Saturday, July 01, 2006

Sogyal Rinpoche: Negative Expeiences in Meditation

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From today's Rigpa Glimpse of the Day:

In meditation, negative experiences are the most misleading, because we tend to take them as a bad sign. But in fact the negative experiences in our practice are blessings in disguise. Try to not react to them with aversion as you might normally do, but recognize them instead for what they truly are, merely experiences, illusory and dreamlike.

The realization of the true nature of the experience liberates you from the harm or danger of the experience itself, and as a result a negative experience can become a source of great blessing and accomplishment. There are innumerable stories of how masters worked like this with negative experiences and transformed them into catalysts for realization.

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Jon Stewart Talks to Al Gore

A good interview -- and some scary truth.

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Greetings from Zion National Park

Kira has seen all 50 states, so now she wants to see all the national partks -- we're doing Zion and Bryce Canyon this weekend (Bryce Canyon is tomorrow). We did a three mile hike this morning, and took a few pictures -- much more to see in the next few days. The size of the rock and the sheer magnitude of it all doesn't come across in the pictures as much as when you are standing at the base of a 3,000 foot wall of rock.

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Friday, June 30, 2006

Spirals Over South Park

This is from the Spiral Dynamics pod, courtesy of Nemo.

This rocks. Check out all eight memes.

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Light Blogging the Next Few Days

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Here is my horoscope from the Daily Om for today:

The Enchantment Of Togetherness
Taurus Daily Horoscope

You could find that you feel playful today because of your cheerful and upbeat mood. Since you have this feeling of delight, you may want to spend time with your family and friends. By sharing your feelings of joy, you can give others a great gift—the bliss of community. Perhaps today you can consider doing something active and lively. You may think about inviting those you care about to go on an invigorating hike in nature, play sports, or have a picnic in a park. Being outside with a group of people can provide uplifting experiences and help us create deeper bonds with each other. You may notice that your high spirits could be infectious and that others will also feel the enchantment of togetherness.

Taking pleasure in the outside world with our friends and families is a wonderful way to deepen our connection with each other. In our daily lives we often find ourselves working in offices isolated from other people. This can drain us of the enchantment of the world around us. But by being in nature, we can realize the depth of our interconnectedness with one another. The outside world teems with energy that relieves our stress and revitalizes our spirit. When we savor this experience with other people, we become united by a sense of interdependence. We recognize that happiness is accessible to all of us simply through acts of play and togetherness. By spending time outdoors with loved ones today, you will notice a deeper feeling of kinship develop in your relationships.
Horoscopes usually don't mean anything to me, just fun to read. And even this one, which is right on the mark, is only a coincidence.

Still, I'm leaving for vacatuion today, and when Kira and I are on vacation, I am much more relaxed and relational. To top it off, we're going to some amazing nature places (Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks).

So, blogging will be lighter than usual the next few days. I'll try to post some pictures while we are there.

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Barack Obama's "Call to Renewal"

The political left has really had a love-hate relationship with religion over the past couple of decades -- they love to denigrate the religious right and they hate to accept that religion plays a major role in the political life of this country.

Any liberal or Democrat (not necessarily the same thing) who wants to prosper at the national level now has to embrace his/her faith -- but s/he must do it in a way that will not repel the hardcore liberal base of the party, people who tend to reject organized religion as antithetical to liberal politics.

Enter Barack Ombama, the Golden Child of the Democratic party. Ever since his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, Obama has been in the spotlight of Democratic politics. He easily won his Senate seat in Illinois, has a personality that comes across as down-to-earth and authentic, and is extremely articulate when he speaks. And he is young and good looking, which never hurts.

But he one other thing going for him -- he is a Christian who can speak intelligently about his faith and still maintain progressive values. Despite Alan Keyes claims that Jesus would not vote for Obama, he does not scare the religious right in the same way that John Kerry or Hillary Clinton do.

So it is not surprising to hear Obama talk about his faith while giving the keynote speech, "A Call to Renewal," at Sojourner Magazine's Covenant for a New America. It was a masterful speech, the type of speech many of us wish our leaders were more able and willing to offer.

He does not shy away from religious faith as an issue in politics nor does he cater to the right's demands for a literalist faith. It may be this ability, this honesty -- along with his charm and lack of a voting record -- that makes Obama the next Democratic president.

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Bill Maher on Abstinence

It's Bill Maher . . . so you've been warned.

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My Spidey Senses Are Tingling

I took the Super Hero quiz and it turns out that I'm Spider Man, with a gay Robin alter ego and two powerful subpersonalities (the Flash and the Hulk) lurking under the surface.

Your results:
You are Spider-Man


The Flash
Green Lantern
Wonder Woman
Iron Man

You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

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Visions of "The View"

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From The Glimpse of the Day:

All the Buddhist teachings are explained in terms of Ground, Path, and Fruition. The ground of Dzogchen is the fundamental, primordial state, our absolute nature, which is already perfect and always present.

Patrul Rinpoche says: "It is neither to be sought externally, nor is it something you did not have before and that now has to be newly born in your mind." So from the point of view of the Ground—the absolute—our nature is the same as the buddhas', and there is no question at this level, "not a hair’s breadth," the masters say, of teaching or practice to do.
Here is some text from the The Six Vajra Verses, said to be a perfect résumé of Dzogchen Teachings:

'Although apparent phenomena manifest as diversity ---
yet this diversity is non-dual.
And of all the multiplicity
of individual things that exist,
none can be confined in a limited concept.
Staying free from the trap of any attempt
to say 'it's like this', or 'like that',
it becomes clear that all manifested forms are
aspects of the infinite formless,
and, indivisible from it,
are self-perfected.
Seeing that everything is self-perfected
from the very beginning,
the disease of striving for any achievement
is surrendered,
and just remaining in the natural state
as it is,
the presence of non-dual contemplation
continuously spontaneously arises."

