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Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Learning to 'Presence'

--by Peter Senge (May 03, 2010)


When any of us acts in a state of fear or anxiety, our actions are likely to revert to what is most habitual: our most instinctual behaviors dominate, ultimately reducing us to our “fight – or – flight” programming of the reptilian brain stem. Collective actions are no different. Even as conditions in the world change dramatically, most businesses, governments, schools, and other large organizations continue to take the same kinds of institutional actions that they always have.

This does not mean that no learning occurs. But it is a limited type of learning: learning how best to react to circumstances we see ourselves as having no hand in creating. Reacting learning is governed by “downloading” habitual ways of thinking, of continuing to see the world within the familiar categories we are comfortable with. We discount interpretations and options for action that are different than ones we know and trust. We act to defend our interests. In reactive learning, our actions are actually re-enacted habits, and we invariably end up reinforcing pre-established mental models. Regardless of the outcome, we end up being “right.” At best, we get better at what we have always done. We remain secure in the cocoon of our own world view, isolated from the larger world. […]

All learning integrates thinking and doing. All learning is about how we interact in the world and types of capacities that develop from our interactions. What differs is the depth of the awareness and the consequent course of action. If awareness never reaches beyond superficial events and current circumstances, actions will be reactions. If, on the other hand, we penetrate more deeply to see the larger holes that generate “what is” and our connection to this wholeness, the source and effectiveness of our action can change dramatically.

In talking with pioneering scientists, we found extraordinary insights into this capacity for deeper seeing and the effects such awareness can have on our understanding, our sense of self, and our sense of belonging in the world. In talking with entrepreneurs, we found extraordinary clarity regarding what it means to act in the service of what is emerging. But we also found that for the most part, neither of these groups talks with the other. We came to realize that both groups are really talking about the same process – the process by which we learn to “presence” an emerging whole, to become what George Bernard Shaw called “a force of nature.”

–Peter Senge et al., from “Presence: Human Purpose and Field of the Future


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On Nov 30, 2010 kathy hammond wrote:

the above reading was great in that it mentioned the fight vs flight reactions we all have to daily stress.

particularly hopeful, I see this reading as encouragement to continue practising mindfulness as much as possible, particularly when I feel like doing the opposite.  very good habit to try to generate - much better to respond rather than react and if you can't respond, don't do anything!



On Jun 24, 2010 Pancho wrote:

[this post was supposed to be publish long time ago...] Namaste, my family calls me Pancho and I'd like you to know that I love you all. A few of weeks ago (May 5th) I was very happy to read the sign at the facade of the Kindness temple. For a moment, I read: SOULar Powered Home. While this home is now powered by our star, I would not doubt for a second that it is also ran by soul ;-) The embodiment of this statement is mamá Harshida who had a pretty bad cold and yet she cooked for all of us, joined the circle and handed to us each one of the dinner plates with her usual living-kind smile. That's what I call soular power! What a way to support our journeys! I'm not surprised that each member in the Mehta family has this quality of the soulforce very well developed. These were the three points I shared: 1. Belief and Unbelief 2. Freedom from Fear 3. Vinoba on Virtues 1. Belief and Unbelief Critical thinking is one of the core values I was taught  See full.

[this post was supposed to be publish long time ago...]

Namaste, my family calls me Pancho and I'd like you to know that I love you all.

A few of weeks ago (May 5th) I was very happy to read the sign at the facade of the Kindness temple. For a moment, I read: SOULar Powered Home. While this home is now powered by our star, I would not doubt for a second that it is also ran by soul ;-) The embodiment of this statement is mamá Harshida who had a pretty bad cold and yet she cooked for all of us, joined the circle and handed to us each one of the dinner plates with her usual living-kind smile. That's what I call soular power! What a way to support our journeys!

I'm not surprised that each member in the Mehta family has this quality of the soulforce very well developed.

