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David Weiskopf

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Everything posted by David Weiskopf

  1. I have been there—with my dad during his last months before he passed away. It really reveals how much some of us rely on certain fixed perceptions and judgments of how things are and should be. To watch them fall apart really was unnerving. It was also a real lesson about the importance of letting-go of rigid views and expectations in favor of opening with love and generosity to what presents itself...with the ailing parent, oneself, and bewildered loved ones. In hindsight I could have done a lot better. I ask his forgiveness in meditation often. My culture in no way prepares one for this, so mistakes were to be expected. I had to forgive myself. A teacher says if we are not making mistakes, it is a mistake. I love that little aphorism. We need not react to mistakes with harshness but respond with kindness. My thoughts are with you. I really did not want to participate in this forum but the poignancy of your post tugged at my heartstrings. Best wishes to you.
  2. You are on your way! How was Day 1 for you? I just did it myself. Not all people are initially comfortable with following the breath as a meditation object. Was it nice for you? Have you had any prior experience with meditation practice? I personally really like breath practice. It is my basic practice. Sean does a nice job.
  3. OK I'm in. I'll sign up. Actually, I am in a meditation retreat through Sunday, but I'll still get started. Nice working with you.
  4. If I don’t feel like meditating, before simply giving in I try to examine what is going on that has given rise to an aversion to meditating. Often that settles me right down, but if it doesn’t the next step for me is evaluating my affordable energy. If my tank is empty, then maybe I need sleep or a refreshing exercise. If I’m too agitated, I do some walking meditation or Tai Chi first. If aversion about something else seems to be the problem, then I meditate but start with practices to generate kindness and compassion. It usually makes being with aversion simply part of being what we are that I can regard with kind acceptance. Sometimes I seek out a rewarding interaction with another person before meditating or resolve to do so later. That seems to help tilt my perspective from being aversive to being more enthusiastically engaging. I really think a big part of developing enthusiasm for formal meditation practice is developing an attitude of friendship toward oneself and others, as challenging as that is for me. But, “challenging” is o.k. too. Boredom used to be an interesting challenge. When I would get bored I learned simply to meditate anyway and do two things—examine boredom and really ground my attention in other sensations of my body. So much would be going on aside from boredom. Boredom off the cushion is harder for me because it seems to come down to things I wish I could change but cannot. I’m a bit of a doom scroller, but I also use the pent-up energy to read and try to better understand things, to better understand how we delude ourselves. LOL, that often leads me right back to the meditation cushion!
  5. The How to Recognize Spiritual Bypassing offering is great...and I haven’t even explored the links yet.
  6. I do want to add that, while some truths can be manifestly clear as matters of fact or having an extremely high probability of being so, others require doing a lot of homework, formal practice, and reflection. So, I don’t want to undermine what Gillian is talking about. We see a lot of people who have not done the work even to acknowledge the former, obvious truths, like climate-change deniers and believers in conspiracy theories completely devoid of any supporting evidence. Of course some truths might be more personal than objective, arising from one’s core values and motivations. I like how Gillian is getting at how we need to examine how well our values and motivations underlying our actions actually are aligned. That same sort of examination has to do with whether we courageously speak truth or maintain silence for selfish reasons.
  7. I am confused. Are the monthly training sessions available to people with Sean’s basic teacher training certification or do we have to enroll in a premium teacher mastermind program?
  8. I have been practicing meditation for approximately 15 years and studying the ancient Buddhist suttas, but I still can be pretty cynical. I never did the 100 Day Challenge. I would be happy to partner with you, but please feel free to look elsewhere if you feel someone else would better match your interests.
  9. I find little about which to be inspired. Too many “spiritual” people seem to invoke Jesus’ last words, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” They seem to take righteous satisfaction in the belief that they are maintaining civility and high moral values. Although their message is coupled with wonderful resolves to pursue personal growth and service of others, it sounds like the ultimate confession of helplessness to me. How do we encourage people to “remember” or reckon with what they refuse to acknowledge? On the one hand, that sort of attitude is a perfect expression of pragmatic spiritual practice—applying effort toward wholesome action where such action can be of benefit and not driving ourselves crazy where it cannot. On the other hand, to me, it represents a sort of spiritual bypass to avoid speaking truth about conditions that promote dishonesty and harming that sometimes are a byproduct of implicit biases but oftentimes are simply rationalizations for avarice and callousness. There must be more people courageous enough to speak uncomfortable truths to power and its supporters who unconsciously or expediently want to avoid it and demonize its purveyors. There must be a willingness to endure some hardships as a result. This seems to me the single most important thing to emphasize now and I think Jeff points in the same direction if I understand him correctly. Any additional actions that promote personal growth and help others have multiple rewards and benefits. They help the actor, they help the recipients, and they lend respect and credibility to the speaker. We have no obligation to relieve malefactors of being made to feel uncomfortable about their conduct. To construe “right speech” or civility to require such acquiescence is to mistake them for their near enemies for the sake of avoiding our own fears of rejection and disapproval, of perhaps losing opportunities that we might preserve by being “agreeable.” It serves not only others’ greed and delusion but it serves our own too.
