JOAN TOLLIFSON: on how her teacher Toni Packer taught via questionings

With typically inspiring frankness Joan Tollifson has an article on how her teacher questioned her as part of her teaching of Joan;

Examples are;

“Habit has two parts, Toni says. There is the habit itself (finger biting, smoking, drinking, whatever), and there is the observer who wants to stop, who is also a habit. And there is the conflict, the battle between the desire to indulge, which is an escape from what is, and the desire to stop, which is also a movement away from what is.

Toni suggests that the only real solution lies in complete awareness. In such awareness there is…no intention, no judgment, no conflict, no separation from the problem, no self to be improved or fixed, no direction. It is open, relaxed seeing.

“Can we look carefully at this ‘me’ that seems to be the power behind making decisions, really go into it, trace this chooser, this doer, all the way to the root?” Toni asks me.

When we do that together, all we find is thoughts. Conflicting thoughts: “I want to bite,” “I want to stop.” It feels like a battle between “me-the observer” and “me-the addict.” But both of these “me’s” are images constructed by thought and imagination. What’s actually going on is just an alternating, conflicting series of thoughts. No one is “doing” them; they’re happening.

“I have to bite,” “I can’t stop,” “I should stop,” “I’m addicted,” “I’m an addict,” “I’m a terrible person,” “How can I stop?” “If I just get this one loose end, then I’ll be satiated,” “It would be unbearable to feel what I would feel if I stopped,” “I’m stuck, this is hopeless,” “It’s been going on for a long time,” “It’s out of control,” “I’ll never get free,” “I should be able to control myself,” “This is sick,” “I want to be healthy.”

“These are all thoughts,” Toni says. “Do you see that?”

“But some of them are true,” I reply.

“Are they?” she asks with electric intensity, her eyes closed, her hands suspended in midair, listening.

“Well, I am addicted. It is out of control,” I insist.

“Thought seems to be just reporting the facts, objectively: ‘I’m addicted, this is out of control.’ But are these really facts? Or are they ideas? These are very powerful thoughts, and every thought produces neurochemical reactions in the body.”

Whichever position has more energy in that moment wins out, Toni suggests, and then there is either the thought, “I’m good because I had the will power to stop,” or “I’m a failure because I didn’t have enough will power to stop.” Thought creates “me” who has “done” one thing or the other, and is “successful” or “unsuccessful” as a result. And then more thoughts about me quickly follow: “I’m on my way to enlightenment” or “I’m a hopeless case on my way to total doom.” Either of these thought-trains will generate a tremendous response in the body, either good feelings or terrible feelings, elation or depression.

“Do you see how all these powerful thoughts and the feelings they produce in the body all revolve around the idea and image of ‘me’?” Toni asks. “Do you see how it’s all thinking?”

There is rain falling outside the meeting room, trickling down the window.”

Go here to read this wonderful article –

Richard Rohr calls the Serenity Prayer the a…

Richard Rohr calls the Serenity Prayer the/a gateway to silence;

Gateway to Silence:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can, and
the wisdom to know the difference.

I found this wonderful document which gives 17…

I found this wonderful document which gives 17 ways to help you keep going in your efforts for peace and social justice – SOURCE –

Enjoy and be encouraged;

