Tag Archive for James Low

Sparks – a bonfire of the vanities, revealing….

Just an attention grabbing line, i hope…

in case you haven’t noticed this latest, very beautiful, publication… ‘Sparks’ by James Low.

Although one can dramatically ‘burn the vanities’… until the underlying sense of need for covering is gone, sooner or later, replacements will be sought.

By inspiring, allowing them right in, the marks on these pages can become heart-sparks… and then through repeatedly breathing onto them with tender attention, slowly or quickly, they will surely glow and then set fire to the soggy accumulated dead wood, so that the brilliance of the source of inherent warmth and wisdom can blaze forth unobstructed.

Mostly ‘though the fire aye burns,
we do not realise, because…
our smoke gets in our eyes!  

I felt moved to write the review below for Amazon:

‘If I had to choose one book to take to a desert island,
one dharma book,
one book for all time,
one book to open the heart to…this is it.

With iridescent lucidity ….moving beyond words
using language which is precise, yet contemporary and very accessible,
with great warmth and encouragement, the wisdom shining through this great teacher of dzogchen illuminates the way from lostness and confusion to the ease of our being, both simply and directly.’

It’s also available through Abe books and, if in London, from Watkins book store.

 

 

Doggedly we grasp…and the consequence is?

We took this little dog, the one i mentioned in the previous post, down to the beach one day… his first trip to the seaside!

He was very very excited by this new environment…what with the waves and smells and sounds… so many new experiences….

And then a kind of game got going – stones were thrown… and, just like with a ball at home, the dog went chasing after them to retrieve them.

Of course he couldn’t…he would run after the stone very fast, tracking it through the air, but each stone landed among so many other stones.

You could see he didn’t know which one to pick up and bring back, he looked puzzled… but as the stone-throwers kept throwing there was always something new in the air for him to chase after.

I’m sure he very much enjoyed the running but I wasn’t so happy with the lack of completion… something maybe a bit unsatisfactory from the dog’s point of view…but it was ‘good fun, good excercise’ from another viewpoint.

The next morning I went to give the dog his breakfast… this dog enjoyed food and it would vanish in a flash… but on this day he looked very sad and didn’t eat anything.

Something was clearly wrong so I took him to the vet who also thought something was wrong… the dog wouldn’t let us open his mouth so that we could see inside to see if maybe he had picked up a piece of stick which had got stuck, or some other damage.

So that meant an examination under general anaesthetic  was called for.

When I collected the dog afterwards, in the evening, the vet said that it was very strange.  The dog felt pain, even under the anaesthetic, when he tried to open his jaws – and that was unusual – however he could find nothing wrong.

So the dog came home… and the next morning eat his breakfast as usual!

No further problems so ‘one of those mysteries’ I thought at the time.

Some of you meditators may be well ahead of me here… it was only years later when I started to directly feel the impact of fusing with thoughts, experiencing the effect in the  body, that I gained an insight into the likely cause of the problem.

My guess is that each time the dog ran with the intention of grasping that stone between its jaws and bringing it back to the people who were throwing. It wasn’t just that his legs were moving when he was running… a whole set of occurrences in his body happened at the same time priming him, getting those jaws ready to catch… over and over again.  The fact that he couldn’t actually catch the stones that were being thrown wasn’t being processed and I suspect that the clenching of muscles that would have gone on over many hours without a relaxation, rather a building of tension, eventually put the muscles into spasm.

Like us in the ordinary way, all kinds of movements are happening even before we are conscious of having ‘caught a thought’ (the work of the ‘sticky-hand’ egoic-thought)…and in fusing our attention into that we are taken for a ride.

So the jaws clamp on but nothing is actually caught and we don’t go anywhere…yet it’s exhausting…and can lead to spasms in the body.