~ The Six Vajra Verses (Quoted in Namkhai Norbu's The Crystal and the Way of Light)
And here are some poems from Fakhruddin 'Iraqi - Divine Flashes, translated by W. Chittick and P. Wilson, as printed in BuddhaNet's article, "One View."

Before this there was one heart
but a thousand thoughts
Now all is reduced to
There is no love but Love."

The poetry that follows is like an exquisite wine, which benefits from being consciously tasted and savoured, with a natural pause between sips.

DIVINE FLASHES (Lama'at) - Fakhruddin 'Araqi

The Morning of Manifestation sighed,
the breeze of Grace breathed gently,
ripples stirred
upon the sea of Generosity.
The clouds of Abundance poured down the rain
upon the soil of preparedness;
so much rain that the earth shone with Light.
The lover, then, nourished with the water of life, awoke from the slumber
of non-existence, put on the cloak of being and tied around his brow the
turban of contemplation; he clinched the belt of desire about his waist
and set forth with the foot of sincerity upon the path of the Search.

The lover desires to see the Beloved with Certainty's Eye, and wanders a bewildered lifetime in this aspiration. Then suddenly with his heart's ear he hears a voice;
"The magic spring
that gives eternal Life,
is in your own heart
but you have blocked the flow."

Then the Eye of Certainty opens, and staring inwardly at himself, the lover finds himself lost, vanished. But ... he finds the Beloved; and when he looks still deeper, realises the Beloved is himself. He exclaims,

"Beloved, I sought you
here and there,
asked for news of you
from all I met;
then saw you through myself
and found we were identical.
Now I blush to think I ever
searched for signs of you."

Everyone with eyes sees just such a vision ... but remains ignorant of what he perceives. Every ant which leaves its nest and goes to the desert will see the sun, but not know what it sees. What irony! Everyone perceives Divine Beauty with Certainty's Eye, for in reality nothing exists but Transcendent Unity;

They look, they see, but do not comprehend.
They take no pleasure in the View,
For to enjoy it one must know
through the Truth of Certainty
What he is seeing,
through Whom, and why.

And so, the lover seeks the Vision in order that he might pass away from existence; he knocks on the door of non-existence, for there he was once at peace. There he was both seer and seen, Both viewer and viewed ... Because nothing in himself. When awakening from that peace and coming to be, he became the veil of his own sight and was deprived of Vision.

Know yourself: a cloud
drifting before your sun.
Cut yourself off from your senses
and behold your sun of intimacy.

If this screen ... which is you ... is struck from before your eyes, the Beloved will find the Beloved, and you will be entirely lost. Then you will say:

"By day I praised You
but never knew it;
by night slept with You
without realising;
fancying myself
to be myself;
but no, I was You
and never knew it."

With the Eye of the Heart the lover now sees ---
The Beloved's Loveliness owns
a hundred thousand faces;
gaze upon a different fair one
in every atom;
for She needs must show
to every separate thing
a different aspect
of Her beauty.
Gazing from every angle
on that precious countenance
in Thy face we see our own ---
hence the infinitude of descriptions.

Thus it is that every lover gives a different sign of the Beloved and every Gnostic a different explanation; every realised one seems to point to something different, yet each of them declares,

"Expressions are many
but Thy loveliness is one;
Each of us refers
to that single Beauty."

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Fractured Fairy Tale: Anne Sexton

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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

No matter what life you lead
the virgin is a lovely number:
cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper,
arms and legs made of Limoges,
lips like Vin Du Rhône,
rolling her china-blue doll eyes
open and shut.
Open to say,
Good Day Mama,
and shut for the thrust
of the unicorn.
She is unsoiled.
She is as white as a bonefish.

Once there was a lovely virgin
called Snow White.
Say she was thirteen.
Her stepmother,
a beauty in her own right,
though eaten, of course, by age,
would hear of no beauty surpassing her own.
Beauty is a simple passion,
but, oh my friends, in the end
you will dance the fire dance in iron shoes.
The stepmother had a mirror to which she referred--
something like the weather forecast--
a mirror that proclaimed
the one beauty of the land.
She would ask,
Looking glass upon the wall,
who is fairest of us all?
And the mirror would reply,
You are the fairest of us all.
Pride pumped in her like poison.

Suddenly one day the mirror replied,
Queen, you are full fair, 'tis true,
but Snow White is fairer than you.
Until that moment Snow White
had been no more important
than a dust mouse under the bed.
But now the queen saw brown spots on her hand
and four whiskers over her lip
so she condemned Snow White
to be hacked to death.
Bring me her heart, she said to the hunter,
and I will salt it and eat it.
The hunter, however, let his prisoner go
and brought a boar's heart back to the castle.
The queen chewed it up like a cube steak.
Now I am fairest, she said,
lapping her slim white fingers.

Snow White walked in the wildwood
for weeks and weeks.
At each turn there were twenty doorways
and at each stood a hungry wolf,
his tongue lolling out like a worm.
The birds called out lewdly,
talking like pink parrots,
and the snakes hung down in loops,
each a noose for her sweet white neck.
On the seventh week
she came to the seventh mountain
and there she found the dwarf house.
It was as droll as a honeymoon cottage
and completely equipped with
seven beds, seven chairs, seven forks
and seven chamber pots.
Snow White ate seven chicken livers
and lay down, at last, to sleep.

