Spirit Grooves

Just because I am offering to work with some Facebook readers on meditation one-toone does not mean the rest of you are going to miss a beat with the dharma postings. This is not an either/or, but rather more like a both/and sort of thing.

In my life, the best English wordsmith I know of is William Shakespeare, but it is not just his choice and juxtaposition of words that strikes me. It is the clarity of his thought which he was so kind to share with us. The Buddhists offer this same kind of clarity and even more in my experience. Buddhist offer not only the clarity of thought from their tradition that we may taste, but, better yet, they also show us how to improve and clarify our own minds, something the Shakespeare only does indirectly. This fact is precious.

Direct download: PDF-2247-WORDS_MAKE_SENSE.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 1:15pm EDT

I don’t even know his last name and I have known him for many years. “Wild Bill” is the only name I have ever called him. Well, sometimes I call him “William.” Every festival or gathering has many ingredients, many people, and many talents. All I can say is that Wild Bill is an essential ingredient and like those Swiss Army or Leatherman knives, he can pretty much do everything and anything. The stories of Wild Bill are legendary.

Direct download: PDF-2240-WILD_BILL.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 1:14pm EDT

I want to talk about non-theism, which is not the same as being an atheist. Atheists declare there is no god, period, end of story. Non-theists, such as Buddhists, say there is no being separate, higher, or 'essentially' different from our own being. Whatever there is out there, it includes us as an equal member. That is a real difference.

As for a definition of non-theism, I love the statement by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche in his recently published seminary transcripts:

"That is what is meant by non-theism; nobody is going to save you."

Amen! This is so much better a definition than feeling I have to argue with those of you who believe in god that there is no "god," or that I believe that there is no one up there pulling strings who did not start out like us. That's not the point. Non-theism is not atheistic; it is, as mentioned, non-theistic. Whatever is going on in the universe includes us as an equal part, not as a subordinate piece. Any subordination is something that can be remedied.

Direct download: PDF-2239-WHY_NON-THEISM_IS_NOT_ATHEISM.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 1:13pm EDT

I know that Buddhism is classified as a religion, but having studied it for over 37 years I am here to say IMO it is not. I was raised Catholic and that my friends is a religion. Buddhism acknowledges no higher power then your own mind. It has no ‘God’ or deity up there that you have to please or otherwise suffer the consequences. Conversely there is no one that can save you other than your own self. It is up to you. Buddha was not a god and never became a god. He died like we all will and was quick to point out that he is no different from you and me. We all have Buddha Nature. Even worms do! Buddhism has no creation myth and is not concerned about finding a beginning or an end to anything but suffering and ignorance. There is no starting point or ending point to cyclic existence and this world. Cycles by definition have no beginning and no end. There is no time of a first creation and no creator. Buddhism in concerned only that we realize the true nature of our own mind. It is not concerned itself with where we came from (or when) and where we are going (the next life).

Direct download: PDF-2238-WHY_BUDDHISM_IS_NOT_A_RELIGION.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 1:12pm EDT

The above poem was written years ago just for fun. Still, every once in a while I wonder who it is I am and why I am here, as I imagine we all must do from time to time.

At heart, I believe I am an American Transcendentalist, albeit a straggler. Of course Transcendentalism came all in a bunch in the early 1800s with the likes of Emerson, Thoreau, Amos Bronson Alcott, and others. If I belong in that group at all, I am just an outrider of that age, a latecomer that just now has managed to show up. I would place myself (in other words I admire) in the lineage of Alcott as a conversationalist, Emerson as an essayist, and Thoreau as a naturalist. I am just about a century too late. And why transcendentalism? That is simple.

Direct download: PDF-2236-WHO_YOU_ARE.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 1:11pm EDT

Here in Northern Michigan, especially in winter, we do! And morning oatmeal is the way it happens. But all oatmeal is not created the same. Those of you who love oatmeal will read on, while those of you who don’t really know it yet probably won’t. I am not going to flood you here with why oats (and especially whole oats) are healthy. You can get that on the web. What I will point out is that there are different kinds of oatmeal available and how they differ.

Direct download: PDF-2235-WHO_EATS_OATS.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 1:10pm EDT

Not too long ago I was visiting my grandkids in Ann Arbor, where I grew up. While poking around the streets there I was shocked to find that the alleys running behind the houses there have pretty much ceased to exist. Well, actually the alleys are still there, but the lush, wild, and superfluous vegetation that we still struggle to subdue here in Big Rapids (where I live now) is all but gone in Ann Arbor. They have managed it out of existence. Now I am not talking about the smelly narrow downtown alleys behind commercial buildings where dishwashers hang out to have a cigarette. Not places like that. I am talking about the old two-track dirt alleys running behind residential blocks where the garbage truck comes down once a week. Those alleys here in Big Rapids, Michigan are still wild places, overgrown with weeds and flowers.

Direct download: PDF-2234-WHERE_TOO_MUCH_IS_JUST_ENOUGH.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 1:10pm EDT

I get the idea that I can be too abstract at times and have not given enough practical examples of where the rubber meets the road. I keep thinking all this is obvious, but my guess is that I forget how much has to be pointed out and that the more real-life examples I can provide, the better. At the risk of over oversaturation, here are some nitty-gritty examples of reaction-training.


This is perhaps the easiest dharma practice. All we have to do is to start monitoring our own reactions, and we don't lack for examples. We literally react all day long, pretty much continuously, so we can pick up the thread of our reactions at any time.

Direct download: PDF-2233-WHERE_THE_RUBBER_MEETS_THE_ROAD.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 1:09pm EDT

Calla Lilies and Cyclamen are evergreen subjects. They never fail me and turn up fairly often at groceries and flower shops. I don’t have much to work with these days, as I am pretty much indoors at this point in the year. So what am I working on? This photo is a good example. I have a very responsive camera, the Nikon D800E, with a full 36 megapixel sensor, plus one of the sharpest lenses ever made, the Printing Nikkor 150mm f/2.8 APO lens, an industrial lens made for the highest-quality copy work.

Direct download: PDF-2232-WHERE_PROCESS_IS_PRODUCT.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 1:08pm EDT

I want to say something about creativity and where it comes from. Of course there are all kinds of ways to be creative, and each of us knows what that feels like for ourselves. At the same time, we may wish to be more creative or creative all the time. How is that possible?

In my experience creativity comes from the inside, not often from the outside. In some respects my own creativity is linked to being aware of and taking advantage of the spontaneous flow of change within the mind; let's call it the "freshness of the moment." That is key.

Direct download: PDF-2230-WHERE_CREATIVITY_COMES_FROM.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 1:07pm EDT

I have written about beginning meditation a lot in these blogs, and some of you have asked me what comes next? Basic meditation is like breathing. We never get beyond it unless we stop breathing, which is not recommended. In other words, basic meditation is the foundation upon which all other forms of meditation are based. We don't stop doing it. However at some point we begin to augment basic meditation with what is called Insight Meditation or Vipassana. Let's talk about that.

My blog yesterday was about Vipassana Meditation, but apparently it was not clear enough, so I added a long comment to that blog, but it may have been missed so I am upgrading that comment to a full post, and adding something to it as well. Here we go.

Direct download: PDF-2228-WHEN_THE_FLASHBULBS_GO_OFF.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 1:06pm EDT

Every once in a while I run out of things you might be interested in, you know, whatever it is that makes up most of my blogs. This is always a little strange for me, but not entirely unwelcome. When these times come I am suddenly on my own which means I am pleasing only myself. And this is always by definition new territory and interesting for me although it can sometimes be just a wee bit scary. I have no one to please but me. Refreshing! And it is not only my Facebook postings that reflect this state at these times. My whole life takes on this character for the moment or for days at a time. There is nothing that I really want to do or that comes to mind and I can’t quite seem to get comfortable no matter how I twist and turn. Nothing seems right, and I guess that is the answer. “Nothing” seems right.

Direct download: PDF-2227-WHEN_IT_ALL_GOES_EMPTY.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 1:05pm EDT


Appearances are …

Not only empty.

Appearances are … The emptiness itself,


I like the above "poem" because it helps to remind me of the nature of appearances, not because it is short and poem-like. I mostly write prose, blogs, articles and the occasional book. And I tend to write long, not short things, as my Facebook friends know all too well.

