Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Month: October 2010 (Page 1 of 2)

Science and Spirituality

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

How can science inform our view of the world and spark our practice of compassion?

One fundamental flaw in the way we live is our day-to-day view of phenomena and reality as permanent, independent, and singular.

In this frozen view of reality, we are often preoccupied with self and blind to the impact of our actions upon others.

Modern science is revealing a completely different view of reality –  the incredible range of interconnectedness that actually exists within the universe.

Recognizing this interrelatedness dissolves our sense of separation and leads to greater compassion.

The practice of meditation is another way to dissipate the artificial barriers between ourselves and others.  Meditation naturally gives rise to our fundamental good heart.

The practice of compassion is another form of meditation.  We begin cultivating compassion for those close to us. Then we gradually widen the circle of compassion to include those toward whom we feel neutral, and eventually including those we dislike – until we have embraced the entire universe.

Sunday Reflection:  Science and Spirituality

For the reflection this week, I’ve chosen the following quotation from Albert Einsein, which weaves together the views of science and spirituality.

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space.  He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion is his consciousness.  The delusion is a kind of prison of us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.  Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” – from Ideas and Opinions by Albert Einstein

Exploring Science and Spirituality

If you are interested in science and spirituality, you might enjoy visiting The Mind and Life Institute.

The Institute:  “…seeks to understand the human mind and the benefits of contemplative practices through an integrated mode of knowing that combines first person knowledge from the world’s contemplative traditions with methods and findings from contemporary scientific inquiry. Ultimately, our goal is to relieve human suffering and advance well-being.”

How does science inform your view of the universe?  How are you widening the circle of compassion?

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If you liked this article, please share it with others via you social media networks.  Thanks so much!  Sandra

The Revolution Begins Within

Dalai LamaWith the exception of natural disasters, whatever global problems we face – the environmental crisis, war, poverty, child slavery, drug abuse, drug trafficking, and so on – are all man-made problems.

Therefore, they can be overcome.

The same applies to the feelings of unhappiness, anxiety, discontent, frustration, uncertainty, and depression that plague the modern world despite all our material wealth and conveniences.

None of this is permanent or unsolvable.

In the first article of this series on Inner and Outer Harmony, the Dalai Lama concludes – based on the pervasive discontent he has observed in developed countries – that material wealth does not bring happiness.  He says that science, technology, and knowledge on their own – although important –  also have not and cannot solve the world’s problems.

He points out how the very structure of modern life is now geared toward creating a greater illusion of autonomy and independence.  This has lead to an increase in loneliness and alienation and a diminishing ability to express basic human affection – causing further problems and adding to our challenges.

When we look carefully at all these external problems, he argues, we see they are all fundamentally ethical problems. He says,

“They each reflect our understanding of what is right and wrong, of what is positive and what is negative, of what is appropriate and inappropriate.  But beyond this we can point to something more fundamental:  a neglect of what I call our inner dimension.”

“A revolution is called for, certainly,  But not a political, an economic, or even a technical revolution.   We have had enough experience of these during the past century to know that a purely external approach will not suffice.  What I propose is a spiritual revolution.”

What is a spiritual revolution?

A spiritual revolution is not a religious revolution. The Dalai Lama clearly distinguishes between religion and spirituality.  He defines spirituality in this way,

“Spirituality, I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit – such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony, which bring happiness to both self and other.  These inner qualities need not be connected to religion.”

While religion might encompass spirituality, religion is not required for the cultivation of a kind heart.

All the positive qualities of the human spirit can be nourished with practice and become a springboard for consistently acting out of concern for the welfare of others.  This is how the Dalai Lama defines spiritual practice and it is not necessarily connected with religion.  He says we might be able to do without religion, but we cannot survive without these basic spiritual qualities.

A Concern for Others

The single characteristic common to all these positive qualities of the human spirit is a concern for the well-being of others.

As much as you wish to be happy yourself, you also wish for others to be happy.  As much as you would like to avoid suffering, you also do not want others to suffer.

With this underlying motivation, you are cognizant of the potential impact of your behavior on others and adjust your actions accordingly.  As much as possible, you try to help and you try to avoid harming.

Just like you naturally feel love for your own child, you can grow love and compassion for all beings with practice.

In order to change the world for the better, the Dalai Lama proposes a reawakening of these basic human values like compassion, patience, forgiveness, and the others mentioned above along with,

“…a radical reorientation away form our habitual preoccupation with self.  It is a call to turn toward the wider community of beings with whom we are connected, and for conduct which recognizes others’ interests alongside our own.”

That’s right – we need to give up our self-centeredness if we want to see a better world. Paradoxically, reducing our self-absorption and over-focus on our own “needs” brings greater happiness.  Remember, all those shiny, bright new things are not bringing us a meaningful sense of contentment or lasting happiness.

Being “good” actually pays off. When we look closely at the impact of our actions, we will see time and again that helping others, helps you. Whereas harming others, harms you. This is the logical behind the Dalai Lama’s advice to bewisely selfish.” Ultimately, helping is in one’s own self-interest as is avoiding harmful actions.  Thus the age-old adage, “What comes around, goes around.”

Heartfelt Ethics

The sense of ethics the Dalai Lama proposes is not a prescriptive one, but a natural expression of a heart-felt concern for others.

By definition love, compassion, and other basic spiritual qualities that presume some level of concern for others also presuppose ethical restraint.  Ethical conduct is not something we engage in only because it is prescribed or coerced, but because of the heart-felt concern we feel for others.  This is how spirituality and ethics are interconnected even when religion is not in play.

There is no formulaic approach to ethics that can provide an answer for every possible ethical dilemma.

Instead, the Dalai Lama proposes that we take as a starting point the observation that we all wish to be happy and that we all wish to avoid suffering.  He suggests that one determinant of whether an act is ethical is its effect on another person’s experience or expectation of happiness.  An act which diminishes  happiness is potentially an unethical one.

Ultimately, it is our motivation or intention that drives and inspires our action. Therefore, it is our motivation – the overall state of one’s heart and mind – when we act that is key to determining the ethics of an action.

The aim of spiritual and, therefore, ethical practice is thus to transform and perfect one’s motivation.  When our motivation is positive, wholesome action follows.  Perfecting our motivation is how we become better human beings.  It is key to living consciously.

Perfecting Our Motivation

Following are some simple ways that you can establish a positive motivation everyday.

1. Take time to establish your motivation each day – the wish to help and the desire not to harm.  For example, every morning make a conscious heart-felt aspiration to help and not to harm in all that you do that day.

2. Check you motivation and your actions throughout the day.

Make conscious choices.  Consider how each of your actions will affect others – not just those close to you but your community and the whole world around you. For example, when it comes to buying a new product, consider its impact on the environment. Mindful consumption is an expression of  a good heart.

Re-establish your positive motivation if you feel it waning at any point during the day.

3. Use challenging encounters and situations to cultivate positive qualities like love, compassion, tolerance, and forgiveness, and to diminish harmful qualities like anger, hatred, greed, attachment, and so on.

4. Gently encourage positive qualities in others without succumbing to judgment.

5. Briefly examine your actions at the end of each day.  Celebrate the positive ones.  Acknowledge the harmful ones. Learn from them.  Consider how you might have handled a situation differently.  But don’t be harsh with yourself!  Re-commit to positive motivation and to expressing it through positive actions.

The more you transform your heart and mind through this simple approach the happier you will become.  Your actions will naturally become positive and you will be contributing to creating a better world for everyone else at the same time.

Practical Solutions Are Also Necessary

The Dalai Lama is not suggesting that cultivating positive spiritual values alone will make all the problems in the world automatically disappear.  Each challenge needs its own practical solution as well.  For example, climate change isn’t going to reverse itself simply because we are nice to each other.  We need to change our consumption habits too.  However, having a deep concern for the well-being of others is the motivation that can wake us up and spur us to do so.

A spiritual revolution can’t solve all our problems on its own, but without such a revolution of the spirit, there is no hope of achieving a lasting solution to our problems at all.

The revolution is now.  It begins within.  It starts with you.

Do you feel an inner revolution is crucial to changing the world?

This series A Simple Guide to Inner and Outer Harmony is based on Ethics for a New Millennium by the Dalai Lama

Image of the Dalai Lama from his Facebook Page.

If you liked this article, please share it with others via your social media networks.  Thanks!  Sandra


Do You Take Your Thoughts & Emotions Too Seriously?

The sky as a metaphor for the true nature of mindOur biggest problem in life is that we take our thoughts and emotions far too seriously.

We think they are real, solid, and lasting when they are really only like clouds passing by in the sky.

Over time, we build deep habitual ruts called arrogance, pride, attachment, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, self-protection, greed, fear, and other unhelpful states of mind that only lead to suffering and discontentment.  One thought or emotion sparks another in an endless succession of mind chatter.

Eventually, the clouds obscure the sky.  We mistake our thoughts and emotions for our true identity.

Even happiness can trigger unhappiness when we want it to remain.  For example, you buy a new car and are jazzed beyond belief.  Then some kind soul dents your car.  Where did the happiness go?  We are so enslaved by our thoughts and emotions, following after them without pause.

The Clouds Are Not the Sky

None of these thoughts and emotions are the true nature of our mind, which is  “…a primordial, pure, pristine awareness that is at once intelligent, cognizant, radiant, and always awake.”  This innermost essence – which is unchanging and deathless – goes by different names in different traditions.

Understanding the difference between the ordinary thinking mind and the true nature of mind is the first step to freeing oneself from the prison of tumultuous emotions.  Meditation is the key to settling the mind so that ultimately we can recognize our true nature when it is introduced to us by an authentic teacher.

Reflection:  the Sky and the Clouds

The true nature of mind  is beyond words, beyond thought, beyond description.  Thus metaphors are used to point us in the right direction.  The metaphor of the sky helps us to imagine the open, boundless, and unlimited quality of our original mind.  At the same time,  our true nature is not identical to the sky as it also boasts a radiant clear awareness.

For the reflection this week, I’ve chosen the following quotations that use the image of the sky to help us remember the difference between ordinary mind and the sky-like nature of mind.

“Always have a sky inside you.”  Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche

“Our true nature could be compared to the sky, and the confusion of the ordinary mind to clouds.  Some days the sky is completely obscured by clouds.  When we are down on the ground, looking up, it is very difficult to believe there is anything else there but clouds.  Yet we only have to fly in a plane to discover up above a limitless expanse of clear blue sky.  From up there the clouds we assumed were everything seems so small and so far away down below.

We should always remember:  the clouds are not the sky, and do not “belong” to it.”    – from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche

Just remembering this crucial distinction can help us release troubling thoughts and emotions and bring more spaciousness, grace, and happiness into our life.

Does this metaphor inspire you? Are you spending your time embroiled in the clouds or do you allow them to pass by like clouds in the sky?

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If you liked this article, please share the link with others via your social networks.  Thanks so much!  Sandra


The Web of Love and 5 Beautiful Bloggers

The web of loveUnbelievable as it may seem, I was disconnected from the internet for 3 years.

No, I wasn’t in prison!

When I reconnected just less than a year ago, I discovered an entirely new world –  the blogosphere.

At first I was enamored by the practical side of blogs.  Whatever I needed to know, I could find a blog about it.

Then I gloriously stumbled upon the web of love.  It all began with the indefatigable Tess Marshall at The Bold Life.

The Web of Love

If you haven’t met Tess yet, let me introduce you to this extraordinary and spirited woman. 

Tess Marshall is “…a wife, mother, entrepreneur, speaker, author, workshop and retreat leader, spiritually-based, fear shattering, calculated risk taker, obsessed with being happy, courageous and bold, witty, big-hearted, loving, passionate, runner, world traveler and ADHD hyper human being.”  She’s also a counselor and coach.

When I wrote a guest post for The Bold Life called Be Wisely Selfish, I suddenly became interlinked with her wild and woolly community of joyful love-obsessed bloggers.  This led to more wonderful encounters of the extraordinarily positive kind.  Thanks to these brilliant new interconnections, my life is constantly suffused with love.

Surround yourself with love. It’s easy to do in the blogosphere.  It’s a powerful medium for expressing and receiving love, joy, compassion, kindness, and clarity.  This bedazzled web of love has the power to  transform the world around us.  Of course, the point is not just blogging about love, but to genuinely be of help to others. To do the best we can to be loving in our thoughts, words, and deeds.

Now Tess has kindly bestowed upon me and 4 other fabulous female bloggers who are changing the world the “Beautiful Blogger Award.”  Thank you, Tess.  I am so moved by your acknowledgment.  And I appreciate being part of the fun.

7 things about me

As part of receiving this award, I am asked to share 7 things about myself.  Here goes:

1. I was born in the windy city – Chicago.  I’ve also lived in California – Orange County, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco.  Then there was a stint in upstate New York near Albany followed by time in the South of France.   I now live on the Big Island of Hawai’i.

2. Going to the library was one of my favorites activities as a child.  I felt the calling to be a writer and as a teen I devoured Writer’s Digest.  But life took a different turn.  I became the Executive Director for a nonprofit.  Years later, I actualized my childhood dream by becoming a freelance copywriter.

3.  One of my biggest challenges is thinking too much.  This is one reason why I love meditation.

4. I have an aversion to exercise.  I have to push myself to do Qigong and Yoga, but always love the experience and the result.

5. A few of my favorite movies:  Harold and Maude for its humor and life lessons.  Ms. Congeniality for its hilarity; I seriously thought I would bust a gut.  Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring for its beauty and profundity.

6.  I believe in healing.  It may not always be possible to heal the body, but we can still heal the heart-mind and spirit.

7. The Dalai Lama is my role model.  I aspire to actualize his ocean of compassion and wisdom in my very own being.  It’s possible – for me and for you – because we all have the same essential nature – the fundamental heart of goodness.

Sharing the love and the fun

Now the fun and hard part.  It’s my turn to pass the Beautiful Blogger award on to five other bloggers, but only five.  There are far more than 5 bloggers that inspire, delight, educate, and inform me.  I hope you will visit my blog list to discover more of them.

Here are 5 beautiful bloggers who regularly light my fire.  The envelope please…

The Beautiful Blogger Award goes to:

Now its your turn Beautiful Bloggers to tell us 7 things about yourself and to pass the award on to up to 5 bloggers of your choice.  Have fun!

Dear readers, I would love to know if you have you found love and joy on the internet?

Stayed tuned: I will continue the series on Changing the World:  Advice from the Dalai Lama with my next post.

If you liked this article, please share the link on Twitter, Stumble Upon, Facebook, and the like.  Thanks so much, Sandra


A Net of Brilliant Jewels

Brilliant Net of JewelsA friend recently confessed to me that he feels scared about the idea of merging into the “Oneness.”

I admit – for me too – this conjures up pictures of being assimilated into the Borg.

I assured him that merging into the Oneness is probably far different than he imagines.  But what do I know!

What is this Oneness that is spoken of in many spiritual traditions?   I haven’t seen this term used frequently in Buddhism – at least not in the traditions that I’ve studied.

Does this Oneness imply an absence of individuation? Is it the same as emptiness?  Is it the same as non-dual pure awareness?  I’m beginning to suspect this might be the case.  I’ve been reading a proof of Be Love Now, a new book by Raam Das due for an early November release.  Raam Das speaks frequently about the Oneness connecting it with love, emptiness, God, and/or awareness at different points in the book.

Of course, all these words are attempting to capture something that is “beyond words, beyond thought, beyond description.”  Yet, we need pointers to guide us along the way.

Sunday Reflection:  A Net of Brilliant Jewels

For our reflection this week, I’ve chosen this description of the universe offered by the Buddha, which is a metaphor for emptiness and interdependence.

“If everything is impermanent, then everything is what we call “empty” which means lacking in any lasting, stable, and inherent existence; and all things, when seen and understood in their true relation, are not independent but interdependent with all other things.  The Buddha compared the universe to a vast net woven of a countless variety of brilliant jewels, each one with a countless number of facets.  Each jewel reflects in itself every other jewel in the net and is, in fact, one with every other jewel.”

“Physicists have introduced us to the world of the quantum particle, a world astonishingly like that described by Buddha in his image of the glittering net that unfolds across the universe.  Just like the jewels in the net, all particles exist potentially as different combinations of other particles.”

– from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche

What are your thoughts about this view of the universe?   What is your understanding of the Oneness?

Stay tuned: I will be posting a review of Be Love Now on November 10th

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If you liked this post, please share the link with others.  Thanks so much!  Sandra


3 Great posts, 2 Useful Resources, and Water

How many times have you had a glass of water today without giving it a second thought?

Can you imagine for a moment what your life would be like if simply drinking a glass of water was potentially life-threatening?

That’s what life is like for almost a billion people on this planet.

Yes, unbelievably 1 out of 8 people do not have access to safe water.

And every week, nearly 38,000 children under the age of 5 die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions.

But, you can change this.

As part of Blog Action Day 2010, I would like to ask you to consider making a donation – whatever you can manage – so children don’t have to die every day from unsafe drinking water.

Just hop on over to The Art of Non Conformity’s charity:water page to bring clean water to Ethiopia.   Or donate directly at the Blog Action Day donation page to which says, “For only $25, you can give clean water to one person for a lifetime.”

Now, that’s what I call the power to make a difference.  Just follow those links to learn a whole lot more about the impacts of unclean water.  Thank you for reading this and thank you for caring.

Outstanding Posts

Here are just a few special posts that have recently stimulated my thinking or touched my heart.  I thought you might like them too.

  • Mindful Consumption and The World We Have at The New Pursuit – Is mindful consumption the magic bullet for turning around the environmental crisis? This beautifully written post discusses the practice of mindful consumption, the core concept in Thich Nhat Hanh’s new book The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology.
  • The BridgeMaker: Alex Blackwell at The Bold Life – Choosing goodness – it’s so simply yet so extraordinary. This interview lifted me up. Alex says: “Life is short and happens quickly. We can either choose to be disappointed with what we have or we can choose to see the goodness in everything around us. I choose to see the goodness. I choose happiness. I choose love. And I hope others will, too.”  The article also has a link to Alex’s new and free e-book How to Love Consciously.
  • The Grid at Invisible Mikey – What can we learn from people who are dying?  Mike explores how “…we are animated by the electricity of our consciousness.” He says, “Many people pretend that living is something different and separate from dying.  To me living and dying walk hand in hand as best friends in permanent companionship.”

Useful Resources

Here are two new resources from people I respect and trust.  I’m not an affiliate for either program, just sharing resources that I’ve personally found helpful.

  • Getting Results the Agile Way by J.D. Meier, Sources of Insight – This personal results system for work and life is now available in print and soon to be available in PDF and Kindle formats.  I followed the 30 Days of Getting Results the Agile Way free online course in August. The results were fantastic, the program easy to follow, the approach inspiring and fun.  I highly recommend it if you are interested in meaningful results, fresh starts, flexibility, action rather than over-planning, and boundaries instead of burnout.  You can still read the book online for free, but many people prefer to have a print format.
  • Successful Blogging in 12 Simple Steps by Annabel Candy, Get in the Hot Spot – Successful Blogging in 12 Simple Steps is the easiest and fastest way to learn about blogging. It’s a self-study course you can follow at your own pace.  This e-book will be available on October 29th, but you can learn about it right now by following the link and reading the comprehensive information page.

I hope you enjoy these links and would love to hear your feedback on these articles and resources.

If you enjoyed this article, please share the link with others.  Thanks so much! Sandra


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