It is raining…
It was a dreary day today. And tonight was the first night of the 39th annual West Island Roundup in Dorval. Imagine a room full of drunks come together to hear speakers from New York City, what an amazing event.
Our primary ride is sick, which meant we had to hoof it all the way to Dorval via the Metro, and two buses. It took us about an hour to make the transit, in the rain, on packed buses, on the highway. It was dicey…
We arrived in one piece my friend and I. And all of our friends were there. The minions of our fearless pied piper, our first lady of sobriety from the Tuesday Night meeting.
Tomorrow I get to work hospitality.
For tonight I must say that I have been in a very maudlin mood. It all began not long ago, and now that the funk has been driven away, I am trying to move forwards.
Last night there was a documentary on television, late night, called “We Were Here.” I don’t think I can watch another AIDS documentary again. I am from a different time, and I lived through all that horror. And now I am on the other side of death.
One line that got me was that those of us who have seen such death, and survived it, if not careful, can get lost and become the wandering ghosts.
Those of us who do not necessarily re-engage life.
I re-engaged life. With all that I had within me, I fought to get back on track.
But like some, I had a problem.
The most important piece of literature in A.A. it was said tonight, was the preamble. Ancient Chinese wisdom speaks that
“Wisdom comes, when you can call something by its proper name.”
The preamble solves this problem for me, for us.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.
The only requirement is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership, we are self supporting through our own contributions.
A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses or opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help others achieve sobriety.
My name is Jeremy and I am an alcoholic.
That is who I am. And this is the problem I have. This is my proper name.
Our speaker tonight said all this to us. In a round about sort of way. She told her story and we laughed and we shed a few tears, and most importantly, we identified with her.
This is our task. To stay sober. We have a mental, physical and spiritual disease. And she warned us, those of us with time, those with a lot of time, and for those of us with a little time, not to get stuck in any one area. Because we need to take care of all of us, not just part of us.
And it is not only in what we do in open company, but what we do ourselves. There might come a time when the drink rises up and tries to make us forget that we have a problem, and therefore, it would be ok, just for a little taste.
We go to meetings. Some get it right away, and for some, it takes a bit longer to coalesce. We laugh, because we alcoholics, come to meetings, to listen to people who have screwed up their lives, have reached rock bottom, and we long to listen to people share … They say that we “might have a problem!”
You never know when God is going to whisper in your ear, and if you’re not paying attention for the still small voice, you will miss it.
And God spoke, Well, maybe it wasn’t God, but more to the point, Mother Teresa made an appearance in the speakers story. And many ears perked up, after the fact, we were all on the same page in that room.
It was a sign. A whisper. And it spoke to me …
Mother Teresa was very interested in alcoholism, and the one thing she could not master, in serving the poorest of the poor, she just could not reach the alcoholic. And it is told that she placed the serenity prayer, steps and traditions at the foot of the statue of the Virgin Mary in a chapel in Calcutta.
Mention of Mother Teresa was not lost on me and I told this to our speaker after her share. That my ten year medallion, is engraved with the meditation “I Thirst,” and on my body is the same tattoo in Hebrew.
It was a brief wave from heaven.
Through all the suffering that I have seen in my life, two sober attempts and being successful at this point, not to have taken a drink in more than eleven years, is an achievement.
It is important that we get the opportunity to hear speakers who are not from here – to be fed from a different farm, so to speak.
The one thing we all have in common, our true names, and the ability to sit with you and say, I understand you, Let me tell you how I dealt with this or that. I can identify with you.
That’s all we have, is our experience. You never know the burden someone carries when you walk into a room of alcoholics. Or any room for that matter.
AIDS makes us humble. It makes us compassionate. It tempers us for the world about us. And it changes our lives forever, in ways that mere mortal men and women will never and can never know unless you have walked in our shoes.
I need to keep walking. Doing the next right thing.
I need to honor and listen to my spirit.
And we need fellowship … because we don’t do this on our own.
It was a beautiful night.
More to come, for sure. Stay tuned …
A couple days ago Curtis sent me an email asking a question, And that was “Predestination – fact or fiction?” Which I wrote him a reply. That reply sent me back to the books. This book specifically.
I believe that God is up there in heaven. And that we are down here. God created them, man and woman and said that that was good. Man and woman have free will to make choices and decisions. God may have ordained the universe and he put us all here for a reason. To learn knowledge and to learn how to love unconditionally and in the end, how to go to our deaths with some modicum of dignity.
I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the thought that God ordained everything in my life to happen the way it did and that he had everything and nothing to do with my current state of life. Did God create illness and suffering and are we just living the lot that God gave us? And if God had the control to create specific instances in our lives then he has the power to change those aspects of life that need to be changed. If God is ultimately in control, and he has a chess board up there and he is playing a great big game with us as pawns then what good is religion?
I’ve never ascribed to the belief that God has caused so many to suffer with illness, disease and Dis-ease. There is such suffering in the world that I cannot even begin to imagine that God has predestined all of this to go like it has. I don’t have all the answers to questions like this, but I can ask them of myself because I have a religious belief and I have a form of cosmology in my head.
I have studied Eastern traditions in my religious studies and they have different ways of seeing cosmology. Pantheistic religions have a broader view of cosmology than monotheistic religions. Then there is other literature that we can read. Like “Many lives and Many Masters.” or even the books by Kryon, the parables and the spirit books which I read so many of when I was first diagnosed because I needed to know how to die and I also wanted to know what was on the other side. I had my near death experience and they sent me back. And a wise man came to me and told me that I should ask my questions about the universe while I was still alive and not wait until I was dead. What good would answers be once we are dead…
The first time I read Many lives Many Masters it was a few years ago and I was at my in laws for the holidays, that was the first time that I had an astral projection occurrence. Then what followed was several snapping the tether dreams here at home. I have always paid attention to my dreams and I have cataloged them here under the pen name Jerome in the pages.
But I will tell you that I believe in reincarnation and that we have been here before. I myself have never been hypnotized and regressed but I have an affinity of certain times in history – I have quite the fancy for anything Egypt. That was really clear when the Egypt exhibit came to Montreal some years ago. I went to see the exhibit three or four times just to walk through the hall was a journey into the past.
So after talking to Curtis, I reread the text about past lives and reincarnation. And I have another book called The Journey Home a Kryon Parable that I quite like. They are both on my bedside table. I read them now and then. Because they are teaching books. If I have been here before, then I need to know why I am here now. And what debts need to be paid and to whom they need to be paid, and also what specific lessons am I supposed to learn while I am in this current physical incarnation.
If I was here before, and I died and I crossed over to the planes and was given my next incarnation with certain things I needed to do now, and also from Kryon it is said that we contract each incarnation with certain people in each incarnation. It is written that groups of people incarnate together over many lifetimes. That for some of us, certain people in our lives are only supposed to be in our lives for a specific period of time. And that when people come and go from our lives that it was supposed to be that way. And this is a present lesson that I am living through again right now. Why do people come and go from my life like they do, and this is the reminder why.
So now I have to look back over the recent past and ask some serious questions about what has happened and where the lessons are in everything I have done in the recent past. I am reflecting on this because I am writing my final synthesis paper for applied human sciences and I had to write about something from my life that recently occurred. And the writing flowed from somewhere within me. I just felt that the answer was coming so I sat and wrote out an entire section of my paper in one clean sweep.
I guess I go through these stages of reflection and growth every few months because my life is anything but boring and things are happening here and there all the time, and I feel like they have cosmic weight in this earthly incarnation. It goes without saying that this life was ordained by someone and that I have lived this life as it went. I made some rash decisions which I am paying for now. Yet I am still alive, so in my Christian cosmology, God isn’t done with me yet. This is a common expression that people who suffer from illnesses can hold on to, if we are still here and there is air in our lungs, then God is not done with us yet. There are still things to do and lessons to be learned, debts to pay and lessons to pass on to others on the path.
Lent is almost over… the 40 days of preparation and cleansing for Holy Week and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the most holy time of the religious calendar. Did you carry only what you needed? Did you share your water and bread with other pilgrims on the road? Did you take the easy way through Lent? Or did you work to better yourself and maybe learn something about yourself over these past 40 days and nights? Will you be ready for the resurrection? Will you go to the tomb to find him on that third morning? And who will be with you and what will the angels tell you….
“He is not here he has risen from the dead….”
If there is something that I still need to learn then I am willing to walk a few more steps – if there is a debt to be paid – I need to know to whom I owe that debt. If there are things that were left undone in a past life and I carried those things over into this life, I need to know what those things are. It is said that we are to gain knowledge to become more like God. Which means we must master the seven virtues, and we must also get rid of the seven deadly sins from our lives. We must become more like God in all that we do and say.
Faith without works is dead, it is far to easy to speak the right words – if there is no right action behind them, they are just hollow words with no meaning. So what are you doing with your life? Are you just coasting through on easy street or are you on your personal journey? Do you know what you are doing here? Have you asked the questions you need to ask of yourself ? What is God calling you to do? What has been left undone. What debts do you need to pay and to whom do you need to pay them to? And what lessons have you yet to learn?