Direct download: PDF-2226-WHEN_A_POEM_IS_NOT_A_POEM.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 1:04pm EDT

That question of what to eat comes up a lot around our house. Neither my wife nor I are among the world’s best cooks. We cook to live, not live to cook. We like to eat, but cooking can be a chore and worse, we often find it hard to even decide what we are going to eat on a given day. This is particularly true if the weather shifts or at a seasonal change. Whatever we have been eating just kind of goes away and we don’t want that, yet nothing comes to mind to replace it. And then there are the things we just don’t eat.

Direct download: PDF-2224-WHAT_TO_EAT.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 1:03pm EDT

Aside from blogging here and being an astrologer, I also am what has been called an archivist of popular culture, meaning I have aggregated lots of stuff. For example, I am the curator of the Heart Center Astrological Library, one of the largest astrological libraries in the world, if not the largest. Now that I continue to get older (which so far has been a good thing), what to do with this collection when I no longer can care for it is an unavoidable task that I face. It would be sad to have the collection just broken up and sold off on eBay or something like that. The major astrological associations apparently have no space or funds to house it, so that leaves me to figure out a solution. I have written to all the colleges and universities in the U.S. to see who is interested, and many are, but few have space. Libraries, as some of you may know, are changing. They too have little funds and even less space to house books these days. And magazines are even harder to collect.

Direct download: PDF-2223-WHAT_TO_DO_WITH_MY_STUFF.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 1:02pm EDT

Two people I care a lot about recently had a horrible fight, one that they can’t even begin to get over. What makes me sad is how we deal with a situation like this (our ‘past’) when something bad has happened. Almost everyone I know spends so much of their time digging in that past trying to figure out why whatever happened ‘happened’. It is like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube. You never will figure it out.

Direct download: PDF-2222-WHAT_REALLY_MAKES_ME_SAD.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 1:02pm EDT

I want to talk here a little bit about practice. I don’t mean just dharma practice, but any kind of practice, like learning to play a musical instrument or whatever. Of course it also is true for dharma practice like sitting meditation, tonglen (exchanging yourself for others), and so on. Practice can be boring so it might help to learn a little more about what happens when we practice anything. I first learned about the true nature of practice back in the Sixties when I was propelled out of my body by an LSD trip but never came back, or came back over a period of many years. My mind was pretty open then, actually very open. There was a little church off of South University and Forest Avenue, up near and just south of Washtenaw Avenue, which is now a little dogleg. It might have been called the “Campus Chapel.” Anyway, it was open all night long, left open. No one was there, except sometimes me. I would be up late nights just as I am today up early mornings.

Direct download: PDF-2221-WHAT_PRACTICE_REALLY_IS.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 1:01pm EDT

The 1960s was many things. I have looked through some of the dozens and dozens of books explaining it and understand why they wrote what they did, but don’t recognize my experience in them. Perhaps it is because I was raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a kind of weak sister back then to more aggressive (and progressive) cities like Berkeley and Cambridge. That is no longer true. Today Ann Arbor is state of the art. My experience of the Sixties was very much colored by my life in Ann Arbor. I can only tell it like I saw and remember it.

Direct download: PDF-2219-WHAT_MADE_THE_1960s_THE_SIXTIES_FOR_ME.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00pm EDT

Most of us do not think of ourselves as yogis or yoginis, but that does not mean we have not developed our own methods of inner clarity in this sometimes topsy-turvy world. We all meditate, although we may not call it that. One secret to staying sane in our too-busy life can be found in all the little habits and rituals we do every day. They are literally lifesavers. Like windows in the fierce onslaught of time, we each have our little habits that help us look beyond time's rush, ritual lenses that allow us to clearly see through the whirlwind of the busy phenomena around us and into the true natural clarity of that phenomena. It is these moments of clarity that bring us peace each day. This process of seeing clearly for moments is the product of our little rituals. I am talking here of rituals that we have made up ourselves, ways of coping.

Direct download: PDF-2218-WHAT_KEEPS_US_SANE.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:59pm EDT

What I am finding out is that many people have no idea what meditation actually is, although they think they do. There are hundreds of opinions on what meditation is in this country, and most don’t jibe with the authentic types of meditation taught for thousands of years in Asia. In a word, basic meditation is about mindfulness and it is quite simple. Do you know what it is and understand how it works? There is also a fairly precise posture to sit in that really helps, but not if you are too busy to learn it or self-conscious about using it. So let’s put the posture aside for the moment and just focus on the essential technique of learning the habit of mindfulness.

Direct download: PDF-2217-WHAT_IT_IS.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:58pm EDT

It seems that no matter what the question or problem, the answer or remedy always seems to be "awareness," to develop more awareness. It is no wonder the word Buddha means awareness. He was all about it.

Awareness does not come in a box or a can. You can't buy it except perhaps momentarily with drugs, but the price paid for a trip is greater than money, and you can't even have it for long.

What is amazing to me is that there is such a thing as an awareness that does not come and go, but stays. It is called realization, and it is not considered enlightenment or anything like it. Don't confuse the two. And dharma realization is no different than any other kind of realization.

Direct download: PDF-2216-WHAT_IS_REALIZATION.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:57pm EDT

Feng shui is more and more becoming recognized as an important kind of awareness to have. The phrase "feng shui" literally means “wind-water” in English and comes from an ancient Chinese burial book called the Zangshu and this line: “Chi rides the wind and scatters, but is retained when it encounters water.” I am sure most of you reading this know that feng shui has to do with the placement and orientation of objects in space, in particular in the space immediately surrounding you – local space. But what is feng shui and how can we become sensitive to it? The simple answer is that you already are sensitive, but may not be aware of that sensitivity. Feng shui, aside from traditional rules and admonitions is above all personal. It is about how you and I respond to the space around us. It is about how we try to become comfortable in our own space.

Direct download: PDF-2215-WHAT_IS_FUNG_SHUI_REALLY_ABOUT.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:56pm EDT

First of all, although the Full Moon eclipse of June 15, 2011 is over, we have another eclipse in two weeks, although it is a Partial Eclipse. This time it is an eclipse of the Sun rather than the Moon. So what happens after the Full Moon? What follows is a very general idea and has to do not only with this Full Moon eclipse but with any Full Moon. In other words, it happens each lunar month all year long. Many of you will already know this stuff, so don’t shoot the messenger. I am just trying to make sure everyone understands and we are all on the same page. The Full Moon point is the peak of the cycle in terms of outward experience and expression, the tip of the top, so to speak. And after that? Well, in a word, the party is over but there are distinct stages in how that takes place. And this comes about slowly.

Direct download: PDF-2213-WHAT_HAPPENS_AFTER_THE_ECLIPSE.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:56pm EDT

I don't know the answer to that question, except in my own case. I know what I have to do. I feel a responsibility to teach my grandkids about loving nature, and it usually starts with learning how to catch frogs. They don't call me "Froggy Grandpa" for nothin'. As I have posted in earlier posts, two of my grandkids, Max and Molly, nicknamed me Froggy Grandpa years ago to distinguish me from their other grandpa. I was very pleased about this, because I love frogs (and all living things), but my wife Margaret was not as happy about being called "Froggy Grandma," not that she does not love frogs, but rather because she did not care to be just an "also-named."

Direct download: PDF-2211-WHAT_GRANDPAS_DO.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:55pm EDT

The whole subject of dharma protectors, what are called the Dharmapalas, is a confusing issue for many westerners. I know it has been for me. In Tibetan Buddhism, there are many qualities or deities, some of them are peaceful and others wrathful. Westerners have no trouble identifying with the peaceful deities (unless perhaps they have too many arms), but we tend to be put off by the wrathful ones, which are often represented by fierce wrathful beings with gnashing teeth and holding human skull caps filled with blood, etc. In our western traditions, fierce devil-like beings dripping blood always represent evil with a capital "E." In any case, while dharmapalas might look like they belong in a Stephen King horror story, the dharma protectors are just another way of representing the richness and variety of qualities within our own mind. They are not alien creatures out there in the woods waiting for us. So what are dharma protectors?

