Dualism vs. Nondualism Intro Notes


Dualism Photo

Check out the intro notes from this afternoon’s philosophy discussion. If you missed it, feel free to leave a comment here!


Welcome to the Citta Bhavana Ashram everyone! Thank you for joining us today. I’ll give a brief introduction before opening the floor for discussion. Please hold all questions and comments until after the intro.

Please consider leaving a donation if you like what you see and want to see more. All donations go towards the sim tier. The donation jar is the candle just beside the fire.

It is most often thought that dualism is a Western idea and non-dualism is an Eastern idea. But, even within traditions we find opposing ideas. Let’s explore a bit what dualism and non-dualism are.

These are ideas put forth in the philosophy of mind, as well as religion. Very generally, there are two fundamental categories of things. Typically these are the difference between mind and body, and sometimes even mind and brain. In other words, the dualist/nondualist debate is arguing whether or not mind is separate from matter.

Now, since we don’t have an agreed upon definition of mind, I’d like us to explore it from the point of view of whatever it means to you – whether it is consciousness, spirit, soul, awareness, divine, whatever. I don’t want us to get caught up in this, since it could mean any of these things or more, and I feel that it’s meaning is a bit of a personal matter. I’d rather we focus on the difference between this and the material world.

On a personal level, body can be considered to be the physical experience, including, sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch. Mind can be considered to be immaterial experience: thoughts, patters, self, ego, memory, awareness. If you think of it like a venn diagram, what comes in the middle?

It has been debated, too, that body has memory – some may say “muscle memory” but others also speak about fascia as holding physical memory. Hence why sense objects can be a trigger for memories. However, this is not of as much importance in our discussion today.

In Indian philosophy, there are two concepts: purusha (consciousness, spirit) and prakriti (matter, nature). These are considered in nondualist philosophy to be AND – as in, they are inseparable and of the same importance; whereas in dualist philosophy it is purusha versus prakriti – as in, one always struggling for importance. In some dualist traditions they may consider that either purusha or prakriti is more important (depending on the tradition), though most often they say purusha (conscoiusness, spirit) is more important, and in fact more true reality than the material world.

We find this same idea all over religion, spirituality, and philosophy. Many dualists do consider that the material world is real – we can all experience it more or less the same. What is in debate is the non-material world, or mind.

Descartes, in his “Meditations,” argues for the point of view of mind and God as being one and the same. This is echoed in Eastern traditions through the concept of prana and qi (energy or life force), and even Atman and Brahman (individual consciousness and universal consciousness) – in other words, the part of us that is also in everything else. The most true essence of existence.

We know that all material things are subject to change. All things change over time, and this is unavoidable. So many schools of thought would argue that if it changes, it is not real. So that which is unchanging, this purusha (consciousness, divine, etc), is the most true, or the most real.

In nondualism, it is recognized that all things are ultimately the same. That nothing is unique, and even our consciousness is not our own. By that, it is meant that we are all drops of the same ocean – that we are all small parts of one big whole. That we are not existing without everything else, and everything else is not existing without us.

So, do you think that we have something in us, something perhaps divine or extensive in nature, that exists separate from the material world, or do we have an innate connection to that which surrounds us and can be experienced?

Are we unique individuals, or are we really part of one big whole?

Can our minds exist without our bodies?

Does whatever makes up the “I” exist in our minds, our bodies, or neither?

I open the floor. What do you think?

Taoism, That which cannot be named


Welcome everyone to Sengoku Japan! Thank you for joining us here today. You can get a copy of the notes from the poster behind me, and if you feel so inclined please consider leaving a donation using the flower vase beside that.

Today we are going to discuss that which cannot be discussed – the Tao.

The first verse of the Tao Te Ching, the most comprehensive text on the Tao by Lao Tzu, reads:

“A way that can be walked
is not The way,
A name that can be named
is not The Name

Tao is both Named and Nameless
As Nameless, it is the origin of all things
As Named, it is the mother of all things

A mind free of thought,
merged within itself,
beholds the essence of Tao
A mind filled with thought,
identified with its own perceptions,
beholds the mere forms of this world

Tao and this world seem different
but in truth they are one and the same
The only difference is in what we call them

How deep and mysterious is this unity
How profound, how great!
It is the truth beyond the truth,
the hidden within the hidden
It is the path to all wonder,
the gate to the essence of everything!”

