Civility with Affection

His Holiness The XIV Dalai Lama says that his religion is “compassion.” As one of the main proponents of Buddhism in the world this may seem a strange statement as Buddhism is considered one of the world’s great religions. Technically speaking, as Buddhism is not theistically (God/god) based and is viewed by those within the sphere of the Buddha’s teachings as a mind science, His Holiness’ statement makes perfect sense. At the same time, like all great souls, the universal principles and practices of love and compassion are the fruition of most – if not all – great wisdom traditions, be they considered philosophies, psychologies, or religions. Thus, as a “simple monk” as he calls himself, that compassion is the hallmark of his Buddhist practice demonstrates his commitment to “religiously” adhering to this principle as the essential reason to practice Buddhism in the first place. As is said in the Buddhadharma, “for the benefit of all sentient beings.”

Within the context of compassion, His Holiness also speaks of human affection. Again, we don’t necessarily expect a monk to emphasize this trait with respect to our interactions. However, as within the Six Realms of Beings Buddhism classifies the human realm as being distinguished by passion or desire, it makes only sense that compassion arises from the skillful understanding and application of our inherent warmth – our affectionate nature – what Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche calls “basic goodness,” and I label in some of my writings as our basic Loving Nature.

Thus it is that the historical Buddha, when giving discourses on skillful speech and how to maintain harmony with others, cultivating practices and an awareness of the importance and naturalness of human affection are essential in making life together workable as well as worthwhile.

When looking at George Washington’s practice of The Rules of Civility, there are many lessons of propriety and decorum which may – on first view – seem contrived, if not stifling with respect to our desire to be relaxed and comfortable within our own being. Some may seem antiquated, but in The Path Civility, I have often found modern equivalents. Nevertheless, the Jesuits who wrote these Rules in the seventeenth century also understood that without the circumscribing of our passions by some moral or standard, we don’t necessarily volunteer for critiquing or censoring our own social behavior which is usually guided by our ego and habits. Thus, while to give pause and apply a rule may feel stiff and/or contrived, by including an awareness of others and their perception and ease with having done so, an opening occurs and with it, a harmony which allows civility in word and action to be more perceptively imbued with human affection. Even if the transaction is confrontational, actions and words that demonstrate civility with genuine affection as opposed to affectation are either well met or best addressed. This is not soppy, but rather heart-felt civility.

Actions and interactions initiated with heart-felt civility do – initially, but also in the long run – create a civilized world where compassion for all becomes the spark – the passion – that can make the kind of advances which benefit all. That kind of civilized world may not necessarily look that technologically advanced or cool. But, it is a world that is easy to cherish and be grateful for.


Skillful Speech

In “The Rules of Civility” that President George Washington study as a boy and lived as a man, Rule 21 says..

“Reproach none for the Infirmities of Nature, nor Delight to Put them that have in mind Thereof.”

Sadly, mockery of this sort has entered into the social and political spheres, perpetuating stereotypes and causing general harm.  To stand by and join in vicariously or remaining silent when such is being done not only makes oneself culpable, but diminishes ones character and sense of self-esteem. With this in mind, I would like to address skillful and unskillful speech within a culture where there is a fashion of “roasts.”

Roast coming home to Roost…

Almost 35 years ago, I attended a counseling training, where the trainer, David Grove, flipped a common saying. He said “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will always hurt you.”

In this context, I reflect on the recent “slap in the face” at the Oscars. And I put it in the context of thoroughly baseless political jibes and accusations, “alternative facts,” the vile language of the roasts of celebrities that titillate those in need of having their minds dragged into the gutter, and yellow journalism in general that capitalizes on the habitual and often reflexive nature of the Three Poisons of Ignorance, Attachment, and Aggression.

Harmful, hurtful speech and writing does little to inspire, but always inflames and burns and repeats its poisonous thoughts as spirals of emotional reactivity that, sadly, will spill out in physical violence – more often than not when a loved or respected person in our lives is taken to task for no other reason than to get a rise. I say this last point, because even though we may see that there is a moral component here that demands an “on-the-level” accountability, we still have less problems with such speech when it vilifies or degrades someone we do not like or approve of.


How can we encourage ourselves, in our language (if we cannot stop our minds) to not make toxic dumping a style of communication that is thought of as clever, humorous, or justified in some sense of twisted logic?

That the slap at the Oscars receives so much hue and outcry while pity and praise are offered the victim spewing the poison that started the cascade of events should make us ask serious questions about how we can better be kind, compassionate, and yes, even at times be funny without degradation and humiliation being what gets a rise, a nervous laugh, or applause.


Moving Forward

     You are coming out of your house where, for a good part of the last two years, you have been encouraged to sequester as much as possible.

     As you step out into the sunshine, you see the familiar face of a neighbor you have not seen in all these long months.  You smile, but as you gradually move towards them, the following dialogue begins in your mind…

I wonder if they are vaccinated?

Where have they been? Have they recently been exposed?

Shouldn’t they be wearing a mask?

