All posts filed under: Creative Expression

The Nature and Purpose of Śamatha

// by B. Alan Wallace Buddhist inquiry into the natural world proceeds from a radically different point of departure than western science, and its methods differ correspondingly. Early pioneers of the scientific revolution, including Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo, expressed an initial interest in the nature of physical objects most far removed from human subjectivity: such issues as the relative motions of the sun and earth, the surface of the moon, and the revolutions of the planets. And a central principle of scientific naturalism is the pure objectification of the natural world, free of any contamination of subjectivity. This principle of objectivism demands that science deals with empirical facts testable by empirical methods entailing testability by third-person means; and such facts must, therefore, be public rather than private, which is to say, they must be accessible to more than one observer. Another aspect of this principle is that scientific knowledge — paradigmatically knowledge of astronomy and physics — must be epistemically objective, which is to say, observer-independent. A profound limitation of this ideal is that it …

Bardo of Becoming

// by Andrew Holecek If you are well trained, your first after-death experience will be the luminous bardo of dharmata. If you’re unfamiliar with the subtle states of mind revealed in this bardo, it will flash by in an instant, or be completely missed. Those who have practiced the meditations that facilitate recognition will reap the rewards, and attain liberation at the level of the dharmakaya or sambhogakaya. Without this preparation, most of us will wake up in the karmic bardo of becoming. For nearly everyone, the first experience after regaining consciousness is a sense of being in their own body. Even though the mind is without a body at this point, the habit (karma) of being embodied is so strong that it continues. You feel like your old self, and don’t know you are dead. Since this bardo is ruled by the winds of karma, the experiences are particularly fickle. These “winds” are not literal winds, of course, but a metaphor for how we are blown around by the power of karma. Because we …

Suffering Effectively: Reflections on the First Noble Truth

/// By David Chernikoff  I first heard the phrase effective suffering from meditation teacher Shinzen Young, who used it in a story he told about the renowned Christian contemplative Thomas Merton. 1  Merton lived quite a bohemian life before he converted to Catholicism and then entered one of the church’s strictest and most ascetic monastic orders. When he was asked about his decision and the suffering that such a lifestyle involves, Merton said that he didn’t become a Trappist monk so that he would suffer more than other people but that he wanted to learn to suffer more effectively.  I found the idea of effective suffering quite off-putting at first. “Who in the world wants to suffer?” I asked myself. “Let alone effectively, whatever that means.” When I looked deeply at the phrase and spent time reflecting upon it, however, I recalled a number of similar teachings I’d heard from other teachers I greatly respect. Ajahn Chah, the great Thai forest master, said “There are two kinds of suffering: the suffering that leads to more …

Walking into Quiet

By Tim Gallati // We may not know it, but we have a well-established history with environmental noise. From 6th century Buddhist scriptures lamenting “the ten noises in a great city” to a desperate plea for quiet scribbled on a wall in ancient Pompeii, environmental noise has troubled us for millennia.* Today, environmental noise is pervasive. High volume noise like the blare of car horns in city traffic, the roar of airplanes overhead, a neighbor’s loud music vibrating in the walls; lower volume noise like the pulsating tones of data centers, the high crackled buzzing of electric wires. Environmental noise takes a toll on our bodies. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 1 million years of healthy human life are lost each year from traffic noise in Europe. Long term exposure to noise increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cognitive impairment, anxiety, hearing loss and tinnitus, and sleep disturbances. Can we develop a healing relationship with sound in a noisy world? One can begin by seeking out a quiet place with less noise. Developing a relationship with quiet gives our bodies a break from processing environmental noise. We experience relief …

