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After the Ecstacy the Laundry > Week 1 (March 1-5): Part 1 (3-62)

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message 1: by Kristi (new)

Kristi (kristicoleman) Discussion for Week 1 reading.

message 2: by Emily (new)

Emily I'm still just getting started, but like Amanda, I was also really struck by the guided meditation led by Buddhist nun Tenzin Palmo (also the subject of one of the books I nominated for the April book club) in the introduction.

Imagining Buddha and all of the lamas walking the earth in female bodies was shocking in a way to those who were listening. After all, how could they claim to wish all beings to be free of suffering, while keeping a blind eye to the spiritual suffering of the women right in front of them? How touching and beautiful that the Dalai Lama wept after that guided meditation, for all of the women excluded or downgraded in Buddhist practice over the centuries.

I'm so grateful that these wisdoms are available to me as a woman, when even 60 or 70 years ago, they probably wouldn't have been. And I'm grateful for the increasing number of men and women who are able (or learning) to see the value and inherent nobility of all living beings, thus quietly but profoundly changing our world.

Looking forward to the rest of this book!

message 3: by Emily (new)

Emily I loved reading all of the mystical accounts of different folks awakening to spirituality in Chapter One. It's kind of refreshing to read a Buddhist book that has room for mysticism too.

These stories are such an awesome reminder of the oft-forgotten but ever-present magic of life. It's so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and our own mental dramas and forget that there is so much more to our being here on Earth. "[S]uch accounts can shock our system into remembrance, reminding us that we are each here on a great errand" (p. 20).

"It seems impossible that there is not a spiritual stream, a current of potential awakening that, when the moment is right, is waiting for each of us," (p. 19). Hell yeah! And what a relief to trust that. :)

message 4: by Amanda (new)

Amanda It is the mysticism of Kornfield that puts me off him a little; I just can't stop the secular, sceptical side of my brain from cringing. I first came into Buddhism listening to his audiobooks and although in hindsight the more mystical elements were probably there too, it seems more explicit in black and white print where you might not have taken his speech so literally.

But having said that, from an allegorical point of view I'm really enjoying this book. I previously read A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life and found it rather dull to get through and was disappointed that I could barely remember anything about it shortly after, but this book is full of the Buddhist parables and philosophical anecdotes I loved Kornfield's audio for.

message 5: by Amanda (last edited Mar 07, 2011 01:23AM) (new)

Amanda Thank you Emily for linking the Tenzin Palmo book nominated this month with the nun in the introduction. I personally didn't make the connection.

Many religions around the world seem to see women as a potential source of temptation rather than sentient beings with spiritual lives. It's wonderful that many liberal tradtions, such as Anglicanism and Western Buddhism are increasingly giving women the opportunities men have and recognising them as human beings rather than dangerous objects.

message 6: by Amanda (new)

Amanda On the subject of parables...one of my favourate of Kornfield's stories is cited in this book.

It's the Finnish fairytale of the princess who must marry a dragon and is advised to wear a series of gowns one on top of the other. On their wedding night, the dragon is invited to remove one layer for every gown she removes until the dragon finally reveals his true form under all the armor and scales. What a beautiful metaphor.

message 7: by Emily (new)

Emily Amanda wrote: "On the subject of parables...one of my favourate of Kornfield's stories is cited in this book.

It's the Finnish fairytale of the princess who must marry a dragon and is advised to wear a serie..."

I loved this story too! And that the first layer of skin is easy to shed because it's been done before and doesn't deeply wound, but by the end, the dragon is weeping with the pain of shedding the deepest layers yet still committed to doing it because the union that comes at the end of his ordeal is more important than the pain. A beautiful and fitting metaphor indeed.