All the anxiety, worry, lack of sleep… lead to more anxiety and all its bodily manifestations…no rest…

Whereas meditation – letting ‘things’ (thoughts, stones etc) be; relaxing out of grasping at these ungraspable showings – leads to…

well, take a look if you like (James Low – The sun of ungraspable awareness)  – the ‘no-method’ and result…

the enjoyment…poised, relaxed and at ease… attunement arising from emptiness.
Screen Shot 2018-02-02 at 19.54.23

 

 

As do the movements of this ‘not-so-active’ dog

…. the dog that we create for ourselves by the application of our concepts to the colours in the shape on the left.
P.S. As you, and as the Buddha knew, the answer to question posed in the title is…. suffering!

‘Dissolving conflict in life and death’ – James Low

Teacakes – well… softness with a somewhat cloying sweetness – high-calorie comfort-food.

These teachings, recorded this July at Emerson College, now available to listen or download – may be the perfect food for these troubled times – highly nutritious, softening, and… strangely slimming too!

(maybe click on the title of the post if the pictures below aren’t displayed in the right order!)

From this                                                      to this

Porcupine4 prehensiletailedporcupine-002

 

 

 

 

 

 

with hidden….                                                         tomg22329780.700-1_800

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Latest: Tunnock’s tea cake blasted into space; Emerson recordings travelling through cyberspace…

tea2

‘One of Scotland’s favourite snacks’ according to the Scottish Sun newspaper has been sent 36,000m into space…’and the nation waits’.

I used to enjoy these when I was younger – biscuit base, marshmallow topping, covered in chocolate – but i wouldn’t expect too much from a high-altitude tea-cake!

David Cameron tweeted that he ‘liked the shine on the foil…’

Viewers of this site will probably have more realistic expectations of satisfaction from the recordings of ‘Dissolving Conflict in Life and Death’, this year’s talk at Emerson College, which are currently travelling through cyberspace – ready for Chris to publish when he has a moment – carried on the tail of a hurricane-wind dragon!

Some other work (coming later) has gone on around these recordings so it’s taken longer than usual and i haven’t had time to post… and now need to catch up with other stuff! but i will let you know when this great feast is available on the simplybeing.co.uk website…

 

 

 

Audio glitch, videos and… live speech!

public-speakingJust to let you know that the audio website is undergoing some remedial work which will take a few days…. Christian is onto it!

His update on 30th June….’the Macclesfield Talks are working again. Also most of the elder records.
The links from Oct. 2015 to Feb. 2017 are still out of order, but we’re working on it.’

In the meantime there are no issues with the videos….

…and at 9.30 until 11am on the morning of Wednesday, 12 July I’m giving a little talk at the Buddhafield Festival. It needed to be early this time as I’d like to be over at  Emerson college by  evening for James’ teaching.

The title of the festival this year is ‘Embracing Simplicity’ so i’m giving a talk called  ‘The dance of becoming – simplicity and complexity’.

I have given a talk at this festival for many years (under the workshop umbrella rather than in the dharma parlour ) as ‘a round peg being offered a square hole’. Could be viewed as esoteric – not in the middle – but maybe just that ~ and appealing to some.
So if you are going to be there it would be a pleasure to see you in the little tent, otherwise maybe in East Sussex…anyway hope you enjoy whatever the summertime offers you!

Killing the right one…

Close-up_of_a_blue_and_pink_Morning_Glory_flowerI can remember James saying, relating a conversation with someone very troubled,’ Oh sister (or brother)… you are wanting to kill the wrong one!’

This was his unspoken response to someone who was so angry that they wanted to kill someone – the someone they saw as the creator of their suffering.  Linked with this is the unexamined belief that the death of that person would make them happy healed whole again… that this death would be appropriate and perhaps the only way for them to move on through life.

I recently spent time with someone who now has quite wonderful circumstances compared with what they were when I first met him. However these improved circumstances have given space for the dominance in thinking about a wrong which was perpetrated in the past. This person strongly believes that they were cheated of what was rightfully theirs and now they are running this thought to the point where they’re using alcohol to get to sleep, to get some rest from thoughts. They are unable to enjoy the new circumstances and heading for further trouble… given a gun they would happily kill the perpetrator. It’s very sad.

