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Erotic Intelligence… Reflections on Sex and Spiritual Practice

April 12, 2014 | 2 Comments »

IMG_20130702_230751When I first arrived to the city of Los Angeles in 2007, after 7 years as a celibate Zen monk in a silent monastery, I did not foresee myself leading retreats and workshops about the dharma and sexuality. I suspect I was subtly under the spell of some of the same illusions that pervade our society, the notion that sexuality is somehow separate from other aspects of spiritual practice or human endeavor. This could not be further from the truth, yet it is my experience that many meditation and mindfulness circles do not address this topic fully.

The point of spiritual practice is to illuminate every corner and aspect of our lives with compassionate awareness… to acknowledge that there is no aspect of ourselves that is meant to be left out of the circle of wholeness and authenticity; yet in so many circles, and certainly Buddhist circles, there is a sex-spirit divide… a belief that sexuality is somehow so highly charged, dangerous, complex, and dramatic that it is possibly an impediment to real practice. As a result of this subtle message in so many of our spiritual traditions, sexuality and spirituality are often left separated.

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Compassionate Response in the Post-Fukushima World

November 26, 2013 | No Comments »

Reflections on Mindful Engagement for Thanksgiving

schedule_37_3864383660On March 11, 2011, the world was shaken when the Fukushima nuclear disaster hit Japan after a major earthquake. The possibility that unforeseen amounts of nuclear reactivity could be released into our oceans and atmosphere became a reality, and there was no turning back. Two and a half years later, we are left with vague information at best. We have heard devastating accounts of the amounts of radioactive material increasing globally and building up in our food chain and saddening details about the impact on marine life and our oceans…Yet it is hard to know what this actually means. Meanwhile, conventional media posts “business as usual.” The US has done nothing to address the issue of nuclear power, though numerous countries have closed down reactors and opted for nuclear phase-out.

When a disaster of this degree of severity occurs, we are initially jolted awake from our slumber and, for a split second, we drop into the reality of interdependence…open, receptive, and present to our shared vulnerability. We experience the fragility, uncertainty, and sense of powerlessness that comes with being a human being on a planet of delicate balance. We feel the pain, love, and truth of that reality deep in our bones. For a brief moment, we collectively acknowledge the preciousness of life on earth, the fragility of our global infrastructure, and the harm caused through unconsciousness.

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The Myth of “Not Enough Time” & The Art of Presence

March 7, 2013 | 1 Comment »

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Not enough time to meditate…. Never-ending “to do” lists….Multi-tasking….Eating on the go.Rushing to get to yoga class….Our culture glorifies the collective stories of “not enough time” and “too much to do.” One day, far into the future, we will look back and reflect on our early 21st century ancestors with their impressive schedules and text messages, and we will say, “Grateful that humanity made it through that grand delusion. Thank God that we let go of that collective story and chose instead to embrace presence.”

The good news is that in order to free ourselves from “not enough time” we have to free ourselves from the story of “not enough.” “Not enough” is the world view of a passive consumer society. It is the conditioned filter that taints how we feel about ourselves, others, and our resources, blinding us from seeing our lives clearly and perpetuating dissatisfaction and a hunger for more, better, and different.

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Creating Sacred Altars for Grief

December 28, 2012 | No Comments »

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This is a blog about grief, the end of the year, and authenticity.

This season I’ve been present to many layers of experience: joy, relaxation, doubt, playfulness, stillness, creative churning, time pressure, peace, and a great deal of grief. We grieve the people we miss who are no longer with us each holiday season. We grieve the passing of time and the reflection of dreams not yet met. We grieve the recognition of how quickly life moves. We grieve lost children, we grieve lost parents, we grieve losing beloved animals who have touched our lives, we grieve break ups, we grieve feeling helpless to help someone we love, we grieve violence in the world, we grieve self-limiting patterns we have not yet let go, and we grieve the impact of greed on our planet and its people.

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Resilience in the Rain

November 7, 2012 | No Comments »

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The part of me that has strong weather preferences is surprised to acknowledge how much joy and elation the chilling winter weather is giving me. It reached 46 degrees today in Portland and was 39 degrees when I awoke… a shock for this Southern California transplant. While a conditioned voice had recently stated her concerns loudly, “I am not going to survive the long dreary winter!” (It is known to rain until July 1st in Portland), my authentic experience is qualitatively different. It seems that I have received a blast of energy that comes only from saying YES to what is.

Spiritual practice invites us to turn to our actual in-the-moment experience again and again, despite what we are being told in our heads, and requires us to ask, “IS THAT SO? When something outside our comfort zone comes our way, a limiting voice we are all familiar with says, “I don’t like this, I hate this, I can’t.” With practice, however, we learn to inquire as sincerely as we can into present moment reality and to say YES to the experience we are actually having, instead of assessing it from the perspective of the conditioned mind. Resistance strengthens the illusion of separation and isolation, while acceptance and resilience unlock the door to unconditional well-being. Resilience begins with saying YES to life exactly as it is.

