710zmyvR8PL._US230_ In the 90s, I used to use John Robbins’ book, Diet for a New America, along with the PBS special that went along with it, in my classroom. I loved his heart centered presentation of the benefits of a plant-based diet, at a time when the word “vegetarian“ was still far from being accepted as a normal, not to mention better, alternative, for the animals, the environment, and us.

Last month, more than 25 years after his book came out, I had the pleasure of interviewing this man for Awaken.com. Here is an excerpt of the written transcription. Follow the link below, to watch the first part, on Skype:

In all the Baskin/Robbins stores, there used to be large photographs on the back wall. Brown and White of Guernsey and Holstein dairy cows grazing in beautiful Wisconsin pasture. They were gorgeous and they spoke of closeness to nature and you see these cows living a beautiful life. And as a kid, working in the stores, I thought those pictures were beautiful. I believed them. Surely, that is where the milk comes from, that makes the ice cream that we are selling and manufacturing… And then, one day I went to a farm with my dad where we bought a lot of our dairy products. It was nothing like the pictures. Nothing. First of all, there was no grass anywhere. Second of all, the cows are all in confinement. They are basically imprisoned and they have very little space. And they are standing knee deep in their own manure. And they are feeding out of a trough, and I go towards the trough.

Im a kid now, probably 13 or 14 years old, and I walk towards the cow with love in my heart. Im a boy. And Im hoping, I suppose, to pet the cow. Or at least look into its eyes. I just want to make contact. And I approach slowly, and as I approach, the cow gets really frightened and agitated. And Im thinking, cows are placid creatures. What has that cow endured, that it is frightened when a small boy approaches it? What has it endured? Whats been done to it? And I investigated that. And I found out how these animals were treated and it was so opposite to the images portrayed in those pictures. And that type of green-washing or humane washing continues to this day.

https://www.awaken.com/2019/08/awaken-interviews-john-robbins-pt1-alignment-with-spirit/

Beautiful Sky (How Does Presence Heal?)

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How does presence heal?

Not as an idea, it doesn’t… and won’t. Because as an idea, it’s just one more thing to work on. One more thing to master and inevitably, get wrong. And so, it becomes another project, another item on the list: Meditate for 15m

But on this day, as I was taking my early morning walk with the dogs, grey clouds were stretched across the summer sky. The first sunbeams of the day were searching out any cracks they could find. I gazed up at all of this, while the dogs were sniffing around, and a few drops fell on my face.

The welcome contrast of a cloudy morning in the middle of the hottest and driest month took my thoughts back to the summers spent with my Italian grandmother, in Las Vegas. I remember going with grandma to the market very early, on many mornings, just to “beat the heat.”

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But one morning, we were lazing about as a sweet rain cleansed away the swelter. The coolness that stood in, on that day, awakened new scents and sounds. The strangely pleasant smell of wet asphalt filled the room where we were lying together. And chirping… “It sounds close!” … “Must be very close!”

So, I hung the upper part of my nimble, 12-year old body down, to investigate. Peering into the darkness under the bed, something jumped right up at me, grazing my cheek. I yelled out and in a lightening flash, jolted back up again. We laughed and couldn’t stop laughing. We laughed at my silliness and at the surprise of the moment. We laughed at the delight of it all. And at nothing in particular. And then we laughed some more.

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And at that moment, this morning, while my dogs continued to sniff, I was jolted back… but, differently this time. Away from the to-dos and toward everything that matters. Like a cosmic reminder, a mute meditation bell, a dramatic call to nothing at all, it silenced the busy-ness of the mind, and made room for the bounty in front of me.

Was Woodstock the First Postmodern Event? (excerpt with link)

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Here is an excerpt from today’s post on my other blog. It’s a sizeable read, but a fun one. And, I broke it down into highly readable sections. I’ve been working on this one for a while. It taps back into my college interest in postmodernism—actually, I wrote my Master’s thesis on the subject—as well as my love of the late 60s. In this article, I argue that Woodstock was the first postmodern event. Yep! Here is an excerpt and a link to it. Please follow me over there, too!

