Love is the Answer

No, I am not going to start singing some old song like, “Love is all you need…” This post isn’t about the mushy stuff or the head-in-the-clouds stuff. Although why so many of us want to run screaming from the room whenever the subject of love comes up should be examined…

No, this is about some things I have picked up since reading some more of Rhonda Byrne’s, “The Power.” You need to read this book. Seriously. Just set aside your opinions about “New Age” or “New Thought” or the teacher herself. She is only a channel, one way this information is coming into our world. And I don’t mean in a mediumistic sense. I mean in the sense like a channel of water. Consider this teacher’s work to be one channel, flowing from Source, bringing us some important pieces of the overall spiritual puzzle.

There’s a bit in there about love, and after reading it, I spent some time just writing down the things I appreciate and love about my life. My focus on just these two feelings. What do I truly love in my love? What do I appreciate in my life? I felt compelled to do this because I was experiencing some sort of flu-like sickness, had a terrible headache and wanted to feel better. Strangely enough, after doing this simple exercise, I did.

It ties together with bits and pieces I have gleaned from other spiritual texts. There’s the Law of Attraction stuff from Abraham, teaching me that what I focus on is what I draw to me, and what I give out I receive. A lot of the other stuff I can’t seem to get a handle on. I mean I understand it, but nothing really clicked, until I read that bit in Byrne’s book and then things began to click.

I have posted before about how alien and isolated I feel. I realized today, and it’s been developing over the last few days, that I have created this experience for myself. I created it because I have been pushing people away. I realized that when I look at someone, I am immediately, unconsciously until today looking at what I perceive to be their flaws, basically trying to find a reason not to like them. Not with everyone, but with many of the people I encounter.

The issue is that the energy I emanate when I look at someone with non-acceptance brings into my life the experience of non-acceptance. I am not as open and accepting as I thought myself to be. I have been subtly pushing people away, giving out the energy of pushing away, and receiving the energy of being pushed away in return.

So you see, I have been isolating myself, by constantly finding reasons to push people away. They may not consciously feel that energy from me, but everyone is responding to it. Everything and everyone we perceive to be outside of us and separate from us is consistently and constantly responding to us, to whatever it is we are giving out, and whatever we are giving out, that is what we are receiving.

Criminals don’t get caught because they are stupid, and the police overall aren’t exceptionally intelligent. Criminals get caught because they literally draw or magnetize those circumstances, events and people to them that will catch them. Their overriding thought is, “I don’t want to get caught.” The focus is on catching, or being caught. The Universe responds by arranging and orienting everything in their lives to match catching or being caught.

If you could somehow rob a bank without a lack or limitation mindset, and with no fear or guilt, you will never be caught. But the instant you start feeling guilty, or worrying about the police catching up to you, the snare is set, and you are stuck in it. Eventually you will be caught, if you continue to feel fear or guilt. If you continually practice letting go of your fear and guilt however, you will remain uncaught.

If you entertain any sort of lack or limitation mindset, thinking that there is not enough to go around,m or you don;’t have enough, etc., you will find yourself needing to steal again, because the money you have stolen will have seemed to fly away from you. This is another trap, and it is unlikely you would steal in the first place without this way of thinking. You have to stop thinking in that way if you want the money to last, to be enough.

The longer you feel fear the closer and quicker that which you fear comes to you. The longer you feel guilty the closer and quicker the inevitable punishment comes to you. The more you think there is not enough the more not enough you experience. The more you find yourself, or others, lacking, the more you and others will be found lacking in your own perception.

This last was my trap. I realized I need to find things I truly appreciated or loved about everyone I encountered. I had to stop pushing people away because I was not interested, or they were too fat, or I didn’t like how they looked, etc. Yesterday I came to understand that to attract “the one I am with” into my life I had to think about all the things she has that I love about her. Her long hair, beautiful smile, graceful movements, lithe body, etc. Though I have not yet met this person in the flesh, my positive focus in this way is ever drawing her into my life.

I don’t have to force myself to say, “Hi” to everyone I meet. I don’t have to throw myself into uncomfortable social situations. I don’t have to game anyone. I don’t have to work hard at anything. I just need to be myself and think about what I want instead of what I don’t want. I just need a positive focus on what I want, and I get that by thinking about all the things I love or appreciate about something, whether it is real or just something I envision in my mind’s eye.