Direct download: PDF-2210-WHAT_ARE_DHARMA_PROTECTORS.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:54pm EDT

This is about dealing with what you hate and fear in life -- a superior way to work with these. It is clear from comments to these blogs that most of you know something about meditation. It is equally clear from your notes here that not many of you have even heard about “Tonglen,” which is a totally different (and equally valuable) Tibetan mind-training technique from that of sitting meditation. Tonglen has to do with your personal mandala, the mini-world you have created around yourself and what you include in that world and what you consider as definitely outside of that world. And while tonglen can be done while sitting on a cushion (like meditation), it is most often done off the cushion, while we are walking around doing our everyday things. You can use it all the time.

Direct download: PDF-2209-WHAT_ABOUT_HATE_AND_FEAR.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:53pm EDT

After so many years, after so many dharma practices, to discover in simple Shamata meditation all that is needed, the basis for it all, and to end a long journey at the place where I first started. Of course it makes sense. The hidden secrets of Tibetan Buddhism have always been “self secret,” hidden from us not by the intent of the lamas but by the fact that the very obviousness of what is said to be “secret” escapes our ability to grasp its subtleness. We lack the awareness, plus the one place we would never think to look for our essence is in plain sight. This is the sort of thing koans are made of.

Direct download: PDF-2208-WHAT_ABOUT_GOD.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:53pm EDT

In what I have written in the last few blogs I have tried to explain something about what Shamata meditation isn’t. I have mentioned that (at least for beginners) it is usually not relaxing, is not easy, can be boring, is only a practice, and that this practice should not to be confused with the results of the practice, etc. I don’t intend to be negative. Much of this is to point out that here in the U.S. (where there are so many different ideas as to what meditation is) let’s not mistake the authentic meditation technique as taught by Zen and Tibetan Buddhists for the many (quite valid in their own right) relaxation techniques masquerading until the name “meditation.”

Category:general -- posted at: 12:52pm EDT

Here we were, on pilgrimage in India. Of course I could not help but have at least some kind of agenda, a basic roadmap that I was attempting to follow out. What I didn't fully understand yet was that this was India, where schedules of any kind are very flexible. I am reminded of one story I heard of an American ranting at an Indian railway station because the train he was waiting for was over an hour late, when a Brahmin standing next to him leaned over and gently told him in perfect English that this was yesterday's train that had not yet arrived, over 24-hours late. Why I tell this is because the Royal Nepalese Airlines had flown us in the opposite direction to where we wished, dropped us in a jungle, and we had lost an entire day, plus another day to set it right.

Direct download: PDF-2205-WEST_BENGAL_AND_BOKAR_RINPOCHE.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:51pm EDT

Sunday night and I was winding down, watching a little of the Golden Globe awards. For me they are more interesting than the Oscars because they move right along and I can visually eavesdrop on all my favorite movie stars who are just sitting around together. The fact is that I never make it to the end of either ceremony, so somewhere around 9:30 PM I found my way upstairs and crawled into bed. Margaret, who is always more game than I am, stuck it out to the end. She had joined me by 11:30 PM and was on her way to sleep when the cell phone went off. I am glad Margaret was wise enough to it bring with her. Somewhere through my sleepiness I could hear the words, “We are leaving right now.” I knew what this call meant, that my daughter Michael Anne’s water had broken and she was going to have a baby. Before Margaret put the phone down I was on my feet and already packing a suitcase.

Direct download: PDF-2203-WELCOME_EMMA_MAY.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:50pm EDT

And we have it ten, 100, 1000, probably thousands of times a day, the choice of how to react. Our self is by nature reactive. It is a tight cluster of intense likes and dislikes, and also less-intense "druthers." Although the self is part of us, it is not the whole of us, and certainly not the boss of us, although many here may have forgotten that. The self is something most of us have to work around, because it is not intelligent on its own. It is a dummy. Like the ventriloquist, believe it or not, we animate the self with our various attachments and then watch it dance.

Direct download: PDF-2201-WE_HAVE_A_CHOICE.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:49pm EDT

In the long history of Tibetan Buddhism, in both beginning and advanced practices, we find the analogy of waves and water, again and again. The Tibetans point out that our thoughts are like waves on the ocean of mind; both are water. Thoughts, they say, are just examples of the mind in movement, call it the motion of the ocean. Thoughts are equally mind -- water to water.

Direct download: PDF-2200-WAVES_AND_WATER.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:49pm EDT

Before we return to the topic of teachers, a little personal update. After many days of 100-degree temperatures, the heat wave broke yesterday and cool air actually flowed into our house once again. By that time we were all kind of baked. You could stick a fork in us, so to speak. So things are much better now. On the cosmos front, solar flares, auroras, and geomagnetic storms continue unabated. Yesterday, for example, a strong M6.9 solar flare erupted at 1:32 PM EDT, ejecting a plasma cloud into space. This continues to be a time of intense solar activity, correspondingly a time of strong inner change, perhaps by now almost a constant in our lives. Enjoy the change while we have it. This kind of influx will not occur again for another eleven years of so, but it will continue now (probably) for many months ahead, but perhaps not as intense.

Category:general -- posted at: 12:48pm EDT

I feel like I am far away on a trip, and all they have here are postcards, so I write one to you. Actually I am right here in my office, as usual, getting up in the wee hours of the morning and working until dark. I don’t mean to ignore my Facebook friends, but I am caught up in this project of creating a series of programs about what I have blogged about here for years -- awareness. And I am gaining on it. If you knew more about me, you would know that I am a tool gatherer. The first thing I do on any project is to gather all the tools I can imagine I will need. And it is kind of a dumb thing to do, because how do I know what tools I need before I am fully immersed. I don’t, but I imagine and guess.

Direct download: PDF-2186-VACATION_-_VACATING.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:46pm EDT

I have been a bit preoccupied the last few days with events around here, and the Sun has been more than a little active as well. There were something like 18 solar flares yesterday (August 18th), most of them C-class events, but five were M-class, including a M5.5-class flare, which is large. On August 18th, we had one flare that almost reached into the X-class, the strongest level of flares. For those of you interested in learning more about how these solar flares affect our inner life, you can find the free e-book

“Sun Storms” here: http://astrologysoftware.com/books/

Category:general -- posted at: 12:45pm EDT

I have studied cycles for fifty years, not just planetary cycles, but all kinds of cycles. In this blog I want to talk about one particular kind of cycle and that is our personal cycles of ups and downs in everyday life. The Buddhists call this Samsara, the cyclic worldly existence of birth, life, and death that we all are embedded in.

It does not so much matter what is causing these ups and downs in life. Some we can perhaps label (lunar, planetary, etc.), some not, but who cares? It is like our tendency to want to lay blame. After all is said and done, it is not all about blame or where it came from, but also about going forward. What can we do with these cycles? How can we learn to use them?

Direct download: PDF-2181-UP_AND_DOWN_CYCLES.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:44pm EDT

Eclipses most often come one at a time. Sometimes they happen two in a row, but it is somewhat rare to have three eclipses in a row, two weeks apart, one after another. We are entering such a triple-eclipse time today on the Full Moon. Here are the coming three eclipses, dates and times: Partial Lunar Eclipse (Full Moon) April 25, 2014 3:56 PM EDT Annular Solar Eclipse (New Moon) May 9, 2013 8:29 PM EDT Penumbral Lunar Eclipse (Full Moon) May 25, 2013 00:23 AM Next to intense solar activity (solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejection), eclipses are generally the most powerful astrological events. This is clear not only from Western astrological tradition, but in the Eastern traditions as well, and the Tibetan Buddhists even provide reasons.

Direct download: PDF-2180-UNUSUAL_TRIPLE_ECLIPSE_-_VISIONS.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:43pm EDT

When I was younger I made my living for many years doing astrological readings. I would sit down with clients for an hour or two and read their charts. Over time a specialty that I became known for was doing the charts of acid-heads, those who had taken LSD and wigged out, but never quite made it all the way back. I like to tell myself that meeting me was a natural astringent for these folks. I helped them get back into their bodies. One of the common earmarks of a strong dose of LSD is that the user ends up wandering into little cubbyholes and crevices in the mind that the average bear knows nothing about. This only becomes a problem when the tripper becomes attached to their own trip and begins to identify with what separates themselves from society, what makes them different, and in most cases they would claim "unique." They cease to some degree to identify with others, and revert to a kind of solipsism.

