Paul Klee: “Everything vanishes around me, and works are born as if out of the void”

November 11, 2010

paul kleePaul 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 from what Klee calls “the void.” … Read more »

“All the elements of nature are interwoven and united with each other.” Gospel of Mary Magdalene

October 20, 2010

four elementsIn this extract from his new book, Living as a River, Bodhipaksa discusses how we have mistaken views that limit our sense of who we are.

In 1911, a 32-year-old sportsman and daredevil called Calbraith Perry Rodgers, with a scant 60 hours of airtime in his logbook, set off to cross the United States from coast to coast in his specially modified Wright airplane—the first in private ownership. His dream was to win the $50,000 that tycoon publisher William Randolph Hearst was offering to the first person to fly across the continent within 30 days, but Rodgers, as much a canny businessman as an adventurous pioneer, had a financial backup plan in case … Read more »

Bodhipaksa’s new book on embracing change now available in a Kindle edition

October 4, 2010

kindle edition, living as a riverThe Kindle edition of Living as a River is now available on

From the back cover: To face reality is to embrace change; to resist change is to suffer. This is the liberating insight that unfolds with Living as a River. A masterful investigation of the nature of self, this eloquent blend of current science and time-honored spiritual insight is meant to free us from the fear of impermanence in a world defined by change.

“An interesting, lively, and genuinely illuminating teaching of dharma.”
—Jack Kornfield, author of A Path with Heart

If you don’t have a Kindle, Amazon’s electronic reading device, there are Kindle applications for iPhone, Mac, PC, Blackberry, iPad, Read more »

P.G. Wodehouse: “If you come to think of it, what a queer thing Life is!”

February 23, 2010

PG WodehouseWe spend much of our time and energy trying to pretend impermanence isn’t real, but the strange thing is that when we embrace impermanence we become happier, Bodhipaksa argues.

Here’s a very “queer thing” about life: sometimes the things that we think will make us miserable actually make us happier. When Professor Eric D. Miller of Kent State University’s Department of Psychology asked people to imagine the death of their partner they reported that they felt more positive about their relationships and less troubled by their significant others’ annoying quirks.

 I spent the afternoon musing on Life. If you come to think of it, what a queer thing Life is! So unlike anything else, don’t

Read more »

Damaged brains escape the material world

February 12, 2010

Increased feelings of transcendence can follow brain damage, a study of people with brain cancer suggests.

As feelings of transcending the physical world can be part of some religious experiences and other forms of spirituality, the finding may help explain why some people seem more prone to such experiences than others.

The brain region in question, the posterior parietal cortex, is involved in maintaining a sense of self, for example by helping you keep track of your body parts. It has also been linked to prayer and meditation

To further probe its role, Cosimo Urgesi, a neuroscientist at the University of Udine in Italy, turned to 88 people who were being treated for … Read more »

Barbara Sher: “We are like violins. We can be used for doorstops, or we can make music.”

November 30, 2009

violinWe all want to be happy, but often we’re not. Bodhipaksa argues that this is because of the way we treat ourselves as a thing that lacks happiness, and happiness as a thing to be grasped.

In a parable in the Buddhist teachings, a king hears the sound of a lute for the first time and asks to see what produced such sweet music. A lute is produced, but the king is not satisfied. He wants to know where the music is. His ministers say,

“This lute, sire, is made of numerous components, a great many components. It’s through the activity of numerous components that it sounds: that is, in dependence on the body, the

Read more »

Act Normal: The origin of suffering

November 18, 2009

Act Normal: A Documentary by Olaf de FleurRobert T. Edison was born and raised in Nottingham, England. When he was fourteen years old he began to practice Buddhism. At eighteen he became a monk and went to Thailand where, for a decade, he spent his time in monasteries.

He became the first Buddhist monk in Iceland when he moved there in 1994 and founded a Buddhist sect.

In this clip, from the documentary, Act Normal, directed by Olaf de Fleur, Edison, at that time a monk in Thailand, contrasts the Buddhist explanation of the cause of suffering with the explanations from theistic religion.

Act Normal can be purchased from Poppoli Pictures.

The wisdom of surrender

September 25, 2009

surrenderRecently I received a request to answer some questions for a book on the topic of surrender. Here’s the first draft of my response:

1. How would you define surrender? Who or what is one surrendering to, in your opinion? God, Universe, Self, Soul, What Is, present moment…?

Surrender is an important part of all spiritual practice. Ultimately it’s what we’re aiming to accomplish in practice.

What we’re surrendering to is the reality of impermanence and non-separateness. In reality, everything changes and nothing (including ourselves) is separate or self-contained. But we have deep-rooted assumptions that we exist separately from the rest of the world, that there is something in us (and others) that is permanent … Read more »

John Dewey: “The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.”

September 21, 2009

John DeweyDewey’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 is 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 … Read more »

The play of causes and conditions

July 27, 2009

Bodhipaksa and daughterParenting can be a hindrance to spiritual practice or the main driving force of a spiritual practice. Bodhipaksa shares what he’s learned from his daughter.

Short of taking up Buddhist practice, the biggest seismic shift in my life was becoming a parent. Originally I’d seen parenthood as a distraction from my spiritual practice — after all having kids would take up more of my time, make it harder to meditate, and prevent me from getting on retreat as much as I was used to. And although all those things turned out to be true, I’m finding that there’s a lot of ways in which I’m learning and growing from being a parent. In fact I’d … Read more »