Written by Joseph Sheader
Another summer is on the way out. Each summer has its own story and events. Like the days and seasons and years before us one can never know what unexpected happenings will occur. This one was most notable in that it was the first summer since 90 that our son Kerry was not living with us and at the same time likely the last summer our daughter Lorien is with is as she soon departs for the Northwest and the college life that awaits her. A summer of transitions and themes...
I found my summer trajectory focused on running more than I had originally envisioned last spring. Early on my son Kerry conveyed he was interested in running the fabled Imogene Pass Run. A 17 = mile mountain run from Ouray to Telluride held each September. I and Linda have both done it twice. It had not really been in my plans but a few years back when Kerry was interested but unable due to XC, I said post high school if he was ever inclined and I'd do it with him. Sure enough he pulled that card.
All the training has been good though some difficult. Won a alpine race early in June but July found me with a strained calf and little running. With some new shoes (inov-8's) healing was accelerated and training back into gear. That's the beauty of a event like Imogene... the running and training leading up to it. I prep myself but have no reason or compulsion to be type A about it. For me its a matter of vitality and strength. If I am not experiencing those then I adjust. Coupled with my martial arts this summer I am doing less milage than in the past yet the longer runs are ever more like silk.
Our bodies and minds thereof are dynamic, and fitness is something you engage each day rather than some mere destination or attainment. Its about experiencing your vitality each day and giving it the appropriate challenge to grow with fluidity. Static liner fitness is a bore. A practice that is both play and discipline, that is fluid and dynamic, that is linked with natural seasons of body and earth not only enables you to enjoy events like Imogene, it enables you to take in with equanimity and joy and strength the other events in your life both easy and hard, joyful and sad, mellow and stressful like no other practice.
This brings me to my thoughts the other day... running a favorite alpine trail with my son on my birthday of 51 years I found myself gliding thru conifer, spruce, aspen; late summer wildflowers about mother earth, father sky above giving gentle rumbles of thunder; a slight breeze carrying the distant scent of rain and balsam from the forest floor rising up before me; my feet lightly touching up on rock and earth and pine needle, my breath steady yet at ease. There was effort yet no struggle...wei wu wei as the taoists call it, the experience of vitality and sight and sense enabled by the gift of movement thru a local of the verse that only a running pace provides.
It occurred to me however, in this day and age how so very few could do and enjoy this act as inherent and as natural to us as the blood in our veins. It reminds me of the words of the ancient Greek Philosopher Socrates "No one has a right to be an amateur in the matter for physical training… What a disgrace it is for a one to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his/her body is capable.”
We are only here for a moment. I remain bewildered and honestly, disgusted, with the disregard the majority show towards health, fitness, strength and the very vitality provided to us to more fully experience this thin place and time we have between earth and sky. Why else are they here? are you here? To generate a good 401K? Pitiful. Sad. Man are they missing out.
Compacted, frozen pain energy is like a baby. As a mother does not address her fussing baby with nondual language, neither do we in the meeting with ourselves. You may know and understand a lot and be conscious, but these energies are not conscious.
You come into direct relationship with them. Direct but gentle, not piercing, not intrusive, not willpowering anything. Asking contracted energy what it needs is a lovely way of acknowledging its presence and becoming intimate with it. Everything that is not at rest wants to be acknowledged, to be received and bathed in gentleness and benevolence.
It calls for a major slowing down, to receive the old, repressed cries of pain that show up now as contractions, as bodily sensations.
The mind is conditioned to want results - the result in this case being the disappearance of the disturbance. It is very, very sweet to bypass this, allowing the body to have what it has for as long as it does. You may walk around for hours with disturbance but you can be nurturing and aware of your precious cargo. Mercy and opening.
As you become more relaxed with meeting energy in yourself, you find a natural extension of this happening with others. Pain energy in another is no different in any way from energy in your own system. It is all the same separated, totally impersonal energy seeking resolution, looking for Home. So you find yourself, if the situation is fitting, in direct, welcoming relationship with these balls of energy in another, bypassing the personality and issue and mechanisms of mind. A catalyst for the dissolution of pain in others, a totally organic movement of Love.
The Kuan Yin of your heart is awakening. You come to see that You are Home and all is invited and welcomed Here.
