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This is a collection of readings from our
Awakin Circle, Hyderabad in 2018.

We would like to dedicate this collection to

Mamatha Talluri for her unstinting support
in hosting our Circle for four years at her
beautiful, serene Aviraam Centre.
Why Do We Shout In Anger?

by Unknown

A saint who was once at a river to take a bath found a group of family members on the banks,
shouting in anger at each other. He turned to his disciples, smiled and asked:

“Why do people in anger shout at each other?”

The disciples thought for a while, then one of them said, “Because we lose our calm, we

“But, why should you shout when the other person is just next to you? You can as well tell him
what you have to say in a soft manner,” asked the saint.

The disciples gave some other answers but none satisfied the other disciples.

Finally, the saint explained, “When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a
lot. To cover that distance, they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are,
the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other to cover that great distance.”

“What happens when two people fall in love? They don't shout at each other but talk softly,
because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is either nonexistent or very
small...” The saint continued, “When they love each other even more, what happens? They do
not speak, only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love. Finally, they need
not even whisper, they only look at each other and that's all. That is how close two people are
when they love each other.”

He looked at his disciples and said, “So when you argue do not let your hearts get distant, do
not say words that distance each other more, or else there will come a day when the distance is
so great that you will not find the path to return.”

What is Meditation?
Vimala Thakar

“Minimizing in daily life the frequency, the duration and the field of mental activity and living
in silence, acting out of that silence is meditation. This meditation, this silence, has got a
tremendous momentum of its own…You do not have to do a thing. You are not there: the ego,
the mind, is not there. What happens in that silence? How does that silence move? It is
something to be experimented with."

"Meditation is watching the movement of mind in relationship. If you try to force the mind
into silence by withdrawing from activity, you will never understand what silence is…There is a
great beauty when one discovers what silence in action is. Meditation is a new approach to total
life, it does not demand of you any isolation."

"Meditation is a state of total freedom from movement, to be there, and then to move into
time and space, words and speech, feelings and emotions, to move into them out of the
totality, out of the wholeness."

"Freedom or liberation is not something to be cultivated. It is not different. It is not different

from the bondage. One has to look at it, understand it and that very understanding explodes
into freedom. They are not two different events, and we have to look at these not in isolation,
not sitting somewhere in the corner of a room, but from morning till night to be in the state of
watchfulness, in the state of observation, without condemning what is coming up or without
accepting what is coming up. Just observing it, seeing the speed, the momentum, the electronic
speed with which thoughts come, watching the intervals between the two thoughts."

"Meditation is something pertaining to the whole being and the whole life. Either you live in it
or you do not live in it. In other words, it is related to everything physical and psychological…
Thus, from the small area of mental activity, we have brought meditation to a vast field of
consciousness, where it gets related to the way you sit or stand, the way you gesticulate or
articulate throughout the day. Whether you want it or not, the inner state of your being gets
expressed in your behaviour. This co-relation of meditation to the total way of living is the first
requirement on the path of total transformation."

Excerpted from "Mutation of Mind" by Vimala Thakar.

A Whole New Dimension of Love
Tenzin Palmo

Everything is flowing. And this flow isn’t made up only of external things. It includes
relationships, too. Some relationships last for a long time, and some don’t—that’s the way of
things. Some people stay here for some time; some people leave very quickly. It’s the way of

Every year millions and millions of people are born and die. In the West, our lack of
acceptance is quite amazing. We deny that anyone we love could ever be lost to us. So often we
are unable to say to someone who is dying, “We’re so happy to have had you with us. But now,
please have a very happy and safe journey onwards.” It’s this denial which brings us grief.

Impermanence is not just of philosophical interest. It’s very personal. Until we accept and
deeply understand in our very being that things change from moment to moment, and never
stop even for one instant, only then can we let go. And when we really let go inside, the relief is
enormous. Ironically this gives release to a whole new dimension of love. People think that if
someone is unattached, they are cold. But this isn’t true. Anyone who has met very great
spiritual masters who are really unattached is immediately struck by their warmth to all beings,
not just to the ones they happen to like or are related to. Non-attachment releases something
very profound inside us, because it releases that level of fear. We all have so much fear: fear of
losing, fear of change, an inability to just accept. [...]

It’s like a dance. And we have to give each being space to dance their dance. Everything is
dancing; even the molecules inside the cells are dancing. But we make our lives so heavy. We
have these incredibly heavy burdens we carry with us like rocks in a big rucksack. We think
that carrying this big heavy rucksack is our security; we think it grounds us. We don’t realize
the freedom, the lightness of just dropping it off, letting it go. That doesn’t mean giving up
relationships; it doesn’t mean giving up one’s profession, or one’s family,or one’s home. It has
nothing to do with that; it’s not an external change. It’s an internal change. It’s a change from
holding on tightly to holding very lightly.

Tenzin Palmo, in an extract from "Into the Heart of Life”

Every Sensation Comes to an End
J. Krishnamurti

I wonder if you know what it means to be aware of something? Most of us are not aware
because we have become so accustomed to condemning, judging, evaluating, identifying,
choosing. Choice obviously prevents awareness because choice is always made as a result of
conflict. To be aware ... just to see it, to be aware of it all without any sense of judgment.

Just be aware, that is all what you have to do, without condemning, without forcing, without
trying to change what you are aware of. If you are aware choicelessly, the whole field of
consciousness begins to unfold. So you begin with the outer and move inwardly. Then you will
find, when you move inwardly that the inward and the outward are not two different things,
that the outward awareness is not different from the inward awareness, and that they are both
the same.

