Your future self wants to say hello to you!

IMG_0556

My future self has white hair… and dandruff!

The past and the future …. Many people have their minds existing in these illusionary places…. Living in the past or dreaming of the future…. In Zen, it could said that we strive to have our minds exist in the present moment..To be mindful of what is occurring now.

In practice, it may seem very hard to truly be ‘in the present’ ‘in the moment’ ..

At some point, after meditation and deep thought, a certain realization may occur… This striving to be in the moment, to stop living in the past and to stop desiring the future… is not very hard at all. In fact, we may see the opposite.. it is very hard to live in the past, and very hard dreaming of the future!

So, say, for example, we try to reverse our goal – to avoid fully living in the present and only live in the past and future – we realize something – you can’t escape the present! You simply can’t do it! lol

So, we may reach a point where we see that this is all there is.. this present moment – we may see that in this present moment, we can think of the past, we can visualize the future – but its only done right now. It can only be that way. This is all you have. It is really, really simple. This is it. Right now. It can never leave you no matter how hard you try!

All of the past and all of the future can only be contained and exist in the present.  The arrow of time is not straight…. Just as the horizon on Earth makes the world seem flat.. at some point we can begin to see it’s not straight, not flat and it curves…so much it loops back onto itself. This is how the future can influence the past. Sound crazy? Perhaps! Lol.  But the scientific method of seeking truth is also coming to this realization.

So what does this all mean other than giving me a headache? Lol.

For me, sometimes when I am struggling and suffering, I try to think about my ‘future Richard’ – and I know he has my back and I know he is affecting me right here, right now, sending me deep love and understanding. I love that guy.

Of course these are all just words, just models, conceptions.. but I hope they may serve as a medicine when taken as directed. 😉

Rivers

IMG_2943

The water thought cycle: Ocean to clouds to rain to land to rivers to ocean. 

Using our minds we can explore the nature of who we are.

The short question we can ask is: Who am I?

This simple question can be expanded as far as we like to help us, or to hinder us.

When I probe this question, I always do so from an analytical mind-frame. So, I always will go through the normal facts of what I can define myself by.. I am an animal, a mammal, human. Step one done, lol.  Next I may probe deeper… ‘who is thinking this?’ and then I quickly answer myself ‘Richard’, lol. So I change the question to ‘what is thinking this?’ .. and I will then ascend to how the human brain biologically functions.. and review all the various scientific articles/books/etc I have experienced over my lifetime.. how the brains thoughts are almost all hidden from our outward consciousness .. how our brains are bendable… how there may be some ‘hard-wiring’ in place, but how almost all the wiring is soft and we can unplug some wires and plug them into other sockets. ..

A river carves the earth without choice. Depending on the underlying densities of soil and rock and slope of the land, the water will form the shape of the river, without effort. Our brains are like the Earth, they are bumpy. External stimuli are like the rain falling on our brains… they enter our world and transform it.. they form rivers of how to think again when the same stimuli happens again, the path has been laid. Over time, the river gets deeper and stronger and sometimes, no matter how hard we try to stop going down a certain river in our brains, we are dragged along.  Say, for example, a child was raised by racist parents and everytime the child saw a person of another race, their parents would talk badly of those people and tell the child how bad people of that race were. Over time, whenever this child would see a person of another race, they would have this channel, this river entrenched in their thought processing, this soft-wiring, kicking in and the thoughts would be taken down this racist river. Say, for example, as an adult, this person comes to understand that racism is nothing short of ignorance mixed with fear, they will still struggle deeply from flowing down the racist river in their mind when presented with the stimuli of a person of another race. This person, as all of us, can perceive this river, comprehend it, and we have the power to redirect that river. It is super hard to do, yet, in an instant, it can be without effort and a new non-racist river of thought can flow.

In Buddhism, we talk about letting go… that our thoughts, no matter what they are, are OK, so long as we are not attached to them…. We must realize that almost all of our thoughts are created by the attachment we have with our rivers… the path of least resistance. It is difficult to paddle upstream. So, in a sense, I am saying that almost all of what we think is a form of attachment! So stop thinking! Lol. We can’t stop the generation of thoughts, so what can we do? First, we must be so very kind and gentle with ourselves.  Enlightenment does not take place when we align all our rivers appropriately or something like that, however, we can provide better nutrients for the unfolding of Enlightenment if we are mindful of our river management. Sometimes a painful river, one that brings you to rage and fury, for example, can be completely dried up in an instant once we flow upstream and see the origin of this toxic river. Enlightenment won’t remove the entrenched rivers of thought, but it removes their power. If a river is healthy and part of our natural function and nature, it is maintained. If a river is toxic, it will naturally dry up over time and fade away, perhaps leaving some scars behind.

