Driveby Painted Rock – Sign of Progress

Maybe this is a vent in disguise but I’d like to think it’s more of a hopeful sign.  Just wanted to put it out there in the cyber world.  Should have snapped a photo.  Didn’t so you’ll just have to believe me.  Here’s the deal. I’m down off the mountain now living at the foot of the foothills.  However, my residence was in the Appalachian Mountains for many a year, near 20 give or take.  Point is the contrast.  I wanted to write something about the whole Jesus thing.  Around here there are these huge boulders placed in front of schools and there are messages painted on them that change from time to time.  Once when my granddaughter was in elementary school, her mom and dad rented the rock to paint a big happy birthday message to her.   It’s a ‘thing’ around here.

So the thing is that in driving by the other day,  caught sight of a huge rock in front of our local high school which read HAPPY HOLIDAYS and beneath it were various symbols of various religions.  I felt encouraged by that.

Christians, it seems to me, way too often assume everybody else is or should be just as they are and we get the Jesus thing shoved in our Jewish, Buddhist., Hindu, Druid, Taoist, Islam, Shinto, Wicca … you get the idea… faces!

What about the contrast, the point of this blog post, that was mentioned above?

Well, when living in Appalachia, in my desire to tend App State University, the local college, in reviewing my transcripts,  indicated I needed a few more electives.  Turns out I didn’t but that’s another story.   Point is that when walking into a classroom there was written on the board in huge letters, JESUS LOVES YOU.  Not only that but one day one of the local Baptist ministers was standing outside the main building trying to give away Bibles.

Here’s another example.  In the small mountain community, there was — and then there wasn’t — a yoga studio.  I inquired about it and was told that the landlord would not rent to the yoga people because his minister said not to do so since yoga relates to the devil.  True story.  I know it sounds unbelievable, but I wouldn’t lie!

Anyway… what a distinct difference between those examples of religion in the Appalachians and the painted rock outside of the High School yesterday!  An acknowledgment that the acceptance of differences in humanities theology is alive and well (at least down here in the foothills!)

Amen.  and PS – if I get by that rock again before it’s painted over into a different message, I’ll grab a photo with my cell and post it here.

Awakening, Karma, Virtue, Cats and the Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama and his cat
The Dalai Lama and his cat

I recently listened to the Dalai Lama (through his translator) say something on a karma related subject. He said that even a simple act of virtue like feeding an animal (even ants) when it is done with an altruistic attitude (intention of helpfulness and compassion) with the idea of benefiting those sentient beings that this is what is meant by the term “bodhicitta”.  The word translates from Sanskrit this way:  bodhi means enlightened or awakened and citta means mind or consciousness.  So we could say that bodhicitta means awakened mind and it is the compassionate act of a bodhisattva practitioner.  To take it further, A person who has a spontaneous realization or motivation of bodhicitta is called a bodhisattva.

I would not go so far as to refer to myself as a bodhisattva but the Dalai Lama says even a simple act of conduct or action done in virtue with the intention of helpfulness and compassion are transformed into conditions of full enlightenment.  I think of conditions being transformed in such a way that awakening, at least in moments, is favorable.  So even simple acts of loving intention, he said, are like an elixir that transforms base metals into gold.

Only a true Buddhist would consider feeding ants.  That has never occurred to me to do, but maybe will since the great teacher Dalai Lama mentioned it.  However, I do feed stray cats.  There is one little Buddha-Cat who honestly cracks my heart open every time he comes with the others to eat.  He had a lot of fear right after he was born–really significantly frightened more than his brother or sisters.  Now, he is warming up to me and the other neighbor here who feeds him.  Here’s the thing.  The others dive into the food platter — a clear plastic party platter works well for them, each having their own compartment.  However, while he may be positioned to eat, he doesn’t start until he looks up into your eyes and reaches his head up so as to rub noses with you.

Each time I feed this cat, my heart opens more and he makes it easy for me to create the mindstate of a Bodhisattva.  I accept any conditions that would lead me to full awakening.  This sweet cat is helping me; may he remain protected and happy.

PS it is said that His Holiness rescued his cat from the slums of Dharmsala.  

 

Zen, Cats, Deer, the Outdoors and Meditation

Animal Zen Masters

It’s true and if you are a careful observer, you will know this for certain.  Watch any animal in nature while being in nature yourself (without your cell phone or other tech distractions) and you will see their Zen-ness.  We can find our own animal zen nature when out in the woods or even outside our back door (woods are better!).  Here’s what I mean.  Animals in nature are still and alert — this is exactly what we humans who seek to meditate and to be more Zen-like and peaceful aim for — stillness while remaining alert!  And to be beyond our ego-personality daily stressful thinking.  Just going outside achieves a disconnect from our own mental residue that bounces off the walls.

