From the BlogMeet Ron

MAY 11,2017 MINDFUL MOMENTS IN MANOA

Dear friends,
 
During a three month intensive meditation retreat one of the teachers, Joseph Goldstein, gave us an exercise. During the course of our day, when we were not sitting, he asked us to take a few moments and stand perfectly still, and then notice the different thoughts that came up relating to what to do next. 
It was rather startling. I found that every single movement of my body, be it the simple adjustment of my posture, the scratching of an insect bite, the putting on and taking off of a sweater, the walk toward the bathroom, or the tea area — every movement was preceded by a thought whose message was accepted, then acted upon.
And all seemingly without much input from “me.” 
The point of the exercise hit home: mindfulness allows us to see when we are operating on automatic pilot. 
How many times have I walked into the kitchen at home and opened the refrigerator door to have a look inside? I mean I had just opened it not even an hour ago. No one has come home with goodies to stash inside since I last looked.
What was I expecting to find?
Mindfulness allows us to see the arising moment with increasing clarity. And it is only in the present moment that we see how thoughts arise, how at some level of the mind they are evaluated, and how some thoughts are “chosen” and then acted upon.
We all have heard how mindfulness allows us to respond more creatively and maturely in the present rather than acting out our conditioned habits. That mindfulness allows us to respond to situations rather than merely react.
But how does this work? And how can we align ourselves with goals we may have for our spiritual practice, such as being more emphatic, more peaceful?
I have found over and over again, that setting goals for my meditation practice gets in the way of their actualization. As Phillip Moffit points out:

“When we make mindfulness a goal, we have—by definition—moved out of the moment. We have created a discrepancy between what we’re experiencing now and what we would like to happen. This inevitably leads to tension—we might begin judging our current experience (or ourselves) as “not good enough,” “unacceptable,” or “to be got rid of.”

This is another example of the brilliance of the Buddha’s teaching — the second step of the 8 fold path he taught his students 2600 year ago: mindfulness of our present moment intentions.

Intentions are not the same as goals, as goals are often based on some future fantasy, whereas intentions, as understood and taught by the Buddha, are grounded in the present moment.
Mindfulness puts us in a space where greater choice is possible – the present. 
According to classical Buddhist teaching, every mind-moment involves an intention. I saw that very clearly in the exercise Joseph had us do on that long retreat – while I was standing still, every moment presented an intention: to walk, to eat, to go to the bathroom, to give in to boredom, or to greed-anger-delusion.
While we can’t control what thoughts arise, we can choose which we will follow into “intention” and then action.
The Buddhist path encourages cultivating so-called “wholesome intentions” – traditionally presented as letting go, loving kindness, and not causing harm.
As Jack Kornfield observes:

The greater our awareness of our intentions, the greater our freedom to choose. People who do not see their choices do not believe they have choices.

When we simply react, we are most likely acting without being aware of intentions, and then may do stuff we later regret. Mindfulness helps us become aware of our intentions (impulses) before we act, and then to decide wisely. 
On the Buddhist path this decision is based on whether the intention is a wholesome one. Phillip Moffit gives the example of a business person who practices mindfulness meditation in order to get a competitive advantage. 

“When the effort to be mindful is fueled by greed, that very effort also fortifies the tension and insensitivity of greed. When the effort is fueled by loving- kindness, it energizes the inner openness and sensitivity of loving-kindness.”

Gil Fronsdal puts it succinctly: “Attention and intention are two cornerstones of Buddhist practice.”

Often we realize through mindfulness that our intentions are not always on the up and up. That’s what makes this a path of continual development – seeing our often mixed motives is a step towards greater self-awareness and the letting go of deep-seated patterns of greed, desire and aversion. 
May deeper self-awareness bring us to lasting peace and happiness, not just for ourselves, but for everyone in this troubled world.

 

Aloha,
 
Tom, Katina, and the kids
THE PATH TO MINDFULNESS: FINDING THE SILENCE WITHIN
A five-day non-residential retreat at the Broken Ridge Korean Temple
June 19th to June 23rd, 20179:00AM to 5:00PM

Led by Gregory Pai, Ph.D. Gregory Pai has practiced meditation for over 50 years principally in the Burmese Vipassana tradition. He has taught at the Broken Ridge Korean Temple for 19 years.

The retreat is open to both beginning and advanced meditators.

Cost for the retreat is based on individual voluntary donations (dana) depending on each individuals ability to pay and benefit from the practice.

Please contact Gregory Pai by email (gpai@hawaiiantel.net) to register for the retreat. This is necessary to plan for facilities, disseminate detailed information to participants and schedule personal interviews.

Participants are encouraged to register for the entire retreat. However, if that is impossible, participants may register for selected days.

If you would like to be included in Greg’s email list, email him at gpai@hawaiiantel.net
 
 

If the spirit moves you, please help spread the word by:

–>> sharing this email with friends who may be interested or

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Hope to see you tonight, Thursday May 11, 2017 — bring a friend.

Be safe, be well…

 
 
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April 27,2017 MINDFUL MOMENTS IN MANOA

Dear friends,
 
This community is called Aloha Sangha. Although the majority of folks who receive this weekly community email don’t reside in Hawai’i, aloha is universal. 

It’s about kindness and caring. 
 
Sangha means a community. We are a community that embraces kindness and caring; wherever we may live, we are intimately linked together, by our dedication to the path of gentle, mindful caring and kindness. 

As many of you have already heard, one member of our community, Karla, disappeared back on March 28th. Many of her closest friends came together, engaged the print, local news and social media, and did what we could to search for her, by driving around our Island home looking for her car, which was also missing. 

This past Saturday evening, her car was found parked on a cul-de-sac, with a body, presumably of our dear friend, in the back seat. The Medical Examiner requires dental records to make an identification; we are still waiting for the news many of us expect.

The shock and disbelief has many of us feeling this just can’t be real. 

I remember reading somewhere Abraham Lincoln said or wrote that he had been driven many times to his knees by the conviction that he had nowhere else to go.

Our simple and profound mindfulness meditation practice doesn’t change what happens in our life. Life is still as tender, fragile, and sometimes as raw, as ever. 

But meditation changes the heart’s capacity to fully be with life as it is, no matter what that is. 

You have probably seen a small statue of the many armed Hindu deity Shiva, perhaps in a yoga studio. If you look closely, Shiva is dancing on the back of a dwarf, who represents ignorance. 
 
The dwarf is completely focused on obtaining an object, which in many statues is not shown, but implied by the dwarf’s outstretched hand. 

This little person is so compelled to get, thirst for, and live for things outside himself that he cannot see that God is right above him, standing on his back.

The Seattle-based meditation teacher Rodney Smith, who spent most of his life working in hospice care, observes that sudden and unexpected loss wakes us out of this fog of wanting this or that, allowing us to see the divinity before our stunned eyes.

