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"The primary focus of this path of choosing wisely is learning to stay present. Pausing very briefly, frequently throughout the day, is an almost effortless way to do this. For just a few seconds we can be right here. Meditation is another way to train in learning to stay or learning to come back, to return to the present over and over again."
~ Pema Chödrön, from Taking the Leap  
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Thursday
Apr242014

The Important of Kindness and Hush

Excerpt from Fine Line: Mental Health/Mental Illness, Michael Nye's portraits of the people experiencing mental illness and homelessness in San Antonio. 

My favorite place to be is a place that I'm most safe. It's a corner in my kitchen and I've got it fixed up to look like a tree house. On my left is a window with plants everywhere and everything a person would wantbooks, musicthat's in my safe place. 

I spend three-quarters of my waking life in that safe place. 

How is it possible to love someone that beats you up, that uses you, that degrades you? I don't understand why a parent would grab a child's hair and twist it around and slam that child into a wall. How a father's who's going  through a drought of loneliness takes one of his children and strip that child of dignity and knowledge and give that child pain. Why would a parent deprive him of food, lock them in a cabinetwhy would that happen? 

I'd like to wrap my arms around someone--whether my age or older, youngerwrap my arms around someone that is going through this until they finally believe it's not their fault, they're a beautiful person. 

Kindness is more important than anything else in this world. I think that every philosopher has probably tried to tell us that. That's what it comes down to. What else are we here for, but to take care of each other? To nurture the planet. What else are we here for? 

There's a thing when we're children we experience. It usually exists in libraries and it's called the hush. Like this magic world called Hush. There's not many places now to find hush. Somethimes I really do think if every person would experience husheven if they almost have to force it on themselves for a whilejust the bird, just the wind, nothing else, hush—there would be less violence


See also:

Sunday
Apr202014

The Story Begins to Live and Breathe

Excerpt from Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic by Adyashanti

Topiary Park, April 20, 2014Transmutation is what transfiguration and relinquishment make possible. In it, your orientation to life is entirely selfless. It's not that you want to be selfless or you're practicing being selfless: rather you're selfless in the sense of no self. 

For this transition to happen, one has to go through the death of the ego. Certain aspects of the transmutation may occur earlier in our own journey, but the crucifixion or relinquishment must be complete for it to happen in full. At that point, really, the only thing left to do is to be a selfless, benevolent presence in the world—there's really nothing else to do, nothing else that makes sense. Whatever that may look like—and it looks different for different people—that's where the whole process ends up. 

In the Jesus story, this stage is termed the resurrection. Out of death is resurrected a new life, which really means a new orientation. That movement, that long turning from self-orientation to selfless orientation now comes to fruition. This is where the journey culminates for Jesus, and this is where it ultimately culminates for anyone who's taken the journey of awakening.  

The story of Jesus mirrors back the journey of spiritual awakening for anyone who has the eyes to see it or the experience to notice it. I believe this is among the most powerful lenses through which to view the story, because from this perspective the story begins to live and breathe as a metaphor. 

Jesus doesn't live anything out in a small fashion; everything in his story is writ large. This makes it easier for us to see that he's depicting a journey of awakening. We shouldn't expect to live out our own journey in the same fashion and, fortunately, we don't have to, though our journey will certainly have its own challenges and intensity. 

The mystery of the story of Jesus is the same as the mystery of you and me and everyone: we are all God appearing as man and as woman, divine being manifesting as human being. They're actually two sides of the same coin. They're one and the same thing; it's only our minds that separate divinity and humanity. We separate them in our mind and in our experience, but the whole spiritual journey is finally to see that they aren't separate, that they never were separate...

And when you reorient your life toward this realization, then you understand: you so loved the world, you had so much compassion, you had so much love that you poured yourself forth into life, and that pouring forth was your birth. You are here to redeem whatever you encounter in this life, to wake up within everything the deep reality of its divine existence. 

