Jonathan Foust

September 30, 2008

Historia de un letrero

Filed under: Video — jonathanfoust @ 7:06 am

This week in class I’ve been talking about the Hindrances: the challenging states that arise when we try to be present.  When we experience these five conditions they push away all other thoughts and make it almost impossible to be fully present with an open mind and heart.  

These are:

  1. Aversion and ill will
  2. Craving and sensual desire
  3. Restlessness and worry
  4. Sloth and torpor and
  5. Doubt

One way to work with the challenges that arise is to recognize and name them.  Identifying them objectively helps sever your identification with the thoughts, beliefs and feelings that are are associated with your experience.

Another approach is the path of the heart.  You can explore what it’s like to invite the hindrance as a teacher and to invoke compassion and empathy for yourself and others.  

Both approaches can be incredibly challenging – and liberating.

In that light, watch the following four-minute film if you would like to charge up your compassion battery.

This won the Cannes 2008 online short film competition.


September 25, 2008

The Essence of the Practice

Filed under: Dharma, Meditation — jonathanfoust @ 6:27 pm

One day a woman yogini is meditating in her cave.  She’s visited by three demons.  They are swirling around the cave making an awful racket.  

She calmly gets up and quietly, in a self-possessed way, starts building a fire.  Her non-reactive nature really ticks off the demons and they crank it up a bit … horrible sounds, images and so forth.

After a while, the woman get up again and calmly puts a tea kettle on to boil.

Seeing her so serene totally sets off the demons and they let it rip.  Wretched images, sounds, smells … the most awful stuff they have.

The woman gently sets out three tea cups.

The demons stop.

“We are your three worst nightmares,” they say, “Your worst childhood wounds.  We’ve given it our all, but here you are quietly building a fire, putting on this kettle and setting the table.  

What’s going on?”


“You’ve been here before,” she responds, “and you’ll be here again.  So in the meantime, what kind of tea would you like?”


When we can pause and make tea for our demons we enter into a realm of new possibilities.  This is the promise of mindfulness practice.

September 19, 2008

Setting Up a Daily Practice

Filed under: Dharma, Meditation — jonathanfoust @ 11:00 am
Wow.  Great wall, dude.

The Great Wall.

For those of us living in the world and not holed up in a monestery, contemplative traditions recommend both a daily practice and occasional retreats.  



Here are a few suggestions for cultivating a daily practice:

1.  Develop a practice you can do on a regular basis.  Someone once said, “It’s better to meditate for five minutes a day than half an hour on Sunday morning.”

2.  Keep it Short.  A friend once made a commitment to just sit on her meditation cushion at least once a day.  Some days she’d plunk down, take one breath and hop back up again.  I thought that was a brilliant move.

That inspired me to do the same thing with my yoga practice.  The routine I’ve committed to takes me about seven minutes.  Seven minutes I can do.  My flow includes abdominal stuff, some deep knee bends, some side stretching and a ‘downward dog’ with variations.  It’s fast and it hits all the vital zones.

The way I keep it alive is that I never force myself to do more.  Sometimes, though, I get inspired and actually do more … and it feels great.

3.  Make it a routine.  One enterprising woman at the World Bank developed this flow:  When she boiled water for tea in the morning she’d sit at the table, feel her breath and relax.  When the tea kettle boiled, meditation was over.

4.  Find a partner who will hold you accountable.  As I like to joke, there’s nothing like having a partner who will shame you into meditating on a regular basis. Seriously, though, finding a like-minded person to sit with has huge benefits.  This is what kept me in an ashram for so many years.  When I needed inspiration, someone was around …. and hopefully I did the same for others.

5.  Study.  Read books, listen to talks.  You may find yourself more inspired, more aware of what’s unfolding inside and perhaps a little less stuck when you hit some blocks. 


What’s your practice and how do you keep it alive?

September 15, 2008

Don’t Chase After the Past

Filed under: Quotation — jonathanfoust @ 2:40 pm

I can’t help but get caught up in the headlines these days.  The general sense of suffering and panic so easily pulls my mind into a blender of thoughts, stories and emotions.

I ran across this quote from Bhikku Mangolo from The Practice of Recollection that helped me remember what it means to come to center:

Don’t chase after the past,

Don’t seek the future;

The past is gone,

The future hasn’t come.

But see clearly on the spot,

The object which is now,

While finding and living in

A still, unmoving state of mind.


Simple.  Not easy.  Perhaps the most important thing.

September 14, 2008

87% Humidity at 7:00 AM

Filed under: Uncategorized — jonathanfoust @ 9:20 am

Non dual teachers say you can discover what doesn’t change by paying attention to everything that DOES change.  It’s a gift to have the river so close by and to notice the subtle shifts in the elements.  I took this shot at 7:00 AM, with 87% humidity and temperature going into the 90’s in a few hours.  

