Category: Pieces of My Heart: Meditations and Reflections by Neil Selden

OCEAN IN A TEACUP: Neil Selden, Therapist, Meditation Teacher – and Playright

     Neil Selden, who has worked as a therapist/counselor for over fifty and been at IPG for over twenty, is an inspiration to his clients and many of the staff.  As a young man he traveled to India and became the disciple of an Indian holy man called “Thakur.”  When Neil returned to the U.S. and became a therapist, he brought his spiritual outlook and practice into his therapy decades before ‘mindfulness meditation’ was a buzzword in the world of mental health. But Neil is also an author and playright, and one of his plays, a musical called “Ocean in a Teacup” is derived from his days as Thakur’s devotee.  The play has already been produced in New York to enthusiastic reviews, and Neil and others are trying to raise money to turn it into a Hollywood/Bollywood film.     Here is what Neil says about Thakur and the play: When people began calling him Thakur (pronounced ‘Tockoor’), or Master, he said he preferred two other possible meanings of the word: knocker (someone who knocks at your complexes) or cook (someone who creates the food that will nurture and heal and fulfill).  Born Anukul Chandra Chakravorty  at the end of the Nineteenth Century,… Read more »

Playing in the Unmind of Oneness by Neil Selden

I grow a poem, not much dripping yesterday’s kindness, even less tomorrow’s crimes, though all our memories are interchangeable treasures, and many indescribable futures await my yesterday: a sky at dawn in the heart of a plum, the drawn bow of a snowing moon, precious the palm of the hand on which I have carved affectionately all the names of God who is in spite of anyway

Poems by Neil Selden 1/11/2012

On Dharma Skis Last night’s dreams forgotten, Standing on the mountain of my morning meditation, every day, I launch myself skillfully over the snows of loving   One robin, one tree, One rose bush, one starling, One bee—which me Is me?   “I’m One,” said one Universe, to another, “What are you?” The other Universe replied: “I’m One, too.”

The Eight Verses of Thought Training, Part One

“It could be said that The Eight Verses for Training the Mind contains the entire essence of the Buddha’s teachings in a distinct form.” –H.H. the Dalai Lama Sometimes the Universe offers a sweet and amusing surprise in bestowing upon us unexpected gifts and precious treasures. I was visiting a severely paranoid client in his new apartment. I was his psychotherapist, part of a team whose mission was to help homeless, substance-abusing, mentally ill individuals, I knew to work with his strengths, skills and resources, as a way to ease the pain that drove him into acting out his paranoia. Recently released from a prison psychiatric setting, and grateful for our help in getting him off the street and into decent housing, his face lit up when he showed me his proudest possessions since becoming established in his very modest digs: an array of fishtanks covering one wall, and a growing collection of books on Buddhism that he delighted in and lovingly fondled. Glowing with the pride of ownership, he selected one of his buddhist paperbacks: “Here’s a beauty, Neil!” “I didn’t know you were interested in Buddhism.” He caressed the book and put it into my hands: “I haven’t… Read more »


“Let the grass grow through you; cherish the wild inside you.” — Robert McCrea Imbrie “To study the Way is to study the self; to study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things.” — Dogen Enlightenment? What is the ‘light’ in enlightenment? Is that ‘light’ in any way connected to the wildness and unpredictability of what we experience when we observe in a non-judgmental, non-striving, non-clinging way the streaming mental images, memories, mental constructions and thoughts of praise/ blame, gains/losses, success/failure, comfort/discomfort that constitute the flotsam and jetsam in the river of our mind? “Most men,” according to Thoreau, “live lives of quiet desperation.” Does enlightenment mean a light in the darkness of desperation and toxic feelings? Does it mean the LIGHTness of spirit, the openheartedness, the limitless love for self and all beings, the freedom from fear that meditation, in its own time and way, bestows as a grace? Has nature given us an appropriate fear of the future? Can we transform that fear into a thrilling ride in the amusement park of the mind? We fear the future because we don’t feel safe, but a scary ride at… Read more »


