Tuesday, October 21, 2008

MC Yogi: Obama '08 - Vote for Hope

This Rocks! I'm not that political, but was very moved by this.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Buddhist Recipe for Optimism

How can one be optimistic in the time we live in? It's not as difficult as you think. It takes having a prospective and understanding the nature of the mind. Here are some tips from and incurable Buddhist Optimist.

I have noticed that pessimism is always so much more popular then optimism. As an incurable optimist I have mostly avoided this pitfall, but there are practical precautions that can really help. Here are some of my best ones:

1) Meditation: I sit silently for about an hour a day and try to do longer retreats every year for a little quiet time. Basically, the modern world doesn’t appreciate the joy of silence. It has been quoted by Meher Baba (Avatar, Mystic, Prophet} and also in the Vedas (Ancient Indian Scriptures) that this is the age of noise, vice and ignorance of our own true nature (Kali Yuga). Well, Daaa. It’s pretty freakin’ noisy & ignorant in the world, but that’s why sitting silently and opening to inner wisdom is so beautiful.

It’s always hard to start for me to start my meditation (in the age of noise of course). I have two secrets. One is I remember a quote from a Buddhist Monk when he was sitting to meditate,...” the joy of sitting”. It’s a simple expression, but it works! I take a moment to remember that sitting silently is a joy!

The other thing I have noticed is that after the first five minutes the ego gives up it’s power over the mind. Yeah that right, the ego gives up and lets you sink deeper and deeper in to silence. The ego is so much in control of the mind. It’s grip is like a vice. You just can’t let go. There are too many important decisions. The intellect is always sorting and categorizing things to do, things to not do, etc. So, I have discovered if I can just sit for five minutes, then I can sit in meditation as long as I want after.

With Meditation I gain a clear prospective. As the Zen saying goes: “It looks real, but it is not real.” During meditation the outer reality becomes fuzzy and the inner reality become more tangible. That inner realm is so much more connected with truth then the outer. With that prospective the rest of the day is perceived from a silent center and not on the surface. I am the ocean, not the waves.

2) No News is good news. I know you want to know what’s going on with the elections and who blew up in Iran today, but really,..... do these things have anything to do with your life? Someone somewhere is always doing something crazy, but that Karma is very far removed from your Dharma (life purpose).

Another thing you have to consider is where that news is coming from. Last I heard, there are about four mega-corporation that own all the media or most of it. And what do you think there going to report? They’ll report whatever suits them and support there agenda. I call it honesty challenged news.

News is also sensationalized to give it some kick with a bias toward drama. Don’t you have enough drama already? Do you really need somebody else to tell you their drama? I know it’s entertaining, but it’s not the best choice for entertainment. Open your eyes and look around. There is so much beauty to be seen.

News, just don’t do it! No TV news, no radio news, no internet news, and no newspaper. Sound insane? Well let me tell you a story: I quit all TV & news for about 10 years while living in a Meditation center. A decade later, when I finally took a peak at current events the only regret I had was missing the great days of Saturday Night Live. That was it. Everything else was unimportant in retrospect.

A lot of people don’t realize how the mind works. You can put stuff in, but you can’t take it out. What you can do is choose wisely what goes in, because once it’s in there, it is part of the mix that you have to live with for the rest of your life. In sanskrit, it is called the “Chit” or storehouse of memories. We only want good chit (pun intended). We want Sat Chit Ananda translated as BEing, Mind, Bliss!

3) Physical Well-Being. Now this is a big subject, so can just summarize here. Buddhism puts it this way: Eat well and don’t take poison (ie alcohol, tobacco, & drugs). I’m not say that you can’t party occasionally. After all you’re and evolving soul in need of all life’s experiences. It’s just as it says above the temple of the Oracle of Delphi: “Nothing in Excess”. It’s no fun anyway when you over do it.

Often negativity is a physiological response to not feeling good in the body. Simple enough. The mind and body are intimately related. Do the best you can with that physical Temple. You only have it for a little while. Keep it tuned up.

