Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Harmless Speech Agreement and Community

Three years ago, Luminous Mind was founded with an intention for the Buddhist ethic of right speech to prevail in our community: not lying, slandering, speaking abusively or gossiping.

It's a high standard and we all fail from time to time, so it's good to regularly refresh our awareness and vow to speak in ways that are beneficial, not harmful, to oneself and others.

Here is the blog written three years ago to introduce a daring invitation... to take the Harmless Speech Agreement. I invite you to join me in taking it newly or for the first time:  Harmless Speech Agreement. While you're there, there are a number of articles in May 2009 about speech, looking at Buddha's teaching on right speech in a number of ways.

Speech is such a huge aspect of our lives and taking the vow will illuminate the places where we still have work to do. A good place to start is with your spiritual community. As the saying goes, "Don't (poop) where you eat." Keep your source of spiritual community and sustanance clean of harmful speech and thoughts. Don't talk about the people in your spiritual community. Don't pass on hearsay. If you have a concern, talk to the person directly, with the knowledge that your perception may be wrong, or else let it go. We don't have to be dharma cops on each other.

Life is messy. Waking up? The messiest. I am committed that we cultivate a culture where it's safe to be flawed, to be human, to simply be.... in other words, an environment of awareness. As we watch our speech, we'll wake up more and more to our own patterns and won't be able to project them on to others.

I make the same commitment to our participants. Gossip is the fastest way to ruin a community, and we're not having it here.

Tricycle Buddhist Magazine has recently offered some great teachings on Right Speech online.

Tricycle Teachings: Right Speech -- A 69-page e-book or pdf with the following chapters.

  1. "Right Speech," by the Buddha
  2. "Say it Right," by Katy Butler
  3. "Skillful Speech," by Allan Lokos
  4. "The Buddhist Guide to Gossip," by Nancy Baker
  5. "Family Dharma: Right Speech Reconsidered," by Beth Roth
  6. "Right Speech from a Tibetan Buddhist Perspective," by Roger Jackson
  7. "Right Speech in Marriage," by Susan Piver Brown
  8. "Right Lying," by Lin Jensen
  9. "The Truth about Gossip," by Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron

Right Speech: Online Retreat -- Four 20-30 minute video teachings by Vishvapani Blomfield. Throughout the retreat, Vishvapani shows us how to engage in Right Speech by asking ourselves, no matter what the medium: Is it truthful? Is it effective? Is it beneficial? Is it kind? Speech, Vishvapani tells us, is a central part of being human-it's what connects us to the people we surround ourselves with. When practiced wisely, Right Speech can have powerful and transforming effects and allow us to express true wisdom and compassion.

For full access to Tricyle's online offerings, you may need to become a member, but the donation is minimal.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Snow Day -- No Meeting Tonite

Tonight's meeting is cancelled due to the possibility of icy streets. Let's all stay safe and warm. We'll continue next week with Chapter 6 of Ken McLeod's Book, Wake Up to Your Life. (New books are in for $13.)

For this week, read the Earth Dakini practice and notice the earth element as part of your daily inner and outer life.

Resources for the Dakini Practice have been posted here:

It includes handouts, additional books for study (with links to Amazon), and links to Ken's podcast retreat on the Five Dakinis / Five Elements.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Dr. Mario Martinez to speak at First UU Nashville this Sunday, Feb. 6

Dr. Martinez is the founder of biocognitive psychology and a friend of Luminous Mind. He will be speaking at both morning services on February 6, 9 and 11 am. Topic:

 "Archetypal Wounds and their Healing Fields:
How the Mind Communicates with the Body"

When we lack sufficient protective skills, those responsible for shaping our early histories can inflict emotional pain that disrupts the natural development of self valuation. Although these traumatic events occur under different conditions, their biosymbols (symbols affecting biology) remain the same across cultures, and surface
as archetypal wounds.

Drawing from biocognitive science, chaos theory, and ancient Tibetan psychology, Dr. Martinez teaches how to identify the subtle scripts of fear that sabotage our pursuit of joy, and how to establish a foundation of safety that facilitates mind-body healing. As the internal language that supports fear changes, the paralyzing perception of impending defeat is replaced with biosymbolic hope and a predisposition for abundance.

