Thursday, December 6, 2007
The effects of recent concentrated practice seem to be lingering. So how do I not let it slip away? The obvious answer is to keep going. Why stop because of simply flipping a calendar page ? Since the retreat I speak of was not at all a conventional “retreat” retreat, and one of the primary, and most challenging, aspects was to carry it with me wherever I went, why not just continue? These thoughts kept me company as I stood in line. And stood…and stood. Fortunately the line was long and allowed me time to reflect on a newly discovered willingness to receive each moment as it comes. Or to try anyway.
And so I am stepping back from my imaginary perception of chaos and misery this holiday season. Instead I will see the Dhamma. And I will smile.
May we all find peace, tranquility and wisdom.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
The best and easiest way to escape from a rip current is, basically, to do nothing. Relax and go with the flow, but with mindfulness. Relax with awareness and wait for the current to stop. It will cease in it's own time, which is surprisingly fast. So the best course of action is as little action as possible. Easy to say, difficult to actually "do".
Meditation is like this. Dhamma practice is like this. Life is like this. We think we're on solid ground - in control. But there isn't anything really "solid" about any of it. And so we're uncomfortable, unsure, unsteady. If I stand in the water and actually pay attention, there is a continuous push and pull. Sometimes barely even noticeable, sometimes rough and very strong. Mind is the same. Sometimes just barely brushing by and sometimes knocking one flat! Mindfulness - or the lack of it - determines whether we get pulled under and drown or go with the flow until the turbulence begins to subside, calms and finally ceases. This, perhaps, is where control can be found. Not the control of wanting and struggling, but the control of gently releasing the desire for control. Being with the way it is without making it personal, so not trying to change it into anything other than what it is.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
I don't have a Buddha rupa. I don't have a shrine. I've never felt the need. Plus I just can't invision zipping over to the local Target and putting Buddha in the shopping cart along with my paper towels, dog biscuits and new bath mat. A friend of mine has a little Buddha paperweight on his desk. Actually it's Hotei, but it doesn't really matter. To him it's a cool little ornament. He thinks it's cute and unique. And he thinks it's "Buddha". No need to get into explanations and corrections here. It's just a paperweight.
Everything the Buddha taught is right here for me to learn. I may not always see it right away, or fully understand. But I know it's here all the same. I've mentioned before that I need reminders for dates and times. I've got calendars, notes on the fridge, and alarms set on my phone. I still forget things. Remembering the Buddha isn't difficult at all. No reminders needed.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Friday, November 2, 2007
This is a particularly challenging aspect of practice for me. I do not live in a culture that is geared for such things. And the potential for problems that comes with being the only Buddhist in the family seems endless at times. I had never realized just how often others make plans that include me - and the opposite of renunciation - until I decided to observe the Uposatha. It requires a healthy mixture of mindfulness, compassion, equanimity... and a whole lot of creativity with a generous sprinkling of flexibility. While I am not always completely successful in my efforts to avoid rocking the boat while going against everyone else's flow, gradually whatever perceived disturbances there may be for all appear to be diminishing.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
I was drawn to Buddhism because I have been drawn to it at sometime in the past, maybe numerous times. I am keenly aware of how fortunate it is that I have the opportunity to continue. That it took around 45 years to recognize this path and to remember that it is where I belong is quite telling, I think. No, I'm not remembering past lives! But there is a deep sense of familiarity and safety. Much like the feeling one has when finally returning home after a long and difficult journey, or finding ones way after being lost. That I was born in a "non-Buddhist" family and country speaks volumes to me of the power of kamma, past and present. Something was obscuring my view during all those years. Hopefully things will continue to clear and there will be sufficient wholesome kamma to allow me to continue.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
If you imagine a monkey hurling fastballs for all he's worth, you'll have a pretty clear picture of what meditation has been like for me lately. This was the image that popped up as I sat there yesterday morning growing more and more frustrated and distracted. Obviously there were some lingering fragments from watching a playoff game on TV recently that helped fill in the blanks. At any rate, this began to come into focus and things started to shift. Other than the fact that I sometimes have a bizarre imagination, what does this mean?
Well, I know this little guy! I've willingly, even eagerly played his game for a long, long time. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure I taught him the game in the first place. And he likes it! He's good at it! He's in a groove, as they say! And apparently he's not at all happy that I don't want to play anymore. So the more I tried to reject him and ignore him, the harder and faster he threw. Ouch! I turned my back and got nailed! But, when I turned around and stopped trying to deny that he was there, the barrage ended. Ok, he didn't just pack up and leave, and he's got a lot of stuff left. But he seems content, for the time being anyway, to lob one my way once in a while instead of trying to take my head off with it.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
When I look back at my life to this point, it's rather mind boggling to see how many times I've just charged full speed ahead into the same walls...over and over and over again, surprised each and every time that the result is always the same. Talk about a dummy! It's as if at birth some kind of auto pilot switch was activated and I can't seem to override it.
