Monthly Archives: December 2014

New Year Celebration at Pine Gate, Wednesday December 31, 2014

The most meaningful New Year’s Eve party in town at Pine Gate this Wednesday with a special tradition, which is the pinnacle of our yearly cycle.

Date:  Wednesday December 31, 2013

Time: 9.00pm – midnight

Place: Pine Gate Meditation Hall

Purpose: Ethical Dance for 2015

Program: Gather at 9.00pm, Recitation Ceremony 9.30pm, 11.00pm snacks and whooshing homework into the fire, mid-night Auld Lang Syne with fake champagne.

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The brash new year of 2015 meets the presence of the Bodhisattva revealed through a recitation of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. This is a complete map of ethics to navigate the difficult times we are in. The trainings are a guiding light to pierce through the darkness that threatens humanity and the planet. How do we choose to behave towards one another when things begin to collapse? Will we be steady and generous or think only of ourselves?  Pine Gate’s response is –  ” Enter The Bodhisattva. ”  There is homework – write down all you wish to move on from and what do you wish to move to. Then whoosh it into the fire with community support to make it so!

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

The Buddha practiced Socially Engaged Buddhism giving dharma talks to people in society.  His first dharma talk emphasized the Four Noble Truths, the Middle Way and the Engaged Nature of mindfulness practice.  He formulated the Five Wonderful Precepts for lay practitioners, which evolved into the Five Mindfulness Trainings. In 4th Century AD in India the Brahma-Net Sutra was created.  It was known as the “Moral Code of the Bodhisattvas.”  It was translated by the Indian monk, Kumarajiva, into Chinese during the 4th century AD and contained 3 groups of precepts:

  1. Do not what is evil (Do not create suffering)
  2. Do what is good (Do wholesome actions)
  3. Do good for others (Help all sentient beings, be of benefit to all sentient beings)

Contained within the Brahma-Net Sutra are the10 major precepts of wholesomeness and 48 minor precepts.  This was practiced in China, Vietnam, Japan and Korea as an early expression of Socially Engaged Buddhism

In 14th century Vietnam, the Bamboo Forest Master (formerly King Than Nhan Tong from 1258 – 1308), went from village to village teaching the Five Mindfulness Trainings and the 10 Wholesome Precepts derived from 4th century India, strongly influenced by the Brahma-Net sutra and the Buddha’s initial dharma talk. In the 20th century, Socially Engaged Buddhism was renewed in Vietnam and extended to the West.  Thich Nhat Hanh ordained the first 6 members of the Order of Interbeing in February, 1966 .  The 14 Mindfulness Trainings of the Order of Interbeing contain the 5 Mindfulness Trainings, the Noble Eightfold Path and are a renewal of the earlier Bodhisattva Precepts.  Thay brought them up to date to be in tune with our times, in step with modern historical, socio-economic and cultural developments yet resting on the foundation provided by the Buddha and 4th century expressions of socially engaged Buddhism.  They are Thay’s gift and guidance to mindfulness practitioners.

Screenwriter’s Recommendation for Trailing Sky Six Feathers

Trailing Sky Six Feathers by Ian Prattis is the tremendous story of Ian’s modern day spiritual awakening and discovery of his past life as Native American Eagle Speaker during the 18th century. Only through the intervention of his spirit wife Trailing Sky is Ian able to defeat his past vices and personal struggles to become the man he is today.

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It’s important to recognize the film adaptation will be “based on true events” and not a documentary or biopic. The novel’s incredible scope of events – from the 18th century Indian struggles to contemporary political movements – is fertile territory for great drama and will be adjusted and adapted to best serve the themes of the novel while creating a gripping film.

With all novel adaptations, it’s important to focus on creating a compelling beginning, middle and end that can be captured in two hours of screen time. The film treatment will condense the novel’s amazing depth of detail, life stories and lessons about politics, anima, Gaia, Buddhism, and much more to create a linear filmic narrative.

