Monthly Archives: December 2012

a new year

fallen leaves

fallen leaves

My own way of celebrating the first of the year is somewhat different, since the dust of the world still clings to me…The words “crane” and “tortoise” ring hallow on my ear like the greetings of the begging actors.  Nor will I set the customary pine beside my door, nor sweep the dust out of my house, for I live in a tiny cottage that might be swept away at any moment by a blast from the wild north wind.  I will leave all to Buddha, and though the path ahead be difficult and steep, like a snow-covered road winding through the mountains, I welcome the New Year—even as I am. ~Issa*

water drop ii

water drop ii

Only

Moderately  happy

Is my spring

My New Year. ~ Issa*

fallen leaves

fallen leaves

a new year—

the same nonsense

 on nonsense ~Issa**

*cited in Issa’s The Year of My life.  Trans: Nobuyuki Yuasa

*http://haikuguy.com

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bare attention

water drops

water drops

The current of bare attention flows in opposition to a life guided by streams of unconscious habit patterns and emotional reactivity.  Bare attention awakens us to the stones we stumble over due to the blindness of confusion or ignorance.  It shines a light into the shadows of confusion and ignorance and finds our frustrated desires and suppressed resentments. Bare attention identifies and pursues the single threads of the closely interwoven threads of our thoughts, feelings, and actions, which have over the years formulated the tapestry of our life story.

Bare attention is the clear and single-minded awareness of what actually happens to us and in us at each successive moment of perception.  It is the forerunner of insight.  It is a way of being that is counter to the general manner by which we briefly and fleetingly know or experience the events or people within our daily schedules. Bare attention trains the mind to be detached, open, silent, and alert within the framework of the present moment.  It is an intention to suspend all judgments and interpretations, and to simply note and dismiss them if and when they do occur.

The task within bare attention is to simply non-judgmentally acknowledge what occurs just as it occurs.  It is a process of inviting one’s self back into the present, of being mindful of the moment, with the realization that our minds have taken us into an imaginative realm of fantasy, recollections, or discursive thoughts.  It is a means by which to acquaint our selves with an object before our minds alter its presence through conceptual paint overlaid with interpretations.

Bare attention is undertaken with an intention to undo our general ways of being in the world, it is an intention of simply noting and not thinking, not judging, not associating, not planning, not imagining, not wishing.  It notes each occasion of experience as it arises, reaches its peak and then fades away.  It is a sustained mindfulness of experience in its bare immediacy, carefully and precisely and persistently.

Bare attention awakens me to the relationship I have formed with this world through the untested foundations of beliefs, values, guiding principles, and morals. To attend to what formulated these foundations I have found seeds of misconstrued concepts built out of my childhood fears and fantasies.  My eyes have opened a blind faith to family customs, rituals, and cultures.  I have come to understand how some of the holy of holy concepts within my “absolute truths” are unquestioned beliefs that perpetuate suffering.

As nature prevents the presence of two thoughts within the same moment, those who implement the practice of bare attention into their daily lives will find that mindfulness serves to lessen the turmoil of anxiety, restrains the drive within impulsivity, and acquaints them, as an observer, to the dynamics of their suffering. With this in mind, this healing journey requires that I invest in becoming acquainted with an intellectual and intuitive awareness of a mindful presence with others and myself. It is my thought that bare attention to the tapestry of images, thoughts, and feelings that mentally arise and fade within each present moment of my days will guide me in a search for the wisdom, trust, strength, silence, and acceptance that aid in the cessation of suffering.

A pumpkin placed on the surface of a pond soon floats away and always remains on the water’s surface. But a stone does not float away; it stays where it is put and at once sinks into the water until it reaches bottom. Similarly, when mindfulness is strong, the mind stays with its object and penetrates its characteristics deeply. It does not wander and merely skim the surface as the mind destitute of mindfulness does.

~ Bhikkhu Bodhi

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as it is

The eyes will not see that which breaks the heart.

reflections

To heal does not mean to cure.  To heal is a process of becoming whole and thus an invitation to see the world anew and to enter into a more gratifying connection with life.

