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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Just What I Needed to Hear

Try to be reasonable in the way you grow, and don't ever think it is too late. It is never too late. Even if you are going to die tomorrow, keep yourself straight and clear and be a happy human being today. If you keep your situation happy day by day, you will eventually reach the greatest happiness of enlightenment.

-Lama Thubten Yeshe, The Bliss of Inner Fire

James's comment: This reminds me of something that I just read in the book, "Transcending the Levels of Consciousness" by the mystic Dr. David R. Hawkins:

Periods of unanticipated difficulty are to be expected that may seem like "setbacks" but mearly mean that some trend (often primarily unconscious) has surfaced for recognition in order to be processed.

James: I think that most of us take ourselves and our spiritual development too seriously. We tend to be waayyyy too hard on ourselves and need to (as Lama Sura Das says), "Give ourselves a break." Perfectionism is a nasty disease that is rampant especially in the west. It has been quite the obstacle for my spiritual development given being raised in an extreme Christian environment that told me that I basically needed to be "perfect" or I would go to "hell." Maybe I misinterpreted that message but never the less it made it's impact on a young and impressionable child.

It also appears out of our society and culture that demands more and more, bigger and better instead of just being satisfied with what we already have and are. We are pushed, driven and brainwashed to constantly live in the ephemeral nature of desire and greed. This is the message of having to be "better then the next person." It is a lie and it is very dangerous to our spiritual development. That is not to say either that we should become lazy and slothful on our path for as you know it comes down to balance and staying on the middle path. And we keep that balance through sticking to our practice of meditation and mindfulnesss. Reading as was talked about in a previous post is not enough. Practice, practice, practice, practice.

-Peace to all beings-

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Two Things: The Dalai Lama and I Heart Huckabees


This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.

-His Holiness the Dalai Lama


James: And these following quotes come from the movie I Heart Huckabees. It's a great movie but there is a little rough language in it. Anyway:

Viviane: I need facts, Bernard, to piece together a theory.

Bernard: No time for infinity? Gotta piece together a theory?

James: Later on:

Bernard: Albert, the universe is an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.

James: Still later on:

Bernard: Say this blanket represents all the matter and energy in the universe, okay? You, me, everything. Nothing has been left out, all right? All the particles, everything.

Albert: What's outside this blanket?

Bernard: More blankets. That's the point.

Albert: Blanket's everything.

Bernard: Exactly. This is everything.

Bernard: (pushes hand up in different places under the blanket) Let's just say that this is me, all right? And I'm, what, 60-odd years old and I'm wearing a gray suit. Blah, blah, blah. And let's say over here, this is you. And, you're... I don't know, you're 21. You got dark hair, etc. And over here, this is Vivian, my wife and colleague. Then over here, this is the Eiffel tower, right? It's Paris. And this is a war. And this is, uh, a museum. And this is a disease. And this is an orgasm. And this is a hamburger.

Albert: Everything is the same even if it's different.

Bernard: Exactly. But our everyday mind forgets this. We think everything is separate. Limited. I'm over here. You're over there. Which is true. But it's not the whole truth because we're all connected. Because we... are connected.

Albert: Sure. Sure. Sure. Sure.

Bernard: Okay?

Albert: Yeah.

Bernard: All right, now, we need to learn...how to see the blanket truth all the time. Right in the everyday stuff. And that's what this is for.

Albert: Why?

Bernard: Why what?

Albert: Why do I need to learn how to see the blanket thing all the time in the everyday stuff?

Bernard: You wouldn't want to miss out on the big picture, would you?

Albert: Uh-uh.

Bernard: That's partly why you're here, right? And this is it. I'm talking about it right now. It will take a while for you to get it, you know? But... it will help you.

Albert: How?

Bernard: When you get the blanket thing you can relax...because everything you could ever want or be, you already have and are. That sound pretty good?

Albert: That sounds very good.

James: Later on:

Bernard: Tommy, Tommy everything is connected and everything matters. There's not an atom in our bodies that has not been forged in the furnace of the sun. Now, isn't that cool? Huh?

Tommy: Yes.

James: Again later:

Bernard: Okay, Albert. I can let youin on a couple of secrets. One, your mind is always occupied on something. Two, there is no such thing as you and me.

Albert: So then there's just nothing?

Bernard: Three, there's no such thing as nothing. There is no remainder in the mathematics of infinity. There's only the blanket.

James: Good stuff. Check the movie out if you havne't already. Like I said there is some rough language but not much and if you like funny, existential stuff then you'll love it. :)

-Peace to all beings-

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Practice, Practice, Practice



The defining characteristic of guarding alertness
In brief is only this:
To examine again and again
The condition of my body and mind.

Therefore I shall put this way of life into actual practice,
For what can be achieved by merely talking about it?
Will a sick man be benefited
Merely by reading the medical texts?