Everything about us, within as well as without -- our relationships, our thoughts, our feelings --
is impermanent, in a constant state of flux. But is there anything which is permanent? Is there?
Our constant desire is to make sensation permanent, is it not? Sensation can be found again
and again, for it is ever being lost. Being bored with a particular sensation, I seek new
sensation. Every sensation comes to an end, and so we proceed from one sensation to another
and every sensation strengthens the habit of seeking further sensation. My mind is always
experiencing in terms of sensation. There is perception, contact, sensation and desire and the
mind becomes the mechanical instrument of all this process. With the arising of sensation
comes the urge to possess; and so begins the turmoil of desire. And the habit of seeking further

And is there an end to sorrow? Is it possible to live a daily life with death, which is the ending
of the self? There is only one fact -- impermanence: every sensation comes to an end. Can the
mind, the brain remain absolutely with that feeling of suffering and nothing else? There is no
movement away from that moment, that thing called suffering. Is there an action in which
there is no motive; no cause -- the self does not enter into it at all? Thought identifies itself with
that sensation and through identification the 'I' is built up. Identification with sensation makes
the self. If there is no identification; is there a self?

So is it possible not to identify with sensation? So we are asking, is there a holistic awareness of
all the senses? Just be aware ... effortless observation ... choiceless observation ... and to learn,
to find out whether it is possible to allow sensation to flower and not let thought interfere with
it -- to keep them apart. Will you do it?

Serving is Different From Helping and Fixing
Rachel Naomi Remen

In recent years the question ‘how can I help?’ has become meaningful to many people. But
perhaps there is a deeper question we might consider. Perhaps the real question is not: ‘how
can I help?’ but: ‘how can I serve?’

Serving is different from helping. Helping is based on inequality; it is not a relationship

between equals. When you help you use your own strength to help those of lesser strength. If
I'm attentive to what's going on inside of me when I'm helping, I find that I'm always helping
someone who's not as strong as I am, who is needier than I am. People feel this inequality.
When we help we may inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give
them; we may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity and wholeness. When I
help I am very aware of my own strength. But we don't serve with our strength, we serve with
ourselves. We draw from all of our experiences. Our limitations serve, our wounds serve, even
our darkness can serve. The wholeness in us serves the wholeness in others and the wholeness
in life. The wholeness in you is the same as the wholeness in me. Service is a relationship
between equals.

Helping incurs debt. When you help someone they owe you one. But serving, like healing, is
mutual. There is no debt. I am as served as the person I am serving. When I help I have a
feeling of satisfaction. When I serve I have a feeling of gratitude. These are very different

Serving is also different from fixing. When I fix a person I perceive them as broken, and their
brokenness requires me to act. When I fix I do not see the wholeness in the other person or
trust the integrity of the life in them. When I serve I see and trust that wholeness. It is what I
am responding to and collaborating with. There is distance between ourselves and whatever or
whomever we are fixing.

Fixing is a form of judgment. All judgment creates distance, a disconnection, an experience of

difference. In fixing there is an inequality of expertise that can easily become a moral distance.
We cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected,
that which we are willing to touch. This is Mother Teresa's basic message. We serve
life not because it is broken but because it is holy.

Rachel Naomi Remen, adapted from a transcript in the Noetic Sciences Review,

Inner World of Moods
Patty de Llosa

“Give me a place to stand on," said the Greek mathematician Archimedes, “and I can move
the world.” He was talking about his invention of using pulleys and levers to raise very
heavy objects. A physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer as well, Archimedes
revolutionized geometry and anticipated Integral Calculus 2,000 years before Newton and
Leibniz. But he was also a practical man who invented a wide variety of machines.

In the simplest sense, his statement is also true of our inner world of moods. When I
feel anger, depression or any violent reaction coming on, I could look for a position on which I
can take a stand while the storm passes through me. If I could leverage my inner world out of
its momentary negative hell and back to ease and contentment, what a relief that would be!

The problem is, of course, how? Once a mood has reached its full flow of expression, it’s
almost impossible to change the direction of the energy that’s pouring out of me. It has to play
itself out, even if it leaves me aching, exhausted and, perhaps, apologetic. But here’s
where leveraging comes in: if I can bring conscious awareness to the negative reaction early
enough, before it begins to take me over, and if I care enough not to waste myself on it, there’s
hope. The trick is to apply leverage before that small complaining stream becomes a raging
river. That way, there’s a good chance I can escape the worst of it.

Not that it’s easy. For one thing, I have to sacrifice the positive enjoyment of being angry. Most
people actually love to be angry. It gives them a sense of really being there, a kind of negative “I
am.” In a perverse way they feel fired up: “Look at me now! I’m enormous when I’m in a rage!”
And of course there are many other negative emotions we cling to in different ways. For
example, all of us are prone to being victims of self-pity, which cuts us off from our energy as it
is sucked into a black hole of despair.

If we understood better the value of the energy that’s wasted, we’d be more determined
to leverage bad moods into good ones. Every morning we are given enough for the day, both
the jet fuel of spirit and the ordinary psycho-physical gasoline that keeps our vehicle
going. However, any violent outburst or negative feeling state I allow myself to affirm will lay
waste to it. Gurdjieff said that a big burst of negativity can wipe out a whole day’s energy and,
if the eruption is strong enough, one could be depleted for a week, a year or even the rest
of one’s life. Ominous thought!

When you go to the gym or prepare for a serious run, you probably do a little stretching
first. Your muscles need warming up and you take time out for that. How about exercising
your psychic musculature to develop a subtler awareness of moods and flashpoints in order to
be ready to leverage yourself out of your day’s portion of negative emotions. Bad

temper, impatience, irritation, despondency are habitual negative reactions that could be
replaced with more positive feelings, but it’s not easy.

Excerpted from Patty De Llosa's book, Finding Time for Yourself: A Spiritual Survivor's Workbook.

Is There Righteous Anger Ever?
J. Krishnamurti

One of the most common expressions of violence is anger. When my wife or sister is attacked,
I say I am righteously angry; when my country is attacked, my ideas, my principles, my way of
life, I am righteously angry[…] So, when we are talking about anger, which is a part of violence,
do we look at anger in terms of righteous and unrighteous anger, according to our own
inclinations and environmental drive, or do we see only anger? Is there righteous anger ever?
Or is there only anger?

