Sitting Zazen and Considering the Teachings of Dogen
This is about Buddhism and meditation. It’s Super Bowl day and there’s a jazzercise type party on the basketball courts at the gym. I grab for another kleenex. It’s also Family Gameday at my daughter’s house. And the expectorant cough medicine seems to be loosening up chest congestion. A head-chest cold causing a week of missed workouts at the gym is one thing but a forced retreat today when there are places to go, people to see and things to do . . . darn. A need for equanimity and another opportunity presents for practice.
So zazen on the cushion again today on and off when the body tells me to stop and rest, I do so on the meditation cushion Zazen to Shikantaza or Shamatha to Vipassana, whatever — its alert Continue reading →
I was on the final 15 minutes of my hour spin bike workout, doing intervals. There’s a point of non-resistance that has to be reached to get through those final intervals when the legs are burning and the level of fatigue makes you want to resist. A coach once said, “Your legs should be burning–let ’em”.
There’s a point where you have to give up and surrender the battle to get the last few sets of intervals done successfully.
It’s acceptance. The lungs are on fire and so are the legs and you’re pushing through to the end but if you fight this or resist it, you just can’t do it–you quit.
Today I thought about how this is just like life. I mean, on the bike you accept it, the “what is” of legs burning and the like and if you accept then the work is so much easier and you’re less likely to give up. Or said another way what you ‘do’ give up is the resistance to ‘what is’–the burn or breathlessness or whatever.
When you give up the resistance and let the mind participate with the body, allowing the merging and accepting the fact that ‘yeah, it’s what it is, until it isn’t anymore’, THAT is so liberating, especially in those final moments.
Those hour long interval workouts are like the last moments of a race. What really counts is what you do at the end when you have to dig deep and get to the finish line, especially when total exhaustion is so close.
When life becomes a crisis in some way and let’s face it, life presents challenges and if we deny this we are not living on this planet I think. At those times do we surrender? Or do we fight it? Do we want to deny what’s happening and thereby struggle against it?
We make life harder for ourselves if we struggle. I make the last 15 minutes of my workout harder if I struggle against.
This applies across the board or that’s my position in writing this. No matter what life presents us with at any given time (and sometimes life is like those last 15 minutes of an hour long interval workout at the gym–rough!)…. point is that if we feel like we have to battle it or take a position of struggling against it, we find it’s all so much harder.
So many times in life we think something shouldn’t be what it is.
We deny reality or fight against how things ‘are’ and use all kinds of tactics to deny reality somehow. It’s exhausting.
We can make this comparison with the Christian way of thinking about life being a struggle against a devil and having to fight the evil–this kind of mentality.
Another way of thinking is to simply not think–but what I really mean is allowing whatever ‘it is’ to be what ‘it is’ without the judgment.
Judgment is the christian way of dealing with life I think which comes from an idea of an ideal perfected state that we all must strive for but know we will never achieve (because they tell us that in their dogma), rather than the opposite which is giving up that fight and becoming free.
Does that mean that we don’t try to be better humans or that we stop doing our best? That’s not what I’m saying.
I’m talking about not beating one’s self up because of ‘what is’ or what isn’t during any given moment. I’m writing here about not struggling against it or making the self wrong somehow in the process.
The last 15 minutes of intervals my legs burn and I’m breathless–it’s part of life at that moment and I accept that and don’t fight against it or resist it.
When anything in happens in life, I can draw from that ability to accept what is actually happening without judgment or without making myself or Life Itself wrong. It is, after all, what is.
When my legs are burning, I don’t attach to the feeling–I let them burn.
When I’m right on the edge of breathlessness, I let it be and don’t fight against the feeling.
If I grunt or groan or tense my muscles or make a face, it’s only making it harder to simply flow with ‘what is’ in that moment. Life is like that. Life ‘is’ and there’s a certain amount of being okay with it and not judging it but simply noticing it that is very freeing, liberating.
Someone thinks a lot during meditation time. No need to fight that. Simply notice it without assigning a meaning or beating self up in any way.
