Is our existence “fundamental”?

alanwattsquote2-omegapoint

             (from: http://nikotheorb.wordpress.com/tag/alan-watts/)

“Everybody is fundamentally the ultimate reality.”

The self…”deep down basic whatever it is, and you’re all that, although you are pretending you’re not.”

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wU0PYcCsL6o

quote6watts

(from Spirituality and Health)

There are lot of wonderful, fairly short videos on YouTube. I just “found” them and am thoroughly enjoying listening to them.

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The Yellow Brick Road

September 1, 2013

I read an article ( http://zencomprehensible.com/zen-on-the-yellow-brick-road/ ) about “the Yellow Brick Road” from The Wizard of Oz. It doesn’t take much for my mind to go off on a tangent. This time however, I don’t think I have strayed too far.

Many of us remember The Wizard of Oz with joy or with a pinch of uneasiness. Those Flying Monkeys have haunted some of us for quite a while. They personified a kind of fear. Watch out or the flying monkey will get you!!

The Wizard of Oz is chalk full of imagery, symbolism, meaning. The author L.Frank Baum was a Theosophist.( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theosophy ) Theosophical symbolism is everywhere in this story.

So here are my thoughts.

The first article reminds us we are all on a road of some kind. When we are walking towards our fears and uncertainties we always come upon obstacles, road blocks. Along the way we pick up things that provide us support–things or people who encourage us to keep going, to not give up. Sometimes we have to face, head on, our deepest fears to get to the truth behind the curtain. And the truth that is ultimately always within us. Glinda tells Dorothy, “You’ve always had the power to go home.” Sometimes we just aren’t aware of, or don’t trust in what is right in front of us.

Does Kansas represent for Dorothy, for us, our physical world as it is right now? The place where we are materially and spiritually? One day Dorothy sings:

“Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.

Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops,”

Is she searching for something? Is she ready to begin a spiritual journey?

Then, WHAM! Something drastic happens, a tornado of twirling energy (karma?), flashing bits of her life in front of her. This twisting, powerful force that lurches Dorothy forward—–distancing her from all that is familiar, comforting, predictable. She finds herself looking around in wonder at a new and breath-taking world and while exhaling announces “Toto, I have a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore.”

dorothy dreams

(google images)

Remember the slippers? Originally the Ruby Red Slippers were supposed to be silver. In some schools of thought, the idea of a “silver thread” represents the connection between the physical and the spiritual. The shoes were changed to red because they showed up better on the film.

Once Dorothy has the magic shoes she is led to the Yellow Brick Road. In Buddhism, the road to Enlightenment is call the “Golden Path”.  And how does the yellow Brick Road begin? In a spiral, yet another symbol of the evolving self. Aren’t there times when we feel we are caught in a spiral of some kind: “Spiraling out of control”, “caught in a downward spiral”, “spiraling upwards”?

begin yellow brick road

(google images)

On her journey Dorothy encounters soon to be friends and companions who are seeking “a brain”/wisdom, “courage”, “a heart”/purity/love. All the qualities for a successful spiritual awakening. Who else does Dorothy talk to? Toto. Toto is Dorothy’s inner voice, the one who sees things for who and what they really are (thinking ahead to pulling back the curtain and revealing “Oz” for what he really is.)

Surmounting obstacles and challenges, Dorothy makes it to Oz. The Great and Powerful Oz may represent our spiritual/religious beliefs. The authority that tells us how to be “worthy”. She is given a “task”, get the broom stick from the Wicked Witch of the East. This accomplished Dorothy now returns to claim her rewards: to return home for herself, a brain for the Scarecrow, courage for the Lion and a heart for the Tin Man. Sadly, she learns the “Great and Powerful Oz” is not so great or so powerful. (What does this say about organized religion?) The Wizard, now a professor, bestows wisdom, courage and love/purity to Dorothy’s three companions while revealing they always possessed the traits and had only to believe in them. For Dorothy, getting home would require trusting Oz, now a mere man, and embarking on the trip home in “a hot air” balloon. At the last minute, Toto, her intuitive self, runs away forcing Dorothy to follow. She misses the launch and is left behind. Glinda swoops in and lovingly tells Dorothy she herself has the power to go home, and she has always had it. All she needs to do is close her eyes and say the magic words.

