About Me

My photo
I have recovered from the disease of Alcoholism. I believe there is only one person really,.. everybody. And that peace of mind is everything. -So treat your neighbor as you would treat yourself, because your neighbor IS yourself. I think most of recovery is what I would call common sense, but that learning to be ordinary is a true gift very few people acquire. My ambition is to accept everything unflinchingly, with compassion, and therefore be intrinsically comfortable in my own skin, no matter what. I am comfortable being uncomfortable and am willing to go to any lengths to improve my life. I believe the Big Book was divinely inspired, and is extraordinarily powerful. Unfortunately AA's best kept secret a lot of the time. (In my opinion). I just try to do what works, no matter what it is.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Acceptance & The difference between genuine good will, and phony 'niceness'

NB. For those of you that don't know, 'Metta' (otherwise known as cultivating loving-kindness). is a buddhist meditation technique where we TRY to wish other people well.
This (Amaro) passage is from a piece by a monk called Amaro in the Forest Sangha Newsletter

The one theme that seems guaranteed to bring up irritation in people is metta - (loving-kindness). It's an almost sure-fire trigger for aversion to arise to start telling everyone to love everything. I find frequently when teaching a ten-day retreat, people say, 'It was fine until day eight when you did that guided metta meditation. That really set me off.' It's strange how common an experience that is.

Sometimes metta practice is taught as a Walt Disney, 'wouldn't it be nice if everything was nice' approach. It seems to be trying to sugar everything over; to turn the world into a place where the butterflies flitter around, the lion lies down with the lamb, and children pick blackberries from the same bush as grizzly bears. Something in us gets nauseated by that Walt Disneyesque image and revolts against it. Immediately we can't wait for the grizzly to swipe the head off the little three year-old, we want to torch the butterflies, and so on and so forth. We are annoyed because everything is just too sweet, too false in that kind of approach.

(Me) In AA we hear You don't have to like everyone but you DO have to LOVE everyone. Here Amaro talks about this difference from his perspective as a monastic...

loving things is not the same as liking them. Having metta for ourselves or for other beings is not the same as liking everything. We often come a cropper by trying to make ourselves like everything. This is a completely wrong approach. When we taste something that's bitter and try to force ourselves to believe it's sweet this is just falsity, it's just sugaring things over. It doesn't work. It just makes the bitter even worse. It makes it nauseating as well as horrible to taste.

And later he says..
The taste of that extremely bitter, foul drink, laden with so much sugar that you could stand a spoon up in it, has stuck with me ever since. It was the epitome of a nauseating mixture. This is what it's like when we try to practice metta by liking everything. But what is really meant by metta is the heart that can accept everything, that does not dwell in aversion towards things.

So what I find is far more important, is to discover the heart which can genuinely and completely accept the way things are. We're not trying to like everything, rather we're recognizing that everything belongs. Everything is part of nature: the bitter as well as the sweet, the beautiful as well as the ugly, the cruel as well as the kindly. The heart that recognizes that fundamentally everything belongs is what I would describe as being the heart of metta, the essence of metta. If we get that really clear within us, and begin to train ourselves to recognize it, we realize that we can cultivate this quality of radical acceptance.
Even though metta is described as a brightness or radiance in the brahmaviharas, there's also this quality of receptivity that it has. There's receptivity and acceptance; a readiness to open the heart to the way things are.

(Me again)
I see a lot of fake gushy 'niceness in AA and I like this passage because it articulates what is wrong with this approach very well.
Also its a strong commentary on a lovely quality of Acceptance that we hear about every day in the serenity prayer but don't often understand how to practice very well.

The difference between feeling sad and self pity..

As explained by Sumhedo in the article Gratitude for Luang Por Chah in the Forest Sangha Newsletter

Another term used to describe this tendency is 'Mental proliferation'.

You only need the confidence to reflect, to be aware, not of how things should be but on what you are actually experiencing, without claiming it, without adding to it in any way.
Thus, when I feel sad, if I think “I am sad” then I have made it more than what it is. Instead, I am simply aware of the sadness - which is pre-verbal. So awareness exists without the arising of thought. The habit tendency is to think, “I am sad, and I don’t want to be sad, I want to be happy”. Then it becomes a big problem for us.
Awareness is not a special quality that I have more of than you. It is a natural ability which we all share. The practice is in using this natural ability and in being willing to learn from it.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Books about people who have tried different step 11 things

The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment by Isabel Losada
The Spiritual Tourist: A Personal Odyssey Through the Outer Reaches of Belief by Mick Brown