Someone feels angry. I’m not saying to act the anger out and of course we shouldn’t totally repress it but one way to handle it is to notice it as simply being ‘what is’ in that moment. Or maybe for the whole day the feeling is there. In noticing it one is standing outside of it and this juxtaposition is causing separation from it emotionally.
Just like “the leg’s are burning, let ’em” that happen during my workout. It is what is and nothing last forever! ‘It is’ until it isn’t anymore and the less we can attach to it and the more we simply notice it without emotion or resistance, the realization comes clearly that nothing last forever. That’s the nature of reality: impermanence.
And impermanence is a blessing.
Acceptance of ‘what is’ in any moment is liberating and elevating.
Judgment of what is in any moment is attachment and suffering.
That’s one difference between Christianity and Buddhism although there are many good similarities as we all know.
Acceptance is surrender and surrender is Divine!
Just my two cents, hoping to have expressed this in a way that’s understandable.
Here’s some advice when you are feeling overwhelmed with lots to do and potentially stressful change. Okay. Truth. This one’s for me. Sometimes I think of receiving a flower when I pull a tarot card. I give myself a flower in some way when I pull a card to ask for insight, advice, guidance–divination!
That’s what it is after all, isn’t it? We turn our eyes upward and say a little help. We need a time out. And when taking one for ourselves, pull an Angel Card or a Tarot Card and open up to wisdom. Just shuffling the cards helps to calm it all down enough to hit center, right?
If you don’t have a set of cards or runes or some divination tool, you may consider the comfort they can bring.
We’re moving this week. And most everyone knows what fun that is. I’d like to know what I need to consider today regarding this move, what advice do the cards have for me as I’m feeling like I need this little time out to seek wisdom.
Oh, the card I drew is THE MOON. Wow, so believing in illusions and experiencing distortions. Appearance Emptiness! Here we go again. This is good though. It reminds me of the Buddhist teachings that I’ve been embracing lately about the nature of reality and oh so much more! I need not go further really.
But I will for others who may need this little help too. The Moon card reminds us that our anxiety, fear, doubt and apprehensions are shadows; therefore not real. A good friend of mine quoted Mark Twain to me recently who said, “‘I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.'”
That applies here with this Moon card.
And then there’s Joni Mitchell and Life’s Illusions: ♫ I’ve looked at life from both sides now. From win and lose and still somehow. It’s life’s illusions I recall. ♫ Recall that song?
Most of the time we live in a security blanket of illusion — our life remains the same day in and out. Then suddenly there’s a move coming up, a change of location, a change of routine and the security blanket falls away. That’s what this Moon card represents.
Shadow times, transition times can be maddening but it doesn’t have to be! The Moon comes but so does the Sun. Change is natural. The universe supports it!
I don’t think about that often enough. Or so I recently realized! I tend to work through my rough days on my blog, hoping that as I do so that a reader out there somewhere may be helped through the insight that I, myself, seek. But before going further, there must be an understanding conveyed. One that I don’t convey as often as I should; one that should go without saying but that I forget to say–perhaps even forget to say to myself! But look, it’s not easy to stay awake sometimes! Life is full of … well, the most efficient way to say it is through one word SAMSARA.
Let me get an official Buddhist definition of that word [SAMSARA] and this from Wikapedia seems as good as any others from Google: Saṃsāra (Sanskrit, Pali; also samsara) is a Buddhist term that literally means “continuous movement” and is commonly translated as “cyclic existence”, “cycle of existence”, etc. Within Buddhism, samsara is defined as the continual repetitive cycle of birth and death that arises from ordinary beings’ grasping and fixating on a self and experiences. Specifically, samsara refers to the process of cycling through one rebirth after another within the six realms of existence where each realm can be understood as either a physical realm or a psychological state characterized by a particular type of suffering. Samsara arises out of avidya (ignorance) and is characterized by dukkha (suffering, anxiety, dissatisfaction). In the Buddhist view, liberation from samsara is possible by following the Buddhist path.
I use divination to help me find peace because the process of looking for insight puts one in the mental framework wherein one shifts or better said begins to detach from the mental affliction long enough to look for insight. [My profession involves divination after all; its a habit. LOL.]