The dwarfs, those little hot dogs,
walked three times around Snow White,
the sleeping virgin. They were wise
and wattled like small czars.
Yes. It's a good omen,
they said, and will bring us luck.
They stood on tiptoes to watch
Snow White wake up. She told them
about the mirror and the killer-queen
and they asked her to stay and keep house.
Beware of your stepmother,
they said.
Soon she will know you are here.
While we are away in the mines
during the day, you must not
open the door.

Looking glass upon the wall . . .
The mirror told
and so the queen dressed herself in rags
and went out like a peddler to trap Snow White.
She went across seven mountains.
She came to the dwarf house
and Snow White opened the door
and bought a bit of lacing.
The queen fastened it tightly
around her bodice,
as tight as an Ace bandage,
so tight that Snow White swooned.
She lay on the floor, a plucked daisy.
When the dwarfs came home they undid the lace
and she revived miraculously.
She was as full of life as soda pop.
Beware of your stepmother,
they said.
She will try once more.

Looking glass upon the wall. . .
Once more the mirror told
and once more the queen dressed in rags
and once more Snow White opened the door.
This time she bought a poison comb,
a curved eight-inch scorpion,
and put it in her hair and swooned again.
The dwarfs returned and took out the comb
and she revived miraculously.
She opened her eyes as wide as Orphan Annie.
Beware, beware, they said,
but the mirror told,
the queen came,
Snow White, the dumb bunny,
opened the door
and she bit into a poison apple
and fell down for the final time.
When the dwarfs returned
they undid her bodice,
they looked for a comb,
but it did no good.
Though they washed her with wine
and rubbed her with butter
it was to no avail.
She lay as still as a gold piece.

The seven dwarfs could not bring themselves
to bury her in the black ground
so they made a glass coffin
and set it upon the seventh mountain
so that all who passed by
could peek in upon her beauty.
A prince came one June day
and would not budge.
He stayed so long his hair turned green
and still he would not leave.
The dwarfs took pity upon him
and gave him the glass Snow White--
its doll's eyes shut forever--
to keep in his far-off castle.
As the prince's men carried the coffin
they stumbled and dropped it
and the chunk of apple flew out
of her throat and she woke up miraculously.

And thus Snow White became the prince's bride.
The wicked queen was invited to the wedding feast
and when she arrived there were
red-hot iron shoes,
in the manner of red-hot roller skates,
clamped upon her feet.
First your toes will smoke
and then your heels will turn black
and you will fry upward like a frog,
she was told.
And so she danced until she was dead,
a subterranean figure,
her tongue flicking in and out
like a gas jet.
Meanwhile Snow White held court,
rolling her china-blue doll eyes open and shut
and sometimes referring to her mirror
as women do.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

John Welwood: Wound of the Heart

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If we take an honest look within, we may notice a certain guardedness around our heart. For some people, this is a thick, impenetrable barricade For others, it is a thinner, subtler protective shield or contraction that only emerges under threatening conditions. And nothing triggers this sense of threat so strongly as the suspicion discussed earlier: that we are not truly loved or acceptable as we are. Numbing or shutting down the heart is an attempt to deflect the pain of that.

Not knowing that we can be loved for who we are prevents us from trusting in love itself, and this in turn causes us to turn away from life and doubt its benevolence. We may tell ourselves that love is not really available. But the deeper truth is that we don't entirely trust it, and therefore have a hard time fully opening to it or letting it all the way into us. This disconnects us from our own heart, exacerbating our sense of love's scarcity.

<< - >>

This whole pattern -- not knowing we're loved as we are, then numbing our heart to ward off this pain, thereby shutting down the pathways through which love can flow into and through us -- is the wound of the heart. Although this love-wound grows out of childhood conditioning, it becomes in time a much larger spiritual problem -- a disconnection from the loving openness that is our very nature.

This universal human wound shows up in the body as emptiness, anxiety, trauma, or depression, and in relationships as the mood of unlove, with its attendant insecurity, guardedness, mistrust, and resentment. And all relationship problems follow from there.

~ John Welwood, Perfect love, Imperfect Relationships
We all live with some variation of this wound, and for each of us this wound is held by a vulnerable child within us.

I have no idea yet where Welwood is going with this in his book, but I do know that we can take the intiative to give that inner child the love and acceptance it needs. How we do that will vary with each of us, based on our experiences and needs. We must do it for ourselves. Even though a loving and accepting partner can do a lot to help us in the right direction, only we can fully access that child's pain and vulnerability.

Part of healing ourselves means going into that pain, but to do so with another allows that frightened child to see that it is safe to be vulnerable and open, to love and be loved. There is no greater gift we can give ourselves.

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Sogyal Rinpoche on Impermanence

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Glimpse of the Day:

Reflect on this: The realization of impermanence is paradoxically the only thing we can hold on to, perhaps our only lasting possession. It is like the sky, or the earth. No matter how much everything around us may change or collapse, they endure.

Say we go through a shattering emotional crisis . . . our whole life seems to be disintegrating . . . our husband or wife suddenly leaves us without warning. The earth is still there; the sky is still there. Of course, even the earth trembles now and again, just to remind us that we cannot take anything for granted. . . .

Wouldn't it be nice if we could the center of impermanence in the midst of this kind of chaos? I'm certainly not there yet.

