Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Openness: Openness is the goalless goal. A goal is an object, but openness is the space between objects. As the flow of ducks into the pond slows, empty spaces between ducks become apparent. With the calming of the mind, mental objects come and go like a quiet drive on a Sunday afternoon. It is here that the meditator begins to notice that where no mental object is present; there is empty space. As meditation progresses, the empty spaces between mental objects become as focal as the mental objects themselves. Eventually, the gaps replace the ducks and without the ducks the gaps are wide-open places like a meadow at the edge of a forest.

Sometimes, when the focus on the gaps is sustained for a long enough period of time, the meditator can witness the birth of a mental object, as it seems to rise from the depths. This shadowy immergence from the interior of consciousness is in contradistinction to the everyday sense that the world exists solely outside our minds. In this case, the mental object that immerges is not the result of contact with a sense event, but instead comes from a place deep inside and projects itself on to the world. If the birth of this shadowy mental object had not been observed, it would have seemed to emanate from the outside. In fact, it is an inside job. Have you ever been staring right at something and not seen it? The scene existed in memory without the missing object so it is not there until someone points it out.

The raw unmoving space between mental objects is pure awareness. Awareness is like oil in a glass bowl. The body is the glass bowl, which is experienced as the edge of awareness or where awareness makes contact with the other. The other is anything that is believed to be non-self. The transparent nature of the glass bowl is eyes, ears, nose and feelings e.g. the senses. There is no real contact between awareness and the other. The body is the membrane between the two and has the quality of being at the edge of the inner at the same time as being other itself, wholly outside awareness. The oil is always background and the foreground, a mental object, is like a paper boat floating in the oil but, the paper boat is really a reflection of the projected paper boat that is believed to exist (as other) outside awareness or is believed to have existed (as other) in a memory of a past encounter. Awareness cannot reflect itself because the minute it tries it forms an idea (a paper boat), which is the foreground to the invisible background of awareness.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mental Objects

Mental objects: A sound, smell, feeling, emotion or thought registers as a mental process. Each sense event or ideational occurrence can be seen as a mental object. A mental object is like a package. Normally, when you receive a package, you take off the wrapper to see what is inside. You might say you interpret or tell a story about the contents. Part of the process of interpretation is judging whether the contents are likeable, dislikeable or neutral. In the meditation experiment, the package is not unwrapped. Since there is no interpretation or judgment, there is no reason to see the package as likeable, dislikeable or neutral. The package is just the package. Without deciding the plus or minus value of the contents, there is no fear of losing or desire to gain from the package. There is no response such as clinging or repulsion. There is no real reason to hold on or push away because it is just another package. It is possible to pay attention to your entire experience, but the minute you begin to interpret any part of that experience you will become mindless in relation to the rest of the experience. You will have made a choice. Mindfulness is paying attention to your entire experience without opening the mental objects up to interpretation.

I began to see my meditation experience as a series of mental objects or packages. When I hear the bell sound, my idea-mind turns the sound into a mental object and so I say, "sound," and let go without further penetration. Letting go prevents the package from becoming an object of desire or aversion. It is the positive or negative story we tell about the contents of the mental object that cause us to hold on or to push away. This does not deny the experience of the sound. On the contrary, the experience is the experience whether I think about it or not. It is like seeing an object in a mirror. You could say our mind is like a mirror, reflecting objects, in the same sense as our mind creates thoughts. The mind, like the mirror, records an image of a passing moment. The light bounces off the object and then is reflected in the mirror. When an object is reflected in a mirror, the nature of the mirror determines the quality of the reflection. In a fun house, tall mirrors stretch the reflection while short mirrors shorten the reflection. And so it is with the mind.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Calm: The first noticeable outcome of meditation is a slowing down of the mental processes. With the slowing down of the mind comes a distinct relaxation response. The body-mind connection manifests as a decrease in pulse rate, a slowing of respiration, a reduction in the stress response and a general over-all feeling of well-being. The practice of following the breath allows the mind to achieve states of deep concentration and calm. The serenity and peace that comes from this state is an ideal lab for our research into mind. It is only when we become free from the hubbub of our everyday discursive thinking that the intricacies of the mind become observable.