I’ve been conversing through private text on my Facebook account with a blog follower who summarized the last few years of my life in a few lines that made me startle a bit, thinking ‘Man o man, my life really sucks!” But of course it doesn’t, and it is full of just as many ups, downs, attractions and aversions as anyone else’s here in Samsara! No better or no worse, at least potentially, as anyone else’s life who is aware of their mind where it is all located anyway!
Here’s the last bit I wrote this morning, sharing a paragraph from the communication that I’ve been having with a reader:
I think one comfort is that we are never alone in what we experience since the human condition seems very universal… in that no matter what kind of dilemma one is in, one can always find so many others going through the same illusion or experiencing the same dream (or nightmare); so that on some level there is comfort when we can do as the Buddhists do which is Tonglen … basically to say, ” May all of us, may we join together , all of us, and may I be the one to gather it all up here, now; and then may we all be free of our delusion and wake from the dream and be liberated! And how does the liberation happen”?
What kind of liberation? Mental–for that is how it all occurs anyway, in the mind. So, to look at life and hear, see, experience it without aversion or attachment, either one… to just say “Oh, now it is this and now it is that or now it is ‘not’ this and now it is ‘not’ that… hmmmm… okay… and that’s how it is or isn’t…. and now I notice that there is a regret thought, or a memory thought, or a judgment thought, or a happy thought, or a silly thought, or a sad thought, or whatever it is.” Just looking at the mind. Well, that’s pretty simplistic sounding, but most Buddhist teachings are and that’s why I, for one, like them. LOL I may blog this. Don’t be surprised if you see this text again!
Some last thoughts: IMPERMANENCE! This is a good one to reflect upon too. That helps put it all in perspective as well… the Buddhist perspective of the “precious human life.” I have to often remind myself not to become caught up in self-cherishing; this, too, being the source of difficulty and suffering. And then if all else fails, I hit the pool and go swimming to focus on my kick, stroke and lap times while everything else falls away!
My last blog post was incomplete. I got to thinking about it afterwards–the evolution of our emotional life, that is. We evolve in the way we deal with them–the emotions. I have observed that progression in my life. And it 1,000% correlates with Buddhist teachings–the parallels between my own observations and the teachings being very validating and actually very comforting.
Let me try to explain. You see, in our younger years (there are always exceptions) due to lack of experience/immaturity, we tend to act out our emotions. When we are feeling overwhelmed by the intensity of the wave of feelings that occur when emotions arise, what we tend to do before we know any better is to act out in some way, we re-act.
No matter the chronological age of the individual who is experiencing the emotion, immaturity or ignorance causes us to have a particular view of emotion. The reaction may be to run away from the situation or stimuli that triggered the surge of emotion in order to relinquished or release the energy. Therefore, the individual does not examine their own inner response. The don’t hang out with the emotion long enough to realize the truth that emotions arise and then then dissipate. There is no ability, therefore, to create enough space around the feeling to allow that realization to occur. Emotions are viewed, therefore, as something bad or something that must be gotten rid of as soon as possible.
Once I heard a Buddhist monk speak about how some advanced Buddhist practitioners will purposefully hold a difficult emotion that arises and try to expand it and to work with that energy for the intentional purpose of extracting wisdom information from the emotional energy. They also do a practice called Tonglen with the energy in order to help all sentient beings. Wow; impressive!
Many of us, because of societal conditioning, have been told that strong emotional energy is like poison or is highly undesirable and further that one must repress, suppress, avoid, or run away from or get rid of anger, fear, etc. as soon as possible. And further that we are a sinner!
But eventually, if we progress in our evolution as a human, we begin to see how we can counterbalance an emotion by transforming the energy into it’s opposite or into something else instead–like in my last blog post. For example, we learn to turn anger into compassion instead. Whatever or whoever our anger may be about, even if it is anger that we have toward our own self, it is possible to transform it into compassion for self or others.
So then we first try to get rid of the emotion, run away from it somehow, eventually we progress to learning how to transform the emotion and then finally (and this is where I personally am deep into it), we take emotion “as the spiritual path itself”.Yeah. Heavy.
