Sunday, May 5, 2013


Many spiritual teachers I've read say that we create our own reality - we create the world we live in by the way we view and react to it.  The book of Proverbs says, "As a man thinketh, so is he.  Jesus cautioned that if a man lusts after a woman in his heart, he has committed adultery.  I think that's because if a person dwells on a thought, they will eventually actually perform the action, making it into a reality.  So, saying we create our own reality is true - to a certain extent. 

I was stumped for a long time over this, because certainly a person living in a war-torn region did not create the war by their thoughts.  Starving people do not create famines.  Unemployed people do not create a lack of jobs. Domestic abuse victims do not create their situations.  Sick people do not create their diseases. I think we do create the world, the society, we live in - but collectively.  The action of one person does not create their whole world, because there are many other forces at work. But is is true that collectively we have created the world, the society, that we live in.

I so long for a world that works for everyone, where everyone is treated with respect, kindness, and compassion.  We have created the structures, the institutions, the systems, and the situations we have, and only we can change them.  But what can one person do?  The words and actions of one person CAN begin to change ideas and taken-for-granted ways of doing things!  One person's ideas and fresh ways of looking at situations can put a crack in the foundation of long established structures!  And, for me, that's a very exciting and empowering thought!

Sunday, March 24, 2013


I recently discovered a wonderful new resource called Contemplative Journal.  From the site's description: "Wherever you may be on your spiritual journey, your ideas and beliefs are welcome here. This is a place where meaningful inquiry, sound scholarship, and non-conceptual experience blend seamlessly. Contemplative Journal boldly explores the wildest mysteries of the universe within the context of the daily lives of our readers.

Below is one of their first offerings, a heart-opening interview with Rabbi Rami Shapiro as he explores how the future of humanity lies at the intersection of compassion and contemplation.  From the interview: "Kindness cares for the other; in compassion, there is no other...When I'm being kind to you, it's like I'm one step up - you need some help, I'll be kind to you.  I'm in a position of power and the recipient has less power.  But in compassion, we meet at our brokenness...The Divine Reality is for everyone - all beings are our neighbors and we can love them all."

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Do Great Things: Understanding and Compassion Can Change the World

An inspirational presentation by Justin Rosenstein titled "Do Great Things: Understanding and Compassion" from the recent Wisdom 2.0 conference. The entire conference, featuring such speakers as Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jack Kornfield, Marianne Williamson, Dan Seigel, Joan Halifax, and Eckhart Tolle can be viewed free of charge here. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Dr. Gabor Maté wrote the bestsellers Scattered: HowAttention Deficit Disorder Originates In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: CloseEncounters with Addiction. The following article was adapted from an interview by Amy Goodman. Our society is suffering in a variety of ways - from widespread drug abuse to mass killings. Dr. Mate looks deeply to uncover the root of many of society's problems.

'Post-industrial' capitalism has destroyed the conditions for healthy childhood development. The hardcore drug addicts that I treat, are, without exception, people who have had extraordinarily difficult lives. The commonality is childhood abuse. These people all enter life under extremely adverse circumstances. Not only did they not get what they need for healthy development, they actually got negative circumstances of neglect. I don’t have a single female patient in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver who wasn’t sexually abused, for example, as were many of the men--or abused, neglected and abandoned serially, over and over again. That’s what sets up the brain biology of addiction. In other words, the addiction is related both psychologically, in terms of emotional pain relief, and neurobiological development to early adversity.

AG: What does the title of your book mean, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts?

GM: In the Buddhists’ psychology, there are a number of realms that human beings cycle through, all of us. One is the human realm, which is our ordinary selves. The hell realm is that of unbearable rage, fear, you know, these emotions that are difficult to handle. The animal realm is our instincts and our id and our passions.

Now, the hungry ghost realm, the creatures in it are depicted as people with large empty bellies, small mouths and scrawny thin necks. They can never get enough satisfaction. They can never fill their bellies. They’re always hungry, always empty, always seeking it from the outside. That speaks to a part of us that I have and everybody in our society has, where we want satisfaction from the outside, where we’re empty, where we want to be soothed by something in the short term, but we can never feel that or fulfill that insatiety from the outside. Addicts are in that realm all the time. Most of us are in that realm some of the time. My point really is, is that there’s no clear distinction between the identified addict and the rest of us. There’s a continuum in which we all may be found. They’re on it, because they’ve suffered a lot more than most of us.

AG: Can you talk about the biology of addiction?

