sabrinamari: (Pema)
Joyful moment: Pema quoting the Rolling Stones and cracking everyone up.

I love the way Buddhist teachers don't take themselves too seriously. They just open their mouths and whatever comes out, comes out.

I love Pema so much.

When she dies I will cry a river.
sabrinamari: (Golden Buddha)
Abandon any hope of fruition.

Commentary: The key instruction is to stay in the present. Don'y get caught up in hopes of what you'll achieve and how good your situation will be some day in the future. What you do right now is what matters.

Lojong slogan 28, The Compassion Box, Pema Chodron

[59 Buddhist Teachings on Living Life with Fearlessness and Compassion, translated by the Nalanda Translation Committee, with commentary by Pema Chodron]

******

This one is really intense. I read it as, "Stay here. Stay here. STAY HERE!" I do spend time creating the future I want in my head and calling it when I know what I want, so I struggle with this a lot.

But I think the core piece is this: the future doesn't matter.

What matters is what's happening here, now, and how you are responding to it, here and now.

The most important thing is to be fully present, fully awake, fully aware of your triggers, your patterns, your weaknesses, your strengths---and fully able to decide in each moment who you are going to be.

Will you act---react---from your deeply ingrained patterns and places? Will you act from self-protection, fear and pain? Or will you see it all, understand it all, and choose your response based on who you really are at your core---the you whom you want to express in the world when you are awake and at peace?

This---THIS---is what it means to be powerful.

This kind of self-mastery is power worth having.

And this is what I want.

Without question, this is one of the few things about which I can say, at this moment, "WANT, WANT, WANT!"

I may not know what else I want, but right now, I know I want this kind of power.
sabrinamari: (Golden Buddha)
In my email this morning:

March 29th, 2012 
Early Morning Buddhist Inspiration

"Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other."
 
~His Holiness The Dalai Lama XIV 
sabrinamari: (Golden Buddha)
So, this post is not really about my favorite quote from "A Fish Called Wanda."

That was just the perfect title.

Recently, on the [livejournal.com profile] the_wildhunt, our intrepid Pagan reporter noted that Reverend Dennis Terry said this:

“I don’t care what the naysayers say. This nation was founded as a Christian nation. The god of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. There is only one God. There is only one God, and his name is Jesus. I’m tired of people telling me that I can’t say those words. I’m tired of people telling us as Christians that we can’t voice our beliefs or we can’t no longer pray in public. Listen to me. If you don’t love America, and you don’t like the way we do things, I’ve got one thing to say, get out! [...] We don’t worship Buddha, we don’t worship Mohammed, we don’t worship Allah. We worship God. We worship God’s son Jesus Christ."

He and many others have covered the deeply ethnocentric nature of this comment and others like them. I'm not even going to address that. I'm also not going to point out that Reverend Terry contradicts himself.

Instead, I want to point out something much, much smaller, just to make sure that folks understand.

Buddhists do not worship Buddha.

The Buddha was just a human being. An ordinary person who was more reflective than most, and who reached an awakened, fully conscious state often referred to as enlightenment.

The whole point of Buddhism is that this is available to anyone.

Some hybrid forms of Buddhism recognize gods and goddesses. Others don't.

The most essential and streamlined forms of Buddhism---mostly those that have not morphed with other belief systems---don't have that much to say about the gods.

That's not what's important in Buddhism.

Buddhism is about how to be a fully awake human being. That's it. It doesn't spend much time on the gods, or on demons, or on other kinds of beings at all. I mean, it's got nothing against them, its just that its focus is totally on understanding human nature, coming to know the human mind, and learning to actively shape one's conscious self.

If you accept Dion Fortune's definition of magic as "...the art and science of changing consciousness according to the Will," then Buddhism is absolutely a kind of magic.

It offers a systematic method for observing the human mind in action (via several varieties of sitting and active meditation). During these observation periods, it asks practitioners to test a range of basic principles (hypotheses) against their own experience and then suggests several ongoing practices for achieving conscious control of/detente with/peace with a whole bunch of different neuroses.

