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Previous Comments By 'johnnidi'

Reflections on Life from Death Row, by Moyo

FaceBook  On Aug 6, 2016 chris wrote:

I find myself surprised and moved by this writing as an Awakin passage.  I relate to Moyo's deep desire to in some way be useful or of service to life; his protest to not have his organs poisoned during a lethal injection process so that they can be donated to others...just strikes at the heart.  Disarming sincerity and heart-cracking volition.

I remember thinking many years back that if I didn't seem to be making much of my life in my standard context, that at the least I could go to any place that had apparent needs and just volunteer, make some use of my life.  That's kind of a strange thought for a college-age kid in some ways, but in others maybe not.  I have since come to see other angles of that thought: that in many ways it is myself that I want to serve, my own sense of peace that I want to find ways to keep cultivating.

Moyo acknowledge an important part of his practice: to see things clearly, as they are.  I recently heard (and someone please correct/amend if you know better) the literal translation of a Pali word "panna", typically called wisdom, is something like "to see things from multiple angles."  Part of what's so touching to me in Moyo's sincerity is his acknowledgement of multiple angles: e.g. his cell as different from a monastery cell but at the same time affording some similar opportunities.  I wonder if he sees/can get the feedback from the angle of his art and writing touching others.

His drawing looks to me like a kind of E.T. Buddha. :) Haha, I like it very much.  Thank you for sharing Moyo.

 

Social Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman

FaceBook  On Jan 3, 2013 Chris wrote:

I like this passage because of its vulnerability. I mean, choosing to walk through the building turned into a hairy situation! And yet the author chose to share the messy scene in service of elucidating a point about social intelligence and how our emotions and other person-to-person dynamics subtly but profoundly affect one another. That's cool in my book. And I know I can relate, often being the little rascal that I am :) and challenging authority -- I could totally be that guy trying to walk through the building and feeling anger at the guard's forceful response (in proportion to the actual offense).  There's another point that's perhaps beyond the scope of the passage but worth mentioning, I think. It struck me intuitively at first, and then I was inspired to think more on it after seeing another comment express a similar perspective. Namely, another kind of intelligence: systems intelligence. That is, being aware of the systems/groups we're part of, and their rules, norms and contexts. From that perspective, noting the context of New York increasing security (don't know when this was in relation to 2001), the rules and norms of private property, etc might also ameliorate a situation like in this story, in addition to a mindfulness of emotional dynamics and people-to-people relationships. Actually, I learned this lesson quite potently a few years ago in a restaurant: I was finishing a meal with friends, and being the aspiring-do-gooders that we were, :) couple of us wanted to help clean up the table (it was a pay-at-the-counter, non-table-service kind of restaurant). So we stacked our plates, and got up with them. Not seeing a bus bin, we decided to take our plates directly to the back kitchen. Bad idea it turned out! Or rather, systems-insensitive idea. The owner (I assume) happened to be walking by at that moment, and seeing me with a stack of plates, said: "You can't go back there."   I replied: &qu  See full.

I like this passage because of its vulnerability. I mean, choosing to walk through the building turned into a hairy situation! And yet the author chose to share the messy scene in service of elucidating a point about social intelligence and how our emotions and other person-to-person dynamics subtly but profoundly affect one another. That's cool in my book. And I know I can relate, often being the little rascal that I am :) and challenging authority -- I could totally be that guy trying to walk through the building and feeling anger at the guard's forceful response (in proportion to the actual offense). 

There's another point that's perhaps beyond the scope of the passage but worth mentioning, I think. It struck me intuitively at first, and then I was inspired to think more on it after seeing another comment express a similar perspective. Namely, another kind of intelligence: systems intelligence. That is, being aware of the systems/groups we're part of, and their rules, norms and contexts. From that perspective, noting the context of New York increasing security (don't know when this was in relation to 2001), the rules and norms of private property, etc might also ameliorate a situation like in this story, in addition to a mindfulness of emotional dynamics and people-to-people relationships.