I wonder if they are wondering if I have been vaccinated or not?

Do they think I should be wearing a mask?

Should I walk up to them and give them a hug or a handshake?

Should I just fist or elbow bump or just wave from a distance?

Would it be best that I just kind of nod and walk over to the other side of the street?

And all of this happens in the moments which, before, would have been worded with greetings and questions about family, health, travel, neighborhood concerns, or the dogs.

In this pandemic era, Zoom, Skype, Messenger, and FaceTime have been saving graces.  And yet, they pale as means to feel intimacy, camaraderie, or community.  And with all these looming questions and doubts in just seeing or being with each other, is it any wonder why we feel more up tight and uncertain at the most basic physical level of being human in the company of our fellow specie members?

Putting aside the political, philosophical and religious polemics fueled by fake news, propaganda, slick marketing, fear tactics, and denial, the chasm of news/opinion between Fox and MSNBC, our moral and intellectual discomfort is intensified and made even worse when we cannot, at the most basic level, trust or feel comfortable in our own skins with friends, neighbors, let alone those we disagree with, but would have – in a different time – made efforts to understand and perhaps, even work with.

And then, to make matters less under our control, there is global warming and the inevitable cascade of geological and ecological shifts and changes that occur and which we only exacerbate in our ignorance and hubris.

It is difficult to ascertain whether we as a species have ever been in as much peril on seemingly all levels of our collective existence.

In my examination of our collective conundrum, I see four essential steps we can and must take to preserve the best of what we have and rebuild – in the future – all that we have lost.

For, “moving forward” – the theme of this month’s reflection – is NOT about a return to what was or a comfortable illusion of “normalcy.”  Moving forward in the most positive way involves four key ingredients; mindfulness, morality, civility, and endurance.

Mindfulness as a term is bandied about all too glibly.  Sadly, it is used as a band-aid, rather than an ongoing mental state of peaceful, attentive, focus.  In a world where cleverness, sarcasm, and one-liner sound-bites are the dominant drone in our ears and brains, it takes effort and discipline to seek out and practice mindfulness methods which have existed and proven effective over the ages.  Without such mindfulness, the discernment to know the best possible options for moving forward is not possible.

Morality.  At the most basic levels of our being, we all know what brings us more light and what leads to greater darkness in our lives.  The transcendent qualities and principles known in the secular tradition of Freemasonry are an essential distillation of what every wise and life-affirming spiritual path espouses; brotherly love – our altruistic loving nature – relief – our realization that there is more joy and happiness in seeing others well and happy than the mere satisfaction of self-centered drives for pleasure – and truth – which does, indeed, set us free.  These three tenets – brotherly love, relief, and truth – become fortified and make an impact on the real world when the cardinal virtues of temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice are sincerely studied, practiced, and embodied.  When well-considered through mindfulness, morality lightens our load, lightens our being, shines out from within.

Civility.  When mindfulness is wedded to morality, it is not difficult to engage others with skill, wisdom, and compassion.  The compassion we speak of here is where we – with passion – engage others where they are and for what we hope is the best possible outcome.  This can take on many faces – peaceful, empowering, well-intended persuasion, even confrontation when deemed regrettably unavoidable.  Thus, while mindfulness and morality are more of the inner work we must engage in, civility is the countenance and demeanor that makes for the best possible outcome in our human transactions.

Endurance.  I once read a sign on a church that read, “This is the past that someone in the future will long to go back to.”  Hence, I think it a waste of our precious energy in these times to hitch our wagons to some “normal” that we think was there prior to the time we are in now.  In truth, many of this world have and continue to live in dire circumstances where sickness, poverty, and warfare have been the context in which they have lived their lives, possibly from birth.  It is just that now, in spite of all of what most in the world would consider privileges, we seem to be unable to escape and are seemingly joining the multitudes in their struggle. 

If ever there was a call to empathically embrace and act in the common good, it is now.

But to do this, the mindfulness, morality, and civility I speak of here needs to be more than lip service or qualities we fashionably embrace to show how progressive we are.  For, these times are not going away and – more than likely – will become worse before a better day arrives.  Thus, we need to exert ourselves, step out of our comfort zones, and with discipline, learn how we can make durable and powerful the mindfulness, morality, and civility we need to make our life and the lives upon which we are interdependent better.

In the Tibetan tradition, the word for discipline is the same as joy.  Why?  Because when we live wholly and fully with our eyes wide open, practicing what I have outlined above, joy naturally arises as one of the result.   Thus, to joyfully move forward, we shall need discipline to repair and transform our world. 

The light is not at the end of the tunnel.  It surrounds us.  It is what we ourselves are inseparable from.  With mindfulness, transcendental/spiritual moral principles exemplified in the four cardinal virtues and three tenets, and civilly reaching to others, that light will become more evident here and now. And as that happens, as we move forward in that way, we shall – from our own efforts – hasten an awareness of that light and the beauty we need but awaken to for it to become so.


