Rim Rock - Way Station 3
Attachments are the key component keeping people tied to life's cycles. They're like tar stuck on the soles of your shoes. You can work valiantly to wipe off the tar with thinner and rags, or you can take simply take your shoes off and drop them in a waste can.
Not all attachments are created equal. Some, like the attachment of a parent to a newborn child, are basic to well-being. In this context, we're looking at the types of attachments which are restricting or debilitating to one's well being. The type of attachments which stir up emotions, and which keep a person from being centered and calm.
There's a Japanese koan (brief story which offers a glimmer of spiritual insight) which goes as follows:
Two monks are walking along a rural path in a downpour. They get to a swollen creek. On their side are a group of people too timid to cross.
One of the monks lifts up the most attractive girl in the crowd and carries her over to the other side, where he puts her down safely.
The monks walk on in silence. After awhile, the monk who crossed the river solo, says to the other, "Admit it. You know you enjoyed carrying that girl across the river!"
His associate says, "I put her down on the other side, are you still carrying her?"
These large developed brains which we carry around everywhere, can be an asset or a drawback depending on how we, as individuals, perceive things. Thoughts don't just flit in to the brain like air blowing in to an air filter. A person can counsel himself/herself and affect his/her own thinking processes. After getting control over one's thoughts, a person can get closer to spiritual enlightenment if that person so chooses, but that topic will be touched upon later on. The base goal is to move one's thinking towards contentment and away from the myriad emotional pitfalls that affect nearly everyone.
People are animals, and that's not a bad thing to acknowledge. We share over 98% of our genes with apes, 95% with mammals, and over 25% of our DNA is shared with plants and fungi. We're actually a bit closer, genetically to fungi than we are to plants, but I don't know the significance of that. The main things that differentiates humans from other animals is our complex ways of thinking and the ability of our species to attain spiritual enlightenment. Actually, whether we're the only species which can attain spiritual enlightenment - is debatable, but we won't get in to that here. These large complex brains can also be a curse, as evidenced by the many harmful acts our species is known for, and the myriad psychological problems that only humans suffer.
We, as a species, can be compared to fire-breathing dragons. The ability to breathe fire may have distinct advantages, yet that same ability, if used badly - can scorch or kill others and ourselves.
Mental attachments and lack of focus are at the core of what keeps a person from being content. Lack of focus is often the precursor to discontentment. If later, the mind focuses on, and thereby amplifies harmful attachments, then that can lead to depression or worse.
The mind is the command and control center of each individual, though more often than not, the control function is like the driver of a speeding boat with the steering wheel in his hand, trying to figure out how to attach it back to the steering mechanism. Thinking is influenced by chemicals, memories and outside stimuli.
CHEMICALS: Some chemicals, which affect the mind, are created within one's own body. These take the form of glandular excretions from hormones and endocrine system. These profoundly affect a person's thinking. Then there are a plethora of chemicals which a person ingests. These can include all sorts of drugs, chemicals from food, pills, through the skin, or inhaled. Pretty much whatever penetrates the 'blood brain barrier' affects how we think and feel.
MEMORY: Memory plays a part in attachments, particularly in the learned behavior a person has accumulated over the years. That forms the mental rules and guidelines that people look for direction. Everything a person does, each word word spoken, first gets filtered through the sieve of that person's learned behavior. There are many who believe that thoughts can transfer from one person to another. I know it's a touchy issue, but I personally don't believe that. Neither do I believe that rocks or bodies of water, or planets have thoughts, whether transferable or not. That's just my personal opinion, and not something I choose to 'lay' on others. However, if one perceives that thoughts are not transferable (as I do) between people or objects, then that bolloxes that whole notion of esoteric belief system, paranormal, metaphysics (including astrology, numerology, palm reading), and even religion. To many people, disbelief in those belief systems might be anathema. Certainly, non-belief in any religion is blasphemous or heathen to most of the world's population. Yet have those people ever considered how liberating that can be? To not have a prescribed belief system installed in one's brain, can indeed be a big step towards mental freedom.
STIMULI: There are several ways in which we experience the world. A person begins getting acquainted with the main senses of sight, sound, smell/taste, and tactile/touch - even while in the womb. As mentioned in the text above, there may also be a type of psychic sense, but that's debatable. Of the basic senses, perhaps only tactile/touch is essential for life. There are people who are deaf and blind and who lack sense of smell, yet they experience in their own adaptable manner. Influences on the mind don't work individually. A person's mindset is affected by intricate combinations of influences. At its best, short of enlightenment, it's like a string quartet whose individual melody lines are delightfully interwoven by its members. Keeping with that analogy, the mind is more often the quartet with one player playing a tune, and the others fumbling around - sometimes finding a harmony line, sometimes off in a different key, or often just falling asleep. Near its worst, three of the quartet put their instruments aside and shout at one another, while the fourth attacks metal trash cans with a big stick.