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THE POWER OF RETREAT: Cultivating Practice That is Both Gentle and Fierce at the Same Time

July 20, 2012 | No Comments »

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Contrary to popular belief, mindfulness is not a passive practice. The notion that compassion is soft and that meditation is inactive is a myth. Mindfulness requires a skillful balance between two vital energies: conscious engagement and relaxation (or letting go). It requires paying subtle attention to the moment in order to sense which energy is required at that time. In other words, meditation involves paying attention to our moment by moment experience in a relaxed, receptive, open, and attentive way. When we focus our attention on present moment experience, we are able to become aware of what pulls our attention away. We set aside our habitual doing and striving for a period of time in order to simply be in awareness… And as we notice the thoughts that pull us out of the moment, we actively choose to let go of the thoughts that habitually fill our minds and instead return our full and focused attention to the present moment.

Gently but fiercely, we let go of the conditioned reality the mind paints with its repetitive brush strokes, again and again, and return to our actual immediate experience. We acknowledge the power of our choice in every moment to either engage in the mind’s perceptions and stories about life OR to instead experience life in its actuality, free of the filter of the conditioned mind. We build our “letting go” muscles over time and thus develop resilience and equanimity.

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Receiving the Gift in Contradiction

May 19, 2012 | No Comments »

schedule_25_3553587030Years ago my dad did the astrological chart for our family. I have a Virgo sun and Scorpio moon… a propensity for service and a down-to-earth constitution on one hand and an appetite for fire, intensity, and the desire to get to what is underneath on the other hand. I contain both a calm quiet gentle introvert and an extrovert who can be boisterous in social settings. I love being with people and at other times I want nothing more than to climb up a tree in the forest where no one in the world can find me. The simplicity of fresh air and open sky has often compelled me to live in the countryside, and I also light up in the creative buzz and color (edginess) of city life.

Throughout my life I have learned to dance between the different poles inside of me, and this has helped me to honor the contradictions in the world at-large. I used to think the contradictions were a problem. My mind would create a standard for the “right way” I should be, the “right way” my life should look, and the “right way” life should happen… always held in contrast to a perceived “wrong way.” I would painfully, clumsily, and with great effort try to meet this standard, pushing the “wrong” parts of me aside in the process, and, as a result it seemed that I would continually fail.

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Fierce Wholeness: Cultivating The Spirit of Repetition in Awareness Practice

April 9, 2012 | No Comments »

schedule_16_3831430497The sun came out in Portland today, marking the season of new beginnings. I walked out into my garden and had my first meeting with the fertile, velvety soil outside my window waiting patiently to be planted. I felt the sun’s rays on my skin beckoning, “If you could have a raw, unedited conversation with your heart… and listen for the answer from beyond your familiar reality, “What seeds would you plant now? What would you create now in life that you have never before considered possible?“

In addition to envisioning thousand-headed heirloom kale, majestic chiogga beets, purple carrots, and sweet lemon thyme wild and vibrant in my garden, what inspired me the most as I meditated with this question, was not the powerful images of what I see myself creating in my life. It was the reminder that it is the PROCESS of conscious creation, not the content of what I create, that satisfies my deepest heart’s desire. It was the acknowledgement of the degree of creative freedom that awareness practice has given me, by helping me to cultivate an appreciation and passion for the spirit of repetition in practice. It was the acknowledgement of the fierce wholeness required to be accountable to continuing to show up – again and again -to serve the heart rather than the conditioned mind… and to create from possibility rather than limitation.

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I Love You Even Now

March 29, 2012 | No Comments »

schedule_7_3605602491When my sister and I were kids, we played a game: “Would you love me even if I looked like this?” and at the “this” we would break out into the weirdest wildest craziest facial expression possible. We’d do it over and over, each time surprising the other with how extreme we could get. While the point of contorting our faces was to bring us to the brink of peeing-in- our- pants hysterical with laughter, that game has always held a gem of truth to me, the kind of wisdom kids point to without trying.

Unconditional love is hardly at the forefront of our culture’s philosophy. Many of us have forgotten it is even something to reach for. Popular psychology today trains people to focus on the “good” and turn away from the “bad”… to affirm the best in us and rise above the “worst,” to stay ”positive” at all cost. This requires us to maintain a continuous relationship with the conditioned mind, forever labeling everything in our lives as good versus bad, acceptable versus non acceptable, holy versus unholy. What a lot of unnecessary mental work.

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Taking Passionate Responsibility

March 20, 2012 | No Comments »

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Two of my all-time life heroes are Ellen and Scott Nearing, radical back-to-the-landers who modeled their values through HOW they lived their lives. At a time when the masses were living the prescribed life, the safe life, the unconscious life, the Nearings modeled a revolution through conscious choice in the ordinary details of daily life – from their food and shelter to how they defined work and related to time. Their mission was to align every aspect of their lifestyle with sustainability and self-reliance at a time when society was heading in the opposite direction. It was hard work but they received the daily reward of freedom that only comes from being willing to roll up one’s sleeves and meet life with an appetite for truth that goes beyond the ordinary passive consumer prescription. Sound familiar?

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