The Buddha offered us a way out of suffering, and he basically said, "Don't just take my word for it, test this out yourself and see if it works for you". So why is there any hesitation at all in getting on with the test? What could be more important than the end of suffering? If my house was on fire would I wait until my favorite TV show was over before getting out and calling for help? If I was having a heart attack or began hemorrhaging would I decide to finish reading an interesting article or even listening to a Dhamma talk before calling 911? No, of course not. Those threats would be obvious, no analysis necessary, mindfulness not even required. Then how is it that I keep getting drawn in by those familiar walls that I keep slamming in to? I'm afraid I continue to spend a lot of time just going through the motions - reacting to the world around me without proper analysis of where the reactions are coming from as they begin. Lately I have been learning to put it together, and just that much is an improvement. But there is still a delay in recognition. So often I find myself poking through the wreckage to identify the cause instead of seeing it coming and preventing it in the first place.
And so the testing continues.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
I don't think my advancing age was much of a factor ?? but things started off with a bang - literally. While walking out of the kitchen with a much needed mug of coffee, one of the dogs stepped on the back of my flip-flop. I don't think I flipped exactly, but I did flop! Not surprising I suppose when 100 lbs of enthusiastic canine decides to stand in the same shoe you're trying to walk in. By the way, I didn't spill a drop of my coffee, which defies gravity at the very least. But I didn't get to drink it either. Lesson #1 Pay attention to what you're doing and where you're going - and who's following close behind instead of trying to sip coffee in route.
So there I was on the floor, and there was pain. But for the first time in my life there were none of the stories and add ons that usually go along with pain. There was pain but no suffering. I was OK. A visit to the emergency room confirmed what I already knew - broken ankle. Chipped is more accurate. I'm not a "high drama" kind of person anyway, but this sense of calm and acceptance was new for me. I saw this as an opportunity for practice. It was temporary.
I managed pretty well scooting around with my new crutches. There wasn't much I couldn't do, and what I was unable to get to could wait. It's important to note that this all happened on a Sunday which meant that my husband was at home with me and was doing a lot for me that I wasn't really noticing. Things were about to change. The next morning when I woke up he had already left for work. I happily hobbled into the kitchen and put on a pot of coffee. While it brewed I let the dogs out for their morning business, and even tidied up a bit. A bit of pride was beginning to creep in. "Look at me, I'm still in control here". Of course I didn't see this happening at the time. Lesson # 2 Ego will push mindfulness out of the way if bored or threatened, or just because it can. It can also cause you to take the help given by others for granted.
This illusion of mindfulness and patient endurance came to a screeching halt when I poured my coffee and suddenly realized that it is impossible to carry a mug of hot coffee while using crutches! It was striking how quickly the whole morning became all about my pain and my ankle and these damn crutches and I want my coffee now!! The truly wonderful part of this mini meltdown, as strange as that may sound, was that I could actually see it happening. Powerless to stop it, I watched it, held it, and it naturally subsided on it's own. All in all a beneficial experience.
Lesson #3 Pain is a natural part of being human. Suffering is optional. It is when mind interjects ideas of self that suffering appears. Oh, and it seems that I have a much higher tolerance for physical pain than I do for not getting my way, which was surprising to learn after all these years. Fertile ground for practice.
And so it goes.
Thursday, July 5, 2007
I am of the nature to age, I have not gone beyond aging.
I am of the nature to sicken, I have not gone beyond sickness.
I am of the nature to die, I have not gone beyond dying.
All that is mine, beloved and pleasing, will become otherwise, will become separated from me.
I am the owner of my kamma, heir to my kamma, born of my kamma,
Related to my kamma, abide supported by my kamma.
Whatever kamma I shall do, for good or for ill -
Of that I will be the heir.
Thus we should frequently recollect.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
If only I didn't have to do this or that or the other thing.
If only some person or another would - or wouldn't - do or say this or that.
If only I was younger, stronger, more patient, less judgemental, more creative, less gullible.
If only there were others to share this practice with.
If only I had a teacher.
If only I had found this path sooner - then there might be time.
If only there was more time.
Such is mind wanting other than what is.
Friday, June 22, 2007
I owe a particularly huge debt of gratitude to Venerable Ajahn Chah for his ability to present the Dhamma in a language that I was able to understand. That is the language of the heart. His words, rich with clarity, compassion and truth, somehow transported me directly onto this path of practice. It took me by surprise because I wasn't really looking for a "path". I was merely exploring what I considered to be an "interesting" subject, "Buddhism". It was purely an intellectual activity. Luang Por Chah changed that forever.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
What I find striking is how these views and opinions, some we're not even aware of, can suddenly rush to the surface in full battle gear ready to take on the opposition. The difficulty would seem to be in resisting the urge to respond, but that's not it at all. The true challenge is in understanding that urge. Seeing it for what it is and knowing where it comes from. Once it is seen clearly and honestly it drops away as quickly as it came. No big deal.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Saturday, June 9, 2007
Metta, as a meditation practice remains a challenge for me. It seems that I am most likely suffering from what I'll call "Hallmark Syndrome". This is the result of a lifetime of overexposure to the manipulation, artificial packaging and creative marketing of a distorted perception of what love is. As a society we embrace this concoction and beg for more.
I understand that the "Metta" taught by the Buddha is very different from what we have been programmed and conditioned to think of as "loving kindness". Old habits and views are difficult to overcome. Even when we know they are not based in reality.
Saturday, June 2, 2007
Our thoughts are like this. It's helpful to notice where they're headed. We have the ability to do this, to train the mind toward skillful thoughts and actions. But we're usually too busy following our thoughts and getting all tangled up in them to see where they're actually leading us. So we're surprised, angry, sad or confused when things don't turn out like we think they should. Then along comes another thought...and we're off!