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#1566 - Wednesday, September 24, 2003 - Editor: Joyce (Know_Mystery)  


        Free Will - Photo by Alan Larus ~ HarshaSatsangh

        Music: Allusions-pond.mid from

What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone,
in the forest, at night, cherished by this
wonderful, unintelligible, perfectly innocent speech,
the most comforting speech in the world,
the talk that rain makes by itself all over the ridges,
and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows!
Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it.
It will talk as long as it wants, this rain.
As long as it talks I am going to listen.

~ Thomas Merton ~    

 Bruce Reid ~ Nasrudin (archives) & Alan Larus ~ TrueVision




Photograph by Alan Larus


It has not rained in the past nine months.

The other day Liz’s children slept over and during the night it began to rain.
Sasha, Liz’s youngest, though he has seen rain before, it had been so long ago
no record of rain’s possibility remained in his mind.

At breakfast we spoke of the rain. Sasha may have used the word himself and when
he did I am sure he believed he knew what he was talking about.

As we stepped out of our flat, out from under the roof, Sasha stopped, an
intense expression crosses his face and he looks to the sky transfixed. He
extends his arms up, fingers outstretched, palms facing the sky.

"Water is coming from the sky!" he declared, laughing the joy of rapport.

He looks around and then begins to skip down the path, hands and face
reaching up through the rain to the sky.

"Water is coming from the sky!" he repeated over and over, in between peels
of joyous laughter. A reality had entered his consciousness in a very special
way that only the innocent and humble can know. A camel completed a passage
through the eye of a needle.

COGNITION AND EMOTION, 2003, 17(2), 297-314

Approaching Awe, A Moral, Spiritual, and Aesthetic Emotion

Dacher Keltner, University of California, Berkeley
Jonathan Haidt, University of Virginia, Charlottsville

"In the upper reaches of pleasure and on the boundary of fear is a
little-studied emotion - awe. Awe is felt about diverse events and
objects, from waterfalls to childbirth to scenes of devastation. Awe
is central to the experience of religion, politics, nature, and art.
Fleeting and rare, experiences of awe can chart the course of a life
in profound and permanent ways..."


"Songs, symphonies, movies, plays, and paintings move people, and even
change the way they look at the world. The same can be true of human
creations, such as skyscrapers, cathedrals, stadiums, large dams, or
even oddities, such as the world's largest ball of string. When do art
and human creation elicit awe? First, size matters. Awe is more likely
to occur in response to viewing art of artifact when the object is larger
than the viewer is accustomed to seeing. The object itself may be large
(e.g., Michelangelo's David) or it may exemplify powerful or heroic forces
and figures (as in Greek Myths). In more subtle ways, art can produce
awe by rendering exceptional movements in time that are signs of vast,
powerful forces, as when seemingly trivial elements foreshadow larger
developments in the narrative. When art has these properties it should
be more likely to produce awe, as opposed to, for example, aesthetic

The authors discuss Awe in Religion, Sociology, Philosophy, and Psychology,
and elaborate the notion of Primordial awe along dimensions of awe toward
power, nature, human art, and to the epiphanic experience, among others.

[The full paper is available in pdf format here: ]

 Joyce ~ Spiritual-Friends


Selfishness, Happiness And Benefiting Others

Magic Keys

With the world awash with poverty, injustice,
environmental crises, imposed confusion and toxic
propaganda, we at Media Lens nevertheless regularly
receive emails from people asking: "What should I

It's an interesting question - one that we have
ourselves asked many times in the past - because it
is often a kind of polite euphemism for other,
rather more bashful, questions, such as: `How can I
find the motivation to sacrifice my own free time,
energy, money, and perhaps even career prospects, to
take action and get involved in some kind of
dissident activity, without feeling it's all a
futile drop in the ocean?'

Noam Chomsky, in his usual no-nonsense manner,
discussed the issue in conversation with David
Barsamian of Alternative Radio:

David Barsamian: "Often at the talks you give, there
is a question that's always asked, and that is,
`What should I do?' This is what you hear in
American audiences."

Noam Chomsky: "You're right, it's American
audiences. You never hear it in the Third World."

DB: "Why not?"

