Body of Knowledge

Cradle of Man

I’ve been running trails a lot lately and really enjoying it. My mind and body both rejoice at being outside in the wild and it seems pretty clear that there’s this body knowledge that arises in that environment, as if my body is kind of cognitively disabled all the time when I’m indoors and then like Charlie in Flowers For Algernon it gets real smart again when it gets outside. It wakes up its brain somehow. There’s this especially wonderful feeling when I’m running through varied terrain, going from wide open grassland into the trees, or coming out of the trees onto a rocky hilltop, that is deeply thrilling to my body and makes me want to just keep on running all day. If I can hit a long section of trail that is in and out of trees, with lots of climbing and descent, and where the trail disappears ahead a lot and then reveals itself again when you top a rise or turn a corner, I’m in total heaven. My lungs can be heaving, my legs totally smoked, my feet pounded to a pulp, but goddamn I feel great.

The other day I was on this trail out in the boonies and I left the trail just to climb this big, rocky hill and see what was what. I knew the ocean would be visible from the top of the hill, and it was early and no one was around so I shot off and scrambled up. When I got to the top it opened onto a string of rolling crests that lead to the sea. A hundred yards ahead of me and upwind was a scattered handful of deer, two young bucks, some does with their fawns. I kept trotting along towards them and they’d run off a bit and then stop, turn back towards me, their ears sweeping the horizon like radar domes and then freezing. Then one would turn and start high-stepping out of there and in a minute the rest would follow. I went after them for about a mile and got closer and closer until I was only a handful of yards from them, about fifteen deer altogether. It was early in the morning, cold, the salt air from the sea blowing across the hillsides and making the dried grass flatten and twist and I felt pretty much like every human animal since the dawn of time has felt in that situation. I could feel the spear in my hand, or the bow, the heavy rock even. I knew I could keep on after them all day until they couldn’t go on and in a little bit I’d have dinner for my family.

It’s the same thing on the trail. It’s ancient. Totally pure human animal activity, running through the trees. And everything in me just wakes up. Comes vibrantly alive. Every rock in the trail shimmers and vibrates with specificity. Sometimes I’m filled with energy and I feel like I’m on the hunt, tracking something down that’s just ahead of me. Sometimes I’m pumping adrenaline and feeling like I’m the prey, something big and powerful on my tail, running me down for dinner. Maybe both at the same time. And the longer I’m out there, the weirder it gets, the more ancient and wild everything seems, me especially. I notice that I start seeing snakes everywhere after about an hour of running, especially if I’m motoring, every stick leaps out of the ground at me like a coiled package of danger, my body shouts “SNAKE!” and jumps over it and by the time my mind says, “nope, just a stick” I’m long past it.

Probably I’m just nuts, but I run primarily for this experience of getting back to my cave man roots. And it’s why I want to run longer and longer, in ever wilder places. I don’t really want to race, I’m slow and old and although trail runners are great, friendly people, I want to be out there alone. I am lucky I’ve got access to a great bunch of trails out here and lots of time I can run off into the dark and tangly woods and not see another human the whole time I’m gone. It feels like I’m running backwards through time, that’s how I imagine it anyway. If I could run long enough and far enough when I popped out onto the grasslands I might bump into Homo Neanderthalensis coming back from his hunt.

We could grunt at each other, beat our chests, wave our bloody clubs in the air, then go off our separate ways.

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For me, it’s as close as I get to being aligned with the millions of years of evolutionary history that is carried in my DNA.

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It’s good, too, to have this other thing, this thing that isn’t cerebral, that isn’t at all about what makes sense or doesn’t, but is all about what’s in my body and what it wants to be doing to feel alive.

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Anyway, that’s what I been up to when I’m not working or sitting.

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Namaste.

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Working With Things As They Are

Las Hermanas Del Olvido

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We tend to think about death, when we do, as this thing that is going to happen to us, somewhere up ahead, some time still a bit distant from now, there’s room yet, some ability to maneuver around, to get to where we’re going, to get things sorted, to put our struggles behind us, to stand on our own two feet in the clear sunlight for a while, for a long time, maybe, before the shadows lengthen and we are called home.

It’s nothing that’s going to happen right away.

But, still, it’s strange and frightening to contemplate it, really. You wonder what it will be like to die- certainly there’s some trepidation there, but the nut of the thing is that being dead forever and what that is going to look like. You can’t really imagine it. A dreamless sleep from which you never awaken might hint at it, a little bit. Or, you know, heaven and the pearly gates, golden light, your loved ones all around and it never rains and everything is perfect forever and ever. Or whatever, somehow the story goes on. Back into rotation, another life, another body, another chance to fuck everything up, to spend your days and nights in terror and obsession, regret and denial, rage and fear. Another bite at the poisoned apple, another handful of glorious sunsets and sweet, lazy summer afternoons. Something, though. The void is just too strange to contemplate.

But we come from that void and return to it every night. We spent an eternity in it before we woke up here, and we spend half our lives safe in its warm and blank embrace.

It isn’t really so strange as we imagine.

