I Am a Peacock Today

peacock

A gorgeous splashy watercolor painting by artist Dean Crouser

I refuse to be a puppet today
Nor a victim of the bad-mannered
I choose to open my heart
Although it is broken
Notwithstanding the fact
That I am hurting

I am a lotus today
Growing from the mud
Welcoming the sun
To shine on me
So I can bloom
And make the mud proud

I refuse to become bitter today
No matter what
I choose to see the beauty
Although sullenness is all I have
Guarding myself
From being swallowed alive

I am a peacock today
Having a solitary day
Basking from on top of the roof
Watching life goes by
Dreaming of one day to fly far away
But I am a peacock today

I refuse to become smaller today
While all around me is forcing me to
I choose to keep on expanding
Where space is illusion
And periphery is unseen
Center is disappearing

I am the moon tonight
Never fail to show up
Sometimes the clouds envelope me
With their ever soft shadow
But I am here every night
Paying my homage

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WENT UNDER

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A reflection of darkness in down under, an almost evening sky in Jakarta

How does a part of the world leave the world? How can wetness leave water?  RUMI

 

I went under
Deeper than I’ve been
Made a deal with darkness
To see what the shadows would cast

The darkness asked
If I was sure
If I really wanted to see
And I said yes

As I faced my fear and felt my pain
That was when I met the dark side of me
As I shook hands with it
The bitterness lingered

Not knowing how to end it
I did what I thought was best
I indulged it, welcomed it
I owned it

Almost at the end, down under
At the brink of despair
I felt something very familiar
It was pain that belongs to all of us

Breaking down
I wept for me
I wept for you
I wept for us

Body Mind Soul

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In yogic theory, human is made up from five layers, or dimensions, called the koshas. I’ve written about the koshas in my personal blog a while ago. Just a short recap here, the five koshas are:

  1. Annamaya kosha / the food body – the physical dimension (bone, muscle, blood, fluids, organs, glands, nervous system)
  2. Pranamaya kosha / the energy body – the energetic dimension. What’s called prana, chi, qi, ki, lifeforce energy
  3. Manomaya kosha / the lower mind – the individual mind dimension. The executive day-to-day operating system
  4. Vijnanamaya kosha / the higher mind – the wisdom, intuition dimension. Connects with the universal, less individual
  5. Anandamaya kosha – the bliss body – the essence, the awareness.

In modern times we use the term ‘mind, body, & soul’ to describe human as a whole. It is pretty similar with the koshas framework, body is the physical part (annamaya), mind is the manomaya & vijnanamaya. Soul, this is my limited understanding of it, soul or spirit is partly vijnanamaya and partly anandamaya.

What’s bringing these three dimension together into one human? It’s the prana, the lifeforce energy. Prana began when there is conception, and as long as there is prana, the three dimension are bound together. Prana is like the glue, the binding. When there is no more prana, the binding disintegrate, mind loses it’s individuality, soul goes back to it’s source, and body starts to decompose and return back to earth.

To live as a human in the best way possible, all the dimensions ideally are in their maximum functioning capacity. All the dimensions are ideally aligned, in tune, in harmony with each other. When the layers within are in harmony, then one can start to be in harmony with the things outside (the environment, other beings, etc).

How? Work on each individual dimension, and also work on the glue that bring them all together. Work on the body, mind, soul, and work on the prana.

 

What Love Could Really Means

 

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Saturday Afternoon at Arcadia Arboretum

Even after all this time the Sun never says to the Earth,”You owe me.”  Look what happens
with a love like that, it lights the whole sky.”  Hafiz

 

I am beginning to understand
I think, maybe
What love could mean

It is that warm fuzzy feeling in me
When I let my mind wanders
And thinks about million things at once

It is when I see a star at the dawn of day
Thinking and wondering if it is real 
Or it is just a trick my eyes decide to play on me

Sometimes, when what I want most
Is to spend time with the sun
Basking in its glory and majesty

Or it is when I am humming a love song
Thinking that it's so cheesy
But do it anyway

I am beginning to understand
Whatever meaning we give to love
Could it really be?

Nature of Mind

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The Knower & The Known by Fabrizio Cassetta

 

This is my notes from a talk by Tenzin Palmo.

