repost----03012017 SOBER KOBER MEDITATIONS---Healing Shame

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March 29

Meditation Doesn't Fix Everything

As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world - that is the myth of the atomic age - as in being able to remake ourselves.

Mahatma Gandhi One of the most disconcerting things about meditation is that it doesn't fix everything. Meditation, for me, had been like the search for the Holy Grail. If only I could find a meditation that worked, I would be okay. I would be finished with all the discomfort, misfortune, suffering, disconnection and unworthiness that made up so much of my experience of the world. Instant healing is what I wanted. All the pain and anxiety and worry taken away, now. Immediately. When I did finally find my meditation practice, something did happen right away. Something changed. And in a way, I got what I was looking for. I had the contact with a Higher Power that I sought. I had the beginnings of a grounding within Self that, when I could feel it, put the lie to the suffering and the self-abnegation I'd been so at the mercy of. I was able to see, sometimes, that I was worthy, that everyone was worthy, and I could feel the oneness of all things, or at least the promise of one day being able to feel that oneness. But... But it had taken years to become this person I was. All of these stresses I had accumulated from decades of life and all the tools I'd had to learn to get along with who I was. All the self-justifications and permissions to behave in ways that are less than pure, that are about separation and seeing oneself and others as being unworthy of tenderness, compassion, love. This whole setup of behaviors and thoughts and coping mechanisms that we use to survive, and that we end up identifying as ourself. All of this took years to build, and we don't stop using it simply because our meditation has made it possible to have a deeper experience of who and what we are. It's a process. And the process involves having to feel the stresses moving through us as they are being released, the really uncomfortable feelings that we've learned to avoid or change or cover up or pretend away. All these feelings now are coming up and coming out and we're left having to remind ourselves, over and over, 'This is stress, leaving my body. This is not me. These thoughts and feelings are old, they are historical. They do not describe my life or me and I do not have to listen to what they have to say. I do not have to believe what they are telling me. I am not this. I am something else, and even if I cannot feel this something else that I am, I contact it in meditation. It is of nature. It is of God. It is the truth of what I am.' We tell ourselves this, and then we get present to the moment, present to what we are doing, and we move forward. Meditation did not fix everything. It continues not to fix everything. But it gets you in the game. Meditation continues to help me to connect to something greater than myself. It continues to give me an experience of self that is other than my thoughts and my feelings, deeper and more real than my thoughts and feelings. It continues to give me more and more the capacity to feel happiness and the ability to choose happiness and to choose an approach to life that is aligned with nature, and with a Self that knows I am worthy of happiness, of joy, and that I have something worthwhile to give in this life. Meditation helps me to know that love is something that can be chosen. Love of self, love of others, love of life. Even when the old patterns arise, and the habits of judgment and separation kick in, even at those times, as a meditator, you become able to stop and notice and offer yourself the choice of continuing to feel the separation and fear that used to be so much a part of what you were, or letting it go and offering yourself the possibility of something other. Something like love and acceptance and oneness with everything. Meditation offers always the possibility of life and the ability to choose something new. I know of nothing else that even comes close to offering that. Today I will meditate, and I will suggest to myself that any 'bad' feeling I may be having could be a release of stress, and I will remind myself of how much better I'll feel when it has passed through me and away. Three Women and Calf, Veerpur, Uttarakhand, India

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 28

Fear

Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.

Marianne Williamson Sometimes our minds are a steady stream of what should be feared--out there in the world, in here with myself, everywhere. As if there were nowhere to be safe. These fears seem so real. Everything they say seems true. In reality, though, they are our thoughts moving through the structures of the stresses we have accumulated over the course of our lives, like wind whistling through a canyon in the desert, its music determined by the shape of the rocks through which it blows, rather than by the wind itself. For most of us, these stresses and the fears they sing seem so much a part of ourselves that we rarely question the veracity of what they tell us about ourselves and our lives. Then we begin to meditate, and immediately these stresses begin to melt away. We begin to be able to see through the fears. What relief. We are on our way to being able to experience life as new, as fresh, perhaps for the first time ever. But still, our mind runs rampant, the stress release phenomenon itself triggering thought upon thought upon thought, all of which thought, expressive of stress release, will speak to us of our unworthiness and unlovability. But now we have tools. We do not have to be at the mercy of this mind anymore. Each day, this same meditation that allows stresses to be released from within me, also gives me the undeniable experience of knowing myself as something other than my thinking. I am, truly, this other thing. This deeper Self, unchanging, untouched by the thoughts, the fears, the worries, always pure, clear, fresh and alive. Today I will know the fears within my mind for what they really are--the music of stress release--and I will insist on hearing another tune along with them. Woman with Firewood, Jhilmil Gufa, Uttarakhand, India

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 27

Love is a Quality of Divinity

Love is a quality of Divinity and as such illuminates the Essence and therefore the lovability of others... the relinquishing of judgmentalism greatly increases the capacity of Love, as does surrendering the wanting of anything from others.

Thus people are not perceived according to what they have or do but by appreciation for what they are or have become.

Dr. David Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D, from Transcending the Levels of Consciousness: The Stairway to Enlightenment Identified as the ego, we stand in judgment, always. Judgment of others, as well as judgment of our self. This is why it's called the relative world: because everything is seen in relation to something else; and when we are identified as our relative world self, by definition we are comparing constantly. This car is better than that car, you are better than me, I am better than that, we are better than them. From this identification, love is not possible. What we call love from this place is really need. The need to be loved, the need to be seen or recognized, the need to find safe harbor. This isn't wrong. It is simply human. But it is incomplete. When we make the effort to know ourselves as other than the ego, we are doing the work of loving. We are aligning ourselves with Divinity and making ourselves available to Love. When we meditate, we drop into this place that is beneath or beyond thought, and we begin to know what we are that is other than judgment. We begin to know the essence of ourselves; and from there it becomes possible to know others as the essence of what they are as well. Essence knowing essence, Self recognizing Self. Love given, love received. This is the work of a lifetime, the work of being a human: each day to let go a bit more of judgment and separation and grow a bit more in our ability to love, our ability to know the Divine in ourselves and in everyone around us. Today when I find myself in judgment--of myself or of someone else--I will make the effort to step out of my thinking and into Being. I will give someone a pass for being human. I will let myself off the hook for being less than perfect. I will ask something greater than myself for the grace to be loving and kind to my fellows. Green Home, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kobe

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March 26

You Only Need to Know

about Half a Dozen Things

The basic things to reach enlightenment are really only half a dozen in number, aren't they? The willingness to forgive, the realization of the limitations of the intellect, devotion to divinity, the respect for the sacred, one-pointedness or fixity of mind to transcend all obstacles, the willingness to be loving as a way of being in the world, rather than as an emotional give and take--I love you, now you love me... You only need to know about half a dozen things.

David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D.,

The Way to God:

The Nature of Divinity vs. Religious Fallacy Could it really be this simple? If we were to follow the half dozen suggestions given above, could we reach enlightenment? Yes. But looking again at the list it begins to seem a bit more daunting. The willingness to forgive? The willingness to be loving as a way of being in the world? That's how we might expect to be after we've become enlightened. But before? As this limited human being, beset on all sides by the unfairness of the world and the selfishness of our fellows? How can we even begin to move in this direction? We're doing it right now, together. I am writing these words, this series of thoughts, and you are reading them. We are spending some of the precious moments of our life shining a light on the world of the spirit (devotion to divinity, respect for the sacred). We are opening ourselves to seeing things in a different way (realizing the limitations of the intellect). We can choose in each moment and in every situation to be willing to forgive (we don't need to know how, we only need to become willing). We can choose with everyone we meet to be willing to love as a way of being in the world (again, it is the willingness alone we need to choose). And throughout our day we can choose, again and again, to see past our limitations and resistance to imagine a more whole, more joyful experience of life than we may be having in the moment. We can ask of divinity for Its help in this. We can ask for help in seeing the sacredness of all things. We can choose in each moment to step beyond all obstacles and most especially the obstacle of our own thinking to see in each other only that which is lovable, to see in the world only that which is sacred, to identify in ourselves only with that part that is willing to be more alive than each day than we were the day before. Today I will read this list of half a dozen things this morning and at noon and before dinner, and I will find the willingness to live out each part of it to the best of my ability. Ganesha, ambrotype, Studio City, CA

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 25

The Problem of Suffering

You are the sky. Everything else - it's just the weather.