If we were here before, and we are here now, there are things still to do. If we are alive then we have a job to do, lessons to learn and we need to meet those people on the path we are supposed to or destined to meet and we are supposed to pass that knowledge on to them. You never know when you will be entertaining an angel and pay close attention because one day the Masters will appear and then you will know what you need to know…
It is simple – we come into this life, and after all is said and done, we must have the ability to be ready to die. Living with no regrets and no misgivings, living life to its fullest, drinking in every experience. Approaching every person on our path with wonder because maybe they have something to pass on to us. Are you paying attention to the signs and the little things???
Sometimes it isn’t the BIG lessons we need to learn about, for many it is the little ones that have the biggest impact on our lives…
See you all soon. More to come…
(AP Photo/Bikas Das)By SAM DOLNICK, Associated Press Writer
CALCUTTA, India – The stooped man in the yarmulke fights his way through this chaotic city, the weight of generations heavy upon his shoulders.
He squeezes past tea stalls and sidewalk electricians, past idle rickshaws and honking cars. He edges through rows of vendors selling sparkly hair clips and, finally, pushes open a rusty gate hidden from the street.
Today is the Sabbath, and monsoon clouds., one of the last Jews of Calcutta, has reached a cobwebbed synagogue, a once-grand building with imposing doors that nearly always stay shuttered, and spires that soar up toward the
comes every Friday to light a candle, say a prayer, and check on the three synagogues still standing, however precariously, as relics of a passed era of plenty. Most weeks, he is the only visitor.
There were once 5,000 Jews living in this teeming port city, but today, as the Jewish New Year approaches, there are fewer than 35. Israel, 38 with a thin beard, is the youngest by nearly 25 years.
Israel lives inside the only place left where Jews aren’t a minority — the. He cares for the graves of his father, his great-grandparents, his uncles and his aunts, along with more than 2,000 other Jewish tombs.
He also tends to the two dozen Jewish elders still living, handles the last rites when they die, and, to stay kosher, butchers his own meat.
It’s not easy being the last of your people.
“It’s only a matter of time before people die or leave,” said Israel. “There is no future … The inevitable, I can’t fight.”
Indeed, repopulating the community would be tough. There aren’t many unmarried Jewish women in Calcutta — Israel is single and doesn’t know any women younger than 60. His sister married a Hindu, for which the elders shunned her. The last Jewish wedding anyone can remember was in 1982.
He is weary from Calcutta‘s midsummer heat, and from the responsibility of caring for his ancestors’ legacy. He’s well aware that a centuries-old community will likely die with him, but he sees nothing to do but tend to its remnants and blow on the fading embers.
“I’ve seen what the community was. To see the way it is now…” He trails off mid-sentence.
Israel survives on a combination of odd jobs, but his health is poor, his nerves frayed by his multiple responsibilities. He usually keeps his skullcap in his pocket because he tires of explaining its significance, but at the end of the day, when he’s in a taxi heading back to his solitary shed inside the cemetery, he takes it out and puts it on, exhaling for what seems like the first time all day.
In this country of 1.1 billion people, there are believed to be roughly 5,000 Jews — not enough to be counted as a distinct group in the Indian census. Jews first came to India as traders some 250 years ago, and today their largest community is in Mumbai, the country’s most cosmopolitan city.
Calcutta’s first Jews are thought to have come in the late 18th century, descendants of the Baghdad Jews who came from Syria, Iran and Iraq. They thrived as diamond traders, real estate dealers, exporters, spice wholesalers, and bakers — one Jewish bakery famous for its plum cakes still stands, run by the founder’s octogenarian grandson. Rickshaws and taxis still ply Synagogue Street and other roads named for prominent Jews.
The Jewish community built at least five synagogues and two schools. Today, there are 700 students at the Elias Meyer Free School and. Not one is Jewish, and nothing particularly Jewish is taught there.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Calcutta was a bustling, raucous hub, and Jews formed a solid minority, their wedding parties and religious feasts flowing down the temple steps. Jews were players at the popular horse track — Israel remembers his father’s racehorses, Onslaught, War Dance and Black Toy — and they were regulars at the fashionable restaurants. Jews rarely faced discrimination, mainly because “no one knew who we were,” said Ian Zackariah, 64.
As a community, “We were too small to bully,” he said. “There were so many other people to beat up — Hindus vs. Muslims, high castes vs. lower castes. Who’s going to pick on us?”
The birth of independent India in 1947, and the creation of Israel the following year, marked the beginning of the end for Calcutta’s Jews. Many left for the new Jewish state; others moved to Europe or the United States in search of better business opportunities.
Some stayed behind, but life was different. During services, women left the temple balcony, where they used to sit in keeping with Jewish custom, and sat with the men in the main hall — the synagogue felt too empty otherwise. Slowly, the Jewish butchers put away their knives, the bakers turned off their ovens, the teachers boxed up their Hebrew books.
The stalwarts stayed to care for their aging parents, to raise their children or simply because Calcutta was home.
Aline Cohen, 62 was born after the community’s heyday, but she still remembers rowdy festivals and packed synagogues. Now, there aren’t enough able-bodied men to form a minyan, the quorum necessary for services, and no one but Israel regularly visits the temples. The Jews rarely get together except at funerals, and sometimes not even then.
“It is lonely,” said Cohen, whose three children were raised in Calcutta but have since left. “We all have non-Jewish friends, but … there’s a spiritual loneliness. You miss Sabbath services… You miss the feeling of community.”
Shalom Israel never really knew what it was to be part of a community. His only Jewish peers are his younger brother, who is preparing to move to Israel, and his younger sister.
Israel lives in a small, cluttered shed inside the Jewish cemetery, just steps from his father’s grave. Visitors may find the arrangement macabre, but he says it offers him peace inside a frenzied city.
“I find the living more dangerous to deal with than the dead,” he jokes. “I have very easy neighbors.”
Cohen worries about Shalom Israel and what will happen to him after the elders are gone. She says he should move to Israel, but he won’t.
“If I go to Israel when I’m 40 or 50, what’s the point?” he said.
Besides, he says, the Jews of Calcutta need him.
He ticks off his to-do list: take several elders to the doctor, take others to the dentist, take another to a hearing test; check on the temples, trim the overgrown cemetery foliage, visit the infirm living alone.
He gets paid by the community for all this, but he says the work is important not because of the money but because “it gives me meaning, a matter of belonging.”
“The community is dwindling to almost nothing,” he said. “I am trying to keep it surviving as much as I can.”
By SANDY COHEN, AP Entertainment Writer
LOS ANGELES –and his longtime partner, Brad Altman, have agreed to live long and prosper together.
Takei, 71, and Altman, 54, were married Sunday in a multicultural ceremony at the Japanese American National Museum that featured a Buddhist priest, Native , a Japanese Koto harp and a bagpipe procession.
The couple, both clad in white dinner jackets with black pants, made a grand entrance to the tune of “One Singular Sensation” from the Broadway musical “A Chorus Line.” They stepped into a circle of yellow roses and lilies, where they shared a traditional Japanese tea ceremony and were wed by a Buddhist priest.
The couple, who have been together for 21 years, wrote their own vows.
Altman said that he had called Takei many things during their two decades together — “life partner, significant other” — but that their marriage represented “a dream come true for me.”
“I can add ‘my husband’ to the list of things I call you,” he said.
Takei called his longtime partner an “organized, detail-obsessed, punctuality-driven control freak.”
“I’m easygoing with details, so we’re a good fit,” he said in the trademark baritone recognizable to all “” and Howard Stern fans.
“I vow to care for you as you’ve cared for me … and to love you as my husband and the only man in my life,” Takei said as he held Altman’s hands.
The priest then pronounced them “spouses for life.” A bagpiper played as the newlyweds walked out, followed by friends, family and a few members of the press.
Takei said he and Altman chose to make their wedding public — and have been outspoken gay-rights advocates for years — for the sake of democracy.
“We have a relationship that’s been stronger and longer-lived than some of our straight friends, and yet we were not equal,” Takei told The Associated Press before the ceremony. “What this does is give us that dignity; (it’s) being part of the American system and being whole. We’re making the American system whole as well, as America is becoming more equal.”
Such activism is nothing new for Takei. He participated in the civil rights movement, served as a Democratic delegate in 1972 and fought for redress for those — like his own family — who were forced into internment camps after World War II.
“I grew up determined not to be marginalized,” he said. “That served as an incentive for me to be proactive.”
He and Altman were among the first couples to receive a marriage license in West Hollywood when the state began granting licenses to gay couples on June 17.
“A quarter century ago, when I first met Brad, (marriage) was the farthest thing from our imagination,” Takei said. “But what seemed impossible at one time becomes, over the passage of time, more and more ‘what if’ and ‘why not.’ We have to participate in moving society along to be a better democracy.”
Wedding guests included “Star Trek” starsand , who served as best man and best lady, Hollywood executives, local and national government officials and the couple’s relatives from around the world.
Keeping with the multicultural theme, guests dined on Asian/Baja Californian fusion cuisine and took home Japanese tea-ceremony treats in boxes printed with the phrase: “May sweet equality live long and prosper.”
