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A Thought from “Anne no Nikki” June 25, 2020

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[The embedded video/link at the end of this post can be used as a soundtrack for reading this post.]

“Dear Kitty,

 

It’s lovely weather outside and I’ve perked up since yesterday. Nearly every morning I go to the attic where Peter works to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs. From my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind.

 

He stood with his head against a thick beam, and I sat down. We breathed the fresh air, looked outside, and both felt that the spell should not be broken by words…. I looked out, of the open window too, over a large area of Amsterdam, over all the roofs and on to the horizon, which was such a pale blue that it was hard to see the dividing line. ‘As long as this exists,’ I thought, ‘and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy.’”

 

— Anne Frank, written in her diary (“Kitty”) on Wednesday, February 23, 1944

Diary of a Young Girl was first published today in 1947. It was the saved writing of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl who died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the age of 14. The book was published 13 days after what would have been her 18th birthday. At the beginning of this month I referenced her birthday (and death), and several other events, in a post about avidyā (“ignorance”) as it relates to how the way we see the world can create suffering. Ignorance, like stuffy air in our lungs, affects the way we move through the world. To really, fully experience our lives, we have to get the stuffy air out of our lungs. To really, fully experience our lives, we have to get the ignorance out.

Both types of elimination require being very deliberate and intentional on a daily basis – just as Anne Frank recommended. We all know, however, that it can be challenging (even during the pandemic) to set aside time just to breathe. We all know it’s challenging even when we know the importance of it, and even when we “do it for others.” So, consider how much harder it is to very deliberately and intentionally – and on a daily basis – eliminate ignorance. Consider that is especially hard when the layers and layers of avidyā are deeply imbedded in our subconscious and unconscious mind.

As recently as yesterday, I mentioned samskāras, those layers and layers of past experiences that inform her present (and possibly future) thoughts, words, and deeds. These karmic impressions are established in a way similar to how we form neural pathways: we experience something for the first time and impressions are created; every future experience hardwires these impressions become hardwired. They determine how we experience everything that comes after they are established. Some would say these samskāras are always problematic, because they always include at least a smidgen of avidyā – which means that everything we think, say, do, and understand is informed by bits of ignorance. At least, that’s the best case scenario. Worst case scenario: everything we think, say, do, and understand is informed by a lot of ignorance.

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature, and God…. As long as [the simple beauty of Nature] exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”

 

— Anne Frank, written in her diary (“Kitty”) on Wednesday, February 23, 1944

In this moment, we may not know how ignorant we are. We can only, really, assess our level of suffering and the level of suffering around us. I’m going to go out on a limb and say, collectively, our level of suffering and the suffering around us points to levels of avidyā that’s out of the exosphere. There’s no clear (upper) boundary to the Earth’s exosphere and there’s no clear boundaries between our layers of samskāras or between our ayers of avidyā. Which means that, for some, the challenging job of working through our layers is extra challenging.

Maybe you haven’t started the work (but you’re thinking about it). Maybe you’ve started (but you’re getting a little frustrated). Maybe you just need the reminder today. Either way, there’s a really simple way to remind yourself to turn inward. You may have heard some version of this reminder. You may have even heard a simpler version, but I offer this one from Maha Ghosananda, because it feels pretty comprehensive (to me). It comes to mind today, because Maha Ghosananda experienced similar tragedies as those experienced by Anne Frank.

“We miss so much here, so very much and for so very long now: I miss it too, just as you do. I’m not talking of outward things, for we are looked after in that way; no, I mean the inward things. Like you, I long for freedom and fresh air….

Riches can all be lost, but that happiness in your own heart can only be veiled, and it will still bring you happiness again, as long as you live. As long as you can look fearlessly up into the heavens….”

