Saturday, June 17, 2006


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Sayeth the Buddha:
Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful.
I'm grateful for a relaxing day of soccer, dinner with Kira, and a trip to the bookstore. I needed an off-day with very little blogging, no thinking of deep thoughts, and no agenda for getting stuff done.

I'm grateful that Ghana shocked the soccer world and beat the Czech Republic.

I'm grateful for sirloin steak.

What are you grateful for on this fine (and hot) Saturday?

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US vs Italy -- live blog [final]

22nd minute, Italy 1, US 0 -- Italy scores on a free kick header that was not defended by the US. Neither team looks sharp, but US is more aggressive than in first game.

26th minute, Italian own goal on US free kick: US 1, Italy 1.

27th minute: DeRossi red carded for foul (blatant elbow to the face) on Brian McBride. Italy will play a man down for the rest of the match.

44th minute: Pablo Mastroeni of the US red carded for a late tackle. Bad call. Both teams at ten men now.

Half time: all even at one goal each, both teams down a man.

Eddie Pope of the US ejected with second yellow card in the 46th minute. Another bad call.

US 1, Italy 1

US played well with only nine men for the whole second half. Beasley needs to sit for the rest of the game. He showed no initiative when we was the freshest man on the field.

The referee should also sit for the remainder of the tournament. He was awful -- in both directions.

The US is still alive. They need to beat a good Ghana team and hope that Italy beats the Czech Republic. Any other result and the US goes home in disgrace.

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Ghana vs. Czech Republic -- live blog [final]

Ghana 1, Czech Republic 0 -- 1:05 of the first half. First World Cup goal ever for Ghana.


82:00, Ghana 2, Czech Republic 0 -- Ghana may pull the biggest upset of the tournament.


Gotta love this game.

Ghana 2, Czech Republic 0. Group E is now wide open.

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Applied Integral Spirituality

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[It might be helpful before reading this to look at What Is Integral Spirituality? if you haven't already, especially page 106 to the end, the Appendix.]

This quote is from the Gospel of Thomas, saying 22:
Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to his disciples, "These nursing babies are like those who enter the (Father's) kingdom."

They said to him, "Then shall we enter the (Father's) kingdom as babies?"

Jesus said to them, "When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom]."
Ken Wilber spends a great deal of time in the new issue of What Is Enlightenment? talking about Integral Spirituality, but in particular, he focuses on how all the higher states of consciousness are available to any of the developmental stages. For example, someone who is essentially from a mythic order stage (Blue meme) can experience subtle, causal, or nondual states of consciousness. But those experiences will be filtered through the eyes of the mythic order worldview.

The example above from the Gospel of Thomas demonstrates this principle. Jesus is speaking about an apparent nondual state of consciousness, "When you make the two into one," but it is clearly filtered through a lower level of development that can equate the prepersonal infant with a transpersonal state of consciousness.

I think that what this demonstrates is a need to revise our vision of what constitutes enlightenment. We think of Jesus as enlightened because he accessed and talked about causal and nondual states of consciousness. We think of Buddha as perfectly enlightened because he accessed and could maintain nondual consciousness at all times. I used to think of Wilber, after reading One Taste, as someone who was was approaching Buddhanature. Maybe so, but it no longer seems relevant. None of these people, or any other person I am aware of, can be considered fully enlightened for our time and place by the standards of Integral Spirituality.

Reaching and being able to maintain higher states of consciousness is great, but partial. One can have access to the nondual and still have an egocentric center of gravity. That is not a great combination -- witness Andrew Cohen.

By the new standard, achieving states of consciousness is no longer enough to be considered enlightened. A person must maintain stages of consciousness. To be considered enlightened, someone must have reached and be centered in the highest known stage of development -- with full awareness that Spirit is evolving and what we might see as the highest stage today may not be in 500 years.

Within this evolving framework, it is entirely possible to see Jesus or Buddha as having been enlightened in their lifetimes, and by the standards of their civilizations. But by our standards, their teachings must be filtered out of their cultural context in order for us to retain their glimpse of perfection.

When people like Sam Harris call for the destruction of organized religion, what they really want to do away with is the cultural baggage that the spiritual insights of the major faiths carry with them. If we could remove the cultural baggage from Jesus' teachings (and do away with Paul almost entirely), would Christianity be as regressive as it sometimes appears to a rational believer in scientism?

Harris has already advocated removing the cultural/mythic baggage from Buddhism. Why can't he also see that Christianity would be a wonderful belief system once the Paulist teachings and the mythic order language is removed? Most other religious traditions, for that matter, once cleansed of cultural prejudices, would be wonderful belief systems. And as Wilber has pointed out in The Marriage of Sense and Soul, they all contain technology for transcendence.

This may be what the rational/scientific meme needs to be comfortable with organized religion, but it not an integral view. From an integral perspective, we realize that the major traditions have teachings and practices that feed the lower memes, which must be honorer in an integral practice. We cannot do away with all beliefs and practices from the lower memes, but we can recognize which elements of a given tradition no longer serve our needs.

For example, in traditional Buddhism and Christianity homosexuality is frowned upon. This is an artifact of their times, when procreation was essential for the survival of the group -- and procreation was framed as a moral issue due to its importance in survival. This is no longer the case. Homosexuality is a natural expression common to all sentient creatures, and as such it should be honored as part of the natural order.

But there are also practices from the same worldview that are useful. As an example, I was put off by the thought of doing 100,000 bows as part of one's preliminary practice. But this is useful technique for removing pride from the ego so that the student is more open to the teachings and is more pliable for the teacher. A rational ego or a sensitive self ego would reject this practice as barbaric, but an integral centered ego could see the usefulness of the practice.

Finally, Wilber claims, and I am not too sure that I agree with this (although there is some evidence to support his claims, I need to see more evidence from better studies), that experiencing higher states can act as a magnet pulling one into higher stages. That is essentially the rationale behind several modules of the ILP kits (Integral Life Practice). Maybe, maybe not.

We do know however, that simple mindulfness practice and meditation combined with various forms of inner work (journaling, art, therapy, subpersonality work, and so on) and a healthy lifestyle can have a major impact on one's growth process. I don't see a major need to experience higher states to make progress toward higher stages. In fact, I think the risks (in the absence of an excellent teacher) might outweigh the benefits.

