Study Group

Here we undertake the hard, life-giving work of unlearning the mind of separation – and relearning how to live as part of the family of life. Our ancestors once knew this – no matter where we are from.

 

5/11/2018: Apologizing for not writing.

I want to be thoughtful, give this page my best. Because I’m overcommitted, this results in not writing. It would help me if I knew that people were following this – I just know of one. Please let me know if you read this, if you want to read more. Thanks.

4/9/2018: What do you love?

If you are reading here, you probably are aware of climate change, species extinction, long-term racism, and (to be brief) a disastrous political and economic situation.

I offer a poem by Andy Mahler, a friend and forest activist from southern Indiana.

Choose your metaphor
the fire
the storm
the tsunami
the shit hitting the fan

we have warned
and been warned
since at least the sixties
that if we did not find a more harmonious and peaceful way to live on this beautiful planet that this day would come
and now it is here

a clusterbundle of reasons for anger and fear

but that doesn’t mean we have to be angry or fearful

anger says do something
(hit somebody, hurt somebody, hate somebody)
fear says pay attention
(or run like hell)

anger and fear are the emotional equivalent of junk food
bacon fried coke

love is that strange paradox
where the more you give
the more you receive

you get it when you give it away

someone said to love your neighbor as yourself
said to love your enemy

said love the creator
love the creation

why are you here?

Did you ever wonder
why you are here?

Let me make it simple for you

what do you love?

Not as an abstraction or an ideal
What do you love enough to take action to defend it?

Know it
name it
own it
claim it

it is under immediate threat

by taking action to defend it, nurture it, grow it
you grow into the person you were meant to be

anger tempered by love becomes purpose
fear tempered by love becomes resolve

why are you here Andy Mahler

Here is a mindfulness exercise for this week:

What do you love?

What do you love enough to defend it, to take action to defend it, to risk your life protecting and nourishing it?

Ask yourself this question at least once a day, and notice the answers. If you’re a person who journals, you can write down the answer each time.

There might be additional results of asking this question. You may want to spend more time with the beloved. You may want to tell them your love. You might find yourself contemplating what you see threatening them, what you wish to change, how you might take action.

All of this is fruitful. Trust that it will evolve and deepen as you go on.

You might want to give gentle attention to how it feels to ask this question and to answer it. To do that, come into a quiet and mindful state, away from distractions, and notice how your body feels. If you’ve ever done a body scan or guided relaxation, you can use those methods to help your awareness. Otherwise, let your attention move through your body – forehead, throat, shoulders, heart, belly, etc. – and just check for tension/relaxation, warm/cold, comfortable/not, and anything else. If you don’t like this part, just skip it.

Whatever you find can be private or shared.

If you would like to share something with the group here, please email it to me next weekend. I can share it here, or just respond to you, as you like. (When we have a better website you will be able to post directly.)

I’ll do the exercise along with you.

More:

It helps me to know who and how many people are here. Let me know, please.

Future study group offering will include small daily mindfulness exercises like this one, poems and other thoughts for your consideration, larger experiments, and recommended readings.

Suggested readings:

For people who are not familiar with Buddhism, look at this book online The Way of Liberation by Adyashanti – nonsectarian and succinct – for basic orientation.

For all: see if you can find a copy of this book: Kinship with All Life, by J. Allen Boone (1954!). This is a beginner’s primer for communicating with nonhuman animals. Those of us who grew up in civilization probably need something this simple. I got it through interlibrary loan. It might be hard to find.

 

3/12/2018: Buddhism and Life

For me, Buddhist practice is about living as part of the earth, fully sustained and embraced in joy.

Usually we think of Buddhism as a philosophy – intellectual, disembodied – or a religion. “Religion” might actually fit, if we understand it correctly. It’s based on Latin words meaning “respect for the sacred” or “reconnecting with the gods,” and until the 1500’s religion was not separate from secular life – even in Europe.

Buddhism calls us back to the ancient or indigenous way of relating to the world and to the sacred. It asks us to let go of these ways of life and thought that have been trained into us from birth: humans as special, nature as resource, greed and hate as normal. In Buddhism, greed, hate, and the sense of separation are called the Three Poisons. They’re not natural at all, but it’s difficult to become free of them because of long training and the incessant harping of industrial civilization.

The way Life actually works is that each one of us is created by everything around us, past and present, and we in turn give life to everything else, present and future. We are a speck on the wave of Life, never lonely while in a way profoundly alone.

Knowing this is freedom. We can drop our burdens, whether those burdens are saving the planet or making a successful career. Life takes care of itself. Our job as individuals is to respond to the movement of Life in and around us. This requires dropping ingrained beliefs, which is why Buddhist practice can be arduous: before we can respond to Life we must be able to see/hear/feel it. Fortunately, even a glimpse is enlivening and energizing, and glimpses are common.

This way is joyful. Its hope is not the hope that something will change, but hope that embraces things as they are, joins with them enthusiastically, and responds in kind, with gratitude, creating resiliency without expectation.

This way is open to anyone who wants it.

 

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