Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Going With The Flow

Lurking just beneath the calm surface of the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico, here along the "Emerald Coast", is an often deadly phenomenon know as a rip current. The view from the snow white beaches can be so enticing - and deceiving. Each year there are a handful of visitors and locals alike who fall victim. Whether they are unaware of the danger or just don't take it seriously makes no difference. Once in the current, fear, panic and exhaustion take their toll, with disastrous results. The impulse is to fight, of course. To escape. To control. That's only natural. But if we don't know or understand what it is we're trying to escape from, our actions only lead to the situation getting even worse. And so we struggle more.

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

Buddha Rupa?

It seems that every department store from Walmart to Macy's has at least one "Buddha" for sale. It's become very trendy. Buddha bookends, doormats, candle holders, wind chimes. Buddha statues for the garden and the coffee table. Even Buddha pajamas! Buddha is everywhere.

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

Hello Mara...

Barely into sort of an experimental personal retreat, Mara makes his presence known. To have expected anything less would have been's all good.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Embracing Without Clinging...

I've added a visual reminder of the Uposatha days here. I've always had a hard time with dates and times, so I need all the help I can get!

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.