A lady I met on the train told me she had been robbed both of her son’s life… she had assumed his would naturally extending past her own, and also by her sister on her mum’s death. These events had shocked her to the core as she saw it… and she was still shaking. She was heading off for some ‘retail therapy’ with a friend who understood her… and wouldn’t cheat her. I wonder…?

From my own experiences I know about the betrayal of expectations, the behaviour changes which can occur when money is at stake, and about projection.

Earlier in life I had experienced projection without understanding it, then later I knew it as a concept, but later still as an experience which I had to be with, until I could really be with it, unsurprised, undisturbed.  There is no curiosity with projection… no space for the other person to be different from prior, held in mind, assumed certainties.Touch a sore spot and you get a sight of the whole undigested works, everything that has been slid into the shadow, spews out and then slides back into the deeps!

One question is Who is it that you want to kill, are killing – any idea?… when this person is in front of you what do you see?
Do you see their face, their hopes and fears, their potential, their buddhanature….. or do you just see your beliefs stuck onto their image…with the thought this person is ruining my life?
The latter view leads to a sense of entitlement to treat them as objects – bad objects…. the scapegoat for all that’s not gone well in life….and as someone else  is putdown there’s a sense of going up, of power, becoming more important. Also as we tend to collect people around us who are thinking the same way (our ego likes that sense of confirmation) we find that the energy of the group can often take things further than one person on their own.

Hatred and the sense of injustice won’t be assuaged by killing… it won’t bring peace and ease and a release from tension… quite the contrary… but without looking to see the situation and consequences clearly there are no brakes on surrendering to highly cooked up, instinctive, reactive thought.

Little children can understand the effect of these thoughts…
In an assembly of primary school children if you ask them to think of someone they love, someone they care for, and let them sit with that for a minute or two… then ask how they feel in their body… they come up with words like soft warm comfy…
If you then ask them to think of someone who they want to thump, someone they are cross with, and then after a few minutes ask them how that feels in their body… you’re likely to get words like hot tight hard etc.
Mmm…hmmm…. So you see that these thoughts have an impact on you… the person suffering while you are thinking these angry thoughts is… Yourself, not them!

The angry thoughts may be perfectly appropriate and if they come and go quite quickly no harm is done but stewing over them, putting your life energy into them is really unhealthy…living in a stew!

In relative reality it is clear that all actions, arising from a belief in the true separate existence  of ‘I’, have consequences, both now and through time,

Deep dharma, answering the question Who am I?, reveals the non-entitative nature of self and other…it reveals the nature of the would be killer…(who me? a killer??? … well, jailor if you like!…) and that investigation kills, with wisdom, the  ‘I’ as something real and separate. This resolves the conflict…and frees the other from your own projections.
Form is not other than….

 

 

Image of morning glory flower :    wikipedia taken by  Koshy Koshy from Faridabad, Haryana, India

 

 

Untying karmic knots… dharma, love (1)

16261-62_nuts_for_knots_bow_tugger_copyFollowing on from the previous post…. Understanding both the meaning and purpose of ‘ being tender towards your ‘self’ was a bit of struggle for me.  Though our particular knots will surely be tied in different ways, perhaps sharing some thoughts on that struggle might be helpful.

in James’s commentary to the  treasure text of Nuden Dorje  in the book Being Right Here  he speaks of a kindly investigation into the self.

He talks of making friends with yourself, kissing yourself, and tickling yourself until you start to relax… and then he says… if you become very good at it, you can make love with yourself and you will become all dissolved and then you don’t cause yourself any more trouble!

