solitary

“Reachable, near and not lost, those remained amid the losses this one thing: language.

horsetooth reservoir… Nikon D750 f/7.1 1/25s 85mm 100 ISO

“It, the language remained, not lost, yes in spite of everything. But it had to pass through its wounded wordlessness, pass through frightful muting, pass through the thousand darknesses of deathbringing speech. It passed through and giveback no words for that which happened.” ~Paul Celan* (cited: V. Schwarcz, Bridge Across Broken Time p. 85)

*Poet, translator, essayist, and lecturer, influenced by French Surrealism and Symbolism. Celan was born in Cernăuţi, at the time Romania, now Ukraine, he lived in France, and wrote in German. His parents were killed in the Holocaust; the author himself escaped death by working in a Nazi labor camp. “Death is a Master from Germany”, Celan’s most quoted words, translated into English in different ways, are from the poem ‘Todesfuge’ (Death Fugue). Celan’s body was found in the Seine river in late April 1970, he had committed suicide.

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2018 photography review, november

November is about Thanksgiving, a celebration within the United States in which people gather around a table of abundance and give thanks (or not) before engaging in one of the seven sins…gluttony.

“The Tibetan Wheel of Suffering illustrates how our psychological patterns — our unconscious drives and needs, impulsive and reactive responses, learned and conditioned habits, and obsessions and compulsions – serve to keep us locked in self-defeating or misguided mental formations.

“Within the lower section of the wheel is the realm of the hungry ghost…beings with long, extremely slender necks, needle mouths, and bloated stomachs.  They are characterized by their infinite emptiness and eternal starvation that drives addictive and compulsive behaviors. When they do obtain what they crave, their achieved desires turn into swords and knives in their bellies. Their unfulfilled longings and cravings torture them through unending grief, rejection, bargaining, and anger. They remain insatiably obsessed with the fantasy of achieving complete release from their past.  Their efforts to undo the past remain unproductive as they layer past memories onto the present and thus respond to present occurrences as if they were suddenly transported into their past.  While they are aware of the suffering within their misery, they are unaware of how their confusion and delusion comes from their transpositions and subsequent mistaken attributions. 

“Introduced in this realm is a bodhisattva holding a bowl filled with spiritual nourishment.  These spiritual morsels: grace, faith, mindfulness, centeredness, compassion, loving-kindness, and equanimity, all contain the nutrients of wisdom to ease their torments.” ~B Koeford

contemplative photography – seeing space

feelings

Gratitude is a spiritual morsel that awakens us from being overwhelmed in the darkness of resentment to the spontaneous and wondrous moments gifted us through nature’s grace.


early morning reading

ponder

“When others make us angry at them–at their shamelessness, injustice, inconsideration–they exercise power over us, they proliferate and gnaw at our soul, then anger is like a white-hot poison that corrodes all mild, noble, and balanced feelings and robs us of sleep. Sleepless, we turn on the light and are angry at the anger that has lodged like a succubus who sucks us dry and debilitates us. We are not only furious at the damage, but also that it develops in us all by itself, for while we sit on the edge of the bed with aching temples, the distant catalyst remains untouched by the corrosive force of the anger the eats at us.  On the empty internal stage bathed in the harsh light of mute rage, we perform all by ourselves a drama with shadow figures and shadow words we hurl against enemies in helpless range… And the greater our despair that it is only a shadow play and not a real discussion with the possibility of hurting the other and producing a balance of suffering, the wilder the poisonous shadows dance and haunt us even in the darkest catacombs our dreams. (We will turn the tables, we think grimly, and all night long forge words that will produce in the other the effect of a fire bombs that now he will be the one with the flames of indignation raging inside while we, sooth by schadenfreude, will drink our coffee in cheerful calm.)

What could it mean to deal appropriately with anger?  We really do’t want to be soulless creatures who remain thoroughly indifferent to what they come across, creatures who appraisals consist only of cool, anemic judgments and nothing can shake them up because nothing really bothers them. Therefore, we can’t seriously wish not to know the experience of anger and instead persist in an equanimity that wouldn’t be distinguished from tedious insensibility.  Anger also teaches something about who we are. Therefore this what I ‘d like to know: What can it mean to train ourselves in anger and imagine that we take advance of its knowledge without being addicted to its poison?