Every healing intervention is motivated by suffering and hope – be it of the individual, family, friends, or a community agency.  The value within suffering is that it contains a message of incongruence that awakens the motivation to heal. William James wrote that life is the manifestation of behaviors that attempt to avoid, overcome, or remove what is believed to block us from that which we desire.[1]

The motivation to heal requires the support of at least one companion who is able to listen with a compassionate and non-judgmental ear. Freud discussed a listening technique in which the attention is not directed towards anything in particular and is maintained with an evenly suspended attention to all that is presented.  This manner of listening avoids the downfall of deliberate attention in which the listener is being guided by her own expectations or inclinations and thus selects what to listen for and what to disregard.  Freud noted that when we follow our expectations, we will not hear anything but what we already know; and if we follow our inclinations, we will certainty falsify what we may perceive. “It must not be forgotten that the things one hears are for the most part things whose meaning is only recognized later on.”[2]

The discontent that is presented during the initial meeting with a healing companion very often times is colored by, and hidden under, numerous layers of attempts to ease pain.   Therefore, what occurs within the isolation of suffering is a compounding of the original problem. Overcoming the defenses that shield one from acknowledging suffering requires a presence similar to how a person standing beside a pure, limpid, serene pool of water contemplates the reflected surface images, observes the life within the water’s current, and notes the sediment’s composition; to do otherwise only serves to fortify protective shields such as rationalization, minimizing, justification, or defiance. It is postulated; therefore, that the effective resolution of presenting concerns within a therapeutic environment requires a relationship that intentionally begins with the comprehension and acceptance of one’s discontent “as it is.”

“As it is” initiates a settling of internal criticism and disturbing feelings similar to the descent of sediment within a pot of muddy water.  Consequently, to simply listen to a feeling, belief, or behavior “as it arises and as it is” is believed to be an effective way to begin a process of unraveling entanglements of thoughts, emotions, and actions.  It silences troublesome intrusions and invites accurate empathy, congruence, and unconditional positive regard into the environment.   Thus both the person and healing companion are invited to emerge from their various shadows of anxiety, anger, grief, cravings, and confusion into a space of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a non-judgmental and non-distracted presence that remains in the moment, moment by moment.  This congruent presence is a prerequisite for the “letting in” and “being touched by the other” that is the essence of therapeutic empathy. What is not often acknowledged is the courage it takes for both client and healing companion to allow their defenses to fade in order for empathy to awaken as “being touched” has the potential to awaken each person’s vulnerabilities, loneliness, sadness, anxieties, shame, regret, anger, etc.  Yet, when the barriers come down and the elements of mindfulness, empathy, and courage unite, a therapeutic environment is filled with creative, active, sensitive, and compassionate exchanges.

Nothing is hidden

It has always been clear as day

For divine wisdom; look at the old pine tree;

For eternal truth; listen to the birds sing;

Seeking the mind; there is no place to look;

Can you see the footprints of flying birds?

Above, not a single tile to shelter under,

Below, not a morsel of ground for support.~ Zenrin


[1] William James, The Principles of Psychology, (New York, 1890), 7-8, “Romeo wants Juliet as the filings want the magnet; and if no obstacles intervene he moves towards her by as straight line as they.  But Romeo and Juliet, if a wall be built between them, do not remain idiotically pressing their faces against its opposite sides like the magnet and the filings, Romeo soon finds a circuitous way, by scaling the wall or otherwise, of touching Juliet’s lips directly.  With the filings the path is fixed; where it reaches the end depends on accidents with intelligent agents, altering the conditions changes the activity displayed, but not the end reached; for here the idea of the yet unrealized end cooperates with the conditions to determine what the activities shall be.”

[2] Peter Gray, ed., The Freud Reader (New York, 1998), 357.

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giving voice to that which words cannot convey

city park

city park

There was once a peaceful village where people would gather during the lunch hour to rest, eat their afternoon meals, and exchange village news and gossip.  In the village square, some people chose to sit on the grass, others rested in the shade of a large tree, while some chose to sit underneath a century-old veranda. One afternoon without warning tragedy came to the village.  Five people died and two were seriously injured when the veranda broke loose and fell to the ground.  Before the end of the day, rumors, myths, and suppositions began to formulate from questions such as why that particular veranda? Why that particular day? Why that particular time? Why those particular people and not others?