Pema Chödrön One way to approach the 'problem' of happiness, and why we may not have it, is perhaps to see what we have that is opposed to happiness. This would be the experience of suffering. Suffering is not to be confused with pain. Pain occurs. Pain is the body's way of communicating that something is amiss. When I step on a piece of glass, a nerve message is sent to my brain to indicate that I have injured myself and that care must be taken. This is what some call necessary pain, or unavoidable pain. And of course the same holds true with emotional pain. Death of loved ones, broken relationships, career disappointments--there are things in life that simply hurt, no matter how far along the path we have come. Suffering, however, is what we experience when we think about the pains we have experienced, when we tell ourselves why we have the pains we are experiencing, try to think our way out of future, imagined pains, or blame ourselves or others for the pains we are experiencing in the moment. Any sort of speculation about pain, or truly, the act of speculation itself, will lead to suffering. Always and only. Speculation leads to suffering. And all suffering involves speculation. Dr. Nitin Trasi, in The Science of Enlightenment, calls speculation 'Unnecessary Thoughts,' as distinct from 'Necessary Thoughts,' which are involved in performing one's job or paying one's bills. And why do we have these unnecessary thoughts? What is their cause? It is our belief in the separateness of our self from others, from the world. Our belief in duality. Our sole identity with 'ego,' if you will. When we believe the world or others in it can harm us, can give to or take from our fulfillment, can cause us grief or happiness by their opinions of us--this is what leads to speculation, to unnecessary thoughts. So we may assume, then, that the direction away from suffering would be the direction away from speculation, which in turn would be the direction away from ego. The direction, therefore, of Oneness. Knowing that everyone I meet, everyone I see, each and every person in my world is at one with me, and with the Whole. And that I may choose, now, in this moment, to move in the direction of this oneness. I may choose now to love. Today I will look at one of my fellows and imagine, at least for a moment, what it might feel like if we shared the same consciousness, the same mind. If we shared the same heart. And I will look into his eyes without fear, and I will send him love. Marble, M Street Wash, Studio City, CA

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 24

The Beautiful Invisible

[T]here is a profound connection between blindness, abstract thought, poetry, and spiritual wisdom. Homer, the father of all poets, discovered his literary vocation only when he was no longer encumbered with a sense of vision. Democritus, the inventor of the atom, plucked out his eyes to think more clearly. And Chiu-fang Kao, the most experienced of the imperial horse-trainers, could not tell whether a certain horse was a dun-coloured mare or a coal-black stallion: '...intent on the inward qualities, he loses sight of the external...He looks at the things he ought to look at, and neglects those that need not be looked at.' from The Beautiful Invisible: Creativity, Imagination, and Theoretical Physics by Giovanni Vignale We meditate in order to ground ourselves in the transcendent. The more we are grounded in this place of true Being, the less we are at the mercy of all the seeming 'problems' of the relative world, and the more we find ourselves able to follow some inner guidance far more effective and profound than our ability to 'figure things out'. It works in the other direction as well. If I begin to look past the surface differences between you and me, I will begin to feel compassion, rather than judgment. I will find myself able to love, rather than separate. I will learn how to recognize that transcendent Self in each of you, my brothers and sisters, and I will be able to recognize it more easily in myself. There is a Truth that underlies all that we can see. This Truth, when called upon, guides us unerringly in the direction of our highest good, which in turn is the highest good for all. It is our responsibility, each day, to seek this Truth, and to question every thought and feeling that arises that seems to tell me the opposite. Today I will notice when the voice of judgment arises in my mind, and I will choose to listen for another voice, a deeper voice. I will choose to see through the eyes of compassion and oneness, rather than the eyes of separation and negativity. I will recognize that God is alive in each moment, always available to support me in this direction of unity and love. Henry, Meditating, wet plate collodion, Los Angeles, CA

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 23

How Do We Surrender the Ego to God

So: How can you surrender the ego to god? First become acquainted with what is the ego. It's the persistence of the animal instinct, but now elaborated through mind, the intellect, and given authenticity by the mutual agreement of society. Paying attention to current events--what you see is every ego mechanism played out on a grand stage. So if you want to understand your ego, what you try to do is comprehend what goes on in the world, and see it in terms of the ego, and you'll understand yourself. So letting go trying to change it in the world is letting go trying to change it in yourself. Forgiving the world and forgiving yourself are the same thing. The world is just a projection of the ego. You might say it isn't my ego. Well, it's the collective ego. Every step forward you take affects all mankind. David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D Dr. Hawkins presents a revolutionary conception of the ego. Many of us raised within the Judeo-Christian ethic have been taught to see instinct as sin. It is a sin to lust after someone in your heart, a sin to be arrogant, to think you're better than someone else. A sin to be egoic. By tracking the development of consciousness through the animal kingdom, Dr. Hawkins demonstrates that ego in fact is simply a part of our survival mechanism. The ego is the discerning factor in us, labeling things as safe/unsafe, edible/inedible, breeding partner material/not breeding partner material. These 'judgments' keep us alive and have kept our species thriving. When we become frightened, we will have an ego response. We will react as an animal. This is our nature. Many of have been taught to see this ego response in terms of morality, and to see an ego response as a sin. We then proceed to beat ourselves up with the internal voice of our judgmental parent figure. When we can see that it is a natural animal survival response for ego to arise, we can begin to let ourselves off the hook. When we know the ego response as natural, we more easily will be able to let it go and behave from our higher Self. And the more we forgive and accept this natural response in ourselves, the more we will be able to forgive and accept it in our fellows. Today I will notice when I am having a fear-based, egoic response to something or someone in my life, and I will find my way in that moment to self-forgiveness. And when I find myself judging someone else in the world for their arrogance, selfishness or rude behavior, I will remind myself that in that moment they are at the mercy of their animal nature, and I will find my way to stepping out of the seat of judgment and into acceptance and loving-kindness. Two Bison, Crow Indian Reservation, Montana

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 22

Understanding God

It is impossible for the human mind to remain a human mind and at the same time to understand God. Only God's mind can understand God. Only when the human mind is so relieved of its humanness that it becomes God's mind, even to you, can that mind begin to understand God's mind.

Pandit Usharbudh Arya, Ph.D., God When speaking or writing about the Vedas and/or Vedic meditation, the question often arises as to whether or not to mention the word, or even the idea of, God. the word itself is so fraught with meaning, so many different meanings to so many different people. Everyone's idea is valid from their point of view; but even within given religions, even within given denominations or sects, one person's opinion can be offensive to another, let alone across the broad spectrum of religions and differing cultures. Often times it makes more sense to use words like 'nature' or 'Totality,' 'the All,' or even 'the Divine' (rarely used, therefore having few negative connotations), in order to allow room for any who care to the freedom to approach this world view and the practice of Vedic Meditation. Each of these words means the same thing: that which encompasses everything. That which is everything. The Omnipresent. Everywhere and every time and every thing. And really, what does it matter? People will hear what they hear. The ego will dismiss what it can dismiss. The need within each will allow change to take place as it can. It seems a shame, though, that the idea of God--this thing or concept that, if it means anything, means unity--can be so divisive that most of us, especially in our Western culture, don't allow it to be a part of our conversation nearly ever. And of course this is due mostly to the fact that when God is discussed in our world, it always is in the form of a conversation about religion. Religion is based in dogma, ideas and beliefs embraced by an individual who has not necessarily had experiences to support those beliefs. So the belief resides in the mind and the mind is about separation, and unity itself becomes merely an idea, rather than an experience of the world one legitimately could seek. The very idea of Omnipresence insists that any idea of God I may have by definition must be merely one facet, one aspect of the Whole that God is. With my finite human mind I cannot comprehend even the concept of infinity, let alone an Infinite Being, encompassing all that is and beyond. And yet there is a desire to know God. To experience God. When one has used up every avenue of seeking peace and happiness within the world without lasting success, then one becomes ready to seek God in a new way. And as it turns out this is all that is necessary. There is no need to find. Merely to seek. We are designed to need God. Many of us go to great lengths to deny this need or to camouflage it from ourselves and perhaps others; but we all are born with this connection to the great stream of life, only to have it taught or beaten out of us or twisted into an idea that is not useable by us so that we end up needing at some point to begin anew. What a great accomplishment this would be: to find oneself willing to let go of every idea one had of God and perhaps become willing to seek an actual experience of God, rather than new ideas to replace the old that no longer seem valid, that no longer work for us if ever they did. We begin by taking a step. A step inward, with meditation, to find that place within that is other than our mind. A step outward with eyes open, seeking evidence of God, of nature, wherever we may look. And it doesn't matter where we step or where we look. The one agreed upon thing in most religious thought is that if God is, God is everything. It is possible to think ourselves away from God. The human mind is all about division and separation. It is not, however, possible to take a step that is away from God. Every step is in God's direction. Through everything we see, God is looking back to us. It only is left for us to recognize this and to welcome this into our awareness. Today I will ask for God's eyes that I may see God. I will ask for God's ears that I may hear God. I will ask for God's embrace that I may feel God. I will ask for God's direction that everything I do may be done in service to God. I will ask for God's mind that I may understand God. Siva Linga, Jhilmil Gufa, Uttarakhand, India

