Tag Archives: spirituality

christmas, love, agape

these days i really seem to enjoy to quote from books.  here’s one i have talked about before: the priority of love: christian charity and social justice, by timothy p. jackson.  let me give you some quotes.

jackson puts the christian virtue of charity in close context of agape.  according to the stanford dictionary of philosophy, “‘agape‘ has come, primarily through the christian tradition, to mean the sort of love god has for us persons, as well as our love for god and, by extension, of our love for each other”a kind of brotherly love.”  says jackson, in his often woolly and overly academic yet nevertheless deeply touching way:

agape is beyond all economies of exchange, all questions of desert or contract

one does not determine love to be the universal human good the way one might discover a dime in one’s pocket.  love makes itslef the good by enriching whomever it touches

the love awakened in us by god’s own love has priority in relation to other basic values … it is their necessary source and end

he quotes liberation theologist juan segundo

to love means to lose our autonomy and to become dependent on another … all love is a gamble … it is an act of faith launched into the air, without any precise name or clear content.  it is a belief that love is worthwhile …

then ..

there is a sublime excessiveness to charity manifest in words as diverse as jesus’ sermon on the mount, lincoln’s second inaugural address, and etty hillesum’s letters from the concentration camp

jackson maintains that their charity (and by extension he points to all christian charity, i would assume) is indiscriminate, indomitable egalitarian, “made perfect in weakness” (2 corinthians 12:9) and almost paradoxically expansive.  he also suggests that

because of its chronological priority (loving care is the first thing we must receive as infants), its axiologocal priority (without care individuals do not mature into responsible persons), its lexical priority (without care we have no substantive access to other human goods) and its priority of itself (care’s agenda is to make others caring), agapic love is rightly deemed the first virtue in all contexts.

and of course jackson cites the famous, beautiful words of saint paul in first corinthians 13:4-8

love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  it does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  it bears all things, believes all things, endures all things.  love never ends.

if the jesus religion (or any religion, for that matter), please don’t throw out these words with the biblical bath water.  while they are written from the point of view of a theologian deeply rooted in christianity, i think they still have something to offer to anyone who thinks about and wants to contribute to good relationships among people, or/and with the divine.

and, what can i say, it’s a fitting post for christmas day 🙂

be the change: loving awareness

each person can use the mantra, ‘i am loving awareness.’ just repeat this and become loving awareness. then we share that loving awareness with all others.

ram dass

“just repeat this and become …” – these words by one of my favourite writers sound so simple. and they are.  (btw, it’s another quote from be the change: how meditation can transform you and the world)

i am tempted to write something about simplicity now, or about what these words might mean. but i have a sneaking suspicion that neither simplicity nor loving are helped along by this.

so i’ll just post another picture.

images by maurice flower and andyadontstop

journaling – what works for you?

today, please visit marie at coming out of the trees.    about her blog she says

i’m passing along a collection of excerpts from my personal and therapy journals to whomever needs to read them. i’m sharing my story so that those of you who are on a similar journey can know that you aren’t the only one – and so you can know that there is a way through. it is my intention to tell my story with both authenticity and dignity.

the title of my blog comes from a phrase i penned in the fall of 2007:

“i feel like i am walking through a thick forest and i don’t know where i’m heading, i only know to follow the compass. i believe someday i will come out of the trees and into a clearing. i believe that, when i enter the clearing, i will finally know my primary life’s calling. until then, i have to walk in faith.”

marie gave me the great honour to comment on one of her journal entries what works for you?.  in that entry, she talks about her relationship with god; i concentrate mostly on the journal writing process – a topic, as you may know, that interests me quite a bit – see journaling for healing, creative writing: waking up from our routines,
women, therapy and blogging, journaling: a dialogue or blogging yourself home.

december buddhist carnival – the not so fluffy edition

hello there. been looking forward to this edition of the buddhist carnival for quite a while because the last one was a bit on the stunted side, what with being busy with NaNoWriMo. so this month’s edition has a bit more meat on it; in fact, your teeth will get quite a nice workout. i’m calling this one the not-so-fluffy-edition for reasons that will become easily evident.

the poem!
we always start this with a poem. first zafu frog. thank you for contributing the poem this month, pithy and true:

there is a rule that man’s a fool,
he wants it hot when it’s cool.
he wants it cool when it’s hot.
always wanting what it’s not.