I have a one-bedroom apartment surrounded by many lunatic humans — sorry, but you could fact check this and if you lived here, you’d know the truth of that as well.  And I also feed feral cats — kittens born just feet from my back door.  (They are as big as an adult cat now.)  I watch them and think how, in their wild animal nature, they possess what I strive for in my meditation practice:  still alertness.  They perk up at any sound that they’re not accustomed to and yet right afterward they are able to return to their former peaceful stillness again, totally letting it all go and being fully present.

Watch any animal in nature; take deer for example.  They are always alert and attentive yet are able to return to a peaceful state rather quickly after they tense up or perk up due to a perceived threat.  They are alert — not hyper-alert however.

I feel so trapped and smothered living here in this city and in an apartment complex sometimes.  This is because even the outdoors here in this apartment complex can be chaotic with barking dogs and boisterous humans.  Life.  Its what we are, life itself. Rather difficult to merge with you have an aversion to, but it’s my current path here surrounded by human animals.

I am thinking soon to have a nice long hike in the woods.  My trekking poles are always in my car and unfortunately, it’s necessary to drive 20 minutes to get to a state park.  It’s not like when I lived in the mountains. But I can’t mentally “go there” today — makes me too sad.  Anyway . . . I digress.

When we are out in nature (again, without the phones, etc.) it becomes so easy to let the trees, rocks, lakes and all of nature merge with our own energy.  And then we can forget the human self and go once again into the animal self.  We have to be aware when in a natural setting — snakes and the like, you know?  Yet in the state park that I mentioned above, the greatest predators are humans and their dogs, not wild animals.  Either way, one’s tendency in the wood is to be still and alert–or at least it’s that way for me.  And that is very meditative.

Sometimes, I just want to dash out the door and get a bit of exercise when in between writing bursts or watercolor painting.  Lately, I’ve stopped walking loops in this apartment complex (for numerous reasons not to be included here) and have chosen instead to take my walks along the highway on the bike lane.  Now there is a place to be hyper-alert like in the woods!  One must be in the present moment there too!  Traffic is whizzing by 5 feet from my shoulder.  I don’t walk on the highway every day and only for about 30 minutes all together out and back usually.  It surely isn’t a pleasant walk in the woods,  but there are dangers and the necessity to be alert and present.

I find I can be much more present in a group weight lifting class at the gym, but sometimes one just wants to walk out the door, not having the time or inclination to drive off to the gym or take 40 minutes to get to and from the state park.

Well, these are thoughts that crop up today.  Being outside is expansive and meditative states are natural.  Next time you watch a wild animal, see if it isn’t true — they are zen teachers!

 

Writing, Painting, Creativity, Intention and Happiness

Hello, Greetings, Namaste!

Has it been eons since I’ve posted on this blog?  Yes, it is so but here I am today in a mood to write and have set a Pomodoro timer to put out some thoughts and words here for 25 minutes.   I’ve been attending a writing group in the community where I live and we are encouraged with a brief writing prompt to write for a timed period of time and then share what we’ve written.  We are not to correct our grammar or cross any words out but to just keep writing.  In other words, no editing or no editor.  That’s how I’m writing this blog too.  You will probably realize if you haven’t already that there’s been no editing. Writing in a group of others seems to up the anty a bit especially if you know you will be asked, as we round the table if you wish to read what you wrote or to pass.  It’s a jolly good group and we do have fun with our writing prompts.  It’s amazing what comes out of our individual and collective heads.

I’ve had book ideas floating around in my head for years and recently the leader of our group gave us an outline to follow and I’ve just started to use it and found that I’m writing a book that would include survival following a large and fast-moving CME from the Sun which knocks out power and essentially levels the playing field with regard to physical endurance, stamina, and patience.  I’ve not fully worked it all out but its a wee start of something that may completely change or alter dramatically but at least a start.

I think that my artwork helps too in that lately this has been another level of meditation and concentration for me — call it “samadhi” if you know the word’s meaning but you probably get the idea.  I am typing just what flows out of my head and keyboard right at the moment with 15 more minutes of this writing practice.