NC: "Because when you go to Turkey or Colombia or
Brazil or somewhere else, they don't ask you, `What
should I do?' They tell you what they're doing. It's
only in highly privileged cultures that people ask,
`What should I do?' We have every option open to us.
None of the problems that are faced by intellectuals
in Turkey or campesinos in Brazil or anything like
that. We can do anything. But what people here are
trained to believe is, we have to have something we
can do that will be easy, that will work very fast,
and then we can go back to our ordinary lives. And
it doesn't work that way.

"You want to do something, you're going to have to
be dedicated, committed, at it day after day. You
know exactly what it is: it's educational programs,
it's organizing, it's activism. That's the way
things change. You want something that's going to be
a magic key that will enable you to go back to
watching television tomorrow? It's not there."
(Chomsky, `Collateral Damage, an Interview with
David Barsamian', Z Magazine, July/August, 2003)

In Chomsky's interview, as in so many progressive
analyses, the discussion ends there. The remedy,
then, would appear to be for us to pull ourselves up
by our moral bootstraps: Be less selfish! Just do

But the problem is precisely that our fingers
tugging at our moral bootstraps are enfeebled by the
deep conviction that we have to do everything in our
power to make +ourselves+ as happy as possible in
the short time we are alive. This seems particularly
to be the case given that, at present, we are not
doing a very great job of it.

Ours, after all, is a notoriously unhappy society.
In 2001, the Observer reported that despite the
highest British income levels ever, researchers had
found that most people interviewed were profoundly
unhappy: 55 per cent said they had felt depressed in
the previous year. (Ben Summerskill, `Retail therapy
makes you depressed', The Observer, May 6, 2001) In
2002, it was reported that around one-third of
British people suffer from serious depression at any
one time. A 25-year-old today is between three and
ten times more likely to suffer a major depression
than one in 1950. It seems that young people with
the highest living standards since records began are
deeply miserable during "the best years of their
lives". Two-thirds of Britons aged between 15 and 35
feel depressed or unhappy.

The hamster-wheel repetition of our commute to work,
the endless drudgery of our jobs, the perpetual
burden of marital and parental responsibilities, the
self-doubts, irretrievable losses, depressions,
illnesses and frustration, all mean that many of us
feel we are doing all we can to keep our heads above
water, never mind helping anyone else. Even as we
are asking "What should I do?" we are lamenting with
Shantideva from the 8th century: "Alas, our sorrows
fall in endless streams!"

How can it be sensible or reasonable for us to give
up our spare time, money or energy to help others
when our lives are already crowded with so much

If there is to be a helpful response to the
question: "What should I do?" it must lie in a
credible answer to another question: Is there a
response that satisfies both our need for happiness
and the needs of the world around us?

We believe that people devote themselves to a
self-centred life in pursuit of several perceived
sources of happiness: pleasure, comfort, praise and
status. We will propose, here, however, that not
only do these goals not deliver happiness, but that
they are themselves the direct cause of many of our
problems. This realisation can progressively lead to
a response that is as beneficial to us personally,
as it is to the world around us. The answer to the
question of how best to look after "number one" is
not at all what we might expect.

The Pitfalls Of Personal Happiness - How Pleasure
Chews and Grinds

One section of Aryadeva's classic 3rd century work
on philosophy, Four Hundred Stanzas, is entitled,
remarkably: "Abandoning Belief In Pleasure".

Aryadeva argued that the idea of positive pleasure
free from suffering is an illusion - what we label
`pleasurable' is actually a moment of relief from
one discomfort before the arising of another
discomfort has become noticeable. Aryadeva gave an
example as a template for understanding all
`pleasurable' experiences:

"When the discomfort of carrying a load on the right
shoulder for a long time becomes intense and one
moves it on to the left one, it is merely that a
slight pain which is beginning stops the intense
pain already produced, not that there is no
discomfort at all. How can there be pleasure while a
new and different pain is beginning or while intense
pain is stopping?" (Aryadeva and Gyel-tsap, Yogic
Deeds of Bodhisattvas, Snow Lion, 1994, p.93)

