Buddhism and Science: Tibetan and Zen Buddhist Perspectives 

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Zen Habits To Improve Your Focus

morning lotusLack of focus is a serious worldwide problem in this age of multiple distractions: multi-tasking and constant connectivity. Call it the other edge of the double-edged sword of technology. With the explosion of technology and communication, humans, always a social species, have scaled new peaks of virtual social interactions – from phones to electronic mails to instant chats to the ever-mushrooming web-based social sharing platforms. With uninterrupted 24×7 reach to technology we mostly lack some quiet time with our own selves.

In such a scenario, it’s hardly surprising to see a lack of focus becoming a common problem. But one can beat this challenge of lack of focus by applying some simple Zen habits.

Zen philosophy of inner calm
Let us first understand what Zen means. Zen stands for inner peace, focus, emotional balance, and happiness that emanates from within. It emphasizes on what it terms as the ‘Buddha-nature’ and its expression in every act of one’s daily life as opposed to philosophies that stress on doctrines and rituals.

Over the years, Zen practices have gained immense global appreciation for their effectiveness in clearing away mental distractions and winning back lost focus. Zen habits are based on quieting inner turmoil and focusing on the task at hand with silence and determination.
Let’s take a look at some Zen habits that improve your ability to focus:

Eliminate Distractions
Before setting out on any important task, resolutely eliminate all distraction. Nothing great can be achieved till you give it your complete attention. So, put your phone on silent, shut down unnecessary browser windows and tabs, close your doors and immerse yourself in the job. Not only will you get good results but you’ll also most certainly complete the said task within shorter time duration than you would have in the presence of distracting elements like text pings, e-mail notifications, television noises from the adjoining room, etc.

Practice silence and meditation
If you’ve been constantly struggling with regaining focus, start practicing silence and meditation every day. The best times are usually early morning or right before going to bed in the evening. In this way, you would cut out the worries of the daily chores lined up for the day and struggling with each other for your attention. You should also take out sometime when you’ll be your only company. A lot of people prefer to go out on nature walks, where they spend some time amidst natural beauty and quiet. Again early morning hours in a public garden or your own terrace could be the perfect time and place for such an activity.

Focus on your breath
Just before undertaking anything important, retire to a quiet corner and take a few moments to focus on your breathing. Breathe in and out slowly, concentrating on each inhalation and exhalation. Do this for two to five minutes. This will instantly calm your mind and increase your focus.

Don’t lose sight of the target
A famous Zen story talks about a Zen master’s lesson to his students on the importance of never losing sight of one’s target in order to score a hit. As the anecdote goes, the Zen master would never miss a single target. One day, he summoned his students and asked them to cover his eyes with a cloth. With his vision blocked, he aimed at the target and missed it. The students were surprised to see their master miss. The Zen master then told them that what he wanted to convey to them though that exercise was the importance of always having one’s sight on one’s goals for success.

So, whenever you feel your focus shifting from your target, take some quiet time to realign and reassert your goals to yourself. If needed, write them down on paper and pin it up where you can see them often.

Go for calming walks
Often in the midst of difficult and time consuming assignments, you can feel our mind beginning to drift away. This is a cue for you to take a break right then to relax your mind and pump up some energy. A good way would be to go for a walk. A walk will increase your heart rate, clear away your mind as you focus on the repetitive motion of your legs, up your alertness, and also give you the time to internally mull on the problem in a stress-free environment.

Begin your day with yoga and exercise
Yoga and exercise have a way of calming your mind. The Zen philosophy says that there’s a lot of pent up energy in the body. If we lead a sedentary life, this accumulated energy tries to find a way out by channelizing our minds towards fruitless, distracting thoughts and pursuits like aimless internet surfing, repetitive chat session with friends or simply loitering around and dissipating our energy and focus. On the other hand, a good invigorating yoga and exercise session in the morning will set your mind straight and channelize your body’s energy is a positive direction, helping you stay focused all day long.

Alan Watts ~ The Book: The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are (full, audio book)

Alan Watts’ seminal text first published in 1966, here read/narrated by author Ralph Blum (who in 1982 wrote the Book of Runes and kick-started interest in runic magic). Of all his brilliant texts, this one just… nails it, over and over again. Ouch.