 

— Anne Frank’s “A Thought” written in her diary (“Kitty”) on Wednesday, February 23, 1944

Maha Ghosananda was a Theraveda Buddhist monk in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot and he shared the teachings of the Buddha with people in refugee camps along the Thai-Cambodian border. During the Pol Pot regime, 1.5 to million people died in and around “the Killing Fields.” When the Pol Pot regime fell, Maha Ghosananda was one of the 3,000 Cambodian Buddhist monks who survived. Those 3,000 represented approximately 5% of the monks who had lived in Cambodia before the regime. After the Pol Pot regime, Maha Ghosananda worked to restore his country and his faith within the country. His many efforts included service as a representative to the United Nations and annual peace walks. The peace walks (dhammayietra) were simultaneously protests and pilgrimages that included terrain which still included land minds.

I mention all of this to point out that Maha Ghosananda ministered to people who were suffering in ways many of us can barely imagine and during incredibly challenging times – so he had to keep it simple.

“Venerable Maha Ghosananda, who was considered to be the “Gandhi of Cambodia” taught the power of the intention of kindness all his life, even though his life and his culture were fraught with suffering, trauma, violence and war of the Khmer Rouge and the “Killing Fields.” He taught it this way:

The thought manifests as the word;
The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into the habit;
Habit hardens into the character;
Character gives birth to the destiny
So, watch your thoughts with care,
And let it spring from love
Born out of respect for all beings…”

 

Excerpt from Larry Yang’s Huffington Post article, “Buddhist Intention: Being Kind in Unkind Times” 11/07/2011

 

 

Anne no Nikki (anime) soundtrack composed by Michael Nyman

 

### HONOR YOUR HEART >> THOUGHTS >> WORD >> DEEDS ###

How Ignorant Are You? June 13, 2020

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Yoga Sutra 2.3: Avidyāsmitārāgadveşābhiniveśāh kleśāh

 

– “Ignorance (or lack of knowledge), false sense of self, attachment (rooted in pleasure), aversion (which is attachment rooted in pain), and fear of death of loss are the afflicted thoughts.”

Yoga Sutra 2.17: draşțŗdŗśyayoh samyogo heyahetuh

 

– “The union of the seer and the seeable is the cause of pain (that may be avoidable).”

 

Yoga Sutra 2.18: prakāśkriyāsthitiśīlam bhūtendriyāmakam bhogāpavargārtham dŗśyam

 

“The objective world (what is seen), consisted of a combination of elements and senses, and having a nature of illumination, activity, and stability, has two purposes: fulfillment and freedom.”

Prepare yourself for some information that may seem surprisingly harsh and brutal. (Fair warning, some of this may be difficult to read.)

Thursday (6/11) was the anniversary of formation of the Committee of Five. Consisting of John Adams (Massachusetts), Roger Sherman (Connecticut), Robert Livingston (New York), Benjamin Franklin (Pennsylvania), and Thomas Jefferson (Virginia), the committee was charged, back in 1776, with drafting a document which would be approved by the Second Continental Congress and presented to England as a Declaration of Independence. The committee worked from until July 5thand, contrary to what many believe, the approved document was signed over the next several months by the various delegates. There was no single day of signing. Both the fact that people believe there was a single day of signing, as well as the fact that the committee excluded their original language criticizing slavery, is a sign of ignorance. The fact that a declaration of independence stated “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness….” but did not consider that these truths applied to women and people of color is a sign of ignorance.

Yesterday (6/12) was the anniversary of the birth of a young girl. Born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1929, Anne Frank would die in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the age of 14. Her death, as well as the deaths of her family, friends, community, and millions of others is a sign of ignorance.

“It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. I simply can’t build my hopes on a foundation of confusion, misery, and death. I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that this cruelty too shall end, and that peace & tranquility will return once again.”

 

— Anne Frank, written in her diary (“Kitty”) on July 15, 1944

Yesterday was also the anniversary of the assassination of Medgar Evers in 1963. Evers was an African American civil rights activist in Mississippi, who worked as the state’s field secretary for the NAACP, worked to overturn segregation, and worked to ensure voters’ rights. He was shot (in the back and clear through the heart) in his front yard by a member of the KKK and the White Citizens’ Council. The fact that Evers had to do the work he did, as well as the fact that he was killed for doing that work, is a sign of ignorance. The fact that two all-white juries failed to convict the person how killed Evers is a sign of ignorance. The fact Evers and his wife Myrlie Evers had to teach their young children (ages: 3, 7, and 9) how to tell the difference between firecrackers and gunshots, as well as how to hide when they heard gunshots, is a sign of ignorance. The fact that many people don’t know about the thousands who marched in protest after Medger Evers was killed is a sign of ignorance.

