Browsing Category "Books"
1 Oct
2012
Posted in: Books, Groups
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The Dance Goes On

The Dancing with Life KM Group meets again tonight. We’re still finishing up the first section of the book by Phillip Moffitt, which focus on the First Noble Truth, the fact that there are difficulties, troubles, challenges…”suffering”…in this life.

The passage I’m bringing for tonight’s discussion is from the very end of this first section, on page 72 in the hardback version. I chose it because it’s a reminder that acknowledging and accepting the fact of life’s “suffering” does not mean becoming a doormat, or a martyr, or in some way pretending that the problems and difficulties don’t matter.

It says: In practicing being with life just as it is, you still prefer that your suffering end and you act on that preference whenever possible.

But most crucially you do not demand that your difficulties go away. Instead, you consciously and voluntarily carry your suffering, and in your acceptance of it you find meaning….Astonishingly, when you fully accept dukkha [suffering], you also discover distance from your difficulties. The way out of suffering is the way through. As Sumedho says, “To let go of suffering we have to admit it into consciousness.”   

(image from “A Whole World,” by Couprie and Louchard)

27 Sep
2012
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No Such Thing

And now for something entirely different…

I was getting ready for last night’s Hi-Pointe Sitting Group, looking for something “pithy-yet-inspirational” to read aloud, and ran across this excerpt from Against the Stream, by Noah Levine (which was not at all right for last night’s sit, but which stayed with me, partly I think because Relationships and Sexuality are the topics for this month’s DPP homework, but mostly because I haven’t heard this subject talked about much in Dharma discussions, and certainly with not this much clarity.)

Here goes:

“While unconditional love can be nonattached, there is no such thing as unconditional relationship. When our love becomes sexual and thus relational, we impose certain conditions that are nonnegotiable.

“Fidelity, for example, and kindness and caring action–if these conditions aren’t present, the relationship will be a source of more pain than pleasure and will surely end in a broken heart, fractured spirit, and fatigued mind.

“Of course, the conditions of relationship don’t necessarily have to affect unconditional love, but most often when the container of loving sexual relationship is broken, the love itself is also somehow altered.”

Exactly.

19 Sep
2012
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What We Carry

At last Monday’s “Dancing with Life” KM group we ended up talking about retreats and dharma buddies, and lots of other interesting and important things, but we never got around to reading from the book. No matter. We’ll just pick up next week where we left off.

But I still want to post the passage I had planned to share with the group. Because it’s one I’d somehow missed on previous readings.

It’s from page 69 (hardback edition) and it comes after the part where Phillip Moffitt uses the metaphor of a wagon that carries a load to explain the idea that bearing one’s “essential, unavoidable suffering” is what allows a person to move on with their life.

The group has discussed this at several of our meetings, but we never got to the sentence that jumped out at me this time around, which is: You are being the carriage for conscious life.

Not: You are being the carriage for your own personal struggles. Or even: You are being the carriage for your own, individual life.

But: You are being the carriage for conscious life.

Here’s the sentence that precedes it: “Making the radical choice to know dukkha by mindfully agreeing to bear it as your part of the burden of being human gives your life meaning, no matter how modest or challenged it is.”

This, I believe, is what Phillip means when he says that the Four Noble Truths are not just Truths that are Noble, but that the living of them is, in fact, what ennobles us

(image from “Offerings,” by Danielle and Olivier Follmi)

 

 

18 Sep
2012
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How Much?

I just started reading a terrific new book: How Much is Enough?: Money and the Good Life, by Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky.

The authors begin with a review of classical, Keynesian economics (not nearly as dry as it sounds) and goes quickly on to detail the Faustian bargain Western societies have made….”that now that we have at last achieved abundance, the habits bred into us by capitalism have left us incapable of enjoying it properly.”

Sad but true.

Ah, but then the authors go beyond the obvious conclusion that “the unending pursuit of wealth is madness,” and propose an alternative. “Drawing on insights from all times and places, we identify seven basic goods, the possession of which constitutes living well.”

