Thursday, February 13, 2014

Insights into Acceptance and Emptiness

In a recent retreat I had some great arising's on insight and emptiness.

The first insight came from a teaching from Master Culadasa on the emptiness of a chair.  I thought: "If I replace all of the components of a chair, one by one with different colors and styles and then I move the chair to another part of the house, only I will know that it is the original chair.  I will be the only being in the world who would perceive it that way and recognize that chair as the chair."

The second insight came as I pondered a photograph of 3 people in mind.  I thought about how the picture was very limited in the amount of data that it held.  I always thought of a picture as a snapshot of an instant in time.  But in reality there was very little information in the photograph.  All of the energy that brought all of the physical phenomena into being at that moment was not present.  Also all of the mental data that was occurring at that moment was not present.  So it occurred to me that we can't photograph ultimate reality and that the only reason that photographs work for humans is due to our limited sight capacities.

Then it occurred to me that in ultimate reality, there can be no present moments.  My teacher is often challenging me to think about time and Lama Marut often talks about how things change at a rate of 6 trillion times per second.  Also emptiness theory states that we can break time down infinitely and we can keep dividing it into seconds and fractions of seconds and so on.  So at the instant in time of that photograph there were an infinite number of mental and physical process that were in the process of changing.  So there is no identifiable present moment.

The next insight that arose was a contemplation on Indra's Net.  If we are all interconnected and that we are inter-beings according to Thich Nhat Hanh then we share the same subconscious mind and are really organs in a single being.  I tried to picture myself by a river where all of nature was interconnected and all things were reflecting in each other and flowing through each other.  If people can see themselves this way then they will decrease their delusionary thinking and move closer to understanding ultimate reality.  This is one of the key reasons to watch our morality.  To act as if we were beings in the same organism so that we decrease our attachment to our delusionary thinking.'s_net  

indra's net - the illusion of separteness. - YouTube

From these insights a great well of patience, tolerance and acceptance seemed to arise and stay.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Four Arya truths

1:  Arya truth number one:  All beings suffer.  Suffering is an emotional state that resists what is.  For instance if I hit my thumb with a hammer I typically shake it off pretty well, but if it happens the day prior to my summer golf tournament my suffering increases.  When the kids stay up late I believe I will be more irritable the next day and collect negative energy.  This is a way that I make self improvement, self existent.    Etc…  There are many examples. 
I am coming around to the idea that all material experiences that are experienced from the perspective of a separate self, contain some level of suffering.

2:  The second arya truth is that Suffering is caused by Ignorance, Delusion and the mental affliction obstacles.  We have limitations of our sense powers that seem to indicate that we are separate beings.   According to Maitreya: We are born with a sense of “I” that is separate from all things and that tendency is reinforced over time as we experience our separateness through our experience with physical objects.  As long as we see ourselves as separate we will suffer.  When we harm another or trash talk about them, it is like seeing our right hand stealing something and then later, when the right hand is not looking, the left hand strikes it. 