Here is how he puts it:

“Death cleans off the knickknacks and shows the shelf. Bereavement is the process of settling with the fact the shelf is empty. Grieving slowly fills in the space that was created by the loss … When something of value is removed, nothing can completely fill the void. But behind this emotional void the fullness of life lurks. We have access to that fullness after a loss if we don’t fill the space too quickly.”


This is why we meditate: when good or bad things happen, we are with it all; we see and feel it as a subtle, purifying flow. 
 
The 19th century Persian-speaking poet Ghalib:

“When after heavy rain the storm clouds disperse, is it not that they’ve wept themselves clear to the end?”
Sudden and tragic loss can open deeply defended aspects of our being, such that we see right through the illusions of density and separation that hold us back in our life.

Be kind to yourself.
Meditate.
This is the best way to honor Karla, and honor yourself.
Aloha,
Tom, Katina, and the kids

4-20-17 MINDFUL MOMETN IN MANOA

Dear friends,
 
Pico Iyer, writing in the NY Times a few years ago, noticed that those who part with $2,285 a night to stay in a cliff-top room at the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur pay partly for the privilege of not having a TV in their rooms. 
He writes:
“The future of travel, I’m reliably told, lies in “black-hole resorts,” which charge high prices precisely because you can’t get online in their rooms.”
It seems we some well-heeled folks are jumping off the time-saving device bandwagon.
“The more ways we have to connect, the more of us seem desperate to unplug” observes Iyer.
Some writers these days are paying for “distraction-free” writing software—which cuts off your internet service for pre-set intervals, so you can actually do some writing.
We barely have enough time to see how little time we have.
Buddhism is well known to teach “what we practice will grow.” In other words, if we want to cultivate a busy, anxious mind, we can do this very effectively simply by practicing being busy and anxious. 
Likewise, if we want to cultivate a calm, centered mind, we need to “practice” those mind states, simple as that. 
It doesn’t help that we are living in emotionally chaotic, post-election times. 
Can we just sit still a moment?
You may notice that just as you put your tush to the cush, you immediately feel your mind judging, liking, disliking what this or that person said on the news, or at work.
But our minds can also be like a balance scale. With all the aversions, the jumping to conclusions, the anger, we our mind may feel out of balance, tipped for so long on the side of reactivity.
Our daily sitting practice is a greenhouse of sorts, says Diana Winston. It allows us to nurture the tender roots of peace and calm.
Our marvelous mindfulness meditation allows us to find that place of rest and balance we so desperately need. 
A place that is open to grace.

Here is a poem only the great Pablo Neruda could write.

Keeping Quiet

Now we will count to twelve

and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

This is a simple invitation to rest in the beauty of non-doing, if only for a few blessed moments. 

Accept it.
Aloha,
 
Tom, Katina, and the kids

Special Guest Teacher Next Week — Greg Pai

Gregory Pai has practiced meditation since the mid-seventies in several Buddhist lineages. His teachers include Robert Aitken, Sayadaw U Pandita, Sayadaw U Silananda, Sayadaw U Lakkhana, Sayadaw U Kundala, and Jon Kabat-Zinn. 
 
He has trained at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center and has taught meditation at the Hawaii State Hospital, Kahi Mohala, Queens Hospital, Tripler Hospital and at the Center for Alternative Medicine of the University of Hawaii School of Medicine. Greg can be reached at gpai@hawaiiantel.net.

APRIL 13,2017 MINDFUL MOMENTS IN MANOA

Dear friends,
 
The agile mind is pleased to find what it was not looking for.
Lewis Hyde, an essayist and poet, wrote or said this. I know as I wrote it down a long time ago and just came across this line the other day in a notebook.
The line haunts me, a little.
The agile mind is pleased to find what it was not looking for.
Let me explain.
This past week our family has been consumed in trying to help solve a mystery: what happened to our dear friend Karla Kral? 
She simply vanished on March 28, just a couple of weeks ago.
That’s her picture.
Her car is missing, too.
Her disappearance has many of her closest friends deeply shocked and concerned for her safety.
It seems every turn we made in trying to get somewhere was met with unanswerables.
Unexplainables.
My mind has been anything but agile this week.
Because it was not pleased in what it was finding, or rather, not finding – answers.
Any answers.
My mind struggled to “hold the opposites” as they say in Zen.
To get good and comfy with uncertainty and contradiction.
Part of my mind kept imploring me to push on to some sort of resolution, only to find itself exhausted and irritable.
So the irritability thing: I imagine this agile mind Lewis Hyde extols can be relaxed and nimble in the deepest of uncertainties – your dear friend is missing – and not feel defeated or exhausted.
Maybe that’s what mindfulness is?
This agile mind that can be in the most disturbing uncertainty and mystery without being undone.
Like, at all.
When I think we might never be able to solve some mysteries, like perhaps this one, doesn’t mean some sort of personal defeat.
Nor that we have to necessarily let them go, either.
You knew I would bring up Rilke, right?
To try to love the questions themselves.
Dear Karla, I miss you so.
We are still trying to figure all this out, so please be patient with us.
Katina and I were invited to Seder (Passover) two nights ago.
In honor of our Jewish roots, a poem.
(I hope you’ll like it, Karla)

“The Place Where We Are Right” by the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai:

From the place where we are right 

flowers will never grow
in the spring.
The place where we are right
is hard and trampled
like a yard.
But doubts and loves
dig up the world
like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place where the ruined
house once stood. 

So back to holding the opposites – doubts and loves nurture curiosity and kindness.

My mind goes blank. 
A nice blank. 
Peaceful. 
Caring.
Ready for another day.
And whatever that may bring.
Aloha,
 
Tom, Katina, and the kids

APRIL 6, 2017 MINDFUL MOMENTS IN MANOA

APRIL 6, 2017 MINDFUL MOMENTS IN MANOA
 
Dear friends,
 
I remember my first weekend meditation retreat in December of 1980. I had been meditating by then about six months, with the usual monkey mind and sleepiness. So I thought I needed to ramp things up.
 
The retreat started on a Friday evening and ended the following Sunday afternoon, and followed a very strict schedule of sitting and walking for 14 hours a day and only one meal by 11 am.
 
Only for me, the retreat ended right after the evening talk on Saturday. 
I booked. I bolted. My mind was screaming “let me out of here.”
 
Put it this way, in retrospect, there were huge parts of my experience that it took me a long time to welcome. I had conveniently compartmentalized members of my emotional life, and when they met each other in the seemingly endless periods of silent sitting and walking, it was just too much. 
 
They didn’t seem to get along very well. I was fighting with myself nearly the whole time.
 
And when I think about this practice, this simple mindfulness, it feels more like what Mark Coleman calls “bearing witness.” 
 
Bearing witness through ourselves, to this precious, unrepeatable life, to our friends and family, and to the beauty and tragedy of this world we live in.
 
I have found these moments this just happen for me sometimes — I feel intimate with my own vulnerability, and with my blue Hydro Flask, or the dishes, my wife and kids, or the bills that just pile up.
 
It’s just plain vulnerable to be human, to be in a body, intimate with others, as the Buddha said, companions in sickness, old age and death. 
 