What this is saying, among various other interpretations, is that all of our experiences, including language, are merely a sign pointing to a non-conceptual ultimate reality. It is important to not focus on these sign posts but to focus instead on the ultimate reality (Tao) to experience it clearly.

So what is “Tao”? It’s literally translated to “way,” “path,” or “principle.” It is the underlying ultimate reality to all that is.

There’s a quote from “The Tao of Pooh” by Benjamin Hoff that explains it well:

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
“It’s the same thing,” he said.

“What’s that?” the Unbeliever asked.
“Wisdom from a Western Taoist,” I said.
“It sounds like something from Winnie-the-Pooh,” he said.
“It is,” I said.
“That’s not about Taoism,” he said.
“Oh, yes it is,” I said.
“No, it’s not,” he said.
“What do you think it’s about?” I said.
“It’s about this dumpy little bear that wanders around asking silly questions, making up songs, and going through all kinds of adventures, without ever accumulating any amount of intellectual knowledge or losing his simpleminded sort of happiness. That’s what it’s about,” he said.
“Same thing,” I said.

As this tradition comes from Chinese philosophy which is steeped in the concept of yin and yang, or opposites coming together to form Truth or Reality. They are not necessarily two different things, but rather opposite and complementary qualities of the same basic Reality.

Within this philosophy is the concept of Wu. This is translated as “nothingness,” “emptiness,” or “non-existence.”

Verse 11 of the Tao speaks of this as:

“Thirty spokes of a wheel all join at a common hub
yet only the hole at the centre
allows the wheel to spin
Clay is moulded to form a cup
yet only the space within
allows the cup to hold water
Walls are joined to make a room
yet only by cutting out a door and a window
can one enter the room and live there

Thus, when a thing has existence alone
it is mere dead-weight
Only when it has wu, does it have life.”

Juxtaposed to this is the concept of Yu. These represent being and non-being. There are many philosophers who believe that Wu can be directly experienced by humans in certain forms, though I tend to prefer the idea that both are existent in all things, and one can perhaps not exist without the other.

Building from this is the concept of Wu Wei, or “actionless action.” Contrary to popular thought, this does not mean inaction or lack of action, but rather going along with the natural flow of things, acting in spontaneity and not obstructing the natural Tao.

The most common quote in the Tao Te Ching about this is as follows:
“When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.”

The last verse of the Tao, Verse 81, read as follows:

“Words born of the mind are not true
True words are not born of the mind

Those who have virtue do not look for faults
Those who look for faults have no virtue

Those who come to know It
do not rely on learning
Those who rely on learning
do not come to know It
*
The Sage sees the world
as an expansing of his own self
So what need has he to accumulate things?
By giving to others
he gains more and more
By serving others
he receives everything
*
Heaven gives,
and all things turn out for the best
The Sage lives,
and all things go as Tao goes
all things move as the wind blows”

This can be a lot to take in. Some people will follow the Tao for their entire lives and not necessarily understand. But, any comprehension is beyond language, study, and even maybe experience. It’s said to be a kind of dropping away into nothingness, while still being fully here.

This makes it difficult to discuss, but let’s try anyway. What do you think about this? How does it relate to your own experience of the world?

I open the floor.

Yūgen, Profound Grace


Yūgen, Profound Grace

This term was first found in Chinese texts (as much of Japanese philosophy tends to be) and was later evolved into a more solid concept in Japanese aesthetics (the nature of art, beauty and taste; sometimes the study of sensory and/or emotional values). Yūgen originally meant “dim,” “deep,” “dark” or “mysterious.”

A famous poet, Kamo no Chōmei (1212), wrote about yūgen in this way: “It is like an autumn evening under a colourless expanse of silent sky. Somehow, as if for some reason that we should be able to recall, tears well uncontrollably.”
Another description is by Hume: “When looking at autumn mountains through mist, the view may be indistinct yet have great depth. Although few autumn leaves may be visible through the mist, the view is alluring. The limitless vista created in imagination far surpasses anything one can see more clearly.”

