More Like Working Out

More Like Working Out

“When people go to the gym, for example, they know pretty much what’s going to happen, and how it’s going to happen. Lifting weights causes muscles to stretch and even tear a little, causing lactic acid to build up, causing the muscles to rebuild themselves bigger and with more capacity than they had before. It’s a physical process, and while trainers will debate the best methods until the end of time, the basic operation is clearly understood.

Meditation is similar. If you do the work, predictable changes in the mind and the brain tend to result, in a fairly reliable way. This, in a sense, is the very opposite of spirituality—and it’s certainly not religion either. It’s more like working out: Each time I come back to the breath, I’m strengthening very specific neural networks.”

~ Jay Michaelson

Which One is It?

Alan Wallace, from "Equanimity: Breaking the 'I-It' Relationship with Ourselves," Live from Phuket!, April 24, 2010:

"If I feel really bad about myself, if I don't like myself, how many people are there in here? Which one is it that doesn't like the other one? Isn't there a sense of superiority? When I say, I'm such a schmuck, isn't the person who's thinking that a little bit better than the schmuck that he just judged? So how many people are there in there? It looks like at least two. When I think, Oh, I'm such a jerk, selfish person, hot-tempered person—whatever derogative comment we make about ourselves—it seems to me that it is a classic instance of it-ifying oneself. Just turning oneself into an unpleasant object from a superior vantage point and then looking down on oneself as that's the one I don't like.

But it happens not only for self-loathing, low self-esteem, lack of self-worth and so forth, but on some occasions some people feel pretty good about themselves: self-infatuation. Looking into the mirror and saying, Looking good! I am really something. And now there's one more it and this is a pleasant it. We're applauding the it as if we're watching a show. So we can it-ify, objectify, in an agreeable fashion, in which case we become objects of attachment for ourselves. We can be also objects of aversion for ourselves. And on other occasions, we can simply say, Man, you're a boring person. I don't really care much about you one way or another. So one more it-ifying.”


“When we try to make sense of other people's faults, whatever comes to mind as we paint the person, we're painting from the palette of our own minds. And so if somebody engages in evil that we can't even comprehend, when we try to imagine it, all we'll be able to do is approximate based upon our own experience. So quite literally, we bring to mind other people's faults, they are faults that we've projected based upon our own experience. They are, in fact, our own faults. It's not to say that nobody else has those faults, but whenever we think of those other people, we are in fact painting in the substrate of our own minds."

The Evil of Not Doing Anything

Hokai Sobol in conversation with Terry Patten from “Can Dharma Help us Turn the Corner?”, Buddhist Geeks Podcast #163 (March 15, 2010):

Originally, Dharma, meaning all traditional spirituality, in this case…All the great spiritual traditions have appeared in a world where human culture, because of technological reasons, first of all, and because of limited number of humans at the time, did not have the power to threaten the world. To threaten the natural world, to threaten the limits of the resources in the world, to threaten each other. Many cultures existed in spatial isolation, or distanced enough from each other to feel safe, which is now an impossibility. We can’t even plan to achieve that in the future because we’re going in the opposite direction. We’re not just closing on each other, we’re mixing up to an incredible degree all over the world.

So, basically, Dharma appeared in a situation where warnings and instructions on the importance of digging into the fundamentals of human culture and working to transform the culture, not the individual mind, was extremely important. So, that type of instruction couldn’t even appear at that time. Because if you simply practice non-violence, meaning if you did nothing wrong to anyone, there was nothing that could go much wrong on its own accord. But, at this moment, in human history, if you just passively don’t do anything wrong, this may be the greatest evil. Because if you’re capable of not doing anything wrong, then you are one of rare humans who are extremely equipped of doing a lot of good. And if you don’t contribute that good, a certain destructive or a certain skeptical or a certain small-hearted attitude may prevail in the world. Thus, allowing the culture, equipped with an incredible technology now, to actually wreck havoc all around us. We can see traces of this havoc already taking place, right?


On Making a Raft

Matt & Daron Portaging in the Adirondaks (July 2009)

"How useful this raft has been to me! For it was in dependence on this raft that, making an effort with my hands and feet, I have crossed over to safety on the further shore. Why don't I, having hoisted it on my head or carrying on my back, go wherever I like?"

~ Buddha

Why would one make and use a raft to cross a river only to haul it uselessly around as a burden? This is often our unskillful practice, says Stephen Batchelor. We use spiritual practice to encounter life with freshness and openness, not clinging to any particular method, just as we do not carry around a raft after having crossed a river. Each moment is an opportunity to practice. If we truly embody the practice, we can act appropriately and spontaneously in every situation.