The “Star Trek” star and his manager plan to honeymoon in Argentina and Peru.
As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
This scripture came to mind as I put words to print…
There’s always a Friday before the Sunday comes…
It has been a very eventful day (Friday) with the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics this morning bright and early. But I told you that already. I had a morning appointment with the Reverend Canon at the Cathedral to converse about her visit to the Lambeth conference in the UK which concluded the other day.
I had my observations and so did she. It was a fruitful discussion.
I came home and took a nap all day because I had to meet a friend for coffee this evening. It is never easy to sit and talk about life in certain aspects without a little trepidation. Although I had a lot to say, in retrospect, I always wonder if I said too much, if it was too soon to breach certain topics, in the end, whatever God led me to say was said, and whatever message was supposed to get through it did.
I trust my God with that.
One prays with humility and honesty,
May the words I spoke take root and grow and
may the seeds that were planted germinate in good soil
and we hope for the future and we pray for the investment of time
and the return of God’s favor upon us.
You never know when one will return to say, “Master you spoke the words, and my life has been changed” may God always bless the works of our hands and the words that come from our mouths. I am always humbled when God puts people on my path to minister to. It is a rare occurrence, and I am always grateful for the wisdom to share and the experience to pass on.
I got a new book, a gift from Donald the other day, called “The Betrayal, The Lost Life of Jesus,” by Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear. A few chapters in and I am already hooked… stay tuned…
It was a very good day.
Now to sleep, perchance to dream…
I was up at 6:45 this morning for the most incredible Olympic Opening Ceremony. It was fantastical, colorful and amazingly beautiful. Of course I had to show you all the pictures from Team Canada, because Hey I am Canadian right???
Now I am off for a nap…
Photos: Courtesy Getty Images
DHARAMSHALA, India (AFP) – The, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, on Saturday said he backs ‘s right to host the after reportedly charged he was trying to sabotage the summer Games.
The statement came after media reports on Friday said China’s top official in Tibet, Zhang Qingli, had accused the Dalai Lama of trying to “sabotage this important event and spread rumours.”
In a statement issued in Dharamshala, the northernwhere the spiritual leader’s government-in-exile is located, the said “it is common knowledge that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has consistently supported the right of China to host the .
The Dalai Lama called the Chinese official’s accusation “highly inflammatory.”
The spiritual leader said the Chinese official had quoted from a “distorted interview” with a British television network carried out in January to accuse him of seeking “to sabotage the forthcoming.”
Referring to questions about whether he backed calls byfor a Games boycott, the Dalai Lama said he had already stated “that it was too radical.”
However, the Dalai Lama said Tibet support groups “could remind the international community, including the Chinese people, about the repression and urgency of the situation in Tibet.”
The Dalai Lama is frustrated by China’s refusal to discuss “cultural” autonomy for Tibet, but sees a window to sway public opinion ahead of the Olympics in August, analysts say.
His statement came a day after Chinese authorities warned preparations had been made to stop campaigners opposed to China’s rule of Tibet from protesting in the Himalayan region before and during the Olympics.
Pro-Tibetan independence groups have sought to use the Olympics as a platform to publicise their cause with publicity stunts in Tibet and.
In April last year, five Americans from Students for a Free Tibet were expelled from China for staging a demonstration onin which they called for Tibetan independence.
In August, during celebrations to mark the one-year countdown to the Games, another six foreign free-Tibet activists staged a two-hour protest on the Great Wall near Beijing and were promptly kicked out of the country.
China has ruled Tibet since 1951, a year after sending troops in to “liberate” the devoutly Buddhist region, and has violently suppressed a number of uprisings since then.
The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed revolt against Chinese rule, has set up his government-in-exile in Dharamshala.
The Dalai Lama has accused China of what he called “demographic aggression,” saying his people had been reduced to a minority in Tibet under Beijing’s rule.
He also says he wants autonomy for Tibet rather than independence, a demand that China rejects.
Eckhart Tolle tells these stories in his book, A New Earth.
According to an ancient Sufi story, there lived a king in some Middle Eastern land who was continuously torn between happiness and despondency. The slightest thing would cause him great upset or provoke an intense reaction, and his happiness would quickly turn into disappointment and despair. A time came when the king finally got tired of himself and of life, and he began to seek a way out.
He sent for a wise man who lived in his kingdom and who was reputed to be enlightened. When the wise man came, the king said to him, “I want to be like you. Can you give me something that will bring balance, serenity and wisdom into my life? I will pay any price that you ask.”
The wise man said, “I may be able to help you. But the price is so great that your entire kingdom would not be sufficient payment for it. Therefore it will be a gift to you if you will honor it.” The king gave his assurance, and the wise man left.
A few weeks later, he returned and handed the king an ornate box carved in jade. The king opened the box and found a simple gold ring inside. Some letters were inscribed on the ring. The inscription read: This, Too, Will Pass. “What is the meaning of this?” Asked the king. The wise man said, “Wear this ring always. Whatever happens, before you call it good or bad, touch this ring and read the inscription. That way you will always be at peace.”
This, Too, Shall Pass.
What is it about these simple words that makes them so powerful? Looking at it superficially, it would seem while those words may provide some comfort in a bad situation, they would also diminish the enjoyment of the good things in life. “Don’t be too happy, because it won’t last.” This seems to be what they are saying when applied in a situation that is perceived as good.
Those words inscribed in the ring are not telling you that you should not enjoy the good in your life, nor are they merely meant to provide some comfort in times of suffering. They have a deeper purpose: to make you aware of the fleetingness of every situation, which is due to the transience of all forms — good or bad. When you become aware of the transience of all forms, your attachment to them lessens, and you disidentify from them to some extent.
Being detached does not mean that you cannot enjoy they good that the world has to offer. In fact, you enjoy it more. Once you see and accept the transience of all things of the world while they last without fear of loss or anxiety about the future. When you are detached, you gain a higher vantage point from which to view the events in your life instead of being trapped inside them.
You become like as astronaut who sees the planet earth surrounded by the vastness of space ad realizes a paradoxical truth: The earth is precious and at the same time insignificant. The recognition that This, Too, Shall Pass brings detachment and with detachment another dimension comes into your life — Inner Space.
Through detachment, as well as nonjudgment and inner nonresistance, you gain access to that dimension. When you are no longer totally identified with forms, consciousness — who you are — becomes freed from its imprisonment in form. This freedom is the arising of inner space. It comes as a stillness, a subtle peace deep within you, even in the face of something seemingly bad. This, Too, Shall Pass.
Suddenly, there is space around the event. There is also space around the emotional highs and lows, even around pain. And above all, there is space between your thoughts. And from that space emanates a peace that is not “of this world” because this world is form, and the peace is space.
This is the peace of God…
Can you hear the Mountain Stream?
A Zen Master was walking in silence with one of his disciples along a mountain trail. When they came to an ancient cedar tree, they sat down under it for a simple meal of some rice and vegetables. After the meal, the disciple, a young monk who had not yet found the key to the mystery of Zen, broke the silence by asking the Master, “Master, how do I enter Zen?”
He was, of course, inquiring how to enter the state of consciousness which is Zen.
The Master remained silent. Almost five minutes passed while the disciple anxiously waited for an answer. He was about to ask another question when the Master suddenly spoke. “Do you hear the sound of that mountain stream?” The disciple had not been aware of any mountain stream. He had been too busy thinking about the meaning of Zen.
Now, as he began to listen for the sound, his noisy mind subsided. At first he heard nothing. Then, his thinking gave way to heightened alertness, and suddenly he did hear the hardly perceptible murmur of a small stream in the far distance.
“Yes, I can hear it now,” he said.
The Master raised his finger and, with a look in his eyes that in some way was both fierce and gentle, said, “Enter Zen from there.”
The disciple was stunned. It was his first satori – a flash of enlightenment. He knew what Zen was without knowing what it was that he knew!
They continued on their journey in silence. The disciple was amazed at the aliveness of the world around him. He experienced everything as if for the first time. Gradually, however, he started thinking again. The alert stillness became covered up again by mental noise, and before long he had another question. “Master” he said, “I have been thinkin. What would you have said if I hadn’t been able to hear the mountain stream?” The Master stopped, looked at him, raised his finger and said,
“Enter Zen from there.”
They have said that as long as people are talking about you, then you are in good shape. It’s when they stop talking that you have to worry!
I find it odd that you people can complain about me behind my back, yet none of you have the balls to say things to my face, at least something I have written here has made you stop, think and maybe get angry, THAT is a sign of a good writer, that I at least make you feel something, that of which you have a position, yet you choose to whine to others instead of to the author of said writing.
When I was diagnosed with AIDS in 1994, they gave me 18 months to live, I was surely going to die. I had to learn how to live, there was no time to stop and wait to die. My Master kept me on a very short leash, in those days.
I had to keep my anger at bay, I had to mind my actions and my thoughts. I had to stay one step ahead of the wave of death that was marching across Ft. Lauderdale at that time.
I was going to meetings and I was staying sober. I was learning how to pray, and to meditate. All these things paid off in spades for me because I was surviving, while my bretheren were dying left and right and it took a long time to learn how to focus my prayers and to learn now to meditate.
