..."

~ Marshall Gans interview with Bill Moyers, aired on PBS on May 1, 2013

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The basis of them all

Awareness leads to wisdom, understanding the nature of things. Compassion/kindness leads to the embracing and integrating of everything.

Bodhicitta is the aspiration and intention of awareness and compassion.

Shamatha is calmly abiding in whatever arises with awareness and compassion.

Vipashyana is seeing clearly the nature of things (and, hopefully, naturally responding from and with compassion).

The immeasurables are kindness, compassion, joy, and clarity~equanimity.

Yidam is the recognition of and identification with awareness and compassion.

Qigong (whether externally with limbs or internally with intention) is moving bio-energy with awareness and compassion.

Awareness and compassion are the basis of every practice.

Friday, May 31, 2013


Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.

~ Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, May 24, 2013

Everything matters

We overestimate our control and underestimate our influence.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Amazing how little I know

Amazing how much time and energy I spend defining and defending my self, when I know so little about it.
So much illusion and fear and false hope and emotion I carry! How things are not what they appear to be... How my illusions prevent even personal happiness...

Friday, May 3, 2013

At the center of life

The essential life-giving vitality of land and community. The good of praying and acting in support of those protecting them. Nothing is more important.

Compensating for illusion

"The danger of [an illusion], because there's nothing there, is to overreact -- to that which isn't there. You're compensating for its absence."

~ Ben Kingsley, in an interview in the Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2013

Kindness and sorrow

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing

~ from "Kindness" by Naomi Shihab Nye

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Four Immeasurables

Also known as the brahma-viharas: kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity.
  • Friendliness toward oneself and others, wishing well: safety, health, success, happiness, peace. 
  • Empathy for pain and suffering, and wishing oneself and others be free of it.
  • Appreciating the good in the world, rejoicing in happiness and success, one’s own and others’.
  • Clear and balanced in pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral experience, with friends, strangers, and enemies.
The bliss and stillness of stable attention (shamatha) and the clarity of insight (vipsahyana) are compelling, and extraordinarily helpful. But without doubt caring for others and appreciating the good also lead to the deepest insight, happiness, peace, and freedom.

HERE is a traditional method for cultivating the four immeasurables. And HERE is a one-page version.

Enjoy, with gentle persistence...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Integrating the flow

Gentle, accommodating, integrating awareness, grounded in the body... just noticing what you notice. No need to edit, filter, or rearrange... just catching glimpses of how your actual experience arises as a flowing changing mix of sensations, feelings, thoughts, stories, impulses, and behaviors. Trusting awareness... trusting the flow of experience... 

"No one steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and they are not the same person." 
~ Heraclitis

Potential and power

Inwardly alert, open, calm

Outwardly upright, extended, filled with spirit

This is the foundation of [potential]

Add the hard and soft

        the [dynamic] and the relaxed

        motion and stillness

        contraction and extension

In the instant these converge there is power

~ Grand Master Wang Xiang Zhai

Friday, April 19, 2013

Psychology, politics

Meditation practice deconstructs dysfunctional psychological structures and behavioral patterns.

Activist practice deconstructs dysfunctional social and political structures and institutional patterns.

Meditation and activism at first they seem separate, even conflicting, but they are complementary -- intertwined and mutually supporting.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Rising or Entering?

We cannot transcend emotions or our humanity. We can transform our conflict with our humanity, to become more human, completely human, by entering our experience more fully. To do so takes a heart willing to engage the ceaseless transformation of things, one of which is ourselves ~ a ceaseless flow of experience arising.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Good news

What appears to be permanent is always changing.
What appears to be separate is intimately connected.
Know that ~ and what appears confined is freed,
and what arises as suffering becomes peace and joy.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Both And

The Lankavatara Sutra says:  Samsara is like an illusion or a dream ~ and karma is relentless.

Monday, April 8, 2013


Principles from the Metta Center for Nonviolence (

Fight injustice, not people. Everyone deserves respect; the point is not to “win,” but to build relationships.

Nonviolence will always improve things down the line; violence—of any kind—will always make them worse.

Basic human needs are universal; at the root of every conflict a “win-win” solution is possible.

