DELANY DEAN, JD, PhD

delanydean.com

KC Mindfulness

crimlawdoc@gmail.com

At the ‘08 MBSR Research Conference, Saki Santorelli introduced Mark Williams; in Mark’s honor, and in recognition of Mark’s work on behalf of those who suffer terrible pain, Saki read this story/poem by Rumi, called “Cry Out In Your Weakness.” Saki’s reading brought tears to my eyes. I found the story/poem online, here. You can read it, below:

CRY OUT IN YOUR WEAKNESS

A dragon was pulling a bear into its terrible mouth

A courageous man went and rescued the bear.

There are such helpers in the world, who rush to save

anyone who cries out. Like mercy itself,

they run toward the screaming.

And they can’t be bought off.

If you were to ask one of those, “Why did you come

so quickly?” he or she would say, “Because I heard your helplessness.”

Where lowland is,

that’s where water goes. All medicine wants is pain to cure.

And don’t just ask for one mercy.

Let them flood in. Let the sky open under your feet.

Take the cotton out of your ears, the cotton

of consolations, so you can hear the sphere-music.

Push the hair out of your eyes.

Blow the phlegm from your nose,

and from your brain.

Let the wind breeze through.

Leave no residue in yourself from that bilious fever.

Take the cure for impotence,

that your manhood may shoot forth,

and a hundred new beings come of your coming.

Tear the binding from around the foot

of your soul, and let it race around the track

in front of the crowd. Loosen the knot of greed

so tight on your neck. Accept your new good luck.

Give your weakness

to one who helps.

Crying out loud and weeping are great resources.

A nursing mother, all she does

is wait to hear her child.

Just a little beginning-whimper,

and she’s there.

God created the child, that is, your wanting,

so that it might cry out, so that milk might come.

Cry out! Don’t be stolid and silent

with your pain. Lament! And let the milk

of loving flow into you.

The hard rain and wind

are ways the cloud has

to take care of us.

Be patient.

Respond to every call

that excites your spirit.

Ignore those that make you fearful

and sad, that degrade you

back toward disease and death.

RUMI

……………………………………………………………………………………….

Sometimes I realize that I have been engaged with (and living with) topics and situations that are at least somewhat freighted with the emotions we label as the “difficult” ones. Sadness, frustration, anger, grief. Tones of darkness. And, of course, that’s OK. Not delightful, exactly (or at least it isn’t easy to see the delightfulness in all of it!)… but I truly believe that my only good choice is to practice acceptance and even, insofar as I can manage it, a welcoming stance to all phenomena. I am reminded (constantly, it seems) of the magnificent poem by Rumi, below. It is a poem that I first heard read aloud during a sitting meditation session in an MBSR training group session. I was blown away by it then, and I still am, today.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Rumi

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There’s a poem by Mary Oliver (”Black Bear in the Orchard,” see below) that opens with bees in their hive, totally in sync with their nature, happily doing what they do, creating and building and living; and it ends after the bear, who does what she does, in sync with her nature, has destroyed the hive and eaten the honey. The bear saunters away, content and satisfied. The poem is very powerful to me; it reminds me that we are always infringing upon each other, always seeking what we need and want (and it is so hard to figure out where “need” ends, and mere “want” begins); sometimes taking, and sometimes not taking… but so often the taking is a taking from someone else’s needs/wants. We all consume each other; in my more dour moments, I say that we all devour each other. We are all participants within a beautiful and terrible reciprocating and enmeshed cycle of taking and giving; dying and rising; creating and destroying. Sometimes it is called “Indra’s net.”

Once upon a time I shared this “Bear” poem with someone, and afterwards that person came to me and said, with a swagger in her voice and in her posture: “You know, I kinda like being a bear.” I was taken aback, and struggled a bit for a reply. I did not quite know what she meant. Later, I learned more about her (and about what she meant), when I saw her engage in a campaign of retaliation against another person who had apparently thwarted her ambitions in some way. She did indeed enjoy being a bear.

I think there is a key point somewhere in here. It is unavoidable, we are, indeed, engaged in a huge cycle of creation and destruction, inevitably hurting others along the way and often being grievously hurt, as well, even in the midst of joy. Yet we are born into human lives, with human minds and capacities for clarity and compassion. We can choose not to follow the path of the person I described just above, the one who “kinda likes being a bear.” That person (I believe) misses the point. We all play the role of “bear,” and the role of “bee.” The bear is not better than the bee, nor is the bee superior to the bear. The bear, in Oliver’s poem, is not reveling in her triumph, and does not despise the bee. And in human life, we can go further than that, as well (this I think is the key), and bring a certain wisdom, clarity and compassion, to all these interactions. No matter how painful.

