Sunday, October 31, 2010

With Mind and Heart

(While away on women's retreat with Ruth Denison, I decided to lend this blog to some of my favorite  Buddhist women teachers.)

Ayya Khema reminds us to engage with the heart also:  

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ayya Khema's Methods

(While away on women's retreat with Ruth Denison, I decided to lend this blog to some of my favorite  Buddhist women teachers.)

Here is Ayya Khema teaching about meditation methods:

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tenzin Palmo's Buddha Nature

(While away on women's retreat with Ruth Denison, I decided to lend this blog to some of my favorite  Buddhist women teachers.)

Tenzin Palmo talks about mindfulness and Buddha Nature:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hard Times, Ripe Times

(While away on women's retreat with Ruth Denison, I decided to lend this blog to some of my favorite Buddhist women teachers.)

Pema's got it right, as usual:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Jan's Forgiveness Lesson

(While away on women's retreat with Ruth Denison, I decided to lend this blog to some of my favorite  Buddhist women teachers.)

From Jan Chozen Bays, a master lesson on forgiveness:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dipa Ma's Smile

(While away on women's retreat with Ruth Denison, I decided to lend this blog to some of my favorite Buddhist women teachers.)
Here is Dipa Ma doing walking meditation, and smiling:

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Way In

(While away on women's retreat with Ruth Denison, I decided to lend this blog to some of my favorite  Buddhist women teachers.)

Pema Chodron describes what happens when we fall apart, and we are fortunate enough to find our way in:

I have been in that place. Have you?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Toni's Truths

(While away on women's retreat with Ruth Denison, I decided to lend this blog to some of my favorite  Buddhist women teachers.)

Toni Packer is the real thing. Here, teaching about death, enlightenment, and ignorance:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

About Retreats

(While away on women's retreat with Ruth Denison, I decided to lend this blog to some of my favorite  Buddhist women teachers.)

Here is Thubten Chodron, speaking on why retreats are good for practice:

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Way of the Feminine

Tale of a Woman on the Buddha's Path.

I am still processing dream from two nights ago, where I was in South East Asia, playing Cinderella . . . 
On my hand and knees, I am collecting with a small brush the human hair that has collected in a dirty red carpet leading to a business office. The job is tedious and unpleasant, and the brush ridiculously small compared to the amount of work to be done. I don't even have gloves, and have to pull all the hair out of the brush with my bare hands, into a bucket. A man with glasses comes out of the office and warns me that another bigger job awaits the next day, at another location by a large river. 
Being a woman on the Buddha's path is an interesting journey, one of increasing awareness, where the world is viewed under the double lens of the feminine and the Dharma.

It makes one more and more discerning of the wrongful ideas, conventions, and constructs that permeate our patriarchal world. The patriarchy is everywhere, including in Buddhist circles. When I told one of my teachers that I was going away on a retreat with famed rebel, elder, and teacher  Ruth Denison, his answer was, "You are!!! You know she talks all the time . . . " I wondered why so much contempt? Another teacher, a woman and a student of the first teacher, gave me a similar response, almost verbatim. The patriarchy feels threatened by strong women. 

The patriarchy also operates within lay institutions. One such example is in traditional mental healthcare, where the person is viewed as a patient to be fixed, with medications* preferably. The inequality in the doctor-patient relationship is flagrant and keeps striking me during my work as a psychotherapist, where I am often called to work in partnership with psychiatrists who are part of the medical establishment. There is hope however, including from men with a developed sense of the feminine. John Kabat-Zinn, Saki Santorelli in their work with Mindfulness-Based Stress ReductionDr. Allen Power as an advocate for humane dementia care, are example of such men leading the way and  transforming healthcare from the inside out.