Each of us has a piece of the truth, none of us has the whole truth.

Never show disrespect to another’s person—or accept it yourself. Nobody can degrade you without your permission.

The willingness to take on suffering rather than inflict it and relentless persistence in a right cause bring out the power of nonviolence.

Nonviolence has two modes: in obstructive program we stand in the way of wrongdoing—in constructive program we lead the way in creating solutions.

Never give up on another human being. If you assume people are rational, it helps to awaken their rationality.

Cling to essentials (like your human dignity); be willing to compromise on anything else (especially if it’s just a symbol).

Do not yield to threats. Ask yourself: “What are they holding over me?” Renounce that, and you are free.

When nonviolence succeeds there are no losers; gloating over “victories” can actually undo what we have gained by nonviolent action.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Light, Space, Flow

Space opens up when we recognize that things are not permanent or solid or fixed.

Compassion remembers the suffering that comes from not recognizing.

The light of awareness and the light of compassion are the same light.

Seeing that things are empty of permanence and solidity, compassion arises.

With compassion for oneself and others, insight arises.

Gaining confidence in compassion and awareness, faith arises: all experience is flowing and flexible, an unceasing interaction between beings inherently sensitive and responsive.

Insight and Compassion

Perceptions, which never existed in themselves, are mistaken for objects; 
Awareness itself, because of ignorance, is mistaken for a self; 
Through the power of dualistic fixation I wander in the realm of existence. 
May ignorance and confusion be completely resolved. 
~ Rangjung Dorje, Aspirations for Mahamudra (trans. Ken McLeod)

When we know the actual nature of what's arising, we can make choices that lead to freedom and happiness rather than choices that lead to struggle and suffering.

We look into what’s arising and we see that it’s actually just a flow of passing sensations, feelings, stories, and actions. What appear to be “real objects” are actually just "external" sense perceptions. What appear to be “real emotions” and “true thoughts” are just "internal" experiences. 

When you can relax and settle into the unceasing flow of sensations, feelings, and stories, then try looking into what experiences. Look at a sensation or a feeling or a thought. Then look at what experiences that sensation, feeling, or thought. 

"What is aware" is actually just another experience. We habitually mistake awareness for a self, but it turns out to be a compelling combination of sensations, feelings, and stories. 

The "self" is empty of permanence and solidity. The “self” is also empty of separateness: it always arises in the context of a situation, in interaction with an “object” or another "self." 

Is this not true? Don’t just analyze or try to determine whether these are logical statements. Test again and again how your experience actually arises. Be sure, in your own direct experience. 

Our senses of self come and go, depending on the situation or role we’re in. We walk into work and become a colleague or employee. We get together with friends and become another particular self. We interact with family and another self arises -- a father or mother or son or daughter or sibling. 

We habitually mistake the passing experience(s) of "self" for something solid, some thing that needs to be defined and defended. Lots of suffering there. 

When we really see and understand the nature of suffering, how it arises from confusion and clinging and aversion, we care about what happens. In insight practice we are not trying to generate a particular sensation or feeling or thought; we are trying to see clearly (vipashyana), to know the actual nature of all experiences, so that we can free ourselves from the confusion, attachment, and aversion that create so much suffering for ourselves and others. 

Of course if we don’t notice the suffering, or we don’t care about it, we may not have the incentive to look deeply. So alongside insight practice is the equally (or more) important practice of interacting with others in the world: the practice of kindness, compassion, generosity, ethics. Insight leads to compassion. Compassion leads to insight. 

Neither insight nor compassion are complete unless the other arises. If we focus exclusively on compassion, we may take things too seriously and end up embroiled in trying to save or fix the world. If we focus exclusively on insight, we can take things too seriously and end up lost in a tangle of thoughts, or pursue special states of mind. Better to practice insight with the motivation of compassion, and practice compassion with clarity of insight.

Sunday, March 31, 2013


"It's easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled."