An example is this story of the coach at my son’s BBall game.  The opposing coach has been vocal with the refs for the entire game, arguing calls etc.   My son Tommy gets fouled and shoots a free throw and as the ball is bouncing over the rim the coach of the opposing team yells for the ball to “Get out!”.  Who does not think that guy is a destructive force in the universe?  There seems to be no clearer example.  But for one, we don’t know who he is.  Perhaps the parents and kids on that team love him.  Or maybe he is acting and was put there to test me, but if I think he is a jerk by nature then I am the one suffering.  I handled the interaction reasonably well, where I advised the coach of the code of conduct that we abide by, but I was still not in total control of my emotions and certainly experienced some anger.  So I decided I would not deliver any more constructive criticism for the remainder of the game J
I like the examples of types of cells in an organism as well.  We can be a red blood cell, where we go about our days in a normal state.  When we experience the afflictive emotions we act like cancer cells and we eat away at the collective organism.  When we act like a Bodhisattva we become like a white blood cell, helping others.  But when we do good deeds with the idea of no separate self in mind we act like a stem cell, morphing into what any being needs at any moment.
Our mind being a flock of starlings is another great metaphor.  These are the smaller birds that maneuver in a majestic flock.  One starling takes its cues from the surrounding 7 starlings and they move in a formation that can avoid predators and they achieve what a single startling could not.  This morning I was driving to work and I saw a flock flying over the road.  There had to be about 1000 birds.  They split into 2 flocks over my car and headed in opposite directions and “HONK!”  The guy behind my was not happy with my bird watching.  So I pulled over and let him go and hoped that his mind quieted down.
3. The third arya truth the Buddha taught was that there is an end to suffering.  He taught that “Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional”.  Another way to express this is through the equation: Suffering = Pain X Resistance.  If we drive resistance to 0 and accept our reality then we will not suffer.  In my prior golf example if I have no attachment to my golf weekend then I have no suffering when I disable my golfing hand with a blow from the hammer.  When I say “attachment” I mean that there is no belief that the material pleasure of a round of golf and time away with my buddies can bring me lasting happiness, so why should I get upset? 
It also needs to be said that there is nothing wrong with golf.  I connect with my friends there and share experiences and can search for my opponent’s golf ball with the Bodhisattva intention, but the Buddha taught that the material experience of a great golf shot or any other material experience can’t deliver lasting happiness.
4.   The fourth arya truth is that there is a path to the end of suffering through the 8 fold path or we like to use the 6 perfections presentation.  Again we must realize that we are interconnected with all things and that even our thoughts affect the entire universe so we must work on them iteratively with compassion for ourselves.  But we can’t change our thoughts overnight. 
If that were possible can you imagine how vulnerable we would be?  If we were channel surfing and accidentally encountered a Donald Trump university commercial we would be all in!  And then later we would be part of a class action suit trying to get our tuition back.  So it has to be iterative and we must progress in stages and be persistent and patient with ourselves.
I like to think of the idea that we need to progressively burn new neural pathways in our brains.  We need to coach the “agents” in our minds to change: interaction by interaction.  Per MC we want to believe that there are objects beyond our sense powers, but we want to maintain a balance where we retain our critical thinking and don’t become “weenies” that believe every magical idea that comes along.  So we progress steadily and iteratively and it could be no other way.
Intention:  Master Culladasa states that all thoughts contain intentionality as part of the payload or data in the thought.  If I see myself as separate then I will suffer (Even if I perform philanthropy someone at the soup kitchen will irritate me).  But if I act while viewing myself as a member of a society of equals then I will try to act in the highest interests of all concerned.  So, it does not matter if I succeed in the endeavor that I planned, only that I try with the Bodhisattva intention. 
That idea also extends to my mind as a society of agents that are all competing for main mind consciousness and the happiness of these 5 aggregates.  So with that intention I should coach the agents of my mind, to see the world as an interconnected set of aggregates.  I should positively reinforce this behavior in meditation and throughout the remainder of the day. 
Another great metaphor for main mind consciousness is again the movie theater.  But the data that is projected onto the screen is coming from the audience which is also the consumer of the data.  Does that make sense?  The screen is a shared area of consciousness and it is the place where our consciousnesses communicate.  The experience of Nirvana is when all of our mental agents are paying attention to the screen at the same time and they all stop projecting and then we can see the screen.  I am told it takes great mental stability to experience this.
Wrap up:  The four Arya truths hold great promise for bringing us deeper happiness.  Please be compassionate toward yourself on this path.  Please be patient, but be firm with the society that is our mind and make steady progress on the path to total liberation from the delusions that give rise to the afflictive emotions.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Story of Soccer on Saturday morning.

Usually when Jen and I go out I perform the role of Designated Driver and that Friday night was an evening when I performed that role.  Prior to leaving, Jennifer expressed her plan that I would get up in the morning and take Mia to horse riding lessons at 9.  My daughter Lauren would accompany us and I would then take her to soccer.  I would watch Laurens soccer game and then I would pull Lauren early from the soccer game and take her to rock climbing in Woburn at 12:00.  Then I would drive back in time to coach my daughter Mia’s soccer game at 1:30, warm-ups start at 1:00. 
Since I wanted to give my wife the gift of sleeping in, I agreed to buy into this plan.   I could see no other way to accomplish all that we were trying to do, but I knew that it was high risk that I was in Woburn at 12:00 when I needed to be in Hamilton at 1:00, but the reward seemed to outweigh the risk, so I chose to agree to the plan.  The importance of my buy in will become clear later.

The first speed bump happened right after my morning meditation.  I woke my 13 year old Lauren to come with me and she refused.  She said she would get a ride from a friend.  Agreeing to this change seemed low risk, but if she did not get a ride I would shoulder the blame for ruining the plan.  My mind did some calculations and I decided to let her try to acquire her own ride which would give her some extra down time.

The ride to horse and the soccer game went smoothly.  I enjoyed watching the game and conversing with the other parents.  I walked around the field and got Lauren 10 minutes early from the game and we drove to the rock climbing gym in Woburn.  Lauren wanted to stop for D&D.  I knew the clock was ticking, but in my mind I perceived we still had enough buffer time, so I agreed.
The drop off at the rock climbing gym also ran long.  I need to fill out paper work and sign a waiver.  My daughter was also not thrilled about being left in Woburn alone, but I explained my situation and she said that she understood.

Then things got interesting.  The traffic from Woburn was slow up until Peabody and then ground to a halt.  The time was about 12:30.  I had 30 minutes to get to the field for warm-ups.  The car inched forward.  10 minutes passed, then 20.  My eye consciousness then perceived an orange light that appeared on the dash board in the shape of a gas pump.  My mind made a calculation that I had one gallon of gas left and that I had about 30 miles available.   It would be close, but if the traffic cleared I would have enough time.  

Then the thought arose:  “Where is this traffic coming from?”  My mind figured it was probably the North Shore mall.  Then another thought.  “Why was I even here in the first place?  Why did I have to run this errand?  My priority was to coach Mia’s game.”   I let that go too.  My mind had bought into this plan to help others.  That is the meaning of life.  We are all interconnected.  Despite possibly causing some harm to others by being late to the game (when I had the equipment in my trunk) my intentions were good.  The only way I could experience failure on this mission is if I allowed thoughts of “me and mine” to cloud my judgment.  If I let thoughts of desire and self-righteousness go on then I would say something negative to Jen at the game or later.