We can be sure that we will hold on to the deathbed a part of the last balance sheet–and this part will taste bitter as cyanide–that we have wasted too much, much too much strength and time on getting angry and getting even with other in a helpless shadow theater, which only we, who suffered in impotently, knew anything about. Why did our parents, teachers and other instructors…Not give us in this case any compass that could have helped us avoid wasting our soul on useless, self-destructive anger.” ~Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon (pp.377-378)

early morning reading

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“…It was a dazzling morning in June, the morning brightness flooded unmoving through the streets—I was standing in the Rua Garrett at a display widow where the blinding light made me look at my reflection instead of the merchandise. …I was about to make my way inside through the shadowy funnels of my hands, when behind my reflection—it reminded me of a threatening storm shadow that changed the world—the figure of a tall man emerged. He stood still…his look strayed and finally fixed on me. We humans: what do we know of one another? …The stranger saw a gaunt man with graying hair, a narrow, stern face and dark eyes behind round lenses in gold frames. I cast a searching place at my reflection. …I looked like an arrogant misanthrope who looked down on everything human, a misanthrope with a mocking comment ready for every thing and everyone. That was the impression the smoking man must have gotten.

How wrong he was!” ~ Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon (77-78)

the threshold of stillness

May I find the Equanimity that will lift a veil of shamed despair and acquaint me to the perceived and perceiver absent of greed, anger, and ignorance.

 

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This journey with saldage has brought me to a place and time in which to unweave and sort through the pseudo-beliefs I have simply, without question, absorbed through the lens of childhood fantasy and comprehension.  To begin this process is to reformulate beliefs through a process of mindfulness and analysis and then to know for myself, “These things are bad, blamable, censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill… These things are good, blameless, praised by the wise… These things lead to benefit and happiness.”

It is not an easy undertaking to not simply believe what has been learned within family, school and church as well as conclusions reached through readings. The invitation to not simply follow tradition brings to the surface conflicts with compliance and opposition that come from an avalanche of values and guiding principles that outlines how I understand the roles and expectations of women.

To not adhere to that which was surmised within family stories about an ancestor, who upon seeing a swarm of locust “knelt in his patch of grain and pleaded with his Maker to spare his wheat” and then saw them divide and not damage his remaining crops. Or within the story about the ancestor, who during a trip from New York to England, calmed the seas with a prayer, and while in England, after much fasting and prayer administered to a deaf and dumb boy who was subsequently healed. To not simply believe opens a door of pondering about generations of family members who intimately knew powerlessness and insecurity, who eased their feelings of incompetence through prayer, and whose conceptions blinded them to their neighbors’ plight.

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To not simply believe that I must endure suffering is to reject the axiom that there is an absence of fundamental faith and goodness. To not adhere to the assumed abilities of ancestors frees me from the belief that a sincere act of making amends for my sins will open the doors to Shangri-La.  To not simply draw upon scripture unbinds me to the shame that I don’t have the faith – even of the size of a mustard seed – to be deeded as “good and without sin” so what I wish for, even that which goes counter to nature’s laws, will be granted.  To ease the suffering within discontent is to not simply hold to be true that I am to acquiesce to pain until the final judgment of death, and only then will I be forever at peace, or forever condemned to an existence of even greater suffering.

To not simply believe opens my ears to the incongruence within a belief in an all-knowing presence who, if not validated, punishes, absent of the grace within loving-kindness.  To not simply believe brings a compassionate acknowledgment to the painful efforts to sway God into granting me my desires through bargaining, sacrifice, negation, and suffering, and to finally surrender with acceptance to “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  To not simply believe sheds light upon the greed, aversion, and delusions that are intertwined into my conception of and relationship with life.

I do hold that my beliefs and the subsequent desire for their illusive promises of validation, forgiveness, or reunification have set me upon an unending path of suffering.  These beliefs lead to harm and ill as they are like thorns that tear into my heart.  This searing pain releases resentment intertwined with envy, awakens alienation, and denies me the essence of Christ’s wisdom and loving compassion.

