Glimpsing the Future

“If you want to know your past life, look into your present condition; if you want to know your future life, look at your present actions.”

– Padmasambhava –

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The World We Create

“Six realms of existence are identified in Buddhism: gods, demigods, humans, animals, hungry ghosts, and hells. They are each the result of one of the six main negative emotions: pride, jealousy, desire, ignorance, greed, and anger.

Looking at the world around us, and into our own minds, we can see that the six realms definitely do exist. They exist in the way we unconsciously allow our negative emotions to project and crystallize entire realms around us, and to define the style, form, flavour, and context of our life in those realms. And they exist also inwardly as the different seeds and tendencies of the various negative emotions within our psychophysical system, always ready to germinate and grow, depending on what influences them and how we choose to live.”

– From: Glimpse After Glimpse: Daily Reflections on Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche –

Be Where You Are

“As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you will miss most of your life.”

– Siddhartha Gautama –

Simple Wisdom

” No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”

– Buddha –

Another Meditation Experiment

There is a long-standing debate in the neuroscience community: is neural structure hard-wired from youth, or is it changeable depending on the nature of one’s thoughts throughout life?

In a study that was done by Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist and psychologist at the University of Wisconsin’s Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience, the findings support the latter part of the debate.

Eight of the Dalai Lama’s most seasoned practitioners of Nyingmapa and Kagyupa meditation participated in this study where 256 EEG sensors were attached to each monks scalp to record electrical activity from a large number of different areas in the brain. The monks were asked to carry out compassionate meditation, which is best described as meditation that focuses on a readiness to help others and a desire for all living things to be free of suffering.

Within 15 seconds of starting to meditate the monk’s brains started to speed up, and not slow down as most of us would expect. Their brain waves rapidly shifted from beta waves to alpha waves, then back to beta and finally up to gamma waves. Gamma waves, the highest rate of brain-wave frequencies, are employed by our brains when they are working at their hardest: when we sift through our working memory, during deep levels of learning or concentration and focus, as well as during flashes of insight.

Davidson discovered that when the brain operates at these fast frequencies, all the different areas of the brain begin to operate in synchrony, and it is this type of synchronization that we need to achieve heightened awareness. The fact that the monks could achieve this state so rapidly suggested that over the years of intense meditation, their neural processing had been permanently changed. It was found that meditators who can withdraw their attention from outward stimuli and completely focus their attention inward are more likely to reach gamma-wave hyperspace.

The researchers also found that the monks who had been practicing meditation the longest recorded the highest levels of gamma activity. This heightened state of being also produced permanent emotional improvement through the activation of the left anterior portion of the brain that is most associated with joy. It seemed that the monks had conditioned their brains to tune into happiness most of the time!

A Meditation Experiment

During the winter of 1985 in a monastery high in the Indian Himalayas the following experiment was conducted by a team of scientists, led by Herbert Benson, a cardiologist at the Harvard Medical School:

A group of scantily clad Tibetan monks were sitting in quiet meditation. Sheets soaked in cold water were draped, still dripping, around their shoulders by a fellow monk. The bodies of the monks, instead of cooling down, were starting to heat up and soon steam was rising from the wet sheets; within an hour the sheets were dry. This process was repeated two more times.

An array of medical equipment that was attached to the monks during the experiment yielded interesting results. The monks managed to raise their body temperature with up to 9.4°C, while lowering their metabolism by more than 60%.

What makes this specific experiment even more amazing is revealed only when one considers that our metabolism drops a mere 10-15% when we sleep, and that experienced meditators can mostly only decrease it by about 17%.

This experiment offers persuasive proof of the power of our thoughts.

The Mind in Meditation

Wise words from Sogyal Rinpoche on the mind and meditation:

There is a famous saying: “If the mind is not contrived, it is spontaneously blissful, just as water, when not agitated, is by nature transparent and clear.” I often compare the mind in meditation to a jar of muddy water: The more we leave the water without interfering or stirring it, the more the particles of dirt will sink to the bottom, letting the natural clarity of the water shine through. The very nature of the mind is such that if you only leave it in its unaltered and natural state, it will find its true nature, which is bliss and clarity.

The Burden of Impermanence

There is a story that is told about a woman who, in the time of the Buddha, was devastated by the death of her child. She found it hard to accept that her child died, and pleaded with the Buddha to help find a miraculous medicine to bring him back to life. He told her to go to the village and collect one mustard seed from every house where the people have not suffered the loss of a loved one. She eventually returned empty-handed, realising that everyone has experienced the pain of loss and that nothing on earth is permanent.

Accepting the impermanence of things is very hard for the mind. All yoga traditions teach that life and all it holds is temporary. We may follow healthy organic diets, do asana practice every day, and meditate regularly, yet, we can never escape the fact that we too will one day die. And with us, all our achievements will eventually fade away. It is when we realise that we all suffer, that everything is temporary, even our circumstances that may feel endless, that the present moment can be experienced in a different light. As such, we can transform the burden of impermanence into an acceptance and gratitude for what we have right now, while realising that all difficult times will pass.

We allow our minds to trap us through the stories we make up about ourselves, life, and others. We allow our thoughts to define us, and by doing so, we add to our suffering and diminish our potential. We reduce the miracle of life by our constant urge to judge and label, and as a result, we distance ourselves from others. When we cannot see things as they really are by confusing the impermanent with the permanent, we perpetuate our suffering.

Yoga in many ways boil down to a very simple practice: observing and fully experiencing what is happening in the present moment. Sounds so easy, yet, it is such a slippery thing to nail.

Mind Matters

The still revolutionary insight of Buddhism is that life and death are in the mind, and nowhere else. Mind is revealed as the universal basis of experience – the creator of happiness and the creator of suffering, the creator of what we call life and what we call death.

–  Sogyal Rinpoche  –

Nothing is as it Appears

Know all things to be like this:

A mirage, a cloud castle,

A dream, an apparition,

Without essence, but with qualities that can be seen.

 

Know all things to be like this:

As the moon in a bright sky

In some clear lake reflected,

Though to that lake the moon has never moved.

 

Know all things to be like this:

As an echo that derives

From music, sounds, and weeping,

Yet in that echo is no melody.

 

Know all things to be like this:

As a magician makes illusions

Of horses, oxen, carts and other things,

Nothing is as it appears.

–  Buddha  –

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