The Woodstock Music and Art Fair wasn’t just a multi-name concert. It was an expression of widespread dissatisfaction. Like the Warhol Brillo boxes, it was a statement. It was social activism. In a way that had never been seen before. It was a critique of the status quo. Although the impetus was Vietnam, it was a call for the wholesale readjustment of all social and political elements that were seen as oppressive.

Finish here:
https://fiftyyearsafter.blog/2019/07/17/woodstock-the-first-postmodern-event/

Do Your Eyes Work? What’s So Special about That?

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From my recent interview with Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, on the question of… What’s so great about now?

What is says in the great Mahayana teachings, the Heart Sutra… there is no place to go. This is the first thing people misunderstand about meditation. Now, I have to sit down and experience something cool. Something found. Something transcendent. Healing… that is better than my ordinary this moment, which is so boring and stressful. And of course, that is getting off absolutely on the wrong foot. It’s not about getting somewhere else. It’s actually allowing yourself to be where you already are.

So, you say, “what’s so special about where I already am?” Nothing, except everything. Do your eyes work? What’s so special about that? Are you breathing? What’s so special about that? Can you think and feel? What’s so special about that? Only everything. So, we take everything for granted, until we lose it. Until our eyes don’t work. Or we can’t catch our breath. Or, it feels like life is falling apart. Or, the body is falling apart.

Donna: I love that metaphor. It’s almost like, dropping in is turning our whole body and mind into a big sensory organ, like the eyes.

Jon: Which it is. The whole body is…

* The Whole Skyped Interview will soon be available to watch, on www.awaken.com (other interviews include, Dr. Dean Ornish, Byron Katie, Caroline Myss, and many others)

Why Gratitude Works

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My goal in this post is to say, as precisely and concisely as possible, why gratitude is a good thing. Because in spiritual parlance and self-help guides of all sorts, we hear it, and it sounds intuitively correct, but I’d like to be able to understand why gratitude heals, rather than have it feel like a dogmatic commandment.

The two teaching concepts I’m putting together here are Buddha’s Four Noble Truths and the Yogic model of energetic anatomy.

Buddha has famously pinpointed our attachments as the source of our chronic, self-inflicted, emotional  angst, in the second Noble Truth. He called it Trishna, which means thirst, but refers to any number of tangible and intangible attachments that we carry, at any moment in time. While this idea is often erroneously translated so as to make desires themselves the bad guys, it is rather, our attachment to them, that causes anguish. To make this less abstract, an attachment is any rigid preference. Any mental insistence that things have to be a certain way, or take a certain form.

We all have many of these attachments running, at any time, like open apps in our iPhones. For example, that I’ll never lose my money, or my job, or my car… that I’ll get the call back, or the publishing deal, or the award… that others understand me, that my peers respect me, that my family approves of my decisions, and on and on. Now, imagine if those attachments took the form of energetic cords, reaching out in all directions, plugging into those imaginary situations, out into the surrogate world, where fantasy exists… (see my drawing, above).

From the point of view of energetic anatomy, our life force, or prana, comes into our bodies through the crown of our heads. Like money given to us, it it now up to us, to manage it. If that energy gets siphoned off into myriad attachments, through energetic tendrils, reaching out into a hundred various and sundry fixations, then we’ve invested poorly and the result will be exhaustion at best, and illness at worst.

This is where gratitude comes in. Gratitude quells the inevitable discontent that comes from the endless reaching and grasping. If trishna is thirst, then gratitude is what quenches it, at the root level—from the inside, before those insatiable energetic tendrils even have a chance to stretch out and place their suction cups on anything, on the outside.

So, closing with the analogy of having open apps in our iPhones (something I didn’t know was a problem, until my grown kid looked at me aghast, while swiping them all up and making them vanish… how was I supposed to know?) Our attachments, like those open apps, sap our energy and drain our batteries. So, harnessing and managing our energy, as martial artists and Yogis have always known, becomes the whole game.

