Archive for November, 2008
I am not a Buddhist, despite most of these blogs. The teachings of Buddhism however, have a significant psychological and philosophical influence in my life for which I am most grateful – it is a most auspicious teacher and has been since childhood (In my Christian upbringing I was always attracted to the book of “Job”; he was my favorite old testament character along with “Joseph” and the most meditative Buddhist in Judaism, while Joseph was the most mindful). I posted below 2 excerpts from this weeks Tricycle’s Daily Dharma and a quote from Jack Kornfield’s “Buddha’s Little Instruction Book”. For me the are about the paradox of embracing in order to “let go” (the latter of which is a theme in my recent blogs). I hope they offer you as much insight as they have me:
We are in actual fact reborn every moment with new thoughts and feelings, and we bring with us the karma that we made in the past moments. If we were angry a moment ago, we are not going to feel good immediately. If we were loving a moment ago, we would be feeling fine now. Thus we live moment to moment with the results of our karma.
Every morning, particularly, can be seen as a rebirth. The day is young, we are full of energy and have a whole day ahead of us. Every moment we get older and are tired enough in the evening to fall asleep and die a small death. All we can do then is toss and turn in bed, and our whole mind is dreamy and foggy. Everyday can be regarded as a whole lifespan, since we can only live one day at a time; the past is gone and the future may or may not come; only this rebirth, this day, this moment, is important.
–Ayya Khema, When the Iron Eagle Flies
The mirror of death
According to the wisdom of Buddha, we can actually use our lives to prepare for death. We do not have to wait for the painful death of someone close to us or the shock of terminal illness to force us into looking at our lives. Nor are we condemned to go out empty-handed at death to meet the unknown. We can begin, here and now, to find meaning in our lives. We can make of every moment an opportunity to change and to prepare–wholeheartedly, precisely, and with peace of mind–for death and eternity. In the Buddhist approach, life and death are seen as one whole, where death is the beginning of another chapter of life. Death is a mirror in which the entire meaning of life is reflected.
–Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
Each Morning we are born again.
What we do today is what matters most
But why do I desire 2 days? *smirk*. If you ever had one day like this I know you get it. I am thankful to every “thing” that has pointed me in this direction. Deep Joy
Better than a hundred years
110. Better than a hundred years lived in vice, without contemplation, is one single day of life lived in virtue and in deep concentration.
111. Better than a hundred years lived in ignorance, without contemplation, is one single day of life lived in wisdom and in deep concentration.
112. Better than a hundred years lived in idleness and in weakness is one single day of life lived with courage and powerful striving.
113. Better than a hundred years not considering how all things rise and pass away is one single day of life if one considers how all things rise and pass away.
114. Better than a hundred years not seeing one’s own immoertality is one single day if one sees one’s own immortality.
115. Better than a hundred years not seeing the Path supreme is one single day of life if one sees the Path supreme.
— The Dhammapada, trans. by Juan Mascaro
How do you recognize change?
It is a valid question. How does your own “filter” skew(or screw) what you see? Do you have a preconceived idea of what change should look like? Does “I Already Know What I Want To See” keep you from seeing?
I have needed to shut off the internet news and “web-surfer posts”, because everyone is screaming, “See, there is no change. Here’s “old” Washington again”.
So I needed to sit with this. Just like I needed to sit with whether to support Obama (not my original choice) when everyone was yelling to go with him. I have found value in quieting the mind chatter, remaining in touch with my core. To just be still and sit.
In sitting, I can remain open. The more open I remain, the less my filter gets in the way of listening and observing. And I am at a part of my life where I not only enjoy but I value this child-like quality. The quality of not knowing and thereby, Learning something.
Here are some changes I’ve noticed:
Since even before his election, Obama has reached out from the beginning to people who were rivals during his candidacy (specifically Clinton and McCain). This IS a change in Washington. A change I have desired and wanted (and might have missed if I only listened to the focus of the news media and not been of quiet mind). This reaching out is a HUGE deal.
The above is also an example of negotiating PEACE.
Another change I’ve desired.
There can be no international peace if we do not attempt to bridge the differences within our own party(s). I have not seen an effort from either side in a very long time, like the effort I have seen by our President Elect. This process gives me Hope.
