Sunday, June 13, 2010

On Relationships ...

As I gallivant from book to book, letting myself recognize (or remember) the truth that I know, where it counts, I am often struck by particular phrases and passages ... today was no exception. I highly recommend Eckhart Tolle's little (yet profound) book, "Stillness Speaks" ... one of those books that nearly-literally "jumped off the shelf" in my local Goodwill thrift store, and sat around until such a time as this ... there are no mistakes; all things occur as they "should" (ooooh, the dreaded sh-word!).

How quick we are to form an opinion of a person, to come to a conclusion about them. It is satisfying to the egoic mind to label another human being, to give them a conceptual identity, to pronounce righteous judgment upon them.

Oh yes! I catch myself doing this nearly incessantly! I look at a person, and judge them by their appearance, or by their action. I tell myself a story about them, and then I believe that story -- my story becomes what I believe to be the "truth". But my experience of them is only my story ... whether that experience is a flash-moment, or a lifetime.

Every human being has been conditioned to think and behave in certain ways - conditioned genetically as well as by their childhood experiences and their cultural environment.

That is not who they are, but that is who they appear to be. When you pronounce judgment upon someone, you confuse these conditioned mind patterns with who they are. To do that is itself a deeply conditioned and unconscious pattern. You give them a conceptual identity, and that false identity becomes a prison not only for the other person, but also for yourself.

Miguel Ruiz ("The Four Agreements" - another high-recommend!) calls that our "domestication." The way in which we are conditioned, via parents, culture, school, and our own egoic minds, to label, divide, compare and compete -- as IF we had a lack, as IF we were not enough, as IF we were separate...!

To let go of judgment does not mean that you don't see what they do. It means that you recognize their behavior as a form of conditioning, and you see it and accept it as that. You don't construct an identity out of it for that person.

That liberates you as well as the other person from identification with conditioning, with form, with mind. The ego then no longer runs your relationships.

For me, it means seeing myself, and ALL other humans, as doing the very best that they can, at that time, given all that they have experienced, all that they see, all that they currently believe. Seeing them as being IN process ... seeing them as being, like me, in need of understanding, acceptance, and kindness. Doing for another what I would want them to do for me ... giving the very grace that I want for myself. Perhaps it's only in giving that grace, that I can receive it ... as we are all One...?

As long as the ego runs your life, most of your thoughts, emotions, and actions arise from desire and fear. In relationships you then either want or fear something from the other person.

What you want from them may be pleasure, or material gain, recognition, praise or attention, or a strengthening of your sense of self through comparison and through establishing that you are, have or know more than they. What you fear is that the opposite may be the case, and that they may diminish your sense of self in some way.

How wonderful to go beyond wanting an fearing in your relationships. Love does not want or fear anything.

I hear this, and I "get" this ... big-time. But, I confess that I don't yet always live this. Which is why I'm blogging it ... as part of the process of making it real to me.

If their past were your past, their pain your pain, their level of consciousness your level of consciousness, you would think and act exactly as they do. With this realization comes forgiveness, compassion, and peace.

The ego doesn't like to hear this, because if it cannot be reactive and righteous anymore, it will lose strength.

Reminds me of a wise prayer ... "Forgive them, for they know not what they do."

When you receive whomever comes into the space of Now as a noble guest, when you allow each person to be as they are, they begin to change.

We confuse knowing about with a deeper knowing that is non-conceptual. Knowing about and knowing are totally different modalities. One is conceived in form, and the other with the formless. One operates through thought, the other through stillness.

Knowing about is helpful for practical purposes. On that level, we cannot do without it. When it is the predominant modality in relationships, however, it becomes very limiting, even destructive. Thoughts and concepts create an artificial barrier, a separation between human beings. Without the conceptual barriers, love is naturally present in all human interactions.

It is essential to bring some stillness, particularly into your close relationships. Meditate or spend silent time in nature together. Stillness cannot, and need not, be created. Become comfortable with being in stillness together. Just be receptive to the stillness that is already there, but is usually obscured by mental noise.

If spacious stillness is missing, the relationship will be dominated by the mind and can easily be taken over by problems and conflict. If stillness is there, it can contain anything.