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 21

Relax and Enjoy

If we really understand what the universe is about, we need never fear letting go of anything. We live in an infinite universe that continually is evolving. This is all that nature knows to do: evolve. We are nature. As individual expressions of nature, this is all we truly know how to do. Evolve. No matter that it may seem to be something else, evolution is all that is happening, ever. Evolution, for we humans, means becoming more and more what we truly are, which it turns out is to know ourselves absolutely as expressions of the Divine, as expressions of love. In an infinite universe this is going to happen eventually, whether we want it to or not. We're all headed to the same place: to enlightenment. To the pure and free expression of life and love that we are. It is inevitable. And in this infinite universe, the difference in timing between when a saint arrives or when a sinner arrives at this place is less than the snap of a finger. The only question for us is: how much do we want to enjoy the ride? Today, I will relax and enjoy. I will let myself love and be loved. I will take it easy and remind myself that all is right with the world and with me in it. Making Movies, Alhambra, CA

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 20

Kumbh Mela

There is a beautiful story: during the floods somebody saw a huge blanket floating in the river and jumped in to get it; after catching hold of the blanket and struggling with it, he could not come to the shore; his friends called and asked why he did not come to the shore; he replied that he could not come, so his friends told him to give up the blanket and come; he replied: 'I want to give up the blanket but the blanket does not want to give me up, it's not a blanket, it's a bear.' I want to forget the thought but the thought does not want to forget me. Meditation as Spiritual Culmination by Swami Sarvagatananda Where do thoughts come from? All day long our mind is filled with thoughts--some we are choosing to have, some which come unbidden. Some which are helpful, some which cause us grief, pain, shame, anger. Maharishi Patanjali, in his Yoga Sutras, says that we take in thoughts throughout our life. They come in from the world and then we have them, whether we choose them or not. We cannot easily be rid of them, but we must find the way to be detached from them. Patanjali suggests we must objectify the thought and refuse to give it power. Refuse to go with it, refuse to struggle against it, refuse to identify with it, refuse to identify as its opposite. In order to do this, I first must be aware of the thought. I must not pretend the negative thought is not there out of fear that I may be caught by it. The offending thought still is there regardless and it will be affecting me even though I'm ignoring it. By refusing to look at it, I am lending it power. I am saying it is more powerful than me. So I don't ignore the thought, but I don't give it power. It comes back, again and again. Still I don't give it power. I continue to let it go, let it go, let it go, and I come back to my senses. Come out of my thinking and into my body. When the thought intrudes again, I note it, but I don't react to it. I don't identify with it. In truth, it is not a thought that is being bothersome to us. It is the upset being caused by a given thought. It is our reaction to the thought. I can't control whether or not I have a particular thought. I can, however, control to what degree I'm going to be upset by the thought. In the literature, the example is given by Sri Ramakrishna of a servant maid sweeping the road. A gentleman passing by tells her a boy from their village has passed away. Oh yes, he was a nice little boy she says, and continues sweeping. Now suppose it was her own son. She would have thrown down the broom and run into the house. It's the same boy. The difference is in the attachment or the non-attachment. It is not the thoughts. It is what I take the thoughts to mean. And what I take the thoughts to mean is dependent entirely on the degree to which I am identified with those thoughts, or with what those thoughts might mean about me. Today, if I am beset by thoughts or ideas that are upsetting to me, I will ask myself 'who would I be without these thoughts? How would I feel without these thoughts? What would I give up by giving up these thoughts? What am I that is beyond all these thoughts, and can I feel that part of me now? Beware of Dog, Butler, Studio City, CA

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober STAY CONNECTED:

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March 19

Kumbh Mela

What amrita is to gods... so to humans is Ganga water.

Mahabharata XIII.26.49 Kumbh Mela is a fair that is held every three years at one of the holy places of India. Each 12 years there is the Maha Kumbh Mela, where over the course of six weeks, some 110 to 130 million people visit the holy fair. Kumbha means water pot. In the context of Kumbh Mela it refers to the pot holding amrita, the nectar of immortality. There is a very long though entertaining story about how this amrita was churned from the sea in ancient times by the gods and the demons. It involves a mountain as a churning stick and a serpent as a rope and a task so vast the gods could not do it alone, so they convinced the demons to help them. Many fine things were churned from the sea--the first physician, the chariot of the sun, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth--but the last and best prize was the amrita. The gods and demons struggled for a thousand years over who would keep this sacred nectar, and when the gods finally won the tug of war, as they were carrying it off to heaven, four drops fell to earth. These spots are said to be the holiest of holys, and these are the four points where the melas occur. So here in Allahabad, at the confluence of the Yamuna River, the Ganga and the Saraswati, is the great fair, a month and a half-long festival of some 110 million people or more, here solely for finding connection--with their brothers and sisters, with God, with spirit, with the Higher Self. What does this mean for us as Westerners? In practical terms it means that one may attend this festival, sleep in freezing cold tents with very few blankets, have not one silent moment through the day or night, with loudspeakers blaring bhajans and lectures and crowds of people crying out; one may walk for countless kilometers in crowds large enough to be seen by satellite, and never encounter a cross word, never feel frightened or crowded, be welcomed by the Indians with smiles and open arms, have a tangible experience of unity with these fellow humans from the time you arrive to the time you leave and beyond. Be filled with bliss for no reason, just simply because. Wonder why you only planned for five days here, when obviously you should have been here for the whole thing. Know that in twelve years you'll be able to find a much better tent. The only thing anybody ever really wants is to feel connected. If one travels halfway around the world for a festival that is dedicated to that connectedness, to achieve it is as simple as stepping out onto the road and smiling at each person you meet; but of course we don't really need to go to this trouble. We all can choose to feel this connection at any time. Simply by ceasing to insist on the ways in which we keep ourselves separate from each other and feeling the connectedness that is truly what we are. Not as an idea or an ideal or a maybe someday it might be nice to feel that. But right now, in this next moment. For beyond the ego and the body and the ideas of difference that keep us separate and apart-from and miserable, there is only oneness. And this oneness is what we are. Bolo Ganga mai ki jai! Today I will recognize that those around me who may seem troubled are really only looking for connection, and I will offer it to them, at least by knowing for myself that we all are one. Thanks to Diana L. Eck and her book, India: A Sacred Geography, for quotes and information. Kumbh Mela, 2013, Prayag, Uttar Pradesh, India

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 18

The Essential Discipline for Daily Use

When I first entered the monastery, the monks gave me a small book called 'The Essential Discipline for Daily Use,' written by the Buddhist monk Doc The from Bao Son pagoda, and they told me to memorize it. It was a thin book. It couldn't have been more than 40 pages, but it contained all the thoughts Doc The used to awaken his mind while doing any task. When he woke up in the morning, his first thought was, 'Just awakened, I hope that every person will attain great awareness and see in complete clarity.' When he washed his hands, he used this thought to place himself in mindfulness: 'Washing my hands, I hope that every person will have pure hands to receive reality.' The book is comprised entirely of such sentences. Their goal was to help the beginning practitioner take hold of his own consciousness. Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness People want to be loving and kind. It is inherent in our nature. When we find ourselves in a place of being unloving and unkind, it is because we have become stuck in a habit of thought. We have somewhere taken on the idea that we need to protect ourselves, whether from an individual, a group or sometimes the entire world. We build a case and rationalize our behavior, and then end up repeating these rationalizations to ourselves in the form of a litany of what's wrong with the people and the world around us.