To meet that vulnerability fully, not half-assed, that’s tenderness.
 
A fruitful reflection while actually meditating can be to drop into your present moment experience and ask is my heart tender right now? 
 
Sometimes we are just touched by how tender life is at the oddest moments. 
Like waiting in line at the bank, or at the dentist’s office, or an awkward potluck where you don’t know anyone. 
 
A Tongan gentleman drove by our house the other day and asked me if I wanted some of the trees trimmed on the property.
 
My reaction took me a little by surprise: I took his hand in mine; I looked him in the eyes and said something like:
 
 
“Bruddah, I know you are an honest and hardworking man, doing your best to feed you family. It’s just that I don’t own this house, we are renting, and the landlady would say no, so I am very sorry my friend. God bless you.” 
 
 
In that moment we both were looking into each other’s eyes, and we both kind of teared up.
 
My challenge is to do something like this when telemarketers with strong Indian accents insist they are calling from Windows and they insist I have a virus they can remove for me.
 
I just finished reading a book by the popular British born Buddhist monk Ajahn Brahm entitled Kindfulness. The essence of this touching book can be summarized by this excerpt:
 
 
When we add kindness to mindfulness we get “Kindfulness.” Kindfulness is the cause of relaxation. It brings ease to the body, to the mind, and to the world. Kindfulness allows healing to happen. So don’t just be mindful, be kindful!
 
 
Many of us may think this is too simple-minded or moralistic. Over the years I realized I was trying to be a better version of myself through striving and fighting like crazy in meditation. 
 
That was about as tender as putting my mind in a meat grinder.
 
It just drove me little nuts in the end.
 
Ajahn Brahm reminds us:
 
 
Put a lot of attention in the space between you and whatever you are aware of. And make sure there are wholesome qualities in that space: kindness, gentleness, peace and patience.
 
Aloha,Tom, Katina, and the kids

MINDFUL MOMENTS IN MANOA 3-23-17

Dear friends,
I think an awful lot of the stuff we deal with in meditation is really about struggling with the way things are. 
Sometimes the way certain meditative traditions are marketed lead us to expect some eventual, big time pay out to make up for all the discomforts and inconveniences of a dedicated meditation practice.
And that expectation can spread and branch out slightly below the level of everyday awareness, such that we find ourselves increasingly goal oriented.
Not that There is anything wrong with this; I mean how crazy do you have to be to keep doing something for months, years, decades without some ultimate compensation?
Or at least some clear signs.
Yes, signs come, but in their own time.
So does the Ultimate Payout. 
But for a lot of folks, a maturing practice could be a more chill practice. No backsliding here – just appreciating the tastes and possibilities of relaxing.

The minimalist blogger Krista O’Reilly-Davi-Digui recently wrote:

What if I just accept this mediocre body of mine that is neither big nor small? Just in between. And I embrace that I have no desire to work for rock hard abs or 18% body fat. And I make peace with it and decide that when I lie on my deathbed I will never regret having just been me.

Meditation can turn into a kind of extreme sport, with elaborate training programs for those aspiring to the elite ranks. 

But what if we set aside those fantasies for a while and just chilled – clear noting in a spacious mind, with a little jhanic bliss now and again, but chilled. Relaxed.
Mary Oliver has this poem “Yellow” that I love:

There is the heaven we enter
through institutional grace
and there are the yellow finches
bathing and singing
in the lowly puddle.

Towards the end of her piece on her blog this week Krista O’Reilly-Davi-Digui writes:

What if I embrace my limitations and stop railing against them? Make peace with who I am and what I need and honor your right to do the same. Accept that all I want is a small, slow, simple life. 

A mediocre life. A beautiful, quiet, gentle life.
I think it is enough.

Heck, that’s all I want. 

Carl Jung envisioned a major shift in understanding the spiritual path –rather than ascending a steep mountain path seeking perfection, instead we

“unfold into wholeness.”

We are not so much attempting to vaporize up our bad karma or destroy our demons, as it is really hard to do a decent job of this; our struggling attempts can easily leave us with more problems.

Rather, perhaps we need to chill a little and embrace life in all its realness – messy, incomplete, yet vibrantly alive.

And come back to the intensity of dedicated practice after letting ourselves unfold a little more.
I have spoken with folks who have been dedicated to their practice for three and even four decades, and hear refrains like this from time to time. From a talk by Tara Brach:
I moved into an ashram and spent twelve years trying to be more pure—waking up early, doing hours of yoga and meditation, organizing my life around service and community. I had some idea that if I really applied myself, it would take eight or ten years to awaken spiritually. 
The activities were wholesome, but I was still aiming to upgrade a flagging self. Periodically I would go to see a spiritual teacher I admired and inquire, “So, how am I doing? What else can I do?”
Invariably these different teachers responded, “Just relax.” 
I wasn’t sure what they meant, but I didn’t think they really meant “relax.” How could they? I clearly wasn’t “there” yet.
When thoughts like these come up, can we just chill? 
Maybe when these kinds of questions wear out, another shift happens. 
One in which we are beyond liking and disliking, doubting and celebrating, and relax even deeper into the joyous mystery of who and what we are. 
Aloha,
Tom, Katina, and the kids

MARCH 16,2017 MINDFUL MOMENTS IN MANOA

Dear friends,
I turned 61 a couple of weeks ago. A friend at work remarked “But Tom, how could that be, it seems like you just turned 60 the other day?”
I replied, “Yes, but that other day happened last year.”
Here is one of those timeless questions: Does time seem to speed up as you grow older, like toilet paper rolls – the closer they get to the end, the faster they roll?
I remember Joseph Goldstein in a talk I heard years ago quipping that as he gets older he seems to be having breakfast “every fifteen minutes.” 
Sometimes I hear folks say that mindfulness is about being in the present and giving up thoughts of the past or the future, or that mindfulness is about getting away from thoughts and just focusing on our breath or the body. 
But thoughts of the past do come up, and they seem to be coming up with more poignancy and feeling as I get older. I love mindfulness because it encourages us to take in the texture, tone, and content of what’s happening in the mind, without having to dwell on it and kill the moment.
So when thoughts of the past come up I try to feel the thoughts as they come and dance their nostalgia and eventually find the exit, graciously and unoffended. 
What I love about real, true and mature mindfulness is not that it disses thought or glorifies a present unstained by “residues” of the past … but rather that it allows big space around anything that comes up. 
Thoughts are not solid. They flow in, dance a gig or two, and flow out. 
No big deal. 
So when poignant, nostalgic moments come up while thinking about the past, or about the inexorable flow of time, the body ageing, you just let your heart break, if that’s what it’s doing.
And it’s OK.
This is from an article which appeared on the online journal mindful.org, by one of its editors, Barry Boyce, in June, 2011:

“One of my brothers, turned 65 the other day. He didn’t make a whole lot of it. He became eligible for Medicare; a friend bought him a really nice golf club; lots of family and friends called.