I love too that Kornfield calls one of those painfully shed layers "the dragon skin of unshed tears," and names this as one of the layers that people have to go through. I cry easily these days, usually for others, but also often enough for my own struggles. This is a relatively new development in my life, and reading this has helped me to reframe the way I think about it. Maybe it's not that I'm overly sensitive, but that this is just a layer I have to go through - to really feel and have compassion for everything I have been afraid to look closely at for so long. And that if I stay with it without judging it, I'll be that much closer to my truest and most radiant self.

message 8: by Kim (new)

Kim | 14 comments I also find the metaphors the most interesting part of Kornfield's writing. Without them, I find his style very dry. I've heard him on tape and somehow got more out of his "talk" then I have so far out of his writing witch I find a bit didactic. He just doesn't pull me in, but I'm hoping that will change with more reading. I did like the metaphor of the dragon skin as well.

message 9: by Amanda (last edited Mar 17, 2011 07:21AM) (new)

Amanda Kim wrote: "I also find the metaphors the most interesting part of Kornfield's writing. Without them, I find his style very dry. I've heard him on tape and somehow got more out of his "talk"..."

I feel precicely the same way. He has a very soft, kind voice with this strange hypnotic quality to it that seems to go deeper than his more formalised writings. His books rather disapointingly almost seem to read like advertisments for a spiritual life, almost as if he was trying to sell it to you and I'm not a fan of sales speeches, but I've found it easier the more I've gone along.

message 10: by Kim (new)

Kim | 14 comments That's exactly what I felt! Well, I will continue reading and hopefully will connect along the way. Thanks for sharing your opinion. Oh, and btw, sorry about the spelling error, witch=which, oops.

message 11: by Amanda (new)

Amanda I think you're right about the lack of focus Gwynwas. Kornfield seems to have a habit of making a point, making it again, moving to another point, coming back to the first point again...and the result just feels repetative and disorganised.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge regarding Carlos Castaneda. Kornfield likes to dip into some very exotic sources so I always take his writings with a pinch of salt. But like you say, much wisdom can be found even in fictions, it just depends how you look at it.

message 12: by Kim (new)

Kim | 14 comments I felt immediate skepticism step in when he mentioned Castaneda and admittedly also when he talked about reaching awakening through LSD. But then I decided to let my judging mind go and accept that it doesn't matter how you get there, but that you get there.

Thanks for pointing out more meaning for the dragon story Gwynwas. The point that it is about the vulnerability we must allow ourselves in relationships made it more meaningful for me.

Ugh, Amanda, I keep trying to stay on focus but this habit of his of trying to make bits and pieces work is very distracting to me. I'm so glad to hear I'm not the only one having problems with this.

message 13: by Amanda (last edited Mar 21, 2011 04:27AM) (new)

Amanda I think the problem with Kornfield is, based on hearing him talk about his writing, that he takes a more instinctive than structured approach...and in my opinion that really comes across!

I'm glad I'm not the only one having pangs of scepticism over enlightenment via LSD!

message 14: by Emily (new)

Emily Actually, many people begin the process of awakening after taking hallucinogenics. There are also many who don't, but for those that do, I think it's the shift in consciousness that takes place that does it. Hallucinogens, also called entheogens (which Wikipedia translates to "God inside us"), can bring feelings of expansiveness, oneness, and/or no-self-ness, stimulating some of the same parts of the brain that a meditation/loving kindness practice can. The problem is, drugs may show you a glimpse of that but they can't keep you there. Still, lots of folks begin to explore spirituality after a consciousness-altering experience like that provided by LSD. There's also a long history of shamans from varying traditions using hallucinogens ceremoniously to connect with the divine.

message 15: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Oh I don't doubt that you could have quite an experience with LSD, but wouldn't the flashbacks interfere with subsequent practice?

message 16: by Emily (last edited Mar 22, 2011 09:04PM) (new)

Emily Well... LSD was around a lot when I was in high school. I know people who took it regularly and suffered no ill effects (and no flashbacks). I also know people who had some intense, scary experiences that they perceived negatively. And I even know one guy who became schizophrenic after taking it, though I'm guessing that was a latent thing that would have shown up in him at some point in his life anyway. But, yeah, it's not for everyone.

I think it has a tendency to bring out whatever is already present in you. If you are drawn to spiritual practice and you use it with spiritual intentions, then you're likely to have a spiritual experience. If you've been repressing a thought or an emotion you haven't wanted to deal with and it comes up in the middle of an acid trip, your experience might seem a little hellish. And if you have an addictive personality, and/or you use drugs to escape, then maybe that's what you'll find.

Ram Dass, one of my favorite authors, writes in Be Here Now about giving his guru large quantities of LSD, as a sort of test to see how he would react, but the drugs had absolutely no discernible effect on his guru's energy or personality. I guess when you're truly conscious/awakened, it doesn't matter whether you're on drugs, in great pain, or dying - what happens doesn't effect your consciousness. Or that's what I got from that story anyway.