Blimey!!! I thought when i read that… I have no doubt that he knows exactly what he’s talking about; it sounds good but I haven’t a clue how to set about doing that. That was a paragraph I couldn’t make much sense of for years…  It helped when I realised that the self he is referring to here is the wobbly ‘I am – ego-thought structure’ with which we are prone to identify…and it being taken care of by the hospitality of our true self. Gradually it came together around seeing how the karmic knots, from which the wobbly self-sense is formed, are created and how they can untie.

If someone is all knotted up and anxious…. how would you treat them? Would you tell them they are stupid? Would you order them to relax? Would you tell them that they are hopeless?
Say a child has badly hurt themselves but is so scared that they won’t let you look at the damage… how would you be with them? I think probably soothing, gentling  and tender and giving confidence that, whatever the situation, fundamentally it will be ok,  you can work through it for the best outcome. Firstly though you have to help them relax.

If you would naturally do this for someone else… would it be possible to consider applying the same kind of tenderness to your self? If not there’s something weird going on, isn’t there?

This weirdness might be to do with unconsidered false divisions and certainties – I am an individual and I deem myself worthy of this particular  treatment, so this is how I will treat myself – you are also an individual who I consider  worthy of that particular treatment, so that is how I will treat you. But in fact what is happening here is that I am imagining you, and  imagining me (by applying my biased views  to our unique revelations) and then I am bringing into the situation whatever I have learned, or just feel is suitable, from what I have picked up along the way. Within this view behaviour is dualistic, determined by concepts, and there is no understanding of dependent co-origination nor of the freshness which arises directly from openness.
But, in what is referred to as  the ‘false relative’ in the book Simply Being, this is our normal, worldly, way of proceeding.

Overt habitual kindness is not the most attuned or beneficial way of being, but leaving that aside, if we are practising harshness with ourselves most of the time, as we switch into a different role with others and try to be kind it’s hard to see how that could be a genuinely responsive move. Maybe sometimes, but it is hardly flowing and innate, is it?

There is a Taoist saying about governing a large country ( which is rather what our ego-self resembles, with all its multiple states) it says… ‘like with frying small fish… too much poking spoils the meat.’
All the critical checking of behaviours causes more problems, more anxiety, more sense of being separate and ‘less than’… but in Dzogchen we’re not trying to govern, the practice is to dissolve or resolve these aspects within the infinity of openness. Softness and tenderness to yourself, rather than poking and prodding, are key to this profound relaxation.

If you can be tender then you will be able to get closer to yourself, the defences will drop a bit, and you’ll be able to see what kind of nonsense you’re up to.  Being kind could be seeing  “Oh there  I go again – (repeating a karmically created pattern)… maybe not so useful, done this a few times before”… ” never mind; relax… open… begin again”… rather than the harsh attacking recriminations to which we often subject ourselves.  With the softness and closeness comes the possibility of settling and relaxing the ego so it can let go into its proper place…with the harshness there is further reification of division and separation.

Mistakes are not so serious. if you can see them for what they are. After goodness knows how long of behaving in a certain way patterns are highly likely to recur, even with awareness,  for some time – there is such a karmic/energetic charge behind them. They will release, given space humour and tolerance, but not if we crowd in and judge.

Not putting yourself on the hook, but not taking yourself off it either… is one way James speaks of this in one of the Macclesfield talks. It is perfectly possible to discriminate and see what’s helpful without being judgemental.
So we ourselves are the laboratory for this very interesting investigation – the opposite of a Frankenstein creation. And if we can show this tolerance for ourselves on an ongoing basis, than it’s  possible to bring that forward as a way of relating to goings-on of the world.

P.S.There is now a Japanese robotic Sense-roid which is a torso and jacket which lets you hug yourself by returning the pressure and strokes which you give to it. I haven’t watched the video which is billed as disturbing…
The dharma teachings, if applied, do more than the business… but i think many robotics engineers would have trouble knowing what to make of them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Macclesfield videos/audios

From 2003 James has taught in Macclesfield  either once or twice a year. Originally when he came up he taught in a little room above pizza express, in a park building and in a hospital out-building.  After that the group of practitioners in Macclesfield had the use of a building which became a buddhist centre…

For about a decade Chris Coppock, who was a major contributor to this, made audio recordings of the talks which James gave and also made (latterly with Charles Lomas) some video-recordings.