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Poem: Ahmad al-Alawi

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Full near I came unto where dwelleth
Layla, when I heard her call.
That voice, would I might ever hear it!
She favored me, and drew me to her,
Took me in, into her precinct,
With discourse intimate addressed me.
She sat me by her, then came closer,
Raised the cloak that hid her from me,
Made me marvel to distraction,
Bewildered me with all her beauty.
She took me and amazed me,
And hid me in her inmost self,
Until I thought that she was I,
And my life she took as ransom.
She changed me and transfigured me,
And marked me with her special sign,
Pressed me to her, put me from her,
Named me as she is named.
Having slain and crumbled me,
She steeped the fragments in her blood.
Then, after my death, she raised me:
My star shines in her firmament.
Where is my life, and where my body,
Where my willful soul? From her
The truth of these shone out to me
Secrets that had been hidden from me.
Mine eyes have never seen but her:
To naught else can they testify.
All meanings in her are comprised.
Glory be to her Creator!
Thou that beauty wouldst describe,
Here is something of her brightness
Take it from me. It is my art.
Think it not idle vanity.
My Heart lied not when it divulged
The secret of my meeting her.
If nearness unto her effaceth,
I still subsist in her substance.

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Check out Celestia

Ever wanted to explore the universe in three dimensions? Well, Celestia is the place to go.

Their blurb:

Unlike most planetarium software, Celestia doesn't confine you to the surface of the Earth. You can travel throughout the solar system, to any of over 100,000 stars, or even beyond the galaxy.

All movement in Celestia is seamless; the exponential zoom feature lets you explore space across a huge range of scales, from galaxy clusters down to spacecraft only a few meters across. A 'point-and-goto' interface makes it simple to navigate through the universe to the object you want to visit.

Celestia is expandable. Celestia comes with a large catalog of stars, galaxies, planets, moons, asteroids, comets, and spacecraft. If that's not enough, you can download dozens of easy to install add-ons with more objects.
It's a free download, with add ons and a forum for discussion.

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Johnny Cash: The True King of Rock and Roll

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Elvis? Give me a break. Johnny Cash was the man, before Elvis came along and until the day he died. Cash lived the rock and roll lifestyle as much as anyone, including prison time. And he did it with soul, dignity, and a fierce spirit.

It's that fierce spirit that kept him making music right up until the end, despite the depression he endured after losing June. His final album has been released, American V: A Hundred Highways, and Rolling Stone has the review.

Rick Rubin's American series with Cash redefined the Man in Black for a whole new postmodern generation. I saw Cash live after the first album in the series was released in the early 90s. Mark Lanegan, a Seattle favorite and then-singer for the Screaming Trees, opened the show with an acoustic set from his first solo albums. That's the only reason I went to see the show.

But Cash blew me away. We were going to leave after Lanegan, but we decided to have a beer and see how Cash sounded. It amazed me that I knew all the songs without having ever owned a Johnny Cash album. I'm glad we stayed.

Elvis who?

Johnny Cash gave every song his deepest appreciation -- he seemed infused with soul. Whether he sang about drinking and fighting or about Jesus, he was fully present. The dark songs off that first collaboration with Rick Rubin were haunting. As great as Cash had been, he had never been so vulnerable before. I feel fortunate to have seen that concert -- without it I may never have discovered the true King of Rock and Roll.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006


I'm grateful for nothing in particular, but I do feel grateful nonetheless. Strange, that. I have been doing this as a daily activity for more than three months, and I think it's time to simply post gratitudes when it feels right.

The intent of the original exercise has been realized, I think, in that I am much more grateful on a regular basis than I was before I began. It's been part of a major shift that has occurred during that time, for which I am grateful.

So, from now on, I will only do gratitude posts when the spirit moves me. Maybe on a regular basis, or maybe only every once in a while.

So today I am grateful that I undertook this exercise.

What are you grateful for?

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Second Tier Silliness

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There was a recent discussion in the Spiral Dynamics pod at Zaadz on the Mean Yellow Meme. The discussion seemed to echo in many ways the Wilber/Earp posts of late in that it supposes that there is fairly large number of people at second tier, or even at Turquoise (according to Wilber). One person mentioned "the people I would consider to be Yellow," as if there are a whole mess of them running around in every town.

[Those unfamiliar with Spiral Dynamics Integral (or KW's newest approach, Integral Spirituality, which steals much of its terminology from SDi while also seeming to include it) can read this or this.]

Let's crunch numbers. Wilber proposes that either 2% or 5%, depending on what you read, of the population is at second tier. I won't even get into the absurdity of talking about third tier. So, if KW is right, there are between 6,000,000 and 15,000,000 second tier people in America (using a population of 300,000,000, which we won't actually [theoretically] hit until October 17 or so, but it's a good round number). That's not very many people. I personally think these numbers are more than a little high, but then I live in Arizona.

How many of them are on-line? How many of them know or care that KW has a blog? How many of them know or care about the Integral Institute? How many of them even know what second tier is?

On the other hand, how many of them are artists, scientists, doctors, writers, managers, or any number of other things, who devote their lives to being present and being themselves? And how many of these people do you think give a damn about Ken Wilber or Integral Theory?

I'm not guessing very high.

So, assuming that KW is capable of doing the same math, why would he be talking so much and so often about second tier people? Does he really believe that all the second tier people have gravitated to him and I-I, or is he trying to convince these people they are second tier as a marketing ploy?

And what effect do you think this has on the population of bloggers, readers, and students who know the theory and can get it intellectually? Do you think the rest of their developmental lines are also in second tier? No? But, they do.

The integral bloggers I read and know are clear about their own development, but I've seen others who are not so clear, who want to be part of the "cool kids" crowd in the Turquoise realm. I'm seeing this a lot at Zaadz, which is to be expected in many ways. Very good people, but many of them mistake second tier intellectual development with being second tier. KW's series of Earpy posts has only made that confusion more common and widespread.

Intellect nearly always leads the way in development, and many of us can think in Yellow flexflow systems, or even in Turquoise worldcentric networks, but very few people have the majority of their developmental lines centered in Yellow, which would require several of them to be Turquoise, Coral, or beyond to compensate for the ones that are Red, Blue, Orange, and Green. Ego and intellect are closely linked for most of us, and ego loves to think it is more highly evolved than the Smiths.

