June 5, 2015

From the Dying Star

Sitting outside on a bench
With a bowl of steaming yellow dal,
Drinking in the warm sunlight, my mind
Began streaming back to the past
A few hundred, million, billions years ago,
When the stars exploded
All their guts and longings and light,
To a creative destruction
Giving birth to softly turning moons, and gently flowing rivers
Trembling leaves and our fragile uncertain hearts.

From the dying star comes this tenderness I know very well,
That need to self-destruct for love.

From their scattered flames arises the empty spaces,
The separateness - the thinly dispersed truth.
And on days like this
The familiar fulfilling silence
Oozing in the blood, soaking the body
With a soft glow and
The clear knowing that
There is enough.



{written in May 2015, Mountain View}

McMindfulness of Meditation

A friend recently mentioned that people often ask him: Is mindfulness being corrupted by business?
I like Thich Nhat Hanh's response:
"It does not matter if the original intention is triggered by wanting to be more effective at work or to make bigger profits. That is because the practice will fundamentally change their perspective on life as it naturally opens hearts to greater compassion and develops the desire to end the suffering of others."

I have some agreements and also disagreements with this idea because there are various nuances worth looking into. Below was my reply. I thought it was worth sharing with everyone.

Thich Nhat Hanh is a great teacher and there is absolutely no doubt that if he is personally teaching mindfulness - hearts will be opened and compassion will overflow. This is because 'Peace' and 'Compassion' is central to the life he has lived and the work he has done since his Vietnam days.

 I also trust that people who run SIY or MBSR are incredibly wise and have big compassionate hearts. However, yesterday, I was attending a talk by Matthieu Ricard at Stanford and this very question was asked by James Doty. He asked him if the McMindfulness (commercialization of mindfulness meditation in corporates) of Buddhism is diluting the Dhamma?

Ricard answered that he has spent time with Jon Kabat Zinn and is touched by his goodness of his heart and intentions. He also feel that if Zinn is personally teaching the practice, than he will hopefully succeed in taking the practice beyond focus, attention, productivity towards "compassion" and "service". But it may not be true for everyone else. He said that he cannot understand why these programs are not explicitly teaching 'caring', 'compassion' and 'courageous action' towards benefiting people and the planet

He feels that these programs are hoping or assuming that compassion will be a by-product of the mindfulness practice. But it is not the main intention of the program to achieve that. Most articles in the media that talk about these programs have buzzwords like 'focus', 'productivity' and 'money'. But 'caring for others' and 'compassion' are not promoted as the primary aspects of cultivation. He is questioning, why are we not using these words, sila (ethics) and the compassion (towards ourselves, planet, poorest of poor) as central? I think it is a good question to ask.

Lastly, he also pointed out that mindfulness can help one become very sharp, focused and non-judgmental  'mindful sniper' who can be a very productive killing machine. I think it can help us perform better at Wall Street in writing algorithms that might be destroying the planet. So I personally wonder why systems thinking and compassion is not an important part of these teachings?

Finally, all I can say is that even if the programs are not intended to explicitly teach ethics or compassion, I think as mindfulness teachers we should make it an important aspect of our curriculum. To hope and assume that "greater compassion and the desire to end the suffering of others" will be a byproduct or an outcome is not enough. It is good to hope for it but such an assumption does not have enough data and can lead to great deviations. We also have enough examples of such deviations.

We are at a very critical place in history. Here are just a few examples: If we don't change the way we run our corporations and look into our consumption patterns we are sure to destroy more than 30% of the Earth's biodiversity by 2050. You may study the two charts: http://www.matthieuricard.org/en/blog/posts/the-danger-of-crossing-ecological-planetary-boundaries

You may have seen this video that gives an idea of income inequality in America: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPKKQnijnsM
 
Having worked in the slums for several years in India, I can tell you that the hunger and hardship that millions of people who are surviving on less than one dollar a day are simply difficult to process in the heart/mind. Their problems have only multiplied in the last two decades. The issues around race, diversity and LGBTQ rights are very alive. Since the last few years mindfulness is being taught to soldiers but I am not seeing any change in America's participation in wars.

I do think that meditation teachers should get paid or supported to live a comfortable life. It makes me very happy that we are bringing mindfulness in corporations and the army. But I cannot imagine teaching it in these spaces without bringing the concepts of Sila (ethics), right view, right speech, right action, right effort and caring.

I feel that today Dhamma cannot be separated from courageous compassionate action.

December 21, 2014

...

Spent a few weeks in Brazil last month. Realized that what flows through the body of Brazilian people is not blood. It's music.

So much so that their hospitals even offer Samba transfusions.

In case of emergency, what's your 'music type'?

...

I am convinced more than ever before that black holes exist on earth. What their magnetic pull attracts most are socks, hair clips, jewellery, chapsticks, pens and safety pins. Once in a while they swallow up entire globs of hours, like an afternoon that ended before it began. I've known them to have mysterious portals inside human brains as well - thousands of thoughts, wild ideas, bizarre fantasies sucked into its dark nothingness - forever.

