Your future self wants to say hello to you!

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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. 😉

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.

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.

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.

The Middle Way

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trees

The Middle Way is an integral part of Buddhism… sometimes this distills into ‘everything in moderation’. While there is truth in this, there is also danger. You don’t want everything in moderation… you do not want any cyanide in your bloodstream! Lol.

But seriously, the Buddha practiced asceticism for years before he realized his Enlightened nature. I have written about this recently. By denying yourself of the nourishment it requires, this actually feeds your ego-mind. ‘I will deny myself pleasure. I will deny myself good health until I realize enlightenment. I will suffer.’ …. They all involve an affirmation of ‘I’.

I don’t think I need to discuss the opposite of this… of hedonism.

So I ask myself.. could the Buddha have realized his enlightenment if his body wasn’t taken care of?

The Middle Way is not about checking yourself if you have too much or too little. It is a result, not a precursor of realizing we are already complete, already buddhas. But certainly it is wise to follow the Middle Way before our realization.

All of the Buddha’s teachings are the natural function of realizing our Enlightened state.

There is a saying that God will never give you more than you can handle. In Zen, we say that a bad situation is a good situation. God knows what he is doing.. He is pure Love, no? He is the ultimate teacher so when we suffer, have a horrific situation… can we see good in that? I like to think these things out in extremes. For example, say we were witness to unimaginable massacres that do occur… We see family and friends murdered before our eyes. God as a teacher seems absent. We might not be able to handle it and have a mental breakdown. How horrible. Can we learn and grow from this experience? We might not allow ourselves to take anything ‘good’ from it, it may feel like we would be disrespecting what occurred. ‘I refuse to see anything good from such evil’. Does this not make the evil even more evil? Does it not make it triumph even more over us? I know if my family saw me killed in a horrific way I would want them to somehow learn from it. Mourning wouldn’t be diminished for this.

So, a bad situation is a good situation. It can provide us with the passion to find our true nature. Who we truly are. In times of extreme distress, nonreligious people will pray for God’s help, for a higher power’s help… desperate, they reach out for help… beg for help and offer repentance or service.

Zen Master Dogen said we must practice as if our hair was caught on fire….

Our hair has been burning for longer than time exists, we just haven’t realized it yet.

Alignment

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Aligning the trees with the Sun.

Harmonic vibrations of love pulsating within the inter-connectedness of all things fill hearts with sympathetic joy.

Aligning ourselves towards our true function opens the floodgates and clarity ensues.

Like a flower unfolding under the right conditions of warmth and light, our hearts too respond to the circumstances around us.

All Buddhas have experienced Enlightenment only through circumstances. Gautama Buddha saw Venus and BAM…alignment with the Universe’s heart was precise.

Although it is important to provide our soil with the correct nutrients and warmth and light, even the roasting and suffocating surface of Venus can spark this magical unfolding… this alignment.

Be still and honest within yourself and do not deny proper care to your garden. The Buddha, before Enlightenment, was a prince, living with amazing luxuries… he gave that all up and denied himself even the most basic of nourishment and grew sick and hungry. Years passed and a compassionate woman gave him some milk infused with rice… nourishment and his body responded to this love, this care. He discovered the Middle Way. Do not live in excess, yet do not deny yourself of proper care.

Do not seek heaven for reward and do not seek hell for self punishment.

The Universe has taken billions of years to get you where you are… it knows what it is doing.. having faith in this allows our alignment towards Truth and Freedom and Love to blossom.

Let us be gentle and kind to ourselves.

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.

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!!

Effort

Calmly bursting

Calmly bursting

Nature in Spring…. lots of energy transformations, lots of action….All of this busy work..it happens without effort.. yet it takes all the effort of the Universe.

What is ‘effort’? We can say our blood flows without effort… we do not have to put any effort into that.. it just flows and flows…

But what about carrying a heavy rock up a hill? That takes effort! What about the rutting animals? That takes effort!

‘Effort’ can almost be defined as an action that goes against the ‘easy path’. Now, in nature, matter seeks to be in the ‘easiest’ energy states and energy always works this way. Nothing wrong with ‘easy’! lol.