Although my brother is ten years older, I’ve always regarded him as young. We’re close and he’s the one who set me on the path that led to my practicing mindfulness, so I’m ever grateful for that. I think of us in those early days, when meditation was a new discovery, and how freeing that was, once you got the hang of it. 
I think of us in even earlier days, when I would sleep out in a tent in a friend’s backyard down the block and he and one of my other brothers would come up the alley tapping a cane and eventually sneak up on the tent and scare the bejesus out of us. We shrieked. We loved it. How could that same brother now be 65?
Do I really understand aging? It’s so damn gradual, creeping along in its teeny increments, and yet it’s relentless. And we know where it’s all headed.”

As we observed last week, the contemplation of impermanence is a big deal in Buddhism. I think because thorough these practices we can come to see death, in our bones and marrow, as no big deal. 

That it’s fundamentally fine and OK. 
I’ll leave you this week with one of my favorite poems of Alison Luterman:

I Confess
I stalked her in the grocery store: her crown

of snowy braids held in place by a great silver clip,

her erect bearing, radiating tenderness,

the way she placed yogurt and avocado’s in her basket,

beaming peach like the North Star.
I wanted to ask “What aisle did you find

your serenity in, do you know

how to be married for fifty years, or how to live alone,

excuse me for interrupting, but you seem to possess

some knowledge that makes the earth burn and turn on its axis—”

but we don’t request such things from strangers
nowadays. So I said, “I love your hair.”

What is this truth that “makes the earth burn and turn on its axis?”
Could it be that we are all fundamentally free and we need not worry about anything in this life?
What is this truth for you?
Aloha,Tom, Katina, and the kids

MARCH 9,2017 MINDFUL MOMENTS IN MANOA

Dear friends,
Someone once asked Suzuki Roshi, the pioneering Zen teacher from Japan, who successfully established Zen meditation as a serious training in the USA, founding the Zen Center of San Francisco in 1969 – someone asked him: 
“Roshi, what’s the most important thing?” and he answered, “To find out what’s the most important thing.”
I think this question of how we live our life, how we actually live this life—not what we think about it, not what we say about it, but how we actually feel it, breathe it, and live it—may be the most important thing. 
But that’s just me. 
Our culture tends to attribute the growing awareness of how to personally live a life that matters in large degree to one’s age. 
Our daughter is now living away from home for the 1st time. Maybe she’s glad to be over with adolescence and starting to think more seriously about what to do with her young life. 
Folks in the midst of adulthood are often too consumed with raising a family or just getting by, especially here in Hawai’i, to spend too much time thinking about how to live a life of purpose and meaning.
Then comes later adulthood, let’s call it. 
The Buddhist/ Jewish mediation teacher and grandmother Sylvia Boorstein remarks on turning 75: 

“I find now that time seems to be speeding up. I’ve become seventy-five years old in what feels like a brief time. The woman I see when I look in the mirror is my Aunt Miriam. It still startles me, but it also inspires me. Knowing that I have limited time left inspires me not to mortgage any time to negative mind states.”

Meditation training helps us re-orient a stuck life compass, regardless of age. 

I think a huge chunk of this work of maturation is catalyzed by the essential Buddhist reflections on impermanence. 
We come to see that everything has a life cycle: the plants in our yard, dissatisfaction at work or with a partner, our beloved pets, our bodies, our emotions, our thoughts (thankfully … our thoughts). 
As a culture we go through nostalgic fads and fascinations. As meditators I feel we experience nostalgia in every meditation, most of it below the horizon of conscious awareness.
Consciously cultivating a keen awareness of impermanence in meditation practice allows us to “know” impermanence in the marrow of your bones, not simply intellectually.
Sylvia Boorstein describes how deeper insights into impermanence unfolded for her in one intensive retreat:

“I saw, as I hadn’t ever before, that sunsets followed every dawn and that the beautiful full moon immediately waned. As I came upon a flower that was newly opening I simultaneously envisioned the wilted look it would have three days hence.

I remember tearfully reporting to my teacher, Joseph Goldstein, “It’s so sad! Everything is dying!” 
He responded, “It’s not sad, Sylvia. It’s just true.” 
I found that calming at the time, but I would say it differently now. I would say, “It’s not sad. But it is poignant.”

Meditation allows this radical shift from feeling sad when contemplating impermanence, or anything else, to feeling this bittersweet poignancy Sylvia describes above. 

And it does have these two tastes: bitter, yet sweet. When we discover this in meditation it can feel like a shift takes place in the heart – in the direction of honesty, warmth, and intimacy.
Meditation brings healing, often despite ourselves, as long as we let go of the tendency to want to change or fix ourselves, and just compassionately and intimately bear witness to our own struggles and challenges. 
As Jack Kornfield explains:
“As we heal through meditation, our hearts break open to feel fully. Powerful feelings, deep unspoken parts of ourselves arise, and our task in meditation is first to let them move through us, then to recognize them and allow them to sing their songs.” 
As the old songs sing themselves to death in our sensitive heart, we have a greater appreciation for the preciousness of this life now. This stirs us to make the most of the time we have left, and not to “mortgage any time to negative mind states” as Sylvia observes.
 
Finding out what’s really important is really important. 
And meditation really, really helps.
Aloha,Tom, Katina, and the kids

3-2-17 MINDFUL MOMENTS IN MANOA

Dear friends,
A few years ago the Dalai Lama attended a large scientific meeting in Washington DC. He met with doctors, neuroscientists and meditation teachers to explore the latest clinical research on meditation and neuro-biology.
One morning a network television reporter interviewed him, and asked him about meditation and happiness.
“You had the New York Times bestselling book entitled The Art of Happiness, and you frequently teach about happiness. Could you tell our viewers about the happiest moment in your life?”
The Dalai Lama considered for a moment, smiled and said, “I think … now.”
Now? Not going to Oslo and accepting the Nobel Peace Prize? Or experiencing profoundly deep and unspeakably blissful meditative states?
Oh, I see. For the Dalai Lama this moment now is the happiest of his life.
This reminds me a little of a line from a poem by Emily Dickinson:

“Life is so astonishing; it leaves very little time for anything else.”

Anything else, I hear her saying, like frustration and guilt and remorse.

But as we “normal” humans wake up to another day of dealing with a stressful job, and maybe some underlying indecision and confusion about our life and where our country may be heading with this newly emboldened administration (after Trump’s peachy-keen speech to Congress yesterday) — what Emily Dickinson and the Dalai Lama say can make joy sound too easy, too Pollyannaish, too New Agey.
Sometimes we just give in to despair, anxiety and worry – all caused by judging and resisting what is happening in the moment. 
When you catch yourself judging or resisting or attaching to what is (or was or might be), give yourself a silent high-five (seriously) for even noticing this –that’s a big mindfulness milestone.
But even when we are caught in these junky mind states, some secret part of us knows that there must be another way. Some part of us recognizes that even in the worst situations, the heart can be free and quite happy.
We have within us an extraordinary capacity for joy, love and freedom. We just need to access it more easily and frequently. 
Ah, mindful meditation!
To re-awaken or re-discover this joy, this love, is what this path is all about.
Maybe meditation itself is an act of love, not a means to an end. 
Stumbling on this notion has significantly changed the way I see and practice meditation. 
Here is an excerpt from a book by Bob Sharples — Meditation: Calming the Mind:
“Don’t meditate to fix yourself, to heal yourself, to improve yourself, to redeem yourself; rather, do it as an act of love, of deep warm friendship to yourself. In this way there is no longer any need for the subtle aggression of self-improvement, for the endless guilt of not doing enough. 
It offers the possibility of an end to the ceaseless round of trying so hard that wraps so many people’s lives in a knot. Instead there is now meditation as an act of love. 
How endlessly delightful and encouraging.”