Harmony and Civility


     Harmony is often preceded by the word “peace.”  This implies that peace and harmony are distinct, but interdependent.  Furthermore, both have internal (i.e. personal) and external (i.e. inter-personal) dimensions.

     External peace is inextribably linked to inner peace.  It could be argued that if there is no inner peace on the part of those on opposing sides of an issue or conflict, the peace achieved is merely the absence of conflict or war.  In some circumstances, where differences are seemingly intractable, perhaps this is as good as it gets.  An example in the real time of today is when Israelis and Palestinians are not lobbing bombs at each other.  In an interview I have had with a well-known promoter of meditation and mindfulness who teaches programs both for Israelis and Palestinians in their respective territories, peace is not even considered viable or realistic.  In this situation, security is the closest opposing sides come to peace.  Harmony?  Seemingly inconceivable.

      Harmony is a deeper, more heart-felt matter that requires a sincere commitment to engender.  Harmony is where various dimensions of thought, being, or expression blend to create a well-integrated, living peacefulness which – in turn – is reflected in our inner attitudes towards ourselves and others, as well as expression or responses externally.

     Imagine, if you will, a number of circles, in which each of us is in our respective center.  In Freemasonry, this symbolizes how we strive to keep our passions within due bounds.  These passions can be our desires, but also includes our more negative emotional states and reactions.

      None of these efforts, however, happen within a vacuum. Imagine that while within your own circle, doing your inner work, you are moving around, doing things with or involve others.  The circles, thus, bump into each other and at times, overlap.  As social beings, these interactions are important to our overall sense of belonging and community.  Yet ever so often the noble ideals and intentions and how we should express them as envisioned in our own minds within our own circle, yet untested, bump into and interact with others who may have the same ideals, intentions, even moral perspectives, but different ideas on whatever it was you came together to do. 

     Welcome to the age-old philosophical conundrums of ultimate or absolute reality versus conditioned or relative reality, where the devil is ALWAYS in the details.  Thus, while we may agree in principle, we may bitterly disagree in practice.  Our seemingly lightly touching circles then resemble a competitive clash of bumper cars!

     To get passed this logjam, if we really want to engage in peace AND harmony, there are three principle steps which we should learn.

      First, we need to take to heart and live according to an on-the-level perspective.  In a framework where equality and equity are foundational, we then need to develop the skill of active listening; pay attention to the content and context in which another offers comment, etc..  Then, there is the practice and skill of civility.

     In any harmonious interaction, civility is a key attribute – so much so that America’s most famous Mason, President George Washington, made a lifelong study and practice of civil discourse and applying civility to every decision, wherever he conceived it to be possible.  Similarly, philosopher Albert Pike, in studying Eastern as well as Western philosophy commented in his Morals and Dogma that the historical Buddha was one of our world’s first Masonic judges, despite him never being a Mason – that we know of!  For the Buddha was more of a philosopher and psychologist who devoted many of his teachings to social, communal, and civil matters, offering all a path of civility as the best course for all to practice.

      From my own studies of the Buddha’s teachings, I have extrapolated a model of civility that is very much in keeping with our Founding Father. 

     What I present here is what I term Five Steps of Wise Action.  I have mentioned these before, but want to offer them here as a remedy to bring about peace and harmony within our community ventures or efforts.

     These are…

  1. Step back.  If opportunity permits, one of the smartest steps forward is to step back.  Get some perspective on the situation.
  2. Assess.  Use your critical thinking skills to see with clarity and surmise what needs to be done.
  3. Reflect.  What’s your part in this situation?  How does your way of thinking impact your response?  What skills do you have to offer?
  4. Engage.  After all these steps which could be defined as internal – you within your own circle – it is time to reach out to others or join them in the venture or task to be done.  Having circumscribed your desires and kept them within due bounds with the mindfulness of Steps One through Three, you engage others on-the-level and are more primed to be an active listener.
  5. Enact. With Steps One through Four, accomplished and in the state of harmony these encourage, you are now more prepared to get on with the task, job, or action for which the force of a collective is needed for success.

     Each of us possesses Buddha nature.  One of the hallmarks of this nature is an altruistic spirit.  At the same time, over a lifetime or – if you will – lifetimes, we have negative thought patterns rooted in our confusion, our addiction to our own point of view, and the defensiveness that often blocks any progress.

     Thus, the peace and harmony we seek requires a commitment in thought, being, and expression which – I assert – is best served by first taking to heart the five-step process I have outlined above. 

     Furthermore, if we do engage each other in such a manner – on-the-level, listening actively, applying the Five Steps of Wise Action, the civility these steps naturally engender will make our work go more smoothly and be more effective.  In other words, we shall have created a spirit of harmony – which is contagious, in the best possible way.


Hunkertown – 4/13/21

Incivility to Oneself

(As Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn use to say: “Bad Idea!”

In 1991, HH Dalai Lama asked a group of Buddhist students what in Buddhism helped the low self-esteem He had heard expressed by so many Westerners.

For in the orient, Buddhism tended to address overly inflated egoic expression.

