Sunday, April 11, 2021

MEDITATION SCHEDULE

I will be on vacation beginning Wednesday April 21. I will notify everyone when I resume meditation sessions.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

April 11 discussion of Finding Peace Everywhere: How Presence, Surrender and Inquiry Changed My Life (2021) by Trey Carland

"In 2007, Trey co-founded the Asheville Sangha online community and began hosting weekly Awakening Support Group meetings (which continue to this day). In 2017, he started his own meditation-based hiking tour business, Zen Mountain Tours, as a way to help others find the peace they seek. You can learn more about Trey’s journey on his website - http://www.treycarland.com.

Trey Carland has been actively on a spiritual journey since 2005. After several awakening experiences, he became passionate about sharing these insights with the world.
From the Amazon description: "My hope is that readers who are looking for peace, and ultimately awakening, will find these words helpful and be guided to look for the Truth with their own direct experience. Following along vicariously with this Trey character’s path could very well assist the awakening of consciousness in “you.” Much of the writing has to do with how Trey’s deepening clarity positively impacted the story. But, in the end, it’s still just a story 🙂." Over the past year of COVID lockdown I've been able to participate in Trey's weekly Awakening Group on ZOOM and we have become good friends. I was delighted to write the forward to Trey's book. Here is an excerpt:
"I personally benefitted from this deep inner questioning. Here are some questions from the book that will give you a sense of this intensive self inquiry process:
Inquiring into the Senses
“First, we will inquire into the senses. After reading each of these questions, repeat them over and over again a few times (out loud or in your mind) and direct attention to where they are pointing.
What is looking through these eyes?
What is aware of what’s being seen?
What is aware that seeing is happening?
Is what I’m seeing being seen from behind my eyes, or is it being seen where it is?”
There are many other examples of this intimate and incisive approach to self-inquiry provided in the book, and this material by itself is well worth the cost and effort involved in reading the book."
Finding Peace Everywhere: How Presence, Surrender and Inquiry Changed My Life

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Discussion of The Triune Self (2018) by Mike Snider

Sunday, March 28 Lenny Silver and I led a talk/discussion of Mike Snider's book The Triune Self (2018).  Here is a link to the talk: https://www.facebook.com/Michael-Hall-PhD-110012554072429/videos/464854038267824.   

Here is a link to the book: https://smile.amazon.com/Triune-Self-Confessions-Ruthless-Seer/dp/0986203572/. Here is a description form Amazon's product page: "The Triune Self contains the true account of Mike Snider’s cataclysmic spiritual awakening, and his own view that emerged as a result of it. He's not parroting anyone. His story is about a country boy raised in the Bible belt who was called from a very early age to find God. Mike was tortured and beaten up by a relentless drive to know God—an obsession that had plagued him since childhood. His innermost desire was always to somehow arrive at Truth—the singular and irrefutable essence and quintessence that pervades the universe. This book is about that authentic rocky journey—the honest and earnest sojourn of a man who wouldn’t quit until his heart’s desire was fulfilled. This book is not spiritual champagne. It’s more like drinking moonshine straight out of a car radiator. Mike has no patience for religious dogma or spiritual fluff, and his story and message are both disturbing and liberating. It is not a message for those who are merely curious about spiritual matters. This book is about one man’s desperate drive to SEE at all costs. Mike is a voice in the wilderness calling you Home."

I have heard Mike speak several times and have known him to be a profoundly powerful speaker as well as incredibly funny. Mike is a multi-talented man. He is a member of the Grand Ole Opry and was a regular performer on the Hew Haw for many years. He is a phenomenal banjo player and a gifted comedian. Here is an example of a comedy routine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EiFwgvcuDw. Here is a link to a two-hour podcast with Mike that was the trigger for writing his book: https://podcast.app/mike-snider-interview-e20365130/

Monday, March 22, 2021

Trust the Not Knowing

 


Follow the stream,

Have faith in its course.