“i don’t know”
zen moments talks about not knowing. having been confronted, uncomfortably, with the question of “and what do you do?”, he finally found an answer:

it came to me in the shower, while absent-mindedly washing my hair, when i wasn’t trying to solve anything.

in anyone’s life, there are going to be times when everything seems to be going well, and when you have a sense of purpose, when you are clear about where you’re going in life.

but in the same life, there are also bound to be times when it’s not clear, times when you do not know. for some people these might be brief interludes. for others they might last longer, until things change.

but it’s impossible to have that kind of uninterrupted certainty for a whole lifetime.

so in anyone’s life, there are going to be times of not-knowing. and that has to be ok.

this reminds me once again of the best thing i took from seeing the dalai lama this year: his utter confidence in shrugging his shoulders, grinning, and saying, “i don’t know.”

ignoring vs. responding
at sword mountain, a blog that talks about zen and aikido, a question from a student regarding irritating questions.

the answer is non-trivial. to investigate this, you should consider this question from two points of view, your own and the questioner’s.

– from your own, ask: if i ignore a thought, where does it go?
– from another’s, ask: is ignoring a question not itself an answer?

once an something becomes part of your consciousness, you have no choice but to respond. so, how does one properly respond? zen looks for precisely the same thing that aikido does:

a clear, spontaneous, and appropriate response to your circumstances that restores harmony.

fake buddha quotes
bodhipaksa here does a noble deed – he throws light on a fake buddha quote:

“when words are both true and kind, they can change our world.”

like many fake buddha quotes, this one has a nice sentiment. the buddha often talked about the virtue of words being true and kind, but the language of “changing the world” is not something the buddha is recorded as using.

this deserves some thinking. the buddha talks about change as a condition, not as something that we engineer. at the non-phenomenal core rests changelessness; realizing that is what buddhists hope for, not changing the world. in the process of that realization, we notice that phenomena (words, weather, people, etc.) change. the bodhisattva – the person who has realized or fully comprehended changelessness – remains in the world of phenomena and works to do the right thing but she or he is not specifically intent on “changing the world”. one moment at a time, she or he feeds a homeless man, waters a sapling, pets a cat. she just does it. a changed (different?  better? more realized?) world is a side effect.

the connection with the title of my blog does not escape me, especially since i just wrote about it in my previous post.  definitely something to think about.  thanks for the inspiration, bodhipaksa!

fake buddha teachers
over in finland, at the possible way we have another blogger talking abot fake.  a bit of a rant, aptly titled  true zen (TM) – order your DVD right away!

sometimes some are thinking that buddhist practitioner should keep his/her mouth shut and close his/her eyes when others are doing terrible things against buddhism and other people. man, that is so lame… being a buddhist doesn’t mean that you have to close your eyes and cry in the corner

buddhism and the vikings
let’s stay in northern europe for a moment longer. zen dirt zen dust has a guest blogger who talks about the parallels between buddhism and asatru, a (revived) old norse religion

i am an asatruar. asatru, literally translates from old norse as “true to the gods”, is the modern revival of the old norse spiritual belief system.

i share with buddhists the notion that my actions have an immediate and lasting effect on myself, and by extension this world, and positive actions create a positive world. even though, to me, these actions may have implications in the next world, my primary concern is that beneficial actions benefit those close to me now, and detrimental actions are harmful to this world and to those i hold dear. much like buddhist philosophy, as i understand it, i am emphatically concerned with my impact on the world as it is now, and i strive to perform just and honorable actions for the sake of the world around me

no earth-shattering insights, just hard work and no expectations
the good people at the tricycle blog discuss the memoirs of former tibetan buddhist monk stephen schettini novice: why i became a buddhist monk, why i quit and what i learned. schettini is now the director of thequietmind.org and says

i don’t promise perfect peace, earth-shattering insight or transcendental breakthroughs. on the contrary, i ask my students to work hard, and especially to beware their own expectations. we’re all twenty-first century grownups and as much as we want to believe in easy solutions and magical formulas we know perfectly well that a down-to-earth approach will pay off more than all the mantras, visualizations and promises of enlightenment on the world wide web.