This stands from the point of view of healing and feeling better, which are really one and the same. Because the minute we find something to be grateful for, which is how to start, we instantly feel content with what is, rather than anxious about what isn’t. At that very instant, the inner struggle recedes, as we bring our focus on what we have, which feels good, rather than on lack, which feels bad.

I Don’t Have to Figure It All Out Right Now

A very simple question:

What’s the big deal about Now?

I remember one of the advanced monks asking this question to Roshi, at a Zen meditation retreat, many years ago. From Ram Dass’ 1971 classic, Be Here Now, to Eckhart Tolle’s contemporary bestseller, The Power of Now, and the ubiquitous self-help emphasis on mindfulness, it warrants the asking. It has become standard among mental health practitioners to champion this most basic of meditation practices, for its proven benefits for those suffering from depression, to PTSD to the more benign, but inescapable varieties of generalized anxiety, all as common as daily bread. And surgeons recommend it for pre-treatment nerves, as well as post-op recovery. Mindfulness is, at its most simple rendering, the ongoing act of bringing your attention to this present moment… here and now.

Sooo…..

What’s the big deal about Now?

First, let’s answer that question with another question…

Because… What if this moment, here and now, is full of pain and misery? (Why would we want to be present with it?)

The answer to this last question, is that this present moment is not full of anything, at all. It is only our heads that are full of commentary, or as my Zen teacher used to say, ruminations. He loved that word. It comes from the Latin word for chewing. Makes sense. We like to chew on stuff. And chew some more. Then, chew some more. Even when — and there usually isn’t, unless you’re solving some mathematical equation — there’s no nutritive value left in whatever it is you’re chewing on.

Why do we do this?

It’s a compulsion. And we all do it. We are all obsessive compulsive. We’re problem solvers. We want to figure out that which can’t be figured out. We want to solve… even when it’s unsolvable. And know the unknowable. We want to have all the answers, ironically… right now. We’re not so good with the idea that there’s more to come, just around the bend… and relaxing with that. It makes us feel nervous and insecure not to be sure… not to be certain about things. Although, as denoted in the Alan Watts book that started it all for me, The Wisdom of Insecurity, there is an unmistakable prudence in simply letting life dance its dance. We don’t obsess about getting to the end of the dance, or rush to get there.

When we can summon up enough faith to do that, we will have enabled within ourselves a different relationship with this moment.

And that is the answer to the first question… it’s not the now, that has so much importance, it’s our relationship to the now. When we’re living easily with what is happening now, then we will be resistance free. And being resistance free is what every spiritual tradition, everywhere, from the beginning of time, has extolled.

And how do we do that?

After 30 years of practice, I still wouldn’t call myself an expert at it. At all. But, that’s why they call it a practice. It’s never really, fully and finally, accomplished. But, I do like the Abraham-Hicks access code:

I don’t have to figure it all out, right now.

This is like a golden key. A doorway into the state of nonresistance… into a more peaceful relationship with whatever this moment holds. Use it like a mantra. Say it to yourself when panic taps its familiar tap. It works because it’s general. If it were more detailed, and applied to some specific problem, the mind would find some argument, and the ruminations would continue. But in generalized form, it dislodges the ruminations.

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Follow My Other Blog, Too!…

https://fiftyyearsafter.wordpress.com/

 

My New Year’s Message: Enter the Field of Magic

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The whole idea in life is to live in ease. To put it as Buddha did, to reduce suffering and mental angst. Finding a path of ease becomes our polestar. As Abraham Hicks says… “Whatever we do, we do because we think we’ll be happier in the doing of it.”

But, I have found that the approach to that place of ease is very different, depending on which spiritual teaching you embrace. For example, Abraham says:

“When you call source forward and you don’t block the current with contradictory thoughts, then it looks and feels like ease and grace and well-being.”

