Potential



Always there is potential. You may have to uncover it from your heaps of confusion and doubt, but it's always there. If there are clouds in the sky, the Sun still shines above.  Never give up on anyone or anything, including yourself.

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“The essence of warriorship, or the essence of human bravery, is refusing to give up on anyone or anything.” ~Chogyam Trungpa


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Good Stories

If you are going to tell a story, tell a good one.

Thoughts are thoughts and beliefs are beliefs.  Just because you believe something doesn't make it true - it's a story you tell yourself.  Thoughts have no substance, yet their consequences are profound.  Karma, or your worldly experience, is produced by movements of the mind - stories or fabrication.  Every experience you have is colored by your thoughts and beliefs.  Every perception you have - of other people, of the opportunities around you, all of it - is created in your mind.  Most of this occurs at the subconscious level so meditation and deep awareness are necessary to truly affect change.

If you are going to fabricate then why not do so in a manner that doesn't produce suffering.  Selfishness produces fear and destructive emotions.  Living for the happiness of others brings joy to self and others.  This is called the path of the Bodhisattva.

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Not Worthy

You are not worthy, nor are you unworthy.   Worthiness is a concept and a terrible one at that.  Upon what would you credit you worthiness?  One moment you are kind and joyful, the next you are sullen and in a bad mood.  Which you is worthy or not?  Who decides?

Seek, experience, learn, and live.  Don't be bound by past experiences or false concepts.

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Picking Up Trash

I walked outside today and there was trash in the front yard.  Quite a lot actually.  It had gathered over the long, grey winter.  I picked up five pieces of trash and was careful not to add any.  I'll do more tomorrow.

Springtime in the mountains.

Karma, when properly understood, is just the mechanics through which consciousness manifests. ~ Deepak Chopra 

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Bodhicitta - Atomic Power

Bodhicitta is a spontaneous wish to attain enlightenment motivated by great compassion for all sentient beings, accompanied by a falling away of the attachment to the illusion of an inherently existing self.


Bodhicitta " is like atomic energy to transform your mind." 


Bodhicitta is powerful.  Meditating upon the well being of others, our responsibility in our community, and the interdependence of everything in the universe can eliminate our selfish tendencies and the suffering that results from a self-centered point of view.  Lama Thubten Yeshe says Bodhicitta " is like atomic energy to transform your mind." 

Metta, meditating for the well being of self and others, is a good introduction to Bodhicitta, but Bodhicitta is much more than wishing others well. It includes a personal responsibility for the world we see around us.  It is the union of interdependence and compassion.

May all beings be happy.
May all beings be well.
May al beings be safe.
May all beings be peaceful and at ease 

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One Problem

If you are unhappy, there is one problem you must work on.  Look in the mirror.

The world is what it is.  It has evolved and survived for billions of years without your approval. Learn how to be happy.

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Losing It All

Meditate deeply for a period of time and you will start to lose things:  anger, frustration, anxiety, doubt, shame, false pride, depression, and even your sense of identity. You'll be left with only joy, love, compassion, and a sense of equanimity or appreciation for all that exists as it exists.  No more resistance.

Be careful or you might begin to realize that you create your own misery.  It is said that when you realize this deeply, you will lose it all.

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Wide Open

There are quarks and leptons.  We see them as everything from tables to flesh but that's all labels.  It's all quarks and leptons.  How you experience them is wide open.  There are tendencies based upon conditioning, but you are not bound to experience them as such.

Thoughts and experience are all mind.  They rise and fall every moment.  How we see, create, and respond to the world is in our mind.  It's a terrifying responsibility but it can't be shirked.  You can work to become conscious of the world you see and project or you can do it unconsciously and life a life of confusion and frustration.

Start by taking responsibility for your emotions and thoughts about the world around you.  Deep down you are responsible for every single thought you have.  Before paying deep attention it seems other people and events cause your experience of life but really it is your beliefs about those people or events that create your felt experience.