True listening is another way of bringing stillness into the relationship. Usually, the greater part of a person's attention is taken up by their thinking. At best, they may be evaluating your words or preparing the next thing to say... or not even listening at all, lost in their own thoughts.

True listening goes far beyond auditory perception. It is the arising of alert attention, a space of presence in which the words are being received. The words now become secondary. They may be meaningful or they may not make sense. Far more important than what you are listening to is the act of listening itself, the space of conscious presence that arises as you listen. That space is a unifying field of awareness in which you meet the other person without the separative barriers created by conceptual thinking. And now the other person is no longer "other." In that space, you are joined together as one awareness, one consciousness.

What if we could do this, give this, to each other..? How different would our relationships be? How different would the world be?

At the root of all relational conflict and drama lie the basic egoic patterns: the need to be right and, of course, for someone else to be wrong; that is to say, identification with mental positions. There is also the ego's need to be periodically in conflict with something or someone in order to strengthen its sense of separation between "me" and the "other," without which it cannot survive.

In addition, there is the accumulated emotional pain from the past that you and each human being carries within, both from your personal past as well as the collective pain of humanity that goes back a long, long time. This "pain-body" is an energy field within you that sporadically takes you over because it needs to experience more emotional pain for it to feed on and replenish itself. It will try to control your thinking and make it deeply negative. It will also provoke negative emotional reactions in people close to you, especially your partner, in order to feed on the ensuing drama and emotional pain.

Ohhhhhh, to be able to remember this, when in the thick of either personal negative thinking, or the relational dramas that occur in life ...!

How can you free yourself from this deep-seated unconscious identification with pain that creates so much misery in life?

Become aware of it. Realize that is not who you are, and recognize it for what it is: past pain. Witness it as it happens in your partner or in yourself. When your unconscious identification with it is broken, when you are able to observe it within yourself, you don't feed it anymore, and it will gradually lose its energy charge.

There it is again: Awareness. Acceptance. Letting it be. Realizing that it is not the Real Me.

Human interaction can be hell. Or it can be a great spiritual practice.

When you look upon another human being and feel great love toward them, or when you contemplate beauty in nature and something within you responds deeply to it, close your eyes for a moment and feel the essence of that love or that beauty within you, inseparable from who you are, your true nature.

My absolutely favorite moments in life, are when that profound love, that deep beauty, overwhelm me ... getting lost in that, getting caught up in that, is my truest experiential joy...!

THAT is who I Am.

Ultimately, of course, there is no other, and we are always meeting ourselves ... and my hunch is that when we get that, really get that, and take full responsibility for our own life, for our own reactions, our own responses, we begin to truly live ...!

Shalom, Dena

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

On Prayer ...

Prayer ... oh, what a convoluted topic this can be!

Memories of all the different "forms" of prayer that I was taught ... rote prayer, memorized prayer, contemplative prayer, intercessory prayer, warfare prayer, petitionary, praise, speaking in tongues and healing prayer ...

I don't know about you, but prayer was always a bit of a mystery to me. As if others knew something that I didn't ... or had something that I was missing ... as if I were born without something vital, where effective prayer was concerned ... some folks are born without a pancreas ... perhaps I was born without the vital organ necessary for connecting with God ...? Perhaps I was spiritually diabetic?

I spent many years, no, make that decades, feeling utterly defective, spiritually speaking ... going through the motions, assuming the proper positions and facial expressions ... mimicking, and wondering if everyone else was faking, too ...

Such ponderings were dangerous, though ... far better to follow the crowd, and do what was expected of me ... far better to fit in, than to question and be ostracized.

So, I did that, until I just couldn't do it anymore ... I had to abandon ship.

One of the things that most bothered me about prayer was the notion, whether stated or implied, that I have a need, and God is somehow, for reasons I could never figure out, holding out on me. I'd be told contradictory things -- ask and receive (& you won't get unless you ask rightly!), and yet God knows what I need before I ask ... so why ask? And what's the deal about a bunch of us praying together, as if to gang up on a reluctant God..? What manner of God is this?