Chapters:

1. Inside Information
2. The Game Of Black-and-White
3. How To Be A Genuine Fake
4. The World Is Your Body
5. So What?
6. It

 

“Money Is Not Wealth,” by Alan Watts

alanwatts

“Money is a way of measuring wealth but is not wealth in itself. A chest of gold coins or a fat wallet of bills is of no use whatsoever to a wrecked sailor alone on a raft. He needs real wealth, in the form of a fishing rod, a compass, an outboard motor with gas, and a female companion. But this ingrained and archaic confusion of money with wealth is now the main reason we are not going ahead full tilt with the development of our technological genius for the production of more than adequate food, clothing, housing, and utilities for every person on earth.

It is not going to be at all easy to explain this to the world at large, because mankind has existed for perhaps one million years with relative material scarcity, and it is now roughly a mere one hundred years since the beginning of the industrial revolution. As it was once very difficult to persuade people that the earth is round and that it is in orbit around the sun, or to make it clear that the universe exists in a curved space-time continuum, it may be just as hard to get it through to “common sense” that the virtues of making and saving money are obsolete.

It is an oversimplification to say that this is the result of business valuing profit rather than product, for no one should be expected to do business without the incentive of profit. The actual trouble is that profit is identified entirely with money, as distinct from the real profit of living with dignity and elegance in beautiful surroundings.

To try to correct this irresponsibility by passing laws would be wide of the point, for most of the law has as little relation to life as money to wealth. On the contrary, problems of this kind are aggravated rather than solved by the paperwork of politics and law. What is necessary is at once simpler and more difficult: only that financiers, bankers, and stockholders must turn themselves into real people and ask themselves exactly what they want out of life — in the realization that this strictly practical and hard–nosed question might lead to far more delightful styles of living than those they now pursue. Quite simply and literally, they must come to their senses — for their own personal profit and pleasure.”

 

Discussion/Meditation Notes:

What does wealth mean to you?

Can you share a personal experience of a time when you understood the “real profit of living with dignity and elegance in beautiful surroundings”?

What do you want out of your life?

 

Zen story ~ “Two Monks and a Woman”

two monks and woman

A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her cross to the other side.

The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows not to touch a woman.

Then, without a word, the older monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and carried her across the river, and carried on his journey.

The younger monk couldn’t believe what had just happened. After rejoining his companion, he was speechless, and an hour passed without a word between them.

Two more hours passed, then three, finally the younger monk could contain himself any longer, and blurted out “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”

The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”

This simple Zen story has a beautiful message about living in the present moment. How often do we carry around past hurts, holding onto resentments when the only person we are really hurting is ourselves.

We all go through times in life when other people say things or behave in a way that is hurtful towards us. We can chose to ruminate over past actions or events, but it will ultimately weigh us down and sap our energy.

Instead we can choose to let go of what doesn’t serve us anymore and concentrate on the present moment. Until we can find a level of peace and happiness in the present circumstances of our lives, we will never be content, because ‘now’ is all we will ever have.

Gassho.

 

 

How To Transform Your Chaotic Mornings Into Something Worth Getting Up For

japanese-tea-room-wallpaper-1280x800

Transform your mornings from a hectic routine of chaos,

into a tranquil time for preparing to face the day.

I have a glass of water, start the coffee, then meditate. Then I enjoy the coffee, a good book, and the quiet before the dust and din and steam of the day begins. Then I write.

This is my Lovely Morning, and I get an inordinate amount of pleasure from it.

It wasn’t always this way: I used to wake later, rush through a grumpy routine before diving into email and work and errands and meetings. It was frenetic and dreadful, but that was my life, and I didn’t think it would change.

I was wrong. I’ve changed my mornings for the better, with a few simple ideas.

I’ll share them with you here, and if you begin to enjoy the peace of your mornings more, send a smile in my general direction.

Wake a little earlier.

If your mornings are rushed, the simple solution is to get up a bit earlier. This means going to bed a bit earlier too. Do it gradually, just 10 minutes earlier a week, and you’ll barely notice the change.

