Suffering

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.

—Helen Keller

Acceptance of Suffering

The more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.

—Thomas Merton (American and Trappist Monk)

You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world, that is something you are free to do and it accords with your nature, but perhaps this very holding back is the one suffering you could avoid. —Franz Kafka

Suffering, once accepted, loses its edge, for the terror of it lessens, and what remains is generally far more manageable than we had imagined.

—Lesley Hazelton

Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies. —Erich Fromm

Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dream. —Paulo Coelho (Mystical author)

Pain is a relatively objective, physical phenomenon; suffering is our psychological resistance to what happens. Events may create physical pain, but they do not in themselves create suffering. Resistance creates suffering. Stress happens when your mind resists what is…The only problem in your life is your mind’s resistance to life as it unfolds. —Dan Millman

Uses of Suffering

Most people have come to prefer certain of life’s experiences and deny and reject others, unaware of the value of the hidden things that may come wrapped in plain and even ugly paper. In avoiding all pain and seeking comfort at all costs, we may be left without intimacy or compassion; in rejecting change and risk we often cheat ourselves of the quest; in denying our suffering we may never know our strength or our greatness. —Rachel Naomi Remen (American, clinical professor of family and community medicine)

Yes, there is pain in life. Without denying the pain we can look through it to the larger picture. This seeing heals. —Diane Mariechild

I can very well do without God both in my life and in my painting, but I cannot, suffering as I am, do without something which is greater than I am, which is my life, the power to create. —Vincent van Gogh

When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task. . . . He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden” (pp. 123-124). —Victor Frankl

Frankl, V. E. (1963). Man’s search for meaning. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable.

—Joseph Addison  (English essayist, poet, dramatist and statesman)

Uselessnes of Suffering

It is not true that suffering ennobles the character; happiness does that sometimes, but suffering, for the most part, makes men petty and vindictive. —William Somerset Maugham

Is suffering so very serious? I have come to doubt it. It may be quite childish, a sort of undignified pastime. I’m referring to the kind of suffering a man inflicts on a woman or a woman on a man. It’s extremely painful. I agree that it’s hardly bearable. But I very much fear that this sort of pain deserves no consideration at all. It’s no more worthy of respect than old age or illness. —Sidonie Gabrielle Colette

Suffering is not good for the soul, unless it teaches you to stop suffering.

—Jane Roberts

Desire as the Cause of Suffering

To get rid of your passions is not nirvana; to look upon them as no matter of yours, that is nirvana. —Anonymous

When Lord Buddha spoke about suffering, he wasn’t referring simply to superficial problems like illness and injury, but to the fact that the dissatisfied nature of the mind itself is suffering. No matter how much of something you get, it never satisfies your desire for better or more. This unceasing desire is suffering; its nature is emotional frustration. —Lama Yeshe

See also http://www.maximumbliss.com/zen%20quotes.asp

Spirituality

I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace. —Helen Keller

Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it (religion) should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual and a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. —Einstein

As one lamp serves to dispel a thousand years of darkness, so one flash of wisdom destroys ten thousand years of ignorance. —Hui-Neng

See http://www.timothyfreke.com/mysteries.php

Relationships

Truly loving another means letting go of all expectations. It means full acceptance, even celebration of another’s personhood. —Unknown

When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others. —Peace Pilgrim

Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. —Rumi

Every now and then, I’ll meet an escapee, someone who has broken free of self-centeredness and lit out for the territory of compassion. You’ve met them, too, those people who seem to emit a steady stream of, for want of a better word, love-vibes. As soon as you come within range, you feel embraced, accepted for who you are. For those of us who suspect that you rarely get something for nothing, such geniality can be discomfiting. Yet it feels so good to be around them. They stand there, radiating photons of goodwill, and despite yourself you beam back, and the world, in a twinkling, changes. —Marc Ian Barasch

For practical applications, see  http://www.examiner.com/relationship-counseling-in-denver/ardell-broadbent

Unity (Oneness)

He who experiences the unity of life sees his own self in all beings, and all beings in his own self, and looks on everything with an impartial eye. —Buddha