Okay, that’s not exactly right, is it? It’s fucking odd as hell, still. We’ve got this big blind spot in our mind, in our whole conception of what it is that we’re living in, what it is that we are and what it is that we do. It’s a fuck of a lot stranger than our minds want us to grasp, and our minds, it seems to me, spend an awful lot of energy trying to keep us distracted from these big gaps that it doesn’t understand or even know how to represent to us. I mean, falling asleep is a very, very strange endeavor and yet it’s among the most intimate aspects of our lives. At any given moment you are only a few handfuls of hours out of the void yourself, today, this very moment. You just emerged, dripping wet as it were, from the vast sea of forgetting that you swim in nightly. And, yeah, it’s not that that time is all blank, there’s this whole dreamtime that colors and lights up our sleeping hours, but think about how that’s represented to you- you remember being sleepy, tossing around, maybe drifting off with lazy, half-formed thoughts, then nothing, then some wild, scattered, half-remembered dreams, then nothing, then another dream or probably not, but the feeling, the emotional aftertaste that reminds you that you were lost and scared, you were bereft, you fought and ran, you met this old friend, who was it?, and you know, it just drifts off like smoke on the water. But your mind shows you the dreams, sort of presents them to you as the evidence that things were still going on and it kind of hopes you won’t pay attention to that part of it where THE WHOLE FUCKING SHOW WAS SHUT DOWN.

I don’t know, maybe it’s important, somehow. Maybe it’s a good idea to explore that aspect of our endeavor. It’s kind of like the visual field, right? You know, our foveal vision where things are in sharp focus is this tiny spot in our overall visual field, but because our eyes and brain work together to bounce the eyes all over the place continuously and then integrate all those visual signals into an illusion that everywhere we look, the world is in focus. But it isn’t. Not by a long shot. And there’s a goddamn blind spot right in the middle of our field of vision where the optic nerve attaches to the retina, and unless you use a little trick to make it reveal itself, you never know it’s there. And those are two kind of subtle indicators that things aren’t exactly the way that the brain wants us to think they are. But how about this one: you can’t see anything behind you! You exist in a 360 degree world but you only have 180 vision that’s obstructed by your eyelids into a narrow band so what you do see, what you think of most of the time as, well, everything, is really more like a flashlight beam of vision in a world of complete darkness. More than half of the world in our little 360 degree bubble is not visible to us, and yet we walk around pretty convinced that we’re pretty much seeing everything that’s around us. But it ain’t like that.

And everything is like that. We get a narrow slice of every set of data that our senses present to us, visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, everything. And there’s all kinds of information floating around our heads that we don’t even have sensors for, so we think they aren’t there at all. All kinds of shit. And this is true for our minds as well, we’re shut off from almost every single thing that happens in the dark vault of our skulls, and we mistake the tiny slice for the whole shebang. It’s a terrible mistake we make and we all do it all the time, and then we make all of these decisions about things based upon this very unreliable representation, and we’re totally convinced most of the time, hell, we don’t even have to think about it- we know how things are.

This is nucking futs.

Anyway, back to my point about death and the void of unconsciousness. There’s this whole, giant, intimately familiar and yet utterly strange relationship we have with essentially being dead and we really tend not to think about it. I have never read anything of substance about this issue, and that seems strange to me. I guess it’s difficult to write about something that has no content. I don’t know. It just seems like there’s this whole half of our existence that is very, very closely related to being dead, and yet we never think about it at all, and we almost never think about death but when we do it is this very frightening, very foreign country that we’re terrified to encounter.

I say that I have never read anything of substance about this, but that’s not actually true. Buddhist teachings are all on this shit like white on rice. There’s a lot of teaching on this, and many, many great teachers have investigated this phenomenon very thoroughly and have some profound instructions on it as a result. But it seems like a total void in the western cannon, at least as far as I’ve been able to discover.

And what do those Buddhists say about it? Yeah, you’d like to know that, wouldn’t you? I know I’m pretty interested in it. From what I’ve read and been able to figure out, there’s the understanding among highly realized practitioners that there’s a kind of awareness that permeates all states, a luminous ground of being out of which all experience, all thoughts, and all forms arise, and meditation practice gets us in direct contact with that ground of being. It is something that you can experience directly. Certainly it takes a lot of time and practice, but it seems to be a reliable phenomenon that is widely reported. And in dream yoga it is said that you begin with cultivating the connection to that awareness while you are awake and meditating, but then you can also cultivate that same connection once you’ve attained a stable lucid dreaming practice, you can actually connect with and rest in that awareness while you are dreaming. And then, eventually, with more and more practice and skill and determination and experience, you can maintain connection to that ground of awareness in the transitional states between wakefulness and sleep, between dreamless sleep and dreaming, really, you can maintain awareness continuously. And if you can do this, you can do the same thing in all transitional states, for example, between the bardo of living and the bardo of dying, between the bardos of death and of birth, just like the bardos of wakefulness, dreamless sleep, and dreaming.

I don’t know if that’s true or not. I believe that it is, in a lot of ways that makes sense to me, and I’m engaged in my own attempt to achieve that connection for myself. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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All of this is tremendous fun for me. I am suited to the spiritual path and I enjoy thinking deeply about the nature of reality and the nature of what’s beyond the borders of the known. I love practice and I love the ways it is enriching my experience of being alive and being of benefit to those around me. And that’s the real point of this endeavor, after all. It isn’t so much about achieving spiritual creaminess for myself, to fully realize my own innate Buddha nature, although I am committed to doing just that, but it’s really and truly about being a good person, being a loving human being who makes things better for others, who gives love without regard for what comes back, who sees the beauty in everything, who turns away from nothing.

