Occasional Picture January 2013

Happy New Year!

May the happiness of beauty fill your year!


© 2013 Marina Rundell


Excerpts from The Wise Heart by Jack Kornfield:

“‘Who are we, really?’ The Zen koans demand. ‘Who is dragging this body around?’ or ‘What was your original face before your parents were born?’ These questions force us to look directly at the consciousness that inhabits our body. Ajahn Chan asked us to ‘be the Knowing.’ Tibetan teachers instruct their students to direct their gaze inside to see who or what is doing the looking. Ajahn Jumnian, a Thai forest master, tells his students to witness all experience as if from the ‘third eye’ in the center of the forehead. In each of these practices we turn toward and rest in consciousness itself.”

“It is as if we were in a movie theater, completely lost in whatever film—romance, adventure, comedy, or tragedy—is currently starring ourselves. Then we are told to look behind us, to find the source. Turning our heads, we recognize for the first time that the entire drama arises from a series of changing images projected by a beam of light onto the screen. The light, clear and shining, is colored by the various forms on the film, yet its essential nature is pure and unchanging.”

“At some moments there are also gaps in the action; the show gets a bit slow, even boring. We might shift in our seats, notice the people eating popcorn around us, remember we’re in a movie. In the same way we can notice that there are gaps between our thoughts, gaps in the whole sense of ourself. Instead of being lost in ideas and the problems in front of us, creating the whole drama of ourself, there are moments when we sense the space around our experience, let go, and relax. ‘These gaps,’ says the meditation master Chogyam Trungpa, ‘are extremely good news.’ They remind us that we can always rest in awareness, that freedom is always possible.”

“We do not require special meditative circumstances or a near-death experience like Salam’s to return to awareness. A boy in school suddenly notices a sunbeam illuminating the dust and he is no longer the earnest fifth grader struggling with math. He smiles as he senses the ever-present mystery and his whole building and schoolboy drama are held in a silent, free awareness. A woman walking down the street thinks of a distant friend and for a moment forgets her errands, feeling eternity and her own small life passing through it. In an argument we stop, laugh, let go, and become silent. Each of these moments offers a taste of freedom.”

“Relax. Rest in this openness. Let sensations float and change. Allow thoughts and images, feelings and sounds to come and go like clouds in the clear, open space of awareness. As you do, pay attention to the consciousness itself. Notice how the open space of awareness is clear, transparent, timeless, and without conflict—allowing for all things but not limited by them. This is your own true nature. Rest in it. Trust it. It is home.”


In the movie, The Lucky One, Logan finds a picture of a girl in the rubble while in Iraq. He returns home and the movie shows a few instances of how the war has affected him. He makes the long journey to find this girl in the picture because he feels it helped protect him. He is shown literally walking and camping out. Because this is a story, I go ahead and accept the premise of him really walking the long distance, and somewhere along the way, with all that walking, he may have found some peace with his war experience.

This I can accept as walking has also been good for me. Without thinking and paying attention instead to your body while it’s walking and at the same moment appreciating the surroundings of where you are walking is a restful and peaceful state to be. You find happiness because you now have a context from which to place all the things you must take care of in your day.

When Logan arrives in the girl’s town, he eventually finds her. His character for the rest of the movie, after all that walking and finding peace, exemplifies what Jack Kornfied in his book, The Wise Heart, is explaining about healthy and unhealthy mental states. Logan shows healthy mental states, while the girl’s ex-husband displays unhealthy mental states.

When I read the passages below, from Jack Kornfield’s book, I immediately thought of how Logan and the ex-husband were great examples of Kornfield’s words, as follows:

“Buddhist psychology makes mental health simple for us to understand. The presence of healthy mental states creates a healthy mind; the presence of unhealthy states creates mental distress, unhappiness, and mental illness. This reflects a significant difference with much of Western psychology, which focuses primarily on the residual contents of consciousness, on what we think about. Although this focus has given rise to many creative therapeutic approaches, it often leaves us entangled in the never-ending production of thoughts and emotions. Here, Buddhist psychology takes a liberating turn, stepping back with mindfulness to investigate the play of the mental states themselves, teaching us to replace those states that bring sorrow and foster those that create joy.”

“The unhealthy factors have three roots: grasping, aversion, and delusion. From these three roots arise states of envy, rigidity, anxiety, dullness, shamelessness, self-centeredness, doubt, agitation, and misperception. We all experience them at times. The stronger these states are, the more extensively we suffer. At their worst, they create psychopathology. Grasping and greed become addiction, worry becomes paranoia, shamelessness becomes sociopathy, aversion becomes hatred and rage. War, violence, racism, exploitation, and injustice are their fruits.”

“The healthy factors have three healthy roots: love, generosity, and mindfulness. From these roots arise states of clarity, composure, insight, joy, adaptability, confidence, discretion, and balance. Each of these healthy mental states creates a happy and free mind. They grow from mindful attention, and like sunlight on fog, the presence of these healthy states dissolves the unhealthy ones. Almost all of the myriad Buddhist trainings and practices work to release unhealthy states and cultivate healthy ones.”

“When we look at our own mind, we can notice the mental states that predominate, as if we were noticing the weather. Just as a storm can bring rain, wind, and cold, we can observe the clusters of unhealthy states that appear on our bad days. We may find resentment, fear, anger, worry, doubt, envy, or agitation. We can notice how often they arise and how attached we are to their point of view.”

“We can also notice the healthy states in our most free and open-hearted periods. We can notice how love, generosity, flexibility, ease, and simplicity are natural to us. These states are important to notice. They give us trust in our original goodness, our own Buddha nature.”

“‘To become your own psychologist’, says Lama Yeshe, ‘you don’t have to learn some big philosophy. All you have to do is examine your own mind every day. You already examine material things every day—every morning you check out the food in your refrigerator. Why not check out the state of your own mind? Investigating your own mind is much more important!’”

“As Ajahn Chah taught, ‘When you have wisdom, contact with experience is like standing at the bottom of a ripe mango tree. We get to choose between the good and rotten mangoes. It is all to your profit, because you know which fruits will make you sick and which are healthy.’”

Kornfield gives examples for his many points above. For more, get his book:

The Wise Heart by Jack Kornfield





Who Are We Not, Really?

Once in a while I go into a discussion with my two sons as they flex their growing-up rationalities.

“The brain is the engine that powers our bodies,” the older says, thanks to the realities of his biology class, and also for him to clarify the younger brother’s views of the many “what ifs” that can be fictionally attached to the power of the brain.

I, too, am amazed at the brain and all it has given to life, but it must be recognized as only a part in the context of the whole and not be seen as who we think we are. Thus, the philosophy, “I think therefore I am.”

So I ask my sons, “Is your brain thinking making that tree grow?”

They end up smiling because the answer is so simple, “No.”


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