buddhism

Somnambulist’s Blueprint

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Graphic - Peter Rothmeier Ravn
Graphic – Peter Rothmeier Ravn

I am not able to use my eye to hand ability as well as I would prefer so posting is brief. I am humbled again and again by the frailty of ability and the audacity of circumstance.  I am perplexed by purpose and significance. I find myself hopeful that desired change will somehow escalate and that the courage to withstand  the onset of that change that lies within.

here is a reprint from Pema Chodron who manages to speak to my situation with stealth and candor. I see I am in a very personal and very universal situation. The feelings are layered and entwined. Hope is the dream that drifts into sunrise.

 

“On a very basic level all beings think that they should be happy. When life becomes difficult or painful, we feel that something has gone wrong. This wouldn’t be a big problem except for the fact that when we feel something’s gone wrong, we’re willing to do anything to feel OK again. Even start a fight.

According to the Buddhist teachings, difficulty is inevitable in human life. For one thing, we cannot escape the reality of death. But there are also the realities of aging, of illness, of not getting what we want, and of getting what we don’t want. These kinds of difficulties are facts of life. Even if you were the Buddha himself, if you were a fully enlightened person, you would experience death, illness, aging, and sorrow at losing what you love. All of these things would happen to you. If you got burned or cut, it would hurt.

But the Buddhist teachings also say that this is not really what causes us misery in our lives. What causes misery is always trying to get away from the facts of life, always trying to avoid pain and seek happiness—this sense of ours that there could be lasting security and happiness available to us if we could only do the right thing.

Suffering can humble us. Even the most arrogant among us can be softened by the loss of someone dear.

In this very lifetime we can do ourselves and this planet a great favor and turn this very old way of thinking upside down. As Shantideva, author of Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, points out, suffering has a great deal to teach us. If we use the opportunity when it arises, suffering will motivate us to look for answers. Many people, including myself, came to the spiritual path because of deep unhappiness. Suffering can also teach us empathy for others who are in the same boat. Furthermore, suffering can humble us. Even the most arrogant among us can be softened by the loss of someone dear.

Yet it is so basic in us to feel that things should go well for us, and that if we start to feel depressed, lonely, or inadequate, there’s been some kind of mistake or we’ve lost it. In reality, when you feel depressed, lonely, betrayed, or any unwanted feelings, this is an important moment on the spiritual path. This is where real transformation can take place.

As long as we’re caught up in always looking for certainty and happiness, rather than honoring the taste and smell and quality of exactly what is happening, as long as we’re always running away from discomfort, we’re going to be caught in a cycle of unhappiness and disappointment, and we will feel weaker and weaker. This way of seeing helps us to develop inner strength.

And what’s especially encouraging is the view that inner strength is available to us at just the moment when we think we’ve hit the bottom, when things are at their worst. Instead of asking ourselves, “How can I find security and happiness?” we could ask ourselves, “Can I touch the center of my pain? Can I sit with suffering, both yours and mine, without trying to make it go away? Can I stay present to the ache of loss or disgrace—disappointment in all its many forms—and let it open me?” This is the trick.

There are various ways to view what happens when we feel threatened. In times of distress—of rage, of frustration, of failure—we can look at how we get hooked and how shenpa escalates. The usual translation of shenpa is “attachment,” but this doesn’t adequately express the full meaning. I think of shenpa as “getting hooked.” Another definition, used by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, is the “charge”—the charge behind our thoughts and words and actions, the charge behind “like” and “don’t like.”

It can also be helpful to shift our focus and look at how we put up barriers. In these moments we can observe how we withdraw and become self-absorbed. We become dry, sour, afraid; we crumble, or harden out of fear that more pain is coming. In some old familiar way, we automatically erect a protective shield and our self-centeredness intensifies.

We can become intimate with just how we hide out, doze off, freeze up. And that intimacy, coming to know these barriers so well, is what begins to dismantle them.

But this is the very same moment when we could do something different. Right on the spot, through practice, we can get very familiar with the barriers that we put up around our hearts and around our whole being. We can become intimate with just how we hide out, doze off, freeze up. And that intimacy, coming to know these barriers so well, is what begins to dismantle them. Amazingly, when we give them our full attention they start to fall apart.

Ultimately all the practices I have mentioned are simply ways we can go about dissolving these barriers. Whether it’s learning to be present through sitting meditation, acknowledging shenpa, or practicing patience, these are methods for dissolving the protective walls that we automatically put up.

