Contemplation Sessions

I would be most honored to participate with you in a contemplation session. It is always immensely exciting to meet new people and learn from one another. A contemplation session is a one-on-one or group discussion that is focused on deeply investigating problems and issues we are experiencing by asking thought-provoking questions. Please use the contact form to send a message expressing your interest in either a one-on-one contemplation session or to invite me to speak with your group.

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Contemplative Discussions: The Blog

09 Jun 2014

homeless (1)We have plenty of building supplies, in fact, we have enough buildings. Yet, an estimated 100 million people on earth spend their nights on the streets or in places without shelter. Moreover, in an act of utmost stupidity, many cities are passing legislation actually making it a crime to be homeless, as though all who are homeless are so by choice.

Why are people homeless? We might also ask, why do you live in a home (if you do)? Do you earn an income that is enough to pay the place you live? What if the economic factors that enable you to have a place to sleep were not available to you? When money is the determining factor of whether or not you have a place to sleep, homelessness is inevitable for many people. When 50% of the economic wealth resides in the accounts of 1% of the world’s population, and money determines one’s ability to find housing, homelessness is inevitable.

Monetary systems and economic inequality can be an easy target for us to place blame. But that would be like blaming a broken hammer for building a faulty house. The fault is not of the hammer, but within our limited understanding of how a hammer ought to be used. Because we are focused on our “survival of the fittest” mentality we overlook the fact that the needless suffering of others is indeed a symptom a direct manifestation of the sickness and suffering that we ourselves are experiencing. As we walk by the homeless on our streets, mindlessly in disregard of the suffering that each of us may play a role in eliminating, do we see the impact of our action or better verbalized, inaction?

Now, do not get me wrong, this is not a guilt trip. This is not to say that we should or should not act in such a way as to end homelessness through our own individual’s action or inaction. But what I pose is the simple question of do we see ourselves in the shoes of someone else? Do we see that our circumstances, be they having a place to sleep or not, are of a superficial variety? That the circumstances of having a home or place to sleep are in some sense just as likely to be in the state of one without a place to sleep or not? And, what happens if we do see ourselves in the shoes of another? What happens when we do see that the suffering of others is indeed our suffering as well?

When we answer that question, perhaps we will trust one another as human beings regardless of circumstances.

09 Jun 2014

7453208262_b121127fae_oChanges in our lives can often be a source of struggle, frustration, and anxiety. Whether or not we see a change coming or a change occurs completely unexpectedly, it can still cause us to feel uneasy with ourselves.

Most of us will admit that we know everything is always changing. Although, it seems that this statement is often made intellectually. It is something we tell ourselves because although we know it to be true, we would like it to be different; we would like to have control. We would like changes that happen in our lives to be only what we view to be good with the bad being completely avoided. But of course, what is a good change and what is a bad change is based on our very limited perspective of thinking we know what is good for us and likewise, what is bad for us. We separate single events and attempt to judge them as good or bad based solely on their solitary occurrence. However, no event is truly independent of all other events. Events of immense tragedy often inspire events of great accomplishment. As is well said by the basketball great, Michael Jordan, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

There is a Taoist story that I enjoy telling, of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

“Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.

How would we have responded to each event that we would view as misfortune? How do we respond to events we view as misfortune? How do we respond to changes?

Change is always happening. We may choose to call the changes of life good or bad, yet life changes without our permission. Changes are not something we can allow or not allow, although to the degree we perceive that we are allowing or not allowing changes to occur is the same measure by which we may struggle with changes as they happen. When we think we are in control of what is happening in our lives and can force things to result in a particular way that we desire we will experience many rude awakenings as life is trying to grab our attention to let us know that everything in life is really okay; that you do not need to control life as life is not controlling you. You are not separated from the whole of life and the whole of life is not separate from who you really deep-down are.

We can choose to accept that change is always happening. When this happens, we begin to live in the awareness that life is what is happening in this present moment. The present is the only place where anything at all is happening. Instead of swimming against the changes that are occurring, we swim with the river of life. Or in other words, we float. And as one who is floating in the water has ceased their fighting with the water to reach a desired destination, so we too cease desiring to control our own life and the lives of others and begin allow freedom and liberation to flow through everything that we do.

