New teachers in your life?

When you find yourself reacting negatively to someone or something, you might as well just let your next act be to thank them.

They’ve just become your teacher, because whatever your experience of them, it is simply a reflection of yourself. The gift of self-knowledge is so precious, don’t reject it by misconstruing that your projection on them is “the” truth.

Pema Chrodron refers to this as “hooks”, as in, we have hooks in us that catch on people and events …

My root teacher Rama would talk about this in terms of mirrors. What we see in others is mirrored from ourselves.

More recently, I’ve been learning from people like Leslie Temple-Thurston that when we feel that negative response, or pullback, this may be something akin to a reverse mirror … What we are seeing is not how we act (or think we act) but the reverse. In other words, they are acting out an unconscious aspect of ourselves.

Posted in Observations

It’s all in the vibration – an afternoon with Yuan Miao

I was fortunate to spend a few hours in a workshop with Yuan Miao on Father’s Day.

Too much to report on … the bottomline is … it’s all about the vibration.  Her singing, her mantras, her mudras (yes I am anglizing the plurals), the activities she engaged us in – all to bring to a vibration. And then finally, some energetic adjustments with her “hands”.

She talked about a big shift in the world over the next 30 or 40 years; and it’s all about the vibration.  Not being perfect, not not having “bad experiences” or “bad” anything – all that is “ashes”, as in “out of the ashes, the phoenix”.  Nothing to do, by the way – just be true to your vibration.

Some time ago, I heard Mary “Nalini” MacNab point out that rather than being our ego constructs (which our mind thinks/fears we are) … we are an energetic alignment.  Our dharmic path is found by living from that alignment. Or, that alignment = our dharma.  How did she say it? No matter, it’s not about the words.

This morning in meditation, the energy flowing through the alignment of the chakras and sushumna was strong – it’s the new moon, a day before the summer solstics 2012 – and it all sync’d up.

Finding/maintaining/being our own vibration is about being that alignment, the alignment manifests the vibration … is the vibration.  Alignment = vibration = energy = dharma.

This morning I was also drawn to re-reading the transcription of Rama’s talk on “Love – The Fourth Level of Ecstasy” in which he points out that his students were all either there for the finishing touches of their graduate school work in love, or were there for some remedial work.  Ah, but that vibration of love … that alignment …

Nothing to do, nothing to undo. Just be.  (Lao Tsu)

Posted in Experiences with Spiritual Mentors

Ego battles ego – only awareness escapes the loop

My primary teacher illustrated the futility of the ego fighting the ego with a wonderful story featuring a wrestling match.

“There you are,” Rama would say, “in the ring and it’s your self fighting yourself. Now, you’ve got the upper hand, you’ve got yourself pinned to the mat …  but wait – now you’ve struggled up again, and now…”  His voice rose and fell like a sportscaster reporting a “fight of the ages”.

He switched to pointing out that we can never win this battle. As long as there’s a self, there’s a battle.  As long as there’s battle, there’s the self.

He said he saw his students trying this, over and over.  He said he’d love to help.  But it’s only when you finally “get it” and stop trying, that you can get out of the loop. It’s only when you give up the battle, stop trying to win, that it stops.

I have found the image and description accurate, frustratingly so.

I was reminded of it recently when a friend remarked that she is trying to overcome her ego.

Rama was definitely onto something when he said that the answer to the ego fighting itself doesn’t come by fighting the ego fighting itself.  He would, since he had long since left the wrestling arena behind.

The alternative is not calling non-ego or non-self “the light” and ending up trying to “get into” the light and “get out of” whatever we perceive as non-light or blockage to light.  All that light vs non-light stuff is the ego, still. It’s just a re-statement of ego vs ego.  Attachment and aversion. Only to states of mind, or perceived “levels” of awareness.  My teacher warned about this too, of course, and of course, we all tried this method too, at least until we realized this too creates more struggle, not less.

Trying to find an alternative in “egolessness” is equally useless, because then the ego tries to learn how to “do” egolessness.  And referring to a “real us” as its opposite sounds good, and I’ve used that phrase myself, but I know it’s inaccurate and leads to more of the same – the ego trying to become “the real me” and to slash away anything that is not that.

What I have learned in recent years [and could have learned from my original teacher, if I had been ready to stop the wrestling match then] is that the opposite of an ego fighting itself occurs in a different fashion entirely.

