Thursday, June 13, 2013
The five spiritual faculties are faith, effort, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. Today we have reached the last: Wisdom. It is in some ways the crowning virtue, the highest faculty, but is also something that has been there all along. You may be surprised to learn what wisdom is, and what it is not.
Wisdom is not seen as something abstract or something attained once and then you have it. Rather, we talk about what it takes to be a wise person: It means you know what is good for self, good for others, good for both. It means you know how to act in a beneficial way in the world.
This means that wisdom is a practice.
The Pali word for wisdom is pañña, which is also sometimes translated as "discernment" or "understanding." There are two different levels of discernment.
First, there is wisdom in life. At the relative level, we are discerning what is wholesome from what is unwholesome – what will lead to happiness and what will lead to suffering. This is all very simple and impersonal, but not easy because of our strong habit patterns and tendency to ignore things.
For example, eating foods that bring pleasure in the moment, but make you feel sick later – it's a mark of wisdom to be able to refrain. Or we may learn that it's not worth saying certain things even if it's momentarily cathartic to do so, because of the harm it causes down the line.
Someone who is highly skilled in this kind of worldly wisdom will be generous, virtuous, learned, and usually quite happy. They are exemplary people, worthy friends… but they have not yet put an end to suffering.
The second kind of wisdom concerns a deeper seeing into things – and deceptive nature of conventional reality.
From early childhood, we are trained to perceive objects as solid and separate. Meditative experience shows this not to be true. A crucial part of meditative training is to see all experience in three ways: As impermanent (anicca), unsatisfactory (dukkha), and not-self (anatta). Most people have a basic understanding of impermanence. In fact, this can even be part of daily life wisdom, and does not require deep meditation. But seeing it at a more fundamental level, in meditation, has a profound impact on the mind. Similarly, we can come to realize that anything that is impermanent cannot provide a lasting form of happiness. And such things are not suitable to take as an essential, separate self.
Meditation undermines our conventional perceptions, and this is the path to finding the escape from suffering. This is the sense in which wisdom is the antidote to delusion, ignorance, and wrong view. It is a penetrating kind of wisdom that sees through the clouds of deception.
When a person has developed wisdom this deeply, they are actually returned to the first task: Living well in the world. In fact, it is said that until one has penetrated to the Truth, one cannot completely know what is good for self, good for other, and good for both. With this higher wisdom, people can truly be of benefit to the world.
"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."
-T.S. Eliot, from Little Gidding (The Four Quartets):
Join Kim on Sundays at 9am for our complimentary Meditation & Dharma class
Friday, June 07, 2013
Raw Living Lasagna
PASTA: zucchini, thinly sliced legnthwise for noodles with a knife or mandoline
slice and place in a glass casserole dish. drizzle with oil from sun-dried tomatoes and mix, about 2 Tablespoons. Let the slices "marinate" while making the sauces, this will soften the texture of the zucchini.
Hemp, Pine nut & Spinach Pesto:
Mix ALL ingredients in a highspeed blender or processor, we use a vitamix.
4 garlic cloves
2 cups fresh basil
1 cup fresh spinach
1/2 c oil from sun-dried tomatoes or drain and add other olive oil to make 1/2c total
1/2 lemon- cut away peel
1 date or 1t raw honey
Celtic sea salt to taste
Add last 1/4 c hemp seeds
Add 1/4c pine nuts or can omit hemp and all pine nuts.
Makes about 1 cup.
Sun-dried Tomato Marinara:
Mix ALL ingredients in processor or vitamix, makes about 3 cups.
1 bottle sun dried tomatoes with drained olive oil
1c. sun-dried tomatoes presoaked in warm water, softer the better, drained, 30 min- 4 hrs optimum, **save water for thinning
2 roma tomatoes- chunks
1/2 white onion- chunks
2 (presoaked 10 min)dates or 1T raw honey
2 cloves garlic
1-2 T basalmic vinegar
celtic sea salt to taste
2 T dried italian herb mix
optional: 1t smoked paprika,1t crushed red pepper flakes,fresh oregano sprigs
use saved tomato water to thin marinara to a soft but thick paste
PINE NUT CASHEW CHEESE:
Mix ALL ingredients in processor or vitamix
1 1/2 c raw cashews
1/4c nutritional yeast
1/2 lemon squeezed for juice
1 clove garlic
celtic sea salt to taste
1/2 c pine nuts
1/2 c tomato water
optional: 1 T dried chervil and or 1T rosemary
You can make individual plates or 1 casserole. For individual plates I start a base of baby spinach. Optional in glass casserole dish.