  10. You might like this Hidden Brain episode on the power of gratitude. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/hidden-brain/id1028908750?i=1000499996014
  11. I really want to emphasize what I think is implicit in the others’ responses and that is kind and full acceptance of disliked traits in yourself as distinct from some sort of resignation. Those traits were not chosen by you out of malice but were the result of a wide net of causes and conditions. So, it is like embracing and protecting a wounded child, puppy or kitten—guiding it not to lash out and at the some time nurturing and transforming it. Repression and self-aggression don’t work. I suggest turning the self-critic on its head by kindly telling it: “Of course I see those traits, but far from ridiculing myself for them I applaud my recognizing them because it affords me opportunities for healing and growth.” You still can firmly resolve not to act them out again. That can be a good thing as long as you aren’t harsh on yourself if you fail in your resolve; with kindness you begin again. That is my thinking anyway.
  12. We have 3 dogs who wake us up anywhere between 4 and 5:30 a.m. I love the routine of taking them out, feeding them, and then making coffee. It’s my fault they get up so early, because when I worked I would set the alarm for 4 or 4:30 so I could sit and quietly sip coffee and pet dogs for an hour before meditating and readying for work. Ha, ha, I wake up as a completely deluded and groggy person. Slowly I orient myself toward the day. The a.m. sit usually has its fill of wonder—I’m here, I’m breathing, and the world is teeming with energy. Too bad much of mankind is set on poisoning it. Wonder and poison. I am still like an awed, awkward and bewildered child in some respects who simply cannot make sense of it and lives outside of it. Yet, formal meditation practice fills me with confidence and resolve.
  13. Rick Hanson’s newsletter just addressed how important one’s waking moments are in an essay entitled “Lean into Good on First Waking.” https://www.rickhanson.net/lean-into-good-on-first-waking/
  14. Daniel, I have not encountered any uniformity among Buddhists about these issues (something I actually find distressing, to be honest). Not that it matters, because it is your exploration of them that is important. What struck me as being especially wise in your reflection was your emphasis on compassion. Sean teaches the importance of balancing insight and caring/compassion, balancing the “head” and the “heart.” My teacher basically says something similar—that if your practice is not opening your heart, something is lacking. Of course, an open heart might not guarantee skillful means in conversing with others, but it surely helps! Part of developing the heart in Buddhism is supposed to be about giving other sentient beings no reason to fear you. I think that is such a lovely notion—that loving-kindness, compassion, and joy for others’ successes and happiness not only protects you but protects others...from you. I think that notion was apparent in your reflection.
  15. Your comment, Gillian, reminds me of a book about skiing. It said that skiing powder is simpler than skiing anything else and requires only a few of the basic skill sets from skiing other types of snow, but it requires having progressed through the other types of skiing to some significant extent. The “mindfulness” Of Ajahn Sucitto’s talk is not the same mindfulness as at early stages of formal practice. Perhaps we could think of the qualities of mindfulness as occurring on a spectrum with simple but skillful attention of present-moment experience being on the weakest end and penetrating mindfulness being on the other. In all cases mindfulness is dependent on the presence and development of other factors. Its development also is dependent on temporarily letting-go of patterns that get in the way. Fortunately, with the help of a little guidance, those things tend to unfold naturally and, as you suggest, simply over the course of practice. Would you agree?