Fall migration is just beginning, but I don’t think anyone is going very far today.

A Steamy Sunday Morning on the River

A Steamy Sunday Morning on the River

September 12, 2008

It’s Not Working

Filed under: Humor, Meditation, Video — jonathanfoust @ 1:40 pm

Some of you have seen this, but I think it’s a good time to put this up with classes starting up again.  I think it’s perhaps the most succinct intro to meditation I’ve done.  All in 51 seconds.

Sunrise on the Potomac

Filed under: Nature — jonathanfoust @ 8:53 am

September 11, 2008

Eckhart Tolle Renounces Spirituality; Embraces Madonna, Paris Hilton

Filed under: Humor — jonathanfoust @ 12:26 pm

From Michael Levin’s blog: 

“I was wrong, but I am no longer attached to my erroneous thinking,” spirituality author Eckhart Tolle today told a hastily arranged Beverly Hills news conference. “The now is not where it’s at. Now is so…last week.”

Tolle, flanked by Madonna and Paris Hilton, came to Beverly Hills to launch his newest book, “Later! The Power Of Being Rich And Powerful.” Abandoning his traditional homespun sweaters, the Oprah-approved avatar of Buddhism-for-the-masses wore a tasteful Armani ensemble and $1100 bespoke handmade shoes.

“When I spent two years sitting on a park bench,” Tolle told reporters, “I thought I was happy. I was wrong. So wrong. Happiness doesn’t make you happy. At least not compared with netting $6 million a year from books, speaking, and my new line of Eckhart Tolle kitchenware, available through the Food Channel and QVC.”

Tolle’s new book “Later!” extols the value of shallow relationships, immediate gratification, conspicuous consumption, and a wasteful, unsustainable lifestyle.

“I thought I could be happy without large sums of money, access to celebrities and supermodels, and my own TV game show,” Tolle said. “I was wrong. You really are happier in a $1200 a night hotel room than sitting and meditating in a park. But I couldn’t have had this breakthrough if I hadn’t gone through all that poverty and denial of my basic human needs first.”

When asked whether the message of his new book, “Later!”, conflicted with the message of spirituality that had brought him fame, success, and riches, Tolle emphatically agreed.

“I’ve been rich and I’ve been spiritual,” Tolle said. “And rich is better.”

Writing About What You Most Need to Hear

Filed under: Observations — jonathanfoust @ 6:29 am

Someone mentioned to me last night that the author of “100 Things to Do Before you Die” is dead.  At age 47.

I woke up thinking about it.

The first thing on my list is a commitment to not chase after a list.  

Right now hearing the crickets – REALLY hearing the crickets – works for me.


 (It sounds like Dave had a wonderful incarnation.)


“100 Things To Do Before You Die” Author Dies At 47

LOS ANGELES — Dave Freeman, co-author of “100 Things to Do Before You Die,” a travel guide and ode to odd adventures that inspired readers and imitators, died after hitting his head in a fall at his home. He was 47.

Freeman died Aug. 17 after the fall at his Venice home, his father, Roy Freeman, told the Los Angeles Times on Monday.

An advertising agency executive, Freeman co-wrote the 1999 book subtitled “Travel Events You Just Can’t Miss” with Neil Teplica. It was based on the Web site, which the pair ran together from 1996 to 2001.

“This life is a short journey,” the book says. “How can you make sure you fill it with the most fun and that you visit all the coolest places on earth before you pack those bags for the very last time?”

Freeman’s relatives said he visited about half the places on his list before he died, and either he or Teplica had been to nearly all of them.

“He didn’t have enough days, but he lived them like he should have,” Teplica said.

The book’s recommendations ranged from the obvious _ attending the Academy Awards and running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain _ to the more obscure _ taking a voodoo pilgrimage in Haiti and “land diving” on the Island of Vanuatu, which Freeman once called “the original bungee jumping.”

The success of “100 Things” inspired dozens of like-minded books, with titles such as “100 Things Project Managers Should Do Before They Die” and “100 Things Cowboys Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die.”

September 9, 2008

Football and a Universe Without Purpose

Filed under: Dharma, Humor, Observations, Video — jonathanfoust @ 7:57 pm

OK.  I’ll admit it.  I like football.

They say most men enjoy following the sports they watched with their fathers.  My dad and I spent many a Sunday afternoon (after Quaker meeting) watching football.  He’d be grading papers and I’d read the paper or a book.

Football is a kind of therapy for me. It’s reward time after a long week. I feel I’m connecting with something inside me that is so, I don’t know … American.  Male.

I watch myself watching football with a mixture of appreciation for the game and at the same time incredulity at how serious everyone takes it.

So it was with a little more than delight when I ran across this clip:

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