If two objects are moving at the same speed, or at the same rate of flow, they appear to be still to one another. So it is that when we are living in awareness with the flow of life, change does not appear the same to us as it once it did when we were afraid.

If we really accept change, nothing changes.

08 Jun 2014

Why-worryWhat is that motivates or initiates us to worry? What are the things you worry about?

We might look at individual instances and issues that we worry about. From finances (or debt and bills); relationships and how we’ve treated others; other pressures we feel are contributing to an unstable future for ourselves. And so we worry.

Does our worrying help us overcome the issues we worry about?

Some of us might say the answer is no, it does not help, but we still can’t help but worry. Some might say it does help and does influence the way we act in order to take care of the things we’re worried about. Let’s examine these two viewpoints.

1. We understand that worry does not help us in life yet, we can’t help but worry.

This thinking would seem to arise from a misappropriation of identity. On one level, you see worrying as a destructive force. You see that worry causes stress and robs you of the enjoyment that living is. However, when circumstances occur that seem destructive toward you, you respond to them with your own force of destruction: your worry-weapon.

Worry happens when we are mentally disconnected from who we really are. Who we really is connected to everything there is. There is not the issue which causes you to worry and the you which is doing the worrying. The issue that you perceive as causing your worrying is also operating from a sense of fear as well. That force of fear and worry attempts to disconnect you from who you know yourself to be deep down, so that you will also worry. But it is not as though you need be on the defensive, because that too would feed anxiety. It is that you understand the issue you are worrying about is an illusion. You need not worry because there is nothing real to worry about.

2. I worry because it motivates me to take care of the things I worry about.

One who lives from this point of view, robs themselves of joy. You might say that worrying is a motivating force to accomplish great things; to overcome your obstacles. But of course, as soon as you have overcome one obstacle a new one presents itself; a new worry to overcome. And so your life is spent with worry always there. And that is no way to live.

Worries are always born from a thought about something that does not actually exist. Worry occurs because we either we want to be or, think we have control. Who we really are is not tied to a controlled future. If it were that would rather boring. We have placed expectations upon ourselves and have expectations placed upon us by others that would seek to rob us of our joy, our freedom, and our peace. Worry is an illusion fueled by fear and seeking to convince us we can take control of the flow of life. But life, is a grand adventure full of wonder. Laughter is always an excellent remedy for worry. Let’s laugh instead of worry.

09 May 2014

The need for control seems to be a lifelong battle and struggle for many of us. We look upon the actions of others and indeed our own actions with the eye of judgment; ever watchful that we do what in our minds we perceive as being right. when we do not act in accordance with our point of view of was right, we then feel guilt, propelling us into a cycle of negative behaviour.

It is much easier to point our lens of focus – our lens of judgment – toward the actions of others. This ease of looking at others as opposed to ourselves is the initial, natural supposition in the way we view life, as one of course cannot look at their own eye with their own eye. And so we look at others. Indeed we only know ourselves by how we know and what we know, from others. Everything which enters into the eye and to the mind creates our perception of truth, reality, and who we are.

But there still seems to be something, some pervasive voice telling us that what we see is not how life should be. There are socially agreed upon notions of morality and proper behaviour which we learn in early childhood, demanding that we judge the world outside of thinking skull. In conversations of religious, political, or scientific topics we listen to what a person is saying to determine whether or not we agree or disagree. But what they are saying is not what we agree or disagree with; rather, our own interpretation of their words is what we are attempting to reach a conclusion towards. And so we are not really listening to them at all but to ourselves – to our own chatter in the skull.

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Zen Master with great insight into “deep listening”:

In our interactions with one another, how can we truly listen to what each other is saying? How can we pause our judgments in order to more deeply investigate, inquire, and truly hear what another is saying? I might even go so far as to say that we may never reach a point of making a judgment about what another human being has said, unless we only hear what they superficially are saying. Conversation is a lifelong relational journey we take with one another. If our initial inclination is to make a judgment about what another says, let us ask ourselves, what is important?

Is it important that I let them know my judgment, my conclusion about what they have said according to my own interpretation, or is it important that I investigate what they think with them?

Is it more important that I do not judge, but place myself in their shoes to understand what they are saying as we learn from one another?