When one tatses those higher states, ego gets all inflated with thoughts that it is enlightened now. Remember that ego hasn't gone anywhere because this is a state experience, not a new stage. Ego loves to feel enlightened -- it gets all puffed up with its specialness and struts around like a peacock. Noted transpersonal theorist, and I-I co-founder, Frances Vaughan talks about this risk in Shadows of the Sacred -- a fine book.

With this risk being so great for those of us who practice mostly in the absence of a powerful teacher, I think a slow gradual approach to stage shift is the answer. Robert Kegan suggests that it can take at least five years to fully shift from one stage to the next, but I think that an integral practice can speed that up considerably. Murphy and Leonard are the pioneers in this area.

With this in mind, I am going to put off the Dzogchen program I was looking into. My ego likes the idea of getting "enlightened" in this lifetime, but I am more concerned with trying to make my way into higher stages of growth right now than I am with experiencing higher states of consciousness.

If and when I taste One Taste, I want to be whole enough to hold that experience within a fully integral framework and not have it corrupted by my clinging ego. It may be a few dozen more lifetimes before I am ready for that -- and that's okay (insert Stuart Smalley voice, here).

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[One of my neighbors.]

[Didn't have the energy to sit at the computer last night and write this, so I went to bed and I'm doing it today.]

I'm grateful for Friday. This week wasn't all that busy, but the combination of outer work and inner work was taxing. And my workouts are reaching a level of intensity I haven't had since last summer, so I'm tired and I'm grateful that Friday came with no obligations for the weekend.

I'm grateful that Thursday was only only 106 instead of the predicted 109 degrees. And that today it cooled off to 101 degrees.

And I'm grateful that Kira's workshop on boundaries has been officially approved by Pima. We might offer a couples workshop in the future, which both excites and scares me.

What are you grateful for?

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Integral Humor

Eric pointed this out, but I thought I'd post it here, too, because it's just too damn funny. and

Are there any shadow elements in this post?

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Poem: Izumi Shikibu

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Although the wind

Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks
of this ruined house.

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Pema Chodron on Working with Distraction


Tricycle has some videos on their website. One of them is Pema Chodron talking about how we avoid ourselves through distractions, what is called dunzie in Tibetan.

Here are links to the video:
Watch High Res Version
Watch Low Res Version

In the video, she gives the example of how people act when they are on an airplane, but the greatest example in this country is the television. It's become such a profound way to avoid ourselves that we must have them on everywhere -- in our homes, in restaurants, in stores, on airplanes, and even in cars now.

What are we afraid of? What is it within us that is so frightening that we must avoid it all costs?

I suspect that if most people turn off the television, put down the magazine or book, turn off the radio, unplug the video game, step away from the computer, and just sit in silence and see what happens, what will happen is anxiety. Without our distractions, we become anxious, and if we dig into the anxiety we will probably find that we are unhappy, we are suffering -- the First Noble Truth.

But why? We have all the toys we could ever need. We have busy lives planned to the last minute of every day. Compared to most other people on the planet, we live like royalty. So what could be the problem?

I think I have been a good example of the problem. Most of my life has been spent worrying about my exteriors, things outside of me -- grades, friends, jobs, housing, cars, possessions, income, toys, partners, and so on. Very little time, until recently has been spent on my interiors. From time to time I have felt dissatisfied with my life and launched into some quest to be happier or healthier or more relaxed -- or whatever. Until the past few years, it never lasted very long.

And beneath the anxiety, and beneath the unhappiness, and beneath the fears of facing myself, the truth is that I had very little connection to who I am. My ego was like a sailboat being tossed around on the open ocean without any anchor, any hope of finding a safe port, or any sense that I was going someplace.

Until I started getting reconnected to myself a few years back, life was bleak. I hated getting up in the morning, I hated going to work, and I even hated my parents for bringing my into this incarnation. I had no relationship with Eros, but I sure knew Thanatos well.

In order to get to know who I was, to get reconnected to the source of my life, to find the Self that was buried beneath layers of denial and fear, I had to give up my chemicals, and I had to give up some of my distractions. I made time in my life to just sit. I made time to be in silence with no distractions. I made time to write whatever wanted to come out into my journal. And a funny thing happened -- I began to know myself. And I began to live.

I'm not saying my story is the same as other people's stories. But I suspect that if more people actually spent time getting connected to themselves, there would be a lot fewer prescriptions for anti-depressants.

It doesn't take much time. Start with a few minutes here and there. The gift of knowing ourselves, of being connected to ourselves is so much better than the new issue of People magazine or a rerun of Seinfeld.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006


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I'm grateful for the sounds of the birds in the morning. The songs they sing to each other never get old. One day the cardinal who visits me around dawn will sit still long enough for me to photograph him.

I'm grateful for individually packaged meal replacement drinks (MRPs). They make my life so much more convenient.

And I am grateful for Burton Watson. This guy is the translater of at least six of my books of Asian poetry. His knowledge of the culture is extremely helpful.

What are you grateful for?

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Poem: Yuan Chen

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An Elegy


O youngest, best-loved daughter of Hsieh,
Who unluckily married this penniless scholar,
You patched my clothes from your own wicker basket,
And I coaxed off your hairpins of gold, to buy wine with;
For dinner we had to pick wild herbs -
And to use dry locust-leaves for our kindling.
. . . Today they are paying me a hundred thousand -
And all that I can bring to you is a temple of sacrifice.


We joked, long ago, about one of us dying,
But suddenly, before my eyes, you are gone.
Almost all your clothes have been given away;
Your needleworok is sealed, I dare not look at it. . . .
I continue your bounty to our men and our maids -
Sometimes, in a dream, I bring you gifts.
. . . This is a sorrow that all mandkind must know -
But not as those know it who have been poor together.


I sit here alone, mourning for us both.
How many years do I lack now of my threescore and ten?
There have been better men than I to whom heaven denied a son,
There was a better poet than I whose dead wife could not hear him.
What have I to hope for in the darkness of our tomb?
You and I had little faith in a meeting after death -
Yet my open eyes can see all night
That lifelong trouble of your brow.

