Tag Archives: quote

Highly Recommended: Chasing Ice

chasing+ice+james+balog

I finally got to watch Chasing Ice this week. I tried to catch it in local theaters when it was playing, but I missed it. Now it’s on Netflix, and I got to watch it on my own schedule. I loved it just as much as I thought I would. It’s an important film. It’s a must see and a must recommend. In this day & age awareness is imperative. Please be aware, please make sure those around you are aware. Watch Chasing Ice to see what I mean. It’s just the tip of the iceberg though! Awareness in general is ongoing, and is extremely important to every aspect of our lives. And in many cases, our lives depend on it.

glacier-james-balog

“All the time. There is an acute sense of time passing, an acute sense of mortality, an acute sense of history in the making with this project. And history is in the making. These landscapes are being reshaped as you and I talk here. And the people of the future, decades and centuries in the future, will look at these pictures and marvel at what was and is no more. …And the other thing that will happen when they look at these pictures is they will wonder why the people of the techno-industrial world were not paying better attention to this issue when we had all this evidence to hand.” — James Balog

chasing ice movie
[Photographs are by James Balog, and the whole film is based on his work.]

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The Dhamma Brothers: How Vipassana Meditation Transforms Lives

meditation quote

The Dhamma Brothers is a documentary film about the first maximum-security prison in the USA to use a Vipassana meditation program (Vipassana means insight or clear-seeing) to rehabilitate its prisoners. (There is also another prison documentary called Doing Time, Doing Vipassana that shows how this program works. The program is Indian in origin.)

In the film you learn about the 10 day Vipassana meditation program, as well as what its like to be part of the program. You will also witness the results. At the bottom of this blog post is a recent letter that one of the prisoners sent to the film’s director Jenny Phillips. The prisoners continue dhamma brothers meditationtheir meditation practice to this day (it’s been over 10 years). The program truly transformed their lives, it gave them a life long practice, a tool for not only understanding the self, but for greater awareness & peace.

I won’t say much more about the film, other than to see it. As far as Vipassana programs go — I recommend them. I’ve participated in several Vipassana programs over the years (at Spirit Rock & Insight Meditation Society). The basic program is outlined in the documentaries: 10 days of silence & meditation — no talking, no reading, no music, no phone, no entertainment, no vigorous exercise, no computer — just 10 hours of meditation daily (plus eating & sleeping & walking, of course) — while you learn to observe the sensations in the body (observing without a reaction). During that time, deep feelings that have been suppressed begin to surface. Not being able to mask or dull oneself with daily distractions (like entertainment, constant chit-chat or obsessive busy-ness) can become difficult. Many people have no idea what it’s like to just be with oneself. The 10 day Vipassana program provides the support & facility to do that.

Dear Jenny,

I once said of Vipassana meditation, “This feels like freedom”. I spoke only of what I was feeling at that time. I had no reason, not even the idea that has attached itself to me these last six weeks. During that time, I have been meditating in my cell four hours a day. It is all so very clear to me now. Vipassana is freedom. It is the freedom – I believe with all my being – that very few people attain.

I have none of those longings to be out of here. At the same time, I don’t have the desire to be here. Everything is just so right. All things are connected, and I am just a tiny part of the universal beauty. I am not always able to maintain this level of pure contentment. I sometimes become sad until I realize I’ve developed attachments, and I quickly find balance. It is so wonderful to be detached while at the same time to be a part of a stream that flows through everything.

Jenny, I don’t know that words could really communicate these feelings, but I simply have tried to tell you about them. I think that I am missing something, but even that is okay.

Much metta,
Johnny Mack

If you have a direct question about Vipassana programs or other meditation practices, you can email me (my address is above, in the blog header menu) or leave a comment below. I teach meditation & I practice it in various ways. Meditation is not only a big part of my life — it is my life. I realized that the most important thing I could do is be. You can read more of my thoughts on being in The Tao of Disasters & How I Practice Meditation, as well as my website www.AimeeLovesYou.com

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Banned TED Talks — banned by TED? Really?