I’ve only read to the end of Chapter 2, “The Faustian Bargain,” but I’ve got a very good feeling about how this is going to turn out…based on the thoughtful, and quite readable arguments put forth in the first two chapters. And on the titles of the hopeful-sounding chapters to come. Which are:

Chapter 3 — “The Uses of Wealth”
Chapter 4 — “The Mirage of Happiness”
Chapter 5 — “Limits to Growth: Natural or Moral?
Chapter 6 — “Elements of the Good Life”
Chapter 7 — “Exits from the Rat Race”

Stay tuned.

(image from that unidentified deck of cards I’ve had forever in my desk drawer)

6 Sep
2012
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You Can’t Pretend She’s Not There

In keeping with this month’s theme of Women and Sexuality in Buddhism, I read a selection from The Buddha and the Goddess, by Rick Fields at last night’s Hi-Pointe Sitting Group.

Here’s a taste:
Thus have I envisioned:
Once the Buddha was walking along the forest path in the Oak Grove at Ojai,
walking without arriving anywhere or having any thought of arriving or not arriving.

And lotuses, shining with the morning dew miraculously appeared under every step
Soft as silk beneath the toes of the Buddha.

When suddenly, out of the turquoise sky, dancing in front of his half-shut inward-looking eyes, shimmering like a rainbow or a spider’s web,
transparent as the dew on a lotus flower–the Goddess appeared quivering like a humming bird in the air before him.

She, for she was surely a she, as the Buddha could clearly see with his eye of discriminating awareness wisdom, was mostly red in color, though when the light shifted, she flashed like a rainbow.

She was naked except for the usual flower ornaments goddesses wear.

Her long his was deep blue, her eyes fathomless pits of space, and her third eye a bloodshot song of fire.

The Buddha folded his hands together and greeted the Goddess thus: “O goddess, why are you blocking my path? Before I saw you I was happily going nowhere. Now I’m not so sure where I go.”

“You can go around me,” said the Goddess, twirling on her heel like a bird darting away, but just a little way away, “or you can come after me
but you can’t pretend I’m not here,
This is my forest, too.”

With that the Buddha sat, supple as a snake, solid as a rock, beneath a Bo tree that sprung full-leaved to shade him.

“Perhaps we should have a chat,” he said. “After years of arduous practice at the time of the morning star, I penetrated reality and ….”

“Not so fast, Buddha,” the Goddess said,
“I am reality.”

It goes on from there, but you get the gist.

(I found this in Jack Kornfield’s The Buddha Is Still Teaching. He credits Dharma Gaia: A Harvest of Essays in Buddhism & Ecology, edited by Allan Hunt Badiner.)

(image from The Buddha Tarot by Robert M. Place)

 

4 Sep
2012
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Dancing with Awareness

Last night at the Dancing with Life KM group, we spent a lot of time talking about the Third Insight, what Phillip Moffitt calls “knowing that you know.”

On page 62, he says, “Using mindfulness in working with the Third Insight means that you practice consciously shifting your awareness….For instance, if you experience pain in your back during sitting meditation, concentrate your attention not on the physical stimulus or even your experience of the pain itself, but rather on your awareness of the pain…..

“In other words, instead of just being aware that the mind is experiencing suffering around an event, notice that the knowing of it is independent from the experience itself.” (emphasis added)

I have learned that this is really the key in being able to connect with whatever’s happening….without reacting to it automatically in some old, habitual way.

On page 63, Phillip goes on to say, “You will quickly notice that this awareness is untouched by what it is aware of, regardless of whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. It is simply there, knowing that it knows. Note, however, that this knowing is not removed from or indifferent to the experience; rather, it offers you an expanded perspective on the experience. It opens you to the awareness of awareness itself.”

This may not sound like much. But in my experience, it’s the difference between being on “auto pilot” and having a conscious choice in the way you live your life.

(image from Q-card by zolo.com)

29 Aug
2012
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One Book

At the end of the retreat, someone asked the teachers what “one book” they would recommend….like the Bible or the Koran….to read/study/ponder as a guide in following the Buddhist path.

