Wednesday, December 15, 2010

City Center, December 15, 2010: Announcing new book to read, Christmas Break, and our new Salt Lake center.


At last night's gathering we touched upon desire and its operation.  It is a subject we will continually revisit since "craving" or "thirst" is described in the Buddhist literature as the cause of our psychological and existential suffering.

The group decided that it would like to look more deeply into the physiological and psychological processes by which we construct our reality and our sense of self.  The Buddha's teachings about the cause of our distress, and the path to its relief, are grounded upon an understanding of these processes.  As an entry point, we will read Andrew Olendzki's book, Unlimiting Mind, which I reviewed in a post a few weeks ago.  It is listed on the Reading List on the City Center page for The Boulder Mountain Zendo,  The book will be discussed at our meeting on January 18th, 2011

The City Center group will not meet on December 21st and 28th.  This will permit each of us to devote our attention to our families and friends over the Holidays, and to acommodate Diane's and my attendance at The Integral Spiritual Experience II in Asliomar, California between Christmas and New Years.  We will reconvene on January 4, 2011, at 1375 Military Way.  The Thursday noon sitting group will not meet again until the new year.  

Finally, I announced to the group that we have entered into a contract for the build-out of space for The Boulder Mountain Zendo in Salt Lake City at ArtSpace-City Center, 230 South 5th West.  Diane and I are excited at the prospect of a permanent space devoted both to more traditional Zen practice and to Diane's broader Integral teachings.  This is a major financial commitment to making a place available for all of us in Salt Lake.  Your contributions to this capital construction would be deeply appreciated. The cost to outfit the space is in the range of $30,000.  In that regard, you should know that The Boulder Mountain Zendo is a 501(c)(3) organization and that contributions to it are deductable as provided by state and federal law.

May you all have a warm Holiday Season.

With palms together,


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thoughts: More On Imagination and Fantasy

In the post on two faces of desire, I suggested that seeing the objects of desire in terms of imagination and fantasy was a useful discrimination, a way to be alert to the distinction between desire that serves awakening because it is oriented toward reality, where we always dwell, and desire that serves delusion because its avoids reality.

Since I made that post, I have been attending to desire as it arises through the day.  I have found much depth in the imagination/fantasy distinction. Watching desire arise in response to external and internal phenomena and holding both the desiring one and the thing desired in awareness, they are seen each to interact and to morph.  Neither remains constant.  True to Buddha's teaching of impermanence and co-dependent origination, from the perspective of the one desiring, the desired is always subtly shifting, and from the perspective of the desired, the one desiring is also shifting, each revealing new characteristics and losing old. From a psychological standpoint, this subtle and fascinating shifting is enormously informative about how the sense of a self arises moment to moment, yet is never the same.

Often, the thing to which desire attaches first appears to be an object of imagination, but as it is held in awareness, the nature of desire tends to shift and some aspect of the thing desired can be seen as arousing fantasy.   Escape, not engagement, with reality.  There is no bright line, no division that can be held between the two.  But the tendency of mind to shift toward delusion, toward fantasy, toward a grasping for unreality to satisfy some egoic need, is seen as subtle and pervasive.  Some aspect of the self seems to sit in wait for the opportunity to emerge under the guise of imagination, only to appropriate the object, the seen, to satisfy its unmet needs, and because those needs are insatiable, suffering.  A nice lesson in the tendency to delude ourselves as to what it is we actually desire, in practice and elsewhere.

This lesson leads us farther along the path.  The observation of desire's tendency to move toward fantasy gives rise to wisdom which, in turn, reduces the tendency to identify with fantasy when it arises.  The mental pattern revealed is remembered, embodied knowledge of this source of suffering is refined.    Untimately, our desire to practice, our imagining how practice will reduce the self's suffering, is strengthened.

Desire.  Wonderful energy for awakening.