I counted the 18 months, one day at a time…
Funny, I lived and 162 men I knew died in that time period…
Needless to say I was angry at God. I had not learned the blessing of gratitude, what was gratitude? How was I going to find that when I was in dire straits for so long?
I had issues of abandonment, from my family and friends, who all walked away and turned their backs on me. One night I was watching tv and an interview show was on and this sainted woman was there in chairs talking to the presenter and she was shaking a vial of ashes in the face of a pair of parents saying “How could you abandon your son in his most important hour of need?”
This woman, became a lightening rod for the AIDS cause. She was our champion. She said things we dared not say to people because if we did we would be burning further bridges in front of us by complaining.
Yet she wanted to know how parents could abandon their children when they got sick, and eventually died. I had to know this woman, because I was as angry as she was. Over the next year I waited for the teacher to appear. I listened to people talk around me and over the course of that year I learned that she was coming to speak on the island.
They came by the droves. The sick, the dying, the healthy and the wealthy. They came from all over because MA was coming to minister to the masses. This story does not have a great ending but I will share with you my experience.
The carried in a couch covered in finest silken blankets and pillows. And I heard them chanting in the hall, a group of musicians were singing the praises of divinity. Women in saris and men in their caftans, I was simply dressed and I sat and I chanted with them as the energy in the room rose by the minute. She would soon be in our presence, and she would talk to us about life.
Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati… A New York Jew gone Hindu…
She was the woman of the day. She had wild hair and painted nails and tatoos and earings and dangly bracelets running up her arms, the one thing that I knew in that moment is that she loved us all in her own special way. She fought the good fight for those who could not.
Paul Monette speaks about her in his memoirs “Last watch of the Night.” I read every book he wrote before his own timely death from AIDS, in fact his ashes were interred on the lake on the Ashram where I would end up, months from now.
She ran two Ashrams, one in L.A. and one in Florida. She came and she spoke to us about life, and death. She told us the story of the Ganges river and her trip to India to bathe in the river. She even wrote a book called “The River.”
She was an angry woman, and I liked that about her, because she was not only angry at institution she was angry because we were all dying sickly painful deaths, and many of us were alone. I was no longer alone.
I sat and listened. I had written her a letter that must have been twenty pages. That afternoon she called people up on the stage and she laid hands on us and she prayed with us, and it was on that day she gave me my name. I would be called “Shiva Das.” That was my name.
I was just a boy – who was going to his death and she was going to make it as quietly beautiful as she could, because I knew that I did not want to die the way I watched my friends die. It was the most horrible time of my life.
She hugged me to her breast and she wept for me because she knew the pain that was in my heart. I had poured it out page after page. I wanted her to chastise my parents like she chastised others. Alas, I knew for myself, that she was praying for them too…
It came time for her to leave us after so many hours with us, and I wanted to know more, I had to see this Ashram for myself. It came that a few weeks later, before Christmas one year I was invited to the Ashram for some time. The first visit, I spent two weeks, I was lodged in a house on the ashram and I was guided in my meditations and prayers and I participated in the community as it was. I did not see anything that made me afraid.
There were several temples to Ganesh and Hanuman, and there was a bamboo garden for Jesus and a fire pit for Puja. The main temple was indoors in the main house with a temple to Kali, the black goddess with he standing on the skulls below her.
I spent hours each day meditating, and I spent hours a day writing. We all would write Ma, as she was a world ambassador for the AIDS movement around the world. She had an office that handled mail by the pound, faxes by the hundreds, letters by the person. During these times on the Ashram, she would read our letters and when she would meet with us, she would talk to each of us though her ‘talks.’ We each knew when she was addressing something that we each had written to her on that particular day.
Did you know Ma played roller hockey???
The goal of the visit was to find inner peace. I think for me I had to find peace with my imminent death. I did not want to die in a hospital alone, I wanted to die on the Ashram. I wanted my ashes to be poured into the lake behind the main house. I wanted to be with my own.
Over the next year I would spend weeks at a time on the Ashram, doing odd jobs and studying my texts and writing. There was a school for children and ministry work for the adults. The one thing each of us longed to hear was Ma say “I love you.” One day I was sitting on the side of the roller rink where Ma was playing hockey with the kids and she filed past me and she looked into my eyes and said
I Love You Shiva Das…
That simple acknowledgment was the most important moment during my entire visit. To know that at that very moment, after all that I had been through over the last year, was for her to stop and look at me, just me and in those words she filled me with enough love to fight to stay alive.
I did not stay on the Ashram, for in the future, controversy would surround her and people would paint a very grim picture of Ma, and words like cult and kidnapping and injustice and the law were thrown around like candy.
Had I stayed on the Ashram, like I had asked to be earlier, might I have been embroiled in this drama too? All I can tell you is that Ma changed my life. She gave me the fire that I needed to fight to live, she taught me how to use my anger to fight to stay alive, this lesson was lost on many people who died before me because they had not found a spiritual path to help them.
Many of us thought that God had abandon us, that He did not hear the cry of the poor, but we know “The Lord hears the cry of the poor, blessed be the Lord…”
Over the last 14 years I have investigated, studied and read about probably every spiritual path that exists. I went to university to hone my skills at religious education, I have meditated on Ashrams, I have been to church after church. I have listened to every medium I could meet with to learn about what was on the other side.
I have a library of books that would confound even the learned.
But it all comes down to three things,
1. The heart,
2. The breath and
3. The body.
If you do not listen to your heart, then you will forget to breathe and if you forget to breathe you will surely die.
I do not write to hear myself talk. And I surely have not elevated anyone to the position of deity. But when a fellow in my community starts the journey up the mountain, I sure am going to write about them in any way I choose, because I know about the spiritual journey.
And you all may find me arrogant, petulant and opinionated, and I know in recovery that “What YOU think about ME is NONE of my business.” I wrote about Dan, and it made him uncomfortable and it made some of you uncomfortable, big deal…
How many of you have had the need [read:desire] to explore spirituality for anything other that for personal gain [read:for fun],
did you have a specific reason to seek spiritual truth?
Did you face a crisis of faith?
Have any of you faced death as I have? – and I might add that four times in the past my doctor has looked me dead in the face and told me that I was going to die…
Tell me about spiritual practice and criticize me when I write…
I write because I want you to know what it is like to live in my body and to know what I know and to see what I have seen. So that when you get those words “YOU are going to DIE, you will know what to do and you will know how to go to your death with courage and honor.”
Let us hear Ma speak just for today…
Words that can soothe, waters that can heal
The river flows through my breast
I have become my Mother and her song
I watch as the beggar and the king swim
in my Mother’s waters side by side
The guru teaching Tantra in the moonlit night
The father sending the corpse of his dead baby afloat
on the water’s surface
The bloated dead water buffalo floating
in the River’s stream
Charas coming from the old sadhu’s pipe,
giving him a River dream
I cry out as I sit on th River’s bank,
Mother Kali with the disheveled hair
know my children are here!
Her black form merges with my soul
I am happy in my River life, happy just to be
Kali’s name is nectar to my heart
Here in Kashi on the banks of the River Ganga
Kali is the goddess worshipped by the River child
Kali, the terrifying; Kali the wild.
Children come play in the waters of the sacred Ganga
take hold of the Black One’s hand
Be free even in your desire for truth
Sadhu, as you stay on my River’s edge, think of the
Dark One and how she bled
Children, as you gather your years
Gather not the worlds poison or fears
Sink into the well of Kali’s destiny
Sink into to River’s whirlpool of life
All must be children at the breast of Ganga
Kali shall destroy all dangers as you sit with legs crossed
on the banks of the river
Jai Gange! Victory to the River and her children!
By the River we are all her sons and daughters
His being has touched my own
We two sit by the Ganga always at home
Those who come to our water’s edge
find moksha from within…
Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati
“The River” pg. 13-14
It is silent and humble. It is like water gushing from the earth. All at once we realize we are filled with joy. We don’t know where it came from but it is there.
It could happen that we are going along and all at once we feel serene, the faces we encounter appear beautiful, the way seems easy, and no evil thought darkens our minds. Even more, we feel more good-hearted towards others.
Usually, we cannot precisely determine the origin of such joy. It is very difficult to connect it to something external, because deep down we know that this silent joy depends on nothing outside itself for existence.
It could be awakened by something around us, but it is not dependent on it. What triggers it does not give it birth. Instead, this joy seems to belong to us, to be carried deep within us. It gushes forth unexpectedly and cannot be controlled or commanded. Unpredictably, it makes itself felt.
When we communicate under the influence of this joy, we speak as if we have been entrusted with something precious. Our tone of voice changes as when we are truly praying. We speak with attentiveness so as not to destroy what is so fragile and precious, not to encroach upon the other who is present and to whom we want to give attention.
Silent joy urges us to a greater respect for others and ourselves. Thoughts born of authentic joy are respectful and optimistic.
The philokalic Fathers called this “sobriety”: being sober and vigilant, staying focused on realities that are already tasted and secure moving from there, seeking traces of this joy in whatever we encounter. In a certain sense, this joy can be safeguarded. We do not have to return to precise experiences or special places to feel it. We carry it within ourselves, and it belongs to us.
