Saturday, June 10, 2006


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[image source]

I went to see a Tibetan monk today give a lecture on the nature of mind and pointing out instructions. I could barely stay awake. I think the combination of him speaking in Tibetan for 10 minutes and then having the translator try to restate his words in English (that was only passable) just didn't work for me.

But there was more. I've been thinking about an Integral Buddhism of late, one that speaks to all the various levels of development within us. Another thing from today's experience that turned me off was the ritualized recitation of prayers and dedications at the beginning and end of each half of the meeting. It felt like being in church as a kid. And I really had the feeling that many of the people in the room who had the words memorized were just going through the motions. Reminded me of doing Hail Marys.

There were a lot of Blue meme elements to the event. Some I certainly see the value of, but that also seemed like automated behaviors rather than devotional. That says more about the practitioners than it does the practices, but it bothered me. I need different forms of Blue meme worship. I'm not sure what they might be, but different.

I am supposed to go to another event tomorrow. A voice in my head is saying that I already signed up so I should just go, if for no other reason than to show support for the college bringing the monk to Tucson. It's the voice in my head that says, "Just do it because you should. It's good for you. It won't be that bad."

But when I check in with myself, I just don't want to do it. I didn't enjoy it today (or learn anything), and I won't enjoy it tomorrow. Besides, if we don't go (Kira was going with me), we can spend the day relaxing together, which we both need.

So today I am grateful that I can hear all the voices in my head and weed through the ones that aren't really me and the voice of my aware self. Not too long ago, I would have gone to the thing tomorrow, not enjoyed it, and then felt bad about not enjoying it. I am grateful that meditation and working with subpersonalities has allowed me to be more self-aware.

I am also grateful for World Cup soccer. There have been some amazing goals already (see Tuff Ghost's post).

What are you grateful for?

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Friday Five: Life

[This weeks Friday Five over at Zaadz was a good question. The answers, for better or worse, will allow you to know me better. So I have decided to post my answers here.]

From holy memes and kosmic blog starters: It’s week 6 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!

Last week’s was about death, so this week is all about LIFE!

1) What is life to you? What does it mean to truly live?
Life is food, drink, and sex.
Life is family, friends, tradition, and stories.
Life is power, control, wealth, and respect.
Life is service, structure, karma, and love.
Life is independence, thinking, success, and progress.
Life is compassion, equality, freedom, sacrifice, and acceptance.
Life is chaos, flow, awareness, integration, and bodhichitta.
Life is harmony, interconnectedness, Eros & Agape, and global networks.

Tasting all of these things is being truly alive.

2) Name five reasons to get up in the morning.
To turn off that damn alarm. Uh, okay, better reasons.
1. Kira
2. To be alive
3. To serve my clients
4. To experience nature
5. To make money to take vacations

3) If a friend was struggling to find a reason to live, what would you tell them?
Well, it depends on where they might fall in the Spiral of human values. See list from number one. Once you know what they value, then you know why they would want to live. Losing the will to live is losing touch with who we are and what makes us feel alive. I know because I've been there.

4) What are some of the most life-changing experiences you’ve had?
Death of my father. Drug and alcohol addiction. End of an early relationship that I surrendered myself to in all the wrong ways. Learning to allow myself to trust and be vulnerable with another human being (Kira). Giving up a steady reliable job that was killing me to be self-employed.

5) What are some things you can do/are doing to affirm life?
Learning to love as deeply and honestly as I can. Meditating as often as I can. Helping people change their lives and their images of what they are capable of doing. Eating ice cream. Praying. Exploring whatever life brings my way. Being in nature whenever I can. Learning to be vulnerable.

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Words of Wisdom

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This is from The Art of Peace: Nobel Peace Laureates Discuss Human Rights, Conflict and Reconciliation by the Dalai Lama and other Nobel Laureates, edited by Jeffrey Hopkins, published by Snow Lion Publications (I know that because Snow Lion sent it to me). is extremely important to look inward and try to promote the right kind of attitude, which is based on awareness of reality. A sense of caring for others is crucial. And it is actually the best way of caring for oneself. ...the moment you think of others, this automatically opens our inner door--you can communicate with other people easily, without any difficulties. The moment you think just of yourself and disregard others, then because of your own attitude, you also get the feeling that other people also have a similar attitude toward you. That brings suspicion, fear. Result? You yourself lose inner calmness. Therefore, I usually say that although a certain kind of selfishness is basically right--self and the happiness of that self are our original right, and we have every right to overcome suffering--but selfishness that leads to no hesitation to harm another, to exploit another, that kind of selfishness is blind. Therefore, I sometimes jokingly describe it this way: if we are going to be selfish, we should be wisely selfish rather than foolishly selfish.

I feel that the moment you adopt a sense of caring for others, that brings inner strength. Inner strength brings us inner tranquility, more self-confidence. Through these attitudes, even though your surroundings may not be friendly or may not be positive, still you can sustain peace of mind.

Hmmm, timely quote. 'Nuf said.

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Damn You, Ken Wilber

[there's a picture for everything]

Here's the deal, I don't remember my dreams. In fact, I seldom get enough sleep to have the two or three hours of REM sleep we need, so my brain gets it where it can, often within the first hour or two of hitting the pillow, but sometimes not -- we move in and out of what would be REM sleep if we were actually sleeping during the course of the day.