Thinking is like the flow of water in a millstream. The wheel of life would cease to turn, or so we believe, without it. But when the pressure of the water against the wheel becomes too much, thoughts seem to race, and then we yearn for respite. We like to vegetate with a good book or an entertaining movie. When the flow of the millstream becomes a white water rapids, thinking gets muddied and, in all this mental turmoil, it is hard to tell one mental object from another. There is confusion. Enduring the constant pressure of monkey mind requires energy, which results in tension, that wears us out. Sometimes it feels really good to just stop the conversation in our heads and let ourselves get lost in unwholesome activities like gambling, sexual misconduct or mood altering with chemicals. All of these allow us to achieve escape velocity. In meditation, slowing down and even stopping the flow of thoughts becomes possible. To see what lies beneath the water, the dam gates must be closed so that the mud can settle, the water can clear and things can be seen for what they are without obfuscation. We realize that thoughts are not facts. They are just passing, mental objects that supplant one another in a steady stream even in our sleep. That is just the way it is.

In times of difficulty, a peaceful mind is your best friend. A mind that is tense, grinding out thought after thought, worrisome, or fearful is not a fit environment for imaginative problem solving. When there is peace in the mind, the creative part of the brain flows with energy. We think the best way to handle a difficult problem is to act like a computer and launch a brute force attack and sometimes that is the best way, but more often then not the most creative solutions seem to pop up when our minds are at ease.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Standard Model of Reality

What follows is a summary of the results of my meditation experiment. Since it is an on-going experiment, these results are by definition incomplete. It would be best to see this summary in the same way you might see a description of what various items on a menu taste like. To really taste the items, you need to eat. To really know what it is like to meditate, you need to practice. Everything that follows is a direct result of looking closely at my own thinking, sensing, feeling system in order to discover how it works. I offer here the most basic observations about insights I have personally experienced.

Before I begin to list some of the outcomes of practicing meditation, it would be best to try and describe the baseline, the standard model of reality. The pre-meditation view point is marked by a sense of permanence. We do not expect objects to randomly appear or disappear. Our personal integrity is based on the maintenance of a persistent, individual identity, built from stringing together moments with memories. We feel solid and real. If I push a solid object, my hand will not protrude through it to the other side. The world of form exists outside my mind and it does not require me to give it substance. Despite our trust in the solidity of things, we are confident in imaginative constructs like an afterlife or a soul. We need to feel that things are permanent in order to feel secure.

Another aspect of the pre-meditation view point assumes that people, places and things are separate. He is not me. I am not him or that. In a sense, there is a boundary around everything, keeping things apart. We maintain the notion of difference with conceptual labels so that they may be judged according to our likes or dislikes. Next, each separate entity or actor sees itself as an end in itself. In this sense, an actor can be the recipient of an effect or a cause. We have free-will, self-will, and independent agency. We are individuals.

Conceptual labels allow our minds to map the world. Our maps provide a shadow representation of where to go to get what we want or where not to go to avoid what we don't want. This process of acting in relationship to my desires is fraught with insecurity and anxiety. Finally, We are, in real existential sense, alone.

Monday, December 19, 2011


The idea that a meditation practice is a series of experiments seems to be in keeping with the teachings of the Buddha. I have heard that the Buddha suggested that direct experience is the best teacher. The Buddha is reputed to have encouraged his students to test his and anybody else’s teachings out through experimentation. The Buddha said shortly before his death when asked by a seeker how to tell the authentic from the false:

“Do not accept any of my words on faith,
Believing them just because I said them.
Be like an analyst buying gold, who cuts, burns,
And critically examines his product for authenticity.
Only accept what passes the test
By proving useful and beneficial in your life.”

Each meditation session is an experiment. Each session is a different experiment because the subject of the experiment changes from day to day. Exploration is the basic theme of the experience. An experiment is a marriage between freedom and structure. An experimenter opens up to what he encounters but approaches things in an orderly and logical manner. My approach to meditation was to start at the beginning, like a scientist, letting the data speak for itself. It was my intention to avoid becoming attached to preconceived notions about outcomes. This, it would seem, is in keeping with the basic spirit of the idea of mindfulness or awareness as a metacognitive skill. Metacognitive means to think about thinking e.g. to use the mind to examine the mind. Each session was treated as a unique experiment in which a moment of direct experience was subjected to close examination. As a meditator, I became an observer of my own thinking, sensing, feeling system.