Direct download: PDF-2179-UNIQUECORN.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:43pm EDT

Some of you have asked me why most astrologers do not use these solar eruptions in their day-to-day astrology. There are at least a couple of reasons why. First, astrologers are dependent on scientists and astronomers to tell them when these solar events are taking place. Astrologers and astronomers have not been on close speaking terms for some 400 years now, which brings me to another and perhaps the main reason why astrologers don’t monitor events and even planetary movements on the solar system level. Please bear with me while I try to lay it out here. This story actually starts some 400 years ago when Copernicus pointed out to the world that in fact the Sun does not orbit the Earth as everyone had always thought, but just the other way around: the Earth orbits the Sun. That was news to the civilized world!

Category:general -- posted at: 12:42pm EDT

TWO FREE EBOOKS ON MACRO-PHOTOGRAPHY [The 2nd edition of “The Art of Focus Stacking” and an accompanying book of photos will be released Monday February 28th and will include a large section on macro terms, techniques, equipment, etc., answers to some of the questions many of you have been writing me with who would like to learn more about nature close-up and macro photography. The will be available to download at MacroStop.com]

Category:general -- posted at: 12:41pm EDT

I have always been struck by the fact (so the Buddhists tell me) that Buddha Nature is already fully within us now. It cannot be improved and nothing of it can ever be lost, no matter what we do, good, bad, or indifferent. However, we can, layer on layer, cover over and obscure our own essence and true nature, and it is obvious to me that we do this. But there is something I want to point out that, while not exactly subtle, still escapes me most of the time.

It has to do with this idea of substantiality – existence. It seems like we are all a little schizophrenic, at least I am. On the one hand I have no problem distinguishing my nighttime dreams and daydreams as being, clearly, insubstantial. These dreams may be meaningful to me, but they lack the substance and smack of everyday outer existence. I can see that.

Direct download: PDF-2172-TRUE_DREAMS.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:39pm EDT

I have written here before about eclipses and their meaning spiritually. Here in the west we don’t have such a strong tradition in this, but in Tibet, India, China, and many other parts of the world eclipses are considered very, very potent and personally meaningful. In Tibet, for example, they are considered as extreme opportunities for the observation of our mindstream, something we usually pay little or no attention to or, if so, only fleetingly. The Buddhists in particular have focused on eclipses as rare opportunities when our more subtle internal or spiritual energies naturally come into alignment or attunement, when things that otherwise we would seldom notice line up and can be more easily experienced by us, that is if we know when and how to look for them.

Direct download: PDF-2171-TRIPLE_ECLIPSE_-_PARTS_I_-_III.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:38pm EDT

In 2004, along with a group of sangha members, Margaret and I made an eighteen-hour bus trip from Xining, the capital of Quinghai China, to the Yushi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in the central region of Kham in eastern Tibet. We had just flown from Beijing to Xining on a two-hour plane ride and we were heading for the town of Jyekundo on the Tibetan plateau. That trip crossed high passes of over 16,000 feet. The road was so rough that unless you held on, you could bounce all the way up and hit your head on the bus ceiling, and a lot of folks did. And this was a big tall bus. As for bathrooms and amenities along the way, forget it. For the most part, bathrooms consisted of how far you wanted to walk away from the bus and squat. Some of the ladies had special dresses that reminded me of the old hoop skirts popular around of the time of the American Civil War. Others just kept on walking until they were specs on the horizon.

Category:general -- posted at: 12:36pm EDT

I have meant to write something about our recent travels with Rinpoche, but it has been so busy around here that I have not gotten around to it until now. I don't travel much. Home is where you will usually find me or walking somewhere nearby. The exceptions to that rule are when we go to see my kids and grandkids or traveling to see Rinpoche. The Ven. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche has been Margaret and my dharma teacher for more than thirty years. He is over ninety-years old now. In this whole wide world of consequences, I consider being fortunate enough to meet and study with Khenpo Rinpoche to be way beyond lucky. It has been, for me, nothing short of miraculous. So the opportunity to travel with Rinpoche for a week was a natural. We had to go.

Direct download: PDF-2166-TRAVELING_WITH_RINPOCHE.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:35pm EDT

Let me warn you right off that what follows is a little "heady," maybe a lot, so please ground yourself and hang on. I have been writing these last days about the three eclipses in a row that we are now in the middle of, and the opportunity for inner change that times like these can bring. Yet words can only take us so far. We all know that. Beyond words is the life experience that words can but refer to, point at, and we each will have to go deeper into life to have that experience for ourselves. We can stand as long as we want with our toe in the swimming pool, but sooner or later (and it will happen) we each have to take the plunge.

Direct download: PDF-2165-TRANSMIGRATION.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:35pm EDT

Tonglen practice is perhaps the easiest and most-intuitive approach to meditation training that I have come across, at least for westerners. It was the first practice that my teacher Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche pointed out to me many years ago. I didn't think this fact was that important at the time, but now that I think about it, of course Rinpoche knew exactly what he was doing. Trying to learn standard sitting meditation is much more difficult, at least it was for me. With that in mind, let's look at tonglen together. I will try to go slow. The great Tibetan siddha Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche tells a story in his autobiography about watching some mean person beat a tiny puppy to death. Actually, I don't remember the exact details, but somehow Trungpa witnessed the death of this small animal and was deeply moved. It touched his heart. For the rest of his life, so he writes, whenever he wanted to bring to mind the idea of compassion, he would think of this puppy and how it touched him.

Direct download: PDF-2159-TONGLEN_-_TAKING_AND_SENDING.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:33pm EDT

Tonglen was introduced into Tibet in the 10th Century by an Indian named Atisha (Atiśa), who had learned this practice in Indonesia (Sumatra). Tonglen practice is most often is associated with a text by Chekawa Yeshe Dorje (1101-1175 A.D.) called "Seven Points of Mind Training," which includes some 59 slogans, pithy aphorisms intended to be meditated on. These slogans are very remarkable. The first time I read them I immediately felt that they were essential truths. You can read them here and see for yourself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lojong

Direct download: PDF-2158-TONGLEN_-_RESOLVING_OPPOSITION.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:33pm EDT

I can see from your previous comments that I have to give a little more detail here about tonglen. Let’s take an example that is easy to understand. Let’s say I see a small puppy or child being hurt or suffering. It is quite natural for my heart go out to such an innocent creature. I am instantly compassionate. I wish I could lessen the suffering and take the small creature in my arms and hold it, giving it comfort. Tonglen is like this. We recognize and take on the suffering or pain wherever we find it and send back all that we have that might be comforting and kind. As mentioned, our heart goes out in these situations. This is the process. And while it is easier to imagine with something like a hurt puppy, the same transaction can be practiced with all who suffer. This is what tonglen is all about, regardless of whether the object is a cute puppy or a gnarly old what-you-have. All beings are deserving of compassion, even more so if they are mean and hurtful. Somewhere in there someone is suffering

Direct download: PDF-2157-TONGLEN_-_MENTAL_FENG_SHUI.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:32pm EDT

Sincere dharma practitioners, over time, often feel a strong resonance with one particular deity or another, a kinship. Tibetan Buddhist deities represent different qualities within us, qualities like kindness, patience, generosity, and so forth. And we don't only respond to enlightened deities, but also can resonate with particular dharmic individuals, past or present.

Of course I feel a link with my main root guru Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche. He was kind enough to actually put up with me and point out how I might develop some awareness. In addition, some years ago, I also found myself in synch with a particular historical dharma figure, one of the great dharma masters from India, the Mahasiddha Tilopa, an adept who lived from 989 A.D. to 1069 A.D.

Direct download: PDF-2149-TILOPAS_WORDS_OF_ADVICE.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:31pm EDT

A few days ago I posted something about the Mahasiddha Tilopa's "Six Words of Advice." I may not have found the right words to communicate the meaning here, and I continue to be intrigued by this sage advice and find it personally invaluable, so please forgive some further clarification.

As to the little diagram or map, I find it actually helps me to be more aware where my mind is currently focused. And most of the time I am anywhere but where I would like to be. That is why these six words of advice are so helpful. Being reminded of what I am actually doing with my mind (and my time), even roughly, points out to me that I am usually, as they say, "Any which way but loose." And how is that?