4)Emotional Well-Being. Once again there is an opportunity here to choose wisely. We’ve all had toxic relationships. A little self inquiry can identify who brings you down and who makes you feel good. One idea is to separate the givers from the takers. It’s not an even split. People are not half an half. There are a lot of great people out there giving and supporting you. Lose the takers from your life. Let the vampires suck somebody else’s life force. You have your own dance to do and Dharma to unfold.

5)Existence is Cyclical. Yes, it is a infinite dance of checks and balances. The pendulum swing both ways. I laugh when I hear stock went down because the Federal Reserve Chairman sneezed and then back up again because someone threw him as surprise birthday party. They always go up and down as does everything else. It’s called as cycle. Don’t sweat it. Take a broad prospective.

The Taoist call this a ‘lesson world’ When Buddha say in the first Noble Truth that “life is suffering” it is not to make you feel bad. It’s the beginning and at the other side there is freedom from suffering.

6) Relativity of history. I’m a big student of history. I know this sound boring, but I have a passion to know why the human race is so silly and I wonder how crazy our ancestors must have been. It gives a great prospective. As far as I have read, we live in a golden era. You think war & corruption is a new thing. Let me tell you. Now your bummed it your run out of coffee or your team losses the big game. In Roman times (which did last 900 year by the way) a bad day was when the Roman legions marched in your town to demonstrate ‘Pax Romana’ (Roman Peace). It would start with killing all the men and enslaving all of the women & children. Then they would burn and level the entire town with the finishing touch of salting the earth so nothing could ever grow there again. The place was called Carthage. That was in 146 BC, but hey it has happened again and again. Any cursory review of history makes today’s events menial and life absolutely wonderful.

Optimism is not so hard. All of existence has been designed to help you evolved. All the sages, saints, and prophets have left wisdom traditions to give you a direction. Your habits of the past (Samsara) can be changed if you want to be happy. Nature itself is singing a song of joy right now. Just listen.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Acceptance & Patience to Enlightenment

I had the rare opportunity to meet Kirin Baba in India about 10 year ago and asked him my most pertinent question: "How did you get Enlightened" His answer were not at all what I expected and change my life in simple yet profound ways.

Greetings & Salutations Friend in Cyberspace! I too was once a Human BEing and now I’m more of one. Let me tell you briefly how this happened.

Naturally, this story will be set in India and yes, you guessed it: there is a Guru. Still, the other elements don’t necessarily fall into the Enlightenment Cliche.

For one, I was a traveler in India and not looking for any one or any thing. Second, my interest was very casual toward this Guru. All the events of the day sorta happened by accident. I had no expectation and was not on a burning quest for Enlightenment.

I went to visit the Guru Kirin Baba just out of curiosity. I had been doing a month long meditation retreat at Osho Ashram in Poone, India. Osho Ashram was the center for Osho (Sri Bhagwan Rajneeh) who has passed on some years before. It is a delightful magical place and great for meditation and transformation.

Over lunch one day I heard some other Sanyasins (Osho Monks) talking about this Guru that was giving Satsang (spiritual gatherings) on Sundays across town. They raved about his simple, natural, down to earth style of discourse and talked about the importance of being near a living master. I felt intrigued and decide to go see him that afternoon.

It started with the usual hair raising rickshaw taxi across town from the Sunderban Guest House next to the Osho Ashram where I stayed. After half an hour driving, I arrived at an upper middle class house in a residential neighborhood. It was a pleasant sunny temperate Spring day. The house was unassuming and typical concrete block one story dwelling.

A plump Indian lady met us as we arrived and directed us back to an open air garage with a carpeted floor and pillow to sit on. A recording of the Shiva chant OM NAMA SHIVAYA played nearby. I guess to create a mood. It seem out of place as the Guru Kirin Baba was not a Shiva devotee, but whatever. This was India.

Some other ‘westerners’ had gathered and we all set silently on the floor cushions. Up front was an odd chair that resemble a dental chair. There were about 30 or 40 people there. All were young Spiritual seekers from around the world.

