A COLLECTION OF QUOTES FOR
THIS YEAR-LONG JOURNEY
TO BIRTH MYSELF ANEW
When the Dalai Lama was fifty-eight-years-old, a reporter asked him what he was going to do next with his life. He answered that he was going to prepare for death. The interviewer inquired about his health, and the Dalai Lama replied that he wasn’t sick, but that his body was impermanent.
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Most people live with one foot in the womb, hopping around the world, never quite coming out. Completing our birth is a process of becoming grounded, putting both feet on the ground.
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(from A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as if it Were Your Last by Stephen Levine)
Gratitude is the state of mind of thankfulness.
As it is cultivated, we experience an increase in our “sympathetic joy,” our happiness at another’s happiness. Just as in the cultivation of Compassion, we may feel the pain of others, so we may begin to feel their joy as well. And it doesn’t stop there. We begin to feel a growing sense of gratitude for whatever happiness, great or small, that comes to those around us.
Practicing gratitude increases our appreciation for life.
It brings balance to those parts of the self that have cultivated attachment to our suffering, causing us to feel victimized by life, making God’s imagined dial tone all too appealing. Although we might suspect that gratitude would cause us to tarry, to grasp at more, it actually potentiates our letting go into life and death with an open heart.
Gratitude is the highest form of acceptance.
Like patience it is one of the catalytic agents, one of the alchemist’s secrets, for turning dross to gold, hell to heaven, death to life. Where there is gratitude we get the teaching. Where there is resistance we discover only that it keeps us painfully ignorant. Of course, if we had enough acceptance to explore our nonacceptance, if we learned nothing but that resistance amplifies suffering, we would be eternally grateful.
We cannot feign gratitude any more than we can pretend forgiveness.
Gratitude is a way of seeing, of being. It is a response from our innate wisdom to our accumulated confusion. It is the luminous ground on which we plant our temporary feet.
As I reviewed my life with soft eyes, meeting moment after moment of the flickering past with a nonjudgmental awareness, I experienced healings in quite unexpected ways. I met myself with more kindness and a willingness not to suffer for the times I had “fallen.”
This growth of compassion taught me a considerably more merciful level of what “detachment” really means. This is a much misunderstood term that careens through spiritual practice throughout the world. It is a word that sends the unintentionally suffering mind shuffling off to the madhouse. At least that is what it felt like to me when, at nineteen, I could not comprehend how to become “detached” from such deep feelings and still be alive, much less write a poem.
Our misinterpretation of that honorable teaching can stop us in our tracks. Until we discover that detachment does not mean an indifference to the pain in ourselves and the people around us, but rather a settling back to observe with clarity and perspective that which calls out for healing. Gradually it becomes clear that detachment means letting go and nonattachment means simply letting be.
As the life review began to produce a remarkably parental kindness toward my earlier miscreancies, a certain beneficent detachment began to arise. It was as if my life had occurred to my only child. It was both more and less than “my own” life, something I could approach wholeheartedly without need for a buffer. The gradual healing process of the forgiveness and gratitude practices expands our life. We become noticeably less concerned with praise or blame, fame or shame. We fear even less that if we get too close to certain parts of our life it might “burst our bubble” and we might discover ourselves unworthy of salvation.
In whatever condition and conditioning we find ourselves, whether we have just won the lottery or discovered we have only a year to live, there is a basic, even essential, gratitude contemplation that is always appropriate. It is an expansion of the process of sending gratitude to individuals.
It acknowledges the enormous opportunity of being alive and awakening to our true nature.
from Stephen Levine, A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as if it Were Your Last (New York, NY: Random House, 1997), pp. 93-96.
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July 26, 2010
Notes from listening to “Endless Heart: Relationships as Spiritual Healing, Part 1″ from levinetalks.com
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dying into life
relationship defines the separation between our heart and our mind
before you consider serving others, look into your family
how much healing, when we touch our parents with loving-kindness instead of avoidance
there’s so much work to do for us at home
forgiveness in family relationships (a year to live praktis for me surely)
my attachment to being right has created more suffering
forgive the actor, not the action
what keeps us separate is our grief. the definition of unfinished business is grief. to touch that person with love. to end relationship as business. relationship as business is usually how it goes. the end of business is when i bring you into my heart.
one of the exquisite qualities of relationships is its lack of control
you have become a mirror for my heart. when you die, i grieve the broken connection with myself.
is there room for the heart to be closed?
a moment of love is a miracle, in the midst of fear, dread and self-interest.
we learn to love as we learn how often unloving we can be. mercy.
the basis of compassion is non-injury
we can’t be indifferent to the cruelty inside of ourselves
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July 28, 2010
I started out by listening to Couch Talk 3 “Turning Words” segment specifically but then ended up watching the rest of the talk. Here are some of my notes and thoughts (they are not all from Stephen and Ondrea) as I viewed the talk.
Couch Talk 3 from levinetalks.com
turning words: words and expressions that turn us back into grace by speak our pains and truths
(from Couch Talk 3 from levinetalks.com)
-poetry as feeling, guided by turning words, healing words
-write about a time when someone was kind to y0u? using language to touch our realities, our muds and lotuses
-being the subject of someone’s heart instead of the object of someone’s mind
-writing poetry can be the simultaneous acts of weeding, planting and watering ourselves towards fruition
-touch is becoming illegal, we are become compartmentalized, we are afraid to touch and be touched
-Ondrea’s biggest lesson: self-forgiveness, not to carry our guilt from our childhood (not being present)
-our judging mind is so small and so brutal
-”i am aware…” when i realized that i am aware that i am aware
-people who are cruel are not aware of what they are doing
-atonement as an act of forgiveness and self-forgiveness…metta, metta, metta
– “what is awareness?” the first great question
– speaking from the heart of one’s praktis
-exercise: bring your awareness to your right hand…let it rest there…take a moment to shift…bring your awareness to your left hand
-relating to judgement, to my judgement instead of from my judgement (awareness)
mercy and kindness as we “meditate” and become more and more aware of our insulting thoughts and behaviors (trungpa said, meditation is one insult to another…)
notice what is coming to awareness, consciousness…no judging, no grasping, no holding
beginning again, great compassion to one’s self and one’s imperfection
no mud, no lotus
having the highest ecstasy from the worst place inside of you
pure consciousness and unconditional love is undistinguishable
your awareness is getting deeper when you release your expectations
teaching archetype, healing self, praktising and being the student of one’s self too
if we are real, then we’ll be real with the moment and how it arises within us
to have a bad day well: gratitude, finding the learning in something that did not happen the way you wanted (not immediately)…patience, gratitude, i have a choice to get up and gripe about it or state that and let it float in awareness instead of holding on it…focus on being aware and loving to one’s self…softening, sending love to one’s self, treasuring one’s self. key is not to resist. let it be. there’s a small space that is created. our basic goodness. our desire to end pain. non-resistance. it’s there, i cannot change. my resistance makes it worse. do not tighten around the discomfort and pain.
“oh this body…” love and willingness in this expression
resistance is what makes what hurts, hurt more