These video–recordings are being archived and Barbara is adding them to the Vimeo collection on the simplybeing.co.uk website.

Latest set of videos now available – Refuge is liberation / Garab Dorje’s Three Points as the essence of refuge. From fusion to dualistic intention to  non-dual liberation…    ( Nov 2008)

Due to causes and conditions that buddhist centre eventually folded but happily James has continued to come north and teach in different venues, annually, since then.

I know some people are following through with the audios of the Macclesfield talks and thought it might be helpful to put the links to the available videos and audios which are available to listen or download from the simplybeing website…all grouped together on one page.

So far we have:

1. View of dzogchen  Nov 2003      audio talk                (audio only )

2. Dzogchen practice-Focussing and Distraction July 2004 audio  (audio only )

 

3. Living with anxiety and doubt February 2005   audio        (audio only )

 

4. Wisdom and compassion   May 2006   audio              (audio only )

 

5. Lojong – Mind training  Dec 2006    audio                videos (x3)

 

6. The transmission of  flow and the flow of transmission  June 2007   audio      videos(x3)

 

7. Clearing the clutter November 2007     audio       videos  (x3)

 

8. Integrating the dzogchen view with basic buddhist practice March 2008    audio     videos (x3)

 

9. Refuge is liberation- Garab Dorje’s Three Points as the
essence of refuge-From fusion to dualistic intention to
non-dual liberation     Nov 2008           audio       videos  (x3)

 

10. Love,compassion,joy and equanimity- the four immeasurables June 2009 audio 

 

11. Four foundations of mindfulness-a dzogchen perspective Jan 2010     audio

 

12. Working with change and impermanence   Nov 2010      audio

 

13.  The illusory nature of experience  March 2012    “The Heart Sutra”      audio      videos(x3) 

 

14. Integrating openness and presence   Feb 2013   audio    (audio only)

 

15. Balancing relation and effort in buddhism Feb 2014 audio  (audio only )

 

16. Staying open to life as it is      Feb  2015        audio            (audio only )

 

17. Buddhism and creativity         Feb 2016       audio                    (audio only )

 

18. Dissolving attachment in the openness of being  Feb 2017                audio    video

 

19. Working with life and death March 2018
audio

 

We’re working on the videos for talks 10, 11 and 12 and I’ll add the links as they become available…

Update on Emerson college recordings / “Courageous Compassion”

IWP_20160713_21_02_00_Pro said it would only take a week or so of free time to get the recordings ready… and this is true, but sometimes there’s more to it than that….

Emerson recordings update  22nd Aug…nearly complete. There have been lots of difficulties in getting hold of the final part of the good recording which Gaynor made…i’ve tried improving mine but the result’s not great… so thankfully a friend who is a sound engineer is going to have a bash today…so…. ready shortly!

The first week back different people i had not seen for years got in touch or visited. Last week I was  away at the Buddhafield festival, which had the theme “Courageous Compassion” and gave a talk in a little tent on the need for wisdom – the wisdom of emptiness or openness – as the basis for the arising of sustainable compassion.

If you are interested here’s the gist of what the talk was based around.

Dualistic, false–relative, compassion… where I am going to act compassionately towards you –  where I, you, and the action are all three seen as entitative –   is a big step up from ‘I just care about me and mine’ but it maintains the sense of separation, of solidity, even superiority …  and, because of its effortful nature, transient effect, and the desire (and often frustrated desire!) involved it can be exhausting.  Jumping in to help a drowning man is great if you can swim and are strong enough to get him safely out without getting yourself into the same predicament…knowing the variable nature of your capacity and working within that is essential at this point.

So different dharma teachings  gesture to the way through this via another approach to suffering.