I’m doing a lot of that lately (just as others are) with the grand cross today, 13 degrees Pluto/Jupiter opposition in Cap/Cancer respectively and then Uranus/Mars in Aries/Libra. Two oppositions and 4 squares–and we’ve all got that activated now! That’ll intensify emotions if anything will. ( I’ve also got a lot of energy aspect-ing communicative Mercury in my personal chart today so I thought this to be a good time to write a little bit about all this.) But getting back to the topic here…
The other day I posted a line on Facebook that sort of speaks to using emotions as the path itself: Fit regular life into spiritual practice, not the other way around.
And speaking of the other way around, when we can use the emotion to create something positive by flipping it around, this leads to really working with the energy–using it in a positive way instead of running from it or stuffing it. This begins the awareness of the emotional causes and triggers and opens the door to a deeper understanding of one’s self and others.
One begins to notice patterns or triggers and begins to understand how past or present conditioning (cause and effect, karma) play into the emotions.
We can almost see emotions as friends because they assist us to relate to ourselves and to the world differently.
We exit the world of duality and separation and begin to see all people have similar motivations. Just as the Embodiment of Compassion, Dalai Lama, always says, we see that all beings are, similar to ourselves, in that they are seeking pleasure and happiness and trying to avoid pain and suffering.
Another benefit is that we don’t feel alone in our emotional thunder storms and we can seek the shelter of viewing them from a higher place–seeing the bigger picture.
We can realize that without emotions there is no spiritual path! Emotions contain spiritual wisdom, knowledge and information.
And this aspect of incorporating emotion into the spiritual path involves looking at the true state of emotion and finding the wisdom there. The spiritual path IS seeing the nature of emotion.
And the emotion gets stronger and stronger as our teachers (if we ignore them) in order to show us the wisdom and knowledge and information contained within the feelings.
The previous blog post (a divination about emotion) was about the stage in which we take that emotion and flip it or transform it. The stage after that one is to really wish to see the emotion for what it has to teach–asking what is this emotion’s wisdom nature?
So we let ourselves feel the emotion knowing it will recede just as abruptly as it arose and we hold still with the feeling and allow a gap between the feeling and our old tendency to react or run (fight or flight). And as the gap forms we can distance ourselves enough to see the psychology of it all, to understand and to do something constructive and positive with it. To change.
That’s all for now! I have psychic reading clients calling soon and this is all the time I have right now. I hope this information helps someone today!
How do you feel when you think that thought? Then why think it? Or is it thinking you? Even Byron Katie (the great truth teller who essentially teaches Buddhism or the study of the nature of reality– i.e. “all is thought and attachment”) talks about thoughts thinking themselves.
I love the “meeting them halfway” with understanding quote attributed to Katie who said,
“I don’t let go of my thoughts—I meet them with understanding. Then they let go of me.” I really appreciate her teachings and discussions called THE WORK.
One way to meet them with understanding is to nurture the self that is harmed by them and another is to (as Katie says) question them because in that you question the nature of reality, and just the questioning loosens the grip we have on “the story” as she calls it.
The link below will take you to an interview that I did a few weeks ago where we (Stevie- Sparks Press and I) discussed some of these very things:
You are not alone, neither am I; we all go through these up’s and down’s; forgetting momentarily and remembering. There’s THE WORK and then various other spiritual tools that we discuss one audio (link above).
Here’s another little blurb that just came into my inbox today; this (quote below) links to these same themes about the nature of reality. In fact, in the blog post below this one as I discuss my fears (let’s be real, we all have them. Like Katie says,
“A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It’s not our thoughts, but the attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering.” And that’s Buddhism 101.
And another way to express it all is like this little line that arrived in my inbox from tut.com, who writes a message from “THE Universe”,
” The next time you feel really hurt, really angry, or really, really upset, and you’re sure that even I have been violated, shaken, and humbled, quick, check and see if the sky is any less blue, the sun any less radiant, the birds have stopped singing, or the flowers have lost their scent.”
Try the link above to the interview for practical earthy tools to use when we “think that thought” and begin to believe it or it infiltrates us without our knowing causing that panic, anxiety and mental crisis. We talk a wee bit about astrology on the above audio too.