It can also be described as “an awareness of the universe that triggers emotional responses too deep and powerful for words.”

This concept has been used in various types of poetry over the years including waka poetry and it’s own form known simply as yūgen. It has been used in Noh theatre (traditional Japanese theatre) and dramatic theory (Kadensho). To attain yūgen, or profound grace, in the arts takes many years of dedicated practice. It is a sort of highly refined culture or way of being or relating in and to the world. When acquired, one has a sense of “higher naturalness,” with a sense of something even perhaps supernatural.

However, as abstract as speaking of things beyond semantics may be, yūgen does not refer to another world or plane of existence, but rather it is about experience in this world, namely the mysterious beauty of the universe and the juxtaposed sad beauty of human suffering.
I’d like to break down these two concepts. In art we are exploring yūgen through the abstract methods of music, painting, poetry, drama, etc. We are always hinting at something which cannot be named, expressing feelings and sensations, thoughts, wonder, even awe. But beyond all that is a sense of lack of fulfillment. It is argued that we require art to fulfill some sort of longing or absence which cannot be filled with non-abstract things. We all know there are deeper meaning to things than may first appear. We’ve all heard the saying “do not judge a book by its cover.” The way things appear may not be the way things truly are.
In juxtaposition of this, we have this concept of the sad beauty of human suffering.

This relates to the Buddhist idea of samsara, or cycle of birth, life, and death. In this philosophy, suffering is not a necessary human condition, but one which is meant to be transcended. The Buddhist doctrine of experience as an expression of dharma was an emerging idea in Japan when the concept of yūgen was being developed. This holds to the idea that all phenomenal worldly experiences are fundamentally expressions of Buddhist law, which inherently implies that all experiences can be a means to enlightenment (ceasing of suffering) which ends the cycle of samsara through specific realization or awakening to truth.

There are two schools of Buddhism which emerged in this time. The first was Tendai, a school of Mahayana Buddhism, which claims that each and every sense phenomenon, when realized to be ‘just as it is’ is a means to enlightenment which is intrinsic in all things. The second is the school of Shingon, a school of Vajrayana Buddhism, which believes that through the help of a genuine teacher and through training the Three Mysteries (body, speech, and mind) we can recognize the Buddha-nature, or enlightenment, which is already existent within each one of us, for the benefit of ourselves as well as others.

These both come back to the idea of yūgen as they work with both the inner worlds and outer worlds of deeper meaning or purpose. If you’ve ever experienced a tea ceremony or geisha dance, you have perhaps experienced a bit of yūgen in expression. Yūgen is both the subtle and the profound. It values the power to evoke rather than the ability to state directly, and perhaps expresses that which cannot be stated or experienced directly.

“Cannot the beauty of Grace be compared to the image of a swan holding a flower in its bill, I wonder?”

It is through these poetic experiences, the philosophers argue, which we tap into something perhaps greater than ourselves. It evokes a sense of humility and humbleness. A sense of unity, maybe. It can manifest in grace within us and also the inherent grace of nature. Beauty in itself is controversial and relative, but perhaps yūgen is more closely related to an essence.

Were they on to something? What do you think? I open the floor.

Buddhism on “Do Humans Exist”?


Buddhism on “Do Humans Exist”?

True emptiness is that which transcends all things
and yet is imminent in all.

Thomas Merton

One of the most controversial ideas in Buddhism is the idea of emptiness. This is the idea that everything is empty of inherent essence. Meaning, there is nothing that is part of who I am that is different than the things that are part of you. There is nothing constant that defines us as individuals. This leads to the next idea, that everything is impermanent and forever changing. This is proven by modern science with things like particle decay and our bodies replacing themselves completely every seven years or so (no cell in our body is the same as seven years ago). So, having an essence would apply to something like the Western idea of soul or spirit, the “us” that inhabits our bodies. The Buddhists believe that there is no such thing.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu over on Tricycle Online, summed it up nicely as far as experience goes: “Emptiness is a mode of perception, a way of looking at experience. It adds nothing to, and takes nothing away from, the raw data of physical and mental events. You look at events in the mind and the senses with no thought of whether there’s anything lying behind them.”

The idea of emptiness necessitates the idea of interdependence, meaning nothing can exist on it’s own. That everything and everyone depends upon everyone else for it’s existence.