Ch'an Master Sheng-Yen

March 21, 2021

Link to the talk: https://www.facebook.com/110012554072429/videos/737496860261308

During my Zen training there were a number of phrases that lodged in the mind like nettles, refusing to budge, going nowhere. One was Your eyebrows are intertwined with Bodhidharma’s, Bodhidharma being the Indian Zen Buddhist monk who supposedly brought Zen from India to China. A similar one was It’s as close as the nose on your face. Say what?!? Several passages from the Bible were also mystifying, such as John 8:58, KJV: Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Or Exodus 3:14 KJV And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you. These are two of the most profound passages in the Bible, yet I had no idea what they meant. The problem was that I was attempting to understand such passages using my ordinary mind, which is more or less adequate for addressing the myriad issues of daily life but helpless in the face of deep spiritual truth.

To truly understand such passages, they must be revealed to us. We will never understand spiritual truth by thinking about it. Fortunately, there is a way to understand. It involves activating the great Mind, what Korean Zen Master Seungsahn (1927 –2004) called “don’t know mind”. His injunction to Zen students was simple: “only don’t know”. The mind that knows is limited, conditioned, stuck. Not knowing opens up limitless possibilities. In order to make spiritual progress we need to cultivate the mind that knows nothing. Our ordinary thinking mind is addicted to knowing ‘stuff’-concepts, ideas, notions. Our ordinary mind is full of beliefs, opinions, and convictions, none of which are ultimately true. We so want to be right, to seem like we know what we are doing-to be in charge. One with this ocean of vastness, who is in charge of anything? Yet, strangely, when operating freely from no mind, decisions are made and effective actions are taken with no one making decisions or taking action.

How do we cultivate the mind that doesn’t know, yet is open to all potentiality? With no need to do or know anything whatsoever, genuine Knowing emerges of its own, spontaneously. This river flows by itself, without guidance or direction. Freely appearing Knowing is incontrovertible, not arguable. We know directly, for ourselves. No teachers or teachings are necessary. “Dharmas here are empty, all are the primal void”-the Heart Sutra speaks to us clearly.

In the teaching/discussion, we will explore the experience of living in the world from the ‘perspective’ of not knowing. How do we learn to identify and trust this direct, spontaneous speaking and acting? In Affirming Faith in Mind we read “thus walking freely, undisturbed”. What is it like to live in this way? We have all experienced such freedom. Right here, right now, how can we miss it?

 

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Discernment and Surrender

 This talk given March 7, 2021 can be found at my Facebook professional page: Michael Hall, PhD: 

https://www.facebook.com/110012554072429/videos/3235551546547481

What can we do to assist the process of discerning God’s will?

Ask for guidance. Do not assume that you know the right answer. It is essential to ask with absolute humility and openness to have the way revealed.

Willingness is essential. This willingness to be shown and to follow through with action is the meaning of surrender. It is definitely possible to recognize the need for an action that is not appealing or even goes against our own best judgment. Even if we receive guidance but do not wish to follow, waiting is usually ok. When a particular action is ‘suggested’ repeatedly, it is probably wise to follow it. This process does not negate the thinking mind or undercut the role of reason, critical judgment or thinking in the usual sense. However, if we are not willing, we will not be able to see what is revealed. Willingness benefits from a comfort and even eagerness to dwell in ‘not knowing’. Not knowing is your friend. The mind that knows is closed. Adopt the perspective of not knowing. Learn to be ok with uncertainty.

It is a myth that we should know what we are doing all the time. Only those who are closed can always know the truth. A closed mind knows programming and belief, not revealed truth. We are looking for revealed truth. Programming and belief are already known and limited in power and effectiveness in the world. Therefore, we must remain open and frequently dwell in a kind of uncertainty. Learning to tolerate this Cloud of Unknowing is a large part of the spiritual path. We are always searching for the revelation of the Will of God.