What we experience as `pleasure' in eating,
drinking, sitting after standing, coming in from the
cold, winning money and applause, and so on,
involves relief from one discomfort as another
begins (itself soon becoming uncomfortable).
Although we are merely caught between one decreasing
and one increasing form of suffering, we label the
feeling `pleasurable', and believe the label.
Aryadeva presents a vivid analogy:

"When a rich man, vomiting into a gold pot, sees his
servant vomit into a clay one, though vomiting is
equally unpleasant for both, he thinks how
prosperous he is. Like the rich man who feels
delighted, one mistakes for real pleasure the
feeling of satisfaction when pain has been
alleviated and becomes less acute; but there is no
real pleasure." (p.92)

That this is the case becomes clear when we continue
the `pleasurable' action, for example of eating,
which soon becomes uncomfortable: "With the
intensification of pleasure, its opposite is seen to
occur." (p.88)

Perhaps this `pleasurable' cycling between
constantly diminishing and increasing discomforts
explains why, as the French philosopher Montaigne
observed, "Pleasure chews and grinds us." And as for
a pleasurable activity relentlessly pursued,
Aryadeva paints a grim picture:

"It is like King Asoka's prison called `Pleasant
Abode' where one could first choose one's favourite
form of behaviour, but since no other could then be
adopted, this eventually became painful." (p.89)

And it does indeed seem that when individuals fill
their lives with all the pleasures money can buy,
they find themselves, oddly, no closer to happiness.
Researchers surveying Illinois state lottery winners
and British pool winners found that the initial
happiness at winning eventually wore off and the
winner returned to their usual range of happiness.
Likewise, a recent sample of 49 super-rich people
found that 37% were less happy than the national
average (See: Howard Cutler and The Dalai Lama, The
Art of Happiness, Hodder & Stoughton, 1998, p.10) In
another study, there was no difference between the
happiness level of 22 lottery winners and comparison
samples of average people or paraplegics.

In his book, Man's Search For Meaning, psychiatrist
Victor Frankl discussed this remarkable relativity
of happiness and suffering based on his experience
as a survivor of the Nazi death camps. Frankl
explains how, after a train journey under appalling
conditions, he and his fellow prisoners expected to
arrive at Auschwitz to face imminent death. When
they did arrive, however, they found that they were
in fact at a much smaller camp where they were not
in imminent danger of being killed. Disinterred from
their train, the prisoners were forced to endure a
murderous all-night punishment parade in freezing
conditions. The results were remarkable:

"All through the night and late into the next
morning, we had to stand outside, frozen and soaked
to the skin after the strain of our long journey.
And yet we were all very pleased! There was no
chimney in this camp and Auschwitz was a long way
off." (Frankl, Man's Search For Meaning, Pocket
Books, 1985, pp.65-66)

Whether rich or poor, no matter how comfortable or
distressing our condition, we apply the label
`pleasure' to an experience that involves a mere
decrease in suffering. No matter how much we try,
`pleasure' of this kind must involve discomfort and
its temporary reduction; it must grind us with its
inherent suffering. This is why Buddhist sages have
argued that a life spent in pursuit of pleasure is
like sitting on a pin - every move you makes leads
to suffering.

The Search For Status - Bogus Celebrity

How many writers, including dissident writers, are
motivated by the desire `to be someone' - to achieve
praise, status and reputation, even fame? We at
Media Lens have received supportive emails from some
of the writers we respect and admire most, and also
from many of our readers. What is so remarkable is
the capacity of the egotistical mind to quickly lose
the initial sense of satisfaction gained from this.

As with other desires, the 'pleasure' experienced
involves relief from an uncomfortable situation -
doubts and anxieties about our ability to do what we
are doing effectively, for example. But as these
doubts are partially reduced, positive comments -
like food to a full stomach - rapidly lose their
power to give the original pleasure. This is not at
all to say, by the way, that supportive emails are
irrelevant to us - they remain highly valued and
important to us, regardless of the titillation they
may or may not give our egos.