How is it, then, that we are reborn? If there is no part of us that carries on after we die, what is reincarnating?

This very idea has birthed many schools of Buddhism over the years, none of which have a perfect answer that can be agreed upon by everyone else. BUT, I will try to break this down for you. Karma is a creative force which has been around since the beginning of all things. It is the cause and effect principle, where every effect had a cause, and every cause had an effect. This also relates to he idea of interdependence.

Now, Shakyamuni Buddha, the Buddha we all know and love, never tried to answer metaphysical questions such as “what was the original cause?” So, we won’t get in to that as we are strictly looking into the present and future. As individuals, we generate karma, and have for many past lives. Every single moment has the potential for everything. We make a decision in every single moment of our lives. Since we know that every cause has an effect, we can understand how many effects have to play out from even just the time we’ve spent reading this! Because it would be impossible for all these effects to play out in one life time they continue to happen for many lifetimes to come. So, the aim of some buddhists is to create as few effects as possible so they don’t have to be reborn. (As being reborn is a continuation of samsara, or cycles of suffering, as all life brings with it suffering…a different topic all together.)

In a perhaps more logical sense, then, it isn’t a soul that is acquiring a new body, but rather a process of causes and effects that are continuing to cycle through all of time on a particular wave length. So, if all we are is a cycle of cause and effect, and there is no essence within us, do we really exist? For that matter, does anything really exist?

I open the floor.

Confucius on What Makes us Human


Confucianism and What Makes us Human

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
-Confucius

Confucianism is attributed to a man named Kong Qiu (K’ung Ch’iu) who was later named Confucius by latin interpreters, who lived 552 BCE – 479 BCE. He believed he held the ideas that would create an ideal world, but considered himself a failure as in his lifetime he was not well known. He travelled between provinces in China with a group of students who would later become important government officials.

The main ideas he put forward were mercy, social order, and fulfillment of responsibilities.

http://confucianism.freehostingguru.com lays out the ethics and morals with their Chinese titles:

“Li: includes ritual, propriety, etiquette, etc.
Hsiao: love within the family: love of parents for their children and of children for their parents
Yi: righteousness
Xin: honesty and trustworthiness
Jen: benevolence, humaneness towards others; the highest Confucian virtue
Chung: loyalty to the state, etc.”

The central principle is voiced by Confucius when he says, “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.” (sound familiar…?)

The social aspect is considered more important than the personal aspect as each individual has a certain place within the social realm that includes responsibilities that they must uphold. This includes respecting your elders (teachers, parents, older siblings, etc.) as well as upholding your duty within your family dynamic, work dynamic, and political/social dynamic.

However, Confucius also taught that we should learn from the people around us (be attentive), and honor other’s cultural norms.

There is a system laid out called “Li” which reinforces certain rules of interaction. This emphasizes a control of emotions, restraint, obedience to authority, conformity and how you present yourself (“face”). But, the strict guidelines of unquestioning obedience and hierarchy of authority we associate with him today weren’t introduced by Confucius himself, rather they were added later by authoritarian sources.

According to Confucianism, only through engaging with society and playing your role will you excel on a personal level. They consider three conditions of being human: the self, community, and tradition.

“The fundamental concern of the Confucian tradition is learning to be human.” –Tu Wei-ming.

There are considered three aspects of being human:
1. Cheng – inactivity, stillness, authenticity. Could be linked to our true Self.
2. Shen – spirituality (interesting here that in traditional Chinese medicine there are the five Shen which make up the psyche…) This could be linked to our ability to concieve of a larger existence (macro vs. micro)
3. Chi – the energy which allows transformation and desicion making, ultimately driving a person to conduct good or bad acts. The energy which makes up all activities of our bodies and minds.

What determines whether an act is good or bad? According to Confucius, the community. Through politics, collective memory, ritual, and our responses to the world, we cannot escape the necesity for interdependence. Therefore, mainting peace was of utmost importance.

Do you think it is important to have ethics and morals? Do they define us as human beings? Does our ability to interact with others determine our humaneness?

What are your thoughts? I open the floor.