So maybe just being here, right now, is love, is joy, and is freedom.
This insight gives us the blessed relief to truly just be yourself (after all, everyone else is already taken). 
What are you up to right now?
Aloha, Tom, Katina, and the kids

MINDFUL MEDITATIONS IN MANOA 2-16-17

Dear friends,
I think we all get into meditation with what they call “gaining ideas.” 
But as we stick with this simple path, we see that that it’s not so much about getting some cool effects, or losing some part of our personality we don’t like, but rather the more we are in the experience of what is, the less distress arises.
Subtle and large distress. Worry. Lamentation. Grief. 
 
Shoulda-coulda. 
But it’s not easy being in the experience of what is, if what is = unpleasant. 
Body aches, boredom, sleepiness, emotional anguish, fear.
We want to postpone unpleasant emotions, forever if we could. And at some point or other, these come up in our meditation sessions.
I remember this New Yorker a cartoon is of an executive who’s on the phone and says, 
“John, Thursday doesn’t work for me. Never works for me. Does never work for you?”
Kind of a rude comment, but hey, it’s New York.
As someone in our weekly group realized, after working through a particularly challenging part of her meditative journey, meditation is not about letting go, but rather of being with.
When she let go of the notion of letting go of unpleasant experiences that were coming up, and was simply with them, she was able to fully experience them in ways she could not, or would not, before.
She worked the edges of her ever-broadening capacity for the mindful, fully engaged, non-reactive being-with-ness we call mindfulness. 
All of the mindfulness meditation techniques point to the same thing: moving into the direct, moment to moment, experience of feelings-thoughts-emotions, because when we experience it completely, the feeling completes its reason for being, and it releases. 
The richness in the practice is discovered with progressive depth the more we are able to fully experience feelings-thoughts-emotions from within this non-reactive, fully embracing mindful awareness. 
And the healing relief when large chunks of psycho-karma drop away is unlike anything most humans feel in their lives. 
The bugaboo here is that if you approach this practice with the intention to work through or dispel the unpleasant feelings or issues, not a whole lot happens that’s worthwhile.
Because you’ve brought expectation to the table.
The path is clear: meditate and settle the restless mind. 
Then work the edges.
If you don’t go to the edge, nothing changes. You go to the edge, and you rest your attention right there, with whatever is arising. 
And as you develop more capacity, you’re able to move deeper and deeper into the feeling without having the attention get fuzzy and degrade. 
 
You have to find where the edge is for you. 
Where is it for you right now?
Aloha,Tom, Katina, and the kids

MINDFUL MOMENTS I MANOA FEB.8,2017

Dear friends,

In one of Tara Brach’s online talks, she tells a story about the work of Dian Fossey with gorilla groups in Rwanda. 

Ms. Fossey was asked during the course of a magazine story how her research group was able to obtain much more information on the social world of the gorillas than anyone had previously. 

“We didn’t bring guns” she replied.

She was saying that the gorillas could sense fear, and could sense where the strange looking newcomers were coming from deep down.

Meditation practice is a lot about coming back to compassion and love — and celebrating what we are doing, and the one who is doing it.

Of course, self-judgment happens. It’s just a matter of noticing when it first arrives, being with it a little, and then gently coming back to the breath, or sounds, or sensations. 

Writing in the online magazine Elephant Journal about the ups and downs of her mindfulness journey, Amanda Johnson reminds us:


Love yourself for being bold enough to try. Being mindful isn’t always comfortable. Failure is not an indicator of a lack of ability—it is a reminder of where our current limitations are and an opportunity to grow.


I think a lot of the self-judgment folks feel when learning mindfulness has to do with an unhealthy relationship with imperfection. 

One of the hardest things for me to get across as a teacher to folks just getting started, is that being mindful is not about being perfect. 

It’s not about tweaking yourself, or fixing anything. There’s no Mary 2.0 at the end of this path.

Being mindful is simply hanging out in each moment as often as possible and being compassionate to myself and those around me as much as I can while I am consciously doing this.

The only mistake in any of this, is simply to forget to be mindful. But then you remember – no problem. 

Of course, mistakes happen in our lives. We forget to pay the rent or the water bill, but then we remember, and it’s done. No problem.

Mindfulness helps us truly savor the mistakes we make along the way as opportunities to learn more about ourselves and continue to grow.

Although some doubt has been cast on the veracity of this translation, the founder of Soto Zen, Dogen Zenji, purportedly stated-


“My life has been one continuous mistake.” 


This is humility served piping hot in a sizzling bowl. 

This insight makes it easier to let go of shame, guilt, and self-judgment. 

This is an insight about not taking oneself seriously, or taking one self at all.
Self-judgment is not a mistake, it just happens. Just notice with supreme gentleness and come back to the breath – And celebrate: one of my teachers Sharon Salzberg calls the point when you notice your mind has wandered, “the magic moment.” She says:


It’s the moment when you have a chance to do it differently; the time when you can be gentle with yourself and simply start again.


We learn over and over again that our lives are imperfect. The body ages. We say stupid things sometimes. Where are those keys, not again?

Mindful of our mind states, we see pride and self-interest front and center. 

But as the compulsive thinking layer of mind thins out, we begin to touch the refreshing inner springs of self-love and self-compassion. 

Drink deeply.

Tom, Katina, and the kids

MINDFUL MOMENTS IN MANOA FEB.2,2017

Dear friends,
It seems many of us get hooked by trying to get somewhere in our mindfulness meditation practice.  
We evaluate where we are now and feel there is some ultra-cool place where meditation, if done correctly, will eventually take us. 
But we seem to be doing meditation wrong, because not much is happening.

Couple things: what if

1) we fully relax and see that we can’t do mindfulness meditation wrong, and

2) the striving to get to that ultra-cool place is compounding our discontent?

This is assuming, of course, you experience even a smidgen of discontent or disappoint in your life.

And if you don’t, and start practicing meditation, you likely will run into some, as mindfulness starts to percolate down into strata of our minds many of us have conveniently disregarded for years and decades.

So here we are.

Consider a remark by no other than the Dalai Lama:

“There is no need for temples. No need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples. My philosophy is kindness.”

Such a striking statement I feel shows that indeed, as Don Cupitt notes in his remarkable book The Great Questions of Life:

“We are at the beginning of a global shift in the concept of religion away from the view of religion as a way of transcending the human condition and toward a view that religion is about embracing the human condition.”