~ Mark Twain

Especially when they have fooled themselves.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Bugs in A Bowl

by David Budbill

Han-shan, that great and crazy, wonder-filled
Chinese poet of a thousand years ago, said:
We’re just like bugs in a bowl. All day
going around never leaving their bowl
I say: That’s right! Every day climbing up
the steep sides, sliding back.
Over and over again. Around and around.
Up and back down.
Sit in the bottom of the bowl, head in your hands,
cry, moan, feel sorry for your self.
Or. Look around. See your fellow bugs.
Walk around.
Say, Hey, how you doin’?
Say, Nice bowl!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Things Keep Happening

Many come to Buddhism because they’re suffering. Aversion to what we don't like is natural. But when we hear that “everything is empty” we shouldn’t imagine we can somehow look at things or think about things or experience things in a way that will make what we don't like disappear.

In the Theravada tradition, it’s said that every thing is empty of permanence and separateness; and if we don’t recognize that, we suffer. That means every thing arises temporarily and interdependently, and if we work with that impermanence and interdependence, we don’t struggle.

In the Tibetan traditions of mahamudra (great seal) and dzogchen (great completion) it’s taught that while everything is empty (of permanence and independence), things do arise -- clearly, vividly, unceasingly. And that’s true, right? Internal experience and external phenomena do continue to arise vividly, whether or not we recognize that what arises is empty of permanence and independence. When we don’t recognize the nature of what arises, we struggle and suffer. When we do recognize the nature of what arises, we work within impermanence (change!) and interdependence (influence!), and we get along with a minimum of confusion and struggle.

When we recognize that everything is impermanent and interdependent, we come to appreciate the power of confusion (it makes us struggle and suffer) and of clarity (it releases us from struggle and suffering). We begin to unravel and let go of our habits of confusion and reaction, and we can give others a little more space to unravel their habits too.

Even our sense(s) of self are impermanent and dependent. We walk into the office and become an employee or a colleague. We walk into the mall and become a customer buying stuff. We walk into the house and become a spouse or parent or child. We run into a relative or old school mate and childhood patterns immediately arise. When we recognize that selves always arise in relation to others, we are freed of at least some of the confusion and clinging that lead to conflict and suffering.

So there’s no such a thing as Emptiness. There is an experience when we see that things actually lack the apparent characteristics  (permanence, independence, ultimate satisfaction) that we had projected upon them. That experience can at first be shocking, dismaying, disillusioning -- but in world of change and interdependence, there is a previously unimagined freedom and flexibility. Like all experiences, this freedom is also dependent on conditions, at least in the beginning. The experience of freedom depends on paying attention and being willing to drop the self-defining and self-defending that lead to struggle and suffering.

Recognizing that things are empty of permanence and independence is a good thing. Just don’t pretend that experience and things don’t arise and don’t matter! And don’t go looking for a thing called Emptiness. Nagarjuna said those who believe in the apparent solid, separate existence of things are stupid, like cows, but those who believe in Emptiness are even stupider. Don't get tangled up trying to find Emptiness, or trying to get rid of anything. Just keep testing your everyday experience: Is there any experience or object that is permanent? Or independent of causes and conditions? Be sure... because confusion about that is the cause of all sorts of trouble.

Things are empty of permanence and solidity; we are free.
Things are interdependent; we are not in control.
Suffering arises; we are responsible.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Three Marks Again

Things are empty of permanence and solidity; we are free.

Things are interdependent; we are not in control.

Suffering arises; we are responsible.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Perhaps by Shu Ting

Perhaps our cares
    will never have readers
Perhaps the journey that was wrong from the start
    will be wrong at the end
Perhaps every single lamp we have lit
    will be blown out by the gale
Perhaps when we have burned out our lives to lighten the darkness
    there will be no warming fire at our sides.

Perhaps where all the tears have flowed
    the soil will be richer
Perhaps when we sing of the sun
    the sun will sing of us
Perhaps as the weight on our shoulders grows heavier
    our faith will be more lofty
Perhaps we should shout about suffering as a whole
    but keep silent over personal grief.

Because of an irresistible call
We have no other choice.

Translated by WJF Jenner.

