Sunday, September 4, 2011

No Time to Lose

I am currently reading No Time to Lose:  A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva, a commentary on Shantideva's work by Pema Chodron.  In Mahayana Buddhism, there is a bodhisattva vow where we ask to awaken for the benefit of all beings.  When we first begin to practice meditation, our motivation may simply be to remove our own personal suffering.  But as we continue to practice, we come to realize the level of suffering of all beings, from our close circle of family and friends to beings around the globe.  All one has to do is watch the news every night to hear about murders, wars, natural disasters, illnesses and the like.  For me personally, this can be very disturbing and I often feel powerless to do anything about it.  The problems of the world seem immense and overwhelming.  Shantideva wrote The Way of the Bodhisattva over twelve centuries ago.

 "The Sanskrit term bodhichitta is often translated as "awakened heart" and refers to an intense desire to alleviate suffering.  On the relative level, bodhichitta expresses itself as longing.  Specifically, it is the heartfelt yearning to free oneself from the pain of ignorance and habitual patterns in order to help others do the same.  This longing to alleviate suffering of others is the main point.  We start close to home with the wish to help those we know and love, but the underlying inspiration is global and all encompassing.  Bodhichitta is a sort of "mission impossible":  the desire to end the suffering of all beings, including those we'll never meet, as well as those we loathe."  (Pg xiii  No Time to Lose)

Basically, the process involves working with our mind first and dealing with our habits of thought and working to remove such impulses such as anger, jealousy, hatred and greed.  Once these veils are removed from our mind, then we are in a position to act wisely and compassionately in the world to help reduce the suffering in the world, perhaps one mind at a time.  Realistically we don't have a clear vision of how our thoughts and actions impact the world around us but it is our hope, that as a result of the work we do on ourselves, we are able to act with wisdom and wholesome intention and positively effect change in the world.

My dharma teacher suggested that we read articles written by Noam Chomsky.  His website is  He is a prolific writer with a lot to say about how the United States government conducts its business in the world.  I found it quite distressing to read about the manipulations by the powers that be that is motivated by greed for power and an exaggerated view of the importance of the United States.  When I think about the trillions of dollars spent on military budgets alone, plus the economic bailout of a few short years ago and I think about the pittance spent on providing people with the necessities of life, I can feel very discouraged.  No Time to Lose is a good antidote to those feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness that reading Chomsky induces.

The modern day epitome of compassion has been the Dalai Lama and how he deals with the Chinese invasion of Tibet.  I know it fills his heart with sorrow to think about how Tibetans have suffered since the occupation began.  But he looks for a compassionate and nonviolent resolution that provides autonomy for the Tibetan people that does not necessarily involve China withdrawing.  The Dalai Lama says that his religion is kindness and his example is one that I would like to emulate in my life.  Not only is the Dalai Lama saddened by the suffering of his people but he is also saddened about the harm that is brought to the perpetrators as a result of their unenlightened actions.  Karma says that there is a wholesome result for wholesome actions and an unwholesome result for unwholesome actions though we cannot predict what those will be.  Karma works on the small scale and on the large scale.  If I wish harm to another, even though the other causes harm, I cause harm to myself.  Karma will take care of the consequences.  I don't have to take part in that.  But the bodhichitta view would be that perpetrators will be released from greed, hatred and delusion and awaken to apply bodhichitta in their lives.  That is the ultimate goal.  Maybe someday.....

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Is There Anyone Out There?

Rambling Rose

How does one hold different perspectives at the same time?  One time when I was in the hospital I heard the term "cognitive dissonance" and this term referred to the place where you are holding two different viewpoints and each is vying for primary attention.  Also these viewpoints contradict each other and one must reject one viewpoint in order to achieve peace.  However, I am finding in life that there are very many ways of looking at the world.  Ken Wilbur says that no one is smart enough to be wrong 100% of the time so that means each viewpoint is right at least part of the time.  But people tend to think that they have the right viewpoint.  There are organizations in the world that demand that you accept the tenets lock, stock and barrel and if you don't watch out.  (An aside - According to Ken Wilbur, even George Bush was right some of the time.  If anyone can think of a time he was right, please post.)   Where was I going with all of this?  There have been many transitions in my life starting from when I was very young.  We moved, then we moved again and then we moved again.  I was married, then I was divorced, then I was married, then I was separated, then I was cohabitated.  I work here.  I work there.  Sometimes I didn't work at all.  I have this group of friends.  I have that group of friends.  Sometimes to be friends with someone means adopting their way of being.  Maybe I assumed that position in order to belong.  But sometimes, like when I was a Jehovah's Witness, that was true.  We weren't supposed to question anything.  It felt like I was suppressing something that when it came knocking I had to ignore it.  Sometimes I have felt that it is easiest to be myself when I am alone.  But that is no good either.  (I had a whole bunch of cookies and I am going to have a stomach ache.  Damn!)  Sometimes I want to belong but I don't know the rules.  Sometimes I know the rules but simply don't like them or get tired of spitting out the same ol', same ol' every day.  I am really rambling but that it what good journalling is all about.  But it is supposed to be a private affair.  Blogging is supposed to have a point and have some sort of direction for the benefit of others.  Anyways, I am not delivering that today and I think it is time to find a picture to finish this blog post off.  Lara, this one is for you and I hope you are well and Chris is well and your children are all well.  Sorry folks, no picture today.  It is taking too darn long to upload.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I did it! (Fingers crossed)