Direct download: PDF-2148-TILOPAS_SAGE_ADVICE.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:30pm EDT

Speaking of powerful power places, Tibet is loaded with them. The very majesty of the land there is over powering. It is a fact that the cloud layer around Earth stays pretty much at the same height, which means that when you are 16,000 feet high on a Tibetan pass, the clouds above you are very much closer. You can tell and feel the difference. It is awesome, to use that word correctly.

Of course, the various pilgrimages my family and I made to Tibet were to nothing but power places, shrine after shrine, cave after cave, mountain pass after mountain pass, and great teacher after great teacher. That's what a pilgrimage is all about: sacred places.

Direct download: PDF-2146-TIBETS_POWER_PLACES.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:29pm EDT

I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school, was an altar boy, learned church Latin -- the works. And there are a lot of Catholic saints. My favorite saint and the saint I took as my Confirmation name was St. Francis of Assisi, the saint who loved animals and that was because I too loved animals and still do. I learned early on that saints in the Catholic religion are usually appointed or made saints long after they have died, so I was pleased and surprised to find that Tibetans have living saints that accompany them through life. How practical is that?

Direct download: PDF-2145-TIBETS_LIVING_SAINTS.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:28pm EDT

[What follows is a short excerpt from a much longer video on Tibetan prayer beads (malas) and the mantras that are said with them. Probably not for everyone, but for those who would like to know more about using prayer beads properly, this should help.]


As for reciting mantras, it is taught to recite them clearly, distinctly, at whatever speed you can manage. Tibetans are adept at very fast recitation, although the only benefit I can see in that is accomplishing greater numbers of recitation. Having spent many years around Tibetans at all kinds of pujas and empowerments I can say they say mantras so fast that to me it is just like the hum or drone of an engine. I often cannot tell (if I don’t already know) which mantra they are saying. And they don’t recite mantras in a monotone, but it seems the sound (often almost melodious and quite striking) rises and falls by degrees, gets almost silent and then erupts again.

Category:general -- posted at: 12:28pm EDT

I shouldn't have to invoke authority, but just reason and logic, but since His Holiness the 17th Karmapa (Orgyen Trinley Dorje) recently made this statement, I want to share it with you. I quote: "May the Year of the Horse bring you peace, happiness, and good fortune. Actually, there is nothing special about New Year. The ideas 2013 and 2014 are but figments of the human imagination. Having said that, we can make something good out of it. We can use the idea of transition to reconsider our lives and to renew our resolutions." As an astrologer for fifty years, I have always been very interested in astrological calendars, and aside from publishing a yearly printed western calendar for over 40 years, I have studied the Hindu, Tibetan, and Chinese calendars in some detail, producing a yearly Buddhist practice calendar for many years, etc.

Category:general -- posted at: 12:26pm EDT

Years ago I fell down the rabbit-hole of close-up camera lenses. In a time of deep personal change I found myself out in the fields at dawn (like each day for six months!) peering through fine lenses at miniature worlds and tiny critters. The daily crush of my life was just too horribly close and I sought relief in the pristine worlds that were still closer yet. Perhaps I was escaping from the turmoil I was experiencing at the time, peering through glass into the still-perfect realms of miniature dioramas and tiny landscapes. You know, I never came back. It was then that two parts of me merged, the visual artist (photographer) in me and the meditator, and I have not been able to communicate since to either group just what I am doing. As I have tried to explain to my fellow photographers, it was never the resulting photos I took that were important, but rather the process of taking them, that ‘time’ each day I spent doing it. I bonded with my eye and the lens and most of all with just the “seeing.” It was the “seeing” that did it.

Direct download: PDF-2138-THROUGH_THE_LOOKING_GLASS.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:25pm EDT

We are headed toward the Full-Moon eclipse next Wednesday, November 28, 2012, at 9:46 AM in the morning. And we are still in the intra-eclipse time, the auspicious two-weeks between two back-to-back eclipses. I have often written here and in books (“The Vision of the Eclipse”) found here…


… about the visions or insights available to us around the time of an Eclipse, special moments of imprinting, when we suddenly take in or grasp some inner or spiritual insight or energy. This is, in my experience, even more true for the time between two eclipses, one after the other.

Category:general -- posted at: 12:24pm EDT

I have written for many years that eclipse times (and in particular the two-week period between two concurrent eclipse times) are a time when visions are possible and very near the surface of our conscious mind. A very great Rinpoche taught me years ago that while New and Full Moons are times of enhanced inner alignment, if that New or Full Moon is also an eclipse, our inner winds & channels (chakras) line up even more perfectly. We are in tune, so to speak. If we will take the time to be observant, we can be aware of these visions.

This is why the Tibetans traditionally set aside the days of New and Full Moon (more so if there is an eclipse) as days of observation, days to monitor and observe our own mind. This whole two-week period is such a time, so those of us who understand this might set aside a little time, at least some moments to relax and allow ourselves to be aware of what is happening within, because the vision of an eclipse happens to all of us at these times, "IF" we can take time to become aware of it.

Direct download: PDF-2131-THIS_INTRA-ECLIPSE_TIME.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:23pm EDT

First of all, in my experience sudden intense solar events trump or are greater sources of change than even eclipses, which is saying something because eclipses are traditionally powerful. So here in the middle of a triple-eclipse time we have (so far!) three X-Class solar flares and possibly more in the offing. The idea is that these intense solar events are instruments of change, change injected suddenly into our mindstream that we have no choice but to assimilate, hopefully creatively, but you can be sure these flares will change our life direction in significant ways, even if it takes some time for those changes to be apparent. This is seed change.

Category:general -- posted at: 12:21pm EDT

… in learning meditation, that is. Otherwise, it would take a book or two. Here are just a few of the many things I didn’t get right. This has to be a little bit humorous. Otherwise it is too depressing. One thing I did wrong (way back in the 1960s) was to make up my own idea of what meditation is. I mean, everyone else I knew seemed to be doing it too. We all had our own idea of meditation and these ideas were all over the board. No one knew what I did in the privacy of my meditation, sadly, probably including me. Only later did I find out that most of us did not know what we were doing, but we each thought everyone else did and wanted to keep up with the Joneses. How common is that?

Direct download: PDF-2128-THINGS_I_DID_WRONG.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:21pm EDT

Strong inner psychological events can shatter our sometimes fragile sense of self, forcing us beyond conventional societal norms and into a period of extreme vulnerability. Recovery from those states pretty much defines us as a shaman. Failure to recover drives us a little crazy and condemns us to forever orbit society at a distance – a singleton.

Strong outer events, like the death of a loved one or other great losses, shatter the self for a while, until it can heal itself and reform. I covered this in the previous blog.

Direct download: PDF-2125-THERE_COMES_A_SEA_CHANGE.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:19pm EDT

This for my camera/lens friends on Facebook. Probably will interest few others. I received my copy of the Zeiss Otus 55mm APO lens today. Having fallen in love with its younger brother the Zeiss 135mm APO lens soon after it first came out, I was more than ready for the 55mm Otus.

I have not had time to put it through its paces, but I already see enough to agree with everything I have read about it from other reviewers as to what a great lens this is. I am primarily a close-up and macro photographer of nature subjects, most often plants. We are in the midst of serious winter here, so all the plants I have on hand are some cyclamen flowers that have seen better days.

Direct download: PDF-2124-The_Zeiss_Otus_55mm_APO_Lens_and_Focus.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:18pm EDT

We are used to thinking that the literal meaning of words is what a sentence conveys, but this is not the whole of it. Sure, we can follow the train of words and understand what they mean as you are right now by reading this sentence. Yet there is another function of language that may be even more important than just dry understanding, word's ability to slow time down to a crawl so that we can be aware and live in the moment. Poems do this and any language crafted to last. How to work words is what I do. The mind is, as the Zen Buddhists say sometimes like a waterfall, a fast-moving river, a slow stream, and every once in a while a placid lake. Words (if well made) can work like a dam to hold back their meaning from vanishing long enough for me to get it. Where syllables and consonants clash and clatter on the verge of nonsense, I jam words together until they stick in the mind.