See http://www.timothyfreke.com/lucid.php

Non-Action

Therefore the sage manages affairs without action, carries out teaching without speech. —Lao Tzu in the Tao te Ching

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. –Mahatma Gandhi

Meditation

Silence is a great help to the seeker after truth. In the attitude of silence, the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after truth, and the soul requires inward restfulness to attain its full height. —Mahatma Ghandi

For a simple and practical guide to stillness, read here: http://zenhabits.net/find-stillness/

I have discovered that all of mans unhappiness derives from only one source, not being able to sit quietly in a room.– Blaise Pascal

For an erudite approach…

Techniques

Techniques of meditation can be grouped into two main categories according to their focus. In most techniques, one sits comfortably and silently, though techniques such as “walking meditation” break from the sitting posture but involve the same focusing techniques.

Concentrative meditation involves focus on a process such as breathing, repetition of a mantra, focus on a koan (a riddle-like question), or a visualization. One uses the focus as an anchor to bring one’s thoughts constantly back to the present.

The other category, mindfulness meditation, involves focus on the “here and now” with a “no effort” attitude. No thought, image, or sensation is considered an intrusion as the mind shifts freely from one perception to the next, but one avoids dwelling on, analyzing, or fantasizing about these. One acknowledges the perception and shifts awareness back to the present. From a simple perspective, this type of meditation can be thought of as simply practicing awareness of the present moment.

Purpose

Meditation is a discipline that helps one to make use of wisdom and insight. To embrace a truth wholeheartedly does not mean our actions will at once reflect the learned concept. We are creatures of habit. Our conditioned mental and physical responses, when we learn to recognize them as such, seem to be somewhat beyond our control.

A large part of the Zen perspective is a habit of meta-cognition, and meditation helps develop and refine a contemplative perspective about one’s thoughts and emotions. This helps one overcome conditioned responses, both mental and physical. For example, the Zen perspective of examining emotional responses helps one avoid acting from what psychologists refer to as affect as information, which is to interpret emotions as valid and important information about one’s experience, and then to react to a situation based on that emotional response.

Thus it enables one to live, as Plato might put it, the examined life. This doesn’t mean that one  sees emotion as a useless distraction. This doesn’t mean that a Zen practitioner values an intellectualized or prescribed response over a natural response. What it does mean is that a Zen practitioner will retain the natural responses that are harmonious with basic values within the Buddhist perspective, and having scrutinized his or her emotional and cognitive responses that are not harmonious with these values, will allow these to be acknowledged but not acted on.

Benefits

A study by Zeidana, Johnson, Diamond, David, and Goolkasian (2010) provides a detailed  overview of past studies on benefits of meditation as well as showing that some results for participants newly learning mindfulness techniques by means of a brief training format, are consistent with those that have been reported for adept meditators. This section and the next section on processes are a brief summary of their overview and findings.

People with extensive meditation training have shown improvements on cognitive performance and mood, attention, and visuospatial processes. People with 8 weeks of meditation training (mindfulness based stress reduction [MBSR] programs) have shown improvements in immune system functioning, stress, and emotional regulation.

People with 4 days, 20 minutes per day, of mindfulness meditation training also showed improvements in mood, sustained attention, and improvement on a range of cognitive tasks.

Therapeutic Mechanism

Neuroelectric and neuroimaging studies of meditation show changes in brain function, confirming what has been shown in improved mental task performance, yet the reasons for the improvement are not clearly understood. This section addresses the question of why the techniques would lead to the benefits listed in the previous section.

MBSR programs are based on teaching participants to react non-judgmentally to stressful events. In meditation practice in general, a non-judgemental attitude toward ones mental processes is encouraged. As participants cultivate these skills, “top-down control processes regulate affective appraisals that lead to a reduction in stress responses” (¶ 1). In other words, one might experience thoughts during meditation that are typically experienced as stressful or unpleasant, but these are not ruminated on and instead attention is deliberately shifted back to the intended focus, thus a physiological stress response such as muscle tension and increased heart rate would be avoided.