So I'm standing in the shower this morning and I haven't had my coffee yet. I'm just letting the hot water run on my upper back because my traps are sore. My eyes are closed. Suddenly I'm being subjected to an image of Ken Wilber in cowboy clothes (complete with six shooters at his side) riding a very tall unicycle. The scene is something like a royal court, and apparently Ken is the court jester.

So he starts speaking as he spins around the floor, reciting the lines from his recent post with big exaggerated arm gestures and the occasional shot into the air with his pistol. Everyone is laughing and laughing and even Don Beck and others (who I assume were the targets of his post) are laughing along while everyone else points at them and laughs.

This scene goes on like this for a few minutes, and then Ken dismounts the rather tall unicycle and takes a bow. It suddenly becomes clear he is wearing chaps but no pants beneath them.

I feel confused until I realize I'm still standing in the shower.

Uh, damn.

Damn you, Ken Wilber, for infecting what little dream life I have with your mind games. On the other hand, I guess my brain is still trying to work this thing out.

Maybe Wilber was instigating some kind of crazy wisdom in his post, taking on a trickster role. Or maybe he was trying to blow up our view of him as a guru rather than as pandit. Or maybe this is his version of being a rude boy of enlightenment.

Or maybe he was engaging in post-metaphysical, multi-perspectival performance art.

Who the hell cares. I've spent three days of my life with this being a central part of my blogging and comments. For what?

Actually, I kind of like the performance art thing. I remember seeing a short clip in college of a performance art piece where a man walks out onto a stage, flips off the audience, pulls out his penis, and procedes to piss all over the stage and the people in the front row seats. Talk about a tough act to follow.

But performance art is so post-modern. Certainly The Ken is at least post-post-modern. And the post would certainly indicate that he is beyond the relativism of the post-modern world view. There is a hierarchy, and damn it, he's at the top.

Okay, that's all. I have limited time to blog today, so I'm on to other concerns.

This has been fun in a shooting-each-other-with-BB-guns kind of way. I look forward to the next post-metaphysical, multi-perspectival performance piece from Ken and his crew.

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Friday, June 09, 2006


I am incredibly grateful that I will spend tomorrow in a session of Pointing Out Instructions with Traga Rinpoche, an apparently highly regarded Dzogchen master. He will begin each session (he's also teaching a Bodhichitta session on Sunday) with the hearing of refuge vows and bestowing of Buddhist names. I'm down for that and grateful that he is visiting Tucson.

I'm grateful for a lively discussion of the Ken Wilber post (see here and here). While there seems to be much disagreement and a sense by some that this was an inside joke, everyone is listening to each other with open minds. That's a lot to be grateful for.

I'm inappropriately grateful for cinnamon roll flavored Zone Perfect bars. Damn those things are good.

What are you grateful for?

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Why I Like Veronica Mars

Veronica Mars is my guilty pleasure television show these days. A lot of critics have said good things about it, but Christopher Hayes, in In These Times, explains it well.

Progressives have an annoying habit when it comes to pop culture. Anytime they fall for a particular TV show, movie or Top 40 hit, they proceed to spend inordinate amounts of time and mental energy convincing themselves that while most of what the corporate media produces is reactionary crap, this particular product is actually subversive, laced with a cutting critique of capitalism, patriarchy or the Bush administration.

I mention this only because I’m about to do the exact same thing. But of course, in this case, it’s really, really true: My current television obsession, UPN’s “Veronica Mars” (Tuesdays at 8 p.m. CST), is the single most compelling exploration of class anxiety and class friction on the little or big screen today. Its setting, the fictional southern California town of Neptune, is a prophetic vision of the Two Americas we are in the process of becoming—a “town without a middle class,” as Veronica calls it in the pilot episode’s opening moments, where “your parents are either millionaires or your parents work for millionaires.”

Read the rest here.

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Reminder: More on Ken Wilber

Once upon a time, The Ken said this:
And once you taste One Taste, no matter how fleetingly at first, an entirely new motivation will arise from the depths of your very own being and become a constant atmosphere which your every impulse breathes, and that atmosphere is compassion. Once you taste One Taste, and see the fundamental problems of existence evaporate in the blazing sun of obviousness, you will never again be the same person, deep within your heart. And you will want--finally, profoundly, and most of all--that others, too, may be relieved of the burden of their sleep-walking dreams, relieved of the agony of the separate self, relieved of the inherent torture called time and the gruesome tragedy called space.

No matter that lesser motivations will dog your path, no matter that anger and envy, shame and pity, pride and prejudice will remind you daily how much more you can always grow: still, and still, under it all, around it all, above it all, the heartbeat of compassion will resound. A constant cloud of caring will rain on your every parade. And you will be driven, in the best sense of the word, by this ruthless taskmaster, but only because you, eons ago, made a secret promise to let this motivation rule you until all souls are set free in the ocean of infinity.

~ From One Taste

I don't have to like or agree with everything Ken Wilber says or does. About 80 percent of the time, I'm with him. Then there are days, like yesterday, when I am not on the same page. That's okay.

