Six days to the Vancouver Half!

Spring is here, with several cougar emails in my mailbox, fresh blossom scent in theSpaciousness of water, mountain, sky air, and runners gearing up for the Vancouver Marathon and Half Marathon, as well as the Sun Run after that. I had a couple delicious runs in the cool spacious air of early evening this weekend—one along the river, running in the fresh mountain air, and one along the Burrard Inlet. The gap in mountains at the right side of the photo (taken from my back deck) shows where I run north into the mountains along a trail beside the Seymour River.

The spaciousness and cool air of the runs reminds me of what Chogyam Trungpa calls stepping out of the musty, familiar cocoon. The familiar patterns of behaviour and familiar sense of self that comprise the ego can feel very comfortable and cozy, but there is a staleness to the cocoon. Now that spring is here I invite you to step out of the cocoon, if only for a few minutes. Let your thoughts quiet for a moment and sense the cool expansive spaciousness that is all through and around your head. Try one new thing, or an old thing in a new way, and taste the freshness that awaits us all outside of the cocoon!

Kath running and pre-emptive forgiveness

The kath is the belly centre, also known as the hara (in some Buddhist traditions) and Post-run yoga viewthe don tien (in martial arts) or dantien. In the Diamond Approach we use the term kath, and one of the foundational practices is the kath meditation. The kath centre is also known as the moving centre, so on my run in the mountains by the Seymour River yesterday, I experimented with doing the kath meditation while running. Running is definitely a form of movement!

A while ago on a vision fast in Colorado, Ann Debaldo, a student of the Diamond Approach and apprentice on that vision fast, told me that focusing on the kath would help my feet find their way in the dark. I have certainly found this to be true on night runs when I can’t see the path. But yesterday I tried it in broad daylight, and what a revelation! First, I could see so much more of my surroundings by looking straight ahead rather than at the path. My eyes and soul could take in the magnificent greenness of the forest and the purity and freshness of the snowy mountain peaks ahead. Also, by focusing on the kath, my mind was much more still, which meant I could absorb the impact of the surroundings more. This is what I long for when I run in the forest; to be impacted by the beauty of nature, and have that freshness enliven the dead, stale spaces of my soul that get trapped in endless dry thought patterns. It was so refreshing!

And finally, I find it very difficult to rest in the kath centre when I do my sitting meditation each morning. But resting in the kath while running was very easy! I felt a fullness there, like a thick liquid, resilient and substantial. It actually seemed motionless, though my body was in movement. It was a wonderful way to experience the kath. And my feet did indeed find their way, over stones and sticks, potholes and lumps, with speed and agility. I recommend that you try this the next time you go for a run. Just bring your awareness into your belly, below the belly button. And keep bringing it back there when the mind wanders away. I’d love to hear about your experience after you’ve tried it!

By the way, the other thing that I did was to keep my eyes focused straight ahead or looking around at the mountains, trees, and river, rather than on the path. Keeping the eyes focused straight ahead is one of the techniques of ChiRunning. Angela James told me that she had one of her best race times ever when she focused on this technique. If you are interested in learning more about ChiRunning, check out the ChiRunning and yoga retreat at Monkey Valley in July!

And finally, I want to mention an interesting idea I came across in the Winter 2009 issue of Circles on the Mountain, the publication of the Wilderness Guides Council. The Hawaiian Maoli people have an ideal of Mihikala—the act of giving and receiving forgiveness before it is needed. Imagine the freedom of being able to forgive someone, rather than get upset, even before they do the thing that would upset you! The longing for freedom from reactivity is very strong in me these days, so this idea has much appeal. I will try to practice it on the other drivers during the drive in to work this morning!

Gnawing away at that anger bone

It’s been a while since I’ve written about anger, and I’d like to come back to Angry facethe topic today to share recent experiences with digesting this aspect of my being. As you may recall, I last wrote that I was starting a new technical writing contract, and hoped that I would handle new opportunities to learn about anger with skill and grace!

“Talents are better nurtured in solitude, but character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to test my character and grow through interactions with my colleagues in the workplace. It is so clear to me how the arising of Being through various people and situations is part of the perfect unfolding of the universe and my own life path, allowing me many opportunities to actualize myself as a real human being.

Each day, I go to the office with the intention of behaving with compassion towards all. I feel the gentle nature of my soul, and am aware of the innocence and lovability of my colleagues. And then! So often this wider awareness is lost as I fall back into my early self images and object relations.

My Diamond Approach group is doing a deep piece of work on identity, and it is marvellous how I can apply this work to the situations occurring in the workplace. The work of inner realization involves coming to know our true identity as luminous beings that are part of the oneness of reality, and eventually switching our sense of identity to this truth, rather than the conventional ego sense of identity that we all develop during our maturation process as human beings. In the Diamond Approach, the true identity is called “The Point.” I once experienced this as a point of light in my heart. And through my individual and group work in the Diamond Approach I have had many, many experiences of the exquisite qualities of my being and of reality. Yet I keep forgetting! I keep re-identifying with my ego self, which is primarily constructed of the impressions of myself and others that shaped my soul in my early childhood years.

