Nonduality: The Varieties of Expression Home

Jerry Katz
photography & writings

The wind carves shapes into the beach sand

Search over 5000 pages on Nonduality:

Click here to go to the next issue

Highlights Home Page | Receive the Nondual Highlights each day

Nondual Highlights Issue #1784 Saturday, May 1, 2004 Editor: Mark

Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.

- Guillaume Apollinaire submitted to NDS by Mary Bianco

How many calories in a conniption?

How many calories are there in a conniption? My grandmother used to say that so and so "gave her a conniption fit." Generally, that is when we say things we are better off not saying. Boy, am I good at that! At least once a day I fire off a salvo in the general direction of my husband. Yes, him, the saint of the household. He is my better half, no doubt--yet I am a woman, after all. We tend to talk alot. Not always gently.

If I had to eat all my words and they were endowed with calorie content, I would be what is called a "binge eater." I would have to eat word snacks every two hours just to get them all in before bedtime. I would have to eat platefuls of accusations and bowlfuls of belly-aching. I would have to wear granny-sized britches.

There is an old saying, "Lord, let my words be gentle and sweet for tomorrow I may have to eat them." They could name a house dressing for me. "I'll just have the word salad with Vicki dressing," I can hear my husband saying now.

Words have always come easily to me. I blurt, holler and retaliate. I yammer, bicker and point the verbal finger. It's always "his fault." Of course. Did I tell you that my husband is quiet, gentlemanly and never fights back? That just makes it worse, of course. The guilt I feel afterwards gives me a pain in the.....tummy.

Most of you know that my husband has cancer. We don't crack up over it, not even on a weekly basis. Usually I weep a little just to prevent a total melt-down, but he is stoic at all times. He has allowed me to step forward and test my strength since his diagnosis. So I have learned to deal with many things that I never thought I could. Even so, I revert to being just another old nag. If you ask him, he would just shake his head and smile in mischievous agreement.

Back to the original many calories in a conniption? Not nearly as many as there are in a verbal riposte or a smart retort. I know that because I ate some for lunch!

- Vicki Woodyard on NDS

More Vicki here:

"Kind speech means that when you see sentient beings you arouse the mind of compassion and offer words of loving care. It is contrary to cruel or violent speech.

In the secular world, there is the custom of asking after someone's health. In Buddhism there is the phrase, 'Please treasure yourself,' and the respectful address to seniors, 'May I ask how you are?' It is kind speech to speak to sentient beings as you would to a baby.

If kind speech is offered, little by little virtue will grow...You should be willing to practice it for this entire present life; do not give up, world after world, life after life. Kind speech is the basis for reconciling rulers and subduing enemies.

Those who hear kind speech from you have a delighted expression and a joyful mind. Those who hear of your kind speech will be deeply touched---they will never forget it.

You should know that kind speech arises from kind mind, and kind mind from the seed of compassionate mind. You should ponder the fact that kind speech is not just praising the merit of others; it has the power to turn the destiny of the nation."


"The power to turn the destiny of the nation..." Can you imagine what would happen if politicians started saying to each other, "Please treasure yourself?" ,^))

Quote from the BuddhistL Academic Discussion Forum, quoted on DailyDharma

 As my teacher once said, "If you can't control your mouth, there's no way you can hope to control your mind.' This is why right speech is so important in day-to-day practice. Right speech, explained in negative terms, means avoiding four types of harmful speech: lies (words spoken with the intent of misrepresenting the truth); divisive speech (spoken with the intent of creating rifts between people); harsh speech (spoken with the intent of hurting another person's feelings); and idle chatter (spoken with no purposeful intent at all).

Notice the focus on intent: this is where the practice of right speech intersects with the training of the mind. Before you speak, you focus on why you want to speak. This helps get you in touch with all the machinations taking place in the committee of voices running your mind. If you see any unskillful motives lurking behind the committee's decisions, you veto them. As a result, you become more aware of yourself, more honest with yourself, more firm with yourself. You also save yourself from saying things that you'll later regret. In this way you strengthen qualities of mind that will be helpful in meditation, at the same time avoiding any potentially painful memories that would get in the way of being attentive to the present moment when the time comes to meditate.