An example of a culture promoting a healthy strong ego presence is when I once asked Dr. Lobsang Rapgay about mantras and children.  He said that

“Eat my shit,” a back-off buster message…  was what young children were taught as Buddhists understand that we are born with Buddha nature, a child is not lesser than – just inexperienced.  I do not know if this approach was for girls as well, but I applied his logic for our two daughters and son.  I did not teach them to tell people to “piss off.”  But – that our authority as parents was not about us as parents being better or smarter – just more experienced.

But, why is it so different here?  Why do we see a culture, especially a youth culture with so much angst, so much fear, self-loathing, so much uncertainty?

Here some of my thoughts on Causal Factors…

1. In the march of history, where the Bible and other wise books tell us that the sins of the fathers are inherited by their sons, i.e. future generations, we see, over the course of human activity, actions and results of power, avarice, greed, privilege – and all the disparities these create that lead to sickness, poverty, and warfare. 

We think that those who perpetrate such and live in palaces and private islands have it made.  But we ignore the karmic consequences that play out in terrible relationships, drug abuse, mental illness, and the feelings mentioned above.

During the Occupy Movement and Robert Thurman mentioned how he was raised and lived around the one percent.  He said we really would not want their lives.

We feel these things.  We know when our moral compass is askew.  We may indulge in denial or seek absolution through religion or charitable acts.  But these are really bandaids for a bleeding soul.

2. Our religiosity or ethos around original sin, our fall from grace vs. the Buddhist notion of us being nascent Buddhas endowed with basic goodness/loving nature, needing to work on transforming the 3 Poisons of Ignorance, Attachment, and Aggression.

The “sinner” approach creates rigid/linear boundaries where we even get cut off from ourselves whereas a Oneness perspective which sees personal growth and inclusivity as the only sustainable way of moving forward… This does not mean, however, the regret and remorse are not useful attitudes to exhibit when unskillful and harmful acts have been done.

The digital world and incessant stimulation of information, undigested thought and emotion – occupying our world 24/7, without stop. The result is that it is really difficult to know what is important, what we can ignore, even let go of.

Let’s look at our external world…

In a time which the Buddha Sakyamuni spoke of, we see and are in the midst of

  • global pandemic
  • acceleration of high intensity ecological calamities of biblical proportion in terms of tornadoes and hurricanes – the winds – floods, draughts, and rising seas, unprecedented fires and the resulting
  • mass migrations – ecological and environmental refugees
  • rise in xenophobic reactions to protect or hold onto the world the way it has actually never been and thus  rise in
  • violence and the proliferation of political refugees

And so, in the immensity of what we as spiritual beings having a human experience must accept, confront, transcend, and prevail – it is seemingly far easier to just get down on ourselves, beat ourselves up,


Which leads to, inevitably

Self loathing and

Spiritual listlessness, apathy, even laziness

In this psychically numb torpor, we can do things our healthy normal sense would not allow…

In Tantra – self denigration is a path to spiritual suicide

So, how do we challenge the habitual tendency to go down this path of incivility?

The Buddha taught the 4 thoughts that Revolutionize the Mind…

Precious human birth


Karma – what we do makes a difference

Not squandering our God given potentials which we have, since beginningless time…

As dear Dharma friend, Stephen Levine use to say…

Show yourself some mercy

In that softer, more open heart space,

Be grateful

Learn to see your shortcomings as opportunities for growth

When you think of extending kindness to others, from a Oneness perspective, you are one of them!  And, there IS really no THEY!


Hunkertown – 3/21

Civility and the Cancel Culture

Wikipedia defines Cancel Culture as “a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – whether it be online, on social media, or in person. Those who are subject to this ostracism are said to be “cancelled”.[1] Merriam-Webster notes that to “cancel”, as used in this context, means “to stop giving support to that person”[2] while, in its pop-culture dictionary, defines cancel culture as “withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.”[3] The expression “cancel culture” has mostly negative connotations and is commonly used in debates on free speech and censorship.”

First, let’s get back to some basics – the Three Poisons of Ignorance, Attachment, and Aggression, in which I have said that we can translate them as… We don’t understand things completely. We get attached to our version of things. And, we get defensive, maybe even aggressive when people don’t agree with us. This is the habitual Samsaric mind, which we each possess and exist within cultures where reified ideas pro and con regarding virtually every human transaction create individual and group preferences and dislikes, friends, enemies, in-crowds, heretics, and maligned.

I spoke in my last podcast about undigested thoughts in the virtual world. The speed of virtual communications and the way in which we revere our thoughts and feel entitled to express them in speech and writing is less an expression in our culture of having freedom of speech and more an expression of the loss critical thinking, listening, and the civility to communicate in an on-the-level altruistic intent and create as little harm as possible and benefit all.

