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Archive for July, 2012

This week protesters are clashing with riot police in Anaheim, California. The protests are over recent shootings by the Anaheim police. As this happens, Disneyland fireworks go off above.

How often is your mind a riot of stories, buzzing thoughts and emotions? Like the protesters, the police and the tourists in Anaheim, different parts of our mind have their own agendas and their own ways of pursuing them. There is only so much room in our awareness, so all these stories can end up cascading over each other, fighting for our attention. This too often ends up in a mental and emotional logjam, with nothing getting done and none of our internal agendas getting satisfied.

Mindfulness disperses the Mind Riot, but not through force, not by taking any sides, and not by figuring out any solutions. When the riot threatens to overwhelm you, let out a big sigh and take a mental step back away from emotional involvement in the stories. Don’t try to stop any and don’t encourage any, but instead, let your awareness settle with your cycle of breathing for three breaths. What happens to the Mind Riot?

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The Goal of No Goal

Here’s a story about the results we can get when not seeking any result: http://oaklandlocal.com/posts/2012/06/saving-buddha-east-11th-street-oakland-community-voices

If the people in the story had had a specific outcome in mind, other than a general improvement of the surroundings, they may have been very disappointed. Especially if they wanted results in a certain amount of time. But they had nothing specific in mind, were just open to seeing how the environment changes when conditions change. In this case, all they did was place a buddha statue in a blighted area. And give it the most minimal care.

The writer keeps mentioning that the Buddha just sat there and never said a word. Slowly the environment transformed from a garbage dump to an oasis of tranquility. And the Buddha just kept sitting there.

Here is where the “Zen” in “Zen Mindfulness” comes in. This all rests on the fundamental goal-less-ness championed by Zen as the path to liberation. Now, this doesn’t mean no goal ever – there is always the goal of freedom from suffering for all. What this does point to is the realization that ultimate freedom only comes when we let go of every goal we’re clinging to. Even the goal of liberation for all! What happens then? Suddenly we’re open to unlimited possibilities. Nothing occupies the mind so it is naturally vast and clear. Mindfulness is revealed when we drop all intended results.

The Buddha just sat there and didn’t say a word. When we sit in Zen meditation we just sit and don’t say a word. This isn’t non-action – it’s a very specific action. And all actions lead to results. Negative actions lead to negative results, beneficial actions lead to beneficial results. When injecting equanimity in the environment, the way Buddha statues and people sitting in meditation do, there will be results related to equanimity. We can’t predict what form they will take, or when they will happen, but they will inevitably come up in some form.

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Inner Silence

The Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche once said, “You know that space between your thoughts? Stay there.”

I’m visiting the little town I grew up in. I’ve only returned here twice in the last thirty years, so the things and places I see bring up very clear memories of my childhood. But there is often something in the way – the song running through my head, or the thought of something that needs to be done at work when I go home. These obscure the experience of the moment. So I take a few moments to find that space between the thoughts, that silence that lies behind the pop melody that keeps looping in the mind.

Just a few moments is all it takes. A big sigh, relaxing the body, breath and mind, then several breaths consciously letting gravity bring the breathing down to the belly. The mind settles too – thoughts and music fading away, until what remains is what is here right now, in clear focus because it’s against the backdrop of inner silence. And at this moment, that means green trees, thistles and bird songs I haven’t heard in decades.

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