I also don't need Wilber to be perfect. He will make mistakes sometimes; he will exhibit a full range of emotions; he will be a human being. As it should be. He is a complex being with a full spectrum of options from which to act. When he is operating from his best self, he is brilliant and soulful. When he is angry, he is brilliant and angry. Whatever. It's an integral world allowing for all levels, all lines, all states, and all stages.

Ken is a boomer. He understands boomeritis for the same reason he got the pre/trans fallacy. Been there, done that. When he gets angry, we should expect a strong streak of narcissism and ego to infect the response. Anger wouldn't feel so good without it.

That doesn't negate the rest of his work, or the rest of his vision. I was dismissive of his rant, and I still would have rather seen a more rational (but still pointed) response. Who cares what I want?

Some readers are done with Wilber as a result of this outburst. That saddens me. Let's separate the man from the work, if we can, and look at the usefulness of what he offers. I, for one, am eager to see the new books. I am always given new food for thought and am forced to expand my narrow view of the world when I read a Wilber book, even when I don't always agree with him. That is why we were drawn to his work in the first place.

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New Haiku E-Zine from Will at ThinkBuddha

Will of thinkBuddha, in his free time, is the editor of the literature website, Birmingham Words. He has announced the publication of a new haiku and photography e-zine, The Poetic Image: Haiku and Photography, that can be downloaded as a PDF, for free.

The publication has some great poetry and amazing photography. Check it out and support the arts.

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Poem: Rabindranath Tagore

[image source]

One Day in Spring . . .

One day in spring, a woman came
In my lonely woods,
In the lovely form of the Beloved.
Came, to give to my songs, melodies,
To give to my dreams, sweetness.
Suddenly a wild wave
Broke over my heart's shores
And drowned all language.
To my lips no name came,
She stood beneath the tree, turned,
Glanced at my face, made sad with pain,
And with quick steps, came and sat by me.
Taking my hands in hers, she said:
'You do not know me, nor I you--
I wonder how this could be?'
I said:
'We two shall build, a bridge for ever
Between two beings, each to the other unknown,
This eager wonder is at the heart of things.'

The cry that is in my heart is also the cry of her heart;
The thread with which she binds me binds her too.
Her have I sought everywhere,
Her have I worshipped within me,
Hidden in that worship she has sought me too.
Crossing the wide oceans, she came to steal my heart.
She forgot to return, having lost her own.
Her own charms play traitor to her,
She spreads her net, knowing not
Whether she will catch or be caught.

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Quick Thoughts

First off, I want to apologize for not replying to comments at all yesterday. Blogger was having its usual issues (two days in a row) and I could barely post at all. Comments kept getting dropped, which is terribly frustrating. I owe people lots of replies, and have started to catch up, but I still need to get over to IFS and catch up on that side.

Thanks for all the thoughts on the Wilber thing. I've posted some additional thoughts last night in my gratitude post and in the comments of the original post. Tuff Ghost has weighed in with his usual thoughtful response, so go check it out.

After I responded rather harshly to Annie's original post at Ken's blog (over in ~C4's blog), she and I had a nice exchange. This pointed out to me the risks in attacking anyone's position. If I talked to her over a cup of coffee (that's an offer, Annie, if you're ever in Tucson), I'm sure it would be a great conversation. It's easy to see people as one dimensional when I am responding to the written word on a computer screen. My mistake.

You all have a great day.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006


[image source]

I am grateful for amazing guitarists and violinists.

I am grateful that I can be as condescnding as I accuse others of being and hear it when it is pointed out to me. That's a new development in the last few months.

As much as I am concerned that Ken Wilber's newest response to his critics will damage the integral movement and turn off many who do not know his history with the critics, I remain forever grateful that he has the Big Compassionate Balls, as ~C4 would say, to put himself in a position where he becomes an easy target for morons. I understand his anger, and I understand the need to vent once a decade or so, and I wish he could have done it differently. If he had at least given a couple of clear examples of times he had listened to his critics, or if he had trashed specific arguments, but he didn't. ebuddha details the arugments used, and why they fail to convince.

A year ago I would have been loving every minute of Ken's attack. So I am grateful that I no longer take joy in seeing idiots skewered -- well, sort of, now I just feel guilty about it.

I am eternally grateful for those kind people who offered to read my Integral Buddhism paper. I've already gotten an excellent set of comments, and I look forward to the others.

What are you grateful for?

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Integral Institute Replies to Wilber's Critics

This could have been interesting. But instead it was just sadly weird. Annie McQuade decided to go after Frank Visser, host of Integral World, and so she has her comments posted at Ken Wilber's blog as part of a new series they are doing, a response to Wilber critics.

This is my reply to Annie's post (originally posted in the comments of ~C4Chaos blog at Zaadz):

I can appreciate Annie's desire to stir the pot, but I found her post to be condescending and mean-spirited. Are those the qualities they want people to associate with integral thinking and the Integral Institute?

She defends her stance (in the comments) with a story about how she had repressed herself for years by using skillful means as a defense mechanism. Now she is just being herself and letting it all hang out:

Maybe, just maybe, it is really ok to be myself, to lose my cool, to yell, to smile, to love. Maybe the future does not hold for me a cookie cutter mold in which I become like you and you become like me? Maybe you can be embarrased and I can lose my cool. Maybe it really is ok to be a human being.
I think it's great that Annie is learning to be herself instead of living by others' expectations. But why should Frank Visser have to be attacked for her to feel like she is free to be herself? Annie needs to be doing therapy around this issue, or at least meditating on it, but certainly not using it as an excuse to attack people in public.