If you want to live a life of freedom and joy, then you must quit reacting to life and take responsibility for everything.  This doesn't mean everything is your fault, it means your response is yours to own and that you are building your future with it. Responding is taking purposeful action with awareness.  Reacting is letting events, causes, and conditions evoke your thoughts and actions.  The first leads to meaningful living, the latter to hopeless stress and suffering.


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Good is Dangerous

When I'm good, you're bad.  Good people do terrible things to bad people.  Many people involved in holy wars, including members of ISIS, believe that they are "good" people.

What if, instead of seeking to be "good", we sought to be effective; to be happy and to make the world a joyful place?  What if we sought to end hunger, misery, and oppression?

Be careful of smug labels.  When being "good" leads to judging and labeling others, it becomes dangerous.  When we are good then we feel empowered to correct and condemn others.  If your actions don't lead to happiness, are they really good anyway?

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Effort

As a species we can send rockets into space, speak around the world on cell phones, and peer into galaxies far away.  With all of our great achievements, why is it that we aren't happy?  Why is there so much suffering?

We can leave this as a rhetorical question or we can look deeply.  How many years of study do we put into our careers versus the amount of time we put into looking into our mind?  How much effort is put into industrialization and automation of our lives as compared to developing the areas that really bring happiness?

Most of us don't really look at this too deeply.  Instead we hide from our insecurity and emotional turmoil.  We try to seek refuge in momentary pleasures or through avoidance tactics - alcohol, drugs, and sex just to name a few.  Unfortunately we suffer.

I invite each of you to spend some time looking at your mind.  Take responsibility for your thoughts, your beliefs, and your world.  Explore, meditate, and reflect.  What brings true happiness?

5 Practices for Nurturing Happiness by Thich Nhat Hanh

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Simplicity - An Introduction



There are uncountable facets to our mind.  Life is complicated and confusion can be great.  Buddhism offers a simple path to discerning what is important and reducing suffering.  It offers a path to creating a world of peace and harmony.  In particular,  the six paramitas (perfections) offer an easy to understand process to awakening.

1.  The Perfection of Generosity: Begin with generosity and learn to see others as your equal. Being generous includes not only your money but your time and attention as well.
2.  The Perfection of Ethical Conduct teaches us to respect all of life.  The five basic precepts are a good beginning.
     a.  Do not kill - respect life.
     b.  Do not take what is not given - respect other's property.
     c.  Do not abuse sexual contact - avoid the emotional and mental turbulence of sexual misconduct.
     d.  Do not speak falsely - promote trust and honesty.
     e.  Abstain from intoxicants - remain clear headed.
3.  The Perfection of Patience prevents us from committing regrettable acts due to anger and rage.
4.  The Perfection of Joyful Effort keeps us going.  Gratitude and enthusiasm help to shield us from the draining effect of negative emotions.
5.  The Perfection of Concentration prevents us from getting lost in the samsara and distractions of the world.  Our thoughts and emotions can be overwhelming when we are unable to focus and concentrate.
6.  The Perfection of Wisdom allows us to see clearly how the world operates.  We begin to see that we are responsible for our world.  The world doesn't happen to us, it come from us.


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Starting with Generosity

Starting with generosity, we learn to loosen our identity.  We learn that there is more to the world than our "self".  In doing so we lessen our suffering and our heart begins to open to the suffering of others.

Eventually we learn that the self is empty and fictitious. Upon full realization, it is said that suffering ceases.

“All the suffering there is in this world arises from wishing our self to be happy. All the happiness there is in this world arises from wishing others to be happy.” ~ Shantideva

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Point of View

Events have no inherent reality.
Things line up, depending upon our point of view (mental karma), to form our experience.
From one view a row of fence posts are in line, from another angle they are not.
Point of view = emptiness.
Mind = view = perceived reality = experience.
We can change our view.