In positive terms, right speech means speaking in ways that are trustworthy, harmonious, comforting, and worth taking to heart. When you make a practice of these positive forms of right speech, your words become a gift to others. In response, other people will start listening more to what you say, and will be more likely to respond in kind. This gives you a sense of the power of your actions: the way you act in the present moment does shape the world of your experience. You don't need to be a victim of past events.

For many of us, the most difficult part of practicing right speech lies in how we express our sense of humor. Especially here in America, we're used to getting laughs with exaggeration, sarcasm, group stereotypes, and pure silliness -- all classic examples of wrong speech. If people get used to these sorts of careless humor, they stop listening carefully to what we say. In this way, we cheapen our own discourse. Actually, there's enough irony in the state of the world that we don't need to exaggerate or be sarcastic. The greatest humorists are the ones who simply make us look directly at the way things are.

Expressing our humor in ways that are truthful, useful, and wise may require thought and effort, but when we master this sort of wit we find that the effort is well spent. We've sharpened our own minds and have improved our verbal environment. In this way, even our jokes become part of our practice: an opportunity to develop positive qualities of mind and to offer something of intelligent value to the people around us.

So pay close attention to what you say -- and to why you say it. When you do, you'll discover that an open mouth doesn't have to be a mistake.

Right Speech
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Copyright 1999 Thanissaro Bhikkhu

For free distribution only.
You may print copies of this work for your personal use.
You may re-format and redistribute this work for use on computers and computer networks,
provided that you charge no fees for its distribution or use.
Otherwise, all rights reserved.

In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

- Mary Oliver,

 When someone says or does something that makes us angry, we suffer. We tend to say or do something back to make the other suffer, with the hope that we will suffer less. We think, ‘I want to punish you, I want to make you suffer because you have made me suffer. And when I see you suffer a lot, I will feel better.’

Many of us are inclined to believe in such a childish practice. The fact is that when you make the other suffer, he will try to find relief by making you suffer more. The result is an escalation of suffering on both sides. Both of you need compassion and help. Neither of you needs punishment.

When you get angry, go back to yourself, and take very good care of your anger. And when someone makes you suffer, go back and take care of your suffering, your anger. Do not say or do anything. Whatever you say or do in a state of anger may cause more damage in your relationship.

Most of us don't do that. We don't want to go back to ourselves. We want to follow the other person in order to punish him or her.

If your house is on fire, the most urgent thing to do is to go back and try to put out the fire, not to run after the person you believe to be the arsonist. If you run after the person you suspect has burned your house, your house will burn down while you are chasing him or her. That is not wise. You must go back and put out the fire. So when you are angry, if you continue to interact with or argue with the other person, if you try to punish her, you are acting exactly like someone who runs after the arsonist while everything goes up in flames.

Tools for cooling the flames
The Buddha gave us very effective instruments to put out the fire in us: the method of mindful breathing, the method of mindful walking, the method of embracing our anger, the method of looking deeply into the nature of our perceptions, and the method of looking deeply into the other person to realize that she also suffers a lot and needs help. These methods are very practical, and they come directly from Buddha.

To breathe in consciously is to know that the air is entering your body, and to breathe out consciously is to know that your body is exchanging air. Thus, you are in contact with the air and with your body, and because your mind is being attentive to all this, you are in contact with your mind, too; just as it is. It needs only one conscious breath to be back in contact with yourself and everything around you, and three conscious breaths to maintain the contact.

Whenever you are not standing, sitting, or lying down, you are going. But where are you going? You have already arrived. With every step, you can arrive in the present moment, you can step into the Pure Land or into the Kingdom of God. When you are walking from one side of the room to the other, or from one building to another, be aware of the contact of your feet with the earth and be aware of the contact of the air as it enters your body. It may help you to discover how many steps you can make comfortably during an in-breath and how many during an out-breath. As you breathe in, you can say ‘in’, and as you breathe out, you can say ‘out’. Then you are practising walking meditation all day long. It is a practice, which is constantly possible and therefore has the power to transform our everyday life. It can transform from a sea of fire into a refreshing lake. Then, not only do we stop suffering, but we also become a source of happiness for many people around us.

