A personal blog by a graying (mostly Anglo with light African-American roots) gay leftist leaning liberal progressive fit married college-educated former Baha'i NPR-listening Professor Emeritus now following the Dharma from California to Minas Gerais, Brasil.
"I always have the same response - I will work on myself since the work
on myself is going to be the highest thing I can do for it all. I
understand that as man up-levels his own consciousness, he sees more
creative solutions to the problems that he’s confronting."
In this special episode of the Heart Wisdom Podcast, Jack Kornfield
honors the life and wisdom of his early Vipassana teacher, S.N. Goenka.
Goenka was a pioneer in making Vipassana meditation widely available to
a secular audience. Over 170 meditation centers have been established
around the globe in his honor. Goenka was an inspiration and teacher to
thousands of students from around the world, including Joseph Goldstein,
Sharon Salzberg, Ram Dass, Daniel Goleman, and many other western
spiritual leaders. Discover the legacy of S.N. Goenka: vridhamma.org
However, these findings have been developed primarily based on data of heterosexual populations and different-sex marriages. Only more recently have a few studies looked into gayand lesbian populations and same-sex marriages to test if marriage is related to better health in these populations — and the evidence is mixed.
Our study, published online on Sept. 19, evaluates the advantages of marriage across heterosexual, bisexual, and gay or lesbian adults. We discovered that bisexual adults do not experience better health when married.
Buddhist psychology urges that we recognize that dying is a continuous process, going on all the time—a “perpetual succession of extremely short-lived events.” To recognize this authentically is to experience some form of enlightenment.
There is great delight in tuning through a variety of different methods, and really looking to each method to move you in its own unique way, but also keep opening you. So be very generous in your opening to methods, because if you bring to them a pure heart and a yearning to be free, they will serve you in that way. The way you get your karmuppance with method: You use them for power, you get power. Then you are stuck with the power. If you use them to reinforce your separateness, you get left in your separateness.
I do my spiritual practices because I do my spiritual practices. What will happen will happen. Whether I will be free and enlightened now or in ten thousand births is of no concern to me. What difference does it make? What else do I have to do? I cannot stop anyway, so it does not make any difference to me. But one concern is to watch that you do not get trapped in your expectations of a practice.
self-care, and self-love bring me joy, inner peace, hope, and happiness
daily. This, I think, is the core of sustainability for activists and
activism and is a foundation for transforming difficulties in work and
in personal life and especially our own ego.
—Interview with Ouyporn Khuankaew by Caitlin Dwyer, “Toward a Thai Feminist Movement”
capacity to recognize and accept where we are and to investigate what
must be changed to minimize the harm that our own views and blindspots
cause others is essential to the work of racial justice. And the
capacity to do all of this with as little attachment and identification
to the outcome is essential to true liberation.
We often think that insecurity comes from a weak ego, but in my experience it is the result of an inflexible ego that has mistaken itself as the center of the universe, which keeps contradicting it on this key point.
Has your life delivered you to the very place you expected it would? Mine hasn’t. At this moment, late on a Saturday night, I find myself working the swing shift in a windowless room on the sixteenth floor of a mostly deserted Los Angeles skyscraper, where I am a legal proofreader. Since I’m also a Buddhist, committed to integrating Zen into my everyday life, I decide to practice mindfulness as I pore over a stack of public offerings and credit agreements. Unfortunately, awakening to this moment, I find no fresh breezes, no grass growing of itself, no V-shape of geese migrating against the autumn sky. Instead, I tune in to the incessant hum of fluorescent lights, underscored by a deeper, even more unpleasant multiple-machine drone; stale, recycled air; and the fact that, for some reason, the toes of my left foot have gone cold and clammy.
“The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences,” said Seng-ts’an, third Zen patriarch. I reflect on this teaching at times like this, when my eyes are tired and my back sore and I really want out of this room. And then I know, frankly, that I haven’t had a preference-free moment in my life. I grumble that maybe old Seng-ts’an set the bar just a little too high—I mean, no preferences? Right. Try proofreading for eight hours in an air-conditioned sarcophagus. But part of me knows Seng-ts’an simply stated it the way it is. So I aim for no preferences, have them anyway, and find that the effort helps. This is the challenge that daily perplexes and fascinates me: How to bring my Zen practice into the workplace, even when that place seems so cold, inhospitable, and, well, corporate. Coming to my aid are the skills cultivated over fourteen years of at-least-once-a-week meditation and the wisdom that flows from my incomplete mastery of the dharma. The wonderful thing is, these seem to be enough. Enlightenment and mastery are great goals, but not required to reap the benefits of Buddhism. The main thing is to have a practice, and to keep it alive, personally relevant, and engaged. Make it your own, and bring it with you everywhere.