In the novel, the first chapters set in the 18th century will now be interspersed throughout the rest of the narrative, mirroring challenges Ian faces, culminating in his death in the 18th century and his discovery of his true self and relationship with Trailing Sky in the modern day.

Additionally, like other real life film adaptations, characters and events will be condensed, combined or expanded to serve the narrative of the story. The Native American sequences will be expanded considerably while Ian’s contemporary life will be streamlined to highlight certain important events.

Trailing Sky Six Feathers by Ian Prattis can be an excellent and exciting film with a unique Native American spiritual angle rarely seen on screen.

Order Book: http://www.ianprattis.com/TrailingSky.html

A Different Christmas Tree

The wonders of Christmas represented through lit up Christmas trees are a delight for children and adults. Yet the reality is that the festive season is also a time of great distress for hard pressed parents and children in need.  To dissipate the angst felt by many at Christmas this simple meditation works well.

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A simple exercise for children (and parents) who are overwhelmed is to think of a tall tree being hit by a violent storm.  The winds make the tree top sway dangerously and branches may break off.  Yet low down on the tree trunk there is very little movement.  The lower trunk of the tree remains steady, in spite of the violent storm.  Dear young friend, now think of yourself as that tree and the violent storm as the upset and despair that overwhelms you at times.  If you stay in the tree top with your mind and your reactions, then surely something will break.  This is dangerous.  You will lose it, say and do things that can harm others and yourself.  Now remember the lower trunk of the tree that remains steady in the midst of the violent storm.

Place your two hands flat on your belly, below your navel.  As you breathe in, say to yourself:

“I am aware of breathing in deeply to my belly.”

As you breathe out, say to yourself:

“I am aware of breathing out slowly from my belly.”

Do this for ten to twenty breaths and feel the calm settle in, and notice that the storm of strong emotion or frustration is not so strong.  You are now in a position NOT to act with violence and malice towards others or yourself.  Do try this the next time you feel overwhelmed.  Do NOT then take the step to bring harm to yourself or to others.  Stop. Chill.  Put your hands on your lower belly and breathe in and out with awareness that your hands are placed on the lower trunk of you, as a tree.

 

Redemption Screenplay Recommendation

This recommendation is a section of a Hollywood Treatment for a feature film.

REDEMPTION is a lyrical and moving tale of struggle, love, loss, transformation and hope. Its starkly gorgeous and remote island setting creates and reinforces the central themes of struggle, family, community and wonder at the beauty of the world, and its rich cast of characters offers numerous gripping interludes that brim with complex interpersonal drama. The book is short, but there is more than enough material here for a satisfying full-length film adaptation. If handled with the same care and grace as the novel, a film could be highly successful.

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The novel’s period and setting deftly capture a rural way of life that is rapidly vanishing from the western world; one ever present theme is that of economic hardship and encroaching industrialization versus the wild, natural beauty of the islands. If budget restrictions are required, a contemporary version of the story would not require major changes so long as those elements are carefully preserved. However, an adaptation would be best served by maintaining the mid-century trappings, which lend authenticity and the nostalgic mystique of a childhood forever lost.

The story centers on and is always connected to Callum Mor, but he is surrounded and influenced by a fantastic cast of family and fellow islanders. They provide a deep well of material; their conflicts and intrigues move the plot forward and offer a vast array of powerfully emotional individual moments. The story arcs of Andrew, Annie, Moira, Donald, Miss MacDougall, Brett and Catriona offer particularly beautiful and interesting counterpoints to one another and to Callum Mor. The characters’ hopes, desires and difficulties intermingle in a sad and realistic tapestry of human existence.