Does Visser deserve a response? Yes. A reasoned, clear-headed argument that sets the record straight and accepts any valid criticisms. Visser is not the first or the only person to suggest that Ken has retreated into a world where he is surrounded by loyal believers. So why make him the focus of ridicule?

What purpose was served by her post? Sure, it's a great spectator sport, but so is cock-fighting. In this case the blood is emotional and intellectual. Because of her tone and language, no one will take Annie seriously, so nothing is gained in refuting a critic in this way. In fact, much is lost: Annie's reputation is damaged, and by association the Integral Institute's rep is damaged.

Maybe I'm missing the point. But I would hope that Integral would be represented by fierce intellectualism and deep compassion, not by condescending narcissism.

Having just posted this at ~C4's blog, I notice that Ken has posted his own essay/blog post in which he goes after his critics. Again the tone is condescending and mean, but Wilber is self-aware in this, while Annie wasn't. But what is most revealed in Ken's often pointed argument, and often childish name-calling, is a serious case of attachment -- to being right, to having everyone know he is right, to having the last word.

Ken wagers 20 to 1 that someone will use his post to analyse his psyche -- I just did. He wins that bet. Will he win the argument with his critics? Not likely, even though he is mostly right.

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For Guitar Lovers: Eddie vs. Bobby

Once upon a time, Eddie Van Halen was the baddest guitarist on the planet. Nothing could equal Eruption's power and finesse. It's still one of the best solos ever written.

So here is Eddie playing a live extended version of "Eruption."

And here is young violin wizard Bobby Yang playing "Eruption" on his violin. This kid rocks.

You decide: Is one better than the other, or do they both just have serious skills?

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Interdependence and Illusion

When we're watching a movie in a theater, we can relax and enjoy the show because we know it's an illusion. This magical display that we're watching is the result of a projector, film, light, screen, and our own perceptions coming together. In separate momentary flashes of color, shapes, and sound, they create an illusion of continuity, which we perceive as characters, scenery, movement, and language. What we call "reality" works much the same way. Our ability to know, our sense perceptions, the seeds of our past karma, and the phenomenal world all come together to create our life's "show." All of these elements share a dynamic relationship, which keeps things moving and interesting. This is known as interdependence.

When we look around us, we can see that nothing exists in isolation, which is another way of saying that everything is interdependent. Everything depends upon an infinite number of causes and conditions to come into being, arise, and fall away moment by moment. Because they are interdependent, things don't possess a true existence of their own. For instance, how could we separate a flower from the many causes and conditions that produce it -- water, soil, sun, air, seed, and so forth? Can we find a flower that exists independently from these causes and conditions? Everything is so intricately connected it is hard to point to where one thing starts and another ends. This is what is meant by the illusory nature of phenomena.

~ Dzigar Kongtrul, It's Up to You
This is one of the clearest explanations on these topics that I have ever read. I'm becoming a big fan of this man's writings as I slowly wade through the book.

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Poem: Rumi

[image source]

One Whisper of the Beloved

Lovers share a sacred decree –
to seek the Beloved.
They roll head over heels,
rushing toward the Beautiful One
like a torrent of water.

In truth, everyone is a shadow of the Beloved –
Our seeking is His seeking,
Our words are His words.

At times we flow toward the Beloved
like a dancing stream.
At times we are still water
held in His pitcher.
At times we boil in a pot
turning to vapor –
that is the job of the Beloved.

He breathes into my ear
until my soul
takes on His fragrance.
He is the soul of my soul –
How can I escape?
But why would any soul in this world
want to escape from the Beloved?

He will melt your pride
making you thin as a strand of hair,
Yet do not trade, even for both worlds,
One strand of His hair.

We search for Him here and there
while looking right at Him.
Sitting by His side we ask,
"O Beloved, where is the Beloved?"

Enough with such questions! –
Let silence take you to the core of life.

All your talk is worthless
When compared to one whisper
of the Beloved.

Ode 442, trans. by Jonathan Star and Shahram Shiva
A Garden Beyond Paradise: The Mystical Poetry of Rumi

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Twelve Kids Trying to Make the World a Better Place

[Sergei Hanevich]

The cliche is that the children are our hope for the future. There is truth in every cliche. The Good News Network has a story about 12 kids who are doing their part to make the world a slightly better place. These kids are called Huggable Heroes.
After received nearly 1,500 nominations for its 2006 Build-A-Bear Workshop Huggable Heroes program, twelve inspiring kids have been recognized for their outstanding efforts to change the world.

The heroic stories of this year's Huggable Heroes range from Welland Burnside, 18, starting Suitcases for Kids, so that children moving from one foster home to another wouldn't have to carry their belongings in black garbage bags, to Maggie Fazenbaker, 14, of New Mexico whose project called Operation Soldier Smiles sends care packages to deployed soldiers in the war zone. Jeniece Klammer, 18, of Michigan started a back-to-school effort collecting school supplies for less fortunate children in her own school.

