Saturday, December 27, 2014

Finding Your True Spiritual Path

There is no one-size-fits-all spiritual path; for each of us, it is an individual and personal journey. Join Dennis Hunter for an intimate exploration of what it means to be on the spiritual path today, the thorny relationship between spirituality and religion, and how to navigate towards the teachings that are most meaningful and transformative for you. Streaming audio: 33 minutes.

To download an MP3 file of this talk and other recordings by Dennis Hunter, search iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, CDBaby, and other major audio retailers. See the Audio page for links.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Forgiveness: The F Word (Streaming Audio)

Forgiveness is fundamental to our well-being and our spiritual growth, and is central to the teachings of Jesus, Buddha, and other spiritual figures. So why do we so often forget (or refuse) to put it into practice?

At this time of year we hear a lot of Hallmark card rhetoric about peace on Earth and goodwill towards men. But that very peace and goodwill begins in your own heart, and it expands outward from there. Forgive those who have trespassed against you, just as you would wish to be forgiven for your trespasses. Forgiveness and compassion are the prerequisites to peace on earth. Start where you are. Who can you forgive right now, in this very moment? And how would that change your experience of the world? Holy child, what in the hell are you waiting for? Be the change you want to see in the world.

Join Dennis Hunter for a free 37-minute satsang (dharma talk) exploring the stickiness of resentments, the freedom of letting go, and the vital role of forgiveness in spiritual awakening. Adapted from material presented in Chapter 13 of You Are Buddha: A Guide to Becoming What You Are.

Recorded on Christmas Eve, 2014.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Skiing, Meditation, Yoga, and Sex

Skiing, Meditation, Yoga and Sex. What do these four things have in common? They each get better in direct proportion to the degree to which you relax. Sure, you need to learn certain skills, and you have to practice. You need a good instructor when you're learning, and whatever equipment is involved needs to fit comfortably and make you feel supported and safe. But at some point, after you've gained a certain level of proficiency and ease with the practice, it's no longer about the equipment or the techniques or the instructions. It's about you, your body and mind, and your world. Your willingness and dedication to show up and keep facing your fears and obstacles, your failures as well as your bliss and triumphs. Whether it's skiing or yoga or meditation or sex, you will experience all of these highs and lows, sometimes all within the space of a few minutes. 

But what's the difference between a miserable run of terror down the mountainside, and one that brings bliss, joy and a heightened sense of aliveness and embodiment and connection to your world and your life? It's your state of mind while you are on the mountain. Your presence, your mindfulness and awareness, your open eyes and open heart, and the magic ingredient: relaxation. If you don't relax, you will be terrorized by the experience. And at some point the practice will ask you (no, it will demand of you) that you step outside your comfort zone, into your fears. That's as true of yoga or meditation or sex as it is of skiing. Is there anything in life of which it isn't true? 

A Tibetan meditation master once said, "Little relaxation, little meditation. Middling relaxation, middling meditation. Great relaxation, great meditation." All the techniques and props and rituals and instructions are really there as guides to help us get to the point where we can finally just let go, drop our resistance and relax into the present moment. And when we relax, we might be surprised to find how much bliss there is to be experienced right here in the present moment, even on the mountainside that formerly provoked our fears and resistance. We may learn that we are capable of things we never imagined. 

Right there, through relaxation, we discover our human capacity to transform neurosis and resistance into clarity and joy. Mind and body are synchronized, we become intimately attuned to the elements of the phenomenal world and our relationship to it and to the other beings moving through it alongside us. We can experience this on the mountainside, on the yoga mat, on the meditation cushion, or...well, other places. 

We show up, we train, we learn, we practice, we succeed and fail, we keep practicing, and then at some point the magic happens: we relax. And when we relax, we open to a deeper dimension of our human experience. 

Photo by Susie Schein

Monday, December 8, 2014

Outside Looking In

There's no barrier or wall to be breached
before you can be set free.
Only a shift of awareness takes place,
and suddenly you are no longer inside looking out,
but outside looking in, and what you see
is that there was really nothing there to see.
Nothing to look at, but the looking itself, looking at looking.
Seeing, seeing seeing. Being, being being.
Knowing, knowing knowing.
Experience is not two things. Not one thing. It's no thing at all.
And then, you're not even on the outside looking in,
because "inside" and "outside" are still duality.
Instead, you see there never was any wall or line
separating the inside from the outside.
That was the grand illusion, the primordial magic trick.
Great magician, you can't make the elephant disappear
if it never was in the room to begin with.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Stop Making Sense

Stop talking to yourself about silence
and talking to yourself about stillness.
You need not talk yourself into these states.
You need only stop talking altogether
and allow the silence and stillness
that are already always present to be undisturbed.
Begin to talk about them, woo them, try to create them,
and watch them move away.
You need not do anything to create silence; rather,
only stop with all the doing, the talking, the wooing
and silence is what's left.
You need not try so very hard to remain still; rather,
only cease with all the movement, the effort, the chatter
and stillness is already present.
Rest within that stillness, that silence,
already here, uncreated, unadulterated,
and you may glimpse Natural Awareness:
not mere consciousness, which is always consciousness of something,
walled in by the reference points of self and other,
but Awareness—vast, undifferentiated, without reference points.
Not self, but Self, beyond all notions of self and other.
Not this, but That, beyond all ideas of this and that.
Yet, again, talk about Awareness, try to describe it
or grab hold of it, and you move away from it.
You crawl back into the safety of the cage
of the little self, with its bowls of food and water,
each bowl labeled neatly with your name and your reference points.
Only ask yourself: is it your destiny to live in this cage forever?
Do you really need these little bowls of kibble
when the vast open field of Awareness is waiting for you
just outside the door of your cage?