Dr. Mario E. Martinez is a clinical psychologist who lectures worldwide on his theory of Biocognitive Psychology (how cultural beliefs affect the immune system and longevity). He specializes in psychoneuroimmunology and has published numerous professional articles on mind-body psychology. In his psychological novel, "The Man from Autumn," he explores how science and the wisdom of theologian mystics can be converged to treat psycho-spiritual conflicts that can lead to illness. He has investigated cases of alleged stigmata for the Catholic Church, the BBC and National Geographic.

For more details on Biocognitive psychology theory and practice, please go to

For directions to the church, please go to

Thursday, February 3, 2011

This Friday: Dakini Practice Class 1

We're beginning a very exciting and intense section of our study. We will be learning the Dakini Practice as taught by Ken McLeod, as a way of working with the way our reactions manifest. We will be learning the language of the five elements and five dakinis, also known as the five Buddha families. We'll be studying back and forth between the book and Ken's podcast on this subject, integrating the material slowly and surely. This Friday night we will listen to Ken's opening talk on the Five Dakini practice, as given during a week-long retreat.

FEFD01: Five Elements / Five Dakinis (retreat)
Session 1
Dakini practice as a way of refining experience, comparison with Mahamudra practice; dakini practice as tool to raise energy; review of elements in relationship to emotional patterns and as descriptions of experience; nature of dakinis: “know dakinis to be one’s own mind”; symbolic nature of dakinis & relation to wisdom awarenesses; overview of five wisdom awarenesses: evenness (balance), mirror-like, distinguishing, effective action, totality; overview of practice instructions
Duration 01:04:28

New Wake Up to Your Life books are in!

Friday Night Dharma Study -- 7:00 - 9:00 pm
1716A Linden Avenue (door on your right) · door opens at 6:45. We'll start at 7:00 and sit for about 20 minutes, then listen to the teaching, then discuss.

Tomorrow night's weather forecast looks iffy. If we have to cancel, I'll post it here on the Luminous Mind blog. Or feel free to call at 463-2374.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Patterns as Personality

Notes from Ken McLeod's podcast, Awakening from Belief 5b

Topic includes: The characteristics of patterns (mechanicality, resonance, crystallization, habituation, layering, webbing), patterns, personality, presence. Meditation instruction on physical reactions when a reactive pattern begins to run.

What is a pattern? A pattern is a mechanism that functions to erode attention.

A pattern erodes attention in order to keep something from being experienced. What would you have to experience inside if you didn't move away from the pain?

Once a pattern starts to run, you have no awareness. Everything that follows is totally mechanical. You may think you're acting rationally, but you're not. You're running a tape, a computer program.

It is triggered by resonance with a pain, discomfort, or feeling, which one is threatened by or uncomfortable with. So the pattern kicks into operation so you don't experience the feeling.

Over time, the pattern crystalizes into structures, which we call our personality. Such as:
    Always putting on a pleasant face
    Or perhaps another person, their default setting is attack

Four aspects of patterns:

1. Mechnicality
2. Resonance
3. Crystallization
4. Habituation

You act this way, and the whole world and everything in you becomes configured to accord to the pattern. (Habituation) That's how things keep going on and we get less and less freedom in our lives.

Two other aspects:

1. Layering -- patterns build up in layers.
2. Linking -- one pattern triggers the operation of another pattern

This approach is an instance of the middle way. Traditional Buddhism takes the viewpoint that all actions are volitional. Freudian psychology takes the position that no actions are volitional. Well… all of us have had experiences of acting volitionally, and we've probably all had experiences of just reacting.

In life, we encounter painful situations that we couldn't experience fully. Too threatening, too shocking. It could be positive too. But we didn't have at that time in our life the capacity to experience them. They remain there in us. Central to this is the basic function of a feeling. A feeling wants to be felt. When we don't feel something, it keeps nagging at us. For instance, a friend does something that hurts us, and we say, "I don't want to deal with that." It is still there and can start poisoning the relationship, until the time comes when you can actually experience it. "I was really hurt by that." And then you can choose whether to address it with the friend and take the consequences. The more you avoid the feeling, the more in the way it becomes, and the more imbalance is in the situation.

Then, let's say, another person comes to you with a similar situation. You may react with discomfort because the discomfort is within yourself. The imbalance within you starts to manifest in the world.

Something like this is operating every time we react. A mechanism starts to operate, and the attention which was just about to experience something is eroded. And on we go with our habituated lives. So, we keep falling out of awareness and into habituation every time we encounter a situation which resonates with something that we're not willing to experience.