GM: If you look at the brain circuits involved in addiction—and that’s true whether it’s a shopping addiction like mine or an addiction to opiates like the heroin addict—we’re looking for endorphins in our brains. Endorphins are the brain’s feel good, reward, pleasure and pain relief chemicals. They also happen to be the love chemicals that connect us to the universe and to one another.
Now, that circuitry in addicts doesn’t function very well, as the circuitry of incentive and motivation, which involves the chemical dopamine, also doesn’t function very well. Stimulant drugs like cocaine, crystal meth, nicotine and caffeine, all elevate dopamine levels in the brain, as do sexual acting out, extreme sports, workaholism and so on. The issue is, why do these circuits not work so well in some people, because the drugs in themselves are not surprisingly addictive. What I mean by that is that most people who try most drugs never become addicted to them. So, there has to be susceptibility there. The susceptible people are the ones with these impaired brain circuits, an impairment caused by early adversity, rather than by genetics.

AG: What do you mean, “early adversity”?

GM: Well, the human brain, unlike any other mammal, for the most part develops under the influence of the environment. And that’s because, from the evolutionary point of view, we developed these large heads, large fore-brains, and to walk on two legs we have a narrow pelvis. That means—large head, narrow pelvis—we have to be born prematurely. Otherwise, we would never get born. The head already is the biggest part of the body. Now, the horse can run on the first day of life. Human beings aren’t that developed for two years. That means much of our brain development, that in other animals occurs safely in the uterus, for us has to occur out there in the environment. And which circuits develop and which don’t depend very much on environmental input. When people are mistreated, stressed or abused, their brains don’t develop the way they ought to. It’s that simple. And unfortunately, my profession, the medical profession, puts all the emphasis on genetics rather than on the environment, which, of course, is a simple explanation. It also takes everybody off the hook.

AG: What do you mean, it takes people off the hook?

Sunday, November 4, 2012


It's been a long time since I posted anything, I guess I've been internally processing a lot of things that I've not been able to express. My offering for today is my vision of nonduality patched together from many different spiritual perspectives.   Incomplete as it may be, it helps me to keep my eyes on the big picture...and fills me with hope. So here goes: 

Everything on earth is transitory – it’s passing away.  It arises, and falls.  All the things we count on, even heaven and earth, shall pass away….  “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass.  The grass withered, and the flower thereof falleth away, But the word of the Lord endureth forever” ( 1 Pet 1:24-25).  

Everything earthly is for a season.  Why do we let these things that pass away have dominion over us?  They come, they go.  But we cling to them…

Everything old is new again.  Nothing is ever really lost…it comes around again to manifest in the natural in a different form.  Nothing is ever worthless, it all has meaning and purpose, but that meaning and purpose is for a season…we just sojourn here… (Ecc. 1:9-11, 3:15).  

If we are all “passing away” but nothing is ever really lost of our essence, death really is swallowed up in victory.  We are a form through which the Life Essence (God) shines, albeit imperfectly.  Each one is different so that the glory of Life is manifested in a different way, from a different perspective, and temporarily (for a season). But when that body passes away, nothing of the essence is lost, because “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecc. 12:7). Since nothing is lost, there is no sting and nothing to fear

But the carnal mind (or insert your term of preference here: ego, devil, beast, conditioning, amygdala) is a fear-monger!  And it torments us continually…never shuts up!  That’s why many “relax” by watching TV, playing games – the carnal mind is engaged with something else and is not torturing us with worry and fear.  The carnal mind is the enemy who has taken us captive and drags us to hell to torture us.  “For to be carnally minded is death: but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom 8:6).  At the last trump (Rev 11:15) when the beast in us has been defeated and the mind of the Christ reigns in us, we will have rest.  For those who still worship the beast, “The smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever (continually!) and they have no rest day or night” (Rev 14:9-11).  This happens in the very presence of the Lamb (v10), who is there all the time offering rest! 

It’s All Good…

There is an ancient story that tells of a student monk who began to laugh during group meditation and prayer.  The other students, horrified and embarrassed for the monk, hoped that he would stop laughing.  But his laughter grew louder and louder, until the other monks could not help but wonder what the teacher would do in the face of such irreverence.  But to the amazement of all the other monks, the teacher pronounced the laughing monk enlightened!  The monk laughed because he saw that everything is wonderful! Everything does work together for GOOD! It’s Divine play, in a way, but not as in a cruel game.  It’s a game in the sense that we shouldn’t take it so seriously, because nothing is ever really lost. There is really GOOD NEWS!  It’s only a game – there’s nothing to lose and nothing will ever be lost!  We take it all so seriously, and so cause all our own sorrow.  So we can begin to see that suffering and sorrow, although very real, are only for a season, and that everything is perfect and as it should be.  This is the peace that passes all understanding, when we see that there was never anything to fear.  