Then I will come back and say, what was I asking myself again… oh ,yeah.. Who am I? lol. I have this thing called a brain, which evolved through the influence of everything around it over time, making its origin outside of ‘me’ and this brain thingie also operates and is shaped by the external stimuli as well.

Then I think, man o man, I have only approached this so far from one angle. The biological brain. But what about my heart? My body? What about far-out theories too?

The path of questioning of who we are is endless, and at some point we may realize… we are endless.

That is who I am.

Stereotypes

IMG_2867

Can we focus properly? What does our own focus mean? We may see the moon brightly but not yet understand this Truth. In seeking understanding, we make many assumptions of what this Truth must be, yet, in the end, all assumptions fall short. One day we will simply reach up into the sky and pull down the moon with our bare hands and place it deep within our hearts to shine for all to see. 

Every person’s condition, situation, experience is unique…different. The interpretation, the fascination, the joy, the depression, the horror, the glee…

So much boils over inside us, … highs and low… maybe just mind-numbing evenness. Some are manic, some are calm.

I remember once a teacher in school once told the class… ‘Next time you are in the supermarket, just observe the people around you.. pick one person… study them, think about what their whole life is about, what their personality is like, what their shopping cart’s contents tell you about them, what their clothes say about them, what their hair… their grooming, their posture.. etc, etc.’

I remember doing this ‘exercise’ many years ago… and what it taught me was that I hold lots and lots of inherent stereotypes about people. That scared the shit out of me.  But it also taught me that this was natural. It is what we do with these stereotypes that matters. For example, if a 40 year old woman had Coco-Pops kids cereal in their shopping cart, I would stereotype her as a mother of young children/child. In and of itself, this assumption isn’t bad. But it could very well be totally wrong. She might love Coco-pops and never had children in her life! So, attaching ourselves to our stereotypes is where we run into trouble. If we think our assumptions are correct we run into danger. If we think are assumptions might be correct, then we are open to the new evidence that may prove our assumptions wrong. No one likes to be proved wrong. Perhaps it is even harder to admit to our own selves if we are wrong.

But here in lies a secret power we all have…. the power that emerges when we allow ourselves to examine our assumptions. In fact, we should always attack our assumptions head-on. Hey, this is what science does. Prove it, prove it , prove it! I will try my best to disprove your theory to see if it contains truth. Thats our secret power. To attack our own beliefs, assumptions, preconceptions, prejudices, stereotypes… Attack them with all we have to see what is left standing.

Ultimately, nothing would remain standing. Nothing has a leg to stand on.  All truths are stacks of cards. So what happens when you destroy your whole world? What good is that as a secret power?! lol.

With nothing left to lose, we walk as if we are already dead, free from the limitations of worry. Free from the confines of our illusionary self. We can roam the world free, with helping hands, to end all beings suffering, to hug them deeply with all our heart, to love them, cry for them, hold them until they see what burns infinitely bright inside them. That lamp is nothing short of the Entire Cosmos.

What a stack of cards we belong to! The whole Universe has got your back!

The Finality of Infinity

lots and lots of flowers.... how many before there are an infinite amount?! hahaha.

lots and lots of flowers…. how many before there are an infinite amount?! hahaha.

I think about whether the Universe is infinite quite a bit. It really fascinates me. One path of thinking my brain takes me shows that it is beyond ludicrous for it to be infinite… there would be an infinite amount of totally insane things occurring that my mind simply can’t accept. However, another path of thinking my brain takes me along shows me that it has to be infinite. There simply cannot be an end.

This is a paradox. This is my own koan, if you will.

So, I begin to think about what the word ‘infinite’ actually means. Does the word even make sense?

Now, in Buddhism, there is no beginning, there is ‘co-dependant origination’… the beginning-less beginning.  Nothing is born without being held up by all other things. So… it seems to follow that there is no end… the endless ending.

What is it that cannot even begin yet also can never end?

Fifty feet below Pluto’s surface, a golden Buddha is buried, fluorescing throughout the ice. A demon flies in Saturn’s rings and a pine tree on Earth makes its cones.

Rain patters a metal roof as coffee warms up dry bones.

Everything… today.

fleetingly forever

fleetingly forever

Contained within a moment exists all that ever was and all that ever will be. How can it be any other way? Just as the Big Bang contained all that ever could exist, it is that same right now, billions of years later.

