Archive for November, 2014

What is it, over there, rising beyond the horizon?

As soon as you call it a mountain, you’ve lost it. It’s now just a picture in your head, no longer the living experience.

Look at it again. There’s definitely something there. But again, even the clearest description is just a description. “Majestic”. “Immoveable”. “10,000 feet high”. Lost it again!

Maybe the closest we can come to expressing it is, “wow!”

Donovan paraphrased an old Zen phrase about this in his song: “First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.”


Maezumi Roshi quoted a longer form of the original in his forward to the Blue Cliff Record: “Before attaining enlightenment, mountains are mountains, rivers are rivers. At the moment of enlightenment, mountains are no longer mountains, nor are rivers rivers. But after accomplishing enlightenment, mountains are mountains, rivers are rivers.”

What, really, is the difference between these two kinds of “mountains are mountains”?



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Hi-Res Mindfulness

After a certain period of practicing mindfulness we begin to understand that it is a cycle.

At first, we may believe that being mindful is like getting into a pool of awareness – you get there and stay there. But we find ourselves straying outside that pool almost immediately, and inevitably we get frustrated because we’re unable to keep ourselves there.

Straying out of the pool of awareness is not a problem, but rather the natural order. We need to process the new things we’ve perceived. The problem is when we find ourselves in Storyland and get stuck there, mulling over our narratives, instead of continuing through the cycle and returning to awareness.

Once we’ve become comfortable with the cyclical nature of mindfulness we can move into the next phase of practice – increasing our mindfulness “resolution”. When you buy a new digital camera you find that it has more megapixels than your previous one. This make it “hi-res” – the pixels are so small that from your normal viewpoint you can’t even see them. All the lines appear perfectly smooth, all the colors blend into each other with no wave patterns. This is similar to what happens when we bring our mindfulness cycle up to speed and smooth our transitions between the stages of being fully aware of this place in this moment, retreating back into our mind to process it, then returning to awareness again.

How hi-res is your mindfulness? Are you returning to the clarity of this moment once a day? Once an hour? Every minute? How about every breath?

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