steve

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About steve

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  1. Christianity

    I agree one can cultivate spirit through prayer, ritual, and study, whether in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Daoism, etc... That said, for me at least, the meditative practices I've learned in Bön and Daoism were far more direct and effective than ritual, prayer, or study. I think this is a very personal thing. I once read a wonderful book about the subject called The Jew in the Lotus by Rodger Kamenetz. It explored the phenomenon of Jewish predominance among Western practitioners of Eastern religion, Buddhism in particular. One of the points it made was that between the desire of Jews in diaspora to fit in and avoid drawing attention to themselves and the widespread slaughter of masters of esoteric practice in the Holocaust, relatively little of the mystical aspects of Judaism have survived intact and what has is difficult to access. This was suggested as one reason why so many Jews gravitate to Asian spiritual traditions.
  2. Does Qi cultivation supercharge human traits?

    I can't say whether or not "qi cultivation" boosts existing or latent traits and emotional conditions. In my own personal experience I would say it did not. As I advanced in my practices of taiji, bagua, xingyi, qigong, and Dao meditation, I found my life was heading in a direction of fewer extremes, less reactivity and stress. My ability to focus improved but with that came a sense of balance and seeing through the things that previously led to emotional reactivity and psychological distress. I can say that I often see here evidence that people engaging in practices they consider to be qi cultivation (whatever they actually may be), particularly those practicing without expert guidance, manifest what appear to be exaggerated traits and emotional conditions that frequently lead to conflict and negative interaction with other members. So I think the answer to your question is yes but with the caveat that I have no idea what many people who claim to cultivate qi are actually cultivating or whether their methods are sound. I suspect their methods and ideas are largely misguided or lacking in balance and experienced guidance so what they are cultivating often seems to be lust for power.
  3. Christianity

