Be Beautiful * Be Yourself * Be Your Non-self

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

24 degrees this morning

32 degrees fahrenheit last night. Took a long nap instead of writing in the afternoon. Felt good. Took a smaller portion at dinner. Aware that I need less food than I think. Went directly home after evening meditation. Revealing in the full sky of stars. Orion watching over me. Made a quick call to Mom standing in a cold field, trying to keep my voice down, and the conversation brief. All is well with Mom. 


Another English lesson with third student sister last night. It’s smoothing out. I feel my resistance to sit with her based on how much she reflects me. It’s like someone holding up a mirror. The many questions she asks, probing. It’s not really about an English lesson. Her English is excellent.  It’s more about understanding psychology and human nature. She is sweet. She is deeply intelligent. We talked tabu eating disorders, menstruation, and ovulation. She liked hearing a story I told her the day before of one of my first big loves when I was 25. She liked the fact that I ended the relationship because I wanted more for my life than I thought would have been possible I had stayed in that relationship. While I felt a deep heart break over this, she saw it as necessary. She said that if that hadn’t happened I wouldn’t have found the dharma. Perhaps. 



Thursday, January 19th, 2017 - Day of Mindfulness - Lay Day at Lower Hamlet

Notes from Brother Phap Li’s talk on the subject of Fear (not sure about spelling of his name).


The buddha suggests putting fear into the light of our awareness so that we can embrace it like a crying baby, with our kind attention. Bring the quality of fearlessness to our fear. Fear- you are here, I don’t want you to stay hidden. If we bring up fear and we don’t have enough strength/stability, fear can overwhelm. Important to have balance of fear and fearlessness.


-   Cultivate joy/stability

Know what nourishes us and gives stability in daily life so when something comes up we have enough spaciousness to hold it.
Recognise emotion -> Breathe

Awareness of “second arrow”  - for example, fear of emotion. Emotion being first arrow. Fear of emotion as second arrow.
Sangha Support: Ask “I’m going through an emotion now, can you support me with mindful breathing?”


3rd Gift - Fear Less Ness - Considered the greatest gift we can give one another. Must be embodied. When there is no fear, there is space for compassion. When there is fear here is no room for compassion because we are preoccupied with fear. 


Ignorance can give rise to craving, fear, hatred. The root of fear is ignorance (wrong view). A sense of self can lead to isolation, complexes. Judging and comparing +> suffering/fear.


The self is made of non-self elements which are in a constant state of change and they continue after death, just as they existed before birth. Non-self elements existed before we were born, and after we die. With that understanding we can soften our view of the void. 


A wave simile also applies. Using a vertical dimension with the substance of water, the ocean. When we have the experience of water in this way, we can have a wider sense of who we are, no birth, no death, connection with nature. 


Personal Note: In writing this now, my third experience with this lesson (first hearing, second taking hand written notes, third now transcribing to share openly), I am having an ah ha moment about my own immense joy of being in the deep ocean, far from any shore. I feel the deepest sense of alive - ness in that space. Recalling moments in the warm clear ocean far off the Big Island shores.


Can we have a wider sense of who we are when we connect with interning nature/ultimate dimension. 


Be Beautiful

Be Yourself

Be Your Non-self




Friday, January 20th, 2017

Inauguration Day in the U.S.

Today is a departure day. Frost on the grass. Many degrees below zero celsius. Too cold for snow, they say. Said goodbye to two friends that have been here for two weeks. One half my age, full of wisdom, kindness and beauty. “Don’t change” she said as she said good bye in an embrace near the dining room door. Tears started coming. Yesterday said good bye to a friend who has shown me the joy in the dharma. Showed me that buddha was many things, even a clown. And now when I look at the buddha to bow I am able to connect when I think of the clown nature of buddha. Clown just be in the moment. Find joy in the sorrow. Move with many emotions changing many moments. The impermanence of it all.


Floors are constantly being swept and mopped here. New Hamlet is quite clean. I am often met by a sister mopping a floor that I wish to walk across. The first time this happened I halted and considered my options for changing route or plan. Not wanting to disturb the newly clean surface and the hard work of a sister. Finally a sister said to me, with joy, please walk across, this clean floor is impermanent. I am now reminded of impermanence with every freshly swept or mopped clean floor. And to let go of the need to keep one state constant. Clean. Messy. Clean again. Messy again. Here. Gone. Here again. Gone again. All things inter are. Being and non-being at it’s most simple for me to understand and convey.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Temperatures are well below zero outside. Yesterday after cleaning my room I sat writing with the window open. As I gazed I noticed a mouse pop in and dart into the bathroom. I felt my heart quicken and a wave of panic. Fear. Not knowing what to do I quietly closed the bathroom door in an effort to contain the mouse. Later when I went back to the main building I asked a few people for assistance. A sister gave me a small plastic catch and release box and explained how it works. She explained that the mouse shovel be released at least two kilometres so it does not return. She offered to go by car with me once it’s captured. We talked it over and I considered timing. Do I put the trap out before bed and trap the poor mouse overnight in a tiny box? Do I have compassion and wait until morning? I put the trap in my bag and contemplated. When I got back to my room at 9 pm, in the cold and dark, I just didn’t have the heart to open the trap. Aware that I now have something with food in it, I did not want to take the trap into my room. The trap has some peanuts in it to lure the mouse.  I didn’t have the heart to open the mouse trap. I placed the closed trap in the hallway outside my door. Even though it’s just a catch and release box, I still couldn’t do it. When I went back to my room last night I couldn’t see the mouse anywhere, so somehow I didn’t mind. The idea of tempting an animal into a box so that I can redirect him away from me felt wrong. I just couldn’t do it. I don’t have any food in my room so I imagine the mouse came in for warmth.