My notions of God, and therefore of prayer, have radically altered over time ... due to my changes in both perspective and experience. I no longer see God as "out there, somewhere" & separate from me. I see myself, in fact ALL things, as being primordially connected TO God -- or the Divine. Or Source of Life. Or the Universe. The labels don't matter ... the awareness of connectivity does.

I'm willing at this point to let my outmoded notions of prayer fall by the wayside, and to learn what prayer really is ... for what is life, if not an ongoing process of unlearning and relearning ... or of shedding what isn't, and realizing what IS...?

I now see God as the energy of all that IS. Divine energy. Filling and comprising all things, both seen and unseen. I no longer see this divine energy existing outside of me, doing my bidding, if I ask properly. I see that I am made up OF this divine energy ... it is me, it is everything. There is nothing which It is not.

And so, I see prayer as my own intentioned thinking and emotions, which bring me into alignment with what already is in existence ... that which is already most true IN me, and OF me, which then allows that reality to unfold into experience in the "outer" world around me.

In other words, what I pray for, I already have ... but most of the time, I am just not aware of it.

I don't have a need-deficiency... I have an awareness-deficiency.

My job, should I choose to see and accept it, is to realize that t6he spirit of the Divine is already in me, as me. I am to acknowledge its presence, and to ask that it manifest in me and through me ... and to give me the strength to do whatever it is that I need to do.

I even believe that Divine wisdom (which is also my truest identity!) already knows what I am to do -- I just need to see it, and to do it.

I see that for far too long, my prayers have been results-oriented ... I need, I lack, I want, gimme-gimme-gimme...! I thought I saw lack, I thought I needed XYZ in order to be happy/fulfilled/peaceful, and I clamored for it. And grew angry when it seemed that I was being deprived of what I needed.

I'm learning that prayer is actually an affirmation of what already exists. I'm daring to start to believe that I already have, and already am, all that I need. I just need eyes to see.

Prayer is an acknowledgment of my trust in the Divine to provide everything I need, when and as I need it. Because it's already there...!

Now, just as sure as I'm sitting here, typing this out, the Universe/Divine Mind will now conspire to bring about situations/relationships/circumstances that will teach me that this is indeed true ... all things must move from mere concept to experiential reality before I can own them. Concepts are fine on paper, and as flotsam/jetsam in the mind ... but in order to live them out, I have to first experience them.

So, I type these things, and I wince as I do ... knowing that I'm about to undergo something, or many things, that will make this reality for me.


Here's what spoke to me from my reading this morning, about prayer (from "One Day My Soul Just Opened Up" by Iyanla Vanzant):
When we do not understand who we truly are we generally miss the true meaning of prayer. Call forth the Divine within as the strength you need in order to do what you know you must do. If you must make a decision, all forth the Divine. If you must resolve a conflict, call forth the Divine. If you need healing, financial supply, strength, or wisdom, call forth the Divine. Know that what you need already exists within you, and perhaps you simply are not aware of its existence around you. Call forth the Divine within, not so that you can get something, rather so that you can realize something. Call forth the Divine, not by begging, or pleading, rather with trust that when you call, It will show up. Prayer is a calling forth of the Divine that results in your mind, body, and spirit being brought into alignment with exactly what you need in any given moment.

I know what the Divine knows.
I have what the Divine has.
I am what the Divine is.
I trust the One Life, One Mind, One Power, One Presence to manifest at its fullest potential and fulfill every desired good in my heart.

I am grateful for the awareness of this truth as it unfolds.

So be it...!

Shalom, Dena

P.S. For those who may want to explore the inter-connectivity of all things from a more scientific perspective, I recommend watching this engaging and informative series on youtube, called, "What the BLEEP Do We Know?" (there are several parts - here is Part I):

Sunday, June 6, 2010

On Trust ...

From my readings this morning, on the concept of trust ...

~ Trust is reliance upon the Divine for all sustenance and supply... acceptance that the Divine is the ultimate good, is our truest identity, and is both all-powerful and everywhere-present.

~ There is a difference between trusting somebody, and putting your trust in somebody... as trusting someone is a recognition of them as a representative of Divine energy ... seeing them in the highest light possible, knowing that no matter what they say or do, nothing changes who they really are. It's not about relying on the person, so much as relying on the Divine presence which is within them ... the Real Them.