We all need to do a little reality check, an ego check. We need to look at all our developmental lines and be honest about where we are -- of central importance are cognition, affects, role taking, psychosexuality, socio-emotional capacity, worldviews, and various lines that can be called spiritual (openness, concern, meditative stages, and so on).

Where is our center of gravity when we factor in all these lines? More importantly, where is our center of gravity when those who know us best assess our position on these lines? And how much shadow stuff do we have dragging us down?

No person is one color in the SDi framework -- or even in KW's new system. Although it's a tempting shorthand to talk about people in terms of a color designation, it's really a terrible use of a complex theory. Don Beck has been adamant about this, and Chris Cowan (with all his faults, he knows SD inside and out) is even more militant in his position that no one is a color.

More importantly, the actual number of people who are second tier is very low -- and those who are second tier probably aren't hanging out talking about (or blogging about) being second tier. In fact, they probably don't even know or care what second tier is.

What do you think about this issue? What do you think about Wilber's efforts to create a vast and inclusive second tier (really using the elements of Turquoise language that echo Purple)? How many people do you know who you would consider second tier?

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We Are Not Our Mistakes

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This was yesterday's Daily Om, and a good one to ponder:

You Are Who You Are, Not What You Do
Becoming Your Wrong Decisions

Our perception of the traits and characteristics that make us who we are is often tightly intertwined with how we live our life. We define ourselves in terms of the roles we adopt, our actions and inactions, our triumphs, and what we think are failures. As a result it is easy to identify so strongly with a decision that has resulted in unexpected negative consequences that we actually become that "wrong" decision. The disappointment and shame we feel when we make what we perceive as a mistake grows until it becomes a dominant part of our identities. We rationalize our "poor" decisions by labeling ourselves incompetent decision-makers. However, your true identity cannot be defined by your choices. Your essence-what makes you a unique entity-exists independently of your decision-making process.

There are no true right or wrong decisions. All decisions contribute to your development and are an integral part of your evolving existence yet they are still separate from the self. A decision that does not result in its intended outcome is in no way an illustration of character. Still, it can have dire effects on our ability to trust ourselves and our self-esteem. You can avoid becoming your decisions by affirming that a "bad decision" was just an experience, and next time you can choose differently. Try to avoid lingering in the past and mulling over the circumstances that led to your perceived error in judgment. Instead, adapt to the new circumstances you must face by considering how you can use your intelligence, inner strength, and intuition to aid you in moving forward more mindfully. Try not to entirely avoid thinking about the choices you have made, but reflect on the consequences of your decision from a rational rather than an emotional standpoint. Strive to under! stand why you made the choice you did, forgive yourself, and then move forward.

A perceived mistake becomes a valuable learning experience and is, in essence, a gift to learn and grow from. You are not a bad person and you are not your decisions; you are simply human.
For many years, I looked back at my teen years and regretted the mistakes I made. I felt that I had wasted my life and my potential in a haze of drugs and alcohol. A wise therapist eventually suggested that I try to see that period of my life from the outside. How would I judge someone else who had gone through the same events? That changed everything.

Being able to bring some observer self to our life allows us to see the whole picture. When we regret mistakes, we are often caught within the feelings and our view is limited. When we can see how we have changed or grown as a result of the choices we have made -- good or bad -- we can begin to see those decisions as experiences we have gone through, lessons we have learned.

Obviously this will not always work -- some mistakes may require more focused healing in therapy. But for most of us, reframing mistakes as experience that has shaped the person we are becoming will allow us to rest peacefully with the lives we have lived.

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Buddhist Parable: Kindness

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[image source]

"During the Chin dynasty of the fourth century, there was a middle aged man in Shanyin called K'ung Yu. He was an official for the government, but he had practically the lowest official position in the whole dynasty. His position was low, and so was his pay. Times were hard for him. Once he saw a turtle someone was getting ready to eat. He felt sorry for it, so he bought the turtle and took it to the river. There he let it go. The turtle seemed to understand that Yu had saved it from the soup. As it swam away, it kept looking back at him. Yu watched it until he couldn't see it any more. Years later, Yu had reached a better position. Leading troops, he quelled a rebellion. For his great deeds, the Emperor raised him to the rank of Lord, a high and powerful position. The official insignia for the rank of Lord is a metal seal. When K'ung Yu was promoted, the royal artisans cast a seal for him, but for some reason, it came out with a turtle on top, and the turtle was looking back over its shoulder. They thought that was strange, so they melted the seal down, made a new mold, and cast it again, but it still came out with a turtle looking back over its shoulder! The artisans tried over and over again. Every time they made the mold very carefully, and everybody inspected the mold. Every time, the mold was fine, but every time they cast the seal, it came out with a turtle on top of it, and every time, the turtle's head was looking back over its shoulder! The artisans thought this was uncanny. They decided to go to the new Lord and see what he thought about it. They knelt in front of him, and said, "My Lord, as directed by our Emperor, we have tried to make a seal for you as sign of your new rank, but every time we cast the mold, the seal comes out with a turtle on top, and the turtle is always looking back over its shoulder.' 'Carry on,' K'ung Yu directed. 'Do it over again.' The artisans followed his command, but once again, the seal appeared with a turtle on top, looking back over its shoulder. K'ung Yu was perplexed. The news of this strange occurrence spread, and eventually reached the royal ears of the Emperor. The Emperor called K'ung Yu in to explain why his seal always came with a turtle, but K'ung Yu was at a loss to explain. On his way home, K'ung Yu suddenly remembered something. The next day in court, he reported, 'Your Highness's loyal minister has considered the manner of the seal and the unexplainable turtles, and perhaps has found a reason. 'Many years ago, this minister happened to see a fisherman preparing to cook and eat a turtle he had caught. This minister felt sorry for the turtle, and so purchased said turtle from the fisherman and released it by the river. The turtle seemed to understand, for it swam along the surface of the water and looked back as if in gratitude. 'Your Highness has currently granted me the rank of Lord; the official seal has a turtle on it; this must be an auspicious sign... The Emperor told the court, 'Those who do good will reap good rewards. The Lord K'ung is an excellent example.'" (from The Love of Life)

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Poem: Robert Creeley

[image source]

The Innocence

Looking to the sea, it is a line
of unbroken mountains.