This morning when I went into the bathroom and looked around I realised one wall does not go up to the ceiling and there are many small opening below doors. The mouse could be anywhere, anytime. I am breathing and calming my body. 


Today my working meditation assignment was cleaning toilets. Our team of two was very efficient and we finished rather early. Allowed me the time to polish up this writing for you now, and prepare for a slow walk. Sending big love and compassion to my American sisters that are marching in Washing today. With you in spirit <3


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Yesterday preparations began for Vietnamese New Year or Tê’t.  There was a Hungry Ghost Ceremony where many food were offered, and then we sat around a big bon fire eating soup in the courtyard. I felt a dull disconnect from the community. I think I am programmed to celebrate or understand celebration and joy in a bigger are more robust way. There is an element of controlled excitement. 


Mouse update. Yesterday another retreatant in my house decided to ”help” me by opening the mouse trap. I was quietly reading in my room when I head noises in the hallway which I thought might be a mouse poking at the trap from the outside. I took many deep breathes and went out in the hall to see what was happening. A small mouse, no bigger than two hershey kisses was trapped. I couldn’t bear it. With a lot of discomfort and a lump in my throat I picked up the catch and release box, and took it outside. I did not have it in me to take this trapped mouse on a two kilometre drive. I open the drop and the little mouse ran briskly across the field. My housemate was so excited about this and thought it was a big help to me. In truth I had let go of the idea of trapping the mouse and decided to live with it. So we trapped and redirected a mouse somehow. I was not happy about this. The only upside was the fact that my part of the act was setting it free. 




And now on to Mindfulness Day at Upper Hamlet….

The final component of the 8 Fold Path - Right Concentration

This was a deep and exquisite teaching, I’m afraid I cannot do justice with my notes, but will do my best. 


This teacher referenced the Insight Community in Northern California, which was a great reminder for me that the monastic path is not the only option for deepening practice, and that the lay community has created this powerful branch for people living mindfully in the modern world. 


Here we go with my notes…


If our awareness is strong we can penetrate deep down to insight. Each book, story, magazine, webpage we read is the seed of someone else’s concentration as a blooming flower. The practice of mindfulness is to get the lesson of it all into our bones. It is all an invitation to find out own insight, so when we share, we share from a place of our own deep looking. 


The word “meditation” is general and exists in many spiritual traditions. Within Buddhism, it wand tranquility/wisdom. insight. The Insight Meditation practice flourishes from these concepts:

-Samadha - to gather together

-Vipasyana - to break through to the truth of reality


We can have tranquility - need object of concentration

The destination we want to arrive at is the heart.
The longest journey is from the mind to the heart.
All form is painful - from empty to impermanent.
With the practice of right speach we can return to beginners mind.
Be a good spiritual friend (5 C’s…)
Need to internalize to receive the insight
Need to choose something relevant/of benefit as object -> Bodhicitta - > Mind of Love



As the seed of concentration grows from store consciousness to mind consciousness it manifests in upper layers (great diagrams here I may try to draw and add later)

-mental formations





We have many other seeds obstructing the seed of concentration. We can ry to address these seeds at lower levels so they don’t manifest on other levels right away. It is difficult to clear obstacles. The seed of concentration can be seen as a serene person that everyone can experience. If concentration has a lot of light it will break through to insight, but if we have seed that cover, how can we break through?


5 Hinderances/Aspects that Cover

1.Sensual Desire

If one aspect of concentration is disturbed we cannot concentrate. Like the thought of ice cream when you have the intention to focus on meditation. Happiness is not an individual matter, we must care for the happiness of others - >right livelihood. Must ask what is obstructing happiness? If we gather a lot of sense pleasure we may be neglecting others. Find balance. 


Difficult for people who have lived with a lot of conflict, war, lack of love. Impacts personality, so when we sit for meditation it can be difficult. 

Practice lovingkindness as an antidote. Recognize the other needs a lot of love and understanding.

For some meditation is easy because concentration is clear, but sometimes these aversions are difficult to subdue and allow concentration to rise. 


Find elements that feed energy and nourish seed of concentration so our interest in concentrating is deeper. 


Use practice of calming/breathing/noticing

Recognise. Acceptance. Investigate. Non-identification.


When we work on these hinderances we have more space for concentration to rise.


We have other tendencies that hinder concentration in addition to these five, work on these five first. 


4 Formless States

  1. Infinite Space
  2. Infinite Consciousness
  3. Nothingness
  4. Non perception


These states are also hinderances largely because these states if achieved, make it difficult to relate to friends and habits of getting through daily life.


Almost out of time with wifi so I am not going into a lot of detail about these formless states now.