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Christ stood before self-righteous anger and commanded that only the one without sin was to cast the first stone of punishment and, at another time and in the midst of his own suffering, sought forgiveness for those who “know not what they do.”   Within these written words, I hear compassion speaking for the suffering intertwined within anger ungoverned by moral shame and moral dread.  Compassion is telling us how suffering, entangled into knots of mental, emotional, and social turmoil, deafens us to our guiding principles and blinds us to the horrors our moral shame will witness as it awakens from darkened ignorance.

 

The practice of the presence of God as being comparable to that of consciousness finally makes possible “full awareness” applied to every thought, world, and deed.   ~ Unknown

Excerpts from B Koeford, A Meditative Journey with Saldage

early morning readings

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“I suggest that… Although healthy persons communicate and enjoy communicating, the other fact is equally true, that ‘each individual is an isolate, permanently non- communicating, permanently unknown, in fact, unfound.’” ~ Winnicott, The Holding Environment

“…What was really incomprehensible was the discussion, as it was called. Cast into and enclosed in the gray lead frame of polite empty British phrases, the people spoke perfectly past one another. Constantly they said they understood each other, answered each other. But it wasn’t so. No one, not a single one of the discussants, showed the slightest indication of a change of mind in view of the reasons presented. And suddenly, with a fear I felt even in my body; I realized that’s how it always is.  Saying something to another, how can we expect it to affect anything? The current of thoughts, images and feelings that flows through us on every side, has such force, this torrential current, that it would be a miracle it it didn’t simply sweep away and consign to oblivion all words anyone else says to us, if they didn’t by accident, sheer accident, suit our own words. Is it different with me? I thought. Did I really listen to anybody else? Let him into me with his words so that my internal current would be diverted.” ~ Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon (pg 136-137)

“…It is a joy to be hidden but disaster not to be found.” ~ Winnicott, The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment : Studies in the Theory of Emotional Development

hungry ghosts

May I find the Loving Compassion that will soften the shield embracing my heart so that I may love absent of greed, anger, and ignorance.

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I find myself standing on a dry dirt road with two deep parallel ruts cutting winding dark ribbons into the road until they unite and disappear in the horizon.  The sun greets me with the same dry warmth that soothingly penetrates my skin as I wrap around me a towel just pulled from a tumbling clothes dryer. The air messages that it is a time of transition and I see the slight touch of autumn’s mustard yellows and crimson reds upon the tips of trees lining a distant hill.  Before me stands a child of about twelve years of age.  Her head is bent down with absorbed attention upon the small puffs of dust clouds her bare feet stirs up before her.

She looks up at me with expectant eyes that suddenly overfill with tears. “I don’t remember who or what I’m looking for,” she says, as miniature rivulets begin to flow down her cheek.

Then I notice a three-year-old boy with wispy blonde hair and mesmerizing oxen-eyes as he emerges from his hiding place behind the girl. As he takes hold of her right index finger, he reaches up with his left hand and touches a teardrop that is forming along the girl’s chin, asking “Find mummy?”

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Nikon D750 f/7.1 1/500 50

Suddenly, as if a whirlwind came down from the heavens in response to the boy’s voice, I come to myself standing in the center of a frozen lake. I am shivering and see nothing more than a dark and shadowy forest surrounding me.  I hear in the distance the sound of children’s voices repeating a refrain with a haunting tone, “Broken hearts, frozen hearts, shattered hearts.” And then I see them: four–no, five.  Five hungry, child-like, ghosts with needle mouths, long twisted thin necks, and bloated stomachs.

They come out of the forest and stand along the lake’s shoreline, repeating their refrain, “Broken hearts, frozen hearts, shattered hearts.” Their words travel across the surface of the frozen lake and encircle me with the sounds of unfilled longings and infinite emptiness.

Then I awaken to my own craving for those who have been lost to me, those who have died.  Within the darkness of this forest memories of past days rise and intermingle to become a swirling chaos within the image of emptiness where there once was a home, a family.  Confusion, anger, and loneliness flash within as these memories incite feelings and memories that pummel upon me, one frozen memory after another.