~ Trusting IN someone, however, is about expecting a person to do what they say they'll do ... which is really a transference of what it is I need to do myself. If I trust IN someone, that means that there is something they have, that I believe I need ... or something I have that I believe they could take away from me. So, I end up putting my trust in words, or promises, rather than in the Divine.

~ Why would I trust others, when I know how we humans are prone to do many things in reaction to our own inner fear, guilt or shame ...? And ... even when things happen, due to the fear, guilt shame, why would I blame that person, rather than to accept that the experience is a lesson of the Divine, and therefore the very thing I need...?

~ Trust isn't something that we earn ... and it's not something we give to someone who we deem to have proven themselves worthy ... trust is divine, a given inherent to our soul. Every single person is a manifestation of Divine energy, and worthy of being trusted ... and my job is to rely on Divine wisdom to demonstrate itself in the actions being presented.

~ I can trust the Divine to provide for me in everything I need to live fully, peacefully, and abundantly. It doesn't matter whether others do, or do not do, the Divine thing.

~ I can trust the Divine to show me the wisdom required to make decisions in every situation I encounter ... I can ask, and I will be guided and protected.

"It may not always seem like what you are doing at the moment is the right thing. People and conditions may challenge you. You may begin to doubt yourself. It is in these moments that you are called upon to activate your trust in the Divine. Rely on what your heart tells you is true. Do not be afraid to see the truth in the situation and act accordingly. Trusting the Divine has one very important aspect that is sure to have a positive impact on your life: Learning to recognize and interpret the signs and signals you will surely receive will teach you to trust yourself."
("One Day My Soul Just Opened Up" by Iyanla Vanzant)

Trust in Self is Trust in the Divine ...!

I see that we just need a new working definition for "Self".

Shalom, Dena

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Necessary Doubt ...

Sharing the words of another, because they're that good ...!

Necessary Doubt

Ani Tenzin Palmo teaches that doubt is an essential tool on the path
to enlightenment.

By Ani Tenzin Palmo

Perhaps because of our Judeo-Christian background, we have a tendency
to regard doubt as something shameful, almost as an enemy. We feel
that if we have doubts, it means that we are denying the teachings
and that we should really have unquestioning faith. Now in certain
religions, unquestioning faith is considered a desirable quality. But
in the Buddha-dharma, this is not necessarily so. Referring to the
dharma, the Buddha said, ehi passiko, which means come and see,
or come and investigate, not come and believe. An open,
questioning mind is not regarded as a drawback to followers of the
Buddha-dharma. However, a mind that says, This is not part of my
mental framework, therefore I don't believe it, is a closed mind,
and such an attitude is a great disadvantage for those who aspire to
follow any spiritual path. But an open mind, which questions and
doesn't accept things simply because they are said, is no problem at

A famous sutra tells of a group of villagers who came to visit the
Buddha. They said to him, Many teachers come through here. Each has
his own doctrine. Each claims that his particular philosophy and
practice is the truth, but they all contradict each other. Now were
totally confused. What do we do? Doesn't this story sound modern?
Yet this was twenty-five hundred years ago. Same problems. The Buddha
replied, "You have a right to be confused. This is a confusing
situation. Do not take anything on trust merely because it has passed
down through tradition, or because your teachers say it, or because
your elders have taught you, or because its written in some famous
scripture. When you have seen it and experienced it for yourself to
be right and true, then you can accept it."

Now that was quite a revolutionary statement, because the Buddha was
certainly saying that about his own doctrine, too. All through the
ages it has been understood that the doctrine is there to be
investigated and experienced by each individual. So one should not be
afraid to doubt. In fact, Buddhist writer Stephen Batchelor wrote a
dharma book entitled The Faith to Doubt. It is right for us to
question. But we need to question with an open heart and an open
mind, not with the idea that everything that fits our preconceived
notions is right and anything that does not is automatically wrong.
The latter attitude is like the bed of Procrustes. You have a set
pattern in place, and everything you come across must either be
stretched out or cut down to fit it. This just distorts everything
and prevents learning.