When in doubt, it is often good judgment to wait. Wait in the not knowing. Expect to know but recognize and accept when you don’t know. Try to be content with not knowing. When the time is right and there is a need, what is next will be revealed.

How can we discern the difference between what my conditioned mind wants and what God wants? It is not always easy or clear. There are certainly no rules. To recognize it requires trust, intuition and surrender. Usually, however, God’s will is not subtle or hard to recognize. It tends to be insistent. You will notice yourself repeatedly revisiting an idea or plan of action. If something repeatedly occurs to me without obvious external or internal prompting, it is a safe bet I am receiving guidance. Once you recognize the guidance, try to relax and carry through with it to the best of your ability. Try to avoid doubt or any other kind of worry or rumination. Worry is your thinking mind doing what it does best. It is not helpful and is really just a bad habit. Observe the worry and then try to ignore it.

The indicated action that is revealed is a ‘next’. Try to stay present and attuned, always open to further guidance. Recognizing and carrying out guidance skillfully requires understanding and practice. These skills will develop over time, as with anything else. Remember experiences where you felt guided in the past and review the outcomes. You will see that things went well, often much better than you could have ever imagined. While the indicated action might engender fear to the self-identity beforehand, there is usually a feeling of relief and ‘rightness’ afterwards. Try to maintain awareness of this entire process. We all have this ability inherent in us as human beings, although some appear to be naturally more at ease with the required letting go of perceived control.

Eventually this other way of knowing becomes second nature and is mostly effortless. Interruptions in the flow of awareness come as conditioned beliefs and habits are triggered. This eruption of conditioning and fear is not a problem. Rather, it is an opportunity to become more aware of unconscious programming and release it. In other words, it is an opportunity to become more free and clear. Everything that appears to be a problem will yield to a calm and present awareness.

 

 


Monday, March 1, 2021

What is the role of passion and desire on the spiritual path?

 Facebook link to today's talk, February 28, 2021: https://www.facebook.com/Michael-Hall-PhD-110012554072429/videos/247307193603982

Today's primary resource is Open to Desire: The Truth About What the Buddha Taught by Mark Epstein, MD. (2006). New York: Avery.

Today’s talk is a follow up to the discussion on Valentine’s Day of nonattachment/attachment disorder, and last week’s discussion of spiritual bypassing. I have spoken of the attachment to emptiness as dwelling in the ‘cave of nonduality’. Once the silence and peace of this absolute emptiness is experienced, it can be enticing, particularly to those who have experienced enormous suffering and trauma in this life. In emptiness there is no separation and hence no suffering. If the goal is the end of suffering, then emptiness is your ticket. Without the sense of self-identity, there can be no suffering as there is no separation. No separation means there is no comparison of what is with what isn’t. Without this comparing process, nothing is seen as lacking. There is neither joy nor the absence of joy. There is no passion, no desire, no fear, no pain of loss, no excitement, and no despair. Obviously, meaningful relationships of all kinds are avoided or diminished, as relationships have typically been a source of suffering.

The same can be said for all other forms of engagement in the world. Responsibility is avoided like the plague. The internal experience of emptiness is of a quiet contentment. People who have arrived at this deep, internally focused peacefulness appear emotionally flat to those not in the cave. There is often little externally focused activity of any kind. Very little productive work is accomplished. Effort of all kinds is strenuously avoided as a sign of ego-based striving.

A telltale sign of the depth of attachment to this stillness and emotional numbing is the ferocious response that occurs when an attempt is made to arouse them from their slumbers. The cave of nonduality is a deeply restful way station for the weary spiritual traveler and abiding there a while is understandable and beneficial. The problem is mistaking a stage of the journey for the end of the journey.