I have practiced my whole life a way of acting, being and thinking that criticizes and judges others, that pushes those I perceive to be not wanted or not acceptable away. It’s so easy to do, and I think we all do it to some extent. Who wants to have any thoughts of acceptance or love for the dirty, wrinkly, disgusting looking (and smelling) person a few seats from you on the bus? But somehow, in some way, we have to find something about them we appreciate it, and practice appreciation and love instead of criticism and judgment. Otherwise we will remain depressed, friendless, isolated and lonely. We don’t have to talk to this person. We just have to practice a different way of reacting to and thinking about them.

Thinking about the things we desire, the things we want, isn’t as simple as just thinking about them. That’s one place I got stuck. It turns out we need to have a positive energy towards the things we desire. We have to have a positive focus in order to draw these things to us. So now matter how much we think about our desire for friends, now matter how much we may visualize being in our idea friendships, if in our daily lives we are criticizing and judging those we encounter, we will never have the friendships for which we long.

Is it falling into place for you now? Making sense? I hope so. That is my intention here. It helps me to share these things I have realized, to work them out here. In giving understanding I receive understanding. That’s why some teachers are constantly earnings new things as they teach. You give knowledge you receive knowledge. But don’t forget that to make a clear path from Source into your life experience you must have positive energy and focus, and this is easy to practice just by focusing on what you appreciate or love.

You Are My Garden

A tree is dying in my garden.
You see it,
but you also see other trees
that are still vigorous and joyful.

And I am thankful.

I know a tree is dying in my garden,
but I do not see it,
as the whole of my garden.

And I need you to remind me of that.

I am told to take care of the garden
left to me by my ancestors.
A garden always has beautiful trees
and others that are not so healthy.
That is the reason why
we have to take good care of it.

You are mt garden,
and I know that I should practice as a gardener.

I have seen an old, untended garden,
where the cherry and peach trees
still bloom wonderfully
and always in time.

By: Thich Nhat Hanh
From: “call me by my true names.”
(c) 1999 Unified Buddhist Church

My Initial Thoughts On My 10-Day Vipassana “Retreat”

Well I promised an update once I wrote my thoughts down. Still in that process, but here is what I feel so far.

The technique is good, and the center is an excellent place to go if you need to break some bad habits. If you have enough willpower, and really want to change certain behaviors, then you should definitely go to a 10-day course:

There is also a center in Seattle and something in Portland. You can always find a ride at their ride share board, bus and train schedules are listed as well.

I do not want to cause people to not want to go by what I have to say next. I do not want to sway anyone with these words. But I do need to express myself. So consider this only my experience, my perception, and that it may have little or nothing to do with your experience or perception. If you feel compelled to go, go.

This “retreat” is not, in any way, shape or form a retreat. You will not spend time making friends. You will be silent, in your own little world, until the last day. You will sit for a minimum of 6 hours every day for 10 days, in whatever cross-legged or kneeling position you prefer. There are various benches and pads available. You can request a chair without having to be interview by the teacher for the discourses at 7PM in the evening. I recommend you ask the manager first thing on the first day. Don’t get caught off guard with a 3 hour sit as I did.

This place is a combination of bootcamp and a school. You don’t have anyone yelling at you, no drill sergeants. But you are stuck with course boundaries, you are segregated from the opposite sex, and you are expected to follow an ethical and moral code called sila

Food and shelter is provided, bedding and pillows may be available but you should bring your own just in case, along with your own clothing. You won’t need much other than a towel, washcloth, various weights of loose clothing that goes at least to your knees and elbows and of course underwear. No need for makeup or grooming supplies. You could even go braless unless you needed the support. I just used PJs and sweats the entire time.

Rooms are nice with a lockable bathroom, you will have a roommate. Valuables can be locked up during registration, but better to leave all of that at home. Bring only the essentials. No books, drawing or writing utensils or electronic devices unless you must have your cell phone, but you will not be able to use it during the course. There is no need for bling or jewelry. You just need a toothbrush, toothpaste, unscented soap and underarm deodorant, at the most, for personal care. You can bring an alarm clock, you can not use your phone as one.

