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5 Jun
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Fully Available and Responsive

It’s been a while since I’ve quoted from Dancing with Life, by Phillip Moffitt. I’m reading it again with one of the Monday night KM groups, and it just keeps speaking to me more and more clearly every time I pick it up.

For example, this from the section titled: Finding Liberation from Suffering is Not the Same as Abandoning the World (p. 191 in the hardback edition)

The  knowing of cessation [from suffering] does not necessarily mean that you retreat from the world. The Buddha certainly didn’t just sit in bliss for years after his full realization of cessation [enlightenment]. Instead, he spent 45 years teaching and dealing with the mundane problems of living in a community, including jealousy from other teachers and accusations and resentments from the lay community.

The same is true for you; you are not practicing cessation in order to be somewhere other than where you are. Just the opposite is true; Knowing cessation means that, for the first time ever, you are able to be just where you are in this very moment, fully available and responsive.

… In the Zen tradition, it is taught: “Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water, and after enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” Life continues to be an ever-chaning stream of moments, but how you perceive and relate to the stream changes. The difference is that because you now know the essential insights, you are able to live wisely and be in harmony with life in this realm, however it manifests. You do what needs to be done without taking it personally or being attached to results of actions.

Or as Ajahn Sumedho says, “We do things because that is the right thing to be doing at this time and in this place rather than out of a sense of personal ambition or fear of failure.”

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


23 Apr
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Right Practice

Again from The Island: An Anthology of the Buddha’s Teachings on Nibbana, by Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Amaro:

“The fourth and final factor for stream-entry is dhammanudhammapatipatti. This is usually translated as ‘practice in accordance with the Dhamma,’ but it can have some other subtle nuances, such as practicing Dhamma appropriately according to the truth. There are many ways of practice but some of them may, in actuality, not accord with the teachings or the true Way. They may be popular or comfortable, but yet not be Dhamma…..

“Another meaning of the phrase is making sure one follows the Dhamma as one has studied it, rather than studying one thing and then practicing in a completely different manner.”

So then I guess it’s not enough to just read about all this. Or think about it. One actually has to practice it. Right?


(image: Steampunk Tarot by Curly Cue Design)

22 Apr
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Pay Careful Attention

More from The Island: An Anthology of the Buddha’s Teachings on Nibbana, by Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Amaro:

The second factor for stream-entry is hearing the true Dhamma (saddhammassavana) and the third is careful attention (yoniso-manisakara). “This term can be translated in many ways — wise consideration, skillful reflection, clear thinking, appropriate attention, keen application of mind. The importance of this element in the development of qualities useful for understanding and penetrating truth cannot be underestimated.”

And what should we be paying careful attention to?

“He attends wisely: ‘This is suffering;’ he attends wisely: ‘This is the origin of suffering;’ he attends wisely: ‘This is the cessation of suffering;’ he attends wisely: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’ “— from Majjhima Nikaya 9-11, translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi

Oh yeah. That.

(image: Phantasmagoric Theater Tarot)

19 Apr
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Choose Wisely

According to the Samyutta Nikaya, the first of the factors of stream-entry is “association with superior persons.”

A man who wraps rotting fish
in a blade of kusa grass
makes the grass smelly:
     so it is
if you seek out fools.

But a man who wraps powdered incense in the leaf of a tree
makes the leaf fragrant:
     so it is
if you seek out
     the enlightened.

 from the Itivuttaka, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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


4 Apr
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You Are Not Your Brain

I’ve just finished reading Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness. It’s a fascinating new book by Alva Noe, one of the contributors to NPR’s science blog: 13.7 Cosmos & Culture.

He doesn’t use the exact words, but it sure sounds like he’s talking about the Buddhist understandings of dependent origination and non-self when he describes consciousness as something that arises from the interconnectedness of our brain, our body, and the world.

Here’s what he says:

“We are out of our heads. We are in the world and of it. We are patterns of active engagement with fluid boundaries and changing components. We are distributed…

“The brain plays a starring role in the story, to be sure. But the brain’s job is not to ‘generate’ consciousness. Consciousness isn’t that kind of thing. It isn’t a thing at all….

Brain, body, and world–each plays a critical role in making us the kind of being we are….

“If we are to understand consciousness–the fact that we think and feel and that a world shows up for us–we need to turn our backs on the orthodox assumption that consciousness is something that happens inside us, like digestion….

“Consciousness, like a work of improvisational music, is achieved in action, by us, thanks to our situation in and access to a world we know around us.”

1 Apr
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Breath and Body

The Dancing with Life KM group meets tonight. The passage I chose for our discussion is from Chapter 15: When the Dance Ends, Freedom Begins.

“Ajahn Chah used to say, ‘We focus on the here and now dharma. This is where we can let go of things and resolve our difficulties. We look at the present and see continuous arising and ceasing. When the mind starts to realize that all things without exception are by their very nature uncertain, the problems of grasping and attachment start to decrease and wither away….’