In one of my Facebook posts on Cancel Culture I wrote… “you may think you have the right to say what you want and – within 1st Amendment protection – where you want, I have the right to be selective in what I want to hear or read, i.e. listener and reader rights. Example: I do not own Facebook, but I “rent” a space on that platform I call mine. If you come into my space to berate or belittle me or others, spread falsities and absurd unfounded conspiracies, I reserve the right to say to you for myself and those who would normally read my page, go away. I shall take down said offensive material and, if necessary, unfriend you. I am not infringing on your right to say or write what you want. But, not here. This is not about echo chambers. Based on my values, I hold that demonstrating civility is the best approach in resolving what even appears to be irreconcilable. You have the right to roam the rest of the virtual universe to plant your seeds in some other garden.” With respect to the notions of shaming and ostracism that is utilized, in the positive sense, I can see these within the context of what I would call civility rooted in wrathful compassion. See The Path of Civility…, page 28.

But, let’s open the lens on this concept of cancel culture, for although you may not like a newspaper or radio or TV station because they do not express your views, there are now media outlets for every persuasion. These indeed create echo chambers from which we need to emerge to make substantive change, but we also need to be fearless in confronting cancel culture systems like 1. Gerrymandering 2. Red lining 3. Culling voter lists 4. Providing fewer or inadequate polling places in elections 5. Making election days national holidays or times that don’t disadvantage those who fear taking off or may get hours docked to go and vote. In this regards, our last election was the fairest. 6. Practices in business, industry, and government which advantage some over others

These are the CANCEL issues we need to address to create the representative democracy we profess to have or aspire to achieve.

Towards these ends and in the best sense, we can see the notion of cancel culture within the context of discernment and being able to rally together with people of like mind without being overly distracted by those whose views only take on more real estate in our heads than is of value. Masons speak of circumscribing desires, where we learn to rein ourselves. In a laissez fare world, discipline is considered repressive. But the Tibetan word for discipline, Tsultrim, is also translated as joy. It is important to remember in this context the

Civility does not arise on its own. It takes discipline. And from this, greater joy and ease follow.


Hunkertown 2021, #1

Time for Civility

Think about your communication, your personal and business transactions in the Digital Age.

How conditioned have we become to instant gratification, immediate responses, and that nerve-racking wait as the three dots repeat and repeat until the answer comes.  And, what if the dots stop and there is no response?  What does it mean?  Is the question or comment not worthy of response?  Are we not worthy of response?  If the answers to these questions is “yes” then certainly the response  should be immediate – certainly not tomorrow.

Obviously, timely replies for those circumstances that need timely replies, deserve timely replies.  But short of these usually rare or special circumstances, how many of our communication really warrant instant replies?  And how is our communication and our skills in communicating effected, even truncated by time pressure?

In this context, civility is a casualty when time as a factor in healthy, open communication is not considered.

In fact, reflection and consideration of what someone is saying or writing are skills of what is called deep listening.  These 2 skills are best served by the inner cultivation of what are called in the Buddha’s Dharma, the Six Perfections.

 Generous spirit  – one that exhibits openness and a willingness to share freely.  This does not mean that one disregards history or goes into a situation with rose-colored glasses.  Rather, one enters into an interaction with a sense of – what Freemasons would call, “being on the level.”

Kindness – you act without guile or a twist to make things go to your advantage to the disadvantage of the other simply because you want to win or be on top.  You are straightforward in a way that allows for a transaction to feel two-way or serve the greatness number in the most beneficial way possible.

Patience –  an understanding of the time it takes for our mind and habits to transform.  How often do we see our own history repeating itself, where what we thought were habits or actions we had changed, once again emerge in a new or different circumstance? In patiently tending to our own awakening, we demonstrate a mercy towards ourselves, which will well serve us when we are trying to encourage a change of mind or action in others.

Discipline  – when we know what to do and how to do it well in any given circumstance, there is less stress and more ease in what happens.   Thus discipline in speech, knowing what to say, how to deliver it so that your message comes across most effectively, is a skill worth cultivating.

Stillness or Meditative Awareness invites an open and clear mind.  To not have your internal dialogue chatting away while you are trying to pay attention and listen reduces the likelihood of you interrupting or adding commentary that is more about you than about the transaction you are trying to be engaged in.  This requires training.

Wisdom – all the qualities mention above, practiced well over time, will yield this perfection.  Such wisdom commands respect implicitly and almost naturally. 

When all of these perfections are worked upon, civility becomes natural and implicit.  And, to work upon these to perfect your being takes TIME.

In which case, show yourself some mercy.  Be still and kind and patient with yourself.  For, the most important civil dialogue you need to master is the one within your own mind.


Hunkertown – January 6th – Epiphany!

An excerpt from my book, which I cannot stress enough, makes a profound difference in de-escalating discord and conflict…

The Five Steps to Wise Action

How do we learn to act with skill, with compassion to accomplish what we aspire for ourselves and in this world in the most civil way?

     Although Wisdom is one of the Perfections mentioned earlier, it in itself can be subdivided into mental processes we need to go through in order to go from wise perception to wise action.  These processes are all classified as wisdoms, which, when seen collectively, create sensible and progressive action steps to know how to employ or what level of compassion to use.  Note that the discussion of the Five Wisdoms in Buddhism usually includes more theoretical and theological discussion.  I shall avoid these and focus on the actionable aspects of each, which can be applied in both sacred and mundane situations.

