Jamie’s eyes were like pools of blue flame. Her spirit seemed to be trying to burst from her face. There was a natural exuberance and loveliness that manifested practically, and quite successfully, in the world. I loved her, and was jealous of her. We met while she was a student, working on her doctorate. Sarah Barab, a dear friend and wonderful teacher whom I’ve known for years and years introduced us at an event featuring Richard Davidson at the Rubin museum. Jamie was radiant. We were all so excited. The Rubin was buzzing, a gaggle of Ritchie Davidson groupies, like a Buddhist take on seeing Gaga, or Madonna. We made a pact to meet and bring the work of taking a scientific approach to mindfulness practice to the world.
So, we founded the “Living Meditation Project”, and Jamie agreed to co-teach a new group I was calling “dharmajunkies”. On our … Read the rest
The city that loved Lennon came out to commemorate his legacy by creating a human peace sign in central park. John may have died here, but he also lived here and the activity of his heart continues. And people continue to love him, and his ideals. John wasn’t a saint. But neither are we.
He was brave enough to be who he was, and to tell the world what he felt. What we share is a need to live in a world that is safe and sane and our fear that that will never transpire. Our world seems to move simultaneously toward and from an ideal of world peace. There is so much possibility. But there is less time. And even less ozone. The wealth of the world is bound and diverted into inconsequence. The Humanity that each of us is born with, and that is our given birthright, is … Read the rest
Each morning we seem to arise to a pre-scripted litany of complaint. But there is a moment before the deluge, before the bones creak and the muscles scream, before the flood of responsibility strikes like lead clouds pressing down upon us. There is a moment before we drown our fearful footsteps into a cold shower and hot coffee. There is a nano second, a moment, a gap of openness. And through that slight aperture a vast open space is glimpsed and forgotten.
If we had the mental clarity in this moment, we might see our true nature. Open, reliable, awake. In that moment of purity, we are as we are, a warrior without doubt or confusion. We are as we have always been, but have forgotten to be. Throughout our day we have these opportunities to wake up. And, we do. Frustratingly the mind of wakefulness passes by us again … Read the rest
I had my morning tea on the back porch today. I sat, not yet awake, looking at nothing, really. My first conscious thoughts were about feeling tired, which is how I assume waking up feels. Then the weather, which is how I assume my day will feel. As I slowly came to, I noticed the length of the grass in the yard, the tired declining fence, the tangled woods beyond, and the ugly electrical wires on a pole leading back to the house. I was subtly judging, even correcting, things. I was automatically comparing my experience to imaginary circumstances before I had even become conscious. This commentary comprised of almost thoughts, glimpses and suppositions lay barely audible in the background of my experience.
I think we’re all a bit like this. We wake up most days assuming a blanket of unexamined thoughts that stem from dysfunctional character studies in the … Read the rest
Mindfulness is becoming a popular idea. This is mostly a good thing. Mindfulness, as a label, is akin to yoga a decade ago. It has become a buzzword, of sorts, appropriated by many traditions, methods and modalities. I am looking at Mindfulness from the point of view of the Shambhala Tradition, where Mindfulness is a precursor to Awareness. Which is to say, mindfulness is the initial contact we make with an object for the purposes of stabilizing the mind.
Interestingly, mindfulness stems from the same processes as “clinging, grasping, and fixation,” which actually occlude awareness. Mindfulness of a perception leads (ideally) to a greater sense of contextual space (meditative awareness). Grasping an object closes down the space, disabling context and understanding. Although, both of these processes stem from the part of the mind that hold to a perception, mindfulness implies an openness akin to acceptance. Grasping, on the other hand … Read the rest
In contemplative traditions, Mindfulness refers to paying specific attention to a moment, event or object within the context of meditative awareness. “Meditative awareness” differs with each application, but in the Shambhala Tradition, we see mindfulness as enabling “nowness”, or awareness of the environment around the singular moment. Meditation Master Chogyam Trungpa, referred to “Mindfulness / Awareness as a practice that balanced specific attention to a general sense of knowing. The relationship is reflexive. Being present in the general sense allows us to connect more readily to mindfulness, while being specifically mindful allows the mind to relax into awareness. Awareness places mindfulness in a contemplative context. As opposed to simply “paying attention” in the conventional sense, we are retraining the mind to pay attention, and then open to its environment. With mindful awareness we employ precise contact in order to gently relax into awareness, allowing intuition, mental clarity and the environment … Read the rest
Holding On To Letting Go
After a long night, my dying cat left that morning. What made the proceedings more than a personal tragedy, as well as an acute teaching, was the strength with which this little guy held on to life, and then very naturally held on firmly to letting go of that life.
In contrast, I doubted, cried, wrote, and tried to fix any anything I could. I kept trying to make it better, to make it perfect, to have a Buddhist approach, a cat’s approach, the right angle on the madness of dissolution. But, in the end, he did what he needed to do. Death is a natural thing. Its not show biz. It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact its a mess. It always ends strangely with lots of unresolved angles tangled in the web of our need to understand. Unsettled by waves of guilt … Read the rest
AWAKENING NATURAL MIND
In the Shambhala tradition, moments of perception are considered sacred, as they contact us to life as it is. The more we train the mind to rest in its immediate moment to moment experience, the clearer life becomes. The more contact we have to this unfiltered contact to reality, the more stabile the mind becomes. This reassures the more impacted aspects of mind and reduces their need to hijack the moment, and obscure reasoning. The repeated coming back to the breath, frees us from the need to over conceptualize experience, and creates a tactile connection to the earth that enables the mind to settle. As the mind settles, its innate clarity dawns. We rest in our experience and contacting the present more deeply and clearly gain a richer and more rewarding connection to our life.
Mindfulness is the primary tool in creating that connection to present experience.… Read the rest
WAKING UP TO POSSIBILITY.
Meditation Master Chogyam Trungpa would frequently begin talks by saying “Good Morning,” regardless of the time of day, or night. It was not about time. It was about the idea of a fresh start, or clean slate. It was about saying YES to our morning in any state of mind. In the Buddhist Lineage of Shambhala, “the rising sun of the great east” is a central metaphor for waking up. Its not necessarily directionally east, but the idea of contacting the sun in all the freshness of its new ascent.
We can do this at any juncture of our lives, in the gaps and breaks and places that open to empty space. For in the empty spaces we find platforms for a new beginning. Empty space sets the sacred stage of creative impulse.
The midday sun is grand, and the setting sun sad and beautiful, … Read the rest