I’m sure that my Buddhism makes me a better employee. My concentration is good, my disposition willing, my listening empathic. But these things are easy; they aren’t where I feel the daily stretching of practice. No, practice begins for me when my separate little self springs to life, judging, comparing, and clenching. These moments are easy to identify: To one degree or another, they always involve suffering. It might happen like this: I step onto the elevator, a stack of documents to be delivered under my arm, and find I’m sharing the ride up with three hotshot young attorneys. Then, in an instant—in a vivid illustration of the Buddhist principle of codependent origination—my full-blown separate self springs into existence, co-arising with the young attorneys, the society beyond these walls, which so values wealth and success, and my own internalization of those values. It’s all there!
I stare at my feet like the diffident bottom-dweller I am, a grown-up delivery boy, while they happily jaw about the firm’s skybox at the Lakers game or the latest billion-dollar merger, and I feel a flush of envy and embarrassment. I should be going to Lakers games! I should be negotiating billion-dollar mergers! I get off the elevator with my feathers a little ruffled.
Now, behold the beauty of practice. It was all transparent. I saw my feelings come into existence and made no attempt to stop them. I saw my preferences and shrugged; they seemed understandable enough. I knew that my feelings of discomfort were “empty”—that is, they have no fixed or permanent existence in themselves; they are transitory, conditioned by time and place—and sure enough, in the absence of further judgment or resistance, they pass. I am putting into practice a fundamental skill learned in meditation. Each time we let go of distractions to return to our focus, whatever that is, we practice letting go.
Letting go of thoughts, scenarios, judgments, conceptual thinking—little chunks of self.
So I return to my desk under the humming lights to tackle another stack of documents. There’s still no meadow in here, no grass growing, no tableau of geese against the autumn sky. For a moment, there were some ruffled feathers—but now they are smooth. Practice!
and mastery are great goals, but not required to reap the benefits of
Buddhism. The main thing is to have a practice, and to keep it alive,
personally relevant, and engaged. Make it your own, and bring it with
If someone approaches you and speaks irritatingly-nagging or gossiping about one of your friends, for instance- and you notice yourself getting upset, simply stop talking. Remind yourself silently, "I must not be reactive. I must not fall into the same lack of mindfulness as this person. This conversation is not going anywhere. I chose to engage only in meaningful conversation." In many cases, the other person will respond to your silence by stopping the irritating talk. You can use the pause that follows to turn the conversation in a better direction.
Actually, as someone following the Buddha's path, the moment you know that a conversation is heading in the wrong direction you should take responsibility for putting it back on track. It is so easy to get carried away with emotional talk and start shouting. A shouting match causes unhappiness to everyone involved. With mindfulness recall how awful you feel when you are out of control emotionally. Remind yourself that it may take hours or days before you calm down enough to talk to this person again. A lot of good feelings will be lost, perhaps permanently.
In spite of all your good efforts, however, sometimes you still get angry. If another person continually provokes you, assaulting you with verbal daggers, you may become completely confused and bewildered. Then it is very easy for anger to arise. When you see your confusion building up, say "Wait a minute !" to the other person, with the hope of finding a moment to clear you mind. But what if the other person responds with "No , you wait a minute!" and continues to attack - then what ?
In these situations, when the conversation spins out of control, your task is to bring mindfulness back quickly and use Skillful Effort to overcome the anger. Even if your feelings of anger cause your heart to beat fast, your body to break into a sweat, and your hands to shake, mindfulness of your resolution to avoid all harsh speech can help you stay in control. Simply refuse to let your anger tell you what to say. Concentrate on your breathing to reestablish mindfulness until your anger has died down.
Calming yourself gives both you and the other person a chance to open your hearts in a more friendly way. As your heart begins to warm, you see the other more clearly, and maybe you will understand why you both got upset. You can also see how confused an angry state of mind makes you. As you feelings of respect and concern grow, you can resolve to use this moment to being a new and more loving relationship and to strengthen the companionship between you. That is what you should always hope to do.
of us haven’t been taught that to receive love deeply and transmit it
wholeheartedly is a real human possibility, that it can be learned, and
that to do so is the key to our deepest well-being, our spiritual life,
and our capacity to bring more goodness into this world.