The primary focus of this path of choosing wisely, of this training to de-escalate aggression, is learning to stay present. Pausing very briefly, frequently throughout the day, is an almost effortless way to do this. For just a few seconds we can be right here. Meditation is another way to train in learning to stay, or, as one student put it more accurately, learning to come back, to return to being present over and over again. … [click on title for the rest of the post]
Dream: I am driving down a steep and wet mountain road. I slip off at a curve off a cliff into free-fall thousands of feet above ground. As I catapult downward, while still at the wheel of my car, I wonder if there is any way I might survive. We are all free-falling to our death: Pema Chödrön, along with her teacher Chögyam Trungpa speak of this as the groundlessness of our existence. … [click on title for the rest of the post]
"You quickly learn that distractions are not just phone calls and emails. Our own mind and our longings, our cravings and our fantasies are also major distractions," Chödrön says. "The best in that spiritual instruction is when you wake up in the morning and you say 'I wonder what's going to happen today?' and then carry that kind of curiosity through your life," Chödrön says. … [click on title for the rest of the post]
Tonglen is a method that allows for the development of compassion. Compassion is necessary both for the relief of our own suffering and so that we might serve others towards the end of their suffering too. Compassion, by (Buddhist) definition, is the capacity and more importantly, the willingness to experience both our own suffering and the suffering of others. In other words you might say, you can't heal what you don't feel. … [click on title for the rest of the post]
I try to practice what I preach; I’m not always that good at it but I really do try. The other night, I was getting hard-hearted, closed-minded, and fundamentalist about somebody else, and I remembered this expression that you can never hate somebody if you stand in their shoes. I was angry at him because he was holding such a rigid view. In that instant I was able to put myself in his shoes and I realized, “I’m just as riled up, and self-righteous and closed-minded about this as he is. We’re in exactly the same place!” And I saw that the more I held on to my view, the more polarized we would become, and the more we’d be just mirror images of one another—two people with closed minds and hard hearts who both think they’re right, screaming at each other. It changed for me when I saw it from his side, and I was able to see my own aggression and ridiculousness. … [click on title for the rest of the post]
Last night I listened to a dharma talk from the retreat on bodhicitta. I like how she calls it the soft-spot. It's a willingness to live in the soft-spot. Another way to consider the soft-spot is to be willing to live from the middle of our pain and our joy. To surrender to the complete depth of life. Much of my suffering, it's becoming clear (and I mean both physical and emotional) has been a resistance to embracing pain. Once we embrace pain our capacity for joy also increases. And embracing pain means understanding the nature of all of humanity. It allows us to grow our empathy and compassion for all sentient beings and the planet too, our home. … [click on title for the rest of the post]
I think this is a very important thing to discuss. When is it okay NOT to be with what we are experiencing? Meditation is called a practice for a reason. It can be very hard and sometimes impossible at certain points in ones life before one has acquired a certain proficiency. Sometimes it's appropriate to NOT meditate. When I was in acute psychiatric drug withdrawal syndrome the noise and chaos and pain and suffering was so immense that trying to deeply be with that ugliness for more than a few seconds at a time was more than I could bare. This is true for most people in acute phases of psych drug withdrawal. It's easy to imagine all sorts of other potential sorts of situations that might be similar. Distraction and dissociation when things are that grave and chaotic are simply a way to be merciful to oneself before more skill has been developed. When trauma is that severe it's also pure and simply about surviving. … [click on title for the rest of the post]
Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.