Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chasing Experiences

Many of us spend our lives chasing experiences. We think if we accumulate enough of the right experiences, we will be happy or if we could find that perfect experience that would last forever, we would be fulfilled. But seeking a new or different experience to satiate something in ourselves will ultimately leave us unsatisfied. Why is that? It is because we are complete without any experience. We do not need to "do" anything to reside in the so-called kingdom of heaven. In fact, sometimes "doing" gets in the way.

A second related part is that seeking a different experience than the current one is to reject current reality. Often, if we look deeply enough, we are seeking that different experience to fulfill a belief in a story of who we are.

WHY do you need anything different than what you have at this moment?

I am rich so I have money. I am smart so I speak well or solve problems well. I am ugly, so few people find me attractive. They are all stories we tell ourselves, in which we believe and then seek out experiences in relationship to that story. If I told you you are nothing and that so am I, and so we all are, how would you feel? The degree of your resistance is the degree to which you are shackled.

You are also everything, every iota.

What if we embraced each moment as it appeared? For example, if you were feeling sad, could you embrace the sadness fully. Where would you feel it? What color would it be? What shape would it be? How big would it be? What would it be trying to tell you? I suspect that when many people encounter sadness in their life, an attitude of " this should not be here exists" They meet the sadness with further injury by condemning it and themselves. Arguing with reality IS suffering. The more we are able to meet that experience with love the more it can dissolve into the nothing that it is too.

Recently, in my own meditations, I noticed that I was seeking rather than resting. A few weeks ago I had a particularly wonderful meditation and I found myself clinging to that experience. I found myself trying to recreate it rather than just letting my moment to moment experience just be. It created suffering. Even within our spritual "practice" we can chase experiences. When we achieve a particular state of bliss or happiness through meditation or listening to a satsang do we find 0urselves yearning to recreate that experience in our lives? Do we become atttached to finding that state again rather than resting in whatever state we are in? I am not saying that we should not have experiences that are blissful or wonderful or surround ourselves with "things" that we enjoy, but do you realize that for anything you enjoy the source of that happiness rests not in that activity or object but actually in you. Only love is real and you are love. It is the love that you bring to "it" that makes all the difference. It is the true seeing of whatever "it" is that makes it beautiful or exciting or wonderful. Everything just wants to be seen. In fact, the most fundamental act of love may be really seeing something. All "things" just "want" to be noticed for what they are. Our experiences are no different. When we chase experiences, we reject the present moment. Its like we are saying this moment is not good enough. I want the next. Its as though we are not capable of giving love to this moment. For any "difficult experience" can you try to give it love too?

Experiment: "Experiment with giving love" to every experience that appears in your life. Can you notice the experience? What happens to the experience after you notice it? What happens when you sit with it without clinging to it, trying to turn it into something else or pushing it away?

There is story within Buddhism that even after the Buddha became enlightened he would still be visited by the demon tempter Mara but Buddha would simply invite Mara to tea. This is a wonderful and loving image. For any experience that is supposedly "negative" can you invite it to tea. This poem by Rumi also captures the idea of not running from our experiences The Guest House

But isn't this a way of thinking paralyzing? How would you ever extract yourself from an unhealthy or dangerous situation?

Accepting the moment, or giving love to the moment does not mean that you cannot act. For instance let us say that someone has been physically abusing you in a relationship. Accepting the moment does not mean you are are "ok" with the person hitting you. It means that you deeply acknowledge that the reality IS that that person has been hitting you. That act in and of itself could take an enormous amount of courage and acceptance of the present moment. It could mean a deep acknowledgent of one's own present moment feelings towards the situation. It means, you deeply notice what has been transpiring and you take action from that place; including removing yourself from your circumstances.

Everything changes from moment to moment. It is born, lives and passes away. The more we can be blown by this silent wind, and not chase after some experience which will not satisfy us anyway, the more we can surrender to this moving current, paradoxically, the more joyful we will find ourselves.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Someone a few years back made a picture frame for me that said "Ambassador of Goodwill". What a wonderful sentiment. I say that not because I am special but because I want everyone who comes in contact with "me" to come away a little richer. We can all be ambassadors of goodwill. We can all be instruments of peace and love. If we are not here to love and enrich each others lives, then what are we here for?

For me, going to run errands has taken on new meaning. The grocery store is filled with opportunities to connect with the world's wonderful denizen. The connection does not have to be much, most of the time its just a beaming smile, but I look to feel the essence of each individual I meet. I look to meet them as a field of compassionate space that says we are all notes in this this wonderful symphony called life. We are all so precious. We are all here so briefly. Consciousness has chosen us to express itself and it is beautiful each and every time. Why not discover that someone masquerading as a person next to you. The funny thing about it is that I come away with so much energy from these encounters. There is synergy when souls connect by playing together in the world of form.