When we’re putting up the barriers and the sense of “me” as separate from “you” gets stronger, right there in the midst of difficulty and pain, the whole thing could turn around simply by not erecting barriers; simply by staying open to the difficulty, to the feelings that you’re going through; simply by not talking to ourselves about what’s happening. That is a revolutionary step. Becoming intimate with pain is the key to changing at the core of our being—staying open to everything we experience, letting the sharpness of difficult times pierce us to the heart, letting these times open us, humble us, and make us wiser and more brave.

Let difficulty transform you. And it will. In my experience, we just need help in learning how not to run away.

If we’re ready to try staying present with our pain, one of the greatest supports we could ever find is to cultivate the warmth and simplicity of bodhichitta. The word bodhichitta has many translations, but probably the most common one is “awakened heart.” The word refers to a longing to wake up from ignorance and delusion in order to help others do the same. Putting our personal awakening in a larger—even planetary—framework makes a significant difference. It gives us a vaster perspective on why we would do this often difficult work.

There are two kinds of bodhichitta: relative and absolute. Relative bodhichitta includes compassion and maitri. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche translated maitri as “unconditional friendliness with oneself.” This unconditional friendliness means having an unbiased relationship with all the parts of your being. So, in the context of working with pain, this means making an intimate, compassionate heart-relationship with all those parts of ourselves we generally don’t want to touch.

Some people find the teachings I offer helpful because I encourage them to be kind to themselves, but this does not mean pampering our neurosis. The kindness that I learned from my teachers, and that I wish so much to convey to other people, is kindness toward all qualities of our being. The qualities that are the toughest to be kind to are the painful parts, where we feel ashamed, as if we don’t belong, as if we’ve just blown it, when things are falling apart for us. Maitri means sticking with ourselves when we don’t have anything, when we feel like a loser. And it becomes the basis for extending the same unconditional friendliness to others.

If there are whole parts of yourself that you are always running from, that you even feel justified in running from, then you’re going to run from anything that brings you into contact with your feelings of insecurity.

I’m here to tell you that the path to peace is right there, when you want to get away.

And have you noticed how often these parts of ourselves get touched? The closer you get to a situation or a person, the more these feelings arise. Often when you’re in a relationship it starts off great, but when it gets intimate and begins to bring out your neurosis, you just want to get out of there.

So I’m here to tell you that the path to peace is right there, when you want to get away. You can cruise through life not letting anything touch you, but if you really want to live fully, if you want to enter into life, enter into genuine relationships with other people, with animals, with the world situation, you’re definitely going to have the experience of feeling provoked, of getting hooked, of shenpa. You’re not just going to feel bliss. The message is that when those feelings emerge, this is not a failure. This is the chance to cultivate maitri, unconditional friendliness toward your perfect and imperfect self.

Relative bodhichitta also includes awakening compassion. One of the meanings of compassion is “suffering with,” being willing to suffer with other people. This means that to the degree you can work with the wholeness of your being—your prejudices, your feelings of failure, your self-pity, your depression, your rage, your addictions—the more you will connect with other people out of that wholeness. And it will be a relationship between equals. You’ll be able to feel the pain of other people as your own pain. And you’ll be able to feel your own pain and know that it’s shared by millions.

Absolute bodhichitta, also known as shunyata, is the open dimension of our being, the completely wide-open heart and mind. Without labels of “you” and “me,” “enemy” and “friend,” absolute bodhichitta is always here. Cultivating absolute bodhichitta means having a relationship with the world that is nonconceptual, that is unprejudiced, having a direct, unedited relationship with reality.

That’s the value of sitting meditation practice. You train in coming back to the unadorned present moment again and again. Whatever thoughts arise in your mind, you regard them with equanimity and you learn to let them dissolve. There is no rejection of the thoughts and emotions that come up; rather, we begin to realize that thoughts and emotions are not as solid as we always take them to be.

It takes bravery to train in unconditional friendliness, it takes bravery to train in “suffering with,” it takes bravery to stay with pain when it arises and not run or erect barriers. It takes bravery to not bite the hook and get swept away. But as we do, the absolute bodhichitta realization, the experience of how open and unfettered our minds really are, begins to dawn on us. As a result of becoming more comfortable with the ups and the downs of our ordinary human life, this realization grows stronger.

We may still get betrayed, may still be hated. We may still feel confused and sad. What we won’t do is bite the hook.