The moment you protect your family, your country, a bit of colored rag called a flag, a belief,
an idea, a dogma, that very protection indicates anger. So can you look at anger without any
explanation or justification, without saying, "I must protect my goods," or "I was right to be
angry," or "How stupid of me to be angry?" Can you look at anger as if it were something by

[…] It is very difficult to look at anger dispassionately because it is a part of me, but that is what
I am trying to do. Here I am, a violent human being, whether I am black, brown, white or
purple. I am not concerned with whether I have inherited this violence or whether society has
produced it in me; all I am concerned with is whether it is at all possible to be free from it. To
be free from violence means everything to me. It is destroying me and destroying the world. I
feel responsible -- it isn't just a lot of words -- and I say to myself, "I can do something only if I
am beyond anger myself, beyond violence, beyond nationality." But to be beyond violence I
cannot suppress it, I cannot deny it…I have to look at it, I have to study it, I must become very
intimate with it and I cannot become intimate with it if I condemn it or justify it.

Excerpted from "Freedom from the Known" by J. Krishnamurti.

Our Crisis of Heart
Jack Kornfield

… Writing from the perspective of a Buddhist teacher and a psychologist with a strong
connection with the world of technology, I know this much: No marvelous technological
developments alone — computers and the internet, nanotechnology, space technology,
biotechnology, VR, AR, A.I. — will stop continuing warfare, racism, environmental destruction,
and global injustice. The source of these sufferings is in the human heart.

Actions based on greed, hatred, disrespect, and ignorance inevitably lead to suffering.

When we consider creating the best future for humanity, the principles for a wise society and a
wise life are simple and universal: Actions based on greed, hatred, disrespect, and ignorance
inevitably lead to suffering. And actions based on their opposites — generosity, love, respect, and
wisdom — lead to happiness and well-being.

…We are not powerless. Modern public discourse is almost designed to leave us overwhelmed
and disheartened and, frankly, resigned to the state of the world. Don’t fall for this.

Neuroscience has shown that human beings are born with innate compassion and care for self
and others. It also shows that human beings are born with survival circuits, which, when
activated, operate from fear, aggression, selfishness, and hate. It’s up to us which one we let
create our future.

As Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh explains:

“The quality of our life depends on the seeds we water. If you plant tomato seeds in your
gardens, tomatoes will grow. Just so, if we water the seeds of fear and hate, they will grow. If we
water the seeds of peace in your heart, peace will grow. When the seeds of love, respect, and
peace are watered, we will become happy.”

Intention is the key. Like an inner compass, we can set the direction of our life with the
deepest intentions of the heart. But the secret is to act without attachment to the results. We
get to plant seeds based on our best intentions, but we do not control how or when they will
sprout. They will, in their own time.

So, plant good seeds. Trust in renewal.

And you who read this: Let these words be a reminder, a call. Find your way to quiet yourself
and tend your heart. Promote love and spread the power of compassion in your work, in your
community. Have hope.

I remain hopeful despite the many painful current events, because we know how to do this. It’s
in us to help one another and create a better world.

In Zen, they say there are only two things: You sit, and you tend the garden. You quiet your
mind and open your heart. And then, naturally, you get up and tend the garden of the world.

Jack Kornfield trained as a Buddhist monk and psychologist. A teacher and activist he has been key to
introducing mindfulness to the West. This is an excerpt from a much longer essay titled, ‘Our Crisis of

Do A Nice Thing For Your Future Self
Elizabeth Gilbert

I grew up on a small family farm with plants and animals needing care in every direction, so
vacations were rare. But one summer my parents convinced a neighboring farmer to tend to
our goats and chickens while we got to go to the beach for a whole entire week. On the
morning we departed, my mother stripped her bed, washed and dried the linens, and remade
the bed perfectly, as if she were preparing it for a guest. I was baffled. Nobody was going to be
visiting while we were away; why go to so much time and trouble?

“Oh,” my mother explained, when I asked why she had bothered, “this is just a little present
I’m giving my future self. This way, when she comes home all tired and worn-out at the end of
her vacation, she’ll have the gift of fresh, clean sheets waiting to welcome her back to her own

“She,” my mother had said—not “I.” I found it striking that she felt such friendly kindness
toward the person she would be. My mother’s current self clearly believed that the stranger
she’d become over the next week was deserving of love. This gift of a freshly made bed was not
an insignificant act: It was a conscious handshake of affection across time, a way of connecting
the woman of this moment to the woman of the future.

I have never forgotten this lesson.

We are told to be kind and generous to ourselves, but it’s not always easy. Often we don’t feel
deserving. Often we fail to act in our best interests in the chaos of the present moment,
denying ourselves loving tenderness. We look in the mirror and think about every dumb thing
we’ve done or said today…. Then comes the punishment, which can be anything from binge
eating to taking other people’s abuse to blowing off our taxes. When you hate yourself this
much, why would you ever make your bed?...

But what about the person you will become in a week? Or a month? Or a year? What about
that innocent stranger? What did she ever do that was so wrong? What if you were able to
regard your future self as a deserving visitor worthy of affection and sympathy? What if every
single day you tried to think of one nice gift you could offer her—something that might make
her feel welcome and safe and loved when she finally shows up?

It can be as small a gesture as flossing your teeth, …or as big a gesture as quitting smoking or
walking out of a toxic relationship because you don’t want your future self to suffer as much as
your present self is.

If you can’t do a nice thing for you, could you possibly do a nice thing for her? That mysterious

and blameless stranger will someday have to live in the world you’re creating for her today. In
other words, you’re the one making the bed, but she’s the one who’ll be lying in it. So be nice
to her today. Be nice to her every day.

Remember: You are the best friend she has.

Elizabeth Gilbert is an American author best known for her memoir Eat, Pray, Love. Excerpted from her
article in Oprah magazine.

Both Happiness and Unhappiness are Unsatisfactory
Ajahn Chah

When we say that the Buddha and the Enlightened Ones killed defilements, it’s not that they
really killed them. If they had killed all defilements then we probably wouldn’t have any!