This is not a conversation I thought I'd be having on Goodreads! But, I'm kinda glad we are. :)

message 17: by Kim (new)

Kim | 14 comments Hmmm... that's interesting. I also know of two cases where it didn't turn out well. I guess I look at drugs as a sort of escapism, but what you're describing here is not necessarily that, unless that is what you are looking for. I have yet to meditate regularly myself, but it seems like from some of the descriptions I've been reading, emotions you haven't dealt with also come up at that time and can be pretty intense. I've always avoided LSD for that reason, for what might come up. I wonder if I'm evading meditation for the same reasons? (Also I just didn't want to end up like a girl I saw in a hospital that had a bad trip.)

I do think that spiritual awakening can come in many forms, but the idea of gambling with your own body chemistry (because your physical make-up can not be ignored if you are manipulating it) is risky. It seems like taking LSD is playing with the mind in ignorance of what the body might experience and that doesn't seem in the same spirit of what Buddhism explores. That said, maybe in a controlled environment, where the person has been examined for possible physical reactions to the drug, it could be a good way to access areas of the brain which are closed off. That seems to be why LSD came about in the first place.

Meditation just seems like a healthier choice. Less Russian Roulette there. At least you can decide, ok, now I am going to stop meditating because I need to process some of the stuff that has come up, where in a trip you can't just "pull out". Interesting discussion. I'm going to go look up the book you mention, Emily. Thanks for your input!

message 18: by Amanda (last edited Mar 23, 2011 01:56AM) (new)

Amanda I'm with Kim. People react in unpredictable ways to drugs and once they've been taken, you're not in control of the situation and biologically committed for the duration. Buddhist meditation on the other hand is about safe and controlled exploration, unless I have misunderstood the concept. I've heard it said that although drugs can sometimes give us glimpses of Nirvana, they do not teach us how to get there or how to remain there.

message 19: by Emily (new)

Emily I agree too. Bodies are temples. And there's no substitute for daily practice.

message 20: by Emily (new)

Emily Kim wrote: "Hmmm... that's interesting. I also know of two cases where it didn't turn out well. I guess I look at drugs as a sort of escapism, but what you're describing here is not necessarily that, unless..."

Kim, good point about the ability to stop meditating when you want to (unlike being able to stop hallucinating) and also, Amanda, about being biologically committed to the experience without knowing what's going to happen.

I think, actually, that this lack of control is what forms the foundation for a lot of folks whose first spiritual awakening comes with hallucinogens. It's precisely the experience of NOT being in total control and having the reality you know and sometimes the self/ego you know, maybe completely stripped away from you, and realizing that there's a part of consciousness that survives all that. There lies the witness self.

To be clear, I'm not advocating anyone take hallucinogens (though I'm not against them either). I don't think they are a prerequisite for spiritual experience, and I don't think everyone that takes them will have a spiritual experience.

I do think they have provided many people with a valid ENTRY POINT into the stream of awakening that Kornfield writes about in Part 3. "Stream entry occurs when we have our first taste of the absolute freedom of enlightenment, a freedom of the heart beyond all the changing conditions of the world" (p. 110). That freedom exists wherever you find it, whether in the present moment, at the bottom of a deep depression, through intense devotion, or in the surrender of self that sometimes comes via acid trip.

message 21: by Amanda (new)

Amanda I'd heard that too Gwynwas. Trungpa supposedly taught mindfulness in alcohol use, a stance I appreciate as I cannot see the harm in controlled and very occasional alcohol use in social situations - it is drunkenness that is harmful. By many accounts Trungpa was not controlled and drank regularly to excess and allowed his students to do the same. Tragically he was quite probably an alcoholic.

message 22: by Evelyn (new)

Evelyn (evie77) | 7 comments "I hope the fans will take up meditation instead of drugs." ~Ringo Star

From another person who's done both.....


message 23: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Evelyn wrote: ""I hope the fans will take up meditation instead of drugs." ~Ringo Star

From another person who's done both.....


Thanks for that quote Evelyn :D

I've always quite liked Ringo and now I like him more.

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