Release from the Bondage of Time

Most folks don’t contemplate how  “past” and “future” are happening right now.   On some level when we are calm and contemplative, we do realize that all experiences are a series of unfolding present moments. 

There’s like this agreement we all have about time, mostly because it’s useful.  These concepts about time do serve a useful purpose,  but when we make them ‘too real’ and by not getting that they are just part of our mental projections and part of our own process of thoughts, we create a sort of bondage.  It’s a trap.

In this trap, we have companions called worry, regret, anxiety, and fear about the future.

Next time we find ourselves trapped with those companions, we can break out and shatter those boundaries of time.  How? by settling down into the body and into the experience of this moment.  When we settle down in this way, it is natural and quite easy to have the awareness that past and future are simply thoughts in the present.  And it’s all they ever were or will be.

Instant detachment.  It costs nothing; you need no equipment and you can do it anywhere.

I’m just a soul whose intentions are good Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood

Having quite a time with the human vulgars lately.  Define vulgar?  Sure.   Went to the dictionary.  Meaning: of or relating to the common people (and most especially these types):  morally crude, undeveloped, lacking sophistication or good taste; unrefined.  Gawd, drawing in weird stuff and humans lately–had to find a name.  Recent example.  I am walking at a city park that has a walk/jog trail, baseball diamonds, playgrounds and lots and lots of trees.

Right you are! Its the trail with the trees that attracted me.  The schools were still in session so all the kids were elsewhere and this being a beautiful and quiet day with a cool breeze, it was my choice for a walk with the trees.  Forty minutes later, still quiet, I found myself a tree on a little hill not far from the car park and sat to meditate.  I was still listening to my mp3 player, actually Lord of the Rings Album playing to block out any accidental noisy situations that should come upon me.  Sitting in half lotus with hands in my lap — what’s the problem, right?

T’was lovely.  For about 10 minutes, going deeper and deeper into meditation.  Then a car pulls up across the way and a woman gets out and lights a cigarette and looks over at me.  Huh? I think to the Universe, Are you kidding me?  It took my attention but no matter– ignoring the situation, I looked up at the clear blue sky and various fall colored maple leaves and found the mind considering how to paint them.  Next thing I realize the car was gone so returned to my deep inner space.  Not long after there comes a police car right in front of my location and there went my attention again. I look up and the cop is talking to me. Huh?

I take out my earbuds and say What? and he asks if I am Okay.

Huh?  For buddha’s sake!  WTF? So I say, Yes; I’m just meditating, is that okay?

Yeah, well okay. I was doing my own personal “sit in” not wanting to return to the Human Vulgars of the apartment building where this body (and the rest of me) currently resides. But alone under a tree just sitting there . . .  and I think can I be arrested for this? 

He tells me that someone reported to him that I was just staring off into space.

Dang, since when was this something to report to the police?  I do it all the time!  hahaha

Experiences like that and so many more around this human/dog city life make me miss the mountains enough to have a really good cry.  Maybe I will.

I’m just a soul whose intentions are good

Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood

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!

 

The 10-second Attention Rule and Meditation

How long can you hold your focused attention?

Ten seconds.  Think about when we watch T.V. or a movie.  A new action, a new flick of movement in front of our mind/eye happens at least every 10 seconds.  Are we training our minds to only be able to hold attention for that brief interval?  Binge watching (I’m guilty of it too) can create such impatience with having to wait longer or hold attention longer.  I notice that when I’m waiting for a webpage to load or even for my coffee to re-heat in the microwave, there is a level of impatience that arises.  C’mon, c’mon, let’s go!  And I don’t notice this impatient behavior sometimes.  Other times, I do and have to speak to myself to slow down, take a few breaths and focus attention within the breath/body.

Crazy, isn’t it?  These expectations we have that can go unnoticed.  Having to sit at a traffic light is sometimes the same way.  Yet, go to a doctor’s office for an appointment and the expectation is that we will have to wait and we may bring a book.

I’ve just been considering the automatic pilot or unconscious tendencies that occur and how binge-watching programs can train our mind to be impatient or less able to fully focus our attention for a longer period of time.  I now notice how 10 and 15-second meditation apps are popular.  Maybe that’s where we’ve gotten to as a general populace?  Who knows?  I am only speculating on all this.  If one does make a practice of binge-watching programs, one probably should spend an equal amount of practice holding focus and attention for longer periods in meditation.