I have been spending a lot of time looking for employment. It can be dim. There are hours in front of the computer pouring over job sites and writing applications. Sometimes I schedule some of these errands and I watch my whole energy system change. The other day at the grocery store, I struck up a wonderful conversation with an "elderly" gentleman. I was standing not quite clearly in line and he entered the line not really seeing me. I let him go ahead and a little while later he asked if he had cut ahead. I said not at all. He then noticed a display of eggs on sale and we wondered together whether they would be cheaper than the one's he had in his cart. I remember being filled with so much joy just standing there next to this man and chatting. He paid for his things and thanked me in front of the cashier for letting him go ahead in the line. The cashier responded we have such nice people in our store.

Well, we are all like that. We all want happiness. We all want connection and love. Several days later the fates were reversed when a woman went out of her way to help me figure out how to negotiate the computerized parking attendant.

It is easy to think that because we read about so much hurt and pain, that people are hateful or evil but that is just the easy way out. We want to write people off because then we don't have to face the depth of the grief that is before us when people commit horrible acts. Our hearts want to close down in the face of such pain. We can pretend that "those" people just are in another category that is not like us. In reality they are like us but for which seeds have been watered. They are just unconscious. When someone is so constricted internally that they believe they will acheive happiness by inflicting pain on someone else, it is deeply sad. It is sad for both the "victim" and the "perpetrator". I call your attention to an absolutely beautiful poem by Thich Nhat Hanh that gracefully captures that tension of our interconnectedness called "Please Call Me By My True Names"

There is only one. Its like all of life is one breathing, pulsing organism, with different parts making up one body. One person is a leg, another an liver, another still a lung, but we all are part of the same oneness. Without each other we would not thrive. We are all looking to connect with each other. Can you sense your connectedness to "other" manifestations of that oneness? Breathe deeply and tell me what your heart says? Tell me a story about when and where you felt connected. It will probably make you feel good.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


The other night in a knee jerk reaction, I dismissed my sweetie. I did not like how I reacted. When I act in these hurtful ways I am not coming from a place of expansiveness. My sweetie had texted me and asked if I would take notes for other parents who could not attend a class that was offered through my son's day care. I told her that I would take notes and share them with other parents. Well, the class did not really lend itself to taking notes. When my sweetie asked if I had taken the notes, I summarily dismissed her. I did not simply say that although I had taken notes, they were not easily shared, my attitude made her wrong for even suggesting the idea in the first place.

I want to be the compassionate space for the world to exist around me. What gets in the way? What prevents me from being the loving space that lets things arise around me? In this case, I think it was an initial resistance to the task in the first place. It was an initial resistance born of fear. I do not see myself as a particularly good note taker and I suspect that I feared that my competence would be judged by the other parents. The fear was there, but not until I examined it now, was it ever acknowledged. In the end, my fear poisoned my reponse to my sweetie. It leaked out. If I had been able to see my fear at being judged about the notes I would have had more choices. I would have seen the fear and perhaps realized that who I am is bigger than the feeling of being afraid. I might have realized that the fear would pass too and I might not have responded from such a conditioned place. After all, she had the larger community in mind whereas my attitude toward her was closed off and self involved. Fear can be like that especially if it is not acknowledged. When it is acknowledged fear has a kind of exhilarating quality to it but when it stagnates in one's pysche it can pollute one's actions.

What are we really afraid of? Often it is a phantom. Look deeply. Are you protecting an image of yourself like I was? It was important that I be seen as "competent". Its a way I try to define myself, but definitions of ourselves are poor substitutes for just being ourselves and sensing it through and through. Who would I be if I were not competent? Would I still exist? Who would I be if I were not smart, or funny or male, or female or fill in the blank? Unconditional love comes from knowing that you are worthy of love, that you are in fact love, when you are absolutely nothing at all. This is what we desire so deeply - love for no reason - just because. Why is it so important that the world know I am -- fill in the blank? I suspect its when I am not rooted in the deeper connection with everything that it matters whether I exhibit certain qualities that make me feel special. Its when I do not feel the specialness of simply existing that I am afraid that I need to be a certain way.

I would like to ask you, what makes you afraid and I would like your responses? Few people live fearlessly, so what situations, people, circumstances, or scenarios, or things in general make you afraid? Maybe posting a comment makes you afraid? Let's talk about our fears. I want to hear from you.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Human Beings

I know I am not the only who gets lost in the "doing" part of being human: one can substitute searching for a job, to working at a job, to taking care of your infant, to talking to a friend, to any task or anything we can "do" as humans. It is always easy to get carried away believing that accomplishing this particular thing will bring what is needed, but more important than doing anything is the state of consciousness from which it comes. Yes, it is true that I am looking for a job, but is it possible to look for a job and be present while doing it? Is it possible to do it from the flow of life, from a state of connectedness? What happens for me is that I simply remember that I am always "home" even if sometimes I get carried away by my life situation or its details. Love is all there is, so it is not possible --to not be home, but sometimes we forget that we are home and get carried away in thinking that we must get somewhere or that something must be accomplished.