What follows is a summary of the results of my meditation experiment. Since it is an on-going experiment, these results are by definition incomplete. It would be best to see this summary in the same way you might see a description of what various items on a menu taste like. To really taste the items, you need to eat. To really know what it is like to meditate, you need to practice. Everything that follows is a direct result of looking closely at my own thinking, sensing, feeling system in order to discover how it works. I offer up here the most basic observations about insights I have personally experienced.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What yoga has done for me

A couple of months ago a lump was discovered in my breast that turned out to be breast cancer. After surgery I stayed home from the yoga studio and waited for the area, which included my left arm, to heal enough so that I could start yoga again. After several years of yoga, the atmosphere of a yoga session, the music, the dimmed lighting brightened by glowing candle flames, the scented oils and incense, and the voices of instructors presenting messages of hope and spiritual enlightenment, had developed into a very important part of my life. Facing up to my diagnosis and then stopping a yoga practice that had become a strong source of so many good things for me was like having a stream of goodness dry up just when it was needed the most.

I spent the first days depending totally upon others, leaning on my husband in particular. I also called and talked to everyone I knew, including anyone who had been through breast cancer or who had a family member who had gone through it. I emailed my personal network, read books on the subject, and went to websites that offered either hope or, as my husband calls them, “wolf tickets”—exaggerations of negative possibilities. Fear and disappointment made me feel like a victim, up to my neck in anger, sadness, and that age-old question, “Why me?” I appreciated the people who visited, who prayed for me, and who sent cards and emails, because that got me through that time. Yet the best I could do was to put on a face of cheerfulness in public to cover how vulnerable I felt.

Finally I decided at one point to get back to White Lotus Yoga studio, even if just for the consolation of the extras mentioned above, the environment made up of the people, sights, sounds, and smells that together spelled solace to me. My plan was just to sit or lie in a comfortable position, propped on a fat bolster and swaddled in a blanket, to soak in the vibrations. But as I lay there, the class went into Table position. It occurred to me that, even with the surgery, I could do Table, as long as I kept the weight mostly on my unaffected arm. Then I tried Warrior One along with the class, except I moved into it somewhat awkwardly from a standing position. When the class went into Downward Facing Dog, I substituted a posture that would stretch some of the same muscles and tendons, but without any pressure on the healing areas.

As I adapted the class to my situation, listening to my body as much as the teachers, I was surprising myself. Usually a people pleaser, I was shocked to discover I didn’t care what anyone thought of me. Most amazingly, it was because I trusted these people not to judge me. Suddenly a distinct thought rose inside me and might have even brought a visible smile to my face: “I am becoming my own hero!!!!!”

With any other treatments I have to go through, I will continue to give yoga a try—to show up at White Lotus studio, at least at the times my body says it’s OK. I’ve realized through experience that yoga has the ability to make me go from feeling bad and to feeling good. Even while I have to realistically turn my next steps over to doctors and my ultimate fate over to God, I have learned that yoga gives me some control where it counts most—in the area of my inner environment. If I keep up a modified practice of yoga and/or meditation, I can more easily face whatever comes in the next few months and in the future with a greater amount of grace and power.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Peggy's Path of Compassion - Welcome!

Dear Students,

Come get toasty warm and cozy at White Lotus with the company of many amazing folks.  A lot is happening at White Lotus this month.

I want to take this time to thank each and every one of you for making White Lotus a place of comfort and warmth.  I am told weekly how great the energy is at White Lotus. Thanks to you and your amazing energies.

Classes are sky-rocketing with many smiling and blissful Yogis & Yoginis. Many gentlemen have joined us at White Lotus, which is a great balance for harmony at the studio.
~ Peggy ♥ 

Please e-mail me ideas, hellos, questions, concerns, class ideas and times etc. Would love to hear from you.