In my meditation time last night, I tried to focus in on this ‘silent joy’ to attempt to remember what it felt like as if recalling an old friend, a place where I had felt this joy, and what ‘silent joy’ felt like.
There were times in the past when ‘silent joy’ rose within me, and bubbled up from the surface, like water out of the earth. Like walking upon a spring just bursting from the rock, in the middle of the desert or a mountain-scape.
When is it that I feel this ‘silent joy?’ Silent joy is not connected to a ‘place’ but maybe a time. I can separate myself from bubbly joy that is connected to a place. Joy is something that comes to me when I least expect it. But I am not consciously aware of joy all the time, and sometimes it escapes me and I forget to connect with it during my day.
Being ‘sober’ for me is a way of life. As written above:
“The philokalic Fathers called this “sobriety”: being sober and vigilant, staying focused on realities that are already tasted and secure moving from there, seeking traces of this joy in whatever we encounter. In a certain sense, this joy can be safeguarded. We do not have to return to precise experiences or special places to feel it. We carry it within ourselves, and it belongs to us.”
I live in my sober space in my daily life. I work to be vigilant in what I do, what I see and what I say to others. But also I am vigilant of others who cross my path at any given moment.
Each day I have an opportunity to feel joy, but for the most part, I fall short of feeling this joy, in reading these passages I am reminded of it. And I think of times when ‘silent joy’ creeps up on me like water rising from the ground around me…
I return in my mind to times in life when I have felt this joy, like a comfortable blanket wrapped around me, it is familiar and cozy. I can identify those moments and remember them as if they were here in the present moment.
Today, I reflect in my meditation the occurrence of ‘silent joy’ and I can share with you moments of silent joy. My home group is a place of joy, because that is where I give myself most freely to anyone and everyone. To see people come each week, brings joy. To see my friends walking their sober journey brings me joy. To know that in my own little way, I create for them a place to feel joy within themselves, brings me joy.
Sometimes joy rises on my face when I see people in the metro, I feel their life force and see their auras, that brief intermingling of spirits brings a sense of joy. It is infectious at times. And in some instances I can’t help myself but to smile and feel that tingle of presence within my body.
Each journey is different for each of us. We all have our burdens to bear and no one journey can be judged, but understood out of compassion and love. I do not take for granted where I am in my journey, because I have fought long and hard to get where I am today, and within that journey over years and decades, I can tap moments of ‘joy’ as they happened.
That ‘bank of joy’ is available to me at a moments recall. Living soberly reminds me that I must stay in my day and be vigilant at all times, and sometimes I slip into old behavior and old patterns, but not often. I have learned over the years how to stay pretty centered on the present moment. Staying in that moment takes work, and nobody is perfect, yet we work to be mindful of the present moment.
In keeping the mind focused we learn how to remain calm and to breathe, because for the most part, I forget to focus on my breathing. And I return to that moment in my meditation to encounter the sacred, the fount of all life, the breath and the heartbeat.
I walk the path of the Buddha. I work every day to bring peace to my life and peace to the lives of others, taking nothing for granted I do my best at avoiding negativity and doing harm. I have learned how to stay out of negative thoughts and situations that would cause me pain, or cause others pain. I choose not to battle others, I choose not to engage in painful thought or action, because that blocks the ability to feel that ‘silent joy.’
I spend time each night reading sacred texts and I pray to my God and then I get quiet and I steady myself to sit and listen. Prayer is the action of speaking and meditating is the action of listening. If I make time to speak my words to the universe, I should give ample time to listen for the answers, as they would come to me as the universe sees fit to give me.
Answers come when we least expect them, because the universe knows all and sees all. Be careful what you ask from the universe because IF the universe thinks you are ready for the answer you seek, it will be given to you and sometimes the answer is immediate, and appears right in front of you in one form or another. Be aware that an answer might come from someone other than yourself, so be vigilant to those around you, because you never know when something someone might say is directed to you for your benefit.
And sometimes the answer comes simply – NO.
I relate a story about staying in my day…
Once upon a time I was petulant and self centered. I was arrogant and prideful. I took for granted the air in my lungs and the gifts that I had been given. Early sobriety for me is littered with situations and lessons learned, which included the wreckage of who I was then.
I was new to the group, that is now my home group and I had plans. I had plans, I had maintained that so I stayed sober so I was supposed to granted ten wishes [read expectations] from God. Week after week I showed up at the hall with my ready list in hand, not so much as begging God for results but taunting God with my list of things I thought were important at that time.
I was missing some things in my life like patience, willingness and even joy. I wanted what I wanted and I wasn’t going to take NO for an answer. I was prideful and arrogant. Some say that I am still arrogant, and maybe I am, but that is one of my shortcomings.
Each week I presented my list to the universe, waiting for answers and they told me ‘keep coming back’ and to ‘stay in my day.’ I did not know how to do that. Until one day a teacher rose to my challenge and said to me three questions that I have shared about here in previous writings…
1. Do you have a roof over your head?
2. Is there food in your belly?
3. Do you have a warm bed to sleep in?
This was a lesson in patience, willingness and gratitude. I was sure that I needed more than I was given, I even went so far as to think that I was entitled to my life being fulfilled because I was staying sober, and that staying sober was all about ME.
There was no joy in my heart…
It took me a year to learn this lesson. Day after day, I pissed and moaned about not being given what I thought I wanted, but daily, I was being given what I needed. I did not see the forest for the trees. And that was my burden to see past.
Day after day, week after week, month after month people were patient with me and they taught me these lessons, the universe would conspire to help me, and one by one the universe ticked off my little list, No, No, Rethink the question, Maybe tomorrow, Not right now, and finally Definitely NOT…
The universe was speaking to me through the actions of others to help me become a better person. And the more they showed up the more I showed up, and I began to see that showing up was just as important for you as it was for me. It was no longer all about me. I was involved in too much drama, I wasn’t paying attention to the road signs and the universal signs. Over that first year I began to change.
My prayer became words of thanks and gratitude. My needs became less and less because I learned how to be ok with what I had, and I learned not to expect more from the universe than what I was due on a daily basis. As these lessons were learned I found joy. I found peace, I found love.
I began to serve others like they served me. I began to learn the lesson of compassion and I cultivated a heart of mercy and of forgiveness. I learned to “LET GO.” The more I let go, the more joy I was able to feel. Letting Go is not a one off occurrence. It is a continual lesson in willingness to change.
We are all a fantastic gems that come into being rough, dirty and sloppy. We have wants and we have needs, and we have expectations of others and of ourselves.
The world teaches us that we must take care of ourselves without taking notice of others around us, that life is a dog eat dog ritual of taking, using and corrupting. But in order to take care of others, we must first take care of ourselves. We cannot teach others, unless we are taught first. And we cannot love another, until we learn to love ourselves first, and finally we cannot offer wisdom to another, until we learn that wisdom for ourselves…
Each day that gem is offered to the universe to be cut, fashioned and polished. The more we resist the gem makers wheel the harder our lives will be. We will exist – but we will not live.
Letting Go under the auspice of sobriety offers the individual the ability to be polished. Life throws us people, places, and situations that for the most part we engaged, we chose to take part in and even situations that were not our making. We grow up in families that might have been toxic and painful, and we carry that baggage around with us for the rest of our lives.
But now, I offer you an out. A way to Let Go of that rock, as Kate has spoken of. The more rocks we collect along the way, the heavier the burden until one day we become immovable. We become stuck where we are unable to move forwards. We then have a choice, to stay where we are and remain hurt, emotional and resentful expecting that what we want is better than what we need or we let go of those rocks, we put them down and we walk way from them and we live as the universe wants us to.
Now, just because we have lain these rocks down and walked away from them, the residual energy still remains. Every memory we carry forward contains residual energy. And even though we desired to let go of that issue, to grow further, we find that the residual energy tends to rise within us that cause us momentary shifts in our breathing, acting and living. It causes us to react again, as if we were in that moment once again, reliving it over and over.
The universal gem polisher turns the gem ever so slightly on that wheel to clean an edge to cut another facet, to give us the opportunity to see that situation and/or pain from a different perspective. The original response to that old issue becomes less painful, we can look at it from another point of view. And we can begin to see the wisdom in the lesson and not the pain it might have once caused.
As we walk through life, issues pop up, and as they do, each time, we look at the memory and we see it for what it is. The residual pain that the memory used to trigger is no more. We learn over the years how to move past the past, and not allow the past to affect us in the present, because the past is the past, it can only affect you if you give it power. The less power you give to the past, the easier your life becomes. And what a powerful lesson this is for the masses.
Over the years as I practice the art of letting go, I have found that the past has become but a memory. I can recall both the good and the bad, and I can take from them new wisdom as I need it, as I grow as a universal being. And when I realized that this was possible I learned what joy was.
Water bubbling up from the earth …
That universal shift was necessary for me to grow, because the universe conspires to help us grow into precious gems that are constantly being shaped, polished and refined.
