Goals Are Not Intentions

November 21, 2009

In choosing to live with right intention…you are connecting to your own sense of kindness and innate dignity. Standing on this ground of intention, you are then able to participate as you choose in life’s contests, until you outgrow them. ~Phillip Moffitt

Today, this Yoga Journal article, “The Heart’s Intention”, was exactly what I needed. Moffitt draws the distinction between goals, which are oriented toward a future outcome, and intention, which is “a path or practice that is focused on how you are ‘being’ in the present moment.”

Moffitt says “You set your intentions based on understanding what matters most to you and make a commitment to align your worldly actions with your inner values.” Intention, unlike goals, results in integrity, unity, self-respect and peace of mind.

We clearly need goals to help us be effective and move forward in our endeavors. But Moffitt reminds us that goals are inadequate for measuring our success in life. Staying attuned to our heart’s intention (not that of the rational mind) is what Moffitt calls coming home to ourselves.

Of course, we can never do this perfectly. But Moffitt assures us that “each time you start over by reconnecting to your intention, you are taking one more step toward finding your own authenticity and freedom.”

And so the theme is practice, not perfection, again.


This is My Real Life

August 15, 2009

Being Zen
Although I can try to push away my experience, the fact remains that whatever is happening right now is my genuine life. Like it or not, want it or not, this life is what is. To embrace it rather than push it away is the key to freedom. ~Ezra Bayda, from Being Zen

What a treasure this book is! Bayda helps us understand how practice can help us become free of the constriction of fear, awaken compassion, and “learn to be at home, even in the midst of the muddy water of our lives.” His prose is so clear and practical that I would not presume to paraphrase.

“The key to practice,” he says, “is not to try to change our life but to change our relationships to our expectations–to learn to see whatever is happening as our path. Our difficulties are not obstacles to the path, they are the path itself.”

“What we need is a gradual yet fundamental change in our orientation to life–toward a willingness to see, to learn, to just be with whatever we meet…To simply be with our experience–even with the heaviness and darkness that surround our suffering–engenders a sense of lightness and heart.” Learning to approach pain and suffering with “…a certain lightness of heart…is what transforms and softens our will–as ego, as striving, as struggle–into willingness.” (I love this idea…see more on will here.)

Bayda offers a lovely meditation consisting of four-line rounds that repeat several times, moving from self to others to all beings. He distinguishes this from affirmations, which he says are “like mental injections we use to change or cover over our feelings.” (I couldn’t agree more–see Positivity). “This practice is the opposite: it is not about changing or covering over our feelings, it is about experiencing whatever is present.” It focuses on the physical awareness of the heartspace, and so is not simply a mental exercise.

As Bayda’s teacher, Charlotte Joko Beck, says in her introduction, “Even though all reading is preliminary, it is a crucial first step.” Now to practice!


Making Our World

March 28, 2009

If we want to make something spectacular out of our world, there is nothing whatsoever that can stop us. ~Maria Ranier

Make or find? In a previous post, I grappled with Eric Maisel’s concept of making (as opposed to finding) meaning in our lives. How does that jibe with Byron Katie’s concept of loving what is or Eckhart Tolle’s encouragement to live in the Now? If we are attempting to make our worlds, our lives, our meaning, are we pushing the rope?

Right effort is part of the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism. As with other things, perhaps it’s finding (or is it making?!) a balance between effort and surrender. Changing what we can and accepting the rest, as the first part of the serenity prayer teaches. This prayer goes on to refer to a deity, but I think surrender can also be to life and the natural world.

How do you reconcile right effort and surrender? To whom or what do you surrender (if you do)?


Interbeing

September 21, 2008

In one sheet of paper, we see everything else, the cloud, the forest, the logger. I am, therefore you are. You are, therefore I am. That is the meaning of the word ‘interbeing.’ We interare. ~Thich Nhat Hanh, from Being Peace

I have just read the book Radical Acceptance, by Tara Brach. Before I read this wonderful book, I had a post by this title. I’m sure it was Brach’s book that was referenced by the authors I quoted in that earlier post. All that to say that this idea of radical acceptance is one that echoes for me as something I need to embrace.

Letting go of the idea of control allows us to better see and be receptive to the gifts that come to us. Brach says, “When we put down ideas of what life should be like, we are free to wholeheartedly say yes to our life as it is.” When I cease to struggle with the life I have, I see the beauty of the hills across the valley, feel the cool air of fall streaming in the window, hear the quiet on this Sunday morning, and know the peace of feeling safe and loved. Only when I can understand the great grace that has fallen on me can I feel true compassion for others. And that understanding is not with the head, but with the heart.