By Leo Babauta

 

5 Meaningful Methods of Meditation

meditationThere’s a myriad of methods for meditation. Some are easy and some are difficult. All require daily practice to perfect. Here are five of the most popular methods of meditation and what they each bring to the Meditation Table. Here’s why You Should Mix them for Maximum Mindfulness.

Mindfulness, or Spiritual Method:

A most popular method comes from Buddhist meditation practice of Vipassana. It’s all about practicing detachment from each thought and being centered in the “here and now.” It focuses on situational awareness and “in the moment” presence. There is also a focus on communion with the cosmos, which can translate to prayer, but not necessarily. The best way to commune with the universe is to ask questions as opposed to seeking answers. In the mindfulness method, answers are mere side-effects of good questioning.

How to: One can practice mindfulness in any position, even lying down. The key is presence with the present moment, and clear and concise communion with the cosmos.

 

Zen or Zazen Method:

Also from the Buddhist tradition, this method is all about simply sitting. It is often done for long periods of time. Its focus is mostly on posture and spine alignment with minimal focus on breathing techniques. It is the most monastic of all the methods and is therefore difficult to make progress in. Most monks practice this method while concentrating on a Zen koan or spiritual parable.

How to: The most effective positioning of the body for the practice of Zazen is the stable, symmetrical position of the seated Buddha. Keeping the back straight and centered, pretend a silver thread is pulled taut through your spine and up through your head, connecting to the ceiling.

 

Kundalini or Transcendental Method:

This method comes from the Vedanta Hinduism tradition and ties into different forms of Yoga practices. It focuses more on breathing patterns than the previous methods, using the power of breathing to launch one into a higher sense of self, or even a transformation of self. The electromagnetic field created by the human body is akin to the electromagnetic field created by the Earth. Transcendental method is all about tapping into the stream of energy naturally created by the relationship between the human body’s energy chakras with the environment’s energy vortexes. The main focus of this method is to ride this rising stream into infinity, to learn what needs to be learned, and then to return to the finite realms with new-knowledge in tow.

How to: Breathing is primary. Positioning is secondary. Relax your body, take three deep breaths; then proceed to take deep breaths and hold them for at least ten seconds each. This allows for the oxygen to cleanse the chakras and then release toxins through exhalation, while increasing kundalini energy.

Fractal Enlightenment|  There’s a myriad of methods for meditation. Some are easy and some are difficult. All require daily practice to perfect. Here are five of the most popular methods of meditation and what they each bring to the Meditation Table. Here’s why You Should Mix them for Maximum Mindfulness.

Mindfulness, or Spiritual Method:

A most popular method comes from Buddhist meditation practice of Vipassana. It’s all about practicing detachment from each thought and being centered in the “here and now.” It focuses on situational awareness and “in the moment” presence. There is also a focus on communion with the cosmos, which can translate to prayer, but not necessarily. The best way to commune with the universe is to ask questions as opposed to seeking answers. In the mindfulness method, answers are mere side-effects of good questioning.

How to: One can practice mindfulness in any position, even lying down. The key is presence with the present moment, and clear and concise communion with the cosmos.

– See more at: http://www.spiritscienceandmetaphysics.com/5-meaningful-methods-of-meditation/#sthash.VMrUBuh9.dpuf

 

Qigong Method or Movement Method:

This method comes from the Taoist tradition. It is all about hyper-focus on breathing techniques and/or bodily movements to cultivate and maintain life energy. This is the most philosophical of the methods, deriving most of its techniques from martial arts and meditative healing methods. It focuses on moving Qi (life force) through the body through focused breathing, mental techniques, and precise movements. This method is all about the balance and equilibrium of both inner and outer forces.

How to: No matter what Qi exercise you’re doing, imagine the Qi moving through your body as you breathe in an out. As you inhale through your nose, imagine the Qi moving through your body and down to your Lower Dantian, or naval area. As you exhale through your mouth imagine the Qi moving through the rest of your body. Repeat.

 

Drumming and/or Om Method:

This may be the oldest form of meditation known to humanity. The drumming method is typically used by native and aboriginal cultures, and is generally shamanic in nature. The Om method is traditionally from Vedanta Hinduism, though the sound itself is fairly universal to mankind. These methods focus on breathing and heart rhythm in accordance with, or even dissonance with, the sound and feel of the percussion or mantra.