banned-TED-talksWhen I heard that there were TED Talks that were banned, I never assumed that TED (who’s mission is: “to offer free knowledge & inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers”) was the one banning them (or pulling them out of mainstream view). When I heard that the talks included Sarah Silverman, Eddie Huang as well as Graham Hancock, I could kind of figure out why. Those are names that became famous for saying what others wouldn’t say or for doing things others wouldn’t do, (along with genuine talent, brilliant thinking & various accomplishments too of course). But when I heard that Rupert Sheldrake was included in that bunch, it really made me suspicious. It made me think that maybe there was content that higher powers didn’t want us to hear or know. [When I say ‘higher powers,’ I mean people that are ego-maniacs & want to control the population with what we collectively consider power: ownership, inheritance, knowledge, fame, resources or money. When we collectively no longer consider those things or types of people powerful, they won’t be. Until then, we play the collective game. The important thing, is to remember it’s a game you chose to go along with, by agreeing to the rules — living within the rules, modeling yourself after the rules — you have agreed to play.]

Relaxing into life & letting go, being open to various possibilities, giving up a false sense of control, not pretending to know it all — make a great number of people quiver (not just TED, which is why they banned some of their own videos). When dogmas are challenged, or the beliefs people hold dear are perforated, they lose their footing. They panic. They create enemies (in order to justify their dogmas & beliefs). And to be clear, we all do this in various ways about various things we believe in to get us through our day-to-day lives. But why do we need dogmas, beliefs, or things we want to feel certain about to get us through our lives? (Both religion & science fans are included in that question.) Why do those concepts feel like good footing or a powerful structure for us? What about those ideas or thoughts allow us to feel secure? To feel secure, like we know what’s going on, or have a handle on things?

science dogmaWhat if Rupert Sheldrake was right, & we could just say, everything is always changing.  And we could be lighthearted about it & flexible — open to possibility. What if we became more fluid, more all-encompassing, more all-embracing & unconditional? For many, it’s a scary thought. They think with real openness, equality & freedom, the world would go mad! They’d think we would be living in a crazy world, where anything goes, & life is chaotic. Well, it already is! And maybe it is, because we are so fixed. Unbearably rigid to the point where we cause our own suffering & ruin. We are bound to concepts & ideas & beliefs that aren’t working for us. How do I know they aren’t working? I can look at lives in general, I can see how people eat-up entertainment & are always starving for distraction. As well as the need to medicate or mask everything — as they search for lasting peace, love & joy outside of themselves, in things that could never give them what they truly want.

I can also look back at TED Talks & review the 5 most watched TED Talks to date (updated by TED on November 8, 2012). Almost all of them deal with the very subject that Rupert Sheldrake is addressing & mentioning: “everything depends on evolving habits and not on fixed laws”, “thinking less dogmatically can open things up” & “our minds are extended beyond our brains”.

“The fact that I was banned actually confirms what I am saying…”
— Rupert Sheldrake

There is a lopsided way in which we are living, where the material aspect of life is the be-all, end-all. Thinking & living like that doesn’t allow much room for play. And please don’t say “We live in such a creative playful time! Look at the artists & the creators of our culture, as well as the opportunities for them!” As a ted censorshipprofessional artist or creative person, I know all too well how orchestrated it is. And as for our culture, there isn’t a democracy. We can talk about the government & law & rights & all sorts of things, & wind-up at a dead end. I see a culture of people wanting to be happy & looking for fulfillment in the mass accumulation of things (or select prized things & positions). I see people desperate for approval & a place to belong. And lets not forget the billions working at jobs they don’t love, but feel like they have to take that sort of work on (in order to play the game we all created).

There has to be an easier way. And as I experiment with the words Ease or Effortless in my life, I begin to see more & more that I was sold a bill of goods. I was sold junk concepts that never worked, never felt right, & never gave me a sense of real freedom or joy. The more I look into “not everything depends on fixed laws”, the more I bravely step into the unknown; the more I feel free; the more life feels universal, connected & unlimited — instead of individual, separate & fixed.

Embedded below is the talk by Rupert Sheldrake that TED disapproved of. (Just listen to the clapping & praise Sheldrake got after his talk at the TED conference. Now why would they ban it? It was obviously greatly approved of by the TED conference itself. –Interesting.) And below the video, is a letter that Sheldrake wrote to TED in response to TED’s actions & comments regarding his talk.

