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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Omega Experience

This past week I attended Claude AnShin Thomas' workshop at the Omega Institute near Rhinebeck, N.Y.  It was an educational and very moving experience.  Some one hundred veterans attended the workshop. A few, like me, came with their spouses while others came with fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, sisters and brothers.

Veterans coming home from having experienced the trauma of war rarely have the opportunity to talk to someone about their experiences.  Often people don't want to hear about their experiences either because they don't want to know about the veteran's traumatic experience or they are afraid that talking about it will open wounds and are afraid to get involved. Many don't know what to say to the vet. In any case, the veteran comes home a changed person and has a very difficult time adapting back to his former life. What was a normal world before the war experience is a totally different world now.

The workshop revolved around three basic components: meditation, mindfulness and reflection.  We began each day at 7:00 am in sitting meditation followed by walking meditation. AnShin told us to do walking meditation slowly and deliberately.  It was to be done in rhythm with the breath. He said that he was asked one time "Does the breath really work?"  And his reply was, "I don't know, but I know it is always with you and you do it - so you might as well use it."

During breakfast, around 8:30 am, we practiced mindful eating in silence. We were told to chew each bite fifty times and contemplate its aroma, texture and taste.  After breakfast we would either do more sitting and walking or AnShin would talk about his adventures and philosophy. He never preached about Buddhism.  He emphasized the importance of keeping our own beliefs intact and focusing on the task at hand - being mindful.

We were told to use our spare time during the week to reflect and write about something we had never told anyone.  It had to be about something that related to our war experience.  How did the war affect us either directly as a veteran or indirectly as a relative?  

During lunch we would do more mindful eating and then have a small break.  At around 2:00 pm we would meet again for thirty minutes of sitting meditation and then we would gather in our small group for reflection. Each group would walk mindfully to their designated site.  We sat in a circle and would take turns reading our writings by gesturing with a bow and then picking up an object placed in the middle of the circle.  In our group the designated object was an eyeglass case.

The main object of the group session was to listen and read mindfully. What was read was to never leave the group.  However, I will reveal my writing in the next post. The person holding the object was the only one who could read while the others had to listen carefully and mindfully. Once the person was through reading, he/she placed the object back on the floor and would gesture with a bow.  Everyone else would acknowledge by also bowing.  It was not mandatory to read but everyone in my small group of eight did read. 

During dinner we would eat in silence and then walk mindfully back to the main hall and either do more sitting meditation or yoga. The last evening of the week was open to outside people - people who lived in the area. Those who wrote essays could read them in front of the entire group of 140 people if they  desired. I didn't read my essay but ten veterans did. It was a heartfelt moment.  There was laughing and crying. When the last person read they were given a five minute standing ovation. Where once there were sad faces there were now happy faces.

The next morning before parting for home we all walked mindfully down to the lake where AnShin and his assistants lit a fire and burned notes we all had placed in a basket. The notes were things we wanted to get rid of such as shame, anxiety, depression, loneliness, etc. We watched as the notes along with the troubling situations went up in smoke.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pure Awareness

Practicing yoga, meditation, and mindfulness is good stuff but nothing like being in pure awareness.  Being in pure awareness is not in the mind nor in the body; pure awareness is experiencing everything as one.  Usually when people speak of being aware they are referring to a lower realm of experience than what I am talking about here.  

Awareness and mindfulness to most people means paying attention to what's going on around them and within them.  Pure awareness is beyond this.  Pure awareness is wider and deeper than any other experience you can possible have.  Pure awareness is a sense of everything without mental content.  It is when object and subject merge into universal awareness excluding nothing, so that there is no separation between anything.  To put is succinctly pure awareness is a state of non-duality. 

In truth, there is no duality anywhere because everything is the truth just the way it is right now at this very moment.  The saying that "You can't see the forest for the trees" applies in this case.  The truth lies before you but you don't recognize it because objects keep getting in the way.  The objects are the truth just as the trees are the forest.  When you are able to realize, without thinking, that all things exist as one and not as separate things, you will experience total and unadulterated awareness.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Do it NOW!

Meditation by yourself or in a group is absolutely necessary if you are ever going to make any progress, whatsoever, in liberation from any kind of suffering. But meditation is not enough. You must also practice mindfulness with every waking hour, minute, and second of your life.

Sitting in meditation is insufficient in becoming enlightened.  Meditation must also be coupled with the act of staying in the moment no matter what happens - driving, walking, working, talking, listening, or whatever you are doing.  You must be awake and actively vigilant to the present moment.  It is some of the hardest work in the world to just be present in the moment and open minded. 

When the mind is in the future and the past you cannot be living a full life.  Something is missing when that happens. Life is the unknown, unrecognized and under appreciated teacher because it is the present-moment. It is really all there is.  So, begin your practice right now, this very moment.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Sitting to Meditate

When you sit to meditate you are settling into a quiet place and time to "observe."  From the outside meditation looks simple and easy.  "There she sits with her eyes closed, not moving, and hardly breathing.  How hard can that be?"  But from the inside the mind is thinking all kinds of things, the body is trying to get comfortable, and the breath is trying to smooth out. "I don't know how long I can sit here.  My mind is too agitated and my knees hurt."

Meditation is very personal and there is no one particular way to do it. Meditation evolves with the person and the person evolves with the meditation. When I first started meditating the most I could do was 10 or 15 minutes.  That was about fifteen years ago. Today I sat for 2 hours with no problem.  I look forward  every day to sitting and meditating. It is the pause that refreshes.  It gives me new life and it restores my ability to stay in the moment during the day.  It calms my mind and I sleep better at night.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Cosmic Consciousness

Try using your imagination to view the vast universe in which you live as being not only outside your body but inside as well. The smallest, most infinitesimal unit of energy, matter, mass, or whatever it is exists in you and expands out into infinity. And you are just a teeny, weeny part of that whole continuum.  Can you imagine that?  Okay, so far so good.

If you can imagine infinite smallness and infinite largeness simultaneously, you are experiencing what is known as cosmic consciousness. It is the knowing, the feeling, the realization that everything within you and outside of you is infinite. There is no limit either way. If you can do this, your mental imaging can link you with the cosmic mind beyond space and time and allow you to experience what the five senses can never do.  

Stay with that image of infinite smallness and infinite largeness with nothing in between for as long as you can. What do you experience? Can you describe it? 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Famous Quotes?

Not everyone sees the same thing the same way. Duh.

What I believe you should believe too. Or die.

There is no way you can lift that barge.
But maybe you can tote that bail.

Keep doing  it until you get it right.
Even if you keep getting the same results.

I will follow you 'til the end of time,
even if it kills me.

We should all come to our senses; sooner or later.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Just Be

When you walk in the garden you feel warm, kind, and at ease.
When you eat with your dog you know humility.
When you listen to a tree you understand life.
And when you jump for joy you see energy.

There is no need to ponder these things
for they are free and readily available.
Just open your heart and let them come in.