Actually, I learned this lesson quite potently a few years ago in a restaurant: I was finishing a meal with friends, and being the aspiring-do-gooders that we were, :) couple of us wanted to help clean up the table (it was a pay-at-the-counter, non-table-service kind of restaurant). So we stacked our plates, and got up with them. Not seeing a bus bin, we decided to take our plates directly to the back kitchen. Bad idea it turned out! Or rather, systems-insensitive idea.

The owner (I assume) happened to be walking by at that moment, and seeing me with a stack of plates, said: "You can't go back there."  
I replied: "Oh, I'm sorry, where can I leave these dishes -- is there a bin or something?"
He retorted: "No, you don't have to do anything, just leave them on the table."  
I was still in my be-helpful context and not attuning to his systems norm, so being half way to the kitchen already I said, "That's okay, I want to clean up after myself." Spotting another small stack of dishes on a counter nearby where a bin might have been, I said "There we go, how bout I leave them there?"
Then he raised his voice, "No, no--you don't have to do anything!" The air was getting heated.

I was stuck in my "rational" mind, feeling stubborn to turn around and bring my dishes back to the table. I'm already up, it doesn't make sense to backtrack. Couldn't the owner see I was just being trying to be helpful anyway? These thoughts would turn to indignation. I had missed my opportunity to respond with kindness, been oblivious to where the owner was coming from within his system's context, and, *sigh*, compounded the anger that I received from the owner in my own self. It wasn't pretty, let me tell you.

At that moment, the kitchen staff came out and my friend who spoke Spanish started speaking to them. They thanked us in Spanish for helping with the dishes, the tension was momentarily diffused, and we left the restaurant. 

And this is where I like the Dharma Comic above, of someone feeling violated not by the wrongdoing done to them, but by their own rage in response. Gandhi said courage via violence is much preferable to inaction via cowardness. But after you've chosen to exhibit your courage using that kind of force, ask yourself: why did I need to resort to those means? How did I allow my dignity to be violated in such a way I felt I needed to defend it with force? (Side note: I've heard the Tagalog term for nonviolence is something like "alay dangal" which translates to "offering dignity") Introspecting this way, I can begin to neurally carve out another response, one that doesn't exacerbate anger but that moves with love.
 

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The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell

FaceBook  On Dec 11, 2012 Chris wrote:

Robert Johnson wrote a relevant primer to myths in the introduction to "She": Myths are rich sources of psychological insight. Great literature, like all great art, records and portrays the human condition with indelible accuracy.   Myths are a special kind of literature not written or created by a single individual, but produced by the imagination and experience of an entire age and culture and can be seen as the distillation of the dreams and experiences of a whole culture.   They seem to develop gradually as certain motifs emerge, are elaborated, and finally are rounded out as people tell and retell stories that catch and hold their interest. Thus themes that are accurate and universal are kept alive, while those elements peculiar to single individuals or a particular era drop away.   Myths, therefore, portray a collective image; they tell us about things that are true for all people.  This belies our current rationalistic definition of myth as something untrue or imaginary. “Why, that is only a myth; its not true at all,” we hear.   The details of the story may be unverifiable or even fantastic, but actually a myth is profoundly and universally true.  See full.

Robert Johnson wrote a relevant primer to myths in the introduction to "She":

Myths are rich sources of psychological insight.

Great literature, like all great art, records and portrays
the human condition with indelible accuracy.
 
Myths are a special kind of literature not written or created
by a single individual, but produced by the imagination
and experience of an entire age and culture
and can be seen as the distillation of the dreams
and experiences of a whole culture.
 
They seem to develop gradually as certain motifs emerge,
are elaborated, and finally are rounded out as people tell
and retell stories that catch and hold their interest.
Thus themes that are accurate and universal are kept alive,
while those elements peculiar to single individuals
or a particular era drop away.
 