Food and Culture in Japan


Japanese Food Culture and Festivals

Second Life

Quotes taken from: http://www.savoryjapan.com/learn/culture/festivals/

What is your favorite kind of Japanese food?

Food in Japan is greatly affected by location – Japan is surrounded by the ocean, so a very common food is fish. Rice is a staple food, grown locally in huge rice fields. Though rice is the stable food, many kinds of noodles, such as udon, soba, and ramen, are also common.

On an interesting note, it was only in 2013 that UNESCO declared the traditional food cultures of Japan, known as washoku, as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. In other words, they only recognized it as something deserving to be preserved in order to keep the culture alive last year.

But, something that I didn’t know, was when Buddhism came to Japan in the 6th century, it became taboo to eat all flesh of animals and/or fowl. Because of this, the vegetarian style of cooking known as shojin ryori introduced soy sauce (shoyu), miso, tofu, and other products made from soybeans to replace the animal products. Also coming from the zen buddhist tradition is the well-known simple and elegant display of the food that we still see today and I’ll describe a bit below.

TEA CEREMONY

The sado, or tea ceremony, is highly ritualized and greatly influenced by Zen buddhism. The type of tea is a green tea known as matcha, which is powdered tea leaves. I won’t go in to all the details, even I don’t know them, but be sure that each movement is highly learned if it is done properly.

CHAKAISEKI RYORI

This is one of three basic styles of Japanese cooking, which we will cover all three today. This one in particular is served during a tea ceremony. The foods served are fresh, seasonal, and usually local, and are prepared without decoration. The meal is then followed by the tea ceremony.

HONZEN RYORI

In this style of Japanese cooking the food is served carefully arranged on legged trays, as it would have been to the nobility during the Heian period (794-1185) when this style emerged.

The menu usually consists of a soup with three types of side dishes such as sashimi (raw seafood), yakimono (broiled fowl or fish), and nimono (simmered veggies or meats). This is the minimum serving, sometimes they can be as large as three soups and eleven side dishes. It is important to ensure that foods of similar tastes are not served together.

It is particularly important when attending a meal of this style to follow proper etiquette, most importantly eating a bit of rice before passing from one dish to another.

KAISEKI RYORI

Kaiseki ryori is regarded as Japan’s most exquisite culinary refinement. This is a multi-course dinner consisting mainly of vegetables and fish with a seasoning base of seaweed and mushrooms, the dishes are characterized by their refined flavour.

There are two kinds of kaiseki ryori’s. The first is a set menu served on an individual tray. The other is the meal served before a ceremonial tea, known as cha-kaiseki.

The courses served in this style consist of the following:

Appetizers: sweet alcohol or local alcohol and bite-sized appetizers.

Main courses: soup, sashimi (raw fish), nimono (boiled vegetables, meat, or seafood in a mix of soy sauce, sweet cooking sake, and sugar), yakimono (grilled fish or meat), agemono (tempura – deep fried seafood and vegetables), mushimono (which is exactly what it sounds like…lol…a steamed dish. The most popular is chawanmushi, a savory egg custard flavored with fish stock with mushrooms, chicken, ginko nuts and seafood), and sunomono (vegetables and seafood in a vinegar based sauce).

The next set is called Shokuji, which we don’t typically do in western cultures, but it consists of rice, miso soup and pickles (tsukemono).

Dessert: can be anything sweet but is typically made up of local or seasonal fresh fruit or sorbet.

HOLIDAYS

Ochogatsu, or New Years, isn’t the best time to visit Japan since all the shops and restaurants are closed between Dec 28 and Jan 3. The time is spent in temples and shrines and with family. The chopsticks used during this time are pointed on both sides so the gods can partake in the feast of osechi-ryori. This is a dish of predominately vegetables with grilled fish, served in special boxes called jubako which resemble bento boxes. Many dishes can be served, so I’ll only name a few. They all have special meaning with regards to the New Year. Daidai, “from generation to generation,” is a bitter orange which symbolizes the wish for children in the New Year. Kamaboko is a broiled fish cake arranged in rows or patterns which resemble the Japanese rising sun. Konbu is a type of seaweed which is associated with the word yorokobu, meaning “joy,” and is used for wishing for joy in the new year. Ebi is skewered prawns cooked with sake and soy sauce and it symbolizes a wish for a long-life, symbolizing a long beard and bent waist.

