The Meaning of Christmas, Enlightenment and Life: Giving the greatest Gift

Tree of Half Life

Seasons Greetings too all my relations,

I am grateful for the coming of winter and the holiday season.
It allows me to slow down from the 3 seasons of building shelter and food security in my part of British Columbia,
to update the websites and reflect on what has passed and what is to come.

I would like to give everyone something this Christmas season.
As i meditate on the teachings of Christ and the Buddha and take them into my own heart;
as i read what the cutting edge of science is discovering in the field of neuroscience,
i feel the greatest gift i can give anyone this season is the gift of mindfulness.

I have read two articles almost back to back that i feel are some of the best articles i’ve read to date
on what this concept of mindfulness is all about.

If we truly embrace these concepts of mindfulness, awareness, and unconditional loving kindness and compassion,
we will heal ourselves, we will heal this planet, and become sustainable.

Article One:
From ‘The Miracle of Everyday Mindfulness’ by Thich Nhat Hanh
An article published in ‘Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly’ Winter 2013
[words in brackets are my own]

Everyone has the seed of suffering inside. Sometimes it slumbers in the depths of our consciousness and sometimes it manifests as a very noticeable energy. When suffering manifests, it’s difficult to feel joy or happiness. The practice of conscious breathing and mindful walking or mindful sitting can help us handle the suffering inside. Our suffering is not only our own suffering. It carries within it the suffering of our father, our mother, and the many ancestors who have transmitted it to us.

Our suffering also reflects the suffering of our people, our country, our society, and our world. When we understand the nature and roots of our suffering, then compassion and love can arise. We go home to ourselves and get in touch with the suffering inside. Practicing conscious breathing, we generate the energy of mindfulness and concentration. These are the energies with which we can recognize and embrace our suffering. If we don’t have the energy of mindfulness, the suffering may overwhelm us. But if we breathe in and out and allow our body to be relaxed, we can generate the energy of mindfulness and concentration, and with that energy we can embrace our suffering and hold it tenderly.

My dear suffering, I know you are there in me. I am here to take care of you.

Suffering and Happiness Inter-Are

There are people who wish to find a place where there is no suffering, like heaven, the Pure Land of the Buddha, or the kingdom of God. We may think that “up there” there is no suffering; there is only happiness. But when we look deeply we see that suffering and happiness inter-are, just as the mud and the lotus interpenetrate each other. A lotus can only grow in mud. If there were no mud, there would be no lotus flower. There’s a very close connection between suffering and happiness, just as there is between mud and lotus. Real happiness is possible when we have the right view of suffering and happiness. It’s the same as front and back, right and left. The right cannot exist without the left; the left cannot exist without the right. Happiness cannot exist without suffering.

Happiness is made of non-happiness elements, just as the flower is made of non-flower elements. When you look at the flower, you see non-flower elements like sunlight, rain, earth—all of the elements that have come together to help the flower to manifest. If we were to remove any of those non-flower elements, there would no longer be a flower. Happiness is a kind of flower. If you look deeply into happiness, you see non-happiness elements, including suffering. Suffering plays a very important role in happiness.

When we live mindfully, we try to live in such a way that we can generate the energies of mindfulness, concentration, and insight throughout the day. These are the energies that bring us happiness and the clarity that we call right view. When we have right view, we’re able to practice right thinking. Right thinking is based on right view; it’s thinking that’s characterized by nondiscrimination and nonduality. According to right view, there can be no happiness without suffering. Our thinking can make us suffer, but it can also make us free. We need right thinking to help us stop our suffering.

If there is a group of people living in the same environment, some may be happy and others unhappy. There are those among us who have the ability to appreciate the presence of the sun and get in touch with the trees, the fog, and all of the wonders of life that are around and inside us. But there are some people who don’t have the ability to get in touch with these wonderful things. They only see suffering. The conditions of their lives are exactly the same as those of the people who are happy, so why are some people happy and others not? The answer is that the one who is happy has right view. The other is suffering because he doesn’t have right view, so his thinking is not right thinking. Suffering is relative. Something that causes one person to suffer may not cause another person to suffer.

….