We start with taking a close look at our predictable tendency to get hooked, to separate ourselves, to withdraw into ourselves and put up walls. As we become intimate with these tendencies, they gradually become more transparent, and we see that there’s actually space, there is unlimited, accommodating space. This does not mean that then you live in lasting happiness and comfort. That spaciousness includes pain.

We may still get betrayed, may still be hated. We may still feel confused and sad. What we won’t do is bite the hook. Pleasant happens. Unpleasant happens. Neutral happens. What we gradually learn is to not move away from being fully present. We need to train at this very basic level because of the widespread suffering in the world. If we aren’t training inch by inch, one moment at a time, in overcoming our fear of pain, then we’ll be very limited in how much we can help. We’ll be limited in helping ourselves, and limited in helping anybody else. So let’s start with ourselves, just as we are, here and now.”

Excerpted from “Practicing Peace in Times of War,” by Pema Chödrön. © 2006 Pema Chödrön. Reprinted with permission of Shambhala Publications.

 

Calling All Angels

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For this human being, I cannot remember a year that delivered so many many gifts braided in uncertainty. I have welcomed innumerable friendships and opportunities into my realm. PCA has made a splash and many many friends. This has been both unexpected and validating. All the while, I have left unsavory workplaces because the cacaphony of client disdain and disrespect  was clattering so loudly it sounded like the ghost of Marley rattling the sins and guilts of Christmas past with the fervor of a very last chance to be heard. I felt no other option than to listen and speak out. Sadly it has been to no avail thus far. I have few regrets other than not sounding an alarm loudly enough. There are many more wrongs to right.

I have said so many goodbyes this year, I am numbed from letting go. Both my contemporaries as well as touchstones have lifted off as in spaceships setting sites for the next assignment. I have felt melancholy and sadness anticipating my own orders to follow suit. I remain however connected to my work. And though  I waiver between thinking I’m failing and believing I’m in step, I have the fortune to receive a succession of gifts – some Are given and some I merely stumble upon. I have bonded with a new colleague this year who has bathed my soul in light. Add this to the other warriors in my circle, I have learned that it’s really their journey and I am allowed to participate . I’m completely content with this arrangement. It’s like watching a sunrise again and again.

I also have received feedback that is like fertilizing my garden. This is a most unexpected surprise from the universe….

” Hi Rod! I didn’t get to see you again before you left first steps, but I wanted to thank you for everything. You really helped me in ways and I often think about things you said and realize how much deeper you pushed me to look. Yes, life fell apart, and you helped me understand that I’m not a horrible person and helped me see things a LOT differently, even with my students and their parents. You’re an amazing human and soul, and a gifted recovery coach/counselor. You have helped, I’m guessing, beyond thousands of troubled people feel okay about struggling, and I’m sure thousands of people think of you, or something you helped them to overcome or realize or learn. Whether they reach out to you and say it or not, I’m sure every day you run across all those minds and change all the lives you touch. Your work is amazing. I appreciate you. THANK YOU

you don’t have to, I just think that it’s important to let others know how you changed their life. I became a teacher because I tried to kill myself in 7th grade and my 7th grade teacher reported me. I wrote him a suicide note. I want to be the difference the same he was for me, and that you were for me. that’s why I’m a teacher”

This of course is not about me- it’s about being brave enough to look when your life beckons.. this is no small feat and this spiritual warrior has begun a new adventure. It’s a gift none-the-less.

This new year inaugurates a new call for wisdom that stretches far beyond “now” calling all angels… save us from ourselves..  and thank you universe for the opportunity to grow in my life.

 

 

Pride TBT

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Nunzio's Cafe 1984 Chicago

“I have a friend dying of AIDS. Before I was leaving for a trip, we were talking. He said, “I didn’t want this, and I hated this, and I was terrified of this. But it turns out that this illness has been my greatest gift.” He said, “Now every moment is so precious to me. All the people in my life are so precious to me. My whole life means so much to me.” Something had really changed, and he felt ready for his death. Something that was horrifying and scary had turned into a gift. Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

A little TBT and a nod to Pride Month. This is me having a little lunch cooked by my friend Bruce Fortner at Nunzio’s Chicago 1984…

Red Hot Chili Peppers t shirt… they played live at Medusa’s that year… as did Violent Femmes , ESG, Ministry, and Front 242.. I helped a friend open an after hours club in 83 and we were all surfing a big one.