There are other problems with the pursuit of praise
and status. It is easy to reflect on the fact that
many writers, for example - no matter how
incompetent and hateful their work - receive
positive comments from readers. Hitler, after all,
was adored by millions - positive comments proved
nothing at all about him, so what do they prove
about us? Shantideva writes:

"Why should I be pleased when people praise me?
Others there will be who scorn and criticise.
And why despondent when I'm blamed,
Since there'll be others who think well of me?"
(Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva, Shambhala,
1997, p.113)

Like all desires, praise and fame seem to promise
much, but the actual experience surely comes fraught
with unexpected dissatisfaction, disappointments and

The comedian Charlie Chaplin said of his fame:

"I wanted to enjoy it all without reservation, but I
kept thinking the world had gone crazy. If a few
slapstick comedies could arouse such excitement, was
there not something bogus about all celebrity? I had
always thought I would like the public's attention,
and here it was - paradoxically isolating me with a
depressing sense of loneliness." (Quoted, David
Giles, Illusions of Immortality - A Psychology Of
Fame And Celebrity, Macmillan Press, 2000, p.91)

Who would have guessed that achieving unprecedented
success as a comedian would leave someone like
Chaplin, not delighted by his triumph, but in
despair at the superficiality of his fellow man? And
who would believe that the adoration of millions
could result, not in endless delight, but in
loneliness and depression?

In his book, Illusions of Immortality, David Giles
describes some of the adverse consequences of fame:

"Probably the single most important cause of
unhappiness reported by celebrities is the effect of
having to deal with so many people all the time. The
loss of privacy is one aspect of this... The more
social interactions we have, the more we have to
compromise our `true' selves - eventually something
snaps." (Giles, p.92)

In 60 BC, Cicero complained that, despite the
"droves of friends" surrounding him, he was unable
to find one with whom he could "fetch a private
sigh". Rousseau wrote: "As soon as I had a name, I
ceased to have friends." (p.95)

Giles comments:

"On meeting each new acquaintance, the question
becomes not so much, `Does this person like me for
who I am?' but `Does this person like me for what I
am?'" (p.95)

We might think the rich and powerful live contented
and happy lives - but high-ranking politicians and
business moguls are slaves to their positions.
Aryadeva examines the issue in discussion with an
imaginary king:

"Assertion: Pride is appropriate because a king is
free to enjoy all objects.

"Answer: It is not appropriate. What wrongly appears
as a cause for superlative happiness to you, king,
is seen as a source of suffering by those with
discriminating wisdom and disciplined sense. Since
you experience uninterrupted suffering in the
process of protecting large communities of people
and must live by working for others, it is not a
cause only for happiness." (p.119)

In other words, status and power come with ten
thousand Lilliputian ropes of stressful
responsibility and commitment, which take us very
far from a sense of individual freedom and perfect

Dependent Arising - The Curious Nature Of Problems

The difficulty that underlies the entire attempt to
achieve personal happiness through self-centred
goals relates to the whole nature of what it is to
have a `problem'.

A problem does not exist in splendid isolation as a
concrete fact in the real world. Instead, problems
arise in dependence on our definition of happiness.
If, for example, we have set our heart on a
particular person or object, anything that
interferes with the attainment of that goal will
obviously be labelled `a problem'.

We are not angry with a romantic rival simply
because he or she exists, but because he or she
threatens to take away what we believe will make us
happy - he or she is therefore `a problem'. In
response, we may become irate, frustrated, jealous,
furiously angry and even violent. If, on the other
hand, we do not believe that a particular person is
an important source of happiness, then the person
who might otherwise have been a rival is no longer
an obstacle - the problem has literally ceased to
exist in the same way that a rainbow disappears when
a cloud obscures the sun.

The point is that this is true of all problems.
Belief in happiness through the satisfaction of
self-centred desires automatically creates
conditions in which thousands of problem `rainbows'
can arise. As we identify a must-have partner, job,
car, house, level of success, we thereby instantly
generate vast numbers of `problems' in relation to

If we realise that none of these things actually can
give rise to lasting happiness - that they tie us to
an endlessly rotating wheel of suffering,
diminishing discomfort (pleasure), and arising
discomfort - then our problems begin to diminish in
number and intensity.

To the extent that we lose faith in the power of
desired objects to provide happiness, we dismantle
the conditions that lead us to define certain events
as `problems'. And just this, according to the
world's major spiritual traditions, is a state of
genuine peace and happiness.