 These universal questions have given birth to myths of old.

walkway construction

walkway construction

Stories, myths, and parables acknowledge and respect the unique individuality of each of us. Myths give voice, through their use of symbols, to what is hidden, unknown, or evasive. Stories that share the dynamics of human interactions silently plant a seed of personal truth in the dark component of each of us, waiting for the appropriate time to bloom and to nourish. They also illustrate the universal theme of suffering and its resolution. Parables, with their multiple levels of meaning, honor the unique perspective and understanding of both listener and speaker.  These multiple layers of meaning touch what is salient to the reader and thus gift all readers with an invitation to define for self their own understanding, interpretation, and application.

Within all of us there are powerful emotions within our souls that remain voiceless and silent until they are conveyed through imagery and symbols.  It is through creative endeavors – drawing, cooking, writing, painting, gardening, poetry, child rearing, photography, weaving, reading, work – we may be able to give “voice” to that which words cannot convey.

All forms of art provide a means to help us externalize that which silently moves us, to re-acquaint our self with self, to re-create a new awareness of self, to communicate about self with others, and to meet our own wondrous angel, spirit, guide.

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i long for kyoto

even in Kyoto-

hearing the cuckoo’s cry

i long for kyoto ~Basho

GlasnevinDublin Ireland

Glasnevin
Dublin Ireland

About twelve years ago, I met a homeless woman who identified herself as a sundowner.   She described how each evening’s sunset encouraged her to identify her present environment as “home” while knowing that  come morning she would begin a journey anew. She eloquently described an undercurrent of yearning that ebbed and flowed throughout her soul and how she often found herself at the mercy of private memories, thoughts, and imaginations and had encountered, time and time again, various degree of discontent despite the seemingly fulfilling qualities of her earlier life.

As I hear the suffering within women who story their lives through the multi-colored threads of substance use, I find myself acknowledging a similarity within each of these unique stories with my own metaphysical search for someone, something, or some place that remains beyond the forever next horizon.  Each of our unique narratives reveal an unending wandering with satchels of discontent that tell of a spiritual emptiness and an emotional intimacy within a translation of the Brazilian word saldage*, “a homesickness for a place one knows cannot be.”

i wonder how far

he has wandered away

chasing after

his dragonfly? ~Chiyo

(cited in Issa’s The Year of My Life)

glasnevinDublin, Ireland

glasnevin
Dublin, Ireland

*The word “saldage” and its spelling and meaning was introduced to me through readings of eastern medicine. Recently a blogger shared with me that “saldage” was in fact spelled “saudade”. “Saudade is a unique Portuguese word that has no immediate translation in English. In the book In Portugal of 1912, A. F. G. Bell writes: The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness.” (cited in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudade)

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thread of hope

doors

The mountain lake is fed

not only by the outside rains,

but also

by springs welling up

from within its own depths.  ~ Nyanaponika Thera

Those who are most likely to have intimate knowledge of what it means to be fettered to suffering are those who present with a history of chemical use, those with a life story of his/her own personal abuse/dependency, those of  significant others, or both.

The dynamics within dependency resemble the autumn leaves traveling upon the surface of a stream; they are overt manifestations of the undercurrent that demonstrates how each of us seek pleasure and will, in the long run, endure suffering if there is a thread of hope, no matter how short lived, of experiencing remembered pleasure.

As Freud wrote: “The most interesting methods of averting suffering are those which seek to influence our own organism . . . The crudest, but also the most effective method people use to ease their suffering is through “intoxication [to] alter the conditions governing our sensibility so that we become incapable of receiving unpleasureable impulses . . . The service rendered by intoxicating media in the struggle for happiness and in keeping misery at a distance is so highly prized… We owe to such media not merely the immediate yield of pleasure, but also a greatly desired degree of independence from the external world.”[1]

This yield of pleasure and degree of independence that Freud identified creates its own attachment, which is compounded by an aversion to both the impermanence of intoxication and of re-engagement with life’s discontent.  Suffering intensifies as cravings and intrusive thoughts feed a desire to escape discontent.  Therefore, a relentless ruminating and obsessing mind has the power to create as much suffering as physical dependence.


