Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Practice

                                                                                                                    North Berwick

We must teach ourselves by practicing for ourselves. The results will arise at the practice, not at the teaching. Any teaching can only help us get an initial understanding of something. This is good and necessary, it can be the spark of inspiration for a path to something, but that something is going to come with the practice. It is going to be realized as something known due to the practice; the actual experience of the practice. I play golf. I have read books on the technique of the game and have taken lessons from a teacher. These have been enormously helpful to my initial understanding, however, it has proven to be the countless hours of practice that have given me the knowledge and the skills to excel at it. It is only through the practice of anything that we gain true experience and then the knowing or the wisdom of whatever it is. If you truly know it, you know it through the practice. If you doubt it, you doubt it through the practice. Teaching from books or masters may be true enough, but simply reading or listening is not enough to fully realize it. These teachings merely point the way to realization. To fully realize something we must take these teachings into a practice.  This is the same for my engagement with life itself. I must practice certain principles that lead to a better quality of life and conversely practice avoiding those that do not. So I seek out teachings that help point the way and then teach myself these things by practicing them daily, toknowthem.
It has been said that those who simply believe others are not truly wise. A wise person practices until he is one with that practice. A wise person gains the actual experience of doing something to gain the mastery that leads to the fulfillment of it. Having faith in something without knowing it is the antithesis of wisdom. It has also been said that faith without works is dead. To truly have faith in something it must be preceded by work or experience and these come by actually doing the work, having the experience, engaging in the practice and realizing the it of it through these. Then faith in something blossoms forth because it is known, not because someone told you to have it. A wise person does not readily believe before he considers something. He does not believe something before he tries it himself and actually gains the experience necessary for the wisdom to emerge. Only then does he believe. Only then does he develop faith. Even with this level of faith or understanding or wisdom our student keeps an open mind to what these represent because they are impermanent. And, impermanence is one of the cornerstones to reality; without knowing everything is impermanent we are living in an illusionary place.
To function in the world it is helpful to have convictions, opinions, beliefs and certain perspectives, but when we hold on to these without the willingness to look further we close off our path to deeper understandings and the wisdom that they bring. All of these convictions, opinions, beliefs and perspectives should be appreciated as things subject to change; subject to the same thing all phenomena are subject to and that is impermanence. If we hold on to them too tightly they will become less and less relevant, because everything does change. There is no stability or permanence. We would like to have some stability in our lives, but to fully appreciate there is none is one part of the path to become awakened to reality. The reality is: everything is impermanent, things arise and then cease, cease then arise, manifest as one thing and then something else. This includes our thoughts as well as our bodies. My friends in Scotland say if you do not like the weather wait a minute. Things may persist, but they do change and they will change much more fluidly if we do not try to hold on to them. Holding on to convictions, opinions, beliefs and perspectives means we are holding on to our thoughts and our thoughts are the most impermanent of all phenomena. And, when we cling to anything we are initiating a most unsatisfactory way of being in this world. If I tell my golf coach, this is the way I do this and cling to the belief that it is my way, I leave myself closed off to the possibility of improvement. The key, once again, is not to just believe him, but to try the new way and to see for myself . The very best teachers do not say here is how to do something, they say try this and see for yourself.

I have to remember that mind precedes all phenomena and mind matters most. My thoughts become my speech, my actions and ultimately my habits. If my speech, actions and habits are grounded in wisdom gained from my experience of knowing then happiness will follow. If my speech, actions and habits are anything less than this then suffering arises. It is through the cultivation of right understandings and thoughts that lead me to an awakened state, an appreciation for reality and happiness.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Lump of Clay