Layer strips of zucchini noodles. Follow with marinara, top with pesto then cheese. Top with sliced heirloom tomatoes and repeat for two to three or more layers. Finish with thin layer of tomatoes and top with fresh basil pieces. optional drizzle with olive oil and or basalmic vinegar and fresh oregano leaves.
The lasagna can be layered and refrigerated 24hrs ahead of time, bring to room temp or can reheat in dehydrator 2-3 hrs or bake at 325 for 25-30 minutes. leftovers good 3-5 days but sauces and cheese freeze well. defrost in refrigerator as needed.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
For your listening pleasure.. Check out the latest tunes inspiring our instructors this Summer!
Check out the playlist HERE!
Monday, April 29, 2013
Written by Kim Allen, Board President of the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City and Meditation and Dharma Instructor at YogaSource Los Gatos.
The five spiritual faculties are faith, effort, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. Today we will focus on concentration. This is a steadiness of mind – the mind is concerned with just one object and does not waver from that. And it is characterized by having no discursive thought – no storyline, no conversations, no figuring things out. Note that there are various other kinds of thoughts. We are not trying to eliminate thought, which is common misperception about meditation.
Concentration, like other qualities of mind, can be developed. The most traditional concentration object is the breath. Another common one is metta (lovingkindness). The instructions for concentration are to direct the mind repeatedly to one object, and when it moves away from the object, simply let go and bring it back (without investigation of the distraction).
There is a fine art to concentration: Making effort and not making effort (ie, letting go). Notice the connection to the previous faculty of Effort! You have to make some effort or the mind will just run rampant. But making too much effort simply won't work. If your mind is running wild, you just have to accept that until it gets tired and gives up on its own. Make steady effort without straining. And then, as the mind settles into concentration, you can make less effort, and less, and less. In very deep states of concentration, no effort is needed at all – in fact, effort just disturbs the calm.
There are many effects of concentration on the body and mind. The body may feel light, open, relaxed, boundary-less. There may be tingles, flushes of heat, feelings of floating or alteration of body size/shape. There may be a sensation of light. In our tradition, the particular physical sensations are not considered very significant. Just let them arise, don’t get entangled, and know that they will pass away.
In the mind, you will encounter delight, joy, happiness, contentment, equanimity. These are very pleasant mindstates – far better than sense pleasure. In fact, concentration practice tends to weaken our interest in sensory experience; it is a good way to let go of desire and greed for worldly things.
Concentration is not in and of itself liberating. Instead, it leads to the ability to see things as they are. The insights that arise from concentration give birth to wisdom, which is the final faculty.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Written by Kim Allen, Board President of the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City and Meditation and Dharma Class Instructor at YogaSource Los Gatos
The five spiritual faculties are faith, effort, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. Today we will explore the central factor of mindfulness. It is not an accident that it is in the middle of the list – mindfulness is both central to the practice and plays an overarching, balancing role among the faculties.
The practice we do in the YogaSource Dharma group is called mindfulness meditation. What is mindfulness? It means knowing what is happening as it is happening. The classic analogy to depict mindfulness meditation is of a house with 5 windows and a door. You take your seat and don’t follow anything that passes by the window or comes in the door. It is an easy, relaxed awareness – just see things and let them go by.
Another useful way to think of mindfulness is as attention with a wisdom component. That is, attention that is not accompanied by greed, hatred, or delusion. We could also say, Attention with no agenda.