The senses are way back home. They are a portal into remembering who we are. Can you occassionally bring your attention to the clickety clack of the keyboard keys as you type? Or the space between your thoughts as you try to come up with what to say? Can you be aware of the knife pressing into the onions as you chop them for tonight's meal? Can you be aware of the silent pauses when your friend is speaking? Can you feel the earth supporting your feet as you walk? Can you feel the beat of your own heart? Can you see the white space on the paper you are reading? Any of those sense "exercises" can give us pause and help us reconnect with the moment we are in. They can help us remember our true purpose is to fully be.

Similarly anything done with your whole being brings joy. Its because everything is meant to be loved. The world is meant to be a playground of love. It is all worthy of our love and so if we can truly "be" with anything, we will feel the love that is its essence.

How would you live your life if you really sensed deeply that everything really was one? What would be different about the way you lived?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Lately, I have been distracted a lot. Although I have maintained a lazer like focus on my job search, I have been distracted from my true life purpose. You see my life's purpose is not the specifics of what I am doing so much, but maintaining a quality of consciousness while doing it. The job search has been consuming. I am approaching it as though it were a full time job, which requires my solid attention and dedication. It is important always to be present in the moments we have and in this I have been distracted. I have not smelled the roses along the way. The peace which is as near as my breath has eluded me simply because I have been too carried away with accomplishing my task.

The buddhists talk of mindfulness, Eckhart Tolle talks about not making the present moment into a means to an end, - they are one in the same -be where you are fully - in that lies your peace. For example, as I sit and write cover letters and search websites for jobs, our cat Aria sits beside me on the desk. Occasionally she will meow and get up, blocking the computer screen. It is never very long. She is simply stretching and asking for a nice pat. Rather than get frustrated that she is blocking the screen I could surrender to the the flow of life which seems to be asking of me in that moment -- take a few moments break.

Often however, I am distracted by the pressing task before me. I must get this done NOW. But is that really true? Too easily do I lose sight of enjoying the journey. You see, frustration is a sign that we are resisting life in that moment. My frustration at Aria comes from a story that I might not finish what I'm working on soon enough or that what I am doing won't be good enough. Fear is clearly trying to come in the backdoor - but are those thoughts true? Maybe they are, maybe they aren't.

My own awakening came with the insight that I did not have to believe even my own thoughts. That they too, just come and go and I don't need to attach to them. It is possible to simply breathe occassionally as the job search continues and to remind myself what a miracle life is. It only takes remembering. It only takes remembering that our true "purpose" is not anything we do, but who we are.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

You Don't Talk On Metro

The other day I was coming home on the metro after going downtown for a job interview. I was sitting in my seat reading Happiness Is An Inside Job by Sylvia Boorstein when a woman in her mid forties came and sat in an adjacent seat next to a young man fresh from college. At first the young man was listening to his mp3 player and jamming to his tunes. After a few minutes though, he decided to engage the young woman in conversation. In the metro, as a rule, strangers do not talk to each other. There is a metro decorum which says remain in your own little world and do not engage the other passengers. At first, because he had broken the decorum, I thought that the two of them knew each other, but when she responded by saying " "You must be new here, don't you know that people don't talk on the metro", I knew that they were strangers. I smiled and paused, alert like a cat watching a mouse hole to see how this exchange would go. The young man however, did not give up, he continued by saying "no, that can't be true" and repeated his question about how her day was. By now the woman was smiling too. He was serious in his attempt to be friendly. They began to talk. Soon they caught me smiling and observing them and the three of us engaged in a very pleasant conversation.

As all of this transpired, some other passengers began to smile too. It was not quite like what happens here: but it was interesting to observe. At one point the two asked me what I was reading and what it was about and I found myself in a discussion about cultivating happiness internally rather than looking to external circumstances to provide it.
I even mentioned that we are not our stories or our reactions or anything else that we can name and found myself talking about how we often respond to events from a place of our particular conditioning not from the expansiveness that we are. We chatted more, talking about our jobs (or former jobs) and where we lived and eventually the woman departed and said goodbye to the both of us. Eventually I got off too.
We never even learned each others names but we shared a wonderful connection that day. That connection exists all the time with everything if you take the space to be aware of it. But most of the time we are operating from our conditioned responses. " Its not ok to engage other passengers" "I must remain in my own world" "S/he will think I am coming onto them if I say something" We do not allow ourselves to feel our oneness or let it drive our actions. We do not see that we are created anew in each and every moment, as is the rest of the world. We operate as if what we did a moment ago, governs what we must do now. How freeing would it be if we realized deeply that we are reborn each moment and that it is only our mind which conjures the illusion of continuity. We do not have to brush someone off on the metro when they start talking to us just because that is what is done on metro. A new world awaits us.
How lovely it was to watch the young man crack the shell of our conditioning and remind us that we are all in this new world together.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What Do You Seek?