They didn’t kill defilements; when they knew them for what they are, they let them go.
Someone who’s stupid will grab them, but the Enlightened Ones knew the defilements in their
own minds as a poison, so they swept them out. They swept out the things which caused them
to suffer, they didn’t kill them. One who doesn’t know this will see some things, such as
happiness, as good, and then grab them, but the Buddha just knew them and simply brushed
them away.

But when feeling arises for us we indulge in it; that is, the mind carries that happiness and
unhappiness around. In fact, they are two different things. The activities of mind, pleasant
feeling, unpleasant feeling and so on, are mental impressions, they are the world. If the mind
knows this it can equally do work involving happiness or unhappiness. Why? Because it knows
the truth of these things. Someone who doesn’t know them sees them as having different
value, but one who knows sees them as equal. If you cling to happiness it will be the birthplace
of unhappiness later on, because happiness is unstable, it changes all the time. When
happiness disappears, unhappiness arises.

The Buddha knew that because both happiness and unhappiness are unsatisfactory, they have
the same value. When happiness arose, he let it go. He had right practice, seeing that both
these things have equal values and drawbacks. They come under the Law of Dhamma, that is,
they are unstable and unsatisfactory. Once born, they die. When he saw this, right view* arose
(*Right View: The first of the eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path), the right way of
practice became clear. No matter what sort of feeling or thinking arose in his mind, he knew it
as simply the continuous play of happiness and unhappiness. He didn’t cling to them.

When the Buddha was newly enlightened he gave a sermon about indulgence in pleasure and
indulgence in pain. ‘Monks! Indulgence in pleasure is the loose way, indulgence in pain is the
tense way.’ These were the two things that disturbed his practice until the day he was
enlightened, because at first he didn’t let go of them.
When he knew them, he let them go, and so was able to give his first sermon.

So we say that a meditator should not walk the way of happiness or unhappiness, rather he
should know them. Knowing the truth of suffering, he will know the cause of suffering, the
end of suffering and the way leading to the end of suffering. And the way out of suffering is
meditation itself. To put it simply, we must be mindful.

Love Needs to be Constantly Cleansed
Ajahn Jayasaro

In the stories that I cherished in my youth, happy endings almost always involved some kind of
love, and I began to observe that in “real life” love is not always a guarantee of happiness and it
rarely resolves anything for very long. One of the slogans of the day which impressed me the
most as a teenager was the one that asked whether you were part of the problem or part of the
solution. I think that this is a question we might ask about love. Is it truly part of the solution
to our suffering in life or does it merely compound it? My short answer to this question is that
it depends. On what? On the kind of love and how you care for it. Even the purest love needs
to be constantly cleansed.

Why is it necessary to keep cleansing love? The easy answer is that it tends to get soiled. And
the dirt that soils it is suffering and the cause of suffering: craving. Since we human beings do
not desire even a shred of suffering and gladly accept every little bit of happiness that comes
our way, it makes sense for us to ensure that all the various aspects of our life, including love,
be as conducive to happiness and as safe from suffering as possible. Love is a part of life which
we need to imbue with wisdom and understanding.

Love tends to get intertwined with other emotions, making those who have never considered it
closely mistake the emotions associated with love for a part of, or indeed expressions of, love
itself. Usually, for example, rather than considering worries and jealousy to be impurities of
love, we take them to be a proof of it, and thus gladly harbor such feelings. We tend to blind
ourselves to love’s impurities. It is alarming how easily the defilements (i.e. negative mental
states such as greed, hatred and delusion), which can destroy love, sneak inside a heart [...].
Most people are like the owner of a home with a wide opening instead of a door. Anyone is
free to enter or exit such a house and it is no surprise that thieves abound.

It is intelligent to learn about love because knowing and understanding our own nature is the
only way to the peace and happiness that we human beings can and should aspire to.

Excerpted from Ajahn Jayasaro's book, On Love.

Death is Life's Door
Paul Fleischman

(Note: 'Sitting' here refers to seated meditation)

Sitting enabled me to see, and compelled me to acknowledge, the role that death had already
played, and still continues to play, in my life. Every living creature knows that the sum total of
its pulsations is limited. As a child I wondered: Where was I before I was born? Where will I be
after I die? How long is forever and when does it end? The high school student of history knew
that every hero died…Where can I turn that impermanence is not the law? I try to hide from
this as well as I can, behind my youth (already wrinkling, first around the eyes, and graying),
and health insurance: but no hideout works.

Every day ends with darkness; things must get done today or they will not happen at all. And,
funny, rather than sapping my appetite…the pressure of nightfall helps me to treasure life. Isn’t
this the most universal human observation and counsel? …I choose each book I read with
precision and reason. I hear the call to care for and love my child…as a pure ringing note of
mandate. I sit at the dawn of day and day passes. Another dawn, but the series is limited, so I
swear in my inner chamber I will not miss a day.

Sitting rivets me on the psychological fact that death is life’s door. No power can save me.
Because I am aware of death, and afraid, I lean my shoulder into living not automatically and
reactively, like an animal, nor passively and pleadingly, like a child,… but with conscious choice
and decision of what will constitute each fleeting moment of my life. I know that my petals cup
a volatile radiance. But to keep this in mind in turn requires that an ordinary escapist
constantly re-encounters the limit, the metronome of appreciation, death.

I sit because knowing I will die enriches, and excoriates my life, so I have to go out of my way
to seek discipline and the stability that is necessary for me to really face it. To embrace life I
must shake hands with death. For this, I need practice. Each act of sitting is a dying to outward
activity, a relinquishment of distraction, a cessation of anticipatory gratification. It is life now,
as it is. Some day this austere focus will come in very, very handy. It already has.

Excerpt from: ‘Why I Sit’ by Paul Fleishman

That Friend Walking Behind Me
Parker Palmer

Imagine that for many years a friend had been walking a block behind me, calling my
name, trying to get my attention because he wanted to tell me some hard but healing
truths about myself. But I -- afraid of what I might hear, or arrogantly certain I had nothing to
learn -- ignored his calls and kept on walking.