The reason there are so many ways to talk about mindfulness is that this wisdom component can be included in many ways. Often a word is added, such as "kind attention," "receptive attention," or "bare attention."When we see something with mindfulness, we are connected, but not entangled. When we see fear, that part that is aware of fear is not afraid (and the same for anger, greed, etc.) We shift from being the emotion, to seeing it. Or we shift from avoiding or denying it, to seeing it. We maintain a gentle, clear connection, without getting sucked in.
The immediate benefit is that this in itself brings great relief. When people have that first moment of seeing anger instead of just acting it out or reacting, they may touch a moment of peace that they didn’t know was possible. Andrea Fella, a meditation teacher, recalls how she got into practice:
One day I was in my kitchen cutting an apple, and I saw a thought go through my mind about being with my ex-boyfriend at a fruit stand. I saw the connection between the apple I was cutting and the fruit stand memory. And I saw in my mind this strong pull to think more thoughts in order to get angry at him, so I really saw the intention toward anger in my mind. It occurred to me, “I don’t have to get on that train. I don’t have to follow that thought.”
I stood there with the knife in my hand waiting to get angry, and I didn’t get angry. And that was the moment that I was hooked on the dharma because I saw its power. I think I actually sank to the floor with the knife in my hand. “Wow,” I thought, “This stuff is really amazing if it can allow me to see the thoughts in my mind that move me in the direction that makes me so distressed, and avoid that.”
Mindfulness is developed simply by paying attention. Each moment of mindfulness supports having more mindfulness in the future. A beautiful insight we can have about mindfulness is that we can hold anything with mindfulness. Any and all experiences can be noticed!
May you develop this wonderful and wise quality more and more.
Monday, September 10, 2012
Written by Kim Allen
The five spiritual faculties are faith, effort, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. The Pali word for the faculty of Effort is viriya, which is sometimes translated as energy, sometimes as effort. (The root is actually the same as the root for "virile," so you get a sense that this effort can be very strong. It is also notably human effort, not superhuman). Energy and effort are slightly different. Energy is more about the capacity to act or to make effort. People worry about having enough energy – getting enough food and sleep and being able to "muster" themselves. But energy itself is somewhat neutral; what you do with your energy is far more important. So we'll focus now on effort, which is less neutral – there is wise and unwise, skillfull and unskillful, kinds of effort.
Spiritual effort is directed toward eliminating and preventing unwholesome mindstates, and developing and maintaining wholesome mindstates. (Because actions and speech are preceded by the mind, this includes wholesome and unwholesome actions, but is not limited to the realm of external action).
There are four key types of effort. We are instructed to:
- Abandon unwholesome mindstates that have arisen
- Guard against (prevent) the arising of unwholesome mindstates that have not yet arisen
- Cultivate wholesome mindstates that have not yet arisen
- Maintain wholesome mindstates that have arisen
Each of these then flowers into a whole set of practices. All of this can seem very busy. There's always something to DO! What about settling down and getting peaceful? There is an art to knowing when and how to apply effort. Part of the growth of wisdom is to learn to see when and how our mind gets "off" and what to do to get it back on track. More and more, the practice will "do itself" and we need less effort. What would it look like to make "effortless effort"?
Join Kim for Meditation and an inspiring Dharma talk on Sundays at 10:15am!
Friday, August 03, 2012
The Five Faculties were recently covered in the Meditation and Dharma class on Sundays. Here is a little taste of what we learned! The five spiritual faculties are key abilities of our minds that will help us live more balanced, peaceful lives, and can eventually result in liberation from suffering. It's important to realize that they are everyday functions of the mind that we can cultivate – they are not special powers or things that we have to create.
These are the Five Spiritual Faculties, including the name of each one in Pali (the language used by the Buddha):
• Faith/confidence (saddha)
• Effort (viriya)
• Mindfulness (sati)
• Concentration (samadhi)
• Wisdom (pañña)
The first faculty is faith (saddha), also sometimes called confidence, trust, or conviction. It's worth noting that in Buddhism, faith is not about belief. Saddha literally means "to place the heart upon" – to offer your heart or give your heart over to something in some way. Note that it is a verb.
Saddha is essential at the beginning of an endeavor – some sense that something is possible, some inclination of the heart to move in a certain direction. We may be stepping right into darkness, but only by taking this step will the light arise that tells us the next step to take.
