Dharma Talk w/Q&A: Abbot Myogen Steve Stücky at SF Zen Center, Audio Only

Vodpod videos no longer available.


I found it!

The dharma talk I wrote about attending in my last post “Understimulated” was actually already up. I just forgot that SF Zen Center was trying something different. Now you can watch lives streams of the talks given by teachers at the center. And this particular one even has the Q&A included. Q&A is normally done after all the talks given at the center. This Q&A is quite helpful if you find yourself still not quite getting the talk or maybe want more enlightenment about the talk.

This lecture “touches on letting go of certainties, doing nothing, listening to your body, self-fulfilling prophecies and more.” I hope you take out an hour or so of your evening or day to take a listen.

Oh yeah, skip ahead to 15:00 20:00 mins for the beginning of the talk.

The Uses of Pleasure and Pain

Look at what the Buddha has to say about the tasks with regard to each of the noble truths. The task with regard to stress and suffering is to comprehend it. The task with regard to the path is to develop it, which means you want to develop that sense of ease, the sense of rapture that comes as the mind begins to settle down in concentration. What you’re doing is taking one of the aggregates — the aggregate of feeling — and instead of latching onto it or pushing it away, you learn how to use it as a tool.

When pain and stress and suffering come, you want to comprehend them. Comprehending pain and stress teaches you a lot about the mind. The Buddha never said that life is suffering. He just said there’s suffering in life, which is a very different teaching. As long as there’s going to be pain, as long as there’s going to be suffering, get the most use out of them. You find as you focus on pain — as you get to know it, get to comprehend it — that you learn all kinds of things about how the mind is working. In particular, you learn to see what it’s doing to take a physical pain and turn it into mental pain — or, if you’re starting with mental pain, to make it worse.

What we’re doing is taking one of the aggregates that we usually cling to… Clinging here doesn’t mean just holding on. It also means trying to push away, and pushing away is like pushing away a glob of tar. The more you push it away, the more you get stuck. So instead of clinging or pushing away, we try to learn how to use these aggregates as tools, in the same way you’d use tar to make asphalt for paving a road.

This is a common theme running throughout the Buddha’s teachings: Before you can let go of anything, you have to learn how to master it. Otherwise, you’re just holding on, pushing away, holding on, pushing away. And nothing comes from that except more stress, more suffering, more pain. This harms not only you but also the people around you. If you’re constantly feeling worn down by the pains and the inconveniences of life, you’ll find it hard to be kind to other people. In fact, most of the evil things people do in their lives come from their sense of being totally overwhelmed, feeling weak and trapped and then lashing out.

But if you give the mind the sense of strength and security that comes with knowing it has a center it can return to and gain nourishment from, it’s a gift not only to yourself but also to the people around you. It’s not a selfish practice.

Learn how not to hold onto feelings, grabbing hold of the pleasant ones, pushing the painful ones away. Instead, learn how to use them as tools. When they’re used as tools, they open things up in the mind. You understand where the mind is unskillful in how it manages its thinking, and you realize that you don’t have to be unskillful. There are better ways to think, better ways to manage the thought processes in the mind.

And a funny thing happens. As you master these processes, they bring you to a point where everything reaches equilibrium. That’s where you can really let go. You can even let go of your tools at that point because they’ve taken you where you want to go. From that point on, everything opens up to the Deathless.

But you can’t get there by pushing and pulling your way around. If the Deathless were something you could force your way into, everybody would have gone to nibbana a long time ago. It requires a lot of finesse, a lot of skill in how you deal with the mind, learning to recognize the time for analyzing issues of stress and suffering, and the time for letting the mind rest so it that it can gain strength and then go back to work.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Read this in its entirety here.

Online Confessions: Cure-all or Schadenfreude 2.0?

Whether is be about sex, neurotic tendencies, or something else, there is something cathartic about reading someone’s anonymous confession to a lustful moment, anger, insecurity, or just about any feeling you may have felt or may be feeling as well.

Or, could indulging in the habit of reading others’ confessions be good old-fashioned Schadenfreude? According to Merriam-Webster, Schadenfreude is “enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others.”

In January 2009, Science Daily published a story that touched on some of the emotional benefits of new mothers communicating to each other in an online forum.

One of the main conclusions was that, “the opportunity to share experiences with like-minded, local women can stop pregnant women and mothers from feeling isolated and worrying about giving birth and parenting.”

You may not be giving birth or a parent at the moment, but perhaps one thing you can take away from this study is, the opportunity to share experiences with like-minded people can help you (us) from feeling isolated and worried. The Internet, offers us many opportunities to connect with like-minded people on subjects like education, entertainment, pleasure, and more.