It is the sky.
It is the ground. There
we live it, on it.

It is a mist
now tangent to another
quiet. Here the leaves
come, there
is the rock in evidence

or evidence.
What I come to do
is partial, partially kept.

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Monday, June 26, 2006


I'm grateful for Integral Naked MP3 sessions that I can burn onto a CD for a long car trip. Beauty, eh?

I'm grateful for a little more wind and rain today, which cooled off a 102 degree day to a mere 92 degrees.

I'm grateful that Jay recommended a book called The Passionate Marriage -- excellent so far.

What are you grateful for?

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Resting the Body and Mind

[image source]

When I was in Washington D.C. back in March, I did a day-long meditation retreat with two of Thich Nhat Hahn's students. The day focused on finding ways for busy people to rest. We did a variety of meditation and mindfulness practices, and we also did a walking meditation in the large conference room where we had our session.

The Shambhala Sun website has an article by Hahn ("Resting in the River"), in which he talks about restlessness and how to work with that energy so that we may learn to relax the body and mind. He also presents a nice walking meditation, using a mantra that we learned in the retreat.
In walking meditation, we walk like a free person. This is not political freedom. This is freedom from afflictions, from sorrow, from fear. Unless you are free you cannot enjoy walking. I would like to propose to you a short poem that you might like to use for walking meditation:

I have arrived. I am home.
In the here. In the now.
I am solid. I am free.
In the ultimate I dwell.

You might like to take two steps and breathe in and say, I have arrived, I have arrived. And when you breathe out, you take another two steps and say silently, I am home, I am home. Our true home is really in the here and in the now. Because only in the here and the now can we touch life. As the Buddha said, life is available only in the here and the now, so going back to the present moment is going home. That is why you take one step or two steps and you awaken to the fact that you have arrived. You have arrived in the present moment.

If you are able to arrive, then you will stop running-running within and running without. There is a belief in us that happiness cannot be possible in the here and the now. We have to go somewhere. We have to go to the future in order to be able to really be happy.

That kind of thinking has been there for a long time. Maybe that feeling has been transmitted to us from our ancestors and our parents. That is why we have to wake up to the presence of that habit energy in us and to do the reverse. The Buddha said that it is possible for us to be peaceful and happy in the present moment. That is the teaching of trista dharma sadha vihara. It means living happily right in the present moment. When you are there, body and mind united, you have an opportunity to touch the conditions of your happiness. If you are able to touch these conditions of happiness that are already available in the here and the now, you can be happy right away. You don't have to run anywhere, especially into the future.

When we practice walking, we might be aware that we have strong feet. Our feet are strong enough for us to enjoy running and walking. That is one condition for happiness that is available. When I breathe in and I become aware of my eyes, I encounter another condition for my happiness. Breathing in, I am aware of my eyes. Breathing out, I smile to my eyes. This is an exercise, a very simple exercise to help you realize that you have eyes which are still in good condition. You need only to open your eyes to see the blue sky, the white cloud, the luxurious vegetation. You can see all kinds of forms and colors just because you have eyes still in good condition. Your eyes are another condition for your happiness. We have so many conditions like that for our happiness and yet we are still unhappy. We still want to run away from the present moment, hoping we'll find some happiness in the future.
The rest of the article offers other practices and ways of reframing our experience so that we may find peace in the here and now, that we may relax and rest in the moment. There really are few teachers who can instill peace and quiet in us the way Thich Nhat Hahn can -- I tend to forget that as I get focused in my own lineage studies.

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Poem: Robert Bly

[image source]


Some love to watch the sea bushes appearing at dawn,
To see night fall from the goose wings, and to hear
The conversations the night sea has with the dawn.

If we can't find Heaven, there are always bluejays.
Now you know why I spent my twenties crying.
Cries are required from those who wake disturbed at dawn.

Adam was called in to name the Red-Winged
Blackbirds, the Diamond Rattlers, and the Ring-Tailed
Raccoons washing God in the streams at dawn.

Centuries later, the Mesopotamian gods,
All curls and ears, showed up; behind them the Generals
With their blue-coated sons who will die at dawn.

Those grasshopper-eating hermits were so good
To stay all day in the cave; but it is also sweet
To see the fenceposts gradually appear at dawn.

People in love with the setting stars are right
To adore the baby who smells of the stable, but we know
That even the setting stars will disappear at dawn.

[First appeared in The Paris Review, #154, Spring 2000.]

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Is Wyatt Earpy a First-Tier Uber-Guru?

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Just when I thought the whole Wilber thing had died down and things were getting back to normal, Mathew Dallman posts a link to a blogger who shreds the last Wyatt Earp post so thoroughly as to make me rethink my "forgive and move on" approach.

The main conclusion this blogger draws is that KW has revisioned himself as a god-like figure, but that he uses his brilliance to create plausible deniability throughout his posts by quoting others making those claims. He doesn't just state these observations of Wilber, however, he breaks down KW's last post in detail to support his position.