Everything is perceived through the sense organs, caught by consciousness, and interpreted by the mind. In other words, everything we experience is in the mind.

There are two aspects of the mind. First, the known. The known covers memories, thoughts, feelings, emotions. The second is the knower, the part of the mind that knows, but not involved. A.k.a the observer, witness, or awareness.

The known is like movie. Light projects through individual thought frames to the screen continuously, moment to moment. The problem starts when we identify ourself with the movie at the screen, we believe that is us. This fundamental delusion and misidentification causes suffering.

The knower is vast, spacious, peaceful, clear, infinite. Like the blue sky. It is always there, but often hidden by the clouds. And because the clouds are so thick and never cleared up, we forgot that above the cloud there’s blue sky.

To cease suffering, start identifying with the knower and stop identifying with the known.

How? By taking a step back, and just watch the known passes through, without judging, without like or dislike, just simply watching. Have space in our life to just be, sit, and use the mind to look at the mind.

This is a form of meditation. Where we just become still and observe the fluctuations of the mind.

The knower watching the known.

 

 

Stillness & Clarity

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Sandy Bay Golden Hour by Eugen Naiman

If there is no stillness, there is no silence.
If there is no silence, there is no insight.
If there is no insight, there is no clarity.

~ Tenzin Priyadarshi

Previous post: Mind Like Still Water

Stillness is when there are the feeling of calm, peace, grounded-ness, the sense of firmness, earthed, stable, unshakeable. At the beginning this stillness is achieved by becoming physically still (eg seated meditation). As one get more used to it we can have stillness in motion (eg walking meditation, focused movement like taichi, yoga etc, or even during running/swimming/knitting/cooking).

Clarity is the result of stillness. Imagine a glass full of muddy water. Without stillness, the mud will not settle down and the water will never become clear. When the glass is placed down and left to be still for a while, the mud will settle down to the bottom and water will clear up and we can see through the water. Another analogy that is more high-tech: imagine trying to take a picture while we’re in a moving car on a bumpy road. Unless the camera has very fast shutter speed, the resulting picture will be blurred. We have to be holding the camera still enough to be able to capture the image clearly.

Why is clarity important?

When there’s clarity, we can see things as they are, without any filter or coloring. Free of perception. Free from conditioning, judgement, assumption, beliefs, hypothesis, expectation, etc.

When we see things as they are, without any filter or coloring, we can better navigate ourself in relation to things. ‘Things’ here cover everything: ourself and everything that is outside ourself (family & friends, other people, relationships, objects, job, career, everything).

Clarity helps us to make the most appropriate decision at any given time. Appropriate decision usually effects the elements in such a way that they become more in harmony with everything else. When there’s harmony, there are less disturbances, less waves. Like a boat in the sea – when there are less waves, the boat will move more smoothly.

Staying with the boat in the sea analogy, there will be waves (or even storm) from time to time, outside of our scope of control. So situation can be rocky and disturbed from time to time – but the more harmony there are, the sooner the waves calm down, the sooner the journey become smooth again.

Image credit: Eugen Naiman

 

Love Affair Between A Bird And A Lotus

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Jakarta, a photograph by Andi Imamayanti

Oblivious to the existence of each other
Yet the attraction is so alluring
Two entirely different things
Yet seems to fill each other in

Million others bustling around 
As if trying to distract them
From what is
From what it isn't

The smoke-filled air
As grey as it can get
As if trying to camouflage itself
To hide the charm it once had

When the ray of sun glowing
Sending warmth and as if reminding
Of its never broken promise
Undying love like no other

One afternoon
One love affair
As transient as it is honest
Between a bird and a lotus

 





Cloudless Sky

Samawa

Samawa Beach, Indonesia, a photograph by Ayda Sulianti

What gives form to the world, has no form of its own. – Rumi-

 

It’s been few hours

Since I watched the sun rising

But the sky remains cloudless

 

Wonder how it feels like

Up there, looking down

So close yet never be

 

Has the sky plotting against us

In the game of hide and seek

With nothing to look for

 

It reminds me of that day

When the weight of hopelessness

Trembled me to the bone

 

The only way was to sink

Like a cruise liner

Sent down to the heart of the ocean

 

Oblivious to the commotion

In the absence of judgment

The sky was cloudless

Mind Like Still Water

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Garabaldi Lake, near Whister, BC. Photo by Tim Shield’s son, 2010

In the previous post Inviting Stillness we discussed about the importance of stillness in order to have clarity and overcome the filter of perception. We discussed about the challenges of becoming still, and the supporting practices. This post will again discuss about these.