The heart beat itself is a drum. Breathing is a drum beat that we can control. These two methods are all about transformation through vibration and the awareness of cosmic frequencies. Shamans often use drum meditation to cross physical, mental, and spiritual thresholds. It’s a bridge that carries them to a higher sense of self in accordance with the greater cosmos.

How to: Create a sacred place. Clear your mind. Breathe with intent. If you’re the drummer, infuse your intention into the drum before drumming. Begin playing or listening to the drum. Give yourself a few minutes to fall into rhythm with the beat. Fade your drumming into silence, feeling your body’s response to the beat, then return to the drum. Repeat with clear intent.

 

There you have it: a minor helping of meditative methods. Each have specific techniques, but they all overlap in various ways. One of the keys to becoming a meditative master is to use all the methods to your advantage, while also allowing for personal creativity by giving your meditation a signature as unique as your own fingerprint.

Remember: the heartbeat that sustains your life is acting on the same frequency that sustains the universe. The heart with which you feel God is the same heart with which God feels you. May the Om be with you.

By Gary Z McGee

Gary ‘Z’ McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.

As written by Mariana Caplan, Ph.D.  It is a jungle out there, and it is no less true about spiritual life than any other aspect of life. Do we really think that just because someone has been meditating for five years, or doing 10 years of yoga practice, that they will be any less neurotic than the next person? At best, perhaps they will be a little bit more aware of it. A little bit.

It is for this reason that I spent the last 15 years of my life researching and writing books on cultivating discernment on the spiritual path in all the gritty areas–power, sex, enlightenment, gurus, scandals, psychology, neurosis — as well as earnest, but just plain confused and unconscious, motivations on the path. My partner (author and teacher Marc Gafni) and I are developing a new series of books, courses and practices to bring further clarification to these issues.

Several years ago, I spent a summer living and working in South Africa. Upon my arrival I was instantly confronted by the visceral reality that I was in the country with the highest murder rate in the world, where rape was common and more than half the population was HIV-positive — men and women, gays and straights alike.

As I have come to know hundreds of spiritual teachers and thousands of spiritual practitioners through my work and travels, I have been struck by the way in which our spiritual views, perspectives and experiences become similarly “infected” by “conceptual contaminants” — comprising a confused and immature relationship to complex spiritual principles can seem as invisible and insidious as a sexually transmitted disease.

The following 10 categorizations are not intended to be definitive but are offered as a tool for becoming aware of some of the most common spiritually transmitted diseases.

1. Fast-Food Spirituality: Mix spirituality with a culture that celebrates speed, multitasking and instant gratification and the result is likely to be fast-food spirituality. Fast-food spirituality is a product of the common and understandable fantasy that relief from the suffering of our human condition can be quick and easy. One thing is clear, however: spiritual transformation cannot be had in a quick fix.

2. Faux Spirituality: Faux spirituality is the tendency to talk, dress and act as we imagine a spiritual person would. It is a kind of imitation spirituality that mimics spiritual realization in the way that leopard-skin fabric imitates the genuine skin of a leopard.

3. Confused Motivations: Although our desire to grow is genuine and pure, it often gets mixed with lesser motivations, including the wish to be loved, the desire to belong, the need to fill our internal emptiness, the belief that the spiritual path will remove our suffering and spiritual ambition, the wish to be special, to be better than, to be “the one.”

4. Identifying with Spiritual Experiences: In this disease, the ego identifies with our spiritual experience and takes it as its own, and we begin to believe that we are embodying insights that have arisen within us at certain times. In most cases, it does not last indefinitely, although it tends to endure for longer periods of time in those who believe themselves to be enlightened and/or who function as spiritual teachers.

5. The Spiritualized Ego: This disease occurs when the very structure of the egoic personality becomes deeply embedded with spiritual concepts and ideas. The result is an egoic structure that is “bullet-proof.” When the ego becomes spiritualized, we are invulnerable to help, new input, or constructive feedback. We become impenetrable human beings and are stunted in our spiritual growth, all in the name of spirituality.