Back in Kansas, Dorothy has a hard time getting her loved ones to believe she was really in another “place”, but now, seemingly more at peace with herself, and perhaps better balanced between the physical and spiritual, she is comforted by understanding “the is no place like home”

path

(google images)

We are all on a journey of some kind. For some of us it is a journey of healing or forgiving. For other it is spiritual. We all come from different backgrounds and experiences. We all have different names for what we are searching for. Whether we know it or not, we are all on The Yellow Brick Road. In some way or another we want to know what is behind the curtain. To face and overcome our fears. To know what is the truth/real. And for many of us we will come to see that we already possess great strength and wisdom in ourselves. We only have to come to this understanding.

Cenotes Into Ourselves

August 18, 2013

Warning!! This post might be a stretch!!

A little while ago I wrote about ecotones. “Ecotone” means a  transition area between two biomes. An ecotone is where two communities meet and integrate. I tried to relate it to our personal experiences in life and self discovery.

Today we move onto “cenotes”!! A cenote is  is a natural phenomenon, a sinkhole in the Earth’s surface.  Found in Mexico and the Caribbean, a cetone is primarily made up of porous limestone. Over millions of years, rainfall slowly eats away at the limestone and a huge system of underground caves and caverns is formed. Many are filled with water from rain or from the underground water table. When the roof of a water filled cave collapses, a cenote is born. The water found in a cenote may be fresh water, salt water, or both. Structurally it may be completely open, like a lake, almost completely closed with just a small opening at the top, or somewhere in between.

In the Mayan language “ts’onot” means sacred well. Cenotes were the main source of fresh water for the ancient Mayan civilization. Mayans believed the cenotes contained curative elements and considered many of them to be sacred. They also believed cenotes to be portals to the spirit world and a way to communicate with the gods. Some cenotes were the site of Mayan sacrifices.

cenotes google images

(google images)

Now we have the definition and history. Here comes my twist.

For those of us on a quest of some sort, to find our “true” self, to quiet the ego, to discover what is hidden within us, we often find ourselves slowly peeling away layers of our outward self to find our inner self. Not unlike the the rain slowly dissolving the limestone. Our “rain” comes in many forms: religion, meditation, service…..Our limestone is apathy, doubt, ego, mis-information, immaturity, not being ready, ignorance, selfishness…..

But once something has worn away enough of our personal limestone, a shift begins…….we find ways to energize and speed the dissolving process along. We are ready for the breakthough. Ready for the bottom to fall out, to open the barrier to the cenote.  A place the Mayan’s believed to be curative, sacred and a portal to communicating with the gods.

Whatever journey you are on, is it so different? Are you not slowly melting away the layers of ego to discover something deep inside of you? A place, a state of being where you can discover the “sacred”, the true “self”, inside of you?

Once a cenote is born the fresh water falls, joining a vast underground system of rivers and caves. Areas of haloclines form: where fresh water and salt water meet creating eerie pools of mystical waters. Waters flow along underground rivers and hundreds of miles later, they exit the underworld and join with the ocean……they mingle with the salt water and become something new and different. A smaller part becomes a part of something bigger as it also changes from fresh water to salt water……

So as you travel along your path to self discovery maybe the imagine of the cenote will be like a lantern guiding you along.

 

“I think over again my small adventures, my fears,
those small ones that seemed so big,
all those vital things I had to get and to reach,
and yet there is only one great thing:
to live and see the great day that dawns,
and the light that fills the world.”
Old Innuit Song
 
sunrise2
 
(morning light at my home)

This is such a beautiful expression of simplicity, intimacy, beauty and hope. What would it be like to be raised in and be part of a culture that has a song, that has music, that reminds people to live and see the great day that dawns, and the light that fills the world?

I understand this an old song, from a place vastly different than what we are used to. I understand the Inuit culture lived intimately with nature and the rhythms of nature.

But think for a moment. What are the lyrics we hear today. What songs on the radio do our children memorize before they can even read or spell their own name? What is the message they grow up with? What do they hear as being important in life?

I naturally wake up early every day. Usually before sunrise. I see the sun rise. I hear the world outside wake up. The birds singing. The squirrels activating. The leaves rustling in the wind. The snort of a deer who is next to the window. And then, I see the first hint of the sunrise. The light that fills the world. The same light for all of us. And surely, this new day dawning is a great day.

sunrise

(sunrise at my home)

For me the sunrise is spiritual. On the days when it is too stormy to see the colors I feel like something is missing.

I wonder what it would be like if this was not a part of my day. What would it be like to sleep past the sunrise? To miss the world here waking up, stretching her arms, breathing? It is so important to me. The sun rise tells me I am a small part of something very big. It tells me I am not so important. It tells me to never forget the wonder, the mystery, the magnitude of what might easily be taken for granted….Earth, Nature, beauty, wonder, silence, listening, hearing, seeing, feeling, experiencing. Being. Gratitude. The sunrise literally grounds me. It shouts to me “Look around you!!!!! Look! See all this! Don’t shut it out or forget it. Don’t live your day without understanding there is only one great thing: to live and see the great day that dawns, and the light that fills the world.”