During the past two months I have been working on a technical writing contract that involves going to the office most days, and interacting with dozens of people. During these interactions, my object relations are often triggered. This is what I referred to earlier as a great gift, for it allows me to see and understand the inner workings of my psyche. While I was living and working at Monkey Valley, the opportunities for interaction, learning, and growth were obviously much fewer, though of course incidents did still occur! This is why I gave the quote from Goethe, above. The time alone served its purpose, to develop my abilities and, in my case, heal, in the solititude and safe haven of nature. And then, when my soul was ready, Being propelled me back into the busy world of people to test and refine the qualities of my being.

For those of us who have experienced the trauma of repeated physical abuse in childhood, the defensive structures that we develop to survive this unbearable situation are very strong. One of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder is a continuous hyper-vigilance, in which the nervous system is on high alert for danger in the environment. Since this defensive structure, which is one of many structures that make up the entire ego sense of self, actually formed at a young age (say between the ages of 3 and 6) its sense of discrimination of what is actually happening in the environment is not very well-developed. Let me give you an example!

At work, I developed a plan for providing online help to the end users of the new banking software (which would be most of the employees in the credit union). I developed the plan after discussions with many people and extensive analysis of the current banking software and documentation that the company already had. I showed the plan to the project management team, the trainers who would be training the employees to use the new software, and others. The plan was approved by the project management team, and was in the process of being approved by the Senior Executive Team of the company. Then one day, several people talked about the documentation at lunch and came up with a new approach to the documentation. The new approach was actually something I had already considered and rejected in favour of what I believed was a superior approach, which would make the help easily accessible to the end users.

This probably sounds like a very dry, paper-like scenario, devoid of emotion and certainly not a source of danger! Yet my early patterning was triggered by this situation, and felt that I was in danger and needed to defend my self, my work, my plan (my identity as a competent technical writer)! Before I knew what was happening, I lost control and was practically yelling at a coworker. The defensive structure was in full swing and on the attack. I totally forgot about the truth of my being—in that moment all that mattered was making the coworker back down. I said No and she said Yes, and the angry confrontation went on for a few minutes before I regained enough control to realize this wasn’t productive and backed off. It took a week to unravel what had happened and come to regain some kind of mutual respect. Eventually I realized that my coworker hadn’t really understood what I was proposing. So to her the idea she put forth was better. Pretty simple. Just a misunderstanding. Yet I felt caught up in a life or death struggle!

This situation helped me see how quickly and automatically my defensive structures take control of my being; I identify with the structure completely, believing that this really is a life or death situation. And from this vantage point, any means is justified to protect myself. As you know if you have been reading my blog, anger is my preferred way to deal with the situation and protect myself! But something has changed. After the heat of the moment has passed and I am no longer so identified with the defensive structure, I start to notice the pain of losing contact with my deeper being and behaving in ways that hurt others. This actually feels very uncomfortable. I notice a feeling of dis-ease in my soul. Of course being cut off from my deeper being never feels good. But the part about noticing the feeling of discomfort at harming another—at not treating other beings with the respect and kindness they deserve as equally precious parts of the wholeness of reality—this is so new to me. I first had a glimpse of it at the Diamond Approach summer retreat last year, as I described in an earlier entry. And this piece of work keeps arising, through the outer events and inner experience in my soul.

I feel both powerless to prevent the defensive structure from kicking into action and a deep longing to remain in touch with the truth and treat others with kindness. And in this moment, a deep sorrow about the harm I have caused others, and the pain of being separated from my own heart. As I feel this sorrow, my heart becomes full of a tenderness that is both strong and vulnerable.

Remarkable meditation retreat in Vancouver in May

Dan Brown is coming to Vancouver to lead a meditation retreat on May 14 – 21. His Pointing Out the Great Waygradual approach allows us to learn to meditate effectively, with step-by-step descriptions of the ways to practice, precise descriptions of the various stages and their intended realizations, and the typical problems that arise along with their remedies. Although this event is not being advertised to the general public, I’d like to let readers of my blog know about it, because I believe that for those looking for an introduction to meditation, this is a remarkable opportunity. There are still one or two spaces available. If you are interested, please call me at 604.251.6337 and I’ll give you more details.

Students and teachers of the Diamond Approach have attended Dan’s retreat in the US, and one of our local DA students found it to be so valuable that she invited Dan to come here.  Dan co-wrote, with Ken Wilber and Jack Engler, the book Transformations in Consciousness, and he teaches an annual seminar on mahamudra meditation at the Esalen Institute. His book Pointing Out the Great Way describes his method for learning meditation. This will be the subject of the retreat.

I signed up last year, and as the date draws nearer I am very excited about this chance to receive world-class teaching right here in Vancouver. If you want to learn to be more intimate with your direct lived experience, with gentleness for yourself and others, daily meditation is a vital foundation practice. It is in the spirit of sincere good wishes for our mutual awakening that I invite you to consider participating in this retreat.