I'm so happy I am doing handstands.  Two weeks ago today I ran out of cigarettes and I haven't had one since.  539,345,789th time is a charm.  I am happy because I didn't think yoga and smoking went together.  Though I thought the Smokin' Yogi kind of had a ring to it.  Samskara is the sanskrit word for the tendencies we have and include the positive and negative.  When we do something over and over again, it is like driving on a dirt road over and over again, reinforcing and deepening the ruts in the road.  Samskaras are like that.  After smoking for so long, the habit had become entrenched.  Always there was a part of me that really wanted to quit and was even disgusted by the habit.  But another part always insisted that I light up one more time which led to one time more and on and on and on.  It is easy to give up quitting and saying that I cannot do this.  I am glad that I hung on to the desire to quit until that desire became stronger than the urge to smoke.  I figure it is my purpose in this lifetime to deal with as many samskaras as possible, at least the samskaras of the negative variety.  I figure this is my purpose because I believe that I get more than one kick at the can.  After I die, I will be back and any samskaras that I haven't dealt with will be back as well.  And that is my story and I am sticking to it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


12.  They (thought waves) are controlled by means of practice and non-attachment.
13.  Practice is the repeated effort to follow the disciplines which give permanent control of the thought waves of the mind.
14.  Practice becomes firmly grounded when it has been cultivated for a long time, uninterruptedly, with earnest devotion.

Yoga means "union" or "to yoke".  According to Patanjali, "Yoga is the control of thought waves in the mind."  Later on he outlined an eight limb path that would accomplish this.  It is of interest to note that Patanjali wasn't referring to the system of Hatha Yoga to accomplish this.  The eight limbs refer to a system of ethics, concentration (meditation) and pranayama (breath control) to accomplish this.  By practicing the eight limbs we would eventually arrive at Samadhi (the final limb) where the control of thought waves has been accomplished.

I want to highlight the importance of practice as stated in the three sutras noted at the beginning of this blog.  Practice has three qualities:  repeated effort, over a long period of time and devotion.  Certainly these three qualities can be applied to a Hatha Yoga practice and a meditation practice, both of which I want to cultivate in 2011.  My practice has been spotty at best but the devotion is there.  The one thing that I have been consistent with is study of the written word as the library of books I have accumulated will attest.  However, I want to apply what I've learned to a physical practice.  The Bhagavad Gita assures me that:
"On this path no effort is wasted, no gain is ever reversed;  even a little of this practice will shelter you from great sorrow."
*  Yoga sutras taken from How to Know God, The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali and the Bhagavad Gita quote is taken from Bhagavad Gita  A New Translation by Stephen Mitchell.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

My chosen picture really doesn't have anything to do with the topic of this post but I like to add a picture for interest's sake.  Mind you, I could talk about how this fall I have felt like hibernating and introverting and going inwards.  And after every hibernation or introspection comes a period of awakening or extroversion.  I'd like to think that I am entering that phase.  We will see.  Also, everytime January 1st rolls around, I find myself making resolutions.  I make many resolutions.  I say to myself that this is the year that I am going to lose weight, quit smoking, pay closer attention to my finances, do the nice things that I have an initial impulse for, etc, etc, etc.  I rarely make the progress that I hope to.  And this year I find myself saying the same things again but this time I really really mean it.  But seriously!  I do hope to accomplish the things I set out for myself but I realize, as they say in AA, "Progress not perfection."  The beginning of the year highlights a chance for a fresh start and renewed enthusiasm.  In the fall we are finishing up with things.  We get ready for the winter and cold weather.  By January, winter is well on the way.  We have passed the Winter Solstice and the days are once again getting longer.  Eventually spring will arrive and those new beginnings we dream about in January actually begin to come to fruition.  That is the ideal.
          "If there is not wind, row."  - Latin Proverb
"If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door."  - Milton Berle
"Things come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle."  - Abraham Lincoln
One of the concepts that I am going to work on in 2011 is the idea that I must aggressively go after what I want.  Of course the challenge is to define what I want.  Another idea that I want to explore is that life is a process.  We never "arrive".  Everything is in constant flux.  Life is a flow.  It is a river, ever changing, ever moving.  This removes the idea that I can be happy when I complete my yoga training or I can be happy when I have plenty of money in the bank.  The point is that to become a yoga teacher, I must go through many steps and the challenge becomes to enjoy the process.  Plan for the future but live in the present.  Be mindful of the present moment.  One day at a time.  So my aim each day from this day forward is to look at my day, say this is what I have to do today and then enjoy the day as best I can.  And that is my wish for all of you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Living with Bipolar Disorder

I was checking out Carrie Fisher's book Wishful Drinking.  I do want to buy the book but I did read the author's note at the back.  It is always nice to hear from someone who has been there.  I feel less crazy and abnormal when I see that someone else knows what I have been through.  Here is what she said:
"One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder.  In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls.  Not unlike a tour of duty in Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside).  At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage.  So if you're living with this illness and functioning at all, it's something to be proud of, not ashamed of.
     They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medications one has to ingest."
Now those paragraphs say it all.  There is not too much I can add to that except to say I know exactly where she is coming from.  That being said, it is worth every effort to get well and participate in life.  I think I have developed a certain appreciation for life that I wouldn't have if not for the bipolar disorder.  There are moments in my life that I am so happy and grateful to be here and perhaps I wouldn't know that pleasure if there hadn't been times when I wanted to make a grand exit.  I think anybody who has ever struggled with any type of illness or disability might know what I mean.  I certainly don't hold the monopoly on suffering.