“We hold these truths to be self-evident …”

The United States has been at several forks in the road of ethics and choice over its less than three century existence, but all of them began with the creation of this nation.

In four weeks, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. I wonder how well-read he is regarding America’s history, its growth, and the ramifications of decisions made by other presidents, historical and contemporary.

I have gone back to the HBO series, John Adams, as well as some of Ken Burns’ documentaries to help me with my ground regarding America. Its roots are noble and based upon the self-evident truth that ” all men (re: people) are created equal” and entitled to pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness in ways that serve them but do not dis-serve others. I highly recommend rewatching John Adams, especially the first two episodes for reminders of the noble principles upon which this nation was founded. It is available on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

For Ken Burns documentaries, see: (on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and some on PBS)

  • The National Parks: America’s Best Idea
  • Louis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • The Dust Bowl
  • Thomas Jefferson
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The mother of all meditation states and samadhi

In the recent meditation retreats (Autumn 2016), two points were investigated and experienced with fullness:

  1. Shamatha is the foundation of all meditation practices. It also is the mother-source that produces all subsequent meditative capacities, states, and samdhis. Additionally, it is the seed or germ-potential of enlightenment.
  2. Vipasyana (vipassana) is the result of an established acuity with shamatha, i.e. tranquility or serenity. Vipasyana can then be experienced as distinct from shamatha, yet, is inseparable from it. Equally so, vipasyana requires shamatha (and all that it is) in order to be produced, brought forward, or revealed. In other words,
  • the stability within serenity gives rise to focused attention,
  • the tranquil mind-emotion complex allows the light of awareness and simplicity to be experienced,
  • the sustained experience of equipoise reveals the natural state of equanimity and harmony of the mind-stream.

Each of these statements explains that shamatha is first. Being established, vipasyana (with is pure perception, penetrating insight, clear view, and focused awareness) results.

meditate.001The importance of shamatha cannot be understated in regards to one’s meditation practice or one’s life. On the cushion or off, shamatha is the capacity of a human being to abide in a state of calm, serenity, or composure, tranquility, equipoise, or steadfastness such that distractions are non-effective to pull one away from stability and focus. On the meditation cushion, shamatha is the foundation for all that will grow from the state of shamatha, including true meditation and the range of samadhi.

Shamatha is the source of patience and peace. It is a state or condition of tranquility and harmony. Shamatha is also the first sustained experience that one can have of self-less-ness. If meditative equipoise and serenity are truly established, then the person-ness, the ego of self-identity, is dismissed or rendered background. Imagine, then, how effective shamatha can be off the meditation cushion and in one’s life?

Spiritual_Path_by_SpiritMountainVipasyana is a result of shamatha. It is the child born from this mother-womb. Like the child given birth, the child already existed within the womb. Similarly, pure perception or luminous perception, acute awareness, and penetrating clarity already are part of human awareness. Meditation makes that which is not consciously known or recognized to be so. Essentially, meditation is learning how to stabilize shamatha adequately such that the luminous nature of human nature and awareness stands revealed and can be harnessed and directed.

Shamatha also works with the subtle anatomy in a number of ways, many simultaneously. This little-known fact is one reason why shamatha can produce the variety of beautiful, blissful, or tranquil states that it can, including samadhi. This is also why shamatha is the perpetual force that underlies the spiritual path and brings enlightenment forward.

There is a direct correspondence in the quality and vibrancy of the subtle anatomy to how one lives the qualities of shamatha in meditation practice and in one’s daily life. This makes sense. A subtle system that is geared toward discontent, disquiet, complexity, stress, and self-importance is a subtle system that is turned in on itself and is held in a condition of dis-ease (the opposite of tranquility or harmony). However, a person who lives from patience, openness of heart and mind, and who lives from harmony with self and others is living from the vitality of the subtle system. While doing so, the subtle system is emanating its potential qualities and is content with its expression. In this condition, it is humming along in a state of simplicity. As a result, the subtle system and the meditator experience peace and ease rather than stress and dis-ease. Even if one has a physical condition that is being managed or that will produce death, one can bring forward peace of mind and ease of being to that. {The subtle anatomy or subtle system is comprised of the centers (chakras), petals or vortices within the centers, the channels or nadis, the subtle winds, and the essences (bindu) or drops. All the components interact and interconnect, thus as one component is functioning well, the others are nurtured to do the same.}

Path of ShamathaShamatha has a number of steps, each leading flawlessly to the next. Each step or technique brings forward one of the qualities that are part of an equilibrized state of meditation. This, then, makes these qualities available to the person through his or her day. The state of shamatha, which is still only the beginning or foundation for all meditative states and realizations, requires each and all of the steps. If one is skipped, dismissed as unimportant, moved on from prematurely, or is not known to the practitioner, then the ability to sustain tranquility or attention, composure, altitude, and embodied presence will not be possible. However, if each step is engaged and given appropriate time and effort by the practitioner, it will always bring forward the quality intended. At the same time, the steps are cultivating the subtle anatomy like a gardener cultivates a garden.