It is very common to want more. It is common to feel as though fulfillment is just around the corner, if only I could just . . . . Our minds tell us that we are not complete as we are. They keep us in eternal seeking mode. Perhaps it is a cleaner house that we are seeking, or that perfect relationship, or even enlightenment. The mind is constantly trying to get "there" not understanding that we are already there. What the mind cannot understand is that the breath we are taking this moment right now is fulfillment -- if there is clear seeing.

But I am frightened in this moment you say, I have just lost my job and I don't know how I am going to support myself and my family.

As humans, we try to control our environment. "Knowing" itself, is an attempt to describe or figure out the world so that we can supposedly better function in it. Understanding and knowing have served us well for thousands of years, and they have their place, but what if that knowing is at the "expense" of a deeper intelligence and deeper freedom that few have ever realized. What would happen if we really embraced the idea that we cannot really ever "know" anything. How would we live? Can you entertain the notion that it might be freeing? After all , things would still happen - you would likely still take your next breath, your cells would still multiply and divide, you would probably still go sort your laundry into piles. Life would all still be "moving", a deeper something would still be operating, but you would not be the center of it. Life would go on being life somehow, even if you did not try to control it or make it fit what you thought it "should" be. Most of us go through life with the illusion that we are in control but is that really true? Take a moment and ask yourself if you have ever been in control of your life? Do you even really know what's "best" for you? How would you judge?

Yes, it is true that it may be scary to lose a job, but as humans we are capable of wonderfully complex feelings and emotions. Its a part of the richness of our experiences as humans -- why can't fulfillment and fright exist side by side? What would happen if you inquired about your fright or accepted that you were afraid? Does being afraid have to cancel out joy, or fulfillment? If it did, then why do people enjoy scary movies or roller coasters or ghost stories?

Exercise : Take a recent situation that you are worried about or frightened about and look at it as an observer for several hours? Did the shape of the worry/fright stay exactly the same over time? Were you worried/frightened continuously or did other things take your attention from them for respites? If so what were they? Where did you feel the worry/fright in your body? Is the fright or worry as monolithic as it was at the beginning?

It is the mind that tells us that we are not fulfilled, that we want more or something different; that something must be "wrong" with the experience we are having. It may not be a "pleasant" experience. It may not be an experience we would care to repeat, but it is, simply what it is, - nothing more, nothing less. By making the experience wrong, we set up resistance which IS our suffering. In those moments we are "resisting" the flow of life. We are resisting life itself. It is, as it is. If there is something we can do - do it, if not, accept it. It is the stories we tell, that we attach to like a burr to a sock that are the origins of our pain. As Byron Katie says Who would you be without your story? Our stories are the movements of our mind. They create a "me" where emptiness exists. Don't get me wrong, the mind is not "bad". It is not something to be rid of - that would be more resistance, rather it should just not be taken so seriously. It simply is. It tries very hard to do a job for which it is ultimately unqualified - bringing you peace. True joy and peace come from the vast depth of who you are, not from chasing particular fleeting circumstances.

It is peaceful to mimic a porch screen through which events pass like a summer breeze.

For they will pass, both the "good" and the "bad". Nothing lasts, it all dissolves away into beautiful nothing.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I once read an essay about the beginnings of stories. It quoted the great literature and talked about why some beginnings were so good. I don't remember much of what it said but it clearly differentiated the good ones from the bad ones. At least one thing is true of them both; beginnings always circumscribe the infinite. Before a beginning the potential is limitless.

This is a kind of beginning for me in many ways.

This blog was nearly called "Extradordinary Ordinariness" or "Wide Open Spaces" but ultimately "Compassionate Space" rang out most truthfully as what the blog was trying to accomplish. In this compassionate space, I hope to bring forward the everyday miracles of life that are present with a little awareness. I hope we can share life as it touches us, sensing that our sharing is not a separate part of life but one of the many forms through which life communicates with itself.

Life is indeed filled with the extraordinary in the ordinary and it is true that through giving wide open space to all that is before us we invite peace, but compassionate space as a title resonated and I have come to trust those little inclinations.

Yesterday, I witnessed a doe that had been shattered and dragged to the side of the road. Once a creature of magnificent grace and beauty, it lay there lifeless and decomposing. Life is so very precious. Be the space for it to happen. Why make a problem out of it? To have a problem is to be identified with the circumstances of your life, but YOU are not your so called "problems", YOU are so must vaster. Draw on that depth. You are the compassionate space through which the world unfolds. Be still and see if this is true for you.

Tell me, where do you begin?