So my friend came closer and called my name louder, but I walked on, refusing to turn around.
Closer still he came, now shouting my name. Frustrated by my lack of response, he began to
throw stones and hit me with sticks, still wanting nothing more than to get my attention. But
despite the pain I felt, I kept walking away.

Since calls and shouts, sticks and stones, had failed to get my attention, there was only one
thing left for my friend to do: drop the bomb called depression on me. He did so not with
intent to kill, but in a last-ditch effort to get me to turn toward him and ask a simple question:
“What do you want?” When I finally made that turn -- and began taking in and acting on the
self-knowledge he’d been waiting to offer me -- I took first steps on the path to wellbeing.

Thomas Merton's name for that friend is “true self.” This is not the ego self that wants to
inflate us. It’s not the intellectual self that wants to hover above life’s mess with logical but
ungrounded ideas. It’s not the ethical self that wants to live by someone else’s “oughts.” It’s not
the spiritual self that wants to “slip the surly bonds of Earth” and fly nonstop to heaven.

True self is the self with which we arrived on earth, the self that simply wants us to be who we
were born to be. True self tells us who we are, where we are planted in the ecosystem of life,
what “right action” looks like for us, and how we can grow more fully into our own potentials.

Memo to myself: Stay on the ground, turn around, ask and listen! True self is true friend -- it’s
a friendship we ignore at our peril.

Parker Palmer is a writer, speaker and activist who focuses on issues in education, community, leadership,
spirituality and social change. He is the author of Let Your Life Speak. The above excerpt is from his
article, Down is the Way to Well Being.

End of Absence?
Michael Harris
As we embrace a technology’s gifts, we usually fail to consider what they ask from us in return
— the subtle, hardly noticeable payments we make in exchange for their marvellous service. We
don’t notice, for example, that the gaps in our schedules have disappeared because we’re too
busy delighting in the amusements that fill them. We forget the games that childhood
boredom forged because boredom itself has been outlawed. Why would we bother to register
the end of solitude, of ignorance, of lack?

The more I thought about this seismic shift in our lives — our rapid movement toward online
experience and away from rarer, concrete things —the more I wanted to understand the nature
of the experience itself. How does it feel? How does it feel to be the only people in history to
know life with and without the Internet?

And if we work hard enough to understand this massive game changer, and then name the
parts of the new game we want to go along with and the parts we don’t, can we then pack along
some critical aspect of our earlier lives that those technologies would otherwise strip from us?
Or will we forget forever the value of that lack and instead see only a collection of gains? It’s
hard to remember what we loved about absence; we never ask for our deprivation back.

To understand our unique predicament, and understand how to win ourselves those best
possible lives, we need to root out answers in every corner of our experience. But the questions
we need to ask at each juncture remain as simple as they are urgent: What will we carry
forward? And what worthy things might we thoughtlessly leave behind?

The answer to that second question was painfully clear as I sat at my little beige desk in the
offices of Vancouver magazine. What I’d left behind was absence. As a storm of digital
dispatches hammered at the wall of my computer screen, I found myself desperate for
sanctuary. I wanted a long and empty wooden desk where I could get some real work done. I
wanted a walk in the woods with nobody to meet. I wanted release from the migraine-scale
pressure of constant communication, the ping-ping-ping of perma-messaging, the dominance of
communication over experience.

Somehow I’d left behind my old quiet life. And now I wanted it back.

Michael Harris is a contributing editor at Vancouver magazine and Western Living. Above is an excerpt
form his latest book, End of Absence

Not Minding What Happens
Eckhart Tolle

J. Krishnamurti, the great Indian philosopher and spiritual teacher, spoke and traveled almost
continuously all over the world for more than fifty years attempting to convey through words -
which are content - that which is beyond words, beyond content. At one of his talks in the later
part of his life, he surprised his audience by saying, "Do you want to know my secret?" Everyone
became very alert. Many people in the audience had been coming to listen to him for twenty or
thirty years and still failed to grasp the essence of his teaching. Finally, after all these years, the
master would give them the key to understanding. "This is my secret," he said. "I don't mind
what happens."

He did not elaborate, and so I suspect most of his audience were even more perplexed than
before. The implications of this simple statement, however, are profound.

When I don't mind what happens, what does that imply? It implies that internally I am in
alignment with what happens. "What happens," of course, refers to the suchness of this
moment, which always already is as it is. It refers to content, the form that this moment - the
only moment there ever is - takes. To be in alignment with what is means to be in a relationship
of inner nonresistance with what happens. It means not to label it mentally as good or bad, but
to let it be. Does this mean you can no longer take action to bring about change in your life?
On the contrary. When the basis for your actions is inner alignment with the present moment,
your actions become empowered by the intelligence of Life itself.

Ekchart Tolle in his book, "A New Earth."

Letting Meaning Flow Into Purpose
Brother David Steindl-Rast

The only point where one can start to talk about anything, including death, is where one finds
oneself. And for me this is as a Benedictine monk. In the rule of St. Benedict, the momenta mori
has always been important, because one of what St. Benedict calls “the tools of good works”
meaning the basic approaches to the daily life of the monastery-is to have death at all times
before one’s eyes. When I first came across the Benedictine Rule and tradition, that was one of
the key sentences which impressed and attracted me very much….It isn’t primarily a practice of
thinking of one’s last hour, or of death as a physical phenomenon; it is a seeing of every
moment of life against the horizon of death, and a challenge to incorporate that awareness of
dying into every moment so as to become more fully alive.

Death has to be one of the important elements of life, for it is an event that puts the whole
meaning of life into question. We may be occupied with purposeful activities, with getting
tasks accomplished, works completed, and then along comes the phenomenon of death-
whether it is our final death or one of those many deaths through which we go day by day. And
death confronts us with the fact that purpose is not enough. We live by meaning. When we
come close to death and all-purpose slips out of our hands, when we can no longer manipulate
and control things to achieve specific goals, can our life still be meaningful? We tend to equate
purpose with meaning, and when purpose is taken away, we stand there without meaning. So
there is the challenge: how, when all-purpose comes to an end, can there still be meaning?