We already have what we need – your “brain and your heart “are your temples, and your philosophy, kindness. With these we can truly “embrace the human condition.” 

When we embrace with mindfulness what is actually happening in the moment, be it stubbing your toe or your pride, we learn again and again that the fuller we can embrace “what is,” the fuller mind and body can relax and rest.

You really can’t do this wrong.
And there are no secret techniques. So you can check that one off the list.
It’s just about embracing now, without trying to improve or tweak anything. Trying to tweak things just brings more frustration, the present moment is un-tweak-able. 
It’s just simply coming home again and again. No striving necessary.
As it says in the Zhuangzi , the ancient Chinese text from the late Warring States period (476–221 BC):

“Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness.”

Some folks I talk to seem to be unconsciously insisting they need certain things to get started with mindful meditation, such as the right book, mp3s, DVDs, teacher(s), retreats …

But since we already have what we need, that’s another big one to check off the list.

And in truly seeing this, that we are fully endowed with all we need, there may be a juicy-ness, a fullness, some call it a joy, in just experiencing, without grasping or rejecting, what arises in the moment completely.

This is a quiet and deep joy that, in a way, has always been there, covered over by strata of reactivity and compulsiveness which subtly rule our lives, in one form or another.

One teacher I was very fortunate to sit a retreat with early on in my practice was Munindra, a Bengali teacher who trained in Burma.

One of his students, Sharon Salzberg, recounts that when Munindra was asked once why he practiced his response was,

“So I will see the tiny purple flowers by the side of the road as I walk to town each day.”

Can we practice like this?

Tom, Katina, and the kids

JAN.26,2017 MINDFUL MOMENTS IN MANOA

Dear friends,


As a leader and host of a mindfulness meditation group meeting weekly now for 19 years, I can tell you what you already know – people are wigging out. 

Writing recently about the inauguration on Lion’s Roar, Susan Piver says we suffer because we are continuously “biting the hook” of our habitual reactions, and wrote

“A giant hook with a massive comb-over has just been lowered from bizarro-world. Now what?”

Yes, exactly, now what? People ask me this.

Hey, I‘m just as wigged out as anybody else. I feel despair, sorrow, helplessness, disbelief, and worry about all the folks who are undoubtedly going to suffer big time. 

I have come across three basic stances being taken in mindfulness circles lately: 1) do more metta, 2) impermanence/ emptiness resolves all, and 3) and don’t get involved in “worldly dhammas.” Let’s look at these a little further. 

Metta: yes loving-kindness and compassion are essential, but I feel the fruit of practices such as sending love and compassion toward the incoming administration may best appreciated as a way to alleviate burn out and as a corrective measure – to keep us from falling into the hatred and fear mongering many of us are upset about.

Impermanence/ emptiness: Again, great for soothing the beat up protester in all of us — all the despair, fear, rage and sorrow we may feel dissolves in deep meditative experience. And when it eventually comes back it’s less sticky. 

So we absolutely must continue our work on the cushion – it will keep us connected to the sacred inner founts of love, compassion and emptiness. 

But metta and deep insights into impermanence didn’t stop monks from being slaughtered in Tibet or Cambodia. 

It’s not just that untold tens of thousands of folks will suffer needlessly under the new administration. Some won’t make it, as the gay Buddhist meditation teacher Pablo Das pointed out. 

Actually, Pablo Das gave many contemporary Western Buddhist teachers a public dressing down on Lion’s Roar last month. His complaints were aimed at white privilege – people with “no skin in the game”—and passivity, which he sees as feeding each other. 

Let’s give Pablo the floor: responding to a 30 + page pdf collection of thoughts and reflections by leading contemporary teachers published on Lion’s Roar just a few days after the election, which collectively emphasized taking a long view and called upon us to contemplate the issues from radical “mind-changing” Dharma perspectives, Pablo writes:


As I read the Lions Roar piece, that feeling of not being seen came up when I read statements like one that said if we could get through Nixon, Reagan, and Bush, we could get through this too. I thought to myself: who’s the “we” that got through Reagan and Bush?

The Reagan/Bush era was an absolute horror for my community. An entire generation of intellectuals, artists, friends, and lovers didn’t “make it” through Reagan and Bush. Two decades later, I worked on a suicide prevention line for gay teens during the George W. Bush administration. Lots of them didn’t “make it,” either. 

Such a sentiment, however encouraging, erases queer history. By “we” the authors appear to signify only people who aren’t the targets of explicitly racist, sexist, and homophobic policies of historically Republican governments. Those who weren’t moved by desperation to dump the ashes of their dead lovers on the White House lawn (as AIDS activists did in 1992 under President Bush) in a vain attempt to get the government to give a shit that we were dying.

It’s a starling wake up – some of our brothers and sisters, in many different communities, may not survive this toxic presidency. 

Not just LGBTQ folks of course will suffer greatly, and many may not make it through these next four years – think about women, immigrants, Muslims, families living in poverty, those with certain diseases which might be excluded from new insurance legislation … 


Pablo goes on to say:

While it’s fine to try to “understand” those who voted for Donald Trump, your compassion is, in my opinion, misplaced — or at best, incomplete … Can we, who are supposed to be more awake, please not do that thing where we jump right to compassion for the aggressors who voted for an explicitly homophobic, sexist, racist, violent president that’s readying an all-out assault on vulnerable people.. without an equally urgent call for the protection of those who are profoundly threatened by this administration?


Pablo’s sword of wisdom cuts right through the privileged narratives, admonishing us against the dangers of the two stances I mentioned earlier: the metta and impermanence strategies, calling these potential spiritual bypasses:


Don’t engage in spiritual bypassing. Don’t invoke “impermanence” or “the truth of dukkha” or the “ultimate truth of no self” as a way of normalizing Trump, minimizing people’s trauma, regulating your own feelings, or as a justification for inaction or checking out. I don’t get to check out! You shouldn’t either. After all, we’re all against delusion, right?


Yes, he doesn’t get to check out, so why should we?

And it’s not just Pablo Das who took “us” to task, one of the most elder Western Theravada monks—Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi — gives us a piece of his mind in the upcoming edition of Shambhala magazine (published online earlier on Lion’s Roar).

Ven. Bodhi writes he recently saw a news report that 2,500 religious leaders had signed a petition urging Congress to reject Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees as “a cabinet of bigotry.” 

But when he looked over who had signed it he saw only one who identified as Buddhist. He writes that this puzzled him –why are Buddhist teachers and leaders in the U.S. not more outspoken in addressing issues of public concern? 

While he believes that Buddhist meditation teachers should not “expound their personal political views from the cushion,” nor should Dharma centers endorse political candidates, Ven. Bodhi draws a sharp distinction between political endorsement and advocating on public issues, such as LGBTQ, civil, and women’s rights, climate change, unchecked militarism and nationalism, to name just a few. 