Black Bear in the Orchard

It was a long winter.
But the bees were mostly awake
in their perfect house,
the workers whirling their wings
to make heat.
Then the bear woke,

too hungry not to remember
where the orchard was,
and the hives.
He was not a picklock.
He was a sledge that leaned
into their front wall and came out

the other side.
What could the bees do?
Their stings were as nothing.
They had planned everything
sufficiently
except for this: catastrophe.

They slumped under the bear’s breath.
They vanished into the curl of his tongue.
Some had just enough time
to think of how it might have been –
the cold easing,
the smell of leaves and flowers

floating in,
then the scouts going out,
then their coming back, and their dancing –
nothing different
but what happens in our own village.
What pity for the tiny souls

who are so hopeful, and work so diligently
until time brings, as it does, the slap and the claw.
Someday, of course, the bear himself
will become a bee, a honey bee, in the general mixing.
Nature, under her long green hair,
has such unbendable rules,

and a bee is not a powerful thing, even
when there are many,
as people, in a town or a village.
And what, moreover, is catastrophe?
Is it the sharp sword of God,
or just some other wild body, loving its life?

Not caring a whit, black bear
blinks his horrible, beautiful eyes,
slicks his teeth with his fat and happy tongue,
and saunters on.

Mary Oliver

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Lately, the final lines of an ee cummings poem have been repeatedly announcing themselves (as thoughts and memories sometimes do), into my mind-space. And maybe it’s a confluence, or synchronicity thing; I have also seen this poem mentioned in the news a couple of times, just in the last two days, at the same time that it keeps bubbling into my consciousness. Dick Cavett mentioned it in a column about Bobby Fisher, here:

I’ve always found this poem disturbing. The juxtaposition of beauty with death, even with wanton killing, cuts to the (sometimes very painful, always paradoxical) heart of the human condition. And there is an odd twist: I have always been told that William Cody, or “Buffalo Bill,” was some sort of relative of mine. Perhaps I feel a bit responsible for him. Anyway, the question at the end of this poem seems to stand up and defy our human dilemma… and sometimes I find it easy to adopt it as my own question, posed again and again to some unknown (or known) entity of destruction. How DO you like your blue-eyed boy, now, Mr. Death?

Here’s the poem (click this link to see it as it should be formatted, I can’t seem to get it right using this blogger editor!):

Buffalo Bill’s

defunct

who used to ride a watersmooth-silver

stallion

and break onetwothreefourfive pigeons justlikethat

Jesus

he was a handsome man

and what I want to know is

how do you like your blue-eyed boy

Mister Death

ee cummings

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Here’s a Rumi poem. Read it! and, read it again… :

ONE ONE ONE

The lamps are different.

But the Light is the same.
So many garish lamps in the dying brain’s lamp shop, Forget about them.
Concentrate on essence, concentrate on Light.
In lucid bliss, calmly smoking off its own hold fire, The Light streams
toward you from all things, All people, all possible permutations of good,
evil, thought, passion.
The lamps are different,
But the Light is the same.
One matter, one energy, one Light, one Light-mind, Endlessly emanating all things.
One turning and burning diamond,
One, one, one.
Ground yourself, strip yourself down,
To blind loving silence.
Stay there, until you see
You are gazing at the Light
With its own ageless eyes.

RUMI

………………………………………………………………………………………….

A marvelous poem from Mary Oliver (there are no peonies out there today, but what a wonderful poem):

Peonies

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open —
pools of lace,
white and pink —
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities —
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again —
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

Mary Oliver

………………………………………………………………………………………….

Another one from Mary Oliver. Her poetry is simply staggering to me; hers is the voice of an amazing contemplative.

At Blackwater Pond

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled

after a night of rain.

I dip my cupped hands. I drink

a long time. It tastes

like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold

into my body, waking the bones. I hear them

deep inside me, whispering

oh what is that beautiful thing

that just happened?

Mary Oliver

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There’s a little piece of a Zen poem that often gets quoted (when you take precepts in the Kwan Um School, you will find this on your precepts certificate):

Good and evil have no self-nature.
Holy and unholy are empty names.
In front of the door is the land of stillness and light.
Spring comes, the grass grows by itself.

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“This is much more important: not what has been done to us, but what we are doing to others.

Somebody has to stop the process. How do we stop it?

We stop it when we move out of our bitter thoughts about the past and future and just begin to be here with what is,

doing the best we can, noticing what we do.

Once this process becomes clear, there is only one thing that we really want to do:

to break that chain, to ease the suffering of the world.”