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Buddhist Parable

I've become intrigued by teaching stories of late. I've always enjoyed the aspect of folktales that teaches some cultural value, but parables are even more precise methods of teaching life lessons. Here is a short piece on the power of compassion.


In a time long past, there was an old monk who, through diligent practice, had attained a certain degree of spiritual penetration.

"He had a young novice who was about eight years old. One day the monk looked at the boy's face and saw there that he would die within the next few months. Saddened by this, he told the boy to take a long holiday and go and visit his parents. 'Take your time,' said the monk. 'Don't hurry back.' For he felt the boy should be with his family when he died. Three months later, to his astonishment, the monk saw the boy walking back up the mountain. When he arrived he looked intently at his face and saw that they boy would now live to a ripe old age. 'Tell me everything that happened while you were away,' said the monk. So the boy started to tell of his journey down from the mountain. He told of villages and towns he passed through, of rivers forded and mountains climbed. Then he told how one day he came upon a stream in flood. He noticed, as he tried to pick his way across the flowing stream, that a colony of ants had become trapped on a small island formed by the flooding stream. Moved by compassion for these poor creatures, he took a branch of a tree and laid it across one flow of the stream until it touched the little island. As the ants made their way across, the boy held the branch steady, until he was sure all the ants had escaped to dry land. Then he went on his way. 'So,' thought the old monk to himself, 'that is why the gods have lengthened his days.'
The message in this story is clear, but how often do we take a moment to perform the smallest act of compassion. One of the many books I am reading right now mentions that the smallest compassionate act performed with purity of heart is more meritorious than the largest act performed with only a moderately pure heart.

But we are not seeking merit. We seek the end of suffering for all beings. The young boy didn't want the ants to suffer, and through his compassionate act he healed himself.

Now, I tend to scoff at energy medicine (just ask Kira), but how many times have you done one small, nice thing for someone in the midst of a bad day and felt so much better? Studies show an objective benefit (change in biochemistry) to our subjective experience (happiness) in doing something kind for another person. Maybe this is how merit works in the real world.

Imagine how much different we might feel if each day we do one small act of kindness for another being, human or otherwise. We must do it with a pure heart, from a place of true compassion, and not from a sense of "this is my compassionate act for today." It will require us to live with an open and tender heart.

I'm going to try this for a while and see what happens.

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Marilyn Mandala Schlitz on Meditation

Marilyn Mandala Schlitz, of The Institute of Noetic Sciences, has an article that originally appeared in Shift: At the Frontiers of Consciousness (No. 11, March-May 2006, pp. 38-40), the quarterly publication of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), posted on the Integrative Spirituality website.

She presents her views on an integral approach to meditation, but the article isn't long enough to really develop the idea.

Give it read anyway. I suspect that she has seen an advance copy of Integral Spirituality, since she is on the board at I-I.

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Story: Riding the Windhorses

I wrote this story a couple of years ago for an online educational company. The editor asked me to remove any references to the Chinese so as not to offend potential customers (or his Chinese girlfriend, I suspect). I refused and ended up resigning as a writer for that company. I've tried to place the story a couple of other places, but the length has been an issue.

Much of the information in the story is taken from the movies The Salt Men of Tibet and Windhorse.

Riding the Windhorses

I was six years old when the soldiers came to our village. They destroyed the temples and monasteries, and arrested all the monks. They placed radio speakers on the roof of the tallest building. We were told that the soldiers came to set us free from the oppression of the monasteries. Their loud speakers told us religion was nothing but lies. They said they were our brothers and sisters and only wanted what was best for us.

Over the next eight years, our lives became more and more difficult. Our prayers and rituals were forbidden. The adults were forced to work in the vegetable gardens that fed the soldiers. The children were sent to schools where we were taught to speak Chinese, the language of the soldiers, and we were not allowed to speak Tibetan. We were taught that our land had always been a part of China, the country that now ruled us. We were taught that they were not our invaders, but that they had come to liberate us.

During these years, my parents sold whatever they could to raise money. My mother had studied in the nunnery as a young woman and could read and write. She worked as a translator for the soldiers but was paid very little. It would be very expensive to buy our way out of the country, to freedom. Even I helped by knitting hats and scarves that we could sell in the market.
Just after my fourteenth birthday, we left our home in the village of my birth. The tall, snowy mountains that surrounded our village are just a memory. Many people did not survive the journey, and others have died since gaining their freedom.

My name is Pema. I am Tibetan. This is the story of my escape from my home in the rooftop of the world, of my journey to freedom in a new land.

Several days in a row, now, there have been public executions at the edge of our village. Some monks and young men were angry about the presence and oppression by the soldiers. They demanded to be free to practice their religion and live their lives by the old traditions. The soldiers and their bosses do not tolerate these public demonstrations. Rebellion is punished with death.

My brother, Dorjee, was one of the protesters. He has been studying in one of the rebuilt monasteries. He is angry that he and the others cannot own pictures of our religious leader, the Dalai Lama, and cannot speak his name. In his youthful anger, Dorjee has placed all our lives at risk to voice his anger. We can’t hide him, so tonight we must leave our home and make the long journey in search of freedom. There are others planning to leave tonight as well, so we won’t have to travel alone.

Just after midnight, we gather our packs, load the one horse we own, and place several bags on our yak. We used to own many yaks, but we have had to give them to the Chinese to pay taxes. After only a short distance on the road, we meet some other families. My father is not comfortable with the size of our group, fearing we will be spotted too easily.

He is right to be worried. It’s difficult to avoid the patrols, even once we leave the village. Just before the next village, we see some soldiers heading our way, so we scatter up the hill behind the trail. Two older men and a young, pregnant woman are captured. We wait, holding our breath and staying very quiet. We are sure we will be captured, as well.

It is very hard to remain still and quiet for so long. I feel the need to sneeze and pinch myself very hard to make it go away. One small noise and we will all be captured and put in prison. The minutes seem like weeks. After an hour, the soldiers are nowhere to be seen. They must have known we were here, so we can’t understand why they did not come after us. Soon, we are on the trail again, heading west, avoiding any villages or monasteries along the way.