[1]Peter Gray, ed., The Freud Reader  (New York, 1998), 730-35.

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no words to describe “samsara”

brenda:

I have no words to describe and may now understand at a deeper level, “It is for bidden by the rules of the ascetics’ order to disclose details of this mountain to other people. I will therefore lay down my pen and write no more.” ~ The Narrow Road to Oku, Matsuo Basho

Originally posted on redpoppyseeds:

Kadr_filmu_Samsara_minut_5937667“Bewilderingly powerful.
SAMSARA is pure cinema.”
American Cinematographer

Brought to me by mavioneyda (thanks girl!), the idea of this beautifully shot documentary, where no words are needed, is just so refreshing.

Here comes the trailer, so i dont have to explain much:

What was before “Samsara”? “Baraka” of course, you can watch the whole movie over here to get some preview before “Samsara”:

and here comes the link to the official webside:

http://barakasamsara.com/

5 years, 25 countries and what’s the most important for me – all the films shot on 70 mm! We can read on the webside:

“SAMSARA is a Sanskrit word that means “the ever turning wheel of life” and is the point of departure for the filmmakers as they search for the elusive current of interconnection that runs through our lives” (…)

The last thing worth knowing – for the soundtrack is responsible Lisa Gerrard – and…

View original 24 more words

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roots of human discontent

"Famine" - Edward Delaney

“Famine” – Edward Delaney

May I find the Courage and Strength to withstand the crumbling of my delusions

so that the light of right understanding guides me on a life path

absent of greed, anger, and ignorance.

The governing aspect of the psychology within Buddhism is the investment to understand the roots of human discontent and to present a way of living that leads to the cessation of suffering. Within his speech, “Setting Rolling the Wheel of Truth”, the Buddha identified four noble truths that begins with the acknowledgment and validation of suffering. From this starting point, he then identified the origins of our suffering. He furthered his understanding by noting that the easing of suffering begins as we let go of our relationships with the mental and behavioral qualities that are fed by greed, hatred, and ignorance and employ the guiding principles of wisdom, virtue, and diligence.

The last of the Four Noble Truths known as the Eightfold Path or Middle Way identifies the wisdom, virtue, and diligence that lead to social, psychological, kammic, and contemplative unity. These eight guiding principles extend beyond moral precepts to provide us with the tools to develop and maintain positive interpersonal relationships. They protect our minds from the internal turmoil of guilt and remorse as well as help us discover serenity and insight. They also bring us into harmony with the universal law of cause and effect. Lastly, they invite us to go beyond the Golden Rule “to treat others as I wish to be treated” towards a noble undertaking to engage with honor the diversity of all sentient beings, “to treat others as I and they wish to be treated.”

The Buddha’s inclusion of the world “noble” in his discussion of “suffering” suggests a counter perspective to a Western presumption that those who suffer have been denied God’s grace. My readings tell me that suffering through an Eastern lens is seen as an intrinsic aspect of life that is to be reverenced rather than a manifestation of something to hide in shame as if a consequence of loss of grace, moral discrepancy, or the stain of original sin. Additionally, the “truths” of suffering and its cessation are presented as a reality that unlike a mirage does not deceive or disappoint; i.e., those who live in wealth are embraced by the grace of God.

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truths that lead to benefit and happiness

palm seeds

palm seeds

Kalama Sutta

Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing, nor upon tradition, nor upon rumor, nor upon scripture, nor upon surmise, nor upon axiom, nor upon specious reasoning, nor upon bias towards a notion pondered over, nor upon another’s seeming ability, nor upon the consideration ‘The monk is our teacher.’

When you yourselves know: ‘These things are bad, blamable, censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,’ abandon them.