Sharon Salzberg (from her book Faith, pp 13-15): "The first step on the journey of faith is to recognize that everything is moving onward to something else, inside us and outside. Seeing this truth is the foundation of faith. […] With faith we can draw near to the truth of the present moment, which is dissolving into the unknown even as we meet it. […] No matter what is happening, whenever we see the inevitability of change, the ordinary, or even oppressive, facts of our lives can become alive with prospect. We see that a self-image we've been holding doesn't need to define us forever, that the next step is not the last step, what life is not what it is now, and certainly not what it might be."
Faith is the impetus, but then faith grows, changes, and matures throughout the whole journey. It's not static. To become so strong, faith is built using the other four faculties – they all mutually enhance and support each other's growth. You'll see this continuing interplay as we discuss the other faculties.
Monday, June 11, 2012
We have the fullestlives of any generation to date: we have more freedom and more choices than ever before but the stress and expectations of it all are driving us crazy and depressed. I could play the feminist card here and talk about the pressures of the modern woman but I think guys face just as many dilemmas. (And, they have to live with us.)
How do we reinvent work, partnership, and parenthood in a way that fulfills us all? I'll admit this question is too big to answer for the world at large, so instead let's just focus on you. Create your own rules and make a life that inspires and supports you and relationships with your family that are meaningful and enjoyable.
Please join me at De Anza College on Wednesday, June 13th as I share stories from the trenches of motherhood and entrepreneurship, along with the most important lessons for every step of the way, including finding your passion and turning it into a career, as well as tips for riding the challenges of parenthood with grace and joy.
Wednesday June 13th, 11:30 - 12:20
De Anza College
College Map: http://www.deanza.edu/map/l_quad.html.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
During this year's Valentine's Day special class, I read an excerpt from Tina Fey's genius new book Bossypants. It struck me as relevant, given the horrendous list of expectations we (and especially we: women) place on ourselves in relation to our looks and the role (we think) they play in luring, charming and retaining a mate.
Please note that I've modified a couple of words for the sake of flow. You can make this awesome book your own here.
The standard of beauty was set. Cheryl Tiegs, Farrah Fawcett, Christie Brinkley. Small eyes, toothy smile, boobies, no buttocks, yellow hair [...] Can you remember a time when pop culture was so white that Jaclyn Smith was the chocolate?! By the eighties, we started to see some real chocolate: Halle Berry and Naomi Campbell. “Downtown” Julie Brown and Tyra Banks.
But I think the first real change in women’s body image came when JLo turned it butt-style.
That was the first time that having a large-scale situation in the back was part of mainstream American beauty. Girls wanted butts now. Men were free to admit that they had always enjoyed them. And then, what felt like moments later, boom—Beyoncé brought the leg meat. A back porch and thick muscular legs were now widely admired.
And from that day forward, women embraced their diversity and realized that all shapes and sizes are beautiful.
Ah ha ha. No. I’m totally messing with you. All Beyoncé and JLo have done is add to the laundry list of attributes women must have to qualify as beautiful.
Now every girl is expected to have:
Caucasian blue eyes
full Spanish lips
a classic button nose
hairless Asian skin with a California tan
a Jamaican dance hall ass
long Swedish legs
small Japanese feet
the abs of a lesbian gym owner
the hips of a nine-year-old boy
the arms of Michelle Obama
and doll tits
The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes. Everyone else is struggling. Even the skinny blondes who were once on top can now be found squatting to a Rihanna song in a class called Gary’s Glutes Camp in an attempt to reverse-engineer a butt.
These are dark times. Back in my days, you were either blessed with a beautiful body or not. And if you were not, you could just chill out and learn a trade. Now if you’re not “hot,” you are expected to work on it until you are. It’s like when you renovate a house and you’re legally required to leave just one of the original walls standing. If you don’t have a good body, you’d better starve the body you have down to a neutral shape, then bolt on some breast implants, replace your teeth, dye your skin orange, inject your lips, sew on some hair, and call yourself the Playmate of the Year.
How do we survive this?
