Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hurricane Season

Big Mind and small mind are not two separate things.
"Big" and "small" are reference points at which to grasp
while free-falling through open space.
Just let yourself fall. Trust that you are the space.

The small mind is a hurricane,
blowing with sound and fury,
circling around a non-existent center.
Nothing is really there but the energy of Mind itself,
moving in habitual patterns through space and elements.
Vivid. Temporary.

The hurricane believes so strongly in its own importance.
It has to make an impact on the world. Space couldn't care less.
Let the hurricane blow or not, and go where it pleases.
Space accommodates everything and attaches to nothing.
Only the hurricane believes in its own sound and fury.

Small mind, bent on having its way, are you tired yet
of your own blowing, spinning, wailing, contracting?
Do you know that at your center there is only stillness?
(Sneak peak at tomorrow's lesson: you don't really have a center, either.)

Do you remember that you are, have always been, could only ever be, Me?



Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Girl with the Skull Earring

In a dream I had recently, I was sitting in a restaurant next to a girl who was wearing a beautiful outfit, with one dangling skull earring. Some of the dream details are fuzzy, but I think I was dressed in my old monk's robes, because I was somehow singled out as being very distinctly and visibly "Buddhist." At any rate, the whole atmosphere of the dream seemed charged with Buddhist spirituality, because His Holiness the 17th Karmapa was teaching nearby. When I have dreams with a teacher like the Karmapa in them, I tend to pay attention and look for messages. And boy, did I get one this time.

Two waitresses approached the girl and told her how nice her outfit was, but gently reprimanded her for wearing the skull earring. They said the skull was a morbid symbol of death and that one shouldn't wear such symbols because they attract evil spirits, or bad luck, or something equally superstitious. At that point in the dream, I chimed in, and delivered a speech that went like this (paraphrased from memory):

"Actually, the Buddhist view would be quite the opposite. In Buddhism we are encouraged to deeply contemplate death and impermanence, and Buddhist iconography often features skulls and corpses and other stark reminders that death is woven into the fabric of life itself. Most of the time we don't think about death, and so we go around acting like we have all the time in the world. But the reality is that our bodies are impermanent, and we are subject to old age, sickness and death. In fact, we might never even make it to old age. We might become gravely ill next year or get hit by a bus today after we leave this restaurant. Death is really the only thing in life that is absolutely inevitable, and it can strike at any time, without warning — so it's best if we keep that always in mind. It not only helps us be better prepared when it's our time to go, but also helps us put our life in better perspective. A lot of the things that we ordinarily think are very important in life, mundane things that we devote so much of our time to pursuing, appear insignificant when we remember that our time in this life is short and that death could come at any moment."

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Relaxation Is What You Are

One Human Journey is pleased to offer a 20-minute guided audio meditation with Dennis Hunter, founder of One Human Journey and author of You Are Buddha: A Guide to Becoming What You Are.

  • Practice deep relaxation and mindfulness of the present moment
  • Learn to notice subtle ways you resist your own experience and move away from the present moment
  • Feel more refreshed, awake, and synchronized between mind and body

To prepare for this meditation, find a quiet, comfortable place to lie on your back and close your eyes. Headphones or computer speakers are best for optimal sound quality.

Bonus for cat lovers: 
Agneshka the cat briefly interrupts the meditation to make a special, apparently urgent feline announcement around the 9:36 mark, then settles down again after a few seconds.




Sunday, August 31, 2014

You Hold the Antidote

During a nap today, I dreamed that a certain breed of venomous snake was killing many people. I discovered that my blood contained a natural antidote to the snake's toxin, and this antidote could be extracted and shared.

In Tibetan Buddhist iconography, the snake is often a symbol of aggression and its destructive power.


The venomous snake is running wild through our world today, breeding out of control, biting people and injecting them with the toxin of aggression. The poisons of anger, hatred and violence are destroying human lives in untold numbers every day, in every part of the world, and in some places the violence seems to be reaching epidemic proportions. 

Every human being has within them the antidote to the poisons of aggression and violence. No matter who we are or where we come from, deep down in our blood there is the same wish for peace, for happiness, for well-being, for harmony. 

There is a great responsibility carried by those who have recognized that we hold within us the antidote to the poison of aggression and violence that is burning down our world. We must do whatever we can to share that antidote with others. We begin by cultivating and nourishing within ourselves the seeds of peace, and sharing that peace with others, one person at a time. It starts with each of us, and it ripples out through our interactions with everyone we know. 