The purpose of our practice is to cultivate a capacity of attention. Once our capacity increases, we become more and more able to experience the undischarged emotion that's at the core of a pattern. And when we can experience that undischarged emotion, the pattern doesn't need to run.

When you have that capacity, you're staying present. You're present with what is arising in you. The reaction moves you away from whatever the resonant emotion is.

As you do this again and again, an understanding starts to arise. This heartache or pain that you've always tried to avoid is only a feeling. It's not a fact. It won't kill you if you experience it.

It hurts and it hurts and it hurts and you cry, and it hurts some more. And after a while, it stops hurting. And you say, "Huh? What happened?" You were able to experience what you were avoiding. And you've gained a dimension of experience that you didn't have before.

As you sit with the pain, you feel it, you include the sensation of the pain. You don't focus on the pain. It may take five minutes, it may take five months. But you will get at what this resonates in you, and you will be able to experience it fully. Then you won't need to react to it anymore.

The practice of Buddhism is not about transcendence. It's about the practice of experiencing what is.

Do you have any choice about what is arising, right now?
And in the next moment, right now.
No. But you have a choice to experience it or not.

Suffering is generated by incapacity to experience what is arising right now.

Notes from Q&A:

We tend to take instructions and take it to an extreme level. It's a way of rejecting the instruction.
Just start with what is in front of you and take it from there. Do what you can right now and see what comes out of there.

When I see the way I react when I'm overwhelmed, it makes me want to develop a capacity of attention so I'm not overwhelmed.

It isn't necessary to label the emotions. What IS necessary is to develop a capacity for attention.

There's no one in charge of the structure. It's an illusion that there is someone in charge, and we cling to it very strong.

Meditation Practice:

Because of linkage or webbing, while our behavior can appear very complex, most people have at most 3 or 4 major patterns that drive them, and everything else is an elaboration.

Let your attention settle for 10-15 minutes.

Take a situation in which a pattern ran.

Go through the situation step by step.

You may find it helpful and keep the meditation from turning into a mass of thoughts, by checking in with your body sensations along the way. Body, emotions, stories and associations.

At a certain point you'll identify when a reactive pattern started to run. Pay particular attention to the body sensations and emotions and stories that are running right there. Don't try to analyze them. As you feel the reactions, they may feel intimidating. Here you use your breath as a rope. Lower yourself into the feeling with the rope. You may be able to identify the undischarged feeling which is the resonance of the pattern. If so, then rest with the feeling. Don't concentrate on it. Continue to rest on the breath and let the feeling open to you.

Next week's class: additional instruction on working with reactive patterns

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Friday Night Dharma Study -- 7:00 - 9:00 pm

We continue with Ken McLeod's podcast on karma, Awakening from Belief, which connects with chapter 5 of his book, Wake Up to Your Life. This week's topic: Patterns as personality.

Includes: The characteristics of patterns (mechanicality, resonance, crystallization, habituation, layering, webbing), patterns, personality, presence. Meditation instruction on physical reactions when a reactive pattern begins to run.

For more information, check out Ken's study and practice guide by clicking here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

New Class at First Unitarian Universalist Church

The Six Perfections: The Bodhisattva Path of Awakening
Class at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville
Wednesday nights, September 29 - November 3
Fireside Room (in the main building)

According to Mahayana Buddhism, awakened mind naturally manifests in our experience as the Six Perfections: generosity, ethics, patience, effort, meditation and wisdom. Practicing the perfections as path puts us in touch with our own humanity, which gives us compassion for others, allowing wisdom to arise naturally.

Join Rita Frizzell as we explore one of the perfections each week:
Sept. 29 -- Introduction & Generosity
Oct. 6 -- Ethics
Oct. 13 -- Patience
Oct. 20 -- Joyful effort
Oct. 27 -- Meditation
Nov. 3 -- Wisdom

If you want to come for dinner, join us at 6:00 in the social area near the sanctuary. $7 for dinner, no cost for class. Childcare provided.

Location: 1808 Woodmont Blvd near the intersection of Woodmont and Hillsboro in the Green Hills area of Nashville. The entrance is on the rear side of the church, near the top of the hill (on the northwest side). To get to the Fireside Room, enter the door on the left and continue down the hall and to the right. For questions, call Rita at 615-463-2374