That's it. That's Buddhism at its core, as I understand it.

So, just in case you were wondering: Buddhists do not worship Buddha.

They steal his methodology and mimic his practices in order to become saner.

That's it.
sabrinamari: (Godhooks/Transformation)
First, train in the preliminaries.

Commentary: The preliminaries are also known as the four reminders. In your daily life, try to: (1) maintain an awareness of the preciousness of human life. (2) Be aware of the reality that life ends; death comes for everyone. (3) Recall that whatever you do, virtuous or not, has a result; what goes around comes around. (4) Contemplate that as long as you are too focused on self-importance and too caught up in thinking about how you are good or bad, you will suffer. Obsessing about getting what you want and avoiding what you don't want does not result in happiness.

Lojong slogan 1, The Compassion Box, Pema Chodron

[59 Buddhist Teachings on Living Life with Fearlessness and Compassion, translated by the Nalanda Translation Committee, with commentary by Pema Chodron]

****

This is my thinking: if you forget every other lojong card you have read on this blog (poor you!) remember this one.

It basically covers everything.

1. Be nice to all the precious humans, yourself included.

2. You are not here forever, so do something useful with this time.

3. If you act from reflexive pain and fear, striking out at the precious humans, including yourself, you will suffer. So please use some of your time to master your urge to do that as much as possible.

4. Get over yourself and stop obsessing. No matter how you choose to obsess ("I am bad! You are bad! Want, want, want! Don't want, don't want!") you will be miserable.

You will also make everyone else around you miserable in the process. So please grow up.

That's about it.
sabrinamari: (Daily practice)
Whichever of the two occurs, be patient.

Commentary: Whatever happens in your life, joyful or painful, do not be swept away by reactivity. Be patient with yourself and don't lose your sense of perspective.

Lojong slogan 42, The Compassion Box, Pema Chodron

[59 Buddhist Teachings on Living Life with Fearlessness and Compassion, translated by the Nalanda Translation Committee, with commentary by Pema Chodron]

****

I think this one is about keeping your center regardless of whether you encounter good fortune and sweetness or sadness and loss. Either way, you fully feel it, you learn from it, you see whatever it has to give you, and then you move on, still open to the world around you as it is.

The trick is not to get fixated in an unhealthy way on either on sorrow or joy. Too much fixation on sorrow makes you a constant drain on those around you and too much obsession with joy makes you insensitive to the very real pains of others.

Neither alone is good; some of both is necessary to make a whole human being.

It also makes me think of a metaphor someone used to explain why it was equally problematic to get swept up in either fame or ignominy: "Whether you're going up or down on a ladder, it's still pretty shaky."

Yeah. Better to have both feet on the ground. You can keep your footing much more easily that way.
sabrinamari: (Pema)
Wholehearted attention

When the teachings tell us to “make friends with our emotions,” they mean to become more attentive and get to know them better. Being ignorant about emotions only makes matters worse; feeling guilty or ashamed of them does the same. Struggling against them is equally non-productive. The only way to dissolve their power is with our wholehearted, intelligent attention. Only then is it possible to stay steady, connect with the underlying energy, and discover their insubstantial nature. 

Pema Chodron
sabrinamari: (Daily practice)
Don't vacillate.

Commentary: If you train in awakening compassion only some of the time, it will slow down the process of giving birth to certainty. Wholeheartedly train in keeping your heart and mind open to everyone.

Lojong slogan 53, The Compassion Box, Pema Chodron

[59 Buddhist Teachings on Living Life with Fearlessness and Compassion, translated by the Nalanda Translation Committee, with commentary by Pema Chodron]

******

This is a really hard one for me. I vacillate a lot. Sometimes I'm able to stay open to others. Others I just want to shut down, crawl away and indulge my desire to feel angry and build an invisible, impermeable twenty-foot wall around myself.

It's difficult to stay consistently open.

It's difficult to stay consistently loving.

