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I Think We’ve Got It Backwards

Okay. So, what I’m about to post here has taken me almost a year to flesh out and wrap my brain around. Here goes.

In our Buddhist practice tradition, we have this teaching: This is because that is. Short-handing it, it means: Everything happens for a reason, based on a myriad of causes and conditions. On a similar note, I see as though we have two large components of life backwards, and one leads to the other.

The first thing we commonly have backwards:

A) We often see and regard ourselves as being separate/independent/unique in times when we would do well to strengthen our ability to look with the eyes of interbeing and get in touch with our similarities, shared humanity, and true sense of connection.

and

B) We often see and regard ourselves as being the same in times when we would do well to cultivate a deeper understanding of our individuality.

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And because of this first thing we commonly have backwards, it leads to this second thing we commonly have backwards:

C) We try to lone-wolf it in times when we would do well to lean on our loved ones for care, support, and nourishment.

and

D) We rely on others in times when we would do well to cultivate and/or strengthen our sovereignty.

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So, D is because of B and C is because of A. This is because that is.

I realize this might be confusing, like I said: it’s taken me a year to flesh this out. Here are some practical examples that will hopefully help a bit (with corresponding letters that match with the points above):

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Right &…Regular? (part 2 of 2)

Image credit: I copied this from a talk I watched on Youtube by Sister Dieu Nghiem; she included this chart on a whiteboard. 

In continuance of the thread I started in part 1 of this post topic, I wanted to share a little bit more about right and regular.

Sister Dieu Nghiem mapped out this chart (image above) in a talk she gave back in October at Plum Village. Simply put, this chart represents the equation of what it means to have and develop right diligence. Right diligence involves: not watering the unwholesome seeds that lie in our consciousness, stopping to water the unwholesome seeds once they rise up and become a mental formation (or active state of mind), watering the wholesome seeds that lie in our consciousness, and continuing to water the wholesome seeds once they rise up and become a mental formation.

So, what then is regular diligence? Let’s say that someone has been meditating for a long time – we’ll say 5 years. And for those 5 years, they’ve been sitting every single day in the morning for 20-minutes. This equates to this person having sat a total of 36,500 minutes in meditation. However, despite the fact that they’ve been diligent in sitting every day for 20-minutes, they don’t really feel as though they’ve benefited very much at all from their practice (and neither do their loved ones, by the way). They are still just as restless, agitated, stressed out, overwhelmed at work, and short-tempered with their partner as they were when they were driven to starting a daily habit of meditation in the first place, 5 years ago. Yes, this person has been diligent in sitting but we couldn’t – and shouldn’t – consider this to be right diligence because it hasn’t increased this person’s ability to transform and heal.

As a recap from part 1: I recently watched a talk by Sister Dieu Nghiem on Youtube and she described wholesome habit energies as leading us in the direction of transformation and healing and unwholesome habit energies as that which leads us in the direction of suffering. And I think this explanation applies here, with the word wholesome equating to the word right. So we could say that right stands in accordance with a thought/word/action that propels us in the direction of transformation and healing.

In the Discourse on Youth and Happiness, it states:

Beings produce wrong perceptions concerning objects of desire. That is why they are caught in desire. Because they do not know what desire really is.

For our purposes here, I would translate this as there being an important difference between regular desire and right desire. In consulting with my old pal dictionary.com, desire is defined as such: to wish or long for; crave; want. In our current and modern time, I would define regular desire as incorporating the energetic components of craving, grasping, and attachment and right desire as incorporating such things as being realistically driven by determined will and being governed and propelled into action by a sovereign foundation rooted in solidity and ease. I regard right desire as enfolding the premise of what this meme offers, which I recently shared in a post a few days ago and is serving as my newly held encouraging anthem:

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Right &…Regular? (part 1 of 2)

Lately, I’ve been Dharmically churning around the usage of the word right, as it pertains to the Eightfold Path and also the nature of our Buddhist practice based teachings in general. The Eightfold Path (listed in the image above) consists of: Right View, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.