Nothing Special: Living Zen. Charlotte Joko Beck

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“Those events and people in our lives who trigger our unresolved issues could be regarded as good news.

We don’t have to go hunting for anything. We don’t need to try to create situations in which we reach our limit.

They occur all by themselves, with clockwork regularity.
Most of us do not take these situations as teachings. We automatically hate them.

We run like crazy.

We use all kinds of ways to escape—all addictions stem from this moment when we meet our edge and we just can’t stand it.
Meditation is an invitation to notice when we reach our limit and to not get carried away by hope and fear.

Through meditation, we’re able to see clearly what’s going on with our thoughts and emotions, and we can also let them go.”

From: When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron

What are the situations that drive you crazy? Who are the people that irritate you the most?

Right now, I am engaged in writing up my year-end reports. I guess that all faculty members at all universities in the world have to do something like this; it’s one of the things people never fantasize about if they ever entertain dreams about how great it would be to have a job teaching at a university!

So, I happen to dislike writing the year-end report stuff. I ask myself, what is it? What is this dislike? What is so onerous about this task? Certainly, it is not physically or mentally difficult. I just have to sit at the computer, look through my calendar for the dates of various things I did, copy and paste some stuff into a document… What is it? I find that, as with just about anything that provokes these feelings in me, it’s not the thing itself, but the stories about the task, that create the bad feelings. My own rudimentary story about year-end reports might be: “I shouldn’t have to do this! I shouldn’t have to demonstrate to anyone that I worked hard this year! Everyone should just KNOW that I worked hard and deserve LOTS of praise!”

Ahh, then, I see narcissism popping up into my psyche! When this happens, and when I buy into that story-line, I find that I am separating myself from everyone else. That’s the fundamental danger of the “I shouldn’t have to!” story-line: the creation of a special “me” who is not fully a part of this organic whole in which we are all at our best when we see our fundamental connectedness, and not our imagined separate specialness.

I don’t need to get all annoyed with myself over this tendency or story of mine (in fact, if I do, that just makes the whole problem worse, and bigger than it needs to be). Instead, over time, recognizing this again and again, I can be deliberately compassionate toward my sometimes-childish nature when it comes to the forefront of my emotional life. Maybe I can even smile, and then go back to writing my year-end reports…

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“Ours is an awareness practice that takes in everything. The ‘absolute’ is simply everything in our world, emptied of personal emotional content… awareness practice is open to any present experience—all this upsetting universe—and it helps us slowly to extricate ourselves from our emotional reactions and attachments… Most emotions do not arise out of the immediate moment, such as when we witness a child hit by a car, but are generated by our self-centered demands that life be the way we want it to be. Though it’s not bad to have such emotions, we learn through practice that they have no importance in themselves. Straightening the pencils on our desk is just as important as feeling bereft or lonely, for example. If we can experience being lonely and see our thoughts about being lonely, then we can move out of the gap. Practice is that movement, over and over and over again. If we remember something that happened six months ago and with the memory come upsetting feelings, our feelings should be looked at with interest, nothing more. Though that sounds cold, it’s necessary in order to be a genuinely warm and compassionate person. If we find ourselves thinking that our feelings are more important than what is happening at the moment, we need to notice this thought. Sweeping the walk is reality; our feelings are something we’ve made up, like a web we have spun in which we catch ourselves.”

Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special: Living Zen

So, another day arises, and it will be full of occasions to notice my thoughts and feelings, and the stories I tell myself about them, and the way that my stories, given a little attention, can grow into entire dramas, Broadway productions, even! that have nothing to do with what is really going on, right now. Especially since the task at hand for me, today, is cleaning out my email inbox on campus, full of many inquiries from students about their schedules, their courses, recommendations they need… in other words, sweeping the walk! Many times, if I pay attention, I find something very beautiful out there, sweeping the walk.

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“Karma is often wrongly confused with the notion of a fixed destiny. It is more like an accumulation of tendencies that can lock us into particular behavior patterns, which themselves result in further accumulations of tendencies of a similar nature…. But it is not necessary to be a prisoner of old karma….Here’s how mindfulness changes karma. When you sit, you are not allowing your impulses to translate into action. For the time being, at least, you are just watching them. Looking at them, you quickly see that all impulses in the mind arise and pass away, that they have a life of their own, that they are not you but just thinking, and that you do not have to be ruled by them. Not feeding or reacting to impulses, you come to understand their nature as thoughts directly. This process actually burns up destructive impulses in the fires of concentration and equanimity and non-doing. At the same time, creative insights and creative impulses are no longer squeezed out so much by the more turbulent, destructive ones. They are nourished as they are perceived and held in awareness.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are

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“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded.