These were the three points I shared:

1. Belief and Unbelief
2. Freedom from Fear
3. Vinoba on Virtues



1. Belief and Unbelief
Critical thinking is one of the core values I was taught at home and school. Growing up, basically in a secular environment, I developed an inquisitive mind that got rid of most superstitions or blind believes. Then, being high at the science ladder, I discovered that there are questions that humans won't be able to respond ever–get closer to the answer yes, but never fully correct–because, for practical purposes at the human scale, it is an infinite ladder. It humbled my heart and mind. Science is not a fix thing, it is a dynamic process. How beautiful and profound!

Blind belief is also called false positive, and blind unbelief is called false negative. In other words, we can believe something not-true or we can not-believe something true. In both cases we are misrepresenting reality as it is.

For me, what this means is that blind unbelief should not replace blind belief. It is not as if belief alone can be blind, that it has monopoly of blindness. Unbelief too can be blind.

That's why I've been striving for the balance between science and art, the magic spot where the beauty of life blossoms at its best. I might say it is a combination of critical thinking and critical feeling.

2. Freedom from Fear

Without truth positive qualities have no value; but then, for truth, fearlessness is essential. In an atmosphere charged with fear, positive qualities cannot grow. In fact they become themselves negative qualities, and positive efforts and tendencies get weakened. Freedom from fear is the supreme leader of all positive qualities.

Those that have learnt the lesson of fearlessness and selfeffacement need no leader. When fear of jail disappears, repression puts heart into people. I can only be infinitely grateful for the administration of the University of California because through its structural and physical violence it facilitated me to embrace the fearlessness. As a student, I was sent to jail with charges of trespassing on university property and of "disrupting" the peace. When I was arrested I was meditating. Since then, and through the beautiful interaction with inmate brothers in the Berkeley and Santa Rita jails, I don't do fear any more. I had a blind belief that prison was terrifying. Anchored in love and respect, I lost the fear to be imprisoned.

One of the lessons a planetary community yearning for collective intelligence needs to learn is to shed fears of loosing title, wealthy position, fear of imprisonment, of bodily injury and lastly death. What this means, for me, is that when one finally is not identified with the body, then oppression and tyranny, both internal and external, are overcome forever.

3. Vinoba on Virtues
Fearlessness has been given first place in a long list of twenty-six qualities according to Vinoba. This is not an accident. As mentioned before, in a atmosphere charged with fear, positive qualities cannot grow. Vinobaji uses the analogy of an army: "While in front fearlessness stands alert, humility guards the rear. This is an excellent arrangement." If we have first twenty five qualities (like compassion, tenderness, forgiveness, serenity, patience, nonviolence, loyalty, etc.) but no humility, the ego principle will attack the army from the back and destroy it. In the absence of humility, there is no knowing when victory will turn into defeat.

 

So, there is a third way in adition to the “fight or flight”response: the fearless-nonviolent-humble action. I'm learning, on Wednesdays, how to cultivate all these qualities.


May all become compassionate, courageous and wise.

Pancho

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On May 10, 2010 Ripa wrote:

Thanks, Somikbhai, for the inspiration and encouragement to write! Habitual patterns of the mind were a strong theme of the evening. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Sow a thought and reap an action, Sow an act and reap a habit, Sow a habit and reap a character, Sow a character and reap a destiny." The core of the yoga and meditation practices is arguably the work we do to purify and thereby transform what are called samskaras in Sanskrit, or sankaras in Pali (the ancient language of Gautama the Buddha). These samskaras are like habits, in that they constitute the accumulated impressions - scientifically speaking, the neuron patterns - that determine our character, ways of thinking and behaving and overall outlook on and approach to life. I like Yoga Journal writer and meditation teacher Sally Kempton's interpretation of samskaras as "some scars." Kempton describes samskaras as energy patterns in the consciousness, mental grooves that are like rivulets in sand that  See full.

Thanks, Somikbhai, for the inspiration and encouragement to write!

Habitual patterns of the mind were a strong theme of the evening. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Sow a thought and reap an action, Sow an act and reap a habit, Sow a habit and reap a character, Sow a character and reap a destiny."