But mostly, we call sporadically, blocking that flow with our own doubts. We look too often toward other people’s opinions, and other people are not only fickle, but do not see the big picture, and are necessarily limited by their own experiences. More importantly, they have their own ideas of what constitutes a “good life.” But perhaps, most importantly of all, they came for a different purpose than we did and so, couldn’t fathom ours. Thus, by looking for their approval, we not only give away our power, but we invite confusion into our energy field. And in this way, we block our flow from source. As an analogy, it is like what happens when we pollute a river of clean, pristine, crystalline water flowing toward a feeding pond.

For most people…and for many well-meaning spiritual teachers, the answer is to “slow down the asking” because we’re not managing what we’re asking for. In other words, to stop desiring because unmet and un-manifested desires cause suffering. But that would be like saying the answer to the polluted river is to stop the flow, altogether. We’ve seen the havoc that dams create.

The answer is, rather, to enable ourselves to become a vibrational match to our desires. Said differently, to get the resistance out of the way, rather than slow the desires. You can’t drop desires anyway… the desire to take the next breath is, after all, a desire. And doesn’t the mere attempt to eradicate all desires make life dull?

The idea is to enable the desire to flow in ease, like the river. And better yet, to flow with the river. That happens when we stop slowing down the flow with doubt…when we stop sticking the oar into the mud with contradictory thoughts, which in turn, affect our overall vibration. The idea is that without resistance, we soar into a higher frequency mode of being and we come to match our desires. This is the field of grace, in which synchronicities occur.

How do we do this? By dropping into the realm of feeling, rather than overthinking. By using our “vibrational senses.” By becoming super aware of how our entire body feels in various situations and the signals it gives us. This is the feminine aspect of spiritual practice; feel the down flow of energy, the descent, rather than constant focus on the upflow, the ascent, into the concept known as “enlightenment.” Incorporate the Yin to the Yang. The “feel-flow,” like the Beach Boys song. And in this aliveness of body, step into clarity and easiness. Grace and magic. And total trust in yourself, without needing to know the details of how everything will unfold.

Yoga at Woodstock?

In my article, entitled “Woodstock: The First Postmodern Event?” I make the case that Woodstock should indeed, be considered the first truly postmodern event. In it, I explore the difference between modernism and postmodernism, and how Woodstock is different than other festivals because of the way it embraces postmodern ideals. Part of this movement included the influx of eastern ideals, many of which made their way to the festival itself. More below, along with a link to the full article on my other blog. Thanks for following me there!
~DQ

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Eastern Thought—
Part of this all-encompassing desire for social change included the openness to new ideas in spirituality. The interest in Zen Buddhism, Yoga and other religions of the East, arose with postmodernist thought and what came to be known as the “Bohemian lifestyle.” Eastern spirituality was seen as less rigid than the authoritarian western counterpart. The pervasive ideals of peace, acceptance, and nonviolence were seen as welcome alternatives to the atrophied moralistic religious dogmas of the west, which seemed to consider everything a sin. Eastern thought provided the ideals that the countercultural movement espoused….oneness.

Read entire article at my other blog:
http://fiftyyearsafter.wordpress.com

Get over Yourself! Advice from my interview with Caroline Myss

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I had the unbelievable honor, to interview Caroline Myss, last month. I have, for a long time, counted her as one of my own teachers and continue to be inspired by her books and lectures, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to have the opportunity to interview her for Awaken.com. The first part of the interview will be posted there this Sunday. For now, here is a portion of it…she is speaking about the recent pilgrimage she did through the Spanish El Camino. It contains a simple, but life-changing piece of wisdom:

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Caroline: …The Spanish valley was stunning. And I see all these little hamlets and some snow on top of the mountains. And I thought, my god is this beautiful! And I just stood there and smelled the air, that wonderful way that air smells with water in it. I just filled up my lungs and stood there and thought, this is so beautiful…I’ve never seen this before and I want to remember every single glimmer. I want to make this great, big, huge memory for the rest of my life. I want to remember this moment, standing on this mountain, standing here right now, this day. Then it occurred to me…that I couldn’t remember most of my life. Faced with desire to make a great, big, huge memory. I was confronted with the reality that I had very little memory of all the ordinary days of my life.