 

I hear questions from a child.  Confused, they come as fragments: “His heart was broken? Why did I have to go? They moved?” The sound of adolescent angst intertwined with arrogance swirls around me, as the questions become assertions: “I won’t be here if he comes back! I’ll do as I please.” The mist in the air surrounds me with the chilling voice of others, accusing: “If you had faith, she could hear. You were her companion. It is you that must leave. It does not matter, it is over. I cannot help you.”  Then, “There was an accident.”  I feel myself falling upon the ice as I have fallen before with broken promises, beliefs, and dreams shattered all around me. I feel the layers of iced grief, anger, sadness, confusion shielding my heart. Again, the refrain, “Broken hearts, frozen hearts, shattered hearts.”

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The night cloud’s fingertips drift away from the moon. In the silvery light I see visions of a small child, alone in the gray-toned shadows, planting seeds in the moist soil of despair.    Her sob-filled voice fills the night’s emptiness, “You are too stupid to understand. I don’t need you.  I’m special.  I’ll hide my tears.  I won’t tell you anything. I won’t need you.  I’ll show you that I don’t need you.”

A veil lifts and my observing mind sees a raging powerless ego annihilating self-in-relationship, suppressing feelings; and all the while, unknowingly creating her shadowy forest of worthlessness, hopelessness, alienation, and pseudo-independence.

Anger tells me that I am nothing;
love tells me I am everything.
Between the two, my life flows.

I feel a golden-toned voice, vibrating the soft and gentle touch of loving-kindness.  “These hungry ghosts are visions that arise from years of tears closeted within your soul. Is it now time to cut this intertwining craving and clinging to your yesterdays?”  She encourages a thought that to be freed from this frozen place and time begins with a true comprehension of the refrain, “Broken hearts, frozen hearts, shattered hearts.”

This voice says, “Call forth these five hungry ghosts, one by one, by their true given names and see each true ‘I’-in-self hidden behind veils of greed, anger, and ignorance.  Ask what it is that will cease their yearning and release them from this frozen forest so that they may finally rest in peace. As you hear their request touch your heart, open yourself to share with each that which will release you from this bondage.  Melt this chain with loving-kindness and forge the golden key that gives admission to a room of healing serenity.”

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In a clearing I find myself slowly warmed by the autumn sun as I return to the two children I met earlier on a dry, dusty road. Behind me is the forest I have just emerged from; before me is a field of yellowed wheat.   Just beyond the field is a house weathered gray by the seasons and weakened by the stresses of time.  In the golden rays of the morning light, the young girl is kicking up clouds, searching through the barren soil for seeds of her past, and desiring to be freed from yesterday’s delusions.  She walks over to the side of the road and bends over; as she stands, I see three keys, dangling from her left hand. One key is silver, another is gold, and the third is made of diamonds. I feel the pain of fear awaken as the warmth of this early autumn day touches the frozen shield that embraces her heart.

The air is filled with sounds of a new refrain, “May I be happy.  May I be free from pain.   May I feel emotionally connected with others. May I be at peace.

 “May these children be happy.  May they be freed from pain.  May they feel emotionally connected with others.  May they be at peace.

“May those hungry ghosts be happy.  May they be freed from pain.  May they feel emotionally connected with others.  May they be at peace.”

Excerpts from B Koeford, A Meditative Journey with Saldage

the petrified forest

May I find the Wisdom that silences the fortress of my mind’s discontent so I may hear with understanding teachings absent of greed, anger, and ignorance.

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I often feel as though I am an old blind woman walking through a petrified forest with only a staff to ensure that my steps find solid ground.  I remain ignorant, as I unconsciously look away from that which will break my heart and seek stability through the creation of and attachment to ideas, beliefs, principles, and concepts.  I yearn for certainty; anger erupts each time I stumble and fall and forges a dogmatic fortress that encircles my heart and mind. The desire to hear with understanding teachings absent of greed, anger, and ignorance speaks of an awareness of how this protective barrier deafens me to words of wisdom that shed light into the shrouded mysteries of life.  During those moments when I find myself attempting to engage the unknown, I ask of myself, “What energies would flow into a life emptied of greed, anger, and ignorance?”