This photo popped up on Facebook from a friend and it took me by surprise.I think mostly because this was just before the tsunami hit. It felt like the Renaissance here. 84 seemed golden.

I was 26 that year. Nunzio (owned the cafe) was still healthy and tickling his muse. Bruce (who posted the pic) was still living with his partner Joey well before Joey was snatched into oblivion. The next year all sorts of hell broke loose. My best friend withered throughout the year. I tested positive for HIV in October. My friend died on Thanksgiving. Nunzio disclosed that he was frantically and maniacally injecting himself with vitamins to combat the virus. Many of us dabbled with macrobiotic diets (see george kushi). louse hay’s los angeles hay ride was making history and a cultural and generational trauma happened at our doors.

I knew so many brave warriors at that time in my life. Many of them helped me survive. LGBT Pride doesn’t just exist because people come out of the closet. It also is real because people endure and make sacrifices without losing their will to be true to themselves. Just as our LGBT predecessors, many paid incredible prices for the choices they made. They danced to their own music and they followed the muses that are theirs. And our world and our collective culture is richer and more beautiful because of them.

front 242 shirt

Please take a moment to celebrate LGBT Pride Month. So many have gone before us to make it possible. They would demand that you find joy. They demanded nothing less of themselves.

It was certainly a time…… you can read about some of our little enclaves experiences at this resident advisor article…. interview with me begins just after Ministry ad if you click here.. https://lnkd.in/b8pG4Ke

daily bread

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“The greatest prayer is patience”
“The greatest prayer is patience”

the lessons these days are more intricate and more complicated. as are the rewards. just maybe, the answer lies in not knowing everything. not understanding. just trusting.

A Prayer On Awakening:

“God please direct my thinking and keep my thoughts divorced from self – pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives.  Please keep my thought life clear from wrong motives and help me employ my mental faculties, that my thought-life might be placed on a higher plane, the plane of inspiration.”

adventure awaits

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“I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act.”
“I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act.”

 

the weekend is here and i am very peaceful. i have made it through an assimilation period (prolly just the 1st) with working and have branched out with a few endeavors. i agreed to do some training for an organization before i realized how much time it would entail and am having second thoughts. i have come to realize that second thoughts are natural and i’m glad to have them before a task starts.

am getting ready to head out of town and will connect with a new friend that i made there last summer. looking forward to this. starting a new recovery support and skills group. i connected with a recovery coach i know who has agreed to participate in this group and i’m now excited.

have also made a couple more steps toward starting the new not-for-profit. the most amazing aspect in all this is encountering my own fear. fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of barriers, fear of confrontation. i read a tumblr window today which said “adventure awaits- go find it” this is just where my head may need to go.

i looked up some 12 step sayings today.

“If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.”

“Happiness keeps You Sweet, Trials keep You Strong, Sorrows keep You Human, Failures keep You Humble, Success keeps You Glowing, But Only God keeps You Going!”

“The sleeper gets nothing but the dream.”

so i post nicolas jaar again today. his sense of sound, syncopation, and juxtaposition give me goose bumps every time. i also appreciate his work ethic and his sense of moving on. he certainly seems an artist. he starts something, collaborates, and moves on. i can definitely relate to this.

 

getting perspective

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"If the path your on has no obstacles, then it probably doesn't lead anywhere. " "It is when you act on faith that you actually have it." "A twelve by twelve is a heavy timber for a person to carry alone. But there can be many helping hands if we just pick up the 'phone." "It works if you work it, so work it cause you're worth it"
“If the path your on has no obstacles, then it probably doesn’t lead anywhere. “
“It is when you act on faith that you actually have it.”
“A twelve by twelve is a heavy timber for a person to carry alone. But there can be many helping hands if we just pick up the ‘phone.”
“It works if you work it, so work it cause you’re worth it”

i have been on the fence about some changes in my world and have been at an impasse really. not sure if i’ve been frozen, if i’m fearful, if i’m cautious or if i’m just slow. in any case, i have been revisiting some research i did previously about making decisions. i found these 30 questions posted on the tinybuddha blog. thought you might find them helpful.