There are walking paths for the men and women, both outside the dorms and outside the meditation hall. You are required to sit not only through all group sittings, of which there are actually 4, not 3, but also through 15 minutes to an hour after a short break for additional instructions. They never tell you this. You understand that you only have to sit for the 1 hour segments, but this is a deception, same as the word “retreat” in the name.

I slept through most of the times when we were assigned to go back to our rooms and meditate or meditate in the hall. When I couldn’t sleep I walked. It is very pretty there in Onalaska, there are farms around you, although you can’t see them you can smell and hear them. There is a small garden, some trees, and a large grassy area between the dorms where the walking paths are located. Everything is very bare, rough and simple, no statues or religious depictions anywhere I saw.

You eat, sleep and meditate strictly segregated. No physical contact is allowed, once Noble Silence starts you can’t look at anyone, gesture to anyone, or talk. You will have your choice of oatmeal, a mixture of prunes and raisins, granola, fruit or toast for breakfast. Lunch will be a large variety of food, you will have to experience that for yourself. Some of it you probably have never had before. Dinner is tea and fruit, although I just had tea like the advanced students. There was instant coffee.

The whole thing is donation supported, like your local church, where the donations, if they are not actual donations, are called tithe. Here it is called Danna, and is not some rule or set amount like tithe, just whatever someone wants to donate, and you can only do so after completing one 10-day course. It really is a nice facility, you will find little to complain about the accommodations or food.

I came out of this physically sore, tired and feeling very raw. There may even be some anger in me, because this is not what I was looking for or wanted. I am still sorting through my feelings.

I have noticed that I have more energy,allowing me to get more done, I need less sleep, a lot of bad habits I had are gone and I think I lost some excess fat. I am also more balanced and equanimous, meaning I am less tossed about by the things that happen in my life. I think I am sleeping better too.

I feel that the technique itself is valuable and worth spending the time there to learn. But I think it is an artificial, human construct, this idea of mediation, meant to be one way to handle the also artificial construct of human society. More on this later.

I did not need or want, and do not appreciate, SNG’s Buddhist and Hindu philosophy. There is no attempt to convert you to anything. You are instructed to question everything SNG says by SNG himself. But he is constantly talking about Sankara, layers of these sankrara, how they are generated every moment, and how Vipassna meditation allows you to go into the depths of the mind to release them. Once your store is released, you become enlightened, or free.

To me it sounds like the Hindu idea of karma. It also reeks of the same “you are broken, you need to be fixed, here’s how” teachings of every religion out there under the sun. You are not broken, nature does not make mistakes, even when the mistakes appear to be obvious. They are not mistakes at all. You don’t need to be saved, you don’t need to work out your karma, and you have no sankara in the depths of your mind you need to clear, nor do you generate any.

You may have habitual thought patterns, a term SNG uses, and Vipassana is good for going deep, bringing the garbage to the surface, and clearing it out. That is as far as I will go with the reason for doing the meditation. Break habits, break your old ways of doing things, change yourself for the better. But that’s it, and really that is enough,. You don’t need the rest of SNG’s crap you get shoved down your throat from Day 5 or so.

The practice of Vipassana should not cause conflict with any belief system or religion you subscribe to. SNG’s teachings might, but you can ignore those, apply the technique the best way it fits you. Throw the rest of the crap out. Just understand that during the rereat you will be sitting through SNG talking about this stuff, and you can’t leave the hall.

SNG will talk about weak minded people. Weak or strong mind has nothing to do with it. Will is what is important here. If you have a strong will, you can go and make it through. If you don’t, you can strengthen your will by trying one of these courses. You also need strong discipline to keep the code you are expected to follow. The only use for a strong mind is so you don’t turn your Vipassana practice into a new religion, become some Vipassana convert hanging onto every word SNG speaks. If you aren’t strong minded enough to think for yourself, better not go, unless you want to go to train yourself to think for yourself.

I should also mention the people in charge there are awesome. In fact everyone there, students and volunteer staff alike were exceptional people. Even the former student who gave me a ride up there is an amazing lady, as well as the lady who gave me a ride to and from the bookstore. The atmosphere and environment is healthy and peaceful, the vibe is good. The male manager there in charge of the men’s side of things was always gracious and nice. I was not only was a student under their care, I worked with them for a very brief period, and found them also very good to work for and with.