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In all the ways that matter, this world is a dream. We’re here so provisionally, so briefly, and we spend our days distracted from what’s important, what really gives meaning to all the suffering and horror we’re absolutely going to undergo.

It seems like a great blessing to wake up, to understand what to let go of and where we should spend ourselves utterly.

What a shame to suffer all of this for nothing.

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May you be happy, may you be at peace, may you be free from suffering.

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Namaste, bitches.

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What is burning? The world is burning.

Leaving-Winesburg,-Ohio-cop

 

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“What is burning? The world is burning. The trees are burning. The rivers are burning. The people are burning. Everything is aflame.”

 

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I begin my days, as you know, with prayers and meditation. I wake from sleep, take a piss, make a cup of coffee in the dark, go as silently as possible out to the lair. I open my big plastic bin that holds all my meditation crap, my cushion and blanket and my pouch for my malas, my Sadhana texts, incense, lighter, little cloths I use for sliding my hands during prostrations, I open that up and set my cushion down in front of the altar, lay out the wool blanket, take out the lighter and incense and go kneel in front of the altar, light a candle, light the incense, bow, sit down. Arrange the blanket around me, set the coffee cup in front of me, begin.

The transition from the dream world to waking life is much more fluid than it used to be for me. Waking up is now more like a continuation of dreamtime. It’s still dark and silent and my mind is in that kind of dreamlike state before the world starts up. This effect is exacerbated by my dream yoga practice. It feels to me like I shift from one dream to another. During the coffee making and setting up time I come close to breaking through into “normal” waking, but as soon as I sit down then that hyper-clarity of the meditative mindset arises and I’m in a state somewhat different from what used to be “normal.”

There is a richness in practice that is difficult to describe, or even to understand. How something so simple, so empty of “doing” can open the door to, well, everything. Being new to practice and not understanding much, I’m at the point where I tend to get kind of astounded and worked up about what’s going on. I have these rich and powerful experiences and I get caught up in them, captured by them to a large extent, and it can be difficult to maintain my equanimity. It’s relatively easy for me to not follow the negative emotions and experiences, it’s relatively easy for me to recognize them as the reflexive churning of the mind and let them go, come back to the breath, bring my attention back to the moment. But when the moment gets all luminous and clear, blazing with powerful emotions of bliss and peacefulness and love, I tend to run after that. I tend to think that something wonderful is happening to me.

And this is where grasping and clinging can arise and kind of corrupt practice. I know intellectually that I shouldn’t grasp, should see these experiences as just as empty as anything else that arises, but it’s very easy for me to want to make them solid and “real” because they are so much what I was seeking when I first entered the path.

And this is just one of the experiences you can have on the path. There are many, many mistakes to be made as we learn. And luckily we have the instructions handed down from all of those who have gone before, made the same mistakes. We can refer back to the instructions for guidance and go back and sit some more and learn to make a new set of mistakes. Mistakes that you couldn’t even make before because you didn’t know enough to make them. And really, it isn’t exactly correct for me to refer to them as mistakes, they aren’t that at all. But there’s this constant process of fine-tuning, of going off a little bit in one direction, correcting, drifting the other way, correcting. There’s a lot involved in doing absolutely nothing.

The whole endeavor makes me very happy. The better my awareness gets, the more I can see my habitual patterns in action, the less I’m interested in protecting my ego, the more I want to just keep dissolving everything I’ve built up over the years. I believe that there is a way to do just that and I’m committed to doing it.

I love this path. I love my teachers and my fellow practitioners and everyone else, too. I feel as though I have fallen into a way of being that reflects my true nature, that is in harmony with how things really are, and the rewards are astounding.

And empty, yes- that too.

 

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Lately I’ve been having the experience of the universe conspiring to give me exactly what I need exactly when I ask for it. Like the world’s most perfect English butler, silent, invisible, ever at my elbow, putting a needed book in my hand, introducing to me someone, opening a door, pressing my suit, shining my shoes, whispering the name of the person approaching me, putting a cool cloth on my forehead when I get overheated.

It’s an interesting experience.

Also, my family. As if everyone suddenly burst into flame, flowered, opened up, unfolded, got born into wild happiness. Marriage plans afoot. Babies and dogs under foot. Everywhere you look someone is smiling at you, in love. Ease and comfort, hard joy, blissful craziness, happy despair and longing, everything all the time.

A goddamn miracle of love is what.

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Also, swimming in a sea of devotion. Exactly like the deepest, most powerful and vast ocean, profoundly impersonal, wind-swept, shocking in its scale and limitless seeming scope, absolutely overwhelming. Not something to reject or accept, really, it seems too vast for that. I could shut up and swim, but I don’t know that there’s anywhere to go and it feels like maybe its better to just lie on my back, float, and look up at the sky.

Devotion. Compassion. Wisdom. Awareness.