Then one day real joy came to me. I remember it as if it were yesterday, a woman I know was getting sober, and she was obstinate and petulant, and she fought the gem makers wheel. She used to come to meetings heavy laden with burdens and pains, and she would cry day after day, “God, I wish this day would end already!!!”
She uttered this prayer for almost a years time.
When one suffers we all suffer, until one day she walked into the meeting and the neon sign above her was dark, her arms fell to her side and I saw it, that silent joy… She was finished suffering, she had come to the end of her trial, and she said it…”Oh God, there are not enough hours in the day, could you please give me a few more hours?”
When one feels joy, we all feel JOY…
Water bubbling up from the earth…
Everyone seeks peace and harmony, because these are what we lack in our lives. From time to time we all experience agitation, irritation, disharmony, suffering; and when one suffers from agitation, one does not keep this misery limited to oneself. One keeps distributing it to others as well. The agitation permeates the atmosphere around the miserable person. Everyone who comes into contact with him also becomes irritated, agitated. Certainly this is not the proper way to live.
One ought to live at peace with oneself, and at peace with all others. After all, a human being is a social being. He has to live in society–to live and deal with others. How are we to live peacefully? How are we to remain harmonious with ourselves, and to maintain peace and harmony around us, so that others can also live peacefully and harmoniously?
One is agitated. To come out of the agitation, one has to know the basic reason for it, the cause of the suffering. If one investigates the problem, it will become clear that whenever one starts generating any negativity or defilement in the mind, one is bound to become agitated. A negativity in the mind, a mental defilement or impurity, cannot exist with peace and harmony.
How does one start generating negativity? Again, by investigating, it becomes clear. I become very unhappy when I find someone behaving in a way which I don’t like, when I find something happening which I don’t like. Unwanted things happen and I create tension within myself. Wanted things do not happen, some obstacles come in the way, and again I create tension within myself; I start tying knots within myself. And throughout life, unwanted things keep on happening, wanted things may or may not happen, and this process or reaction, of tying knots–Gordian knots–makes the entire mental and physical structure so tense, so full of negativity, that life becomes miserable.
Now one way to solve the problem is to arrange that nothing unwanted happens in my life and that everything keeps on happening exactly as I desire. i must develop such power, or somebody else must have the power and must come to my aid when I request him, that unwanted things do not happen and that everything I want happens. But this is not possible. There is no one in the world whose desires are always fulfilled, in whose life everything happens according to his wishes, without anything unwanted happening. Things keep on occurring that are contrary to our desires and wishes. So the question arises, how am I not to react blindly in the face of these things which I don’t like? How not to create tension? How to remain peaceful and harmonious?
In India as well as in other countries, wise saintly persons of the past studied this problem–the problem of human suffering–and found a solution: if something unwanted happens and one starts to react by generating anger, fear or any negativity, then as soon as possible one should divert one’s attention to something else. For example, get up, take a glass of water, start drinking–your anger will not multiply and you’ll be coming out of anger. Or start counting: one, two, three, four. Or start repeating a word, or a phrase, or some mantra, perhaps the name of a deity or saintly person in whom you have devotion; the mind is diverted, and to some extent, you’ll be out of the negativity, out of anger.
This solution was helpful: it worked. It still works. Practicing this, the mind feels free from agitation. In fact, however, the solution works only at the conscious level. Actually, by diverting the attention, one pushes the negativity deep into the unconscious, and on this level one continues to generate and multiply the same defilements. At the surface level there is a layer of peace and harmony, but in the depths of the mind there is a sleeping volcano of suppressed negativity which sooner or later will explode in violent eruption.
Other explorers of inner truth went still further in their search; and by experiencing the reality of mind and matter within themselves they recognized that diverting the attention is only running away from the problem. Escape is no solution: one must face the problem. Whenever a negativity arises in the mind, just observe it, face it. As soon as one starts observing any mental defilement, it begins to lose strength. Slowly it withers away and is uprooted.
A good solution: it avoids both extremes–suppression and free license. Keeping the negativity in the unconscious will not eradicate it; and allowing it to manifest in physical or vocal action will only create more problems. But if one just observes, then the defilement passes away, and one has eradicated that negativity, one is freed from the defilement.
This sounds wonderful, but is it really practical? For an average person, is it easy to face the defilement? When anger arises, it overpowers us so quickly that we don’t even notice. Then overpowered by anger, we commit certain actions physically or vocally which are harmful to us and to others. Later, when the anger has passed, we start crying and repenting, begging pardon from this or that person or from God: ‘Oh, I made a mistake, please excuse me!’ But the next time we are in a similar situation, we again react in the same way. All that repenting does not help at all.
The difficulty is that I am not aware when a defilement starts. It begins deep in the unconscious level of the mind, and by the time it reaches the conscious level, it has gained so much strength that it overwhelms me, and I cannot observe it.
Then I must keep a private secretary with me, so that whenever anger starts, he says, ‘Look master, anger is starting!’ Since I cannot know when this anger will start, I must have three private secretaries for three shifts, around the clock! Suppose I can afford that, and the anger starts to arise. At once my secretary tells me, ‘Oh, master, look–anger has started!’ The first thing I will do is slap and abuse him: ‘You fool! Do you think you are paid to teach me?’ I am so overpowered by anger that no good advise will help.
Even supposing wisdom prevails and I do not slap him. Instead I say, ‘Thank you very much. Now I must sit down and observe my anger.’ Yet it is possible? As soon as I close my eyes and try to observe the anger, immediately the object of anger come into my mind–the person or incident because of which I become angry. Then I am not observing the anger itself. I am merely observing the external stimulus of the emotion. This will only serve to multiply the anger; this is no solution. It is very difficult to observe any abstract negativity, abstract emotion, divorced from the external object which aroused it.
However, one who reached the ultimate truth found a real solution. He discovered that whenever any defilement arises in the mind, simultaneously two things start happening at the physical level. One is that the breath loses its normal rhythm. We start breathing hard whenever a negativity comes into the mind. This is easy to observe. At subtler level, some kind of biochemical reaction starts within the body–some sensation. Every defilement will generate one sensation or another inside, in one part of the body or another.
This is a practical solution. An ordinary person cannot observe abstract defilements of the mind–abstract fear, anger, or passion. But with proper training and practice, it is very easy to observe respiration and bodily sensations–both of which are directly related to the mental defilements.
Respiration and sensation will help me in two ways. Firstly, they will be like my private secretaries. As soon as a defilement starts in my mind, my breath will lose its normality; it will start shouting, ‘Look, something has gone wrong!’ I cannot slap my breath; I have to accept the warning. Similarly the sensations tell me that something has gone wrong. Then having been warned, I start observing my respiration, my sensation, and I find very quickly that the defilement passes away.
This mental-physical phenomenon is like a coin with two sides. On the one side are whatever thoughts or emotions are arising in the mind. One the other side are the respiration and sensations in the body. Any thought or emotion, any mental defilement, manifests itself in the breath and the sensation of that moment. Thus, by observing the respiration or the sensation, I am in fact observing the mental defilement. Instead of running away from the problem, I am facing reality as it is. Then I shall find that the defilement loses its strength: it can no longer overpower me as it did in the past. If I persist, the defilement eventually disappears altogether, and I remain peaceful and happy.
In this way, the techniques of self-observation shows us reality in its two aspects, inner and outer. Previously, one always looked with open eyes, missing the inner truth. I always looked outside for the cause of my unhappiness; I always blamed and tried to change the reality outside. Being ignorant of the inner reality, I never understood that the cause of suffering lies within, in my own blind reactions toward pleasant and unpleasant sensations.
Now, with training, I can see the other side of the coin. I can be aware of my breathing and also of what is happening inside me. Whatever it is, breath or sensation, I learn just to observe it, without losing the balance of the mind. I stop reacting, stop multiplying my misery. Instead, I allow the defilement to manifest and pass away.
The more one practices this technique, the more quickly one will find one will come out of negativity. Gradually the mind becomes freed of the defilements; it becomes pure. A pure mind is always full of love–selfless love for all others; full of compassion for the failings and sufferings of others; full of joy at their success and happiness; full of equanimity in the face of any situation.
When one reaches this stage, the entire pattern of one’s life starts changing. It is no longer possible to do anything vocally or physically which will disturb the peace and happiness of others. Instead, the balanced mind not only becomes peaceful in itself, but it helps others also to become peaceful. The atmosphere surrounding such a person will become permeated with peace and harmony, and this will start affecting others too.
By learning to remain balanced in the face of everything one experiences inside, one develops detachment towards all that one encounters in external situations as well. However, this detachment is not escapism or indifference to the problems of the world. A Vipassana meditator becomes more sensitive to the sufferings of others, and does his utmost to relieve their suffering in whatever way he can–not with any agitation but with a mind full of love, compassion and equanimity. He learns holy indifference–how to be fully committed, fully involved in helping others, while at the same time maintaining the balance of his mind. In this way he remains peaceful and happy, while working for the peace and happiness of others.