After a deep spiritual realization, it is normal, even predictable to land hard in the cave of nonduality. Many years can pass quietly as the seeker rests, mistakenly assuming that the journey has ended. From my observations and experiences, it is almost impossible for the person (who no longer believes themselves to be a person) to recognize how stuck they are without some external assistance. This is where a trusted teacher who has successfully exited the cave and reengaged with the messy, unpredictable ordinary world is not only invaluable, but usually absolutely necessary. The discontent that drove the seeker to pursue self-realization with the passion required to awaken to an aspect of their true nature has ceased. Extinction is the nature of nonduality. There is no internal dissatisfaction left to motivate movement and action. What then is the motivation to leave the cave and reengage with the world of suffering and chaos, of desire and lack?

The only motivation I can find is a deep sense of compassion born of the experiential realization of both unity and separateness. Although my personal suffering may have ended in the cave of emptiness, a quick peek outside reveals an entire world of hurt. The instant that we wade into this morass of suffering, previously hidden attachments and aversions are activated and available for attention and release. As long as we stay safely within the cave, we can fool our self into thinking that we are ‘done’. As long as meaningful engagement with life and real responsibility are carefully avoided, we can maintain our carefully cultivated inner state of peace and contentment. The avoidance of engagement becomes the spiritually rationalized default setting. How can reengagement with the messy world be a good idea when it activates so many unresolved conflicts? This can be an especially delicate time for the spiritual aspirant who, having finally found peace, is asked to surrender it.

Many are called but few are chosen. If there is a willingness and access to accurate teaching, the rested seeker may gather up their few remaining possessions and begin the longest and most arduous portion of the path. The ordinary world of duality is engaged, but now it is intuitively understood from the aspect of emptiness, making all experience radically different. One of the last and most difficult attachments that must be released is the attachment to emptiness. The full engagement with ordinary life that is ultimately realized is beautifully depicted in the tenth ox-herding picture, where our fully liberated sage is completely at home in the world, demonstrating absolute freedom embodied as an individual and unique human being.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

APPLIED MINDFULNESS

 In this discussion we consider several articles by scientists who use mindfulness to help reduce unwanted habits, cravings, and addictions. Here is a link to the Facetime video: https://www.facebook.com/110012554072429/videos/446374686733483

Here are links to the two articles mentioned: https://www.inverse.com/mind-body/curiosity-awareness-behavior-change?fbclid=IwAR1YCvfo6Pqa7lHwJWY9Men571n7t4OaJrX7cL3dho89kib0d8xp3jW_bnw;

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/practical-mindfulness/202101/two-words-stop-toxic-habits-and-addiction-in-their-tracks?fbclid=IwAR3c6QNxLgvItGnl469_AT86aXxxFNceX-9AD-1xqmYROKxb-HtvN1QGcUM

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Russell Williams

 January 24, 2021

Michael Hall, PhD

From Amazon’s description of Not I, Not Other Than I by Russell Williams (2015) London: O Books.

“Russel Williams is one of the most remarkable enlightened spiritual teachers of our time. After an early life of extreme hardship—leaving school at the age of 11 and becoming an orphan shortly afterwards—he underwent a spiritual awakening at the age of 29. Since the late 1950s, he has been a spiritual teacher, and is still actively teaching now, at the age of 94. (Russell passed away in 2018-MH). Previously, Russel has avoided publicity and never published any writings or transcripts of his talks, preferring to work quietly with small groups. This is the first time any details of his teachings or of his life have appeared in print. This book is partly a record of his teachings, and partly also the story of his extraordinary life. Working with well-known spiritual author Steve Taylor—who has attended Russel’s meetings regularly since the 1990s—Russel has created a profound text which will surely become known as a classic of spiritual literature.

The book interweaves the highly improbable-sounding and adventurous early years of Russel Williams’ life with summaries of the realisations and teachings of his later years. The young Williams had a string of perilous experiences, including finding himself in a lion’s cage, living through the London blitz, saving lives from a small boat during the evacuation of Dunkirk, and so on. Improbable but almost certainly true, Williams passed through a rare intensity of experience that was probably necessary for his subsequent spiritual awakening and later undoubted spiritual authenticity.