The narrative’s tone is generally quiet and introspective in the vein of Jarmusch’s BROKEN FLOWERS, but it is frequently punctuated by storms both literal and metaphorical. These interludes are capable of taking a potential adaptation to the heights of such grand romantic drama as THE ENGLISH PATIENT. Callum Mor and his people face many conflicts throughout the story, from poverty, mental illness, unwanted pregnancy, and battles with nature itself, to sexual assault and violent physical confrontation. A potential adaptation would have no difficulty keeping any prospective audience’s rapt attention on the action at hand, even as the deeper, more subtle messages of compassion and faith carefully unfold. Only the ending, if anything, could benefit from slightly less ambiguity; although the final scene of the villagers erasing their shame by building a home for the Hagens, compelled by Callum Mor’s peaceful faith, is an effective and striking image.

Overall, REDEMPTION would be well-suited to adaptation as a feature film. A film should retain the novel’s relatively complex web of conflicts, personalities and emotional undercurrents. If the book’s strengths are preserved, an adaptation has the potential to be a successful, intimate and intensely moving tale of human tragedy and triumph.

Great review at: http://www.magic-city-news.com/Book_Reviews_20/Martha_Stevens-David_Review_Redemption_by_Ian_Prattis19114.shtml

Jung, Consciousness & Default Position for the Mind

Extract from Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse

Front Cover Trailing Sky Six Feathers

I am familiar with Carl Jung’s exploration of consciousness – revealed in The Red Book an account of his personal explorations of consciousness from 1912 to 1930. He was quite amazing in his steadfastness to this process; some would say quite mad and foolish in the ‘midst of his brilliance. I employ a different tactic, as I have the benefit of exposure to the Buddhist teachings on consciousness that Jung did not have access to – though he navigated similar waters. The Red Book records Carl Jung’s exploratory practice of encountering whatever was delivered from his deep unconscious – the good, the bad and the ugly, as Clint Eastwood may well point out! Whatever arose, Jung would engage indiscriminately before writing about the experience and transposing it into art and poetry. The lack of discernment in this practice is where I part company from Jung, though I consider him to be one of the greatest minds in early psychology. I concur that something very significant could emerge from the depths of consciousness to speak directly to the contemporary crises of our times – a very Buddhist notion. Yet Jung’s strategy did not grasp the detailed teachings on consciousness that Thich Nhat Hanh had passed on to me through his talks, retreats and books.

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These teachings have been verified by Buddhist masters for over two thousand years, as they observed the changes taking place in their consciousness. They observed the same process in the training of their disciples, which further confirmed the validity of their own experience. This would not be a verification process that Western science would necessarily agree with, as examining the mind from a vantage point of an awakened mind is not something that Western science is equipped to do. The strategy I chose was to focus primarily on one aspect of my deep unconscious – the internal feminine face of earth wisdom, brought to my experience through training in the Native American tradition. I certainly shared Jung’s experience of encountering a self-correcting autonomous source of internal energy. A source of guidance that I should say frequently defied my logic and intellect. I also warmed to Jung’s courage when his findings found their way into Joseph Campbell’s creation of The Hero’s Journey. But I disagreed with Carl Jung’s approach and also on his views about the anima and the animus. Jung theorized that men had a female archetype – anima in their unconscious, while women had a male archetype – animus in theirs. In Jung’s view, it was essential to engage with the gender opposite buried in the unconscious. I would like to temper this view with the contention that both archetypes are present in men and women.  The transformation to wholeness for men and women requires engagement and balancing both of these two internal energies. It all depends on what we choose to feed and nurture and just how discerning we are about this.

I chose to concentrate on a particular autonomous source – the feminine face of the Earth Mother – and chose not to focus on the vast range of demonic and unwholesome competitors that lurk in my deep unconscious. The male archetype had been reinforced and ignited throughout the early part of my life – with often disastrous and unbalanced consequences. It was now time to provide a corrective navigation which was much more than the anima archetype proposed by Carl Jung and his followers. I also felt that this primary concentration diluted the energy of other autonomous forces that could be harmful, both to myself and to others.  This preference – I call it a strategy based on discernment – drew on my understanding of Buddhist teachings on consciousness. Here is a simplified view of these teachings.