Do not error.
To not error means perfect honesty.
Those who are imbued with perfect honesty are in accord with the virtues of heaven and earth.
To be in accord with the virtues of heaven and earth is to be in harmony with what is natural.
To be in harmony with what is natural results in avoiding errors.
Avoiding errors means to be honest.
To be honest leads to trust, intimacy and love.
Trust, intimacy and love result from the
cultivation of honesty in all one’s affairs.
Perfect honesty means to not error,
To not error is most difficult to avoid.
Difficulty in avoiding error stems from being out of sync with that which is natural.
Being out of sync with that which is natural is to error.
To error is evidenced by dishonesty.
Dishonesty occurs as a result of one’s own thoughts, actions and speech.
One’s own thoughts, actions and speech can lead to distrust, a lack of intimacy and ultimately hatred: the antithesis of love.
Hatred is to be avoided at all cost,
Avoiding hatred comes from cultivating honesty in all one’s affairs.
Cultivating honesty in all one’s affairs leads to rigorous honesty,
Rigorous honesty approaches perfect honesty.
Perfect honesty is heaven on earth.
Heaven on earth is a loving person who is loved in return.
A loving person who is loved in return has achieved true intimacy, which was achieved by earning trust, which was achieved by rigorous honesty.
Rigorous honesty is being wary of thoughts, actions and speech.
Being wary of thoughts, actions and speech avoids dishonesty.
Avoiding dishonesty leads to trust, trust grows into intimacy and blossoms fully into love.
Love for one’s self and others.
Beyond love for one’s self and others lies heaven on earth.
Heaven on earth is knowing all the way to heaven is heaven.
Heaven is enlightenment.
Enlightenment is the knowledge there is no heaven and earth, no self and others, no us and them, no you and me.
This knowledge is fully developed awareness.
Fully developed awareness is unity consciousness.
Achieving unity consciousness does not allow for dualistic thinking.
Dualistic thinking is a roadblock to heaven (enlightenment).
Roadblocks to enlightenment are unnatural occurrences of separatism.
Separatism results from a lack of unity consciousness.
A lack of unity consciousness results from dualistic thinking.
Dualistic thinking is a delusional belief in a self-entity swimming in a sea of other self-entities.
Believing in a self-entity leads to us and them and you and me thoughts.
These thoughts are the source of much pain and suffering.
Pain and suffering that can be avoided by the elimination of the cause of pain and suffering
The cause of pain and suffering is ignorance.
Ignorance of three fundamentals of existence:
Suffering, impermanence and unity (no self).
Suffering which can be avoided by developing an awareness of its causes (ignorance) and cultivating skills (knowledge) to overcome them.
Avoiding the desire for permanence in an ever-changing, impermanent world.
And, finally, a growing appreciation and direct experience of unity consciousness.
A consciousness that negates dualistic thinking and embraces a belief in the Oneness in all things.
Do not error.
To not error is to behold the One in all things.
To behold the One in all things is a blissful state of harmony.
A blissful state of harmony is achieved during transcendent moments.
Transcendent moments come through cultivation of unity consciousness.
The cultivation of unity consciousness is achieved through meditation.
Meditation leads to conscious contact.
Conscious contact is a feeling of being fused to nature, call it god, a higher power, the universe or just the way.
This feeling of fusion is a direct experience of oneness with all and is pervasive.
Achieving the pervasive means being a part of all and realizing all is me.
All is me means there is no “other.”
No other is clarity.
When clarity is achieved one can fully appreciate poems like this one by Madam Kuan:

       ‘Twixt you and me
       There’s too much emotion.
       That’s the reason why
There’s such a commotion!
Take a lump of clay,
Wet it, pat it,
And make an image of me,
And an image of you.
Then smash them, crash them,
And add a little water.
Break them and re-make them
Into an image of you,
And an image of me.
Then in my clay, there’s a little of you.
And in your clay, there’s a little of me.
And nothing ever shall us sever;
Living, we’ll sleep in the same quilt,
And dead, we’ll be buried together.

Monday, September 18, 2017


Art, to be fully appreciated, must be true to contemporaneous life. It is not that we should ignore the claims of posterity, but that we should seek to enjoy the present more. It is not that we should disregard the creations of the past, but that we should try and assimilate them into our consciousness. Slavish conformity to traditions and formulas fetters the expression of individuality…
There should be a dynamic nature to one’s philosophy, which places more stress on the process through which perfection is sought rather than the attainment of perfection itself. True beauty lies in the incomplete. It is left for each individual to complete the picture and, in so doing, obtain true beauty, a beauty which is as unique as each individual. The virility of life and art lay in its possibilities for growth, not in achievement. It is the expression of each individual’s imagination which is to be sought, not the conformity of things symmetrical, which suggests completion or worse repetition. Uniformity of design in life and art proves fatal to the freshness of imagination.

Monday, August 7, 2017


Meyerowitz/Barrett Studio/Tuscany 5/17
sangha |ˈsäNG(ɡ)ə|
the Buddhist community of monks, nuns, novices, and laity.