All Pervasive Wisdom – This first wisdom action step may be the hardest as it asks us to step back from the immediacy of the situation or at least be able to keep our passions from leading us to a rush to judgment.  If we are able to step back, to see a bigger picture and place the situation into a larger perspective, we then create more of an opportunity to think out of or beyond the box we may otherwise be mentally and emotionally trapped in.  Succinctly, the action step is: Step back.

Discriminating Wisdom – By stepping back and getting a clearer picture, we encourage our ability to judge impartially, but with discernment   Based on a wider perspective, we are not looking at “the truth,” per se.  Relative reality and truth are at best, very slippery bedfellows.  There are always so many sides and interpretations to any situation.  And so, we discern as best we can and give an “honest” assessment .  Honesty means we are coming from a place of integrity within ourselves.  Honesty allows us to change our minds if more information comes to light.  We may not always know “the truth,” but we can always be honest.  Thus, the action step here is: Assess.    

Mirror-like Wisdom – This wisdom is reminiscent of our modern psychological understanding of projection, that what we see in the world is a mirror reflection of our state of mind.  (What is fascinating is that modern neuroscience has identified Mirror Neurons, which are said to reside behind our hearts and that the information from these neurons goes up to our brain.  Furthermore, there are more signals going from the heart to the brain than visa versa.  And so, Japanese Buddhism speaks of the “heart-mind.”  It is also fascinating to reflect that this wisdom known as “mirror-like” pre-dates our current knowledge of mirror neurons by centuries.)  What is called on here is for us to understand the direct impact on us personally of what we have honestly assessed.  If we start there, we stand a better chance of knowing how our words or actions that follow will affect others.  The action step is: Reflect.

Wisdom of Equanimity – This wisdom demands that we confront within ourselves any bigotry that sees any person or being to be ultimately superior or inferior to ourselves.  Freemasonry, as a tradition of philanthropy and secular enlightenment, speaks of “being on the level.”  Without understanding that we are all “equal in the eyes of God,” true, heartfelt empathic communication and civility–based action is not possible.  The Yiddish word here is to be a “mensch.”  Not seeing or acting as being higher or lower than those whom we engage, we overcome prejudice and invite a reciprocal response.  Whether the response we get is indeed reciprocal is another matter.  But, the point in demonstrating civility here is that we engage in such a spirit.   Engaging another “on the level,” another important dimension of this wisdom is that we do not engage in character assassination.  What we should be addressing are issues and actions.   Thus, the action step here is: Engage.

All Accomplishing Wisdom – Being able to step back, assess, reflect, and properly engage, we now have the sufficient knowledge that we need to Learning summon and martial our energy wisely and apply it where, when, and how it is most effective.  We step into action forthrightly. The action step here is: Enact.


     The first three of these wisdoms, all-pervasive, discriminating, and mirror-like are more internal or mental.  The last two, the wisdom of equanimity and all-accomplishing wisdom are the connection we make with others and our action or words in the manifest world.  The bridge between the internal and outer or external is at the level of mirror-like wisdom, associated in the East with what is called the heart chakra, the center of the heart-mind.  Reflection therefore acts as the gate between our inner machinations of our experience and how we are to prepare ourselves for engagement and action in the world.  It is then by the wisdom of equanimity that we make the main step of social engagement.  Thus, the wisdom of equanimity is the most social of all the wisdoms.

To summarize and succinctly state, in the Five Steps to Wise Action…we

1. step back – look at the big picture

2. assess – clearly discern what we are looking at

3. reflect on this knowledge, understand our part – making it personal, helping us to develop empathy

4. engage – initiate action based on mutual respect an intention of focusing on the good of all

5. enact – step into action forthrightly

Watch my “Pillow Talk” podcast, which puts this all into action.


Hunkertown – Winter Solstice

Breaking Bread – Building Bonds

Before March of 2020, the rough estimate was thatAmericans ate 6 out of every 10 meals out of our homes. If we did eat at home, we grazed, ate in our own rooms, or maybe in front of a TV. Gone were the days of preparing a meal together, sitting down around a table, saying prayers, engaging in family conversation, etc…

And then came the pandemic. And suddenly, what was lost or considered out of fashion, kitch, or pointless are now emerging as the necessary skills to make interactions such as mealtimes civil, if not celebratory.

There is a whole section of Washington’s “Rules of Civility” devoted to dining. Why? With little artificial lighting, no mass or instant forms of transportation, and the absence of the many dining or entertainment experiences available, mealtime was a central feature in daily living.

Some of what I share here may seem antiquated, But, surprisingly, trying to incorporate many of these rules may just make your holiday meal celebrations that much more special. You may even consider adopting these for your daily gustatory events!

90. “Set at meat, Scratch not, neither Spit, Cough, or blow your Nose, except there’s a Necessity for it.”

Commentary: Common decency when dining with others.