Direct download: PDF-2119-THE_WITCHCRAFT_OF_WORDCRAF1.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:13pm EDT

Our conflicting emotions, what the Tibetan Buddhists call the Five Poisons (anger, desire, ignorance, pride, and jealousy) are said to contain the Five Wisdoms within them. Better than that, they are the five wisdoms in disguise, the inverse of one another. How many years have I read that, and what on earth does it mean? Since we all will eventually have to realize the five wisdoms in the poisons for ourselves, this means we are not about to simply eradicate these poisons and, you know, somehow stamp them out. And that is the point; we don't just surgically remove the five poisons and that is because they are also the five wisdoms. It is not as simple as that one is the baby and the other the bathwater. They are identical and we need the wisdoms. Therefore we have to transform the poisons, and the operat

Direct download: PDF-2118-THE_WISDOM_WITHIN_THE_POISON.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:12pm EDT

I am not talking here about the Ageless Wisdom, the Wisdom of the Ages, or even the Age of Wisdom, but rather just the wisdom that comes with age, with growing older. And it's not what you might think. Realization is everything. Intellectualization, what we 'think' and what Shakespeare called the "pale cast of thought" is often but a sad second-hand reflection of the reality, as I will try to point out here. And I had help, so perhaps I will start there.

Direct download: PDF-2117-THE_WISDOM_OF_AGE.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:12pm EDT

As my family knows, I am the serious party-pooper when it comes to celebrating New Year’s Eve. I can’t remember when I last stayed up until Midnight to welcome in the New Year. It just never interests me. I much prefer to sleep that through and get up early and welcome the dawn. Sunrise is my time. However, I feel very differently when it comes to the solstices. I am even quite reverent in regard to both the Winter and Summer Solstice and always observe them. To me they really are special times. This word “observe” is a funny one and I only began to understand this use of it by studying the Tibetan Buddhist calendar. In Tibet, until recently, they did not observe Saturdays and Sundays as special or as days off. Instead they observed New and Full Moons plus various other solunar events in the month. They took these days off. Imagine that. No weekends, but days off based on natural astronomical events!

Direct download: PDF-2116-THE_WINTER_SOLSTICE.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:11pm EDT

Not too long ago, I was visiting my grandkids in Ann Arbor, where I grew up. While poking around there I was shocked to find that alleys there have pretty much ceased to exist. Well, actually the alleys are still there, but the lush, wild, and superfluous vegetation that we struggle to subdue around here, is all but gone in Ann Arbor. Alleys and their kin downstate are almost manicured, so clean and neat are they. Extra vegetation is just not there anymore. It used to be there when I was a kid, but now it is gone. Sure, there are some vestigial remains if you look close, and even they seem almost worth cherishing!

Direct download: PDF-2114-THE_WILD_ALLEYS_OF_THE_TOWN.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:10pm EDT

We are getting some reasonable solar flare actions after weeks of almost nothing and some actual nothing. I equate solar flares and any solar activity stronger than sunlight as "change," or change inducing. When solar flares erupt, change is injected into the Earth system (that is a fact), and therefore into our systems and psyches, but not the gradual sunlight-level of change, but quantum change of varying strengths.

Talk about turning the wheel of the dharma, quantum change of any kind causes things to move, and the wheel of life begins to turn once more. After a long absence of change, in the last two days we have had three M-Class solar flares, so perhaps our insides are starting to move around once again – the churn. Check it out and see.

Direct download: PDF-2113-THE_WAY_WE_GO_IS_WHERE_WE_GO.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:09pm EDT

OK, hold on tight folks because we have entered one of these rare two-week intra-eclipse periods between yesterday’s solar eclipse of the sun and a second eclipse of the Moon coming up on November 28, 2012. In other words, back-to-back eclipses. I have found that essential inner changes in me can take place during these eclipse periods, if not in actual fact, then in the seeds of change sown of an inner vision, the forerunner of facts to come. In earlier blogs I have pointed out that in the long tradition of New and Full Moons, this very close alignment of Sun, Moon, and Earth in the heavens at the time of an eclipse corresponds with an identical alignment of what are called the chakras along the spinal cord, what the Tibetan mystics call the winds & channels in the human body. This was pointed out to me years ago in a rare teaching on this topic by a very-high Tibetan lama. These eclipse times are singular times to observe our own mindstream a little more than normal. It is possible then to see something of our own mind’s nature and know it.

Direct download: PDF-2111-THE_VISION_OF_THE_ECLIPSE.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:08pm EDT

In 2004 Margaret and I were lucky enough to accompany our teacher Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche to Tibet and visit Thrangu Monastery, where he originally came from, along with a group of his retreat lamas and friends. In addition to Tibet (which is a story in itself), Rinpoche wanted to take us to one sacred place in China called Mount Wu-Tai-Shan, where we spent about a week doing puja and practices. In a nutshell, Mt. Wu-Tai-Shan is a series of five mountains arranged in the shape of a die like the number five, with four mountains in a square and one in the middle. Legend has it that it was here that astrology entered this world through the magical blessing of the Bodhisattva Manjushri, who appeared as a youth. Out of his head poured the 84,000 teachings on astrology, which he then gave to mankind. I don’t have space here to tell you the whole story, but I will include a link at the end for those who want to know more.

Category:general -- posted at: 12:07pm EDT

We all love our little gems of wisdom, and each of us has a few that come our way in life, and that includes me. Of all my gems, perhaps the one that is on the tip of the top of my list is the following. It has done me the most good and has to do with how I go about doing things, learning things

It is the difference between learning things in a serial fashion, one at a time, and true multi-tasking, being able to do everything well or close to it. And, although it is part of the dharma, I didn't learn it from the Tibetans, but from none other than the great German writer Franz Kafka, and it wasn't in any of his novels or short stories either.  In fact it was a single sentence tucked away in that author's diaries. If I had blinked, I might have never seen it.

Direct download: PDF-2109-THE_ULTIMATE_CAN_OPENER.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:06pm EDT

You know that my granddaughter Emma, who just turned two, had to see her new cousin as soon as possible, and it happened yesterday. When Emma got home last night from being up north at her new cousin's house, I asked her what is the baby's name and she said "Just baby!, so that's it for now. I can only imagine what these two are going to get into not all that many years from today. When Emma is 14 and "Baby" is 12, these girls will be a dynamic duo, to say the least. And there are other cousins to consider as well, and second cousins all over the place on top of that, so the chance for fun times is assured. When I think back in my own life, cousins were crucial. Here is what I remember:

Direct download: PDF-2107-THE_TWO_COUSINS.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:05pm EDT

This is a close to a "magic potion" as I have encountered, so it is worth a listen. Buddhism, at least the Tibetan form, has a number of very unique concepts that are not always that easy to grasp for westerners because they are new to our way of thinking. In my experience the concept of the Two Accumulations, "Merit and Awareness," is perhaps the most important of the bunch. It is very much worth the time it takes to grasp -- invaluable.

Not wanting to push the mathematical term too far, merit and awareness are the reciprocal of one another in the sense that they are inversely related in a push me, pull you fashion. And they function recursively in that they repeat their interaction indefinitely, like the proverbial perpetual-motion machine. I will try to explain.

Direct download: PDF-2106-THE_TWO_ACCUMULATIONS.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:04pm EDT

Throughout the history of Buddhism, in particular Vajrayana Buddhism, there is reference to the “Two Accumulations” which are “Merit” and “Awareness.” Merit and awareness are sometimes translated as “Skillful Means” and “Wisdom.” These two are said to be the key to real progress in dharma practice. But what are they? We need to know. Merit and awareness are not two unconnected qualities or virtues randomly grouped together but are connected as are action and reaction. One causes the other. Merit creates awareness and greater awareness makes performing meritorious actions easier, which in turn creates even greater awareness, and so on. These two are recursive like mirrors within mirrors within mirrors. They are a chain reaction that once started is unstoppable. However getting that recursion started is what dharma practice is all about. There is the rub as Shakespeare said, getting the ball rolling.