         Interesting word Sangha. A place to take refuge along with the Buddha and the Dharma. Of course, I might ask, “A refuge from what?” It could be the day to day, the repetitive grind of daily life, a place to seek something greater, aspire to something more meaningful than questions about the weather, It is a community, which by definition puts me in the company of others; not just any others, but like minded others, who are seeking something also. People who I can relate to and be sustained by in my common desire to be happier. In the AA world it is called “the fellowship.”
So much of my time is spent in quiet communion with myself. Here is the place where I have tried to figure things out; at times thinking there is something wrong with me if I can’t. Culturally, there have been countless efforts for me to develop a can do attitude; some sort of resilience necessary to contend with life in the big city. Asking for help…a sign of weakness, admitting I don’t know…the same. To surrender with the admission that I  do need help and that I truly don’t know is the first step towards the wisdom I’ve been seeking. I might not even appreciate that I’m seeking this, but the futility of my previous efforts to find a lasting happiness inevitably leads me to a place that is often described as: sick and tired of being sick and tired or more simply…just unhappy. With all the past habits so deeply engrained, it is going to require a whole lot of heavy lifting to extricate myself from the safe, comfortable, familiar, habitual life I’ve been leading. Change is not something I’ve found comfort in and the fear of change is more than a bit daunting. Just what might this change entail, actually be? To begin with it requires an ability to say I’m my our own problem. It has always been more comfortable to blame others or circumstances for my unhappiness, but the cause has never been anything other than myself. Admission of this will be the first and perhaps the most crucial realization I will make to begin the process of awakening, being reborn, reunited with myself, reacquainted with the child like curiosity that was such a great teacher. Who amongst us has the courage to say we are our own problem? Who amongst us will have the willingness to look for the answers? Who amongst us will possess an open-minded effort to begin the process of recovery from what is keeping us from attaining true peace and happiness? Let each of us say, “I am.” Bingo and the door opens. Not far perhaps, but far enough to allow a crack of light in and a tiny glimpse of something other than what we’ve been used to seeing. What does this crack of light reveal? What is it that we are getting a tiny glimpse of? For all our efforts to dispel the truth of it, it is a power greater. I have, for the first time in a very, very long time, seen and felt the stirrings of hopefulness as realized through the admission of defeat. And, if I’ve been defeated well enough (and the more defeated the better) I will reach for that light as if for a life preserver and sense a small taste of gratitude that it exists and I might not just keep sinking if I hold on. But hold on to what? A power greater than myself is what. A power much greater than the little me, myself and I. A power which, at a minimum, can best be described as We. We can do this together. We are far better equipped to figure these things out if we ask for help and are willing to say, “I don’t know.” A power greater need not be some murky deity or a super human being, a god or a goddess with which we have to come to believe in before proceeding.
This is a common roadblock well worth taking a big detour around. Fortunately, there is a well trodden path to follow here. It is called the Sangha in Buddhist teachings and the fellowship in the world of Alcoholics Anonymous. But let us dispense with labels and fully embrace the idea that what is at the heart of any of these descriptions is…more human interaction. Not super human, which leads to debate and sadly in most places in the world, conflict, but rather just the ordinary beauty of being human and growing in a full appreciation that other humans have achieved something called happy, joyous and free by following this path, this way, this thing which cannot be named, but can be most accurately referred to as a power greater than self. A power, which is in full view each and every day as I watch those struggling alone vs. those asking for and receiving help.
The more I’m willing to see this power at work, the more likely I will be to seek its benefits. How could it be otherwise? With little more effort, it is not such a leap to turn myself over to the care of it, while at the same time grow to understand that my active participation is a necessary ingredient. I am not passively surrendering, I’m actively reaching out with a hand that is asking for help. And, whose hand am I  reaching out for?  I’m reaching out to the hand of those who have gone before me. To the hand of those who have more experience than I do. To the hand of wisdom that has been where I’ve been and has achieved what I want. Not what I need (although I do need it), but more importantly, what I genuinely want. For if there is still a remnant of self will, a small amount of doubt, a lack of willingness to turn a new corner, then I will undermine the very thing I’ve been looking for all along and have failed miserably to find and that is something called happiness. I must know intuitively that whatever habits or old patterns of being I’ve employed haven’t worked, while at the same time fully appreciating the need for change. And, this change I seek, because I genuinely want it, can be found in the Sangha or fellowship of like-minded souls, whom I can both relate to and revel in, due to our common goal. A goal, which originally takes the form of an end to suffering, grows into a goal of something called happy, joyous and free and fully blossoms into and culminates with a life’s purpose of being of benefit to others. And, through the last of these, I’ve seen the beauty of the circle which is continually strengthened, first by protecting myself, next by protecting others and then experiencing the true gift of doing so, which I happily find is: the more I benefit others, the more I benefit myself. But, let me not forget that it starts with self- protection. I’m ill equipped to be of service without firstly achieving a safe harbor for myself. This harbor has a name. It is the Sangha/the fellowship. Finding this place is where I will develop an enlightened state of being or consciousness of the unity in all things; a great departure from where I’ve come from, which was a place of separateness and isolation from others.

                          --LPC 2/13/17