In that moment, billions of years ago, there was no time, no space, no matter… vast emptiness… yet it certainly was not nothingness. It was everything-ness! Lol. And perhaps that emptiness wasn’t vast, but the opposite… tinier than tiny, lol. In fact, size didn’t exist. There was just emptiness. The fullest emptiness ever, lol.

That moment, it was timeless, and, by definition, it penetrates now. It transcends now. It is now.

The speed of light is the cosmic speed limit, yet within a Universe that began timeless, that limit doesn’t apply… it cannot apply.

Feeling one with all that is… feeling interconnected with all that is….. these are not airy-fairy, hippy-dippy words. They are not head-in-the-clouds, out of touch with ‘reality’ words. Yes, they can be, and perhaps they frequently are used in that manner, but when purpose and intent fall away from these words… these words ring true…ring Truth.

Now, I am not trying to say that science proves transcendental wisdom, that physics proves Buddhist philosophy.

Seeking truth requires honesty. It also requires courage… courage to temporarily let go of our deepest beliefs and see what we see remains.

A soft heart is not a weak heart… its softness actually is its strength. Let’s melt our hardened hearts a bit, let go of what we think is ‘protecting’ them and see what happens. What Truth emerges today? It has been patient for billions of years… is today a day for its freedom? For our freedom?

The Truth is Far Out, Man!

This is beautiful! This is Truth!

This is beautiful! This is Truth!

From what I understand, the Buddha said he would not explain the depth of his understanding because people would simply not believe it. He understood that his value as a teacher would be greater if he kept his mouth shut about certain things he understood to be true.

Oh, my mind races with this! Lol. What did he know that he couldn’t tell us? I mean, he did teach very deeply about the underlying nature of reality, and that in itself is pretty unbelievable! Lol.   But I think he meant understandings that would frighten people or make people think he was insane, incorrect, or worse. Perhaps he understood something like we are all living in many multi-verses, where infinite versions of ourselves exist. Maybe not. Maybe he knew of extra-terrestrial beings. Maybe not.  Maybe he knew of ways to transcend time and space and therefore could witness any point of the history of the cosmos, past, present or future. Maybe not. Maybe he knew of secrets that are even more insane and unreal! Maybe not!

Oh, my brain loves thinking about these things. Now, in and of itself, this is not good and not bad. It just is the mind working. Now, when I get caught up in these thoughts and attach to them, then I can feel the Buddha reaching through space-time and tap me on the shoulder! Tut-tut! I smile and realize that exploring truth is joyful and correct.. but when I attach an idea of what the truth will be before I experience it, then I fall. You know, the same is true with science. Proper, good science always is done without an attachment to the result.  When we think we know what the answer will be beforehand, then we might skew the result. Maybe that’s the simple reason the Buddha withheld information.. so we do not skew our results!!

The Infinite Universe?

Sun on the tops of leaves, Sun on the tops of our heads.... seeping into our brains and bodies, loving each without difference.

Sun on the tops of leaves, Sun on the tops of our heads…. seeping into our brains and bodies, loving each without difference.

Infinite is big. I mean, really big… HUGE in fact… It is infinitely big! Lol.

I often think about whether or not the Universe is infinite. I have written about this before and will probably write about it again, and again..perhaps an infinite amount of times! Haha.

So, the Universe might be infinite. If it is, then that opens up a huge can of worms! It means that every situation that is unfolding, a ‘duplicate’ situation is unfolding somewhere else in the Universe… an infinite amount of times. So, this instant you are reading this, has happened, in a sense, hundreds of times already in the past, hundreds of times right now and hundreds of times in the future… and not merely hundreds of times, but thousands, no, millions, no billions.. no… an infinite amount of times!

You would have thought we would ace all our exams in school if we studied all those billions of times! Haha.

But if the Universe is infinite, then not only are all ‘duplicate’ situations unfolding, but they are also unfolding with slight variations, and also major variations. Perhaps in another situation, your cat is black not white.. perhaps your car is red not blue…. Perhaps you’re grumpy and not happy! Lol.

So, if, and it is a HUGE if (an infinitely huge if!)… if the Universe is infinite, then all our experiences are spreading the whole of all experiences. We won that lottery, we got that job,  we got a 100% on the exam, etc…. but just as true, we also went bankrupt, we got fired and we failed that exam! Lol. That sucks!

So, where does that leave us? What does it matter? Is the Universe actually infinite or just really freakin huge?