91. “Make no Show of taking great Delight in your Victuals, Feed not with Greediness; cut your Bread with a Knife, lean not on then Table, neither find fault with what you Eat.”

Commentary: In these modern times when many people eat out, snack, or graze more frequently than actually sit down with others to “break bread” in any formal or familial way, the social graces of healthy, respectable, and gracious dining are all but lost.  And yet, business luncheons and lunches are not infrequent as apart of commerce, conversing over deals, etc.…Thus the manners and mindfulness of eating bear paying attention to as one more avenue in which one demonstrates a civil approach to an important human function and venue of social discourse.

92. “Take no Salt or cut Bread with your Knife Greasy.”

Commentary: More than likely this Rule has less to do with hygiene than it does about using implements that are definitely yours by their use and applying them to what is commonly shared.  It may be considered not unlike an animal “tagging” something for themselves.

93. “Entertaining any one at the Table, it is decent to present them with meat; undertake not to help others undesired by the Master.”

Commentary:  In this case the “Master” may be a father or whoever is deemed head of the table.  In the perspective of such a hierarchy, Hawkins advises one not to invite someone to the table if you know that he or she are not acceptable to the head of the table.  And, if they are, be sure that they are served like anyone and everyone else who is at the table.

94. “If you Soak bread in the Sauce, let it be no more than what you put in your Mouth at a time; and blow not your broth at Table but Stay till (it) Cools of itself.”

Commentary: If you soak more than one mouthful, you will be holding a drippy piece of bread.  Regarding hot soup or broths, those of manners learn that if you scoop along the edge where the liquid meets the bowl on the surface, you will find the mouthful cooled down enough.

95. “Put not your meat to your Mouth with your Knife in your hand, neither Spit forth the stones of any fruit Pie upon a Dish, nor Cast anything under the table.”

Commentary: It would be interesting to learn when the idea of cutting one’s meat or other food, putting down the knife, then using the fork to eat the portion began.  It is now a more common American cutlery habit compared to the European style where both fork and knife are employed.  And, if stones from a pie with stoned fruit cannot be put on a plate and you can’t toss it under the table, is it to be placed in a napkin?

96. “It’s unbecoming to Stoop much to ones Meat.  Keep your Fingers clean and when foul wipe them on a Corner of your Table Napkin.”

Commentary: A healthy, upright posture shows breeding, improves digestion, and reduces the likelihood of mess or spills.

97. “Put not another bit into your mouth ‘till the former be swallowed.  Let not your morsels be too big for the jowls.”

Commentary:  The art of proper chewing, both in size and number of chews per bite, is not only good etiquette, but makes digestive sense from the standpoint of ensuring that food swallowed does not lead to hiccups, unnecessary belching, flatulence and other manifestations of digestive distress.

98. “Drink not nor talk with your mouth full; neither gaze about you while you are drinking.”

Commentary: Presumably, both aspects of this rule are to ensure that you look composed while eating, but also do not inadvertently spray or spill on others

99. “Drink not too leisurely nor yet too hastily.  Before and after drinking, wipe your lips; breath not then or ever with too great a noise, for its uncivil.”

Commentary: Composure creates a context in which others are engaged in a state of greater ease and receptivity for civil discourse.

100. “Cleanse not your teeth with the table cloth napkin, fork, or knife; but if others do it, let it be done without a peep to them.”

Commentary: Mind your own manners as such and make no comment to others, lest to make a spectacle of their improprieties, which will cause embarrassment and/or annoyance.

101. “Rinse not your mouth in the presence of others.”

Commentary: Such a behavior is best done in private or in a bathroom.

102. “It is out of use to call upon the company often to eat; nor need you drink to others every time you drink.”

Commentary: Although to do these acts is a custom of courtesy, know your situation, the time, and the timing.  To act reflexively or habitually in such matters will usually create awkward moments, which may be perceived as token or insincere.

103. “In the company of your betters, be not longer in eating than they are; lay not your arm but only your hand upon the table.”

Commentary:  To linger longer when eating puts you in the situation of setting the timing and pace of the dining situation, which could be considered lazy or disrespectful to those who one should defer to.  Also, to place one’s arm on the table may be seen as sign of laziness, a casual attitude, or impropriety.

104. “It belongs to the chiefest in company to unfold his napkin and fall to meat first, but he ought then to begin in time and to dispatch with dexterity that the slowest may have time allowed him.”

Commentary: A sign of a truly quality leader, patron, or “chiefest” person is that they have a natural and/or due consideration for everyone at the table so that no person feels lesser or embarrassed unduly, regardless of their standing.

105. “Be not angry at the table, whatever happens; and if you have reason to be so, show it not; put on a cheerful countenance especially if there be strangers, for good humor makes one dish of meat a feast.”

Commentary: (We’ve talked about this before. But, as a reminder…) Nothing ruins a meal faster than anger and other negative emotions people are feeling and/or displaying while trying to eat.  Try to clear the air, let it go.  Breathing deeply and calmly, like in meditation. And if you cannot contain yourself, it is better to excuse yourself than to infect the dining experience of others.