I have seen a man not rely on his own ego, nor a narrow definition of Change as he contemplates his cabinet. I see someone who is willing to view history and see what has worked, chosen people who have made wise decisions in past administrations and honored their talents by choosing them to serve. I don’t know about you, but this is quite a change from the last 8 years and has the great potential to continue change by promoting peace and stabilizing our economy.
Finally, I have seen a man who has not reacted to racial slurs or religious inaccuracies from within our nation and more so from overseas – specifically from terrorists. He has been baited. He also shows no sign of taking the bait. Again, this is quite a change. A maturity I have rarely witnessed the last 8 years.
So here we are only a few weeks after the election and people are already saying that there is no change and our future president has not even been sworn in. My view is different. I am not expecting an administration free of conflicts or imperfect decisions. I hope to remain open, so that I can witness and acknowledge changes as they unfold, whether they are the changes “I expect” or more importantly, the changes I do not expect – and therefore have more difficulty seeing.
I consider myself a novice, no make that a pre-novice, when it comes to sitting practice.
I am not very disciplined when it comes to sitting. Both my mind and body are acclimated towards moving.
I am neither proud nor humiliated by that fact. That is just the way it is. It is the current me as I appear in the now.
I like what sitting does for me. It benefits so many areas of my life: peace, calm, energy, wisdom, letting go, better sleep, increased compassion, kindness, better prioritizing, etc. I just don’t always make time for it because that initial breaking through mind is uncomfortable. And most of my life is dedicated to being comfortable.
Recently I rediscovered some practices that make sitting easier. Certain forms of breathing that engage kinesthetic movement help me. Like Thich Nhat Hahn’s walking meditation, “I breathe in, I move my right foot. I breath out, I move my left foot.” Only taking a step with each breath. (Even doing 10 breaths this way changes everything)
The most effective for me however, is a simple and uncomplicated Qi Gong or Tai Chi movement. For some reason there is nothing more effective for me than engaging my body:
in a specific stance
through specific (and uncomplicated) hand and arm movements (again, I’m a novice, this isn’t about a big routine)
through simple breathing
and through the movement of unseen energy (Qi)
Nothing quiets my mind quicker.
Increases awareness by letting both thoughts and body tension fall away.
Connects me to the Heavens and Earth
Allows whatever remains to appear less threatening (ah, there’s that comfort level-thing again)
Transitions me into sitting. (the mindfulness and the meditation have already begun with the movements)
Here is a passage that reminded me of why the above is so important:
It is not merely enthusiasm that erodes when practice declines. Your body and mind can go out of tune. You are no longer a vessel of insight. The cardinal can sing; the wind can move the ironwood trees delicately; a child can ask a wise question–and where is your center? How can you respond? It is time to put yourself back in tune, to be ready for experiences that make life fulfilling. Take up the advice for beginners. Put your zazen pad somewhere between your bathroom and your kitchen. Sit down there in the morning after you use the bathroom and before you cook breakfast. You are sitting with everyone in the world. If you sit only briefly, you will have at least settled your day.
-Robert Aitken, Encouraging Words
BTW (I follow a practice similar to this video “Bone Marrow Cleanse” – so easy to learn, you can quickly get the moves down and no longer have need to follow the video, and just follow your own rhythm:
So I’m reading today’s Tricycle quote and have a total brain fart. I mean I go completely blank after reading the word “equanimity”. If I am paying attention, this going blank usually means something – whether it’s that I need more sleep, I’m over worked, or that the essence of the the word is speaking to my unconscious mind. Doesn’t matter, point is – it’s about paying attention, a little mindfulness – make time for more sleep or cut back on work or look deeper into the meaning of the word.
(BTW, here’s the on-line definition of the word: equa·nim·ity (ek′wə nim′ə tē, ē′kwə-) noun, the quality of remaining calm and undisturbed; evenness of mind or temper; composure Etymology: L aequanimitas < aequanimis < aequus, even, plain + animus, the mind: see animal.)
After reading the passage again it was definitely the latter. Here’s the passage; you can read why it spoke to me after, if you’re interested.
The near enemies are qualities that arise in the mind and masquerade as genuine spiritual realization, when in fact they are only an imitation, serving to separate us from true feeling rather than connecting us to it. . . .