Defying my teacher's contempt, I am leaving today for two-week retreat with Ruth Denison in her monastery, in the California desert. With the persons I am privileged to serve in psychotherapy, I continue to be their fierce advocate. I am also eagerly looking forward to bringing our Joy of Caring Mindfulness-Based Dementia Care approach into the mainstream of dementia care training for family and professional care partners. At Zen Hospice, I delight in serving the dying in a way that's in accord with their very needs, not those of a system that would like to deny the reality of death. And in this blog, and at the Huffington Post, I work relentlessly at highlighting some of the insidious thoughts that permeate the patriarchal way of thinking, and introducing a different way of meeting various situations, that is based on authenticity, and human connectedness. 

How do you fit within the patriarchy?

*Not that I am opposed to medications, for there are instances when medications can definitely help!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Disentangling the Tangle.

Uncovering the  Subtleties of Real Forgiveness with Ruth Denison.

In preparation for retreat with Ruth Denison's retreat, I have been rereading her biography, 'Dancing in the Dharma: The Life and Teachings of Ruth Denison'

This particular teaching of Ruth (to Sandy Boucher, her student, and also the author of Ruth's biography), on forgiveness, really resonates with me:
You know, forgiving, you have to understand what it means. It means you don't carry your pain around, your aversion against. Your disapproval, you don't carry that around anymore . . . One big rule in the Buddhist Dharma is to not take the feelings as your guideline. They are coming from 'I', what 'I' like. They go along what the ego says. And that is the danger . . . You cannot go to your feelings. Feelings are the turning point. In the twelve links, first comes this this this this, rebirth consciousness, contact then with the object of the experiences of consciousness, then comes 'feeling', Number Seven. And if you don't catch it there you go into craving: liking, wanting, and craving. And in this case it is, 'My feelings say this, I now go along with my feelings for what is pleasant in this way, for what isn't bothersome.' . . . 
Now if you really want to let go, you make an act where you see yourself taking it up as a challenge, for your breaking through this resistance, or this kind of holding, clinging to my feeling . . . I give you in Buddha's words, 'Cling not to well-being. In pain are you not perturbed, even-minded in all chances, that is the task.' Equanimity. Equanimity is the second wing of enlightenment. The other one is wisdom. And equanimity means actually on the higher level of focusing, noninterference. Not with the ego in any way. Equanimous in all chances, that is the path. You don't go with the feelings. And I see that in me, with that incident I told you. I do see the way that person acted is unpleasant to me and irritating, hmm? But I am aware that I am not acting upon it when I am together with the person, I know that I don't need to contaminate my mind with it and I don't hang on to it, but it's still there, it is floating and it comes. The Buddha says it is natural to all of us, this clinging. Our actions are like fingers to us, the fingers don't go that way" (she opens her hands away from her). "The fingers go always with me" (she curls the fingers inward). "The rake comes this way and always to me." . . . So you go now to more active loving . . . 
When you are conscious, you break through a lot of attachment to like and dislike. You now stay through that discomfort, stay faithful to what the experience is in you. Your irritation says, 'I want her other than she is'. According to my like right now, see? This feeling arises with each experience, and the thing is always to go to 'your experience'. In this case, you want her other, you see that, then you see there is a point of wanting her other. Your training is now to detach from 'I like' and 'I want it other than it is.' That's the clue. That is depth of Dharma now. Become more refined, and see more your experience rather than her behavior that irritates you . . . 
After I married, my sponsor was very bad to me, but I gave him each week one full day to clean his house, as a gratitude for help me come to America. He did something good to me. And that goodness is lasting, because I'm still here, hmm? You learn through every hard time, you learn through everything, through goodness or difficulty. So if you want to do justice to your heart, you have to do justice not just through words but through this good deed which came to you and which was a big steppingstone and a great shift in your life, and sometimes small, doesn't matter, one should always have available appreciation for what was done good. And even not for you maybe so good, but for the person who gave you that goodness . . . 
It is important that 'you' cut deeper into 'your' system, so that you have a better, clear discernment: what is my path here in this situation. 'Cling not to well-being,' not giving the karma the next level to act out . . . Now you see the immensity of the Dharma, how it opens up in your consciousness. You know, the Dharma in response to a poem was written down. The poem was 'The world is so entangled, who can disentangle the tangle?' When you see it first you don't see the tangle. At first you thought you understood. Now you look backwards and see how you have to disentangle the tangle. Here a little more friendliness, here a little bit more forgiving, here a little bit more alertness and seeing a different view, and that view, and so on. It comes by stretching and pulling apart this faculty called attention. It becomes then conscious attention, it becomes concentrated attention, it becomes penetrating aspects of one thing called 'my anger' or 'my resentment.' Nothing, we work with nothing, but we work with life, and that is all."
Disentangling the tangle . . . welcoming every opportunity to practice and purify heart and mind. Family life is great that way. This morning, I watched aversion come in as loved one was being difficult. And following Ruth's lead, I was able to turn focus on aversion itself, not the person's behavior. It also helped to get some Twitter validation:

@minddeep: imperfect interactions w/family members represent huge opportunities to practice equanimity, love, #mindfulness - as just now :)
@sunada @MindDeep Ram Dass (I think) said, "If you think you're enlightened, spend a week with your family."
@minddeep @sunada better than monastery!

Realizing once more that the real problem is inside, not outside

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Higher Road

Like a constantly flowing river, life is ever changing. Happy one minute, depressed the next . . . I find that my practice (almost) always deepens during the not so glorious moments. Yesterday, there were many such islands of perceived adversity. Each time, aversion raised its head and threatened to take me down a gloomy path. Each time, (almost), I was able to survey the land, and choose a different route, paved with wisdom and right intentions. Looking back on those pivotal moments, I wondered what was it in the mind that made go down the higher road?

Here is what I found:

Feeling down, 
I told myself this is life, 
this is dukkha (unsatisfactoriness) 
in action.

Feeling down, 
I told myself this too shall pass, 
this is anicca (impermanence) 
in action.

Feeling down, 
I told myself this is a mind-created moment, 
this is anatta (not self
in action.

Feeling down,
I told myself all those things,
and embraced the misery,
with whole heart.

How do you 'survive' the difficult moments in your days? Please share.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Where Are the Women?

In preparation for my upcoming two-week retreat with Ruth Denison, and fact that I will not be able to post on this blog during that time, I went to YouTube, looking for videos of inspiring women teachers to feature in my absence. The pickings were slim, to say the least, and I had a hard time coming up with enough videos to cover the whole fifteen days. The Tibetans seem to be best at getting their voices out, with Pema Chodron as leader of the pack, followed by Thupten Chodron and Tenzin Palmo. The Theravada and Zen sisters less so . . . 

This is in contrast to their male counterparts who appear to be more bold about letting themselves be seen and heard in the Buddhist online world. 

Yet another instance of detrimental feminine shyness! Contemporary Buddhist women teachers need to leverage the power of online and video technologies to let their voices be heard beyond just the limited audiences of their local sanghas.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Broken Heart, Open Heart

Melting ice
no longer holds
broken pieces

Only left,
is tender heart

The joy of love
flowing at will
takes over

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Nun Without a Robe

Ms. Wasserman often sent as much as $4,000 a month, usually through money orders, to her relations on both coasts. She also routinely sent along boxes of used clothing that she had culled from places like the Catholic Worker’s Mary House, on East Third Street, where she was known as that rare visitor who searched for items that fit others, and who had a gift for using humor and kindness to deflate the tensions arising from hardship.
“She became like a grandmother to dozens of women on the street who had nobody,” said Felton Davis, a full-time Catholic Worker volunteer. Sensing the lack of esteem in a woman beside her, he said, “She would say: `I have just the shirt that you need. I’ll get it for you.’ ”
Meanwhile, up in New Hampshire, the clothes kept coming. “The boxes would be opened, and it would be like: `Who wants this T-shirt?’ ‘Who wants this sweatshirt?’ ” Ms. Grinols recalled. “So many people in this area got gifts from her."
. . . With the money she earned by working in all weather, in the hours when the rest of us slept, Annie bought Chelsea a used Toyota Tercel. She paid for Chelsea’s tuition at the University of New Hampshire, and provided financial support to a ballet school in Los Angeles. Whatever money she took in, she sent out, while owning little more than a bed and a radio.
And I couldn't help but compare with experience I just had a few days ago during the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education Conference with the Dalai Lama at Stanford University. What stayed with me from the conference was not the Dalai's gentle wisdom, nor the scientists' earnest efforts to research compassion, nor the overall sweet impression of a generally beautiful day. No, what shall remain, was the time spent at lunch sitting across from a Buddhist nun. A taint in the midst of so much shared goodwill. My friend and I had asked the nun simple questions about the monastic life, and about her teacher. The nun, obviously was not the least bit interested, and dismissed us with ice coldness, bordering on rudeness. Later, I saw the woman pushing her way through to get to the VIPs standing in the front of the big conference room. Smiling, signing her book, and bowing left and right . . . 