'Blah-blah-blah, separation. Blah-blah-blah get out of my way. Blah-blah-blah leave me alone!'

And how does this make us feel? Unhappy. Alone. Sad. Angry. And then, not only are we telling ourselves stories about the world, but we, too, are of the world, so we end up telling ourselves stories about ourselves, because at some level we always know that we alone are responsible for our own happiness, regardless of who we may be blaming for our lack of it.

It would be good to have a book to show us a new way of thinking, a set of specific thoughts for specific times that are time-tested to change and expand our experience of the world. It would be good to have the words to speak to ourselves that would give us permission to be the loving and kind person we would like to be.

Perhaps we don't have a book, but we definitely have books.

There are so many fantastic things written from and for every level of development, any of which can show us in detail how to shift the way in which we see the world and the way in which we speak to ourselves about the world. When we begin to change the words within our own minds, these 'verbal thoughts' that so often are negative, we can see immediate results.

When he woke up in the morning, his first thought was, 'Just awakened, I hope that every person will attain great awareness and see in complete clarity.'

Simply to begin to think about others and their well-being, rather than our own self-centered fears, is for us to join in the flow of life and thereby open ourselves to the healing power of nature.

This universe is Consciousness Itself. Outside of meditation, my most direct connection to Consciousness is my thinking. Why would I leave the quality of that connection to chance? Today I will notice when negative thoughts arise and I will conscientiously replace them with thoughts of love and compassion for myself and for my fellows. I will find the way to give of myself, rather than to cut myself off from the Wholeness. I will insist on Life. Redwoods (ambrotype), Muir Woods, Marin County, CA

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 17

Love

If you have weapons, take them home; if you do not have them, please do not seek to get them. We cannot solve this problem through retaliatory violence. We must meet violence with nonviolence. Remember the words of Jesus: 'He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.' [ ] We must love our white brothers [ ] no matter what they do to us. We must make them know that we love them. Jesus still cries out in words that echo across the centuries: 'Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you.' This is what we must live by. We must meet hate with love.

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.,

Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story Love. Love everything. Love everyone. Always. Even those times when it's the last thing you want to do, when it's the last thing you think they deserve. Especially those times. All the ego knows is separation. Is to kill that which threatens it. All the spirit knows is love. Is to be in the oneness of love. When we choose to love, we are choosing to be of the spirit. We are choosing to shine the light of our awareness on the oneness we share with all others, rather than on the separation. When we choose to love, we bring love to this oneness, to the collective.

When the collective is fraught with fear and hatred, only love will calm that fear and hatred. To act out this fear and hatred on other will do nothing but grow the fear and hatred of the collective. If we want peace, we must bring peace. Only love will bring peace. The only job we have is to bring love. And if not now, when? The world is dying from lack of love. Days and nights are irresistibly passing. Love. Love everything. Love everyone. Always. Today I will insist on love. Couple at Triveni Sangham, Kumbh Mela, Uttar Pradesh, India

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 16

Crushed Poppies

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.

William Blake, from Auguries of Innocence One day a few years ago, I took a friend's photo. They wanted 'something outdoors, with an out of focus background.' I'd been setting up inside, but instead, when I heard this, we went to the backyard, pulled some lights out there. Had to go into the shadow of the next door garage. Early afternoon sun so strong, so high, shadows shallow. I had him stand just on the edge of the flower bed. Not much there. Just some small, grassy-looking things. We started shooting. His mother was holding a flag for my lens, but there was this one shadow on his neck... Hey, let's get Adele to come out and hold the bounce board. What fun that will be. Adele, her friend (and mine), our friend's son (the subject) and me. A real family affair. It takes a village, right? The day before, Adele came in from the backyard so happy. Oh, my new poppies are coming up, she said. You're going to just love them. We're going to have waves of orange in the yard soon. Do you know that California poppies, before they bloom, can look like innocuous, not terribly interesting grasses? I had crushed the poppies. Mindlessly. Unthinkingly. Ouch. Adele ended up crying. The crushing of the poppies, it turns out, was the perfect metaphor for other things happening in her life at the moment. We got the head shots. I felt bad. Adele wept. Then she wrote a poem about it. She's been writing a poem every day, Project 365, she calls it. This was a particularly good one, the one about crushed flowers, crushed hopes. Do you think she should thank me? To make poetry out of crushed poppies - is this simply what it means to be human? Artistic? Whatever it is, it's beautiful. To see the poetry of the crushed poppies - this is the Vedic world view. To see the absolute beauty in all things at all times. And if we can't see it in a given moment, at least to know that it is there, somewhere. That we will be able to see it at some point. That whatever is happening, it always is evolution. That even dead flowers are part of evolution: a heart weeps tears that need to be wept. A poet writes it down. The poet's friend gets to comfort her and promise her new poppies. The poet's partner has an opportunity to be humbled, and the opportunity to appreciate poetry and poppies in a way he perhaps never has before. Every Night and every Morn Some to Misery are Born. Every Morn and every Night Some are Born to sweet delight. Some are Born to sweet delight, Some are Born to Endless Night. William Blake, from Auguries of Innocence California Poppies, Antelope Valley, CA

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 15

Mindfulness

Sayadaw U Pandita came to Barre to teach a three-month retreat when I first met him. As a student, I diligently wrote down brief notes after each period of sitting and walking meditation. I wanted to describe my experiences clearly in our interviews. When I began relating my experiences, U Pandita said, 'Never mind that. Tell me everything you noticed when you put on your shoes.' I hadn't really paid attention to putting on my shoes. He told me to try again. That was the end of the interview. The next day I went into my interview ready to report on sitting meditation, walking meditation and my experience while putting on my shoes. U Pandita said, 'Tell me everything you noticed when you washed your face.' I hadn't really paid any attention to washing my face. My interview was over. Every day U Pandita would ask me a different question. Soon I was practicing mindfulness in everything I was doing. I discovered that when I stopped resisting this continuity of awareness, it opened up a deep and clear understanding of what meditation actually is. U Pandita's precision and ardency regarding meditation practice raised my efforts to a whole new level.

from Sharon Salzberg, Influences We meditate to find peace, to get closer to ourselves, to get closer to God, to become more aligned with nature, to work on our spiritual life, to quiet our mind. All good and legitimate reasons to meditate. But our practice is for twenty minutes, twice a day. Is this enough to change our life, to give us what we're looking for? Or is it just another version of an earlier generation practicing spirituality for one hour on Sunday morning, then crashing through life for the other six days, 23 hours per week? The answer, of course, is that yes, meditation will change your life. Slowly, over time. But if these two sessions of twenty minutes are the only times we spend seeking a sense of peace within, our progress will be over-balanced and lessened by the other 163 1/3 hours per week we spend attending to relative world issues. So what can we do? First of all, we work at 'correcting the intellect.' We read something daily that is of a spiritual bent, that helps to tend us in the direction of spiritual growth. And then we find our way to being present in our life, in our body, as fully and as often as we can. 'Mindfulness,' as it is called by the Buddhists of today. A teacher like Sharon Salzberg has spent her life studying and teaching meditation and mindfulness, and writes about it with subtlety, grace and humility. Like any great teacher, she is as well a role model. One could not go wrong following her lead in this. And the payoff? Life. Joy. Present moment awareness. The possibility of seeing God in our world and an ever-increasing capacity for love and compassion for our fellows. Today I will find a role model to teach me present moment awareness and compassion for myself and others, and by doing so I will present myself as a role model in my world. Ants in Hallway, Parmarth Veerpur Ashram, Uttarakhand, India

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 14

The Mind of Love is Very Wide

When your mind is filled with love, send it in one direction, then a second, a third, and a fourth, then above, and then below. Identify with everything, without hatred, resentment, anger, or enmity. This mind of love is very wide. It grows immeasurably and eventually is able to embrace the whole world.