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Once, a farmer went to tell the Buddha about his problems. He described his difficulties farming - how either droughts or monsoonscomplicated his work. He told the Buddha about his wife - how even though he loved her, there were certain things about her he wanted to change. Likewise with his children - yes, he loved them, but they
weren't turning out quite the way he wanted. When he was finished, he asked how the Buddha could help him with his troubles.
The Buddha said, "I'm sorry, but I can't help you."
"What do you mean?" railed the farmer. "You're supposed to be a great teacher!"
The Buddha replied, "Sir, it's like this. All human beings have eighty-three problems. It's a fact of life. Sure, a few problems may go away now and then, but soon enough others will arise. So we'll always have eighty-three problems."
The farmer responded indignantly, "Then what's the good of all your teaching?"
The Buddha replied, "My teaching can't help with the eighty-three problems, but perhaps it can help with the eighty-fourth problem."
"What's that?" asked the farmer.
"The eighty-fourth problem is that we don't want to have any problems.
In the seeking, we become frustrated because we never seem to find what we seek. The trouble is we are always searching in the appearance, and the idea of "me" searching is within the appearance. All seeking is in the appearance, since who we truly are is not a thing that appears, nor the "seeker", there is a endless amount of frustration arising.
Who You Are is not seeking, doesn't need to seek, needs nothing, wants nothing, and is totally complete. This statement is frustrating to the seeker, and rightly so, because as long as there is the belief in a "me", which is an appearance of thought, there is the belief in "other than me", the other appearances.
Many of the traditions teach us to look within for answers, for the Kingdom of Heaven, for peace. In nonduality of course there is no inner nor outer, yet when talking about this a way of saying it is not to look out to the world, to the appearance to find peace.
If this resonates, then it is being heard without ears, it is being known in the heart, in the opposite direction, so to speak. "In the heart" is That which is prior to the appearance, That which holds the appearance.
However, if this doesn't resonate, you are seeking as a "you" within the appearance, a "you" trying to find "other than you" to make "you" whole. These damned words get in the way of defining the true essence. Try to describe the taste of an apple to one who has never tasted an apple, now go a step further and try to explain it without using words, only gestures, how would you get the point across? The only way possible, by giving them an apple and saying "taste". So, here is your invitation to taste!
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John Wooden was arguably *the* greatest coach of all time in any sport. The guy won 10 championships in 12 years at UCLA and had an 88-game undefeated streak that ran nearly 3 years. (Go Bruins! :)
Wooden was all about consistency on the fundamentals and had an awesome way of kicking off each season. Imagine the greatest young basketball players in the US showing up for the first day of practice. Guess what Coach would start with...
He’d show them how to put on their socks.
Why? Because if they couldn’t put their socks on just right, they might get a blister. Get a blister and they might miss practice time. Miss practice time and their game-time performance would suffer.
The equation was simple: Blister = No championship.
Kinda begs the question: Any “blisters” slowing you down?
If so, you might wanna look at how you’re putting on your socks.
Fact is, when we don’t pay attention to the little things, we’re gonna get blisters. Tragically, rather than see that our blisters (aka depression/anxiety/fatigue) are caused by the wrinkles in our socks (lack of exercise/ lack of inspiring goals/lack of commitment/whatever other fundamentals we’re ignoring), we reach for the nearest band-aid (antidepressant/remote control/beer) and *totally* ignore the CAUSE of our various blisters.
D’oh. Not a good idea. Makes a whole lot more sense to slow down a bit and get those socks on nice and neat, eh?
Identify your fundamentals. What are the things that, when you do them consistently, make you feel GREAT?!
It might be meditating daily, exercising, journaling, doing yoga, keeping a gratitude log, reading inspiring wisdom, pursuing goals that fire you up, choosing to see the positive in challenges (or all of the above!), but whatever your fundamentals are, you’ve gotta get REALLY clear on ’em and develop the blissipline to crush it. Yah?
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In addition to having the world’s greatest sweater-vest collection, Eckhart Tolle has some really powerful ideas for optimal living. But I think a lot of people who get all horny about creating A New Earth via the Power of Now fall into what I call “The Tolle Trap”—where it’s *ALL* about being in the moment. (D’oh. It’s not.)
In his fab book, Happier, the good Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar articulates four different “archetypes” that provide a useful model to help us conceptualize (and address) the problem. Here’s my take on it:
- The Rat Racer: The typical Western mode of being. Always chasing goals we’re told matter, never really happy because we’re Never. Quite. There.
- The Hedonist: The typical “spiritual” way of being. Misreading Tolle and the Gita, thinking it’s ALL about just being in the moment. (Eek.)