The essence of his teaching is a simplicity of experience that does not get into verbalisation at all. Steve says in his introduction:

“Russel’s spiritual teachings are very ‘naked’ and pure – that is, they are very free of theories, concepts and categories. This gives his teachings a rare clarity and power. There is no system. There are no rituals or rules to follow, no ideas to take on board. You don’t have to believe anything. You don’t have to accept anything. You don’t have to become anything. All you have to do is be.”

The teachings are not even actually Buddhist theories, but they are largely consistent with Buddhist teachings about the essential nature of man.

Steve goes on:

“Russel teaches us how to uncover this state – how we can nurture it, and remove  some of the obstacles which stop its expression. He makes it clear that this is our natural state, and that it’s only due to confusion that we have lost access to it. He helps us to remove the confusion, to disentangle our minds from the mess of concepts and thinking habits which cloud them, so that we can become who we really are. In this state, we are naturally one with everything, and with the universe itself…”

This is a fascinating book, which deals well with trying to get over an essentially nonverbal practice. It would be difficult to read it and not come away in some way changed.

Steve Taylor is himself an interesting man who has written a number of books on psychology and spirituality, and is an accomplished poet, so was well qualified to undertake the editing of this book."


https://smile.amazon.com/Not-other-than-Teachings-Williams/dp/1782797297/

 Conscious.TV interview with Russell (1hour 7 minutes) with subtitles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veDAgwg9jSo

Transcript of this interview: http://conscious.tv/text/94.htm

 Transmission of Nonduality through a Horse’s Eyes (5 minutes) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUQ8oOBXhbA

 The Genius of Consciousness and the Nonduality of Touch

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePB19n9IZ98

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

The Gospel of Mary Magdalene

The regular meditation schedule resumed today. This Sunday we will have a discussion of the role of women in early Christianity, with special emphasis on the curious case of Mary Magdalene. Immediately after the shift in consciousness experienced in 2002, a deep interest in and resonance with the teachings of Jesus emerged spontaneously. I began to read the four Gospels, as I was primarily interested in the direct teachings straight from Jesus, not interpretations via Paul, Peter, or others. I was struck by several observations. First, Jesus was continuously exasperated with how poorly his male disciples understood his teachings, even though they were with him full time. And second, it seemed that Mary Magdalene had a huge role to play in the Christ story of the crucifixion (she was at the foot of the cross with Christ's mother Mary) and the resurrection (she was there at the tomb, again with his mother). I intuited that she was the only disciple of Jesus who was fearless and who truly understood his teachings. 

Over the next few years, I read some of the Gnostic gospels, especially the wonderful Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary of Magdala. This latter text was originally discovered in 1896, but not translated into English and published until 1955. Reading the surviving excerpts from The Gospel of Mary of Magdala (available here: http://gnosis.org/library/marygosp.htm) confirmed the intuitive knowing of the primacy of Mary in the Jesus story. In today's talk we will review this Gospel, as well as consider the role of women in early Christianity. How did Mary, the natural successor/primary interpreter of Jesus, get relegated to such a secondary role that by the 6th century Pope Gregory had declared her to be a prostitute, inaccurately conflating several other women in the Bible with Mary of Magdala? Why was the official position of the Catholic Church that Mary, the apostle to the apostles, was a prostitute and 'fallen woman' not rectified until 1969? And how did women, who were pivotal figures in the early church, become such second-class citizens in the Church, a travesty that continues until the present day? Here is a link to "an imaginative interpretation of The Gospel of Mary. Watch as the text becomes art through the animation of Elizabeth Honer and the storytelling of Dr. Althea Spencer Miller. Hear anew of the inter-connectedness of life, the ascent of the soul, and the call to face fears through this early Christian scripture." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCSplV9bC3Q

Below is a link to an interesting article about Paramhansa Yogananda's meeting with Therese Neumann, in 1935.

 https://www.ananda.org/blog/yogananda-neumann-christ/

Although Therese will not be the focus of the talk, we will briefly discuss her experience as it reminds me of both Saint Teresa of Avila, who spent the first 6 years of life in her convent totally bed ridden, and Padre Pio, who had very similar stigmata. 