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Thich Nhat Hanh on Dependent Co-Arising and emptiness.
20121129 from Plum Village Online Monastery on Vimeo.


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Immeasurable


Due to infinite causes and conditions, many things come to pass.
Be patient.  If everyone got their wish, there would be no suffering.
No one sets out to suffer, all beings seek happiness.

Please have compassion.






May all sentient beings have happiness
     and the causes of happiness;
May all sentient beings be free from suffering
     and the causes of suffering;
May all sentient beings never be separated from
     the happiness that knows no suffering;
May all sentient beings live in equanimity,
     free from attachment and aversion.


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Thats Who I Am

Immersed in our thoughts, we often believe them.  New thoughts we may challenge.  New thoughts we may look at. Old familiar thoughts, those are the dangerous ones.  We've revisited our old thoughts again and again and become comfortable with them.  We then allow them to form beliefs.  Even worse, we use them to define ourselves and believe "that's who I am".

Be careful how you define yourself, or better yet, don't define yourself at all.

Thoughts are empty - empty of inherent reality.  They only exist in our mind and with our participation, but they can cause great suffering.

Be careful who you think you are.


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Falling off

The best way to clean a rug is to lift it up, give it a shake, and let the dirt fall off.

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On Your Worst Days

Whatever generosity, 
Whatever offerings to the Buddhas and the like,
The positive deeds I've amassed over thousands of eons,
One moment of hatred will devastate them all
                                                                       ~ Shatideva

We all have bad days and our bad days can be more important than our good days.  One act of passion, one act of anger or hatred, can destroy a relationship forever.  For this reason it is important that we are not slaves to our destructive emotions.

Along with deep mindfulness, vows are a great way to keep from performing regretful acts or creating negative karma.  When you take vows, when you make a promise to yourself and the universe, you and the world you experience begin to change.  It may start slowly, you may not notice at first, but everything changes.

Today I will be generous.
Today I will not criticize,blame, or judge others.
Today I will seek  to have understanding and compassion.
Today I will not act out of fear or selfishness.  I will not create negative karma.

Repeat your vows when you wake and repeatedly through the day.  Repeat them until they are ingrained in your mind.  When you feel a destructive emotion, stop.  Do not act from this place.  Breathe deeply, say a mantra; whatever, just do not act from hate, fear, or selfishness.  NO BAD KARMA. Try keeping the vows above for a minimum of at least 21 days.  21 days of new behavior can create new habits and rewire your brain.

Continue to bring mindfulness to every moment and come from a place of love and compassion. Focus upon the last vow.  No matter what happens, even on your worst days, no matter what you think or feel....DO NOT ACT OUT OF ANGER, FEAR, OR HATE.  If someone disrespects you, breathe deeply and choose love over anger.  If you feel hurt or fear, breathe deeply and choose love.  If you feel self loathing, choose self compassion and love.  

Not every day will be great, not every day will feel warm and fuzzy, but when you stop reacting from your fearful ego you will stop creating more chaos and things will begin to settle down in your world.
No bad karma.

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Like a Rainbow -Emptiness



It can be very confusing when we first start learning about the Buddhist concept of "emptiness."  It's hard to imagine that nothing has solid existence in the way that we normally see it.  Some jump to nihilism and assume that the term means nothing exists at all and is only in our minds.  That is not what Buddhism teaches.  Some argue that emptiness isn't describing what reality is at all, it is only saying what reality isn't.  Reality is the way you see and experience things.

Another way of looking at the world, a skillful means, is to see things much like a rainbow.  When you see a rainbow you are very plainly seeing an arch of colors in the sky.  If you were to take off towards the rainbow you would never reach it or be able to touch or feel it.  It doesn't exist in that respect.  Light rays are refracted through water droplets to give the appearance that we call a rainbow.  The rainbow exists in our minds.