Siddhartha Gautama Buddha,

Madhyama Agama, Sutra 86 Truth is that which never changes. All this relative world will change. We and everyone we know began as infants, became children, young adults, then adults. Everyone we know was born and will die, as will we. Our bodies have grown and changed and aged. All of our organs, our skin, even our bones and teeth have been replaced many, many times. There is not one thing in me that is the same as it was even five years ago, let alone in my childhood. Yet there is that thing within us that has been present throughout all these relative changes and will be there to witness the end of things and the beginning of the next chapter of our existence, wherever that may be. Truth is that which never changes. The truth is the truth regardless of who is saying it or writing it. All true philosophies and true spiritual traditions speak of the same thing. The sutra above is from Siddhartha Gautama Buddha and is quoted by Thich Nhat Hahn in his book, Teachings on Love. It is an amazingly far-reaching approach to bringing love into our world. As if we are to love everything and everyone, regardless of our opinions of them, regardless of what they might have done or said to us, what they might have done to others, what they might have said about us to others. As if love were the most important thing in this world. As if perhaps it is our only task. The Veda says that there is one thing; that this Oneness wished for something to do, for some Other with whom It could communicate. It desired an experience of relativity. And in that moment of desiring, it gave Itself the great gift of forgetting Its oneness. In forgetting Its oneness, it saw Itself as the relative world, and all this came into existence. What happened next and continues to happen is the Oneness, as you and me, is remembering Itself as Oneness. Self looks across at Self and recognizes--literally re-cognizes, re-members--that Self in me is Self in you. There are no differences. It is one thing. This is the experience Oneness wanted for Itself. This remembering. We humans call this experience love. As humans we forget this often. The wholeness with which the Buddha has spoken about love is a powerful reminder for us. We don't follow the Buddha's instructions in order to become the Buddha. Not even in order to become a saint. We follow these instructions and the example of these enlightened beings in order to become who and what we are. We are Totality. We are here to love. Period. As we love, we remember. As we remember, we are more able to love. Today I will take a moment to love--filling my mind with love, then sending love first in one direction, then another, then another, then another, then above, then below. I will give of myself in every direction, knowing that what I give comes from the source of all love, and that what I give, I receive. Children from a Wedding Party, Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 13

How We Do Anything

God may forgive your sins, but your nervous system won't.

Alfred Korzybski How we do anything is how we do everything. Most of us have at least something we do that doesn't fit in with the way we'd like to be, the way we'd like to be seen by the world, the way we'd like to be seen by God, by our higher Self. Maybe we secretly eat Red Vines alone at night. Flirt where perhaps we shouldn't. Lie by omission. Misstate our income at tax time. Sneak a cigarette here or there. Or the oh-so-many other ways we have to be less than we could be, less perfect than we would like to be. We think we can compartmentalize these things, turning away from the eyes of others, from the eyes of God. We convince ourselves it's okay for me to do this because... rationalize, rationalize, fill in the blank. But how we do anything is how we do everything. We know who we are and what we've done, regardless of our capacity to deny it to ourselves. We build our lives based upon what we think we deserve. And if we have secret behavior that we would judge as undeserving, it absolutely affects every aspect of our lives. Be who you know yourself to be. Do the behavior of someone whom you would respect. And when you fall short, forgive yourself the way you would be forgiven by the most loving parents you can imagine. Today I will listen to the still, small voice that suggests I am better than I think myself to be, and what I choose to do today with my attention and with my time will reflect that better version of myself. Dancers on Side of Building, San Francisco CA

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 12

Attending to Our Thoughts

Attending to Our Thoughts

The thought manifests as the word;

The word manifests as the deed;

The deed develops into habit;

And habit hardens into character.

So watch the thought and its ways with care,

And let it spring from love

Born out of concern for all beings.

As the shadow follows the body,

As we think, so we become.

Siddh?rtha Gautama Buddha,

The Dhammapada

When we learn to meditate, for many of us it is the first time we become able to see our thoughts and be able to have any affect on them whatsoever. Before meditation some of us felt we were at the mercy of the thoughts, as if they came from somewhere else, as if we were victims to them. Many of us sought pharmaceutical solutions in order simply to find some peace from these out of control thoughts. Then we begin meditating and within a rather short time we find ourselves able to see our thoughts clearly; and when we are able to see the thoughts clearly, it is merely one more step for us to be able to shift them--by shifting our attention from the negative to the positive, looking at what is right in a situation rather than what is wrong; by challenging the ego's constant attempts to separate us from the rest of the world; by choosing compassion for others over judgment. As meditators, when we find our thoughts to be other than we would like them to be, simply by wanting them to change, wanting them to be more positive than negative, our thoughts begin to shift and change, and the more we shift and change our thinking, the easier it becomes. It is not just positive thinking, but rather the beginnings of an entire paradigm shift where we begin to see our true place in the world as expressions of something far greater than our small self. As expressions of our divine nature. Like our body in its way, our mind needs clean fuel to operate at its best. If we are athlete's we wouldn't dream of performing on a diet of Twinkie's and beer. As spiritual beings having this human experience, the tendency of our mind will lead us to enjoyment or suffering, joy or sorrow, exaltation or shame, and its tendency will depend in large part on the material we've been feeding it. Thoughts of love for self and others, or the negative tapes of habit. Which of these shall we choose today? Today I will pay attention to my thinking and, when it throws up to me its negative judgments of myself or the world, I will challenge myself to let these judgments go and I will find the love and compassion within myself to turn them around. St. Andrews Cathedral, Sydney, Australia

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 11

Other Than the Mind,

Other Than the Body

Your body is just something you accumulated. It is a piece of earth you imbibed through food... Your body is on loan from the planet. All the countless numbers of people who have lived on this planet before you and me have all become topsoil, and so will you. This planet will collect back atom by atom what it has loaned to you... If one is constantly, experientially aware that both the body and the mind are accumulations one has gathered, then that is samadhi. You are in the body, but you are not it. You are of the mind, but you are not it. That means that you are absolutely free of suffering because whatever suffering you have known enters you either through the body or through the mind. Once your awareness is keen enough to create a space between these two accumulations and who you really are--this is the end of all suffering. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev (with Cheryl Simone), Midnights with the Mystic One of the great gifts of meditation is the twice-daily experience of knowing ourselves as something other than the mind and other than the body. We sit in meditation and transcend all the small self ideas of what we are. We dive into the place that is beyond the level from which thoughts arise and we begin to know ourselves in a new way, as the transcendent itself. As unboundedness. We are able to begin to loosen our grip on the many limiting ideas of self we generally live with: I am a man, a woman, an American, an Indian, straight, gay, fat, thin, old, young, smart, dumb, successful, a failure, etc. We begin to be able to see ourselves as a process, rather than as a product; as a context, rather than the content. We begin to experience freedom. In what way freedom? Each identity or idea of self we hold onto is a positionality. By insisting we are this thing, this idea, we put ourselves in opposition to some other idea. Opposition takes us away from love, away from unity. It puts us into competition: with ourselves, our history, with others, with nature itself. When we let go of this oppositional positionality, we are able to see what is, rather than how things are not matching our expectations. We are able to find acceptance of the moment, of the people in our life, of ourselves. We become able to see the perfection of each moment, rather than moving from problem to problem to problem. We become able to find in our movement through each day the bliss of life that is our birthright. The end of suffering is available now. The door is open. All we need do is step through. Today I will step back from thoughts and feelings to ask who am I? I will ask for help from Higher Self to free myself from the old, limiting ideas of what I am. I will trust that it is as safe to let go of these ideas outside of meditation as it is within meditation. Women in Saris, Ganges River, Allahabad, India