“Freedom has never been free… I love my children and I love my wife with all my heart. And I would die, die gladly, if that would make a better life for them.”

 

– Medger Evers, June 7, 1963 (just days before his death)

Yesterday was also the anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia in 1967. The court declared any state laws prohibiting interracial marriage to be unconstitutional. The fact that states like Virginia had considered people like Richard Loving (a white man) and his wife Mildred Loving (a black and Indigenous American woman) to be criminals – even sentencing them to prison – is a sign of ignorance. The fact that they faced hate from people in their community is a sign of ignorance.

“I understand it and I believe it.”

 

 – Mildred Loving (in 2003) when asked if she understood she was “putting her name behind the idea that two men or two women should have the right to marry each other”

Yesterday, in 2016, a man walked into the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and started shooting. Pulse was a gay nightclub that often, as they were that night, held theme nights which attracted a wide variety of people. 49 people were killed and over 50 were wounded in what was the deadliest (single) incident of violence against GLBTQIA+ in the United States and the second deadliest terrorist attack on U. S. soil since 9/11. Until the Las Vegas shooting in October 2017, it was the deadliest single mass gunman shooting in U. S. history. The fact that the shooting happened, that people couldn’t just go out for an evening of dancing with family and friends, is a sign of ignorance. The fact that a little over a year later there would be another mass shooting, let alone the countless before and since, is a sign of ignorance.

“There is so much love out there. I want the legacy of these kids to be that. To show the world that [being LGBTQ] is more than a label – these are people that were loved, they were caring, they were human and these hate crimes are just totally uncalled for. Unnecessary. We are here because God created us and he created us all equal – and some people don’t seem to have this kind of vision. I don’t know what kind of world they want to live in.”

 

– Mayra Alvear, one year after her youngest daughter Amanda was killed in the Pulse Orlando shooting

Today is the 89th birthday of Dr. Irvin Yalom. Born today in 1931, he is Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford and an author who pioneer of existentialist psychotherapy, who was featured in the 2003 documentary Flight from Death. His therapy and research are based on his belief that “we are here, through random events; that we are here alone…. that we are responsible for carving out own life pattern, our own meaning… we have no predestined fate…” Dr. Yalom outlines four givens: Isolation, Mortality, Meaninglessness, and Freedom (which comes with responsibility). He indicates that we are deal with inner conflict around the four givens and that our responses are either functional or dysfunctional.

“I am using the term [existential] in a very simple, straightforward way; simply to refer to existence. [As an adjective] Existential Psychotherapy means simply, a therapy focused on concerns emerging from the nature of existence.”

 

– Dr. Irvin Yalom, speaking at a 2009 Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference

 

Yoga Sutra 2.23: svasvāmiśaktyoh svarūpopalabdhihetuh samyoga

 

– “The union (yoga), alliance, or relationship between our power to see (and what we see) is the way to experiencing our own true nature.”

 

Yoga Sutra 2.24: tasya heturavidyā

 

– “The cause of that [union, alliance, or relationship] is ignorance.”

In the philosophy of yoga, we might describe what Dr. Yalom calls as “functional or dysfunctional” as klişțāklişțāh (“afflicted and not afflicted”), and we can see the correlation between dysfunctional or afflicted thoughts and actions and suffering. As indicated in earlier sutras (see above), the first afflicted thought pattern is the bedrock for all the others: ignorance. Today’s sutra goes deeper into the nature of ignorance. Going deeper may help you answer the question, “How ignorant are you?”

Please join me a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, June 13th) at 12:00 PM. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class.

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. (Links are available during the Zoom call and I have updated this post.)

 

 

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