 

A strange county to enter after fifty years of wandering the deserts of loneliness, self-hatred, rage, despair, anxiety, bitterness, boredom, itchiness, ignorance, plain meanness and generalized angst.

 

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May you be happy, may you be at peace, may you be free from suffering.

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Namaste.

 

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Dreaming Not Dreaming

smokers-copy

 

So I’ve been working on this whole lucid dreaming, using this book as my guide. Having some success, but mostly really benefitting from the mental work that has to be done in support of achieving lucidity in the dream world. This particular lucid dreaming approach, grounded in the Tibetan Buddhist practice, relies in large part on the understanding of the emptiness of phenomenon. In the Buddhist view, what we perceive as the world around us, our bodies, other people, our houses and roads and sofas and purses, telephone poles, all of it, isn’t really as solid and permanent as it appears to us to be. Everything that exists is dependent upon everything else that exists in order to exist, nothing is solid and real and permanent on its own- this is the basic view. Everything manifests, yes, it’s there, you can see it and interact with it, but it carries the nature of illusion. At its most basic, fundamental level, it is empty of anything you could call a solid, permanent, self-existing thing.

So there are a lot of things this book instructs us to do in order to prepare the mind for lucid dreaming within that context, and the one that I’m working with the most right now is this idea of talking to myself throughout the day, telling myself that what I’m experiencing in the moment is a dream. And to ask myself, too, as I do one thing and another, “Hey, is this a dream? Am I dreaming right now?”

This has a dual benefit. One thing is that by developing this habit of checking in with myself as various phenomenon arise and depart throughout the day, constantly asking myself if I’m dreaming all of this, there’s the increased chance that I will do the same thing while I’m dreaming, which will open the door for the possibility of a lucid dream. One of the hallmarks of the dreaming mind is a very strong, very durable sense of credulousness- no matter how strange the experience you’re having in the dream world, it almost never occurs to you that you are dreaming. You just think some weird shit is kicking off. So, develop the habit while awake and maybe you will ask yourself during the dream if you’re dreaming all of this, and then, pow, there you are- awake inside the dream world.

The other benefit, and one that is much more profound, is that you begin to experience waking life as if it were a dream. For me, what I find is that by telling myself that I’m dreaming right now, and really using all of my senses and imagination to support this thought, is that the world takes on this heightened feeling of strangeness, of possibility and potential. “Am I dreaming? No. Am I? No. Yeah, yeah, I am. Right? Well, what’s going on? Is that chair real? Is that woman sitting on it real?”

This experience gives me the intuitive, emotional, embodied experience of emptiness itself. It makes me see and experience the emptiness of phenomenon in the waking world. And it serves to illustrate for me the similarities between the two states of waking and dreaming. All phenomenon that arise in both states are not things themselves but only mental models and representations, right? I mean, inside my skull, there isn’t any light. There’s no color or shape or any movie screen playing “what’s out there” inside my head for me. There’s only electrical and biochemical storms going on in the brain. When I’m awake, those are a result of the input of the sensory apparatus. When I’m dreaming, they’re self initiated by the brain only- but there’s nothing in my brain that really knows the difference between the two. Dreams are every bit as compelling, often more so, than waking life.

So, that’s all by way of introducing this experience I had yesterday, which I want to explore a little bit because it was so strange, and, I think, helpful.

I was on this trail run at lunch, up in the hills overlooking San Luis Obispo. The day was hot and sunny, and I was on this trail system back in the hills, all alone, this narrow single track of red dirt and rocks winding between manzanita and chaparral, technical and demanding, but lots of fun to run. Lots of climbing, two miles of it, then up and down for a while, then back down and down and down. So, I’m running out there in the boonies, hot, sweaty, really in the groove, it’s beautiful and I’m really, really, happy. And I’m chanting some Buddhist prayers and meditating as I run, which I also really like to do. And then as I’m doing this, I’m telling myself, “This is a dream! I’m dreaming that I’m trail running, I’m dreaming that I’m meditating and trail running, saying prayers and practicing, this is AWESOME! I’m totally lucid dreaming, doing exactly what I most want to do!” And this really felt like what I was doing, it felt very much dream like. And the red dirt, the manzanita, the green serpentine rocks, the hot sun and wild blue empty sky, all seemed very dream like, hyper-real and unreal. It was a long, long, beautiful sustained dreamlike experience.

So, cool on me.

Then, last night, I did all my dreamwork preliminaries and fell asleep and while I was sleeping I had the same dream. I was trail running, on the same trail, saying the same prayers, and I was so happy, so alive, it was so incredible- but I didn’t know I was dreaming. It wasn’t a lucid dream at all, it was just very vivid and enjoyable. And it was a very faithful rendition of the run I had done before- the emotional and physical content was the same- except that when I was really awake I had the experience of being in a dream world, and when I was “really” in the dream world, I was totally convinced that I was awake.

Awake, convinced I’m dreaming.

Dreaming, convinced I’m awake.

 

Very, very cool.

 

But only a preliminary step on the path to feeling that I’m dreaming when I’m awake and knowing that I’m dreaming when I’m asleep. Tying all of experience together, maintaining the same pristine, awake, awareness throughout all displays of phenomenon.