Phillip Moffitt immediately suggested The Middle Length Discourses: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya, by Bhikkhu Bodhi. It’s the main text for the Dedicated Practitioner Program, and it’s definitely on par with the Bible and Koran, but frankly it’s a bit….daunting.

Sally Armstrong and Andrea Fella both suggested The Life of the Buddha, by Bhikkhu Nanamoli. That’s a new one for me, but coming so highly recommended, it must be worth checking out.

Here’s the description on Amazon.com: “Composed entirely of texts from the Pail canon, this unique biography presents the oldest authentic record of the Buddha’s life and revolutionary philosophy. The ancient texts are rendered here in a language marked by lucidity and dignity, and a framework of narrators and voices connect the canonical texts. Vivid recollections of his personal attendant Ananda and other disciples bring the reader into the Buddha’s presence, where his example offers profound inspiration and guidance on the path to freedom.”

I think I’ll add it to my list.

(image from “Offerings,” by Danielle and Olivier Follmi)

28 Aug
2012
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“Dancing” with Phillip

I talked with Phillip Moffitt after the retreat and told him about the two KM groups we’ve organized to discuss his book, Dancing with Life. I told him that one of the groups is taking the time to read the book out loud, word for word, during the meetings — then stopping to discuss whatever anyone wants to discuss. And that the other group is reading the book at home, in short sections, then bringing a sentence or two to discuss with the group.

He was really touched by the care and attention we are taking and asked that I post something about our methods on his Facebook page. (Which I did, here.)

He also said that I should emphasize to the groups that the 4 Noble Truths (which are what he uses for the basis of his book) are not just Truths that are Noble, but in fact, are Truths that Ennoble. He said that he mentioned this point in the book, but was advised not to press it too strongly, for fear (on the publisher’s part) that it would not be understood.

Seems pretty clear to me. But OK.

Phillip was very insistent that I make this point to the group. The truths that the Buddha taught are not just noble in themselves; they are truths that ennobles us.

There you go.

Straight from Phillip to you.

(image from  “Dancing in Colombia,” by Fernando Botero) 

9 Aug
2012
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Perfect

At the Hi-Pointe Sitting Group last night….just as we were starting the meditation…someone, somewhere in the building, started practicing the drums.

Such is life.

It would have been even more fitting if I had brought the passage that I had planned to read, which is a teaching from Ajahn Chah, titled: Who is Bothering Whom?:

“In our practice, we think that noises, cars, voices, sights, are distractions that come and bother us when we want to be quiet. But who is bothering whom?

“Actually, we are the ones who go and bother them. The car, the sound, is just following its own nature.

“We bother things through some false idea that they are outside us and cling to the ideal of remaining quiet, undisturbed.

“Learn to see that it is not things that bother us, that we go out to bother them. See the world as a mirror. It is all a reflection of mind.

“When you know this, you can grow in every moment, and every experience reveals truths and brings understanding.”

–from A Still Forest Pool: The Insight Mediation of Achaan Chah, by Jack Kornfield and Paul Breiter

(image from A Whole World, by Couprie and Louchard)

8 Aug
2012
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Receiving with Generosity

The latest issue of Spirit Rock News includes an excerpt from Phillip Moffitt‘s terrific new book, Emotional Chaos to Clarity: How to Live More Skillfully, Make Better Decisions, and Find Purpose in Life.

The excerpt is about generosity, which “does not mean self-sacrifice or reckless giving everything away. Such acts,” Phillip writes, “are actually grandiosity disguised as generosity.”

I love that he talks about generosity in such, well….generous terms. He says, “In daily life, generosity means receiving each moment with a generous attitude and meeting it with patience.”

“When interacting with friends or strangers, you give them your full attention as you listen to their words, and you interpret their actions with sympathy, even when they are clumsy.

“You cultivate magnanimous thoughts that allow you to see others in their best light and to interpret their actions as well-meaning until proven otherwise.

“Being generous in your thoughts doesn’t mean that you’re naive or that you permit a wrong action to go uncorrected. Rather, it means that you treat every one as innately worthy of your respect and care.”

What a beautiful way to live.

(image from “Offerings,” by Danielle and Olivier Follmi)

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