9 Jan
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For Your Reflection

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned my fascination with the idea from Phillip Moffitt’s e-Teaching on The Search for Meaning  that we might be co-creating the meaning of life.

He goes on to discuss the role of doubt:

Each of us has a small or large voice inside that says there is no meaning. It’s there in all of us. You don’t need to get that voice to go away; instead, bring it into consciousness. Say to yourself, ‘This is me not believing that anything matters, but that’s just thoughts. Not believing anything matters and there’s no meaning…feels like this.’

Explore beliefs and trust that however you’re leaning, it doesn’t have to change your behavior. Not only can you tolerate your sense of what’s true for you, you know that it may change. It gives your ego the chance to look at itself and not be afraid.”

Phillip ends with this terrific list of questions which I offer for your reflection:

Do you know what you believe?

Do you believe there’s meaning or do you doubt it? Or, do you believe we’re co-inventing it as we go?

Is your behavior aligned with what you believe?

(image: Kiawah Island beach at sunset, New Year’s Eve)

8 Jan
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Creating As We Go

At the end of the year, I received the latest e-Teaching from Phillip Moffitt’s DharmaWisdom website. The subject was The Search for Meaning, which oddly enough, just sort of floated right over my head. Maybe it’s because I was in holiday overload, but I didn’t even open the email. I just let it sit there in my inbox along with miscellaneous year-end sales promotions, charity pleas and credit card offers.

But then I read it, and it wasn’t the vague over-view that I guess I had been expecting. It contained an idea that I don’t think I’ve ever really considered: The possibility that there isn’t inherent meaning to life, but that there is meaning that we are somehow co-inventing….that we are creating the meaning of life as we go!

Here’s the part of the e-mail that really caught my attention:

“If you can truly commit to “don’t know mind,” you can explore this question of whether life has meaning in a purposeful way. I believe there are three possible truths.

“The first is that there is no meaning outside of our own experience, whether it’s pleasant or unpleasant. If there is no meaning other than the material moment, then our sense of a greater meaning is some combination of superstition and a way of coping with the existential fear of life’s certainties: We will die, we can’t control what happens to us while we’re alive, and we don’t know if there’s any purpose to our struggles and victories.

“The second possibility is that there is meaning to life that is outside the immediate experience. That meaning can be completely predestined, or there can be some room for us to participate in a small or large way, depending on what you believe.

“Lastly is the possibility that there isn’t inherent meaning but there is meaning that we are either co-inventing or inventing by ourselves, i.e. we’re creating the meaning as we go. Maybe we’ve been co-creating the meaning of life from the moment of the Big Bang.”

I find that possibility fascinating.

Check out Phillip’s DharmaWisdom website for more.

(image: me and the sea on Kiawah Island)

7 Jan
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I got back into town yesterday, and to my delight, discovered that my dear, dear teacher — Mirabai Bush — was featured in the Sunday New York Times!

The article is titled Knowing Every Breath You Take, and it’s about the work she’s been doing to bring meditation and its benefits to employees at large corporations — including Google, Yale Law School, Hearst Publications and the Army!

I am deeply grateful to Mirabai and feel a profound sense of connection to her, not only because she was my first introduction to the Dharma. (I was one of the employees at the “large corporation in the Midwest” she mentions in the article.)

Here’s a bit more about her. And here’s more about the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, which she co-founded.


(image: New York Times)


19 Dec
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Till Next Year

Dharma Town is taking a bit of a break over the holidays, which means that I won’t be posting again until Monday, January 7, 2013. In the mean time, I leave you with these words from Ajahn Chah:

Try to be mindful and let things take their natural course. Then your mind will become still in any surroundings, like a clear forest pool. All kinds of wonderful, rare animals will come to drink at the pool, and you will clearly see the nature of all things. You will see many strange and wonderful things come and go, but you will be still. This is the happiness of the Buddha.

(image: my living room)

18 Dec
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Sure Heart’s Release

Last night the Dharma Seed KM group met and listened to a beautiful talk by Kamala Masters, called “The Long Range View of Practice.”

The first part of her talk is an overview of the early benefits of practice and stories about her first retreat days, then she opens it up to give an inspiring picture of the highest goal of practice….the sure heart’s release.

To quote the Buddha:
The reason for my teaching in not for merit or good deeds or good karma, or concentration, or rapture, or even insight. None of these is the reason that I teach, but the sure heart’s release. This and this alone is the reason for the teaching of a Buddha.

(KM members pictured are: Scott N, Pamela, Candy, Scott S, Roberta…plus four-legged friends Sonny and Freddie. I’m behind the camera.)

17 Dec
Posted in: Science
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There was a terrific article in the New York Times this weekend, called “The Power of Concentration.” Mindfulness has been getting a lot of press lately, but what I found especially interesting in this article was the research it sites, which “examined the effects of meditation training on multitasking in a real-world setting.