This is what the Buddha taught; an art of living. He never established or taught any religion, any ‘ism’. He never instructed his followers to practice any rites or rituals, any blind or empty formalities. Instead, he taught just to observe nature as it is, by observing reality inside. Out of ignorance, one keeps reacting in a way which is harmful to oneself and to others. But when wisdom arises–the wisdom of observing the reality as it is–one come out of this habit of reaction. When one ceases to react blindly, then one is capable of real action–action proceeding from a balanced mind, a mind which sees and understands the truth. Such action can only be positive, creative, helpful to oneself and to others.
What is necessary, then, is to ‘know thyself’–advice which every wise person has given. One must know oneself not just at the intellectual level, the level of ideas and theories. Nor does this mean to know just at the emotional or devotional level, simply accepting blindly what one has heard or read. Such knowledge is not enough. Rather one must know realty at the actual level. One must experience directly the reality of this mental-physical phenomenon. This alone is what will help us to come out of defilements, out of suffering.
This direct experience of one’s own reality, this techniques of self-observation, is what is called ‘Vipassana’ meditation. In the language of India in the time of the Buddha, passana meant seeing with open eyes, in the ordinary way; but Vipassana is observing things as they really are, not just as they seem to be. Apparent truth has to be penetrated, until one reaches the ultimate truth of the entire mental and physical structure. When one experiences this truth, then one learns to stop reacting blindly, to stop creating defilements–and naturally the old defilements gradually are eradicated. One come out of all the misery and experiences happiness.
There are three steps to the training which is given in a Vipassana meditation course Firstly, one must abstain from any action, physical or vocal, which disturbs the peace and harmony of others. One cannot work to liberate oneself from defilements in the mind while at the same time one continues to perform deeds of body and speech which only multiply those defilements. Therefore, a code of morality is the essential first step of the practice. One undertakes not to kill, not to steal, not to commit sexual misconduct, not to tell lies, and not to use intoxicants. By abstaining from such action, one allows the mind to quiet down sufficiently so that it can proceed with the task at hand.
The next step is to develop some mastery over this wild mind, by training it to remain fixed on a single object: the breath. One tries to keep one’s attention for as long as possible on the respiration. This is not a breathing exercise: one does not regulate the breath. Instead one observes natural respiration as it is, as it comes in, as it goes out. In this way one further calms the mind so that it is no longer overpowered by violent negativities. At the same time, one is concentrating the mind, making it sharp and penetrating, capable of the work of insight.
These first two steps of living a moral life and controlling the mind are very necessary and beneficial in themselves; but they will lead to self-repression, unless one takes the third step – purifying the mind of defilements by developing insight into one’s own nature. This is Vipassana: experiencing one’s own reality, by the systematic and dispassionate observation of the ever-changing mind-matter phenomenon manifesting itself as sensation within oneself. This is the culmination of the teaching of the Buddha: self-purification by self-observation.
This can be practiced by one and all. Everyone faces the problem of suffering. it is a universal disease which requires a universal remedy–not a sectarian one. When one suffers from anger, it is not a Buddhist anger, Hindu anger, or Christian anger. Anger is anger. When one become agitated as a result of this anger, this agitation is not Christian, or Hindu, or Buddhist. The malady is universal. The remedy must also be universal.
Vipassana is such a remedy. No one will object to a code of living which respects the peace and harmony of others. No one will object to developing control over the mind. No one will object to developing insight into one’s own reality, by which it is possible to free the mind of negativities. Vipassana is a universal path.
Observing reality as it is by observing the truth inside–this is knowing oneself at the actual, experiential level. As one practices, one keeps coming out of the misery of defilements. From the gross, external, apparent truth, one penetrates to the ultimate truth of mind and matter. Then one transcends that, and experiences a truth which is beyond mind and matter, beyond time and space, beyond the conditioned field of relativity: the truth of total liberation from all defilements, all impurities, all suffering. Whatever name one gives this ultimate truth, is irrelevant; it is the final goal of everyone.
May you all experience this ultimate truth. May all people come out of their defilements, their misery. May they enjoy real happiness, real peace, real harmony.
MAY ALL BEINGS BE HAPPY
While Dan is away meditating, I think about him daily and in my own way I seek a spiritual experience, maybe to be one with the teacher or maybe one with my friend.
I know a young man who is in ministry who inspires me to be more than I am even if I am a sinner, and forever un-forgiven by God in some eyes. I can’t fully join the Christian movement of being saved because of what I am in certain circles. But I am no less for desiring to be ‘in communion’ just for a moment.
Live the Word and Breathe Prayer is his motto.
It is a call to action, a call to be, a call to rise up from where we are to look upon where we could be, if we Live the Word and Breathe Prayer. I find myself wanting community and I find myself lacking in that here in my life.
I find myself missing ‘people’ and ‘community.’ Although I am part of this huge virtual community spread out over the land, it is the physical connection I long to have.
I started reading a new book called “Discernment – Acquiring the heart of God.” Within my theological studies, academically, I also have my spiritual studies that flow from my spiritual director. I don’t know quite what I am looking for exactly, but I listen for that still small voice that speaks from the heavens.
I spent a few hours last night reading a bit, and I remembered this thought that I wanted to share with you. The Ladder of the Monks:
“Reading is the careful (respectful) study of the scriptures, concentrating all one’s power on it. Meditation is the busy application of the mind to seek with help of ones own reason for knowledge of hidden truth. Prayer is the hearts devoted turning to God to drive away evil and obtain what is good. Contemplation is when the mind is in some sort lifted up to God and held above itself, so that it tastes the joys of everlasting sweetness.”
“Reading without meditation is sterile, meditation without reading is liable to error, prayer without meditation is lukewarm, meditation without prayer is unfruitful, prayer when it is fervent wins contemplation but to obtain it without prayer would be rare, even miraculous.”
Today some practitioners of lectio divina add a fifth step – to put into action their faith…
- Reading scripture or sacred writings is important
- Prayer is the conscious “speaking concerns to God”
- Meditation is the active “listening for God’s voice”
- Contemplation is the act of “thoughtful reflection”
- and finally – action through faith …
Practices that strengthen the capacity for concentration or attention play a role in most great religious traditions. The importance of developing attention is most readily seen in the great traditions that arose in India, namely Hinduism and Buddhism.
From the Upanisadic seers down to the present day, there is in India an unbroken tradition of man’s attempt to yoke his self (body and mind) to ultimate reality.
Yoga takes many forms, but its essential psychological form is the practice of one pointed attention or concentration. Whether by fixing the attention on a mantra or on the flow of the breath or on some other object, the attempt to quiet the automatized activities of the mind through concentrated attention is the first step and continuing theme of Hindu psychological yoga.
Our soul is not something we have, it is more something we are.
A healthy soul, therefore, must do two things for us. First, it must put some fire in our veins, keep us energized, vibrant, living with zest, and full of hope as we sense that life is, ultimately, beautiful and worth living.
Whenever this breaks down in us, something is wrong with our souls. When cynicism, despair, bitterness, or depression paralyze our energy, part of the soul is hurting.
Second, e healthy soul has to keep us fixed together. It has to continually give us a sense of who we are, where we came from, where we are going, and what sense there is is all of this. When we stand looking at ourselves, confusedly, in a mirror and ask ourselves what sense, if any, there is to our lives, it is this other part of the soul, our principle of integration, that is limping.
In a matter of speaking, the soul has a principle of chaos and a principle of order within it and its health depends upon giving each its due. Too much order and you die of suffocation, to omuch chaos and you die of dissipation.
Every healthy spirituality, therefore, will have to worship at two shrines, the shrines of the God of chaos and the God of order. One God will keep us energized, the other will keep us joined together. These two functions of the soul are always in creative tension.
We have in us spirit, soul, and what we do with that soul is our spirituality. At a very basic level, long before anything explicitly religious need be mentioned, it is true to say that if we do things which keep us energized and integrated, on fire and yet glued together, we have a healthy spirituality.
From Ron Rolheiser, “What is Spirituality” – The Holy Longing.
I’m thinking about Dan, and I am thinking about You!!!
I’m leaving in fifteen minutes for an eleven day meditation retreat. I won’t be bringing a phone or a computer or any other communication device, so it’ll be until at least November 11th that you hear from me again.
While I’m gone, I’ll be meditating on a cushion for ten hours a day, and spending the rest of the time in silence. I won’t be permitted to make eye contact with other participants, eat meat, exercise (aside from walking), or engage in sexual activity.
I am new to this meditation thing. I’ve had no formal training and I know very little about eastern spirituality. My only exposure to the eastern tradition has been power yoga — which I was obligated to participate in with my high school and college wrestling teams, and which I still sometimes do for exercise.
Yet though the act of meditation is new to me, I’ve been drawn to the idea of it since I was a little boy. When I knew that I wasn’t on a spiritual (or healthy) path, but that I wanted to be. And that I wanted to learn. And that eventually I wanted to teach.
Despite my early inclinations toward spirituality, I couldn’t bring myself to actuality do anything about it. Mostly, I think, this is because I felt so alone. Whereas Wilford and others I’ve known have always felt a metaphysical connection to the world and others, I haven’t felt anything.
No strange encounters with God. No near-death experiences. No strange connections to strangers. Just a hard, material world in which people seem very alone… with their successes and failures and fates. A world in which I’ve felt very alone too.