    Aren't they all? I find the mythology and assertions of other religions to be equally fantastical (born of a lotus? dissolving into rainbows? riding dragons in the sky?) but the emphasis on acceptance and belief in Christianity is remarkable. There was a time when religion provided reassuring answers to challenging questions (and they still do in some ways for some people) but that has largely been supplanted by a deepening and broadening of understanding through rational thought and experimentation. One thing that occurs to me is that requiring belief in far-fetched stories that are clearly without any demonstrable foundation (or even common sense) is the perfect method to control minds and actions. If you are successful with it in childhood, you can be assured of a high rate of long term compliance. I vividly recall the first time I was told the story of Abraham and Isaac as a child. I was expected to accept that the all-powerful, all-loving creator of me and the universe found it advisable to demand a human being murder their infant child with unconditional obedience (and to emulate that unconditional obedience?!). It was the beginning and end of my interest and trust in Judaism as an authority and resource for ethics and morality. Reading the Old Testament further reinforced the ludicrous idea that this document is a basis for universal morality. Christianity is a bit different for me in that it is not the silly beliefs I find problematic, or even the expectation of acceptance, but the complete lack of correlation between the current and historical behavior of Christians and the teachings of their savior. Demanding belief would also be an effective and efficient tool for proselytization, the focus of Christianity and Islam over millennia. Judaism explicitly discourages it and it is rarely found among Daoists, Hindus, or (to a lesser extent) Buddhists. It would be tricky and time consuming to have people show you how well they have adopted rituals and lifestyle or perfected meditation practice and litanies. Far more efficient to require a profession of belief on pain of torture or slaughter. Judaism and Islam, IME, are not too far off from Christianity in terms of requiring belief and faith, particularly when you look at the more orthodox and observant populations. The curricula of religious Jewish and Islamic institutions are shockingly insular and defensive. I have a friend that tried to teach history in an orthodox Jewish school and was muzzled and threatened, quitting at the end of one semester. When I consider the Old and New Testaments and the Quran I see little more than archaic and unsophisticated tales designed to control minds and manipulate populations. Certainly each of those Abrahamic religions has practices that have the potential to bring people to a deeper understanding of themselves and the cosmos (Jesuit spiritual exercises, Kabbalah, Sufi practices) but these esoteric practices have little to do with how the vast majority of people engage with their religions. The fact that practice based engagement with religion is more prevalent in Asian religions as compared to Abrahamic religions may be correlated with the (lack of) emphasis on belief. That is precisely the point. You believe them because you are told to, you are indoctrinated to be obedient or you are ostracized or worse. The actual story doesn't matter as long it is fantastic and without any demonstrable foundation, a test of obedience. I've also not seen anything called Ajudaism, Achristianity, or Aislam. 无神论 means atheism in Mandarin and नास्तिकता in Hindi. Clearly these terms are pointing to disbelief in the religious tenets of Daoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. The tradition of atheistic reasoning and debate in Hinduism and Vedic religions is well-established and ancient (https://blog.apaonline.org/2020/06/16/the-untold-history-of-indias-vital-atheist-philosophy/). I've seen estimates of 40% of the Chinese population being atheist or agnostic and about 15-20% in India. It is likely that these trends are related at least as much to political, social, and cultural factors as to the specific characteristics of different religions but your point is well taken that the expectation of unconditional belief and obedience is curious and, for me, disappointing. I suspect it is more a reflection of politics and social engineering than religion.
  4. I can offer you some sense of my insight into the essence of it, fwiw. Not saying this is what Daoism is but simply what it has come to mean for me over the past 25 years or so. My relationship with Daoism has been primarily through martial arts, qigong, and Daoist meditation. While I've studied many of the texts available in the West, I am no scholar and my knowledge is limited. After about a dozen years of practicing Daoist meditation, my karma brought me to Bön dzogchen practice. Having practiced in each tradition for over a decade the parallels are unmistakable for me in terms of view, practice, and result. Daoism for me is a description of the way things are, the way I am, and the relationship between the two. It describes reality more as process and relationship than as a collection of independent things. It emphasizes the wholeness of existence and the inherent balance, and imbalance, that comprise the whole, as well as the fundamental essence that serves as the basis. The concepts of wuji, taiji, and wanwu thus describe characteristics of the nature of reality that coexist here and now as opposed to changes that have occurred in reality over time. Daoism suggests to me that abiding reality is inherently perfect, just as it is - ziran. When I am connected to my own essence I am also perfect, just as I am. The problems I encounter, and those we experience collectively, are inherent in me/us due to my/our disconnection from the source. To the extent I can release all of the ways in which I disconnect, ways in which I interfere and impose my dysfunction and conditioning on reality, the closer I come to that inherent perfection (wu wei). The path towards this re-connection is that of integrity and virtue (de). The ultimate result is a return to what I already am and always was - immortal (xian).
  5. A few thoughts, FWIW. Meaning occurs in us, not in words on paper or scrolls,. I think the idea that there is inherent and absolute meaning in a text like the DDJ is a bit misguided and can be a source of frustration. This idea has us looking outside of ourselves rather than where the meaning actually resides - inside. What these types of esoteric concepts and instructions mean to us is related to how we are disconnected from our source, related to what blocks us, to what our current misconceptions look like. This is one reason why our relationship to the teaching and understandings change over time. The greatest and clearest teacher and the most perfect of teachings cannot penetrate if we are not open and adequately prepared to receive. Three things must come together in synergy for transmission of wisdom to occur - the right teachings for our needs, an experienced teacher, and the ripe pupil. An important lesson I learned is that when I don't understand or agree with a wisdom teaching it is OK to leave it alone but it is an error to discard or denigrate it. Better for me to remain open to the possibility that a time will come when they resonate and support deeper understanding.
  6. The power of Russian love

    Sounds like a good teacher. I wonder how much of that sort of lesson comes from the teacher and how much from the student and everything else that brought them to that moment. I feel a need to provide and guide when in that role but my time as a parent has shown me that there is more to it than offering instruction or even demonstrating by example.
  7. Headache, daydreaming need help

    A few comments fwiw... Visualization practice and daydreaming are closely related as both involve fixing the attention in imagery, one spontaneous and the other contrived at first, ultimately becoming spontaneous. As we sharpen our familiarity and degree of focus in generating a mental image, it is no surprise that dreaming (day and/or night) may become more vivid and more pronounced. Headaches, as mentioned, are likely a sign of too much tension and effort. In the Bön paradigm, violence in our dreams suggests activation of (or fixation on) the throat chakra which is related to the asura (demi-god) realm. Characteristics of this realm include a tendency toward endless violence related to pride, wrath, a sense of lack or need, and related emotions. Our day (and night) dreams reflect whatever is affecting us in life at any given moment. This includes suppressed and repressed psychological content, memories and so on, but also whatever we are exposed to in our day to day. Are we watching or reading news (violence), are we playing video games (violence), practicing martial arts (violence), watching films and series (so much violence)? Is there repressed/suppressed violence in our past or that of our loved ones and ancestors? It's certainly present in our societies - we are immersed in and pervaded by violence if we are not cautious consumers and this will undoubtedly be reflected in our dream life. What to do? If working with deity visualization, deity yoga, mantra and so forth, I think it's very important to have some expert guidance. This includes transmission and permission to practice. In Bön and Buddhism there is a practice called the Six Lokas practice. This is a way to purify and transform negative emotions and interrupt dysfunctional patterns related to being stuck in one of the six samsaric realms through visualization and mantra. Dream Yoga is another wonderful practice for addressing when we are stuck in samsaric patterns and experiences. These are just two examples, not intended to be personalized recommendations. My own practice focuses much more on a dzogchen approach at this point. I think it's important for each of us to find what fits and works well for us. Finally, doing whatever we can to address the psychological variable and our relationship to external stimuli are critical pieces of the spiritual puzzle.
  8. Transgender Q&A