The journey is rough. There is not enough food for all of us, and there is little to scavenge along the way. We live on thick yak butter tea and a few stolen vegetables. A few days ago, one of the yaks died. It had been sick for many days, so its owner ended its suffering. We do not believe in killing any animal unless necessary, but it was in pain and we were all hungry. The meat helped a lot, but there are so many of us that it did not last long. The monks refused the meat so as not to break their vows.

Occasionally, we meet with a tribe of nomads who offer us what little they have. One group of nomads was just returning from the salt lakes. Their yaks and horses were loaded with bags of salt. These men, and others like them, are known as the Salt Men.

There used to be many groups of men who made the difficult journey to the salt lakes each year. It is both a practical and a religious pilgrimage. Salt is a valuable resource for preserving meat in the high plains of Tibet. There is a special language, known only to the Salt Men, which must be spoken near the lakes in order to keep happy the spirits who guard the lake. Since the Chinese occupation, the Salt Men are fading into history, along with many other traditions of our culture.

They were kind enough to give us a bag of salt that we are hoping to use to barter for some food from other nomads. They said blessings for our journey and offered many possible routes that might allow us to travel safely.

The weather is getting worse. This is a hard time of year to travel in the high plateau. The snowy mountains at the border of Tibet and India will be very difficult to cross. I hope we all survive to see those mountains.

It has been two weeks, now, and several members of our group have become sick and given up the journey. They had grown very pale and weak and were unable to carry their own packs. I think that they were starving to death. The cold weather and challenging days of travel are weakening everyone in our group.

My father thinks it will be better if we separate and travel in smaller groups. My brother agrees, but I am not so sure. If we are captured, small groups are punished more harshly because there are fewer witnesses. I have heard stories of how disobedient monks are kept in small boxes for weeks at a time with very little food or water. And I have heard the unspeakable things the soldiers do to women.

Finally, the decision is made among the men to split our large group into smaller groups of families. Now that our traveling group is just our family and three others, I will have to assume more responsibility. I am given the task of making the tea each morning and evening, as well as collecting wood for the fire each night. My mother will cook whatever food we have, and the men will take care of the animals and scout the trail ahead of us.

The nights are very dark. When I was very small, I was afraid of the dark. Being in a dark tent with no light would have caused me to cry for hours. When the new teachers took over the schools, they punished students by confining us to the closet for the remainder of the day. I spent many days in the closet because I refused to speak their language or write their words. I cried a lot, but I wanted to speak and write my own language.

My mother was afraid the teachers would have me imprisoned for breaking the rules and being disobedient. But my father explained to the teachers that I was at a very difficult age and that I would grow out of my rebellion. At home, however, he praised my strength and determination, but he cautioned me that the teachers would only accept so much disobedience before they took serious action against me.

Some of the nuns in our village thought that I was intelligent. My mother persuaded them to allow me to study with them in the evenings. They taught me to read and write Tibetan very well. They also taught me to pray silently, rather than the usual way of speaking our prayers so that the heavens will hear our words. They taught me to pray without beads. Many of them had been punished for their prayers, and at least one had lost her fingers to prevent her from ever fingering the sacred beads again.

The nuns taught me everything they could about our culture and traditions. They also told me the stories of what they had suffered for their faith. They wished that I might one day escape and tell the world of the stories and traditions of our people.

When we reach the mountains, after nearly two months of winding our way through the high plateau, there are only five of us. Two other men have been captured while scouting the trail. We have not seen any of the other groups since we split up, and we can only pray for their safety.

We have only the smallest amount of food remaining, and everyone is hungry. My father believes that if we can cross the mountains safely, we will find food in the next country.

The winds are strong and laden with snow. My father ties a rope around my waist and to Dorjee’s so that we won’t be separated. My father and my mother are also tied together. The remaining man, a young monk, has decided to risk the climb alone. We follow him up the slope since he has the only real information about how to cross these treacherous mountains.

As we reach the ridge of the first mountain, we discover many scraps of paper scattered on the ground. Many of them are wet with snow and stuck to the rocks, but others flutter in the strong winds.

The monk explains: “These are windhorses. In the old days, it was common to find such pieces of paper, each with a written prayer, scattered around hills and mountains. Windhorses are tossed into the wind so that the prayers can be carried to the heavens. Each person who comes to the hill brings his or her own prayers, or collects as many as possible from the ground, and tosses them into the air.”

I like the idea of windhorses carrying prayers to the heavens. I spend a few moments collecting the many prayers, reading some of them out loud. A lot of them are prayers that our country will one day be free again. Others are for the health and safety of the Dalai Lama. There are also many prayers asking for the health and salvation of every living creature, even the Chinese. I toss the pieces of paper into the wind and watch them scatter. They look like giant snowflakes.

The snow falls much heavier now. We can barely see the monk walking in front of us. The slope we are descending is very steep, and in some places the rock is exposed and jagged. The snow on the ground is slick and icy, and all of us are struggling to keep our footing. My father has released the yak and horse so that they may return to the valley below. We all carry as many of our possessions as we can—the rest is left behind.

A sudden gust of wind knocks the monk from his feet and he tumbles down the mountainside. Dorjee insists that we try to find him and see if he is hurt badly. We both get down on our knees and inch ourselves slowly down the bank. The monk is not moving when we find him, and he is stuck in a ravine. Dorjee looks back up the slope to signal our parents, but they are not visible. We are suddenly alone.

Dorjee climbs down the ravine, still attached to me by a rope. When he reaches the monk it is too late -- the fall has broken his neck. I feel hot tears rising to my eyes, but I refuse to let them come out. I must be strong and brave. Dorjee whispers a few prayers for the monk’s soul and then climbs out of the ravine. We must locate our parents.

We both call out for them, but the fierce winds and thick blowing snow drown our voices. It is getting dark, too. We follow the ridge down into a narrow valley and walk into the winds. I suggest that we find a place to stop and raise a signal on a stick so that our parents, or someone, might see it.

We find a small stand of pine trees lower in the valley and dig the snow away from the base of the largest tree. It is a little warmer near the ground, but not much. I take a red, knitted hat from my bag and attach it to a branch from the tree. Dorjee takes it out near the trail and sticks it into a snow bank. I feel very afraid, but I try to hide my fear from Dorjee and pretend I am strong. Hopefully our parents will find us soon.

