Sunday, May 17, 2015

How do I spiritually bypass?

I've made mistakes in my life, and when I feel bad about myself, I don't think I have the self esteem to look at my mistakes. But any self esteem ebb is never permanent, and underestimating myself isn't permanent either. When my mind allows me, I can reflect in a kind and useful way.

In what ways have I used the "spiritual practice" to avoid growth? Kevin Griffith (One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps) pointed out one, and that's that I don't always talk about what is going on with me with my close ones. I have to have a sense of what I need to talk about. I can't endless hope for an archaeologist to be digging to find them for me. I am that archaeologist.

Mistakes are fruit that helps you see that you're missing something. Wishing things were otherwise just doesn't work. Not allowing yourself to see your shortcomings is a mistake.

On problem with putting the petal to the metal, "going for it", really trying hard, is if you take your foot off the petal and coast. You can try to hard, get exhausted, and coast. That's the whole lute strings lesson. Pressing as much as you can consistently is a skill, not binging in effort, but being consistent day after day.

Spiritual bypassing implies that you've missed something along the way.

Reflecting today I got an appreciation for vigilance and constancy. I think of Charlotte Joko Beck's idea of "nothing special"(Nothing Special). Not getting too excited by the peak meditation experiences, the sangha highs, the pleasures of intellectual discourse. Theoretical pyrotechnics can be pleasing, but do they really help you to be more aware and kind to others? It can be an intoxication of sorts for me. Sangharakshita warns about spiritual indigestion from eating such rich teachings. We have an open source Buddhism now, to some extent, but we need a teacher who points us to the teachings we need at that moment, or we need to just be mindful of this phenomenon, be our own best teacher. My spiritual heroes often had to do so much themselves, there were no good teachers. The Buddha spent time with two teachers whom he learned as much as he could from, and they had very high attainments. It's so amazing that he somehow knew there was more.

I can get through a lot of meditation on the high of thoughts. Other ground me, and help me see when I've walked over towards a ledge. The sense pleasure hinderance of thinking is a real hinderance for me. (Wet cat noses are not too much of a hinderance.)

Another thing that excites me is buildings, real estate, space. Every "for rent" sign I see, I wonder if I could set up a Dharma center. I need to be grounded in reality and know when I am ready for that. The desire to share the dharma outstrips my ability to effectively communicate it, and really embody the teachings. It's my narcissistic grandiosity to think I could do so, but it's always a huge leap to think one could lead, and yet we need leaders in the world. Pointing oneself in a direction is what is needed. You launch yourself out there, and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

I've binged on the teachings, and I'm not doing that any more. I'm digesting them and not projectile vomiting them back out. Patience is required, you can only eat some much. Being in tune with your body helps you to not abuse yourself, to not try too hard. So looking at past mistakes can make you get a sense of progress. I'm no longer doing that any more.

The forever dilemma of a latch key child (me) is wanting more support, and then being too isolated and "independent". Working with others the right amount is a challenge. Even the story that I'm a latch key child is something I can loosen my grip on, that was so long ago. Growing up is such a challenge. I don't like it when people shout "grow up!" at others, but others can be frustrating. Even said gently and sweetly it's not easy to grow up.

I am grateful for the people who care enough to point me in the right direction, even if they have given up on me in the present. Actions from the past linger and nourish one. I think of all the lessons I've learned along the way and I am grateful. Thanks to all my teachers and all my mistakes and all the awareness and self esteem in myself that allows me to recognize and plot a course. I am grateful for catching mistakes, and seeing things I've missed in my attempt to bypass. It teaches me what short cuts don't work. Reading one's actions and not just fickle intensions is important. Seeing oneself clearly can be difficult for different people in different ways. I hope to have the grace to embrace my real journey.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

perceptual healing

The Fruitful Darkness: A Journey Through Buddhist Practice and Tribal Wisdom is like a sutra to me.

Last time I thought a book could be a future sutra was when I was reading The Essential Sangharakshita: A Half-Century of Writings from the Founder of the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order.

Halifax has so many interesting concepts that you just don't hear every day. Or I don't anyway. "Perceptual healing" made me think how when I meditate a lot, my smelling comes back. I think smell is a sense I sacrifice to cope with the onslaught of input. There are so many unpleasant smells in the city. I used to pride myself that I could work with smelly clients because it didn't bother me so much.

Fruitful Darkness is so beautiful. It is poetic. I think my eyes and mind gobble up the words hungrily, I have been starved for this kind of thinking, experiences and writing. Halifax is quite the traveler.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

A Zen Life: DVD review

When A Zen Life, came out I asked the Sangha if everyone wanted to pitch in and buy it. Nobody responded to my e-mail. Crickets. Finally got it on Netflix. It's not bad. There are many talking heads and good historical footage, and interesting bits from his history that was filmed, many photos. File under history of Buddhism coming to America. It is How the Swans Came to the Lake type stuff. He really influenced a lot of people, lots of artists and psychotherapists, and if you can imagine a time when it was hard to get information about Buddhism, he was an initial popularizer with over one hundred books in English.