- The Nihilist: Bounces back and forth between those two then flips everyone (and everything) off and becomes the cynic (aka, a disillusioned idealist).
- The Happy Person: Realizes life is all about having goals that inspire us AND loving this moment as we take baby steps in the direction of our ideals.
It’s easy to bounce around all four ways of being, but let’s not kid ourselves that we’re either happy or spiritual as we pretend to “get it” and just love love love the power of now.
Fact is, even Tolle appreciates the importance of goals and provides some great advice on the subject— telling us goals are important but that we want to make sure we don’t let what he calls “clock time” slip into “psychological time.”
Healthy human beings use clock time to set goals and organize their tasks accordingly.
Unhealthy human beings slip into psychological time as they waste energy getting anxious about the outcomes of future events or they get their panties/undies in a bunch with guilt/shame about past events. OR, they lose their vitality and overall life mojo as they fall into The Tolle Trap of trying to avoid goals altogether. (Or, they do all three. ;)
How about you? Where are you hanging out? How can you more consistently play in the happiness zone? Do you need more truly inspiring goals? More presence?
Let’s set some goals that inspire us, love where we’re at and have fun taking the next step in the direction of our dreams!
Check out www.philosophersnotes.com.
Dukkha. It’s the word Buddhists use to describe the suffering inherent to life and comes from the ancient Pali word that describes a potter’s wheel that isn’t... quite... spinning... right. The axle’s a little off and it screeches as it turns. Eek.
That’s basically what happens to us way too often— we get stuck on a thought or in a certain perspective and can’t... quite... let it... go.
Dukkha. It’s that “stuckness” that creates our suffering. The essence of the Buddha’s teachings is how we can get unstuck and experience the freedom of a mind that moves freely.
How about a couple Buddhist stories to help bring the point home?
First, Zen Master Genpo Roshi tells us to imagine we’re driving a sweet Maserati. And it’s stuck in first gear. D’oh.
We may be stuck in first and not able to get out of bed in the morning or stuck in reverse and unable to drop something from the past or maybe we’re stuck in fifth and can’t slow down. In any case, if we can’t easily shift gears, we’re going to suffer. Dukkha.
Next: Load up six blind doods in that Maserati and drive ’em to a zoo where they can all experience an elephant for the first time.
The first guy touches the tail and is certain that an elephant is like a rope. The second guy touches the leg and is sure the elephant is like a pillar while the third guy goes for the tusk and says the elephant is like a spear. The other three go for different parts and have different perspectives (the back is like a throne; the trunk is like a tree branch; the ear is like a hand fan).
Now, what’s fascinating is that they’re all 100% certain *their* perspective is the only possible reality. Dukkha. (Anything like that ever happen to you?)
The lesson: We need to slide into sukkha by noticing when we think our perspective is the only one possible as we train ourselves to see multiple perspectives.
In short, next time you’re stuck, remember to shift gears and to see the whole elephant. (How? Try to see the other person’s perspective!)
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Optimism. It’s Principle #1. All the great teachers—from Aurelius and the Buddha to the modern gurus and scientists—tell us the same thing: If we can’t control the contents of our consciousness and tame those gremlins of fear and anxiety and self-doubt, none of the rest of this stuff matters. Period.
Before Martin Seligman started studying optimism and happiness and meaning, he spent a couple decades studying the opposite of optimism: helplessness.
Imagine a study with two dogs. They’re both given shocks at random intervals. One can press a lever to stop the shocks. The other can’t. The first dog quickly discovers how to stop the shocks and is fine. The other dog—the one who can’t do anything about the shocks— eventually gives up and curls into a helpless little ball in the corner as the shocks continue. Eek.
That’s Part I of the study.
Part 2: Those same dogs are put into a new environment. This time, both dogs can easily avoid the shocks. The healthy dog quickly discovers the trick and is fine. The other dog, EVEN THOUGH IT NOW HAS THE POWER TO CHANGE THINGS, just gives up—curling into a ball as the shocks continue (and con- tinue and continue). The dog has learned helplessness.
So have we.
After being shocked by life so many times through- out our lives, too often we “learn helplessness” and just give up—forgetting that, even though we might’ve been morons many times before, we ALWAYS (!!!) have the ability to choose a more effective response to whatever challenges we’re currently facing.
