Monthly Archives: March 2013

mental hindrances II

such quantities of wind

on the floor of a spacious

summer room –

and still not quite enough! ~ Issa*



I have come to understand that overtime my meditation practice will result in a greater awareness of the sublime states: compassion, loving-kindness, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.  With the comprehension of each of these sublime states and discernment of their unique qualities, my practice can be extended to include an intention to breathe in the understanding of a particular sublime state and to breathe out that same awareness.  Each in and out breath is co-joined with a mindfulness that is ardent, alert, and steady as well as absent of greed and suffering.

What often impacts my practice is one of the five hindrances, desire’s lure.  Desire pulls me away from my meditation intention of mindfulness as my attention is drawn towards that which carries an implied promise of pleasure or escape from the suffering within suffering.

William James noted that desire, wish, and will are states of mind common to everyone:  “We desire to feel, to have, to do, all sorts of things which at the moment are not felt, had, or done. If with the desire there goes a sense that attainment is not possible, we simply wish; but if we believe that the end is in our power, we will that the desired feeling, having, or doing shall be real; and real it presently becomes, either immediately upon the will or after certain preliminaries have been fulfilled.”[1]

The craving for sensual desire is understood as a yearning for sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches that are pleasant as well as a longing for wealth, power, position, and fame.  Craving is known by an addict as a need to find a substance that once promised euphoria and now only postpones suffering. It is known in the anxiety that comes with thoughts about losing what one has and the fear of the emptiness that follows a loss.   It is seen in the vague depression within boredom, which has the potential to either imprison behind walls of angry resentment or energize a life filled with excitement and challenges.  The Buddha noted that that the obtainment of that which we desire has the potential to be like easing thirst with salt water, the temporary relief returns with thirst multiplied.

When our minds are filled with desire, it is like trying to focus upon one’s reflection in a bowl of water filled with multi-colored precious stones.  That is, when we are overpowered by desires and cravings, we are not able to foresee consequences and become limited in our ability to recall learned moral lessons. It is suggested that the meditation on impermanence may assist with containing the pleasure-seeking mind. To remove the desire for excitement and new experiences one is encouraged to mediate on impure objects, to guard the sense doors, to eat in moderation, and to engage in noble friendships and suitable conversations.

To effectively contain desire one must first acknowledge its presence without distraction by noting, “pleasure seeking is rising within me.”  As it is abandoned, “an intention to experience desirable experiences is abandoned.”  While it fades, “an intention to experience desirable experiences is ceasing.”  When it is gone, “there is no intention to experience desirable experiences within me.”

*cited in:

The Year of My Life

Trans: Nobuyuki Yuasa

[1] William James, The Principles of Psychology, (New York, 1890), 486.

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photo friday: distance

The distant mountains

in your eyes

Mr. Dragonfly ~ Issa*

photo friday: distance


Inch by Inch  45 Haiku by Issa

Trans:  Nanao Sakaki

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mental hindrances

In stillness there is fullness,

in fullness there is nothingness,

in nothingness there are all things.~ Anonymous


What may interfere with one’s meditation practice is the awakening of one of the five mental hindrances: 1) restlessness and worry, 2) craving for desirable experiences, 3) ill-will, 4) lack of trust/a divided heart, and 5) half-hearted action/apathy. These hindrances block our ability to move away from our investment in the self and to truly acknowledge the interdependence and interconnectedness of all living beings. They are intertwined into the suffering within, “the good I would do, I do not.  The evil I would not do, I do.”

Restlessness and worry overpower our minds in the same matter the wind stirs and agitates a pond, producing waves and ripples on the surface. Boredom and craving create mental states similar to a pot of water that has been colored with red, yellow, blue, and orange dye. That is, when we are overpowered by desires and cravings, we are not able to foresee consequences and become limited in our ability to recall learned moral lessons.  Ill-will is like a pot of water heated on the fire. The seething and boiling keeps us prisoner to aversion and hatred. Indecisiveness and a divided heart impacts our ability to reflect upon our feelings and creates a mind that is like a pot of water that is turbid, stirred up and muddy. Foggy-mindedness and apathy overcomes and takes us hostage as if we were being smothered by algae and water plants.[1]

Restlessness is known as the agitation that propels us from one thought to another as thoughts swing from greed to aversion and from attachment to discontent.  Worry comes from the remorse we have about past mistakes and the subsequent anxiety that follows imaged consequences.  When agitation and remorse appears it is like trying to see one’s reflection in a pond being swept by the wind.

To contain restlessness and worry one must first acknowledge its presence without being drawn into its current by noting, “restlessness and worry is rising within me.”  As they are abandoned, “restlessness and worry within me is abandoned.” While they fade, “restlessness and worry is ceasing within me.”  When they are gone, “there is no restlessness and worry present within me.”

Restlessness and worry are most effectively countered by turning the mind to a simple object that tends to calm it down; the method usually recommended is mindfulness of breathing, attention to the in-and-out flow of the breath.

[1] Weragoda Sarada Ven Theor, Treasury of Truth, Buddha Dharma Education Association, 774-78; Nyanaponika Thera, The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest (1993).

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point of view

point of view

Every life is a point of view directed upon the universe. Strictly speaking, what one life sees no other can. Every individual, . . . is an organ, for which there can be no substitute, constructed for the apprehension of truth . . . Without the development, the perpetual change and the inexhaustible series of adventures which constitute life, the universe, or absolutely valid truth, would remain unknown . . . Reality happens to be like a landscape, possessed of an infinite number of perspectives, all equally veracious and authentic. The sole false perspective is that which claims to be the only one there is. ~José Ortega y Gasset

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the arising of saudade

Reading is an exterior exercise; meditation belongs to the interior intellect.  