It’s a relationship between equals.

Only when we know our own darkness well

can we be present with the darkness of others.

Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

Pema Chodron.

This one works for me because I need the reminder it gives me not to fall into the false-dichotomy trap. When we identify too strongly with a role that is only, at most, one aspect of ourselves (healer or wounded; victim or perpetrator), and when we label others as embodiments of some particular role, then we have fallen into the distorted thinking that, in Buddhist psychology, is known as “delusion.” It is simpler, easier, and often more palatable to think of ourselves as victims, for example, or as healers, forgetting that we are also perpetrators of pain, and we are also damaged by the many injuries we have received, and observed, and given to others.

In this month’s issue of Shambala Sun, there is a very moving article by a Vietnam veteran named Tony Anthony. He describes some of his experiences of sound, and of silence, while standing watch during the nights in the war. After he came home, he asked a teacher whether he had made it all up, all his experiences, the war, and the killing, “this place where even Buddhists are Vietcong and you can’t tell one from the other?” His teacher responded: “The war exists because you are there. And there is no difference between a Buddhist and a Vietcong–all of us are both those things!”

Once when I was on retreat, I saw that the person ahead of me in the breakfast line was using a spoon to dig through the bowl of granola, fishing out the almonds, and putting them on her oatmeal. I was outraged, in part because I love almonds, and wanted some of them for myself. In my mind, I labeled her “greedy.” And then, as I brooded self-righteously over her bad behavior, I remembered that the day before, when we had been given bleu cheese dressing for our salads, I had done a bit of work with the serving spoon, as well, making sure that I had several large chunks of the cheese on my salad… that hurt, and it also made me laugh. That realization (that small burst of clarity in my own greedy mind) allowed me to make up an ad hoc mantra of re-minding: “We ALL fish out the almonds.” Compassion, as Pema Chodron tells us, is about realizing this, and taking this realization into the path of becoming the presence of compassion for others, and for ourselves, with the full awareness that we are all inextricably intertwined with each other, and with all of the beauty, and all of the the pain, in this life we are given.

……………………………………………………………………………………..

“Everyday, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive,

I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it.

I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others;

to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings.

I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others.

I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”

(the Dalai Lama)

Do you believe that the intentions that you deliberately bring into your consciousness have an impact on the way you live your life? I do, and maybe you do, too. But we all know that it’s easier to just think about this, or agree with the idea, in principle, than it is to put it into practice. It would be a good idea to take this quote, and write this down… or write down something else that is in keeping with your own values, ideals and goals — and literally read it aloud, or silently, every morning. Put it on your bedside table. Laminate it, and carry it in your pocket. Do whatever will help you to turn an idea into a practice.

………………………………………………………………………………………………..

“For practitioners or spiritual warriors—people who have a certain hunger to know what is true—feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”

From: When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron.

There’s the story of the residential Zen center in which one of the residents caused endless trouble. He was loud, he did not do his share of work, he seldom bathed, he consistently blamed others for all his problems. Then, one day, as if by a miracle, he moved out! The remaining Zen students were jubilant… until they saw their teacher, the Zen master, bringing the offensive fellow back into the hall, with all his luggage. One of the students got up her courage and asked the teacher, “Why??” The teacher’s response: “I paid that fellow to come back, because he is a better teacher to you than I am. Pay attention!”

Who is your teacher this day, in this moment?

……………………………………………………………………………………

“There are two kinds of desires: demands (“I have to have it”) and preferences. Preferences are harmless; we can have as many as we want. Desire that demands to be satisfied is the problem… Practice has to be a process of endless disappointment. We have to see that everything we demand (and even get) eventually disappoints us. This discovery is our teacher… Practice brings us to… fruitful suffering, and helps us to stay with it. When we do, at some point the suffering begins to transform itself, and the water begins to flow. In order for that to happen, however, all of our pretty dreams about life and practice have to go, including the belief that good practice—or indeed, anything at all—should make us happy… Practice does not require that we get rid of [personally centered thoughts], but simply that we see through them and recognize them as empty, as invalid.”

From: Nothing Special: Living Zen. Charlotte Joko Beck

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“In a sense, Zen is a religious practice. Religion really means to rejoin that which seems to be separate. Zen practice helps us to do that. But it’s not a religion in the sense that there’s something outside of ourselves that’s going to take care of us… Because true practice and religion help us to rejoin what seems to be separate, all practice has to be about anger. Anger is the emotion that separates us. It cuts everything right in two.”