I was thinking today about how once I fell of a clinician stool in a clinic full of patients and other physical therapists. I was moving from point A to point B while rolling on the stool between my two patients and caught the wheel on a towel on the floor. I laughed along with everyone and announced that I’d planned that! No embarrassment—okay very, very minimal.
So could I feel that same way about my life today? Could I look at some of the “revolting developments” like my mother used to call them – those frustrations of life and act like I planned those and laugh about it? Hmmmmmmmm….. really, did I and could I?
I’ve been learning about co-dependent arising of energy and it’s complicated but we could say it has to do with that k word that everybody cringes about—karma. There’s good karma too and lots of it and I’ve got a lot of that going and I think we all do, so why do we tend to be focused on the opposite? Good questions to contemplate in meditation to get a personal view. But Buddhism already has some of the well thought out and logical insight already there on the plate but fair warning—there “ain’t” no savior in Buddhism; it’s all you and if you can’t handle that one, best not go there.
But one part of Buddhism has to do with just looking at what we think of as reality and not arguing with it and just seeing it as the illusion it is. When we energize the illusion by getting all excited about it, we create all those “arising’s” as we drift farther away from …. What’s the best word to use here? Tranquility Base! Yeah, I know, it’s a 60’s reference to the Moon landing but I like it.
To me that’s the core and base still mind that simply just IS and there is no thought there on tranquility base, simply tranquility. The more we drift away from tranquility base and play in illusion and energize the thoughts that create the illusion, the less tranquility we have and the more cause and effect, ugh, that K word. With positive karma in mind and realizing we can’t just sit in tranquility base 24-7 (we do have to engage in certain functions), the more we energize the most positive illusions, the better.
All of this is another way of saying what all the modernized teachers are saying which are the ancient teachings of Buddhism.
Anyway, I’m going to pretend just for today that no matter what has happened recently and what is happening now that I planned it like that; I’m going to agree with it just like when I fell off the stool. No resistance, no trying to make it any different—these frustrations, these “revolting developments”… I planned it that way and let me laugh at it all like I did when I fell off the stool. No need to take it all so seriously—right?
However these things arise, these developments, some have to do with me and others don’t—life is as life is. I can’t take credit for everything and I can’t be blamed for it all either; I am only a part of it as I breathe in and breathe out… it’s an illusion and what affects me personally, I planned it that way and it’s funny. Why? Because it’s all an illusion and it’s only as serious as my mind makes it!
I had quite a laugh earlier today reading an email from a Buddhist friend of mine who, like me, just made it through another x-tian holiday with x-tian family members and reading it had me laughing out loud! It so helps to have others who get the illusion and find humor in it! Hey, I planned it that way!
I asked a vajra teacher, a Lama that I’ve been communicating with, for a 2nd best book to continue my sort of self-made dharma lessons on The Thirty Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva. Oh, maybe vajra teacher is incorrect phrasing according to custom. I think the word for spiritual teacher in Tibetan Buddhism is vajracary or vajrasattva is probably more technically correct but I can’t say for sure being an American who is trying to pick up where haven left off from previous incarnations—not that I could prove this. Which actually brings me to the 2nd best book since the 1st best was $150 (totally out of the budget).
I asked a Lama of the Karmapa lineage and was referred to a book by the 17th Karmapa (who I have heard speak on TV and really admired) called ‘Traveling the Path of Compassion’, a book on the 37 Practices, which I’m now reading.
I just finished a passage written by the Karmapa on Practice #4 which was cool because he wrote about death (specifically, there’s no death) and reincarnation—he gently points out how it is almost impossible to feel that a loved one who has died is totally gone and never present in some way! “Most people”, he writes, “have a feeling that a loved one who has passed away is still somehow still available.”
He says death is not nothingness. Nor is it a blank state; it is the time when we transfer our light to another way of being. We are, he says, not a candle that is finished when the flame goes out but instead a torch, a light shining everywhere that can be transferred one bright flame to the next.
