Saturday, June 30, 2007

If Only

I tried to keep a running count of how many times "if only" crossed my mind in one day. It became quite comical after a short time and I gave up. I hadn't realized how often, and to what degree, I allow this to disrupt things.

If only I didn't have to do this or that or the other thing.
If only some person or another would - or wouldn't - do or say this or that.
If only I was younger, stronger, more patient, less judgemental, more creative, less gullible.

If only there were others to share this practice with.
If only I had a teacher.
If only I had found this path sooner - then there might be time.
If only there was more time.

Such is mind wanting other than what is.

Friday, June 22, 2007


I feel a deep sense of gratitude to the Buddha and the many disciples and practitioners who have kept the Dhamma alive all these many, many years. I'm fortunate to live in a time and place where it is possible to access these teachings, and that conditions are present that allow me to practice as best I can.

I owe a particularly huge debt of gratitude to Venerable Ajahn Chah for his ability to present the Dhamma in a language that I was able to understand. That is the language of the heart. His words, rich with clarity, compassion and truth, somehow transported me directly onto this path of practice. It took me by surprise because I wasn't really looking for a "path". I was merely exploring what I considered to be an "interesting" subject, "Buddhism". It was purely an intellectual activity. Luang Por Chah changed that forever.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Zip It!

This is something that I must admit is very difficult for me at times. More often than I had realized actually. Keeping my mouth shut - or keeping my fingers off the keyboard, as the case may be...Arghhhhhhh!

A friend has had a couple of posts on his blog lately that I've been chomping at the bit to respond to. Right there is a problem. This desire to reply. Where does that come from? It's obviously all about views and ego. Never a good combo. (My view) This is not about anything of any real importance. Not by any stretch of the imagination. The posts are really no big deal at all. My reply wouldn't be a big deal either. Just another view. Ah Ha! We are all quite fond of our views and opinions. We take them so personally. In many ways they "are" us. Powerful things these "views". They're like fuel.

What I find striking is how these views and opinions, some we're not even aware of, can suddenly rush to the surface in full battle gear ready to take on the opposition. The difficulty would seem to be in resisting the urge to respond, but that's not it at all. The true challenge is in understanding that urge. Seeing it for what it is and knowing where it comes from. Once it is seen clearly and honestly it drops away as quickly as it came. No big deal.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Kammic Echo ?

It's one of those things that is difficult, if not impossible, to describe. It was stronger and clearer in childhood, before being muffled by the countless events and influences that naturally come along with life. There used to be an awareness that was simply "there". It had no name and wasn't something I had been taught. It was part of the package that was me. I hadn't noticed it being absent until recently when I once again felt it. Turns out it had been there all along, patiently waiting for me to pay attention.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Loving-Kindness, American Style

Metta is very popular these days as a meditation practice, especially here in the U.S. and in other "Western" countries. We are in love with the very idea of love here. It seems to me that it may be unrealistic and not always helpful to tell people new to Buddhism to "radiate loving kindness". Of course that's my opinion and my experience. I had the opportunity to practice for a day under the guidance of an American monk. While the experience was helpful in some ways, this particular teacher stresses loving kindness as a specific meditation practice, and that stopped me dead in my tracks on the "path". It took me some time to begin again. I realized that I was lacking a strong foundation in the basics.

Metta, as a meditation practice remains a challenge for me. It seems that I am most likely suffering from what I'll call "Hallmark Syndrome". This is the result of a lifetime of overexposure to the manipulation, artificial packaging and creative marketing of a distorted perception of what love is. As a society we embrace this concoction and beg for more.

I understand that the "Metta" taught by the Buddha is very different from what we have been programmed and conditioned to think of as "loving kindness". Old habits and views are difficult to overcome. Even when we know they are not based in reality.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Thoughts on Thinking - What?

Lately I've been doing alot of thinking about thinking. Watching would probably be more accurate. Like you would watch a small child as it plays. Getting the right balance of freedom and restraint can be challenging. Too much restraint is no good. They won't grow and learn. Too much freedom will surely lead to a number of problems.

Our thoughts are like this. It's helpful to notice where they're headed. We have the ability to do this, to train the mind toward skillful thoughts and actions. But we're usually too busy following our thoughts and getting all tangled up in them to see where they're actually leading us. So we're surprised, angry, sad or confused when things don't turn out like we think they should. Then along comes another thought...and we're off!