Saturday, May 13, 2006


IOC went over 10,000 hits today. I'm amazed and grateful. When I first began this blog it was getting a few hits a month, maybe thirty or so. I thought that was pretty cool. I now regularly get hits from Togo, India, Sweden, Finland, Portugal, Columbia, Brazil, Japan, Tajikistan, and Romania.

[image source]

It really is a global community.

So I wanted to try to dance with habits and fears today rather than just act mindlessly. Does the thought count? I had good intentions that went out the window as I felt lazy today and did nothing. I watched the DVD of Big Mind, read some blogs, and read some magazines. A very unproductive day. I wish I had been able to bring more awareness to this day, but I am grateful for the rest. Tomorrow is another day. I can try again.

Finally, I am grateful that I got to train a 12-year-old boy for his first experience ever in a gym. He was a good kid with a good attitude. It might be fun to work with kids more often. Made me miss coaching soccer.

What are you grateful for?

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Review: ILP's Big Mind Process

[image source]

I had some time today, so I watched the Big Mind Process DVD that came in the ILP kit. I was underwhelmed -- and just plain bored.

I have quite a bit of experience working with subs, including the voice dialogue approach that Genpo Roshi uses as the foundation for his system. I found his rather lax usage of the process troublesome and often marginally wrong.

I gave up about 2 hours into the thing. I'll try to watch the rest of it tomorrow. I suspect that the DVD will not at all be useful in the long-term, but I hope that there might be something in his Zen-based additions to the voice dialogue part that might be useful on its own.

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Video: "Mad World" by Gary Jules

This is one of my favorite songs from the last couple of years, an amazing cover of an old Tears for Fears song. It's simply sad as hell.

Here is a rather strange video for the song, featuring film clips from classic movies. I don't know if this is the video made for the song or something someone did on their own, but it's very cool.

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Bibliomantic Quote of the Day

[The Eyes See What the Mind Fears]

I needed some inspiration this morning, so I turned to Dzigar Kongtrul's book, It's Up to You. This is what I found:

Dancing with Habits and Fears

From a time farther back than any of us can remember, we've habitually taken refuge in samsara in order to preserve and cherish the self. Striving to maintain the identity of who we think we are, we find ourselves driven by habits and fears. The only way to find out who we really are is to learn to dance with them.

Dancing means recognizing the raw energy of a situation and moving with it. Our usual approach is to size up situations to see if they threaten or serve us: What can I get--or get rid of? By approaching everything with a sense of suspicion and struggle, we like to think we're in control of things. But in truth our past karma is simply playing itself out. Instead of struggling with it, however, we can choose to dance.

Dancing requires us to be aware of the space and objects around us. We can't just move about any which way. And we must be alert and responsive to our partner. No one is totally in control. Learning to relax and dance reduces the our fear and brings space and awareness to habitual responses. And this brings an overall sense of well-being.

I have never been a good dancer, in all the ways possible. So this is my quest for the day--to dance with habits and fears as they come up rather than just respond with old patterns.

If I remember, I'll try to report back tonight in my gratitude post on whether or not I was able to do this.

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Poem: Han Shan

[image source]

Here's A Message for the Faithful

Here's a message for the faithful

what is it that you cherish
to find the Way to see your nature
your nature is naturally so
what Heaven bestows is perfect
looking for proof leads you astray
leaving the trunk to search among the twigs
all you get is stupid

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Creative Mythology

I borrowed the name of one of Joseph Campbell's best books for this post, which is really just an effort to point readers towards Jay's blog, Pagan Bodhisattva, and his examination of Creative Spirituality. Jay is riffing on something Tuff Ghost said in a recent post in response to something I said:
However, if we’re talking about SDi in a more general sense, that is as some kind of aggregate indicator of levels per se, and not one specific line, then I empathize with William’s point. I think it’s one thing that Sam Harris and others miss when they talk about establishing a religious practise that eschews tradition and metaphysics; because there is no developmental framework in place they fail to realize that myth and tradition and assorted prerational whatnots are necessary, if for no other reason than you can’t do away with them. It’s not a case of rational vs non-rational, it’s the whole gamut of prerational, rational, transrational and all the messiness contained within such a schema.