How can we test this remarkable claim? We might
argue, after all, that a life without desire would
be a life of unrelenting boredom. But, on
reflection, we can realise that boredom is precisely
what we feel when we are blocked from satisfying a
desire - from talking to a prospective partner
chatting to our friends at the next table, from
moving to a better job in some fantastic place.
Boredom is not a condition without desire; it is a
condition in which desire is both present and

So how can we experience a condition, perhaps only
temporarily, in which our normal focus on selfish
concerns giving rise to `problems' is temporarily
`switched off' or diverted in a way that tests the
truth of the proposition being made here?

The answer is that we can `switch off' our normal
focus on our own problems and happiness by focusing
on the problems and happiness of someone else.
Victor Frankl described this brilliantly. In a
situation of deep despair on a work team in a frozen
death camp, a casual comment from a fellow prisoner
caused Frankl to remember the face of his wife who
was also imprisoned. He writes that his mind
imagined her face "with an uncanny acuteness":

"Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret
that human poetry and human thought and belief have
to impart: The salvation of man is through love and
in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left
in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a
brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved.
In a position of utter desolation... in such a
position man can, through loving contemplation of
the image he carries of his beloved, achieve
fulfilment." (Frankl, op.cit., p.57)

By focusing concern away from our own welfare, a
loving and compassionate mind has the power to
annihilate problems even in the most extreme
conditions. Problems exist in dependence on a
self-centred focus, and so feelings of love or
compassion free the mind from problems.

Psychologists often tell us that much modern
depression results from people comparing themselves
to others who are better off. As Montesquieu wrote:

"If we only wanted to be happy, it would be easy;
but we want to be happier than other people, and
that is almost always difficult, since we think them
happier than they are."

It also makes sense, then, that deep reflection on
the infinitely worse suffering of others - a
standard practice in many cultures - gives rise to a
stable feeling of contentment and well-being. Thus
one Buddhist meditation recommends:

"On seeing a wretched man, unlucky, unfortunate, in
every way a fit object for compassion, unsightly,
reduced to utter misery with hands and feet cut off,
sitting in the shelter for the helpless with a pot
placed before him, with a mass of maggots oozing
from his arms and legs, and moaning, compassion
should be felt for him in this way: `This being has
indeed been reduced to misery; if only he could be
freed from his suffering!'"

Again, our problems are not concrete realities -
they literally shrink in our minds when set
alongside, even imaginatively, the far worse
sufferings of others. Science is beginning to
support the idea that compassion of this kind is
indeed a powerful antidote to personal unhappiness.

On September 14, the New York Times reported from
the University of Wisconsin, where Richard Davidson,
director of the Laboratory for Affective
Neuroscience, is currently studying brain activity
found in Buddhist monks meditating on compassion.
Davidson says:

"It's something they do every day, and they have
special exercises where they envision negative
events, something that causes anger or irritability,
and then transform it and infuse it with an
antidote, which is compassion. They say they are
able to do it just like that." (Stephen S. Hall `Is
Buddhism Good for Your Health?', The New York Times,
September 14, 2003)

Davidson's research has previously found that people
who have high levels of brain activity in the left
prefrontal cortex of the brain simultaneously report
positive, happy states of mind, such as zeal,
enthusiasm, joy, vigour and mental buoyancy. On the
other hand, Davidson found that high levels of
activity in a parallel site on the other side of the
brain - in the right prefrontal areas - correlate
with reports of distressing emotions such as
sadness, anxiety and worry. Experiments on one monk,
a "geshe", generated remarkable results. Davidson

"Something very interesting and exciting emerged
from this. We recorded the brain activity of the
geshe and were able to compare his brain activity to
the other individuals who participated in
experiments in my laboratory over the last couple of
years... The geshe had the most extreme positive
value [indicating happiness] out of the entire
hundred and seventy-five that we had ever tested at
that point." (Daniel Goleman, Disturbing Emotions -
And How We Can Overcome Them, Bloomsbury, 2003,

Davidson describes the geshe as "an outlier" on the
graph - his reading was "three standard deviations
to the left", far beyond the rest of the bell curve
for positive emotion and happiness.