If we take the bodhisattva vow, as in Mahayana Buddhism, then the intention is to ‘develop’ the mind of the buddha.  Understanding that the compassion that goes with this intention involves a wish to attain enlightenment in order to benefit all ‘others’… to bring them happiness and freedom from suffering in the short term and enlightenment in the longer term…whilst accepting that this longer term may indeed be very, very long!

It seems likely that  in the sustained and concentrated effort of altruistically attempting to attain the perfections of generosity, morality, vigour, patience, concentration and wisdom of a bodhisattva, somehow the custard–like skin of self-referential thoughts holding us in a particular shape thins to the point where there is an understanding of non-duality in the relative sense and perhaps the realisation of prajna as revealed in the Heart Sutra shines through. At this point compassion is fearless rather than courageous.

The view of Tantra  is that of (an initially intentional) transformation of all that is manifesting by viewing it through the lens of the pure relative. Compassion then, as the liberation of all sentient beings, is that of not taking them prisoner, and relating to them as entities in the first place!

The encouragement is to practice until we have integrated the view.  I think it was Gampopa who said to his students who wanted to bring their retreat to a premature conclusion in order to go and  be helpful… ” Do you think there will be nobody left in need of your help down in the valley if you wait until completion of your practice?”

After the initial introduction, the practice of dzogchen is that of absolute compassion arising spontaneously… not being impulsively or thoughtfully contrived but arising naturally from the ground nature, freshly in each moment. So rather than using different strengths of detergent to eventually clean the window, or looking through a different window, its a matter of … throwing the window wide open!

If we overheat or get stuck in the practice of relative compassion we may not get to ask…What  is the nature of this self, this other, these thoughts, this mind?… it is the answer to this that the buddha was seeking… and found and, in deep dharma, taught.

 

Of the different levels of compassion arising from the different views – false relative, pure relative and absolute… these are explained by Patrul Rinpoche in Chapter 7 in the book Simply Being by James Low.

Chapter 3 on the development of bodhicitta is also recommended.

 

 

Heaven or hell ? – it’s all in the mind as it moves with our thoughts

Version 2Some years ago I was doing a strict Goenka vipassana retreat in a monastery in Thailand… the sitting for ten hours a day was hard for someone used to sitting for short periods.
Each day I looked around me  and everyone else seemed to be coping just fine – ‘a bunch of crack meditation ninjas’ – and I thought it was just me, so unused to this kind of practice, who was really struggling with discomfort.
There was no communication allowed during the retreat between the participants  so we could not compare our experiences or encourage each other verbally…yet somehow or other a little nun from Korea and I mostly got up to leave the meditation hall at the same time  every evening…

Two days of the retreat had been billed as being particularly difficult – the first turned out to be easy for me and the second was very very difficult, the pain in my legs was becoming intolerable. At one point, fearing becoming crippled due to the impact on an earlier injury,  I was granted permission to use a chair but that seemed to make matters worse as the blood pooled in my legs, so I went back to the floor and gritted my teeth. I have a reasonable amount of willpower and used that to get through  that day… but that wasn’t the end…. there was the next day and more! The next morning, for the very first time, I skived off to the toilet in the early hours of the meditation and after that it was downhill all the way and it became so hard to stick with it…

Then I remembered a teacher saying ‘well – if you can’t do it, you just can’t do it’.
This may not seem very profound but being able to accept that I might not be able to do it brought about enough relaxation for me to hang in there while my legs shook and shook until they settled and I found that I was still practising after the teacher had left.  On this occasion he had walked out quietly without giving notice of his departure… usually there was a bit of a countdown… and I had been counting the seconds believe me!

So it got easier… in fact it got to be pleasurable – extraordinary! – and that was when a big ‘downfall’ occurred. We had been warned not to indulge in any pleasurable experiences if they arose…the  thought of this happening seemed so remote that the instruction barely registered. But then I remembered ( having indulged!) and the world changed – this is the interesting bit.

