Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief

Spotted on Facebook:

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it. ~ The Talmud

This one lands pretty well with me because I am often daunted by how screwed the world seems to be and how little I can do about it. In fact, that thought is paralyzing and keeps me from doing anything, and often, from allowing myself to take in the sadness of some things.

This quote reminds me that we have small opportunities each day to be, at the very least, kind to other people.

Rick Hanson – Change Your Brain!

I’m becoming quite a fan of Rick Hanson. Combining neuroscience with mindfulness is a philosophical cocktail that I can get on board with 🙂

In this video he explains how simply focusing on a positive thought or experience for 15 seconds or more can help create beneficial pathways in the brain:

Do Goals Create A Painful Reality Gap?

Something I’m experiencing in my life right now is a tension, or gap, between my life as it currently is, and my life as I would wish it to be. My life is fine, but there are a few things I’d like to change work-wise which I believe will give me more freedom. What I’m learning is that having ‘goals’ can be a bit of a minefield if you’re also trying to live a mindful, present life.

Goals, which are inherently future-centered, can make you painfully aware of the gap in reality between your current state and where you want to be. That can lead to feeling even more discontented with the current moment, which is no way to go about life!  The trap is that you can end up feeling that you’ll only be happy when you’ve achieved x, y and z, and therefore, you stop being happy now.

For some people, discontent may be a motivator, but it doesn’t have to be. You can still achieve things and work toward different outcomes while remaining present, mindful, and at the very least, content. Continue reading “Do Goals Create A Painful Reality Gap?”

Evaluating Your Meditation Practice

Tricycle.com is no doubt one of the absolute best online resources and supports for your spiritual practice. They have such a wealth of information available on the site and every day there is something new and insightful to read. The other day I came upon this article about evaluating your meditation practice. I realized that I evaluated mine in a vague sort of way, with no real direction or criteria, but Gil Fronsdal lays out some really specific ways to look at your practice, which are very helpful.

Our motivation can be to awaken and cultivate beautiful qualities of the heart and mind—love, peace, courage, compassion, insight, understanding, the pursuit of the truth and liberation. Developing these qualities does not need to be for oneself. Sometimes my primary motivation to practice has been not for my own sake but for other people. In fact, I believe that if you do it only for yourself, you are unlikely to sustain your motivation over many years. A significant way to fuel meditation practice is to do it with the wish that it will somehow benefit others as well as yourself.

There are long-term and short-term motivations. Experiences of realization may be worthy long-term goals, but in the short term it can be useful to have modest aims such as cultivating small but noticeable improvements in concentration, nondistraction, compassion, or patience, as well as small, immediate movements toward letting go and experiencing freedom. I have found there is a beautiful way in which practicing with immediate, realistic goals allows for a steady maturing into some of the more developed areas of meditation practice.

Read the full article here

Learning Happiness

For me, happiness is a habit to be learned, an inner state to be actively cultivated. Actually ‘happiness’ is a loaded word for me. I prefer to think of contentment. Happiness sounds too grand and flowery, like something out of the movies, not real life.

For a long time I think I was under the impression that happiness meant that everything in your life was perfect. You had the right job, a comfortable amount of money, friends, a partner etc etc.  So naturally, happiness felt like an elusive concept. Or like somehow I was doing it ‘wrong.’ Now I realize that perfection is not the goal, or the point. In fact if you stop looking for everything to be perfect I think you will find more contentment – a general ‘ok-ness’ with the way things are. Continue reading “Learning Happiness”

Science and Spirituality on a Collision Course

Eye-opening news which will of course delight both skeptics and believers. Skeptics will surely love to expound on the impossibility of such a concept, but believers will take delight in seeing how the accepted boundaries of science are slowly coming apart at the seams. The following is excerpted from Deepak Chopra’s post on Intent.com – link to full article at the bottom. Enjoy!

The scientific world went into spasms last week when a Nobel laureate announced that he had, in effect, teleported DNA.  That was the sound bite, but of course the story was more complicated.  A French team headed by Luc Montagnier, previously known for his work on HIV and AIDS,  took two test tubes, one of which contained bacterial DNA, the other pure water. After the test tubes were surrounded by an electrical current, analysis showed that an imprint of the DNA was detectable in the water. The outrageousness of this claim echoes a finding from over a decade ago that water has memory.