May I understand from the heart that we are all interconnected, worthy of grace, and responsible for each other. May I live my life as though I am no more or less than any other in the universe, and as though every breath I take ripples through all.

Breathing in, I calm body and mind.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment
I know this is the only moment.

~Thich Nhat Hanh


The Tyranny of Expectations

September 17, 2008

The unexpected will certainly happen, while the anticipated may never come. ~Nisargadatta Maharaj

…you cannot control the result of your actions. As painful as it is to admit, oftentimes you cannot even know if the results are truly positive or negative just because initially they appear to be one or the other. ~Phillip Moffitt, “The Tyranny of Expectations”

The title of Moffitt’s piece from Yoga Journal says it all. We can create a lot of suffering for ourselves with our desire for a particular outcome. Focusing on right effort is the key. Moffitt says, “The Buddha continually warned us not to be attached to any specific outcome, yet he also stressed the importance of making an effort and sacrifices, of living a life of moral discipline…The difference is in what you control. You have the power to choose your level of effort, you can learn from experience how to improve it and how to be balanced in what is skillful and what is not. But you cannot control the result of your actions.”

Part of this art, I think, is accepting and loving what is (including our imperfections in doing so). As Tolle reminds us (see Denial and Surrender), that doesn’t mean accepting the status quo, the whole situation, but rather embracing the present moment as it is. I am reminded today to turn my attention to right effort, to let go of expectations of results, and to rest in the present moment without dwelling on past or future.  

See also Expectations


Finding Flow

July 19, 2008

The real challenge, however, is to reduce entropy in one’s surroundings without increasing it in one’s consciousness. The Buddhists have a good piece of advice as to how this can be done: “Act always as if the future of the Universe depended on what you did, while laughing at yourself for thinking that whatever you do makes any difference.” ~from Finding Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

I finished reading Finding Flow* last night. It was very different from what I expected, but interesting! The subtitle is “The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life,” and the book reads more like a science-meets-religion treatise than a self-help book. In the end, I found myself thinking optimistically of the “new earth” that Eckhart Tolle talks about.

In Finding Flow, the author encourages us to engage mindfully, to take ownership of our actions, rather than spending our leisure in passive entertainment. This, he says, will create flow as well as increase happiness. I have certainly found this to be true in my experience. It’s easier to work a crossword puzzle than to stare down a blank page and write a poem, less effort to watch TV than to call a friend, but I know which of these feeds me and leads to greater happiness.

And again the idea of loving what is pops up–what Nietzsche called amor fati–“the love of fate.”  Csikszentmihalyi warns us that people can also learn to love what is destructive, so we must choose our goals wisely. Science has helped us to understand what promotes and sustains growth, life, and order, and to understand the uniqueness of each of us. He says “each one of us is responsible for our particular point in space and time in which our body and mind forms a link within the total network of existence.” Being virtuous (that is, acting to preserve order, taking into account the common good, the emotional well-being of others) is not the easy path, but the satisfying one, and connects one to the flow of all that was, is, and ever shall be.

*Finding Flow was previously mentioned here.


Graces

June 15, 2008

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.  ~Vita Sackville-West

Life has been slipping by these past few days, with work-related travel, oppressive heat, visiting relatives who are not well, and general malaise. But I’m told there is at least one person who misses these blog entries when I don’t do them (besides me). So Janice, this one’s for us!

I’m behind in reading my Shambala Sun issues, so I took a half-finished copy with me on my recent trip to south Georgia. I was struck once again by how much I enjoy that magazine! I’m not sure I even consider myself a Buddhist, (although it’s probably the organized system for which I feel the most affinity), but there are always authors and articles within the Sun that inspire and teach me. So it is one thing I am grateful for today.

Another is the steadfast love of my husband waiting to greet me from my travels. There is language that enriches my life immeasurably. True friends who teach me something about the impact of my presence on earth and who want only the best for me. Yoga that helps me focus my attention on my body. Music, always music, that has the magical ability to lift my spirits and my spirit. Of course there are too many things to list here; these are just a few that grace my life.

What comes to mind when you consider life’s blessings? How does it change from day to day, month to month, year to year?


Experience

May 4, 2008

Zen is essentially about rebirth from the experience of Being. Zen teaches us…to “taste” divine Being in the here-and-now. But to have this experience and have it validly, we must first discard the old consciousness, which has hardened into habit and determines the way we think and act.  ~Karlfried Graf Dürckheim

Discarding the old consciousness…changing habits…not the easiest of tasks, but one that will keep us fresh, I think. I am drawn to poetry when it surprises me–with unlikely juxtapositions, unusual or melodic words, or unexpected rhythms. Perhaps such poetry plunges me into experience, the Being that Dürckheim talks about.