    A few of the mod team have reviewed the reports received on this thread but moderation is a bit sparse here at the moment so we appreciate your patience. The feeling is that if there is interest in discussing this topic publicly we need to expect, and value, some opposing input. It is an area where there is quite a bit of differing opinion and emotional reactivity and we respect the tenor and restraint seen in the thread so far. @Maddie we have a few options: Allow the thread to continue as it is, move it to your PPF where you can moderate as you see fit, or move to Current Events where we try to maintain the controversial and button-pushing threads with more privacy. Let me know if you want to move the thread. Thanks, Steve for the mod team.
  9. The power of Russian love

    @blue eyed snake Y'all still want to split this into a WWII thread? I read some ambivalence here.
  10. How to draw a 60 inch long katana

    My understanding is that the long blades were generally slung across the back or carried on the shoulder, too long to carry comfortably or effectively at the waist. These were most common during the Mongol wars of the Nambukcho period. The longer, wider blades were also relatively thin and designed to be more effective at cutting through the leather armor of the Mongols.
  11. @old3bob Please keep your criticism and discussion to the topic. Your comments are attacking the person and violate our terms of service. Consider this a warning.
  12. Which books sit on your nightstand?

    It took me a long time to get into this book - about a year and 150 pages. I am so glad I persisted as I am finding it magical and full of creativity and life! Just finished it with tears in my eyes and gratitude in my heart. Highly recommended!
  13. I would not recommend that you sit and hope that your mind shuts up. There will always be activity arising in a healthy mind. The objective is not to quiet the mind but to see it as it is. I would also not be too concerned about noting the content, per se. The content has little to do with this practice. What is important is noticing when you've become disconnected/distracted from your practice, such as it is, and reconnect. There needs to be a sort of passive vigilance that notices when we are being/have been drawn into thought, feeling, or focused perception. Once we notice, we simply reconnect with the practice, and continue. For me this is a releasing or resting of the mental activity, opening to my authentic experience, whatever that may be in the moment, and allowing it to be as it is without engaging, grasping, or pushing anything away. This is an ongoing process and is one of the more valuable benefits of sitting practice. With time and patience we begin to notice our interruptions sooner and find it easier to release and reconnect. Eventually it occurs with less and less frequency and effort until at some point we find a sense of stability, almost an inertia, in the openness of unfabricated presence. It can be a gradual process but there can also be very profound and abrupt experiences of the heart/mind opening into stillness, silence, and spaciousness. As practice becomes stable on the cushion it needs to be exercised off the cushion in all areas of our lives. When you practice for months and years you will notice an infinite number of variations on the theme when it comes to ways we disconnect and reconnect to our practice. Also an endless number of meditative experiences arise, the "good" experiences generally indicative of the release of a particular obscuration or blockage and the "bad" experiences often a sign that we are ttrying to hard. I was taught, and teach, a very specific recipe for this process as well. We use the body, speech, and mind, each of which has an aspect that is related to the mind's essence, rather than its content - stillness of the body, silence of the speech, and spaciousness of the mind. Also, in the Bön dzogchen tradition, zhiné (meditation with an object) is practiced until some degree of stability and insight into the mind's nature are achieved. Only then do we begin to practice with less tangible objects like stillness, silence, and spaciousness always moving towards untethering. My experience is that most people find it much more accessible to have a target, of sorts, and a tether. With practice and time these are gradually released until we are able to jump in to the deep end and find support and stability. Undoubtedly there are people who need little or no support. That was not the case for me. As always, wiser for whom? We need to know ourselves and be honest with ourselves in order to know what we need.
  14. Transgender Q&A

    Well said!