Consciousness, in these teachings, has many levels. The deepest level is known as store consciousness – and it does exactly what the name implies. It stores everything – all our experiences, the information taken in by our senses, the memories of our ancestors and species. It contains absolutely everything; all possible mental formations, the darkest elements of ignorance, hate and greed as well as the enlightened mind of the Buddha, the Love of Jesus. The seeds of suffering passed on by our parents, inherited from our ancestors – are also stored without discrimination, as seeds of potential. These seeds become reality when we activate them with our thoughts and intentions or allow the triggers from life circumstances to do so. This all lies latent within us, buried, veiled and hidden. It is like the hard drive of a computer, hidden behind the screen, storing all the programs that are downloaded. This primary level of consciousness shapes our lives because we feed off it. In the teachings, store consciousness is considered to be the ground of definition for how our body, mind and environment manifest.

Then there is mind consciousness – our everyday rationality engaging with what it thinks reality is.  The mind consciousness is the apparatus that makes sense of, and orders, the information pouring through the senses. So mind interprets the information coming through the senses – sight, sound, smell, touch, perceptions. However, to complicate matters there is another level of consciousness that is absolutely key for our understanding. In store consciousness, the storage of seeds of potential that have characteristics of suffering, hate, anger, fear, ignorance and shame – the unwholesome seeds – glom together as an energy to form another level of consciousness called Manas. This is a distorting, delusional level of consciousness based on suffering and ignorance.  It corresponds to ego. It seeks to grasp and possess things, power, fame and celebrity, regarding itself as separate whereas the reality is its integration with all other levels of consciousness.

To maintain this sense of separateness, manas props up its importance with the acquisition of more and more “stuff.” This is hidden under false perceptions of reality. Does this sound all too familiar? If not, just turn on the daily news. But here is the kicker – manas regulates mind consciousness. This means that how we interpret the world through our senses takes its cue from a distorting, delusional level of consciousness that runs the mind. Our view of reality is always skewed and off line while manas holds sway over the mind. The energy of manas is fostered by our dysfunctional habits that create suffering. It comes from our cravings, attachments and delusions, which find their form in how we speak, act and think. It is the energy of fear, addiction, hatred and desire and it never shuts up.

This state of suffering and delusional affairs remains in place until mind consciousness decides to do something about it. Mind can choose to switch on the light of mindfulness practice – healing and transforming practices based on meditation. So the mind brings in concentration and insight, making meditation processes a daily and valid option in everyday life.  This is in radical contrast to being run on automatic pilot by manas as the generator. The mind is now choosing which seeds of potential from store consciousness to nurture and bring into awareness. Mind consciousness, instead of being enslaved by manas, now becomes like a fresh memory stick creating new programs and concentrations. It delivers them as downloads to the hard drive of store consciousness.  In other words – re-written programs replace the old worn tracks that only cultivate manas. We dance to a different music. All levels of consciousness are malleable so they can be reshaped by human concentration. Mindfulness is a necessary food for the reshaping. Its application can bring about an end run round manas by changing and defusing the programs and seeds that enabled manas to come into being in the first place. Thanks to this freshness and discerning concentration and insight, we can retrain the mind with every act of meditation. We start to come into alignment with universal energy of a higher order.

Order Book: http://www.ianprattis.com/TrailingSky.html

A Tale of Two Books

I recently offered a talk on my two books published this year – Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse and Redemption – beginning with an excerpt from the Blue Ink Review of the first one.

“In this spiritual exploration, a highly educated man becomes a humble seeker, works painstakingly through the events of two fascinating lifetimes, and emerges with a message for humankind.

Prattis, whose childhood was marred by sexual abuse, set out to comprehend his present life through his study of religious beliefs of indigenous peoples. This led him to encounters with contemporary Native American sages who forced him to drop his intellectual approach and accept his lustrous spiritual experiences as real, not dreams or self-induced visions. The merging of the parallel spirit world of Native American religion into his current incarnation put many disparate elements of his life in perspective and facilitated his reunion with Trailing Sky Six Feathers, “the greatest medicine woman the Southwest has ever known.”

