Contentment as it is
A few days ago I had a small birthday gathering with a few very close friends. After an amazing organic, vegetarian, pot-luck dinner we turned down the lights, lit the candles and shared some meditation time.
We did formal shamatha meditation and then contemplated where we each are at in our lives right now and our hopes for next steps. We then shared what we came up with with one another with an understanding that we were speaking to express, not to communicate. Each person listened as a witness, not as someone in search of understanding. There was no element of evaluation of what was said, just the attention to listening from the heart.
Finally we closed with a second round of meditation and sharing, this time reflecting on what is perfect in life just as it is. Interestingly, several people had real difficulties with this step and were grateful for the opportunity to discover that about themselves. One said she could not find anything about herself she could consider as not needing any improvement. The other said he could not see that about himself and had a hard time seeing that about anything in the world either.
We discussed this blockage and came away with a deeper understanding of how important it is to work with the issue of satisfaction. Many people find it hard to ever be satisfied with anything, whether in themselves or in the world. Yet we are powerful creators. We are each scripting this story for ourselves, and if we are to create it as something we will experience as contentment, we must find it within ourselves to perceive perfection within what is, no longer searching for the ever elusive "what could or should be."
Allow contentment to find you and fill you. Breathe in. Breathe out. Rest in perfect gratitude and peace. If not now, when? If not here, where? What is truly missing in this innocent new moment?
the transformative power of simple presence
time and again in my life i am shown how simply being present for another human being can have a transformative effect. it sounds so simple--- too simple: just be there. but it works! the discipline is in being mindful of your level of presence. because it is all to easy to slip into the human habit of checking out when the unpleasant moments arise.
i have been having a difficult time with my three-year-old daughter lately. i've been told that her spurts of rebellious and tempestuous behavior are normal for her age. but my older daughter experienced this stage much differently, so this is new to me.
i initially reacted with the unconscious behavior of ever so subtly withdrawing my emotional presence. my husband, who is better at handling these situations, picked up the slack. i was still a good mom. my daughter is completely loved and taken care of. but i wasn't one-hundred percent emotionally present. because that is a difficult thing to do when my child is having a kicking and screaming fit and telling me that she "doesn't want me anymore" for the tenth time in a day.
needless to say, my withdrawl made the situation worse. so, once i became aware of this (thanks, mindfulness practice) i made a commitment to plug back in. to bring every part of myself into the moment with her, whatever that moment held. of course, this does not mean that i excuse bad behavior. her actions still have consequences. but i am there.
and i have to say, things are getting better. we are more connected. negative energy is turning into positive energy. my daughter and i are both happier. out of the blue yesterday she said "ya know somethin mom? i love you." i just melted. so i will never underestimate the power that simple, total presence can have to transform a situation.
Each Moment's Resolution
The new year has come in and with it will come many new resolutions for the year. People will promise themselves to lose weight, watch less TV, talk to their kids more, spend more time out in nature and a host of other good intentions. By May many will already be giving up on their vows and looking towards 2007 for another shot at it.
Why not make every moment an opportunity to renew your commitment to doing what you think is in your best interest? Resolve in each moment to express your love for yourself through behaviors that increase your longterm happiness, health, wealth and peace of mind.
If you are watching something on television and you notice that you aren't feeling good, turn it off. Why do you need to see how it ends? You know the bottom line to the story; the bottom line is, it's a story that doesn't make you feel good. What else do you need to know if you are someone who believes he/she deserves to feel good all the time?
And you do. Please make this resolve right now. Vow that you will do what it takes so that you feel good in your life. I don't mean pleasure. I mean wellness and satisfaction. Often short-term pleasures, like the excitement and rush of frightening or violent entertainment, actually undermine overall happiness. They upset your nervous system and train your mind to expect negative experiences, among other drawbacks.
I hope this year truly does bring you increased health, wealth, and happiness, but only you can resolve that it will and stick to that resolve, moment by moment.
Doing Good vs. Being Good
Many of us strive to be good people. When I first met my lama I told him how I wanted his help in overcoming some of my personality flaws. I said I wanted to try to be more patient, for example. His response was, "Don't try."
By that he did not mean, "Don't try... DO!" but rather, "Allow yourself to be as you are." There is an uncomplicated approach to awakening that he leads his students along, and it involves many good deeds, but no one who is there to be good.