 
“Our job is to love others without stopping
to inquire whether or not they are worthy.
That is not our business,
and in fact, it is nobody’s business.
 What we are asked to do is love,
and this love itself will render both ourselves 
and our neighbors worthy, if anything can.”
Thomas Merton

As we gather together in the soft darkness of the Solstice we are reminded there are rhythms and cycles that move without thought to us humans. As we embrace  families and friends singing out greetings of peace and Faith, let us also remember we have a calling to love one another, every single person, without stopping. There is no pausing to regard if they are worthy.

What we are asked to do is love.

There is a lot of talk and thoughts about those who have, and those who have not, those who are  deserving, and those who are not, those who are “good” and those who are “bad”, those who are “right” and those who are “wrong”. In amongst all that, it feels sometimes that we have lost the capacity to love, to accept, to help heal, to forgive and to be tolerant and have decided to walk  instead with fear, mistrust,  isolation, apathy.

What we are asked to do is love.

metta

“We do not exist for ourselves.” Thomas Merton

“The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.” Thomas Merton

I certainly struggle with this. But, I struggle more with the thought of violence, of turning a blind eye, of pretending to know which is the one, right path.

This is the time of year when many of us turn inward. A time of reflection. Also, a time of looking forward. Many customs of the Solstice and New Year include a letting go of the past and a cleansing of the heart and spirit for the future.  While we can never be sure of the future, we can, and this moment, open up our hearts and love. It’s not our business to judge. Everyone struggles and falls. What we are asked to do is love. At this moment.

http://www.merton.org/chrono.aspx

 
 

The Welcoming Prayer

May 25, 2012

 

The Welcoming Prayer

Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,
approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,
condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and
God’s action within. Amen.

(by Father Thomas Keating)

What would our days be like, if when we opened our eyes every morning, we took a deep cleansing breath and said:

“Welcome, welcome, welcome. I welcome everything

that comes to me today

because I know it is for my healing.”

Those are life altering words: to see every thing that comes to us every day as a means of our own “healing”. Okay, sure: the good things, the joyful happy things….but, what about the pain, the sorrow, the disappointment, loss, failure…..healing?

 “I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person or myself.” 

If we can let go of our desire for power and control, let go of our desire for affection, esteem, approval and pleasure.  Let go of our desire for survival and security…..what are we left with? 

We are left with the moment. The here and now. The experience.  As Bodhidarma (coming soon in a new blog post) taught:  keep a steady mind, one that is not swayed by circumstances. A mind open to God, or Spirit or Buddha-Mind, whatever name you give it, whatever belief you have.  

By greeting each and every new day with “welcome, welcome, welcome…”, we are telling our own Potential to open every door today and welcome everything that comes to us through those doors because those things are for our healing, our strengthening.  Without opening the doors we miss possibilities. And possibilities strengthen our potential. Open the morning door wide and shout, “WELCOME , WELCOME, WELCOME!”

A little background information on Father Thomas Keating:

Father Keating is aTrappist monk (Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance) and priest, known as one of architects of the Centering Prayer, a contemporary method of contemplative prayer, that emerged from St. Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer, Massachusetts, in 1975. He was born in New York City, and attended Deerfield Academy, Yale University, and Fordham University, graduating in December 1943. He is a founder of the Centering Prayer movement and of Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. (Wikipedia)

Metta: Loving Kindness

April 12, 2012

I  practice this meditation every night before going to bed. Lately I am thinking about trying to do it every morning too. I love that it begins with acknowledging our self, and requires us to put those who cause us sorrow, pain, frustration in a different light: remembering they deserve blessings too….

The meditation is done 4 times with only the name of the person changing each time. It can be very powerful.

The order of the meditation is:

• a respected, beloved person – such as a spiritual teacher;
• a dearly beloved – which could be a close family member or friend;
• a neutral person – somebody you know, but have no special feelings towards, e.g.: a person who serves you in a shop;
• a difficult/hostile person – someone you are currently having difficulty with.

(you could even end by saying the Metta meditation “For all sentient beings”….)

A simple version would be to start with yourself and say:

” May I be happy, may I be joyful, may I be at peace.”

Then replace “I ” with the name of someone you respect….

Continue on with the name of  a person you love, a “neutral person, and the name of someone you struggle with.