"Yogananda later revealed that Therese had been Mary Magdalene in a past life, and for this reason was blessed with Christ’s wounds and the weekly visions. He explained that Therese’s life was intended to reassure Christians everywhere of the authenticity of Jesus’ life and crucifixion as recorded in the New Testament, and to show the ever-living bond between Christ and his disciples. Yogananda also said that Therese was a jivan mukta, a free soul who enjoyed the highest state of nirbikalpa samadhi."



 

Sunday, December 20, 2020

MEDITATION SCHEDULE FEBRUARY 7-MARCH 2, 2021


All meetings except Sunday consist of a brief discussion followed by two 30 minute rounds of silent meditation. Sunday meetings consist of one 30 minute session of silent meditation followed by a talk and discussion of about an hour or so. All meetings are free.

MEDITATION SCHEDULE FEBRUARY 7-MARCH 2

Feb 7, 2021

02:00 PM

01:45

Feb 8, 2021

02:00 PM

01:15

Feb 9, 2021

11:00 AM

01:15

Feb 10, 2021

07:00 PM

01:15

Feb 11, 2021

07:00 PM

01:15

Feb 12, 2021

11:00 AM

01:15

Feb 14, 2021

02:00 PM

01:45

Feb 15, 2021

02:00 PM

01:15

Feb 16, 2021

11:00 AM

01:15

Feb 17, 2021

07:00 PM

01:15

Feb 18, 2021

07:00 PM

01:15

Feb 19, 2021

11:00 AM

01:15

Feb 21, 2021

02:00 PM

01:45

Feb 22, 2021

02:00 PM

01:15

Feb 23, 2021

11:00 AM

01:15

Feb 24, 2021

07:00 PM

01:15

Feb 25, 2021

07:00 PM

01:15

Feb 26, 2021

11:00 AM

01:15

Feb 28, 2021

02:00 PM

01:45

Mar 1, 2021

02:00 PM

01:15

Mar 2, 2021

11:00 AM

01:15

RESOURCES

Here are links to two 45 minutes videos recorded in July 2020 with Roger Brooks of American Real TV:
Here is a link to my interview with Trey Carland on his podcast Question the Orthodox: https://anchor.fm/.../Interview-with-Michael-Hall-PhD--by...
Follow this link to purchase Final Talks by Annamalai Swami directly from the editor David Godman: https://www.davidgodman.org/.../annamalai-swami-final.../.... This wonderful little book was largely unavailable until now.
Interesting 20 minute video by Anna Brown on the illusion of control. Anna is young yet communicates with great clarity. https://youtu.be/NwTCJd7-Rh4
Atma Vichara (Who Am I?) Ramana Maharshi
Hall, M. (2019). Awake and Alive: Being What you Already Are.
Langdell, T. (2020). Christ Way, Buddha Way: Jesus as Wisdom Teacher and a Zen Perspective on His Teachings. San Antonio, TX: Oxbridge.
Living By the Words of Bhagavan (1994). David Godman. Sri Annamalai Swami Ashram Trust.
The Yoga Of Jesus - Understanding the Hidden Teachings of the Gospels. (2007). Paramahansa Yogananda. Self Realization Fellowship.
No Self, No Problem: How Neuropsychology Is Catching Up to Buddhism (2019). Hierophant Publishing. Chris Niebauer, Ph.D.
Here is a link to Affirming Faith in Mind by Seng T'san. It is also called: Xin Xin Ming.
Zazen is Good for Nothing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8T-Z1WoFXkk. Zen Roshi Shohaku Okumura. His website :sanshinji.o