What does it mean for me? Only that my representational model of reality is just that, a model. It has no more connection to “what’s out there” than does my dream model. I’m embedded in two layers of dream time. Until I recognize this, until I know the truth of this in my own direct experience, waking up isn’t possible.

The goal is to wake up to the fact that dreaming is all we’re doing, all the time.

 

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Namaste.

 

 

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14th Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche’s remains cremated at Shar Minub Monastary

1406697434-shamar-rinpoches-body-finally-brought-to-nepal-for-cremation-_5402011

 

http://www.kuenselonline.com/shamar-rinpoches-mortal-remains-cremated-today/#.U9pV2YsU_cs

 

Last night Shamar Rinpoche’s remains were cremated at his monastery Shar Minub on the outskirts of Kathmandu, according to his wishes and with the benevolent permission of the Neapalese government.

I am very happy that this ceremony was carried out according to his wishes. Many, many blessings will flow from this.

I have received so many blessings personally from my teacher, and these blessings have only continued and multiplied since his death. Since there’s no longer any differentiation for me between his physical being and his non-physical being, I find myself in his presence all the time, whenever I think of him. I know that I am not separate from him in any way that matters.

It is my profound wish that I can contribute to his goal- the enlightenment of every sentient being without exception.

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Thank you to everyone who made this possible with your prayers and well-wishes!

 

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Namaste!

 

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 Here is a very beautiful and moving description of the cremation ceremony by my Dharma friend Jourdie over at purely subjective. It’s worth a read just for the writing and beautiful photographs, and it is a visceral, powerful example of the love and devotion that flows from a dedicated student to a highly realized teacher. I want to thank Jourdie for sharing her experience with us, it helps me feel almost as if I were there.

 

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The Road to Kalimpong

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This one’s just for me, and for anyone else who wants to watch it. A short film documenting the movement of Shamar Rinpoche’s kudung from Karmapa International Buddhist Institute in Delhi to Diwakar Buddhist Academy in Kalimpong.

Many thanks to the filmmaker for this moving and beautiful film.

 

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Shamar Rinpoche: The Road To Kalimpong

Everything, everything is impermanent.
Nothing is permanent, so you should be aware of it.
Therefore, you should not be surprised when something is changed.
Yes?
Not permanent.
So you should accept it, you should understand that things are not permanent.

If you think whether there is a chance to be liberated, or get out of these problems of suffering or whatever,
Yes, there is!
Why?
It’s naturally there, naturally.

It is not that you have to depend on a kind of, somebody’s blessings,
The cure is within you.

All the phenomena does not carry any substantial existence, or ultimate existence.
It is, it carries, the quality of illusion.
Therefore, Buddhism is a great knowledge,
Buddhism follows the nature of phenomena.

The Buddhist view follows the nature of phenomena,
and by knowing so you can cure the problems,
you can develop the cure from within it.

So meditation follows the nature, it is a natural antidote.
Yes?
So once you learn the meditation and how to improve your wisdom,
How to overcome all your illusions, all your ignorance.

Everything, everything is impermanent.
Inevitable,
It is, you will change, it will be changed.
So, yes, change is inevitable.

 

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Before I entered this path, I never really understood devotion. It was a big blank spot on my map of the world, vaguely peopled with sea-monsters and dragons, the shoreline unmarked.

It is a country I am astounded to find myself in.

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Namaste.

 

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An End To Seeking

Ed-Dreams-of-The-Circus-cop

I’ve been thinking about something one of my teachers was talking about, this idea of being a spiritual seeker, and how necessary this is in the beginning, but how we also must understand that once we’ve found our way we must unpack, put away our bags, and settle in to our new location.

So many of us get caught up in the idea of being a spiritual seeker, always looking for enlightenment, for wisdom, for clarity, for the super-special sauce that will instill our being with spiritual creaminess. We seek and seek. We read book after book after book, devouring what’s inside them like starving dogs, hardly pausing before we pick up the next one, or go to the next teaching, or retreat, or workshop. On and on and on we go, thinking that what we seek is somehow always ahead of us, up there somewhere in the future, between the covers of the next book or in the mind of the next teacher or what what what.

This impetus to seek the something that will sustain us, will provide what we really, truly need, is vital. If you don’t seek, you certainly won’t find.

But if you never stop seeking, you’ll also never find.

I don’t know where you are on your journey. Perhaps you’ve already found what you need and are now engaged in living that truth for yourself. I hope that is the case. Perhaps you are still seeking, and because you haven’t found the “path with a heart” that Don Juan talked about, you keep looking, and rightfully so.

But perhaps you found the path you were looking for some time ago, but you’re still acting like a seeker. And if that’s the case, you may feel still that, yeah, this is it, this is the place, but what I need, what I have to find, is the piece that will make it all come together for me. I need to understand this aspect better, I need to learn that area, I need to be given the real stuff, the inner stuff, the stuff those great masters have, and once they give it to me, then I’ll be set. Good to go.

And so you press on.

What my teacher was saying, and I think this is really brilliant and helpful if this situation applies to you at all, is that when we recognize that we’re on the path that works for us, we have to make a real transition in our whole approach. I will use my own path as an example here just because it’s close to hand and I’m familiar with it, but the essence of this shift is the same no matter how the external particulars are expressed- at some point you have to say, okay, I’m here. I found it. This is the place for me. I’m home. I’m not seeking any more.