Build-A-Bear Workshop invited the public to visit their Web site to vote for the person who most touched their heart. Anthony Leanna, 14, of Suamico, Wisconsin, was selected as the People's Pick Huggable Hero for Heavenly Hats, a program that donates brand new hats to cancer patients. More than 80,000 new pieces of headwear have been donated, thanks to Anthony, to over hospitals and clinics nationwide over the past four years. Heavenly Hats has inspired hundreds of youth groups and schools to help out by hosting hat drives.

Anthony was honored along with the other 2006 Huggable Heroes at the First Star charity gala in Los Angeles, California on Saturday. Malcolm David Kelley, "Walt" from television's Lost, hosted the event. Each hero received a donation to their cause of $,2500.

"We are so proud and impressed by everything our Huggable Heroes have accomplished," said Maxine Clark, Founder and Chief Executive of Build-A-Bear Workshop. "These young people are great examples of success, proving that no matter how old you are, or where you live, you can make a difference. They will touch many people's lives and become even greater future leaders for our country."

Bailey Reese, 9, Niceville, Fla.
Sent more than 12,000 care packages to soldiers in Iraq.

Charlotte McKane, 10, Oneonta, N.Y.
Donates hygiene products to families in violence intervention programs and games and videos to a local psychiatric unit. Raised $13,000 to benefit these groups

Kaylene Wright, 12, Westland, Mich.
She has donated almost 1,000 children's books to hospitals.

Heather Wilder, 12, Las Vegas, Nev.
As a former foster child, she writes books to raise awareness about the challenges foster kids face.

Maggie Fazenbaker, 14, Alamogordo, N.M.
Care packages for U.S. soldiers in Iraq

Jenessa Largent, 14, White Bear Lake, Minn.
Her group has made over 200,000 bracelets to support service men and women

Anthony Leanna, 14, Suamico, Wisc.
Donates hats to cancer patients

Ted Cox, 15, Marysville, Ohio
Dedicated volunteers at a local hospital

Welland Burnside, 17, Garden City, S.C., Suitcases for Kids
Donates suitcases to foster kids: to date 400,000 suitcases have been collected

Brittany Palmer, 18, North Vancouver, BC, Canada
Active community volunteer for Easter Seals and other organizations

Jeniece Klammer, 18, Ypsilanti, Mich.
Sent 200 children from poorer families back to school with special backpacks filled with school supplies.

Matthew Krauze, 18, Warwick, N.Y.
Volunteers for Puppies Behind Bars: One of his raffles raised over $1,000 for the cause.
You can read more about these creative and inspired kids here. It makes me feel a little better to know that the next generation cares, even in small ways. If only adults weren't so jaded and discouraged from thinking we, too, can make a difference.

Some say we cannot change the world. But for those who received help from programs started by these kids, the world was changed, if only for a few moments. That's the best we can ask.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006


So, I mentioned that I read my horoscope even though I think astrology is a silly superstition. Today's Daily Om horoscope for me was on gratitude, and I thought it had some good insights on why we should practice gratitude.

June 7, 2006
Power Of Gratitude

Taurus Daily Horoscope

Today you may feel fortunate for the emotional and financial support that you have received lately. Perhaps you feel protected by the universe and grateful for the ways in which others have been there for you. This would be a good time to work on expressing your gratitude to others. You may want to turn today into a day of personal appreciation. Throughout the day, you may want to take a few moments to silently thank the universe for its blessings. Remember to say thank you to anyone who does something nice for you. Note the positive changes that this exercise can manifest in your life.

When we are supported by others, expressing gratitude tells the universe that we appreciate our good fortune. When we take the time to reflect upon the countless miracles that happen to assist us, we may notice that the change in our level of awareness will change the quality of our life for the better. So often in life we tend to take things for granted. We may feel that we haven’t been given everything that we deserve. Reflecting upon the abundance of life, however, helps us develop a keener sense of awareness of our gifts. Thank the universe for its support today, and you will be able to gratefully accept everything that life has to offer you.

This is good advice. I have to say that since I began doing these daily posts back in March, my ability to manifest what I need has improved greatly. When I lose a client at the gym due to schedule conflicts, finances, or leaving the area, I get a new client almost immediately with very little work. It wasn't so easy last year. I am so very grateful for the ease this has allowed me, and the sense that I can trust that my needs will be met -- very new for me.

I've definitely become a "glass is half full" type of guy, rather than the opposite, which had been my nature for most of my life. I feel grateful for so many little things -- and so many big things.

The combination of more regular sitting and daily gratitude posts has changed my outlook on life. Other people have noticed and commented on the change, which is nice.

So I am grateful today for gratitude, for those who read this blog and leave comments, for those who read and don't leave comments, and for simply being able to do this blog.

Mostly I am grateful for Kira and those few people I consider friends.

What are you grateful for?

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Tucson Skies

I'm not a photographer by any sense of the word. However, I enjoy looking at the world with the intent of capturing unique images on film (or in pixels, as the case may be).

These are some recent shots of the Tucson sky. As much as the desert isn't my native land, I am often amazed by the skies here. We get such variety in the cloud formations. Even from minute to minute, things can look so different.

All these shots are taken from my deck, looking east.

These first two are from a couple of days ago. We have been having some afternoon thunderstorms this week. It's unusual to get them this early. The monsoon won't start for another three weeks or more, so this is a nice treat.