It's difficult to stay consistent.

Talking to my friend the other day, I spoke about how the one thing I felt really good about recently was the way I'd managed my mouth. "I've managed not to say ugly, counterproductive things to the many people around me," I reported.

But then the actual truth hit me and I was forced to add,"...but if one more thing had gone wrong on a couple of those days---if I had, say, bounced a check---it would have all gone to hell immediately and I would have vomited rage everywhere."

My friend just chuckled and said knowingly, "Yeah, I know just what you mean."

And he does (I've seen him do it). That really helps.

But man, vacillation is my middle name.
sabrinamari: (Daily practice)
...I'm working at home.

So how about this instead?

“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.”

― Pema Chödrön

To which I say, "My life is FULL of teachers."

Giggling...

Lojong

Jan. 24th, 2012 12:40 pm
sabrinamari: (Daily practice)
Correct all wrongs with one intention.

Commentary: "Wrongs" here refers to difficult circumstances that we encounter. Our intention is to use these situations to develop compassion for all the beings who also suffer from difficulties and to aspire to breathe in their pain with the practice of tonglen.

Lojong slogan 40, The Compassion Box, Pema Chodron

[59 Buddhist Teachings on Living Life with Fearlessness and Compassion, translated by the Nalanda Translation Committee, with commentary by Pema Chodron]

****

Definition of tonglen is here: http://www.shambhala.org/teachers/pema/tonglen1.php
sabrinamari: (Daily practice)
Don't bring things to a painful point.

Commentary: Don't humiliate people.

Lojong slogan 33, The Compassion Box, Pema Chodron

[59 Buddhist Teachings on Living Life with Fearlessness and Compassion, translated by the Nalanda Translation Committee, with commentary by Pema Chodron]

****

This makes me think of the shame-rage cycle: the very human pattern of shifting away from painful experiences of shame and/or fear by striking out at another.
Read more... )

For what it's worth, this is my opinion: if you manage to refrain from striking out even once when you are shaking with fear and shame, take heart. You have done a brave and powerful thing. You have done great work. The more deeply you have been entrenched in the cycle, the greater your accomplishment in breaking it even once. In that moment, you are worthy of admiration.
sabrinamari: (Daily practice)
Some days I think my mood goes up and down so fast and so far in each direction that it's just ridiculous. Currently in a good place, and aware that I get what I focus on. Thus, I'll focus on getting some good work done today and having a good evening with my honey.

And today's randomly drawn lojong card is (they are all randomly drawn, by the way)...

Practice the five strengths, the condensed heart instructions.

Commentary: The five strengths are: (1) strong determination to train in opening the heart and mind; (2) familiarization with the practices...that help you do that; (3) the positive seed that is within you, experienced as a yearning to practice and wake up; (4) reproach, which is a tricky one for Western students but an important practice: realizing that ego-clinging causes you to suffer, you delight in self-reflection, honesty, and in seeing where you get stuck; and (5) the aspiration to help alleviate suffering in the world, expressing that intention to yourself.

Lojong slogan 17, The Compassion Box, Pema Chodron

[59 Buddhist Teachings on Living Life with Fearlessness and Compassion, translated by the Nalanda Translation Committee, with commentary by Pema Chodron]

****

Today's Lojong is brought to you by a strong desire to stop being a dumbass tap deeper into real wisdom and act on it, grow myself up and become a person who can actually stop kicking the wheel of samsara.

Whew.
sabrinamari: (Default)
Don't wait in ambush.

Commentary: Don't wait for the moment when someone you don't like is weak to let them have it. This may bring immediate satisfaction, but in the long run it poisons you.

Lojong slogan 32, The Compassion Box, Pema Chodron

[59 Buddhist Teachings on Living Life with Fearlessness and Compassion, translated by the Nalanda Translation Committee, with commentary by Pema Chodron]

****

I'm good with this. After years of striking out in anger, I figured out that it actually made me feel worse about myself in the long run. And well after the other person was gone, I still had to live with whatever I had said/done/hurled at them.

