Connection of the unconnected

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Sometimes the Earth moves this way, sometimes that way. What’s the connection? 

Sometimes it seems impossible that we are sitting watching the fire.

The air is soft, full and still. The fire was started a long time ago and we sit and just gaze into its presence. We slowly allow the fire to melt away our awareness… no sitting, no looking, no air…no me or you, just fire. .. we sit transfixed and only fire remains…. Then, slowly, the fire fades away and out of this emptiness… a mouse appears, and then a wolf…

Running on all fours, our feet know the destination and our minds are clear.

The pounding of the earth with our paws rings throughout our ears and soon we fall into just this sound… turning into our heartbeats….. pounding and pounding…. fierce and true… then we start to see our feet are moving, around and around they take us around the fire … and then our eyes look up and meet. … and we realize what we always knew.

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Paradox

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The sky endlessly encircles the Earth yet the sea always rises to stop it. Or is it the other way around? Or neither. What do our definitions and models provide to us? What is their function?

All paradoxes exist because of a fundamental flaw in our logic. Our logic is based on separation, that all things are separate from all other things. In fact, the thought that there are ‘things’ automatically creates this separation. Once you define something, that definition is intended to separate it in order to explain it.

Funny thing is, is that is a paradox in itself..

…you can’t truly explain anything if you separate it out….

So what do we do?

Water freezes at 32 degrees. In that instant….water’s spirit cries so hard from its cold heart it turns to ice. Or its molecules slow down to a point where it is more energetically favorable to arrange in a crystalline structure. Or… something else…

So what do we do?

Knowledge is a double-edged sword. Be careful how you wield it.

Lots of conceptions about concepts

IMG_2833One event transforming into another event is time. Time is the final distinguisher. We can categorize, differentiate or separate events in many, many different ways.  However, without the conception of time, no distinctions can be made.

Time is not absolute. Time is an idea of our minds. It is a very powerfully useful conception. It lies as the foundation of all our categorizations. Hey, this is good news when we know to eat an apple and not a rock! Distinctions, categories, whatever you may call them are inherently neutral. They can be, and are, life-saving tools. They also can be the very things that ensure our suffering.

Again, without our ultimate distinction, time, all others fall away… What I mean is that they fall away from us being attached to some and repulsed by others. Therein lies freedom… freedom from suffering.  When time falls away from our conceptual mind, the stranglehold of living in the utterly realistic illusion of our conceptualized reality is released.

Our conceptualized reality is neutral. Our brains are very clever and we get 100% convinced that this reality we believe is not illusionary. All models, all conceptions, are just that… they are never the real thing. Our brains create truly remarkable conceptualizations that trying to believe they are nothing more than this is almost impossible.

When we let go of our ultimate model-maker, the mother of conception…time… the house of cards that formed our view of reality is clearly seen.

Is any of this useful? lol. Lots of thinking here, lots of concepts, lol.

When we seek the origin of our thoughts, we realize that our thoughts are mostly born from concepts we developed since we were born. Is not our first concept that of time? How could it be otherwise? What were we before time?

 

Knots

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When you seek the origin of your thoughts, the origin of your being, you find that many knots that bound you become untied. Sometimes this is liberating as it yields freedoms we have long forgotten the taste of; however, sometimes this untying is terrifying as the rope that spines throughout our life becomes smooth with less and less to hold onto.

We all live in a gilded cage of one sort or another. We feel protected and safe within our cage, yet we live in our own self oppression.

The origin of ourselves…. Can it be inside the cage? We know the answer, so we may find we open the cage door and start exploring what is outside. We seek our origin, following and untying the knots on the rope as we go… We untie knot after knot and that lets us fly further and deeper….It seems like the knots will never end.

What is at the end of our rope? Is there an end? Can the knots ever end?

As long as our rope exists, one knot will always remain…. For at the very end of the rope, devoid of all knots, we discover it is tied to our minds.

What happens if we dare untie this last knot?

An Ox grazes on the lust spring grass as birds eat mites on her back.