These clouds are from later the same night, around sunset. This is looking to the east, so the color is mild compared to what must have been happening in the western sky.

These are more thunderstorm clouds, from late afternoon yesterday. We've gotten very little rain here, but other parts of the valley have been hammered by winds and rain. These storms produce microbursts that hit small areas with 50-70 mph winds and torrential rains.

These clouds are from this afternoon's storm, which again didn't leave us with much rain but others in the valley were drenched and suffered strong winds.

I'll post more of these as I take more photos. Things should get very interesting as the monsoons come next month.

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Integral Buddhism, Redux

Well, Blogger has been down all afternoon and just came back online, so I have been unable to post until now.

I have revised and expanded my Integral Buddhism article for submission to Shambhala Sun. The article is a response to Sam Harris' article, "Killing the Buddha." It's still a bit rough and although I cannot post it here (copyright issues for the magazine), I would like others to read it and comment on it if interested.

If you'd like to see a copy of this article and maybe offer me some constructive criticism, I would be so extremely grateful. Please email me through the link on the sidebar if you are interested.


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On Emptiness and God

[Form is Emptiness]

This is a small quote from another article in the newest Buddhadharma, "Into the Depths of Emptiness," by Chan Master Sheng Yen.
People often think that enlightenment is an experience whereby we can feel a certain thing, or discover exactly what this "thing," enlightenment, is. This is an incorrect view, because enlightenment, or "seeing the nature," is an experience of emptiness. It is the experience of phenomena as being empty an insubstantial.

Most Eastern and Western philosophies and religions believe in a highest, or ultimate, reality to which they give names such as "oneness" or "God." Actually, we enter this oneness when we experience unified mind in meditation. In the West, it may be called oneness, but according to the Chan dharma, we need to put down this unified mind, to let go of it. We do not want to think of this unified mind as the highest, or ultimate, truth.

But how do we get to what is the highest truth? We have to drop everything, and then we will come to the point of formlessness, or nonattachment to all forms. Forms are products of causes and conditions. As such they are changing and nonsubstantial. They still exist; it is just that the enlightened mind does not abide in them.

From this view, any Western notion of God is still a form that must be dropped to get to the emptiness that is enlightened mind. This feels correct to me, even though I have never even had a glimpse of what it might feel like.

I have been sloppy in my thinking in the past. I have equated God with Kosmos with enlightenment. The first part might be correct (or not), but enlightenment is the absence of all forms, so even any notion of God is short of the truth. I think many others have made this same equation.

I've read other authors talking about enlightenment as formless emptiness, but I somehow never made sense of it in the way that Master Sheng Yen's article makes clear. Having even a slight intuitive sense of it helps me to understand it better.

What do the rest of you think about Master Yen's position?

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Poem: Mary Oliver

[image source]

The Buddha's Last Instruction

"Make of yourself a light"
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal -- a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
even green.
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire-
clearly I'm not needed,
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006


[Tucson sunrise]

This morning's taste of beginner's mind didn't survive too long once I was in the gym, but my mood was good all day. I was even calm when stuck behind some slow person in a Hummer this afternoon, which was highly unusual and might prompt people who know me to ask if I was alright. But I am immensely grateful for the time I was in the flow this morning.

I am grateful that my clients are all such unique people. I learn something from all of them.

I am grateful that you are reading these words.

For what are you grateful?

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Pre-Rational Magical Thinking Dominates the Day

[image source]

In case you've been living under a rock and missed the memo, today is 6/6/06. Many people seem to be concerned that today bears some connection to the "mark of the beast" mentioned in the Biblical book of Revelations:
He who has understanding, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and its number is six hundred and sixty-six. (Apocolypse, Chapter 13, verse 18)
Yep, I have an old Catholic Bible.

I am truly amazed by the magical thinking that this day has brought to the surface. We like to pretend that we are rational, educated human beings, yet all over the world people are concerned about a phantasmic book written nearly 2,000 years ago that claims to predict the "end times."

It's easy to be dismissive of such clearly pre-rational thinking as documented in this article from Yahoo News:
Websites devoted to 666 were the reference point for rumours of meteors smashing into earth or of pregnant women trying to avoid giving birth to prevent their babies being born with the mark of the devil.

The figure 666 is named the "number of the beast" in the closing chapter of the Bible, the "Book of Revelation," otherwise known as "The Apocalypse of John."

Chapter 13, Verse 18 of the book, with its apparent reference to the coming of the Devil -- "his number is six hundred threescore and six" -- has for centuries absorbed meanings its author never intended. There is even a name for the fear of the number: hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia.

To celebrate the so-called Devil's Day, Chicago's Internet-based Radio Free Satan hosted a massive party in Los Angeles, while a Netherlands-based evangelical organisation called on Christians in 21 countries to hold a 24-hour prayer vigil against Satanic forces.

The BBC News website reported that a woman who was turning 66 on 06/06/06, and was born weighing 6 pounds 6 ounces on June 6, was refusing to drive on her birthday to help avoid accidents.
But the question we must ask ourselves is this: what is it in our nature that can cause us to feel superstitious and to seek talismans against bad luck?

We all passed through a stage in our development when we believed that doing certain things could influence physical reality. This was a partial truth. We can indeed influence reality with our actions, but there are limits to our ability to do so. As three-year-olds, we don't understand those limits.