As long as you are being "good" you have adopted a label that must now define you. You have identified yourself with a role you must now act in accord with. You have an image to live up to, if only to yourself. Such a role can only limit you, however favorable it may at first appear. Whether the role of the greedy, dishonest businesswoman or that of the self-sacrificing, single mother -- it's all false and it's all limiting. Any of it hides your true light, which shines beyond any script our egos could devise.
Let your true light shine and you won't need to play the part of the good one. Rest in your true being. When you are angry, be angry. When you are smiling, smile. When you are walking, just walk.
Goodness is an aspect of your true being. When you see yourself acting in a way that doesn't seem desirable to you, just recognize the behavior as the habitual display of your worldly conditioning and nothing more. Don't get caught up in judging yourself and punishing yourself for being as people are within samsara, by the very nature of samsara. Don't take it personally.
Similarly, when you see yourself behaving with generosity or some virtue, don't take that personally either. Instead look to see where it is coming from. If it seems to be arising spontaneously from your true nature, recognize that as yourself. If it seems to be coming from a sense of trying to be a good girl or a good boy, then recognize that conditioning in you. (And probably also notice some fear of punishment that comes along with it if you aren't "good enough.") Just watch it. Don't mess with it. Don't try to be better at not trying to be good.
Recognizing the difference between being good and doing good will give you the confidence you need to simply watch yourself play out your roles again and again within the flow of your life, without feeling the compulsion to interfere. This uncomplicated self-awareness is enough to bring you repeated glimpses of freedom.
Over time, this freedom of being will become a habit. Eventually you will not have to remind yourself, "I must watch and be detached, yet attentive." Non-judgmental attentiveness will come naturally to you.
And you will never take life personally. Instead you will recognize everything as the display of either nirvana or samsara, depending on which happens to be pulling the strings of your "puppet-experience" in a given moment. Yet you will remain beyond it all, as the nirvana within the samsara of each passing moment.
our good hearts
the winter 2005 issue of buddhadharma contains a discussion between pema chodron and jack kornfield that has some very interesting points relating to goodness. so naturally i thought they would make an apt post for this blog. pema chodron points out that buddhists believe "that every living being has basic goodness, and we can communicate with each other from that place..." she goes on to say that "the goal must be to talk to one another from the point of view of each other's good heart."
this is probably one of the most important things i can put into practice. i have a very strong habit energy of assuming the worst about people. but in spite of this, i have faith that at the core of every person is a basic goodness. i have been in tense situations that have been turned around by this recognition---by communicating with what trungpa rinpoche calls the "soft spot."
this past thanksgiving was one of those times. one of the younger cousins, a nine-year-old girl named b. frequently exhibits behavior that can only be described as surly. it didn't help that on that day she used a disrespectful tone with me, and formed a "club" that excluded my daughter. so there i was with my habit energies saying to myself that b. is an unkind little girl. but then later that day i found myself alone with her. my in-laws were fostering some puppies and b. was playing with them. she and i were chatting and i began to see the soft spot. a really sweet, soft spot. it was a warm and beautiful interaction helped by our animal friends.
i thought that is the place i need to focus on when i communicate with her in the future. i don't know why she behaves as she does because i only see her a few times a year, but from now on in my dealings with her i'm going right for the soft spot. i think people sense when you are doing this and really respond to it. it's amazing what can happen.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is wonderful to have an occasion to get together with others, just to celebrate all we have to be grateful for. Originally the holiday focused on gratitude for food and physical survival, which was greatly assisted by the native Americans who helped the pilgrims survive in this new land. Today, most Americans don't have to worry about regular access to food. While the holiday still focuses on the sharing of a great meal, the real gratitude celebration I see is that of friends and family - community.
In these times of busy schedules, fast food, long distance relationships, and globalization, it can get awfully impersonal out there. How many of you live in the same state you went to high school in? My friends and family are scattered all over the world. That's fine, but how much more precious that makes every chance for heartful connection with those in our current community.
Tonight I will finally stop working (which I have been doing all day) and take some organic vegetables I'll prepare up to Bamboo Mountain Sanctuary to share with friends. After dinner we will sing and play music. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, here is wishing you a most warm and beautiful holiday. May you truly feel your abundance.
How You Decide To See
Bharat Chopra creatively teaches the power of perspective in his parallel posts about a given day viewed from two different frames of mind. Take a look at his horrendous day and his great day, and keep in mind that he is referring to the same day!
Sometimes showing is much more powerful than telling. Kudos to Bharat for pulling it off.
Tags: Misc, Insight