And yet religious myth and superstitious nonsense have been responsible for so much suffering in the world that it’s tempting to let other institutions do the myth generating for us. I think that Harris is perhaps trying to get at this point; that culture and the social framework can serve as the generators of myth, myths that will take the same shape or form as traditional myths, but will be tempered by the higher ‘center of gravity’ of the socieities that create them. Better a fervent, nonrational attachment to the US bill of rights than a fervent, nonrational attachment to the Bible or the Koran.

Jay took this idea of a secular mythology that TG proposed and tried to look at how we might create a healthy variation that is transpersonal, myths "that are regarded as being "real" on the subtle level as opposed to the gross?"

I think Jay is onto something here. But I'm not sure of the psychological aspects of it. Myth-making is generally considered a prerational endeavor. However, we have always created myths that cover the full spectrum of human experience. During the SDi training I attended last October, Jean Houston (with a little guidance from Don) offered some myths for each of the memes:

Beige: The hunt.
Purple: Origin myths, ancestor stories.
Red: War myths, conquest.
Blue: Grail, Jesus/Osiris, King Arthur.
Orange: Icarus, Faust.
Green: Robin Hood, Inana (Sumerian), Persephone.
Yellow: These myths are emerging now -- Matrix?

I'm sure many of you could add to this list, or argue with it (if you would like to, please leave a comment). One of Houston's points, and one of the few places I tend to agree with her, is that people in the past mythologized the wounds and conflicts that were playing out in the people and the culture. Now we pathologize them. Which one feels more healthy?

Please read Jay's post, then consider that we all have a stack of memes within us -- for some that stack reaches up into Yellow or Turquoise. You second tier folks must be the leaders on this topic, like so many others. And here is where we need the most help:

If we accept that we are composed of all the memes we have evolved through (transcend and include), then we must also realize that those memes have needs that they express, and their needs must be met for them to be healthy. Our lower memes have a need to make myth that explains the world to them. These memes are prerational and prepersonal, but they have to live in a world that is increasingly becoming post-postmodern.

That is an enormous amount of complexity. For these lower order memes to feel safe and to feel like they understand the world in which they must function, we need to create new myths for them that explains a post-rational and post-personal level of reality. The lack of these myths may explain, in part, why so much of Purple, Red, and Blue is now unhealthy and acting out in militant ways.

We need to create myths that can appease the Purple need for kinship connections in a chaotic world, that can make Red feel that its ego drives can be satisfied without resorting to killing, and that assure Blue that the world does have structure and meaning and that everything is not simply relative.

We need second tier myths to make sense of first tier chaos. We need a creative mythology for a new world, a world that accepts change as the natural order of things, that sees the ways in which all systems are interconnected, and that honors the needs of all the lower memes in the individual and cultural stack.

This is a huge topic, and I am likely to have to say about it as I have more time to write. Thanks to Jay for bringing it up.

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Friday, May 12, 2006


[Erato, Muse of Poetry]

Today, more than anything else, I am grateful to be writing poems again. They are rough and amateurish, but I won't look a gift muse in the mouth, so to speak.

I'm also grateful that I got to talk to Kira today when I didn't think I was going to -- nice surprise.

What are you grateful for?

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Friday Five Meme: Teaching

From holy memes and kosmic blog starters: It's week 2 for the Friday Five! We give five questions, and Zaadzsters answer them in their blogs. Join in! Tag your blog with the words “friday five” and let the pod know you posted. And if you have an idea for next week's Friday Five, send them to suzanne. Scatter the seeds!

Week 2: Teach!

1) Who's your favorite teacher, school or otherwise, and why?

My favorite teacher is Pema Chodron. I've never been fortunate enough to study with her in person, but her books have transformed my life in ways even Ken Wilber has never been able to accomplish. She is heart-centered, and she embodies the wisdom of the warrior in the Shambhala sense of the word.

2) Who was your least favorite, and why?

My least favorite teacher was Dr. Reynolds, the man who almost made me hate James Joyce. He was a teacher I had in grad school, an American who seemed to wish he were British. He was very closed-minded and assumed that any book had only one correct interpretation. If any of you have read Ulysses, you know how absurd that is.

3) What are the differences between bad and good teachers?

A Good teacher brings out the best in his/her students, encouraging them to find what is best within them. A bad teacher just spews information. A really bad teacher spews false information.

Come to think of it, this is why I am not a teacher. I don't yet know how to bring out the best in students, or to help them find it.

4) How can YOU become a great teacher? (And if you're already great, how can you become even better?)

