Living Life Fully, Finding Sanity and Goodness in the Unpredictable was intended originally as a book for prison inmates, with whom I have worked since 1993.
In composing the book, I began to realize that what I really have to give is my training in teachings and methods associated with the sitting practice of meditation, notably in the Buddhist tradition.
Once I realized that I would be writing such a book, it also became obvious that it need not be restricted to prisoners, but could and should apply to everyone trapped in the prison of his or her own mind.
So, in the end, I wrote for those on the margins—not only prisoners in prison, but also the elderly, the disabled, teenagers, anyone isolated for physical or emotional reasons.
My thought was that if a person were stranded on a desert island, and needed one resource to enter the gate of the Dharma in order not only to survive emotionally, but to flourish, this book might see them through.
I should add that the book is not only introductory, but also serves as a reminder of the profundity of the teachings altogether.
The book contains both views, so that we can see where we are going clearly, in terms of our personal evolution, and also method, as the practical means to go forward.
It is not a particularly religious or even spiritual work. It is intended simply as practical, in the sense that the ideas and means can be put to use immediately, without a lot of conceptual overlay, or the need to believe in some system of thought.
One need not be Buddhist to follow it, although there is a certain amount of Buddhist terminology, which tends to deconstruct the language of egotistical thinking, which is part of our common cultural inheritance.
The insights of meditation are expressible in human terms, and they apply to everyone, regardless of belief system and cultural orientation.
>>From Chapter 12, “Freedom of the Mind”
“True freedom transcends ideas of being free,
Like space, always present, unobstructed by the world and worldly things.
Prisoner, attachment to appearances is all that binds you—
Totally bound, be totally free!
Those truly free don’t follow fantasies
Of a utopia, apart from this;
Yet they cannot hide their joy.
In a moment of awakening,
One cannot ignore others’ suffering.”
>>From Chapter 22, “Using Every Resource”
“The journey is one of making friends with ourselves through the sitting practice of meditation, through study, and through the application of the insights of meditation in everyday life. We have been exploring the experience of bondage and liberation—bondage to samsara, the whirl of confusion that causes us so much suffering, and liberation from samsara, or nirvana, or the attainment of peace. That liberation has different levels: momentary liberation from the process of conflicted emotionality and discursive thinking; and the more sustained continuity of equilibrium, which comes from ceasing to resist impermanence and groundlessness, a state of confidence and humor about the circumstances in which we find ourselves. The innate state is imbued with kindness toward ourselves and others—the experience of awakened heart, bodhichitta. As inspiring as it is, discovering bodhichitta is still only a glimpse; there is more work to be done.”
>>From Chapter 28, “Meditation in Action”
“We humanize ourselves, and in so doing, humanize our ‘brave new world, and all the people in it,’ as Prospero famously said in the final lines of Shakespeare’s final play, “The Tempest.” There is no sarcasm in this remark. We find our world capable of exchange. At the same time, the Mahayana path must become one of precision strength and agility, as the consequences of our actions are greater than when we act purely on our own behalf. With a deepening sense of having no territory to defend, life becomes a constantly creative act.”
Bill will be giving brief talks, readings and book signings on the following days:
>>Thursday, Feb 21st, 7:30 p.m. at The Tattered Cover Bookstore, 2526 East Colfax, Denver CO
>>Wednesday, Feb 27th, 7:30 p.m. at The Boulder Bookstore, 1107 Pearl St., Boulder, CO
Bill Karelis graduated from Harvard College with High Honors in 1969. He began to practice meditation in 1972 and met his root teacher, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, in 1974. He subsequently pursued a career in business, as he trained in both the Buddhist and Shambhala paths. When Trungpa Rinpoche passed away in 1987, he continued to study and practice meditation intensively with many other great teachers of the Vajrayana tradition from Tibet. In 1993 Mr. Karelis initiated a non-profit organization to propagate the insights of meditation in prison systems internationally, including training case workers in the Polish prison system for two years. He has been traveling the world for 20 years presenting meditation in society at large; his itinerary can be found at www.thebluepancake.org. He enjoys the artistic disciplines of poetry, photography and calligraphy, and lives with his wife, Brigitta, in Boulder.
Photo: P. Seidler
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