1. Consider whether or not you will be able to look proudly into the mirror the next day. -Marcia Jones

2. Reflect on past difficult decisions and how you made them. The problems don’t have to be similar for the method to work the same. -Gentry Harvey

3. Meditate and listen to your instincts. ~Stacey Chandler

4. Meditate on how it affects balance within your life. Then have the faith and will to carry out by action. -Isaac Guest

5. Set aside time to give careful thought to the decision. The worst thing you can do is act in haste. -Dana David

6. Ask yourself, “Who will it affect and what does my heart tell me?” -Phyllis McBride Molhusen

7. Imagine having made the decision. If you get a feeling of relief, that’s the way to go, even if it’s coupled with sadness. -Emma Gilding

8. Ask yourself, “What is the most pleasurable choice, and where is the most fun?” -David Heisler

9. Check with your internal compass. How will you feel if you make one decision? How will you feel if you make the other? -Kyczy Hawk

10. Make mistakes and learn from them. -Sandra Leigh

11. Talk it through with friends. Then after you have gathered as much info as possible, decide and act! -Charlene Wood

12. Make a patient effort and have confidence in yourself as decision maker. Whatever choice you make is valid, as you can gain experience and wisdom through any experience, preferred or not. -Meagan Le Dagger

13. Let go of fear. Know there is no “right” or “wrong” decision. Any decision is better than indecision -Deidre Americo

14. Ask yourself three questions before diving into something new or daunting: What’s the worst that can happen? How likely is that to happen? Can you deal with it? -Long Ho

15. Go with your first instinct. The minute you second guess yourself or doubt your choice, then it goes all downhill from there. -Kelsey Walsh

16. Take a moment to think about the consequences of every course of action, and decide which course will be best for everyone. -Daniel Roy

17. Try to see the situation from all angles. Also ask your elders for advice. They are always great sources! Sometimes you need to walk away from the issue for a bit, and then come back for a fresh look. -Lisa Marie Josey

18. Remember this quote: “Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s.” -Paulina Angelique

19. If you find that you have to talk yourself into something, it is usually a bad decision. Good decisions usually feel right without much second-guessing. -Triana Avis

20. One method is to contemplate options and select the one that you feel a sense of excitement for. -Katherine Melo Sipe

21. “Stay in the tension” as long as possible. If neither choice feels right, try to delay making the decision. Sometimes a third option you hadn’t thought of before becomes open. -Jody Bower

22. Listen to your emotional instinct. If it feels good, authentically good, then go for it. If it does not use caution and back away. -Dedric Carroll

23. Ask yourself two questions: Is this choice good for me? Is this choice good for my family? Then listen to what your heart says. -Andrew J. Kelley

24. Make the small decisions with your head and the big ones with your heart. -Emily Keith

25. Take a step back and try to stop thinking so much. -Liz Morton

26. Take two pieces of paper and write down your options on each. Put them in a hat, close your eyes, and pick one. If you feel disappointed with the outcome, then you know that is the wrong decision to make! -Dina Agnessi-Lorenzetti

27. Reflect on my past decisions. Good or bad, each teaches a lesson. To learn by your mistakes is key, but don’t forget your triumphs. They are just as important. -Mick Roman

28. Think about how you will feel when you’re 70. First, it will put the difficult decision into perspective (maybe it’s not as big a deal as you think it is) and secondly, it will help you make a good decision for the long term, rather than just for instant gratification. -Andrew Gills

29. Have a good, deep, non-judgmental look at what’s inside you, and journaling also helps. -Indigo Perry

30. Align your actions with your life purpose and personal values, and then it’s much easier to know the direction that is right for you. The prerequisite to this is actually knowing and defining yourself. Gain awareness. Be true to who you really are. Follow the path of least resistance. -Self Improvement Saga

What helps you make difficult decisions?

soul work

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“You cannot find your soul with your mind,
you must use your heart.
You must know what you are feeling.
If you don’t know what you are feeling, you will create unconsciously.
If you are unconscious of an aspect of yourself;
if it operates outside your field of awareness,
that aspect has power over you.”

~ Gary Zukav ~

as i move forward, my nature complicates my days and becomes a double edged sword. there is an increase in possibility connected to my nature and there is an increase in risk directly in line as well. changing my nature seems like making butter without a churn. changing my expectations appears to be the direct route to paradise. perhaps finding paradise where i am now is the better answer.

not chomping at the bit when i get impulses is at the core of the work i am doing on myself. learning to recognize the desires without letting them start the domino chain is ease some days and so very damn complex at other times. i might be in one of those other times now.

If I make a fool of myself, who cares? I’m not frightened by anyone’s perception of me.