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 10

Neti Neti

Give up all questions except one: 'Who am I?' After all, the only fact you are sure of is that you are. The 'I am' is certain. The 'I am this' is not. Struggle to find out what you are in reality. To know what you are, you must first investigate and know what you are not. Discover all that you are not -- body, feelings thoughts, time, space, this or that -- nothing, concrete or abstract, which you perceive can be you. The very act of perceiving shows that you are not what you perceive. The clearer you understand on the level of mind you can be described in negative terms only, the quicker will you come to the end of your search and realise that you are the limitless being. Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That When we speak about not being this and not being that--the body, the thoughts, the mind, the emotions--it is not the whole truth. It is a partial truth in order to make a point. The truth, according to the Veda, is that there is only one thing. Nature. Nature is the Absolute, the field of all possibilities, the Unmanifest; and nature also is all that we see and all that we are--this relative world of form and function, apparent separation and individuality. These two things together--the Absolute Unmanifest and the relative world--this is the whole truth. This is Totality. NETI NETI is the Sanskrit term for 'not this, not this.' To use this as a practice of noting what we are not is a way of counter-balancing a lifetime of limited identification. I am a man, a Caucasian, an American, a meditator, a dog owner, a tea drinker, a heterosexual, a father, a son, a husband, a trombone player, an iPhone user, a writer, an actor, a photographer, a Los Angeleno, an English speaker, etc. All of these things could be used to describe me, who or what I am, but each also implies this much larger world of what I am not. Most of us have spent our lifetime trying to figure out what we are so that we know where we belong--'I'm a Laker fan.' 'I'm a surfer.'--and indeed, belonging to a group can be a profound experience. In 1980 I was a cab driver. The day after John Lennon was killed, everyone in Hollywood was playing his music. Those of us driving all had our windows down. Many of the people on the street were carrying boom boxes. We all would look at each other and nod to each other, sadly, profoundly, knowingly. The identity with each other as people suffering a common loss, for that day at least, trumped the other identities of separation: sexual, racial, economic, religious, drug user or not, criminal or mark, taxi driver or customer. The next day it was over and we were back to the status quo. The point is that we do not need to practice dividing ourselves into groups and identifying as our relative world self, separate from all else. We're taught this from the earliest age. What we can use practice with is the other side of things--identifying with and as Unboundedness. That place of pure Being that underlies all the apparent differences. This is the experience we have in meditation, touching upon this place of unchanging Being. We meditate, dropping into our least excited state, moving in the direction of Unboundedness. And then, when we come out of meditation, we seek that same place of Unboundedness, of our oneness with everything and everyone, here in the relative world as well. Seek it in our fellows. Seek it in the world around us. Totality is the Absolute Unmanifest and the relative world together. If I am living in only one of these realities, by definition I am ignoring some large part of the truth of what I am. I am choosing to live in ignorance of the truth of life. It's time to let go of ignorance. Ignorance is not bliss. Bliss is bliss. It lives there in the place of pure Being. And when I know it there, I can begin to insist on having it here in the relative world as well. Today I will remember that I am something other than my limiting ideas of myself, and that you are something other than my limiting ideas of you. I will assume the divine within me and, from that position of oneness with all that is, look for the divine within you. Self-portrait, wet plate collodion tintype, LA, CA

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 9

What Is Enlightenment,

Part 2

All you need is already within you, you must only approach yourself with reverence and love.

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That People only see what they are prepared to see. Ralph Waldo Emerson Though many men and women have had the experience of spontaneous enlightenment--Sri Ramana Maharshi, Eckhart Tolle, J. Krishnamurti, to name a few--for the lion's share of the world, enlightenment is more a slow and steady dawning than a lightning bolt; a dimmer switch progressively becoming brighter, rather than an 'either/or' proposition. This is more in line with what the psychologist William James calls 'the educational variety' of 'religious experience,' as opposed to the white light experience of some. Enlightenment is our natural state. To know ourselves as individuality, while at the same time being able to experience ourselves as universality--this is cosmic consciousness. Cosmic, meaning 'all.' Conscious of, aware of, present to the all of what we are. In our analogy of consciousness as the ocean with ourselves as waves upon that ocean, individual expressions within the oceanic all, this would mean knowing ourselves as the ocean itself, while at the same time remaining aware of our individual status and structure. This is how we are designed best to function. This is what we find ourselves to be in our least-excited state. If we could let go of all the ideas of who we are, of how life is 'supposed' to be, of how we're supposed to be, this is what we would experience. But of course, letting go of our self-definitions is not something most of us can simply do. So we slog on, meditating each day, progressively unwinding the stresses we have accumulated and, of equal importance, correcting the intellect--shifting the way we think about life, about ourselves, about consciousness, so that we become more and more willing to be the truth of what we are. And each day, the light shines from us a bit more brightly. Today I will let go of my ideas of what should be in order to allow myself to see more clearly what is; and I will gently suggest to myself that nature would love me to accept my part in its utter enjoyment of itself. Toy Blocks, self-portrait, wet plate collodion tintype, LA, CA

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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February 10

What Is Enlightenment

(and Why Might I Want It)

Enlightenment can be defined as the clear and deep intuitive perception or intuitive understanding (not just belief or intellectual comprehension) of the entire situation, that is, of the unity of Consciousness and of the absence of the 'me' or 'I' as a separate, autonomous entity.

Dr. Nitin Trasi,

The Science of Enlightenment The above is one definition of enlightenment. J. Krishnamurti says that enlightenment is a paradigm shift from a 'me-centered' experience of the world to a universal experience that has no 'center' at all. To some, these ideas imply a loss of self, of individuality. This idea of 'losing' one's personal identity can, at first glance, seem frightening. Who wants to lose the sense of 'I'? Many of us who come to meditation and spiritual study have spent years tracking down and finding a sense of I. And now you want me to give it up? In our practice of Vedic meditation, we see enlightenment, at least in its first iterations, as that experience of the world that begins to happen as we let go of the stresses accumulated over the course of our lifetime. Letting go of these stresses, we do not lose the sense of 'I-ness;' rather we uncover the extension of 'I' to all the rest of the universe. We continue to know ourselves as individuality, as this particular person with this particular history, this age, this gender, this set of life experiences; and along with this identity we begin to feel more and more our connectedness to all things. Our oneness with all things. It's still me. It's just now me plus. In our metaphor of life as many individual wave expressions of one all-encompassing ocean, we begin to know ourselves as wave and ocean, rather than as wave separated from ocean. Why might this be a good thing? The more we can experience ourselves as something other than this separate entity, as at-one-with all else, the more clearly we will be able to discern the movement of the laws of nature. There is a flow, a current in this oneness of life, in nature, just as there are currents in a river. If I am swimming in a river without paying attention to the currents, the direction in which I am trying to move will be determined by my ideas of where I should be headed and not at all by what is appropriate and correct, nor even by what is do-able. I may in fact see shiny objects directly upstream from where I am and struggle mightily to move in that direction. If the current is strong, I may never make any headway, but only build a resentment against life or God or my parents about why it is that I am never able to get what I want. We can spend years following our ideas, rather than accepting what is and going from there. No matter what, though, at some point, from exhaustion if from nothing else, I will be moving downstream. That's the way the river is flowing. That's where I'm going to end up, no matter what I may think about it. This is the way rivers work. How much more pleasant it could be for me--and everyone around me--if I were able to pay attention to the current from the beginning and plan my days and the direction of my days based on where the current is tending, where the river is flowing, rather than where I think it should be flowing? Such is the gift of letting go these stresses: feeling our oneness with the movement of the laws of nature, knowing that where I am being taken must be in the only direction that nature ever moves: the direction of evolution, of progressive change. And as we embrace this way of living it becomes ever more clear that where nature wants to take me is always for my higher good, and by extension, the higher good of the whole; and what we end up 'losing' is not our individual self; rather, it is our insistence that our individual self possibly can know more than the whole of nature. Today I will notice what is, rather than what I think should be. I will practice acceptance. I will pay attention to the subtle movement of the laws of nature, rather than to my opinions, and I will do my best to align myself with that movement. Ganesh, from Pankaj in Delh, wet plate collodion tintype, LA, CA