This question suggests why in the monastery we are counseled (or challenged) to have death at
all times before our eyes. For the monastic life is one way of radically confronting the question
of life’s meaning. In it you cannot get stuck in purpose: there are many purposes connected
with it, but they are all secondary. As a monk you are totally superfluous, and so you cannot
evade the question of meaning.

This distinction that I am making between purpose and meaning isn’t always carefully
maintained in our everyday language and thought. In fact, we could avoid a good deal of
confusion in our lives if we did pay attention to the distinction. It takes only a minimum of
awareness to realize that our inner attitude when striving to achieve a purpose, a concrete task,
is clearly different from the attitude we assume when something strikes us as especially
meaningful. With purposes, we must be active and in control. We must, as we say, “take the
reins,” “take things in hand,” “keep matters under control,” and utilize circumstances like tools
that serve our aims. The expressions we use are symptomatic of goal-oriented, useful activity,
and the whole of modern life tends to be thus purpose-oriented. But matters are different
when we deal with meaning. Here it is not a matter of using, but of savoring the world around
us. In the idioms we use that to relate to meaning, we depict ourselves as more passive than
active: “It did something to me”; “it touched me deeply”; “it moved me.” Of course, I do not

want to play off purpose against meaning, or activity against passivity. It is merely a matter of
trying to adjust the balance in our hyperactive, purpose-ridden society. We distinguish between
purpose and meaning not in order to separate the two, but in order to unite them. Our goal is
to let meaning flow into our purposeful activities by fusing activity and passivity into genuine

Death puts our responsiveness to the ultimate test.

Brother David Steindl Rast is a Bendictine monk. The excerpt above is from an essay published in 1977
issue of Parabola.

Cleaning the Window
Ajahn Sumedho

We've never really accepted boredom as a conscious state. As soon as it comes into the mind
we start looking for something interesting, some-thing pleasant. But in meditation we're
allowing boredom to be. We're allowing ourselves to be fully consciously bored, fully depressed,
fed up, jealous, angry, disgusted. All the nasty unpleasant experiences of life that we have
repressed out of consciousness and never really looked at, never really accepted, we begin to
accept into consciousness not as personality problems any more, but just out of compassion.
Out of kindness and wisdom we allow things to take their natural course to cessation, rather
that just keep them going round in the same old cycles of habit. If we have no way of letting
things take their natural course, then we're always controlling, always caught in some dreary
habit of mind. When we're jaded and depressed we're unable to appreciate the beauty of
things, because we never really see them as they truly are.

I remember one experience I had in my first year of meditation in Thailand. I spent most of
that year by myself in a little hut, and the first few months were really terrible all kinds of
things kept coming up in my mind — obsessions and fears and terror and hatred. I’d never felt
so much hatred. I’d never thought of myself as one who hated people, but during those first
few months of meditation it seemed like I hated everybody. I couldn’t think of anything nice
about anyone, there was so much aversion coming up into consciousness. Then one afternoon
I started having this strange vision — I thought I was going crazy, actually — I saw people
walking off my brain. I saw my mother just walk out of my brain and into emptiness, disappear
into space. Then my father and my sister followed. I actually saw these visions walking out of
my head. I thought, “I’m crazy! I’ve gone off!”— but it wasn’t an unpleasant experience.

The next morning when I woke from sleep and looked around, I felt that everything I saw was
beautiful. Everything, even the most unbeautiful detail, was beautiful. I was in a state of awe.
The hut itself was a crude structure, not beautiful by anyone’s standards, but it looked to me
like a palace. The scrubby looking trees outside looked like a most beautiful forest. Sunbeams
were streaming through the window onto a plastic dish, and the plastic dish looked beautiful!
That sense of beauty stayed with me for about a week, and then reflecting on it I suddenly
realized that that’s the way things really are when the mind is clear. Up to that time I’d been
looking through a dirty window, and over the years I’d become so used to the scum and dirt on
the window that I didn’t realize it was dirty, I’d thought that that’s the way it was.

When we get used to looking through a dirty window everything seems grey, grimy and ugly.
Meditation is a way of cleaning the window, purifying the mind, allowing things to come up
into consciousness and letting them go. Then with the wisdom faculty, the Buddha-wisdom, we
observe how things really are. It's not just attaching to beauty, to purity of mind, but actually
understand-ing. It is wisely reflecting on the way nature operates, so that we are no longer

deluded by it into creating habits for our life through ignorance.

Excerpt from Now is the Knowing, by Venerable Ajahn Sumedho

To Forgive without Feeling Defeated
Thanissaro Bhikku

When you forgive someone who has wronged you, it doesn’t erase that person’s karma in
having done wrong….Forgiveness may not be able to undo old bad karma, but it can prevent
new bad karma from being done. This is especially true with bad karma that in Pali is called
vera. Vera is often translated as “hostility,” or “antagonism,” but it is a particular instance of
these attitudes: the vengeful animosity that wants to get back at someone for perceived wrongs.
This attitude is what has no place in Buddhist practice. Forgiveness is what clears it out of the

The Dhammapada, speaks of vera in two contexts. The first is when someone has injured you,
and you’d like to inflict some injury back. The second is when you’ve lost a contest…and you
want to get even.

In both cases, forgiveness is what puts an end to vera. You resolve not to settle the score, even if
society grants you the right to do so, because you realize that, from the point of view of karma,
the only real score in contests like this consists of more bad karma points for both sides.

Forgiveness is a stance you may have to make unilaterally, within yourself, but there is the
possibility that the other side will be inspired by your example to stop slinging mud as well.
That way, both sides will benefit. Yet even if the other side doesn’t immediately join in the
cease-fire, there will come a time when they lose interest, and that particular back-and-forth will

The Buddha recommends three tactics to help you deal with any lingering feelings that this
strategy might leave you on the losing side, victimized without recourse.