That’s all I have to say for now.

SNG stands for S.N. Goenka

It Is Time To Open

In doing things that we think of as requiring ability, skill or talent to do, we are like a flower. Some of us may bloom part way, never quite committing to our fullest potential. Some of us, while budded, may look around at others who have bloomed, and assume we can not bloom as beautifully, so we don’t even try. But how can we know what is inside of us unless we open and allow it to come out?

There is no ability, skill or talent to our blooming. Everyone is a flower, everyone can bloom, everyone has beauty inside that they can let out. Everyone has their own unique inner color and form. Nobody has a better color or a better form. We might perceive the blooming of another to be more beautiful in comparison to another or ourselves. We would refer to such a person as having ability, skill or talent. But that comparison exists only in our perception.

To whatever or whoever we call God, who walks among us and is the energy inside us that connects us all to each other, we are all, each and every one of us, bloomed or not, loved, exactly as we are. Whoever or whatever we call God does not love the ones we perceive to be beautiful more. Whoever or whatever we call God does not love the ones we perceive to be ugly less. When we see ourselves as beautiful or ugly, as having ability, skill or talent, or not, whoever or whatever we call God does not see this. Because whoever or whatever we call God knows exactly what we have inside.

When you approach something that really compels you, really draws you, really interests or speaks to you – something you have always wanted to do, something you may have enjoyed doing in the past, something you feel you would enjoy doing now, maybe even something you enjoy doing – that is the right time to throw out all your beliefs about ability, skill or talent. That is a good time to allow yourself to do whatever this is to your fullest potential to do so, in your own unique way.

For me there are two things that fit this description. Drawing and singing. What is it you hear about both of these? That you have to practice a lot, that you have to train yourself, right? Also that there are these things called ability, skill or talent, and that you have to have one of these draw or sing. It is easy to justify the belief in these things. If I sat down and tried to draw something I would think of as beautiful and technically proficient, in other words, if I were to sit down and try to create a drawing that would look photo realistic (photo realism being the ideal of perfection) but only managed to do something simple, maybe a step up from a stick figure, I would assume (and most would say correctly) that I have no ability, skill or talent for drawing. Or, if these others are a little nicer (or they want money from me) they would tell me something like, “All you need is training. Practice drawing every day and you will get better!”

This is what usually happens when us flowers converse among each other. When we are younger we draw to the best of our ability. But as we get older and continue to draw the same way be come to believe we can not draw. When we are younger we sing and we don’t care who is listening or how we sound. As we grow older, if we are lucky not to have others criticizing us, we hear ourselves and are not happy that we don’t sound like our favorite singer, our idol, at the time. In both cases we give up. It is always due to criticism, from others, from ourselves, or from others and ourselves. We never allow ourselves to draw or sing as beautifully and uniquely as only we can. We never fully open, never showing our inner beauty to others, never allowing the light outside to come in. It is only in openness that the light can come into us, and it is only in openness that we can show our unique beauty and form. It is only when we are fully open that we can do that thing we want so desperately to do to the fullest of our ability, in our own unique way.

What I have been doing, after reading, “Illusions” by Richard Bach (in reference to when Shimoda picks up the guitar at the hardware store) is allowing myself to draw. I used to say to my highest ability, but I see the belief systems embedded there now, so I think a better way to say it is to my fullest potential. Or I could keep it simple, I am allowing myself to draw. There is this desire however that has me wanting to draw masterfully. I can already draw. I am not happy with my drawing at this point. I assume that I am not allowing myself to draw to my fullest extent or potential. I believe, still, that practice and training are required to draw what I would call well. But, to paraphrases Shimoda, “Then that is exactly how it will be.”

If I believe I must practice and train myself to open fully to my drawing, and my singing, if I believe it must be hard, that I must work for it, as society and the world, for the most part, says it does, then I will have to practice and train to get better. It will be hard, it will be work, I will have to work at it. Also, there is a limit to what I can do, based on the concepts of ability, skill and talent. My vocal range can only go so far. Any singing teacher would tell me this. I could go to a doctor and get a professional opinion regarding it. It seems logical, it must be right. Right?

