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It's great to wake up in my own bed. After a month on the road I've had three weeks back in Northern Virginia.
Despite the political turmoil here, I enjoy late summer in the DC area. With so much heat and rain, the river is churning with life.
Each year I'm a little more aware of the passing details of each season. Blue Bells and Flox are distance memories and Morning Glories and Crepe Myrtle rule.
My friend Chun was fishing nearby and was surrounded by a family of chirping River Otters recently, the little ones curious and playful.
Off again, teaching at the 1440 Multiversity (https://1440.org) in California. In September, Tara and I will be on a writing retreat.
I hope you're feeling creative as we turn toward harvest time.
Shining Light on Your Shadow
Spiritual traditions point toward the possibility of increasing your capacity for true happiness. This concept seems harder and harder to grasp, though, with such social turmoil and polarization around us.
I just completed a series of talks on the "Ten Perfections," qualities of character and presence, that when polished, reflect back the light of an awakened heart and mind.
The Tenth Perfection is Equanimity - a quality of presence untouched by anything external. It's a quality of presence beyond what we think of as 'happiness.'
This quality of serenity and steadiness is the fruit of spiritual practice.
You can't make it happen, but it's easy to try to make it happen. When you do, you'll slip into premature transcendence and overlook what is between you and feeling free.
And so, the events of Charlottesville.
That Saturday I led a retreat with 115 people called "The Inquiry Intensive." It was a love-fest. It was a day of thoughtful sharing, deep listening and care, tenderness and good humor. By the end of the day I felt awe at the power of sincere, caring people exploring shared questions.
When I got home I checked the news and saw the photographs from the march. I forced myself to study the images and sit with my reaction. I was filled with not just sadness and hopelessness, but anger and outrage. And to be honest, something in me bitterly wanted revenge. It was then that I realized I was experiencing the flip side of equanimity. I was caught in the shadow of anger.
During the Buddha's lifetime he was surrounded by war and violence. Many of his relatives were directly involved in brutal conflicts. It was then that he allegedly said:
"Hatred never ceases by hatred in this world. Hatred only ceases by love. This is an unending, eternal truth."
I had the benefit of a day of slowing down to help me recognize the vitriol I was fostering.
I know that anger is connected to an unmet need. When I looked again at the images I saw a little deeper into the suffering in those photographs.
We are all influenced by unconscious forces of desire, aversion, confusion.
Unless we slow down and pay attention, our lives are nothing more than living out of reaction to what is happening. No creativity. No compassion. No love.
When we can bring loving presence to the shadow, new possibilities can emerge.
I offered a talk on this topic: Shining Light on Your Shadow. It's a personal reflection on how to recognize the early warning signs of living from a place that is less than fully alive and how to work with what you find.
As I get older I've come to see the safest refuge of all is reality.
Recent talks: Shining Light on Your Shadow
The October Retreat
Every great tradition speaks of the power of pausing and slowing down.
If you're drawn to both silence and good company, come join us!
I'll be joined by a wonderful teaching team: La Sarmiento, Pat Coffey and Sebene Selassie. Jess Frey will be leading twice-daily Kripalu-style yoga to support your sitting and walking practice.
You'll have wholesome food from the farm, visits with the goats and chickens and walks in the Maryland woods west of Baltimore.
You'll also have a few interviews with a teacher over the course of the week to help you stay present to your practice and your deepest intention.
Fresh Photos From This Month
Cormorants gather at first light. I drifted downriver to catch the sunrise lighting up the morning mist. Waiting for the sun. The sun burns through a late summer haze. For about a month, Morning Glories rule the little islands on the river. Protecting the turf. This is the time of year when the spiders seems to know their time is up and they dramatically step up their activity. Hanging with the family. First light. Another day.
Video: Branta Canadensis Belchus
I got some amazing footage this month. I'm getting to know my new camera. My Lumix GH5 has five-axis image stabilization, can shoot 60fps at 4k as well as high definition (1080p) slow motion.
Due to the fact that I'm heading to California early, I've not had time to edit these clips into form. You'll see them next month. I did have a few minutes to put together this video: Branta Canadensis Belchus.
I'm happy to see that my commitment to the visual arts is reaching new depths of expression.
The Awaken App on Kickstarter
Ravi Mishra attended the Fall retreat last year. Among the many ideas popping through during the course of the week was the idea for an app that would support people in their practice. As he describes it, "This is my way of responding, not reacting." It's called Awaken and it's on Kickstarter.
It's called Awaken and it's on Kickstarter. You can read more here: https://whynotawaken.com/kickstarter
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