I can't remember most of the awful things Ken said to me during our many years of mutual anguish, but I still remember exactly what I screamed at him in the parking lot of my new apartment after we broke up. Yuck.

So I look at this particular Lojong slogan as a kind of "healthily selfish" guideline. As lovely as it is to spare someone you don't like a swipe to the heart, it's even better to spare yourself the loss of self-esteem and self-respect that inevitably follow.
sabrinamari: (Golden Buddha)
Obstacles can become our teachers

On the night on which he was to attain enlightenment, the Buddha sat under a tree. While he was sitting there, he was attacked by the forces of Mara (the lord of destruction). The story goes that they shot swords and arrows at him, and that their weapons turned into flowers.

What does this story mean? My understanding of it is that what we habitually regard as obstacles are really the way the world and our entire experience teach us where we’re stuck. What may appear to be an arrow or a sword we can actually experience as a flower. Whether we experience what happens to us as an obstacle and enemy or as teacher and friend depends entirely on our perception of reality. It depends on our relationship with ourselves

Pema Chodron

******

I used to read this story and think some variant of "Yeah, right." But I just got the opportunity to experience it for myself in a small way. The squee I felt at turning the arrow into a flower was really cool. And I think it was good for both of us. You never know what's going to happen.
sabrinamari: (Daily practice)
Change your attitude, but remain natural.

Commentary: Work on reversing your caught-up, self-important attitude and remain relaxed in this process. Instead of always being caught in a prison of self-absorption, look out and express gentleness to all things. Then just relax.

Lojong slogan 24, The Compassion Box, Pema Chodron

[59 Buddhist Teachings on Living Life with Fearlessness and Compassion, translated by the Nalanda Translation Committee, with commentary by Pema Chodron]
sabrinamari: (Daily practice)
"Men are born soft and supple; dead they are stiff and hard. Plants are born tender and pliant; dead, they are brittle and dry. Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death. Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life. The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail."
 
  ~Lao Tzu 


******

Thinking about this, Lao Tzu is describing the strength of water: it assumes the shape of whatever vessel into which it is poured, yet maintains its integrity. It is persistent, like a continuously falling drip, and powerful over time, like the rivers that carved the Grand Canyon.

I like this image.
sabrinamari: (Default)
"Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment."
 
  ~Lao Tzu

And you know that we all do that unintelligent crap, so we will all, eventually, give others the chance to practice this.

Wait, what am I saying? Eventually? Nope. Regularly.

Just skewing the proportions towards the cool and compassionate side of the equation is an accomplishment.
sabrinamari: (Daily practice)
This post is about learning how to die over and over again, and why you would want to do that.

****

The classic Buddhist method for dealing with difficult emotions is to become very curious about them, so curious that you are willing to do anything---whatever it takes---to explore and understand them.

The primary technique for this is mindfulness meditation. The goal of mindfulness meditation is to sit quietly and pay *total attention* to exactly what you are thinking and feeling.

Meditation is not about changing yourself.

Meditation is about learning to stop lying to yourself.

There are times when this process is unbelievably, excruciatingly horrible.

You sit there, quietly, with your whole attention focused on exactly what you are experiencing. As each thought arises---each painful, cruel or agonizing thought---you look straight at it, and with great tenderness, you say "thinking." Then you drop whatever story you've just been telling yourself and experience what it means to feel your way through it.

Then you do that 100 more times.

This is sometimes like being slowly burned alive while you focus all of your attention on exactly how it feels to have your skin crisp up, blacken in front of your face and fall off while you watch.

You learn to just sit there with the feeling of burning alive.

And you don't do anything about it. You don't scream, you don't strike out at anyone, you don't take drugs to numb yourself, you don't drink to shut down your chattering brain. You don't do whatever habitual, desperate routines you've adopted to shield yourself from anguish.

You just fucking sit there and experience it. And then you forgive yourself and let it go. Over and over again.