There are several variations of this meditation:

May I be free from inner and outer harm and danger. May I be safe and protected.

May I be free of mental suffering or distress.
May I be happy.

May I be free of physical pain and suffering.
May I be healthy and strong.

May I be able to live in this world happily,
peacefully, joyfully, with ease.

Or another still, the one on the prayer flag shown at the beginning of the post .

What is Metta meditation and why do it? from Steven Smith:

“Loving-kindness, or metta, as it in called in the Pali language, is unconditional, inclusive love, a love with wisdom. It has no conditions; it does not depend on whether one “deserves” it or not; it is not restricted to friends and family; it extends out from personal categories to include all living beings. There are no expectations of anything in return. This is the ideal, pure love, which everyone has in potential. We begin with loving ourselves, for unless we have a measure of this unconditional love and acceptance for ourselves, it is difficult to extend it to others. Then we include others who are special to us, and, ultimately, all living things. Gradually, both the visualization and the meditation phrases blend into the actual experience, the feeling of loving kindness.

This is a meditation of care, concern, tenderness, loving kindness, friendship — a feeling of warmth for oneself and others. The practice is the softening of the mind and heart, an opening to deeper and deeper levels of the feeling of kindness, of pure love. Loving kindness is without any desire to possess another. It is not a sentimental feeling of goodwill, not an obligation, but comes from a selfless place. It does not depend on relationships, on how the other person feels about us. The process is first one of softening, breaking down barriers that we feel inwardly toward ourselves, and then those that we feel toward others”    http://www.contemplativemind.org/practices/subnav/kindness.htm

As Steven says, it is all about the “ideal, pure love”, which everyone has in potential. If we are working to live a life to the fullest of our potential, we have to include the practice of  Metta. For ourselves and all sentient beings.

Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way;
On purpose,
in the present moment, and
nonjudgmentally.”

There are some words in the above quote that many of us have a hard time wrapping our heads around: mindfulness, paying attention, present moment, nonjudgmentally. I know I do. Put them in a sentence together and some days it sounds like a foreign language.

Thich Nhat Hanh helps us to understand the importance of practicing mindfulness. So many of us are caught up in worries about the future, regrets about the past, that the present slips past with us hardly acknowledging it let alone living it. “Mindfulness increases concentration and allows to see things more deeply and stop being victims of wrong perception.”

What about those of us who live to wallow in the past and re-live regrets over and over? What about those of us who are drawn into fantasy (wealth, house beautiful, body type, beauty, image, ego, etc)?  What if we just don’t care about mindfulness?

TNH goes further saying if our body is not united with our mind, we are not really “alive”. Our body and our mind have to be truly present, together, in order to reap the experience of Life. Mindfulness helps us become alive. Concentration develops and we learn how to see things more clearly, creating less suffering for ourselves and others.

TNH says that in practicing mindfulness “We will create less suffering for ourselves and for other people. We will begin to taste the joy of living and help others to enjoy their daily lives. We cannot force people to practice mindfulness, but if we practice and become happy, we can inspire others to practice.”

Do we have a responsibility to live up to our own potential happiness and to practice mindfulness, not only for ourselves, but  for others?

Want to start?  “Following Your Breath”, by Thich Nhat Hanh:

Breathing in, I calm my body.

Breathing out, I smile.

Dwelling in the present moment,

I know this is a wonderful moment!

Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in.

Breathing out, I know as the in-breath grows deep,

the out-breath grows slow.

Breathing in makes my calm.

Breathing out brings me ease.

With the in-breath, I smile.

With the out-breath, I release.

Breathing in, there is only the present moment.

Breathing out, it is a wonderful moment.

 

 

The great omission in American life is solitude; not loneliness, for this is an alienation that thrives most in the midst of crowds, but that zone of time and space, free from the outside pressures, which is the incubator of the spirit. ~ Marya Mannes, US author

Scott McIntyre wrote a nice little piece for Goodlife Zen articulating the difference between solitude and loneliness. He makes a statement I personally have thought about often, and believe to be true for many today: we are hesitant to seek out solitude because we are afraid of loneliness. “Aloneness” often brings to mind a lack of belonging.

“Solitude is refreshing, a time of being on your own where you voluntarily retreat from the company of other people.”

By engaging in this time of instant connections, are we loosing the capacity to get in contact with our inner selves?

How does solitude fit into manifesting our own potentiality? If we loose the thread of seeking out solitude as a means of growth and healing, what replaces it?

http://goodlifezen.com/2010/11/10/the-lost-guide-to-finding-yourself-in-solitude/