Embracing anger
Anger is like a howling baby, suffering and crying. The baby needs his mother to embrace him. You are the mother for your baby, your anger. The moment you begin to practice breathing mindfully in and out, you have the energy of a mother, to cradle and embrace the baby. Just embracing your anger, just breathing in and breathing out, that is good enough. The baby will feel relief right away.

All plants are nourished by sunshine. All of them are sensitive to it. Any vegetation that is embraced by the sunshine will undergo a transformation. In the morning, the flowers have not yet opened. But when the sun comes out, the sunshine embraces the flowers and tries to penetrate them. The sunshine is made of tiny particles, photons. The photons gradually penetrate the flower one by one until there are a lot of them inside. At that point the flower cannot resist any longer and has to open herself to the sunshine.

In the same way, all mental formations and all physiological formations in us are sensitive to mindfulness. If mindfulness is there, embracing your body, your body will transform. If mindfulness is there, embracing your anger or despair, then they, too, will be transformed. According to the Buddha and according to our experience, anything embraced by the energy of mindfulness will undergo a transformation.

At the moment you become angry, you tend to believe that your misery has been created by another person. You blame him or her for all your suffering. But by looking deeply, you may realize that the seed of anger in you is the main cause of your suffering. Then we will stop blaming the other person for causing all our suffering. We realize she or he is only a secondary cause.

You get a lot of relief when you have this kind of insight, and you begin to feel much better. But the other person still may be in hell because she does not know how to practice. Once you have taken care of your anger, you become aware that she is still suffering. So now you can focus your attention on the other person.

Now you are filled with the desire to return and help. It is a completely different kind of thinking - there is no more wish to punish. Your anger has been transformed into compassion. When you understand the suffering of the other person, you are able to transform your desire to punish, and then you want only to help him or her. At that moment, you know that your practice has succeeded.

- From
Anger, copyright 2001 by Thich Nhat Hanh, published in the UK by Rider.


...realization is explosive. It takes place spontaneously, or at the slightest hint. The quick is not better than the slow. Slow ripening and rapid flowering alternate. Both are natural and right. Yet, all this is so in the mind only. As I see it, there is really nothing of the kind. In the great mirror of consciousness images arise and disappear and only memory gives them continuity. And memory is material -- destructible, perishable, transient. On such flimsy foundations we build a sense of personal existence -- vague, intermittent, dreamlike. This vague persuasion: 'I-am-so-and-so' obscures the changeless state of pure awareness and makes us believe that we are born to suffer and to die.


I was told that a realized person will never do anything unseemly. That they will behave in an exemplary way.


Who sets the example? Why should a liberated one necessarily follow conventions? The moment one becomes predictable, one cannot be free. Ones freedom lies in being free to fulfill the need of the moment, to obey the necessity of the situation. Freedom to do what one likes is really bondage, while being free to do what one must, what is right, is real freedom.


What about cause and effect?


Each moment contains the whole of the past and creates the whole of the future.


But past and future exist?


In the mind only. Time is in the mind, space is in the mind. The law of cause and effect is also a way of thinking. In reality all is here and now and all is one. Multiplicity and diversity are in the mind only.


A message in print may be paper and ink only. It is the text that matters. By analysing the world into elements and qualities we miss the most important -- its meaning. Your reduction of everything to dream disregards the difference between the dream of an insect and the dream of a poet. All is dream, granted. But not all are equal.


The dreams are not equal, but the dreamer is one. I am the insect. I am the poet -- in dream. But in reality I am neither. I am beyond all dreams. I am light in which all dreams appear and disappear. I am both inside and outside the dream. Just as a man having a headache knows the ache and also knows that he is not the ache, so do I know the dream, myself dreaming and myself not dreaming -- all at the same time. I am what I am before, during and after the dream. But what I see in dream, I am not."


If both dream and escape from dream are imaginings, what is the way out?


There is no need of a way out! Don't you see that a way out is also part of the dream? All you have to do is to see the dream as dream.


If I start the practice of dismissing everything as a dream, where will it lead me?


Wherever it leads you, it will be a dream. The very idea of going beyond the dream is illusory. Why go anywhere? Just realize that you are dreaming a dream you call the world, and stop looking for ways out. The dream is not your problem. Your problem is that you like one part of the dream and not another. When you have seen the dream as a dream, you have done all that needs be done.

top of page