When you yourselves know: ‘These things are good, blameless, praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,’ enter on and abide in them.  ~ The Buddha

My reading of the Kalama Sutta invites me to understand that the Buddha wanted our truths to be known, not through the words of others, but through personal experiences as well as introspection and intuition. His writing suggest that the way in which we comprehend and make sense of this vast and mysterious thing called life brings forth beliefs that have the power to either ease our discontent or intensify our suffering. Yet, to undertake, for one self, the challenge to analyze the mental ground one stands upon is to encounter a time of uncertainty. This uncertainty is like quicksand: its power to imprison will intensify in association with the struggle to escape the entanglements of concepts that formulate the foundation of one’s life, family, culture.

Therefore, to observe, question, and analyze suffering through a Buddhist lens requires an acknowledgment that this endeavor will be influenced by the myths, beliefs, and expectations within my family of origin, how I understood doctrines within my religious upbringing, and the experience and training I have had as a psychotherapist.

Freud noted that suffering comes from three directions: the feebleness of our bodies, the superior power of nature, and more painful to us than that of any other, our relations with others. He also wrote, “In the last analysis, all suffering is nothing else than sensation; it only exists in so far as we feel it, and we feel it in consequence of certain ways in which our organism is regulated.” The few who possess the ability to experience pleasure through special dispositions and gifts do not have “an impenetrable amour against the arrows of future.”

It is my hope that as you journey through the words within my blog you return again and again to the wisdom within the Kalama Sutta. If you find that my words, images, and/or images trigger any discontent within, please abandon them. If you find that they lead to an easing of discontent, please accept my written thoughts as a gift from me to you.

May you become acquainted with tranquil single-pointed concentration . . .

those who seek wisdom through the lens of tranquility

open a door between worlds of illusion and reality.

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grief awakens grief

a young family

a young family

Photographic images are a visual memoir of a young family where trust once allowed two young sisters to roam free throughout a field of tall, yellowed grass.  “How many days,” my questioning mind wonders, “how many days were left before the decline of my father’s health shifted the lights of a colorful present into the gray-shaded time of waiting?” Within this stillness of waiting, memory tells of a young child seeking solace through repetitive rocking behaviors and of a father’s fragile heart enduring a turbulent wait for a donated aorta.

I hear compassion speak to my heart and I begin to feel how my father intuitively knew of my inner turmoil and of the tranquil stillness within rhythmic repetition.   His gift of a rocking chair tells me some fifty years after his death of the multiple emotional and physical sufferings within his suffering, the interconnectedness of the suffering within the family, and of his wish to ease our suffering.

freedom to roam

freedom to roam

As the fabric of time glides between my fingertips, the shadow of grief that holds the memories of my son emerges.  An old fear awakens as the image of grief’s blackened shadow looms over me with its death-filled abyss of intermingled condemnation, uncertainty, and emptiness. I feel the void that will consume me if I were to release the eternal care of my son to its embrace.  I come to know that I hold no trust that within death is compassionate loving-kindness.  Awareness arises to tell me that as I run from grief with the anguish of powerlessness to protect the heart of my soul, like an addict running from her addiction, grief becomes even more insidious.

In this undifferentiated chaos of anguish, fear, and mistrust, hope seeks for the magical garment that when donned will transform me into the Great Mother.   It is faith that clings to the belief that as God witnesses this transformation, absolution and reconciliation would simultaneously subdue this impenetrable monster and return my son, whole with the spirit of life, to my care.

 last embraceI do hold that my beliefs and the subsequent desire for their illusive promises of validation, forgiveness, or reunification have set me upon an unending path of suffering.  These beliefs lead to harm and ill as they are like thorns that tear into my heart.  This searing pain releases resentment intertwined with envy, awakens alienation, and denies me the essence of Christ’s wisdom and loving compassion.

Christ stood before self-righteous anger and commanded that only the one without sin was to cast the first stone of punishment and, at another time and in the midst of his own suffering, sought forgiveness for those who “know not what they do.”   Within these written words, I hear compassion speaking for the suffering intertwined within anger ungoverned by moral shame and moral dread.  Compassion is telling us how suffering, entangled into knots of mental, emotional, and social turmoil, deafens us to our guiding principles and blinds us to the horrors our moral shame will witness as it awakens from darkened ignorance.

May I find the Equanimity that will lift a veil of shamed despair

and acquaint me to the perceived and perceiver

absent of greed, anger, and ignorance.

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