The core of the yoga and meditation practices is arguably the work we do to purify and thereby transform what are called samskaras in Sanskrit, or sankaras in Pali (the ancient language of Gautama the Buddha). These samskaras are like habits, in that they constitute the accumulated impressions - scientifically speaking, the neuron patterns - that determine our character, ways of thinking and behaving and overall outlook on and approach to life.

I like Yoga Journal writer and meditation teacher Sally Kempton's interpretation of samskaras as "some scars." Kempton describes samskaras as energy patterns in the consciousness, mental grooves that are like rivulets in sand that allow water to run in specific patterns. She often talks about how samskaras create our 'default' mental, physical and emotional settings.

The thought "I can't do this" when faced with a new challenge is a negative samskara that can be replaced by the confidence you feel when you finally master something that was initially challenging.

Neurophysiologists who map neural pathways in the brain reveal how every time we react a specfic way, such as by becoming angry, or overeating, we strengthen the power of that behavior pattern. The yogic texts describe the same phenomenon; Master Patanjali (author of the treatise "Patanjali's Yoga Sutras) is often referred to as a master psychologist. The way we think, feel, react and behave at any time are due to samskaras, or neural connections that function in our subconscious minds.Once our samskaric pathways are molded in place, most of us run around in them, like mice spinning around endlessly in a wheel, going absolutely nowhere with great fury.

The real work of yoga and meditation, then, is to learn to develop equanimity toward negative samskaras, developing awareness to be able to observe as countless impurities arise in the mind and in the body as physical sensations that will all ultimately pass away. Patience is key in this purification process, as is persistence.

A wakeup call is necessary to ignite this process of transformation. Often, we are not aware of the negative patterns, or wheels we spin around in until a moment of crisis occurs. We have a car accident. A severe health problem. A significant life relationship breaks up. It is difficult to be grateful for life's challenges, but crisis situations truly provide the opportunity for the deepest healing to take place.

Many people wonder how they can change the qualities in themselves that create suffering - anger, hatred, fear, jealousy and all sorts of addictive behaviors. Master Patanjali answers this question in the 21st verse of the first chapter of his Yoga Sutras: Teevra-Samvegaanam Asana, which literally translates to: "Liberation comes quickly when the desire for it is intense."

The great early 20th century Indian spiritual teacher Sri Aurobindo said that human aspiration beckons the force of divine grace, which fuels spiritual breakthrough. Grace often either comes within as inspiration, and from without as the help and support we receive from others.

So the essence of yoga and meditation is really the effort to accumulate as many new positive samskaras as possible to overwhelm and eventually get rid of the old ones. Developing a daily practice of yoga and/or meditation is a great way to build positive samskaras. One of the main benefits of these practices is the heightened level of awareness they develop, which enable us to consciously change our negative ways of thinking and behaving to more positive ones. Every thought and physical sensation on the body (which are both usually linked, at the deepest level) become opportunities for transformation.

Master Patanjali offers another aphorism for transformation in sutra 33 of the second chapter of his Yoga Sutras: "Vitarka badhane pratipaksha bhavanam," which translates, “When negative or harmful thoughts disturb the mind, they can be overcome by constantly thinking of their opposites.'' After practicing thought replacement for a while, every time you experience fear, for example, you will have developed an alternate set of samskaric grooves that will come up with your fear to remind you of more positive ways to address the fear. Over time, this set of grooves will become as strong as your fear and provide more choices about how to respond instead of just blindly reacting. 

I recently attended a very interesting trauma training with the Mind Body Awareness (MBA) Project, an organization I teach meditation in juvenile hall through. The presenter illustrated the cycle of trauma with a downward-pointing curve. When a person is in homeostatis, the reaction to an external threat is automatic and intelligent. For example, if you see a lion on the horizon, you will turn and move away if you're far enough, or try to climb up a tree if not. 