After a meditative wait of about an hour Kirin Baba arrives to sit in the chair. He is an unpretentious Indian man about 60 wear typical Indian white punjabi dress. His expression is somewhat amused and mischievous. I liked him already.

He doesn’t bother to lecture or do anything formal. Instead he opens the floor for questions. I am only in the second row and can see & feel his presence quite well. It was intoxicating.

For some reason I felt like I was Alice in Wonderland or something. The normal reality around me seem to be suddenly shifting in barely perceivable ways as if I was looking through a trick mirror. It was a very subtle experience and the ‘mind’ could quite grasp it. It was slippery like mercury.

The people gathered seemed to be abit on the slow side, perhaps in a meditative daze or just being polite. I don’t know, but for me this was unnecessary. I took the lead and ask the most important question on my mind: “How did you get Enlightened?”

My question was simple and to the point! Kirin Baba laughed at my directness. He answered: “Once I realized that all this meditation & philosophy was bullshit, it happened quite naturally.” Wow, there’s an original answer I thought!

I pursued the subject more. I asked: “Isn’t there anything you can do to bring about this Enlightenment?” Kirin Baba chuckles a little bit and continues the conversation with the word “Acceptance”. He goes on,.... “you see, it is like this: Existence happens. No matter how much you plan with your ‘mind’ in the end Existence just happens,...”

No understanding his point I asked: “Well, how do you decide to leave the house in the morning and go somewhere?” Kirin Baby playfully answers: “The house decides.” I feel like I’m kinda getting what he’s saying, but not totally so I ask more questions.

At this point he goes into some discourse. Kirin Baba talked about how our mind were actually a barrier to Enlightenment. Our small egos are always trying to control everything and not understanding that there is a flow to life. Life has a certain natural tendency to evolve. If we let go and just allow life to happen then our lives would unfold with indescribable beauty in a natural way. He went on to say that are emotions and intuition come from a much higher level of BEing. If we get the intellect out of the way an follow our feeling then we will find truth.

One exact quote I remember from Kirin Baba is this: “Emotions are like the mist near the Ocean. They give you the feeling of the Ocean before you arrive.” The ocean of course being Enlightenment.

The afternoon continued with a number of other questions that were mostly personal in nature. People were more concerned about their career and relationships then the evolution of their consciousness.

There was a German guy there who had just finished a several year training as a Therapist at Osho Ashram. He asked Kirin Baba what he thought about the training and shockingly Kirin Baba replied that it was: “wait of time”. He went on to say that all therapy was just a game of the mind to distract you from your true Being.

The German Therapist became quite exasperated and started to raise his voice. Kirin Baba’s reaction was quite unusual. He told the man: “I am not saying these things. You are here and I am here and Existence happens, so what to do?”

In effect Kirin Baba was saying that this is not my opinion. Only Existence is here coming though me, so what to do. You asked the question and Existence answered it. I take no responsibility because there is no “I”. Wow! What a prospective. There is no “I” There was no Kirin Baba in the room. There was only ‘Existence Happening’.

Many years have passed since that day. Those simple words have never left me. I went back to see Kirin Baba a year later. He was no longer holding Satsang at his home, but it happened that his wife allowed me a private meeting.
Kirin Baba seemed to remember me and welcomed me warmly. As we sat on his back porch I revisited our previous conversation. I told him that I had practiced “Acceptance” in all thing and that it was a more relaxing way to BE, but fundamentally I felt unchanged. I asked him if there was anything else I could do,...

In reply Kirin baba told me that after many year of studying with Osho (Sri Bhagwan Rajneeh) he had two other masters. The last one was a Sufi and from his teaching he gained Enlightenment. The Sufis had a word “Suburi” and this was my next teaching.

“OK fine” I said, “but what does it mean?” Kirin thought for a moment and said: “In English, it translates to mean waiting,....or patience.”

