Posts Tagged ‘practice’

This week one of the members of the online community I am a member of suggested the following questions for reflection, based on Mind Training in Seven Points by Ken McLeod:

Can you be a child of illusion?, can you see the magic in the world around you even in the most difficult times?

If you can, then how does it make you feel? If you cannot then why not? What is stopping you?

Where do I even start? 🙂  Although I would very much like to return to the magic world of the childhood, it does not strike me as a particularly informed one. Children are this way because they cannot be any other way (and how wonderful is that!) It reminds me of a judgement that can often be heard about the works of artists who choose to express their vision in a more abstract way, “But even a child could make a picture like that!” Exactly! Only this is the only way a child can make pictures, which is not the case with artists. Kids have to go through those pains of development, with the support of the parents and the tribe (some don’t go far but that is a different issue). They have to discover the world is not rotating around them (moving from the egocentric perspective to a wider, etnocentric and then to worldcentric), that parents are not perfect and that in life we inevitably encounter loss and suffering. At the same time they are being socialized and conditioned by the people they are very dependable on. This is a lot to take in! Honestly, I don’t envy children.

So when I take up questions like the ones outlined above, I have to remind myself to not idealize something and keep in mind the intention. The intention behind my practice is not to forget all the things I know about life of which loss and death are a part of, but to be aware of choices in life and make informed decisions. With this in mind, I move into exploring what it is that keeps me from experiencing the world through the eyes of a child. I supposed this is what in Zen traditions is called Zen mind. The qualities I associate with this state is gentle curiosity, openness and playfulness. Openness to whatever arises, good or bad.

What is this mystery of life we are talking about here?

“Perhaps the mystery makes itself felt as a moment of timeless presence, of being so completely here that you wonder where you’ve been all your life. The moment passes however, and a wall goes back up. You realize that you live behind that wall… You live with the isolation, but deep inside you wonder, “What is this wall?”

– Ken McLeod, “Wake up to your life”, p. 4.

What stops you from experiencing the mystery of life? What is this wall Ken writes about? When is it more likely to come up?


Read Full Post »

In his  interview at  Buddhist Geeks lama Surya Das was asked about the ways that would allow us to experience the transformative powers of spirituality in our everyday lives and outlined the following six building blocks as a base for a well-rounded and grounded spiritual practice.

  • a daily, formal spiritual practice period (meditation, prayer, yoga, chanting, etc)
  • some form of spiritual study (anything from opening the book of nature to studying yourself to studying your relationships)
  • inner growth work (therapy, men and women’s support groups, twelve step programs)
  • working with teachers, elders, experts, and mentors
  • group practice, being a part of a community
  • some form of service, giving back

He also noted that most of the time we already are doing one or two of those and that could be enough for some period of time (parenting, being a good colleague and worker, being engaged in the community work, etc). What I particularly was glad to hear was the point about the inner work. It is my understanding that meditation alone is not enough to help us deal with the internal issues and as another guest at BGs mentioned some time earlier, it was not designed for it.  This inner growth work includes any kind of self-inquiry work that gives us insights about ourselves such as expressive arts, gardening, contemplation.

I have been exploring different forms of inner work, depending on what I have access to and what appeals to me at the moment. Moving to a greener part of town that would allow me to take walks in the fields and the forest at any time was a way to come closer to nature that always brings me back to center and is conducive to the contemplative moods as opposed to analytical thinking. I see the inner work as coming close to the unconscious part of ourselves by getting to know its language that uses symbols to communicate to us.

“To get a true sense of who we are, become more complete and integrated human beings, we must go to the unconscious and set communication with it. …It is only by approaching it that we have a chance to become conscious, complete, whole human beings… We begin to live in partnership with the unconscious rather than at its mercy or in constant warfare with it.”

Robert A. Johnson “Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth”


Read Full Post »

When I saw that Vince Horn was interviewing Insight meditation teacher Christopher Titmuss on Buddhist Geeks on the issues of sexuality and love in the practice of Dharma (episodes 176 & 177) , I heard myself exclaiming, “At last!” As lay practitioners we deal with these issues everyday yet few Buddhist teachers in their Dharma talks explore the ways of being a sexual being and a Dharma practitioner. Probably because there is not much said about it in the traditions or because these questions are not often asked? A the same time, I cannot help but notice that many people around me, including those practising Buddhism, have been going through separations and divorces and often see those relationships ending as a failure.

Here I could not agree more with Christopher when he points out that in our modern world defining a successful relationship as long-lasting, monogamous, heterosexual, etc is not helpful to us. I find that by putting a label on the relationship (many of which are simply too narrow for our modern lives) or deciding what it is supposed to be like we put an additional pressure on it which can lead to its premature ending, at least in its current form. I realise it is not the label per se that puts pressure on us but the expectations we associate with it and the static, Polaroid-like image in our head of what it should be like. It is then even more important to bring attention and exploration into these areas and observe the whole dynamics as the relationship unfolds.

The questions I ask myself about anything when I feel stuck, including all areas of the heart are

What is the most important thing for me in this area?


