Sunday, November 18, 2012

Winter Lotus Leaf

After an early morning rain shower the sun was just coming out from behind the clouds. I went to the backyard to breath the newly cleansed fresh air. I noticed in my small pond the rain had formed beautiful beads on top of the aging lotus leaves. The morning sun was reflected and refracted from the almost perfect globes of water. The surface of the miraculous lotus leaf still is capable of repelling water even in a state of decay.
I took out my camera with a macro lens and photographed the following close-up scenes. Editing the photos revealed highly textured and contrasting miniature landscapes. The glistening and polished rain droplets almost seem to hover above the rough surface of the lotus leaf. The macro lens with high resolution images further reveals a magnfied scene within each tiny rain drop.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wearing the Sun Mask: Giving and Receiving Meditation

A friend recently shared with me difficulties with working in the family business. It felt futile to try to make improvements in order to achieve prosperity. The chaotic family dynamics present  a seemingly insurmountable challenge. How is it possible to attain the focus required to rise above the situation? The tendency to fall into negative patterns constantly inhibits the ability to move forward and achieve the dream of prosperity.

The quest for prosperity is fickle even under the best circumstances. Sometimes it appears very possible, other times it seems impossible. Accepting the chaos is not easy. Even after achieving acceptance, learning how to effectively live within the chaos is more difficult still.

This story reminded me of the "Theater of the Absurd", the existentialist plays and poetry. Have you read some of the plays by Eugene Ionesco, Samuel Beckett and Jean-Paul Sartre? The genre embraces tragic (but somehow comical) studies of characters stuck in chaotic life situations; stuck in samsara. The play "No Exit" epitomizes the condition of suffering. 

The satirists do not provide the instruction on how to exit chaos. It is Buddhism that teaches us that the only escape from samsara is enlightenment.

When we are stuck in chaotic circumstances we feel weighed down by the gravity of our situation. Gravity is all embracing. It is a type of nostalgia for becoming spherical; returning to the womb. But we do not see it as spherical, we perceive it as horizontal. Life is two-dimensional. We are flatlanders and cannot see beyond the horizon.

Succumbing to gravity is a condition of cycling, orbiting and localization. We can think of it as being stuck in a pattern of cyclic existence. The Buddhists call this samsara. We feel as if there is movement, and there is, but there is a lot of going around in circles. We cannot escape from the surface.

Escaping gravity is to be radiant and expand beyond the surface of our situation. It is not easy to rise above and escape the pull of flatland thinking. We must look to the heavens. Our intention must be to focus upward and outward from the surface.

Bucky Fuller said, "Horizontal is to die, vertical is to live."

Rising above the horizontal gravitation-ally challenged existence requires building up a great deal of potential energy. Like a rocket that requires a tremendous fuel supply to reach escape velocity, we must find a source of energy and fuel ourselves for this great vertical journey. 

So we meditate and gather our strength and store up the fuel in our tanks. We do nothing other than sit and breathe; watching our breath go in and out.

Meditation is a subversive method of planning our escape. I say "subversive" in a good way. We subvert our tendency to move sideways, scuttling around the surface like a nervous crab. Instead, we connect with the emptiness of our efforts to find prosperity in this flatland, within samsara. Once we realize the truth of this emptiness we can sit perfectly still and put our mind at rest, abandoning our quest for prosperity.

What, did I say? Abandon our quest for prosperity? This is indeed a subversive thought. However, there is great joy in abandoning prosperity. Through meditation we embrace the simple, profound truth of finding ultimate meaning in the simple act of sitting up straight, breathing in and out. The joy and boundless energy of the cosmos washes over us. We are free of gravity and become a source of radiant energy ourselves. Focused on the single task of breathing in and out we discover an infinite store of radiant energy.

This is the essence of the meditation practice of "Tonglen", the Tibetan Buddhist practice of "Giving and Receiving". We breath in and receive the suffering of all beings trapped in samsara. We breath out and transmit radiant joy and happiness to all beings with the intent to alleviate their suffering. 

Breath in and feel the gravity of all beings' situation. Use the gravity to pull in all the suffering of all beings into a critical mass in the center of your heart. Like our Sun pulls in all surrounding matter and fuses the very atoms together releasing profound life-giving radiant energy, we convert this mass of suffering into boundless joy and radiate positive energy throughout the surrounding universe.

Sun mask sculpture, "Tamanuitera" by James Webster,
a Maori multimedia artist working with wood sculpture,
stone, bone, painting and mural creations.
He comments that his work is
"Art as a passion in life and a journey of discovery."
Pasted from <>

We become a living-breathing Sun God. We put on the Sun Mask and shine our light throughout the world. The Sun is the ultimate victor over gravity, using gravity to fuse cold, dark, life-less matter into radiant life-giving energy, the source of fuel for all life in the cosmos. 

Would you like to know how the Sun performs this miracle of giving and receiving? Breath in and breath out, give and receive.