To ever become a good teacher, I need to learn how to get out of my own way. When I used to lead poetry workshops, I was at my best when I allowed the people in the group to find the solutions to problems in their work without handing it to them. I don't know how to do that yet with the things I want to teach now.

5) If you could teach any subject in the world to any one group in the world, what would you teach to whom? And how?

I would teach integral relationship -- to anyone who wants to learn it and is in an evolving, conscious relationship already. This seems to be a topic I keep coming back to on my blog, even though I feel horribly inadequate to be telling others how to somethings I don't yet know how to do.

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Sam Harris Interview

An interview with Sam Harris was posted on Beliefnet a few days ago. I know that I am in the minority in being irritated by his inability to see the big picture of human development. Many people enjoy his continual denigration of organized religion. He constantly urges his followers to disabuse those who believe in one of the traditional religions of their presumed ignorance.

As I have suggested here, here, here, here, and here, Harris's hatred of organized religion reveals his own lack of understanding of human development. The Blue meme cannot be removed from the planet; it cannot be convinced that it is wrong; and it is crucial to controlling the egoic power drives of the Red meme. Harris needs to read a whole lot of integral theory, especially Wilber, Kegan, Beck, and Gebser.

Here is the beginning of the interview:

Sam Harris is not your grandfather's atheist. The award-winning writer practices Zen meditation and believes in the value of mystical experiences. But he's adamant in his belief that religion does more harm than good in the world, and has sparked controversy by suggesting that when it comes to faith-based violence, religious moderates are part of the problem, not the solution. Beliefnet editor Laura Sheahen spoke with him about his provocative book "The End of Faith" and his comments at the World Congress of Secular Humanism, where this interview was conducted.

You've said that nonbelievers must try to convince religious people "of the illegitimacy of their core beliefs." Why are these beliefs dangerous?

On the subject of religious belief, we relax standards of reasonableness and evidence that we rely on in every other area of our lives. We relax so totally that people believe the most ludicrous propositions, and are willing to organize their lives around them. Propositions like "Jesus is going to come back in the next fifty years and rectify every problem that human beings create"--or, in the Muslim world, "death in the right circumstances leads directly to Paradise." These beliefs are not very contaminated with good evidence.

You're saying we should be part of the human race, not part of any particular religious or national group?

Yeah. It is still fashionable to believe that how you organize yourself religiously in this life may matter for eternity. Unless we can erode the prestige of that kind of thinking, we're not going to be able to undermine these divisions in our world.

To speak specifically of our problem with the Muslim world, we are meandering into a genuine clash of civilizations, and we're deluding ourselves with euphemisms. We're talking about Islam being a religion of peace that's been hijacked by extremists. If ever there were a religion that's not a religion of peace, it is Islam.

Read the whole interview here.

There really is a lot to like in Harris's views, it's simply his tunnel vision and lack of a larger, integral context that makes him dangerous and ineffectual.

Taking on his major point: we cannot convince those who are firmly entrenched in the Blue meme to give up their worldview. Take Christianity, for example, it has the most potent virus protection there is: eternal suffering in hell. Most other major religions have something equally as dreadful (unending reincarnations in samsara, for example).

Harris implicitly assumes that his rationality can defeat what he sees as the irrationality of religious belief. I wonder how that's working for him. There are many fervent believers who are fully capable of rational thought, and yet they still believe.

Anyway, it's a good interview, so go have a look.

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More on Integral Syncretism

Tuff Ghost has posted another insightful offering in the continuing discussion on Integral Syncretism. I want to address a few of his points -- not because I disagree, but simply in support of creating a more cohesive definition of the new phrase. Notice I am adopting Tuff Ghost's phrase after reading Jay's comment that it seemed less clumsy than his own Integral Eclecticism.

Here is my comment (edited and expanded) from Tuff Ghost's last post.


I think TG makes a good point in response to Jay's inquiry about alternate paths. I don't know anyone who has done a newer path and stuck with it. Everyone I know who has tried one of these paths (EST, Bhagwan Rajneesh [Osho now?], or Andrew Cohen) has quit in frustration or fear (EST was/is very cultish, and Cohen is stuck in his large ego).

I think that one could follow any one of these paths within the guidelines TG suggests: Wilber's defintion of a healthy spiritual movement. He has endorsed A.H. Almaas in the past, and I have read some of Almaas' books, but I can't say whether or not he is legit. Tolle seems to be legit, as well. Still, I don't know anyone following these teachers as one might follow Catholicism, Zen, or Vajrayana.

