Consciousness… Week 07

a Moment for Wisdom…



A Moment for…



“To become wholly compassionate requires us to open our eyes and hearts, to behold the pain and exploitation our culture obscures, to arouse deadened emotions, and to rise above our egos.”

Joann Stepaniak

“It seems in every interaction there is something to learn if we can only see ourselves as students. If we can humble ourselves, and allow ourselves to see the world without our own beliefs and dogmas, then we could see so much beauty awaiting us in each moment.”

Sukh Chugh





Personal Wisdom:


Are you willing “to behold the pain and exploitation our culture obscures”?  What are the consequences of doing so?


What is it that deadens our emotions?   What do we believe we gain from this?


Societal Wisdom:


To what purpose does our society obscure pain and exploitation?  What does our society believe is gained by doing so?



a Moment with Sharif…




Okay, so which is it:look for beauty or look for ugly? 


I think these two quotes are not contradictions.  I think they are calling upon us to do something:  PAY ATTENTION.  To the All.


Let’s take the first quote.


We’ve all seen the bumper stickers: “If you are not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”
I actually agree with that.  There is so much that is absurd, cruel, crazy, toxic and plain dumb
in our world… it’s like we’re all the butt of a cruel joke – that we’re playing on ourselves.
(Remember: this is just the caterpillar breaking down into the goo, so that it can reconstitute itself into a butterfly.  Stay tuned…)


And… at the same time… there is so much that is beautiful in the world, even in the midst of the ugly.  BOTH occur, at the same time, sometimes at the same place.We are being called upon to pay attention to BOTH.


Some years ago, while I was still recuperating from surgery, I received some photos from Sri Lanka of the devastation caused by the tsunami.  One of the photos stopped me short: in the image, Dr. Ariyaratne was standing in the foreground, along with my back-fence neighbor and long-time friend, Lalitha.  In the background was the broken landscape of tsunami damage, along with several dead bodies clearly visible.  The thing that was disturbing about the photo: both Ari and Lalitha had pulled aside the masks they were wearing to block the stench of death.  Both of them were SMILING.


How could they smile at a time like that, completely surrounded by images of pain and suffering?Were they heartless and uncaring?  Had the unbelievable wreckage and death driven them nuts?


It took me awhile to work out the message they were sending in this photo – to the world, and especially to me.  The message was simple: all is impermanent.  Life and death is merely a cycle.  And the fulfillment of one’s purpose is being of service: in the best of times and in the worst.


In the Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna instructs Arjuna to “learn to see a heap of gold and a heap of dung with the same eye”.  Anything else means being caught in the illusion of cause and effect, being trapped in sensate desires.


We live in a world that would make King Suddhodana, the Buddha’s father, very proud.  We live in a society that shields us from images of death, pain, suffering, sickness… or spoon-feeds them to us in sanitized droplets.  (It calls to mind the 1976 documentary, “Meat”, which simply showed what happens inside a meat-processing facility.  It was BANNED in several states!  Important: the practices were not banned… only showing the practices was banned.  King Suddhodana at work!)


Can we meet this crazy world with the humility and patience of a monk?  Not with dogma and inappropriate practices, but with the true essence of our authentic selves?  Not with meaningless red tape, bureaucracy and endless meetings, but with a heart calmed by compassion, a soul fed by service?


I believe that we can have a profoundly different relationship to the world… but only with practice.  The time to practice equanimity and inclusivity is not when you’re surrounded by piles of dead bodies.  That’s the time to draw on the reserves of strength you have built up, not the time to start working out.  The time to start the practices of humility, inclusivity and spiritual strength is… right now.  Below.







Consciousness Exercises:


This week’s “Consciousness” exercises: 


To “rise above our egos” means that we first must become aware of our egos.  Too often, we use the term “ego” to refer to one’s Self, one’s Personality (the interface between Self and three-dimensional reality).  The two are NOT the same.


The Personality is the interface with the world – as long as we exist in three-dimensional reality, there will exist the interface.  The ego, on the other hand, is just a thought – a thought that can think about itself.  (That’s a pretty good trick!)  We confuse that “I” thought with the essence of our being…


Your Praxis exercise this week is to work on unraveling the “ego” thought from the essence of your Personality:


  1. Add an additional 10 minutes to your regular meditation.  In this time, I want you to
    focus on the Personality, the Interface.  Simply become aware of your senses, without thinking about them, and without making any judgments about them.
  2. If you feel cold (or hot, or tired…), say (out loud or silently) “There is cold”.Not, “Wow, I’m really cold, I wonder if it’s going to warm up today, what happened to the Summer, I’ve got to clean the furnace, I should get a blanket….)
    1. Avoid saying, “I am…”.  Substitute “There is…”
    2. Avoid any judgments or beliefs.  What you experience is neither “good” nor “bad”.  It is PERFECT.  It could not be otherwise.
  3. If you are having problems with your thoughts (so much and so many, you can’t stop the flood), try doing this chant, on the out-breath, 33 times:

 May all beings be well,

May all beings be secure,

May all beings be happy.


  1. In a few days, you may notice a “space” opening up betweenyour thoughts.  Try not to judge THAT!  Getting into “Wow, I’m really making some progress!” simply locks you back into “ego-thoughts”.
  2. Notice that this “space” is very satisfying.  Even after the ten minutes, you may find yourself wanting to hang out in this space more often.  Great!  But, do not become too attached to it… there is so much more awaiting you!  Just try to expand your time, to 15 minutes or even 30 minutes per day.
  3. What comes next? There is no “next”.  Just practice.  You don’t get on the stationary bicycle at the gym with a destination in mind.


A Note about the “Consciousness” Theme:


Beginning in September, the three Praxis themes will change.  We will come back to
the issue of “Consciousness” in subsequent months – this is a nearly bottomless topic!  I have quite a backlog built up in some of the other themes, so we’ll switch and come back to “Consciousness” later.







All photos by Sharif Abdullah, unless otherwise noted.








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