How do we teach our daughters and our gay sons that they are good enough the way they are?
The moral of the story is that you can come to yoga just to get a really nice butt and you probably will get one. However this alone will fail to bring you any closer to happiness.
The good news is that any yoga class is also an open invitation to become curious about yourself and the present moment.
The choice to invest yourself in the quality of the movement or pose rather than just ticking another pose off a checklist.
A challenge to search for the right balance: to be gentle but not lazy, and to be fearless without causing harm.
To practice this discernment despite the energy of the group, the instructions of the teacher, the cast of characters in your head, your emotional feeling tone or your own history. Notice and respect these factors but do not let them dictate!
One of my favorite quotes by Desikachar is that "to see if your yoga is working, look at the quality of your relationships." This doesn't necessarily imply your romantic relationships. All your relationships, and especially your closest ones, will become more meaningful if you take this invitation. This will not happen overnight, so by the time you can actually register a genuine shift, you may also have yourself a pair of glorious butt cheeks as bonus.
Tuesday, February 07, 2012
Adapted from Gil Fronsdal
The boundary between mindfulness on the cushion and mindfulness in daily life is an arbitrary one. This practice is meant to seep into our life in a complete way, leading to greater ease, freedom, and happiness.
Review of Mindfulness Meditation for Sitting Practice
A classic Buddhist metaphor for a human being is a one-room house with five windows and a door. The windows and door represent the six senses posited by Buddhism: the five primary senses we have in the West plus a sixth sense which perceives what goes on in our minds, our thoughts. Imagine that you are in the middle of the house sitting in an easy chair, relaxed and at ease with nothing to do. The windows are open and the door is open. A cat peeks its head in the door and then goes away. Soon a bird lands on the windowsill and then flies away, and then a squirrel runs by. Various animals come and go. Rather than getting up to follow the animal outside or closing the doors and windows, simply stay in your easy chair and watch what comes and goes. The instruction for mindfulness meditation is to just stay in the easy chair of awareness and let sensations, emotions, thoughts or attitudes simply appear at the door or window of our sense perceptions. We notice them come and go. The emphasis is on being at ease.
Mindfulness in Daily Life
As in meditation, it is possible to develop greater presence and awareness in our daily lives. Some people find it useful to have cues throughout the day that remind them to notice what is happening in the present, i.e. what they are doing, feeling, or thinking.
- A common cue is the phone ringing. Rather than rushing to immediately answer the phone, the ringing is a prompt to be mindful. This is also a great way to prepare for the phone conversation.
- Some people use walking through doorways as a mindfulness cue. Whenever they walk through a doorway into a different room they notice and pay attention to what is happening with themselves and in the new room.
- Waiting for traffic lights to turn green can be another cue for a bit of mindfulness.
- It can also be useful to bring a heightened mindfulness to particular daily tasks. Some people do this by choosing to eat one meal a day in silence without doing anything else besides eating. Others will do mindfulness while walking – some people will park in a distant parking place so to have a short period of walking meditation. Cleaning can also be a great time to cultivate mindfulness.
- A fascinating area for mindfulness is during a conversation. Much can be discovered by listening more actively and tracking one’s internal responses and impulses during the conversation. The qualities needed to listen well are the same qualities needed to meditate well.
Concentration helps provide steadiness and strength to mindfulness. If mindfulness is a telescope, then concentration is the tripod that gives stability to the telescope so we can see more clearly.
One way to develop concentration is with regularity of practice. One of the most important things is just practicing every day, day after day. Just as young children benefit from routine and repetition in learning, the mind benefits from regularity of practice. At the very, very least, make a commitment to put your body on the cushion in the meditation posture every day, even if it's brief.
Another way to develop concentration is going on meditation retreats. This allows us to step out of our lives so we can get a better perspective and perhaps better let go of the regular concerns that often entangle us. Retreats are a time to meditate frequently throughout the day, becoming more settled than we can from meditating once a day at home. To be really present and not have the mind be murky, foggy or distracted is one of the great delights of life. This happens slowly over time if we practice every day at home, but it happens more quickly and deeply when we go on retreat.