“Mindfulness training cultivates moment-to-moment awareness of the self and environment. To this extent, mindfulness training heightens meta-cognitive processing. Meta-cognition is the conscious awareness of cognitive control processes. Improvements in meta-cognition are related to the ability to restrict bottom-up processing of exogenously/endogenously driven, task-irrelevant information. Extensive training in mindfulness has been found to improve alerting and conflict monitoring….The ability to self-regulate emotions has been found to be a key component in enhancing cognition. It is possible that the calming effects of MM [mindfulness meditation] combined with the increased capacity to focus on the present improved cognitive performance after brief training….Research associated with the benefits of brief MM training is sparse, but available evidence suggests that the immediate effects MM are not only associated with improving mood, but also developing deeper cognitive processing skills, specifically reducing lapses of attention. Another explanation of why brief MM training improved cognition is associated with the ability to control the processing of self-referential thought. Some have provided evidence for overlapping networks between mindfulness, meta-awareness, executive functioning, and mind-wandering processes. Meta-awareness and executive functioning are independent but highly overlapping constructs. Mindfulness practice promotes a form of meta-cognitive insight, where MM practitioners learn to emotionally disengage from distracters (frustration, anxiety)”

Zeidana, F., Johnson, S. K., Diamond, B. J., David, Z. & Goolkasian, P. (2010). Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and Cognition,

19(2), 597-605. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2010.03.014

Limits of Language

This topic is of interest because you will sometimes hear stories of Zen masters, in response to a question, sending a truth-seeker on an errand, asking a question, or simply saying nothing. It is not to portray Zen as mysterious or to develop a complex initiation. Instead, it is because of the master’s understanding of the nature of truth and perception.

“When we say something, our subjective intention or situation is always involved. So there is no perfect word; some distortion is always present in a statement. . . . To understand reality as a direct experience is the reason we practice zazen, and the reason we study Buddhism. . . . In a strict sense, it is not possible to speak about reality” (p. 87) . . . “We are practicing zazen. So for us there is no need to know what Zen is intellectually” (p. 124) —Shunryu Suzuki, author of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Suzuki’s statement may be simply interpreted as describing the concept of relativism, in contrast to absolutism, which is the proposition that there is one true and correct view. Relativism does not necessarily imply a conviction that all points of view are equally valid. Relativism asserts that a particular fact exists only in combination with or as a by-product of a particular framework or viewpoint.

For example, consider that you want to measure the length of a coastline. Correct measurement will depend on the scale of interest, that is, whether you are interested in measuring flying distance, walking distance for a person who must take into account the distance over and around aspects of the landscape, or walking distance for an ant that must take into account the distance around each pebble. Even scientific research recognizes the impossibility of bias-free objective thought. [cite Khun]. Thus it attempts to corroborate by converging on a theme from various sources of evidence and types of measurement. Suzuki’s point is that it is more important to practice zazen, and thus to come to your own understanding through direct experience.

Instead, some prefer to follow a guru unquestioningly, and thus become subject to the inherent problems of relying on authority as a basis for understanding. Relying on authority makes one vulnerable to accepting the errors of understanding of the authority figure as well as ones own errors in comprehending the authority figure’s expressions.

Thus a Zen master, in response to a question, may ask a question in return, which prevents an answer from being misunderstood (the question may not enlighten, but at least the hearer doesn’t leave with a mistaken sense that the correct answer was received). Alternately, the master may simply saying nothing, because he or she perceives that the seeker is not prepared to comprehend the principle or because of a confidence that in time the seeker will comprehend it unassisted. The master may send a truth-seeker on an errand that brings him or her into direct observation to comprehend a principle. For example, tasting salt gives a full comprehension of the taste of salt, while a description of the taste of salt is useless. Similarly, a spiritual experience is often indescribable. Given the limits of language, nothing said before the experience will make much sense to one who has not encountered it, while after the experience, nothing remains to be explained.

Mentoring

Mentoring and Receiving a Mentor

The following are excerpts from a manual intended for mentoring in an occupational setting. In light of the beginning quote by Suzuki, beginner’s mind is simply to be in a learner mode rather than a judger mode. Likewise effective mentoring is described in the style of a Zen master.

