Monthly Archives: November 2010

Dancing Snowflakes

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If you imagine for a moment a still, cold winter’s night. A few clouds are in the sky, the frost is just starting to form and there is no breeze. Then, as if by magic, tiny flakes of snow start to float gently in the dark night’s air. Dancing down to the earth.

There is an effortless beauty about them.

Herein lies a perfect metaphor for timeless meditation. There is an effortless beauty about it.

A letting go of technique, a letting go of effort and expectation, an acceptance of all that is arising in our mind, body and whole being.

A letting go of letting go.

Resting in the eternal embrace of our creator, dancing in the ground of our being.

© David R. Durham

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Circumstances

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We are all more, in many ways much, much more, than our circumstances.

This problem, of being constrained and over-identified with our circumstances is often seen most clearly in a therapeutic context. People with chronic health conditions can become labelled and defined by their condition. “Hi, I’m Mary and I was abused as a child.”, “Hi, I’m Mike and I have a weak heart.” OK, people don’t literally say these things (well not that often), but it is the sub-plot to how they live their daily lives.

A similar thing can happen with our whole identity: I’m Russian, therefore I think in a certain way. I come from an affluent LA suburb, hence I am this LA life-style. I am a spiritual being, so I’m a vegan.

The labels we can identify with are almost endless, yet all are limiting in some ways, all are derived in some way from our transient historical circumstances, which has helped us to define our selves, our relationship to other people and our world view.

The labels we can identify with are not, in and of themselves, a problem. To function in our human context requires them, it requires these mental constructs which we develop during our early years. It is our failure to recognise the limitations of these identities, to get stuck in them and hence fail to grow beyond them, that can create problems for us. Problems which can be hard to define: it may be a general unease or feeling of emptiness with our current life, or maybe we cannot see the point in it anymore. Unfortunately, these are problems for which our society driven solutions are not always the most healthy or appropriate (e.g. alcohol abuse, drug addition, obesity and other excesses.)

Practices such as Soto Zen meditation and Centering Prayer aim to remind us of, and re-introduce us to, the nothingness of our core being. This ‘no-thing-ness’ is impossible to stick a label on, hence it is ‘unlimited’ by mental concepts, it is the vast potential of life to be all things. It is the as yet unborn, unbecome, unformed, unmanifest.

It is deeply liberating to be reminded of the fact the we are not this label, or that label, or this other label. It gives us space to breathe, space for our being to flow and to grow.

We are all potentially so much more than any of our temporary life-style labels allow us to be.

© David R. Durham

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Eternal Union

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There is something a little frustrating about The Buddha’s teaching. In a way, he didn’t seem to say very much. There is suffering and the cause of it are our ceaseless desires.

On a gross level, we can observe these ceaseless desires in ourselves and others from time to time. That glass of wine too many, or a wardrobe stuffed with so many clothes we cannot get the new ones we simply ‘had’ to buy into it.

However, our ceaseless desires run very deep in our psyche. The need for emotional comfort in a relationship, that extra book or course we simply must have for our knowledge to be complete, and the ‘awakened’ state of consciousness we have got to experience to be considered ‘holy’ or ‘spiritual’ enough.

What a challenge it is, first of all to notice and then to let go of our ceaseless desires. How liberating it is when we repeat this letting go process again, and again, and again, through all the levels of our complex being.

Yet, this letting go process is at the heart of all contemplative meditation traditions, this is the unfolding core of a spiritual life.

And the result, ironically, is what we have craved for all along: an end to our illusion of separateness and a peace that passeth intellectual understanding, in an eternal union with an unconditionally loving God.

© David R. Durham

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Mental Models

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On a recent flight from Lima to Cusco, I sat next to an American lady who was visiting Peru to do some charity work.

It turned out she was a Physiotherapist, and when our conversation moved onto Cranio-Sacral therapy, she advised me that in the US it is not considered a ‘proper’ therapy. One reason being that someone carried out an ‘experiment’ whereby two therapists tuned into the cranial rhythm of a subject, and they came up with a different rate for the subject’s rhythm. Hence, logic (?) dictates it must be quackery.

Duh!

The cranial rhythm, is just one of tens, and maybe hundreds on rhythms in our bodies. And like most of them, its just an indicator. If two therapists did come up with a different count of a subject’s cranial rhythm, then isn’t this a cause to explore this observation further. I.e. there is a cranial rhythm, why does it appear differently?

The lady went further and said, since therapeutic outcomes of Cranio-Sacral therapy could not be measured and quantified in a consistent way, it was clearly a dubious activity, and not scientifically proven.

Could it simply be that therapists, such as Cranio-Sacral therapists, work with humans and not with chemical machines.

However, what is more disturbing to me, was the mind-set which first of all sets up childish experiments and then uses them to try and prove the falseness of something. This all sounds a bit like the witch trials of the middle-ages. The medical insurance and drug corporations must be getting desperate.

And, further, applying quantitative testing to a non-quantitative situation, and then pretending that this approach is somehow ‘scientific’, is highly misleading. If you were testing for the effectiveness of a drug on patients suffering from a discrete virus, then quantitative testing is highly appropriate and desirable. But, that is not what therapists, such as Cranio-Sacral therapists, are working with. These therapists are working with people’s life experiences, which are often totally unique to them. Hence it is inherently not a situation where quantitative testing has anything to add.

© David R. Durham

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