All original material copyright © 2016 Jeff Kober

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March 7

The Razor's Edge

The other thing about spiritual work that people don't understand, it's not just a sporadic thing you do now and then. When you decide to go for it, you're on the edge of the knife and you cannot stop. This is it. You let go and surrender everything. Every tone as it arises is let go of. You're not going to sit back and enjoy the melody of the symphony. Because as the note arises, you've already let it go. You would have to hold it to compare it to the other notes in order to get music out of it. You're going to hear the sound, the tone, but you're not going to hear the music. David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D. Many of us are drawn to meditation in order to improve the quality of our life, to lessen our anxiety, help us to find peace, comfort and ease; or to help us be more productive, more creative, more fruitful; to help us to be more present in life, more loving and kind--more of the best that we can be. Most meditators will report that indeed, many of these gifts are available, and oftentimes things will begin to change within the first few weeks of learning the practice. And continuing to meditate, most will say that there are even more of these gifts that will continue to be received. Eventually, though, whether in this life or in another, a realization will occur that there is nothing that matters other than the need to know the truth of oneself, the truth of life--the need to experience fully one's connection to the divine. When this realization occurs, then the work really begins. It doesn't mean we stop being of the world, or that we stop creating, working, having lives. But our intention changes. As Dr. Hawkins says above, it's not about enjoying the symphony. It's about being fully with each note till it's over, then letting it go, again and again and again. Why? Because it's what God wants of us. It's what Consciousness wants of Itself. It is the nature of consciousness to return to its source. We are consciousness. To step beyond time and space and the relative world concerns of our individuality is what is called for by our deepest nature. How do we know the truth of this? By the way it makes us feel when we are able to catch a glimpse of it. Dr. Hawkins says further: It isn't just the love of God, it's the joy which is the love of God manifest within yourself as the joy of spiritual work. The real energy that gets you going and keeps you going is the joy of spiritual work itself. Each instant is the source of its own joy, so you have no need for anything out in the world. Joy arises from the awareness of the divinity of your existence in this moment. Therefore, as you walk the edge of the knife, you're outside of time. Time is irrelevant when you're on a tightrope. Time, space, all the stuff that the mind usually plays with is no longer relevant. You're just fixed. One-pointedness of mind. [It's] a fixity of intention. It gets its energy from the surrender, the devotion to the joy of the presence of God. David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph. D. ____________________ Today I will surrender myself fully to each moment that I may experience the joy of my existence in the presence of God. Xander's Trophies, wet plate collodion, LA, CA

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 6

One Ten-Thousandth of a Second

Consciousness is the field which supports the phenomenon called 'mind.' Consciousness itself is without form. Just before you think a thought, what you're experiencing is awareness, which is radiating out of... is an aspect of consciousness. If you want to, you can watch and see. Right before every thought you have an opportunity. The opportunity presents itself continuously. It lasts about one/ten-thousandth of a second. Got to be quick, eh? When we say that, it sounds very minimal... but in that space of one ten-thousandth of a second, you're looking at eternity, which is outside of time. So you have a window open on that which is beyond time. Infinite. One ten-thousandth of a second. What does that mean? It means you become aware of your thoughts as sort of a 'thing-ness.' It's sort of like your thought is a thing. Right prior to this thing, occupying the space of your attention, is a space. If there wasn't a space, the thought would have no way to present itself. Without a blank screen, there's nothing for a thought to project itself upon. With a little self-reflection--riding in a taxi, in line at the supermarket, when thoughts go by nonchalantly--one sees one instant right before the thought. That's who you are. And you pull back into that no-thinking-ness prior to thought. It's there all the time. It's said that the entryway into enlightenment is in the instant of now. That 'now' is always present. It only takes a curiosity, really. You don't have to fast and join a monastery, or a nunnery, beat drums and gongs. You don't have to beat yourself, deprive yourself. Every possible instant of 'now' is forever present. Outside of time, forever, is this moment... Out of sheer curiosity--forget about God, forget about enlightenment--out of sheer curiosity, watch and see that each thought arises in an empty space. Be with the empty space; and as the next thought arises, the empty space is there again. The empty space is there continuously. And then one sees 'I'm the space and not the thought.' It's simple... So to become enlightened is to see that one is the field and not the content of the field. You're the field in which the thought presents itself. One/ten-thousandth of a second... You don't think that's possible... if you're watching for it, that tends to potentiate its appearance. The minute you get curious about what is there prior to thought, prior to mind... that fires off the quantum potential for that to present itself. To merely be interested in it, curious about it, to hold that in mind, tends to increase the potentiality and the likelihood of it manifesting as an experiential reality. David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D., The Way to God: Perception and Illusion --Distortions of Reality All this by way of saying: I am not my thoughts. Why does it matter to know this? Because my thoughts tell me much that is untrue about myself and about the world, and listening to and/or acting upon these untruths always leads to suffering, in myself and in the people around me. And because by paying attention to my thoughts rather than to the world, I am missing my life. I am missing all the precious moments in which I may find joy, love, God, happiness. I am missing the only place--the present moment--where I may find these things. I am not my thoughts. I am the field in which the thoughts arise. Today I will find moments to be curious about the space from which thoughts arise. I will remind myself that I am not my thinking and see if I can become aware of what I might be that is other than my thinking. I will make a decision to put my self-definition and my feeling of well-being in the hands of something other than my thoughts about myself or the world. Geese in Fog, St. Lawrence River, Thousand Islands, Ontario, Canada

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 5

God Alive as the World

Today I am surrounded by butterflies

Blue, indigo, saffron, black-winged.

Large and small.

Two flutter together for a while

then drift apart.

I imagine love stories for them,

the freedom in their coupling.

their search

for the perfect one.

Or for just one.

Hawks circle overhead

and in the still water of the dam-blocked Ganges

the ducks trill to each other

about God knows what.

Across the river, laundry is beaten
against rocks,

and just upstream,

seven village women make their way across

the shallow water,

bundles of bamboo, ten feet long,

balanced atop their heads.

God alive as the world -

In the butterflies, the hawks and ducks,
the Ganges and the mothers
passing through her waters.

Meaning enough.

Women Crossing the Ganges, Veerpur, Uttarakhand, India

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 4

Richard the Poet

You are the work of God, and His work is wholly lovable and wholly loving. This is how a man must think of himself in his heart, because this is what he is. A sense of separation from God is the only lack you really need correct.

A Course in Miracles Wherever a man turns he can find someone who needs him.

Albert Schweitzer The soul can split the sky in two and let the face of God shine through. Edna St. Vincent Millay, Renascence Many years ago I had a friend who went by the name of Richard the Poet. 'Friend' is perhaps not the right word. I'm not sure Richard had friends. He was someone who did not suffer fools. And to him, most of us, most of the time, were fools. But--he was bipolar and brilliant and unmedicated and he had seen God. In some fashion. He let me talk to him because he could see that I, too, was serious about this God business. I needed to know something that Richard knew, so I asked his advice and counsel. He suggested that if I wanted to get in touch with God, I could write to him. So each morning for some period of time, I would park myself at the kitchen table with a pot of strong coffee and my Marlboros, a pen and a spiral bound notebook. At the top of a page I would write this prayer: God, please help me to write that which will be pleasing to you, and which will bring me closer to you. Thank you, God. Amen. I would draw a line under this prayer, and then I would write. Sometimes just free form, sometimes questions and answers, the questions from 'me,' the answers, seemingly, from God, the pen moving almost of its own accord. It was brilliant. There was a voice inside me that had been waiting to speak, and it spoke. Beautifully. Positively. Like I imagine the book, Conversations with God to be (though I have never read it). I would write, and then once a week or so I would report to Richard and we would discuss. This writing and the conversations with Richard gave me much comfort. One day I wrote a question, and the answer came back, 'I don't know.' I was stunned. Literally. I sat there, pen poised, for the longest time. Then I wrote, 'What do you mean, 'you don't know.' You're God. You're supposed to know everything.' The answer came back, 'I never said I was God.' This stopped me for a moment; but indeed, the voice had never made this claim. So I wrote, 'Well, is God in there?' The answer came back, 'Of course.' And in that moment, a structure that had been in me for years, constraining me and my ideas of the divine, broke apart, dissolved, and I was left with a spaciousness, an expansiveness, that was breathtaking. There no longer was a finite idea in me of this infinite thing that God must be. I had found a new level of freedom. I was reminded of Richard recently and felt such gratitude for his life. When he was able to fight through his insanity, his generosity of spirit was astounding. He was another soul struggling through the confusion of life toward some light he had seen in the distance, but willing to reach back to lend a hand to a fellow traveler. I hope that in my best moments I live up to his example. Today I will remind myself that, regardless of how much difficulty I may seem to be having, someone else might be having an even more challenging time of it than me. I will keep my eyes open, and when I find that person, I will be sure to lend a hand. And I will stay open, in this process, to having my definition of God and my experience of the world be transformed. If Richard Had Been Born in India, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 3

You are the Work of God

You are the work of God, and His work is wholly lovable and wholly loving. This is how a man must think of himself in his heart, because this is what he is. A sense of separation from God is the only lack you really need correct.