All of what’s been described above is something trying to not be what it is or become else.  That is the hallmark of the ego, which is entirely constructed this way.   Every time the ego “works on” overcoming itself, or improving itself, or redeeming itself, or whatever it does to become the “better self” it wants to be, or thinks it “should” be – all it can do is use ego constructs to attempt to destroy ego constructs.  It creates them, repurposes them, reinforces them.

In fact, according to Buddhism, the ego does not actually exist, it only has an appearance of existence which is created through these constructs.  [An image which comes to me through which I understand and try to explain this concept of “ego constructs” is that the self/ego is like scaffolding – a temporary structure made up of various inherently separate parts lashed or bolted together to create some kind of a surface on which our apparent self  is “supported”, like an actor on a stage. Not one piece of the scaffolding will support us, and to take it apart, we must address and handle each piece, one after the other, until it is all down.]

Stepping out of battle mode means being aware of it all, not pushing away “dark” or grabbing on to “light”. Not fighting anything, being everything, nothing above and nothing below. No barriers to anything that is “outside”, no dis-identification of all that is “inside”.

It’s awareness that gets us out of the loop.

It’s not fighting the ego constructs (components of the scaffolding), not creating more constructs to understand or explain existing constructs (aka “stories”) – simply being aware.  Aware of each construct (each component piece of the scaffolding, if you will) – paying attention to it and honoring it for its role – because it did come to exist for a reason apparently – but neither fighting it, nor reinforcing it, not attaching to it or rejecting it.

Watching a particular ego construct “coming up” at any given moment is bringing it into awareness.  You may notice a construct in any moment in your life, something conforming to a pattern that seems to be generated externally or as a result of the past.

In awareness, something might happen and might not.  It might dissolve in the light, having played its part and no longer needing to attempt to grab our attention.  It might not yet be ready. It may lead to another level of self-discovery.

It’s not really for us to say what happens.  Only the ego wants something to happen.  It’s the mind (the protective tool of the ego) which will spout an opinion about what should or should not come next.

Awareness is just … awareness.

That reminds me of what Rama said about meditation – it’s not a verb, you cannot “do” meditation.  You “are” meditation.

In awareness, Eternity happens. “Within us, without us” as George Harrison sang.

“Nothing to do, nothing to undo”, as many masters have said.


I still battle with my self. I climb wholeheartedly into the ring, or just find myself there.  Sometimes, I think I’m there battling with someone else.  But it’s always really me.

Except, sometimes, I catch myself wrestling and instead of trying to egg one “self” on or attempt to suppress another – I remember to just pay attention.  Not to the crowds in the stands, not to the wrestling ring, not to the sportscaster.  Not to what brought me to this moment, not to the wrestlers, but … to the moment.  To the one thing before me.  It gets real simple and the noise of the match goes away.

Because instead of trying to wrestle with (get away from, deny or “evolve” even) any kind of energy, any idea, any action of mine, any thought or emotion or intrusion or … whatever … I’m simply paying attention.  I’m letting it (and “myself”) just be.

If what we are is awareness, and our awareness is like the sky through whichour thoughts and feelings fly like birds (as we tell beginning meditators) — what happens if I don’t try to shoot them down and don’t try to ignore them away? What if I turn to face each thing?  To face what seems to “be” me and neither cling nor cringe? To face what seems “not me” and let it just be?

When I pay attention this way, things change.  I’m not who I thought I was.  The ego that is battling is finding it harder to find handholds.  The “me’s” are not into fighting so much.

Sometimes I just pay attention to what it’s like paying attention.  Not sure yet what’s down that rabbit hole.  It may be the same ring with a new name, or a different game entirely.

Beyond that … oh, I don’t know.  I believe it is my ego that tells me there is something beyond that.  In the now, when I remember to simply be in the now, there is just awareness, paying attention.  And it seems to be doing something that the years and lifetimes of ego vs ego could not.  Taking me out of the ring, if only for a while – dissolving the ring, if only a little bit at a time.  Grace.



Thanks to Rama, Namkha Drimed Rinpoche, Yuan Miao, Byron Katie, Lucia Rene, Leslie Temple-Thurston, Mary MacNab, Gangaji, Pamela Wilson (via Lucia) and others for (recognized) insights included here.  Imperfect reflections are my own!