But this word right can also apply to other facets of our practice as well – and simply life in general. I am coming to understand more and more how necessary it is to discern the differences between, for instance, such things as: desire & right desire; joyfulness & right joyfulness; individuality & right individuality; generosity & right generosity; technology & right technology; media & right media; friendships & right friendships; sexuality & right sexuality; and even practice & right practice.

First thing’s first, though. We must come to properly understand what the word right means and refers to, as our western minds often automatically insert the word wrong to counterbalance the inclusion of the word right, which is not only the improper conclusion to draw but also a potentially detrimental and harmful one at that. When we get caught up in the right & wrong game, it rarely – if ever – benefits our situation.

Let’s say we keep the word right in the mix, which honestly I’m wondering if that’s the most helpful thing to do when offering these teachings to our new and budding generation of young mindfulness practitioners. But let’s say we keep it in active use. What does right in this context of practice mean? Right for what? I recently watched a talk by Sister Dieu Nghiem on Youtube and she described wholesome habit energies as leading us in the direction of transformation and healing and unwholesome habit energies as that which leads us in the direction of suffering. And I think this explanation applies here, with the word wholesome equating to the word right. So we could say that right stands in accordance with a thought/word/action that propels us in the direction of transformation and healing.

But if we keep the word right, what do we call its counterpart? What do we call it when we’re moving in the direction that leads us towards creating and causing more suffering, for our self and/or others? Using the words right and unwholesome doesn’t seem quite fitting. What about right and regular? I’m not sure this is quite the ticket either, though I do feel it’s getting much closer to a more approachable and less misunderstood way of fleshing out these teachings.

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Groundwork

This morning, I woke up earlier than usual (3:30am). I did some writing, followed by some dancing and exercise involving hand weights, followed by 30-minutes of sitting meditation, which I conclude with a daily gratitude practice that I do. How wonderful it was that I had ample time for all three before heading out to work! And it occurred to me:

Writing affords me the ability to prepare well my mindscape for the day. Dance/movement/exercise affords me the ability to prepare well my body for the day. And meditation affords me the ability to prepare well my heart for the day.

Input = output. For me to continue to show up in the best way possible for: myself, others, the world, and each moment as it unfolds, I must continue to guard well my senses and the input that I allow and bring in. I must be aware of how I lay the foundation for my day each morning when I rise.

 

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2019 in Everyday Practice

 

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Mindful Morning Saturday

Offering incense in the dark of early morning

I’m not sure how long ago I started this practice I call Mindful Morning Saturday, maybe a year or so. I’ve posted about it before but I was inspired to post about it again, simply because it’s adds so much benefit, energy, and joyfulness to my weekend.

As an ordained OI member (Order of Interbeing), I am asked to partake in a certain amount of Days of Mindfulness every year – 60, to be precise. And this particular OI requirement often poses some head scratching for folks, both before and after they ordain. True to form, we are not given any specifics as to how to manifest this and are left instead to use our own intelligence and insight in developing our own relationship with how to put this into active practice.

I ordained in 2007. For the first few years after that, I simply continued to attend our locally held retreats twice a year, as well as any locally held special events and days of mindfulness organized by my sangha. Then, in 2014, I started going on retreat to Deer Park Monastery for 3-4 weeks at a time every January. So for the past five years I’ve been closer than ever before, in terms of meeting the required 60 days of mindfulness.

For years, I’d wanted to figure out a way to insert a Day of Mindfulness into my home life routine once a week but I hadn’t known a good way to do it. I think like many of us OI members who are perplexed by this requirement of ordination, I was caught in thinking that a Day of Mindfulness had to be a WHOLE entire day, which seemed impossible if I was interested in doing it every week.

Then, just last year I think it was, I started thinking about the Days of Mindfulness I would participate in while I was staying at Deer Park. Most Sundays at Deer Park are an open Day of Mindfulness, where folks are welcome and encouraged to come to the monastery for a day of practice. The Days of Mindfulness there generally start at 9:00am and end after lunch, around 1:00pm. They aren’t a WHOLE entire day. They typically last about 4-hours. Once I realized this, I started thinking about my own 60 Days of Mindfulness differently.

