The Tip of the Iceberg

Are brains are powerful things... We get conditioned over the years to trust them.. Do you see blue and green spirals in this picture? Really? Look carefully? Still convinced?

Are brains are powerful things… We get conditioned over the years to trust them.. Do you see blue and green spirals in this picture? Really? Look carefully. Still convinced?

The tip of an iceberg…. When in a boat and we see an iceberg, we can understand how actually most of that iceberg is not visible to us, it is hidden underneath the surface of the water. Just because it is not visible, does not mean it doesn’t exist.. Just think of the Titanic!

But this being said, just because we visually see the tip of the iceberg, does not mean we understand that tip completely. For example, suppose that tip is not flat, and it is large. There may be a penguin behind part of it that we can’t see. My point is that, we use various ‘tools’ to understand the reality. Our brains use the tool of cognition to understand that the majority of the iceberg is underwater, we use the tool of sight to see the contours of the tip. Each has limitations yet each has the power to illuminate our understanding. In fact, the limitations of the tools are the very thing that gives them power. The limitations of sight, for example, allow a focusing of understanding to occur in a specific way. Our ‘tools’ inherently focus various types of information so they can help us live our lives, make decisions and to understand our reality, our world, our Universe.

So what happens when the use of all our tools is left behind? When our toolbox is thrown out? Is it possible? Is this the Zen of No-mind?

The Buddha understood we all have tools, we are all human, and they exist. How can we live with these tools and yet become enlightened to our true nature? Our tools usually are a hindrance to our awakening…As we grow up, our tools become refined and through trial and error, they get tuned in such a manner in which they work really, really well. We learn what a cloud looks like and we understand that a dog barks. After countless confirmations with our senses and our brains, we no longer have a need to question these tools and their interpretations. This is why optical illusions can be so mind-blowing… and fun! They show us how entrenched our tools are and also how they are limited and also how they are not reality itself.

We need to remove our toolbox from our perception that this is who we are. We are not our toolbox, yet our toolboxes have become our master. We need to learn that we are the master of our toolbox, and not the other way around.

Ultimately, there is no toolbox, and no user, no master. Letting go of our grip is scary and is rooted in the inherent danger of being eaten by a lion if we abandon a tool that has saved our life before, for example!

So, it comes down to attachment, we must learn to not become attached to our tools, use them when they are needed, but let go when they are not and to do this, we must understand the nature of our tools, their origins and their limitations.

Chunk of ice, in our path, our eyes spy… our brains navigate.  As we pass it, it is left behind and our sight sees the other shore and we paddle on.

A close-up, and we may begin to see that the 'blue' and the 'green' are actually the same exact color! It is still hard to see, but they truly are. I had to cover up parts with paper to convince myself, that is how powerful our brains are at making us believe what they tell us!

A close-up, and we may begin to see that the ‘blue’ and the ‘green’ are actually the same exact color! It is still hard to see, but they truly are. I had to cover up parts with paper to convince myself, that is how powerful our brains are at making us believe what they tell us!

*These photos/graphics are not my own.

Which path?

Green leaves, brown bark, white light and cool shade.

Green leaves, brown bark, white light and cool shade.

Sometimes our journey is cool and shaded, and wrapped up with soothing sounds of birds and wind. The crisp smell of the Earth and leaves, and the crackling of dried twigs under our feet merge our bodies with the soil.

These times of feeling safe, secure and comforted, make us feel at home, immersed into nature; however, we may feel a deep sadness for living outside of Mother Earths bussom for most of our lives.

All paths with eventually circle the globe and bring us Home, yet that doesn’t mean chosing a path wisely is not important. So, it is important to take full advantage of those times when the path we are on feels ‘right’, feels like we are Home. We can focus on our minds, our hearts onto what is the origin of these feelings. Why do they feel like Home? Is it merely a mosaic of sensory perception, having a synergistic effect? Or is there something deeper? Being honest to ones’ own self is critical. It may be easy to conclude that one has ‘connected with Mother Earth’ and that many gods and goddesses abound and dance with you. Regardless, though, of the truth of this conclusion, what does it matter?