Myths, therefore, portray a collective image;
they tell us about things that are true for all people. 
This belies our current rationalistic definition of myth
as something untrue or imaginary.
“Why, that is only a myth; its not true at all,” we hear.
 
The details of the story may be unverifiable
or even fantastic,
but actually a myth is profoundly and universally true.

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The Cosmology of Peace, by Thomas Berry

FaceBook  On Jul 30, 2012 Chris J. wrote:
I'm so excited this passage is up! My conception of "peace" has been fundamentally altered since I first read this: moving from a sort of 'still-waters' image to incorporating the swelling oceans and the rushing rivers, the volcanic eruptions and even the cosmic-time galaxy formations.  "The highest state of tension that the organism can bear creatively" is so evocative for me. I see it happening within our person-systems, constantly processing and integrating our ever-changing being, as well as on the "phenomenal existence" plane.  I'm reminded of Dan Siegel's essential definition of health: integration. The integrating process within me, often feels like a dynamic tension -- and it feels very alive! Even amidst it's challenges and frustrations.

I think this can be a tricky passage too. For example, I know that violence is an extremely loaded word, and probably not even worth trying to reclaim at all, though I honor Thomas Berry's bravery in employing a value-neutral use of the word. I tend to translate violence for myself as "turbulence" these days. The inherent turbulence of living a full life, of crossing a boundary that one hadn't dared cross up til now, of systems interacting and clashing and synergizing with one another, or holding within oneself all the seemingly contradictory truths until that tension births a creativity never before imagined.

Yep, I love this passage. :)
 

Those Who Float, by Daniel Gottlieb

FaceBook  On Jun 29, 2012 Chris wrote:
Great story, Smita! Love the wave imagery, and dig the metaphor of 'diving in' to swelling challenges and experiencing the freedom of that surrender.  Resonate with this passage too, and the 'not-my-most-brilliant' intervention. :) I had a conversation with a friend recently where we touched on the death impulse, the thought that dying might be better than facing what's going on in our lives. I wondered aloud what it would be like to explore the feelings of that impulse (and we then did)--sounds dangerous at first, but my hope is to find that kind of freedom in diving into the experience in an exploratory way (rather than having to actually enact it)...and then like the waves, perhaps there's something else waiting to be found underneath.  Me, I'm exploring both sides these days, the inward exploring and the outward acting. I try to set a beneficial intention in moments of inward exploration. And from there, letting go of how I perceived others wanted or expected me to be has had me renewing my faith in my own easeful, instinctual way of being in the world.
 

Past and Future: Two Streams of the Soul, by Rudolf Steiner

FaceBook  On May 16, 2012 Chris J. wrote:

I like this passage in how it breaks down a fundamental facet of human experience -- that we live with the past and the future, within the present moment. The converging river imagery conveys that beautifully. As much as the next sincere seeker, I try my best to "live in the present." But I can't help but feel that's a sort of initial, simplistic instruction to follow -- like those rules we learned in math class before we discovered they were just training wheels preparing us for a more complex set of rules. So I value how the author addresses the past and future directly as legitimate streams of thought, rather than simply distractions from the present.  (I once got some lovely advice along those lines: "the future is a moment, just as the present; don't be afraid to plan ahead") And yet, ruminating on the past or future *can* indeed be very distracting from living an engaged life, or as the author says, can induce fear and anxiety. He offers direct approaches for each stream: from the past, learn about yourself; and towards the future, cultivate a feeling of humbleness. Don't you just love that simplicity? :) (not to be confused with simplistic--yet ;)) It's almost scientific in its approach: anything past is already done, so the best you can do with it is learn from it. The future has not happened yet, and nobody can know exactly how it will happen, so rather than make negative (or even positive :)) predictions about it, the best you can do is approach it with a sense of curiosity and humbleness.  That last one seems really important for this time. Predicting future behavior from past experience is part of our frontal-lobe skill sets as human beings, so quite natural. But are we overusing this capacity? Are our predictions becoming straight-jacket prophesies? ​​Our role in climate change, for example. Or my ability to create a fulfilling life for myself, on a more personal level. I was in a group ask  See full.