A Course in Miracles Every major religion speaks of the omnipresence of God. Omnipresence: present everywhere and in every time. There is no place where God is not, there is no time outside of where God is. If I insist on seeing myself as less than, as separate from, as broken, evil, ungodly, undeserving, unworthy of life, of love, of compassion, then I am seeing myself as not a part of what is. It is by definition impossible to be separate from what is. I do not exist outside time or outside space. I am most certainly of this universe. How then can I be not a part of this thing that is God and only God? For me to insist upon my separateness and my unworthiness is the height of arrogance. And it can't possibly be true. It does not so much matter why I have become stuck in this false idea of self. What matters is that I begin immediately to correct this mistaken idea. How might I accomplish this? Look for God in the world. Look for evidence of love in the people around you. Assume good will and loving-kindness from all who come toward you, and call upon yourself to respond in kind. Pay attention to where you are as if the place were made just today by God especially for you and he might show up at any time to ask you what you think of it; and pay attention to whom you are with as if God is looking through her eyes, loving you and encouraging you and calling upon you to be loving and kind in return. Today I will remember that be opening my eyes I will have the opportunity to see God, to see the miracle of life wherever I look, including in my mirror, and I will insist on taking advantage of this special day that God has created just for me. Sari in Wind, Kumbh Mela, Uttar Pradesh, India

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 2

The Gift of an Empty Mind

Every day for 20 years I would say, 'what am I gonna do next?' That's how I would ask for inspiration. I don't have any ideas myself. I have a vacant mind, you know; in order to do exactly what the inspiration calls for. And I don't start to paint until after I have an inspiration. And I make up my mind not to interfere. Every new thing in the world is come upon by inspiration... You can't think about beating the rest of them, or something like that, when you're painting, because you have to keep a clear picture in your mind. The only thing you can think about painting is that you want the painting. You see we get everything we want, so you have to keep in mind [the painting]. And you want it to appear to other people. That's all I think when I'm painting. Don't think any other thoughts. And the worst thing you can think about when you're working-at anything-is yourself. You start thinking about yourself and it stands right in the middle, in front of you, and you make mistakes... I used to meditate. Until I learned to stop thinking. Now I've stopped thinking. Don't think of anything. Before you train yourself to stop thinking, there's just all kinds of stuff going through your mind. Not anymore. Nothing goes through my mind. I don't believe what the intellectuals put out. You know. The intellectuals, they discover one fact, and then another fact, and then another fact-then they say 'from all these facts, we can deduce so and so.' No good. That's just a bad guess. Nothing can come of it but inaccuracy. Never learn the truth about life. So I had a hard time giving up some of them. But I managed it. Evolution. I gave up the idea of evolution. All of 'em. I gave up all the theories. Even the atomic theory. And I don't have any ideas myself. I don't believe anyone else's. So that leaves me a clear mind... [You need] an empty mind so that when something comes into it, you can see it! An interview with painter Agnes Martin done by Chuck Smith and Sono Kuwayama at Martin's studio in Taos, NM, November 1977 Full interview--20 minutes Edited version--8 1/2 minutes When any of us in our tradition teach someone to meditate, we follow a certain formula. On Day One follow-up, we teach about the effortlessness of our practice. On Day Two we teach about stress release and the presence of stress release thinking in meditation as well as outside of meditation; and on Day Three we teach about correcting the intellect in order to see life more through the Vedic perspective, and we talk about the changes in consciousness that are sure to follow if the new meditator commits to the twice daily practice. When I teach, especially on Day Two and Day Three, I spend a lot of time describing our misuse of the mind and the way we bring ourselves to suffering when we try to 'figure out' our life, rather than simply to 'be' in the present moment and allow ourselves to be led by something other than our thinking. What happens, at least some of the time, is that people will look at me as if I'm a little zany. 'What are you suggesting?' they may ask. 'I'm not supposed to think?' As if I'm crazy. As if I've just suggested they try to drive their car with a blindfold on. It's not that we try not to think. And it's rare for we humans to get to the place of not thinking described above by Agnes Martin. This is reserved for adepts and the enlightened few. But what we all can move toward is the experience of a clearer mind, and with the progressive clearing of the mind, the experience of being able to see the mind, rather than to be identified with the mind. I am not my thinking. My creativity does not come from my thinking. What I have to express that is worthwhile does not come from my thinking. My relationship with my fellows does not live in my thinking. My experience of the world does not live in my thinking. My experience of God does not live in my thinking. My thinking is a tool, to be used sparingly and only when appropriate. Have a look at the work of Ms. Martin, the brilliance of it, the intelligence of it; then listen to the interview referenced above. Allow your awareness to begin to build for you the distinction between intelligence and thinking. Imagine an mind empty enough, clear enough, that you are able to see clearly the vision nature has waiting for you. Truth is not to be found in my thinking. My life, my creativity, the Truth of me lies elsewhere, always, but always is available to me. I simply need to be willing to step out of the thinking and ask, 'what am I gonna do next?' Today I will practice living from something other than my thinking. Rather than 'figuring out' an answer to an apparent problem, I will ask for guidance from something other than the mind. I will be present to the world, and choose again and again to step out of my thinking and into the moment of my life. If I am stuck, I will ask for an intuitive idea, and I will follow it, even if it makes no sense. Especially if it makes no sense. Agnes Martin (b. 1912). White Flower, 1960. Oil on canvas, 182.56 x 182.88 cm. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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March 1

Healing Shame through Compassion for Oneself

Shame is a tough one until you re-contextualize it. Shame is really vanity. Pride. Shame is pride, projected on society and visited back upon yourself. You let go of the pridefullness, and own that being a human leaves you [open] to being fallible. It's okay to be stupid and make terrible mistakes. It's inevitable. How can you evolve unless you make really bad mistakes? You can't. So shame is then looking at your own behavior from the viewpoint of pride. From 'pride,' this looks like disgraceful behavior. But if you let go pride, it looks more like stupidity. Stupidity is innate to the human condition. Ignorance is what we're all born here with. We have hardware--a computer--with no programs on it, when we get born here... We make mistakes out of ignorance. And why are we ignorant? Because we're born with a tabula rasa. We're born with the hardware of a computer and no programming. So we're now at the effect--we're victims of our own programming. That's how you can have compassion for all of mankind. You see that every... bin Laden, who was once a happy, [innocent] little boy, got programmed by all this crap. So he is now the victim of his own ego. He's the victim of his own fallacious belief system. David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D., Advaita: The Way to God Through Mind We are here in this life to learn. We are here to learn about life itself. About nature, about love, about how to give, how to receive. As Dr. Hawkins states, we come in without programming, knowing nothing; and then we acquire our knowledge through doing and making mistakes, then doing again and making other mistakes. Then doing again, and doing again, and doing again, refining, perfecting, and learning always better and better ways of doing. This is the way we learn. By making mistakes. And yet so many of us have been taught to punish ourselves for our 'failures,' to beat ourselves up for coming up short, for not knowing how to do something we've never done before: having a romantic relationship, playing baseball, acting in a play, singing a song, giving a speech, driving a car with a clutch, burying a parent, caring for a plant or a pet or a sick loved one. We're so busy seeing ourselves and judging ourselves through the eyes of others, we rarely get to the place of acknowledging and celebrating ourselves just for showing up and trying something new, something outside our comfort zone. We are here to learn. One of the things we have the potential to learn is compassion. As we learn to have compassion for ourselves, as we learn to let ourselves off the hook for our humanness and our fallibility, we can begin to forgive others for the same. We can begin to realize the dictum of Socrates that everyone, always, is doing the best he or she can. How can we learn compassion? By wanting to find it. By seeking it. And as my dear friend Dr. T. suggests, by asking ourselves to imagine a compassion that is great enough to include even myself. Today I will imagine a field of compassion that is here for me to step into, a field of the energy of compassion large enough to encompass even myself. I will imagine how I might be seen from the point of view of a loving Creator, and how I might feel as that Creator looking down on my still-learning creations, trying their level best to live life. Fisherman, Ganges River, Veerpur Parmarth, Uttarakandh, India

All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober

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© 2017 3D Divine Deadbeat Dad---Alleged - 3/27/17


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