We fall forever yet never before now have we felt the ground.

Stereotypes

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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!

Terrorism and hate

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I look to the Buddha’s teachings to understand my own true nature. What I always find is that Love binds all beings.

Choosing forgiveness and love over hate and fear is sometimes portrayed as being weak, ignorant and unpatriotic. It is easy to let fear make our choices for us. We can even rationalize the prejudices they blossom.

When terrorists attack, fear is a natural state of mind. We naturally look for clues to keep us and our loved ones safe and protected. Sometimes we look at a particular aspect of the form. Take ‘Islamic Terrorists’. Yes, there are people who commit horrific acts who do so wearing the cover of Islam. Does this mean we should fear Islam? Should we let these people define our fear? And hence our modes of protecting ourselves? When we calm down and think deeply, we may begin to realize that these people do not represent their faith, that they want to play on our fears and their agenda grows strongest when anger and fear create separation.

So, instead of letting adrenaline focus our minds on the form, which is useful in evolutionary terms when identifying venomous spiders, let us focus our minds on the function. These terrorist attacks… they occur from human beings. These people are clearly suffering in their own minds and hearts. So much so they kill people such as they do. Killing is wrong. Hating hate is not useful. It spins the wheel of hatred. This is how the Islamic State grows. When terrorists are killed ‘pro-actively’, it breeds more hatred, on both sides, and simply makes the world more dangerous, not safer.

Do I suggest simply doing nothing and letting more attacks to happen? No, self protection is natural. But I do not suggest pre-emptive murder to protect against murder. We must look into the reasons why people become ‘radicalized’. After all, these are human beings. They must be suffering horribly to become convinced to murder. Love and compassion are the way to stop the violence. Now, angry dogs bark at buddhas… That means, some people will always be too ill in this life to grasp the nature of love and they will end up harming and killing people. Murder and hate will not be abolished fully. But thinking of terrorists as human beings is an important starting point.

Just as Islam has been hijacked by some, do not let your mind be hijacked by hate and prejudice. This is what the Islamic State, for example, wants. They want you to hate them. This is a part of their agenda. This makes them stronger. So, if you really want to protect the world from terrorism, put down your hate for them. As in Christianity it is said to Love they Neighbour. .. Love… not like, not tolerate, certainly not condemn and kill, but Love… Love they neighbour… It is the Way, the Light. Love.

I am human. When I see a terrorist attack, i feel fear and deep anger. Hatred for the horrific acts. My blood may boil. This is natural. This is human. I am not anything above this reaction, or below it.

We must learn to realize that we are human in our reaction to such events. But this reaction has evolved for a response almost certainly not applicable to these events, as we almost certainly will not be directly in the mist of an attack. If we are, then adrenaline is certainly our friend, and real time thoughts and actions are valuable. But, sitting on a warm couch, seeing things unfold on tv… our evolution betrays us… our natural reaction isn’t appropriate and not very useful.

We need to feel with our hearts, tempered by rational thought. To fill the world with love.

In Buddhism, there is the concept of Bodhisattvas…people who realize their own inherent Enlightened state but delay final release from human form in order to save all beings from suffering. All beings. Every single being. So they know their task will never end, but they also know it can only ever end this way. In the End, all beings will understand. We are all teammates, even the beings that we, as humans, may hate with all our being.

Wants Vs. Needs

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We need water to survive, we want it to be readily available, we are attached to its benefits. Who is this ‘we’ that thinks so much about water? 

 

I remember once when a student asked our Buddhist teacher, a former monk, something along the lines of this:

‘In Buddhism, we are taught that attachments are to be avoided, that they reinforce the illusion of the ego, and fed our desire-minds. I have an infant, a baby. I am deeply attached to my baby and I can’t see how this is a bad thing. I can see how attachment, in general, is to be avoided, so I am confused.’

To be honest, I forgot exactly how the teacher responded, as the question resonated within my mind. Like a bell being struck, the question kept bouncing around in my head.