If we come across certain things that we find difficult to accept
even after careful investigation, that doesn't mean the whole dharma
has to be thrown overboard. Even now, after all these years, I still
find certain things in the Tibetan dharma that I'm not sure about at
all. I used to go to my lama and ask him about some of these things,
and he would say, "That's fine. Obviously, you don't really have a
connection with that particular doctrine. It doesn't matter. Just put
it aside. Don't say, 'No, its not true. Just say, 'At this point,
my mind does not embrace this'. Maybe later you'll appreciate it, or
maybe you won't. Its not important."

When we come across a concept that we find difficult to accept, the
first thing we should do, especially if its something that is
integral to the dharma, is to look into it with an unprejudiced mind.
We should read everything we can on the subject, not just from the
point of view of Buddha-dharma, but if there are other approaches to
it, we need to read about them, too. We need to ask ourselves how
they connect with other parts of the doctrine. We have to bring our
intelligence into this. At the same time, we should realize that at
the moment, our level of intelligence is quite mundane. We do not yet
have an all-encompassing mind. We have a very limited view. So there
are definitely going to be things that our ordinary mundane
consciousness cannot experience directly. But that does not mean
these things do not exist.

Here again, it is important to keep an open mind. If other people
with deeper experiences and vaster minds say they have experienced
something, then we should at least be able to say, "Perhaps it might
be so." We should not take our limited, ignorant minds as the norm.
But we must remember that these limited, ignorant minds of ours can
be transformed.

That's what the path is all about. Our minds do become more open and
increasingly vast as we progress. We do begin to see things more
clearly, and as a result they slowly begin to fit into place. We need
to be patient. We should not expect to understand the profound
expositions of an enlightened mind in our first encounter with them.
I'm sure we all know certain books of wisdom that we can read and
reread over the years, and each time it seems like we are reading
them for the first time. This is because as our minds open up, we
begin to discover deeper and deeper layers of meaning we couldn't see
the time before. Its like that with a true spiritual path. It has
layer upon layer of meaning, and we can only understand those
concepts that are accessible to our present level of mind.

I think people have different sticking points. I know that things
some people find very difficult to grasp were extremely simple for
me. I already believed many of the teachings before I came to the
Buddha-dharma. On the other hand, some things that were difficult for
me, others find simple to understand and accept. We are all coming
from different backgrounds, and so we each have our own special
problems. But the important thing is to realize that this is no big
deal. It doesn't matter. Our doubting and questioning spur us on and
keep us intellectually alert.

There have been times when my whole spiritual life was one great big
question mark. But instead of suppressing the questions, I brought up
the things I questioned and examined them one by one. When I came out
the other end, I realized that it simply didn't matter. We can be
quite happy with a question mark. Its not a problem at all,
actually, as long as we don't solidify it or base our whole life on
feeling threatened by it. We need to develop confidence in our innate
qualities and believe that these can be brought to fruition. We all
have Buddha-nature. We have all the qualities needed for the path. If
we don't believe this, it will be very difficult for us to embark
because we have no foundation from which to go forth. Its really
very simple. The Buddha-dharma is not based on dogma.

But why is it so difficult for us? Basically its because of our
state of mind, because we lack knowledge of who we are and our role
here in this life. Because we don't know who we are, we feel separate
from everybody else. There's this sense of me that creates all our
fears, angers, attachments, jealousies, and uncertainties. But the
Buddha said that it doesn't have to be like that. Our inherent nature
is pure. All we have to do is rediscover who we really are, and
that's what the path is for. Its very simple. Its not based on
faith, but rather on experiments and experience leading to
realization. Its not a matter of learning what this lama says, or
what that tradition says, and then believing its going to save us.
Its not going to save us. Of course we need to know what the Buddha
said. We need to know what great teachers in the past have said,
because they have been there ahead of us and have laid down maps for
us to follow. But its a bit like reading a travel book. You can read
a travel book and feel you're already there, but in reality you're
not there. These are somebody else's travel experiences. And when you
do go there, you will have your own unique experiences. Following the
path is about experiencing it for ourselves. Its not taking on what
other people have described. Its not based on blind faith. Of
course, you need a certain amount of confidence to buy a ticket and
start on your journey. You have to believe that the country exists
and that its worthwhile to go there. But beyond that, the important
thing is just to go. And as you go, you can say to yourself, Yes,
that's just the way they described it. That's right. It does look
like that.