It may not seem like we can do much when we look at the scale of violence that is happening in the world. But to the person next to you who is bitten by the snake and suffering, it doesn't matter how many other people have been bitten in places near or far. They just need one person to show them the antidote that already exists within them. 

They just need you. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Return to Silence

How can I speak to You, when You are not separate from me?
I want to pray to You, but prayer would be distance,
someone smaller praying to someone bigger,
requesting admission into the vast open arms of the Other.
My mistake was to believe I was somewhere else.
It has felt like that until now.
I know the pain of feeling small and separate from You.
The torment of little "me" and all my tiresome stories,
constricting like a boa around the neck of my own fictional self.
"Let this curse be lifted." That would be my prayer,
but I don't know how to pray to You, or if prayer is even possible.
For just now, when I grow very still, very silent, then prayer
seems beside the point. In this stillness, this silence,
You are already here, and the one who would pray to You
is nothing other than You. Prayers are only words, after all,
and in Your presence words fly away. They dissolve
and lose meaning. Where words were, there is only This.
But even "This" is a word, a mistake, a label
with which "I" try to contain "You," the Limitless.
And so the only form of prayer that seems authentic
is to remain silent, to rest in stillness, not asking for anything.
For only then can my prayer be answered.
Only through silence is the one true Word ever spoken.
Only then can I see that "You" and "I" were never two, never apart.
The small, tragic story of "me" is a dream, and I am a dream figure.
You are the One dreaming. Let me awaken within the dream.
The little, separate "me" is a figment, just the boa of mind's habits
constricting around a non-existent center within empty space.
May the snake let go and relax into freedom and peace at last.
Never let me forget that these dream eyes are Your eyes.
This dream body is Your body. These dream feet are Your feet.
But now I am praying to You again, recreating the illusion of distance,
where there is none. You are here, now. It is This. Only This.
Let me return to silence, and hear what You are already saying.



Saturday, August 9, 2014

On Meditation and the Future of Humanity

Do you find it unpleasant to be alone in a room with your thoughts for just 10 minutes, with no smartphone or other distractions to keep your mind occupied?

Apparently, most people do.

A recent article by Kate Murphy in The New York Times examined how excruciating it is for the average person to simply be alone with their own thoughts. Citing a study published in the journal Science, involving 11 experiments and more than 700 people, Murphy writes that "the majority of participants reported that they found it unpleasant to be alone in a room with their thoughts for just 6 to 15 minutes."

Even more alarmingly, in one of the experiments, "64 percent of men and 15 percent of women began self-administering electric shocks when left alone to think."

I ask you to pause for a moment and consider the implications of that: A vast swath of human beings find it so incredibly unpleasant to be alone with their own thoughts that they will resort instead to shocking themselves with painful electric currents simply to have something — anything, even something unpleasant — to redirect their attention.

Most of the time, we don't have to go to such extreme lengths to avoid introspection. That's because we never bother to go there in the first place.

As a society, we've become masters of staying busy all the time, always distracted and plugged in and entertained. We never have a moment to think, and when we do, we are programmed to reach for a familiar device or an activity or an experience to fill up the empty space.

"Our habitual tendency is to always be busy, doing something, changing something, or cultivating something," says the 17th Karmapa. "Therefore when somebody asks us to just relax, to just be natural, it is very difficult for us to actually understand how to do that."

Watch your mind closely the next time you step into an elevator and the door closes. During those 20 seconds of in-between space, in which nothing much happens, how strong is the impulse to reach into your pocket and check your mobile phone? Or is it already in your hand?

Murphy speculates that the reason we find it so unpleasant to be alone with our thoughts is because, given the opportunity, our minds tend to veer towards darkness: we begin to ruminate on our worries, our frustrations, our fears, our doubts and existential questions. Left to our own devices, we begin to make contact with our shadow, and our shadow is naturally something we experience as unpleasant because it is (by definition) composed of all the things we don't want to think about.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Boyhood

There is a moment in Richard Linklater's new film Boyhood when the film's main character, Mason — caught deep in the throes of the most awkward transitional years of high school — realizes that growing up is not necessarily the guaranteed outcome of getting older. In a pensive, philosophical conversation between Mason and his girlfriend — the kind of intelligent, emotionally engaged dialogue that has become like Linklater's filmic signature — Mason reflects on the fact that his mother, who has worked hard to be as grown up and responsible as she can be, still seems as lost and confused about the direction of her life as he is about his own.