  16. My sense is that emotions are primarily physical, are somatic, are embodied. The mind tries to interpret them and explain them. It tries to devise strategies to avoid unpleasant ones and to seek and encourage pleasant ones. This goes back to the consciousness question. We might not be aware of the physical feeling and sensation triggered by some event, but it colors or affects how we relate to it. Basically the body orients us to seek what feels good to it and to avoid what doesn't. Because we have the capacity of long-term memory, recalling events can also elicit the feelings and emotions. My guess is that so much of our ruminating arises from our brains subconsciously planning how to seek out pleasant and gratifying experiences and to avert unpleasant ones. We can get carried away with anticipated pleasant events or even fantasies and conversely become anxious or hostile about potential lurking dangers. One of my teachers sums it up with the phrase, "seeking opportunities and avoiding threats." We start forming patterns for how we think and relate to certain triggered feelings and sensations from infancy. They become our "personalities." These patterns often are not well adapted for the complexities of modern social interactions and cultural pressures, or even developmental changes of growing up for that matter. So, to some degree I think we all develop and experience problems. The talk by Ajahn Sucitto just included in Sean's 5 Mindful Musings addresses this and how mindfulness practices can work to free us from these patterns. https://mindfulnessexercises.acemlna.com/lt.php?s=6038f5f1bae17d46a57132e295de1401&i=827A1130A2A13864 Ajahn Sucitto makes it sound so simple, but I would say for most people it is anything but. Still, the work toward it holds many rewards along the way. It's not like everything is drudgery until one reaches the promised land. I don't pretend to have done so, but I find the journey much more enjoyable than I did when I started. I know this is not the same as sharing how I notice particular feelings in my body, but it is my way of explaining that I feel them with a lot more particularity and a lot more deeply now than previously. This is not always a fun thing; many of my dreams seem to be revisiting painful occurrences from my past so that the emotions can be fully received. Although that in some ways is painful, there is a certain joy in it too. It's like being able to open all the doors and windows to air out the house and let in the sunshine and fresh air.
  17. That is a fantastic article! Thanks so much, Gillian. I have long thought that anyone professing to favor acceptance and compassion should at least attempt to maintain them when facing anger, outrage, or the like from others. I pretty much have given up on that (except I try to teach it to my small meditation group) and I do agree with the article that insisting on only non-harsh speech is, quoting your article, a way of: "subtly creating a coercive environment in which there is pressure on the person who has just experienced immense pain to immediately choose a form of response that requires commitment, awareness, and some degree of healing from trauma in order to be accessible in the best of times, let alone in those circumstances when one is reeling and in shock. It can easily become yet another occasion in which the needs and norms of the dominant culture are prioritized over care for those people who have borne the invisible brunt of such norms." I would go farther and assert that such insistence is a way of asserting oneself by exercising dominion over the other. It is a way of shifting the topic from one which makes the listener uncomfortable to blaming the "victim" for how he or she presented it. Many parents do this to kids all the time and then wonder why they grow up to be resentful toward them. When I receive continued treatment in that way, even after swallowing my hostility and attempting to readdress my concerns in a much more modulated manner, I do tend to chose withdrawal from further contact to the greatest practicable extent just as the article suggests might happen. Let me observe one other thing, people who seem most intolerant of anger in others seem to display a great deal of righteous entitlement to their own, be it expressed aggressively or passively. I get it that anger is scary, hurtful and challenging to be around. So, if we have the means, we generally should try to modulate it. At the same time, it is a primary human feeling or emotion that should be accepted, respected, and understood--things your article does extremely well. Thanks again. I'm saving that one. Maybe I'll send it to Gil.
  18. This is not to say, Gillian that I don’t greatly appreciate what you are offering. For me this nevertheless is a bad time, in the midst of this election turmoil here in the States, to bring up forgiveness. I finally am getting pretty good at knowing that bitterness and ill-will hurt me and can harm others in counterproductive ways. I too loved the Kurt Vonnegut quote about not letting bitterness steal your softness. The teacher I regularly listen to, Gil Fronsdal, makes a point of frequently saying, “Don’t make things worse.” We may lack the wisdom and discernment to achieve resolution, but we can say, “No,” to impulses to act out in ways that clearly will make things worse. At least this is his teaching as I understand it. It drives me crazy! It’s not that I don’t appreciate that perspective, which I think goes to forgiveness and very practical reasons for it. I think, however, that it too much ignores other important perspectives. If, after pausing and carefully examining one’s own motivations and available information, one is convinced another’s actions are unduly harmful, then what? How does one act or an organization act so as not to acquiesce and thereby become complicit? So, to me another important perspective to consider is when to speak truth to harming or the distortions and misinformation used to justify it. Taken even further this consideration can entail another perspective of what would be appropriate accountability. I am concerned that there often might be a lot of spiritual bypass going on to preserve “peace” among close associates and neighbors by people who convince themselves they are admirably taking the morally and spiritually higher ground. All they really might be doing is avoiding the discomfort of the conflict, difficulties and risks inherent in standing up for their true higher spiritual and moral values. This cedes authority to fanatics who act as though any means justify their ends because they are conferred with a higher authority that holds little regard for those deviating from it. (Implicit in this is the need to avoid behaving as though oneself were so invested, which can be very hard when one’s passions become stirred.) It’s one thing to find equanimity within oneself that excludes no part of one’s experience, which is very possible and worth cultivating. It is completely another to believe and act as though one can project and impose it on the world at large, which is completely deluded. At least, among other possible actions, one can set an example by one’s outward composure, thoughtfulness and commitment to greater moral and spiritual objectives than just fitting-in or reaping benefits from belonging to a close network of people with mutual self-interests. I should add this seems to be one thing Tim DeChristopher, whom Sharon mentions in the interview, understood well.