• The first is to remember that we’re all in the process of dying, and you don’t want
thoughts of vera to get in the way of a skillful death. The narrative that “He wronged
me, and I won’t feel at peace until I get back at him” is not one you want to focus on as
death approaches—something it’s doing all the time….You’ve got other, better things to
do with your time.
• The second tactic is to develop thoughts of infinite goodwill “free from vera, free from
ill will.” These thoughts lift your mind…and from that heightened perspective the idea
of trying to find satisfaction in settling old scores seems—as it actually is—petty and
• The third tactic is to take on the five precepts: no killing, no stealing, no illicit sex, no
lying, and no taking intoxicants. Ever. At all. As the Buddha notes, when you hold to
these precepts in all your encounters with others, regardless of who they are or what
they’ve done, you give universal safety from danger and vera—at least from your

quarter—to all beings. And because that safety is universal, you get a share of that safety

As for when you’ve lost out in a competition, the Buddha says that you can find peace and end
vera only by putting winning and losing aside. To do this, you start by taking a good look at
where you try to find happiness. If you look for it in terms of power or material possessions,
there will always be winning and losing. If you gain power, for instance, others will have to lose.
If others win, you lose.

But if you define happiness in terms of the practice of merit—giving, virtue, and meditation—
there’s no need to create losers. Everyone wins….Victory over your own greed, aversion, and
delusion is something that lasts. It’s the only victory that creates no vera, so it’s the only victory
that’s really safe and secure.

But this isn’t a victory you can hope to attain if you’re still harboring thoughts of vera. So in a
world where we’ve all been harmed in one way or another, and where we could always find old
scores to avenge if we wanted to, the only way to find a truly safe victory in life is to start with
thoughts of forgiveness: that you want to pose no danger to anyone at all, regardless of the
wrong they’ve done. This is why forgiveness is not only compatible with the practice of the
Buddha’s teachings, it’s a necessary first step.

From Tricycle Magazine, 17 Feb 2018

How Is Your Heart Doing?
Omid Safi

In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic,
Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we
ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are
you?” that is really what I want to know.

I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your
inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your
heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a
human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about
your heart and your soul.

Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Tell me you’re
more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Have that conversation, that
glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence.

Put your hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and connect with me for one second. Tell me
something about your heart, and awaken my heart. Help me remember that I too am a full and
complete human being, a human being who also craves a human touch.

I teach at a university where many students pride themselves on the “study hard, party hard”
lifestyle. This might be a reflection of many of our lifestyles and our busy-ness — that even our
means of relaxation is itself a reflection of that same world of overstimulation. Our relaxation
often takes the form of action-filled (yet mindless) films, or violent and fast-paced sports.

I don’t have any magical solutions. All I know is that we are losing the ability to live a truly
human life.

We need a different relationship to work, to technology. We know what we want: a meaningful

life, a sense of community, a balanced existence. It’s not just about “leaning in” or faster
iPhones. We want to be truly human.

W. B. Yeats once wrote, "It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul
than it does for a solider to fight on a battlefield."

How exactly are we supposed to examine the dark corners of our soul when we are so busy?
How are we supposed to live the examined life?

I want us to have a kind of existence where we can pause, look each other in the eye […] and
inquire together: Here is how my heart is doing. […]

How is the state of your heart today?

Let us insist on a type of human-to-human connection where when one of us responds by

saying, “I am just so busy,” we can follow up by saying, “I know, love. We all are. But I want to
know how your heart is doing.”

Omid Safi is the Director of Duke University's Islamic Studies Center. This is excerpted from his columns
for On Being.

The Same Self Is in All of Us
Eknath Easwaran

The same spark of divinity–this same Self–is enshrined in every creature. My real Self is not
different from yours nor anyone else’s. If we want to live in the joy that increases with time, if
we want to live in true freedom independent of circumstances, then we must strive to realize
that even if there are four people in our family or forty at our place of work, there is only one

This realization enables us to learn to conduct ourselves with respect to everyone around us,
even if they provoke us or dislike us or say unkind things about us. And that increasing respect
will make us more and more secure. It will enable us gradually to win everybody’s respect, even
those who disagree with us or seem disagreeable.

Most of us can treat others with respect under certain circumstances–at the right time, with the
right people, in a certain place. When those circumstances are absent, we usually move away.
Yet when we respond according to how the other person behaves, changing whenever she
changes, and she is behaving in this same way, how can we expect anything but insecurity on
both sides? There is nothing solid to build on.

Instead, we can learn to respond always to the Self within–focusing not on the other person’s
ups and downs, likes and dislikes, but always on what is changeless in each of us. Then others
grow to trust us. They know they can count on us–and that makes us more secure too.

We can try to remember this always: the same Self that makes us worthy of respect and love is
present equally in everyone around us. It is one of the surest ways I know of to make our latent
divinity a reality in daily life.

Sourced from Eknath Easwaran's Blue Mountain Journal, Winter 2015, Volume 26, No. 3

The Depth of Truth is Bottomless
Harada Tangen Roshi

When I was young, I went to war as a kamikaze pilot. I had firmly made up my mind to give my
life because I wanted to protect my parents, my brothers and sisters and my friends.
Other pilots went before me, giving their lives in that final flight. I waited my turn. My turn
did not come. The war ended just when I was about to fly. I was devastated, because I could
not carry out my commitment to help. I wasn’t able to serve. I felt useless. All my comrades
had given their lives and here I was, still alive, to what purpose? After that, again and again, just
on the brink of death, my life was miraculously spared.

You too are perfectly protected. It just isn’t obvious to you. You are receiving all the care,
protection and guidance and love of all the universe. You just haven’t been able to see it yet,
but you will.
Before I started my zen practice, my life was spared over and over again, and yet I couldn’t
rejoice in life. I couldn’t appreciate it, not then; I felt only anguish and despair. Those who had
died… Was their death in vain? Did they die, and that was it? These questions stayed with me;
they took over my mind.
It was during that time that I was fortunate enough to be given an audience with the great
master who was to become my teacher, Daiun (Harada Sogaku) Roshi….My teacher told me:
‘You yourself, you are still alive, so that you can forever and ever follow the path of giving. You
can steadily for evermore give your life to save others.’