So here I am a decade later Accepting with Patience. It’s not flashy, it’s not glamorous, but it’s very practical. Existence is happening, so what to do?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Blow Up Your TV & Turn Off Your Computer

If you are reading this, then your spending too much time on-line. This may seem like an oxymoronic statement, since I am writing on-line and obviously as guilty as you of too much internet. Well, for one thing I have an internet based business. What’s your excuse?

Before you get angry, please hear me out. I grew up as a TV addict like everyone else I knew and believe me there would have a violent reaction if anybody tried to convince me otherwise,... but that was in the 60’s and we didn’t have computers.

I loved watching Star Trek or the movie of the week, but that was after I would be out in the school yard or down at the creek during the daylight hours. I got lots of of exercise hiking in the hills around our house and great socialization with ball games in the vacant lots and be-be gun wars. It was a normal part of growing up for our generation.

Awhile back I was dating a woman with a ten year old boy. He was an average kid and seemed to be good natured. There was only one problem. He didn’t like going outside. His world was videos or internet games. He stubbornly refused to do anything else as I probably would have at his age over my favorite activities.

Now, I have a new baby and I know soon or later he will be stubbornly arguing for his favorite activities. The difference is we don’t have TV and hopefully we can limit the internet exposure too.

Why you say don’t you have a TV? There are so many great shows and besides isn’t it every American’s duty to watch 6+ hours a day (two months of non-stop watching). My answer is simple. I don’t have the time. I need that two months for my evening walks, my made from scratch meals, my sitting on the porch, my home improvement, my talking to the neighbors, my time with our kid, etc.

I’m sure you get the point. I actually still do netflixs on a home theater once a week, but it’s hard to find time for that even.

As I get older, time moves faster. And I’m here to tell you that at 50+ I know life is short. I want to make the most of it and as much as I love TV shows, they just don’t cut it compared to real life. As much as I love those social network on the internet and talking to nice people in Timbuktu,.... well needless to say, I like my local friend and neighbors more. I can’t borrow a latter from the guy in Timbuktu or sit down for dinner and share real emotion about life’s ups and downs.

Now back to Samsara or Habits of Mind. It’s simple. Your more similar to your computer then you realize. You can be programed or de-programed. Advertising and television in general is programing you day and night. However, you can choose to program yourself for the conscious choices that make your life better.

How? It’s easier then you think. You could start by canceling your cable. I know it’s going to be painful until you make the transition, but I swear you’ll never go back.

If not for you, then how about for you kids? My sister has been a Special Education school teacher for 30 years. She tells me that ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) has more then doubled in the schools. Childhood obesity has been rising for two decades and autism is dramatically increasing. Some article claim that nobody knows why.

Hey, I’m not a doctor, but it’s easy to guess the cause in my opinion. Over stimulation and lack of exercise i.e. television & internet.

If we change our own Samsaras or habits to life enhancing and enriching activities, then we in effect change our children and society in general. It’s take a little discipline and some commitment, but you only live once (each time) and the clock is ticking.

There’s a saying in the ancient Sanskrit text about this. It states that Satvic activities (things that are life giving) are difficult in the beginning, but easy in the long run. Alternately, Tomasic activities (life damaging) are easy in the beginning and difficult in the long run.

I guess the question we have to ask is: Are we good long term planners? Do we really give a crap or do we want to make a difference?

From the Buddhist prospective this quote sums it up: “Pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain is the real source of Suffering” Gautuma Buddha, 500 BCE.

Think about it.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

DAY THREE: Wild Man at the Door

The next morning our gang mulled over the useless map again as a symbolic gesture of planning. Rather then go back up the same valley we had just come down the day before, we choose an obscure and rarely traveled path up the ridge above.

I ask a local village man how difficult the trail was and he answered quite frankly: “Not difficult for us, but for you I think quite difficult”. How I remembered those words as I slowly ascended that steep goat for path for the next 5 hours and 3000 feet.