I want to address one other point TG raised earlier. I'm not convinced, either, that one needs a teacher. I don't have a teacher or guru. I might progress much faster and with less struggle if I did. But then I might be asked to set aside some of my other practices, too. The structure of my life right now doesn't allow space for a teacher, so I'm doing the best I can without one. So far, it seems to be working.

As far as the guru/student relationship is concerned, I'm not a big fan. But then I am clear that my ego has real big issues with trust and surrender, so it could be a fear thing. Still, I have seen too many gurus who are inappropriate or just plain wrong. If I found that teacher who felt authentic to me, with whom I could develop the level of trust required for such a relationship, I might give it a try. I almost got to that point with my therapist (talk about total transference!), but I kept finding myself analyzing her techniques and seeking out the other ego involved in the relationship. So I guess I have some trust issues.

Finally, I think TG and I might have different views on SDi. I don't agree with Wilber that SDi is a values line only. And I don't agree with Beck (and Cowen) that we need to stick with Graves' original formulation as closely as we can (which so far has excluded developmental lines -- possibly less by choice than by lack of knowledge). I think that SDi is not truly integral without the inclusion of developmental lines, so in my own usage of the system, I have included much from Wilber's AQAL system, but I like the SDi framework. Maybe when Wilber's new book comes out, I will adopt his new color scheme and system.


This feels like a valuable discussion to me. I am grateful for the knowledge each of the participants has brought to it, and for what I've learned so far.

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Another New Poem

Something weird is happening -- I'm writing again. I thought this part of my life was gone forever. This isn't a great poem (nor was the last one), but it's a place to start. If I keep writing new things a few days a week, I might be able to get back into the flow I once knew with words and images.

[image source]


Waves of afternoon sunlight
blur the edges of things,
saguaros seemingly soft,
blue sky diffuse,
out of focus.

A cottontail huddles
beneath a cholla, and even
the silly doves are quiet:
so little to be said
when shadows hide
under rocks.

Each deep breath, each
gauzy instant offers a doorway
beyond salty skin,
but I can't release
my grip . . . .

Sweat trickles
down my forehead,
into my brow, stings
my eyes: a subtle pain,
like longing . . .

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Thursday, May 11, 2006


image source

This song is my gratitude offering for today. I ma grateful for the song and for the balance of perspective it offers. I think my "hip" quotient just took a nosedive.

What are you grateful for?

Alanis Morisette - THANK U

How about getting off of these antibiotics
How about stopping eating when I'm filled up
How about them transparent dangling carrots
How about that ever elusive kudo

Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

How about me not blaming you for everything
How about me enjoying the moment for once
How about how good it feels to finally forgive you
How about grieving it all one at a time

Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

The moment I let go of it was
The moment I got more than I could handle
The moment I jumped off of it was
The moment I touched down

How about no longer being masochistic
How about remembering your divinity
How about unabashedly bawling your eyes out
How about not equating death with stopping

Thank you India
Thank you providence
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you nothingness
Thank you clarity
Thank you thank you silence

yeah yeah
ahh ohhh
ahhh ho oh
ahhh ho ohhhhhh
yeaahhhh yeahh

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Integral Approaches That Transform Us and the World

Integral Spirituality has a nice article on Integral Approaches that can transform each of us, as well as transforming the world in which we live.

Integral Approaches That Transform us and the World - Nancy B. Roof, PhD

Here is a taste:
What is an Integral Perspective?

An Integral perspective “honors all dimensions of existence from body to mind to soul to spirit as they unfold in self, culture, social structures and nature thus overcoming partial solutions and putting ourselves in an historical process leading to a wider process of cosmic evolution,” says Ken Wilber. It includes the development of new human capacities beyond the rational mind and systems of systems thinking - including intuition, subtle knowing, nondual consciousness, and nature attunement available only to the few today, but the hope of the many in future generations. For Wilber the whole evolutionary journey is one of unfolding Spirit in Action. Integral is
emerging as the leading edge worldview - a grand synthesis that is comprehensive enough to embrace all of life in its many manifestations. In sum, an Integral worldview includes the benefits and limitations of all worldviews, honors new ways of thinking, embraces increased sensitivity and brings spirituality back into the world. Its rich theory is being refined and expanded by an increasing number of serious practitioners and students. Spiral Dynamics Integral (SDi), strong on practical application, is one integral approach that closely aligns with the seminal work of Ken Wilber.