Prayer was very important to me as a young boy because the nuns convinced me that if I was good, and if I asked God for favors in the right way, that he would answer my prayers -- as long as I wasn't being selfish. Never seemed to work-- especially when, at thirteen, I decided to try prayer to keep my father from dying as a result of his fifth heart attack. Didn't work.

Go into any clubhouse in major league baseball and you'll be likely to find a player who hasn't shaved since he began a hitting streak, or a pitcher who wears the same socks for each outing, or a coach who chews an exact number of sunflower seeds each time he puts some in his mouth. As a college soccer player, I ate the same meal the morning of each game, the same meal I had eaten the first time --in high school -- that I scored six goals in a game, and then did it again a few weeks later after eating the same meal.

Yet I always wore number 13 to demonstrate the foolishness of superstitions.

Magical thinking is a part of our psyches. We can transcend it as we grow up, but it is always included. How many otherwise rational people read their horoscopes each day? I do, and I will argue with anyone that astrology is irrevocably silly.

The best we can hope for on a day such as this, when the magical thinking of an entire culture rises to the surface, is to honor the fears we share that the world is beyond our control. That is, after all, the bottom line. We engage in magical thinking as a way to make ourselves feel safe in a world that is so much larger than ourselves, so much more complex, and sometimes so very frightening.

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Beginner's Mind

[image source]

I seem to have started the day with beginner's mind. As I was driving to my see my first client this morning, everything felt new, like I was seeing it for the first time. I had the feeling I get when I'm on vacation with Kira, where everything seems new and interesting and I feel excited just to be driving on a new road in a new place, where even simple little things fill me with curiosity.

The howl of coyotes this morning as I walked to my client's door was spectacular. The scent of humidity in the desert was amazing. The sound of Great Western Grackles making their usual noise was comforting.

What a nice way to start the day. I have no idea where it came from or why I'm in this space, but it's rare for me to feel this way when I am in my routine. Very cool.

Okay, that's all. I'm off to the gym.

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Rigpa Glimpse of the Day

[image source]

Looking into death needn’t be frightening or morbid. Why not reflect on death when you are really inspired, relaxed, and comfortable, lying in bed, or on vacation, or listening to music that particularly delights you? Why not reflect on it when you are happy, in good health, confident, and full of well-being? Don’t you notice that there are particular moments when you are naturally inspired to introspection? Work with them gently, for these are the moments when you can go through a powerful experience, and your whole worldview can change quickly. These are the moments when former beliefs crumble on their own, and you can find yourself being transformed.

~ Sogyal Rinpoche
I liked this observation. I have seen a lot of death in my life -- my family, friends, strangers -- but after the first major experience (my father), what has allowed me to flow with it is the time I have spent meditating on death in moments when my life is good and those I love are healthy. Which is not to say that I won't grieve next time someone I love passes. But the feelings are softened by having explored my relation to them in gentler times. I found this to be true when my mother and sister passed last summer.

This is true for any intense feeling or fear. If we want to befriend our anger, it is best not to seek it when we are angry and the emotion is powerful. Rather, it is best to seek it when we are calm, happy, and introspective. In these times we can begin to understand our strong emotions much more easily. And with understanding comes the opportunity to transform our relationship to that feeling or experience.

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Poem: Hsi Chou

[image source]

Broken Tablets

A slice
Of precious stone
The pressing cold has split.
In the fallen script
I see broken bugs.

At a distance
On the hill's grass edge, or half-revealed
In an icy stream, deeds writ down, how
Could the people exist? Years
Melted away, their affairs
Already empty.

I only hear
Cypress on the wrecked
Mound mourn together,
As the grieving wind

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Monday, June 05, 2006


I'm just flat out grateful to be alive. So there.

And I'm grateful for the people who commented on my Integral Buddhism article. Thanks.

Nothing special happened today, but for some strange reason (for those who have known me for a while) I'm feeling happy today. And grateful for feeling that way. Whatever. I'll just accept it and express my gratitude.

What are you grateful for?

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Video: Stephen Colbert on Evilution

This is great fun -- Colbert takes the fundamentalist Bible-as-literal-truth stance against a paleontologist. Colbert: "I'm impervious to logic."

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Integral Buddhism

I've been thinking a bit about Sam Harris' article in the March issue of Shambhala Sun, "Killing the Buddha." I've argued repeatedly that Harris has a flatland view of the world as an atheist whose worldview is based in scientism. Harris has spoken highly of Buddhism on many occasions, and even in The End of Faith, but his reliance on the technology of Buddhism (meditation) at the expense of all its other elements, concerns me.

As usual, Harris argued in that article for an end to the religious elements of Buddhism, favoring instead the technologies Buddhism has imparted for transcending the little self. He would do away with all the traditional metaphors about Rinpoches having been born from a lotus flower, or anything else that seems irrational. There is no room for symbolic language in a world where scientism reigns as the dominant worldview.

But what if we take a step back from seeing the world through one limited set of lens and instead try to see the broader picture? What if we recognize that human beings develop through an ever more complex series of worldviews that allow for greater complexity and deeper understanding with each new stage? And what if we accept that each and every one of those stages is crucial to the development of individuals and cultures, and that we can never skip a stage or eliminate it from our experience, no matter how much we may find it distasteful?