My God!!!! Why did I choose this path??? I don’t want to admit to how wimpy I can sound, but my mantra the entire afternoon of vertical ascent was: “I must be crazy to do this!” and “I hate this.”

I spearheaded our vertical ascent to the ridge. The trail was so steep in places you had to wrap your arm around small trees to drag yourself up to the next level. My legs felt like alternately like lead and then later wobbly like rubber. Moving them was and exhausting labor. The straps of my backpack cut into my back as I didn’t have the waist belt to disperse the weight.

It seemed like all day, but eventually the ridge gain and we traveled a small distance through small enclaves of Himalayan farm houses. The ridge afforded a view of terraced rice fields that will perfectly accented by the after noon sun. In one small court yard by a farmhouse temple, I paused to photograph prayer flags fluttering and the valley far below. What a vista! It was at once a simple and yet incredibly moving experience.

After an hour or so we arrived to a rarely visited village called Syapargaon. Our presence was duly noted by everyone and yet they didn’t overwhelm us. While it was still light I started to wash my sweaty T-shirt in the stream that ran thru the village center. A funny scene insued as the headman of the village arrived and with an air of bravado threw his worn shirt in my laundry pile by the stream. It was very amusing to all.

In the village, we found lodging in a traditional Tibetan style tea house that was decorated with all kinds of simple rugs, woven textiles and the myriad of small items of the typical Himalayan home. It was not just for travelers, but someone lived there full time. I suppose they may have just vacated their home to rent us the space for a night.

Rob & Julie took a different tea house slightly up the hill. It seemed that no traveler ever came to Syapargaon and we were a very big boost for the local economy. This was even more evident when our little group had dinner together at our guest house. Apparently, this was a big boon as the dinners usually ran about 100 Rps ($2.) per person. The other guest house was visible perturbed. What to do?

We ate the same basic Dhal Bhat dinner as the night before sitting out doors and watching the quiet routine of the small village. As the sun edged beneath the horizon all of the villagers seem to edge beneath their blankets. By 8PM again their was no sound or light in the village.

Earlier that day as we hiked to Syapargaon I noticed some very interesting plant life. Just growing among the many other plants were alot of weeds of some repute (marijuana). My whole life this common Himalayan plant had been the much coveted, expensive, and highly illegal recreational high.

As a meditator, I no longer had much interest in getting high, but could resist picking ups some of the “weeds” that were quite literally strewn along the path we were walking on.

That night in the guest house when I emptied my pockets I found the little temptation. Neither Kirsten or I were pot smokers, but as it was early evening and we felt like it might be entertaining.

Remember my opening lines of this story? “Oh My God! I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into!” Once again as we tempted fait our realities were uniquely turned up side down.

First, the Himalayan pot was extremely strong. As I was whirling around from the effects there came a loud banging at the door and some incoherent yells.

I immediately became paranoid imagining all kind of police actions and unrealistic horrors that could await outside that door. I hid the remaining marijuana on a rafter and opened the door,.....

A wild eyed village who spoke no more then 10 words in English came in and was gesturing madly with his hands in a desperate expressions. He was imploring me to come out into the night for some unknown reason. I was so stoned that the event was amplified into a shocking drama. What could he want? Why was he here? Finally,through sign language I was able ascertain that someone was hurt and they needed a doctor.

It is an unfortunate myth, that all travelers are considered to have both medicine and doctoring that the villagers need in emergencies. Fortunately, I did have some iodine and aspirin and passed them to this stranger giving him an idea of how to use. I hoped he got it. He still wanted me to come, but I refused. I was not a doctor and I did not want to wander off somewhere in the dark Himalayan night.

These were my back up supplies, but under the circumstances I just gave them away. Wow. Bizarre. Who know what actually happened, but I was glad to help out. I was glad the whole shocking drama was over. Kirsten and I had gotten a whole lot more entertainment then we bargained for. Sleep would be a great relief after this wildman at the door.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Tibetan Sacred Ritual Objects


Friday, August 29, 2008

Ok How about a few pics here. Give a better idea of the place.