There is a stone here in the graveyard upon which these words are carved: ‘We were once just
as you are now. You will become as we are now.’

How is that?

The fact is, everyone passes on. Impermanence is swift. No matter how blessed you may feel in
your present circumstances, how easy-going, how secure and pleased you are, you cannot hang
on to that world. It will be jerked out from under you. Impermanence is swift. The lining of
your present life is death. The problem of life and death is no one else’s problem; it is yours to
deal with. And then there are the many desires. You can’t get what you want; it never seems
quite right, never enough. Dissatisfaction and frustration seem to surface. There are so very
many people who worry about what would seem to be no problem at all. Liberation from
suffering. The more you know of this world, the more you see it to be a giant exhibition of
suffering. Everywhere you look, you see plenty of examples of misery.

What about you? Have you no pain, no suffering, no worries, no fears? If you honestly think:
‘Hey, not me. I can meet it as it comes, go with the flow. I am not afraid; I can always be at

peace,’ then you are fooling yourself, giving yourself license, seeing yourself for what you are
not. You are caught up in a ‘self’ notion, clinging to an ego idea. And lost in that ‘self’,
you cannot hear the cry or see the tears of others. If you can overlook those tears, you are not
a person of great peace of mind.

The depth of truth is bottomless. Your interconnection is bottomless. A single grass in the field
is perfect Buddha. How utterly ONE are all things: the grasses, the trees, the great earth, the
great sky. All being is born in relation to all things. This is the true self, the perfect self. No
matter what, all is goodness.

Excerpt from a talk given given by Harada Tangen Roshi in the year 2000

Letting Go - Fear of Pain
Ajahn Brahm

Fear is the major ingredient of pain. It is what makes pain hurt. Take away the fear and only
feeling is left. In the mid-1970s, in a poor and remote forest monastery in northeast Thailand, I
had a bad toothache. There was no dentist to go to, no telephone, and no electricity. We didn't
even have any paracetamol. Forest monks were expected to endure. In the late evening, as often
seems to happen with sickness, the toothache grew steadily worse. I considered myself quite a
tough monk but that toothache was testing my strength. One side of my mouth was solid with

I tried to escape the pain by meditating on the breath. I had learned to focus on my breath
when the mosquitoes were biting; sometimes I counted forty on my body at the same time, and
I could overcome one feeling by focusing on another. But this pain was extraordinary. I would
fill my mind with the feeling of the breath for only two or three seconds, then the pain would
kick in the door of the mind that I'd closed and come bursting in with a furious force.

I went outside and tried walking meditation. I soon gave that up too. I wasn't 'walking'
meditation; I was 'running' meditation. The pain was in control: it made me run. But there was
nowhere to run to. I was in agony. I ran back into my hut, sat down and started chanting.
Buddhist chants are said to possess supernormal power; or so it is said. I didn't believe it. I'd
been trained as a scientist. Magic chanting was all hocus-pocus, only for the gullible. I was
desperate. So I began chanting, hoping beyond reason that it would work. I soon had to stop
that too. I realized I was shouting the words. It was very late and I was afraid I would wake up
the other monks. With the way I was bellowing out those verses, I would probably have woken
the whole village a couple of kilometers away!

I was alone, thousands of miles from my home country, in a remote jungle with no facilities, in
unendurable pain with no escape. I'd tried everything I knew, everything. I just couldn't go on.
That's what it was like.

A moment of sheer desperation like that unlocks doors into wisdom, doors that are never seen
in ordinary life. One such door opened to me then, and I went through it. Frankly, there was
no alternative. I remembered two short words: 'let go'. I had heard those words many times
before. I had expounded on their meaning to my friends. I thought I knew what they meant:
such is delusion. I was willing to attempt anything, so I tried letting go, one hundred percent
letting go. For the first time in my life, I really let go.

What happened next shook me. That terrible pain immediately vanished. It was replaced with
the most delectable bliss. Wave upon wave of pleasure thrilled through my body. My mind
settled into a deep state of peace, so still, so delicious. I meditated easily, effortlessly now. After

my meditation, in the early hours of the morning, I lay down to get some rest. I slept soundly,
peacefully. When I woke up in time for my monastic duties, I noticed I had a toothache. But it
was nothing compared to the previous night.

Letting go of pain
In the previous story, it was the fear of the pain of that toothache that I had let go of. I had
welcomed the pain, embraced it and allowed it to be. That was why it went.

Many of my friends who have been in great pain have tried out this method and found it does
not work! They come to me to complain, saying my toothache was nothing compared to their
pain. That's not true. Pain is personal and cannot be measured. I explain to them why letting
go didn't work for them using this story of my three students.

The first student, in great pain, tries letting go. 'Let go,' they suggest, gently, and wait.
'Let go!' they repeat when nothing changes.
'Come on, Let Go.'

'I'm telling you, Let! Go!'


We may find this funny, but that is what we all do. We let go of the wrong thing. We should
be letting go of the one saying, 'Let go’. We should be letting go of the 'control freak' within us,
and we all know who that is. Letting go means 'no controller'.

The second student, in terrible pain, remembers this advice and lets go of the controller. They
sit with the pain, assuming that they're letting go. After ten minutes the pain is still the same,
so they complain that letting go doesn't work. I explain that letting go is not a method for
getting rid of pain, it is a method for being free from pain. The second student had tried to do
a deal with pain: ' I'll let go for ten minutes and you, pain, will disappear. OK?' That is not
letting go of pain; that is trying to get rid of pain.

The third student, in horrible pain, says to that pain something like this: 'Pain, the door to my
heart is open to you, whatever you do to me. Come in.'

The third student is fully willing to allow that pain to continue as long as it wants, even for the
rest of their life; to allow it even to get worse. They give the pain freedom. They give up trying
to control it. That is letting go. Whether the pain stays or goes is now all the same to them.
Only then does the pain disappear.

from his collection of talks at his meditation center in Australia, called “Who Ordered this Truckload of
Dung” (he is a Thai Forest monk who used to be a theoretical physicist)