Quantum physics implies that elementary particles have no firm properties or existence until viewed by consciousness.  Electrons exist as fields of possibility until viewed or observed and are empty of an independent or inherent existence.  Many Buddhist teachers teach the same.  Objects are empty, not to say that their is nothing out there, just that they do not exist independent of mind.

Do we paint the universe with our minds?  Does your view determine the world that you live in?


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Walls and Strength

We build walls because we feel weak or insecure.  This is true in the physical world and in our mental-emotional worlds. Fearful people build large walls and take on grandiose personas to hide their insecurities.

Walls provide short term protection. Walls don't make "us" strong, in the long run they make us weak because we stop freely interacting with the world and developing our selves.

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Awakening - Nothing Mystical

There is nothing mystical about your mind creating your experienced reality.

There is nothing mystical about the fact that destructive emotions warp your perspective and experience of life.

There is nothing mystical about the fact that our minds notice our beliefs, speech, and actions to create our karma or experienced reality.

There is nothing mystical about sitting (meditating) to calm our minds so that we may notice and observe the workings of our minds (insight).

It isn't magic that once our minds are calm and relatively free of destructive thoughts and emotions, we begin to notice and understand how we create our reality .

There is nothing mystical about awakening, though it will feel like magic.


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I don't know who you are

I don't know who you are.  Never did, never will.  Don't even know who my wife is really.

I can only know my perception of you, my wife, or my son...My mind and my thoughts have created my perceptions, which means I have to take responsibility for the people I interact with everyday.

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Key to Happiness

Wish for everything to go well, then remove your wishes.

Things are going well, but your wishes are getting in the way of your happiness.  If you learn to flow, to quit resisting the fact that this is this because of that and that everything changes, then you can enjoy the wonderful display of creativity that the universe presents to you moment by moment.

Change is life.

If all things are empty, to what can we cling? - Mark Epstein


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Fixing the World

Instead of fixing the world to your liking, deciding how everyone else should be or act; could you in fact change your own mind?  Could you change how you view others, how you judge, and your tollerance?

Changing the world can be good.  Just be sure you've covered home base before you venture out to fix someone else's turf.

To cover all the earth with sheets of hide,
Where could such amounts of skins be found?
But simply wrap some leather around your feet,
And it's as if the whole earth has been covered!

Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva

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Not Tomorrow

You can't start tomorrow.  Tomorrow will just be today again. It's always today.

At some point we have to look deeply at our beliefs and try and understand where they come from.  Are they valid?

At some point we have to look deeply at our actions and compare them to our values.  Is there congruence?

At some point we have to get serious and tomorrow just won't do.

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Take Care of Your Own



"Take care of your own." A trite statement that seems to make sense.  Sounds good on the surface. A mantra - easy to repeat and no thought necessary.  Not bad advice, why wouldn't you take care of your own?

The question is where do you stop?  Where does your "own" begin and end?

When I see my little granddaughters Skylar and Kiersten, I see every little girl like them in this world.  Would I want any to suffer?  When I see the light in my wife's eyes, I see the tenderness, the hopes and joys of every wife, mother, and woman in the world.  Why wouldn't I wish happiness for them all?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking care of your own, but it doesn't have to be at the expense of others.  If we create a hostile world where it's us versus them then we put our very own children and others at risk.  If children grow up in a world with a scarcity mentality; where brute force is used to ensure the safety of a select few, then that is how they will learn to behave - even the dreaded "others".

In a world where all are cared for and protected, would there be terrorists and wars?  I may not be able to solve all of the world's ills and hostilities, but I do NOT want to contribute to the misery.  I do not want to create that sort of hell for my or anyone else's children.  I'm taking care of my own.

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Life

Life is a process, not an object.  Anything we call life has changed by the time we give it a name or firmly grasp it in our mind.

As I become more deeply in touch with this process, I begin to lose this ego I call self.  Loosing my identity and the doubts associated with it, I learn to flow.  Let your thoughts self liberate, like words written on the surface of a pond.