“Follow without hesitation, those who are the possessors of love, you shall surely achieve your good. Follow only those who try by strength, skill and tact for the welfare of all beings, you shall surely achieve your good. Follow them alone who never hurt anyone by word or deed, but never indulge evil, you shall surely achieve your good.” — Thakur When seeking an opportunity for growth and positive change, I think it might be best to approach a potential teacher, mentor, coach or therapist slowly, even warily, and to do so in a common-sense and investigative manner. For example, although I do not admire some of the personal predilections of Chogyam Trungpa, I have learned useful practices from reading several of his books and four books by his woman disciple Pema Chodran, who seems fresh, alive, existentially grounded in a practical approach to Buddhism, and very easy to understand. I’ve been impressed and grateful for Trungpa’s books and by his establishment of Naropa University in Colorado. But I know from a scientific point of view that I must take responsibility for testing and experimenting in a safe and common-sense way the ideas and practices he or anyone recommends, remembering… Read more »


“Laugh at your own suffering, and weep for the grief of others.” — Thakur “The deeper that sorrow carves into our being, the more joy we can contain.” — Kahlil Ghibran “I’m nobody, who are you? Are you nobody too? Good, then there’s a pair of us, don’t tell, they’ll banish us, you know.” — Emily Dickinson “No matter what our afflictions, we are meant by the Absolute Oneness that is God to laugh, to sing, to dance, these are the highest and purest forms of prayer.” —  Rabbi Baal Shem Tov “Think of the suffering of others, picturing vividly in your mind their sorrows and anxieties, so to awaken a deep compassion for them in your soul, and to help relieve their suffering.” — Buddha “Tell me about it if it’s something human. Let me into our grief.” — Robert Frost “And like a laughing string, on which mad fingers play, within a place of stone, be secret and exult, because, of all things known, that is most difficult.” — W.B. Yeats, To A Friend Whose Work Has Come To Nothing “The weak and wounded have a secret power to touch us, and if we open our hearts to them,… Read more »


Ah, dear, dear Pema Chodron (or whatever your name was when you were growing up in the Big Apple, where I too did my growing), I adore the freshness, vivacity and revelations of your teachings and the sharing of your own personal struggles. Each of the four books of yours that I have so vividly underlined and underlined and underlined, contain freshets of the friendly truths I have discovered through my teachers and my own meditation,truths I continue to rediscover. I have no doubt that your writings have invigorated my daily meditations. Gratefully, I find myself made more alive by words of yours that have penetrated and  nurtured my own psycho-spiritual practices.  Not long ago, meditating, after reading you, Pema, there flashed inside me a new answer to why I so often cry at the end of any beautiful, meaningful movie (e.g., Man On Fire, John Q,Tootsie, Now Voyager, Tender Mercies, Secrets and Lies). For years I have thought I cry because of the beauty of those movies,or because my ego jealously thinks I will never accomplish in my own plays and movies work so achingly, and hilariously, and sadly true and touching. Now I know another and deeper reason for my tears…. Read more »


“The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.” — Killingsworth and Gilbert “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable— if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things.” — Paul, the New Testament It seems that most people spend about half of their time thinking about being somewhere else, or doing something other than what they are doing, and this seemingly endless stream of thoughts ends up making them unhappy. According to the newest research by Harvard psychologists Killingsworth and Gilbert, reported in the journal Science, ‘mind wandering’ is generally the cause, not the consequence of reported unhappiness. So often clients have come to us to help them stop the painful, repetitive and often obsessive thoughts that create what they call stress, but which usually turns out to be some form of toxic emotion, generally anxiety, disappointment, anger, shame or disgust. To still that river of flotsam and jetsam thoughts, mental images, memories, mental constructions of the future, most people turn to sex, which does the trick momentarily, or some other totally absorbing activity, be it mountain… Read more »

Hello, Ego! A Meditation-Poem by Neil Selden

How easily the ego enriches delusion bitches at what is itches for what is not pitches its tent in the hot shit of jealousy ditches reality kitsch it applauds ignores love-ability hitches its wagon to whichever star happens to twinkle stitch by stitch and twitch by twitch until we itch for what IS bitch at what is not the IS pitch a tent in a youth beyond truth love the inanity of kitsch no more, nor the twinkling whore’s core of a door that is no door, and laugh the False Self into its most aimless interbeing of selflessness, without inflicting history upon the joys of misery   — Neil