‘Taking advantage’ of these situations is not an ego-based action. If one can come to a fuller realization of their inherent true nature, this can only help to dissolve the illusion of our ego-mind.

From what I understand, only with utter joy with one’s own self, can one begin to realize their true inherent nature. Being in a state of bliss from realizing the beauty of your path is not something to disregard. It should be nurtured. However, subtle care must be given so that this bliss doesnt feed our ego-mind! “MY path is CORRECT!!” LOL.

Part of the bliss, the joy of seeing the beauty of a path is born from our wonder, our genuine ‘not-knowing’ what we are witnessing. Are not the most wonderous and beautiful things we ever experience things we never have seen before? Why is this? It is before our minds can categorize them, define and label them. We become merged with the experience.

Ugly paths, gorgeous paths… .they all led back Home, but never be afraid to follow the pretty path if it sings straight to your heart, for fear it will feed your ego…..while this is a risk, travelling a dark path holds the same risk… our ego’s hunger finds nourishment everywhere!!

Reaching for the sky

Reaching for the sky, not looking back, yet firmly rooted and grounded deep in this Earth, our foundation seeks to hold up the entire sky.

Reaching for the sky, not looking back, yet firmly rooted and grounded deep in this Earth, our foundation seeks to hold up the entire sky.

Striving can achieve a great many things, and allow us to reach dizzying heights. Yet we will always fall and tumble if our foundation isn’t deeply rooted and strong.

That said, all things will eventually fall and tumble over…

Does this mean we should strive whilst we can or does it mean ‘why bother at all’?

I always come back to my deep faith in that the Universe knows what it’s doing….. A tree grows without hindrance to its purpose, and a snail crawls along knowing what to do.

Striving is our correct function sometimes and other times, just sitting back and letting the world rotate is our correct function… The dance is knowing when to sit back and when to join the party!

Our roots always run deeper than we realize. They ,in fact, embrace the entire Cosmos.

Our roots always run deeper than we realize. They ,in fact, embrace the entire Cosmos.

Toni Packer

Springwater Retreat. (not my own image)

Springwater Retreat. (not my own image)

Two nights ago I found out that Toni Packer had passed away back on the 23rd of August. My heart sank yet my mouth smiled. I didn’t smile at her passing, no, but smiled because of my gratefulness for her. I had become aware of her through the book Meetings with Remarkable Women: Buddhist Teachers in America by Lenore Friedman. Toni’s clarity and, above all, honesty, shone straight into my heart. I had met her 10 years ago during a retreat at the Springwater Center in rural upstate New York, which she helped set-up. (She basically founded it, but she would probably have none of that talk!). Simply put, she was a person I would gladly cut my arm off for (As Eka did for Bodhidharma).

A month or two ago, I began thinking about her teachings again, and started re-reading her book The Work of This Moment. Her honesty in her words kept resonating in my mind, in my heart, over this past month or two. This prompted me to, among other things, to write the blog post How important is sitting meditation?

So I ask myself, was this reconnection with her, at the time of her death merely a coincidence, or synchronicity or something else, something more subtle and deeper? My brain says that statistically speaking, it is coincidence, my body says its synchronicity yet my heart says it’s something deeper. Does it matter? I don’t need an answer, and as Toni would want from me, just be honest to my inquiry…. Why do I want an answer in the first place? Does the answer really matter? If so, in what ways?

My heart, does not feel sadness, though my brain does. When I think about that she has died, my brain is sad. But when I feel with my heart, those neurons that live in vast numbers in heart muscle, they feel and think differently.. they feel embraced, warm and full of incredible love and wisdom. Yes, she has had a profound effect on my life.

I send my condolences and love to Toni’s family, friends, loved ones and to everyone who has been touched by her utter honesty and wisdom.


Open arms are beautiful.