Seventeen Steps for Peacemakers to Stay Spiritually Alive for the Long Haul
Dick and Charlene Watts
Notes for a presentation at a retreat for Presbyterian peacemakers
Introduction. Theologian Joseph Sittler has written that ”…we are by nature created to envision more than we can accomplish, to long for that which is beyond our possibilities …This restlessness may make us want to throw in the towel — or pull up our socks. You can play it either way. You can either be creatively restless, as before the unknowable, or you can simply collapse into futility.” Here are some ways to be “creatively restless,” to stay spiritually alive for the long haul.
1.         Stay focused on your Vision. An earlier peacemaking mailing reminds us: “Let yourself be overcome by a vision of the world that God intends, rather than guilt about the world that is.” Remember: “impossible only means that it hasn’t happened yet.” How do we stay focused? For myself, there are some biblical phrases I repeat almost every day. . . about children no longer dying in infancy, everyone living out a full life span, nations beating swords into plows, the earth being as full of the knowledge of God as waters cover the sea. Such phrases from the biblical vision mediate to me a reality that is more real than what currently merely is.
2.         Remember: the peacemaking calling is a gift, not a burden. Harry Fagan, a Catholic community organizer, put it like this: “So many people I know think it’s treasonous to smile. What you want to communicate is: We are very fortunate to be able to link up our lives with these great meanings. We need to have a great time. Nothing is worse than a dull do-gooder.” Wisdom from the Internet: “It’s all right to sit on your pity pot every now and again. Just be sure to flush when you’re done.”
3.         Never lose your sense of outrage. No, this isn’t a contradiction. “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Evil is real, and cannot be pawned off onto cosmic powers or rationalized as inevitable. We need a moral clarity that sees some things are just plain wrong and must stop… child abuse, sexual slavery, starvation, terrorism, and war.
4.         Take time to visit yourself – regularly. A European guest of U.S. peacemakers, his schedule crammed to overflowing, said, “We cannot live this way in the name of peace.” We need to heed the Zen saying: “don’t just do something — stand there.”
5.         Surround yourself with friends and colleagues. The fastest way to run out of steam is to operate as a lone wolf. Every committee should be to the fullest degree possible a community. Love your enemies, but work with those you can work with.
6.         Do something. (Yes, this appears to contradict the Zen saying! It’s a paradox.) The fastest way to break through the sense of helplessness and hopelessness is to act, in however modest a way. Gandhi got it right: “Anything you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”
7.         Celebrate small successes. A longtime anti-hunger activist, asked how he avoided burnout, said: “You need two things: a vision, and the ability to celebrate incremental victories.”
8.         Always remember the difference between witnessing and persuading. It is a terrible burden to suppose that we must convert everyone to our truth. A witness simply says: “Here is what I see, what I experience, what I hope and work for.” That gives the other permission to say what she sees, experiences, hopes and works for. In that encounter, change may happen. To say it theologically: the Holy Spirit changes hearts and minds; we do not. That is a liberating realization.
9.         Find one area of peace and justice work to become expert in. We may have a comprehensive Vision, but it takes many of us to know enough to enter the public arena in a way that can help plow that vision into the soil of historical reality. Reinhold Niehbuhr’s words are never outdated “Consecrated ignorance is still ignorance.” What will yours area of expertise be—domestic violence or torture or U.S. policy toward Colombia?
10.        Never doubt that people and societies can and do change.
11.        Play, laugh and celebrate. Essayist and children’s author E.B. White wrote: “When I wake up in the morning, I’m torn between my desire to save the world and savor the world. It makes it very hard to plan the day!” We need to take both seriously,
12.        Listen for theological wisdom outside the church. Dancers, dramatists, artists, or scientists—all may see reality in a way that both illuminates and challenges our visions. In a recent New York Times review, Brian Kulick, stage director, commented: “You need Shakespeare and Chekhov every 15 minutes of your life because every 15 minutes of our lives we forget we’re human beings. Shakespeare and Chekhov grab you by the lapels and say, ‘You idiot! You’re living! Living your life!’ We need that every 15 minutes …To me, the core of theater and religion is the same. How do you stay in a perpetual state of wonder?”
13         Trust that God is in the rapids as well as the rocks. We tend to think of faith as refuge rather than risk, to value continuity more than change. We witness in a fast-changing world, politically, economically. and theologically. Joseph Sittler: “Lest the theologian be a mere ‘hod carrier’ for a closed tradition, she must look her day full in the face, participate in the joyous thud of ideas in collision, and share in her day’s vitalities and torments.” Bill Coffin: “I feel strongly that Oliver Wendell Holmes was right. Not to share in the activity and passion of your time is to count as not having lived. I don’t claim virtue. I claim a low level of boredom.”
14.        Enter empathetically into someone else’s religious tradition. In Barbara Brown Taylor’s words: “In a world flooded with information, it is important to change channels from time to time, if only to remember that the truth is larger than any one telling of it.” Open-ended dialogue between the world’s great religious traditions is an absolute must for our time.
15         Stay rooted in the Mystery. How do you keep alive the sense of the incomprehensible Mystery in which we all live and die? A 4th century desert monk, St. Gregory of Nyssa, reminds us: “Concepts create idols, only wonder comprehends anything.”
16         Remember where you fit in the scheme of things. A rabbi once said that we should each carry two pieces of paper in two pockets—one says, ‘I am the child of a King’ and the other, ‘l am dust and ashes.’
17.        Work and trust. A woman at retreat in Arizona told of a tough time in her life when she was snowed in at a mountain cabin. To fight off despair, she sat out on the ice-covered steps, chipping away with the only tool she had, a kitchen spoon, as I recall. After a few discouraging efforts, she retreated indoors. When she came back out later, she found that the winter sun had widened the little crack in the ice she had made, so she worked some more. And so the day went, outside to chip awhile, then back into the warmth. “Peacemaking is like that,” she said, “chipping and waiting, chipping and waiting.’’