Of course now, there are so many different presentation of Buddhism and Zen, and they can be more precise, or easier to digest, or tied to a movement. I'm not sure how much his books are read these days, but I they aren't things I go back to reread.

The movie has Suzuki as against the war, when we know from Zen at War (2nd Edition) that Suzuki also said things supporting the militarization of Japan. I tend to think that he was probably against the war, but said pro-war things just to get along in that climate, before he felt confident enough express his real opinion. But I could be wrong, and I might be whitewashing it like the film does.

D.T Suzuki was a great writer, and I most appreciate his translation of Lankavatara Sutra: A Mahayana Text (Buddhist Tradition) (Vol 40). I read a lot of his books and got confused while I was in college. But later on when I found a sangha and learned the tradition, Zen makes sense to me. It is a tradition that focuses on the perfection of wisdom aspect of the tradition, and emphasizes meditation. But Suzuki taught at a Shin university for a time, and wrote some books on Shin Buddhism.

He felt at one with nature, and felt he was the trees, experienced satori. I have had that experience, but I also felt I was the wind and the leaves and the trees. It was an amazing experience, and I hope to get back to a place where I can approach that kind of awareness. To be on a retreat for many days after building up to a retreat with lots of meditation and reading and spending time with friends. These peak experiences can't be one's only guide though, you have to keep on plodding along and doing the work even when it isn't glamorous, exciting.

I didn't even really talk about it because I have the two book title slogans rattling around my head: Nothing special and after the ecstasy, the laundry. It's not easy to sustain that kind of awareness for me, and I'm far from that today. Glimpses of what could be can entice one and inspire one, but there is also the dark night of the soul as well, and other times that are not so rewarding. And then life can sweep you up and take you into other areas. Keeping up the circumstances that sustain deeper practice are not that easy in our times.

D.T. Suzuki was someone who wrote books, but did not found a movement. When a friend asked to meditate, he sent him to another friend to teach him meditation. Of all the talking heads in the video only one person asked to meditate with him. My favorite talking head is Snyder. I'm also fascinated by his secretary Mihoko Okamura.

Watching this DVD has been on my list of things to do, and I would urge you my Buddhist friend to put it on your list, if you haven't seen it, even if you're not into Zen, because there are not that many movies about Buddhism. This is an essential one about the history of Buddhism in America. It's on Netflix, so put it towards the top of your queue. There are some used copies on Amazon, but they're pretty expensive. I wouldn't be surprised if this DVD became unavailable soon, life is so transient.

The film also leaves one question (at least). What happened to his son? He adopts a child, and when his wife dies, the movie doesn't follow up and say what happened to him. 

John Cage is interviewed, and I've read a book about how Zen influenced the avant-garde art in America, the name escapes me at the moment.

I would put this movie up there with Crazy Wisdom, about Chogyam Trungpa, who was also a huge chapter in Buddhism coming to America, and early Buddhism in America. Like Trungpa, Suzuki was an imperfect human being, and time has helped us to flesh out the biography and explore the dark sides. Beware the guru that denies the dark side.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

What I'm reading

I finally got around to The Fruitful Darkness: A Journey Through Buddhist Practice and Tribal Wisdom. Halifax combines Buddhism with Shamanism, deep ecology and Jungian dream psychology. I was particularly interested in the concept of world wound.

I'm also reading The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong: The Untold Story of My Struggle for Tibet. This book is the memoir of the brother of the Dali Lama, and fills in the picture more of what happened over there in Tibet.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Book Review: Through The Flames

Through the Flames: Overcoming Disaster Through Compassion, Patience, and Determination is a book in two parts. The first half is about Mr. Lokos' recovery from severe burns in a plane crash, and the second is about the dharma that helped him recover. There is an interesting post script where a nurse tells him him that he is "so kind", which Buddhists will remember Ananada as saying about the Buddha as he passed. Mr. Lokos has a kind of determination and commitment to the Dharma that helps him to organize his experience and chart his course for recovery. He looks at things in the most positive way and keeps his extra stress to a minimum. The extra stress comes from unhelpful stories we tell ourselves. Like putting a second arrow after a first one goes in. He handles  a very challenging recovery very well, and survives despite doctor's predictions that he wouldn't. There is a section where he follows up with his first book, Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living. He sees patience as just not over reacting to things, having the insight to not add on. I have read so many dharma books, but this one doesn't overload me with basic instructions, but is also written in a simple practical way that is not overly complex. I read the book while on a camping trip and quite enjoyed it. Now I need to go and visit the Community Meditation Center, which Lokos founded.