KNOW THIS: Choosing to curl up in the corner (or in bed) as we helplessly let life shock us again and again is THE quickest way to ensure we’re depressed (and, in the process, destroy our psychological and immunological health).
We’ve gotta learn optimism. Let’s learn how. (But first, how about a look at crazy monkeys and ANTs?)
1. You start out with the belief that you are a separately existing self in a world of other, separately existing things that live within a reality called space and time. Separation is the name of the game here. Almost everyone that comes to a nondual teaching is here. You heavily privilege appearances because that is all you see--separate appearances.
2. You see that what you took to be separately existing things are thoughts and sensory experiences. You see that space and time are also just thoughts, not separately existing things "out there." You see everything is a thought, first and foremost.
3. You notice that these thoughts and sensory experiences are really just movements that come and go within an unchanging and unmoving, ever-present formless, non-conceptual awareness, and realize that your real identity is this awareness. This feels like witnessing still, however, as if there is a witness that sees everything come and go. There is still a subtle belief that awareness and the appearances within awareness are separate in some way.
At this point, you may find yourself privileging awareness over appearances. You may experience awareness as an inert unchanging space or void where movement, change, and thought (i.e., the world) begin to fall into the background more and more. You may even find yourself in a deep rest period where the mind is silent. This is great! Just don't get stuck there. Signs that you are stuck there will be found in your words when you use awareness to deny the validity of any and all concepts (not seeing that you have made awareness into a subtle conceptual position). You essentially deny the world instead or merely seeing its illusory nature. This is where nihilism and fundamentalism can sneak in.
4. If you don't get stuck at number 3, you start to see that the appearances are inseparable from awareness. You cannot pull one apart from the other. And the whole notion of a dividing line between awareness and what appears is seen as silly and impossible. You don't even privilege awareness over appearances or vice versa. It's all inseparable. And so your humanness, down to the most unique thing about you and others, is totally included. In Zen, they call this "returning to the marketplace." In Living Realization, we borrow from the Buddhist texts that call this the "Middle Way." Separation is no longer experienced. And movement, form, and change return. It is precisely because of the empty and temporary nature of everything that change and movement can happen. Awareness no longer seems like a transcendental substratum or background. It is the movement of life itself in all its forms. The world is seen to be made of stories. The stories no longer cause suffering, seeking, and conflict therefore they are naturally welcomed. They are the movement of awareness itself. At this point, you stop returning or referencing awareness. You live your life, free of seeking. You are fully in the world.
This list is not necessarily a list of stages of seeing that unfold in time. The above list is a list of insights that can arise. Some realize these things very quickly or all at once. The vast majority, in my experience, find these realization unfolding over time. These are real insights that actually change the way you perceive reality. Cherish them when they arise, yet don't get stuck in any of them. Remain open. To live life in an undivided way is the real point of nonduality. That is number 4.
- Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
- When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
- Follow the three R’s:
- Respect for self,
- Respect for others and
- Responsibility for all your actions.
- Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
- Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
- Don’t let a little dispute injure a great relationship.
- When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
- Spend some time alone every day.
- Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
- Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
- Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and
think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.
- A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
- In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
- Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.
- Be gentle with the earth.
- Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
- Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
- Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
- If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
- If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
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Like masters of these specialized areas of life, while masters of life are innately ordinary people, they see (experience) life – the world, others, and themselves – differently than most of us do. As a consequence, they comprehend and interact with the world, others, and themselves differently than most of us do. And, it is the way they interact with life and with themselves that makes them extraordinarily effective in dealing with life while enjoying an exceptionally high quality of life. This presentation spells out the way in which masters access life and themselves, and does so in words that make mastery available to the rest of us ordinary people.
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The Light of Pure Awareness is all that you see. If you are searching, seeking, longing to find a peace that is not currently known, it is right before you, right before your eyes. It is so close that you are blinded by its purity. It seems very ordinary, so common place that you miss it because you are looking in the wrong direction.
Just because it is ordinary doesn't mean that it's not an absolute wonder. Look at the sunrise every day. Is that not some wondrous event? But because we are so used to it, it seems mundane. What you are seeking is already present, and fully available to each and everyone. It's just overlooked because it's not something new and different, something exciting.
The mind with all of its stimulus seeking tendencies doesn't see this wondrous beauty that is all around, ever present, and totally free of concepts. It is prior to any seeking, and always on. Turn the attention away from the seeking and there it is, shining in plain view, never absent and always full of Love.
See this and the game is over!
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