Boyhood is unlike anything else I've ever seen in cinema, just as Linklater is unlike any other director working today. Over the course of the film we watch Mason grow from a shy, introverted six-year-old into a shy, introverted young man going off to college. But rather than using multiple actors or special effects to depict Mason and his family aging across the years, Linklater filmed the same group of actors repeatedly over the course of 12 years. As Mason's character ages, so does the actor playing him, along with his family members. The effect is that, although Boyhood is a fictional story, it illustrates the joys and pain of childhood and growing up in a way that is profoundly authentic and true-to-life.



But what does it even mean to grow up? Who the hell really knows? It seems to have a lot to do with taking responsibility for ourselves, getting with the program, and becoming successful in life — at least that's the message that the adults in Mason's world keep preaching at him. Do your homework, complete your chores, get ahead in school, find something you're good at and excel in life. But for all their good intentions and rhetoric, those very same adults keep struggling to find their own way in the world, and repeating mistake after embarrassing mistake. Mason's mother keeps marrying the wrong guys, and his father seems stuck in a perpetually rebellious childhood phase of his own.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Two events in July: Workshop and Book Launch Party

Two upcoming events at Nalandabodhi New York!
64 Fulton Street, Suite 400
New York, New York 10038
(Use buzzer 4 for entry)
Close to the 2, 3, A, C, 4 and 5 Trains

SAVE THE DATES AND PRE-REGISTER NOW


BOOK LAUNCH PARTY AND READING

Friday, July 11th  •  7pm to 9pm
FREE!

Join the Nalandabodhi community for its monthly Friday Soirée celebrating the launch of Dennis Hunter’s new book, You Are Buddha: A Guide to Becoming What You Are. The evening will include a reading from the book, discussion, and a chance to socialize and enjoy drinks and food with NBNY members and friends.

There is no charge for the Friday Soirée and you are encouraged to bring friends and family.

Books will be available for purchase at the event. Click here if you would like to order the book ahead of time.


BUDDHA BODY, BUDDHA MIND
A Daytime Workshop with Dennis Hunter Based on You Are Buddha

Saturday, July 12th  •  10:30am to 4:30pm (lunch break from 12:30 to 2:30)
$40 Preregistration  •  $50 at Door  •  Includes both morning and afternoon sessions
(No one is turned away for lack of funds – Work Study opportunities are available. Contact Nalandabodhi for more information.)

We are all looking for greater meaning and wisdom in our lives. The problem is that we search for these things outside ourselves. The most profound teachings of the Buddha say that the wisdom we search for doesn’t come from outside. It is already within us — it is our very nature. You Are Buddha is a practical guide to discovering this innate wisdom and living a happier, more meaningful life.

This two-part workshop will draw upon teachings from You Are Buddha that focus on becoming more deeply embodied and mindful, working with thoughts and emotions, understanding the nature of mind, and being more authentically yourself. The workshop will include talks, guided meditations, and discussion. Space is limited, so preregister now.

Preregister here for the Saturday workshop.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

YOU ARE BUDDHA

We are all looking for greater meaning and wisdom in our lives. The problem is that we search for these things outside ourselves. The most profound teachings of the Buddha say that the wisdom we search for doesn’t come from outside. It is already within us — it is our very nature. You Are Buddha is a practical guide to discovering this innate wisdom and living a happier, more meaningful life.


"Combining insight into the spiritual path with engaging personal anecdotes, You Are Buddha introduces Buddhist practices and philosophy to support whatever path you're on."
— Susan Piver, Founder, The Open Heart Project, New York Times best-selling author of The Wisdom of a Broken Heart

"You Are Buddha speaks about the nature of our mind and the spiritual path in a very fresh and personal way, making profound insights and practices readily accessible. By looking at ancient wisdom teachings through a contemporary lens and sharing his own rich experiences on the path, Dennis Hunter offers an approach to the Buddhist teachings that can be employed by readers of all kinds of backgrounds. There is no need to label oneself a Buddhist to benefit from this book and discover the basic nature that we all share."
— Khenpo Karl Brunnhölzl, author of The Heart Attack Sutra and The Center of the Sunlit Sky

