Articles by " Jan"
29 Jan
2020
Posted in: Books, Chanting
By    Comments Off on Thus Have I Heard…

Thus Have I Heard…

For many years now, I have listened over and over to a mysteriously beautiful recording of the Satipatthana Sutta chanted in Pali — by a Sinhalese monk, in a very lyrical Sri Lankan style of chanting — the beginning of which was played at one of the long retreats I attended.

[Click on the Pirith website here, then scroll down where it lists: Maha Satipatthana Sutta. The recording is on four mp3 files. File 1 is a short introduction (spoken). The chanting begins on file 2 and continues through file 4. Click here to go directly to file 2.]

I’ve long wanted to be able to learn that chant. Maybe not the whole thing, which is about an hour long (!), but at least part of it. Maybe the overview at the start of the sutta and the section on Mindfulness of Breathing. Which I think might take about 15 minutes. Seems doable.

So — I starting looking around for the Pali text and found: The Pali and English Maha Satipatthana Sutta: “Specially Prepared for Chanting!”

Perfect. I’m going for it!

28 Jan
2020
Posted in: Books, Tuesday Night Insight
By    Comments Off on You Also Have an Internal Experience

You Also Have an Internal Experience

“The stress or unease that is dukkha — alienation, despair, uncertainty, lack of control, grief, frustration, fear, anger, longing — constitutes your mind and heart’s resistance to life being simple as it is,” writes Phillip Moffitt in Dancing with Life.

Here’s the rest of that text, which I’ll be referencing at tonight’s Tuesday Night Insight:

“Dukkha can also be understood as the discomfort of inhabiting a body with all its physical vulnerabilities and pain. And it can refer to the unease you experience because you have conscious knowledge of how scary and uncertain life is and the inevitability of death. Sometimes the words unsatisfactory and unreliable are used to describe dukkha, for the way life can let you down when things don’t go as you’d hoped and planned.

There is suffering that originates from external events and the suffering you experience because of how you process those events in your own mind.

“It is an objective fact that your life is filled with challenges, from illness to conflict with others to the death of loved ones. An outside observer witnessing your life would be able to confirm that this is so. But in addition to — or more accurately, in reaction to — these objective painful experiences, you also have an internal experience. Your mind is filled with a seemingly endless stream of emotions that arise in reaction to what’s going on around you.

“It is this subjective type of suffering that the Buddha is primarily addressing in the First Noble Truth. As you deepen your understanding of this richer and more complex meaning of dukkha, you will find opportunities for freedom and well-being that you never even knew existed.”

***

Photo by Ryan Franco on Unsplash

27 Jan
2020
Posted in: Books, Poems
By    Comments Off on That Everything Changes, Changes Everything

That Everything Changes, Changes Everything

In his Introduction to The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy, editor John Brehm writes:

“If we knew ourselves as living in a ghost world of unceasing change, we wouldn’t take ourselves and the things that happen to us quite so seriously. And we would see more clearly the preciousness of all life…

“Living in the full knowledge that everything changes, changes everything. It loosens our grasp and lets the world become what it truly is, a source of amazement and amusement.”

***

I love the art on this cover! It’s: “Our Fragile Past,” by Kevin Sloan.

23 Jan
2020
Posted in: Art, Books, Nine Bodies
By    Comments Off on More Fully Conscious of the Physical Body

More Fully Conscious of the Physical Body

In preparation for the March retreat I’ll be attending at Spirit Rock (and as part of my training in the Nine Bodies practice), my meditations this week have focused entirely on becoming more fully conscious of the Physical Body.

As a supplement to that, I’ve also “meditated” on this gorgeous new art book from the editors at Phaidon — Anatomy: Exploring the Human Body — an awesome display of just some of what we have come to know, and how we have come to think, about the human physical body.

(Gray’s Anatomy, this is not.)

22 Jan
2020
Posted in: APP, Poems
By    Comments Off on Yes.

Yes.

Coolness —
the sound of the bell
as it leaves the bell.