The near enemy of loving-kindness is attachment. . . . At first, attachment may feel like love, but as it grows it becomes more clearly the opposite, characterized by clinging, controlling and fear.
The near enemy of compassion is pity, and this also separates us. Pity feels sorry for “that poor person over here,” as if he were somehow different from us. . . .
The near enemy of sympathetic joy (the joy in the happiness of others) is comparison, which looks to see if we have more of, the same as, or less than another. . . .
The near enemy of equanimity is indifference. True equanimity is balance in the midst of experience, whereas indifference is withdrawal and not caring, based on fear. . . .
If we do not recognize and understand the near enemies, they will deaden our spiritual practice. The compartments they make cannot shield us for long from the pain and unpredictability of life, but they will surely stifle the joy and open connectedness of true relationships.
– Jack Kornfield, A Path with Heart
Yeah, this touched a nerve. You see I haven’t always been good at confrontation. It throws me at times, takes me out of my center (I mean have you met my dad? lmao). So I can be avoidant. I can fight a good fight. I can usually win an argument. My desire however, is to really be at peace – while remaining in – and continuing with – the conflict (whether the conflict is with myself or projected onto another). And I gotta say, I’ve come far along in this journey.
I have also seen this trait in many self proclaimed “peace loving” spiritual teachers. They claim equanimity but are really just conflict-avoidant (and because I also have tendencies in this direction, these teachers tend to really get on my nerves and push my buttons. In other words, they bug the shit outta me, lol). What’s funny is I can handle the narcissistic grandiose spiritual teacher who will usually never avoid conflict. Cause with them, what you see it what you get.
This is much more deceptive; it is a masquerade. It is the near enemy to spiritual growth.
Well, now that I’ve analyzed it, haha – maybe I can sit with it. Chances are indifference is disguised as equanimity somewhere in my life. I’m just not sure where yet, I don’t see it . . . but I bet my friends can tell me; I usually keep them close *wink*
A few posts back I wrote about an eloquent saying I had come across:
“Open your hand and let the dead wood drop”
I still love that metaphor. Not chucking the wood, not chopping it up into pieces; just opening my hand and letting it drop to the ground, right where I am standing.
I never have any problem accumulating shit. Building up my ego. I live sparsely compared to most Americans; I live like a king compared to people in underdeveloped countries – it’s a matter of perspective. Most of my accumulations are in my head and heart. I need regular clearings. Spiritual enemas. A washing out of all that accumulated waste that keeps me from taking in what I need in life. I walk around with a clenched fist. Just open your fuck’n hand already, John. Sit down and be still.
I say the above with a smile. My background was/is about perfectionistic German anger (apparently the only emotion that was “natural” for most family members to convey). The reason? Be tough, the world’s a harsh fuck’n place; you need to be tough to survive, to watch your back (although the “hard work” ethic has served me well too). I have to grin; that way of thinking creeps up every now and then, but in another sense it is so foreign.
My “hard work ethic” rears up at times too, it tells me to “doing something” (like go chop up the dead wood and analyze it *grin*). Damn, it’s dead wood – let it go, John.
I don’t beat myself up anymore and at the same time I am still able to hold myself to standards of development – in a friendlier way ( a bit more compassion towards myself). Sometimes a metaphorical slap upside the head does me well though, other times a metaphorical friendly conversation over a cup of tea does me well. I am more reactive to the former and tend to be far more attentive when the latter is used.
It’s just a reaction to how I was raised. A part of my psychological evolution. Not unfamiliar to many of us. It’s a common way to be raised.
Another part of being raised in my family is to view life as black and white. Fuck colors, there’s hardly any room for grey, haha. This has challenged me to let go even more. Letting go means choices, means possibility.
Who doesn’t love a world with possibilities? To be able to say “I don’t Already know”. To be open.
I came across another “open hand” writing that again gave me yet another choice. Not just one way. It was like a slap upside the head that stopped me in my tracks so I could sit down with a comforting cup of jasmine green tea *smirk*. (It also works well regarding a “clinging” that comes with our financial times right now or a “clinging” to the last 8 years of our political climate)
Tricycle’s Daily Dharma
Sure someone can take the coin, or not. Someone can add to the coin, or not. Willingness. Possibility. Choice. Openness. (and maybe even letting go)
Have a good one and thanks for stopping by.