Podcasts – Infinite Smile
Summary: Relevant spirituality in the midst of 21st Century living
Enjoy this evening's talk on how perfection shows up in the strangest ways.
This evening's talk covers a range of topics but centers around the idea that hopelessness offers us freedom. This is covered by Pema Chodron in her book, When Things Fall Apart.
What happens when we really stop? Really. Stop. This question can guide us into an openness that may fundamentally alter our lives. Imagine life without the sniff & scurry, the shake, rattle & roll. Imagine a life where we get past our tendency to chase our own tails. Breaking our addiction to movement, that so many of us have, helps us get past suffering... which is at the core of the Buddha's teaching.
What happens when we are in the midst of disagreement? This can apply to a marriage, a friendship, a community or (perhaps especially) a legislative debate or an election. The Buddha had some thoughts on this as noted in the famed Quarrel of Kosambi, where he offers some guidance. Engaging in the practice of right speech and right thought can do wonders, according to the teaching. The same applies to the ways in which we deal with our own practice. There are several blocks, by the way, that inhibit the openings that meditation can offer each of us as practitioners. ___ Feel free to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes. Click on the player below, in order to listen to Michael McAlister’s talk. Tweet
Michael asks the audience in this week’s talk, what it is they think that enlightenment will bring them. He then goes forward to suggest that enlightenment will bring nothing to our experience that we don’t already have. But its realization can fundamentally alter the course of our lives. Weaving this in to the beauty and the stresses of the holidays the Dharma talk centers around how it is that we can offer up, as Yunmen suggests, an “appropriate response” in the midst of it all. Tweet
While several of Michael’s students have gone through the trials and tribulations of going through the shuso ceremony, where students offer up (among other things) their first Dharma talk, David Fitzgerald was the first to have his inaugural talk to the community recorded. An artist, a father, a retired informational technologist, a poet (as you’ll soon hear) and an all-around great guy, David’s talk is a reflection of deep wisdom and timeless beauty. Cheers and nice work, David. Tweet
So what is it that gets in the way of Awakening? If we are already Awake, why don’t we feel it? According to Michael, wisdom traditions seem to offer up some suggestions. Among the most important pointer is stillness itself. Without stillness there can be no authentic awakening. Period. This simple fact, according to Michael, points us, at least in Buddhist terms, toward the 4th Turning of the Wheel. In his talk he references Ken Wilber’s recording titled, The Five Reasons You’re Not Enlightened, where the the simple question, “If it’s all Spirit then why am I not Awake”, is addressed. Each of the turnings of the Wheel of Dharma is briefly addressed in Michael’s talk. Put simply, we miss the Great Perfection because we’re so busy clinging. ___ Feel free to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes. Click on the player below, in order to listen to Michael McAlister’s talk. Tweet
If we’re willing to follow our fear and our negativity with our whole being, according to Michael, we are offered an opportunity to awaken. The loosening of our individual consciousness into a universal awareness is the byproduct of an authentic meditation practice that helps us face these fears and negativity with grace. Watching the bondage inherent in our individual consciousness, he continues, allows for the Freedom of universal awareness to open through us. Practicing this “watching” supports the development a virtuosity for each of us no matter what we might be facing. In the face of all threat, all danger, all stories we find that there is an invitation to evolve past what has always held us back from realizing what is forever beyond anything we see as limiting. ___ Feel free to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes. Click on the player below, in order to listen to Michael McAlister’s talk. Tweet
In this talk, Michael walks meditators through the rough stages of spiritual ascendancy. With practice, he shows, the egoic structures as their practice deepens. He goes on to suggest that the felt-sense of what’s real is what we call, “love.” Also, he talks about the spiritual journey, from his own writing, where he suggests that we have a chance to recognize that everything is an extension of who and what we think we are. We see, as he suggests that from the nondual perspective, we are extensions of all things that ever arise in our awareness. This witnessing awareness, rather than something that is a dissociative experience, is instead something that is profoundly integrated. While in his talk he uses a whiteboard in his talk, all of it relates to the Infinite Smile Sangha logo. ___ Feel free to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes. Click on the player below, in order to listen to Michael McAlister’s talk. Tweet
The more we can forgive, the deeper our practice becomes.
The Zen saying “Drinking this cup of green tea, I stop the war” offers us a chance to explore our own relationship with war. While it may sound passive and irresponsible on the surface, how we meet even the most basic activities internally, supports how we meet things, especially conflict, externally. So how do we meet war? Are we “anti-war” and, thus, at war with war? Or are we “pro-peace,” where we are not at war with war? This exploration is especially relevant in today’s world, where its population is touched so often, and so deeply, by armed conflict. So what do you feel totally committed to supporting that isn’t about clinging? What would inspire you to freely serve? How can we meet the idea of war and defense in the 21st Century. How can we be compassionate and loving in this process no matter what? ___ Feel free to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes. Click on the player below, in order to listen to Michael McAlister’s talk. Tweet
“This deep, spiritual work,” according to Michael, “is ultimately, is about resolve.” In Stephen Batchelor’s, Buddhism Without Beliefs, this idea of committed, fearlessness is supported where he suggests that we continually take accurate stock of our lives and then live from this place of honesty with resolve. While these suggestions are simple, they are not necessarily easy. Accepting as Suzuki Roshi says, “Things as it is,” and then acting consciously from this recognition. Anything less sets us up for suffering. This suffering is caused the wars that we often subtly declare with things that are external. These declarations then fuel our own interior conflict. So what is our resolve? Rumi says, “Pain wil be born from that look cast inside yourself and this pain will make you go behind the veil.” While Rumi leaves it to us to see what’s behind the veil his words direct us into the direct experience of using our own dissatisfaction in order to heal the world. Doing so helps us lead embodied lives of fearlessness. If we truly want peace, This fearlessness is something to be cultivated. How do we do this? “Begin,” Michael says, “with sitting still since doing so that we may have the chance to be totally available to what’s needed. When we can engage the world from grace and ease, our entire life becomes a reflection of this perspective. This is how we change the world. ___ Feel free to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes. Click on the player below, in order to listen to Michael McAlister’s talk. Tweet
Michael points out, in this talk, how we must be willing to let go of our old habits in order to develop new ones. As Joseph Campbell says, “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.” With this in mind, the issue of love and it’s fire unfold in the Dharma talk. Do we have the strength, so to speak, to truly let go; to allow for the Universe to have its way through us? A practice of stillness puts this question squarely in front of us and allows for the light from love’s fire to shine through us. ___ Feel free to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes. Click on the player below, in order to listen to Michael McAlister’s talk. Tweet
It's about meeting every experience without avoidance or greed. In this radical honesty fearlessness will always reign.
Whether you are a beginning meditator or a seasoned practitioner, fear can be a useful tool in this work. Practicing, for example, in the midst of our fear shows us a path toward a new perspective where we no longer end up getting paralyzed by fear but instead are inspired by it. This may sound counter-intuitive but when we get to know our fear intimately, we are offered the chance to see through it. In these moments of transparency, we begin to recognize the temporary nature of fear as well as all of the clinging that leads to it in the first place. ___ Feel free to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes. Click on the player below, in order to listen to Michael McAlister’s talk. Tweet