I'm curious to hear what others think of this post. Please go have a read and come back to let me know how you feel about it. Does he have a point? Has Wilber's ego become so inflated that his shadow is seeping out all over the place, or is this a carefully crafted message meant to create converts and loyalty among his followers? Is this what a god-complex looks like at second tier, or is Wilber displaying first tier memes writ large?

This post is the most serious critique I have seen so far in the Earp fiasco, and I look forward to seeing what the rest of you think.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006


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[image souerce]

I'm grateful for rain. It rained hard for several minutes, which won't do much to alleviate the drought, but every little bit helps. When it rains in the desert, it feels like purification.

With that in mind, here is a poem by Joy Harjo, from her weblog:


Oh sunrise, as you enter the houses, minds and fields of everyone on this hemisphere, find me here.

I have been crashing for days or has it been years beyond the medicine of eagles.

Find me beneath the shadow of this yearning mountain, hovering near newborn roots planted for nourishment.

I made myself sick with sour longings, the poison of enemies and the jangling of fears against my thigh I carried for protection.

My spirit rises up in the dark because it hears the sound of doves in cottonwoods calling forth the sun, and sees the play of light starting over boulders of tears.

I struggled with a monster and lost. My body was tossed in the pile of kill around his terrible feet. I rotted there with the rest.

I was ashamed and told myself for a thousand years or more that I did not deserve anything but this.

But one day in relentless eternity my spirit discerned the precise movement of prayers carried toward the sun.

And this morning I am able to stand and cry with all the other beings who welcome you here.

I begin to move with the lightness of your being.
And I will go in the direction for which there is a place for me.
I'm grateful for the sense that with each day I am being purified, that I am being eaten alive by my demons and spit out more whole, more clean than when I started.

And I am grateful for David Beckham.

What are you grateful for?

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Newsweek: 15 People Who Make America Great

Newsweek has a new story honoring 15 people or organizations who are giving back to make America a better nation. They range from the well-known (Target, Rick Warren, Brad Pitt) to the unknown (Benita Singh and Ruth Degolia, Nancy Cox).

I was skeptical about Target, considering their stance against carrying the morning after pill in their pharmacies, but within their faith-based beliefs, they are doing good things.

Brad Pitt is honored -- though it seems Angelina Jolie is more deserving, since Pitt wouldn't be doing any of this if it weren't for her -- for selling the first pictures of the Bradgelina baby for $4 million and giving all the money to African charities.

Some of the stories are inspiring, but it does feel a little self-serving and biased. Still, give it a look.

Here is the whole list:
Benita Singh and Ruth Degolia
Pierre Omidyar
Randy Rusk
Brad Pitt
Rick Warren
Aaron Dworkin Organization
Boys & Girls Clubs
Ruby Jones
Soledad O'Brien
Nancy Cox
John Read
Frederick Kaplan
Timothy Hernandez
Margaret Ross
Philanthropy's All-Star Team
Reader's Choice

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Sunday Poet: Wendell Berry

A Spiritual Journey

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
no matter how long,
but only by a spiritual journey,
a journey of one inch,
very arduous and humbling and joyful,
by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,
and learn to be at home.


Sabbaths 1998, VI

By expenditure of hope,
Intelligence, and work,
You think you have it fixed.
It is unfixed by rule.
Within the darkness, all
Is being changed, and you
Also will be changed.

Now I recall to mind
A costly year: Jane Kenyon,
Bill Lippert, Philip Sherrard,
All in the same spring dead,
So much companionship
Gone as the river goes.

And my good workhorse Nick
Dead, who called out to me
In his conclusive pain
To ask my help. I had
No help to give. And flood
Covered the cropland twice.
By summer's end there are
No more perfect leaves.

But won't you be ashamed
To count the passing year
At its mere cost, your debt
Inevitably paid?
For every year is costly,
As you know well. Nothing
Is given that is not
Taken, and nothing taken
That was not first a gift.

The gift is balanced by
Its total loss, and yet,
And yet the light breaks in,
Heaven seizing its moments
That are at once its own
And yours. The day ends
And is unending where
The summer tanager,
Warbler, and vireo
Sing as they move among
Illuminated leaves.


The Peace of Wild Things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


The Hidden Singer

The gods are less for their love of praise.
Above and below them all is a spirit that needs nothing
but its own wholeness, its health and ours.
It has made all things by dividing itself.
It will be whole again.
To its joy we come together --
the seer and the seen, the eater and the eaten,
the lover and the loved.
In our joining it knows itself. It is with us then,
not as the gods whose names crest in unearthly fire,
but as a little bird hidden in the leaves
who sings quietly and waits, and sings.

Wendell Berry is probably better known as an essayist than he is a poet, and that is unfortunate. Berry is a fine poet, and his verse is among the most spiritual on the contemporary scene -- which may account for the lack of recognition.

Here is the biographical sketch from the Academy of American Poets:

Poet, essayist, farmer, and novelist Wendell Berry was born on August 5, 1934, in Newcastle, Kentucky. He attended the University of Kentucky at Lexington where he received a B.A. in English in 1956 and an M.A. in 1957. Berry is the author of more than thirty books of poetry, essays, and novels. His collections of poetry include A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 (Counterpoint, 1997), Entries: Poems (1994), Traveling at Home (1989), Collected Poems 1957-1982 (1985), Clearing (1977), There Is Singing Around Me (1976), and The Broken Ground (1964). His novels include A World Lost (1996), Remembering (1988), and The Memory of Old Jack. Berry is also the author of prose collections including Another Turn of the Crank (Counterpoint, 1995), Sex, Economy, Freedom, & Community (1993), Standing on Earth: Selected Essays (1991), and A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural (1972). He has taught at New York University and
at the University of Kentucky. Among his honors and awards are fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, a Lannan Foundation Award, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He married Tanya Amyx in 1957; they have two children. Wendell Berry lives on a farm in Port Royal, Kentucky.