From: Nothing Special: Living Zen. Charlotte Joko Beck

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“Anguish emerges from craving for life to be other than it is. It is the symptom of flight from birth and death, from the pulse of the present. It is the gnawing mood of unease that haunts the clinging to ‘me’ and ‘mine.’ … Craving can vanish in awakening to the absurdity of the assumptions that underlie it. Without stamping it out or denying it, craving may be renounced the way a child renounces sand castles: not be repressing the desire to make them but by turning aside from an endeavor that no longer holds any interest.”

From: Buddhism Without Beliefs, by Stephen Batchelor

What are the “assumptions that underlie” my (our) anguish? Over and over again, it is the belief (or insistence!) that life SHOULD not be this way… it should be some other, better way! And that resistance to experiencing what IS, is in fact the real source of anguish. This is the fundamental realization of the Buddha.

Letting go of that resistance is not easy, but there are practices that help us to get free. These practices all include some kind of attentional training, or, to put it another way, the deliberate choice to “pay attention to,” or “notice,” what is going on right now, and to do so as compassionately as possible.

Where I find myself engaging in negative judgments (and this is not a rare occurrence), I work on compassionately noticing that very thing, i.e., the act of judging. And then I do it again… and again. Out of this practice comes some clarity about what is real, as opposed to what is only a story I am making up based on my reactions (“I like it! I want to keep it!” OR “I don’t like it! I want it to go away!”) to what I encounter in reality. And sticking with what-is-real is a lot easier, and a lot saner, than dwelling within those stories…

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“Little by little a person becomes evil, as a water pot is filled by drops of water…
Little by little a person becomes good, as a water pot is filled by drops of water.”

Buddha (563 – 483 BC) Source: The Dhammapada

This is beautifully put… the point being that everything we do matters. Everything we do changes who we are, and how we live our lives. This is one of the principles on which we operate in the Mindfulness-Based Wellness (MBW) program: we help people to identify how they want to live their lives (i.e., their values); and then we encourage them to choose very reasonable, small changes in the activities they do every day, every week. It is the accomplishment of these small positive changes (the “drops of water”) that create genuine, sustainable directional changes in the course and quality of their lives. One of the exciting findings now emerging from our outcome data, following last semester’s inaugural MBW program, is that our participants displayed a significant overall boost in their Quality of Life scores. What a joy it is for me, to see that happening!

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“When we begin to practice [mindfulness], we don’t realize the long and difficult transformation required of us. We have to see through our pursuit of outward things, the false gods of pleasure and security. We have to stop gobbling this and pursuing that in our shortsighted way, and simply relax into the cocoon, into the darkness of the pain that is our life… when we’re perfectly willing to be there—in other words, when we’re willing for life to be as it is, embracing both life and death, pleasure and pain, good and bad, comfortable in being both—then the cocoon begins to dissolve.”

From: NOTHING SPECIAL: LIVING ZEN, by Charlotte Joko Beck

Joko Beck is one of my favorite Zen teachers. She has written two books (I quote from Nothing Special, above), both of which are excellent and can be used equally well by beginners to meditation, and those with more experience. Her Zen teaching is very compatible with the practice of Mindfulness Meditation (also known as Insight Meditation, or Vipassana). In other words, she is not teaching about a “religion” called “Buddhism,” but a way of looking at our lives and our experiences in a less reactive and more compassionate manner. She is teaching the practice of stepping back from our experience so as to see our situations more clearly (and thereby to reduce our emotional pain and suffering).

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“Sitting [meditation] is like our daily lives: what comes up as we sit will be the thinking that we want to cling to, our chief feature. If we like to evade life, we’ll find some way in sitting to evade our sitting [worry, fantasize]. Whatever we do in our sitting is like a microcosm of the rest of our lives. Our sitting shows us what we’re doing with our lives, and our lives show us what we do when we sit… When we wear the teachings of life, observing our thoughts, experiencing the sensory input we receive in each second, then we are engaged in saving ourselves and all sentient beings, just by being who we are.”

From: Nothing Special: Living Zen. Charlotte Joko Beckhttp://www.mindandlife.org/spacer.gif

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For some, [the] task of coming back a thousand or ten thousand times in meditation may seem boring or even of questionable importance. But how many times have we gone away from the reality of our life?—perhaps a million or ten million times! If we wish to awaken, we have to find our way back here with our full being, our full attention….In this way, meditation is very much like training a puppy. You put the puppy down and say, “Stay.” Does the puppy listen? It gets up and runs away. You sit the puppy back down again. “Stay.” And the puppy runs away over and over again. Sometimes the puppy jumps up, runs over ad pees in the corner or makes some other mess. Our minds are much the same as the puppy, only they create even bigger messes. In training the mind, or the puppy, we have to start over and over again.

– Jack Kornfield, A Path with Heart

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