-Santideva, "Bodhicaryavatara"

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Clear Mind, The Moon and Clouds


Clear mind is like the full moon in the sky. Sometimes clouds come and cover it, but the moon is always behind them. Clouds go away, then the moon shines brightly. So don't worry about clear mind: it is always there. When thinking comes, behind it is clear mind. When thinking goes, there is only clear mind. Thinking comes and goes, comes and goes, You must not be attached to the coming or the going.

-Zen Master Seung Sahn
BigHappyBuddha.com

James's comment: It's an issue of balance in all things. Sometimes I only focus on the attachment part and not so much the rejection or judgement of thoughts. I forget the yin and yang nature of existence. In these moments I think that attachment is the bigger issue refusing to acknowledge that aversion is just as bad a problem. I tend to judge too much, criticize and lament over the "blocking clouds" of what I perceive to be "unjust pain and suffering." I go into panic mode when the clouds cover the "clear mind" thinking I have lost it for good because of the blocking clouds and that for made up reason I am a failure for not preventing clouds from blocking the moon!! It is a "God/perfectionist" complex that somehow I can prevent the inevitable. Insanity.

It is also a sort sightedness where I just try to force the "unpleasant" things/clouds out of my thoughts/life. It is in trying to force the clouds to move that they reactively cling to the moon of the clear mind even more and/or more clouds move in to create an even more dense fog!

During these times I forget the idea of impermanence that this will all pass eventually and on its own time and that I should just go with the flow and ride it out. To be patient, breath deeply and remember that clear mind is always there no matter what the "situation" may seem like.

It is easy for me to become swept up in the suffering, cry and pout about the perceived blockage and "unjustice." I forget that suffering is inevitable and that for some reason I am better then everyone else and shouldn't have to "suffer" so much. OUCH!! My instinct is always to fight it and fighting a cloud is a waste of time and mental energy. Better to watch it all unfold and remain neutral and wait for it to pass and remind myself that stability and peace are always there. Even and especially in times when it seems that I have been forgotten and lost.

I hope this rant made sense!

-Peace to all beings-

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Flowers and Weeds

A flower falls, even though we love it; and a weed grows, even though we do not love it.

-Dogen

*Quote from BigHappyBuddha.com

-Peace to all beings-

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Another Day in Paradise


Today is kind of cool and over-cast. A wonderful day to relax, take in the silence and meditate. So I sat down 20 minutes ago to meditate expecting a silent and relaxing sit.

Well, about 1 minute into sitting a car drove by the house at an alarming speed (we live on a busy street) and I found myself annoyed. Then a thought popped into my mind, "I should use the noise of all these passing cars as reminders to breath deeply!" So every time during my meditation that I heard a car wiz past I breathed deeply and sent love and thanks for the driver for allowing me a great opportunity to breath deeply and relax!! It worked so well that I think I am going to incorporate it into my daily sitting practice as I have been frustrated for too long with the "interruption" of these cars in my meditations (as if I expect my meditation to be perfectly silent! That is me trying to refuse the idea of impermanence!! Which is a little like refusing to acknowledge that the sky is blue or that the sun is shining).

I think that I am also going to weave this noisy car reminder into my daily routine as well so as not to be so rattled by the noise. Now everytime I hear ANY noise that use to "annoy" me, (lawn mowers, barking/howling dogs, bass rattling cars, etc.) I am going to use them as reminders to "just breath" and remind myself that all is right with the world no matter what "noise" might be going on.

Then the usual chit-chat of the ego started in. The ego was bored as usual and keep trying to think of all the things that "we" should do later in the day and just be it's usual child-like self. So, instead of trying to just force them out of my mind, I let them in and allowed them some "air time." I'd acknowledge the thought and then said while breathing in, "That may happen" and then breathing out I said, "That may not happen" and you know what? Those "What ifs" just evaporated with my breathing.

I breathed in silence then for about 10 minutes and then a Grackle showed up (and ironically as I type this another one just showed up and is "talking" to me). The Grackle is a form of Black Bird and they have a not so "pleasant" way of singing/talking. They make various noises but none of them could probably be considered "beautiful." The "worst" one is what sounds like a rusty gate swinging loudly in the wind. So instead of getting upset and annoyed I just tried to think of them as no different from the lovely, peaceful songs of the finches. I held them in my concentration and reminded myself that all things are beautiful--even (and especially) the "annoying" and "obnoxious." All are apart of us so for me to be annoyed with the Grackle was to be annoyed at myself!! So I sent the Grackle love and not only did it bring relaxation to my meditation but it also brought love into my heart!! What a blessing these noisy Grackles! They are flying lessons on the true nature of inter-dependency. :) We are not just inter-dependent with the "beautiful" things but also with what the ego deems (and trys to shun) as "ugly" and a "nuisance."