Years later I read some teachings of Seung Sahn who wrote about form and function. What is a humans natural function? This teaching sticks with me daily.

A human mother’s natural function is to care for her baby. To achieve this, a deep attachment forms between her and her baby. That is natural. That is Zen. That is nothing secret, nothing special, but the most special thing there is.

Related to this, one may ask about the relationship between need and love. Thinking about the mother-baby relationship, the mother loves the baby and the baby needs the mother. Now, the mother may say she needs the baby, and while this may be true for her heart’s joy, one may say it is not technically true. How cruel am I? lol…. and the baby may certainly love the mother, but it doesn’t need to. (Wow, I am really cruel!). But what about other relationships? Those of friends, of siblings? of lovers?

We may build our lives with deep and supportive relationships… our mate may be the other parent of our children, so we feel a deep need for this person. Sometimes this makes people feel trapped, sometimes it makes people feel liberated. Sometimes it makes people feel both at the same time!

Humans need people, thats how we are. This is how we evolved. It is ‘natural function’. In modern times, a strong value is placed on being independent. Being dependent…is seen as a weakness, not a strength. And, sure, being able to be strongly independent has its merits, and there is real value in that, but, our natural function, how we perform best, how we live free, is by giving up some of that independence. We are, after all, social animals. We need each other. That is not merely ok, that is great! Now, expanding this further into Buddhist philosophy, all things need all other things to exist. Nothing is an island. All things and people are our teammates, even if we loathe them, lol.

So, how can one reconcile this ‘needing’ with not letting it be ‘attachment’? Is that even the goal?

I come back to: what is our natural function? As a mother, a father, as a mate or a sibling… as a friend, as a teacher, as a student… We are many things, but always human.

Of course, when we feel we need someone, something, we must be very careful about what this means. Often people may say they need something, but it really is just a want, a desire. But even that is OK… so long as we do not become attached to our desires. Easy right? HAHA.

So, what am I trying to say?

Trying to distinguish between what is a want versus what is a need is, well, dangerous… The act of thinking there is a decision to be made reinforces our ego-mind: It all comes down to Self. It is the Self that either needs or wants. When we let go our our attachment to our ego-mind, wants and needs disappear and our true natural function blossoms. We may discover we always were living our natural way, we just got in its way by trying to define it through our lens of Self.

Wanting something? Needing Something? Even attached to something or someone: They can all be OK, so long as our our Ego-mind is let go.

So, you may say I am basically saying do not be attached to your attachments! HAHA. Perhaps I am. Perhaps.

 

Love

Faith to get to the other shore

Faith to get to the other shore

Our brains are very strange things. Well, our thoughts are anyhow.. well, my thoughts perhaps, lol. But seriously… Our thinking minds create the Universe. Things that consume our minds with worry are usually things that don’t warrant that level of attention.

I am not the best Buddhist. When I think deeply about myself, my thoughts, I realize I am truly deeply attached to my desires… I constantly desire to rid my body of the disease it has, I desire this, I desire that, and it goes on and on… it will never end if I let it ‘run its course’.

It’s funny, because although in my heart I know that all this desiring is unhealthy, and although my mind can rationally understand why it is unhealthy, my mind still chugs along, giving my heart and my analytical mind a giant middle finger. So, who is in charge? It almost feels like I am the captain of a strange spaceship that is out of control…. Like it is flying straight towards the sun because it is shiny and pretty… even though I know in my thoughts and my heart it is foolish and destructive…. Yet my spaceship keeps heading there… blinded by desire.

I also understand that there is no spaceship, no sun, no desire.

Who is in charge of the thing that is charge-less?

I suppose it is my deep faith, my heart’s understanding of the truth of the Buddha’s teaching that keeps me pondering, keeps me going, keeps me grateful.

I feel the deep love that the Universe is. I feel the Universe perceiving itself through my mind, my thoughts, my actions, my love.