Lost and Found
The night is cold and long, and my body shakes from the cold and the fear. Dorjee is able to build a small fire to warm our hands, but we are still wet and cold. We are not able to sleep, and we are very hungry. All the food was with our parents, except for a few pieces of dried fish we bartered from some nomads a few days ago. Dorjee knows how to find edible roots, even in the snow, so I wait for him, shivering and afraid.

We are alone in the tallest mountains on the Earth. Dorjee believes we are only a few miles from freedom, but we will have to sneak across the border since we have no money with us to bribe the guards. While Dorjee is looking for food, I recite my prayers repeatedly, desperate for them to be heard.

Dorjee finds only some pine nuts for us to eat, but anything helps. We will need energy to get over the last mountains and reach the border. It is not snowing as hard now, but it is still bitterly cold.

By mid-day we reach the summit of the pass, but we have not found our parents. Exhausted, we both sit on some exposed rock to rest for a few minutes. While we are sitting, three men approach us from the valley in front of us.

“Why are you children alone up here?” one of the men asks, speaking our own language. He is wearing long saffron robes and might be a monk, but we are suspicious and cautious in our answers.

“We are just out for a hike,” Dorjee answers, trying to sound carefree. We are a long way from any village, though, and his joke betrays our fear.

“It’s not safe up here. Come, we will take you to our monastery across the border.” He seems sincere and we are desperate, so we trust him. Dorjee asks if he has any food. “Here, eat this," the monk offers some dried fruit. "It will provide energy.”

I can’t stay quiet anymore. “Have you seen any others? We lost our parents and must find them. They must be very worried about us.”

“We have not seen them, but there are others from our monastery looking for people who may have become lost in the storms. We had word there would be several groups trying to cross the border. Come with us - your parents will turn up.” His voice is very reassuring, but I still feel the fear in my stomach like vultures flying in circles.

When we arrive at the monastery, others from our original group are already there. We ask them about our parents, but no one has seen them. Many people have not survived to experience freedom on this side of the border. Others have been captured and are now imprisoned.

We eat as much food as they offer us. The next day, after our clothes have dried and we have slept a little, we begin the journey to our new home in the valley. When the Dalai Lama and other Tibetans originally fled the Chinese occupation, India gave them a large area of unsettled land to develop as a new home. There is now an actual city there, with monasteries, schools, and shops.

When we arrive in the valley, the first thing we notice is the temperature - it is very hot and humid. There are also many insects and strange animals that we have never seen before. Our homeland is so cold that there are few insects, and our bodies are not accustomed to the bites and stings. Many of our people die in the first months of their freedom from diseases and insect bites. Others become very sick from the heat.

We are taken to a processing area where all new arrivals are recorded. They ask for our name, village of birth, parent’s name, and so on. I am impatient and ask, “We are looking for our parents. Have you seen them?”

“Yes. They checked in yesterday. They have frost bite and are weak, but they are alive and will recover very well.”

I cannot express my gratitude enough. Dorjee and I are extremely relieved that our parents are here and alive. Our family can be together again.

After our family is settled into a small hut and we feel rested, it is time for me to begin school again. My education is already very good, so I sometimes assist the teachers with the lessons. Besides teaching reading, writing, and math, the schools are very focused on teaching our cultural heritage.

We live in such a strange place, very different from where any of us were born. The teachers and leaders believe it is very important to teach us about our heritage, our traditions. The Buddhist monks come to the schools often to teach religious studies for those who want to learn.

One day each of us is asked to tell the class something about our life, something we have learned that will remain with us our entire lives. Many of the students talk about their escapes, of their family’s traditions, or the brother who is now a well-known monk. When it is my turn, I talk about the windhorses.

“When we made the journey to this new land,” I begin, “we found a hillside where people had written their prayers on pieces of paper and sent them fluttering into the wind. It is believed that the papers, called windhorses, will carry the prayers to the heavens where they will be answered.”

“A monk who traveled with us explained that this tradition was very old. Now that we are in a new place, it feels important to keep the old traditions alive. Let us all write a prayer on a scrap of paper and walk to the hills at the far edge of the village. We can release our prayers into the wind, and they will ride the windhorses straight to heaven.”

We release our prayers the next afternoon. It feels very important to honor the old traditions in our new homeland. My prayer is that I will one day share my story with the world.

Image Sources:
1. Runied Monastery near Lhasa.
2. Tibetan plateau looking west.
3. Prayer flags, a type of windhorse.
4. Himalayas from Tibet side.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Today I'm grateful for a new book I just started reading called The Union of Dzogchen and Bodhichitta, by Anyen Rinpoche, translated by Allison Graboksi. I suspect I will be posting quotes from this book as I get more into the meat of it.

I am also grateful for good dharma teachers in general. One day I will find one to study with in person, but until then, good books will have to suffice.

Finally, for today, I am grateful that shadow work is not as easy as it sounds. If we really want to know our shadows, we must spend time with our projections and with our subpersonalities. There are no shortcuts. It is very rewarding to do the work and see through my illusions about who I am or what I believe. And as Siona pointed out, the true test of shadow work is relationship, and I am grateful to be in relationship with a woman who also wants to reclaim her projections.

For what are you grateful?

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Spiritually Intelligent Film: Beowulf & Grendel

Beowulf & Grendel was filmed in 2005 and has not been released in the US. According to an article in the Toronto Star, many Americans are driving into Canada to see the film. It sits at number 4 on Amazon's Canadian site for DVD sales.

The movie is based, loosely, on the oldest English document known to exist. It is a traditional hero story, with the troll Grendel serving as the monster, although the film (like the Marillion song) sees the damaged soul of Grendel. The film, owing much to the novel by John Gardner, uses the mythic backdrop to examine issues of otherness and how we avoid the risks of knowing the other in any way that might set us free. It also looks at what it is like to be the other, the outsider who is shunned.