“To practice Ajahn Chah’s style of moment-to-moment awareness in daily life, when your mind is engaged in a specific task, you train it to automatically rest in awareness of breath and body sensations. Eventually breath and body awareness will become the ‘default’ position of your attention.

“Once you develop this ease of attention on the breath and body, you begin to note that every breath and every sensation ceases. At first, practicing noticing these endings may feel mechanical, but gradually a realization of wonder emerges: It is really true–everything that arises disappears! Such a moment of wonder is the direct experience of cessation.”

Phillip Moffitt says, “If you only develop one practice for cessation, this is the one I recommend.

(image: Kitty Kahane Tarot)


18 Mar
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Momentary Nibbana

In Dancing with Life, Phillip Moffitt writes, “In daily life you’ve no doubt experienced many moments of cessation when your mind was finally free from stress and contraction after a period of suffering: There were the arguments in which you were attached to being right, but winning them suddenly no longer mattered; there were your old desires of receiving recognition or acceptance, or getting some material object, but now you realize you no longer care about them; or there was the time you were rejected by someone you were in love with and it hurt for a long time, but now there is no pain. The stress you felt about all of those things that you thought you had to have just disappeared.

“The late Thai meditation teacher the Venerable Ajahn Buddhadosa says that each of these ordinary moments in which the mind is no longer grasping is a moment of nibbana, a little sampling of the mind being free from clinging. He teaches that if you did not have many of these small, brief moments of cessation each day you would literally go crazy from the tension and stress that arise from clinging.

There are hundreds, even thousands of moments each day when your mind is not grasping at anything. Your mind is temporarily, albeit briefly, content with how things are, and it is not stressed.”

So pay attention….and enjoy all those little bits of freedom!

(image: Housewives Tarot)

15 Mar
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Just Show Up

Two KM groups has been reading and discussing Phillip Moffitt’s, “Dancing with Life,” for more than a year now….and all I can say is the more I read and reflect on this book, the more it speaks to me.

I leave you to savor this quote (from page 167):

Just show up for your deepest intentions, as best you can, and then allow the dharma, the truth of awakened presence, to do the work.





(image: Insight Meditation Society)

11 Mar
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Burning Mind

The Monday night “Dancing with Life” KM group has started reading Chapter 14, which begins looking deeply into the Third Noble Truth: The Noble Truth of Cessation is the abandoning of all craving.

Phillip Moffitt writes, “Imagine your mind totally free of craving, ill will, and delusion. It is clear, alert, and unaffected by external and internal conditions, whether pleasant or unpleasant. This liberated mind state is what comes with the realization of the Third Noble Truth….

“The fruit of realizing cessation is nibbana, in which you are no longer affected by dukkha. Nibbana literally means, ‘cooled’ and is analogous to a fire that’s no longer burning. Thus, when there is cessation, your mind no longer burns in response to the arising of pleasant and unpleasant in your life; it isn’t reactive or controlled by what you like or dislike…

“From this place of non-attachement, you are free to respond to the moment in a manner that is aligned with your values and reflects your deepest wisdom.”

(image: Q-cards)

1 Mar
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The Dance of Desire

The Monday night Dancing with Life KM group has started reading Chapter 12: The Paradox of Desire. In it, Phillip Moffitt writes, “Being in the physical realm, you are undeniably involved with the energy of desire…This, then, is the paradox of desire–it leads to suffering when grasped after, yet without it there is no movement to tend to your child’s needs or to help your sick neighbor, or to free yourself from suffering.Thus, your challenge is not to rid yourself of desire, but rather to choose your desires wisely and respond skillfully

Desire always involves movement–either toward something pleasant, or away from something unpleasant. There is movement in desire whether you are reacting to something that is happening right now, thinking about the future, or even remembering the past. The frozen states of apathy, helplessness, cynicism, and depression have little movement and, therefore, little life. They are hindrances to freedom and well-being. Such wounded states of mind point to the necessity of movement for healthy life. They also reveal that you need healthy desire to provide the energy you need to seek liberation.

“To understand the relationship between movement and your desires, there are two refinements that I suggest you reflect upon. The first is to make the movement of your desire the object of your mindful attention. By focusing on the energetic movement, you can quickly determine if what you are being drawn toward or repulsed from is in line with your deepest values…..

“A second refinement for working with the energy of desire is to explore the great mystery of stillness. Stillness is not apathy or collapse; it is vibrant, fully alive energy. In stillness the movement is neither away from nor toward any object…

“By becoming aware of the moments of stillness in yourself (you do have them!) you gain the ability to clearly see your desire as movement. You see how desire arises naturally from causes and conditions and aren’t beguiled by it. You know that clinging to desire is not the freedom of stillness. You understand that in order to be free your challenge is to come to terms with desire and to cease to be attached to it.”

(image: Q-cards)