6. Mass Production of Spiritual Teachers: There are a number of current trendy spiritual traditions that produce people who believe themselves to be at a level of spiritual enlightenment, or mastery, that is far beyond their actual level. This disease functions like a spiritual conveyor belt: put on this glow, get that insight, and — bam! — you’re enlightened and ready to enlighten others in similar fashion. The problem is not that such teachers instruct but that they represent themselves as having achieved spiritual mastery.

7. Spiritual Pride: Spiritual pride arises when the practitioner, through years of labored effort, has actually attained a certain level of wisdom and uses that attainment to justify shutting down to further experience. A feeling of “spiritual superiority” is another symptom of this spiritually transmitted disease. It manifests as a subtle feeling that “I am better, more wise and above others because I am spiritual.”

8. Group Mind: Also described as groupthink, cultic mentality or ashram disease, group mind is an insidious virus that contains many elements of traditional co-dependence. A spiritual group makes subtle and unconscious agreements regarding the correct ways to think, talk, dress, and act. Individuals and groups infected with “group mind” reject individuals, attitudes, and circumstances that do not conform to the often unwritten rules of the group.

9. The Chosen-People Complex: The chosen people complex is not limited to Jews. It is the belief that “Our group is more spiritually evolved, powerful, enlightened and, simply put, better than any other group.” There is an important distinction between the recognition that one has found the right path, teacher or community for themselves, and having found The One.

10. The Deadly Virus: “I Have Arrived”: This disease is so potent that it has the capacity to be terminal and deadly to our spiritual evolution. This is the belief that “I have arrived” at the final goal of the spiritual path. Our spiritual progress ends at the point where this belief becomes crystallized in our psyche, for the moment we begin to believe that we have reached the end of the path, further growth ceases.

“The essence of love is perception,” according to the teachings of Marc Gafni, “Therefore the essence of self love is self perception. You can only fall in love with someone you can see clearly–including yourself. To love is to have eyes to see. It is only when you see yourself clearly that you can begin to love yourself.”

It is in the spirit of Marc’s teaching that I believe that a critical part of learning discernment on the spiritual path is discovering the pervasive illnesses of ego and self-deception that are in all of us. That is when we need a sense of humor and the support of real spiritual friends. As we face our obstacles to spiritual growth, there are times when it is easy to fall into a sense of despair and self-diminishment and lose our confidence on the path. We must keep the faith, in ourselves and in others, in order to really make a difference in this world.

Source: Huffington Post

– See more at: http://www.spiritscienceandmetaphysics.com/10-spiritually-transmitted-diseases/#sthash.BS8FUzAq.dpuf

As written by Mariana Caplan, Ph.D.  It is a jungle out there, and it is no less true about spiritual life than any other aspect of life. Do we really think that just because someone has been meditating for five years, or doing 10 years of yoga practice, that they will be any less neurotic than the next person? At best, perhaps they will be a little bit more aware of it. A little bit.

It is for this reason that I spent the last 15 years of my life researching and writing books on cultivating discernment on the spiritual path in all the gritty areas–power, sex, enlightenment, gurus, scandals, psychology, neurosis — as well as earnest, but just plain confused and unconscious, motivations on the path. My partner (author and teacher Marc Gafni) and I are developing a new series of books, courses and practices to bring further clarification to these issues.

Several years ago, I spent a summer living and working in South Africa. Upon my arrival I was instantly confronted by the visceral reality that I was in the country with the highest murder rate in the world, where rape was common and more than half the population was HIV-positive — men and women, gays and straights alike.

As I have come to know hundreds of spiritual teachers and thousands of spiritual practitioners through my work and travels, I have been struck by the way in which our spiritual views, perspectives and experiences become similarly “infected” by “conceptual contaminants” — comprising a confused and immature relationship to complex spiritual principles can seem as invisible and insidious as a sexually transmitted disease.

The following 10 categorizations are not intended to be definitive but are offered as a tool for becoming aware of some of the most common spiritually transmitted diseases.