At a cursory glance, it appears there are two basic categories for attachments; Physical and Mental. Physical would be the attachments to physical things like money, house, car, jewelry, property, pets and such. However, upon closer scrutiny, all attachments are mental. Even attachments to possessions, money and pets stem from mental constructs - most of which a person has been developing since being born. And not surprisingly, attachments to myriad other things (vanity, success, accolades, etc) stem from mental constructs.
Not all attachments are bad. Some attachments are basic components of survival, such as attachment to health motivates us to avoid doing harmful things or ingesting poisonous substances. There's a parent's attachment to their offspring, which is obviously key to ensuring the survival of lineage. It's how one manifests or deals with attachments - which can cause pitfalls.
There needs to be an understanding that all human problems, other than purely
physical mishaps, stem from mental attachments. It's usually concepts of
ourselves and others, often misconstrued, which exacerbate any suffering which
Case Study #1: A pretty girl in Thailand laments that she has dark skin. In reality, her skin is a lovely cafe-au-lait tone that many people outside of her region consider beautiful. However, to her and her family and all the locals residing in her part of Asia give much thought to skin tone. They really believe that the darker a person's skin tone, the dirtier that person is, and the lower that person's morals and intelligence. It's a thought process that has been deeply ingrained in their perceptions for generations. No matter that their skin tone is a millimeter thick. No matter that she showers twice a day and is top of her class scholastically. The bias is in her neighbors' perception, and those people act accordingly. Because of that bias, the girl suffers anxiety, low self-worth, teasing, and her prospects for marriage and a good job are lower than if she had a slightly whiter skin tone.
Case Study #2: A man, who is a day trader of stocks, resides in an expensive house, which is paid for. He turns on the TV and catches a news item which announces that a particular investment fund he'd put most of his money in to had fallen by 60%. He turns off the TV, and his pulse quickens and he feels ill as he perceives of his invested money 60% in value in the blink of an eye. He's reacting to his attachment to wealth (a greedy rich person never has enough wealth), and he's alarmed about the perceived threat to his security and perhaps the well being of his immediate family. He may also be annoyed by the now tarnished reputation. His friends might ridicule this man who has built a reputation for high yields on risky investments, and now they too, by hearing the same news of the stock market dip, will know he's lost money and face. So that one man, by hearing that one bit of news televised from hundreds of miles away, immediately suffers anxiety and depression. He finds out the next day, that he had tuned in to a movie channel, and the 'news report' was actually a small segment of a movie drama. But by that time, he had just ingested a large jar of aspirin in an attempt to commit suicide.
For those who come to Rim Rock, and choose to lessen attachments, here are some guidelines. Note, nothing is carved in stone (though there's certainly a lot of stone at Rim Rock, and you're welcome to do some carving, if you're so inclined).a. identify what sorts of problems affect you. In California-speak, the word 'challenge' is used in place of the word 'problem' - but we'll just cut to the chase, and not mince words (ok, we'll try not to overwhelm with idioms). Write down the problems or challenges. Do it 'free-association' without a lot of ponderousness. You're not writing a will or an edict, you're simply putting thoughts to paper. Also: it's better to write these sorts of things on actual paper, rather than on a digital device. Computers and such are impersonal and limiting, whereas on paper, you can scratch things out, circle things, draw arrows every which way, doodle in the margins, smash your crayons in a fit of emotion, .....whatever. You can even take your paper and, while gritting your teeth and yelling an expletive that would make your mother blush, crumple it up and throw it across the lawn. Can you do that with a digital device? Doubtful.
b. what thought processes lead to those problems? Again, write it down on a large sheaf of paper, and use crayons and marker pens. Your making statements about your life, or at the least, you're assessing where you are and where you might be steering your ship of state. You're in the driver's seat, or you should be. If some other people or entities are directing your life or thoughts, then look squarely at that also. Acknowledging if and how others are directing your thoughts and actions is a key component of this process.
c. prioritize. Perhaps 'prioritize' is not a real word, but it hits the nail on the head. List the order in which attachments are tripping you up on life's path. This may seem like the easiest step in the process, but if you knock heads with others who are ruminating the same sorts of things, you may find some other attachments you weren't as aware of. In other words, you may have a drinking problem, and you put that top of your list. Indeed, over-indulging in alcoholic drinks my be the most outwardly evident act in your list of problems. Yet, we'll also discuss other attachments which may be a party to that indulgence. Don't feel victimized, as we all have attachments of one sort or another. Even the holy man sitting serenely high up the mountain - probably has attachments. Ramakrishna, the great Hindi saint from 100 years ago observed, "You can look at the monkeys, sitting in a row upon the temple wall. They've learned to look so serene, with their legs crossed and their arms together, as if meditating. But they're still monkeys, and they'll fight and screech in a second if someone tosses a bunch of bananas their way."