In the New York Times article describing these
results, journalist Stephen Hall comments that "the
fact that the brain can learn, adapt and molecularly
restructure itself in response to experience and
training suggests that meditation may leave a
biological residue in the brain". Stephen Kosslyn, a
Harvard neuroscientist comments:

"This fits into the whole neuroscience literature of
expertise where taxi drivers are studied for their
spatial memory and concert musicians are studied for
their sense of pitch. If you do something, anything,
even play Ping-Pong, for 20 years, eight hours a
day, there's going to be something in your brain
that's different from someone who didn't do that.
It's just got to be."

Conclusion - Motivation For Dissent

Possible options for all who ask "What should I do?"
are clear. The first thing we can do is reflect on
our own experience of life in considering the
possibility that the self-centred pursuit of
pleasurable experiences does not deliver on its

Forever placing our needs, our problems, at the
centre of our focus in this way ensures that they
always seem enormous. By focusing with compassion
and love on the (often far worse) problems of
others, we can reduce our perception of the
importance and severity of our own problems, even in
the most difficult circumstances.

We can consider, then, that compassionate thoughts
and actions - working to relieve the suffering and
increase the happiness of others - can be a powerful
path, not an obstacle, to our own personal
happiness; that these can act as an antidote to the
catastrophic problems caused precisely +by+ our
single-minded attempts to make just ourselves happy.

The problem, then, is not that we already have too
much on our plate to be concerned about others, but
that we have too much on our plate +because+ we are
not concerned about others. This need not be taken
on anyone's advice - it is something we can consider
in relation to our experiences of everyday life. As
we reflect on these possibilities, and perhaps
progressively erode our faith in the delusive
happiness of self-centred living, we may well find
ourselves naturally seeking out opportunities to
benefit others.

Motivation is not a problem for anyone who accepts
the extraordinary truth contained in Yeshe Aro's
ancient prescription for happiness:

"On this depends my liberation: to assist others -
nothing else."

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Graham Sutherland ~ OmniConscious


It'll Be OK.
When someone is down or in trouble , what is the most common thing that
friends and loved ones say to help them thu it.
  It'll be OK   This little sentence or a variation of it is probably the most common thing
that is said with the aim of helping someone thru a difficult time.
  So often it is the little white lie that is told because we hope it will
make them feel better. When we have it said to us we want to believe it, but
mostly we know it is just said to make us feel better. When we say it we
often know it is a lie, or at least that we can't know for sure that it
actually will be OK. Is it really just wishful thinking? Is it really just
words of support without real meaning?
  What if it really is the truth? The real truth. The whole truth and nothing
but the truth? What if we really are immortal souls evolving towards
something wonderful and unavoidable?
  What if we could actually believe it? Not just in out head, but right down
thru our subconscious and unconscious mind, in the depths of our heart and
the core of our being . Could we really really live it?
  Would it make a difference to your life?   If it could really be proven to you that it WILL be OK, could you actually
let go of fear and worry and depression? Would you be able to enjoy your
life whatever happens?
  They are just a few little words, that no one really believes.
It'll be OK.
If we could let go of the skeptical and the rational and the conditioned
mind. If we could accept it as truth in the core of our being. It really
would be OK, because that genuine belief would completely change our outlook
on life.
  The load would be lifted from us such that we could be less serious about
life. Enlightenment may not have much to do with seeing the light, it may
instead be about feeling lighter because the load has been lifted.