Then I got a signal from my bladder that there was urgency there.  Oops, too much coffee.  I am aware of where the term “pissed off” comes from.  So I made a conscious effort to let that go and be mindful of the sensation.   When I neared the Peabody exit I found the source of the traffic snarl.  It was the weekend before Halloween; the traffic was for the thousands of people trying to get to Salem.  I cruised by that exit at close to 1:00.  I gambled that I would have enough gas and I was rewarded by cruising into the parking lot at 1:10.  I could see our assistant coach sprinting across the parking lot and the girls were lined up in front of the goal waiting for the soccer balls.  I parked and hustled over with the soccer balls.  The girls accepted the soccer balls and started their practice.  Not one person commented on my tardiness.  

I jogged over to the porta-potty to try to take care of the bladder messages.  I perceived that I was cut by two parents and children, so I had to abort that effort and go back into line and check in with the referee.  After check in the porta-potty was free and that issue was resolved.  Next my daughter went on to score 5 goals in the first half and the Generals cruised to an easy victory.
The last challenge came later, when I found out that 2 of Lauren’s friends had gone home after the soccer game and joined the Birthday party caravan, so much of the hustling of the morning could have been avoided.  I tried to breathe when I heard that news and did not blame anyone for the events of the morning with my speech, but I can’t be sure about my body language, because I know that the thoughts arose.  :)

This was an example of how I try to put my mindfulness into practice and see the Dharma in all experiences and exchanges.  I also believe that I experience different agents operating in my mind based on past experiences and it is through mindfulness that we can retrain our mental agents and produce results that are in the highest interest of all concerned.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wonderful Energy Work Session

I recently enjoyed a powerful session with an energy practitioner. At first we were working on opening my lungs and shoulders and energy centers for the first 40 minutes. During the last 20 minutes of the session some deeply spiritual activities occurred.
I began to be able to take deep to the bottom of my lung breaths. I began to make a low humming noise from my throat. My hands began to feel full of energy. As if I were holding electric spheres in my hands. I could almost feel the eletricity flowing across my body from hand to hand. (I was lying on my back)
Then I began to meditate on emptiness and the energy and insights began to flow. I pictured myself as having been born in different realms (Hell being, hungry ghost, animal - dog, human - saint). The images were not contrived and simply flowed.
It took about 10 minutes to be able to calm my breathing and come down from the session, but it felt like a brief insight into what a good emptiness meditation might be like.
This felt like another deep spiritual experience and breakthrough.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Stretching boundaries with Mom and Cousins

My mom fell last Weds. night. My eldest daughter and I drove to the hospital and stayed with her until 11 PM while we waited for CT Scan results. I fully expected the doctor to say that we could all go home when that was complete, but the universe had different ideas.
"I'm sorry. I can't be sure that there is no spinal damage. You will need to drive into Boston."
The ambulance drive looked at me and said: "Will you be following us in?"
I took a step backwards and put my hands up. "No, I can't. Will she be OK without me?"
My mom and the ambulance driver assured me that she would be fine and they sped her off into Boston.
I drove my daughter home and assured myself that I was doing the right thing. I had a big project presentation in the afternoon the next day that I could not miss. I also needed my sleep to be the best Dad that I could be for my kids.
When I got home I looked at my comfortable bed and asked my wife: "If you were in Boston, would you want me to be there?" She said that she absolutely would.
At that moment I realized that my attachment to my job, my routine and my salary was holding me back from being what was most important. A good son.
I grabbed some coffee and drove into town. My mom's face lit up when she saw me. I slept for a few hours on the hospital floor and drove my mom home at 7:00 the next morning.
I was so happy that my spiritual path allowed me to overcome my fears and do the right thing. I managed to get a nap in before the meeting and get it done anyway.

3 Days later my cousin passed on due to a tragic death. I went to the wake, but the funeral was out of the question due to work commitments. My mom asked me if I would be attending the funeral. I immediately responded: No! Then I reflected for a time. Who do I want to be? What is the right thing to do? Do I want to be there for my family?
I changed my mind and went to the funeral. It was the right thing to do. I felt like the universe drove home the point that I needed to overcome my fears and patterns to grow spiritually.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Amazing meditation!

The topic of this recent meditation was to "Breathe in and feel Gods love, and breathe out and breathe your love to God." After 10 minutes of this meditation, the energy level in my body increased dramatically. I began to shake and my back arched. I felt I could see God at my 3rd eye and could feel his energy surging through my body. My chest and abdomen were swirling with energy as well. I felt that I could literally feel God and his love. After the meditation my limbs and body were shaking for about 20 minutes. It was a wonderful feeling that continued with me for several days

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Spa day with my lovely wife

After I finished my 90 minutes of hot yoga this morning I set my intention for my day with my wife. I vowed to:
Not get irritated when I can't hear what she says.
Remember how many great things she does for me day in and day out.