Here is a review from the Internet Movie Database (IMDb):
Author: callmomrad from United States

Breath-taking scenery, strong performances and an unexpected message come together in Sturla Gunnarsson's Beowulf & Grendel. Forget the dusty, inaccessible saga that may have been forced upon you in High School or as a College Freshman in English Lit! New life is breathed into Beowulf, the oldest text of recorded English, first set to sheepskin in 1000 A.D. after 500 years of survival through oral tradition. The acclaimed Canadian director of Rare Birds stays true to the bones of what undoubtedly started as a campfire story of a battle between Man and Monster without resorting to CGI or other special effects. Instead, he relies on the talents of an impressive international cast and an intelligent screenplay against the backdrop of a stunningly primal Icelandic landscape upon which no human had set foot in 800 years. You won't need Cliffs Notes to understand this examination of who and what defines "Other-ness" and how it is treated. The knee-jerk fear factor response is as prevalent today as it was in the early Viking slice-of-life portrayed.

Beowulf & Grendel owes as much to John Gardner's Grendel as it does to the Beowulf epic. The roles of Hero and Monster do not so much embody intrinsic Good and Evil as reflect qualities attributed to their assigned archetypes. How and why we assign those roles is at the heart of the first-ever serious adaptation of the anonymous poem. The movie systematically leads us through a labyrinth of History, Cultures, the psycho-social reaction to Outsiders and the unfortunate results of those actions to the inescapable conclusion that we are not so different from one another. The ensuing Logic would then dictate that War is merely a lazy solution to a problem better addressed by examining our own psyches.

Beowulf is portrayed with astonishing depth by the Scottish actor, Gerard Butler, who is accumulating an impressive array of credits from Attila (the highest-rated U.S. mini-series) to Phantom of the Opera (the lavish 2005 Musical) to Dear Frankie (the award-winning independent Scottish film), to name a few. As always, he throws himself whole-heartedly, thoughtfully, and more important, believably, into the role of Hero, which in less-capable hands might be one-dimensional. Even the screenwriter, Andrew Berzins, was both surprised and impressed by the levels to which Mr. Butler plumbed the character "all in his facial expressions." Rising above his mastery of brooding good looks through tangled locks of hair, he manages to have us look through his eyes, rather than at his eyes - no mean feat for someone who is undeniably easy on the eyes! Beowulf emerges as the antithesis of the later Danish Prince, Hamlet, who is so introspective that he is paralyzed into inaction. In contrast, Beowulf willingly accepts the yoke of the traditional Hero and initially and immediately acts without thinking. He recognizes his Destiny in this life and beyond, stating, "I'll go where I'm sent!" He does not, however, stop there. Delving into the reasons behind his mission, he becomes a relentless, if uneasy, historical detective, needing to unearth the cause of the troll/monster Grendel's savagery.

The Hero's journey, punctuated by pre-destined acts of violence, is one in which we participate and evolve along with Beowulf, with the assistance of the witch, Selma (appropriately ambiguously played by the popular Canadian actress, Sarah Polley). Although she and Beowulf do pair off at one point, theirs is not really a romantic connection. She serves as a sort of conduit between Beowulf and Grendel, leveling the playing field between them.

Grendel is splendidly brought to heartbreaking life by Iceland's biggest Star, Ingvar Sigurdsson. Interestingly, his 4-year-old son makes a very credible acting debut as the young Grendel, orphaned in no uncertain terms at the start of the movie and laying the foundation for the carnage to come. Harking more to Gardner's Grendel than the unremittingly bloodthirsty troll of the original poem, Mr. Sigurdsson manages to express both the innocence and tragedy of Grendel with gusto, exploring his un-human characteristics without judgment. It is a tribute to his talent that rather than being horrified by a scene in which we see Grendel bowling with victims' severed heads, we identify with the spirit of pure Joy breaking through a monster's lonely existence.

Providing a context for the Hero/Monster mythos is a superb cast of supporting characters. Stellan Skarsgard is the alcoholic Danish king Hrothgar, not only unwilling to accept responsibility for the scourge of Grendel, but not even wanting to consider "why a f***ing troll does what a f***ing troll does." Eddie Marsden plays the foaming-at-the-mouth crazed Irish Catholic priest, Brendan, heralding the advent of Christianity and the desire of a people to unburden themselves of any and all accountability for their actions. And Ronan Vibert embodies the equivalent of modern day mass media as the Bard, Thorkel, through whom the saga is transformed (over Beowulf's objections) into a revisionist history which does not bear close examination. As Martin Delaney notes as the young warrior, Thorfinn, what we are left with are "tales of sh*t." The old Beowulf is not gone. The tone of the original oral tradition is maintained by Berzins' strict adherence to Anglo-Saxon and Norse root words and an ongoing thread of bawdy humor against a relentless musical score rife with tribal drums. The comic relief serves, as in Shakespeare's tragedies, to lighten and make palatable the raw impact of some harsh realities revealed. But a new Beowulf & Grendel rises from the ashes. This blood and guts epic, with its undeniably spiritual undercurrent, balances swordplay with word play, and the audience is left to draw their own conclusions in the bloody aftermath. The tag line, "Heads will roll!" refers not only to the blood-soaked battle scenes, but to the thought processes set in motion that will leave you re-evaluating concepts of and motives behind Love, Loyalty, and War long after you leave the theater.
Here is a link the official movie website.

Here is the trailer.

The movie opens June 16th in Seattle, but I am not sure about wide release. These are the US dates, so far:

SEATTLE - June 16th - Varsity (Landmark)
SAN FRANCISCO - June 30th - Opera Plaza (Landmark)
NEW YORK - July 7th - Quad (not landmark)
CHICAGO - July 14th - Century (Landmark)
LOS ANGELES - July 28th - Westside Pavilion (Landmark)
BOSTON - August 11 - Kendall Square (Landmark)
DENVER, Colorado - August 4-11 - Starz Film Center
WHITEFISH, Montana - September 8-10 - Whitefish Theatre Co.

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New Poem: Childhood Lessons

[image source]

Childhood Lessons

when the first rains came
I stacked rocks
in the dry creekbed
to create
a small pool

winter floods
washed the rocks

the sun gives
good teachings

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Me and My Shadow

[image source]

If you imagine someone who is brave enough to withdraw all his projections, then you get an individual who is conscious of a pretty thick shadow. Such a man has saddled himself with new problems and conflicts. He has become a serious problem to himself, as he is now unable to say that they do this or that, they are wrong, and they must be fought against. He lives in the "House of the Gathering." Such a man knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day.