gentle, peaceful buddhists – an illusion?
the following is anything but a heartwarming story: it’s about a mob of buddhists attacking a christian church in sri lanka. at the american buddhist, there is an insightful comment on it. the writer was working at a military hospital in sri lanka and met a young soldier who wanted to become a suicide bomber and kill tamils.

this soldier was ordained as a monk when he was five years old and spent his time until the age of 18 in various temples in kandy, ampitiya and colombo. he told me that since he entered the robes most of the nights he was sexually molested by older monks. some nights he was raped by five or six monks. he disrobed and joined the military as an escape route. the traumatized soldier focused his anger not towards his abusers but towards the tamils. after hearing this firsthand account whenever i see monks go in to violent protests i suspect the elements of sexual trauma.

while this is sad and alarming, it serves as a reminder that just calling yourself buddhist doesn’t do a thing. buddhist, hindu, baptist, atheist – we’re all capable of committing atrocities. “we” – that includes me. if i don’t keep my awareness sharpened and my heart soft, i, too, can fall into the trap of violence – subtle or otherwise.

losing more illusions
how does one reinvigorate one’s practice after losing the illusions that brought one to practice in the first place? hard core zen has something to say about that. it’s a different kind of illusion than the one alluded to above – it’s the one that many of us first had when we started tinkering with meditation and buddhism. the neat (and sometimes infuriating) thing about buddhism is that it helps lose all illusions – the ones we don’t like but also the ones that decorate our lives with cute stickers and fluffy rainbows.

working with people who are homeless
another story about someone who decided to stare reality straight in the eye, about a lot of things. this woman’s experience with buddhist communities have been mixed.

she would have continued living at the zen center, but she began to run into problems there.

when the zen center asked her to train a group of beginning monks to assist with the homeless meditation program, drakka pushed back. “how do you train people to be alright with homelessness?” she refused.

fortunately, that didn’t deter her. this is a great article on how jana drakka keeps working with people who are homeless, regardless of the obstacles.

15 women bloggers
finally, here’s a list of 15 great women buddhist bloggers.

that’s it for this month. hope you found a little tidbit that can accompany you on your path. good day buddha, good day dharma, good day sangha.

image by @No4

be the change: how meditation can transform you and the world

the other day i received the book be the change: how meditation can transform you and the world from the great people at FSB associates, who occasionally send me books to review. usually i spend quite a bit of time reading the book and writing a review but since i’m busy with NaNoWriMo this month, i’ll take them up on their generous offer and post an article written by the authors of the book. many thanks, and – enjoy! if you like the book, please consider buying it for yourself or for someone for christmas.

3 mini meditations to help you through your day (or night)
by ed and deb shapiro,
authors of be the change: how meditation can transform you and the world

what stops you from sleeping through the night? is it when things are not going your way or they look topsy-turvy and you just want to scream; when your life appears chaotic and you are not sure if you are coming or going; or when it feels like everything is piled on your shoulders?

life should be an exciting and outrageous adventure. isn’t it a wonder how a spider weaves a web or a bee makes a hive? did you ever notice the small, everyday miracles, like the fact that you can breathe in and out? but how many of us get to experience this miracle? sometimes life just feels too awful. we want to feel good, we want to be happy, in fact happiness is our birthright. but so often there are just too many difficulties to deal with. and although we may know that meditation chills us out, if we are feeling stressed or irritable then it just doesn’t seem so appealing.

so here are three mini-meditations, moments to just stop and breathe and remember why you are here. a moment to check yourself out, to look within, and to find what is really meaningful to you. you can get it together even when you think it is all falling apart.

mini-meditations can be done on a train, walking down the street, at an airport, standing at a bus stop, in an elevator, while sitting in the bathroom (often the only place you can be alone!). silently count your out-breath up to ten times, or walk with awareness of each step for up to ten steps. or relax each part of your body, then silently repeat “soft belly” for five breaths.

if you are at work, then use your lunch hour to find a quiet spot, perhaps in a park, or even in the office if everyone else has gone out. if you are traveling then use that time to consciously breathe, letting your awareness follow your breath from your nose tip to your belly and back out again. if you are driving or operating machinery and feel you are getting tense, then stop for a moment, breathe into your belly and silently repeat “soft belly, soft belly.” focus on any part of the body that is feeling tight and breathe into it, until you relax and let go. silently repeat “soft shoulders” or “soft neck” and so on.