Posted in Observations, Topic - Wisdom/Discrimination | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Two quotes from Pamela Wilson on new relationships with mind and our “stories”

Two quotes from Pamela Wilson from


Ramana’s great question was, “Who am I?”

Nowadays it’s easy to see that we are this formless intelligence inside. Yet so many of us, in our innocence, still think that thought is thought, and that it’s an object, and that it’s going to be there for eternity, yacking away about nothing, bothering us.

Now, if we are not who we are, how come everything else is who they are? Wouldn’t it make more sense to say, “Well, if I’m not my role, maybe nothing else is its role.”

And rather than wondering what that role is, just ask it directly, “Who are you?” It’s so much faster than trying to figure it out.

You don’t ask it, “Who am I?”

One of thought’s functions is to project onto you, because you have no form. It has to come up with projection after projection, and just in case you relax out of your role it has to create an diversion, quickly.

So ask it, “Who are you?”

Curiosity is the way wisdom gets revealed inside. It is the forerunner of wisdom. Curiosity arises and, if you sit with it, connected right underneath is the wisdom. They are not two.

Each one of these servants inside, from the most irritating of emotions, can reveal an incredible amount of wisdom when you interview it. First of all they show you their functions, and if you have ever had curiosity about how creation was created, or how bodies function, or what the nature of emotion is, or the nature of thought, or the nature of wisdom, all of it is there. These are amazing biocomputers, and you can ask and they will reveal anything you want to know.

Be really tender with thought. The pressure we put on it is extraordinary. It’s only because thought is also the great mystery that it is able to function with all that pressure of disapproval and dislike and aversion and “I wish you would be quiet” – and all our rude projections: that you are not spiritual and you are the only thing keeping me from my freedom, and would you please just shut up!

That is why in all the great spiritual traditions, at their heart is tenderness – just to be kind inside, and then everything rights itself. Fear rests. Confusion rests. Everything that was perturbing the system rests. Because they know that when you are tender inside you no longer need their services, because you have returned to your true nature.


I’m not in the don’t-touch-it school. Maybe it’s my Italian heritage. I call it Mediterranean satsang. I say, “Come here, poor little story!” If the story keeps coming back, it means it’s desperate for a little loving attention.

If you are always going, “Oh, it’s just story,” of course it’s going to renew its effort: “No, I’m not!”

If a certain situation continues to arise, just let it sit with you. See it as your devotee. Grant it the compassion to be able to sit with you. Say, “Yes, you are welcome here.” Even story. In the beginning it’s good to get firm with stories, because there are way too many of them. But it’s like Reader’s Digest; you have them condensed down to the top five issues, right?”

When you’re feeling strong, or if you have a friend to sit with, just sit in the silence until you’re soothed, until the body and brain are soothed, and then invite the story to come sit. It will start to activate the body, and then the brain will start to bring in strategies to fix it and try to help. So thank the brain, and then attend to what’s happening in the body. Stories have another function, other than bothering us. They’re designed to dissolve the defenses in the body. They’re like armor. So you sit with the issue, the upset, and see where it’s triggering in the body, and then just allow awareness to move into it and permeate the upset – like awareness has hands, and it’s soothing and loving.

What you’re doing is helping the body let go of the past. One of the ways the body creates release is by recreating something from the past in order to pull it out of the earth of the body. Otherwise it stays deep. This system of release is strange – almost reptilian, it’s so ancient. These bodies are from another time. Even though you get a fresh, new body every time, a lot of the defenses are recreated through thought. That’s why I say bring the story here. There’s no lack of brilliance in the design of either the body or the way it lets go, or even that this world is so harsh. Robert Adams used to call this the remedial planet, because when you really want freedom, this is where you come.

It’s sweet: the body asks for a blessing through its upset, its agitation. It’s invoking the Beloved, awareness-consciousness: “Please, master, come here. Please heal me.” And if it’s really frantic, then it will be sending out distress signals all the time. So it has another function: to awaken the Beloved. It awakens the satguru through its distress.

Ramana used to say, “I would follow a devotee into hell if need be.” So when hell or agitation arises in the body, it’s luring the satguru out of the heart. Everything is an invitation for the Buddha to awaken and bring peace, even to the body. It calls for the laying on of hands, the welcoming and soothing. Even doubt is asking for your love. Doubt is talking to you, saying, “Master, is this true?”

