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Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Ram Dass

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The other day I went for my hike after having avoided it for over 6 months. There were many contributing factors; rattlesnakes, weather, work, rattlesnakes, sciatica, rattlesnakes, rattlesnakes…well you get the picture. But with my California State Parks parking pass arriving in the mail I knew it was time. Kind of like buying that surfboard, if I’m going to invest my hard-earned money in something, I’m going to use it as much as possible.

Sometimes I listen to music as I hike and this usually means I just want to check out mentally. Other days I leave my ears open and listen to the gravel under my big feet, and then there are the days I listen to something called Zen Cast off of Itunes.  There are different lecturers coming from Spirit Rock or some Buddhist retreat in Redwood City. Mostly I enjoy Gil Fronsdal or Jack Kornfield, and Ram Dass.

On this particular day I listened to Gil speak about…speaking. Like most Buddhists there is a mischievous quality to his insights which corresponds with a kind of vulnerability any human being can secretly identify with. When someone you respect divulges their frailties it can be endearing as well as empowering. It reminds you that we are all in this together.

Paraphrasing something I know little about, in speaking there are 5 things to try to remember:

1) Is it true?

2) Is it kind?

3) Is it useful?

4) Is it timely?

5) Does it create harmony (concord)?

In his talk he suggests taking one a day and trying to follow it. As with any effort in changing behavioral patterns, this takes discipline…and memory. How much of our speech is predetermined? How do you listen to someone without forming your response while they are speaking? That is a common habit because our own agendas have a way of sneaking in…all the time.

Being a goofball smart-ass who enjoys making people laugh, I have to be careful and basically sit on my head (that’s a yoga move) in order to keep quiet. I’m getting better at it but then it freaks people out around me because they are used to my clown act. That or they depend on me taking the focus off of whatever issue is at hand. Of course some of those people don’t like it when I’m serious so they get extra concerned. But being quiet does not mean I am being serious… Also, there is a lot of talk about the “monkey mind” in meditation but I think I have a rattlesnake mind. My mind does not jump around like a monkey when I meditate, it sits quietly, immovable, coiled and ready to strike. Quite disruptive! Oh whatever – I’m getting off track.

Towards the end of the lecture Gil said that there is bad news for meditation practitioners. It seems that the more one meditates, the more one becomes actualized and fearless, the more eccentric one becomes.

This explains a lot.