Understanding to our core that we simply do not know, that honesty, is something special, something powerful. Now, that is not to say we give up trying to understand! Trying to understand the Universe while realizing it is impossible to understand seems, well, rather stupid.

Is there a way to understand without using understanding? Without getting into semantics, yes, yes we can understand without understanding. The goal-less goal.

If the Universe is infinite, ‘you’ have figured this out already, billions of times, and you will figure it out again, billions of more times, forever, without end.  When will you make it ‘your’ turn?

Let go of what binds us and feel what remains.

Transformation

Who is in the driver's seat?

Who is in the driver’s seat?

Transformation.

When most people think of water, they usually think of liquid water. Of course, water can be solid – as ice, or gaseous – as water vapour.

Water can transform itself from one state of matter to another. It does so without effort….when the conditions are a particular way, water will become either loose or rigid….

A Zamboni is a great machine..it makes ice smooth again! It shaves off the top rough layer of ice, melts it and pours it back out as a thin uniform layer to refreeze. If you love ice hockey, you love Zambonis! lol.

Our minds are like the ice and our hearts are like the Zamboni. Our minds can become rough and filled with bumps to trip us up on our journey through life. Our hearts can melt away those rough ridges and bumps and smooth them out.

Now, these are just words, of course, but they are meant to serve the purpose that transformation of ourselves is possible. I use the dualistic function of the mind and the heart a lot in my writing, as I personally find it a useful tool. However, as it is dualistic, it separates each from the other and from all other things too. That is ultimately not correct.  We must pay attention to this.

Now, water transforms without effort (unless you are using a Zamboni! Ha)… how about our minds? I said we can use our hearts…. Now, our hearts, I feel, operate without effort, they do what they do and they do not lie…. So, looking deep within our own hearts, feel the love it has for our minds, how it loves us, and protects us… let it guide us, without effort, to calming the chaos in our minds.

Time, Suffering and Liberation

Cat watching the Starship Enterprise in space and time. (Photo from the children's book 'The Man Who Wore All His Clothes' by Allan Ahlberg, Illustrated by Katharine McEwen)

Cat watching the Starship Enterprise in space and time. (Photo from the children’s book ‘The Man Who Wore All His Clothes’ by Allan Ahlberg, Illustrated by Katharine McEwen)

If we are suffering, in one sense, we are paying off some karmic debt.

I remember back in school thinking about doing homework… I didn’t actually want to do it, but I also did want to… so I got good grades, etc ..

I thought about this apparent paradox a lot… it seemed to boil down to a sacrifice of sorts.. sacrificing the present for a better future.  I also understood that I could get hit by a bus the next day, so this sacrifice was a gamble. I always thought it was a healthy gamble to assume I wouldn’t get hit by a bus tomorrow! lol.

But, we always might get hit by a bus tomorrow…

In Buddhism, there is talk of being present, being in the present… that the past and future are illusionary.. we can’t live there so don’t attach ourselves there.  Mindfulness…

While the present may seem to be the only time that exists, this too, is illusionary.

The future affects the past. Time is not truly linear.

In Buddhism, there is co-dependent origination. All things co-created all other things and the beginning of it all was beginning-less.  

What does this mean? It hurts my brain to think about! Lol. Yet it also excites it.

As I mentioned, we can conceptualize suffering as a payment back of previous wrong actions, thoughts or words. When we see good, decent people suffering.. what did they do to deserve that horrible suffering? Maybe nothing at all. If rebirth exists, maybe it is from a life left long ago… or even a future life yet to unfold.

Is it worth arguing over the cause of suffering though? Be it external or internal? That oppressive government is to blame! My past misdeeds are to blame! Blame, blame, blame….

It doesn’t matter.  Sure, it can matter in terms of proactive and reactive actions to help reduce or end that suffering, sure… But, that’s not what I mean when I say it doesn’t matter…. In terms of liberation, of freedom, of Enlightenment… blame is worthless. We are all to blame, yet no one is to blame. Blameless blame!
Back to time. What is time? Time, is, well, an illusion, yet it can be a very useful one! It is an excellent tool. A conceptual tool… a model.. A very convincing model.

Science is a truth seeker. The Buddha was a truth seeker. Holding on to our knowledge as if it is a given, as if it is truth, is dangerous. Knowledge is co-dependently created. You need some knowledge to create other knowledge..when thought through… knowledge is nothing more than a house of cards…. It can be a beautiful and amazing house of cards! Lol. And it can be damn useful too! If I ever need heart surgery, I will rely on that surgeon’s knowledge when he cuts me open! Lol.

