Saturday, January 8, 2011

I've Been Busy...

As you can easily see, I've been neglecting this blog. In part it's because I found it difficult to post interesting content on a regular basis. However, I do have an excuse. I've been working on another book that you might find interesting. The book is called The Practice of Contemplative Photography: Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes, which I've written with my good friend Michael Wood.

I think this book really does bring Contemplating Reality into the 21st Century. Here is what photographer Jay Maisel had to say about the book:
This is not your usual “how to be a better photographer” book. It takes you into deeper water. It requires investigation and commitment to areas new to you. Among other things, you will think about perception in new ways. If you read this book with care, and without skepticism, it will radically expand your thinking, seeing, and photography.
You can browse inside the book by clicking here. Michael and I are also posting new photographs and other info on the The Practice of Contemplative Photography Facebook page. I hope you like it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Images from the Gyalwang Karmapa

Recollecting the Gyalwang Karmapa’s four days in New York, my strongest images are of his presence: his warmth, his confidence, and most of all, his compete lack of fabrication or contrivance. That said, strong images from his teachings also spring to mind. In his first talk he spoke very personally about how we can deal with the difficulties we must face in life:
A lot has happened to me in this life. I have had a lot of challenges. In dealing with challenges, we must not let practical difficulties destroy our state of mind. For example, if you put a heavy object, weighing perhaps one or two hundred pounds, in front of a mirror, the heavy thing will be clearly reflected, but without the heaviness. In the same way, we can’t prevent ourselves from experiencing life’s difficulties, but we can experience them as if they are reflections in a mirror—clearly reflected without weighing us down.*

The next afternoon, he used another image to explain that the weight we usually experience comes from the way our fixations distort our interactions with the world.

Much of what we experience is not just mere appearance, but our fixation, what we overlay onto the appearances. For example, there is the way we divide things into “I” and “mine”. We don’t directly look at appearances, but see them through a frame, or window, which divides the world into I/mine, self/other. Something odd happens when we look out through the window of I/mine. When we try to reach out to others through this window, the window colors our interactions. The basic problem with that window is that we can’t really see through it.

We can imagine whatever we like. We want to look at something nice out the window, but if there isn’t anything nice there, we create a delusion instead. The window becomes a solid wall that blocks genuine reality. Genuine spiritual experience cannot be seen through the window of “I” and “mine”.*

There is a nice blog following the Karmapa’s visit called, His Holiness The 17th Karmapa’s 2008 U.S. Visit.

* These are not the Karmapa’s exact words, but a reconstruction from several people’s notes.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Karmapa Khyenno! (Hail Karmapa!)

There is a very nice story in the Times today about the arrival of the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa in New York. I had the good fortune to attend the early-morning, traditional tea and rice welcoming ceremony for him at the NY Shambhala Center, because I have been working on the finances for his visit.

After the chants and the offerings of the tea and rice, the Karmapa spoke briefly. His words were tinged with humor and he was clearly delighted to be in America. He said something like, “Last night I had the thought that I was in India. This morning I think I am in New York. Looking at you, I believe it! I am in shock!”

Later in the day, my good luck held, and I was able to attend a meeting and a reception with the Karmapa. It was lovely to have time to observe him up-close. He is twenty-two years old, but honestly, they don’t make twenty-two-year-olds like that. It is his gaze that distinguishes him, and gives him away. It is so steady. It is not the gaze of an ordinary person, certainly not someone in their early twenties. This is someone to watch. Karmapa Khyenno!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Thinking V

To understand bondage and liberation, we need to see how we are bound by our thoughts. This is not just the discursive thoughts, but our projections, which are the objects of the discursive thoughts, and the emotions that link the two. This whole system of thoughts is bondage.

When we don’t recognize the nature of these phenomena, we are bound by them. We are taken in by the illusion or mirage, like thirsty people lost in a desert. When we recognize them, we are free from their compulsion. This is self-liberation: this freedom is not brought about by an outside agent, but by our own insight.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Thinking IV

The Lord of Yogis Milarepa sang in “The Six Questions”:

Mind has even more projections than there are dust motes in the sun;
Is there an accomplished yogi here or a yogini
Who sees the appearance of things laid bare in the very bed where it lies?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Thinking III

These concepts—the objects of that endless monologue—are as vague and general as drawings on water. They don’t come from anywhere and they don’t go anywhere. Suddenly it seems like a friend is present. In the next moment, it is a pickup truck or a presidential candidate. As obscure as they are, we are trapped by them like a deer trapped by headlights.

How are these concepts different from the objects seen in dreams?