Peace

By Katharine Kaufman // This morning, right after the sun, I scraped ice off windshield and drove East, past black cows, brown horses, corn and oil fields, into the small town of Mead. A huge decoration says, Peace on Earth. Deflated plastic Santa and reindeer lie on the ground. We lie on the floor, rest our arms over heads and breathe. After class students give me cards and thin-lined journals, a candle, and a small home-sewn bag of lavender. ~ Last night I watched the black and white film, Roma, directed by Alfonso Cuarón.  After credits roll down the page (like tears) in the bottom right corner of the screen, are the words, Shanti, shanti, shanti. ~ When Acharya signed his book and handed it back to me I asked for the translation. The first shanti is to the unseen forces, the second to one’s neighbors and village, and the last, the softest, is to oneself. ~ Compassion is complicated. It takes doing something. Being empathetic breaks my heart. Peace is simple. I put down my …

Peace

By Katharine Kaufman // This morning, right after the sun, I scraped ice off windshield and drove East, past black cows, brown horses, corn and oil fields, into the small town of Mead. A huge decoration says, Peace on Earth. Deflated plastic Santa and reindeer lie on the ground. We lie on the floor, rest our arms over heads and breathe. After class students give me cards and thin-lined journals, a candle, and a small home-sewn bag of lavender.                                                          ~ Last night I watched the black and white film, Roma, directed by Alfonso Cuarón.  After credits roll down the page (like tears) in the bottom right corner of the screen, are the words, Shanti, shanti, shanti.                                                           ~ When Acharya signed his book and handed it back to me I asked for the translation. The first shanti is to the unseen forces, the second to one’s neighbors …

Susan Piver on Meditation and Creativity

By Susan Piver // The other day, I read a tweet from someone looking for advice about taking up meditation for creative reasons. Could it help one become more creative, they wondered? I’ve had ample opportunity to study this question. I lead meditation and writing retreats that are about reconnecting with our own creativity and, beyond that, with the moment of inspiration. And after all, what is creativity, exactly, besides a continuous series of moments of inspiration? Which raises the questions: What is inspiration and where does it come from? Can my meditation practice help? When it comes to the latter question, the answer is “absolutely” and “maybe not.” Fascinatingly, Dictionary.com offers us this definition of “to inspire”: “To infuse into the mind; to communicate to the spirit; to convey, as by a divine or supernatural influence; to disclose preternaturally; to produce in, as by inspiration.” And this: “To draw in by the operation of breathing; to inhale.” At no point is the definition offered: “to be clever” or “to impress.” Rather, the definition points …

Katharine Kaufman

The Good Vehicle

By Katharine Kaufman // My father taught me how to move with wind and water. He taught me to read the direction of the wind by turning my cheek, appreciate the lines of the sail and cleats and tiller. He said, watch out, you’re luffing. Luffing is when the sail is not taught; there is bagginess in the bottom triangle of the sail. If the wind was steady, and sea calm, and if it wasn’t too cold, and the current didn’t drag the boat; that was the best thing. Sometimes we’d sing about the drunken sailor as we bailed water with a cut out clorox bottle, watched out for buoys, looked ahead for reefs, shallow places, looked at the sails, horizon, water, my family’s barefeet. ~ When I first learned about Yoga and Mediation I thought when teachers said return to what is happening now, that it was their present moment I should have. That the present was more magical, fancy, mysterious then what my present had to offer. I wanted Richard Freeman’s present moment, …

Writing as a Path to Awakening

By Albert Flynn DeSilver // Writing as a Path to Awakening begins with a primal human question; who am I? Who am I, really? I can not tell what I am, because words can describe only what I am not, said the great Indian mystic Nisargadatta Maharaj. We set off writing on the path to awakening by tuning into what we are not. If we are not what words can describe, and words can describe pretty much everything, then what the heck are we? This is Writing as a Path to Awakening’s ultimate question, with the invitation to write and live your way into the answer. Writing as a Path to Awakening is about how conscious living informs conscious writing (conscious creativity) and in turn, how conscious writing and creativity inform conscious living. It’s one infinite loop, the helix of return. The practice of writing is an exploration of consciousness, a practice toward deeper self-awareness, and moves us along the path of awakening to our true nature. Many of our greatest spiritual teachers from around …