He warns:


If, from fear of upsetting others, dharma teachers shy away from addressing these critical matters, their silence could even be considered an abdication of their responsibility as spiritual leaders.


Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi is quite stern when he writes:


We can call, in unison, to stand up and speak out in support of a policy of global generosity in place of rash militarism, for programs that protect the poor and vulnerable, for the advancement of social and racial justice, and for the rapid transition to a clean-energy economy. 


This is not the same as meddling in party politics, as Ven. Bodhi writes:


It is, rather, to bring the moral weight of the dharma to bear on matters that affect the lives of people everywhere—now, and long into the future.

Now that the Women’s March last weekend was such a success, can we keep the momentum going?


I am heartened to see that a local Buddhist meditation teacher, Jesse Maceo Vega-Frey, has set up a website to encourage folks to ring bells at dawn and dusk during the duration of this new administration as a protest – Ring The Bells. 


So I ask you this week: can we bring the moral weight of the Dharma – the righteousness of the blameless in Proverbs 11:5 – to bear on what matters most?


What would this look like in your life this week?

Tom, Katina, and the kids

JAN.5,2016 MINDFUL MOMENTS IN MANOA

Dear friends,

Warmest greetings to you, this first week of the New Year.

A poem that for me speaks to what I feel we need in this world – calor humano is how we say it in Spanish. Human warmth. Kindness.

The recognition of of shared humanity, with tenderness.

“At the Corner Store” by Alison Luterman


It was a new old man behind the counter,
skinny, brown and eager.
He greeted me like a long lost daughter,
as if we both came from the same world,
someplace warmer and more gracious than this cold city.

I was thirsty and alone. Sick at heart, grief-soiled
and his face lit up as if I were his prodigal daughter

returning,
coming back to the freezer bins in front of the register
which were still and always filled
with the same old Cable Car ice-cream sandwiches and cheap frozen greens.
Back to the knobs of beef and packages of hotdogs,
these familiar shelves strung with potato chips and corn chips,
stacked-up beer boxes and immortal Jim Beam.

I lumbered to the case and bought my precious bottled water
and he returned my change, beaming
as if I were the bright new buds on the just-bursting-open cherry trees,
as if I were everything beautiful struggling to grow,
and he was blessing me as he handed me my dime

over the dirty counter and the plastic tub of red licorice whips.

This old man who didn’t speak English
beamed out love to me in the iron week after my mother’s death
so that when I emerged from his store

my whole cockeyed life—
what a beautiful failure!—
glowed gold like a sunset after rain.

Frustrated city dogs were yelping in their yards,
mad with passion behind their chain-linked fences,
and in the driveway of a peeling-paint house
a woman and a girl danced to contagious reggae.

Praise Allah! Jah! The Buddha! Kwan Yin,
Jesus, Mary and even jealous old Jehovah!

For eyes, hands of the divine, everywhere.

What’s so touching about this poem is that the poet was open to noticing the old man’s gentleness and love even during this tough time for her – she tells us this was an “iron week” for her following her mother’s death.

As we move forward in this New Year, perhaps we will all have our “iron weeks” or “iron months” ahead. Can we participate in the subtle conversations of intimacy and blessing like the one described in this poem?

When we are caught in our own storyline, our dramas, it’s often difficult to accept love, especially from a stranger in an unexpected setting. I feel myself there in this corner store, taking in the subtle silent message of grace.

I know how this sudden taking in of good will and blessing allows one to see the world in that moment in a fresh way. 

She accepted that invitation right then and there from the old man who did not even speak the same language as she– and in that moment deeply appreciated the yelping dogs, the paint-peeling house, the reggae music — the imperfect world around her. 

Meditation offers us these moments of grace and blessing. We just have to be open to receive them like the poet did at the corner store; especially in silent exchanges under the radar of the monitoring ego.

And to discover the freshness and vitality of this world free from our social media freak outs and cynicism.

The North American author and photographer Eudora Welty wrote:

“My continuing passion is to part a curtain — that invisible veil of indifference that falls between us and that blinds us to each other’s presence, each others wonder, each others human plight.” 


Joy and ease and contentment truly provide the foundation of our spiritual life. Sure, we talk a lot about impermanence, discomfort, stress and despair, but I feel this is at the service of “each other’s wonder.” 

The Buddha talks a lot in the suttas about savoring the joy and contentment that come about from living a good life, meditating and practicing loving-kindness and compassion. 

But it can be a challenge to consciously open and truly, mindfully, savor joy and contentment, not simply consume it.

In his book “Liberating Intimacy,” Zen writer Peter Herschock talks about the fruit of the meditative path as intimacy. Meditation is not about me getting free or clear, but rather it’s about allowing intimacy to flow — such that, as the poet wrote above, she felt 

my whole cockeyed life—
what a beautiful failure!—
glowed gold like a sunset after rain.

Meditation invites us to dance with grace and ease in the coming days and months.

Accept the invitation.  Tom, Katina, Tutu and the kids

DEC.30,2016 MINDFUL MOMENTS IN MANOA

Dear friends,

Most of you on this email list may not have been directly exposed to the wars presently being waged on the planet. I mention this because while many of us wish us a happy new year we may not even conceive that a happy new year could be one free from the fear of bombing, or burning. 

Somber, perhaps.
But take a few moments to reflect on our relative good fortune, and try to feel the plight of those who are suffering today, just for a few minutes, even.


We can do this.
We can let our hearts be broken, and become stronger for the breaking. 

We can make a habit to meditate every day, if only for ten minutes, and especially if you are feeling like meditation isn’t doing much for you. (Just don’t listen to those voices).

And take the next four minutes or so of your day to meditatively read an excerpt from a book-length long poem, “Elegy in Love” by the late Muriel Rukeyser, who was celebrated for writing courageously about feminism, social justice and Judaism. 

This poem is from her book Elegies, published in 1949. She was a Jewish woman wrote wrote this just a few years after the War. She died in 1980.

Elegy in Joy [excerpt]

We tell beginnings: for the flesh and the answer,
or the look, the lake in the eye that knows,
for the despair that flows down in widest rivers,
cloud of home; and also the green tree of grace,
all in the leaf, in the love that gives us ourselves.

The word of nourishment passes through the women,
soldiers and orchards rooted in constellations,
white towers, eyes of children:
saying in time of war What shall we feed?
I cannot say the end.

Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings.
Not all things are blest, but the
seeds of all things are blest.
The blessing is in the seed.


This moment, this seed, this wave of the sea, this look, this instant of love.
Years over wars and an imagining of peace. Or the expiation journey
toward peace which is many wishes flaming together,
fierce pure life, the many-living home.


Love that gives us ourselves, in the world known to all
new techniques for the healing of the wound,
and the unknown world. One life, or the faring stars.

~~
Whenever I read this I tear up when I acknowledge the sentiment that while not all hings are blest, the seeds of things are.


“The blessing is in the seed.”
Let’s take this seed of meditation and compassion and nourish it every day. 

There is very powerful blessing in this seed.

Wishing you all a very happy new year.

