Saturday, June 28, 2008

Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh has so many books, I read a few, but then I think I've pretty much seen the scope. But I saw on Marsha Linehan's list of recommended books, one of his books which I hadn't read, and got it: The Miracle of Mindfulness. I would put it amongs the classics of mindfulness: Living With Awareness by Sangharakshita, and Zen Mind, Beginners Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. Shunryu Suzuki is the subject of a new DVD which Bodhipaksa reviews on Wildmind.

It's a beautiful book to savor, reread, meditate on, to try and grok.

spiritual friendship

There's a new essay on Wildmind, on friendship. Justin Whitaker quotes Pema Chodron:

Pema Chödrön puts it well when she writes, “The support that we give each other as practitioners is not the usual kind of samsaric support in which we all join the same team and complain about someone else. It’s more that you’re on your own, completely alone, but it’s helpful to know that there are forty other people who are also going through this all by themselves. That’s very supportive and encouraging. Fundamentally, even though other people can give you support, you do it yourself, and that’s how you grow up in this process, rather than becoming more dependent.”

There's another book review on Wildmind about spiritual friendship as well.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

exploring a website

Somehow I've come across a website called Eco Mall, which I'm going to be exploring, and I'll comment on this post, once I form an opinion on the website.

Keats' Negative Capability

I love tracking down references. In many ways I've heard about Keats' Negative Capability before. He defines the negative capability as, "when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason".


Mindful by Mary Oliver

Every day
I see or hear
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for -
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world -
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant -
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these -
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean's shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

(“Mindful,” by Mary Oliver.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

meditation for children

Emma and William were playing with my meditation cushion. I said, "hey, don't mess up my meditation cushion!"

Emma said, "what is meditation?" She wanted me to teach her.

So I taught her, a childish version of the metta bhavana. William was all over the place, he couldn't stop talking. He wanted to think about dinosaurs instead of a near and dear friend. He was squirmy, he couldn't sit still. Emma made a weird kind of concentration face.

I hope it gave them some kind of taste, I hope I didn't turn them off from meditation. I've got a lot to learn about teaching meditation.

I've also been doing mindfulness and short meditation exercises with my patients in jail, which is quite exciting.

Lute strings, right effort

A while back bodhipaksa blogged that Tiger Woods was the most famous Buddhist. I'd never heard much about him, and I think meditation is a key to it, you can't just have Buddhist parents (Tiger's mother is supposed to be Buddhist), you have to actually do something. Turns out, in a recent article in the NY Times, he experimented in meditation.

Trying to find the post on famous Buddhists, I came across this post about a retreat I missed. Dang. The same psychological criteria I judge other Buddhists by--what are they doing to move towards enlightenment?--I also use to judge myself so, by missing a retreat, I didn't do everything I could do to move towards enlightenment. But maybe not, I can't recall, but perhaps my family needed me. I don't want to create suffering in others by pursuing an individualistic spiritual path. I need patience in moving towards creating better condition. But who knows. I do feel I'm too engaged in the world, I could use less engagement, more meditation.

In a way, I don't really care what defines a Buddhist. If you want to call yourself a Buddhist, by all means go ahead. It puts you into a 0.7% minority in the USA. But more interesting for me is what are the efforts--how much time do you devote to meditation, study, sangha?

I feel pulled by my spiritual life, my work life and my family life (not in that order). There are three great projects in my life. I love my profession, psychotherapist, but I would give that one up first. My family is harder, I was left by my father, and it's probably psychologically impossible for me to leave my kids. That means it's not till they go off to college (gosh I hope they choose that route) that I'll be able to devote myself more to the path.

I consistent get the feedback, that I need to accept reality, to meditate, puja, study, hang out with sangha, develop spiritual friendships when I can. A key teaching is accepting reality as it is. We are like little children who don't get our way and don't accept reality. I am like a little child, I want things somehow different.

The Buddha had a nice metaphors. He suggested you make your effort the way you tune lute strings--not too tight, not too loose. Right Effort is one of the stages of the 8 Fold Path, it was that important. There were times when I have been too rigid in my insistence on meditating when I really should have slept.

I slept in this morning and I didn't like it, but I was tired. I'm a big fan of the sleep cycle--go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Doesn't happen so easily with children. Some times there are no easy solutions. I struggle to do as much as I want to do things that I think will help me on the path. In reality though, thinking about others isn't opposed to the path. Hard decisions are not opposite to the path. Trying to raise above and seeing the larger picture, non-dualistically.

When I look up non-dualistically on Google, I came across an interest site. Turns out Tim Allen has a discussion site, that discussed it.

But I digress. Right effort is part of my practice. I like to "go for it", and "put the pedal to the metal", which is from Smokey and the Bandit, where you press the accelerator all the way down to the floor in the car. It's a bit extreme. Keeping a sustained effort is also part of the journey. I've run marathons and I think I have some endurance as well. Patient is also part of my practice. I've been thinking a lot about the suggestion of my friend that that may be my practice that I can do. It's absurd to focus on what I can't do.

If you've read all this, I appreciate your interest in my meanderings. Writing about what I'm thinking helps me to clarify my thinking, reminds me of what is important. I don't know how to end this bit here, so I'll just have to end it.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

4 mindfulness & patience +

Some recent elements of my practice have included the Song of Four Mindfulnesses by Tsongkhapa

Another element is the perfection of patience.

I've been reading Touching Enlightenment by Reginald Ray, who has an organization called Dharma Ocean.

I reserve a new book for when I wake up, I'm at my most lucid and receptive. Then there are moments in my day when I snatch some reading. I've been rereading Nonviolent communication by Marshall Rosenberg at the park with the boys. The Wikipedia article on NVC notes that it's written like an advertisement.