“Challenge refers to those acts that provide a stretch experience for the learner: assigning mysterious tasks, introducing contradictory ideas, questioning tacit assumptions, or even risking damage to the relationship by refusing to answer questions. The function of challenge is to open a gap between the learner and the environment that creates tension in the learner. This gap calls out for closure—so that the learner must stretch herself to grow” (p. 15).

“Not only by ‘being there’ and ‘listening’ but also by their mere existence as experienced travelers, mentors provide continuity. . . . Any interchange with a learner will involve a mix of support and challenge, both going on at once. In an appropriate mix, development can occur” (p. 15).

“The sense of being really listened to comes from the willingness of the mentor to accept where the learner is and to acknowledge the legitimacy of that stance rather than to see the learner as someone in need of modification” (p. 16).

Zintz, A. (2002). Leaders as mentors. Hopedale, MA: Federal Training Network.

Teachers and Vendors

It takes humility to seek a teacher and mentor, then to be open to learning. It takes humility to be an effective teacher and mentor.

The sages universally revered engage in the teaching because of their compassion and because of their enjoyment of seeing growth. They frequently acknowledge the sayings of their teachers. I am wary of those who sell their wisdom and insight; there would be a temptation to present the most palatable and attractive product to entice the customer to buy again. I question the value of that attractive product. Although gaining insight can be exhilarating, the consensus among psychotherapists and their clients is that the process of lasting change, of growth, involves moments of excruciating awareness of aspects of ourselves that we hid from ourselves. The teacher’s gift is that these hidden aspects unfold in the safety of another’s wisdom and compassion, teaching us by their acceptance and humor that we too can embrace yet surpass our human foibles. The therapist is rightfully paid for (a) the service of coaching us as we learn the skills for self-discovery and (b) the service of painstakingly countering our self-deception. They are not paid for imparting their wisdom.

The sages universally revered frequently acknowledge the sayings of their teachers. Skillful teachers and therapists have a way of often guiding you to the point that you come to an answer yourself. I am wary of those who portray themselves as the source of wisdom or secret knowledge.

Buddha himself admonished his followers not to believe something simply because he said it, as is repeated in the following passages:

“Go your own way, on the path you select for yourself, corresponding to your own innermost inclination. Don’t accept any statement because I made it. Even if it is true a hundred times over, it still is not your truth, it still is not your experience, and it will not belong to you. Bring truth into being, and then it will belong to you. Regard the lives of those who have achieved truth only as proof that the goal can be reached” —Elisabeth Haich

Learning

You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him to discover it in himself. —Galileo Galilei

“The mind of the beginner is empty…ready to accept, to doubt, and open to all the possibilities. It is the kind of mind that can see things as they are, which step by step and in a flash can realize the original nature of everything” (pp. 13-14). —Shunryu Suzuki, author of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Zen Buddhism is not a religion, thus it has no doctrine or dogma. Zen Buddhism provides no system of accolades; it is its own reward. It is a tradition of using meditation, mentors, and a set of metaphorical writings to obtain insight. Its teachings are not to be accepted based on the authority of the teacher, but to lead to your own insight and experience. Many Zen masters have little to say, because they understand the limits of language. They understand that a concept that you do not reach on your own may answer your curiosity but will rarely transform your life. The benefit of a teacher is to be pointed in the right direction. Zen practice and insights do not necessarily require years of study or meditation; what is needed is awareness. It requires discipline to make a concerted effort that prepares the mind for insight, yet it can be a light-hearted journey.

“We take so many things for granted. Much of what we accept as truth is actually hearsay. We haven’t experimented and demonstrated the truth for ourselves. We confuse inner knowing with the knowledge we learn in school, a series of memorized facts. We might find a spiritual teacher and be so eager for guidance and feel so lost that we accept, without questioning, whatever the teacher says. We don’t work with the teachings, test them, and see if they work for us. In my own Buddhist practice I find in the teachings a map I can follow and discover truth for myself” —Diane Mariechildechild

See the related topics Enlightenment, Mentoring, and Limits of Language.