As I reflect upon the fortress of my mind’s discontent, an imagined stained and scratched door opens before me as if to invite me into a dark and musty attic.  As my eyes scan beyond the entrance, I see streaks of yellowed sun beams, weakened by dust laden drapes; a scuffed wooden floor, covered by a bare-thread carpet of muted colors; and wall paper, grayed and yellowed, tugged away at the top most of a corner by the collected weight of long ago wisps of cigarette smoke.

My observing mind notices that there is no other furniture other than two rocking chairs placed facing each other in the center of the room.  Sitting in one is a slender child.  She seems to be no older than four years old.  A slight musty scent of aged vanilla greets me as I enter the room with a request that the child not be disturbed. The sound of her voice, which I first heard as a distant mumble, intensifies into an animated stream of words.  The words seem to rush from her with such passion that a focused listener would surrender to an impulse to talk over the justifying, rationalizing, point–counter-point, argumentative, single-person monologue.

I stand quietly at the edge of the room listening not to the words but to the power within her words and note to myself, “Her words are gushing out from a center of guilt, shame, remorse.”

I again return to her words and listen so deeply that a crinkle forms on my forehead as I wonder, “Is there anxiety about a deed so wrong it is punishable by banishment?”

I quiet my distracting thoughts and listen even more deeply and then I acknowledge a profound sadness in the threads of defensive anger that is begging to be heard and understood.

If one comes across a person who has been shot by an arrow, one does not spend time wondering about where the arrow came from, or the caste of the individual who shot it, or analyzing what type of wood the shaft is made of, or the manner in which the arrowhead was fashioned.  Rather, one should focus on immediately pulling out the arrow.  

~ The Buddha

My compassionate self moves to the young child.  As she embraces the young child, she begins to rock and whisper, gently, softly, “How long have you been here?”  The young child tells of wakening to this room after a night of hiding under blankets trying to be unseen, holding her breath trying to be unheard, swallowing her fear trying to be still as the sounds of distant shattering glass and disembodied voices crashed and stumbled upon and into each other.

My compassionate self hears of the homesickness that emerged with such intensity that it overflowed her soul and traveled across rivers, over mountains, and through valleys searching for someone to bring her home. The yearning returned from its fruitless travels and surrounded her as if it were the voice of an unseen other.  In a painfully frustrated response, anger roused within the child an intention to destroy this other’s yearning that come in the place of her heart’s desire.

My compassionate self awakens to the realization that this young child is ignorant of the fact that the chair opposite her is empty and that she is being persecuted by a phantom of her own creation. Slowly my compassionate self understands how this young child’s powerlessness created not a monologue but an internal dialogue between a phantom, lost within her homesickness, and a child, lost within her wounds.  My mind recalls the story of Narcissus who believed that the image in his reflection was a water spirit with the same characteristics as Apollo, and hears how this child’s unproductive attempts to be heard and understood by her own echo has condemned her to remain forever alone in this shadowy dust-filled room.   Narcissus clung to the image of his love; she clings to the sound of her anger.

Touching the present moment, we come to know the past created the present and together the future is being created.

Shu-shu“, my compassionate self whispers as she rocks the small child with the sound of ancient mother’s loving-kindness. “Shu-shu, feel the sadness within you, hear its voice, be with it’s tone and texture, and release this caged discontent with the outward flow of my breath. Shu-shu. Silence your thoughts and listen only for the sounds within this room.”  And together, they rocked back and forth, listening to the sounds in the room.

My compassionate self moves to the empty chair opposite the small child. I begin the practice of ‘Giving and Taking’ by first resting my thoughts and opening myself to silence. I then imagine a small black cloud filled with the child’s aloneness, anger, sadness, and anxiety surround her heart.  I feel the inky dark cloud move away from her heart and leave her body as it rides upon the gentle wind of my in-breath.  It enters my body; it touches my heart, and a sudden sensation of wondrous energy spreads throughout my body.

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A tiny silvery whisper emerges, “It is your wish to be released from this room so that you may walk with the summer sun and feel its warmth touch your face.  You wish to see the multiple colored leaves blanket the sidewalk and hear them crackle as their scent is released into the autumn air. You wish to feel the tingle of the first winter’s snow upon your tongue.  You wish to release all that is frozen as the spring wind awakens mother earth. You wish to look into the eyes of others and see the reflection of love.”