Rupert Sheldrake
March 18, 2013

I would like to respond to TED’s claims that my TEDx talk “crossed the line into pseudoscience”, contains ”serious factual errors” and makes “many misleading statements.”

This discussion is taking place because the militant atheist bloggers Jerry Coyne and P.Z. Myers denounced me, and attacked TED for giving my talk a platform. I was invited to give my talk as part of a TEDx event in Whitechapel, London, called “Challenging Existing Paradigms.” That’s where the problem lies: my talk explicitly challenges the materialist belief system. It summarized some of the main themes of my recent book Science Set Free (in the UK called The Science Delusion). Unfortunately, the TED administrators have publicly aligned themselves with the old paradigm of materialism, which has dominated science since the late nineteenth century.

TED say they removed my talk from their website on the advice of their Scientific Board, who also condemned Graham Hancock’s talk. Hancock and I are now facing anonymous accusations made by a body on whose authority TED relies, on whose advice they act, and behind whom they shelter, but whose names they have not revealed…

[For the uncensored full scoop on Eddie Huang’s TED experience, in his own words, Click Here. For more information about the Sarah Silverman TED situation, Click Here. To watch Graham Hancock’s banned TED Talk, Click Here. If you would like to see a full lecture of Rupert Sheldrake’s titled Science Set Free, Click Here.]

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With New Eyes: The Photography of Chris Jordan & The Responsibility We All Share

chris-jordan-midway

Plastic grocery bags & ziplock pouches piling up. Numerous bottle caps of various sizes. Mesh fruit bags & bands. Vegetable rubber bands. Labels & stickers. Where do they go? Maybe we should take notice.

I read a great quote the other day: “What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness” (quote by Jean Jacques Rousseau)

How kind are we being when we take things for granted? How wise are we being when we destroy lives & disregard the environment?

I found Chris Jordan‘s work in January of 2012. I posted several of his photographs on my AimeeLovesYouXo Facebook page that week. Then, just over a year later, a friend sent me an email with a film that Chris Jordan completed about his MIDWAY project:

We can never be reminded enough. We can never be told enough, or shown enough. Every day, every moment, is opportunity to wake up to our own madness. The world will not wait for us to come around. Now is always the time.

In the world of form, change is inevitable. There is no escaping change. So instead of acting as though nothing is happening, or everything can stay the same — why not say “Ah! An opportunity to explore change! An opportunity to evolve. To begin again. To see with new eyes. To feel with a bigger more expansive heart! To exist with a greater awareness. What a gift this opportunity is. What a gift responsibility & a need for change is. Thank you for this gift.”

When we look at the state of the world, the state of mankind, with gratitude for the work that needs to be done, it’s a lot more empowering than guilt, shame or blame. (Plus, being in a state of gratitude just feels a whole lot better, & its way more productive.) We live in a very important time. I feel lucky to be alive as so much is rapidly changing. I feel fortunate to be able to look at my past actions & say to myself, “What was I thinking?” It means I have actually witnessed the evolution of myself. I have witnessed a transformation. An expansion of awareness. And if it is liberating & powerful for me, imagine if this is happening to everyone at the same time. How could it not be exciting? How could it not be an opportunity? How could it not be a gift?

Let’s take advantage of this opening to see, act, hear & feel with greater awareness. Let’s share with each other & help in any way we can. Let’s take responsibility individually with ourselves, as well as collectively with each other. We’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s up to us to make it happen. Day by day, moment by moment. Everything counts.

….And before I go, just remember: Plastic bags & other plastic packaging can take up to 1,000 years to breakdown, so even when an animal dies & decays after ingesting a bag, the plastic re-enters the environment, posing a continuing threat to wildlife. Packaging now accounts for 1/3 of all household waste. Please be kind. Please consider this. Always.

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Do you want to be right or happy?

carousel+freedom

There is always room for blame. There is always a reason, an excuse, a point-of-view; why things are the way they are. Why people are they way they are. Why the world is the way it is. It’s easy to say “That’s not right. Someone or something is wrong.” But who’s job is it to correct it? To make it right. To set it straight?