Though this fantastic tale leaves room for skepticism, most who read Prattis’ latest work will be swept up in this saga of self-examination, revelation, and indeed, exhilarating global adventure. Prattis writes with erudition, charm and humor, ridiculing his own blunders as much as he praises his teachers. Prattis presents a unique viewpoint hewn from hard-won exploration of traditional wisdom, offering all of us the overarching advice to “awaken spiritually” so that we may “create a stable economy and way of life” on Mother Earth.”

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This book follows my spiritual journey as I travel across the globe throughout the course of two lifetimes. It illuminates issues that will impact the human race for generations. I believe that our culture needs to awaken spiritually in order to ensure survival. The darkness before us does offer an opportunity, a chance to remake ourselves by transforming our minds. Instead of being eaten up by the abyss we can choose to Awaken Spiritually, for that transforms the one thing we can control – our minds.

There are two main characters that open the book in 18th century Arizona – Trailing Sky Six Feathers and Eagle Speaker. When readers encounter Trailing Sky Six Feathers, my Muse from the past, they meet a powerful, relentless woman who transforms my life in reality in the 21st century, not in historical fiction.  Eagle Speaker is her husband and also my transformation vehicle. He dies cradled in her arms in a medicine wheel in the year 1777. As he takes his last breath, Trailing Sky whispers to him:

“I will find you my husband, I will find you.” And she does 231 years later, though not in the manner that a romantic may anticipate!

The story is a bit like Indiana Jones meets the Buddha with a dash of Celestine Prophecy. It shines light on the darkest elements of the human condition, including my own. This challenging journey has me stumbling through the first part of life, then standing strong in my own sovereignty in the latter part. I navigate past and present life experiences from brutal raids on Indian settlements in 18th century Arizona, insane sea voyages off the Scottish Hebrides in the 20th century to surrender to The Muse in the 21st century.

My challenging journey includes shamanic healings of childhood sexual abuse, guru training as well as a near death experience in an ashram in India. Trailing Sky Six Feathers initiates a dream vision in 2008 that caps my slow process of remembering a clear mosaic of experience stretching back in time two hundred and thirty one years. Past life memories collide head on with the present, all thanks to the persistence of Trailing Sky Six Feathers, the Muse who refused to give up. Karma is reversed. The internal battles are over and I begin to live life as a Meditation for Gaia. The relentless shadowing by this engaging Muse brings understanding not only to me, but to anyone engaged in overcoming the darkness of their past.

The other book – Redemption – was a novel I first wrote in 1975.  It was soon forgotten, as back then, I did not know how to get published. The manuscript was rediscovered by accident in 2011. I found it in an old filing cabinet where it was gathering dust. I could scarcely believe it was such a good read. I requested my wife and a couple of friends with critical eyes to read it through, just in case I was dreaming. One friend cried all the way through, the other mused about the film to be made. Modern technology enabled the yellowing typed manuscript to be transformed into a computer-ready document.

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It required attention ranging from spelling and typos to small additions from my writer’s eye some forty years later, yet stands pristine as when first written. The story is an allegory for the life difficulties I experienced at that time, forty years ago. The surprise for me was how could I have written such a book while in a desperate state of mind? I was a total mess with a failing marriage in the Hebrides, Scotland, and trying to maintain a career at Carleton University in Canada. I was not doing a good job with either. It was also laced with insights that I did not cotton on to until much later.

Presently, almost 15 million adults in North America suffer from some form of depression, enhanced through alcoholism and other mental afflictions.  I believe that the power of inner strength can help such wounded individuals overcome their worldly crutches. It took me a while to come to these realizations and the avenue was through this book I wrote some 40 years ago.  Redemption is in fact an allegory for depression and life difficulties that I once experienced, though I did not realize it at the time. The themes of mental illness and depression are writ large in this book – a turbulent Hero’s Journey to emancipation.