If we can take this wider viewpoint in our understanding of Buddhism as well as in the rest of our lives, we will be approaching an integral worldview, and an Integral Buddhism.

As individuals and as cultures, we develop through a series of ever more complex and more compassionate understandings of the world. These stages can most simply be defined as egocentric, ethnocentric, and worldcentric. Buddhism serves each of these stages in different ways.

At the egocentric level, people seek to understand the world through the lens of their limited ego-mind. Because ego sees itself as the center of the known world, emphasis is placed on kinship patterns, power needs, and a structured universe. These Buddhists engage in rituals, believe that there are god-like Buddhas who can intercede in human lives, and take literally the Buddhist version of heavens and hells.

To rational Western thought, these beliefs seem silly --and when seen in more militant religions, such as Christianity and Islam, even seem dangerous -- but they serve a vital function for those who live in the egocentric stages of development -- they provide structure to contain the power-needs of the ego.

At the ethnocentric level, Buddhism looks more like religions we are familiar with in this country. Karma is the law of cause and effect that can seem very much like Christian versions of sin and punishment. Reincarnation is taken literally and is not much different from belief in an afterlife. It is in the upper stages of ethnocentric belief that a rational scientism can take hold and try to eliminate all the "non-rational" elements of Buddhist belief. Scientism would reduce Buddhism to meditation practices that can be observed with the tools of science.

The important thing to understand about egocentric and ethnocentric worldviews is that each stage along the path thinks it has a monopoly on the truth. From its viewpoint, every other worldview is simply wrong. This becomes most problematic in the ethnocentric stages, where there develops an Us-versus-Them mentality. Even scientism is not immune from this polarized thinking. As much as it likes to think of itself as hyper-rational, it still buys into the duality of its viewpoint against all others.

At the worldcentric stages of development, people begin to be tolerant of other viewpoints and other ways of understanding the world. At the lowest stages, this looks a lot like postmodern relativism. But at the higher stages, we begin to see an integral worldview that can honor the truth of each earlier stage and see each stage as crucial in human and cultural development.

An integral worldview understands that as we develop, we transcend each previous stage as the new one emerges. But we don't lose those earlier stages -- they continue to live within us, and they continue to have needs for understanding the world. As we transcend each stage, it is included in our options for viewing and interacting with the world. If we are put into situations that mirror the life conditions we experienced when that worldview was dominant, it can be triggered into action in order to deal with the current situation, even if we transcended that stage decades ago.

An Integral Buddhism understands these truths. It can accept that the egocentric, pre-rational elements of Buddhism address needs within each of us, even if our rational minds can't grasp that fact. An Integral Buddhism understands that ethnocentric, rational elements of Buddhism are crucial to a well-rounded practice. An Integral Buddhism seeks to include elements from all of our previous stages into its practice, everything from ritual offerings to 100,000 bows, from prayer to Tara worship, from mindfulness practice to nondual consciousness.

An Integral Buddhism does not reject any safe and compassionate practice that addresses needs in the human psyche for transcending the ego. We do not need to kill the Buddha -- we need to honor the full spectrum of ways we can follow his teachings.

Poem: Yu Chao

[image source]

The Pine Whisk

A streambed
Winds between their solid trunks.
How could they be the same
as deertail fly-whisks?

To sit
Among them,
They're always dripping
Azure shade, and when we talk,
Give sudden birth to breezes. Their shoulders
Fall beyond the lonely lamplight.
Noises chill inside
The silent room.

Is there anyone
Who realizes this thought?
The rocks in the woods,
clustered together.

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Preliminary Dzogchen Practice

[image source]

This is from a Q&A given by Khandro Dechen and Ngakpa Chogyam Rinpoche that is included in Roaring Silence: Discovering the Mind of Dzogchen.
Khandro Dechen: The first time one sits is bound to be something of a disappointment. But if your first sit is a big disappointment and you are prepared to continue, then you can begin to think of yourself as a potential practitioner. Anyone interested enough to be investigating this subject has the right qualifications to begin practicing shi-ne. Anyone interested enough to be reading this has the possibility of discovering what all enlightened beings have discovered.

Ngakpa Chogyam Rinpoche: To begin with, there is boredom. Then, after the boredom, there's yet more boredom [laughs].

KD: So, unless one is prepared to work with boredom, there is no purpose in considering the practice of shi-ne. If one is not prepared to sit through boredom as a continuing project, there is no way one can even begin practice. But, strangely enough, shi-ne is the only key to actually understanding boredom and discovering what life is like without it. Shi-ne is the means by which we comprehend boredom. Through practice, boredom reveals itself as energy -- an energy that is part of the texture of our enlightened potential.

The authors define shi-ne, for those like me to whom the term is new, as "The method of finding oneself in the space of Mind without content while maintaining presence of awareness." The authors equate Mind (big M) with emptiness, and mind (little m) with common dual, clinging mind.

Their description has me so excited to begin their form of practice. Okay, maybe not, but actually, a little bit.

I'm pretty much past the boredom stage. So what about the arthritic knee stage? It's not my mind that bothers me about sitting, it's the pain in my body. My back gets sore, my knees hurt, my neck gets tight.

Seriously, I am excitied about starting a new path and learning new practices.

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