As a traumatic experience escalates, one moves into the activation stage of trauma, in which makes he or she a 'flight' or 'fight' decision to react. In severe cases of trauma, at the height of the activation stage, one transitions into 'freeze' mode. One training participant pointed out how the word 'free' is contained within 'freeze' - and frozen people can indeed look as though they are enlightened and liberated!

One can never find freedom untl they go through the deactivation stage, however. The presenter shared how physically shaking is a potent way of resolving trauma: it exemplifies the willingness to be vulnerable to one's own experience and is a neurological way of completing the stress response to return to homeostatis. Not being 'shaken up,' then means one has not left freeze mode. Another participant pointed out how so many people remain perpetually in freeze mode. Corporate executives are often as physically stiff as the big prison inmates, as trauma is nothing but compounded stress: a sadly widespread phenomenon in modern times!

The three things that are required for deactivation to successfully occur are: 1. Safety, 2. Time without stress and 3. Giving one's body permission to react however it wishes, even if it is uncomfortable. The more trauma and stress that accumulate in the system, the harder and longer it is for deactivation to occur.

An interesting insight from the training was how the key to the success of yoga in healing trauma was that people counted the seconds they held the postures for. This enabled them to acknowledge the reality of change as the only constant in the practice - as in life. This is very aligned with the wisdom of aniccha, a Pali word that literally means 'not everlasting' and symbolizes the cycle of birth, growth, decay, and death through which every living being must pass.

People who become traumatized never escape moments of trauma and stress - that is what it means to be frozen. Yet, change is the very essence and nature of life on earth. Plants, insects, the moon, stars and galaxies are constantly dying and being reborn. Death and birth are an eternal dance - dissolution and creation are a constant reality of the material plane of existence. The more comfortable we can become with the cyclical nature of life, the more fully we are able to live, without holding back or holding onto cravings or aversions. In embracing all that comes our way in this detached manner, we can discover the complete and total freedom (moksha in Sanskrit) that the yogis and sages call Self-realization.

The key to discovering this inner freedom lies in, as Pancho astutely pointed out, the practice of cultivating ahimsa, or compassion. In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, chapter two, verse 35: Ahimsa-Pratisthayam Tat-Sannidhau Vaira-Tyagah translates "When non-violence is firmly established, hostility vanishes in the yogi's presence." Gandhiji is a golden example of a person firmly rooted in nonviolence, who radiated this conviction to others, and continues to do so now after even death. He was so powerful that not even violent thoughts could exist in his presence, as is verified by the many people who report that their lives changed drastically upon catching just a glimpse of Gandhiji. I personally experienced a deep transformation of consciouness when I met a modern hugging saint from Kerala called Ammachi (who many call a Gandhi of modern times).

Dinesh Uncle wisely pointed out how crucial the constant cultivation of consciousness is, as meditation is really just a way of practicing and preparing for the moment of death. So that when it is our time to go, we can transition out of this life cycle with as much compassion and equanimity as possible, to gain upliftment and even liberation of the soul. This was Gandiji's greatest legacy in my eyes: how he was able to fold his hands in a prayer even as he was consious of the fact that he was about to be assassinated - and actually blessed his murderer. Provides incredible inspiration to keep practicing, indeed!

 

 

 

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On May 7, 2010 ben chinonye wrote:

Am highly impress on the content above, it penetrates into my heart.

I needs article sent into my email box  for daily meditation,

Thanks



On May 6, 2010 Somik Raha wrote:

Neil started us off with some reflections on why habits might be important, to balance the view on challenging habits. He mentioned Viral's lovely piece on Why I Make Time to Sit, where Viral writes, "Looking within is a major pillar in my life, and if I wasn’t setting aside time to focus solely on that, that meant I was prioritizing other things, and did I really want to do that? The answer that came up for me was invariably, no, and so this became a good litmus test for how my intentions were manifesting in actuality." I liked this piece very much, for it brings up some deep questions. If we are in Viral's position having similar thoughts, how do we know that we're reacting to an impulse to feel good in meditation, versus reflecting and responding to make a better decision? The answer is in the lines that Neil quoted - Viral shared that conscious decision on prioritizing what is important, which necessarily invol  See full.

Neil started us off with some reflections on why habits might be important, to balance the view on challenging habits. He mentioned Viral's lovely piece on Why I Make Time to Sit, where Viral writes, "Looking within is a major pillar in my life, and if I wasn’t setting aside time to focus solely on that, that meant I was prioritizing other things, and did I really want to do that? The answer that came up for me was invariably, no, and so this became a good litmus test for how my intentions were manifesting in actuality."

I liked this piece very much, for it brings up some deep questions. If we are in Viral's position having similar thoughts, how do we know that we're reacting to an impulse to feel good in meditation, versus reflecting and responding to make a better decision? The answer is in the lines that Neil quoted - Viral shared that conscious decision on prioritizing what is important, which necessarily involves stepping back, enlarging our view, and then selecting what is most judicious. It is what we mean by "freedom" - we are free to choose, and when we accept our freedom and manifest it through our actions, there is a marked difference in quality when compared to those times when we act impelled by an urge that controls us.

CFDad also referred to Viral's piece - he could connect most with the following part, "the hardest part is to get yourself on the cushion – often, things flow on smoothly from there. In my experience I’ve found that, while I might regret not having sat, I’ve never regretted deciding to meditate." He found that this was so true and many of us would concur :).

To me, this passage brought up the need to distinguish between reaction and response. In an interview with my professor that I had the privilege to record, he shared how one might develop awareness in life when undergoing an "episode" of being upset. Here is my paraphrase, "First, accept that I am upset. That is an important awareness and creates some distance from what is happening. Next, accept that you I am having the thought "upset." We know that we are not our thoughts, and this creates more distance. Then, accept that the thought "upset" is having me. We now have enough distance to recognize that we can select our thoughts, and we might want to make a better selection." This, to me, is meditation with my eyes open.

The passage was really remarkable for it points to an important psychological theory, that of cognitive dissonance, which is now well-established in the literature (now in book form, through Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me). The theory says that we don't like having contradictory opinions, and we will go to great lengths to leave out or filter information that would have otherwise caused us to revise our beliefs. In other words, we choose "fight or flight." How might we transcend this?

In my own life, I have seen two separate instances where Nipun, and a monk I know, were being scolded for something. In both instances, both Nipun and the monk jumped over to the side of the scolder and encouraged them on, which of course led to the scolder being unable to scold any further! While developing awareness is like hitting cognitive dissonance with a hammer and cracking it up after several blows, love is like a bulldozer that scares cognitive dissonance with its mere appearance. There is something about the love that Nipun and the monk were able to invoke, definitely after a long practice of awareness, that transformed the situation.

In my own experience, whenever I have experimented loving someone that I had previously not loved (or worse, judged), the relationship has transformed, with me learning so much more than what I thought was possible. Judging others is the antithesis of love, and Jennifer's sharing reminded me of a quote that Chris sent me really made my day. "We judge others by their behavior. We judge ourselves by our intentions." What a disparity!

Pancho shared three deep things - one that I particularly liked was the third option, which my professor often advocates. Be not a believer, nor a disbeliever/skeptic. What is left is a third space, which cannot be appropriately labeled. Any questioning in this space comes from a foundation of openness and a desire to learn in the deepest way possible.

Santosh shared how she continues to learn from her children, and is more conscious of her own habits in order to set a good example for them. Parenting is a blessing-in-disguise, a great opportunity for introspection. Ripa shared beautiful thoughts which I hope she will write as a comment.

Lynn's sharing took me into a space of deep gratitude for Wednesdays - CFMom, although unwell, was there to support our journeys.

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On May 4, 2010 Pree wrote:

Talking with a friend recently I realised when arguing we became defensive and used our learned behaviour, flight and fight responses. The end result was not good, so together we decided to watch our actions, and be aware of these behaviours, so that if we do end up arguing again it will not result in that bad experience, but help us learn more about each other. I think this article is so timely. :-)