Fact #1: Everything in existence is experienced through our consciousness, including subatomic particles and distant galaxies. The universe exists in our consciousness. There is no proof of an objective universe, which is taken on faith, as pure assumption. Fact #2: If there is a universe outside our consciousness, we can have no knowledge of it.

You can perform thousands up thousands of experiments while still ignoring these two facts. But eventually there’s a limit, and when you reach it, you have to ask some key questions: Is the universe conscious? Is everything happening in the mind of God? Does the mind exist outside the brain? Once preposterous, these questions seem to hold the key to the future, in both physics and biology. There is much more to say on the subject, but for the moment, we can at least afford a smile at the notion that DNA can teleport itself and that water can remember things. Out of delight and imagination most of the world’s great ideas were born.

Read the full article by Deepak Chopra: Spirituality Is the New Science | Intent.com.

Cyborgs, Second Selves, Oneness

Lately on some of the blogs that I read, there’s been a lot of talk inspired by Amber Case’s TED talk entitled “We Are All Cyborgs Now”, which is truly fascinating.

The discussion has largely been around second selves ,digital personas and the like. I’m won’t rehash the whole topic except to summarize that clearly the importance of digital is ever expanding in our lives, and enabling whole new income streams, lifestyles and concepts of self. The thing that got me thinking was Everett Bogue’s use of the term ‘second self’. From reading his blog I know he’s an avid yogi, therefore presumably seeking oneness, so I’m wondering how the ‘second self’ concept fits in with that, or how he reconciles the two. After all the phrase has duality built right in. So perhaps it’s just semantics, or perhaps I’m missing his point in some way, but I can’t help but feel that a second self isn’t the answer. Most of us have a hard enough time uniting the one self we already have. Whatever we create is an extension of ourself but if we think of it as separate it seems problematic. Continue reading “Cyborgs, Second Selves, Oneness”

Being The Empty Tea Cup

The Zen tea cup story goes a little something like this:

“A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen.

The master poured the visitor’s cup to the brim, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself.

“It’s overfull! No more will go in!” the professor blurted. “You are like this cup,” the master replied, “How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup.”  via RenegadeZen

I am trying to be more humble, more like the empty tea cup. It is forcing me to look at how I relate to the world – things I think I’m knowledgeable about (for me it’s usually work-related things), situations where I think I know what’s up, or where I think I’ve got somebody all figured out (whether or not I actually know that person!) or any number of other ways in which I take for granted my own point of view and my own essential right-ness about things. Continue reading “Being The Empty Tea Cup”

Karen Armstrong on Compassion

Karen Armstrong is a religious historian who has written books like “A History of God.” Her newest book is “Twelve Steps To A Compassionate Life” which I can’t wait to get my grubby hands on. She was on NPR recently to discuss the book and the importance of compassion.  It’s a huge topic and the interview below can only scratch the surface. But what I enjoyed about the conversation is not only the discussion of compassion from a religious/spiritual perspective, but the need for public policy to be informed by it as well.

Developing A Regular Meditation Practice

I was looking at some of the older posts on this blog and when I first launched it I was still off and on with meditation. These days I’m happy to say I do have a regular practice. I meditate on average about 5 times per week for 20 – 30 minutes. In retrospect here are a few of the factors that helped me finally develop a regular practice.

Find the time of day that suits you best

I experimented meditating at various times of the day. I found that in the evening I was apt to fall asleep, or just skip it if I was already too tired. Midday or afternoon meditations were pleasant but on days where I was busy or felt stressed about work, I found that I didn’t allow myself the time to meditate.  Mornings turned out to be the best time for me. I get up, go set the coffee-maker (doing this activity wakes me up so that I don’t fall back asleep on the cushion!), then settle down to meditate. Continue reading “Developing A Regular Meditation Practice”

An Expanding and Contracting Being

I heard a nice thing in meditation group last night.

I’m paraphrasing but this is what was basically said:

“The more you practice meditation, the less focused on your breathing and thinking you are. Eventually you just become an expanding and contracting being.”

I’ve experienced this sensation for a few moments here and there. It’s interesting to see how the mind reacts. Usually something along the lines of  “Wow, I’m not doing this (breathing)…something else is.” The I here is the thinking self that assumes it does everything!

Have you experienced this?