1. Fast-Food Spirituality: Mix spirituality with a culture that celebrates speed, multitasking and instant gratification and the result is likely to be fast-food spirituality. Fast-food spirituality is a product of the common and understandable fantasy that relief from the suffering of our human condition can be quick and easy. One thing is clear, however: spiritual transformation cannot be had in a quick fix.

2. Faux Spirituality: Faux spirituality is the tendency to talk, dress and act as we imagine a spiritual person would. It is a kind of imitation spirituality that mimics spiritual realization in the way that leopard-skin fabric imitates the genuine skin of a leopard.

3. Confused Motivations: Although our desire to grow is genuine and pure, it often gets mixed with lesser motivations, including the wish to be loved, the desire to belong, the need to fill our internal emptiness, the belief that the spiritual path will remove our suffering and spiritual ambition, the wish to be special, to be better than, to be “the one.”

4. Identifying with Spiritual Experiences: In this disease, the ego identifies with our spiritual experience and takes it as its own, and we begin to believe that we are embodying insights that have arisen within us at certain times. In most cases, it does not last indefinitely, although it tends to endure for longer periods of time in those who believe themselves to be enlightened and/or who function as spiritual teachers.

5. The Spiritualized Ego: This disease occurs when the very structure of the egoic personality becomes deeply embedded with spiritual concepts and ideas. The result is an egoic structure that is “bullet-proof.” When the ego becomes spiritualized, we are invulnerable to help, new input, or constructive feedback. We become impenetrable human beings and are stunted in our spiritual growth, all in the name of spirituality.

6. Mass Production of Spiritual Teachers: There are a number of current trendy spiritual traditions that produce people who believe themselves to be at a level of spiritual enlightenment, or mastery, that is far beyond their actual level. This disease functions like a spiritual conveyor belt: put on this glow, get that insight, and — bam! — you’re enlightened and ready to enlighten others in similar fashion. The problem is not that such teachers instruct but that they represent themselves as having achieved spiritual mastery.

7. Spiritual Pride: Spiritual pride arises when the practitioner, through years of labored effort, has actually attained a certain level of wisdom and uses that attainment to justify shutting down to further experience. A feeling of “spiritual superiority” is another symptom of this spiritually transmitted disease. It manifests as a subtle feeling that “I am better, more wise and above others because I am spiritual.”

8. Group Mind: Also described as groupthink, cultic mentality or ashram disease, group mind is an insidious virus that contains many elements of traditional co-dependence. A spiritual group makes subtle and unconscious agreements regarding the correct ways to think, talk, dress, and act. Individuals and groups infected with “group mind” reject individuals, attitudes, and circumstances that do not conform to the often unwritten rules of the group.

9. The Chosen-People Complex: The chosen people complex is not limited to Jews. It is the belief that “Our group is more spiritually evolved, powerful, enlightened and, simply put, better than any other group.” There is an important distinction between the recognition that one has found the right path, teacher or community for themselves, and having found The One.

10. The Deadly Virus: “I Have Arrived”: This disease is so potent that it has the capacity to be terminal and deadly to our spiritual evolution. This is the belief that “I have arrived” at the final goal of the spiritual path. Our spiritual progress ends at the point where this belief becomes crystallized in our psyche, for the moment we begin to believe that we have reached the end of the path, further growth ceases.

“The essence of love is perception,” according to the teachings of Marc Gafni, “Therefore the essence of self love is self perception. You can only fall in love with someone you can see clearly–including yourself. To love is to have eyes to see. It is only when you see yourself clearly that you can begin to love yourself.”

It is in the spirit of Marc’s teaching that I believe that a critical part of learning discernment on the spiritual path is discovering the pervasive illnesses of ego and self-deception that are in all of us. That is when we need a sense of humor and the support of real spiritual friends. As we face our obstacles to spiritual growth, there are times when it is easy to fall into a sense of despair and self-diminishment and lose our confidence on the path. We must keep the faith, in ourselves and in others, in order to really make a difference in this world.

Source: Huffington Post

– See more at: http://www.spiritscienceandmetaphysics.com/10-spiritually-transmitted-diseases/#sthash.BS8FUzAq.dpuf

As written by Mariana Caplan, Ph.D.  It is a jungle out there, and it is no less true about spiritual life than any other aspect of life. Do we really think that just because someone has been meditating for five years, or doing 10 years of yoga practice, that they will be any less neurotic than the next person? At best, perhaps they will be a little bit more aware of it. A little bit.