TOO MUCH THINKING
Thinking can be productive and good. But most of the time, our thinking is not productive. Our thoughts pull us away from the here and now. [Read Eckhart Tolle’s books for a further elaboration on this realization] Its’ only in the here and now that we can encounter real life and be in touch with our body and the other wonders of life. When we get lost in our thinking, we’re not there for life. It’s very important to learn how to stop all of that unproductive thinking. It doesn’t mean that thinking is inherently bad, because in fact thinking can be good. But so much  of our thinking causes sorrow, fear, or anger to arise. We need to learn to stop thinking in order to begin to feel. If you can feel the presence of your body and the wonders of life that are available in the here and now, you can get the nourishment and healing you need — from the sunshine, the fresh air, the beautiful trees, your lungs [which look like a tree in your body], your in-breath and out-breath.

As you breath in, you become aware once again that you have a body. There’s a kind of happy reunion between mind and body [the intention of Yoga, to Yolk body and mind]. It may take only a few seconds for you to become anchored back home, in the here and now. We have to be in the here and now in order to truly live our life. The past is no longer with us and the future is not yet here; only in the present moment are the wonders of life available [true happiness]. The secret of meditation is to bring the mind home to the body and be in the here and now. It’s very simple. Stopping the thinking will help tremendously.

MINDFULNESS, CONCENTRATION, AND INSIGHT

When you’re practicing mindfulness of body, your body becomes the only object of your mindfulness.

Breathing in, i know my body is there.
Breathing out, i know my body is there.

[The technique of Vipassana (insight meditation) keys on the awareness of sensation at the nostrils to strengthen concentration, and once the concentration is sufficiently strong the focus is shifted to bodily sensations which eventually, with practice, reveal themselves to be the constant arising and passing away of vibrations.]

When mindfulness is strong and focused like that, concentration is born. The object of your concentration in this case is your body. When mindfulness and concentration are powerful enough, you can make a breakthrough into reality [insight]; you get insight and realization, and you discover things. Mindfulness, or smrti in Sanskrit, is the first energy. Mindfulness brings about concentration, or samadhi in Sanskrit, the second energy; and together mindfulness and concentration bring insight, prajna [prana is Sanskrit or vipassana in Pali].

To meditate means to generate these three kinds of energies. You don’t have to ask for them to come to you from outside. [Two parts of the Christian trinity in gaining power from the universal holy spirit of the Father, and the Son.] Everyone has the seeds of mindfulness, concentration, and insight withing himself or herself. [The third part of the Christian trinity in gaining power from the personal holy spirit that lies within each and every being] With the practice of mindful breathing, mindful walking, and mindful sitting, we help these seeds manifest as energies. These are the three kinds of energy that make an enlightened being.

These energies make you awake, bring your body and mind fully together, and put you in touch with all of the wonders of life. You stop running and trying to find happiness somewhere else. You see that happiness is possible in the here and now.

When you’re fully aware of what is there, and you can maintain awareness and keep concentration alive, then insight [vipassana] arises. This insight can help free you from your worries, fears, longing, and searching. With insight, you recognize that there are more than enough conditions for you to be happy right here, right now. This insight brings freedom, joy, and happiness.

[the article continues….i have shared what i consider to be the core truths of this wonderful practice]

self-regulation-of-attention-299x300

Article Two: will come in the next few days

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I am a timber framer and natural builder that specializes in ecologically sensitive logging practice; on-site custom milling; passive solar and healthy house design with a focus on feng shui, vaastu, Japanese and European style. For the past six years I have trained and worked with some of the best in these fields and consider myself a journeyman apprentice towards mastering these skills. It is said that it takes a person around 10 years to master any skill if dedicated and disciplined. Thus far I have had glimpses at perfection and what beauty can be achieved with wood if properly respected. Whether you choose me or another to help you in the design and building process, here are some guidelines I have come to find helpful in achieving a strong and beautiful frame for your home. With a good hat and shoes (roof and foundation) a timber frame can last 100s of years. In some of the most earthquake prone parts of the world there are timber frames over 1000 years old! A good portion of europe has timber frames 600 years old. Our houses today last 50-70 years on average. This entropic state of industry has us retooling and evolving our skills to provide a more sustainable and aesthetically beautiful solution...

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