  19. Because I tend to be coldly rational and judgmental, my practice nearly always focuses on "bottom-up" processes starting with awareness of bodily sensations, then resting attention on the breath, and then moving into global awareness of the body. For me, this progression serves gradually to admit awareness and acceptance of feelings (pleasant, unpleasant, or neither-pleasant-or-unpleasant) and then thoughts and emotions. It really releases the grasping aspects of disembodied thinking and judgment and results in a pleasant abiding with whatever affective states arise in the body/mind. Depending on what seems called-for, I either emphasize mindful awareness and investigation or abandon the breath and the substantial body for a more open awareness. Either way, I find formal meditation often reboots my system from being somewhat hyper-vigilant and tense to being much calmer, flexible, and openly present. For many weeks before the election, I had been emphasizing loving-kindness practice after briefly settling as described above. I have found this hard to keep up while doomscrolling election results, so I'm taking this week off. My consistent intention is to find refuge in the flow of natural conditions as they manifest in the constantly changing experience of this body and then to broaden it to include an interconnectedness with all manifestations such that my "top-down" process of evaluative and creative thinking are well-integrated and aligned with the "bottom-up" and greater external processes. During the day, I try to do a lot of brief pauses and checks with how well integrated mind and body are (which is not to say they are well-integrated). On rare occasions, I will listen to music--usually Deva Premal. I do not journal although from time to time I will do brief essays sometimes to myself and sometimes to others to organize my thoughts. For myself, there is danger in journaling and even "noting" in meditation practice. The danger is reinforcing the tendency to take too seriously the stories and views projected in my mind to explain experiences. For me, this just increases the rift between my mind and my body including heartfelt emotions. It tends to cause me to contract around a somewhat narcissistic sense of myself and of being separate from everything and everyone else. I don't dislike the storytelling aspect of my mind and attend to it with interest with its arisings and passings. I simply have learned not to trust it without much investigation and even then to hold it lightly. The fact that it generally does not appear during formal meditation and is much less salient during daily activities tells me the ordinary tendency is to give it undue authority. (This is a longwinded way of confessing I tend to be a "head-case" and have had a history of lending the storytelling mind way too much authority in the past.) Isn't it interesting how different we can be?
  20. I'm not sure you are offering a different perspective. I am not talking about people who started "there" a long time ago and sine have experienced significant growth. I don't think a one-size-fits-all approach is either effective or trauma-sensitive. Actually, I think a lot of the glorification of activism oftentimes IS a projection of conceit (The greater universe of conditionality doesn't give a #%&! what one thinks anyone ought to do and how accomplished one displays his or herself to be at it). I think a lot more people are basically operating from places of trauma and great pain and fearfulness than we realize. I think they try to put on a bold face and make a good go at it, but it's taking a huge toll they cannot bear to acknowledge. You don't have to accuse me of projecting, I'll own to that being so in my case, except I have come to know it intimately. I really like one activist's take on finding a balance of kindness toward oneself and toward others that bears in mind the dangers of burnout, greed, or fanaticism. http://www.mushimikeda.com/blog/2017/11/15/one-activists-oath-first-vow-not-to-burn-out She is a dedicated practitioner, trainer, and activist who has seen a lot of burnout! I am not discouraging people from becoming involved in community activism or service until they are fully actualized, I'm just not saying it is a human duty for everyone regardless of their circumstances. I'm saying simply being kind toward oneself and others with whom one necessarily comes into contact is of great benefit itself. For some people that is challenge enough. Part of being available to others is being able to bear grief, loss, and suffering with compassion, dignity, and resiliency. I don't think mandated service projects and demands of social activism necessarily promote that, although they might in some cases. In others, they might seem overwhelming and trigger much more stress and woundedness. People are vulnerable and some not only have scars, they have deep, open wounds, but we live in a society where needing help, let alone admitting our vulnerability, is greatly discouraged. Given the crazy orientation and values of society, even getting good help, should one seek it, can be difficult. I don't think you can make people have the kind of transformations certain hospice workers and caregivers have had, many of whom received skilled guidance and support along the way. Additionally, I think there is a risk that people will displace into trying to "fix" in others what they have not faced and healed in themselves. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.