Cultivating Pre-set Mindstates

Creating a Meditative Default or Preselected Option

It’s a fallback position that I’m talking about here.  Once upon a time a few years back some man lost control of his auto and slammed into the back of me as we were pulling away from a  traffic light.  I called my daughter just after this while waiting for the police to come to make the report for insurance purposes.  She commented on how peaceful and calm my voice was for just being rear-ended rather violently.  My preselected default meditative state took over without my conscious direction.

Or at least I think that’s why.  Since then it had become more conscious within me to work on cultivating that default state of being when my attention isn’t consumed elsewhere.  Sometimes, it’s repeating a mantra such as, “May I be content and peaceful, may I be happy and in goodwill, may I be protected and safe . . . “and then eventually changing the “I” to “we” meaning all beings.

When waiting for my coffee to finish reheating in the microwave, at a traffic light, while stretching before or after a workout at the gym the mantra takes over my consciousness.  Sometimes, it’s not a mantra, however.  Sometimes my attention is naming the breath activity:  Breathing in, breathing out.  This creates a dropping down into the body and into the moment and peace is naturally there.  I consider these mantras or this breath attention as cultivating a set point which can, after habitual reinforcement, become ones ‘go to’ place in good times and in … well, in times that are not so good when they arise in order to soften those jarring moments of life that can leave us in a state of shock or knock us out of a previous state of consciousness.

Default options are pre-set courses of action that take effect if nothing is specified by the decision maker or the decision maker isn’t sure what to do.  What is your default setting?   Have you consciously cultivated a positive one?

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.  

Repetitive Life Patterns

Patterns. Where does one start? They’re everywhere it seems–these life patterns! Astro Study and Dharma Study are both clear about them.  I’ve studied them through the dharma talks given by eastern teachers but noticed them long before any formal studies.  And the astrological study, you know planetary movements, has also supported my observations about patterns too–the same planet in the same place as it moves around the zodiac.  Luminary Moon hits the same digs every month and the Sun every year and so on; each planet moving at different speeds but as they aspect one another, they tend to produce the same type of event or experience.  The Facebook “On This Day” Memories application submits to you a list of all posts you made on that day and includes re-posts from that day in previous years.  Patterns are clearly there from my very own posts blatantly screaming back at me, “Notice!”

Patterns! A head cold or medical issue repeating the same time each year, moving during the same month (sometimes to the day) in certain years–it goes on ad nauseum:    neighbor issue, financial concern, trips with family, even weather systems which have not to do with my own personality.

What are these anyway? I’ve come to some thoughts to put down for myself and you too if you are still reading this.  Karma!  But hold on buster–not in the way most people think of the word.  It’s only a word that means “action” and is a result of “causes and conditions”, some of which are not personal.

Better not to complicate this bit of writing (which I don’t intend to go on much longer here); therefore, best not to get into an explanation of the non-self.  So, just sticking to the causes and conditions bit, accumulated energy will tend to repeat at times when conditions support it to do so.

Why does it repeat?  I’m going to narrow it down to the undesirable parts–those parts about the personality that makes me cringe to think about them. Those patterns–that’s where this post is headed.  There a good patterns too which we are creating in each and every moment actually, but . . .

Focusing further on the patterns such as anger at certain things or we could use a nicer word:  aversions.  I don’t want to deal with those anymore but causes and conditions accumulate to store those patterns, those aversions and surprisingly there are times they find their way to the surface from deep down in ground consciousness.

It seems that past conditions have caused me to react with aversion and it has become a habit, a pattern that has been repeated  And it’s not been until my later years here (late bloomer), that there’s not even been a conscious connection.

Now I see the pattern or one could say there is now a ‘me’ who is aware of them and with that awareness comes the observer–this creating distance between the aversion and the awareness. Sometimes reactions still happen;  yet,  with the newly awakened awareness of the pattern which has become gradually more conscious over many years, those reactions are minimal and mostly internally worked out.  This decreases any future punch that they may hold.

How to proceed?  Its a matter of creating new causes and conditions and not taking the old karma personal.  When the aversion arises, one can realize that it comes from prior reactions that have been stored — maybe not even from the current lifetime.  Who knows?  Anyway, its what this person (personality named Joy) has to deal with, but it isn’t me and isn’t personal and it does not really come from “now”–it arises from past causes and conditions (karma), remember?