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More On Why I Practice

Were it not for my engaged practice of mindfulness in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, I’d be flailing around like so many others I see, chasing after the next heightened experience; the next joint or drink; the next exciting romance or sexcapade; the next party or music festival or wild time – whatever it took to remind me that I was alive and everything didn’t suck.

An unchecked reality will do this. An untended to self-landscape will yield these results. A life unguided by ongoing skill-building and connection will amount to dis-ease and a never-quenched longing for something…more – or at the very least: something else.

Gratefully, I am afforded skills, tools, resources, encouragement, support, and teachers that show me how to take responsibility for my well-being; how to work with my mind; and how to actively cultivate present moment resting, grounding, and appreciating. With the practice, I am given the opportunity to learn how to stop seeking after transcendental moments, forever stuck in the false view that happiness equates to some kind of fantastical euphoria only possible in the some other realm of consciousness, or when I’ve found a way to magically start living without having to do such things as wash the dishes, take the trash out, pay the bills, and clean up the bodily functions of my aging cat (which when I’m lucky means the litter box).

The practice shows me how to be a human being and how to live life well. It teaches me how to not loathe Mondays; how not to live the whole of my week just looking forward to the weekends; how not to hinge my happiness on my next vacation or my next big accomplishment; how not to live in constant need of validation, praise, and acceptance from others. The practice gives me permission, over and over again, to step into and be just who I am, no strings attached.

If we don’t take it upon ourselves to learn how to be a human being amid both the complexities and ordinariness of daily life, we are bound to keep looking/searching/grasping/pleading for the next quick fix to elevate our gaze from the depravity we’ve created, only to discover that the quick fix merely serves to grow more pain.

To be clear, it’s not that there’s anything at all wrong with looking forward to such things as unearthing my motorcycle come springtime, for example. It’s a matter of learning how to be accepting and present with what’s going on in the here and now, with whatever it is that’s happening, at the same time.

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This morning, I watched part of a talk given by Sister Dieu Nghiem in late October at Plum Village as part of the 3-month winter retreat, where there was a focus on the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings.

Some notes I took from the Sister’s talk:

The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings have to do with how we live our daily lives; how we live in the world; how we respond to issues and the world with our thinking, our attitude, and our view. These trainings help us to see very clearly the impact of our thinking, speaking, and actions on our environment, on the world, and on the way we live together.

The more I study these Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings the more my heart rejoices, because I see a way out. I see a way that can lead to healing and transformation – not just for myself but the whole of humanity, and that lifts my spirit and gives me a lot of joy.

The mindfulness trainings give us an ethical way of life. Every training uses an ethical action based on non-duality; that happiness is not an individual matter. (She explains that an ethical action is one that benefits everyone.)

Thay says that the practice is not just to lead us to live mindfully but also to live joyfully.

I really enjoyed the portion of the talk I listened to. The Sister explains beautifully what this path of practice is all about.

Here is the talk, if you’re interested:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4z-jnnpLVQ&index=27&list=WL&t=1766s

 

 

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On Solitude

Pic taken during my one-week solo stay at the Mission Lookout Tower, May 2018

 

There are at least two kinds of solitude: one we experience when we are by ourselves alone and the other we can experience when we are in the midst of others.

There is a kind of solitude, which is spoken to in the sutra on Knowing the Better Way to Live Alone, that can be carried within us wherever we go. It involves an ability to live in the present moment, free of worry, stress, anxiety, craving, and attachment.

Just because we may live alone doesn’t mean we know how to be alone. And just because we have house mates doesn’t mean we can’t cultivate the art of solitude.

It’s good to mention too, that there is a solitude born from isolation and separation and a solitude born from a deep sense of interbeing and re-connection with one self – and they are not at all the same thing. Using the Eightfold Path as a guide, we could say there is Solitude and then there is Right Solitude.

Additionally, solitude as a power or virtue is all of the following: drastically undervalued, super misunderstood, and detrimentally romanticized.

Ah, the inner stirrings of a writer on solitude.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2019 in writer's life

 

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