Category:general -- posted at: 12:03pm EDT

I am up late. Can’t sleep because of a chest cold. You know the drill. And I got to thinkin’ of how important the Sun has been to me in life. I have written before about how my first life teacher Andrew McIver told me over and over again to imagine myself standing at the center of the Sun. He would growl and say “That’s hot stuff! Then years later I did just that. I imagined myself standing at the center of the sun and discovered for myself heliocentric astrology, still the most potent astrology I know of. Then later yet in my life, high in the Himalayas of Tibet at some 15,000 feet, sitting in front of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa, who spoke no English, he gave me a personal dharma name, “Tenzin Nyima,” which our guide/translator said means “Keeper of the Sun, Holder of the Sun.” He had no idea I was a heliocentric astrologer, but of course he just knew. So all this comes to mind on nights like this. And I love this poem I wrote even through one of my closest friends told me so very gently that this poem was not a good one.

Direct download: PDF-2104-THE_TURNING_POINT.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:02pm EDT

As I get older, I pay more attention to these unannounced impulses that arise spontaneously in my mind. Suddenly, there they are, a thought or a vision of what is to be. I am not talking about my biases or any train of thought that I am driving, not thoughts that arise out of what I wish, think I want, think I need, etc. That’s different and I am on to them. They may or may not presage anything. Sometimes they come true, but just as often, perhaps even more often, they don’t. They are just thoughts from thinking, a byproduct. However, these other kinds of impulses just come out of the blue and are not pre-meditated, not what I wish, not what I have been thinking about, would like to see happen, or whatever.

Direct download: PDF-2103-THE_TRUTH_IS_THE_FUTURE.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:01pm EDT

I now get to the part that is purely personal, because it involves my own experience with mind treasures, and that is, of course, all that I finally know about and have to offer. So please forgive the personal tone, which you probably are used to anyway. And I will use my experience with astrology as an example. I am not sure exactly when I began to turn away from books in favor of using the mind, but it was fairly early on. The reason was simple. Many of the ideas I was most interested in were not covered in the books I could find and, as an archivist, I could find a lot of books. As many of you know I curate what is perhaps the largest astrological library on the planet, so books I have.

Direct download: PDF-2102-THE_TREASURES_OF_THE_MIND.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

This is one of my reoccurring themes, a favorite if only because it is something I have to work on every day, my accumulation of karma. In other words, I seem to accumulate karma constantly and need I tell you that not all of it is good? We accumulate karma all the time. If we move and breathe, we are imprinting and laying down tracks in our mindstream, day in and day out. And if we worry about something we cannot do anything about, we are carving and reinforcing deep grooves in our consciousness. However, it is possible to drastically cut back on our karma imprinting, but it takes discipline and practice. At least in theory, the process is easy to understand.

Direct download: PDF-2101-THE_TRACKS_OF_MY_KARMA.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 11:59am EDT

For years I assumed that “good karma” was something very desirable that I never could get enough of. And I knew that I was a magnet in attracting that bad karma; it was that good karma I hoped to accumulate more of. Imagine my surprise to discover that while good karma is preferable to the bad stuff, it is ultimately not that useful or worth having. How is that?

Direct download: PDF-2100-THE_TRACKS_OF_GOOD_KARMA.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 9:41am EDT

We know the Moon orbits the earth each month, shuttling between the earth and the Sun and between the Earth the outer planets, the nearest one which is Mars. It is useful to visualize how the Moon moves in relationship to being inside and outside the position of the earth in its own orbit. Think on these diagrams.

Direct download: PDF-2098-THE_SUPERMOON_and_MORE.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 9:39am EDT

A number of you wrote of your interest in this brilliant object that appeared in the sky around June 21st of 2010, after its light traveled halfway across the known universe, a five billion year journey. I will try to put this in perspective and as I am starting to get old (tomorrow I will be 69 years of age) I get to tell you a story or two of my own experience in this type of astrology. In 1976 I published the book “Astrophysical Directions,” the result of many years work on my part on the astrology of deep space and all of the objects in it like quasars, pulsars, black holes, and what-not. At the time I was an unknown astrologer, and that book was created using my IBM Selectric typewriter, a programmable calculator, and pen and ink. There I was in my tiny office, with hardly a penny to my name, yet fascinated by what deep space was all about. This was before home computers and for every one of those thousands of space objects I had to do the trig on them individually, in order to plot them into astrologer’s zodiac coordinates.

Category:general -- posted at: 9:39am EDT

Some of you like my photography and I often am asked how I got into it. How I began mixing my mind with photography was not intentional. It just happened, and here is the story: At that particular time in my life I had just lost my job as a consultant in which I had been involved in for some years, due to layoffs and downsizing. I literally had nothing I had to do. Suddenly here I was with no job and only time on my hands. Of course, I was in shock. Through all of this something inside me somehow broke and I was just out on my own as I had not been since I was very young. I had no schedule of any kind.

Direct download: PDF-2095-THE_STORY_OF_MY_PHOTOGRAPHY.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 9:38am EDT

It was my favorite music event of the year, the annual 2011 Harvest Gathering up at the Bernard Farm in Lake City, a weekend of music, with three stages going all the time, almost one-hundred bands, and a feast of organic whole foods. My daughter May and her husband Seth Bernard put this on each year, with the help of scores of volunteers. The Harvest Gathering used to be for musicians only, advertised by word of mouth, three days after the music festival season is over, when hundreds of musicians gather to play with and for one another. Sure, maybe 1,000 outsiders find their way into the scene. It is the most like gatherings in the 1960s that I have ever seen. It has been going on for well over a decade.

Direct download: PDF-2094-THE_STORY_OF_HARVEST_QUEEN.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 9:37am EDT

A number of you have commented or messaged me, asking for comment on the state of modern astrology and why astrologers are, as a group, so damn poor. That is like asking me to stick my hand in a hornet nest, but I figure I am still too young to resist and too old to be afraid of repercussions. Just keep in mind that, like perhaps many of you, I have devoted my life to astrology and given it my all every step of the way. And it grieves me that astrology today is not light years ahead of where it was when I started out.

Direct download: PDF-2093-THE_STATE_OF_MODERN_ASTROLOGY.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 9:36am EDT

Taking good photos is not something I ever learned from books. There is always a stark gap between conceptual learning or training and direct experience. Books and teachers can but point at it, point out how to do it, more often how they did it, and not necessarily what would work for me. This is a perennial problem, the difference between book learning and actual experience. Experience involves taking the plunge into direct experience where we are out there on our own and have only our self to please. Imagine that?

Category:general -- posted at: 9:35am EDT

Some of you have asked what the solstices are physically, so pardon if this gets technical and too much like school. I try not to be technical in my blogs, but this is an exception. And I include some diagrams to help spell it out. Our Earth orbits the Sun in essentially a large circle that takes one year to go around. That one-year circle or orbit describes a horizontal plane around the Sun called the Ecliptic or Zodiac. Earth sits in the ecliptic like a spinning top. However, the Earth does not sit up in its orbit with its north pole pointing straight up toward the north pole of the ecliptic. Instead it is tilted in its orbit by about 23.5 degrees. Earth has a perpetual list or tilt.

Direct download: PDF-2088-THE_SOLSTICES.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 9:34am EDT

I don’t mean to be beating a dead horse with this solar-flare-influx material, and please feel free to ignore what follows. It has to do with how solar change comes over us, and for most of you this is probably more than the ‘enough’ you seek. I write it only for those of you who resonate to it, so that you don’t worry when it comes. Or perhaps, finally, I am just talking to myself, if that is allowed. Once again we are looking at deep solar change flooding our regular sense of our self and perhaps changing that self at a core level. And it may appear to be doing so without our knowledge or even asking our permission. Yet since this change IS our deeper self, it trumps who we thought we were. It is the new and updated ‘us’.

Direct download: PDF-2087-THE_SOLAR_TIDES.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 9:33am EDT

Thank you for all your well wishes! Yesterday my birthday was a busy one indeed, but not our Sun. We continue with a very quiet sun into today. Scientists are speculating as to whether this is officially the end of the peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle. It has been some three years since the sun has been this quiet.

Among other things, an active sun, as it has been these last years, means that the sun and the solar wind (an ejection stream of particles) creates a protective envelope around itself and of course all its planets, including Earth. This shield keeps out particles and information coming from beyond the sun itself (cosmic rays and whatever) that are streaming from the center of our galaxy and other external space objects and events.