A robe does not a nun make, just like a monastery is not to be found outside, but inside us instead.  

Where is the nun, or the monk within you? How often do you let it guide your thoughts, and your speech, and your actions?

To Annie, the nun without a robe, I express my deepest gratitude for the gift of her inspiration.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

"Short Periods, Many Times"

I have a wonderful gift I want to share with you. I first heard about it during a 'Joy of Living' retreat with Mingyur Rinpoche
'There are no rules governing formal practice. But there is one very practical guideline, which my father emphasized again and again to all of his students in a way that would make it easy for us to remember: Short periods, many times.'
This gift has become especially handy lately, as I have taxed both body and mind with too many hours of work, and not enough rest. Today, feeling fatigued, and yet having to deliver on several commitments, I followed Rinpoche's father's advice. Four times, I sat on the cushion, for 10' each, and I let mindfulness do its work. Mind refreshed, I was able to meet the demands from the day. 

Of course, I could have done myself violence, and endured instead a long sitting first thing this morning. The question is, what good would it have done?

To each day, its own rhythm, and meditation.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Empty and Whole

So light, I felt as I walked out of Zen Hospice! and so whole also . . . 

Something very wonderful happens when the right conditions are set for mind to empty itself from unnecessary self- related thoughts. 

The place, the people, the traditions have a lot to do with it. Years of beautiful work have filled the walls of the house with the same kind of stillness I felt back in India in one of the caves up Vulture Peak. One starts walking, speaking, feeling, thinking, acting differently, past the old green door. 

Inside, the unspoken code of respect,  love, and service holds everyone in its own sweet way. This house is not about going anywhere but about being completely present for what is, right now. And of course, the most powerful influence of all has to do with the residents, and the transformation that impending death brings to each one of them, and those who have chosen to serve them.

I was remembering many years ago, when I had felt moved to 'do good', and had signed up to visit an elderly woman in her home. What a difference mindfulness practice can make . . . Back then, my urge to serve did not have a foundation of mindfulness to rest on, and I had burnt out very quickly. It was all about being a receptacle for the old woman's loneliness, without the awareness of how full my bowl was already.

There are several lessons to be drawn here, not just for me, but for all those in a position of giving care. Being a care partner demands that one be completely mindful of oneself, of the other, and of everything in between. It demands the wisdom to know what should be cultivated or not in one's mind. It requires to be completely present. And last, it exacts the gift of one's whole person, nothing denied or pushed aside.

Experiencing compassion fullness . . . 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Coming to Ruth

I just called Ruth Denison to ask what I should bring for the upcoming women's retreat with her. Sleeping bag, warm clothes, pillow. . . ?

"Nothing, dahling, you don't need to bring anything, only an open heart. And make sure to turn off critical voice inside, the one that says "I don't like this. That's not what I thought . . . " you know? As long as you do that, you'll be fine."

Yes, Ruth, coming into your world with open heart, open mind . . .

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cleaning the Mind of 'Me'

Swimming, and trying to concentrate on each back stroke, I found instead busy mind constantly interrupting, with its stories about 'me'. Rehearsing imaginary situations, getting into roles, playing out several drama . . . none of which truly relevant to the present experience of swimming in the pool. There was suffering attached, for sure. Familiar tug in the midst of stomach introduced constriction amidst the otherwise natural expansion of body stretching with each lift of the arms back. Freedom felt so close, and yet hindered.