Three possible reaction when we are trying to become still and meditate:

  1. Mind becomes dull & sleepy – and then turns off – zzZZzz time
  2. Mind becomes agitated, running all over the place
  3. Mind rest in the stillness, alert and clear

The ideal outcome is number three – yet as anyone trying to meditate know, it is not easy to get there.

Lets look deeper into the two challenges.

Dullness & sleepiness

Without stimulation, mind is bored. We modern humans are generally tired – due to many things: lack of quality sleep, too much distraction, poor nutrition, etc. The mind, when sensing there’s no stimulation, knowing it’s in a safe space (no predator or dangerous situation), decided to go to sleep because it knows the body is tired and needs sleep. How to tackle this problem? First thing we can do is make sure we get enough rest & sleep, and fed properly. When the body is well rested, at least there’s no actual demand for sleep.

But even when body is well rested, when we are trying to become still and meditate, sometimes the mind still switches off. This is dullness, losing the clarity. Some of the things we can do to overcome this challenge:

  • Arrange the meditation time so that it’s not after a big meal. After a meal more blood circulation goes to the digestive system, and less blood in the brain area, resulting in sleepiness
  • Do some yoga asana or stretches before sitting down to improve energy circulation. In my personal experience some inversion & backbends helps.
  • Do some energizing pranayama like kapalbhati or bhastrika
  • During the meditation itself, when we catch ourself becoming sleepy & dull, use the inhalation to refresh. Deepen the inhalation a few times and return to the object of focus (breath/sound/guide etc)

Agitation

If the mind is not dull & sleepy, there’s a possibility that it will go to the other extreme – becoming agitated, jumping around, running all over the place. When the mind is not focused or holding attention to something, there’s this function of the brain called Default Mode Network that usually becomes active.

What is this Default Mode Network? I’m no expert in neuroscience, this is my simple understanding of it. Default Mode Network is a function of thinking about self, thinking about others, and thinking about past or future. It becomes active when the mind is not focused or holding attention, and it seems like it serves like a background process of assimilating, comprehending & understanding of all the inputs from the outside.

So when this DMN is active, then the mind ruminates about something (usually related to self, others, past, future, or sometimes even random) – and this thing triggers another thought, and another, and another. Any meditator knows this – suddenly we catch ourself thinking about something else and totally forgot we are meditating.

How to overcome this? By holding that focus and attention at the object of meditation in a ‘just enough’ way. Not gripping, but also not too lose. Balanced. When we’re gripping, there is tension. During meditation this can be felt in the physical body – the body or the face is tensed. Release the tension with the exhalation, and relax. When too lose, the mind tend to start to wander & ride along the DMN, generating many new thoughts. As we notice we are sidetracked, first be happy that we noticed we were sidetracked, and then relax, release the thought, and return to the object of meditation.

One of my meditation teacher use this analogy – imagine the thought like a butterfly that settled down on your arm. Just notice “Oh there’s a butterfly on my arm / Oh there are thoughts on my mind”, and without needing any force or violence, gently blow it away.

Like still water

With consistent practice, gradually the mind will be trained to rest in stillness. Alert, aware, and focused. In this stillness, clarity comes. With clarity, comes the realization that it’s all perception (judgement, assumption, expectation, belief, hypothesis, conditioning, etc). When we realize that it’s all perception, we have the opportunity to take that perception filter off, and see things as they really are. Like still water, reflecting the surrounding as it is.

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Read more about Default Mode Network here:

Image from Tim Shield’s flickr

 

Unknown Land

Dance

One Winter Evening at Jackson Hole, USA

One dark night

At the ocean

When the wave rhythmically moves

Seducing the wind

To choreograph a dance

Bestowed upon those

Who have lost their love

In the wilderness

Of own creation

Maybe upon those

Who have lost pieces of their broken hearts

On an unknown land

Where imagination lives

And upon those

Who have anchored their hearts

At the bottom of the sea

Where dream ends