Life is too miraculous, too wondrous, too short to flounder. Even when we do not know what else to do but flounder, which for me, is often, one needs to embrace the floundering, and have deep faith… in the Universe, in yourself…

The first Noble Truth is that life is suffering (as well as the opposite, mind you). Why does life involve suffering? That does not seem right, does it? Perhaps. Perhaps not. It is a very good thing to contemplate, and contemplate deeply. What does it mean?

All beings have been touched with death, whether a loved one, a friend, even a stranger, or a pet. It can tear one’s heart apart and some people never recover. It can simply be too painful to address. One day, for all beings, everyone one of us, it will be our turn. What then?

Dogen said we must practice as if our hair is on fire. There is a great urgency to what we must do with our lives. And this ‘doing’ is all about what we do with our hearts. We must see clearly our own heart, our own mind, see how it is nothing more and nothing less than all that exists propping it up, making it exist. We owe all we are to all that is. When we see the beauty of our own true heart, the Universe shines, we shine, and deep love cannot be anything but flowing, overflowing… The Universe itself cannot contain this Love.

Be kind with yourself, love yourself, with all your ‘faults’, all your mistakes, accept it all, leaving nothing out, and allow yourself to love, and deeply, and fully. It is all okay.

Comfortable electric chair

Life comes and goes... even rocks come and go... what do we do with the time we have here?

Life comes and goes… even rocks come and go… what do we do with the time we have here?

I remember many years ago attending a talk given by a Buddhist monk back when I lived in the United States. Something he said has stayed with me to this day, and I am confident always will remain with me until I die. It was something obvious, something we all know, but I suppose the context drove home a crucial message. The monk did work in prisons… work with death-row inmates. People who were sentenced to die for the crimes they committed. There was no going back, they knew they would be killed and their time was limited. The monk talked about how some of these prisoners had realized greater freedom than the mass majority of people who are living ‘free’. Then he said the sentence that grabbed my head and has never let go… He said ‘We are all on death-row’

Now, of course, we all know that we will all die, someday. But, at least for me, it was always some abstract thing to occur in the incalculable future..

We will all die, we are truly all already on death-row.

How depressing!!!

Yet… how liberating.

How would you act towards yourself today if you knew you were to die tomorrow? How would you act towards other people?

In one sense, knowing we will die can free us from the fear of the consequences of our actions… both good and bad… we can become fearless.

In another sense however, knowing we will die can bind us with crippling fear of the upcoming death we know awaits us.

We are all on death-row… how will we make the time we have left in the prison we have put ourselves in?

In Buddhism, there is a Way, a path, in which we can escape our prison before we die.. so that when we do die, we die free. … like some of those inmates in the electric chair.

Paths and flashlights.

The concept of a path is dualistic. ;)

The concept of a path is dualistic. 😉

In a flash of clarity, a path is illuminated before us. We treasure that experience and hold this direction, this image, this path close to our hearts and follow it with deep faith. The faith is unshakable as the clarity, this vision, was not shown to us by another, not read in a book or explained during a speech. We experienced it ourselves directly so there is no doubt.

Years pass and while this path may have proven itself well time after time, the clarity of our memory may fade. Even if the clarity doesn’t fade, as we progress down the path, we only were shown part of the path… eventually we reach the end of our vision. Where do we go from there?

This may happen without us realizing it and we blindly forge ahead, but now with a false confidence, a blind faith, and when we stumble, we might not learn from it but instead think it’s just a rough part of the path. We may defend our path and get angry and disillusioned and then despair appears.

The Buddha dying words were to be a lamp unto ourselves. But what do we do if we can’t remember how to turn on our flashlight? Imagine you are in the forest with steep cliffs all around. It is pitch black during the dead of night. Do you blindly forge ahead? Sometimes it is not wise to try to forge ahead, but remain calm, steady and unmoving. Eventually, like as in the forest, the sun will rise and show us the way home. Sometimes while we wait for the sunrise, we realize our eyes have adjusted to the dark and we see the path, oh so faintly but that’s all we need, and we can make slow progress.

In the end, there is no path, no progress, we are already home but it is sometimes useful to trick our minds into turning back on our flashlights.