The day before I had asked a question to Gil, at the end of his talk on the 'True Self'? I wanted to know,  why is the mind so inclined towards self-making activities? Gil's answer helped me realize I had raised the wrong question. Of course the mind needs to produce thoughts about various ways for us to be in particular situation! When I am seeing a psychotherapy client, I need to bring a certain set of skills, a way of being, that will best serve the other person. When I need to use a public restroom, I need to identify as a woman, to go to the right place. When I listen to Gil's talk,  I become a student . . . 

Instead, a better question would have been, why so much clinging to identities that don't belong to the situation? Why, given that it leads to so much unnecessary suffering? And perhaps, even more important and practical, is the question of how to let go of the clinging?

I remembered Ayya Khema:
'We learn to do this by dropping every single unwholesome thought, so that only skillful, beneficial, and positive mind states remain. The more unwholesome thoughts we have, the more our home, the heart, becomes defiled and unpleasant. Once we have dropped a thought, we gain the strength to drop it again. By doing so we clean up our home. We sweep our rooms and hallways. Let's sweep the heart every day!
~ from Be an Island ~
Swimming, I shall practice just swimming. And when a thought comes about 'me' not swimming, I shall drop it, and come back to the now. 

Practicing . . . 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

10 Ways to Mindfully Touch the Dying

You can touch your dying loved one with gentle words. You can also touch him or her with your hands, and that may be even more important, as touch is one of the last remaining ways that we can effectively be present for a dying person. This is about mindful touch, healing touch, a way of touching the sick or the dying that will make them feel connected, cared for, met, loved, not alone. It is an ability we all have. It is also something we are not always comfortable with. When to touch, where to touch, how to touch, how much? So many questions we may have as we sit by the bedside of our loved one . . . 

One of the most powerful training I received as a Zen Hospice volunteer was from Irene Smith, a pioneer in the field of mindful touch for the dying. From Irene’s training, I have taken away these 10 principles: 

#1 Know your comfort zone
Figure out where you stand with touching, and only do what feels comfortable to you. 

#2 Get centered
Sit down by the bed. Pay attention to your breath, and let it slow down naturally. And listen in silence. Listen with your ears, listen with your eyes, listen to your loved one with your whole being. 

#3 Simply touch
When I first heard Irene’s instruction, I immediately took it that I was to perform a massage. While massage may be a good thing for the dying person, often what’s called for is a much more ordinary form of touch. 

#4 Make touch a part of the care routine
Bathing, brushing hair, changing diapers, feeding, transferring from bed to a chair, . . . these are all natural opportunities to mindfully touch your loved one. 

#5 Ask permission
If the person can still speak, simply ask. If the person can no longer speak, or is confused, state what you are going to do, and watch for subtle body responses from the person for feedback that would indicate comfort or lack of comfort. 

#6 Gaze softly
Do not stare at the person, and do not avoid their gaze either. 

#7 Speak slowly and clearly: 
The person may need time to integrate what you are saying.

#8 Touch with intention
Touch from the heart, with love, care, and respect. 

#9 Take your time
Don’t rush. Approach the person slowly, and move your hand just as slowly. 

#10 Keep on checking
Keep on telling the person what you are going to do next, and keep on watching for responses, both verbal and non verbal. 

And remember, mindfully touching your dying loved one, may be one of the greatest gifts you can give him or her, and yourself as well. 

May you be at peace, and at ease. And may your loved feel the same as well . . . 