Wrong. It is all only what I call an “apparent reality.” The “real world” is an illusion, and all “apparent reality” is a part of that illusion. It is reality as defined by the perceptions, collectively and individually, of others. Of the majority, in most cases. It is called reality because, “It has always been that way” or “It as been that way for as long as I can remember” or because “That was how I have been taught” or because “I have a degree that says it is so” on and on it goes. But no reality is really real, it is only apparently real, only as real as we collectively and individually choose it to be. Another possible reality is that everyone can draw or sing, regardless of ability, skill or talent, and without any prating or training.

We live in dualism, which means that if one reality exists, so does its opposite. If there is a reality where we have to learn to draw and sing, where we have to practice it to get better, and we are limited by ability, skill or talent, then there has to exist another reality where none of this is true. You can’t get around it. If you believe in good then evil also exists for you. No matter how much you may deny it. Where one thing exists, so exists its opposite, this is the law of dualism. Where there is something you love, there also exists something you hate. Where there is something you desire, there also exists something you do not desire.

Richard Bach demonstrates this beautifully and simply by his character Shimoda, picking up the guitar, and playing it in such a way we would define it as beautifully or skillfully. But Shimoda had never played a guitar before in his life. He had no ability, skill or talent, no practicing or training. He wanted to play, so he picked up the guitar and allowed himself to play. This is what I am doing in regards to my drawing. What I will do in regards to singing. I am allowing myself to do it, and gently but persistently removing any beliefs to the contrary. I am determined to open fully, to no longer be partly open. To allow myself to do all the things I have always wanted to do, whatever they are.

Why do we choose to believe that we must have ability, skill or talent? That we have to practice and receive training in order to do well? Does a flower need ability, skill or talent to open? Does a flower have to practice openness? Does a flower have to be trained how to be open? No. Flowers open naturally. In fact nothing could be more natural for a flower. It is the same for us. Our opening is just as natural to us as our breathing. We have no more need for ability skill, talent, to practice or be trained, to open than we need them to breathe.

I am already doing this in my writing. Although you could argue that I have always had a natural penchant for it, that I have always been good at it, that I have been writing for years so I have a lot of practice, all that would produce is technically perfect writing. It is writing most people would look at all think of as good. But it is not easy, flowing, natural writing. It is not writing would contain all my unique beauty and form. It is not writing from inside of me, maybe a natural flow from my Higher Self through me.

Maybe the difference is not detectable. Maybe only you, the reader, will notice any sort of change. But on my end I can tell you the writing I am doing right now, in this moment, feels better. It feels higher somehow. It feels more free and open somehow. That is writing coming from a full blooming, a full blossoming of my expression through words. Allowing the light to come in and go out from my unique beauty and form.

This is how I wish to draw and sing. This is how I wish to do everything that I have even the remotest interest in. From dancing to barefoot running. Whatever it is I want to do, I wish to do it from a state of full openness. It is this state of full openness I seek to, that I wish to, guide you towards. Somehow, I don’t know how (and the how is not my business anyway) I will do so.

It is time for a new way to teach, not a teaching that implies others must be trained. Not a teaching that requires training. But a teaching that guides, a teaching that brings a remembering, because you all already know everything I have said to you here. At some level, deep inside, even though you may choose to ignore it or may not recognize it, you can feel the validity of everything I have said to you here. You are beginning to remember, and in that remembering, you will open.

So the kind of teaching I wish to do is a guiding to your opening, in the familiar guise or role of a teacher. Someone you may see as having great ability, skill or talent, showing you how a thing such as drawing is done. But I would have no great experience, no professional training. I would not be practicing every day. I would simply be expressing myself through drawing, whenever the desire for expression comes to me, and allowing myself to do so to my fullest potential, fully open, in my own unique way.

That is the goal, if I was one to set goals, and in general, I am not. It would be more accurate to call this commitment, right now, in this present moment, I am committing to doing this, setting the intention to do this. I the meantime I will continue to apply it to my own life, and work through the beliefs that create resistance between me and the fulfillment of my desires and intentions.