I like this passage in how it breaks down a fundamental facet of human experience -- that we live with the past and the future, within the present moment. The converging river imagery conveys that beautifully.

As much as the next sincere seeker, I try my best to "live in the present." But I can't help but feel that's a sort of initial, simplistic instruction to follow -- like those rules we learned in math class before we discovered they were just training wheels preparing us for a more complex set of rules. So I value how the author addresses the past and future directly as legitimate streams of thought, rather than simply distractions from the present.  (I once got some lovely advice along those lines: "the future is a moment, just as the present; don't be afraid to plan ahead")

And yet, ruminating on the past or future *can* indeed be very distracting from living an engaged life, or as the author says, can induce fear and anxiety. He offers direct approaches for each stream: from the past, learn about yourself; and towards the future, cultivate a feeling of humbleness. Don't you just love that simplicity? :) (not to be confused with simplistic--yet ;))

It's almost scientific in its approach: anything past is already done, so the best you can do with it is learn from it. The future has not happened yet, and nobody can know exactly how it will happen, so rather than make negative (or even positive :)) predictions about it, the best you can do is approach it with a sense of curiosity and humbleness. 

That last one seems really important for this time. Predicting future behavior from past experience is part of our frontal-lobe skill sets as human beings, so quite natural. But are we overusing this capacity? Are our predictions becoming straight-jacket prophesies? ​Our role in climate change, for example. Or my ability to create a fulfilling life for myself, on a more personal level.

I was in a group asking these sorts of questions recently, and one fellow was really struggling with that personal level. He sincerely wanted to change, saw how his opinionating and over-talking was preventing him from connecting with people on a deeper level. And yet, as he was talking about the problems he wanted to change, he was enacting those same problems! Talking quickly and in run-on sentences, explaining from thinking rather than exploring from experiencing ... It was a compassion-eliciting sight.

Then someone mirrored his behavior back to him, confronting him with his fork in the road, of acting out of old behavior patterns, or exploring something new, which was more aligned with his goal. He  tried again, but once again started speaking quickly, nervously.  Finally, he threw up his arms and declared, "I don't know what to do!" Then the room was quiet. And it turns out that was exactly the first step of his exploration; there was finally an opening to create new pathways of behavior. It was a beautiful moment.

That "I don't know", I think, is the essence of the humbleness Steiner is talking about. Until we throw up our hands and say "I don't know!", are we not just re-enacting old patterns that created the situations we are trying to change?  Not knowing can be seen as a kind of weakness, but here Steiner says it's not sentimentality, but reality:  "We are not extolling something that might be called humbleness in one sense or another; we are describing a definite form of it—humbleness to whatever the future may bring.  Anyone who looks anxiously and fearfully towards the future hinders his development, hampers the free unfolding of his soul-forces."



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Difference Between Eah and Oh!, by Jerry Wennstrom

FaceBook  On Sep 7, 2011 Chris wrote:

Loved this passage, thank you for sharing it, and Jerry for writing it. I recently went on a long walk, about 50 miles over a few days. Along the way I came across a diversity of situations, including many opportunities for sadness and reverence at misfortunate circumstances.  One of those stories comes to mind: In the midst of a materially rich neighborhood, an older man stood in the meridian between two busy roads. He held a sign that read something like "anything helps" and had a forlorn yet somehow at-peace look on his face. I was intentionally traveling without money, so that wasn't an option to give, but another obvoius inspiration came to mind, which was to offer some grapefruits that I had earlier gleaned from a tree a few neighborhoods back.From across the street, I made eye contact with the man and shouted across "do you like grapefruit?!" He didn't hear at first so my friend who was traveling with me pulled one out, held it up and pointed at it, smilingly, as I repeated "Do. You. Like. GRAPEFRUIT?" :)  The man understood in a flash, and smiled and nodded. At the next red light, my friend and I crossed the street and offered a few grapefruits to the grateful man. It was a heartfelt connection, just for a moment. We all knew it wasn't meant to solve any long-term problem there, but I sensed we all valued the human connection for that brief time.But what struck me most was what happened just outside of our little interaction: as we scampered back across the street before traffic started to move again I caught a glimpse of the faces in the car windshields, waiting at the red light. This one woman in her car had the sweetest smile on her face that spoke of both sadness for the situation and happiness for whitnessing that moment of joy. I think more than the interaction itself, that whitnessing, that reverence touched me.And what a beautiful closing line: "With inspiration rippling through the collective, the heart o  See full.