Direction and Goals

Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls. —Joseph Campbell

Direction

There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart. Pursue these. —Michael Nolan

If it doesn’t absorb you, if it isn’t any fun, don’t do it. —D.H. Lawrence

When we don’t enjoy what we do, we only nick the surface of our potential. —Dennis Wholey

The highest reward for a person’s work is not what they get for it, but what they become by it. —John Ruskin

Goals

Desires are healthy, and their pursuit pleasurable.  They are only destructive when they take away the three aforementioned aspects of guidance.  To comprehend the necessity of pursuit, you must focus on a desire without the impedance of conditioning and environmental persuasion.  This requires an enlightened, still mind, capable of being, and feeling presence in the present.  If you look at your writing that preceded this reply, you will notice, your struggle is between your inner influence and your societal influence, which is gardened by labels, names, tags, and other items of dialogue that are in control only when you identify with them. —Axely Congress

The value of achievement lies in the achieving….One should guard against preaching to young people success in the customary form as the main aim in life. The most Important motive for work in school and in life is pleasure in work, pleasure in its result, and the knowledge of the value of the result to the community. –Albert Einstein

Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory. —Mahatma Ghandi

Ethics

We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. —Aristotle

When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad, and that is my religion. –Abraham Lincoln

Don’t be too quick to draw conclusions from what happens to you; simply let it happen…One must be so careful with names anyway; it is so often the name of an offense that a life shatters upon, not the nameless and personal action itself, which was perhaps a quite definite necessity of that life and could have been absorbed by it without any trouble. —Ranier Maria Rilke

Ultimately, and precisely in the deepest and most important matters, we are unspeakably alone; and many things must happen, many things must go right, a whole constellation of events must be fulfilled for one human being to successfully advise or help another. —Ranier Maria Rilke

“Out beyond right-doing and wrong-doing … lies a field. 
I will meet you there.”
—Rumi

Humility

The true value of a human being can be found in the degree to which he has attained liberation from the self. —Albert Einstein

Humility is simply acceptance of the truth about oneself. It is not self-denigration; it is simply a gentle awareness and acceptance.

Discipline

As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world… as in being able to remake ourselves. —Mahatma Ghandi

The western world thinks of discipline as following rules, your own or someone else’s. That is a form of discipline, but not the only possible form.

Achievement-Based Discipline: There are a few drawbacks with the rule-based version of discipline. First, the rule may not be flexible enough to offer you optimal functioning in whole scheme of your life. Second, when you’ve outgrown the rule, you might be inhibited by your set course. Third, it usually isn’t much fun.

“When it is time to get up, just get up. Even though you don’t like it, just get up. Getting up will free you from the fact that you have to get up” – Katagiri Roshi

http://zenhabits.net/enjoy-the-habit/

I am never worth more as a human than the extent of my discipline. Discipline is at its perfection when it is exercised in a way that fulfills you. —Axely Congress

Awareness-Based Discipline: Discipline does not have to mean forcing yourself to do what you don’t want to do, such as to conform to a dull or uncomfortable routine for future gain. It is to acknowledge a painful truth rather than to run from or rationalize it. In this practice, there aren’t any rules to break. There is just awareness.

You are already perfect. http://zenhabits.net/perfect/

Achieving without goals. http://zenhabits.net/achieving/

Compassion and Justice

In spiritual maturity, the opposite of injustice is not justice, but compassion. Not me against you, not me straightening out the present ill, fighting to gain a just result for myself and others, but compassion, a life that goes against nothing and fulfills everything. —Charlotte Joko Beck

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. . . .  Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that. –-Martin Luther King Junior

Whoever relies on the Tao in governing men, doesn’t try to force issues or defeat enemies by force of arms. For every force there is a counterforce. Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself.  –Lao Tzu in Tao Te Ching

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind…. If blood be shed, let it be our blood. Cultivate the quiet courage of dying without killing. For man lives freely only by his readiness to die, if need be, at the hands of his brother, never by killing him. –-Mahatma Gandhi

Mercy and compassion are attainable ideals. Justice is not. There are too many problematic issues in seeking justice, because justice always involves human interaction. There’s no one who can accurately determine what is fair and what is not, because in any interaction there seem to be a hundred different ways to tally up what we’ve given and taken in time, money, and opportunity to and from each other. To what extent should one be held accountable for what was done unintentionally or intentionally under duress? To what extent should one be held accountable for an unanticipated outcome or the actions of a group to which one belongs? In the end, we cannot define insanity or know what it is to be in another’s head. In the end, we cannot assign responsibility to another for our grief or any other state of mind, to say that they must make reparations because of what we chose to allow ourselves to dwell on.