The answer is never outside of ourselves. Life is always a mirror. When we see something we consider wrong; something a mess or amiss, there is always a reflection of something we personally need to clean-up or set straight. It could be a matter of ‘letting go’, or it could be a matter of taking personal responsibility for correcting in ourselves what we dislike most about others. It’s easy to say “I’m not like that” or “I didn’t do that.” But an individual life or personality is vast, there is always something within ourselves that we don’t want to see or acknowledge. Something we are doing or being that isn’t in alignment with our highest values. There is also deep-rooted misery within ourselves that we desperately need to discharge, release or defuse (if only for a moment), through pointing the finger or through seeing life as lopsided. It takes the responsibility off of us, & sets it somewhere else. This misery, or this thing we can’t put our finger on, is the very thing that gets triggered easily by others, or by life itself.

If you let go a little you will have a little peace; if you let go a lot you will have a lot of peace; if you let go completely you will have complete peace.
– Ajahn Chah

When I see a ‘mature’ person. It touches me deeply. I feel the truth & the wisdom in who they are being. When I say mature, I am using the word as this quote does: Maturity begins to grow when you can sense your concern for others outweighing your concern for yourself (quote by John Macnaughton). But when I read that quote, I don’t think that it means to put yourself or your personal needs aside & to place everyone before you — but to see that there is no separation between you & anything in the world. Turning a blind eye, tuning out, being defensive, judging harshly, or being cruel — it only means that you are ultimately treating or viewing yourself that way. In the end, everything comes back to you. Each life happens through the eyes of the one living it. Therefore, we can either fully open up to life; trust it, get intimate with it — or we can shut down, close ourselves off & wonder why life is so difficult.

carousel_lonelinessWhen there is a strong need to be right about ideas we have, or about the way life should be, or about the way people ought to behave, we set ourselves up for suffering. We actually begin to confuse ourselves, because we start to live life from the mind instead of the heart. We let fear & ego take a position of power, instead of simply allowing life to flow, & allow love to be the driving force in all that we do.

I often think of the quote: Do you prefer that you be right or happy? (quote from A Course in Miracles T-29.VII.1:9). I think of it when I see someone suffering over an idea they have about the way things should be, or when I find myself hanging on desperately to something as ephemeral as a thought. A thought that I know isn’t getting me what I ultimately want. And what can we all say we ultimately want? Everyone wants to be happy. Yet many of us are on a mind-game carousel that takes us nowhere, or better yet, to a place of pointless suffering & energy wasted. Many of us would like to get off this ride. If only we could see that we ourselves, no one else, has the power to stop it.

For me, self-inquiry helps to stop the mind-game carousel. To simply stop; to look nowhere for answers but within. To be honest with myself. To ask myself questions. To get to know myself on a deeper level. It doesn’t matter what others are doing or saying. But to witness with compassion what I am doing & saying, what I am thinking & feeling, & why. After that, my mind slows down. I become more spacious & patient, more open & tolerant — more understanding. I begin to see everyone as the same, & life itself as perfect, unfolding as it should. My breathing goes from shallow to full. My body releases its tension. My attitude lightens up. My face brightens up. My heart opens up. And my mind follows my heart, it too opens up. There is no longer a need to be right, not even a desire. To be happy is more than enough.

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every individual has an opportunity

“Every wave on the ocean sea has the opportunity to embrace within itself as great an amount of water at its base as it likes. The whole ocean could be drawn in a single wave; it is possible that one wave could draw upon the strength of the entire ocean and rise with infinite power.

Similarly, every individual has an opportunity available to gain for himself the strength of the unlimited, eternal, absolute Being and thus, be powerful to the maximum extent possible.

When there is a possibility for a wave to enjoy the limitless strength of the ocean, does it not amount to a sheer waste to be tossed about by the breeze in a weak and powerless manner? When there is open to every man the opportunity of gaining unlimited power, energy, existence, intelligence, peace, and happiness, then is it not a waste of life to remain in a limited, weak, and powerless state?”

This week’s blog post is a re-post. I originally posted it on August 8th, 2010. But I think we could all use the reminder. Or at least I can. So I decided to share it again.

The quote is from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, & the illustration is by James Jean.

May this blog post remind us of the unlimited potential that we not only have, but that we are.