Hina Matsuri, or Girl’s Day, is celebrated on the third of March. The most stunning thing about it is the heirloom dolls that are display, and promptly taken down on the fourth since they are thought to delay the girls’ marriage if they are left on display too long. These dolls the caretakers of the girls’ health and happiness, warding off bad luck and bringing in good fortune. This is probably my favourite festival food wise, because they get mochi! Hishimochi are lovely, diamond-shaped mochi (rice cakes) with pink, white and green layers. Pink represents plum blossoms, in season in late February and early March. White represents the snow of the waning winter, while green represents the new, fresh growth of early spring. They also get sake, or rice wine. Shiro-zake is the first variety of sake of the year, available in early spring. White, unfiltered and sweet, it came to be associated with girls, (and thus, the festival) even though women did not necessarily drink sake in the old days. The pure-white color of the sake also compliments the pink of the plum blossoms. Red (or pink) and white also signify happiness and good fortune, and are often displayed during festivals. The next treat they get to indulge in is hina arare. Hina arare are small, blossom or snowflake-like pink, white and green balls of crunchy puffed rice, sometimes sweetened with sugar. In the old days, arare were made of leftover mochi from the Oshogatsu (New Year’s) festival celebration, and therefore, were often enjoyed during girl’s day. This thrifty and creative use of materials also came to symbolize the desirable qualities of a good wife.

The Sakura festival is the world-renowned cherry blossom festival between the end of March and early April (depending on when they blossom). I was going to try to explain this phenomenon myself, but I found this quote and it’s just perfect, ” I had thought it was sentimental hype until I found myself in Kyoto one year during the height of cherry blossom season. The city was awash in pink; enveloping me and everyone around me with their delicate fragrance; the petals falling, fluttering like gentle rain on the sidewalks and onto the hair of young women in their sakura-patterned kimonos. Since then, I haven’t missed a single season.” The season is a time of change, a gentle reminder that the harsh winter is over. It reminds us of the fleeting nature of reality, a prominent Buddhist belief. Hanami bento is a homemade dish that most people take to the viewing of the blossoms and accompanying parties. These boxes include seasonal grilled fish and spring vegetables, rice with vegetables cut into the delicate shape of sakura petals, green yomogimochi (spring herb dumplings) and kamaboko (fish cakes) with pink designs.

A poem about the Sakura flowers:

“The Sakura Flower

I watch the lovers walk hand in hand, and feel sad that I will not live long enough to do the same.

The sadness pulls me down, I sway, I lean, I can feel the wind pulling on me.

Eventually it succeeds and I drift slowly towards the ground.

I fear the landing, the eventual end that I know will come.

I remember all the beautiful people I saw in my lifetime;
All the lovers, all the friends, and I regret that I will not see them again.

But, rejoice!, next year, I will have been born again, and will watch, perched from my high branches, learning the ways of love.”

I found this lovely story for you, for our journey to the next festival…

“You’re in a roji (“dewy path”, a small Japanese tea garden) on your way to your friend’s tea house. As you mindfully step on granite stones freshly splashed with water for your arrival, you notice that the stone lanterns, lit for the evening, are shining a little more brightly than usual. You peer inside of one of them, and notice an extra candle.

However, as you round a bamboo fence, the tiny and simple thatched roof teahouse comes into view, and you notice that the windows are dark, and find this a just a little odd. The tea house roof is so low that you have to lower your head as you enter the genkan. Despite your quiet arrival, your host welcomes you, opening the small shoji door for you to enter the four mat tearoom. In the dim natural light, you see the tokonoma, where a scroll painting of a moon, barley visible against the palest grey sky, and a bold arrangement of pampas grass and autumn flowers are displayed. It’s grown chilly in recent days, so you’re happy when your host invites you to sit close to the coals as he prepares the kettle for tea.

The light begins to grow brighter to the east, and you look out of the open shoji doors to see the moon, barely visible at first, rising past the trees in the distance. The sky is cloudless and the air, clear, rendering the outline of the moon in crisp detail. As the moon appears, impossibly huge and dazzling orange, you take a deep breath and your heart fills with joy. As the moon scatters golden reflections on the garden pond below, you watch, speechless, as it rises, past the sweeping branches of the pines.”