On my exhalation, I release to her those wishes on a white cloud knowing they will give her the courage to leave this room, to open her door to life.

Silently, the sun’s rays departed to the west and unveiled the moon’s spherical disk. A pause fills the room with stilled silence as if time paused to honor this universal transition. My compassionate self inquires, “Where in this moment is the voice of your phantom?   How will you allow yourself to hear the emptiness within this room and then know the other chair holds no one?  What will you do with this absence? When will you give yourself permission to greet this absence, acquaint yourself with it, feel it, know it in its entirety, and allow it to settle within? I wonder what will open your mind to see that what your words attempt to harm, silence, or destroy is but a memory and thus you are in a perpetual state of cyclical suffering.

“Your desire to be heard and understood can be heard and understood only by you, not this phantom of a memory.  I appeal to your imaginative skills to see and hear how you, as this phantom and small child, wish to be free from suffering, wish to be happy.

“Each time you become aware that you once again have entered this room and are engaged in a confrontation with your phantom, trust in the freedom that accompanies the awareness that both you and this transitory memory wish to be free from suffering.  Breathe in with your whole body an image of your phantom’s pain; on your out breath release to your memory the happiness, joy, and calmness of mind that will bring an end to it’s suffering. This practice of ‘Giving and Taking’ is the silver key that opens a door to a space of tranquil abiding.”

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The Buddha suggested that whatever it is that we reflect upon frequently becomes the inclination of our mind.  If one recurrently thinks greedy, hostile, or harmful thoughts, desire, ill will, and harmfulness shape the mind. If one repeatedly thinks in the opposite way, compassion, loving-kindness, sympathetic joy, and equanimity become the preference of the mind.  The direction we take always comes back to ourselves, to the intentions we generate moment by moment in the course of our lives.

Excerpts from B Koeford, A Meditative Journey with Saldage

bare attention

Just as a solid rock is not shaken by the storm, even so the wise are not affected by praise or blame.  ~The Buddha

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Bare attention flows in opposition to a life guided by streams of unconscious habit patterns and emotional reactivity.  Bare attention awakens us to the stones we stumble over due to the blindness of confusion or ignorance.  It shines a light into the shadows of confusion and ignorance and finds our frustrated desires and suppressed resentments. Bare attention identifies and pursues the single threads of the closely interwoven threads of our thoughts, feelings, and actions, which have over the years formulated the tapestry of our life story.

Bare attention is the clear and single-minded awareness of what actually happens to us and in us at each successive moment of perception.  It is the forerunner of insight.  It is a way of being that is counter to the general manner by which we briefly and fleetingly know or experience the events or people within our daily schedules. Bare attention trains the mind to be detached, open, silent, and alert within the framework of the present moment.  It is an intention to suspend all judgments and interpretations, and to simply note and dismiss them if and when they do occur.

The task within bare attention is to simply acknowledge what occurs just as it occurs.  It is a process of inviting one’s self back into the present, of being mindful of the moment, with the realization that our minds have taken us into an imaginative realm of fantasy, recollections, or discursive thoughts.  It is a means by which to acquaint our selves with an object before our minds alter its presence through conceptual paint overlaid with interpretations.

Bare attention is undertaken with an intention to undo our general ways of being in the world, it is an intention of simply noting and not thinking, not judging, not associating, not planning, not imagining, not wishing.  It notes each occasion of experience as it arises, reaches its peak and then fades away.  It is a sustained mindfulness of experience in its bare immediacy, carefully and precisely and persistently.

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Bare attention awakens me to the relationship I have formed with this world through the untested foundations of beliefs, values, guiding principles, and morals. To attend to what formulated these foundations I have found seeds of misconstrued concepts built out of my childhood fears and fantasies.  I have seen a blind faith to family customs, rituals, and cultures.  I have come to understand how some of the holy of holy concepts within my “absolute truths” are unquestioned beliefs which perpetuate suffering.

Excerpts from B Koeford, A Meditative Journey with Saldage