as you walk down the street or ride in an elevator, practice a mini-loving kindness by silently wishing everyone be well, wishing that everyone be happy. in the office you can spend a few moments repeating the names of everyone you work with and wishing them happiness. on your way home from work reflect on your day and generate loving thoughts to all those you met. when you send out relaxing and loving thoughts it relaxes the space around you and often any chaotic or disturbing energies will dissipate. what you put out comes back to you ten fold

1. mini breath meditation

sit comfortably with your back straight. take a deep breath and let it go. begin to silently count at the end of each out breath: inhale . . . exhale . . . count one, inhale . . . exhale . . . two, inhale . . . exhale . . . three. then start at one again. just three breaths and back to one. simply following each breath in and silently counting. so simple. do this as many times as you want, eyes open or closed, breathing normally.

2. mini walking meditation

you can do this walking along a country lane, a city street, in the office or the garden. you can walk slowly, normal or fast, whatever feels right. as you walk become aware of your walking, of the movement of your body and the rise and fall of your feet. become aware of your breath and see if you can bring both your breathing and your walking together. just walk and breathe with awareness for a few minutes.

3. instant letting go

find a quiet place to sit, have a straight back, and take a deep breath and let it go. then quietly repeat to yourself: “my body is at ease and relaxed . . . my heartbeat is normal . . . my mind is calm and peaceful . . . my heart is open and loving.” keep repeating this until you have let go of the tension and are at peace. then take a deep breath and have a smile on your face!

©2009 ed and deb shapiro, author of be the change: how meditation can transform you and the world

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author bio

ed and deb shapiro, authors of be the change: how meditation can transform you and the world, are the award-winning authors of fifteen books on meditation, personal development, and social action. they are featured bloggers for the huffingtonpost.com and for care2.com, teach meditation workshops worldwide, work as corporate coaches and consultants, and are the creators and writers of the daily chill our inspirational text messages on sprint cell phones. the shapiros’ books include your body speaks your mind, winner of the 2007 visionary book award; voices from the heart with contributors such as president gorbachev, his holiness the dalai lama, and bishop tutu; and meditation: the four-step course to calmness and clarity. ed, from new york, trained in india with paramahamsa satyananda, with sri swami satchidananda, and with chögyam trungpa rinpoche. deb, from london, trained with tai situ rinpoche. the shapiros have taught meditation and personal development for more than twenty-five years. they currently reside in boulder, colorado.

november 2009 buddhist carnival

middle of the month: it’s buddhist carnival time! being all busy with NaNoWriMo, this is a quickie version – a little taste from the blogosphere, a buddhist smorgasbrod:

a zen tale from secret forest

the disciple threw stones in the water all day long. the next day, the master told him:
“do throw a stone in the water.
“why, that’s absurd! i won’t do that.
the air stood still like the surface of the lake.
“what have you learned today? ” asked the master.
“that i don’t have to do everything you tell me to do.
the neutral light unveiled a matte reflection of the leafs of the medlar tree.
“it’s a lot more than you learned yesterday.

***

we all tried so hard. and it didn’t seem we wound up any more loving or enlightened, just uptight. i remember how we disapproved of those who’d given up their vows, stopped being monks. “he disrobed!” people would say in a voice hushed and aghast, as if the guy had been waggling his private parts in a schoolyard.

that’s part of a very interesting entry by guttersnipe das about wrestling with spirituality.

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dharmafied offers a video of the compassion mudra.

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learning from a cat: from on the training floor

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idra’s net = internet? need i say more?

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zen and the art of playing pool from my twitter friend, barking unicorn

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what happens when you get impacted by no impact man:

do you know this expression, “i’m teaching my grandmother to suck eggs?” it’s a british expression. you know like when you don’t have any teeth and you’re like that (mimics gumming food) it’s like sucking eggs. so if you teach your grandmother to suck eggs, you’re teaching your grandmother to do something she already knows how to do? so when i say this to you, you already know this…

there’s no antagonism between living happily and living environmentally.