Can you guess what festival this is representing?

It’s o-tsukimi, the harvest moon festival! This usually falls in the middle of October, on the full moon.

“Autumn flowers and susuki (pampas grass, which is at its tallest and most beautiful at this time), are displayed, and kabocha (pumpkin), chestnuts, satoimo (taro potato) and tsukimi dango (small white rice dumplings, piled high on a tray), are offered to the moon in the family alter. The dumplings were traditionally thought to bring happiness and good health, and the offering is not only for the moon’s beauty, but an expression of gratitude for the autumn harvest.”

It is tradition to write poems to the moon. Shall we give it a try?

This past year I wrote one while bathing on a river under the local harvest moon:

Harvest Moon

By way of night creation is born,
Spontaneously, energy emerges
Riding the back of a turtle.

Like a monk on a mountaintop
He leaves the shattered cage
Emerging into silence.

Birds stir into flight,
the miraged man
Bathing them in orange light

Giants grasp at him,
Longing for a taste of his grace.
Smiling, he eludes them.

All the creatures yearn,
They ask, “how can energy
Be so still?”

That is all for today! Phew! Any comments or questions?

Working with Subtle Energy and Chakras – Awareness Intensive Week 5


Thank you all so much for being here today. It’s such a pleasure to share this space with you. Most of this session will be guided meditation, and at the end we will open up space for questions or comments. Please refrain from hitting the bowl to my right as everyone can hear it and it will be used as a tool for the meditation. Thank you.

Let us take a moment to dedicate this practice to those who we want to remember. Please type the name or relation into local if it suits you.

Over the first few weeks we dealt with embodiment, feeling, or the felt sense, and lastly with breath. Let us start delving into our awareness by practicing these a bit. I will lead a guided meditation in voice. Please follow along if you’d like or you can mute sound and do your own practice. I will ring the bowl once to start and twice to end, so make sure your sounds are on so you know when we are continuing the practice.

Today we will bring our attention to a different level of awareness. In our bodies there are many energy channels. Depending on what tradition you come from these may be called nadis, meridians, or various other things. These carry the prana or qi thoughout your body. There are three main channels that run from the root of our pelvis up to our third eye centre. The main one is called the sushumna nadi. Energy moves with breath. Each time we breath we are sending energy throughout our bodies.

Today we are going to work with this subtle energy, prana or qi. Bring your attention to this central channel, running from your pelvic floor to the space of the third eye. Each time you breath in, the energy moves up this column, and each time you breath out the energy moves down this column.

When you feel comfortable with this, we will try expanding this awareness outwards horizontally. You can do this simply by expanding this central channel outwards, or, work more precisely. I will walk you through the more precise practice, but if you feel more comfortable just expanding it outwards please practice that way.

Bring your attention to the root of your pelvis, or the muladhara chakra. Imagine a glowing red light there. When you breath in, this light expands horizontally in a complete circle. The light should therefore expand in all directions, each diagonal, forward, backward, right and left. When you breath out the light will pulse back into centre, and continue this motion with the breath like a wave.

Next, moving up the channel, bring your attention to the heart level of this central channel, or the anahatha chakra. Imagine a glowing green light there. When you breath in, this light expands horizontally in a complete circle. The light should therefore expand in all directions, each diagonal, forward, backward, right and left. When you breath out the light will pulse back into centre, and continue this motion with the breath like a wave.

Next, moving up the channel, bring your attention to the eyebrow centre of the central channel, or ajna chakra. Imagine a glowing indigo light there. When you breath in, this light expands horizontally in a complete circle. The light should therefore expand in all directions, each diagonal, forward, backward, right and left. When you breath out the light will pulse back into centre, and continue this motion with the breath like a wave.

This is feeling yourself as Stillness, the formless in form.

Take your time slowly coming out of the mind-practice. Bring your attention back to your body. Deepen your breath. Slowly wiggle your toes and fingers, and when you feel ready, slowly open your eyes. As you are opening your eyes, try to notice how you are feeling.

What did you notice in this practice?
Has your definition of awareness changed doing this exercise?