Jesus said, “Judge not that ye be not judged.” Thus Christians like to say they “evaluate” rather than judge. They like to use the term “tough love” when their stance leans more toward justice than mercy. If compassion and kindness are reserved for those who “deserve it,” then it is justice, not mercy. It is the Mosaic law of an eye for an eye, not the teaching of Jesus to turn the other cheek. It seems his point was that we don’t have much to gain from fighting. In most cases, the greater good would be served by giving up a claim on justice.

While justice is endlessly complex and incalculable, the attainable ideal of compassion is simple, and the key to its practice is stated in each of the major philosophical or religious systems: do to others what you would want done to you.

Ego

We in the western tradition are fully committed to individuality: individual rights, individual responsibilities, individual choice. What this amounts to on a psychological level is ego cultivation. It’s competitive. While many believe that competition promotes personal excellence and economic prosperity, it has disastrous affects on our shared earth environment and our close interpersonal relationships. For this reason, a self-centered focus is decried in all spiritual traditions. On a personal level, it’s exhausting.

Transcending our individuality will not make us inactive. It will transform selfish activity. What is destructive within us will become creative. Our sensitivity will grow so that we become incapable of thinking of our own needs in isolation from the rest of life. As our joy expands, the perceived need to exploit others will shrink. —Diane Mariechild in Open Mind

One of the most interesting, and somewhat shocking, conclusions currently emerging from cognitive research is scientists’ apparent inability to find a ‘self’ or director in the brain who runs our personal drama…. With few exceptions, cognitive scientists have come to understand the egolessness of self. What is surprising, however, is how little their scientific conclusion is taken personally, or really applied to the individual’s life (p. 7). One possible reaction is to say, ‘Oh, my God, I don’t exist.’ But from a dharmic perspective you might say, ‘What a relief! I don’t have to hold onto the illusion of self.’ One of the things you realize in meditation practice is that once you let go of the belief in self, there are no terrible consequences. You do not cease to function or even thrive (p.8) –Excerpts from “What a Relief! I Don’t Exist: Buddhism and the Brain,” an interview with cognitive scientist Francisco Varela.

Present Moment

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly. —Buddha

Living with a focus on past regrets or future worries makes the present meaningless, because one is lost from the pleasure and connections that could be experienced in that moment. Yet at the same time, the present, without a memory of the past and openness for the future, also would be meaningless, because there would be no context for fully experiencing the present. It is somewhat a paradox, yet it does not need to be resolved intellectually. When we can change our thoughts of the past and future from regret and worry (both fear-based) into learning and acceptance, then the context for the experience of the present becomes more conducive to peace. To do so may require simply a choice, or it may require discipline and repeated practice to retrain the mind from its habitual pathways. Aren’t these both true? The repeated practice is simply a choice, made over and over again in the present moment.

From every branch flowers drift and mingle down, saying, “Now.” The spring departs until the paths she takes in leaving cannot be seen. —Izumi Shikibu

This is true for any beautiful moment. It lasts for a short time. If we are willing to stop and experience it, drink it in with gratitude, then we’ll be open for the next time it happens. . . . There is nothing extraneous. As we grow in mindfulness, what used to distract us is no longer so urgent. When the mind is restful and no longer caught in conflicting thoughts, the energy is strong. We bring a simplicity with us, no matter how busy we may become. With awareness, each moment is experienced fresh and new. When the mind is calm and open, we realize the world is sacred. —Diane Mariechild, author of Open Mind

Impermanence

We all share a deep vulnerability. Everything changes. Wisdom is the ultimate protection because it helps us face life as it really is. —Michelle McDonald, clinical psychologist and editor of “Mind Moon Circle,” Sydney Zen Centre

We know all experience is temporary and nothing lasts forever. Holding back and not looking because of potential disappointment over its impermanence prevents us from seeing and causes us pain. Grasping and trying to make the experience last also causes pain. —Diane Mariechild, author of Open Mind