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The Great Liberation

tibetan book of the dead

I stumbled across a film by chance the other day, The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation (full movie embedded below). For me the film is more like what it is like to be alive, than dead. The drama; the mystery; the illusions; the concepts; the confusion; the laughter; the tears — the dance of it all. The beauty & ugliness of it all. The sacredness of it all. It’s represented as the experience of death in the film (for the dead & the ones dealing with death), but I see it as life.

Finding the balance between material & metaphysical is imperative. And why would we ever believe otherwise, since we are of the two? One way to realize such balance is by reverence. Deep respect for both aspects of ourselves — both aspects of life. In this reverence, our life is sacred, as all lives are sacred. Everything becomes a gift. Humility becomes the ultimate virtue. Not a false humility, that we sometimes present to each other, but a real humility. A humility that is honest, that knows its place in the universe. That kind of humility is not immobilizing, but liberating. It sets one free of any self-importance based on confusion.

Arrogance can create so much disharmony & unhappiness for people. Considering all of the privilege, intelligence, creativity, & abundance Western culture has, or any modern-day culture (that the west has more than likely influenced),  they haven’t figured out how to be at peace (with life, or with themselves), or how to be content (even thought they have more than enough). It’s easy to see the truth in this quote by Robert Thurman: “In contrast to Western ideas, the Tibetan view is that the mental or spiritual cannot always be reduced to material quanta and manipulated as such —- the spiritual is itself an active energy in nature, subtle but more powerful than the material.”

Modern-day culture, is so focused on the material side of life: be it money (the number one goal for most people’s day), processions (the number two goal for most people’s lives), or physical looks (the obsession people have with the body’s appearance is extreme — to the point where surgery, as well as toxic grooming procedures is the norm). Where is the other side of life? And I don’t mean religion, because to me that doesn’t mean spiritual — it means ritual. When I say spiritual, I mean that which can not be labeled. There would be no words I could use to represent it. No ritual I could do to capture it. As well as no individual that has exclusive rights to it.

I found a great comment on Youtube. It was posted in regards to the film on The Tibetan Book of the Dead: “We are constantly dying, each moment. Where is the You of 3 years old? That is not you. That 3 year old is long gone. Consciousness is constantly morphing into something else but it will never know Non-existence. Non-existence doesn’t exist and cannot be known. The mistake is to identify with the contents of consciousness, rather than consciousness itself. It is your history that makes you believe you are a person. ‘You’ are not the Dreamer. ‘You’ are the Dreamed.”

I loved reading this line: The mistake is to identify with the contents of consciousness, rather than consciousness itself. If you look back on much (or all) of one’s personal suffering, how much of it is based on this false identification? For me I can easily say all of it. It’s clear to me that when I am most happy, or when I truly feel free or content, it is when I am simply awareness. In that moment, the fixation on something or to be something, or to have things go my way, completely disappears. What is left is only the force which moves all things & unites all things. Everything becomes a dance, a play of energy. A moment to moment expression in form. Death & birth are equal, like seasons, they simply give way to the next phase of life. Therefore, death is not the end of life, but life itself. When we can’t embrace death, we aren’t embracing life.

That being said, for most of us, the idea of death, or of change is a scary one. A topic most wish to avoid or coverup. The fear that our physical form (or form in general) is temporary, is an overwhelming thought. It’s overwhelming because it forces us to give up control. To give up any idea that we can take things with us; to give up the idea that we know all about life (including all stages of it, like birth or death); to give up and accept, that the bodies of those we love are only here for a short time; to accept that we can’t stop our decaying process, as we move closer to death with each passing day.

What we can do, is love & appreciate. Take good care of the body we temporarily get to use as we experience the world; gently use the resources that we have available to us & give back to those resources by helping them to flourish & stay beautiful for future generations; have compassion towards all life & this includes all living beings (regardless of species); love as best we can & as much as we can (ideally, loving unconditionally); & finally, laugh with life & enjoy it all. Enjoy every minute as an opportunity to love, to learn & to evolve. Freely & humbly enjoying all that life is — at whatever season or phase it may be passing though.

I posted this quote on my Facebook page this week, & I think it’s a perfect quote to end on: “To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.”

[The last quote is by George Santayana.]

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