Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"Coming to Terms"

"The techniques of meditation practice are not designed to reduce active thoughts at all. They provide a way of coming to terms with everything that goes on inside. Once we have accepted what goes on in our mind as neither good nor bad, but just flashes of thoughts, we have come to terms with it."[Chogyam Trungpa, from "The Sanity We are Born With"]

Most of us think as meditation as a way of ceasing mental noise, of stopping the flow of mental chatter. And in some traditions it does seem to be presented that way (The Yoga Sutra, for instance). But I find another method much more appropriate, and that is simply watching what happens - no matter what it is. When I am able to do that, with compassion and forgiveness and acceptance, and begin to see thoughts as temporal and fleeting, then it is less likely that I will believe the internal voices or be dragged away in this or that direction. Then there is a peaceful Ground that is not swept about by the duality of up and down, pleasure and pain, good days and bad days.

In a related note, our church's pastor had a great message on Sunday that more-or-less speaks to this same topic. Click here to listen to the mp3 of: "Centered: Finding Rest in God's Dwelling Place."

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

First Steps

I'm in the first steps of pursuing further education and met with an advisor last week about enrolling in the "Certification in Spiritual Formation" program of the United Methodist Church through Garrett Thological Seminary. I'm pretty excited about it.

The required core courses are (1) United Methodist Studies, (2) Teaching for Biblical Faith, (3) Spiritual Disciplines for Personal and Parish Renewal, (4) Spiritual Direction and (5) Practicum in Spiritual Direction.

I particularly like the description for the Spiritual Direction course: "Focusing on attentiveness to God, listening skills, psychological awareness, personal spiritual disciplines, historical background, and ethical issues for fostering this supportive relationship of spiritual guidance. Includes readings in Christian classics, experiencing the practice of spiritual companionship, and training in ways of offering spiritual guidance in congregations."


Friday, August 25, 2006

If you haven't yet read...

..."The Gods Drink Whiskey: Stumbling Toward Enlightment in the Land of the Tattered Buddha," you may want to pick it up.

It is a interesting blend of a book. On the back where it lists the book's genre, it says TRAVEL/BUDDHISM. And how accurate! That's exactly what it is: mix one part travel adventure, one part cultural study, and one part buddhist philosophy/theory and out pops a book that is a little diluted on all three fronts, but is nonetheless thought-provoking and enjoyable.

The author is Stephen Asma, a young professor from Chicago, who travels to Cambodia to teach buddhism in a local university and experience Theravada Buddhism firsthand. His purpose in the book, among other things, is to kill all our notions of some magical and exotic enlightened land and to clarify real buddhism from hippie / New Age / California buddhism - which bears little resemblence to the native kind.

It's a great page turner... fun to read, (mostly) deep in theory, and both profound and profane. Consider picking up a copy!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I'm back.......

Work has picked up a bit and I really haven't felt like "computing" in my evening hours, so I'm sorry to have abandoned ya'll for a couple of weeks. Instead of posting today, I'm going to cruise all your sites and leave some comments.

Check back tomorrow for a cool book recommendation/review.


Thursday, August 10, 2006


Julie asked for a transcript of the radio show I mentioned yesterday... here are some excerpts:

It's much simpler than this person is trying to make it in the world of duality... There are two places from which we live: one is from center, and the other is from egocentric, karmic conditioning. The world of egocentric, karmic conditioning is the world of duality, that's the world in which we have right and wrong and good and bad and us and them and up and down and its the world that almost everybody is living in all the time. That world of duality is contained within what we talk about as center.

When we are centered, when we are present, when we are living in a non-separate reality, there is absolutely no desire to cause harm. Now, that is not the same as "we are able to control life."

I'm very attentive to what's there, AND I cannot control (that which is out of my control). I can be as aware, and as present, and as attentive as I can be; I can do the very best that I can do, and I have no control over life.

So, where does morality comes from? Morality comes from presence. And understanding that there is no "self and other," that nothing can happen to "you" that doesn't happen to "me," that we are one. And that understanding - not as an intelluctual understanding - not as a theory - but experientially, knowing that, causes us to want to - as the classic traditional way of saying it in Buddhism - "to cease from evil, to do only good, and to do good for others."

Selfishness, a willingness to be harmful, taking what is not rightfully ours, all of that lives in the realm of egocentric karmic conditioning.

Michael: So the morality comes from being present?

Yes. And it's not even morality at that point, it's simply oneness; interconnectedness.

Michael: And in that place there's no room for all the dualities.

No. The dualities exist, but it's not something that we need to "figure out" or understand. It's true that light doesn't happen without darkness. If we view that in the world of duality, then they are opposites. When we step back and see that from center, we realize they are one. They're simply two ends of a continuum. They're not separate. You can't have one without the other... it's just not a problem (laughs). Life and death all happen within life.

All of this that we're talking about, all of it is experiential. Intellectual understanding is fine if it inspires us to have the experience. But an intellectual understanding without the experience is absolutely useless. It's like being really hungry, and having an intellectual understanding that eating food is going to take care of that hunger. The only thing that's going to take care of that hunger is eating the food.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

One Last Re-Visit (Why Be Good?)

A few weeks ago we had a discussion on this blog entitled "Why Be Good?" about the topic of morality. Right before we began that discussion, I emailed my original question to the radio show "Open Air with Cheri Huber."

She answered it on last week's show.

Click here and listen to Segment 2 of that evening's show (the link opens Windows Media Player) and to skip forward to 13:04 to hear the quesiton and answer.

Of course she's right - even as I was hearing it being read, I cringed because once I heard it out loud, I realized that it was way too intellectual of a question. She gave a great response, by the way. If you're interested in such matters, be sure to give it a listen.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Superfriends "do" Office Space

Ever see Office Space? You might like this.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Challenge to "Big Productions"

As part of the Worship Team at our church, I'm constantly planning and working on the services for Sundays. The funny thing is how big of a "production" it's all become ("contemporary" worship, anyway). Today I got my "Technologies for Worship" magazine with page after page of articles on lighting and sound with complimentary glossy ads showing "Worship Leaders" proudly singing with their new Sure In-Ear Monitor system.

While glancing through the magazine, I was reminded of a chapter in a book called "Sabbath" by Wayne Muller (one of my favorite books). Here are a few excerpts:

  • Liturgical ritual is meant to be repeated. We are not supposed to do it right the first time, and then be done with it. This year's Easter does not have to be new and improved, more dramatic and moving than last year's. The perfection is in the repetition, the sheer ordinariness, the intimate familiarity of a place known because we have visited it again and again, in so many different moments...
  • This is not about progress, it is about circles, cycles, and seasons, and the way time moves, and things we must remember, because with ever-faster turnings of the wheel it can become easier to forget...
  • When liturgy is ensnared by progress, all these quiet, mystical qualities are replaced by responsibility and obligation. I have been part of so many little churches paralyzed by the assumption that we must make this year's Christmas pageant better, more dramatic, more impressive, more spectacular than the last. I have seen parents, children, and youth ministers frantic, desperate, frusterated, and overwhelmed as they try to make the "perfect" representation of an event that was, at its origins, quiet, unassuming, unpredictable, sloppy, and invisible.