This is old news to many of us, but it's a great introduction to the basics of integral for those who are new to integral theory.

Nancy Roof is the editor of Kosmos, a nice integral journal.

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More on Buddhism and Sexuality

An anonymous reader suggested that having sex messes up one's energy. S/he provided a link to a page that provides a detailed explanation of this view through Sutras and other associated teachings.

Much of the rationale for abstaining from sex is based in the superstitious belief that semen is the source of chi and that orgasm with ejaculation reduces chi, and therefore reduces energy throughout the whole organism. Here is some of the argument William Bodri makes:
The sequence of events is that simple. Meditate -> chi rises -> sexual desire -> leakage -> start all over again.

Most men don't succeed on the spiritual path because they let sexual desire get the best of them while most women don't succeed because they attach to emotions. As I explain in Twenty-Five Doors to Meditation, the woman's body is yang on the inside while the mentality is of the yin nature; men have yin bodies while their mentality is of a yang nature from which it's much easier to cultivate wisdom. That's why women have less problems with sexual desire, and men have less troubles cultivating wisdom.

That's in general, mind you.

Now Napoleon Hill also found out something interesting regarding sexual desire. He found out in analyzing the cases of over 25,000 successful men, "the major reason why the majority of men who succeed do not begin to do so before the age of forty to fifty, is their tendency to dissipate their energies through over-indulgence in physical expression of the emotion of sex."

Why is sexual restraint so important? Because you need to cultivate chi and then shen and emptiness of the spiritual path, but chi is born from your jing. Lose your jing and presto -- all the good chi you've cultivated for the path is gone.

The good stuff is the refined stuff, and that's what's lost first.

Ignoring the sexism in these statements, this sounds more Taoist than Buddhist, but I think he is simply trying to explain -- in any way that might make sense for him -- why the Sutras are so adamant that sexual expression derails one's practice.

He's on more solid ground at the beginning of his article when he is quoting Sutras:
As Shakyamuni Buddha said in The Sutra in Forty-two Sections,

As to love and desire: no desire is as deep-rooted as sex. There is nothing greater than the desire for sex. Fortunately it is one of a kind. If there were something else like it, no one in the entire world would be able to cultivate the way.
In the Surangama Sutra, Buddha said, "The difference between the worldly and the saintly … depends solely on the elimination or not of sexual desire.

In that same sutra he also said, "If you do not stop sexual desires while you want to attain samadhi, it's like trying to steam sand to make rice. Even if you steam sand for hundreds of aeons, it will always remain sand." Specifically, Shakyamuni Buddha told his cousin Ananda,

You should teach worldly men who practice Samadhi to cut off their lustful minds at the very start. This is called the Buddha's profound teaching of the first decisive deed. Therefore, Ananda, if carnality is not wiped out, the practice of dhyana is like cooking gravel to make rice; even if it is boiled for hundreds and thousands of aeons, it will only be hot gravel. Why? Because instead of rice grains it contains only stones. If you set your lustful mind on seeking the profound fruit of Buddhahood, whatever you may realize will be carnal by nature. If your root is lustful, you will have to transmigrate through three unhappy ways … from which you will not escape. How then can you find the way to cultivate the Tathagata's nirvana? You should cut off both the sensual body and mind until even the very idea of doing so ceases; only then can you hope to seek the Buddha's Enlightenment. This teaching of mine is that of the Buddha whereas any other one is that of evil demons.
These teachings lay the foundation for all future admonitions against sexual expression. However, we must keep in mind that these teachings are from 2,500 years ago. Human beings at that time were still centered in Red egoic consciousness (at best) and likely still had a deep Purple streak in their lives and beliefs.

We now have access to more developed choices in how we express sexuality. We can approach sexual expression from a higher physical, moral, and spiritual stance. We need not approach sexual sharing from a state of lust. We can approach our partners with intent that is more pure, from a desire for intimacy and sharing.

If, indeed, lustful thoughts are a defilement, we can weed these from our minds through practice. But we cannot rid ourselves of our bodies, nor deny their energies without risking disease and a loss of vitality. Kill the roots (body) and the branches (mind) will fall.

So we must learn to transmute the energies into a quest for compassioniate sharing, loving-kindness, and transcendent relationship.