When you see your body and thought as your devotees, you have a completely different relationship with them. Where else are they going to go for truth?

Posted in Quotes from other teachers

“Thy will be done”

“Thy will be done” gives freedom and awareness, not chains nor loss of control.

To the extent we know that and can act on this understanding, we are on the path of friendship with Eternity/God/the Divine/the Infinite or however we like to designate that which created and sustains and teaches us.

And of course, there is the simple truth which we can experience and understand for ourselves: all that happens IS the will of Eternity.

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Koan / Experiment of the week – whose business is your business?

Koan for the week:

“There are 3 kinds of business. My business, your business and God’s business” – Byron Katie.

If your awareness wanders from your own business into someone else’s businesss, who is left to experience your own experience? Katie goes on to explain. That is when and how and why we feel lost and out of control. Because of course, we have no control over others, nor should we, and we have left behind what we do have control over. And then of course, by “God’s business” she means all that neither I nor you have any control over.

If “God” happens not to work for you, substitute Eternity, Infinity, The Divine, The Nagual, The Universe(s) or whatever it is that stands for that which creates and sustains us and all that is.

How to use this koan (thought puzzle)? You may know already what works for you.

Or you can try this: every time you find yourself frustrated, baffled, confused, angry or otherwise feeling a loss of control – check out where your awareness is. And, if you prefer to experience your own awareness, bring it back to your own business. Whatever someone else does or does not do (including “God”) – 100% not your business. How you respond? 100% your business. Just try that on and see what you see.

Posted in Byron Katie, Recommendations and Experiments | 1 Comment

Tantric Zen – Delving into Practical Buddhism Topics

Fall is a great time to delve into some hands-on topics in practical Buddhism.

To kick our practice of meditation and mindfulness up a notch, and have some fun at the same time, we are going to use the “Tantric Zen” tapes created by Rama (Dr. Frederick Lenz), for his program of the same name, as a starting point for our discussions in the classes I lead in person and by phone.

A description of the talks from the Frederick Lenz Foundation website:

In 1986, as Rama – Dr. Frederick P. Lenz prepared for an extensive public lecture series, he sought to present a path to enlightenment that would be most understandable to the largest group of people. He selected Zen as most relevant to his current and future students and called his teachings “Tantric Zen.”

Of the 18 talks contained in this set, he says, “What I term Tantric Zen, I could also refer to as old Zen, the original face of Zen, or new Zen, contemporary Zen practice — no mind, the mirror of existence. Bodhidharma, who brought Zen from India to the Orient, taught a very pure type of Zen. Zen is meditation, the actual experience of life — directly, immediately, with no buffers. Tantra is for someone who is really broad-minded, and that’s the kind of Zen that I teach, which is what I feel Zen is. It is Bodhidharma Zen, your Zen, my Zen…

The topics are listed below, with links to PDFs with the transcriptions of those talks as I get them ready.

You can listen online or download for free, each of these talks at

The 18 talks titles follow.  Tthose with hyperlinks lead to PDFs of the transcriptions of these talks, from the book Tantric Zen.  Note: these transcriptions are not always literal, but it is often helpful to read while listening.  Still not everything yet, but plenty to explore!

1. Zen Tapes 1 – Tantric Zen
2. Zen Tapes 2 – Concentration and Meditation
3. Zen Tapes 3 – Developing Willpower
4. Zen Tapes 4 – Overcoming Stress
5. How To Be a Successful Student
6. The Zen of Sports and Athletics
7. Zen Tapes 7 – Overcoming Fears
8. Zen Tapes 8 – Karma
9. Zen Tapes 9 – Reincarnation
10. Zen Tapes 10 – Career Success 1986
11. Zen Tapes 11 – Managing & Increasing Your Energy 1986
12. Zen Tapes 12 – Winning 1986
13. Zen Tapes 13 – Personal Power
14. Zen Tapes 14 – Psychic Development 1986
15. Zen Tapes 15 – Rapid Mental Development 1986
16. Happiness
17. Advanced Meditation
18. Enlightenment

Posted in On Meditation, On Mindfulness, Rama, talks and quotes | Tagged , , ,