Category Archives: Teachings

Western Resolution meets Eastern Resolve

Resolve, according to Mirriam Webster is an act of determination; synonym is courage.
Courage: from Anglo-French curage, from coer heart, from Latin cormore at Heart: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.
Heart: the emotional or moral as distinguished from the intellectual nature: as
a: Generous disposition: Compassion (a leader with heart)
b: Love, Affection (won her heart)
c: Courage, Ardor (never lost heart).

As I listen to friends and family making their New-Years Resolutions I’m encouraged to re-establish my own (and much in process) resolve. Like Calvin to Hobbes I’ve found help from wiser folks than myself. Ahhhh the web, how do I thank thee?

Resolve or Determination as a Western habit is most often emphasized during the season of the New Year . . . speaking from my own experience, my Western mind-set can barely manage even this much frequency. Ah but take heart,  is also one of the Ten Perfections listed in the Pali Canon, the scriptures of the Theravadin teachings. In the Pali language the perfection of resolve/determination is “Adhitthana Parami”.

Ajahn Sucitto and Ajahn Thanissaro both offer guidance when exploring or undertaking these virtues. They describe in detail how Adhitthana is nurtured and applied. Given that a study shows a pathetic 12% likelihood of success rate for new resolutions to last even one year, it seems most of us could use a bit of help from our friends . . . might as well listen to some wise ones.

Ajahn Sucitto’s mp3 Dhamma talk “Adhitthana Parami

Ajahn Thanisarro’s study guide on “The Ten Perfections

Cheers to keeping your New or Old resolutions! And just for fun, here’s a hint to my re-Newed Years resolution: (not a pretty picture but certainly familiar.


Click here to enlarge Comic Strip

One Fortunate Cringe


Mom phoned. I picked up her message around seven p.m. and tried to return her call to no avail. So I called the front desk of the assisted living facility where she has been residing for nearly eight years now and asked them to check on her. They said they would and that they would have her call me back. Mom didn’t phone back.

It’s interesting to watch my mind attempt to make up stories of why mom called. One thought actually made me cringe before I could drop it . . . “Go over and check on her . . . nah, the nurse is checking, she’ll call if anything’s off . . . maybe the staff forgot to check on her and she’s just lying on the floor, alone, in a pool of blood seeping through the floor, dripping on the head of the gentleman in the apartment just below her”. Well, at least that’ll alert them right?

What an outrageous thought and I actually cringed as if this scenario could be true! The good news? That cringe, though it felt nasty, not only alerted me to drop the story, it also flagged other potential stories as not worth giving rise to. It gave some space for me to pay attention to what is actually present and what is merely being dragged off by a fearful scent; mom didn’t answer her phone nor call me back. I made some tea and am drinking it right now and loving my mom. This feels good and that’s the end of the story.

Won’t You Guide My Mind Tonight ?

Ajahn Thanissaro visited our center recently. I’m guessing his teachings took on a variety of themes dependent on the individuals of his audience. A theme that emerged for me was to actively take responsibility for the atmosphere of my heart and mind by paying attention to what perceptions I gave my attention to.

As mentioned in my last post, my current practice is focused on loosening my grip around some particular out-of-date perceptions. Sure, these perception were useful in their time but, as with all things that arise, these too are beginning to age. The question now is ‘can I learn how to let them die’? Well maybe not before I learn how to stop giving them so much attention. Applying Ajahn’s advice seemed a good direction to head . . .

I spent the best part of yesterday trying to put together a slide show for the Upasika program’s second anniversary celebration this Saturday. After several failed attempts to burn a disk of the completed project I finally gave up. When I noticed my mood begin to slip I brought Ajahn’s teachings back to mind and took responsibility for dwelling on the perception of failure. Hours of frustration were indulged before I recalled Ajahn’s advice to purposefully place attention on objects that don’t give rise to suffering. I took immediate action . . . I’m afraid Ajahn would not be proud but what I did next was to turn off the computer and turn on the T.V., made a big bowl a popcorn, put my feet up on the coffee table and watched my all-time-favorite Christmas claymation “Rudolf the Red Nose Raindeer” . . . I mean really, who doesn’t love seeing misfits reach their true potential?

It’s a blizzard in this brain of mine: good thing there’s bright lights to lead the way.
______________________________
Ajahn Chah feeding deer at his monastery in Ubon, Thailand

Clear Sign: Foggy Morning

Heavy fog tumbled in through the open windowpane of my bedroom this early dawn and complimented the “Good sign” which hung in formation to my first waking thoughts.

Like many artist I often ‘see’ a thought before recognizing the ‘feelings’ constructing it. Having nowhere to go and nothing pressing to do, I decided to sit with this image and wait for the architect to arrive.


Good Sign


Hmmmmmm . . . white letter on green back ground . . .

waiting . . .waiting . . . waiting . . .

What is today anyway? . . .

waiting . . .waiting . . . waiting . . .

Oh . . . I know . . . its Uposatha Day . . .

waiting . . .waiting . . . waiting . . .

Pleasant feeling . . . hmmmmmmmmm . . .

“Now this IS a ‘Good Sign’; a pleasant feeling is coming up when thinking its Uposatha day . . . hmmmmm . . .

waiting . . .waiting . . . waiting . . .

And sometimes the thoughts that come up make me laugh:
“Since I’ll only be eating one meal today I’m likely to shed a pound or two. Maybe I’ll do a short run just to make sure.”

Searching for something deeper, I encouraged the “Good Sign” to hang in my consciousness while I got out of bed, closed the window and headed downstairs to make coffee.

So here I sit at my computer with this sign hanging just to the the upper left of my consciousness. With a whole lot of effort and persistence I just might keep this “Good Sign” around till it reveals itself. Which of course may be no more than saying “I am good”, and if so then just ‘who’ would the joke be on any way?

Meeting Ruth

Ruth Dennison whirled through the Abhayagiri Monastery in good speed and with good deed. I was lucky to have traveled the 626 southerly miles a few days earlier and hence present for Ruth’s Dhamma. I was touched by her manners, her easy courage and natural strength. There she sat in the top corner of the darkened shrine room. Candlelight emphasized a sparkling mind and wrinkled body.

Growing up I hadn’t recognize a female role model to emulate. Understandably so as few could live up to the lofty standards scripted in the Catholic publications delivered weekly in our mailbox. There were so many amazing women, all of them strong, honest and dead. It was easy to project wisdom in their silence. At six years of age I could figure it out; my family wasn’t silent, so my family wasn’t wise . . .

Ruth didn’t care when she meandered or that she would sometimes fall asleep between pauses. It was all just part of her expression, part of her truth, part of her Dhamma.
At 53 I should be able to figure this out. I met up with a female I wanted to emulate, and she wasn’t silent, and she wasn’t dead.