"Starting from the most profound understanding of the Buddha’s teachings, You Are Buddha offers an elegant and practical guide to bringing these insights into your daily life. The presentations of meditation practice, and working with negative thoughts and emotions, are especially valuable. Because this book is grounded in Dennis Hunter’s own deep personal experience and his extensive practice of meditation, it brings a very contemporary perspective to these classical teachings." 
 — Andy Karr, author of Contemplating Reality: A Pracititioner’s Guide to the View in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism and co-author of The Practice of Contemplative Photography: Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes


DISTRIBUTION DETAILS

INDIVIDUALS:
U.S. paperback available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
European paperback available from Amazon Europe (U.K., France, Germany, Spain, Italy)
Also available in paperback at the CreateSpace store

Available at Amazon for Kindle readers and apps
Available for iBooks at the iTunes store
Available at Barnes and Noble for Nook e-readers
Available for all e-book readers at SmashWords


BOOKSTORES, LIBRARIES AND INSTITUTIONS:
The book is available through Ingram and other industry-standard ordering systems. Bookstores or libraries can also order the book with reseller/institutional discounts with a free Createspace Direct account.

EVERYONE:
Come join the open Facebook group YOU ARE BUDDHA for news, reviews, information about readings, workshops and book-related events, discussions, and more! 

WORLDWIDE:
You Are Buddha is available in various editions (paperback and/or e-book) not only in the U.S. but also in Canada, the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, India, and Australia! Check your specific country's Amazon page to see which editions are available where you live.

STAY IN TOUCH:
Email me at onehumanjourney@gmail.com if you have any questions about the book, would like to request a review copy, or would like to schedule a reading, workshop or book-related event. 

Click here if you would like to subscribe to my email newsletter.

All the best to you.
Dennis

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Why the Buddha Laughs


Buddhism often gets a bad rap for being pessimistic or taking life too seriously, especially with its famous teachings on suffering, impermanence and emptiness.

But the reality is quite the opposite. Those who have developed any genuine realization of the teachings of Buddhism are often among the most joyful and happy people you could ever meet. Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk who is famous for, among other things, undergoing extensive brain scans and laboratory testing while in meditative states, has been branded by neuroscientists as "the happiest person alive."

There is a particularly baffling slogan in the Lojong teachings in Tibetan Buddhism, which says: "Always maintain only a joyful mind." That sounds like a tall order! Always?!! Only?!! I often feel lucky if I can experience a truly joyful mind for just a few intervals throughout the day.

But that constant, all-pervasive joyful mind is exactly what many realized Buddhist teachers manifest. When I picture the Dalai Lama, the image that comes to mind is one of him smiling and laughing and literally beaming positive energy to everyone around him, which he seems to do 365 days a year.
The 16th Karmapa

My own teacher, the very learned scholar Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, frequently laughs and plays with childlike joy, and constantly seeks ways to make his students drop all of their serious trips and do the same. When you spend time with a realized teacher like Dzogchen Ponlop, you never know how or when he's going to sneak up and pull the rug out from under you—maybe figuratively, or maybe literally. That's part of his job as a teacher. Many of the most direct and personal teachings I've received from him were designed to puncture whatever bubble of excessive seriousness in which I happened to be floating and to make me stop, see the absurdity of my own habitual patterns, drop it all, and just smile, relax, and laugh at myself.

"Since everything is but an illusion, perfect in being what it is, having nothing to do with good or bad, acceptance or rejection, one might as well burst out laughing!"
—Longchenpa, 14th-century Tibetan meditation master

Laughter is medicine for the heart, mind and body. It lowers blood pressure, dispels self-pity and depression, triggers neurochemical reactions that increase feelings of well-being, and strengthens our positive feelings of connection with other beings. It creates a sense of openness and space that wasn't there before, and an open mind leads to new possibilities.

Taking ourselves very seriously, on the other hand, is most often a recipe for unhappiness. The more we invest our attention in all of our personal dramas and our inflated sense of self-importance—the storm that rotates around the illusory center of I, I, I, me, me, me, mine, mine, mine—the more miserable and isolated we become. It's an ancient habit, a dysfunctional skill we've been developing since before we were born. But each time we drop the overly serious trance of selfing and open to a mind of spontaneous joyfulness, we reconnect with our deeper nature and shed a piece of the baggage of the small, tragic self.

"Nothing is worth more than laughter. It is strength to laugh and to abandon oneself, to be light. Tragedy is the most ridiculous thing."
—Frida Kahlo