  21. Well, my feelings fall somewhere in what is discussed in this interview of Sharon Salzberg by David Treleaven. They run the gamut, wildly oscillating between hopelessness, particularly amidst the election uncertainty, and joyful presence. I recommend the interview, which might have been posted previously. https://davidtreleaven.com/tsm-podcast-episode-16-sharon-salzberg/ Anything else I might want to say might simply be construed as my being judgmental. But I will risk saying the following. I have had the sense that there has been a lot of pressure on people, consistent with American individualism and exceptionalism, to get out there and "do something"--become an activist engaged in constructive social change, actually help people where help is needed, or what have you. Well, there are a lot of traumatized people out here who, on top of everything else, have been continually triggered by 4 years of the most despicable display of bullying, lying, and polarizing. They neither deserve nor need to be made to feel shame that they are not doing enough. If everyone simply would be responsible for behaving compassionately and somewhat decently, toward themselves and others, the world would be a very different place. My deepest bows to anyone and everyone starting there.
  22. I told you there are a lot of different doors! I am a qualified huge fan of Pema Chodron (qualified because she was silent about the sex abuse of the leader in her lineage and an apologist for him)), but I don't think she is the best place to start. Again, it depends on your inclination. Bhante G, as Henepola Gunaratana is popularly known, is great too. The reason I suggested Jack Kornfield's book is because he is a great story teller while Bhante G is more concise. Everyone's recommendations are good as far as I am concerned. My guess is is that Jeff is less inclined to Jack because Jack is more involved in the popularization, dilution, and corporatization of "Mindfulness." In my opinion there is some truth in that, although not nearly to the same extent as with Jon Kabat-Zinn. (I am one of those crazy folks who think bona fide teachers in the Buddhist tradition should be offering their teachings free and relying on the generosity of donors; if they have to work a day job to get by so be it, but they should not charge for teachings.) To me, Jack simply has a gentle and seductive way of inviting the movement toward peace and ease which might be a good place to begin. All of the above are teachers in Buddhist traditions which may or may not be your cup of tea. The internet is a great resource to read about these folks and sample some of their offerings. And don't forget Tara Brach, suggested by Gillian, as a possibility. She has a lot online now too and is perhaps more secular although she and Jack collaborate quite a bit. The founder of this site, Sean Fargo, also has a lot of great offerings online that are suited to beginners (and an ample amount of them are freely offered). Please don't take my suggestions as being authoritative because I'm no expert. I'm simply a fellow journeyer. My basic home-base is not even on the list! Oh, by the way, I like the new avatar too.
  23. Ha, ha. Already you can see how there are different doors for different people. I shutter at the mention of Jon Kabat-Zinn. For all the good he has done by making people aware of mindfulness practices he also has robbed those practices of some of their essentials. At least that is my view. I have known other people for whom his books and guidance have been invaluable. Still, to me he is the founder of McMindfulness. I nevertheless enjoyed reading his books. I would be more inclined to recommend Jack Kornfield’s A Path with Heart, but there are so many different places to begin.
  24. I am very settled in my own path and am reluctant to make suggestions. I think people have to find their own paths. Doing so was really difficult for me. Like you, I felt really alienated, alone in any crowd, and thought we all must be missing something really meaningful. I too am familiar with often feeling despair as though "nothing works." When I was 19, I had a bad experience with a meditation group and dismissed any form of meditation from my consideration. I was in my 50's and pretty desperate myself before I heard an interview on the radio that sparked interest in it again--this time in the way it is presented in certain Buddhist traditions. I have been immersed in a formal practice and studying teachings for nearly 15 years now. I think what you said there probably would sum up a lot of people's experience. One of the first teachings in any mindfulness tradition is to accept that as a part of being human with kindness and compassion. That is sort of the place from which we begin. Every trick the mind plays to bring us down, we can simply acknowledge and greet as an honored and familiar companion or aspect of our being whose urgings we know better than to act out. There is no need to be cruel to him or her. If we forget, we try not to judge ourselves harshly and simply begin again. Better to commend ourselves for coming to our senses than to judge ourselves harshly. If we need help, we seek help just like you are doing here. If you are at all like me, you'll find yourself doing quite a bit of beginning again. All I can do is offer you support and I'm sure there are lots of people on this site who join me in doing so. Best Wishes.
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