Tom, Katina, Tutu and the kids

DEC.22,2016 MINDFUL MOMENTS IN MANOA

 Dear friends,

During this holiday season, it feels so natural to explore the heart of the Christmas story — God chooses to come into this world not as some mighty ruler, as in the Old Testament, but through radical vulnerability as an infant born homeless in a manger.
There is the kind of radical vulnerability at the heart of our mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness is about truly appreciating your life as it is right now, in this moment. We tend to daydream all the time, dwelling on the past and speculating about the future.

Releasing the grip of the past or the allure of the future puts us in this radical vulnerability of the present moment.

Radical because often we go into past and future as a defense against awkward or boring or painful present moments. Moments which send us unconscious signals – danger! Uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure ahead!
Just being purely and simply present, awake and aware, with no agenda at all.

This is mindfulness — and we when we are mindful like this, we radically step out of our habital comfort zones of control and manipulation. 

Living with mindfulness and meeting each moment as it is takes practice and a kind of courage –often depicted symbolically as fierce figures in Buddhist iconography.

Mindful moments happen organically, when you suddenly feel very intimate with your life, the dishes, the bills that pile up.


It’s just plain vulnerable to be human, to be in a body, and be intimate with others in this way, with mindfulness.

And to meet that vulnerability fully, not half-assed, that’s tenderness. We open little by little into the warmth and tenderness of our own essential Vulnerability.


Jack Kornfield once used a phrase in one of his talks:

“The winds of karma change like the swish of a horse’s tail.”

Can we take refuge in this tender, vulnerable place of being open to uncertainty, of the way things are, right now?


This tenderness/ vulnerability is the birthplace of the endlessly renewable energy sources of courage, love, empathy, and compassion.


But we can’t tap these ceaselessly renewable energy sources by striving.


Because they are already here for us, at the center of our being, just waiting for us to ease-fully put down our burdens.


The ninth century Persian Sufi mystic Abu Yazid Al-Bistami observed:

“This thing we tell of
can never be found by seeking,
yet only seekers find it.”



The “finding” of this thing the sages speak of comes though treading lightly in our mindfulness practice.


By letting go of goals, and just being here, awake and present to our life just as it is.


I will leave you with a teaching from the 6th century B.C. Chinese sage Lao Tzu:

Always we hope
someone else has the answer,
some other place will be better,
some other time,
it will turn out.

This is it.

No one else has the answer,
no other place will be better,
and it has already turned out.

At the center of your being,
you have the answer:
you know who you are and
you know what you want.

There is no need to run outside
for better seeing,
nor to peer from a window.
Rather abide at the center of your being:
for the more you leave it,
the less you learn.

Search your heart and see
the way to do is to be.

Abide at the center of your being.



~ ~ ~

Have yourself a vulnerable little Christmas.
May your heart be light.
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight.

~ ~ ~

Wishing much love, and tenderness, and happiness … and a merry Christmas .. to all of you from all of us.

Tom, Katina, Tutu and the kids

If you miss tonight’s potluck — you still in luck
Last potluck of this holiday season is
Next Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Our good friends at Honolulu Dhamma Community invite all of us on this Aloha Sangha email list to attend their Annual Holiday Party and Vegetarian Potluck
Tuesday, December 27, from 6:30 to 8:30 at Hawaii Loa Ridge Clubhouse
on Pu’u Ikena Drive, between Aiana Hana and Niu Valley. Please stop at the Guardhouse for check-in — just say your are attending the Holiday Party hosted by Dr and Mrs Thanh Huyhn.
 
 
If the spirit moves you, please help spread the word by:

–>> sharing this email with friends who may be interested or

–>> following us on our Facebook Page

https://www.facebook.com/alohasangha/ — or

–>> checking out our blog–>> http://alohasangha.com/

(Did you receive this from a friend and want to sign up to this weekly email list?

Just reply and let me know, and I’ll add you, easy peasy)

Hope to see you tonight – Thursday 12.22.16 – and bring a friend!

Be safe, be well…

 
 
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Dear friends,
During this holiday season, it feels so natural to explore the heart of the Christmas story — God chooses to come into this world not as some mighty ruler, as in the Old Testament, but through radical vulnerability as an infant born homeless in a manger.
 
There is the kind of radical vulnerability at the heart of our mindfulness practice.
 
Mindfulness is about truly appreciating your life as it is right now, in this moment. We tend to daydream all the time, dwelling on the past and speculating about the future.
 
Releasing the grip of the past or the allure of the future puts us in this radical vulnerability of the present moment.
 
Radical because often we go into past and future as a defense against awkward or boring or painful present moments. Moments which send us unconscious signals – danger! Uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure ahead!
 
Just being purely and simply present, awake and aware, with no agenda at all.
 
This is mindfulness — and we when we are mindful like this, we radically step out of our habitual comfort zones of control and manipulation. 
 
Living with mindfulness and meeting each moment as it is takes practice and a kind of courage –often depicted symbolically as fierce figures in Buddhist iconography.
 
Mindful moments happen organically, when you suddenly feel very intimate with your life, the dishes, the bills that pile up.
 
It’s just plain vulnerable to be human, to be in a body, and be intimate with others in this way, with mindfulness.
 
And to meet that vulnerability fully, not half-assed, that’s tenderness. We open little by little into the warmth and tenderness of our own essential vulnerability.
 
Jack Kornfield once used a phrase in one of his talks:
 
“The winds of karma change like the swish of a horse’s tail.”
 
Can we take refuge in this tender, vulnerable place of being open to uncertainty, of the way things are, right now?
 
 
This tenderness/ vulnerability is the birthplace of the endlessly renewable energy sources of courage, love, empathy, and compassion.
 
But we can’t tap these ceaselessly renewable energy sources by striving.
 
Because they are already here for us, at the center of our being, just waiting for us to ease-fully put down our burdens.
 
The ninth century Persian Sufi mystic Abu Yazid Al-Bistami observed:
 
“This thing we tell of
can never be found by seeking,
yet only seekers find it.”
 
 
 
The “finding” of this thing the sages speak of comes though treading lightly in our mindfulness practice.
 
 
By letting go of goals, and just being here, awake and present to our life just as it is.
 
 
I will leave you with a teaching from the 6th century B.C. Chinese sage Lao Tzu:
 
 
 
Always we hope
someone else has the answer,
some other place will be better,
some other time,
it will turn out.
 
This is it.
 
No one else has the answer,
no other place will be better,
and it has already turned out.
 
At the center of your being,
you have the answer:
you know who you are and
you know what you want.
 
There is no need to run outside
for better seeing,
nor to peer from a window.
Rather abide at the center of your being:
for the more you leave it,
the less you learn.
 
Search your heart and see
the way to do is to be.
 
Abide at the center of your being.
 
~ ~ ~
Have yourself a vulnerable little Christmas.
May your heart be light.
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight.
 
~ ~ ~ 
Wishing much love, and tenderness, and happiness … and a merry Christmas .. to all of you from all of us.
 
Tom, Katina, Tutu and the kids