* This is part 1 of 2.

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Nobody knows where this is going

My nights are filled with the dreams of others, psychic and empathic currents of the human psyche. Immigrant mothers and children worried about their future, families wondering who will be forced to leave. Black and brown people restlessly toss and turn as the hoped-for revision of racism in America due to the nation’s first black president swirls down the drain. The “white-lash” of the 2016 election is blatant and frightening.

Children are confused: a bigoted bullying self-admired groper of women has been elected president. How does that square with parental teachings of not to bully, to be courteous to others, to respect one’s body and to speak out if someone “touches” inappropriately? And how can we tell our children that education matters when this new president decries global climate change and has said that he will negate America’s obligations to the world regarding the Paris climate change summit? Does science matter? Does one’s word matter? Does impact on others matter, and how about character, honesty, and composure? Children learn from examples. What example has been given them with this election?

While driving on Saturday, Ira Glass’s This American Life radio show played on NPR, and eight of the ten stories (or “acts) were like my dreams. I had been on a 6 day road trip, listening to NPR in multiple states and for hours each day. I wanted to gather information from a variety of thinkers, foreign journalists, and Americans that might be interviewed from both sides of the aisle. Yet, all of those hours of listening were summed up in one hour of This American Life.

The show was focused on people’s responses to Donald Trump elected as the new president. Two of the stories were with men, eight were primarily with women though a man might have been the interlocutor. As a woman, I was stunned at the distinctions of considerations that each had because they seemed gender-related. Story after story, the women (from a variety of professions) spoke of the effect on people, on the questions that his campaign statements raise for a variety of ethnic groups, and an overall concern for racism, sexism, and if wisdom and social responsibility still had a place in America. The men interviewed cared about the military being funded, police getting more power, and about themselves. As crass as that sounds, it was so.

One story was told by a Latino kindergarten teacher who had parent-teacher conferences pre-arranged for that day. Every mother who came cried, fearful for her family, her children, and her family’s future. Then, the teacher taught a day of class, with children afraid that they would not finish the school year with her and their friends because they would have to move (out of America).

Another story was by a black woman comedian who called her grandmother Wednesday morning in shock and to see how the elder was taking the news. Her grandmother said calmly, “You know where you live, right?” In other words, America is a racist nation and grandmother had seen some of the worst that racism could dish out. She was not surprised and told her adult granddaughter to behave cautiously.

A third story was of a Moslem woman in New York City who decided that it was unwise and unsafe to continue to wear her hijab. She bought hats to cover her head.

My heart imploded with what I was hearing. I am white, have never been accosted by a man, have had the freedom of how to take care of my body, and am a practicing Buddhist with Catholic roots. The sexism that I have experienced professionally through my life was obvious but also mitigated by the types of jobs that I held. Being white, I have never experienced the degradation of racism, and being a citizen by birth freedom to come and go through this nation as I please has been mine. Yet, for the last several days, I have been overwhelmed by the unknowns that my fellow human beings are living right now and am kept tossing and turning at night by their fears.

I meditate daily for the light of unity, of wisdom, and of decency and respect to guide America and the new leadership that is being put in place. Trump is choosing his cabinet; and who knows what will happen with the vacant Supreme Court justice and the current nominee. The world looks on. Nobody knows where this is going, how it will go, or what are the true intentions that have been set in motion by this election. It all smacks of Germany in the 1930’s. Let us all pray for light and guidance.

** These thoughts are mine and do not reflect on any group or organization of which I am a part.

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Authenticity

Meditation directs one to integrity, to the authenticity of who and what one is, and that -deep inside- is a being of heart-mind. Protests have been happening in several US cities by people who are fearful about the policies that the president-elect might institute as well as what he might tear down. By the same token, there are those who are pleased with the outcome of the election and excited for the changes that will come. Regardless of your political preference or your state of concern or excitement, if you have a meditation practice, it will keep you genuine and harmless.

Meditation is a supreme tool and practice for personal authenticity, clarity, and a reality check. Therefore, if one wants to protest, be empowered by your meditation practice. Let it bring clarity to your intentions, let it keep you real through your actions, and may your heart-mind be your compass and source of authenticity. And if you are a champion for Trump-style change, then please rely upon your meditation practice for the same clarity, reality check, and authenticity.

Meditation helps us engage truth as well as stabilize each meditator in truth of being.

authentic

authenticity

Downloadable: authenticity

During this week of political surprises and change, The Practice has been on the step of Heart-Mind.

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Final meditation of light for the US and the outcome of the election

We complete this cycle of meditations holding the president-elect in the light of wisdom and compassion, while holding those who are in fear (due to promised policies he made on the campaign trail) in compassion and understanding. We also hold the world in the unknowns and newness of this new chapter for the US and its relationships with the world.

Please add your light and meditation too.

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