I’m sharing a couple of excerpts from an article by Shinzen Young called, Bring the Monastary Home.
I love the title. I’ve often said that my situation while being ill and homebound is like being a monastic. And in that I find grace and gratitude in my circumstance. What a teaching it’s been to have come through all I’ve come through. Life is the teacher as I shared in another quote yesterday!
Shinzen, in response to people who say they cannot grow in the midst of ordinary life:
But the monastery will come to each of us when we have to confront our fears, losses, compulsions and anxieties, or process the aftermath of trauma. The monastery comes to us in the form of emotional crisis, illness or injury, a phobia or a failed relationship. The question is whether we will be in a position to recognize and use it as such. If there were a way to help people maintain continuous quality meditation through intense real world challenges, anyone could experience insight and purification comparable to that of traditional renunciates’ regimes. Basically it boils down to this: Intensity of Challenge multiplied by Sharpness of Mindfulness multiplied by Depth of Equanimity equals the Rate of Psycho-spiritual Growth. When things are most challenging, we have the opportunity to leap forward in our spiritual development,provided we make use of the challenge.
and here is another little excerpt I also liked:
There are two conditions that need to be understood in learning about mindfulness. The first is that freezing or congealing around pain or pleasure brings “suffering”. When we have pain or discomfort and we freeze up in that moment, we suffer. When we have pleasure of even the subtlest sort and we grasp onto it, we suffer. We are cut off from the core of our being.
There are two ways to reduce suffering that is connected to pain or discomfort:decrease the discomfort or pain by changing our circumstances (possible only under some circumstances) or reduce the habit of congealing or freezing up around the discomfort (always possible). Similarly, there are two ways to increase our fulfillment in pleasure: increase the pleasure (not always possible and often leads to addictions) or learn to contact even the subtlest pleasure clearly, eliminating the congealing (always possible). Only with the second option do we have the true freedom that does not depend on situations or circumstances.
To reduce or eliminate our freezing, grasping or holding is what I will call “mindfulness skill”. When we have achieved this skill and can use it on a moment to moment basis in our feeling lives, we are free to be persons of complete feeling. Rather than rigidify and fixate on either fears of pain or desires for pleasure, we find ourselves “flowing” through our emotional lives feeling the incredible lightness of our being. As you can see in the stories about Kashyapa and Sasaki Roshi, a person of complete feeling fully and poignantly senses and expresses the whole range of human emotions. This person would never have to cut off from other people or from oneself because emotional life was too overwhelming.
Shinzen Young, from Bringing the Monastery Home
It was only when I became drug free that I had access to the whole range of human emotions! For me it’s clear, there is only complete healing from a place in which I can do that.
I love Shinzen Young’s work. You can find him delivering dharma talks on youtube.
There are times it’s clear he’s not worked extensively with those with serious psychiatric labels and doesn’t understand that people in rather extreme states can indeed get through them and thrive without intrusive psychiatric treatment, but if one can forgive his lack of such experience, his teachings are incredibly useful. No one knows everything about the human psyche, we all have different strengths and weaknesses as far as that goes. I see a lot of people dismissing others when they don’t understand something that they themselves do. I find that a tragic way of making ones world much smaller. Shinzen has been a favorite of mine for many years.
Books by Shinzen Young:
● Natural Pain Relief: How to Soothe and Dissolve Physical Pain with Mindfulness (I first discovered Shinzen, many years ago now, with his work with pain…good stuff)