And you unpack your bags. And you set up your new home. And you get to work. You begin to till the soil, plant, cultivate, harvest. You begin to manifest the fruits of practice.

It doesn’t mean you quit going to teachings, quit reading books, quit studying, quit trying to understand everything. The outer conduct may look exactly the same as before. But the internal landscape is radically different. And the results, the outcome, is radically different.

I think you can see this in people in your own church or mosque or temple or Buddhist center- there are many people who are active members, studying, learning, very well versed in the academic aspects of the faith or practice, but they remain somehow unchanged within, where it really matters, as if the teachings were merely bouncing off of some internal armor and leaving their souls unscathed. And you can see others, maybe newcomers, who arrive and are open and curious and seeking and they study and learn but then they begin to change, they begin to actually somehow embody the teachings. They may not always act skillfully, but they act with conviction and a willingness to risk looking stupid, to risk making mistakes, and they get better and better and you can tell they’re really doing it.

You want to be like the second person. You don’t want to be so close to the truth and still blind to it.

I think this is something that has been essential in my own transformation. I knew very quickly that I was in the right place, and I very quickly decided that I would do everything that the teachings said to do. I wanted to put it into practice, not just study it, not just think about it, but DO it. And this changed everything.

And there’s another aspect to this as well, I mean, I say I got it quickly, I decided quickly, but that’s not true at all, really. I was an armchair Buddhist for years and years and years, and I thought Buddhism was cool and neat and smart and helpful and I read books and thought, yes, yes, they’ve really got something there. But for all those years I never did a single thing that made me really a Buddhist. I was on the outside looking in, but I thought I was kind of inside, you know?

I had to develop real renunciation, maybe. Had to really feel in my guts that the first noble truth was a pretty good starting point. Had to really, really know that listening to my screaming ego was stupid and it was killing me and I wanted to stop. All kinds of causes and conditions had to arise, I guess, and eventually they did, and I found myself really standing at the foot of the path. I could see the path, could tell it really was going up the mountain- maybe it disappeared from view up ahead somewhere, but I could see where it was going, and I could see others up ahead of me, and I knew that there had been those who’d walked it to the end, and now I was standing there, right at the foot of it all.

And it was up to me to step on to the path. No one else could or would do it for me.

It’s that willingness to let go of our own whole selves, I think, that in someway opens the door. Something. You cannot hold on to what you think you are if you are to go forward. You can’t say, “I will take this path, but I will also stay right here where I am safe and I understand everything.” You have to leave yourself utterly, and go naked into the wildness of the unknown.

But there’s help. There’s guidebooks and signposts along the way. Books on gardening. Right? Because the journey, once you’ve stepped on the path for real, isn’t about going somewhere else, but being right where you are. Being where you are totally and completely, and then doing the work. The hard work of uprooting the stones and tree stumps in your untamed mind. Making space for compassion and love, digging out the weeds of selfishness, fear, and hatred.

Again and again it comes down to doing the work. And you know, when you first start out, your work is probably going to be weak sauce. Your shit is going to fall down, your plants will die, you’ll overwater, etc. It’s only by actually doing that you learn and get better. All the book knowledge in the world won’t grow you a delicious crop of tasty goodness. You have to get your hands dirty, you have to commit to failing and failing and failing until you get it. Then make it better, keep going.

Then you’re on the path. Then you’re going somewhere and nowhere at the same time.

And you change your world.

 

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Probably preaching to the choir here, but I find the idea very helpful.

 

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May you be happy, may you be free from suffering, may you be at peace.

 

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Namaste.

 

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Petition for Shamar Rinpoche’s Remains to Enter Nepal

teacher_shamarpa

 

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Those of you who read here regularly know that my teacher, Shamar Rinpoche, passed away on June 11th. It was his wish that his remains be cremated in Nepal and placed in a stupa near his monastery in Kathmandu. Permission for this was initially granted by the government of Nepal, but was recently withdrawn.

I’ve signed this petition requesting that the government of Nepal overturn their decision and allow his remains to enter the country and for the cremation ceremony and interment proceed according to his wishes. I’m sharing the link to the petition here for anyone who wishes to sign it.

I’m doing this because I want to honor my teacher’s wishes for his own remains, and in support of my teachers and Dharma friends who have committed to travel to Nepal for the ceremony, and it is my profound wish and prayer that the Nepalese government will reconsider their stance and allow this to occur.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and even if you don’t want to sign the petition I hope that you’ll add a wishing prayer of your own if you are so inclined.

Namaste.

 

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Petition to allow Shamar Rinpoche’s remains to enter Nepal

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Sangre De Mi Hermana

Sangre-De-Hermanas

 

I was reading yesterday this study about fluid dynamics that casts some interesting light on the question of which model is correct in the study of quantum physics. The standard model, the Copenhagen model, is what is taught in school- basically you have the quantum wave-form that is entirely probabilistic; the electron, say, in this wave form that has no fixed trajectory or position, spread out in this field of probabilities, and that wave form only collapses when an external observer comes along and takes a measurement. Then, pow!, that wave-form collapses into a point, and you can know the exact location, or the exact velocity, of the electron. This leads to a lot of weirdness in the “real” world model- it is often taken to mean that the “Universe” or “reality” responds directly, observably, to our attention, the kind of new-agey stance that drives scientists nuts.

