Nov 11, 2010
Paul Klee, the famous Swiss/German expressionist painter, may seem to be making an almost mystical claim here — that creativity comes from beyond the conscious mind. I think you’d be right in assuming that creative impulses come from unconscious parts of the mind, but not that this is an exclusively mystical state. In fact, all action ultimately has this quality of coming from “beyond,” but we simply fail to notice this most of the time, because we’re in the grip of the illusion that the conscious mind is “us,” that it owns our actions, and that it’s in control.
When I speak, I’m often aware that my words come …
Nov 09, 2010
When the film Four Weddings and a Funeral came out in 1994, I was irritated by the film’s ‘token’ inclusion of a deaf character and two gay men. A lesbian friend was less judgemental. She was just thrilled that a mainstream film featured a gay relationship.
Reading Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-seller, and seeing the film adaptation starring Julia Roberts, I think I know how my friend felt. The ideas are flawed, but to see Buddhism portrayed positively in popular culture is a delight.
The story – if you don’t know it – is of a thirty-something woman, unsatisfied with her affluent New York life, who goes …
Oct 28, 2010
Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, author of Rebel Buddha: On the Road to Freedom, explains that our innate drive for freedom can be expressed either destructively or creatively.
Rebel Buddha is an exploration of what it means to be free and how it is that we can become free. Although we may vote for the head of our government, marry for love, and worship the divine or mundane powers of our choice, most of us don’t really feel free in our day-to-day lives. When we talk about freedom, we’re also talking about its opposite — bondage, lack of independence, being subject to the control of something or someone outside ourselves. No one …
Apr 08, 2010
Last night I taught the first night of a class on achieving Insight through meditation.
This being the first night there was a bit more talking than there will be in the rest of the four-week course, so I thought I’d record the talk, in which I discuss why we should think more about getting Enlightened, what holds us back, and what we need to do to set up conditions for Insight arising.
I also recorded the guided meditation that I led.
By the way, I had a cold, so there’s some coughing, hacking, and nose-blowing!
Both the talk and the meditation are unedited, and the sound quality isn’t great.
Here’s the talk, which is 41 minutes long:
Sep 21, 2009
John Dewey: “The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.”
Dewey’s saying echoes Buddhist notions of impermanence and not-self. Bodhipaksa points out that the Buddhist position is not merely descriptive of how things are. Rather it amounts to a technology of happiness — a set of perspectives and tools that allows us to create more deeply fulfilling lives.
One of the most crippling — and often unacknowledged — beliefs we can have in that the self is something fixed and unchanging. When we have the idea that our personalities are set like words carved in stone the possibility of change is closed off to us.
A mountaineering friend of mine once commented that when coming down a hill you were faced with innumerable choices about …
Mar 30, 2009
If there is just one thing you should learn about this world, anicca is it. It may be an exaggeration to say that anicca, or impermanence, is the core of the Buddha’s teaching, but when we look closely at this single idea, the whole of the Buddha’s teaching begins to open up.
In Buddhism, impermanence is one of the three “marks” of existence, along with dukkha and anattā, or unsatisfactoriness and no-self. Together, these three marks form the core of a Buddhist conception of reality. Understanding this reality is often described as tantamount to awakening.
Indeed, in Vipassanā meditation we are taught to note, or to simply direct the mind to …
Mar 19, 2009
Fundamentally, we don’t know anything about anything. How then can we even begin to cultivate insight into how things really are? Author, practitioner, and Dharma teacher Kamalashila suggests how we can learn to open up to reality.
It is late summer and 10:22 in the morning.
I am in my room in Birmingham. Just a few yards away, framed in the open window, are the upper branches of a luxuriant copper beech, its leaves displaying to the eye subtle, dark greens (olive, patinated bronze) as they reflect the morning sunshine.
The fine outer branches shift almost imperceptibly, shedding complex darker shadows within.
The tree is full of beech nuts, and the leaves on a …
Jan 04, 2009
Would you like to see the world in a new way? A way that’s more authentic and satisfying? A way that taps into your infinite potential and helps others to realize theirs?
Eirik Solheim has put together an impressive time-lapse movie of a woodland scene that compresses an entire year into 40 seconds of footage. This kind of presentation helps us to see the world in a different, and in some respects more real, way.
The human mind and senses are not good at perceiving change. You look at a cloud once, and then again ten minutes later, and you think it’s the same cloud. Actually the entire shape and size of the …