The Jolly Good News

Arg-bartering-small“Bring What You Want, Take What You Want”.

Disillusioned with an economy that promotes individualism and ruthless consumption, thousands of people in Argentina are giving things away in street markets, organising car pools with strangers or offering free accommodation to travellers from abroad.

These are early trends in this South American country, but they are expanding, based on Web 2.0 platforms. Users share a concern for the environment and a rejection of consumerism. But they also have a desire to strengthen a sense of community and trust.

“We need much less than we consume. The basis of our street markets is detachment, the need to free ourselves from the concept of private ownership,” said Ariel Rodríguez, the creator of La Gratiferia (The Free Market) which operates under the slogan: “Bring what you want (or nothing), take what you want (or nothing).”

For the full article: IPS News

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How important is sitting meditation?

Do we need a raft, a boat, a catapult? What is your Way?

Do we need a raft, a boat, a catapult? What is your Way?

Many Buddhists feel compelled to sit and meditate. If they belong to a particular group, meditation may be the cornerstone of the functioning of that group. Sitting is paramount. It is explained as being part of ‘The Way’ to enlightenment, if not the Way all by itself.

Yes, sitting meditation is highly regarded and encouraged and even demanded by some Buddhist teachers, and the reasoning behind this is obvious to most Buddhists, and even non-Buddhists….. Simply, the Buddha himself sat and meditated and came to realize his Enlightened nature and he kept on sitting throughout the rest of his life.

However, the Buddha never demanded that people sit, never said that sitting is the Way and never said Enlightenment is not possible without sitting. The reason to sit and meditate is to question and be attentive to this… to discover one’s true self. Sitting is the raft to the ‘other shore’, but it is not the other shore itself, and there are always more than one way to build a raft! And not even just different rafts, but sometimes there are planes and catapults!!

I think Toni Packer, founder of the Springwater Center, explained this very clearly. To quote her from her book, The Work of This Moment,:

“This work of deeply wondering about everything that is going on-wondering who and what one actually is, and whether there may actually be something beyond the endless struggles of daily life-can never be the result of any imposed outward pressure. Pressure only results in more pressure. A free spirit of inquiry isn’t the result of anything. It is there, spontaneously, when we are not dominated by systems of inner and outer control. Let me give you an example. When one needs to listen to a strange sound, doesn’t one naturally stop making noise? One cannot listen carefully as long as one is talking, thinking, or moving about inattentively. The need to listen carefully creates its own stillness. When one actually realizes how inattentive one is and begins to wonder about what is actually going on inside and out, doesn’t one have to look and listen quietly?

If one needs quiet times for questioning and attending, just as one needs food to eat and air to breathe, no outer discipline is necessary to make one do it. One simply does it. That is the beauty of it.”

So, if you struggle to meditate, find it difficult, and feel little progress is being achieved, or even if you find it easy and very beneficial… it may be wise to think about what you are trying to achieve.

Our true selves are beautiful and whole and full of wonder. This ‘true self’ may feel hidden beneath layers and layers of conditioning and barrier-ed off by walls we built to cover previous pains we have felt.. it may feel like we must experience deep hurt, perhaps, to get back to our true selves… But this is simply thoughts. Our true self is always with us, never buried, never revealed through reliving pain. Let it all go…. let it fall away and see what remains… No sitting is needed, no meditation technique is required…. Enlightenment is here now, not after you log 10,000 hours of Zazen meditation! The 6th Patriarch of Zen realized his true nature not after years of sitting, but simply hearing the words of the Diamond Sutra.

We must let go and see what remains. Sitting is just sitting, not good, not bad. Is it part of your true nature? What is that nature? Put your thoughts down and see what happens. Will you drown? What do you grasp for? Will it really help you? Just as if we are in the Ocean, our bodies naturally float, no raft is needed to be found, to be built, as we are the raft already. Only we ourselves know if we must build a raft, if we must doggie-paddle, or if we must simply float across with the current. As the Buddha said, be a lamp unto yourself. You already know the Way.