This is one of the things that the Everettian model does away with, by positing a limitless number of universes that propagate at every branching of a quantum event- the electron, choosing between two paths, always takes both paths, and the Universe splits off into two universes, one in which the electron went left, the other in which it went right.

This also drives people nuts to think about. Scientists and normal people both.

This fluid dynamics study casts light on another theory, that of De broigle and Bohm, the pilot wave theory, or Bohmian mechanics. This theory postulates that there is another wave form that arises with the quantum wave form and acts to “guide” the electron- so there’s this deterministic “pilot wave” that drives the location of the electron along a path that appears to be probabilistic in nature but is actually fixed and determined by a complex interplay of real, but non-observable, wave forms. It is a “hidden-variable” theory that basically says, well, there’s this other thing, and it makes everything seem probabilistic, but, really, everything is much more solid and real- it isn’t dependent upon some external “observer” to force a collapse of the wave form into something “real”, a real, “point-like” electron. It’s really that the electron stays the same all the time, things aren’t weird at all.

Of course, this “hidden variable” theory also drives scientists nuts, because it seems kind of like they are just making up some new thing to force reality to act the way they are more comfortable with. The theory does not have wide, mainstream support.

This new experiment was done by these fluid dynamics guys studying a drop of oil suspended over a liquid….well, I’ll just let the guy who wrote the article explain:

This idea that nature is inherently probabilistic — that particles have no hard properties, only likelihoods, until they are observed — is directly implied by the standard equations of quantum mechanics. But now a set of surprising experiments with fluids has revived old skepticism about that worldview. The bizarre results are fueling interest in an almost forgotten version of quantum mechanics, one that never gave up the idea of a single, concrete reality.

The experiments involve an oil droplet that bounces along the surface of a liquid. The droplet gently sloshes the liquid with every bounce. At the same time, ripples from past bounces affect its course. The droplet’s interaction with its own ripples, which form what’s known as a pilot wave, causes it to exhibit behaviors previously thought to be peculiar to elementary particles — including behaviors seen as evidence that these particles are spread through space like waves, without any specific location, until they are measured.

Particles at the quantum scale seem to do things that human-scale objects do not do. They can tunnel through barriers, spontaneously arise or annihilate, and occupy discrete energy levels. This new body of research reveals that oil droplets, when guided by pilot waves, also exhibit these quantum-like features.

To some researchers, the experiments suggest that quantum objects are as definite as droplets, and that they too are guided by pilot waves — in this case, fluid-like undulations in space and time. These arguments have injected new life into a deterministic (as opposed to probabilistic) theory of the microscopic world first proposed, and rejected, at the birth of quantum mechanics.

“This is a classical system that exhibits behavior that people previously thought was exclusive to the quantum realm, and we can say why,” said John Bush, a professor of applied mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has led several recent bouncing-droplet experiments. “The more things we understand and can provide a physical rationale for, the more difficult it will be to defend the ‘quantum mechanics is magic’ perspective.”

Of course, this is all very preliminary and narrowly focused. It may not hold once you start to look more deeply (like, uhm, every other belief we hold?). But I thought it was pretty interesting.

In the same magazine there was an article about the discovery of this giant virus, much larger and more complex than any ever before seen, and how this discovery casts light on the idea of a viral origin for life. It’s interesting because it kind of provides another mechanism for the development of life that spans the gulf between RNA and DNA and the development of the cell.

We keep thinking we are really smart, really close to figuring things out. It seems to me that no matter how much we learn there will always be an infinite field of undiscovered truth awaiting our attention. Our knowledge, ever improving, is always going to be provisional. What we think now, almost all of it, we’ll look back on and laugh at in a hundred years. Or fifty. Or five.

In “The Island of Knowledge” Marcelo Gleiser uses the metaphor of an island of knowledge in a sea of ignorance. The island always grows, but as it does so the shoreline, the place where our knowledge bumps up against our ignorance, also grows, exponentially.

I talk a lot about this, but it bears repeating: no matter who is right, no matter what things are like fundamentally, what’s real, what is at the foundation of all of this, it is still true that we as human beings only get a tiny sliver of it, we can only ever be aware of a fraction of a fraction of “reality”, and that tiny piece we have access to we further reduce and filter out so we can work with some economy of effort on our own behavior as individuals. And within that tiny slice of a tiny slice of a tiny slice, we hardly pay attention to any of it. We’re enthralled by the repetitive voice in our own head, or haunted by it, and overwhelmed by the demands and insistence of everything “out there” clamoring always for our attention, and we blind ourselves with drink and drugs and television and all manner of distractions so we don’t even have to pay attention to that miniscule aspect of reality we can see and inhabit.

Is it any wonder that simply by sitting still and shutting off the distractions we can gain some interesting understanding about our minds, and by extension, our own reality? That by attending to the world as it is presented to us, we can begin to come to know something of its beauty and magnificence?