Now… back to carrying that heavy rock….. it would be ‘easier’ to not carry the rock up the hill, so we need to exert some ‘effort’ to go against this easier option of leaving the rock behind…. but we make the effort anyhow and pick up that rock and carry it up the hill anyhow! Why? Well, i don’t know, i just made this example up! haha… but lets say it is to be used in building a well or a wall or a house..whatever…. We have this concept, this idea, that the effort will pay dividends in the long run… We might have a dry, safe place to live after the house is built, for example… and this will save potential future effort of keeping dry, warm and fighting off bears!

Can we exert that effort of carrying that rock with exerting any effort? Is that possible? Does the beaver who drags huge heavy logs to the river and builds a dam think they are exerting effort? Well, they may feel exhausted and may need to rest up after dam building but I do not think the beaver is thinking they are going against the ‘easy path’.. If they did think about it, they would probably wouldn’t think there was any other choice, so ‘effort’ doesn’t have any meaning. They need to build a dam, so they build a dam.

Now, we as humans can learn a lot from our animal relatives. It could be argued that they are ‘enlightened’ as they do not attach to a concept of ‘self’. Yet, it could be argued that they are not enlightened as well. I will not go into the Mu koan (Does a dog have buddha nature? No!) here…. but it is a great koan for trying to understand what is happening… what makes humans different, if at all, from other animals and other beings and things such as plants and rocks.

Did it take the Buddha effort to sit under the Bodhi tree and witness Venus on the horizon? (i.e. his enlightenment)

Did it take the Buddha effort to get to the point of getting to sit under that tree? (ie. his seeking)

In Buddhism, one of the 8 folds in the 8 fold path is having ‘right effort’. Let us think deeply about what this means.

Dieting the Zen way

Homemade Cornish Pasty!! Yum!

Homemade Cornish Pasty!! Yum!

Spiritual practice sometimes can be approached like a diet. You have a set goal ‘I want to lose 20 pounds’ or  ‘I want to obtain inner peace’…

The goal is useful in that it provides direction, it can help define the path we take to get there.

However, this approach has a major flaw. If we use the goal as the basis of actions, then even if we meet the goal, what do we do afterwards? Say we wanted to lose 20 pounds. We focus on that and we decide that to achieve this, we will track how much we eat every day and make sure it doesn’t exceed a certain amount. After a couple of months, let’s say, we reach our goal… we are 20 pounds lighter! Awesome. So what now? Do we revert back to how we ate before the diet? If so, then we will gain those 20 pounds back. Do we continue to track what we eat? Do we set a new goal of maintaining the new weight? It can never end with this approach. We will always feel incomplete, if you will.

Now, the same is true with spiritual practice. This is why in Zen, it is said that seeking Enlightenment is already a mistake. Now, without seeking it, we would never find it though! So what do we do? lol!

We must understand that we are already Enlightened, so there is nothing to seek. Understanding this truth will help us live in such a way that one day we may realize this truth, not simply understand it. So, there is a process of sorts, yes. People do not randomly obtain Enlightenment. Equally, people do not obtain Enlightenment through desiring it, seeking it or working towards it. That is the frustrating part! Lol. ‘I didn’t meditate for 30 years for nothing!’

So, like dieting, the best way forward is to change, in an instant, our understanding, our approach. A fundamental change must occur. Wanting to lose 20 lbs is not enough! Losing 20 lbs is not even enough! (and I don’t mean we need to lose 30 or 40 lbs either! lol) We must change something for a real change to blossom.

So, the person who loses 20lbs… they lost those 20lbs before even the first lb was shed… because the change happened already, and it was simply the effect of time passing that allowed it to blossom. So, when we make these fundamental changes, the effects may take weeks, months, years or lifetimes to blossom, but they will blossom… the wheels are in motion.

So it is with Enlightenment. We are already there, but to allow it to blossom, we must change something, and in a flash, we become Enlightened. Then when we brush our teeth, walk the dog, and sweep the floor… .These actions.. they help blossom our Enlightened nature … but without that flash of insight, of change, these actions are like poison, not nourishment and we may detest sweeping the floor!

So, sweeping the floor has the power to poison us or to enlighten us!

Let’s change our approach to things and let’s make our actions be nourishment and not poison.