Prior to indulging in these feelings I had been in a kind of  heaven… albeit a somewhat painful one. The  setting was beautiful with a river nearby. There were flowers and sunshine and a golden dome and starlight and birds and food which was – edible, and  I was doing something I felt to be meaningful.

Then suddenly, with this enormous sense of shame at having not followed the instructions, everything changed. I could no longer look at people, I could barely eat, all the colour had drained out of the environment, it had become  monochrome, grey…there was nothing to wonder at… just my dismal thoughts that there was no point in my continuing, that I wasn’t worthy enough to be there or to do the pilgrimage which was to follow.

Then I thought my way through the inevitable conversation when I returned – ‘so why didn’t you do what you to set out to do?’ ‘Well you see I was in a monastery and I hadn’t done what I’d been told to do so obviously i am not good enough to be following in the Buddhas footsteps… so I came home.’
I imagined the somewhat  disappointed acceptance of my returning thousands of miles to say that…. and thankfully, I started to sound foolish to myself and to realise that this was all part of the ‘growing up’ process… and the world started to lighten up again for me.
In truth I started to lighten up the world, just as before my thoughts had darkened the world. The food, the monastery, nothing much changed while I went on this mental journey and so the truth of – “Everything has mind in the lead, has mind in the forefront, is made by mind” (Thomas Cleary’s translation of the first few lines of the Dhammapada)  became very vivid for me.

I had been swept away by thoughts with which my egoic sense of self (another thought) had fused. Believing in the truth of them any awareness, or sense of presence had been completely lost. Then, lacking spaciousness, i had collapsed into being a ‘no good’ object for my judgmental ego-self. Luckily that little hell didn’t last for too long; thanks to impermanence and karma some more useful thoughts arose which i could use as a rope ladder to climb out…not the method of choice but all i was capable of at the time.
Any dzogchen practitioners reading this will know that any kind of  thoughts can arise and pass in  awareness as an aspect of the arising field …but fusing with them and taking them to be definitional is as wise as jumping out of a high window in the belief that you can fly…
…ah well, it takes practice and growing confidence which was part of the reason for the pilgrimage!

As for not doing things exactly as instructed… well under my particular circumstances  that was quite understandable. Really, as always, it was just a matter of learning from  that slip, letting go of it, and carrying on…and when i did just that i was finally practising properly –not  hooking into any sensation.

Making the mistake meant that I also had a glimpse of the truth that forcing myself in order to succeed might get me to a ‘goal’ but not much past it… it was the relaxation coming from looking ‘failure’ in the face which allowed me to continue.
Dzogchen in particular is not a practice of  anxious striving but of a profound relaxation from which manifestation arises precisely in relation to the emergent field …and as James has said more than once “it’s a marathon, not a sprint”

At the end of the retreat also it became clear that my assumption that I was the only one suffering was completely unfounded – we all were; some of the exuberance and joy expressed  was related to the retreat experience… but quite a lot to do with the ending of it and the release from silence and tension!

The little nun and I hugged each other…

… and then we were told off for breaking ‘Sila’…’good grief’ i thought ‘what have i done now?!’

That hug was in fact ‘right action’ – entirely appropriate – but back then I felt terrible and got someone to translate my abject apologies…

…. however the nun was vey happy about the hug… and we did something lovely with any merit gained in our practice then

…and i hope she is very happy now and that her practice is going well.

 

The linguistic penny drops!

If you have listened to any talk James has given you will have noticed that he has a very particular way of speaking.
When I first started to edit transcribed recordings I spent some time cutting and pasting and fiddling with the words so that they sounded more normal to my ears. Then I realised that  it no longer sounded like James speaking and that, more importantly,  there is an unusually extreme precision in his use of language…which is not something to fiddle with.