d. clean house. Adjust perspectives, to lessen or banish thought patterns which lead to the types of attachments which trip you up. Granted, it's easier said than done. Some of the thought processes which form attachments have probably been developing since childhood. They may seem 'hard-wired' in the brain, but they're not. A child is not born with all the thought patterns which lead to attachments. Those concepts are acquired and atrophy over the years. Some attachments are easier to banish than others. Example: The infatuation that swells from a lover who was picked up the night before and vanishes before breakfast, will be easier to easier to shake off than the dependency of a recently parted spouse who you've been with for years. There are methods for lessening and/or banishing attachments - but we won't try articulating them here, as that would take too many pixels. Plus a little bit of mystery - might make the process more satisfying. Each person is an individual, and each has his/her own set of experiences. No one methodology applies to everyone. Rim Rock can serve as a place to discern what sorts of things need tending to, and then it's up to the individual to deal or not deal with it in ways recommended by the supportive people at the site.
Rim Rock 'Way Stations'
Choose your own personal path at Rim Rock
We're at the early stages of developing what's on offer at Rim Rock, but we're gearing toward assisting visitors with one of more of the following options. Each of the categories mentioned below are inter-related, so picking one to focus upon doesn't preclude the others.
The items mentioned below are more like 'way-stations' along the life's path, rather than required check points. And like a buffet, you can pick as many or as few as you like, and tarry as long or as briefly as you like at each 'way station' - though it's recommended you follow the sequence, if you choose to focus on more than one item.
Some people need to detox from years of indulgence. Others need to simply continue their on-going process of cleansing their body and glands. Regardless of whether or not you've been living a clean life, chances are you can benefit from additional cleansing. Each person who chooses to focus on this option is dealt with on an individual basis - in order to gauge which type of fasting regimen is recommended for that individual. The emphasis at Rim Rock, is on cleansing at safe and comfortable levels, so as not to release too much stuff - too quick for the body to comfortably deal with.
We often hear, in news reports, about drug addictions, but there are many other addictions which affect people from all walks of life. Addictions are basically things or concepts which, if a person is deprived of them, they cause that person serious anxiety or withdrawals. One addiction which is growing by leaps and bounds is, not surprisingly, addiction to computers and internet. At Rim Rock, we use a gentle combination of methods to assist those who choose to lessen their addictive habits.
Not only is lessening attachments a basic premise of Buddhism, it's also a great tool for improving one's life, whether one gives a hoot about Buddhism or not. All people have attachments to things, whether they be physical attachments, like tangible possessions or conceptual attachments, like needing to be admired. The number of common attachments is as limitless, as their eradication is satisfying.
Pretty much everyone has stress and anxiety to some degree. There are tangible things that each individual can to lessen such things. Not surprisingly, they relate to the topics mentioned above. So, even if you come to experience Rim Rock without partaking in any particular program, we can almost guarantee that just by being here, will alleviate some measure of stress and anxiety. You've got to see it to believe it.
Think back to your most enjoyable moments. Chances are, some of those experiences were probably when you were younger, and doing creative things. Arts and crafts can obviously be creative, but there's a wealth of other ways to express one's creativity. At Rim Rock, the sky's the limit, with music, hiking, music, dance, meditation being just some of the ways to express one's creativity. Kirtan is a Sanskrit word for 'walking single file with others while singing or chanting' - and kirtans are yet another way to squeeze some more enjoyment out of being.
At Rim Rock, we have a sort of 'patron saint' though we try not to get dogmatic about it (don't want to have our karma run over our dogma). His name is Milarepa, and he can be described as; 'a Tibetan singer of spiritual poems who roamed the Himalayas 900 years ago.' Some, who are familiar with his story, consider him a living Buddha. Among other things, Milarepa was a supreme master of meditation, who walled himself in to mountain caves and fasted for years on end. We won't go that far at Rim Rock, but we can look to Milarepa for inspiration.
7. Giving Back
It's all well and good to improve one's physical and mental condition, yet there should be some degree of balance involved. A sort of 'giving back' or 'sharing' the insight gained from one's journey of self-improvement. The old saying; 'tis better to give than to receive' rings as true today as when it was first spoken.
Rates for lodging and seminars offered at Rim Rock
Free E-book for filling out our brief survey
Just a few questions, to gauge what interests you - in regards to your personal spiritual growth. Click here
For taking the brief survey, you get the choice of one of three ebooks written by Ken the proprietor of Rim Rock Retreat:
1. Fasting For Health and Highness
2. Life Story of Milarepa
3. Farmsteading in Thailand
For a full list of Ken's books, go to http://www.adventure1.com
Boomerang Rock Climbing and Adventure Park
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Ancient kilns found at the Boomerang site
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