Anonymous confession boards are one way of connecting. Not just for the people confessing, but for those reading as well. The first place I discovered this was at the website Group Hug.

Group Hug was started in 2003, and in it you could find confessions about cheating, crappy parents (or parenting), friendship betrayal, school mishaps, dating mistakes, tales of lust, and more. Like the following:

i always say “dont fake it”, but damn. i’m the biggest fake around. i cant help it if i prefer peace over honesty. the latter’s just too messy.


so yeah. even if i still talk to you and act like it’s all ok, it still doesnt change that fact.

that you’re a slut who loves attention.

i mean what kinda friend are you if you take such pleasure getting every guy your friend(s) want just to prove you can get them?

Simply because the site has become very popular, the quality of confessions has lowered. But don’t let that deter you from browsing.

There are also specialized confession sites, like I Am Neurotic. At this site, users divulge their real or imagined neurotic tendencies.

Whenever I have gum in my mouth and want to spit it out, I will never spit it outside on the ground for others to see. I think someone will get upset, trace my DNA from the gum and figure out who I am.

or this one

I cannot touch food that is cold if it is supposed to be hot. If I am reheating something, I have to ask someone else to put their finger in it to see if its hot because I’m scared that if i touch it, it will still be cold. I also can’t eat things like macaroni salad, because noodles are meant to be hot, not cold.

If those don’t fill your plate there are plenty of other confession sites to choose from.



Post Secret

Truu Confessions (The mom confessions channel of this site spawned a book.)

I’ve Screwed Up

And for those who feel the need to read or confess in 140 characters or less (yes, a Twitter reference), there are two anonymous confessions sites that may fill your need.

Kvetch! and SecretTweet

Whether online confession sites hurt or help us more is a question for the ages; in the meantime — let it all out.

Psychedelics and Your Brain

Can psychedelics make an academic comeback? Ever?

This spring, NPR ran a short 5-part-series on the brain science of spirituality. The series features short snippets about science’s latest discoveries and adventures into how the brain interprets spiritual events.

The series is based upon the work in the book Fingerprints of God. NPR religion correspondent, Barbara Bradley Hagerty, wrote the book and is also responsible for producing the series.

In the first part of the series, Haggert covers a peyote ceremony conducted at a Navajo reservation in Arizona and the recent psilocybin (the psychedelic ingredient in mushrooms) experiments that were conducted at John Hopkins University.

You can read the first part of the series — with links to the audio, here. Or you can go NPR’s interactive landing page for the series. The landing page features interactive maps of the brain and links to all stories in the series.

And for the Buddha-inclined

The hosts of Buddhist Geeks, a weekly podcast show about Buddhism, interview American Zen Master, Denis Kelly. Kelly is the abbot of Hollow Bones Zen School and a teacher at Shambhala Mountain Center in Colorado.

In the podcast, Kelly talks about the interesting path he took in Buddhism to get where he is now and how it was influenced by LSD. Kelly also talks about his new form of Koan practice that utilizes Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) techniques. You can find that podcast here.

Oh but wait there’s more

The non-profit research and educational organization, MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), is working towards more research being done in the name of psychedelic medicine.

Currently the non-profit is sponsoring two clinical trials that are using MDMA – also known by the street name Ecstasy, to treat PTSD (Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder). PTSD is an anxiety disorder that is caused by psychological trauma. Wikipedia writes this about psychological trauma.

A traumatic event involves a single experience, or an enduring or repeating event or events, that completely overwhelm the individual’s ability to cope or integrate the ideas and emotions involved with that experience. The sense of being overwhelmed can be delayed by weeks, years, even decades, as the person struggles to cope with the immediate circumstances. Trauma can be caused by a wide variety of events, but there are a few common aspects. There is frequently a violation of the person’s familiar ideas about the world and of their human rights, putting the person in a state of extreme confusion and insecurity. This is also seen when people or institutions depended on for survival violate or betray or disillusion the person in some unforeseen way.

The disorder is commonly seen in survivors of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse and survivors of  dangerous life-threatening events such as physical assault, rape, and accidents. Most recently, an increasing amount of soldiers coming back from the Iraq War have been diagnosed with PTSD.

Because of their involvement in these trials, the non-profit has produced a therapist manual of standardized methods for treatment of PTSD with MDMA. Which you can view here.

MAPS has also produced a 20-minute educational video for helping others sort out psychedelic drug users having a difficult trip. You can watch that video here.