If we’re new to meditation we don’t necessarily want to go on retreat right away, but to start doing a regular practice. If we meditate regularly at some point we will probably feel that we would like to do more, and then we might consider a retreat. It could be a one-day retreat at a local meditation center, or a more extended residential retreat.
Mindfulness coupled with concentration helps with the unfolding of what Buddhism calls wisdom. Wisdom happens when we are present for our lives and see through our concepts, ideas, or judgments and instead understand the bigger picture and context of what’s happening. Some of the concepts or judgments we use are innocent and appropriate enough. However, some concepts bring with them much suffering. Part of the function of mindfulness is to help us cut through all the concepts, interpretations, and “shoulds” so we can see more clearly. And the more clearly we see, the more choices we will discover for living a wise and satisfying life.
Another function of mindfulness is to reveal the difference between the stress of clinging and the peace of releasing that clinging. An important part of wisdom is then learning how to act with this knowledge so that we become more peaceful and more free.
"How do I know if it's working?"
People often want to know how to measure their "progress" in meditation. While it is useful to evaluate our practice from time to time, it is actually a hindrance to practice if we check too frequently or obsess about what is going on when we sit.
A far more reliable indicator of "progress" is our daily life. Are we a little more patient? Do we feel more generous? Is our mind more frequently calm, aware, and willing to see the bigger picture? Are we kinder to ourselves and others?
Just sit, and let the rest take care of itself!
Some people find it useful to cultivate a quality called lovingkindness, or lovingfriendliness. This is not so much a specific kind of behavior – it is an attitude of goodwill, kindness, friendliness, and openness toward ourselves and others. We may use specific phrases ("May I/you be happy/safe/healthy") or simply focus on cultivating an open, gentle, and warm feeling in our heart. The direct benefit is to ourselves in feeling more easeful and kind, and from our own heart it cannot help but spread out into the world. May all beings be happy!
Mindfulness Practices for the Fourth Week and Beyond
- Lengthen your sitting practice time to 30 minutes. Endeavor to sit every day.
- Once during the next week, spend a two-hour period giving particular attention to your intentions. Before we speak or act there is always an impulse of motivation or intention. Notice the various kinds of desires and aversions that fuel your intentions. For this exercise, you might choose a period where you can go about some ordinary activity in a quiet and mostly undisturbed way. You might even slow your activities down some so that you are more likely to notice and evaluate your motivations.
- If it feels right for you, incorporate some periods of lovingkindness (metta) practice. Here is a 5-minute guided meditation called "Lovingkindness on the Go": http://www.audiodharma.org/talks/audio_player/1830.html.
- MINDFULNESS Five Spiritual Faculties - #5 Wisdom 13-Jun-2013
- FOOD Vegan Lasagna 07-Jun-2013
- CULTURE Summer of Yoga 2013 Playlist 30-May-2013
- MINDFULNESS Five Spiritual Faculties- #4 Concentration 29-Apr-2013
- 5 Spiritual Faculties - #3 Mindfulness 23-Oct-2012
- MINDFULNESS Five Spiritual Faculties- #2 Effort 10-Sep-2012
Linda is the founder and owner of YogaSource Los Gatos, Silicon Valley's premier yoga studio. She leads workshops, conferences and retreats in the US and internationally. As the Director of the YogaSource Teacher Training Institute since its inception in 2006, she has nurtured hundreds of successful yoga instructors from across the country.
Linda has trained in both the US and India in Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Power, Pilates, yoga therapeutics, Yin and Vipassana meditation. She is a student of modern Buddhism, Jungian psychology and Interpersonal Neurobiology. Her yoga classes are a playful and masterful blend of precision, elegance and breath.
Linda has been interviewed and profiled by YogaJournal, NBC News, ABC's Best of the Bay, Common Ground, Yogi Times, San Jose Magazine, Los Gatos Weekly News and other publications. At other times of the day, she is a mom, a wife, a writer, a designer, and a foodie. Linda is a Senior Ambassador for Lululemon Athletica and a board member of Insight World Aid, a local grassroots non-for profit inspired by the Buddhist principles of wisdom and compassion.
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