What of it?  The idea is to begin to create new causes and conditions, stronger than the old perhaps and certainly more imbued with love, joy, compassion, patience and the numerous good qualities and virtues we desire to embrace which increase our happiness and peace.  New actions, new karma!  And also the goal is to have compassion for the personality self.  And by doing this we achieve the desire remain awake for the benefit of all others as well as the self here.

That which recognizes the pattern of aversion or even responds to the aversion has no aversion.  

How to remain awake?  Here we go! Back on the bandwagon about meditation.  And meditation simply means being aware of what is going on inside one’s own head and heart.  Not getting carried away by fantasy or letting thoughts drag you all over the darn place!

I do write newsletters frequently that include a lot of information regarding awareness and meditation since it’s a huge part of psychic development.

There. We’re at the end of the post and worked it out for us maybe.  Yes? Well, no matter (pun intended)–gave it a whirl and gave the self a talking to at the same time.

Oh, here is a link to all those newsletters that were just mentioned:  CLICK HERE to see this list of their links and you can sign up for the newsletters HERE.

Meditation Haiku Poem Present Moment Practice

I’ve been watching an HBO show that’s been on AMAZON PRIME.  I view it on my TV set using my ROKU device.  It’s called IN TREATMENT.  In the moment of a recent episode, the shrink asked the young man, “What are you thinking?”  The youth replied, “White noise”.

I had to laugh at that one.  The laughter of recognition I suppose.  My own mind registered that.  Not thinking anything really.  Yet not being mindful either.  I ‘m most aware of that white noise when the decision is made to write.  Like now.  It’s a rain filled, raw, cold day here in North Carolina.  Write, I said.

All levels of me self-agreed to write something.  A blog.  Here I am.  What have I got? White noise just like the kid on the program.

Lately, I’ve thought to try my hand at writing short little Japanese Mindfulness Poems called Haiku which are Japanese poem of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five, traditionally evoking images of the natural world.  Cutting written language, relatable to anyone and maybe paradoxical in some way.

Sounds easy.  Not so much.  You’d think the white noise would help but the instant that pressure is felt to come up with even one word, the mind is suddenly filled with nonsense and resistance. No no, not always, listen . . .

I really like the idea of clipping out a moment that is a pure now moment – a reflection of whatever catches the attention of the psyche.

The other day I sat down on the sidewalk in front of my apartment to experience a moment or two of sunshine.  Looking down at the ground before me, there is one pear tree flower all by itself in the dirt–alone and separated from the tree and other flowers on the branch from which it blossomed.

What struck me is that even though it was alone there, its center filaments seemed to still be reaching up toward the sun, the light.

Spring flower in dirt

Alone, apart from its branch, tree

Looks up to the light

My Haiku poem.  Is it legit?  Well, I guess they’re not really required to rhyme to qualify.  Here are a few from one of the supposed greatest Haiku Poets, Basho:

An old silent pond…
A frog jumps into the pond,
splash! Silence again.

Autumn moonlight—
a worm digs silently
into the chestnut.

In the twilight rain
these brilliant-hued hibiscus –
A lovely sunset.

The translations from Japanese to English do not follow the 5, 7, 5 syllable rule.   Anyway, none of those rhyme but they do describe the moment in time, a now.  Seems a good use of spare time to use Haiku poem writing endeavors to help a person remain aware of their now, mindfulness.  I guess you know what I mean, reader, right?

The small flower all alone there just seemed to say to me, “Look, I know that I no longer am connected to the life force upon the earth that sustained me (the tree) and I’m aware that I will soon just become the earth itself, whithering away here.  And I know my family of flowers on the branch above me–they are all looking down upon me aware of my fate, but I can still be nourished by the light, the sun.  The filaments, the anther, the stamen of me are still reaching up to the light even in my death here and in my departure, the ground here before you where I lay is bringing you some joy and beauty before I disappear completely. ” Looking at the singular flower was my meditation.

After writing those last words my head turned toward the window where I see the tree with all their beautiful white blossoms knowing that soon they will all fall upon the ground as the green leaves push them off their branches.  They too will end up in the dirt and on the sidewalk.  But they will return next spring to do it all again.  There is no death, only transition into yet another phase.