Loved this passage, thank you for sharing it, and Jerry for writing it. I recently went on a long walk, about 50 miles over a few days. Along the way I came across a diversity of situations, including many opportunities for sadness and reverence at misfortunate circumstances.  

One of those stories comes to mind: In the midst of a materially rich neighborhood, an older man stood in the meridian between two busy roads. He held a sign that read something like "anything helps" and had a forlorn yet somehow at-peace look on his face. I was intentionally traveling without money, so that wasn't an option to give, but another obvoius inspiration came to mind, which was to offer some grapefruits that I had earlier gleaned from a tree a few neighborhoods back.

From across the street, I made eye contact with the man and shouted across "do you like grapefruit?!" He didn't hear at first so my friend who was traveling with me pulled one out, held it up and pointed at it, smilingly, as I repeated "Do. You. Like. GRAPEFRUIT?" :)  The man understood in a flash, and smiled and nodded. At the next red light, my friend and I crossed the street and offered a few grapefruits to the grateful man. It was a heartfelt connection, just for a moment. We all knew it wasn't meant to solve any long-term problem there, but I sensed we all valued the human connection for that brief time.

But what struck me most was what happened just outside of our little interaction: as we scampered back across the street before traffic started to move again I caught a glimpse of the faces in the car windshields, waiting at the red light. This one woman in her car had the sweetest smile on her face that spoke of both sadness for the situation and happiness for whitnessing that moment of joy. I think more than the interaction itself, that whitnessing, that reverence touched me.

And what a beautiful closing line: "With inspiration rippling through the collective, the heart of the world grows unalterably stronger."

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Instilling Discipline and Responsibility in our Lives, by Angeles Arrien

FaceBook  On Mar 17, 2011 Chris wrote:

Catherine, those strike me as some deep and personal questions. Rilke said (essentially) that we must *live* the questions, until we find ourselves, one unexpected day, living the answers. Perhaps there are only so many times we can *ask* the question with words, before we start living the questions.  For me, it eventually comes back to self knowledge. And I think meditating is a beautiful way to gain self-knowledge. There are many ways to gain self-knowledge and many ways to approach meditation -- here's one. And yes, may light be shed in the dark corners and rooms of all of our minds!

 

Instilling Discipline and Responsibility in our Lives, by Angeles Arrien

FaceBook  On Mar 16, 2011 Chris wrote:

In discipline + responsibility I heard a new term emerging to try to encapsulate the immense human capacity that is conveyed in all this.

I love the perspective on discipline of "becoming a disciple unto yourself" -- deeply examining your actions, words, thoughts throughout life and constantly learning, growing. And the meaning of responsibility invoked was not only one of actions we can (and are called to) take, but also a level of awareness of the effects of our actions.

It occurs to me that when one cultivates values of truth, equanimity, love, beauty, kindness, compassion, this level of action, self-reflection, and awareness begins to arise naturally. Discipline and responsibility as words, then, don't easily convey this depth, especially as those words are used in a slew of other contexts, diluting their potency. 

So I thought back to Gandhi needing a new term for nonviolent civil disobedience (which was incorrectly viewed as "passive") and holding a naming contest :) which eventually birthed the term "satyagraha" -- commitment to truth.