From Wikipedia:
Shu Ting (Chinese: 舒婷, pinyin: Shū Tíng, born 1952 Jinjiang, Fujian) is the pseudonym of Gong Peiyu (Chinese: 龔佩瑜, pinyin: Gǒng Pèiyú), a Chinese poet. During the Cultural Revolution, she was sent to the countryside, (because her father was accused of ideological nonconformity), until 1973. Back in Fujian, she had to work at a cement factory, a textile mill, and a lightbulb factory. She began to write poetry in 1969 and her work was published in several literary magazines. Her poetry began to appear in the underground literary magazine Jīntiān (Today). In the early 1980s, she achieved prominence as the leading female representative of the Misty Poets. Her first collection, Shuangwei chuan appeared in 1982, as did a joint-collection with Gu Cheng. She was asked to join the official Chinese Writers' Association, and won the National Outstanding Poetry Award in 1981 and 1983. During the "anti-spiritual pollution" movement that was launched in 1983, she, like other writers that were thought to be subversive by the state, was heavily criticised. Following this she published two collections with poetry: Hui changge de yiweihua and Shizuniao.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sonnet by Feng Chih

We stand together on top of a towering mountain
Transforming ourselves into the immense sweep of view,
Into the unlimited plain in front of us,
And into the footpaths crisscrossing the plain.

Which road, which river is unconnected, and
Which wind, which cloud is without its response?
The waters and hills we've traversed
Have all been merged in our lives.

Our births, our growth, and our sorrows
Are the lone pine standing on a mountain,
Are the dense fog blanketing a city.

We follow the blowing wind and the flowing water
To become the crisscrossing paths on the plain,
To become the lives of the travelers on the paths.

Translated by Kai-yu Hsu.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


When my head is a turmoil of trivia
   I vow with all beings
to relax in good-humored patience
as I would with a mischievous child.

~ Robert Aitken, The Dragon Who Never Sleeps

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Gong of Time by Carl Sandberg

Time says hush.
By the gong of time you live.
Listen and you hear time saying you were silent
long before you came to life and you will
again be silent long after you leave it,
why not be a little silent now?
Hush yourself, noisy little man.

Time hushes all.
The gong of time rang for you to come out of a
hush and you were born.
The gong of time will ring for you to go back to
the same hush you came from.
Winners and losers, the weak and the strong, those
who say little and try to say it well, and
those who babble and prattle their lives away,
Time hushes all.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Giving up means remaining

Giving up attachment to the world does not mean that you set yourself apart from it. Generating a desire for others to be happy increases your humanity. As you become less attached to the world, you become more humane. As the very purpose of spiritual practice is to help others, you must remain in society.

~ Dalai Lama 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Simple insight practice

Look at any experience as it arises, whether it's an "internal" sensation, feeling, or thought, or an "external" object. Just look into it, and recognize it as a sensation, feeling, thought, or perception. 

Then look at what is aware of that experience. Just look into the awareness, recognizing it as awareness. 

Try going back and forth, from the experience to the awareness, back and forth, with curiosity, to know clearly the nature of experience and awareness. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Give happenings time...

"Don't rush to finish.  You don't yet know what this event is for.  Give happenings time to find themselves."

~ from Anne Herbert’s wonderful blog Peace and Love and Noticing the Details

Friday, January 18, 2013


by Czeslaw Milosz

The word Faith means when someone sees
A dew-drop or a floating leaf, and knows
That they are, because they have to be.
And even if you dreamed, or closed your eyes
And wished, the world would still be what it was,
And the leaf would still be carried down the river.

It means that when someone's foot is hurt
By a sharp rock, he also knows that rocks
Are here so they can hurt our feet.
Look, see the long shadow cast by the tree;
And flowers and people throw shadows on the earth:
What has no shadow has no strength to live.

Translated by Robert Hass and Robert Pinsky with Renata Gorczynski

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant.
To enact gratitude is generous and noble.
To live gratitude is to touch heaven.

~ Johannes Gaertner

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Doubt and certainty

While doubt isn't a very pleasant condition, certainty is absurd.

~ Voltaire

Time is passing

“The days and nights are relentlessly passing.
How well am I spending my time?
This should be reflected upon again and again...”

~ The Buddha (Anguttara Nikaya 10.87)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

All, few, none

Love all

Trust a few

Do wrong to none

~ Shakespeare, All's Well That Ends Well