The kingdom of heaven is spread upon earth and men do not see it. When you see this, you shift from being a victim of your life and assigning blame for the tragedy you encounter. The truth, I would suggest, is that you poured yourself willingly into form of infinite love in order to redeem the entirety of this life. When seen from that perspective, all of a sudden life looks different. You stop holding back from life, your inner life or the life around you, because the kingdom of heaven is within and all around you. That's the message of the Jesus story.  


See also: 

Sunday
Apr202014

Stories are Powerful

"Stories are powerful because they transport us into other people’s worlds, but in doing that, they change the way our brains work and potentially change our brain chemistry. And that’s what it means to be a social creature—to connect with others, to care about others, even complete strangers. It's so interesting that dramatic stories cause us to do this."

~ Paul Zak  director of the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies and author of The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity

See also: "Trust, morality — and oxytocin?" In this TED Talk, neuroeconomist Paul Zak shows why he believes oxytocin (he calls it "the moral molecule") is responsible for trust, empathy and other feelings that help build a stable society.

Friday
Apr182014

Some Unprotected Desire

Skybox Imaging HD Video of Burj Khalifa on April 9, 2014 (1080p) from Skybox Imaging on Vimeo.

Mergers and Acquisitions
by Edward Hirsch, from The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems

Beyond junk bonds and oil spills,
beyond the collapse of Savings and Loans,
beyond liquidations and options on futures,
beyond basket trading and expanding foreign markets,
the Dow Jones industrial average, the Standard
& Poor’s stock index, mutual funds, commodities,
beyond the rising tide of debits and credits,
opinion polls, falling currencies, the signs
for L. A. Gear and Coca Cola Classic,
the signs for U.S. Steel and General Motors,
hi-grade copper, municipal bonds, domestic sugar,
beyond fax it and collateral buildups,
beyond mergers and acquisitions, leveraged buyouts,
hostile takeovers, beyond the official policy
on inflation and the consensus on happiness,
beyond the national trends in buying and selling,
getting and spending, the market stalled
and the cost passed on to consumers,
beyond the statistical charts on prices,
there is something else that drives us, some
rage or hunger, some absence smoldering
like a childhood fever vaguely remembered
or half-perceived, some unprotected desire,
greed that is both wound and knife,
a failed grief, a lost radiance.


See also: Alfred A. Knopf's Poem-a-Day 2014

Wednesday
Apr162014

Changing the Plane of Focus 

Sam Harris in conversation with Dan Harris, "Taming the Mind" (April 12, 2014): 

Everyone has had the experience of looking through a window and suddenly catching sight of his own reflection staring back at him from the glass. At that point, he can use the glass as a window, to see the world outside, or as a mirror, but he can’t do both at the same time.

Sometimes your reflection in the glass is pretty subtle, and you could easily stand there for ten minutes, looking outside while staring right through the image of your own face without seeing it.

For the purposes of this analogy, imagine that the goal of meditation is to see your own reflection clearly in each moment. Most spiritual traditions don’t realize that this can be done directly, and they articulate their paths of practice in ways that suggest that if you only paid more attention to everything beyond the glass—trees, sky, traffic—eventually your face would come into view. Looking out the window is arguably better than closing your eyes or leaving the room entirely—at least you are facing in the right direction—but the practice is based on a fundamental misunderstanding. You don’t realize that you are looking through the very thing you are trying to find in every moment. Given better information, you could just walk up to the window and see your face in the first instant.

The same is true for the illusoriness of the self. Consciousness is already free of the feeling that we call “I.” However, a person must change his plane of focus to realize this. Some practices can facilitate this shift in awareness, but there is no truly gradual path that leads there. Many longtime meditators seem completely unaware that these two planes of focus exist, and they spend their lives looking out the window, as it were.


See also: 

Harris, D. (2014). 10% happier: How I tamed the voice in my head, reduced stress without losing my edge, and found self-help that actually works--a true story. New York: It Books. [library

Harris, S. (2014). Waking up: A guide to spirituality without religion. S.l.: Simon & Schuster. [library]