Then why not "value-graha" -- commitment to values? Satyagraha meant that you could take a beating from someone and still look him in the eyes with love. What if we took this sense of responsibility and discipline and applied it to whatever we find ourselves in front of? Not in a forced way that the term discipline sometimes implies -- I imagine you can't force yourself to wish well one who delivers a blow to you, it either naturally arises from a deep commitment to values or it doesn't -- but in a self-regenerative way of acting from deeply cultivated values and constantly self-reflecting, self-reflecting to continue deepening into them, and then again acting...

 

A Realm Beyond Measurement, by Andrew Cohen

FaceBook  On Nov 6, 2010 Chris wrote:

Very grateful for the recap of Bhikkhu Bodhi's talk, thank you Somik. I didn't get to attend myself, but I did happen to serendipitously see Bhikkhu Bodhi speak the following night. He joked that the very act of thinking can sometimes seemed to be discouraged within Buddhist circles -- "just thoughts arising and passing away" :) -- but that coming from a Western Philosophy background himself, he is prone to big-picture thinking.  :) Along those lines, one thing in particular stood out to me. He stressed the need for balance between upward and downward pulls in one's spiritual approach. Especially for meditation-heavy practices, transcendence is often stressed above all. To stay connected to the real world which we inhabit in the here and now, Bhikkhu Bodhi said that ought to balance this with a descendent path of spirituality -- one which focus on practical, down-to-earth service. He cited the "four immeasurables" as qualities that help us stay grounded and serve in tangible ways that makes this world better: loving-kindness, compassion, altruistic joy for others, and equanimity (or impartiality as he said it might also be translated).  The "earth scholar" Thomas Berry expressed a similar sentiment when he stressed the need to not be carried off one's feet by the transcendent path or sink into the ground via the descendent path, coining the term inscendence.

 

A Neuron with Imagination, by Francisco Ramos Stierle

FaceBook  On Oct 2, 2010 Chris wrote:

 And to follow up on the Pancho-Mona momentum, I was inspired last week to leave some tomatoes and zucchini in a bag with a smile :) on the doorstep of our neighbor. Honoring those connections, even if invisibly.

 

Along the Thread of our Inner Sincerity, by Adyashanti

FaceBook  On Oct 2, 2010 Chris wrote:

What is sincerity? seemed to be a central question to the discussion.  I loved Somik's take on it, which I heard as basically: authenticity is manifesting your truth in each moment, and sincerity is what keeps that from harming others. Pavi shared in her always-beautiful opening the latin etymology of the word 'sincere': without (sine) wax (cera), which apparently comes from sculptures, which if done right, did not need wax to cover up any mistakes. I love this idea that presenting ourselves sincerely is a practice of total openness and acceptance and needs no cover-up.  Pavi also shared after the circle that in fact there has been a past ijourney passage on the very topic of sincerity and authenticity! (and a deep inquisition into the matter from literary critic Lionel Trilling, but I'll let her share about that :)) An excerpt "Another way to approach this is to look at the huge difference between sincerity and authenticity. Sincerity, while it's lovely, is necessary but insufficient, because you can be sincere with just one zone of your heart awakened. When many zones of the heart are awakened and harmonized we can speak of authenticity, which is a broader and more complex notion." For a simple amalgamation of authenticity and sincerity, my brother used to say to me when we were little: say what you mean, and mean what you say. Adding Somik's reflection above it might become: say what you mean, and mean what you say, but don't say it mean...ly. What came to my mind during the circle was some wise words I once heard (from whom I can't remember): "You can't pretend to be more mature than you actually are." I heard this as encouragement to be just what we're talking about here: sincere and authentic -- and furthermore the subtle message that sometimes this doesn't mean shouting our truth from the rooftops, but rather, like those silent warriors that Nipun acknowledged, engaging in deep listening.  See full.

What is sincerity? seemed to be a central question to the discussion.  I loved Somik's take on it, which I heard as basically: authenticity is manifesting your truth in each moment, and sincerity is what keeps that from harming others.