(this post was also published in the Huffington Post)

Monday, October 11, 2010

On the Cushion

Sitting still
Sitting amidst
Sitting nevertheless
Sitting through
Sitting with

(inspired by tonight's sitting with IMC sangha and Gil Fronsdal)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Monastery Within

Gil Fronsdal's new book is out. A gem, if only because of its title. "A Monastery Within" very much resonates with how I have been feeling lately. I used to fantasize about leaving my life behind and joining the monastery. That fantasy was a trap, I realize as it was yet another way to delay the work to be done. It has now become clear, there is no need to wait. The monastery is right here, right now. Opening the door of the monastery means meeting each moment with full attention, knowingly, and with openness. This can be done any time, anywhere. It's just that I am not used to that way of being. 

Today, gifted with lots of time to myself, and hardly any distractions, I had ample opportunity to observe the times when I dwelled in the monastery, and those when I didn't. I saw that the times within were few and far between. It was hard to stay in the monastery. 

Although a most wonderful place for sure, the monastery requires from oneself great discipline, and surrender. In the lay life, distractions abound, that continually test one's resolve. It is important to know which ones one is most susceptible to, so that conditions can be set to minimize them, therefore making it easier to stay in the monastery.

On the list of distractions that take me out of being present: computer, iPhone, eating, daydreaming, multitasking, working too much and too fast, reading, moving around . . .  What are your distractions?

The main motivation for staying in the monastery is the intuited sense of the happiness that it beholds. It is also the realization over and over again of the suffering from the many string of moments not really lived, and avoided instead. At some point, the wise one says enough, and armed with new resolve, sets out to create the conditions for longer and longer stays in the monastery. And of course, there is always the possibility of refuge in an outer monastery, once in a while, to help solidify the structure of the monastery within. A luxury for most nowadays, and one I am contemplating. 

Until today, I always thought of the monastery as a place to get to, and enter. Now, I see it more as a place to enter and stay in. Not leaving the monastery is the big challenge. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Going Vertical

My mother repeats herself, a lot. Wouldn't you, if you could not remember things from one second to the next? In that sense, her behavior is totally normal. The problem lies in the way I receive her words. This morning, talking with her, and hearing her rave once more about "I have eaten very healthy my whole life, that's what matters. Do you hear me? You would do well, to do the same." I found boredom springing up in the heart. Of course, I knew what to respond. "Totally, maman, I have learned so much from you, and I am very careful, just like you. Not eating too much, and just the right thing . . ."

Inside, boredom beggs to be examined though. What is it in the mind that wants to be entertained, with a constantly changing menu of thoughts? After all, what's wrong with hearing the same words, or a slight variation of them, over and over? I remembered Joseph Goldstein's words:

To realize that boredom does not come from the object of our attention but rather from the quality of our attention is truly a transforming insight ~ 'Insight Meditation'

, and also Charlotte Selver's insistence that each moment be experienced as a new moment, always.

Once more, my mother challenges me to practice, even deeper, down to each second. This time, I am to abandon the self-made idea of horizontal time, joining in with Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle:

After that landmark morning at the diagnostic clinic, I also recognized that we were living with another dimension of time. Something in our midst felt different; we lived with a heightened awareness of what the Greeks called kairos, or vertical time, entirely different from chronos time, which is linear and familiar. In that verticality, there was a sense of timelessness, sad and sweet ~ 'The Majesty of Your Loving'

Of course, the awareness of horizontal time is essential to our day to day functioning. This is why my mother can no longer live alone, and needs to rely on others to organize her life. Vertical time is of a different order, and just as important. It represents the door to being fully alive to the present moment, with all our senses. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hard Exit

48 years old,
and metastatic uterine cancer.
I saw her,
slumped over the sliding table,
a towel under her head,
and a pillow by her side.
The oxygen tube wasn't doing its job
and she was gasping for air.
Taking a seat next to her,
there was just breath,
hers, painfully labored, and mine,
almost guilty from too much ease.
Rubbing her back, softly,
felt like the right thing to do.
Death was taking its time,
and I wondered why?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Time to Taste the Cherries

On the way to giving a presentation on mindfulness, I drove over a mound of cherries that had been spilled over by a truck ahead of me. Once at the meeting place, I start thinking about the cherries, and how I need to get some at the farm I saw while driving earlier . . . I love the way dreams make a point. Now, back from presenting the Joy of Caring Project* to a group of health care professionals,  I finally take the time to notice the wear in body and mind that has been with me. It is one thing to be passionate about a worthwhile cause. It is another to forget oneself, and to not take the time to just be, and appreciate each moment. In the name of efficiency and altruism, I have fallen, once more into the trap of busyness. 