Please note: These are my views on Buddhism and sexuality and do not necessarily include an integral viewpoint.

What do you think?

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More on Integral Eclecticism [Updated]

Tuff Ghost has added his wise voice to the conversation on spiritual eclecticism began by Jay at Pagan Bodhisattva and continued here.

From Tuff Ghost:

I think it's necessary to distinguish between a spiritual path that is eclectic and one that is syncretic. I think that an Integral world view is inherently syncretic (not a narrow, dogmatic syncretism, but one that aims to seek the deepest possible connecting patterns, broadly speaking) rather than eclectic. Where eclecticism aims to take a little of this and a little of that to no apparent end, syncretism takes a base practise and seeks out what is complementary. Thus, both William and Jay still have a Tibetan Buddhist base practise (correct me if I'm wrong here) which is complemented where appropriate. In this manner the dangers of picking and choosing (first and foremost, quitting when the going gets rough) are overcome by a commitment to a core practise that is in itself part of a broader framework, in Wilber's words, freeing by limiting. Just because you know the contours and limitations of a religion doesn't mean you can't fully embrace it.

Read the rest. Tuff Ghost continues with a thoughtful look at the integral model and how it relates to spiritual practice.


Tuff Ghost offers the following injunctions for an eclectic syncretist approach to spiritual practice:
First of all, it must be eclectic in knowledge - perhaps similar to Paglia's view that education should be based on the study of comparative religion - and pluralistic in intent.

Secondly, it should be founded on a core practise or tradition. I think there is widespread agreement that there must be some kind of stable platform, onto which other approaches are placed/grafted/merged. Does anyone disagree with this injunction?

Thirdly, there must be a key emphasis on contemplative practice. Such an emphasis rescues religion from both metaphysics and culture (the misguided attempt by pluralism to intrinsically wed religion with place, a noble yet horrific endeavour).

I'm not a huge fan of Paglia, so I'm not sure how I feel about bringing her into conversation. But in general I agree with these tenets.

I had a comment from Steve about having a religion of any kind as the foundation of an integral eclectic approach. He finds this challenging -- and for most of my life I would have agreed with him.

However, I want to take a moment to defend my own tradition. Tibetan Buddhism has many ritual practices that must be undertaken before initiation is granted -- and even before one can do a 3 month or 3 year retreat. To those unfamiliar with the practices, the requirements may seem strange or just plain stupid. Here are the Four Preliminary Practices:
- Making 100,000 mandala offerings to generate merit by generosity
- Reciting 100,000 refuge prayers to increase one's confidence
- Reciting 100,000 Vajrasattva mantras to purify obstacles
- Making 100,000 prostrations to counteract pride

I can see how this might seem like so much jumping through hoops. But these practices are profound for burning off ego attachment, pride, selfishness, and many other negative traits that can stand in the way of transcending ego. Most traditions in the East have similar requirements of initiates as far as I know (please correct me if I am wrong).

The West used to have elaborate initiation ceremonies as well. When I was in college, we looked at the baptismal ritual as practiced in France during the Dark Ages. I don't remember the specific Catholic order, but young men who wanted to be baptised (and it was only available to men) were removed from the community for an intense period of study that lasted months. They had very specific prayer and offering practices that had to be completed. They were required to pass oral tests on the teachings. Some of this same structure was the foundation for secret societies like the Templars and the Masons.

Anyway, the traditional practices of Buddhism appeal to my Blue meme need for structure, my Purple meme need for ritual, and my Yellow integral need to make sure all my memes are finding healthy expression in my spiritual development. Buddhism also satisfies my Orange rational need for system that makes sense to me intellectually and my Green need for a moral stance that cares for all sentient beings (maybe this is Turquoise?). There is even an avenue for Red to express its energy in rebellion against the limitations of ego consciousness.

I think the one tenet missing from what Tuff Ghost has written is that an integral eclecticism
(or eclectic syncretism) must address the needs of all of one's memes through one's primary practice or secondary practices. Does that seem fair?

This is a great discussion. I look forward to reading other viewpoints.