It is for this reason that I spent the last 15 years of my life researching and writing books on cultivating discernment on the spiritual path in all the gritty areas–power, sex, enlightenment, gurus, scandals, psychology, neurosis — as well as earnest, but just plain confused and unconscious, motivations on the path. My partner (author and teacher Marc Gafni) and I are developing a new series of books, courses and practices to bring further clarification to these issues.

Several years ago, I spent a summer living and working in South Africa. Upon my arrival I was instantly confronted by the visceral reality that I was in the country with the highest murder rate in the world, where rape was common and more than half the population was HIV-positive — men and women, gays and straights alike.

As I have come to know hundreds of spiritual teachers and thousands of spiritual practitioners through my work and travels, I have been struck by the way in which our spiritual views, perspectives and experiences become similarly “infected” by “conceptual contaminants” — comprising a confused and immature relationship to complex spiritual principles can seem as invisible and insidious as a sexually transmitted disease.

The following 10 categorizations are not intended to be definitive but are offered as a tool for becoming aware of some of the most common spiritually transmitted diseases.

1. Fast-Food Spirituality: Mix spirituality with a culture that celebrates speed, multitasking and instant gratification and the result is likely to be fast-food spirituality. Fast-food spirituality is a product of the common and understandable fantasy that relief from the suffering of our human condition can be quick and easy. One thing is clear, however: spiritual transformation cannot be had in a quick fix.

2. Faux Spirituality: Faux spirituality is the tendency to talk, dress and act as we imagine a spiritual person would. It is a kind of imitation spirituality that mimics spiritual realization in the way that leopard-skin fabric imitates the genuine skin of a leopard.

3. Confused Motivations: Although our desire to grow is genuine and pure, it often gets mixed with lesser motivations, including the wish to be loved, the desire to belong, the need to fill our internal emptiness, the belief that the spiritual path will remove our suffering and spiritual ambition, the wish to be special, to be better than, to be “the one.”

4. Identifying with Spiritual Experiences: In this disease, the ego identifies with our spiritual experience and takes it as its own, and we begin to believe that we are embodying insights that have arisen within us at certain times. In most cases, it does not last indefinitely, although it tends to endure for longer periods of time in those who believe themselves to be enlightened and/or who function as spiritual teachers.

5. The Spiritualized Ego: This disease occurs when the very structure of the egoic personality becomes deeply embedded with spiritual concepts and ideas. The result is an egoic structure that is “bullet-proof.” When the ego becomes spiritualized, we are invulnerable to help, new input, or constructive feedback. We become impenetrable human beings and are stunted in our spiritual growth, all in the name of spirituality.

6. Mass Production of Spiritual Teachers: There are a number of current trendy spiritual traditions that produce people who believe themselves to be at a level of spiritual enlightenment, or mastery, that is far beyond their actual level. This disease functions like a spiritual conveyor belt: put on this glow, get that insight, and — bam! — you’re enlightened and ready to enlighten others in similar fashion. The problem is not that such teachers instruct but that they represent themselves as having achieved spiritual mastery.

7. Spiritual Pride: Spiritual pride arises when the practitioner, through years of labored effort, has actually attained a certain level of wisdom and uses that attainment to justify shutting down to further experience. A feeling of “spiritual superiority” is another symptom of this spiritually transmitted disease. It manifests as a subtle feeling that “I am better, more wise and above others because I am spiritual.”

8. Group Mind: Also described as groupthink, cultic mentality or ashram disease, group mind is an insidious virus that contains many elements of traditional co-dependence. A spiritual group makes subtle and unconscious agreements regarding the correct ways to think, talk, dress, and act. Individuals and groups infected with “group mind” reject individuals, attitudes, and circumstances that do not conform to the often unwritten rules of the group.

9. The Chosen-People Complex: The chosen people complex is not limited to Jews. It is the belief that “Our group is more spiritually evolved, powerful, enlightened and, simply put, better than any other group.” There is an important distinction between the recognition that one has found the right path, teacher or community for themselves, and having found The One.