Love, patience, compassion, joy...all processes and sequences with nothing left behind.  To cling and grasp is to suffer.  Life - Flow.

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Responsibility



We are intricately intertwined with the world around us.  In fact, there is no separation.  Emptiness and interdependence can be hard to understand.  We see the world "out there" as separate from us, but in fact, what we see, hear, and touch is not separate at all.  It comes from our mind.  There is nothing that we observe that we do not observe through the filter of our mind.  The tree that you see does not exist outside of your mind.

Picture your shadow.  You see it clearly on the ground beside you.  Mistakenly you see it as something separate from you with inherent existence and confusion sets in. In reality there is no shadow without "you" blocking the light.

This is not irrelevant nor "spooky" superstition.  Quantum science knows well that the observer plays a role in reality and so should we.  Take responsibility, look closely.

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Orange Hair, Golden Showers

I try very hard not to be political on this blog, but I feel that we are at a social crisis.  The only thing that I despise more than politics is bully tactics and the manipulation of people's ignorance and fear.  It is always for our 'own good' that we are asked to give up our freedoms or to succumb to tyrany.

Be mindful, be careful, and keep love and determination in your heart.  Fear and greed lead to ugliness. Never loose your love and compassion for other beings.

For all those ailing in the world,
Until their very sickness has been healed, 
May I myself become for them
The doctor, nurse, the medicine itself.

Raining down a flood of food and drink,
May I dispel the ills of thirst and famine.
And in the aeons marked by scarcity and want,
May I appear as drink and sustenance.

- Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva 


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Victims



Change your life immediately.  Stop blaming.

Try going one full day without being a victim.  No blaming, no giving your power away.  Watch your mind closely as you do this.  Observe with amusement.  Notice the voice running through your mind, the frantic struggle to blame someone for your obstacles and frustrations. Notice your thoughts, but give them no power - let them fade and self liberate.

Try again tomorrow.  What have you got to loose?  - powerlessness, frustration, passive aggressiveness, hopelessness?


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The Author

If you could write your life like a novel, what kind of story would you tell?

Now look around at what you see.  Notice the life that you are living and compare it to the story above.  You do realize that you are responsible for the life you experience dont you?

If you don't like what you see;  should you write it differently, read it more carefully, or is there a lesson in there you're not seeing?

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Open Your Heart



Open your heart, get out of your head.

Heal your soul, look at (comprehend) your anger and fear.

End selfishness and suffering, see the big picture.

Cleanse your karma, act for the benefit of All Beings.

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Paramitas (Perfections)

Through giving we will be taken care of.
From ethics we achieve happiness.
Patience brings trust and likability.
From virtue comes brilliance and radiance.
Concentration and mindfulness bring peace.
Wisdom leads to realization and liberation.
Compassion assist with all of the above.


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Take the Load Off



Most of us feel pressure, stress, and uneasiness in our lives as a constant presence.  It's always there, even when we are otherwise happy, it lurks below the surface as an underlying sense of dread or irritation.  This is what the Buddha called suffering - dukkha.

If we look closely we will see that destructive emotions such as anger, anxiety (fear), jealousy, shame, stubborn pride (ignorance), or depression are the cause of this sense of uneasiness.

The Buddha offered the Eightfold Path as a means of relieving this suffering.  The steps and a description of this path are linked above and are well worth investigating and practicing, but often in the Western world we have trouble understanding how to incorporate them into our lives.  I would like to offer a method to begin to ease our daily struggle, a means of taking the load off and relieving our suffering so that we may see clearly and proceed on the path to realization and enlightenment.  This is by no means a substitute for the tried and true Eightfold Path, but a reworking or simplification of the beginning steps for the Western person as a place to start.

