Manjushri

We invoke your name, Manjushri. We aspire to learn your way, which is to be still and to look deeply into the heart of things and into the hearts of people. We will look with all our attention and openheartedness. We will look with unprejudiced eyes. We will look without judging or reacting. We will look deeply so that we will be able to see and understand the roots of suffering, the impermanent and selfless nature of all that is. We will practice your way of using the sword of understanding to cut through the bonds of suffering, thus freeing ourselves and other species.

– from the Plum Village Chanting & Recitation book

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3/12

There is similar language in this verse as there was in the last verse on Avalokiteshvara, but instead of saying “listen” it says “look.” This makes sense, as Avalokiteshvara is the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion and Manjushri is the Bodhisattva of Great Understanding. Compassion and understanding are closely related.

Perhaps to listen is with the heart and to look is with the mind. Both parts are necessary to create the whole picture of self, and to come into full relationship with the world.

It’s easy to regard these Bodhisattva verse teachings as pertaining to our actions relating to other people but it’s also important to apply these to our self. When I am able to look at myself with unprejudiced eyes and without judging or reacting, it is only then that I can truly offer those same curtesy’s to others.

How I treat myself inwardly translates directly to how I treat others externally. There is no separation.

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3/14

…the impermanent and selfless nature of all that is. When I am in touch with nature of impermanence and selflessness (which is another way of saying: interbeing), which underpins all of life in every situation, then I am able to see and understand more clearly the roots of my own suffering. Most – if not all – suffering stems from seeing things/people/self as permanent/fixed in place and/or seeing things/people/self as being separate/disconnected entities.

How much time and energy do we expend in wishing that a particular moment was other than as it is?! Probably a lot.

Part of this verse involves a profound understanding of how everything is part of life – nothing and no one is separate. That goes for: bad days, inclement weather, feeling hurt by someone, stubbing our toe, anger, heartbreak, stress, a flat tire, that gal we don’t like who works at our grocery store, that politician we wish weren’t in office, and so on. Using the sword of understanding to cut through the bonds of suffering, involves cultivating the art of full acceptance of what is going on, verses getting caught in wishing things/people to be different to the extent that it causes us to fight against the reality of what’s unfolding around us.

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3/15

To understand deeply means to have insight penetrate through our surface knowings and our intellectual processing. Just as we must get out of our own way in order to listen deeply, we must do the same in order to look deeply.

We must get out of the way of our ego and limiting notions and social constructs of thought, in order to look deeply into the heart of things and into the hearts of people.

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Looking Up & All Around

Well, I’m not sure I’d agree with ol’ Snoopy here that the secret of life is to keep looking up but I would say that for me, this simple act is a great tool for staying engaged in the present moment, strengthening reverence for life, and it even helps me to develop more patience.

Case and point:

Yesterday afternoon, I found myself standing in line at the Good Food Store (our local organic market) during an especially high volume time of day. Typically, I strategically avoid such times, as they tend to fall on the same hour-long blocks each day. But sometimes duty calls at inopportune times and I must answer.

There I was, standing in line alongside a plethora of other Missoulians. After careful examination, as soon as my feet hit their standing-in-place mark in the line I’d deemed to be the shortest, a wildly underestimated but important insight arose: No one enjoys waiting in line.

It’s true, you know.

I see it as an important insight because it speaks to an ability to not think only of myself and how things are effecting me. When I get stuck in my small sense of self, I turn off to the greater self that is all around me, which disables me from acting in such a way that is connected, kind, and caring.

Since waiting in line is no one’s idea of a good time – myself included – the practice I like to do in such occasions is: to look up and all around.

It’s as simple as it sounds.

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Looks ARE Deceiving

We can never know what’s going on for someone else.

I was at the Tuscon airport a couple of days ago, preparing to fly back home here to Montana. I sat down at the terminal, in close enough proximity to a woman who’s cell phone conversation I could hear very readily. She was an attractive woman. Shoulder-length blonde hair, middle-aged. She was sitting at the electronic port station situated in front of a large window overlooking the tarmac. Although there was little I could do not to overhear her conversation, I felt badly for eavesdropping, so I quickened my pace in getting the music going on my iPod. In the meantime, however, I learned that she was leaving her 20-something-year-old son behind, to return back home, after situating him into a rehab. He was not at all well – detoxing, incoherent, unable to care for himself. His girlfriend would be not be allowing him to move back in when he got out. And there was a real possibility, and seemingly well-grounded motherly consideration, that he wasn’t done yet “out there,” using. It was hard for her to leave. But she seemed sturdy in her composure and confident in the decisions she’d made.

In looking at her I never would’ve thought to myself: I bet her son is going through a ravaging, brutal detox right now. I bet she just spent the last few days forcing him into rehab against his will and supporting him at his bedside as he went in and out of consciousness. And I bet she feels hopeful/broken about the whole messy situation.

And it’s like this with everyone we meet. We see someone, whether a stranger or even a loved one, and think we have them all figured out. And we totally don’t. We have no idea what’s going on for someone else.

I wonder why it’s so common for us to think we’re experts when it comes to other people. When we attach ourselves too strongly to our perceptions, it’s a recipe for creating separation and misunderstanding. As Thay teaches: 99% of our perceptions are incorrect. And ultimately it’s our mis-perceptions about ourselves, others, and life itself that causes the greatest amount of our suffering.

Today: I will practice to look beyond the surface, in order to connect and engage with others in a way that opens and extends my understanding and compassion.

 

Too Busy?!

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Lately I’ve been growing more and more frustrated with the often used, and largely misunderstood, phrase, “I’ve been sooo busy!”  I’m finding that my usual flat affect when listening to friends is starting to curdle when confronted with yet another person describing how they’re unable to do this or that due to the nature of being busy, or using it as an excuse for anything and everything that happens: “Oh, sorry, I didn’t respond to that email, I’ve just been sooo busy lately.”

I’ve written a number of posts on the topic of busyness. In this modern day and age, it’s a subject I feel never loses its application. We all have full lives. We all have numerous things we do with our time – some productive and beneficial and some not so much. Trouble arises when we start to make excuses for what we don’t have time for – when we cast ourselves in the victim role by placing blame on other people, places, and things. It’s simple, really: What we do with our time is up to us. End of story. What we’re really saying, when we remark about how busy we are to a friend, is that we are prioritizing certain things over other things. The words we use are important and point to the intention fueling what it is we’re saying. So it’s not that I begrudge people for having things they’re doing, it’s just that I wish they’d use a more accurate description regarding what’s going on and take responsibility for their choices.

Looking deeply I see that my ego is involved with this budding frustration. I think to myself, “Well, I’m “busy” too and I have the time to email you!” It’s good progress that I notice the presence of my ego in these instances because it isn’t a helpful voice to heed. It’s a voice I don’t like to admit to existing and being a part of my internal dialogue, which was my motivation for wanting to write this post. Shadow work, like dealing with one’s ego, remains hidden in darkness without the infusion of light shone upon it. And the more parts of ourselves we hold in shadow the less able we are to transform and grow.

And so…the work of bringing that which is in shadow to the light continues…