We’ve all heard and to some degree agreed with the idea that the only constant is change, yet we so often resist the idea of something we enjoy being gone from our lives. At the extreme of this resistance, we don’t want to see life as impermanent. Some believe that life is meaningless without the idea of an individual ego that transcends death. The existential angst of our western culture is seen in our avoidance of the topic of death, in our denial of death in the stories we tell children about heaven. Christians are essentially taught to live their lives with their hope of peace and happiness delayed until that bright future, in other words, delayed until their death. On the contrary, Shunryu Suzuki says that only when you realize that everything is just a flashing into the vast universe, your existence becomes meaningful (Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, p. 107). Leo Buscalia similarly noted that only because of the brevity of our lives do we take notice that we must seize and relish this day, this moment. When you experience a shift into that space of letting go of the illusion of control and permanence, you might find that you actually like it. There is a sense of peace and freedom when you internalize and accept truth.

Enlightenment

We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are. —Anaïs Nin

————————————————————–

You should know there is also a heaven in the earth;  to seek it single mindedly is to seek immortality. —Cui Shaoxuan

Most of us see reality as something permanent and solid, that exists outside ourselves. The real world is the business world, the material world, and we are taught how to succeed in this world, how to get things that will make us happy. There are many who think the existence of a reality beyond what they know with their five senses is simply fantasy. Others believe there is something else, but that it is only after death and if we are blessed or saved that we will reach this other world. It isn’t known when Chi Shaoxuan practiced. What is known is that she achieved immortality, that is, she understood the true nature of mortality. A name for this understanding is enlightenment. Enlightenment is the development of virtuous action and wisdom to the highest degree, and it is possible while living within the material world. The Tao is the natural law. The mind of the Tao is within the human mind. To study the Tao is to study the natural order of things, to work with this natural order rather than against it. —Diane Mariechild, in Open Mind, p. 11/7

3a…the Kingdom is within you and it is outside of you. 3b When you understand yourselves you will be understood. And you will realize that you are Sons of the living Father. If you do not know yourselves, then you exist in poverty and you are that poverty. 67 Jesus said: One who knows everything else but who does not know himself knows nothing. 70 When you give rise to that which is within you, what you have will save you. If you do not give rise to it, what you do not have will destroy you. 91 They said to him: Tell us who you are so that we can believe in you. He replied: You analyze the appearance of the sky and earth, but you don’t recognize what is right in front of you, and you don’t know the nature of the present time.

92 Seek and you will find. 108 He who drinks from my mouth will become like I am, and I will become he. And the hidden things will be revealed to him. 113 His disciples asked him: When is the Kingdom coming? He replied: It is not coming in an easily observable manner. People will not be saying, “Look, it’s over here” or “Look, it’s over there.” Rather the Kingdom of the Father is already spread out on the earth, and people aren’t aware of it. —Yeshuah Ben Joseph (Jesus of Nazareth)

from Davies, S. (Trans.). (1948). The gospel of Thomas. Woodstock, VT: Skylight Illuminations.

How do we prepare ourselves to accept that what we are looking for is within? First, we need to turn down the noise of the distractions on the outside so we can see the contrast between what comes from the outside and what can be felt within. 

When we begin to feel that contrast, it becomes easier and easier to see that the peace, the beauty, the joy that we are looking for are already within. Then the acceptance grows that there is a world within. –David Klamph, Words of Peace Global Foundation

Be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind. —Ranier Maria Rilke, poet

The nature of enlightenment:

http://www.daozang.com/sijitzu.php?do=Caging_the_Wind

(See also in the archives folder the post on spirituality.)

Balance

In all perfectly beautiful objects there is found the opposition of one part to another and a reciprocal balance —John Ruskin

The passage below speaks of the realization of Siddhartha who became the Buddha. He enjoyed an indulgent life of pleasure in his youth, later renounced the worldly life to become an ascetic, then finally embraced a balance between these.