Shalom, Dena

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Stillness Speaks ...

For the first time in a long time, I feel the desire to share some snippets that are speaking to me ... currently from Eckhart Tolle's book, "Stillness Speaks". I tried to read this little book a few months back, and it just wasn't capturing me ... but now, it's resonating clearly. Funny how that works, no?

Without further ado, here's what I'm seeing here and now ~ may it speak to your hearts as well:

~ I am awareness ... cleverly disguised as a person.

I can get so caught up in the concept of "who am I?" Like so many others (ok, all of us!), I've had labels assigned to me, from within and without - daughter, child, student, woman, wife, mother, artist, Christian, rebel, heretic, addict, citizen, Caucasian, American, Earthling ... but they don't begin to tap into who I Really Am. Ultimately, underneath it all, I am awareness ... consciousness. That Which Is. And ... so are you. The rest is fluff. Useful, when we can see who we really are, but not meant to mesmerize us, and limit us, and blind us ...

~ Whenever you deeply accept this moment as it is - no matter what form it takes - you are still, you are at peace.

This moment, this very moment, is all I have. It's all any of us have -- but most of us have been conditioned to live in both the past and the future, thus squandering the only moment there IS. Regrets/accomplishments of the past, and fears/anticipations about the future, seem to preoccupy most of our thoughts ... and we don't notice the current moment (the only reality), because we aren't paying attention to it. So, too, do we judge the current moment as either "good" or "bad" ... so we live in our concept of the moment, rather than the moment itself. And when we resist the current moment, rather than accepting it, we create our own hell on earth. I notice that whenever I attach a "should/shouldn't" to the current situation, I am resisting ... and thus I am creating my own suffering ...

~ Stillness is where creativity and solutions to problems are found... Stillness is intelligence itself - the underlying consciousness out of which every form is born. And how could that be separate from who you are? The form you think you are came out of that and is being sustained by it.

As I see it, there is only One Intelligence, manifesting in various forms ... including you and me. I see that we identify with our form, believe that we are separate, and create problems in that sense of separation. When I look outside of myself for solutions, I am confused ... for the solutions come from that which believes in the separation. But when I tap into mySelf (the One True Self -- some call it God, or Source, or Presence, etc.), I tap into the Creative Intelligence of the Universe -- whose very Voice is within me ... and you, and every one of us.

~ The human condition: Lost in thought.

Most people spend their entire life imprisoned within the confines of their own thoughts. They never go beyond a narrow, mind-made personalized sense of self that is conditioned by the past.

But there is, in you, a dimension of consciousness far deeper than thought. It is the very essence of who you are.

Ohhhhhhh, if we could only *get* how our thoughts control and confine us! We are so very conditioned, and domesticated, rather than free to be who we are! My deepest desire is to connect with my Truest Essence ... to experience who I am ... to know this Self, and to live there. I get glimpses ... which are astonishingly beautiful and powerful, and I trust that this will continue to become ever-more real to me.

~ Finding this dimension frees you and the world from the suffering you inflict on yourself and others when the mind-made "little me" is all you know and runs your life. Love, joy, creative expansion, and lasting inner peace cannot come into your life except through that unconditioned dimension of consciousness.

As Byron Katie puts it: "it's not what happens to us that hurts us, but our thoughts about what happens to us that hurt us." I don't know about you, but my mind wants to reject that notion. My mind would rather think in terms of "us/them" and "victim/villain" and "look what you did to me!" But I notice, when I'm very honest with myself, that I torture myself with my own thinking ... when I believe my own thoughts, I am in hell. When I question my thoughts, to discover if they are true or not, I am free.

~ The stream of thinking has enormous momentum that can easily drag you along with it. Every thought pretends that it matters so much. It wants to draw your attention in completely.

Here is a new spiritual practice: Don't take your thoughts so seriously.

For today, I am noticing and observing my own thoughts ... I'm asking myself, "is that true?" For today, I am not attaching to my thoughts, mistaking them for mySelf, and letting them drag me into the ego-abyss ... just for today.

Shalom, Dena