10. The Deadly Virus: “I Have Arrived”: This disease is so potent that it has the capacity to be terminal and deadly to our spiritual evolution. This is the belief that “I have arrived” at the final goal of the spiritual path. Our spiritual progress ends at the point where this belief becomes crystallized in our psyche, for the moment we begin to believe that we have reached the end of the path, further growth ceases.

“The essence of love is perception,” according to the teachings of Marc Gafni, “Therefore the essence of self love is self perception. You can only fall in love with someone you can see clearly–including yourself. To love is to have eyes to see. It is only when you see yourself clearly that you can begin to love yourself.”

It is in the spirit of Marc’s teaching that I believe that a critical part of learning discernment on the spiritual path is discovering the pervasive illnesses of ego and self-deception that are in all of us. That is when we need a sense of humor and the support of real spiritual friends. As we face our obstacles to spiritual growth, there are times when it is easy to fall into a sense of despair and self-diminishment and lose our confidence on the path. We must keep the faith, in ourselves and in others, in order to really make a difference in this world.

Source: Huffington Post

– See more at: http://www.spiritscienceandmetaphysics.com/10-spiritually-transmitted-diseases/#sthash.BS8FUzAq.dpuf

Morning Reverie

coffee-plumeria

You’ve got up early when it’s quiet and serene, made a cup of coffee and sat down on your porch with your laptop in the coolness of the morning to take in the splendor of the rising sun while you slowly reply to the questions of the outside world. This is your first attempt to be mindful, to really try and put into practice the sermons of the great Zen teachers you’ve been reading and listening to on YouTube. You’re mindful of your own mindfulness, and as you reproach your ego for telling you you’re doing a great job, chuckling at this little joke the universe has decided to share, you don’t notice the light from your laptop screen has attracted a mosquito.

 

The parasitic little mosquito lands unseen on the wrist you’re using to hold your coffee mug, and promptly digs in to the feast under your skin. You have a vague sensation of discomfort and your coffee hand jerks slightly, but you’re distracted by a must-read article on your news feed and you don’t notice the blood-sucking critter, nor do you see the small drop of coffee that has spilled onto your space bar.

 

You teeter unknowingly on the edge of catastrophe, and then, while still sitting comfortably in your chair, fall headlong into the abyss.

 

Your wrist begins to itch. A lot. At first you scratch it half-heartedly, but this soon turns into a frenzied, four-nail digging that provides only temporary relief. Half-way through each sentence in response to an important email from a client, you have to stop typing and scratch. You lose your train of thought repeatedly.

 

In between seeing to the agitation of your epidermis and trying to construct a coherent paragraph, you’re also having to stop writing to move the cursor backwards and at times fairly hammer the spacebar to affect standard grammatical norms. This is extremely annoying as it is slowing you down even more and why won’t the thing just work, anyway?

 

Suddenly you realise your feet are overheating. You’ve got socks and slippers on, as is customary in the morning, but the sun is turning these into a sheepskin kiln and there is sweat between your toes. Just as you’re about to do something about this the dog runs past with the remote control in its mouth. You prepare to shout at it but now you really need the toilet. Caught between the call of nature and the summary destruction of an important piece of technology, sweating profusely at both ends, unable to work and not knowing how to proceed, inside you the clam pool becomes a torrid heaving sea and you break.

 

As the smoke clears the remote has been saved by the sudden appearance of the neighbour’s cat, your wrist has stopped itching, you’re dressed and ready for work as usual, and you’ll answer those emails later with no trouble. But the day is lost. All attempts at mindfulness are on hold as your bad mood propels you through the following hours with all the joy of a fly moving through treacle, resigned to the end and simply willing it to come.

 

You tried so hard, you really did. You were so proud of that effort, and you had such high hopes.

 

Somewhere, the Buddha laughs.

 

Alan Watts ~ The Art of Meditation

We’re always thinking about something else these days, and missing what is here right now. Our obsession with the expectations of a global society continually pulls us away from our true selves, and to find that, we have to stop the chatter in our heads. The guru Alan Watts explains this, in simply the best and most concise interpretation of, and justification for, meditation out there.