Kevin Large ~ OmniConscious

  Love without Condition   I love you as you are, as you seek to find your own special way to relate to
the world. I honor your choices to learn in the way you feel is right for you.
  I know it is important that you are the person you want to be and not someone
that I, or others, think you ~should~ be. I realise that I cannot know what is
best for you, although perhaps sometimes I think I do. I have not been where
you have been, viewing life from the angle you have. I do not know what you
have chosen to learn, how you have chosen to learn it, with whom or in what
time period. I have not walked life looking through your eye, so how can I know
what you need.
  I allow you to be in the world without a thought or word of judgment about the
deeds you undertake. I see no error in the things you say and do. In this place
where I am, I see that there are many ways to perceive and experience the
different facets of our world. I allow without reservation the choices you make
in each moment. I make no judgment of this, for if I would deny you your right
to your evolution, then I would deny that right for all others and myself.
  To those who would choose a way I cannot walk, whilst I may not choose to add
my power and my energy to this way, I will never deny you the gift of love. As
I love you, so shall I be loved. As I sow, so shall I reap.
  I allow you the Universal right of Free Will to walk your own path, creating
steps or to sit awhile if that is right for you. I will make no judgment that
these steps are large or small, nor light or heavy or that they lead up or
down, for this is just my viewpoint.
  I may see you do nothing and judge it to be unworthy and yet I cannot always
see the higher picture of the order and oneness of things.
  For it is the inalienable right of all life to choose their own evolution and
with great love, I acknowledge your right to determine your future. I bow to
the realisation that the way I see as best for me does not have to mean it is
also right for you. I know that you are led as ~I Am~, following the inner
excitement to be ~your-self~.
  I know that the many races, religions, customs, nationalities and beliefs
within our world, bring us great richness and allow us the benefit and
teachings of such diverseness. I know we each learn in our own unique way in
order to bring that love and wisdom back to the whole. I know that if there
were only one way to do something, there would need only be one person.
  I will not only love you if you behave in a way I think you should or believe
in those things I believe in.
  The love I feel is for ~all that is~. I know that every living thing is a part
of ~all that is~ and I feel a deep love within for every person, animal, tree
and flower, every bird, river and ocean and for all the creatures in the world.
  I live my life in loving service, being the best me I can, becoming wiser in
the perfection of Truth, becoming happier in the joy of . . .
  ~Unconditional Love~  

Joseph Risch ~ Nasrudin (archives)


Subject:  the end of a long loaf
For 50 years of a fine marriage, Nasrudin made sandwiches for saturday
lunches he and his wonderful wife shared. one day she said that she was
angry "for years now you have given me the end slices of every loaf of bread
we eat together. i hate them, they are the worst slices and you always give
them to me."

Nasrudin sat silently for a second and said "but they are my favorite

Joyce ~ NDS & Alan Larus ~ HarshaSatsangh

If not...

Come and stretch
Your morning self,
unlock Your nighttime's heart...

The day anew
has words for You,
She's been saving all this time:

"If not to touch the sky,
why have wings at all?"




Photo by Alan Larus    

"...Neurologist, Dr. James Austin...He was on the Underground, thinking about the Zen Buddhist
retreat he was headed toward, when he suddenly felt a sense of
enlightenment, This included the loss of his sense of individual
seperateness from the physical world around him, the loss of the
sense of "I me mine", and a sense of eternity. "I had been graced by
a comprehension of the ultimate nature of things", said Austin.