This is not to make light of the suffering in the world, just because we are in a large place and know that suffering is only for a season.  We need to work very hard to alleviate suffering, for suffering is very real.  

Right now, huge weather pattern changes are taking place, changes that could destroy millions and leave much of our planet frozen solid or an arid wasteland.  And I know it will be okay if even that happens…for nothing is ever lost.  It is all so very real and awe-inspiring; it is all also like a dream or a movie in which we are very involved.  Upon awakening, we will find ourselves in the heart of God.  Death happens, yes, but it has no sting.  There is nothing to fear.  We are on a great adventure, and we go back to where we came from.  What joy, freedom, peace, and rest is found in this knowledge:  nothing is ever lost and there is nothing to fear!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Suffering bothers bothers me a lot. Speaking about suffering and enlightment, in this video Ken Wilber said, "It hurts more; but it bothers you less...When we taste the infinite Absolute of consciousness, the world is seen just as it is—radiant, perfect, and whole. The relative, however, does not cease to be. Quite the contrary, the pains and pleasures of our relative lives are intensified to an unimaginable degree. We have to give ourselves PLENTY of room to feel BOTH: The ABSOLUTE PERFECTION in everything that arises.
..And yet see ONE person starving and you will start crying so hard it will kill you.
" The more we become aware, the more it does hurt; the more acutely the pain and suffering of all those around us is felt.  At the same time, every manifestation we see around us is sacred and part of the Divine and so nothing is ever lost.  Suffering is of the utmost horror, but not to be taken too seriously because in the end nothing can be harmed at all and even death has no real sting.

From that perspective, we CAN watch everything unfold almost like watching a movie, for even though pain and suffering are very real, they are not the ultimate reality...

Enlightenment is realizing that we are all ONE, all manifestations of the Divine, all sacred, all holy.,,and to treat all "others" as such.  How much suffering in the world would be alleviated if we all treated everything as a part of ourselves?  This is why Jesus said, "As you did it unto the least of these, you did it unto me." Because we are all part of God.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


As I read the following article from one of my favorite authors and teachers, Thich Nhat Hanh, I thought it especially appropriate for Memorial Day. As we mourn those who have fallen in war, may we determine to be part of bringing into reality a world where violence does not take the lives of those we love and of fellow human beings.  Quotable: "A civilization in which we must kill and exploit others in order to live is not a healthy civilization. [...] To bring about peace within the human family, we must work for harmonious co-existence."   Namaste, ya'll....

Nature and Nonviolence

--by Thich Nhat Hanh (May 22, 2012)                                                          

                                                                                                                           Listen To Reading!

You don’t discriminate between the seed and the plant. You see that they ‘inter-are’ with each other, that they are the same thing. Looking deeply at the young cornstalk, you can see the seed of corn, still alive, but with a new appearance. The plant is the continuation of the seed.

The practice of meditation helps us to see things other people can’t see. We look deeply and we see that father and son, father and daughter, mother and son, mother and daughter, corn seed and cornstalk, have a very close relationship. That is why we should awaken to the fact, to the truth, that we inter-are. The suffering of one is the suffering of the other. [...] When we see that we and all living beings are made of the same nature, how can there be division between us? How can there be lack of harmony? When we realize our ‘interbeing nature’, we’ll stop blaming and exploiting and killing, because we know that we inter-are. That is the great awakening we must have in order for the Earth to be saved.

We human beings have always singled ourselves out from the rest of the natural world. We classify other animals and living beings as ‘Nature’, a thing apart from us, and act as if we’re somehow separate from it. Then we ask, “How should we deal with Nature?” We should deal with Nature the same way we should deal with ourselves: nonviolently. Human beings and Nature are inseparable. Just as we should not harm ourselves, we should not harm Nature.

Causing harm to other human beings causes harm to ourselves. Accumulating wealth and owning excessive portions of the world’s natural resources deprives fellow humans of the chance to live. Participating in oppressive and unjust social systems creates and deepens the gap between rich and poor, and aggravates the situation of social injustice. While the rest of the human family suffers and starves, the enjoyment of false security and wealth is a delusion.

It’s clear that the fate of each individual is inextricably linked to the fate of the whole human race. We must let others live if we ourselves want to live. The only alternative to coexistence is co-nonexistence. A civilization in which we must kill and exploit others in order to live is not a healthy civilization. [...] To bring about peace within the human family, we must work for harmonious co-existence. If we continue to shut ourselves off from the rest of the world, imprisoning ourselves in narrow concerns and immediate problems, we’re not likely to make peace or to survive. The human race is part of Nature. We need to have this insight before we can have harmony between people.

--Thich Nhat Hanh in "Nature and Nonviolence"