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Is Sexuality a Defilement? (Toward an Integral Sexuality)

[Image stolen fron Integral Naked]

I was reading an old issue of Buddhadharma recently when I came upon an article about vipassana by S. N. Goenka. It's not actually by him -- it's an interview with him. In it, he talks about how he teaches vipassana. One of his tenets is to accept the five precepts:
Everyone has to take five precepts: don't kill, don't steal, don't have any sexual activities, don't speak lies or harsh words, and don't take any kind of intoxicants. The precepts are not a rite or a ritual; they are part of the technique. The Buddha realized -- and a good vipassana meditator also realizes -- that when you break any of these precepts you do so only after generating an impurity in the mind. These impurities are like high waves that prevent you from going to the depth of the mind.
Okay, I understand about Sila, and the five precepts are the layman's version. But all the other versions I have seen refer to sexual misconduct, not to "any sexual activities." In this respect, sexuality is not prohibited:
The five precepts constitute an integrated set - each precept supports the others. To know what 'sexual misconduct' means you look at the other precepts. 'Sexual misconduct', in the spirit of the precepts as a job lot, means any sexual conduct involving violence, manipulation or deceit - conduct that therefore leads to suffering and trouble. By contrast good sexual conduct is based on loving kindness, generosity, honesty, and mental and emotional clarity - conduct that has good results. [From Buddhanet]
I don't study much Theravadin material, so my question is this: is Goenka a maverick in wanting students to abstain from all sexuality, or is this a part of the vipassana tradition that has generally been discarded in its move to the West? Is this only for the period of the training or retreat, or is it a general rule for students?

I guess it doesn't matter too much how those questions are answered. It bothers me that ALL sexual activity is seen as a defilement in his teachings. This is certainly a puritanical Blue meme position on sexuality.

I can understand how thinking about sex can disrupt the clear mind state that vipassana aspires toward. But when one is not on the cushion or in retreat, creative, loving sexual expression is a big part of our human experience.

I guess I want an integral view here. From a second tier perspective, we must honor the needs of each of the lower memes if we are to have an integrated being. This means we cannot deny the biological and emotional drives for sexual expression. Nor can we deny the spiritual need for union with another being through sexual expression. However, we can make every effort to filter that biology through our emotional and spiritual lines of development.

I want an integral model for sexuality that honors the drive in humans to connect:
At the prepersonal level, that drive is for procreation and pleasure.
At the personal level, that drive is centered on bonding, expression of self, and expression of intimacy.
At the postpersonal level, that drive is expressed as transcendence of the ego or of the self in spiritual sharing with another human being, and possibly as an entry into a space where individual energies merge into an egoless "relationship" energy (this is a new thought, more to come on this later).

In an integral model, we can express all three levels at the same time, or we can choose one form of expression today and another form tomorrow. The key is to have access to all three levels of expression in as healthy a way as humanly possible.

Certainly, sexual expression at the prepersonal and personal levels can be a defilement. Ego and base animal energy can generate unhealthy forms of sexual expression. [How and why this happens is a huge subject beyond my range of knowledge and patience to write about.]

However, postpersonal sexual expression, as long as the prepersonal and personal are healthy and in control, can be an important part of the spiritual path -- Buddhist or otherwise. This is one instance where I might agree with Sam Harris on the need to do away with cultural baggage in Buddhism.

There is a need for Blue meme restrictions on sexual activity, but only insofar as those activities might be harmful or hurtful to others or the person engaging in them. Otherwise, we might do well to limit the influence of Blue meme beliefs on sexual expression and work toward a fully integral model that recognizes the healthy expression of all memes.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments. I really want to open up a dialogue on this subject.

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Poem: Tu Fu

[image source]

Overlooking the Desert

Clear Autumn. I gaze out into
Endless spaces. The horizon
Wavers in bands of haze.

Far off The river flows into the sky.
The lone city is blurred with smoke.
The wind blows the last leaves away.
The hills grow dim as the sun sets.
A single crane flies late to roost.
The twilit trees are full of crows.

~ Translated by Kenneth Rexroth

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006


A cool image for a hot Tucson day.

One of my clients who I hadn't seen in a little while gave me a belated b-day gift today: cashew butter. Hmmmm . . . . cashew butter. I am grateful for thoughtful people in my life.

Another blogger, Jay, has offered his wisdom in helping me switch to WordPress when I am ready to kick Blogger to the curb. Not sure if WordPress will be my choice, yet, but again, I am grateful for thoughtful people in my life.

My partner Kira is going out of town for a few days this weekend, so I cancelled a dental appointment to spend some time with her between clients. I am grateful for the time we had today.

Hell, I don't know . . . today was a good day and I just feel grateful to be alive.