What does it ask from me on a daily basis?


Read Full Post »

Xuefeng Yicun was once the tenzo under Dongshan Liangjie. One day when Xuefeng was washing rice Dongshan happened to pass by and asked, “Do you wash the sand and pick out the rice, or wash the rice and pick out the sand?” “I wash and throw away both the sand and the rice together,” Xuefeng replied. “Then what on earth do the residents here eat?” Dongshan pressed again. In reply, Xuefeng turned over the rice bucket. On seeing that, Dongshan said, “The day will come when you will practice under another master.”

Dogen, “Instructions for Zen Cook”

During the second webinar Dosho briefly went through the story which is about intimately studying the self. Dongshan asks Xuefeng, What is the essence of your practice? Do you throw away what you don’t want or focus on getting what you want? He considers practice to be a concrete expression of our life, not something conceptual, theoretical. Xuefeng’s answer is overdramatic: he turns the bucket over, spilling everything onto the floor. Dongshan is not questioning this response but suggests that Xuefeng with time find a teacher supportive of this more demonstrative style of practice.

As always with these stories, I had no idea where to go with it. So I just let it simmer for a while.


Read Full Post »

The purpose of our Buddhist practice is to learn to see things as they are which also includes seeing all sides of ourselves as they are. How is that working out for you? Me, I am having great difficulty in the all sides of myself- area.

Often I was told what I should be like or what I should not be like – by family, teachers, partners, employers, culture – and was so busy trying to become someone else I never really had a chance of getting to know myself, not the one that I thought I was or should be, but just as I was. So I spent a huge chunk of my life energy in endless self-improvement projects.  The time has come to meet the whole me (not the perfect me) and get to know that “person I would rather not be”, or my shadow, using the Jungian term.

You must go into the dark  in order to bring forth your light. When we suppress any feeling or impulse, we are also suppressing its polar opposite. If we deny our ugliness, we lessen our beauty. If we deny our fear, we minimize our courage. If we deny our greed, we also reduce our generosity. If you believe that we have an imprint of all humanity within us, as I do, then you must be capable of being the greatest person you ever admired, and at the same time capable of being the worst person you ever imagined”.

Debbie Ford, “The Dark Side of the Light Chasers”.


Read Full Post »

For Saturday’s  webinar we were asked to reflect on the question,  “Is the body great or small?”. I noticed the frustration I felt with the way the question was formulated and my internal resistance toward setting a label, defining the body in terms of it’s size. As soon as I said something about the size, it became reduced to that – size, something relative, a concept. The body itself did not seem to matter that much any more. It held no mystery.

Still, in our lives we do have to measure, to compare. “Is the practice  great or small?”. If I don’t measure it, how do I even know if I’ve moved at all or am still stuck on the same spot? How could I measure my practice? Not in hours spent on the cushion, or the number of Dharma books I read or retreats I attended. I guess ultimately it was about the question, What is it that I want from my practice?


Read Full Post »

It is a challenge to be working on Genjokoan and it’s inspiring to do that with the teacher that taggs on our sleeves to remind us to avoid the Zen snare of dry, conceptual understanding and encourages us to “have a keen and sensitive busshit detector to do this work “.

Once again – the koan in the Genjo Koan, with Mayu fanning himself and the bowing monk.

Mayu was fanning himself. A monk approached and said, “Master, the nature of wind is permanent and there is no place it does not reach. Why then do you fan yourself?”

“Although you understand that the nature of the wind is permanent,” Mayu replied,” you do not understand the meaning of its reaching everywhere.”

“What is the meaning of its reaching everywhere?” asked the monk again.

Mayu just kept fanning himself. The monk bowed deeply.

Dosho tosses us the question again and again:

What did the monk see that he expressed by bowing?

In one of the posts on his blog he writes:

“Now you might find yourself wanting to dismiss the question. “Bowing is just bowing.” This is one-sided, emphasizing not thinking, and so doesn’t have the power to cause a lineage to bloom (or to ripen the great earth’s goldenness). Watch out for the snare using Zen talk to not deal with this issue (or any other)!

What Dogen saw in the monks bow, and what the Genjokoan unpacks in rolling hopping along vividness, had such an enormous power that it caused our lineage to bloom for some hundreds of years with all the freedom that goes with it.

If we today dismiss the needle point of this question or are satisfied with thin explanations, we won’t have the strength of love to bring it forth in our daily life.

Here’s my humble take on it. We have the preconditions for life: a body and oxygen we find in the air. Yet to realise life itself, to manifest the living, we have to bring oxygen into the body by inhaling the air and exhaling it, inhaling and exhaling… For as long as we live.

The same goes for practice. Practice equals the verb just like breathing is. We cannot breath just by simply understanding the mechanics of it, cognitively knowing how it works. Knowledge of what makes a practice is useless if it is separate from the activities of everyday life.  If we stop breathing our organs will not get enough oxygen and will stop functioning. Practice is dead without the realisation of it, the actual doing it. We cannot know the practice, we have to live it.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: