The Journey Through Grief

In the midst of grief, it’s hard to see to the other side.  I offer this quote for your consideration.  May it serve you in some way.

“Grief may be the greatest healing experience of a lifetime. It’s certainly one of the hottest fires we will encounter. It penetrates the hard layers of our self-protection, plunges us into the sadness, fear, and despair we have tried so hard to avoid. Grief is unpredictable, uncontrollable. There are no shortcuts around grief. The only way is right through the middle. Some say time heals, but that’s a half-truth. Time alone doesn’t heal. Time and attention heal.

In grief we access parts of ourselves that were somehow unavailable to us in the past. With awareness, the journey through grief becomes a path to wholeness. Grief can lead us to a profound understanding that reaches beyond our individual loss. It opens us to the most essential truth of our lives: the truth of impermanence, the causes of suffering, and the illusion of separateness. When we meet these experiences with mercy and awareness, we begin to appreciate that we are more than the grief. We are what the grief is moving through. In the end, we may still fear death, but we don’t fear living nearly as much. In surrendering to our grief, we have learned to give ourselves more fully to life.”

Frank Ostaseski is the founder of Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco, the first Buddhist hospice in America.  From Buddhist Teachers Respond to the Newtown Tragedy, Tricycle Magazine

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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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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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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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