106. “Set not yourself at the upper of the table; but if it be your due or that the master of the house will have it so, contend not, least you should trouble the company.”

Commentary:  It is not your place to chose the head of the table as yours unless it is so.  However, when the master or company offer you that spot, you should accept their generosity.  In Buddhist thinking, it is always beneficial to the one offering generosity for one to accept it from them.

107. “If others talk at the table, be attentive but talk not with meat in your mouth.”

Commentary:  Do not let your haste to respond make a display of the content of your mouth.  By allowing chewing to set the pace, your words will be far better considered, presented, and more than likely received.

Bon Apetit!


Hunkertown, Holiday Version

Have Yourself a Merry Civil Holiday Season!

In the Christmas Truce of WWI, Allied and German soldiers put down their guns, came out of their respective foxholes and exchanged Christmas greetings, shared photos of their respective families, and played some soccer.  And, at the end of the day, they returned to their foxholes to resume the battle.

What was the point? 

Despite the arguing about land and resources, rooted in the Three Poisons –

  1. Ignorance of the fact that there really is enough to go around
  2. That we are attached to a worldview fearful of scarcity and us not getting our fair share and
  3. That the only way to get what we want or need is to do battle with those who we think stand in the way

That there was a wish – very common human wish rooted in our Basic Goodness or Loving Nature – to live with civility in harmony

In The Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, the Buddhist teacher, Shantideva, explains that ALL of our own worst tendencies – pride, greed, excessive desire, reflexive reaction, avarice, and anger are distortions of our true nature, founded upon our Loving Nature.

But, with a lack of understanding and fixating on what or how a desired outcome will be possible, we become insistent, dogmatic, fanatical, tyrannical.  We do harmful things to ourselves and each other. 

And we know it.  We do know better.  Even those who seem smug or defiant in what has caused harm know better. 

And our bodies and minds tell us so in

  1. headaches
  2. sleeplessness
  3. deranged ideations
  4. digestive complaints
  5. heightened irritability
  6. need for drink or medication
  7. desire to do even more harm to numb the feelings of guilt and inner conflict – a cause of some the torture we inflict upon others – all rooted in self-loathing

I recently read an article by HH17th Karmapa Thaye Dorje that said that all this is actually good news.  WHY?  Because our bodies and minds are teaching us that none of what we do against ourselves, our neighbors, who we think are our enemies, or nature is Natural.  It is habitual.  And habits, even long standing ones can be changed.

Understand that some habits we have are more ingrained than other.  Some can change overnight, some over lifetime, perhaps some over several lifetimes, but, they are changeable, whereas our loving nature in a universe of love is unending.

So, here we are for the holidays – where we are with either in person or virtually those with whom we have acted on, learned, or developed habit patterns, some useful, some not. 

All wounds are re-opened, patterns you thought you grown beyond are reactivated.  And you, the independent, strong minded successful person that you  are now just the son, the daughter, the baby sister or brother, – just part of the brood, stirring once again in your familiar brood stew.

Mindfulness and all the wisdom and compassion you can muster is what you need to summon.  If there was ever a time that taught you these skills are useful, if not necessary, this is it.

At the same time, many of the Rules of Civility that George Washington lived by may come in handy.

So here are just a few you may want to consider as you sit around the festive table or share the Zoom room.

#13 “Kill no Vermin as fleas, lice, ticks, etc. in the Sight of Others.  If you See any filth or thick Spittle put your foot Dexterously upon it.  If it be upon the Cloths of your Companions, Put it off privately, and if it be upon your own Cloths, return Thanks to him who puts it off.”

Commentary: There are appearances on oneself or companions or in the immediate environment that you are in that can be uplifting or degrading.  And thus while it is true that beauty is relative and purity or beauty of thought, speech, and conduct is far more important, to keep beauty in mind in all ways can accentuate their affects.  To have it in mind not to offend, to go out of your way to tend to another or to the circumstance so that they do not offend, and if another attends to you similarly – if done in a spirit of cordiality – can be quite sublime.

22. (I have shared this one before, but think of this in the context of loved ones and some of the gossip that often comes up in the holidays…)

“Show not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another, though he were your enemy.”

Commentary: If we truly believe that we are all basically good and that we are all doing the best based on what we know, we must understand that as misguided as we may think others are in what they say and do, they think the same as us.  This is the predicament of conditioned existence.  And in whatever conflict we face, whether it is a personal conflict or an all-out conflagration consuming continent, to rejoice in the pain and suffering of others shows a shallow understanding of humanity and life in general.

In the tradition of honorable warfare, the Ven. Chogyam Trungpa said that on the battlefield, after striking down a foe, a noble soldier would sit with his defeated adversary and pray with him, as he would drift into death.

Thus civility holds no quarter for those who seek revenge or take pleasure in the demise of others.  Such an attitude can only diminish us as individuals and in the end, leave us prey to the same.  As the Welsh saying goes, “:If you plan revenge, dig two graves.”