Understanding the Shadow

Meeting the Shadow
: by Connie Zweig, Jeremiah Abram

A Little Book on the Human Shadow
: by Robert Bly

Gender studies and Archetypes

Women Who Run with the Wolve by Clarissa Pinkola Phd Estes

King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine by Robert Moore, Do

Iron John: A Book About Men by Robert Bly

Manhood by Steve Biddulph

Mysteries of the Dark Moon: The Healing Power of the Dark Goddess by Demetra George

General Buddhist reading

This is about Tibetan Buddhism. Very elaborate and detailed, but all the same really deep down.
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying : A Spiritual Classic from One of the Foremost Interpreters of Tibetan Buddhism to the West (Paperback)
by Sogyal Rinpoche

This is about Theravadin Buddhism. A less elaborate path than Tibetan. Very simple in its structure. But at heart all teachings are about the same thing, just expressed in different ways.
A Path with Heart by Jack Kornfield

This is about Zen Buddhism. A less elaborate path than Tibetan. Very simple in its structure. But at heart all teachings are about the same thing, just expressed in different ways.
Everyday Zen : Love and Work by Charlotte Joko Beck

This is about Zen Buddhism.
Nothing Special: Living Zen by Charlotte Joko Beck

This is about Theravadin Buddhism
After the Ecstasy, the Laundry : How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path by Jack Kornfield

Full Catastrophe Living : How to Cope with Stress, Pain and Illness Using Mindfulness Meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Lovingkindness : The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness Meditation for Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Anything by Ken Wilber. But Grace and Grit is a 'story' so easier to read.

The Forest Sangha newsletter Online

Social Skills

Making Friends by Andrew Matthews

How to Make Anyone Like You : Proven Ways to Become a People Magnet by Leil Lowndes

What its like being a monastic-type-person

New Habits
: Today's Women Who Choose to Become Nuns by Isabel Losada

Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words by Peace Pilgrim

I Am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

Cave In The Snow By Vicki Mackenzie

Fire Under the Snow: True Story of a Tibetan Monk by The Dalai Lama

Abuse and Trauma

These are some I have come up with. There are LOADS of books on abuse-type-stuff around now..There are some bestselling ones such as the lucky bones and Dave Pelzer though, so some are very good reads.
Its always good to understand more rather than less in regard to these things. I actually find it all very interesting, so its not such a big deal for me to read stuff like this. You don't need to have experienced this stuff in order to benefit from learning about it (in my opinion). Yes, some of it is pretty heavy, and parts of it will resonate with your own life, but it you are working hard at enjoying your life you won't get dragged down by these subject matters. If you have experienced any of these abuse types, then you DO need to get to know more about them. Go easy though. Do little bits at a time if its too heavy going for you. There's no hurry! Just do what you can, and keep going! You'll get there eventually!

The Lovely Bones
by Alice Sebold
Lucky by Alice Sebold
Both great books and stories. But both of pretty bleak subjects. Easy reading though.

After Silence by Nancy Venable Raine This is a great novel just on its own.

Telling by Patricia Weaver Francisco

There are LOADS of books on acquaintance rape, date rape, and sexual abuse on amazon if you want to find out about that area.

Trauma and Recovery : From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror by Judith Lewis Herman
This is a good book if you want to try to understand how trauma works. Or PTSD as they call it.

The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis
I'm not a big fan of this book as I find it far too bleak and negative. I have to mention it though because there are so few books on this subject, so I'm stuck with this one to recommend.

Covert Incest is discussed in the book Silently Seduced: When Parents Make their Children Partners - Understanding Covert Incest by Kenneth Adams

Understanding a bit about physical Abuse. Violence
When Men Batter Women: New Insights into Ending Abusive Relationships
by Neil Jacobson, John Gottman

Choosing messed up partners generally
Women Who Love Too Muchby Robin Norwood

An insight into very bad childhood abuse and survival of it
A Child Called "It": One Child's Courage to Survive by Dave Pelzer
The Lost Boy: A Foster Child's Search for the Love of a Family by Dave Pelzer
A Man Named Dave: A Story of Triumph and Forgiveness by Dave Pelzer
Help Yourself: Finding Hope, Courage, and Happiness by Dave Pelzer

How to not be a doormat

Here are some books which offer a roadmap for those of you that are unfamiliar with emotional and verbal abuse, and the effects they have on people.
Assertiveness training is something you can learn as well if you want to learn how to stand up for yourself, but these books are very good.

The Emotionally Abused Woman by Beverly Engel (Read this one first)

The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans

Some stuff on happiness

There are a MILLION books on happiness but here's a few which reflect the experience in AA that tells us that happiness IS an inside job

Happiness Now!: Timeless Wisdom for Feeling Good Fast by Robert Holden

Being Happy! by Andrew Matthews

The Happiness Project

Happiness Is an Inside Job by John Powell