Another aspect of my life that I’d mention here since I’m sort of free-flowing letting my mind just spew it out happens to involve requisites for happiness and how to take a deeper look at that.  In other words, conditions that we believe we must have first in order to feel happy.  Why must there be conditions for happiness at all?  So this takes me back to the basic core Buddhist teachings that I hold or try to hold near and dear.

Yes, I forget at times just like even highly respected Buddhist teachers and monks admit doing, when getting pulled into the drama of life or the reactionary responses and then not remembering how I intend to live.  I’ve taken to repeating that intention to myself at the start of each day before getting out of bed and believe that this helps.

But back to the conditions for happiness or what conditions that I think I need to remain in this state — I’m looking at that and observing it in others.  Maybe idea this will be something that I work into a book that I want to write woven in with the result of what happens when people do not have any conditions that they are used to do to huge disruptions in their way of life.

Maybe it is going to be a dystopian themed book.  Who knows.  And as I even type here about my writing a book that critical part of my mind is kicking up and laughing at the idea.   Just how many times have you said you were going to write a book anyway?  huh? 

Yeah, I can feel a bit like a fraud if I contemplate that.  When one has a goal or makes the self a promise and then fails to reach the goal or keep the promise it can be . . . let’s just say challenging.

What’s life without a good challenge or two?  Well, there’s only one minute left on the Pomodoro timer and this 25-minute writing in which I’m just letting it flow is about done flowing.

Just a final thought — using creative activities (painting or writing, etc.) and exercise (weight lifting at the gym) can help develop one-pointed concentration (samadhi) like deep meditative states.  Same diff to a great degree.

Time’s up! Have a great day!

Meditation Considerations for Receiving Insight and Developing Calmness

I’m writing this after returning from the gym and thus recovering from a high-intensity athletic training class.  The body was content to settle into meditation and then to write this.  I’ve learned that no one starts out as a perfect meditator and that each session is different.  Sometimes it is peaceful; other times frustrating because the mind wants to wander; yet, either way, there’s still so much to learn about my own nature. 


When insights into problems that affect my happiness enter during a session, the effort seems well worth it. .  Sometimes, there is only calmness and that’s alright too—having expectations becomes a hindrance to the process.  Silent present-moment awareness that is highly acute and wherein thought is abandoned opens the door to the cosmos on such a level that the body awareness dissolves and thus the self merges with the beauty of silence.   A bit of an awkward sentence as my words can sometimes be when writing about my meditation experiences.  Yet, at times during meditation, I feel restless.  >>Read More

Nimitta – progress signs of Samadhi Meditation

I am going to post this on each of my website blogs as well as my newsletter.  Why? Some information that recently crossed my path explained many of my meditation experiences of the past and currently as well.  Many students of the psychic development class and those interested in spiritual and psychic/intuitive development may have had similar ‘signs’ of their spiritual progress or evolution.

Before I go into what those are, it’s probably best to offer the disclaimer that if one looks for these signs or tries to manifest them, they will be blocking their energy and possibly delaying further consciousness expansion in some way.  My teachers have always guided me not to get “hung up” on manifestations and to take with a grain of salt.  It is just the natural process of the mind—don’t be overly concerned, they’d say.

If you have read much on my website (www.psychicjoystar.com), you will see that I’ve mentioned mysterious occurrences that came about as part of my meditative absorption over the years.  Those were a total and complete mystery to me until this past week!

The history of experience for this life has always evolved in a way that much later explanations arrive that validate occurrences and I’ve always been grateful for that as it assures me that there was no conscious influence on my part.

As many readers may know, my tendency is to reach toward eastern philosophy my deeply personal effort to understand life, the mind, and of reality itself.  My studies and meditation time have not been in vain and have helped me to cope with some very difficult life circumstances.  Yet, there were always those mysterious events lingering in the memory of my mind.  Up until now, there were not fully explained in any kind of satisfactory way.

Then this past week there comes the information that does so!  I simply must share it.  It will be a brief outline and I will paraphrase some of it while keeping true to the text.  I will add some personal notes in parenthesis.  I hope this will be of use to others.
The signs of meditative concentration are known as “nimitta” and include the following:

  • For beginners, it is usually grey smoke color appearing in front of them.  When this occurs, the instruction is to concentrate on the natural breath; and gradually then, the breath and nimitta will become one.   In this stage the mind usually stays automatically will become one.  (Personal note:  when I would go hiking and be breathing more heavily, I would see more of this grey smoke in front of me.  By the way, it started out looking like black ink in the atmosphere, as if someone dumped a bucket of black ink in the sky.  I could see around it and through it and then gradually it lightened.)
  • As meditative concentration develops further, the gray smoky nimitta will change in color to white.  (This is exactly what happened to me.)  This is given the name of “the learning sign”.  As one continues to concentrate on the learning sign, the white form nimitta will change to a transparent nimitta and this is called “the counterpart sign”.  (I was in Sedona, Arizona atop a mountain at the time this occurred.  That was sometime in the late 1990’s.  I was still working as a Physical Therapist at the time.)  The instruction in the text is that one should concentrate on the transparent nimitta until a state of full absorption is reached.
  • The text says that unless one sees the counterpart sign, the meditative attentiveness or concentration is superficial.  (Again, I did not have any of this information until a few days ago and therefore did not know of the instruction to concentrate on the transparent nimitta.)
  • (In the eastern philosophy, the word used to describe these stages of meditation is called “jhana”.  I did not know that word until this past month actually.  And there is the discussion on audios that I’ve heard about maintaining states of absorption for 2 and 3 hours at a time without interruption.  This I was able to do when living alone in the mountains many times.  Since I’ve moved from the seclusion of the mountains–for approximately the past 6 years—that is rarely the case.)
  • The text says that once a person’s meditation practice is very clear they will, one day, see small particles, called “kalapas”.  When one see’s kalapas, they have reached the last stage of samatha(serenity/calm/tranquility) and the beginning stage of vipassana (insight/seeing things as they really are).   At this stage, one understands reality as small particles.

I must pause here to explain that this next part totally blew me out of my seat, so-to-speak!  I wrote about this on my website eons ago and this occurred, also, in the late 1990’s just before I moved (from Florida) to the mountains of North Carolina.  Here it is nearly 20 years later and it is only now that I understand what all of these experiences were about!  The book in which this information is contained was published in 2008, ten years ago.  Yet, it has taken me nearly all of the past ten years to adjust to the huge transitions in my life and to release a significant karmic relationship connection.  It hasn’t been until recently that my personal journey has directed me back to seek deeper levels of meditation, reaching for Samadhi again.  Anyway, this light, so white and so bright and it occurred when I was meditating on a star in the sky at twilight one evening.  I felt myself moving toward it and then the white brilliant light sort of frightened me.  It was everywhere I looked and lasted a good chunk of time and it faded finally as I looked at a large pine tree.   I’ve never seen it again all these many years.

  • The text says that there is a visual-like nimitta which is ‘the best one’.  (Again, the word nimitta means sign/mark/appearance.)  It is not seen with the physical eye.  It is purely a mental phenomenon.  It appears as if it is like a headlight in front of you, incredibly brilliant, so much so that you don’t think you can stare at it any longer.  (At the time I thought perhaps I drew the star right down in front of me – I’d been staring at a star during meditation at the time.)  This is not a visual thing at all and even though it is like looking at the sun, it is quite safe, because it is a pure metal image—according to the text.

If one tries to have any such experiences as described, the effort actually blocks the meditator’s tranquil absorption.  Actually, I recall trying to stare at a star again at various times in the past and could not reproduce that event –or any other unusual experiences of my past for that matter.
I wanted to put this out today so that it may be helpful to others.  Maybe I will save someone 20 years of wondering and never really knowing what those signs are really about!

The text that I’ve been referring to is called “The Experience of Samadhi” by Richard Shankman  and the specific information at nimitta were from interviews with Pa Auk Sayadaw, the abbot of a Forest Monastery in Burma and Ajahn Brahmavamso, who studied with Venerable Ajahn Chah and is the abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery and Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Society in Australia.
I am so personally grateful to them for the information shared in the text which has helped me considerably and renewed my meditative effort.

May it be that this information reaches the right person for the right reasons and be of the highest service.


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Understanding Sati and Samadhi in Meditative Practice

When mindfulness (sati) is continuous, then (samadhi) STABILITY OF MIND will become established–from the teachings of Sayadaw U Tejaniya, a Theravadan Buddhist monk and well-known and highly respected meditation teacher.

Deeper and deeper into the teachings of Buddhism, there is this ‘me’ attempting to walk in the steps of the Buddha.  No, this is not about religion–more about psychology . . . study of the mind.  We all have one but how many of us really observe how the mind works?  How to use the mind in a way that serves the greater good, so-to-speak.  That’s where I’m coming from.

Recently, a new level of understanding and wisdom arrived within my life spectrum, this continuation of consciousness.