Well, I had to include that here and write about that first before I start to write what I’m REALLY writing about today! HA! So here we go—the real reason I’m writing today! And it still relates to Practice #4 which is about attachments.
The teaching is about being attached to this life and of course if you practice the dharma or said another way if you subscribe to the Buddhist philosophy of life and therefore relate to and start to apply the teachings to your own life (in order to increase happiness and decrease suffering first for self and then for others) then what you do in Buddhist language is that you “practice the dharma”. Which in this case the word dharma means “the teachings” –but the word also translates to “phenomenon” and I’ll write on the correlation there another time. Getting back to the practice of dharma, he says that we have to release attachments to life if we are going to call ourselves a Buddhist and in particular a Bodhisattva…. [paraphrased].
By the way the word bodhi translates into “understanding the nature of things” or “enlightenment” –the root word “budh” means ‘to awake, become aware, notice, know or understand). Sattva in sanskrit means purity and reality. One could say bodhi means enlightened and sattva means existence. So, a Bodhisattva is one who lives an enlightened existence. And the 37 practices was written in the 13th-14th century by a highly respected and devotedly compassionate monk instructing others on how to live an enlightened existence. That could be one way to put it which I think would be a fairly correct interpretation based on what I’ve read and surmised and I offer it to the reader with the highest intentions.
Anyway, the point that I wish to make here is that I was reading a passage written by the 17th Karmapa on the 4th Practice of a Bodhisattva in which he refers to those who turn to the dharma when in a crisis of some sort and the rest of the time their main attraction is to life and the world or the world’s entertainments. He says that we consider our worldly possessions crucial to our lives and the very source of our happiness.
Personally, I see people who hang to each other in that same way, seeing the ‘other’ as the very source of their happiness as well. And as he points out, even if we do not think these things consciously, they are at the background of our minds—our unconscious attitudes hold to worldly things as if our happiness depends on them.
Personally, I am guilty of this fault but am, through effort now, working to keep the dharma teachings working at all times in the background instead of my attachments and aversions running the show. It’s a process! There are slippery patches and tricky spots but I’m taking those and really more consciously working with them—sometimes I go unconscious and fall back into the old habitually created karmic patterns. (There’s an actual word for that; it sounds like “bach-tah” but I cannot seem to find the proper spelling and definition…sigh! I looked thru the glossaries of 3 Buddhists text I have here on the shelf and consulted a number of online Buddhists dictionaries! ) Well, there’s another lesson in practice #4, letting go and non attachment! (I’ve been highly obsessed and attached to finding that word for a good while now! ugh! letting go!)
Yeah, so anyway there’s a word for those patterns and I’ve just turned all my writing time into google time instead trying to find that right word and in giving up now must conclude this writing!
Here’s the note from the universe this morning that somewhat resembles what I’ve been trying to convey here to some extent—using life challenges to reach non-attachment and therefore happiness is what I’m trying to say and the thing below that showed up in my email says it better than I could in 10 pages of writing which is why I’m including it. And with this, will have to wish you a good day—my time is up!
NOTE FROM THE UNIVERSE IN MY EMAIL BOX TODAY WHICH CORRESPONDS TO MY CURRENT BUDDHIST STUDIES:
It’s not that your life totally rocks, Joy, except for a few tricky spots, slippery patches, and challenges.
But that your life totally rocks, in large part, because of the tricky spots, slippery patches, and challenges.
Stranger than fiction, The Universe
By the way Enlightenment Practice #4 of the 37 Practices reads this way:
Everyone will part from relatives and old friends;
The wealth of long labor will be left behind;
The guest, the consciousness, leaves its lodging, the body behind:
To give up concern for this life is the practice of a bodhisattva.
Oh, and by the way, (in addition to my own personal experiences and the work that I do as a medium), I’ll take the 17th Karmapa’s word on the afterlife and reincarnation since he’s the official incarnation of the 16th Karmapa’s previous life… well, you know what I mean. He passed the tests involved in determining the lineage continuation–he was the 16th Karmapa in his last life, and now he’s back as the 17th Karmapa! So I supposed that if anybody should know about this reincarnation stuff, it’d be him. Or I’d like to think so; and we have to trust, eh?