I couldn't (and of course didn't want to) keep the smile from my face from then on as I sat in perfect bliss with the unity of all things. Whether it was the "noisy" cars, the "noisy" Grackles or the "Beautiful" finches. All was "beautifu"l and the true nature of the Self shone through.

I send you all this love and light your way too!! May it find you peaceful and relaxed and if not, may it help to bring you some peace and love back into the chaos.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sidney, Australia

-Peace to all beings-

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Friday, April 14, 2006

Stay Independent and Balanced

The one who wanders independent in the world, free from opinions and viewpoints, does not grasp them and enter into disputations and arguments. As the lotus rises on its stalk unsoiled by the mud and the water, so the wise one speaks of peace and is unstained by the opinions of the world.

-Sutta Nipata

James's comment: This is something that I need to work on. It is easy for me to become stained by the opinions of the world when it comes to politics. I'm very passionate about geo-political issues and sometimes I let the passion get the best of me at the expense of my peace. I will watch myself more carefully and recommit to staying peaceful in the midst of all the political hurricanes that blow through the mind.

-Peace to all beings-

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Sunday Meditation Realizations


Yesterday I was meditating and realized something about karma (at least for me). I learned growing up in an extreme Christian environment that I was a "sinner" and must practice self-flagellation to be humble before God so that I might be forgiven and granted entrance into "Heaven." Now these were the lessons from my "teachers" growing up in that church and not from my parents. My parents taught a softer, more realistic ideal to the true nature of this religion.

Anyway, I have long rejected such concepts but the self-punishment tendancy has remained and thus I have struggled with the idea of karma since I have interpreted it before as being a "punishment." And from my up-bringing I shrink from any kind of concept that hints at being punished for being human.

So during meditation my mind was opened to where I came to realize and understand that karma is a blessing. It is a blessing for several reasons that I am not pointing out here but it is indeed a blessing mainly because it gives us another chance to learn things that we could not grasp in the life that we just left. Allowing us another opportunity to advance forward instead of being condemned to a "Hell" for eternity! Or condemned to an existence in spiritual limbo.

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The next thing that I meditated about was the meditation bell. I sometimes see meditation as having a beginning, a middle and an end. I sometimes then sit and just push through it waiting for the bell to end my "meditation." Not a very productive meditation wouldn't you say? Well, during my meditation yesterday I understood that the bell was not a way to "end" my meditation but rather a blink of an eye that sounds as an invitation to the next period of my day.

One moment softly, silently blended into the next and the next and so forth.

I hope to remind myself of this during future meditation sessions so that I might relax more often instead of sometimes pushing through my meditation just to say that I was a good boy and meditated!

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The third thing that I meditated upon was the deep and undiscriminating, infinite nature of love. I sat and started with seeing love in my family, in my friends, in my religion and all things positive. Then I realized though that love is in not just beautiful things. Love is in and through out everything that exists and does not exist. Love can be found in the homeless, in the worst criminal and in prisons if you're willing to look for it. Love is indeed in everything and everywhere and at any time.

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Well, that is the end of my ramblings. I hope I made some coherent sense in this post. If not then just ignore it and move on. :) These are the musings of an aspirant trying to walk the path and understand the true nature of the Dharma teachings like everyone else. No better or worse then anyone or anything esle.

PHOTO CREDIT

Namaste.

-Peace to all beings-

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Happy Birthday Siddhartha Gautama the Buddha!!



Today is the day that most Buddhists celebrate the birth of the Buddha.

May we rededicate ourselves to following the Dharma and continue to take refuge in the three jewels set forth by Gautama Buddha.

May each breath and step we take be on the 8 fold path so that we might achieve liberation and help others do the same.

Let's ake a moment today to pause and think about how wonderful the Dharma is in our lives and what a precious gift it is to have been born a human and to have found the Dharma. May we not waste a day in maintaining our practice.

-Peace to all beings-

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Friday, April 07, 2006

You'll Never Become Anything Special



No matter how many years you sit doing zazen, you will never become anything special.

-BigHappyBuddha.com

PHOTO CREDIT

-Peace to all beings-

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Existence is a Miraculous and Mysterious Reality

I like to walk alone on country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wondrous earth. In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality.

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child--our own two eyes. All is a miracle.

-Thich Nhat Hanh, "Miracle of Mindfulness"

James's comment: The above quote pretty much says it all. Thay has such a wonderul way to bring it all down to a level that all can understand without confusion. Especially making Buddhist teachings more clear to us in the west.

What a beautiful reminder that we can be in a constant state of meditation and awareness if we take the time to take in the blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child, our own two eyes, the warm sunshine on our face, the breeze flowing through our clothes, the grounding, organic Earth and on and on.

-Peace to all beings-

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