Friday, January 30, 2015
Thursday, January 22, 2015
All too often we ‘live’---if you can call it living---in either the past or the future. We all know that is not the way to live, but we all do it. Many books have been written in recent years about the importance of living in the now … so many books that you would think it is a new idea. It’s not. All the great religious teachers spoke of the importance of living in the now, as did others such as Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. I love these words from Seneca:
Marcus Aurelius had much to say about the importance of living in the present moment. He wrote, ‘When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.’ He also gave us this wonderful advice: ‘Confine yourself to the present.’ Yes, more than half of our problems would vanish---indeed, die from atrophy on the altar of life---if only we confined ourselves to the present.
Layman P'ang (Páng Jūshì [Ch]; Hōkoji [Jp]) (740–808) [pictured left] was a highly respected lay Buddhist monk in the Chinese Chán (Zen) tradition. A bureaucrat, he worked for the Chinese government of the day. He studied with a Zen teacher named Shítóu Xīqiān (Sekitō Kisen [Jp]). It is written that Shítóu asked of Layman P’ang, ‘’ P’ang is said to have replied, ‘My daily activities,’ by which he meant activities such as d
P’ang wrote much on the subject of ‘empty-mindedness,’ that is, on the need to develop what I call ‘a mindful mind of no-mind.’ Sounds goobligook? Well, in a way it is. You see, what we are talking about is a state of mind that is transrational. Anyone who meditates regularly will know what I am talking about. Listen to these words of P’ang:
The past is already past.
An ‘empty mind’ is not a dull or unintelligent mind. It is a mind that it so open to whatever be the content of the experience of life from one moment to the next it has penetrated the very core and essence of be-ing-ness. It is a mind that contains no 'shoulds' or 'oughts,' that is, beliefs and misbeliefs about how life ought to be. It is a mind that, so far as is possible, is free of all conditioning. In a previous post I wrote about the ‘empty mind’:
It does not mean the absence of mind, or absentmindedness, but rather a mind which is non-discriminating, uncoloured, fluid, unbound and free from deluded thought ... indeed, a mind where there is no conditioned thinking, desiring or controlling ... a spontaneous and detached state of mind characterized by inward silence and no knowing awareness ... a mind which effortlessly thinks what it thinks ... without there being any interference (judgment, analysis, etc) by some 'thinker' or 'ego' within the mind.
Here’s some more wisdom from Layman P’ang:
My daily activities are not unusual,
That’s what is meant by an empty mind.
So, what are you waiting for? Go empty your mind.
Calligraphy [below]: Mushin (empty mind).
Thursday, January 15, 2015
The inquiry, which was conducted by the British All-Party Parliamentary Group on Mindfulness, found frontline public servants could be less likely to fall ill with stress, or quit altogether, if they engage in mindfulness.
A number of small pilot studies on the potential impact of mindfulness in the public sector are already underway in the UK. One hundred frontline health workers in Surrey were given mindfulness training last year and showed a fall in sickness absence, according to the UK Department of Health. Several prisons are running pilots to see how mindfulness can help convicted criminals avoid re-offending while 300 teachers in a network of academy schools in the northwest of England have also been trained.
‘[Mindfulness] could be rolled out to prison staff, GPs and in key professions where there is big burn out,’ said Chris Ruane MP, co-chair of the group. ‘If we prove conclusively that mindfulness can stabilise those individuals it would be a great benefit to society.’
‘Absenteeism costs the public sector a lot and giving people mindfulness training could save money in the short and long term,’ added co-chair Tracey Crouch MP. She added that interest in the practice is growing in Westminster and that she knew of two British Cabinet ministers who use mindfulness techniques. Sixty MPs and 55 peers have also had training in mindfulness.
The report represents the most significant political pressure yet to bring mindfulness into the mainstream.
Sunday, January 11, 2015
At this time of the year many people make a resolution, which is often short-lived, to embark upon some sort of self-improvement program or to give up some bad habit. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am all for personal transformation, but there is a right, and a wrong, way to go about it, both in thought, word and deed.
The reason the good ‘I’ can’t change the bad ‘I’ is because they are one and the same. Worse still, both ‘I’s’ are illusory. When I use the word 'illusory' I am not saying these 'I's' do not exist. They do exist---but only as self-image in our mind. The 'I's' are, however, illusory in the sense that they are not what they appear to be. All the 'I's' and 'me's' in your mind are brought about by thought, and they have no reality in and of themselves. They appear to be 'solid,' 'fixed,' and 'permanent,' but they are not. They are, as the Indian spiritual philosopher J. Krishnamurti used to say, the product of thought which divides.
The only program of self-improvement that has any chance at all of being successful is one where the person that each one of us is makes a decision to invoke the power of one’s own personhood. That power is not of self; it is a ‘power-not-oneself.’ Self can’t change self, for all our mental selves are in and of themselves not only powerless but also contradictory and in opposition to each other. Hence the need to rely upon a power-not-oneself---the power that comes from being a person among persons.
Now, what is a person? Well, the well-known English philosopher P F Strawson [pictured right] wrote much on the subject. Strawson articulated a concept of ‘person’ in respect of which both physical characteristics and states of consciousness can be ascribed to it. Each one of us is a person among persons---a mind-body complex. We are much, much more than those hundreds of little, false selves---all those waxing and waning ‘I’s’ and ‘me’s’---with which we tend to identify, in the mistaken belief that they constitute the ‘real me,’ that is, the person each one of us is. Only the latter is ontologically real. Personal freedom and real personal transformation come when we get real, that is, when we start to think, act and live from our personhood as a person among persons. We need to get our mind off our ‘selves’ and rise above them if we are to get real. And remember this---there is no human problem that is not common to other persons among persons.
GIVING UP SMOKING WITH MINDFULNESS
Thursday, January 8, 2015
Now, keeping myself fully erect (oh dear), the purpose of this ever-so-brief post is to bring to your attention the fact that late last year The New Republic had a most informative article on mindfulness. It’s well worth a read.
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Thursday, January 1, 2015
I call it the ‘porthole experience’ or ‘porthole effect.’
The porthole experience or effect illustrates that life is constant flux and constant movement. In that regard, it was the American spiritual psychologist Vernon Howard who said, ‘Real life is a timeless renewal in the present moment.’ That’s a great description of the porthole experience. In addition, the porthole experience illustrates that we experience life fragmentally, that is, in and through successive ‘portholes,’ metaphorically speaking.
The omnipresent and ever-present present---what we call the present moment or the now---is simply that which presents itself before us, in and through successive ‘porthole’ experiences, as the now---the Eternal Now, to use a popular expression. So, the present embraces past, present and future. The Christian theologian Paul Tillich says as much in his book The Eternal Now. Tillich writes, 'The mystery of the future and the mystery of the past are united in the mystery of the present. Our time, the time we have, is the time in which we have "presence."'
MINDFULNESS---THIS IS THE REFRESHING!