What are you grateful for?

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Eternal Sunset

[Prerow, Germany, 11:42 PDT]

Someplace the sun is always setting. So Eternal Sunset has assembled a vast network of webcams to bring a sunset whenever you need one.

Just thought you'd want to know that a sunset is always just a click away.

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Page 35

Here is the premise:
Open up your favorite spiritual book. The old testament, new testament, upanishads, edgar cayce, The Berenstein Bears Go for a Walk, whatever.

Turn it to page 35. Skim through the page.

Is there a sentence or an idea that stands out to you? What is it? Why? What are your thoughts on it?

Is there an image? How does it make you feel?

Here is the response I posted:

Nice idea. By the way, this is called bibliomancy. It's generally thought of as a way to know the future – but I think it's more like Tarot in that it can reveal whatever is lurking in the psyche that needs attention.

My current favorite book is Pema Chodron's Comfortable with Uncertainty. Here is what I found on page 35:
It's helpful to always remind yourself that meditation is about opening and relaxing with whatever arises, without picking and choosing. It's definitely not meant to repress anything, and it's not intended to encourage grasping, either. Allen Ginsberg used the expression “surprise mind.” You sit down and–wham!–a rather nasty surprise arises. So be it. This part is not to be rejected but compassionately acknowledged as “thinking” and let go. Then–wow!–a very delicious surprise appears. Okay. This part is not to be clung to but compassionately acknowledged as “thinking” and let go. The surprises are endless.

This is a favorite book of mine that I use for exactly this purpose when I feel like I need a little input from a “teacher.”

Give it a try. It's kind of cool what you can find.

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Dogen: Three Poems

Mountain Seclusion

I won't even stop
at the valley's brook
for fear that
my shadow
may flow into the world.

Viewing Peach Blossoms and Realizing the Way

In spring wind
peach blossoms
begin to come apart.
Doubts do not grow
branches and leaves.

On Nondependence of Mind

Water birds
going and coming
their traces disappear
but they never
forget their path.

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In Defense of Integral Eclecticism

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Image taken from What Is Integral Spirituality?, (click to enlarge).

The choice is often tough: choose one tradition and totally immerse oneself in it, following all the rules and reading all the scriptures of that path; or take a little of this and a little of that from whatever we find that serves our own unique path.

Jay at Pagan Bodhisattva is pondering that question in a recent post, Traditionalism AND Integral Eclecticism. After weighing the benefits of each choice, Jay asks: "Why can’t we have both attitudes, embodied in different practitioners?"

This is my reply, slightly expanded from what I left in the comments at his fine blog.

I think we can have both in the same practitioner. Using the language of Spiral Dynamics, each meme in our meme stack has its own needs as far as spiritual expression is concerned, so how we address those needs will look different at each level. If we are fully first tier in our religious/spiritual development, then we will likely choose one path and stay with it, until we reach Green, when all things become relative and we then might want to do some meditation, go to mass on high holy days, observe the major pagan celebrations, and chant some Sufi prayers -- or whatever combination someone might choose.

For example, I feel a kinship with shamanism that feeds my Purple and Red memes. Some of the shamanic practices and ways of being in the world support a sense of being connected to all things, to being part of the web of life.

However, my primary practice is Tibetan Buddhism, which feeds my Blue structured/traditionalist meme and my Orange individual/rationalist meme. Those specific memes need stability and structure for my practice (Blue), a sense that there is a higher order to life in the Kosmos (Blue some more), and a path that allows me some freedom and self-expression (Orange) while working in a system that makes sense to my rational mind (Orange some more).

I also do a lot of stuff based in humanistic and transpersonal psychology that feeds my Green meme. This meme also sees the whole bountiful offering of spiritual traditions and feels fine taking a little of this and a little of that -- whatever feels (Green is all about feelings) nice to me.

The whole collection of practices feels integral to me and feeds my Yellow meme need to use whatever works to get me to the next level. As one enters into second tier, especially the individualistic Yellow meme, the focus is on whatever can make sense of a chaotic world. This meme wants to find a synthesis of ideas that feeds my need for spiritual growth and still honors each of the lower memes' needs for expression.

As I attempt to become more integral over time, my practice deepens, and I feel as though I am making better progress on my path. I think those who have known me well over the past two years or so (since I've really focused on growth) can see the difference. I can't say this would work for everyone, but it seems to be working for me.

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