But we must not be afraid to replace cards from time to time.. sometimes it makes the house stronger, sometimes it makes the whole house crumble.

We can do this experimentally too, thought experiments.. we can play! What if I temporarily think that the center of the Universe is, in fact, Saturn! How does this effect our knowledge house? What are the ramifications? What if we think that time actually is flowing backwards? OR not flowing at all? This makes us think deeply about what we even consider time. It forces us to define ‘time’. This is very important. Hey, this is how Einstein did some of his greatest thinking… he just thought.. ‘what if..’

Is knowledge Truth though? What is truth? Can we ever understand Truth through knowledge? When we realize that knowledge is like 49 reeds, each holding the other up but each would fall without the others, we can begin to realize that Truth has to, must, lie outside of knowledge..outside of conceptual thinking…

Let’s explore this, eh?!

My Buddhism

There is no other shore, just let our hearts open and flow.

There is no other shore, just let our hearts open and flow.

I recently saw an article about how Buddhism needs to come of age, so to speak… that the ancient teachings that the Truth of the Dharma, of Buddha nature, being beyond the realm of human comprehension, should be abandoned…. so that Buddhism can become more accessible… more understandable.. more real and less airy-fairy….

I remember seeing the Dali Lama speak, and he talked about how some Buddhist cosmology should be updated if science indicates Truth is otherwise. This made me think of Buddhist stories I read about how certain humans could live over 200 years old and how some humans can perform supernatural feats such as flying and making rivers flow backwards with merely their thoughts.

Some Buddhists believe these stories, some don’t. Some learn from them, some are hindered.

Now, one needs to understand that Buddhism didn’t have any Sutras, scriptures, until many centuries after the Buddha died. It was an unwritten religion, for many hundreds of years. Of course, over that span of time, many legends and embellishments occurred. Yet, it is remarkable how much of the core of Truth could not be distorted.

The Truth is truly indescribable. It does Buddhism no injustice to continue to express the utter complete beauty of the Buddha’s enlightenment. It was, it is, magical, transformative, the stuff of legends, the origin of legends contained within a legend itself. It should never be discounted in an attempt to be more accessible. If it was… what is it that one makes more accessible? It is weak, incomplete and, it will never survive. It is like adding super charged fertilizer to a plant, which may shoot up in record growth, but it is poisoned, and has but only one outcome. Death.

Now, all things end in death, this is true. But the Dharma cannot die.. How can this be if all things end in death? The is part of the magic. All things change, all things are in flux and will fade away… so how can something remain among that? This is why the Way, Buddha nature, enlightenment, are described as indescribable.

Like Zen koans, paradoxes …

A very famous one is ‘What is the sound of one hand clapping?’. The question doesn’t make sense. But it has an answer. How can an answer make sense if the question doesn’t?

Now, the Buddha taught through expedient means, upaya. So, it could be argued that he only taught to the level at which a person was receptive…so he was always watering down his understanding!

But he never said Buddha nature was less than it was.

Enlightenment occurs in an instant. Yes, we can help prepare our minds, our hearts, through practice, to unfold ourselves to Buddha nature..which can be seen to be a long gradual way…. Yet, no matter how far we travel, the other shore is never reached until the boat crashes the bank and we fall onto the ground. Sometimes, our boats crash without trying, though, in truth, this is unlikely. Most people do not win the lottery, lol! Sometimes we reach the other shore but fail to dock and the current pulls us back.

These are just words, and they fail. Our hearts are already there. They never left…. melting away the scars, the bars, the things that bind it tight…this can only happen in a flash, and oh, the outpouring of Love… it can not be stopped. The whole Universe flows out. It can be no other way.

Our mind…. they almost always can not believe this. It is like a fairy tale… it is irrational blind faith they tell us…. and we cannot outplay their defence with words. Words will make us look stupid to our minds.

Love looks weak so often. Love has no words so its mute. It has no arms, so it never fights back. It takes a beating and doesn’t talk back. Of course it’s weak! So it may seem.

Let us not be fooled by Love. Melt our hearts, see what comes out… is that weak? When the Universe, the entire cosmos flows with us, can there be anything stronger?

Did the Buddha fear death? How could he after his Enlightenment? He was a human, a man who had a wife and child. He had lots of power and money. He gave it all up and melted his heart fully and the whole Universe smiled. He lived until he was 80 or so and simply taught of this Love. No fairy tale, no airy-fairy…Just a person… and what a person he was!