Direct download: PDF-2086-THE_SOLAR_EXPRESS.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 9:33am EDT

Meditation and dharma practice are about becoming more aware, but aware of what? 

Ultimately (as the Tibetan Buddhists tell us) we seek to become aware of the true nature of the mind, whatever that is. If we have to ask then we don't know; that's what we have yet to find out. However, between that and where we are today is a sea of our own endless thoughts and obscurations, literally everything standing between our current state and realizing the unobstructed nature of the mind. That's why we practice.

Category:general -- posted at: 9:32am EDT

Looking back some forty years, the key to meditation progress (at least for me) has

been to just relax and allow the mind to rest. And by rest I mean the same thing you

mean by rest, as in "give it a rest." Resting in the present moment allows everything

whose time has come to present itself naturally. Using western psychological terms, if

we think too much about the future and trying to get to it or make it happen, we are

pushing the curve, what psychologists call being sadistic. On the other hand, if we dwell

on or overly prolong the past, we are behind the curve, as in: being dragged through life

by time. This is masochism.

Direct download: PDF-2083-THE_SIDESHOW.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 9:31am EDT

The traditional shaman does not choose to be a shaman. Shamanism of this kind is the result of a series of psychological experiences (call them visions) whose very nature estranges (at least for a time) one from conventional society and the normal way of seeing things. The shaman is somehow, often against their will, thrust outside of how everyone else sees life, and into a space and a view that is markedly altered from and mostly non-communicable to the society around them. In other words, they can’t be heard and understood.

Direct download: PDF-2082-THE_SHAMANS_SPIRITUAL_CRISIS.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 9:30am EDT

One thing I noticed a great many years ago but seldom talk about is this whole being-of-service thing. Americans are not comfortable serving others, despite what their lip service proclaims. Sure, we like to think we are all community workers at heart, but when it comes down to owning the ‘service’ label, uhh, uhh. We don’t like it. We are just uncomfortable as servants, serving others. We like to “be served.” Perhaps it is just our heritage of independence. I might never have even noticed this except for my deep interest in Asian philosophy, which finally got around to actually looking at some Asian persons. I have traveled in countries like Tibet, China, Sikkim, India, and Nepal, some of them a number of times.

Direct download: PDF-2081-THE_SERVICE_THING_-_BODHISATTVAS.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 9:29am EDT

It is easy to say the self is fickle and we can laugh about that. It is more difficult to dwell on the darker side of the self, like when it is frightened and in panic, although this happens too often for many of us. In fact it is rather amazing. One minute I can be calm and all is right with my world and the future looks bright. I am happy. And the next minute the phone rings or I open a letter with some bad news and my world is instantly topsy-turvy again. If the news is really bad I go into full-panic mode, which means lying on my back at 3 AM staring at the ceiling. At that point I am completely out of control and in the throes of panic.

Direct download: PDF-2080-THE_SELF_IN_PANIC.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 9:28am EDT

The definitive experience during my year in Berkeley was taking LSD, acid. In the end I was not sure what it was that I was taking; almost no one did that early in the scene. It was May 6th, 1964. I was intrigued (we all were) by the drug. More important, and the final impetus to take acid, is that I had reached a point in my life (a very tight place) where I really needed an alternative view. The stories I had heard were that LSD could provide that, whatever else it was. Something had to give and in the end I was willing to take a chance. Still, I was very nervous and worried about what I might do if I took acid, lost control, and then: what? I had no idea and neither did most folks that I spoke with, and I had asked around.

Direct download: PDF-2078-THE_ROOTS_OF_THE_SIXTIES_-_THE_LSD_TRIP.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 9:28am EDT

I am not a researcher or scholar in all of this, and don’t want to become one. My approach is experiential and the point of these blogs for me is to understand the framework in which my life experiences fit, and perhaps to discuss it with some of you. Right off I can see that there are many different flavors or ways of viewing not only the beat generation, but how that generation segued into what we call the Sixties. While I made it a point back then to spend time in what were probably the main beat centers in America (Greenwich Village, Venice West, and North Beach), I came from and went back to my life in Ann Arbor. In other words, your experience and views may differ. And, while yesterday I offered up a lot of experiential comments for examples, today (for my own clarity) I want to work on the general framework or “view.” This will be more abstract folks, so take note.

Category:general -- posted at: 9:27am EDT

Lately I have been thinking about that most mysterious of decades, the 1960s. I not only came of age during that time (and lived through it), but I am old enough to actually predate the advent of the hippies and ended up serving as a welcoming committee to them. As would-be beatniks, folks my age were the natural older brothers and sisters to Sixties generation. I would like to explore this topic over several blogs. I understand this may well interest but a few of us, but who cares. We can share our comments and time together. Anyway, it is snowing outside today, and winter seems to be coming on.

Direct download: PDF-2076-THE_ROOTS_OF_THE_SIXTIES_-_PROLOGUE.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 9:26am EDT

Continuing with my story. Unfortunately for me, I never took to schooling. I guess I am hard to teach. So have ended up teaching myself almost everything I know how to do. Well, there was one year, and one teacher. When I was in fourth grade, a benign teacher by the name of Mrs. Althouse took me under her wing. I flourished, but the very next year, in fifth grade, the mean Mrs. Ryder ended that exception and proved the rule, that I hate school. All the other years I went to school were just a long, long, and boring wait.

Direct download: PDF-2075-THE_ROOTS_OF_THE_SIXTIES_-_PART_II_-_The_Beats.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 9:26am EDT

I am still putting the pieces of time into various order covering the transition from the beat era to the hippie era, so bear with me. One of the things I did during that transition was live in Berkeley, California. Here is a little about that time. Back in 1964, when I lived there for a year, Berkeley was a college town like Ann Arbor was, but not like Ann Arbor. Moving there was like leaping into the future, because Berkeley was years ahead of Ann Arbor in most things. It gave me a real jolt relating to time, i.e., that time really is relative. Driving out there with all my things was also like driving from winter into perpetual summer. That was so different, at least for a while.

Direct download: PDF-2074-THE_ROOTS_OF_THE_SIXTIES_-_BERKELEY_IN_1964.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 9:25am EDT

Today I have been thinking about all of this while the snow accumulates outside my window. How does one communicate experience to another? I find myself tending to abstract everything, intellectualize it, boil it down so I don’t have to relive all the details in my own mind. It becomes more like a classroom than a one-to-one conversation. I need to slow down. That being said, the only true way is for me is to tell you what happened and let you abstract from that. To do this means I have to give personal details, stories, and actually describe what happened to me back then, that sort of thing. Now, just to contradict myself, in this blog I will give you an overall (abstract) view going in, but I will digress (or progress) into the scene as I lived it. I hope you don’t mind. No one is forcing you to read this.

Category:general -- posted at: 9:24am EDT

What is called "The Sixties" actually didn't start until the summer of 1965, which is like halfway through the decade, so what of those little-spoken of years from 1960 through the mid-1965? I don't know what they are officially called, but I call them the Post-Beat years, and they run from the late 1950s to, as mentioned, the summer of 1965, and they were crucial in helping to make the "1960s" what they were. For one, they represented the end of the Beat Movement, the remains of that day.

Direct download: PDF-2072-THE_ROOT_OF_THE_SIXTIES_-_PART_I.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 9:23am EDT

I want to relate to you a dream I had many years ago, back in the early 1970s, but before I do let me share a few experiences and thoughts that led up to this very special dream. They concern the structure of space beyond our solar system and the familiar zodiac, and how it might be of value astrologically for learning more about whom we are and what on Earth we might be here for.

I first became interested in deep-space astrology through exploring heliocentric astrology, the astrology of our entire solar system. Early on, I was amazed at the difference between my standard geocentric natal chart and some of the other astrological coordinate systems such as the heliocentric and Local Space charts. At that time my interest in the space beyond and surrounding our solar system was minimal. I was put off by the billions of stellar objects out there and, on a more basic level, by the ideas of coldness and blackness I had been programmed to associate with outer space. I sure didn’t want to go out there.

Direct download: PDF-2070-THE_REFLECTION_OF_A_DREAM.pdf
Category:general -- posted at: 9:22am EDT

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