Pavi shared in her always-beautiful opening the latin etymology of the word 'sincere': without (sine) wax (cera), which apparently comes from sculptures, which if done right, did not need wax to cover up any mistakes. I love this idea that presenting ourselves sincerely is a practice of total openness and acceptance and needs no cover-up. 

Pavi also shared after the circle that in fact there has been a past ijourney passage on the very topic of sincerity and authenticity! (and a deep inquisition into the matter from literary critic Lionel Trilling, but I'll let her share about that :)) An excerpt

"Another way to approach this is to look at the huge difference between sincerity and authenticity. Sincerity, while it's lovely, is necessary but insufficient, because you can be sincere with just one zone of your heart awakened. When many zones of the heart are awakened and harmonized we can speak of authenticity, which is a broader and more complex notion."

For a simple amalgamation of authenticity and sincerity, my brother used to say to me when we were little: say what you mean, and mean what you say. Adding Somik's reflection above it might become: say what you mean, and mean what you say, but don't say it mean...ly.

What came to my mind during the circle was some wise words I once heard (from whom I can't remember): "You can't pretend to be more mature than you actually are." I heard this as encouragement to be just what we're talking about here: sincere and authentic -- and furthermore the subtle message that sometimes this doesn't mean shouting our truth from the rooftops, but rather, like those silent warriors that Nipun acknowledged, engaging in deep listening.

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Three Great Forces, by Brother David Steindl-Rast

FaceBook  On May 13, 2010 Chris Johnnidis wrote:

I loved this passage. We're presented with these omnipresent challenges to staying present in everyday life -- and then left to figure out for ourselves how to counterbalance them! It's a wonderful implicit challenge. Of course we truly respond by the way we live, but it's fun to talk about it as well. :) First, I think it's helpful to consider these words in the context of "early Christian Elders in the Egyptian desert." Unfortunately, the terms like "Christian" and "Jesus" have been so loaded with baggage by now that it becomes difficult to find the true value in them, amongst the noise. But this early Christianity which the author references was probably MUCH unlike most of what we see today. Before any institution called a church even existed. From reading the texts sometimes referred to as the "Gnostic Gospels" (ow.ly/1KOdg) we can surmise that these early Christian Elders were true seekers, looking within for wisdom, not to an external authority figure -- monks cultivating the contemplative solitude of monastic life. There we'll find mystical and powerful words attributed to Jesus: "If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you; if you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you." In effect: know yourself (more on that later). Elaine Pagels has done excellent historical research into this long-lost chapter of early Christianity, and Tucker Malarkey  wrote a wonderful historical fiction novel called "Resurrection" that tells the riveting story of the unexpected discovery in mid 1900s of the early Christian texts in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, and the quest to share them with the world. With that in mind, it may at first seem less than relevant to apply these teachings to our modern day, hustle and bustle life. But looking deeper, we can each see the seeker within us and recognize the wisdom of identifying the  See full.

I loved this passage. We're presented with these omnipresent challenges to staying present in everyday life -- and then left to figure out for ourselves how to counterbalance them! It's a wonderful implicit challenge. Of course we truly respond by the way we live, but it's fun to talk about it as well. :)

First, I think it's helpful to consider these words in the context of "early Christian Elders in the Egyptian desert." Unfortunately, the terms like "Christian" and "Jesus" have been so loaded with baggage by now that it becomes difficult to find the true value in them, amongst the noise. But this early Christianity which the author references was probably MUCH unlike most of what we see today. Before any institution called a church even existed. From reading the texts sometimes referred to as the "Gnostic Gospels" (ow.ly/1KOdg) we can surmise that these early Christian Elders were true seekers, looking within for wisdom, not to an external authority figure -- monks cultivating the contemplative solitude of monastic life. There we'll find mystical and powerful words attributed to Jesus: "If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you; if you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you." In effect: know yourself (more on that later). Elaine Pagels has done excellent historical research into this long-lost chapter of early Christianity, and Tucker Malarkey  wrote a wonderful historical fiction novel called "Resurrection" that tells the riveting story of the unexpected discovery in mid 1900s of the early Christian texts in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, and the quest to share them with the world.