Tonight, I shall not work. I shall slow down. I shall not answer emails. I shall not rush to writing the document I hastily promised. I shall taste the cherries.

Flickr photo - Atomicshark

Do you ever get too busy too? Please share :)

* a mindfulness-based dementia care project I have been working on.

Monday, October 4, 2010

How to Train

Very glad I went to IMC this morning to hear Gil*'s Sunday talk! Gil introduced us to the Bahiya Sutta, another very clear expose from the Buddha about 'not self':
"Then, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the cognized. That is how you should train yourself. When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Bahiya, there is no you in terms of that. When there is no you in terms of that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of stress."
Nothing to add. And that's the whole point :)

(You can listen to Gil's whole talk on audiodharma)

* Gil Fronsdal

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Spinning Meditation

Spinning is not my thing. I went yesterday, just to spend a little more time with Prad before his taking off for India. Half-way through the class, rebellious body let its discomfort be known. Mind took in the information, and instructed a glance at the clock. I realized I had a choice. I could go on resisting the experience, and fantasizing of a near end. Or, I could go with the reality of each moment, opening to sound of music, sensation of sweat dripping, burn in the gluts, happiness from perfectly aligned body, and yes, fatigue, also. Only this moment. I chose the latter . . . 

This is my idea of how to set conditions in the mind for right effort. A moment to moment choice to be fully present.

What is your view? How do you facilitate right effort in your practice?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Just Two Humans

I love this quote from Ajahn Amaro, from one of his recent interviews with Spirit Rock staff:
Children are not different species . . . the mind doesn't have an age . . . The mind of a two-year old is as real and as mature in its own way as the mind of an adult. Mature not in terms of familiarity with worldly conventions or language or abstract thinking, but mature in terms of being sensitive to the environment, responding to pleasure and pain, like and dislike - the mind is fully sensitive in that way. I think it's important to respect the full reality, the full humanness of children, to remember that they are not a different group. We were all there, at a certain point in our life. And relating as parents with children or as teachers with children, the more you can really embody the human to human communication, that we are just two humans here . . . sharing this time, that is a tremendously helpful thing for the children and for the parents, too.
Now substitute 'people with dementia' for 'children', and 'care partners' for 'parents' or 'teachers', and you have some great guidelines for how to engage in the Alzheimer's or dementia care relationship.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Sweeping at the Guest House

With only two residents still, and plenty of staff to attend to their needs, my days volunteering at the newly renovated Zen Hospice Guest House have been quite an adjustment from  the earlier busyness on the Laguna Honda ward. Yesterday was no exception. No sitting at the bedside of the residents. I was asked to sweep the back porch instead. Of course, expecting mind had ideas of its own, about what I should be doing as a hospice volunteer. Bedrock of wisdom acknowledged the thought, and dismissed it quickly, before it had a chance to turn into irritation. Different conditions were calling for sweeping, and that's all.

Sweeping meditation . . . breathing in, breathing out with each back and forth of the broom. Eyes engaged with the tiny leaves and twigs to be brushed away. And the joy of oh! so soft breeze in this very special place. 
Whatever we do, whether we write a book or chop carrots, it only matters how we do it. Most people believe writing a book is much more important than chopping vegetables. But whenever we act with total mindfulness and let go of our desire for results - which is easier when chopping carrots than when writing a book - we are observing the Buddha's guidelines. It's not 'I' who am doing it, it's just something that needs to be done. That's a useful criteria for any activity. The 'I' that enters the scene is the old troublemaker, creating all sorts of waves of emotions, which do not bring a happy and tranquil mind.
~ Ayya Khema, Be an Island ~
What needs to get done in your life, at this moment?