A. Practice morality so that you don't have strong feelings of guilt and fear.  To begin one might take the the following basic vows:

  1. I vow not to kill or harm other sentient beings.
  2. I vow not to steal or take what is not given to me.
  3. I vow not to misuse sexuality.
  4. I vow not to become intoxicated.
  5. I vow not to lie or mislead others with my speech.
B.  Practice generosity.  As we practice generosity we learn that we are not separate and that we have the power to help others.  Generosity gives way to an open heart and helps us to feel our personal power.  It opens our hearts to an abundance mindset as opposed to a fearful, scarcity frame of mind.

C.  Practice patience.  Patience and understanding go hand in hand.  Together they lead to compassion and understanding of the human condition.  From here springs love and joy.  

D.  Look deeply for understanding.  Meditate, observe and mull your mind.  Sit quietly to calm your mind.  Notice your mind and look at what is happening in there.  Finally question and understand.  Are you angry?  At who and why?  If you look deeply you will understand that other people are not the actual cause of your anger, they might be the trigger, but it is your own thoughts and beliefs that make you angry.  No one can cause an emotion in you without your mind's cooperation.  Can you change your beliefs?  Each destructive emotion is created by our mind.  Anxiety is caused by focusing on the future instead of the present moment and/or desiring for things to go a certain way - you are resisting reality.  Take responsibility for your emotions and investigate their causes.  Research each destructive emotion and learn the antidotes.

E.  Meditate upon the Four Immeasurables.  They are Love, Joy, Compassion, and Equinimity which is a calm mental state.

I have used the above steps to focus my practice and give it some foundation for a while now and have found it life changing.  Taking responsibility for my experience in the world has been huge.  Now I have incorporated the path of the Bodhisattva to further my understanding.  An alternative might be to take up the practice of LoJong or mind training.

I wish you well.



Just as the Buddhas of the past
Have brought forth the awakened mind,
And in the precepts of the Bodhisattvas
step-by-step abode and trained

Likewise, for the benefit of all beings
I will bring to birth the awakened mind
And in those precepts, step-by-step
I will abide and train myself.

~Shatideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva



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Agendas

"All the peace and happiness of the whole globe,
the peace and happiness of societies,
the peace and happiness of family,
the peace and happiness in the individual persons' life,
and the peace and happiness of even the animals and so forth,
all depends on having loving kindness toward each other." 

                                                                      

~ Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Everyone has their own agenda.

Everyone is looking out for their own interests.

The trick, as a caring person - a Bodhisattva - is to work on perfecting ourselves and expand our compassion so that our interests include others; eventually realizing that there are no "others."

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

Sentient beings are numberless; I vow to save them all.
Desires are inexhaustible; I vow to end them all.
The Dharma Gates are infinite; I vow to enter them all.
The Buddha Way is unexcelled; I vow to attain it completely.


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Noticing (Karma)

Your mind notices so much more than you realize.  Consciously or not, it knows everything that you do and it knows your real intentions.  It knows and forms your beliefs which guide you towards the realities in your life.

Live mindfully.  Until you are liberated, karma is real.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

All appearances are mind.
Mind is empty, empty of independent existence.
Presence and phenomena spontaneously arise from emptiness.
Spontaneous arising is self liberating.

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Seeing Spots?

If you woke one morning and saw red spots everywhere you looked - in the sky, on the ground, and even upon your own face - would you believe something had happened overnight and the world was now spotted or would you question your perception?

If suddenly you heard a humming noise emitted from everywhere, even the mouths of those who spoke, would you believe that the world had changed in a day or would you question your perception?

Your brain is an organ like your eyes or ears.  When your view changes from positive to negative, when your outlook changes from optimistic to pessimistic, do you question the world or your view - the thoughts your brain is creating?

As a human we have the freedom to observe and change.  The human mind is a complicated thing.  Body chemistry, events, and conditions may trigger thoughts, moods, and emotions but we have the ability to override.  Deep looking, mindfulness, loving kindness meditation - these are all tools available to us.  Ultimately we are responsible for our own thoughts, speech, and actions - no one else.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

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