Rather than regard the experience as a spiritual epiphany, or in
any way mystical, the experience inspired him to explore the
neurological underpinnings of spiritual and mystical experiences.
"In order to feel that time, fear and self-consciousness have
dissolved, he reasoned, certain brain circuits must be
interrupted...activity in the amygdala, which monitors the
environment for threats and registers fear, must be damped. Parietal-
lobe circuits, which orient you in space and mark the sharp
distinction between self and world go quiet. Frontal and temporal-
lobe circuits, which mark time and generate self-awareness, must
He spun out these theories in his 844 page article - "Zen and the
Brain" in 1998, and it was published - not by some "flaky New Age
outfit, but by MIT Press."
It has been since then, more and more scientists have begun the
study of the neurobiology of religion and spirituality, aptly
entitled "neurotheology".
  These studies differ markedly from the rudimentary research in the
1950's and '60's which were able to differentiate - yeah brainwaves
change when you meditate - because of the advent of neuro-imaging.
Now researchers are able to identify the brain circuits which "surge
with activity when we think we have encountered the divine, and when
we feel transported by intense prayer, an uplifting ritual, or sacred
Even though this field is brand new, one thing is clear - that
spiritual experiences "are so consistent across cultures, across
time, and across faiths", says David Wulff. a psychologist frpm
Wheaton College in Massachusetts, "that it suggests a common core
that is likely a reflection of structures and processes in the human
  There was a feeling of energy centered within me...going out to
infinite space and returning...There was a relaxing of the dualistic
mind, and an intense feeling of love. I felt a profound letting go of
the boundaries around me, and a connection with some kind of energy
and state of being that had a quality of clarity, transparency and
joy. I felt a deep and profound sense of connection to everything,
recognizing that there never was a true separation at all.
  This is how Dr. Michael J. Baine describes what he feels at the peak
moment of transcendence when he practices Tibetan Buddhist
meditation, as he has since he was 14 in 1969. He volunteered his
brain as a subject to researchers at Penn, who used imaging
techniques to detect what regions of the brain are active during
spiritual experiences. The researchers recruited Baine, and seven
other Tibetan Buddhists, all skilled meditators.
  In a typical research scenario, Baines sits in a room with only a
few candles and jasmine incense. He concentrates and focuses on one
mental image until something emerges known to him as his "true inner
self". and he tugs on a piece of twine. Andrew Newburg - one
researcher - huddled in another room, feels the pull and quickly
injects a radioactive tracer into an IV line that runs into Baine's
left arm. A few moments later, he hurries Baine off to a SPECT
(single photon emission computed tomography machine. Detecting the
tracer is the way the machine tracks blood flow to the brain, which
correlates with neuronal activity.
  As was expected. the prefrontal cortex - the seat of attention -
lit up. But it was the quieting of activity that stood out.
A group of neurons in the superior parietal lobe - towards the top
and back of the brain - went dark. This is the region associated with
processing information about space and time, and the orientation of
the body in space. "It determines where the body ends and the rest of
the world begins." It's orientation requires sensory input to
determine it's calculus. When you block sensory inputs to this
region, as you do during intense meditation, "you prevent the brain
from forming the distinction between self and not-self - normal
boundaries. As a result the brain seems to have no choice but to
perceive the self as "endless and intimately inter-woven with
everyone and everything."



Joyce ~ Spiritual Friends  

The Way of Chuang Tzu
"Tao is obscured when men understand only one pair of opposites, or concentrate
only on a partial aspect of being. Then clear expression also becomes muddled
by mere wordplay, affirming this one aspect and denying all the rest.
The pivot of Tao passes through the center where all affirmations and denials
converge. He who grasps the pivot is at the still-point from which all
movements and oppositions can be seen in their right relationship.
Abandoning all thought of imposing a limit or taking sides, he rests in direct

~ The Way of Chuang Tzu ~

Lisbeth ~ Monks_Mystics   &  Alan Larus ~ HarshaSatsangh


Strand I


Photograph by Alan Larus


An old man sits on a granite step.
He plucks a treasured guitar.
The strings throb with feeling;
He needs no audience to open his heart.
A boy enthusiastically wants to learn his style.
"Style?" asks the man slowly. "My style is
made of
The long road of life, of heartbreak
And joy, and people loved, and loneliness.
Of war and its atrocities.
Of a baby born.
Of burying parents and friends.
My scale is the seven stars of the dipper
The hollow of my guitar is the space
between heaven and earth.
How can I show you my style?
You have your own young life.

Everyone has their own style in life. The old have perspective. The young
have vigor. We can learn from each other, but we cannot have what the
other generations possess. We are each shaped by our generations, and to
transcend the limitations of our time is a rare occurrence indeed.

365 Tao 

Joe Riley ~ Panhala   Begin
Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of light at the window,
begin to the roar of morning traffic
all along Pembroke Road.
Every beginning is a promise
born in light and dying in dark
determination and exaltation of springtime
flowering the way to work.
Begin to the pageant of queuing girls
the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal
bridges linking the past and future
old friends passing though with us still.
Begin to the loneliness that cannot end
since it perhaps is what makes us begin,
begin to wonder at unknown faces
at crying birds in the sudden rain
at  branches stark in the willing sunlight
at seagulls foraging for bread
at couples sharing a sunny secret
alone together while making good.
Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.
~ Brendan Kennelly ~

Rashani ~





Poem by Rashani

Photograph by Tracy Cohen



Lobster ~ Nasrudin (archives)

The most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation
of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this
emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as
good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists,
manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which
our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms - this
knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religion."

~ Albert Einstein ~

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