Just thinking about this makes my hands shake.

But the thing is, it's like standing up in front of a firing squad again and again and again until you learn to be OK with dying.

And it's practice.

It's practice for the rest of your life. After you do this _____ times it does change you. Eventually, you find yourself facing someone or something that makes you long to scream with rage and despair, and you know how to just sit there and let it wash over you, without killing them or striking out.

And you can forgive them, and forgive yourself, because you really, really, really, fucking understand what it is to suffer, and in that horrible moment, you get just how much they are suffering, and you grasp how terrible it is for them---the same desperate terror that it is for you.

And that's what mindfulness meditation is.

And you know what? No matter how long you do it, you will never stop feeling pain. Never.

You will simply learn to live in detente with the pain, and later, you and pain will exist in something like collaborative acceptance.

That's it.

Sometimes the feelings you sit with are positive, loving, seductive, or transcendent.

In that case, the process is still the same, and so is the goal: recognition, acceptance and collaborative co-existence with who and what you are.

As you sit, you're not trying to change anything about yourself or the world. You're just trying to see it, and yourself, as it is, and live with these things as they are.

laughing

Jan. 7th, 2012 06:42 pm
sabrinamari: (Pema)
"Recently I was talking with a man I’ve known for a long time. I’ve always considered him to be a shy, good-hearted person who spends more time than most helping other people. On this day he was completely despondent and feeling like a hopeless case. Intending to be facetious, I asked him, “Well, don’t you think that somewhere on this planet there might be someone worse than you?” He answered with heartbreaking honesty, 'No. If you want to know what I really feel, it’s that there’s no one as bad as me.'
Read more... )
Pema Chodron
sabrinamari: (Pema)
"During a long retreat, I had what seemed to me the earth-shaking revelation that we cannot be in the present and run our story lines at the same time! It sounds pretty obvious, I know, but when you discover something like this for yourself, it changes you. Impermanence becomes vivid in the present moment; so do compassion and wonder and courage. And so does fear. In fact, anyone who stands on the edge of the unknown, fully in the present without a reference point, experiences groundlessness. That's when our understanding goes deeper, when we find that the present moment is a pretty vulnerable place and that this can be completely unnerving and completely tender at the same time...

Instructions on mindfulness or emptiness or working with energy all point us to the same thing: being right on the spot that nails us. It nails us right to the point of time and space that we are in. When we stop there and don't act out, don't repress, don't blame it on anyone else and also don't blame it on ourselves, then we meet with an open-ended question that has no conceptual answer. We also encounter our heart."

***

"No one ever tells us to stop running away from fear. We are very rarely told to move closer, just to be there, to become familiar with fear...But the advice we usually get is to sweeten things up, smooth it over, take a pill, or distract ourselves, but by all means make it go away.

We don't need that kind of encouragement, because dissociating from fear is what we do naturally. We habitually spin off and freak out when there's even the merest hint of fear. We feel it coming and we check out. It's good to know we do that---not as a way to beat ourselves up, but as a way to develop unconditional compassion. The most heartbreaking thing of all is how we cheat ourselves of the present moment.

Sometimes, however, we are cornered; everything falls apart and we run out of options for escape. At times like that, the most profound spiritual truths seem pretty straightforward and ordinary. There's nowhere to hide. We see it as well as anyone else---better than anyone else. Sooner or later we understand that although we can't make fear look pretty, it will introduce us to all the teaching we've ever heard or read.

So the next time you encounter fear, consider yourself lucky. This is where the courage comes in...The trick is to keep exploring and not bail out, even when we find out that something is not what we thought. That's what we're going to discover again and again and again. Nothing is what we thought. I can say that with great confidence. Emptiness is not what we thought. Neither is mindfulness or fear. Compassion---not what we thought. Love. Buddha nature. Courage. These are code words for things we don't know in our minds, but any of us could experience them. These are words that point to what life really is when we let things fall apart and let ourselves be nailed to the present moment."

Pema Chodron

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June 2012

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