In learning from him, when something is not clear, sometimes I interrupt the flow and ask a direct question but more often it’s either that clarification comes during the course of later conversation or I wait for the penny to eventually drop. When I have a little more clarity myself there may be a lightbulb moment –  mixing my metaphors wildly here.  I think its a sign of good teaching to encourage the stretch to a higher shelf rather than just handing things down. So here’s what was on the shelf…

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In English language lessons we are taught the singular and the plural of many nouns and so i had  a little puzzle because, no matter what the circumstance, although the singular seemed to be called for James always uses the plural – phenomena.

So, some time ago, although fairly sure what his answer would be, I  asked him a question. In the past he has said that one could refer to Noam Chomsky as a bodhisattva of language. and looking at what he, Chomsky, has written about language is a revelation…just a quick look was enough to my eyes water! There is clearly a lot more to communication than the surface construction. So it was unlikely that he doesn’t know the singular…

so i asked… ” you do know that  that the singular of phenomena is phenomenon?” He just smiled and said “yes” and we left there.

For a while the situation was that he continued to say the plural “phenomena” no matter what the context  and i continued to twitch slightly whenever i thought it should be “phenomenon” singular. Maybe its just an anomaly, best ignored … i thought.

Eventually my ‘school trained’ knowledge succumbed to dharma understanding and the penny dropped…there is no such thing as ‘a phenomenon’. The word is suggestive of something discrete and discontinuous – separated out from other phenomena… whereas the experience of phenomena is always plural… each being dependant upon other phenomena for their arising together…kerr-chink!

Using the scissors or ‘biscuit cutters’ to abstract phenomena from the arising field and then reifying them and ascribing value to them are steps in the instructions in the popular “Create your own Samsara” kit. The result is not real but suffering, arising from misapprehension, is woven into its apparent structure because, as there is neither reality to the building blocks nor cement in the mortar, it cannot bear any weight. Not that hopes and fears and expectations have any more weight than other thoughts but there seems to be quite an energetic charge to them…

Whether or not to use this kit is the choice which mediation offers.
To begin with the misapprehension, being habitual, is continuous…and it takes a lot of mediation and examination, slowing things down before we can see what we’re doing. Then, with practice, we can see through  ‘the rabbit/thought hole’ and choose not to go down it.
If we do its like putting our attention into a little vortex where the thought you’ve caught plays around with other thoughts taking our energy into a spin and  the actuality of the spacious, open, astonishing  revelation from which we are never apart is occluded…
but its always there… even when we’re forgetting…just a little release and we’re back home.

The scent of bluebells… or bullshit?

Something fresh for you..Bluebell_aka_Hyacinthoides_non-scripta

Recently I was talking with someone and we were imagining the notion of sitting inside  a lotus bud, in a pure–land, hearing the Dharma bells sweetly singing of ways to the truth as we surely grow into buddha-hood…(ok you have to use your imagination for this!)

…and then contrasting that with a common position in samsara where we have climbed inside a dustbin to keep safe and then pulled the lid down tight on top of us. The sights smells and sensations are… ummm…rather different.

Then tidying up some paperwork yesterday I came across a few lines of James’ –                                      “if you believe in conceptual elaboration, if you believe that the creativity of your own mind is telling the truth about the world, you will delude yourself and stay in the staleness of the repetition of your own mental confectionery!”– and the thought of the ego burping away as it chews on all the old beliefs and certainties makes life inside the dustbin seem even less attractive!

 

 

Emerson College 2014 recordings now available

The recordings of that weekend in July 2014 when the Heart Sutra was explained are now posted on the Simplybeing.co.uk website; you can play and listen or download.

If you were not at that weekend maybe you’ll make it next year. The venue is delightful, the food good, and the quality of the teachings speak for themselves.

You can either camp or stay indoors. There are likely to be movement /Qi Gong workshops, music and dance…all in the company of (in my experience) wonderfully warm and open-hearted people.

P.S. An excellent edited transcript of the Eifel  2008 retreat is also now available and ties in well with this, exploring the illusory nature of reality and emptiness from the hinayana, mahayana, tantra. mahamudra and dzogchen perspectives.