***

Tathatā is the Buddhist concept of “suchness.” It is very similar to suññatā (emptiness) but derives from saying “yes” to the universe. There is really nothing to hold on to, yet there is something going on. The quality of suchness is like the reflection of ultimate reality. It is a mirage that reflects something real out there; only in this case, the reality is not out there, but it is in our minds. Suññatā and tathatā—emptiness and suchness—are the two sides of reality that we experience in sense-based daily lives.
— from Atammayatā by Piya Tan

***

poem by Yosa Buson (1716-1784), translated from the Japanese by Robert Hass

photo by Elke Smit on Unsplash

21 Jan
2020
Posted in: Books, Mystery, Practice, Tuesday Night Insight
By    Comments Off on It Signals Your Willingness to be Transformed

It Signals Your Willingness to be Transformed

Here is the excerpt from Dancing with Life by Phillip Moffitt, which I’ll be referencing at tonight’s Tuesday Night Insight:

“If you try to deny the truth of dukkha [suffering] or run from it, you will be consumed by your desires, dislikes, and fears. The sole solution is to open to the fires created by the discomfort of your mind and body in such a way that you are transformed by the heat, softened, and made stronger by it.

“Being present with your dukkha is a daunting task because it means that you must abandon many of your mental defenses (including denial, rationalization, blaming, and judging) against life’s assaults. Essentially, the Buddha is asking you to embrace your own unease, to submit to the undeniable reality of your vulnerability in this human form, and to open your heart to the truth of life just as it is. In Buddhism, this recognition of ‘the way things are’ is referred to as tathata or the ‘suchness’ of the moment.

“At first, being with the suchness of your own suffering may seem a pointless, uncomfortable, indulgent, or self-pitying practice. But you’ll be surprised to discover that rather than being morose or unpleasant as most people anticipate, it is actually calming, relieving, and empowering. Long before you find final liberation from the cause of your suffering, just learning to be with it brings enhanced peace and meaning to your life.

“By simply choosing to be present with your pain, you signal your willingness to be transformed, to allow the purification process to begin. When you embrace life just as it is and just as you are, it ignites a mysterious process of inner development. You are voluntarily submitting to the purging fire of the felt experience. You will feel more authentic and be aware of a fuller, richer, more vital presence in yourself; others will notice as well.”

***

Photo by Reno Laithienne on Unsplash

20 Jan
2020
Posted in: Books
By    Comments Off on Even When You Are Not Aware of It

Even When You Are Not Aware of It

“Like everyone else, you do what you can to try to prolong, enhance, and increase the number of pleasurable moments in your life, but nothing consistently works…

“No matter how much you attempt to distract yourself (and you may be one of those people who are great at creating distractions), your nervous system still perceives the changing dance, even when you are not aware of it, and it suffers, oftentimes even more so because you are trying to ignore it.”

***

Text from Dancing with Life: Buddhist Insights for Finding Meaning and Joy in the Face of Suffering, by Phillip Moffitt.

Photo by Dim 7 on Unsplash

17 Jan
2020
Posted in: Practice
By    Comments Off on Practice Turning People into Trees

Practice Turning People into Trees

Ram Dass famously said:

“When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens and whatever. You look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all that emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.

“The minute you get near humans you lose all that. And you are constantly saying, You are too this, or I’m too this. That judgement mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees.”

***

(Thanks, Carolyn.)

***

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

16 Jan
2020
Posted in: Books, Mystery
By    Comments Off on Both Known and Deeply Unfamiliar

Both Known and Deeply Unfamiliar

I’m reading a lot of books right now, but before I move on, I just have to post a little bit more from Hisham Matar’s lovely (and mysterious) meditation on memory and place in A Month in Siena:

“Back in the early 1960s Siena became the first Italian metropolis to restrict access to motor vehicles. The bus deposited us at the edge of the city. We pulled our suitcases into the dimly lit web of alleyways…

“The sharp turns of the passageways and the closeness of the buildings gave me the sense that I was entering a living organism. With every step I pressed deeper into it and, as though in response, it made room. I was inside a place both known and deeply unfamiliar.

“The flat I had rented turned out to be part of an old palazzo. It had frescoed ceilings and perfectly proportioned rooms. The modest exterior of the building made the beauty of these private spaces even more acute. Over the coming days, and whenever I left the house, I was often conscious, even without looking back, of the sober facade. It was like an ally to whom I wanted to unburden all sorts of secrets.