“In 2012, researchers led by a team from the University of Washington…asked a group of human resources professionals to engage in the type of simultaneous planning they did habitually. Each participant was placed in a one-person office, with a laptop and a phone, and asked to complete several typical tasks: schedule meetings for multiple attendees, locate free conference rooms, write a memo that proposed a creative agenda item and the like. The information necessary to complete those task? Delivered as it otherwise would be: by e-mail, through instant messages, over the phone and in person. The list was supposed to be completed in 20 minutes or less.

“After the multitasking free-for-all, participants were divided into three groups: one was assigned to an eight-week meditation course (two hours of instruction, weekly); another group didn’t take the course at first, but took it later; and the last group took an eight-week course in body relaxation. Everyone was put through a second round of frenzy.

“The only participants to show improvement were those who had received the mindfulness training. Not only did they report fewer negative emotions at the end of the assignment, but their ability to concentrate improved significantly.”

And there’s more! Read the whole article here.


14 Dec
Posted in: Practice
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All conditioned things are impermanent,
Their nature is to arise and pass away.
To live in harmony with this truth
Brings true happiness.

For almost two years now, as part of my evening ritual, I have chanted these line (in Pali and in English) every night before going to bed. I find them soothing. Especially now, since my dear, sweet, affectionate, 15-year-old cat….Ruby…is very, very near her death.





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

13 Dec
Posted in: Books, Practice
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What Am I Supposed to Do?

More from Kamma and the End of Kamma, by Ajahn Sucitto:

“Meditation is a deeply transformative activity. This may sound strange, as meditation doesn’t look that active: it ofter centers on sitting still, and within that, in silence. And as for doing anything with the mind….all that apparently entails is a few seemingly inconsequential things like bringing attention onto the sensations associated with breathing; or, maybe witnessing thoughts as they pass through. Meditation doesn’t seem to be a very significant process at all.

“Beginners ask: ‘What am I supposed to do with my mind to make it better…what should I think about?‘ In fact, one point about meditation is that it’s about moderating that ‘doing’ energy; and consequently being more receptive.

“The teaching is that the more we moderate our energy in this way, the more we’re going to arrive at a resultant brightness, confidence and clarity. Then restlessness, worry, and impulses to distort ourselves don’t arise.

“And because of this, meditation can generate far-reaching effects in our life: we get to enjoy and value stillness and simplicity, and that inclines us towards wanting less and letting go.

“Meditation centers around two functions. The first is a kind of healing, a tonic. It’s called ‘calming’ (samatha); the settling and easing of the bodily and mental energies. The second function is ‘insight’ (vipassana), which is more a matter of looking into the body/mind that has become calm, taking in how things really are.

“The two functions work together: as you settle down, your attention gets clearer, and as you see things more clearly, there’s less agitation, confusion or things to fix. And where the two processes conclude is in guiding the mind–or rather the moods, attitudes and memories that get us going–to a place of resolution.

“Meditation is about action that leads to the end of action.”

12 Dec
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May All Beings….

Tonight at the Hi-Pointe Sitting Group, I plan to offer instructions on the practice of Metta meditation. Metta is a Pali word that is often translated as “loving-kindness”….a word that, to my ear, sounds stilted and “saintly” (and therefore disconnected from my everyday life.) But the root word of “metta” is the same as the word for “friend,” so I prefer the more colloquial translations, which are “friendliness” and “goodwill.”

Here are the Buddha’s words on the practice of Goodwill (Metta Sutta SN 1.8):

This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who seeks the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born —
May all being be at ease.

 Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this mindfulness.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense-desires,
Is not born again into this world. 

(translation by Amaravati Sangha, image from “Offering,” by Danielle and Olivier Follmi)

11 Dec
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Happy Dharma “Dancers”

The Monday night “Dancing with Life” KM group met last night and had our picture taken. We are: Leslie, Jan, Scott, Lucy, Nadine, Christy and Thomas. (Abby and Lois were not present.)

We’ve been meeting every-other week for almost a year, reading and discussing the book so deeply that we’re just now studying the Second Noble Truth…which is less than half-way through!

Some of the key passages we discussed last night were from Chapter 10, in the section titled: The Fruits of Nonclinging.” Especially this part:

“The Buddha’s instruction to abandon clinging translates into caring without demanding, loving without imposing conditions, and moving toward your goal without attachment to outcome.

“Approaching your goals with this attitude or state of mind allows you to care, to interact and take action in your job, in your relationships, and in the greater world and still have a calm, clear mind and a peaceful, loving heart.

“To whatever extent you can act with this spiritual maturity, you have crossed over. Your life is based on being in the moment rather than on the outcome of that moment.” 

As you can see, we are enjoying the process!

(Thanks, Cindy, for taking this photo.)