Prayer operates at the level of desire.  Contemplation transcends every sense. ~ Guigo


The arising of saudade* has the power to imprison me to its feelings of anguished desolation. Underneath this homesickness is a calling for a disciplined courage to help depart this state of mind and to wait beside a tranquil pool of water, alone, with a redefined faith that a guide, teacher, companion, savior will arrive to accompany me on a journey of reconciliation.

Within this waiting, I hear a whispered invitation to engage in a mindfulness practice guided by the art of Lectio Divina, a very ancient Christian practice that has been kept alive in the Christian monastic tradition.  Lectio Divina, a Latin term meaning “divine reading”, is a practice that involves a slow, reflective reading of the Scriptures wherein one listens, reverently, for the still voice of God. This spiritual activity is one that includes mindfulness, meditation, insight, and contemplation.

The practice begins with quieting the mind and cultivating the ability to listen deeply. In the twelfth century, Guigo, a Carthusian monk, described the four stages he considered essential to this practice.  He identified the first stage as lectio (reading) where the Word of God is read, slowly and reflectively.  Lectio opens the door to understanding. The second stage is meditatio (reflection). When a word or a passage is understood, the text is memorized while the reader gently repeats the words.  The repetition interacts with one’s thoughts, hopes, memories, and desires.  Through this process of rumination, the deepest aspects of self absorb the text’s meaning. (The image of the ruminant animal quietly chewing its cud was used in antiquity as a symbol of the Christian pondering the Word of God.)

The third stage is oratio (response), during which thinking subsides and one engages in a dialogue with God.  That is, there is a transcending of self with a power beyond oneself in such a way that the absorbed meaning transforms the self in a profound and deep manner.  From this, conscience guides one to a life lived more fully and intently.

The final stage of Lectio Divina is contemplatio (rest) where all thoughts, understandings, and meanings subside.  One is invited to simply rest and listen in silence as one is embraced by God, is home, once again.

Lectio Divina is not a goal-oriented practice in which one reaches unity though a step-by-step, technique-by-technique process.  It is a journey that awakens me, as a lay-person, to the arising and vanishing of thoughts and feelings, and to the ebb and flow between speaking and listening, between questioning and reflecting.

The worldviews of Christianity and Buddhism, as I presently understand them, converge with the suggestions that this sense of homesickness that arises and then fades may be a trace memory of wholeness—of pure emotional connection—and that this sense of home will arise again, and again it will vanish.

From a Western point of view, representing something with words and focusing on them is an “intellectual” process, while representing something through a feeling or image and focusing on through these senses is an “intuitive” process. Intellectual understanding united with intuitive awakening opens doors to greater insight.

The Buddha said that the ultimate truth of things is directly visible, timeless and calling out to be approached and seen.  This reality is always available to us, and that the place where it is to be realized is within oneself.  The ultimate truth is not something mysterious and remote, but the truth of our own experience. It can be reached only by understanding our experience, by penetrating it right through to its foundations.  This truth, in order to become liberating truth, has to be known directly.  That is known by insight, grasped and absorbed by a kind of knowing which is also an immediate seeing.

Wakefulness naturally radiates out when we are not so concerned with ourselves and are able to truly acknowledge the interdependence and connectedness of all that is.

I feel an invitation to be in the moment with stilled silence, I am home.

The still center of being . . . whispers, “Realize Me.”  No sooner is it glimpsed then it is gone. ~ Guigo

*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


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everything is pretending

everything is pretending

One day as I was about to step on a dry leaf, I saw the leaf in the ultimate dimension.

I saw that it was not really dead, but that it was merging with the moist soil in order to appear on the tree the following spring in another form.

I smiled at the leaf and said, “You are pretending.”  Everything is pretending to be born and pretending to die, including the leaf.

The Buddha said, “When conditions are sufficient, the body reveals itself, and we say the body exists.  When conditions are not sufficient, the body cannot be perceived by us, and we say the body does not exist.”  The day of our “death” is a day of our continuation in many forms.

If you know how to touch your ancestors in the ultimate dimension, they will always be there with you.  If you touch your own hand, face, or hair and look very deeply, you can see that they are there in you smiling.  This is a deep practice.

The ultimate dimension is a state of coolness, peace, and joy.  It is not a state to be attained after you “die.”  You can touch the ultimate dimension right now by breathing, walking, and drinking your tea in mindfulness…

A farmer looking at his landing winter can already see his crop, because he knows that all of the conditions are there – land, seeds, water, fertilizer, farm equipment, and so on – except one, warm weather, and that will come in a matter of months.  So it would be inaccurate to say his crop does not exist.  It is already there.  It needs only one more condition to manifest.    We are entirely capable of touching the ultimate dimension.  When we touch one thing with deep awareness, we touch everything.  Touching the present moment, we realize that the present is made of the past and is creating the future.

~Thich Nhat Hana, Living Buddha, Living Christ

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photo friday: machine

Machine: (verb)

  1. tools: instrument, mill, mechanize, motorize, sharpen
  2.  process: convert, carve, chisel, mine, extract, refine, cultivate, harvest

Word associations “machine”

 tool >  instrument ( window latch) > refine one’s sheltered thoughts > open self to  the mines of others > harvest universal understanding


People usually fail when they are on the verge of success.

So give as much care to the end as to the beginning.

Then there will be no failure. ~Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching


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