~ Carl Jung: "Psychology and Religion" (1938). In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.140
I've been doing shadow work for most of the last 15 years or more, ever since I first read Jung in an art history class. Despite all the writings that have come after his, he remains one of the clearest voices for those seeking to understand the function of the shadow.

The hardest part of shadow work is accepting that it will never be complete. As long as there is the light of consciousness, there will be shadows. For every shadow element we drag into the light of day, there are ten more hiding in the crevices of our awareness, just barely out of site, but often sneaking out into the world to color those we interact with.

The thing with shadows is that they find a way to make themselves known if we pay attention. The other thing about them is that they are not all bad parts of ourselves.

In fact, I believe that the shadow can be our best friend. Years ago, I wrote an article on how the shadow itself, if we befriend it, can be our guide toward a more whole self. By listening to our shadow elements -- reclaiming our projections -- we can become more integrated and individuated. That wasn't a very integrally informed paper, but it helped me formulate an idea about shadow work that I hadn't seen before.

The truth is that shadow work is crucial to growth. As Pema Chodron so often talks about the necessity of sitting with our feelings and our fears, the same is true with shadow work. We must be willing to engage the shadow to the learn the lessons it can teach us, and to reclaim the parts of ourselves that have been displaced as projections.

However, and I think this is a crucial point that Jung makes in the quote above, once we reclaim our shadow material, it is no longer permissible to act from that shadow place, even if we can claim full consciousness of our actions. Once we reclaim the shadow material, we must recognize that whatever we might dislike in others is within us. And, to quote the wise man from Bethlehem, let s/he who is without sin cast the first stone.

From an integral perspective, as people rise into second tier, any material form first tier development that was not transcended and included in a healthy way will emerge as shadow. And if we see evolution in consciousness as a continual increase in the luminosity of being, we might say that the brighter the light, the deeper the shadow. The more one separates from ego, the more possible it becomes for ego to act in troubling ways if all of its baggage has not been assimilated -- and how many of us can say that we have no ego baggage?

I think it's fair to say we have seen the dark side of this in the various religious and spiritual leaders who have become abusive in whatever way, from Adi Da to Jim Bakker, from Andrew Cohen to Mark Gafni. The list could certainly be much longer without much effort.

It seems to me that best way to shed light on the shadow is through a dedicated process of mindfulness, meditation, and work in reclaiming disowned selves (subpersonalities that are not integrated and therefore projected onto others). It is doubly important, I think, to engage in this work if one has already attained a high level of transcendence.

If one jumps into the upper reaches of consciousness, having causal or nondual experiences, it becomes very easy to believe that one is enlightened and that no further work is necessary. Ego digs thinking it is enlightened. Ken Wilber has been one who frequently mentions the risks in this kind of rapid transcendence, and the need to go back to clean up whatever is unresolved.

That is sage advice. Even those of us who are pushing the edge of first tier into second tier can become deeply invested in believing we are more [fill in the blank] than other people. Ego is tricky that way. And for many of us, ego acts in much the same way as the shadow. In fact, ego that is not in awareness is in shadow, which makes it doubly important to spend time working to see and identify the ego and it shadow.

For myself, I am definitely invested in being more [fill in the blank] than others. For me, it may be more integral, more aware, more dedicated, more eloquent, more educated, and on and on. I am capable of great inflation and great deflation. My shadow contains all those parts of myself that exist within me that are not present at any given moment.

We all have a primary self that functions as our interface with the world. When it is present, all the other selves we contain are relegated to shadow. The only time we have access to all the various selves consciously is when we can enter into the observer or witness. We have to become unattached to any specific self to see them all clearly.

My primary self, the me that walks around most days calling itself Bill, is someone who enjoys being knowledgable, who enjoys being seen as aware and sensitive. When that gets punctured in any way, as it has recently, my choice is to transcend the feelings or become more entrenched. Unfortunately, as often as I am able to transcend, I also am likely to get entrenched. I know this about myself, so I often let it play out once I see it happening because I know that the lesson will come in watching how my ego reacts.

I've learned a lot in the past week or so. I got to watch how I could fluctuate between awareness and nonattachment at one moment, and regression and entrenchment in the next. I apologize for anything I said or did that was hurtful or condescending. And I apologize to anyone I offended.

I didn't experience the transcendent moment of AHA! that some did through this past week, but I got to know my shadow and my ego a little better, so that maybe next time I can be fully aware when my buttons are getting pushed. Probably not, but I can try. That's all I can ask of myself or others.

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Poem: Czeslaw Milosz

[image source]


Forget the suffering
You caused others.
Forget the suffering
Others caused you.
The waters run and run,
Springs sparkle and are done,
You walk the earth you are forgetting.

Sometimes you hear a distant refrain.
What does it mean, you ask, who is singing?
A childlike sun grows warm.
A grandson and a great-grandson are born.
You are led by the hand once again.

The names of the rivers remain with you.
How endless those rivers seem!
Your fields lie fallow,
The city towers are not as they were.
You stand at the threshold mute.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006


[image source -- This is from a small coffee shop in Seward, Alaska.]

I am grateful that it was 105 degrees today and I did not melt. It will be 109 degrees tomorrow. Oy Vey!

I am grateful that things are starting to get busy for Kira. She has been planting a lot of seeds for the last year, and they are starting to grow -- all at the same time, but it'll work out.

I am grateful for organic French roast coffee. Nectar of the Gods.

What are you grateful for?

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More on Fear

Yesterday, I put up a post featuring Pema Chodron on working with fear. Today's Daily Om was also on walking through fear, and it felt like a good follow up to the original post.

Emerging Courageous
Walking Through Your Fear

The situations, activities, and individuals that frighten us remain static. Their relative intensity does not change. Fear, on the other hand, self-magnifies. It is when you are afraid and envisioning all that might go wrong that the energy underlying your fear grows. A tiny flicker of anxiety can easily develop into a terror that manifests itself physically and eventually paralyzes you into inaction. Though frequently, in walking through that fear, we discover that the strength of our fright was out of synch with reality. And we learn that doing what frightens us can lead to great blessings. Confronting your trepidation head-on will help you accept that few frightening scenarios will ever live up to the negative disasters that we sometimes play out in our minds.