Donna: Like dreams.

Caroline: And it took my breath away. And then I stood there and then the second tsunami hit. And I thought, I could die in this moment. Right now, in this moment. So much life is happening on the planet in this moment. People are being born, people are dying. People are making agreements. People are getting married. People are getting divorced. Souls are coming in. Souls are leaving. Businesses are being born. All these things are happening right now, in this moment, that I am standing here. Friends are meeting. Friends are saying goodbye. Strangers are sitting next to each other. New conversations are starting. And I’m imagining all the things taking place in the moment that could be my last moment. And I am looking at this valley and thinking, this could be the last thing I see. And I thought…and I hardly remember this life that I have lived. I remember so much about it, of course, but if you said to me, “where were you on October 4th, 1967?” I have no idea. In high school, somewhere. The truth is, I thought, what a humble experience.

And who would even glance backwards, once I leave the planet and life would go on and that would be that. And then tsunami three…I didn’t remember hardly any of the things that I was once fretting about. Or, what made me so angry, or whatever, and that delighted me. And so, when you say, “what can people do?” Humble up! Get over yourself. There is nothing about your life that is that big a deal. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. You are not that important to anybody, at all. There is nothing that we are doing that someone else cannot do. Humble up! You want a practice? That’s it.
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Follow me on my other blog (next up: postmodernism & Woodstock): https://fiftyyearsafter.wordpress.com

 

The Emptiness of Anger

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While working my way through a thick stack of homework papers recently, I came across one, written by a Chinese student who spoke of his hatred toward the Japanese. I’ve received other papers through the years, alluding to the very same grudge. This common resentment is because of the Japanese invasions into China during the 1930s.

I often wonder while reading, if they even know at whom they are angry, and whether the feeling is directed toward today’s generation of Japanese. I even wonder if it is a feeling at all. It is perhaps more like a cultural habit. 

Nonetheless, if the cynicism is directed toward today’s generation, then I wonder whether these young Japanese are even familiar with the history of WWII. If they’re like most young people, it’s just an anecdote in their history books.

They are a good three generations removed from the relevant, and “chargeable” generation. This generation is busy with the same personal concerns we’re all busy with, and worried about issues that affect us all equally, like the economy, or the environment. And in a more personal context, they’re worried about transferring to a good university, the problem they’re having with their girlfriend or boyfriend, and whether they’ve used too much data on their cell phones.

In this light, it is clearly pointless to be angry at these people.

So, then what about the older generation, those who were in their prime during WWII? The culprits. In a similar line of thought, my guess is that the average Japanese person back then, was waiting for news of the war, like the rest of the world…concerned most immediately, about the safety of their families…looking for assurance that life would continue in some semblance of normalcy…hoping that their village wouldn’t be crushed. They weren’t personally involved in acts of destruction, at all, and chances are, didn’t wish for it, either.

So, who should the culprit be? Perhaps the government, but that particular assemblage is now nonexistent.

The Chinese aren’t horrible for persisting in their anger toward the Japanese. If they are, then we all are equally horrible. We all do the same thing. The Buddhists call it ignorance.

 We condemn the Germans, as a whole, for the holocaust. But all it takes is remembrance of the many Germans who tried, themselves, to bring down Hitler, and the many others who took in Jews, at their own personal risk.

Ironically, it would be all too easy to direct the same bitterness toward the Chinese, due to their violent seizure of Tibet, but the ordinary Chinese people of today have not seized Tibet, and weren’t even around when the whole thing started, some 60 years ago, under Mao. They are getting along like the rest of us, doing the things the rest of us do everyday, and probably don’t know much about it, aside from what their Government, through heavy censure, has allowed them to know.

The point is, with deeper consideration, it becomes increasingly difficult to find a target, and to hold onto anger.