Anyone who knows of this ‘me’ probably knows of the difficulty experienced due to moving from places of quiet and solitude for nearly 20 years.  The short version has to do with the difficulty adjusting to suddenly being around noisy humans and family drama.  Moving closer to my daughters has been wonderful in so many ways, but not without the challenges that come along with sudden change.  Here’s what I’m trying to get at . . .

Until my recent study, it wasn’t entirely clear to me that the states of Samadhi established in meditation could be maintained during regular activities of daily living,  outside of a formal meditative state–in other words, off the cushion.  Yet, while living in the mountains many times was there in a stable mind-state without knowing it.   I’ll explain more in a moment.  Additionally, in recent days my study has uncovered another real eye-opener. And that has to do with percentages of attachment equaling the same percentage of aversion.  Here’s what that means . . .

The attachment that has been present to a personal desire and preference for silence has been way too strong or large.  As a result, the aversion or anger to it’s opposite (loud neighbors) has been equally as strong.  It goes back to the basic core phrase we always hear, “Accepting what ‘is'”.  It’s not so easy to accept anything as it is when you have a high percentage of attachment to its opposite.

Of course, there are other factors that filter into the equation of imbecile aversion which include a high level of sensitivity that comes along with open awareness.  Making peace with it while maintaining a stable mind is my continual challenge and the area of focused work in this life.

When living in the mountains, days on end of samadhi, stable mind, occurred — it was as if living in my own hermitage or retreat center.   It is only now that the realization comes that when the mind was pulled into worry about finances or when going into town and mingling with humans that the state dissolved and aversions and defilements arose within the mind. I didn’t think of it as samadhi at the time.  My personal definition of that word involved deep stillness (not necessarily awareness) in which there was no awareness of a self at all.  A new or an additional understanding of the word is the stability of mind, maintained over long periods of time toward the goal of having a stable mind indefinitely or at all times.  That’s the goal.  Frankly, some days it has felt impossible but it always comes down to this moment here now . . .  being aware, mindful or aware of what the mind is doing this very moment.  Being fully in it and observing what the mind and body are doing or the reactions–watching those.

Watching the mind can be a real sport if one’s heart is into it.  Stop a moment and ask yourself, Am I aware?” 

The answer is always Yes, don’t you see?  You will find that there is always that overseer called awareness.  How deep is the awareness?  Is it superficial or is there recognition and acknowledgment of thinking whenever it arises. Is there recognition of sound, feeling (all of the senses) whether pleasant or unpleasant as those arise?  Can you remember in the midst of any aversion that begins to arise that it is only nature happening and not personal?  Neither are your reactions–that’s just nature happening too.

These are just a few of my personal thoughts and experiences on these subjects for any reader’s discernment or consideration.  

Universal Intelligence? Universal Soul? Sati Knowing?

lotus may 2018Let me start with the words “Universal Intelligence” — two words.  Concepts.  Assigned meanings.  What meaning? Well, synchronistic guidance received in meaningful timing that is too unmistakable, too precise to be considered accidental.

Is this the Universal Soul communicating with this soul? or the “Knowing” that I’ve heard called Sati?  But that word, Sati, may not be the right word for this.  Unsure.  Anway…

Applying more than these few words, in order to define this type of magic, isn’t all that useful anyway.  Besides, this type of going-on is likely not to be that unusual really.  It’s probably a stimulated manifestation based on intention.  Yet, in this lifetime, it seems always to be connected to spiritual goals which to me lends it a higher conceptual name.  The precise name is not useful really for a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, as Shakespeare said.

This divine magic has been experienced like being directly guided and supported as if by a master teacher or some overseer of my life who knows exactly what is being learned, and how it applies to my evolution.

Its as if there is some wise being making sure that what is needed is provided in exactly the right timing to apply to the next lesson.  It’s not easy to put into words.  Its happened time and again–too many times to recount.

Yet, here’s the most recent example that stimulated me to write about it in this blog post today . . .

Within days of reading about a particular (somewhat complicated) spiritual teaching and meditation method, the book material was being contemplated.  Next thing, with barely any conscious awareness of how I got to the website, there before me I found myself looking at pages of audio teachings from numerous teachers on a host of varied subjects.

Randomly, I clicked on one of the hundreds of links and found myself listening to the identical teaching that I’d just read about in the book, explaining it further! It was of great benefit to me.  Prior to the random click, there was no hint externally that the audio would further explain the written material.  Yet, it was no accident!

This type of event has occurred often enough for me to release any doubt whatsoever of some divine force guiding the internal and external experiences of my life.