“The place reminded me how the buildings we encounter, like new people we may meet, can excite passions that had up to then laid dormant. Most of the time we are not even aware of such adjustments. They happen mid-stride, and are often mutual, for, just as we influence and are influenced by others, the atmosphere of a room too is marked by what we do in it. And most of what we do vanishes, but a slight and shadowy remnant remains.

“How else then to account for why we can perceive awfulness where awful things have occurred, or be quietly inspired by a room where for a long time attention had been given to what is beautiful and kind.

“Every time I returned to the flat I felt my anticipation grow. And over the coming days, everywhere I went in Sienna, I did, in effect, carry with me, like a private song, the pleasure of those rooms.”

***

Photo by Charlie on Unsplash

15 Jan
2020
Posted in: Books, Practice, Tuesday Night Insight
By    Comments Off on Then What Happens, Happens

Then What Happens, Happens

Last night at Tuesday Night Insight, I read a few lines from Teach Us to Sit Still, by Tim Parks, (from the excerpt I’d posted here). There seemed to be a lot of interest in the book, so for today I’m posting a longer excerpt, this time from the Afterword:

“Let me sign off with a few words about this morning…

“After a moderately interrupted night, I rose before six and went down in the dark to the bedroom that used to be my son’s. Since the days are growing chill, I pulled on a sweater and tracksuit trousers, then set the alarm on my cell phone for seven. One can’t always have a Tibetan gong.

“There’s not much space here. I keep a blanket folded on the floor, a cushion to sit on, a couple of beanbags to slip under the knees. One day the left leg tucks in first, the next day the right; for symmetry. Careful not to hurry, I wrap a shawl round my shoulders, switch off the lamp and sit.

“The room is pitch dark now. The shutters are closed. The Iron Maiden poster beside the door is invisible. In the silence I say no formulas; I do not take refuge in the Dhamma or wish for all beings to experience sympathetic joy. I am not prayerful. But taking a deep breath, I am aware of the sleeping house around me: of Lucy in the next room, Rita under the quilt upstairs, the dog curled in his basket, all of us up here on the hill, looking south across the Italian plain.

“Morning thoughts rise like bubbles. I concentrate on the breath in my nostrils, on my lips. Only steady awareness of the body will still that mental fizz. I’m not concerned when I don’t success. The aim is quiet, but I will not crave it. Now I catch myself composing an e-mail: Dear Prof. Proietti, although… Now I’m replaying Torres’s goal last nigh against Man U. Where was Rio? Stop. I take the mind back to the breath. Back and back again, again and again, until eventually the two fuse in a whispery stream on the upper lip. A warm tide swells in my chest. My wrists are pulsing.

“There is nothing mystical about this…

“But as words and thoughts are eased out of the mind, so the self weakens. There is no narrative to feed it. When the words are gone, whether you are in Verona or Varanasi hardly matters. Whether it is morning or evening, whether you are young or old, man or woman, poor or rich isn’t, in the silence, in the darkness, in the stillness, so important. Like ghosts, angels, gods, ‘self,’ it turns out, is an idea we invented, a story we tell ourselves. It needs language to survive. The words create meaning, the meaning purpose, the purpose narrative.

“But here, for a little while, there is no story, no rhetoric, no deceit. Here is silence and acceptance; the pleasure of a space that need not be imbued with meaning. Intensely aware, of the flesh, the breath, the blood, consciousness allows the ‘I’ to slip away.

“So if I can recount the first minutes, I can’t tell the rest. There are deepenings. There is a liquefaction of some kind, the thighs flowing into the calves, the head into the breast. And there are resistances: stones, obstructions, pains. The mind goes back and back to them. An ankle. A shoulder. Maybe they will shift, and maybe not. I am absolutely awake. I hear Rita pad downstairs with the dog behind her. I hear a motor scooter straining up the hill. And I am not there. I am in the stream.

“Then the alarm sounds and I must move. I’m up, dressed and getting Lucy into the car in just a few minutes. By ten past seven we are speeding down the hill, trying to beat the traffic light at San Felice. Lucy is anxious about some homework, a possible low grade. I repeat the parents’ mantra: you do your best, then what happens happens.”

***

Indeed.

***

(photo by Kevin Ortiz on Unsplash)