I was disappointed when I attended a poetry workshop with Amy Clampitt several years ago. She critiqued my submitted poem harshly, complaining (as best I could understand) that the world didn’t need another poem about a photograph, and that what I needed was experience.

Here is the poem. Tell me what you think.

After the Fishing Trip, 1953

Swayback with the weight of a child
unborn and of salt-water bass
hung by the gills on each middle finger,
my mother poses with painted fingernails
in front of an empty playpen on the grass.
Her eyes are deep, black,
and I wonder who caught those fish.
My father (I imagine)
snaps the picture and takes the fish
to slit their stomachs on the scaling table.
Perhaps he frees a lucky fiddler crab
that needs no help to find its way home.

 

 


Vitality, Beauty, Community

March 19, 2008

The three components of human happiness are vitality, beauty, and a sheltering sense of community. We always start by relying on ourselves and looking for these three things in power, order, and fellowship as the world understands them. Failing to find them there, we eventually seek them in the only way that makes sense–in Being, which transforms, fulfills and brings us to new life.  ~Karlfried Graf Dürckheim, Zen and Us

I am so happy to find the source of this idea! For years, I have had it written down as “vitality, beauty, and a sheltering sense of community, rather than power, order, and fellowship,” without attribution. As I was rereading Dürckheim last night, there it was!

I love this book. Originally published in West Germany in 1961, it discusses what Zen has to offer the rational West. Dürckheim emphasizes that Zen is Being, is experience, and experience only. He says, “This doctrine is not a philosophical theory of being, and has nothing to do with metaphysical inquiry, but expresses an inner experience–the experience of Being, which we ourselves are, in our true nature.” I thought of Bill’s wonderful haiku in response to a recent post: reading about Zen, grasping it intellectually, is not Zen.

Anyway, the notion of “vitality, beauty, and a sheltering sense of community” as components of happiness seems right to me, and also the idea that they are often sought, but not to be found in the usual power, order, and fellowship that society offers. What do you think?


Love

January 7, 2008

In love, we disappear. We stop the world, we stop being two selves, and become an activity, an open field of sensitivity…The experience of love is as close as most of us get, after childhood’s end, to feeling that we are not bound by our skin, that the circumference of self can be moved or penetrated or dissolved in union with another…The word “desire” comes from de-sidere, “away from your star.” It means elongation from the source and the concomitant, powerful magnetic pull to get back to the source.  ~Stephen Nachmanovitch, Free Play (pp. 168, 167, 165)

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength; while loving someone deeply gives you courage.  ~Lao Tzu

What an interesting Lao Tzu quote! I think of courage as coming before (being required for) loving, though I don’t doubt that loving strengthens our courage muscles. Those of us who know what it means to be deeply loved are (I believe) immensely fortunate and stronger from it.

What grace love is. It’s not about you, or me, or even us, but about something beyond, what Nachmanovitch calls an activity, what some call creativity or encounter.

I like the image of the magnetic pull to return to one’s star, but I suppose the Buddhists would say we have never been separate from it, that we have only thought ourselves separate.

What is love to you?


Watch the thought

November 28, 2007

The thought manifests as the word;
the word manifests as the deed;
the deed develops into habit;
and habit hardens into character.

So watch the thought and its way with care,
and let it spring from love
born out of concern for all beings.
~the Buddha

Again, we are talking about mindfulness I believe. To what thoughts are we giving energy? I used to have this poem on my bulletin board at work. What better management meditation? A reminder to focus on others’ well-being, to give attention to where an organization or relationship is going rather than where it’s been.

What are the habits that by definition I take for granted? Are they habits I want or habits I would rather not have? Increasingly, I am able to develop habits of kindness toward myself–love and concern for myself as well as others (“all beings” after all–not just you, but also me). And that frees my energy to be present for others.


Creativity and Will

November 11, 2007

Refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature.  ~Julia Cameron

Wow. Refusal to be creative. An act of self-will. Is this different from Nachmanovitch’s take that our task is to unblock the obstacles to creativity’s natural flow? I suppose self-will is one of those obstacles. It is empowering, though, to see it as an act of self-will and not unseen forces acting on us. And how does that fit with the egolessness of Buddhism? If I can truly accept the dissolution of the self, will creativity resume its natural flow? I think so.

What did the Buddhist monk say to the hot dog vendor? “Make me one with everything.” 🙂