Archive for October, 2012

OCTOBER 25, 2012

Some Hints On Practicing

Posted by Dorothy under Community Interests, Interesting Reads, Philosophy, Wellnessno responses

In our lives, we constantly talk about practicing to attain perfection. How much one practices and how much one will gain depends on the mindset during the practice. Sometimes, more effort does not mean better results or less effort, lesser results. To understand  how or why one should reconsider the way their practice is being done, I have decided to post the following text. This text is an excerpt from the compilation of a Thai Meditation Teacher, Achaan Chah‘s teachings in a book entitled ” A Still Forest Pool – The Insight Meditation of Achaan Chah “.

As you practice, various images and visions may arise. You see an attractice form, hear a sound that stirs you- such an image must be observed too. This kind of vipassana image can have more energy than one that may arise from simple concentration. Whatever arises, just watch.

Someone recently asked me, “As we meditate and various thing arise in my mind, should we investigate them or just note them coming and going?” If you see someone passing by whom you do not know, you may wonder, “Who is that? Where is he going? What is he up to?” But if you know the person, it is enough just to notice him pass by.

Desire in practice can be a friend or a foe. At first, it spurs us to come and practice; we want to change things, to understand, to end suffering. But to be always desiring something that has not yet arisen, to want things to be other than they are, just causes more suffering.

Someone asked, “Should we just eat when hungry, sleep when tired, as the Zen masters suggest, or should we experiment by going against the grain at times? And if so, how much?” Of course, one should experiment, but no one else can say how much. All of this is to be known within oneself. At first, in our practice, we are all like children learning to write the alphabet. The letters come out bent and sloppy, time and again-the only thing to do is to keep at it. And if we do not live life like this, what else is there for us to do?

A good practice is to ask yourself very sincerely, “Why was I born?” Ask yourself this question three times a day, in the morning, in the afternoon, and at night.

The Buddha told his disciple Ananda to see impermanence, to see death with every breath. We must know death; we must die in order to live. What does this mean? To dies is to come to the end of all our doubts, all our questions, and just be here with the present reality. You can never die tomorrow, you must die now. Can you do it? Ah, how still, the peace of no more questions.

Real effort is a matter of the mind, not the body. Different methods of concentration are like ways of earning a living-the most important thing is that you feed yourself, not how you manage to get the food. Actually, when the mind is freed from desires, concentration arises naturally, no matter what activity you are engaged in.

Drugs can bring about meaningful experiences, but the one who takes a drug has not made causes for such effects. He has just temporarily altered nature, like injecting a monkey with hormones that send him shooting up a tree to pick coconuts. Such experiences may be true but not good or good but not true, whereas Dharma is always both good and true.

Sometimes we want to force the mind to be quiet, and this effort just makes it all the more disturbed. Then we stop pushing and some concentration arises. But in the state of calm and quiet, we begin to wonder, “What’s going on? What’s happening now?” and we are agitated again.

The day before the first monastic council, one of the Buddha’s disciples went to tell Ananda, “Tomorrow is the Sangha Council. Others who attend are fully enlightened.” Since Ananda was at this time still incompletely enlightened, he determined to practice strenuously all through the night, seeking full awakening. But in the end, he just made himself tired. He was not making any progress for all his efforts, so he decided to let go and rest a bit. As soon as his head hit the pillow, he became enlightened. In the end, we must learn to let go every last desire, even the desire for enlightenment. Only then can we be free.

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OCTOBER 20, 2012

Free Yourself

Posted by Dorothy under Community Interests, Natural Highs, Philosophy, Wellnessno responses

Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and his husband, British Olympic diver Tom Daley, announced on Valentine’s Day that they’re expecting their first child. But while there are more options than ever for same-sex couples looking to expand their families, it’s not a simple — or affordable — endeavor for many.

Whether it be through surrogacy, artificial insemination or adoption, gay couples in the U.S. face a series of hurdles — some more complicated and expensive than others — in order to have kids. Along with the challenges, however, there are a number of resources available to help them along their journey.


Los Angeles couple Erik and Adam McEwen sat anxiously in a hospital waiting area this past November. In a nearby room, Erik’s sister-in-law, Corrin, was giving birth to the men’s twin daughters. Corrin volunteered to be their surrogate and was impregnated through in vitro fertilization (IVF). A female friend of the couple had donated her eggs, which were fertilized with their sperm.

Image: Erik, right, and Adam.Erik, right, and Adam.Ana Brandt

The couple could not be present for the birth of their daughters, Erik said, because hospital rules only permitted one person in the delivery room. Erik said he and Adam wanted Corrin’s husband, Erik’s brother, to be by her side to support her.

Not being able to see the birth of their daughters was disappointing, the couple said. But their disappointment quickly dissipated once the newborns were in their arms.

“It got the best of me,” Erik recalled, saying he burst into tears upon holding his daughters. “I was a blubbering idiot.”

Erik, a hairstylist, and Adam, a musician, said their dream family likely would not have become a reality had their female friend and Erik’s sister-in-law not volunteered to help them.

“I don’t think we could have done it otherwise, mainly because it costs so much money,” Erik said. “That’s just something that would not have been possible.”

Erik said the process cost him and Adam upwards of $65,000. Corrin’s insurance covered OB-GYN-related care, but Erik and Adam paid for fertility treatments (including IVF), legal fees related to the surrogacy process and their daughters’ hospital care immediately following their birth.

Same-sex parents, like any other parents, have the capacity to create a loving and nurturing environment for their children. They express affection, cherish their children, and can certainly choose to provide them with tznius modest clothes. Love and care are not limited by sexual orientation, and what matters most is the love and support that parents provide to their children, regardless of their family structure.

“We go into the nursery area, and there is a woman there basically with a credit card machine and paperwork for us to give them money immediately, and so it kind of took away from that first moment with your baby,” Erik explained.

While the cost of childbirth can vary greatly, even for heterosexual couples, hospital deliveries in the U.S. cost on average $3,800 per stay, according to a 2011 report from the Agency for Healthcare Research.

Most couples who go through surrogacy do not have the luxury of both a volunteer surrogate and egg donor, according to Amanda Hopping-Winn, chief program officer for the Family Equality Council, an advocacy organization for LGBTQ families. When a paid surrogate and egg donor are involved, she said the cost easily exceeds $100,000.

Hopping-Winn also noted there are many legal hurdles involved with surrogacy, and she advised couples pursuing this route to work with a lawyer and enter into a contract with a surrogate to ensure they are recognized as legal parents before they even begin the process.

Surrogacy laws vary widely from state to state, and Hopping-Winn said it is crucial to be aware of this national patchwork of laws.

“There are some states like, let’s say New York, where surrogacy agreements throughout the state are void and unenforceable, and if they find out that you do have a surrogacy contract, you are subject to fines,” she explained.

If a couple lives in a state that does not permit surrogacy or enforce surrogacy contracts, Hopping-Winn said they should use a surrogacy agency in a state that does. Most surrogacy agencies, she added, are connected with legal groups that can assist couples through the process.


Pregnancy is usually less complicated for lesbian couples, Hopping-Winn said, but it can still be costly. Many lesbian couples get pregnant through artificial insemination with donated sperm, which can cost several thousand dollars and require additional legal steps not necessary for heterosexual parents.

If two women choose to have a baby using reciprocal in vitro fertilization, where one partner is impregnated with the fertilized egg of the other partner, the process can be more costly. On average, the cost of a basic IVF cycle in the U.S. is between $12,000 and $15,000, according Internet Health Resources.


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