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and finally, a bit of blasphemy from mind on fire.

image by heiwa

problems: holding them up to the light

why not hold our blunders, failures and defects up to the light? yes! like they are gifts. god (the universe / allah / buddha nature) will take them as gifts and transform them. there is beauty in them, in strange ways, but there is beauty.

i am reminded that sometimes the word “fault” is used to describe the thicker strands in certain types of raw silk. the irregular thickness of the threads contribute to the beauty of the fabric.

god, please take my beautiful fear that i won’t have enough energy. take my glittering procrastination. take the jewel of my forgetfulness. i hold them up to your light and put them at your feet, a gift to you.

spiritual language

a while ago we talked about the lack of scripts for talking about mental illness (at least in “polite society”), and before that we had a conversation about how uncomfortable it can be to engage in peaceful communication.  and now evan took up the topic the other day and asked how can we talk about our spiritual experience?

“i find it hard to talk about spirituality,” he says.  which is interesting: spirituality is a much talked-about topic, especially on the internet.  so what’s the problem?  let me attempt to summarize evan’s ideas:

we don’t share a widely understood language, notwithstanding the fact that many different religions are represented, from christian to buddhist to new age.  in the media, these languages appear side by side, almost as flavours to go shopping for.  this is very different from the experience of spirituality, which, to name but a few,  can go to the depths of who we are, can mean “waking up” or “dying and being re-born”, or can have a feeling of inevitability – very different from shopping.

the wide variety of languages that can be found can also be beneficial; we now have the opportunity to talk to people from many spiritual traditions, even those who have none.

we need to represent our spiritual experiences, with poetic and academic words, with images, with sound – and we will probably be telling our spiritual stories for a long while before we will start understanding the language.  we will need to become sympathetic and respectful listeners and viewers and doers. our language will need to stay close to our experience.

this is different from religion, which has often been presented in terms of intellectual belief. this leaves out much of our experience: the delights of the senses, the connecting with others through emotion, moments of transcendence and intimacy …

evan finishes the post with this:

this post i hope is just a preliminary. i would like to hear about your spiritual experiences and whether these experiences have led you to any particular tradition; have you drawn on various different traditions, or even formulated your own? what aspects of your life do you regard as spiritual? are there some parts of your life that you don’t see as spiritual?

i am curious about that, too.  before we go on to exploring this, i thought it would also be interesting to go back to the two posts i mentioned at the beginning and see whether some of the commenters have ideas that may apply to spirituality.

make it positive

alexander zoltai suggested framing things in positive terms.  so perhaps rather than saying “it’s difficult to talk about spirituality” we could say “discussing spirituality is new for me and i’m excited about experimenting with different ways of talking about it.”

avoid labels

evan himself had the idea of avoiding labels.  instead of mentioning the catch word spirituality or words like god, church, prayer, etc. one could describe the actual experience.  “the other day i went for this beautiful walk; the leaves were of all conceivable shades of red, gold and brown, the sky was blue, the air was fresh and clean; it just made me so happy and grateful to be there right at that moment!”

do we really need to talk?  how about listening?

listening is something that ian from quantum learning said is important: “listen for what sits under the words of others”.  talking is about communication.  communication is as much, or more, about listening as it is about speaking.  listening closely to what the other has to say, or wants to say, may give us clues about how to engage with them regarding spirituality.  or it may just end up being that listening to them will be our spiritual experience.

choose who you talk to

sandy said that in connection with talking about mental illness it “takes quite a bit of getting to know someone before they’ll own that their life has a problem.”  in my experience, they same holds true regarding spirituality.  maybe that takes us back to listening again.  through listening we form relationships, relationships that may then be ripe for a discussion of spiritual experiences.

yet another commenter wrote that it feels good to share such experiences with others who have been there themselves.

using the written word

marie said “having a blog that brazenly describes what is going on with me ‘in secret’ is helpful. i write under a pen name; but when i want to share that side of me with someone in my 3D world, i can simply point them to my blog.”  this reminds me of a minister i was once friends with.  we could talk about a gazillion things but not about spiritual matters – for that we needed the framework of the pulpit, from which he spoke most movingly.

just keep talking

another commenter recounted that the only way he achieved a well enough state to have nice conversation as well s complete wellness was by continuously talking.  so here the advice would be to just keep on talking, no matter what.  this goes with what another commenter mentioned, namely that it’s important to remember that when we are afraid of judgment by others for talking about “strange” subjects, it often comes from being afraid to be judged my ourselves.   not everyone will understand, and that’s ok.

what do you think?  how can we talk about spirituality?