Here is a brief Wikipedia outline of the some of the ideas that permeate Berry's work, especially the essays and novels:

His nonfiction serves as a long defense of the life in which he finds value. According to Berry, this good life includes: sustainable agriculture, appropriate technologies, healthy rural communities, the Gospels, connection to place, the pleasures of good food, stewardship of Creation, husbandry, good work, local economics, the miracle of life, fidelity, frugality, reverence, peacemaking and the interconnectedness of life. The threats Berry finds to this good life include: industrial farming and the industrialization of life, ignorance, hubris, greed, violence against others and against the natural world, the declining topsoil in the United States, global economics, environmental destruction.

Wendell Berry is often cited as a defender of agrarian ideals and frequently voices his appreciation for the Amish.

I mostly know of Berry's work from essays and poems in magazines such as Orion, Sierra Magazine, and Resurgence. Although Wikipedia cites The Gospels as a major influence on his work, I have found his approach to spirituality to be more on the order of nature mysticism and less Bibilical. He feels a religious reverence for the environment and for the famring way of life. This is what draws me to him as a writer. And I think that perspective is evident in the poems above.

So here is one more poem.


Dear relatives and friends, when my last breath
Grows large and free in air, don't call it death --
A word to enrich the undertaker and inspire
His surly art of imitating life; conspire
Against him. Say that my body cannot now
Be improved upon; it has no fault to show
To the sly cosmetician. Say that my flesh
Has a perfect compliance with the grass
Truer than any it could have striven for.
You will recognize the earth in me, as before
I wished to know it in myself: my earth
That has been my care and faithful charge from birth,
And toward which all my sorrows were surely bound,
And all my hopes. Say that I have found
A good solution, and am on my way
To the roots. And say I have left my native clay
At last, to be a traveler; that too will be so.
Traveler to where? Say you don't know.

But do not let your ignorance
Of my spirit's whereabouts dismay
You, or overwhelm your thoughts.
Be careful not to say

Anything too final. Whatever
Is unsure is possible, and life is bigger
Than flesh. Beyond reach of thought
Let imagination figure

Your hope. That will be generous
To me and to yourselves. Why settle
For some know-it-all's despair
When the dead may dance to the fiddle

Hereafter, for all anybody knows?
And remember that the Heavenly soil
Need not be too rich to please
One who was happy in Port Royal.

I may be already heading back,
A new and better man, toward
That town. The thought's unreasonable,
But so is life, thank the Lord!

So treat me, even dead,
As a man who has a place
To go, and something to do.
Don't muck up my face

With wax and powder and rouge
As one would prettify
An unalterable fact
To give bitterness the lie.

Admit the native earth
My body is and will be,
Admit its freedom and
Its changeability.

Dress me in the clothes
I wore in the day's round.
Lay me in a wooden box.
Put the box in the ground.

Beneath this stone a Berry is planted
In his home land, as he wanted.

He has come to the gathering of his kin,
Among whom some were worthy men,

Farmers mostly, who lived by hand,
But one was a cobbler from Ireland,

Another played the eternal fool
By riding on a circus mule

To be remembered in grateful laughter
Longer than the rest. After

Doing that they had to do
They are at ease here. Let all of you

Who yet for pain find force and voice
Look on their peace, and rejoice.
Wendell Berry on the web:
Famous Poems and Poets: 23 poems.
PoemHunter: 11 poems.
The Academy of American Poets: Biography and links to other sites.
Orion Magazine: "Thoughts in the Presence of Fear," an essay.
Mr. Wendell Berry of Kentucky: Link heaven.

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Meeting Death Wisely

[meditating on death]

For most of us, karma and negative emotions obscure the ability to see our own intrinsic nature, and the nature of reality. As a result we clutch on to happiness and suffering as real, and in our unskillful and ignorant actions go on sowing the seeds of our next birth. Our actions keep us bound to the continuous cycle of worldly existence, to the endless round of birth and death. So everything is at risk in how we live now at this very moment: How we live now can cost us our entire future.

This is the real and urgent reason why we must prepare now to meet death wisely, to transform our karmic future, and to avoid the tragedy of falling into delusion again and again and repeating the painful round of birth and death. This life is the only time and place we can prepare in, and we can only truly prepare through spiritual practice: This is the inescapable message of the natural bardo of this life.

~ Sogyal Rinpoche
In the nearly forty years I've been on this planet, I've lost a lot of friends and family to death. We all go there eventually, but how many of us make peace with that? How many of us befriend death well before we are in its grasp? Not one of the people I've known who have passed had any relationship at all with death.

When my mother passed last summer, she welcomed death. As a fundamentalist Christian, she was convinced she would be transported to heaven where all the pain in her body -- caused by the cancer -- would cease to exist. She envisioned an eternity of blissful life among the golden streets and fluffy clouds of the next life.

I'm guessing she was disappointed at first.

It's easy to latch onto whatever mythic story of the afterlife our religion or culture offers. But that does not really prepare us for the reailty. I often talk as though I believe in reincarnation. I don't -- I simply consider it one of those things we can never know until we get there. But my higher selves understand that talking about the next life makes my lower, mythical and magical selves feel better about the uncertainty. In reality, it's all a mystery to me.

I've made peace with that over the years. I'm sure that when that day comes, I'll be sad to leave those I love behind, and I may even fight it. But not because I fear death -- because I've learned to enjoy life.

Whether reincarnation exists, or whether my consciousness ceases to exist when this body exhales its last breath, it's all good, it's all part of the adventure. But if there really is a hell, I'm screwed.

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