So I’ve done nothing with the intense spiritual calling that I’ve had from the time I was a little boy until now. Instead, I’ve learned to excel by pushing boundaries, overcoming obstacles, finishing various tasks quickly, and moving on from one thing to get to another…
And (perhaps ironically) helping others to feel connected — because I learned, when I was very young, that I could inspire the feelings of connection in others even when I couldn’t feel them myself.
Despite rarely feeling happy or alive, I’ve believed for many years that nothing would change. That this is how my life would go. And that this is my sacrifice. Then I founded Avanoo with Wilford.
And started to write and think about what it means to make a better world. And started to build that world. And figure out how to build it better. And, as I wrote and thought and built, it became more and more apparent that I couldn’t really start to make other people’s lives better until I made my own better. Because my own limitations are emblematic of the limitations of the world.
But then I asked readers from Meditations on Meaning to help Wilford and I to build this better world. And over the past few months, we’ve together put in place some of the building blocks of this better world through our posts and comments and connections.
And I’ve seen that something quite special has been starting to happen. And realized that together we can help people to make their lives more fulfilling on a massive scale. But first I must deal with my own life. I must learn to enjoy my own life. It is an obligation… if I’m going to spend my life helping others figure out how to enjoy theirs.
So I’m going to this eleven day meditation retreat. Because I think it’ll be a wonderful way to start. And I have you to thank for this wonderful beginning.
Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama looks on during a function to commemorate the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against China’s occupation of Tibet, at the Tsuglakhang Temple in Dharamsala, India, Wednesday, March 10, 2004. The Chinese occupation began in 1951. (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia)
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, has been much in the news of late. This month his worldwide tour brings him here to Canada, where he is to meet the prime minister, a week after the United States bestowed on him the Congressional Gold Medal. There’s even a new movie out called 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama.
A year ago, Parliament named the Tibetan spiritual leader an honorary Canadian citizen, a rare acknowledgement with international repercussions.
Each time another honour is conferred on the cherubic 72-year-old spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people, China, which regards him as a dangerous separatist, gets hopping mad, threatening all manner of rancorous retribution against those who praise him.
The Dalai Lama is on a world tour and this weekend visits Ottawa to speak to thousands of the faithful at Lansdowne Park. He will also have an audience with Prime Minister Stephen Harper before he heads to Toronto to speak to thousands more at the Rogers Centre.
When news leaked that Harper would meet the revered Tibetan Buddhist, Lu Shumin, China’s ambassador to Canada, warned that this would hurt relations between Canada and China. No details of where the meeting will be have been released, but when the Dalai Lama met with former prime minister Paul Martin in 2004, it was at the private residence of Ottawa’s Roman Catholic archbishop.
Many interpret the Dalai Lama’s recent high-profile trips as a way to pressure China into taking a more conciliatory attitude toward Tibet, cognizant of the fact that China is especially sensitive to world opinion as it prepares for the Beijing Olympics next summer.
This interpretation will gain more credence on Sunday, when the “surprise” master of ceremonies at the gathering in Ottawa is expected to be none other than Canadian Olympic swimming champion Mark Tewksbury.
The 14th Dalai Lama was born Lhamo Dhondrub on July 6, 1935, to a peasant family in Taktser, a small village in northeast Tibet. He has lived in exile since 1959 in the Indian town of Dharamsala, the base of Tibet’s government-in-exile. Some 120,000 Tibetans have chosen to live in Dharamsala to be with their leader.
In 1937, when Lhamo Dhondrub was two years old, the Tibetan government appointed a mission to find a successor to the 13th Dalai Lama, who died in 1933. The mission found the boy in Taktser and determined he was the reincarnation of previous dalai lamas.
Tibet and China
He was installed as Dalai Lama on Feb. 22, 1940, taking the full name Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso. Regents ruled Tibet while the boy began his education and training as a monk. In 1950, at 15, he was named head of state and government soon after 80,000 soldiers from China’s People’s Liberation Army entered Tibet.
In 1951, the Chinese army occupied Lhasa and forced Tibet to sign a treaty with Beijing recognizing China’s rule. Under the treaty, Tibet became a “national autonomous region” ruled by a Chinese commission, with the Dalai Lama as a figurehead ruler.
China began to suppress traditional Buddhist monasticism and much of the culture of Tibet. The young Dalai Lama was thrown into the midst of this crisis, and in 1954, he went to Beijing to meet Chinese leaders Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping.
In March 1959, the People’s Liberation Army invited the Dalai Lama to visit an army camp outside the capital, Lhasa. Rumours spread through the city that the Chinese planned to kidnap and imprison the Dalai Lama.
Escape to India
On March 10, 1959, there was a huge demonstration in the Tibetan capital demanding the Chinese leave Tibet. The Chinese army attacked. On March 17, the Chinese began firing mortars at the Dalai Lama’s palace. The Dalai Lama disguised himself as an ordinary Tibetan soldier, slipped out of the palace and, with a band of loyalists, began a 500-kilometre trek through the Himalayas to India.
Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru allowed the Dalai Lama to settle in Dharamsala and establish a Tibetan government-in-exile. The Dalai Lama appeared before the United Nations in 1959, 1961 and 1965, calling on the Chinese to allow self-determination for Tibet. In 1963, the exiled leader proposed a democratic constitution for Tibet, combining Buddhist principles with Western concepts of human rights.
In 1966, China proclaimed Tibet as one the People’s Republic’s “internal autonomous regions.” In the late 1960s, Tibet was one of the main victims of the Red Guards, who attacked monks and nuns, wrecked monasteries and destroyed priceless religious relics. The government of Mao Zedong banned the practice of Tibetan Buddhism, a ban that lasted until 1976.
The Dalai Lama’s attempts to influence China met with little success. Tibet is still considered an autonomous region within the People’s Republic, but in the past 20 years many Chinese colonists have moved to Tibet, and now there are seven million Chinese and six million Tibetans.
The Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for advocating “peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people.”
The Dalai Lama said he will express reservations about Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan if the topic comes up during his historic meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday.
But he added that his meeting has no “particular political agenda.”
“My main interest or main commitment is promotion of human values, promotion of religious harmony,” the Dalai Lama told reporters in Ottawa, hours before his scheduled meeting with Harper.
Asked about Canada’s role in Afghanistan, the Dalai Lama said he believes “non-violence is the best way [to] solve problems.”
“Using violence, counter-violence, sometimes it creates more [complications], he said.
The Dalai Lama said he didn’t attach any significance to meeting the prime minister on Parliament Hill, a move likely to cause friction with China.
For the first time, Tibet’s exiled Buddhist leader will greet the Canadian prime minister in that venue, lending the meeting a politically charged air compared to previous sessions with Canadian politicians.
The Dalai Lama said he’s no expert on diplomatic formalities.
“I don’t care. The important [thing] is meeting [the] person, that I consider is the most important. So whether meeting prime minister in [his] office or private house doesn’t matter so long as meeting with person face to face.”
The Dalai Lama gestures during a speech to an arena filled with well-wishers in Ottawa Sunday.
(Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)
When former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin met the Dalai Lama three years ago, for example, the encounter took place on what was described as politically neutral territory — the home of the Roman Catholic archbishop of Ottawa.
Tenzin Gyatso, a 72-year-old Buddhist monk who is the 14th Dalai Lama, arrived in Canada Sunday and addressed a crowd of 8,000 at the Ottawa Civic Centre.
His message at the sold-out venue was one of compassion.
“We all want happiness, happy life, successful life.”
But he also took time to express “reservations” about some American policies, including the war in Iraq. The Dalai Lama met with U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington last week.
Bush met with him privately in the White House. The monk also received Congress’s highest civilian honour, the Congressional Gold Medal.
The U.S. president and Harper join a growing group of Western leaders who have chosen to greet the Dalai Lama in official venues despite criticism from China.
China says the Dalai Lama is a separatist political leader and considers it interference in China’s domestic affairs whenever a world leader is seen to be offering support.
But Jason Kenney, the federal secretary of state for multiculturalism, said he is more concerned about what Canadians think than the Chinese.
‘Important world figure’
The Dalai Lama offers a white scarf, called a kata, as he is greeted at the Ottawa International Airport on Sunday. The kata offering is a traditional Tibetan greeting symbolizing purity of intention.
(Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
“As public opinion polls have indicated, the vast majority of Canadians believe the prime minister should meet with the Dalai Lama. He is an important world figure, a spiritual leader,” said Kenney.
Some experts warn, however, that the government should tread carefully during this visit because China is an emerging economic powerhouse and an increasingly important trading partner for Canada.
“Canada-China relations is somehow cool, if not the lowest point since the 1970s,” said Wenran Jiang, acting director of the University of Alberta’s China Institute.
He said if the goal is to help Tibetans, Canada should have a more balanced approach when dealing with China — using moral statements rather than “political theatre” meant to grab votes.
China invaded Tibet shortly after the 1949 Chinese Revolution. The Dalai Lama has lived in exiled since staging a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.
The Dalai Lama is scheduled to travel to Toronto on Tuesday, where he will hold a public talk Wednesday night on “The Art of Happiness” at Rogers Centre.