I don’t know anything at all about how things really are, fundamentally. I trust the scientists to do the best they can, and I figure they’re good at what they do. Their models can tell us a lot about how things are, at least on a functional, provisional level. But it’s important to remember that even their most advanced and foundational models are not universally accepted, and they’re incomplete, and they don’t tell us everything, and they might be wrong and they probably are wrong and will be discarded in time, but for now they’re the best we have.

It’s the same thing on the spiritual front. I don’t know anything at all about how things really are spiritually, either. I don’t have any idea if the Buddhists are right, or the Hindus, or Christians, or Jews, or what.

I think, though, that there is tremendous benefit in gaining familiarity with our own minds. I think there’s tremendous benefit in cultivating love for our fellow creatures, and the aspiration to be loving and helpful to everyone we meet.

I think there’s also tremendous benefit in looking within for the source of our pain and suffering and confusion. I think it is good to have that sense that when things are going badly for us that we can look within for all the ways we are creating pain for ourselves and others around us. Even if we’re wrong about it, it provides a sense that we have some control, we have some responsibility for how things are, and that if we always look outside ourselves for the solution we will always be disappointed. We will continue to suffer. Our liberation is always and only in our own hands.

Our time is so brief. It seems essential to wake up, to give thanks for the incredible abundance we’re showered with, and to love with total selflessness our fellow travelers. Whatever we think, whatever we believe. We all struggle and suffer, we all seek happiness.

We are all one.

Cue corny music.

 

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I think about my wife out in Colorado with the monk on their big adventure. All this beauty they’re seeing, all this wonder and craziness. How that monk just goes out in the world, doing his thing. He doesn’t give a fuck what anybody thinks. He’s gonna do good. He’s going to have a hell of a good time at it, too.

It seems as good a role model as any.

*

I know I’m preaching to the choir to you. Everyone of you who reads here already knows what I’m just now figuring out. You are every one of you Saints and Monks and Bodhisattvas.

Thank you for being my teachers.

*

Namaste.

 

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PS- how about that fucking art, huh? I amaze myself sometimes, I really do.

 

 

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Following Seas

Crossing The Channel

 

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What I will say is that I miss that woman.

 

She is on a hell of a good journey, though, I’ll give her that.

 

She’s a goddamn wonder.

 

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How is it that at my age I have suddenly broken through into a new way of being? I’m sorry for going on and on about it, but it is kind of right up in my face lately and so it’s what I’m going to keep talking about. Until I bore myself. Nevermind you. You got a right to be a little exasperated-

“When’s this guy gonna shut up already? He’s creamy, okay, got it. Next!”

Ah, well.

I have had all of my life a subtle, or not so subtle, feeling of anxiety and dread about what’s coming down the pipeline. Mostly because I’m always feeling that I’ve left something important undone and it’s going to bite me in the ass. This feeling arises, strangely, because I’m always leaving something important undone and then it bites me in the ass.

Perhaps understandably, I tend to a little bit of internal jumpiness.

This particular groove is so deeply worn into my neural circuitry that it has become an aspect of my internal weather, it is what it is like to be me. I can be sitting on the sofa on a Saturday evening, watching some dark Norwegian flick on the TV, rubbing my wife’s feet, comfortable and entranced, and yet there’s this buzzing tension in every cell of my body, like I’m a high voltage powerline.

“zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”

 

It isn’t the most comfortable way to live. Yet I have clung to it. I remember in sixth grade our science teacher, Mr. Golden (“Science is Golden” he’d always say, laughing maniacally) set up this thing in class where he had a car battery hooked up to a wet rope he’d strung on a wooden cross-like frame and what you’d do is grab hold of the rope in your two hands up high near the top of the cross and then drag your hands down and spread your arms and the lower and farther out you went the higher the current got and the tighter your hands would clamp onto the wet rope and you’d get to a point where you just couldn’t let go. That current just kept your hands convulsing so rapidly that you couldn’t override the signal and you were stuck.

He got a big old charge out of that.

Ha.

Anyway, that’s kind of how I cling, have clung, to that pattern. I couldn’t leave go of it. I knew I looked pretty stupid, hell, I felt pretty stupid. Still, you know, there I was, “nnnngngngngnggnnnnngngngngnggngnnnn!”

All the damn time.

*

 

Now my experience is different. There’s a spaciousness, a sense of deep and abiding calm where before there was always this buzzing tension. It is remarkable to feel. Very nice. Very pleasant. And there’s more, too. It isn’t just that something bad has gone away and now I’m at a kind of neutral point. Something bad has gone away and something wonderful showed up at the same time.

The world as it is.

And I’m bad in love with it. I’m like a besotted sixteen year old trying to get the world to take her pants off all the time. It’s embarrassing.

But, you know, pretty nice, too.

And people, too. I like them. To paraphrase Sally Fields, “I like them, I really like them!”

 

 

I really, really do.

 

 

*

I dove into Buddhism seeking a solution to my pain and suffering. I have found that. Found that and so much more.

It’s remarkable. I don’t think I quite thought that things would change so drastically and so quickly. It’s a very effective medicine for the mind.

*

I know that I’m kind of overheated right now and this will pass. I’ll get more used to this new state and settle into it and who knows, maybe it will be my new normal. Maybe it will pass entirely and I’ll only have the memory of it.

*

 

Namaste.

 

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