Though fear is literally an evolutionary gift meant to sharpen your senses and energize you during times of great stress, it can nonetheless become a barrier that prevents you from fulfilling your potential by causing you to miss out on rewarding, life-changing experiences. During the period before you face your fear, you may have to deal with a barrage of negative thoughts and emotions. Walking through it, whether your fear is public speaking, taking part in an activity that makes you nervous, or asserting yourself when the odds are against you, may be equally as difficult. But once you have emerged unscathed on the other side, which you will, you will likely wonder why you assumed the worst in the first place. As you spend time worrying about what might happen, it's good to know that your fear probably won't happen at all. It may feel like a great weight has been lifted from your shoulders, and you will likely feel a sense of passionate pride. Walking through your fear can mean taking risks and can require both practice and patience. Since it is challenging to act when you are gripped with fear, start small.

Each step you take into fear will strengthen you and help you confront future fears with poise, courage, and confidence. You will also find that when you are willing to stare your fear in the face, the universe will always offer you some form of aid or support. When you see the heights of accomplishment and personal evolution you can attain when you walk through your fears, your faith in yourself will grow, allowing your next step to be easier
I have nothing to add to this -- just wanted to provide a different way of talking about the same issue.

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A Ken Wilber Moratorium

I started to write a response to Wilber's third attempt to justify his original rant, but, well, who the hell cares. This whole thing has gotten tiresome.

Please go read Victoria Lansford's excellent post in response to Wilber's rants instead. She pretty much nails it.

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The Body in Buddhism

[image by Alex Grey]

This is from an article at the Shambhala Sun site, "The Wisdom of the Body in the Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana," by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. Please read the whole article, but I thought this was a nice introduction to the Dzogchen conception of the body.

The Body in the Three Yanas

The Buddhist path is divided into three yanas, or vehicles, which represent levels or progressive stages of Buddhist teachings. The Hinayana focuses on individual liberation and the teachings of the Four Noble Truths and dependent origination. The Mahayana focuses on the teachings of emptiness, compassion and buddhanature, and introduces the ideal of the bodhisattva, who is dedicated to the liberation of all sentient beings. The Vajrayana (also called Tantrayana or Mantrayana) is known as the “diamond vehicle,” and also the “path of skillful means.” By taking the state of fruition as the path, this “rapid vehicle” can result in liberation in one lifetime.

Each of the yanas presents a specific view of the body and corresponding methods for investigating and discovering its essence.

The Hinayana view of body focuses on the relative existence of one’s own body as a product of karma and as an impure and impermanent collection of aggregates. The body is taken as an object of meditation to induce the state of renunciation and spur the renunciate to the full state of cessation.

The Mahayana view of body, from the absolute point of view, focuses on the nonexistence of both the body itself and the mind that fixates on the body as a self. From the perspective of relative truth, the Mahayana views the body as inseparable appearance and emptiness. This illusion-like body becomes the basis for understanding the suffering of samsara more deeply and the ground for cultivating a genuine heart of love and compassion for all sentient beings. Moreover, the Mahayana meditation practices take not only one’s own body as an object of consideration, but also the bodies of all sentient beings.

The Vajrayana view of body is that the state of enlightenment is present within one’s physical form at this very moment. Body, speech and mind are regarded as sacred and are seen as the three kayas, or bodies, of buddha—primordially pure expressions of wisdom and compassion.

By looking at the view of the body from the perspective of the three yanas, beginning with the Hinayana, we can see how, through the application of methods of investigation such as the practice of the four foundations of mindfulness and analytical meditation, we can expose this “self” further and further—the self that is pure fabrication, the no-self that is appearance-emptiness, and the state of primordial purity manifesting as the three buddha kayas.

Read the rest here.

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Poem: Robinson Jeffers

[image source]

Rock and Hawk

Here is a symbol in which
Many high tragic thoughts
Watch their own eyes.

This gray rock, standing tall
On the headland, where the seawind
Lets no tree grow,

Earthquake-proved, and signatured
By ages of storms: on its peak
A falcon has perched.

I think, here is your emblem
To hang in the future sky;
Not the cross, not the hive,

But this; bright power, dark peace;
Fierce consciousness joined with final

Life with calm death; the falcon's
Realist eyes and act
Married to the massive

Mysticism of stone,
Which failure cannot cast down
Nor success make proud.
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Sogyal Rinpoche on Meditation

[image source]

This is from the Rigpa Glimpse of the Day, some very sage advice:
Sit for a short time; then take a break, a very short break of about thirty seconds or a minute. But be mindful of whatever you do, and do not lose your presence and its natural ease. Then alert yourself and sit again. If you do many short sessions like this, your breaks will often make your meditation more real and more inspiring; they will take the clumsy, irksome rigidity, solemnity, and unnaturalness out of your practice and bring you more and more focus and ease.

Gradually, through this interplay of breaks and sitting, the barrier between meditation and everyday life will crumble, the contrast between them will dissolve, and you will find yourself increasingly in your natural pure presence, without distraction.

Then, as Dudjom Rinpoche used to say: “Even though the meditator may leave the meditation, the meditation will not leave the meditator.”

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Monday, June 12, 2006


[image source - click to enlarge]

With some time to think about it, I'm grateful for this episode with Ken Wilber and the test. Wilber's explanation didn't cut it for me, and I really had the impression that only those who would seldom question Wilber okayed the first post. Be that as it may, this experience helped me become even more individuated from Wilber's version of Integral, and I'm grateful for that.

I haven't discarded Wilber or his version of integral to the trash heap, but I am going to look more closely at some of the systems Wilber has assimilated (resistance is futile). I think SDi is much more than a values line, no matter what Wilber says. And I think that Beck needs to do some additional work to flesh it out and verify its statements. Then again, Cowan may have the better version -- I don't know yet.

I'm grateful that one of my favorite clients asked me what I'd be doing if I wasn't a trainer. I said I'd be teaching poetry. Didn't know that before she asked. That gives me some food for thought, for which I am grateful.

And I am grateful that Kira likely will be teaching a workshop this fall that she has been hoping would be approved.

What are you grateful for?

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