Some day, space explorers just might come across a planet made out of socks, hair bands, safety pins, pens and incredible whimsical fantasies of our collective wild minds.

Reading at a Friend's Wedding


In October, my dear friend, precious and beautiful person, Price Massey got married to Cosby Hall. I was asked to read at the altar. Here's sharing the reading with y'all:


"The subject tonight is Love
And for tomorrow night as well,
As a matter of fact
I know of no better topic
For us to discuss
For as long as we live."
-Hafiz


Some of you do not know how Price and Cosby met. Actually, it all started a few million years ago. The molecules that glow in their bodies, are traceable to the centers of high mass stars, supernovas - the suns that exploded their chemically rich dust into the galaxies. It is a profound truth that makes me look at the calcium in our bones, the iron circulating in our blood, and the metal rings that Price and Cosby will put on each others fingers in a new and dazzlingly light.

Neil Tyson says, 'we are connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically.' That makes me smile and I actually feel quite vast at the end of that.

This universe has far more galaxies than people. And yet while floating on this little dust mote that we call earth, we sometimes forget the exquisite vastness that we are born of.
My prayer for you, Price and Cosby, is that everyday may you become a reminder to each other of this vastness and beauty that you hold inside. That you help each other recognize the limitless power within you to heal, to radiate joy and to be kind.

I am honored to be a part of your sublime union. Thank you for all the goodness you evoke in every life you touch.

I would love to end with a short Prayer: 
May all beings be happy, content, and fulfilled.
May all beings be healed and whole and enjoy inner peace.
May all be protected from harm, and free from fear.
May there be peace and joy throughout the entire universe :)

July 22, 2014

The Womb that Carries the Universe

As an artist, I have trained myself to be more aware of the negative space than what I put on my canvas. For it is the womb of the negative space that holds and shapes all that is born and all that changes form.

In my relationships with people, with my work, with nature - I have come to care a lot more about the spaces in between - the words and thoughts - the streams of unspoken feelings and emotions - the pleasant, the neutral, the unpleasant - the transcendent - flowing between the shores of one anothers consciousness. I try to hold these feelings in the womb of my heart tenderly, with empathy, with balance.

Sometimes in meditation, the incessant chattering of the mind falls away, and the river of silence, of ease, floods the being. At those times, the heart opens, ever so softly - towards a vast kind of nothingness - a kind of love - that is nor to be seen or spoken about.

I go around with my work, in and out of office buildings, the grocery store, cafes and the internet, and there are days when I am feeling disconnected. I am in and out of a mind that is comparing, unsatisfied, striving. But once in a while there are days, when I go around my day feeling tenderly ensconced in a womb of deep safety and an overflowing sense of contentment. On such days, both the negative space and positive space feel connected moving in and out of each other. On such days, time is no more linear but also a circular "whole". There is the fulfillment of a thousand loves in a breath lived.

June 8, 2014

Our Collective Worlds that Intertwine

I sometimes feel unsafe in our collective worlds
As if the animal in me can sense the smell of something amiss in the dark;
As if the young girl in me can hear the sound of impending dissonance
That is about to flood her heart with anxiety for the very first time –
And then again ...and again.

I feel that I have to snip the chords of my Sitar so that
My fingers do not express my true longings;
I feel that the rivers of my voice have to be damned with concrete;
I fear that my black kite dancing free to the free songs of creation and destruction
Will be swallowed up by the voices in the sky.

I yearn to run naked with the wolves
And howl,
To taste the sweet breath
Of my raw feminine spirit released in the woods.

But I fear the cages visible at every turn
Where they will finally teach me the etiquette of conformity,
To control my life force in order to power their corporate grids,
To smear the soft fertile soil of my consciousness
With their chemicals and intellectual landfill.

I sometimes feel safe in our collective worlds -
Because you are not scared of my feelings that vibrate in the strings of my Sitar;
You do not see the need to cover my body
With the shroud of enormous buildings and moral institutions;
You delight in the unrestrained dance of every Goddess,
In all her beauty and passion and devotion.

You are willing to tear down the concrete thoughts
For the rivers to run unbound,
To break open the narrow cages of judgment,
To worship, to protect with reverence that which you cannot see.
 
I feel ease in our shared worlds because
Every time you reveal your vulnerability and truth
The mother’s milk reaches her hungry child
And nourishes every filament of our interdependent existence.

You give me hope by your willingness
To dig into the rich forest of your spiritual inquiry,
And offer in the palm of your calloused hands
The wild flowers and the moist smelling roots.

In return, my friend, I want to give you –
My soul,
And my lungs and every organ of my body for you to examine;
Because with you I feel safe
In the knowing that you will hold every part of me
With care.
"I want to unfold. Let no place in me hold itself closed, for where I am closed, I am false. I want to stay clear in your sight." --Rilke