This novel is set in The Hebrides, islands off the northwest coast of Scotland, with startling cycles of maturing and downfall of the main epic character Callum Mor, a gifted child, master mariner, derelict drunk, who eventually gains wisdom from a hard life’s journey. He enters the dark zone of alcoholism and withdraws from society. With only his animals keeping him this side of sanity, he survives in a bleak solitude. Until a family with a small girl seeking refuge from a storm come to his house. Slowly, he edges away from his self-destruction. He saves the girl’s life in a blizzard. At this point, a glimmer of awakening dawns in him, and this sets the stage for the final drama that illuminates the resilience of the human spirit.

Laced with grim humor, the story has nature’s harsh and beautiful rhapsody as the background for tragic human failings. It applies universally to human suffering in a chaotic world. The triumph of human decency provides Redemption rather than giving up. Awakening transforms everything.

 

These books can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Xlibris websites. All Order options are on my website www.ianprattis.com

Christmas Gifts and Consumerist Madness

The Christmas season is upon us, following Thanksgiving and Black Friday. All three occasions provide opportunities for the best and the worst within us to come out and play. It is mostly the worst that emerges – greed, selfishness, consumer madness. With the festive season now going full blast, let us all begin a reassessment that all of us can do.  It is time to move on from being so self-absorbed and distracted. Let us find the opportunities to locate ourselves in something bigger – a cause, respecting the earth, making our thinking better, being kinder and more generous.

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How about examining our habit energies around gift giving and learn to give gifts that really make a difference? Why not begin by participating less in the expected excess of mindless consumerism of Christmas buying? I have taken that small step and no longer buy Christmas gifts. Instead, I present donations and gift certificates in the name of family, grand-children and friends to provide education for a girl in Afghanistan, rebuild forests in Haiti, provide literacy packs and mosquito nets where most needed, support Habitat for Humanity building houses for the destitute and so on. Our gifts then become bigger than our self-absorbed egos and can lead to creating happiness for less fortunate people. My grand-children proudly take their Christmas certificates to school for Show-and-Tell periods. They are very articulate as they play it forward with their class mates and teachers.

This then leads to the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and others at this time of global crises. If you do not realize the crises staring us in the face – Climate Change, anarchy, rise of fascism etc – please wake up! The gift to search for at Christmas is Freedom and it involves stepping firmly onto the Bodhisattva path made clear by the Buddha and other great teachers.

It is time for the Bodhisattva to enter the 21st century as a paradigm and archetype for individual and collective action. This enables us to be rooted in our own sovereignty and deeply transform ourselves and our civilization. We nurture this paradigm by cultivating two aspects that presently lie dormant within us. The first aspect is Interbeing – knowing that we interconnect with everything – the earth, oceans, forests and mountains, all species and most of all – with all people. Interbeing creates harmony and unity and destroys the ego. The second aspect is Non-discrimination, which carries the energy of compassion, and this combination threatens selfishness. Taken together – these buried aspects, once they manifest from within us, open pathways and bridges to build a better world.

How do we do this? We cultivate the energies of transformation – Mindfulness, Concentration and Insight. Always – at every opportunity we bring Interbeing and Non-Discrimination to the forefront of our daily lives. In this way we shape the future of the 21st century as we begin to live differently – here and now. We are not intimidated by present crises. We are certainly shocked and hurt by such circumstances but are in fact much stronger than we think. “Enter the Bodhisattva” is the guiding paradigm for our lives. I allude to Bruce Lee’s classic – Enter the Dragon – which brings the fierceness of the warrior to the fore and the determination of a saint to overcome tragedy and set a new course. It takes practice, skillfulness and creative vision – but we are equal to the task. Nelson Mandela thought so. His 1994 inaugural speech laid out the territory clearly when he opened with:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us….

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

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