With that in mind, it may at first seem less than relevant to apply these teachings to our modern day, hustle and bustle life. But looking deeper, we can each see the seeker within us and recognize the wisdom of identifying these three blockages -- anger, laziness, lust -- to staying present as we progress on our path.

There were some wonderful reflections in the circle this Wednesday. Neil opened with thoughts on the many other obstacles to presence! :) -- while noting their impermanent nature :) -- and held wonderful space for the rest of the circle, including a touching mother's day reflection to close. Around the circle, a gentleman shared a wonderful image of an open mind as an open sky, to which Steve later poetically painted on passing clouds of emotion; Pancho offered his perspective on the "most powerful force" of ahimsa, or nonviolence; another gentleman shared a great insight that to enter into these states of mind in front of others we must first have a feeling of superiority over whomever may be in our present company ... Amidst reflections on when anger, for example, might be appropriate, Ripa reminded us of the wonderful saying: "between suppression and expression lies observation." Some say depression is anger turned inward, and along those lines, Aumatma recounted a time when one of her patients began feeling angry for the first time in while and her recognizing that as a step along the healing path; Ayush complemented that nicely, musing on the need for balance and knowing when to step into anger and when to come back out. Auntie and Uncle blessed us, as always, with peaceful, wise words and of course, the gift of the opportunity to share our journeys in this sacred way. I loved Auntie's final reflection: "I noticed that simply sitting still can be a remedy to each of these three forces." 

Finally, I mentioned the implicit challenge in this passage to come up with our own responses to these three great forces of anger, lust and laziness, and in that spirit I will offer what came to my mind. And as a preface, let me gratefully acknowledge the numerous perspectives that were offered last night in favor of honoring our beautifully imperfect humanity, which means we need not be dogmatic or holier-than-though (superior ;)) in addressing these very normal phenomena....

For laziness, live your gift. Laziness implies a lack of motivation to do something. Last night I shared that of all the four types of external motivators, positive rewards are most effective (negative rewards, positive punishers, and negative punishers being the other three), so find your own best positive reward of living a meaningful life. But I'll take it a step further here: to counterbalance laziness at the root, go beyond external motivators and find your own intrinsic motivation. (with a hat tip to Alfie Kohn: ow.ly/1KObn) This requires deeply knowing oneself, and this is what leads us to the true gifts that we have to offer. That which brings us most alive; that which is in abundance for us, and offering it to another loses us nothing but only enriches both lives. Nipun shared a great quote from his recent trip to Japan: "The purpose of life is to discover your gift; the meaning of life is to give your gift away." At that point, perhaps the joy of giving your gift away beats out the lure of laziness. :)

For anger, awareness. As we mentioned in the circle, anger is often vilified as a "bad" emotion, but it comes up in all of us at one point or another, and how can we pre-judge its purpose? As we also pointed out, becoming consumed in anger does not serve anyone. Awareness will always serve us when anger is arising, and keep us rooted in the unfolding present. As Ripa was also sharing: what does anger feel like on my body? Why is it arising now? These are questions that have subtler and subtler answers that will aid us in knowing ourselves. And to complete the counter-balance of awareness, I would add in a healthy does of acceptance. :) If we do not accept what is, we are stuck with it, but once we accept, we can begin to move and flow with it.

And last but not least :) for lust, impermanence. Lust is an interesting word to use here, and has a very Buddhist ring to it -- attachment to something that is not present. Craving for what is not yet our organic reality. So let's counterbalance with a quintessential teaching of Gautama Buddha: anicca, impermanence, or the ever-changing nature of all things. With that, let me thank you for your attention, and pass. :)

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