“These three ways of life may be compared to the strings of different tensions on a lute. The loose string, which is like a life of indulgence, produces a poor sound when struck. The overly tight string, which is like a life of extreme asceticism, similarly produces a poor sound when struck and is, moreover, likely to break at any moment. Only the middle string, which is neither too loose nor too tight, and is like the middle path, produces a pleasant and harmonious sound when struck. So those who follow the middle path which avoids the extreme of indulging one’s desires and the opposite extreme of torturing one’s mind and body unreasonably, will find happiness, peace of mind and enlightenment” (¶ 2 from www.zenguide.com /principles/path_to_end_of_suffering.cfm)

The Buddhist way of life is not the avoiding of the dichotomies, but is instead a recognition of the bridge between the two, and how to, in life, traverse that bridge with clarity, and given time, remain on the bridge in a peaceful state of mind as the momentum of the dichotomies sways.  You speak from conditioning, religious conditioning to put it more precisely.  You have been taught to see the majority of life as black and white, good and bad, as the majority of the world has.  The glaring issue with this perspective is that a person’s mind can constantly be trying to find balance between the two, as opposed to recognizing the natural sense of being, where you allow the feelings of peace, safety, and pleasure to guide you. You are never settled and you are always trying to find the middle ground, instead of realizing you are the middle ground.  —Axely Congress

Acceptance

Serenity comes when you trade expectations for acceptance. —unknown

…of your Path

When you find time in life to let things be what they are, and allow those things to move you into places you never thought possible, you’ve then begun to realize what life is all about. Allow life to happen, and move in the direction your music in life takes you without resistance. Then you will find peace in life, no matter what the rhythm of life becomes. Let go the complex thinking that only serves to take away the natural beauties in life. Allow what naturally attracts you to be pursued with curiosity, enthusiasm, and focus. —Axely Congress

…of Self

Spirituality is being mindful right now. It is loving who you are and how you are in every moment, especially those moments of despair and rage. It is softening and loving, knowing it’s going to be okay. Spirituality is learning to make friends again and again with our shameful parts, our confusing parts, our wild parts, our silly parts, the whole of ourselves. Right now. —Mariechild

…of the Past

On the spiritual path we often talk about the necessity of letting go. However, there is a difference between letting go and denying or pushing away. Without remembering, without accepting and embracing what has happened, we can’t let go, we can’t open into the present or move into the future with clarity. We must embrace, acknowledge, honor, and accept our experiences, both good and bad, joyful and painful, by saying, “Yes, this is what happened. This is what is.” In that acceptance our heart is opening and in that opening, there is a release. We may think of letting go as a separate action. We collect a lot of baggage and then hopefully, we can let go of the experience. In the beginning we may only be able to let go after the experience is finished. As we become skillful we bring a more spacious attitude toward all our experiences. We can open to each experience without either trying to make it last or get rid of it. Then the letting go is inherent in each action. —Mariechild

…of What Is

There is usually much striving and grasping in our actions, and disappointment in not getting what we want or getting what we don’t want….Expectations are destructive. However well-intentioned we may be, the expectation puts the power outside of us. Expectations create pressure and conflict. Failure is programmed into expectation. This failure leads to disappointment, despair, anger, and pain. Whether we suffer from the pressure of other people’s expectations or our own, it is the expectation that hurts. . . . Trying to get, trying to keep, and trying to push away create an ongoing level of stress and tension. To be on center, we must embrace the whole of life. . . . In an attitude of surrender and acceptance, everything is welcomed. —Mariechild

Contentment and Simplicity

He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have. —Socrates

Contentment

It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere. —Agnes Repplier

Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. —Lao Tzu, in the Tao te Ching

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…. It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. —Melodie Beattie

Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants. —Epicurus

Simplicity

Short is the road which leads philosophers to wealth. It is built in this way: do not multiply your belongings, but restrain your desires. –Francesco Petrarca, renaissance poet and scholar

Who has not found the heaven below, will fail it above, for angels rent the house next ours wherever we remove. –Emily Dickinson

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. — Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring

The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive. —Thich Nhat Hanh

One writer offers his insight about transitioning into simplicity in his lifestyle, in a biographical account at  http://zenhabits.net/

http://zenhabits.net/kill-your-to-do-list/

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