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Showing posts from June, 2014

the strategic self

Throughout the dharma, the Buddha made clear that the search for a permanent, fxied identity, or "atta," is a waste of time, creating needless speculation. Why? What we construct self from—thoughts, feelings, body sensations, perceptions, sensory consciousness—are constantly changing, a ceaseless flow that doesn't solidify into something we can contain into a solid entitity. We are in flux.

Yet the Buddha did talk about 'taking care of one's self' (in the dhammapada and elsewhere). He makes it clear that a sense of self needs to exist on a moment by moment basis, as we all need to have a sense of identity to interact with others and achieve goals. And so we let of conceiving our identity not as something that lasts, or consider our core personality 'pre-established;' there is no true self to 'find.' Self is something we skillfully construct from our natural, harmless, beneficial impulses. What follows is a reflection on this topic; it will prob…

the process of mindful dialogue

Relationships are notoriously challenging journeys in life; without our conscious awareness we bring into them patterns developed during early childhood experiences and other painful personal events involving feelings of rejections, disappointment shame, etc. Given how loaded the territory is, we can feel threatened during times of tension, holding onto defensive strategies that sabotage safe communication: a desire to be right, avoidance, inflexible beliefs about how others should behave.
And so, if we are to succeed in navigating our interpersonal lives, we need to develop  mindful dialogue skills to assist us when communication breaks down. What follows is explanation of how people experiencing an interpersonal conflict can successfully use the core three tools of mindful dialogue—attunement, sympathy/understanding, and empathy—to develop a deeper connection based on the safe exchange of emotionally charged experience.

When a relational conflict or concern arises between two people, …

On the Nature of the Profound, And What Lies Beyond Meaning

While life is often swallowed up by mundane tasks and ingrained routines, there are times when conventional experience is swept aside, overrun by moments that are incomparable, beyond our paradigms of meaning. As we remain silently present at the death of a parent, lost in the wonder of holding a newborn for the first time, basking in the radiant morning meditation during a silent retreat, feeling a kind of freedom and wonder flooding into the mind, or witnessing helplessly as accident occurs before us in what appears to be slow motion, the transcendent leaves a deep impression, changes the way the relate to the world, yet leaves us deeply frustrated in our inability to express, in any adequate way, what occurred.

When we reflect on these, the most deeply engrained, singular moments of life, we are recalling experiences in which discursive thought switches off, allowing awareness to open up for a richer form of consciousness, wherein the mind takes in more than sights, sounds and one&#…

One Teacher’s Perspective: the Rewards and Risks of Seclusion and Extended Silent Retreats

Ananda said to the Buddha, “Is it not true that half of the holy life is wise and safe friendship and companionship?” The Buddha replied, “Don't say that Ananda. Wise and safe friendship and companionship is the whole of the holy life.” (Upaddha Sutta, SN 45)
We humans are designed to bond and associate together. Neuropsychologists like Allan Schore (UCLA) show us—in his landmark text “Affect Regulation and the Repair of Self”—that we are hardwired for ongoing mutual interactions that are both reliable and secure. And its not a surprise that the single, dominant theme of late 20th Century psychology, found in the ground breaking work of J. Bowlby, W.R. D. Fairbairn, D. Winnicott, E. Miller, M. Main, M. Ainsworth, J. Masterson, H. Kohut and on, is the resolute insight that our social relations are not secondary psychological processes. Personality is not the result of competing drives, as Freud proposed, but are in fact the result of actual relational needs, leading to formative inte…